Изображения страниц

will first reduce its duties on British manufactures. We ought to make at once those alterations in our duties on corn and other articles of consumption, which the necessities of our own people so imperatively require. Let it be known to Germany, and all other countries, that Great Britain has abandoned altogether the system of restriction; that she has determined upon a really liberal Tariff, as an example to other nations, and to induce them to reciprocate with her. Concessions will then come spontaneously from foreign states, because they will have before them--what they have never yet had the certainty of the benefits which such concessions will ensure to them. There is but one way of permanently securing the foundations of our commercial prosperity; and that is, not to endeavour to obtain any special advantages from particular nations, but to deal with all the world upon the same fair and liberal terms.* We repeat, let the British tariff be framed upon the basis of the true interests of the British people, and we shall not fail to derive the utmost advantages which are attainable from the reciprocal concessions of foreign countries. Our moderation and liberality would be appreciated in the best of markets-that of the whole civilized world.

It is right, before concluding, to distinguish the Tariff of the Zollverein from that of those northern states which have kept aloof from it; especially as their import duties are very much lower than those of the Zollverein. The Hanoverian Tariff is lower, generally by one half, in some cases by more than two-thirds. For example, the Hanoverian duties are, uponCotton yarn unbleached,

LO 3 1 per centner.
Cotton manufactures,

1 17 6 do.
Woollen manufactures, from 1


1 17 65 exclusive, however, of the Stade duties, which Hanover continues to levy by the mere sufferance of Great Britain and other powers. The import duties of Mecklenburg are very low, being less than two per cent on foreign manufactures. Hamburg levies only one-half per cent ad valorem on imports, and one-eighth per cent on exports, and allows goods in transit to pass duty free

5 il do.

* This principle is enunciated in the minute of the Board of Trade, in reply to Baron Maltzalın, dated 16th January 1826 ; whilst the same minute most inconsistently vindicates protecting duties, and in partiçular the laws which restrict the importation of foreign corn.

under certain regulations. The accession of these northern states to their body is anxiously desired by the Zollverein communities ; it is a favourite object not only of the Zollvereinsblatt, but of many reflecting persons of more moderate views. The present state of opinion in these northern states, including the Hanseatic towns, seems to be tending towards their accession at no very distant period. We are fully sensible of the advantages arising from the moderate Tariffs of these detached states; and wish there was any prospect of their example influencing the rest of Germany. But we have no faith in the possibility of their being able long to resist that strong current of feeling and opinion which is nationalizing Germany, and which must force them, whether for good or evil, into that union which we have described as the real Germanic confederation. It would therefore be but a small and short-sighted policy on the part of Great Britain, if she were to busy herself in trying to counteract a general union of the states of Germany. The mere market of the detached states is not worth consideration, in comparison with the main point of improving our commercial relations with Germany at sarge; and the inclusion of all these northern states within the Zollverein, would be more likely than any thing we know to liberalize the character of that association. They are chiefly agricultural, and their interest consequently lies rather in the extension of foreign commerce, than in meeting the selfish views of the manufacturers of the south and west. Hamburg must of course remain a free port, receiving and transmitting foreign merchandize like other free ports. She might be to the Zollverein states what Trieste is to the Austrian dominions. But these are arrangements with which Britain has no legitimate concern. The true object of British policy is, not to counteract the extension of the Zollverein to the rest of Germany, but to weaken and destroy that mischievous influence which is now by far too predominant—the influence of monopoly and class interests, With such interests we have no sympathy; but for Germany herself, our feelings are those of friendship and goodwill; and we do not yet despair of seeing the Zollverein converted into an instrument for good, if England will only do her share in the work, and prove the sincerity of her professions, by setting herself the example of that policy which she recommends to the adoption of others.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Art. V.-1. Children's Employment Commission. Ordered by

the House of Commons to be Printed. First Report. 1842.

Folio. 2. Children's Employment Commission. Second Report. 1843.

Folio. 3. Physical and Moral condition of Children and Young Per

sons employed in Mines and Manufactures. By Authority. 8vo. 1843.

THERE is always in this country a vast amount of floating

philanthropy at work, amply sufficient to remedy almost every social evil under which we labour-were it but more cautious, sober, and enlightened ;--preceded by more diligent enquiry, animated by a purer zeal, and guided by more sound and systematic principle. Unfortunately, however, the spirit of humanity, as commonly manifested among us, has something morbid, roaming, and restless in its character, which materially impairs both its purity and its usefulness. There is too little that is patient, searching, or comprehensive in its investigations ; and too much that is unsound in the activity with which it is ever prowling about for some victim to rescue, or some oppressor to devour. But the worst feature of this spirit among us is, that the remoter the suffering, the keener the sympathy and the indignation it excites ;—and that we are always most indefatigably active at a convenient distance from home.

It cannot be doubted that there is more busy, prying, laborious benevolence in England than in any country under the sun. Yet nowhere does the condition of society present more dreadful wretchedness, or a more appalling catalogue of unreformed though recognised abuses.' Whence arises this anomaly? The explanation we believe to be twofold ;—that our philanthropists prefer the pleasure of enacting a remedy, to the sabour of investigating the disease; and that, whenever they have a choice, they like foreign service best. They are fonder of operating on the mote abroad, than mindful of the beam at home, The vice of opium-smoking in China offends them more than the vice of gin-drinking in England. Their charity finds its most congenial occupation at the Antipodes.

These remarks have been suggested by a comparison of the volumes at the head of this article with the report of the • Factory • Commission,' which appeared some years ago—a comparison from which many important conclusions may be drawn. About ten years since, after the grievance of West Indian slavery bad

[ocr errors]

been fully examined, and in a great degree removed, the condition of children employed in factories attracted the commiseration of some very well-intentioned, but not very well-informed, or very sober-minded philanthropists; and the public was shocked and astounded by descriptions of cotton-mills in which infants of tender years were kept to hard labour for fifteen, and even eighteen, hours a day, and were subjected to the most cruel treatment; and in which, moreover, immorality of every kind prevailed to a horrible extent. The columns of the daily press, and the speeches of parliamentary orators, abounded with statements of this kind, which met with ready credence and ardent sympathyespecially in London, and generally in the south of England, where the real state of the factory population was unknown; and the excitement of the public mind became so great upon the subject, that an application made by the manufacturers to Parliament, requesting them simply to enquire whether these things were,' only escaped rejection by a majority of one.

A Commission was, however, issued, which examined minutely into the condition of the children and young persons employed in factories, and which published three voluminous reports. From these it appeared that many of the allegations which had been made against factory labour were wholly untrue, and that nearly all had been grossly exaggerated—that the general hours of employment were twelve, and that the instances in which this number was exceeded were extremely rare--that the occupation of the children during these hours was commonly light, and suited to their strength—that they were seldom admitted into factories till they were nine years old*—that cases of ill treatment were exceedingly rare, and where they did occur, were chargeable, not upon the masters, but upon the workmen, and often on the parents of the children; and lastly, that there was no reason to believe that those employed in factories were either more unhealthy, or more immoral, than others of the same class in life, and that there was some reason to believe the exact contrary.

Notwithstanding the authority with which these statements came forth, the impression made upon the public mind had been too strong to be speedily removed ; and, moreover, it was felt on all hands that, even admitting the entire correctness of the Commissioners' report, there were evils in the factory system which called for regulation—that twelve hours a-day was long enough for any one to work, and too long to be desirable either for the

* Silk factories, which are exempted from the operation of the law, were, however, an exception.

[ocr errors]

bodily or mental welfare of children; and an act was accordingly passed, which has ever since been in force, fixing the age of admission at nine years, and the period of work for children at eight hours daily ; and making a clumsy and inefficient provision for their instruction. In spite, however, of the favourable report of the Commissioners, and the effectiveness of the regulations established by this act, an impression continued to prevail, that the manufacturers were the most cruel of masters, and the people they employed the most oppressed and overlaboured of the working population ; and repeated application was made to Parliament for new and more stringent enactments to remedy abuses which had long ceased to exist, and which never had existed to any thing approaching the extent that was believed.

Two years ago, however, it occurred to the minds of our more active philanthropists, that there might be some truth in the suggestion long since made to them by persons better acquainted with the poorer classes than our legislators generally are—viz., that vast numbers of children were employed in a variety of other trades besides the cotton and woollen manufactures—that of the condition of the work-people in these trades the public knew absolutely nothing; and that evils and abuses as great as any previously discovered might, on enquiry, be found to exist among them. On the motion of Lord Ashley, accordingly, a Commission was issued, “to enquire into the numbers and condition of

children and young persons engaged in various employments not under the control of the Factories' Regulation Act ;' and the result of this enquiry is now published in the two reports at the head of the present article--one relating to mines, and the other to miscellaneous trades and manufactures.

The contents of these volumes are deeply interesting, and for the most part exceedingly painful—displaying an extent and severity of suffering and degradation among sections of our working population which few had previously suspected; and proving too, beyond question, that of all the occupations in which children and young persons are engaged, factory labour (to which public scrutiny had hitherto been exclusively directed) is the most gentle in amount, the most moderate in duration, the best regulated, the best remunerated, and the least injurious to either health or morals;-that, in consequence, by confining our interference to factories alone, and thereby driving children out of them into less desirable employments, * we have not

* Mr Senor, on questioning a little lad whom he found labouring in a coal-pit near Hyde, as to what he was about in such an unfit place,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »