§ On the Question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,
§ Lord Althorp
rose, to call the attention of the House to the situation in which the measure just brought before them stood, and to suggest what appeared to him the most reasonable course to be pursued, in order to arrive at the passing of the measure during 220 the present Session in such a manner as might render the adjustment of the important question under discusion satisfactory to all parties interested in its settlement. In the first place, he had to state, that from some delay, for which he was unable to account, the large and voluminous Report which the Commissioners had laid on the Table of the House had not as yet been placed in the hands of Members. That was a circumstance which in itself, unforeseen and unexpected, he thought would go no little way in support of the suggestion it was his intention to offer; for certainly he felt that after having agreed, with mature consideration, not to proceed with the present measure without adequate information, and after having appointed a Commission to institute inquiries with a view of obtaining that information, it would be rather inconsistent in the House, in the face of such resolve, to proceed in legislating in a Committee of the whole House, without having had time to examine, or, indeed, even to read, that Report, and much less the voluminous evidence with which the Commissioners had supplied them, the want of which had caused the postponement of the measure. It was not, however, on such a basis that the course which he meant to suggest was founded. Looking at the nature of the noble Lard's (Ashley's) measure—looking also to the details of that measure, and considering the important effects which their adoption would have on the general manufacturing interests of the country—it did appear to him that it would be most inconvenient, if not very hazardous, to attempt to pass such a bill in the first instance through a Committee of the whole House, and that such a mode of dealing with the question would be most unlikely to lead either to a satisfactory conclusion, or to the passing of the measure under any circumstances during the present Session. Such being his opinion, he had naturally turned to the consideration of what plan it would be advisable to adopt in order to meet both these objects. The result of that consideration was a conviction that there was no other course to be pursued, but to refer the Bill at once for the opinion of a Select Committee, intrusted with such powers and armed with such instructions as, in the opinion of the House, would prevent the occurrence of any material delay in the framing of their decision. If be thought that the adoption of such a course would tend to cause such a delay as would prevent the settlement of 221 the question in some shape or other during the present Session, most certainly he would not think of proposing it; but, when he reflected that the Committee would only have to decide upon the Bill with reference to certain specific instructions, he did not think the adoption of his suggestion could be attended with any considerable delay, much less the protraction of legislative interference until the next Session. On looking into the question with reference solely to the noble Lord's Bill he was free to confess that he viewed it with Considerable apprehension. In the first place, he could not look upon it without being strongly impressed with apprehension, that if the Bill should pass the Legislature in its present form, its effects might be found very disastrous in the manufacturing districts. Should its effect be (and he feared it was but too reasonable to apprehend it might be) to increase the power of foreigners to compete in the British market, and so to cause the decline of the manufacturing interests of the country, how, he asked, would it be thought of? Would not, on all hands, a measure attended with such results be denounced? So far from a measure of humanity, it would be one of the greatest acts of cruelty that could be inflicted. It was well known that the population of the manufacturing districts was only supported in consequence of the amount of labour and the success of manufactures; and if any measure should pass Parliament, by which that amount of labour might become diminished or that success impaired, the inevitable result would be the proportionate misery and starvation of such manufacturing population. With regard to the details of the noble Lord's Bill he had likewise a few observations to offer. Generally speaking, he felt called upon to avow that he did not think the measure as it stood was one which ought or could with safety pass the House. He was quite willing to admit that, with the present feeling of the country, and with the excitement which so generally prevailed, it was necessary that Parliament should interfere and legislate to protect children, properly so called, from being treated with undue severity; but when the measure of the noble Lord was considered—when the provisions which he proposed to introduce respecting the age of the children were weighed—he did think, that he (Lord Ashley) was carrying his protection to too great lengths, and that under his provision adults would be unnecessarily deprived 222 of making the most of their only property, their labour. That children of nine, ten, or eleven years of age, who had no choice of their own as to the duration of their labour, should meet with protection was a self-evident proposition; but to say that that protection should unnecessarily extend to persons who were adults, and consequently the masters of their own time—and he contended such would be the effect of the noble Lord's Bill—was to broach a proposition to which he hoped Parliament would never assent. Protection should be afforded, but it would only be protection when applied to those who had not the power of deeiding for themselves, and on that principle he was free to confess he did not think that prohibition applicable to the ages to which the noble Lord in his Bill proposed applying it. The alteration which he (Lord Althorp) desired to see in the Bill was the insertion of a clause by which the protection to children, properly so called, would be increased, while adults, who were in a state to decide for themselves, should be left unshackled and unrestricted With that view, should the House decide upon referring the Bill to a Select Committee, instead of pulling it through a Committee of the whole House, he would suggest, that it should be an instruction to such Committee that children who were within their fourteenth year should not be subjected to labour longer than eight hours a-day. With regard to children beyond that age it was not his wish to alter the laws, at all events with regard to children employed in cotton-mills; but it might well be a question, whether the laws by which the labour of children in cotton-mills were at present regulated might not very properly be extended to all factories. He must, however, mention that there was one branch of manufacture in which children were employed in great numbers; he meant the silk manufacture which had not been inquired into. It was, indeed, well known, that the labour in those factories was less severe and less unwholesome than in others; hut still, as they required the assistance of a large number of children, he thought it might be advisable if the Committee were instructed to consider whether protection ought not to be extended to children in silk as well as in other manufactories. In any legislation upon the present subject there was, it was scarcely necessary for him to observe, one great and paramount object to be kept in view—namely, the promotion of education. 223 It must be evident that as children in factories were kept constantly employed throughout the day, it was impossible they could acquire education, and it should Le therefore seen that in any measure on the subject, care was taken that an interval at a seasonable period of the day should be reserved for their education. The main difficulty in all such measures as the present was to provide means for carrying the law into effect. It was notorious, that although in cotton-mills laws were in force for restricting the hours of labour, they were seldom, if ever, carried into effect. Now, in the Bill of the noble Lord, there was no provision for that purpose. If a restriction was to be made it should be accompanied with adequate powers to enforce its observance; for unless the law were enforced, those who obeyed it would have to compete at a great disadvantage with those who managed to evade it. It was, therefore, his intention to propose an instruction to the Committee to ascertain the expediency of a system of inspection throughout the mills where child labour was used. He had now, he thought, stated all the objects which a bill having in view fair protection to the children ought to embody; and if the House proceeded to legislate upon those objects he thought they would be doing all that could be expected of them. If they were to go further and declare, as the noble Lord (Ashley) wished, that for the effect of any accident in a mill which caused death the penalty of manslaughter should attach to the masters upon the representation of a Coroner's Jury, they would place the masters in such a situation as could not be tolerated. The noble Lord had gone out of his way in this instance, for, by the law as it stood, any culpable negligence in this respect was a crime. To say, then, that a Coroner should issue his warrant to apprehend a manufacturer, not only did not afford him adequate protection, but was even worse than absurd, for it was unjust. He would not go at any greater length into this question, but would conclude by moving, as an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord—" That the said Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, to whom it should be an instruction to make provision, 1st, that no child who had not entered upon its fourteenth year should labour more than eight hours a-day; 2ndly, for securing opportunities of educating the children during the times they were not employed; and 3rdly, that a system of inspection be enforced throughout 224 the factories so as to ensure the execution of the above provisions."
§ On the Question being put,
§ Lord Ashley
observed, if there was any inconsistency in bringing on the measure to its present stage without having the Report of the Commissioners in the hands of the House he was not culpable. From day to day had he been put off by the noble Lord, until he found himself placed in that situation that if he did not endeavour to bring the question under discussion, he must give up all hopes of legislating upon it during the present Session. With regard to the proposition of the noble Lord, he had only to observe, that if the noble Lord would affirm at once the preamble of his (Lord Ashley's) Bill, he was at perfect liberty to do what he pleased with it, either in Committee of the whole House or in Committee up-stairs. If the noble Lord, however, refused to do so, he should resist his proposition, for he was convinced if it once reached a Select Committee without an admission of its principle, it would be either detained there till the end of the Session, or sent back so completely altered that he should find himself unable to recognise it. As far as the noble Lord's proposition related to the inspection of the mills with a view of seeing the law enforced, he begged to say, he entirely concurred in it; and if not afraid of giving additional offence to the opponents of his measure, provision for such an inspection would have formed part of his Bill. Nor would he make any objection to that part of the proposition which related to confining the hours of labour for young persons under fourteen years of age to eight hours a-day. There was another part of the noble Lord's proposition which God forbid he should object to; namely, that which went to provide competent education to the children. The great moral defect in the existing condition of society arose from the want of any provision for the education of the lower orders; and he only wished that the noble Lord, availing himself of his influence as Minister of the Crown, would push forward and provide suitable education for all classes of children among the lower orders, whether employed in factories or otherwise. So far he was disposed to concur with the noble Lord; but when the noble Lord went on and spoke in terms of reprehension of the clause relating to accidents occurring through the use of machines, it was imperative on him to raise 225 his voice in support of his measure. Had the noble Lord, when he thus spoke in reprehension of the clause relating to machinery offences, read the report of his own Commissioners? If he had he would have found a very stringent, and a very conclusive passage on the subject, recommending the adoption of precisely that punishment on the manufacturer, which the clause so reprehended by the noble Lord went to enact. So convinced was he of its necessity, that so long as he had any thing to do with the Bill, he never would consent to its withdrawal. He confessed he was utterly at a loss to conceive why the noble Lord had not stated the propositions which he had just made on some previous stage of the Bill. The noble Lord certainly might quite as well have stated them on the second reading, and thus have saved the loss of a considerable time, unless indeed his object was to protract all legislation upon the subject to the next Session of Parliament. Why his Bill should have been allowed to arrive at a Committee, and then scouted out of the House like a mad dog, to be cured by a Committee up-stairs, he confessed he did not see. He repeated, however, that if the principle of his Bill was now affirmed, he would have no objection to the proposition of the noble Lord. To the proposition respecting children within their fourteenth year he would make no objection, but he would hold to his own proposition with regard to children beyond that age. There was one point connected, however, with the noble Lord's proposition, which he would be glad to have more definitely explained. Children until they came within their fourteenth year, were to work but eight hours a day. Now did the noble Lord mean that a child on its thirteenth birthday, should only have to work eight hours; but on the day after, when he was in fact but thirteen years and a day old, his labour was to be at the mercy of the manufacturer? In short, were children of thirteen years and a day old to be deprived of the protection of the noble Earl's measure? If such was the intention of the noble Lord, he Lord Ashley) begged to ask him did he bear in mind that a great portion of the children for whom they were about to legislate were females, who, at the very period of their lives that the noble Lord proposed to exempt them from protection, would most stand in need, not only of corporeal rest, but of moral aid? Was the House, he asked, prepared to inflict on young females only thirteen years of age, a period of labour 226 varying from twelve to fourteen hours a-day? The whole course of the medical evidence taken by the Commissioners, particularly the evidence of Mr. Elliotson, went to show, that it was absolutely horrifying to impose on young females a period of labour of more than ten hours. In fine, there was no period of a female's life in which she required more care, attention, and protection, than at that very age at which the noble Lord required that that care, attention, and protection, should cease. Indeed, until the House, by a solemn vote, gave proof of the fact, he would not believe that there could be found twenty men who would affirm Such a proposition. Did the noble Lord think that by his proposal he would give satisfaction? Did he for a moment' suppose that he would reconcile conflicting opinions? So far as he could speak, instead of giving satisfaction it would spread throughout the country uncontrollable disgust. [An Hon. Member: Strong language.] Yes, his language was strong, but not stronger than the case deserved. He begged, however, to assure the hon. Member who had been pleased to interrupt him that he would, either in that House or out of it, use such language, when speaking of the present or any other subject, as most pleased him. To resume, however, he begged to say, that if the noble Lord sought to obtain the confidence of the country on the present occasion, the only means was, to discuss the question before the representatives of the people at large, and not to expose it to the secret decision of a chance Committee. Moreover, the opinions of the Report wore not the unanimous sentiments of the Commissioners. How they got blended into two sets was more than he was aware of; but he saw that Mr. Stuart was for eleven hours, Mr. Drinkwater for from eight to ten, and Mr. Power wished a difference to be made between the males and females as to time of working. Some of them had no fear as to foreign competition, others had; but how did this topic get into the body of the report? The idea of thirteen years and one day putting girls out of protection was not to be tolerated; but if a time was to be fixed, let it be eighteen years. Then as to having two sets of workmen, all the evidence declared it to be impracticable, though the Commissioners were in favour of it. They could not be procured by the manufacturer, and the injury to the children and their parents, by the cutting down of wages, would render them more miserable than they were even 227 at present. He implored the House to enter upon this subject publicly, and not to allow it to be referred to any private tribunal. There had been quite enough of secrecy in the progress of the Bill already and he did, therefore, protest against its being sent up to a Select Committee.
§ Mr. Jervis
was of opinion, that the noble Lord (Althorp) had from the outset admitted the principle of the Bill, which was simply the necessity of some legislation, and, therefore, he would suggest to the noble Lord (Ashley), that so far his opposition to the Amendment was unnecessary. He thought if the Bill was at all to be referred to a Select Committee, that it would be much better not to fetter such Committee with instructions, but leave it for them to decide upon a full investigation of the Commissioners' Report and the evidence, what description of measure was called for. He for one begged to say, that if eight hours' labour was to form a principle of the Bill he would not assent to it.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
objected to referring the Bill to a Committee, because he conceived that there was already ample evidence for the House to proceed upon. The late Commission was most uncalled for, and unjustifiable, as a wanton and useless expenditure of public money, without effecting any practical results. This was not a way of dealing with a measure like the present, on which so much popular feeling was interested. And it appeared to him, moreover, that the Commissioners went to their work more as partisans to make out a case for the manufacturers, rather than as searchers out of truth. The manner in which they had conducted their proceedings, too, was most blameworthy—he meant with reference to their unconstitutional and un-British practice of taking evidence with closed doors. He did not believe, that this Bill of the noble Lord would effect the objects he had in view, unless the limitations of labour were altered. Ash was, children might be set to the extreme of work, even on their fourteenth birthday. The hon. Member read extracts from the evidence of the medical Gentlemen consulted on the subject—particularly Dr. Farr—and which stated, that the labour of the slaves in the West Indies was far less, and less injurious, than that of the slaves in the English factories; that the blacks were never severely worked at a premature age, as was the case in the factories—more particularly as regarded young females. This evidence stated, that the labour of the young in the factories—particularly in the case of girls— 228 was such as to wear the sufferers to death. Nothing called for legislative interference more than this frightful outrage upon humanity. When the House had voted 20,000,000l. of money for the emancipation of the slaves, surely it would not hesitate to extend its protection to these poor children, when it had the means of doing so without any expenditure. Laws were passed to protect grouse and pheasants, and hares and other game, and even oysters were not excluded from the protection of the Legislature. He said, then, that, even putting humanity out of the question, it would be expedient, if only in a financial point of view, to prevent avarice from making a sacrifice of human life. The eyes of all foreign nations were directed upon the course which the Legislature would take upon this question, for the cruelties perpetrated in the English factories had rendered us odious to all Europe. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to accede to the proposition of the noble Lord. This was a question which regarded not only the operatives, but in which every man who had at heart the welfare of the country must feel a deep interest. He hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would withdraw his opposition, and that the House would at once proceed by going into a Committee on the Bill to remove this slain from the character of the country.
§ Mr. Wilbraham
said, he felt that a case was made out for the interference of the Legislature, and he should be sorry if the Session passed over without the House adopting some measures on the subject. But he should vote for the appointment of a Select Committee, because he had no means of judging of the evidence on the side of the manufacturers. He thought it absolutely necessary that there should be some provision for enforcing the regulations of any Bill that might be passed, for there were already several laws which ought to be carried into effect, but which were totally disregarded for want of means to enforce them. Sir John Hobhouse's Bill for restricting labour to twelve hours, had been carried into effect in Manchester, by a committee of master-manufacturers; but in other places it was evaded. Although there was no more decided advocate than he was, of the interference of the House in favour of the factory children, yet, for the reason he had stated, he thought the question ought to be referred to a Select Committee. If be were a member of that Committee, he should feel it his duty to recommend that 229 which he should consider to be for the advantage both of the children and their employers.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
complained of the disadvantage under which ninety-nine Members out of 100 laboured, in never having seen even the outside of the volume now before them (the Report of the Commissioners) until that moment. The Report had not yet been delivered to the Members of the House. Copies had only been given to some favoured individuals, and also, he supposed, to his Majesty's Ministers; but with the exception of a copy which he had met an hon. friend of his carrying, like a burthen, in the streets of London, a day or two ago, he had never until that moment seen the Report. And yet it was upon that Report that the House was now called upon to legislate. He must, however, say that the difficulty he felt was considerably reduced by the recollection of the former Report on the factory system. If he knew no more than the evidence of the medical men contained in that Report, he should be quite prepared to say that sixteen or even thirteen hours' labour during the day, was much too great for the human animal at that period of life when it was the object of his noble friend to protect children. As his noble friend was now absent from his seat, he might indulge himself by saying, that, since this question had lost the benefit of Mr. Sadler's able advocacy, it could not possibly have fallen into better hands than those of his noble friend. It was surely not necessary to carry such a question from Committee to Commission, and from Commission back to Committee again. The Bill of his noble friend only said, that no more than a certain quantity of labour should be imposed upon children under a certain age. Could there be a stronger case than that which was supported by the evidence of such names as Bell, Brodie, Roget, and Carlisle, and other medical men of equal eminence, all of whom concurred in declaring, that females, under a given age, were incompetent to perform the quantity of labour now imposed upon them? He did not wish to attack the mill-owners, either as individuals or as a body; but he could not help deeply censuring the system under which so extended a quantity of labour was imposed upon female infants, for such they were, both by law, and, in many cases; in strict phraseology. It was the bounden duty of that House to step forward and say, that henceforward such labours should not be imposed. He was fully prepared 230 to enter into this subject, but he hoped it was not necessary. He would say, and he was sure that no Gentleman in that House would contradict him, that females from fourteen to eighteen years of age, ought not to be subjected to the severe labour now imposed upon them. The evidence on the subject was most disheartening and disgusting. Mr. Smith said, that the children were actually worn to death. Without appealing to the feelings of the House, he was sure, that on sober consideration, it would be admitted, that human beings ought not to be sacrificed on a mere calculation of profit and loss, and that this state of things ought not to be continued. He saw no necessity for the question being again sent to a Select Committee, when the evils and abuses of the system were not contradicted.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, that ever since the conduct of this measure had passed from his hands into those of his noble friend it had been his study to offer no obstruction to its course, in the hope that his noble friend might be blessed with the means of conducting Parliament to such a decision as should secure efficient protection to the children in the factory districts, with the smallest possible injury or interruption to employment and industry. With this view he had voted against the appointment of a Commission, though now, after it had been appointed, and the consequent delay incurred, he should think it very preposterous and stiff-necked not to derive such assistance from its labours as they might fairly seem entitled to afford. What that amount of assistance might be they had at present very inadequate means of deciding, as the Report had not yet reached them. All he could say at present was, that if the Commissioners, after much communication, both with masters and men, felt themselves authorised to recommend for children under a certain age a shorter term of labour than that which both his noble friend and himself would have concurred in suggesting, that was, ten hours, he should feel disposed to accede to it. But then he must add, that he should be sorry to leave all young persons above fourteen years of age wholly without any regulation or protection from excessive working, nay, possibly exposed to the aggravated toil of working through the double set of hours for the younger children. Under these circumstances he thought they might come to some agreement to continue persons between the ages of fourteen and eighteen under the present limitations of Sir John Hobhouse's Bill, 231 extending them to every branch of manufacture; or as he (Lord Morpeth) should much prefer, reducing the time of work to eleven hours, which was at present reckoned the ordinary day's work in the woollen districts. Of course there would be still less risk of any had effects when the age was raised, without which he (Lord Morpeth) would never have consented to so long a terra from nine to fourteen. This scheme would have these additional recommendations: it would produce comparatively little disturbance in the most extensive branches of our manufacturing industry; further, while it avoided the vicious principle of interfering with adult labour, it would at the same time indirectly rescue adult labour from the inordinate extension which the practice of working double sets might otherwise impose upon it; and lastly, and perhaps chiefly, it might very easily be combined with a plan of working either a single set or double sets, or a set and a half of the younger children in each day, but of giving them in each case a moderate but certain amount of instruction, which might be attended with effects both to themselves and to society at large, which, with the zealous co-operation of manufacturing capitalists, and under the blessing of God, he could not appreciate too highly or anticipate too warmly. Notwithstanding some painful instances of abuse, he had always protested against the indiscriminate and fierce attacks directed against the manufacturers of England; but he did not conceal from himself, or from them, that they appeared to him to be invested with high responsibilities. The factory system, whatever be its faults, whatever its abuses, had stricken deep root in the country: they must deal with it as they found it; and although domestic manufacture might here and there show symptoms of revival, it had little chance of superseding, to any general extent its active and efficient and thoroughly organised rival. But as the factory system had unquestionably added much to the wealth, population, and importance of the districts in which it had been established, so he believed it might, under judicious and conscientious management, be so conducted as to add in an almost equal degree to the intellectual, moral, and religious improvement of the swarming population which it reared; and therefore he ventured to assume that the opportunities of doing extensive good, and the consequent responsibility, seemed to pertain almost as fully to the owners of large mills and factories in towns 232 as to the great landed proprietors of acres and villages, the Lords of Blenheim and of Belvoir. Upon the imperfect data before them the noble Lord said, he had ventured to give them a rough sketch of his own views; he found, that the instructions proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not appear to be at variance with them: they recognised a very large measure of protection for children under fourteen years of age; they did not, he apprehended, preclude the adoption of a less strict limit for young persons above fourteen and below eighteen; above all, they acknowledged the propriety of some scheme of education. As for the form of proceeding, he thought that probably these provisions might be moulded into form with less loss of time in a Select Committee, not empowered to receive evidence, than in a Committee of the whole House. To that point, however, he did not attach much importance; but he was happy to think that, whether in the Committee below or up stairs, the subject would be entertained without any of that virulence and turbulence which he was pained to think had marred and polluted this good and righteous cause elsewhere.
said, there ought to be no more delay, and the House ought to get rid of all delusion on the subject. There had been enough of both. What Committee had done last year Commission did now, and yet it was proposed that there should be another Committee, and then no doubt there would be another Commission. And what was it that they were thus delaying about? It was whether a child could work more than a negro in the West-Indies. When they were proposing apprenticeships for the negroes they did not dare to talk of more than ten hours' work, and now they were to debate whether a child was able to work more than a grown negro. The King was bound to protect all his subjects under the age of twenty-one years, and a great officer, the Lord Chancellor, was appointed, to whom that duty was assigned. If the infant had a hundred pounds in 'the world he would be sure of the protection of the Lord Chancellor, who might tear him from his mother's arms for that purpose, as he had torn a Member from that House. But the power of the Lord Chancellor could not be put in motion without money. Here were children who had no Lord Chancellor to protect them. They had no property but their labour, and the House was bound to become the universal Chancellor in their favour. The 233 principle was clear, the House was bound to protect the children. It was impossible to look to the first volume of evidence without seeing the fact; then, why not legislate at once? Oh! there might be a counterbalancing evil. If the child's labour were stopped, a yard of calico might not be spun; and if the child were prevented working itself to death, a spinning-jenny would be stopped for an hour. It was not denied that, to a certain extent, the evil complained of did exist. There was human life on the one hand, and were they to calculate on the other how much less cotton would be made if a given number of children were not killed in the year? He said that the protection ought to last until twenty-one, because that was the age which the law had fixed. But, at all events, let them not go below eighteen. The regulations as now proposed would be liable to constant abuse. He recollected a remarkable instance of abuse of a similar regulation. The masters of the Charter Schools in Ireland had been allowed the labour of the children until they were fourteen years of age, when they were to be apprenticed out. There was a lad of the name of Tooke, who was fourteen in 1824, but in 1827 it miraculously happened that he was only eleven, and in 1829 he reached fourteen again. Such things would occur under the regulations now proposed. The House was called upon not to legislate this Session. [No, no!] Why! did Gentlemen recollect that this was the 5th of July, and that the House was working double tides—in the morning and evening? Let them, therefore, get rid of all this hypocrisy, and say that they were determined not to legislate this Session. He wished that the House should go into Committee to night. Let the Chairman, then, report progress, and by Monday every hon. Member who was a friend to humanity would have waded through the voluminous book before them, if further information was necessary.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that all persons were agreed that some legislation was necessary. That was making a great progress, for twenty years ago not a single master would allow that legislative interference was necessary. Now, the public, the masters, and the working men, all agreed in appealing to Parliament to make regulations for the labour of factories. They had different motives for demanding it. The masters demanded it because they desired to prevent some amongst themselves from working too long. The adults required 234 interference, as the only means of preventing them from being overworked; and the public required the interference of the Legislature to protect the children. He thought that there should be some restriction, and that the restriction should establish one uniform system. He knew that some mills were now working for fifteen or sixteen hours a-day; and he knew that infants of a very tender age were so employed. The hon. Member quoted two or three cases, from the evidence of the Commissioners. The ten hours Bill would, he admitted, he a great change from the present system; and he wished, that the protection could be further extended as to age. He wished it extended till the age of twenty-(me. Indeed, unless the labour of the adults was regulated, which was requisite, it was impossible to protect the children. He was anxious to make the Bill effective for its objects. The masters of Manchester, he believed, only wished to labour sixty-nine hours a week, and the noble Lord's Bill proposed fifty-eight. Now, if the parties were brought together he thought they might come to some agreement; and he, therefore, was of opinion, that, in order to make a good Bill, it should be referred to a Select Committee. At the present moment the children were so much part of the machinery, that they must work the whole time the mill worked, or starve, otherwise the masters would not employ them. Their labour, then, was not free labour. They must be there at the time, and they must stay the whole time, without ever going out. Would not the Members of that House feel it a great hardship to be confined there the whole day? He knew what those hardships were, for he had worked in a factory himself till he had reached his sixteenth year. He had worked twelve and fourteen hours a-day, and had undergone all the privations which factory children endured. For these young persons he felt the deepest sympathy; and though he had been raised to the highest honour which man could confer on him—that of sitting in the British House of Commons—he could never forget his former station. He did feel much for the sufferings of these children, and a great disposition to stand by his order; and if he could by his labours ameliorate their condition, he should feel that he had not lived in vain.
§ Mr. Hyett
hoped as no debate had hitherto taken place upon the merits of the measure, that he might be permitted, notwithstanding the prohibition on the part of the 235 noble Lord this evening, to make a few observations of a general nature—not so much upon the principle of this measure, (for that was admitted) as upon the machinery by which it was intended to carry that principle into effect—in order to show that the details of this measure were of so complicated a nature that it would be impracticable to render them available for the purpose in view, in a Committee of the whole House, and that they must necessarily be referred to a Select Committee. The noble Lord observed that if the principles of his Bill were admitted, he would waive all objections to its going to a Select Committee; but he was at a loss to know exactly what those principles were. The Bill seemed to him to embrace several principles. First, the principle of regulating the labour of children; next, that of limiting the labour of adults; and, thirdly, that of interfering with the moving power of machinery. If the principle were for the regulation of the labour of children alone—to that principle he should not only make no objection, but give, most willingly, his cordial concurrence to any simple and practical measure likely to be effective for that purpose, but which, at the same time, was not likely to inflict a greater amount of suffering than that which it was calculated to remove. Entertaining that opinion it would have been inconsistent with Parliamentary usage for him to have offered any opposition to the details of this measure in any previous stage, and he had, therefore, abstained from doing so, although it certainly appeared to him, after the most anxious attention which he had been able to give the subject, that there were difficulties arising from the details of this measure which would render its practical effects as regarded the children themselves, a matter of very doubtful issue; or if it succeeded in accomplishing its object through its restrictive and inquisitorial interference with our manufactures, it would strike such a blow at those manufactures as would ultimately and speedily reach, in a still more severe shape, those whose condition the Legislature was benevolently striving to improve. It was to the details of this measure to which he wished to direct the attention of the House, they were of the most varied and complicated description. He was quite aware in the present tone and temper of the country, that even to oppose going into Committee with reference to a measure contemplating objects so benevolent as that of the noble Lord, would be 236 thought neither a very gracious nor a very easy task; hut believing that there were provisions in the Bill calculated to produce greater mischief than they could remove, he should certainly not shrink from the duty of thus opposing them. It could not be denied that the measure, if not within these walls, at least out of doors had been pressed forward under the impulse of very strong and warm feelings—with which he was conscious it would be difficult to cope. The hon. member for Marylebone, (Sir S. Whalley) had appealed to the humanity of the House; but notwithstanding that appeal, it was surely not necessary to remind the House, that legislation dictated by feelings and affections, however amiable or benevolent, unless strictly under the control of the reason and the judgment, was not the best means for securing the welfare and happiness of those for whom the feelings were most interested. Admitting the principle of this measure, and that it was desirable to legislate on this subject, if it could be done effectively and beneficially, it was impossible to shut his eyes to the fact, that difficulties met them at the very outset greater and graver than the advocates of the measure seemed to be aware of. If they legislated at all, they ought not to legislate partially; if they legislated for one description of manufacturing labour, they ought to legislate for all. The inconsistency of not doing so, was apparent from the title of the Bill, which was "A Bill to regulate the labour of children and young persons in the wills and factories of the United Kingdom." The preamble went on to state, that "Whereas it is necessary that the hours of labour of children and young persons employed in mills and factories, of whatever description, should be regulated, &; "but so far from endeavouring to effect this sweeping interference with mills and factories of whatever description, it confined itself in its enacting parts to the manufactures alone of cotton, silk, flax, and woollen, although it was perfectly well known that children were employed in almost every branch of manufacturing industry carried on in this country, as for example, paper, glass, porcelain, & & they were employed in much more severe labour and much more unhealthy processes, in every species of manufacture, of iron, tin, copper, brass, and lead, from the digging the ore in the mine, to its final completion in its most finished form. They were exposed to every sort of danger, both the young and the old of both 237 sexes. Their toil was without intermission, (at least the labour was without intermission, though by alternate companies), night and day, from first entering the mine, till the completion of the finished article of necessity or luxury. That toil was begun under the scorching heat of the blast furnace or the forge, and ended amidst vapours of the most noxious acids and most deadly poisons. To none of those labourers were the sympathies of this statute to be extended, notwithstanding the large and liberal assertions of its title and preamble. Granting the subject to be in every other respect ripe for legislation, what instruments did this Bill afford for carrying its provisions into effect? It was the parent who made the contract and sanctioned the work of the child; and neither the wisdom of Mr. Sadler, nor the ingenuity of the noble Lord, could find a stronger safeguard for the child than the natural affection of the parent. If the master and parent conspired together, as it was alleged they did, to overwork the child, what contrivance had the ingenuity of the authors of this Bill devised to prevent them? What substitute had it invented for parental affection? What protector and guardian had it found out, who, stimulated by a stronger impulse than the love of the parent, and armed with more than a father's inquisitorial powers, should continually watch over the hours of labour and of rest? The noble Lord was obliged to fall back upon that feeble resource of all impotent legisla-lators, the informer—the casual informer—that venerable parliamentary sinecurist—through whose sluggish inactivity so much legislative mischief had been prevented, and so many menacing and vexatious enactments had slumbered peacefully, little known, in the Statute-Book. The noble Lord had recourse also to the expedient of the time-book—a log-book for the entry of the extraordinary crimes and misdemeanours—made by the provisions of this Bill, and kept for the purposes of self-conviction—a provision, in his humble apprehension, not much in harmony with the spirit of our laws, and which, however excessive might be the pains and penalties attached to it, was by no means more likely to escape evasion, nor to be more effective than the informer himself. Moreover, it was so peculiarly inquisitorial, arbitrary, and obnoxious, that he sincerely believed it would go far to drive the most respectable and humane manufacturers—and he was speaking the sentiments of that respectable and 238 humane part of them, against whose manufactories there never had been a shadow of complaint—it would go far to drive the more respectable manufacturers who were anxious to observe the laws of their country, but who would be beaten by those who evade them—it would drive them out of their establishments, which would fall, by degrees, into the hands of the less scrupulous and the less humane. But a third provision appeared to him far more injurious than any other part of the Bill: it limited the moving power of machinery, and consequently all labour, adult as well as Juvenile, dependent upon it. That this restriction was, it was true, to depend upon the condition of a certain negative proof—a proof at all times difficult—but which would, in this case., be perfectly impracticable. This provision would, in some cases where water was the propelling power, restrict ail labour dependent upon it to six or eight hours a-day, and sometimes to less. These restrictions, then, would amount practically to a general limitation of all machinery and manufacturing labour employed in those branches to which the Bill applied. He believed, moreover, that this was not only the expectation but the intention of many of those who, out of doors, had pressed forward this measure to its full extent most vehemently, and who had put forward the sufferings of the children in the most exaggerated shape, to cover their ulterior designs on the general labour of the country. He did not believe, that so extensive an interference with the labour of the country could be contemplated by the noble Lord nor did he wean in any way whatever to in-sinuate that the noble Lord's conduct par-took of the disingenuous character to which he had alluded. He was only afraid, that the noble Lord could not be aware of the real extent of the measure into which he had been hurried, and was not sufficiently acquainted with the great manufacturing system of this country, to authorize him in, introducing a measure so extensive and so important. Was the noble Lord thoroughly acquainted with the vast and complicated nature of the manufacturing system in all its various bearings and relations? Or did the noble Lord think that the manufactures of England were fit matter to be trifled with? Did the noble Lord know how closely our rivals were treading on our heels?'