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dren's labour. One was, that it was impossible to shorten their hours of work without also shortening those of the adults, who could not go on without them; the other, that it was wrong to restrict the liberty of the subject.
The first of these was, truly, a difficulty; but if the evil was so very great, it appeared to my grandfather and those acting with him that some change must be made in the mode of working, rather than overtax the children to this extent. Relays of children must be obtained, or grown - up workers must be substituted as assistants.
With regard to the second objection—that it would be restricting the liberty of private individuals if the law interfered—the Report shows that children, at the age at which they suffered these injuries, were not free agents, but were let out to hire by their parents, by whom their wages were appropriated, and who were easily rendered callous to their children's wrongs by a threat of dismissal, or a bribe of an additional penny an hour of wage. If the law did not step in to protect these unfortunate little ones from parents whose selfishness and ignorance
was allowing them to grow up diseased and benighted, where, argues the Report, was their help to come from?
The question as to whether it is right in any instance for the Government to intervene between parent and child, is now practically settled by the many laws and enactments which regulate children's education and hours of labour. But in those days the idea of any restriction of a parent's right over his child excited much opposition. It was regarded by many people as both impracticable and undesirable.
The reformers, however, carried their point and achieved success. That very year the Factory Act passed, and the recommendations of the Report were nearly all embodied in it. No child was allowed to be employed at all under eight years old; children between eight and thirteen were only allowed to work six and a half hours a-day; and all those employed were obliged to attend school for three hours a day. Inspectors were appointed to see that the provisions of the Act were fully carried out.
Of course there was considerable indignation on the part of the millowners, but many of
those who at first objected to the restrictions were afterwards convinced of their utility, and as time passed on this conviction spread amongst all classes and gathered strength.
The only modifications of the Act of 1833 which have been made since, have been mere extensions of its principles. The regulations, which at first applied to cotton, cloth, and silk mills only, have been extended by subsequent Acts to bleaching and dyeing works. Powers have also been given to compel the fencing of machinery, and to enforce other safeguards against injury to the workpeople.
Even after the Factory Commission had finished its work, and had ceased to exist, my grandfather continued to watch with interest the results of what had been done. Five years afterwards, the House of Commons having ordered a Return showing the working of the educational provisions of the Act, he went down himself to various mills, and I find his copy of the Return thickly pencilled with marginal notes like the following :
“I visited this mill myself with a view to examine the school.” “The whole neighbour
hood was opposed to the direction of the mill. They now consider it a great blessing.” “The children of the higher class of people are anxious to get employment in the mills.”
It must have given him great delight to feel that, as was said by a writer eleven years later
“The present Act has led to an amelioration of the treatment, and an improvement in the physical and moral character, of the vast juvenile population, such as was never before effected by an Act of Parliament; while the benefits resulting from it to all parties, the employers no less than the employed, are not only rapidly multiplying and extending, but are becoming more and more the subjects of general acknowledgment and gratulation. There is reason to believe that the total number employed in factory labour in the United Kingdom is little short of 1,000,000." In one district, not by any means one of the largest, the number of children attending school was increased from 200 to 2316."
1 This was in 1844.
RISE OF THE SANITARY MOVEMENT, 1837.
PERHAPS the most necessary and the most tried quality in a reformer is Patience. Notwithstanding the publication of the “Treatise on Fever' in 1830, and the tribute paid by the scientific world to its masterly exposition of the treatment and causes of the disease, notwithstanding the constant and ardent endeavours of the author to propagate his views, yet seven long years passed away before he was able to awaken the apathy of the public and the authorities.
Year after year went by, and the wards of the Fever Hospital continued to be supplied from the same districts, from the same courts and lanes—even from the very same house-as before. The preventible suffering, thus daily brought before my grandfather's eyes, was a