§ SIR A. L. HAY
rose to oppose the measure, and said he thought it his duty to submit to the consideration of the House the opinions of one or two persons who were eminently competent to pronounce a sound decision upon such a question, and whose authority had, he confessed, very great weight in inducing him to adopt the course which he had resolved to pursue in reference to the Bill. He totally dissented from what had fallen a few nights 128 since from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who maintained that the question at issue was not one of principle, but rather one of degree. The opinion was an unsound one, and had no warranty in fact, for surely it could not be contended that the measures which were adopted in reference to factory labour by that House in the year 1833, were of such a character as to establish the principle that State interference was to be permitted in regulating the relation between the employer and the employed. He did not think that anything that had heretofore occurred in the way of factory legislation warranted the assertion that the question was now merely one of degree, or at all justified the interference which was now (most unwisely as it seemed to him) attempted with those sound commercial principles which formed the basis of the prosperity of the manufacturing interests in this great country. The first authority to whom he would refer as demonstrating the inexpediency of any such interference, was one whose name would, he was sure, carry respect in that House—Mr. Leonard Horner, one of the commissioners appointed in the year 1833. That gentleman, who, under the Act passed in that year, was inspector of factories for Scotland, the north of Ireland, and three counties of Ireland, was removed in 1836 to Lancashire, and the great cotton district of England, so that he had abundant opportunity for amassing the information necessary to the forming of a sound opinion upon this great question. In a letter to Mr. Senior, dated from Leeds, a year after he became inspector for Lancashire, Mr. Horner expressed himself as follows:—I agree with you in thinking that a limitation of the hours of labour of persona above the age of childhood, to anything less than twelve hours a day, is uncalled for, they being free agents; and that a reduction of the hours of work in cotton factories to ten hours a day would be attended with the most fatal consequences, and which would first be felt by the working classes.He had not since then altered his opinion, for in his report of the 16th of May, 1845 (page 22), there occurred the following passages, in reference to certain experiments which had been made at Preston for reducing the hours of work to eleven, keeping up the same quantity of produce as was done by the labour of twelve:—These experiments do not in my mind form any ground to justify a further legislative restriction of the hours of labour in factories, on the plea that has often been put forward, that if the 129 hours be shortened, the produce will not be lessened. In a very large proportion of the factories of the United Kingdom, a reduction of hours must of necessity cause a reduction of the quantity produced, and consequently must cause an enhancement of the cost of that produce, the rate of wages remaining the same. I could go into such details as would prove this, but I should be obliged to enter into technicalities which I could not hope to make intelligible to any one not familiar with the processes described.So much, for Mr. Horner's opinions on the question. Mr. Senior was of precisely the same mind, for in his advertisement to his letters, published in 1837, he said—Mr. Horner agrees with me in thinking that a reduction of the hours of work in cotton factories to ten hours a day would be attended by the most fatal consequences, and that the evil would fall first on the working classes.And again, in talking of the masters, he observed—They are tired of having to come to town, canvass, and expostulate every year, in order to keep off a Ten Hours Bill, or some other equally wild, proposal.Such testimony as that was entitled to the most serious consideration of the House. The feeling in Scotland was decidedly against the contemplated change. He was in receipt of a letter from that country, in which the writer explained the fact most satisfactorily:—The millowners," he said, "with whom I have conversed are quite indignant at this legislative tampering with their interests, being perfectly uncalled for, and threaten unanimously, however great the sacrifice, to put their mills on eight hours a day, and reduce the wages one-third; and, believe me, I will, as an individual, cheerfully unite in their resolution; and this occurring at the present time of high-priced provisions, will at once both astonish the Government of the country and the factory operatives themselves. A great delusion likewise exists with relation to labour in factories. The word is quite misapplied. It is the machinery which labours. The females only wait upon it, and care and attention are the principal requisites in good factory operatives. This is an important point, and one which is too much overlooked.Taking all these arguments into consideration, he was decidedly adverse to the measure now under consideration. He did not think this country could afford to despise foreign competition, notwithstanding all that might be said by hon. Gentlemen opposite. At this moment the Americans could undersell the British in the markets of China and India; and he was not in favour of any measure that could have the tendency of increasing such competition, and rendering it yet more formidable. Under these circumstances he should 130 give his most decided support to the Amendment.
thought that whatever side hon. Members might take on the present question, they ought to express their opinions without exaggeration or prejudice. He, for one, had always been consistent on this subject; he had never altered his opinion of its merits. Still he desired to state that he had no sympathy with any of the illiberal or vulgar attacks which had been made on the master manufacturers, who, he believed, generally desired to promote the interests of those they employed, as far as was consistent with their self-interest. He conceived those manufacturers had done great good to this country. Their industry and energy were daring, and their projects were magnificent. All he asked of them was to pause a little, and not to suffer the current of prejudice to carry them away, for he believed an end to the question must come ere long by the concession of what was now sought. He felt certain that three years would not go over their heads before a Ten Hours Bill would be carried. The Bill now before the House proposed to limit the labour of young persons between the age of 13 and 18, and all females, to ten hours a day for five days in the week, and eight hours on Saturday. That was to make the week's labour fifty-eight hours, instead of sixty-eight hours, as at present. Now, in discussing the advantages that would result from the proposed change, he would only deal with proposed arguments and matters of fact, and discard all poetry. He would therefore admit at once that he conceived the arrangement would also limit the labour of adults in factories. This being the case, he would address himself to one or two of the leading arguments employed by previous speakers against the Bill. The principal argument he had to deal with was this, that if the hours of labour were reduced to ten hours a day, there would in consequence be a reduction of wages in the same proportion; and it had further been stated that the factory operatives were not prepared for that. He would, for the sake of argument, concede the first proposition, that there would be a reduction of wages; but he must tell the House that the operatives had over and over again expressed themselves willing to take the measure, and abide the issue. He recollected two years ago having a two hours conversation with delegates from the manufacturing districts; and when this subject was named 131 to them, their answer was, "We are content to encounter the risk, and abide the chance of reduction." But he did not concede that there would be a necessary reduction of wages to the extent named by the opponents of the Bill. He would call the attention of those who differed with him in opinion on this subject to the figures, the data, the facts that illustrated this point. Had the Acts passed during late years for the regulation of the textile manufactures of the country reduced the Tate of wages? Between 1813 and 1833, seven distinct statutes had been passed on the subject of factories, and for the reduction of the hours of labour. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Graham) if this had not been the case. The hours of labour had been already reduced from eighty-four to sixty-nine; and was he then to be told that this was a question of principle? To talk of it as such was palpably absurd. Now, he had collected from the blue books details of the rates of wages from 1813 to 1833, during which period, as he had stated, seven distinct Acts had been passed bearing on the question of factory labour. What, then, was the rate of wages in the different years? In 1833, Mr. Holland Hoole gave evidence on the subject of wages; and his authority was the more important, as he was well known to be opposed to measures of this kind. He stated what were the wages in eight years, the last of which was 1833; and the result was, that the average wages of young women employed in the cotton manufactories in Manchester was 8s. 4d. a week; while in 1833 they were 8s. 10d. a week; so that, though the hours of labour were reduced, the wages of those persons had not been reduced, but rather had increased. And the advantage would appear still greater when they considered the prices of provisions in relation to wages at the different periods. He begged the House to grant him its attention while he proceeded to read the scale of prices which prevailed in the articles of food, and other necessaries, in each of these respective years. The House would remember that in the intermediate period seven enactments had been passed, limiting the hours of labour in factories. He found, then, that the price of oatmeal was, in 1813, 55s.; in 1833, 25s,; butcher's meat, in 1813, 5d.; in 1833, 3¾d.; soap, in 1813, 8d.; in 1833, 6d.; candles, in 1813,11½d.; in 1833, 5¾d. per lb.; coals, in 1813, 8½d.; in 1833, 3¾d. Salt, they were aware, 132 was considerably reduced; and there had been a reduction generally in calicoes, articles of dress, cheese, and potatoes, amounting nearly to 50 per cent, so that while the young women in 1833 got the same wages that they did in 1813, they could supply themselves with articles of food and clothing at 50 per cent less. Now if the House took the average weekly earnings in 1844 and 1845, they would find that the same facts were exhibited. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Bright) entered at some length into the question of wages as existing in his own and other factories in Lancashire and Yorkshire. The hon. Member stated the number of his workers at 518, and their average earnings per week, of sixty-nine hours, at 10s. 1d.; Mr. Ackroyd employed 575 workers, at an average weekly wages of 9s. 3d.; while Messrs. Eccles and Co. employed 230 at an average of 10s. 7d. He alluded to these facts merely to show that wages in 1844 and 1845 had not been reduced, although from the year 1833 they had passed two other enactments limiting the hours of labour in factories. He had, therefore, the right to assume that a doubt might be cast on the assertion that the reduction of the duration of labour would be followed by a reduction of wages. He believed it would not, and he conceived that he had as good a right to prophesy as his opponents. They were told that the health of towns was a subject of vital importance to all classes of the community. When this subject Was being forced upon their notice in a manner which could not be disregarded, could they, when considering this question, forget that the artisan was worked for twelve or fourteen hours in a heated and unwholesome atmosphere; that women (workers also in factories) were torn from their domestic relations, and interrupted in the midst of those maternal duties which nature had pointed out as imperative? Let the House look to the facts elicited by Mr. Fletcher, a most intelligent surgeon of Bury. He, writing to the hon. Member for Oldham, stated, that he was startled at the statistical details he had collected; but after he had himself again tested their accuracy, he was obliged to acknowledge that in no single instance were they overcharged. He had not taken one town or district, but had compared one with the other throughout the textile manufacturing counties. He had, for instance, taken one district in the town of Bury, and compared it with another district, in which 133 a different species of manufacture prevailed. First, in the town district of Bury, which he had examined, he found that great mortality prevailed in consequence of defective Ventilation, and that the average age of death of factory operatives did not exceed eight years; while in some other kinds of factories the period exceeded fourteen years. He found that the deaths of infants under two years of age averaged 61 per cent, and in other districts 32 per cent. The hon. Member (Mr. M. Gibson) seemed to doubt this; but the facts were accredited, and could be substantiated to the satisfaction of the hon. Member. Now, in the district of Bury North, he found the mortality of factory operatives, compared with others, as 9½ years to 19; and the deaths among their infants under two years of age, compared with those of other children, as 54 per cent to 33. Did not this prove that proper and efficient attendance could not be bestowed by the mothers on their offspring, and that at a time when all a mother's care was most urgently required? They had heard a great deal of the necessity for the construction of parks, and schools, and athenaeums for the working classes; but he should like to know what period the workman had to give, or what physical energy he had left, to enjoy walks in the parks, or intelligent recreation in athenæums? It might be said that they could go there on Sundays; but did the House think, after five days' labour, at twelve hours a day, the operatives had nothing to do but to ramble in the parks, or amuse themselves in the athenæum? It was truly said that manufactures at the present moment were depressed. Now, what was the cause of it? Why, it could be traced to the working of that magnificent demon—if he might be allowed the term—the steam-engine. By the aid of its powers, the manufacturers of this country had overstocked every market in the world; and that was the cause of the depression in manufactures. The consequence of all this was, that all the mills throughout the kingdom were working short time; and as there must necessarily be diminished production in future, what harm was there in passing this Bill? Would they deny that there was over-production, and that over-production was an evil? He maintained that it was a decided evil. He should like to know if the bankruptcies and failures produced by it were not decided evils. But when it was said that a reduction of two hours' labour per 134 day would diminish the power of production, they forgot the increasing powers of machinery. If they would look into Mr. Horner's report, they would find that, although thirty-three mills had recently ceased in one district, the increase of horsepower