Write a speech on the resolution:
“Parliament should pass legislation making it illegal for children under the age of twelve to
work in textile factories.”
Dear members of Parliament.
Today we are often confronted with the effects of child labour. That is the reason why we discuss a
resolution, whether Parliament should pass legislation making it illegal for children under the age of
twelve to work in textile factories. I am an energetic advocate of this resolution. In my opinion the
age-limit should even be raised up to 14.
Sure if we set up the age-limit there will be economic deficits, but we also have to think about
humanity and Great Britain's reputation in the world. We are not allowed to see children from lower
classes as objects or slaves for our interests.
Let us have a look at the youngest children in the factories, who have to work as scavengers, that
have to pick up the loose cotton from under the machinery while it is working. They feel sick,
because they are scared and their backs are aching, because it is strictly forbidden to sit down. Other
children have got no easier job as piercers, who have to lean over the spinning machines to repair
the broken threads. John Fielden suggests that a piecer walks about 20 miles a day!
A further aspect is that both have to breathe hot air all day long (up to 80 degrees and more) full of
dust (from flax and the flue from cotton) and oil.
Also the way, the factory owners get all these children for their mills is shocking and must be
forbidden. They buy children, like goods, from orphanages and workhouses and force them to work
in their mills by make them sign a contract, do not forget they are not able to read!! So they get a lot
of cheap workers for the dangerous and inhumane work. But we are not talking about a small
number of children, who became workers in the textile factories by this way. For example in the
1790s nearly 33% off all factory workers were children! Another way to get children for the
factories is to build Apprentice Houses, where the children can live. Thus the factory owners are
able to buy children from other cities far away to work for them.
A consequence of the hard and dangerous work are lots of serious accidents in the mills, mostly
because of the unguarded machinery. Wounds and mutilations are quite normal in our time. I cannot
believe that there is no law preventing these accidents, by forcing the masters to cover dangerous
parts with fences. I am shocked by the inhumanity of the mill owners, to see a human being, a child,
as an object which can be replaced easily. They force them to continue their work even if they are
wounded, because if they stop they lose their wages.
Michael Sadler is a man, who knows the economic factor of child labour, but he also fights for
better working conditions. His argumentation which is supported by some doctors, that ten hours is
the utmost quantity of labour which can be endured by the children without damaging their health is
non-sense. I think even less than ten hours of work each day is to much for a child at the age of
twelve, because a child is still growing and as a scavenger his spine will not develop the right way.
In addition to this it is also wrong to punish children if they come late to the mill, because they have
no money to buy a clock and they need sleep to regenerate. In addition to this we have to look more
exactly at the reasons for and types of punishment. If the children lose speed after hours of
monotonous work, they get hit with a strap by the overlookers to make them work faster or their
head is dipped into the water cistern to wake them up. Also they are not allowed to talk and if they
try to run away, they have to go to prison or to wear irons.
My next point of criticism is also a part of the working conditions: the food. The quality of the food
is miserable and the children have to eat their meals, mostly oatcake or potato pie with boiled
bacon, during their work. Normally the food is covered with the dust from the cloth and a thick
layer of fat. They never see butter or tea; it is too expensive. Imagine you have to work 16 hours a
day and only three meals are allowed.
Another point to consider is the pollution of the mill, which harms nature and people a like. A
report published in July 1833 shows that most factories were dirty, ill-ventilated, ill-drained and no
conveniences for washing or dressing. Also the change between hot room and damp cold air is a
reason for inflammations of the lungs, as Sir Anthony Carlile confirms. The children are exposed
the diseases twice. On the one hand by the lack of cleanliness of their domestic arrangements and
on the other hand by the air pollution into the mills, called mill fever. There is no denying that also
other typical diseases of our time are results of the dust and floating cotton fibre in the atmosphere,
like tuberculosis, bronchitis and asthma.
Now I think it is time to have a look at some advocates of child labour, who oppose the resolution:
For example William James, who sees himself as a benefactor, because he saves these children
from starvation. He uses the poverty of the lower classes for his gain. He knows about the small
choice of the children: work or die. He also tries to threaten the House of Commons, if there is law
against child labour the textile industry and its money will leave Great Britain.
On the other hand Lord Egerton is afraid about the competition in the world, Great Britain will lose
its executive position because of the resolution.
Others argue hypocritical by that worker families will not survive without the missing income of
their children. But why do they not raise the income per hour? And such persons talk about
humanity in Britain.
All these facts lead me to the conclusion that it is time that parliament should pass legislation
making it illegal for children under the age of twelve to work in textile factories.
For a better life of the children. They are Britain's future!
I hope you are able to agree to my demand!