The Condition of the Working Class in England


{7} According to Porter’s Progress of the Nation, London, 1836, vol. i., 1838, vol. ii., 1843, vol. iii. (official data), and other sources chiefly official.

{20} Compare on this point my “Outlines for a Critique of Political Economy” in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.

{23} This applies to the time of sailing vessels. The Thames now is a dreary collection of ugly steamers.—F. E.

{32} Times, Oct. 12th, 1843.

{33} Quoted by Dr. W. P. Alison, F.R.S.E, Fellow and late President of the Royal College of Physicians, etc. etc. “Observations on the Management of the Poor in Scotland and its Effects on the Health of Great Towns.” Edinburgh, 1840. The author is a religious Tory, brother of the historian, Archibald Alison.

{35a} “Report to the Home Secretary from the Poor-Law Commissioners on an Inquiry into the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Classes in Great Britain with Appendix.” Presented to both Houses of Parliament in July 1842, 3 vols. Folio.

{35b} The Artisan, October, 1842.

{38} “Arts and Artisan at Home and Abroad,” by J. C. Symonds, Edinburgh, 1839. The author, as it seems, himself a Scotchman, is a Liberal, and consequently fanatically opposed to every independent movement of working-men. The passages here cited are to be found p. 116 et seq.

{40a} It must be borne in mind that these cellars are not mere storing-rooms for rubbish, but dwellings of human beings.

{40b} Compare Report of the Town Council in the Statistical Journal, vol. 2, p. 404.

{49} “The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working-Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester.” By James Ph. Kay, M.D. 2nd Ed. 1832.

Dr. Kay confuses the working-class in general with the factory workers, otherwise an excellent pamphlet.

{55} And yet an English Liberal wiseacre asserts, in the Report of the Children’s Employment Commission, that these courts are the masterpiece of municipal architecture, because, like a multitude of little parks, they improve ventilation, the circulation of air! Certainly, if each court had two or four broad open entrances facing each other, through which the air could pour; but they never have two, rarely one, and usually only a narrow covered passage.

{63} Nassau W. Senior. “Letters on the Factory Act to the Rt. Hon. the President of the Board of Trade” (Chas. Poulett Thompson, Esq.), London, 1837, p. 24.

{64} Kay, loc. cit., p. 32.

{65} P. Gaskell. “The Manufacturing Population of England: its Moral, Social and Physical Condition, and the Changes which have arisen from the Use of Steam Machinery; with an Examination of Infant Labour.” “Fiat Justitia,” 1833.—Depicting chiefly the state of the working-class in Lancashire. The author is a Liberal, but wrote at a time when it was not a feature of Liberalism to chant the happiness of the workers. He is therefore unprejudiced, and can afford to have eyes for the evils of the present state of things, and especially for the factory system. On the other hand, he wrote before the Factories Enquiry Commission, and adopts from untrustworthy sources many assertions afterwards refuted by the Report of the Commission. This work, although on the whole a valuable one, can therefore only be used with discretion, especially as the author, like Kay, confuses the whole working-class with the mill hands. The history of the development of the proletariat contained in the introduction to the present work, is chiefly taken from this work of Gaskell’s.

{67} Thomas Carlyle. “Chartism,” London, 1840, p. 28.

{80} Adam Smith. “Wealth of Nations” I., McCulloch’s edition in one volume, sect. 8, p. 36: “The wear and tear of a slave, it has been said, is at the expense of his master, but that of a free servant is at his own expense. The wear and tear of the latter, however, is, in reality, as much at the expense of his master as that of the former. The wages paid to journeymen and servants of every kind, must be such as may enable them, one with another, to continue the race of journeymen and servants, according as the increasing, diminishing, or stationary demand of the society may happen to require. But though the wear and tear of a free servant be equally at the expense of his master, it generally costs him much less than that of a slave. The fund for replacing or repairing, if I may say so, the wear and tear of the slave, is commonly managed by a negligent master or careless overseer.”

{87} And it came in 1847.

{90a} Archibald Alison. “Principles of Population and their Connection with Human Happiness,” two vols., 1840. This Alison is the historian of the French Revolution, and, like his brother, Dr. W. P. Alison, a religious Tory.

{90b} “Chartism,” pp. 28, 31, etc.

{95} When as here and elsewhere I speak of society as a responsible whole, having rights and duties, I mean, of course, the ruling power of society, the class which at present holds social and political control, and bears, therefore, the responsibility for the condition of those to whom it grants no share in such control. This ruling class in England, as in all other civilised countries, is the bourgeoisie. But that this society, and especially the bourgeoisie, is charged with the duty of protecting every member of society, at least, in his life, to see to it, for example, that no one starves, I need not now prove to my German readers. If I were writing for the English bourgeoisie, the case would be different. (And so it is now in Germany. Our German capitalists are fully up to the English level, in this respect at least, in the year of grace, 1886.)

{100a} Dr. Alison. “Management of the Poor in Scotland.”

{100b} Alison. “Principles of Population,” vol. ii.

{100c} Dr. Alison in an article read before the British Association for the Advancement of Science. October, 1844, in York.

{104} “Manufacturing Population,” ch 8.

{105a} Report of Commission of Inquiry into the Employment of Children and Young Persons in Mines and Collieries and in the Trades and Manufactures in which numbers of them work together, not being included under the terms of the Factories’ Regulation Act. First and Second Reports, Grainger’s Report. Second Report usually cited as “Children’s Employment Commission’s Report.” First Report, 1841; Second Report, 1843.

{105b} Fifth Annual Report of the Reg. Gen. of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.

{106} Dr. Cowen. “Vital Statistics of Glasgow.”

{107} Report of Commission of Inquiry into the State of Large Towns and Populous Districts. First Report, 1844. Appendix.

{108a} Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Reports, 3rd vol. Report of Dr. Hawkins on Lancashire, in which Dr. Robertson is cited—the “Chief Authority for Statistics in Manchester.”

{108b} Quoted by Dr. Wade from the Report of the Parliamentary Factories’ Commission of 1832, in his “History of the Middle and Working-Classes.” London, 1835, 3rd ed.

{112a} Children’s Employment Commission’s Report. App. Part II. Q. 18, No. 216, 217, 226, 233, etc. Horne.

{112b} Ibid. evidence, p. 9, 39; 133.

{113a} Ibid. p. 9, 36; 146.

{113b} Ibid. p. 34; 158.

{113c} Symonds’ Rep. App. Part I., pp. E, 22, et seq.

{115a} “Arts and Artisans.”

{115b} “Principles of Population,” vol. ii. pp. 136, 197.

{116} We shall see later how the rebellion of the working-class against the bourgeoisie in England is legalised by the right of coalition.

{117a} “Chartism,” p. 34, et seq.

{117b} Ibid., p. 40.

{119} Shall I call bourgeois witnesses to bear testimony from me here, too? I select one only, whom every one may read, namely, Adam Smith. “Wealth of Nations” (McCulloch’s four volume edition), vol. iii., book 5, chap. 8, p. 297.

{120} “Principles of Population,” vol. ii., p. 76, et seq. p. 82, p. 135.

{122} “Philosophy of Manufactures,” London, 1835, p. 406, et seq. We shall have occasion to refer further to this reputable work.

{125} “On the Present Condition of the Labouring Poor in Manchester,” etc. By the Rev. Rd. Parkinson, Canon of Manchester, 3d Ed., London and Manchester, 1841, Pamphlet.

{131a} “Manufacturing Population of England,” chap. 10.

{131b} The total of population, about fifteen millions, divided by the number of convicted criminals (22,733).

{134a} “The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain,” by Dr. A. Ure, 1836.

{134b} “History of the Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain,” by E. Baines, Esq.

{135} “Stubborn Facts from the Factories by a Manchester Operative.” Published and dedicated to the working-classes, by Wm. Rashleigh, M.P., London, Ollivier, 1844, p. 28, et seq.

{136} Compare Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report.

{138} L. Symonds, in “Arts and Artisans.”

{140} See Dr. Ure in the “Philosophy of Manufacture.”

{141} Report of Factory Inspector, L. Homer, October, 1844: “The state of things in the matter of wages is greatly perverted in certain branches of cotton manufacture in Lancashire; there are hundreds of young men, between twenty and thirty, employed as piecers and otherwise, who do not get more than 8 or 9 shillings a week, while children under thirteen years, working under the same roof, earn 5 shillings, and young girls, from sixteen to twenty years, 10-12 shillings per week.”

{143a} Report of Factories’ Inquiry Commission. Testimony of Dr. Hawkins, p. 3.

{143b} In 1843, among the accidents brought to the Infirmary in Manchester, one hundred and eighty-nine were from burning.

{144} Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report, Power’s Report on Leeds: passim Tufnell Report on Manchester, p. 17. etc.

{145} This letter is re-translated from the German, no attempt being made to re-produce either the spelling or the original Yorkshire dialect.

{147a} How numerous married women are in the factories is seen from information furnished by a manufacturer: In 412 factories in Lancashire, 10,721 of them were employed; of the husbands of these women, but 5,314 were also employed in the factories, 3,927 were otherwise employed, 821 were unemployed, and information was wanting as to 659; or two, if not three men for each factory, are supported by the work of their wives.

{147b} House of Commons, March 15th, 1844.

{147c} Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report, p. 4.

{148a} For further examples and information compare Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report. Cowell Evidence, pp. 37, 38, 39, 72, 77, 59; Tufnell Evidence, pp. 9, 15, 45, 54, etc.

{148b} Cowell Evidence, pp. 35, 37, and elsewhere.

{148c} Power Evidence, p. 8.

{149a} Cowell Evidence, p. 57

{149b} Cowell Evidence, p. 82.

{149c} Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report, p. 4, Hawkins.

{151} Stuart Evidence, p. 35.

{152a} Tufnell Evidence, p. 91.

{152b} Dr. Loudon Evidence, pp. 12, 13.

{153a} Dr. Loudon Evidence, p. 16.

{153b} Drinkwater Evidence, pp. 72, 80, 146, 148, 150 (two brothers); 69 (two brothers); 155, and many others.

Power Evidence, pp. 63, 66, 67 (two cases); 68 (three cases); 69 (two cases); in Leeds, pp. 29, 31, 40, 43, 53, et seq.

Loudon Evidence, pp. 4, 7 (four cases); 8 (several cases), etc.

Sir D. Barry Evidence, pp. 6, 8, 13, 21, 22, 44, 55 (three cases), etc.

Tufnell Evidence, pp. 5, 6, 16, etc.

{154a} Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report, 1836, Sir D. Barry Evidence, p. 21 (two cases).

{154b} Factories’ Inquiry Commission’s Report, 1836, Loudon Evidence, pp. 13, 16, etc.

{155} In the spinning-room of a mill at Leeds, too, chairs had been introduced. Drinkwater Evidence, p. 80.

{156} General report by Sir D. Barry.

{157a} Power Report, p. 74.

{157b} The surgeons in England are scientifically educated as well as the physicians, and have, in general, medical as well as surgical practice. They are in general, for various reasons, preferred to the physicians.

{159a} This statement is not taken from the report.

{159b} Tufnell, p. 59.

{160a} Stuart Evidence, p. 101.

{160b} Tufnell Evidence, pp. 3, 9, 15.

{161} Hawkins Report, p. 4; Evidence, p. 14, etc. etc. Hawkins Evidence, pp. 11, 13.

{162a} Cowell Evidence, p. 77.

{162b} Sir D. Barry Evidence, p. 44.

{162c} Cowell, p. 35.

{163a} Dr. Hawkins Evidence, p. 11; Dr. Loudon, p. 14, etc.; Sir D. Barry, p. 5, etc.

{163b} Compare Stuart, pp. 13, 70, 101; Mackintosh, p. 24, etc.; Power Report on Nottingham, on Leeds; Cowell, p. 33, etc.; Barry, p. 12; (five cases in one factory), pp. 17, 44, 52, 60, etc.; Loudon, p. 13.

{167a} Stuart, p. 39.

{167b} “Philosophy of Manufactures,” by Dr. Andrew Ure, p. 277, et seq.

{168a} Ibid., 277.

{168b} Ibid., p. 298.

{168c} Ibid., p. 301.

{169} Dr. Andrew Ure. “Philosophy of Manufactures,” pp. 405, 406, et seq.

{174} Afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury, died 1885.

{176} It is notorious that the House of Commons made itself ridiculous a second time in the same session in the same way on the Sugar Question, when it first voted against the ministry and then for it, after an application of the ministerial whip.

{178} Let us hear another competent judge: “If we consider the example of the Irish in connection with the ceaseless toil of the cotton operative class, we shall wonder less at their terrible demoralisation. Continuous exhausting toil, day after day, year after year, is not calculated to develop the intellectual and moral capabilities of the human being. The wearisome routine of endless drudgery, in which the same mechanical process is ever repeated, is like the torture of Sisyphus; the burden of toil, like the rock, is ever falling back upon the worn-out drudge. The mind attains neither knowledge nor the power of thought from the eternal employment of the same muscles. The intellect dozes off in dull indolence, but the coarser part of our nature reaches a luxuriant development. To condemn a human being to such work is to cultivate the animal quality in him. He grows indifferent, he scorns the impulses and customs which distinguish his kind. He neglects the conveniences and finer pleasures of life, lives in filthy poverty with scanty nourishment, and squanders the rest of his earnings in debauchery.”—Dr. J. Kay.

{179a} Manchester Guardian, October 30th.

{179b} “Stubborn Facts,” p. 9 et seq.

{181a} Drinkwater Evidence; p. 80.

{181b} “Stubborn Facts,” pp. 13-17.

{184} Sun, a London daily; end of November, 1844.

{186} I have neither time nor space to deal in detail with the replies of the manufacturers to the charges made against them for twelve years past. These men will not learn because their supposed interest blinds them. As, moreover, many of their objections have been met in the foregoing, the following is all that it is necessary for me to add:

You come to Manchester, you wish to make yourself acquainted with the state of affairs in England. You naturally have good introductions to respectable people. You drop a remark or two as to the condition of the workers. You are made acquainted with a couple of the first Liberal manufacturers, Robert Hyde Greg, perhaps, Edmund Ashworth, Thomas Ashton, or others. They are told of your wishes. The manufacturer understands you, knows what he has to do. He accompanies you to his factory in the country; Mr. Greg to Quarrybank in Cheshire, Mr. Ashworth to Turton near Bolton, Mr. Ashton to Hyde. He leads you through a superb, admirably arranged building, perhaps supplied with ventilators, he calls your attention to the lofty, airy rooms, the fine machinery, here and there a healthy-looking operative. He gives you an excellent lunch, and proposes to you to visit the operatives’ homes; he conducts you to the cottages, which look new, clean and neat, and goes with you into this one and that one, naturally only to overlookers, mechanics, etc., so that you may see “families who live wholly from the factory.” Among other families you might find that only wife and children work, and the husband darns stockings. The presence of the employer keeps you from asking indiscreet questions; you find every one well-paid, comfortable, comparatively healthy by reason of the country air; you begin to be converted from your exaggerated ideas of misery and starvation. But, that the cottage system makes slaves of the operatives, that there may be a truck shop in the neighbourhood, that the people hate the manufacturer, this they do not point out to you, because he is present. He has built a school, church, reading-room, etc. That he uses the school to train children to subordination, that he tolerates in the reading-room such prints only as represent the interests of the bourgeoisie, that he dismisses his employees if they read Chartist or Socialist papers or books, this is all concealed from you. You see an easy, patriarchal relation, you see the life of the overlookers, you see what the bourgeoisie promises the workers if they become its slaves, mentally and morally. This “country manufacture” has always been what the employers like to show, because in it the disadvantages of the factory system, especially from the point of view of health, are, in part, done away with by the free air and surroundings, and because the patriarchal servitude of the workers can here be longest maintained. Dr. Ure sings a dithyramb upon the theme. But woe to the operatives to whom it occurs to think for themselves and become Chartists! For them the paternal affection of the manufacturer comes to a sudden end. Further, if you should wish to be accompanied through the working-people’s quarters of Manchester, if you should desire to see the development of the factory system in a factory town, you may wait long before these rich bourgeoisie will help you! These gentlemen do not know in what condition their employees are nor what they want, and they dare not know things which would make them uneasy or even oblige them to act in opposition to their own interests. But, fortunately, that is of no consequence: what the working-men have to carry out, they carry out for themselves.

{189} Grainger Report. Appendix, Part I., pp. 7, 15, et seq., 132-142.

{192a} Grainger’s whole Report.

{192b} Grainger Children’s Employment Commission’s Report.

{193} Burns, Children’s Employment Commission’s Report.

{194} Leach. “Stubborn Facts from the Factories,” p. 47.

{196} Leach. “Stubborn Facts from the Factories,” p. 33.

{197} Leach. “Stubborn Facts from the Factories,” p. 37-40.

{199} Children’s Employment Commission’s Report.

{200a} See p. 112.

{200b} Grainger Report and Evidence.

{202} Horne Report and Evidence.

{203} Dr. Knight, Sheffield.

{205} Symonds Report and Evidence.

{207} Scriven Report and Evidence.

{208} Leifchild Report Append., Part II., p. L 2, ss. 11,12; Franks Report Append., Part II., p. K 7, s. 48, Tancred Evid. Append., Part II., p. I 76, etc.—Children’s Employment Commission’s Rep’t.

{210} See Weekly Dispatch, March 16th, 1844.

{211} Thomas Hood, the most talented of all the English humorists now living, and, like all humorists, full of human feeling, but wanting in mental energy, published at the beginning of 1844 a beautiful poem, “The Song of the Shirt,” which drew sympathetic but unavailing tears from the eyes of the daughters of the bourgeoisie. Originally published in Punch, it made the round of all the papers. As discussions of the condition of the sewing-women filled all the papers at the time, special extracts are needless.

{214} “Arts and Artisans,” p. 137, et seq.

{221a} So called from the East Indian tribe, whose only trade is the murder of all the strangers who fall into its hands.

{221b} “What kind of wild justice must it be in the hearts of these men that prompts them, with cold deliberation, in conclave assembled, to doom their brother workman, as the deserter of his order and his order’s cause, to die a traitor’s and a deserter’s death, have him executed, in default of any public judge and hangman, then by a secret one; like your old Chivalry Fehmgericht and Secret Tribunal, suddenly revived in this strange guise; suddenly rising once more on the astonished eye, dressed not now in mail shirts, but in fustian jackets, meeting not in Westphalian forests, but in the paved Gallowgate of Glasgow! Such a temper must be widespread virulent among the many when, even in its worst acme, it can take such form in the few.”—Carlyle. “Chartism,” p. 40.

{222a} Dr. Ure, “Philosophy of Manufacture,” p. 282.

{222b} Ibid., p. 282.

{223a} Dr. Ure, “Philosophy of Manufacture,” p. 367.

{223b} Ibid., p. 366, et seq.

{232} Compare Report of Chambers of Commerce of Manchester and Leeds at the end of July and beginning of August.

{235} See Introduction.

{241} According to the census of 1841, the number of working-men employed in mines in Great Britain, without Ireland, was:

Men over Men under Women over Women under Together

20 years 20 years 20 years 20 Years

Coal mines 83,408 32,475 1,185 1,165 118,233

Copper mines 9,866 3,428 913 1,200 15,407

Lead mines 9,427 1,932 40 20 11,419

Iron mines 7,733 2,679 424 73 10,949

Tin mines 4,602 1,349 68 82 6,101

Various, the

mineral not

specified 24,162 6,591 472 491 31,616

Total 137,398 48,454 3,102 3,031 193,725

As the coal and iron mines are usually worked by the same people, a part of the miners attributed to the coal mines, and a very considerable part of those mentioned under the last heading, are to be attributed to the iron mines.

{242} Also found in the Children’s Employment Commission’s Report: Commissioner Mitchell’s Report.

{259} The coal miners have at this moment, 1886, six of their body sitting in the House of Commons.

{264} E. G. Wakefield, M.P. “Swing Unmasked; or, The Cause of Rural Incendiarism.” London, 1831. Pamphlet. The foregoing extracts may be found pp. 9-13, the passages dealing in the original with the then still existing Old Poor Law being here omitted.

{268} This has been literally fulfilled. After a period of unexampled extension of trade, Free Trade has landed England in a crisis, which began in 1878, and is still increasing in energy in 1886.

{269} The agricultural labourers have now a Trade’s Union; their most energetic representative, Joseph Arch, was elected M.P. in 1885.

{272a} Report of the Poor Law Commission upon Ireland.

{272b} “Principles of Population,” vol. ii.

{273} “The State of Ireland.” London, 1807; 2nd Ed., 1821. Pamphlet.

{276} Carlyle gives in his “Past and Present” (London, 1843) a splendid description of the English bourgeoisie and its disgusting money greed.

{286} Extracts from Information received from the Poor Law Commissioners. Published by authority. London, 1833.

{293} To prevent misconstructions and consequent objections, I would observe that I have spoken of the bourgeoisie as a class, and that all such facts as refer to individuals serve merely as evidence of the way of thinking and acting of a class. Hence I have not entered upon the distinctions between the divers sections, subdivisions and parties of the bourgeoisie, which have a mere historical and theoretical significance. And I can, for the same reason, mention but casually the few members of the bourgeoisie who have shown themselves honourable exceptions. These are, on the one hand, the pronounced Radicals, who are almost Chartists, such as a few members of the House of Commons, the manufacturers Hindly of Ashton, and Fielden of Todmordon (Lancashire), and, on the other hand, the philanthropic Tories, who have recently constituted themselves “Young England,” among whom are the members of Parliament, D’Israeli, Borthwick, Ferrand, Lord John Manners, etc. Lord Ashley, too, is in sympathy with them. The hope of Young England is a restoration of the old “Merry England” with its brilliant features and its romantic feudalism. This object is of course unattainable and ridiculous, a satire upon all historic development; but the good intention, the courage to resist the existing state of things and prevalent prejudices, and to recognise the vileness of our present condition, is worth something anyhow. Wholly isolated is the half-German Englishman, Thomas Carlyle, who, originally a Tory, goes beyond all those hitherto mentioned. He has sounded the social disorder more deeply than any other English bourgeois, and demands the organisation of labour.

{296} And it did.