presented himself thus early to their Lordships' attention, to state his opinions on this bill, rather with a view to further measures of a like kind which he understood Were contemplated, having been prevented from taking part in the earlier discussions by accidental circumstances. some persons argued that this bill went too far; others that it did not go far enough, (he meant as it was altered by their Lordships); while a third party contended that it exactly hit the Oft line Which should be taken in horning Such a measure. He was quite willing to bear testimony to the pure spirit 572 of philanthrophy which characterised the noble Lord who introduced this bill into the other House of Parliament; and whom to praise would be superfluous, for none have presumed to utter a whisper against him. it Was probable that that noble Lord might be right in supposing that if the whole matter had been referred to a committee, a smaller Change would have been made in the bill than had actually been effected; but it was also possible that the results might have been of an opposite kind. It was impossible for him, occupied as he had been daily With judicial business here and elsewhere uninterruptedly since the time when the report of the Commissioners was published, to be conversant with the 2,000 pages of that report, and he believed that their Lordships hi general had not had sufficient time Well to consider the great mass of evidence which was collected; but he also believed that there Were in that evidence some Aida, the truth of which could not be denied? facts which would warrant them in passing a part at least of the bill without further inquiry. But would their Lordships suffer him to comment for a little while upon the course of legislation into which they were about to enter There was nothing more easy, and there was nothing more natural, than when any evil practices were revealed to exclaim at once " This must not be," and to demand a law to punish them, a proclamation to denounce them, or it might be a standing order to put them down. But as there was nothing more difficult than legislation, so there was nothing which demanded greater degree of circumspection and caution; in proportion as the future is veiled from Our eyes, so ought we to point them the more earnestly in all other directions, fixing them upon the present and the past; and if it was so in all cases, if it was necessary to exercise this caution and this circumspection at all times, it was emphatically and most necessary to exercise these faculties when called upon to legislate upon a no less important, delicate, and difficult subject than that of the employment of the labouring classes of this country. As a general principle, he thought nothing should be done by means of legislation to draw out of their usual Channels, out of those Channels into which they would naturally flow, capital and labour, forcing and reducing them into other channels which they do not naturally seek. He did not say that 573 there were no exceptions to this rule. If any kind of employment amounted to an offence, to a crime, then it became the duty of the Legislature to interfere. Upon grounds like these, Parliament had interfered with what was called a trade, but which was in reality a crime, the slave-traffic. In like manner, after still further inquiry, after still longer and wholly inexcusable delay, it was admitted at length that no man possessed a right to hold property in the persons of his fellowmen, and the holding of such property was prohibited, but with an ample compensation to those whom the change in the law affected. But if any species of employment which was not actually criminal, was yet immoral in its nature, or even if it had a manifest tendency to produce immorality, it was also the duty of the lawgiver to interfere and to prohibit its existence. Every thing, however, in the latter case depended upon degree, upon whether that tendency was certain, direct, and immediate, or not; a remote, and uncertain tendency was not enough to justify interposition; but upon these grounds, and within the scope of these principles, he was disposed to maintain that one part of this bill, that relating to the employment of female children, should be an exception to the general rule which he had laid down with reference to the inexpediency of drawing and still more of forcibly repelling capital and labour from their natural channels. But they should take care not to be led away by feelings of humanity however natural in themselves, and however honourable, in considering this measure. If the operation of a species of labour should be found prejudicial, manifestly and certainly prejudicial to certain classes of the community, possibly an exception might also be made in that case to the general rule which he had referred to. But it became them to consider in what way such a trade or employment was pernicious. If it was merely disadvantageous to the interests of the persons concerned in it, in a temporal point of view, if we thought that the persons employed in such a trade might earn more, or might be better off, by engaging in another, in that point of view legislation had no right whatever to interfere between them and their occupation. Their interest was their own affair. With reference to the effect of trades on health, it was, he much feared, the lot by which men lived that they should earn their bread not only in 574 the sweat of their brow, but by the wear and tear of their constitutions. It was as lamentable as true that many employments there were, not healthy any more than easy, and he was almost afraid to think of the vast number of instances in which the labouring classes were and must be employed in trades which tended directly to injure the constitution, to engender disease, to inflict suffering, and to shorten life. The subject was a painful one, but he was forced upon its consideration, not so much by the particular measure before the House, as by measures of a similar tendency, which he was confident would spring from it, which he was sure were lurking in its shade, and it became their Lordships to meet the subject betimes. How many unwholesome trades were men engaged in, trades for examples the effects of which paralysed the limbs, such occupations as those of the painter, in which white lead was used, or that of the brazier, which occasioned partial disease of a paralytic kind, or those trades in which steel filings were diffused through the atmosphere, giving rise to asthmatic complaints. Again, let any man go amongst the peasantry, and examine the difference between the husbandman who had passed his life in hard labour up to the time of, perhaps, forty-five years of age, and the man of sixty-five or even seventy, who had passed his life in the ordinary pursuits in which men of their Lordships station in society were generally engaged. Let any man compare the two classes; in one case he would put the peasant of forty-five or fifty down for seventy years of age, and in the other case he would be likely to fix the age of the gentleman of seventy at from forty-five to fifty years. It would be said that workmen pursued these exhausting and injurious occupations with their eyes open; that they had the management of their own time; that they, knowing their callings to be unhealthy, yet voluntarily chose to enter upon them; and that, therefore, the Legislature ought not to interfere with them. But the case of children, it might be admitted, was different. They required protection. They could not judge for themselves. They were put, by the indifference of their parents, or by worse feelings, by their sordid propensities, into those occupations in which their health was injured, their education, their moral and intellectual training utterly neglected. But this consideration would not bear out 575 the argument involved in measures like the bill before the House; for if it be granted that persons must be found willing to enter into occupations unhealthy in their nature, such as those which he had mentioned (and he might cite worse cases than he had named, as those of men who worked in glass-houses, and attended furnaces), if it was admitted that the Legislature could not or should not interfere with such occupations, then he averred that a certain inference followed, and which could not be escaped, and this was, that to a certain degree comparatively young persons must be allowed to enter into those employments. There were many such occupations the duties of which could not be learned unless young persons began at twelve or thirteen years of age to be initiated into them. Therefore these unwholesome trades, if they were to be exercised at all, must not only be exercised by men, but by youths under the age of twenty-one, nay, under the age of seventeen or eighteen. This argument might be held to apply to boys of ten years of age and upwards, but he believed that it ought not and did not apply to children of more tender years. But when, under the guidance of natural and humane feelings, they were entering upon this field of legislation, it was very fit that they should look about them to see how wide that field was, and to reflect, before they set out, how far they proposed to advance into it. He would, in entering upon this consideration, first of all, remind their Lordships that they were making laws to bind the labouring classes of the community, and not intended to affect the rich. They were rearing up a power to attack not the strong but the weak, not to control the great, but to crush the feeble, and let them take very good care that they did not subject themselves to the well-grounded imputation which had been made against almost all legislators, in every age and in every country, that they were very apt to forge fetters for the humble, but only to cast a gossamer over the powerful. Such had been the saying of the wise man to whom his noble Friend (Lord Melbourne) lately referred; it was in substance the saying by which Solon was known among the ancient sages. Now they were dealing with the weak, and it became his duty to remind their Lordships of some circumstances which seemed to have escaped their attention. Nothing could be more miserable, nothing more to be 576 deplored, than the destitution, in all means of instruction, which prevailed in mines; nothing could be more lamentable than the conduct of parents to children in those mines, and nothing was more to be desired than well-directed efforts to put au end to the scenes sometimes witnessed in them. But the colliers were not the only parents whose conduct towards their children was extremely to be lamented, and much to be blamed. It was bad, it was lamentable, to see children carried at a tender age to the mine, and there made to crawl through damp caverns, and crawling to work for a greater number of hours than their strength permitted, and then to be sent home in a state of mental and bodily exhaustion, perhaps to a scanty meal, and certainly fit only for sleep; but this, bad as it Might be, was not much worse than the cautious provision which was made by some parents in order to stunt the growth of their children, to prevent them from attaining a certain stature with the due proportion of their strength, lest they should also attain a certain weight. This was done in order that they might, when arrived at manhood, only attain a certain small size, and, consequently, a certain light weight, and then these unhappy wretches, old before their time, these stunted creatures, after performing the services of those who hired them, and caused them to be so tortured and trained, died without ever reaching anything like old age, and during their lives never had anything like a healthy constitution. He spoke of these matters of course not from practical experience, but he stated what from the reports of such of their Lordships as were practically conversant with the subject, he believed to be true. Again, was there anything more certain than that the most wholesome nutriment a child could receive was that with which bounteous nature had furnished its mother—was there anything more certain than that by withdrawing this natural food, you entailed the absolute necessity of bringing the child up in a less wholesome manner?—was there anything more certain than that children, for want of their mother's nursing must often perish before their time?—was there anything more certain than that this was an unnatural and a mischievous departure from the duty of a mother to suckle her own child? But did he blame those poor women who handed over their infants 577 to the care of a foster-mother, in order to get advantageous places for themselves? Did he blame this? No, he lamented without blaming it, but he could not close his eyes to the fearful extent of the evils produced on the bodies and minds of children, and he would add, on the minds and feelings of the mothers too, by that system which was now freely practised by parents among the working classes, when opportunity offered, of not suckling their own children, in order to be employed in suckling the children of those in easy circumstances, and especially in that rank of life to which their Lordships and the Members of the other House of Parliament belonged. Sure was he that if commissioners were empowered to inquire into the nursing of children and their removal from their mothers, they could produce with half the skill and diligence employed by the mining commission, a report, which would trace most frightfully a picture of the consequence of the practice. If such report were presented, and if, in consequence of what it was quite sure to recommend, any one were to bring in a bill for prohibiting such practices, and were to get that bill hurried through the other House, he was confident that nine-tenths of the measure would be rejected in their Lordships' House. It might be feared, that in such an event, it would cross the minds of many how ready the two Houses were to interfere with the working classes, but how apt they were, when practices were denounced in which they themselves were sharers, to turn a deaf ear to the denunciation. Would it not be said they were great dealers in cheap virtue?—a commodity which, unlike all other commodities, was more in demand the less difficult it was to procure; and although in great vogue and much request, was of little cost, and less value. But their Lordships, he trusted, would never deal in that worthless commodity more largely than was absolutely necessary, or be forward to display that species of vicarious courage which dared to encounter risks in the persons of others, and bore with patient resignation sufferings that could never be known or felt. When a case attended with circumstances such as are now described was brought before them, he thought that they should weigh well all the considerations to which he had adverted, and the effects which they were likely to have on the character of 578 the Legislature, among not rash and unthinking, but intelligent and reflecting persons. He did not say that it was wrong to prevent the employment of young children: and where there was a case of outrage to morals, or even to delicacy and to feelings, the matter was, of course, clear; he repeated that it was not improper to interfere for the protection of young children, as they had already done in the cases of chimney-sweepers and factory children; they were right in such cases to interpose, but, in doing so, let them be very cautious of interfering between the parent and the child. Nature had implanted deeply, the strongest feelings in that connection, and if they attempted to make acts of Parliament more tender towards children than the cherishing affection of mothers, let them rely upon it that not only they would fail, but they would not fail with impunity; they would not merely fail to provide a better substitute, but they would destroy the natural agent; the provision of any poor substitute for the tenderness of a mother, could not but lead to the deadening of that primary natural sentiment, so deeply seated and so strongly felt. He hoped that the cautions which he had thrown out, would not be forgotten in legislating upon the subject. To the bill as amended in this House he offered no objection; but he entreated their Lordships to bear in mind 'the cautions he had ventured to suggest, when they were again called upon to deal with such subjects.
The Marquess of Londonderry
, was understood to speak nearly as follows. He must, at the beginning, express the great pleasure with which he had listened to the speech of the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down. That noble and learned Lord had argued the question in a straightforward manner with his usual ability; and had made several observations well worthy of their Lordship's attention. He regretted, however, that he should again have to present himself to the attention of their Lordships on this subject, but he had a duty imposed upon him, from which he felt it impossible to shrink. He must first offer a few observations on the general alterations which I had been made in the bill. In the bill as I originally introduced into the House of I Commons, it was provided,That after six calendar months from the passing of this bill, it should not be lawful for 579 any owner of a colliery to employ any female person.The alteration made by their Lordships was,—From and after the 1st day of March, 1843.In fact, the bill was so completely changed, that the only clause which stood the same was that relative to the appointment of Government inspectors. As the bill, therefore, would not come into operation until 1843, was there not ample time for some further enquiry. With regard to the report which had been laid on the Table, and which contained 2,000 pages, he must object to the railway pace with which the evidence on which it was founded had been prepared. He must mention one curious fact in relation to this report, and that was, that copies had been sent into the country for the purpose of obtaining the favourable comments of the press before it was laid on the Table of their Lordships' House. The noble Lord, the President of the Council, who was certainly a coal-owner, but who could not he said to be the organ of the coal-owners of the North, said that those gentlemen did not object to the Government inspectors. He believed he might have the honour of considering himself the organ of the coal. owners of the North, and to prove that the noble Lord President had not been correct in his impression, he would read the following resolutions of the committee of coal-owners, dated the 23rd of July. That document was as follows:—Coal-Trade Office, Newcastle, July 23, 1842.Meeting of the committee—Robert William Brandling, esq., in the chair.Resolved, That the committee return their best thanks to Lord Londonderry for his kind communication of the 16th instant, and acknowledge with feelings of gratitude the unwearied exertions of his Lordship to promote the interest of the trade at large by rendering the bill for the employment of persons in mines comparatively innocuous, and though unwilling to give his Lordship any additional trouble—It is further resolved, That he be respectfully requested again to urge in the House of Lords the entire omission of the clause, appointing inspectors, the parents being employed with their children, and the existing power of the magistrates having been found sufficient to afford all necessary protection to both parties. But, should his Lordship be unable to exceed to that extent, that it is very desirable, that the words scored under in the 580 returned copy or the bill should be omitted for the reasons stated in the margin.
§ "ROBERT W. BRANDLING,
§ His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had very truly observed, that if Parliament once began legislating for this trade, that other trades would soon be attacked also. He concurred in that opinion, and if this measure passed, he had no doubt a similar one would be soon introduced affecting the iron trade, and when this species of legislation would stop nobody would be able to tell. Its mischievous nature had been well described in the following article from one of the public prints (The Sun), to which he would call the attention of the House:—
§ " In the course of a pretty long experience we have seen so many laws, passed from the most benevolent motives, turn out complete failures, that we are no longer susceptible of being seduced by temporary expediency to forsake general principles. It has been established, for example, by a wide induction, since writers began to observe and classify political facts, that the interference by law with the application of individual industry is invariably mischievous. That principle is agreeable to the theory of Government, which is constituted not to direct the labour of any part of the community, except that which is employed in the public service, but to protect the rights of individuals. Add to these general facts the particular fact, that our Legislature is almost exclusively composed of opulent and leisure classes; that no mere manual labourer has any share in it; that a very small proportion indeed of the manual labourers, even concur In electing the law-makers; and there is a strong case established against the interference by such a Legislature with the industry of the people, in any shape or form. It seems to us also a necessary consequence of the Legislature undertaking to regulate any one particular class of labourers, that it becomes bound to regulate the whole. Our system of production, by which society is sustained, is one of great combination or division of labour,—the weaver, depending on the spinner, the spinner on the steam-engine, and the steam-engine on the coal-hewer; and the legislator who undertakes to regulate a part must, if he can, regulate the whole. The chances are, as he really knows nothing, and can know nothing, of a system which is obviously in progress of development with population, that he will inflict on the whole a serious injury. The assumption of regulating any one part constitutes the legislator the judge of what employments are proper and what improper, and how much or how little time individuals should be engaged in them. If there be one needless and unwholesome occupation in society, on that principle the legislator is to blame."581
§ He must again entreat the House not to pass this measure without some further consideration. Those persons who were most competent to give opinions had not been examined, for none of the overmen or viewers had been examined. The statements in the digest were altogether exaggerated, and in proof of this he would read a letter which he had recently received, which he thought was important as to the employment in collieries generally. The letter was this:—
§ No. 8, Park-place, Bayswater
§ " Mr Loan—For the first time in my life, in word or deed, have I intruded myself on any measures passing through either Houses of Parliament; but seeing from report that your Lordship's opinions and my own correspond in a great degree upon the Colliery Bill, I am disposed, and I hope your Lordship will not in think me presumptuous doing so, to give a few remarks from experience in a practical way; and I am induced thus to step out of my way, from the extreme feeling made upon the Houses of Parliament by the reports of certain commissioners of inquiry into the cruelty and hardships of boys being worked in mines under thirteen years of age—leaving girls or women out of the question, for that is disgusting, nor did I ever see either down, even in a coal mine, in my life, in our part of the country, North Staffordshire. Having commenced, I feel, my Lord, I am going too far for such an humble individual to trespass on your Lordship's time; if so, cast it away, my Lord. I will state, my Lord, my pretensions for addressing your Lordship. I was employed in thin seams of coal from eight years of age until I was fifteen, and my forefathers before me, all of whom are gathered to their fathers. Therefore, I have no interest beyond that of humanity; and I will fearlessly state, that there is no employment more healthy, in well-ventitilated and drained mines, than that of colliery, although nearly all to a man in both Houses of Parliament scoff at the assertion; but I can prove facts, and the parish register of Cheadle in Staffordshire, shall bear me out. I will mention but three, out of some hundreds. My grandfather died eighty-four; my father's eldest brother, eighty-five; my father, eighty-three, who worked in the mines from six years of age up to their death, except my father, who it pleased Providence to enable his children to soothe his declining years, by keeping him from labour. I am induced to say this from a firm conviction that if this bill passes in its present shape, that it will entail misery upon thousands of families; and if such a law had existed when I was a child, I should have been a collier now; for, being enabled at an early period to obtain our own living, we were able to pay the schoolmaster, and make a tidy appearance. I have only seen the garbled ac count of the report of the commissioners, 582 as it appears in the papers, and I am foolish enough to think that I could dispel one half of it, to the satisfaction of any dozen Members of either Houses of Parliament, in one hour. I left the mines at fifteen, and have passed my time in this metropolis since 1807, and cease to have any interest; but early impressions are so strongly impressed upon my mind, that it has induced me to obtrude myself upon your Lordship's notice; and if I have not done so in a manner becoming your Lordship's exalted rank, I rust your Lordship will attribute it to its true source, namely, my not being accustomed to correspond beyond my own sphere of life.
§ " I am, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient servant, " WM. PLANT.
§ "The Most Noble the Marquess of Londonderry, &c. &c"
§ In the year 1843, when the bill was to come into operation, all these women would be thrown out of employment. What was to become of them? He must say, that practical benevolence was more praiseworthy than mistaken humanity. The question altogether had not received the consideration which it deserved, and he thought, that the Government ought to have expressed some decided opinion on the subject. He contended, that one direct effect of the bill, if passed into a law, would be to increase the Poor-rates to an enormous amount. It was stated, that the result of the bill would be favourable to the morality of the persons affected by it. It might be so, or it might not; and he was an advocate of morality in all its forms. But he would ask their Lordships whether such an uncertainty as contingent morality ought to be purchased at the fearful price of beggary and starvation. He would read to their Lordships an extract to that effect:—
§ " If, however, the bill does pass, none will, I suppose, doubt the result as to the Poors-rates, if families are now supported by their labour, and by an act of Parliament they are deprived of that labour, a substitute must be found in the shape of excise or increased rates. Can these be desirable, and yet they must, to all intents and purposes follow, as to attempt to seek the means of existence elsewhere, crowded as every spot is, would be madness, fallacious. See then the blessed effect of the change—the price to be paid for the purchase of ' moral' feeling. Morality is all very well but will it flourish in beggary and starvation?"
§ He concluded with a perfect conviction, that the House of Commons could not pass the bill before their Lordships in the shape in which it was put by the noble Earl who introduced it, and, therefore, he 583 should move that it be referred to a select committee.
