§ Sir James Graham
Sir, it is now my duty to refer to the Order of the Day respecting the Factories Bill, and I am sure the House will excuse me if, on moving that the Order of the Day be Read, I shall, upon the present occasion and under the present circumstances, venture to trespass for a short time upon their indulgence. In commencing the observations which it will be my duty to submit to the House, I beg leave in the most emphatic manner, on the part both of myself and of my colleagues, to express that deference which as the servants of a constitutional monarch, we owe to the opinion and vote of this Representative Assembly. I hardly know a duty more imperative than that which is imposed upon a Ministry by the deliberate expression of opinion on the part of the House of Commons; certainly I know but one duty which is and ought to be paramount:—it is this—that no Minister of the Crown, even acting in obedience to the declared wishes of the 1483 House, should make himself responsible for any act or adopt any policy which in his conscience, his sober judgment, and after mature deliberation, he believes to be inconsistent with the well-being and prosperity of this country. I know no other limit to our deference to the House; but this is imposed upon us by our conscientious judgment; and it must be religiously observed. Now, Sir, in the interval which has elapsed since we last met and discussed this question, my colleagues and myself have maturely deliberated on the position in which the question is now placed, and it is right that I should remind the House of what has already occurred. On Monday last, in concert with my noble Friend the Member for Dorsetshire, we took a discussion upon an early part of the Bill, namely, the interpretation Clause, on which was raised the question whether the labour of young persons should be restricted to ten hours or to twelve hours per day. This is almost the question in terms, but virtually it was that upon which the Committee was called to decide, and I, upon the part of Government, contended for the necessity of the maintenance of the existing law, which imposes no other than a twelve hours' restriction upon labour. My noble Friend, with perfect consistency, and persevering in the course, which, on two or three occasions within the last twelve years he has adopted, raised the question that ten hours should be the period to which labour should be restricted. There were two divisions on that occasion. In the first instance, the question was whether the limit now existing should be continued at twelve hours, and upon that occasion my noble Friend prevailed over the Government by a majority of nine. A second division then took place when the proposed limitation of ten hours was affirmed by a majority of eight. Being unwilling that any suspicion should exist, of the House having been taken by surprise, I stated on the part of Government, my intention of appealing again to the Committee on this important matter, upon the eighth Clause of the Bill, in which, but in a more substantive form, the same question was again to be raised. This was the question we again discussed on Friday last, and on that, as on the former occasion, I proposed that twelve hours should be the limit of labour to be imposed upon young persons. Her Majesty's Government were then defeated by a majority of 1484 three. My noble Friend immediately, as on the former occasion, proposed in distinct terms that ten hours should be the limit; Government again resisted that proposal, and succeeded by a majority of seven. The effect of these adverse decisions on the Bill, as it now stands, is to place the Bill in inextricable confusion. The interpretation Clause now bears the opinion of the House, that ten hours shall be the limit of the labour of young persons. [Mr. Hindley: Ten hours and a half.] If the hon. Member will allow me to make my statement I can assure him that I have no intention to misrepresent the case; if I should fall into an error, he will doubtless correct me when I sit down. Well, Sir, I was stating that the effect of the amendment of the interpretation Clause, which now stands part of the Bill, is to enact that it was the opinion of the Committee that ten hours shall be the limit to be imposed on young persons. But on Friday last, when that proposition was in a more distinct form propounded to the Committee, they negatived the resolution to which they had previously come. These are circumstances which demanded, and which have received, the most attentive consideration on my own part, and upon that of my Colleagues. In matters of this kind it is highly improper to act with precipitation, or to be influenced by any motive which can have the appearance of heat. We have, therefore, deliberated dispassionately, calmly, and carefully; and I am now about to announce the decision of Her Majesty's confidential advisers. Sir, there are three courses which, as it appears to us, are possible in the present state of this affair. Any course to be adopted on the part of the Government must at once be firm, simple, and intelligible, and within these limits there have appeared to us, upon reflection, to be three courses open to us. Since the House has at different times and by different votes affirmed that the hours of labour shall not exceed twelve, and have also affirmed that they shall not be limited to ten—so, it would appear that between these two points there is some third point at which it would be possible to effect a compromise. Now, for the sake of brevity in arguing the matter, I will assume that the period of eleven hours is this possible point. Then there is another course which it is possible for us to adopt; namely, to ask of the House permission to remove from the Order Book this Order of the Day, for the avowed purpose, under these 1485 circumstances of not proposing any alteration in the existing law. There is also a third course open for us to pursue, and that is to ask the House to rescind this Order of the Day, in the anticipation and for the purpose of the Government asking leave to introduce a new Bill, comprising such points of regulation as have already received the assent of the House, or as seem likely to meet with its future approbation. Now, with the permission of the House, I will advert to each of these three propositions. In the first place, I think it desirable to recall the attention of the House to the facts which have occurred with reference to this subject since the present Government became the responsible servants of the Crown; and I will remind the House that previous to the commencement of the Session of 1842 my noble Friend the Member for Dorsetshire published a letter, in which he declared that he had ascertained from Ministers, on enquiry, what were their intentions with respect to a limitation in the hours of labour carried on by young persons in factories, and that these intentions were not to depart from the then and now existing regulation imposing twelve hours' restriction. This was on the eve of the meeting of Parliament in the year 1842. But on the 7th of February in that year, my hon. Friend Mr. Stuart Wortley asked me what were the intentions of Government on the subject of regulating labour in factories, and I will ask the House to permit me to read my answer. It was in these terms:—As to the second question which his hon. Friend had put to him, whether the Government intended to bring in any measure for the regulation of labour in factories, he had to state in reply that he had found a Bill in his office which had been prepared, he believed, by the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Fox Mauls), in conformity with the recommendations of the Committee that had sat on the subject; and be proposed to bring in that Bill with some alterations, He might, however, mention, that those alterations would materially affect the regulation of infant labour between the ages of nine and thirteen, as at present by law defined; and it was also proposed to make some alterations as to the regulation of the labour of what were called young persons—that was, persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen; but it was not his intention, on the part of the Government to propose any such regulation as in some quarters had been strongly recommended, as to the limitation of the time of labour in factories of young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, as some persons hoped, to ten hours a-day."—Hunsard.1486 I beg the House to observe that in the first Session of the present Parliament, and on nearly the first day of that Session, I gave the answer upon the subject of factory legislation which I have read to the House, But, in addition to the question put to me by Mr. Stuart Wortley, my noble Friend, the Member for Dorsetshire, asked me, "Whether the regulations he proposed with respect to employment of children between the ages of nine and thirteen were those which had been recommended by tile Committee of 1840; and whether I proposed any diminution in the number of working hours in regard to young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen?" In answer to this, I declined going into the question, but I told my noble Friend, "That no limitation in the hours of labour of young persons was contained in the Bill." Sir, I have read these extracts, not for the vain and improper purpose of taunting any persons who may have seen cause for a change in their opinions with respect to this matter, but I have read them to the House to show, that as in 1833 and 1839, so in 1842, I, for myself individually, have firmly adhered to the opinion that any limitation of labour beyond that of twelve hours was inexpedient; and on the part of my Colleagues, with their full sanction and authority, when the question was raised last year, I stated that the united Cabinet had also come to a similar determination. It would be needless to pursue the matter further into detail than to state that in the last Session of Parliament I thought it my duty to lay on the Table of the House a Factory Bill containing clauses in which the limitation of twelve hours was maintained; and I will now proceed to discuss the merits of the three possible courses which are open for us to pursue regarding it. And first, as to that of compromise—or the substitution, in lieu of twelve hours as we proposed, or of ten hours as the noble Lord has proposed, a limitation to eleven hours of labour. Now, Sir, I am quite prepared to admit that I do not quite go the length of a high authority, Mr. Burke, who has recorded his opinion, that "Government after all is an affair of compromise," but I do say that on many occasions, the expression of feeling upon the part of this popular assembly forms a ground upon which compromise is not only justifiable, but often expedient. But, Sir, to render compromise either justifiable or expedient, there are two points indispensable. In the first place, the point 1487 to be conceded must be deemed safe by those who make the concession; and, in the second place, the settlement effected by the compromise must hold out a fair prospect of being a lasting one. Now, it is with unfeigned and heartfelt respect for the great body of Gentlemen by whom Government have been generally supported, and amongst whose ranks I am proud to find myself, that, looking at this question coolly and dispassionately, I am bound to state upon the part of the Cabinet, that the compromise to which I have adverted, appears to us not to hold out any prospect of utility or to be of itself expedient. I do not wish to argue this matter unnecessarily, but still, for the sake of vindicating myself and my Colleagues, I must touch on some of the prominent topics. I hold, in the first place, that this compromise would be most injurious to the master manufacturers. A diminution from twelve to eleven hours of labour sounds at first like a small diminution, and a trifling matter; but I beg the House to consider, that when it is applied so as to prohibit the use of machinery, it is equivalent to a prohibition of not less than three or four weeks in the year. Now, this is a matter of the most important nature, and since I last addressed the House with reference to it I have received the most circumstantial information from the highest authorities, in the woollen as well as the cotton districts, and I am assured positively, particularly from the cotton districts, where the machinery in use is most complex and expensive, that such a reduction in the hours of labour as would be effected by all eleven hours' compromise, would, when trade is brisk, when the demand is steady, and when an opportunity is beginning to show itself of affording to the master manufacturers a chance of retrieving their past losses in adverse times when the demand was not brisk, and when they, in order to keep their work-people together, worked their mills at a loss—I say that I am assured that such a diminution of hours of labour at such a time, would touch not only the profits of the factory, hut, in the judgment of my informants, it would endanger the continuance of the employment of machinery. I say, that such a diminution of the hours of labour would be highly injurious to master manufacturers, and, in my opinion, the prosperity of manufactures is bound up with the prosperity of the State. But, bound up as is the prosperity of the one with that of the other, I cannot 1488 separate it from the well-being and comfort of the labouring classes, and in my judgment the diminution of one hour of adult labour would end in a most bitter disappointment to them. I am quite satisfied—though it would be tedious to repeat the whole argument, and this is not the fitting occasion to do so—I am quite satisfied that in proportion to the reduction of time and labour, must be the immediate and corresponding reduction