§ The EARL of ELLESMERE
said: In rising to discharge the duty I have undertaken of moving the Second Reading of the Bill now before your Lordships for limiting the Hours of Labour in Factories, I should be sorry to waste your Lordships' time with any prefatory matter of a personal nature. I must, however, take permission frankly and briefly to express my regret that a subject which has of late years excited so much interest and discussion elsewhere, but which has little occupied the direct attention of your Lordships here, should not have the advantage of being introduced to it by some voice more familiar to your Lordships' ears, and by some authority to which your Lordships are more accustomed to defer. My apology to your Lordships and myself consists in the circumstance, that having having taken, in the discussions which the subject has undergone in another place, a part which, however humble and occasional, was not inconsistent with the task I have now undertaken, I have been invited to its performance by a numerous body of those who are directly interested in the fate of this measure, and who earnestly desire its success. I must also state, that I am acting at the earnest desire of a noble Friend of mine, of whom I may say, as was said of certain great men whose images were missed in the procession of the Roman triumph, that, with reference to this subject, his absence from either House of Parliament makes him even more conspicuous- 892 ly present to the mind than if he was present in either. His labours on this subject, from their earnest sincerity and singular perseverance, as well as from substantial sacrifices which have attended them, at least entitle him, in my opinion, to the readiest acquiescence in his wishes, and to the largest measure of co-operation and support in his views which the opinions and abilities of any friend of his enable you to afford. My Lords, I have spoken of the subject of this Bill as one which, comparatively speaking, has occupied little of your Lordships' time and attention. I have, nevertheless, the satisfaction of feeling that I am not under the difficulty of recommending to your Lordships the adoption of any new principle of legislation, and still less of any origination in this House of any proposition whatever. My Lords, the measures now proposed for your acceptance have originated in far different quarters than in the mind of one so little entitled to your Lordships' attention as myself. They have originated in the crowded receptacles of human labour—they have been elaborated in the factory and the alley, amid the whirl of machinery, and in those long rows of lodging houses which grow up around the giant chimneys of Lancashire and Yorkshire. This Bill has its root in the stern experience of the husband and the father. From this humble, but, I am sure in your Lordships' view, not contemptible seed, the idea has mounted upwards in the shape of such petitions as those which have encumbered your Lordships' Table. Men of higher education—men whose lives are one professional and practical exercise of philanthropy, have assisted the progress of the measure to the ears of the Legislature by their sanction and their advocacy; medical men in every branch of practice, clergymen of every religious persuasion. Springing from such a source, founded on such a basis of feeling and opinion, it has made its way through much difficulty against powerful opposition, till it has obtained the sanction of an influential portion of the Cabinet, of a conclusive majority of the House of Commons, and, so supported and recommended, has reached the Table of your Lordships' House. I state these things, my Lords, not for the purpose of inducing any one of your Lordships to abdicate your privilege of free discussion or of deliberate judgment. Latest and least of the accessions to your Lordships' House, I should be sorry to signalize my first en- 893 deavour at addressing your Lordships by proposing any surrender of your independence, any infraction of your privileges. Considering, however, the nature of the question at issue—considering that in the majorities which have sanctioned this measure elsewhere—considering that every debateable point has been argued elsewhere by men who have stood on their own weary feet at the mule, and pieced the thread with their own hands, and who, by the strong exercise of that strong intelligence which appears to me an indigenous plant of the manufacturing districts of England, by their perseverance in honest industry, have raised themselves to the House of Commons—I ask yon this at least—I ask you to receive this Bill with something of that primâ facie deference with which, some months ago, I as a Member of the House of Commons should have received some measure of equity law perchance, which had come down to that House, having passed through the ordeal of those legal minds which adorn and instruct, and in such measures greatly govern your Lordships' deliberations. My Lords, the principle of this Bill has been impugned, as involving legislative interference with the rights of capital and labour. I might slur over this objection on the ground of repeated precedent. In the House of Commons I would do so; but addressing your Lordships, who have been less engaged with the subject, I think it more respectful briefly to attempt my own vindication on this head. I am not one of those who presume out of their own ignorance or idleness to cast reflections on the acute and laborious men who have devoted themselves to the science of political economy, nor am I a sceptic as to the general validity of the main tenets of that school, nor an impugner of the truths which it professes to have demonstrated. I am prepared, however, if necessary, to contend that I am advocating nothing inconsistent with the doctrines of political economy at all. I do not wish to enter at length on such debateable ground, but I would much rather refer your Lordships to an argument which you will find in the debates, delivered by a noble Earl now on the Ministerial bench, who drew the just distinction between restrictions on labour and capital devised to increase wealth, and those intended for other purposes—to guard against want and physical evils. My Lords, I dislike a meddling Government. I believe, with him, that for the creation of the greatest producible wealth 894 in any given community, and therefore for the widest diffusion of that material well-being which attends the production of wealth, the policy of abstinence from legislative meddling is the surest policy; and, therefore, I think it incumbent on any one who departs from that policy to assign distinct grounds for his justification. The master manufacturer and the operative have both a right, I admit it, to say to me, "you are interfering with my free action, you are selecting mine from a crowd of other occupations, to make it the subject of experimental legislation. I claim an explanation. I demand an exceptional reason for your conduct." My Lords, I find that justification, as most of your Lordships will anticipate, in the inherent, inalienable tendencies of that agent which Watt forced into the service of man, as applied to the four great branches of our textile industry which come under the provisions of this Bill: I mean the tendency, in the first instance, to attract to its ministration the labour of those whom in respect of age or sex, or both, nature never intended for hard and continuous labour; and, next, in its tendency to make that labour continuous, and unceasing, and protracted, to a limit of physical and mental endurance, which, in my opinion, no Christian Legislature can see its subjects approach without acknowledging the duty of interfering—if it can interfere;—for their relief and protection. It is on this ground, my Lords, that, finding as I do with regard to these branches of industry, the means and opportunity of interference, I claim the right to exercise them. I say, my Lords, finding the means and opportunity, for this also is an essential element of practical interference, and is my reply to an argument, which, though often used, is, I think, singularly inconclusive—to a course of reasoning very commonly adopted towards any man who is hunting down a particular grievance, and which endeavours to divert his attention by pointing out fifty other objects in pursuit. My Lords, there is doubtless enough of abuse and misery and oppression in the world to make a sentimental or flighty philanthropist fold his arms in despair. My Lords, I invite your Lordships to interfere with these large collective aggregations of labour, because theory and experience tell me you can do so with effect—because they are open to inspection, and capable of control—because you can do much to prevent abuse, and, if the hard necessity arise, to punish it. I 895 am aware that this very feature of the case has been alleged as a reason for non-interference; it has been said that the factory system is the very department of our industry in which abuse and oppression are most discoverable, and can least escape detection. We have been repeatedly told that we take an unphilosophical view of the effects of the use of machinery; that it is the great diminisher of the sum of mental and physical labour, the fertile source of leisure and contentment; and that we should be cautious how we meddle with its operations. I admit these facts; but I demand your Lordships' attention to some further facts connected with the employment of that fixed and expansive capital, into the scope and effect of which it becomes a duty from which, as a legislator, I cannot shrink from inquiring. There is, in my opinion, no grander result of human intelligence than a large cotton mill; but I say this of it, that from the moment its engine is started, raised by the capital and governed by the will of the acute and enterprising individual who sits in its office, it becomes the direct interest of that presiding genius that its motions should be as unceasing and continuous as human contrivance can make them—that there is no part of that vast system of wheels and levers which can rest without loss, or, in the ordinary and average course of commercial prosperity, pursue its motions without gain. The human labour attached hand and foot to that system, for the most part, admits not of relays. What is the natural, the inevitable consequence of this? Why, that which has resulted—that with which, step by step, gradually, cautiously, effectually, and successfully, you have been endeavouring for thirty years to moderate and curtail, in wise defiance of the stated principles of political economy. That the strong impulse of gain is placed in direct and dangerous antagonism with the claims of humanity—that it almost invariably prevails in the struggle, as for a time it was left, and if left to itself, unchecked and uncontrolled, it reduces a part of your population to the condition of slavery, unmitigated by that interest in the physical well-being of the party which does operate on the slave-owner of Carolina. My Lords, such things have been; to prevent them you have repeatedly interfered, and your exertions have not been in vain. Now, my Lords, does the same reason hold good with other departments of human industry in which machinery of human contrivance is less con- 896 cerned? I say machinery of human contrivance, for I hold that, in some sense, the earth itself is a machine—that the clod of the valley in which you drop the germ of future vegetation is as much a machine as that in which you deposit your portions of raw cotton. In another place, my Lords, I took the liberty of telling the lords of the soil, that in this point of view I considered them as monster manufacturers; and I re-assert that opinion here. Your Lordships, in the management of hereditary estates which have descended to you from the Conquest, are connected with machinery as well as Mr. Greg; but, my Lords, there is a difference between the machinery of God's contrivance and that of his creatures. The earth will work alone, in the silence of night, under the stars of heaven, unlit by your gas, unfed by your fires, admitting at intervals, which nature indicates, the regulated assistance of man, taking him into partnership, but with no direct tendencies to make him its slave. Such, my Lords, are the considerations which have induced me to overcome the repugnance I individually entertain to meddling with concerns which, from their magnitude and complexity, I dread to approach. If they act upon your Lordships' minds, as they have acted upon mine, as they have already, in repeated instances, acted upon the Legislature at large, the question of principle is disposed of, and we enter upon the more delicate and practical consideration of the degree to which we shall extend our interference. My Lords, after long discussion, after repeated consideration, the House of Commons has decided, so far as that branch of the Legislature can decide, that the labour of women and young persons under 18 years of age shall be limited to ten hours of work, exclusive of the two which are necessary for refreshment. I am bound to state, though no one of your Lordships can be ignorant of the fact, that from the necessary intermixture of the hands of different ages and sexes in the operations of the manufacture, this provision will include in its indirect operation those whom it does not directly affect. Adult man is not affected directly by it; but I can by no means avail myself of that circumstance in arguing as to the real effect of the measure; well knowing this, the adult population of the manufacturing districts so far from shrinking from the consequences, is to an enormous extent interested in its acceptation by your Lordships. I believe that an overwhelming ma- 897 jority of it is at this moment trembling with expectation, perhaps with just apprehension, that the cause they support may suffer prejudice from my own incapacity as an advocate. I do not state this as an argument to your Lordships—I admit it—but as a subordinate consideration to myself. I think it an unquestionable collateral advantage that its acceptance will realize hopes which have been entertained and fostered since the attempt of the late Sir R. Peel, in 1815, whose measure, which was on the verge of completion, was nearly a fac-simile of the present. I think it a vast advantage that it will put a close to a peaceful and orderly, but an intense and peculiar agitation; but I do not state this as a reason for influencing your Lordships' better judgments. I think a Bill, supported by such majorities in the House of Commons entitled to much respect; but I am not here to register the decisions of that House, or to induce your Lordships to do so. I accept this measure because we find, after some hesitation—after listening much, and thinking much, and speaking a little, I think it a beneficial bargain, by which the parties to be affected will obtain certain advantages of incalculable importance to them, at a risk of certain sacrifices which it is not possible precisely to calculate, but which will leave at the least the balance of advantage largely in favour of those who have to make them. Two main objections have been taken to the measure, two principal and inevitable consequences have been held out as certain to ensue. It is said that, by striking off a twelfth from the time during which, when employment is rife, you are at present able to labour, you will either diminish wages or cause defeat from foreign competition. I am not hound throughout to argue with those who predict both these consequences, because I think the one consequence lost in connexion with the other. For the first of these consequences I have always advised those with whom I had been in communication to be prepared, and I have certainly always received the advice that, to the best of their ability, they had counted the cost and were prepared on behalf of themselves and their families to encounter it. I am not fond of prophesying in matters of this description; but if on the one hand I am not prepared to risk my reputation for accuracy on a calculation of the exact effect upon wages, on the other, I ask any man to favour me with a calculation 898 of the amount of actual domestic economy which may be effected by the mother of three children who returns to her home two hours sooner than at present. I cannot calculate this, because I cannot sew—I cannot darn—I cannot wash—and I cannot cook—still less can I calculate the evanescent quantities, the social effects of leisure and repose to the mind, or lay down in advance statistical results on bodily health or longevity. I have no doubt whatever that the average sum total of these elements, if they could be calculated, would show a set-off to any probable diminution of money wages, which will one day be satisfactory to those who have cooperated in passing this measure. On this subject I must also call your Lordships' attention to another circumstance—the deductions are made, when the article is brought in by the operative, for waste and spoil. My Lords, from such information as I can obtain, it is my firm belief that nine-tenths of that spoiled will arise in the last weary hours of the operative's present average toil. I have never met with any man of any class, conversant with the subject, who has not laid much stress on this circumstance. I pass, my Lords, to the question of foreign competition. I do not profess to receive with indifference, from men for whose station, acquirements, and abilities I have profound respect, their ideas on this subject; but I am consoled by the reflection that no step has been taken in this matter which has not been preceded by similar warnings of ruin, and similar threats of emigration by them, which I doubt not have assailed many of your Lordships as they have assailed me. And yet, my Lords, I hold in my hand a paper which shows that England has yet held her own against the competition of the world, and which leads me to think that if she is allowed to suffer decay, it will originate rather in a diminished supply of the raw material than in any legislation which, for the sake of the highest interests of humanity, we may have consented to adopt. My Lords, I must say that the language of some of these parties has varied very much with circumstances, in a very short space of time. I am addressing many now who retain, through evil report and good, the opinions which they have uniformly expressed in favour of restrictions on the free importation of corn; but I doubt whether the sternest adherent to that system would not admit that, whilst those restrictions existed, the case of the master manufac- 899 turer, as an opponent to this Bill, did not present a difficulty in the way of limiting the hours of labour. My Lords, I speak for myself at least, and say I had no occasion to broach what was then urged by the millowner. From what I have lately heard, I can hardly believe that the old corn law and the duty on raw cotton are not still on the Statute-book. I look for them there in vain; but I also listen in vain for a repetition of language which was used at the period when a struggle was going on for their removal. Then the grievance and the evil of long hours were admitted; then the factory delegates were told, it is true, that overwork is decreasing your stature, but do not agitate for the immediate alteration of those laws. Join us in agitating to remove the real obstacle to that measure, and that removed you shall gain your object at least with our consent, if not with that active co-operation which might be too much to expect. My Lords, such was the nature of the language—and I have proofs of it—used by some Gentlemen, who, doubtless in the heat of the moment, in the ardour of pursuit of a great political object, thought and intended what they said, but who now discover that free trade and relief from duty is no guarantee against the danger, and is not to be spoken of as a palliative of the effects of foreign competition. My Lords, I believe that from a concourse of circumstances peculiar to the character of this nation, England is in a condition to set an example to the world in this matter, as she has done in others; that she is able to do right and fear not; and, more than this, that her example will be followed, and that foreign statesmen who may not be disposed to follow it will be pressed by that influence of public feeling and opinion which is acting upon ourselves. If I look to Prussia, I see the evidence already on record in the acts of her Government; and I find that the proceedings of that Government were directly founded on that example of England which I trust will still prevail. I know nothing in the character of the French nation which induces me to suppose that public feeling will he far behind our own in the consideration of this subject. I have in my hand at this moment some reason to think that French statesmen are directing their attention to what is passing in England, and are looking on in a spirit of approbation. It is a letter addressed to Lord Ashley by Baron Charles Dupin:— 900Paris, May 3, 1847.My Lord—Can I inquire from your kindness to know whether the third reading of the Ten Hours Bill shall soon take place, and whether this Bill shall likely pass into the House of Lords before the end of this Session?I have now to write a report for a new law relating to the protection of children in our factories. I have perused anew all your benevolent exertions in favour of children, and I shall be happy to present them to the esteem and admiration of my countrymen.I am, my Lord, with the highest consideration, your most obedient servant,BARON CHARLES DUPIN,Pair de France.To Lord Ashley.What has been hitherto that answer to all who in the various other countries of the world have been disposed to check the evil of excessive toil? Why, that no step could be taken in advance while England maintained her ground. With respect to Spain, I have a statistical account of its cotton manufacture:—The total number of steam-engines in all Spain is 86; average power of each, 16.49 horses; aggregate power, 1,418 horses. Total number of water-wheels, 31; aggregate power of water-wheels, 383 horses; average power of each wheel, 12.35 horses. Total number of mills worked by animal power, 27; average power of mills, 2 horses; aggregate power of mills, 54 horses. Total number of cotton-mills in all Spain, 144; total number of cotton spindles, 468,700; average number of spindles in each mill, 3,254. Two hundred and sixty days of twelve working hours in a year; average numbers, 18's; each spindle produces on an average three ounces of No. 18's per day of twelve hours.
|468,700 X 3 X 260=||22,849,125 lb.||yarn.|
|Add 10 percent waste||2,284,912|
|Total||25,134,037 lb.||raw cotton imported.|
§ The real quantity of raw cotton imported into Spain has never been clearly ascertained. According to a Government account, in the three years ending 1840 the average quantity imported was 12,703,233lb.; whilst according to the statements of the Catalonian manufacturers, the quantity imported in 1841 was 18,409,407lb. According to the figures above given, the quantity imported in 1846 was 25,134,037lb. I am confident I am not far off the true quantity. I took every pains, and employed persons on whom I could rely to assist me, in ascertaining the number of mills, the number of spindles, power of engines, &c.; and with these data, assuming the fineness of the average quality to be No. 18, it is impossible to be far wrong. The number of working days in the year does not exceed 260. Every saint's day in the Roman calendar is strictly observed as a fiesta, or holiday. All the mills are closed; but the hands receiving weekly wages are paid for the whole six days of the week, though it sometimes happens that two fiestas fall between Sunday and Sunday. The condition of the factory hands is far superior to that of the same class in 901 other countries; that is, that while they do not work more than an average of five days per week, they are paid for six, at a rate at least 20 per cent higher than in Lancashire. I do not know if this explains the turbulent character of the Catalonians, I think not; certain it is, they are a spirited dare-devil set. At all events, it is better to have a well-fed easy-to-do class of poor, though noisy and insolent, than the want and squalor often seen in Salford. The master spinners are in a brilliant position. Ready sales and very large profits. The manufacture is greatly on the increase, and ere long Spain will count as many spindles as France. There never was a greater error than to suppose a want of energy in Spanish manufacturers, or anything approaching to listless indolence in the workpeople. I am most anxious to point out to your Lordship that notwithstanding the mills do not work more than five days, or sixty hours per week, wages maintain the highest maximum, and masters make large profits whilst competing with smugglers. Cotton mills in France profess to work seventy-two hours per week—that is, when on full time. Taking the time really worked for the last four years, there can be no doubt the average would be much below sixty hours per week. The condition of the workpeople there is engaging the anxious consideration of all in authority. A great and speedy amelioration must be attempted, and will be carried out, or a fearful convulsion must come, and will not tarry. Mill hands do not possess a very long-suffering patience. The utmost discontent prevails amongst them. They have heard of our free-trade revolution, and now understand it rightly, as intended to benefit the poor. The Ten Hours Bill will not have passed the Lords a week before it will be known from one end of France to the other—before it will be discussed in all the mills and workshops throughout the country—before a million of imprecations, 'Notre sacre Gouvernement, nom de Dieu, si'—will have partly expressed the pent-up feeling which cannot much longer be kept under control. With respect to the Ten Hours Bill, I feel no doubt about it now. It must do good. Nor can I see any probability of inconvenience or loss to masters arising from such a law. It is nonsense to suppose it can lessen our ability to undersell in foreign markets; and as to the impolicy of interfering with the liberty of labour, such a doctrine leads at once to brutal slavery, and every species of bodily prostitution. We all buy in the cheapest market, so does the manufacturer; he gets as much as possible out of his workpeople at the lowest cost. It is the same in all countries; and it is a remarkable fact, everywhere and at all times the same—the more hours men work in any staple branch of manufactures, the less they receive in the form of wages."
§ My Lords, these, and such as these, are considerations which divest me of any serious apprehension for the results of the measure I propose—which inspire in my mind a strong hope that its advantages will not he purchased at the price which some predict. It is said sometimes that, after all, these advantages will be small—that we overrate the opportunities which a reduction to ten hours will afford to the artisan; and it would almost appear as if 902 some supposed that his time may be as profitably employed in an honest and respectable occupation as it will be when at his own command. There may, there probably will, be cases in which these hours may be misspent; the factory may be exchanged for the ginshop. I am not of opinion that the hours so torn from the mill and the loom will be sufficient to raise materially the standard of education or mental culture. I shall speedily witness such results; but I am not caring to inquire where or how the man, woman, or child who has worked hard for ten hours employs the remainder, I do not think, on the average, that the population of Manchester is the least disqualified for exercising its own judgment, and following its own tastes, in this particular, or in the least requires any meddling supervision of mine. My Lords, in the course I have taken, in accepting the conduct of this Bill, I have undertaken a given responsibility for its eventual consequences. Should it prosper to the extent of my hopes and expectations, and should I live to see that result, I reserve to myself, as my sole but all-sufficient reward, the gratification of that spectacle. Popularity I have not sought, and utterly disdain. If that reward should eventually fall due, it is impossible that the intelligence and justice of the people should not place that saddle on the right horse. It will be due, in the first instance, to my noble Friend; it will be due to the master manufacturer, who has not allowed himself to be swayed by circumstances which would insure his own interests, in securing, as I believe, completed contracts with others. It will be due to those who have worked through the long hours of this Bill in the workshop of the Legislature, and not to the labourer of the eleventh hour, who now bog your Lordships' pardon for so long trespassing on your Lordships' attention. The noble Earl concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ LORD FEVERSHAM
seconded the Motion. He thought that the present measure was one of the greatest importance to the moral and social welfare of the operative classes employed in the manufactures in this kingdom, and, if carried, would enhance the national honour and character. The people deserved this measure. They had for many years besought Parliament to grant them a Ten Hours Bill; and he thought that the manner in which they had agitated the question entitled them to 903 the most favourable consideration of the Legislature. They had sought to obtain it by the most peaceable means; they had never had recourse to violent agitations, to strikes, or combinations against their employers. They never had committed a breach of the peace at any of the great meetings held upon this question; but their conduct had always been characterized by regularity, and by manifestations of loyalty. It would, therefore, be only an act of justice to those loyal, peaceable, and industrious men to pass this Bill. The question of wages had been discussed at the public meetings over and over again. At the meetings in Yorkshire and in Scotland the question was invariably submitted to the working people—"Were they or were they not prepared to submit to a reduction of wages, in case that should be the consequence of the passing of this measure?" and their answer always was, "Rather than lose the benefit we anticipate will result from this Bill, we are willing to submit to a reduction of wages." It appeared to him that one great advantage of this measure would be, more constant employment, and a more regular rate of wages, without those fluctuations which attended the present system; and he thought that in an average of years there would not be any diminution in the amount of wages. Whenever this subject had been brought forward in Parliament, it had always been prophesied that it would ruin the manufacturers; but in no instance had these predictions been verified. Would so large a number of master manufacturers have supported the measure, if it had been of so ruinous a character? Who was the individual that brought the Bill into the other House of Parliament? It was the Member for Oldham, who had spent a long life in conducting a large manufacturing establishment, and who had reared up his sons in the same occupation; and it was supported by upwards of a thousand of the principal master manufacturers. From the practical knowledge which such men as these possessed, they entertained no apprehension that this Bill would inflict any injury upon the manufacturers of the country. With respect to the argument that legislation upon this subject would ruin the manufacturers of this country, he would remind their Lordships of what had been already done in relation to it, and of the effects which had been produced thereby. With respect to legislation on this subject, in 1802 the late Sir Robert Peel intro- 904 duced a Bill for limiting the number of hours during which children of certain ages should work at certain employments. In 1815, another Bill was brought in, having a more general application; but the matter was then referred to a Committee, which took evidence upon it; and amongst others, the late Sir Robert Peel himself bore testimony to the necessity of such limitation. The Bill did not succeed in that year; but in 1819 a Bill was carried, regulating the hours of labour for children from 12 to 16 years of age. In 1825, another Bill was introduced; and in 1831, Sir J. Hobhouse introduced a Bill limiting the hours of labour to ten for children under 18. Another Committee was then appointed. Practical men of various classes were examined before that Committee; and a great number of medical men of the highest reputation bore their testimony to the serious consequences resulting from the absence of the limitation then proposed. Subsequently a Motion was made for a Commission to collect further evidence; and that Commission having issued, and the evidence having been taken, the report of three Commissioners confirmed these statements in every respect. The result of all these inquiries was, that Lord Althorp introduced a Bill, by which the system of relays was established; and in 1844 Sir J. Graham brought in another Bill to reduce the hours of labour from nine to eight with regard to children below the age of 13. So the question went on from 1819 to 1844, the result being, that the hours of factory labour had been greatly ameliorated. He would now show their Lordships what had been the result as affecting the cotton trade and the manufactures of this country. [The noble Lord read accounts of the consumption of cotton wool in our manufactories between 1819 and 1845, namely, that in 1819 the consumption was 39,000,000 lbs.; in 1844, 492,000,000 lbs.; while, in 1845, it amounted to 532,000,000 lbs.—an increase between those years of 400 per cent.] All experience, therefore, was in favour of the measure, even with reference to its effects upon our manufactures. But the evil consequences of long hours of labour, in restricting the means of instructing the labouring classess, demanded the serious consideration of their Lordships; for it was impossible that that could be in a satisfactory condition unless the hours of labour were reduced; and it was certain 905 that the effect of the present duration was to induce neglect of the ordinances of the Sabbath. He hoped, therefore, under all the circumstances of this most important case, that their Lordships would not refuse their consent to the second reading of this Bill. He was not aware what course would he taken by Her Majesty's Government upon the subject in that House; but he would fain hope that they would be unanimous in favour of the Bill. In the other House of Parliament, the noble Lord at the head of the Government had most honourably redeemed the pledge he gave to his constituents in the city of London in the autumn of last year, when, addressing them, he told them that one of the most important subjects which Her Majesty's Government would take into their consideration, was the moral and social improvement of the people, with the view of raising their condition and character. This Bill was, indeed, only a part, but it was by no means an unimportant or insignificant part, of the great question. The noble Lord had, however, redeemed the pledge he gave on the part of the Government; for, although he was in favour of an Eleven Hours Bill, yet, after he found that there was a large majority in favour of a Ten Hours Bill, rather than that the measure should be rejected, he gave his vote in favour of the third reading of this Bill. Measures had been passed by Parliament which had benefited the master manufacturers; the duty on wool had been repealed; the corn law had been repealed; and it had been held out to the working classes that, after the corn law had been repealed, they should have this measure. [The Earl of RADNOR was not aware of any such understanding.] There might not have been a positive pledge, but there was a general understanding upon the subject. With respect to the principles of political economy which this measure was supposed to contravene, there were, on the other hand, to be considered the principles of humanity, of justice, and of the Christian religion; and he trusted that the cordial, zealous, and, he hoped, unanimous support of their Lordships, would be given to a Bill which would confer a great benefit and boon upon the working classes.
said, he was sorry to interrupt the unanimity of the House, but he, for one—and he hoped he should not be the only one—looked at this measure with great alarm. The more he had considered this measure since it was first pro- 906 pounded some two years ago, and especially latterly, since it was accepted by the other House of Parliament, the more alarm he had felt. He was happy to see present so large a number of the occupants of the Episcopal Bench, for he had no manner of doubt that they had been induced to attend from the discussions which they had read on this subject, and from the tendency which it had been represented to have to promote the comforts of the working and more unfortunate classes of the community, and from its connexion thereby with a cause ever so dear to their hearts, and which was placed under their superintendence—the moral and religious concerns of the people. He should, however, do his endeavour, by Divine assistance, to lay before them such views of this question in its relation to the real good of the working classes—in relation to the moral and religious interests of those classes—in relation to the only chance they ever could have of improving themselves in temporal matters, and of carrying on with that an improvement also in their moral and religious condition—he should endeavour, by addressing himself mainly and principally to those considerations, to show the right reverend Prelates that this Bill was not such a measure as they ought to support; for he was one of those who regarded it as enough that the whole, or nearly the whole, of this question was bound up in the interests of the working classes. It was not on account of the capitalists or the commercial classes of the country, nor of the upper classes of the community, that he viewed this question with anxiety, and this measure with alarm; but it was on account of the poor and working people of the country—those who had no capital, who drove no trade, either domestic or foreign—those whose only wealth was the labour of their hands, and who gained their only profit by the sweat of their brow—that he opposed this measure; and it was his deep and conscientious belief—a belief strengthened by his experience ever since he entered public life, or was able to reason on such subjects.—that the interests of this large class, above all other interests, required that no interference should be suffered, or by any power in the State attempted, with the free employment of that which was their only wealth, their only capital, and their only means of subsistence—the labour and honest industry of their hands. It might be objected to him, that he was about to enter into the consideration 907 of this question on the almost forbidden ground of political economy; but there was no connexion between the question and the doctrines of political philosophy, except this, that if these doctrines were sound and were founded on plain common sense, and were the result of every day's experience, then every part of the proposal made in this Bill was an outrage on that common sense, and an ostentatious neglect of the lessons taught by that experience. To relieve himself, however, from the odium which might attach to him on this ground, he would ask if it required a person to be a political economist to be able to say that, if a man hitherto had been allowed to work 12 hours, but was now prevented by law from working more than 10 hours, he was not likely to do the same amount of work and have the same amount of wages as before? This was not political economy—it was judging of the matter by the doctrines of plain common sense; and the result was the same whether they tried it in goods—say cotton-twist—or in time. If a man for spinning twelve ells of cotton-twist got 6s., was it not clear that for five-sixths of that amount he would only get 5s.? It was admitted on all hands—and his noble Friend who commenced the debate admitted it frankly, because there could not be a doubt of it—that there must be a reduction of wages if the operative classes were not allowed to work the same number of hours. Having relieved himself from the odium connected with this point, he would observe that this was a question which ought to impose upon their Lordships great caution, prudence, and circumspection, as one affecting large and important interests. Our exports amounted, one year with another, to somewhat about 50,000,000l.; and how much of this consisted of the produce of each of the four great departments of industry affected by the Bill—the cotton, the silk, the flax, and the woollen manufactures? Not less than from 37,000,000l. to 38,000,000l.. This was a marvellously grave subject in legislation for any man to volunteer himself upon. It was one that ought to be approached with the greatest possible calmness and circumspection, because it was surrounded with interests of so enormous a magnitude that a false step might produce consequences which hereafter it would be found impossible to grapple with, and because a step once taken could not be retraced. A man must have great confidence in his own powers who would say, 908 "It is a vast measure, which touches, no doubt, 37,000,000l.. of your trade—almost the whole, indeed, of your foreign trade; but I have so much confidence in my theory that I have no doubt whatever you may safely move in the direction I propose." Men could see very clearly what was past—they could see less clearly what was beside them—but there was one direction in which they could not penetrate at all, and that was the direction of the future. It, therefore, behoved a man to gather all the wisdom he could by looking at the experience of the past, and to fortify himself by all he could learn by looking around him in the present, before he set his foot forward in that dark and hidden region of the future into which mortal eye could not penetrate. He (Lord Brougham) was not, however, one of those who said that on no account and in no circumstances should labour be interfered with so as to give protection to parties who, from their naturally helpless condition, required it; and he might be permitted to observe that he did not object to limit the labour of very young children. But even here there were difficulties; and as to children under thirteen, what had been the effect of our legislative limitation? In the whole kingdom of Scotland, numbering between two and three millions of people, no child under thirteen was allowed to be employed in factories. What had become of those children? He grieved to say, contemporaneous with their exclusion from the factories, meeting after meeting had been held in a great and important city—he meant Glasgow—which showed they were there overwhelmed with a numerous body of destitute children, many of them orphans; those unhappy children were in a state of destitution, accompanied, as that condition ever would be, with moral and religious degradation, which made those interested in their welfare look back with deep regret upon the times when there was unrestricted employment for them in the factories. There was, however, one point in which Parliament had done well, and that was in the establishment of a narrow inspection upon the proceedings of millowners. He spoke on this subject without any prejudice in favour of mill-owners; he had scarcely known more than half a dozen of them in his life, highly estimable as a class though they were; but he spoke in favour of the workmen and their children. Previous to the time when the measure of the late Sir R. Peel was brought in, it was not to be denied that 909 there existed peculiar circumstances which required a remedy. He had seen romances describing them, which at one time he thought might be fairly accused of exaggeration; but on inquiry he found that the picture had not been drawn in colours too horrid. The only difference was, that there was exaggeration in the picture, produced by the poetical license being resorted to of combining on one canvas all the varied features of the evil as spread over a great number of localities, but that each feature of which the picture was composed really did exist. It was, therefore, right that a remedy should have then been applied; and he now believed the factories were so improved in themselves, and so well looked after, that no harm whatever resulted from the system; but it was the greatest of all fallacies to say, that because at one time we interfered to a limited extent in one particular direction, and that we were compelled to interfere, therefore, when the mischief had been removed, we had a right at all future times to interfere in any direction, and to any possible extent, when there was no case of abuse, when there was no crying enormity calling for interference in the same way. This desire for interference had given rise to every sort of absurd legislation; and he would ask what was the nature of this measure? It was a great mistake to call the Bill a Bill for diminishing the number of hours labour of boys, girls, and women only. The fact was the Bill was nothing like what it professed to be. It stopped all labour at every mill employed in the four great staple manufactures of the country for more than ten hours a day. It professed to stop the labour of adult women, but not that of the men; but it did, nevertheless, stop the labour of adult men above ten hours, just as much as if they were included in the Bill, because it was impossible they could work unless the labour of the others were continued—in short, the Bill was just as much a Bill prohibiting any person of any age, and of either sex, to work beyond ten hours a day, as if it contained an expressly prohibitive clause to this effect, 211,000 adult women, above twenty, were employed in factories, and 35,000 under twenty. All these were to be taken under the stepmother protection of the Legislature. It was not contended that the mills could go on without their labour; but as they were prohibited from working beyond ten hours, the adult men who depended upon them would not be able to labour more 910 than ten hours; to say, therefore, that the Bill prevented only women and young children from working more than ten hours, was just as correct as if he were to prohibit a servant of his from going to Barnet, or to the north of London, in the first instance, and then say, "Oh, I do not prohibit him from going to York; I only say he shall not go ten miles north of London." Why, if he were prevented from going the first ten miles, how was he to get to York? Just so, if young people were to be prevented from working in the manufactures of cotton, flax, silk, or woollen, by which upwards of 1,000,000 of working people were supported, such a measure would have the effect of likewise preventing the adults being employed. Another point of great importance was that the limitation of labour to ten hours per day was a limitation of it to five days per week. This, indeed, was not only the tendency, but the avowed object, of the Bill; and he would ask what would be the consequences to those who, according to his noble Friend (the Earl of Ellesmere), professed themselves willing to adopt this somewhat extravagant step? The first consequence would be a diminution of one-sixth part of the trade; for how could the same quantity of goods continue to be manufactured, unless means were discovered for making the whole amount of labour to be distributed over five-sixths of the time? That was to say, six and a half millions of our exports, besides a similar proportion for the home consumption, in these great branches, would be cut off and swept away by the operation of the Bill. It was enough if it was shown that our whole manufactures would be diminished one-sixth, to conclude that the people who would most suffer would be the workpeople. How would they suffer? At once he replied by a diminution in their wages, of which there would be an absolute necessity, without the possibility of an escape. An example of this might be shown in the case of a manufacturer who employed 1,600 workmen in two mills, driven by two steam engines. One of the engines stopped for necessary repairs for one hour in the week, and he was told the wages of those 800 sensibly felt the reduction which it caused. A halfpenny or a penny per day was the merest trifle to any of their Lordships; but the effect of sudden and temporary stoppages upon the factory operatives, entailing such a loss, was really one of the most painful parts of the subject. The earnings of 911 these poor persons were always at the lowest possible point at which human nature could be sustained. That was the necessary consequence of the general competition to which manufacturers were subjected; and the labourers were necessarily close cut to the quick, as it were, by every little stoppage to which they were subjected. But what were their Lordships going to do now to the factory he had mentioned? They were going, not to stop one of the steam engines for one hour in the week, but they were to stop both the steam engines for twelve hours in the week. They were going to prevent the people from working more than five days in the week at twelve hours a day, or six days at ten hours a day—it signified not which—and the consequence might be conceived, when, according to the statement of a respectable manufacturer, the stoppage of half his steam power for one hour in the week was sensibly felt by his labourers as depriving them of some of their wages, and consequently of some, not of their comforts, but of the necessaries of life. Now, however, their Lordships were to interfere to twenty-four times the extent of the picture which he had been drawing. Then the millowner would be all the worse off for this; they took away one-sixth of the master's profits; and in fact—and this was the worst part of the whole story—a great deal more. It was accepted as a fact, that working a mill ten hours a day, that was, five days in the week, was just sufficient to pay the expenses of the establishment, the wages of the workmen, and the cost of the goods manufactured. The entire profit made by working a mill was consequently derived in the other two hours, or in the sixth day, and the whole of his profit they would, by this enactment, completely sweep away. If there were any doubt about this, let inquiry be made; it had not been denied elsewhere, and it was assumed on all occasions to be a correct calculation. Would they not pause before they ran the risk of doing this? If the profits of the masters disappeared, what became of the men? The master would not go on working without a profit, and so the men would be disbanded, the mill would be stopped, and, seeing the mischief caused, they would be compelled to retrace the step they were now about to take, as soon as ever they recovered from the humanity fever under which, for some years past, we had been severely suffering. "Oh, but," said his noble Friend, "there is 912 no difficulty at all. The mills are already only working six hours a day." Was it possible that his noble Friend, coming from a part of the country where the people were famed for their sagacity, should not discover the inference which was to be drawn from such an argument so made use of? In other words it amounted to this. The people were half ruined—they were struggling for existence—the manufacturers were turning off 50,000 men in Manchester, and 25,000 men in Nottingham, in consequence of being utterly unable to give them employment. The distress and misery thus produced were excessive. And in such a state of things what was the remedy proposed? His noble Friend proposed what the sailors called to belay it—to keep it as it was, to prevent them from recovering, and to leave the people permanently in the desperate condition into which they had been plunged. His noble Friend's argument was just this: we are in a state of temporary distress; we cannot work full time, and when the distress of the moment passes away, we shall be as badly off under the pressure of the law as we are now under the pressure of the famine. His noble Friend had alluded to the question of competition, and had plumed himself on using a new definition of that state of trade, in calling it "barter." It was barter between us and our customer; but then there was another party tempting the same customer, and this was the foreign competitor, whose operations we were bound to consider before we interfered with our existing means of carrying on the competition. His noble Friend who first addressed their Lordships had passed over this argument by expressing a sanguine hope that the foreign competitor would soon follow our example. He (Lord Brougham) very much doubted if their Lordships would live to witness this result. He, too, entertained a sanguine hope that sound principles would make progress among other nations with all the more speed if we first led the way and gave to such principles a practical development; but he questioned if our neighbours the French, whom he highly respected; the Belgians, the Dutch, or even the Americans—whom, once also, he had highly respected, and whom he should again respect, if his good opinion offered any inducement to that people, when they ceased to guide their actions by the detestable doctrine, that all America belonged to the United States, and that, therefore, the 913 United States were privileged to make war and carry rapine into the territories of other nations, and when they also discontinued making use of that singular invention of modern times, repudiation—but he doubted very much if these competitors would make any great haste to follow the example we wore about to set them. Were the principle sound, they might pursue the same path; but, in the first place, they would see that the principle upon which we had based our legislation was altogether unsound. Let him remind their Lordships of the effect of the abolition of the slave trade. How many years passed before we were imitated? Even to this day the Governments of some European countries had not even stepped in the direction in which we had proceeded. It was said there might be a little national feeling on that question; he did not deny it; but would there be no national feeling here? What temptation wore we not holding out to French commerce, and what reason were we not giving the French manufacturers for continuing to work twelve hours, and, it might be, for increasing the ordinary time to fourteen hours? We beat them now in every market, though we had dearer labour and dearer living. How? By the amount of our capital, by the perfection of our skill, and by the exquisite machinery we employed to drive our trade by that skill, and to make that capital produce its gains. But if we now reduced the labouring power of the country—if we sacrificed one-sixth part of the great staple branches of manufacture—if we threw out of employment so largo a number of men, did not their Lordships think these foreign competitors would be strongly tempted to say, "Oh! now we see the means of beating the English; we begin to see how we can rival them; we will keep our law as it is, and their law will enable us to undersell them in every market in the world?" That, indeed, was a likely and a probable result; and there was little reason to think our example, our fatal example, would ever be followed. Their Lordships ought to remember that the workman would suffer if the means of the manufacturer were reduced. Some years ago Parliament passed a law permitting the workmen to combine for the prosecution of their common interest; but let this enactment now before the House operate, and the employed would he at the mercy of the employer, and would no longer be in a position to co-operate with his fel- 914 low-labourers—the competition now was for work not for workmen. The manufacturer must of necessity maintain his present rate of profits, for they were already reduced to the lowest possible amount, in consequence of the competition with which he had to contend—or give up business altogether. Capital, in the long run, would overpower the labourer; the person who had the capital would defeat the labourer, and would throw the whole loss of one-sixth upon the wages of the men whom he employed. That he must do for the reasons which he (Lord Brougham) had given; if he did not in some way replace the loss of two hours he was enforced to endure, he would be a ruined man. If any one was romantic enough to suppose that the millowner who last year cleared 5,000l. would this year content himself with 2,500l., merely for the abstract benefit of the labourer—if any one was so romantic as to entertain such a notion, he was sure it was not his noble Friend who came from Yorkshire, at all events, or any noble Lord who was acquainted with Lancashire, or the other manufacturing districts. But at the same time the depriving these poor people of 2s. a week of their labour, would, as he said before, cut them to the quick. Those who wore already reduced to the most scanty subsistence could not afford to lose one-sixth of their means of support; and even granting that they would never want employment—and on that they had no right to calculate—still they left them in a condition of permanent poverty. The next consideration was, what effect would this have upon the moral condition of these poor people? He believed there was not a more sound principle, he did not say of political economy but of social philosophy, than this, that poverty was the root of many evils—that distress, that uncertainty of possessing the common necessaries of life—that the fear of want continually haunting the mind—was just as injurious to the mental organization as it was to the physical health of a man. To deprive a man having 6,000l. a year of 1,000l. would be doing him little harm; it would not at all interfere with his comforts, and little with his luxuries; but to take away from the labourer the sum which such an enactment as this would take away, would be to cut into, not his comforts, but the necessaries of his existence. There was nothing more certain than that whatever tended to relieve the mind from great anxiety, and operated to keep a person in tolerably comfortable 915 circumstances, was the parent of right feelings and the parent of sound principles. And if we now, all of a sudden, exposed our labouring population to the chance of poverty, and all the cares and anxieties by which poverty was accompanied, we must be prepared for the consequences which this would have upon the moral condition of the people. Let noble Lords, again, take another view of the subject. This Bill dealt with factories; 57 per cent of the labour of the country was factory labour; the remaining 43 per cent was not composed of factory workmen, and these workmen the Bill professed not to touch. But, in point of fact, this measure, professing to leave them alone, would interfere with them, and would touch them most vitally. It would drive those workmen, those with whom the Bill did directly deal, and who would be prevented by the Bill from working twelve hours a day, from their occupation. If they restricted the opportunities of the factory workman, and prevented him making the utmost possible profit of his industry, energy, and skill, then, naturally, he would go out of the factory and become one of those labourers with whom legislation did not meddle, and who, did it so please them, could work sixteen hours in the day. Precisely, therefore, in the self-same proportion in which the measure lowered the wages of those employed in the manufactures, would the factory operatives be driven into those branches of trade upon the operations of which no visible restriction was to be placed. This was a legislative premium given to those branches of trade at the expense of the manufacturer. It would benefit the masters by increasing the number of hands; but of course it would lower the wages in those trades not touched by the Bill. There was, however, one argument urged by his noble Friend which seemed most plausible. His noble Friend said, that the loss of the two hours would be amply compensated in the increased production to be speedily ensured by the introduction of more perfect machinery. God forbid that anything should be done to cramp mechanical genius, or to limit inventive power; but still he could not help feeling that every increase of the powers of machinery displaced so much labour. Would they, then, take legislative means to increase the power of machinery, and to displace labour to the extent of which he had spoken? And this would be the consequence, undoubtedly, of the measure. 916 What was the manufacturer to do? He could only labour ten hours to produce the article for which twelve hours had before been required; and nothing was left him but to make machinery do the work upon which otherwise human hands would have been engaged within the time permitted by the law. This was a view of the case which it was of the utmost importance should be carefully examined. He had never put the matter to a workman, or to a deputation from workmen, in this light without staggering them, and without inducing them to pause; it was a view which had been carefully kept out of sight, and which had never been referred to by those who had carried on an agitation in favour of the Bill. The men were struck with the argument; and, on consideration, they always admitted that they were better where they were. And the cause which would call for improved machinery would also have its effect upon the labourer; he would have to work all the harder for having to work shorter time; and thus, whatever physical benefit he might have derived under other circumstances would be counterbalanced and rendered nugatory. He now came to a point which had been made prominent in the discussion of this question. No person undervalued less than he did the importance and the good of education; he had, ere now, made many efforts to promote the education of the people; and he would be the last man in this world to oppose himself to any measure calculated to advance that cause. But if this Bill was framed to afford the opportunity of moral instruction and education to adults, it did not go far enough; and this the consistent advocates of short-time legislation had acknowledged when they demanded a restriction to eight hours. Some of Her Majesty's Ministers, regardless of this objection, had offered to split the difference between ten and twelve hours, and to make it an Eleven Hours Bill. Others, with still more refinement, made known that they would agree to a Bill for eleven and a half hours; and one or two persons had spoken of eleven and a quarter hours, and had recommended this idea in a way perhaps that did not greatly enhance the general respect for their abilities or their wisdom. If, however, moral instruction was their purpose, and they decided upon violating every rule, and infringing on every right of the labourer, then, in God's name, let them go about it in such a way as to attain their object. 917 Did any one think that by taking two hours from the twelve, they enabled the labourer to improve his moral condition? On the contrary, they would allow him to work twelve hours in the day, provided only that he worked no more than fifty-nine hours in the week, and remained idle on one day. What would be the consequence? The workpeople would not have time to read during the week; but then it was said there was the Saturday. Oh! profound ignorance of the factory man, of the factory nature and disposition! It was supposed that when you allowed them to work for twelve hours a day for five days of the week, and gave them a whole holiday on Saturday, they would say, not "We have lost a day," with the Roman Emperor, but "We have lost five days—let us make up for it, let us eschew the beer-shop; let us look on the public-house as if it were not; let us go to our homes; let us seek the pastor to commune with him; let us send for the moral preacher and speak with him; let us send right and left to societies and mechanics' institutes, and the apprentices' libraries for books; let us take advantage of the various institutions for the diffusion of useful knowledge—wo have only this one day, to-morrow is Sunday, we cannot do it then; let us devote this day to our moral improvement." But then, unhappily, these people would be mulcted of their wages all the while; and with some that fact was a reason for thinking they would refrain from going to the public-house. But every one knew that the pressure of want and necessity induced men to indulge in intoxicating drinks; and it had been proved that classes of men suffering great necessity and privation indulged in opium eating. In Nottingham, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, this practice was so common, that persons were in the habit of going about selling a preparation of opium. ["No, no!"] Depriving the workmen of 2s. of their wages would not prevent them from indulging in intoxication and intemperance. He therefore could not help feeling that there would have been more sense in an Eight Hours Bill, than one for ten hours; the former could not have been a greater offence against all principle and expediency, and there would have been some little chance of its doing some little good; for, supposing the men worked the ten hours every day, and did not take the Saturday as a day of leisure, every one knew a man after ten hours' toil was too much fatigued to think of anything but rest and relax- 918 ation; and, above all, he was most in want of "tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep." He had been trying to educate the peasantry for these forty years; and his constant competitor and antagonist, by which he had always been defeated, was—sleep! The labourer always thought that sleep was the best relief both for body and mind after a day's labour. Mr. R. Oastler, who with some peculiarities was one of the best and kindest men living, and whose perseverance in this question was worthy of a better cause, did not approve of an Eight Hour Bill; it was too much, too hazardous, it would take off one-third of the wages of the people and of the capital of the manufacturer at one blow; but striking off one-sixth of the wages was only one-half less hazardous! Now, he believed there was very great delusion at the bottom of this question; he believed the workpeople did not see it. Unhappily, he knew pains had been taken to mislead them. They had been blinded by very positive statements and assertions that there could be no diminution of wages, or a very partial one. Did the agitator go to them saying—"I warn you that, in agreeing to this, you do it with the peril that wages will be diminished one sixth?" and did the generous workman, the noble spinner, or the romantic weaver say, "Be it so; we are anxious for our moral improvement, and have no objection to lose that one sixth of our earnings?" No; they did not say that: that the agitator kept in the dark; they might not possibly object to lose 1½d. or 2d. of their wages, but they did not say they were ready to have 2s. taken from them. If they were so anxious for moral improvement as to be content to lose that amount, they wore very different from the 800 men who, in one case he had mentioned already, were tremblingly alive and nervously anxious as to the loss of 1d. or 2d. If the loss were fairly explained to them, if they were fairly told it would be no less than one-sixth of their earnings, he had no doubt they would retract their opinion. He knew the proter-pluperfect of the subjunctive mood was a difficult and perilous tense to speak in; it was most difficult to say what might, could, would, or should have happened, if certain circumstances had happened that never happened. But he ventured to use this perilous tense now because he spoke with the knowledge of a fact. There existed in the West Riding of Yorkshire no more respectable man than Mr. Ackroyd; he was a great manufacturer, 919 a wealthy capitalist, and a more humane master, or one more attentive to the wants of his numerous workmen, he had never known or heard of. He had four mills, employing numerous people; he heard of the anxiety among some of the men for short time, and agreed if the men resolved on it, to begin working short time on a fixed day; the largest mill was against short time, so was the second; the other two were in favour of it. It was tried, but not at the same wages; and the moment the men discovered that, short time was given up by all the men. He therefore ventured to speak in this dangerous and difficult tense, or rather in a safer and easier one; for on experience of the past he assumed what would happen if the plan should be adopted. He had some other facts of the same sort with which he would not trouble the House. He thought, therefore, the authority of the workmen themselves was slender on the present occasion; leaving the results of this experiment out of the question, setting aside the difference of opinion, and taking it entirely on its own merits, if all the workmen with one voice were for it, he was bound as a lawgiver, he was bound as a statesman, to consider, not what they wished, not what they said they would have, not what the agitators had got them to say they would have, but what was good for them, what was for their benefit and the benefit of the community; and what they themselves would finally and deliberately wish and approve. But then he was told there was another authority on the question; it was said the House of Commons had sent up this Bill supported by a very large majority. Yet it was the very same House of Commons—for there had been no general election—that formerly rejected the measure by a largo majority. On the 2nd of March, 1844, there was a majority of three, the numbers being 186 to 183, against the Twelve Hours Clause. It would naturally be supposed there would have been the same majority against the Ten Hours Clause; he was sorry to say this was not the case; on the next division there were 181 in favour of a Ten Hours Clause, and 188 against it. Thus the House of Commons would neither have a Twelve Hours nor a Ten Hours Bill. The eleven hours party had not then come into existence. What in the name of fortune would they have? On the 13th of May in the same year, the Bill was brought forward again as 920 precisely the same measure; be it recollected some understanding appeared to have been come to in the interval between the twelve hour and the ten hour parties, and the numbers upon the division were then 297 to 159, rejecting the Bill entirely by a clear working majority of 138. Three short years only had then elapsed since the same House of Commons from which the Bill had now come, had rejected it by the enormous majority of 138. Then came the year 1846, in the month of May of which year a change seemed to have come over the spirit of their dream, for the Bill was again rejected; but by a majority of only 10. The clear working majority of 138 had dwindled down to what, for distinction sake, they might call the Whig majority of 10. When he saw a phenomenon, he liked to trace it to its cause. What was the cause of this sudden change? The same cruelty, the same hardships, the same want of instruction existed in 1844 as in 1846; but it did happen that in the interval the corn laws had been repealed. It happened in the course of the severe contest which preceded that repeal that the landed men were ranged against the cotton and wool men; the repeal was supported chiefly by the cotton men, and the spinners and millowners were constantly abused by the landed aristocracy. The manufacturers having beaten the land on the corn question, the land said, "We will retaliate a little on mills;" and it did so happen that, in connexion with this quarrel between the land and the mills, the majority came down from 138 to 10. This year there had been a continuation of the same events, of the same conversions; the movement downward had been accelerated, and the Bill came up to their Lordships now backed by a large majority in its favour, though two years only had elapsed since an equally large majority was against it, and all the circumstances of the case remained precisely the same. He begged pardon of their Lordships for saying the circumstances were the same; circumstances were infinitely stronger against the Bill now than ever they were before. What time had these men taken to change the opinion they had when the Bill would have done comparatively little mischief, and convert the numerous votes they gave against it to an immense majority in its favour? When men were being thrown out of employment by thousands and scores of thousands—when Providence had afflicted them with a 921 scarcity in England, and an actual famine in Ireland—when in every point of the compass to which they could turn their eyes, abroad and at home, there were thick storms gathering, and the heavens lowering about them all around—this was the time the House of Commons had chosen to retrace its steps and alter its votes, from a majority of nearly 150 against the measure to one of more than 100 for it. This was the crisis, of all conceivable periods in the history of the country, when a prudent, conscientious regard for the safety of the people and the best interests of the country—above all for the best interests of the working people—made it an imperative duty that they should show the utmost reluctance to change their commercial policy. While they were menaced with dangers like these, when the poor rates of 6,000,000l. a year were likely to increase to one-half more—when Ireland was suffering and bleeding from every pore—when they were obliged to send over supplies of food and money to prevent the death of hunger from thinning the land—when the public peace was disturbed—when in one county, within the last three days, two hundred special constables had been sworn in, and the yeomanry called out, to quell food riots—this, it seemed, was the time we were called on, without experience, upon speculation, on assertion, on assumption, upon fantasy, to pass a measure which must affect every working man in the country in the four great branches of its manufacture. The promoters of the measure now before their Lordships desired to see it enacted at the moment when, of all others, such a change seemed to his mind the least desirable. Most men must admit that if such an alteration were at all to be effected, it ought not to be brought about when the people of this land were in the utmost extremity of distress. Then, in God's name, why not wait for the blessings of peace and tranquillity? Do not fly in the face of Providence by such an experiment as that which it was proposed to try through the present measure. If they had no consideration for its direct effect upon the manufactures of the country, let them at least consider for a moment its probable operation upon the landed interest. Let it not for a moment be supposed that the present was not as much the case of the landlords as it was the case of the manufacturers. Nothing could injure the one without deeply affecting the other. That great merchant and banker, Mr. Child, 922 well said that land and trade were so knit together that together they must wax and wane; nor could any ill happen to trade but land must suffer, nor any ill to land without trade feeling it. With respect to the speeches which their Lordships had already heard upon the Bill then before them, he was bound in justice to both the noble Lords to render them his unfeigned thanks for the tone in which they had addressed the House. He was bound injustice to them to say that he never had heard speeches uttered in a manner more cautious and measured; he never in his life witnessed a more admirable shunning of every invidious topic; there had not been one unfair or unjust allusion to the manufacturing classes; on the contrary, every portion of the subject had been discussed with kindness and courtesy, and therefore the remarks which he made were not for them or any of their Lordships, but for less wise men. He would ask the supporters of the Bill then before the House, did they, or did any man in the country, doubt that its effect must be to throw a large proportion of the people who worked in factories upon the poor's rates? And who paid the poor's rates? Did not that burden in a great degree fall upon the land? That the poor's rates must be augmented by the proposed change, and that the landed interest must therefore heavily suffer, appeared to him propositions almost self-evident. He would say to the authors and supporters of this measure, don't be led away by any notions of benevolence: benevolence to be practically useful must work good—benevolence to be a fit principle of action for statesmen and legislators must be combined with beneficence; and before they hazarded an experiment so bold, so extensive, so unlike anything that they had previously tried, they ought to consider most carefully how far they were likely to injure the classes whose advantage they so earnestly sought to promote. Moreover, if they interfered with one class of labourers, they ought to interpose in favour of all, those who worked out as well as those who worked within doors; and there were none whose case was more deserving of commiseration than the agricultural labourer. He doubted not that their feelings of benevolence had been most strongly excited by the exaggerated accounts which had reached them respecting the unheard-of, the deplorable privations which those classes were supposed to endure. From every quarter they were 923 told of the hard toil which they underwent—of their comfortless abodes—of their brief rest and continued hunger—that the system by which they were governed rendered it impossible for them to be otherwise than hardworked, hard fed, and poorly lodged—that they were, therefore, naturally prone to grasp at the least chance of improvement. Hence the Legislature was called upon not to form its judgments upon any principles of sound reasoning, but to listen to the feelings which such statements were calculated to arouse. The House, therefore, grasped at what was offered, without carefully weighing what was its probable result. No man could be more alive than he to the sufferings which the factory labourer endured. He felt as deeply as the most clamorous advocates of the measure how important it was that their interests should be well and carefully considered—he felt the deepest commiseration with the working classes. He knew the hunger they suffered—the toil they underwent; he knew the abodes in which they lived; and all their miseries met his sympathy and wrung his heart. But his sympathies were not confined to those who worked within doors; they reached, without distinction, the men who worked abroad in the fields, as well as those who toiled in factories. The fatigue and misery that might be seen in the peasant's cottage, quite equalled, if it did not surpass, the wretchedness they were told the factory labourer alone endured. The peasant rose to his hard toil at five o'clock in the morning; he snatched a hasty morsel, which deserved not to be called a meal; and during one brief half-hour he escaped from the scorching sun or the pitiless rain to eat what no other man would consider a dinner. Animal food he rarely tasted; and at the latest hour he returned to his squalid home, drenched either with rain, or with perspiration. He was bound to earn his scanty morsel, not only with the sweat of his brow, but by the most intense exertion of his whole muscular power—without the support of sufficient food—without the comfort of even a change of raiment; and, excepting in the northern counties, he was obliged to struggle through half the year, ever wet and ever chilled because without the comfort of fuel. Hence his wretched clothes, and his still more wretched bed, were scarce ever dry. The peasantry of England never knew half the comforts that were to be found in the factory. Hence the peasant, who began his 924 course as an agricultural labourer at the age of fifteen or sixteen, grew old before his time. Yes, he took it upon himself to say, that such men scarcely ever reached the natural term of human existence. But if it became so necessary to legislate thus stringently, and against all principle, for the men who toiled in cotton factories, why did the Bill stop there? Why was not provision made for those whose lives were shortened by working amongst filings of steel, and those workers in brass who since the time of Tubal-cain had been victims to their occupation? Sir Samuel Romilly, than whom a more humane man never existed, could never be brought to support even the moderate measure introduced by the late Sir R. Peel in the year 1809; and why? That most excellent and benevolent man was accustomed to say, "Beware how you endeavour to find a substitute for parental feeling, lest parental feeling should resent the interference, and, becoming less pure, should seek to render nugatory that which was attempted to be put in place of those affections, without which it would be difficult to preserve the frame of society." And this was said even against the moderate interference of protecting very young children from the avarice of their parents. What would the same benevolent and wise man have said of a Bill to confine all labour of all ages and both sexes compulsorily within given limits? He could not conclude without apologizing to their Lordships for having occupied so much of their attention; and, though it would be easy for him to address to the House many more arguments against the measure then before them, he hoped he had laid sufficient grounds to induce them favourably to receive that which he intended to move as an Amendment, namely, that the Bill then before them be read a second time that day six months.
The BISHOP of LONDON
said, that no one could be more sensible than he was of the great disadvantage under which he addressed the House when he rose to speak immediately after the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down. He was the more especially affected by that consideration, when he remembered how deeply the noble Lord had studied the question which the present Bill brought under discussion—how often he had considered its hearings, and how strongly he had permitted his feelings to be excited by circumstances connected with that subject. Reflections of that kind, therefore, led him (the Bishop 925 of London) to be most unwilling to address their Lordships at a moment like the present; but he could not shrink from the imperative duty imposed on him then to stand up in his place, and declare his cordial assent to the Bill before the House. He conceived that the working classes would have great reason to be thankful for the measure which the House was now about to pass. Their Lordships had heard many arguments in favour of the measure, but he could not help reminding them that it was one which enlisted in its favour the holiest sympathies of our nature; while the arguments against the Bill were for the most part theoretical, and drawn from principles which required to be modified by various practical considerations. For surely the measure now before their Lordships was not one to be judged by the purely abstract principles of philosophy or science, however true they might be in themselves; it should be looked at in connexion with the numberless anomalies resulting from the highly artificial state of society in which we live, and it should be judged of by the preponderance of good or evil that was likely to result from it. If all men were instructed in, and prepared to obey, the theoretical rules of political science, then those abstract theories might be carried out; but whilst they saw around them such a state of things as at present existed—whilst they were dealing with misery, with ignorance, with wretchedness, and vice—they, as legislators, should be influenced by charitable considerations towards those who had not as yet been emancipated from that species of slavery—they should bend and modify that rigid rule of theory to meet the exigencies of the case. It might be perfectly true as a general proposition that the competition for labour ought not to fettered with any restrictions whatever; but he would repeat, that the assistance which abstract principles gave to practical legislation was a species of aid which had its limits. The noble and learned Lord said that Parliament ought not to legislate upon subjects which did not come properly within their scope; and he called upon the House to refrain from such a course of legislation as would interfere with the freedom of the labour market, which in a nation of great commercial enterprise ought not to be interfered with. But he would take the liberty of telling the noble and learned Lord that Government best answered the purposes of its institution when it came nearest to 926 paternal rule; and when parents neglected parental duty, the Government was bound to assume those functions which the natural guardians of youth abandoned or perverted. And, therefore, he thought that one of the most important duties of the Legislature was to interfere so as to prevent excessive injury from accruing to a large proportion of the population, which was least able to protect inself; and that where one portion of the subjects were ignorant and powerless, the law might interfere to prevent injury from being inflicted upon a large class of those who might be otherwise left unprotected. He could not help remarking that throughout the whole of the speech which the House had just heard, the question had been dealt with as one which solely concerned the adult population. But he thought that a great part of the question concerned that very numerous and unprotected class—the children who were employed in factories; and it was with reference to them particularly that he wished to ask for their Lordships' attention to the observations he had to offer. The factory workmen, acting under the constraint of that necessity which was produced by the peculiar state of the labour market in the manufacturing districts, seemed to regard their children as mere instruments for making money; and here again he thought the parental functions of the State came into play, and ought to interpose to relieve those children from that necessity. If the cupidity of their employers or the ignorance of their parents compelled them to extend their labour far beyond those limits of exertion which their bodily constitution was suited for, and, therefore, he might say beyond that point which their benevolent Creator designed for them, he thought it became the sacred duty of the Legislature to interfere and afford them that protection which their natural guardians were unable or unwilling to give them. If they desired that the evil should not be perpetuated or aggravated, and that some chance should be given to the rising generation of growing up in habits of religion and morality, their Lordships must interpose to save them from their ceaseless round of exhausting toil, and leave them more time for improvement, Their intellectual faculties were contracted by the monotonous and wearisome labour to which they were subjected; and that formed no unimportant consideration in the question then before their Lordships. The agricul- 927 tural labourer, notwithstanding the eloquent description of his noble and learned Friend of the effect which the toil of that labourer produced on his health and spirits, was in a much more favourable condition for carrying out the great object of his being than the factory workman. His work was carried on in the open field, where he was inhaling pure air and saw the pure light of heaven; and at any moment he might suspend his toil, for a brief interval, to prevent the exhaustion of his strength and spirits. It was not so with the factory workman. The mill must move on with unceasing motion for the appointed number of hours, to complete the proper quantity of work; and it admitted of no intermission in the labour of those children who were deputed to carry on and watch its ceaseless process. Now that imprisonment, as it were, of a large class of our fellow-creatures was a case in which the Legislature ought to interfere, unless the evils which were wrought by it could be shown to be less than those which would be produced by their interference. The evils, however, of the present system were so great, that they could hardly be contemplated by any humane man without shuddering. The debility of frame, the shattered strength, the exhausted spirit, the early death, were various and lamentable evils; but they were not the worst. Before, however, he proceeded to the consideration of the latter point, he would advert to the mortality of the manufacturing districts. It was proved that the exhaustless process of factory labour did tend to shorten life in the manufacturing districts. It might be argued, that the diminished average of human life in those districts was to be ascribed to the unhealthy condition of large towns; but that was completely refuted by certain facts which had been ascertained. It appeared from a statement which had been made by a most able and benevolent individual, Mr. Fletcher, a medical man, who had made a close investigation of this subject, that the average duration of life of the factory operative was somewhat less than one-half that of other operatives in the same districts. He would now advert to what he considered as the worst consequences of the present system, namely, that it entirely disqualified the children from receiving the benefits of education after a certain age, when perhaps it was not going too far to say education was more important to them than before. He would admit, that, up to 928 the age of 13 years, those children were comparatively well provided for, as the hours of labour up to that age were limited to six hours; but the moment they attained that age their work was doubled, and they very soon lost all they had learned before, because, after twelve hours of exhausting labour, they had no spirit or strength left to attend school or to profit by it. Their Lordships must also consider that in addition to those twelve hours for which they were obliged to work in the factory, two more were reckoned in going to and from the mills, and in the necessary cleansing and refreshment; so that, even if this Bill passed, and the hours of labour were restricted to ten hours, there would be still twelve hours of the day no portion of which could be devoted to school for the purpose of deriving sound and wholesome instruction. Under these circumstances, it was no wonder that the clergy and medical men of the manufacturing districts were all but unanimous in favour of this Bill, which they believed would at least diminish, if not altogether cure, the evils that existed. But the Bill was also supported by a large portion of those whose interests would be most deeply affected by it, not merely by factory workmen, but by many of the great millowners, who, according to the opinions of the opponents of the measure, would be great losers by it. It was said that they would lose one-sixth of the factory labour of the country, and to that extent our manufactures would be destroyed. But, on the other side, he placed the great gain the measure would produce to morality and humanity. He confessed himself quite incompetent to judge of the ultimate bearing of the measure on the commerce of the country; but he was very much encouraged when he looked back and saw what had resulted from the steps they had already taken in the same path of humane legislation. They were told when the Twelve Hours Bill was introduced, that the same evils would result from it as were now predicted of this measure; but what had been the result of that Bill? He was going to say that it was in a precisely opposite direction to what had been predicted. It appeared from a statement made by a very intelligent person who was one of the most strenuous opponents of that Bill, that the following effect had been produced on the wages of the factory labourer by the successive steps taken by the Legislature. In 1813 the wages of women in factories were 8s. 4d. a week, 929 in 1833 they were 8s. 10d., and in the mean time the price of food had become much lower; so that the change was all in favour of the workpeople. His noble and learned Friend had said that in ten hours it would be impossible to produce as great a quantity of cotton manufactures as in twelve hours. He admitted that with the same means only it would be so; but his noble and learned Friend had himself taken off much of the effect of his own argument by speaking of the improvement that might be made in machinery, whereby labour might be diminished. And again, his noble and learned Friend spoke of its being a certain effect of this Bill that it would drive from the mills a very considerable number of those who were now employed, but who would no longer stay there when they found that better wages might be obtained in other parts of the country; but if that were so, and any considerable emigration from the manufacturing districts or mills did take place, the consequence would be that there would remain a smaller number of workmen, and wages would rise in proportion. He must be permitted to think, when his noble and learned Friend spoke of the delusions that had been practised upon the factory workpeople in this matter, especially from the experience he had had whilst he was connected with that part of the country which was the chief seat of the cotton manufacture, that those workpeople were a very intelligent and sagacious body of men, alive to their own interests, and not so easily deceived as his noble and learned Friend supposed; and when he found so large a number of those persons pressing their Lordships, with great earnestness, by petitions, to pass this Bill, and saying that they believed it would confer upon them the greatest possible boon, even if it should be wrong, he could not think it would be injurious to them to the extent which his noble and learned Friend supposed; whilst they would have, at least, the satisfaction of having done the best in their judgment, by listening to the importunate prayers preferred to them. He could not suppose that if the mill-owners had had any suspicion that this measure would be so productive of ruin to themselves as his noble and learned Friend represented, any of them would have advocated it; nor would he believe that if they had entertained any reasonable suspicion that it would not only injure themselves, but also that class who had been instru- 930 mental in producing their wealth, they would have supported it. On the contrary, he thought that they had the best interests of their workpeople at heart. He was ready to admit that all legislative interference was an evil, and could only be justified so far as it prevented an evil of a greater kind; but the evils which were now sought to be remedied were of the most serious kind; they were nothing less than the physical deterioration and moral degradation of a large portion of the most helpless classes of the community. Unless there were some improvement in the moral condition of those classes, the country would be thrown into a situation of the greatest danger; but that necessary moral and religious reformation never could be wrought unless they allowed the younger portion of those classes to bestow a larger part of their time on self-improvement and learning that which would be useful to them in their future life. With respect to the concluding argument of his noble and learned Friend for inducing their Lordships to pause before they passed this Bill, that the present was an unfavourable moment for making this experiment, he (the Bishop of London) considered that no time could be more favourable. If the factory workpeople were not fully employed, and mills were doing no more than ten hours' work a-day, what evil could arise—what chance was there of exciting any angry feeling if they restricted them by law to that period of labour which, practically, they were limited to at the present time? On the other hand, he saw great danger in turning a deaf ear to the petitions of so large a portion of their fellow-creatures, of that class too who were unhappily too often not restrained by motives which were the result of general religious instruction and moral education from giving vent to their feelings, and endeavouring to accomplish their ends by the most unlawful and dangerous means. He could conceive nothing more calculated to disquiet the mind of the manufacturing population, and make them unwilling to bear with patience and submission those privations which they were suffering at that moment, and which he feared they must be prepared to suffer to a greater extent still, than the absence of a ready acquiescence on the part of their Lordships to those earnest petitions which had been so long sent up to their Lordships' House, praying for a more enlarged relaxation of the incessant and wearisome toil of the factory labourers, which was injurious and 931 hurtful, not only to them, but to their children, who were to form the future manufacturing population of this country. For these reasons, he should give his most cordial assent to this Bill.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, that, though his noble and learned Friend had stated that the operatives were not in favour of this Bill, no less than 295,000 had petitioned for it; and he believed there were not a dozen who had petitioned against it. The noble and learned Lord declared also that an agricultural labourer of 45 was not so strong as one of their Lordships at 70; but he could produce labourers in Sussex, of the age of 45, who would carry every one of their Lordships out of that House; and when it was said that they laboured from six o'clock in the morning till eight at night during harvest, he must ask why they did so? Because it was task-work; and, so far from going home to meals, the agricultural labourer sat on the sunny side of the hedge, and ate his meat and drank good beer; and would drink more of it if the malt tax were repealed. Then the noble and learned Lord said, that the agricultural labourer had no change of clothes. Why, where had the noble Lord been living? Had he ever been within an agricultural labourer's cottage? He very much doubted it. He wished that they were better off; but if they were badly off, was that any reason why they should allow hundreds of thousands of other labourers to be destroyed? The right rev. Prelate had so ably stated the reasons for this Bill, that he would not enter into any details; but he trusted their Lordships would not turn a deaf ear to the prayers of so large a portion of the operatives. No one in the country disliked the Anti-Corn-Law League more than he did; but he knew the value of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures going together; one great cause of his opposing free trade was, that it would limit manufactures, and get rid of the home market; and, while he disliked the League, he had a great respect and regard for the intelligent manufacturers and operatives of this country.
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
wished shortly to state the reasons which would induce him to support the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend. He should have been glad if he could have concurred in the opinions which were expressed with so much eloquence by the noble Earl, and by his noble Friend who moved the second 932 reading of the Bill—if he could have supported the Bill on the ground on which his noble Friend supported it, and have concurred in his opinions, and given him his support, that it was for the benefit of the labouring classes. But, on fully considering the subject, and looking to the best interests of these classes, he found himself called upon to support the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend; for he believed that this measure was much more calculated to be hurtful to those for whose benefit it was intended, than to be of any advantage to them; and he was satisfied that if it passed, it would inflict great evils on the operatives engaged in the manufactories, by taking from them one-sixth of their labour: for the operation of this Bill would extend much farther than his noble Friend intended. It would extend not only to young children, who were entitled to protection, but to full-grown men and women, who were as well able as any of their Lordships to judge what was for their own interest; and if they chose to work for any number of hours they pleased, he did not see what business the Legislature had to interfere. He was as anxious as the right rev. Prelate to promote the social interests and religious improvement of the class of people to which he referred; but he did not believe that this object would be obtained by depriving the working man of one-sixth of the means (and they were not superabundant at any season) of supporting his family. This would be inevitable if the distribution of the produce of labour was to bear the same proportion which it did at present. It was perfectly clear that in the present times of competition the profits of the manufacturer were not so great that they would bear reduction. If they limited the number of hours during which the machinery might work, they must, as a consequence, limit the quantity of produce. This appeared to him to be inevitable. In going into the subject, he would, in the first instance, call the attention of the House to what was the existing law and practice in the manufacturing districts, and what was the state of things in former years. The reasons which were urged in former years for legislative interference with the factories no longer existed. All those abuses to which so many allusions had been made, had been got rid of. They no longer heard of the cruelty of the masters, and of their compelling children to work sixteen hours a day. Many improvements had 933 been made through the instrumentality of the present law. The existing law provided that children under 13 years of age should work only six hours a day, and that they should attend school for at least two hours a day. Young persons and women were not allowed to work for more than sixty-nine hours a week. There was also a very important provision, that no time should he made up for time lost by accidents to the machinery. At present, the sixty-nine hours were thus distributed, namely, twelve hours for five days in the week, and nine hours on Saturday. The stoppages to the machinery in consequence of accidents reduced the actual work to about eleven hours. Again, the workpeople were employed in comfortable places, and not in such filthy places as had been described by the right rev. Prelate. The workrooms were airy and well-ventilated buildings, and were much more healthy than those devoted to other descriptions of employment. He believed this to be a fair and unexaggerated state of the case. By the Bill, however, it was proposed to reduce the hours of labour from sixty-nine to fifty-nine, while holidays and other deductions, such as the stoppage of the machinery through accidents, were to remain as they were. The consequence of this would be the reduction of the period of labour for five days in the week from twelve hours to ten, and nine hours on Saturday. The effect of this state of things would be to strike off one-sixth of the fertile produce of the country, for the produce would be in exact proportion to the period of the working of the machinery. Of course this diminished proportion of produce would strike off one-sixth of the wages of the operatives. His noble Friend who had moved the second reading of the Bill, did not argue that this would be the case. It should be remembered that wages formed but a small component part of the cost of an article produced; that there was the charge for the raw material; then came the capital of the manufacturer sunk in the mill machinery; and lastly came the wages of the labourers. The diminished production which would ensue from the reduction of the hours of labour from twelve hours to ten, would undoubtedly increase the price of the manufactured article. As had been justly observed by his noble and learned Friend, the same number of mills would not produce the same quantity of manufactured goods as were now produced. Fresh mills must, therefore, be built; those who were wise 934 men would build them abroad, and shortsighted men would build them at home. We should have one-sixth of our manufacturing population more than we had at present dependent for employment and wages upon the production of a diminished quantity of manufactures; and he, for one, could not look without alarm at such a state of things. He had no doubt that there was an honest belief that the increase of price in the manufactured article would permanently compensate the manufacturer for the diminished amount of production; but he believed this to be an erroneous view of the case. If, however, it were true that this increase of price would be permanent, would it not be tantamount to imposing on every labourer in the country a higher price for his clothing, solely for the benefit of those who worked less and were paid more than others in a similar rank of life? Such, then, being the direct consequences of this measure, he would ask their Lordships to look also to the indirect consequences which would flow from it. In the first place, there would be less coal, oil, tallow, leather, and flour, all of which were used to a great extent in manufactures, consumed than there used to be. There would also be less flax, silk, woollen, indigo, madder, and other dyes used; and there would be less shipping employed. All the trading interests in the country would suffer in proportion from this apparently humane measure for limiting the hours of labour. Then, again, their Lordships must remember that hand-loom industry competed in certain districts with the power-loom even now, when the power-loom was working sixty-nine hours per week; and when the power-loom came to work fifty-nine hours only per week, the hand-loom weavers would beat the power-loom, and the manufacturers must come to Parliament and ask that the hours of labour of the hand-loom weavers should be restricted also. Such were some of the indirect effects of this measure, although they were of little importance when viewed with reference to foreign competition. If we were the only manufacturers in the world, and possessed a monopoly, we should be enabled to lay a tax on everybody by reducing the hours of labour. But so far were we from having a monopoly, that we had the greatest difficulty in competing with our numerous and formidable rivals in the principal markets of the world. Our principal monopoly formerly consisted of machinery, but the exportation of that was now permitted, 935 for our best workmen were seduced from us by the high wages which were offered them from abroad; and by permitting the exportation, we had now converted an inevitable loss into a certain gain. The consequence, however, was, that every manufacturer of machinery in Lancashire was busied with foreign orders, and all our improvements in machinery were immediately sent to Belgium, Italy, Austria, Russia, and the United States. At present Russia imported 15,000,000 lbs. of cotton yarn; but last year she imported a large quantity of raw cotton; and we should ere long lose her market. Switzerland now consumed 50,000 bales of cotton, and all but the finest numbers of our yarns were excluded by her own cheaper productions. France now spun 350,000 bales of cotton; and America, which was our most formidable competitor, having cheaper cotton and unlimited water power, completely beat us in low and stout cottons, and not only supplied her own consumption, but exported to China, Canada, and New Brunswick. The present consumption of America was 450,000 bales of raw cotton. It should be remembered also, that all the continental nations, as well as the United States, worked longer hours even than we did now, and that this Bill would affect our staple article of manufacture, which formed four-fifths of our exports. He asked, then, whether this was a matter which should be lightly or inconsiderately dealt with, and against the wishes of those whose capital gave employment to the operative classes? Was this, too, a moment for trying a rash experiment, the result of which would be the same as if one-sixth of the mills in England were burnt to the ground. He entirely agreed with his noble and learned Friend in thinking that the operatives, whose wishes the House was bound to consult, did not desire this Bill with its consequences, and that they did not apprehend that they would get only ten hours' wages for ten hours' work. This was proved by the fact, which was worth all the declamation on the subject, that none of them had asked their masters for ten hours' work and ten hours' wages. The master who worked short time, and therefore gave short wages, found his hands leave him. He considered that all these attempts at interference with labour and capital were unfounded and mischievous. Why should they apply this principle solely to factory labour, and why not carry it into every branch of industry 936 where labour was employed? Were their Lordships prepared to carry this law into every workshop and counting-house in the country? Were they prepared to assent to a Bill compelling their Lordships to give up one-sixth of the time of their domestic servants, because Parliament thought that they ought to have more time for intellectual improvement? He would ask the noble Duke on the opposite side whether he was prepared to pass such a law for agricultural labourers?
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
was understood to observe, that half of the agricultural labourers died from excess of labour.
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
said, that his noble Friend had not answered his question, whether he would like to have a law which would make it penal to employ labourers in harvest time more than nine hours a day, and only eight on a Saturday? He should like to know what the tenant farmer would say if a law were passed that he should not employ a labourer to work when he pleased, and as long as he thought proper. He would beg their Lordships to remember that oscillations in trade must occur, and that periods must arrive when the operatives would be obliged to work short time against their will; and he would ask whether it was humane or justifiable to say that the operatives should not earn wages in times of prosperity which would enable them to make some provisions for disastrous periods. In the order of nature better seasons than the present would arrive, and with them would come large demands for our manufactures from abroad; but if this law was to limit the amount of production, and increase prices, it would deprive our manufacturers of all means of recovering from periods of depression. The effect of the Bill was to put an income tax on the poor factory operatives, not of 3 per cent, but of 15 per cent, with this difference, that a deduction to that extent from his comforts was more injurious to him than a similar deduction from a rich man's income. He fully believed that all attempts on the part of Parliament to regulate capital and labour would fail, and for these reasons he must give his vote against the second reading of the Bill.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
felt that he owed an apology to their Lordships for rising to address them at so late an hour; but he had a pressing desire in his own mind to make some observations upon 937 what had fallen from his noble and learned Friend who had moved the Amendment, and also from the noble Earl who had just sat down; and he should therefore state very briefly the simple ground on which he desired to give his vote in favour of the Motion of the noble Earl. It seemed to him that the opposition to this Bill was grounded to a very remarkable degree upon a number of unproved assertions. It had been taken for granted, in the first place, that they would be running a great risk of driving the British manufactures abroad; in the next place that they were about to pass a law to which the factory labourers were themselves unwilling to assent; while, in the third place, they were going to force upon the master manufacturers a measure which would deprive them of an adequate supply of labour to carry on their mills with profit. Now, what was the fact? So far from the factory labourers being unwilling to accept this Bill, more than two-thirds of that very body had petitioned their Lordships to pass it; and the same fact might be asserted of the master manufacturers. The noble Earl had supposed the case of a Minister imposing an income tax upon their Lordships to increase their knowledge and improve their morals; but was that case a parallel to the present? Was it like the case of answering the prayer both of the workmen and of the master manufacturers, who alike called upon their Lordships to shelter them from the covetous desires of a few, and whose endeavours were unavailing without the agency of their Lordships to introduce this great national good? The noble Earl had argued, that the wages of the labourer would fall one-sixth in consequence of the time of labour being reduced one-sixth. But the question was not, what was the portion of time deducted in the course of a single day, but what was the amount of prohibition from labour for the year round? He considered it to be only a prohibition against uncertain labour, and that, taking the period of the last ten years, it would be found, though at some intervals men were idle, and at others they were overworked, that upon the average the work actually performed was not more than ten hours a day. What was the result? It showed that there existed a great desire on the part of the manufacturers to employ large bodies of men extra hours at uncertain periods, to meet sudden demands, instead of being willing to share the market with others by employing men 938 for limited hours, thereby keeping up a continued stroke of work, and a continued average demand of labour. But was it true that this deduction of time from the labour of the factory would amount to a loss of one-sixth, as stated by the noble Earl? It was a matter of calculation. The first expense in a factory was the purchase of the raw material in the country where it was produced; the next expense was the bringing the raw material to this country; then there was the interest of the money vested in the machinery; then he had to pay for the labour in manufacturing it; and next, the expense of exporting the goods when manufactured. Now, the manufacturer reckoned in this way. Supposing that upon the whole capital laid out he made a profit of 24 per cent, he would appropriate it thus:—5 per cent upon his money; 6 per cent for wear and tear of machinery; 12 per cent for oil, coal, &c.; 1 per cent for gas light—making up altogether 24 per cent. Now, it was only upon the 5 per cent item that any possible increase of expense could be occasioned to the manufacturer by this Bill; because upon all the other items of per centage there must necessarily be a diminution of expense, which would, of course, so far diminish his loss upon the 5 per cent item, that was to say, the wear and tear of the machinery would be less, the consumption of oil, gas, &c, would be less; so that the actual amount of loss on the interest of the capital was not to be ascertained merely by considering the deduction from the hours of work. This was a most important point in considering this question. It had been assumed in argument that if one-sixth of the labourer's work were taken oft', one-sixth of his pay must also be deducted; and the noble Earl had stated that the workpeople had been altogether deceived upon this question, and that they had been made to believe that they would be paid just the same amount of wages which they now received, although they worked less time. Now he (the Bishop of Oxford) had himself addressed the labourers upon this very subject, and had urged the argument which the noble Earl had himself advanced; and what was the answer which the people gave him? "Why," said they, "that is the argument of my Lord Brougham; but there is nothing in it." He (the Bishop of Oxford) did not say that there was nothing in the noble and learned Lord's argument; but, at all events, it showed that 939 there was nothing so very new in the proposition. However, to return to the working men's answer:—"That," said they, "was Lord Brougham's argument; we have gone thoroughly into it, and we have come to this conclusion, that our wages will probably sink one-twelfth by the reduction of one-sixth of our work." Reckoning three in a family, earning 9s. a week each, making 27s. a week for the whole family, this amount might possibly he reduced by one-twelfth by this alteration. This reduction they were prepared to stand the loss of; and from the highest motives—for they declared that they could not hear to see, as they now saw, a young female, who, if the Legislature willed it, might grow up to be the healthy mother of a family, wasted in body and injured in morals by the overworking system that obtained for them a miserable addition of one-twelfth of what they otherwise would earn. These men accordingly said, that so far from acting blindly and in the dark, they rejoiced to forego the one-twelfth. But the great weight of the noble Earl's argument appeared to be directed to a point on which he seemed to entertain very serious fears—namely, that this measure would encourage foreign manufactures, and disturb the present commercial relations of the world. The noble Earl had on this occasion somewhat yielded to a fear of foreign competition, to which, in former days, he was so magnanimously a stranger; but to him (the Bishop of Oxford) it seemed that the noble Earl had greatly misrepresented the risk that would be run. The noble Earl stated that 37,000,000l. of goods were exported annually; and he argued that this measure would at once, perforce, inflict a loss of one-sixth of that amount upon the trade of this country. The noble Earl went further, and said, that the whole gain of the manufacturers was obtained in the last two hours of each day's work, and that if those two hours were taken away the consequence would be that the British manufactures would be driven abroad. That, however, was no new argument; but it was altogether untrue. Did their Lordships believe that all the wealth and power of the manufacturers of this empire was made up of a small fraction of a factory labourer's day's toil? Could they for a moment conceive, that by limiting the labour of the factory worker to ten hours a day instead of twelve, they would sweep away all the manufactures of 940 the country, and drive them abroad? It seemed to him that the humanity of the noble Earl was leading him astray. Let their Lordships remember what those two last hours were. Let them place themselves for a moment in those factories which the noble Earl had described as being so comfortable and pure. Let them remember that he was speaking of young females who had to follow the rapid motions of the machinery of a mill; it was a disputed point in the manufacturing districts, whether the time these poor females had to walk in the fœtid atmosphere of those mills was twelve, eighteen, or twenty-seven miles a day. Let their Lordships remember this, and remember also the fixedness of the attention which was necessary for these young women to maintain when walking in the midst of a factory, where danger threatened them at every turn, and where a single instance of negligence might be attended with loss of life or limb. Let their Lordships consider all these things, and then let them say whether they will believe that the last two hours of that easy work in a comfortable warm room was the basis of that greatness of which the British manufacturer might so justly boast? Could their Lordships believe that upon the last two hours' labour of that trembling hand, tending upon that machinery, after long, unceasing, and heart-consuming attention, when nature almost refused to perform her functions—could their Lordships believe that upon those two last hours depended all the profits and accumulations of the manufacturers? He believed that the work done in those two last hours was infinitely inferior in quality to that which was done in any other portion of the day. It was demanding work when nature refused the power of working. So far from this measure being a speculation, the Messrs. Marshall, of Leeds, had reduced their time of labour voluntarily to eleven hours a day. Many other firms had done the same. He had a return of the quantity of work done during five weeks when the mill was worked twelve hours a day, and also of the quantity of work done during five weeks when the mill was worked only ten hours a day; and it appeared that during the five weeks, at ten hours' labour a day, the master's profits slightly exceeded the profits of the five weeks labour at twelve hours a day. But then the friends of this measure were told that they were acting rashly, and upon the dictates of an 941 unmeaning humanity. But this measure was no new experiment. Why, their Lordships would remember, that so long back as 1815, Sir R. Peel, the father of the present right hon. Baronet, introduced a Bill for the purpose of limiting the hours of labour; and it was that Bill which formed the foundation of the present measure. That Bill had been argued, sifted, and, at length, adopted, from a growing conviction on the part of the manufacturers that it was a sound and wholesome measure. Every master manufacturer was at first opposed to it; now two-thirds of them were for it. For all these years this cause had been slowly winning its way against the greatest of all human passions—the love of gain; and yet their Lordships were now told not to act suddenly; not to take a step which they would afterwards bitterly and hopelessly lament. Many attempts had been already made of a similar kind. Their Lordships would remember the Bill passed two years ago to prevent women working in mines. Every argument employed at the present time against this measure had been used then. They were told when the Bill to effect that improvement was brought in, that it was the maddest thing in the world to endeavour to settle by legislation the connexion between labour and wages. They were told that the persons whose labour was to be affected would be reduced to starvation in consequence of the interference; but they did not heed these anticipations—they passed the measure, and the result was, that more work was done than before, and in a better manner, while the condition of the women, both in a moral and physical sense, had been greatly ameliorated; and, in fact, all the good which had been expected from the measure had been produced. The principle of non-interference with labour had been given up, in fact, when it was agreed that twelve hours was to be a limit, and when the labour of children was regulated; so that the objection could not be held upon that principle. This measure formed no exception to the rules of political economy. If, indeed, they attempted by legislation to regulate the wages of labour, it would be an infraction of the principles of political economy; but by this measure they did not make any such proposition—they merely said it was wrong to create wealth by the sacrifice of the health and morals of a portion of the people—that wealth so obtained was unlawfully obtained—and that any nation which 942 sanctioned such a mode of obtaining wealth could not prosper. Such a statement could not be said to be opposed to the principles of political economy; and it might as well be said that it was opposed to political economy to abstain from working on Sundays. There was no doubt that it would be more profitable to work seven days than six; but would it be right to do so? The folly of legislation was needless interference—the wisdom of legislation was necessary interference where it was demanded by the moral and physical condition of the people. They did not say to a man that he would be allowed to build a house in any manner he pleased, even on his private property, without regard to the interests and rights of society. No; but they said that he should not interfere with the rational liberty of others, and that he should not build an unsafe house, or one which would be dangerous to the public. It was the duty of the Legislature to do as it was proposed to do by this Bill, namely, to protect those who could not safely protect themselves. From what were they to protect them? From being forced to work to such an extent that the interests of society would be sacrificed by that labour. He did not speak of the danger of allowing people to remain with sorrowing and saddening hearts under sufferings which they had borne with such exemplary patience, and thus driving them to take the law into their own hands. He did not speak of that danger, although he believed there was nothing more dangerous than for the representatives of a great people to leave one of their justest desires unsatisfied, and to put off the remedy with cold negation or needless delay. The employers of labour had it in their power to remove the objections which now exist; but if the Legislature did not interfere in this case, how could the people proceed to obtain a remedy? Only by combination. Were their Lordships then to show to the people that their only mode of obtaining redress was by combination amongst themselves? He had spoken to them upon this subject, and they told him that in the combinations which had been entered into on the subject of adult labour, great difficulty was found in preventing unlawful proceedings from being mixed up with their undertakings, and that formed a great objection to any combination in order to provide a remedy for the evil of the present hours. If they were driven to combina- 943 tion for redress, it would, in his opinion, be productive of one of the greatest dangers which could exist. He besought their Lordships, therefore, not to deprive them of this relief—he besought them not to refuse them redress from any fear that it would diminish our manufacturing productiveness, or drive our manufacturers to foreign countries. What gave us this great and magnificent superiority in manufactures which we possessed? In the first place, the security of all property which is invested in manufactures in England, and next the wonderful industry, power, and patience of the persons who work our machinery. See, then, what we were doing. If we were bringing up in our manufacturing districts a vast population who were altogether strangers to the highest motives of moral conduct, it was surely scarcely consistent with the security of this great nation; and so far as regarded the maintenance of our manufactures, nothing was so likely to drive our manufacturers abroad as to feel that in this country they were not safe from the violence of an untaught and ungovernable populace. He besought their Lordships to consider that by doing anything which tended to the physical deterioration of the people, they were diminishing the strength of the right arm of the country. Let, them think as they might, this world was governed on moral principles, and retribution would surely come. They might depend upon it that what was politically wrong could not be politically expedient—there could be no trifling with moral principles; and in the long run they might depend upon it that by some of those numerous channels which regulate productive labour, the Government would discover that if they neglected the people's welfare to make the nation rich, they would make the nation poor in debasing the people.
§ LORD WHARNCLIFFE,
who was very imperfectly heard, said, their Lordships were not now to debate the principle of interference with labour; that had been introduced so long ago as 1801; and in 1815, in 1819, and again in 1844, that question had been raised and decided. The state of society required such interference in particular cases; and the circumstances under which some portions of the labouring population were compelled to sell their labour, exempted them from the ordinary rule. It was a mockery to talk of the freedom of the labourer; there was, in fact, no free-labour market. After all the dis- 944 cussion which this subject had undergone, what had been the effect produced upon the public mind? Why, the result had been most favourable to this measure; for to the number of petitions in favour of the Bill, there had been 178,000 signatures, and only about 1,000 against it. He contended, that by requiring females to be at work for fourteen hours, including the two hours for meals, they were exacting more labour from them than was taken from the men employed in almost any other department of industry in the country. He believed that among a great mass of the people of this country there was a growing conviction that some interference was necessary to protect the moral and religious interests of the working people; and he hoped, therefore, that their Lordships would consent to the passing of the present Bill.
The BISHOP of ST. DAVID'S
felt it his duty to say a few words on this question, though he did so with reluctance, because what he did say might have a tendency to weaken the impression their Lordships had received from the most eloquent and effective address of the right rev. Prelate who had already delivered his sentiments. Nevertheless, the subject was one of such great importance, that he craved their indulgence for a few minutes, while he gave the reasons which, notwithstanding all that had been said on the opposite side, would induce him to vote for the Motion of the noble Earl. He agreed with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), that the physical comfort and welfare of the working classes were the most essential of all considerations, and ought to be especially attended to by their Lordships, because they were the basis of every other benefit which could be conferred upon them, and were necessary to their receiving other and higher degrees of improvement. The noble and learned Lord, however, had failed to prove that the limitation of the hours of labour proposed in the Bill, would be injurious to the physical comfort of the people. The noble and learned Lord had admitted that there were cases in which it was the duty of the Legislature to interfere for the protection of the labouring portions of their subjects; and he thought that this was clearly one of the cases in which such interference was justified. It was a question on which they could not plead want of information; for the Legislature had the fullest means of obtaining all the information that was requisite to form a judgment. 945 He agreed with the noble and learned Lord, that the principles of political economy were the principles of common sense; and he should like to know in what particular the proposed measure, if enacted, would infringe on the principles either of political economy or common sense. Instead of that—instead of being a constraint upon the rights of freedom, he appealed to past experience whether or not in too many instances the employers in this country had not abused the powers they possessed; and, therefore, instead of the present Bill being an interference with labour, it would constitute a wholesome restraint against the abuse of power—it was substituting a system of restraint for a pernicious system of coercion. There was, he believed, no view of the subject taken up by the noble and learned Lord which had not been present to the minds of the working men of this country. They had fully considered the question—they had the means of forming an enlightened judgment on that question; and in the conclusion they had come to, he believed they were more likely to be right than those with whom they differed, as no other persons, whatever might be their station, could have the same advantage in fully considering the subject. They had been told that the most disastrous consequences were likely to arise from the adoption of this measure; and much stress had been laid on the injury it would create to the comfort and welfare of the working men, and the reduction of wages which would be occasioned. But the working men themselves did not entertain these opinions; and they expressed their belief that the statements of the noble and learned Lord on this part of the subject were greatly exaggerated. He found then, on the one hand, that there were objections to the Bill, denied by those who knew best their real force—the working men themselves; and, on the other hand, there were the interests and well-being of the working classes, the necessity of supporting which was acknowledged and admitted by all. He entreated their Lordships, then, not to be carried away by the idea that if they adopted this measure, they were making a perilous experiment. He maintained that the peril was all on that side on which the evil was now manifest, and that, by adopting the present measure, they were taking the safest and wisest course—and that which, to all appearance, was calculated to give the greatest benefit to the greatest number of their follow creatures.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
considered, that, in a case in which the interests of humanity and benevolence were deeply involved, it was but natural that the right rev. Bench should be interested in it; but they ought to make it clear that the cause they espoused was one of humanity; and their Lordships were bound to consider whether, in carrying out that principle of humanity, the manufactures of the country would survive the operation. The great objection which he entertained to now giving his vote in favour of this measure, was founded on the fact that they were proceeding to legislate with but imperfect information. He denied that, generally, the operatives would be found to be in support of the Bill; and, even granting that such was the case, he doubted if the operative was not guided too much by his wishes and hopes, and too little by his judgment. The master manufacturer was in a position to discern with far greater clearness the probable effects of such a restriction upon labour both upon himself and upon those he employed; and, while he reminded their Lordships that the majority of the millowners were opposed to the Bill, he admitted that the number of those who had declared an opinion in its favour offered a strong reason why those practically unfamiliar with the question should now lean to the side of that which was supposed to be humanity. If he had seen any disposition on the part of their Lordships to reconsider the subject in Committee, and then agree to an Eleven Hours Bill, he should have voted for the second reading on this occasion; but, as there was no ground for such a supposition, he felt himself called upon to support the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend.
§ On question, that "now" stand part of the Motion, House divided:—Contents 53; Not-Contents 11: Majority for the second reading 42.
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Cottenham, Lord Chancellor.||Radnor|
|Clarendon||Monteagle of Brandon|
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned.