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III.—THE EMPLOYMENT OF CHILDREN IN TRADES AND MANUFACTURES NOT ALREADY REGULATED BY LAW.
Few questions connected with the condition of the industrial classes are more important or interesting than those relating the employ: ment of children and young persons in the various workshops and factories of the kingdom. Impartially considered, it is to be feared that, in many cases, the employment of children is but a species of infant-slavery, most pernicious in its social and physical consequences, and the burden of which lies too frequently at the door of the parents, as well as at that of the employer. The evils connected with the system are so prominent, that the subject has more than once occupied the attention of the legislature, and in 1833 an attempt was made to meet a portion of the mischief, by passing an Act prohibiting the employment of children under nine years of
age in certain classes of factories, at the same time forbidding those under thirteen years of age from working " full-time.” At first, the adoption of this Act was strenuously opposed by many of the principal mill-owners, who naturally entertained a belief that its provisions, if enforced, would materially interfere with the efficient working of their establishments.
After a few months had elapsed, these opinions of the employers became considerably modified, and they were constrained to admit that, so far as the children were concerned, the Act of 1833 had proved extremely beneficial in its operation. But, considering the Act was somewhat experimental in its nature, it is not surprising to find that it contained some defects, which occasioned many just complaints, and ultimately led to the passing, in 1844, of the present Factories' Regulation Act, whereby the age of children employed as short-timers was reduced from nine to eight years. The new Act was found to be productive of considerable advantages, both to the employers and the employed; the difficulties attending the enforcement of its clauses having been greatly exaggerated; while the periodical reports of the factory inspectors bore ample testimony to the numerous advantages which it had conferred upon the children employed in factory labour.
Two or three years ago the principal features of the Factories' Regulation Act were embodied in a measure intended for the relief of children and females employed in bleaching and dye-works, and which also afforded Mr. J. A. Roebuck, M.P., an opportunity of uttering one of the most effective speeches ever made in the House of Commons. The speech of the Member for Sheffield prepared, in some degree, the way for the movement which led to the appointment, in February, 1862, of a Royal Commission for the purpose of inquiring into “ the employment of children and young persons in trades and manufactures not already regulated by law.”
The first Report of this Commission has just been published, and contains much information of a valuable and interesting nature respecting the condition of the children employed in the pottery, lucifer-match, percussion-cap, paper-staining, lace, and hosiery manufactures, and in the local trades known as fustian-cutting,
finishing,” etc.; besides a large amount of evidence with respect to the systematic violation of the law relating to the employment of climbing boys by chimney-sweepers. The details contained in the Commissioners' Report reveal the existence of a terrible state of things, so far as the mental and physical condition of the children employed in several of these trades are concerned.
THE POTTERY MANUFACTURE. In our pottery manufactures, which are chiefly carried on in certain parts of Staffordshire, large numbers of children and young persons are employed in a manner utterly unsuited to their age and extremely prejudicial to their health. Indeed, the system has been carried on to such an extent that Mr. Benjamin Boothroyd, surgeon and mayor of Hanley, has stated that, with respect to the children employed, the Staffordshire pottery manufacture is
one of the most deleterious and destructive of human life in the country;" an assertion which is corroborated by Mr. Charles Parsons, late house surgeon of the North Staffordshire Infirmary, who declared that his “ indignation has been again and again aroused at the sight of poor children whose health has been sacrificed to gratify the avarice of either parents or employers.". To the late Josiah Wedgwood belongs the honour of having raised the English pottery manufacture to its present state of national importance, by introducing every available scientific and mechanical improvement into the old mode of manufacture. Unfortunately, while studying the improvement of the product, that of the producer has been to a great extent forgotten, and the result is, that the more perfect the manufacture, the greater are the sacrifices demanded of the workers, especially those of tender years. In Dr. Greenhow's Report, published in 1860, Mr. Boothroyd states that each successive generation of potters becomes less robust than the preceding one. No wonder, then, that the Royal Commissioners, after perusing the large and voluminous body of evidence collected by Mr. Longe, one of their Assistant Commissioners, should have expressed a hope “ that a manufacture which has assumed so prominent a place in the eyes of the world will not be long subject to the remark, that its great success is accompanied with the physical deterioration, wide-spread bodily suffering, and early death of the work people, especially those of tender and immature age, by whose labour and skill such great results have been achieved.
