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DISCUSSION. - William Stanley Jevons, Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers 
Methods of Social Reform and Other Papers (London: Macmillan, 1883).
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Thomas Hughes, Esq., Q.C., M.P., in the Chair.
The Chairman said he felt with the lecturer, that the time was come when the question no longer depended upon theory, but upon experience. This experience had been detailed to them. He had himself been connected with the experiments that had been tried, and had been an original shareholder in Briggs's Colliery. He had gone down to their first meeting. In the late summer of 1865 the company had been formed, and in the early autumn of 1866 the first annual meeting had been held, at which he was present, and saw the results of the first year's working. It was extremely interesting to see the effect produced by the working of the principle in so short a time. The state of things previously had been extremely serious; there had been constant disputes and social war between masters and men for many months, and the collieries had been kept at work under the supervision of the police. He could not say that all doubt had at once disappeared; there was some feeling of doubt among the men whether the scheme was not one for putting more money into the pockets of the employers. Every man who chose to take out a penny book, and to have his wages entered in it, was entitled to a share in the annual division; and though the number of men was about 1000, only about 100 of them had sufficient confidence in the scheme to take out these books. He believed the great effect was produced by the first annual meeting, when the 100 men all came out each with a considerable bonus: this was what had made the new plan popular with the men. Since then matters had gone on from better to best, and now every man and boy on the works took good care to take out his book and to have his wages regularly entered. The coal trade during the past two years had been, in general, very dull and bad; almost as depressed as the iron trade; nevertheless, in spite of that depression, the prosperity of these collieries had continued, and there had only been a difference between the two years of one-half per cent. in the terms. The lecturer had also anticipated some of the advantages of the industrial partnership system. He had referred to the prophecies of Mr. Babbage, one of which was, that the best workmen would be glad to work on a principle of the kind. This had been justified within the last few weeks. He had gone down a few weeks since to the Cleveland iron district as arbitrator between the masters and the men, on a question of the advance of wages. There he had found that the Messrs. Briggs had determined on starting a new experiment in the iron trade in that district. The senior partner had had great jute works in Dundee, and, being an enthusiast in the matter of industrial partnerships, had been very anxious to convert the works at Dundee into one, but had not been able to persuade his partners to do so, probably because Scotchmen were very hard to convince. He had therefore determined to give up his partnership and to come to the Cleveland district to start these ironworks. The chief secretary of the Trades Unions there had told him (Mr. Hughes) that since it was known that the experiment was to be tried, all the best workmen had said that they would come and work for him, while many (and some of these had saved as much as £200) had expressed a wish to invest capital in the undertaking. He had been offered a complete staff of workmen all teetotalers. Thus it was clear that the northern workmen appreciated this movement. He could also confirm the remarks of the lecturer on another point. When he was down there, some fourteen or fifteen men sat at one side opposite to fourteen or fifteen masters at the other, and the only factory in the district not represented was that of the Messrs. Fox, Head & Co., and from them they had a communication, stating that they had just divided a bonus for the past year and were perfectly contented. He might also mention as an instance of faith that was felt in the system of the Messrs. Briggs, that Mr. Briggs had had offers from many of the co-operative societies of capital for his new undertaking. The Halifax Society had applied for shares to the amount of £10,000. The lecturer had alluded to the Report of the Trades Union Commissioners. He (Mr. Hughes) was not responsible for that report, inasmuch as he, with another member, had been obliged to dissent from it, and had presented another Report to Her Majesty. He agreed with the lecturer in thinking that the principle of this scheme had not been understood or appreciated by the Commission, and thought the Report must have done harm in many places. He did not think the system had been appreciated either by masters or men, and he hoped this lecture would be extensively circulated, and would lead to a better understanding of the subject. He thought he need not say much on the subject of Trades Unions, as he saw that they were exceedingly well represented in the room, but he must say a few words in reference to one point, namely, as to the exclusive system of industrial partnerships. The Messrs. Briggs had, it was true, absolute power, but they were now by no means fearful of the admission to some share of power of the people who were working with them, and they had established a committee of men, who met to advise them, and who had suggested many valuable improvements. They had also given the workingmen the power of sending one director to the board, so that one of the five directors was now a working shareholder in the mine. He quite agreed with the lecturer that this system offered the best solution which had yet been arrived at of the great labour question. He quite felt that the system of arbitration was only a sort of stopgap, and could only bring about a truce, but never a satisfactory peace. To have arbitration it was necessary to have two hostile organisations. While the men were kept in ignorance of the details of the business, and could only form a guess at the amount of the master's profits, a permanent peace could not be hoped for, such as he thought would come about by the development of the industrial partnership system. Those that had tried it deserved well of their country. They had done more for the prosperity of England, and for its establishment on a firm basis, than many who had made more noise.
Mr. Hughes having to leave, Mr. Frederic Hill was called to the chair.
Mr. Pare said that he doubted whether the division of the profits had been made in the most equitable manner. If the capitalist had, in the first instance, secured his 10 per cent. the workman ought to divide, not half, but the whole of the profits above that amount. It was not the workman's business to regulate production. Exchanges and monetary arrangements were at present in a perfect state of chaos, and we had panics regularly every ten years for want of a scientific system of the exchange of productions. The workmen could not be expected to bear any losses which accrued from production or exchange.
Mr. Dudley Baxter said the colliery trade was one very favourable for the trial of this experiment, because labour was so large an element in the work; and it was a great thing for men to be able to work in that way. But suppose they took the silk or cloth manufacture, or any that depended upon competition with others abroad, or upon other circumstances, and came to the time when for months together sales could not be made; how were they to do? Or suppose a coal-pit took fire, and the business was thus stopped, were the profits on capital to go on? Most likely this would put an end to the partnership, and the men would go elsewhere. The principle was applicable to some portions of industry, but could not be applied to all labour. One principle would be applicable to one branch, and another must be worked in another place, where the conditions of labour were different.
Mr. Lamport thought the great difficulty of applying the principle to a great variety of trades was, that it had never been tried. He had been largely engaged in the cotton trade, as well as in ship-building, and he ventured to say that at the present moment it would be impossible to apply this principle to these trades. It might, however, ultimately be so applied. In the cotton manufacture it would not be very difficult, perhaps, to calculate every week the amount of profit or loss by taking the market prices of raw cotton, and often yarn or cloth manufactured; but there was not one manufacturer in a hundred who chose to rest his chance of profit upon the difference between raw and manufactured material. They always speculated, and how was this point to be regulated? He apprehended there must be a division between the profits of the merchant and those of the manufacturer. There must, in fact, be a difference of profit in every business. In the cotton business you could not take a fair average on a term of less than ten years.
Mr. Applegarth believed that many of the good things detailed by the lecturer were not entirely attributable to the principle of industrial partnerships. All that could be said in its favour, could also be said of the Nottingham stocking weavers, both as regarded the establishment of peace and the material advantage of increased wages. The lecturer had spoken of the attempts of the unions to enforce a uniform rate of wages throughout the trade, but they never had attempted to do so. They fixed a minimum rate, and merely said a skilled workman should receive this, but they did not in any way prevent his obtaining more. The lecturer had prophesied the bankruptcy of the unions, but he (Mr. Applegarth) said they would not break. He admitted the ten years' existence of the Amalgamated Carpenters was not enough to justify this assertion; perhaps the twenty years of the Amalgamated Engineers was scarcely sufficient, but there was the society of the Ironfounders, which had existed for fifty-seven years upon the same principles, and he thought this experience was worth more than all the calculations of actuaries. He would ask the lecturer to point out where working-men were earning £100 a year. In the carpenters' trade, which was one of the most skilled in the country, the wages were 28s. per week, and he thought that not one man in five had fifty-two weeks' work in the year. This brought the amount under £72 a year. He admitted that their own vices and failings were accountable for many of the grievances from which they suffered. It had been said that a great difficulty arose from their want of knowledge; but where did the practical knowledge come from for conducting the industries of the country? All the skill in the building trade had come from the bench side, and the masters in this business had been working-men. Some years ago he had been much in favour of industrial partnerships, because he thought everything would be of value that would give the workman an insight into the difficulties of employers; but he was strongly of opinion that the plan would cut two ways, and he feared that it would content the working-men with their position, and in this way be mischievous. He believed it would apply to many branches but not to others; but he had a faith, moreover, that the time would come when large capitalists would conduct business in the country with a more true and proper regard to the interests of their workmen than had been the case.
Dr. Hodgson said they had had an honest as well as an intelligent man speaking to them, and telling them what he had seen, for the good of all classes in society. He agreed with the lecturer with respect to arbitration; it showed that there was something unsatisfactory in the state of things. Suppose that they were told that arbitration was an excellent mode of reconciling differences between husband and wife, would they consider that an evidence of the satisfactory nature of the marriage relations? There ought to be no more occasion for arbitration between employer and workman than between husband and wife. He had no idea that this principle of partnerships would supersede the principles of free trade and competition. As to the amount of the sum fixed as the first charge on the business, that was not a matter of equity or inequity; it was simply a matter of pure arrangement between the employers and the employed. There was no principle in the matter, just as there was no principle concerned in a working-man's having 30s. a day, or 30s. a week; it was a pure matter of arrangement dependent on the labour market.
Professor Jevons did not think there was much difference between himself and Mr. Applegarth as to the rate of wages; some workmen, such as the iron-puddlers, made much more than £100. As to the breaking of Trades Unions, he had said that they either do so, or place a burden upon posterity. If a colliery took fire, and the works came to an end, the loss could not be charged upon future profits. Certain allowances had to be made for risks of an extraordinary character, and this was one of them. In the company which Briggs was now organising he proposed to make 15 per cent. the minimum profit, a rate with which the men were perfectly satisfied, so that he in fact promised a return of 15 per cent. on the capital. No doubt this question was a more difficult one, and it would be only in the course of time that it would be worked out so that it might be extended to various trades. In the cotton trade there were great profits and great losses, and it was not fair to throw either entirely upon the workman. However, he saw no difficulty in spreading these over a series of years.
Mr. Frederic Hill, in asking the meeting to record a vote of thanks to the lecturer, took occasion to say that a friend of his some time since, who resided at Singapore, wanted a house built, and applied as advised to a Chinese, who made an agreement to do the work for a certain sum. He found out shortly that all the men employed had a share in the profits of the undertaking, and every man took care not only to do as much work as possible, but to see that his next neighbour did his work well also. On inquiry he found that this system is universal in China, and that every shopman there has a share in his master's profits, so that the Chinese had been before us in this matter of industrial partnerships, as well as in so many other matters.
MARRIED WOMEN IN FACTORIES.∗
While engaged in preparing a small treatise, “The State in its Relation to Labour,” my attention has been strongly called anew to the importance of the question of the employment of married women in factories and workshops. The bearing of the question is, of course, instantly seen when it is considered that every mother so employed abandons her infants and young children for ten hours in the day to the care of other, usually careless hands. The subject has long been one of chronic controversy in the manufacturing districts, especially in Manchester, where it is every now and then debated in the newspapers and public societies. In the “Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Society,” especially, will be found a series of papers on the several phases of the matter, by the late Dr. George Greaves, Mrs. M. A. Baines, Dr. Noble, Dr. Syson, Mr. T. R. Wilkinson, and others.
The Manchester Sanitary Association is ever registering and considering the infant mortality of the district. Almost every volume of the “Transactions of the Social Science Association” contains papers more or less directly bearing on the subject. The Reports of the Factory Inspectors, especially those of Mr. Baker, have recorded from time to time the most valuable facts, as well as the inferences and reflections of the Inspectors; and there are various other official publications to be presently mentioned, in which the question has been almost exhaustively treated. Yet nothing has been done, although it is impossible to stir the mass of records without discovering that the evils recorded are appalling in their nature. Can such things be in a Christian country? is the exclamation which rises to the lips in contemplating the mass of misery, and, especially, the infinite, irreparable wrong to helpless children, which is involved in the mother's employment at the mills.
It is a strange topic for reflection how the public, morbidly fixing their attention on some wretched murderer, or a score of dogs or rabbits sacrificed for the enduring interests of humanity, can calmly ignore the existence of evils which are so extensive that the imagination fails to grasp them clearly. It is a curious, and yet unquestionable fact, that a comparatively small and unimportant work is often undertaken with ardour, whereas a vastly greater and more urgent work of the same kind produces only languor. Thus Mr. George Smith succeeded in arousing intense sympathy for the small number of children brought up (often not brought up) in canal boats. The peculiar circumstances of the canal boats, and the definite manageable extent of the ideas involved, conduced to the success of the very proper movement which Mr. Smith carried out to the point of legislation. But infant mortality in general is, I fear, far too wide and vague an idea to rivet the attention of the public.∗ It is a question involving the whole of the lower-class population of the manufacturing districts. The actual excess of deaths is to be counted in tens of thousands. Briefly stated, the question concerns the mode of death of certainly 30,000 infants, and perhaps as many as 40,000 or even 50,000 which perish annually in this country through preventible causes. In no small number of cases the deaths are actually intentional infanticides, committed in a manner which defies the scrutiny of a coroner and jury. Thus the Registrar-General, in his Thirty-seventh Annual Report (p. xxiii.), refers ominously to the large number of infants suffocated in one town, and demands special inquiry, which, of course, has never been made.∗ In by far the largest number of cases, however, we may be glad to conclude that it is not real murder which we deal with, but a mixture of thoughtlessness and carelessness, varying in criminality from manslaughter up to mere misadventure and ignorance of an entirely innocent character. But in any case the facts are of the most serious nature, and must form suitable matter for reflection in the approaching Christmas season, round warm firesides and well-covered tables.
To form some preliminary idea of the amount of infant mortality with which we have to deal, we may turn to any of the recent annual reports of the Registrar-General, and we find a table giving the deaths of children under five years of age in the principal great towns. Thus, in the Forty-first Report, p. xxxvi., we find that the estimated numbers of children under five years of age in nineteen large towns add up to a little more than a million (1,023,896), while the number of deaths of such children was 85,250. The rate of mortality, however, varies extremely, being as comparatively low as 59·4 in 1000 in Portsmouth, rising to 65·8 in Brighton, 66·2 in Bristol, 73·2 in Newcastle, 74·8 in Wolverhampton, 78·6 in London, 82·9 in Leicester and Nottingham, and so on, until we reach gradually the higher amounts of 93·8 in Salford, 95·2 in Birmingham, 95·9 in Sheffield. The place of dishonour is occupied by Liverpool, with an infant mortality rising to a climax of 103·6 per 1000. In that great seaport the infants (under five years of age) are decimated annually! Now, if we assume that, with proper sanitary regulations, the infant mortality in towns ought not to exceed that of Norwich, which is on the average about 70 per 1000, we readily calculate that the excess of infant deaths in the other great towns in question amounts to 13,500 annually. But the question clearly depends upon the average of sanitation which we conceive possible. Portsmouth, which we should not at first expect to find very favourable to infant life, maintains an average as low as about 60 per 1000. The Registrar-General remarks that this low rate is probably owing in some measure to the presence of a large number of military and naval men, and dockyard artificers, representing several thousands of selected healthy lives. The dockyard affords employment to a large number of artisans, and there is not that inducement in Portsmouth for unothers to neglect their offspring which there is in the factory towns. I entertain, however, some doubt whether there is any reason for regarding Portsmouth as really exceptional; and if we take its rate as a standard, we find that the excess of the other great towns amounts to about 24,000, which, of course, does not include the excessive mortality of a multitude of smaller towns. Let it be observed that we have nothing to do here with the contrast between town and country. In a highly rural county, such as Dorsetshire or Wiltshire, the infant mortality does not usually exceed about 40 per 1000, and even sinks as low as 35.
I do not intend, in the present article, to enlarge upon the remarkable differences in regard to mortality which the great towns exhibit. Liverpool is especially anomalous, because, though standing at the head of the list, it has no great textile factories which would take women away from home. Renewed and very careful inquiry has, indeed, quite satisfied me as to the correctness of the explanation which I gave in 1870∗ of the excessive mortality of such towns as Liverpool and Salford. Until statists will constantly bear in mind the fact that the different towns and counties of England are to a great extent peopled by races of different characters, it will remain impossible to understand the profound sanitary discrepancies which they exhibit. It is not, however, to my purpose to dwell upon the influence of a mixture of population; it is only necessary to refer to the point as explaining anomalies which would otherwise seem to tend against the inferences to be drawn concerning other matters. In this article I prefer to direct the reader's attention to one of the existing social evils, which is unquestionably the cause of much of the infant mortality alluded to: I mean the employment of child-bearing women away from home. This is, beyond doubt, the most important question touching the relation of the State to labour which remains unsolved.
It has long, indeed, been one of the most frequent and urgent proposals of trade unionists that married women should be “taken out of the mills.” The so-called labour advocates are often a great deal nearer the truth than the general public believe. But then, unfortunately, they give reasons for their opinions, and these reasons will not always bear examination. Thus, in favour of the summary exclusion of married women, it is argued that the market is overstocked, and that if married women were taken out, the operation would realise a great social and domestic benefit, whilst “much of the overplus labour would be reduced.” This, however, is obviously bad political economy. We cannot possibly increase the welfare of the people by lessening labour, the source of wealth. No workers, too, are more to be admired than some married women, who, by indomitable industry and good management, maintain a family of children and a husband too. Where the husband is disabled by accident, illness, imprisonment, or otherwise, or has deserted his family, the wife cannot but be praised if she attempts to take his place and save the children from the Union. There will exist, again, many cases of married women without children, or whose children are past infancy, where the prohibition of employment would rest on no special grounds, and would be little short of tyrannous.
There is a reverse side of the question, which it is impossible to overlook. As pointed out by one of the factory inspectors,∗ no small number of women managing households and bringing up young children are, unfortunately, unmarried. Now, a law excluding married women from factories would obviously have the most disastrous effects upon these unhappy women, by banishing, in most cases, all hope of marriage. In too many cases it is the woman's power of earning wages which constitutes her hold upon the paramour. Beyond doubt, then, the exclusion of the class “married women,” simply by that definition, cannot for a moment be contemplated. It is the class “child-bearing women,” that legislation must deal with, if at all. Opinions will differ greatly, however, as to the extent, means, and purpose of the legislation required. The slightest form of interference would consist in excluding women from factories for a certain number of weeks before and after confinement. Mr. Mundella explained to the Factory Acts Commission of 1875 that in Glarus, and some other Swiss Cantons, a woman was obliged to remain at home for six weeks in all, fixing the time at her own discretion. There can be so little doubt as to the hygienic advantages of such a law, that the only question seems to be the possibility of enforcing the law. What is practicable in a small mountain district like Glarus, where everybody knows everybody else, might totally fail in an ocean of population like that of Lancashire or London. It will be generally agreed that the employer can hardly be made responsible for delicate inquiries into the condition of his female mill-hands. The Factory Act Commissioners bring forward, moreover, other serious difficulties; for instance, the danger of adding a new and very powerful motive for concealment of birth.
It appears pretty plain that if there is to be legislation concerning child-bearing women something more thorough is required. The women may be quite fit for work in one month; but what about the infant? The latter is pretty sure to be relegated to that scourge of infant life, the dirty fungus-bearing bottle. I do not think that it will be possible for the Legislature much longer to leave untouched the sad abuses which undoubtedly occur in the treatment of infants, especially in the manufacturing districts. The existence of such abuses is sufficiently indicated by the high rate of infant mortality already alluded to. More than ten years ago (May to July, 1870), a long controversy took place in The Manchester Guardian as to the existence and causes of this excessive mortality. It was evoked by a paper read by Mr. Baxendell to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester throwing doubt upon the facts; but it appeared to be conclusively shown by Dr. Arthur Ransome that there was an enormous death-rate of very young children in Manchester and certain other towns. About the same time Sir W. T. Charley, Mr. Ernest Hart, Mr. George Hastings, and other gentlemen formed an Infant Life Protection Society; and the subject was also brought before the House of Commons by the first-named gentleman. The Report of the Select Committee on the Protection of Infant Life∗ contains startling revelations, which have never received the attention they imperatively demand. The following passage from the Report of the Committee (p. 4) contains a concise statement of what they considered to be proved concerning infant mortality:
“The ordinary mortality among infant children under one year of age is estimated at 15 or 16 per cent.; but the mere fact of their being hand-nursed, instead of being breast-nursed, will, unless great care is taken, raise the death-rate, even in well-conducted ‘homes,’ to 40 per cent. and upwards. In the inferior class of houses, where the children put out to nurse are, for the most part, illegitimate, the death-rate may be 40 to 60 per cent. in the rural districts, and in the large towns, where the sanitary conditions are more unfavourable, it mounts up to 70, 80, or even 90 per cent. All the witnesses concur in this; and there are three or four circumstances which strongly confirm their general opinion.”
It is frequently implied or stated throughout the “Report, Evidence, and Appendices,” that the present treatment of infants often amounts practically to infanticide. According to the late Dr. Lankester, then coroner for Middlesex, illegitimate children are “killed off” before they are one year old; and the Committee calmly assume that not more than one in ten of such children ever lives to grow up. In a petition presented to the Home Secretary by the British Medical Association (Report, p. 237), it is asserted that no action of the police can discover the great amount of secret infanticide which is daily perpetrated in this metropolis and elsewhere. The same body asserts that “in manufacturing towns, where children are placed out by the day, a very large infant mortality exists, chiefly owing to the administration of insufficient or improper food and opiates, by the women in whose charge the children are placed.”
And again, we have this important statement: “Those children who live, and reach adult life under such adverse circumstances, are physicially and morally weak, and in most instances lapse into pauperism and crime.”
After reading some of the facts contained in this grim Report, it is impossible not to concur in this remark of the Infant Life Protection Society, though it occurs to one to ask, what has become of the Society? “It is astounding to all those who know the facts connected with baby-farming that . . . the State has left this great mass of helpless infant life to suffer and die in the hands of persons too many of whom make of death a trade.”
The question, however, referred to the Committee was merely that of the best means of preventing the destruction of the lives of infants put out to nurse for hire by their parents. By “put out to nurse,” was taken to mean put out for more than twenty-four hours at a time. Thus the treatment of children generally was not expressly considered, and the recommendations of the Committee resulted in nothing more than a Bill for the registration of persons who take for hire two or more infants under one year of age to nurse for a longer period than a day. In the next session the Bill became law, under the title of “The Infant Life Protection Act, 1872” (35 & 36 Vict. c. 38). In addition to registration, the law requires every registered baby-farmer to send notice to the coroner of all deaths in the registered houses, so that inquests may be held in the absence of medical certificates satisfactory to the coroner.
We will presently consider the working of this Act.
Although the Report of this Committee contains the largest collected body of facts, a good deal of information, very much indeed to the point, may be found in the Reports of the Medical Officer to the Privy Council. It is needless for me to say how replete all these Reports are with sanitary researches of the highest importance; but the document most to our purpose is a report, kindly pointed out to me by Dr. Mouat, made by the late Dr. Henry J. Hunter on the excessive mortality of infants in some rural districts of England.∗ As, indeed, this report treats of agricultural districts, it might seem to have little bearing on our subject. But the parts of the country examined by Dr. Hunter afforded an experiment of a most significant and conclusive character. A serious increase of infant mortality had been observed in certain marshy agricultural districts, and the only apparent antecedent was the bringing of the land under cultivation. As this change, however, might be expected to banish the malaria of the fens, it seemed, at first sight, unaccountable that the infants died off the more rapidly as the climate became more healthy. A little inquiry, however, showed that an influence far more fatal than malaria had come into operation. The mothers had gained employment in the field-gangs, and had left their infants to the care of the old women. That this was really the cause was established by the concurrent evidence of all witnesses examined by the reporter. The peculiar importance of this result is, that we here have the influence of married women's employment freed from the circumstances of town life.
The excessive mortality of Salford or Nottingham, we see, is not due alone to the bad sanitary condition of the courts and streets, for like infant mortality makes its appearance in the most rural parts. We have, in fact, a true and complete induction, pointing to the employment of women away from their homes as the efficient cause of their children's decadence.
Dr. Hunter's Report is crammed with other information, more instructive than pleasant. It is unfortunate that such valuable inquiries should be buried in scarce Blue Books, which are hardly accessible, except in the British Museum or a few other public libraries. After describing in a few touching sentences the history of many a young woman who finds herself a mother while she is yet really a child herself, he proceeds (p. 458):
“A worse degree of criminality is found in older mothers. After losing a child or two, they begin to view the subject as one for ingenuity and speculation. It is related that on the birth of a second or third bastard the neighbours will say: ‘So-and-so has another baby; you'll see it won't live.’ And this becomes a sort of joke, in which the mother will join; public opinion expressing no condemnation of her cruelty. A medical man is called to the wasting infant, because there is so much bother with registering. The mother says the child is dying, and won't touch food. When he offers food the child is ravenous, and fit to tear the spoon to pieces. On some of the few occasions on which the surgeon, in his disgust, has insisted on opening the body, the stomach and bowels have been found quite empty.”
Dr. Hunter enters pretty fully into the natural history of “Godfrey,” the compound of opium, treacle, and infusion of sassafras, to which many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of infants have succumbed. This is so commonly demanded in many districts that it becomes the “leading article” at the shops. The shopkeepers, in the zeal of competition, sell “Godfrey” at cost price, as the best means of inveigling improvident mothers. One inconvenience of this excessive competition is, that different specimens of “Godfrey” vary much in strength, and a nurse who incautiously administers a new brand of the cordial is sometimes alarmed at the result. Thus, says Dr. Hunter (p. 459): “It has not unfrequently happened that a nurse has substituted her own ‘Godfrey’ for her client's” [query? her client's “Godfrey” for her own] “and, frightened at its effects, has summoned the surgeon, who finds half-a-dozen babies—some snoring, some squinting, all pallid and eye-sunken—lying about the room, all poisoned.”
There are peculiar technical means, it seems, which surgeons use in such emergencies to bring the babies round, but I need not describe them. Suffice it for our purpose that Hunter asserts it to be the general opinion of medical practitioners that “ablactation and narcotism” would be the true description of the cause of more than half the infantile deaths recorded, whatever may be the “advanced symptoms” returned to the registrar.
Hardly less instructive is the previous Report of Dr. Greenhow on the infant mortality of certain manufacturing districts.∗ It was elicited from a man working in a factory at Birmingham, where many married women were employed, that ten out of every twelve children born to them died within a few months after birth. The man had been accustomed to collect the money for the funeral expenses, and he ought to know. In the course of Dr. Greenhow's further inquiries it was frequently found that two-thirds or three-fourths of the children born to the women had died in infancy; and, “on the other hand, it was remarkable how, in other instances, the majority of the children were reared when the mothers did not work in factories, or discontinued doing so whilst nursing” (p. 196).
The following passage (p. 192) is also very much to the point, explaining how the system works:
“Women, being obliged to attend at the factory at an early hour, are always hurried in the morning, and may be seen on their way to the mills, hastening along the streets with their children only half-dressed, carrying the remainder of their clothes and their food for the day, to be left with the person who has charge of the child during the mother's absence; and this ofttimes on a cold winter's morning, in the midst of sleet or snow. . . . Parents who thus intrust the management of their infants so largely to strangers become more or less careless and indifferent about them; and, as many of the children die, the mothers become familiarised with the fact, and speak of the deaths of their children with a degree of nonchalance rarely met with amongst women who devote themselves mainly to the care of their offspring.”
The complete concurrence of opinion as to the influence of the mother's absence on the health of the infant is thus explicitly summed up (p. 192):
“All the medical men who gave evidence on the subject of the present inquiry, besides several clergymen, ladies who are accustomed to visit the poorer classes at their dwellings, Scripture-readers, relieving officers and other persons who have paid attention to the subject, unhesitatingly expressed an opinion that the system under which the mothers of young children are employed at factories and workshops, away from home, is a fruitful cause of infantile sickness and mortality.”
Such, then, is the progress of civilisation produced by the advancing powers of science and machinery; two-thirds to three-fourths, or even as much as five-sixths, of the infants dying of neglect. On this point all the Official Reports concur so unanimously that they may well be described as “damnable iteration.”∗
It seems necessary, indeed, to mention that, according to the last issued Annual Report of the Registrar General for England (Forty-second Report, containing the abstracts for 1879), there has been a decrease of infant mortality in recent years, especially during the years 1876–79 when the rate per 1000 males, which had been 73 or 74, fell to an average of 67·0. This low rate, however, may be partly due to the unusual healthiness of the year 1879, when the rate was no more than 64. It is worthy of notice, too, that mortality was nearly as low in the years 1841–45, namely, 68·8, and then it rose rapidly to 77·4. There is some ground for suspecting that want of active employment in the mills may actually lead to saving of life in the aggregate. In any case, while the mortality of infants under one year of age continues to be as much as 50 or 60 per cent. higher in some towns than in others, we cannot possibly deny that there exists an immense amount of preventible evil.
Let us consider now the results which have flowed from the legislation promoted by the Committee on the Protection of Infant Life. With the kind assistance of Mr. Edward Herford† , who has so long and so ably filled the office of Her Majesty's Coroner for Manchester, I have been able to acquire sufficient information.∗
Mr. Herford himself believes that the Act is a dead letter. This opinion is entirely borne out by the statement of Mr. Malcolm Wood, the Chief Constable of Manchester, to the effect that there are actually no houses at all in that city registered under the Act. Mr. Michael Browne, the Coroner of Nottingham, has never heard of any application for a license under the Act in Nottingham or its neighbourhood. The Coroner of Birmingham believes that the same is the case in that great and model town, and he is of opinion that infantile mortality is enormously increased by bad nursing, feeding, and want of care on the part of the mother. The Chief Constable of one very large town, being asked for information touching Charley's Act, rather naively replied that he could not recollect having ever received any application for information about it before. On the other hand, from the Medical Officer of Health of Liverpool, I learn that there actually have been ten applications for registration, but only one of these was found to come under the clauses of the Act; and at present there are no houses at all on the register. At Bolton, also, the Act is a dead letter, though the Coroner, Mr. Rowland Taylor, says that he has never had a case before him of malpractices by nurses.
Some statements which Mr. Browne, of Nottingham, has added to his letter, are, however, so startling that I must quote them in extenso.† He says:
“You know we stand notoriously high as to infant mortality, and I attribute that in a great measure to the young women being employed in warehouses, factories, etc., and knowing little or nothing of the duties of wives and mothers, so that infants suffer sadly from neglect of every kind, and great numbers die from improper feeding. It is a very common practice for young mothers (married as well as single) to place their infants in the care of other women for the day, and I am constantly lecturing them on gross improprieties I find prevailing in such cases . . . Some years ago I held an inquest on a very young child, whose parents were earning from 50s. to 60s. a week, but who put out their infant to nurse, because, as the mother told me, she could not attend to it herself, having to be at work at the warehouse. The nurse very coolly admitted that she had (had) the care of eighteen children (five of them her own) and only one was living!”
I have not the least doubt that facts of this kind might be multiplied to almost any extent by adequate inquiry. In fact, inquiry is hardly needed; the state of the case is patent and admitted in the districts in question. The evidence taken before the Infant Life Protection Committee in all probability applies as strongly now, or nearly so, as it did ten years ago. In any case, it is a fact that the infants are “killed off” almost as fast now as they were ten or twelve years ago. As the last bit of iteration, I will give the following extract, culled from a Manchester newspaper,∗ purporting to come from a recent Report of Mr. Leigh, the Medical Officer of Health for Manchester. After informing us that in 1878–9 the deaths of children under five years of age in Manchester formed about 44 per cent. of the whole, while in other places the rate does not exceed 33 per cent., he goes on to say:
“The chief cause of a heavy infant mortality is the neglect which young children meet with in the lower stratum of society. In some cases the mother is employed in out-door labour, and the child receives no proper sustenance. It is left to the care of a girl too young even to take care of herself, and is exposed, with very scanty clothing, to the inclemency of the weather; or it is left in the care of some old woman, who quietens its cries for warmth and nourishment with repeated doses of laudanum, in the form of ‘Godfrey's Cordial,’ or some similar farrago; and at an early age dies from convulsions in one case, and from bronchitis or other lung affection in the other.”
As a remedy for this sad state of affairs, Dr. Ransome, Mr. T. C. Horsfall, and various members of the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association, advocate the establishment of day nurseries, where the mothers, while going to the mills, may deposit their young children under good supervision. If nothing else be done to mitigate the fate of infants, such nurseries are simply indispensable; but surely they form a mere palliative, and if they came into general use would tend to increase the evil they are intended to mitigate. While such institutions remained few in number, and were personally inspected by members of the Sanitary Association, all would no doubt be done which care and medical science could suggest. Even under the most painstaking inspection, much is to be feared from the assembling of many infants daily in the same room, owing to the extraordinary facility with which infectious diseases are spread among the very young. The evidence given before the Committee above referred to seems to be conclusive on this point, and the following are the remarks of the Committee in their Report (p. vi.):
“As regards children in charitable institutions, it is clearly ascertained that the aggregation of them in crowded rooms is so fatal to infant life that it has become necessary to remove them into various Homes. It was so with the Foundling Hospital nearly a century ago. The same has been observed in the Home in Great Coram Street; so that now they are put out by twos and threes in other places. A similar system exists in France; for while the children were aggregated in foundling hospitals, it was found that from 70 to 80 per cent. died; and now that they are placed out singly with nurses, and properly inspected, the mortality has been reduced from 20 to 30 per cent.”
It would appear, then, that frequently the only chance of saving infant life is the reverse of that intended by the Sanitary Association—namely, to isolate the children. But if such nurseries are to be of much good they must be hundreds in number, and they would then inevitably become the scenes of fearful abuses. The law provides no inspection or regulation for them of any kind, and institutions established for the protection and care of infants are, curiously enough, expressly exempted from the provisions of the Protection of Infant Life Act. Inspection by volunteer members of committees may of course maintain good management in a few nurseries; but we learn, from plenty of cases, how little such management is to be depended upon where the patients are incapable of complaining.
Although the Infant Life Protection Act is clearly a dead letter, there is no evidence to show exactly how it has failed. It may, of course, be possible that the care-takers of infants, knowing that it is a penal offence to take charge of more than one infants, or in the case of twins two infants, at the same time, have discontinued the practice. In that case the Act has succeeded better than any other law I can think of, in entirely suppressing the evil against which it was directed. But it is much more likely that the women in question do not so much as know of the existence of the law in question. Whether we look to the number of married women employed in factories, or the excessive infant mortality as already estimated, there can be no doubt that the Act in question has not in the least touched the real evils under which infants fade away. Let it be clearly understood, too, that the Act referred to does not really apply to the question before us, because its clauses do not extend to persons who take infants under their care for a part of the twenty-four hours only. An old woman might have a score or two of infants, and dose them at her discretion; but providing that they were carried to their homes at night, there would be no infringement of the law. Both the Act and the inquiries of the Committee were directed against the evils of “baby-farming;” but whether baby-farming be suppressed or not, there remains the vastly more extensive evils connected with baby-nursing while the mother has gone to the mills. The Act, in short, though founded on the best possible intentions, has served as a mere cover for the apathy of the governing classes.
But we are on the horns of a dilemma; the infants die as it is, and they will probably die if nurseries are established. We want some more radical remedy, and the best remedy would perhaps be found in some law which would practically oblige the mother to remain at home as long as she has children below the school age. It is very desirable that women who have no such domestic duties should have the freest possible access to employment; but where infants and very young children are in the case, the salus populi leads to a totally different view. There are no duties which are more important in every respect than those which a mother is bound by with regard to her young children. The very beasts of the field tend and guard their whelps with instinctive affection. It is only human mothers which shut their infants up alone, or systematically neglect to give them nourishment.
It must be evident, too, that the facility with which a young married woman can now set her children aside, and go to earn good wages in the mills, forms the strongest possible incentive to improvident and wrongful marriages. There are many statements in the Reports of the factory inspectors to the effect that dissolute men allure capable young women into marriage with the idea that the wives can earn wages, and enable their husbands to idle away their time. Taking into account the practical infanticide which follows, it would be impossible to imagine a more unsound, or, it may be said, a more atrocious, state of affairs.
It seems impossible, then, not to concede that the employment of child-bearing women leads to great abuses; and when these abuses reach a certain point, they may become all that is needed to warrant legislation. As to the exact form which such legislation should take, inquiry, if not experiment, must guide us. The law of Switzerland and some foreign countries, even if it could be carried out in our populous towns, seems to be inadequate. Probably it would be well to impose restrictions and penalties upon the negligent treatment of infants, without waiting until the case ripens for the coroner's court. It ought to be a punishable offence to shut very young children up in a house alone, or otherwise to abandon them for any considerable length of time, except, of course, under the pressure of emergency. But I go so far as to advocate the ultimate complete exclusion of mothers of children under the age of three years from factories and workshops.
The objection which will naturally be made to this proposal is, that there are no means of carrying the law into effect. It is granted that any law which, like the Infant Life Protection Act, becomes entirely ineffective, is a reproach to legislation, and by first quieting agitation, and then discouraging further efforts, does far more harm than good. Some effective machinery, or attempt to devise such machinery, must be provided in any law on the subject. As in the case of all the other factory legislation, trial and experience must show how that machinery can be improved and rendered adequate to its purpose. The history of such legislation, in fact, already affords important hints. The failure of the Workshops Acts of 1867 shows that nothing can be trusted to local or municipal action in these matters. The powers of the law must be exercised, as in the case of the present Factories and Workshops Act, from Whitehall. Again, it is generally conceded by all who have paid the least attention to this matter, that the employers cannot be burdened with the duty of inquiring into the nature of a woman's home duties. The penalties must fall therefore directly upon the persons most immediately implicated.
Fully conscious how impossible it is to foresee difficulties or even absurdities in making suggestions of the sort, I nevertheless venture to suggest that a moderate pecuniary penalty should be imposed upon every able-bodied husband, or reputed husband, whose wife, having the charge of any child under three years of age, shall be found to be employed regularly in any factory or workshop under the Act.
Moreover, any person who systematically takes charge of the infants of any man, thus liable to penalty, should be liable to a like penalty, without respect to the question whether it appears to be done for profit or not. Of course, no penalty would be inflicted where the caretaking was only occasional, as when a wife is going to bring or take back work to be done at home. Only where factory books prove that a woman was regularly employed under the Factory Act, would it be desirable to prosecute. The employers, however, might be obliged to furnish evidence of the woman's attendance at the factory. Moreover, lists of the women fined, or otherwise known to have broken the law, might be sent to the employers of each town or district, by the factory inspectors, the employer being then finable if he engages a woman whose name appears in the list. A woman giving a false name or address should be more severely punished.
The conduct of the requisite inspection and prosecution cannot possibly be left to the ordinary police. All experience seems to show that, in our modern complicated society, there must be differentiation of functions—that is to say, a special duty must be performed by a special officer. As, however, the present factory inspectors and sub-inspectors are heavily weighted as it is, they cannot possibly undertake the proposed new duties, nor would the appointment of a large number of assistant inspectors of any kind or rank be readily acquiesced in. The disconnection which now exists between the Central Government in Whitehall and the several police authorities, renders any direct prosecution difficult or impossible. But I venture to suggest that it would not be unreasonable to require by law that every borough or district having its own police should be required to assign one, two, or even three police officers, as might be required, to carry out the provisions of the proposed law, acting under the directions of the factory inspectors. Already the police perform a good many special services, as in the inspection of weights and measures, sanitary inspection, supervision of ticket-of-leave men, and so forth. Now, I fancy that an active police officer would soon discover infractions in the law; for the carrying of infants along the public street to a nursing-house is a thing evident to anybody, and the officer would only need to follow the woman to the factory, and he would have at once all the evidence needed. Probably there would be little difficulty in obtaining evidence; for the operative classes would receive the law with gratitude rather than aversion, partly perhaps misled by fallacies already referred to, and partly convinced by the evil results which are now before their eyes. If so, their concurrence and assistance in carrying out the law might be looked for. As regards the interests of employers it must be obvious that whatever they might suffer from the lessened supply of labour during the first ten years would be amply repaid by the abundant supply of vigorous young mill-hands which would then begin to be available.
Although the complete exclusion of child-bearing women from factory employments is the object to be aimed at, the violence of the change might be mitigated for a time. Licenses might be given to particular large factories to employ such women on the condition that they establish on or close to their premises crèches under constant medical supervision, where the mothers might visit their infants at intervals during the day. This plan has been adopted by some of the wealthy and benevolent manufacturing firms in France, and is said to have produced most beneficial results.∗ But no such crèche should be allowed to exist except under direct Government inspection, and, in any case its existence should be regarded as a transitional measure.
Widows and deserted wives would need to be gently dealt with: if, having a numerous family, they ought to have poor-law relief, to be added to the small earnings which they can make by home employment. In the long-run it would pay for the State to employ them as nurses of their own children. Where there are only one or two infants, the mother might be allowed to deposit them for the day at a crèche, established for and restricted solely to such cases, or at employers' crèches, just mentioned.
It is impossible not to see that there are difficulties in the matter which can be resolved only by trial. How, for instance, would such prohibitive legislation act in the case of reputed married couples? But it cannot, of course, be expected that the necessary details of legislation can be foreseen by any single writer. Before anything is done in so formidable a matter, there must be a minute inquiry into the treatment of young children by a Royal Commission. It is strange that such a formal inquiry has never yet been made, except with regard to the very restricted scope of Charley's Act. Older children have over and over again been taken under the view and care of the State. As a consequence, we have the Elementary Education Act, and the Factory and Workshop Act, by which ample care is taken of young persons from the age of five years upwards. Those who survive infancy are now pretty safe; they will have healthy schoolrooms and healthy workshops. But below the age of five years they are still, with slight exception, abandoned to the tender mercy of their mothers—or, rather, the old women armed with “Godfrey.” The Factory Act Commissioners of 1876 dismissed this subject briefly, and declined to advocate any restrictive measures because they might in their opinion tend to promote infanticide. But I venture to think that the fearful rate of infanticile mortality now existing in parts of the manufacturing districts, sufficiently approximates to infanticide to overbalance any evils to be expected from restrictive legislation.
The objection may no doubt be made, that the exclusion of child-bearing women from works in public factories would be a new and extreme case of interference with the natural liberty of the individual. Philosophers will urge that we are invading abstract rights, and breaking through the teachings of theory. Political economists might, no doubt, be found to protest likewise that the principles of political economy are dead against such interference with the freedom of contract. But I venture to maintain that all these supposed natural entities, principles, rules, theories, axioms, and the like, are at the best but presumptions or probabilities of good. There is, on the whole, a certain considerable probability that individuals will find out for themselves the best paths in life, and will be eventually the best citizens when left at liberty to choose their own course. But surely probability is rebutted or destroyed by contrary certainty. If we find that freedom to work in factories means the destruction of a comfortable home, and the death of ten out of twelve of the offspring, here is palpable evil which no theory can mitigate. What can be more against all principle, all right, nature, duty, law, or whatever else is thought to be most immutable and sacred, than that a mother should learn to hear “with nonchalance” that her infant had died at the nursing-house, while she herself was at the factory? The social system, like the human frame, may become so far diseased that the intervention of the physician is imperative.
Speaking of liberty and rights, it must be apparent, too, that the parties most seriously concerned in the matter are the infants. They have no means of raising a public agitation, or, if they venture to protest in their own manner, are soon stilled with “Godfrey.” But surely if there is any right which is clearly founded in the natural fitness of things, it is the right of the infant to the mother's breast. She alone can save from virtual starvation and death. She alone can add inches to the stature, fulness to the muscles, and vigour to the mind. It is in the present state of things that rights and principles are most flagrantly cast aside. And the origin of all this evil is often some idle and dissolute young man, who marries or seduces a young girl, knowing that he can afterwards live upon her wages.
All sorts of objections were made, time after time, to the Factory Laws as they gradually rose, step by step, from their first small beginning in 1802. Now all classes recognise that these laws were absolutely necessary to guard the population against the dangers of a novel state of things, as to which evolution had not had time to work out its spontaneous cure. No doubt, in the course of generations, the manufacturing population would become fitted to its environment, but only through suffering and death illimitable. We can help evolution by the aid of its own highest and latest product—science. When all the teachings of medical and social science lead us to look upon the absence of the mother from home as the cause of the gravest possible evils, can we be warranted in standing passively by, allowing this evil to work itself out to the bitter end, by the process of natural selection? Something might perhaps be said in favour of the present apathetic mode of viewing this question if natural selection were really securing the survival of the fittest, so that only the weakly babes were killed off, and the strong ones well brought up. But it is much to be feared that no infants ever really recover from the test of virtual starvation to which they are so ruthlessly exposed. The vital powers are irreparably crippled, and the infant grows up a stunted, miserable specimen of humanity, the prey to every physical and moral evil.
When looked at from the right point of view, factory legislation confers or maintains, rather than destroys, rights and liberties. The Factory and Workshop Act of 1878 seems to be a mass of vexatious restrictions: in reality it is the Great Charter of the working-classes. It is one of the noblest products of legislative skill and patience. It sums up the experience and the positive experiments of eighty years in the alleviation of factory life; but there is no reason to look upon it as the ultimatum of such alleviative legislation. It affords, no doubt, a resting-place; but it affords also the best encouragement to proceed with several other measures of like nature. Of all these, I venture to hold that the question of married women's employment, in spite of its extent and its difficulties, should take precedence. The growing wealth of the kingdom, and the ever-advancing powers of machinery, allow that to be done now which might not have been done before. Nor could any years be more propitious for the purpose than the next five or six, which will in all probability comprise the prosperous part of the commercial cycle. The achievement of a well-designed Act upon the subject, though causing, no doubt, some trouble and distress for a few years, would be followed, a few years later, by almost incredible blessings to the people, and blessings to the realm. Many a home would be a home which cannot now be called by that sweet name. The wife, no longer a mere slattern factory hand, would become a true mother and a housekeeper; and round many a Christmas table troops of happy, chubby children would replace the “wizened little monkeys” of girls, and the “little old men” boys, who now form the miserable remnants of families.
Note.—During the last few weeks of his life my husband was much occupied with the question of infant mortality, as he had undertaken to prepare a paper on that subject for the meeting of the Social Science Association, held at Nottingham last September. That paper was never to be written, and the results of his many hours of labour were therefore lost. I can only say here that he had most carefully examined into the statistics of infant mortality in every town of every county throughout England and Wales, and that he told me that he thought from this exhaustive inquiry he should be able to give most convincing proof of the influence which the absence of the mother at work has upon the death-rate of the children, and of the urgent need which exists for legislation upon the subject.
H. A. J.
INAUGURAL ADDRESS AS PRESIDENT OF THE MANCHESTER STATISTICAL SOCIETY on THE WORK OF THE SOCIETY IN CONNECTION WITH THE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY.∗
It has been suggested to me that I might suitably open the discussions of the present session of our society with some general remarks upon the subjects which might profitably come under our notice. One main object of a statistical society is simply to collect and publish information concerning the condition of the State or the people, and our transactions show that this object has not been neglected; but experience proves that our meetings afford an excellent opportunity for the discussion, in a perfectly unbiassed spirit, of questions of great and immediate public interest. With no foregone conclusions to support, and nothing to restrict the limits of fair and calm discussion, we meet here mutually ignorant, it may be, of the religious sect or public party to which one member or another may belong. From the author of the paper for the evening we receive statistical facts combined in a systematic or scientific form; and here, if anywhere, the truth is allowed to prevail from its own inherent strength. For the last thirty-six years the society has pursued an unobtrusive—probably too unobtrusive—a career; but a little inquiry would show that its career has been of great utility. On many subjects it has elicited opinions both new and true; it has either originated or given an impetus to the public discussion of various questions now bearing or likely to bear benefit to the State. And it has not altogether been unworthy of its position in a city and county which have heretofore been considered fertile in great and novel principles.
