§ MR. HUME
opposed the Motion. He had expected that some Member of Her Majesty's Government would have risen, in the first instance, to have stated their views on this most important question. He could not conceive anything more unsatisfactory than for the House to meet, under the difficult circumstances created by this Bill, without the attendance of Her Majesty's advisers; and he held it to be their duty to state their views, seeing that upon a former occasion the noble Lord at the head of the Government ventured to differ on this question from some of his present Colleagues, and to divide against them. Under these circumstances, the least that those interested in this question expected was, that the noble Lord would have been in attendance as he had promised; for he had said, that when the time arrived, he should be prepared to state his views. It would materially conduce to the convenience of the House, if Her Majesty's Government would say whether they would oppose or support this Bill. Many hon. Gentlemen were extremely doubtful what course to pursue. Some were in favour of the measure, whilst others entertained a most decided opinion against it. He acknowledged himself to be one of the latter; for the measure, in principle, was opposed to all those which had recently obtained the sanction of that House. Some hon. Gentlemen—he did not think it was much to their credit—cast reflections upon the principles of political economy, not considering that it was by those principles that the best interests of the community were regulated. [Mr. FIELDEN: What are they?] His hon. Friend asked what these principles were? He would tell him. They were, that masters and men should be allowed to make what arrangement they pleased between themselves, both with regard to the length of hours and the rate of wages; and that Government should interfere as little as possible, except in every instance to remove prohibitions and protections. The only condition on which this right was acceded to was, that no man should carry it on to the injury of others. He had formerly had the support of his hon. Frend (Mr. Hindley), who was in favour of an Eleven Hours Bill, and he counted upon his assistance now. The man who proposed eleven hours was against ten hours. This question, however, involved matters of the most serious importance. Hon. Gentlemen might treat it, if they chose, as a party question; and he 1075 believed it was so treated by some. ["No, no!"] He hoped it was not; he had better hopes of the result, if he could only bring the unbiassed good common sense of the country to look at the question in a proper light. In the absence of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, he could only state his own views. Legislation, in his opinion, ought to be consistent. For a series of many years, legislation in this country had been upon the principle of protection. There was scarcely an interest in the kingdom, from the highest to the lowest, which had not sought and obtained protection. For 300 years laws had been passed, interfering with the labourer and with the employer, with this very view. But the evils arising from this practice had become so severe, and at the same time so obvious, that, by common consent, a great proportion of the laws so enacted, were repealed two or three and twenty years ago; and he could not help thinking that hon. Gentlemen who supported the present measure, were proceeding on a course likely to add to the evils which he was sure they were anxious to avoid. They professed their object to be the welfare of the labouring community. They thought they knew better than the labourers themselves what were their interests. He repeated that any man who took upon himself to direct another in his ordinary affairs, told that other that he knew his affairs better than he himself did, and that he could manage them better. Now, he objected to that doctrine altogether. He held that the common sense of the working classes was capable of enabling them to take care of themselves; if it were not, let them be educated and better taught. He was an advocate for that species of education which should place them in the situation of being the best judges of their own interests; and he had yet to learn that this doctrine was not the true one. On every side he heard of their claims for universal suffrage—of the right of being represented in the House, of Commons; yet these very men, who were the loudest in demanding the suffrage, which would enable them to take a part in deciding on the affairs of the nation, would appear, by this Bill, to say they were incapable of directing their own affairs; and, therefore, they desired the interference of legislation. This appeared to him one of the greatest contradictions it was possible to conceive. His hon. Friend (Mr. Fieldon) on a former occasion, had presented to the 1076 House a petition signed by upwards of three millions of individuals, embracing a large proportion of the working classes of this country, in favour of a large extension of the suffrage; and he (Mr. Hume) had supported his hon. Friend on that occasion. He declared then, as he affirmed now, that he had too high an opinion of the intelligence of Englishmen belonging to the working classes, than to suppose that they were unworthy of the trust of sharing in the selection of representatives, as was generally thought. He, therefore, asked his hon. Friend (Mr. Fielden), when he came to address the House, to explain how it was that he now wished to introduce an Act of Parliament which should restrain the operations of the working classes, by laying down laws and regulations which were to prevent them from carrying on their labour as seemed to them best? There was a manifest inconsistency in this view, which required explanation. The Bill of the hon. Member seemed to require that as to the working classes there should be one measure for everybody—that everybody should be of the same height, the same length, the same breadth, and the same strength; if any one were too long, or too strong, he must be cut down; and if any one were too weak, or too short, he must be stretched out. Such a principle, be was convinced, could not succeed, if it should be adopted. What, he would ask hon. Members from Ireland, were two of the greatest wants reckoned among the evils of that country? Want of employment, and want of capital. Why was there want of capital? Because there was a want of confidence. And this want of confidence had been carried to a melancholy extent as regarded the interests of Ireland, and to a most injurious extent as regarded the interests of the State; because labour had been lost which might have been beneficially employed, and the portion which might have become useful, had, on the contrary, now become a burden. What then, he asked, might be the consequences of interference, on the part of the Legislature, on this occasion? If England alone had to supply the whole world with manufactures, he should not fear any consequences. Our capital employed immense masses of the people; and if they interfered with it to prevent its fair and full operation, they would most assuredly risk the removal of a certain portion of those employed by capital. Whatever induced any manufacturer either to lessen his capi- 1077 tal, or to reduce the number of men he employed, to the extent of that reduction was the State injured, by the loss in the productions of the men so reduced, and by the loss of their wages. It might readily be conceived, that if England had the sole supply of the world with manufactures, as she had at one period, she might exact her own terms. The whole world must then be subordinate to her, as it was when she absorbed the carrying trade during the last general war; and there would have been no objections whatever to whatever rules and regulations were laid down in this country, seeing that, though they regulated the labour of other countries, they could not interfere. But what had since taken place? In America, for instance, what had been done there? Why, there were manufactories there which rivalled, if they did not exceed, ours. He had lately seen returns of the importation of American domestics into China and other parts of the cast, and he found that they supplied a large portion of the manufactures which the very spinners who called for this Bill were employed upon. If the competition so created and going on were to continue, he apprehended that those who were asking for the limitation of labour to eight or ten hours, would find eight or ten hours to be much to their inconvenience. The House must recollect that it was not a slight matter to interfere with fixed capital embarked in manufactures. It was well known that after defraying the expenses of individual labour and interest on capital, owners of mills had fixed expenses which they could not avoid. They had therefore to calculate, besides having the competition of the Continent and of America, what their expenses were—whether they could, after returning interest upon the capital employed, and paying adequate wages, obtain a proper and fair amount of profit. Mr. Senior had pointed this out in the clearest and most satisfactory manner. That gentleman might be a political economist; he was proud to call him his friend, and to say he concurred in his chief opinions. If hon. Members had not read Mr. Senior's pamphlet upon the state of our factories, and upon the hours of labour in them, he invited them to read it. If they did, they would find this result collected from impartial examination of a number of mills, that ten hours paid only the expenses of the "plant" and the wages of labour, and that if work stopped at ten hours, there would be no profit on the capital invested. 1078 [An Hon. MEMBER: How long has that calculation been made?] This calculation was made four years ago, but nothing had since occurred to diminish its accuracy. The surplus, then, whether it was one, one and one-half, or two hours, beyond ten hours, was the only time from which a remunerative return for capital could be made, without which it could not be expected that men would carry on business. If this view were correct, as he believed it was, for it was supported by the opinions and experience of practical men, he asked the House, and he asked his hon. Friend himself (Mr. Fielden), whether factories could be earned on if those hours were taken away upon which the profit of the manufacturer depended? His hon. Friend, he knew, had no occasion to borrow money to carry on his manufactories at six, five, or three per cent. The very diversity of interest, however, increased the charge upon the manufactured article, and compelled the manufacturer, who was so situated as to be obliged to borrow, to carry the hours of labour to a greater extent in order to make up his returns. Was it every man who could obtain money at 3½ per cent? Many men who had 100,000l. in manufactures, and whose credit might be good, could obtain loans to carry on their business at 3½ or 4 per cent, whilst a poorer man, though an equally good manufacturer, and equally entitled to protection, might not be enabled to obtain the same accommodation under 5 or 6 per cent. Nay, when a check took place in the sale of any manufactured article, many who were not able to sell were obliged to resort to their bankers to get their bills discounted at 3 or 4 per cent. and renewed, until the interest chargeable upon the sum borrowed amounted to 7 per cent, or even more. Was the same rule to be applied in all these cases? He repeated, he was sorry that the noble Lord was not present, because to him he looked, as the leader of that House and the guide of Her Majesty's councils, for an answer. He was glad, however, to see the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) in his place. He repeated that every interference which prevented men, whatever might be their talents, from employing their capital, and exercising their ingenuity under protection of the laws, in any manner they thought proper, was injurious and bad. In former days this was not the opinion of the Legislature; but twenty-five years ago it had fallen to his lot to submit to Parliament certain propo- 1079 sitions affirming this principle, which the House of Commons adopted and acted upon. These propositions, one of which he would read, embodied the sound and correct principles of political economy; and the innovations which had since taken place were violations of those great principles. In May, 1824, the House of Commons affirmed these principles, and thereby swept from the Statute-book sixty or seventy Acts of a restrictive character. After having relieved trade and emancipated commerce, were they to be so insane as again to place themselves under shackles and trammels? It would be madness, and he could not understand his friends who contended that such a policy was for the benefit of the people. The resolution he referred to was agreed to by a numerous Committee of that House, consisting of fifty-one Members. Among them were Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Sturges Bourne, Lord Stanley, Sir H. Parnell, and others of great weight and eminence. They agreed to this resolution:—It is the opinion of this Committee, that masters and workmen should be freed from all restrictions as regards the rate of wages and the hours of working, and that they be left at perfect liberty to make such agreements as they may mutually think proper; and that therefore all the statute laws that interfere in these particulars between masters and workmen should be repealed, and also that the common law which enacts that peaceable meetings of working men may be indictable for conspiracy should be altered.The alterations in the law consequent upon this resolution had been most beneficial. They had been highly approved of by the working classes, as would be seen by his hon. Friend (Mr. Fielden), if he would examine the evidence taken before that Committee. He repeated, then, that hon. Gentlemen who wished to return to those laws were thereby alleging that the working classes were unable to see their own interests, and taking from them a discretion which they were capable of exercising. On these grounds, he felt very strongly against the present measure. He wished the Government and the Legislature to be consistent. If the resolution of 1824 were carried by a protection Parliament, what had taken place since? Had not the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) introduced important measures upon the same principle? He was sorry the right hon. Baronet was not in his place, for he felt confident of his support; at all events, if he did not support his views, he would belie all the principles he had re- 1080 cently expressed, and stultify most of the acts of his life. Every Act the House had passed for the last three, four, or five years, had been to free industry, to emancipate capital, and relieve the mercantile interest from restriction: and it would be the height of injustice now, to say to men who were willing to work, "you shall not work except for such time as we permit." One man might like to work for twelve hours; another man for less; another for more, that he might support his mother, or his father. Then why should the law interfere? Parliament had no right to interfere either with labour or capital; and for his part he was prepared to sweep away every restriction that now remained, and to let one general and uniform principle of perfect liberty pervade our legislation. Having stated those general principles, he asked hon. Gentlemen to give him an answer to the following points: were they desirous that England should maintain her manufacturing superiority? If so, were they disposed to give fair play to capital and industry in this country? Were they aware of what was going on in Belgium and Germany? Was there any restriction to ten hours there? Was there any restriction in the United States? In the factories at Lowell they worked, in summer, twelve hours; and he had read a report drawn up by a committee of the legislature of Massachusetts upon a petition praying for a restriction in the hours of labour. It was a most sensible report:—We cannot interfere," said the committee. "We admit the evil; we wish we could lessen the hours of labour to all classes; we wish that every man could maintain himself and his family by eight or nine hours of labour per day. But we find it cannot be done. Our manufacturers have competition to meet in neutral markets, and we must leave them to their own exertions.The committee further stated, that the best means by which labour and capital could be employed, was to leave them free? If this principle were true in America, did it not hold good here? Undoubtedly it did; it was more emphatically in force here. He begged to caution hon. Gentlemen against doing anything to drive capital from its proper employment, and prevent the exportation of cheap articles of manufacture—for it was upon their cheapness and their goodness that the extent of our exports depended—aud every individual who interfered with these, to the extent of his interference did an injury to the class of people whose labour was interfered with—and when once they brought the popula- 1081 tion to ruin by this injudicious course of legislation, it would be too late to say, "We find we have inflicted an evil upon them, we must retrace our course;" for they would then be reduced to the same helpless situation in which Ireland now was. These were serious considerations, and upon them he appealed to that class of politicians who considered that certain alterations should be made in our laws, because we were more heavily burdened than any other country. He asked them, if capital and industry were paralysed, upon whom the responsibility would rest for the evils which would follow? The hon. Gentlemen who advocated this measure, might think that they were the best protectors of the working classes; but he would not yield to the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Bill, or any other hon. Gentleman, in the desire to see the great mass of the community happy. He wished to remove the load that pressed upon the poor man, and to put it upon the rich; and whatever interpretation might be put on his conduct in consequence of his opposition to this Bill, he would appeal to the common sense of any person whether he deserved to have such imputations cast upon him. Let them put their fingers on any one thing he had done during the last thirty years, and show from it, if they could, that his object was to press upon the poor man. During that period he had recommended that various changes should take place; but it would be found on examination, that there was not a single instance in which he had wished to press upon the poor. He might have been pertinacious—he might have been obstinate—which he admitted he had been on many occasions—in pressing upon the Government a reduction of expenditure and a change of taxation. This, indeed, had been the besetting sin of his life, if he had any. He was perfectly aware that he had given great offence to many individuals by the course he had adopted, and many had supposed that his interference in trying to stop some of the numerous rivulets which flowed from the public Exchequer, was owing to other motives than those by which he had been influenced; but he never cared what people asserted on that point, or what they did, provided they kept their hands off him. He begged them to look at the result of his labours, and by the result he was content to be judged. On that very ground he appealed, with all the zeal and anxiety possible, to hon. Gentlemen who, influenced, 1082 no doubt, by humane views, were supporting this measure—he appealed to them to consider whether its effect would not be to injure this country by interfering with its capital and the employment of labour. Ireland was at this moment suffering from the want of capital and employment. He cautioned the Legislature, then, to beware how they trammelled manufactures, or interfered with the enterprise going on in this country. They ought rather to let every man employ his capital as he thought best, provided he did no injury to his neighbour; and he could see no injury which resulted to his neighbour if he employed 20, or 30, or 500 working men, who were willing to work for him, and who were willing to make a bargain with him respecting that work, from year to year, or from time to time. It was forming, he repeated, a poor opinion of the working classes to suppose that they were unable to act for themselves in this matter. For himself, he had found among the great body of the working classes with whom he had come into contact, a greater degree of intelligence than the supporters of this Bill seemed to give them credit for. He suspected that the outcry in favour of this Bill was kept up by a set of individuals who were more influenced by a desire for their own enjoyment, and by a dislike to labour, than by any feeling for the rest of the community. At least, in any interviews he had had with workmen on this subject, he had never been able to extract from them any other intelligible reason for the change. They always flew off to the cases of children and young people, and talked of the necessity of doing this and doing that; but he found upon examination that all their anxiety centred in themselves. He cautioned the House to beware how they sanctioned rash experiments of this kind just now, when they saw the sister country suffering from the want of employment, and when they saw capital driven from her shores. Was this a time to try such an experiment upon this country? It was quite true that the House of Commons had sanctioned interference in previous instances; but he could be no party to the passing of any such measure as the present on the plea that this was not the first time they had interfered. He had fought against all these interferences—he was sorry to say without success—but he had done so honestly and on principle; and he now declared, not only had every such regulation been found injurious to the com- 1083 merce of this country, and to the very parties who were supposed to be protected by them, but that to interfere and stop employment, and divert industry out of its natural and proper order, had been found injurious in every country. Hence it was that in America the manufacturers were working more than ten hours; hence it was, that in other States of Europe our rivals were working more than ten hours; and were we then to place our manufacturers in a different situation, in a more disadvantageous position? If we did, we should lay the foundation of evils which would destroy the greatness of this country. Much was said by the country gentlemen about the value of agriculture. Now, his opinion had always been, that our agriculture would become as worthless as that of Poland if it were not for our manufactures and commerce. He had always looked at any interference with the latter as dangerous in the highest degree. It was for these and for other grounds, which he had no doubt would be advanced by some of his hon. Friends in the course of the debate, that he now moved, and he sincerely hoped the House would adopt his Motion, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ SIR G. GREY
said: Sir, it was not my intention to have addressed the House so early upon this question; but after the appeal of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to the Members of Her Majesty's Government, and the strong desire he has expressed to know the course they may take on the present occasion, I feel it due both to him and the House that I should at once state the course which I, as an individual Member of the House, am prepared to take. I believe every hon. Gentleman in this House is aware of the opinions which have been expressed by the several Members of the present Government, on the previous occasions on which this subject has been brought under the consideration of the House during the last few years; and they must also remember the statement made by the First Lord of the Treasury at the close of last Session, in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Finsbury, as to the principles upon which his Government would be conducted. I do not therefore believe that there are any who expect that on this occasion the Members of Her Majesty's Government should feel themselves bound to take one and the same course with regard to this measure. As to the remarks 1084 which have been made on the absence of my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury on the present occasion, I can only say that it was his intention to have been in his place to state his views on the question; and I have no doubt he will be here before the conclusion of the debate. I have just heard that he has been unavoidably detained, but that he will be here presently; and no one will believe that he can have any desire to shrink from a full and explicit avowal of his opinions upon this important question. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, has stated that he likes consistency in legislation. I hope he also likes consistency in public men. To his own consistency no possible objection can be taken. He at least has been uniformly consistent in his opposition to factory legislation; and his whole speech has been directed against the principle upon which the past legislation of Parliament has proceeded with regard to factory labour. To be consistent, however, in legislation, we ought rather to proceed than to retrograde, in the course on which Parliament has already entered. The present question is one not of principle but of degree. The question is, whether the point at which we have arrived, is the utmost limit to which we can safely proceed in the course we have adopted. But when my hon. Friend talks of consistency, I would ask him why he does not propose to repeal those Factory Acts which have been already passed? That is the real tendency of his argument; and I ask him to submit that issue plainly and decidedly to the House. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the report of a Committee of this House, to which I believe the consideration of the combination laws was referred, and he says, that in consequence of the report of that Committee, Parliament has swept from the Statute-book sixty or seventy Acts which contravened the principle that Committee laid down. That principle I believe a sound one; but why did not Parliament, in sweeping away those Acts, go the whole length the hon. Gentleman now recommends, and also sweep away those other Acts which he thinks ought to be removed, and thus completely enforce the principle of noninterference with labour? Parliament has not done so. It has made this an exceptional case; and I think there are just and sufficient grounds for making it an exceptional case. The subject has been so often discussed in Parliament, that I feel it would 1085 be unwarrantable in me to go at length into the consideration of the arguments which have been adduced on former occasions, and which will be, no doubt, again adduced in the course of this debate, against proceeding further in the course of legislation Parliament has already sanctioned with regard to factory labour. Nor, on the other hand, will I state those arguments which the advocates of the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Oldham have urged. In doing so, I should be but treading an already beaten track, wearying the House with statements which are not new, and troubling hon. Gentlemen with the repetition of arguments which have been already addressed to them with far greater force, perspicuity, and ability, than I can bring to the consideration of the subject. The only new feature, as it appears to me, which the subject offers on the present occasion, and to which we ought to address our attention, is, what is the present feeling of the public mind with regard to this question; and what is the prospect of that final settlement of the question, which, judging from past professions, I confess, I was inclined to think would have taken place, but which, I regret to say, now appears more hopeless—I mean that settlement of it which would be most satisfactory to all the parties concerned, and which should be effected, not by Act of Parliament, but by mutual agreement between employer and the persons employed. From all the information I have been able to obtain on that subject, my hopes are disappointed as to the attainment of so desirable a result by means so very desirable and unobjectionable. It would be, I repeat, infinitely preferable that, from a sense of the common interests of the employers of labour and the operatives, both parties could agree upon the time to which labour in factories should be restricted, without appealing to the Legislature. But I am informed that the arrangements of this nature which have been made, are very few in number, and that even where they have existed for a time, they have subsequently ceased in consequence of an inducement held out, of a higher rate of remuneration by those millowners who continued to work for a longer period. Such is the nature of my information; and I will not deny that the advantage held out by increased wages, will not have the effect of inducing many who are employed at short time for lower wages, to accept in preference that employment which gives for longer hours of 1086 work higher wages. But this is not a fair test of the real feelings of the people. There are other questions, such as those of Sunday trading, or the early closing of shops, on which arrangements made by individuals, are defeated by advantages gained by others who refuse to be bound by those arrangements. I do not say we ought to legislate upon these matters; but I say it is an argument in favour of legislation, that you cannot get persons to agree by common consent to one general arrangement, so long as there are persons whose interest it is to set that arrangement at nought. Where the object in view is practically right, the interference of the Legislature may become advisable. What, then, is the state of this question? I do not think it can be denied that there is a great desire on the part of the great body of the people employed in factories to see this question settled by legislative interference; and, on the other hand, I fear that there is still a formidable and general feeling of opposition on the part of the employers of labour to the settlement of this question otherwise than by the interference of legislation. ["No, no!"] The hon. Gentleman says "No, no." I admit certainly that I received the other day a deputation from gentlemen in the cotton trade, in favour of the present Bill; and I was informed that that was the first occasion on which a deputation of mill-owners had stated their desire to promote a Bill for the further restriction of the hours of labour. They stated that their opinion was in favour of the measure, and that they represented the opinions of others, who were not present on that occasion. But, on the other hand, I have seen a statement made by the majority of the employers of factory labour, which has led me to suppose that a feeling of decided opposition to further interference on the matter existed; and those parties supported their views by arguments which I am sure will be urged with ability during this debate, and which it is impossible we should overlook in the consideration of this important question. But when I examine the chief arguments urged against further proceeding in the course already taken by the Legislature, I find those arguments generally consist of predictions as to the evil results which may follow from adopting, even in a modified degree, the proposal of the hon. Member for Oldham. I find, however, in looking back to the discussions which have taken 1087 place within the last few years on the subject of the regulation of factory labour, that the same predictions then as now were confidently addressed to the House and the country as to the loss and ruin that would follow from the interference of Parliament in a question of this nature; and I ask the House now to contrast those predictions with the actual results which have taken place. I ask any hon. Gentleman, however strenuous an opponent he may have been to legislative interference in this matter, whether he can affirm that the restrictions imposed by those laws on factory labour have produced prejudicial results, and whether he is prepared, on the ground of experience, to resist further interference? And if Gentlemen are not prepared to show that the results of past legislation have been prejudicial, I ask them to show some candour and forbearance towards others who doubt the anticipations which they at present express of the loss and ruin that must follow from the adoption of the present Bill. But it is not only that they cannot affirm that prejudicial results have arisen, but admissions have been made, even by those who are most opposed to further interference, of the positive benefits which have resulted from past legislation. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorsetshire (Sir J. Graham), who entertains strong and conscientious opinions on this subject, and who has stated them on former occasions with great ability, distinctly admitted last year that benefits had resulted from legislation up to the point to which it had at present been carried on this subject. That these results have been beneficial, nobody can doubt. I will take the case of children under eight years of age. Is there any man, I ask, who wishes to see children of that tender age again admitted, by the repeal of those restrictions, to take part in factory labour, or to see children between 8 and 13 years of age subjected to the same number of hours of labour as adults are? There can be no doubt that, looking to the physical and moral welfare of children of that tender age, beneficial results have followed—beneficial results in which we cannot too much rejoice, from the interference of the Legislature with regard to the class to which I have referred. And what has been the consequence with regard to capital and the profits of manufacturers? During recent years, while these Acts have been in force which impose the restrictions I have mentioned, increased comfort to the people 1088 has been produced, the means of education have been extended, and there has been, simultaneously with those results, a great increase in manufactured productions. I need not refer to the reports of the inspectors of factories which have been from time to time laid upon the Table, and which all concur in stating the beneficial results which have been derived from past legislation, and the vast increase of productive power and manufacturing wealth which has taken place at the same time. We have, therefore, in favour of the principle now proposed by the hon. Member for Oldham, the benefit of experience; and we are not now going to take a step in the dark, since we know what is the result that has followed from the restrictions already imposed. The real question we have to ask is, whether Parliament, having undertaken to decide what are to be the hours of labour during which females and young persons shall be employed in factories, we have discharged the responsibility we have taken upon ourselves? With regard to children, I think we have done our duty. [Mr. HUME: What children?] Children in the sense of the Factory Act—children from eight to ten years of age. [Mr. HUME: That is only in factories.] Does the hon. Gentleman mean that we should extend those restrictions to all classes of children in the country? My answer is, that where children are not employed collectively, and in a manner in which restrictions can be enforced—for instance, children employed in agriculture—it is impossible to adopt a rule for restricting labour; and even the strictest advocates of consistent legislation must admit that legislation must be limited by the bounds of possibility. Parliament has done then with respect to children, all that can legitimately and possibly be done in this respect, and with great advantage; children can be employed in factories but six hours a day, and Parliament has provided that during the remainder of their time means of education must be provided for them. Imperfect and limited those means may be; but every successive report of the factory inspectors shows that those means are increasing, and that the character of the education is improving, affording ground for expecting satisfactory results in the future generations that may be hereafter employed in factories. In stating this, I am happy to say that a great deal of the success that has attended legislation on this subject, is due to the employers of labour, 1089 and the willing co-operation they have given to carrying into effect those measures that were passed on the subject. The reports of the inspectors of factories, which have just been presented, show gratifying instances of liberality and benevolence on the part of the owners of factories in providing the means of education for the children in their employment. These are only an addition to instances mentioned in previous reports which have been laid on the Table of the House, and which are, no doubt, familiar to hon. Members. While I agree in advocating the principle of the Bill which has been presented to this House by the hon. Member for Oldham, I cannot concur with those individuals who would utter a single word calculated to create ill-feeling and differences between the employers and the employed, whose interests, I think, are indissolubly bound up together. It would be most unfair and unjust to impute, even to those who oppose the Bill most strenuously, the slightest want of feeling or sympathy for the interests of those persons who are in their employment. The conduct of the greater part of those Gentlemen completely negatives any such presumption; and I feel that that is one reason for proceeding with caution in the course which the hon. Member for Oldham invites us to pursue, in order that we may avoid creating dissension between the employers and the employed, but rather lead them both, if possible, by a sense of common interest, to concur in an arrangement which is compatible with the welfare of each. Advancing from the case of children to the case of young persons from 13 to 18 years of age employed in factories, I confess I have the strongest opinion that the Legislature, having taken upon itself the responsibility of fixing the hours of labour for this class, has failed adequately to discharge its duty with regard to them. When I see children of 13 years of age, who, from being allowed to work only six hours a day in a factory—the rest of their time being devoted to purposes of education and recreation—suddenly transferred, without any restriction to the class of adults, and employed during the same period of time for which adults of all ages are employed, I must say it appears to me that our legislation is defective, and that the existing restrictions are utterly inadequate to the attainment of the object for which they were devised. Under the circumstances stated, the education of the child is stopped when it is anything but complete, and when the long hours of 1090 working are calculated to prove injurious to its physical condition. I am not now speaking of adult labour, but of the labour of young persons from 13 to 18 years of age, who work 12 hours a day, involving an absence from home of fourteen hours and a half per day. I last year threw out the suggestion that some extension might take place of the period of childhood—using that term in the sense in which it was employed in the Factory Act—so as to give the benefit of short hours and of education to the class of which I am now speaking. I do not, however, wish to argue the question, or to support the Bill before the House upon false pretences. I admit that it is a fair argument against the Bill, that, looking to the number of young children and adult females employed in factories, the restriction of the hours of labour for them to ten or eleven hours, will practically restrict the working of male adults to the same period. I am not in the least disposed to deny that fact. There might, perhaps, be some exception to the rule; it might be possible in some few instances for adults to carry the work on in a factory for some time after children and females should cease to work; but, generally speaking, adult labour will be restricted to the same hours as those to which the labour of children and females is confined. This immediately raises the question on which much will probably be said in the course of this debate—the question, namely, of the employment of capital and foreign competition. I do not wish to enter particularly into the consideration of a question which has not yet been discussed; but, as I said before, when I look to the predictions of anticipated evil, and, indeed, in many cases, of certain ruin, which were made on former occasions, I must be permitted to doubt whether similar prognostications are now entitled to so much credit as those who use them would have us believe. Looking at the great increase of productive power in manufactures which has taken place during the time the present Acts have been in operation, I believe that the result which would attend the adoption of the further restrictions now proposed, would be a more equal distribution of the labour employed in producing manufactures throughout the year. That is my conviction. I may be mistaken; the point is, I admit, of the greatest importance; but I cannot satisfy myself that the predictions of injury and the calculations of loss are not very much exaggerated. I cannot anticipate that the limitation of 1091 labour proposed in the Bill of the hon. Member for Oldham, will produce the injurious consequences which, it is confidently asserted, will follow it. I, of course, must speak with some diffidence upon a matter with which I am not so practically conversant as those from whom these statements come; but, judging from the experience of the past, and looking to the energies of both our master manufacturers and workmen, I believe that competition may be successfully carried on under a further limited restriction; and that there will be no fulfilment of the predictions which really constitute the sole difficulty in the way of legislation on the present occasion. In dealing, however, with the question of adult labour, I cannot concur in the view taken by the hon. Member for Oldham as to the mortality which he supposed to be occasioned by the existing system in the manufacturing towns. I alluded to this subject when the hon. Member introduced his Bill, on which occasion he adverted to a document recently laid before the public—I mean the quarterly return of the Registrar General of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. I then stated, that I thought that the document in question did not afford evidence of increased mortality amongst persons employed in factory labour, as compared with those in any other branch of labour, and that this could not be justly assigned as a reason why the House should restrict the hours of labour in factories. I think the advantage to be derived from further restricting the hours of labour in factories, is the opportunity which it will afford to young persons—an opportunity which they do not now enjoy—not only of obtaining recreation suited to their age, but also of acquiring moral and religious instruction, from which, after the age of 13, they are now in a great measure debarred. Then, again, with respect to women — though being adults, and therefore of an age to enable them to make arrangements for themselves, they are less entitled to protection than children—I think that a system which takes them from their homes during the whole of the day, having scarcely more than the time required for rest in bed, is utterly destructive of domestic economy and social improvement. With respect to the question of health, however, I am by no means satisfied that the employment of females in factories is more prejudicial than many other kinds of employment. When I last alluded to this point in the House, I had 1092 not the report of the Registrar General in my possession; but I have since examined the two last quarterly returns of that officer, and I find that they confirm the view which I take of the subject; for though these documents show that the mortality in large and densely-populated towns, compared with the mortality in the same amount of population in rural districts, is very large, there is no evidence to prove that between towns where factory labour is carried on, and other towns where no factories exist, there is any such difference in the ratio of mortality. In the return for the summer quarter ending on the 30th of September, 1846, the Registrar General, after stating generally the remarkable mortality which prevailed throughout the country during the summer, and which he attributed to the excessive heat, enumerated particular towns in which the mortality had greatly exceeded the ordinary ratio, and in some instances was doubled. Amongst the places thus particularly referred to, were Maidstone, Brighton, Portsea, Winchester, Oxford, Clifton, Ipswich, Norwich, Plymouth, Burslem, Dudley, Walsal, Nottingham, Lincoln, Manchester, and Liverpool; a list from which no inference can be drawn, unfavourable to the general health of the factory districts, or raising the presumption that factory labour was in any degree the cause of the increased mortality. The Registrar General's return goes on to state that—In the annual reports and quarterly returns, the causes of these differences in the mortality of the several parts of the country and the population, have been discussed. The high mortality of towns has been traced to crowded lodgings, dirty dwellings, personal uncleanliness, the concentration of unhealthy emanations from narrow streets without fresh air, water or sewers. The rapidity of decomposition, and the facility with which all kinds of animal matter become tainted, and run into putrefaction, enable us to understand, how in a summer like the past, in which the temperature was unusually high, the diseases referable to an impure atmosphere should be so prevalent and fatal.Other parts of the report are to the same effect. Both of the Registrar General's reports are well worthy the serious attention of the House, with a view to the adoption of the remedial measures which are suggested by the writer; but I think that the facts stated with respect to mortality are not capable of influencing the decision of the House upon the question now before it. Results similar to those to which I have already referred, are given in the Registrar General's last quarterly return, ending the 1093 31st of December, 1846. In that document the high rate of mortality observable in many parts of the country was ascribed to the prevalence of typhus, scarlatina, and other epidemic complaints, which had affected many towns, such as Newcastle, for instance, which appears to have suffered more severely than Manchester. In Liverpool, also, the mortality is quite as great, if not greater, than the mortality in towns where factory labour is carried on. I therefore feel justified in saying that the facts of the case amply confirm the view which I took of this part of the subject when the hon. Member introduced his Bill. The only passage in the Registrar General's returns which has any bearing upon the question before the House, is one in which he refers to the neglect of children by their mothers, which is, perhaps, carried to a greater extent in manufacturing districts than in other parts of the country. Still, looking not only to the Registrar General's returns, but to the reports of the respective registrars for Manchester and Liverpool, it appears that this species of maternal neglect is very prevalent in large towns, irrespective of the nature of the employment in which the mothers are engaged. The neglect to obtain medical aid, often essential to the preservation of life in the early stages of infancy, causes a great loss of life; and accordingly we find that the mortality amongst children under 3 and 5 years of age, is generally very extensive. I am not aware that it is necessary for me to address any further observations to the House. In what I have said, I have expressed my own individual opinions. I felt myself called upon to do so in consequence of the reference which the hon. Member for Montrose made, in the absence of my noble Friend, to the appeal which was made to him at the close of last Session by the hon. Member for Finsbury. In his answer to that appeal, my noble Friend, after stating what he thought essential with respect to a general agreement, amongst Members of a Government, upon questions of principle, claimed for himself and others freedom of thought and action as to matters of minor importance; My noble Friend expressed himself as follows, with reference to this particular question:—But now with regard to the Factories Act; I have already stated what I think should be the latitude allowed by persons who, in the present day, meet together in a Cabinet. I have given my vote in favour of shortening the hours in factories. I stated, I believe, in the last discussion on that subject, that if we went into Committee, I 1094 should be in favour of shortening the time to eleven hours by law. If such a measure be introduced again, I shall give my vote in conformity with those that I have previously given.My noble Friend then stated my agreement with him in opinion on this question, and the difference which existed between us and my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of Ireland, and added—I think an Administration can be carried on usefully with regard to the general interests of the country—usefully with regard to many topics of administration, and yet not have identical views upon this question of the factories.I have no doubt that in the course of this discussion, but certainly when the division shall take place, it will be apparent that a difference of opinion prevails amongst the Members of the Government with respect to this question—a difference which has all along been anticipated. Notwithstanding what has fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose, I still entertain my former opinion upon this matter—an opinion which I will not shrink from avowing. I am not insensible to the difficulties with which the question is beset, nor the magnitude of the interests which are involved in it. I feel that the magnitude of those interests, and the difficulties to which I have adverted, make it incumbent on us to proceed with great deliberation and caution in the course which the hon. Member for Oldham invites us to pursue. Agreeing with my noble Friend, I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill; agreeing further with him as to the necessity of exercising caution in a matter of this kind, and of not taking a single stop which cannot be justified by past experience, I shall, if the Bill go into Committee, vote for the clause which restricts the hours of labour to eleven instead of twelve; and shall vote against the clause which proposes to limit the hours of labour still further at the end of the year by restricting them to ten. I admit that it would be most desirable to settle this question at once and for ever; but I am not sure that, if we were to adopt ten hours as the limit of labour, we should prevent future agitation, unless that limitation could be fixed by the general concurrence of all parties interested. There are even advocates for an eight hours Bill. If the masters and workmen were agreed with respect to the limitation to be placed upon the hours of labour, I think it would be safer to adopt the basis of their agreement, and take our stand upon it; but unfortunately that cannot be done. I must, therefore, take the course which I think 1095 best in the circumstances in which we are placed. I think that the Legislature has not fulfilled the obligations which it has taken upon itself relative to factory labour. I also think that, as far as Parliament has gone, its interference has been attended with advantage to all concerned. Believing this, I do not feel myself justified in saying "No" to the second reading; but, at the same time, I cannot go the full length proposed, because I think it is necessary to act with caution in a matter of such importance. I, therefore, vote for the second reading, with the intention, as I have already stated, of opposing, if the Bill goes into Committee, the clause which restricts at a future period the hours of labour to ten.