of wages; and unless the master manufacturers are to submit to an extinction of profits, the diminution of profit must be added to the direct diminution of wages, the reduction of which, notwithstanding the assertions of the hon. Member for Liskeard, cannot, I think, be fairly estimated at less than from 15 to 20 per cent. If it be admitted that a diminution in the number of hours would be most injurious to the masters, that it would also end in bitter disappointment to the workmen, then I ask the House whether it be possible that a measure which will produce two such effects can fail of being other than most dangerous to the country. My own opinion is, and it is also the opinion of my Colleagues, that any measure which would produce effects like these cannot fail of being dangerous in the extreme. In the first place, I am quite satisfied that the workmen are at present labouring under some delusion on this point, and that they do not anticipate such a reduction of wages as I believe would be inevitable were the Measure adopted. What would be the effect of that disappointment? I am sure that they would stand out most resolutely against such a reduction of wages as unnecessary and unjust. We hear at this moment—unless I am much misinformed—that with twelve hours of labour, with a high rate of wages, with an improved state of trade, the workmen are in many places dissatisfied with their earnings. And I have no doubt but that, if we came to force a legislative reduction of wages, the effect would be a very general strike throughout the manufacturing districts—which, in combination with other strikes with which we are now threatened, would lead to the most fatal and dangerous confusion. I must say—and I hope that nothing that falls from me may be construed in the nature of an invidious taunt, because I should ill discharge my duty, and ill testify to the House the feelings by which I am actuated, did anything of the sort escape me—but I must say, dangerous as I conceive the Measure in 1489 itself to be, that some arguments by which the proposed change has been supported are more dangerous still. Now, I do not know whether or not to mention the names of the hon. Gentlemen who urged these arguments, but I heard it contended on Friday night that a large diminution of wages would not be detrimental to the working classes. It was said, Sir, that there were moral wages more important than even money wages—that high wages led to immorality and to improper conduct, and that even if wages were greatly reduced, starvation was not possible in this country. These I conceive to be most dangerous arguments. I believe that a large reduction—a forced legislative reduction in the price of the only commodity which the operative possesses—namely his labour—a reduction, too, which I believe to be unjust—would be attended by a great deterioration in the workman's moral character; and that, so far from improving his conduct, it would drive him to despair and involve him in the commission of crime, of which he would otherwise never dream. And it is no consolation either to the Legislature or to the unhappy individual smarting under a legislative loss in the value of the only commodity to which he has an undoubted right (and surely he has a perfect right to the free exercise of that commodity in any way he pleases); it is no consolation to tell him that we will repay him in the moral advantages of his condition for the reduction of his wages, and that there is a poor law in this country which prevents the possibility of his starving. I pass on to another argument, hardly less terrifying and alarming—I allude to the argument, that we have now arrived at a new social state; that we should therefore depart from the fixed principles which have hitherto guided the wisest men of this and every other country, and meet our alleged new social condition by new principles and new schemes of legislation. Hitherto interference with the free market for labour has been considered dangerous, and only to be justified by some very strong reasons in certain cases of exception. That rule is now to be inverted; it is proposed to snake legislative interference the general rule, and to acknowledge no limit—not even the necessity of the case—but only the possibility of interfering. If that doctrine is to prevail, it will be much better for the House not to deal with the complicated question of the maximum of labour, but to establish at 1490 once the minimum of wages. Sir, a more dangerous course was never suggested for the adoption of a legislative assembly. I must say I have seen within the last eight-and-forty hours the use of a very apt expression upon the subject, an expression to which I am disposed to give my consent. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that this is the commencement of a "Jack Cade" system of legislation. Sir, I must just notice one other argument, which I must say fills me with alarm, and that is the argument, that it is desirable to take this step with the view of checking intense competition. Now, competition in this matter, inasmuch as it is the great regulator of produce and price, if coincident with profits, promotes the interest of the community. But I contend that this legislation, so far from tending to diminish competition, must have the directly opposite effect. If the demand in the market be the same, and the work to be done be the same, the inevitable effect of your diminishing the power of executing it, will be that fresh factories must be built and fresh capital must be needlessly sunk in machinery. The sinking of capital is itself no small evil, but if you prevent the running of machinery for twelve hours, the effect will be the shifting of the burthen to the working classes; fresh machinery will be built; needless outlays will be incurred; there will be a fresh demand for the labour of young persons and children; population will be stimulated, profits will ultimately fall, and the condition of the working classes will be permanently and hopelessly injured. According to my views, I would say that I cannot conceive that it ever can be conducive to human happiness to impose limits upon human industry. I think that it never can be conducive to the interest of the State to reduce the profits upon capital—to restrict industry at home—to give premiums upon competition abroad—and to impose penalties upon the employment of machinery, and even on the employment of British capital in manufactures, and yet I think that these results would follow from the adoption of the proposition of my noble Friend. I have now dealt with the first part of the subject—I hope not at too great length. I have stated the reasons which induce me to think—that a compromise even to the limited extent of eleven hours, would be dangerous to the State, and inadmissible in policy. I will now glance at the second branch of 1491 the subject of a compromise, namely, would there be a reasonable probability of its permanent continuance. And here I must be permitted to pay a well-merited compliment to the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire. He has, in the most disinterested and honourable manner on all former occasions, adhered to the prosecution of this object, which he believes to be indispensable to the well-being and happiness of the working classes. He has excluded himself from power—power, which is an object of such fair ambition to men born in the station and endowed with the talents of the noble Lord. He has made great sacrifices to accomplish that which he thinks right—he has sacrificed that which is far more painful than the surrender of mere ambition—he has placed himself, I will not say in hostile collision with, but in an attitude of opposition to, those political Friends whom he respects and esteems. But it must be remembered that my noble Friend, so earnest and indefatigable a champion of any cause which he adopts, has in the most solemn manner, in speaking and in writing, declared two years ago as well as two months ago, and on Friday last, that he will never rest from his labours until he has obtained a ten hours Bill. Would, then, a compromise of an eleven hours Bill be a satisfactory one? Would even a compromise of a ten hours Bill be satisfactory? I am satisfied the matter would not stop there. Has not the House had the advantage of a direct warning from the hon. Gentleman next in authority to the noble Lord upon the subject, the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) that if a ten hours Bill were to be carried to-morrow, it would be unsatisfactory, and that nothing but an eight hours Bill will satisfy the working classes. But I hold in my hand a more important declaration still. These are the expressions not of the advocates, but of the principals in a cause; here is a declaration adopted no later than yesterday, by a meeting of delegates from the cotton spinners and other factory workers in Manchester; and they state:—That notwithstanding the defeat of Lord Ashley upon the ten hours Bill, a defeat brought about by the official influence of Government, we are resolved never to relax our exertions until a ten hours Bill is carried through Parliament, and that we will avail ourselves of every advantage which the Constitution affords us to bring about such a limitation of the labour of children and young persons in factories.1492 Now Sir, I say, that as between an eleven hours Bill and a ten hours Bill, were I to think of a compromise, I would say, considering all circumstances, that it would be most wise on the part of Government—on the part of this House, with a view of arriving at some durable settlement—that it would be most politic, most expedient, to go the length of a ten hours Bill at once. I therefore discard any thought of compromise on the part of Government from my consideration. I will now proceed to the second course open to us to adopt, namely, to ask permission of the House to discharge this Order of the Day, with the view of allowing the existing law to remain in full force, and unaltered in any respect. Sir, that would be a possible course—it would be, as compared with a compromise, in my opinion, a preferable course; but still, in the Bill already in Committee several most important amendments of the present law have received the sanction of the House, particularly one, which respects the limitation of the hours of labour of children—that portion of the working classes which forms an exception to the general principle, and is most entitled to the care of the Legislature. With respect, then, to children, a great change has by common consent been made. The duration of their labour, as fixed by law is now eight hours, the Committee have passed a Clause limiting it to six and a half hours, and have also come, with a view to education—and I will not despair of the education of the manufacturing districts—to a resolution imposing the very important regulation, that children shall not work both in the forenoon and afternoon of the same day. I am, therefore, not disposed to throw away the advantages of the new regulation, sanctioned by the Committee, and of those other arrangements contained in the present Bill, to which I anticipate the assent of the House. I am now, therefore, brought to that third course which I stated was a possible one for the Cabinet to adopt, namely, the possibility of the Government withdrawing the present Bill and asking for leave to introduce a Bill, not repealing the existing laws upon the subject, and re-enacting them; but a Bill for the purpose of amending the present law—introducing into it such improvements and modifications as have either already received the sanction of the House, or are still likely to meet with its approbation. That course we have determined to follow. I am bound in fairness to tell the 1493 House, that as we have resisted, so will we continue to resist any departure from the limit of the twelve hours restriction. It is right that I should at once state this distinctly. This declaration may perhaps not appear consistent with that respect which I most unfeignedly feel, and which I have stated that my Colleagues as unfeignedly feel, for the decision of this House; but if we could believe that we have forfeited the confidence of this House—that it was possible to form a Government to give effect to the principle of a Ten Hours' Bill—that principle decided upon by so small a majority; if we believed that all this was the case, then our course would be very different from that which we at present conceive it right to follow. But as the matter now stands—as the House has as yet given us no such intimation as I have hinted at—we conceive it to be our duty not to act hastily, but deliberately to pursue the course which I have indicated as that which we are desirous, and think it most expedient and advantageous to adopt. I am not aware that I have omitted to state anything which my Colleagues wish me to declare to the House. At all events, I hope that the House will acknowledge that I have concealed nothing. I hope, too, that I have said nothing that is inconsistent with the profound respect which I entertain towards a majority of this House, on whatever side that majority may be found. If the House will permit me to conclude with a Motion, I ought, perhaps, to move that the Order of the Day for the resolving itself into Committee on the Factories Bill be read for the purpose of being discharged. If, however, any hon. Gentleman should think that I am taking the House by surprise—if any hon. Gentleman should feel that impression, I shall feel it my duty to ask that the Order of the Day be postponed to Friday, for the purpose of giving the House time to consider what course it may be advisable to pursue. I move that the Order of the Day for the House resolving itself into Committee on the Factories Bill be now read.
