* rose to call attention to the distress prevailing in the cotton manufacturing districts, and said: In the first instance I wish to state the reasons which have led me to undertake so difficult and responsible a task. Immediately after my election I received numerous letters from factory operatives in the cotton districts, requesting me to bring under the notice of the House their grievances and their claims for redress. I was reminded by them of former battles which I had fought on their behalf, and of the advantages which had accrued to them. They also reminded me that they had no direct representatives in the House to whom they could appeal, and therefore they entreated me to bring under the notice of Parliament their claims and their grievances, and I thought I would have been unworthy of the position I occupy had I hesitated to comply with their request. Not, indeed, that I arrogate to myself an exclusive right of representing those persons in this House, because I am convinced that there are many Members on either side who would readily have assented to their request. Having agreed to undertake their case, I determined that I would not communicate my intention to any Member on either aide of the House, lest hereafter it might be asserted that this great question had been brought forward in a party spirit. I formed my own opinion upon the course I should pursue, and placed a notice upon the paper. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Potter) has certainly kept a strict watch over my actions; for having given notice that on the 20th of March I would ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, whether he would give a day after Easter for the discussion of this subject, upon that very day, the 20th, the hon. Member for Carlisle wrote a letter, setting forth the claims of the cotton trade. That letter appeared in very prominent type in The Times newspaper, and was circulated not only throughout England and Europe, but would, no doubt, be translated into many languages in India. Upon the 25th of March, I gave notice of a Motion, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle then gave notice of an Amendment, which would have the effect of referring this grave question to a Committee upstairs—in fact, to bury it in a blue-book. Since, then, I have placed the terms of my Resolution on the paper, and the hon. Member for Carlisle has again given notice of an Amendment, which would be regarded with dismay by the operatives in the cotton districts, who would treat it as an attempt to delay, by means of a Royal Commission, any action such as I believe is necessary to preserve a great number of the working population from starvation. I do not now intend to address the House upon either of these Amendments, but wish to make a few observations upon the statements contained in the hon. Gentleman's letter published in The Times That letter was important, and might be looked upon as the manifesto of the manufacturers, the hon. Member being now, I believe, chairman of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce [Mr. POTTER: No!], or was so until very lately. [Mr. POTTER assented.] That letter enunciated three propositions, which I shall read to the House, and leave the hon. Gentleman to correct me if I should be wrong on any point. The hon. Gentleman's propositions are—
Having read those three propositions put forth by the hon. Member for Carlisle, I shall proceed to answer them by authorities and by proofs, which I conceive will induce the House to hesitate before it assents to them. The hon. Gentleman first declared, "that no statesman has ever given warning of the American crisis, and therefore the cotton manufacturers are not culpable for the present condition of affairs." If I were to search through the records of Parliament during the last twenty or thirty years, I have no doubt I could find that many statesmen have warned the manufacturers that eventually a frightful crisis must occur in America; that it was only a question of time; and that it would be worse than madness to rely solely upon America for a supply of cotton. In 1839, in the first debate upon the Corn Laws, which took place upon the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. C. P. Villiers), Mr. Poulet Thompson, then President of the Board of Trade and Member for Manchester, openly rejoiced in this House that the manufacturers of this country were solely dependent for cotton upon America. On that occasion the late Sir James Graham said, in answer to the President of the Board of Trade—"That the American crisis being an exceptional occurrence, and no statesman having given warning, the masters are not liable, and that it is the duty of the Government and the House of Commons to grapple with the difficulty; that no trade has furnished such regular, healthy, and moral employment, and therefore the House of Commons ought to vote a large sum of money to keep half a million of people for one, two, or three years in idleness, and until the cotton trade revived; and that had there been no American outbreak, there would only have been a temporary glut of the markets; and he ventured to predict that after a year or two, when fresh supplies of cotton had been found, our exports would be forced into districts of India yet untravelled, for the benefit of the English manufacturer and the operative, provided India was tolerably well governed and kept quiet."
Unfortunately, the cotton manufacturers turned a deaf ear to this language. They persisted in remaining dependent upon America for their cotton, and they did not appear to wake from their dream, and to I be startled by the danger which surrounded them, until 1850—three years after the repeal of the Corn Laws, when the cotton manufacturers declared that all they wanted "was to be let alone, and to buy and sell without impediment;" when they asserted "that they would thenceforth barter their cotton for the food of their workpeople." when they pledged themselves not only "to drag the world in their wake, but to unite all the nations upon earth in amity, unity, peace, and concord;" when they pledged themselves "to bridge the Atlantic and to make America and England one united happy family, by exchanging for the food of America the productions of the English looms, so that for a hundred years to come the cotton factory operatives of Lancashire and elsewhere should not know what it was to want plenty of American corn, beef, and pork." The cotton factory operatives would, indeed, rejoice to see a tithe of these solemn pledges redeemed. But in 1850 an hon. Gentleman came down to that House "whining" for protection to the cotton trade. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Villiers) would remember that expression often used by him in this House. The hon. Member for Manchester, who now represented Birmingham (Mr. Bright), appealed to the House of Commons only three years after the repeal of the Corn Laws, and asked them to be so kind as to send out a Commission to India at the public expense to inquire into the growth of cotton in India for the benefit of Lancashire. The hon. Member for Birmingham first presented a petition on this subject, the Member for Carlisle I believe (having signed it himself), and then lifted up a warning voice to this effect. Alluding to the production of cotton in the United States by slave labour, he said—"That, in his opinion, it was an evil to be dependent on any country for a supply of cotton; but if we were dependent on a foreign country for our bread also, we should be running greater risk than the Legislature seemed to contemplate, and in his conscience he believed that such a change would be fatal to our manufactures, and to the independence and prosperity of the country."
And after that the hon. Member advocated inland communication and railways in India. Before I sit down, I shall have to call the attention of the House to what is now going on in India with regard to "inland communication and railways," for the sole benefit of the cotton manufacturers of this country. I have now shown that the cotton manufacturers have had ample warning; but because this House would not put the country to the expense of sending out a Commission to India to promote the growth of cotton for them, they have, nearly up to the present hour, refused to spend one sixpence in order to secure a regular supply of cotton without relying on America. They have received ample warning, and therefore they are not only culpable, but responsible for their present position, and answerable to their workpeople for the sufferings which the latter are now enduring. Under these circumstances, I submit that the House would not be justified in voting the sum of money proposed, for the purpose of supporting this enormous number of operatives in idleness. I, at least, shall be no party to the vote of a sum of money for this purpose, although I believe that the people of this country would be ready to agree to give any amount which should rescue these poor operatives from the fearful sufferings which they are undergoing. In proof that the cotton manufacturers are responsible for the present state of things, I shall quote the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden). I am not going to revive any old political or party topics, and shall address the hon. Member with that respect which is his due from the high position which he occupies in this House and before the country. But the hon. Member must be called to account, seeing that he was, strictly speaking, the representative in this House of what was then considered the great interest of the country, and that he not only earnestly, but most sincerely, fought their battle in Parliament. On the 24th of September 1841, the hon. Member, addressing this House upon the distress of the country, said—"That by whatever means that system was to be abolished, whether by insurrection, which he should deplore [though the hon. Member did not seem to deplore it now], or by some great measure of justice from the Government, one thing was certain, that the production of cotton must be interfered with for a considerable time after such an event had taken place." He added "that the perils which surrounded the cotton trade were very great, and he assured the House that the opinion of those whom he represented were strongly in favour of his proposition, and that they believed it to be intimately connected with the prosperity, if not with the very existence, of the trade with which they were so much identified."
Now, they had this inalienable right, but have ceased to exercise it, as far as the factory operatives are concerned, for the hon. Member himself lately attended a meeting at Manchester and appealed to the people of England for £1,000,000, to save those very workpeople from starvation. The hon. Member, in 1841, added—"The people want bread, and you, who take upon yourselves the monopoly of feeding them, are called upon to administer to their necessity for food. All we ask for is the right, the inalienable right, of feeding ourselves."
Parliament did give leave and licence to these manufacturers in Manchester to redeem the whole of their pledges; and having failed to do that, while they proclaimed themselves responsible to those cotton operatives in the face of the whole world, I now hold them responsible for the sufferings which the people of Lancashire are enduring. I have other authorities to quote to the House on this point—one supporting my statement that the manufacturers, and they alone, are responsible for the present state of things. On the 8th of July 1842, a right hon. Gentleman now on the Treasury Bench (Mr. Villiers) said—"The trading people had never yet come to the agriculturists to ask a favour of them—had never yet begged to be fed at the cost of those by whom food was produced. On the contrary, two years ago, when great distress was experienced, the delegates of the manufacturing districts put forward an unanimous declaration, addressed to the world at large, in which they stated, that all they wanted was the right to exchange the product of their labour for the food which was the product of other countries; and, at the same time, they prayed the House of Commons to remove all protection from themselves, and to give to the agriculturists as well as to themselves the free and unfettered liberty of exchanging the product of their labour how and where they pleased. That being refused, he had a right to lay at the door of the landowners all the distress and misery of those whom they had the privilege of feeding, but whom they would only consent to feed at a high and unnatural price. He told Her Majesty's Ministers that the manufacturing and commercial interests would feed the labourers if the laws would let them—that they would employ them at good wages if the Legislature would let them; but if laws were passed which said that they should not exchange the produce of their labour for the food which other lands would sup- ply, then how were they either to employ or feed them."
That language would apply to speeches made in Scotland recently by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. Sympathy was all very well so long as people are not starving; but, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, they wanted more than sympathy and vague generalities when they were placed in that unfortunate position. Last year they were told that Letter times would soon arrive for Lancashire; hut, instead of such being the case, I believe they are now in a worse state than ever, notwithstanding that the manufacturers had made those enormous fortunes of which their own organs had boasted so much. I see no hope of better times for these people unless Parliament interfere in their behalf. There are half a million of people in Lancashire who are now on the verge of becoming paupers, and they have petitioned this House to relieve them from their degrading position. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. P. Villiers) continued—"That the wretchedness of the condition of the people was acknowledged, but, instead of any remedy being attempted to be applied, they heard nothing but lackadaisical phrases of sympathy and meagre generalities and hopes of better times"
The Amendment of the hon. Member for Carlisle would keep them in a state of pauperism for two or three years, and not even in the position of national paupers; for they are world-wide paupers, and relief is sent to them even from the antipodes. Do hon. Gentlemen suppose that half a million of working people will submit to continue in that degrading position? It must be recollected that faith has been broken with them. The manufacturers have made solemn pledges to adhere to and stand by them; but they have cast them off, and do they now imagine that the operatives would believe them, when they said that a Royal Commission would relieve them? The hon. Member for Carlisle will find he is labouring under a dangerous mistake, and the Government will also find that they are labouring under a dangerous mistake if they consent to his Amendment. If they do so, they will make themselves responsible henceforth for everything that may occur in Lancashire. I will now go to the second proposition of the hon. Member, in which he states that no trade is so regular in this country as the cotton trade, I will read to the House an extract from a letter written by a gentleman who is now no more, but who was a Member of this House—a man, I believe, as truthful and as disinterested as any individual could be; who was himself an operative in early life, but by industry, and through the possession of great talent, he became one of the largest and most successful cotton manufacturers in Lancashire, He raised a warning voice against reckless trading and over-production in the cotton trade, and implored his brother manufacturers to manufacture less and more honestly. Mr. Fielden, the Member for Oldham, wrote—"The people believed that their condition was solely attributable to the refusal of a free trade with America, and if the House would give them a free trade with the United States they would have no more complaints.…. He, by a reference to his own acquaintance with the working classes, know that there was nothing in the world which they would not endure rather than become paupers."
With the permission of the House, I will give a brief sketch of the cotton trade of England. The cotton trade has existed for ninety years, and during the first half of that period it had the monopoly of the world. It has existed for three generations of the English race, and I believe I may safely say that during that period it has destroyed nine generations of factory operatives. The other day I attended a deputation of twenty seven delegates in Manchester from the various cotton districts of Lancashire, and I asked them, "How it is that I do not see any of the old faces which I was accustomed to see from 1842 to 1846 during the Ten Hours' Bill agitation?" and they told me that "they had all disappeared;" there was not one among those who met me on that occasion. Prom 1815 to 1830 the English manufactures contended against the whole cotton trade of Europe and the United States; in 1833 the China and India trade was opened; and now I unhesitatingly state, that during the past thirty years it has been extending itself in the East alone by the destruction of the human race. In 1790, when the first census of the United States slaves was taken, the number amounted to 697,000, and in 1861 the number was 3,500,000. I make no charge specially against the Confederate States of America, or England, or the Northern States, for all are equally guilty of encouraging slavery; all are equally interested in the gain connected with the cotton trade of this country; and no cotton manufacturer can hold up his hands and say they are clean. When the hon. Member for Birmingham, who presided the other evening at a meeting of the trades unions was abusing the cotton manufacturers for upholding and supporting slavery, he (Mr. Bright) might have remembered how ninny years he had been identified with that trade, or if a protest were to proceed from the trades unions of this country, the hon. Member was not the person through whom it should have come. From 1815 to 1821 the cotton trade was depressed, in 1822 and 1823 there was a prosperous trade; in 1824 a repeal of the Combination Laws took place, strikes immediately followed, and the mills in Manchester and Glasgow were at a stand for five months: in 1825 there was a monetary crisis and a stop page of trade; in 1826 there were great distress and rioting; in 1827 there was a slight improvement; in 1828 there was a great increase of power-looms and of ex-ports; in 1829 the exports exceeded those of any previous year, especially to India; in 1830 there was great distress, and the markets were glutted. In 1831, 1832, and 1833 there was continued distress, and in the last year trade was thrown open to the East. In 1834 there was a great increase of mills and machinery in Lan- cashire, and every one was rushing into the cotton trade, on the supposition that through the trade of the East being thrown open there would be scarcely any limit to its extension; but after the mills were built and the machinery was placed in them, it was found that there was no population in the factory districts to work the mills. A proposition was made by the cotton manufacturers of Lancashire to the Poor Law Commissioners, offering to arrange with them, that if they would send down the surplus population, as they were called, of the agricultural districts into Lancashire, they would "absorb" and use them up. These were the words of the cotton manufacturers, and I can produce printed copies of the letters in which those words were used. Agents were appointed, with the consent of the Poor Law Commissioners, and with a full understanding with the cotton manufacturers. An office was set up in Manchester, to which lists were sent of those workpeople in the agricultural districts wanting employment, and their names were registered in books. The manufacturers attended at these offices and selected such persons as they chose; and when they had selected such persons as their "wants required," they gave instructions to have them forwarded to Manchester, and they were sent, ticketed like bales of goods, by canals, or with carriers, others tramping on the road, and many of them were found on the way lost and half-starved. This system had grown up in this country into a regular trade. The House will hardly believe it, but I tell them, that this traffic in human flesh was as well kept up—they were in effect as regularly sold to these manufacturers as slaves are sold to the cotton-grower in the United States, with the exception of not being sold by auction. In 1835 trade was again prosperous, and I may say that by this time the hand-loom weavers of the cotton districts in Lancashire wire extinguished by the power-loom, great numbers having died of starvation. A Committee sat to inquire into their sufferings, and I believe it was proved that many were subsisting on 2¼d. per day. In 1836 the King's speech announced that the state of the cotton manufacture was highly satisfactory. In 1837 trade was depressed, and the same was the case in 1838. And now I come to 1839—a memorable year, because then the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. P. Villiers) for the first time moved a Resolution for the total repeal of the Corn Laws, and also on account of the statement made by the Chairman of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Mr. E. W. Wood, the Member for Kendal, who seconded the Address, and who observed on that occasion that "for two years great depression had existed, but that state of things had passed away, and the commerce of England was then in a most satisfactory condition," and the hon. Member further said, "that he did not remember anytime at which the return to a state of prosperity followed so rapidly on depression." In 1840 trade was greatly depressed, and riots were put down by the military. In 1841 there were dreadful sufferings in the country, the story of which was nightly related to the House of Commons. In 1842, again, there was dreadful suffering, and Mr. Greg, the cotton manufacturer, threatened, if the Corn Laws were not repealed, to let loose upon the agricultural districts half a million of factory operatives—the very number now left unemployed in Lancashire. The factory operatives were locked out of the mills, and told they might go and play for a month. They poured into Yorkshire in crowds, and were driven back again by the military. Several of the poor men were tried at the Lancaster Assizes, and when they were put on their trial and narrated their sufferings, the whole court was melted to tears, and Sir Frederick Pollock, who was then Attorney General, whose duty it was to prosecute them, appealed to the Judge to be merciful to them; and he was merciful. In 1843 there was great distress; in 1844 trade revived; in 1845 there was great prosperity; in 1846 the Corn Laws were repealed, and Ireland's trade was ruined. In 1847 the cotton trade was depressed, and wages were reduced, after a pledge had been given that they should be increased. In 1848 the cotton trade was again depressed, and Manchester was under the protection of the military. In 1849 the cotton trade greatly revived, and Dr. Bowring, poet-laureate to the Anti-Corn-Law League, was despatched to Hong Kong as governor general, he being also a member of the Peace Society. In 1850 there was a prosperous trade, and great alarm at the increased foreign cotton trade; and the hon. Member for Birmingham, who then represented Manchester, came down to the House to ask for a Commission to inquire into the best mode of supplying cotton from India for the manufacturers of Lancashire. 1851 was notoriously a year of declining prices and very low profits; wages were reduced, and strikes were very common. In 1852 trade improved, strikes continued, and a proposal was made by those connected with the cotton trade of Lancashire to bring over foreigners to work in the mills, and there was a serious riot at Stockport between the English and Irish. In 1853 Stockport was in a state of great excitement, between 30,000 and 40,000 power-loom weavers being on strike; and at Preston there was an eight months' strike to get back 10 per cent taken from their wages in 1847, the year after the repeal of the Corn Laws. In 1854 trade was slack and the markets were glutted. In 1855 there was a "reaction in the demand for cotton goods, after two years of glutted markets. Still continued failures were reported from time to time in the United States, Canada, and Australia; and the over-crowded state of the Bombay and Calcutta import markets tended to increase anxiety, and add to the gloom hanging over the Manchester markets," according to The Times report for April. In 1856 there was average commercial prosperity, and in the same year Dr. Bowring, a member of the Peace Society, and governor at Hong Kong, bombarded Canton. This was done without any authority from the Government at home, and entirely on his own authority; but he had gone to China, as he said, to open the ports, and to break down international barriers, and he not only burnt the suburbs, but he bombarded the Chinese Royal Commissioner out of his residence. In 1857 trade was depressed; Parliament met in December, many banks suspended payment, and the Bank of England charged 10 per cent discount. In 1858 the cotton trade slightly improved. In 1859 it was very prosperous, and there was a great increase of mills. In 1860 "the cotton trade was at its zenith," as the hon. Gentleman said in his letter; the Indian markets being glutted with cotton to such an extent as to cause apprehension of a ruinous loss. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley) is present, who attended a meeting at Willis's Rooms on Wednesday, on the subject of emigration, and who contradicted Lord Shaftesbury when he said that the present state of distress was caused by over-production. The hon. Gentleman denied that, and attributed the distress to the American crisis. I do not think the hon. Gentleman will venture to stand up and make that statement here, when it can be proved that it was the glut which commenced this depression of trade. In 1860 our cotton exports amounted to £41,148,505, and many manufacturers engaged in the foreign trade made large profits; and many of those manufacturers, represented by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Potter), have been stopping their mills, locking out their work-people, and making large profits by the sale of the raw material for exportation, iustead of working it up at home. If I represented—I will not say represented, but if I were identified with a body of men who had acted in this manner towards these poor work-people, I would never venture to raise my voice for a Royal Commission in the House of Commons. I have not yet done with 1860, for that was the year in which the French treaty became the law of the land. I wish to allude to it as the year in which there was an enormous in crease in the mills and machinery of Lancashire. They sprang up on every side, and after the manufacturers had erected the mills and filled them with machinery, they again found that they were short of hands. What course did they pursue? They applied to "the flesh agents," as they are called. Those agents sent to the southern downs of England, to the pastures of Dorsetshire, to the glades of Devonshire, to the people tending kine in Wiltshire, but they sought in vain. The surplus population was "absorbed." The Bury Guardian said (on the completion of the French treaty)—"The fact is, the manufacturers in the cotton trade have made their manufactures so plentiful by the increase of machinery, and the additional labour which they exact from their hands by the increased speed of the machinery, that their productions stink in the nostrils of all to whom they are offered; and though the manufacturers are again and again told by their customers that their productions are too abundant to secure a good profit, and by the economists that the distress they so often complain of is the result of manufacturing too much, yet, strange to say, there is the greatest unwillingness to do less, or to make their business respectable, and their workpeople comfortable, by making the supply of their manufacture so limited as not to exceed the demand."
Is this a right state of things to exist in any trade in Christian England? Will any hon. Member justify it? Is this system to be acknowledged by this House? If you grant a Royal Commission, the workmen will view it in that light, and will consider that this House is placing the responsibility on its shoulders, which should be borne by the manufacturers. I come now to 1861, when trade was greatly depressed. This was the year in which the census of England was taken, and we find that "the surplus population" in the agricultural districts had ceased to exist. The census showed that the strictly agricultural population had not increased. Search history, and find, if you can, a nation that has long continued to retain its power and prosperity after its rural population has permanently declined. I know of none. I wish now to turn to the President of the Poor Law Board. In 1816 a Committee sat to take evidence with reference to the employment of children and of pauper apprentices in factories, and Mr. Horner, then a Member of this House, who sat on the Committee, subsequently referring to a sale of bankrupt's effects, observed, that when the machinery was sold, the wretched apprentices were sold as part of the same lot. In 1861 a deputation came up to London, and waited on the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Villiers) with a view of obtaining poor children from certain union houses for the mills in Lancashire. The right hon. Gentleman said "he perfectly entered into the views of the deputation, and had no doubt that the proposals would be most beneficial to the poor children as well ns the parishes." What has since happened may be regarded as a kind of retributive justice. Well, in 1862 the mills were running short time till autumn, when the great mass of workpeople were totally unemployed, 500,000 world-wide paupers! In 1863 there were riots, and a large number of mills were being erected. With the cotton trade ruined, they were erecting mills in various parts of Lancashire. Between 1770 and 1815 the cotton trade was depressed or stagnant five years, and revived and prosperous forty years. After 1815 it was depressed or stagnant twenty-eight years, and revived or prosperous twenty years. Some hon. Members opposite may ask what it was after 1846, when we had the repeal of the Corn Laws. The cotton trade from 1846 was depressed or stagnant nine years, and eight years revived or prosperous. This is the "steady" trade of the hon. Member for Carlisle, who is going to ask for a loan of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 —which means a gift to that amount, of which a sixpence would not be returned— to hold up as with a crutch this "steady and regular" trade for one, two, or three years. The hon. Member boasted that there was no trade that gave such healthy and such moral employment. I hold in my hand a short statement taken from a paper which was presented to the House by the first Sir Robert Peel in 1816, giving the result, of forty-five years of his experience. He laid it before a Committee appointed to inquire into the employment of children in the manufacturing districts of the North. He says—"It is estimated that 10,000 additional hands could be absorbed by Lancashire at the present time, and that 30,000 or 40,000 will be needed. A Manchester agent says that he could find employment for 1,000 hands among his correspondents alone. In the west and midland counties there are hundreds of girls who toil over the sewed muslin work, for ten or twelve hours a day, for a wretched wage. Will no kind Samaritan help them to quadruple their earnings in a Lancashire factory?"
Thus, the first Sir Robert Peel, though dead, yet speaketh; for the state of the cotton trade, which he foretold in 1816, has at last arrived. This was the trade in which he accumulated an enormous for tune, and proved himself to be one of the beat musters who ever employed a factory operative. I am anxious to avoid making any statement which shall excite, irritate, or wound the feelings of hon. Members. Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, who is now taking a most active part in Lancashire in connection with the relief committees, was formerly a practising physician in Manchester, and he published a pamphlet on the condition of the cotton operatives of Lancashire, I do not purpose giving you anything like the worst of his statements; but, if I am prompted by hon. Members opposite, I can give you far worse than any I now intend to read. Sir James Kay Shuttleworth says—"Such indiscriminate and unlimited employment of the poor, consisting of a great proportion of the inhabitants of the trading districts, will be attended with effects to the rising generation so ruinous and alarming, that I cannot contemplate them without dismay; and thus the great effort of British ingenuity, whereby the machinery of our manufacturers has been brought to such perfection, instead of being a blessing to the nation, will be converted into the bitterest curse."
This pamphlet was published about 1830. I admit that this was before the passing of the Ten Hours Factory Bill; but recollect that it was you (the hon. Members opposite) who opposed the Factory Bill with all your force, and that it was we who carried it, and who rescued the people from consequences that were appalling. And let me tell you that what I have read applies largely to Lancashire at the present day, and you know it to be true. Now, I will give you the opinion of one of the largest cotton manufacturers of Lancashire. In a pamphlet published in 1831 Mr. Rathbone Gregg says of the factory operative—"The standard of morality among the working classes in Manchester is exceedingly debased, religious observances neglected, filial and parental duties are uncultivated. The father is supported in idleness by his oppressed children, and when age has crippled the parents, the children abandon them to the scanty maintenance derived from parochial relief. More than one-half of the inhabitants of Manchester are either so destitute or degraded as to require the assistance of public charity in bringing their offspring into the world. The infant is the victim of the system; it has not lived long ere it is abandoned to the care of a hireling or neighbour while its mother pursues her accustomed toil. Sometimes a little girl has the care of the child, or even two or three collected from neighbouring houses. Thus abandoned, the child is ill-fed, dirty, ill-clothed, exposed to cold and neglect; and, in consequence, more than one-half of the offspring of the poor die before they have completed their fifth year. The strongest survive, but the same causes which destroy the weakest impair the vigour of the more robust."
The hon. Gentleman opposite seems to treat the present state of things and this Motion lightly; but I ask the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) does not that describe I the present state of Lancashire? Is there I a man among you (the Treasury Bench) who does not feel the deepest anxiety on account of the present state of things? You are indebted to the noble conduct and to the magnanimous bearing of the factory operatives themselves for the peace of Lancashire. Recollect, you (the manufacturers) have no claim on them, because you have broken faith with them and violated your pledges. Instead of keeping them employed and the mills opened, you have locked up the mills, and they are unemployed. I say to the Government that this warning, given by Mr. Rathbone Greg thirty years ago, ought now to be taken into serious consideration, I am not here to praise the working classes of Lancashire beyond their deserts. I tell you they are the same men they were in 1841, 1842, and 1848. When the rebellion of the belly takes place, no living man can control it; and you know that this is on the verge of taking place now. I assert that, on the authority of a statement of twenty-seven men, given to me the other day with a simplicity, an earnestness, and a truthfulness which make them trustworthy; and I would add that it would have been well if the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in going to or returning from Scotland, had spent one day amongst the poor of Lancashire, in order that he might have heard and seen what their frightful sufferings are. He would then have been able to tell hon. Gentlemen who seem to sneer at the present state of things, that the condition of Lancashire is no trifling matter. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Potter) asks for a loan to keep these people unemployed for one, two, or three years. Can he suppose it is possible to find regular out-door employment for one-half of the people of Lancashire? No doubt, you will find many who will be happy to work for a fair day's wages; but they will not be employed as paupers; they will not work four or six hours a day for a miserable pittance. Treat them as Englishmen, and I have no doubt you will find a large number who will be able to render great service. But there are a great number who cannot do so. You cannot expect overlookers and skilled workmen, who have been receiving high wages, to go and work at cleaning out rivers, canals, and drains. They entreat us to assist them to emigrate, and I trust the noble Lord will listen to their prayers and enable them to go abroad, where they can live respectably and earn steady wages, without suffering from constantly recurring stagnations and depressions of trade, and being either overworked or underworked as they are here. I now come to the third proposition of the hon. Member (Mr. Potter), and it is the most startling of all. It is that "had there been no American out-break, there would only have been a temporary glut of the markets; and he ventures to predict that after a year or two, when supplies of cotton will be found, our exports will be forced into Indian districts yet untravelled, for the benefit of the English manufacturer and labourer—that is, if India is tolerably well governed and kept quiet." What does he mean by being "kept quiet?" Does he recollect what occurred when the Indian trade was opened? I have no doubt at all in my own mind, from the evidence I have in my possession—and the noble Lord at the head of the Government will remember the circumstances connected with the opening of the Indian and the China trade—that the cotton trade of Lancashire was responsible for all the suffering which took place in India. In 1850 the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), in moving for a Commission to go out to India to grow cotton, said. "There was reason to believe that within the limits of our Indian territory a quantity is grown which does not fall very far short of the whole produce of the States of America." If that is the case, what becomes of it? Why, it is used up in the native trade, by the native hand-loom weavers. Imagine what a number there must be to manufacture this great quantity of cotton. India has no representatives in this House. If she had, in 1833 the Indian trade would not have been thrown open to the Lancashire cotton manufacturers. It was thrown open, and with a terrible effect. In 1858, when the Queen was proclaimed Sovereign of India, that empire contained 180,000,000 of souls. In 1834, the public debt was £34,000,000; in 1858 it was £68,000,000; and in 1862 it amounted to £120,000,000. In 1861 the Government railway debt amounted to £40,000,000. In 1862 the Secretary of State for India allowed £7,000,000 more to be granted for the further extension of railways, and he entered into engagements for £17,000,000 more; thus making the railway debt £64,000,000. In addition to these, there are joint-stock banks and other mercantile speculations, the debt of which amounts to £26,000,000. We have thus, in India, a debt of £200,000,000, the greater portion of which has been contracted since 1858. In 1829 the House will remember that accounts were received from India of the injuries that our exports were beginning to inflict on the handloom weavers; and in 1830 the late Sir Robert Peel, in this House, in moving for a Commission to in quire into the East India charter, gave a patriotic warning with regard to the results of forcing our power loom-made goods into India. He entreated the House to recollect that there were other questions connected with this subject, of greater importance than the extension of trade. He added—"He has no time to be wise, no leisure to be good. He is sunken, debilitated, depressed, emasculated, unnerved for effort, incapable of virtue, unfit for anything but the regular, hopeless, desponding, degrading variety of laborious vegetatation or shameless intemperance. Though averse from feeling or acting as alarmists, we are certain, in as far as reasoning from the past and the present can make us certain of the future, that unless some cordial, faithful, vigorous, and united effort is made on the part of the influential classes to stem the torrent of suffering and corruption which is fast sweeping away the comfort and the morals of so large a portion of our poorer countrymen, and which, if not checked, will soon send them forth upon the world desperate, reckless, ruined men—ruined both in their feelings and their fortunes—unless some such effort is made, and that speedily, there are silent but mighty instruments at work, like an evil that walketh in darkness, which ere long will undermine the system of social union, burst asunder the silken bonds of amity which unite men to their kind, and destroy the peace, the prosperity, and the virtue of the country."
Unfortunately, for the handloom weavers of India, Sir Robert Peel ceased to be Minister before the close of 1830, and Lord Grey came into power. A Committee in 1832 was appointed to inquire into the trade between Great Britain and the East Indies and China; and instructions were sent out to the Governor General of India to enter into a treaty with the native princes to open the Indus. The treaty sets forth—"We shall, undoubtedly, feel ourselves called upon to consider what are the measures that may best tend to protect the natives of those distant regions from wrong—to secure them their personal liberty and the fruits of their industry; in a word, to endeavour, while we still keep them under British rule, to atone to them for the sufferings they endured, and the wrongs to which they were exposed in being reduced to that rule, and to afford them such advantages, and confer on them such benefits, as may in some degree console them for the loss of their independence. These, Sir, are considerations which, whatever may be the anxiety to extend British conquest, and to maintain the rights of British subjects, must indisputably be entertained in a British Parliament."
In 1833 the East India and China trade was thrown open, but the English Government imposed duties of 150 per cent on Indian goods, whilst English goods were admitted into India at a nominal duty. I believe I am correct in stating that the duties on Indian goods even now range from 25 to 30 per cent. In 1834 and 1835 the distress among the Indian handloom weavers was frightful. Dr. Bowring, then Member for Bolton, said—"That the British Government had requested a passage for merchants and traders of Hindostan by the river and roads of Scinde, by which they might transport their goods and merchandise from one country to another; that no English merchant should be allowed to settle in Scinde; and that no ammunition or material of war should be introduced."
The Governor General, at that time, wrote home—"Terrible are the accounts of the wretchedness of the poor Indian weavers, reduced to absolute starvation; and what was the sole cause? The presence of the cheaper English manufactures— the production by the power-loom of the article which these unhappy Hindoos had been used for ages to make by their unimproved and hand-directed shuttles."
That was the result of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer called "the saving of human labour by the extension of machinery." The power-loom of Lancashire had destroyed the handloom weavers on the banks of the Ganges to that extent, that the Governor General said "their bones whitened the plains of Hindostan." In 1835, the hand-loom weavers having been destroyed on the banks of the Ganges, Lord Auckland was despatched to India, with instructions from the Government at home to open up the Indus, in order to force the sale of Manchester goods along its banks. In 1836 he despatched an agent to Cabool, "on a mission of a purely commercial character." In 1837 he was engaged in preparing an army to open the Indus, and the "untravelled parts" along its banks, to Manchester cotton goods. In 1838 he arrived at Simla, with "the army of the Indus," and published a manifesto, in which he referred to the Treaties of 1832, "the objects of which were to gain to the British nation the legitimate influence which such an interchange of benefits would naturally produce," and he called it "a peaceful and beneficent purpose." Sir Archibald Alison, in his history, alluding to the conduct of Lord Auckland, says—"Cotton piece goods, for so many ages the staple manufacture of India, seems thus for ever lost; the Dacca muslins, celebrated over the whole world for their beauty and fineness, are also annihilated from the same cause; and the present suffering to numerous classes in India is scarcely to be paralleled in the history of commerce."
And this retribution it has at last brought on Lancashire. On the 18th of November 1839 the campaign ended, and Lord Auckland, in a general order, said that—"Thus, in breach of treaties and open violence commenced this ill-starred expedition, destined to bring a terrible retribution on the rulers who had originated it and on the nation that had permitted it."
No commercial traveller could have written a more business-like general order. In 1840 Affghanistan rose in rebellion; In; 1841 there was a total defeat of the British army; in 1842 all perished, except one man, of those who were concerned in this "rascally" attempt to open the Indus exempt from duties to Manchester cottons; in 1843 the siege of Scinde; in 1844 the Mahratta territory was invaded; in 1845 the Punjaub was invaded; in 1846 the Lahore was invaded, and the entire control of the river Sutlej was surrendered to the British. In 1847 India was pronounced "quiet;" in 1848 there were disturbances in the Punjaub; in 1849 the Punjaub was incorporated with the British Empire; in 1850 and 1851 India was pronounced "quiet;" in 1852 and 1853 there was the second Burmese war, which ended by Lord Dalhousie getting possession of the Irrawaddy River; in 1854 and 1855 India was pronounced "quiet;" in 1856 Lord Dalhousie annexed Oude, incorporated Sattara, returned home, and died; and in 1857–8 occurred the rebellion, when India was saved by a small band of heroes. On November 1. 1858, a Royal Proclamation was issued, in which Her Majesty declared Her "fixed determination that all classes of the people should be maintained in their rights and privileges in a spirit of just and uniform liberality." Well, Sir, to carry out this Proclamation of our gracious Sovereign, Mr. Wilson, the late editor of The Economist, and a great authority with the Manchester school, was sent out to India with instructions to place a 10 per cent, import duty upon Lancashire cotton goods. This act of Mr. Wilson had a most extraordinary effect, not only in reviving the cotton trade in India, but also in pacifying the people, and mills were erected in several places in India for the purpose of carrying on the cotton trade. No sooner were these mills being erected than the Manchester cotton manufacturers took alarm. They came to London, and they demanded from the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Secretary for India (Sir Charles Wood), that this 10 per cent import duty on Lancashire cotton goods should be repealed. The deputation, before it waited upon the noble Lord and the Secretary for India, had a preliminary meeting, and Air. Goadsby, the mayor of Manchester, declared—"The Ameers had acknowledged the supremacy of the British Government, and that the navigation of the Indus within their dominions, exempt from all duties, had been opened to commercial enterprise."
Now, this statement was made early in 1862. Well, the Secretary for India reduced the import duty on cotton goods to the extent of 5 per cent, and at the same time that he reduced the duty he consented to lay out—I do not know whether or not in the presence of the deputation—but he came to an arrangement in that very year to lay out in India £24,000,000 extra in railways; and I find that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Potter) himself alludes to the increased sale of cotton goods in India on account of the large sums of money which wore now being invested in railways. Here we have £24,000,000 voted by the Secretary of State for India in the year 1862, to be laid out in making railways, when I believe that the whole of the railways in India, to the extent of 3,000 miles, are made in single lines, without reasonable probability that they will be found profitable. Well, Sir, I am anxious to show the cruel injustice of the Manchester manufacturers to- wards the Indian handloom weavers and manufacturers, in not allowing them to have this 10 percent import duty on Manchester cotton goods to protect their trade. The hon. Member for Carlisle, alluding to the cotton trade, said—"It is not a question of this Government or that: it is simply that the cotton manufacturers had teen unjustly treated, and that a continuance of that unfairness they would not submit to either from one Government or another."
If they can compete with the Americans with an import duty of 30 or 40 percent, why not allow the Indian hand-loo weaver the paltry protection of 10 per cent? Now, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle proposes, that whent here is a fresh supply of cotton, the Lancashire cotton goods "shall be forced into India in parts yet untravelled, if India is tolerably well governed and kept quiet." Why, Sir, India, has scarcely recovered from the fearful rebellion, and his proposition is to flood other parts of India with Manchester cotton goods to the same extent that they flooded the district on the banks of the Ganges, destroying the people in countless thousands whose products came into competition with these goods, and producing incalculable misery and the most frightful distress. My firm conviction is, Sir, that were not Her Majesty's Royal word pledged that these hand-loom weavers in India shall be protected, and were the proposal attempted to be carried out, we should have another rebellion in India. I shall not now trouble the House with giving an account of what has been our conduct in China towards the Chinese in attempting to force our goods upon that country. It is sufficient for me, on the present occasion, to state that in all probability ere long an opportunity will be given me to speak upon that subject—namely, when the hon. Member for Northumberland calls attention to the present state of affairs in China. I will merely say now that during the last thirty years we have waged fifteen years of war against the Chinese. That is to say, during one half the period we have been continually plundering, robbing, sacking, and burning the towns and cities of China; we have destroyed them in countless thousands, merely because the Empe- ror of China and his people would not consent to have the hand-loom weavers of that country destroyed in the same way that the hand-loom weavers of India have been; and now, if we look at the present state of affairs in China, we find a rebellion which has, to a very great extent, been caused by our own conduct—a rebellion which may drive the Emperor from his throne; and my firm conviction is, that ere long we shall find ourselves either compelled to take pos session of that country, or be expelled from it. Sir, I ask, what are the manufacturers to do in the present state of affairs? and I must remark that it is certainly a most extraordinary thing that they should come to the House of Commons and beg Parliament to help them out of their difficulties, after they had set the House of Commons at defiance from 1842 to 1847, declaring that they would not be subject to legislative or Parliamentary control. But, Sir, the hon. Member for Carlisle, in his letter, says that "the Legislature has done very little." I really cannot understand what he means. What has the Legislature done? Why the Legislature has done, during the last thirty years, everything that the cotton manufacturers have asked them. What does the hon. Member mean by saying, "very little indeed." I consider myself that he is the last person who ought to taunt the House of Commons with doing "very little indeed." Why, in 1833, we opened the trade of the East to them; in 1834 the House of Commons passed the now Poor Law Act to supply Lancashire with the surplus population of the agricultural districts of England. In 1846 it repealed the Corn Laws; in 1848 it repealed the Navagation Laws; in 1860 it restored protection to the cotton trade by the French treaty; and it has, during the last thirty years, voted the whole of the money that has been required for forcing Lancashire cotton goods upon the Indian and Chinese markets. But, Sir, I ask the hon. Gentleman, what have the manufacturers done during this period? They have extended the cotton trade by the sacrifice of human life in India and China. They have ruined their trade by over-building, over-machining, over-producing, over-trading, and over-borrowing; for there is no doubt at the present time (so I am informed on what I believe to be reliable authority) that at least a quarter of the cotton manufactories of Lancashire — the buildings and the machinery—have been erected by borrowed capital. Well, Sir, instead of demanding the sacrifice of some trade every few years, for the purpose of giving the cotton trade elbow-room, I would recommend to the hon. Member that the manufacturers of Lancashire should return to the old motto of "live and let live," which guided the manufacturers of Lancashire from 1770 to 1815. During that period, when the trade was properly restricted and honestly conducted, we had none of these recurring stagnations—none of these frightful distresses in the country. Sir, I advise the cotton manufacturers of Lancashire to consent to an eight hours factory Bill. If they would adopt this policy, they would no doubt be able to open many manufactories which at the present time are closed. Then, after having agreed to an eight hours Bill for adults and young persons, I would advise a four hours Bill for children, for that is quite sufficient time for children to work in the heated atmosphere of a cotton factory. Sir, the cotton trade will always be a considerable industry in Lancashire; but that it will ever regain its late prosperity I do not believe. In fact, it is not advisable that it should do so, for we have such an enormous amount of machinery in Lancashire at the present time, that when kept in full employment, its owners can in two or three years glut the markets of the world. They know perfectly well that in 1860 they were blockaded out of their trading ports by their own bales of cotton. This being the case, if they would consent to an eight hours Bill, and only manufacture according to the demand, they would find that they would not have these long periods of depression of trade, closing mills sometimes for three or four months together, and then working their "hands" perhaps one or two years without the slightest cessation, except what is enforced by Act of Parliament. Sir, they say the country has no right to call upon them to sacrifice any portion of their capital, any portion of their mills, or any portion of their machinery. But they must remember this, that they have been calling upon Government to sacrifice different trades in this country for the last twenty years. And a great number of trades have been sacrificed for their benefit—the silk and ribbon trades, and many handicraft trades; and frightful sufferings have been inflicted upon tens of thousands by those sacrifices. If, then, there have been so many sacrifices for their benefit, let them sacrifice something themselves, curtail their trade for the future, and keep it within honest and honourable limits. I now come to the last part of my subject—the claims of the factory operatives; and in bringing them before the House I thank it for its kind indulgence, and promise that I will only occupy its attention a very short time longer. In bringing the claims of the factory operatives before you, I must again remind hon. Members that they have no direct representatives within these walls. By the Reform Bill they were deprived of the elective franchise which enabled them to return at least a hundred Members to the House of Commons. Since that period they have had no voice in the representative system, and therefore they have so much the greater claim upon the indulgence and kindness of this House upon the present trying occasion. Well, Sir, the factory operatives have been taught to place implicit confidence in the future of the cotton trade. They have been told that it would never cease to be prosperous—that they would never want employment; and they have been induced (if I may use the expression) by these falsehoods to go down into the cotton districts, where they now find themselves looked out of the mills and in a state of the greatest misery. I will read to you the promises which were made by the hon. Member for Rochdale to the operatives of Stockport before the repeal of the Corn Laws. He said—"It kept its place in competition with the whole world, not by forced, ill-regulated, and low-priced labour; on the contrary, it had to contend against Hindoo labour at a penny or twopence per day, and after bringing the cotton round the globe we could manufacture it cheaper than he could on the spot; while at the same time we could bring the cotton from the United States and manufacture it in successful competition with that shrewd and intelligent people, notwithstanding that our goods were weighted with import duties and charges varying from 30 to 40 per cent."
Then, in the House of Commons, on September 24, 1841, he read an extract from a petition presented to Congress in May, which stated—"In two months after the abolition of the Corn Laws you will have full employment at advanced wages; every spindle and every loom in Stockport will be set in motion; every shopkeeper will be prosperous; every house will be tenanted; your numbers will increase, and new mills, newchurches, and new chapels will spring up among you. You will have cheap food, high wages, and three masters bidding for two men."
Mr. Cobden continued—"If England would agree to a fixed and moderate duty upon corn, there would be a constant market for American corn, and the whole of the return would be required in British manufactured goods, generally of the kind which yield the highest profit. The consequence would be that every spindle, wheel, and hammer in the manufacturing districts of England would be immediately set in motion."
Now, then, under these promises large numbers of factory operatives have been induced to leave their homes, and go down to be employed in the factories of Lancashire. On Easter Monday last I met twenty-seven delegates from different districts of Lancashire and Cheshire. They made their statements to me, and previous to doing so I asked them to be most carefu, to overstate nothing, and to keep within the mark, as they might depend upon it that there would be Gentlemen in the House of Commons connected with the cotton trade, who, if they did not toll me the truth, would be able to give their statement a contradiction. Under these circumstances, it was that the whole of their statements were placed before this meeting of delegates, each being fully discussed in its turn, so that there might be no cavilling, and no assertion that they were exaggerated. Now, Sir, these delegates told me that the operatives of the cotton districts had no steady work—that they are either worked to death or kept in idleness—that the labour is most seriously increased, and is continually increasing, by the improvements in machinery. When the power-looms were first introduced, one person tended two looms. Now, one person tends three looms without a helper, and four with, as a general rule. And it is not at all an unusual thing for one person to tend four looms. In 1825, there were eighty-five picks a minute in the power-looms, now there are 160 on an average. There has been an increase of fifty picks a minute since the Ten Hours Act. Twelve hours' work is now done in ten hours, in consequence of the increased speed of the machinery since 1847, to which I must add the extra half-hour which was stolen, as the operatives say, out of the Ten Hours Bill, that Act being made the subject of compromise two or three years after by the increase of half an hour, without the consent of the operatives. Well, they say also that the wages of a spinner of Surat cotton have been reduced from 30 to 40 per cent, and in some instances as much as 60 per cent, but I have taken the average. The wages of the power-loom weaver of Surat cotton have been reduced from 20 to 30 per cent, and the labour is greatly increased by the inferior quality of the cotton. Now, hon. Members may understand how tremendously the labour of factory operatives is increased since the year 1825. First of all they have doubled speed, and have therefore double the number of times to pass backward and forward tending the machinery. Then they have to work an inferior quality of cotton, and to piece it when it breaks, as it does very often. They go on to say that a spinner is an old man at forty, and I can vouch for the fact. Mr. Greg, whom I quoted a short time ago, in his pamphlet which he published to the world before machinery was increased to its present speed, asserts "that the work of spinners and stretchers is among the most laborious that exists, and is exceeded, perhaps, by mowing alone." The heat of the cotton factory is thirty or forty degrees higher than a worsted factory. I was told by a manufacturer the other day, "We have no business to manufacture cotton in this I country. It is destructive to human life. India is the only country in which it ought to be manufactured. I believe it would have been a blessing if cotton had never been introduced into this country. I should rejoice to sec the day when not a single cotton mill is in existence in England." Sir, they (the delegates) told me that increased speed does not raise their wages, but, more rapidly than the former system, destroys the health, strength, and life of the operative. Well, Sir, it is from this state of things that the factory operatives of Lancashire wish to flee; and they have I asked this House to place within their power the means of doing so, or else that it will find some adequate means of employment where they exist. Now, Sir, the hon. Member for Roch dale repeatedly stated in this House, during the discussion on the Corn Laws, that he claimed for the working man the right to take his labour where he pleased. He said, "You have no right to hind him down. He has as much right to have free trade in his labour as we have in our cotton manufactures." Very well, they ask now for free trade in their labour. They ask to be allowed to go away. They are too poor to go themselves, and you know it. They have no means of going away unless Parliament will intercede and take pity upon them. Sir, they deserve great consideration at the hands of this House. They have worked hard and done much to increase the prosperity of the country, and to produce the enormous amount of accumulated wealth to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded lately so boastingly; but, Sir, he only took the consumer's side—the golden side; while I have taken the producer's side—the iron side. I have shown you what misery this extension of mechanical power has produced among the toiling multitudes. I admit to you it has been a great blessing and benefit to those who do not work for their living; but in the case of the working man, the producer, it has reduced his wages, and made him far poorer than he was before. Why send a Royal Commission to inquire into the cause of the distress? The cause has long been well known. I say again, then, look with pity on these poor men, and scout the idea of a Royal Commission. Lancashire! why such a Commission would have to go to Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and into Scotland, for I am told that the distress in various parts of Scotland is even more frightful than it is in Lancashire. There are fifty Lancashires in the country. I tell the hon. Gentleman again that his Amendment is intended to keep the people idle round the mills until the cotton can be found to give employment to them. The working men want no Royal Commission, for they know that that would only postpone and delay justice. Therefore, they send their Petitions to this House—those Petitions which I had the privilege of laying on the table to-day. But the hon. Gentleman says in his letter that perhaps in twelve months there may be a supply of cotton, and a demand for cotton goods sufficient to employ the cotton operatives in Lancashire, if they can have the Indian markets forced open for them. What said the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley) the other day at the Colonial Society's meeting? The hon. Gentleman said he was very much afraid that some years would elapse before we should again have the supply that we had been accustomed to. Now, if that be the case, I quote the hon. Member for Manchester against the hon. Member for Carlisle, and I take the hon. Member for Manchester's word as being a better authority even than the hon. Member for Carlisle, because the hon. Member for Carlisle has shown, by the statement he has made in The Times newspaper, that he is deeply interested in keeping these operatives in Lancashire. The hon. Member for Manchester has shown a more discriminating spirit, and he has admitted that it is necessary that a larger emigration should take place, and he attended that emigration meeting, and he openly declared his opinion that there is no probability of obtaining our former supply of cotton for some years. Sir, I hope the House of Commons will now see the evils that have been produced by the great employment of women and children of tender age in factories, and I trust that this cotton famine will lead to a great decrease of employment of married women. The factory operatives, as a body, are extremely anxious that married women should not be allowed to work in factories. I have beard them repeatedly declare that the present is a disgraceful state of things, for scarcely a factory operative's wife is able to perform the common duties of a wife at home. What is the case with regard to the children? Sir James Kay Shuttleworth has told you in his account of the fearful destruction of infantile life that occurs. There was one gratifying circumstance connected with the meeting of delegates at Manchester that I am anxious to state to the House. If, they said, they were enabled by the kind assistance of Parliament to emigrate, they hoped that they would be sent to some colony where they would still remain Queen Victoria's loyal subjects. They stated that all their sufferings had not decreased in the slightest degree their affection and love for our beloved Sovereign. They believed that there was not one person within these realms who had felt more acutely for their sufferings than the Queen. Sir, I thank the House most sincerely for the kind manner in which they have listened to me this evening at such considerable length. I have been suffering from severe illness lately, and nothing save this pressing necessity would have induced me to come down—in fact, I was advised not to do so, but after the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) had so generously given up this evening to me, I was determined, whatever might be the consequences, to perform my duty. I can assure the noble Lord that his conduct on this occasion will never be forgotten by the factory operatives, and they will have the greatest regard and esteem for him, for having in such a friendly manner given me an opportunity of submitting my Resolution, which I now, Sir, beg leave to move."The Americans asked us only to consent to make this exchange, and for a hundred years England shall not know what it is to want plenty of wheat, plenty of pork, and plenty of beef."
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government to take into consideration, without delay, what measures may be necessary to relieve the distress which prevails in the Cotton Manufacturing Districts, so that the people may no longer continue unemployed."
(who was imperfectly heard) said, he rose to move as an Amendment that an Address be presented to Her Majesty for the appointment of a Royal Commission. In May last he ventured to express an opinion that they would not have in the cotton districts more than half-work during the year, and on that occasion he asked for a Royal Commission to inquire into the state of those districts. The right hon. Gentleman refused a Commission, on the ground that the depression was merely temporary, and that the Poor Laws were sufficient to meet the difficulty. What, however, was the fact? Time had shown that the Poor Laws had not been able to cope with the distress. Lancashire, in fact, had been saved by charity alone, and all parties there were deeply indebted to the Central Relief Committee and the Mansion House Committee. Since the spring of last year two-thirds of the relief expenditure had been derived from charity. During the year charitable funds to the extent of £2,000,000 had been raised, while the poor rates for the same period came to about £700,000, making a total of £2,700,000 raised for the subsistence of the working classes. Of the £2,000,000 there had been contributed in Lancashire itself £870,000, and elsewhere£l,130,000. Lancashire had thus raised in all £1,570,000. He believed there remained a balance of about £500,000. Upon the ground that the public could not be expected to continue that enormous charity for another year, he again ventured to ask for a Royal Commission to inquire into the course to be pursued. It was important to see by whom the poor rates were paid. The cotton unions contained a population of 2,000,000, with an acreage of 1,000,000 and a rateable value of £5,500,000. Of that assessment, £1,000,000 fell on the labouring classes; £1,500,000 was paid on houses occupied by the classes above them; mills and manufacturing property paid £1,500,000, and land and other kinds of property £1,500,000. He believed that the land itself was not assessed at more than £1,000,000, and thus land which was worth from thirty to 100 years' purchase paid one-fifth, while other descriptions of property which were not worth twenty years' purchase paid four-fifths of the rates. Such an assessment was in complete contrast to the rating in other parts of the country. He thought they ought not to press so hardly upon the ratepayers who were not the property owners, but more heavily upon the owners of property. The year had, however, passed most mercifully as regarded the working classes. He regretted that Lancashire had had to come to the country for charity, and he had him- self wished that they should pay their way by loans. However, the question was as to their prospects for the future. Lancashire could not and ought not to subsist much longer on charity. He thought power must be given by Parliament to raise money upon the rates. The moral aspects of the ensuing year were more serious than the financial. Nearly £2,000,000 had been expended on charity, and a population numbering nearly half the entire amount of paupers in England and Wales had subsisted on this charitable fund. No fewer than 80,000 able-bodied men were walking about in enforced idleness or doing some merely nominal work. He, for one, had no fear of their becoming riotous even under another year of pressure, but at the same time it was very important that the seeds of demoralization which had been sown should not he allowed to bear fruit. Something, therefore, ought to be done, and done at once. The Central Committee, in the course of the previous week, had passed a minute, recommending that Parliament should, in consideration of the gravity of the crisis, give greatly-increased powers to raise money at low rates of interest for long periods; that the municipalities should be empowered to contract loans of that kind, and thus to undertake works which would otherwise certainly be neglected. They also stated that they did not approve of any extensive system of emigration, on the ground that the colonies were not prepared to receive a large influx of labour; and, that on the other hand, the cotton labourers being unseasoned to such employment as they would be likely to obtain in the colonies, the consequences of sending them there would probably be dangerous, and attended with considerable loss of life. He believed that the town councils would willingly undertake the employment of many of these men, if they had sufficient powers to do so; but as they were isolated bodies, and as there was but little cohesion amongst them, it would be necessary that the Legislature should step in and inquire into the best means of carrying out the propositions. He asked, therefore, for a Commission on the subject. The first point to which inquiry ought to be directed was the means of obtaining immediate employment for the operatives. The House would agree with him that 80,000 able-bodied men should not be left a single week longer than necessary in enforced idleness. In fact, the Commission had been delayed much too long already. The Commission might also inquire into the nature of the works which it would be advisable to begin, the working power of the Poor Law in the cotton districts, the pressure upon the Poor Law system there, and the policy of emigration. There were also various moral and other aspects of the question which would naturally come before their consideration. What Parliament wanted was facts, and from the amount of materials which might be brought before them a Commission might soon form a clear and accurate conclusion on the points which it would be necessary to inquire into. He knew of no reason why the Government should shrink from making the inquiry. It would not create false hopes, but, on the other hand, it would impart much quietness and assurance to the inhabitants of the distressed districts to know that a number of gentlemen were engaged in making an independent and impartial inquiry into the best mode of remedying the evils which they now had to endure. There was a fear lest the difficulties which existed would become chronic unless they were checked, while he was satisfied that the effects of a Commission would be highly salutary—better than attempting to tide over the difficulty by temporary expedients. He had no fear of the ultimate revival of the cotton manufacture, but the great thing, in the mean time, was to keep up the moral standard of the operative classes. He did not ask the Government to lend itself to any system of public employment, but simply to give additional powers to the town councils to enable them to take up the question in a practical manner; and he was convinced, that if the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale—for giving unions the power of borrowing money on the security of their own property—had been agreed to last year, it would have worked extremely well. He would conclude by moving the Amendment of which he had given notice, remarking at the same time that he was not wedded to the terms of his notice, but would cheerfully accept such alteration as might be considered necessary to render it practically useful.
seconded the Amendment.
To leave out from the first word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the present state of the Cotton Manufacturing Districts, and to report on the best mode of relieving the distress existing therein,"
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. H. BAILLIE
said, there was one point on which lie entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, and that was, that the time had come when it was the duty of the House to consider whether some means might not be adopted to relieve the distress which prevailed in the manufacturing districts other than those merely temporary measures to which they had hitherto had recourse. He knew it had frequently been urged that the distress was only local, and that they ought, therefore, to leave it to be dealt with by the local authorities and by the ordinary operations of the Poor Law. But he believed that would be an unwise and impolitic course. The distress which prevailed was so vast and overwhelming, the population involved was so great, that they could not regard the case in any other light than as a great national calamity, and as such they ought to be prepared to meet it. It was a question, in the solution of which they were all deeply interested, no matter what part of the country they might represent. They had been told on good authority—the authority of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken—that the master manufacturers of Lancashire were unwilling that any change should be effected in the present mode of administering relief. They thought it would be wise to continue the system of relief, such as it was, for some time longer, in the hope that the civil war in America might speedily be brought to a close, and the prosperity of the trade soon revive. That was, no doubt, a consummation devoutly to be wished; but he confessed he was surprised to find that the master manufacturers, reputed to be so shrewd and intelligent, should entertain such short-sighted views. They knew that that vast population of half a million of people had for eighteen months been eating the bread of idleness; they knew that the longer that state of things continued the more demoralized the people must become, the more disheartened, and the less capable of helping themselves. They were all ready to admit that the operatives had, for the most part, been well conducted; but they could hardly expect that that for- bearance, if he might so call it, should last for ever. He knew that those people were impatient and dissatisfied, and, as the hon. Member had stated, might become mischievous, and then the most deplorable results would inevitably ensue. The question the House had to consider was, what they should do under these circumstances. Let them survey the position in which they were then placed. The money in the hands of the various relief committees would probably be sufficient to carry them on until the autumn. But before the he-ginning of winter the whole of the money subscribed by the public would be exhausted, and they could hardly expect that a new fund could be received from the same quarter. At the commencement of the winter, then, the people would have to depend entirely on parochial relief; and the question was, would the parochial authorities be able to feed and clothe so vast a population during the next winter as they had been fed and clothed during the last? If not, the people would be disappointed and dissatisfied, and violence, outrages, and the most deplorable calamities, and perhaps bloodshed, might follow. That was the prospect before them; and again he asked what was to be done to avert these evils? In the first place, the Government might give assistance to those who were anxious to emigrate; and, in the second place, they might find employment for those—and they would necessarily form the great bulk of the class—who were anxious to remain at home. That was not the first time, in the history of the country, that large bodies of the people in this country had been thrown out of employment. About twenty-five years ago, when the free trade policy was first adopted, a considerable reduction had been made in the duty on barilla, and the consequence was, that about 30,000 people engaged in the manufacture of kelp in the Hebrides and in the north of Scotland had been reduced to a state of great distress. There was at that time no Poor Law in Scotland, but a stringent law of that description had soon afterwards been passed. That remedy having proved to be insufficient, the proprietors did what they could to relieve the people. A famine, however, ensued, and the Government could not longer hold aloof. They not only sent assistance to the people in the shape of food, but fitted up a line-of-battle ship as a passenger ship to carry a number of them to Australia. He did not see why the same course should not be pursued in the present instance, and why the Government should not employ some of those men-of-war which were lying idle in their harbours in conveying a number of those distressed Lancashire operatives to Canada, Australia, and other colonies. That was not the only occasion on which such a policy had been adopted. In the year 1820, when there was great distress in the manufacturing districts of the west of Scotland, funds were granted from the Imperial treasury, and the people were assisted to emigrate to the Auckland Islands and ot her districts. But he might be asked the question—and it was a natural one—what was to become of the vast capital invested in buildings and machinery—what would be the case if cotton again became cheap and the masters wanted hands to work it? The answer was that the number which could be removed by emigration was so small that there could be no fear of their removal causing any want of labour for good wages. The question would be simply whether the cotton manufacturers could give better wages than were to be procured at other employments. If they could not, it would be better that the people should not be employed at the manufacture of cotton. The main object of emigration was the employment of the people, but there were other plans by means of which employment could be given to great numbers of them. They had placed large sums of money at the disposal of the Government for fortifications, but a very small portion of that had been laid out. They were told that £500,000 was the amount of the estimate for fortifications at the mouth of our great rivers. If those fortifications were to be erected, judging from the position of foreign affairs, the sooner they were built the better; and he saw no reason why the Government should not commence them at once, and select from the different parishes in Lancashire men to work at them. No doubt, those men might not do as much of that kind of work in the same period of time as navvies, but it would be very desirable to employ so many of the Lancashire people, and at the same time to be going on with the defences of the country. He should add, however, that he should protest against giving any such employment if the men were not to receive the whole of the usual amount of remuneration. He would next pass to the consideration of the Amendment; and he should say that he saw no necessity for its adoption. The hon. Member who had moved the Amendment seemed to think the Government had been asleep, but the fact was they had had their own Commissioner, who had reported once a week on the state of the distresed districts. They were perfectly well aware of the condition of those districts, and therefore he could not see that the services of a Royal Commission were necessary. His objection to the Amendment was, that what it proposed would cause delay. For emigration, one of the modes by which it was proposed to relieve the distress, the season would soon have passed over. If it were delayed for three months, emigration to Canada would be out of the question; because if people were sent there in the autumn, they would have to face the winter in the colony without a chance of finding employment. When the Irish famine was looming in the distance, Lord George Bentinck brought forward a Motion in that House, and developed a scheme for the employment of the Irish people in the construction of railways. He was opposed by the Government of the day, and he was one of those who voted against him. He must confess that he should always regret his vote on the occasion. He regretted it when he found the evils which had arisen from the inaction of the Government and from allowing things to take their course. It was true the Government did interfere; but their interference came too late. The people were so reduced through famine and disease that they perished in thousands. Millions sterling of the public money were wasted, and nearly 2,000,000 of the Irish people were swept away. Let them not have the horrors of the Irish famine revived. Up to the present time the Government had felt it their duty not to interfere directly for the relief of the distress in Lancashire. They had looked on. He did not blame them for having adopted that course. On the contrary, up to the present time, he believed it was the best course they could have pursued; but the time for inaction had ceased. A great calamity was looming in the distance, and it was the duty of Parliament and the Government not to waste time by making idle inquiries or seeking for information which they already possessed. A great responsibility must rest with the Government. If the Ministers of the Crown should shrink from the performance of their obligations with reference to the people of Lancashire, they would be disregarding what he held to be a first duty of a Government—namely, the duty of providing for the safety find well-being of the great body of the people.
MR. C. P. VILLIERS
Sir, I rise to make some observations upon the Motion and the Amendment which have been submitted to the House this evening upon this question, both because I wish to mark my respect for the hon. Gentlemen who respectively brought them forward, and because they have more or less reference to the Department over which I preside. But I own I have some little difficulty in discovering to what points I can address myself in reference to what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman who has made the Motion, or the hon. Gentleman who has moved the Amendment. The hon. Member who brought forward the Motion made a series of observations upon matters which have ceased to excite much interest in this House, or in the country. I presume the hon. Gentleman may have been induced to take that course, on returning to this House, after being absent for a very considerable period, from the impression that the same feeling existed, and the same Members were to be found here, that he saw when last he had a seat in this House; but the hon. Gentleman seems to have met with some disappointment, when he went into the manufacturing districts, and assembled persons around him whose position was the same as those whom he was wont to address in former times. He told us that he inquired how it was that none of those whom he was accustomed to meet were present, and that their answer was, that true it was all that generation had passed away; and though they were interested in meeting him, from his reputation, there were none present who knew him in connection with past services. I think that was somewhat the kind of reception which the hon. Gentleman met with this evening in this House. At all events, the style of the hon. Member's address was such that I do not know to what point in his Motion he addressed himself. I imagined he was about to propose something like a censure on the Government for having neglected its duty, up to this time, with respect to the distress existing in the cotton manufacturing districts; but, so far as I could follow him, he never referred to anything that the Government had done lately, and I understood him to end with something like a compliment to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The greater part of the hon. Member's address, indeed, seemed to me to be in answer to a speech not yet delivered. He certainly reflected very severely on the manufacturers, and particularly on the hon. Member (Mr. Potter) for some letter which he has addressed to a newspaper, but I did not understand the hon. Member to cast any reproach on the Government. The hon. Gentleman, however, thinks it necessary that a Resolution should be passed calling on the Government to do its duty, but he has not shown that it has in any respect neglected its duty. I do not find fault with him for that. On the contrary, I feel rather grateful to him. No doubt, the speech of the hon. Gentleman was very interesting. It was refreshing. It reminded me how many years had passed since those same tones had been heard, and I may say, in the same mode of exaggeration. In passing, I may just allude to what he was so good as to refer to in regard to myself, and there I recognise the hon. Member again, because he rather imputes to me something that was inhuman or unworthy—a charge which, I think, was wholly unsupported by facts. I understood him to charge me with having assented to the views of a deputation which came to the Poor Law Board to suggest the deportation of orphans and of; children, who were happy and joyous in this town, to be subjected to the degradation and misery which they invariably met with in the manufacturing districts. As far as I can tax my memory, the matter referred to me had relation to the construction of the Act of Parliament, and not to my feelings respecting the condition of those people. The question I had to decide was whether it was possible for the guardians of a union in London to give their sanction to the departure of the pauper children from London to be employed in the manufacturing districts. I have been reminded, since the hon. Member spoke, that my opinion was that the law did not sanction the removal of those children for that purpose. I understood the hon. Member for Devonport to speak chiefly of the manufacturers in Lancashire. The hon. Member complained of their conduct in past years, and says, that now he has returned to the House again, he finds the same reason to complain. He finds them selfish, and resorting to the same course they adopted before. His chief object seemed to be to impress the House with a sense of his indifferent opinion of that class. I do not understand what course he proposed the Government should take. He was not good enough to intimate to the Government how they were to adopt measures "to relieve the distress in the cotton districts, so that the people may no longer continue unemployed." Various suggestions have been made, and I thought the hon. Member would have named one of them, or would have suggested some plan of his own for giving employment to the weavers in Lancashire. I thought he might have proposed to release those who are bound to support them, and that the Government should undertake by public means to maintain them; but the hon. Member did not make that proposal. I do not know how the House will vote on this Motion, because he has not stated what he wants the Government to do or what they have not done. The hon. Member for Carlisle likewise proposes that the Government should undertake to relieve the distress in the manufacturing districts, and he is desirous that the Government should issue a Royal Commission to inquire and report as to the best mode of giving that relief. I understand my hon. Friend to say that he wants information, though my impression was that my hon. Friend was in possession already of information that other persons had not obtained. If he does possess information, he would hardly do justice to himself if he does not disclose it to us. I am as anxious as any person to have all the information possible on the subject. I assure the House I desire to be thoroughly informed on the matter. I am sure nothing could be more interesting than all the information the Royal Commission would publish after a given time; but notwithstanding what the hon. Member said, from which it was rather to be assumed that there is considerable ignorance on the part of the Government, and especially on the part of the Poor Law Board, I cannot persuade myself, that if this Commission were to inquire, we should practically be in a better position to act than we are now. I believe there has never been an occasion when manufacturing depression could be traced to so simple and single a cause, and rare indeed have been the cases in which such universal interest has been expressed for the misfortune that has fallen upon the victims in the distressed districts. The consequence is, that there has been a demand for every kind of information on the sub- ject, and never do I recollect an instance in which so much publicity has been given to every fact connected with the condition of the suffering people, I do not think any person is in ignorance either of the cause or the extent of the distress, or of the remedy for it; but it is unsatisfactory to admit that we do not know how soon that remedy may arrive. We can state in a few words the number of persons engaged in this cotton trade, the number depending upon relief of a charitable character, and those that we want to supply with the means of support in another way. That is all the information we want, and I do not know that we can get any more. We know the number engaged in the cotton manufacture, we know the number of persons destitute and suffering from the simple cause that the material on which their labour was employed cannot be obtained as cheaply as formerly; we know that upwards of 500,000 persons are connected with the manufacture, that 410,000 persons are depending upon charitable relief, and that the number of able-bodied men, representing that population of 410,000, and whom it is now wanted to employ, was 72,000. It is the object of every committee to give them relief that they may recover their independent position. That is the simple condition we are in. If the inquiry should last for a year, I do not see any result that can be obtained, except that about which there can be no doubt—the amount of destitution that exists, and the number of persons we want to relieve. I suppose, that if the hon. Member for Devon port had really stated what he intended, it would have been found that he wanted those 72,000 men to be taken charge of by the Government. I think the hon. Member for Carlisle urged the adoption of some scheme of which emigration would form a part, but I do not think it is the business of the Government to advance the public money to encourage emigration. I do not mean to say that the Government should discourage emigration. I think every information should be given by the Government to people wishing to emigrate, respecting the dependencies of the British Crown to which it would be desirable to proceed; but a country is in a bad state when the Government is called upon to assist the people to emigrate with public money. I do not think we are sunk to that yet. I can bear my testimony to the statement that has been made that a few years ago the capital- ists of the country were seeking for labour in every direction. Applications have been made to me at the Poor Law Board for the purpose of learning whether any surplus labour was available. When we know the large amount of capital in the country and the great increase of it, and are also cognizant of the demand for labour a few years since, I do not think it would be wise of the Government to expend public money in the promotion of emigration. When we are doing everything we can to increase the growth of cotton in various places abroad with the view of supplying the raw material to the manufacturers hero and keeping up that industry in the country, it would be inconsistent on our part to send the people connected with the manufacture out of the country, and thus purl with their labour. Therefore, I am not disposed to assent to the proposition on which the hon. Members for Devonport and Carlisle are agreed, that the Government should give pecuniary support to emigration. I know the attractions of the Colonies, and I know what energy and what extraordinary resources are used by private means to induce people to emigrate, and I think that is quite sufficient without the Government undertaking it. Again, before hon. Members can call on the Government to undertake to employ and feed the people now in distress—before coming to that point and engaging in a business so little in keeping with the system prevailing in this country—there ought to be some account afforded of the means of employing them where they now dwell. If any persons could come and say to us, "We have exhausted all our means, and have no public works on which we can employ the people," I can well understand on what ground they could come to the State for assistance; but when the hon. Member for Devonport asks the Government to assist the distressed, and when the hon Member for Carlisle desired to have an inquiry, they do not tell us that all the resources in the counties where distress exists have been exhausted, and that there are no means of employing the people. The Government never deserved the reproach of being regardless of the distress. We have been led to inquire respecting the resources of the country in which these people dwell, and if there be any chance of employing them there. If I had been attacked by the hon. Member fur Devonport for neglecting my duty, I should have been able to vindicate myself by showing, that from the first time there was a question of this great distress, and even before its extension to its present limits was apprehended by those on the spot, I addressed myself to the task of providing means for the purpose of meeting the exigencies that might arise. I have referred to persons professionally engaged in agricultural improvements and public works in the county of Lancaster, and sought to learn from them if there be any means of employing, at remunerative wages, any large number of those unfortunate people who are now living upon alms. I was able to obtain the opinion and assistance of a gentleman eminent in that county ns an engineer engaged in agricultural improvements. I asked him if it were possible to extend the works in that county and employ the cotton operatives, now lingering about the towns and supported by charity, and I will read the letter which Mr. Denton, the gentleman to whom I refer, addressed to me in reply. He says—
Sir, the gentleman who has submitted this memorandum is a man of great experience, and states that he is ready to state his opinions before any Committee of this House, and to submit to any examination on the subject. I have also a memorandum on this matter from the brother of the hon. Member for Leeds, who is, I believe, better acquainted with the history of agricultural improvements in Lancashire, and has written upon them more extensively, than any other man living. In that memorandum he says—"Addressing myself to the subject of our recent conversation, I may reiterate that my experience is encouraging to the employment of the able-bodied cotton operatives in works of land improvement. 1. There exists in Lancashire and North Cheshire as large a. proportion of land capable of improvement as in any part of Great Britain. By 'improvement' I mean such permanent works as are decidedly profitable to those who engage in them, such as underdraining, the reformation of fields by the grubbing of bad fences and the making of new ones, road making, planting, trenching, and levelling of irregular surfaces. The extent of undrained wet land in the immediate district most affected by the present distress (taking Lancashire on the north and Cheshire on the south) is sufficient to employ in underdraining alone 100,000 able-bodied men for two winters, This district contains upwards of 2,500 square miles, and in it there are at least 850,000 acres of wet land which may be profitably drained. Assuming that to effect this work one-third of the hands employed were skilled draining labourers and two thirds cotton operatives, every 100 men would complete on an average 20 acres per week. I mention underdraining first because the wet condition of Lancashire and Cheshire is manifest to every observer; but there are the other improvements I have referred to which are equally worth attention, and as they are lighter in character, they would, in conjunction with drainage, allow of an apportionment of the work to the physical powers of the men to be employed. Giving to the effect of factory smoke and chemical exhalations, the fences of the fields are generally bad in this district, and much good might be done in levelling them and substituting walls and other fences. A profitable work presents itself in the trenching of hill-sides too precipitous for cultivation, and planting them with larch and other trees used for mine props and repairs. Portions of the moors, too, might be advantageously planted after trenching; and the low, flat district lying on the western side of Lancashire, to the north of Liverpool, as far as Southport and Rufford, is a good field for the application of hand labour in various ways; and being more readily moved by the spade than heavier land, is better fitted for uninitiated workmen. 2. The properties in Lancashire are not as a rule large, but there are many exceptions which might become examples to the rest, were the owners so disposed. The Earl of Derby, Mr. Legh, M.P., and some other large proprietors are honourable exceptions to the general inaction, and their properties afford good instances of profitable agricultural enterprise. 3. The facilities of borrowing money for such operations as I have referred to are great. Sir Robert Peel's Act authorized the advance of public money. The subsequent Acts, which were passed to supply money to landowners after the public loan of four millions was exhausted, dealt, of course, with private capital. There is, practically, no difficulty in obtaining any amount of money on these terms. 4. Mr. Tollemache, the Member for Cheshire, influenced by the most benevolent intentions, has acted upon the considerations here stated, and he is now draining his estate at Mottram and Tintwistle, through the General Land Drainage Company, with a view of giving the unemployed cotton operatives of the locality a means of work. The number of operatives who have actually been tried have been comparatively few. Those few, nevertheless, have most effectually shown that the operatives of mills are not necessarily unfitted for field work; on the contrary, the work of their hands will bear comparison with that of agricultural labourers of equal experience. On these grounds, and upon the general experience I have gained in the control of men engaged in works of land improvement, I am enabled to state, with some degree of certainty, that if the effort were really supported by those most interested in the matter, there would be no practical difficulty in so employing them. These remarks apply only to the employment of the operatives in agricultural improvements. 5. There are, however, many suburban works which would greatly benefit the larger towns in the district, and which might be carried out, and the money required for the purpose borrowed in the way I have explained. For instance, there are public recreation grounds, cemeteries, public walks, and new roads for which public money, it advanced at all, might be advanced with more justice than for the execution of agricultural improvements."
Such are the opinions of two independent persons of considerable experience, who have given great consideration to the means of employing persons in this way. But I find that the subject was taken up at the last meeting of the Central Relief Committee at Manchester, composed of persons of all opinions and all stations. In a report of the committee it is stated that it is an obvious fact that the cotton districts afford a large field fur the profitable investment of capital in the improvement of land, and that a large portion of land below the level of 300 feet above the level of the sea, and a still larger portion below the level of 600 feet above the level of the sea might be profitably improved and might afford employment for large numbers of the cotton operatives. But there is another field of employment besides that of agricultural improvement which seems to be more open and available for the labour of these unemployed operatives, and that is the towns themselves. The Central Relief Committee at Manchester have stated their opinion that facilities ought to be afforded to Town Councils and other authorities to carry out improvements that are absolutely essential for convenience and health—such as water supply, parks, and other improvements of that nature. They state that it is very desirable to effect these improvements, and they give their most unqualified opinion that they might be made the means of employing all the unemployed population. This opinion is shared by the great leading organ in Manchester, which is identified with the manufacturing interests. It states that public works afford a promising source of employment for the operatives; so that streets might be improved, gardens laid out, public grounds cleared, and a hundred other things done by the hands out of work. It has been imputed to me by the hon. Member for Carlisle that I have not sufficient information on this question, but I have been fortunate enough to have been brought into contact with those who are informed, and who are willing to impart their information. I have met with inspectors who have collected information and made reports upon all the places which have adopted the Local Government Act. There are numbers of those places which have been reported to be in the condition referred to. They have adopted the Act, but many of them either have not raised the money, or, having raised it, have not executed the works. These works are drainage, sewerage, water supply, parks and recreation grounds, improved and new streets, highways and roads, new burial-grounds—all of which are much needed. If inquiry had been made some time ago why these works had not been executed, the answer, I believe, would have been that labour was so dear they had been postponed. If that be so, then, in the language of the Manchester Guardian "This is the opportunity." There are many towns where public works are essential, but concerning which no reports have been sent in. But I find from the local authorities that in twenty-five places the works have been only partially executed, and that in eighteen nothing at all has been done. If hon. Gentlemen were to see the reports and the details of the deficiencies of the towns, they would be perfectly astonished, considering the wealth and power of those towns. I think, therefore, the House will be satisfied that there is, at the present time, an ample opportunity of carrying these improvements into effect. At the same time, there is one exception to which I cannot forbear alluding, and that is the town of Lancaster. In that town the operatives have been set to work on the improvements that are required, and upon that subject the following report has been made:—"In times of public distress, when large numbers of people of the labouring class have been suddenly thrown out of work, but when there was reason to hope that their ordinary means of em- ployment would be restored before long, it has frequently been found advisable to employ them on useful works of such a kind as could be constructed or effected by men not possessed of any great skill in the kind of work to which their labour was applied. Among the instances which may be mentioned of this kind of employment in the manufacturing and trading districts of the north of England, may be mentioned a road several miles in length which was made across the largest swamp in Lancashire, named Chat Moss, by the unemployed handloom-weavers of the neighbourhood, about forty years ago. This was, for many years, the only road across that great swamp. Another instance is that of the gardens and the public grounds at St. James's Mount, Liverpool, which were formed on the site of an exhausted stone quarry by the unemployed labourers of that town during a period of great distress. The cotton district of Lancashire and Cheshire contains large portions of waste land, consisting of peat moss or bog, and also very extensive moors of a different quality of soil. During the last forty years large quantities of land of these descriptions, amounting in the whole to many thousand acres, have been reclaimed, either by the landholders of the district, or by tenants to whom they had let lands of that description at low rents and on long improving leases. There still, however, remain very large quantities of this land which are entirely waste, and which have never been touched with the spade. Supposing it to be decided to undertake the improvement of any of the waste lands in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire and Cheshire, it will be desirable to ascertain what quantities of land could be obtained in the immediate neighbourhood of the towns in which the greatest amount of distress exists, and also to ascertain what portions of it could be obtained on the most advantageous terms. This information might easily be obtained on the spot."
The Local Board of Health has given the following certificate:—"The guardians and the relief committee, of which I am a member, act in entire accord. Every unemployed person in the receipt of relief is set to work, except for a very special reason. About 90 per cent of the men are employed in forming and repairing footpaths, removing hills from roads, &c. The quantity of work executed is not, of course, equal to that of experienced labourers, but several great improvements have been effected near Lancaster by the men. All work under superintendents employed by the guardians. The men have generally submitted to the regulations of the guardians without complaint. In addition to the work performed for the guardians and committee, a number of the men were employed for several weeks last winter by the Morccambe Board of Health in repairing a road which had been washed away by the stormy tide. They were paid 2s. per day each, and were conveyed by railway to and from work, a distance of four miles, at 3d. each, the charge being defrayed by the board of health and the relief committee, in equal proportions."
The report goes on to say—"That the men employed in repairing the road on the sea shore at Morecambe have done a fair quantity of work in a proper manner, and conducted themselves to our entire satisfaction."
Mr. Garnett's steward has given the following testimony as to the manner in which the work has been done:—"Through the kindness of W. J. Garnett, Esq., M.P., trenching was provided during several winter months for a number of men on the Quernmore Park estate, near Lancaster."
And, with regard to the health of the men who have been so employed, the report is very satisfactory. It says—"The men who were employed in trenching &., on the Quernmore Park estate for severa months last winter were very orderly, and attended diligently to their work. The men were not of course, equal to agricultural labourers, but they performed a fair quantity of work. The price paid by Mr. Garnett was liberal; the work men averaged about 12s. per week each."
Under those circumstances, it appears to the Government that there will be a waste of time and unnecessary delay in inquiring, by means of a Royal Commission, into the best means of employing the unemployed operatives. The course for the Government to adopt is, in my opinion, clear, and preferable to the inquiries proposed by the hon. Member for Carlisle. The Government, therefore, have determined to send down a gentleman who has been long employed under the Health of Towns Act and the Local Government Act; that he shall be accompanied by one or more professional men, engineers or surveyors; that they shall proceed at once to the districts and report what works may be instantly entered upon and accomplished as soon as possible. They will learn on the spot the difficulties which may stand in the way of carrying out the various improvements, the works that can be accomplished, the number of men that can be employed, and the way in which the works may be proceeded with at once. From the information I possess I cannot conceive that this inquiry will last more than three weeks, The gentleman who is to conduct the inquiry is conversant with his business, and I feel satisfied that within that time he will be able to lay before the Government and the House a complete report of the works which may afford employment to these persons. In a short time the town councils and other authorities in the towns who may be somewhat appalled by the calamity which has overtaken them, will be brought to give a ready assent, and to show activity in carrying out the works, and more than 70,000 men will find employment in the public works of the towns to which they belong. In such works will be found the most healthy and proper employment for the men, and the most advantageous to the community at large. It has been stated that between 40,000 and 50,000 men will be sufficient for the works, but I am sure far more will find useful employment in them. I think, therefore, the Government has decided rightly in proceeding to action at once. And I have no doubt, when the report is received, it will be seen that there is no reason to suppose that those men will remain long unemployed."It is not known that any of the men have sustained bodily injury by their change of employment, in many cases a decided improvement is strikingly observable. Some of our men, after having been engaged in wheeling barrows and using the hack and spade for many months, have resumed their mill work. I am informed, by the millowner and managers, that the outdoor work has not unfitted such men for their ordinary work, and that after a short practice they perform it with unimpaired capacity."
COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, the right hon. Gentleman had finished his speech in a manner so entirely in accordance with his views of the duty of the Government at that crisis, that he should only trouble the House with a few words upon one or two expressions which had been made use of by him in the course of it. He must first be allowed to say that he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks upon the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport. He knew the zeal of the hon. Member, and, in common with the right hon. Gentleman, it was with some disappointment that he found the hon. Member's address contained only one practical suggestion—namely, emigration, which, carried to its fullest extent, would only afford the requisite relief to a very small portion of the operatives. He agreed also in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks upon the speech of the hon. Member for Carlisle, and he had reason to know, that if he could have avoided putting the Amendment into the Speaker's hands, his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle would have limited himself to directing the immediate attention of the Government to the means of affording additional employment for the labouring classes in Lancashire. He could not support the Amendment as it stood. They had now arrived at nearly the end of the first year of the distress. They knew the amount of it. They knew the cause of it. They know that for some time to come there was no prospect of its cessation, and no Commission could afford any more information than they already possessed. At the same time, the proposition which the Amendment embodied, as to considering forthwith in what way additional work could be found, was extremely useful, as far as it went, and there could be no greater proof of its utility than that Her Majesty's Government had acceded to that portion of it. They had on their hands 420,000 persons to provide for, and the different relief committees were issuing £24,600 a week, in addition to £13,100 from the Poor Law Guardians. But it was plain that no resources which they could have were likely to enable them to go on supporting 420,000 people for any lengthened period, if the existing state of circumstances were to continue. It might be interesting to the House if he were to state, from careful compilations, in which the figures were within the mark, what their resources had been, and what they were. In making those compilations he had been greatly assisted by Mr. Farnall, the Government Commissioner, and Mr. M'Clure, the hon. Secretary to the Central Relief Fund at Manchester. The amount received from the commencement of the distress up to that time, from every source, was made up as follows:—The Central Relief Committee, £959,000; in clothing and provisions, £108,000; subscriptions from the different localities, £306,000; private charity, £200,000; Mansion House Committee, £482,000; and Poor Law Board, £680,000: total, £2,735,000. He would explain how much they had expended, and how much remained. The expenditure was made up as follows:—Relief Committees, £920,319; ditto in clothing, £108,000; guardians, £625,000; and private charity £200,000: total, £1,853,319. Many remarks had been made which assumed that the county of Lancaster had shown a want of zeal and energy in the relief of the unemployed operatives. Of, the £2,735,000, however, raised for the relief of the distress not less than £1,400,000 had been provided by the county of Lancaster alone. Whatever might be said, therefore, with regard to the wealth of Lancashire, and however true it might be that individuals had held back, he thought the fact, that during eight months the people of Lancashire had raised £1,400,000 for that object, would be a sufficient answer to any imputation that they had not done their duty. The balance now remaining in hand was as follows:—Central Fund, £486,000; the Bridgewater House Committee and Liverpool Committee,£123,000; the Relief Committees, £90,000; the Poor Law Guardians, £56,000: total, £755,000. The Mansion House Committee had also a balance of £90,000, making altogether £845,000. That was the whole sum the committees had to depend upon; and although it might seem a large amount, yet it was clear, that while they had to provide £37,700 a week for relief, it would not carry the operatives through a very long period. The importance of providing some new mode of employment had been borne in mind by the Central Committee for some time past, who were anxious to prevent anything like demoralization ensuing among those who had become the recipients of relief. But they had felt that great difficulty stood in the way of carrying out their views. The subject had never been out of their minds. There had never been a meeting at which they had not considered the question of employment, but difficulties stood in their way which had proved insurmountable hitherto. The Central Committee found that they had not sufficient control in the manufacturing districts to enable them to carry out their plans. At the same time, he would remind the House that the members of the Central Committee were, for the most part, men engaged in business in the country. They were headed by the Earl of Derby, who had devoted an amount of time and attention to this subject which would, were it generally known, make him even more esteemed than hitherto by his fellow-countrymen. The Earl of Derby, assisted by Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, had considered the subject in common with the Committee; but, as he had said, they had not found themselves enabled to carry out their wishes. The Central Committee worked through 180 sub-committees in the manufacturing districts. These were volunteers, who laboured without remuneration to carry out relief to their poorer neighbours. But the new duty of providing employment for them would be one which, with all their goodwill, they would be unable to carry out. He was glad to hear that the Government had determined to send down persons charged with the especial object of finding employment for the operatives. The Central Committee were aware that there were numerous modes of employing the operatives. In the parish in which he lived some work was found capable of employing the people for some time to come. The intention was, however, abandoned on account of the difficulties in the way. His right hon. Friend was, however, wrong, he thought, in supposing that three weeks would be sufficient to enable those whom he might send down to find work for the unemployed people. They would have not only to point out whore the work as lo he found, but how it was to be carried out. Another subject for the consideration of the Government was, how the money was to be raised for draining the fields, and other kinds of employment. His hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn would tell the House that the inhabitants of that town had given employment in public and other works, but they had almost got to the end of their powers, and they and the inhabitants of other towns would be much obliged to any one who would point out how the labour of the unemployed operatives could be rendered useful. He did not doubt that much useful information would be obtained from the officers of the Poor Law Board, al- though it might take a longer time than that mentioned by his right hon. Friend. He could promise him that the Central Relief Committee would give him all the assistance possible. The Central Committee had not entertained the subject of emigration, because to carry it out would require fur each person a larger sum than could be given with strict justice to those who remained at home. At the same time, they offered no opposition to emigration, and many of them were individually assisting the working classes to emigrate, and affording information on this subject. After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, he would suggest to the hon. Member for Carlisle to withdraw his Amendment. He did not know whether he might also ask bis hon. Friend (Mr. Ferrand) to withdraw his Motion. He believed that the greatest good would result from the proposal of his right hon. Friend. As one of the Members for the county of Lancashire, he must express his own gratification; and be thought he could say for the Central Relief Committee that they would be satisfied when they heard the intentions of Her Majesty's Government.
said, he bad been prepared to support the Amendment; but, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, he trusted that his hon. Friend would withdraw it, as the proposal of the Government removed the necessity for the Royal Commission, lie agreed with the hon. Member (Colonel W. Patten) that the measures to be taken in finding employment in the distressed districts would require much longer time for consideration than the right hon. Gentleman had supposed. As one means of employing the operatives, he would suggest that something might be done by enabling corporate bodies to provide public parks. In 1841, Sir Robert Peel proposed a grant of public money towards public parks in England and Scotland. If another grant were made, the town councils might be enabled to employ the operatives in that way. By an Act of Parliament brought in by Mr. Slaney corporate bodies were enabled to levy a rate of not more than 6d. in the pound towards public parks, with the proviso that whatever amount might be raised in that manner an equal sum should be contributed by public subscription. That, however, was not a time when money could be raised from the public for such purposes; and if the Government would assist by a grant in aid, and enable corporations to borrow money on the security of the rates for public parks, some employment might be found for the operatives in that way. He thought it somewhat unjust and unfair that the hon. Gentleman opposite should put himself forward as the representative of the operatives of Lancashire. In his animadversions upon the manufacturers the hon. Gentleman would, he thought, have done well to bear in mind the lines—
"Be to their virtues rather kind,
He felt bound to contravert some of the assertions put forward by the hon. Gentleman; for, having attended several of the workmen's meetings during the Easter recess, the unemployed whom he then saw presented a healthy and cheerful appearance. The opinion of the operatives themselves as a body was by no means favourable to emigration; they looked forward to better times, and preferred remaining on the spot, where they hoped for manufactures to revive, rather than being sent out of the country. He would offer no impediment to their going, or to the subscriptions raised in London or elsewhere to facilitate that object; but be thought the Government had rightly decided not to aid emigration by a public grant. That the use of Indian cotton had not depressed wages to the extent that had been represented might be gathered from the experience of one firm, employing 1,000 hands. The establishment worked half-time, and a middling quality of Surat was used. The carders, whose ordinary wage for full time was 12s. 7d., received in the two half-weeks 12s. 8d. The spinners absolutely made more by the Indian than they did by the American cotton, receiving £1 8s. 10d. for the two half-weeks, their ordinary weekly earnings being £1 7s. 2d. The weavers, who before were earning 12s. 2d. a week, received 11s. 8d. for the two half-weeks. This was perhaps an extreme case, but it resulted mainly from the increased attention of the bands whilst working short time. Remembering the great patience and forbearance which had been shown by the operatives, they hardly deserved the term "demoralized." Except in one or two instances, they had not created any undue excitement; they had not held meetings calling for changes in the law, or for intervention in the American contest. As regarded their homes, the workmen of Lancashire could vie with those in any other part of the country, while a portion of their earnings was usually set apart for the promotion of their moral and religious progress. Letters written from Lincoln's Inn, by two gentlemen, to all appearance most accurate in their statements, had recently appeared in The Times. They did not criticise any body of men whatever, but said—Be to their faults a little blind."
As regards the working men, the writers no doubt corroborated the view of the hon. Member opposite—"We do not doubt that the relief funds have been as a whole administered with energy and care, and, allowing for the difficulty of the task, with very decided success.
But the authors of these letters did justice, at the same time, to the spirit by which the working classes were actuated—"Everywhere we found how—their savings being used up, their stock of clothes worn out, debt become general, their clubs and societies bankrupt and suspended, their social life checked, their intellectual opportunities cut off, their humanizing institutions and habits denied them— the real life of the Lancashire workman is being lost."
He thanked the Government for what they had already done for the distress in Lancashire, and also for what they proposed to do. He trusted their delegates would not be afraid to make inquiries from all the parties interested in the question. By that means they would obtain the information they required, and would be able to do general good, both to Lancashire and to the country. With many of the views which had been expressed in debate he was unable to agree; for if, unhappily, the cotton trade were to cease in England, and if the skill, the energy, and the wealth of Lancashire were to be transferred to some other country, they ought to pause a little before helping forward the work of their own destruction."These factory operatives, for the most part, are eager for employment. The concurrent testimony of all who know them confirms it. They do not need to be driven into work,"
said, he could not concur in the proposition of the hon. Member for Carlisle. In the present state of affairs nothing could be more mischievous than the issue of a Royal Commission, as the question admitted of no delay. Such Commissions frequently required a year, or even longer, to arrive at a decision and make a Report; and this was a matter of vital importance affecting the existence of more than half a million of people, who at this moment were crying out for bread. Although he did not entirely coincide with everything that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, he concurred with him in the main. The question which he had brought forward at this particular juncture was one most creditable to himself, and entitled him fairly to the thanks of the House, of the country generally, and more especially of the unfortunate operatives of Lancashire, craving for honest employment, and clamouring for food in their last extremity at the hands of their fellow-countrymen! The county of Lancashire, as they all knew, had been for a considerable period in a state of terrible distress and depression; and the county, in common gratitude, would unite in the expression of thanks to his hon. Friend for calling attention to the fact with a view of obtaining something like a remedy for the fearful evil. The general sympathy felt throughout the land for the distress in Lancashire, and not only felt but evidenced by contributions to the Relief Fund, had been unexampled in history, and it had been felt nowhere more than in the adjacent woollen district of the West Riding. The sympathy there was enhanced by the grateful feeling of not depending on a foreign and precarious staple like cotton, but on the sure, unfailing supply of its home-grown staple, its wool—the basis of the prosperity of the West Riding and the country at large. As soon as it was found they wanted a further supply in aid of their home growth, they took special care not to make themselves dependent on foreign jealousy or opposition, but laid out vast sheep walks in their Australian colonies, which had proved amply sufficient to supply any deficiency occasioned at home by a scarcity of that invaluable commodity. Would that they were enabled effectually to relieve the sufferings of their distressed and sorrowing fellow-countrymen! He begged to suggest that the Government should borrow a leaf out of the book of the wool-growing interest, and take advantage of many of the vast dependencies of the British Empire, which by climate and soil were thoroughly adapted to the growth of the finest cotton in any quantity, and of rendering our manufacturing districts wholly independent of the Southern States of America for that precious article. The subject had been so ably treated by the hon. Member for Devonport, that he had left little to add either as to the awful extent of the calamity, or as to the remedial suggestions, which he trusted would make a deep impression upon the Government. But there was one inquiry which had so forcibly struck him that he would not neglect the present opportunity of mentioning it. Lancashire had been peculiarly blessed with some eminent and distinguished patriots, who had devoted immense talent and unwearied energy to the welfare of the masses—at least, so they themselves repeatedly assured the operatives. He was the last man that would seek to set class against class, and he wished to see this question argued in a calm and temperate spirit by every one who took part in the discussion, he could not sufficiently condemn the conduct of the so-called patriots who had been busily agitating in Lancashire, and setting up before the eyes of the people the Republic of the United States as a model Government deserving their highest admiration. These agitators instilled into the poor deluded workpeople the notion that all their difficulties were brought upon them by our not following the example of the great Republic—the land of liberty and happiness; free from aristocracy, from kings, from standing armies and navies, from national debt and taxation, and ascribing every calamity suffered by Englishmen to the influence of this incubi; that America possessed within herself everything that could be desired, and that she was the only country worth living in. He (Colonel Edwards) thanked God they did not live in such a country. How changed was the scene now? Since the Republic was dissolved they had heard no more of the trash of these agitators; their voices were silent as the grave. Where was then their model Government? Since the disunion of the States, since the avowed tyranny of the majority over the minority, since great armies and enormous debt and heavy taxation had become the order of the day, the admirers of those mischievous agitators now began to inquire, what had they really done to alleviate the distress or assuage the pangs of hunger of their fellow-countrymen? As to the aristocracy of this country, whom they had reviled, and against whom these wicked men had long been in the habit of directing their attacks, the people had discovered that their greatest benefactors were to be found in their ranks. They had subscribed their thousands and tens of thousands to the Relief Fund for the benefit of the distressed operatives and their starving families. And if they looked to the other side of the question, how many of the names of these patriots were to be found, upon the roll of those who contributed to that fund? When those poor suffering wretches supplicated for alms, they were told by those men that they should have voted for extension of the suffrage. When they asked for bread, they offered them a stone. The great body of the manufacturers in Yorkshire and Lancashire, however, came forward nobly in aid of their suffering workpeople, presenting a fine contrast to those selfish demagogues who mischievously endeavoured to set class against class, and by their political agitation aggravated considerably the difficulties that existed in the northern counties of England. They bad heard much of emigration as a remedy for the evils complained of, and so far as it went it met his approval, lie confessed he could not see his way clearly through this supposed panacea unless the Government proposed a very large grant for the purpose. It was all very well to talk of a Royal Commission; but so long as the people were in immediate want of bread, they would continue to cry out to the Government for relief in their necessities, and their representatives in that House should insist upon immediate action on the part of the Executive. The hon. and gallant Member, in conclusion, again thanked his hon. Friend the Member for Devonport for the able and opportune manner in which he had brought forward this question.
