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It was important to ascertain correctly the numbers employed upon the staple articles of manufacture of this kingdom, inasmuch as in the absence of any official Returns upon this point (except those of the Factory Commissioners), the estimates of persons qualified to judge and to arrive at correct conclusions have varied very greatly. The numbers employed in and about the manufacture of cotton have been estimated much beyond, and as far below the truth. It will be seen by the following table (p. 16) that the actual number, including men, women, and children, returned under that head, amounts to 302,376.

To the numbers included strictly under the head of cotton manufacture, might be added as employed upon this fabric in its more advanced stages most of those here returned under the head of "lace" and "hose;" if to these be added the fair proportion of those who appear under the general heads of weavers, spinners, and factory-workers (fabric not specified), we may fairly assume the numbers to whom the cotton manufacture furnished employment in Great Britain was near upon half a million in June 1841. And this, be it remembered, was a period of great depression in this branch of trade, and when many large establishments were closed.

In order to give a general view of the relative importance of the different staple manufactures with reference to the number of hands employed, we have prepared the following table, in which we have allotted to each fabric its fair proportion of the total number of persons here returned under the general appellation of weaver, spinner, and factory-worker, (fabric not specified):-

TABLE showing the Number of Persons in Great Britain engaged in the Manufacture of Cotton, Hose, Lace, Wool and Worsted, Silk, and Flax and Linen.

It is gratifying to see that the returns as to sex and age will afford consolation to those who have regretted the supposed preponderance of the weaker sex and of more tender youth in the number of persons employed in these manufactures. Under the head of cotton manufacture (all branches), comprehending, as we have already mentioned, 302,376 persons, the males above 20 years of age are more than double the number under 20, and considerably exceed the total number of females above 20 years of age, who, in their turn, exceed by a third the females under 20. It is also an additional satisfaction to add, that the proportion of very young persons employed appears to be progressively diminishing, as the last detailed returns on this subject, viz., those furnished by the Factory Commissioners, show a continued improvement in this respect.

In 1835 the number of persons under 13 years of age employed in factories upon the four staples of cotton, wool, silk, and flax, amounted to 55,455, and were reduced in 1839 to 33,566, being a reduction of 21,889, although the numbers employed of all ages had increased from 355,373 to 423,626, showing a transfer of employment from the young to the old, and that this could be done with a considerable extension instead of entailing a diminution of the business carried on.

So lately as January 15, 1844, Mr. Saunders, Inspector of Factories for the Yorkshire district, says the increase in the number of young persons and adults is greater than in the number of children. Mr. Howell, in his report for the same quarter, p. 18, for the Cheshire and Midland Counties, says it might be worthy of notice, that the few factories in which children under 13 years of age continue to be employed, are chiefly isolated in rural districts or in non-manufacturing towns. Mr. Saunders, in his report for the quarter preceding, gives a very favourable view of the proportionate increase of numbers as follows.:--

Total numbers employed in 1838 95,000
Total numbers employed in 1843 106,500
Increased number 11,500

The proportion in which this increase is divided among the three classes recognized by the Factory Act, viz., adults or persons above 18 years of age, young persons or those between 13 and 18, and children under 13 years of age, is as follows:--

Increase of adults 12,000
Increase of young persons 13,500

which is reduced to the actual increase, namely, 11,500, by a positive decrease in the number of children amounting to 2,000.

It may then be inferred that the expression of public opinion and the judicious interference of the legislature have not been without their effect. In the woollen manufacture the number of adult males employed is three times as great as that of the adult females, while the number of either sex under 20 years of age is comparatively small: the same may be said of the hose, but in the flax and linen manufactures the preponderance is not quite so great. In silk the numbers of both sexes employed are nearly equal, the excess among adults being with the males, and under 20 with the females. The manufacture of lace is the only one in which the number of females is very much greater than that of males; and here no one can be surprised at finding that the touch of a female hand is preferred in a material so fragile and delicate.

The return "Weavers, spinners, and factory workers (fabric not specified)," exhibits the same state of things. The males are, in round numbers, 99,000; the females, 63,000; adults of both sexes, above twenty years of age, 122,000; under twenty, 40,000. It will not fail to be remarked that the term "under 20" (which is the classification we were desired to make), comprehends many to whom the objections against infant labour can by no means be ap- plied. The total number of persons employed upon the textile fabrics, form- ing the staple manufactures of the country, may be stated at 453,381 males, and 346,865 females. Those above 20 years of age, of both sexes, may be put at 555,191; those under twenty, at 245,055.

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