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THE GOOD PRIEST.
Thb is the type of the better order of Romish xlesiastics, such as are to be found scattered among imote villages, where they often exercise a truly iternal influence over the poor flock committed to ifir charge. Such men are often great lovers of lildren, and much beloved by them in return. Here
tbe "first introduction" of a little one, the exrcssion of whose countenance is admirably caught by ie painter. Neither is the reverential manner of le elder girl less faithfully depicted. The whole mis a very pleasing composition.
LORD ASHLEY AND SOCIAL REFORM.
Tins popular and philanthropic nobleman, who has mt been removed to the Upper House by the death of lis father, the sixth Earl of Shaftesbury, was born in IS01, and is, consequently, in the fiftieth year of his ige. The founder of the family was the celebrated lord Chancellor Shaftesbury, the Achitophel of Dryden—the most prominent member of the notorious "Cabal" of Charles II., and the author of lie second great charter of this country's freedom— Ik Habeas Corpus Act. The grandson of this turboleut statesman, the author of the well-known "Characteristics," attained considerable reputation in the literary world, and was designated by Voltaire, the boldest English philosopher. Lord Ashley is the great grandson of this nobleman, whose talents and literary tastes he has inherited, though differing widely from his opinions, both philosophical and religions. His Lordship graduated at Christ Church, Oiford, where in 1822 he was first-class in classics. He Las held a seat in the House of Commons for a quarterof a century, and has at different times been a Commissioner of the Board of Control, a Lord of the Admiralty, and a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission.
Lord Ashley's well-earned reputation, however, Ms not been acquired in the regions of Red Tape, but o; his laborious exertions to ameliorate the distress of (be friendless and the destitute—the erring and the ipprant. One of his earliest efforts was in behalf of »e «omen and children employed in collieries and Bines. After the passing of the "Factories Regulation Mt," forbidding the employment of young children in ■etories, suspicions began to be entertained, that vast Umbers of children were employed in a variety of other ess desirable trades, besides the cotton and woollen Mwfacturcs, and that evils and abuses, as great as T previously discovered in connexion with the factory •jstcm, might, on inquiry, be found to exist among "t work-people in these trades. On the motion of (*ra Ashley, accordingly, a commission was issued, to ■Ture into the numbers and condition of children Id young persons engaged in various employments "I under the control of the "Factories Regulation
Act." The result of this inquiry was, to bring to light an extent and severity of suffering and degradation among sections of our working population, of which few had previously any conception. The number of children aud young persons employed in the coal mines, was found to be enormous; a very large proportion of the persons employed in them being under thirteen years of age. Instances occurred, in which children began to work as early as four years of age, sometimes at five, not unfrequently between six and seven, and often from seven to eight, while from eight to nine was the ordinary age at which their employment commenced. In several districts, female children began to work in the mines as early as males. In these districts, both sexes were employed in precisely the same kind of labour, and during the same number of hours. The girls and boys, and the young men and the young women, and even married women, and women with child, commonly worked almost naked, and the men, in many mines, quite naked. "There is no distinction whatever," says one of the Commissioners, "in their coming up and going down in the shaft—in the mode of hurrying or thrusting—in the weight of corves, or in the distances they are hurried—in wages or dress: indeed, it is impossible to distinguish, either in the darkness of the gates (ways) in which they labour, or in the cabins before the broad light of day, an atom of difference between one sex and another." In the cast of Scotland, whore a much larger proportion of children aud of girls was employed than in other districts, the chief part of their labour consisted in carrying the coals on their backs, up a succession of steep ladders, each eighteen feet high, from mainroad to mainroad, till the pit-bottorn was reached, where the load was to be cast. In one case mentioned, the height ascended aud the distance of the road added together, exceeded the height of St. Paul's; and it not unfrequently happened that the tugs broke, and the load fell on those females who were following.
The overseer at the Amiston Colliery says, " Women always did the lifting or heavy part of the work, and neither they nor the children were treated like human beings. Females submit to work in places where no man nor even lad could be got to labour in; they work in bad ronds, up to their knees in water, in a posture nearly double: they are below till the last hour of pregnancy; they have swelled ankles and haunches, and are prematurely brought to the grave." The regular hours of work in the coal mines, for cluldren and young persons, were rarely less than eleven, more frequently they were twelve; in some districts they were thirteen, and in one district they were generally fourteen and upwards. In the great majority of these mines, night work was a part of the ordinary system of labour, and produced the most injurious effects, both on the physical and moral condition of the work-people. In many mines, the conduct of the adult colliers to the children and young persons was harsh and cruel in the extreme: "A coal is sent at their heads—a gash on the head made with a pick —an eye knocked out, ribs broken;" and many other instances of reckless brutality are recorded. The effect of such early and severe labour was to stint the growth of the children, to produce a crippled gait, and a curvature of the spinal column, as well as a variety of disorders, such as affections of the heart, rupture, asthma, rheumatism, and loss of appetite: and this, not merely in a few cases, but as an habitual and almost inevitable result of their occupation.
