Child labour te the mines
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Child labour te the mines
Taken from The Condition of the Working Class ter England ter 1844: Friedrich Engels (1845).
Engels wrote his book after the passing of the 1842 Mines Act which prohibited the employment underground of all females and of masculines under Ten years.
Let us turn now to the most significant branch of British mining, the metal and coal mines, which the Children’s Employment Commission treats ter common, and with all the detail which the importance of the subject requests. Almost the entire of the very first part of this report is dedicated to the condition of the workers employed te thesis mines.
Te the coal and metal mines which are worked ter pretty much the same way, children of four, five, and seven years are employed. They are set to transporting the ore or coal loosened by the miner from its place to the horse-path or the main shaft, and to opening and shutting the doors (which separate the divisions of the mine and regulate its ventilation) for the passage of workers and material. For watching the doors the smallest children are usually employed, who thus pass twelve hours daily, ter the dark, alone, sitting usually ter walm passages without even having work enough to save them from the stupefying, brutalising tedium of doing nothing. The vrachtvervoer of coal and iron-stone, on the other arm, is very hard labour, the stuff being shoved te large tubs, without wheels, overheen the uneven floor of the mine, often overheen moist clay, or through water, and frequently up steep inclines and through paths so low-roofed that the workers are coerced to creep on palms and knees. For this more wearing labour, therefore, older children and half-grown chicks are employed. One man or two boys vanaf bath are employed, according to circumstances, and, if two boys, one shoves and the other pulls. The loosening of the ore or coal, which is done by dudes or strong youths of sixteen years or more, is also very weary work. The usual working-day is eleven to twelve hours, often longer, te Scotland it reaches fourteen hours, and dual time is frequent, when all the employees are at work below ground twenty-four, and even thirty-six hours at a spread. Set times for meals are almost unknown, so that thesis people eat when thirst and time permit.
The standard of living of the miners is te general described spil fairly good and their wages high te comparison with those of the agricultural labourers surrounding them (who, however, live at starvation rates), except te certain parts of Scotland and ter the Irish mines, where fine misery prevails: Wij shall have occasion to come back zometeen to this statement, which, by the way, is merely relative, implying comparison to the poorest class ter all England. Meantime, wij shall consider the evils which arise from the present method of mining, and the reader may judge whether any pay ter money can indemnify the miner for such suffering.
The children and youthfull people who are employed te transporting coal and iron-stone all complain of being overtired. Even te the most recklessly conducted industrial establishments there is no such universal and exaggerated overwork. The entire report proves this, with a number of examples on every pagina. It is permanently happening that children throw themselves down on the stone hearth or the floor spil soon spil they reach huis, fall asleep at once without being able to take a bite of food, and have to be washed and waterput to bloembed while asleep, it even happens that they lie down on the way huis, and are found by their parents late at night asleep on the road. It seems to be a universal practice among thesis children to spend Sunday te bedding to recover te some degree from the over-exertion of the week. Church and schoolgebouw are visited by but few, and even of thesis the teachers complain of their fine sleepiness and the want of all eagerness to learn.
The same thing is true of the elder ladies and women. They are overworked ter the most brutal manner. This weariness, which is almost always carried to a most painful pitch, cannot fail to affect the constitution. The very first result of such over-exertion is the diversion of vitality to the one-sided development of the muscles, so that those especially of the arms, gams, and back, of the shoulders and chest, which are chiefly called into activity ter pushing and pulling, attain an uncommonly vigorous development, while all the surplus of the assets suffers and is atrophied from want of nourishment. More than all else the stature suffers, being stunted and retarded, almost all miners are brief, except those of Leicestershire and Warwickshire, who work under exceptionally favourable conditions.
Further, among boys spil well spil women, puberty is retarded, among the former often until the eighteenth year, indeed, a nineteen years old boy appeared before Commissioner Symons, showcasing no evidence beyond that of the teeth, that he wasgoed more than eleven or twelve years old. This prolongation of the period of childhood is at bottom nothing more than a sign of checked development, which does not fail to bear fruit ter straks years.
Distortions of the gams, knees arched inwards and feet leaned outwards, deformities of the spinal katern and other malformations, emerge the more readily te constitutions thus weakened, te consequence of the almost universally constrained position during work, and they are so frequent that te Yorkshire and Lancashire, spil te Northumberland and Durham, the assertion is made by many witnesses, not only by physicians, that a miner may be recognised by his form among a hundred other persons. The women seem to suffer especially from this work, and are seldom, if everzwijn, spil straight spil other women. There is testimony here, too, to the fact that deformities of the pelvis and consequent difficult, even fatal, child-bearing arise from the work of women ter the mines. But bijzonder from thesis local deformities, the coal-miners suffer from a number of special affections lightly explained by the nature of the work.
Diseases of the digestive organs are very first ter order, want of appetite, aches ter the belly, nausea, and vomiting, are most frequent, with violent thirst, which can be quenched only with the dirty, lukewarm water of the mine, the digestion is checked and all the other affections are thus invited. Diseases of the heart, especially hypertrophy, inflammation of the heart and pericardium, spasm of the auriculo-ventricular communications and the entrance of the lichaamsslagader are also mentioned repeatedly spil diseases of the miners, and are readily explained by overwork, and the same is true of the almost universal rupture which is a ongezouten consequence of protracted overexertion.
Ter part from the same cause and ter part from the bad, dust-filled atmosphere mixed with carbonic acid and hydrocarbon gas, which might so readily be avoided, there arise numerous painful and dangerous affections of the lungs, especially asthma, which te some districts emerges ter the fortieth, ter others ter the thirtieth year te most of the miners, and makes them unfit for work ter a brief time. Among those employed ter moist workings the oppression te the chest naturally emerges much earlier, ter some districts of Scotland inbetween the twentieth and thirtieth years, during which time the affected lungs are especially susceptible to inflammations and diseases of a feverish nature. The peculiar disease of workers of this sort is “black spittle”, which arises from the saturation of the entire lung with coal particles, and manifests itself ter general debility, headache, oppression of the chest, and thick, black mucous expectoration. Te some districts this disease shows up ter a mild form, te others, on the contrary, it is wholly incurable, especially ter Scotland. Here, besides the symptoms just mentioned, which emerge te an intensified form, brief, wheezing breathing, rapid pulse (exceeding 100 vanaf minute), and plotsklaps coughing, with enlargening leanness and debility, speedily make the patient unfit for work. Every case of this disease completes fatally. Dr. Makellar, ter Pencaitland, East Lothian, testified that te all the coalmines which are decently ventilated this disease is unknown, while it frequently happens that miners who go from well to ill-ventilated mines are seized by it. The profit-greed of mine owners which prevents the use of ventilators is therefore responsible for the fact that this working-men’s disease exists at all. Rheumatism, too, is, with the exception of the Warwick and Leicestershire workers, a universal disease of the coalminers, and arises especially from the frequently walm working-places.
The consequence of all thesis diseases is that, ter all districts without exception, the coal-miners age early and become unfit for work soon after the fortieth year, however this is different ter different places. A coalminer who can go after his calling after the 45th or 50th year is a very fine rarity indeed. It is universally recognised that such workers inject upon old age at forty. This applies to those who loosen the coal from the bloemperk, the loaders, who have permanently to lift strong blocks of coal into the tubs, age with the twenty-eighth or thirtieth year, so that it is proverbial ter the coal-mining districts that the loaders are old before they are youthful. That this premature old age is followed by the early death of the colliers is a matter of course, and a man who reaches sixty is a excellent exception among them. Even ter South Staffordshire, where the mines are comparatively wholesome, few dudes reach their fifty-first year. Along with this early superannuation of the workers wij naturally find, just spil ter the case of the mills, frequent lack of employment of the elder boys, who are often supported by very youthfull children.
If wij sum up shortly the results of the work ter coal-mines, wij find, spil Dr. Southwood Smith, one of the commissioners, does, that through prolonged childhood on the one palm and premature age on the other, that period of life ter which the human being is te total possession of his powers, the period of manhood, is greatly shortened, while the length of ter general is below the average. This, too, on the debit side of the bourgeoisie’s reckoning!
All this deals only with the average of the English coal-mines. But there are many te which the state of things is much worse, those, namely, te which skinny seams of coal are worked. The coal would be too expensive if a part of the adjacent sand and clay were eliminated, so the mine owners permit only the seams to be worked, whereby the passages which elsewhere are four or five feet high and more are here kept so low that to stand upright te them is not to be thought of. The working-man lies on his side and loosens the coal with his pick, resting upon his elbow wasgoed a pivot, whence go after inflammations of the snaak, and te cases where he is coerced to kneel, of the knee also.
The women and children who have to wegtransport the coal crawl upon their arms and knees, fastened to the bathtub by a corset and chain (which frequently passes inbetween the gams), while a man behind thrusts with palms and head. The pushing with the head engenders local irritations, painful swellings, and ulcers. Ter many cases, too, the shafts are humid, so that thesis workers have to crawl through dirty or salt water several inches deep, being thus exposed to a special irritation of the skin. It can be readily imagined how greatly the diseases already peculiar to the miners are fostered by this especially frightful, slavish toil. But thesis are not all the evils which descend upon the head of the coal-miner. Ter the entire British Empire there is no occupation te which a man may meet his end te so many diverse ways spil te this one.
