Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

county of Lincoln, (we proceed on the Population Returns of the year 1841) contains more acres than any other, save Yorkshire, which is always considered as three counties under different Lords Lieutenant. Next to Lincoln is Devonshire in its extent: the former comprising 1,671,040 acres; the latter, 1,654,400. Now being great agricultural districts, what is the number of their inhabitants ? Lincoln only counts 362,602. Devon only comprehends 533,460. Let us now take two manufacturing regions. Lancashire consists of fewer acres than either of the foregoing, namely 1,130,240,—that is, less by no inferior measurement than above half a million. But what is its population ? 1,667,054: that is, a million and beyond a quarter of inhabitants more than Lincoln: and a million and beyond a hundred thousand above Devon. The West-Riding of Yorkshire contains 1,648,640 acres. Its population is 1,154,101. This space is less by 22,400 acres than Lincoln, and 5760 than Devon ; but it exceeds the population of the first by seven hundred and ninety-one thousand, four hundred and ninety-nine ; and that of the second by six hundred and twenty thousand, six hundred and forty-one. This calculation will make it obvious that, in Lancashire and the West-Riding, there is a very great density of population. Now this is not generally favourable to health. Land being very valuable, streets are confined and houses are huddled together. The Sanitary Report of large towns is, therefore, in general unpromising.

es.

This is considered, however, unfairly. It is employed to prove the unhealthiness of manufactures. But the closeness of residences is only an accident. Is employment in the factory detrimental to health and life? We have not yet seen it proved. If there be excess of labour in the mill or in the field, it must be injurious, and there are no terms sufficiently strong to denounce it. If children should be so oppressed, if they be overworked to deformity, these lines are intended for no apology,—The Lord look upon it and require it! If casualties arise in the use of machinery from gross neglect, not one word shall pass us to extenuate such reckless barbarity. But are these employments mischievous ? The attention should, in justice, be restricted to this. The town of Leeds has been thus put forth to an unhappy prominence. It may not be salubrious : but are its mechanical employments the cause of so low a figure as indicates its mortality ? Now, in the first place, the labourers of every kind, in every town, are deemed most likely victims of early death. The Poor Law Commissioners have made their Report upon the comparative chances of life in different places, but the average ages are always in this order, -gentlemen and professional men and their families the highest,

tradesmen and their families the next,--and labourers, artizans, and others similarly employed, and their families, are placed at the lowest point of the scale. And this is found, not only in the Whitechapel and

the Strand Unions, London,-in Kensington Union, perhaps its most healthy suburb, but in counties such as Rutland, Wiltshire, and Westmoreland. It seems the law. We are not called to explain it. But is it not alike the law ? It is so in Leeds, a thorough manufacturing town, covered with a dim canopy of smoke, ill-built and ill-drained, whose water, until very lately, imbibed the deposits of all its feculence, all its manufacturing and dyeing lees. And yet Liverpool, not a manufacturing town, with every advantage of acclivity to a mighty estuary, with transparent atmosphere, with municipal opulence, reckons against the 20 deaths of children at Leeds, no fewer than 60 ; and Bath opposes to the same number 32 deaths. These are children of the first class : but also to 2245 deaths of servants in Leeds, Liverpool gives 4004. The Wiltshire Unions furnish as large a rate of deaths at particular ages between 10 and 20 years, as the reputedly shortest lived town in the kingdom. But examine that town. If manufacture be the cause of its mortality, all parts of it will nearly be the same. But there is a discrepancy in different wards of one death to the whole population in 23, and of one to 36. That locality has much to do with it is evident, for the proportion of deaths in the environs of the Metropolis, and of Manchester and Leeds, is less than among the highest classes in two of the agricultural counties.* Allowance is, of course, to be made in the above estimates for the relative size of the towns and their respective populations.

* Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Class, &c.

There are adverse propositions offered by certain theorists, -one tells us that it would be no loss to the country if every factory were swallowed up, and another, a poetaster, cares not what be wrecked so that our old nobility be saved. This may be a very lofty and generous vein. In the mean while, a serious business remains : a people must be fed. The question is not, what might be best in other circumstances; but, what is to be done in ours ? The manufacturing districts are constantly increasing in population. In 1811 the agricultural population were as 352 in the 1000 of the whole. In 1821 they decreased to 332. In 1831 they declined to 281. In 1841 they had sunk to 232. Calculating by the same ratio, in 1861 they will be reduced to 175. The manufacturing population had multiplied proportionately on one-third of the area of the country. They are now, in that narrow space, 54 per cent. of the entire population ; while, on the other two-thirds, the agricultural population is only 46 per cent. out of the whole. In the manufacturing seats, the poor-rates are only 4s. 10d. per head, while in the agricultural they are 7s. 10d. Here is, then, the refuge for what otherwise would be a superfetate population. And yet this is the system to be swept away! What would be the condition of the farming counties if all who claimed settlement in them were driven back upon them! What would be the sustentation of the labourer if all the crowded regions of manufacture were thinned of those who did not belong to them by birthright, and only rural occupation was left! What would be the indescribable disproportion of labour to hands, and of food to mouths, if there were an equable dispersion and distribution of the population over the soil, and nothing but its tillage spared for their reward !

The invective against the Factory, against its encroachment upon the retreats of Nature, against its wild disturbance of her quiet and sacrilegious profanation of her sanctity, -setting itself amidst woodland and lake, by dingle and river,-might but amuse. Wordsworth and Whitaker can rail in good round terms. Poet and Antiquarian stint not phrase nor temper.

But Prejudice has blindly assailed the manufacturing system of the kingdom. One of the chief charges against it is, its infant labour. This is accused as the reason of such frequent early deaths. Yet the figure, however large, of that mortality, points to ages of life long before youthful labour can commence. Such labour never did exist. Children's labour certainly does. Their probable sphere of life is that of industry, and to industry they should be trained. Their education, however scanty, depends upon the price of their industry. It may be a stern necessity. But if mechanic life be miserable, if the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »