Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

In an earnest and eloquent speech made in the House of Lords during the session of 1839, he moved for an extension of such inquiries as the Poor Law Board had caused to be made in London, to other towns in the United Kingdom.

It must have seemed to my grandfather a glorious moment when the principles he had so long advocated were for the first time recognised —when the country began to hear with surprise and shame of the existing state of things—and when the suffering, which he felt so deeply, seemed about to be relieved. The movement had now begun.

Surely it would go quickly, since the saving of thousands of lives each year depended on its progress ?

CHAPTER VI.

PHILANTHROPIC AND MEDICAL WORK, 1840-1848.

I HAVE now arrived at the period of my grandfather's life which comes within my own memory, and which begins with the days described in the Introduction when I used to watch him as he sat at his writing in the early mornings. He had taken me to live with him at three years old, and from that time I was with him throughout his life. If, in this chapter or elsewhere, I dwell on his care and tenderness towards myself, it is only that it may indicate the love he invariably showed to all near and dear to him.

My grandfather, though losing no opportunity of promoting the cause he had chiefly at heartthe great sanitary cause—did not limit his public work to it alone : he was at this time engaged in reforming the state of coal-mines, being a member

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed]

Old woman

carrying coal.

of a Royal Commission—the “Children's Employment Commission” — the chief object of whose labours was to secure the abolition of child-labour in mines. It has been mentioned that the Report presented to Parliament by this Commission had pictures: they were drawn on the spot at my grandfather's instigation, and I believe I am right in saying it was the only parliamentary report so issued. The state of things in the mines was sufficiently appalling. Children of tender years were employed in opening and shutting little gates in narrow passages of coal. They were untaught, and seldom breathed the fresh air. They were sometimes as young as five years old (parents have been known to send them even at four years old); they sat in small niches, scooped out of the coal, for twelve hours at a time, to watch the doors, and they were alone and in the dark except when a “hurrier” with a candle fastened to his forehead passed along, on hands and knees, dragging a truck.

The suffering was not confined to children; it was found that young girls, married women, and aged and decrepit women were exposed to bearing upon their backs burdens of coal weighing

« AnteriorContinuar »