there had been truly astonishing. His hon. Friend (Sir A. L. Hay) had talked something of competition with America, and said the Americans were underselling us. Why, they had been underselling us for years before we reduced the price of labour. He knew also, that the wages in the United States considerably exceeded ours. Wages in the United States were about 15s. a week, while with us they were about 10s. In France, wages were lower than in this country. Moreover, the women spinners in America were very differently treated. They generally had a vacation of two or three months in a year, when they returned to their families, and renewed their domestic relations. Was that the case with any factory operatives in this country? But it was urged that if this Bill were passed, the price of manufactures would be increased in the home market. Well, perhaps it might, but only to the extent of a halfpenny a shirt, or a farthing a gown, or some trifle, which could not enter into serious argument. Then, again, it was urged, that if factory labourers objected to their present hours of labour, they could combine or turn out. This, he thought, was ungenerous; for, in his opinion, the operatives of Lancashire and Yorkshire were deserving of the highest eulogium, and were entitled to credit rather than odium, for not having long ago resorted to a turn-out or a combination. Now, why should the operatives be compelled to work more hours a day than the mechanic? There was not a mechanic in any mill who worked more than ten hours a day—not a smith, joiner, or carpenter, upon the average, worked in a mill more than ten hours per day; and why should the factory operatives be compelled to work longer? It was a very common thing to talk of educating the people; but he wanted these men, who were standing upon the soles of their feet for twelve hours a day, in an atmosphere of from seventy to eighty degrees, to have a little repose as well as education. A person occupied all the day in such a manner, could not be supposed to turn to scholastic duties, or afterwards take a walk in the park at Manchester, or "hie to the meadow to pull gowans" at Glasgow. It had been said, that the agricultural la- 135 bourer was worked as severely as the manufacturer: he was, however, always healthy, owing to the continued blessings of air and light. He said they were called upon, in justice and fairness, to deal kindly with men who had not resorted to unlawful combinations; and he felt assured that if they did not yield to their peaceful agitation, they would, ere long, greatly rue it. But it had been said, that if this measure were passed, other concessions would be required. He begged, however, for himself, to state that the present was a Ten Hours Bill, and as such he supported it; but if the operatives should come forward, and request a limitation of the hours of labour to eight, he should most certainly oppose it. He found that there was a clause in the present Bill, proposing that from the 1st of May, 1847, to the 1st of May, 1848, the hours of labour should be reduced to eleven, but that, after that period, the time should be reduced to ten hours. He did not approve of the eleven hours measure; he thought that it either went too far, or not far enough. In conclusion, he would express a hope that the manufacturers would no longer leave themselves open even to the suspicion of grasping avariciously that which they could not maintain, and which Christianity and morality forbade them to maintain, even if they had the power of doing so.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
had attended a meeting held in the town-hall of Rochdale, by the working classes of that town, for the purpose of expressing their opinions upon the subject of the Ten Hours Bill; and he asked them what were their wishes with respect to this Bill, whether they desired him to support the measure in that House, and whether they were willing to receive any reduction of wages which might arise from the passing of that measure? The answer which he received to these questions was decidedly in the affirmative. One part of the hall was appropriated to the use of females; and he asked them specifically what their wishes were, and they responded in the most enthusiastic manner, that they wished the Bill to be supported. He was bound to say, however, that a different opinion prevailed amongst the constituency of Rochdale; but these were but a comparatively small number of the inhabitants, and he considered that he was not so much elected to support the views of a limited constituency, as to represent the great body of the people. Believing, therefore, that the great body 136 of the operatives were in favour of this Bill, he should support it. The operatives could not help themselves. While the mills were open, they must work; and he, therefore, thought Parliament should impose some limitation.
§ MR. DENNISTOUN
concurred with one observation made by his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Bernal), that the question was one of the deepest importance, and ought to be met in a spirit of fair and rational argument. Though his hon. Friend, towards the close of his speech, soared into the regions of poetry, he wished to limit himself altogether to matter of fact; it was on the ground of fact his hon. Friend had challenged him to meet him. But, before he did so, he could not help adverting to the conduct of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government with regard to this question. He was somewhat surprised the noble Lord should have found fault with the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Bright), because at ten minutes to six, on the previous Wednesday, the hon. Member had made what the noble Lord called an attack on him. But short as was the time that remained, it did not prevent the noble Lord from making a counter attack on the hon. Member for Durham, and from declaring, as First Minister of this great commercial country, that he was, then and there, perfectly prepared, in the short space of exactly three minutes, to state the whole of the grounds on which he was ready to support a measure, which, in the opinion of those most competent to judge, was fraught with the most disastrous consequences to the manufacturing interests of the empire. He was surprised the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had not seen there was a principle involved in the measure. There would, said his hon. Friend (Mr. Bernal), be no principle involved in a proposition to adopt an eight hours Bill; it would only be a question of degree; so also, if it had been proposed to limit the hours to two hours instead of to ten, still, according to this reasoning, it would only be a question of degree Then, in fact, there was no principle to be considered in repealing the corn laws; if they once reduced the duty, it was then, according to this reasoning, merely a question of degree whether or not they should decide upon a total repeal. His hon. Friend had, however, stated an argument, which, at the first blush, seemed plausible, and which if not met, would place the opponents of the measure in a somewhat difficult po- 137 sition. It was true they had already reduced the hours of labour; but, because no material injury had resulted from the compelled reduction in the time of labour from fourteen to twelve hours, he did not admit that no evil would be the consequence of a further reduction of from twelve to ten hours. But, then, though they made this law, they effected in reality no limitation. There was no necessity for such a law; the trade generally throughout the country did not work more than at present—that is, they did not, on the average, work more than twelve hours a day; and, if he was correct in that statement, and he challenged contradiction, the whole argument of his hon. Friend fell to the ground. Although they had apparently limited the hours of labour for women and children, this now proposed was the first direct step, by legislative interference, towards limiting the power and capacity of the steam-engine—that which his hon. Friend called the demon of steam. This, in a country dependent for its wealth and welfare on its commerce and manufactures, appeared to him the most ruinous and absurd proposal that ever entered the brain of man. His hon. Friend had gone at great length into the question of foreign competition; and this, indeed, was the most important element in the consideration of the subject. His hon. Friend challenged him to test his logic by figures; and he would now, with the concurrence of the House, endeavour to demonstrate to his hon. Friend how accounts stood with their chief competitors—the Americans. He would take a case for comparison—that of a mill in Glasgow. The mill he instanced was of the average extent of 25,000 spindles; the cost of the raw material used in that mill amounted annually to 8,770l.; the wages to 7,198l.; the charges for annual interest on the capital for tear and wear and waste, 5,571l.; making a total of 21,539l. The cost of raw material thus amounted to no less than 40 per cent of the whole. Then take the case of the Americans. It was capable of proof, that in the single items of freight and insurance alone, the Americans at this moment had, and they always would have, an advantage over us equal to as much as 10 per cent. The per centage on that single item in the trade of this mill, would amount to 870l. per annum; or, on the whole consumption, to about 1,500,000l. It was evident, beyond that, that the prices of the raw material in this country must always average considerably more than in the United 138 States; it would not be an unreasonable estimate to calculate this as a gain to the Americans of another 10 per cent; thus the Americans had altogether an advantage of 20 per cent—the English manufacturer paying 3,000,000l. more than the American for his raw material; and this was a natural advantage, which, strive as they might, they could not get rid of. The manufacturers in this country were continually exposed to competition with the Americans in every neutral market; and it was of the utmost importance they should not lose sight of that branch of their trade—the export trade. They now maintained their position with the greatest difficulty; and the slightest increase in the cost of production would be ruin. He would mention a remarkable fact connected with their export trade. In the year 1843, the last year for which they had a return, there was used up in this country, and spun into cotton yarn, 400,000,000 lbs. of cotton. Of these 342,000,000 lbs. were exported, leaving only about 58,000,000 lbs. to be consumed in this country. Now this, according to his calculation, amounted to one-seventh; and the result of this measure, if the estimate of its advocates was right, that it would decrease the productive power of the country one-seventh, would be to destroy the manufacture of the whole quantity of cotton goods consumed in this country: this was an astounding fact, and he called upon the noble Lord to declare if he was willing thus to destroy, at one blow, an amount of goods equal to the whole quantity consumed in this country. His hon. Friend had proceeded to argue as to the effects of such a Bill upon wages, and had entreated them not to be poetical or imaginative, but to come to facts and figures. He would take the actual figures of a mill in full operation, and would, in this way, point out the inevitable result of a further legislative interference on profits and wages. He would return to the same mill in Glasgow which he had before mentioned; and he trusted that every hon. Gentleman having an interest in the question, would follow and endeavour to refute him. The total production of yarn in the mill he alluded to, amounted to 312,000 lbs.; and, deducting one-seventh, caused by a Ten Hours Bill, this would be 44,700 lbs. This, in money value, at 1s. per lb., was 2,228l. Then, taking into account the raw material used, amounting, as he had before shown, to 40 per cent, or 840l., and deducting this 139 from the 2,228l., they obtained as the loss per annum, in this single mill, the sum of 1,388l. Where was this loss to fall? It could be only in one of three ways. This loss would fall altogether upon the operatives, or upon the master, or would be divided between them. If divided equally, the loss in wages would be 674l.; or, upon the whole cotton trade, there would be a loss in wages, per annum, of 877,000l. Those of the operatives who were paid by the piece would even be worse off; for it was calculated that the reduction in the amount of their wages in that single mill, at the rate of 1,328l. a year, would, on the whole trade, equal 1,300,000l. Therefore the proposal to reduce their productive labour by one-seventh, was very little less than ruinous to the workmen themselves. Hon. Members argued in favour of the limitation of production in manufactures: were they prepared to apply the same principle to the production of food? What would be said of the man who should propose, or the Legislature that should pass, a measure, the effect of which would be to diminish by one-sixth the amount of food grown in this country? It was, of course, impossible to set an accurate money value upon the quantity of food raised in these countries; but assuming it at 200 millions sterling, and supposing that quantity reduced by one-seventh, the seventh would be above 28 millions in value. What would be the result? Why, the loss in Ireland of the potato crop, estimated at less than half that sum, and operating only over one year, had baffled all their statesmen, and set at defiance all the golden rules of their political economy; and yet here they were called upon to apply this very same principle if not to the food, at least to the raiment, of the people. The article cotton was next in importance to the article corn; and, supposing the crop of cotton were by some convulsion of nature totally distroyed, what inconvenience would arise! and, wanting the means of purchasing food, how great would be the misery of this country! Gold and silver might be swept away from a nation, and no extensive suffering be produced by the loss of it, for they were but articles of exchange, which would be replaced by others; but food and clothing constituted the wealth of the world; and not only was it no injury to a people to produce them in abundance, but it was a positive benefit. He could not conceive such a thing as over-production of food or 140 raiment; the producer might suffer, but the purchasers were always benefited. He could not imagine any more direct contradiction of the precepts of political economy than to assert there could be an over-quantity of food or raiment. They might succeed in the coming division; but (said the hon. Gentleman, in conclusion) "that will not settle the question; it will not only not settle the question, but it will unsettle every interest in the kingdom. Once admit the principle of interference on this gigantic scale, and no trade, no profession, no individual, is safe. You will have established a principle the application of which I defy you to limit to factories. You will, in spite of yourselves, be compelled to go on, till the evil will become so intolerable, that I venture to predict that not many years will elapse till those very persons, on whose behalf you think you are now legislating, will demand of you, in a voice not to be misunderstood, to retrace your steps; and will call upon you to save them, amidst the wreck, and anarchy, and confusion, which you yourselves, by your unwise and unjust legislation now, will have brought upon the country."
