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Important British Documents

Karl Marx

London, April 30, 1858

There have been recently issued on the part of the British Government several statistical papers—the Board of Trade returns for the first quarter of 1858[a], a comparative statement of Pauperism for January, 1857 and 1858[b], and lastly, the half-yearly reports of the Inspectors of Factories. The Board of Trade returns, as was to be expected, show a considerable falling off in exports as well as imports during the first three months of 1858, if compared with the same quarter of the previous year. The total declared value of all articles exported, which during the latter period amounted to £28,827,493, had fallen for the first three months of this year to £23,510,290, so that the aggregate decrease in British exports may be rated at about 19 per cent. The table of the values of the principal articles of import, given only up to the end of February, shows a decline, as compared with the first two months of 1857, from £14,694,806 to £10,117,920, the downward movement in imports being thus more marked still than that in exports. The comparative state of the export trade from the United Kingdom to the United States during the first three months of 1857 and 1858 may be ascertained from the following extract:

Exports from the United Kingdom
to the United States.
 QuantitiesDeclared Val.
Beer and Ale (bbls.)9,5046,581£40,893£29,269
Coal and Culm (tuns)19,97244,29911,97524,818
Cottons (yards)61,198,14035,371,5381,128,453618,540
Hardw's & Cutlery (cwt.)44,09614,623301,275104,668
Linens (yards)18,373,0228,757,750527,076265,536
Iron, Pig (tuns)10,1726,56939,92720,344
Iron, Bar (tuns)70,8776,417610,12454,602
Iron, Cast (tuns)2072,3624,65914,475
Wrought of all sorts12,5782,097151,60229,218
Steel, unwrought3,6071,118128,17843,666
Copper (cwt.)11,0751,95469,28610,595
Lead (tuns)9416021,7931,324
Oil Seed (gals.)400,20042,79062,5765,768
Salt (tuns)66,02235,20533,16916,990
Silk manufactures (lb)66,97322,92082,28025,212
Woolens, Cloth (pieces)106,51930,624351,911110,096
Woolens, mixed stuffs (ps)9,030,6436,368,551401,249232,202
Worsted stuffs (pieces)212,76380,601249,013106,913
Earthenware & Porcel'n......155,70070,998
Haberdashery & Millin'y......614,825288,752
Tin Plates......273,409[c]105,847

With some trifling exceptions, this list exhibits a general and heavy falling off; but what strikes us is that in most instances the decline in the value of exports hardly keeps pace with the diminution in their quantity. The United States proves in this respect a far better market than other countries whence the Britishers for an increased quantity fetched in return a smaller value. Thus, for instance, of wool there were exported to Holland, in 1858, 277,342 lbs. against 254,593 lbs. in 1857; but the former realized but a value of £24,949, while the latter had brought £25,563; and for 1,505,621 lbs. exported to France in 1858, as against 1,445,322 lbs. exported in 1857, the value returned amounts but to £103,235, while for the smaller export of 1857 it reached the sum of £108,412. Moreover, if we compare the returns for the whole of the first quarter of 1858 with those for the month of March, a tendency to recovery in the British export trade to the United States will be discovered. Thus, in worsted stuffs the falling off between March, 1857, and March, 1858, is only from £66,617 to £54,376, while on the whole quarter it is from £249,013 to £106,913. The only country, however, which forms an exception to the general rule, and shows a considerably increased instead of diminished absorption of British manufactures, is India, as will appear from the following figures:

 QuantitiesDeclared Val.
Beer and ale, bbls24,81751,913£77,845£166,567
Cotton, yards120,092,475151,463,5331,385,8881,787,943
Hardw's & Cut'ry, cwt         10,64216,77642,84967,287
Cotton yarn, yards5,145,04410,609,434276,469531,567
Iron bar, tuns20,67426,266191,528217,539
Cop'r sh'ts & rails, cwt18,50323,313115,927132,156
Woolens, cloth12,12319,57163,84690,584
Earthware & porcel'n......9,98919,631
Haberd'y & millinery......21,35031,427
Steam engines......31,40836,019

The increase in the British exports to India may, for some items, woolens for instance, be accounted for by the war demand. Generally, however, the rationale of that ascending movement is not to be sought in that direction. The case is simply this, that the insurrection for some months had shut up the Indian market altogether, thus causing the commodities floating in the market to be absorbed and creating a vacuum now again filled up. With respect to Australia, the returns show also considerable increase in some articles of British export, but the letters received from Sidney and Melbourne leave no doubt as to the merely speculative character of those shipments which, instead of selling at their declared value, will have to be disposed of at a heavy discount.

The comparative statement of Paupers in England and Wales[539], who received official relief in the fifth week of January, 1857 and 1858, shows their number, from 920,608, to which it amounted in the former period, to have increased to 976,773 in the latter one, thus exhibiting an aggregate increase of 6.10 per cent. For the North Midland, North-Western and York divisions, however, that is, for the industrial districts, the increase in the percentage of paupers rose respectively by 20.52, 44.87, and 23.13 per cent. Besides, it must be kept in view that a very considerable portion of the working classes stubbornly prefer starvation to enrollment in the workhouses. The following extract from the official returns is curious, because it proves how small a percentage even in England the strictly manufacturing population bears to the aggregate people:

Industrial Statistics.
 Ratio per cent of persons
aged 20 years and upward,
occupied in
Divisions. No. of per-
sons aged
20 years
and upward.
ical Arts,
Trade and
and Mine
ral Works.
1.The Metropolis1,394,96347.
3.South Midland660,77528.825.47.12.4
6.West Midland1,160,38729.
7.North Midland654,67931.821.76.45.3
England and Wales9,816,59731.

The reports of the Inspectors of Factories, extending only to the end of October, 1857, are deprived of their usual interest, because, as the Inspectors unanimously state, the closing of mills, the working of short time, the numerous bankruptcies among mill-owners, and the general depression of trade, which set in at the very time when they drew up their returns, prevented them from collecting that reliable information, which on former occasions allowed them to prepare a statement of the number of new factories, of factories that had added to their motive power, and of those which had ceased to work. The industrial statistics, therefore, illustrating the effects of the crisis, must be looked for in their next reports. The only new feature exhibited in the present publication is limited to some revelations as to the treatment of children and young persons in printing works. It was not until 1845 that the British Legislature extended their interference from textile fabrics to print-works. The Print-Works act follows the provisions of the Factory acts in all those details relating to powers of inspectors, the mode of their dealing with offenders, and the various difficulties which might arise in the administration of the law, which are to be found in the Factory acts[d]. It provides, in the same manner as in factories, for the registration of the persons employed: for the examination by certifying surgeons of the younger hands prior to their permanent employment; and for insuring regularity in the observance of the times of beginning and ending daily labor by a public clock. It adopts also the nomenclature of the Factory acts in the division of the hands into classes, but differs widely from those acts in the definition of what persons shall constitute each class, and, consequently, in the amount of protection afforded by the restrictions upon labor.

The three classes under the Factory acts are: 1. Males over 18 years of age, whose labor is unrestricted; 2. Males between 13 and 18 years of age, and females above 13 years of age, whose labor is restricted; 3. Children between 8 and 13 years of age, whose labor is restricted, and who are required to attend school daily.

The corresponding classes in print-works are: 1. Males above 13 years of age, whose labor is unrestricted; 2. Females above 13 years of age, whose hours of labor are restricted; 3. Children of both sexes, between the ages of 8 and 13, whose labor is restricted, and who are required to attend school periodically. The Print-Works act differs essentially from the Factory acts, in containing no provisions of any kind for either of the following purposes: For setting apart times for meals; for the Saturday holiday; for the cessation from work on Christmas day and Good Friday; for periodical half-holidays; for the secure fencing of dangerous machinery; for the reporting of accidents, and compensation of injured persons; for the periodical lime-washing of the premises. The hours of labor in factories are now assimilated to the ordinary hours of work of mechanics and general laborers, i.e., from 6 a. m. to 6 p. m., with intervals of one hour and a half for meals. The hours of labor in print-works may practically be considered to be unrestricted, notwithstanding the existence of statutory limitation. 'The only restriction upon labor is contained in §22 of the Print-Works act (8 and 9 Via., 29), which enacts that no child between the ages of 8 and 13 years, and no female, shall be employed during the night, which is defined to be between 10 p. m. and 6 a. m. of the following morning. Children, there-fore, of the age of 8 years, may be and are lawfully employed in a labor analogous in many respects to factory labor, mostly in rooms in which the temperature is oppressive, continuously and without any cessation from work for rest or refreshment, from 6 a. m. till 10 p. m.; and a boy, having attained the age of 13, may, and is often, lawfully employed day and night for any number of hours, without any restriction whatever. The school attendance of children employed in print-works is thus provided for: Every child, before being employed in a print-work, must have attended school for at least thirty days and not less than one hundred any fifty hours during the six months immediately preceding such first day of employment, and during the continuance of its employment in the print-work must attend for a like period of thirty days and one hundred and fifty hours during every successive period of six months. The attendance at school must be between 8 a. m. and 6 p. m. No attendance of less than two hours and a half nor more than five hours, on any one day, shall be reckoned as part of the one hundred and fifty hours. The philanthropy of the master-printers shines peculiarly in the method of executing these regulations. Sometimes a child would attend school for the number of hours required by law at one period of the day, sometimes at another period, but never regularly; for instance, the attendance on one day might be from 8 a. m. to 11 a. m., on another day from 1 p. m. to 4 p. m., and the child might not appear at school again for several days, when it would attend perhaps from 3 p. m. to 6 p. m. ; then it might attend for three or four days consecutively or for a week; then it would not appear in school for three weeks or a month after that, upon some odd days at some odd hours when the employer chose to spare it. Thus the child is as it were buffeted from school to work, and from work to school, until the tale of one hundred and fifty hours is told.

Written on April 30, 1858
First published unsigned in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5329, May 20, 1858


[a] "Accounts Relating to Trade and Navigation for the Three Months Ended March 31", "The Board of Trade Returns", The Economist, No. 765, April 24, 1858.—Ed.

[b] Presumably a reference to Monthly Comparative Return of Paupers relieved in each month in each year [1857, 1858].—Ed.

[c] Here and below "Accounts Relating to Trade and Navigation...", III.—Exports of the Principal and Other Articles of British and Irish Produce and Manufactures...—Ed.

[d] Here and below [A. Redgrave,] "Report of Alexander Redgrave, Esq., Inspector of Factories, for the Half Year Ended the 31st October 1857", Reports of the Inspectors of Factories..., pp. 38, 39, 41, 43.—Ed.

[539] Marx presumably used the Monthly Comparative Return of Paupers relieved in each month in each year [1857, 1858]. Somewhat later The Economist, No. 769, May 22, 1858 carried the article "Pauperism and the State of Trade". Its author analysed the same official reports and gave some statistical data which are also quoted by Marx.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 15 (pp.521-526), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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