The Bishop of London,
presented a petition from a body of coat-masters, supporting the bill in. all its clauses. He strongly approved of the measure on moral and religious grounds, and he earnestly trusted their Lordships would pass the bill without alteration.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
having presented a petition to the like effect from a body of the inhabitants of the parish of Camberwell, also briefly expressed his high approval of the bill.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, this was a measure which affected property to the amount of 10,000,000l and such a measure should not be hurried through Parliament. It had been said in another place-," Thank God, there is a House of Lords;" which implied an expectation that the bill would undergo careful consideration here. Time should be given to collect impartial evidence—not such as was contained in the 2,000 pages, before the House, obtained from interested persons 102 —but from persons employed in the mines from the lowest to the highest. He wished to correct an impression which seemed to prevail—namelv, that this bill had passed the House of Commons on the understanding that some concessions had been made which induced the coal-owners of the north to approve of it. Now he should be able to prove that this was not the case, by the letter of Mr. Buddie, the agent of the coal-owners in the north, in answer to a letter written by Lord Ashley, who appeared to imagine that there had been some departure from an agreement which it was said Mr. Buddie had entered into on the part of those whom he represented. He would first read Lord Ashley's letter, which was as follows: —
§ July 8, 1842.
§ " Dear Sir—Your letter has greatly astonished me, containing, as it does, a scheme of projected departure from the engagement into which I entered during my interview with yourself and the gentlemen representing the coal districts; I think I am entitled to, and I therefore request a public letter, to announce the wishes of the proprietors connected with the coal trade.
§ " I have said nothing about ' underground inspectors'—the Secretary of State has power to send down, from time to time, commissioners to ascertain whether the law be observed: but their jurisdiction will not extend to the discipline of the mines.—Your very obedient servant,
§ " John Buddle, Esq."
§ The answer which Mr. Buddle wrote was as follows:—
§ " Newcastle-on-Tyne, July 11, 1842.
§ " My Lord—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's letter of the 8th instant,
§ " Agreeably to your Lordship's request that I should announce to your Lordship the wishes of the proprietors connected with the coal trade, I do not think I can answer this inquiry better than by referring your Lordship to the resolutions of the meeting of the united committees of the trade, held on the 13th ult., which contains the instructions given to me when I was deputed to wait upon your Lordship and the other parties mentioned in those instructions, a copy of which I herewith enclose.
§ "I this day laid your Lordship's letter of the 8th instant before the united committees of the two counties (Durham and Northumberland), who authorized me to say, in reply, that they see no reason for departing from the opinions expressed in the enclosed copy of resolutions.
§ " The coal-owners object to the alternate 103 days' working, as being likely to involve many practical difficulties. The limitation of the employment of the boys to one month after the passing of the Act, is considered to be too short a period; and prohibiting * such male persons from being employed during one and the same week in more than one mine or colliery, unless the mine or colliery in which he shall be employed shall belong to the same owner,' is also thought inexpedient.
§ " The fourth" clause (B) of the bill is likewise strongly objected to; and it is for those reasons that the coal-owners are desirous that this bill should not be hurried through Parliament this Session, but that more time should be allowed for the due consideration of the whole subject.
§ " I regret that there was not time between the meeting at the House of Commons, on the 20th of June, and your Lordship's bill being brought into Parliament, to communicate with the coal committees of the two counties, as, if such communication had taken place, any misapprehension as to the extent of my instructions might have been avoided.
§ " Your Lordship will recollect, that in the private conversation which [had the honour to have with your Lordship on the 18th of June, I stated that I was not authorised to take upon myself the responsibility of sanctioning ten as the proper age for boys going to work in the pits, on condition of their working only three days in the week, alternately, and therefore begged to refer the discussion of this branch of the subject, together with others, to the meeting at the House of Commons on the 20th.
§ " I beg to apologize for having troubled your Lordship so much at length.—I have the honour, &c. &c. " J. BUDDLE.
§ " The Lord Ashley, M. P., &c."
§ From this he (the Marquess of Londonderry) should say it was sufficiently clear that these gentlemen had never intimated an intention of not opposing the bill. In the other House of Parliament, the Secretary of State declared that the Government admitted the principle of the bill, and in their Lordships' House the Lord President of the Council said that the Government intended to be passive on the subject. There was here a great discrepancy of opinion, and he thought it placed the Government somewhat in a dilemma. Considering the immense importance of this bill, and the vast amount of property to which its provisions would apply, he thought that the House could not possibly proceed with it at this late period of the Session. Inquiries ought to be made, and practical men ought to be examined; and the House ought not to legislate, exclusively on evidence which had been collected by interested parties. All he could say 104 was, that if the House should be of opinion that the bill should be read a second time, it might be regarded as the commencement of a series of grievances which would be got up for the purpose of working on that hypocritical humanity which reigned so much at present, and that year after year they would be beseiged with such appeals as these. He did not wish to treat this as an individual question. He wished to treat it as a national question. This bill would revolutionize the whole of the coal trade—a trade which connected itself with our shipping interest and with our navy— and, therefore, he trusted that the House would pause before it legislated on the subject in the present incomplete and unsatisfactory state of our information. He had thought it due to the coal-owners of the north to make this statement, to prove that there had been no compromise or agreement, as had been stated elsewhere.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that the noble Marquess had repeated his conviction that there had been no compromise for the purpose of allowing the bill to pass in another place. He held in his hand a letter from a gentleman of the highest character (Mr. Hedworth Lambton), who was present at the interview which took place with Lord Ashley on the subject, and that Gentleman stated that his impression was the same as that which Lord Ashley had formed. No doubt the understanding was, that with certain concessions, the bill would be passed with the support of those who were then present. However, there was a higher light in which the question ought to be viewed, it ought to be viewed as a question of humanity and apart from all considerations of compromises or agreements. He thought it only right to state this, in order to show that Lord Ashley's impression was also shared by another gentleman of the highest character and respectability.
The Marquess of Londonderry
must protest against the statement made by the noble Marquess, that Mr. Buddle had accepted the compromise on the part of the coal-owners. There appeared to have been some mistake, and no doubt it was an unfortunate one.
§ The Earl of Devon
then rose to move the second reading of the Mines and Colleries Bill. The time had arrived when it became necessary that this bill should be opened to their Lordships, in order that their Lordships might know what it was. The ground upon which he intended to 105 ask their Lordships' consent to the bill was entirely independent of anything that had been said elsewhere, or of any admission or agreement elsewhere. Their Lordships were aware that the inquiry which had led to this result had been instituted by commissioners appointed by her Majesty, in consequence of an address from the House of Commons, moved by his noble Friend Lord Ashley, when in opposition to the then existing Government, which Government had appointed four persons, independently of any recommendation of Lord Ashley, and he thought that, looking at the manner in which they had executed their duty, their Lordships would agree with him, that the late Government had been fortunate in their choice. Those commissioners had employed sub-commissioners to make inquiries on the spot. The foundation of the inquiry was perfectly fair. The commissioners thought it right to invite information from all persons willing to afford information, and they wrote a circular letter to all proprietors of mines, so far as they could find them out, and with the circular they sent a tabular form requesting them to answer certain queries relative to the employment of females and children in mines. A considerable number of proprietors did make returns, and many others did not. The sub-commissioners, then, under the instructions of the commissioners, proceeded to make inquiries, and the result had been communicated to both Houses of Parliament by her Majesty's Government, in the report of the commissioners and the appendix of evidence thereto. He had, as was his duty, examined that report and evidence, and he had no doubt that not one of their Lordships who had taken the same course would think that there was not abundant evidence of facts, which no further evidence could alter. When he undertook to move the second reading of this bill, he could not undertake to propose to their Lordships to enact any one of its provisions that was not based upon conclusive evidence, and, believing the bill to be based upon such evidence, he hoped their Lordships would pass it into a law. With respect to the employment of females, if there had been no evidence at all, and if their Lordships consulted only the common feelings of humanity—not spurious humanity, but the common feelings of human nature, — their Lordships would, a priori, and without any evidence, consider that the employment of females under 106 ground in mines, under circumstances which afforded no means of regulating the conduct of the persons with whom they were employed, was a practice which it was most desirable to put a stop to. It, would, indeed, be infinitely better if the husbands and fathers of these females would refuse to permit their wives and daughters to be placed in such circumstances; but when it was found from experience that the feelings of these persons did not thus operate, and that there was incontestable evidence that females were sent down into mines and placed in situations utterly disgraceful to humanity, their Lordships would feel that it was absolutely necessary for the Legislature to interfere, and by some regulations to prevent so great an abomination. That was a part of the bill in which he was sure their Lordships would concur, and in support of which he begged their Lordships attention to a few passages from the report of the commissioners. In that report the commissioners had embodied a good deal of the evidence which appeared in a larger form in the appendix. In page 256 of the report the commissioners stated,That in the districts in which females are taken down into the coal mines, both sexes are employed together in precisely the same kind of labour, and work for the same number of hours; the girls and boys, and the young men and young women, and even married women and women with child, commonly working almost naked, and the men, in many mines, always working quite naked; that in the districts in which females are not allowed to descend into the pits there is a universal expression of disgust from all classes of witnesses at this practice; and that in the districts in which the practice prevails all classes of witnesses bear testimony to its demoralizing influence.
[The Marquess of Londonderry
In what colleries does the practice prevail.] Such appeared to be the general result, although he did not mean to assert, nor was there evidence to show, that the practice prevailed in all the colleries. As a wish had been expressed, that this part of the bill should be postponed, he must advert to some further evidence on the subject in order that their Lordships might perceive how necessary it was that something should be done to remove the evil. In page 24 it was stated, as part of the report, that in many colleries in the West Riding of Yorkshire there was no distinction of sexes, and that the women were naked to their waists, and the men entirely so. 107 Some of the details were so disgusting, that it would not be proper for him to read them. In page 31 of the report, a wish was expressed, that the Government would expel all females from the mines, as their presence gave rise to acts of the greatest indecency. The report then went on to state that which, must obviously happen under such circumstances, To the first clause in the bill, therefore, which sought to put an end to such scenes, he was sure their Lordships could have no objection. He at once admitted to his noble Friend, who opposed the measure, that there were many collieries in which those abominations did not exist. [The Marquess of Londonderry: Some seams of coal require the employment of women.] He would ask what peculiar seam of coal rendered it necessary to employ grown women instead of grown men? Females had been excluded from the collieries of the Duke of Buccleuch without any inconvenience. That was an important fact, as bearing upon this part of the case. The manager of the Duke of Buccleuch's collieries stated that, since the employment of females had been done away with in his grace's collieries, they had had no occasion to raise the price of coal. He had no wish to prohibit the employment of women immediately. The present was certainly a period when they should not be severe in arrangements of that nature, and he was therefore willing indeed he should propose instead of the words, " Six calendar months," to substitute these words, " First of March, 1843," as the period at which it should no longer be lawful to employ females in mines or collieries. That would give nine instead of six months for making the new arrangements. The second clause in the bill regarded the age up to which males were to be excluded from mines and collieries. Originally the bill proposed that males should not be employed under the age of thirteen. A difference of opinion arose upon the point, and the limitation had been altered to ten years of age. Finding this alteration made, he did not desire to press any opinion that he might entertain on the subject. He would now only observe, that there was abundant evidence to show that it would neither be unfair, unreasonable, nor unjust to prohibit the employment of children under ten years of age. He was aware, that in some collieries as much pains and care as could well be taken were taken with the children employed in them but he felt, 108 that no pains or care that could be taken would suffice to do justice to children under ten years of age, if they were employed at all. How was it possible, if they tolerated such abuses as these, if they permitted the employment of children of six or eight years of age, that any attention could be paid to their moral or religious education? With regard to the first clause, it might be objected, that at the present period of distress we should be slow to curtail the means of gaining a livelihood by the exclusion of women; but he contended, that in every instance in which females were prevented from obtaining wages by labour in mines and collieries men could be employed, although, perhaps, at somewhat greater expense. He was sure, that, after all, their Lordships would look upon this part of the case as a question of expense, and that it would be perfectly possible for all proprietors of mines who now employed females to work them in the same way, he should say more effectually, although it might cost something more, by the employment of men in their stead. As he had already told their Lordships, the exclusion of women from the Duke of Buccleuch's mines had caused no loss to the public. With regard to boys, he had no doubt that it might be desirable to have a large proportion of them in mines. The bill in its present shape would not prevent that, and where, by its operation, boys under ten years of age would be sent away, and their families deprived of the wages which they earned, other boys above the age of ten would be employed in their stead, and their wages added to those of some neighbouring cottager. Thus the bill, while it prevented certain boys from occupation in the collieries, would open the door in the same proportion to others. It was not uncommon that men who did not wish to labour more than three days a week allowed their families' support to be eked out by the degradation of their wives and children, but that was not a class of labourers to whom they should give particular advantages. From the evidence which was given by the colliers themselves, it was evident that their wives and children should not be sent into the mines and collieries. Women, who were brought up in them, were unfitted to be good wives or mothers, their habits being wholly inconsistent with those domestic duties which it should be the desire of the Legislature to encourage, Their children were necessarily neglected, and sever received 109 anything in the shape of moral or religious instruction or example. Upon these two clauses some opposition he believed would be offered, but in that opposition he expected that very few of their Lordships would join. There was abundance of evidence from medical men, showing the bad effects in a physical respect which working in the mines and collieries had upon the women and children, while the evidence of clergymen was equally strong as to its bad effects upon them in a moral point of view. He would also beg to remind their Lordships that hundreds of those persons who were thrown out of employment in the manufacturing districts would be glad to get employment in the mines, and would readily undertake the work from which women would be excluded by the operation of this bill. With regard to the third clause, which regulated the time of employment of persons under the age of thirteen, he would at once state that he was not anxious to press it upon their Lordships. If he were addressing their Lordships at the beginning instead of at the close of the Session, he should propose a committee of inquiry upon this and some other points on which parties concerned in collieries had a good deal to say. He did not feel that the regulation proposed by this clause would interfere with the management of collieries, as some had stated it would, but he must admit that there was not sufficient evidence to enable him to say with perfect confidence that the clause would not operate injuriously. He was therefore not disposed to press for a restriction, of which he must say he did not quite see what the effect would be. He did not say that it might not be injurious, and without inquiry he had no right to say that it would. The particular mode which the clause proposed of regulating the time of labour was adopted from the necessity of the case. The obvious mode would be to say that children should be employed only during certain hours; but with respect to mines that was impossible, as the moment children were admitted into mines they were removed from all supervision. In proposing this clause, therefore, his noble Friend conceived that he was doing what was best for the children, and what at the same time would least interfere with the management of mines. His noble Friend proposed that the children should have at least the alternate day for the purposes of instruction and recreation, in order that 110 they might hereafter be good men and useful members of society. It was not from want of an anxious desire to see these poor creatures protected and employed to their own advantage that he declined to press this clause at present upon the House but because if he were now to ask for inquiry it would not be possible to terminate it. The next clause regarded the appointment of inspectors. The object of it was simply this:—that as the regulations were such as to prevent evidence being obtained in the ordinary way, the Government should, in any particular case where it should deem it necessary so to do, send down persons to visit and inspect any particular mine or colliery, and report thereon in such manner as might be directed by the Secretary of State. He could state of his own knowledge that many of the miners were rather glad than otherwise of the opportunity of having some system of inspection. This subject, however, would be for the committee. The next clause related to the important subject of apprenticeship. He proposed to alter the clause as it stood, by a provision that no person should be taken as an apprentice in any mine or colliery under the age of ten years, and that no apprenticeship should be for a longer terra than eight years. This would release young persons bound at the former age as soon as they attained the age of eighteen. In the ninth clause he had felt obliged to make an alteration which he would much rather not have made. It related to the age of young persons to be employed in mines and collieries. He repeated, that he regretted to have been obliged to make an alteration in this respect, but at the same time he felt that it was one on which the owners of mines and collieries, from their practical experience, were entitled to be heard, as to whether or not it was a good provision that no person under the age of twenty-one years should be employed at the winding engines used for the purpose of drawing persons up and down in the mines. He had felt bound to listen to re presentations that had been made on this subject, and he certainly was most anxious that such a course should be taken as, while it afforded a guarantee for security, would at the same time not be likely to inflict injury and inconvenience on those engaged in the mines. He believed that fifteen was an age at which there could be no danger in allowing the persons usually engaged to work at those 111 engines, and he proposed to alter the bill to that effect. There were some other minor alterations, the details of which he would defer till they went into committee. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the bill be read a second time.
§ Lord Hatherton
said, the noble Earl had exhibited so much judgment in the alterations which he proposed, that he did not feel warranted in going on with the motion of which he had given notice, for a select committee to take evidence as to the probable effect of the proposed enactments, which, had the noble Lord pressed forward his bill without alterations, he should have felt bound to press also; but he should have done so without the slightest desire or intention to impugn in any way the strict rectitude, honour, and sincerity of the commissioners on whose reports the bill had been founded. He desired also to bear testimony to the undoubted and exalted purity of the noble Lord with whom the bill had originated in the other House. That noble Lord had had extensive communications on the subject with delegates from all parts of the kingdom; and although they, of course, had not succeeded in inducing him to go the full length of their wishes, they unanimously concurred in asserting that they had never communicated with any individual whose motives were more philanthrophic, or one more sincere in his desire to serve the objects of his benevolent exertions. With regard to the principle of a measure of this kind, although the promotion of religion and of education among the classes affected by it was a paramount object, yet at the same time it was not the only object to which they ought to look. It was quite necessary in legislating on such a subject not to act upon first impressions only, but to consult before doing so the experience and opinions of the masters, and of the working classes themselves. They would have done wrong, therefore, to have agreed to this measure without taking those precautions. Had they done so its first effect would have been the abandonment of several very valuable seams of mineral. With regard to the provisions of the bill, he had never intended to oppose the clause prohibiting the employment of females in mines and collieries under ground; but at the same time it might be worth while to consider whether that rule ought to be rigidly extended to persons of a mature age, who had already been for years employed; as for instance widows, who might have fami- 112 lies, and who would, under the operation of such a clause, be deprived of their usual means of supporting their families. This however, was a branch of the subject with which he was not at all practically acquainted, as the employment of females was unknown in the part of the country with which he was connected. He could not have consented to the bill as first introduced in respect of another subject, embraced by it, that of the age at which children should be allowed to be employed in these mines and collieries. He was ready, however, to acquiesce in the reduction to ten years. He could never have agreed to the proposed restriction confining the work of the children to alternate days. Those who were acquainted with the actual working of mines declared such a regulation to be utterly impracticable. When trade was bad the miner seldom worked more than two or three days in the week at the' most; and, when trade was very good, such were the habits of the miner, that he would not consent to work a longer period, or at the utmost not longer than four days in the week. He was bound to say that the noble Earl's proposed alteration with regard to apprenticeship had already given satisfaction to those with whom he had been in communication. In the county (Staffordshire) which he had so long represented, the practice of apprenticing had become almost universal. There were thousands of young persons apprenticed to mining, for the reason that it was the best trade the district afforded, and the parents of poor children were anxious to bring them up to it. Though the duration of the apprenticeship had hitherto been too long, apprenticeship as a practice was certainly rather popular than otherwise in the district in question. For these reasons he approved of the proposed alteration of the noble Earl, which would terminate at the age of eighteen. The apprenticeship commenced at the age of ten. He would suggest to the noble Earl, whether it might not be well to subject existing apprenticeships to a similar limitation. He believed that the system of apprenticeship was absolutely necessary for the thick mines. Were it to be abolished the contract system would still remain. The collier would contract with the parents for the labour of the children, with this difference, as compared with the apprenticeship system, that the parents would then get all the benefit of the services of the children, instead of 113 the children themselves. Illegitimate children, and orphans too, were gainers by the system of apprenticeship. He also agreed in what had fallen from the noble Earl on the subject of a system of inspection. There would be found to be no opposition on the part of the miners were a commission of inspection appointed. He also quite agreed with the proposed alteration with respect to the age of the persons to be employed, at what the noble Earl had termed the winding engine. Upon the whole, he believed that the noble Earl's alterations in the bill were improvements, and he had to thank the noble Earl, in the name of the delegates with whom he had communicated, for the courtesy with which the noble Earl had treated them, and the good sense with which he had dealt with their proposals; at the same time they, of course, thought he had not gone all the lengths which they desired, especially with regard to the age of persons to be employed. There was one subject which he desired to urge on the noble Earl, which he conceived to be quite germane to the matter, though not included in the bill. He alluded to the almost universal practice of paying the wages of the men at public-houses on Saturday night. This was an almost universal system in the colliery districts. The result of the practice was, besides the demoralizing habits it led to, that the wife could only get a limited portion of her husband's earnings. Some law to put an end to this practice was almost universally demanded in the Staffordshire district. The excellent diocesan of Lichfield saw so fully, on coming to the see, the evils of paying colliers' wages on a Saturday night; that he had exerted himself strenuously to have the practice put a stop to, and he was happy to say the right rev. Prelate had met with considerable success. Indeed, so many important considerations were involved in this matter that he recommended the payment of wages to be made otherwise than on a Saturday night, not only to persons having property in mines, but to all of their Lordships who had labourers to pay on their estates.
The Earl of Radnor
objected to the bill, because he objected to interferences with the market of labour, or attempting to enforce morality by act of Parliament. As for the Chimneysweepers' Act, which had been cited as a precedent for this description of legislation, he believed from the conversation which he had held with various noble Lords on the subject, that if 114 that measure were now to come before their Lordships it would be thrown out. As for the employment of women in mines, it was an old practice dying away. That appeared from the report of the commissioners. It appeared from that document that this practice was prevalent principally in the Scotch mines and collieries; but there was the evidence of a clergyman, the rev. Mr. Adamson, who said, " I am led to believe that a wholesome change is taking place." If, then, the feelings of the people were making a change in this practice, was it not uncalled for—he had almost said rash, to interfere with those feelings? With respect to the alleged demoralization arising from the promiscuous and unrestrained admixture of the sexes in the mines, were the mines the only places where this took place? No such thing; they had it in evidence, that the cottages in some of the agricultural districts were so constituted that the whole family, young and old, were huddled together in the same room, from which considerable demoralization was represented to originate. If, therefore, they were to legislate to prevent demoralization in mines, they ought to go a step further, and prevent the construction of cottages of this kind. He was from the first indisposed to consider this bill to be necessary; but, after the alterations which had been made by the noble Earl opposite, he thought it was still less necessary. What was the origin of the bill? A great feeling against the mode of conducting the labour in mines had been raised, nobody very well knew why, and then the bill was founded on that feeling. But feeling was at all times a bad ground of action, even in private life, much more to legislate upon. The parties promoting the bill ought to reflect, that in their endeavours to do good it was possible they might cause mischief; for if it passed into a law, great numbers of persons must be thrown out of employment, and the old and helpless, who were dependent upon them for support, would be left destitute. On these grounds, he could not help thinking that their Lordships would do well to throw out the bill for the present. In that case, people might have time to consider the subject; a bill in place of this would not need to be hurried through either House of Parliament—this had been carried with railroad speed through the other House, and above all reference might be made to the commissioners, and their opinions taken on 115 the necessary provisions. The part of the bill relating to the prevention of women labouring in mines was not to come into operation till March nest. Why, then, not wait till next Session, and pass a new bill, which could be done by March? [The Earl of Devon: The provision, so far as regards, females not now employed underground, is to come into operation immediately.] The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Buccleuch) had the other evening presented a petition, stating that in one mine—the name he did not recollect— females had been excluded, and with benefit to the owners. Now, when this was found, to be the case by the public, the owners generally, it was probable, would adopt the practice of excluding females. The change ought to be allowed to come on of itself, or perhaps, It would best be left in the bands of the Poor-law commissioners. Then there was the subject of apprenticeships—a very great point, and requiring great consideration, and on that ground, in his opinion, it ought to be excluded from the bill.
§ The Earl of Galloway
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had pledged himself and the Government in his place in Parliament to give this bill their warm and cordial support, and in his opinion, their Lordships ought to know under what circumstances, and under the pressure of what necessity it was, that the Ministers of the Crown in that House found that they were not able to redeem the pledge given by their Colleague. He thought it due to their Lordships that some more explicit explanation of this should be given than had yet reached them. With respect to the bill, he thought that some unwise concessions had been made in the other House. He did not at all concur in the objection that the evidence was not satisfactory; it was collected by a commission regularly appointed, but placed in such a position that of necessity it required to have BOOM latitude allowed it. Of what use was their boasted zeal for education if this state of things were permitted, if importunity was not to be afforded to the children of attending the schools, or if when they did attend them they were so overwhelmed with fatigue that they were unable to receive benefit from their instruction? Was it fit, too, that after having been taught to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," they should be led to the coal' pit to see everything that was subversive of good morals? He sincerely hoped, for 116 the cause of religion, for the happiness of these poor creatures, for the social well' being of the state, for the character of this country, and for the hope of the Divine blessing on its institutions, that that House would not be over-scrupulous in attending to those who attempted to thwart this measure, and that they would turn their attention to this crying evil. Let it not be said that that House was jealous of the rights of property, but that it was not equally jealous of the rights of poverty.
§ The Duke of Wellington
thought it proper to tell their Lordships what were his opinions, and his intentions with regard to this measure. On a former occasion the question under the consideration of the House had been whether or not it was prudent to make further inquiry into this subject before the House should proceed to the consideration of this bill. On that occasion he had stated his opinion to the House with respect to this commission. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Londonderry) had explained to the House what confidence the House ought to place in the names of the commissioners, and particularly in one gentleman, a member of the commission. He certainly felt a very great respect for that gentleman, as well as for the persons acting under the commission of the Crown granted under the great seal. But be observed that this inquiry had not been carried on by these commissioners—that these commissioners had, in fact, themselves, done none of the business.—that the inquiry had not been carried on by one, two, or more commissioners having and exercising the power of administering an oath, but had been carried on by a number of sub-commissioners, properly, no doubt, appointed by the Secretary if State, but not having the power of examining on oath, and that they bad made their inquiry under instructions very properly given them by the commissioners, and which their Lordships would find at the end of the two volumes which contained the report. Now, he certainly did think that that mode of proceeding was not exactly in conformity with the intentions announced in the commission granted by her Majesty, and that the evidence was not exactly of the nature which ought to carry with it their Lordships' full confidence; and, therefore, when a bill such as that which had been brought up to the House came before their Lordships, it might be expedient for 117 their Lordships to make further inquiry, and that they should know a little more, and ascertain some points arising from these volumes of evidence which they had before them. He had stated his opinion on a former occasion to the House, and had said, that the report had made a great impression on his mind, and that he sincerely wished to be able to vote for a bill to remedy the evils which were apparent on the face of that report. He believed, that the opinion which he had then stated to the House was pretty nearly the unanimous opinion and wish of their Lordships. He had not heard anybody except the noble Lord (Lord Radnor) who had spoken, and who objected to the bill on other grounds altogether, but who wished to get rid of the facts stated in the report as much as any of them, except the noble Earl (Earl Vane, the Marquess of Londonderry): he had not heard on the part of any noble Lord an objection to some legislation, in order to remedy the evils apparent on this evidence. It was not necessary for him to declare exactly what he should vote for. His noble Friend (the Earl of Devon) had very properly undertaken the conduct of this bill through the House, and in bringing forward the measure that evening he had stated to their Lordships his intention of proposing certain amendments in the bill. When the bill was in committee he should think it expedient to state his opinion on those amendments; in the meantime he intended to vote, and had always intended to vote, for the second reading of the bill — for the principle of the bill—for a measure to remedy the evils which existed, and which appeared from the report. He did net think it necessary to do more at present than to state what his opinion was on the evidence.
§ Lord Hatherton
said, that entire credence ought not to be given to this report. He was authorized by four gentlemen who came up from South Staffordshire last week as a deputation from the coal-owners there, employing 1,000 workpeople, to state that the whole of the statement as to the employment of boys in pumping on Sundays was entirely without foundation. The coal-proprietors of South Staffordshire never heard of the commissioners being in their district till they heard of this bill.
The Marquess of Londonderry
regretted from what had passed that he felt himself compelled to take a line of conduct which he was not at first prepared to take. He understood that the noble Lord opposite 118 had withdrawn his motion for a select committee of inquiry. He was surprised at that, because the noble Lord had said that the bill now before the House was founded on evidence on the table which was falsely represented. [Lord Hatherlon: I did not say "falsely."] He thought it strange that the noble Lord was now disposed to legislate on improper evidence. He could not understand why the noble Lord had withdrawn his motion. He was afraid there was some compromise, coupling it with what had fallen from the noble Earl (Earl Devon). The bill might be applicable to particular coal districts, but the mines and collieries of the north of England did not require it. The commissioners and sub-commissioners who had furnished the report on which they were about to legislate had not been, according to the information which he had received, at all competent to give their Lordships correct impressions: they were not people of the calibre to do it. The evidence was so full of mistakes that it was impossible that their Lordships could give full credit to it, and he therefore thought it very desirable that his noble Friend should have persevered in his motion for a committee of inquiry. He had statements by him that some of the sub-commissioners were wholly unfit for the duty cast upon them. He was informed that one of the sub-commissioners, named Franks, had kept two hat-shops, one in Regent-street, and the other in the city, and had failed, and that he had afterwards been imprisoned for a libel on the clerk of the Fishmongers' Company. He had other statements respecting the other commissioners, regarding their unfitness for their office, and he could net therefore place any faith in their report. They had got up the evidence by under-hand means, and had finished it with exhibiting upon their Lordships Table the most disgusting pictorial illustrations that ever were seen. He was opposed to the employment of women in the mines. Great praise had been given to Ireland on that account. It was said the women were never employed there; but there was good reason for that, for the labour of men was cheap enough. But Irish women might be seen in the south of Ireland naked, or nearly so, digging potatoes with their bare feet; and he was sure his noble Friend would admit that that was harder labour than working in the collieries. He complained that this measure 119 had been passed with such haste in another place that time had not been afforded to parties interested in the subject to consider its provisions. He had received a letter from a person at Edinburgh, in which the writer stated that in the collieries in Mid-Lothian it was impossible to employ horses for bringing up the coals from the pits; that women were generally employed in this work, that they brought up the coal on their backs, ascending by ladders, and that they preferred this mode of gaining a livelihood, because by this work they could earn higher wages than by other employment. The writer also stated, that if the women were debarred from gaining a livelihood by this means they would, in a majority of instances, be unable to obtain other employment; and he added, that the collieries at present yielded little profit, and if the owners had to employ men to do the work which was now performed by women, they must require higher prices for the coals, and he believed that eventually many of the collieries would be given up. The colliers, his informant added, were perfectly aware of this, and they were, therefore, desirous that the employment of women should continue; and he stated, also, that the women engaged in this labour were ready to declare before a justice of the peace that they did not object to work below ground, because they were unable to obtain other employment. He believed that if the employment of female labour was entirely interdicted, the result would be that the working of many collieries would be abandoned, and not only the women, but the men who were now employed in them, would be deprived of the means of subsistence. On receipt of the letter to which he had just referred, he wrote to Sir G. Clerk, who was a colliery owner, requesting to know his opinion on the subject. The hon. Gentleman replied:—My principal objection to the provisions of the bill is, that Lord Ashley does not allow sufficient time for making the alterations which will be necessary in the collieries if women are not permitted to work in them. Many of our small collieries with which I am acquainted will be altogether abandoned, as the profit derived from them is not sufficient to bear the expense of working them in any other way than that now pursued. In the larger collieries, if women are excluded, there must be in six months a suspension of work, for it will be impossible to change the present system of working them in so short a time. The women, by being excluded from working in 120 the collieries, will be deprived of obtaining the means of subsistence.He thought these documents afforded satisfactory ground for the belief that the exclusion of female labour would be an injurious measure. He considered that the condition of the female labourers in Ireland — many of whom worked barefooted, and nearly in a state of nudity, in the potatoe-fields—was much worse than that of the women employed in the collieries. With regard to the age at which boys should be employed in these collieries, he thought they were as fit for the work at the age of eight as when they were ten. If they refused to permit boys to be employed in this work before they arrived at the age of ten years, how were the colliers to bring up and educate their children? In most cases the parents were too poor to maintain them, and utterly unable to procure for them any education; and, though he was glad an alteration had been made, to permit the employment of boys above ten years of age, instead of excluding all who were under fifteen, he thought the great body of the colliers were desirous that children should be allowed to work when eight years of age, and he hoped such a regulation would be adopted. He would move that the bill be read a second time this day six months; and as the noble Lord opposite had abandoned his motion for a select committee, he was determined to divide the House on the question, although not more than half-a-dozen noble Lords might vote with him. He hoped that early in the next Session a select committee would be appointed to inquire into this subject; and he had no doubt such a committee would obtain information which would enable Parliament to adopt just legislative measures. He thought, at this late period of the Session, it was not advisable to legislate upon the evidence obtained by the commissioners, in which the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) had admitted he placed no confidence, and of which he had expressed his disapproval. He would, therefore, move the postponement of the second reading to this day six months.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said, a noble Earl who had spoken on this subject had inferred that the Members of the Administration in that House had adopted a different course with regard to this bill to that which was pursued by the Members of the Government in another place. It was true that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary 121 of State for the Home Department had stated, on the introduction of this bill in the other House, that the Government was anxious, and that he was also personally desirous, that some alteration should he made in the law on this subject; and the right hon. Gentleman said, that he would give his support to the bill, and that the Government approved of the principle of the measure. What he had stated was, that the Government would be passive with respect to this bill. That was, he believed, the expression he had used. The Government had been passive —they had waited to see what amendments would be proposed—but he believed every Member of the Government intended to vote for the second reading, and to affirm the principle of the bill. He thought that, with regard to this measure, they were legislating on a sudden impulse, and he allowed that this was extremely dangerous. It I might be right that the attention of the Legislature should be directed to this subject; but he thought they should give careful and mature consideration to any measure they might adopt to remedy the grievances complained of. It was acknowledged that evils existed, and that means should be taken for their removal; but he was anxious that, before they adopted legislative measures, they should give due consideration to the subject. He must say, with all deference, that he thought the House of Commons had not done its duty with regard to this measure. He considered that an opportunity ought to have been afforded to the owners of collieries and mines, who had an extensive capital embarked in those undertakings, to meet the complaints and statements which have been advanced. It was, he conceived, the duty of their Lordships to consider whether the House of Commons, which had passed the bill now before them, had not only remedied the grievances complained of, but had acted justly towards the parties who were interested in this description of property. He would admit that he was quite prepared to give his assent to this bill, when it was amended, according to the suggestions of his noble Friend; for he believed that the regulations it introduced would operate beneficially. With respect to the employment of females, he thought it had not been satisfactorily proved that it was advisable to prevent women—up-grown women he meant—from working in collieries. If the women employed in this 122 branch of labour were, by the passing of this act, thrown out of work, he thought the measure would not, in many parts of the country be hailed as a boon, for its effect would be to create great distress in numerous districts. He considered, however, that a very praiseworthy anxiety had been evinced to ameliorate the condition of the colliery and mining labourers, and he would give the bill his support. He thought that if they had adopted the regulations proposed by Lord Ashley, with regard to the labour of boys, they would have acted with great injustice. It would, he conceived, have been most improper to interdict the employment of boys until they had attained the age of fifteen years; and he hailed with satisfaction the alteration which had been made, permitting boys of upwards of ten years of age to labour. He did not agree with that provision of the bill, which required that no person under twenty-one years of age should have charge of the engines. He thought this an unnecessary regulation; for he believed that frequently persons of eighteen years of age were as competent— if not more so—to manage the engines, as persons of twenty-one. He must repeat, that it appeared to him—speaking with all respect—that the House of Commons had proceeded in too hurried a manner with regard to this bill, and that they had not afforded time for due inquiry. He thought they had not given an opportunity to the parties interested in this species of property, of answering or explaining the statements which had been made. It had been said on a former occasion, "Thank God, there is a House of Lords." He said so now, and he trusted that justice would be done to all parties.
The Bishop of Gloucester
would not have risen, if a noble Earl on the other side (the Earl of Radnor) had not advanced the monstrous proposition, that it was not the duty of the Legislature to enforce moral duties, which, he said, should be left to the religious pastor. Now, he apprehended that, as Christian legislators, it was the most important of their duties to enforce morality by legislation, as far as legislation could with propriety be carried to prevent crime and immorality. The chief object of legislation was not so much to punish crimes as to prevent them; and nothing they could do for this purpose could be more efficacious than to provide for the people that moral and religious education by which they best could better 123 their condition He knew not how this education was to be given to the people if children Were to be employed in such occupations from the age of eight years upwards but, however, he did not wish to do more than protest against the doctrine which the noble Earl had propounded apparently with so much confidence in his own judgment. Some allusion had been Made to the term " humanity mania," which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Londonderry) had applied to the promoters of the measure; but the noble Marquess bad been also pleased to attribute to theft* " hypocritical humanity." He trusted the noble Marquess would, on consideration, withdraw that term, for he firmly believed that higher and purer consideration never actuated any public man than those which influenced the noble Lord who introduced the measure, and those who in either House of Parliament supported it.
The Marquess of Londonderry
had not intended to allude to the noble Lord who introduced ft at all. His remarks applied to those who had misled him.
The Duke of Buccleuck
wished to say a few words on this subject. He never had women employed in the mines on his property. He had great difficulty in over cowing the prejudices of the wives and daughters of the men; but they bad all now united in the testimony that it Was best to keep Women out of those Works; To Mr. Wardlaw Ramsay the credit Was one of preventing women from working in mines in his part of the country. The noble Marques was quite right in saying that some of those engaged in these Occupations in Mid-Lothian were opposed to this bill. He had presented a petition, signed by men and women, praying that at all events the women who were willing should be suffered to continue at this employment, They, however, agreed in the ©pinion that for the future no Women should be employed. He was certain that most (be aid not say all) those pits could be worked without the use' of Women. He know it Was objected! that those women must he thrown upon the parish. Alt he could say was, that in his neighbourhood two considerable coal mines bad put an end to this practice, sad others were proceeding to do so without any such result. Although the bill had been much altered since it came up from the Commons, be treated that all the abuses sought to be remedied by the original bill would be duly 124 considered, and that whichever of them Were proved would be remedied.
The Earl of Mountcashell
defended the report made by the commissioners, as he believed no Government would appoint men to engage in Such an inquiry unless every confidence was to be placed in their credibility. He was decidedly opposed to the employment of women underground, as also children of such tender years as were now engaged. He was not aware that in districts where no mines existed children of eight years of age were required to maintain themselves; they were fed by their parents, and why should there be any difference, made between different classes of labourers? He believed the work in mines to be very unwholesome, and he thought that no child under twelve years of age ought to be employed at it.
§ The House was cleared for a division, but no noble Lord bating seconded the motion of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Londonderry) no division took place, and the bill Was read a second time.
§ The House adjourned.