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among the Manchester working population at large, is to be traced to life in an ill-built town, not to life in a well-ventilated cotton-mill.
The greater part of the quota of Manchester extra and removable mortality is, however, as we have hinted, made up of children's deaths. It is before the juvenile portion of the population begin to work in the factory, not after it, that the system exposes them to the greatest danger. It is a melancholy, but an undoubted fact, that out of every 100 deaths in Manchester, very nearly one-half—48 and a fraction-are those of children under 5 years of age; while placing the period of life at 10 years, we find that 52' out of the 100 die annually. In some of the neighbouring towns, especially in Ashton-under-Lyne, the proportion is still more appalling. There, by a calculation made embracing the 5 years ending with June 30, 1843, it appeared that out of the whole number of deaths, 57 per cent. were those of children under 5 years of age. It is, of course, generally known, that the first five years of life are the most fatal in all districts; but the infant mortality of the cotton towns is nearly 20 per cent. greater than the average of the whole kingdom. In this difference of proportion is to be found the great evil of the factory system as it at present exists—an evil committed not directly by work at the mills, but indirectly by work at the mills drawing individuals in certain cases from their homes. Marriages in Manchester are frequently contracted at a very early age, long before the man has any chance of holding the better-paid class of situations in the factory; and the result is, that his wife, like himself, is obliged to continue her daily toil in the mill, even after she has a young family growing up around her. From this necessity comes the curse of the cotton towns—the dosing of the children with opium to keep them quietly asleep at home or at nurse, until the return of their mothers in the evening; and the fact, demonstrated by statistics, that every seven years 14,000 children die in Manchester over and above the natural proportion. As may be well supposed, the system of infant neglect continues even after the children have got too old to be left all day in the cradle. Then they wander forth into the streets, running the risk of all manner of accidents, and so frequently going astray, that the police have actually to find out the domičiles of upwards of 4000 lost' children per annum.
This fact is mentioned upon the authority of the constabulary returns annually made to the corporation.
The practice of mothers labouring in the mills is all but universal, except in the cases of the wives of the spinners. Pregnant women,' says Dr Johns of Manchester, continue their work up to the very last moment, and return to it as soon as ever they can move about.' 'In Ashton-under-Lyne,' says a local medical authority, “it is no unfrequent occurrence for mothers of the tenderest age to return to their work in the factories on the
second or third week after confinement, and to leave their helpless offspring in the charge of mere girls, or superannuated" old
Sometimes a wetnurse is clubbed for by three and even four women. Mr Coulthard has seen one so exhausted “as to be unable to walk across the room,' while the children were almost unable to move their hands or feet.' The wetnurse, however, most frequently applied to, is the laudanum bottle. The dose is sometimes administered by the mother before she leaves home; but more generally by the old women who are employed to take charge of perhaps half-a-dozen children, who are carried every morning to her house, and whom she doses so as to keep them quiet during the day, at a weekly stipend for each of from ls. Ed. to 2s. 6d.
The effect of laudanum upon the children is to produce suffusion on the brain, and a whole tribe of glandular and mesenteric disorders. The child sinks into a low torpid state, and wastes away to a skeleton, the stomach alone preserving its protuberance. If it survives, it is more or less weakly, and stunted for life—the complexion never assumes a healthy hue, and the vital powers never attain their natural force and vigour. The liquid principally used is a drug common enough through all the country, and well known as Godfrey's Cordial. In Manchester, ‘Godfrey,' as the term is generally abbreviated, is a household word. Just as the gin-loving race of London delight to call their favourite beverage by dozens of slangy, affectionate titles—just as there is the Cream of the Valley,' and the Regular Flare Up,' and 'Old Tom, so there are to be found in the lower districts of the cotton towns 'Baby's Mixture, Mother's Quietness, Child's Cordial,''
,'Infant’s Preservative, Soothing Sirup,' and so forth. The druggists are not the only venders of these narcotics. The low public-houses and the 'general' shops keep them made up in penny and half-penny doses, and, as may be believed, the sale is immense.
