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BOOK VII.

CONDITION OF THE LOWER CLASSES

IN THE

AGRICULTURAL AND MINING DISTRICTS

OF ENGLAND AND WALES.

26 OCT 1983

P
LIBRARY

In the sense Adam Smith uses the word poor, “living from hand to mouth,” nine-tenths of the English people are poor.- Quarterly Review.

In the road which the English laborer must travel, the Poor-house is the last stage on the way to the grave.- Quarterly Review,

There is a mighty evil connected with the condition of the working classes in this country, which has to be met, exposed and overcome. Westminster Review.

The men of England are treated by the landed interest worse than their dogs and horses, which are fed in proportion to their toil.—Cobden.

The bulk of the working classes, both in the agricultural and manufacturing districts, are reduced on ordinary occasions to the lowest stage of existence, and a bad season is a sentence of death to many of the suffering poor.-London Sun.

There is no doubt more misery and acute suffering among the mass of the people of England than there is in any kingdom of the world; but then, they are the great unwashed, dirty, disagreeable, importunate per

There are thousands houseless, breadless, friendless, without shelter, raiment, or hope in the world; millions uneducated, only half fed, driven to crime, and every species of vice which ignorance and destitution bring in their train, to an extent utterly unknown to the less enlightened, the less free, the less favored, and the less powerful kingdoms of Europe.-Sydney Smith.

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CONDITION OF THE LOWER CLASSES IN THE AGRICULTURAL AND MINING DISTRICTS.

I.

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HEN I laid before the world, twenty-five years ago, the

results of my examination into the social condition of the laboring classes of the British people in the great centres of industry and commerce, the picture was at once recognized by well-informed men as a truthful, although somewhat common-place, portraiture of scenes within the every-day reach of any one, who chose to take the trouble to see for himself. I was not writing for Englishmen. I was bringing home to my countrymen correct views of a state of society in a kindred nation, so revolting to humanity, and withal so little dreamed of as possible among a Christian community, that I found my book read with a fair share of reasonable incredulity. To Americans, such things exceeded comprehension or belief. This I expected.

On the other hand, when I laid before Englishmen the startling results of the horrors and degradation of the miner's life, and the heathenism to which the common peasant class had been reduced, the truth of my statements was either flatly denied, or seriously questioned. This also I was prepared for. I was then writing for Englishmen. I was disappointed in neither case by the reception of my work.

I found that even the reformers of England had but a faint conception of what I had seen with my own eyes. In conversation with them they listened to me at best with well regulated incredulity, and I often forbore to tell the worst I had seen, as in my book I withheld what I frankly confess I could not have believed had I not seen it for myself.

308

SOURCES OF AUTHORITY.

But good came out of it all. It had something to do with a more thorough investigation into the condition of the lower classes in the agricultural and mining districts, which has since been prosecuted with such untiring vigilance and astounding revelations-revelations in the presence of which my then feeble exposures now become tamer than " a thrice told tale.”

II.

VINCE my first volumes appeared, I have had before me a

vast mass of Reports of Commissioners of Parliament, of counties, towns, parishes and institutions of science and benevolence, showing every possible phase of the physical, moral and intellectual condition of the laboring classes of the British Islands ; everything that could throw new light on the subject in the form of books, pamphlets, and the whole range of parliamentary debates, public discussions and journalism ; and I have during this period had the best opportunities of personal observation in my visits to England, to weigh and sift the whole subject from beginning to end. I therefore invoke fair criticism and challenge the severest scrutiny. I ask no implicit confidence in iny own statements. I need none.

The onus probandi does not rest on my shoulders. I have shifted it where it belongs—upon the shoulders of hundreds of the ablest Commissioners the British government could appoint; the sworn testimony of thousands of British subjects of all ranks and pursuits in life; the exact statistics of courts of justice and official records of crime ; in a word, I have supported my statements, dreadful as they are, by an array of evidence as strong as has ever been adduced to prove any position ever taken by any writer in human history. That position is well summed up by one of the ablest and best authorities which England can produce. I refer to Mr. Kay, in his “ Social Condition and Education of the People of England." Mr. Kay was commissioned by the Senate of Cambridge University, a few years ago, to travel through Western

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