§ Lord Ashley
Mr. Speaker, I think there can be no doubt that the most reasonable course for the House to take, will be that which has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, to allow the House until Friday next to consider its determination. I, for one, have certainly been taken by surprise, and although my own resolution as to the eventual course which I shall pursue has been in no 1494 way shaken, yet I own that I am at present undecided as to the course, with regard to this Motion, which it will be best for the House, and most prudent for myself, to adopt. It is, Sir, totally unnecessary for me to follow my right hon. Friend through the whole of his able statement. The question has already been fully discussed. Everybody has made up his mind on it, and not only has the discussion been ample, but, let me emphatically remark, the whole matter has been most solemnly decided. This great assembly, in their successive divisions, has affirmed the principle that twelve hours' labour is not to be endured; and, therefore, whatever opinion we may be called upon to pass next Friday, I do make to the House a solemn appeal to stand by its decision, and to uphold its recorded verdict. Upon that verdict, upon that decision, I take my stand, convinced, as I said before, that it is not necessary for me nor for any other person to deal with the subject by further argument. I must, however, before I sit down, express my regret that the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State, should have introduced into this discussion observations of a character which were carefully excluded from the previous debates upon this subject. I deplore that the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary to go out of his way in order to describe the present Motion as "the beginning a course of Jack Cade legislation." However, Sir, I am not ashamed of, nor will I repudiate the title. Let me ask the House what was it gave birth to Jack Cade? Was it not that the people were writhing under oppressions which they were not able to bear? It was because the Government refused to redress their grievances that the people took the law into their own hands: and I tell the right hon. Baronet and those with whom he acts that, if they take not better care, this will be the effect again; and that, when they designate the people they oppress as rebels, with a Jack Cade for their leader, they are only, in my opinion, adding insult to injustice. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman has said that he will postpone the further consideration of the question until Friday, I will not detain the House any further at present. I have only to repeat, what I said at first, that this question has been most solemnly decided: on the decision of the House, three times recorded, I take my stand; and, as I shall never depart from the course I have adopted, so I trust none of those who voted 1495 with me will be found to depart from their solemn and recorded opinions.
§ Viscount Howick
thought that the House could not with fairness and propriety decide upon the question at that time. But what was the course the Government was now proposing to adopt? They were told by the Government that they would not listen to any compromise. They would neither adopt a ten nor eleven hours' Bill, notwithstanding their own inspectors had told them that twelve hours' labour was more than ought to be borne. The evidence of the highest medical authorities went to the same effect, and yet the Government told them they would allow no reduction. What did the Government intend to do? They had been defeated on this Clause, and how did they propose to take the decision? Why, they took the extraordinary course of saying to the House, if you choose to regulate labour to a greater extent than we approve of, then you shall not regulate it at all. That was what the Government presumed to say to the House. At the present moment, let it be recollected there was no check at all on the labour of women. The inspectors appointed by the Government had reported that a check was absolutely necessary—that women, who were not, in fact, their own master, required and should have the same protection as children. Well, the Government said they would regulate this labour by confining it within the limit of twelve hours—the House said they would confine it to ten hours—and then the Government said to these females, and to the House, you shall have no limitation nor regulation at all. He now suggested to his noble Friend, that the course he should take on Friday night should be to resist the discharge of the order. If he allowed the Bill, which had now made such progress, to be withdrawn, what would be the effect? The Government would introduce a new Bill still more objectionable in the shape than the one now before the House—the noble Lord would have to repropose his Clause, and if it were carried again, the Government would drop the Bill. If the noble Lord meant to persevere, let him persevere on Friday next—if he is to have difficulties to encounter, rather let him meet them in the first instance than in the last. Let them go on with a measure in the shape in which their legislation might have some effect, rather than postpone our efforts 1496 until the lapse of time brought them to the close of the Session without any result. and if they were to carry out their hostility against the Government, let them act now rather than when the original proposers might be anxious to abandon their measure. He put this for his noble Friend's consideration, and at all events, when the motion was made to discharge the order for further considering the Bill, he, if he stood alone, would say "no" to it. Before he sat down he must say that the right hon. Gentleman had, from inadvertency or some other cause, misquoted in so remarkable a manner the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard as well as those which he (Viscount Howick) had used, that he could not, even with the certainty of future discussion, allow it to pass unnoticed. The right hon. Gentleman, obviously alluding to what he had said, remarked that the supporters of the Amendment were actuated in their proceeding by a sense of the intense competition that prevailed. That was not his argument. He did maintain, it was true, that intense competition was at the bottom of the evil, in consequence of the field of employment being too much restricted. He urged that they could not get rid of the evil, or go to the bottom of it, unless they were resolved to give a wider scope to that capital and labour which were now hedged in; but, he added, though they could not remove, they might palliate it. He further pointed out that the intense competition acted in this manner: it gave the power to one or two individuals to adopt and enforce a system of conducting great branches of manufacture in a manner to which the wishes of the majority of employers were strongly opposed, but that such practices, once introduced, gave so great advantages over competitors, that all, or nearly all, were compelled to adopt them. He said this, at least, was in the power of the Legislature, to restrict modes of carrying on labour which the parties engaged in are themselves disposed to object to. He expressed his belief, with reference to this system of twelve hours' labour for women and children, it was one to which the majority of those obliged to submit to it were strongly opposed. He believed it was their wish, knowing that some effect on their wages must be produced by the change, though not to the extent stated by the right hon. Gentleman, that their 1497 wives and children should be protected from an amount of toil which the Government Inspectors, Medical Officers, reported in the paper laid on the Table, was more than they should be required to perform. In the same manner, he asked those who listened to the very able speech of the honourable and learned Member for Liskeard, whether his argument had not been perverted? His hon. and learned Friend stated which he (Lord Howick) believed to be perfectly true, that they had left these parties too long to themselves. He was not going to debate that point now; but the right hon. Gentleman was evidently of the same opinion, because when he talked of this as a question of principle, he (Lord Howick) asked in what respect? It was no question of principle between the Government and those who supported the Amendment. One proposed to regulate the hours of labour as much as the other. The right hon. Gentleman said he could not conceive how it could benefit industry to limit the field of employment. He wanted to know, did not the Bill do this as much as the Amendment? Women were now frequently worked fifteen hours. [No.] Yes; it was so when trade was brisk, and there was a great pressure. [Mr. Ferrand: they are frequently worked eighteen hours.] Well, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to reduce the number of hours to twelve. He, therefore, "placed a limit to human industry." He admitted the limitation should be kept within as narrow bounds as possible; but he thought the result of inquiry had demonstrated that they could not trust so implicitly as some imagined to men, acting for their own interest, in devising what was best for themselves and the community. That this was so, was abundantly proved by the state of the dwellings of the poor, by the neglect of draining, and by the total absence of all proper sanatory and police regulations. The principle of interference with private property was one acted on every day, when any new public work was determined on. In the present artificial state of society, it was impossible to dispense with public regulation.