MR. ALGERNON EGERTON
said, he rose to thank the Government for the manner in which they had received the proposition of the hon. Member for Devonport, and he hoped, under the circumstances, that the hon. Gentleman would withdraw it. Whilst expressing his thanks to the hon. Member for Devonport for having brought this question before the House, he could not concur with him in the terms of his Motion. With 420,000 workpeople out of employment, and a relief expenditure of £120,000 a month, no apology could be needed for bringing the subject before the House of Commons; but he did not think that many hon. Members would accept the doctrine that the Government was bound, in cases of exceptional distress, to find the operatives both work and wages. If such a principle were carried out to its legitimate extent, it could result in nothing but the establishment of national workshops. In 1848 a system of a similar character had been tried in France, when the atéliers nationaux were established, but with little success. If a Commision went down to the distressed districts, he had no doubt they would find that large works might be initiated, and with great success. It would be very desirable that the Government should lend money to be expended on public works on good security and at a low rate of interest; but to any system of public works undertaken by the Government itself he entirely objected, because it would check private enterprise, prevent the operatives from making exertions to improve their own condition, and lead to an enormous amount of jobbery. Those were his objections to the original Motion. In reference to the Amendment he need not say a word, so completely had his views been anticipated by his hon, and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire. He did not see what information a Royal Commission could obtain. They knew that the gentlemen sent down by the Poor Law Board had performed their duty fully and ably. Their exertions in the cause must render the inquiries of a Royal Commission wholly unnecessary. The real difficulty was not the magnitude of the distress, but the duration of that distress, and on that point no Commission except one of prophets could be productive of much information.
LORD EDWARD HOWARD
said, he could not allow one remark which had fallen from the hon. Member for Devonport, to pass without comment. That hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that the cotton operatives had been deserted by the landlords of Lancashire. They certainly had not been deserted by those who had raised the very liberal subscription, the amount of which had been stated by the hon. Member for North Lancashire, nor by that numerous and able body of men who had, night after night, sat upon the local committees and discharged their onerous and delicate duties in such a manner as to entitle them to the thanks not only of the operatives, but of the country at large. The hon. Gentleman was also quite wrong in identifying the hon. Member for Carlisle with those manufacturers, who, as he had said, had locked up their mills against their workpeople. He knew no man who was a greater friend of the operatives, who had done more to employ them during the last winter, or who had contributed more handsomely to the fund for their relief, than his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle. He thanked the Government for having come to the resolution to send down persons to the distressed districts to inquire into the state of the work done, and as to how far it was likely to prove beneficial to the labouring classes. He quite concurred, he might add, with his hon. relative the Member for South Lancashire in what had fallen from him with respect to the ability and energy displayed by Mr. Farnall; but he, nevertheless, was of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Pour Law Board should engage persons well acquainted with the mode of employing workmen, in order that the best possible result might be obtained. There were two great difficulties in the way. The one was how to find the funds sufficient to employ labour, and the other was the means of directing the labour in the most efficient manner. The House should bear in mind that it was not in that instance dealing with those who were termed the navigators of the country. It was, on the contrary, dealing with men who would have to be trained, as it were, to a new profession, and who would have to be satisfied with a lower rate of wages. He doubted very much whether any of those men wished to live on charity. They were becoming tired of the schools, and were anxious to obtain honest employment. The great difficulty was as to how loans were to be afforded and the rate of interest to be met. He could understand the comparative facility in corporate towns, where there were acknowledged local bodies, of raising money by loans; but there was a large portion of the distressed districts where there was no local body of greater influence than cemetary boards, lighting boards, or superintendents of police. Now, how would any of those bodies be empowered to manage loans in times of such distress? It was idle to suppose that gentlemen would charge their estates by borrowing money, or that they would employ anything like the large amount of labour it would be necessary to relieve, particularly when the poor rates might reach the large sum of 9s. or 10s. in the pound. There was also another class of sufferers. It was well known that there was a certain number of poor ratepayers who, during the pressure of the calamity, were written off as excused. They were, however, only excused for a time; and when prosperity returned to the country, the tax collector would come upon them for the arrears, and they would find themselves in greater embarrassment than ever. The gentleman who happened to be sent down to inquire into the state of labour in the manufacturing districts would have, he might add, to take care to whom money was lent, so that a job might not be perpetrated. He trusted, therefore, that the works in those districts might be carried on in some measure under the authority of the Government. At any rate, he begged leave to thank the Government for what they had done, and he hoped that they would continue to use their best endeavours to probe the evil to the bottom and to provide a remedy for the existing state of things.
said, he had listened to the concluding portion of the speech of the President of the Poor Law Board with great satisfaction, inasmuch as he was pleased to refer to what had been done in the borough which he (Air. Garnett) represented. The relief committee and the board of guardians in that borough had acted most harmoniously and simultaneously all through this distress. From the first they had made it a rule to have, wherever it was practicable, some return in the shape of labour for the money they expended. It was true the ease of Lancaster was very different from that of districts in the south of the country; but if they had found support for a hundred men in that borough, he thought there were localities where they might employ a thousand, and so the burden would be more equally distributed. By the Return laid before the House on the Motion of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets it appeared that no less a sum than £254,682 was the amount of poor rates in arrear for the three-quarters ending at Christmas and he had no doubt in the last quarter of the present year that sum would be considerably increased. That was a fearful fact to contemplate, He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for declaring his intention to take so important a step in this matter. If, however, the Government expected that the landed proprietors would lay out a considerable sum of money to employ the people in drainage or other works it was possible they would find that some difficulties would have to be encountered. Having been referred to by name in the Report which the right hon. Gentleman had read as one of those who had endeavoured to employ the people, he begged to bear his testimony to their ability to work, and their cheerfulness and readiness to do their best. Moreover, as they were continued to be employed, their strength and capacity to execute the work increased. Three-fourths of the men to whom the right hon. Gentleman had referred would be able on fair trial to perform the work to which they were set. He sincerely hoped that the House and the Government would support the attempt made to employ these people, for that was the real solution of the present difficulty.
said, it seemed to him that unless Lancashire had, as he was afraid it had not, the immediate prospect of a supply of cotton, it was inevitable that the operatives should verge into the condition of the ribbon weavers of North Warwickshire, now in the third year of their distress. Lancashire began to look beyond the period during which she could maintain her population by alms, and the real difficulty now arose, and that was how their employment should be provided for? He thought the House owed a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Devonport for having brought this subject forward. It might be that he had painted the history of some of those who formerly conducted the cotton trade in rather dark colours; but even the manufacturers of the present day confined themselves so exclusively to the one pursuit in which they were engaged, that they wore not so well fitted to meet an emergency when it arose as they otherwise might be. This had been his own experience in North Warwickshire, where he had been struck with the absence of that fertility of resource which at such times was so desirable. But, after all, the Government was doing what the hon. Member for Devonport had suggested, and they seemed to be doing it in the very best manner. When they had the practical information which would be gained by the Commission, the question must arise, what would they do? He would venture to suggest that they should consider all the various Acts that had been alluded to for making improvements of various kinds, for creating pleasure grounds and opening new roads, and the improvement of landed property, and see whether they could not frame some Act that would enable them to bring into practical use the provisions of the different Acts in the distressed districts. If money was to be raised, the Government, through the Poor Law Board, might say, "We will facilitate your borrowing money for the purposes contemplated under this general Act, it you will allow us to assist you in the direction of the labour you are about to employ." He would answer for it that such a course would be attended with very great economy, and very great advantage to the community affected. There were local jealousies and all sorts of obstructions to be overcome—a result which might be attained by such an interposition on the part of the Government. In places where there were no municipal authorities there was always a parochial machinery to fall back upon; and in ribbon weaving districts he had seen some parishes using their parochial machinery to the best possible advantage. Therefore, he would again suggest that borrowing powers should be granted to parishes as well as unions, because in a parish there Were often principles of union and cooperation combined with local knowledge and means of direction that were totally wanting to boards of guardians for such Works as were contemplated. Another subject had been passed over too lightly—that of emigration, to which they must look if the distress continued. In the district to which he belonged they were assisting emigration; the circumstances of the district rendered it absolutely necessary. By assisting even a few families to find a livelihood in the colonies not only was the condition of the distressed families who left this country improved, but another good effect was produced, in breaking through a kind of obstinate lassitude on the part of employers, who, when they saw a portion of the workpeople leaving, bestirred themselves to find some employment for the rest. The right hon. Gentleman would find that that would be a useful stimulus in some cases. He next came to an important question of policy. They were now subscribing for the exportation of honest labour, because the labour market of this country was overstocked. Would it not be common sense to relieve the country of criminal labour, instead of honest labour, by providing for the reformation of our criminals in the colonies? He looked with jealousy on the vast employment of convict labour on the fortifications. He trusted that the Commission on Transportation would not protract its inquiries ad infinitum, but would inform the House at once whether there was not, in Western Australia. Columbia, or some colony, a place to which they could deport those criminals who were supplanting in the labour market of this country the labour of honest men, and were crowding the goals only to become a terror on their release to the rest of the community.
Sir, though an Irish Member, I am glad that the Government has taken up this subject in be serious a spirit. The distress in the Lancashire districts has, from the very first, excited my sympathy, and that of my countrymen; and, so far as I personally could, I did not fail to excite that sympathy in my own locality. But, Sir, I wish to take this opportunity of saying that there is another part of the United Kingdom, the circumstances of which ought to excite as deep an interest in this House, and as active an interposition on the part of the Executive. That portion of the United Kingdom is Ireland. An hon. Member has said that there are many Lancashires in Scotland, in which the same distress is experienced as in England; but I deeply regret to be compelled to assert that nearly all Ireland is now one Lancashire. I am convinced that there is more actual and terrible distress in many counties in Ireland than in all England put together. There are, alas! many districts in Ireland in which the people are literally starving—yes, literally starving. With them it is not distress because of having three meals a day, or two meals a day; it is distress because of not having one regular meal in the four-and-twenty hours. That is what I call terrible distress, and that distress, I confidently assert, exists in Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland were in his place, he could corroborate me, when I state that it was only a few days ago since a clergyman from the district of Skibbereen spent the last pound he had in his possession in the purchase of a return ticket to London, and rushed over here to entreat the Chief Secretary, in God's name, to do something for his famishing people, who had not more than one miserable meal in the twenty-four hours, ay—some of them— in thirty hours. In many districts of Cork and Kerry, in the South, and of Galway, Sligo, Mayo, and other counties in the west, the same tale of distress could be told. Even in the very heart of the rich counties of Limerick and Tipperary, the same I description will hold good of many districts. The Government are right in instituting an inquiry into the condition and prospects of the cotton districts of England; but they are bound as fully, and by the same solemn obligation, to institute an inquiry into the condition and prospects of Ireland. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) has spoken of the necessity for emigration from England, and of the wisdom of encouraging it. So far as the congested condition of the cotton districts is regarded that is perfectly true. But in Ireland it is quite another thing. There, there is too great a desire to emigrate; and, instead of desiring to promote additional emigration from that country, it would be a wise and sound policy to check it, if it possibly can be chocked. No policy can be more fatal than that which seeks to promote a further drain of the people from a country which is fast losing the very strength of its population. Should peace be once established in America, the rush of the people from their own country would be something fearful; and I have Song held the opinion—an opinion shared in by many in the country—that in a few years—half-a-dozen, perhaps—there would not be left more than half the population in Ireland which there was when the last census was taken. That, Sir, in my mind, would be a most deplorable state of things; for once let the people go to enrich and strengthen other countries by their labour and their industry, and what will be the result? Why, there will not be sufficient labour left in Ireland to till its soil; and when the Americans again turn the sword into the ploughshare, they will be able to undersell the Irish producers in the markets of England. If, unhappily, there should be another bad harvest in Ireland—which may God, in his mercy, forbid!—the horrors of the famine year will be repeated in that unhappy land. Sir, the condition of Ireland at this moment is such as to excite — as ought to excite—the liveliest sympathy of this House; and, in the name of justice and humanity, I have a right to demand that sympathy should be manifested towards its people by the Parliament and the Government of this Empire. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted, in his speech on the Budget, that the subject of Irish distress had not been sufficiently brought under the consideration of the Legislature; and I can only earnestly hope, Sir, that when that subject may be brought forward by my hon. Friends or by myself, Parliament will not prove insensible to the demands made in behalf of that afflicted portion of the United Kingdom.
said, he desired to say a very few words in explanation, The noble Lord the Member for Arundel was under a mistake when he attributed to him the use of the expression that the operatives were deserted. What he said was, that the operatives had certain pledges and promises made to them, but these they found broken and themselves deserted, he did not say that the hon. Member for Carlisle had locked his mill, for he knew perfectly well he had none. The noble Lord, therefore, was also mistaken in that. The object he had in view in bringing forward this subject had been perfectly met. He wished that the Government should take steps, without delay, to provide some means of employment for the working classes, and that they had agreed to do. He had no intention whatever to make any attack on the Government. He begged to withdraw the Motion.
Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.