Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

from three-quarters of a cwt. to 3 cwt. ; often to carry these whilst wading in water up to the ankles, sometimes up to the knees, or to carry them from the bottom of the mine to the bank up steep ladders; to go through the hard work of hewing coal by the side of the men; to drag trucks on all fours harnessed by chains; and that the nature of their work, when hewing coal, constantly obliged them to dispense with most of their clothing

The illustrations in the Report brought all this before my childish imagination very vividly. Perhaps they also, as the Commissioners hoped they might do, caught the attention of busy members of Parliament and learned lords who might not have waded through a lengthy “bluebook” to find the facts which these pictures showed at a glance. The object of the Commissioners was to put the facts strikingly, and in this they succeeded.

Lord Ashley's Bill, based on this Report, encountered great opposition, especially in the House of Lords, many members of which were large proprietors of mines, and in the course of its passage through Parliament it was much

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
[graphic]

Woman drawing truck.

mutilated. Lord Ashley had hoped to prevent any boy under thirteen from working in the mines, but the age of exemption was lowered to ten years old; and his attempt to prohibit the employment of boys and old men in the work of lowering the miners into the pit by means of ropes was also defeated.

Still, the main points were gained; for by Lord Ashley's Bill, which passed in 1844 and was founded on the labours of this and the Factory Commission, not only was it enacted that all children under ten should henceforth be prohibited from working in mines, but that such labour should also be illegal for girls of all ages and for women.

It may be worth noticing that the change in the law did not at first give satisfaction to the miners. The men considered it a great hardship to be deprived of the earnings of their wives and children, and the women themselves complained sorely of being deprived of their work. But time has proved the great benefits of the new system. The men now earn nearly as much as a man and his wife used to do, the presence of the wife in the home causes it to be better

cared for, and the children are free to attend school.

The“ Children's Employment Commission "instituted a further inquiry into the state of young people employed in branches of trade not as yet brought under regulation. This second Report of the Commission, on “Trades and Manufactures,” related to the state of apprentices in the South Staffordshire ironworks, and of young workers in such trades as earthenware-making, calico-printing, paper-making, &c.; and although nothing could be done for them at the time, the regulations recommended in the Report have since been adopted.

These Inquiries—important and interesting as they were-occupied only the hours which my grandfather could spare from his professional work as one of the chief consultants in cases of fever, and a leading London physician.

He went daily from our home in Kentish Town to his rooms in the City, and often used to take me with him as a little child. We usually stopped first at the Fever Hospital, which was then near King's Cross. The Great Northern Railway Station stands now on its site, where I

« AnteriorContinuar »