§ Mr. Brotherton
felt great regret at the announcement which had been made by the Government. He had hoped that, seeing what the feeling of the House was, they would have proposed the medium of eleven hours; and such a proposal would, 1498 under the circumstances, have met with cordial acquiescence. It was very easy to say, that eleven hours would not satisfy popular demand, inasmuch as the hon. Member for Oldham declared that he thought eight hours would be work enough; but the truth was, if the change were now made in a proper spirit, agitation might continue, but no feeling in favour of it could be excited. He could not find fault with Government for expressing a strong desire to uphold our manufactures; but their apprehensions were wholly unfounded. We could all recollect when mills worked night and day with water power. That system ceased, yet no ruin ensued. The eleven hours was the time worked in silk and woollen mills already. Why not adopt the same change in the cotton mills?
§ Captain Rous
congratulated the House on the present prospect of getting rid of this Bill. He had risen three times on the last night's debate, without having had the good fortune to catch the Speaker's eye, when he intended to have condemned the policy which interfered with self-government; and not only that, but also the unwarrantable interference with private establishments. For that reason he did not vote on the first debate; but on the last occasion, when it appeared to him it was a sort of party question—when he heard that Gentlemen, who voted for ten hours, acted in the spirit of party, it became his duty to vote for the twelve hours, because it appeared to be the lesser evil. To the Bill now before the House he objected in every sense of the word. Whoever had drawn up this Bill must have been totally ignorant not only of the feelings of the master-manufacturers and of the workmen, but of the system which was carried on in their districts. One of its provisions was, that persons sixteen years of age should be examined by a surgeon. We had heard to-night of Jack Cade, but he believed that the tax collector who had been destroyed by Wat Tyler, for taking liberties with his daughter, did not venture to assume the power which this Bill attempted to assert. It would be impossible to keep up our large establishments, if the master manufacturers did not, instead of dissipating their capital in idle pursuits, spend it to the extent of hundreds of thousands in promoting the prosperity of the country. In all such cases as the present, he placed 1499 himself in the situation of those affected by their legislation. Now suppose the House of Commons ordered him to give his servants eight half-holidays in the week, he should at once meet such a demand by saying, "I'll see you somewhere else first!" If a servant asked him for leave of absence on any urgent occasion, in all probability he should give it; but if the House of Commons said, "You shall do so," he should do the very contrary. He supposed the master manufacturers, who were high-minded men, felt as he should with regard to this intermeddling by others in business that did not concern them. He appealed to any Gentleman who had travelled in other countries, whether the moment Government interfered in private concerns, its withering hand did not paralyse every effort to attain success, and from that moment prosperity ceased. Let them look at such countries as Sweden and Prussia, where the people were so well educated that only one out of 377 could not read and write, and where even the children of prisoners were sent to school; and yet such was the deteriorating effect of this eternal intermeddling, that, according to Mr. Laing, there was three times the amount of crime there to be met with as in the same numbers in this country. Governments had quite enough to do to look after their own business; and if our present love of espionage were indulged, in three years this land would become a horrible desert. They must reduce the hours of labour from ten to eight, and no one could say where a limit was to be placed, if this spirit of legislation were once encouraged. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department said, he did not anticipate that any Administration could be formed, with the noble Lord Ashley at its head, to carry a ten hours' Bill. God forbid there should. The noble Lord would make an excellent Archbishop of Canterbury—but speedy must be the downfall of this country if he ruled its destiny. What was the usual course of their debates? The noble Lord gave a horrible picture of the working-classes in the manufacturing districts. His hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Ferrand) abused the manufacturers in the most extravagant language, and said they treated their men worse than dogs. [Mr. Ferrand: "No, no."] He was not very particular about the words—but that was the hon. Gentleman's opinion. Well, the menu- 1500 facturers very properly rebutted this accusation, and said the agricultural labourers were treated worse than dogs again. What was the effect of all this, but that when the poor man returned home after his twelve hours' work, and took up the newspaper to find a little comfort before he went to bed, he suddenly discovered he was a most ill-used, despicable being? Such a dose of these debates could not prove a very good soporific. Was it not quite enough for a man to have drawn a blank in life, without having his mind embittered by perpetual railings against the atrocious policy of those who ruled over him? He had spent many years of his life out of this country, and whenever he returned, he blessed God that there was no country in which the poor were better looked after by the rich, and in which there was such a fund of friendship, hospitality, and good feeling amongst all classes. There was no country, too, in which the labourers displayed so much good common sense as in this; and if they did not, the speeches of the noble Lord and others would have long since driven them mad.
Mr. V. Smith
felt called on to correct some misrepresentations of the right hon. Gentleman rather than postpone his vindication to Friday. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had not on Friday given an answer to the speeches on which he commented to-night. He was still more surprised at his adopting a description from a paper conducted with great ability, but not of the same politics as the right hon. Gentleman, at least since his accession to the present Administration. He neither uttered the words attributed to him by the right hon. Gentleman on the night when he spoke, nor did he see them adopted in any newspaper report which he had read. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that he contended that the Poor Law would be the resource of persons turned out of factories, and also that high wages were productive of immorality. He was anxious on that occasion, as he hoped he always was, not to detain the House long, and to get quickly over what he had to say, when he was interrupted by his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield—he hardly knew for what reason—who asked him how these persons were to live? To that he answered immediately—off hand—that certainly they could not starve. But he was the furthest possible from intending to say, 1501 what that hon. Gentleman now represented him as having said, that the Poor Law was to be their only resource against not being able to find employment; but he contended that that law, though he might not approve of it entirely, did serve as a provision for the poor, to prevent their being ground down below the possibility of finding the lowest sustenance. He then proceeded to argue, that the effect of a restriction of labour would be, that the working classes would have steady wages, and in addition to those wages, some leisure to themselves; and he said, that he thought it better they should have moderate wages with some portion of time to themselves, than extreme wages, without any time for recreation, whether of body or mind. He was prepared now, and ever should be, to contend, that it would be better for them to be in that position. He was saying when he was received with ironical cheers, that high wages were occasionally accompanied by immorality, but of course, he added, that he did not mean to apply the word high in this sense, to steady wages regularly earned, but to occasionally high wages received at periods when the demand was very great and excessive labour consequently in use on the part of the workmen. What he meant to say was, that overwork, with disproportionate wages, was often productive of immorality. The reason was obvious; overwork produced exhaustion and a craving for excitement, which led to immorality. He was speaking then only his own opinion; not having read the Reports, he had nothing at that time to quote, but he did not wish to trouble the House with statistics. He had since taken the trouble to read the Reports, and he might refer, in confirmation of his views to the second Report of the Children's Employment Commission, where it was stated that it was common to find men working almost to slavery on three days of the week, in order that they might be enabled to be idle, and often intemperate on the other three. Now, was not this exactly what he had meant? Three opinions were given in this Report, which expressed exactly the opinions he had endeavoured to state. There was that of the rev. Mr. Gilmour, minister of the Reformed Presbyterian congregation of Greenock, who said that high wages tend rather to encourage intemperance than to promote comfort among those receiving them. The sawyers of that town 1502 who got high wages, were also intemperate. Mr. Williamson, the procurator fiscal of the same place, said the high wages paid for work very laborious were apt to make workmen dissipated. Over exertion required corresponding periods of idleness, to which the boys were also accustomed. Mr. Hall, of Wolverhampton, said, in a conversation which he had with an employer of a great many workmen, he learned that those who had high wages were often drunkards, not for three days only, but all the week. Though he might not have guarded himself with sufficient care against misapprehension, he contended that he had used the word high in its legitimate sense, and he must continue to think that accidental high wages were not so beneficial to the workman as constant steady wages not accompanied by labour continued during so long a period of the day; and although he did not use the word, he was prepared to adopt it—that they would also be more acceptable to them than higher wages occasionally received, which were attended with injurious effects. But as for what had been put into his mouth by the right hon. Gentleman, he utterly rejected the absurdity of it, and must complain of the iniquity of imputing to him that he had any wish to reduce the working classes to dependence on the Poor Law. Whence the right hon. Gentleman derived this version of hi speech, he was at a loss to imagine. The right hon. Gentleman could not have stated it from recollection of his speech for he had not been present in the House at the time. He would only add that he regretted very much that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the course which he now stated it was his intention to pursue. He had hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have taken the first course suggested, of proposing an eleven hours Bill. He believed that proposal would have been perfectly agreeable at the time; and when the right hon. Gentleman said his noble Friend held out such a menace of perseverance that he could not hope to mitigate his opposition, he thought his noble Friend might reply that some of the right hon. Gentleman's assertions had made a compromise impossible on his side, for he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman could pretend to say, with any shadow of reason, that one hour's diminution of labour would be the ruin of the whole country. He could 1503 only assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that, from the long experience he had had of the character of his noble Friend, he believed throwing over the Bill would by no means mitigate his opposition, and that he would persevere in his endeavours. He believed his noble Friend would do so, if he knew that he was striving in a good cause, against both the Government and the people of England, and he would probably not the less do so when, as in the present instance, he was only acting against the Government, and was backed by the wishes of the whole people.