§ The Earl of Devon
thought a great part of the speech of his noble and learned Friend opposite was a good argument in favour of the present bill, for the exceptions introduced by his noble and learned Friend, to the general rule of non-interference, distinctly applied to the present bill. Did not their Lordships see that the state of things which consigned women of all ages to work in collieries with men, almost in a state of nudity, must have a direct and immediate tendency to promote vice and immorality? The employment of young children, inasmuch as it precluded any attention being paid to their education, also constituted an exception to the general rule of non-interference. It was the duty of the Legislature to interfere to prevent the demoralization of the rising generation. He had no wish to contravene the principles of political economy, but there were higher duties than any that political economy could teach. They had to take care that none of their institutions should be conducted so as to destroy the mind of the infant child, and it was of the utmost importance that children should be so brought up as that hereafter they might become good citizens and good men, and to neglect to take measures to secure this, was to commit not only a great moral crime, but a great political mistake. He had naturally expected that the noble Marquess would have pointed out those parts of the bill on which he thought there was any doubt, and on which, therefore, further inquiry might be necessary; but he would ask if there was any fact on which this bill was founded on which the noble Marquess had thrown the slightest doubt? He contended that he had not. There could be no doubt but that women were employed in the mines, and if they were thrown out of employment their places would be supplied with men, who were more fit for that sort of work. Unless the noble Marquess could get rid of the fact that women and children were employed in the mines he could do no good by referring this bill to a select committee. He believed that he had not, by altering the bill, committed the suicidal part that the noble Marquess had supposed. On the contrary, he thought the bill would be well received elsewhere, and that the promoters of it would be of opinion that he had exercised a sound discretion in introducing those alterations. If a small in- 584 crease in the price of coal, or a small diminution in the profits of the coal-owner, should be the result of this measure, it would be a cheap price to pay for getting rid of so much misery. The House of Commons had been accused of legislating hastily on this subject; he thought the House of Commons had only done its duty in bringing forward the measure in the manner it had done, and he trusted their Lordships would reject the amendment.
had not argued this question on the grounds of political economy at all, but on the ground of the injustice of interfering between the labourer and the manner in which he might choose to employ himself, and of interfering with the control exercised by the parent over the child. He felt they ought to be extremely temperate in their reprehension of the labouring classes respecting the employment of their children in various occupations and employments, when they recollected the manner in which those classes were induced, and almost forced to do so, both by their circumstances and by the conduct of the higher classes.
§ Lord Hatherton
said, that although he had formerly submitted a very similar proposition to that of the noble Marquess, he could not now give his vote in favour of the amendment, inasmuch as the bill had undergone modifications which removed the greater part of the objections he originally entertained to it.
§ The Earl of Galloway
remarked that the petitions against the measure all admitted the facts on which the bill was founded.
The Earl of Radnor
said, the noble Earl's observation was very true, but it was no argument in favour of the passing of the bill. Women and children might be employed in collieries, and might be improperly or indecorously employed, but the condemnation of the system, or even the desire to put an end to it, was not altogether a sufficient ground for passing an act of Parliament to carry out such a desire. In fact, in all such cases it was found in the long run, that the evils of the system worked out the remedies without legislative interference. In this particular instance they had an old practice, and a practice which was on the decline; on what ground, then, were they all at once to step in and to legislate to stop the evil? It seemed to him, that the chief argument in favour of this bill was, not the hard- 585 ship of the system, but its indecency, Now, if they began to legislate for the purpose of checking what was indecent or indecorous, they might cut out for themselves more work than they would be able to perform. The sexes mingled indiscriminately in cottages above the earth as well as in coal pits under it, and really, if they began to pass acts to check immorality in the pits, they ought also to pass acts to regulate the building of cottages, so that a number of men and women should not sleep in the same room. But with regard to the question of immorality, the evidence went to show, that it was by no means so great as was by sonic alleged. Four clergymen declared, that the immorality was not so great in the mining as in the manufacturing districts; and one of the four went so far as to say, that, setting aside the drunkenness, it was not so great as in the agricultural districts. Another reason for delay was, that the commissioners had promised another report, which was to have reference to the influence of the colliery system upon the morals of those who were subjected to it, and he thought it would be more prudent for their Lordships to defer legislating on the subject until they received that report.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question, that the bill be re-committed:—Contents 49; Not-Contents 3;—Majority 46.
§ Bill recommitted.
§ On the first clause,
§ Lord Beaumont
moved the omission of that part of it which prohibited the employment of women under eighteen years of age in mines or collieries from and after three months from the passing of the act, He thought they should be placed on the same footing as the other females, and that the discontinuance of all should take place at the same period—namely, the 1st of March. His object in moving this omission was to afford a sufficient time to those women (which three months was not) to qualify themselves for some other species of employment, and at the same time to bring them over the winter, lest during that period they might be driven by want to crimes of a deeper die than those committed in the collieries.
The Marquess of Londonderry
suggested, that the period of six months be substituted for three, as he had no hopes that the longer period of nine months would be agreed to. His suggestion would meet the object of the noble Baron,
The Marquess of Clanricarde
objected to both amendments as he was desirous of seeing the employment of, women in collieries put an end to at once. The suggestion of the Marquess of Londonderry was put in the form of an amendment, and negatived without a division. On Lord Beaumont's amendment being put,
§ Amendment negatived.
then moved as an amendment the substitution of the words, " 1st of May " for " 1st of March." The noble Lord stated the object of his amendment was to allow the females more time to procure other employment, and to discharge them from the mines at the most advantageous period of the year.
§ The Earl of Devon
thought, that the sooner the arrangements were carried into effect the better. He opposed the amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Earl of Dunmore
moved a proviso, allowing females of twenty-one and upwards to continue working in the mines, if unmarried. He considered, that the clause as it stood would be injurious both to the females who would be thrown out of employment, and to the lessees of mines who were under fixed engagements, entered into in the belief, that the existing state of things would continue.
opposed the amendment; the sooner the females were rescued from their degraded position the better; even a workhouse would be preferable to the slavery of the mines.
The Marquess of Londonderry
supported the amendment, on the ground that a gradual change was better than a sudden one.
§ Lord Hatherton
, though generally he might have approved of the object of the amendment, could not vote for it, because it excluded widows who had children dependent on them for support.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
proposed a proviso to allow any female of forty years of age or upwards, who had been accustomed to work in mines or collieries, and shall be doing so at the time of the passing of the act, upon making a declaration before a justice of the peace (not being a mine-owner), that she has attained the above age, and that she makes the declaration of her own free will, and wishes to continue 587 to be employed in the mine or colliery, 80 to continue.
§ The Earl of Devon
objected to the alteration, and he had less difficulty in doing so as the number of such females could not be large.
§ Lord Colchester
supported the amendment. The smallness of the number did not lessen the individual hardship of each case.
The Earl of Wicklow
opposed the proviso, which he thought was calculated to let in more evil than it would do good. It vitiated the principle of the bill, and would undoubtedly cause it to be rejected in another place.
§ Committee divided, on inserting the proviso. Contents 15; Not-Contents 29:— Majority 14.
§ Clause agreed to.
The Earl of Mount Cashel
thought, that boys of ten years of age were too young to he worked in the pits. Working them so young, had the effect of stinting their growth. He moved, that " twelve years" should be substituted.
§ Lord Hatherton
said, nine years of age had been universally insisted on by the delegates from the coal-owners.
§ The Earl of Galloway
said, thirteen years of age was originally proposed, and he regretted, that this age had not been adhered to in the bill. He could never be persuaded, that children were so healthy or well-educated when worked in a coal-pit at this age, as when allowed to run about in the open air.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.
The Marquess of Londonderry
objected to the particular supervision given in the 3rd clause to the inspectors to be appointed. He moved an amendment, that words be substituted to the effect that the inspectors be required to report generally whether the provisions of the act were followed in the mines which they had to inspect.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
proposed a similar amendment in a different form; otherwise, under the bill as it stood, the inspectors would be authorized to inquire into the management of many things about which they bad no business.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
hoped, power would he given by the bill to inspectors to compel coal-owners to lower them into and out 588 of the mines, otherwise they might go to the pits and be refused to be let down.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ The other clauses agreed to.
§ Bill, with amendments, reported to be read a third time.
§ Adjourned at eleven o'clock.