§ Lord Ashley
(on the question that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of Supply) said, that he felt exceedingly sorry to interfere with the order of the day, and he felt himself most reluctantly driven to adopt that course; he had made every effort to avoid it, but the House must be aware that those efforts had been made in vain. Nothing, then, remained for him but to bring the question forward on the present occasion. In doing this he felt that at least his was a perfectly constitutional course, and from that course he had resolved not to swerve until he should obtain from the Queen's Government a full, final, and decisive answer. Were he capable of doing otherwise, his sincerity might reasonably be suspected after the many pledges he had given on the subject, and he trusted, that in discharging this important duty, he should prove how unfair it was to designate the excitement which prevailed on this subject as unjust agitation. According to returns made up to the year 1835, it appeared that the number of persons manually engaged in cotton mills amounted to 354,684; of course the numbers directly and indirectly interested in the cotton trade greatly exceeded that amount. From the able pamphlet of Mr. Gregg, he learned that not fewer than 4,000,000 persons were interested in the manufacture of cotton. From the statement which he intended to lay before the House he hoped to be able to show that the question was one not only of importance to the manufacturing districts, but of great moment to the country at large. Of the 354,684 persons manually engaged in cotton mills, 384 196,385 were females, being about fifty-five per cent of the population drawn from their domestic duties and occupations. Since the year 1816, eighty surgeons and physicians had deposed to the cruel and alarming oppression to which factory children were exposed. This evidence he need hardly add was confirmed by the medical commissioners appointed in 1833. When a bill regulating the labour of children in factories was brought in in the year 1816, statements were made respecting their condition in 1815, whence it appeared that the length which a child travelled in a single day was eight and a quarter miles. In the year 1832, the quantity they travelled daily was twenty-five miles. This was admitted with respect to the mill of the hon. Member for Oldham himself, a mill which did not work at such high speed as others; in some the length travelled per day amounted to thirty miles, being a severity of labour exceeding that imposed upon soldiers in forced marches, a fact established by the calculations of Mr. Guthrie. The consequences of this cruel labour were apparent in the returns relating to mortality in the manufacturing districts; this was an issue as to matters of fact, and he had spared no pains to establish his facts on grounds which could not be shaken: his calculations he had submitted to the most careful investigation; they had been examined by one of the first actuaries in England or perhaps in Europe, who had gone through them with the greatest accuracy and patience. The result on which he staked his credit was, that "in those districts where the factory system extensively prevailed, as many persons died under twenty years of age, as under forty in any other part of England." Not many days ago a document was transmitted to him from Mr. William Pare, the superintendent-registrar in Birmingham, which drew a comparison between the mortality of that town and Manchester. He had submitted it, lest there should be some mistake, to the same actuary, and the result was, that "in Birmingham one half of the population attained their sixteenth year, while in Manchester one half died within the first three years. From the several comparisons which had been instituted, it appeared that the value of human life was much greater in Birmingham than in Manchester, arising in part, no doubt, from the superiority of its 385 geographical position, but mainly from the superior nature of the employment, and the better habits of the working people." So much for their bodies; what was the state of their minds? No less than sixty clergymen, either by documents or in person, had declared the vicious and awful condition of those districts, and the utter hopelessness of any efforts to impart to people engaged in factory-labour anything like moral or religious instruction. In 1835, a petition was presented from 200 Sunday-school teachers, declaring that it was quite impossible, even on the Sabbath-day, to convey to their minds, being in so wearied and exhausted a state, any religious or moral instruction whatever. He would quote several extracts from the evidence given before the committee by Mr. Sheriff Allison, of Glasgow:—Mr. Sheriff Allison said,I would recommend that the hours of employment of workmen should be peremptorily fixed at ten hours a-day. I am quite sure that this would have the best possible effect, both upon the spinners, and in particular upon the piecers and the factory children; and I am quite sure it is the only thing that can possibly be done which will ever remedy the evils to which the inferior class of labourers connected with cotton factories are exposed.When asked whether he considered "this mitigation of labour as a sine quâ non with respect to any improvement of the manufacturing population,"I think," he said, "it is decidedly; I am quite sure, that all attempts to improve the condition of the factory children would be nugatory without it.And he added in answer to this question,Do you see any means whatever of securing the peace and the happiness of those people, and the peace and happiness of the empire, except by giving to the children both the time and the means of a moral and religious education?I think not; unless they can get the means of moral and religious education, and time for it, and unless the habits of moral depravity, which now overspread the skilled classes from the operation of those combinations, are removed, I am perfectly certain that the existence of the British empire will be overthrown, that the moral pestilence will overturn entirely the social state of the country, and I see already around me every day in Glasgow that we are just to be considered as standing at the gate of the great pest-house. I see the labouring classes depraving to an extent under my eyes which I cannot find lan- 386 guage sufficiently strong to impress the committee with.This was neither more nor less than an ample fulfilment of the prophecy uttered before a Committee of the House of Commons in 1816, by the late Sir Robert Peel, when giving evidence in support of a bill to limit the hours of factory labour.Such indiscriminate and unlimited employment of the poor, he said, will be attended with effects to the rising generation so serious and alarming, that I cannot contemplate them without dismay; and thus that great effort of British ingenuity, whereby the machinery of our manufactures has been brought to such perfection, instead of being a blessing to the nation, will be converted into the bitterest curse.Did the noble Lord opposite, then, think that this question was to be evaded? Did he believe matters of this kind could be forgotten by the people because they were not listened to with attention in that House? It was utterly impossible. The evil was increasing daily and hourly; and unless they addressed themselves to it speedily and effectively, it would assume a magnitude which they would never be able to master. It was not his business to enter into any statement of the comparative merits of the ten or twelve hours bill; but looking to the measure which had been introduced and passed by the present Government, he did require a full anti final answer as to their intentions with respect to it. If it were good, let them enforce it; if bad, let them mend it; if it were unnecessary or dangerous, let them repeal it. But to leave the law in its present condition was equally unwise and absurd. It not only withheld just protection from the factory children, but by pretending to do so deprived them of the sympathy of a deluded public. In 1833 he introduced a measure nominally called the Ten Hours Bill; it met with great support in the country, upwards of 100,000 persons having signed petitions in its favour. The Government then felt something must be done, and they introduced a bill which was substituted for his on the ground of its superior humanity and higher moral pretensions. In particular it enacted, that no children under eight should be employed in factories at all, and that those above that age, and under thirteen, should be worked only forty-eight hours a-week. Those who employed the children were also 387 compelled to give them two hours of instruction every week. Such were the provision by which the sympathy of the public and the support of that House had been obtained to the defeat of his own bill; but those were the very clauses that were the first to be violated, and violated they had been to the present day. The noble Lord and his colleagues were perfectly aware of those violations of the law, and yet they connived at them. [Lord J. Russell, No, no.] Would the noble Lord say, that he was not aware that the educational clauses of his own Act had been set at nought in almost every factory in the country? Had the Government been left in ignorance of the effect of their own bill?—had they been left in the belief that it was carried into effect, and generally or even partially obeyed throughout the populous districts? In August 1834, seven months after it came into operation, Mr. Rickards, who had charge of the great manufacturing district in Lancashire, reported, that unless an effective system of check and control were adopted, the execution of the law must depend on the will of individual millowners; that the grossest abuses must prevail, the act itself become a standing jest, and the situation of inspector perfectly useless. He was anxious to state the whole of his case, not from private documents, not from individual reasonings, but from the official statements of inspectors appointed by the Government to carry the act into operation, and who made their reports to the noble lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department four times every year. He would undertake to show from those reports, and from them exclusively, that the act had been systematically violated from the time when it passed till the present day, and that, notwithstanding the urgent representations and remonstrances of their own inspectors, the Government had done nothing whatever to assist them in the discharge of their duties. Mr. Howell said "The utter impracticability of the education clauses is so obvious that, should this matter be hereafter called in question, I trust, I shall stand excused for dispensing with it altogether." Such was the fate of the principal of those clauses, on the strength of which Ministers had been enabled to reject this bill. In a joint report of the inspectors in the same year it was stated, that unless the superintendents had power to enter the mills whenever they 388 pleased, the act itself would become a dead letter. In 1835 Mr. Rickards said, "I have repeatedly urged in former reports, and still beg to repeat to your Lordship, that it is essential to the efficiency of the act that the superintendents should be empowered to enter the mill from time to time, as they may think proper." Yet nothing whatever had been done to assist the inspectors in that respect. Delay was the most convenient course of policy which the noble Lord could follow, and delay there had been enough. Had the act in 1836 and 1837 been better observed? Did the inspectors discover any further inherent power in the act to enable them to carry it into effect without the interference of the Legislature? During the whole of that time Mr. Horner and Mr. Howell were still loud in their remonstrances. The former, in 1837, said with great emphasis, at the end of his report, "I cannot omit to lay again before your Lordship (the Secretary for the Home department) my firm conviction that an alteration in the law as regards the age of the children is absolutely necessary, in order to carry into effect the intention of the Legislature—that no child under thirteen shall work more than forty-eight hours a-week. In many instances children under eleven work twelve hours a-day." In 1838 Mr. Horner reported—"I must again state, that the protection afforded to children under thirteen is very incomplete, owing to the defective nature of the act." The noble Lord might perhaps say, that within the last two or three weeks he had received communications from the manufacturing districts, which proved that the law was now better observed; but was that a state of things to be endured, merely because persons chose to conform to it, the act itself being totally inoperative? If that House were to sit for twelve months, and if he were allowed to bring the matter forward every week, he had no doubt that the law would be observed; but whenever Parliament was prorogued, every abuse and licence would recommence. He was not inclined to say anything in disparagement of the inspectors or superintendents, whose zeal and diligence were certainly greater than their powers, and who had, no doubt, great difficulties to contend with; but the inspectors being excluded from the mills, they all agreed in representing the total worthlessness and inefficiency of the act. By clause thirty-one, magistrates 389 had the power to mitigate the penalties which were imposed on convictions under the act, and to what extent had they been carried? Absolutely to neutralize the law. What was the forcible language of Mr. Horner upon this part of the subject, in his report of October last? He said, "The extent to which those mitigations had been carried would tend rather to increase than check the future violations of the law. The disreputable millowner, who is regardless of the discredit of a prosecution for violating the law, solely made for the protection of helpless children, looks only to the amount of the penalty imposed on his neighbours, and finds on casting up the account that it is far more profitable to disobey than to observe the act." After these representations of the state of the law made by his own inspectors, how could the noble Lord opposite reconcile it with his conscience as an individual, and with his public duty as a Minister of the Crown, during the whole course of his administration, never to have brought forward any measure for the removal of so tremendous an evil? From a return now made periodically to that House, it appeared that between the 1st of May, 1836, and the 1st of January, 1837, there were 822 convictions, more than one-half of which were for the grievous offence of overworking the children, and working them without surgeon's certificates. The average amount of penalties was 2l. 5s. Between the years 1837 and 1838 the number of convictions was 800; and, whilst on this subject, he would just, in passing, say a word or two in reply to an observation which had been made to him by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department the last time it was discussed—namely, that there had been an abatement in the number of convictions during the last year. It was true, that during the first quarter of the year there was some abatement; but the aggregate for the whole year was 800, being only an abatement of 20. "I cannot ascribe this," said one of the inspectors, "to any increased willingness to obey, or to any increased alacrity to enforce, the law; but I ascribe it to the difficulty of the times, and to the inclination which the millowners in consequence feel to throw a number of children out of work." What did the House think was the average amount of penalties during the last year? He had already stated, that in the year 1836 the 390 average amount was 2l. 5s. Last year the average amount was only 1l. 10s. Could the House, then, doubt that it was far more profitable for a millowner to disobey than to obey the law, when he told them that a millowner had only to pay a penalty of 1l. 10s. for a gross violation of the law, although he gained far more than that sum by the hours during which he overworked a child, and when, in case of his over-working 100 children at once, it was only considered as a single offence, and the highest penalty that could be inflicted on him for it did not amount to more than 2s. 6d. a-head for each child? He had no hesitation in affirming, that a merciless griping ruffian would gain more than 500 times the amount of such a penalty during the hours he overworked these unfortunate children. Now, the amount of these convictions was taken from the returns for England only; but was it to be supposed, that this amount was the full amount of offences committed against this act in Great Britain, because the inspector for Scotland, Mr. Stuart, contrary to the evidence of the sheriff of Lanarkshire, contrary to the evidence of many respectable gentlemen, and contrary even to common sense, had sent in a return of "nil" for Scotland, or in other words, had stated that through all Scotland not one offence had been committed against this Act? Let it be observed, too, that the number of convictions was no index to the number of offences committed. First of all, there was the difficulty of detecting the offences; next there was the difficulty of procuring evidence; then no offence could be prosecuted to conviction unless it were brought within 14 days of its commission to the notice of the inspector. [So at least we understood the noble Lord, but from the failure of his voice the remainder of his speech was very indistinctly heard in the gallery, and parts of it were quite inaudible.] How, then, could one third of the offences against this act ever be brought to light? The inspectors themselves declared the thing to be impossible. But the House might perhaps, be desirous to see how these penalties had been remitted and adjudicated upon. Before, however, he came to that part of the subject, let him state the reasons why the spirit of this law had evaporated until it had become a mere corpus mortuum. The fact was, that the millowners sat on the bench, and adjudi- 391 cated in their own cases. There were, undoubtedly, exceptions to that position, bright and honourable exceptions, some of them Members of that House, who did not concur with him in opinion upon this question. It was only right to state, that he had heard nothing but commendation of the manner in which the mills of the hon. Member for Derby, Mr. Strutt, were managed. But that he