Printer Friendly

Educating child labourers in France: the parliamentary debates of 1840.

One of the most difficult tasks the historian faces is that of understanding human motives. Evidence is hard to come by: few historical personalities leave records of their deliberations to guide us, and those few who do often leave conflicting accounts. One necessarily remains sceptical, moreover, about stated intentions and wonders about possible hidden motives.(1) Another problem is the inclination to seek a rational explanation and a single, clear motive. Applying these goals to groups rather than individuals merely compounds the difficulty.

The complications are well illustrated by the role of the French elite in the development of popular education in the nineteenth century. Why did some support and others oppose schooling for the masses? Explanations of their various positions cover a wide range, from a desire to socialize and moralize to a perceived need to train workers or a humanitarian urge to improve the lives of ordinary men and women.

Much of the debate over which motive predominated, however, is based primarily on the arguments of prominent reformers. The 1840 debates on the first French child labour law provide a more comprehensive picture of elite opinion on schooling for the people. That law included a provision requiring child labourers to attend school, the first time in France that education was made compulsory for any group. And for many representatives, that requirement was the most important part of the bill. Furthermore, while the Chamber of Peers opposed the educational component of the law, the Chamber of Deputies strongly supported it, and thus we hear the opposition in these debates as well as the reformers.

A few years ago one could argue that the child labour law had been relatively ignored. Recently, however, three excellent monographs have appeared that pay close attention to this innovative legislation: Colin Heywood, Childhood in Nineteenth-Century France; Katherine A. Lynch, Family, Class, and Ideology; and Lee Shai Weissbach, Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France.(2) While Weissbach focuses on child labour reform throughout the nineteenth century, Lynch and Heywood see the 1841 law as a key example of a growing general concern in France with children and the family. Yet none stresses the importance of education or of the parliamentary debates in understanding the law of 1841. Rather, they emphasize the early reformers who promoted restrictions on child labour and, in particular, two movements that sometimes connected and sometimes diverged: social Catholicism and a second group of reformers described variously as liberal bourgeois, moral reformers, or social economists. The essential difference between these two movements is that social Catholics were primarily concerned with moralization while bourgeois reformers stressed socialization. This distinction remainds us that moralization and socialization are not necessarily the same, or at least were not seen as such at the time, although today they are often used synonymously. The primary focus of the first, of course, was improving individual and group morality, while that of the second was forming good, or docile, citizens. Lynch does express some puzzlement over how these small reforming groups were able to influence French legislators. The precise connections, it should be pointed out, remain tenuous at best. Indeed, it is possible that the French peers and deputies had their own reasons for supporting or opposing reforms and were not necessarily persuaded by the reformers.

The discussions in both chambers were clearly focused, wide-ranging, and revealing. The results suggest that the July Monarchy legislators had no single reason for supporting compulsory education for child labourers. Nor was that key article pushed through by a coalition of groups with differing motives, as some have suggested. The problem with such explanations is the search for a single, "rational" motive, a search which assumes that underneath all the political and social rhetoric each individual involved in the debate had a firm, clear idea of what he wanted, and why. Given the evidence of the debates, however, it makes more sense to assume a combination, or confusion, of motives that made the greatest number of legislators the most comfortable. Moralization was a key word, certainly, but it had a broad meaning. The deputy Charles Renouard, for example, argued for education on the grounds that the law makers' primary obligation was to provide the greatest number of French citizens the means of assuring their "moral existence." By this Renouard meant a conscientious, hard working, and law abiding existence that would benefit equally the individual, manufacturers, and society as a whole. To suggest less, or more, would have been incomprehensible to Renouard and his colleagues in the chambers.

The child labour bill was tabled in the chamber of peers on 11 January 1840. Those most concerned were sorely disappointed, for the law was couched in very general terms. According to Article One, no one under the age of sixteen was to be employed "except as prescribed by special governmental regulations," which would also, according to Article Two, specify the age at which children could enter factories and the length of their work day. In his justification of the Bill, Laurent Cunin-Gridaine, the Minister of Public Works, Agriculture, and Commerce, argued that it was necessary to balance "the freedom of labor" with the need to protect the growing generation. But the enquete of 1837 had produced a great diversity of advice, making specific legislation difficult. Thus the government's draft laid down only general principles which would allow the Ministry of Commerce to take local conditions into account when setting specific regulations that might vary from region to region. The bill did state that in "modern societies," and especially in those with constitutional governments, "primary instruction is a right that each child receives at birth." It even proposed punishing parents for neglecting the moral and scholastic education of their children.(3)

The peers were not impressed with the ministry's efforts, and they selected some of their most prestigious members to sit on the committee that reviewed the bill. Members included the baron Charles Dupin, a long-time supporter of worker education; the baron de Gerando, law professor and member of the Conseil d'Etat, who had written on the education of deaf mutes and was active in the mutual school movement; the Franco-Italian liberal economist Pellegrin Rossi; the duc de Gasparin, economist, former prefect and minister, and friend of Francois Guizot; the marquis de Louvois, former emigre and leading iron manufacturer; and the comte de Tascher, hereditary peer and distant relative of Napoleon. They worked swiftly. Named on 16 January, they reported back to the peers on 22 February. The committee brushed aside the minister's efforts and wrote their own bill, which became the first draft of the eventual law. The members were, however, far from united. Two, Cousin and Rossi, led the attack on the bill's educational provisions in the peers' debate.(4)

The key author of this second version was Dupin, named rapporteur of the Committee. His draft included an article on education stating that there had to be proof that children had completed two years of formal education before being admitted into factories, unless the employer agreed to ensure that the child would receive education while working. For Dupin, education was the most important aspect of the Bill. Indeed, the major reason for reducing the hours worked by children was to allow them time to continue their primary instruction and to complete their religious education. Education was particularly important, Dupin argued, as a means of reducing the crime rate. There was thus "an immense interest" in instilling in the labouring class, from their "most tender youth," the principles of order and morality, respect for persons and property, and veneration of laws and religion. The minister had expressed apprehension about usurping parental authority, to which Dupin replied, "we recognize the rights of fathers, especially the right to provide food, clothing, and shelter and health. But we do not recognize their right to sell the strength, health, and life of their children. We attribute to government the power to see that children acquire primary and religious instruction and maintain good morals and public decency."(5) Clearly, the committee regarded socialization and moralization as key issues.

The most striking aspect of the peers' debate of Dupin's draft, which took place from the 4th to the 10th of March, 1840, is that no one opposed in principle legislation to control child labour, which one peer characterized as "traffic in white slaves."(6) Debate focused on specific provisions. Many peers agreed with Dupin that the measures on education were the most important. The baron de Gerando reported that the committee regarded the educational provisions as the very soul of the bill and the most necessary for the working class. The legitimist baron Mounier added that the most grievous abuse of child workers was not the wasting of their health but the erosion of their moral sentiments, to which the wearying routine of factory discipline contributed. For the duc de Praslin, education was as necessary as food for the nourishment of children.(7)

The peers' debate on education centred on several fundamental issues. One had been raised by Cunin-Gridaine: the need for education versus the freedom of labour. Another was the rights of parents versus the duty of government to ensure that children received education. This in turn raised the question of compulsory education: did the government have the right to compel its citizens to be educated? And if so, why single out factory workers?

Behind these issues of principle lies the elusive question of motive. Were those defending the freedom of labour and of industry and the rights of parents doing so merely to maintain the status quo and the continued exploitation of child labour for profit? And what were the motives of those arguing for education? Were they primarily interested in the moralization of young workers, as Dupin suggested? Were they genuinely interested, as Cunin-Gridaine argued, in ensuring that all received their birthright of education? Or were they more concerned with training the young in habits of discipline to make them more pliant workers? These were the issues explored by the peers in six days of intensive debate, openly in the case of basic principles, more subtly when it came to motives.

It was in the general debate on the bill that peers worried about restricting parental authority and the freedom of labour.(8) One deputy warned that the government, in seeking to control manufacturers, was taking the first step towards "saint-simonism or phalansterism."(9) But these laissez-faire arguments for the rights of industrialists and parents did not prevent a majority of peers from voting to restrict the working hours of children. We need, therefore, to look elsewhere to explain why the upper house rejected the passionate arguments of Dupin and others for compulsory education.

The motives of those supporting education were clear, if varied. The major concern undoubtedly was socialization and moralization. The baron Pierre Bigot de Morogues, for example, wanted to ensure at least one hour of instruction on each working day and two hours on Sundays in order to overcome the "appalling immorality and crime" in manufacturing cities, the incidence of which was more than double that in rural areas.(10) The baron de Gerando added that the committee believed it necessary to protect the intellectual and moral faculties of child labourers as well as their physical health in order to prepare a generation of good citizens, virtuous men, and vigorous soldiers.(11)

Good citizens and virutous men are the key to any discussion of socialization and moralization, currently the most popular explanations for elite support of popular education, particularly if viewed as a guise for social control.(12) It is, however, useful to distinguish between the two. The primary purpose of socialization is making good citizens while that of moralization is improving individual and group morality. They can, of course, be seen as complementary; Robert Gildea treats them as such in arguing that religion as a moralizing force was used to support the goal of maintaining the social order.(13) In the 1840 debates, however, the Legitimist and social Catholic comte Montalembert insisted on the distinction. In arguing for moralization, he stressed the difference between instruction and education. "Instruction without religious sanction, without moral education, without instilling a sense of social hierarchy, is the most fatal gift one could give to a people." Indeed, Montalembert argued, statistics demonstrated that those departments in which reading and writing were most widespread were also the departments with the most criminals.(14)

The peers also supported education as a means of developing better workers, although this motive was less apparent.(15) Dupin and the marquis de Laplace, a general of artillery and son of the eminent scientist, backed de Gerando's argument that educating child workers would benefit industrialists as well as the poor because the good habits thus fostered would make the workers more productive. And so, they claimed, far from attacking manufacturers, they were actually doing them a good turn.(16)

Some historians have discerned a humanitarian motive in the support for education, especially among Alsatian calvinist industrialists. They admit, however, that these industrialists also believed that the moralization of workers would further technical progress and create a more passive population.(17) One may, nevertheless, see a symbiotic relationship between the two, rather than view the former as a mere cover for the latter, as do social control theorists. Certainly peers expressed humanitarian sentiments. Montalembert attacked child labour as a homicidal system while Villemain worried about the brutalizing effects of factory labour. But they easily moved from that to the importance of education as a moralizing and civilizing force. In other words, for them, there was no obvious distinction between the two: the humanitarian impulse provoked the desire to moralize by educating.

In the end, a majority of peers voted against Dupin's article on education. The reasons for notable opposition to popular education have been less explored than the motives of reformers. The most common explanation, however, is the upper classes' fear that education would make the people dissatisfied with their lot and thereby lead to social unrest.(18) This, of course, conflicts with the idea of socialization. The debate over these two began during the Restoration. For some notables, the calamities of the Revolution had resulted from too much knowledge among the lower classes, while for others it was exactly the opposite: the people's ignorance had led to their excesses.(19) Another possible explanation for opposition to education is the elite's desire to maintain their social distinctness.(20)

But the question may be poorly put: perhaps the notables were not so much consciously opposed to schooling the lower classes as simply unable to see any good reason for such schooling. The debates suggest that this was the case. No peer opposed education as dangerous. Only the duc de Praslin worried that, if taken too far, it would cease to be of use to those destined to be only simple workers.(21) Rather, opponents stressed the practical difficulties and argued that compulsion was not necessary. Rossi, for example, argued that compulsory education would punish those children whose parents had not sent them to school: they could not be employed even if starving, for they had no education. For that reason, Rossi opposed making education compulsory. To Dupin's objection that the bill allowed the uneducated to work if the manufacturer agreed to provide them with education while on the job, Rossi replied that not all manufacturers could assure such education, particularly those who operated in remote places far from schools and on too small a scale to be able to afford their own.(22)

Victor Cousin's criticisms of Dupin's proposals on education were the most extensive, and presumably the most persuasive.(23) Beyond the practical difficulties Rossi had raised, an even more difficult and "delicate" charge, Cousin asserted, was that of making sure the child workers actually attended schools. A similar provision in the British law of 1833 had proved to be the most difficult to implement. Cousin also feared that these stipulations might provoke manufacturers to cease employing children, as many had threatened to do, which would mean a very serious loss of income for the poorest families. Cousin's main thrust, however, was directed against compulsory education. He pointed out that there was no clear agreement among experts on the efficacy of compulsion. Furthermore, practice varied throughout Europe: compulsory education had been successful in Germany and in some democratic cantons of Switzerland, yet primary education also flourished in countries where compulsion was unknown. One example was Holland, a country in which primary education had its "true fruit," for its population was one of the most industrious and moral on earth.

Cousin also opposed addressing an issue as important as compulsory education in a bill that dealt with such a small part of the population. It would set up one law for those employed in manufacturing industries and another for everyone else, thus establishing in "this land of equality" an inequality without motive and reason. Compulsory schooling should rather be dealt with in legislation concerned with education.

The principle of compulsion, Cousin continued, had been throughly debated during preparation of the 1833 law on primary education. At that time, legislators had specifically rejected the idea, preferring exhortation and persuasion, which, for Cousin, remained superior. Besides, the peers were making a law for France, a country where authority had retained little respect and where the very appearance of coercion caused people to shun and hate even what was beneficial. Finally, Cousin reminded the peers that the principle of compulsion had been proclaimed once before in France, by the Convention, which alone should be sufficient reason to reject it.

Cousin then switched to the argument that education was already costing the communes dearly. To add to the charge while at the same time attacking the family and industry risked creating a reaction against the very thing one was trying to promote. Besides, Cousin maintained, great strides were being made in education. Primary school attendance had doubled between 1829 and 1837. In 1837 3,083,327 children between the ages of five and twelve attended schools, which meant only 1,719,029 did not, and many of the latter received instruction at home. If such progress continued, within ten years all would be receiving education. Hence the peers should not despair of the system of exhortation. Nor should they needlessly resort to measures which, while apparently beneficial, were in reality dangerous as well as superfluous.(24)

Only the marquis de Laplace defended the principle of compulsory education. He had sat on the committee responsible for the 1833 law on primary education, and no one in that group, he claimed, had opposed compulsion. Unable to agree on the means of implementing it, however, they had decided to wait for a better time. For Laplace, that time had come.(25) Other defenders of the child labour bill's article on education, however, denied any desire to make education compulsory. Rather, they argued, they wanted to protect children against their parent's temptation to abandon their education for the sake of their wages. They were responding to exceptional circumstances, and especially to using the need for those wages as an excuse for ignoring education. Their primary concern was that child workers were not benefitting equally from the growth in educational opportunities Cousin had emphasized.(26) These peers thus seemed to assume a correlation between industrialization and illiteracy.(27)

Cousin's argument carried the day. The peers, in an unrecorded voice vote, rejected the two paragraphs of Article Three that made education mandatory for all child labourers. That no one requested a tally suggests that the vote was not very close. In a vaguely worded clause, the resulting bill left it up to the government to make such regulations as were needed to "ensure the primary and moral education of child workers."(28)

The peers left the other basic provisions of the committee's draft untouched as they passed the bill, on 10 March 1840, by a vote of 91 to 35. Their rejection of compulsory education while voting by a substantial margin to regulate working conditions allows us to see more clearly their reasons for opposing schooling. Dupin and his supporters made all the relevant arguments for education, from moralizing and training workers to asserting their right to education. Why, then, did the peers draw the line here? Laissez-faire arguments for the freedom of manufacturers and parents obviously were not given much weight, for they did not stop the peers from interfering with that freedom in supporting legislation to control the age of entry to the work force and the hours children worked. One could focus on the brief statement of the duc de Praslin that anything more than the most basic education for workers would be useless, or on Montalembert's concern with social distinctions. One could then extend their arguments to fit the thesis that the conservative peers feared education as potentially disruptive. But that would distort the major thrust of the debate. Rather, one must return to the arguments of Cousin and Rossi. They focused on practical difficulties, and in particular the expense involved, and the principle of compulsion. Yet, again, the peers ignored similar arguments in compelling parents and manufacturers to obey limits on hours worked and entry age, and this despite the manufacturers' argument that such limits would raise so many practical difficulties and so increase their expenses that they might have to fire their young workers. That leaves Cousin's argument that compulsory education was not necessary because non-compulsory universal education was already on the way. A majority of peers may have refused to make education compulsory because they saw no urgent need to do so, not because they opposed education as such. And we must remember how radical, how Saint-Simonian, the idea of universal, compulsory, and free education must have seemed in 1840, as Cousin's reference to the Convention suggests.

Since the vote on education was unrecorded, and during the July Monarchy even recorded votes tallied only the numbers for and against and not the names of those voting, one cannot go very far in analyzing voting patterns. It is instructive, however, to compare and contrast those who spoke specifically to education during the debate. Clearly, this was not a partisan issue. Since the ministry supported the bill, Cousin's opposition to its educational provisions identifies this matter as one on which the government allowed a free vote, even of its ministers. Nor were the peers divided between conservatives and liberals. Two of the Legitimists who spoke, Dubouchage and Montalembert, supported compulsory education for child workers, while another, Mounier, opposed it. Furthermore, peers who might otherwise be considered the most progressive supported Cousin in opposing it. Three of the seven who spoke against the bill's educational provisions were non-nobles: the negotiant and industrialist Humblot-Conte, of the pencil company, and two professors, Cousin and Rossi. The remaining four were lawyer baron Daunant, the comte Cholet, an artillery officer, and two former bureaucrats, baron Mounier and the comte Portalis. Seven of eight who spoke for compulsory education were, by contrast, nobles. The seven included two professors (Gerando and Villemain), one military officer (Laplace), one bureaucrat (Dupin), and four independently wealthy property owners (Bigot de Moroques, Dubouchage, Montalembert, and Praslin). Villemain was the sole commoner in this group. There is thus no clear division based on occupation, political, or social and economic status.(29)

Minister of Commerce Gouin, tabling the peers' bill in the Chamber of Deputies on 11 April 1840, warned that it raised serious difficulties by attacking parental authority and imposing uniform regulations on all of France.(30) The deputies, however, brushed aside these concerns in restoring Dupin's educational provisions. As with the peers, it was the chamber's committee that took the initiative in amending the bill and in making the arguments for the education of young workers.

The deputies' committee differed from that of the peers in that it included as many industrialists as educational reformers. Members ranged from the prominent Parisian banker Francois Delessert, whose family also owned cotton mills and sugar beet factories, and Victor Grandin, the largest wool manufacturer at Elbeuf, to the former Saint-Simonian Lazare Carnot. The president was former minister of commerce Laurent Cunin-Gridaine, who would regain his portfolio in October. Cunin-Gridaine was also a prominent cloth manufacturer, with factories at Sedan. The most interesting members are those who combined an interest in both business and education, a combination that may have alerted them to the advantages education could bring to industry. Charles Renouard, the rapporteur, for example, a lawyer and bureaucrat, was also an administrator of the Society for Primary Education. Moreover, he represented the commercial bourgeoisie of Abbeville, in the Somme department, where he owned property. Another with dual interests was Jean Fulchiron, a wealthy retired Lyons negotiant and prominent Orleanist, who was a member not only of the general council of commerce and manufacture but also of the Saint-Denis committee of primary instruction. Other members of the committee were Marie Cochin, a retired lawyer who was mayor of the twelfth arrondissement of Paris where, before 1830, he had established a primary school; Pierre Jussieu, nephew of the celebrated naturalist, member of the conseil d'etat and an author of works on education; and the obscure Breton, Achille Guilhem.

In his report for the committee, Renouard argued that the individual rights of children over-rode the rights of parents and the laws of society had to protect the former. When it came to education, the committee unanimously recommended that child labourers receive schooling. They specifically proposed that children under twelve be allowed to work in factories only if their parents or guardians gave proof that they were attending a local public or private school. Furthermore, all children employed should attend school until they reached the age of twelve. Children over twelve would have to attend school unless their local mayor attested in writing that they had received elementary primary education.

