Sunday, April 26, 2009

Robert Owen gets the 3rd degree for liberating children

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

On April 26, 1816, Robert Owen (1771 - 1858), Welsh-born philanthropic social reformer, pioneer of the cooperative movement, founder of New Lanark and New Harmony communities, appeared before Sir Robert Peel's House of Commons Committee, UK.

Question: At what age to take children into your mills?

Robert Owen: At ten and upwards.

Question: Why do you not employ children at an earlier age?

Robert Owen: Because I consider it to be injurious to the children, and not beneficial to the proprietors.

Question: What reasons have you to suppose it is injurious to the children to be employed at an earlier age?

Robert Owen: Seventeen years ago, a number of individuals, with myself, purchased the New Lanark establishment from Mr. Dale. I found that there were 500 children, who had been taken from poor-houses, chiefly in Edinburgh, and those children were generally from the age of five and six, to seven to eight. The hours at that time were thirteen. Although these children were well fed their limbs were very generally deformed, their growth was stunted, and although one of the best schoolmasters was engaged to instruct these children regularly every night, in general they made very slow progress, even in learning the common alphabet. I came to the conclusion that the children were injured by being taken into the mills at this early age, and employed for so many hours; therefore, as soon as I had it in my power, I adopted regulations to put an end to a system which appeared to me to be so injurious.

Question: Do you give instruction to any part of your population?

Robert Owen: Yes. To the children from three years old upwards, and to every other part of the population that choose to receive it.

Question: If you do not employ children under ten, what would you do with them?

Robert Owen: Instruct them, and give them exercise.

Question: Would not there be a danger of their acquiring, by that time, vicious habits, for want of regular occupation?

Robert Owen: My own experiences leads me to say, that I found quite the reverse, that their habits have been good in proportion to the extent of their instruction ...

Early progressives in the Book of Days

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