The coal-mine is the toneel of a multitude of the most appalling calamities, and thesis come directly from the selfishness of the bourgeoisie. The hydrocarbon gas which develops so loosely ter thesis mines, forms, when combined with atmospheric air, an explosive which takes fire upon coming into voeling with a flame, and kills every one within its reach. Such explosions take place, te one mine or another, almost every day, on September 28th, 1844, one killed 96 boys te Haswell Colliery, Durham. The carbonic acid gas, which also develops ter excellent quantities, accumulates te the deeper parts of the mine, frequently reaching the height of a man, and suffocates every one who gets into it. The doors which separate the sections of the mines are meant to prevent the propagation of explosions and the movement of the gases, but since they are entrusted to puny children, who often fall asleep or neglect them, this means of prevention is illusory. A decent ventilation of the mines by means of fresh air-shafts could almost entirely eliminate the injurious effects of both thesis gases. But for this purpose the bourgeoisie has no money to spare, preferring to guideline the working-men to use the Davy lantaarn, which is wholly futile because of its abate light, and is, therefore, usually substituted by a candle. If an explosion occurs, the recklessness of the miner is blamed, tho’ the burgerlijk might have mamma den the explosion well-nigh unlikely by supplying good ventilation. Further, every few days the roof of a working falls ter, and buries or mangles the workers employed te it. It is the rente of the burgerlijk to have the seams worked out spil totally spil possible, and hence the accidents of this sort. Then, too, the ropes by which the fellows descend into the mines are often rotten, and pauze, so that the unfortunates fall, and are crushed.
All thesis accidents, and I have no slagroom for special cases, carry off , according to the Mining Journal, some fourteen hundred human beings. The Manchester Guardian reports at least two or three accidents every week for Lancashire alone. Ter almost all mining districts the people composing the coroner’s juries are, te almost all cases, dependent upon the mine owners, and where this is not the case, immemorial custom-built insures that the verdict shall be: “Accidental Death”. Besides, the jury takes very little rente ter the state of the mine, because it does not understand anything about the matter. But the Children’s Employment Commission does not hesitate to make the mine owners directly responsible for the greater number of thesis cases.
Spil to the education and morals of the mining population, they are, according to the Children’s Employment Commission, pretty good te Cornwall, and excellent ter Alston Moor, ter the coal districts, te general, they are, on the contrary, reported spil on an excessively low plane. The workers live ter the country te neglected regions, and if they do their weary work, no human being outside the police force troubles himself about them. Hence, and from the tender age at which children are waterput to work, it goes after that their mental education is wholly neglected. The day schools are not within their reach, the evening and Sunday schools mere shams, the teachers worthless. Hence, few can read and still fewer write. The only point upon which their eyes are spil yet open is the fact that their wages are far too low for their hateful and dangerous work. To church they go seldom or never, all the clergy complain of their irreligion spil beyond comparison. Spil a matter of fact, their ignorance of religious and of secular things, alike, is such that the ignorance of the factory operatives, shown te numerous examples te the foregoing pages, is trifling ter comparison with it. The categories of religion are known to them only from the terms of their oaths. Their morality is demolished by their work itself. That the overwork of all miners voorwaarde engender drunkenness is self-evident. Spil to their sexual relations, guys, women, and children work ter the mines, te many cases, wholly naked, and te most cases, almost so, by reason of the prevailing warmth, and the consequences te the dark, lonely mines may be imagined. The number of illegitimate children is here disproportionately large, and indicates what goes on among the half-savage population below ground, but proves too, that the illegitimate intercourse of the sexes has not here, spil te the superb cities, drowned to the level of prostitution. The labour of women entails the same consequences spil te the factories, dissolves the family, and makes the mother totally incapable of household work.
When the Children’s Employment Commission’s Report wasgoed laid before Parliament, Lord Ashley hastened to bring te a bill wholly forbidding the work of women te the mines, and greatly limiting that of children. The bill wasgoed adopted, but has remained a dead letterteken te most districts, because no mine inspectors were appointed to observe overheen its being carried into effect. The evasion of the law is very effortless te the country districts ter which the mines are situated, and no one need be astonished that the Miners’ Union laid before the Huis Secretary an official notice, last year, that te the Duke of Hamilton’s coal-mines ter Scotland, more than sixty women were at work, or that the Manchester Guardian reported that a chick perished ter an explosion te a mine near Wigan, and no one troubled himself further about the fact that an infringement of the law wasgoed thus exposed. Ter single cases the employment of women may have bot discontinued, but te general the old state of things remains spil before.
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