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and cheap locomotion along the Queen's highroads, or such substitutes for them as the Legislature may from time to time introduce, protected by Parliament, but to share, in some proportionate though perhaps indefinite measure, in the advantages of cheapness, rapidity, ease, and safety which the progress of invention and the support of Parliament cornbined enable railway companies to achieve. The supervision of the Board of Trade, provided for by the Act of 1844, and since supplemented by the facile judicial mechanism of the Railway Com. mission, of itself emphasizes the direct and continuous concern of the State in railway management. The provisions contained in the original Act, and in later amending Acts, for cheap Parliamentary trains with third-class carriages covered from the weather, and stopping at convenient places, and for the limitation of the amount of third-class fares, quite as much as the legislative provision for the conveyance of the mails and of military and police forces at certain charges, and for the construction of electric telegraphs under fixed conditions, establish that railway administration is becoming more and more, in fact if not in name, a department of the State, the conduct of which is distributed between State officials and a certain number of private persons, who voluntarily submit themselves to the conditions imposed by law, for the recompense of being admitted to enjoy the speculative advantages of the enterprise. The later policy of Parliament in taking to itself, in the hands of the Government of the day, the entire management of the electric telegraph communication, is a development of the same principle which some persons would note as a hazardous decline towards centralisation. But in truth, the constitutional mean-. Factory Legislation.
ing of the principle involved in all these cases is, that in the great rush of modern inventions and speculative enterprise, the ambition and avarice of special classes of society are likely to have, especially at the outset of a novel enterprise, enormous advantages when brought into competition with the silent and obscure claims of the more dependent classes of the community generally. In such cases the only existing and the only competent friend of the over-ridden weak, and of the neglected poor, is the State, as personated at the time by Parliament. By their laboriously devised and, it may truly be said, laboriously worked machinery of Select Committees, both Houses of Parliament show that they are true to their function of protecting those who cannot protect themselves, not only on the occasion of new railway schemes being propounded, but on any allegation being made of grievances inflicted by existing railway companies. The task engaged in by these Committees was at one time so ponderous as to threaten to absorb the bulk of the time at the disposal of members ; and in spite of the disproportionate amount of representation which the Directorate of railways still secures in the House of Commons, it is to the credit of that House that its responsibilities towards the public in respect of checking, supervising, and controlling new and old companies, are unflinchingly recognised.
(4) The principle of Government interference on behalf of dependent classes of the community, and in the case of industrial enterprises of a constantly increasing magnitude and public importance, is further illustrated by the history of factory legislation, from the Bills and Acts of 1843-45, to Mr. Cross's Consolidation and Amending Act relating to 'factories and workshops' in 1878. The policy of factory legislation, and of the analogous legislation as applied to workshops, and to some extent to agricultural labour, has contemplated several objects, distinct from one another, and of very different degrees of public utility. The original aims of this legislation seem to have been two; that of getting rid of the brutality which attended the employment of women and children in industrial occupations believed to be unsuited for them, as exhibited in the Mines and Collieries Act of 1842; and that of providing for the religious and moral education of the young, as exhibited in Lord Ashley's motion, on the 28th of February, 1843, for an address to the Queen in reference to the subject. But as the policy of protecting women and children became more familiar, and its superficial benefits more conspicuous, Parliament has not taken its stand at the point at which brutality and total educational neglect commence, but has repeatedly endeavoured so to supervise the labour of operatives, especially of women, as to substitute a rigid rule for the flexible arrangements of private contract, thereby driving women away from what in the multitude of cases might be harmless and economically advantageous fields of labour, with the remoter consequence of thinning the labour market, raising prices, and expelling a variety of manufactures to other countries. The subject, of course, is not without its perplexities, and appeals, on the face of it, to a short-sighted and superficial philanthropy. It is thus that Miss Martineau' characterises the political shortcomings, while explaining the immediate objects, of the system of factory laws.
Miss Martineau on Factory Legislation. 133
* As for the factory legislation, it is almost as meí lancholy to witness the efforts made to cure the evils
of our over-wrought competitive system as to con"template the evils themselves. First, we have allowed
our operative population to grow up, in less ignorance 'than some other classes, it is true, but with a wholly 'insufficient knowledge of their own condition and lia•bilities. They have overcrowded the labour-market,
so as to be compelled to work harder, not than other classes of labourers who earn smaller wages, but than ' is good for anybody to labour; and then we try to 'mend the matter by forbidding them to sell more
than a given amount of their labour. It is not thus ' that the excessive competition which is the cause of the mischief can be reduced ; and the true friends of the working freeman felt that he lost nothing, while "he retained his liberty, by the failure of Lord Ashley's 'ten-hour measures of 1844.
Though of late years growing scruples have been felt, and represented in Parliament in speeches and petitions, about the policy of pressing forward the factory-law system, especially as directed to the restriction of women and of children a little below the limiting age, the latest legislation on the subject seems to show that no practical change is yet contemplated; and the whole of this class of legislation proves that Parliament still claims a constitutional competence to revert, if need were, to as disastrous an interference with private industry and trade as that of which the legislation of the early Edwards was a flagrant and hortatory instance.
(5) The policy and constitutional attitude of Parliament affects the social economy of the country in no way more directly than in the resources which are employed for the several purposes of (i) reducing the national debt, (ii) adding to that debt, (iii) devising modes of collecting revenue for the payment of interest on the debt, or for extinguishing the capital.
So far as the treatment of the debt itself is concerned, the policy is either of a chronic and continuous kind, or of an accidental and intermittent kind. The former belongs to times of peace, prosperity, and public contentment generally; the latter to critical and transient emergencies, due to war or the apprehension of war, or to famines or like calamities at home or in the dependencies. It is now a pretty well recognised doctrine that, while on the one hand it is inexpedient to make extravagant and expensive efforts to make any signal reduction of the debt, which was contracted on far easier terms than any money could now be borrowed for liquidating it, yet on the other hand, by the joint methods of applying surplus income and creating terminable annuities, a gradual process of reduction should always be going on. In the case of a special emergency, for which funds in excess of the average annual revenue are needed, and needed at once, a question is always propounded as to whether it is more just and expedient to raise the money by extra taxation,–or, as it is called, within the year,or to create a fresh loan which involves an addition to the public debt, the burden of which is shared by posterity. There is a dangerous proclivity on the part of Governments, especially manifested in the circumstances of the intervention of England in the settlement of the affairs of the Turkish provinces in 1876–78, and generally noticeable in the conduct of military expeditions on the