—that if we suffered them to get the start of us, we should toil in vain to regain our lost way? Let us once full behind, and the race would be lost 239 for ever! Did the noble Lord know that the Americans were fast encroaching upon our trade in cotton, the Lyonese were surpassing us in silk, and the Belgians and Prussians were coming up to us in the great staple of our woollens? There was another point which perhaps the noble Lord and the House were not acquainted with; the manufacturers of Belgium were looking anxiously to the effect of this particular measure as it would affect adult labour and machinery, expecting to be enabled to compete successfully with us in the markets of Europe. Did the noble Lord ever consider that the manufactures of this country were the bread of millions, and were the animating spirit not merely of our political prosperity, but of our national existence? Had the noble Lord, in the intentness of his contemplation of the actual suffering under his eyes, ever given a single thought to the more remote but more extensive and fatal dangers which must arise from this measure? Had the noble Lord ever reflected, that if our manufacturing system was disjointed, no retracing our steps would avert such a ruin as never yet befel a civilized country? The people of England would not starve; the suspension of our manufactures for a single week would in all probability, drive back this country which had advanced further towards a state of general civilization (through the instrumentality of our commerce and manufactures) than any country since the commencement of the world—into a state of immediate misery and confusion, such as no heart could conceive, and no tongue describe, if we should not ultimately relapse into barbarism. Nothing, he was aware, was more difficult than to put minor and present evils justly into the scale against future and fatal dangers, and to weigh them fairly in the balance of a sober conscience: but if they were to arrive at just conclusions that must be done; and it was no less his duty to look fairly in the face of present ills and compare them against future dangers, than it was the duty of the noble Lord to anticipate future mischief from his endeavours to remedy present suffering. He was ready to admit that there was much evil in our present system—much suffering among children employed in manufactories—and he was prepared by prudent and fair restrictions, to endeavour to lessen it: at the same time it did appear to him that the amount of that suffering had been Very considerably magnified. He alluded 240 particularly to the tables which had been published at the end of the volume of evidence taken before Mr. Sadler's Committee last Session. If it were not troubling the House too much, he would beg them to refer, for one moment, to these tables. He was perfectly aware of the difficulty which even those felt, who were most in the habit of addressing the House, in making statements intelligible or interesting which relate to numerical tables, and, he was perfectly sure, that he, who was not in the habit of addressing it, should stand in need of all the indulgence which the House could extend towards him. The tables to which he alluded, showed the comparative estimate of the duration of human life in large manufacturing towns, as compared with certain other places; and he particularly wished to draw the attention of the House to the "Comparative Result" of those tables, which showed in every 10,000 burials the number of deaths under twenty years of age, and of those under forty, for a given number of years, and which, undoubtedly, at first sight, appeared most alarming as against the manufacturing towns. There is a note at the end which saddled the whole evil upon the factory system: It said, "so that about as many have died under twenty, where the factory system extensively prevails, as before their fortieth year elsewhere." But that comparison was not fairly instituted. Was it fair to compare, on the one hand Rutland, a healthy county, Essex, called in the tables a marshy county by which is meant unhealthy, but which he should take an opportunity of showing-was not the case; certain old towns; the Metropolis, which in other respects was a fair subject of comparison, but which, when it was recollected that it contained so large a share of the wealth, and consequent comforts, the largest and best charitable institutions, and the first medical assistance of the country, was scarcely to be admitted as a fair criterion of general longevity; was it fair, he asked, to compare these places, on the one hand, against large and densely-inhabited manufacturing towns, on the other? Every comparison, to be fairly made, should be made between things in every other respect as much as possible, cœteris paribus, with the exception alone of the particular instance from which you intend to draw your inference. Thus, in the present case, it ought to have been made, not between counties and old towns abounding in wealth, &, and our thickly 241 inhabited manufacturing towns, but between large densely-packed manufacturing towns, and large densely-packed non-manufacturing towns. Such for instance, as Liverpool, our largest commercial town, which was the fittest subject of comparison for such places as Macclesfield, Wigan, and Bradford. And what, then, was the result? In every 10,000 deaths in Liverpool, under twenty, there are 5,567; in Macclesfield, 5,889; in Bradford, 5,896; and in Wigan, 5,911; and instead of finding a difference against the manufacturing towns of between 2,000 and 2,500, as shown in Mr. Sadler's tables, there was only the much smaller difference of from 300 to 500—a difference which was sufficiently accounted for by evils which every one must admit to exist in our manufacturing establishments, without imputing it to the cruelty and overworking of children, which it was the object of this Bill to counteract. It must be conceded, that the congregating of large masses of people together, and the more frequent exposure of children to some unhealthy processes, and to those contagious disorders to which youth was peculiarly liable, it was unfavourable to the duration of life; but all those circumstances were beyond the scope of legislation. Of those who (in 10,000) die under forty, he found ill Bradford, 7,061; in Liverpool, 7,087; in Wigan, 7,117; in Macclesfield, 7,300; and thus, notwithstanding, it was frequently urged, that people in our great manufacturing towns, rarely reach the age of forty, positively more die under forty in Liverpool than in Bradford. But as this difference was attempted to be placed entirely to the score of the factory system, in order to ascertain whether that were just, he had established a comparison (disembarrassing himself of the accompanying causes of difference arising from the dense population of large towns) between a rural manufacturing district and certain agricultural districts, as much as possible similarly circumstanced. He had taken the district which he had the honour to represent, and where the factory system extensively prevailed, and where, therefore, if the position in the note to which he had alluded were correct, (that as many die under twenty where that system prevailed as under forty where it did not), there ought to be some corresponding majority in the deaths, when that district was compared with agricultural districts in other respects similarly circumstanced, but where the factory system did not prevail. To represent such 242 districts, he had taken all the counties of England, and arranged them in the order of the duration of life, placing the most healthy first, and adopting the same formula of calculation as Mr. Sadler. If it should be urged that there were closely inhabited towns in these counties, the same held good in that manufacturing district. He found, then, that the county of Hereford was the most healthy, and came first; it gave, in every 10,000 burials, 3,420 deaths under twenty years of age; and passing down the list through Rutland, Wilts, Westmoreland, Dorset, and Monmouth, the manufacturing district of the county of Gloucester came seventh in the list, and gave 3,951 deaths. But the county of Gloucester itself, in the centre of which this manufacturing district was placed, came thirteenth, and gave 4,077 deaths. It was to be observed, that this was not a comparison between the manufacturing and agricultural population alone, but between the manufacturing part and the whole county including the manufacturing part. So that this county was probably raised higher in the scale than it would otherwise be, by the greater duration of life found in the manufacturing district. Essex, which was represented to be a marshy county, and, therefore, unhealthy, was the twenty-third in order, and gave 4,269 deaths, while the average of all England was 4,514; so that Essex, instead of being an unhealthy county, was healthier than the average of all England by 250 deaths under twenty years of age in every 10,000 burials. There was a difference in favour of this district, in which, "the factory system does prevail," as compared with the average of England, of between 500 and 600. The Isle of Ely was the forty-second and last on the list, a marshy and really unhealthy district, where there die 5,328 under twenty. The same results appeared under forty: Hereford was again first, and gave 4,826 deaths; the same manufacturing district was again the seventh, and gave 5,328; the county of Gloucester had sunk from number thirteen to eighteen, and gave 5,606 deaths, showing a less mortality in the manufacturing district, than in the county in which it was situated by nearly 300 deaths; Essex gave 5,796; all England 5,979; making Essex better than the average of all England by nearly 200, and the manufacturing district better than the average of all England by more than 600. Taking the note to which he had before alluded as 243 his example, but reversing the comparison, he found the deaths under forty in the manufacturing district as compared with the deaths under twenty, in the Isle of Ely, to be exactly the same, namely, 5,328 in each case. So that exactly as many die under the ago of twenty in the district where the factory system did not prevail, as under the age of forty in a place where it did. In this manner every sort of evil had been laid at the door of the "factory system; "in truth, the" factory system" had been used to express and designate every sort of abuse. He knew, as well as any one, that there were abuses in the factory system as well as in any other; but it was as unfair to use the phrase of the factory system in this sense as it would be to designate all the atrocious crimes committed in this country by the name of the social system. Feeling that these exaggerations ought to be put in a fair light, he had endeavoured to do so. A stain had been thrown not only upon our manufacturers but upon the country, which he felt it a duty—a duty both to his constituents and to the country in general—to attempt to remove. Upon the whole it appeared to him, that the restrictions which it was proposed to intro-duce, were of such a nature, that it would be exceedingly difficult to understand their effect, if they were discussed in a Committee of the whole House. There were three or four different sorts of manufactures with which the House was to interfere—all of which were conducted in a totally different way, and with respect to the internal regulations of which this House could know very little. That rendered the subject so complicated, that he did not think the inquiry could be proceeded with in any other way than before a Committee up-stairs. The clauses of the Bill were all of so meddling a character, that they were both frivolous and vexatious. There was one which required that hereafter factories should be built on a certain plan, which, according to the text, only meant of a certain height: one required they should be white-washed once a year; and one made accidents from machinery felonies when death ensued, upon the verdict of manslaughter from a coroner's jury—a point upon which he apprehended that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had been entirely misunderstood. He did not understand the noble Lord to object to machinery being properly boxed and guarded, as it had been represented in the course of this debate, but to the impropriety 244 of attaching such a punishment as that of manslaughter, for such comparatively small offences as an accident from machinery, when, in fact, the proprietor of the mill might not be to blame at all. Such were the restrictions the House was called upon to impose on this great manufacturing country. He had no doubt that he should be told, that they were necessary to effect the benevolent objects of the promoters of this Bill; but he humbly apprehended, that in their wish to carry into effect these benevolent designs, they had overlooked the magnitude of the consequences—an error, not very unusual with all righters of wrongs and redressers of grievances, from the days of Don Quixote to those of the noble Lord. He must be permitted to observe, notwithstanding the cheer of the noble Lord, that there was a Quixotic spirit abroad at the present day, which, singling out a few of the abuses to which human nature always had been liable, and to which it always would be liable—there was a spirit, he said, of legislative Quixotism abroad, which, singling out some few cases of abuse, rushed on to remedy them with breathless haste, regardless of the dangers it might inflict on those whom it wished to relieve, or on society in general. The noble Lord cheered, and would excuse him if he took the liberty of pointing out one or two particular plagiarisms which had been committed on the volume of Cervantes—the noble Lord would, he was sure, excuse him, if, in the most perfect good humour, though without the slightest intention of treating this great and important subject with unbecoming levity, and only for the purpose of extracting a serious, moral, and useful lesson, he pointed out one or two remarkable coincidences between the adventures of the noble Lord, and of those of his great predecessor of La Mancha. One of the first adventures of the Spanish Knight, was that which originated in his interfering in the relief of a servant boy of about fifteen years of age, for the purpose of preventing the boy from receiving a severe beating from his tyrannical master; but the only effect of the interference was, that the moment Don Quixote had turned his back, the boy received a still more severe infliction. The noble Lord's great original could make no hand of the fulling mills, for his discreet Esquire Sancho, like Mr. Sadler, who came so long after him, fearing the dangers of a tilt at the fulling hammers, tied the legs of Rosinante, and created au exception in their favour; and so it was 245 with the noble Lord and Mr. Sadler, who, notwithstanding all the chivalrous spirit of their warfare against mills, thought it right to abstain from any attack upon our fulling mills, and created a precisely similar exception in their favour—" Provided always, 'said the Bill, "that nothing in this Act herein contained shall in any way whatever apply to that process commonly called the fulling of woollens." After all, were they legislating at the right end? Were they to go on in this petty-fogging manner from day to day, adding fetter to fetter, and trammel to trammel, on the industry and the energy, and the enterprise of the country? Were they, in these days of liberty of thought and liberty of action, to recur to the olden time of chartered guilds and exclusive companies, prescribing, if not the modes, at least the hours of manufacture."' There was, indeed, in the present day, a zeal, he might almost say an excessive lust, of legislation, a mania for making little laws for little occasions, when they ought rather to be doing their best to be getting rid of those which were causing the mischief. They ought rather to look at the causes of the disease than at its effects and symptoms—they ought rather to look for general preventions than for particular nostrums—they ought rather mend the general health than botch up in detail a few offensive and irritating sores—let them turn their minds rather to a consideration of their financial difficulties—let them, at proper times and seasons (for he was not anxious to hurry on the country too fast and too far) consider whether these difficulties did not arise from restrictions, rather than increase their number. Let us endeavour to exchange what we manufacture more cheaply than our neighbour for what he produces more cheaply than ourselves. If they attempted that, and succeeded even in but a partial degree, he was disposed to believe that there would be but little need for Commissions of Enquiry, and Factory Bills, and Truck Bills; and if they had attempted it, and succeeded but partially, he believed there would have been but little clamour for Parliamentary Reform, and there would have been no need of Coercion.
objected to the Bill being referred to a Committee up-stairs with such instructions as those recommended by the noble Lord. Parents might be willing to make the sacrifice of the wages attendant on a diminution of the hours of working to ten, but he doubted 246 whether they would agree to limit the hours to eight. If the course recommended by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were adopted, he was sure the beneficial tendency of the Bill would be defeated.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that though it was an established principle or rule, that any restriction or regulation of labour or wages was mischievous, yet he thought the case of children was an exception to that rule. He had voted for a Commission of Inquiry on the grounds of the complaints as to the allegations preferred against that important interest, the manufacturers of this country; but he was of opinion that now, when so strong a feeling had been raised in the public mind, that the Bill ought to be discussed, clause by clause, in a Committee of the whole House, in order that the public might know all the bearings and principles of the Bill. By sending the Bill to a Committee up-stairs, not one hour would be saved. A Committee had already sat, and a Commission of Inquiry had been issued, and this was the proper time to come to a decision upon the subject. The charges of partiality which had been raised against the Commissioners, who were, no doubt, honorable men, would not be set aside by the secret inquiries of a Committee up-stairs, and therefore the discussion ought to be in this House, so that every man might know the opinions in favour and the opposition offered to every clause of the Bill. Such a course would afford satisfaction to the country, and believing it to be the best for all portions of the community, he should support the motion for going into a Committee of the whole House.
Mr. Matthias Allwood
said, he agreed with most of the remarks of the hon. member for Middlesex, with regard to the propriety of going into a Committee of the whole House upon the Bill, although he did not think that Ministers brought forward the Amendment merely for the sake of delay. He also fully appreciated those feelings which animated the hon. member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton), in referring to his own early sufferings—feelings which, in his opinion, and evidently in that of the House, had done the hon. Member the greatest honour. The House had heard a great deal said about the excitement which undoubtedly prevailed among the population of the manufacturing districts; but what was the course proposed by his Majesty's Ministers likely to produce, if not additional excitement? What 247 other interpretation could the people, or would they probably, put, upon the sentiments which had dictated the Amendment of the noble Lord, but that the Ministers were unfriendly to the Bill? What necessity was there for a Select Committee? There had already been a Report from a Committee up-stairs. They had the Report of the Factories' Commissioners. The question was not a mere question of the feelings of Englishmen, but a question of the feelings of humanity—a question of the grossest injustice—of utter destruction, inflicted upon the feeble and the unprotected. It was not a question of pounds, shillings, and pence—not a point to be settled on the grounds of mercantile advantage. The Select Committee was to be bound by an instruction with respect to the age to which the protection was to be extended; but was the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, aware, he asked, of the provisions of the Bill of the noble Lord (Ashley)?
§ Mr. George Wood
thought the House ought not hastily to come to a decision upon a subject of so much importance. He rejoiced much at the manner in which the feeling address of the hon. member for Salford had been received by the House; and though his hon. friend had pointed out a middle course to be pursued on this question, yet he feared, from the tone and temper manifested by the advocates of the Bill, there was but little chance that a middle course would be adopted. He, however, hoped the House would not proceed to adjudicate lightly upon this important question. The existing law had not been proved to be ineffective; and until it was shown that the proposed prohibition or restriction would be so, great caution should be used. The hon. Baronet (the member for Oxford) had made a strong appeal to the feelings, by calling upon the House to afford protection to young women under eighteen years of age, by passing this Bill; but he would remind the hon. Baronet, that in such an event as the Bill passing with its present restrictions, females under eighteen would be discharged by the master, and those above eighteen years of age, whether unmarried or married, would be employed; and if the latter were the case, the effect upon the state of society would be most prejudicial.
§ Lord Stormont
contended, that the effect of the proposition of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be, if not to throw the Bill out altogether, at 248 least to delay it from passing during the present Session, which was near its close. The Session might, perhaps, last two months longer. Hon. Gentlemen were very difficult to please; but even if it did last the period he had mentioned, there would not be sufficient time for passing this measure if it were now sent to a Committee upstairs. He considered this one of the most important measures of the Session, and he should therefore vote for the House going into a Committee.
Mr. Poulett Thomson
wished to recal the attention of the House to the real subject before them. The hon. member for Whitehaven had charged his noble friend with a desire to delay the Bill, but if the hon. Gentleman had only heard his noble friend's statement, he would have seen that there was no foundation whatever for the allegation. The right hon. Gentleman contended, that the Bill in its present shape could not be passed without much discussion and a great waste of time, and that the proposition of his noble friend, instead of impeding, would have the effect of facilitating its progress in such a form as would give general satisfaction to all parties interested in it. The Committee up stairs was not intended to receive evidence, but merely to see whether the protection proposed to be given by this Bill might not be carried even further than it had been carried by the noble Lord. The subject was one of such difficulty and delicacy that it could not properly be discussed by a Committee of the whole House; and hence his noble friend's anxiety to have it sent to a Committee up stairs, where it could receive all the consideration it deserved. For his own part he should like to have the whole subject fully discussed, and he was satisfied if it were completely argued out, the ignorance and delusion that prevailed regarding it would be effectually dissipated. It had been said, the Lord Chancellor was the protector of all infants who have property, and this House was called upon to make itself the protector of all infants who have no property but their labour. He entirely agreed in that sentiment; the House was bound to take under its protection not only infants, but every other of his Majesty's subjects; but protection might sometimes be an injury, as arose from the very protection of the Court of Chancery, where the protection was often very dearly paid for by those parties who were unfortunate enough to obtain it. He felt confident of what would be the result of 249 the decision of the House. Although a cry had been got up abroad—although he was one of those who personally had suffered—although his name was mixed with those who were designated as cruel, inhuman, and infant-killers, he treated such paragraphs with the most perfect contempt. He felt satisfied that sooner or later the people would learn who were their true friends. He felt satisfied, that no man would lose by honestly opposing the passing feelings of the people of this country. As he did not value approbation bought by sacrificing what he believed good for them, so he did not value contumely and odium, which would attach but temporarily, for objecting to and opposing measures which he considered improper. On the question of time he felt that there was no difficulty whatever. He was satisfied, that by referring the question up-stairs, they would have the Bill brought in in the state in which it was to be submitted to the House, on which he thought it would be at the present moment spending the time of the House if he followed the noble Lord. The noble Lord very naturally felt anxious that his measure should pass. He had no doubt that the noble Lord conscientiously thought, that the principles of his own Bill were the best. From this he entirely dissented. There was one thing in which he agreed with the noble Lord, namely,—the protection of infant labour to a certain age. He concurred also, in the means, and he was satisfied, that they would obtain the object desired by going into a Committee up stairs. He was satisfied, that there would result from it a measure carrying into effect some portion of the noble Lord's (Lord Ashley's) views, blended, as far as possible, with the proposition of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, that they had had abundance of evidence and figures. The hon. Member's (Mr. Poulett Thomson's) language was sometimes literal and sometimes figurative; but the whole amounted to this—mammon against mercy. After the eulogium on the humanity of the House pronounced by an hon. Baronet (Sir Samuel Whalley), he trusted that mercy would prevail. He trusted, that it would. But, at any rate, if they were not to be so humane as the hon. Baronet anticipated, he expected they would be, at least, sincere. If they were sincere, how could any man say, that a Committee up stairs could take a book containing 1,500 pages, could analyse and understand it all, 250 and compare its contents with another book of 800 pages, and see if they corresponded in their statements—if there was any man in the House who would say that that could be done in less than two or three months, he should begin to think, that some hon. Members were not so sincere as they wished to seem. He would be sincere at any rate. He would say on the part of his constituents, that about 300,000 of the most helpless creatures in the world were holding up their hands for mercy. They implored that House to rescue them from the worst slavery in the world, from the merciless master's frown, and that House should not reject their prayer.
§ Mr. Sheil
reminded the House, that Resolutions on this subject were first introduced into that House by Mr. Sadler years ago, and were supported by an appeal to much evidence. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at that time admitted, that it was a fit subject for legislation, but suggested that the Resolutions were not sufficient, and that a Bill ought to be presented. Accordingly a Bill was drawn up and presented, and upon some suggestions was deferred. A great deal of evidence had been since obtained, and as for himself he could truly say, that he was present at the detail of so much misery that it had gone beyond anything he could conjecture or any statement he could make of it. The Parliament was then dissolved, and the matter was brought forward in the new Parliament by the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) who stepped into the honourable station held by Mr. Sadler. When the question was pressed, an application was made for a Commission, and carried by a majority of one. ["More."] One, he believed; but, however, he would not object to add another. It was now nearly two years since the proceeding commenced, and now it was proposed to go before a Select Committee. First, there was the resolutions of Mr. Sadler; then the declaration of the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), that it was a proper matter for legislation; then a Bill was presented; then evidence was heard; then the matter was again brought forward, supported by this new evidence; then there was a Commission; and now, after all, there must be a Select Committee! For what [...] were they to examine the Report of the Commissioners? Why did not the House proceed at once to a Committee of the whole House? The books of the Commissioners contained a great mass of evidence, although it was stated 251 that the Commissioners had penned the evidence in a brief compass, and had printed their inferences from it. Was the matter to be left to the Select Committee? If so, it would have a two-fold result; it would, in the first place, be delayed beyond the Session. Would the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, undertake that the Committee should report within a week—within a fortnight then? If this were agreed to, the case would be different. If the Bill did not pass through Parliament, there was another thing to be considered,—the manner in which public opinion would be affected. He admired the lofty intrepidity with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Poulett Thomson) had spoken of public opinion; but nevertheless public opinion must and would have its way. Had not the West-India question been yielded to public opinion? Had not the twenty millions been given in consequence of public opinion? He would ask, was the Bank Charter left to a Select Committee? No, it was cut short by the noble Lord. Why did they not refer the Irish Church Reform to a Select Committee? No; they were anxious to bring the matter at once to an issue; but the miserable children were to be allowed to perish, while the Committee was sitting up-stairs. Did they expect that the people of England would submit to a measure which combined the baseness of Mammon with the ferocity of Moloch.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
said, that the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Shell) had led the House to imagine, that they were about to refer the question to a Committee to consider whether they would legislate or not, and upon what principle. It was for neither one nor the other, for both were equally beyond the consideration of a Select Committee. It was only proposed to refer the Bill to a Select Committee to consider its details, and in order to enable Gentlemen to come to the consideration of the question with more knowledge of the real circumstances, with more calmness, more temper, more of dispassionate investigation, than had been shown by the hon. and learned Gentleman, with more deliberation than it was possible for the details of a measure to meet with in a Committee of the whole House. The West-India Company, the East-India Company, the Bank Charter—none of these questions, had yet come to that point at which they referred this to a Committee. They were not on the question 252 whether they should bring in a bill or not; but here was a bill requiring amendments, for which they call for a Committee. They could in Committee settle the minute details to be followed up by the House. He could not follow the arguments which had been used by some hon. Members. One hon. Member had talked of sacrificing mercy to Mammon; and the hon. and learned Member had said something about Mammon and Moloch; but the hon. and learned Member was too figurative; his imagination was too fruitful in ideas; for him to follow the argument of the hon. and learned Member. He was asked what was the object of referring the Bill to a Select Committee? It was not to interfere with the principle of the Bill, which was sanctioned, nor to legislate on the Bill, for that was determined upon; but in order that they might deliberate more calmly, and that the Bill might be more speedily and satisfactorily brought to a conclusion, consistent with humanity, mercy, and sound policy.
§ Mr. Hardy
thought, that the course proposed, of submitting the matter to the investigation of a Committee up-stairs would impress the country with a belief that it was intended to conceal the delinquencies of the master manufacturers under that covering. For this reason he deprecated that course. He meant not to say anything in disparagement of the Factory Commissioners. He believed them to be on the whole honorable men. But he was of opinion, that they had not chosen a favorable period of the year for the prosecution of their examinations. He knew many (if the Commissioners personally, and was convinced, that they were incapable of unfairness in the prosecution of their inquiries. But, he repeated, they had undertaken them at the wrong period of the year. They went forth in the month of June—the month of all others most calculated to give a favorable coloring to their Report. They instituted their inquiries into the condition of the factory children, he insisted, at a period when that condition was presented under the most favorable appearances—when the factories were newly white washed, and when every thing in the way of comfort that was attainable by the wretched inmates was accomplished. They ought to have gone in the winter season to make their examinations and their inquiries; and then they would have observed the wretched and desolate condition of the poor inmates of the factories, 253 exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather-It was not correct to say, that children of fourteen years of age were capable of protecting themselves, when it was well known that their labour was sold, as well as those of a less mature age. For the sake of the Commissioners, he thought, that the investigation ought to be open and fair, and he thought they would come to a conclusion in far less time than if they were above stairs. He agreed with the hon. member for Middlesex, that they had lost time in this discussion; and if they had referred the Bill to a Committee of the House, the last five hours would have been more profitably occupied in going into the details of the Bill, and some of the material points might have been settled. Knowing the feelings of the country on this subject, he implored the Government to consider well what they were doing, and not interpose any delay to the satisfactory settlement of this question.
§ Mr. Slaney
recommended the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) to make some concession in his propositions for the purpose of carrying them into effect. The difference between the two propositions before the House, the one being, that all children under eighteen years of age; should work but ten hours a day, the other that all under fourteen should work but eight, was not so great as to require much time to settle it. But surely the difference between these two propositions could be better settled in a Select Committee than by any other plan of investigation. In case the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Al-thorp) should be carried he (Mr. Slaney) trusted the noble Lord would be prepared to bring the Bill to a conclusion during the present Session, as might be recommended by the Committee, the appointment of which depended on the vote of the House this night.
§ Mr. Sinclair
would cordially support the proposition of the noble Mover, and the more so, as, according to the new arrangement of his noble friend opposite, with respect to public business, Committees could only meet two or three days during the week. He hoped, that Parliament would not be prorogued until this most important measure had been finally and satisfactorily adjusted. His Majesty's Ministers would wish the House to continue its labours until the West-India question had been settled; and flu; people of this country, however anxious they might be for the liberation of the negroes from a state 254 of misery and degradation, would have great cause for complaint and irritation, if, while Parliament was kept sitting for that purpose (a purpose most laudable in itself), their Representatives did not manifest an equal anxiety to relieve the helpless children of their countrymen from a system of wretchedness and debasement.
§ The House divided on Lord Althorp's Amendment—Ayes 141; Noes 104: Majority 23. Main Question agreed to.
§ The House resolved itself into a Committee pro forma, and then resumed. The Committee to sit again.
|List of the NOES.|
|ENGLAND.||Gronow, R. N.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Guest, J. J.|
|Ashley, Lord||Gully, J.|
|Attwood, M.||Halcombe, J.|
|Attwood, T.||Halford, H.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Hall, B.|
|Barnard, F. G.||Handley, H.|
|Beauclerk, A. W.||Hardinge, Sir H.|
|Bell, M.||Hardy, J.|
|Bewes, J.||Harland, W. C.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Henniker, Lord|
|Blunt, Sir C. R.||Hoskins, K.|
|Brigstock, W. P.||Hope, H. T.|
|Briscoe, J. L.||Hume, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Humphery, J.|
|Bruce, C.||Hutt, W.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Ingilby, Sir W.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Irton, S.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Buxton, T. F.||Jerniugham, Hon. H.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Key, Sir J.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Lament, Captain N.|
|Chandos, Marquess of||Langdale, Hon. C.|
|Chaplin, Colonel T.||Leech, J.|
|Clayton, Col. W. R.||Lister, E.|
|Clive, Viscount||Lopez, Sir R.|
|Cobbett, W.||Lowther, Colonel H.|
|Cornish, J.||Lyall, G.|
|Curteis, Captain||Manners, Lord R.|
|Darlington, Earl of||Nicholl, J.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Norton, F.|
|Eastnor, Viscount||Ossulston, Lord|
|Estcourt, T. G. V.||Parker, Sir H.|
|Evans, Colonel||Penleaze, J. S.|
|Faithful, C.||Paget, F.|
|Fancourt, Major||Palmer, It,.|
|Fellowes, H.||Peter, W.|
|Fellowes, Hon. N.||Poulter, J.|
|Fielding, J.||Price, R.|
|Finch, G.||Pryse, P.|
|Fordwich, Viscount||Robinson, G. R.|
|Forster, C. S.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Rotch, B.|
|Gaskell, D.||Scarlett, Sir J.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Scholefield, J.|
|Gore, M.||Scott, J. W.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Shawe, R. N.|
|Somerset, Lord G.||IRELAND.|
|Spankie, Sergeant||Baldwin, Dr.|
|Spry, S. T.||Bateson, Sir R.|
|Stanley, E.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Staunton, Sir G. T.||Butler, Hon. P.|
|Stewart, J.||Chapman, M. L.|
|Stormont, Viscount||Christmas, J. N.|
|Thompson, Alderman||Cole, Hon. A.|
|Throckmorton, R. G.||Corry, Hon. L.|
|Todd, J. R.||Daly, J.|
|Tooke, W.||Finn, W. F.|
|Torrens, R.||Fitzsimon, N.|
|Townley, R. G.||Galway, J. M.|
|Townshend, Lord C.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Trelawney, W. L. S.||Lefroy, Dr. T.|
|Tynte, C. T. Kemyss||Lefroy, A.|
|Tyrell, C.||Lynch, A. H.|
|Verney, Sir H.||Maxwell, H.|
|Vernon, Hon. G. J.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Vincent, Sir F.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Walter, J.||O'Brien, C.|
|Wason, R.||O'Connell, D.|
|Whalley, Sir S.||O'Connell, M.|
|Whitmore, T. C.||O'Connell, J.|
|Williamson, Sir H.||O'Connor, F.|
|Willoughby, Sir H.||O'Connor, Don|
|Young, G. F.||O'Dwyer, A.|
|SCOTLAND.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||O'Grady, Colonel S.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Perceval, Colonel|
|Gillon, W. D.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Hay, Sir John||Ruthven, E.|
|Maxwell, Sir J.||Shell, R. L.|
|Pringle, R.||Verner Colonel W.|
|Sinclair, G.||Vigors, N. C.|
|Stewart, E.||Walker, C. A.|
|Wallace, R.||Wallace, T.|
|Paired off in favour of Lord Ashley's Bill.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||Lennox, Lord W.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Petre, Hon. E.|
|Hanmer, H.||Tennyson, C.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Vivian, Sir H.|
|For Lord Althorp's Motion.|
|Andover, Lord||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Bowes, J.||Pelham, Hon. C.|
|Fazakerly, J. N.||Yelverton, Hon. W. H.|
|Kerry, Earl of||Marryatt, T.|