The Industrial Revolution was a significant time of change. This is where many changes to the manufacturing processes took place that caused a lot of controversy. During the Industrial Revolution liberals were becoming more prevalent as more people were being treated worse as factory workers. A liberal during the Industrial Revolutions time were usually middle class. They were not rich, but they also were not considered as poor.
They did not support the conditions that factory workers had to work in. They pushed for laws to be created so that factory workers can be treated equally. They also opposed other laws such as the Corn Laws. There were many influential people that were against the Industrialization, due to the unjust treatment of the factory workers. One of these significant figures was William Cobbett, a first-rate literary brawler and radical publicist (DR I, Page 44).
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According to Documentary Reader I, Cobbet seen the Industrialization in England as very suspicious and this is what led him to resist against the Corn Laws and also join the fight with Englands middle classes to push for laws that will put an end to the rotten borough system that had long advantaged the rural, conservative south in English politics (DR I, Page 44). This example shows how the Industrialization period brought many controversies and how the middle class and others came together to uproot these processes.
Being a factory worker during this period was not very pleasant. Many of the workers were young and were not treated in the best fashion. The factory workers would have to work extremely long hours with little to support their families. The factories were unhealthy and not safe as many injuries occurred. Cobbett expressed in his writings how he was ashamed of the conditions many of the workers had to endure.
From his writings, Cobbett states, that he expressed deep shame of how the laboring people were being treated. Specifically in his writing, Cobbett expressed how Dogs and hogs and horses are treated with more civility (DR I, Page 48). This section of Cobbetts writings proved of the treatment that the factory workers had to go through. The parallels that Cobbett used to describe the treatment as saying that animals were treated better is a statement that best proves that the masters that owner these factories were callous, selfish, and only seen profit rather than respect.
As mentioned before, there was a lot of debate over the Industrialization. The British Tory leader Michael Sadler launched an investigation of the conditions of the textile factories (DR I, Page 32). In his investigation, he spoke with some of the factory workers to get their insight and perspective of how it is in the life of a factory worker. Many of the factory workers started working at very young ages. Matthew Crabtree, an interviewer of Michael Sadler, expressed that he has been working in a factory since the age of 8 (DR I, Page 33). This revealed the practice of child labor within factories. He also revealed some touching insight of the factory stating there was not enough time in the mill for breakfast and that if you were late, you would be severely beaten.
These statements not only shed light on the working conditions but also the abuse they had to accept for their wrongdoings. Shortly after these testimonies were published, the Parliamentary Act of 1833 was passed which limited the hours that women and children could work in the factory industry. Also stated in the DR I (Page 32), Other laws were enacted following the passing of this law. These laws eventually eliminated the employment of children in the mining and factories.
Although Michael Sadlers Committees findings about child labor, there were some people that did not agree and went against the findings Michael Sadler published. A Scottish doctor and chemist, Andrew Ure, defended the factory system and disagreed that children were working within the factories. In his writings, Ure stated that masters of these factories would not abuse children. He also specified that when he would visit these factories, that the children seemed to be always cheerful and alert, taking pleasure in the light play of their muscles enjoying the mobility natural to their age (DR I, Page 39).
This position on the factory conditions goes against the shocks that Michael Sadlers committee exposed to the world. According to Andrew Ure, child labor was not an issue or simply did not exist. With all of this information from both sides, Michael Sadlers Committee and Andrew Ure, both shed light on the physical and mental breakdown of the factory workers. With these accusations and revelations being exposed, this is why liberals pushed for these laws to be enacted so that child workers in the factories can live a better life and work in better conditions.
With the publications of Michael Sadlers Committee writings, this created the Parliamentary Act of 1833. This act restricted the working day in textile mills to 12 hours for persons aged 13 through 17, and 8 hours for those aged 9 through 12 (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica – Michael Thomas Sadler). This did in fact make the conditions of the factories better for children.
In conclusion, liberals had a significant impact on the changes that occurred during the Industrialization period. After the findings were exposed to the general public about child labor and the disastrous working conditions, many influential people worked to change these rules for the better. Some indicated that the reason Michael Sadlers Committee released the investigation information regarding factory conditions were to retaliate against Britains manufacturing that was emerging and to go against Britains push for free trade values (DR I, Page 32).
Even though this might have been his agenda and plan, it did cause an uproar and created a new set of foundations that made it a little better for children working within the factories. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution did make a shift from a rural environment to an urban environment. This was a definite change for England. It was a good change for the rich but a cruel change for most. The changes that emerged included more factories that could support the many industries that need to produce their items. This caused many poor people to accept these dreadful jobs to support their own.
They had to suffer and deal with the mistreatment of working under the unfair conditions. It was bad enough for adults to endure this treatment, but it was very different to hear that children also had to be workers. Even though this Industrialization created more, it seemly destroyed even more than it intended.
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