To properly understand the nature of the labour to which the children employed in the pottery manufacture are subjected, it is necessary to explain that in the manufacture there are certain processes, such as flat-pressing” and “painting,” in which children are largely employed. These processes have been declared, on apparently unexceptional testimony, to be decidedly injurious in their effects
upon the health of the workers, especially those of tender years. The male children are employed principally in connection with the process of “ flat-pressing,” which includes the making of
plates, dishes, saucers, and other articles of common use. has from one to four boys, as mould-runners” and “ jiggerers." The “ mould-runner" has to carry away the articles as fast as they are moulded by the potter, and place them in the hot oven in which they are dried.
This description of labour is most unhealthy for young persons, inasmuch as it involves their continual exposure to great Auctuations of temperature, independent of the fatigue arising from their being kept running backwards and forwards all day. The "jiggerer" is employed in turning the potter's wheel, a labour not fatiguing in itself, but which becomes so from the length of the hours of employment. The youngest children are generally employed in “jiggering”. They are also employed in various other ways. The female children are chiefly occupied in painting the cheaper class of earthenware, and in assisting the printers of the same. Their principal grievance is the being kept many hours at sedentary labour in close, hot, and ill-ventilated workshops. The total number of children thus employed is supposed to be about 11,000, including those at Glasgow, Newcastle, and other places. A few begin to work between the ages of six and seven, and even earlier ; but the largest number commence at the age of eight. The hours of labour are generally from 64 A.M. to 64 P.M., except on Saturdays, when work ceases in some factories at 2 P.m., and in others at 4 P.M. But these hours are frequently exceeded in the case of pressing orders, on which occasions children, as well as adults, are employed to 8 or 9 P.m., and sometimes, it is believed, through the night. The irregular habits of the men, occasioned by intemperance, also frequently lead to the children being considerably overy
erworked, for the purpose of making up lost time. "Cup-makers, for instance," said one witness, “ will be off drinking, and then work their children almost to death. They are generally drunken men who do this." The employers cannot interfere, as the children are generally employed by the men themselves. Children are also employed in carrying the dried ware to be “ dipped;" that is, dipped in the solution which forms the glazed surface, and which, from the amount of lead contained therein, is very injurious to the health of all thus employed. As might be expected, the state of education amongst the young is extremely defective, and none have felt this more than the employers themselves. In fact, so strong were their feelings on this subject, that they addressed a memorial, signed by 26 firms in Staffordshire, to the Home Secretary, praying for an inquiry into the subject. In this memorial, the employers stated that the present condition of things is “the cause of various evils to the youthful population of the district, by occasioning a vast amount of ignorance, as evinced by the fact that, out of 670 working children questioned on the subject, 185 (or 27.6 per cent.) professed themselves unable to read :" also by the unanimous testimony of resident medical persons to the effect that “ the employment of children at so tender an age is injurious to their health, stunts their growth, and causes in many cases a tendency to consumption, distortion of the spine, &c.” The same state of things is found to prevail in the potteries in other parts of the kingdom,
THE LUCIFER-Match MANUFACTURE. The common lucifer-match has now become an article of household necessity, and its manufacture is principally carried on in London, although there are many manufactories in the provincial towns. The larger number of manufacturers are persons in a very humble condition of life, who usually reside in the most squalid and povertystricken portions of the district. These generally each employ a few children, in addition to the members of their own families, in preparing the lucifer-matches for sale. These children are described as being the lowest of the low, and the poorest of the poor; and so faithfully has this statement been borne out by the evidence collected by Mr. J. E. White, that the Commissioners have felt themselves bound to affirm in their report, that “ the mental state, indeed, of the great mass of the children and young persons in this branch of business, as exhibited by the evidence, is one which cannot be contemplated without calling for an effort to remove a dark blot from that portion of society."
No better illustration can be afforded of the truth contained in these remarks, than that given in the evidence of George Stiff, aged 12, and himself the son of a small manufacturer. His replies were as follows: “Knows the letters. Cannot spell. Never heard any one preach or pray in his life. Has heard of a Christian. Does not know whether he is one or not, or what being christened or baptised is. Has not heard of the gospel or Jesus Christ.” The larger class of lucifer-match manufactories belong to men of capital, and are conducted upon better principles than those of the smaller makers. Indeed, the state of more than one such factory proves that it is possible, consistently with commercial
" success, so to carry on the lucifer-match manufacture, as to reduce, almost to a minimum, the probabilities of the deplorable results upon the human frame which have hitherto attended some of its processes.” This is an allusion to a disease peculiar to the workers engaged in this branch of industry, and which is known as the “jaw disease," or, scientifically speaking, “necrosis of the jaw.” The
” disease is one of the most terrible which can afflict humanity, and is occasioned by the action of the phosphorus, used in making the matches, upon the bones of the face, especially the teeth and jaws, leading to their decay, and ultimate disappearance. The accounts given of the effects of this disease upon the health, and even the lives of the workers, are perfectly shocking. But a gleam of comfort remains in the fact that it is probable that at no distant day the use of the white phosphorus, from which the whole of the mischief arises, will be superseded by that of the red, or amorphous kind, which is said to be perfectly harmless. Many of the worse features of the disease are also preventible by paying due attention to sanitary precautions; which, however, in the case of the small manufacturers, can scarcely be enforced without throwing the whole trade into the hands of the large employers. The total number of children and young persons employed in the whole trade is about 1,800, many of whom are extremely young, some entering the trade at seven, others at six, and a few even at five years of age. The children are em
ployed from about six A.m. to six P.M., passing the time in close and badly ventilated rooms, powerfully charged with the noxious fumes of sulphur and phosphorus. They are principally employed in filling the frames in which the matches are placed preparatory to“ dipping," or putting the lighting composition on the tips of the matches
THE PERCUSSION-CAP MANUFACTURE. Excluding the Government manufactory at Woolwich, the percussion-cap manufacture is confined to six factories, two of which are situated in or near London, and the other four at Birmingham. In these establishments about 150 children and young persons, principally females, are employed. The manufacture is described as being the most dangerous of all general manufactures, but the number of children employed under the age of 13 is very small. Mr. J. E. White, the Assistant Commissioner, states that “the young persons and children engaged in the above manufactories, as a rule, earn higher wages, and are of a better class, better fed, clothed, and cleaner in body, and, notwithstanding cases of extreme ignorance, better taught, and altogether brighter in mind than those engaged in the lucifer-match manufactories."
THE PAPER-STAINING MANUFACTURE. Mr. H. W. Lord, Assistant Commissioner, states that the total number of children and young persons, employed in the paperstaining manufacture, is about 1,150, of which 426 work in London, and the remainder in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and elsewhere. As in the potteries, the labour of the children is not in itself fatiguing, but becomes so by the length of the hours of labour, a very large amount of “overtime” being alleged to be necessary during the busy season, which lasts from October to the end of April. Paper-staining is divided into two branches, viz., chine-printing” and “ block-printing,” the latter being the handprocess. The children employed in “machine-printing” have to lay the paper in lengths in readiness for being printed, and to roll it up when printed. They also help in “ marbling" papers, and in spreading the woolly matter upon flock papers. In the case of blockprinting the duties of the children are much the same, except that some are employed as teerers,” and have to hang up on moveable rods the paper as it is printed, for the purpose of allowing it to dry. In some places, no stoppages are allowed for meals, and both adults and children have to get their meals in the workroom, as they watch the machinery in motion. The trade is not essentially an unhealthy one; and the dirty and ragged appearance of the workers arises rather from carelessness than poverty on the part of the children's parents. Mr. Lord also stated, in justice both to employers and employed, that he had not in his investigations “met with any of those painful instances in children and others of impenetrable stupidity, and hopeless indifference to, and ignorance of, all things around them beyond the mere routine of their own daily labour, which attach so lamentable a stigma to many of the trades and manufactures reported on by the last Children's Employment Commission in 1843.”