صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

I need not speak of the excellence of the machinery or of the work: it is well known that the English manufacturers have reduced almost every department of mechanism to what seems to be absolute perfection. But one cares little for the beauty of machinery or its creations when he sees the human frame in ruins. It cannot be forgotten, that as manufactures have gone up, the operatives have gone down.

This general principle may be applied to the whole system of British manufactures; and it is a truth no candid man, who has investigated the subject, will question, that WHILE THE WORK IS MADE PERFECT, THE WORKMAN IS DESTROYED.

But to be more particular. Manchester is the largest manufacturing town in Great Britain ; and in size and population the second city in the kingdom having nearly the same number of inhabitants as New-York. “ Imagine this multitude crowded together in narrow streets, the houses all built of brick and blackened with smoke; frequent buildings among them as large as convents, without their antiquity, without their beauty, without their holiness ; where you hear from within, as you pass along, the everlasting din of machinery; and where, when the bell rings, it is to call wretches to their work instead of their prayers : imagine this, and you have the materials for a picture of Manchester."

I went through several of the largest mills, and some of the smaller

In
every

instance the proVOL. I...)

ones.

prietors and overlookers who led me round wished me to look through their eyes. But having a good pair of my own to which I was more accustomed, I chose to use them. In many of the mills there. were certain large rooms crowded with operatives (I was told), which, for reasons best known to the proprietors, I was not permitted to enter. I can easily imagine that a person may go through many an English factory without seeing much of the evil of the system. An intelligent gentleman, who is familiar with it in all its parts, accompanied me, and pointed out many things which I should not otherwise have observed, and which I shall not soon forget; for I saw much that spoke of sorrow, ignorance, and gloom.

A certain writer says there is a plant in the East Indies, called Veloutier by the French, which exales an odour very agreeable at a distance, but which becomes less so as it is approached, until its smell is insupportably loathsome. Alcetas himself could not have imagined an emblem more appropriate to the manufacturing system of Great Britain. contemplate it from our side of the Atlantic, it seems to be the glory of England, ministering not only to our own luxury, as well as to the wealth of the

proprietors, but to the comfort of vast multitudes who are by it furnished with labour and the reward which industry brings. But the deep poverty and the tears of the operatives we know nothing of.

Not a day in the year passes that the sails of

As we

NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN FACTORIES.

159

[ocr errors]

commerce are not unfurled to bear the manufactured goods of England to foreign countries. Of this England boasts. And well she might, if those astonishing creations of human skill were not the price of blood. The Lancashire manufacturers told us, with an air of exultation worthy of a better cause,

“ There is no idleness among us here ; you see the discipline, the machinery, the division of labour ; we are proud of our skill and industry; we clothe the world;" and they might have added, “strip and starve our labourers to do it.”

But nothing has given me so much pain as to see the utter ruin this system entails upon children. The introduction of labour-saving machinery created a great demand for the labour of children. They can now accomplish as much for their masters in one day by machinery, as strong men could formerly in many; and they work for a few cents a day, and board themselves. I have seen one estimate from high authority, stating that the number of children of both sexes under the age of 18, engaged in the cotton, wool, silk, and flax manufactures of England alone, is over two hundred thousand ; and the whole number of persons employed in the different branches of these four manufactures in Great Britain, is estimated at two millions. But Mr. Baines computes the number of persons directly employed in the manufacture of cotton alone, with those immediately dependant upon them for subsistence, at one and a half million. It should be remembered that this es

timate embraces only the operatives in four branches of the great manufacturing system.

The number of persons engaged in the British coal-trade is said to be over 140,000; one third of whom spend their days under ground, working in the mines. They are a stunted and deformed race of men. Being obliged, in doing their work, to keep themselves in a cramped and unnatural position so much of the time, they become crooked, and even in their common gait walk as though they were crushed down with heavy burdens.

Accidents in coal-mines frequently occur, arising principally from explosions of inflammable gas. The Committee of the House of Commons appointed to examine into the condition of the colliers, reported they had ascertained that 2070 lives had been lost in twenty-five years by these explosions. In no instance had a person in the mines survived the accident to tell how it arose. Mr. Buddle, of Wallsend, an extremely well-informed coal engineer, says that “the number of persons employed under ground on the Tyne are, men, 4937; boys, 3554."

There are over 400 furnaces in Great Britain, employing directly in the production of iron 75,000 persons, and the business provides subsistence for a million. The aggregate amount of iron produced in the year 1839 was 800,000 tons. In the preparation of salt, alum, and other minerals, vast numbers of persons are engaged. The whole number employed in the production of all sorts of iron, hardware, and

WRETCHEDNESS OF THE OPERATIVES

161

cutlery articles, is estimated at 350,000. In the manufacture of jewelry, earthen and glass ware, paper,

woollen stuffs, distilled and fermented liquors, &c., &c., the numbers employed are very great.

There is not a branch of this immense system of manufacture, in which there is not a painful sacrifice of health and life. The ignorance, vice, disease, deformity, and wretchedness of the English operatives, as a body, almost exceed belief. The philanthropists of England should relax nothing in their exertions for the emancipation of the millions still held in bondage in their foreign possessions; but I am persuaded the physical miseries of the English operatives are greater by far than the West India slaves suffered before their emancipation.

The hundreds of thousands of a tender age employed in all these various branches of manufacture, are in all cases the children of the poor: many of them the children of paupers, apprenticed to the proprietors of factories by the parish authorities; for when the father goes to the workhouse, he has no longer any voice in the management of his children. They are separated at the will of the parish. It is said that this class, which is very numerous, fare harder than any other, which can readily be believed.

They are, to all intents and purposes, as absolutely under the control of their masters as though they were slaves. There is hardly an instance in which the law ever interferes for their protection, let

« السابقةمتابعة »