HC Deb 26 February 1867 vol 185 cc1066-88

MR. FAWCETT moved that, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient to extend the Educational Clauses of the Factory Acts to children who are employed in agriculture. He said, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would not suppose that he made this Motion in any spirit of hostility to the measure which the right hon. Gentleman had promised to introduce for the extension of the Factory Acts. On the contrary, he sincerely thanked him for that measure, and his gratitude was strengthened when he remembered the promptitude of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. All that had read the Report of the Children's Employment Commission must feel that it contained fearful disclosures. It proved that thousands of lives were yearly sacrificed, and that thousands more of young people were ruined in body and soul by premature employment. He wished, however, to impress upon the House that if the right hon. Gentleman confined his measure to those trades only which had been reported upon by the Commissioners, he would but touch the fringe of a great question, and leave unsettled a problem in the solution of which the most vital interests of the country were involved. When the Factory Acts were introduced they were met by two kinds of arguments. It was urged, first, that such an interference with particular trades would materially jeopardise their prosperity, and would too much encroach on individual liberty; and secondly, that such special and exceptional legislation was unjust because it was exceptional. Now, the first of these objections had been refuted and silenced by experience. The Factories Act was first applied to the textile manufactures of the country, and that branch had ever since continued in a progressive state of prosperity; and those who most stoutly opposed this legislation were now ready to admit that it had worked with marked success. They were now, likewise, quite ready to admit the advantage they had derived from having a class of operatives who, from being taken care of in youth, had grown up sound in body and mind. Again, the argument with regard to the interference with individual liberty had also been silenced by experience. He was as much opposed as any man to all unnecessary interference on the part of the Government. Perhaps there was, at the present day, a tendency to ask the Government to interfere too much with private individuals; and, as a Radical, he thought that that was a tendency which, in a reformed House of Commons, must be carefully and constantly watched. He had learned his love for individual freedom from his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), who had made the most philosophic and., eloquent defence which had ever been written of personal liberty; but he felt sure his hon. Friend would agree with him that the State was performing one of its clearest and most undoubted duties when it rescued a child from a grievous and irreparable injury. A child was not a free agent; he had no power to defend himself, and no one could over-estimate the injury that was done him if his education was neglected through the avarice or the ignorance of his parents. As for the second argument against the Factory Acts, he (Mr. Fawcett) did not see how it was to be answered; on the contrary, the more those Acts were extended the more unjust they became, unless they were made general. Owing to the zeal of the right hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Bruce), the Acts were applied to the pottery district, and with the most beneficial results. While admitting this, however, the masters said it was unjust to legislate for them and not to legislate generally. They said they were placed under special disadvantages. They said agriculture was not under the same restrictions, and that the result was that boys would not come to their half-time factory work while they could get full employment in agriculture. They did not get their fair share of the juvenile labour of the district. If the Government had not the courage to introduce a general measure, based on the principle that no child under thirteen should be permitted to work unless he spent a certain number of hours per week at school, he (Mr. Fawcett) wished to point out the pressing need there was for applying, without delay, the half-time system to agriculture. The agricultural population was deplorably ignorant; and he feared that there were circumstances which put a meretricious and deceptive gloss upon the education of the rural population. We had Government grants; we had great zeal on the part of ministers of religion; we had admirable schools, and in many cases ample funds; but these were not sufficient. If a child was taken away from school at eight or nine years of age, all he had named would be useless. He knew villages in the West of England where there was plenty of money for educational purposes, but where there were excellent schools, where there was scarcely a youth who could read sufficiently well to understand a newspaper. If a child was taken away from school at eight or nine years of age, he was certain to forget the little he had learned, and he would grow up in a state of ignorance, for it was found that the rudiments of learning were rarely acquired in after life. It was said that there were practical diffi- culties in the way of applying the half-time system to agriculture. There might be such, but he feared that those difficulties were readily, perhaps joyfully, seized upon as an excuse. At a recent meeting at Wolverhampton, the Earl of Lichfield, who knew something about agriculture, had made a most admirable speech in favour of applying the half-time system to the rural districts of the country. No doubt many hon. Members would recollect Mr. Paget the late representative of Nottingham. He was a well-known agriculturist, and he had for many years adopted the half-time system on his farm with signal success. His experience was that the boys took greater pleasure in their school, and did their work better—emphatically better—for their change of occupation. However, he (Mr. Fawcett) would examine some of these "practical difficulties." It was said that the Factories Acts had been successfully applied to those branches of industry where labour was concentrated, and the children worked half-time and went to school the other half; but that in agricultural districts the work was often two or three miles on one side of the labourer's dwelling while the school was a like distance on the other, and that, therefore, half-time was impossible. This must be overcome by adopting the alternate day system, school one day and work the next, and if this would not do, there was the alternate week system. But if this half-time system was general, we should diminish the supply of juvenile labour, and increase its efficiency, and by so doing increase the value of the children's labour, and consequently increase their remuneration. Then it was said there were some labourers in the worst paid districts who were in such a state of wretched poverty that they could not live without the children's earnings. It might be said that to take away 1s. or 2s. a week from a Dorchester labourer, who was dragging out a miserable existence, would be to starve him. But why were the wages in Dorsetshire and Wiltshire exceptionally low? Why did the labourers continue in a state of the greatest hardship when for the same kind of labour they could obtain higher wages elsewhere? How was it that competition did not equalize wages in different parts of the country? The reason was that labourers were ignorant, and as isolated from the rest of England as if they lived in a distant country. Their wages were not affected by the labour market of the country. The wages were always at the minimum. They were not determined by competition with the rest of the country, and the problem was, how much could a man and his family just live upon? In this the earnings of the boy were not left out of the calculation. If, then, that labourer was deprived of his boy's earnings, the wages of the man must be raised to enable him to live. He would not suffer, he could not suffer, for it was impossible for him to be in a worse position. It might be said, "You admit that the result of your legislation would be to increase the price of juvenile labour, and in some cases to increase the general price of labour, and therefore to cast a burden either upon the landlord or the farmer." Even if that were so, he did not think the House would hesitate; but on the strictest principles of political economy it would be admitted that whatever increased the efficiency of labour increased its productiveness, and thus augmented the fund divisible as landlord's rent, farmers' profit, and labourers' wages. One word to the agricultural interest. Agriculture was daily becoming more and more a skilled industry, more complicated machinery was used in it, and greater intelligence was required for its management. Let them remember that the cutting machines must not be intrusted to ignorant workmen. They had heard much of the danger of foreign competition; but that danger would be fully met by improving the education of the people of this country. Timid people expressed their alarm about strikes; but if they wanted men to understand the true principles of economy, they must educate them in their youth. They stood aghast at trades unions, and were shocked at the outrages in Sheffield; but if they had read the horrors which were published respecting the children of that town, they would not be surprised at outrages being committed by grown men. The Children's Employment Commission disclosed horrors with regard to the town that made it matter of surprise that outrages were not more frequent. Sometimes it was said, "Compel landlords to improve cottages;" but educate the people and raise their tastes, and they would not live in miserable two-roomed hovels. The philanthropy of a nation was sometimes appealed to on behalf of a wretched peasant who was starving with his family on 8s. a week; but he would not do so if he could read the papers and learn of the demand for labour in other parts of the country. How much wiser would it be boldly to strike at that ignorance which was the root of pauperism and crime than to struggle under the burden of these evils! It was chiefly by the Conservative party that the first Factory Act was carried; their policy in this respect had conferred inestimable blessings on the nation. Let them continue the good work and prove their sincerity to the nation by conferring the same blessings upon the industry with which they were more intimately connected. Personally, he was pledged to do what he could to improve the condition of the agricultural poor, among whom he had lived all his life. He was confident if they could do anything to promote their education, they would be assisting effectually to lighten the burden of poverty which oppressed them, and to make their condition more worthy of that nation, to the wealth and greatness of which their class had contributed so much, and from whose advancing civilization and increasing prosperity they had derived so slender a share of augmented happiness.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient to extend the Educational Clauses of the Factory Acts to children who are employed in agriculture."—(Mr. Fawcett.)


