rose to ask the House to give him leave to bring in a Bill-to limit the hours of labour of women, young persons, and children, in factories, to ten in the day for the first five days of the week, and seven and a half hours on-Saturday; or, in other words, practically to restore the Ten Hours' Bill of 1847 and to include, as it were, in that Bill children from the age of eight to thirteen, who had hitherto been excluded from it He had been strongly urged by a large number of his own constituents, and by others in the factory districts, to bring in a Bill which should both shorten the hours of labour, and secure a perfect inspection of factories. He would briefly recall to the House the state of the law upon this subject. In 1833 an Act was passed which made the factory day, in point, of fact, one of fifteen hours duration, since it provided that labour should commence not earlier than half-past five, and should terminate not later than half-past eight. In 1844 another Act was passed by which the labour of young persons between the ages of twelve and eighteen, and of all women, should be limited to twelve hours a day. 'That Act also permitted children from eight to thirteen years of age to work six and a half hours each day, so that it was competent to manufacturers to employ two sets on any one day, and thus it created in effect two factory days. In 1847 the Ten Hours' Act passed, limiting the labour of women and young persons to ten hours a day. This left the law so that where mill-owners chose to employ two sets of young-children and adult males they could work a large number of hours, while those who employed women and young persons could work only ten hours a day. This led the millowners to endeavour to escape the 1252 effects of the Act, which they accomplished by adopting what was called the "shift" system. They tools advantage of Clause 26 in the Act of 1833, which did not define that the labour of women or young persons should be taken in ten consecutive hours, and, by employing a larger number than they actually required, and shifting them into the mill as others came out, they were enabled to effect their object. By that mode the Act of 1847 was successfully evaded. Its operation of course caused great dissatisfaction among the work people, and those millownere who chose to run their machinery only the legal number of hours, worked at a great disadvantage. At length it was agreed, after many convictions had taken place, and after various appeals to the Quarter Sessions, that a case should be submitted to the Court of Exchequer. That was done. Elaborate arguments were heard, and the learned Barons came to the conclusion that though they had no doubt, morally speaking, that the intention of the Legislature was to restrict the labour of women and young persons to ten consecutive hours of the day, yet that the words of the statute were not strong enough to render the carrying out of that view of the law imperative, and that working therefore by the system of shifts was not an infringement of the Act. This decision -naturally led to a great desire upon the part of the operatives for an amendment of the law. He should here state that the working of the Ten Hours' Act of 1847, so far as it had been carried out, had proved most beneficial. This was clearly proved at a meeting held at Manchester on the 14th of April, 1849, when the hon. Member for Ashton under-Line was present, and when a number of doputies and delegates attended and stated what the effect of it had been in their several districts. These persons entered into very detailed statements on the subject. They were the overlookers and managers of factories in their several districts, and were the persons best acquainted with the working people and with the working of the Act; consequently, he was giving to the House the very best testimony that could be given on the subject of the efficiency of the Ten Hours' Act, where it had been carried into effect. He would now quote from the appendix to a report of the speech made at this meeting by the hon. Member for Ashtan (Mr. C. Hindley), in which the statements of the delegates were set forth.
1253 Here the hon. Member read the following extracts:—The delegate from the Manchester Spinners Committee said the people employed the two hours allowed by the Act very well indeed. A number of the men he had worked with were now going to school, and there was a prospect of their being good scholars in a short time. Wages had considerably advanced, and were higher than before the Ten Hours' Bill passed. Many of the men in this branch were now cultivating small plots of garden ground; the females were attending decidedly better to their domestic duties, and the men were made more comfortable at home. Of the females who were subjected to the shift system many were spending their interval of time in the beer-houses.On behalf of the Short-Time Committee, the answers were, that the females and young persons were much more at home attending to their social, domestic duties, and the young especially were attending better to moral and religious education. The lathers of families in numbers of instances were attending to the education of their children. The wages of the hands had not been reduced in proportion to the time of working. Indeed, the hands in many cases were now receiving as much for ten hours' work as they had received for twelve in the year 1844.On behalf of the power-loom overlookers, the report was to the same effect. Where the Bill had been fairly and fully carried into effect, the delegate stated that the improvement in the physical aspect of the workers under him was such as he could not persuade the meeting to believe unless they saw it for themselves. The moral disposition of these hands was also undergoing a most satisfactory change. Before the Factory Act came into operation he had noticed the avidity with which the young men would rush into the first jerry shop after leaving the mill, often followed thither by the boys to get some of the drink. Now, since they got away at the same time with their wives—for many wives worked in the mills with their husbands—early in the evening, they would be seen walking off home with their wives. The children, too, were being sent to school all clean and tidy, and many of them actually teaching their fathers the lessons they learned at school. There was now such a disposition to get learning, and to render themselves respected and respectable members of society, on the part of the factory operatives as only those who have seen it will believe. As to wages, he could state that in the weaving department the same quantity and quality of work were now generally produced in the mills in ten hours, that were formerly produced in twelve hours, and there was more money for the same amount of work. The reason of this was obvious. It was better work, and there was not the perpetual? abatement which used to be taken off for bad work.At Astley Bridge all the mills were worked in accordance with the law. A school for factory operatives had been set up, called the' Sharpus Institute,' open three nights a week. It had a body of ninety-five members, chiefly factory operatives and supporters of education to the rising generation. The females had been more able to attend to their domestic duties, and the men were 1254 decidedly more comfortable. The masters were considering about the erection of schools.The men, by hundreds, are to be seen at their small plots of ground. If you were here you might see them going to their plots of ground with their shovels and spades on their shoulders, eager as possible to get to their gardens; others are engaged in leaching at night-schools, and some go to those schools to learn. The young females as well as wives, are improving in every respect; they are fresher in appearance; more clean and active, the wives are attending better to their domestic duties, and we find their homes improved. There have been some schools opened for the purpose of learning the young females to dressmake, and a great number are attending; one man told us his daughter had there learned so that his wife and daughters could make their own dresses, and this instruction is given by some benevolent ladies in the town voluntarily. The wages are as high as when they worked twelve hours per day, and in some cases higher; and in every way the working people, both young and old, are in better circumstances, and the result is more comfort and contentment. Let us work on in the good cause, and not be weary, and be assured that God will cause right to triumph over might.—I remain, yours in the cause,JOHN RAWSON.He was sorry to weary the House by reading these extracts, but he wished to establish the facts that the Ten Hours' Act, when carried honestly into effect, had fully answered the objects of its most sanguine friends, and had completely falsified every prediction that had been uttered in that House and elsewhere adverse to its principle and proposed effects; nay, he might say that, of all legislation that he remembered, this was the most signally successful; and the extracts he had read went to prove that without doubt. At the meeting of delegates the hon. Member (Mr. C. Hindley) spoke, and denounced the vicious system of "shifts" that he had just described; but went on also to recommend the meeting to adhere firmly to the Tea Hours' principle, and to obtain, as well for the sake of the adult men as for that of the young children, an abolition of the system of relays instituted by the Act of 1844. The hon. Member (Mr. C. Hindley) recommended, in short, precisely that which would be found embodied in his (Mr. Cobbett's) Bill—namely, a limitation of the hours of work of women and young persons to ten in the day, and an abolition of the relay system of working the children. That would cause all to work in one uniform day of ten hours, and that both he (Mr. Cobbett) and the hon. Member for Ashton contended for. He would now read an extract from the speech of the hon. Member for Ashton delivered on 1255 that occasion, because the hon. Member had always been a Ten Hours' man, and spoke with the authority of a practical manufacturer, which would doubless lend greater weight to his words. The hon. Member here read the following extract from the speech of Mr. C. Hindley:—It may be said, and will be said by the Government, if they introduce a measure— We do not interfere with the principle of the Act, which is that no young person shall work more than ten hours a day.' I am anxious to press this point on your attention, because I know a great deal of stress has been laid upon it, and will again he laid upon it if the relay system is brought forward in Parliament. It will be said—' We are not at all affecting the principle of this Act; we are protecting women and young persons from working more than ten hours a day, just as we did before; and, therefore, in order that the machinery may be employed for a longer period, we think it but reasonable, observing the principles of the Bill, and protecting women and young persons, that we should allow the system of relays.' That will be the argument. It is not necessary for me to answer this argument here; but it may be in the House of Commons. There are two reasons why this system should not be allowed. In the first place, is there no consideration for adult men? You have already put them in connexion with, and chained them to, the mule, and to the loom, and to the engine; you have bound them to iron, and to brass, and to steel; and you are now—whilst they had before certain protection in the physical weakness of the women and youth with whose working they were associated—you are now going to infuse fresh life and blood into those beings with whom they are to be co-workers on the relay system; so that the question is now to be as to the adult male, whether he shall be worked to death or not?—fifteen hours a day!—sixteen hours a day! Allow the relay system, and who will tell where mammon will stop in its attempt to destroy men's lives? For my part, I can regard it as little less than murder; and I trust the Legislature will never allow a system to which such strong objections may be offered. The argument on the other side will be—' But these are freemen. You talk of their inevitable connexion with brass and iron! Those are all figures of rhetoric Aye! are these figures of rhetoric? We know here they are practical facts. Talk of freedom! The man in a factory is not free.He thought he had said enough to satisfy the House that the Ten Hours' Act had been a most beneficial one, and that there required a uniform time of working; but he could not help observing, with regard to the first point, and before he quitted it, that his own personal observation fully confirmed the words of the delegates who described the beneficial effects of the Ten Hours' Act. He (Mr. Cobbett) could assure the House that in his own visits to the large establishment of the Messrs. Feilden, he had been struck by the great improvement in the appearance of the 1256 factory hands; the change was quite observable to any one who took the slightest notice, and, therefore, he himself could confirm the words of the delegates, and say that no one would believe it who had not actually seen it. From their own lips he had heard how thankful they were for the limitation of the hours of their work, because of the increased social and domestic enjoyment they had; and as to the fall in wages that was so confidently predicted, he had it from them and their overlookers that the reduction in wages was not more than one-sixth in most eases, and in many it was no reduction at all. Indeed, the spoiled work of the twelve-hour system was generally the cause of so much abatement that the trifling deficiency in the production of the ten hours was more than compensated. He could not, therefore, but be earnest on this question; and he consequently hoped the House would indulge him with their attention, in order that he might ask them, with the greater chance of ultimate success, to allow him to introduce a Bill on the subject. He was sorry to say that the consequences which followed the violations of the Act of 1847 were not so satisfactory as the other parts of this matter, which he had already detailed to the House. The Parliament received petitions from all parts of the country asking them to pass, not an Act containing any new principle, but simply a declaratory Act, which should convey to the factory masters, and to everybody concerned, a clear and distinct intimation as to what the Legislature really intended in passing the Act of 1847. These petitions, however, though signed by numbers whose voices ought to have been attended to, failed to have the desired effect. Instead of passing an Act merely declaratory of the Act of 1847, the Legislature passed the Act of 1850, generally called the Compromise Act, by which the hours of labour for women and young persons were extended to ten and a half a day, with the exception of Saturday, when they were limited to seven and a half hours. Now, he could not help asking the House what reason there was for Parliament imposing on the factory people one minute more than was imposed on them by the Ten Hours Act? These people had not violated that Act. It had, indeed, produced upon them all the effects which its promoters had intended. One would have thought, therefore, that no person who 1257 had the slightest regard for the moral and social improvement of the working classes, could have seen the effects which he had described without saying, "We will not infringe for one instant the provisions of an Act which has done so much good; let us, for God's sake, not seek to deprive these people—let us not seek to deprive society, of any of its benefits; but let us explain the Act, and see that it shall be carried fully into effect." Parliament, however, did not say so. The Compromise Act was passed. It was, by some, called a compromise between the factory people and some of their friends, who were never very clearly perceived; but the fact was, it was no compromise on the part of the people. On the contrary, the people of the factory districts strongly protested against it. He appealed to the noble Lord the Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners) who took up the question at the time with great alacrity, and to whom he tendered his thanks, in the name of the workpeople, for his exertions on the occasion—he appealed to him whether the workpeople were a party to any compromise, or whether they did not rather resent the passing of what was called the Compromise Act? The compromise was warmly denounced in another place by the Bishop of Ripon on the 15th of July, 1850, in. the words which he would now read to the House: —It was impossible to exaggerate the benefits which had accrued from the Act of 1817. The cause of education had greatly progressed, and it had been stated, that, in the parish of Leeds alone as many as 100 night schools had been established since the passing of the Bill. The number of allotments of land had also increased. He had yet to learn that the consent of the factory operatives had been given to the compromise proposed by this Bill. As far as his knowledge extended, the case was directly the reverse; for in every manufacturing parish or district of any consequence in his diocese public meetings had assembled, insisting upon a Ten Hours' Act, without a single voice being raised against it. It was said that the present measure would be a final settlement of the question, but he did not believe it. There was a strong feeling of indignation among the manufacturing operatives on the subject.Notwithstanding this firm attack, followed by others from other quarters, the Compromise Act passed and was in operation immediately. It professed to give the workpeople in the factories an equivalent for the half-hour which was taken from them, inasmuch as it fixed the factory day between six in the morning and six in the evening; or, in certain cases, between 1258 seven and seven. But where was the "equivalent?" What did it give the factory people in return for the half hour that it took from them? The millowner would, for his own profit and to save the expense of gaslight, choose those very hours of working: he did it before the Act; he would of course do it again. It was, in point of fact, no equivalent whatever. And here he (Mr. Cobbett) must meet the observation that he had heard from one or two persons, namely, that half an hour was not much after all. He denied that it was not much in such a case. Hon. Members of that House were many of them men of so much leisure that they were puzzled to know sometimes how to kill an hour or two; and such persons were ill qualified to judge of the value of half an hour to these hardworking people, who had, for the most part, to rise at five in the morning, and were engaged in following a noisy untiring machine throughout the whole day, breathing an unwholesome atmosphere, and inhaling the flying fibres of cotton. He denied, then, that the working factory people had received any equivalent in this so-called compromise. There was another branch of the question which exhibited peculiar injustice. Who were the delinquents? They were the factory masters. The women and children did everything in their power to show themselves grateful for the Act of 1847. They did all that the promoters of the Act expected—they were faithful to the intentions of Parliament; and yet Parliament, instead of giving them that encouragement which was their due, had actually inflicted punishment upon them at the instance of the masters, who had violated the Act. This appeared to him a peculiar hardship, and the Parliament that did so seemed to him to be worthy of condemnation. Well, then, what had been the effect of the Compromise Act? Had it been beneficial to the workpeople, or obeyed by the masters? The fact was, that from the very first report that was made to the Home Secretary by the inspectors after the Act was passed, down to the very last report of the Inspectors, there had been continual complaints of the fraudulent manner in which the master manufacturers had evaded the Act—ending in a joint report by all the inspectors calling upon Parliament to give them an amending Act, in order that they might be able to carry the intentions of the Legislature into effect. In proof of this 1259 he (Mr. Cobbett) would be compelled to read some extracts from the reports of the factory Inspectors, for no one would believe otherwise that the masters, whose Act this was, and who pretended it was a compromise in which the people were parties, would themselves set the example of violating the law in so peculiarly gross a manner. After giving a description of various frauds on the Act, Mr. Horner says in his report for 30th April, 1851, what he would now read:—The greatest of these offenders was Mr. 'William Bracewell, of Barnoldswick, near Colne, the owner of large cotton mills. This person was prosecuted last June for transgressing the law in this manner, as was fully narrated in my last report. The skill by which his attorney then contrived to prevent convictions in the greater number of the informations, and the great leniency of the magistrates in imposing the lowest penalty the Act allows, in those cases which were proved by such of the witnesses as, disregarding threats of consequences, fearlessly told the truth, appear to have encouraged Mr. Bracewell to continue his practice of working contrary to law. Information was last winter given to Mr. Jones, on which he could perfectly rely, that it was the regular practice in Mr. Bracewell's mill to begin work, with young persons and women, at half-past five in the morning; but he was told, at the same time, that his coming by the usual road to Colne would be of no use, because arrangements had been made by which information was given as soon as an Inspector appeared within some miles of the factory. Mr. Jones, determined that so gross a violation of the law should, if possible, be checked, took very effective steps to ascertain the correctness of the charges, by going in the night by a circuitous route, accompanied by police officers, and arriving in the neighbourhood of the mill at five in the morning. Soon afterwards the lights appeared in the windows, and on entering the mill, a little after half-past five, he found the machinery in full operation, with young persons and women at work. Some made their escape, fearing, no doubt, by past experience, the consequences of being produced as evidence, but he got the names and addresses of several. Informations were laid before the magistrates at Colne, and the same attorney who had defended Mr. Bracewell on the former occasion, with the assistance this time of a barrister from Manchester, made so strenuous a defence, that only five of sixty-six informations were heard in six hours; but in these there were four convictions. The magistrates adjourned the hearing of the remaining cases for a fortnight; and the newspaper report states that 'a hope was then expressed that some arrangement would, in the meantime, be effected to avoid the necessity of the parties again appearing.' A few days afterwards, I received a letter from Mr. Bracewell's attorney, offering to pay 20l. on my consenting to withdraw the remaining charges.I do not enter into any particulars of the other prosecutions for offences of this description, as it would only be a repetition of what I have often before reported of the difficulties we have to contend with to check this infringement of the law, which is naturally felt by the honest mill- 1260 owner as a great grievance. You will readily believe that men who seek to put money in their pockets by deliberately resorting to illegal practices, will not be very scrupulous either in the means they will resort to to escape detection, or, if detected, to prevent conviction before the magistrates by the intimidation of witnesses, over whom, as dependent upon them for their bread, they have practically almost absolute power, and by resorting to every subterfuge which an ingenious attorney can devise. If magistrates would in such cases consider themselves as the defenders of honest millowners, against those who, by fraudulent means, gain an advantage as competitors in the same markets, and, when a case of illegal working is proved to the satisfaction of their own minds, would inflict the highest penalty, the temptation to break the law would be considerably diminished.The next quotation he would make was from Mr. Horner's report of the 31st October, 1851, in which it would be seen that the millowners had resorted to a regular system of looking out for the Inspector, in order to defeat the vigilance of those very useful officers, and in order to break with impunity their own Act!It is therefore most natural that I should hear, as I frequently do, great indignation expressed by those who are strictly obeying the law against the fraudulent advantages which many competitors in the same market have over them; that I should be often exhorted to put a stop to these violations of the law; and that it should sometimes be said, in very plain terms, that the Inspectors were remiss in their duty. I am not aware of any case where there has been a want of exertion on the part of any of the Sub-inspectors or myself to detect and bring to justice any persons accused of such fraudulent overworking. But the difficulties we have to contend with are very great, and I feel myself called upon, in justice to the gentlemen who act as Sub-inspectors in this district, to point them out. It must be borne in mind that, in laying an information against a millowner, we must charge him with the illegal employment of certain individuals on a particular day or days. In cases where the additional time is gained by a multiplication of small thefts in the course of the day, there are insuperable difficulties to the Inspector making out a case that he can take into court with any hope of obtaining a conviction, There are three periods of the day when the steam engine starts, viz., when the work begins in the morning, and when it is resumed after the two meals of breakfast and dinner; and there are three periods when it stops, viz., at the beginning of each meal time, and when the work ceases in the evening. Thus there are six opportunities when five minutes may be stolen, or half an hour each day. The Inspector, if he came unnoticed, might detect one of these petty thefts; but very good care would be taken that he should have no other case on that day. If we take into account the plausible excuses that would be made, such as irregularity of clocks, the mistake of the engineman, &c.