might not be considered as aspersing a large class of men without cause, he begged to read a few extracts from the valuable report he then held in his hand. Mr. Howell having said, that the magistrates gave certificates in a mass, proceeded to add, "As if to exemplify the futility of the countersigning of the magistrates as a check on the certificates of the surgeon, cases have in my district occurred in which the manufacturer being a magistrate has countersigned the certificates for his own factory, and two magistrates, being both millowners in the same town, have reciprocated civilities in this manner for each other to a considerable extent." The noble Lord read an extract from a report of Mr. Horner, of which the substance was as follows:—"I have had in my district millowners trying cases as magistrates against other millowners residing in the same town with themselves. I had one instance of a millowner sitting as a magistrate on an information presented against his own sons, as tenants of a mill of which he was the proprietor." Mr. Horner also added that another millowner had adjudicated upon an information filed against his own brother, and that in all these cases the magistrates had awarded the lowest penalties which the law enabled them to impose, and, that too in cases where the penalties were inflicted for a second, and even a third offence. And now let the House bear in mind that all this sad state of things had arisen from the measures proposed and carried by Her Majesty's Government; for, by Sir John Hobhouse's act, which the existing act repealed, it was enacted that no magistrate being concerned by himself or his relatives in mills should be allowed to adjudicate on points of factory law. As the House might wish to see how the existing law operated, he would mention a case which he had taken out of the report, and which if quoted incorrectly could be immediately set right by hon. Gentlemen who had read it, and were therefore qualified to contradict him. 392 On the 10th of December, 1836, an information was laid against a millowner. The resistance to that information and the manner in which the magistrates dealt with it, appeared to Mr. Horner to be so flagrant, as to require him to make a special report upon it to Government. He had selected three out of the many charges which were preferred against this millowner. The first was for employing 29 young children more than nine hours a day. The second was for employing 24 children without surgeons' certificates, which was in point of fact a confession that they were overworked. The third was for employing 22 children more than 12 hours a-day. Before whom was this information tried? Before three magistrates all interested in mills. What was the amount of the penalties which the magistrates could have imposed on this millowner, had they awarded them to the full extent of the law? The full amount would have been 1601. What was the amount of penalties actually awarded? Would the House believe him when he stated that, notwithstanding this was a most flagrant case, and notwithstanding the great profits which the magistrates knew that the millowner must have derived by his merciless conduct to these poor children, the penalties, which might have been extended to 160l., had the magistrates put the law fully into execution, were reduced down to 17l., which was not more than the result of ten minutes' labour of those children, whom he had unmercifully overworked for several hours? And this was the way in which the present Act was carried into effect! Now, let the House see whether there was the same caution exhibited with respect to other parts of this Act. Since the period this Act was brought into operation, the whole amount of the penalties levied was 4,422l.; but, in consequence of certain regulations made by the inspectors themselves, every child taking out a certificate was obliged to pay sixpence for it, as a sort of remuneration for the trouble of writing it. Now, what sum did the House think had been levied in this manner upon the wages of all children under fourteen years of age since the passing of the Factory Act? A sum not much under 12,000l. And this for a certificate which, so far from giving protection to the child, only gave impunity to the aggressor upon its hours of comfort and repose. If this certificate gave any 393 protection to the child, he should not complain of this tax levied upon it; but when this certificate—for which the child was compelled to pay—was put into the master's hand, and was used by him as a shield to protect himself from any conviction under this Act, he must say, that the law was at once ridiculous and tyrannical. Was it then surprising, that there should be discontent and dissatisfaction among the operatives in the manufacturing districts, when they saw that the law which had been passed for the protection of young children was daily violated, not only with impunity, but also with the most unblushing effrontery? Could the House be surprised that these men thought, that it was inclined to legislate for the richer in opposition to the poorer classes, and that, as a necessary consequence, they held in equal contempt the makers of the law, the administrators of the law, and the law itself? With respect to the education clauses, he would say but little; for it was universally confessed, that they were not observed in one mill out of fifty, and, where they were observed, "there," said Mr. Horner, "the schooling given is a mere mockery of instruction." And yet would the noble Lord opposite venture to say, that the education of the manufacturing classes was a matter of indifference to the country at large? Would he refuse to attend to the language of his own inspector, Mr. Horner, who said, that vice and ignorance, and their natural consequences, misery and suffering, were rife among the population of these districts? The bill which the noble Lord had himself introduced, and had afterwards withdrawn, on this subject, acknowledged the defects of the existing law. Habes confitentem reum. If, then, the noble Lord admitted the existence of these defects, it was unnecessary for him to point out where the new law, had it passed through Parliament, would have amended the defects of the old. He was anxious that that bill should have become law, because, if it had had no other effect, it would have given force to the Act now in the statute book, and, though it was not by any means all that he desired, yet it would have conferred, had it been properly and honestly carried into execution, great benefit on the younger classes in the manufacturing districts. It would have limited the hours of their labour, it would have provided education for them, and it would have given them a 394 knowledge of their rights as men, and of their duties as Christians. But the noble Lord opposite had thought right to withdraw it. Had that bill been converted into law, a year, which was now to be passed in vice, ignorance, and suffering, might have been given to the commercial, moral, and religious education of the manufacturing population. The noble Lord, however, had his reasons for leaving the law as it stood at present. For his own part, he thought, that to leave the law in its present state, was unjust to the children, whom you consigned by it to oppression—to the honest mill-owner, who was anxious to conform to it, and who was defrauded by those who did not—to the dishonest mill-owner, whom you tempted and encouraged to violate its enactments—unjust to the law itself, which you know will be violated, and violated with impunity—and unjust to the Executive Government, which was responsible for all maladministration of the law. Some time ago, he had brought before the House the course which, in his opinion, it ought to adopt on this subject. He would not weary the House by repeating what he had then said; but to one of the points then urged by her Majesty's Government in their own defence, he must briefly advert, as showing the animus by which they were influenced. In the year 1836, the Government brought in a bill not to amend the existing law, but to repeal one of its best provisions, which secured to the child of not more than twelve years of age, immunity from twelve hours labour. That bill, having been carried on the second reading by a majority of two only, was withdrawn by the Government, in deference to the sense then expressed by the House, the Government giving, at the same time, both by speech and in writing, a most solemn pledge, that the existing Act should be rigorously and speedily enforced. How had the Government redeemed that most solemn pledge? By an immediate and monstrous violation of the law. [Laughter from Lord John Russell.] The noble Lord laughed. [Lord John Russell, "It is so absurd."] The noble Lord might think so, but he fancied that the House would be disposed to agree with him, when they heard the statement which he was about to make. Shortly after that pledge was given, there came out a letter from Mr. Inspector Horner, addressed to all the surgeons in his district, Here let 395 him explain, that before a child could be allowed to work twelve hours a-day, a certificate from a surgeon must be given in proof that the child had attained thirteen years of age; and, therefore, when the noble Lord stated, that the Act would be rigorously enforced for the future, the country expected, that it would be immediately carried out. Mr. Horner's letter, which the noble Lord read, contained instructions to the different surgeons how they were to grant certificates, and what they were to consider as fitness for twelve hours' labour. The surgeons were told, that they were not to ask a question as to the age. "If you find," said the letter-writer, "a child not more than twelve years of age, with such an unusual degree of development, as to have the appearance of thirteen years of age, you will be justified in inserting the word 'thirteen' in the certificate." So that, although they knew the child to be twelve, yet if they found an unusual degree of development, they would be justified in inserting the word thirteen. The document then proceeded to define the writer's notion of this unusual degree of development, which was, that no child who had attained the height of 4 feet 3½ inches, should be considered less than thirteen years of age. The surgeon was then to give the child a certificate, in proof of its having attained the age of thirteen, for so the act required, [Lord J. Russell—"Read the clause."] He might have made a legal mistake as to the construction of the act, but the language of the clause was, "That no young person or child shall be allowed to work more than 12 hours a-day, without first requiring and receiving from such person a certificate in proof that such child is above the age of thirteen." Then was formed to meet this clause, the regulation he had mentioned, that any child who had attained the height of 4 feet 3½ inches should be held to be thirteen. Was it possible the noble Lord could think that this regulation carried out the spirit of the act? Was he not aware that such an order must have the effect of setting completely at nought its provisions? If he wanted any motive to assign for it, he could find it in certain facts that he would lay before the House. When the order in question was issued, his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham had taken the measurements of all the children in his own mill, and what was the result? That out of 103 396 children then in his service between the ages of nine and thirteen, 57 were found to be at or to exceed the height of 4 feet 3½ inches. He also procured the measurements of the children in another mill, and found that out of 318 between the ages of nine and thirteen, 71 were at the height of 4 feet 3½ inches, or above it, 2 of whom were between nine and ten years of age, 15 between ten and 11, 45 between eleven and twelve, and 9 between twelve and thirteen. By this regulation, 40, or perhaps nearly 50 per cent., of the children who enjoyed the benefit of the act passed for their protection in working only eight hours a day, according to its merciful provisions, were at once transferred to a servitude of 12 hours duration. Thus had the merciful intentions of the House for the protection of these children of ten years been carried out. Thus had the pledge of the Government been redeemed. What remedy had been applied? Had the noble Lord the moment he heard of this great grievance proceeded instantly to remove it? Representations on the subject were made to him, memorials were transmitted to him, but nothing was done. When the House met, indeed, and he gave notice of his intention to bring the subject before it, then, and not till then, was there shown an ample readiness to investigate the complaints. November, December, January, and February, passed away without anything being done to cancel the regulation or give effect to the spirit of the act. But when he had given notice of a motion, he received a letter from the noble Lord opposite, stating that he had submitted the regulation to the law officers of the Crown, who declared that it did not come within the provisions of the act, and that it must be cancelled. Cancelled accordingly it was, but could they cancel the effects of it? That the noble Lord must know to be impossible, till an act was passed to remedy the abuses at present perpetrated. Could a single instance be named, in which a child transferred under this regulation from a labour of 8 hours duration to one of 12, was brought back to its former condition when it was cancelled? Mr. Howell, the inspector, stated, that on inspecting several of the cotton mills, he found children working as thirteen years old, who not only were, but appeared to be, under that age. The order was made in 1836; it was cancelled in March, 1837, but not till it had pro- 397 duced the most frightful abuses. Mr. Horner, writing in March, 1837, stated, that from the great imperfection of the act in all that related to the determination of the age of the children, it was impossible for the inspectors to check the most palpable frauds. He was fully persuaded that one half of the children now working under a surgeon's certificate that they were thirteen years old were, in fact, not more than twelve, and many not more than eleven. Mr. Horner added, that "until the defects inherent in this part of the law were remedied, the object of the law would, to a great extent, be defeated." Yet the opinion of Mr. Horner, a man of great ability and experience, was treated with supreme contempt. He thought it would have been more becoming if the noble Lord, fortified by this opinion, had called for additional powers for the protection of the children, or had at least introduced into the bill brought in during the present session, provisions for increasing the amount of the penalties leviable, and for preventing interested magistrates from sitting on the Bench. That bill had been laid aside, he believed, on pretence of the indisposition of the Under-Secretary for the Home Department; but the douse had been sitting for eight months, and during all the time, from November till the 7th of May, which was the day fixed for the second reading, that hon. Gentleman was in his place, and perfectly able to attend to the progress of the measure. The excuse of illness, therefore, would not do, and it was besides inadmissible on another ground, for it was not to be tolerated that the passing of a useful measure should be impeded by the illness of any functionary, however efficiently he might discharge his duty. Thus had a great measure, closely affecting the temporal and eternal welfare of so vast a portion of the population, been set aside and treated like a turnpike bill. But the noble Lord might be assured that the people of this country had too much humanity, and that he who had humbly undertaken the subject, was too strongly determined to obtain justice, to allow the matter to rest in its present state. The interest which this question excited was not confined to England; it had extended to France, where it had been discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, and had engaged the eloquent pens of some of the ablest writers of the country, Mr. Sis- 398 mondi and others, who had not disdained to support the cause of the helpless innocents for whom he pleaded. He had received within the last fortnight a communication from France, requesting him to join in a general society to wipe out this blot from the civilization of Christian Europe, in the propriety of which he heartily concurred. He had hoped that this country would have been the first to set the example of such an association, and he felt ashamed that another country, possessing advantages so much inferior should have anticipated it in setting on foot a general scheme for the amelioration of the condition of infant labourers. This was an evil, that was daily on the increase, and was yet unremedied, though one-fifth part of the time the House had given to the settlement of the question of negro slavery, would have been sufficient to provide a remedy. When that House in its wisdom and mercy, decided that forty-five hours in a week was a term of labour long enough for an adult negro, he thought it would not have been unbecoming that spirit of lenity if they had considered whether sixty-nine hours a-week were not too many for the children of the British empire. In the appeal he had now made he had asked nothing unreasonable, he had merely asked for an affirmation of a principle they had already recognized. He wanted them to decide whether they would amend, or repeal, or enforce the Act now in existence; but if they would do none of these things, if they continued idly indifferent, and obstinately shut their eyes to this great and growing evil, if they were careless of the growth of an immense population, plunged in ignorance and vice, which neither feared God nor regarded man, then he warned them, that they must be prepared for the very worst result, that could befall a nation. Then would that great and terrible denunciation pronounced by a prophet of old, have a second fulfilment:—"The spoiler shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape; the valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the Lord hath spoken." The noble Lord concluded by moving a resolution—"That this House deeply regrets, that the law affecting the regulation of the labour of children in factories, having been found imperfect and ineffective to the purpose for which it was passed, has been suffered 399 to continue so long without any amendment."
§ Mr. Fox Maule
said, that in answering the speech of the noble Lord he should have no occasion to pass those limits for restraining himself within which the noble Lord was remarkable; but he must be permitted to say, that the noble Lord's speech exhibited a highly-drawn, and, he thought, unnecessarily highly-drawn, picture of what the noble Lord called the misery in which the factory children of this country lived. The noble Lord had stated, that he did not intend to enter on the question of a ten hours or an eight hours bill; but the House could not doubt, that a great portion of what fell from the noble Lord was advanced indirectly in support of a principle the noble Lord had steadily advocated—the curtailment of the hours of labour. Now, the question before the House, appeared to him to be whether the House had acted expediently or otherwise in foregoing the consideration during the present Session of a measure certainly not tending in any way to alter the duration of labour in factories, but simply to amend and make more effectual an act which was admittedly inadequate in its present state, to carry out the intentions of the House in framing it. The noble Lord had dwelt on the unhealthy nature of labour in factories, and had compared the mortality of Manchester, with that of Birmingham, but he had omitted to state, that one of the inspectors distinctly asserted, that there were grounds for the increase of mortality in Manchester no way connected with factory labour, but proceeding from the pernicious system, on which the residences of those individuals whose lot it was to undergo this labour were constructed. If there had been a proper building Act in Manchester, or a proper supervision of the residences of these poor beings, much of the mortality that had occurred might have been avoided, and he must say, it was unfair to attribute to the operation of factory labour, effects which were clearly attributable to other causes. But the noble Lord would have the House suppose, that factory labour was of all others most injurious to vitality, that those who worked in mines or those who were engaged in any deleterious manufacture were better off. Now, he was ready to admit, that without protection the lot of the factory children would be one which was not only 400 not enviable, but one which ought not to be permitted to exist in a religious and moral country. But he did not admit, that the Government to which he had the honour to belong, were indifferent about putting in practice the law, and enforcing, as far as was possible, its penalties. The noble Lord had said, that the object of Government was to stifle all complaints on this subject. Now, the noble Lord must have known, that in saying this, he was misrepresenting the conduct of Government. The noble Lord at the head of the Home Department had always declared, whenever the subject of factories was before the House, that his object was to carry the lawfully into operation for the protection of the children in factories. The noble Lord who had just spoken must know, too, how much had been done to effect improvements in the manner in which the law was carried into operation; he must know, further, that a bill had been introduced this Session into that House for effecting various improvements upon the existing law, and that it had only been withdrawn from the pressure of business, with a distinct understanding, that it would be again introduced next Session. The noble Lord asked, what were the intentions of Government with respect to the existing law. Why, the intentions of Government were manifested by introducing the bill he had mentioned, for the improvement of the present law, which, he repeated, was withdrawn only in consequence of the pressure of public matters. That bill, which was introduced in April last, was, he believed, satisfactory to the House generally. The noble Lord himself had admitted, that, though he had some objections to parts of it, the measure contained much good; and from what fell from the noble Lord on this subject, he concluded, that in the noble Lord's opinion, the measure was satisfactory to the House. Now with respect to the educating clauses of the bill. The noble Lord had quoted Mr. Horner's opinion on those clauses; but to show the noble Lord the difficulties which presented themselves when the bill came to be printed and laid before the public, he would mention a single one, and that not the least of those difficulties. It was this—that when we required, that the children should be taught to read before being sent into the factories, Mr. Horner was the first to tell us, that the present system was working remarkably well, and 401 that it would be dangerous to throw the onus of educating the children on the parents, instead of those who employed those parents. With respect to what took place out of doors on this subject in the course of the year 1834, he was only informed from Mr. Rickard's reports; but from those reports it appeared, that within seven months of the completion of the Act of that year, such was its nature that it could not possibly be carried into execution. Now, he believed that might be traced to the interference of others than the House of Commons. He believed, that the shape in which that Act passed was very different from that in which it left that House in the first instance; especially, and most materially, in so much of it as admitted magistrates to sit to adjudicate in cases wherein they were personally concerned. There were other points besides this, and on the whole he was quite ready to admit, that there were many parts of the act which required amendment. The reports of the inspectors of factories since 1834 were all to this effect—that the law required amendment in order to adapt it to carry out the intention of the House of Commons. This he did not deny; but he did deny, that Government had not done their best to carry it into operation as far as was possible, and he would assert that the act had been improving in its operation to a very considerable extent, and that as far as from its nature it could be carried into effect it was carried into effect. Then the noble Lord went on to state cases which had arisen in the various districts under the four inspectors, as they were reported in returns made, he believed, in consequence of the motion of the hon. Member for Salford. The noble Lord said, that in the district of Mr. Stuart, there were no convictions of offenders against the law at all; but it was but fair to that Gentleman, and to the noble Secretary of State for the Home Department, to state why that return was a nil return. The fact was, that while that district was under Mr. Horner, the whole number of convictions under this Act which occurred in it was only eight; and when Mr. Stuart succeeded to him, he did not find that district in confusion from disobedience to the law, for the millowners of it were perfectly willing to obey the law, but he found, that there were no cases of violation of the law within the district, except an occasional one at the most here and there. 402 Now, the House ought to know what was the ground on which the noble Lord, and also the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, founded their assertions that the law had not been fully carried into effect. The noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member gathered this from the evidence taken before the Combination Committee. Now, in the first place, there were examined before that Committee three master manufacturers of Glasgow, men of great respectability, and one of them, Mr. Charles Todd, perhaps the most eminent manufacturer and the most upright man in Glasgow. Well, these three gentlemen were examined by the Committee, but not a single question was asked them as to the operation of the Factory Act: But immediately afterwards three operatives were summoned, and then questions were put to them by the noble Lord and other hon. Members of the Committee, with a view to investigate the operation of that Act, and from the answers of these men the House would see with how much correctness the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member had drawn the conclusion that the Act was not fully carried into effect. Angus Campbell, one of the operatives, was asked by Mr. O'Connell with respect to the operation of the present factory law on the spinning mills of Glasgow, "Is it your opinion that the law is honestly worked out by not taking in children under nine, or do you think there is any fraud?" His answer was, "I must say distinctly that the operative cotton-spinner is necessitated to overlook the law, in order to keep his machine moving, by taking young children in below thirteen for twelve hours a-day or below nine for eight hours a-day." Then he was asked by the noble Lord, "To your knowledge, is the law set at defiance?" Answer.—"It was a matter of necessity." These were the grounds on which the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member made their assertions, and such evidence as this was taken in proof that the Factory Act was generally violated. But what were the grounds on which the noble Lord had spoken of the violation of the law with respect to age? Why, that one operative having two children, one above, and the other a little below thirteen, he had taken the one a little below the age, and put it to work in the factory as being above thirteen. But this was only one case, and he did not blame the inspector for that; 403 because it appeared, from the evidence of the certifying surgeons, that children might be taken to be above thirteen, though they were in reality a little below. Let the House remark this applied only to Glasgow; and on it he must say, that to charge the millowners of Glasgow with a violation of the Act, on such grounds as these, he could not denominate as any other than trifling with the House. Now, with respect to the evidence of Sheriff Alison, on which the noble Lord had insisted so strongly, he must say that evidence was, in his opinion, ex parte evidence. Sheriff Alison was decidedly a ten-hours-bill man. He said that no measure could be worked consistently with the health or with the morals of the children till you have a ten hours-bill. He further said, in answer to a question from the noble Lord, "In fact you consider this mitigation of labour (viz. a ten-hours bill) is a sine guâ non with respect to any improvement that you may attempt to introduce into the large masses of the manufacturing population?" "I think it is decidedly; I am convinced that all attempts to improve the condition of the factory children would be nugatory without it." Sheriff Alison might therefore, he contended, be sat down as an ex parte witness on this question. Now, as it was right that the intentions of Government should be known to the House, and the public on a subject of so much interest as this, he begged it might be remarked that he now repeated what he had before stated to the noble Lord, that the intentions of Government were, that the Act, both as regards age, and as regards the period of labour should be fully carried into effect in favour of the factory children. The Act would be in no case interfered with by the Government; so, too, the object of the bill brought in this Session by Government was to amend, in some respects, and to make additions to the former Act, and especially as regarded the clauses which appeared in that Act when it came down from the Lords. The object of that bill was, to secure an education to the children; and also to secure, in some degree, the enforcement of the penalties, in which point he admitted the present Act to be deficient. With regard to the admission of superintendents, that was also provided for in the bill, and though the noble Lord would have the House believe, that their admission into the factories had not been carried into effect to an equal extent 404 as the admission of the inspectors, it might be well that they should know, that no impediment had been offered to the admission of superintendents by any millowners, except in Mr. Horner's district. This he mentioned, in order that the House might know that the millowners were not universally opposed to the wishes of that House. In a few cases Mr. Horner himself had been refused admittance by a few individuals whose characters stood, he believed, very high; but he did not justify their conduct because their characters stood high, for in his opinion if a mill-owner refused inspection he could not avoid suspicion. He thought the noble Lord had endeavoured to induce the House to think, that millowners sat on the bench as magistrates to adjudicate on themselves; but to his knowledge, no man had been found sufficiently hardened to sit on complaints against himself, though he admitted, that the sons and brothers of millowners, against whom complaints were made, occasionally had sat to hear them. But as this was consistent with law, it was absolutely impossible for Government to interfere, and say "You must not sit on the bench and adjudicate on these cases." With regard to the mode of ascertaining the ages of children, and to the surgeons' certificates, these were, he admitted, points on which again the law was deficient. He admitted, that there was a vagueness about those clauses which related to the surgeons' certificates which were required. But it was almost impossible to fix a definite rule. He did not attempt to extenuate or defend what Mr. Horner had said on these points; that gentleman had recommended, he believed, an examination of the teeth of the children with a view to ascertain their age; but with regard to this and other recommendations he would only say, that Mr. Horner had acted in this from zeal for the proper discharge of his duty, and from a real desire to carry into effect the provisions of the Factory Act. The noble Lord said, that he brought the circular of Mr. Horner under the consideration of Parliament, and that immediately the noble Secretary for the Home Department had taken steps that Mr. Horner's instructions should be withdrawn. He would add, that Mr. Horner was engaged during three months in trying experiments and finding what was the best criterion of age in children about thirteen years. Much difficulty was 405 experienced in fixing on a test, but as soon as it was found that the one proposed was not according to law, upon the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, which was immediately taken, orders were despatched from the Secretary of State's office that no other mode should be followed but what was strictly within the purview of the statute. Now this was the case, but from the noble Lord's statement, the House, he thought, would be induced to doubt whether the Act was followed in that particular, or whether it was left a dead letter. In the year 1837 the noble Lord had on two or three different occasions called the attention of the House to the subject of the factory children. But the noble Lord always forgot to state what the Government had done in 1837. He accused them of a desire to stifle the subject, but, he forgot to mention that on a representation made to them by the noble Lord, to the effect that the Factory Act was not fully worked out, the Government had remodelled the districts, increased the number of times of visiting the mills, and since that time every report of the inspectors stated, that the operation of the Act had been improving in every district throughout the country. Then came the question, whether the Government had been justified in withdrawing the bill of this Session. He repeated, that, had he been in his place the day ensuing that fixed for the second reading of the bill in the month of May last, he certainly would have pressed it on, notwithstanding the opposition given to it, and the various questions which arose upon it out of doors. He denied, that the Government had been silent or careless upon the subject, but they could not regard a measure of that kind as otherwise than one of an experimental nature. Whatever new enactments they might make upon the subject, there were so many persons engaged in the factories, and so many interests concerned, that loopholes would invariably present themselves for evading the law. He readily admitted there might be established a better system than the present, and that they should ameliorate that system to the fullest possible extent, consistently, however, with the recollection, that if they unnecessarily interfered with the working of the great manufactories of this country, they would endanger the employment of those young children, and run the risk of throwing them idle 406 upon the country, and placing them consequently in a situation in which they would be more ready to receive those evil impressions, against which the noble Lord was so anxious to guard them. He looked with suspicion on the bill of the noble Lord as a ten hours bill. He had listened attentively to his speech, and he confessed, that it appeared to him to contain more to justify the idea that the noble Lord wanted to interfere with the principle of the present act, than to remedy or remove its defects. Now he again declared, that while he was ready to attend to the subject with the view to remedy its defects early next Session, he was resolved never in any way to interfere with the two great principles of age and time, principles which were so intimately connected with the manufactories of the country. He therefore looked with a suspicious eye upon the motion of the noble Lord, because it certainly, in his mind, at least, professed one thing while it had another for its object. This he said without intending the least disrespect; but it appeared to him that whilst the noble Lord hinged the question upon the withdrawal of the bill which had been before the House for amending the law, his real object was, to interfere with the principle of that bill. He hesitated not, however, to give the noble Lord and the House this solemn assurance, that it was the intention of the Government to amend the present law early next Session, by a measure similar to that already introduced, which, from what had occurred during the present year, he had every reason to expect would receive the support of a considerable portion of that House. He promised that it should be vigorously prosecuted, and had only to hope that it would be returned from the other House in a better state than was the original bill. A question of this kind, so deeply affecting the interests of the country, should certainly not be opened every three or four years, for he was convinced that such interference with labour would tend to injure rather than benefit the manufactures of the country.
Sir W. James
was anxious to offer a few observations in support of the motion of his noble Friend. In the early part of the Session they had heard a great deal on the subject of negro apprenticeship. He recollected, that it had been somewhat ludicrously urged, that the period of apprenticeship ought to terminate stimula- 407 neously with the Coronation. It was in the recollection of the House that this subject appeared to excite a great deal of interest. The galleries were filled with gentlemen wearing broad-brimmed hats, and clad in grave and sober-coloured garments. Now, he contended, that the sufferings of those of our own country, who toiled in those factories, had as strong a claim for sympathy and redress, as those which appeared to have excited, to such an extent, the feelings of the country. He thought that it was the imperative duty of the Legislature to protect those children. The Legislature provided a sufficient protection for the property of minors, and guarded them against waste and extravagance. But let them recollect that the property of a poor man was his labour, and was as much entitled to the protection of the law. Was it not the duty of the Legislature to protect the poor man from that condition which was calculated to produce premature decrepitude? They were bound to do this, unless they wished to establish the principle of having one law for the rich, and another law for the poor. When the rich man spent his property he did injury to no one but himself. This, however, was not the case with the poor man; for when his labour was prematurely exhausted, or extravagantly wasted, an injury was done to the productive power of the state. Let them recollect that one of the main causes of the great and distinguished commercial and manufacturing position which England enjoyed, was the indefatigable industry and the untiring labour of her artizans. Surely it never could be the interest nor the desire of the Legislature to see the labourers of the country prematurely worked out, and their minds debased and degraded. He congratulated his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) on the part that he had taken with respect to those suffering classes. The subject had been early forced upon the attention of Parliament by Mr. Sadler, whose exertions on the subject were entitled to the highest praise. The noble Lord had renewed the attempt of Mr. Sadler, and had proved himself a worthy successor to that Gentleman. The exertions of his noble Friend were entitled to the greatest praise. His noble Friend had introduced a bill on the same principle as that which had been introduced by Mr. Sadler. That bill was resisted; but as an expedient, and as the 408 next best thing, a commission was agreed to, to inquire into the condition of those engaged in these factories, and the evidence collected by the commissioners disclosed a fearful state of things. But bad as that state of things was, they might feel almost justified in saying that it was still in existence. The evidence of the children themselves had been taken down, and it disclosed a fearful and lamentable condition. They described themselves as sick and tired after the day's labour. That when they returned to their homes in the evening they were obliged to throw themselves down from excessive fatigue. A physician whose authority was entitled to respect, had published some observations on the physical condition of those children, and he stated, that the labour in which they were employed, on account of its protracted duration, rendered them liable to pains in various parts of the body, to swellings of the feet, and that these appearances often terminated in the production of serious permanent and incurable disorders. Well, then, his noble Friend introduced his bill to remedy this state of things, but the Government said, that they would not have the noble Lord's bill, that they would themselves introduce a bill exactly suited to the nature of the case. This was what the Government did. They shewed by their subsequent conduct, that they thought their own bill was inefficient and inapplicable. If that was not their opinion, why had they introduced the present Act? Amongst other regulations which they had made, it was provided by the present law, that notice of any offence should be given within fourteen clear days after its commission; and though the inspector might not enter a factory more than once in the year, yet this limited period was all that was allowed with respect to any violations of the Act that might have taken place. Upon the whole, the subject called loudly for the attention of the Government. He regretted that they had postponed the remedy for a single day. On the subject of these abuses, amongst many other authorities, he might appeal to the opinion of Mr. Senior. The hon. Baronet read an extract from a statement made by Mr. Senior, to the effect, that such was the progressive increase of the fixed capital employed in manufactures, that to work that capital profitably, there should be an increase of the time of labour, so that the evils of which they 409 complained, instead of decreasing, were upon the increase. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) had published a statement of the condition of these factory children. That hon. Member stated, that until he made the calculation in his own factory, and under his own eyes, he had no conception of the extent of the labour which these children endured. To his utter surprise, he found that the distance walked by a wretched child in the course of twelve hours, was not less than twenty miles, and, in some cases, it was even greater. After the very able speech which had been made by his noble Friend, it was not his intention to detain the House. He did not concur in the high character which had been given to the bill introduced by the Government in that Session. The bill contained a ludicrous enactment with respect to the children. In it was contained a provision to the effect, that the Secretary of State, should, from time to time publish, or cause to be published, an easy book for children; and no child who was unable to read this book, should be held able to read. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, had written a tragedy, which, he supposed, was to transmit his name to posterity. The noble Lord was now, however, to be employed upon the less noble labour of preparing a horn book for the factory children. The present question was a national question, which must come home to the business and bosoms of every Member of the House, and in the hands of the House he was content to leave it. He had lately looked into the life of Sir W. Scott, written by Mr. Lockhart, and he had noticed an observation made by that great man in passing through a manufacturing district. It was this—"The justice of Heaven is requiting and will requite those who have bloated this country into opulence, at the expense of the happiness and morals of the lower orders of the people."
wished to make one observation. He thought the allusion to those who had crowded the gallery when the Negro Apprenticeship Bill was under discussion, was uncalled for. Though those who were present on that occasion were few, yet no less a number than fifteen hundred thousand persons had petitioned Parliament for the termination of negro apprenticeship. The exertions of those individuals had produced a beneficial result; and he was sure, that all must 410 respect the motives by which they were influenced.
§ Sir R. Bateson
concurred in the sentiments which the noble Lord had expressed, and which did so much honour to his heart, and which had been expressed with an ability so creditable to his talents. On the last occasion on which this subject was before the House, he had heard some statements made with respect to the state of factories in Ireland. He resided in a part of Ireland where factories were rapidly increasing; and he thought, that he was acquainted with the sentiments both of the employers and the individuals employed in those factories. It was stated on a former evening, by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, as well as by the hon. Member for Dublin, that the parents of the children employed in those factories, were adverse to any alteration of the present system; as the shortening of the hours of labour must have the effect of diminishing wages. He knew the feelings of the parents of the children employed in the part of Ireland with which he was connected, and he did not believe, that there was any amongst them so slavish—so devoid of parental feeling—as to sacrifice the lives and morals of their children for the sake of the few shillings that they could earn by those additional hours of protracted labour. On behalf of the operatives of the district where he resided, he denied that they were actuated by any such base, selfish, and sordid sentiments. He felt bound, as a matter of duty to those persons, to make this statement; for he could not sit still and hear it asserted, that for some additional gain they were willing to sacrifice their children to the continuation of such a system.
§ Mr. Gillon
said, that as he had been made the subject of attack in one of the party papers of the day, he trusted that he would be afforded an opportunity of making an explanation of the circumstances to which the attack referred. It had been stated, that on the occasion which had been fixed for the discussion of the noble Lord's motion, he had entered into a conspiracy with the Government to have the House counted out. If no one but himself had been assailed by the miserable scribe who penned those lines, he should not have troubled the House on the subject. The abuse of such an organ as The Times, the renegade, the apostate Times, was not worth notice. On the day 411 in question, he came down to the House determined, if he had met the Speaker's eye, to say a word in reference to an hon. Friend of his, who, he thought, had been talked unfairly of in his absence. On referring to the paper, he found that his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, had priority upon the paper. He was, moreover, himself anxious to give notice of a motion; and when he found that he was balked in both objects which he had in view in coming down to the House that evening, he got up, and without consulting any one, moved that the House be counted. He would like to know, who would impugn the object he had in doing so. There were but thirty-seven Members present at the time; and though it was stated, that many Members were in attendance at the bar of the House of Lords who were willing to support the motion of the noble Lord, yet their absence proved that they had found matter more attractive elsewhere. He wished to put himself right with the House and the country, as to the conspiracy into which he had been charged with having entered to have the House counted out on that occasion. With respect to the question before the House, he (Mr. Gillon) was much surprised at the statement of the hon. Member for Dublin, that in Glasgow, the Factory Act was trampled under foot, and was respected by nobody. He would like to know on what authority that statement rested. He now proceeded to notice what had been said as to the Act not being carried into effect in Glasgow. He had been surprised to hear it said, that the Act had been a dead letter in Glasgow. He should like to know the grounds of such an imputation on the inspectors and superintendent. So far from this being the case, the Act had been carried into full effect in Glasgow. It was the system in Scotland and Ireland, to visit each factory; and the superintendent in Glasgow had made 3,537 visits in the last year. It was to the credit of the millowners in Scotland, that they had exceeded the requisitions of the Act; they had given the superintendent access to their mills at all times; and if the superintendent or the inspectors saw any children there who appeared under the age required by the Act, the millowner immediately discharged them from his employment. As to education, there was an abundance of schools, and each child was required to 412 produce a certificate from the master of the school. The evidence referred to by the hon. and learned Member, of the combinations before the Combination Committee, was not to be put in comparison with the statements of the superintendent of Glasgow. The hon. Member read an extract from a letter from the Lord Provost of Glasgow, who expressed his astonishment at the allegation that the Act had been a dead letter in Glasgow; that all the requisites of the Act had been substantially observed there, and that the millowners were disposed to afford every opportunity in their power, for their enforcement. The reflection of the noble Lord upon the magistracy, cut two ways; if it were just, it would reflect upon those who appointed the magistracy. He had visited the manufactories of Scotland, and he never saw a more cheerful, healthy set of children in his life than he saw there.
Mr. R. Ferguson
rose for the purpose of vindicating the proprietors of two respectable factories in his neighbourhood from any imputations that were made, as to the evils of the system generally. In his neighbourhood, there were two considerable factories, and no persons could be more anxious to carry the law into effect than the respectable proprietors of those factories. So far from having a desire to employ children contrary to the provisions of the act, they were most anxious to give the inspector every facility to examine every part of the works, in order that everything in the management of their factories should be carried on in an aboveboard and straightforward manner. He felt bound to say thus much, in justice to those parties.
§ Mr. G. Wood
said, as the noble Lord had alluded to the conduct of some magistrates of the county of Lancashire, he wished the noble Lord to state on what authority he grounded the statement, and also to name the particular case to which he alluded.
§ Lord Ashley,
in reply to the question of the hon. Gentleman, said, that he had taken the case to which he had adverted, on the authority of the official statement. It was to be found in page 24 of the Report, printed by order of the House, on the 9th of March, 1837. It was under "Bury," which, he supposed, was Bury, in Lancashire; there were several counts in the information; the case was admitted, and a fine was imposed of 17l., on the 12th 413 of December, 1836. The names of the magistrates, who sat at the Boar's Head, Middleton, were—Mr. G. W. Wood, merchant; Mr. D. Potter, merchant; and Mr. J. D. Smith, cotton-miller.
§ Mr. G. Wood
said, that as the noble Lord had accompanied his reference to the case with severe censures upon the conduct of the magistrates engaged in it, he trusted the House would allow him to explain that conduct, and to vindicate himself from those imputations. The noble Lord had stated, that the case had been dismissed in ten or twelve minutes.—[Lord Ashley: The hon. Member has mistaken what I have stated; I said no such thing.] He was bound to say, then, that he had mistaken the noble Lord, and he willingly accepted his disclaimer. When he found, from the clerk of the Petit Sessions, at Middleton, that a number of summonses had been issued, and as the cases were of a description that did not usually come before that bench, he felt extreme anxiety that there should be a full attendance of magistrates when they came to be considered. There were only two magistrates generally sitting at those sessions. Knowing the anxiety which these cases excited in the public mind, he wrote to his colleagues, expressing his desire, that there should be as full an attendance as possible. There were three magistrates in attendance on the occasion of hearing those charges. Instead of dismissing the charge in ten minutes, they went in succession through the whole of the several cases, and stated, that they would reserve their decision respecting any one case until they had gone through them all. After having heard the cases they remained at least an hour in deliberation as to what were the penalties that ought to be inflicted, or whether they would class the cases according to their several demerits, and apportion the penalties accordingly. The parties admitted their guilt, and the magistrates proceeded to levy such penalty as they deemed proportionate to the character of the offence. Feeling that no inquiry had before taken place in that Court, they were determined to inquire fully into the circumstances, the more particularly as much public interest had been excited on the subject, and it was equally for the interest of the manufacturers and the operatives, that the real facts should be generally known. They found, that in not one of these mills had 414 there been any previous complaint of a violation of the law; and they, therefore, felt themselves entitled to treat the charge brought before them (the magistrates) as the first offence, and, therefore, to deal more leniently than if it had been of frequent occurrence. The offences, moreover, were all committed in country mills in which the factory law was scarcely known, and in which the proprietors and superintendents had most probably never received any instructions from the inspectors with regard to that law. In all those cases penalties were imposed. When they were brought into Court, he, as chairman of the bench, was requested by his brother magistrates to state the grounds on which they had come to their decisions; he did so at considerable length to a crowded Court, and informed them, that the penalty then inflicted was to be looked on more as a warning than a penalty, and not to be taken as any measure of what penalty would be inflicted for future violation of the law. There was three or four other cases in which the parties pleaded not guilty. With respect to these, the magistrates determined to appoint another day for hearing. A day was fixed, and the case investigated at great length; all the parties were punished except one; this was a case in which a manufacturer was charged with working a child of nine years old. The evidence against the manufacturer seemed at first very strong; but, on the other hand, the parish register, and that of the nurse who suckled the child, gave it a complete contradiction. In this case the party was acquitted. A heavy penalty was also inflicted on the convicted parties, as having, by plea of not guilty, put the complainant to considerable expense. So far, also, from the inquiry having occupied but little time, he could assure the noble Lord, that the first day's proceeding occupied six hours, the magistrates being anxious to convince all parties—manufacturers, operatives, and the general public—of their anxiety to give the matter the closest investigation. The following day's proceedings occupied three hours. Knowing these facts, and knowing, also, that his brother magistrates and himself had been actuated by the strongest desire to do their duty impartially, he was very much surprised at the report which had been made to the Home-office by Mr. Trimmer, dated the 18th of January, 1837, in which, alluding to those 415 cases, he said, that the magistrates had taken a very different view of them from that which he took, and that Mr. Trimmer had stated to them, that they were all cases which called for heavy penalties. When he found this report, he was determined to send his statement of the case to the Home-office, but before doing so, or preferring any complaint against Mr. Horner, a gentleman whom he highly respected, he felt it necessary to see him on the subject, and Mr. Horner told him, that Mr. Trimmer had never made any communication to him respecting it. The whole of the cases decided at Middleton were brought out of their proper district; the charges were of offences committed in Rochdale, in which a bench of magistrates was constantly sitting, but the complainants stated, that their wish was to take the cases out of the immediate neighbourhood, in which they took place. In all these cases his wish was to have the law faithfully adhered to, and he was exceedingly desirous, that when the magistrates were called upon to carry its provisions into effect, they should do it in such a manner as to excite no angry feeling in the bosoms of any parties. He made the most anxious inquiries as to the public opinion of the manner in which these offences had been treated, and he had the satisfaction to say, that he did not hear in the entire neighbourhood an unfavourable opinion of their decision. Since the report condemnatory of these proceedings had appeared, it had been his constant endeavour to ascertain the true state of public opinion, and he could deliberately declare, on his honour as a man and a gentleman, that not a single individual, whether manufacturer or independent inhabitant of Middleton, left the Court with any other feeling than that the magistrates had faithfully and assiduously discharged their duty. The noble Lord had stated—he (Mr. Wood) did not know on what authority—that the majority of the magistrates alluded to were millowners. To this he must give the most unqualified contradiction. He was not a millowner.
§ Mr. Wood
At the time the noble Lord spoke it was his (Mr. Wood's) impression, that he had called them three millowners; but, of course, he was bound to accept the noble Lord's explanation. The fact was, that he had for several years been a 416 millowner, and great part of the property he now enjoyed he owed to operative industry. This he was not ashamed to avow, but at the time of the inquiry he had no interest in mills, nor, he believed, had any of the gentlemen with whom he was associated. They were men who, having by industry and enterprize acquired an honourable independence, were now, having transferred their business to younger men, serving their country by their active exertions on the magisterial bench; and he should be unworthy of a seat in that House if he did not stand forth to vindicate their characters and to state his conviction, that the aspersions which were uttered against them were unfounded. There was one other circumstance to which he wished to allude. There were only two instances in which he had acted under the factory law, it having been from the first his determination to take no part whatever, lest his conduct might be suspected on account of his connexion with the mills. It was not his seeking, that the bench of magistrates over which he presided was selected by the informers to inquire into their case; but when they had done so, he immediately determined not to shrink from the ordeal. Since that time, not a single case had come before him, and he could assure the noble Lord, that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to be removed from such inquiry altogether. He thought, however, he was justified in saying, that the inquiry in which he had been engaged, had been properly carried on. He was not inclined to follow the noble Lord through the whole of his very eloquent speech; to his talents and the benevolence of his motives, he gave all merit. But neither his motives nor his temper had saved him from that tendency to exaggeration, which often was the consequence of great zeal. The House would permit him to say, that living as he did in the midst of the manufacturing districts, and feeling an anxious desire for the welfare and improvement, intellectual, moral, and religious, of the operative population, and knowing that these were only to be effected by constant and vigilant attention, he felt a strong interest himself in every proceeding under this Act, and he declared, that a great deal of what had been uttered on the subject at present under discussion, was gross exaggeration. It could not be expected, that an Act dealing with such vast interests as the 417 whole manufactures of the country could be brought into operation like a beautiful piece of clockwork or a battalion of soldiers. The House would see, that it was inevitable that the first working of such a measure must be imperfect, and that, without any designed violation of the Act, many causes of complaint would occur. But instead of reading partial extracts from the reports of inspectors, they ought to read those reports entire, as a mass of testimony coming from a highly respectable and intelligent body of men who had been deputed by the State to see the laws carried into effect. If they did so, he did not doubt, that they would come to a different conclusion from that which they were now drawing from the statement of the noble Lord. The Act had done much important good, and had removed many crying evils, to two of which only he would allude. It had contracted the hours of labour in every mill, where the labour had previously exceeded a reasonable time, and it led to the employment of a much smaller number of children in those mills. In Manchester, few were employed under thirteen years, and when younger children were employed, it was in the fine and trimming department, where they were absolutely necessary; but even then, in many cases, the system of double sets had been introduced. He was not now disposed to go further into the subject; he felt exceedingly obliged to the House for the attention with which he had been listened to, but he could not conclude without expressing the great regret and surprise he had experienced when he had the honour of meeting the noble Lord in the streets of Manchester, and found that the noble Lord, although never having been in the district before, seemed unwilling to examine himself into the condition of the mills. He, on that occasion, tendered to the noble Lord his endeavour to procure him admission into every mill in the place, and he certainly understood from the noble Lord's conversation (he might have been mistaken), that he (the noble Lord), had already made up his mind on the subject, and that he did not consider it necessary to pursue any further inquiry, and also, that his time was too limited for the purpose. It happened, that Mr. Horner, the inspector, was in Manchester at the time, fulfilling the duties of his office; he ascertained, that that Gentleman had not the advantage of being personally known to 418 the noble Lord, and proposed to introduce him, but this his Lordship also declined.
§ Lord Ashley
trusted, he should be indulged with a few moments, while he answered the strongest and most unfounded imputations that had ever been uttered in public or private. How could the hon. Member assert, that he went to Manchester, and refused to inspect the mills, when the fact was, that he inspected every mill in the place? Did the hon. Member mean to ay, that he did not go with the hon. Member to Mr. Burley's mill, that he did not accompany him round the town; could he, in fact, point to one single place in which inspection was declined? How little must the hon. Member know of his visit to Manchester, when the fact was, that he visited every mill in the town? For this he would appeal to the hon. Member for Salford, who accompanied him. Did the hon. Member know how he (Lord Ashley) spent his evenings while in Manchester? He went to the garrets and the cellars of the operatives to make inquiries from the fathers and the mothers, and to ascertain the state of the children with his own eyes. And was he now to be told, when he brought the result of these inquiries, and labour before the assembled Commons of England, that he had resisted all investigation, and had declined the hon. Member's valuable assistance? On one point alone, he declined it, and that was the introduction to Mr. Horner. This he did decline, and on these grounds; he thought it would not have been fair to meet a man in private society at the convivial board, to obtain there his private opinions and feelings, and afterwards to express his opinion of his conduct as freely as his public duty might require. These were his reasons for declining the hon. Member's offer of introduction, and this was the only case in which he refused his assistance.
§ Mr. Wood
said, he should certainly have been proud if the noble Lord had accepted his invitation; but that was not the circumstance to which he had alluded. It was the fact of his having requested the noble Lord to accompany Mr. Horner on his inspection of the mills. The noble Lord said, be visited Mr. Burley's mills. He did so, but that was the only mill he visited. Most assuredly, he, on that occasion, offered his best services to procure the noble Lord, admission to all the mills, but he understood his Lordship to 419 decline, and it was only on intercession of the hon. Member for Salford, that he was induced to change his intention. He was surprised, that the noble Lord, when he did visit these mills, made no inquiry of Mr. Burley himself, of the work-people, or the superintendents.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, he was in justice to the noble Lord bound to state that he (Mr. Brotherton) accompanied him to several mills, and he must say, that on those occasions the noble Lord showed no indisposition to ascertain the real state of the manufacturing population. He would not detain the House, but the subject now before it was one in which he had taken a deep interest for more than twenty years, and for that reason he hoped he should be indulged with a few moments' attention. He had always been an advocate for legislation with regard to the factories, and he thought, that the facts would bear him out in saying that the legislation which had taken place had been of very great use. He wished to be understood in anything he said on the present occasion as attacking the system, not as imputing any blame to the Government, the magistrates, or the inspectors. He considered that the present Act was so complicated that it could not be tarred into effect. He had stated those sentiments during the progress of the bill through that House, and opposed every clause; and he did think, considering the attention he had devoted to the subject—and the inspectors had since borne him out in the assertions he then made—that his opinion was entitled to some little attention. He considered that the main object of the Act was to protect young people from excessive labour; and he thought he should be able to show, that it was constantly violated both by masters and operatives—that it was complicated in its provisions, and inconvenient to the employers and the employed; and that it did not give that protection to the children which the Legislature designed it should. In proof of its violation he had only to allude to what had been said by the noble Lord, and to the return which he had had the honour of moving for. By that return it appeared there were 4,000 mills in which 360,000 children were employed, and that during three years in which the Act had been in operation, there had been 2,000 convictions, and penalties inflicted to the amount of 2,500l. Now, these 2,000 convictions, out of 4,000 esta- 420 blishments were enormous in the time, and proved the difficulties which stood in the way of obedience to the Act. Another error in the Act was, that by it children of six years old might be worked for ten hours in a silk mill, while in a cotton mill those of twelve and thirteen years were limited to eight hours' labour. From this, and the frauds to which its evasion led, he felt convinced that the bill did not give the protection which it was designed to give. In this opinion he was completely borne out by the testimony of the inspectors. [The hon. Member here read extracts from the testimony of the inspectors, proving the frequent violations of the ten hours' bill, and the evil consequences of such violations as exhibited in the wan and haggard appearance of the children.] He begged to call the attention of the House to another fact, which was, that, in 1835, 60,000 children, under thirteen years, were employed, and that now there were not more than 10,000. He thought, that next Session this Act should be repealed, as, while its intention was to lighten the labour of the children, its tendency had hitherto been to cause them to work for much longer periods. While such a state of things existed, of what use was it to talk of educating the children whose every waking hour was occupied by toil? He was not prepared to say, however, that they could reduce the hours of labour without increasing the price of the produce, or else reducing taxation, to enable the British manufacturer to compete with the foreigner. If the foreigner could buy cotton at 1s. 9d. a pound, when we paid 2s. he would, of course, be able to undersell us. Thus taxes on cotton—and on corn—must go, if we limited the hours of labour. If the manufacturer could by this, or any improvements in machinery, successfully compete with foreign work, so much the better; but what he (Mr. Brotherton) contended for was, that they were not justified in making up their deficiency out of the sweat and bones of the unfortunate children.
wished for a few moments to trespass upon the indulgence of the House. He wished to do so briefly; for he did not know any subject on which it was so easy to talk good-natured nonsense. Exceedingly fine feeling and exceedingly absurd political economy could be combined with the greatest facility upon this subject. The reason why he now intruded 421 upon the House was, that he had said some days before, that it had been proved before the Combination Committee that the law had been violated in Glasgow, and where it had been carried into effect in Manchester the injury done by it had been admitted. He understood that what he had said respecting Glasgow had been contradicted that evening. The evidence to which he had referred had been given not by master manufacturers, but by cotton-spinners, by Campbell and M'Nish, office-bearers in the union of Glasgow. An hon. Friend of his had talked of the difficulty of educating cotton-spinners. He could say of both these witnesses that they were men who not only had read a great deal, but who had also thought a great deal, and were men of as distinct and clear minds as he had ever met with. In page 50 of the report, the witness Campbell gave this testimony:—What is the age at which children are now taken into the spinning-mills at Glasgow?—I believe the law says thirteen years of age, to work twelve hours a day; but I dare say there are some taken earlier than that.Are they taken in at nine?—Yes.Is it your opinion that the law is honestly worked out by not taking in children under nine, or do you think there is any fraud? I must say distinctly that the operative cotton-spinner is necessitated to overlook the law in order to keep his machine moving, by taking young children in below thirteen, for twelve hours a day, and below nine for eight hours a day.To your knowledge the law is set at defiance?—It was a matter of necessity; the mills would stand still if such was not the practice.Do you mean to say that it is impracticable to adhere to the law in that respect?—As far as my personal experience goes I mean to say—and I have a good deal of experience in the matter, having taken a very warm interest in that very question—that it is altogether impracticable to carry out the spirit of the present law as it now stands.That was the evidence of one cotton-spinner; this the evidence of another.Were you rightly understood to have said that the law is violated with respect to the age of the piecers, and that they are brought in younger than the law allows?—Yes; the law is violated.And generally violated?—Yes; and our employers are throwing all the responsibility of that violation of the law upon the operative. The operative is obliged to violate it or allow his machinery to stand.At page 68 this was said:— 422But you are understood to say that the work could not go on as it does now, unless you employed these piecers under the legal age of thirteen?—That is my opinion, that the work could not go on without employing children from nine to twelve years of age.And employing them the entire twelve hours?—Yes.You mean, that the manufacture could not go on for the same number of hours, but you do not mean that the manufacture would be stopped altogether, if no children were employed under the legal age?—I mean that the mills would be stopped.That, then, was the case so far as Glasgow was concerned. The witnesses proved that the law had distinctly been violated in Glasgow; that it could not be carried out; that the mills would have been stopped; and that if children under thirteen years of age had not been employed, the machinery would have been stopped. The case as to Manchester was proved by John Doherty, as intelligent and as highly-educated as any man could be expected to be, and a great agitator, too, for a ten-hours bill. He was one of the leading men for many years amongst those who agitated on that subject. He was also secretary to his union. In page 260 he gave this testimony:—Has the mode in which the act has been enforced been burdensome to the operative?—Exceedingly so.In what way?—To the spinner it has been exceedingly so; to the amount of several shillings a week in his wages.Describe how?—When the factory workers all came and left the mill together, the difficulty was not so great in getting a sufficient number of children to attend to the work; but since that has happened the spinner is anxious to get children old enough to continue the total number of hours, so that he might not be subjected to the inconvenience of changing; that has lessened the number of children in the cotton-mills, and turned them into the silk-mills; and the consequence has been, that children who were receiving 2s. 2d. a week are now receiving 4s. 8d., and in proportion to the other piecers; the older piecers have not increased.You said the act had been disobeyed? Yes, it has.In what respect only has it been disobeyed?—In respect to all its provisions, but more especially as to the eight-hour workers.Then instead of being only worked eight hours, the children who ought to work only eight hours are worked twelve or thirteen?—Yes, by the aid of certificates from the surgeons, or connivance, or something of that kind; sometimes the connivance of the surgeon, the parent, and the employer.423 The effect, then, of acting upon the provisions of the bill was, that in Manchester the man paid 4s. 8d. for that which he before could procure for 2s. 2d. In Manchester, then, they complained of the law when it was obeyed. Why was it so? Because they had legislated against the nature of things, and against the rights of free industry. They were bound to provide for the protection of children; but, he denied that they had any right to interfere with adults, for adults were masters of their own time. As to infants, it was their duty to legislate with respect to them. That was the principle which regulated all their courts of law. The Court of Chancery undertook the protection of the child when it had property, and if it had not property then the Legislature was bound to take care of it. But between whom were they legislating on this subject? Between the parents and the child—if they were the legal protectors of the child, the parent was its natural protector. Hard, indeed, must be that parent's heart, and callous their feelings, when between them and their offspring, it was necessary for humanity to interpose. He admitted, that there was some, perhaps a great deal, of affected humanity in the agitation of this question; but where there was real humanity interested in it, he might appeal to that genuine humanity that no affection could equal that which the mother felt for the child to whom she had from her own breast imparted its first nutriment. Why did the mother part with her child—why did she expose it to the sufferings which it was said were endured in a factory? Because the sufferings of hunger were still greater. It was the dearness of food that wrought the change; and then he asked those great advocates opposite, who called out for an alteration of the law, would they give to the children cheap bread? He had listened with great attention to the eloquent speech of the noble Lord; he admired the talent displayed in it; he was quite pleased with the humanity of the sentiments contained in it, and he really did hope before the speech had concluded that the noble Lord would have proposed some practical measure—he had hoped and believed, that the noble Lord would have, proposed the repeal of that tax, by which, if taken away, the mother would be able to give more food to her children. He respected the noble Lord, but he could not 424 respect his humanity so long, as he found him and his class making bread dear. Let the noble Lord and those with whom he acted, come forward to repeal the corn laws, and then they might talk of their humanity. If they carried the repeal of the corn-laws, they ought to remember that the lowering the price of the loaf a halfpenny or a penny would spare half an hour's labour to the children. He was glad to hear of the humanity of the noble Lord; it was delightful to listen to the noble Lord's expression of his sympathy for the poor children; but it was, after all, a very great disappointment to find that the noble Lord was unprepared with any scheme or plan for giving to them more food; to himself, especially, it was a very grievous disappointment, as he should wish to see legitimate humanity on the one hand, and cheap food on the other. He thought that there had been a great deal of unnecessary legislation upon this subject; but, he was sorry when they had passed an act, that they had not made it work well: as long as it was the law, it ought to be enforced, and the way, he believed, in which that was to be done, was by having more inspectors. He certainly had not a very good opinion of the Irish magistrates, although he was one himself; but, had as his opinion was of the Irish, he found, according to the statements made that night, that in England worse magistrates than the Irish were to be found. When the bill was, introduced by the President of the Board of Trade, he had voted for it; and for doing that he had been tolerably abused; but he had given his vote upon this express ground, that when the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had suggested that there were not a sufficient number of inspectors, the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade said, ongoing into Committee, they should have as many inspectors as they liked. This declaration it was that had won his vote, and as long as the present act was the law, it was his opinion that they ought to have increased the number of the inspectors. But as this discussion about children was, in his opinion, a make-believe—it was a deception; the real object was to have a ten-hours' labour bill. The hon. Member for Salford, with a candour that became him, and which he became, avowed it at once. The cotton manufacture was one of the most important branches of manufacture ever 425 established in this country. Within fifty years they had seen it produce such un common masses of property—nay, perhaps, they never could have borne their national debt if it were not for the enormous increase of wealth which they owed to that manufacture. When, then, so much had been done, who could tell how much more they were capable of doing. They had now competitors in other nations. They had them in Belgium, in France in Russia, in Switzerland; and he trusted, that when the bloody scenes which were now acting in Spain and Portugal, were at an end, that the cotton would be grown in one field and turned into cloth in another. But men were now struggling for a ten-hours' bill. In the present state of the world did they expect that for ten hours work they could get twelve hours' wages? If they did, then they would soon find Belgium, where there was cheap food—where there were no corn-laws—they would find it really making Manchester what it had been called, "a place of tombs," and sending its manufacturers and its operatives to seek alike relief from a new Poor-law. Would any man confine steam? If he did, the result must be, that it would finally explode, and dash him to atoms. Would they confine air? Would they confine capital? Capital was the lightest of things—it would take to itself wings and fly from wherever the attempt was made to confine it, and soon would it be seen floating as unrestrained as the winds of Heaven, and perching itself upon that favoured spot where labour was free and bread was cheap. He had no professions to make; he was to be judged of by what he had done, and not merely by what he had said. He yielded to no man in the desire for the public good, and while he declared to them, that they ought to prevent fathers and mothers from sacrificing their children to the mammon of wealth, they themselves, ought not to tempt them to the sacrifice by refusing to give them at a cheap price, that food which nature produced. Let them not now at least be guilty of the childishness of talking of one thing when they were aiming at another, that of regulating the labour of adults. If they did this, then they should give up the claim which John Bull had won for himself, of possessing common sense, and they would only go before the world exposing their ludicrous humanity, which 426 made their manufacturers beggars, and their agricultural proprietors weep over their mistaken advice.
§ Mr. Bennett
wondered, that no danger was apprehended from the too great increase of our cotton factories. The distress of the hand-loom weavers, who had been thrown out of employment, ought to have induced such a fear. There was great danger in the application of men's minds and capital to one object, more especially, as had been remarked, it was an object in which other countries were endeavouring to rival us. It was dangerous to have one manufacture carried to such an extent, and all others neglected. With respect to the vulgar clamour against corn-laws, in which he was sorry to find the hon. and learned Gentleman for Dublin join, he should remind the House, that any injury done to the agricultural interest would be most injurious to the home trade. Opening the ports to foreign corn would have the effect of reducing wages to the lowest standard, and would be of no advantage to the operative classes. If the factory children were their own masters, or if the parents were in less distress, then labour ought to be free for legislative interference; but that was not the case. He had himself witnessed much misery and decrepitude from putting children to labour at a tender age, and he, as an Englishman, would never yield up the health or strength of the English population, in consideration of any amount of wealth which might be acquired by the sacrifice. He had himself a deep personal interest in the agricultural prosperity of the country, yet he would at once abandon the corn-laws, if he thought, in doing so, he could benefit the labouring classes; but he would not sacrifice the health of those classes for any amount of wealth, however large.
§ Sir R. Inglis
said, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin had taunted the Opposition side of the House with talking goodnatured nonsense; if the hon. and learned Member had contented himself with uttering good-natured nonsense, he should not have troubled the House with any observations in reply; but why had the hon. and learned Gentleman converted a general subject of Christian humanity into an inopportune discussion on the corn-laws? For himself, and the friends with whom he was surrounded, he hoped they would never be accused of 427 indifference to the wants and sufferings of their fellow-creatures. Sure, he was, they would never be tempted by the sneers of the hon. and learned Gentleman to abandon what they considered to be their duty. The hon. and learned Gentleman, who seemed to be the leading counsel for the mill-owners on this occasion, admitted, that the law was inoperative, and that it must be practically ineffective. Why, then, had Government so long neglected this matter? If the law were inoperative, what had the Government done to make it more operative? He thought, that his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) was to be congratulated on account of the proud position in which he had placed himself at the head of a large body of his countrymen, not to benefit himself, or advance his own interests. [Sir J. C. Hobhouse, Hear, hear.] Did the right hon. Member for Nottingham mean to insinuate by that cheer, that his noble Friend had any intention to promote his own views in bringing forward this question at present? His noble Friend had acted as he had done, not from any view of promoting his own interests, but from a wish to promote the welfare of his fellow-countrymen—not from a mere desire to advance their rights as Englishmen, but from a desire to advance the rights of our common humanity. Nay, more, he would say, that he considered the sneers of those who opposed his noble Friend's views a higher compliment to his noble Friend's character than the most laboured eulogy that could be passed upon it.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that however he might be obliged to meet this motion, which imputed blame to the House of Commons, not only for its conduct during the last three years, but also most particularly for its vote on the 22d of June last, although he might consider it almost as a motion without precedent, seeing that it assumed the appearance of a motion of resentment for their non-attendance on a former occasion, when the noble Lord wished to make a speech upon it, still he would not deviate so far from the practice of Parliament as to attribute to the noble Lord any other motive for bringing it forward than an overstrained zeal for the interests of humanity. He must, however, observe, that upon this occasion, this question had assumed an appearance, which it had not assumed on any previous occasion at which it had been mooted, For 428 many years this question had interested every man who felt for the hardships and endurance of that part of our population which was engaged in manufactures; and, accordingly, different persons—some taking a view on one side, and some on another—had brought forward bills to alleviate those hardships, and to diminish that endurance. Among other persons, his right hon. Friend, the Member for Nottingham, had brought forward a bill upon this subject, founded upon his own individual views. That bill was not considered by those who then acted politically in concert with his right hon. Friend, as a measure which they could use as a party weapon against the Government of the day. They did not think it a question which might be converted into a great political engine from which they might themselves derive great party advantages. This year, however, for the first time, and especially since the day on which the noble Lord brought forward his first motion, it had become clear, even to the most obscure vision, that there was an intention among the hon. Gentlemen opposite, to derive, if they could, a party advantage from the noble Lord's motion. If he had had any doubts, and he confessed, that he had had doubts, whether the Factory Bill should be one of the bills, which, on a former evening, he proposed to renounce for the present, and to bring forward again in the next Session of Parliament, the discussion of that night would have been sufficient to remove them; for it had convinced him, that it would not have been expedient to bring forward such a measure at the close of June, and to have renounced other bills for it: for, although it was but an explanatory bill, intended to make clear enactments which were already to be found in the statute book, it would have been impossible to have discussed it without bringing into collision opinions diametrically contrary to each other. The House had heard certain opinions from the hon. Member for Salford—opinions which he had also heard from several deputations which had waited upon him—that the hours of labour ought to be fixed; that the poor should be protected, not only from their employers, but also from themselves; that one man should not be allowed to employ another for such a length of time as the cupidity of the one might ask, and the poverty of the other might induce him to consent to; 429 but that both should be bound to a certain period of time, which ought on no account to be exceeded. That was the view of one party to this question, whilst, on the other side, the view was, that all legislation of this kind must of fail, and that it was useless, and worse than useless, to contemplate any control of this kind over the market of labour, Now, with such conflicting opinions, would not the Committee on the different clauses of this bill have taken up nearly the whole remainder of the present Session? Let the House, too, recollect how many extraneous subjects had been introduced already into this debate. His hon. Friends, the Member for Wiltshire and the Member for the University of Oxford, had prayed, that no discussion upon the corn laws might be introduced into this debate. Now, was it not inevitable, that if the factory question were discussed night after night, the question of the corn laws, as affecting the manufacturing population, must be discussed along with it? Suppose that it were urged on the one side, that there ought to be a ten hours' bill, as it was called, for the protection of infant labour. His hon. Friend, the Member for Salford, knew well—no man better—that, in the present condition of the manufacturing world, we could not, with restricted hours of labour, compete with other nations, whose sovereigns could say to our artisans, "Come here to us; you shall have unrestricted hours of labour, and, along with them, you shall have cheap bread." If hon. Gentlemen should find themselves by the lures they were holding out to the people masters of a ten hours' bill, they would also find themselves in a condition which would drive all our manufacturers abroad; and it would not then be a question as to working, as it was called, the blood and sinews of these children—no, they would be in a state which would render them unable to obtain that bread on which their very existence depended. With restricted hours of labour there would come diminished wages, and, under such circumstances, how could you keep the corn laws out of the consideration of the people, and how could you say to them, that they should not have bread as cheap here as they could purchase it elsewhere? But it was said, that there was a great number of offences against the present act. For his own part, he did not see how that could justly be 430 attributed as a fault to the act itself. He was convinced, that until they had extinguished poaching by their game laws, smuggling by their revenue laws, and bribery by their election laws, they would never by any factory law prevent overworking where cupidity on the one hand, and a desire to gain on the other, urged men to labour. He did not wish, on present occasion, to discuss the policy of the Factory Act, or to enter into any refutation of the various extraordinary statements which the noble Lord had introduced into his opening speech. One remark, however, he could not refrain from making, and that was, that the noble Lord had been most careful in quoting every passage from the report which was calculated to show the deficiencies of the existing act, and that he had been equally careful in suppressing every passage of it which had the slightest tendency to show the advantages of it. The noble Lord had been ready to agree, that, generally speaking, the inspectors had exhibited great zeal in discharge of their duties; and that it was not from a want of will, but from a want of power, that they had not carried the law more fully into effect. The noble Lord, however, in adverting to the report of Mr. Horner, had said, that it convinced him, that a gross violation of the law had taken place, and had referred, in proof of it, to the instructions which that gentleman had sent to the surgeons in his district. By the present law of England you had no positive means of ascertaining the exact age of a child about nine or thirteen years of age. The act, therefore, required that with respect to children of nine years of age, a certificate should be produced, shewing, that they had the strength of children of nine years old, and that another certificate should be produced when they were thirteen, shewing, that they had the strength of children of that age, not specifying, however, what the certificates should be. Now, Mr. Horner knew well, that there were many violations of this law. He knew, that many children were stated to be thirteen years of age who were so. Therefore, from his great anxiety to carry the law into effect, he told the surgeons in his district, that it would not be sufficient for them to have the age of the children told to them by the children themselves, but that they themselves must inquire into the matter, and take care before they granted their certificates, that 431 the children had the strength and appearance of thirteen years of age. But, that was a point which the noble Lord had altogether omitted to state, for it would not have suited his purpose. The noble Lord stopped in the very middle of a sentence. [The noble Lord read that part of Mr. Horner's instructions quoted by Lord Ashley, in which the surgeons were told, that they were not to ask a question of the child as to the child's age.] Why had the noble Lord stopped there? Why had he not read the next sentence, which would have given the reason for that instruction? That reason was couched in these words—"for the probability is, that a true answer to your question will not be given by the child." Mr. Horner knew, that the people to whom he addressed himself were in the habit of taking the statements of the children as to their age, and he knew, also, that those statements were in most cases false, and, therefore he told the surgeons, not to take the statements of the children themselves, but to make inquiry elsewhere as to their ages. Mr. Horner, however, had been guilty of an error of considerable extent when he stated to the surgeons, that the strength of the child was the object to which their attention should be called, and not the determination of its age, and that, therefore, they would be justified in inserting twelve in the certificate in case they found a child more than twelve years of age, but of inferior strength, and in inserting thirteen in the certificate in case they found a child of not more than twelve years of age with such an unusual degree of development as to have the appearance of thirteen years of age. If the House would only take all this into consideration, they could come to no other result but this—that Mr. Horner was anxious that no child should be employed as a child of thirteen years of age unless he had the strength and appearance of it. He must, however, confess that in this respect Mr. Horner had gone further than the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, which had been laid before him, warranted; and that he had fallen into an error in supposing that the mill-owners might employ as a child of thirteen, a child who had not reached that age, but who had the strength of a child of that age. A representation had been made to him (Lord J. Russell) upon that subject, and his attention had been called to the following instructions, which had been 432 issued by Mr. Horner—"A certificate may be an authentic extract from the parish register, stating the baptism of the child, or it may be a medical certificate, like that given in the case where the child is nine years old." It was undoubtedly true that a memorial had been sent to him, stating that under that instruction children under thirteen years of age had been employed as if they had been thirteen years old. Now, certainly, that had never been his intention, nor the intention of the act. He had therefore applied again to the law-officers of the Crown, and they were decidedly of opinion that Mr. Horner had acted erroneously in issuing that instruction. It was evident from all this that Mr. Horner had intended to carry the act into effect honestly and faithfully, and that he had unintentionally fallen into an error as to the construction of the act and of the law officers of the Crown. Whether the noble Lord opposite would admit such to be the fact or not, he could not tell; but this he would say, that the view which the noble Lord had taken of Mr. Horner's conduct was anything but fair or candid. It was a specimen of the spirit which animated the noble Lord throughout all this discussion. The noble Lord had culled out of the Report particular statements, and particular sentences, which suited his own views, and had called upon the House to note in how many different respects there were violations of the law; but he had, at the same time, before him repeated statements of the vigilance which the inspectors exercised over the mills under their superintendance, repeated statements of the visits which they made to them, repeated statements of the increased and increasing enforcement of the law, and repeated statements of the improved feeling among the millowners themselves, as evinced by their disposition to conform to the law. And yet, of all these statements, the noble Lord appeared to take no heed whatsoever. He had been reminded by his right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, that the noble Lord had himself borne testimony to the vigilance of the inspectors, and had called the attention of the House to the fact, that they wished the law to be made at once more clear and more stringent. He agreed with them that the law ought to be made more clear and stringent, but whenever the House came to the discussion of that subject, they might depend upon it, that 433 there would be a contest raised, in which it would be insisted on the one hand that you should fix the hours of labour for adults as well as for children, and on the other that you should leave labour free from any legislative interference. He hoped, that the House would not come to the conclusion, "that this House deeply regretted that the law affecting the regulation of the labour of children in factories, having been found imperfect and ineffective to the purpose for which it was passed, had been suffered to continue se long without amendment." That might be fit language for a petition to that House, but that the House itself should come to a resolution deploring their own conduct in attending to the settlement of the Civil List, to the passing of the Canada Bill, the Irish Poor Bill, the Municipal Reform (Ireland) Bill, and to the Irish Tithe Bill, not forgetting the adjourned debate as to changing the polling-place at Hawick, and in not attending to the Factory Bill, appeared to him to be such a ridiculous termination of their labours, and to be such an act of gross injustice to themselves, that he trusted they would never adopt it. He had been very much urged to drop several bills, in order that the Session might close the more speedily. Some of those were important bills, of which he very much regretted the postponement. He would instance, particularly, the bill for the more frequent holding of Quarter Sessions. Had that bill been passed, prisoners, who under the present system would be confined for a period of eight or ten weeks, would not remain in prison for more than four or five weeks previous to trial. With reference to that bill the hon. Member for Kilkenny had as much right as the noble Lord to get up and propose a resolution of regret, that the bill should not have been passed during the course of the present Session. After all they had heard that night, it was quite clear, that they could not have gone into the subject without raising a very lengthened discussion, and producing the utmost excitement in the manufacturing districts, excitement to which he hoped that the vote of the present evening would put stop.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that if there were any thing ridiculous in the course which the House was called on to pursue—an allegation which he distinctly denied—if 434 there were any thing improper or inconsistent in that course, it was attributable, not to his noble Friend who had introduced the present motion, or to those who supported it, but to the conduct which Government had pursued with reference to this matter. If the House had not enjoyed the opportunity of discussing the provisions of a bill to give effect to the existing law upon the subject of factory regulations, this was not attributable to his noble Friend behind him. And if by that prohibition hon. Members at his side of the House were driven to the necessity of pressing for a fulfilment of the promise which the Government had made instead of suffering those promises, like others which had proceeded from the same quarter, to be abandoned and neglected—if they were driven to that necessity, it was in consequence of the course which had been pursued by hon. Gentlemen opposite. But he denied, that there was anything either inconsistent with the practice of the House, or ridiculous in itself, in the course which was now recommended to the House. The House was called on to do that which had been frequently done before by a resolution of the House to express its regret at the state of the law upon a particular question. He regretted, in common with his noble Friend, that the question with reference to factories had not been brought to a settlement during the present Session, and, having no other opportunity, of expressing his views and wishes on the subject, he had taken in common with his noble Friend the only course which was open to him of recording his opinion with reference to this matter, and endeavouring to prevail on the House to come to this resolution. The noble Lord opposite had alluded to several questions by which the time of the House had been occupied during the present Session, and amongst others he had referred to the debate with reference to the proceedings at the Roxburgh election. Let him ask the noble Lord at whose suggestion was that debate protracted? Who was it, that would not permit the question to rest upon the single night's debate? Why it was the noble Lord opposite and his Friends, through whose instrumentality the House had occupied during a second night's debate that time which he admitted with the noble Lord might have been much better employed in enforcing the law with respect to 435 factories. "But" said the noble Lord, "you give a different complexion to the discussion now; you are using it as an instrument against the Government, and making that a party question which ought to be divested of party considerations." This was a sentiment in which he fully concurred. He wished that this question could, and he certainly thought, that it ought to be considered independently of party. He had no party feeling in the matter. He had divided upon this very question against his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth. So far from considering it a party question, he had taken that line which on any public question it was most painful for him to pursue—that of separating himself from one for whom he entertained the highest respect and regard. If, therefore, this was likely to become a party question, the noble Lord opposite would have to answer. When his noble Friend brought forward this question he was anxious to deal with it as it should be dealt with—as it had been dealt with by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Nottingham, when he had taken it up, and as it had been dealt with at an antecedent period by Sir Rober Peel, His noble Friend had been anxious to treat it in a similar spirit; but he had been repeatedly advised to leave the question in the hands of the Government who took it into their own charge. It should never be forgotten that it was by their own solicitation, that the Government had taken from the noble Lord the moving of a question which he had in the first instance proposed to bring forward; and if blame was now attached to the conduct of Government, it was because, having prevented the discussion of this question while it remained in the hands of his noble Friend, they had defeated his noble Friend's object by a subsequent abandonment of the measure, which they had solemnly promised to introduce. They had thus taken the question out of the hands of one who was admirably qualified for the task of submitting it to the House and who felt the greatest interest in its details, and had taken it into their own hands for the sole purpose of effecting its defeat. He asked for no limitation of adult labour, for no fetter upon steam power in manufactures. Adult persons were of sufficient age, and must he supposed to be possessed of sufficient discretion to take care of themselves. But it was not so with children of a tender age. 436 He did not now speak the opinions of persons actuated by a high and excited feeling of humanity. He entered into no feeling whatever, that was not shared in and acted upon by men the most conversant with the manufacturing interests of this country. The hon. Member for Salford had told them upon this occasion, that these children absolutely required some legislative protection to prevent them from being overworked, and, as a consequence, perhaps seriously injured. And who was it that had submitted a regulation to that House with respect to these children's labour? Was it an individual hostile to the Government of the day, or actuated by excited feelings? No; it was the late Sir Robert Peel, the man, who, of all others was, perhaps, the best acquainted with the subject. When he first introduced the subject of a cotton factories' regulation into Parliament, he had to contend with an opposition still stronger than that which existed on the present occasion. But he had nevertheless strongly urged the necessity of Parliament extending its protection to those who were engaged in that manufacture. The motion of his noble Friend was not open, there fore, to the imputation of anything either novel or ridiculous. As the progress of manufactures went on, the necessity of employing a greater number of children became daily more apparent, and proportional to that increase was the increasing necessity of protecting the children employed in the factories. But the question now before the House was not merely whether they should extend to the children in the factories that protection which their situation imperatively demanded; the question was of another character; it was whether, having a law which directed, that certain rules should be observed in the factories, which Parliament in its wisdom thought necessary for the defence of the otherwise defenceless, that law was to remain a dead letter on the statute-book, or, whether the necessary steps should be taken to enforce it. It had been admitted by the hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State, that scarcely in any respect had the law been adequately enforced—that the rules respecting education had been altogether neglected, and that the penalties were too low to enforce obedience to the law. And there was this still stranger admission which had been made by the Government, in the introduction by 437 them of a bill which, in many respects, afforded an adequate remedy for some of the evils complained of. Was it unreasonable, then, in hon. Members to say—"Will you permit that law to remain a dead letter, or will you do that which is necessary to enforce it? This was an alternative from which he did not see how they could retreat. "But you cannot," said the noble Lord opposite, "in all circumstances, secure the observance of the law;" and he had instanced the game laws and other matters, deducing thence as an inference that it was better not to legislate at all. To say that, because the law was violated, this was a reason why you should forbear to strengthen by additional legislation the provisions of the existing law, was the strangest argument which he had ever heard proceeding from the lips of one, the first duty of whose situation was to see that the law of the country was enforced. With him (Mr. Goulburn) that argument had no weight whatever. What did weigh with him was the fact that the existing law was violated to an enormous extent, and that these violations were not casual, but, as appeared from the reports of the inspectors, systematic violations, the punishment of which was defeated by the enactments of the law itself. Such being the case, surely this was not a state of things which any country that had a right to be proud of its legislation, ought to permit to continue for an instant. Government might give them renewed assurances that they would introduce a bill during the next Session of Parliament. With this assurance, he might be content, had he not from experience been made acquainted with the result of other assurances upon the part of the Government. In 1836, the President of the Board of Trade had given a distinct assurance of his bona fide intention to enforce the existing law. What did the report of the inspectors say upon the subject? That the law was in such a state, that it could not be enforced without the introduction of a different enactment. Notwithstanding this declaration, however, no attempt whatever had been made to carry through Parliament the measure which was pronounced to be necessary to enforce the law. With respect to the case of Mr. Horner, upon which the noble Lord opposite had dwelt, he begged to be understood as conveying no imputation whatever against the character of that gentleman. 438 If Mr. Horner had misunderstood the law, and acted upon his conscientious interpretation of its provisions, he should be very sorry to endeavour to throw obloquy on a gentleman, who, however, he might have erred in interpreting the law, was undoubtedly entitled to respect. But what his noble Friend complained of was, not the conduct of Mr. Horner, but the effect of the error which had been thus committed. Let them look to the mode in which that error operated in the factories; let them sec how many children of tender years, whose daily period of work was limited by the law to ten hours, had that period raised to twelve hours by this misconstruction. He denounced the system as one which led to an utter violation of the spirit, as well as the letter, of the Act of Parliament. He, therefore, cheerfully supported the motion of his noble Friend, which, he trusted, would, at least, be productive of this good consequence—that in the next Session, Government would come forward with a measure to amend the glaring defects of the existing law, brought distinctly as those defects had been under the consideration of Parliament.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, that if any doubt as to this motion having been brought forward for party purposes, had existed previously, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would have the effect of completely removing it. The right hon. Gentleman had, indeed, avowed as much. He had admitted, that he came forward to cast blame upon the Government. He pitied the hon. Gentleman, that they had no other means of annoying the Government, than the factory question. For his part, he was glad when be ascertained that the bill had been dropped, he had opposed it at first. He had told the noble Lord, that if it could be possibly carried, its effect would be to ruin the manufacturing districts, and that, instead of serving, it would have the effect of seriously oppressing the factory children. The hon. Member for Salford had truly said, it was worse than useless. It would be impossible to carry out the bill—it would be impracticable, if they wished to allow the manufacturers to continue, or the labourers to have bread to eat. The noble Lord (Lord Ashley) appeared to think, that the noble Lord at that side of the House (Lord John Russell) was to blame for not having introduced and carried through the bill; if that were the fact, he 439 had a greater right to blame him, for not having brought forward the County Courts Bill. Every tenth day since the Session had commenced he had asked about it, and after all the promises of the noble Lord it had not as yet been passed. But the right hon. Baronet opposite had himself evinced an anxiety to have other business postponed, and other bills dropped, although he was now so anxious to blame the Government for a similar course upon this bill. If it had been brought on he should have opposed it, for he considered it opposed to the laws of nature. He agreed with the hon. Member for Dublin that the inconsistency of hon. Gentlemen upon this subject was quite revolting. It was a serious thing to interfere with the tender offspring of men or brutes. It was a delicate matter to interfere between children and their mothers. The real question was the corn laws, for they produced nearly all the evils that were attributed to the factory system; and if those gentlemen were anxious to improve the condition of the people in the manufacturing districts they should look to the corn laws. It was the pressure of the corn laws which gentlemen opposite supported, that obliged persons to work in English factories for twelve, thirteen, or fourteen hours, whilst in similar establishments upon the Continent they only worked for ten hours. The prices of corn on the Continent were far lower than in England. The hon. Member read a return of the prices of corn at Berlin, Hamburgh, Antwerp, Stettin, and Amsterdam, and proceeded to say, the average price of corn on the Continent was 43s. 4d., whilst the average price in England was 70s. to 71s. and 6d. It was by removing the causes of this high price of corn that they would support the interest of the manufacturers by enabling them to obtain cheap bread. The best way to increase the power of this country was by encouraging its manufactures. Poland was as fertile a country as England, but she was not as great, because she had not manufactures. He thought that the bill, if introduced, would be injurious to the manufacturing interests, and as such he should oppose it. He was strongly of opinion that this subject was brought forward from party purposes, and he hoped the House would concur in opinion with him, and negative the motion.
could not give a silent vote upon the motion of the noble Lord, 440 and he was obliged to give a vote in opposition to the opinions of those hon. Members with whom he generally voted, and in support of the motion. Perhaps he was in error, and indeed, when he considered those who were opposed to him upon the subject, he feared he was in error, but he was acting from a sense of right. The children required to be protected as much from their parents as from the masters who employ them. They had it before them in evidence that parents lived in idleness upon the money which was earned by the labour of their children for twelve, perhaps for fifteen hours a-day. He would not advocate any interference between the masters and the adults, but it was upon the part of the children they were called upon to legislate, and a feeling of the necessity of affording them protection, induced him to give the vote which he intended. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had said, that to find them cheap bread was the true mode of ameliorating their condition. He was as anxious to improve the condition of the working people in that respect, as any one. He wished to see them fed and educated, but at the same time he wished to see protection extended towards the defenceless children, and he felt that they should not rest satisfied until they had accomplished that object by legislation. It was the duty of the Government to protect those children from the inhumanity of obliging them to work for a number of hours beyond their strength and years; they were especially called upon to amend the existing law, and make it in effect what it was intended to be in principle. If the votes in support of the motion were to be reckoned a vote of censure, he could not help it, for he felt bound in justice to support any motion calculated to induce the enactment of a law, which would be sufficient to render the existing law effective.
§ Mr. Fielden
supported the motion. The hon. Member was understood to say, that the Government did not dare to execute the law for the regulation of factory labour for fear of the master manufacturers' influence against them. If a Ten Hours' Bill had been originally passed, the entire question would have been long since set at rest. It was one of the strongest signs of weakness which the Government could exhibit to decline to entertain the subject.
§ Lord J. Russell
in reply to the charge 441 of the hon. Member, that the Government dared not execute the law in respect to the Factory Regulation Act, could tell the hon. Member, that he was quite mistaken; and he could also assure him that they dared execute that or any other law which existed in the statute book of the country. The hon. Gentleman should also know, that if threats were used against those in-trusted with the execution of the laws, there were others in that House who would protect them.
§ Mr. Fielden
argued that Government dared not execute the law, because, notwithstanding its repeated infringement, they had not hitherto done so.
§ Mr. M. Philips
said, that the interpretation put on the words of the noble Lord were not by any means fair or candid. The noble Lord had only justified the Government in not carrying the law in question into effect, on the grounds that every other law was, in a greater or lesser degree, infringed on likewise. An injustice had been also done to his right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade when he was taxed with countenancing a breach of duty on the part of the factory inspectors. He should never be found attempting to justify in the slightest degree the infringement of the factory law by the masters; but he felt bound to say, that the cupidity of parents was in most cases as much to blame as the cupidity of the manufacturers. He thought the present Session was not the best time for introducing any measure on the subject, inasmuch as it necessarily involved many other questions, such as national education, the Corn-laws, &c., before it could be satisfactorily settled: but he hoped that one would be introduced in the next Session, and he should then give it his best consideration. The noble Lord opposite had used very strong language in reference to the manufacturers—he had termed them "merciless," "grasping," "griping," and so on. Did the Noble Lord mean to apply those terms generally to that large body of men. [Lord Ashley—No, no.] Or did he only mean to give them an individual application? There were as many honorable and high-minded men in that class of the community as in any other whatever; and who, for humanity and every other virtue, as little deserved the opprobrious stigma cast upon them by the noble Lord as any men in the community. With respect to 442 the general question there were a great many difficulties to contend with, not the least of which was the anxiety of parents to make their children older than they really were; and the House should take them all into consideration before it pronounced upon the subject or acquiesced in the motion of the noble Lord.
§ Sir C. Knightley,
in reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Kilkenny respecting the difference between the price of corn at Hamburgh, and generally on the continent, and the price of corn in England, begged to say, that the comparison sought to be established by the hon. Member's inference was quite invidious. When the hon. Member was prepared to prove, that the rate of wages in England was not double the rate of wages in those countries, he would admit the force of his argument, but not until then. If the hon. Member succeeded in showing him that the rate of wages in Hamburgh was equal to the rate of wages in England, while in the latter country corn was double the price that it was in the former, he should do for once, in respect of the corn laws, what he had never yet done in his life-time—vote with the hon. Member for Kilkenny.
§ Sir C. Grey
said, that it was not his intention to give an opinion on the merits of this question, as he was not acquainted with its details, but he rose to object to the form of this motion, as he conceived it to affect the rights and privileges of the House. The present motion conveyed a vote of censure on Ministers for not bringing forward and carrying a particular bill. Now, he would say, that the House could only agree to this motion if they recognized the existence of a body in that House who could carry any measure they pleased. To this proposition all the principles which he had imbibed from the reading and study of the constitution were repugnant, and he could never subscribe to it.
§ Lord Ashley
was aware that he was not, by the forms of debate entitled to a reply, but he craved the indulgence of the House to answer one or two observations of the noble Lord opposite. He understood, for he was not present at the time, that the noble Lord had said the question had now become a party question, and that it had been brought forward in a party spirit. Of course that involved a serious charge against him, that ho had 443 suffered a great question involving the rights of humanity to be perverted into an instrument to work out a mere party purpose. Now he might be allowed to say that such assertions were more easily preferred than proved—and to assure the noble Lord that he considered the subject involved in the question of too high and too sacred a character to be made an instrument for the purposes of any party. He had undertaken the heavy responsibility attaching to its charge from motives far higher than those which actuated partisans in general; and those motives he should adhere to while he had the power of urging the subject on the attention of the Legislature. He might be permitted to add, that no change which could by any possibility whatever take place in the position of the noble Lord opposite towards him and his friends, should have the effect of altering his fixed and uniform course of proceeding in regard to this question. It had been objected to him that he used strong language in his advocacy of the question—if he did, he applied it only to the actions and not to the motives of those individuals to whom he was under the necessity of alluding. The noble Lord had charged him with making unfair selections from the reports of the inspectors in support of his case; to this he could only answer that he took them as he found them, and if they made against those who were charged with the execution of the law it was not his fault but theirs.
rose to order. The noble Lord had taken a privilege which had been more than once denied to him, and many other hon. Members in similar circumstances—that of reply. He, therefore, called on the Speaker to know by what right, or why the noble Lord claimed and exercised that privilege?
§ Lord Ashley
would save the right hon. Gentleman the trouble of deciding, as he would not proceed further in the remarks he was addressing to the House.
§ The House divided on the original question. Ayes 121; Noes 106;—Majority 15.
|List of the AYES.|
|Alston, R.||Berkeley, hon. C.|
|Archbold, R.||Bernal, R.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Blake, M. J.|
|Baines, E.||Brodie, W. B.|
|Bannerman, A.||Brotherton, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Buller, E.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Byng, G.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Chalmers, P.||Murray, rt. hn. J. A.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Muskett, G. A.|
|Childers, J. W.||O'Connell, D.|
|Clay, W.||O'Connell, J.|
|Clements, Viscount||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Collins, W.||O'Connell, M.|
|Crawley, S.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Crompton, Sir S.||Page F.|
|Curry, W.||Parke J.|
|Dalmeney, Lord||Parker, R. T.|
|Divett, E.||Parnell, rt hn. Sir H.|
|Duckworth, S.||Pechel, Captain|
|Easthope, J.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Elliott, hon. J. E.||Philips, M.|
|Etwall, R.||Pinney, W.|
|Evans, G.||Price, Sir R.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Pryme, G.|
|Ferguson, R.||Redington, T. N.|
|Finch, F.||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Roche, E. B.|
|French F.||Roche, Sir D.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Gordon, R.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Grey, Sir C. E.||Salwey, Colonel|
|Grey, Sir G.||Sanford, E. A.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Seymour, Lord|
|Hall, Sir B.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Handley, H.||Smith, J. A.|
|Hastie, A.||Smith, B.|
|Hawes, B.||Smith, R. V.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Hill, Lord A. M. C.||Stewart, J.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Strutt, E.|
|Hollond, R.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Hoskins, K.||Thompson, rt. hn. C. P.|
|Howard, P. H.||Thornley, T.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Howick, Viscount||Turner, E.|
|Hume, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Hurst, R. H.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Hutt, W.||Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R. H.|
|Hutton, R.||Wall, C. B.|
|Laboucnere, rt. hn. H.||Wallace, L.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Warburton, H.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||White, A.|
|Lushington, C.||Williams, W. A.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Wood, C.|
|Macleod, R.||Wood, Sir M.|
|Macnamara, Major||Wood, G. W.|
|Maher, J.||Yates, J. A.|
|Martin, T. B.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Steuart, R.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Benett, J.|
|Acland, T. D.||Bentinck, Lord G.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Blackburne, L|
|Alsager, Captain||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Bowes, J.|
|Bagge, W.||Bradshaw, J.|
|Baillie, Colonel||Broadley, H.|
|Baker, E.||Broadwood, H.|
|Baring, H. B.||Brownrigg, S.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Bruges, W. H. L.|
|Bryan, G.||Lincoln, Earl|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Lockhart, A. M.|
|Canning, rt. hn. Sir S.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Lucas, E.|
|Coote, Sir C.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Corry, hon. H.||Maclean, D.|
|Dalrymple, Sir A.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Darby, G.||Monypenny, T. G.|
|De Horsey, S. H.||Neeld, J.|
|Dick, Q.||Norreys, Lord|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Duffield, T.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Dunbar, G.||Palmer, G.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Pemberton, T.|
|Eliot, Lord||Perceval, Colonel|
|Ellis, J.||Perceval, hon. G. J.|
|Estcourt, T.||Praed, W. M.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Praed, W. T.|
|Fielden, J.||Richards, R.|
|Fulmer, Sir E.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Round, J.|
|Follett, Sir W.||Rushbrooke, Colonel|
|Gibson, T.||Rushout, G.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Scarlett, hon. J. Y.|
|Gordon, hon. Captn.||Sheppard, T.|
|Gore, O. W.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sinclair, Sir G.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Smith, A.|
|Grant, F. W.||Spry, Sir S. T.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Hardinge, rt. Hn. Sir H.||Style, Sir C.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Thomas, Col. H.|
|Hillsborough, Earl||Thompson, Alderman|
|Hindley, C.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Hodgson, R.||Verner, Colonel|
|Hogg, J. W.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hope, G. W.||Williams, W.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Knightly, Sir C.||Ashley, Lord|
|Lefroy, rt. Hon. T.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
§ House went into Committee.
§ Lord J. Russell
at that hour would merely move, that the chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again.