Ages of Workers in Cotton Mills in Lancaster in 1833
Frances Trollope, Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy (1840) A little girl about seven years old had a job as scavenger—she was to collect incessantly, from the factory floor, the flying fragments of cotton that might impede the work... while the hissing machinery passed over her, and when this is skillfully done, and the head, body, and the outstretched limbs carefully glued to the floor, the steady moving, but threatening mass, may pass and repass over the dizzy head and trembling body without touching it. But accidents frequently occur; and many are the flaxen locks, rudely torn from infant heads, in the process.
Frances Trollope was attacked for producing a book that could be purchased in parts and was therefore available to the working class. One writer suggested that the book would result in the "burning of factories" and that the author deserved to be sent to prison. One critic suggested that books like this should be left to male writers as "women are more at home in the flower garden and by the domestic hearth."
John Leech, “Capital and Labour” (Punch Magazine, May, 1843) Gustave Dore, London (1872)
Economic Realities By June 1837, some 50,000 workers in Manchester alone were unemployed or part time because of the collapse in trade. As factories increased in numbers, so the spread of machinery caused distress for hand spinners and weavers. In 1830, there were 60,000 power looms and 240,000 hand looms; by 1860 power loom supremacy was almost complete and wages of handloom weavers had fallen: 1815 est. 16s/- per week 1825 est. 9s/- per week 1830 est. 6s/- per week By 1841 some 34,000 Irish people had moved to the Manchester area and accepted poor pay and conditions because the worst in England was better than the best in Ireland. They tended to depress wages and conditions. Masters believed in laissez-faire and believed that the poor should educate themselves, not demand political ‘rights.’
The problems which existed in factories were highlighted by the Parliamentary Select Committee of 1833 and the Royal Commission: 1. excessive hours: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and often longer 2. shortage of mealtimes: 40 minutes at noon, and no opportunity to rest 3. poor conditions of work: dust, filth, unguarded machinery, heavy lifting 4. dangers to health: constant bending, exhaustion, deformity 5. cruelty of overseers: strapping, heavy penalties for unpunctuality and so on 6. fear was engendered in a 'culture of violence' 7. complicity of parents in promoting child labor How do we know what Marx and Engels observed?
The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with bourgeois family relations; modern industrial labor, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests. The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.