§ MR. BANKES
observed, that the intentions of the Government had now been ascertained, and that it was satisfactory to know the question was not regarded in the light of a political or party one. It was not the case of an Opposition making an instrument of a Bill in order to annoy the Government; for it was a fact, that the head of the Government was prepared to give the second reading his support, and to vote for its going into Committee; and although the Government were not disposed, at the present moment, to aid those who asked for a Ten Hours Bill, they were not prepared to say, that, under no circumstances, at some future time, that description of legislation might not be the proper one. He believed he was authorized in saying, that those who sought for a Ten Hours Bill had not entered into any compromise. But if it were the pleasure of the Government to command all the strength which perhaps they might have the means of summoning, and pass the measure in the form of which they approved, it would be a satisfaction to those who asked for more to obtain thus much; and it would not be unsatisfactory to the public to have a year or two of experience to satisfy them, that so far from any loss being sustained, there would be in this further step of legislation a gain to all, in the same manner as gain had hitherto resulted from every step that had been taken towards reducing the restrictions upon factory labour. Though he regretted that the matter had not been made the subject of private arrangement, he could not say that he was disappointed in the expectation that such arrangement would be made; for he did not anticipate that result, although he had the highest authority for saying, that 1096 an arrangement of the kind was expected by one of the greatest opponents to the measure under discussion. He did not see that hon. Gentleman now in the House; but he was in the House since the commencement of the debate, and he had reason to believe he was in some adjoining chamber of the House at the present moment, and he, therefore, would not scruple to speak of the hon. Member for Durham as if he were present. [Mr. Bright at this moment made his appearance.] On the 23rd of May, last year, the hon. Member for Durham stated, in his place, that the proper way would be for the operatives to seek the effect of a Ten Hours Bill by arrangement with their masters. They desired it; and the hon. Member admitted they ought to have had it if they could get it by that means. Had those means been sought, or had any means been sought? and if they had, would the hon. Member for Durham say why they had failed? Had the proposals been made by the operatives to the masters? or had proposals been made by the masters to the operatives, with respect to that arrangement which the hon. Member admitted was so desirable—admitted was so just and right? or had the hon. Member changed his opinion from that time to the present? The hon. Gentleman appeared to have retained his opinion up to a late period. The hon. Member had been subjected to many questions lately—since he put himself forward as a candidate for the great commercial city of Manchester. The hon. Member had stood prominently forward, and openly courted the inquiry of those who might wish to hear his opinions; and, among other questions put to the hon. Member in December last, he was asked, whether he did not consider the necessity of time being allowed for education with regard to young persons in factories? And, in answer to that question, he said—Well, I am quite certain that the man who works ten hours a day is much more likely to be educated than the one who works twelve. I do not differ upon this point; but I differ on the point, whether a reduction of time ought to be carried out by the Legislature, or by a regulation between the masters and the operatives themselves.Had he quoted the hon. Gentleman right? [Mr. BRIGHT: That is correct.] He was, then, justified in asking the hon. Member, whether he had made any endeavour to promote that adjustment which, in the month of May last, he had stated to be not only right, but just? Had he, between 1097 May and December, made any such attempts? Between December and February, had the hon. Member made any such endeavour? or did he know of any such endeavour having been made? Was there ever, or could there ever have been, any period more favourable for such an adjustment, when the mills were partly closed—when the hours of labour were shortened, not by any mutual agreement entered into between the masters and the operatives, but shortened from other causes, which he would not at the present moment inquire into, but which showed, in point of fact, that no adjustment had been made. If it were the fact that no effort had been made for this purpose, what chance was there that that arrangement would be made now? There had been time for making the experiment; and since the hon. Member said that it ought to have been done, what chance, he again asked, remained that it would be done at all? The hon. Member for Durham was now a candidate—undoubtedly he had every right to be so—for the representation of one of the largest and most commercial cities in the country, the city of Manchester. The hon. Member might not have been in the House when a petition was presented, signed by 22,000 persons residing there, and with the leave of the House he would read the prayer of that petition. The petitioners said that they deeply sympathized with the factory workers in that large and important manufacturing city, many of whom were of tender years, shut up in a close room for a period in each day that was quite incompatible with their nature, and calculated materially to impair their growth; and they added, that owing to the long hours of labour these young persons were debarred from all means of enjoying the benefits of religious or secular education; that in consequence of the long hours of which the petitioners complained, the factory operatives were in a worse position than any other artisans, by which their physical frame was deteriorated; and if no relaxation were afforded, they would be mere representatives of the human body, without any of the vigour which should accompany it. They prayed therefore that the Legislature would pass a Ten Hours Bill without further delay. These sentiments emanated from 22,000 persons whom the hon. Member for Durham sought to represent in Parliament. True, they had no votes, but they were still the persons whose opinions 1098 and feelings he would represent. If the hon. Member, would, therefore, wish to please his future constituents, let him vote for this Bill, and thus render himself a more worthy candidate for their suffrages than he was at present. The hon. Member said last year that this was a fit and proper measure, which ought to be by some means adopted. There might be people in Manchester, perhaps, more powerful than the individuals whose names were appended to this petition; but he would not for a moment suppose that this consideration would influence his conduct now. He had, however, to recollect, that it was the expressed opinion of the hon. Member that this measure ought to pass; and, as it could not pass in the way of adjustment and regulation between the employers and the operatives, he (Mr. Bankes) called upon the hon. Member now to fulfil the pledge which he gave, and to carry out the measure by the only means left open, namely, a legislative enactment. A pamphlet had been circulated, which, although published two years before, had been only sent to him that day. That pamphlet contained grave charges against a most hon. person, and, containing such charges, he thought that it ought to have been circulated earlier, if at all. It was entitled, A Report of the Central Committee of the Association of Millowners engaged in the Cotton Trade. Now he would not allude to the personal charges which that circular contained against this hon. person, but he would to one passage which he happened to glance at, for he had had no time to examine carefully the contents of the document. That passage stated—It is useless to discuss whether the present arrangement of twelve hours a day for five days, and nine hours on Saturday, is precisely the best limitation for labour. It is the limit which Parliament has long since established, and by which it is right to abide.Now, the House would permit him to ask why it was "useless to discuss?" Was it useless to discuss this question? Could there be a better occupation of their time than to discuss whether that which was found a benefit to the people to a certain extent, should not be further extended, if any further additional benefit could be conferred? Could the House be better employed than in extending still further a measure which had been already found good? The quotation went on: "Usage 1099 and habit have accommodated themselves to this period." Why, that was said of the slave trade; "usage and hahit" had existed there for a long time, but that was no reason why that usage and hahit should be permitted to continue. "Upon the continued certainty of this limitation, the master manufacturer has based his calculation of a profitable return." Why, what right had the master manufacturer to base his calculation on this limitation? Had not this been a constant subject of inquiry—of proper inquiry—year after year? Had it not been constantly agitated in that House, and most justly agitated? Was there any reason why the master manufacturers, when the former law was passed, should speculate upon no further alteration of the law in all time coming? The hon. Member for Montrose had been pleased to say that he had got one besetting sin, and that was his universal advocacy of all reductions in taxation and retrenchments in expenditure. But the hon. Member had another besetting sin, and that was his determination to look with such intensity on one side of the question, that he omitted altogether to look at the other. Now, when the hon. Member for Montrose supported the resolution of 1824 to which he referred, he doubtless thought it the concentration of all human wisdom; but these Acts were based upon no abstract proposition; they were passed with caution; and their results had been tested by experience — Acts reducing the labour of those under thirteen years of age from seventy-four hours a week to thirty-six, and that of young persons above that age from seventy-four to sixty-nine. All these concessions had been universally admitted by every one but the hon. Member for Montrose to be attended with the happiest success, without any counterbalancing inconvenience to any of the parties interested. If the hon. Member for Montrose would but consider the matter fairly, he would find that the result of these restrictions were not at all unfavourable to our manufactures or to our commerce, For while in 1815 there were but 6,000 bales of cotton consumed weekly, in 1846, after the passing of these measures, the quantity of cotton consumed was no less than 30,000 bales per week, being an increase of no less than 400 per cent. "Oh, but," says the hon. Member for Montrose, "these people do not know their own interest." Well, 1100 then, if they were ignorant, why not let them be educated, and afford time for educating them? That was precisely what the advocates of short time proposed. At that moment, when an extended measure of education was being introduced into the other House of Parliament, surely some arrangement should be made by which the young factory operative, in common with all classes in the country, might be benefited. The measure, as far as the factory workman was concerned, was an insult to him, for it provided a large sum for educational purposes, from the benefits of which he would be altogether debarred. The hon. Member for Durham admitted that the man who worked ten hours, had more time for the purposes of education than the man who work ed twelve hours. Had the young person who worked twelve hours any time for education at all? He was compelled to devote twelve hours to work, and he required two hours a day for meals—where, then, could the time for education be found? What was the use of their grand scheme for the education of the people, if no time was afforded by which they could avail them selves of it? The hon. Member for Montrose had put an hypothetical case. "You cannot," said he, "pass an equal law for the limitation of labour, because the labourers are of different conditions in life. One has a father and mother, and another is not burdened with either." He (Mr. Bankes) said, give them all the advantage of the same law. He could see no distinction that could be safely made between the one labourer and the other. The House would remember that when this measure was first brought before them, they were shocked at the recital of the cruelties perpetrated in the factories; they had heard of the physical deformities which resulted from the nature of the employment. He had always heard and read those statements with much pain; with a belief that, intentionally, the manufacturers were not guilty of the cruelties imputed to them; and with the hope that the offences themselves were greatly exaggerated. He could not be indifferent either to the physical or to the moral deterioration of thousands of the industrious class. He was of opinion that this was the fitting opportunity for the enactment of a measure to remedy this evil. If they passed the Bill at this period, it would entail no inconvenience on the manufacturer, inasmuch as the hours of la- 1101 bour were limited on account of other circumstances. The hon. Member for Durham had been unable to carry into effect a measure which he himself declared was fit and proper, and therefore it behoved the Legislature to interpose a paternal care. He would give his cordial assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. M. PHILLIPS
said, as the hon. Member for Durham had had a speech made at him, as the Member for Manchester in posse, by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, perhaps the House, before hearing that hon. Member, would permit him, as the Member for Manchester in esse, to express his opinions on the question, which opinions remained totally unchanged. He trusted it would not be thought he had no sympathy with the working classes of this country if he took a different view of the subject from the hon. Member for Dorsetshire. But it was the duty of the representatives of great commercial interests to weigh well the consequences before they allowed their feelings to precipitate them into any particular course of legislation. He should act now on this question as he had acted from the first moment it was mooted in the House. He had seen nothing that shook his opinion of the unsoundness of interference with adult labour; and though the Bill simply sought to regulate the labour of young persons, yet its effect would be to draw under its operation those who, in point of age, were not the parties for whom they were legislating. They must, then, raise the question which it practically became—that of limiting the adult labour of the people; and he would ask this question, in limine, why did they press a kind of legislation on one class of the community which they were not ready to apply to another? The question was of vast importance to the weal or woe of hundreds of thousands of fellow-beings; and he confessed he was not prepared to pass through the gate they were opening, being persuaded the results would be most disastrous to the commercial interests of the country. He could not separate the interests of the employers of capital from those of the operatives; they were inseparably connected. Capital could not be withdrawn from a branch of trade without injury to those it employed; they could not fetter capital without tying the hands of those it set in motion. He viewed it as a great, a vast question; he could not 1102 agree that it was merely a question of humanity. The right hon. Secretary of State had, without intending it, drawn a false conclusion from preceding facts. He said he did not apprehend the evils of interference would be so serious as represented by the manufacturers, because opinions equally strong as to the injury the cotton trade would suffer, were stated when limitations were first imposed. But this fact should be recollected; hitherto they had only legislated as to the classes of persons and the number of hours they should be employed. They had never yet touched the working of mills or machinery; they had not yet assigned any limit to the number of hours a factory might work. If a degree of success had attended their past legislation, they could not draw from it any conclusion that they should come safe out of the great experiment of limiting the hours of working machinery. This was the great distinction he wished to point out to the right hon. Baronet. With reference to the measure itself, he was confirmed in the opinion he had repeatedly stated, that if they limited the number of hours of labour to ten instead of twelve, there must be a corresponding diminution in the wages of the operatives employed. They should recollect that work in factories was not paid like agricultural labour, by the day; all good farmers now tried as much as possible to set task-work, leaving it to the man's skill to produce as much as he could in a given time. That was the principle on which wages were usually paid in cotton factories; and inasmuch as the masters gave so much for a certain number of pounds of cotton twist produced, that system would continue in spite of all the legislation that House could effect. If they limited the hours of working, they would interfere not merely with the labour of women and children, but with that of adults and grown-up men; and to that he was not prepared to give his consent. If they carried out this work of legislation, where could they stop? What trade was there to which they could not extend a similar system of interference? How, if they interfered in this respect, were they to avoid interference with the employment of agricultural labour? He would beg of hon. Members to weigh well the consequences before they decided on taking so important a step. He knew how presumptuous it would be supposed in any individual, in or out of the House, attempt- 1103 ing to prophesy what the results might be; all he would say was, that he feared the consequences would be most serious to the national industry, and not in conformity with what was accepted as legitimate legislation. He did not ask for that kind of liberty in the question which was shown in their alternately talking about an eleven hours, a ten hours, or an eight hours Bill. He confessed, that if they were determined on making the experiment, he would prefer it being made in a manner about which there could be no mistake. He would much rather join hon. Members who proposed an eight hours Bill for all labour, rather than side with the party which suggested a middling, medium sort of legislation—which would go as far as the half-way house, and no further—and which set up no traceable test by which the merits of their suggestion might be tried. He could assure the House that he spoke on this question without any bias from personal interest. If such had been the case, he had endeavoured to divest himself of that bias; and he begged to state to hon. Members opposite, who might fancy, in looking at him as the representative of the millowners of Manchester, that he was deeply influenced by that fact in the view he might take of the subject, that, happily, he possessed no personal predilection which could have the slightest weight with him in the vote he should give. He looked at it simply as a great politico-economical question—he considered that a departure from the rules of political economy, as evinced in the attempt to legislate in reference to the time of labour, was tantamount to an attempt to regulate the wages of labour; and that if they ventured to touch them in one branch of industry, there was no earthly reason why they should not proceed to deal with them in all other branches. If they did make that attempt, most surely would they fail in the issue. He most sincerely regretted, when so much good and kindly feeling was being manifested towards the operative portion of the community, that they so erred in their efforts, that, with the intention of serving that class, they were taking a direction which could lead only to its injury. He admitted that he was addressing hon. Gentlemen whose purposes were most benevolent; but it was no offence to them to say they might, notwithstanding, be extremely ignorant of the practical details involved in the question which they urged 1104 upon the attention of the country. The House had, in fact, just heard a very frank admission from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, whose industry in making himself master of every subject before him was well known, while he gave a very decided opinion, that in practical acquaintance with the state of our factory population he was altogether deficient. Now, when such vast interests and such great numbers were concerned in the settlement of this question, it was surely not expecting too much that hon. Gentlemen would examine before they resolved. It was not, however, for him to catechize hon. Members, or to ask them what they really did understand; the answer would be to tell him to mind his own business, and to give them that credit for intelligence which they perhaps accorded to him. He would simply express a doubt if they were justified in proceeding with such little hesitation before they were familiar with the facts. He could easily forgive, in the cases of some, the mistakes into which they had fallen. He was aware that, from the very commencement of the discussion, representations and statements had been made of a grossly exaggerated character with respect to the asserted un-healthiness of the employment in mills and factories. He hoped he should not be misunderstood in his sentiments relative to their past legislation; he granted it had been most useful and beneficial. In the cotton trade, as in every other trade, as in agriculture, there were many men possesed of so low an order of mind as to be regardless of the well-being of their fellow-creatures, and who neglected the interests of those connected with them in the relation of employer and employed. To such men their past legislation had applied, and to them only. The individuals, however, who had sought to avoid the rules and regulations of the cotton trade, were to be looked for merely in those districts to which supervision had not been extended; and, that supervision having become available, they were no longer to be found. For a considerable period the millowners and cotton-spinners had attempted to keep pace with legislation; but they had continually found themselves thwarted by the men he had described, and who had endeavoured to undersell them in every market. He did not deny the difficulties which had surrounded their past legislation; but he doubted whether the right hon. Baronet 1105 (Sir G. Grey) had stated the case fully. They must recollect, in order to comprehend the result, that they had proceeded by degrees, beginning with children of very tender age; that, as they proceeded year by year, these children had progressed also, and therefore their regulations were now much better adapted to the existing state of things than at first. But while acceding to the supposition that when they dealt with the labour of women and children, they had done no mischief, he must protest, in contradiction to the views of the right hon. Baronet, that when they interfered with adult labour, they interfered with the investment of capital. He would not touch upon the question of foreign competition; but he apprehended, that if they sought to deny the free will of grownup labour, they would ultimately have to regulate the rate of wages. These were the opinions he entertained; he saw nothing but difficulties accumulating prospectively connected with this question. He did not undervalue the well-being of his fellow-creatures; and he was as anxious as the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken to see them well educated: but he felt himself compelled to weigh well the permanent obstacles to the course recommended. He believed that if the Government adopted the advice of hon. Members opposite, they would permit a measure to pass disadvantageous to the multitude. He desired that some improvement might take place, but not to be carried out in the way suggested; and he hoped, ere long, to see some means taken to lessen those evils which were inseparable, not only from the employment in mills, but from labour in every large and crowded community, and which they might find in the lanes and alleys of great manufacturing towns, and meet with in the streets of that vast metropolis.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
trusted that the hon. Gentleman, who had vindicated himself from any possible charge of being personally interested in the vote he should give, would permit him to say that there was no hon. Gentleman in that House standing in less need of such a vindication. Unnecessary, however, as he considered that protest to be, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow those who advocated this measure to make use of the same vindication. Until, indeed, he had heard the hon. Member for Montrose say that the Bill was supported on party grounds, he had little expected to have it declared in 1106 that House that there was the necessity, either in advocacy or in opposition, of such a superfluous attestation of integrity of motive. He should have thought that anyone, looking back to the past history of the question, would come to the conclusion, however hon. Gentlemen might have differed in their views, that in this, at least, all were agreed; that never was a great question, affecting largely the polity of a country, debated more exclusively on pure, on high, and on disinterested grounds. And when he thought of the hundreds of thousands who in this half-century had gone down to their graves, their hopes deferred, deputing to their children the advocacy of the cause they had advocated—when he thought of those children who had been left to die of over-toil, and how, over and over again, they had petitioned and protested, it must be conceded that their conduct of this great cause had been worthy of this country, and worthy of the great interests involved in its satisfactory settlement. It was not alone the soldiers who had perished in this thirty years' pacific war; the generals who had led the armies had one by one departed. Sir B. Peel might die and bequeath the contest to Sir J. Hobhouse; Sir J. Hobhouse might advance to a certain point, and there rest contented with his labours. Mr. Sadler might succeed to Sir J. Hobhouse, and fight with no apparent success; and, afterwards, the head of the veteran Mr. Oastler might become grey with years of disappointment. Lord Ashley might carry on the war to the eve of victory; and then, overcome by extraneous circumstances, yield the leadership—at least, in that House—to the hon. Member for Oldham. But still, never for a moment did the working men despond or despair; still and always they had manifested the same resolute will and indomitable perseverance; and now, at the end of this Parliament, in the year 1847, they had the question definitively brought before them by the hon. Member for Oldham. He had listened with patience and attention to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen against the Bill; and more and more had he become convinced that Lord Ashley, when deprecating, in the noblest language, the unparalleled act of the Government in 1844, most truly ascribed to its real cause that influence which the noble Lord was allowed to possess:—It is possible," he said, "nay more, it is pro- 1107 bable (for their efforts have been great), that Her Majesty's Ministers will be successful—that they will carry the day; but, for how long? If they would render their victory a lasting one, they must extinguish all the sentiments that gave rise to mine.In that sentence lay the secret of the indomitable will discovered, during so many years, by the working men and operatives of the north. As long as women had eyes to weep, and souls to pray—as long as men had hearts to feel, voices to utter, and hands to raise, so long would this struggle he continued; so long would those ill-gained victories be fruitless. And now, when the question was fully before them, let them consider what were the arguments which they had heard that day against the passing of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had aptly described them as the old arguments; but then a certain amount of novelty was to be observed in their application. There was this material difference, that, year after year, as the same arguments were advanced, so was their efficiency impaired. That which was a good reason in 1844, lost all its logical spell in 1845; that which carried with it conviction, or at any rate votes, in 1845, had no weight whatever in 1847. The House would recollect some of the old arguments. Let them take, by way of instance, the corn laws. It would be remembered—and those whose memories went not so far back could refer to the records for the fact—that, in 1832, the argument borrowed from the existence of the corn laws was used in opposition to any alteration; and they could not forget the consummate skill with which that argument had been wielded against them in 1844, by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester (Sir J. Graham). Lord Ashley had felt that argument so strongly that he resigned his seat in that House, and contributed, by the influence of his high character, as much as any man could, to the repeal of the corn laws. But did not the men of the north of England feel, did not the working men of civilized society all over the world feel, that, when the League virtually triumphed last year, the Ten Hours Bill would follow as a necessary and plighted consequence? But, even then, the right hon. Baronet battled with pertinacity and courage worthy of a better cause; like that other valiant border knight, without fear and without reproach, so celebrated in ancient song, when he lost his 1108 legs he fought upon his stumps; and the right hon. Gentleman produced the remnant of the corn laws as an argument still against the adoption of the Ten Hours Bill. Well, what was the case now? Would they have anything said about the corn laws on the present occasion? There were no such corn laws now in existence; and by the time this Ten Hours Bill was proposed to come into operation, there would be no duty whatever left on foreign provisions of any sort. But why waste words on so transparent a fallacy? It had served its turn, and he hoped it had now been consigned to the tomb of all the Capulets. And if there had been any force in the argument as to the high prices of provisions, or if the corn laws made any valid objection to the passing of the Ten Hours Bill, because of the high prices of the food in use among our manufacturing population, was not that moment a favourable opportunity for adopting the Bill? Inasmuch, now, as high prices for provisions were paid in spite of there being no corn law, and when production in the manufacturing districts could not be said to be excessive, the Bill could have no apparent result; for it was admitted by every hon. Gentleman connected with those districts that the mills were obliged to work short time. The effect would be, however, that when the current set in the other way, and when a favourable reaction occurred, then stability and security would be imparted to that reaction, in the stead of that wild, insane, and injurious reaction which hitherto had attended the recurrence of prosperity to the manufacturing districts. In order to show that they could not depend, as it was contended they could, on the wisdom and prudence of the master manufacturers on such occasions, he would quote to the House an extract from the monthly circular of Messrs. Ferguson and Taylor for February. They had heard last month, of mills being closed, of mills working four days in the week; and now they saw a recurrence, without apparent cause, to full time. Was this an indication of the prudence becoming the circumstances? Messrs. Ferguson and Taylor said—Stocks are daily accumulating, and must before long press heavily upon the market. Yet the spinners and manufacturers, with reckless infatuation, in the face of increasing stocks, of advanced prices in the raw material, and of a declining demand for yarns and goods, have for the greater part reverted to full time, and production within the last fortnight has resumed almost its former vigour.1109 Yes, it had resumed its former vigour, of course to be followed by a corresponding retrograde movement. And what could be the effect on the working man of such a system of never-ending variation? Could he who was not employed at all last week, and who was employed this week for a period of labour exceeding that decided by every medical writer as fit for a human being, and who would again be relegated to forced idleness next week—could that man be expected to acquire habits of sobriety and order, to be contented with his lot, and to regard with affection the institutions under which he lived? One of the main arguments to be urged in favour of this Ten Hours Bill—if they admitted, what was asserted always by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that a man could not do in ten hours the same work which he could do in twelve hours—one of its chief results would be found to be this: it would tend to spread over the surface of the year the very same amount of labour more evenly and more equally than at present. They were met by the assertion, in the second place, that even if the result were so, it would nevertheless be wrong to shackle capital and speculation; and that if they attempted to regulate the speed of manufacturing enterprise, they might destroy the springs by which it moved at all. Why, as well might they tell him, that—when a horseFull of high feeding, madly had broke loose,And borne down all before him,was subjected to the curb, and made to know his rider, his usefulness would be impaired, and his energy destroyed. And to show practically that this was not the case, he would corroborate what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, by referring to a table which appeared in the last edition of the great work of Mr. M'Culloch. The first great restriction upon the hours of factory labour was imposed in 1831. He (Lord J. Manners) found that, in 1831, the declared value of cotton exports was 17,182,736l.; in 1832, the amount was 17,344,676l. From that day to this, the value had gone on increasing; and in 1842, the last year mentioned by M'Culloch in that table, the amount was 21,670,127l. He thought this disposed of the argument that the markets of manufacturing enterprise had been narrowed by those restrictions. They had heard the prophecies contained in the cir- 1110 cular of the committee of manufacturing millowners; but the statement of the factory delegates was deserving of attention, as showing how baseless were the fears expressed, that the Bill would lessen the rate of wages. The delegates said—Night work has been entirely abolished. The hours of labour have been reduced from seventy-four to sixty-nine per week for all persons above the age of eighteen, except male adults. For all children below thirteen years of age, the hours have been reduced from seventy-four to thirty-six per week; and in every case the greatest benefits have resulted to the class of workers protected. On the question of wages, it was on every one of those occasions predicted that the price of labour would fall in proportion to the time reduced; whereas the contrary has in every instance been the result, and in several cases the money wages have been advanced.Looking then to the past, and relying on the practical experience they had had for the future, they were justified in calling upon the opponents of the Bill to make out an irresistible case—to demonstrate by facts and figures, of which there could be no doubt, that wages would fall in consequence of the legislation which they supported. The manufacturing operatives said, in the first place, past experience had proved wages had not fallen, and, consequently, were not likely to fall; but, in the second place, granting this point—that wages would fall—they said that the counterbalancing advantage to them would be such as amply to compensate for that loss. Those who had read the speeches of Lord Ashley would not think it was necessary to fortify that position. Lord Ashley proved and showed, in an indisputable manner, that falling wages would practically be made up in the increased attention which the operative would be able to pay to domestic concerns, in the increased facilities for household economy, and, last and most important, in the improved social condition of the inmates of the cottages. But the factory operatives most justly said, in addition to all this, that, by the repeal of the corn laws, they had been taught to expect one great clement in their expenses would have been reduced. He would confirm the statement of the factory operatives by an appeal to a very able and impartial work by a great free-trading authority—a work that ought to be read, he thought, by every Member of that House. Mr. Thornton, in his work on over-population, fully demonstrated that the operatives were not mistaken in supposing it to be for their interest that the hours of labour should be 1111 regulated. In discussing the bearing of Lord Ashley's proposal on the factory operatives, he said—Although, as an isolated measure, the limitation of the hours of labour is of very doubtful expediency, a simultaneous arrangement might easily be made, which would free it from every objection. A fall of wages would be of no consequence, if the price of provisions and other necessaries fell at the same time, so as to enable the operative, notwithstanding the decrease of his earnings, to purchase as much as before of every article required. It has been shown that free trade would reduce prices one-third. Suppose, then, that wages should fall one-quarter, the operative would, notwithstanding, be really better off than before. Besides, it is possible that the unrestricted entry of foreign previsions might serve to prevent the occurrence of a fall of wages..…. With this precaution (free trade), the adoption of Lord Ashley's plan, or even of one still bolder, would be an experiment of little hazard, which, if successful, would, by partially, at least, reinstating woman in her proper domestic office, contribute, more than any other single means, to the welfare of the labouring population of large towns.Well, then, if this "school of Manchester," as it had been called by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, was worthy of attention—if the reasons on which the corn laws were repealed were valid and sound reasons, viz., that the prices of provisions were to fall one-third, and our foreign trade was to be extended, then the factory operatives had a clear and undeniable right to demand the fulfilment of the promises made to them in this respect. But if, on the other hand, the Gentlemen representing the master manufacturers came forward and said they were grievously mistaken last year, but that they asked to be believed now; if they said, "We told you that provisions would fall, and they have not fallen; we told you that our foreign trade would be enormously increased, and it has not been increased; and, therefore, we ask you to believe that we are right, when we predict that a Ten Hours Bill will lower your wages,"—if they came forward with language like this, then he would say, that it was not because he undervalued the talents or the eloquence of those hon. Gentlemen, but because he was compelled by a plain and painful necessity that he said he could not, in future, place any confidence in them. But if this were felt to be a great and difficult question, and they were not willing to take upon themselves the responsibility of deciding it, then let them leave it to some impartial but competent men—to some intelligent, skilful, and honest arbi- 1112 trators. Fortunately, these were to be found in the counties most interested—in Yorkshire and Lancashire; and, therefore, this question was not to be left to the decision of the manufacturers only. There were classes in those districts who could satisfactorily decide this great question; and he must say that when they found there a most laborious, and intelligent, and intellectual priesthood, and a dissenting ministry not less worthy of regard, for the care and pains they took to promote the interests of their flocks, and, above all, when they found a most intelligent body of medical gentlemen, they might safely leave the arbitration of this question to such impartial and skilful arbitrators. What was the view taken by the intelligent medical class? and could there be in that House a doubt as to the opinion of the clergy throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire, when such men as the dean of Manchester, the vicar of Huddersfield, the vicar of Leeds, the vicar of Bradford, and so many others, all came forward, and told the House that, for the sake of the spiritual welfare of their flocks, they sincerely prayed it to pass this Bill? When they found the medical gentlemen, and the traders, and the merchants, and the landed proprietors, all equally at one on the subject, could they doubt, for a moment, that they were justified in leaving to those intelligent and impartial classes to decide between the masters and the men on this question? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department had given it as his opinion that the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) was not justified in drawing the conclusions which he had drawn from the statements of the Registrar General; but he would quote on the same subject the observations of a gentleman well known in the district to which he belonged—he meant Mr. Fletcher, the surgeon of Bury. In a letter dated February 7, 1847, that gentleman said—I have been professionally so much engaged that I did not know till yesterday that the second reading of your Factory Bill is fixed for Wednesday next, or I would earlier have communicated a few statistical facts, which so strikingly illustrate the effects of the present system, especially as regards the unavoidable neglect of their infants by mothers employed in the mills, that you may perhaps consider them worth using on that occasion. They came to my knowledge during an inquiry into the sanatory condition of different parts of this town, for the purpose of giving evidence on an Improvement Bill. Some years before, while 1113 preparing a report for the Health of Towns Commissioners, my attention had been attracted to the greater mortality especially of infants, in the factory districts of the town and neighbourhood, compared with those in which few mills existed. I, therefore, on this occasion, in calculating the average age at death in the better and worse conditioned localities, carefully distinguished the factory operatives from the other working classes. The result proved the average age attained by the factory workers and their infants to be somewhat less than one half of the other operatives in the same districts. In order to prevent any doubt as to the accuracy of these calculations, I may mention that on finding the age at death of the factory population in one district so low as eight years, which appeared really incredible, I went over the registers a second time, being assisted by a friend accustomed to such researches, when finding the extracts and calculations perfectly correct, an explanation of this remarkable result appeared in the fact, that of every 100 deaths a fraction over 61 are infants under the age of 2 years, while of the other operative classes, in the same locality, the deaths under 2 years are a fraction less than 33 in 100. I give below the average age at death, and the deaths under 2 years of factory and other operatives, in three districts, which, differing materially in their sanatory condition, and containing a large proportion of factory people, afford a fair comparison. The first is a town district, extremely ill-conditioned as regards ventilation, draining, and cleaning. In this locality, the average age at death of factory operatives is eight years, other operatives, 14 years; deaths of infants under 2 years, of factory operatives, 61 1–5th per cent; other operatives, 32 3–4ths per cent. In the registration district of Bury North, exclusive of the above, the average age at death is of factory operatives 9½ years; other operatives, 19 years; deaths of infants under 2 years, of factory operatives, 54 3–5ths per cent; other operatives 33 1–3rd per cent. In Woodhill district, lying a short distance from the town, and particularly well situated as regards the health of its population, the general mortality of the northern suburb, of which it forms a part, being 1 in 44 3–10ths, which is, I believe, about the average of all England, and being in this particular locality 1 in 40, the cottages of the operatives being also more roomy, better ventilated, and more cleanly than is generally the case, we find the average factory age 10 years; that of the other operatives 21½ years; the deaths of infants under two years, of factory parents, 56 per cent; other operatives, 33 per cent. In some other districts the disparity appears even greater, but the proportion of factory workers is so small, that I do not consider the test a fair one. I have only further to state, that these calculations are made on an average of seven years, and include every death that has occurred in these localities. They appear calculated to rebut the assumption, that it is the condition of large towns, and not the employment in factories, which produces the awful mortality, particularly of the infant population in the manufacturing districts. This, you are aware, has been strongly maintained by several medical practitioners and others. It was to disprove this fallacy that I endeavoured, as far as possible, in making these investigations, to ascertain the relative effect of the two sources of disease and premature mortality; and I am the more especially 1114 induced to forward you the above extracts from the tables I have constructed, as Sir George Grey appears to have adopted an opinion which I am convinced will prove to be founded on a hasty and superficial examination of this important question.In corroboration of this view taken by Mr. Fletcher, he might state that in a supplementary report presented to that House by the Factory Commissioners in 1834, it was stated that in one year, in Manchester, out of 1,000 deaths, there died under two years of ago 424 children; in Liverpool, out of 1,000 deaths, 362 children under two years of age; while in London, out of 1,000 deaths, there died 308 children under two years of age. Those results too plainly showed how the homes of the poor factory workers were desolated by the long hours of labour. They showed to them the Saxon matron, like the Hebrew mother of old, weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because "they are not." They showed them the cradle rifled of its fairest treasures; they showed them the funeral decked in white, to prove that the departed one had gone to join the army of the innocents. And, on this ground, he appealed to the House whether a case had not been made out for the passing of this Bill? Those extracts, he thought, proved not only that the passing of the Bill would not diminish trade or lessen wages, but that no schemes for the moral or social improvement of the operatives could be successful without that restriction of the hours of labour. He had heard it said in the free-trade-hall of Manchester that it was in vain to attempt to give education to the people—that it was in vain to establish lectures and institutions for the amusement and instruction of the people, if they did not at the same time provide them with the necessary hours to instruct themselves. And if this was true of milliners and shoemakers, of hatters and paperstainers, was it less true of workers in the factories? No! but it was answered they were agreed as to the end; it was the means only by which they sought to attain it that were objected to. Now, he for one, if he could see that there was any rational hope of such arrangements being come to as were proposed by the hon. Member for Montrose; if he could hear of a general movement in the factory districts in favour of that mode of settling the question; if he could hear of thousands of master-manufacturers signing a bond to obtain this most desirable object; if he could hear of another quarter of a million being raised to insure 1115 the success of the scheme, then he would say there might be some solid foundation in fact for this argument. But when he heard of funds raised, not for such an object, not to promote such a measure, but to gratify the pride, perhaps the laudable pride, of the leaders of the master manufacturers, he should regard the working men of the north of England as the easiest dupes who had ever been practised upon if they should relax their exertions on any such groundless considerations. No! In a question of this kind, affecting the polity of the country, affecting the lives and the moral and social welfare of their fellow-subjects, the result was not to be left to the remote possibility of some unconceived, and as yet unexplained, regulations to be made between masters and men. They did not so deal with interests of far less importance. They did not wait till the rival companies who navigated the Thames agreed to regulate among themselves the speed of steam-boats; they did not wait till the master builders joined in a mutual bond that they would pay all due regard to the sanatory regulations necessary in constructing dwellings; they did not ask whether master chimney-sweepers would, of themselves, consent not to send climbing boys up their flues; they did not wait till the coal-masters agreed that they would put a stop to the practice of harnessing women to coal-trucks; they did not wait till the proprietors of the slaves in the West Indies made arrangements with those slaves to emancipate them—these, and thousands of other instances, could be adduced where they did not wait for private arrangements, but vindicated the imperial majesty of the law; that law to which Hooker said—"All things on earth do homage, the very least, as feeling her care—the very greatest, as not exempt from her power." No! they brought the majesty of the law to settle all those questions, and to vindicate the rights of the powers that were ordained of God, to watch over and protect the lives and happiness of the people. When hon. Gentleman objected on principle to legislative interference in this matter, they ought in consistency to object to interference in all other matters. Could the hon. Gentleman opposite, or the school of philosophy to which he belonged, say they disapproved of interference, after the fact that they had interfered and were interfering in a thousand instances? Could he persuade weakness to put itself at the mercy of power—poverty at the command 1116 of wealth? Could he persuade mankind that kings, and governments, and legislatures had been established in order to do nothing in these matters? And if this were not the case, if all the governments of all parts of the world, and in every period of the world's history, had interfered to protect and watch over the weakest and poorest of their subjects, then let them point out to him, if they could, a more feasible, a more safe, and less objectionable mode of interposition, and give a more noble and glorious reason for interference than that which was now presented. It was not by the mere assertion of some abstract principle that had not yet been carried out, and which, if carried out at this moment in the sister kingdom, would consign millions of their fellow-beings to certain and inevitable deaths—it was not upon such grounds that they could refuse to pass this Ten Hours Bill. He almost owed an apology to the House for having said one word on this part of the argument, after the able speech last Session of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh—a city which he rejoiced to think was, with its acute and intelligent population, and its active and energetic Kirk, entirely with them on this question; while last, but not least, its "buff and its blue" was also on their side; for he had read in the last number of that philosophical organ an adhesion to the cause for which he was contending. The remarks of the Edinburgh Review were so pointed and germane to the matter, that he could not part with this portion of the subject without reading them to the House. It said—Once admit the principle that Government may rightly exercise such influence—and the usage of every day sanctions it—and every case seeming to call for it is to be argued on its own merits. And so it must be with reference to the limitation of the hours of labour, the most knotty question of this class now before the public. Its supporters urge that the duration of labour which men will engage to undergo, is too much for their bodily and mental health. They say that even high wages, thus acquired, bring little of blessing with them to men spiritless from over-exertion—in homes rendered squalid and uncomfortable, because there is neither time nor inclination left for the exercise of household economy. They say that hasty marriages, early deaths, constant improvidence, brutish and irrational habits of living, are the necessary concomitants of a state of things in which the whole six days are devoted to toil. They even affirm that man deteriorates with these evil influences, not only in his higher qualities, but also in his inferior capacity as a machine of production, and that, with shorter labour, he might do more or better work. The time is surely past for answering those arguments by mere assertion of ge- 1117 neral doctrine. Fair reasons must be given for supposing that the point has been already reached—some point there evidently must be—at which further interference would do more harm, by diminishing the productiveness of the fund for the maintenance of labour, than it could do good by its influence on the character of the labourer. And since every step which the Legislature has hitherto taken in the same direction has been met with similar objections and denunciations, none of which have yet been realized, the burden of proof seems to lie rather on the opponents than supporters of further reform.He asked the House whether such proof had been furnished or not? He ventured, at the outset of his remarks, to characterize the arguments of the Members for Montrose and Manchester as the old and often-refuted arguments. One observation formed the main burden of their song, and it was, that the foreign trade of the country would suffer if this restriction on the hours of labour were granted. The hon. Member for Montrose said—Look at Prussia and America, and at the long hours of labour in those countries. Now, he must direct the attention of the House to the fact that, since 1839, no person under the ago of 16 was allowed in Prussia to work more than ten hours a day; and that, practically, throughout Prussia the hours of work for all were eleven hours. He would also direct their attention to the fact, that the commissioners who had been quoted by the hon. Member for Montrose, and who had reported on the state of Lowell, in America, lamented the stern necessity which made them maintain the system of long hours. What were the reasons urged by the commissioners? Why, that they (the Americans) were exposed to competition with another country. What country? Why, this country; and so, in addition to the injustice we inflicted upon the working men of our own country, we compelled the Americans, against their will and desire, to work their manufacturing population beyond what they thought fair and just to them. He thought that every impartial mind was convinced that our foreign trade had not suffered by the past reduction of the hours of labour, and no case had been made out to show that it would suffer; and if so, surely the time had arrived when, for the sake not only of the working men and working women in the north of England, but of the master manufacturers themselves, this great question, which had been at issue for so many years, should be finally set at rest. He asked the present House of Commons, was it prepared to defer it, 1118 and leave to another Parliament the settlement of the question, for the reasons which had been urged to-night by the few who had spoken against it? Was the House of Commons, which represented the working men of the north of England, as well as the master manufacturers, prepared to reject such a measure as this?—a measure which had for so many years enlisted the feelings, the sympathies, and the support of the working men and working women of the north of England; which had in its favour the opinions of the clergy, of the dissenting ministry, of the medical men, of all the impartial classes in that part of the country; a measure which was based upon the experience of the past, the favourable results of which were a pledge of future beneficial effects. Would the House of Commons reject such a measure, because some hon. Gentlemen (and their number was not very great in that House) were pleased to assert that it did not altogether square with their notions of economical science? Should it do so, and should the House most unfortunately come to a conclusion adverse to the second reading of this Bill, they, at least, on that (the Opposition) side of the House, would retire from the contest undismayed and undeterred by so great a defeat, and without despairing of future success. They would retire encouraged and cheered by the reflection that, as all former defeats and disappointments had but stimulated the exertions of their toiling clients, so this would but lead to fresh endeavours, and animated by the gratifying conviction that they, the Tory Gentlemen of England, had maintained their just and historical position; that, consistently with the character they had over aspired to, they had fought the fight of the poor against the rich, and had been fellow-soldiers with the weak and defenceless against the mighty and the strong, and to the best of their ability, had wielded the power which the Constitution reposed in them, to protect and defend the working-people of this country. He trusted, however, that the Bill would pass into a law, and that this protracted struggle would be determined—protracted, indeed, but not necessarily ceaseless: to be terminated, if they so pleased, that very day, and terminated amidst the acclamations of millions, and the blessings and prayers of a toiling and a patient people.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was very sorry that the noble Lord who had just sat down had intro- 1119 duced into the course of his speech a tone which he had carefully abstained from previously, and which he had in fact deprecated in the earlier part of his observations. He was very sorry that the noble Lord had made any allusion to party questions in the discussion. He had hoped that it would have been discussed apart from all party feeling, and that it would be decided on the reason of the case. When, however, the noble Lord claimed for the Tory party in that House the character of exclusive protectors of the interests of the poor, the noble Lord should also bear in mind that those hon. Gentlemen who disagreed with him had the merit of having passed a measure which gave to the mass of the people the main article of subsistence at the cheapest possible rate, to which measure the noble Lord and that party who acted with him had given their most strenuous opposition. He did not wish to pursue the subject further, or to say much upon the present question, which had been so repeatedly before the House. He believed that all parties in that House were actuated in respect to this measure by a sincere desire to befriend the poor. The noble Lord had said that the arguments against the Bill before the House had no novelty—that they had been often repeated, and inferred their inefficiency from those facts; but he very much doubted if, old as they were, and wanting novelty as they did, the reply of the noble Lord had refuted them. Nothing now, he was well aware, could be said upon the subject; and he should not have now trespassed upon the time of the House but for the changed aspect in which it came before them, as regarded the course taken by the Government, in consequence of the political changes which had occurred since it was last under discussion. On the last occasion that the Bill was before the House, it was opposed by the late Government. Since then a change had taken place in the Ministry; and some of his noble and right hon. Friends near him felt it to be their duty to give their support to the question, as they had given it before that change had taken place. But he himself, maintaining, as he did, the self-same opinion which upon former occasions he had expressed, felt it necessary to explain very shortly the grounds upon which he did so, lest the opinion which his right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) had expressed should be supposed to go forward to the public with the weight of Government authority attached to it. Every in- 1120 dividual Member of the Government would follow on the present occasion the course which he thought right; and he felt bound to take care that the opinion he maintained should not be prejudiced by the supposition that it was opposed by the authority of the Government. The noble Lord opposite had assumed the character of protector to the working classes, because he supported the question before the House; but he believed that he was their best friend when he opposed it. He was as much a friend to the poor man as any Gentleman in that House; and if he were disposed to overlook the other immense interests which were involved, and to consult those only of the working man, he could not give his consent to such a measure, as he believed it would be most injurious in its results to them. In fact he considered that he could not do the working man a greater injury than by acceding to that measure. The question at issue was, whether the working man could be benefited or injured by diminishing the amount of his labour. The advantages of what had been already done in respect to children, he had not the slightest intention to dispute; neither did he mean for a moment to deny that children and young persons were entitled to the protection of the Legislature, as regarded the amount of labour required from them. The object of the Bill before them, however, was the limitation of adult labour, not of young persons and women only, but of all factory labour. To the credit of the delegates from the manufacturing districts, they had all fairly and openly acknowledged that such was the object. It would therefore be but time wasted to discuss it on any other footing than on that of a Bill for limiting all labour in factories to ten hours a day. In spite of all the eloquence of the noble Lord on the other side of the House, he should call upon hon. Members to consider, before they came to any conclusion upon the subject, what would be the effect of the measure upon the wages of the working man. It might, no doubt, be a benefit to the poor operative to have his parks, and his Athenaeums, and his lectures, when he could find leisure to enjoy them; but he maintained that it would be a far greater benefit to him that he should not be deprived of one-fifth or one-sixth of his means of subsistence—of the means of purchasing the necessaries of life for himself and his family. However glad he should be to see the la- 1121 bourer, therefore, in possession of the time for recreation, and the inclination for it, too, he considered it was a matter of much greater importance to his welfare that his means of subsistence should not be curtailed. That argument had not been fairly met by any hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House in dealing with the bearings of the whole question. By diminishing the hours for labour, the House would increase the cost of production, and that cost would either fall upon the profits of the manufacturer, or the wages of the artisan. If the same quantity of goods were to be produced, the fixed capital necessary for its production must be increased. This would cause either the price of the article to be increased to defray the increased cost of production, which would diminish the consumption; or in order to maintain the same consumption, the cost of production must be diminished in some way or other. This diminution must fall either on the profits of the master manufacturer, or on the wages of the workman, or be divided between both. If that was the fact—and the arguments of the noble Lord did not gainsay it—who could say, bearing in mind how large a portion of the trade of this country was a foreign trade, that the price of our manufactured goods could be raised? If not, then the cost of production must be lessened: if that occurred, profits, or wages, would have to bear the loss, or they must share it between them. Firstly, then, could profits be reduced? It was true that large fortunes had been made in the cotton trade by some individuals; but it was equally true that many had been ruined in it. And when the House looked at the speculation which existed in building mills, and the amount of capital engaged in it, he was satisfied that they would come to the conclusion that the average profits of that trade did not exceed the average profits of any other trade, or that which was required in fact to carry it on. If profits were of this description, they could not be reduced without a risk of destroying the manufacture; and if they were not reduced, but the reduction fell upon wages, there would be a perpetual struggle carried on between master and operative. As to the rate of wages, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) asked the House, however, whether in the end master or man was most likely to succumb—the master, who had the power of transferring his capital to foreign countries, or the workman, who was, comparatively speaking, tied to the 1122 soil? Which of these two classes would be most likely to shift the burden off its own shoulders upon those of the other, the House would easily guess. He believed that a reduction of the hours of labour, therefore, would cause a reduction of the wages of labour—wages which, in bad times, or seasons of scarcity and general local distress, were insufficient to support the workman, and which at the best were not more than enough to find him the necessaries of life, and a very few inexpensive comforts. That being the case, he maintained that the Bill before the House, if adopted by the Legislature, would inflict a far greater injury upon the working man, than any advantage which the noble Lord had shadowed forth. The noble Lord had spoken of the principle of interference, and argued in favour of its unlimited extension, on the ground that it had, in some few instances, been adopted by the Legislature. But why, he asked the noble Lord, was factory labour singled out as the sole object of legislative interference? If the principle was right as regarded factory labour, it was right as regarded every other kind of labour. The reports which had been made to Parliament from time to time showed that there were a number of other trades in which greater injury was inflicted upon human life than in factories. Indeed it could be shown that in towns where various trades were carried on, those operatives employed in factories were the least affected by mortality. And as far as his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) experience went, he had no reason to believe that factory workpeople, or children in factories even, were subjected—at least in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the place with which he was best acquainted—to any degree of labour which injured life, or which was even detrimental to health. Many Gentlemen on that side of the House had strongly deprecated any limitation of the hours of labour for adults; and he entirely agreed in opinion with those who were prepared to resist any interference with that class. He saw nothing in the circumstances of the case to call for such limitation of labour. His own conviction was, that workmen had in their hands the power of shortening the hours of labour, if they chose to exercise it, without the need of appealing to the Legislature; and his conviction likewise was, that they pressed forward the Bill before the House, because they believed that if the hours of labour 1123 were shortened by legislative enactment, they would still receive their present wages. Those hon. Gentlemen who imagined that the same wages would be paid for ten as for twelve hours' work, were consistent in pressing on the measure; but those who believed that wages would be correspondingly reduced, would not be consistent if they supported it, because it would be to force lower wages upon the workman. But he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did not believe that the workmen, as a body, wanted the Bill under these circumstances; and he would refer to what passed in the borough which he had the honour to represent, in proof of his conviction on the subject. No one was more anxious that the hours of labour should be shortened, if it could be done consistently with the mutual interests of the masters and men, than he was; and he had, accordingly, suggested to some of the manufacturers in Halifax, to endeavour to effect an arrangement with their men upon this subject. But he found that neither party were, in their consciences, convinced, upon the point. At the close of the last Session of Parliament, he had spoken to one or two master manufacturers of that borough, suggesting to them to try working with short time, and a corresponding reduction of wages. An offer was accordingly made by one of the largest millowners in Halifax, and by others also in the vicinity, in the shape of a declaration, that they would work short time, unless the majority of their hands wished they should not. The first statement he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should make, was the result of the experiment made by Mr. Ackroyd, than whom, many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would bear witness, there was not a more respectable nor honourable man in existence, and of whom, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would say, there could be no one more anxious to try the experiment fairly and fully in every particular. A placard was accordingly posted in his four mills, that from a given day he would work short time, unless he was distinctly requested by his hands to the contrary. In the first mill, all the hands signed for a preference of the 12 hours and undiminished wages: in the second mill, 165 signed for the long hours, and 75 against them: in the third mill, 59 only signed for the long hours; on which Messrs. Acroyd announced their intention to commence on the first day of the following October to work short time 1124 in that mill. Before the day arrived, however, the workmen sent a deputation to induce the firm to continue to work long time. In the fourth mill, which was a weaving shed, the parties worked by the piece. They did not sign the request to work long time, and consequently in that shed the hours were reduced from 11½ to 11 hours. Here, then, the parties working by the piece were masters of their own time; but these very parties who had had their time reduced to 11 hours, were so anxious to continue working their usual time, that they had since given up half an hour which was allowed them for meal time: they had given up that time, and were now working the same length of time as before, only in a smaller compass. This experiment, then, had been fairly and fully—indeed, he could answer that it was fairly—tried, and that the resolutions come to by the workmen were their own act and deed, and that they preferred the long hours. He, therefore, must believe it as indisputable, that if the workmen were anxious for short hours, it was from the full belief that with short hours they would continue to receive the same amount of wages they now received from the long time. In five other mills at Halifax, the majority had also signed for long hours. In the first of these mills all signed for long time; in the second a majority of 50 signed for long time; in the third a majority of 40 signed for long time; in the fourth 103 were for, and only 8 against, long time; and, in the fifth mill, 276 were for, and 126 against, long time. Now, he did not think even in these cases that there was the slightest reason why the parties should have had long hours, if it had not been requested by themselves that they should have them; and he must therefore look to this as a strong proof that the long hours were preferred by the workmen. What had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, he gave them credit for fully believing, and he could not quarrel with them for acting on that belief; but this he did say, and that which he believed, that a reduction of wages would be the inevitable result of a reduction of time. It by no means followed that they should accede to the request of the workmen, merely because they had made a request, for he believed they had made that request under a total mistake of what should be given to them. He was so little able to address the House, that he would not go further into the subject. Putting, however, aside for a moment the interest of the artisan employed in mills, he begged 1125 to say that the question equally affected a large number of persons who were dependent on various occupations connected with the trade of factories: all who were dependent on the production of the raw material and the preparation of the material; all who were employed in the subsequent preparation of the goods, the finishing, packing, carrying, shipping, and exporting the manufactured articles; these and others were equally concerned in the question of shortening the hours of labour. If the hours of labour were shortened—if the consumption of the material was diminished, and the manufactured production also diminished—they not only affected the interest of the factory operative, but they affected also the interest of large bodies of men on either side of him, who had no opportunity of expressing their opinion on the subject. These were important considerations, and ought by no means to be left out of view when arguing the question, though he was unable to go into them at length on the present occasion. Taking the subject, however, on its narrowest ground, the interest of the working man—taking it on the ground on which the noble Lord had placed it, and saying that he was as willing to meet the noble Lord, as to do what was beneficial to the working man; he was bound to declare that, differing from the noble Lord's views as to what was likely to prove beneficial, he must as conscientiously give his opposition to the measure, as the noble Lord had conscientiously given his support to it.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
was quite ready to admit that in deciding upon a question of such vast importance as the present, they should take care not to be led astray by false notions of philanthropy on the one hand, but he was equally convinced on the other hand that they should take care that they did not fetter their judgment by the cold theories of political economy. He was quite ready to admit that they should bring every useful argument to bear upon this subject; but he must say that the patient endurance, the earnest but at the same time the conciliatory and kind language that had been used by the factory operatives towards their employers, must give them all a desire to grant their wishes, and induce them to believe that what they demanded was founded upon justice, and justice alone. He did not intend to found any argument upon the repeal of the corn laws, because he had always been of opinion that the maintenance of those laws was conducive to the inter- 1126 ests of this country; but he might go thus far—he might be allowed to remind those hon. Gentlemen, who thought that the maintenance of the corn laws was unjust, that they had made a kind of compact with the factory operatives that if they succeeded in procuring the abolition of those laws, they would be prepared to support a Bill for shortening the hours of labour in factories. He thought that both practice and theory were in favour of the shortening the hours of labour. He did not mean to say that the effect of the legislation that had been already made on this subject, was a proof of the desirableness of their proceeding still further in shortening the hours of labour; but he did say that the feelings of humanity and common sense demanded a reduction in the hours of labour. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the wages of the operative must be reduced if this Bill were passed. He was quite ready to admit that when they reduced the number of hours that the operative had to work, the master manufacturer might find it necessary to make up for that deficiency of labour by employing more hands. But he thought likewise that if they did employ more hands, the number of workpeople remaining the same, as an inevitable consequence from the principle of competition amongst manufacturers, the wages of labour must be raised. On those grounds he was, therefore, of opinion that they would confer a great boon upon the operatives in the manufacturing districts by shortening the hours of labour, as this Bill would not materially, if at all, reduce their wages. He had no doubt that if the wages were not reduced, they could not by any other means raise the same quantity of manufacture and of produce as they did at present. He thought that women who now were labouring in factories would produce more in proportion if they worked only ten hours. He thought that the reduction in the produce of labour would not be equal to the reduction in the hours of work. There was another argument also that had been brought forward by his noble Friend, which was to the effect that if they passed this measure, it would not diminish the amount of labour, but spread it more equally over the surface—that they would not have the overproduction and overworking at one time, and a deficiency of employment and stagnation in trade at another. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the factory operatives pre- 1127 ferred the present hours of labour and wages to a reduction of the hours if accompanied by a corresponding reduction in their wages; but he believed that at all the meetings of operatives which had been lately held on this subject, they had unanimously said that they were willing to have short time and their wages reduced, in preference to their present long hours. Under these circumstances, believing, as he did, that they would confer a great and indisputable good upon the factory operatives, and believing, at the same time, that by conferring that boon upon the operatives they would not materially injure the condition of the employers of labour, he should give his most cordial support to the second reading of this Bill.
§ DR. BOWRING
felt himself called upon by a paramount sense of duty to oppose the further progress of this Bill. He did not doubt—indeed, he readily acknowledged—that philanthropy to which the noble Lord had given expression in such eloquent terms; but he thought that the noble Lord would confess that, in judging as to what true philanthropy was, they should weigh well the consequences of the evil that would result from the good proposed. The noble Lord would no doubt admit that that legislation which was likely to diminish the well-being of the community in general, and especially of the labouring community, ought not to be adopted by that House. Now, the only way that they could judge of the consequences of legislation, was to gather together such facts as were accessible—to divest themselves of their passions and prejudices—and to inquire fully as to what would be the consequences of their legislation. It appeared to him that the demand for this Bill was grounded on two fallacious suppositions: the first was, that ten hours' labour or less would have the effect of equalizing the distribution of labour; and that if they should decide ten hours to be the maximum of labour, they could also decide that those ten hours should be paid for, equal to twelve hours in favour of the working community. Now, he believed the law of supply and demand to be inexorable, and not subject to the control of Parliament. No legislation whatever could provide regular employment for the working people; and he contended that the necessary effect of legisation on this subject, would be the most disastrous consequences to the labourer, who could only be employed six or eight hours a day, as in the present state of trade. This Bill would act as 1128 a most intolerable despot to the working man who might be desirous of raising his condition by working beyond the ordinary hours of labour. The direct effect of this legislation would be a reduction in the price of labour. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said, "I wont for a moment countenance the delusion that two hours can be taken from the daily labour of the operative classes without their making a great pecuniary sacrifice;" but the noble Lord, and many other Members of that House, who supported this Bill, as well as others of high authority who advocated the measure out of doors, had told the working classes that they need be under no apprehensions that the quantity of goods manufactured would be lessened—that the rate of wages would not be lower—and, in fact, that if they were to have only ten hours' labour, their condition would not be deteriorated. That statement had gone over the width and breadth of the land; and it was through that delusion, he would venture to say, that the working classes had to a great extent been induced to take the part which they had in the agitation for this Bill. In the borough which he represented, he had heard from one of the principal manufacturers that he had offered to employ his workpeople but eleven hours per day. He said, "Come to me on Monday morning; I am willing to make the experiment in my mill, but do not be under any delusion; if in the eleven hours you cannot produce the same quantity of work that you produce in twelve, it is impossible that I can give you the same rate of wages." Now, the hon. Member who had introduced this Bill, would probably be much inclined to doubt whether a reduction of two hours per day from labour, would greatly diminish the amount of production. He understood that a very large body of the most influential, the most intelligent, and opulent manufacturers had tested the consequences of this Bill, should it become a law; and they unanimously came to this conclusion, that it would cause a reduction in the value of the produce in the mills of cotton only—he would say nothing of silk—of 12½ per cent. Now at this moment he believed that the value of the cotton manufacture in this country exceeded 30,000,000l.; the number of bales sold for working up, amounted, he understood, to about a 1,500,000l., and that 1,500,000l. represented from 12,000,000l. to 15,000,000l. before it left the hands of the English 1129 manufacturer. He believed it could not be doubted that the cost of production per annum ranged from 1,800,000l. to 2,000,000l. He believed that there were only three parties principally concerned in that production. The House must remember that as regarded those parties, they had a right to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market. The Legislature had adopted the principles of free trade, and the people had a right to require that they should give effect to those principles. It appeared on unquestionable authority, that the effect of the limitation in the hours of labour proposed by this measure, would produce an annual loss of from 1,800,000l. to 2,000,000l. Now, he would inquire on whom this loss would fall? It appeared to him that it could only be borne by one of three parties. The first was the consumer, and perhaps it might be more generally distributed in this way at the least amount of individual sacrifice; but the question was, would the consumers pay this loss—would they rest contented with the extra price which would be charged them? But then they might say, "The manufacturers are gorged with enormous profits, the manufacturers must pay it; they are opulent and successful men, and we will wrest from them a portion of their ill-gotten gains." But was it the fact the gains of the master manufacturers were so large as to induce them to continue manufacturing, when they by their legislation exacted from them an amount of 2,000,000l. sterling annually? Their legislation would inevitably drive away capital from the manufacturing interest, and every farthing that they drove away must be paid by the operative. What were the statements of a late hon. Member of that House, who was one of the most intelligent men, and whose manufactory was amongst the best conducted—he meant Mr. Gregg? That gentleman's statement was founded on long, intelligent, and thoughtful experience, and it was to the effect that, notwithstanding he had been in the cotton manufacture during the last ten years, and had availed himself of all the improvements in machinery, on a capital of 150,000l. he had realized only two and a half per cent. Did they think then that the cotton manufacture afforded such profits as to enable them to enter upon these daring experiments? To him it appeared not. Well, then, if the consumer was not to pay the loss of 2,000,000l., to which he had alluded, it must fall upon the operatives, and the effect of this legislation 1130 would be to take from that class the means of knowledge to that extent. Was it wonderful, then, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had spoken with so much hesitation in giving his qualified adhesion to the propositions of the hon. Member for Oldham? Many hon. Members had made reference to what they called "an understanding" between the manufacturers and the operatives, that if the corn laws were repealed, the Members who advocated their abolition, would be prepared to assist the operatives in obtaining the passing of this Bill. A statement had been made at a meeting in the borough which he had the honour to represent, by a noble Lord whose name was especially connected with this movement, to the effect that a compact had been entered into between the free-traders and the factory operatives for a Ten Hours Bill. He (Dr. Bowring) would venture to ask when, and where, and by whom, that compact was made? He confessed he could not understand the doubt, hesitation, and resistance in respect of this movement which were to be found amongst the labouring population on this point. Few of them had come forward. Amongst the most intelligent of them, the free-trade principles had, no doubt, made a gradual progress. And what had been the mission of that House for many years past? To impose fetters upon labour and capital? To add difficulties to the struggle in which both were engaged? No; their mission had been higher and nobler; they had been engaged in the work of emancipation; they had been endeavouring to strike off the fetters under which both were struggling; and this attempt, which the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) said was in accordance with the ancient history of Toryism, was an effort to introduce some of those baneful principles of protection which had heretofore existed, and to give them greater effect and efficiency than they possessed before. He believed that the working classes were, in the phraseology of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, under a delusion as to the consequences of this legislation, which would undoubtedly sweep away a sixth of the labour in the cotton districts of this country. Unfortunately, it was too true that the wages which the people employed in that manufacture were at present enabled to earn, were insufficient for the comfortable maintenance of a man and his wife and children; and if the House passed this 1131 measure, they would, in effect, say to such a man—"Notwithstanding your difficulties, and your desire to work for the maintenance of yourself and family, one-sixth must be taken from the amount of your wages." For himself, he might say, that he had at all times humbly endeavoured to advocate the claims of the working classes; he wished that they had more power, for he believed that they would use it wisely. He had always struggled to give them the means of exercising a more direct influence than they had exercised in that House, because he had great reliance upon their intelligence and good sense, and because he was certain that their interests could not be dissociated from those of the community at large; and it was especially on the ground that he believed that the interests of the working classes in this case were at stake, and would be seriously deteriorated and damaged, and because he believed that if the House passed this measure, they would be acting towards them in a philanthropic spirit certainly, but it would prove to be a legislation of the most baneful character. Believing, then, that the operatives, the manufacturers, and our commercial relations generally, would be most seriously damaged by this Bill, he should offer to it the strongest opposition.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
said, that when he last addressed the House on this subject, it had been his wish, and the wish of many persons who were interested in this question, that there should have been some general agreement among the master manufacturers with respect to the hours of working, and that legislation should have been avoided. That agreement, he was afraid, was now out of the question. But this fact, at any rate, appeared, that although the majority of the master manufacturers might be opposed to a reduction of the hours of labour in the case of persons under eighteen years of age, yet there was a respectable minority in favour of the proposition. Taking into consideration the opinions of that minority and of the working classes, he had come to the conclusion to give the Bill his hearty support. The landlords had last year been sacrificing their monopoly; he appealed to the manufacturers to make, in their turn, some little sacrifice, and lay on the altar of their country some little tribute.
§ MR. MUNTZ
rose amidst loud calls for a division, and said, it was well known that ever since he had had the honour of holding a seat in Parliament, he had inva- 1132 riably given his support to this Bill; and he rose on this occasion to say, that having heard many extraordinary statements respecting masters and workmen, when this Bill was last before the House, he had taken an opportunity, a few weeks ago, of going to Manchester, and seeing with his own eyes, and hearing with his own ears—having a greater respect and confidence in them than in those of anybody else—what was the real state of things in the cotton factories there; and he was bound to say that all the changes which he found to have taken place in Manchester in the production of goods since he had last visited a factory, twenty years ago, seemed to him to operate to the disadvantage of the operatives. One alteration was, that the speed of the machinery was doubled, and in many instances trebled. Then the number of spindles which each girl had to mind was double, and, in many instances, treble, what it used to be; and the quantity of work done was three times more than previously, although the labour of the parties might be something less on the whole. But, as a practical man, he could say, that the more spindles these females had given them to mind, and the quicker they revolved, the more trouble was given them. The House must remember that it was with women and children that this Bill was to deal; it was their case the House was considering; and he wanted to know how far such labour was fit for such persons. It was said that it was not hard labour. Granted that it was not hard. Still, was there an hon. Gentleman in the House, who, if he had to travel over the slippery floor of a room, the atmosphere of which was heated to the extent of from 70 degrees to 90 degrees, for twelve hours, would not think it very tiresome? Whoever looked at these poor girls, and marked their pale, unhealthy, emaciated appearance, could not help feeling that it was a disgrace to their employers and to the place they lived in, that they should be reduced by their daily labour to such a state; and he said the Legislature was bound to see that those young persons had an amount of work given them, suitable to their age and condition, and the atmosphere they had to do it in. If hon. Members were shut up all day long in a room with an atmosphere at 80 or 90 degrees, they would soon become emaciated, even without any work to do. This occupation, and the mode of it, were the reason why you never saw the face of a healthy-looking operative 1133 girl in Manchester; and that it was the fact he could state, for he had observed it himself only a few weeks ago. [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear, hear.] Why, did the hon. Member think that nobody but a cotton manufacturer could be a judge of the condition of a factory girl? How was it that the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) had been the advocate of a Ten Hours Bill, and in the year 1833 had even got up and paid the expenses of a petition in favour of the measure? Why should the hon. Member then be an advocate for ten hours, and now insist that if the House made this change, they would destroy the interests of the cotton trade, and not only that, but the interests of these poor people? But the hon. Member let the cat out of the bag, for he said that the manufacturers would only want a little more capital to be able to do the same quantity of work in the diminished time; and therefore the question before the House really was, whether the master should gain a trifling per centage more or less profit, by the destruction of the brains, flesh, and bones of these poor women and children? The learned Doctor below him (Dr. Bowring) had said that the Bill would take off one-sixth from the wages of the labourer. But he would ask how many hours in a series of ten years were worked on an average per day throughout that time? He believed that no master manufacturer in the country had worked ten hours a day, on the average of the last ten years. It was true there were manufacturers who sometimes worked twelve or thirteen hours a day for a while, and then were forced to consign the goods so produced to China, or some foreign country, at a great loss, there being no demand in this country for the overplus thus produced. In fact, he had always thought that the worst opponents of the manufacturers were themselves; for he had repeatedly noticed that although the foreign competition was the first cause of reduction in price, such reductions were almost invariably continued far below the original foreign prices. He said, then, that in a series of years as it was the manufacturers did not work their mills ten hours a day; and that the operatives, therefore, could lose nothing in wages in consequence of the passing of this Bill; nor would either they or the masters lose anything in advantages of any kind, for the same quantity would be produced as at present, when the average was not ten hours a day in a series of years. Still it was said 1134 that, if this reduction of the time of labour took place, there would be a reduction of wages in proportion. Had that taken place in other cases in which the Legislature had interfered? Did not the Legislature interfere and introduce limitations and restrictions of various kinds into other occupations? Did they not limit the number of people who rode in an omnibus? Did they not limit the price of the charge for a cab? They did not allow the best horse, or the lowest offer to have a preference of fares. In hundreds of other things they interfered in the same or some similar way, and no reduction in wages took place. If there were to be no interference in this case, on the ground that they would not interfere with labour, why, they must allow every man to grow his own tobacco. He contended that the Legislature had interfered in very many instances of manufactures with great advantage not only to the labourer, but to the master manufacturer. With respect to the question of wages, he understood that in the mill of the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) at Rochdale, cardloom hands were paid in 1820, 8s. a week; in 1833, 8s.; in 1844, 8s. 6d.; in 1846, 9s. 6d. Throstle-spinners were paid in 1820, 8s. a week; in 1833, 8s.; in 1844, 8s. 6d.; in 1846, 9s. 6d. Self-acting winders were paid in 1820,—; in 1833, 11s.; in 1844, 11s. 6d.; in 1846, 12s. 3d. Piecers were paid in 1820, 7s.; in 1833, 6s.; in 1844, 7s.; in 1846, 7s. 6d. In 1820 the time worked was much longer than at present; he was not aware of the exact number of hours a day worked, but he believed it was thirteen. At present it was twelve hours. So that the wages had gone on increasing, although the Legislature had to some extent interfered, and though the time worked was diminished. He believed, and he asked any hon. Member connected with the cotton manufacture to contradict him if he were wrong, that the alterations which had been made in the mode of production was so great, that the quantity produced had increased to five times what it was then. Now, that being the case, he must say that it seemed very strange that the value of the goods produced should have diminished by one-third; it was quite contrary to the doctrines of the "feelosophers;" and it was equally contrary to those doctrines that we should have interfered with labour, and yet wages have increased notwithstanding. In 1815 the cotton consumed in this country was 6,000 1135 bales a week; in 1846 it was 30,460 bales. In 1815 cotton cost 1s. 7½d. a pound; the selling price of twist being 3s. 3d. a pound. In 1846 cotton cost 6¼d. a pound, and twist sold at 10d. a pound. In 1815 the speed of the throstles was 3,500 revolutions per minute; in 1846 it was 5,000 and upwards. In 1815 the throstles usually intrusted to each hand had 216 spindles; in 1846 they had 480. In like manner the mules had 180 and 500 at those dates. These statements he had received from parties who he had every reason to believe were good authorities on such subjects; and it was for that reason that he had gone to Manchester, in order to be able to see for himself. There was a curious fact which he had been told with respect to operative cotton spinners. Some one observed to him in Manchester, that a cotton spinner never died; for that by the time he arrived at forty or forty-five years, such an effect was produced on his eyes by the small particles of cotton, and the difficulty in seeing such fine threads, that he soon became disabled from working any longer; and he was sure, therefore, to be got rid of for some reason or other. That had been represented to him; and it was a most important matter for the House to consider. When he was at Manchester, on walking through one of the cotton mills, he found the atmosphere very disagreeable, and the whole place like a hothouse, and he consequently asked why they did not open the windows. He was first told that it would not be quite so well to have the windows open; and when he asked why not, and whether it would not be quite as well for the health of the workpeople, he at last got at the fact that they would not be quite so well able to spin cotton in a lower atmosphere. It appeared, therefore, to be necessary to this manufacture to keep all these poor girls all day long suffering from a state of perspiration, from which, and from being obliged to go home in a state of relaxation and lassitude, all manner of diseases befel them, and, in fact, they became deteriorated both in body and mind. He had stated the general results of the inspection of these mills that he had made at Manchester, and not having any interest in manufactures, he trusted he was able to form a correct view. Having invariably voted for this measure, he had never given a vote with a more conscientious conviction that he was doing his duty between master and man, than he should now feel in voting for the second reading.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, after the repeated allusions which had been made to him in the course of the debate by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire and the hon. Member for Birmingham, as well as by several other hon. Members, he was sure he should not ask the House in vain to allow him a fair opportunity of stating the grounds on which he was compelled entirely to differ from those hon. Gentlemen on that most important question. And, first, he might state, as he had stated before, that in addition to all the means of judging, which many hon. Members in that House possessed on this question, from their knowledge of the science of political economy or from their other sources, he had this additional means of coming to a decision on the matter, that all his life he had lived among the population for whom they were called upon to legislate—that he had been largely, and was now very largely, connected with this particular trade—that he had not a farthing in the world that was not invested in that trade—and that he believed, from his habit of association with the working classes of Lancashire, he had as good a right to speak of their feelings and wishes, and, from his careful investigation of this question, to speak also of their true interests, as any Member in that House could possibly have. But let it not be supposed, for a moment—for he would deny it altogether—that in his opposition to this Ten Hours Bill he was influenced by a belief that it would in any degree, if passed, injure his property or his personal prospects. It was clear to him, and all he had ever said on the subject must have made it appear so to others, that if this measure were calculated to advance the interests of the twelve hundred thousand persons who were more or less interested in the cotton trade, and in the other branches of trade mixed up with it, then his interests must be consulted in that which would advance the interests of by far the largest proportion of those who were in any way connected with those trades. Now he would beg of the House to observe what was the principle on which the whole of the agitation for short time in factories had been conducted. That agitation had been conducted on the political economy of the hon. Member for Birmingham; on the political economy of the hon. Member for Oldham; on the political economy of the late Mr. Sadler; and on the political economy which that House had last Session most emphatically declared to be unsound and rotten, which, if 1137 persevered in, must promote that depression which for many years prevailed in the great interests of the country, and which, in point of fact, was calculated to destroy the manufacturing supremacy of this country. When the agitation first commenced, it was on the principle of protection for infants. Young children were then the objects of solicitude with these patriotic individuals; and at length a Minister of the Crown—he believed the late Lord Spencer—brought in a Bill some years ago which took all the care of these infants that their greatest friends could desire. Subsequently the right hon. Baronet the late Secretary of State for the Home Department brought in a Bill still farther limiting the labour of these children, and reducing it to six hours a day, going farther than the greatest advocate for short time ever wished to go. Well, then, as far as infants were concerned, all that was required had already been effected, as up to the age of 13 no child could work more than six hours a day in a factory. But when that measure passed, the friends, so called, of the infants still pressed on, and they now asked for the interference of the Legislature and for a display of their sympathies in favour of young persons from 13 to 18 years of age, and in behalf of women of all ages. Now, as he had said years ago, the object of these parties from the beginning was not what they pretended it to be, first of all to regulate the labour and to take care of those under 13 years of age, and now of those under 18 years of age, and of women of all ages; but their object was this, by law to interfere with the labour of all persons of whatever age, and whatever sex they might be, who were engaged in the manufactures of this country, and to give to all these classes that measure of legislative protection—he used the word "protection" in the sense in which it had been used by all those who were in favour of monopolies—a protection that would diminish the hours of labour, while it would continue a rate of wages which, from the days of Sadler to the present time, was clearly a rate higher than labour in a free market could command. Now, he would ask, was not this the object of the present Bill? He recollected that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, in speaking on this subject last year, used these words:—If I were also to say that great profits ought to be reduced, might I not also add, that it is one of the great scandals of the present day that 1138 enormous fortunes are amassed by the few, while the profits to the many are miserably small. If there should arise out of this measure a fairer division of profits, no very great mischief would be done. We shall not, I presume, be told the profits of the cotton trade are so small that the master manufacturers cannot afford to share them more with the operatives they employ, when we reflect that out of the superfluous profits arising from the cotton manufactures, we have an instance of a quarter of a million fund having been subscribed to promote a repeal of the corn laws.Why, did any one ever hear of such a proposition—to transfer what the noble Lord called the superfluous profits of the manufacturer, and to hand them over to the workmen whom he employed? If they were to come to the noble Lord's class, and to ask for the superfluous rents of the landlords, and the superfluous profits of the farmers, in order to hand them over to the agricultural labourers, he wondered what would be said; but he, for one, would denounce such a proposition to be as mischievous as he now denounced the proposition which received the support of the noble Lord to be. He would wish to ask the House what were the precise facts and arguments laid before them to induce them to consent to this measure? The old arguments of Lord Ashley had not, with perhaps the exception of a letter, which the noble Lord opposite had read, from Lancashire, been repeated. He believed Lord Ashley's own friends would not now credit these sentiments. He believed it was admitted, that there never was an attempt made to induce the House of Commons to adopt any question, where there were a greater number of exaggerations, and statements unsustained by facts, made use of, than had been put forward some years ago on this question of factory labour. The noble Lord read a letter from Dr. Fletcher, a gentleman residing in the town of Bury, and who was known to be a strenuous advocate for the short-time Bill. But Dr. Fletcher's opinion was not worth more than the opinions of those whose duty it was officially to record and to investigate all these matters. Now, he found, for example, that in Leeds, where there was an immense number of factories, the mortality of 1831 was actually less than for 1801. He found that the mortality in Leeds was less than that of Bristol; that in Manchester the mortality was less than that in Liverpool. He found, also, that the mortality in large manufacturing towns was not greater than in large towns where there were no factories; and, what was more, he had the evidence of Dr. Philips, who had 1139 written a very excellent work on scrofula and its treatment, that the health of those employed in factories was not in any degree worse than the health of others of the labouring classes employed in factory towns; and that if they went to masons, or carpenters, or shoemakers, or other artisans, the mortality among them was fully as great as among those employed in factories. There was one consideration which the House ought to bear in mind with respect to the employment of women in factories. The assertion was, that their labour in factories was extremely hard and long-continued; but how did it happen that women were found in factories at all? The very fact that they were there in such large numbers, was conclusive evidence that the labour in factories was not hard. ["Oh!"] He would ask the hon. Member who disputed that proposition to turn to any occupation of a very laborious character in which women were employed, Why did not women become stone-masons? Why did they not work carrying hods of bricks upon their shoulders? Why did they not work at the spade? Because they naturally turned to those employments where they were sheltered from the weather, and where labour was lightest; and the very fact that there were 200,000 women employed in factories was conclusive evidence that the labour in those factories was light, and of a nature which was suitable for women. He would not go into the question of the state of health of factory labourers, or else he might read statements which could not be disputed, and which referred not to England only, but to France, and which were equally conclusive as regarded both countries on the subject. He would, however, give the House one or two extracts. Dr. Philips said—If there be anything peculiarly injurious to life in factory towns or factory labour, it is not made apparent by a register of deaths. The injurious effects of factory labour, when compared with other laborious occupations, are not apparent in our mortality tables, or in the returns of friendly societies. And the mortality in factory towns appears to press just as heavily on masons, shoemakers, and tailors, in those towns, as upon those persons who are employed in factories; and it would, therefore, seem improper to refer to manufactures an evil which is not peculiar to them.And, again, he said—The evidence I have collected upon the question of the influence of factory labour upon human life, has produced upon my own mind a strong conviction, that occupation in factories, though in many respects less to be desired than occupation in the open air, is yet accompanied by so many counteracting circumstances, that the evils which 1140 may be inseparable from that occupation are mitigated, if not counteracted, by the increased means of procuring the necessaries of life which it affords. The evils of factory towns do not consist in factory employment, but in the agencies which are commonly found operative in such towns.There was one more witness on this subject to which he should call the attention of the House, and that was, the report of the Committee on the ten hours' system, appointed by the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, and which was presented to the House on the 10th of March, 1845—In regard to the health of the operatives employed in the mills, your committee believe it to be good. The testimony of the female petitioners does not controvert this position in general, though it does in particular instances. The population of the city of Lowell is now rising 26,000, of which number about 7,000 are females employed in the mills. It is the opinion of Dr. Kimball, an eminent physician of Lowell, with whom the committee had an interview, that there is less sickness among the persons at work in the mills than there is amongst those who do not work in the mills; and that there is less sickness now than there was several years ago, when the number was much less than at present. This we understood to be also the opinion of the city physician, Dr. Wells, from whose published report for the present year we learn, that the whole number of deaths in Lowell, during the year 1844, was 362, of which number 200 were children under ten years of age. The decrease of the mortality of Lowell, Dr. Wells attributes in part to the enlightened policy of the city government, in directing the construction of common sewers, and the enterprise of individuals in multiplying comfortable habitations, the establishment of a hospital supported by the liberality of the corporations, for the accommodation of the sick in their employ. The more general diffusion of a knowledge of the laws of health is also conducive to the same end.Now, the hon. Member for Dorsetshire spoke of the impossibility of persons obtaining education under the system of twelve hours' labour. The hon. Member should understand that he (Mr. Bright) was not defending the principle that these persons should work for twelve hours a day. He was merely meeting the argument which the hon. Member advanced in favour of this Bill. Did the hon. Member for Dorsetshire forget that those children did not work more than six hours a day until they were thirteen years old? For himself, he could say that he had never been at school after he was fifteen years of age. It was true, there were, no doubt, many things which hon. Members knew or learned by remaining at college until they were twenty or twenty-one, of which he was ignorant; but still, he considered his own case to be in some degree a proof that a man might get some education by remaining at school 1141 only until he was fifteen, and that he might do something by remaining there even if he was thirteen. But what could be more ludicrous than to say that a person could get no education under thirteen? The old system was to bind apprentices at the age of fourteen. But he would maintain that the degree of education among factory labourers was not inferior to that to be found among all the other classes of this country. He had no doubt whatever but that their consumption of books, their purchase of newspapers, and their general devotion to literature, which the present age afforded so many opportunities of encouraging, was as pure and as extensive at least as that of any other class of the labouring population of Great Britain. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dorsetshire was not yet convinced on this point, he would beg to bring before him the evidence of the Rev. Mr. Clay, who had compiled a list of the extent of criminality existing in various classes in Lancashire. He began with No. 1, and went up to No. 20, the first number showing the class among which crime was highest, and the last the class in which there was the smallest number of criminals. Now, No. 19 in that list was the class of domestic servants, and No. 20 was that of the female operatives in factories, while No. I was the class of grooms and coach helpers, persons who were much more extensively employed by the Members of that House than by cotton spinners. Now, if the factory labourers were not the sober and orderly class of persons of which the noble Lord had spoken, he believed Mr. Clay would not have produced evidence like this. He believed there was not a magistrate in the manufacturing districts who would not bear testimony to the good conduct of these persons, and to the fact that their good behaviour even exceeded that of other classes in the same counties. He now came to the question of wages, and to what the working classes wanted. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire produced a roll of a petition, and dwelt on the importance to be attached to it; but he remembered the time when a petition which required six men to carry it, and which bore 700,000 signatures, was presented against the corn laws, and yet that hon. Member and his friends did not care a straw about it. It had been said by several speakers, why should factory labourers be obliged to work longer than mechanics and others—why should they work a greater number of 1142 hours than the men who made the steam-engines or the machinery at which they were employed, and who only worked ten hours a day? He would only say in reply to this argument, that if any Member in the House was connected with a locomotive manufactory, he would be able to bear him out in this fact, that if any man started a factory for the construction of machinery in Yorkshire, and were to make it a rule that no man should work more than ten hours a day in it, the result would be that he would not get a single good workman to remain on his premises, and that he would be obliged to close the establishment altogether in a very short time. The fact was, that these men called ten hours a day's labour; but they invariably worked longer than ten hours, and had a stipulation with their employers to receive for the first two hours so much, and for the next two hours so much more; and if they worked during the night, which they were always delighted to do, they were to receive an increase of pay beyond that which they would be entitled to in the day time. Now what did that prove, except that men would, among operatives as well as among themselves, work very hard for the sake of obtaining money. Why, for instance, did lawyers work so hard? He did not speak of lawyers as persons who would do more for money than other persons. On the contrary, he believed they would not. But his argument was, that in every class they would find men working themselves literally to death, and that, too, even when not tied to a steam engine, or with an Act of Parliament to compel them, but because they had wives and families to keep up, or children to provide for, or because they were looking forward to some point which they had not yet reached, and were striving to be as well off as their neighbours. So it was among the working classes; and in interfering with their right so to exert themselves, the House was violating one of the greatest privileges and one of the dearest rights of these people, and was interfering with a feeling as strong amongst operatives as among any other class in the community. But the hon. Member said, he believed the operatives were willing to have short time, even accompanied with short wages. He begged to deny that assertion altogether. He denied, first of all, that the question had been put in that light to them at any of the meetings that had been held on the subject; and, in the second 1143 place, he denied that the working classes had the slightest idea that there would be a reduction of wages in consequence of the passing of this Bill. If, then, such were the facts — if it were the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House believed, as they must believe, that a reduction of wages would follow a reduction of the hours of labour—and if the working classes had no idea that such a result would follow, while the House proposed to pass the measure because it was demanded by the working classes: then he could not conceive a guilt more dreadful than the practising of such a delusion on the operatives, and the passing of a Bill, at their desire, which, instead of conferring a benefit on them, as they supposed, would cause a greater evil to them than perhaps any measure which that House had ever passed. Now, what had the working classes been taught? He should be obliged to trouble the House with one or two short extracts on this point. There was a publication called the Ten Hours Advocate, established to support this Bill, and in that periodical, of the 5th of December last, he found these words:—We have contended from our first connexion with the advocacy of this measure, that the effect of a Ten Hours Bill would not be to diminish wages in the same proportion. It is a recognised principle in political economy, that any movement or circumstance which lessens the supply of an article enhances its value in the market.On the 14th of November they stated—On that occasion we cited numerous instances where the number of working hours had been reduced, and in every case the result was an advance of wages.And in a letter from Mr. Oastler, which appeared in the same publication, he said—Were I, a factory worker, asked by my employer to sign for 'ten hours and present wages,' I should say, 'No, thank you, Sir,' always supposing ten hours were universal.He believed, that so far from telling the working classes that wages would necessarily fall after the passing of this Bill, the advocates of the measure actually told them that wages would rise. [Mr. FERRAND: Hear.] He perceived that the hon. Member for Knaresborough was of that opinion; and, in the publication to which he had alluded, this doctrine was clearly put forward. On September 26th they said—The terms of the agreement go upon the presumption that a diminution of produce would be coequal with the reduction of time; whereas 1144 every person at all acquainted with the nature of factory labour must know that such could not be the result.Now, he did not hesitate to say, that no man could know anything of factory labour, or of the internal arrangements of factories, who was not aware that it was impossible to stop labour for even five minutes without reducing the production of that particular mill. But this Ten Hours Advocate went on to say—Did the wages of this class of factory workers fall in proportion?—Certainly not. Again, in 1844, Sir J. Graham further reduced their working hours from eight hours per day to six; and the effect was, not only that their wages were not reduced, but actually increased.The object of this was clearly to show that wages would not only not be diminished, but would be actually increased, by the adoption of the ten hours system. He would ask the hon. Gentlemen who supported this view to take the case of a child who was 12 years 11 months old, and another who was 13 years and 1 month old, and he would ask any man who was acquainted with the fact, whether the wages earned by the one would not show an increase of nearly one-half over that of the other? The writer went on—But it must be clear to the most inattentive observer, that it would be unwise in the extreme, on their part, to bind themselves to a reduction of wages, without the prospect of any corresponding advantages either morally or physically.Why, he thought that all the advantages of this proposed system were to be moral and physical. It would appear, however, that the advocates of the ten hours system expected the advantage to be an increase of wages, and a payment at least of twelve hours' wages for ten hours' work. There was one other point of importance, which had not been much discussed that day except by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that was, the effect of foreign competition. He did not appeal, on this point, to the hon. Member for Birmingham, or to the hon. Member for Oldham, because he believed they were quite incapable of understanding the question of foreign competition. This arose from a feeling existing in their minds, that there was a natural superiority on the part of Englishmen, which rendered foreign competition in any matter impossible. It was different, however, with regard to the right hon. Gentleman who was now Chancellor of the Exchequer, or with the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, who aspired to that office. With them, the question 1145 must become one for consideration. He was sorry to detain the House; but he thought it would be an insult both to those who asked for this measure, and to those who opposed it, if the question were not to be fairly and fully discussed. He held in his hand a statement of the quantity of the raw materials consumed in various manufactures in this country, and also of the decrease which must take place if the Ten Hours Bill passed. In the cotton trade alone, there were consumed last year more than 600,000,000 of pounds weight of the raw material. In the woollen and worsted trades, 260,000,000 lbs. In the flax trade, more than 177,000,000 lbs.; and in the silk trade, more than 6,000,000 of pounds weight: making in all, 1,057,000,000 lbs. Now if this were to be divided by six, the diminution that was calculated to follow the passing of the Ten Hours Bill, it would give a reduction of no less than 176,000,000 lbs. He asked then, was it possible that a measure which would cut off at once this vast supply, amounting to one-sixth of all the manufactures of this country, could be discussed in that House without adverting to that fact, or passed without creating confusion and disaster in all parts of the country? Again, let them look to their exports. In 1844, the amount of their exports in cotton was 26,000,000l.; of woollens, 9,000,000l.; of linens, 4,000,000l.; and of silks, 750,000l.: in all, 39,750,000l.; from which, if one-sixth were to be cut off, it would reduce the exports at one blow by a sum of 6,600,000l. He would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how would it be possible to carry on the affairs of this country with a diminution of their exports and imports to the extent which he had mentioned, and amounting in the exports alone to between six and seven millions annually? He would also beg to tell the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, that of the wool consumed in the woollen manufactures of this country, no less than 200,000,000 lbs. at the least was grown in this country; and that one manufacturer alone would, by a reduction of the hours of labour from twelve to ten hours a day, consume from 12,000 to 15,000 lbs. a week less than he now used. He had attended some fifteen or twenty meetings in Manchester during the last three months. He believed at every one of these meetings this question had been discussed; and he could tell the House that he never found a single individual, either present at or absent from those 1146 meetings, who acknowledged that the working classes would accept the Bill, if they did not believe that the rate of wages would be maintained precisely as they were at present. And he could tell hon. Gentlemen opposite, that, notwithstanding his opposition to the Bill, he was not afraid to go before that or any other constituency in Lancashire, as far as this Bill was concerned. Wherever he was best known, and that was the nearer he went towards home, no one would accuse him of a want of sympathy with the working classes; but this he would tell the House, that if they went on, at the bidding of the working classes, to legislate against the capitalists, they would find a very different feeling engendered among the latter towards the operatives, from that which they now exhibited. Now, to show that the capitalists were not unmindful of those whom they employed, he might state that some of his own workmen had petitioned for this Bill; and he was glad of it, for it showed their independence, and that they dared to exorcise a will of their own. At the very last meeting held on the subject in the town of Rochdale, there were many independent manufacturers on the platform, while their workmen were in the body of the meeting; but yet none of them attempted to interfere, for if they had done so they would have been laughed to scorn in that part of the country. He would wish that the same could be said of the working classes in other parts of the kingdom. In the factory with which he was himself connected, in that town they had a large infant school, together with a reading-room, and news-room, and a school for adults, where the workmen attended after working hours. They had also a person employed, at a very considerable expense, who devoted his whole time to investigating the concerns of the workmen, and who was a kind of missionary among them. Not a few hundreds of pounds per annum were expended in promoting in this manner the interests of the workmen; and that, too, wholly independent of any act of the Legislature. This was the case at many other wealthy factories; but he would warn the House that if they now armed the workmen against the capitalists by fixing by law ten hours, or any other number of hours for the duration of labour, and thus interfered with the established custom of the kingdom, he believed it would be impossible that the feeling which hitherto existed on the part of the manufacturers 1147 towards the operatives would continue, should the workmen think that by coming to that House they could fix the time of work and the amount of wages. He thought, if such a result took place, that it would be the duty of the manufacturers—nay, that it would be absolutely necessary for them—to take such steps as would prevent the ruin from coming upon them which must result from the passing of this measure. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham stated that he (Mr. Bright) had signed a petition in favour of a Ten Hours Bill. The hon. Gentleman, however, was mistaken as to the year in which that transaction took place. He confessed that at one time he did get up and signed a petition in favour of such a Bill, but then it was one of the acts of his boyhood; and he regretted extremely that the follies of his boyhood appeared to attach themselves to the mature age of the hon. Member for Birmingham. A proposition had been made, that if this Bill went into Committee, they should have an eleven hours clause substituted for the present ten hours clause. He believed nothing could be more unwise than the adoption by the House of such a course. The working classes were either right or wrong in asking for a Ten Hours Bill; and the House was either right or wrong in making any change at all in their favour. He thought, therefore, it was a cowardly shrinking on their part if they did not carry out the principle of the hon. Member for Oldham. If they passed an Eleven Hours Bill, every workman who asked for ten hours would say, "The House of Commons has sanctioned the principle we advocated, and the object we have in view." They would come with double force to ask for a Ten Hours Bill hereafter; and this he would say, that no hon. Member who now voted for an Eleven Hours Bill, could in the next Parliament—should he be a Member of it—refuse to vote for a Ten Hours Bill. Before he concluded, he could not avoid saying that he was astounded at the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers on this question. He asked was it a question that should be left an open question? For his part, he confessed that he regarded it to be a question of as great importance as that which had been settled last year under the auspices of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. That was a question of protection—the object being to raise rents at the expense of raising the price of food. In this case the protection was to 1148 raise wages at the expense of capital. It was precisely the same principle that was involved in both cases; and he would ask, was it possible when the House, after generations of error in the way of protection, had adopted a right course, that they should now, in the very next Session of Parliament, seek to adopt, for the benefit of another class in the community, a law equally unsound, and which, if passed, would, at no distant day, have to be repealed like the corn law. Instead of leaving this an open question, he thought the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government ought to have come forward manfully, and have made this a Cabinet question. He thought that the Government ought to have taken the responsibility of such an enormous change upon themselves; and that, if the noble Lord considered the alteration dangerous, the weight of the Government, and of all in office, should be given in opposition to the Bill. He would not detain the House farther; but believing, as he did in his heart, that the proposition was most injurious and destructive to the best interests of the country—believing that it was contrary to all principles of sound legislation—that it was a delusion practised upon the working classes — that it was advocated by those who had no knowledge of the economy of manufactures — believing that it was one of the worst measures ever passed in the shape of an Act of the Legislature, and that, if it were now made law, the necessities of trade, and the demands alike of the workmen and of the masters, would compel them to retrace the steps they had taken; believing this, he felt compelled to give the Motion for the second reading of this Bill his most strenuous opposition.
§ On the Question of the adjournment,
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said: Sir, I rise only to say a few words to the House, in consequence of the attack which has been made upon me a few minutes before six o'clock by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Sir, I really think that if the hon. Gentleman intended to make that attack, he had better have made it at five o'clock than at this hour. I really think that the hon. Gentleman's zeal on the part of the cotton manufacturers, and those for whom he has spoken, has rather led him to fail in that fairness and candour which usually characterize him. The hon. Gentleman supposes that a great question 1149 of principle is at stake. Now, I do not conceive that the question between twelve hours and eleven hours and ten hours is a question of principle. I conceive that the question of limiting the hours of labour of those between 13 and 18, is not a new principle, but one that has been already affirmed by the House, if I recollect rightly, on the proposition of the late Lord Althorp. What I know is, that it is a principle which has been sanctioned by the statutes of the realm; and it is, therefore, no new principle at all. I believe there is no new principle introduced by this Bill—no principle that is not found in the old law of the realm; because, under the old laws, apprentices, during their apprenticeship, were protected by the law. It is not, therefore, a question of principle; but the question is, whether the Legislature, having determined to extend protection to this class, to what extent that protection is to be given—whether a limitation of labour to twelve hours, or eleven hours, or ten hours a day? That, I think, is a question of detail, on which I believe the Members of Her Majesty's Government may differ without any difference of principle existing among them. I conceive that we have, all in this House, agreed on a principle; and if the hon. Member differs from that principle, and if he thinks that the Legislature is wrong in interfering in the matter at all, then his course should be to move for the repeal of the laws already enacted, and to call on the House to leave persons of that tender age entirely free to make their bargains as they can. Sir, I know not that should enter now into the question at large. I have stated what I think the general principle is; and if the debate is to be adjourned, I shall be ready to resume the subject on a future day. ["No, no!" and "Divide!"] I do not mean to address myself more than a few moments to the question, and I am quite ready either to say now, or on some future debate, what my opinion is on this matter. ["Go on!"] I consider, then, the question being not a question of principle but of degree, that the period during which these young persons labour at present in the factory of twelve hours, being thirteen or fourteen hours of employment altogether, is too much. I conceive it is too much for their bodily form, which is then not matured, but which is only in its progress towards maturity. I consider it is too much for the proper development of their moral and mental improvement, which at that time ought to be particularly 1150 attended to. I conceive, therefore, that, as a question of degree, a shorter period than twelve hours would be preferable to the present period of labour. Am I then to be deterred from this view by what I admit, with the hon. Gentleman, is a desirable matter to consider — the fear of foreign competition? Sir, that is another question, which is of the utmost importance; but with regard to it, I certainly feel greatly comforted by the reflection, that the destruction of our manufactures from this cause, has been repeatedly urged in former years as a reason for our not interfering with the hours of labour. It was urged in 1833—urged in 1836; but notwithstanding that these fears had not been attended to, or acted on, I find that the cotton manufactures of this country have been increased, and, I am happy to say, have flourished, since these periods, while those young persons have at the same time benefited by our interference. In America, they have been, I believe, already allowed a period equivalent to three or four months in the year; and if a reduction were now made here from twelve to eleven hours a day, the alteration would not amount to more than about twenty-five days in the year. I shall not detain the House further; but really, after the hon. Gentleman's attack upon me at this time of the evening, I could not remain altogether silent.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock.