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experienced in fixing on a test, but as soon as it was found that the one proposed was not according to law, upon the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, which was immediately taken, orders were despatched from the Secretary of State's office that no other mode should be followed but what was strictly within the purview of the statute. Now this was the case, but from the noble Lord's statement, the House, he thought, would be induced to doubt whether the Act was followed in that particular, or whether it was left a d-ead letter. In the year 1837 the noble Lord had on two or three different occasions called the attention of the House to the subject of the faclory children. But the noble Lord always forgot to state what the Government had done in 1837. He accused them of a desire to stifle the subject, but, he forgot to mention that on a representation made to them by the noble Lord, to the effect that the Factory Act was not fully worked out, the Government had remodelled the districts, increased the number of times of visiting the mills, and since that time every report of the inspectors stated, that the operation of the Act had been improving in every district throughout the country. Then came the questiou, whether the Government had been justified in withdrawing the bill of this Session. He repeated, that, had he been in his place the day ensuing thai fixed for the second reading of the bill in the month of May last, he certainly would have pressed it on, notwithstanding the opposition given to it, and the various questions which arose upon it out of doors. He denied, that the Government had been silent or careless upon the subject, but they could not regard a measure of that kind as otherwise than one of an experimental nature. Whatever new enactments they might make upon the subject, there were so many persons engaged in the factories, and so many interests concerned, that loopholes would invariably present themselves for evading the law. He readily admitted there might be established a better system than the present, and that they should ameliorate that system to the fullest possible extent, consistently, however, with the recollection, that if they unnecessarily interfered with the working of the great manufactories of this country, they would endanger the employment of those young children, and run the risk of throwing them idle
upon the country, and placing them consequently in a situation in which they would be more ready to receive those evil impressions, against which the noble Lord was so anxious to guard them. He looked with suspicion on the bill of the noble Lord as a ten hours bill. He had listened attentively to his speech, and he confessed, that it appeared to him to contain more to justify the idea that the noble Lord wanted to interfere with the principle of the present act, than to remedy or remove its defects. Now he again declared, that while he was ready to attend to the subject with the view to remedy its defects early next Session, he was resolved never in any way to interfere with the two great principles of age and time, principles which were so intimately connected with the manufactories of the country. He therefore looked with a suspicious eye upon the motion of the noble Lord, because it certainly, in his mind, at least, professed one thing while it had another for its object. This he said without intending the least disrespect; but it appeared to him that whilst the noble Lord hinged the question upon the withdrawal of the bill which had been before the House for amending the law, his real object was, to interfere with the principle of that bill. He hesitated not, however, to give the noble Lord and the House this solemn assurance, that it was the intention of the Government to amend the present law early next Session, by a measure similar to that already introduced, which, from what had occurred during the present year, he had every reason to expect would receive the support of a considerable portion of that House. He promised that it should be vigorously prosecuted, and had only to hope that it would be returned from the other House in a better state than was the original bill. A question of this kind, so deeply affecting the interesis of the country, should certainly not be opened every three or four years, for he was convinced that such interference with labour would tend to injure rather than benefit the manufactures of the country.
Sir W. James was anxious to offer a few observations in support of the motion of his noble Friend. In the early part of the Session they had heard a great deal on the subject of negro apprenticeship. He recollected, that it had been somewhat ludicrously urged, that the period of apprenticeship ought to terminate stimula* neously with the Coronation. It was in the recollection of the House that this subject appeared to excite a great deal of interest. The galleries were filled with gentlemen wearing broad-brimmed hats, and clad in grave and sober-coloured garments. Now, he contended, that the sufferings of those of our own country, who toiled in those factories, had as strong a claim for sympathy and redress, as those which appeared to have excited, to such an extent, the feelings of the country. He thought that it was the imperative duty of the Legislature to protect those children. The Legislature provided a sufficient protection for the property of minors, and guarded them against waste and extravagance. But let them recollect that the property of a poor man was his labour, and was as much entitled to the protection of the law. Was it not the duty of the Legislature to protect the poor man from that condition which was calculated to produce premature decrepitude? They were bound to do this, unless they wished to establish the principle of having one law for the rich, and another law for the poor. When the rich man spent his property he did injury to no one but himself. This, however, was not the case with the poor man; for when his labour was prematurely exhausted, or extravagantly wasted, an injury was done to the productive power of the state. Let them recollect that one of the main causes of the great and distinguished commercial and manufacturing position which England enjoyed, was the indefatigable industry and the untiring labour of her artizans. Surely it never could be the interest nor the desire of the Legislature to see the labourers of the country prematurely worked out, and their minds debased and degraded. He congratulated his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) on the part that he had taken with respect to those suffering classes. The subject had been early forced upon the attention of Parliament by Mr. Sadler, whose exertions on the subject were entitled to the highest praise. The noble Lord had renewed the attempt of Mr. Sadler, and had proved himself a worthy successor to that Gentleman. The exertions of his noble Friend were entitled to the greatest praise. His noble Friend had introduced a bill on the same principle as that which had been introduced by Mr. Sadler. That bill was resisted; but as an expedient, and as the
next best thing, a commission was agreed to, to inquire into the condition of those engaged in these factories, and the evidence collected by the commissioners disclosed a fearful state of things. But bad as that state of things was, they might feel almostjustified in saying that it was still in existence. The evidence of the children themselves had been taken down, and it disclosed a fearful and lamentable condition. They described themselves as sick and tired after the day's labour. That when they returned to their homes in the evening they were obliged to throw themselves down from excessive fatigue. A physician whose authority was entitled to respect, had published some observations on the physical condition of those children, and he stated, that the labour in which they were employed, on account of its protracted duration, rendered them liable to pains in various parts of the body, to swellings of the feet, and that these appearances often terminated in the production of serious permanent and incurable disorders. Well, then, his noble Friend introduced his bill to remedy this state of things, but the Government said, that they would not have the noble Lord's bill, that they would themselves introduce a bill exactly suited to the nature of the case. This was what the Government did. They shewed by their subsequent conduct, that they thought their own bill was inefficient and inapplicable. If that was not their opinion, why had they introduced the present Act? Amongst other regulations which they had made, it was provided by the present law, that notice of any offence should be given within fourteen clear days after its commission; and though the inspector might not enter a factory more than once in the year, yet this limited period was all that was allowed with respect to any violations of the Act that might have taken place. Upon the whole, the subject called loudly for the attention of the Government. He regretted that they had postponed the remedy for a single day. On the subject of these abuses, amongst many other authorities, he might appeal to the opinion of Mr. Senior. The hon. Baronet read an extract from a statement made by Mr. Senior, to the effect, that such was the progressive increase of the fixed capital employed in manufactures, that to work that capital profitably, there should be an increase of the time of labour, so that the evils of which they
complained, instead of decreasing, were upon the increase. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fielden) had published a statement of the condition of these factory children. That hon. Member stated, that until he made the calculation in his own factory, and under his own eyes, he had no conception of the extent of the labour which these children endured. To his utter surprise, he found that the distance walked by a wretched child in the course of twelve hours, was not less than twenty miles, and, in some cases, it was even greater. After the very able speech which had been made by his noble Friend, it was not his intention to detain the House. He did not concur in the high character which had been given to the bill introduced by the Government in that Session. The bdl contained a ludicrous enactment with respect to the children. In it was contained a provision to the effect, that the Secretary of State, should, from time to lime publish, or cause to be published, an easy book for children; and no child who was unable to read this book, should be held able to read. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, had written a tragedy, which, he supposed, was to transmit his name to posterity. The noble Lord was now, however, to be employed upon the less noble labour of preparing a horn book for the factory children. The present question was a national question, which must come home to the business and bosoms of every Member of the House, and in the hands of the House he was content to leave it. He had lately looked into the life of Sir W. Scolt, written by Mr. Lockhart, and he had noticed an observation made by that great man in passing through a manufacturing district. It was this—" The justice of Heaven is requiting and will requite those who have bloated this country into opulence, at the expense of the happiness and morals of the lower orders of the people."
Mr. Turnerwished to make one observation. He thought the allusion to those who had crowded the gallery when the Negro Apprenticeship Bill was under discussion, was uncalled for. Though those who were present on that occasion were few, yet no less a number than fifteen hundred thousand persons had petitioned Parliament for the termination of negro apprenticeship. The exertions of those individuals had produced a beneficial result; and he was sure, that all roust
respect the motives by which they were influenced.
Sir R. Bateson concurred in the sentiments which the noble Lord had expressed, and which did so much honour to his heart, and which had been expressed with an ability so creditable to his talents. On the last occasion on which this subject was before the House, he had heard some statements made with respect to the state of factories in Ireland. He resided in a part of Ireland where factories were rapidly increasing; and he thought, that he was acquainted wilh the sentiments both of the employers and the individuals employed in those factories. It was stated on a former evening, by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, as well as by the hon. Member for Dublin, that the parents of the children employed in those factories, were adverse to any alteration of the present system; as the shortening of the hours of labour must have the effect of diminishing wages. He knew the feelings of the parents of the children employed in the part of Ireland with which he was connected, and he did not believe, that there was any amongst them so slavish—so devoid of parental feeling—as to sacrifice the lives and morals of their children for the sake of the few shillings that they could earn by those additional hours of protracted labour. On behalf of the operatives of the district where he resided, he denied that they were actuated by any such base, selfish, and sordid sentiments. He felt bound, as a matter of duty to those persons, to make this statement; for he could not sit still and hear it asserted, that for some additional gain they were willing to sacrifice their children to the continuation of such a system.
Mr. Gillon said, that as he had been made the subject of attack in one of the party papers of the day, he trusted that he would be afforded an opportunity of making an explanation of the circumstances to which the attack referred. It had been stated, that on the occasion which had been fixed for the discussion of the noble Loid's motion, he had entered into a conspiracy with the Government to have the House counted out. If no one but himself had been assailed by the miserable scribe who penned those lines, he should not have troubled the House on the subject. The abuse of such an organ as The Times, the renegade, the apostate Times, was not worth notice. On the day