Contemporary Reviews of Labour and the Poor 3

Contemporary reviews started appearing in other publications shortly after the “Labour and the Poor” investigation commenced, of which a number were reprinted in The Morning Chronicle.

We have transcribed a selection of these to give an idea of how the letters were being received at the time, which you can find below. Each article has links to the other articles at the top and bottom of the page.

The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, November 10, 1849.



The press of this country is fulfilling one of its most honourable duties, when, disdaining to echo the opinions, or adopt the hatreds of public men, it anticipates their duties. We have heard much, of late years, of the great Condition of England question, but, amidst the strife of parties and the turmoil of politics, little is done towards furthering the solution of that great difficulty of the day, beyond the wholesale expression of good intentions. Blue-books innumerable have been filled with details of the sufferings of the poor. When the manufacturers wished to annoy the landowners, they collected evidences of distress in the rural districts, while their antagonists were not slow in adducing in reply the heaped up horrors of the factory system. But blue-books are, unfortunately, a very select species of literature. The treasures they contain are virtually inaccessible, so ponderous and uninviting are those enormous tomes. Less solid, but more intelligible appeals are constantly made to the public sympathies at public meetings, and by various philanthropic societies. All these produce their effect in stimulating individual benevolence, and in fortifying a general desire to do something for the poor. But in all these appeals there is manifested a lamentable deficiency of facts, or the facts are isolated, so that no general and comprehensive view can be taken. Moreover, it is unfortunately too much in the nature of these institutions and societies to become exclusive, and thus their valuable efforts are, comparatively speaking, wasted.

The conductors of The Morning Chronicle apparently have perceived that one of the great wants of the day is an accurate, impartial, and comprehensive view of the actual condition of the labouring poor. At this time, when the opponents of the recent commercial policy of the country are habitually referring all the evils of our social state to the action of free trade, it is the more important to be able to probe the disease and ascertain its real causes and condition, that dangerous misapprehensions should be averted. We all know the good result produced by the visit of the Times Commissioner to Ireland, and the searching anatomy he made of the actual social state of that country. *   *   * It has been left to The Morning Chronicle to satisfy the want so long experienced by the public. With great spirit and liberality, the conductors have commissioned several gentlemen to execute the task. Report says that they are men already distinguished in literature; but of their capacity for the work they have undertaken, the result of their labour is the best and most striking evidence. To one of these gentlemen is entrusted the investigation into the state of the metropolitan districts; three are journeying in the rural counties; while another has charge of the great manufacturing towns. They have for some time past published a series of letters in The Morning Chronicle, certainly unrivalled for their admirable mixture of hard facts and silent appeals to public feeling, for the searching inquiry they indicate into every part of the great world of labour. Written in a form sufficiently popular to please the most casual reader, they at the same time furnish materials for thinking to the philosopher and the statesman. Perhaps their greatest merit, apart from their literary excellence, is their impartiality, and the apparent absence of any design to divert an undertaking, so noble in itself, to the purposes of party. It affords us very great pleasure to pay this tribute to the public spirit and liberality of the conductors of The Morning Chronicle; and we do it with the more pleasure at seeing so useful a work performed by a journal to which we are ordinarily opposed in political opinion.

The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, November 10, 1849.