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and patient, and disproportionate toil of the merest children, the maximum of labour with the minimum of wages, reduce the cost, and spare the pocket, to pour forth its savings on show, and feasts, and a multiplied wardrobe.
The question is not whether the children of the poor may not with perfect propriety, with advantage to their parents and themselves, be employed to a certain extent in the labour of looms and shops. No doubt they may—But can it be pronounced necessary to our social welfare, or national prosperity, that children of the tenderest years should toil, amid every discomfort and agony of posture, and foul atmosphere, for fifteen or sixteen successive hours, oftentimes for a long consecutive period, turning night into day, without the compensating enjoyment in fashionable life, of turning day into night? Can it be for our honour, or our safety, that their young hearts, instead of being trained in the ways of temperance and virtue, should be acquiring knowledge of those vices which they will afterwards practise as adults? We will not enter minutely into the details of those occupations which have been exposed in a late parliamentary discussion, and, as to some branches, in Mr. Horner's valuable essay: two or three only, which have not yet received the attention they deserve, shall be laid before our readers.
First comes the lace-trade. The following is the evidence given by the inspector and sub-inspector of the districts where this business chiefly prevails. Mr. Saunders is asked :
Have you many lace-mills in your district ?- I have about thirty mills. What are the usual hours of work in those mills ?- The usual hours are, about Nottingham, twenty hours a-day, being from four o'clock in the morning till twelve o'clock at night : about Chesterfield, the report I have had from the superintendent is, that they work twentyfour hours, all through the night, in several of the mills there.—Are there many children and young persons in those mills ?—The proportion is less in lace-mills than in others, but it is necessary to have some of them; the process of winding and preparing the bobbins and carriages requires children: those that I saw so employed were from ten to fifteen years of age.- Are the children detained in the mills during a considerable period of the day and night ?- I can speak from information derived from two or three mill-owners, and also more extensively from reports by one of the superintendents in my district; and I should say, that in most of the mills they do detain them at night : in some of them, the report states that they are detained all night, in order to be ready when wanted.- Are the children that are so detained liable to be detained throughout the day, and do they sometimes begin their work at twelve o'clock at night?—In the mills at Nottingham there are owners that make it a rule that they will not keep the children after eight, or nine, or ten o'clock, according to the incli
nation of the mill-occupier.—Where are those children during the time they are detained in the mill ?— When detained at night, and not employed, I am told they are lying about on the floor.- Is it customary to close at eight on Saturday evening in lace-mills ?-I think it is.—How then do they compensate for the loss of those four hours' work in those mills ?-By working all night on Friday: those are the mills in which they pay so much for their power.-Must not there be a considerable wear and tear upon the physical constitution of children who are kept in this state?-I think it is self-evident.Is there any possibility of their obtaining education under those circumstances ?-None whatever, except on Sundays. But, after one hundred and twenty hours' work in the week, is it possible that they can have much capacity for study on the Sunday?-It is not always that the same children are kept twenty hours, because some mills have two complete sets of hands for their machinery, and they work the same set of hands only ten hours.—But, even under those circumstances, it must frequently happen that the same children are employed during the night twice or thrice in the course of a week ?—The practice generally is that they take the night-work for one week, and then the next week the morning-work.–So that during one whole week they are employed in the night-work?-Yes.—At the end of a week, during which they have been employed in the night, do you think that they have much capacity left for study on Sunday ? --No: my opinion is most decidedly, that either turning out at four o'clock in the morning, or being kept out of bed at night, must be most injurious to children, both to their physical constitution and their mental powers.—The law, as it stands, does not prevent the children from being employed even twenty hours ?- It does not apply to lace-mills.-- Therefore the period of duration which the child is employed depends upon the varying humanity of the individual proprietor of the mill?— Yes. You say that it sometimes happens that the children come to the mill at five in the morning, and do not leave it till ten at night?—It is reported to me that it does so happen about Chesterfield.- If a child is kept in winter till twelve o'clock at night, and has then to go home and return to the factory in the morning, a distance of two miles, does not he undergo fearful hardships ?Certainly.'*
Mr. Bury is asked
• Do not you find that this night-work is extremely injurious both to health and morals ?-Yes.—And that, though the children may not be worked during the whole time, so long a detention from their homes is extremely prejudicial ?—Yes.--Are they not called up at all hours of the night?—They are when the lace-machines are at work; they are generally at work twenty hours per day: when they give over at eight o'clock on Saturday night they lose of course four hours that day, then that is made up by their being worked the whole of the night on the Friday night.–And the children, from nine to fifteen years of age, are
* Questions 3085-3100-3113--3115–3124.
obliged to be in the mills during the whole night and the day too-and even when not detained the whole night, they are usually detained til! ten or eleven at night?—They very seldom get out till ten or eleven: they are probably not more than eight hours a day actually employed, but they must be either in the mill or on the premises for all that length of time; and where the lace-mills are worked twenty-four hours a day, the children must be, during the whole of that twenty-four hours, either on the premises or where they can be called out of bed whenever they are wanted. —Consequently, it often happens that they do not get to bed at all !-Yes.—Is that for one day after another?--Regularly: the machines are worked by persons of fourteen years of age and upwards, and they are worked in relays: when they work twenty hours a day, they have two relays, that is ten hours and ten hours; when they are worked twenty-four hours, then they have three eight hours; every week they change about: as for the threaders, they do not work the machines, they have merely the threading of the bobbins and carriages connected with the lace machines; but they are obliged to be in attendance during the whole of the time that the machine is at work.—The whole twenty-four hours ?-If it is worked twenty-four hours, the same set of children must be in or about the premises during the whole time.- What opportunity have those children of education ?-None whatever.- Are not young people of both sexes congregated together at all hours of the night ?-Certainly.- Are the children often called to begin their work al twelve o'clock at night ?-Yes.-What effect have you observed this to produce upon the health of those younger children? —Decidedly injurious ; their very countenances speak it.'*
All this for that indispensable demand of our shivering nature -a cheap lace trimming!
Next stands the silk-manufacture: we will not fill our pages with the abundant evidence which may be found in the Minutes of the Committee and the reports of the inspectors. Suffice it here to say, that ten hours of labour, in each day, are assigned to children of tender years, of eight, of seven, and even of sixmostly girls—and so small, as we learn from the inspectors, that they are not unfrequently placed on stools before they can reach their work.
Here are our premises! Who will gainsay the conclusion ? Surely he that runs may read the vision written clearly and awfully in characters of fire. •Dear me,' say the thoughtless and the sensual, the idle, and the ignorant; 'dear me, it is really quite terrible how crime is increasing; and such numbers too of young criminals!' They marvel at the results of their own indifference, and wonder that the soil which is untilled by the husbandman should produce nothing but tares. To what purpose do these accomplished persons try their hand at an argument, and quote the trading polities of old, of Tyre and Zidon, the decline of states, * Quest. 3321-23—31–35.
VOL. LXVII. NO. CXXXIII.
and the fickleness of commerce? We reply to them, by the pride, the cruelty, and ungodliness of empires, overgrown in wealth and power-of Nineveh, of Babylon, and of Rome
Luxuria incubuit, victumque ulciscitur orbem.' But is there no balm in Gilead?' We entertain misgivings; we much fear that the evil is now too gigantic for our puny strength, and that we can at best retard, without averting, the day of retribution. An attempt, however, was made at the close of the last session to obtain a minute and searching inquiry into the causes and extent of the alleged mischiefs; and it is our duty, and a pleasure, to give praise to Her Majesty's ministers for the readiness with which they received the proposition, and the manner in which they have hitherto treated it. We wish them Godspeed in this and every other undertaking, where the performance of duty is more prominent than the love of place—and Whiggery, for a while, postponed to virtue.
Mr. Horner gives a review of the continental legislation on infantile labour; of the efforts that have been made or promised by the governments of Europe and America to wipe out this system of domestic slavery. The example of Great Britain has been followed, in some cases, actually; in others, so to speak, prospectively; few have denied the evil, none have endeavoured to palliate it ; and we have, at least, this ground of consolation, that, after many years of controversy and toil, other nations and other rulers are beginning to say, We will hear thee again of this matter. The records, nevertheless, of past and actual suffering in these countries are terrible; and, while we rejoice as Britons that we are not singular in the work of covetousness and oppression, we must weep, as men, over crimes so widely spread and so deeply rooted. We hail the attempts of our continental neighbours to “refuse the evil and choose the good ;' but our confidence is not yet won. These things, to be permanent, must rest on public opinion and national feeling. Abroad there is, we fear, hardly anything of the sort for such matters as this ;-half-a-dozen good-hearted men make a vigorous effort, which flickers for a time, and then goes out; a benevolent king issues a decree, which his successor may cancel with the stroke of a quill; and Penelope's web of mercy is rent into its original threads, before the dawn of a second generation.
But let us, for the present at least, follow the advice of our friend Sancho Panza, and not look a gift-horse in the mouth; let us rejoice in the good that has already been done, and hope that more may be effected. Prussia has imposed, by law, a limit of ten hours a day on the labour of all children under sixteen years of age; esto perpetua—this happy fact was an
line the Arcomcll, "locaccomplisCommons
nounced last year in the House of Commons, and just praise given to the monarch who accomplished it -- great then was the wrath of Mr. O'Connell, before whose importunate recollection there arose the Archbishop of Cologne, and the factory-vote of 1836. In Switzerland the canton of Argovia has decreed that no children shall work in the factories under fourteen years of age—but no restriction is placed on the length of their labour; a foolish enactment at both extremities; it has conceded to us, however, the principle of protection. In Austria, where the period of labour is most cruelly long, the government, with characteristic caution, has undertaken an inquiry, not a redress; and • like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.' North America exhibits but little movement, except from the State of Massachussets ; and in Russia, the minister of finance declares the humane intentions of the Czar, but adds that the manufacturing system is not yet sufficiently extended to call for an ukase. France has in this, as in other things of late, presented the world with more cry than wool. She promised much; and the accomplishment has been as scanty as the undertaking was large. It must, nevertheless, be stated, to the honour of the Chamber of Peers, that they introduced and passed a bill, wise and benevolent in its provisions. The arguments and debates which attended its course were as satisfactory as the measure--and exhibited (we will not disguise our opinion) a deeper and wider sentiment of morality than we had believed to exist among public men in France. The bill then descended to the Chamber of Deputies, who dismissed it with the courtesy of Felix to St. Paul : Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.'
We are promised, however (and if they serve no other end, these promises are agreeable for a sanguine man to hang a hope upon), that the subject shall be reconsidered. The present minister, M. Guizot, has expressed his disposition to the work of mercy; perhaps, like other ministers, he will plead indispensable engagements and want of time, an ancient and unworthy excuse in matters of such vital interest; but we hope that his memory will be refreshed by the activity, though unofficial, of M. Delessert; by the Baron Charles Dupin, whose report on factory-labour, to the Chamber of Peers, is an invaluable document; and especially by M. Daniel Legrand, a most indefatigable and eloquent writer in behalf of these sufferers, but better known as yet as the friend and supporter of the admirable Oberlin.
It is pleasant to see that England, which set the example in this movement of charity and wisdom, bids fair to be, as hitherto, foremost in the race. The Commission which has just been ap