Working Conditions

Peter Smart, called in; and Examined.

You say you were locked up night and day? — Yes.

Do the children ever attempt to run away? — Very often.

Were they pusued and brought back again? — Yes, the overseer pursued them, and brought them back.

Did you ever attempt to run away? — Yes, I ran away twice.

And you were brought back? — Yes; and I was sent up to the master's loft, and thrashed with a whip for running away.

Were you bound to this man? — Yes, for six years.

By whom were you bound? — My mother got 15s. for the six years.

Do you know whether the children were, in point of fact, compelled to stop during the whole time for which they were engaged? — Yes, they were.

By law? — I cannot say by law; but they were compelled by the master; I never saw any law used there but the law of their own hands.

To what mill did you next go? — To Mr. Webster's, at Battus Den, within eleven miles of Dundee.

In what situation did you act there? — I acted as overseer.

At 17 years of age? — Yes.

Did you inflict the same punishment that you yourself had experienced? — I went as an overseer; not as a slave, but as a slave-driver.

What were the hours of labour in that mill? — My master told me that I had to produce a certain quantity of yarn; the hours were at that time fourteen; I said that I was not able to produce the quantity of yarn that was required; I told him if he took the timepiece out of the mill I would produce that quantity, and after that time I found no difficulty in producing the quantity.

How long have you worked per day in order to produce the quantity your master required? — I have wrought nineteen hours.

Was this a water-mill? — Yes, water and steam both.

To what time have you worked? — I have seen the mill going till it was past 12 o'clock on the Saturday night.

So that the mill was still working on the Sabbath morning? — Yes.

Were the workmen paid by the piece, or by the day? — No, all had stated wages.

Did not that almost compel you to use great severity to the hands then under you? — Yes; I was compelled often to beat them, in order to get them to attend to their work, from their being over-wrought.

Were not the children exceedingly fatigued at that time? — Yes, exceedingly fatigued.

Were the children bound in the same way in that mill? — No; they were bound from one year's end to another, for twelve months.

Did you keep the hands locked up in the same way in that mill? — Yes, we locked up the mill; but we did not lock the bothy.

Did you find that the children were unable to pursue their labour properly to that extent? — Yes; they have been brought to that condition, that I have gone and fetched up the doctor to them, to see what was the matter with them, and to know whether they were able to rise or not able to rise; they were not at all able to rise; we have had great difficulty in getting them up.

When that was the case, how long have they been in bed, generally speaking? — Perhaps not above four or five hours in their beds. William Cobbett (1763-1835), after a long career as a publicist, entered the Reformed Parliament in 1833 and at once took part in the debate on the bill Lord Althorpe had introduced as a result of the Sadler Committee's report.

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