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- many contrasts are set up in favour of the predial race. It is contended that urban labour is engrossing, unhealthy, and demoralising, .while agricultural occupation is unattended by these evils. As both are necessary, it would be very undesirable that the labouring classes of the country should be so differently and unequally placed. It may not be improper, therefore, to examine the charge.
The employment of families in the manufacturing districts is thought to be a very serious disadvantage. The wife, the child, as well as the husband, are frequently, it is stated, employed in the same mill. Wives, children, husbands, it is admitted, are so employed, but they rarely are members of the same household. If it were so, if it could be so, at least there would be domestic supervision. But in our fields is there no employment of women and children? Does not the traveller descry on every side those groups constantly busy on the soil ? *
* It is not, however, to be understood from the above remarks, that we affirm, by any means, the equal employment of females and children in agriculture with those occupied in manufactures. An analysis of the “Occupation Returns” of the Census Commissioners of 1841, establishes the following, as the respective ratios of Employment for the several Classes enumerated, in Trade and in Agriculture. Agricultural Classes
Great Britain. ....... 59-9 .......
50-5 Bradford........ 60 .......... 31 .............. Halifax ........ 54 .......... 28 .............. 42
The influence of manufacturing labour on health has been loudly asserted, and no doubt is suffered to rest in most minds as to its injuriousness and fatality. The ruddy complexion of the villager is not seen on the cheek of the artizan. The best tended child of the city is not flushed as is the peasant boy and girl. The atmosphere is different in these respective localities. The one has the less healthy, the other the more healthy, air. In comparison, however, of factories and cottages in the same town, it is believed that there can be no question as to the better ventilation. Drier, warmer, freer in circulation, these mighty chambers are opposed most favourably to the rooms of the poor. If this be thought still further evidence against such form of life, it would be easy to show that the cottagehouses of the poor in towns are in every way preferable, within the walls, to the cabins of the rural poor. But is the effect of agricultural labour duly considered ? The figure of the manufacturer continues erect, until age bows it: that of the agrestian early learns to stoop, and the bent head and shoulder are not the awkward carriage of the body, but they reveal its oppressed powers. Every observer must have marked this frequent deformity.
It might surprise those who have only read a certain preparation of Parliamentary evidence, who have received their impression of the manufacturing system from idle or prejudiced rumour, who take for granted that the children of the mill must be distorted in form
and stunted in growth, who would expect to find the streets of the Northern towns filled with spectres of famine and disease, with unsightly shapes and aspects,
-it might surprise such persons to enter the Sabbath Schools which there abound and flourish. Let them pass along row after row, let them pause at group after group. Where can children be found better fed, better clothed, better tended, — more sprightly, more intelligent, more happy ? Whit-Monday is the common Sabbath School Holyday of those parts. Would that the maligners of factories beheld that spectacle ! The health, the neatness, the joyance, of that anniversary might strike them with shame and turn them to truth ! It is a Pentecost to convince the gainsayer and the churl.
The greater happiness of the agricultural labourer is affirmed. But so long as happiness is a general word, this assumption is gratuitous. To many, a brutal existence suggests the only idea of happiness, which would be interrupted and marred by thought and study. If they be right, every man is more happy as he recedes from the means and provocatives of intelligence,—that is, as he becomes less and less the man. But the animal happiness of every day must mainly depend upon the satisfaction of our natural cravings. And do we imagine that the skilled labourer is only doomed to struggle with privation, and that the countryman riots in fulness of bread ? Where is this Arcadia of sylvan bliss ? Where are the regions through which these Georgics sound? The peasantry of this country is very generally in a most degraded condition. Their food, their apparel, their lodging, are much below those of the manufacturing vicinage. Or, is happiness to be computed by liberty ? We deny not that despotism is the temptation and abuse of power in all circumstances. But we are quite sure that, if the proprietor of the mill were to attempt the exercise of his influence in the same manner with which landowners threaten their tenants and tenants their servants, they would presently feel the impotence of their endeavour and the ridicule of their position. It may be said, that at least the field-labourer knows not confinement, but is refreshed by the breath and light of heaven. All this may be preferable; but it is a tethered freedom still; it is a drudgery, in many of its duties, which is not envied by the craftsman: it is an exposure to the skiey influences which might be often cheerfully exchanged for the mansion of mechanical art.
They who are acquainted with the country-life of England, its “rural reign," cannot fail to be surprised at the panegyrics which certain orators declaim on that class of its population. We speak mainly of the Southern counties. We forget not exceptions even there. That population is ground down to the earth. It is well-nigh pauperised. We honouringly contrast its patience, its contentment, its cheerfulness, with its treatment. Half- fed and that often on a miserable
pulse, wages reduced to the lowest point of sustentation, through every hour hanging on abject conditions, every expression of personal preference in religion and politics scornfully denied, - we may wonder at their forbearance. They are often cared for less than the clod of the valley, or the herd of the stall. Soils shall be improved. Breeds shall be perfected. Stock shall be adjudged with honour. Cultivation shall be assisted with every experiment and be rewarded with every prize. And then, when some monstrous growth, some crass carcase, some field implement, has been lauded to the echo which applauds again,- à poor labourer is introduced, and he shares in the honours of the show, for having brought up so many children without parish pay! Nature and ingenuity have been racked in the other instances of success, and surely not the less in this! It is an appropriate climax to the fete! An admiring district can scarcely determine where the greater glory of invention falls !
The question of the comparative morality of these departments is, of all, the most important. It is not to be decided by a glance. It is commonly taken for granted that the country is the favourite scene and haunt of the virtues. The cottier is the Adamite dressing his plat on the outer fence of Eden. The village green and oak might be the neighbourhood of Mamre. Here simplicity has received no blight, and purity. no taint. Pastorals fill the air, and the melody of woods and brooks swells the chant of native reeds. But