The Ashley File

Extracts from the writings of Lord Ashley, (Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury) arranged in chronological order with political and biographical context
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Social Science History 1801 biography

Born 28.4.1801

Lord Shaftesbury's autobiographical memorandum:

"Born 28th April, 1801, at 24 Grosvenor Square. Very little or no recollection of my earliest years. Remember that I soon passed under the special care of the housekeeper, who had been my mother's maid before her marriage. She was an affectionate pious woman. She taught me many things, directing my thoughts to highest subjects; and I can even now call to my mind many sentences of prayer she made me repeat at her knees. To her I trace, under God, my first impressions.

I and my sisters - all three of them elder than myself - were brought up with great severity, moral and physical, in respect both of mind and body, the opinion of our parents being that to render a child obedient, it should be in a constant fear of its father and mother.

At seven went to school - a very large one at Chiswick. Nothing could have surpassed it for filth, bullying, neglect, and hard treatment of every sort; nor had it in any respect any one compensating advantage, except, perhaps, it may have given me an early horror of oppression and cruelty. It was very similar to Dotheboys Hall.

Remained for five years, and then sent to Harrow and became the pupil and lived with others, in the house of Dr Butler, the Head Master of the school. Things were there on a very different footing compared with Chiswick.

Left Harrow soon after fifteen years of age. Had reached the Sixth Form and had learned very little. But that was my own fault. Though I obtained some prizes, I was, on the whole. idle and fond of amusements, and I neglected most opportunities of acquiring knowledge.

At about sixteen I went to reside with a clergyman in Derbyshire who had married my first cousin. I was sent there, in fact, to be get out of the way, for the clergyman never professed that he was able to teach me anything, nor, indeed, did my father require of him any such services. I had a horse, and there were dogs belonging to the house that constituted my great amusement; and a family in the neighbourhood showed me abundant hospitality.

I remained there about two years, and perhaps no two years were ever so misspent. I hardly ever opened a book, and seldom heard anything that was worth hearing; nevertheless, there was constantly floating in my mind all sorts of aspirations, though I never took a step to make their fulfilment possible.

My father had resolved to put me in the army, but he was dissuaded from that purpose by the influence, I believe, of a friend, of whose kind act I shall always think with the deepest gratitude.

My father then resolved to place me at Christ Church, Oxford, to which place he took me in 1819. The Rev. T.V. Short, afterwards Bishop of St. Asaph, was appointed to be my tutor; a kind man and a worthy, and a good one altogether. I remember well his first question, "Do you intend to take a degree?". This was a strong demand upon one who had lost so many years in idleness and amusements, yet I answered at once, "I cannot say, but I will try"" (quoted Hodder 1892 pp 26-27)

Social Science History 1825 biography


"First discourse of Chalmers in Tron Church. (The power of man's reason and the bounty of God in the advance of his knowledge will be manifested even in this world towards end of existence. Monarchy is the great principle in physics; close relation of physics to morality. Solar system typical of government on earth. Argue that the circle or elliptic form is the most complete (being the most celestial figure). Form of bodies, course of bodies, etc, all round infer that morals will follow physics. Mankind began with monarchy and simplicity. It will return to the point from whence it started by a different route, which in morals is equivalent to a circle. Monarchy is the most perfect form, and will prevail again when man, as the planets, can perform his functions as simply and as truly.)" (Ashley's notes quoted Hodder 1892 p.28) [24.8.1825: "Finished Chalmers"]

Social Science History 1826 biography


"People talk of the divine right of kings. No man has a divine right to anything except salvation, and that he may lose by his own negligence." (Ashley's notes quoted Hodder 1892 p.29)

16.11.1826 took oaths as an MP

Some early activity respecting madhouse legislation and inspection

chronology 1832 biography

15.1.1832 Robert Southey to Ashley:

"I agree with you that the state of the poor cannot be discussed too much, for till it is improved physically and morally and religiously we shall be in more danger from them than the West Indian planters are from their slaves" (Hodder 1892 p.72)

Ten Hours Bill

Thomas Sadler promoted a Bill to restrict the hours that children could work in factories to ten a day. 130,000 people signed a petition for it.

8.8.1832 Sadler's Report

December 1832: Leeds election: Sadler lost (other contestants John Marshall, a factory employer and T.B. Macaulay)

Late in 1832 Ashley read about conditions in factories and became interested in the efforts to limit children's working hours to ten a day.

chronology 1833 biography

February 1833: Sir Andrew Agnew introduced Ashley to Rev.G.S. Bull. Ashley was persuaded to sponsor a ten hours bill

Best says that Ashley believed his factory campaign was "impeccable Toryism" and that he took it up "as much from dislike of the mill owners as from sympathy with the mill workers"
Best, G.F.A. 1964 pp 88 + 107).

June 1833 The Factory Commission report paved the way for acceptance of interventionist legislation on the grounds that children cannot protect themselves and are therefore entitled to protection.

Ashley's 10 hour bill was lost in July.

August 1833 Althorpe, the Whig Chancellor, introduced his own bill in August which became law (1833 Factory Act) forbidding the employment of children under nine; restricting the hours of children for 9 to 13 to 8 hours a day and of young people under 18 to 12 hours a day and requiring that factory children should be educated for two hours every day. Most important, four factory inspectors were appointed to enforce the Act. The Act only applied to textile factories (cotton, wool, silk and flax)

chronology 1835 biography

Ashley displaced by Hindley as 10 hours spokesman.

chronology 1836 biography

Successfully opposed a new government factory bill. Hindley introduced a bill in 1836.

Summer 1836 resumed Parliamentary leadership on 10 hours bill.

chronology 1837 biography

Visiting factories with reference to legislation.

chronology 1838 biography

20.7.1838 Speech in Parliament on Factory Act.

30.9.1838 Commencement of Ashley's systematic diaries

8.10.1838-22.9.1841 Campaign for Protestant Bishopric in Jerusalem.

3.10.1838 Diary entry that may refer to Richard Paternoster

chronology 1839 biography

Government factory bill withdrawn.

chronology 1840 biography

1840 Chimney Sweeps Act

4.8.1840 Motion for Royal Comission (below)

Monday 29.8.1840 Diary:
    "What a chaos of schemes and disputes is on the horizon. What violence, what hatred, what combination, what discussion. What a stir of every passion and every feeling in men's hearts. Where should we be were there not 'One who stilleth the madness of the people'" (Hodder 1, p.274)

["One who stilleth the madness of the people" is from Psalm 65 in the Book of Common Prayer, appointed to be sung at evensong on the 12th of each month. In the Authorized Bible it is "the tumult of the people".]

Infant Labour

Hansard 4.8.1840. 3rd series, vol.55, columns 1260-1279 Best, G.F.A. 1964 pp. 100-101

Ashley called for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Children's Employment in general

On 4.8.1840 Ashley successfully moved in he House of Commons:

That an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct an inquiry to be made into the employment of the poorer classes in mines and collieries, and in the various branches of trade and manufacture in which numbers of children work together, not being included in the provisions of the acts for regulating the [employment?] of children and young persons in mills and in factories, and to collect information as to the ages at which they are employed, the number of hours they are engaged in work, the time allowed each day for meals, and as to the actual state, condition, and treatment of such children, and as to the effects of such employment, both with regard to their morals and their bodily health.

Sir, I hardly know whether any argument is necessary to prove that the future hopes of a country must, under God, be laid in the character and condition of its children; however right it may be to attempt, it is almost fruitless to expect, the reformation of its adults; as the sapling has been bent, so will it grow ... Now, Sir, whatever may be done or proposed in time to come, we have, I think, a right to know the state of our juvenile population; the House has a right, the country has a right ... The first step towards a cure is a knowledge of the disorder. We have asserted these truths in our factory legislation; and I have on my side the authority of all civilised nations of modern times; the practice of the House; the common sense of the thing; and the justice of the principle ... It is right, Sir, that the country should know at what cost is pre-eminence is purchased. `Petty rogues submit to fate, that great ones may enjoy their state`. The number I cannot give with any degree of accuracy, though I may venture to place them as many-fold the number of those engaged in the factories; the suffering I can exhibit, to a certain degree, in the documents before me. ...

My first grand object is to bring these children within the reach of education; it will then be time enough to fight about the mode ... I am sure that the exhibition of the peril will terrify even the most sluggish and the most reluctant into some attempt at amendment; but I hope fr far better motives. For my part I will say, though possibly I may be charged with cant and hypocrisy, that I have been bold enough to undertake the task, because I must regard the objects of it as being created, as ourselves, by the same Maker, redeemed by the same Saviour, and destined to the same immortality; and it is, therefore, in this spirit, and with these sentiments, which, I am sure, are participated in by all who hear me, that I now venture to entreat the countenance of this House, and the cooperation of her Majesty's Ministers, first to investigate, and ultimately to remove, theses sad evils, which press so deeply and so extensively on such a large and such an interesting portion of the human race.

The following Infant Labour article in the Quarterly Review was a pre-election article drawing on the material presented in the speech.

Ashley Cooper, A. 1840 "Infant Labour" Quarterly Review Vol.67 (1840-1841) December 1840 pp 171-181

Unsigned review of: On the Employment of Children in Factories and other Works in the United Kingdom and in some foreign Countries By Leonard Horner, FRS Inspector of Factories 1840 and of Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Act for the Regulation of Mills and Factories 1840.

The fact that: it is in no one's interest to examine their wrongs... furnishes to us an additional motive to undertake their defence, and, on behalf of England and the Christian faith, to assert those inalienable rights which belong to their nature, and are independent of their station. It is a monstrous thing to behold the condition, moral and physical, of the juvenile portion of our operative classes, more especially that which is found in the crowded lanes and courts of the larger towns, the charnel- houses of our race. Covetousness presided at their construction, and she still governs their economy; that 'covetousness which is idolatry'. Damp an unhealthy substrata, left altogether without drainage; frail tenements, low and confined, without conveniences or ventilation; close alleys, and no supply of water: - all these things overtopped by the ne plus ultra of rent, reward the contractor, and devour the inhabitants. Emerging from these lairs of filth and disorder, the young workers, 'rising early, and late taking rest' go forth that they may toil through fifteen, sixteen, nay, seventeen relentless hours, in sinks and abysses, oftentimes more offensive and pernicious than the holes they have quitted. Enfeebled in health, and exasperated in spirit, having neither that repose which is restorative to the body, nor that precious medicine which alone can tranquillise the soul, they are forced to live and die as though it were the interest of the state to make them pygmies in strength, and heathens in religion. much are we often tempted to imprecate on these cities the curse of Jericho (Joshua 6, v.26); but far better is it for us, at most humble distance, to imitate those gracious and holy tears which fell over the pride, and covetousness, and ignorance of Jerusalem.

pp 179-181
It is pleasant to see that England, which set the example in this movement of charity and wisdom, bids fair to be, as hitherto foremost in the race. The Commission which has just been appointed is composed of able and experienced men and we believe, moreover, sincere in the cause. Of the nature of their report we can entertain no doubt, nor of the legislation that should follow it - but of practical success we are less sanguine, because we know too well the numerous disciples that wickedness and weakness furnish to the iron school of utilitarian sophistry. It is the duty of every man to aid this investigation; but it is his interest too - a stronger and more durable argument! for we tell him that if he would maintain the status quo, the fashionable diplomacy of the present day, he must do so by measures far different from the jog-trot policy of the last half century. Hamlets are grown into cities; 'a little one is become a thousand; we were then few in number; and now we are as the stars of heaven for multitude'. Is the government of this kingdom as tranquil as it was before? Will discontent be frowned down, or rebellion always be checked with equal facility? The two demons in morals and politics, Socialism and Chartism, are stalking through the land; yet they are but symptoms of a universal disease, spread throughout vast masses of the people, who, so far from concurring in the status quo, suppose that anything must be better than their present condition. It is useless to reply to us, as our antagonists often do, that many of the prime movers in these conspiracies against God and good order are men who have never suffered any of the evils to which we ascribe so mighty an influence. We know it well; but we know also that our system begets the vast and inflammable mass which lies waiting, day by day, for the spark to explode it into mischief. We cover the land with spectacles of misery; wealth is felt only by its oppressions; few, very few, remain in these trading districts to spend liberally the riches they have acquired; the successful leave the field to be ploughed afresh by new aspirants after gain, who, in turn, count their periodical profits, and exact the maximum of toil for the minimum of wages. no wonder that thousands of hearts should be against a system which establishes the relations, without calling forth the mutual sympathies, of master and servant, landlord and tenant, employer and employed. We do not need to express our firm belief that there are beneficent and blessed exceptions - but generally speaking - in those districts and those departments of industry, the rich and the poor are antagonistic parties, each watching the opportunity to gain an advantage over the other. Sickness has no claim on the capitalist; a days absence, however necessary, is a day's loss to the workman; nor are the numerous and frightful mutilations by neglected machinery (terminating as they do in the utter ruin of the sufferer) regarded as conferring, either in principle or practice, the smallest pretence to [181] lasting compensation or even temporary relief. We could fill our pages with instances of terrific accidents that have befallen young children, and of still more terrific heartlessness that has refused even a word, we say not an act of kindness towards the miserable victims; but we forbear, because on this head it would be difficult to say little; and we have not space left for much.

But here comes the worst of all - these vast multitudes, ignorant and excitable in themselves, and rendered still more so by oppression or neglect, are surrendered, almost without a struggle, to the experimental philosophy of infidels and democrats. When called upon to suggest our remedy of the evil, we reply by an exhibition of the causes of it; the very statement involves an argument, and contains its own answer within itself. Let your laws, we say to the Parliament, assume the proper functions of law, protect those for whom neither wealth nor station, nor age, have raised a bulwark against tyranny; but, above all, open your treasury, erect churches, send forth the ministers of religion; reverse the conduct of the enemy of mankind, and sow wheat among the tares - all hopes are groundless, all legislation weak, all conservatism nonsense, without this alpha and omega of policy; it will give content instead of bitterness, engraft obedience on rebellion, raise purity from corruption, and 'life from the dead' - but there is no time to be lost.

Oftentimes in contemplating the history of this empire; the greatness of its power; the peculiarity of its condition; its vast extent, one arm resting on the East, the other on the West; its fleets riding proudly on every sea; its name and majesty on every shore; the individual energy of its people; their noble institutions, and, above all, their reformed faith - we are tempted to think that God's providence has yet in store for us some high and arduous calling.

The long-suffering of the Almighty invites us to repentance; evils that have engulfed whole nations, suspended over us for a while, and then averted, exhibit the mercy - and the probable termination of it:

Let us catch at this proffered opportunity, which may never return; betake ourselves with eagerness to do the first works; and while we have yet strength and dominion, and wealth and power,

"break off our sins by righteousness, and our iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of our tranquillity". Daniel chapter 4, verse 27

[Ashley argues above, that the forces of the market and society, drew the classes apart. There is an analogous separation in the urban geography of Manchester, as Engels describes it. But there are also points at which the classes were coming together. One was the intellectual input of higher classes into working class agitation, which Engels and Ashley both refer to. Another was the evangelical movement among the working class. Another (later) was the novel. There was a struggle for the soul of the slums.]

chronology 1841 biography

chronology 1842 biography

Co-sponsor Licensed Lunatic Asylums Bill
"How can I look to success in the great measures I propose if I am so weak in the smaller?"
Visited Hanwell

During the Spring and Summer of 1842 Ashley's main House of Commons preoccupation was the Coal Mines Act. Proceedings on the Act continued until August 1842

Early May 1842: Publication of:

Children's Employment Commission. First report of the commissioners. Mines 1842

Friday 6.5.1842 Times editorial about the Report saying that it would pursue the issue in future articles.

Saturday 7.5.1842 Ashley's Diary: The Report of the Commission is out

Petitions against moral depravity in the pits

Saturday 14.5.1842: Times editorial continued. On the chain

14.5.1842 Diary The Government cannot, if they would, refuse the Bill of which I have given notice, to exclude females and children from the coal- pits - the feeling in my favour has become quite enthusiastic; the Press on all sides is working most vigorously. Wrote pointedly to thank the editor of the Morning Chronicle for his support, which is most effective. (Hodder 1, p. 418 quoted BREADY p.288)

Tuesday 17.5.1842: Times editorial continued. On parents and apprenticeship and then on the treatment of women

Coal Mines

Tuesday 31.5.1842 Day Ashley gave up to Peel the day allocated for introduction of the Coal Mines Bill, so that Peel would have the time needed for the final stages of his Income Tax Bill. Ashley given 7.6.1842 in its place.

Tuesday 7.6.1842 Ashley asked leave to introduce a bill respecting the employment of women and children in mines and collieries (Hansard 7.6.1842)

col 1327:
Speaking of one of the girls, he says

She stood shivering before me from cold. The rug that hung about her waist was as black as coal, and saturated with water, the drippings of the roof

In a pit near New Mills, the chain passing high up between the legs of two girls, had worn large holes in their trousers. Any sight more disgustingly indecent or revolting can scarcely be imagined than theses girls at work. No brothel can beat it.

col 1328:
young persons, destined, in God's providence, to holier and happier duties,

col 1337:
The first provision, then, which I shall propose will be the total exclusion of all females from the mines and collieries of this country. I think that every principle of religion - I think that every law of nature calls for such a step;

Ellspee Thompson says:
I can say, to my own cost, that the bairns are much neglected when both parents work below; and if neighbours keep the children, they require as much as women sometimes earn, and yet neglect them.

col 1337:
Mr M.T. Sadler, a surgeon at Barnsley, says:

I strongly disapprove of females being in pits; the female character is totally destroyed by it; their habits and feelings are altogether different; they can neither discharge the duty of wives nor mothers. I see the greatest difference in the homes of those colliers whose wives do not go into pits.

cols 1339-1340
The next point to which I wish to call attention, is the exclusion of all boys under thirteen years of age; and this I confess may be looked upon as my weak point, for here I am likely to find the greatest opposition.

Thursday 23.6.1842 Prince Albert conveyed his and the Queen's support to Ashley respecting the Coal Mines Bill. Invited Ashley to call.

Petitions in favour of the bill from working men

Saturday 25.6.1842 2am Ashley forced Coal Mines Bill "through the Report". 12pm Ashley called on Prince Albert.

Friday 1.7.1842 and Tuesday 5.7.1842

Final reading of Coal Bill in Commons. In the following extract from Ashley's diary notice the government effort to get him to proceed only with the parts of the bill relating to women.


"Peel and Graham voted with me on the first (division), but went away on the second. Neither of them said a word in my favour. Gladstone voted against me, and Sir Edward Knatchbull; Graham, the evening before, had changed his tone, and began to express his doubts to Jocelyn. Here again is `cordial support`! The Government will openly desert me in the House of Lords. Wharncliffe attempted to break his engagement, by desiring me to postpone all parts of the Bill except that which related to females. I positively refused"

Tuesday 5.7.1842 Further proceedings on the third reading. About 9pm the Bill passed to the Lords.

Wednesday 6.7.1842 Diary: "God be everlastingly praised, received amidst cheers, the fiat that `Lord Ashley do carry the Bill to the Lords`"

Sunday 24.7.1842 Diary:

" Will he [Peel] open his eyes and expand his heart to the mighty concerns of the present day? If so.. the world lies before us, and we shall march, under God's banner, through the length and breadth of all lands, not in a spirit of conquest and ambition, but as the [moral?] sovereigns of His power, spreading religion and happiness around, and preparing the way for the restoration of His once loved People." (Best, G.F.A. 1964 p.103)

August to September 1842: the Plug Plot Riots

Lunacy Inquiry Commission August 1842

Ashley was in Dorset in August, on a tour of the factory districts in September, and visiting various places (including "Wilton") in October.

Monday 8.8.1842 Diary: "Took the Sacrament on Sunday in joyful and humble thankfulness to Almighty God, for the undeserved measure of success with which He has blessed my effort for the glory of His name, and the welfare of His creatures. Oh that `it may be the beginning of good to all mankind!`..."


11.11.42 Diary: "This is a mighty subject, and one on which authority and power could be extensively and beneficially exercised."

chronology 1843 biography

30.1.1843 "Sturminster Speech" strained relations with his father


Hansard 28.2.1843 cols 47-104: Ashley's address on the diffusion of moral and religious education among the working classes. Condition and Education of the Poor.

Hansard 28.2.1843 col 47
Late events have, I fear, proved that the moral condition of our people is unhealthy and even perilous - all are pretty nearly agreed that something further must be attempted for their welfare; and I now venture, therefore, to offer, for the discussion, both matter and opportunity. Surely, Sir, it will not be necessary as a preliminary to this motion to inquire on whom should rest the responsibility of our present condition - our duty is to examine the moral state of the country; to say whether it be safe, honourable, happy, and becoming the dignity of a Christian kingdom; and, if it be not so, to address ourselves to the cure of evils which, unlike most inveterate and deeply rooted abuses, though they cannot be suffered to exist without danger, may be removed without the slightest grievance, real or imaginary, to any community or even any individual. The present time, too, is so far favourable to the propounding of this question, as that it finds us in a state of mind equally distant, I believe, from the two extremes of opinion; the one, that education is the direct, immediate, and lasting panacea for all our disorders; the other that it will either do nothing at all, or even exasperate the mischief. That it will do everything is absurd; that it will do nothing is more so; every statesman, that is , every true statesman, of every age and nation has considered a moral, steady, obedient and united people indispensable to external greatness or internal peace. Wise men [col 48] have marked out the road whereby these desirable ends may be attained; I will not multiply authorities; I will quote two only, the one secular, the other sacred: I think I may say, observes the famous John Locke, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts in ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. It is that which makes the great difference in mankind. Train up a child, said Solomon, in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

our lot is cast in a time when our numbers, already vast, are hourly increasing at an almost geometrical ratio - our institutions receive, every day, a more liberal complexion, while the democratic principle, by the mere force of circumstances is fostered and developed.

Hansard 28.2.1843 col 48
But if we look forward to the next ten years, there will be an increase of at least 2,500,000 in the population; and should nothing be done to supply our want, we shall then have in addition to our present arrears, a fearful multitude of untutored savages.

Hansard 28.2.1843 col 62
First, Sir, observe the effects that are produced by the drunken habits of the working-classes; you cannot have a more unanswerable proof of the moral degradation of a people.

Hansard 28.2.1843 col 63
I will lay before them [the house] the testimony of eminent medical men, who will show what ruin of the intellect and the disposition attends the indulgence of [col 64] these vicious enjoyments - we shall see how large a proportion of the cases of lunacy is ascribable to intoxication; but we shall draw, moreover, this startling conclusion, that, if thousands from this cause are deprived of their sanity and incarcerated in mad-houses, there must be many-fold more, who, though they fall short of the point of absolute insanity, are impaired in their understanding and moral perceptions.

Dr Prichard, who is well known, not only in the medical, but also in the literary world, writes to me that:-

    The medical writers of all countries reckon intemperance among the most influential exciting causes of insanity. Esquirol, who has been most clebrated on the continent for his researches into the statistics of madness, and who is well known to have extended his inquiries into all countries, was of the opinion that, 'this cause gives rise to one-half of the cases of insanity that occur in Great Britain.'
Dr Prichard adds that:-

This fact, although startling, is conformed by many instances. It was found, that in an asylum at Liverpool, to which 495 patients had been admitted, not less than 257 had become insane from intemperance

Hansard 28.2.1843 col 72
The King's strength ought to be in the multitude of his people etc

An evil state of morals engenders and diffuses a ferocious spirit.

People, Mr Speaker, will oftentimes administer consolation by urging that a mob of Englishmen will never be disgraced by the atrocities of the Continent. Now, Sir, apart from the fact that one hundredth part of 'the reign of terror' is sufficient [Hansard 28.2.1843, col 74] to annihilate all virtue and all peace in society, we have never, except in 1780, and a few years ago at Bristol and Nottingham, seen a mob of our countrymen in triumphant possession. Conflagration then and plunder devastated the scene; nor were they forgotten in the riots of last year, when during the short- lived anarchy of an hour, they fired I know not how many houses within the district of the Potteries

Hansard 28.2.1843 col 74
Nor let us, Sir, put out of mind this great and stirring consideration, that the moral condition of England seems destined by providence to lead the moral condition of the world. Year after year we are sending forth thousands and hundreds of thousands of our citizens to people the vast solitudes and islands of another hemisphere; the Anglo-Saxon race will shortly overspread half the habitable globe. What a mighty and what a rapid addition to the happiness of mankind, if these thousands should carry with them, and plant in those distant regions, our freedom, our laws, our morality and our religion! This, Sir, is the ground of my appeal to this House; the plan that I venture to propose, and the argument by which I sustain it. ... We owe to the poor of our land a weighty debt. We call them improvident and immoral, and many of them are so; but that improvidence and immorality are the results in a great measure, of our neglect, and, in not a little, of our example. We owe them, too, the debt of kinder language, and more frequent intercourse. This is no fanciful obligation; our people are more alive than any other to honest zeal for their cause, and sympathy with their necessities, which, fall though it oftentimes may on unimpressible hearts, never fails to find some that it comforts and many that it softens. Only let us declare this night, that we will enter on a novel and better course - that we will seek their temporal, through their eternal welfare - and the half of our work will then have been achieved. There are many hearts to be won, many minds to be instructed, and many souls to be saved: 'Oh Patria! oh Div–m domus!' - the blessing of God will rest upon our endeavours; and the oldest among us may perhaps live to enjoy, for himself and for his children, the opening day of the immortal, because the moral glories of the British empire.

chronology 1844 biography

15.3.1844: Ashley's speech in the House of Commons trying to amend a Government Bill so that it would restrict the worker's day to ten hours. - (Engels quotes from)

25.7.1844 Diary: My friend, the Times, in character as usual, charges me with weakness. How can I be otherwise, not having in the House even a bulrush to rest upon? 'No politician! no statesman!' I never aspired to that character; if I did, I should not be such a fool as to attack every interest and one half of mankind, and only on the behalf of classes whose united influences would not obtain for me fifty votes in the county of Dorset or the borough of manchester. 'Rides but one hobby horse at a time!' Of course; a man who cannot afford to keep a groom. if he be rich enough to have two horses, must ride them alternately. I have no aid of any kind, no coadjutor, no secretary, no one to begin and leave me to finish, or finish what I begin; everything must be done by myself, or it would not be done at all.

chronology 1846 biography

Ashley was not an MP from 31.1.1846, when he resigned his Dorset seat, to 30.7.1847 when he was returned for Bath.

On the 31st of January he resigned his seat.. Two days before taking that step, he re-introduced into the House of Commons his Ten Hour Bill with every prospect of success. Hodder 2 p.129

chronology 1847 biography

June 1847 Ten Hours Act passed restricting women and young persons to 63 hours a week.

chronology 1848 biography

chronology 1851 biography

1851 Lodging Houses

chronology 1851 biography

10.3.1854 House of Lords: Religious Liberty in Turkey

chronology 1856 biography

25.3.1856 Manchester: Young Men's Christian Association

chronology 1858 biography

1858 Social Science Congress Liverpool: Sanitary Legislation

Lord Shaftesbury, as President of the Health Section, concluded his address by remarking:

These are some of the evils; of the remedies for them, many may be accepted, many rejected, but all should be investigated; for, I say it without presumption, that the things we state from the platform are founded on experience, and what we propound is no longer matter of experiment.

The operation of the Public Health Act has shown, in Ely, that the town might be nearly as healthy as the country; it shows a marvellous reduction of mortality, to 17 in the thousand, when the mortality of rural districts around it amounts to 21 in the thousand. It is the same in Croydon; and in Liverpool, I am informed - greatly to your honour, and this adds no little to your responsibility - that your sanitary arrangements save 3,700 lives a year as compared with former times.

I do not mean to say that the very highest sanitary arrangements in towns will bring health and life to the same standard as the highest arrangements in country districts; but I assert the great improvability of urban life, and the abatement of much suffering among dense populations.

Surely that is a matter for deep and solemn consideration; and ought we to be tranquil when we are told that the preventible mortality in this country amounts to no less than 90,000 a year? Let us say, to be within compass, 40,000; that is, four lives an hour. Again, I assert, here is a matter for solemn consideration.

Now, we may be told by some that these things are but in the course of nature, and we ought not to interfere; on such we will turn our backs; we will not listen to such a representation. We may be told that these things are costly, and require financial effort, and the people are not ready to undertake the expense; but we may safely say that it is disease that is expensive, and it is health that is cheap.

There is nothing that is so economical as justice and mercy towards all interests - temporal and spiritual - of all the human race. If we be told that spiritual remedies are sufficient, and that we labour too much for the perishable body, I reply that spiritual appliances in the state of things to which I allude are altogether impossible. Make every effort - push them forward - never desist - lose not a moment - but depend upon it that in such a state of things you will in the end be utterly baffled.

But when people say we should think more of the soul and less of the body, my answer is, that the same God who made the soul made the body also. It is an inferior work, perhaps, but nevertheless it is His work, and it must be treated and cared for according to the end for which it was formed - fitness for His service.

I maintain that God is worshipped, not only by the spiritual, but by the material creation. You find it in the Psalms, - "Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all ye stars of light." And that worship is shown in the perfection and obedience of the thing made.

Our great object should be to do all we can to remove the obstructions which stand in the way of such worship and of the body's fitness for its great purpose. If St. Paul, calling our bodies the temples of the Holy Ghost, said that they ought not to be contaminated by sin, we also say that our bodies, the temples of the Holy Ghost, ought not to be corrupted by preventible disease, degraded by avoidable filth, and disabled for His service by unnecessary suffering.

Therefore, all that society can do it ought to do, to remove difficulties and impediments; to give to every man, to the extent of our power, full, fair, and free opportunity so to exercise all his moral, intellectual, physical, and spiritual energies, that he may, without let or hindrance, be able to do his duty in that state of life to which it has God to call him.

Note in Ashley's speeches: This extract has been inserted in order to meet the argument, at that time very prevalent, that all physical efforts were vain, nay, almost worse, and that moral remedies alone could be applied.

chronology 1859 biography

22.11.1859 Swindon: Literary Institutes for Working Men

chronology 1860 biography

24.2.1860 House of Lords: Religious Service in Theatres

chronology 1861 biography

5.7.1861 House of Lords: Indian Irrigation and Inland Navigation

chronology 1866 biography

1866 Social Science Congress: Legislation on Social Subjects

11.4.1866 Willis's Rooms: Refuges for Homeless Children

18.12.1866 Blackwall: Homeless Boys of London

chronology 1867 biography

11.4.1867 House of Lords: Agricultural Gangs

14.5.1867 House of Lords: Clerical Vestments Bill

23.7.1867 House of Lords: Representation of the People Bill

chronology 1868 biography

Speeches of the Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G. Upon Subjects Having Relation to the Claims and Interests of the Labouring Class. London: Chapman and Hall, 193 Picadilly.

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1830, 1831, 1832, 1833, 1834, 1835, 1836, 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1845, 1846, 1847, 1848, 1849, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858, 1859, 1860, 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868, 1869,

Authority and power

Coal mines


Debt to the poor


Function of law

Infant labour:

King's strength

Madness of the people 1840, 1843

Moral and obedient people

Moral empire

non- interference

Ten Hours Bill