§ MR. FERRAND
When his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham presented, that afternoon, a great number of petitions, signed by many thousands of the operatives of the north of England, in favour of the Bill, the hon. Member for Dundee rose immediately after, and informed the House that he had a petition to present from a body of persons (a very different class of persons) who were the members of the Chamber of Commerce at Dundee. He was prepared to admit that this was indeed a very different class of persons. On the one hand, there were thousands of operatives praying for the protection of that House—men steeped in misery and distress; whilst, on the other hand, the Chamber of Commerce at Dundee requested that that House would not listen to the prayer of millions of the people of this country. He rose to support the prayer of the toiling millions of England and Scotland; in doing so he made no apology to the House; he begged only for a patient hearing; he felt that no hon. Member was more competent than himself to describe the situation and the feelings of the operatives under this fatal system. It was now seventeen years since he first became an advocate of the Ten Hours Bill; and at the many meetings he had attended, he never yet saw one manufacturer who dared raise his voice 141 against his workpeople when assembled to agitate and obtain the enactment of this measure. He never yet knew one manufacturer who dared meet those in his employment, and fairly argue the question at issue. If there was an instance of such an occurrence, he should be glad to hear on which side the victory finally rested. He saw the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) smiling at what he said. It was not many weeks since that hon. Gentleman himself visited his constituents, and was obliged to admit that the operatives of this country were unanimously in favour of the Bill. The working people of Sheffield gave the hon. Gentleman to understand that they entirely differed from him in the view he took of the question. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had informed the House that it was on account of his anxiety for the interest of the factory operatives, that he opposed the Ten Hours Bill. Now, with the permission of the House, he (Mr. Ferrand) should like to read a detailed account of the state of that class of our fellow-subjects in the absence of such a measure. He would not offer his own opinion; he would give them the authority of the Lancashire cotton-spinners. Out of the mouths of these manufacturers themselves, opposing the Bill, he would judge them in the British House of Commons. If the statement he was about to read was true, he would be justified in asking, had any hon. Member the audacity to stand up in that House, and to declare he was prepared to perpetuate, in a Christian and civilized land, so fearful a state of suffering and degradation as that which would be shown to be the condition of the unfortunate factory operatives? These great Lancashire cotton-spinners said—We think it is high time that the attention of the public should be directed to this momentous question (the factory question); that they should be informed, not merely of the advantages attendant on manufactures, which we fully allow, but also of the evils which accompany those advantages, but which are not inseparable from them; in order that they may be able to investigate the cause, and suggest the remedy. As individuals, we are friendly to manufactures, and extensively engaged in them. We shall not, therefore, be suspected of a wilful exaggeration of the evils we lament. We shall assume nothing, infer nothing, exaggerate nothing, extenuate nothing; but simply state the nature and amount of the evil, lament its existence, and suggest its cure. Domestic manufactures are almost extinct. The population, which was formerly scattered throughout the country, is now congregated into large towns, and is impressed with a distinct character. We will bodily appeal for the confirmation of our 142 views on the present unwholesomeness of large manufactories to any one who has been long and intimately acquainted with the interior of these establishments; who has seen children enter them at ten or twelve years of age, with the beaming eye, and the rosy cheek, and the elastic step of youth, and who has seen them gradually lose the gaiety and lightheartedness of early existence, and the colour and complexion of health, and the vivacity of intellect, and the insensibility to care, which are the natural characteristics of that tender age, under the withering influence of laborious confinement, ill-oxygenated air, and a meagre and unwholesome diet. We have witnessed all this repeatedly, and we have found it impossible to resist the obvious conclusion—a conclusion which we think cannot be gainsaid by any man of experience and observation.Now, who was the man of experience and observation who made use of these words? Why, it was no other than Mr. W. R. Gregg himself, one of the most extensive cotton-spinners in Lancashire, and who at that time was in favour of a reduction in the hours of labour. That was before his mind was poisoned by their principles of political economy, invented to rob the operatives of protection. Mr. Gregg, said further—From the long hours of labour, and the warm and often close atmosphere in which they are confined, a very large proportion of our manufacturing labourers feel the necessity of some artificial stimulus; we regret to say, that many of them, especially those who receive the highest wages, are in the habit of spending a portion of their leisure, after working hours, more particularly on Saturday evenings, and during the Sunday, in besotting themselves with ale and beer; and, still oftener, with the more efficient stimulus of gin. It is customary for them in many of the towns to stop at the ginshops and take a dram as they go to their work in the morning, and another as they return at night; and where, as is frequently the case, the houses of the workpeople lie in a cluster round the factory, it is not uncommon for a wholesale vendor of spirits to leave two gallons (the smallest quantity which can be sold without a license) at one of the houses, which is distributed in small quantities to the others, and payment is made to the merchant through the original receiver. The quantity of gin drunk in this way is enormous; and it is painful to know that children, and even girls, are initiated into this fatal practice at a very tender age. This is a picture which it is impossible to contemplate without sentiments of sorrow and regret that such a state of things should exist within reach of a remedy, and yet that remedy not to be applied; for, as we shall endeavour to show in the subsequent pages, all these evils may be greatly mitigated, if not altogether removed. But this is not all. Ardent spirits are not the only stimulus which this class of people indulge in. Many of them take large quantities of opium in one form or another; sometimes in pills, sometimes in laudanum, sometimes in what they call an anodyne draught, which is a narcotic of the same kind. They find this a cheaper stimulus than gin, and many of them prefer it. It has been in vogue 143 among them for many years, when wages were low, and the use of it is now continued, when there is no longer this excuse.Mr. Gregg proceeded to detail another cause of the unhealthiness of manufacturing towns:—As a second cause of the unhealthiness of manufacturing towns, we place the severe and unremitting labour. Cotton factories which are the best in this particular, begin to work at half-past 5 or 6 in the morning, and cease at half-past 7 or 8 at night. An interval of half an hour, or 40 minutes, is allowed for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and generally half an hour for tea, leaving about 12 hours a day clear labour.He (Mr. Ferrand) begged to call the attention of the hon. Member for Manchester to the fact, that there were 12 hours a day clear labour; this was the system which they wished to put a stop to.The work of spinners and stretchers is among the most laborious that exist, and is exceeded, perhaps, by that of mowing alone; and few mowers, we believe, think of continuing their labour for 12 hours without intermission. Add to this, that these men never rest for an instant during the hours of working, except while their mules are doffing, in which process they also assist; and it must be obvious to every one that it is next to impossible for any human being, however hardy and robust, to sustain this exertion for any length of time without permanently injuring his constitution.Then what did Mr. Gregg say with regard to other labourers of this country?—A collier never works above eight hours, and a farm labourer seldom above ten hours a day; and it is therefore wholly out of all just proportion that a spinner should labour for twelve hours regularly, and frequently for more. We know that incessant walking for twenty-four hours was considered one of the most intolerable tortures to which witches, in former times were subjected, for the purpose of compelling them to own their guilt, and that few of them could hold out for twelve; the fatigue of standing for twelve hours, without being permitted to lean or sit down, must be scarcely less extreme. Accordingly some sink under it, and many more have their constitutions permanently weakened and undermined.Yet they had Members of that House rising to argue about a quarter of a pound of cotton as if equal in importance with the lives of millions, and calling upon the British House of Commons to refuse this Bill, in order that their inordinate wealth might become still greater. He believed there was not a cotton-spinner of Lancashire who dared attend a public meeting in any one of the principal towns, and there, in the presence of the operatives, make use of that language which was so un-blushingly uttered in that House. If there was any such man—if there was any Member of that House connected with the cot- 144 ton trade, prepared to resist and dispute the demand of the people of the north of England, he challenged him to go to the north, and he (Mr. Ferrand) would meet him and plainly and openly discuss the merits of the question. He pledged his word—whatever were the attempts lately and secretly made, as he would shortly show to the House, to get up statements to be used in this debate by intimidating the operatives—that the people would unanimously declare their resolution to work for the future no longer than ten hours a day; and, if they were not legislated for, to take means to benefit themselves. He would not read all that Mr. Gregg said, but let the House hear the following:—In a word, the hands employed in these large manufactories breathe foul air for twelve hours out of the twenty-four; and we know that few things have so specific and iujurious an action on the digestive organs as the inhalation of impure air; and this fact alone would be almost sufficient to account for the prevalence of stomachic complaints in districts where manufactories abound. The small particles of cotton and dust with which the air in most rooms of factories is impregnated, not unfrequently lay the foundation of distressing and fatal diseases.The fourth cause of the ill-health which prevails among the manufacturing population may be traced to the injurious influence which the weakened and vitiated constitution of the women has upon their children. They are often employed in factories some years after their marriage, and during their pregnacy, and up to the very period of their confinement, which all who have attended to the physiology of this subject know must send their offspring into the world with a debilitated and unhealthy frame, which the circumstances of their infancy are ill calculated to renovate; and hence, when these children begin to work themselves, they are prepared at once to succumb to the evil influences by which they are surrounded.Now, could the House wonder at the statement which had been made by Mr. Fletcher of Bury, after those which he had just read? These were not off-hand exaggerated statements; they were not vulgar denouncements; but the deliberate opinions of Mr. Gregg, written by him in a pamphlet, and published to the world with all the weight of his authority. Was there a Member of that House could gainsay one of them? If not, then he unhesitatingly declared that the factory system of this country was carried on at an annual sacrifice of thousands of the people of England. The master manufacturers had said, in a statement which they had circulated among the Members of that House, that if Parliament adopted the Ten Hours Bill, they would 145 hold the Ministers responsible for the consequence; and he believed they had even gone so far as to threaten to close their mills, and thus to create outbreaks similar to those that took place in 1842. Was this the way for men to act who had amassed enormous wealth at the expense of the bones, the sinews, and the marrow of the factory operatives? Was this the example they were prepared to set, after the bargain, so disgraceful to them, with regard to the repeal of the corn laws, which they had made with the factory operatives, when they promised the latter that in return for their assistance on that question, they would give their support to a Ten Hours Bill? He called upon them to redeem their pledge; and if they did not, then they ought to be branded with infamy and disgrace. He denied that Ministers ought to be responsible for any consequences from this state of things. It was the master manufacturers themselves who were responsible, and who had declared, through their representatives in that House, that if left alone, without any legislative interference, they and their workmen would mutually come to an agreement with each other as to a reduction of the hours of labour. He asked, had they done so, or attempted to do so? No; they had broken their pledges and promises, and it was therefore the duty of Parliament to interfere, seeing it was ever their duty to protect the weak against the oppression of the strong. They were told that they had no right to interfere between man and master; but he denied that they were interfering with men; they asked a Ten Hours Bill for women and children, who were compelled either to work in factories or starve; for let the House recollect that it was machinery which destroyed the labours of the weaver and the comber at their own homes; and he had been told by a respectable manufacturer in the north of England, a supporter of the Ten Hours Bill, that he firmly believed that in ten years the comb machinery would destroy the labour of 70,000 operatives. It was for women and children that they interfered; but a Ten Hours Bill would be for the benefit of all, and secure more regularity and uniformity in labour. Why, at the present time, many mills were not working more than six hours a day; at other times they would be working twelve hours: so that the operatives were either wholly overworked, or on short time and starving; and he believed there was a probability that, ere long, the works 146 would be shut up altogether. He had no hesitation in saying, that in some of those factories greater labour was required than any horse in this country could perform; and that, as a consequence, factory workers died by thousands. In fact, it had been ascertained that men could not endure factory labour beyond the age of 45 years. The hon. Member for Montrose said, "Leave the women and children to themselves, and they will settle their disputes with the masters by themselves;" but, did any man