§ Order for Committee read.
§ The House resolved itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ MR. ELLIOT
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice, and stated that the great alarm which was felt by the operatives as well as the owners of factories in the part of the country with which he was more immediately connected, rendered it necessary that he should request the House to grant him their indulgence for a short time whilst he endeavoured to put before them the position in which all parties connected with these factories would be placed should the Bill now before the House pass into a law. He had presented a number of petitions against this Bill from the operatives in the several factories in the town of Hawick and Innerleithen, as well as from their masters. He had also presented that evening a petition from thirty-four millowners in the counties of Roxburgh, Berwickshire, Selkirkshire, and Peebles. The operatives stated—and he wished the House to know that this was a statement in the truth of which all concurred, however much they might be opposed to the system of relay 824 working—that the immediate effect of the change would be to cause the discharge of one-third of the entire number of relay workers; that these poor people thus thrown out of employ from no fault of their own, but merely in consequence of this lamentable course of legislation, must, in many instances, be thrown on the parish, no other means of employment being open to them. These people were at present, and have for years past been, working in this manner, contentedly and happily, and thus providing a subsistence not only for themselves but their families. All this, for some reason he could not understand, was now to be put an end to, and these industrious, and hitherto contented, people were to be ruined and sent to seek parish support; and he would here mention that the parochial board of Wilton, seeing that the number of persons claiming relief would be so greatly increased, had also sent a petition which he had presented this evening, praying that the Bill might not pass. Now, he wished to know why such a calamity as this was to be thrown on a large manufacturing district? When he asked this question he was told that great inconvenience arose from working by relays: first, that the women, young persons, and children, were kept hanging about the mills for fifteen or sixteen hours, because they could not go home during their intervals of rest, and, being thus left to themselves to wander about the streets, they were led into idleness, which was followed by demoralisation. Secondly, that the inspectors found it impossible to prevent the women and young persons from working in several different mills, thus evading the laws which fixes their labour to ten hours. He did not consider that these objections should have been urged by the English Inspectors. He fully believed inconvenience had been, and must have been, felt under the system as it was managed, or rather mismanaged, in the north of England. He would read to the House an extract from the report of Mr. Horner, dated the 30th April, 1849. Mr. Horner says—I may give, as an example of this mode of working by shifts, a case I met with in one of the mills working upon this plan, which I inspected on the 8th of March. Gut of 335 young persons and women there employed, I found 213 who began work at 6 o'clock in the morning, and were at work in the mill as late as half-past 7 in the evening. They had, of course, their hour-and-a-half for meals, as required by the Act, and, besides that, they were sent out of the mill, some 825 from half-past 10 to 12, some from 11 to 1, some from 2 to 4, some from 4 to 6, and some came at 6 in the morning, worked till breakfast time at 8, came back again at half-past 8, and after working half an hour were sent out again from 9 till 11 o'clock.Mr. Horner then compared this system of working with the advantages of working ten consecutive hours. No one would doubt that, under a system like this, inconveniences such as he had described must arise; but this was not the fault of working by relays, but the fault of the system by which relays were worked. A totally different system prevailed in his (Mr. Elliot's) part of the country, and all inconvenience was avoided by the rules in operation in the factories, in the welfare of which he felt so strong an interest. There the system was simple and plain. Bach set between the hours of 5½ in the morning and 8½ in the evening were out of the mill either three or three and a half consecutive hours. There was no running out and in of the mill, as described by Mr. Horner. There was no loitering about the streets, and there was no difficulty in ascertaining whether the women and young children who worked in one mill were also employed in others. The consequence was, the system had worked to the satisfaction of all parties, whether masters, operatives, or inspector. Mr. Stuart, the late inspector, approved of it, seeing, as he did, that the mills could work a great many more hours without any infringement of the spirit of the Act, and that a much larger number of persons could be employed. Mr. Stuart also approved of this system for a reason which he (Mr. Elliot) considered so creditable to the manufacturers in his part of the country that he would read an extract from one of Mr. Stuart's reports on the subject. [The hon. Member then read the extract, in which Mr. Stuart stated, that during the late period of great depression of trade, the manufacturers at Hawick, and at other places in the south and west of Scotland, had kept up the whole number of their relay workers during the time that their mills were working short time, in order that by earning a reduced rate of wages for the few hours they worked, all might be in receipt of such a sum as would keep them off the parish.] He begged to call to the recollection of the House, that hitherto all interference with adult labour has been disclaimed by those who have supported this description of legislation. Protection to women, young persons, and 826 children had been the professed intention of the noble Lord, and all interference with adult labour had been denied and disclaimed; but he (Mr. Elliot) would show the House not only that this Bill was levelled at adult labour, but that Mr. Horner, the Inspector of Factories, knew full well that such a Bill must go that length, and that the intention is not confined to the object it professes, but is intended to shut the factories after ten hours' work. Mr. Horner said, in his report, dated the 31st Oct., 1838—It has been plausibly set forth by some persons that there would be great advantages to trade were the mills to be enabled by relays to work thirteen or fourteen hours a day. No one doubts that the longer manufacturing machinery can be kept in motion, the greater will be the produce; and if it could be kept going all the twenty-four hours of each day, without compromising the physical and moral health of the human beings by which it is worked, no one would dream of interfering with it. But the far greater proportion of mills cannot work without the aid of children, or of young persons or women; and the Legislature has decided that such persons shall be protected against the temptations held out to them by the capitalists to work in a manner that is inconsistent with a sound healthy state of the population, morally and physically—that is the whole of the question.He (Mr. Elliot) begged to call the attention of the House to this declaration of Mr. Horner, and let them remember that this Bill allows of no women or young children to be employed in mills for more than the ten and a half hours, between six in the morning and six in the evening, one hour and a half being allowed for meal times—and consequently if Mr. Horner's statement is true, the motive power of the mill can be in operation for no longer time. Whenever he (Mr. Elliot) had urged that it would be better to exempt the mills in his part of the country, he was told that it was impossible to have one law for one part of the country, and another for another: that it would be unjust to allow these mills to work fifteen hours, whilst others were restricted to ten; and that if this were done, the manufacturers in the north of England would have just cause of complaint. He entirely denied this position. The injustice was all upon the mills in his part of the country, and the manufacturers would be ruined if so dealt with. The promoters of the present Bill profess to put all upon an equality; whilst, in fact, they are doing precisely the reverse. The mills in the north of England were owned by great capitalists, and every body who knew anything of trade or the manufacturing interest knew that 827 large capitalists had great advantages over small capitalists, and that it was therefore necessary that small capitalists should put forth all their energies, and use every exertion to compete with their more fortunate brethren; and this they had done, and done successfully. They were left comparatively free of restriction, and by their enterprise and energy they have succeeded in keeping in employment a large number of people who are now to be forbid to earn their bread. He would now state another disadvantage to which they were to be subject. The mills in his part of the country were water mills, turned by streams greatly affected, as regards floods, by rain falling in the hills, and also as rapidly affected by the increased surface drainage of the hills themselves. One day the river would rise so rapidly as to stop the mills, and in a day or two more there would be a deficiency of water. In order to remedy this latter evil, the millowners had erected steam-engines and long chimneys to assist their water-power so as to secure the fifteen hours work allowed by law; and now that this has been done they are to be told that their capital thus invested is to be thrown away, and that they shall work no more than ten hours. Coal in his county were so dear that they could not work their mills entirely by steam—steam could only be used as an auxiliary. In summer the water ran exceedingly low; in winter there were great torrents, and the mills were sometimes stopped by ice for a length of time; so that it would be impossible for them to recover the lost time by the permission to work an extra hour a day for five days in the week. Against that they had to compete with the mills of the north of England, where, the inspector stated, nothing had been lost by the shortening of time, as they were enabled, by greater energy and driving their machines at a greater rate, to manufacture as large a quantity of goods in ton hours as they had formerly done in a longer time. It was impossible for the manufacturers in his district to increase their speed a single inch; they must go plodding on at the rate only which the supply of water would allow; and yet they were told that they were placed on an equality with the mills of England, and that it would be a great hardship to allow them to run longer hours. He appealed to the House against this injustice. The system of relays was no new system; it had existed in various forms for thirty years; and now the manufactories which had practised it successfully were at 828 once to be proscribed by this change of system. Another objectionable part of the measure was that which fixed the hour for the commencement and stopping of the mills. In winter, it was impossible to say exactly when a water mill could commence work; the ice prevented it; and in the dry season it was impossible to say when they might be obliged to stop, as the water might run short at any time. It was certain that the measure, if carried in this form, would ruin the small millowners, and throw a large population entirely out of work. It was said that one law ought to regulate all the country; but when that law operated differently in different parts of the country, it was evident it could not suit the whole. He protested against the extension of the Bill to his part of the country; and as the best means of preventing it he would move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 8, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the clause, in order to insert the words—
It shall not be lawful for young persons and females to be employed or to work in any Factory for more than ten hours daily between half-past five o'clock in the morning and half-past eight o'clock in the evening; and it shall be lawful for said young persons and females to work by sets or relays: Provided always, That each such set or relay shall during the hours between half-past five in the morning and half-past eight in the evening, be absent from the Factory for a period of not less than three consecutive hours: Provided always. That on Saturdays the period of work of such young persons or females shall not exceed eight consecutive hours, exclusive of meal times, between the hours of half-past five in the morning and four in the afternoon,
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the Amendment was directly contrary to the whole spirit and purport of the Bill. He quite admitted that a general law of this kind might operate with some inequality in different parts of the country; but that was an objection not to this Bill only, but to all legislation on the subject. The hon. Gentleman had raised the whole question—whether there should be any legislation at all on the subject, or, at all events, whether it should apply to mills worked by water power, or to those situate in Scotland. If he thought there was a special case for exemption, the best mode would be to propose it in a separate clause, not to propose an alteration of the measure, entirely different from its object, which would have the effect of sanctioning relays 829 throughout the whole kingdom, subject only to the qualification that the hands should be absent three hours during the day. Looking at its physical effects, the, relay system was unobjectionable; but when its moral effects were considered, also the object contemplated by Parliament in passing the Act of 1847, namely, to secure the evening hours to the factory workers, an object which was productive of great advantage—he could not admit the principle of relays. The insertion of this clause would produce a very material alteration of the law as it stood, and it would be better to leave the law in its present state than to consent to a distinct legislative enactment that for fifteen hours these parties might be kept away from their homes. With respect to water mills, there was a clause to be considered hereafter in which the Committee might consider whether it was desirable to begin at a later hour in winter. There was also a clause with reference to making up time which had been lost, whether by a deficient or an over-abundant supply of water. He certainly regretted that any parties should be put to inconvenience. Were all manufactories as well regulated as those referred to by his hon. Friend, there would be no occasion for any law at all on the subject; but they were conducted very differently in crowded cities; and if a law of this kind were passed, it would be very difficult to exempt particular mills. But the proposal was to establish the relay system throughout all the manufacturing districts, and extend it to all the mills now subject to restriction; although that system had only lately been tried; and he certainly could not consent to this proposal.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said, he had not made the statement solely with reference to Scotland. If the right hon. Gentleman would allow him to introduce a clause exempting the district he had referred to, he would be most happy to take the suggestion and withdraw the clause he had now proposed.
§ MR. FERGUS
said, that if one thing was more to be deprecated than another, it was different laws for different parts of the country. He should not only vote against any restriction of the Ten Hours Act, but under any circumstances he should vote against the proposition of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire. He regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary should have given the sanction of his name and the Government 830 authority to any departure whatever from the Ten Hours Act. Before sanctioning the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Bath, the right hon. Baronet should have known what was his own meaning, and what was the meaning of the Legislature by the enactment of 1847. If it was the intention of the Legislature to allow the system of relays, the better course would have been to bring in a Bill declaring that such system should be permitted. If it was the intention of the Legislature to limit the labour of women and children to ton hours, in its ordinary sense, within reasonable bounds, further legislation would have been better left alone. It could not have been intended that the ten hours' labour required from women and children should be aggravated by being done at untimely hours. He would therefore vote for any proposition continuing the Ten Hours Act. It was true the half-hour was a very small matter for the labourers to give, or the manufacturers to obtain; the prosperity of the latter or the well-being of the former did not depend on any such slender thread; but uncertainty in legislation on a subject like this was a great evil. His confidence in the energy and skill of the manufacturers of this country led him to believe that they would easily accommodate themselves to almost any bonds which the Legislature might impose upon them; but nothing could reconcile them to legislation which fixed one number of hours one year, and another number the next. It was quite clear the Legislature never intended by the Act of 1847 that the women and children should work ten hours and a half. If, then, they legislated for ten hours and a half this year, what security was there against its being extended to eleven hours next year? He believed that all over the country the people were settling down into the ten-hour system of working; the restriction had produced no harm; and in a very few years, the period of working would have been regarded the same as twelve or fourteen hours was formerly. He would not sanction any restriction on the employment of machinery or on adult labour; nothing was more hostile to a right principle of legislation; but he had approved the Ten Hours Bill as a measure for the protection of those who were unable to protect themselves, and because there were great abuses in the way factories were formerly worked.
§ MR. EDWARDS
Having the honour to represent one of the most populous and important districts in the West Riding, and 831 knowing well the feelings and wishes of the people, I may naturally he expected to say a few words upon the question; and I do not hesitate to do so, under a conviction that the House will attend to the few remarks I shall make, being a millowner myself, and having lived amongst these people since the day I was born. I hardly expected to have to say a word in defence of the original Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Bath, from what I call the insidious Amendments, remembering the power of argument and eloquence with which he advocated the cause of justice and humanity on its introduction; for if was to him we all looked as the champion of the people, to contend for the boon which had been conceded by the Legislature; and I see no reason why he should have deserted us. It is not for me to speculate upon the reasons which have influenced the noble Lord in sanctioning the substitution of another Bill for his own; it is sufficient for me to protest against it, frustrating as it does the hopes and just expectations of the body he represented, and I do so in the name of the factory operatives of the West Riding. The petitions for and against that Bill, judging from the returns in the Votes, are in the proportion of 6 to 1,000—the number of signatures, perhaps, about 2 to 1,000—and I feel warranted in asserting, from what has recently passed at various meetings in the country, that not only the bulk of the operatives are opposed to this invasion of the ten-hour principle, but that, previous to the publication of the letter signed by a manufacturer, the millowners and manufacturers, upon the whole, were favourable to the Bill of 1847. In Yorkshire, where the relay and shift system has not been pursued to any extent, the condition of the people is immeasurably improved by this Act of the Legislature, and it is impossible to deny that immeasurable benefits have accrued from its provisions, both in a social, moral, and physical point of view; and are we to be told by a small section of the community that this most valuable and humane law is about to be repealed, and the fetters of slavery to be riveted again? Before the Act of 1847 became the law of the land, nothing short of utter ruin was predicted by its opponents; but how thoroughly have their predictions been falsified! I can prove that the contrary effect has been produced, and to a far greater extent than the most sanguine of its supporters could have reason- 832 ably expected; and the measure having worked satisfactorily, why should we endeavour to impair or render it nugatory? A great deal has been said respecting the inducement which this early cessation of labour gives to idleness, depravity, and vice; but how is this to be reconciled with the fact of the great increase in the number of evening schools, and the desire and determination on the part of young people to acquire a knowledge of reading, writing, &c.? Look also at the attendance at mutual improvement societies, mechanics' institutes, reading rooms, &c., which are increasing in number and importance every year; and, following the advice of a large section of this House, ought we not to foster and encourage that feeling? If not engaged in pursuits of this kind, the men are to be seen during many hours of the summer evenings busily and happily employed, not in beer-shops and public-houses—not in rioting and drunkenness, but in their cottage gardens, assisted by their little boys, whilst the mother and sister, perhaps, are profitably employed in making clothes for the family, or attending to other necessary domestic occupations, thereby elevating and improving their condition, instead of spending their time uselessly in loitering about the factories. Our motto in Yorkshire is to "Live and let live;" and I trust the same spirit prevails throughout the entire kingdom. The late Sir Robert Peel—and where could you look for better authority?—proposed ten hours in June, 1815; that is, a twelve-and-a-half-range, and out of that two hours and a half for meals and education, and the people have agitated for ten hours ever since. Parliament having granted it, is bound in honour to hold to its engagement. Ten hours now far exceed ten hours in 1815; for during that period machinery has more than doubled its speed. Rather than accept the proposition of the Government, I would hope that this Bill may be thrown out altogether, and that the people's voice may be heard during the recess by those who have the honour to represent them in this House.
§ LORD ASHLEY
Sir, there is one observation which I wish to make with reference to something which has fallen from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I shall never again touch upon the subject. He says, that the factory operatives are now deserted by one who was once their champion. Now, I never considered myself as their champion; but I 833 did consider myself their friend, and I declare before God that I have done that which appeared to me to be best for their interests; and every successive hour, and all the intelligence I receive, convinces me that, by God's blessing, I have been enabled to judge aright. I may be permitted to state, solemnly and before this august assembly, that I have sacrificed to them almost everything that a public man holds dear to him, and now I have concluded by giving them that which I prize most of all—I have even sacrificed for them my reputation. But in the midst of these painful recollections, I have this consolation—that I have received letters from many operatives in various parts of the country, assuring me that I still retain the good opinion of great numbers of the people; and I have received some resolutions agreed to by the delegates of the factory workers assembled at Glasgow, who say—While we cannot approve of any abridgment of our present lawful rights, or give our sanction to any mutilation of privileges we possess, we are at the same time too fully satisfied of the honesty, zeal, and self-devotion of Lord Ashley to imagine for one moment that his Lordship has deserted the interests of those whose welfare he has had so long at heart.The House will excuse me for reading this passage, but it may show public men that amid all the difficulties and disappointments that beset them, they have some real consolations. They go on to say—And whose well-being he has so perseveringly promoted—and are convinced that his concurrence with the Government proposition is best calculated to insure the present safety of the Bill, and its future permanency.These parties, therefore, holding to the Ten Hours Act as their undoubted right, concur with me in thinking that I have done wisely in accepting the present compromise for the benefit, that inestimable benefit, of the limitation from sis to six. Now, if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roxburghshire is carried out, it will establish, by the votes of this House, the very thing which the House has been trying to prevent. The Bill is brought in to get rid of the system of relays; but the Amendment would confirm and give to them a legal character. The hon. Gentleman admitted that the relay system worked badly in England. [Mr. ELLIOT: I said, as practised in England.] I thought the principle and the practice intimately connected. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Roxburghshire, in proposing this Amendment as a general clause, calls upon the 834 House of Commons to affirm that which all experience has shown to be unequal and oppressive to the working classes, and which is not shown to be required by the operatives of that district, or conducive to their interests. I shall therefore vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. W. BROWN
I rise, Sir, to support the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire, feeling desirous, as far as it is possible, to remove every restriction on adult labour. I deprecate any attempt to interfere with it by a side wind, and am quite at issue with the noble Lord the great promoter of the Ten Hours Bill as to the best means of benefiting the interests of the operative classes, and feel assured that any injury sustained by the masters must eventually fall on the men by the reduction of wages, which must now injure those who work by the piece or by contract, from the limit in time prescribed to the moving power. I see no reason to change my mind that this interference with labour will have the same bad effect on us as the edict of Nantes had upon France; probably not so suddenly, but equally sure. I cannot help looking at the deplorable situation of Bruges, Ghent, and other once flourishing manufacturing towns, which are now in a state of helpless inactivity. I am satisfied that the noble Lord the promoter of this measure has acted throughout with honesty of purpose; at the same time he is very much misinformed as to the immorality produced in manufactories, upon which he has based his argument. Misrepresentation on this head is too common. A prize essay had recently been published by the Rev. Henry Worsley, of Queen's College, Oxford, and rector of Eaton, Suffolk, on the causes of juvenile delinquency; and the whole spirit of that essay was a libel on, and in hostility to, the manufacturers. To this an answer has been published, in a letter addressed to the Lord Bishop of Manchester, by the Rev. Franklin Baker, from which I will read a few extracts:—It is sad to think how these practical masses of figures in blue books spoil our romances. But it cannot be helped. Murder will out—and so will truth. Well, the fact is, then, that this wild, excited, wealthy, whirling Lancashire, is one of the most virtuous—all things considered, perhaps the most virtuous—of the counties of England. Taking for example the elapsed year of this decade (1840 to 1847), Chester, Gloucester, Worcester, Warwick, Somerset—these are the counties which carry off the palm of vice. Middlesex, of course, from its being the head-quarters of wealth, luxury, and fashion, is high on the black list. Lancashire, North Lancashire especially, is low 835 down in it, there being only six counties with a lower proportion of convicted offenders; namely, Cornwall, Durham, Derby, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland. Then comes Lancaster—twenty-ninth in the list of forty English counties—with one in 744; a number which contrasts singularly with the returns from some of the more Arcadian and agricultural counties.The Rev. J. Clay, the enlightened chaplain of the Preston House of Correction, so fully confirms this statement in his printed report for the year 1844, that I subjoin the whole paragraph which relates to it: 'The connexion between occupation and crime is an interesting and important question. I am not aware that any trade can, in itself, be considered vicious; but if one demands more attention than another, leaving the person less exposed to the temptations of idleness; or if, on the contrary, an uneducated man's occupation be such as to allow a visit to the alehouse whenever he may be inclined, the probability is greater that, in the latter case, bad habits will be formed, and criminal acts committed. For the sake of throwing such light upon the subject as may be derived from the experience of this prison, I have availed myself of the information contained in the 'Occupation Abstract' of the population returns; and have been enabled to draw up a table, intended to show the proportion of criminals supplied by each of the principal trades, &c., in Preston, Blackburn, Chorley, and Burnley. It appears that the tendency to crime in the trades enumerated, beginning with the one most productive of offence, is in the following series: 1. Grooms, coachmen, postboys, &c.; 2. Bricklayers; 3. Colliers; 4. Plasterers and slaters, &c.; 5. Labourers; 6. Painters, plumbers, &c.; 7. Machine-makers; 8. Weavers; 9. Carters, &c.; 10. Joiners; 11. Butchers; 12. Blacksmiths; 13. Calico-printers; 14. Factory hands; 15. Sawyers; 16. Masons; 17. Tailors; 18. Shoemakers; 19. Domestics (females); 20. Factory hands (females).'The lowest proportion of crime is found in the counties which are most notorious for their largest amount of factory population; namely, Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire; whilst the most criminal are Cheshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, and Leicestershire, on the whole more noted for dispersed and domestic manufactures.I may also adduce the following testimony to the superior character of the factory class, from the concluding remarks of the 'Report of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners sent to inquire into the state of the population of Stockport,' dated February 9, 1842: 'In the course of these inquiries, the general character and condition of the operatives employed in the cotton trade have been peculiarly objects of our observation. We have seen that in an ordinary state of the trade, those of the operatives who are employed (as the mass of them are) in connexion with steam-power and machinery, appear to command, by the value of their labour, the means of enjoyment of the comforts of life to an extent and degree unknown to a large portion of the population of this country; and there is little doubt that persons so circumstanced must consume, in a degree which far exceeds the proportion of their numbers, the natural produce of this and of foreign countries, thereby contributing largely to the prosperity of other classes of their countrymen, as well as to 836 those sources of revenue by which the national liabilities are in great part sustained. We find, in connexion with the large earnings of this class, industrious habits of no common stamp, regulated and secured in great measure by the peculiar nature of their employment; and a degree of intelligence, already much in advance of other classes of the working people, and still growing with the general growth of popular education. It appears, also, that, when in the enjoyment of prosperity, they avail themselves, to a great extent, of the advantages of provident institutions; and that partly through this, and partly through other circumstances, equally creditable to their character as a working people, they avoid almost altogether dependence upon poor-rates. On the occurrence of general distress, we find them neither a pauperised mass, nor readily admitting pauperism amongst them, but struggling against adversity, beating far and wide for employment, and in many cases leaving their country for foreign climates, rather than depend upon any other resources for subsistence than those of their own industry and skill. Those among them who have not been able or willing to leave a place where at present their labour is of little or no value, have been found enduring distress with patience, and abstaining, sometimes to the injury of health, from making any application for relief; while others, who have been driven reluctantly to that extremity, we have seen receiving a degree of relief sufficient only to support life, often with thankfulness and gratitude, and generally without murmur or complaint.'One other fact, too, must be briefly mentioned, as significant of the beneficial tendency of the factory system. It is stated in a 'Return from 474 cotton mills in Manchester and surrounding districts, carefully prepared by the proprietors and occupiers,' that 'no less than 82¼ per cent of the whole number of factory operatives can read; while it appears from the registrar's returns for the whole of England, that about one-half of the population do not know how to write their names.' This statement may be left to make its own impression in behalf of the system which has been so much maligned.Lancashire, therefore, if you remove from it the Liverpool convictions, which is not a manufacturing town, is one of the most virtuous in the kingdom. Out of 22,036 prisoners brought before the magistrates, 10,707 were committed, a large portion of which were Irish. The whole spirit of the Rev. Henry Worsley's essay is a gross libel on both the manufacturing masters and men. No one can doubt, after reading Mr. Baker's pamphlet, that we have been enacting laws under the supposition of a degree of immorality in factories, which has no existence. We must not lose sight of the active competitors that thirty years of peace have created, and what the power of steam has done for them by uniting manufacturing districts and coal mines at much less expense than formerly—an advantage we, by our canals and good roads in former times, enjoyed almost exclusively. 837 There is France, Switzerland, Prussia, Belgium, and the United States, all making rapid advances in manufacturing industry. It is true, our operatives are well off, and satisfied at present; but it arises from cheap food, and not in virtue of a Ten Hours Bill. Good wages enables them to furnish their cottages decently, clothe themselves well, and attend to the education of their children. It gives them self-respect, and makes them better men and better subjects, which I much fear your enactments will greatly injure. He felt strongly on this subject, for interference with industry was robbery of the poor. We had prevented trades unions interfering with the labour of others under severe penalties. The spirit of factory legislation was nothing but socialism and communism enforced by Act of Parliament. Could he persuade himself that this Bill would be of any advantage to the great mass of factory labourers, he would gladly support it; but he was convinced that its tendency would be the reverse; and Gentlemen must not be surprised if those whom they are now despoiling of their labour, their only capital, would by and by think themselves justified in asking for a portion of their estates.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
deprecated the attempt that was now made to repeal altogether the Act of 1847. He regretted that he was obliged to assent to the proposition of the Government, for he should have much preferred to give to the operatives the entire benefit of the Act of 1847. He acknowledged their full right to the Ten Hours Bill, but it would be most unwise in them to insist on those rights to the full extent. The hon. Member for Halifax had taken occasion to find fault with the noble Lord the Member for Bath on account of the course which he had taken; but he (Mr. Aglionby) believed that it was the only course by which the intentions of the Legislature could at all be carried out. The hon. Member for Halifax might be a friend to the operatives; but he did not think he was acting in the most prudent manner for them in opposing all compromise. Whatever measure the Government passed, required to be carried out in good feeling by both the masters and operatives. It was of the utmost importance to both that the question should be speedily settled. He looked upon the Amendment as an attempt to retrace their steps, and therefore it should have all the opposition in his power.
§ MR. J. WILLIAMS
wished the hon. 838 Member who moved the Amendment would state to the Committee how the petition from Hawick which he presented that night had been got up, because he understood that it was got up by the masters—that the men were compelled to sign it, and that many had been dismissed from their employment for not doing so. A meeting had been held in the town-hall on the subject, and it declared by a majority of four to one against the relay system.
§ MR. ELLIOT
begged the House would permit him to explain the circumstance to which the hon. Member for Macclesfield had referred. He was sorry to again obtrude himself upon the House; but, after the charge brought against him by the hon. Member, he felt he might without impropriety appeal to the justice of the House for a hearing. He felt satisfied he was too well known in that House by a large number of its Members to admit of its being believed that he was capable of coming before them upon false pretences. He would now state what had occurred. It was true that a counter-petition had been got up in Hawick, purporting to be signed by the workpeople in the mills, and other inhabitants, and containing allegations such as the hon. Member had referred to, and further stating that the workpeople in Hawick were suffering the most heartrending privations—hundreds being compelled to be in attendance in or about the mills fifteen hours a-day, which, with the time for going and coming, made sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. This petitition was forwarded for presentation to the noble Lord the Member for Bath, and was made over by that noble Lord to the noble Lord the Member for Dumfriesshire, by whom it was presented to the House. Having had some communication with the noble Lord the Member for Dumfriesshire on the subject of this petition, and considering it a matter of importance that Members of Parliament should not be led to make statements to the House founded upon false representations, he (Mr. Elliot) stated to the noble Lord that he was determined to ascertain the truth, on whichever side it might lie, and proposed to the noble Lord to go down to Scotland by the same night's train, that they might there, on the spot, make such inquiries as would lead to an exhibition of the truth. That he (Mr. Elliot) had no more means than the noble Lord of knowing which statement was true, except the confidence he felt in those from whom he 839 had received the petitions which he had presented; but that he was resolved to clear this matter up, and hoped the noble Lord would be able to accompany him. The noble Lord was unfortunately prevented by circumstances he need not further refer to, from accompanying him; but both he and the noble Lord the Member for Bath having assured him that they had every confidence in the fairness of the investigation he would make, it was agreed that he should leave London that evening, and he accordingly did so, and arrived at Hawick to the surprise of every person there the following day, when he proceeded at once to the house of Mr. MacRae, the minister of the Established Church in the town. He ought here to state that Mr. MacRae had signed the counter-petition, to which also the signature of Mr. Campbell, the Episcopalian minister, had been attached—both these gentlemen being opposed to the system of working by relays. On seeing Mr. MacRae, he (Mr. Elliott) had asked him whether or not he knew the allegations it contained to be true? He stated that he believed them to be so at the time he signed it; but he had now cause to believe some of them were grossly exaggerated, and that had he been aware of that circumstance at the time, he should not have signed it. He (Mr. Elliot) then informed Mr. MacRae that it was his intention to make an inquiry with a view to elicit the truth, and proposed the following course, namely, to issue handbills through the town, inviting all the female workers and young persons to attend the Tower Inn at ten o'clock the following morning, the parents of the young persons to attend at eleven o'clock, and the masters, if they wished to see him, at twelve o'clock; and he had then requested Mr. MacRae to be present at the examination of these parties, in order that he might see the inquiry was fairly and properly conducted. To this Mr. MacRae kindly consented. He should add, that he also saw the Rev. Mr. Campbell, who, though he admitted that the statement in the petition of the workpeople being kept fifteen or sixteen hours about the mills was not strictly correct, said he considered himself warranted in signing it, because, though they in fact were only ten hours about the mills, their parents made them work during the hours they were at home in the day—thus keeping them that number of hours on the stretch. Now, he must call the particular attention of the House to this fact, as af- 840 fording one more proof of the futility of this description of legislation, and of the fairness of the arguments used against the relay system. He then saw the person who had acted as Chairman of the meeting at which the counter-petition was resolved upon, and, having explained to him the object of his coming down, requested him to bring eight or ten workmen who had signed that petition to him, as he was desirous of proving, if it were true, that this petition was signed by the operatives in the mills. This person at once replied, that, to say the truth, he did not know of any workmen in the mills who had signed it. He (Mr. Elliot), however, believed that two men had signed it. Next day the inquiry he proposed took place, when the women and young children were examined, factory by factory. With the exception of, he believed, four or five, all declared their strong desire to continue relay working, and positively denied that any influence had been used to cause them to sign the petitions forwarded to him for presentation to the House of Commons; and he must now particularly call the attention of the House to those four or five cases of refusal to sign. He had asked those young persons why they did not sign, and the answers he received proved at once that no such influence had been used. They said they preferred the Ten Hours Bill for continuous working to working by relays. He then had asked, when you refused to sign, was anything said or done to persuade you to sign? The answer was, "No, nothing; we knew the petitions were preparing. When they were ready, we were told we might go and sign them, and when we said we did not wish to do so we were told 'to do as we likit.'" So much for the truth of these allegations. When the investigation was completed, he drew up a memorandum of what had passed between him and Mr. MacRae, and sent it to that gentleman to see if it was correct. [The hon. Member then read the correspondence that had passed between Mr. MacRae and himself on the subject.] It must be remembered that Mr. MacRae is opposed to the relay system—that he had signed the counter-petition, and may fairly be said to have embraced that side of the question; yet, on the termination of the inquiry, he acknowledges that he is satisfied the workers in the mills were in favour of working by relays, and the statements in the counter-petition greatly 841 exaggerated. After this explanation, he (Mr. Elliot) thought he had a right to call upon the House to relieve him of any such charge of concealment as the hon. Member for Macclesfield had thought proper to bring forward against him.
§ MR. J. WILLIAMS
assured the hon. Member for Roxburghshire he had no intention to bring any charge against him. All he meant to do was to bring to the notice of the House that a counter-petition had been presented, the allegations in which, he had been informed, were true.
§ MR. E. B. DENISON
, as the representative of the largest number of operatives in the kingdom, wished to say one or two words. He merely rose to do an act of justice to the noble Lord the Member for Bath, because he thought he was somewhat unfairly attacked by the hon. Member for Halifax, when he accused him of having deserted those by whom he had stood so long and so steadily. The working people would rather have had a Ten Hours Bill, without alteration; but he believed that they were most grateful to the noble Lord for what he had done in time past, and that they would feel equally grateful to him for the course he had taken on the present occasion in doing his best to accomplish the settlement of a vexed and difficult question. He thought he had acted wisely in accepting a compromise; and he believed the operatives of Yorkshire would feel as grateful to him for the remainder of their lives as they had hitherto done. He should certainly vote on the present occasion in support of the Bill.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, that however zealous the hon. Member for Halifax might be in the cause of the operatives, he believed that the attempt to carry out his views to the fall extent would only end in the defeat of his own intentions. He had been a supporter of the factory question before the hon. Gentleman was born; he had given his support to the factory measure of the late Sir R. Peel; but the hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that that measure was a Ten Hours Bill. It was a Ten-and-a-half Hours Bill—the very Bill now proposed by the Government; and believing that this measure would confer more benefit on the working classes than any law which had ever received the sanction of the Legislature, he should give it his support. With respect to the Amendment, he believed that if the relay system were adopted, children would in many cases have to rise at half-past five 842 o'clock, and be at work at half-past eight in the evening, although they might not be at work more than the allowed time. He should therefore oppose the Amendment.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he was sorry that a question of this magnitude had the misfortune of being discussed at a time when Members did not like to pay any attention to a subject which required investigation and thought. But depend upon it this question was well worthy of being discussed and understood by the House. He was not then going to enter upon the general question of the Bill of 1847, but would confine himself strictly to the Motion before the House. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire involved this question—not whether young persons and women were to be worked for more than ten hours a day, but whether in carrying out this system it was to be made imperative on all adults, and even on machinery, that they should not work for more than ten hours. The hon. Member for Roxburghshire proposed a plan by which they might obtain all the objects which the House had ever proposed to itself—that was to say, the limitation of the hours of labour for children and women of any age to ten hours, without absolutely restricting the labour of adults and machinery to the same number of hours. Every Member of that House would admit that if the object of Parliament could be attained with regard to children and women, without putting an end to the working of adults and machinery at the expiration of ten hours, it would be worth while to attend to any proposition for that purpose, and not to prevent it by law. It was clear that the hon. Member for Salford did not at all understand the proposition, for he assumed that under this system persons were to commence working at half-past five o'clock, and that they might be required to be at work at half-past eight on the same day. That was no part of the system proposed by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire, nor was it absolutely necessary in the working by relays as now practised in different parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would bear him out in saying that he had had submitted to him several plans under which the system of relays could be put into operation without at all violating or infringing the object which the House had in view in limiting the labour of children and females to ten hours a day. 843 What he should propose to the House was this—that as the question was one of great magnitude—as many Members of the House believed that relays could be worked without the inconvenience charged upon them—seeing that in the towns to which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Roxburghshire referred, both the masters and workpeople were anxious that the relay system should be continued by law—and seeing also that the Committee was not in possession of sufficient information on the subject to enable them to come to a sound conclusion—the question should be referred to a Select Committee. He would give the Committee two cases to show what the result of the Bill would be if passed into a law. He had received the following facts from some large manufacturers in the county of Somerset. They furnished him with the number of persons at work in their mills, and said that the moment this Bill passed, from thirty to forty persons would be discharged from their employment, and this in a parish or rather cluster of parishes where there was an excess of pauperism, and complaints of want of employment. Here was another case. The Messrs. Malcomsons had a large cotton manufactory at Portlaw in the county of Waterford. Their investment exceeded 100,000l., and they had worked for the last three or four years by relays, because they had not been merely permitted but encouraged by the late Mr. James Stuart, the inspector. They declared that they would have experienced a loss for the last four years had they not been permitted to keep their machinery at work for a longer period than they would be enabled to do under this Bill. They state that on the very day that this measure passed into a law, more than 100 persons who were now regularly employed every day, wet days and dry, with their wages constantly paid every week or every fortnight, would be discharged from the mills and thrown back into that mass of misery and pauperism which unfortunately spread over too large a portion of that part of the united kingdom. Now, when they were called on to pay for the support of Irish paupers, when hon. Gentlemen from Ireland complained that the poor-law was oppressive, was it right or reasonable that they should come to a determination, without any inquiry, without any investigation, by which from 100 to 120 persons would be discharged from their employment, and prevented from earning their own living? 844 He had been at Portlaw last year; he had seen how the system worked, and was therefore able to state that it was advantageous to all concerned; and he would rather, whatever were his opinions on questions of political economy, leave the House, never to return to it, than be a party to an Act of Parliament which would discharge more than 100 persons from an honest, an honourable, and well-paid employment, originating in the ignorant sen-timentalism of the party who advocated the other side. He was not going to argue the question of the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Bath, or of the Government. What he asked for was, a Select Committee for the specific purpose of ascertaining how far the system of working by relays was prejudicial, as some assumed it to be—how far it could be carried out consistently with the maintenance of the objects which Parliament had in view—and whether it was necessary to put a stop to the labour of adults and machinery in the great manufactories of the kingdom. When the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Colchester came under discussion, he would take the opportunity of bringing before the House certain facts which he thought to be important with regard to the general question. If the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did not grant the Select Committee for the special purpose mentioned, he (Mr. Bright) could be no party to a measure which would restrict working in factories, and therefore he would give his cordial support to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Roxburghshire—a proposition which if carried could not of course be restricted to Scotland, but must apply to all parts of the united kingdom.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, the proposition for referring this subject to a Select Committee tended to reopen a question that had been already settled and repeatedly decided by the Legislature. So far back as Sir James Graham's Factory Act, the Legislature intended to put a stop to the system of relays. It was evident that the system (except in a few such exceptional cases as those mentioned by the hon. Member for Manchester) must generally have the effect of increasing rather than of diminishing the numbers employed, because relays were a mode by which the employer got his work done by a smaller number of hands. The Government inspectors all declared that if relays were permitted, it would be impossible to guard 845 against the evasion of the law; and they also testified to the good results arising from the Ten Hours Act of 1847. But what the House had now to do with was, the faith and honour of the Legislature. The Act of the late Mr. Fielden, regarded as a boon, had been gratefully accepted by the mill operatives, its benefits to whom were notorious to the country; while regarded as a compact, it had been observed faithfully by the great majority of the millowners, and no proof existed that their interests had been at all injured by the Act. Earnestly as the operatives had desired that measure, arduously as they had toiled and struggled for it for many a long year, looking to it as a great object to be accomplished during their lives, and bequeathed by them to their children, as well as for their own individual advantage, it must indeed be a bitter disappointment when they found that, by the imperfect machinery of the Legislature, that House had failed to attain its own distinctly avowed purpose. There could not be a doubt, he thought, in any calm and dispassionate mind, that the House in 1847 meant to give a thoroughly honest Ten Hours Act. It was no fault of the working people that the Act did not turn out as it should have done; it was the fault of lawyers and legislators; and the one thing he apprehended which the House had to do—and he was sorry that they could not entirely stick to that one thing—would be to give the working people the reality of that of which they already have the semblance and the implied promise. He hoped, however, that the Committee would reject the present Amendment, which went to nullify all the previous legislation that had taken place on the subject.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
opposed the Amendment, because the unanimous feeling of the operatives of Rochdale, whom he had the honour to represent, was in favour of the Ten Hours Act; and they demanded, as an act of justice, to have the original compact implied in that measure fully and faithfully adhered to.
§ Question put, "That the words 'save as hereinafter mentioned' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 246; Noes 45: Majority 201.
|List of the NOES.|
|Baring, H. B.||Brockman, E. D.|
|Bass, M. T.||Brown, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Carter, J. B.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Martin, J.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Matheson, A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Matheson, J.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Mowatt, F.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Romilly, Col.|
|Divett, E.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Ellice, E.||Somers, J. P.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Thornely, T.|
|Forster, M.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Fortescue, hon. J. W.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Hawes, B.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Heyworth, L.||Wall, C. B.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Willyams, H.|
|Hutchins, E. J.||Wilson, J.|
|Keogh, W.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Lacy, H. C.||Bright, J.|
§ LORD ASHLEY
was desirous of supplying what he conceived to be an omission in this clause. By the existing law, young children were not to work more than a certain number of hours, but no limit was fixed within which those hours should be; it would therefore be possible to employ children coming within that Act at any hour; although by the present Bill it was proposed that "young persons and females" should not be employed before six o'clock in the morning, or after six in the evening. If the Amendment he had to propose were not adopted, the effect would be that there would exist two Factory Bills. By the present law a child might commence work at half-past five o'clock in the morning, although, by this Bill, an adult would not go to work till six. Then, again, by the Act to which he was referring, a child might be kept on the premises till half-past eight in the evening, although an adult, under the provisions of the Bill before the Committee, would leave the premises at 6. This disparity of the law would operate very prejudicially; and to obviate the evil he should propose that the words "no child" be inserted before the words "no young person," the effect of which would be to make the law uniform in its application to all young people and females.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 12, after the word "Act" to insert the words "no child."
§ SIR G. GREY
begged to say the omission was not accidental, but that all alterations in reference to children were purposely left out of the Bill. The object of the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Bath was to require that the labour of all young children should be continuous. Now, 847 in ninety-nine out of every hundred cases under the Bill of his noble Friend, labour would commence at six in the morning and terminate at half-past five in the afternoon; and if that were extended to children continuously it would be an extension of the limitation of labour. The present Bill did not extend the limitation; the children were left in the exact position in which they were after the passing of the Twelve Hours Bill, with the exception of being worked at present by relays, the intervals being devoted to attendance at school. He therefore thought that they would be departing from the object and spirit of the Bill were they to consent to the introduction of the limitation suggested by the noble Lord.
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, that his Bill did not contemplate any limitation of labour to the hour of six in the afternoon. He wished to know if children of tender years should not be permitted to enjoy the same indulgence as adult women. A great number of millowners were in favour of that course. [Sir G. GREY: Only one or two.] He was in possession of a letter from a most respectable and influential millowner in Manchester, in which he sincerely wished success to his (Lord Ashley's) exertions, and stated that public opinion condemned the coercion of children to labour at hours in which adults were free.
§ SIR G. GREY
could not consent to the introduction of the words into the clause, because, though children worked at hours in which adults did not work, yet their work was not continuous compared with that of the adults.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
considered that it became the Legislature to secure to the working classes that which it had undertaken to give them. With regard to the Amendment of the noble Lord, it had appeared to him (Mr. Aglionby) that the omission of "children" from the Bill was an inadvertence, but he was sorry to find from what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary that it was intentional.
§ MR. EDWARDS
I certainly laboured under the same impression as the hon. Member for Cockermouth, and am quite surprised to find that this Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Bath has become necessary; for I had been led to believe that the omission of the word "children" was entirely occidental, and was to be remedied by the Government. I hold in my hand 848 the Times newspaper of the 14th ult., which contains a report of a speech made by Mr. Grant, secretary of the Lancashire Short Time Committee, apparently from authority, in which the subject is particularly alluded to; and the substance of the conversation between the noble Lord and Sir George Grey, as to the insertion of the word "children" is given, from which the factory delegates, to whom he addresses his speech, must have imagined that there was no doubt the word "children" had been accidentally omitted in the Government amendments. The words attributed to Mr. Grant are as follows:—When the Government scheme came out, there was no provision made that children should be allowed to leave the factory at six o'clock in the evening. He mentioned that matter to Lord Ashley, who brought it under the consideration of Sir George Grey. Sir George Grey, at first, considered the alteration unnecessary, but eventually gave way, and promised to introduce a provision in his amendment, by which children should be placed on the same footing as females and young persons. By this means, the labour in factories would be limited to the hours between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M.I quite agree with the noble Lord that children, as well as adult females, should be included in the Bill; for if they do not receive protection, the consequence must be that many young females will be thrown out of employment, and their places filled by children of tender years.
§ MR. BRIGHT
did not think the question was clearly placed before the Committee either by the noble Lord the Member for Bath, or by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary. The House should bear in mind that legislation for children under 13 years was different from that which regulated the labour of persons above that age. At present a boy or girl under 13 years could be employed only six and a half hours each day. But if they chose to work only three days in the week, they could work ten hours each day. 3If they chose to commence so early as not to work after one o'clock in the day, they could work seven hours per day, or forty-two hours per week; and that referred to all factories with the exception of silk, in which a child of 11 years might work ten hours. The object was twofold: first, to allow of their being educated, having three hours per day to devote to mental improvement; and, secondly, to allow them to work by relays. These children would not be employed for six and a half and seven hours, if not employed under the system of relays in the morning and afternoon. Now, what was 849 the proposition of the noble Lord? Why, that these children who worked seven hours per day were to be reduced to five and a quarter hours per day. He asked the House if anything so monstrous had ever been proposed, as that strong, robust boys, of 12 and 13 years, should be prevented, by statute, from working more than five and a quarter hours per day at an employment confessedly the least laborious? The object of the noble Lord was to prevent the possibility of any mill in which adults were employed being employed more than ten hours per day. The prompters of the noble Lord, as well as the noble Lord himself, might endeavour to conceal their real object, but he asserted that object was not sympathy for the children employed, but a wish to stop the labour of the adults engaged. That was the real object the alterations had in view; and therefore he hoped the House would not sanction or acquiesce in it. It would be easy to show the evil consequences that had followed from past legislation on the same principle as regarded interference with the hours of labour. He held in his hand a letter from one of the most respectable and influential concerns in Manchester, the Messrs. Kennedy and Co., which contained some important statistics of poor-law relief caused by legislative interference with the hours of labour in factories. It showed that in a certain week in the year 1845, the whole number of children relieved was only 401; whilst in a certain week in 1849, they had risen to 1,239. There had been a corresponding increase in the poor-rate, by reason of the numbers driven from the factories by previous legislation. In his opinion there was some inconvenience in having persons working only six or seven hours per day; but let the present measure pass, and the hours would be reduced to five and a quarter per day. As regarded compromise on the question, he should say the noble Lord the Member for Bath never proposed such an alteration in his Bill of 1847; and he (Mr. Bright) then wished to know if that House, after the experience it had had, was going to plunge deeper into the difficulties inseparable from legislation of this character. And, whilst referring to the matter of compromise—if compromise there was—he should say it was this, that if the Government proposed an addition of two hours, it was thought there would be no strong opposition to that proposition; but it was never said that Government should add any further restric- 850 tion with regard to children under 13 years. No child could work more than seven hours per day; and in order to work that time, he should commence at an hour that would enable him to finish by one o'clock in the afternoon; and, if he chose to work only three days in the week instead of six, then he might work ten hours per day. Now, he wished to know if any Gentleman considered such an amount of labour to be hurtful, or whether it was necessary to make any alteration in it? If the alteration contemplated were adopted, and that children could not work more than five and a quarter hours per day, the consequence would be a diminution of remuneration as well as of labour; and probably the result might be that they would be driven from the factories, and added to those to whom he had already referred as being thrown dependants on the poor-rate. The letter went on to state that at the time of the passing of the Eleven Hours Bill, the Messrs. Kennedy and Co were employing upwards of 130 children under 13 years of age; yet, in a short time, so annoyed were they by the interference of the inspectors appointed under the Act, that they became disgusted, and dismissed from their employment—many other proprietors doing the same—the entire 130 children. So that the only effect of the protective clause introduced into the Act was to cause the dismissal of these children. He (Mr. Bright) was satisfied that the tendency of legislation, such as they had heard advocated there that night, was neither convenient for those engaged in trade, nor benevolent towards those employed; and that they could not follow worse counsel than that suggested by the noble Lord and his friends, namely, to make the Act more restrictive than it was in 1847. The noble Lord the Member for Bath had referred to a letter received by him from a gentleman in Manchester. Now, he (Mr. Bright) knew the gentleman very well to whom allusion had been made—for the noble Lord had not mentioned his name—and he also entertained a great respect for him. But perhaps the noble Lord was not aware that there prevailed a general wish for uniformity of working hours amongst the factory proprietors. Nothing could be more fatal to the trade than the course which it was desired to pursue; and nothing could be more fatal, he would add, to their own legislation: for let them press the matter a little tighter than they had done, and the time was not distant when 851 they would be called upon to retrace the whole of their legislation with regard to this question.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, he felt that this question must be settled by authority. His hon. Friend the Member for Manchester had quoted a letter of a respectable firm which had been the first to break the law. [Mr. BRIGHT begged pardon—that firm did not break the law.] At all events they evaded it. He was in possesion of a letter from a manufacturer—[Cries of "Name!"]—he did not feel bound to give the name—who took a totally different view from that expressed by the hon. Member. The great recommendation of this proposal to his mind was, that it would make everything perfectly simple. If it were passed, all could commence work at six in the morning, and leave off at six at night. There would be no need even of the superintendence of inspectors. All the world would be able to see when the people commenced and when they left off work. Such uniformity would, he was sure, give great satisfaction to the trade, and produce all the good consequences which were anticipated. He was not at all apprehensive of the fatal results expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, and he recommended the Committee to adopt the Amendment.
§ MR. BRIGHT
, in explanation, said the firm to which his hon. Friend alluded had neither broken the law nor evaded it. When they were summoned to appear before the magistrates of Manchester, the prosecution was, he believed, in every case unsuccessful, and finally their view of the law was held to be correct. No man, therefore, had a right to say that they had either broken the law or evaded it. His hon. Friend now said that the object was to prevent the men and the machinery from being worked more than ten hours and a half. That object was not stated in 1847, and therefore the course pursued was neither fair nor candid.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, supposing the object to be to limit the employment of the men to ten hours and a half, would his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester say that they worked for that period? There was a great difference between the ages of thirteen and eight. Was it right to require children to work as they did, or would any man like his own children to work so long? He contended that there was no occasion to work children to death before they were half grown. His hon. 852 Friend had called upon them to look at the number of pauper children who had been created by restriction as to time. He would ask him who had been doing the work? Somebody had done it; and if children had not been made paupers, adults would. They might as well have child-paupers as any other paupers. The truth was, and it was of no use to attempt concealment, that masters manufactured at such a fine profit that they wanted to get more work out of their people than they ought to do; and, not being able otherwise to obtain a profit at existing prices, they wanted to edge off on another principle. He had voted for the former Bill as a bonâ fide Ten Hours Bill. He believed, too, that the House so regarded it, and the addition of two hours would make the people think that they were not honestly represented.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the sole object of the Government was to leave the children protected as they were by the regulations which were not touched by the Act of 1847, believing that those regulations had worked admirably, and could not be improved.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, this proposition was not included in the Ten Hours Bill, and he, for one, was taken by surprise. Seeing how completely hon. Members had failed to carry out their own intentions, he hoped the House would not give a sudden assent to this new proposition. No one complained that children were now worked for a longer period than was desirable. By adopting this suggestion the House might be reduced to the necessity of again entertaining the question in another Bill, and become involved in endless difficulties.
§ MR. WALTER
said, that the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department had stated truly that the limitation of the hours of labour from six in the morning till six in the evening was not contained in the Act of 1847. The limit was only with respect to the quantity of work, and not as to the hours between which the work was to be performed. A new principle had however been introduced into the present Bill—that of the limitation of the hours for labour; and he presumed that the Motion then before the Committee was a necessary corollary from this new principle of the Bill. He considered the limitation of the hours for labour, as applied to children, to follow necessarily the limitation of the hours for labour as applied to 853 young persons and women. One very obvious consideration in connexion with this subject was that these children had a strong claim when they left the factories at the close of their work upon the protection of those young persons and friends who were best known to them; and it appeared to him that to send the children to their homes from the factories unprotected, at so late an hour as half-past eight in the winter evenings, would be to expose them to risks and dangers to which they would not be exposed under the original Ten Hours Act. For that reason he would support the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Bath. Considering, also, that they added by this Bill two hours per week to the labour of the young persons and women, it seemed but reasonable that a certain deduction should be claimed on the other side from the hours of labour of the children, and the quantity proposed appeared to him a very fair deduction. With respect to the hon. Member for Manchester, he thought that he had not consulted either his own dignity or the credit of the cause which he supported, by throwing imputations upon the supporters of the Bill, which he (Mr. Walter) entirely disclaimed. He did not wish to interfere with the labour of adults, nor did he wish to limit the hours of labour for young persons and women beyond the period which they themselves might choose. If they preferred to work twelve hours out of the twenty-four, he would not interfere with their wishes upon that point. He considered the proposal of the noble Lord with respect to the labour of children an extremely reasonable one, and would give it his cordial support.
§ SIR G. GREY
explained that what he had stated was, not that the Act of 1847 contained no limitation of the hours of labour, but that no alteration had been made by that Act with respect to the regulations affecting the labour of children as settled by the Act of 1844.
§ MR. STANSFIELD
hoped, considering the unexpected manner in which the subject had been brought forward, that the noble Lord would not persist in his Amendment.
§ Mr. TRELAWNY
said, it appeared to him that there was a very loose habit of cheering in that House. The hon. Member for Birmingham had talked about the abstracting of an undue profit, and hon. Gentlemen opposite had cheered him vigorously. Suppose the manufacturers were 854 to retaliate by proposing some cumbrous machinery for landed property. The predictions which he had formerly made with regard to the difficulties of working a Ten Hours Act had been fulfilled. The doctrines preached on this subject were, he believed, doing great injury to the working classes, leading them to look to something separate from their own exertions. The more sensible men amongst the working classes were not desirous of such legislation, feeling confidence in those who were ready to extend to them the suffrage, and who had taught them a totally different doctrine. It had been said that the working classes generally were in favour of this measure. Would those who supported it on that ground extend to them the suffrage, which they also desired to obtain? He really believed that he consulted the interest of the working classes, by opposing the Amendment.
§ MR. SLANEY
said, the question was whether or not the limitation of the hours of labour as regarded children should be within the same periods as those of young persons and women. If the hours during which they worked were co-extensive, then he should agree with the noble Lord that they were only to work seven hours during the day, or ten if they worked only three days a-week; and, therefore, why he opposed the proposal of the noble Lord was that he firmly believed it would have the effect of reducing the hours of labour in the factories to ten hours entirely, and would thereby prevent adults getting more than ten hours' wages, which would be most injurious to the great mass of the working classes in the kingdom.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
supported the Amendment on the grounds of humanity. It had been his lot to see in a manufacturing town little children going to their work in the factories at five o'clock in the morning. If, therefore, the Amendment were not adopted, they might be obliged to rise at half-past four or five to get to their work by half-past five; and, if the children were obliged to go to their work half an hour before the rest of the family, the whole family must be disturbed.
§ MR. HEYWOOD
said, he had lived in a manufacturing district, and had observed that there was no greater characteristic of such a district than the large number of children. He considered it was of great advantage to the families to have a demand for the labour of their children, and that it was not injurious to the health of those 855 children that they should have a moderate degree of labour. He should therefore support the original clause.
§ Question put, "That the words 'no child' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 102: Majority 30.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Heald, J.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Hornby, J.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hudson, G.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Bankes, G.||Moore, G. H.|
|Bateson, T.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Beckett, W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Beresford, W.||Napier, J.|
|Bernal, R.||Newport, Visct.|
|Best, J.||Packe, C. W.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Bremridge, R.||Prime, R.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Salwey, Col.|
|Bromley, R.||Sandars, G.|
|Brooke, Lord||Sidney, Ald.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Stafford, A.|
|Brown, H.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Thompson, Col.|
|Denison, E.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Duncombe, T.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Duncuft, J.||Wakley, T.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Edwards, H.||Walter, J.|
|Fox, W. J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Granger, T. C.||Williams, J.|
|Greenall, G.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Ashley, Lord|
|Halsey, T. P.||Brotherton, J.|
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, that in consequence of the position in which he had been placed by the result of the division which had just taken place, he should consider himself altogether relieved from the obligations which he had entered into with respect to this Bill. He certainly could not consider the decision which had just been come to by the Committee a final one, and upon the first opportunity which might arise he should feel it his duty to restate the claims of those parties to whom his Amendment referred.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
trusted that the rejection of the Amendment would not have so prejudicial an effect upon the Bill as the noble Lord appeared to anticipate. He believed that the master manufacturers had entered with perfect good faith into the 856 compromise, and he was willing to hope that they would honourably carry it out.
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, that he was only anxious to guard himself so far, that he would not be under any further obligations with respect to the compromise entered into by him, and that he should feel himself at perfect liberty to act as he considered best in the matter.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that he had always understood that the noble Lord wished to introduce children into the Bill, and he had, in preparing his Amendment, done nothing in the least degree inconsistent with any previous expression of opinion upon the subject. The noble Lord had told him privately that he wished to introduce children into the Bill, and he (Sir G. Grey) had stated that he would not agree to a proposal of that kind. The noble Lord had done what he had fully expected he would have done, namely, taken the sense of the House upon the subject, and he must have known at the same time that he (Sir G. Grey) would have felt it his duty to oppose the Amendment.
§ The House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next.