—defences that have again and again been made— nothing short of its being made clear to the magistrates that it was a part of a systematic course of overworking would, I believe, induce them to con- 1261 vict. To prove a systematic coarse of overworking, made up of minutes taken at six different times of the day, could manifestly not be done by the observation of an Inspector; it could only be so by the people working in the mill voluntarily coming forward to give evidence. When the fraud is committed by starting the steam-engine half an hour, or a quarter of an hour, before six in the morning, and going on in the same way after six in the evening, or after two o'clock on Saturdays, detection is more easy, and several informations have been laid, and convietions have been obtained in eases of this kind. But even here the difficulty of making out a dear case is great, for in those places which have acquired a notoriety for overworking, there is an organised plan for giving notice at the mills of the appoach of an Inspector; and I have reasons for believing that servants at railway stations, and at inns, are employed for this purpose. If those who feel themselves aggrieved, who know the internal system of a factory, and are acquainted with the Factory Acts, would go beyond the general statements, and the Inspector or Sub-inspectors' specific instances, and would lend their aid in obtaining legal proof of the offence, much might be done in putting a stop to these malpractices; but until the workpeople themselves who are illegally employed can be induced to come forward as witnesses, it must always, in the present state of the law, be very difficult to obtain convictions. I must further add, that when a case is proved, magistrates must not, as they usually do, inflict the lowest penalty the law allows, but fine the offender in such a sum as will considerably diminish the profit obtained by the fraud.The House would see, from these quotations, that the Factory Inspectors were, in some districts, completely frustrated in their attempts to cause the Acts to be obeyed by the masters. The hon. Member, however, observed that that disobedience to the law was not universal, for the law was tolerably well observed in the large towns, such as Manchester and Black-bum, in consequence of the eyes of the different masters being jealously fixed upon each other's operations; but in the outlying and thinly-populated districts, where there was no such cheek, it was found extremely difficult to procure the thorough observance of the Act. There were no specific recommendations in the reports of the Inspectors, except that Mr. Howell suggested an alteration of that part of the Factory Act of 1844 which allowed the making up of lost time in watermitls, and that Mr. Horner proposed, in order to provide that women and young persons should not be worked before six o'clock in the morning, or after six o'clock in the evening, that the machinery should be stopped for a limited time before these persons entered the mill, and for the same time after they quitted it—a short stoppage, in fact, of the motive power; but, in his (Mr. 1262 Cebbett's) opinion, an inconvenient mode, and more oppressive to the adult males and the young children than even the present system. Taking the circumstances altogether, and weighing them carefully, and consulting with practical manufacturers, he had framed the Bill which he should now ask leave to bring in, the main object of which was to restrict the labour of all persons whose labour was at present re-, stricted, to ten hours a day;. and next, to enact that the motive power of factories, should be stopped from half-past five o'clock in the afternoon until six next morning,, every day for the first five days, of the week, leaving Saturday as at present— seven and a half hours' work. Since he had given notice to the House of his intention to bring this question forward, he had, in the course of casual conversation, with hon. Members, been asked several questions with regard to this motive power. He was happy to say, that he had found a general disposition in favour of a uniform period of work, and of limiting the hours of the labour of restricted persons to ten in the day; but all of them, with very few exceptions, were afraid of the stopping of the motive power. It had been supposed that this was some theory or crotchet of his own; but the truth was, it was as old as the thought of factory legislation itself. Every one must be convinced, alter the daring and systematic violations which he bad detailed to the House, and which were going on every day, that it was nearly hopeless to expect to have the full benefit of the Ten Hours' Act until they had some enactment like that he proposed. Mr. John Cheetham, in his evidence before the Factory Commissioners of 1833, declared that it was only by restricting the motive power, by prohibiting the machinery from being worked after a certain time in the evening, and before a certain hour in the morning, and by suffering no lost time to, be made up, that it would be possible to render the Ten Hours' Act efficient—but he would read to the House an extract from that gentleman's evidence, in order that he might not be charged with garbling a statement. The gentleman he was about to quote, was, he believed, the hon. Member for South Lancashire, who was not now in his place, but who was, at the time he gave this evidence, and was at that moment, one of a very well-known firm of cotton spinners, Messrs. George Cheetham and Sons. The extract was;—Mr. John Cheetham examined; Would it be 1263 possible to make an efficient Bill? Yes; by restricting the moving power, or prohibiting any machinery to be worked after a certain hour in the evening, or before a certain hour in the morning, and no lost time to be worked up; and in our opinion any legislative measure that does not restrict the moving power, and include all ages, will be found inoperative. I think a mill inspector, elected in every township, whose business it should be to see that the law was observed, would be the best means of preventing its evasion.This was the evidence of one large practical manufacturer on this point. He would now refer to others; and he found that in a Bill brought into this House in 1835 by Mr. Hindley and Mr. Brotherton, the third clause limited the hours of labour for all persons under twenty-one years to ten hours in the day, and to eight hours on a Saturday, while the fourth clause enacted that the hours of working the machinery should be the same as those fixed for the labour of the children. Surely this was authority enough to show that the Bill he wished to introduce asserted no new idea. In addition to these precedents, however, he could state that the people working in factories were perfectly unanimous in wishing for the limitation of the hours he proposed, and in wishing the machinery to be restricted, seeing that without this restriction there could not be a perfect Bill. The manufacturing districts were stirring in this matter, and the numerous petitions which had been hitherto presented to the House on the subject showed a unanimous feeling in favour of the Bill. Not only, too, did the manufacturing operatives petition, but a vast number of the petitions which had been laid on the table of the House in favour of the Bill had been represented as coming from the master manufacturers. In the borough which he had the honour to represent, twenty-one master manufacturers of great consequence had adopted this course; and he believed the petition was signed by the mayor of the borough, one of the most respectable manufacturers in the whole district. The overlookers and managers—an influential and intelligent body of men—were also in favour of the Bill. Mr. H. Edwards, who represented Halifax in the last Parliament, had, on the 9th of April, attended a meeting at Halifax, at which the very proposition he should have the honour of submitting to the House was mooted. That Gentleman declared his opinion that it was only by restricting the motive power that the object of the Ten Hours' Act could be attained. More recently the 1264 partner of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Jackson) had in public stated distinctly, being a large manufacturer, and having been in business for a considerable time in one of the largest manufacturing concerns in the borough of Blackburn, that, having been formerly opposed to the Ten Hours' Act, he was now, from having seen its beneficial effects, earnestly in favour of it, and that there was nothing but a restriction of the motive power which would render that Act effective. The hon. Member here quoted the following passage from a speech of Mr. Edwards, at Halifax, on the 9th of April last, as reported in the Halifax Guardian, as follows:—At one time I was not a great advocate for the restriction of the moving power. And why? Because I knew that the late John Feilden, a man we must all lament to have lost, and whose son has been here to-night advocating this question with such energy and with such honour to himself, was also against the restriction of the moving power, until he found that his own Act could not be carried into effect as it was intended. Had that man lived, he would have been foremost in the ranks of those who are advocating a restriction on the moving power; he would have declared that the miserable compromise of 1850 was to all intents and purposes a robbery—a robbery of your rights and privileges, and would have said, that as this has failed, let us now advocate nothing more nor less than a restriction on the moving power. It is only by this that your object is to be attained.He (Mr. Cobbett) had now done with the main portions of the Bill. There would be a few provisions on minor subjects; with regard, for instance, to penalties, and the mode of recovering penalties; but all of these provisions were, he thought, such as the House would consider reasonable. With regard to the question whether a new mode of recovering penalties should be resorted to, he proposed that there should be an additional mode of recovering them, so that there should be a direct encouragement given to those informers on whom the Factory Inspectors must much depend. He proposed that there should be a right of recovering penalties in the County Court, and also that the informer, upon giving notice to the inspector that he was about to bring an action, might have liberty to do so, provided it was within a certain number of days. There were some hon. Members who had been always opposed to every act of factory legislation, and not a single Act on this subject had ever been passed of which it was not predicted that it would ruin the commerce of the country, and involve us in chaos. Every one of 1265 these predictions however, from 1802 to 1850, had been fully and completely falsified. Then it had been constantly denied that in the factory districts any mischief arose from excessive labour. Upon this subject he might refer to the inquiries made by an eminent surgeon in the town of Bury, with regard to the several districts in that town, and the proportion of deaths of different classes in the community. That gentleman had ascertained, to his great astonishment, that of the factory operatives the average age at death was only eight years. Such a startling fact seemed almost incredible, but, inquiring further, Mr. Fletcher found that the enormous mortality was among the children of the factory operatives, of whom there died, under two years of age, on an average, 60 in the 100; while of the children of all other operatives living in the same districts only 33 in the 100 died under two years of age. This statement was collected from the books of the registrar of births, deaths, &c, and was made on an average of seven years. He had very lately conversed with Mr. Fletcher, who assured him that having made renewed inquiries, he had ascertained that there was no exaggeration in these results, and that his tables were perfectly correct— adding, that the cause of this mortality among the children might be looked for in the long hours which the mothers were obliged to remain in the factories. It was for the Legislature to adopt a cure for such enormous mischief; and, apologising for having so long occupied the attention of the House, he hoped that he should obtain leave to introduce a Bill, the aim of which was to render the existing measure effective, and to extend the benefits which had resulted from it.
§ MR. M. J. FEILDEN
I rise to second the Motion of the hon. Member for Oldham; and in doing so, I have to crave the indulgence of the House as a junior Member of this august assembly, in addressing it on a subject of great personal importance to myself, and of deep interest to the constituency I have the honour to represent. Being extensively engaged in the manufacturing trade and commerce of this country, employing between 1,300 and 1,400 workpeople, whose wages amount to nearly 1,000l. weekly, I feel less hesitation in approaching this subject than I otherwise should, were it one of a more ordinary character, or not local in its bearing. In order to lay my views clearly before the 1266 House, I beg to ask the following questions, and, in replying to them, endeavour to point out as forcibly as possible the necessity that exists for the adoption of the proposition of my hon. Friend. In the first place, does the existing law, in regard to the labour of females and young persons in factories, effect the object for which it was enacted? In the second, if not, how does it affect the employer and the employed? and, thirdly, if perniciously, what is the remedy? With regard to the present law, I think the evidence of the Government officials, printed by the Government, under the sanction and authority of Parliament, from whose reports I quote the following extracts, sufficiently prove its inefficiency. Mr. Horner says—"I should have been able to give, upon the whole, a satisfactory account of the observance and beneficial working of the Factory Acts during the last half-year, had it not been for the continuance of the practice, and that to a great extent in some parts of my district, of mills working twelve hours a day, instead of all hands leaving off at six o'clock in the evening, as is the case in the far larger proportion of the factories in other parts of my district. Ashton-under-Line, Stalybridge, Mossley, Glossopdale, Oldham, and Lees, are the places where it has been almost the general rule. Of this employment of male persons above eighteen years of age after six o'clock in the evening, the law takes no cognisance, and I am only called upon to notice it by the evasions practised under that system, by the employment of young persons and women, after six o'clock, along with the men. I have in my late reports dwelt so much upon this subject, that I need say no more than that the evil continues, and that it will continue, I believe, until the law is amended, so long as adult males are willing to work after six o'clock. It is the source of many and well-founded complaints among the millowners who close their mills at six o'clock, suffering, as they do, from the unfair advantages obtained in the same market by those who systematically practise this fraudulent overworking of young persons and women.As to its effect upon the employer and the employed, as one of the former of considerable standing, I am one of those who do not hesitate to express my indignation at the conduct of others, who, less scrupulous themselves, evade and violate the law, to the prejudice of all honest employers of labour, and obtain undue advantages for themselves in markets where, as competitors, we ought to stand upon a perfect equality. Before proceeding, Sir, I will again venture to read a short extract from: Mr. Horner's last half-yearly report for the six months ending April 30th last, especially relating to the district I come from, and where the evasions and violations of the Factory Act appear to be more common than in any other. After enumerating 1267 the eases of infringement of the Act which have occurred in this district, Mr. Horner says—I believe that the serious violations of the law which I have now brought under your Lordship's notice, and which are felt to be a very great grievance by a large majority of millowners, might be effectually put a stop to by amendments of the law which would involve no new principle, would subject no occupier of a factory working from six to six to any inconvenience, would in no degree prevent the daily employment of adult males to the fullest extent they have ever worked in factories, or even to the utmost length their physical strength could bear, and would only impose a very moderate and reasonable restraint upon mill-owners working before six in the morning, or six in the evening, in order to afford an effective protection to the young persons and women.As to its effect upon the employed, I think that after the mass of petitions that have lately been presented on the subject to this House, no doubt can exist in the minds of hon. Members, that the operatives, as a body, are most earnestly desirous of obtaining a uniform system of working in factories throughout the United Kingdom; which, if not conclusive in itself, must surely be so regarded, in conjunction with the monster meetings that are taking place in reference thereto, all over the manufacturing districts. The hon. Member for Oldham has alluded to one of these large meetings lately held at Manchester, and made honourable mention of my partner, who attended and argued his views on this question very forcibly, to the great satisfaction of his audience, principally constituted of adults of both sexes. In regard to the remedy, I trust it will not be urged by the opponents to this measure that it would be An unjust interference with the rights of adult labour, and that the remedy lies with the operatives themselves. This is not thought by them to be the case, or I should not now be appealing on their behalf for the alteration in the law that they seek so anxiously to obtain, by placing the restriction upon the moving power; though, if those objections be raised, I trust that it will also be borne in mind that that restriction does already extensively exist, a few places only of evil notoriety being excepted; and, secondly, that even if such be the fact, as no other remedy is feasible or attainable, the necessity of the case warrants the application to protect those efficiently who are totally unable to protect themselves. On this point Mr. Horner further says—If those who in 1333 predicted (and there were some of great authority among our political economists who did so) the ruin of our manufac- 1268 turers if the then proposed restrictions on factory labour were adopted, will now fairly and candidly look at the results of this great practical experiment in legislation, whether in relation to the improved condition of the factory workers, or to the increase of mills, and to the fortunes since made in every department of manufacture subject to the law, they must, I think, admit that they have seen grounds to make them pause before they, in future, condemn measures for elevating the moral and social condition of the humbler classes by the regulation of their labour, as being opposed to principle; for the factory legislation has been proved to be in entire accordance with principle, even with that of the production of wealth, when the term principle is understood in an enlarged and comprehensive sense.These are my views, Sir, on this important question, and if by anything I have said I may have induced hon. Members, and more especially Her Majesty's Ministers, to look with favour upon this question, I shall never regret having had the opportunity of raising my voice in the Legislature of the country, on behalf of what I may justly call the suffering interests of humanity in the crowded districts of the North of England.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to limit the hours of labour of women, young persons and children in the Factories of the United Kingdom, and to provide for a more perfect inspection of the said Factories.
§ MR. WILKINSON
deprecated the notion of regulating the hours of labour by Acts of Parliament. He did not question the benefits which had accrued from the Ten Hours' Act. They could not shorten the hours of labour without doing good to the operatives; but he did not think it was the duty of Parliament to interfere with a matter of that kind. The country was now in a prosperous state, trade was flourishing, and the manufacturing population enjoyed their share at least of the general comfort and contentment. Yet the present was the moment fixed upon for bringing forward a measure which would have the effect of rendering our manufacturers unable to compete so successfully as they would otherwise do with their foreign rivals. He trusted the House would pause before venturing upon a course so full of peril.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
did not mean to oppose the bringing in of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member, but at the same time he did not pledge himself as to the course which he might feel it his duty to take on the second reading of the Bill when it had been brought in. At the same time he might state that he himself intended to bring in a Bill for the purpose of limiting 1269 the hours for the employment of children. What he should propose would be, that children should not be employed earlier than six o'clock in the morning, nor later than six in the evening. At present, as had been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Oldham, children might be brought out at half-past five in the morning, and kept until half-past six or seven in the evening. Now, he really thought that to have little children of from eight to twelve years of age brought out on a drizzling winter's morning at five, or half-past five, when they perhaps lived three or four miles distant from the place where they worked, and then in the evening to have them walking hack, possibly alone, to their homes in the dark, with, perhaps, snow on the ground, was a practice which must entail such evils that no one could be surprised at the extreme mortality among the children of factory operatives to which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Cobbett) had alluded. It was a matter of considerable delicacy to interfere by legislation with the employment of those who, being of age to determine for themselves, were to be considered as free agents, and therefore ought to be at liberty to work as long or as little as they should think fit to do. But his own opinion was, that millowners were not pursuing their own real interest by dealing with the persons whom they employed as if they were mere machines, as if the longer they could work them the more profit they could make out of them, and as if all other considerations should be set aside except the quantity of work which, in the greatest number of hours, could be got out of the men so employed. His own opinion was, that employers would do better —and he knew many of them did act upon that consideration—they would do better to reflect that these workmen were moral and intelligent agents; that, unless they were allowed that moderate degree of leisure which was essential to their well-being and their domestic economy, the employers would certainly fail to get out of those agents the full amount of good labour which they might under a more judicious system extract from them. It was said that to limit the number of hours, as he should propose to do, for the employment of children, would indirectly tend to limit the employment of persons of more advanced age; but all he could say was, he thought it was so essential to protect these children from being overtasked that he could not consider the results which it might be imagined would flow from it, as 1270 a reason why such a limitation should not be adopted. He, therefore, without pledging himself as to the details of the Bill, or as to the course he might think fit to pursue when the Bill came to a second reading, had no objection to offer to the introduction of the Bill now, and to its being read a first time. It was, however, his own intention to submit to the consideration of the House a Bill for the limited purpose which he had just mentioned.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he feared that the proposal of the noble Lord who had just sat down would not prove more satisfactory to the opponents of factory legislation than the proposal of the hon. Member who had spoken with such signal moderation that evening. He thought, too, he might safely say that the proposition of the noble Lord, however well meant it might be, and however well calculated to remedy a certain portion of the evils complained of, would not satisfy the wishes of the working people so well as the proposal of the hon. Member, and would not have the effect of settling this question now that it had unfortunately been reopened. In the year 1850, he (Lord John Manners) had felt it his doty to express his strong conviction, that the measure erroneously called a compromise, which was brought forward at that period, was in reality a compromise of nothing but the rights of the people and of the honour of Parliament. He still retained that conviction; and if that Bill had not been attended with all the injurious effects which he had then predicated, that circumstance was owing solely to the moderation and the loyalty of the operatives; and he believed that it had been the moderation, loyalty, and contentment of the people which had prevented the fulfilment of a prediction he had been disposed to make as to the immediate efforts that would probably be made by the people in order to win back the inheritance of which they had been wrongfully deprived; and he was afraid that if they looked at the subsequent reports of the Factory Inspectors, they would find reason to attribute the present great movement in which the Bill before the House had originated, to the systematic and constant evasions on the part of the master manufacturers of the very compromise which had been passed at their suggestion and in their interest in the year 1850. He had ventured, at an early period of the Session, to call the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department (Viscount Palmerston) 1271 to the then last half-yearly report of the Factory Inspectors, and he had asked the noble Lord whether he intended to introduce any measure for the purpose of carrying out the recommendations of those gentlemen, and preventing the future evasion of the existing factory Acts. In replying to that question, the noble Lord had, as was his wont, given one of those agreeable and airy answers from which a person might draw any inference he pleased. He (Lord John Manners) had put the most favourable construction on the answer he received upon that occasion; and it would appear from the statement of the noble Lord that evening that they might expect to find him introducing a measure for remedying, to a limited degree, some of the evils of which the factory workpeople complained—although he (Lord John Manners) could not say whether they would be able to pass that measure into law in the course of the present Session. However that might be, he thought that a reference to the reports of the Factory Inspectors would show that the proposal of the noble Lord would go but a very little way to satisfy the just demands of the operatives: that which these people asked for, and which he believed they would not be content until they should receive, was what they had a perfect right to demand—namely, the full charter which had been conferred upon them by the legislation of the year 1847. If the hon. Member who now proposed to introduce a Bill upon the subject, felt himself obliged to bring a new principle into our factory legislation, he (Lord J. Manners) believed he could show, that if blame could attach to any parties for the necessity of the introduction of such a measure, that blame must lie on the shoulders of those who pertinaciously and systematically evaded the compromise which they themselves had induced the Legislature to pass. The Inspectors of Factories, in their joint report to the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), on the 4th of September, 1852, said—The infringements of the Factory Acts in some parts of the country by the employment of young persons and women for a longer time daily than is legal, which have, we believe, been represented to you as a great evil calling for correction In memorials from certain owners of factories, have been often under the consideration of the inspectors at their statutory half-yearly meetings, in the hope that they might be able to adopt some course of proceeding which would put an end to such violations of the laws. We now feel ourselves called upon to represent to you in this our 1272 joint report, that experience has proved that when the Acts of 1833 and 1844 were framed, the measures that have been resorted to by certain occupiers of factories to evade the limitations of the hours of work fixed by these Acts were not contemplated, consequently no sufficient security against them was provided. The clear intentions of the Legislature are defeated, because of the conditions to which the inspectors are restricted in their endeavours to obtain the conviction of an offender, and thus extensive frauds have been practised, and in some places we have reason to believe are now habitually practised with impunity.And, again, they said—Those who are strictly observing the law naturally claim that the provisions of the Act in so important a matter shall not be suffered to be violated with impunity, and that all occupiers of factories shall be compelled to adhere to the same hours of work as limited by law. To carry this into effect has been our constant aim; but without an amending Act, which will make the detection of offences more easy, and the punishment of them more certain and more severe, we have little hope that the desired uniformity will be accomplished.Mr. Horner, whose services in this cause were beyond all praise, said, in his report—This illegal working of young persons and women will never be effectually put down without an amending Act, which shall take away the facilities for evading detection and punishment now existing, which shall make the occupier of the factory alone responsible, and which shall, moreover, inflict as the lowest penalty such a sum as will at least considerably diminish the gain by fraudulent working; for the shame of a prosecution appears to be no restraint on such men.Let him now call the attention of the House to the last report of the Inspectors, presented a few days ago, in which Mr. Horner said—I should have been able to give, upon the whole, a satisfactory account of the observance and beneficial working of the Factory Acts during the last half-year, had it not been for the continuance of the practice, and that to a great extent in some parts of my district, of mills working 12 hours a day, instead of all hands leaving off at 6 o'clock in the evening, as is the case in the far larger proportion of factories in other parts of my district. Of this employment of male persons above 18 years of age after 6 o'clock in the evening the law takes no cognisance, and I am only called upon to notice it by the evasions practised under that system, by the employment of young persons and women after 6 o'clock along with the men. I have in my late reports dwelt so much upon this subject, that I need say no more than that the evil continues, and that it will continue, I believe, until the law is amended, so long as adult males are willing to work after 6 o'clock.They might say, therefore, that the uniform recommendation of all the factory inspectors was, that there should be considerable amendments and emenda- 1273 tions of the existing Factory Acts in the direction pointed out by the hon. Member. And now let him ask if the factory operatives had not a right to demand that fresh legislative boon at their hands? The hon. and learned Member had reminded the House of the conditions on which and the solicitations by which Parliament had been induced to take from the leisure of the working people half an hour per day; and one object of the hon. Gentleman's Bill was to restore that half hour. He (Lord J. Manners) should say that, unjust and unfair and inequitable as the imposition of that additional half hour of labour had been at the time it had been enacted, events had since occurred which would make its continuance still more unjust and unfair and inequitable, for the very men who induced Parliament to pass that alleged compromise, and who then promised, through the mouth of the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, that they would regard it as a final settlement, and that they would respect its conditions, had been guilty of repeated and constant evasions of the measure—evasions carried out in so fraudulent a spirit as to call down from the factory-inspectors, and from magistrates who had from time to time to adjudicate on these evasions, the severest terms of censure to which a respectable and opulent body had ever had to submit from any constituted authority. Mr. Horner, in his last report, said they were habitual and unscrupulous law breakers, and suggested that the only way to stop them was the infliction of such penalties as should make them feel they were not pursuing their own interest in practising those evasions of the Act. These men did not violate the law from any religious scruple, from ignorance, or from any belief they were vindicating a principle, but a sordid pecuniary gain was the only motives of their evasion and degradation. Was it not a mockery to deal harshly with the poor man for breaking the law, and then to make a rich one pay a pound or two, and allow him to go back to repeat his offences ad infinitum? They must make the penalty large enough to prevent the repetition of the evasion. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced that Bill sought to make their factory legislation a reality, instead of leaving it a system which was liable to such frequent and fraudulent evasions. It would no doubt, however, be urged as an objection to that proposal, that that was the 1274 first time they had ever attempted to restrict by Act of Parliament the motive power in factories. Now, he freely admitted that he shared with many Gentlemen in a sort of apprehension which would lead him to abstain, if possible, from any interference with that motive power. But when he saw that master manufacturers, so far from respecting the arrangement into which they had themselves induced Parliament to enter, were determined to obey no law which they could by any possibility evade, he felt bound to consider whether the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, with respect to the motive power, had in it anything so inimical to the best interests of the master manufacturers, that he ought to refuse to try the experiment in question. In directing his attention to that point, he could not see that the restriction of the motive power would have any detrimental effect on the manufacturers. The hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill (Mr. Feilden) had been able to speak with great authority upon that point, as he was himself one of the largest manufacturers in the district with which he was connected; and that hon. Gentleman had told them that that measure would in no way militate against the true interests of the employers of labour in factories. It appeared too, to him (Lord J. Manners) that the result of the prophecies which had formerly been made with respect to the fatal policy of any interference on the part of the Legislature with factory labour, justified him in believing that an effective ten hours' factory Bill, which would restrict the motive power in factories, would not in the slightest degree endanger the continuance of that manufacturing prosperity which it was evident from the reports of the factory inspectors, and from the accounts of medical men and clergymen connected with the manufacturing districts, had been very greatly promoted and increased by the operation of the Ten Hours' Bill in the first instance, and afterwards of the Ten and a Half Hours' Bill. At present, when the question was reopened, Parliament was bound not to shrink from the duty of doing full justice to the factory operatives, whose claims had been slighted, and whose rights had been invaded by the Parliament of 1850. They were the more bound to discharge that duty, because that question had been reopened, not through any misconduct of the operatives, but in consequence of the systematic, and he was 1275 afraid in many instances the successful, attempt of the master manufacturers to evade the provisions of an Act which they had themselves forced on a deceived Parliament. After the declaration which had been made by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) he thought it would be but fair on his part to state that while he gratefully admitted that the measure which the noble Lord proposed to introduce would to a certain degree meet the grievances complained of, he could not regard it as one which would permanently settle this long-agitated and most important question —a question which he believed it was for the interest—not of a class, but—of the whole community, to see settled on a basis of justice; and therefore it was that he had risen to make these few observations, and to join the hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced the measure in expressing an earnest hope that the House would unanimously consent to the Motion for leave to bring in the Bill, and would be prepared to consider it in its future 6tages in a calm and impartial spirit.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he was anxious to say a few words after the direct allusions which had been made as to the part which he had taken in passing what was called the Compromise Act of 1850. He must express his regret that the question had been reopened. He had been one of those who advocated a restriction of the hours of labour of women, young persons, and children; and he shared in the gratification which all supporters of the legislation of 1847 must feel at the consequences which had followed from the restricted measure then passed, aided, as it had been, by the Act of 1850. But he owned he was surprised to hear the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Manners), with the reports of the factory inspectors in his bands, treating the exceptional instances mentioned in those reports as specimens of the general way in which the law was evaded, and stating that it was almost universally violated by the manufacturers, forming a direct contrast to the statement of the hon. Member, who said that generally the Act was obeyed not only in letter but in spirit. He (Sir G. Grey) must also say that the Act of 1850 had been totally misrepresented by the noble Lord. It had been his duty to introduce that Bill, for the purpose of removing evils of which the working people complained much, but which were not objected to by the manufacturers. The noble Lord was 1276 also mistaken in supposing the Bill was introduced for the behoof of the master manufacturers, or that he (Sir G. Grey), when Secretary of State, promised compliance with the law on their part. The truth was, that complaints were made by the operatives that the spirit of the Act of 1847 was violated by the system of relays; and the Government, by way of remedy, thought of fixing the hours from six o'clock in the morning to six o'clock at night as the limits within which labour could be enforced, thereby putting an end to the system of relays. Half an hour was at that time added to the ten hours, for which the noble Lord said that the workpeople had got no equivalent; but they had got this, that their hours of labour were now fixed and certain, leaving the whole evening to themselves; and he had watched with the most sincere gratification the operation of that Act, which, instead of being a source of injustice to the working classes, had conferred on them the greatest benefits. Let him just read a short extract from the last report of Mr. Horner on that subject. He said—I believe the workpeople never were so well off as they are at present; constant employment, good wages, cheap food, and cheap clothing; many cheap, innocent, and elevating amusements brought within their reach; and, thanks to the last Factory Act, the greater proportion of all the operatives in mills have at length time for some mental improvement, healthful recreation, and enjoyment of their families and friends.He might also refer to the opening sentence of Mr. Redgrave's report, in which he said the limitations of hours of labour under the 13 & 14 of Vict., c. 54, continued to give general satisfaction. He (Sir G. Grey) believed that nineteen-twen-tieths at least of the master manufacturers had conformed to the spirit as well as to the letter of the law; and he challenged the noble Lord to produce one sentence from the reports of the factory inspectors recommending a further limitation of the hours of labour by a reduction of the ten hours and a half under the Act of 1850 to ten hours. He earnestly deprecated any renewal of agitation as to the amount of labour with regard to that class to whom the Act of 1850 referred. The question of children's labour stood on quite different grounds; but he must express his regret that the noble Lord the Secretary of State, in announcing his intention of bringing in a measure on that subject, had shown some doubt as to whether Parliament might not be induced to sanction 1277 the principle of restricting the hours of labour for adults. He hoped that the noble Lord would never yield his assent to a principle which had always been repudiated by every eminent statesman in that and the other House of Parliament.
§ MR. I. BUTT
Sir, a challenge has been thrown out by the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down, which must not pass unanswered. As no opposition is given to the bringing in of this Bill, I had not intended to have risen on this occasion; but having long taken a deep, very deep interest in this question-—having been in communication with the delegates of the factory workmen—and having been consulted by the hon. Member for Oldham, I do not think I ought to let the challenge of the right hon. Baronet pass without a reply. The right hon. Baronet denied the assertion of my noble Friend near me (Lord John Manners) that the law had been systematically violated; he has challenged him to record any evidence from the report of the Inspectors of Factories in support of it.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I challenge him to record any recommendation from the Factory Inspectors to reduce the hours of working to ten, and I said that the law was generally observed, was observed in nineteen-twentieths of the factories, and the violations of it were exceptional cases.
§ MR. I. BUTT
Sir, I understood the challenge to be this: to call on my noble Friend to prove that there was such a general and systematic violation of the law as demanded legislative interference. There are two things perfectly distinct. The right hon. Baronet is too clear in his views to confound them, as he will permit me to say he seems to do. Sir, the question what shall be the limit of your hours of labour is one thing—the enforcement of your limit, whatever it may be, is another. It is one thing to assert that legislative interference is absolutely necessary to prevent your limit of ten hours and a half being evaded—and quite another thing to assert that you ought to reduce that limit from ten hours and a half to ten. The assertion of my noble Friend was that the existing law is scandalously, generally, and systematically violated. We say that this violation is such, that unless you are willing to make law a mockery and bring the authority of the Legislature into contempt, Parliament must interfere with a high hand to put it down. Did the right hon. Baronet challenge them to read extracts from the 1278 reports of the Factory Inspectors to sustain this assertion? In his report of October, 1832, Mr. Leonard Horner writes—I regret to say that the offence of working young persons and women for a greater number of hours daily than is legal, long complained of, still prevails to a considerable extent in some parts of my district. In my two last reports I have dwelt at some length on this subject—on the wilful commission of the fraud by persons of large property—on the mean contrivances to which they have recourse in order to elude detection—and the obstacles which the Inspectors meet with, from the imperfect provisions of the Act, in their endeavours to put down an evil so great as a systematic violation of law—one so justly complained of by millowners who are strictly obeying the Act. All that I have stated in these reports is equally applicable to the last half-year and to the present time; and I presume that you will not think it necessary for me to repeat what I said on those occasions, as my former statements can be easily referred to.Were these the very rare and exceptional cases of which the right hon. Baronet had spoken—so few and so insignificant as to be totally unworthy the notice of Parliament? The Inspector uses the very words "systematic violation of the law;" the illegal practices still prevail "to a considerable extent" in his district, one embracing no inconsiderable tract; something more, I rather think, in itself than one-twentieth of the factory districts of England. He refers to his former statements, and says that they are equally applicable to the last half-year. What were these statements? They represented a state of things utterly disgraceful. A regular system of scouts was established in whole districts to give intimation of the approach of the Inspector. The moment he appeared, no matter how unexpectedly, persons ran through the district to give warning of his approach. Opulent millowners might be seen running in breathless haste from their home to the factory gate, that they might, have it shut when the Inspector came. When be did obtain an entrance, the young persons who-were working over hours were concealed. In some instances they have been discovered in receptacles and hiding places which would have justified far stronger language than even the expression "mean contrivances," and these things, Mr. Horner told them, "frequently prevailed." They were continuous; they had been, described in former reports, and all that had been formerly stated was equally applicable to the last half year. But what say the. Inspectors in their joint report, made in October last? Here is the joint evidence 1279 of the four Factory Inspectors for the United Kingdom:—We now feel ourselves called upon to represent to you in this our joint report, that experience has proved that when the Acts of 1833 and 1844 were framed, the measures that have been resorted to by certain occupiers of factories, to evade the limitations of the hours of work fixed by these Acts, were not contemplated, consequently no sufficient security against them was provided. The clear intentions of the Legislature are defeated, because of the conditions to which the Inspectors are restricted, in their endeavours to obtain the conviction of an offender; and thus extensive frauds have been practised, and in some places we have reason to believe are now habitually practised with impunity.Sir, I apprehend that my noble Friend is fully borne out in the statement he has made, and that I have answered the challenge of the right hon. Baronet opposite. But, Sir, the factory inspectors go further —they distinctly say that they cannot administer the law without legislative aid. I quote again from the report of October, 1852, the joint report of the four inspectors:—Those who are strictly observing the law, naturally claim that the provisions of the Act in so important a matter shall not be suffered to be violated with impunity, and that all occupiers of factories shall he compelled to adhere to the same hours of work as limited by law. To carry this into effect has been our constant aim; but without an amending Act, which will make the detection of offences more easy, and the punishment of them more certain and more severe, we have little hope that the desired uniformity will be accomplished.No man, Sir, I presume, will now tell me that legislation is not imperatively called for—that we are not to prevent our authority, the authority of the Legislature, being set at defiance, because rich men and great capitalists are the systematic violators of the law. Then, Sir, if legislation be now thus imperatively demanded, the Act of 1850 has not settled the question. Sir, even if it had been observed, and been effectual, I deny that it could have done so; but it has been systematically violated—it has been a palpable and undeniable failure. We are driven back to consider the question as it stood when that Act passed. That Act took the half-hour from the operative under the pretence that it would make the restriction efficient. Well, Sir, it has not made the restriction efficient. Upon the plainest grounds the question of that half-hour is now reopened. I do not hesitate to say that, looking anxiously as I did, although then not having a seat in this House, to the proceedings in reference to this question in Parliament, 1280 I thought the Act of 1850 one utterly disgraceful to Parliament. Sir, wholly irrespective of any consideration of its admitted failure, I think so still. The right hon. Baronet has inaccurately represented what took place; I then watched the proceedings upon this question too anxiously not to be able upon the moment to set him right. In 1847 the Statute was passed which limited the hours of labour for women and young persons to ten hours. That Act was intended to have set the question at rest, and for nearly three years it was at rest; but the ingenuity of lawbreakers discovered a technical flaw in the wording of the present clauses of the Act. No one ever denied that the intention of the Legislature was to prevent that which is termed the system of relays—every one so understood the Statute—lor nearly three years it was so acted on, until sometime in 1850 (if I remember right) a judicial decision quashed a conviction for this offence of working for more than ten hours by relays. Sir, this decision took every one by surprise. The Judges who so decided it admitted that of the intention of those who passed the Statute there could be no moral doubt; but they were of opinion that, in an Act creating an offence and imposing penalties, the Legislature had not used words of sufficient precision. Sir, it was a mere technical flaw—a miscarriage of the draughtsman. Well, in the Session of 1850 the factory operatives came to Parliament to remedy this purely technical defect, and make the Act of 1847 what it was intended to be. A noble Lord, now in the other House, then a Member of this House, brought in a Bill to do that which surely was plain justice—to declare the true intention of the former Act, and make the words of the Statute speak what the mind of the Legislature meant. This was all that was necessary—all that was asked. There never was a plainer case; there never was a more just demand. But to this, opposition was offered; the battle of the ten hours was to be fought over again; and then it was that the right hon. Baronet interfered; he took the matter out of Lord Ashley's hands—I will not say as the mouthpiece of the millowner, as the right hon. Baronet denied it—but he brought in a Bill, which, as the price of remedying the technical defect in the Act of 1847, filched from the operatives half an hour of the time secured to them by that Act. Lord Ashley, it is true, assented to that Bill; he (Mr. Butt) must ever think as- 1281 sented to in a moment of weakness; but Lord Ashley assented to it, not as the measure to which the factory operatives were entitled, but as the best that could be carried in the face of the opposition by which his own Bill was encountered. That transaction, he (Mr. Butt) repeated, was a disgrace to the Statute-book. Upon what principle had Parliament fixed the limit of labour at ten hours? Upon the principle that justice demanded it should be so fixed; upon the evidence of all persons acquainted with the constitution of the human frame, who were examined upon the subject, that ten hours of labour was the utmost that the strength of young persons could endure; upon the perfect proof that longer hours of labour were equally destructive to their physical and moral welfare. This was the principle upon which the Act of 1847 was passed into a law; and then when that measure was found technically defective, they turned round upon the workmen in factories, and they told them we will not give you that protection which we have said justice and humanity and the interests of society demand you should have. We will not make our own law effectual, unless upon the terms of making you toil half an hour in the day beyond the time which we have already solemnly declared to be the utmost limit for which you ought to work. This was the transaction of 1850. It was said to be a final settlement of the question. It was called a compromise—a compromise between whom? The factory workers were no parties to it: they had resisted it, and protested against it, and petitioned against it to the very last. But even if it could be termed a settlement, it had been broken through; if it were a compromise, it had been violated by the millowners—by the very men who had insisted on the extra half-hour as the price of their obedience to the spirit of the law. They had not obeyed even the letter of the law; they had not, even on the bargain of their own making, any right to insist on the time they had extorted for an allowance they never gave. He did not speak of mill-owners as a class; he believed nothing could be more unfortunate for this question than to turn it into a question between master and workman. The best and the wisest of the millowners were with the operatives on this question. He spoke of those who had resisted the limit of ten hours, who had next insisted on another half-hour as the price of their making the 1282 law effective, and who now, when they had got that half-hour, still evaded and made ineffectual the law. Under these circumstances the question now came before the House. The conduct of the millowners had made new legislation absolutely indispensable. The factory operatives now appealed to the justice of the House. They asked them to restore to them the half-hour which never ought to have been taken from them, and which it now plainly appeared had been taken without the benefit of an effective law which had been promised them in return. It was now plain the question had not been settled by the law of 1850. He ventured to tell the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) that it never would be settled by any Bill that would not be raising up the principle of a ten hours' limit to the labour of the young. This principle the Legislature had solemnly and deliberately conceded in 1847. That concession could never be retracted. They had a perfect right upon every ground now to ask the House to make effective that principle; to give them a Ten Hours' Act which would secure them the limit of ten hours, which would contain provisions that could be effectually enforced, which would admit of no evasion, and become ineffectual by no flaw. Such a measure his hon. Friend (Mr. Cobbett) asked leave to introduce. To any such measure he (Mr. Butt) would give his most cordial and earnest support. He (Mr. Butt) knew of no subject that could better occupy the attention of that House than one which concerned the wellbeing and engaged the feelings of the great masses of the working people of this nation.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
trusted the House would allow him to say a few words, feeling, as he did, that he owed it to many thousand of the inhabitants of the borough which he had the honour to represent, to express his entire concurrence in the object contemplated by his hon. Colleague (Mr. Cobbett). He could bear witness to the intensity of the interest which they felt upon this question: it was almost the burden of their thoughts; while to many of them it had been a matter of earnest exertion through twenty, thirty, ay, even forty years. They regarded it as paramount to all political questions, and there was no subject whatever in which their feelings were so deeply and so firmly entwined as they were in this. He heartily concurred, then, in the object of the Motion, understanding that object to be the restoration of the Bill of 1283 1847, and giving back to the labouring classes in factories the half-hour of which they were so unjustly deprived by the Act of 1850. At the time the latter Act was passed, he concurred with the noble Lord the Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners), in regarding the conduct of Parliament in depriving the operatives of the half-hour as iniquitous and unjust. The arrangement contemplated by the Act of 1847 was satisfactory to the working classes, but it broke down from some technical defect in its provisions, and a mean and ungenerous advantage was taken of this defect to alter the arrangement; but even under the new Act, no one could look over the reports of the Factory Inspectors without being satisfied that the advantages which had been anticipated from that measure had never been derived by the working people, and there was a continual violation of the law going on, and the time had at length arrived when the Legislature must again interfere to protect the labourer. In recognising the object of his hon. Colleague, however, he reserved to himself the right of expressing an opinion as to the means by which it was proposed to accomplish this object. Whether the Bill he had introduced would be the most effectual method, was a matter for subsequent discussion. The promise of the noble Lord the Home Secretary with regard to the better care of children, was valuable as far as it went, He (Mr. Fox) trusted that the noble Lord would not neglect to put that promise into effect, while at the same time he would remember that it was not merely sufficient protection for children that was wanting, but that also sufficient protection for women and young persons was now claimed. The noble Lord had traced the mortality of children to what they endured after they had entered the mills; but it was a mistake, for the evil arose before they went there, and had its origin in the physical and moral condition of the women. The persons who were aggrieved were in every way worthy of the consideration of the Legislature, for there was a disposition to obtain information, even by self-culture, if no other means were attainable, which had been remarkably exhibited in persons connected with factories; and many of the clerks and supervisors in the factories in the borough with which he was connected, were young men who, with scarcely any exception, had improved themselves by self-culture, by means of mutual and self-supporting educational institutions; and among the petitions 1284 he had presented were several from establishmenta of that kind, in which the violation of the Act of Parliament was distinctly stated to be an invasion on their time and means of acquiring knowledge. Mr. Horner, in his last report, quoted some remarks of Mr. Kennedy in his report in 1851, which were to the effect, "that he could not give a stronger instance of the value of the half-day to the children, than the fact that in sixty-one schools which had pupil teachers, there were twenty-eight instances of pupil teachers who had received instruction while working for half-days." Let everything be done for the protection of children by all means; but it was when they became young persons that the pressure on them was greatest; and then it was most difficult to follow up the instruction they had received in their earlier years. This was a proper object of legislation. He agreed with the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), that to interfere with the machinery of labour, was a delicate question; but another question was, whether or not the law should be enforced. He would ask Ministers, could they, and would they, enforce it?—for hitherto it was notorious that it had not been done. He had always objected to interfere with labour; but if there was no other means which could be enforced to compel employers to obey a wholesome law, some stringent powers must be employed to oblige them to observe it. He had thought it due to the interests he represented to express his opinions on the question, and he was glad to find that the House was disposed, without a division, to hear the prayer of those whose interests were advocated by his hon. and learned Colleague.
§ MR. WILSON PATTEN
said, he would not have troubled the House on this occasion were it not for the observation that had been made by the noble Lord the Member for Colchester, who, if he remembered rightly, had alleged that there was a systematic evasion of the law.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
I assure my hon. Friend I never said anything like it; but I said there was a systematic attempt on the part of some of the master manufacturers to evade the law.
§ MR. WILSON PATTEN
was sure the noble Lord could not have meant what his words implied; but he had proceeded to class the masters on one side, and the men on the other, an dhow the masters did this, 1285 and the men did that; and his observations would lead the public to believe that there was a systematic evasion of the law. Representing a county in which there was a large manufacturing interest, he should neglect his duty if he did not say that in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire the present law was acted upon not only to the spirit, but to the letter. He owned there were instances in which there had been an evasion of the law; it was impossible to read the reports of the Inspectors without seeing that there had been an evasion of it. It would be a very great misfortune if in debating this question they went back to the old system of setting the master against the man, and the man against the master, who felt a desire to act fairly towards each other. The hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. I. Butt) had quoted a report to show that there was a systematic evasion of the law throughout the manufacturing districts; but if he would refer again to the report, and would read the paragraph that followed the one he had quoted, he would perceive that the Inspector mentioned that there had not been a general evasion of the law in the manufacturing districts. If the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department was contemplating the introduction of any measure by which he would propose to put a restriction on the moving power, he hoped he would give the country an opportunity of knowing what he was about. He (Mr. W, Patten) could imagine nothing more mischievous than to adopt a system of restriction in reference to the motive power in manufactories, unless it was found impossible to enforce the law by any other means.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The only motive power I spoke of restricting is the motive power of the children.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
did not think that was the proper time to go at length into the details of the question; but there was one point in the Bill of such novelty and importance that he could not help calling the attention of the House to it for a few moments. The advocates of the preceding Factory Bills had always indignantly disclaimed the intention of limiting the hours of adult labour, and always said their object was to protect those who could not protect themselves, namely, the women, children, and young persons. They must all be aware of the danger and of the injustice of that House preventing the labouring man, under the plea of affording protection to others, from using that which was his only 1286 capital, the labour of his hands, to such an extent and in such a manner as he might think right for his own interest. Now, if he did not greatly mistake, it was proposed by the Bill now sought to be introduced, by stopping the motive power of mills for a certain time, to place a restriction upon the hours of adult labour. He would not now discuss all the consequences of such a proceeding, but he would say it was one of the very gravest questions which the House could entertain. He did not complain of the Government for allowing this Bill to be brought in; there might be provisions in it which it would be right to consider; and if the legislation of the House had been set at nought and eluded, it was the duty of the House to make that legislation effectual; but he joined in the regret that had been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department did not, when he gave his consent to the introduction of the Bill, state on the part of the Government his determination to resist that principle. The holding out of false hopes to the labouring population of the country was fraught with danger. He (Mr. Labouchere) respected and loved the population as much as the loudest defender of their interests in that House could do; and he felt that nothing could be more unjust to them, or more fraught with danger, than to interfere with their right of selling their labour for such a price and in such a manner as they should1 think fit for their own interest. He dared say the observation of the noble Lord was inadvertently made, and he hoped some member of the Government would say that it was their determination steadily to oppose any attempt to limit the hours of adult labour.
§ MR. BOOKER
said, that, in his opinion, this was not a question of the rights of capital, and labour, and industry, but of the rights of nature. He did not on this occasion, any more than the right hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat, intend to approach the principle of the Bill which it was proposed to introduce. He merely wished to say that as one engaged—largely engaged—in the employment of manufacturing industry, he gave his most unqualified assent to a measure involving so great a principle as that included in the Bill now submitted for consideration. Now he humbly conceived that the principle involved in this measure was, not the mere principle of whether the me- 1287 chanical power of the country should be stopped or kept in active operation. No; what was contended for was this, that a law which the Legislature had deliberately passed for the protection of the bone and sinew of England—for the protection of the industrious classes, whether they were engaged in agriculture, commerce, or in manufactures—on whom the welfare of England depended, should be enforced; and it was because he felt the full force of that principle that he freely confessed he entertained an honest pride and satisfaction, representing, as he did, a great agricultural constituency, with having been entrusted with the petitions which he had that evening presented from the great seats of manufacturing industry. He hoped and trusted that the Bill being introduced with the concurrence of Her Majesty's Government—a Bill so nearly concerning the rights and interests of the industrial and manufacturing population of the country—that he (Mr. Booker) would have the opportunity of proving that he was as prepared as any hon. Gentleman in that House to give his vote in favour of those classes receiving all that protection which the Legislature should consider them entitled to receive. But to allude for one moment to a subject immediately brought under consideration—namely, the interference with what was called the mechanieal power—he certainly could not conceive any body enacting any such interference. At the same time, he would beg most strongly to observe that if any parties were found knowingly, wilfully, and perseveringly to transgress a law Which the Legislature had deliberately passed—while he owned he would have recourse to such a step as a last resource—if he saw those who wielded the capital of the country, the great employers of labour, electing for their own personal aggrandisement, and in order to obtain revenue at the expense of those who were honestly engaged in competition with them, wilfully to transgress the law, under such eircumstances he must say it did become a legitimate matter for inquiry and consideration whether the House of Commons should not, by the strongest means in its power, prevent the exercise of those powers which their capital alone enabled such persons to exercise. It was the duty of the Legislature, by stringent laws, to prevent capital from dealing harshly with labour. To the introduction of the Bill, therefore, he gave his most cordial, his most cheerful assent. LORD JOHN RUSSELL wished to say 1288 a few words, in order to prevent the continuance of the misapprehension under which his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), and his right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), seemed to labour. For they were inclined to imagine that his noble Friend the Secretary for the Home Department had hold out some false hope that he would consent to a restriction with respect to the motive power. Now the fact was, that his noble Friend, in assenting to the introduction of the Bill, had said nothing whatever with regard to motive power, carefully reserving himself from giving any opinion upon the whole subject until the second reading of the Bill. The only observation which he made at all in allusion to motive power, though it certainly had a very material bearing upon the question, was, that he would not consent to any restriction upon adult labour. Now he (Lord J. Russell) was prepared to maintain that it would neither be right nor necessary to impose any restrictions upon adult labour, for it would be a violation of all the principles which ought to govern our legislation upon this subject, and he therefore would not consent to any provisions of such a nature. However, in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who proposed this Bill, there were many observations with respect to the infringement of the present factory laws, and pointing out the means of obtaining the more strict observance of those laws—a course which was perfectly legitimate, and it was therefore only fair that the House should allow of the introduction of the Bill. When the Bill came to be read a second time, its principle could then be fairly discussed. He must say before he sat down, speaking as to what had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), in reference to the Bill of 1850, that he entirely supported his statement—namely, that the object of that Bill was not simply, as had been stated, to remedy a verbal inaccuracy of the Act of 1847, which prevented its being fully carried out, but because the system of relays had been found to work most injuriously for those in whose interest the measure had been framed. And while, therefore, his right hon. Friend consented to allowing of an extension in the hours of labour to ten hours and a half, he placed a further restriction upon labour on Saturdays. The whole of the matter was then very fully considered, and he believed the 1289 propositions of his right hon. Friend were just to all parties.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the question which the House had to determine was, would it take the necessary steps to make its legislation effectual? He, for one, would be very sorry to sanction any restriction upon the motive power of factories without a cause; but if the legislation of that House—if the laws of the country—were to be systematically violated, not, indeed, by a majority of those who employed our factory operatives in textile manufactures, but by a minority, then, in justice to those whose interests they sought to protect by their factory legislation—in justice to the women and children of England — in justice to those fair traders who were content to abide by the provisions of our laws—if no other means could be found effectually to guard against such abuses, he (Mr. Newdegate) was prepared to consent to a restriction upon motive power—at all events, in cases where there was proved a wilful and systematic violation of the law. As the representative, indeed, of a large manufacturing district, he should be very sorry to have it go forth that he wantonly sanctioned the introduction of any restriction upon motive power; but at the same time he must say that it ill became Parliament—it ill became the Government —unguardedly to declare such intentions upon the Motion for introducing this Bill, as would preclude them from having recourse to those means which, they might afterwards find, were the only resources effectual for the prevention of frauds which were alike oppressive to the operatives, and unfair to the competitors in trade of those guilty of them. He would support the introduction of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Oldham, because he would not consent to behold the laws of the country violated, because he would not see the just claims of the operatives in the northern districts set at naught; and because he would not tie his hands against the enforcement of a principle which had been repeatedly sanctioned by the House of Commons. They might depend upon it that nothing was to be expected from such mealy-mouthed declarations as that of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. All that he had said to-night he had said before: he had given the same liberal promises, but he adhered to those means which had proved insufficient; this was equivalent to promising that his future should be as ineffectual as his previous 1290 legislation on this subject. He (Mr. Newdegate) most sincerely hoped that the House would not be induced to refuse its sanction to the introduction of the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. E. BALL,
having hitherto appeared before the House chiefly as the advocate of the agricultural interest, was anxious on an occasion like the present to express his sympathy for the working classes of the towns. It was a very remarkable circumstance that he should have been selected for the honour of presenting petitions from Manchester, complaining of oppression. Why had not those petitions been sent to the Members for that City? Really, if he should ever quarrel with the constituents of Cambridgeshire, he should give the Members for Manchester a turn, for the many good turns they bad done him—by turning them out. With respect to the question before the House, he had only to say that if any persons had been guilty of any oppression of the poor, it was the most terrible transgression that men could be guilty of; and the reports of the Inspectors showed that there was great reason for concluding, that the law had in too many instances been infringed.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Cobbett, Mr. Feilden, and Lord John Manners.