suppose that when a woman went to a mill to gain only 6s. or 7s. a week, in order that she might be able to furnish her hungry children with food, she would not work off her fingers' ends rather than see them without the sustenance they required? Many of these poor women had said to him—"You little know what our sufferings are: you little know what it is to come home at night, and hear our children crying for food. If you were in our situation, you would not hesitate to work ten hours a day to get food for them; and so will we, as long as God gives us life and strength to do so." The hon. Member for Durham, on Wednesday last, made some extraordinary statements in his speech, and in so firm and determined a manner, that he had no doubt many Members of the House believed them to be true. The hon. Member, in one part of his speech, said—"Such speeches as used to be made by Lord Ashley had not been repeated that day, except by the noble Lord the Member for Newark, in the letter which he had read; but Lord Ashley used to make speeches in that House which were now given up; and he believed that the friends of the measure itself did not credit the facts that had been stated." Now, he was prepared to challenge the hon. Member to name one statement that Lord Ashley had ever made in that House, connected with the Ten Hours Bill, that was not strictly true. It was not manly in that hon. Member to come to that House and attack Lord Ashley behind his back. "He cannot be here," said the hon. Member for Bath. [Mr. ROEBUCK: I did not say so.] He hoped the next time the hon. Member for Bath interrupted him, he would speak so loud as to be heard. He certainly understood him to have made the remark he had quoted. He would repeat, that the hon. Member for Durham ought not to have attacked Lord Ashley, when he had no opportunity of meeting him in that House, and defend- 147 ing himself. He should be guilty of ingratitude to that noble Lord if he sat in that House, and allowed his character to be so unjustly attacked, when he remembered the sacrifices he had made in fighting this question. He had sacrificed his seat for the principles which he held on this question. Previously to the Ministry having publicly stated their determination to change the corn laws, the noble Lord published a letter in the newspapers, and intimated to his constituents that he was prepared to vote for that measure; but he believed he was justified in saying—though he did not speak on the authority of the noble Lord himself—that a communication was made to him by some of the leading cotton-spinners of Lancashire, that, if he would support them in obtaining the repeal of the corn laws, they would support him in a Ten Hours Bill. He would prove that to the House before he sat down; but, in the meantime, he wished to say that the noble Lord sacrificed his seat for that measure, which, during the best part of his life, he had advocated. The noble Lord had recently been in Lancashire, attending vast meetings of the operatives on this question, and no one had opposed him. He was at Rochdale, and he believed the hon. Member for Durham was invited to meet him. [Mr. BRIGHT was not invited.] He understood that the hon. Gentleman had been invited; but would he deny that he was in the town when the noble Lord held a meeting there? The brother of the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) went to that meeting; he had the "pluck" to go and advocate the views he held on this question; but the hon. Member did not go to meet the noble Lord face to face, and there to make such charges against him as he had made in that House. His brother, however, did appear among his own factory people to oppose the measure of Lord Ashley, though not a single man could be found in the meeting to stand up and assist him. He again asked what statements did Lord Ashley ever make in that House, that the hon. Member for Durham was prepared to dispute? Two years ago the statement made by Lord Ashley as to the distance children walked in factories was attempted to be disputed by the hon. Member; and what was the conduct of the noble Lord on that occasion? It was manly and straightforward. He said children walked from twenty to twenty-seven miles a day. Lord Ashley gave a challenge to Mr. Ashworth, Mr. Gregg, or any other 148 millowner, to meet Mr. Kenworthy and Mr. J. Fielden, assisted by two operatives, who were to be accompanied by an actuary, to test the validity of Lord Ashley's calculations. This challenge was delivered to Mr. Ashworth; but, after communicating with the other millowners, he declined it. He asked, was the hon. Member for Durham prepared to meet Lord Ashley at the present time; and if the hon. Member was justified in making upon him the attacks which he had made in that House? But the hon. Member made another extratraordinary statement on Wednesday, as to a petition against the corn laws from Manchester, which he said was signed by 75,000 of the people of Manchester, and which he contrasted with one signed by 22,000 in favour of a Ten Hours Bill. Now, the whole population of the borough of Manchester was 242,614, which would not give, more than 120,000 males; of this number there was not more than one in three males of sufficient age to sign a petition; which would allow 40,000. It was, therefore, for the hon. Gentleman to inform the House how the remaining 35,000 signatures were obtained, even supposing the whole male population of Manchester capable of signing had signed it. 22,000 signed in favour of ten hours—a fair test of the opinion of the inhabitants of Manchester. He should be glad to hear the hon. Member for Durham explain how it was that the League got up this petition; and how many of these signatures varied in price from 8s. to 14s. The hon. Gentleman also denied in that House that the operatives were ever asked the question whether they were prepared to accept the Ten Hours Bill regardless of its effects upon wages. Now, this question was put to crowded meetings in twenty towns — Manchester, Bolton, Bury, Blackburn, Oldham, Ashton, Preston, Rochdale, Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Keighley, Holmfirth, Barnsley, Dewsbury, Wakefield, Glasgow, Paisley, and Dundee. It was not put at Edinburgh, because there were no factory operatives there; and as to Glasgow, he was quite certain. At each of the meetings in England the following resolution was unanimously adopted:—That the factory workers composing this meeting are quite prepared to accept the Ten Hours Bill, regardless of its effects upon wages, leaving the prices of labour to be regulated by circumstances.Now, at the time the hon. Member for Durham was making the above statement 149 to the House, his own newspaper, the Manchester Examiner—[Mr. BRIGHT: I have nothing to do with the Manchester Examiner.] He was glad to be put right; but it was stated all through the country that the hon. Gentleman was a proprietor of that paper. Had the hon. Gentleman no interest in that newspaper? [Mr. BRIGHT: None whatever.] Did he understand the hon. Member to say that he was not a shareholder, and had nothing whatever to do with the Manchester Examiner? ["Oh, oh!" and "Order!"] [Mr. BRIGHT: I have no connexion with it whatever.] He considered himself quite in order in putting that question to the hon. Member; and he would put it to the Speaker whether he was in order or not?
§ MR. FERRAND
Well, to leave that point, he found in the Manchester Examiner a report of the meeting at Rochdale, in which the very question about wages, which the hon. Member for Durham denied was ever put to the operatives, was stated to have been put and carried in the affirmative by the meeting. On the very night, too, that the hon. Member made that statement to the House, a communication was sent off to Bradford, in Yorkshire, and by twelve o'clock next day the town was placarded for a meeting in the evening to test the statement of the hon. Member. On this subject, he would read the following communication from Bradford:—As to the question of a reduction of wages to the operatives, if a Ten Hours Bill be made the law of the land, it ought to be blown to the winds. We had a meeting here last night in Christ Church school-room, the Rev. William Morgan, minister of Christ Church in the chair, for the purpose of testing the factory operatives whether they would be willing to submit to such a reduction, if it was to take place, consequent on the passing of a Ten Hours Bill; and, although the bills calling the meeting were only posted on the walls of the town at noon, the room was filled from one end to the other; and when that particular question was put relative to the reduction of wages, in consequence of having a Ten Hours Bill, every hand was held up for it, and carried it, with shouting and clapping of hands and other marks of approbation.That was the feeling of the operatives of Bradford; and he also held in his hand a letter from Keighley, in which it was stated that all the clergy, all the shopkeepers, and forty-nine out of fifty of the adults, had signed a petition in favour of the Ten Hours Bill. But he would now come to another extraordinary statement made by the hon. Member for Durham. 150 He said the mechanics of the north of England were delighted to work fourteen or sixteen hours, and he did not know how much longer, if they were only paid for it. Now, he had received a communication from the mechanics of Manchester, in which they said—We, the undersigned, having been appointed by the mechanics of Manchester, in meeting assembled, to contradict certain statements made by Mr. John Bright, we will not say where, on Wednesday the 10th instant, during the debate on the Ten Hours Factory Bill, beg leave to request your acceptance of the enclosed pamphlet and circulars, a perusal of which, we think, will convince you that the statements made by that gentleman relative to the desire of the mechanics as a body to work long hours, is calculated to mislead the public, and misrepresent them. The publishing of the prize essay was decided upon at a delegate meeting representing the mechanics of Great Britain and Ireland, in May, 1845; and the address to the employers in the month of July, 1846.Why, the mechanics of Great Britain had had a meeting to decide what steps they could best take to reduce the hours of labour, and they offered a prize to any person who should produce the best essay on the subject. He would ask the hon. Member for Sheffield to say if he was prepared to defend the promise made by the manufacturers to the operatives, that they would assist them in getting a Ten Hours Bill, if they would lend their efforts towards obtaining a repeal of the corn laws? In the years 1843 and 1844, when the agitation for the repeal of the corn laws was so popular among the millowners, and not among the operatives, an effort was made by the former to obtain the assistance of the latter; and John Brooks, of Manchester, accompanied by several other Leaguers, attended several meetings of the operative cotton spinners, and held out the Ten Hours Bill as an inducement to them to join the agitation. The result was, that several of the most active did join, and, at the expense of their own body, went over the district to induce the factory workers to join in the agitation. Mr. Henry Ashworth, who was the instrument of the masters in opposing the Ten Hours Bill, at a public meeting held in the Temperance Hall, Bolton, said—That the existence of the corn laws was the cause of the long hours system; and that unless the system was altered, the manufacturing population would become a race of pigmies.Was not that holding out encouragement to the operatives? On the 24th of May, 1844, this gentleman wrote to the Ten Hours Bill delegates in London. He was 151 then chairman of the masters' deputation in London, opposing the Bill, and said—Perhaps your chairman will allow me to appeal to himself in reference to my own publicly-expressed opinions in reference to the hours of labour—views in which I believe a great many manufacturers concur—namely, that every day something like two hours labour is required, if not directly imposed, by the corn laws and other restrictions upon trade, and that these restrictions must be removed before any permanent reduction of the hours of labour can be effected. Possibly some of you may deem us mistaken; but those who have observed my solicitude for the freedom of industry will do me the justice to admit that I have not been unmindful of a reduction of the hours of labour as one of the objects sought to be accomplished.Now they had got the repeal of the corn laws, and he asked, were they prepared to fulfil their part of the compact? Or was it to be tolerated, after all this, that the manufacturers should come to London, and publish statements for the purpose of frightening the Members of that House from performing their duty, by the allegation that unless they had twelve hours labour, they would be ruined by foreign competition? He would not, however, argue this case on such grounds as these. He claimed the support of these men as an act of duty and of justice on their part; and he repeated, that if they were trying to intimidate the House by such statements as those they had published, for the purpose of enabling them to rob the poor men of those rights which they had promised to them, then were they guilty of dishonourable conduct. The working men had performed their part of the compact; they had set their masters an example which, if they wished to be respected, they would now follow. He had stated that the master manufacturers pledged themselves to Lord Ashley—and he was ready to prove his statement, that they pledged themselves through Mr. Gregg—to the effect, that after the repeal of the corn laws they would not oppose a Ten Hours Bill; that they would not oppose a reduction of the hours of labour. Lord Ashley, on the 15th of April, 1846, addressed the following letter to the secretary of the Lancashire Central Committee; it was only a short one, and it was an act of justice to Lord Ashley, as well as to the Ten Hours operative labourers, that the letter should be read:—Sir—Messrs. Horrocks and Miller have, I perceive from a Preston paper, put out a contradiction to the happy results of abridged labour. I have just read a similar statement in the Man- 152 chester Guardian of April 11, in a letter from Mr. R. H. Greg.This last-mentioned document has caused me some surprise. Mr. Greg did me the honour to call on me at the Albion Hotel, in Manchester, within a few hours of my arrival on the 2nd of March; he expressed a strong desire for the settlement of the short-time question, and said that the manufacturers, by the repeal of the duty on raw cotton, and by the abolition of the corn laws, would be placed in so advantageous a position that the working people ought to have their share of the common benefits; he should, therefore, be quite ready for an eleven hours Bill; and he added that though he lately entertained a different opinion, he was now convinced of the necessity of imposing such a restriction by law; the result could not be attained by common agreement. He asked, me how far such an arrangement would be satisfactory, and lead to a close of the agitation? I replied, 'That I, and I believe those whom I represent, would accept it, and give the plan a fair trial, reserving to ourselves the full power to renew the question of the ten hours on any fitting occasion.'Now, that was the statement which Lord Ashley made; and Mr. Gregg, on the 25th of April, published a letter in the Manchester Guardian, in which he says that Lord Ashley, in his conversation with him, had answered in what he considered a reasonable and proper spirit, "yet quite inconsistent with his former professions." Now, he would show to the House that there had been a deliberate conspiracy between the Anti-Corn-Law League and the master manufacturers. What had been the conduct of the master manufacturers of Manchester? The poor workpeople had sent delegates to London to watch their interests, and it was lucky for them they did so, as he was informed that a statement was going to be made that day, during the debate, to show that the operatives of Manchester were opposed to the Ten Hours Bill; and he should not be at all surprised if the hon. Member for Manchester were to get up and make such a statement; if so, it was lucky for the operatives of Manchester that he (Mr. Ferrand) had caught the Speaker's eye before that hon. Member. He was going to show the system of intimidation shown towards the operatives; and he would read to the House a statement headed, "Intimidation of the hands at three mills in Manchester." What did this statement say? It had produced a great sensation on the spot:—On Monday last the overlookers and managers of Messrs. Murry's mill"—(this showed the manner in which the operatives were intimidated, and that they could not be protected except by the Legislature)— 153—"went round to the hands with books in their hands, with columns ruled for the purpose, with these headings:—'Are you favourable to twelve hours, with twelve hours wages? Are you favourable to eleven hours, with eleven hours wages? Are you favourable to ten hours, with ten hours wages?'There was no option. If they were to have ten hours work, they were to have only ten hours wages; they were to be bound down to it. It was not a question as to the demands of the labour market; but the master manufacturers protected themselves by binding down their labourers.The hands were compelled to sign their name at a moment's notice to these questions, which were put in such a way as gave them to understand that they might incur the displeasure of the master. Messrs. T. and H. Houldsworth adopted the same course. Most of the men signed for eleven hours (short time), and eleven hours wages. Most of the females signed for twelve hours. In Messrs. M'Connell's mill the same course was adopted, with this difference"—mark—"the hands had a few hours notice, and were left to express their desire in their own way; and in this case nearly the whole of the hands voted for ten hours, and told their master they would take their chance about wages.Left to themselves, they decided for ten hours; under the control of the overlooker of the black book, they put down their names for eleven hours. This was at Manchester, and it showed that the working people must not be trifled with upon this great question. The statement went on—Last night a meeting of the factory hands was held in the meal-house, one of the largest rooms at their command, which was crammed to excess. The whole of the business was conducted by factory operatives, at which meeting the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:—'1. That this meeting cannot but view with feelings of regret and indignation the conduct of such of the factory masters who have adopted so disreputable a course as to send their managers and overlookers through their mills with books, in which the names of their hands are written, and demanding in a hasty and peremptory manner, 'Are you favourable to a ten or eleven hours Bill, with ten or eleven hours wages?' It being well known to such employers that such a method of intimidation would, in most cases, induce such answers as would enable them to offer further opposition to the measure now before the House of Commons.'That resolution was unanimously carried. Now let the House hear the next resolution passed at this public meeting:—2. That the factory workers in this meeting are quite prepared to accept the Ten Hours Bill, regardless of its effects upon wages, leaving the price of labour to be regulated by the same law which fixes the value of all other marketable commodities.Now, would the hon. Member for Durham, 154 or any other Member of the House, say that the operatives were not prepared to accept the Bill? The overlookers kept black books in which they noted down the names of men. He (Mr. Ferrand) had intended to make some other observations upon the speech of the hon. Member for Durham, but he would not trespass upon the House. But before he sat down, he would tell the House deliberately, that the operatives (and he knew their feelings) would no longer be trifled with. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that there had been no "strikes" in the north of England, and that the working people had not struck. When the working people in the north of England came to that House and petitioned for protection for their wives and children, the House refused to grant it; it did not refuse it to the wives and children of the colliery working men; and how was the sympathy of the House worked upon? Why, the blue book in their case was embellished with woodcuts, showing the barbarous degradation of the wives and children of colliers. Beware, lest the working men in the factories follow that example. The day might come when Parliament Street might witness 500 factory cripples, wasted and maimed, with loss of legs and arms, their bodies stunted in our factories; and as sure as they should refuse to the operatives the justice to which they had a right in this question, so sure would they take such a step as that to work upon the feelings of the House; and the day was not far distant, if the House refused this Bill, when 500 factory cripples might assemble in Palace Yard, joining in the universal song—the song of the factory children—We will have the Ten Hours Bill.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, if noise were rhetoric, and a high opinion of one's own case were argument, the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down would be a very convincing one. But he (Mr. Roebuck) should take the liberty of addressing himself only to the small portion of what might be called argument in the observations of the hon. Gentleman, passing by, with one or two remarks, the attendant garnish which accompanied the rest of what he said. Imputations were cast by the hon. Member upon all persons who opposed him, and upon all who maintained their own opinions in opposition to his; but as he had not the slightest interest 155 in this matter, as he was totally unconnected with the mercantile portion of the community, and considered in that House only the interests of the community at large, he had not thought it possible that any imputation could have been levelled at him. It was not enough to defend himself from imputation of personal interest in the matter, for there was a new species of crime which had been got up on this occasion. He was accused of being a cold-blooded economist. A great deal of violent language had been employed in condemnation of him, because he cultivated what was called the science of political economy. He had been guilty of having endeavoured, no doubt in a very humble way, but, at the same time, with great earnestness, to ascertain the laws which regulated the accession of wealth; and of inquiring also into the circumstances necessarily connected with the condition of the labouring population of this country. He had done his best to investigate that important subject, and he had come to an opposite conclusion to that of the hon. Gentleman opposite; and he did think that, under these circumstances, it was hard to have all this species of vituperation levelled against him by those who happened to be his opponents. Now, he should hardly have addressed himself to this question at all, if it had not been for an observation that fell from the noble Lord the Member for Newark on the last day's debate. They heard constantly of statements to the effect that such and such a measure should not be made a party question. There had been a constant appeal to "the candour of hon. Gentlemen opposite" in the course of the last day's discussion. And how did the noble Lord finish his speech upon that occasion—a speech wrought up for the occasion with he (Mr. Roebuck) believed half a dozen affecting perorations? His speech finished with this significant observation: "Let the working people of this country understand that the Gentlemen on this (the protectionist) side of the House who are attached to that party which is so replete with historic recollections, are in favour of the Ten Hours Bill", and have not opposed those rights of their fellow-countrymen." "The historic recollections of that party!" He thought if he were to put his hand upon the clear page of history which contained the relation of their doings with respect to the people of this country, he should find one continuous effort to depress their moral and intellec- 156 tual energies. But he was not called upon on that occasion to enter into the lists with the noble Lord upon that subject; he thought that if he were called upon to do so he could do it. But this was not a question into which to import any feelings of party spirit; and he would, therefore, address himself to the great question, for a great question it was which was at present occupying the attention of that House, and which would eventually create the greatest interest in this country. And to hear of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ferrand) threatening them with a congregation of cripples in Palace Yard, to influence their judgments by their feelings because they might see humanity in a crippled shape! Was that sort of proceeding worthy of a man who called himself the representative of a civilized community, or of rational men? Why, they knew that there were misfortunes attending all classes of the community; they knew that human nature was subject to toil for its bread. Labour was the inevitable law of humanity. But was it rational to approach such a question as this in such a manner as proposed, to control him and the other hon. Gentlemen of that House with threats too—for the hon. Gentleman had told them so. The hon. Gentleman threatened the House with the appearance of 500 cripples in Palace Yard to Carry the Ten Hours Bill. Why, any rational man would point with the finger of scorn to any body of men whose conduct might be influenced by such a sentence as that. Now, the truth was, that hon. Gentlemen made this great assumption with regard to this question—they assumed that they could regulate wages by Act of Parliament. And when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough said that this question was not fairly put when they asked the labourer, "Are you willing to take ten hours wages for ten hours work?"—that, he said, was not a fair way of putting the question. That was not the way in which he put the question, he would allow. The hon. Member put the question thus: he began by saying, in the most positive manner (for he did say so in many places), "Now, I know full well that if you have this Ten Hours Bill, you will get twelve hours wages. Now, I tell you that beforehand." Then he put this question, "Now, having told you that, are you content to run the risk of having this Ten Hours Bill?" Why, was it not human nature, that people who, perhaps, had but little 157 mental capacity to judge on this question, should say, "Why, you see this gentleman tells us that we shall have twelve hours wages, and we will run the risk of saying, 'Give us the Ten Hours Bill.'" But was that any argument? Not at all. Now, the question was this: could they by any legislative enactment get for the labouring men twelve hours wages for ten hours work? If they could, let them do it. But let them go one step further, because, if an Act of Parliament were omnipotent, as the hon. Member said—if it could give twelve hours wages for ten hours work, it could also give twelve hours wages for six hours work. And let them carry it one step further, and give twelve hours wages for doing no work at all. But, unfortunately, the hon. Member for Weymouth had also dealt in this fallacious sort of rhetoric; he said, "What is the use of over-production—what is the use of labouring too long; why can you not regulate the hours of labour, so that you shall not at one period of the year overwork the people, and at another not have sufficient employment for them?" But unfortunately these circumstances could not be determined in that way. The hours of labour were regulated by a totally different concatenation of events from that, and it was simply this: a man having a certain capital to employ was able to employ a certain number of labourers to produce a certain article. With that capital he had to compete with other men in the home and foreign markets. If those other men were enabled to bring into those markets a cheaper product, then that cheaper product was bought up, and his product was put aside, and the manufacturer failed therefore in his intention. Now, that was the simple statement of the case, and was absolutely and necessarily the consequence that followed from competition. The noble Lord the Member for Newark said, "Mark what you are producing by your long hours of labour; you are not only inducing the people of England to over labour, but you are inducing long hours in America." Why, they knew to their cost that America was competing with them; and they might depend upon it that, if they pursued this course of legislation, America would not imitate them. She would labour until she had dispossessed us in America; and we should never recover when once she had dispossessed us. Now, he would ask, when was it that they were about to make this extraordinary interfe- 158 rence with their manufacturing power? At a time when they were about to be taxed more heavily than they had been during the last forty years. They were about to be called upon to maintain 8,000,000 of people. And that was the very moment of all others that they were going to tie up the right hand of the English people. He had heard it said often that we owed our success in our conflict with Napoleon to British valour. There was, however, another element of success in that strife; and it was the British intelligence which supplied the "sinews of war" by which that strife could alone be carried on—the surplus of our produce it was that enabled us to make that gigantic effort by which we coped with Napoleon. We had now an enemy far greater than he—one who exercised a far more potent influence over our fate. We had famine stalking through the land; we had now to cope with him in every part of this country. Ireland was starving—England was at the brink of starvation—and at that moment it was that, for party purposes, this question was raised. Oh, but it was said, that party politics were not intended to be imported in this question; but he could not shut his eyes to the fact. He saw hon. Gentlemen opposite manifest great anxiety to catch at whatever they could, to grapple with the difficulties by which they were surrounded, so that they might get a party triumph. They resorted to every plan for the purpose of catching support. Why, they promised the Irish people mutton one day, and promised Englishmen twelve hours wages for ten hours work the next. And that was called "statesmanship." That was called "dealing with the interests of a great country upon a comprehensive plan." Why, the proposing of "this comprehensive, plan" was like the conduct of a man who hoists a light upon a lee coast at night, in the hope of getting something from the shipwreck of some unfortunate vessel that was passing along the coast. Only let it be some vessel in distress; let one light be hoisted for the purpose of deceiving the Irish, and let another be hoisted for a Ten Hours Bill upon that lee shore, so that the Government might get upon the rock, and the objects of that party were served. Now that was an illustration of the conduct of those Gentlemen. But could they do what they had been asked to do? He begged to tell the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand), that he was not going to shrink from meeting any body of his coun- 159 trymen when it was his duty to do so. He had never shrunk from meeting any body of men whom he thought it his duty to meet. But he had not thought it his duty to go as a peripatetic or wandering advocate for any sect. His duty was to attend in that House and express his opinion; and if his constituents chose to ask him to make his appearance amongst them, he should be quite ready when called upon on a proper occasion, and at a proper time; and if the hon. Member for Knaresborough chose to make his appearance also, he should be quite ready to meet him on this subject. He did not wish to introduce the sayings of a noble Lord (Lord Ashley) on this occasion; but he had no doubt that the noble Lord would not decline meeting him on this question with that courtesy with which he would meet the noble Lord. But he did not mean to attack him now. If he chose to attack any body, it was the noble Lord opposite (Lord G. Bentinck), the leader of that great party—"my party." It struck him that upon this question the labouring population of this country (he acknowledged it) entertained an opinion distinctly opposed to his own. He sincerely believed that a large body of what was called in the new phraseology "the operatives of this country," seriously believed that by an Act of Parliament they could regulate wages. Now, he differed from them entirely; and he had such confidence in the truth of his opinion, and so thoroughly was he a friend to the labouring population, that he wished to see them enabled to give effect in that House to their wishes and desires. And he hoped that this new direction of the philanthropic efforts of the labourers' friends would oblige that House to propose and extend to the labouring population the constitutional right of voting for Members of Parliament—so that they might have in that House a virtual representation of the interests of the labouring man. He did hope that the hon. Gentleman on his left hand (Mr. Duncombe) would be more efficiently supported than he had hitherto been in his efforts to procure a proper representation of the working classes in that House. He did hope that that hon. Gentleman would in such efforts have the assistance of the hon. Gentlemen opposite—or that they would have a "large and comprehensive scheme"—submitted to their consideration by the leader of that great party opposite (the protectionists), which should give to the labouring population of this country their 160 strictly constitutional rights. When that time arrived (and he hoped that it would soon come) they would have an opportunity of testing the sincerity and the value of the declarations of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was compelled in self-defence to make this examination of their proceedings. When hon. Gentlemen dealt with the people, they always dealt with them with a patronising air. They were always patting them on the head as if they were dealing with a child—and said, "We will do all the good for you we can; now do you be quiet and just listen to us. We will be your pastors and masters; but you must be quiet: we will give you everything that you can desire in the condition into which it has pleased God to call you; but don't for Heaven's sake ask to be legislators." He differed entirely from that mode of proceeding with regard to the labouring classes. He wanted them to be legislators for themselves. He wanted them to have the responsibility of getting this measure themselves, and not to be under the necessity of inducing others to get it for them. He did believe that there was no greater calamity which could impend over the people of England at this time, than the carrying of this question. And when the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government told them the difficulties of his financial position—and in the extraordinary difficulties of this momentous crisis he could heartily and deeply sympathize with the noble Lord in the position which he held—fully and completely was he willing to express his hearty concurrence in the wishes for his complete success; but as sure as the noble Lord was now the chief adviser of the Crown, let him be so sure that he was crippling the energies of this country, by bringing the authority of his great name to this most amazing and pernicious policy. Why, was the noble Lord aware that in dealing with this question in the present emergency, he was dealing with a great moral and political question? Could it be that this agitation would stop even if an Eleven Hours Bill were granted? Why, if legislation were worth a farthing, it was good for two hours as well as one; because, if they were to interfere with that great principle that had been enunciated on the preceding night by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth—if they were to interfere between master and men, to regulate private enterprise and the price of labour in the labour market, let 161 them do it effectually. If they could make a man happy, let them make him completely happy—if they could get for him twelve hours wages for ten hours work, let them advance one step further, and give him twelve hours wages for not working at all. Why, this was mere trifling with the subject. He would rather vote with the hon. Member for Oldham for the Ten Hours Bill at once, than for an Eleven Hours Bill. The hon. Member for Oldham had said, that after having made calculations, he had arrived at the conclusion that the working man would receive twelve hours wages for ten hours work. He knew, he said, that the wages of labour would not fall. He said, "I know that by Act of Parliament you can prevent the reduction of wages; and I am sure that the condition of the people will be completely raised." He admired the practical conduct of the hon. Member; but, for the life of him, he could not see how the noble Lord had arrived at his conclusion. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had put the great argument upon this question in the moral force way: "Why," he said, "do you talk about this measure now, when you had sanctioned its principle before?" Now he had always talked upon this question: he had opposed legislation for adult labour upon every occasion. It was only in those cases in which those who were not sui juris able to offer opposition, and to defend their own interests, that the law should step in; and on such occasions he had repeatedly contributed his assistance for the purpose of allowing the law to step in. But it so happened that hitherto they had not touched upon adult labour except in a very small degree, and he would state why directly. Now, this was one of the great fallacies that had been manifested by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. The hon. Member for Knaresborough rose up and described to the House the horrible sufferings of poor children and women in factories; but it was but fair to consider what the law had already done on that subject. The law had regulated the condition of children up to thirteen years of age; no child until it was thirteen years of age could be worked more than six hours a day. The factory master was compelled to educate that child. Now that was what Parliament had already done. He would just look into this subject of interference by Parliament between masters and those in their employ. He would ask 162 why this parliamentary legislation had not been extended to the agricultural labourers. Their argument against such interference was usually this: "You have a large manufacturing population crowded together—you can legislate for them—you can overlook them—you have got them in factories; there you can put your hand upon them, and you can make laws for them; but you can't do that with agricultural labourers." Now, he wanted to know why they could not make such a law as this: that no farmer employ a child under thirteen years of age for more than six hours a day—and that he shall educate such a child as they educate children of that age in the factories? Now, he would test hon. Gentlemen opposite by proposing a clause himself in this Bill—and there could be no difficulty, because every parish, he believed, in this country had a national or some other sort of school; and if there was a school, let the farmers be under similar laws to the manufacturers with respect to such children. Now, let him say a word about agricultural labourers above thirteen years of age. If any young gentleman, who wished to employ a rather strong weapon with a weak hand, could dress up an affecting tale, oft repeated with his own somewhat diluted phraseology, he came and told the House—"I am coming to advocate the rights of woman." Now, he never heard any one of those Gentlemen propose to extend the principles of this Bill to the agricultural labouring woman; and yet he saw women constantly employed in agricultural labour, in cold and wet—and at 4d. a day. Now, it was their favourite theme to describe the horrible effects of factory labour upon the human frame. Now, he certainly did not pretend to have any professional knowledge upon the subject, although the hon. Gentleman opposite had declared to the House what was his opinion upon the subject. But he (Mr. Roebuck) was ready—and he had read a great deal on the subject, and had gone through a great number of factories—he was prepared to say that a woman employed in a factory, as regarded her health, her clothing, her wages, her shelter from the weather, and from alternations of heat and cold, was in a condition ten thousand times more happy than that of the agricultural labouring women whom he had seen absolutely driven out of the field from cold and wet. The House must recollect the way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite stood up to assert that the masters in the 163 manufacturing districts were dealing most cruelly with those in their employ; and there was a constant attempt to set the employer against the employed. He did not say that that mode was adopted by intelligent, philanthropic gentlemen; but it was done by the vulgar declaimer—by one who was a wretched rhetorician, and who had not anything but the most vulgar means of obtaining a vulgar end—who made use of fallacious arguments, vituperation, and noisy declamation, and talked about black books and taskmasters and oppressors, and the "cruel manufacturers." Now, he (Mr. Roebuck) was not going to retort upon the persons who employed agricultural labourers. The agricultural labourer was badly paid, because his master could not pay him better. The agricultural labourer was badly clothed, because he was badly paid and badly fed, for the same reason. But all the evils which were attendant upon his condition in relation to his master, applied precisely to the case of the factory operative; for if the factory operative had not high wages or good clothing, it was because it was the misfortune of himself and his employer. They could not regulate his wages by an Act of Parliament; they depended upon circumstances beyond the control of either. It was the height of folly and of vice to shut men's eyes to this great truth, that it was a great crime to impute the cause to the master manufacturers. It could not be said that he was connected with the masters. He did not know half a dozen of them, and none of them intimately. He had never connected himself with any of their agitations about the corn laws, and therefore he had a right upon this occasion to step forward and vindicate the character of the English master in his relation with his servants employed in his factory. Now, if he wanted to take a foreigner coming into this country into an assemblage of men where he could point out to him the benefits arising from civilized life, strange as it might appear to the declaimers opposite, he would take him into those great hives of industry in the northern towns of this country. He would not take him to the hovel of the agricultural labourer—he would not show him that poor woman who was paid but 4d. a day—he would not show him the half-clothed, badly-fed, and wretchedly-housed agricultural labouring woman; but he would take him to those great establishments which had sprung up under the influence of the mighty intelli- 164 gence and enterprise of England, and which employed, and fed, and educated thousands and thousands of men in a far better manner than it was the fortune of the agricultural labourer to be employed, fed, and educated. No man who had attended to the history of labour in this country for the last forty years, could fail to see that the labouring man had been greatly improved in the scale of civilization. He was acute and clever. Why, he had heard men twenty thousand times in his life say, it was not among the tradesmen or the better class that he was to go for an acute and intelligent population, but it was to the factory operative. Now, no doubt, in spite of all the endeavours of the masters of this country, there was, and there would be for many years to come, a vast mass of ignorance and wretchedness in this country; but they could not remove that ignorance or wretchedness by an Act of Parliament. They must endeavour to educate the children as much as they could, as had been done in the factories. Let them extend to the child of the agricultural labourer that provision for education which they had already extended to the child under thirteen years of age employed in factories. Now, he wanted to know why there should be this remarkable anomaly? He dared to say he should expose himself to abuse if he offered an illustration of this matter; but as a curious circumstance, he should like to ascertain this—with respect to the printers in this great town employed on The Times establishment—he should like to know how many hours they worked by night, and whether there was any interference of the Legislature, or any Act of Parliament, with regard to their working hours? And if not, why not? Why should not an Act of Parliament step in and say, "You must not go to work at four o'clock in the afternoon, and come away at six, or whatever hour it might be. You shall not have the printers' devils, as they are called, without giving them an education; and you shall not work them more than six hours a day, and you shall not work them at all at night." Now, he wanted to know if they had any legislative interference with regard to the large establishments in London; and if not, why not? because if it were good for the factory child in the north of England, surely it was good for the printer's boy in Printing house-square. He could not draw any line of distinction between the two; and he should very much like to 165 see this great principle, as far as it regarded children, thoroughly and completely carried out, and that they would extend its provisions to the children of the agricultural labourer. With a view of meeting the difficulty in that respect, he would, as he had before said, propose a clause for insertion in the Bill. He could not conclude without making some allusion to a statement that had been made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It had been said that the Legislature had already interfered with regard to the hours of labour of certain classes of operatives—the labourers employed in water power establishments, for instance. Now, water power was subject to vicissitudes that steam power was not. Water power diminished in dry summers, and the mills could not be worked; but when the water arrived, the flood came down, and the mills were enabled to work the number of hours allowed by law, namely, twelve. But he was informed that the result of the interference of the Legislature with the hours of labour in those mills was, that several of them had been stopped altogether. They had pro tanto crippled the energies of this country. But there were some hon. Gentlemen who knew very little of trade, who said, "Why don't you work regularly twelve hours a day throughout the year, and then you will have stocks ready for the market when they want them." Why, he wished that such hon. Gentlemen would pass some hours or months out of the House, and be subject to all the troubles of a great merchant of this country; and if they would, they would understand that the market was not dependent upon them—that they could not regulate the demand—and that the supply should be equal to the demand if they wished to succeed. It depended upon the demand, and that demand depended upon the seasons. If they had a favourable season, they had a great demand for labour; and, if they had an unfavourable season, the demand for labour was proportionately decreased. The merchants were, therefore, subject to all vicissitudes and change of season; and what injustice it would be to pass a law to compel them to employ their men at all times neither more nor less than 12 hours a day. The consequences of such legislation were to him (Mr. Roebuck) exceedingly fearful; and he did beseech the House—though in so doing he had but little hopes of his being able to influence their determination much—but 166 he did beseech them, if they intended to interfere at all with the factory operatives and their masters, that they would make it a Ten Hours Bill at once. They would save themselves an immensity of anxiety and trouble by so doing. He should be extremely sorry if the first person who felt the consequences of this altered legislation were the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He knew that there was disappointment in store for large classes of working men; and it might be that the hon. Member for Knaresborough would live to see the day when he would not be thought of by the working men as he was now, and when the working men would find that the prediction which the hon. Member had made with his usual assurance that wages would not fall, had been grievously untrue. The workmen would say, when they found this decline in their wages, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough was a false prophet, for that hon. Member had often declared in that House that wages would not fall if the short-hour system were to be adopted. Disappointment in these anticipations would be the inevitable result; and so sure as that came, so sure would the workmen themselves be the very first persons to complain to Parliament of the mischief which had been inflicted upon them. It was the operative class who would feel it first and most direfully; the consumer would feel it also; and the nation, as a nation, would feel it to its heart's core; and when they came to a vote of supply, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would feel all his energy crippled, he would find that the finances were cut short, by the right arm of England being withered.
§ MR. P. BORTHWICK
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had treated the question as if this was the first attempt to regulate the subject of labour; but the hon. and learned Gentleman could not have forgotten that this Bill was not a Bill to regulate all labour, but to regulate the labour of children and of adult women. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be the first to suffer. But what did experience prove since the first interference took place with the labour in factories? Had manufactures fallen off in consequence of the regulation with respect to children? On the contrary was it not true that the commercial prosperity of the country had continued to increase? Not anticipating any of the evils which had been predicted as likely to arise 167 from the interference of the Legislature, he trusted that the experiment would be fairly tried by passing a Ten Hours Bill.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, however near his local position might be to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bath, it was not often that he could agree with him in opinion; but on the present occasion he had heard two of the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman with infinite pleasure. One of the remarks to which he alluded was, that, sooner or later, the passing of the measure now under consideration was inevitable. He entertained that opinion three or four years ago, when he differed on that point with those political Friends with whom he had so long acted, and when many hon. Members were needlessly dragged through the mire to rescind a vote which they had previously given. The other point on which he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Bath was this, that he would rather take the Bill without the modification intended to be proposed by the Government. He did not see why the Government should endeavour so fruitlessly to defeat the hopes of those persona who were more immediately interested in the measure, and at the same time prolong a vexatious agitation out of doors. He, therefore, trusted that Her Majesty's Government would reconsider the determination to which he feared they had come, and would suffer the Bill to pass in its present shape; because, even should it ultimately prove injurious, it would be as easy for them to come down to the House in the year 1849, and propose to re-enact the provisions under which labour was at present carried on. It was not necessary for him to defend the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden), or his noble Friend (Lord John Manners), whose name was also on the Bill, or his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), the great originator of the Bill; but he might be permitted to say, that, disagreeing as they did on almost every other subject, it could not be supposed that they had now united for any party purpose: on the contrary, they were actuated by the highest and purest motives. It was said, that this was an interference with labour, and that it would operate in an injurious manner. But had any of the previous prophecies on the subject been fulfilled? Had the profits of the manufacturers been diminished? Had the wages of the factory workers been reduced? If previous prophecies had not been fulfilled, why should the House be called upon 168 to give credence to those which were now made? The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that he had a great question to deal with, and that he would pursue it. But who could have supposed—discursive as the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman was known to be—that in such a debate he would have taken the opportunity of introducing the doctrine of universal suffrage, and requesting those who supported the present measure to show themselves friendly to the labouring classes, by extending to them the right to vote for Members of Parliament. His great object was not to raise the price of labour, nor the actual expense attendant upon the manufacture of cotton, but to distribute the work more equally. At the present moment, as he was informed, the work was distributed not over the six days of the week, but in many mills over four days only, and in others for only three days, the work being the same in quantity. He had letters from Manchester which stated, that some mills only worked four days in the week, some only three days, and some were entirely stopped. He wished to call the attention of the House to the fact, that at this moment there were men working forty-eight hours per week—being four days of twelve hours—who would, so far from their labour being diminished, work fifty-nine hours. But that work would be distributed over the whole week, so that they would get six days wages for six days work, and the manufacturers would derive a greater amount of work by the adoption of that system. The number of hands employed during only four days in Manchester, was 2,240; those employed for three days, were 3,059; and there were 520 employed for one day in the week; whilst those not employed amounted to 6,415; making a total of those partially stopped from work and those altogether stopped, amounting to 12,264. If the work now given were distributed more equally, it would be of greater benefit to the workmen, and afford an increased produce to the manufacturers. He trusted Her Majesty's Government would reconsider the measure, and allow it to pass in its original form.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
objected to the Bill, because he considered it a distinct invasion of the rights of property; it would invade not only the capital invested in manufactures, but the labourer who, with a large family, desired to work 14 or 15 hours a day, would also be affected by it, 169 for it would limit his ability of providing for those dependent on him.
§ SIR G. STRICKLAND
should not have trespassed on the attention of the House, but for the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had been repeated by the hon. and learned Member for Bath—namely, that the labourers in factories were as well off as agricultural labourers. This statement struck him the more forcibly, as he had, only a few hours before, presented a petition, signed by nearly 6,000 factory labourers, stating that their situation, in consequence of the long hours of labour, was much inferior to that of all other artisans and labourers of every description in the United Kingdom. In drawing a contrast between the situation of the factory labourer and the agricultural labourer, the first thing that struck him was the difference in the number of hours each was employed. The agricultural labourer was absent from his cottage twelve hours during the day, working ten; but the factory labourer was absent from his house fourteen hours, and worked twelve. The factory labourer was employed in a heated and impure atmosphere, whilst the agricultural labourer was enjoying a pure and invigorating breeze. To show the case more clearly, he would take the case of two females employed during one of the days in the month of December. The female employed in agricultural pursuits would not go to her labour till eight o'clock in the morning. The factory woman generally had to rise soon after five o'clock, and frequently walk a considerable distance through the rain in order to reach the factory door in time for the ringing of the six o'clock bell. The factory woman, therefore, had to work two hours before the commencement of the labours of the woman engaged in agriculture. Did not that show a great difference in their relative positions? The agricultural labourer, after continuing her work till four o'clock, could then go home to her domestic comforts; but the woman employed in a factory could not leave before eight o'clock—thus showing four hours continuous labour, in addition to the two in the morning. After this statement, could any one say there was no distinction between the situation of the two classes? With respect to what had been said on the subject of the reduction of wages, he (Sir G. Strickland) had never deluded the people by telling them that they would receive the same wages if 170 they worked fewer hours; but had asked if they were prepared to receive lower wages, and their answer was, "We have been told there will be no reduction; but if there should be, we will accept a lower amount, being amply repaid by the increased comfort of our homes." Adam Smith, in arguing the question of wages, said—The masters, being few in number, can combine much more easily." "Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year without employment." "In disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have the advantage.If the adult labourer was placed under this disadvantage, and required protection, how much more forcibly did the remark apply to the poor factory girl between thirteen and eighteen years of age, almost worn out and exhausted with toil! The more the subject was discussed, the more would every man become convinced that the time had arrived when it was necessary for the Legislature to assist these unfortunate and overtoiled persons; and he thought the proper means of doing so was by a Ten Hours Bill.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
was desirous of explaining the reasons for his vote, which were not exactly those that had been assigned by any other Member. He conceived that what was now asked by the operatives was defensible on economical grounds; for all that impaired the health of the working classes entailed positive loss upon the community. Assuming only for the sake of argument, that it was the interest of the master to overwork his men, the profit of the overwork might go into the pocket of the master, but it was a disadvantage to the State. He felt satisfied that any direct interference by Parliament with adult labour was not merely useless, but unjustifiable; and in order to establish the impolicy of overwork, both as regarded the master and the operative, he referred to a case in which the master had extended the hours of labour even to fifteen: during the first two months there was some gain, but in the second two months so much was spoiled, and the machinery was so ill-applied, that it was a positive loss to continue. In his opinion a factory law ought only to apply to boys until they were fourteen, although in the case of girls he would be prepared to extend the limitation to a somewhat more advanced period of life. He strongly deprecated, however, any interference with the labour of adult females.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
rose only to say that he had a petition to present which he had been prevented from presenting at the usual time. It was from the solicitors, surgeons, physicians, merchants, manufacturers, shopkeepers, and inhabitants of Huddersfield, praying that the present Bill might pass into a law; and, in compliance with the prayer of that petition, with which he agreed, he should support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. MARSLAND
said, that as a representative of a manufacturing district, whose weal or we depended on their decision in this question, he thought himself justified in asking their attention for a few minutes. He believed the manufacturers were heartily tired of this question, and were desirous of throwing the responsibility of settling it on the Government. The question, whether the House, without taking any measures to prevent restriction being detrimental to those for whose benefit it was intended, should prohibit parties working beyond a certain time, was a most momentous one. He feared that those who advocated the measure, had allowed their ardour to blind them as to the consequences. The hon. Member for Oldham was of opinion, that even a shorter period than ten hours a day was a sufficient time for any human being to labour. No doubt the hon. Member was sincere; but was his practice in strict conformity to the principle which he had laid down; and were the people whom he employed allowed that rest and relaxation which he considered necessary for their comfort? Or was there not some reason for supposing that the hon. Member was convinced, that, if he carried out his views, those who were dependent upon him must ultimately suffer? If this Bill should pass, and if a great depreciation in wages should follow, let the House reflect what a risk they would run. At present the manufacturers were in a distressed state, and yet a measure like the present was proposed. If the experiment should fail, they would become the victims of their own benevolence; and if the working classes should in consequence demand an Act for the regulation of wages, with what consistency could they refuse it? He was quite ready to admit that the working classes ought to have time for relaxation and improvement. But any improvement that had taken place in the manufacturing districts was not to be ascribed to legislative interference, but to improvements in machinery, which had rendered manual 172 labour less severe. He objected to the Bill, because it would teach men to rely, not on their own exertions and energies, but on the interference of Parliament.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, that if the House wished to come to a division that afternoon, he should not stand in the way of it. He should not detain them more than three minutes; but he must say, that he entirely concurred in one of the opinions of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Marsland). He fully believed that the master manufacturers of this country were completely tired of agitation on this subject. He also believed, that the hon. Gentleman might safely have gone much further, and have said, that both the House and the operatives themselves were tired of the agitation. They were tired of it, because they felt it to be injurious both to the employers and the employed; and if that were so, was it not, he asked, a subject of great regret, when Ministers were about to meddle with the subject, that they could not settle it in such a manner as to put an end to further agitation upon it? Of all propositions on the question, he looked upon an Eleven Hours Bill as the most absurd. What did such a proposal on the part of Ministers prove, but that they had great doubts as to the principle of interference? It was time that the House should make up its mind on the question. Those who advocated a Ten Hours Bill said, that it ought to satisfy the operative classes. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had told them that he would be no party to the delusion that the working classes would receive twelve hours wages for ten hours work. But let them not deceive themselves. The operatives did believe that they would receive twelve hours wages for ten hours work. They entertained that opinion, not only in consequence of what had been told them, but of their past experience of legislation on the subject. When there was so great a difference of opinion on that point, he regretted the House did not agree to the Committee which he had moved for at the time when the right hon. Baronet opposite, the late Secretary of State, brought in his measure on the subject. His object in moving for that Committee was, to ascertain the effect which the restriction of labour to ten hours would have on wages. He believed, that if it could be shown that the effect of the present Bill would be to reduce wages 25 per cent, even the hon. Member for Oldham himself would oppose 173 it. He had received various letters on the subject. He would only refer to one of them, which had been sent him from Sheffield. It stated that, in that town, trades were working six, seven, and up to twelve hours a day, according to the regulations of each, and that there was no instance in these trades in which wages had not risen. It also stated, that the physical, moral, and intellectual condition of the people was rapidly improving in consequence. The traders in the other manufacturing districts were aware of what had taken place at Sheffield; but as the masters had not as yet come to any arrangement with their workpeople on the subject, it was time the Legislature should interfere. If he thought the present Bill would reduce wages, he would oppose it; but, believing that it would improve the physical and moral condition of the operatives, he should give it his support.
§ MR. B. ESCOTT
rose to move the adjournment of the debate. He would state why he made that Motion. On a former occasion, he had put a question to the Government as to their intentions with respect to this measure; and the noble Lord the Member for London promised, in answer, that on the second reading he would fully state his intentions with respect to it, and his opinion of its principle. Up to the present moment, however, the noble Lord had not spoken on the measure. He had said a few words on the last night of the debate, but he had not entered upon the question or the principle of the Bill. But that was not his only reason for moving the adjournment. There were other parties besides that of which the noble Lord was the able leader. They had not learned the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth on the question. On a former occasion, when the right hon. Baronet asked the hon. Member for Tavistock not to press for a division on this subject, he said that he intended to state his opinion of it to the House. But there was also the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. ["Divide."] The hon. and learned Recorder of Dublin might interrupt him; he would rather have the hon. and learned Gentleman answer him. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn was the straightforward, energetic, and able leader of a great party in that House. He wished to hear the opinion of the leader of that party also. The House ought to recollect that when hon. Members talked of the satisfaction which the country would feel on the settle- 174 ment of this question, that it was impossible it could be settled unless the leaders of the different parties in the House came forward and expressed their opinions upon it. He moved that the debate be adjourned.
§ MR. SHAW
The hon. Gentleman, amidst many expressions of dissent, had fixed upon him (Mr. Shaw) in particular, and requested him to answer, and not to interrupt him. Then his answer was the same as the cause of his murmur of disapprobation, namely, that he believed the sole object of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Winchester (Mr. Escott), was to impede the progress of the Bill.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
was prepared, with the hon. Member for Winchester, to vote against the Bill; but, at the same time, he thought the reasons adduced by the hon. Gentleman for adjourning the debate were extremely unsatisfactory. He had often seen the House consent to an adjournment when Members who might be desirous of addressing it had not had an opportunity of doing so; but he had never known an adjournment moved for in order to give Members an opportunity of speaking who were not desirous of addressing them. He retained the opinions which he had formerly expressed of this measure, and he would offer it every opposition; but he did not think it would be a fair way of opposing the Bill to adopt the course suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ SIR R. PEEL
had been accused by the hon. and learned Member for Winchester of a breach of some engagement which it was said he had entered into to speak on this measure. He knew nothing of any such engagement. When it was proposed to resist the introduction of the Bill, he had said that he thought it due to the importance of the subject to allow the Bill to be brought in, and that he should therefore vote in favour of its being introduced; but he had accompanied that statement with a declaration that he intended to offer all the opposition in his power to the principle of the Bill. He had no engagement to speak on the occasion. He retained the opinion which he had expressed with regard to it, and assured the hon. and learned Member for Winchester, that if he had been speaking for two hours up to twelve o'clock last night, he would not have been now anxious again to address the House. After the time that had been wasted, and when their opinions were perfectly well known—when the subject had been completely exhausted 175 —and when no new arguments had been introduced, he really thought that they better consulted the public convenience, and deferred to public opinion, by remaining silent on the occasion.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
As I have been challenged by the hon. and learned Member to state my opinion, I have to inform him that I am in favour of the Bill.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the House would recollect he had addressed them on the subject last week. He had, towards the conclusion of his speech, made certain remarks on the conduct of the Government, and he had been accused of having made these observations at a time when it was out of the power of the Government to reply to them. It might be that the hon. and learned Member for Winchester did not wish to address them at a time when he might be liable to the same objection, and that he had, therefore, moved the adjournment. It was unfortunate that a question like the present should be discussed on a Wednesday; because, for four hours out of the six for which they sat, there were but few Members present. It was only towards the close that Members came down in large numbers, and it was they who had not heard a word of the debate who demanded that the question should be summarily disposed of. He believed it to be of essential importance that the question should be longer before the public, and that it should receive a fuller discussion. He seconded the Motion for adjournment.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 7; Noes 282: Majority 275.
|List of the AYES.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Wall, C. B.|
|Leader, J. T.||Escott, B.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Bright, J.|
§ On the Question that the word "now" stand part of the Question, the House again divided:—Ayes 195; Noes 87: Majority 108.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Barnard, E. G.|
|Acton, Col.||Baskerville, T. B. M.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Bateson, T.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Beckett, W.|
|Aldam, W.||Benbow, J.|
|Allix, J. P.||Bennet, P.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Bentinck, Lord G.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Beresford, Maj.|
|Bankes, G.||Berkeley, hon. G. F.|
|Baring, T.||Bernal, R.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Henley, J. W.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Broadley, H.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Hindley, C.|
|Brooke, Lord||Hodgson, R.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Hollond, R.|
|Bruen, Colonel||Hope, A.|
|Buck, L. W.||Hornby, J.|
|Buller, C.||Howard, hn. C. W. G.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Howard, P. H.|
|Butler, P. S.||Hudson, G.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Hurst, R. H.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Hussey, T.|
|Cholmeley, Sir J. M.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Christie, W. D.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Churchill, Lord A. S.||Kelly, J.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Kemble, H.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Lambton, H.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Collett, J.||Layard, Maj.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Lefroy, A.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Lennox, Lord G. H. G.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Curteis, H. B.||M'Carthy, A.|
|Denison, E. B.||Mangles, R. D.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Miles, W.|
|Disraeli, B.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Morgan, O.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Morris, D.|
|Duncombe, T.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Dundas, D.||Neeld, J.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Neeld, J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Newport, Visct.|
|Ellis, W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Entwisle, W.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Etwall, R.||O'Brien, C.|
|Evans, Sir D. L.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Farnham, E. B.||O'Connell, Dan. jun.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Finch, G.||O'Connell, J.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Packe, C. W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Paget, Col.|
|Gardner, J. D.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Palmer, R.|
|Godson, R.||Palmer, G.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Gore, W. O.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Goring, C.||Polhill, F.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Granger, T. C.||Prime, R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Pusey, P.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Grogan, E.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Richards, R.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Rushout, Capt.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Hall, Col.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Seymer, H. K.||Tufnell, H.|
|Shaw, rt. hon. F.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Shirley, E. J.||Wyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Sibthorp, Col.||Vyvyan Sir R. R.|
|Spooner, R.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Staunton, Sir G. T.||Wakley, T.|
|Stuart, Lord J.||Walker, R.|
|Stuart, J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Williams, W.|
|Taylor, E.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Taylor, J. A.|
|Trevor, hon. G. R.||Fielden, J.|
|Troubridge, Sir E. T.||Brotherton, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Baine, W.||Lindsay, hon. Capt.|
|Barkly, H.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Lockhart, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. F. P.||Maitland, T.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Marshall, W.|
|Bright, J.||Marsland, H.|
|Brown, W.||Martin, J.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Matheson, J.|
|Cardwell, E.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Mure, Col.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Neville, R.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Northland, Visct.|
|Craig, W. G.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Cripps, W.||Oswald, A.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Oswald, J.|
|Dawson, hon. T. W.||Parker, J.|
|Denison, J. E.||Patten, J. W.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Pattison, J.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Duncan, G.||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Philips, M.|
|Escott, B.||Protheroe, E. D.|
|Evans, W.||Romilly, J.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Scott, R.|
|Forbes, W.||Seymour, Lord|
|Forster, M.||Smith, A.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Gregory, W. H.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Hastie, A.||Thornely, T.|
|Hawes, B.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Wall, C. B.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Warburton, H.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Ward, H. G.|
|Langston, J. H.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Leader, J. T.||TELLERS.|
|Le Marchant, Sir D.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Dennistoun, J.|
§ House adjourned, it being past Six o'clock, without any other Question having been put.