The evidence given as to the moral, intellectual, and spiritual state of the great mass of the collier population, presents us with a picture even darker and more appalling than that which has been drawn of their physical condition. It was found that their education had been almost wholly neglected,—that they had received scarcely any instruction at all, either religious or secular,—that they had no correct conception of their moral duties, and that, in fact, their intellects were as little enlightened as their places of work; "darkness reigned throughout." "With respect even to the common truths of Christianity and facts of Scripture," says Mr. Symons, "I am confident that the majority are in a state of heathen ignorance." "Their morals are bad, their education worse, their intellect very much debased, and their carelessness, irrcligion, and immorality," deplorable in the extreme.
Such was the appalling state of physical and moral degradation which Lord Ashley was the means of bringing to light, and his lordship was not the man to sit down contented with the mere exposure of such evils without making a strenuous effort to remove them. As soon as the Report of the Commissioners, detailing these facts, had been laid before Parliament, Lord Ashley moved for leave to bring in a Bill to make regulations respecting the age and sex of children and young persons employed in mines and collieries. His speech on the occasion was a happy specimen of clear statement, intermixed with numberless touches of simple and deeply pathetic eloquence, and produced a deep impression on the House and on the country. The motion was unanimously agreed to. The slavery of the women and children in our mines and collieries was entirely abolished, and one foul stain on our moral and social condition wiped away.
The success which attended his exertions in behalf of the women and children employed in mines and collieries, encouraged Lord Ashley to put himself at the head of another great movement for the moral improvement of the working classes, by shortening the duration of daily labour in factories. In spite of the most formidable opposition from the mill-owners and the fjovcrnment, he succeeded in carrying through Parliament, an Act for the reduction of the time of labour in factories to ten hours a-day. The measure was cordially hailed by the great mass of the working classes, and speedily produced the most beneficial effects. It was found that the diminution in the amount of wages in consequence of working short
time, was by no means in proportion to the reiiutt:,;. in the number of hours.— that under the new systt?. the operatives performed their tasks with more hearty good-wili and with greater care and attention tlia under the old, while the masters found it necessan to accelerate the speed of the machinery, so thai a greater amount of work was turned out in the shorter time. The factory children had now time to acquire some education. The females were able to attend to their household duties themselves, instead, as under the old system, of entrusting them to hireling. and in consequence their households were better iad more frugally kept, and the male operatives, instead of spending their spare time in idleness and profligacy, as was at first feared, employed themselves mcci more extensively than before in gardening and oikpleasing and profitable pursuits. The system k!. therefore, been found to exercise the most benesc.^ influence both on the physical and moral well-beio:-! all classes of the work-people, and it is to be kwj that the subsequent enlargement of the hours of labour to eleven, at the urgent instance of the millowners, will not materially abridge the salutary efa;; of the movement.
While engaged in these disinterested labours d love, Lord Ashley had the misfortune to incur lit displeasure of his Dorsetshire constituents, whom be had represented for fifteen years, by his vote ii favour of Sir Robert Peel's measure for the repeal ol the corn-laws, and in a spirit of high-minded and honourable independence worthy of all commcndatiA he at once placed his seat at their disposal. His lordship's services, however, were too valuable to be long lost to the country, and in little more thai» year, at the general election in 1847, he was triuophautly returned for Bath at the head of the polL
Our limits will not permit us to dwell at present ri Lord Ashley's efforts to reclaim the outcast juven.: population of the metropolis, to ameliorate the condition of the milliners and dressmakers, and to minish the amount of Sabbath labour in the Pat Office. We pass on to the consideration of the ]"> which his lordship has recently promulgated for t* purpose of providing lodging-houses and imprc;-'' dwellings for the poor.
All who are acquainted with the subject know tbi the want of proper dwelling-houses for the poor >industrious classes of the community, is one of« most fertile sources of pauperism and crime, disesse and death; but few except those who have ac;<^! explored the recesses of our larger towns, can fora any adequate conception of the state of the wittita hovels in which tens of thousands of the inhabits are compelled to pass'their lives. The great mw the labouring classes, in the metropolis and other la.? towns throughout the kingdom, return from tlic:riii.; toil, not to decent, clean, and healthy homes, when in the bosom of their families, they may rest tiar weary limbs, and refresh their exhausted spirits, w> to filthy, squalid, pestiferous garrets and cellars, »•■■»no exertion can keep clean, and where the pure aire licnren never enters; where there is nothing to allure or to cheer; where not merely comfort and happiness, but even decency and order, are unknown; the focus of disease; the nursery of the infirmary, the workhouse, and the jail. A return made in 1842 gave the following results of a house-to-house visitation in St. George's, Hanover-square. 1,465 families of the labouring- classes were found to have for their residence only 2,174 rooms. Of these families, 929 hid but one room for the whole family to reside in; 408 had two rooms; 94 had three, 17 four, 8 five, 1 six, 1 seven, and 1 eight.
Now, if this be trie case in one of the hest parishes in London, what must be the condition of the over-populous and more needy parishes in the eastern part of the metropolis? In many instances it lias beeu found that two, three, four, and even five families occupied a single apartment. In these •/retched dwellings, all ages and both sexes, fathers aid daughters, mothers and sons, grown-up brothers and sisters, the sick, the dying, and the dead, are herded together. In one house the visitors found a ■ porter, whose earnings amounted to twelve shillings iweek, two of which he paid for a confined and unwholesome apartment, in which himself and six oilier people—four children and three adults—sleep. The children were shoeless, extremely filthy, and poorly clad; the wife ill in bed of a scrofulous knee. Two of his children were still-born, and three others had died in infancy. His neighbour, a policeman, had ail his children ill at one time, and lost two. In another house lived a shoemaker, who occupied two apartments, the rent of which amounted to one-third of his weekly earnings. This poor man had lost five of bis seven children, and was himself far gone in a lingering consumption—the disease, as it has been justly termed, of England's shops and workshops and factories—the disease produced by the slow poison of foul air—the disease of the clerk, the compositor, the tailor, the draper's assistant,and the poor needlewoman. lu a garret about ten feet by fourteen, not six feet below the short cross-joisting, four or five shoemakers were found at work, and it was ascertained that the husband and wife, a grown-up son in a consumption, a daughter about seventeen, and a child, all slept in the same bed, in the room where these men were at work all day, and where they frequently worked late at night with candles. In the next lane, which is only from three to four feet in breadth, a labourer and Ins family inhabited a room six feet by eighteen, divided into two compartments, without any proper place for a bed in either, and yet the rent of this wretched hovel was 4/. a-ycar. In a second, another labourer inhabited a room seven feet square, which neither the light nor the free air of heaven ever reached. In a third, the rent of which was 4/., there «as a widow with five children, from twelve to two years of age. All these, be it observed, belonged to the industrious, sober, well-doing class of the poor, who had sought in vain for a wholesome habitation at such rents as they could afford to pay, and had been
driven by necessity to take up their residence in houses so situate and constructed as not to admit of ventilation, in a narrow and confined space, without any proper supply of water, undrained, and surrounded by unwholesome exhalations and every kind of abomination moral and physical.
The lodging-houses for the homeless poor, the dens of misery and crime, in which the "dangerous classes" herd together, arc of course incomparably worse. In the report of the London Eever Hospital for 1845, of one particular room in a lodging-house it was said, "It is filled to excess every night, but on particular occasions, commonly 50, sometimes from 90 to 100 men are crowded into a room 33 feet 9 inches long, 20 feet wide, and 7 feet high in the centre. The whole of this dormitory does not allow more space, that is, does not admit of a larger bulk of air for respiration, than is appropriated in the wards of the Fever Hospital for three patients. The natural and necessary result was, that considerably more than onefifth of the whole admissions into the Eever Hospital for that year—no less than 130 patients affected with fever—were received from that room alone." Of another of these receptacles for the migrating poor, one of the city missionaries says, " In this one room, which measures 18 feet by 10, slept the night previous to my inquiry, 27 male and female adults, 31 children, and 2 or 3 dogs, making in all 58 human beings breathing the contaminated atmosphere of a close room. In the top room of the same house, measuring 12 feet by 10 feet, there are six beds, and on the same night there slept in them 32 human beings, all breathing the pestiferous air of a hole not fit to keep swine in. The beds (which are composed of straw, shavings, rags, &c.) are so close together, that whin let down on the floor, there is no room to pass between them, and they who sleep in the beds furthest from the door, can consequently only get into them by crawling over the beds which are nearer the door. In one district alone there are 270 such rooms . . . These houses are never cleaned or ventilated; they literally swarm with vermin. It is almost impossible to breathe. Missionaries are seized with vomiting or fainting upon entering them." "I have felt," said another, " the vermin dropping Oh my hat like peas. In some of the rooms I dare not sit, or I should be at once covered." This appalling state of matters is not confined to the metropolis. In Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and even in many of the third and fourth-rate towns, there are vast multitudes of the poorer classes living in the same state of physical and moral degradation. In one of the wynds of Glasgow, for example, there is a single "land" or tenement, at which one entry and stair admit to upwards of 40 dwellings. The average number of inmates in each dwelling or apartment during the night, amounts to at least S persons, giving a grand total on this one stair of 300 persons. The rent of this building, in which a humane man would hesitate to lodge his cattle, amounts to 120/. a-year. In another place in this city, it was found, on