§ Sir James Graham
said, he hoped the House would permit him to offer two or three words in explanation after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that he (Sir James Graham) had put words into his mouth. Nothing, he could assure the House, was so far from his intention, and in order to avoid any thing in the shape of a quarrel when he referred to what had fallen from him, he did not point the allusion by a personal reference to the right hon. Gentleman. With respect to the accusation that he had put words into the right hon. Gentleman's mouth, he had by him the note he took at the time, which was to the effect that "no men could starve in this country, and that high wages led to vice and immorality in the manufacturing districts." He found that this was borne out by the report of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman; so that it appeared that both the Reporter and himself must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, if he had spoken on the occasion referred to as he had now explained himself. In the Morning Chronicle of Saturday, the right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said, "It might diminish wages to a certain money amount, but he was prepared to make up for this by giving an additional hue of health to the people, and rewarding them in moral wages, which would be of more value to them than money itself." Then the interruption took place to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. An hon. Member asked, "How were they to live? His hon. Friend asked, how were they to live" ["Order."] If he were pronounced to be irregular, he would bow at once to the decision of the Chair; but when one Member charged another with putting words into his mouth, 1504 which was the expression used by the right hon. Gentleman, he thought it was only demanded by fairness that he should be allowed to vindicate himself from the accusation. If the right hon. Gentleman said he had been misrepresented, he was bound to believe him; but in that case both himself and the Reporter, whose account tallied exactly with what he had stated to the House when he last addressed it, must have have been deceived; though of course the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to the fullest credit for what he had stated.
§ Sir R. Inglis
did not rise to anticipate the discussion on this question, but he did wish to address a question to his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, not as a taunt, but in a friendly spirit—with respect to a phrase hazarded in the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, who had referred to what "I and my colleagues had done "—to the deliberations of the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman stated there were three courses open to Her Majesty's present confidential advisers, and that, on the whole, after full deliberation, without heat, and with entire possession of their tempers, as well as their faculties—they had come to the resolution to recommend to the House the course stated by the right hon. Gentleman. Now, he wished to ask his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, whether it were the form of the Minute of the Cabinet, or whether it were to be taken as the deliberate opinion of Her Majesty's present confidential advisers, that in respect to ninety-seven of those who ordinarily supported their measures, it should be alleged in this House, with their united sanction, that such supporters had concurred in a course which the right hon. Gentleman had ventured to call the commencement of a system of Jack Cade legislation. He sincerely believed he was giving his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government an opportunity, of which if he were wise, he would gladly avail himself, to disown the application of that which he must call—he would not apply any epithet to it, because he would not provoke an angry feeling. He asked the question in order to ascertain whether the head of the Government adopted the phrase.
Sir J. Graham.—
I certainly did use the phrase [cries of "spoke."] With submission, Sir, I consider that I am entitled to give an answer to the question which has been put to me by the hon. 1505 Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford in so friendly a spirit. Notwithstanding the friendly tone, the hon. Member for the University of Oxford has contrived to make his question cause as much pain as he could. The hon. Member was well aware when he put his question, that the language in which I addressed the House was not that which was dictated by my Colleagues, but that the expressions which fell from me were those in which I chose to convey their determination, and my honest impressions to the House—and he was also perfectly aware that no one could be responsible for them but myself. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford must also have been aware that the expression to which he referred was not used as my own language. I stated distinctly that it was an expression which I had met with in a particular newspaper—that I had seen it within the last forty-eight hours—and I stated further, that as an individual, I was perfectly willing to give my assent to it, and adopt it. I do think that the House has adopted a system of legislation which may be so designated, but I utterly disclaim the idea that when I used the expression I was speaking the language of my Colleagues. I do trust that when my hon. Friend—if he will allow me to call him so—I trust that, with his kind and friendly feeling, my hon. Friend will not carry an expression which I used in the heat of debate one step further than it was intended by myself.
§ Sir R. Inglis
certainly had known his right hon. Friend so long, that if he were willing to call him by that title, he certainly would be very unwilling to renounce the privilege; and he said this in a cordial and friendly spirit. But his right hon. Friend would excuse him for saying that his question did not refer to the imagination, memory, or judgment from which that expression proceeded; but simply to the point, whether the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had adopted it.
was not going to discuss this wide subject on the present occasion, because Friday next would be the proper time. Though he could hear out his right hon. Friend opposite in the statement that in the phrase "Jack Cade legislation," he referred to something which had appeared in a newspaper, he had yet heard nothing from him which could in- 1506 duce him to suppose that he did not affiliate, if he might say so, that term. With respect to the Bill of the Government, he also might claim for those on that side of the House who voted in union with the Holy Alliance on that occasion, the repudiation of any right to be saddled with the name of Jack Cade. All he could say was, if they merited the title of Tylers and Cades, the right hon. Baronet was himself implicated in it, as had been well adverted to in argument again and again. The introduction of the Bill itself was in fact part of that system. The Government had certainly oiled the hinges of the door which was to open on them, and let forth a flood of all that was bad in political economy. It ought not to be forgotten that the initiative had been taken four years ago, nay much earlier, when the Legislature interfered to give protection to parish apprentices. They had been successful thus far, because they had gone step by step, and backed by the feeling of the public at large; and when the sympathies of the public were enlisted in a cause, he defied them to find any political specific which would enable them to stand successfully against the public demands. It would be bad taste and bad policy then to enter further into the discussion, but he would strongly advise his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) to pause before adopting the advice tendered him by his noble Friend on his right, the Member for Sunderland (Viscount Howick). Having voted sincerely with his noble Friend, he hoped he should be excused from saying he rather dissented from the advice. The noble Lord should not encumber himself with such a Bill as the present; it would be like a mill-stone round his neck. It would be quite impossible for loin to carry the Bill forward; if he attempted to do so, he would find himself entirely led by contradictions, inconsistencies, and absurdities, at every step he took, and at the end of his exertions, he would not find that he had approximated to his object in anything like the same degree as at the present moment. He would also venture to tender some advice to the right hon. Gentleman. He would ask, did he think he had found a resting place for peace and quietness? After the advice tendered by the Commissioners of the Factory Inquiry, that he must legislate and diminish the labour of adult women, did the right hon. Gentleman think that the nation would 1507 be satisfied, that the manufacturing operatives would be satisfied, that the noble Lord would be satisfied, by merely bringing in a Bill to regulate the labour of young children, and the mode of giving medical certificates? He would tell the right hon. Gentleman it was impossible to rest here, and he saw no promise of peace in this determination. His noble Friend would, of course, move, during the progress of the Bill through the Committee, to insert his clauses, and if the title of the new Bill should not warrant the formal introduction of those clauses, they all knew bow easy it would be for the noble Lord or any other Member to move an instruction to the Committee to facilitate that object. He pressed the noble Lord to pause for consideration, because he saw that he had listened to the advice of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, and he bitterly feared at that moment that he was about to throw himself into a gulf of confusion in which he would be lost without a hope of safety.
§ Viscount Sandon
wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Home Department. Did he understand the Bill, now to be introduced, would contain new regulations regarding female adult labour?
§ Sir J. Graham
said, the question put to him by his noble Friend was most important, and one to which he could at once give a decided answer. He had stated, if the House would permit him to withdraw the Bill now under consideration, ii would be his duty to ask leave to bring in a Bill not to repeal and re-enact all the existing laws, but to alter and amend the existing law, and that it was his intention to introduce, or to propose rather such amendments in the existing Bill as had already received the sanction of the House, or as he had reason to believe would meet with general approbation Immediately before the discussion as to the periods of ten or twelve hours, the House had been called to consider as to the introduction into the Clause of till words "adult females," on which the right hon. Member for Northampton had raised a question—nay, even a debate as to the propriety of that limitation of female labour. He conceived that virtually the House had adopted that limitation, and certainly, it was his intention, in the Bill he should ask leave to introduce, to include a provision as to female adult la- 1508 bour—that no female should labour in a factory for a longer period than twelve hours in any single day.
§ Mr. Hindley
exceedingly regretted the course which Government had adopted on this occasion. He thought the Secretary for the Home Department had signified his intention to bow to the decision of the Committee on Friday, and that he would have come down prepared to propose that the blank should be filled up with the word "eleven," and give them an eleven hours' Bill. He earnestly entreated the Government to reconsider this subject before Friday next, and to deliberate whether they should not propose a compromise. It could not be supposed for a moment that Government had settled the qeestion. He would tell the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government that he was responsible for the course he was at present taking. He would advise the working classes to abstain from anything illegal or contrary to the principles of peace and good order, but to persist in their demand, and they were certain of success.
§ Mr. Ferrand
merely rose for the purpose of noticing a remark made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he said that all the parties who supported the ten hours' Bill belonged to the "Jack Cade" party. He understood the right hon. Baronet had adopted the expression; if he retracted it, of course he had not another word to say.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, perhaps it would be better he should explain the expression he had used. He had ventured to assert that the arguments by which the Measure was supported appeared to him more dangerous than the Measure itself; among others which appeared to him more peculiarly dangerous was this—that we had entered on a new state of society, and that a new system of Legislation was necessary for that state of society; that so far from interference being the exception, we had arrived at a point where it should be general, and that there could be no limits to it except those of possibility. He went on to state that such a system of Legislation appeared to him to be fraught with danger; that he had seen the expression of "Jack Cade legislation" applied to it, and to that expression he was prepared to assent. He objected to the system as one of general interference, but he had certainly not intended to use 1509 any expression offensive to any individual of that House, much less to a majority.
Lord J. Russell
I rise chiefly for the purpose of begging my noble Friend who brought forward this Question, and who has conducted it hitherto with so much ability and discretion, to take seriously into consideration the course he shall think best to adopt. I am not about to counsel him to take the advice of my noble Friend near me, the noble Member for Sunderland, nor that of my Friend the hon. Member for Weymouth. It is not for me to advise him as to what course he may think fit to adopt. The Question is a very grave and important one, and it is hardly necessary for me to say that I hope he will give it deliberate attention before he states to the House the course he thinks fit to adopt. I am not much moved by the right hon. Gentleman's charge, belonging to me as one who voted for the noble Lord's proposition, of having commenced a system of Jack Cade legislation. I do not feel peculiarly that charge, but I certainly do not wonder that his hon. Friends, the Member for the University of Oxford and others, who have generally prided themselves on maintaining the most Conservative principles of any Gentlemen in this House, should feel hurt at the application to them of an expression which seems to imply that nothing but the most reckless revolution is the end at which the Legislature of the day professes to aim. But with respect to the justice, either of that phrase or of the general statements, contained in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, though I may have another occasion on Friday to speak of it, I cannot avoid saying that I must protest against it. I conceive that the general principle by which legislation on these subjects should be guided has been already departed from by all parties, by the Estates of the Realm themselves. What more general principle could we acknowledge than that which tells us that children should be left to the care and affection of their own parents, and that these ties are sufficient to protect them in their nurture and education, and from any ill-treatment by which their health might be destroyed? Such is the general principle which the Legislature should be bound to respect. But have we kept to that principle? No; we have thought it necessary to depart from it, with respect to apprentices in factories, so early as the 1510 commencement of the present century, and with the sanction of a person whose name carries the authority that belongs to a man who acquired great wealth by honourable pursuits, and applied it with benevolence and generosity. Under such authority, this system of legislation was commenced. That principle was again adopted in 1833, with the sanction of the the right hon. Gentleman opposite, of whom I had then the honour of being a colleague. But there is another principle which is as sacred, although a totally different one. That principle is, that all adults should be perfectly free to dispose of their labour and industry as they please, that they should make whatever bargains and contracts they will with respect to the extent of their labour, and the remuneration they are to receive for it. Are we bound to that principle? Why, the Government themselves—the present Government—have departed from it in the Bill before the House; and inconsistent as I am, and admit myself to be, they too, have been inconsistent with regard to their conduct since last year, because if there had not been other matters which deferred the consideration of the Factory Bill last year, there would have been, probably, a Bill passed with their sanction, which did not contain the principle of interference with adult labour. For the right hon. Gentleman now to say there are two parties, one wishing to adhere to the rigid principle by which there shall be no interference with industry, and that the others were attempting to carry through a mischievous Jack Cade principle of legislation, to which he, and those who vote with him are opposed, is stating the question in a totally different manner. I confess I do not think I should have been a party to introducing a Bill which interfered with the labour of adult females; but when it is introduced with the authority of Government, supported by the reports of of inspectors, and meets with the general concurrence of the House, certainly I will not undertake the responsibility of objecting to a Bill containing that principle, though I might not myself have introduced it. But with respect to the question on which we shall have again to pronounce a decision when it comes before us, it is merely this, whether you should protect young persons by reducing their hours of labour from twelve to ten. That involves the question whether young per- 1511 sons of twelve or thirteen are injured by such an amount of labour. I think it is generally admitted that such an amount is injurious to the health at that age, even by those who opposed the Motion of the noble Lord. The next question is, sup. posing it admitted that it would be beneficial to the persons whom the Legislature wishes to protect, that these hours should be diminished from twelve to ten, whether it is possible, consistently with their receiving a due amount of wages for their labour, and consistently with such profit to the manufacturers and capitalists as will maintain the industry of the country, and thereby give employment and content to the great working population of Lancashire and Yorkshire, to make such a diminution in the hours of labour? This is another question, on which, as I conceive, there arises a great difference of opinion. Government maintains it is not possible but that employment will be diminished and wages will fall, so as to excite discontent and dissention between masters and the persons they employ, and thus, the end would be a great lessening of employment, to the injury of the classes whom it is proposed to benefit. Though I give Government full credit for coming to a conscientious opinion on the subject, and for taking every means in their power to arrive at a correct decision, I think, on the other hand, they must allow those who differ from them on that subject, and think it possible to give protection to the industrious classes without injury to commerce, to maintain another conclusion—that they should allow this opinion to be fair matter of discussion, and not object against those who hold it, that it is a principle totally unheard of and extravagant, or that there is anything in it revolutionary, or at all resembling tumultuary or mob legislation. I hope I have not said anything to add heat to the discussion. On Friday I shall wish to apply myself to this grave and important question. The noble Lord will, I doubt not, pursue the course he has adopted; I only hope he will adopt some mode of giving us early information of the results of his deliberation as to the best mode of carrying out his views.
§ Mr. Hume
said this was a most important subject. When want of employment was the great evil to be contended with, it behoved the Government to take care not to narrow the field of labour. He believed that the measure of the noble 1512 Lord, brought forward as it was with the best motives, would be productive of the greatest possible evil upon the very persons it was designed to benefit. The course adopted by the Government gave time for deliberation. The divisions of last week had taken the country by surprise. Upwards of twenty years ago he had heard the opinion of the manufacturers expressed upon the point, and he knew of nothing that had since altered it. He would refer the House to a resolution which had been adopted by a Committee, differing as much as the House differed now upon the subject of combination of the working-classes. That Committee was waited upon by Deputations from the working-classes from all parts of the country; they acted upon the fullest information, and came to a resolution, in May, 1824, to the effect, that the opinion of the Committee was, that the master and workman should be free from all restriction as regarded the rate of labour, and the hours of work; and that they should be left free to make such agreements as they mutually thought fit. Upon that resolution an Act was passed, without opposition, ten days before the close of the session, sweeping away seventy-four statutes of interference between master and workman. He did not suppose it possible that such a Motion as that of the noble Lord could have been carried; but, being carried, great credit was due to the Government for making a stand against it. He trusted that the House would, before Friday, lend their best attention to the subject. A ten hours Bill, would, in his opinion, be the very means of hastening the evils they desired to avert. If the noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, entertained the idea that the regulations he had adverted to would be beneficial, he trusted the noble Lord would be prepared to lay on the Table the exact regulations he proposed, whether they were to be of the nature of guilds or of committees sitting in every country town to fix the rate of wages. Before he sat down he would ask, how those working people were to be supported who would be thrown out of employ by the proposal of the noble Lord, and he put it to the noble Lord whether it would not be better that they should be supported as now, than left to starve and die?
§ Mr. Borthwick
said that his respect for the Government was not in the least diminished by the use that had been made 1513 of the name of Jack Cade. He thought that the phrase had been too much dwelt upon, as it was to principles and not to persons that the right hon. Baronet had applied it. He had hoped that Her Majesty's Government would have come down prepared with a compromise to eleven hours, although he was still of opinion that a reduction of time to ten hours would not he injurious either to masters or workmen. This principle of interference with labour was not new, for it had existed in England as long as the constitutional Government was known. There was, therefore, nothing novel or revolutionary in it: and if there were, it must be recollected that the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire was the giant Jack Cade, and those who supported him were only his little progeny. The ninety-three Members who supported the proposition, although usually voting with Government, had shewn their independence, and that they were no slavish or selfish adherents, as they had often been described.
§ Mr. C. Buller
expressed his regret that he had not been in the House when the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) spoke, as that right hon. Gentleman had alluded to him more personally than anybody else. The right hon. Baronet had, on the part of the Government, proposed the wisest and best course that, under the circumstances, could be adopted, namely, to come to no resolution at the present moment, but to leave the whole matter to be considered on Friday. Therefore if the noble Lord opposite would accept the advice which he would humbly tender to him, it would be not to express any opinion regarding the further course to be taken, but to give that time for deliberation which the true interests of the country and the importance of the subject demanded. He thought it would be better if the old custom could be adhered to of answering a speech on the same night it was delivered. When he spoke the other night the right hon. Baronet was present; be had the opportunity of reply, and if any sentiments which he uttered were so wildly absurd and so extravagantly pernicious as the right hon. Baronet had, after mature deliberation, and under the promptings of e certain Sunday newspaper, described if they had that character, then it certainly appeared that the moral and intellectual enormity ought to have struck upon the acute perception of the right hon. Gentleman 1514 at once, upon the spot, when his (Mr. Buller's) fallacies were fresh in the recollection of the House. Bat he appealed to hon. Members then present, if the right hon. Baronet had not rather elevated the observations alluded to, and given them that character of wildness and ulterior views which nobody who heard them could have thought properly appertained to them. But the right hon. Baronet omitted all his arguments: omitted everything specific, took advantage of some few vague phrases (which he afterwards fully explained) which he quoted, not very correctly, and left the House and the country to conclude that he had proposed something extraordinary and enormous, involving altogether new principles of legislation. Now what did he really say? He said that a new state of society had arisen, owing to the congregation of large masses of unskilled labour in densely populated towns—that that was a state of things new in England—that to legislate now upon the principles you had before recognised as applicable to a former and a different order of things, under the idea that they would be equally applicable to the new state, would be wrong and inconsistent—that he supported this Bill on behalf of the labourer, and that he would apply the principles it contained as far as they could conveniently be carried. If those were the principles of Mr. Cade—if he had never proposed anything more—and if he had propounded such principles in so exceedingly guarded a manner, then he must say, that of all the politicians of this country, Mr. Cade had been the most grossly misrepresented. It was not for him to expound or explain the principles of Cade. The right hon. Baronet, however, having found that expression in a Sunday paper, thought it a good one to use in the House, without, of course, applying it to any body; but if he were to take that same newspaper and read from it to the House some expressions relating to the right hon. Baronet himself, that right hon. Gentlemen would probably think that he, in so doing, had gone beyond the rules of politeness. Whatever the right hon. Barone might have intended, the expressions he used were certainly calculated to fasten that unpleasant epithet upon the views put forward by him. Nobody, however, would suppose that he had maintained such principles, because the right hon. Baronet had found the name, as he 1515 thought, applicable. His arguments were used openly before a full House; the right hon. Baronet was present on Friday, and he did not answer: on Monday, the right hon. Baronet came down to the House and called him names; and he left the House and the country to judge between them.
§ Sir R, Peel
said, his hon. Friend had not entered so fully into details as the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to suppose; but, as the Government had taken a course at variance with the opinion of a majority of that House, and as the Government professed a desire to treat that House with all deference and consideration short of sacrificing their own opinions and convictions, his right hon. Friend had thought it due to the House to state the grounds upon which Her Majesty's Ministers had formed their opinions; and in the course of his address his right hon. Friend had stated that he could not concur in the practical proposal of his noble Friend to limit the number of the hours of labour to ten; but that he thought the arguments upon which that proposal was founded were still more alarming than that practical measure itself. His right hon. Friend had then briefly referred to three courses of argument taken, not on that (the ministerial), but on the other side of the House—namely, the arguments of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, and lastly those of the hon. and learned Member of Liskeard. The hon. and learned Member must excuse him if he expressed the opinion that his right hon. Friend had correctly represented the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He had understood the hon. and earned Gentleman to say that this measure was not one to be regarded in the abstract, but upon its individual merits. He had attended to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and had a strong recollection of the hon. arid learned Gentleman saying that the measure came recommended to him, because it was the first step in a bold and novel system of legislation. He had the strongest impression that those were the words which had been used by the hon. and learned Gentleman; who had also further said, that he was prepared to follow out the measure into all the legitimate and logical consequences involved in the original measure itself. The hon. and learned Gentleman argued that a new state of society had grown up 1516 requiring new principles of legislation, and that therefore the old course must be abandoned and a new one begun. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to state that he would push his principles to their utmost practical extent, and that he would carry legislative interference with labour so far as he could consistently with this, that he did not establish a domestic inquisition more intolerable than the evils he sought to remedy. Now his right hon. Friend had referred to the general line of argument, and had stated that one of the reasons for the decision that had been arrived at by Her Majesty's Government was, that not only they feared the practical consequences of this restriction upon adult labour; but, viewing it as the hon. and learned Gentleman had himself stated, as the first step in a future course of legislation upon the subject, that very consideration confirmed their apprehensions, and induced them to say that they could' not advise the House to enter upon such a course of legislation. The hon. and learned Gentleman had protested against the quotation of his speech delivered on Friday; but Mr. Cade might, if living, equally object to quotations made from his delivered so long a time before; and he must say that the principle contended for by Mr. Cade appeared to be not very different from those advocated by the hon. and learned Gentleman. When his hon. Friend the Member for Oxford had asked him (Sir R. Peel) whether he adopted the term "Jack Cade legislation" or not? he did not think it becoming in him to answer such a question. He had not thought it possible that any one would have thought that his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham) had applied the phrase to hon. Gentlemen either on that or the other side of the House. His right hon. Friend was speaking of the consequences of certain principles contended for on the other side. He rose, however, principally for the purpose of saying that this had never been considered by the Government as a mere departmental question, but as one involving the most important principles. The decision conveyed by his right hon. Friend was not the decision of a Minister, but the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, formed without fear of incurring responsibility, feeling it to be their duty, after mature consideration of the position in which this question had been placed by the decision of a majority and its subsequent re- 1517 versal. It was impossible not to perceive that the question had been left in a very embarrassing state. The Government had considered all these things, and the deter-Initiation to which they had come was, that it was their duty to oppose themselves even to the decision of a majority of that House, to give the country an opportunity of first considering whether a measure of this kind would be for the welfare of that class in which all must take the deepest interest—he meant the working class. Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that it would not be for the interest of that class to sanction the proposed restriction on the hours of labour, and although in a minority, they conceived, as he had stated the other night, that they were performing one of the first duties and most important functions of a Government in opposing themselves to that which they believed was founded in error. These considerations had induced Her Majesty's Ministers to come to this conclusion, that it was not wise to expose the manufacturers of this country to that competition to which they must be exposed if you compelled, by your legislation, adult labour in this country to submit to a restriction involving loss of wages, and the diminished production and increased price of the article manufactured. Now, without taunting hon. Gentlemen opposite with taking a different view from that they formerly held upon this question, he would merely repeat what had been said by his right hon. Friend, that the Government had inherited the Bill from their predecessors, and that the same views now taken by Her Majesty's Government had been taken by others when in power. But his right hon. Friend had never implied that if the opinions of hon. Gentlemen were changed, it was not their duty to act upon that change. He trusted that on Friday next the House would be prepared to consider this great subject, not as a party question, but as one involving the commercial prosperity of the country, and the permanent interests of the working men, to enter upon the discussion with that calmness which best befitted the topic.
§ Viscount Sandon
hoped his noble Friend would acquiesce on Friday in the proposal of Government to withdraw the present Bill, and introduce a fresh Bill. From the course which Government had pursued, and from the language which they 1518 had before held, he had hoped that they would have come to a different determination. He would recal for one moment the words which the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) made use of when the House decided in favour of a ten hours' Bill by a majority of nine; the right hon. Baronet then declared that he had insuperable objections to a ten hours' Bill, which he believed would be fatal to the commercial prosperity, and injurious to the moral condition, of the country. But how could Government, or indeed how could any one suppose that the difference between a ten hours and a twelve hours' Bill would exercise so baneful an influence, not only on the commercial prosperity but also the social peace of the country? He had hoped that on a previous occasion when he heard the words of the right hon. Baronet, and he was glad of it too, that Government were holding out the olive branch to his noble Friend and his supporters. He was grieved, however, to learn by his right bon. Friend's declaration that evening that such was not the case, and that Government was determined to adhere to its own views. He confessed, that to him it appeared a most unwise coarse that they should tie themselves down to the proposition that the only and exact amount of interference that the commercial prosperity of this country admitted of was to the restriction of twelve hours. He regretted it the more especially, because by the course which the Government were pursuing, he believed that they were placing themselves in opposition to the public sympathy and to the feelings of the manufacturers themselves, which were running in favour of restriction—nay, he believed that they were placing themselves in opposition to the feelings of the great majority of all classes. He repeated, that he was grieved to find that the Government was raising a new barrier, and restricting themselves to a course which he could not but pronounce most unwise. He held in his hand a letter from a manufacturer, in which he stated that in his opinion Lord Ashley had gone too far in his proposition of a ten hours' Bill, but he willing to take the middle course, and agree to an eleven hours' Bill. When men interested in those matters—when manufacturers themselves said that they feared not some limitation, he could not but regret that the Government had refused all compromise. That course was not to have been expected from the 1519 language which they had held. It was inconsistent with their own interests. He could have wished that they had at least maintained their opinions on grounds a little less broad than those on which they had. He was not surprised at the supporters of Government shrinking from pledging themselves to such broad principles. He was, however, surprised to find that a Government which recognised the principle of interference in the cases of women and children should make a wide and insuperable difficulty in interfering with men. If their principles were sound, if their principles were good for any thing, they must, at least to be consistent, repeal all former Factories Bills that in any way recognised the principle of interference.
§ Mr. Morrison
expressed his belief that the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire would not only be injurious to the labouring classes, but that it would injure the export trade of this country. The cotton trade was in a peculiar condition. The competition with America was enough to prevent, in prudence, any such measure as that which was proposed by the noble Lord. It would most materially injure our cotton and woollen trades, with which there was a growing competition. In the United States they had a most formidable rival—the cotton factories not only in Massachusetts, but in almost every State of America, were daily adding to their power of competition with us. In that country, where legislation took place upon almost every subject, they had not thought of interfering with or restricting the number of hours that the labouring classes worked. In that country, from the system of Universal Suffrage which prevailed, the Operatives themselves in part made the laws. They had the power in their own hands of making such laws; surely, then, if the number of hours which they worked was found to be oppressive, they would interfere and place some restrictions on the amount of labour that they might be called upon to perform. Such had not been the decision of the working classes in America, and he believed that, when the operatives in this country understood the question and their own interests, they would adopt the views of Her Majesty's Government. There had been of late, and he thanked God for it, a great improvement in the condition of the working 1520 classes. And he begged the House not to hazard a return to that state from which they were then happily emerging, by any such ill-timed restrictions as those proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire.
begged the House to excuse him for a few moments, as he was anxious to call attention to what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire. He was anxious so to do, because the noble Lord had urged two grounds of complaint against the Government, in both of which the noble Lord laboured under a misapprehension. In the first place the noble Lord said, that the Government had placed no importance upon the twelve hours' restriction, and that they were magnifying into vast importance the broad lines of demarcation between the noble Lord and the Government. So far from that being a true statement of the case—so far from Government thinking the matter of no importance, if hon. Gentlemen would only recollect for a moment, they would find that Government had made a most emphatic declaration of their intention to oppose the motion of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley). So far from the Government thinking the subject of restriction of no importance, it was a matter of notoriety that it was in consequence of the difference of opinion between the noble Lord and the Government on that question, that they were deprived of the assistance and support of the noble Lord. That, at all events, showed that it was no unimportant subject to them. The noble Lord (Lord Sandon) said, that by their restriction of twelve hours, they had admitted the principle of interference, and if they opposed his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) they must proceed further, and repeal all former factories Bills. They had, it was true, admitted the principle of interference, but they believed that that interference was justified by the peculiar circumstances of the case. The difference between the noble Lord and the Government was a broad difference in detail rather than in principle, yet involving no unimportant consequences. He believed that he could foresee both to labourers and manufacturers, in the present artificial state of society, evils which admitted of interference in factory legislation; but he also believed that the interference of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) would frustrate his own 1521 benevolent objects, and involve the manufacturing interests in the deepest distress. It was not the principle of interference or non-interference that they were contending for—but whether it were wise, safe, or politic to place additional restrictions upon the labour of the working classes, and whether such additional restrictions should not not compulsory, but permissive. His noble Friend said, that the Government had now made a declaration which was never to be departed from. Was there then to be allowed to them no mitigation—no limitation—was no change of circumstances to allow of any alteration in their opinions? Was their decision to be fixed and unalterable? He complained of the way in which their opinions had been represented. The Government believed that the consequences of their measure would not materially affect the manufacturing interests; but not so with the proposition of the noble Lord (Ashley). His conviction was, that the result of the noble Lord's measure, in the future, would be prejudicial to the interests of the labouring as well as the master classes. He should be deluding his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), it would be unworthily deluding the labouring classes, if he said that these opinions were founded on temporary circumstances: at the same time it was not safe, it was not wise, to hold out any expectation that what they could not do this year they might do the next. He thought it better to state general principles, on which he felt bound to act. All classes would have good grounds to complain, if the Government, falling into the general expressions of humanity, were to give a partial acquiescence, by holding out a hope that in the course of a limited period they might be induced to yield, to get rid of a temporary difficulty. He perfectly admitted that there was no declaration of any Government which was founded, not on broad principles, but public welfare, that would not admit of a gross dereliction of principle. There was no question on which it could be safely said, that no time, no circumstances would alter the opinions concerning it. He believed, on consideration, that the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) would produce more of disadvantage than good; and if, in his deliberate judgment and consideration, he believed that that proposition was calculated to bring down evil upon those 1522 whom his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) desired to serve, but upon whom, if successful, he would inflict an irreparable injury, he should not be acting a wise, a safe, or honest part, if he did not express such conviction candidly to the noble Lord and his supporters.
§ Mr. Hawes
said that no one could complain of the manner in which the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had expressed his opinions. With regard to the interference with adult labour—if he thought, as he earnestly did think, that it was possible to maintain a more definite time of labour without injury to the great manufacturing interests of the country—then he concluded they were bound so to do. The question having been raised, he thought that both on sound and commercial grounds there was a just reason for the limiting the hours of labour, The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, had held out as an argument against a ten hours' Bill, the fear of a strike among the labouring classes; but strikes among the labouring classes did not turn upon questions of wages, they arose from the ignorance of the labouring classes. He regarded the principle of interference as dangerous to the interests of the working classes; but that he held that Government had it in their power to make up to the labouring classes for any reduction that might accrue to their wages from legislative interference. He maintained that he had a right, as Government had raised the question of limiting adult labour, to take that view; if he could carry it farther on social and commercial grounds, he had a right so to do, especially when he expected, by so acting, to gain immense advantages to the labouring classes and the country. The principle of interference had been recognised, and had been tried and sustained by experience; if then, in deference to public opinion, Government must bow, he hoped, by compelling the interference with labour to gain other advantages to the labouring, classes, to compensate them for any diminution in their wages that may result there from.
§ Mr. Aglionby
entirely coincided with the opinion expressed by the noble Lord, that that was a measure of detail rather than of principle. Whenever he saw any measure brought forward for the benefit of the people, although they might be called Jack Cade principles—he cared 1523 not, for hard words broke no bones—he felt bound to give them his support in the discharge of his duty to his constituents and the country. He could not but express his gratification at the plain straightforward statement of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). He had been led away from the question; his hon. friends around him boldly and plainly denounced the principles of interference, but these were not the principles of Her Majesty's Government. They recognised the principle of interference. The whole of their legislation was based upon that principle. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) could not abandon the Bill. He could see no more danger likely to accrue from limiting the hours of labour to ten, than from limiting them to twelve. He did not disguise from himself that it was a matter of very great importance, but he could not bring his mind to believe, that the safety of the country and our commercial prosperity depended on our non-interference with the factories labour.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, that if the Government had adopted the compromise of eleven hours which was held out to them, they would have been generally supported by the House. All which he had heard convinced him that the Government might have adopted with propriety an eleven hours' Bill. So far from bringing agitation to an end by the course which the Government had pursued, they had rather fanned the flame. They had now, he believed, allowed the time to go by in which it was possible to effect a compromise. He thought that Government had taken a most unwise course in that which they had pursued.
§ Dr. Bowring
did not think that this was a question that could be settled by compromise, and was convinced that any steps taken to produce additional interference between the masters and workmen would be Injurious to both. On one side of the House, Ministers had been deserted by some of their most zealous and exciteable supporters, and, on the other, changes of opinion had occurred which he deeply regretted. The manufacturers, with few exceptions, were opposed to the proposition of the noble Member for Dorsetshire, and although their workmen were just as strongly and as generally in its favour, he was sure that ere long they would see reason to rue the part they had taken. Nevertheless, the time had arrived when 1524 the experiment must be tried; the disposition in favour of trying it could not long be resisted, but those who so eagerly urged legislation forward would soon wish that they had opposed it just as strenuously. The working classes would have to pay the penalty of their enthusiasm in favour of the proposed alteration of the law. They were preparing the way for a frightful crisis. He believed it to be a great delusion that the same wages might be obtained by a smaller number of hours' labour. He had withdrawn from any active part in the discussion, foreseeing that the experiment could not be resisted, and that obedience must be paid to the strength of public opinion.
§ Mr. Mitchell
was persuaded that the reduction of hours would have the effect of throwing many hands out of employ—that the consequence of that would be a reduction of the quantity of goods manufactured, and an advance in the price of them. This unhappy result must do the most fatal injury to the export trade of the country, and encourage foreign competition.
§ Mr. Escott
said, that he voted against the proposition of the noble Lord, for he thought the measure of the Government was likely to prove a salutary change. Though it might not be quite sound in principle, it did appear to him a great improvement upon the existing state of the law. He came prepared to make concessions to the demands of the working classes, but yet, when he heard the speech of the noble Lord, he found no argument in it to show that the change which he proposed would be for the benefit of the people. The noble Lord completely avoided the commercial part of the question, and he, as well as those who supported him, recommended those views by sentiments which could not be too strongly censured. The tendency of their arguments was clearly revolutionary; they paraded grievances, and they threatened violence if those grievances were not redressed, while by no arguments that they brought forward did they show that their proposed measure would remove the causes of complaint. In his opinion, the course which the Government took was the only course consistent with their own honour or the interests of the people.
§ Mr. Brocklehurst
said, that the hon. Member for Inverness had been mistaken as to some of the facts which he had 1525 stated. It was not his case, but it certainly was the case of many hon. Members, that they spoke on this question really knowing very little about it. They had not, and could not, have any experience, and so they made up the want of experience with a great deal of philosophy. The right hon. Baronet would hear more that was worth hearing in relation to it in one hour at the Home Office than for a dozen of hours in another place which he was in the habit of frequenting. He opposed all restriction upon labour, and rather required a reason for supporting the limits of twelve hours than for opposing those or any limits.
§ Order of the Day read.
§ Committee postponed to Friday.