Child Labour Learning Journey
Follow the Learning Journey steps and travel across time and space with our special correspondents in our groundbreaking investigation into the use of child labour in cotton manufacturing.
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Child Labour Learning Journey Step 5
The fifth of our series of articles on child labour in the cotton industry includes sensational new evidence from the Report of the Committee on the Labour of Children in Factories.
On 16th March 1832 Michael Sadler presented a Bill in the house of Commons which set out plans to limit the hours worked by children and young people under the age of 18 to ten hours a day. Parliament was unwilling to pass Sadler's Bill. But, in April 1832 agreed that there should be another parliamentary enquiry into child labour. Forty eight people who had worked in textile factories as children gave evidence to the enquiry. The evidence shocked the British public and Parliament came under increasing pressure to protect child workers.
".. the cruelties which are inflicted personally upon the little children, not to mention the immensely long hours which they are subject to work, are such as I am very sure would disgrace a West Indian plantation. . . . I have seen little boys and girls of 10 years old; one I have in my eye particularly now, whose forehead has been cut open by the thong; whose cheeks and lips have been laid open, and whose back has been almost covered with black stripes; and the only crime that that little boy, who was 10 years and 3 months old, had committed, was that he retched three pieces of woollen yarn. . . The same boy told me that he had been frequently knocked down with the billy-roller, and that on one occasion, he had been hung up by a rope round the body, and almost frightened to death . . I have seen their bodies almost broken down, so that they could not walk without assistance, when they have been 17 or 18 years of age.
. . . it is almost the general system in (the small) manufacturing villages to know nothing of their parents at all excepting that in a morning very early, at 5 o'clock, very often before 4, they are awakened by a human being that they are told is their father, and are pulled out of bed (I have heard many a score of them give an account of it) when they are almost asleep, and lesser children are absolutely carried on the backs of the older children asleep to the mill, and they see no more of their parents, generally speaking, till they go home at night, and are sent to bed.
[Ref.: British Parliamentary Papers, 1831-2, XV, No. 706 (Report of Committee on the Labor of Children in Factories)]
Children continued to work at least 12 hour days for a further 15 years - The 10 Hours Bill becomes law in 1847.