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The seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K. G., as social reformer online

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Hi' i


From a Photograph by Samuel A. JValker.]




as Social "Reformer.



Author of " The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G." ; " The Life
of Samuel Morley " ; " John MacGregor {Rob Roy)" " George Smith, of Coalville,"

etc., tc.

> > > >




21, Berners Street.


Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ltd., London and Aylesbury.


[ T was my high honour to be chosen by the
* "good" Earl of Shaftesbury to be his biographer,
and, in 1886, it was my privilege to give to the
world the full story of his life political, social,
domestic, philanthropic, and religious. It was, of
necessity, a lengthy narrative, occupying three bulky
volumes and sixteen hundred pages of print.

The present work is confined to one aspect of
his career that of Social Reformer and is in-
tended to set before the reader in a brief form a
rfcume of those important movements to which he
devoted his life, standing out pre-eminently as the
champion of the defenceless and oppressed, and
winning for himself a name that will live for
ever in the annals of this country as the Friend
of the Working Man, and the great Social Reformer
of the nineteenth century.


Heatherdene, Harewood Road,
South Croydon.





I. Early Career x

II. Factory Legislation for Women and Chil-
dren 2Q

III. Lunatics, and the Lunacy Laws . . 50

IV. Chimney Sweepers and Climbing Boys . 69

V. Children in Mines and Collieries . 83

VI. Children not Protected by the Factory

Act s 96

VII. Condition of the Working Classes . .114

VIII. Sanitation, and the Dwellings of the

Poor I2 g

IX. Ragged Schools I44


Index I9I





Shaftesbury, was born in Grosvenor Square
on April 28th, 1801. His father was for many years
Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords.
His mother was a daughter of the fourth Duke of
Marlborough. The ancestors of the Earl, both on
his mother's and his father's side, were distinguished
men. The first Earl of Shaftesbury was the famous
minister of Charles II. ; the third Earl was the
equally famous author of the " Characteristics " ;
the second, fourth, and fifth Earls achieved no dis-
tinction or left no mark on the history of their
times. The sixth Earl, Cropley Ashley, succeeded
to the title on the death of his brother in 181 1.

The first qualification for the work before him of
the great Englishman, Christian philanthropist, and


2 Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

social reformer, whose life we are now to consider,
was his birthright of rank and position. He was
always sensible of the vantage ground thus afforded
him, and it may be well to ask, in passing, whether
it is easy to overestimate the gain to the whole
community, that not every citizen should be forced
to spend his prime in climbing high enough above his
fellows to be able to render them effectual service ?

He had other congenital personal gifts manly
good looks and a striking presence, which, it cannot
be gainsaid:, help a man more than we sometimes
think; -and which' certainly helped him when he
endeavoured ; to i-n'sfiire his humble fellow-countrymen
with his noble and elevated character. Gifts of in-
tellect were added, such as has been truly said
might well have inclined him to take a part in the
higher walks of political life. Immense energy, un-
tiring industry, indomitable perseverance, and the
noble ambition which covets, not personal distinction
for its own sake, but that honour which in its highest
form is to have " the answer of a good conscience " ;
a command over language which clothed his thoughts,
written or spoken, in right and forcible words ; an
unrivalled memory ; a keen power of observation ;
a statesmanlike faculty in choosing his instruments ;
an insight into character, and a depth of sympathy,
developed by special circumstances, which was the
human motive of his strenuous labours, together with
a vivid imagination and a heart which craved for
love and approval, were the natural equipment of
the knightly soul destined to engage in more single

Early Surroundings. 3

combats on behalf of the weak and defenceless than
any paladin of the Middle Ages.

A further qualification for his life-work was the
sorrow and sadness and pitiful loneliness of his child-
hood and early surroundings. His father, an excellent
chairman of committees a duty he discharged faith-
fully for forty years was engrossed in the cares of
public life, and had acquired harsh and dictatorial
habits, which may have facilitated the business of
the House of Lords, but certainly did not add to
the charm of private intercourse. He brought up
his son with great severity, moral and physical, in
respect both of mind and body, his opinion being that
to render a child obedient it should be in a constant
fear of its father and mother. Throughout his life he
had no sympathy with his son, and for long periods
was totally estranged from him. Nor did the heart
of the child find any resting-place in the love of its
mother : she was wholly absorbed in the daily round
of fashionable pleasures, and found neither time nor
inclination to give attention to the proper duties of

Happily, however, there was one who really cared
for and loved the child. This was one Maria Millis,
the housekeeper, to whose care he was confided : it
was she who taught him his first prayer a prayer
that until the day of his death he constantly used ;
it was she who, from the lessons of Holy Scripture,
led him to desire to " be good and to do good " ; it
was she who was his spiritual mother, his only
sympathetic friend, his " special providence " ; and to

4 Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

her influence he traced very much, perhaps all, of the
inspiration of his later life. She left him a handsome
gold watch, and throughout his life he never
any other. " He was fond, even to the last, of sh
it, and would say, 'That was given me by the b<
friend I ever had in the world.' " *

When he was about seven years old Maria Mil lis
died, and the child was left to the t
of servants, who seemed to be lacking in the comm
instincts of humanity ; for, strange and almost in-
credible as it may appear, if we had not the far
from Lord Shaftesbury himself, he was often kept for
days without sufficient food, until he was pinched
with starvation ; he knew what it was to tkc

many weary nights in winter, all through the long

The following anecdote is taken from a Report of the Ashley
Mission, Bethnal Green, founded by the Hon. William Ashley,
Lord Shaftesbury's younger brother :

44 The watch which Maria Millis bequeathed to him when he
was seven years old, some half-century later, on the occasion
of one of his visits to a disreputable neighbourhood, was stolen
from its owner. Lord Shaftesbury immediately advertised
loss and his great value for the missing property. * There is
honour among thieves.' Soon after, a cab drew up to his door
in Grosvenor Square ; a tremendous ring was given, a large
canvas bag was deposited on the threshold, and the two men
who brought it were promptly driven off. The bag was opened.
It was found not only to contain the precious watch, but the
young culprit who had known no better than to steal it, together
with a written request that he might meet with his deserts. It
need scarcely be said that the restoration of Maria Millis's legacy
was rewarded with his pardon, while a fresh start in life was
afforded him, by the good education of the Reformatory School
to which he was forthwith sent"

School Life. 5

hours suffering from cold ; he was the victim of many
cruel and petty tyrannies, and spent the years of his
young life, that should have been only bright and
joyous, in a state of utter misery, without a friend
in the world to cheer him with sympathy and loving-

On entering his eighth year the lad was sent to a
school, which has latterly given place to a lunatic
asylum Manor House, Chiswick. It was a fashion-
able and successful school, kept by Dr. Thomas
Home, a good classical scholar, the father of Sir
William Home, Attorney-General under Earl Grey,
and afterwards Master in Chancery. It is a truism
that there are as wide differences in the mental as in
the physical constitution of boys. Lord Lyndhurst,
who went to this same school under the same master,
a somewhat glowing account of it, altogether
different from that of Lord Shaftesbury, who, late in
life, said, "The memory of that place makes me
shudder ; it is repulsive to me even now. I think
never was such a wicked school before or since.
The place was bad, wicked, filthy ; and the treatment
was starvation and cruelty." There is, perhaps, a
little exaggeration in this description, the result of an
overwrought and sensitive nature ; but the fact remains
that to him, whatever it might have been to any one
else, life at that school was a prolonged torture.

It is not necessary to dwell upon this period of his
life, but some knowledge of these painful experiences
is necessary to the true appreciation of his subsequent
career. " No one who knew Lord Shaftesbury could

6 Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

fail to observe in him an air of melancholy, a certain
sombreness and sadness, which habitually surrounded
him like an atmosphere. It was no doubt to be
attributed, in great measure, to the scenes of
and sorrow which were continually before him ; but
it was also largely due to the fact that there had
been no light-heartedness in his childhood, and that
the days to which most men look back with the
keenest delight were only recalled by him with a
shrinking sense of horror. But it is important to
the understanding of his life in another aspect [that
of a social reformer] that this record of his unhappy
childhood should be given. Those early years of
sorrow were the years in which he was gr
for his great life-work. He had suffered oppression ;
henceforth his life would be devoted to fighting the
battles of the oppressed. He had known k
and cold, and hunger ; henceforth he would plead the
cause of the poor, the lonely, the suffering, and the
hungry. He had known the loss of a happy child-
hood ; henceforth he would labour, as long as life
should last, to bring joy and gladness to tfa
and homes of little children

In 1811 the father, succeeding to the title,
to live at St Giles, the family seat in Dorsetshire ;
and in 181 3, after five years at the Manor House
School, Chiswick, the son was sent, at about twelve
years old, to Harrow, and was placed under the

* "The Life and Work oi the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury,
K.G .," by Edwin Hodder (Cassell & Co., Ltd. 1886. In
volumes), vol. i., p. 42.

The Starting Point. 7

care and in the house of the Head Master, Dr. Butler.
Here a happier era dawned upon him ; he found
friends whom he could love and esteem among
them the loving, large-hearted Sir Harry Verney,
afterwards distinguished as a philanthropist not less
than in other important respects.

It was while he was at Harrow that an incident
occurred which gave shape and tone to his chara
and became the starting-point in his life of phil-
anthropic labour. Walking alone one day down
Harrow Hill he encountered a drunken group shout-
ing out Bacchanalian songs as they staggered along
with a coffin containing the remains of a deceased
comrade. Presently, turning a comer, they let their
burden drop, and broke out into foul and horrible
language. Struck with unspeakable horror at the
ghastly scene, the lad, after gazing at it for a few
moments as if spellbound, exclaimed, "Good
heavens! can this be permitted simply because
the man was poor and friendless ? " And then and
there he registered a vow that, with God's help, he
would thenceforth make the cause of the poor his
own. And faithfully he kept that vow.*

Soon after he attained his fifteenth year young
Lord Ashley, for so we must call him till his accession
to the Earldom in his fifty-first year, left Harrow,

* A suggestion was made in the " Life and Work of Lord
Shaftesbury," vol L, p. 49, that a suitable monument should
mark the spot where this resolution was made, eventuating in the
freedom of thousands of the poor and helpless. We are de-
lighted to hear that a movement is now on foot (1897) to carry
out this suggestion.

8 Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

where he had obtained prizes and reached the sixth
form, and went to reside with a clergyman in Derby-
shire. Here, if he did not, as he tells us, learn much,
he at least acquired a taste for the innocent pleasures
of a rustic life. In 1 819, after two years with his
private tutor in Derbyshire, his father decided on his
going up to Christ Church, Oxford, where he soon
began to take life in greater earnest, and made up
for what he considered " much wasted time " by such
exemplary assiduity in his studies that in three years'
time, to his own intense surprise, he came out of the
schools a first-class man in classics in 1822.

To somewhere about this period we may assign
an amusing anecdote, " told by one who was present,
whose word is above doubt, and who still lives. We
tell it * in the words of the witness : ' At Edinburgh,
where I was visiting my sister, I first made acquaint-
ance with the young Lord Ashley, who was the
handsomest young man I ever saw, full of fun
frolic, very tall, and his countenance radiant with
youthful hope. He had come down to Scotland
with his cousin, George Howard, afterwards Lord
Morpeth, whom he was very anxious to make as
intimate with his friends as he already was him
but Mr. Howard, besides being naturally s
quite a stranger, and did not sec the pleasure or
advantage of the introduction. However, it was
effected. We heard a scuffle outside the drawing-
room door, which was suddenly thrown open, and
he rushed head foremost into the middle of the
Church Tim*s % December 17th, 1886.

M.P. for Woodstock. 9

room, projected as from a battering ram, while
Lord Ashley shouted, " Enter the Honourable George
Howard ! " Of course there was an end of all shyness

: this.'"

is will seem strange to those who remember the
habitual and unbroken gravity of the Puritan Earl
in later years, but there is abundance of evidence
to show that the "unbroken gravity" was very
gradually acquired ; for he acknowledges in his
diaries the enjoyment of "a round of laughing and
pleasure/ 1 and even speaks of "loving joviality";
while every member of his family testifies that to
the end of his life he relished a joke and possessed
a fund of quiet, subtle humour. His old friend Sir
George Burns, with whom Lord Shaftesbury was
very intimate, has testified that, when he was on
his annual visit to Wcmyss Bay, it was proverbial
wherever the ripple of laughter was to be heard
and the most fun was going on, there Lord Shaftes-
bury was invariably to be found."

At tig Oxford he travelled for some time,

according to custom ; and in his twenty-sixth year,
at the General Election of 1 826, he entered Parliament,

a severe contest, as member for Woodstock,
then the pocket borough of the House of Marlborough.
At that time his future had not, even in his own
thoughts, assumed definite shape; his religion was
the paramount influence over his conduct, and he
was habitually looking for Divine help and guidance
to keep his conscience unsullied and to make straight
* " Sir George Burns, Bart. : His Times and Friends," p. 405.

io Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

his paths before him. He had resolved generally to
plead the cause of the poor and friendless, but he
had not yet found the opportunity which he sou
For purely political life he felt himself to be unfitted.
He was too sensitive, too diffident, to make a
ful leader ; he distrusted himself and underrated his
own abilities; he possessed a constitutional shy
which made it a pleasure to him to pass unnoticed ;
and he had fallen into a habit, which he never could
quite shake off, of analysing his own motives, prin-
ciples, and actions, in a morbid fashion, constantly
cherishing self-depreciation and fears of failure, though
he longed to do good work for his country.

About this time a friendship, only int 1 by

death, sprang up between the Duke of Wellington

and young Lord Ashley. His enthusiasm for the

I Duke was unbounded, and it was only increased

by his prolonged intimacy.

When Lord Ashley entered Parliament, as a Tory,
Lord Liverpool, the Premier, was fast approaching
the close of his long official career, and in the
following year (1827) Canning became Prime Mii
in his stead. Ashley was offered a post in the
Government, the negotiations being opened by his
great friend Mrs. (afterwards Lady) Canning ; but
out of loyalty to the Duke he refused the offer.
"With me," he said, "the Duke is the chief con-

Four months later Canning died, and in the
January following Lord Ashley took office under the
Duke of Wellington, for whose sake he had b

In Office. 1 1

refused it. He was appointed to be a Commissioner
of the India Board of Control, and held that office
almost the only office of profit he ever held till
Lord Grey's accession to power in 1830. This
situation afforded him not only a golden opportunity
for displaying his inherent ability, but became a
source of great satisfaction to him in after life.
During the Mutiny era in 1857 he could look back
with pleasure to the part he had taken on the

c question that is, the practice of burning
widows at the death of their husbands. It was

Icted that a revolt would follow, but his opinion

that it would be safe was justified by the event

whole of India," he said, "was satisfied that

.;ht, when Lord William Bentinck appealed

to those great principles of the human heart which

inplanted by the hand of God ... If you appeal
to the conscience, depend upon it the millions will go
along with you."

During his tenure of office the establishment of
"Scientific Corporations for the Institution and Im-
provement of Horticulture and Husbandry throughout

I rovinces of India " was one of his schemes for the
benefit of our great dependency, the moral results of
the community of pursuits to be thus induced between
the European and the native, being one main con-
sideration to be kept in view. The salt monopoly
deeply interested him as one affecting most nearly
the comforts of several millions ; and the course he
took in middle life with regard to the opium question,
and in advanced age with respect to the progress of

12 Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

the factory system in India and its accompanying
cruelties, when unrestricted, inspire the wish that the
India Board could longer have retained such services.

Lord Ashley's first speech in Parliament was de-
livered in February 1828, in support of a Rill to
Amend the Law for the Regulation of Lunatic Asylums,
and it sounded the key-note of hi
career, although it was not until 1833 that h<
send forth the clarion sounds that were to stir the

In June 1830 he married Lady Emily Co\
daughter of the future Lady Palmerston "a wif
11 < his own language, fondly written in the
of his life, " as good, as true, and as deeply beloved as
God ever gave to man."

Shortly before this happy event Lord Ashley had
been returned, at the General Election, to rcpn
Dorchester ; but he only held the seat a year, the
rejection of the Reform Bill in 1831 having brought
about another dissolution of Parliament. On ace
of his popularity and local influence he was tlun
chosen to contest the county of Dorset in the anti-
reform interest. His opponent was the Hon. William
Ponsonby (afterwards Lord de Mauley), and the fight
was long and severe, lasting for fifteen days ; but
Lord Ashley won the contest, the expense of it
exceeding 15,000 an amount which, notw
ing the promises of his political friends, he had to pay
almost entirely alone ; and being then, and c
a comparatively poor man, he became involved in
very harassing financial difficult iea For ti

The Reform Bill. 13

fifteen years he continued to represent the county in

It will be well in this place to define, as well as we
can, Lord Ashley's attitude towards the Reform Bill
of 1832, and to politics generally. On the jubilee of
the passing of the Reform Bill (1882) the question
was asked in the Times whether any of the survivors
of the Reform Parliament would hold to the opinion
then expressed, that the sun of England had set for
Lord Shaftesbury replied :
I am one of the survivors, but I do not recollect
that I ever expressed that opinion, nor was it the
opinion of the great statesmen who at that time
resisted the measure. They maintained that it would
lead eventually to large and organic changes ; that it
would overthrow the Established Church, and destroy
the independence of the House of Lords, if it did not
altogether annihilate its existence,

"They never contemplated these issues as imme-
diate ; they generally believed that about thirty years
would elapse before the full and permanent effects
were visible. In this they were right The House-
hold Suffrage Act of 1867, followed by the introduction
of the Ballot, gave the final stamp to the future
character of legislation. One enactment yet remains
the enactment of Household Suffrage for the
counties. This measure will affect the tenure and
mission of property in every form, as the other
measures have affected the principle and action of
political institutions."

It is somewhat difficult to define Lord Shaftesbury's

14 Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G.

exact place as a politician. Shortly after he entered
Parliament, as Lord Ashley, we find him in doubt
between a career of party and personal ambition,
and complete retirement from public life. His am-
bition was at that time as keen as his despondency
with regard to his own abilities was morbid ; but
such was the state of the times that he saw no alter-
native between taking part in the endless round of
intrigue for place and power, without any worthy or
ultimate object, and studies or moral solituck , there
being apparently no obvious connection bctv
politics and, in a large sense, the good of mankind.
The idea of such a connection would in all proba-
bility have been scouted as a Utopian, if not a
dangerous dream.

The political principles upon which h I in

life were, however, fixed, and he never dev
from them. He was so little a partisan that both
sides have been anxious, at certain periods, to claim
him as their own ; but he never wavered by a 1
breadth from the three articles of his political ere <
the Crown, the hereditary Peerage, and the Esta-
blished Church, institutions on the maintenance of
which he considered the happiness of the country to
depend. He opposed the Reform Bill of 1832, as we
have seen ; he led the opposition in the House of
Lords to the Reform Bill of 1867 and to tl
Act of 1872, and he always used the word " <1
cracy" as a term of reproach.

The fact is now generally recognised that the
history of this country has passed in recent \

Conservative Principles.

from a political to a social stage. The questions that
most interest us now are questions of social, and not

\y political, importance ; and no one man ever
did more to effect the change that has come over our
notion of what is important than the subject of this
memoir. Whether he was always right in his opinion
of how the popular welfare was to be promoted ;
whether he did not attribute too much importance to
the action of the State ; whether in the ardour of his
philanthropy he would not, unless restrained by more
worldly persons with cooler heads, have injured what
he wished to benefit, arc questions which have given
rise to discussions in the press, but need not be

with here. He might not have been a statesman ;
he certainly was not, in the ordinary sense of the
word, a pronounced politician, though he lived amid
the dust of political controversy for more than sixty
years, and always took the keenest interest in politics ;
he probably delivered more speeches in both Houses

ic Legislature than any member of either during

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Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K. G., as social reformer → online text (page 1 of 13)