The 'Godfrey' is an old-fashicned preparation, and has been in use for nearly a century. It is made of different degrees of strength, but on the average contains about an ounce and a half of laudanum to the quart. The dose is from half a teaspoonful to two teaspoonfuls. Infant's Cordial' has the reputation of being stronger, containing on the average two ounces of laudanum to the quart. The stronger the potion is, indeed, the more it is sure to be in demand; and the dealers have a half-emptied bottle frequently brought to them, with a request for a drachm or so additional of laudanum. The constituents of all these doses over and above the narcotic element are water, anise-seed, and treacle. The stuff is often made by wholesale in huge coppers, holding perhaps twenty gallons, and thence supplied to the druggists and the general shops, to be frequently sold in the latter as children's draughts, a penny each.'
Sometimes the children are dosed by the nurses without the
knowledge or consent of the mothers, who, however, soon find out the truth by the languid air and wasting limbs of their offspring. But the administration of sleeping stuff,' for the purpose of obtaining an undisturbed night's rest, is almost a universal practice even by parents who would shrink from stupifying their offspring in the daytime. Very young girls, too, when left in charge of children, follow the usages of the old nurses; and thus when every engine in Manchester is panting and throbbing, and every adult and youthful hand and eye upon the alert, a large proportion of the infant population is lying in a torpid sleep -their young energies sealed up, and their brains becoming softened under the spell of the wretched potion which has lulled them. The question here arises, whether a child so treated, but surviving its youth, has not imbibed tastes for opium-drinking which cling to it in after-life. We are inclined to believe that such cases are the exceptions not the rule. The steady discipline of the mills, as soon as the child is introduced to them, breaks up old habits, and launches the individual, as it were, into a new course of life. Still, there is a certain consumption of opium among the grown-up population. The drug is used in both its raw and liquid states; and women are the principal customers for it in the latter. In the case of children put out to nurse, the doses are of course gradually strengthened. The old woman intrusted with the charge, serves out the teaspoonfuls, and then having laid her stupified babies in beds and cradles, goes about her own business, which is generally that of a laundress. Many of these persons earn in this way a really handsome income, from which, however, the expense of the drugs is a considerable drawback.
It will be seen from the above account, that the fact of young married females being allowed to labour in the mills, leading as it does directly to the necessity for Godfrey—is one of the chief blots in our manufacturing system. The mothers, when spoken to, will admit the evil, but complain that it is unavoidable that the industry of both parents is necessary for the support of their family, and that they cannot afford to pay for any system of nursing save that in vogue. Efforts are now, however, being made to provide a remedy, and the crèche system of France has been introduced, and with fair success. The French crèche is a sort of public nursery, combining for the elder children the features of an infant-school. It is under the superintendence of mistresses and nurses paid by public charity, or by the municipality. The children are brought every morning by the parents, and taken away every night. They have all sorts of household accommodation, and a playground, and their wants and appetites are attended to as well as if they were at home-often very much better. The parents of course provide the food, and some pay a small fee, but the crèche is open to all the world ; and if the mother be too poor to contribute to the common stock of bread
and milk, and soup, public benevolence makes up the deficiency. The extensive establishment of such institutions, well organised and well looked after, would remove one of the greatest stains upon the social and industrial system produced by the cotton manufacture. The crèche would knock over the Godfrey bottle at a blow; and for a far smaller amount than is often paid to nurses, the children would be really attended to, wholesomely fed, and would grow up in that health and strength to which so many are strangers. If, however, the necessity for young mothers to work in the mills could be got over, the change would be, in many respects, more auspicious still. The ignorance of the millgirls in domestic matters was long a subject of regret, and a matter of household discomfort. Their notions of cooking were of the rudest and the least economical nature; and few or none could do anything for themselves with the needle. We have heard of an instance of a Manchester mill-girl after her marriage cooking her first dinner, and which was to be eaten at one o'clock, putting the potatoes on to boil at nine, and never looking into the pot until her husband had arrived, when, to her utter astonishment, she found that the water had somehow disappeared, and that the potatoes lay a brown and strongly smelling mass on the half - burnt-through bottom of the saucepan ! Since the Ten Hours' Bill, however, a change for the better is becoming apparent. The girls have a long evening to themselves; and people accustomed to Manchester are recognising a decided improvement in the style of dress of the operative female population—the result of having time to learn and put in practice the use of the needle. The writer was once invited to inspect a little display of the evening handiwork of the girls in one of the largest mills in Manchester, where a long counter was heaped over with dresses, bonnets, and specimens of crochet-work; knitting, netting, samplersewing; Berlin wool-working; and a vast series of copy-books, blackened from end to end—all the production, the exhibiters were unanimous in declaring, of the Ten Hours' Bill.
An inevitable feature of life amid the drawing-frames and spindles, is the early break-up of domestic ties. Practically, it will be found that, all over the world, a family seldom or never remains united in one domicile after the younger members of it can support themselves. The feeling of personal independence is very, frequently roused by some casual disagreement, and separation is the result. In Manchester, this result takes place sooner than in other districts, simply because independence can be sooner achieved than in other districts. Boys and girls of fourteen and sixteen can and do habitually earn their own living. Their development hitherto has been precocious. Notions of mutual attachment and impulses of passion come early into play. They perceive they are giving more to the household than the household renders to them; and even if marriage does not ensue, it is very common for boys and girls to withdraw from the parental roof and control, and live
unchecked and at liberty in lodgings of their own. And these separations are regarded as things of course. There is no sentimental grief wasted upon them. The father and mother expect that their children will go out into the world as they did themselves, and there is an end to it. In a moral point of view, there is much to be regretted in this system; and in a physical and sanitary aspect, the matter is still worse. Early marriages produce weakly children; while, from the ease of their contraction, they swell the population with a far greater than the average annual increase of the entire country. The number of marriages, in fact, is augmented in proportion to the earliness of the age at which marriage is practicable in the cotton districts, over that prevailing generally in the kingdom. For this state of things, there seems no better remedy than that of educating and elevating, as much as possible, the minds of the population, and heightening the comforts of their homes. Were there no such unions, the births would merely be illegitimate, instead of legitimate; and to take away the means of early marriage, would be simply to destroy the whole manufacturing system and the whole manufacturing population.
The working of the Ten Hours' Bill in the cotton factories is now, and has been for some years, on trial, and, on the whole, as it would seem, with success. The law stands thus: The hours in which it is lawful to work a cotton-mill are from half-past five o'clock A.M. to half-past eight o'clock P. M.-a total of fifteen. Within these hours, the period of labour is restricted specially in respect to three classes of workers, and indirectly, and by a sidewind, in respect to the remaining class. Children, young
persons, and women, are the protected classes. Children are individuals between the ages of eight and thirteen. They must not be worked more than six and a half hours, and must attend school for three hours. The phrase, young persons,' signifies boys and girls between thirteen and eighteen. They are restricted to ten hours; and all women fall under the same regulation. Thus, only adult labour is left nominally uninterfered with. A male above eighteen may work the whole fifteen hours of the factory day, if he and his employer please; but as the adult labour cannot be carried on without that of children, young persons, and women, the restriction is practically universal. Various clever expedients have been invented to elude the law, by devices called shifts. In some cases, the requisite number of juvenile and female workers was transferred from one mill to another; in others, by a most ingenious and complicated arrangement of hours, very difficult to understand, two hands are made to relieve each other in such a manner, that while each only works ten hours, he or she is in attendance fifteen, the machinery-except at meal hours, which are always the same—being in motion for that time. The principle is very much the same as if a coach should advertise to change horses every hour, and start with four horses, two pulling and two accompanying, the latter forming the first relay, and so on