Onderstaande tekst is niet 100% betrouwbaar

116

LABOUR CONDITIONS

House of Commons even more than the story of human misery had outraged its sense of pity. This was almost the only feature of the arrangements brought to light by the Commission for which no one was ready with an apology.

Such was the indignation of the country that Ashley was able to strike his blow at once. On June 7th, a month after the publication of the report, he introduced a Bill to exclude from the pits all women and girls, all boys under thirteen, * and all parish apprenticesl); and to forbid the employment of any one as an engineman under the age of twenty-one or over the age of fifty. His speech, arranging and presenting the facts set out in the Report with admirable skill, occupied two hours; its effect was overwhelming. "Many men, I hear, shed tears — Beckett Denison confessed to me that he did, and that he left the House lest he should be seen. Sir G. Grey told William Cooper that he "would rather have made that speech than any he had ever heard. Even Joseph Hume was touched *)." But the most striking tribute came from Cobden, who crossed the floor of the House to wring him warmly by the hand. "You know how opposed I have been to your views; but I don't think I have ever been put into such a frame of

1. parish apprentices: people who received poor reliëf were compelled to entrust their children to the parish authorities. These tried to dispose of the children in the least expensive way possible, and often bound them over as apprentices till they were of age. The system did not differ essentially from slavery, except that the employers had no interest to look after the health of their 'apprentices': if the children died there was no difficulty and no expense in getting others.

2. The quotation is from Ashley's private diary. W. Cooper was an Australian divine, over on a visit. Joseph Hume /was one of the leading members of the radical group in the House of Commons. About Richard Cobden see chapter IX. In the introduction to IX something is said about the attitude of the middle class' liberals towards social legislation. See also Macaulay on the next page. '

Sluiten