We meet at a time when considerable stagnation of trade undoubtedly exists, and there are not wanting persons who endeavour to spread abroad the notion that free trade is a failure. We are told that the results of our present commercial policy must be inquired into, and that a system of reciprocity treaties must probably be substituted for a perfect free trade. Living though we still do in the metropolis and stronghold of free trade, we cannot be wholly indifferent to the existence of such notions, and it is worth while to consider what we ought to do. In upholding a spirit of perfect impartiality we cannot refuse to entertain the question if it be brought before us by any member who might happen to share those notions, and wish to support them by well arrayed facts. And if “a Manchester Manufacturer,” or other anonymous agitator of this subject, trusts his own figures, and cares to submit them to a searching discussion, we would find an impartial body of critics here. But this is surely the most we need do. The burden of proof is upon those who agitate the question, and were we in this society, or were the country in Parliament, to start an inquiry into the subject, it would be yielding infinitely more weight to the facts hitherto adduced than belongs to them. Freedom of trade may be regarded as a fundamental axiom of political economy; and though even axioms may be mistaken, and different views concerning them must not be prohibited, yet we need not be frightened into questioning our own axioms. We may welcome bonâ fide investigation into the state of trade, and the causes of the present depression, but we can no more expect to have our opinions on free trade altered by such an investigation than the Mathematical Society would expect to have the axioms of Euclid disproved during the investigation of a complex problem. It would not be the principles of free trade that would be in question, but the political events, the great fluctuations in the supply of cotton or corn, and especially the reckless or even criminal proceedings of certain portions of the trading-classes which have disturbed the course of unrestricted industry.
There is something ludicrously illogical in the way in which “a Manchester Manufacturer” fixes upon a temporary depression of trade, easily accounted for by the most obvious causes, in order to discredit the great and permanent policy of the country. Such a writer trusts much to obliviousness. One would suppose, from the way he writes, that depression of trade and want of employment were wholly new experiences in this country, never heard of before the days of Peel. But a very slight reference to the records of past years would convince us that we should be grateful for the way in which the beneficent principles of free industry have mitigated the intensity of distress which has recurred at intervals of years under every financial régime. It would be tedious to remind you in any detail of the severe destitution and trouble of the years 1817–19, which occurred after the restrictive system had long been in operation, and before the idea of free trade was hardly broached. If it be objected that long wars had then enfeebled the industry of the country, I will mention instead the distress of the year 1826, which occurred at a time when the speculative energies of the kingdom had certainly not been dormant, and while hardly any important steps had yet been taken towards free trade. But I prefer to direct your attention to the years 1841–43, which bring us nearer to the present order of things, and show how wholly unconnected with the tariff is a certain temporary depression of industry. Let anyone take a volume of a Manchester newspaper for 1842, and in the early part of that year he will find in every page evidence of “the appalling and unparalleled distress” as it was called which then prevailed in the manufacturing districts of the West and North. In some places, especially Paisley, the population was said to be starving for want of employment, and the Government was implored to send food. The Government did not send food, but they did insist upon the repression of serious disturbances which arose among an almost desperate people. The bread riots, which occurred in this city in the latter part of 1842, can hardly have escaped the memory of all who are here.
This, let me remind you, took place when the tariff was still published in the form of a book, with an index to the very numerous articles contained therein; when the arrangements of Providence for the supply of food were improved by an ingenious sliding scale; when we attempted to repress the industry of neighbouring countries by an export duty on coal and certain other materials; and promoted our own manufactures by a general ad valorem import duty on manufactures of cotton, woollen, linen, iron, etc., varying from £5 to £30 per £100. It was the discontent and agitation arising during those gloomy years which finally determined the country in favour of free trade, and it is an extraordinary coincidence that the very year which has witnessed the removal of the last trace of protection in the small corn duty, just repealed by Mr. Lowe, should have brought an agitation, however limited and contemptible, for a reversal of that great work.
For my part, when I consider how great are the causes which have lately concurred to derange our trade, I feel exceedingly thankful that we have so easily surmounted crises like those of the cotton famine, and the collapse of 1866. Our own transactions contain ample information to enable anyone to understand our present position, and the real causes of stagnation. I know no one who has ex pounded in so thorough, and, as it seems to me, so sound a manner the causes of commercial fluctuations as Mr. John Mills. His paper on Credit Cycles and the Origin of Commercial Panics shows in the clearest way that these recurrent periods of depression are not due to any artificial causes, nor can they be accounted for by the state and regulations of the currency; they have recurred under a régime of inconvertible paper currency, a régime of free issues of convertible paper, and a régime of regulated issues upon a metallic basis. I may add that in other countries similar panics have occurred where there was a purely metallic currency, and bank notes were unknown. They have also recurred, as I have already mentioned, under every form of tariff which has existed in this country during the present century, or even longer. Mr. Mills has proved that such fluctuations have a deeper cause which we can only describe as the mental disposition of the trading classes. As a fact, there is every ten years or thereabouts au excitement of hope and confidence leading to a profusion of speculative schemes, the incurring of a great mass of liabilities, the investment of a great amount of floating capital, and an intense temporary activity of trade. As we know too well, there follows inevitably a corresponding reaction, and we are now in the third year of what Mr. Mills has so well called the Post Panic Period. I trust that he will before long favour us with a continuation of his admirable paper, pointing out how completely the course of events is justifying his remarks.
There are at present signs of the dawn of commercial activity. The first slight blush of returning day is beginning to show itself. The promoters of companies are beginning again to put forth their proposals in an extremely diffident and deprecatory manner. As there are no unfortunate reminiscences attaching to deep sea cables, they are selected to lead off with, and I do not doubt that before two or three years are over we shall again have occasion to fear the excessive confidence and the occasional want of integrity of projectors. It is a very significant fact that the iron trade, after several years of depression, is now beginning to be active. If masters and men in that trade would only let it take its natural course there would soon be nothing to complain of; and it will be truly unfortunate if a premature advance of wages and prices—for such is thought by many to be the recent decision of the trade in South Staffordshire—should drive their better fortune from them. Prosperity is probably only a question of a short time, and the close connection which exists between the demand for iron and the amount of fixed investment about to be made, seems to render the price of iron the best commercial weatherglass.
What there may be in the trade of this district which is not adequately explained by the recent collapse may surely be due to the lingering effects of the cotton famine. This society has furnished the public, in Mr. E. Helm's Review of the Cotton Trade, during the years 1862–68, with probably the best arranged facts concerning the position of the cotton and some related branches of manufacture. His tables form quite a small hand-book of the subject, and no one can doubt that the disproportion which he proves between the manufacturing power and the supply of cotton is quite adequate to explain the state of things. And we must remember that the general depression of trade profits and employment unfortunately cooperates with the high price of the material at present to restrict the home and foreign demand for cotton goods. The cotton manufacture has thus been beset with every possible disadvantage, and it is absurd indeed to turn round and throw the whole blame upon that freedom of foreign commerce by which alone we can obtain a pound of cotton-wool.
One word upon reciprocity treaties. Those who harp upon this idea, because they have no other to offer, overlook the fact that every act of commerce is a treaty of reciprocity. We cannot import without we export to an equal value, and we cannot export without we import. When we broke down the barriers around our own shores we could not stimulate an inward without also stimulating an outward current. The current would doubtless be stronger were the barriers around other shores removed; but were it our habit to wait until other nations are ready to accompany our steps of progress, we should still be where we stood in 1819.
I am glad to see that one result of the present depression of trade has been to direct attention to the enormous amount of pauperism existing in this country. The recent increase of the last few years indeed is fully accounted for by the temporary state of industry, and a few years of prosperity will doubtless restore things, to what they were. But is there any time in the present century when we could look at the undoubted returns of our poor-law relief and say that they were not a matter of regret and anxiety? Can we say that we are in a sound social state when all our triumphs in science, in mechanical invention, in manufactures, and in trade leave us still with one million of the people in the state of hopeless misery and dependence.
It is true that the present generation is not responsible for the creation of so much wretchedness. Pauperism is the general resultant of all the bad and all the omitted legislation of the last five hundred years. We have enough to answer for without reproaching ourselves with the deficiencies of our fore-fathers. Our reproach must be that, enjoying a greater amount of wealth, and greater opportunities than ever before fell to the lot of any nation, we have not done more to correct the results of former neglect. But I apprehend that what we want is not so much desire to accomplish the work as unanimity concerning the mode to be adopted. As pauperism is the general resultant of all that is wrong in our social arrangements it cannot be destroyed by any single measure; it can only be reduced by such exertions as raise the intelligence and provident habits of the people. Material well-being has comparatively little effect, for, however high the wages of an artizan may be, they may be spent intemperately, and on the slightest reverse of fortune his family or himself may come to the workhouse. It is distressing to find that a population such as that surrounding this city, which, on the whole, perhaps, has as great a command of good food and all the comforts of life as any in the world, has nothing to fall back upon, no accumulated savings of consequence, and that they are, therefore, ever ready upon the least breath of adversity to come upon the public funds. No people can be really well off unless to their material prosperity be joined habits of providence and foresight, which will lead them to fortify themselves in the position they have once attained.
General education is, doubtless, the measure which most nearly approaches to a panacea for our present evils. If I do not say much on this subject it is not because I do not feel much, but because I do not know so much of the details of the subject as would warrant me in speaking of it to many members who are already fully and practically acquainted with it. I will only suggest that, as this Society has, from its first establishment, taken a leading part in those inquiries and discussions which have led to the present wholesome state of public opinion, it might now fitly give attention to the minutest details of the legislation required. Compulsory attendance at school we must have, and I wish some of our members would investigate the most efficient means of carrying out the future law.
Another obvious mode of cutting off the springs of pauperism is to repress drunkenness. Here, again, we meet a question on which public opinion has pronounced itself in a general sort of manner, but where the details are still entirely in doubt. I was very glad that our member, the Rev. Mr. Steinthal, brought the subject of the licensing laws before us in a paper which left nothing to be desired as regards perfect acquaintance with the details of legislation and recent public discussion on the subject. But I am very sorry that I cannot accept his conclusion that the Permissive Bill of the United Kingdom Alliance is the best measure to repress intemperance. It aims at the more or less complete prohibition of a traffic which cannot be entirely destroyed, and, as I for one think, ought not to be entirely destroyed. It does not aim, so far as I can see, at exactly the right object; and I cannot persuade myself that its object could be carried out in practice. No one can doubt that so powerful a society does great good by drawing attention to the evils which exist; but I wish that an equal support could be given to the exceedingly sensible and practicable measures advocated by the Licenses Amendment League of this city. What we want, as it seems to me, is a carefully regulated and limited traffic, controlled by a well-enforced law, administered by a body of magistrates or other men who will ignore altogether the interests of the publicans, and look steadily to the infinitely greater object of the public good.
Among minor measures for the decrease of pauperism I may mention those advocated by Mr. Barwick L. Baker, in a most valuable and practical paper read to the society last session. Vagrancy is one of the abuses certain to grow up under a poor-law unless it be administered with the utmost care; and I trust that the experience of Mr. Baker may meet with proper attention from the Poor-law Board. It is creditable to our society to draw forth practical information such as this paper contains.
Another important effort is now being made in this city to decrease pauperism—I mean the placing out of pauper children in the families of respectable artisans—one of our members, Mr. Charles Herford, being foremost in the undertaking. It is well known that those children who are brought up in the workhouse almost invariably return there sooner or later, and thus form a strictly hereditary class of paupers. There can be no more direct mode of cutting off a branch of the stream of pauperism than thus to arrest it in the period of childhood. The scheme, so far as it is yet carried out, acts admirably, judging from what I have heard and seen of it, and I trust Mr. Herford will shortly give us the result of his experience in the matter.
I now wish to advert to a subject which has not, I think, received the attention it deserves. I refer to the tendency of medical charities and the poor-law medical service to nourish the spirit of pauperism. Considerable indignation has been occasioned by the neglect of sick paupers which has occurred in some parishes, and there is a movement for a general and uniform improvement in the medical treatment of paupers. Everyone must hold in the highest estimation men who, like the author of “Social Duties,” devote the highest talents to a work of this kind; and few who have read this work could have failed to acquiesce in the humane views put forth. Yet I think we must take care lest in yielding to the impulses of humanity we do more harm than good. I fear we may make the Union hospital so easy of access, and so attractive, that it may lead half-way to the Poor-house itself. Whenever I see the admirable infirmary built at Withington by our member Mr. Worthington, and described in our Transactions, this is the thought which suggests itself. But I feel bound to go further, and call in question the policy of the whole of our medical charities, including all free public infirmaries, dispensaries, hospitals, and a large part of the vast amount of private charity. What I mean is, that the whole of these charities nourish in the poorest classes a contented sense of dependence on the richer classes for those ordinary requirements of life which they ought to be led to provide for themselves. Medical assistance is probably the least objectionable of all the forms of charity, but it nevertheless may be objectionable. There is nothing more sure than that a certain percentage of any population will be suffering at every moment from illness or disease. It is almost certain that every man, woman, and child will require some medical treatment, and no family is really in a solvent condition which is not prepared to meet the average expenditure for this purpose. Every hospital and free dispensary tends to relax the habits of providence, which ought to be most carefully cultivated, and which cannot be better urged than with regard to the contingency of sickness. The Times not long ago published some very remarkable and complete statistics, compiled by Mr. Hicks, showing that the annual revenue of the established charities of London alone amounted to more than two millions a year. I fear that not only is a large part of this wasted in the excessive costs of management, but that a further large portion really goes to undermine the most valuable qualities of self-reliance, and so form a bribe towards the habits of mendicancy and pauperism. About forty years ago it be came apparent to the statesmen of that day that the Poor Laws, as then administered, were doing immense injury by allowing a distribution of public money in aid of wages, and encouraging every one to rely upon the public funds for subsistence. I fear we are in danger of falling into a similar mistake now by placing upon the ratepayers or upon charitable persons the whole cost of the medical service of the poorer classes. There is really no reason why such a state of things should exist, and many why it should not exist. At present the result of almost all charitable efforts is to make the poor look upon assistance as a right and natural thing in every contingency of life. If they merely want a little medicine there is a free dispensary; if they have a bad eye or ear, there are appropriate institutions; if anyone is in weak health he seeks a free order of admission to a Southport or a Buxton Hospital; and when the most natural possible crisis in a poor woman's life approaches, she looks forward to the aid of St. Mary's Hospital. Now, I ask, why should the poorer classes be thus encouraged and instructed to look to the wealthier classes for aid in some of the commonest requirements of life? If they were absolutely unable to provide for themselves the reason would be a strong and intelligible one, but I do not believe that the people are really in such a hopeless state of poverty. On the contrary, the wages of the greater part of the working-classes, and in these districts almost the whole, are probably capable, if wisely expended, of meeting the ordinary evils and contingencies of life, and were providence in small matters the rule, the most unhesitating aid might properly be given in the more unforeseen and severe accidents and cases of destitution.
But there is little use in bewailing an evil unless some mode of remedying it can be found. There is not much difficulty in discovering the only remedy applicable to medical charities. No one can seriously think of abolishing those charities; but why should not the working-classes be required to contribute towards institutions mainly established for their benefit. Self-supporting dispensaries exist in many places which afford all requisite aid to any person subscribing some such small amount as 1d. or 2d. each per week. I have heard that some of the London hospitals have considered the idea of adopting this system, and refusing aid in all minor cases but to their own subscribers. It would not be necessary to render the hospitals self-supporting. Endowments and public contributions would usually enable every hospital or dispensary to give back in medical aid several times the value of what is given in small contributions. The object would be not so much to raise money as to avoid undermining the prudent habits of the people. Non-contributors might still be relieved, but only on the payment of a fine; and, of course, cases of severe accident, illness, or destitution would still be relieved gratuitously as at present.
We cannot be supposed yet to have reached a point at which the public or private charity of one class towards another can be dispensed with, but I do think we ought to look towards such a state of things. True progress will tend to render every class self-reliant and independent. Self-help is the truest kind of help, and you confer the greatest benefit upon a person or a class of persons when you enable and induce them to do without your aid for the future. Money spent in the education of the young has this beneficent effect. Money spent in most other modes of charity has generally the opposite effect. Hence, I venture to look upon £1 spent in the education of the young as worth £50 spent in most other charitable uses.
I am hardly likely to overlook or underestimate the mistakes committed by Trades Unions, but can we deny that they embody the true spirit of self-help? So far as their funds are spent upon the relief of sickness, the support of those who are bonâ fide out of employment, or crippled by accident, they represent the truest form of providence, and they are already one of the bulwarks against the flood of pauperism. I do not despair of the time when these societies will understand the harmful and hopeless nature of their struggle against capital, and when that day comes, and working-men devote themselves to the accumulation of capital and the employment of it for their own benefit, a new and more hopeful order of things will not be far distant.
Having ventured to speak against the abuse of medical charities, I think I need not spare my remarks upon an innumerable multitude of other charities which have nothing to recommend them. I allude to the small doles of money and bread, coals and blankets, and other articles, which, in almost every parish in England, are given out chiefly through the hands of the clergy at intervals, according to the benevolent but mistaken intentions of testators. In Manchester I have seen the Cathedral entirely filled by an indiscriminate crowd of poor persons, each summoned to receive a blanket or coverlet. Every one, of course, must know that a certain amount of physical comfort may thus be caused; but what is this to the demoralising effect of such casual charity upon the energy and prudent habits of the recipients? I do not hesitate to say that such charities are an unmitigated nuisance, and that the money is not merely thrown away but used to do harm. It would accordingly be a most salutary measure to divert a considerable part of these misused funds to the promotion of education. Such funds are really public and not private funds, and when the State recognises in the Poor Law an indefeasible right of every person to maintenance under certain most necessary conditions, and spends a huge annual sum of money in consequence, it has a perfect right and duty to inquire into the application of other public funds which really go to swell the crowd of paupers.
The British Poor Law of 1832 is one of the wisest measures ever concerted by any government, and we of this generation hardly appreciate what it has saved us from. But I much fear lest any mistaken feelings of humanity should lead us to relax the rigour of its application, and to allow it in one way or other to be circumvented and counteracted. Should this be so, then, I say that British pauperism is simply a hopeless and permanent, and probably an increasing reproach to the civilisation of this country. Doubtless the state of things is somewhat better than it was before 1832; but, considering the nature of the reforms since effected, the amount of the wealth acquired, and the general amelioration in the other ranks of society, I venture to say that the improvement in the numbers and prospects of the poorest class who are or may become paupers, is really inconsiderable. And I shudder to think what might be the effect of any serious impediment to our future progress, such as a long-continued war, the competition of other nations, or a comparative failure of our own material resources.
OPENING ADDRESS as PRESIDENT OF SECTION F (ECONOMIC SCIENCE AND STATISTICS) of the BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE, At the Fortieth Meeting, at Liverpool, September, 1870.∗
The field of knowledge which we cultivate in this Section is so wide, that it would be impossible, in any introductory remarks, to notice more than a few of the important questions which claim our attention at the present time.
The name Statistics, in its true meaning, denotes all knowledge relating to the condition of the State or people. I am sorry to observe, indeed, that many persons now use the word statistical as if it were synonymous with numerical; but it is a mere accident of the information with which we deal, that it is often expressed in a numerical or tabular form. As other sciences progress, they become more a matter of quantity and number, and so does our science; but we must not suppose that the occurrence of numerical statements is the mark of statistical information.
In order, however, that any subject can be fitly discussed by a Section of this Association, it should be capable of scientific treatment. We must not only have facts, numerical or otherwise, but those facts must be analysed, arranged, and explained by inductive or deductive processes, as nearly as possible identical with those which have led to undoubted success in other branches of science. I have always felt great gratification that the founders of this Association did not in any narrow spirit restrict its inquiries and discussions to the domain of physical science. The existence of this Section is a standing recognition of the truth that the condition of the people is governed by definite laws, however complicated and difficult of discovery they may be. It is no valid reproach against us that we cannot measure, and explain, and predict with the accuracy of a chemist or an astronomer. Difficult as may be the problems presented to the experimentalist in his investigation of Material Nature, they are easy compared with the problems of Human Nature, of which we must attempt the solution. I allow that our knowledge of the causes in action is seldom sure and accurate, so as to present the appearance of true science.
There is no one who occupies a less enviable position than the Political Economist. Cultivating the frontier regions between certain knowledge and conjecture, his efforts and advice are scorned and rejected on all hands. If he arrives at a sure law of human nature, and points out the evils which arise from its neglect, he is fallen upon by the large classes of people who think their own common-sense sufficient; he is charged with being too abstract in his speculations; with overlooking the windings of the human heart; with undervaluing the affections. However humane his motives, he is lucky if he escape being set down on all sides as a heartless misanthrope. Such was actually the fate of one of the most humane and excellent of men, the late Mr. Malthus. On the other hand, it is only the enlightened and wide-minded scientific men who treat the political economist with any cordiality. I much fear that, as physical philosophers become more and more successful, they tend to become like other conquerors, arrogant and selfish; they forget the absurd theories, the incredible errors, the long-enduring debates out of which their own knowledge has emerged, and look with scorn upon our economic science, our statistics, or our still more vague body of knowledge called social science, because we are still struggling to overcome difficulties far greater than ever they encountered. But, again, I regard the existence of this Section as a satisfactory recognition of the absolute necessity of doing our best to cultivate economic subjects in a scientific spirit.
The great and everlasting benefits which physical science has conferred upon the human race are on every side acknowledged; yet they are only the smaller half of what is wanted. It daily becomes more apparent that the highest successes in the scientific arts and manufactures are compatible with deep and almost hopeless poverty in the mass of the people. We subdue material nature; we spin and weave, and melt and forge with a minimum of labour and a maximum of result; but of what advantage is all this while human nature remains unsubdued, and a large part of the population are too ignorant, careless, improvident, or vicious to appreciate or accumulate the wealth which science brings. Chemistry cannot analyse the heart; it cannot show us how to temper the passions or mould the habits. The social sciences are the necessary complement to the physical sciences, for by their aid alone can the main body of the population be rendered honest, temperate, provident, and intelligent.
In this kingdom during the last thirty or forty years we have tried a mighty experiment, and to a great extent we have failed. The growth of the arts and manufactures, and the establishment of free trade have opened the widest means of employment and brought an accession of wealth previously unknown; the frequent remission of taxes has left the working classes in fuller enjoyment of their wages; the poor laws have been reformed and administered with care, and the emigration of millions might well have been expected to leave room for those that remain. Nevertheless within the last few years we have seen pauperism almost as prevalent as ever, and the slightest relapse of trade throws whole towns and classes of people into a state of destitution little short of famine. Such a melancholy fact is not to be charged to the political econo mist; it is rather a verification of his unheeded warnings; it is precisely what Malthus would have predicted of a population which, while supplied with easily earned wealth, is deprived of education and bribed by the mistaken benevolence of the richer classes into a neglect of the future. What can we expect while many still believe the proverb, that “Where God sends mouths, He sends food,” and while a great many more still act upon it?
I am glad to say that, in spite of all opponents, we have an Education Act. Three centuries ago the State recognised the principle that no person should be allowed to perish for want of bread; for three centuries the State has allowed the people to perish for want of mind and knowledge. Let us hope much from this tardy recognition of the greatest social need, but let us not withdraw our attention from any other causes of evil which still exist in full force. I wish especially to point out that the wise precautions of the present poor law are to a great extent counteracted by the mistaken humanity of charitable people. Could we sum up the amount of aid which is, in one way or other, extended by the upper to the lower classes, it would be almost of incredible amount, and would probably far exceed the cost of poor law relief. But I am sorry to believe that however great the good thus done, the evil results are probably greater. Nothing so surely as indiscriminate charity tends to create and perpetuate a class living in hopeless poverty. It is well known that those towns where charitable institutions and charitable people most abound, are precisely those where the helpless poor are most numerous. It is even shown by Sir Charles Trevelyan, in a recent pamphlet, that the casual paupers have their London season and their country season, following the movements of those on whom they feed. Mr. Goschen and the poor law authorities have of late begun to perceive that all their care in the administration of relief is frustrated by the over-abundant charity of private persons, or religious societies. The same family often joins parish relief to the contributions of one or more lady visitors and missionaries. Not only improvidence but gross fraud is thus promoted, and cases are known to occur where visitors of the poor are duped into assisting those who are secretly in possession of sufficient means of livelihood.
Far worse, however, than private charity are the innumerable small charities established by the bequest of mistaken testators. Almost every parish church has its tables of benefactions holding up to everlasting gratitude those who have left a small patch of land, or an annual sum of money, to be devoted to pauperising the population of the parish throughout all time. Blankets, coals, loaves, or money are doled out once or twice a year, usually by the vicar and churchwardens. More or loss these parish charities act as a decoy to keep the most helpless part of the population nominally within the fold of the Church. The Dissenters, where they are strong enough, retaliate by competing for the possession of the poor by their own missions, and thus the reproach of the Roman Catholic Church, that it fostered mendicancy, holds far too true of our present sects. With private charity no law can interfere, and we can do nothing but appeal to the discretion of individuals. With testamentary charities it is otherwise.
We are far yet from the time when so beneficial a measure will be possible, but I trust that we are rapidly approaching the time when the whole of these pernicious charities will be swept away. We have in this country carried respect to the wishes of past generations to an extent simply irrational. The laws of property are a purely human institution, and are just so far defensible as they conduce to the good of society. Yet we maintain them to the extent of wasting and misusing no inconsiderable fraction of the land and wealth of the country. It would be well worthy, I think, of Mr. Goschen's attention, whether all small parish charities might not be transferred to the care of the guardians of the poor, so as to be brought under the supervision of the Poor Law Board, and distributed in accordance with sound principle. I should refuse to see in all such public endowments any rights of private property, and the State which undertakes the ultimate support of the poor, is bound to prevent its own efforts to reduce pauperism from being frustrated, as they are at present.
And while speaking of charities, it is impossible to avoid noticing the influence of medical charities. No one could for a moment propose to abolish hospitals and numerous institutions which are absolutely necessary for the relief of accidental suffering. But there is a great difference between severe accidental disease or injury and the ordinary illnesses which almost everyone will suffer from at various periods of his life. No working man is solvent unless he lay by so much of his wages as will meet the average amount of sickness falling to the lot of the man or his family. If it be not easy to determine this amount, there are, or may be, sick clubs which will average the inequalities of life. In so far as trades unions favour the formation of such clubs, they manifest that spirit of self-reliance which is the true remedy of pauperism.
But the wealthy classes are, with the best motives, doing all they can to counteract the healthy tendencies of the artisans. They are continually increasing the number and resources of the hospitals, which compete with each other in offering the freest possible medical aid to all who come. The claims of each hospital for public support are measured by the number of patients it has attracted, so that, without some general arrangement, a more sound system is impossible. Hospitals need not be self-supporting, and in cases of really severe and unforeseen suffering, they may give the most lavish aid; but I conceive that they should not relieve slight and ordinary disease without a contribution from those benefited. As children are expected to bring their school pence, though it be insufficient to support the school, and as Government has wisely refused to sanction the general establishment of free schools, so I think that every medical institution should receive small periodical contributions from the persons benefited. Arrangements of the kind are far from uncommon, and there are many self-supporting dispensaries, but the competition of free medical charities has, to a great extent, broken them down.
The importance of the subject with which I am dealing can only be estimated by those who have studied the statistics of London charities, prepared by Mr. Hicks, and published in The Times of 11th February, 1869. It is much to be desired that Mr. Hicks, or some other statistician, would extend a like inquiry to all parts of the United Kingdom, and give us some notion of the amount of money expended in the free relief of the poor.
Closely connected with this subject is that of the poor law medical service. Admirable efforts are being made to improve the quality of the medical aid which all persons sufficiently poor can demand, and some unions have already erected hospitals almost perfect in their comfort and salubrity. It will be conceded by everyone, that those sick persons whose charge is undertaken by the public ought to be treated with care and humanity. Where medical aid is given at all, it ought to be good and sufficient. But the subject seems to me to be surrounded with difficulties, out of which I cannot find my way. The better we make the poor law medical service, the more we shall extend and deepen the conviction, already too prevalent, that the poor may make merry with their wages when well and strong, because other people will take care of them when sick and old. We thus tend to increase and perpetuate that want of self-reliance and providence which is the crowning defect of the poorer classes. In this and many other cases it seems as necessary as ever that our humane impulses should be guided by a stern regard to the real results of our actions.
I now turn to a subject which must come prominently before our Section: I mean the future financial policy of the kingdom. We are now at a most peculiar and happy epoch in our financial history. For thirty years or more a reform of the tariff has been in progress; and it is only a year since the last relic of the protective system was removed by Mr. Lowe's repeal of the small corn duty. One great scheme is thus worked out and completed. Henceforth, if duties are remitted it must be on a wholly different ground—as simple remission of revenue, not as the removal of protective duties which benefit some to the injury of others. It might well be thought difficult to overlook the difference between a tax for revenue purposes and one for protective purposes; and yet there are not a few who seem not to see the difference. We are still told that there is no such thing as free trade, and that we shall not have it until all custom-houses are swept away. This doctrine rests, however, upon a new interpretation of the expression “free trade,” which is quietly substituted for the old meaning. Cobden, however much he might be in favour of direct taxation, took care to define exactly what he meant by free trade. He said:
“What is free trade? Not the pulling down of all custom-houses, as some of our opponents try to persuade the agricultural labourers. Our children, or their offspring, may be wise enough to dispense with custom-house duties; they may think it prudent and economical to raise revenue by direct taxation; we do not propose to do that.
“By free trade we mean the abolition of all protective duties.
“We do not want to touch duties simply for revenue, but we want to prevent certain parties from having a revenue which is to benefit themselves, but advantage none else; we seek the improvement of Her Majesty's revenue.”
Let us, then, candidly acknowledge that in Cobden's sense free trade is actually achieved. Anyone the least acquainted with our revenue system, knows with what skill our tariff has been adjusted by Peel, Gladstone, and Lowe, so that the articles taxed should be of entirely foreign production, or else the customs duty should be exactly balanced by an excise duty. We have now a very large revenue of about forty millions, raised by customs or excise duty on a small number of articles, with the least possible interference with the trade of the country. A very large part, too, is raised upon spirituous liquors, the consumption of which we desire, on other grounds, to reduce rather than encourage.
For the future, then, the remission of customs duties will be grounded on other motives than it has often been in the past, and it becomes an open question whether there are not other branches of revenue far more deserving attention. It must not be supposed that foreign trade is to be encouraged before everything else. The internal trade and industry of the country are at least equally deserving of attention, and it may be that there are stamp duties, license duties, rates, or other taxes which, in proportion to the revenue they return, do far more injury than any customs duties now remaining. It is impossible, for instance, to defend the heavy stamp duty paid by the articled clerks of attorneys on their admission; and, if I went into detail, it would be easy to point out scores of cases where the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is needed.
I may point to local taxation especially as a subject requiring attention even more than any branch of the general revenue. Until within the last few years the importance of the local rates was to a great extent overlooked, because there were no adequate accounts of their amount. The returns recently obtained by the Government are even now far from complete; but it becomes apparent that at least one-fourth part of the whole revenue of the kingdom is raised by these neglected rates and tolls. Their amount is more than equal to the whole of the customs duties, upon the reform of which we have been engaged for thirty years. Nevertheless we continue to allow those rates to be levied substantially according to an Act passed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The recent partial inquiry by a select committee has chiefly served to prove the extent and difficulty of the reform which is needed. Whole classes of property which were unrated three centuries ago are unrated now; and it will be a matter of great difficulty to redress in an equitable manner in equalities which have been so long tolerated. The subject is of the more importance because there is sure to be a continuous increase of local taxation. We may hope for a reduction of the general expenditure, and we shall expect rather to reduce than raise the weight of duties; but all the more immediate needs of society, boards of health, medical officers, public schools, reformatories, free libraries, highway boards, main drainage schemes, water supplies, purification of rivers, improved police, better poor law medical service—these, and a score of other costly reforms, must be supported mainly out of the local rates. Before the difficulties of the subject become even greater than they now are, I think that the principles and machinery of local taxation should receive thorough consideration. At present the complexity of the laws relating to poor rates is something quite appalling, and it is the herculean nature of the reform required which perhaps disinclines financial reformers from attacking it. Several most able members of the Statistical Society have, however, treated the subject, especially Mr. Frederick Purdy, Professor J. E. T. Rogers, and Mr. Dudley Baxter.
I am glad to be able to draw the attention of the Section to the fact that the Statistical Society of London have received from Mr. William Tayler, one of the members, the sum of fifty guineas, to be awarded by the society to the author of the best essay on the Local Taxation of the United Kingdom.
We have considerable opposition raised to customs and excise duties because they are indirect taxes; but the fact is, that direct taxation is practically impossible. Careful examination shows that it is difficult to draw any clear distinction between taxes in this respect. There are few or no direct taxes borne only by those who pay them. The incidence of the local rates, for instance, is an undecided question; but I do not doubt that they fall to a considerable extent indirectly. The incidence of the stamp duties is almost wholly indirect, but defies investigation. The income tax, no doubt, approaches closely to the character of a direct tax; but it has the insuperable inconvenience of being paid by the honest people and escaped by the rogues. I am inclined to look upon schemes of universal direct taxation as affording much scope for interesting speculation, but as being, in practice, simply impossible.
I have another point to urge. Is not the time come when the remission of taxes, whether of one kind or another, may properly cease to be a main object? The surplus revenue of future years will, doubtless, be more than sufficient to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reform or abolish those small branches of internal revenue which occasion far more inconvenience and injury than they are worth. There will still, should war be happily avoided, remain a considerable surplus, and the question presses upon us, Shall this revenue be relinquished, or shall it be applied to the reduction of the national debt?
In considering this subject I may first point out that there probably exists no grievous pressure of taxation, and no considerable inequality as regards the several classes of the people. We are now able to estimate, with some approach to accuracy, the actual proportion of income which is paid by persons of different incomes. The accounts now published by Government, and the labours of several eminent statisticians, especially Professor Leone Levi and Mr. Dudley Baxter, permit us to make this calculation. The most recent addition to our information is contained in an elaborate paper read by Mr. Baxter before the Statistical Society in January, 1869, and since published in the form of a volume. Mr. Baxter has, with great industry and skill, collected a mass of information concerning the habits of persons in different classes of society, which he combines with the published accounts of the revenue, and with the statistics of income previously estimated by himself and Mr. Leone Levi. Both he and Professor Levi come to the conclusion that the working-classes, so long as they make a temperate use of spirituous liquors and tobacco, pay a distinctly less proportion of their income to the State, and even intemperance does not make their contribution proportionally greater than those of more wealthy persons.
It happens that, before I was aware of Mr. Baxter's elaborate inquiries, I undertook a similar inquiry on a much more limited scale, by investigating the taxes paid by average families spending £40, £85, and £500 a year. My conclusions, as might be expected, were not exactly coincident with those either of Mr. Baxter or Professor Levi, yet there was no great discrepancy. I conceive that families of the classes mentioned, consuming moderate quantities of tobacco and spirituous liquors, all pay about ten per cent. of their income in general or local taxation, allowance being made for the recent reduction of the sugar duty and the repeal of the corn duty.∗ But there is this distinction to be noticed, that the taxation of the middle classes is mostly unavoidable, whereas at least half the taxation of the poorer classes depends upon the amount of tobacco and spirituous liquors which they consume. Families of artisans or labourers, abstaining from the use of these stimulants, are taxed very lightly, probably not paying more than 4 or 5 per cent. of their income. Now, while many men are total abstainers, and many are intemperate, I think we cannot regard the taxes upon stimulants as we do other taxes. The payment of the tax is voluntary, and is, I believe, paid without reluctance. The more we thus investigate the present incidence of taxation, the more it seems inexpedient to proceed further in the reduction of the customs and excise duties. The result would be to leave by far the larger mass of the people almost free from anything but local taxes, and to throw the whole cost of Government upon the wealthier classes, and especially those who have tangible property.
But I venture to raise another question: I doubt whether the remission of taxation does as much good at the present day as it would at a future time. There are comparatively few signs that the wages of the working-classes, even when sufficient, are saved and applied really to advance the condition of the recipients. All is expended in a higher scale of living, so that little permanent benefit results; and when bad trade comes again, there is as much distress as ever. It is only with the increase of education and temperance that the increase of wages will prove a solid advantage. Thus, when the really hurtful taxes are removed, it by no means follows that the further remission of taxes leads to the profitable expenditure of income. The money may be spent in a way far more profitable to the whole nation than it will be spent by those whose taxes are remitted.
I am glad, on this and many other accounts, that the propriety of reducing the national debt is beginning to be very generally recognised. The question was ably raised by Mr. Lambert during the recent session, and both in the House of Commons and in the newspaper press, many strong opinions were expressed in favour of reduction. In fact, there was almost a general feeling that Mr. Lowe's small measure of reduction was altogether inconsiderable compared with our opportunities and the greatness of the task before us. During every interval of peace we ought to clear off the charges incurred during the previous war, otherwise we commit the serious error of charging to capital that which should be borne by income. If a railway company needs periodically to renew its works, and charges all the cost to capital, it must eventually become insolvent; so if at intervals we require to maintain the safety and independence of this country or its possessions by war, and do it all by borrowed money, we throw the whole cost of our advantage upon posterity. If, indeed, one great war could free us from all future danger, we might capitalise the cost and leave it as a perpetual mortgage upon the property of the country; but if the effect of any war wears out, and we are liable to be involved in new wars at intervals, then we cannot fairly or safely go on adding perpetually to the mortgage upon the national property. The wars at the commencement of this century have secured for us fifty years or more of nearly unbroken peace, and yet at the end of this period of over-advancing wealth, the great debt stands almost at the same figure as at the commencement. We enjoy the peace and leave our descendants to pay its cost.
If it be said that this country is now far wealthier and more able to endure the annual charge of the debt than ever before, I would point out that the expense of war is also greatly increased. If we consider the cost of the Abyssinian expedition, or the vast debts which other nations have lately or are now incurring, it is evident that we may have in a great war to incur hundreds of millions of debt, or else relinquish our prominent position. Let us hope that such calamities will be spared to us; but let us not suppose that we may avoid them by being negligent and unprepared. It is not many months since Mr. Lowe declared that we must maintain our system of taxation substantially as it is, in order to supply revenue adequate to possible emergencies. The wisdom of his view is already apparent; but I hold that he should have gone further, and strengthened our hands by a measure for the reduction of the debt worthy of his boldness and the surplus at his command. But the fact is that little can be done in such a matter by any minister unless he be supported by a strong public opinion.
The remarks which I most wished to make are now completed, and there only remain one or two minor topics to which I will more briefly allude.
The excessive mortality in great towns seems to demand more close attention than it has received. For many years Liverpool stood at or near the top of the list as regards mortality, but by strenuous efforts it has been rendered more healthy. Manchester, on the other hand, although often considered the best paved, best watered, and in some other respects the best managed town in the country, has lately taken a very high or even the highest place as regards mortality. In Salford, too, the death-rate has steadily grown in recent years. It would seem as if we were entirely at fault, and that all our officers of health, sanitary commissioners, and the improvements of science and civilisation, cannot prevent nearly twice as many people from dying as would die in a healthy and natural state of things.
Within the last few months attention has been drawn to this subject by a prolonged discussion in The Manchester Guardian. It was occasioned by Mr. Baxendell, who brought before the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society certain statistics tending to show that the mortality of Manchester was not due to any peculiar excess in the rate of infantile mortality. It was an old opinion that in a manufacturing town like Manchester the children are neglected, while their mothers are employed at the mills; but Mr. Baxendell showed that the deaths of infants under five years actually bear a less proportion to the whole number of deaths than in any other of the large towns. This conclusion was somewhat severely criticised by the Medical Officer of Health for Salford, and by Dr. Ransome and Mr. Royston, of the Manchester Sanitary Association. The latter gentlemen pointed out that the true mode of computation is to compare the deaths of infants with the number of infants living, and the deaths of adults with the number of adults. But even when calculations are made in this manner it still turns out that the adult mortality of Manchester is as excessive as the infantile mortality. Manchester mothers are thus exonerated from the charge of neglect, but at the same time a most important and mysterious problem is left wholly unsolved.
Our perplexity must be increased when we consider that Liverpool and Manchester, though both very unhealthy towns are quite contrasted as regards situation and the kinds of employment they present. If we compare Liverpool with other seaports, such as Bristol, Hull, and London, it is found to exceed them all considerably in mortality. Bolton, Bury, Preston, Stockport and other towns have more women employed than Manchester, comparatively speaking, yet they are more healthy. The size of the town, again, is not the chief cause, for London, though many times more populous than any other town, is decidedly healthy. The sites of the towns do not give any better solution of the difficulty, London having probably as unhealthy a site as any of the other large towns.
I am surprised that more attention has not been drawn to the probable influence of a poor Irish population in raising the death-rate. It occurred to me that the great towns which are most unhealthy agree in containing a large proportion of Irish, and agree in nothing else which I can discover. To test this notion I have calculated, from the census returns of 1861, the ratio of the Irish-born adult population in all the larger towns of Great Britain.∗ It then becomes apparent at once that the unhealthy towns of Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, Glasgow, Dundee, etc. are all distinguished by possessing a large population of Irish, whereas the healthy towns of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Aberdeen, etc., have less than 7 ½ per cent. of adult Irish residents. Sheffield is the only remarkable exception to this induction. It might seem that, in order to confirm this conclusion, I should show the death-rate in Dublin to be very high. On turning to the accounts of the Irish Registrar-General, we find the Dublin rate to be low; but then we find that the Dublin birth-rate is even lower in proportion. In fact the registry system in Ireland gives results so much lower in every respect than those of Great Britain, that we must either conclude the state of population to be utterly different there from what it is here, or we must suppose the registration to be very incomplete. If after further investigation this suggestion should be found to explain the high and mysterious mortality of many towns, it will, I think, relieve us from some perplexity, give us more confidence in sanitary measures, and point out exactly where most attention is needed.
The next two or three years will be a time of great interest to statisticians on account of the approaching census of 1871. We shall soon possess data which will assist us in many investigations, and enable us surely to estimate many of the changes in progress.
There is only one suggestion concerning the census which it occurs to me to make, namely, that it ought to be taken in as nearly as possible a uniform manner in all the three parts of the United Kingdom. It need hardly be pointed out that the value of statistics almost entirely depends upon the accuracy and facility with which comparisons can be made between different groups of facts, and a very slight variation in the mode of making the enumerations of the census or tabulating the results, will lead to error, or else render comparison impossible.
Reasons, the force of which I cannot estimate, have led to the establishment of distinct registry offices in Edinburgh and Dublin. Not only are the ordinary reports concerning births, deaths, and marriages drawn up independently in the several offices for England, Scotland, and Ireland, but even the census is performed by the separate authorities in the three kingdoms. Consequently, we have really three censuses and three reports, and, at least in 1861, the tables were constructed to a great extent in different modes in these reports. Thus there is a total want of that unity and uniformity which, in a scientific point of view, is indispensable. If there is one thing more than another which demands perfect unity and centralisation, it is the work of the census and the Register Office; but if we cannot have one central office, let us hope that the several Registrar-Generals will co-operate so as to produce the nearest approach to uniformity in the census. The different territorial divisions and arrangements may require some modifications in the mode of enumeration, but except in this respect, there should be perfect identity.
I should like to direct your attention for a moment to the very copious and excellent statistical publications with which we are now furnished by Government. Owing partly to the prejudice against blue books, and partly, probably, to the ineffective mode of publication, the public generally are not aware that for the sum of eightpence any person can obtain the Statistical Abstract of the Board of Trade, containing an admirable selection from the principal statistics of the country during the preceding fifteen years. For a few shillings, again, may be had the “Miscellaneous Statistics” of the Board of Trade, furnishing a wonderful compilation of facts concerning three recent years, though I wish that this information could be brought more nearly up to the time of publication.
By degrees a considerable amount of system has been introduced into our parliamentary papers. They have always been sufficiently copious—rather too copious in fact; but until the last twenty years they consisted mainly of disconnected and accidental accounts, which were exceedingly troublesome to statisticians, and often of no use whatever. It is from regular annual publications, carried on in a uniform manner, that we derive the most useful information, that which is capable of comparison and digestion. The annual reports which have for some years been issued from various Government departments are the best source of statistics; and I may suggest that there are several public departments, for instance, the Mint, which do not yet give any regular annual reports.
I would especially point again to the last Report of the Inland Revenue Department as a model of what we might desire from other departments. In addition to the usual annual report, it contains an abstract of the previous Reports for ten years back, and, what is still more valuable, complete tables of all inland duties from their first establishment, some of the tables going back to the beginning of last century. We are thus provided with a complete history of the inland revenue. I cannot but believe that in many other departments there is much valuable information which might be furnished to the public in like manner at a very slight cost.
Under other circumstances I should have had something to say to you concerning international money. Just before the present unhappy war broke out, a Commission in Paris had reported in a manner greatly facilitating the adoption of an international money in the British Empire and in America; at the same time a conference was about to be held in Berlin, which would probably have resulted in some important measures as regards Prussia. Everything, in short, was favourable to the early adoption of a common money. But it need hardly be said, that all hope of such a great reform must be deferred until peace is once again firmly established.
Since this Association last met, the great experiment of transferring the telegraphs to Government control has been carried out. The result has been to some extent disappointing. The proprietors of the telegraphs, when negotiating with Government, discovered that their property was about twice as valuable as they had before considered it. The enormous profits which they made out of the sale, seem to me to throw immense difficulty in the way of any similar transfer in the future. It becomes, for instance, simply chimerical to suppose that the Government can purchase the railways, which are about two hundred and fifty times as valuable as the telegraphs, and which, if purchased in the same way, would cost considerably more than the whole national debt. The working of the telegraphic department, again, confirms the anticipation that we must not expect from it any such results as followed the establishment of the penny post. Many people already look forward to the time when the uniform cost of a telegram will be 6d., but I believe that they will be disappointed. They overlook the essential difference that a great number of letters may be conveyed almost as cheaply as one letter, whereas every telegram occupies the wires for a definite time, and requires to be delivered, generally speaking, by a special mes senger. Thus, if we are to have the rapid delivery without which telegrams seem to me nearly valueless, the property and staff, and, of course, the expenses of the department, must expand nearly proportionally to the business. A reduction of the rate to 6d., by bringing a great increase of work, would greatly augment the expenses of the department, and inflict a loss upon the nation.
[∗]I prefer to adopt this explanation of the public apathy about this subject; but a correspondent maintains that “it is simply one of the phases of middle-class selfishness.”
[∗]On this subject see the paper on “The Destruction of Infants,” by Mr. F. W. Lowndes, M.R.C.S.: Social Science Association, 1876, Report, p. 586.
[∗]“Journal of the Statistical Society,” September, 1870, vol. xxxiii. pp. 323—326. Also reprinted in this volume as Appendix B to Opening Address as President of the Section of Economic Science and Statistics, British Association, 1870. See, however, the opposite opinion of Mr. T. R. Wilkinson, as expressed in his paper, “Observations on Infant Mortality and the Death-rate in Large Towns.” Manchester Statistical Society, 1870–71, pp. 49–55.
[∗]Mr. Baker, Report, October, 1873, pp. 122–8.
[∗]Parliamentary Paper, No. 372, 20th July, 1871. Collected Series vol. vii. p. 607.
[∗]Sixth Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, 1863, pp. 454–62 (Parl. Paper, 1864, No. [3,416], vol. xxviii).
[∗]Fourth Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, 1861, pp. 187–196. Parl. Papers, 1862, No. 179, vol. xxii.
[∗]Mr. Newmarch said at the British Association in 1861 (Report, p.202): “The rate of infant mortality was almost the best test of civilisation.”
[†]Important evidence on the subject of Infant Mortality was given by Mr. Herford before the Committee. See the Questions, 1907 to 2155. See also the Report, p. iii.
[∗]It must be understood that no systematic or extensive inquiry has been made. I have no information for London or any other towns not mentioned above; but the answers obtained sufficiently inform us as to the state of the case.
[†]That Mr. Browne's opinions are far from being hastily formed is apparent from the fact that like opinions are expressed in his letter and tabular statement of the results of inquests on children found dead, as printed in the Fourth Report of the Privy Council, p. 192: Parl. Paper, p. 176, 1862, vol. xxii.
[∗]They appear to print so few copies of reports in Manchester, that I have been unable to procure a copy of the Report in question.
[∗]Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Society, 1868–9, p. 10.
[∗]Read November 10th, 1869.
[∗]Printed in the “Journal of the Statistical Society,” September, 1870.
[∗]See Appendix A, p. 212.
[∗]See Appendix B, p. 213.
[∗]“Fortnightly Review,” May, 1876, vol. xix., pp. 671–684.