said, that his experience might possibly have some weight with those who had not had the same opportunities of witnessing the beneficial results of factory legislation. The first step towards national education was taken thirty years ago, when the Factory Bill was opposed by the millowners, with certain exceptions. He joined in opposition, not from any unwillingness to shorten the hours of labour, but from a conviction that legislation for a particular class of employers was one-sided and unjust. He maintained at that time that the condition of the factory districts was not worse than that of others, and the recent Reports of the Children's Employment Commission had proved the truth of what he then said. That Commission had occasioned the extension of the Factory Acts to trades not originally embraced. Having at first opposed the Act, he wished now joyfully to offer his testimony to its beneficial results. In his own neighbourhood a squalid population had been succeeded by a healthy one. The operation of the Act had changed the aspect of many a once wretched district, and brought upon the scene scores of happy chubby-faced children, full of health and activity, who, but for the interference of the Legislature, would have been wearing away their young lives with premature toil. Hitherto the whole course of legislation had been tentative and experimental. If the Government of the day had attempted to deal with the question as a whole, and to apply legislation to many trades, the task would have been too great for them, opposed as they would have been by several united interests. The extension of the Factory Acts to mines and collieries, bleaching works, the lace works of Nottingham, and the potteries of Staffordshire, aided the work of education and brought a large number of the trades of the country under its operation. These successive steps had tended to diminish opposition to this mode of education, and had secured a greater number of witnesses to its beneficial results. We seemed to have arrived at the half-way house of national education, and if the measure of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) received the assent of the agricultural Gentlemen we should have solved the problem of national education, and little more would remain to be done. What objections could be raised by the country Gentlemen? He was bound to admit the benefits they conferred on the manufacturing interest by determinedly pressing the Act upon them. Happily, times were now changed; classes were not so banded one against another as they had been; and there seemed to be no reason why they should not together carry a national system of educacation. Was there anything in the condition of children employed in agriculture which forbade the application of this Act to them? From his own observation he would say that there were many reasons why this Act was more imperatively called for in agricultural than in manufacturing districts. The children of farm labourers were taken from school early, left the parental roof, and were hired by farmers from year to year. He could confirm what had been said by the hon. Member for Brighton as to the ignorance of children in agricultural populations compared with that of children in manufacturing populations. Farming, however, was now a very different thing from what it had been; clodhoppers could not be trusted to deal with costly instruments, and farmers must of necessity have skilled labour. On these and other grounds a good case was made out for the extension of the Factory Act to the children employed in agriculture. Those who feared an interference with their liberty would, like himself, in a few years bear testimony to the good fruits of this paternal Act.


said, that the country Gentlemen did not fear the extension of education among their labourers. No class of men had endeavoured to do so much towards establishing schools and encouraging education as the country Gentlemen. Speaking for the county of Wilts, at all events for the northern portion of it, in which he had lived all his life, he could say that in no part of it bad the education of the agricultural population been neglected; on the contrary, it had been provided for in the most ample manner. There was hardly a village or hamlet in which schools had not been started, or some attempt made in the kindest and most liberal manner to educate the labouring population. The great difficulty that was experienced was in getting the children to school. In some cases, no doubt, the parents were desirous of adding to the comforts of their families by the earnings of their children; but in most instances the children stopped away because they preferred to go bird-nesting, or rabbiting, or something of that sort, and the country Gentlemen had even offered premiums for getting them to school. It was a trying time for a child to be taken from school at eleven. He believed it was Dr, Johnson who said that no one learnt anything which he retained in later life before twelve, What he wished to point out in the first place was that there was no objection on the part of the landed interests to have the children well educated. But the mere fact of preventing farmers from retaining the labour of those children for more than half-a-day or half-a-week would not meet the evil; there must be some compulsory power, as in Prussia and other parts of Germany, to keep the children at school, or all other efforts would be vain. The extension of the Factory Acts to the agricultural population would not give the results they desired. A word with regard to payment for labour. In the northern portion of Wilts they had a large railway, they had quarries and factories; labour there was in great demand, and men were employed at very high rates. What was the practical result? Labourers, after having been employed on the railway, in the quarries or factories, at high wages, come back to the farmers and said that they preferred agricultural work, even though with lower wages. Agricultural labour did not expend such an extraordinary amount of strength as was required in other employments. It was not from ignorance, therefore, but from choice that these men, having tried other occupations, went back to farm labour. In the northern portion of Wilts agricultural labourers were, he believed, as happy, as well educated, and as well disposed as in any other part of England, and both landed gentry and farmers were ready to do everything in their power for the purpose of encouraging education.


said, that the hon. Gentleman had spoken of the wish of country Gentlemen to encourage education among the children of the labouring classes, and that they had proved the sincerity of their desire for the promotion of education by aiding the passing of the Factory Act. All that was now wished was that they would aid in extending that Act to the children of peasants. It might be true that the higher branches of learning could not be properly comprehended by children under ten years of age; but experience had proved that they could be taught to read, to write, and to cast up a column of pounds, shillings, and pence under that age, besides possessing some elementary knowledge of the scriptures, and being able to comprehend a simple Saxon sermon. All that was desired was to keep the children at school till they were ten years of age, and he was sure that all friends of education must have experienced much gratification at seeing the Notice of his hon. Friend on the Paper, and especially those who believe that by bold and judicious legislation they might do something to remove from the land that gross ignorance which was its especial shame. It was neither their hope nor wish that, during the present Session, the attention of the House should be called in an extended and general manner to the question of popular education, which could not be done until the great question of Reform was settled. Ardent as he was in the cause of Reform, he did not believe that the question, a branch of which was before the House, was of inferior importance; and although no radical change could be expected at present, he hoped that the subject would not be allowed entirely to sleep, but that even during the intervals between the conflict of parties the trumpet of the friends of education would give forth an occasional warning note. As soon as Reform was settled, the friends of education must make a combined effort for a radical and sweeping change of the pre sent system. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) brought on his Bill for the improvement of the Factory Acts, they would hear a good deal about the Manchester and Salford Education Society. That Society divided Manchester and Salford into 144 squares, and made a diligent house canvass, and the result of their inquiries might be summed up in this—that half the children between the ages of three and ten were running about the streets, no more educated than Kaffirs. The same was the result of a similar inquiry in Liverpool. If that was the state of great and flourishing districts, what must be the state of the rural districts, in which, in spite of the efforts of Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney), many resided who were more chary of their time and money. The last Report of the Committee of Council on Education also disclosed some startling facts, amongst which was the circumstance that in one agricultural district the clergyman of the parish was so well satisfied with the attendance of 4 per cent of the children at his schools that he closed its doors against the Inspector; while, in another case, the squire of the parish locked up the school, and sent the key to the vicar age, with a message to the effect that he could do what he liked with his own. In another instance the Commit tee reported that a wealthy landowner had discovered a very simple way of cut ting the Gordian knot, by taking the floor out of half a small cottage, whitewashing the apartment, and transforming it into a school, while he put an old woman to live in the other part, who, at a very trifling expense, afforded the children quite as much education as this enlightened land owner thought they ought to have. The result of our system of education must be judged by statistics. In 1859 an examination was held in the army by direction of the military authorities, and they discovered that out of 10,000 men taken at random, 2,675 were unable to write, though they could read imperfectly, and 2,080 could neither read nor write. The state of education in this respect contrasted most unfavourably with that of Prussia, in which country the military found that out of 100 recruits only two were unable to read or write. In the same year 15,000 men were discharged, 6,000 of whom signed their marks. The Recruiting Commission, two or three years after that, reported that, in a single month, out of 4,500 recruits, something under 3,000 were taken from the rural districts, and something under 2,500 were taken from the towns: which proves incontestably that we must look for the cause of the ignorance among the class from whom our recruits are drawn, at least as much in the country as in the towns. It evidently showed that the parents of these poor children eked out their means by withdrawing them from school at a very early age, and putting them to work. The only hope they had of effectually educating poor children was through the means of an educational rate, because it was useless to compel them to attend schools unless proper schools were provided for them. Private benevolence had done its utmost, and they must now have recourse to an educational assessment. In very poor districts the clergyman was deprived of comforts in order to contribute to the wants of the school, whilst the resident landowner only subscribed his £5. It was to the clergyman that they were indebted for the education which the country possessed; and under the circumstances, although it was against his political convictions, he could not, if the burden was not removed from their shoulders to the rate book, insist on their subscribing to the Con science Clause. In one of the midland districts, consisting of 168 parishes, 169 clergymen subscribed £10 each. In the same district there were 400 landowners, whose united incomes amounted to £650,000, yet they subscribed only £2,000, or £5 each. Although very often a squire would support a school near his own park gates, he would give nothing towards the schools of neighbouring parishes from which he derived his rents. That state of things should be got rid of, and the people be compelled to send their children to school, the expense of which should be defrayed by a rate. Experience in Canada and Australia proved that when the people had paid their money in the shape of rates they were almost certain to avail themselves of the advantages offered by the Constitution, on the principle of getting as much as they could for their money, and the same, he believed, would be the case in this country. The Returns of crime and pauperism clearly showed that our present system of education was unable to cope with the evils which were growing rapidly around our gigantic and complicated system. If they looked to England, in comparison with Germany, they must blush for their own country. We, who had abundance of money, and possessed the spirit of local self-government, advantages which foreign nations lacked, ought to be able to keep up with them in the race. He hoped that in the next or following Session, or at the first opportunity after the flood of Reform had subsided, the advocates of a comprehensive scheme of national education would unite in passing a measure which would show that our ancient and time-honoured institutions were compatible, equally with those of Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and America, with the universal diffusion of morality and religion.


said, that the farmers of England would endorse the principle laid down by the hon. Member for Brighton, but would question his conclusions and deny some of his facts. It was an exaggeration to say that many children under nine years of age were often employed in agricultural pursuits. Generally, they would be no sort of use. It was only exceptionally that they were engaged in bird keeping, hop-picking, and minor operations in the harvest field, and then it was generally at a time when the schoolmaster was taking his holiday. In factory work seasons, weather, and daylight were of little consequence, whereas on the farm everything depended upon them. Moreover, a child taken out of a factory had to go but a very short distance to school; whereas in the rural districts a child on an average would be obliged to walk considerably more than a mile. It was impossible, therefore, to give half a day to school and the other half to work on the farm, and the best plan seemed to be to devote half the week to the former and half to the latter. Great benefit had accrued to the rural districts from night-schools, not merely in keeping up the slight elementary education which farm boys received, but in preserving them from bad company, and employing their winter evenings. Too often, however, few persons besides the clergyman and a few irregular volunteers took an interest in them. He thought the Government would do well to grant a little pecuniary assistance to the best of these schools.


said, he agreed with the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Akroyd), in what he stated with respect to the short time system in factories. At one time the manufacturers hardly knew how to obtain sufficient labour to fill the factories on the whole time system, and when the half-time system came into operation, they thought that it would be necessary to close their mills altogether. That apprehension, however, had not been realized, and the children were not only much healthier but were more attentive at school from having to work three days a week, and more industrious in the factory from having a change of occupation in the school. It was quite the exception in the factory districts to find boys and girls unable to read and write, and in the concern with which he was connected the ability of reading figures and of writing to some extent was almost essential. The Factory Act operated, therefore, very beneficially. Since that time the principle of those Acts had been applied to many other trades, and he was not aware of a single failure. Beneficial results had invariably followed. He himself had a farm at Somerleyton, in Suffolk; but, though a day school was established there, he found there was a great difficulty in getting the children to attend it, because their parents persisted in sending them to work in the fields at too early an age. He once suggested to his manager that the children should labour and go to school on alternate days, but the reply was, "Well, sir, if I do that, I shall not be able to make the farm pay. If they are employed at half time I shall have to pay them as much as if they were fully employed." In the manufacturing districts the children were now receiving as much for short time as they did for full time. He thought that a very good thing, and did not see why wages should be so very low in the agricultural districts. He thought the children ought to have the opportunity of going to school, so that they might have a better chance of rising in the world than they had at present. Education did not render a man dissatisfied with his labour, for the best workmen were those who were the best educated. There was no reason to fear that because men were educated they would not be good agricultural labourers. He was quite satisfied that if the principle were adopted that children under thirteen years of age should not be employed without a certificate of their attendance at school, the result would be very beneficial. In that case there would be no lack of schools. He hoped some such system would be adopted, because he believed it would promote the best interests of the country.


, as one deeply interested in agriculture, and more connected with it than any other profession, thanked the hon. Member for having introduced this subject to the notice of the House. It was evident that some measures, whether compulsory or otherwise, must be adopted to enable the agricultural labourer to keep pace in intelligence and education with the workmen in other trades. And this is the more necessary when we consider that, from the progress that has been made in agriculture of late years, the rapid advancement it is still making, and the application of delicate and improved machinery to the operations of the farm, better educated and more intelligent labourers were required. Before, however, we compel parents to educate their children, we must see that the means of education are sufficient in all districts of the country. Such, he believed, is not the case in some districts. But there is no doubt that where the means of education are abundant and sufficient there is too often an indifference on the part of the parents to avail themselves of these means. This is particularly the case in those districts where there is a great demand for the labour of children—where the parents prefer sending the children to work for 6d. or 7d. per day to sending them to school. He did not think that the plan recommended by the hon. Member, and practised by Mr. Paget, could be applied in purely agricultural districts, or where the population is sparse and the distance from school is great, as in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland. No doubt it would be better to send the children to school every alternate day or every alternate week than not at all; but there are several objections to the plan which he now took the liberty of stating. On all well-managed farms there is a regular force of labourers kept for the daily labours of the farm. By sending one or several of these away on alternate days there will be an interruption of the labour of the farm, and there would be a temptation to the farm manager, when there was a stress of work on particular days, to retain the services of the children when they should have been sent to school. Another objection he had to the plan recommended was, that the full benefit of the teaching would not be obtained; for what was learnt the one week or the one day would be partly forgot before the child appeared at school the next. Education or teaching, to be quite successful, should be continuous; being thus interrupted in the plan recommended, the children would not make the necessary progress. Besides, children sent to school only now and then, in addition to not making the necessary progress, would retard the due progress of the others at school; for the master would have to devote more time to the former to enable them to keep pace with those who were kept regularly at school, and thus his attention would necessarily be abstracted from the latter. There is nothing so annoying to a teacher, and so injurious to the progress of the pupils, as the irregular attendance of the children. He thought that a better plan would be to enact that no agricultural employer should engage any child for work unless he received a certificate from a schoolmaster that the child could read, write, and do sums in arithmetic. The objection to this plan is the machinery that would be required; for it would be necessary to have some inspector who would be invested with power to demand from the employer at any time the certificate brought by the child under a certain age. If he could assist the hon. Member for Brighton in carrying out any efficient measure for the better education of the agricultural children, he would be most happy to do so. There is no doubt that it is the duty of every parent to educate his child, and it is the duty of the State to see that the parent faithfully discharged this duty.


Sir, whether the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) presses his Motion or not, I am sure it will be the opinion of this House that the discussion cannot have been without use. I must say that the principle, as I look upon it, is not so much the improvement of the agricultural population as the improvement of the population generally. You cannot consider the question of the county population without considering also the case of the neglected children who live in the suburbs of our large towns, and it presses irresistibly on the minds of all who examine this subject that enough has not yet been done in regard to education, and that we have no adequate national system. Our attempts up to this time have been partial and experimental. After thirty years of continued efforts we have failed to bring education home to the people, and as Christian men and legislators we ought never to rest until we have done our best to accomplish that object. The condition of agricultural labourers varies considerably. Labourers in the neighbourhood of populous cities are comparatively well off. In my part of the country, for instance, few labourers receive less than 3s. a day, and in many parts of Yorkshire agricultural labourers earn good wages. They may want, and I believe they do want, improved education, but all that you need do with respect to them, is to see that further means are taken for supplying the machinery of education. I wish I could give as favourable an account of the labourers in the southern and western parts of the country. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) has stated that in the north of Wiltshire the condition of the agricultural labourers is very different from that described by the hon. Member for Brighton, as existing in his part of Wiltshire. In North Wiltshire the ironworks and quarries may create such a demand for labour as to insure fair wages to the agricultural population. It is otherwise in South Wiltshire. There during the winter months it is usual to give steady employment to the married labourers, while a large portion of the unmarried labourers are thrown upon the poor rates. I once offered to find employment for 100 labourers in one part of that county, where I was assured that while the married men during the winter earned only 8s. a week, the unmarried men were supported by the poor rates. That showed something radically wrong. It arose from the same cause which has created that miserable state of society in Spitalfields and other parts of the metropolis—the improper distribution of manufacturing labour; and this arises from ignorance. A fact was brought to my knowledge at the Educational Department, that where schools were opened in the Western Islands, and where the inhabitants learned English, from that moment emigration began, the population diminished, and the condition of those who remained began to improve. I believe that the emigration which has done so much for Ireland, may be traced far more to the increased know- ledge of the people, in regard to the resources of other countries than to the misery experienced in Ireland. The same misery has been endured by a portion of the population at the East End of London, among whom a state of ignorance exists which it is difficult to believe. There are in our populous districts and in our large cities many industrial interests which, as well as the agricultural districts, are well deserving the attention of the House; but I agree with the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Akroyd), that much of the success which has attended our factory legislation is owing to the fact that we have proceeded gradually and cautiously. At the same time, I think that the amount of experience we have gained justifies a much bolder application of the principle of those acts. No doubt we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman at the Home Office that it will be his happiness and privilege to introduce a measure which will affect millions of our working population. It will probably have a wide scope, and embrace all but the agricultural population, and when that is done it will be impossible to keep out the agricultural population. The hon. Member for Brighton has made various suggestions as to the manner in which the half-time system may be applied to the agricultural population. I would add another, suited to the conditions of labour in the rural districts—namely, that attendance at school should be secured, not for so many hours in a day, or so many days in a week, but for a certain number of days in the year. But whatever may be the scheme adopted, I have no doubt that Parliament will evince towards the agricultural population the same kind and considerate spirit which has animated its legislation towards their manufacturing brethren.


Sir, the subject is one which, when the facts are fully before us, must engage the early attention of the Government and the House. In this question collateral topics of immense importance have been brought under our notice; but I shall be best discharging my duty by confining myself to the terms of the Motion before us, and giving my opinion with regard to that only. At the same time, I cannot wholly pass by the able observations of the hon. Member for Brighton upon the general questions of extending education by rates levied universally, so as to enforce the means of education in places now unprovided for. The hon. Member will forgive me for saying that this is a question which has excited so much controversy in this House that he will excuse me if I do not follow him into it. Still, I will not disguise either from him or from the House that I do think that the general question of education must come, and at no distant period, under the immediate consideration of the House, for the purpose of extending the benefits of education, especially in those poorer districts, where the means of education are less generally provided. I now pass to the terms of the Motion. My hon. Friend, followed by the hon. Member for Halifax, has dealt powerfully and justly on that which, after long discussion, is now an admitted fact, that the provisions of the Factory Acts have contributed to the advantage of all classes of the community. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Sir Francis Crossley), not only to-night, but on previous occasions, has expressed an opinion—and no opinion is entitled to more weight than that of the hon. Member on such a subject—that the beneficial operation of these Acts is felt both by masters and men, especially with regard to the spread of education among the operatives of our manufacturing towns. But I wish to ask the hon. Member for Brighton whether there are not conditions and circumstances connected with trades in large towns which make it difficult—I will not say impossible—to extend the operation of those Acts to rural districts, even in regard to compelling education. I will not say that some of the provisions of those Acts may not be extended to the rural districts; but, taking the words of his Motion, I would suggest that the condition and circumstances of the rural districts are such that the provisions of the Factory Acts, even in regard to education—to which subject his Motion is confined—are not so applicable to agricultural districts as to the larger towns. He was not, I think, quite so successful in meeting the objections to the application of the Act to rural districts as in other parts of his speech. Consider what the principles of the Factory Act are with regard to education. They are that the children engaged in factories shall be compulsorily required to attend school—that they may attend those schools either on alternate days for not less than five and a half hours, or on every day in the week for three hours at a time at one part of the year, and two hours at another. These provisions are enforced partly by penalties on the parents, partly by certificates; and the means by which these penalties are enforced is by a general inspection. This can be done in your larger towns where the houses of the parents of the children are not far removed from the place of work, where the schools are known, and the means of inspection either insure proper attendance of the children or prevent them from working in the factory. But when you apply these conditions to the rural districts the reverse is the case. The houses of the parents are removed from the fields in which they are employed. The schools will also often be distant, and if you adopt the system of morning and evening attendance, there is a danger of their not being enforced unless there is some one to see them carried into execution. I have some apprehension, recollecting an observation made at this side of the House, that it is essential for the early education of the young, that instruction must be as continuous as you can make it. If there be any interruption or break in the instruction it must impede the progress of the child in his educational studies. Let not my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton suppose that in making that observation I wish to thwart him in the object of obtaining a better education for the children in agricultural districts. I rather think the suggestion of the hon. Member for the West Biding would probably meet the difficulties better than any other I have heard made—namely, that when a child is required to work at agricultural labour, as children are in the factories, there should be a certificate given to state that the education of the child is going on at the same time. If, however, that should be done, it will not be following the provisions of the Factory Acts, though it perhaps may be effected by grafting on the Factory Acts a provision applying to children engaged in agricultural labour. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton alluded to the valuable Reports of the Commissioners on Education—five folio volumes, which are applicable to all trades. I shall have to call attention to those Reports when stating the principles of the two Bills, relating to Factory Acts Extension and Hours of Labour Regulation, which I propose to introduce on Friday night; but bear in mind that in those five volumes you have not one single line respecting the children employed in the agricultural districts. The Commission has been extended so as to embrace an inquiry into the employment of those children; and since my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton put his notice on the paper, I have taken an opportunity of asking how soon we are likely to get a Report in reference to the children employed in gangs. I am informed that it will be presented to the Government very soon, and, of course, when it is presented to the Government it will be laid before the House. I think we shall be in a better position to deal with the subject when that Report is presented. I will frankly add that, having gone carefully through the Reports which have been made, I have arrived at the conclusion that some of the principles of the Factory Acts will have to be extended to the agricultural districts. Whether it will be necessary to extend the power of the Commissioners so that they may inquire, not only into cases in which children are employed in gangs, but also into cases in which they are employed not collectively, is a question on which I would rather not give any opinion now. I mention these matters now to show my hon. Friend that none of the topics which are material for a consideration of the subject have escaped the attention of Her Majesty's Government; but, looking at the terms of the proposal, and having made the declaration I have made, I trust my hon. Friend will not think it necessary by an abstract Motion to press his proposal to a division, because I think it may take another form when the facts are all before us. I have expressed my belief that the principles of the Factory Acts, in some form or other—what the form may be I do not now say—may be made applicable to children employed in agricultural districts. I should not, therefore, attempt to meet the proposal of my hon. Friend with a negative, nor should I like to even move the Previous Question; but, after what I have said, I hope he will not ask the House to come to any decision on his Motion.


said, he thanked the hon. Member for Brighton for bringing the subject forward. He liked to hear a subject of this kind discussed in the House of Commons, because it would cause the question to be considered throughout all the country. The time was come when the children through the country should be taught to read and write and do the simple sums in arithmetic. It was a question of great importance, and there was a most deplorable amount of ignorance prevailing which required some cure. There was no instrument in the world better calculated to promote the advancement of society than education, and though some people objected to the enforcement of compulsory education he did not see that it was any hardship at all. The State had as much right to compel a man to educate his children as to require him to feed and clothe them. On the contrary, it was a great benefit. It did not follow that compulsory education should be mixed up with disputes on matters of religion, for there was no more connection between religion and education than there was between a dissertation on science and a sermon.


wished to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, before they proceeded further in reference to the education of the people, they would have some opportunity of considering the mode in which that education was carried on under the Committee of Council. It was necessary for the House, before they extended the application of the Factory Acts, to consider the manner in which the public funds were administered on the subject of education, and whether they were properly distributed. At present the poor were to a great extent passed by, while the education supposed to be provided for them was given to large numbers of people who were capable of paying for it. The rural districts, to a great extent, were deprived of the educational grant. He felt obliged to the hon. Member for Brighton for bringing the subject forward, for the discussion was extremely useful, and might lead to very beneficial results. He trusted that after the assurance which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, his hon Friend would withdraw his Motion.


said, the result of his experience was that, as education was now administered in this country, parents could not see what benefit their children derived from going to school, and therefore did not send them. It was a known fact that pauperism and crime were on the increase, and he believed the reason for all this was that the clergy generally took no interest in education, except for the purpose of crippling and confining the minds of their pupils in order to bring them to their own sectarian views. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would I give his attention to the question, as to what was the education to be administered so that it might be useful and profitable to the children themselves and to others.


said, he thought he should be borne out by Gentlemen on both sides of the House in saying that the clergy generally had earnestly co-operated in measures for the general diffusion of education, and had not shown the sectarian and narrow-minded views imputed to them. No doubt there might be exceptional cases, but as a rule they had always endeavoured to advance the progress of education in its freest sense. While the clergy generally through the country desired that the Bible should not be ignored, they did everything in their power to facilitate education. In many places there were no schools except those which were supported by zealous and self-sacrificing clergymen. He believed that if the Government would encourage night schools as much as possible the great majority of the lower classes were ready and anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity thus offered them. In agricultural districts the difficulty was to get the children together. In his own parish a night school which had been formed was three or four miles from the homes of many of the children. He doubted whether it was practicable to educate the children in agricultural districts by an extension of the Factory Act for education.


said, it had been far from his intention to ignore the zeal shown on behalf of education by many country gentlemen and ministers of religion. Indeed, the very persons among these classes who had bestowed most time and attention upon that cause were precisely those who in all parts of the country had most emphatically implored him to stir in the matter, being fully persuaded of the necessity for their having additional powers. He had been greatly pleased with the whole tone of the discussion, and felt particularly gratified by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, not only because it was very kind and courteous towards him personally, but also because the right hon. Gentleman had evidently considered the practical difficulties of the subject. There were, however, none of those practical difficulties which had not been carefully considered by himself; and therefore he was the more confirmed in the opinion that the educational clauses of the Factory Acts might, with modifications, be applied to agriculture. He should be sorry to impede the passing of the measure for the extension of the Factory Acts which the right hon. Gentleman had promised to bring in. He believed the measure would be most valuable, and he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for undertaking to introduce it. After that discussion it was his present intention, with the assistance of his friends, to frame some clauses affecting agriculture which he desired to add to the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. Although he thought those clauses might be adopted, if he found when the Bill was discussed that they would in the least degree jeopardize the passing of the Government measure, he pledged himself at once to withdraw them.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.