Robson, Ann Provost Wilkinson (1958)
The factory controversy 1830-1853.
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The period from 1830 to 1853 has been called the age of paradox, the age in which the beliefs in Laissez-faire and state intervention alternately determined the legislation and attitude of Parliament. This was the case, for example, in the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and the Ten Hours' Act of 1847. Historians of the early 1900's, emphasizing the ruthless individualism of the period, frequently credited the Earl of Shaftesbury with single-handedly forcing exceptions on a Laissez-faire age. More recent writers, recognizing the work of Bentham and Chadwick, see two antithetical trends, Both these groups, looking more to events than to beliefs, fail to explain the seeming inconsistency of the men who voted in favour of both the Bill of 1846 and the Bill of 1847. This thesis attempts to show, through a study of the controversy over Factory Legislation between 1830 and 1853, the development of a political theory justifying both Repeal and Ten Hours. It is a study of public opinion as seen in the pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, books, speeches and popular agitations and of the work and opinions of the Factory Inspectors, The attitude towards Government in the early 1800's was strongly influenced by the classical economist's popularization of Adam Smith's teaching. Gradually the condition of England made the country aware that an inflexible application of Laissez-faire was causing, or at least not remedying, the misery of the working class. The majority of men, however, continued to support Free Trade. Consequently, Laissez-faire was reinterpreted to comprehend the distinction between human wealth and commercial wealth, and to allow Government interference to increase the former, while still denying its efficacy to increase the latter; that is, to permit interference in the internal relations of industry while continuing to deny it in the external.
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