The committee left to the government the difficult questions of exactly how much schooling workers were to receive and how the law should be enforced. It did, however, recommend using school inspectors to enforce the law. These inspectors had the aptitude necessary, Renouard argued, because their duties called on them to study and understand the needs of children. Their role would also show parents that the legislation was principally concerned with education and thus with the future of their children. The deputies rejected this suggestion and voted, instead, for unpaid, volunteer inspectors (a system that proved a failure).(31)

In justifying the committee's proposals, Renouard paid particular attention to the arguments made by the peers. He argued, for example, that his committee did not support the principle of compulsory education. Families could still, he pointed out, choose freely between education and ignorance. All the proposed bill did was make education compulsory for those children whose parents intended them to work in factories. Thus the apathy of fathers, or their scorn for an education they did not themselves have, would be overcome by their interest in their child's wages. Their greed, which had motivated them to place their children in factories rather than in schools would henceforth encourage them to send their children to schools so that they could also work. And anyway, asked Renouard, why should the deputies keep quiet on education? In the name of what right or what interest did one claim for children the benefits of ignorance? The 1833 law on primary education had taken a great step forward. The chamber now had the opportunity to take a new a more practical step.

Renouard also rejected Cousin's argument that the spread of education since the 1833 law would eventually solve the problem. Working children were a special case, Renouard argued, because while existing legislation seemed to promise primary education for all, the working population lagged behind the average citizen and generally remained in a state of ignorance. Worse, the gap was widening. Renouard stressed the connection between education and industry in arguing that the future of the latter rested upon ending this deplorable situation. The chamber committee thus recognized the connection not only between industrialization and illiteracy but also between education and economic progress. It also understood that limiting the work day to allow children to attend school was not enough. They had to be compelled to attend.

Renouard, in summing up his report, gave the committee's reasons for including education. These underline the difficulty in differentiating the various motives of those who supported this innovative social legislation. The committee, Renouard argued, opposed sacrificing the rights of children to industrial growth. To do so would lead to "industrial despotism" and lack "political foresight." Specifically, the committee stressed the need to foster not only the physical development of young workers but also their intellectual and religious education. And this, Renouard argued, was not only to benefit the youth concerned but also to protect society. Society needed vigorous men for its labour force and for the army, intelligent men "to develop its natural activity," and honest and conscientious men to maintain general order and public peace. The primary obligation of society, however, was to provide to the greatest possible number of its members the means of assuring their "moral existence."(32)

That rather vague yet sweeping goal, couched in utilitarian terms, sums up and, indeed, neatly combines the various reasons for the State's intervention. It rested on the nineteenth century's "faith in progress," which in turn was based not only on faith in education (not "instruction"), but also on a broader and more complex definition of "moral" than we are comfortable with today. A moral person would be peaceable, hard working, and content; thus, both society and the individual would benefit. The immediate reason for making education compulsory for child workers, however, was the realization that they were falling behind in the race between civilization and barbarism.

By the time Renouard's report was tabled in the Chamber on 25 May, the deputies were anxious to debate the budget and return home for the rest of the year, and so they decided to postpone consideration of the child labour law until the next session. Eugene Dietrich protested that it would be better, after having voted a budget of millions, to devote a few days to this law of moral order. Most of his colleagues, however, accepted the argument that delaying debate would give everyone more time to study the issues.(33) The crucial element may have been commerce minister Gouin's plea for time to make one last enquete.

Gouin launched his new inquiry on 1 July 1840. The question no longer was whether legislation was necessary, but which of the two versions, the peers' or the deputies', as represented in Renouard's recommendations, was preferable. This time the minister requested the advice of departmental councils as well as the three advisory bodies consulted in 1837: the chambers of commerce, the conseils de prud'hommes, and the consultative chambers of arts and trades.(34)

Renouard presented the deputies with a resume of the replies on 12 December 1840. Sixty-two advisory bodies, of eighty-five who made recommendations specifically on education, supported the Renouard Committee's recommendations. Twenty-two of the sixty-two actually favoured strengthening those proposals. Some suggested raising the entry age to as high as thirteen to allow more full-time education, while others wanted to make industrialists responsible for ensuring that their young workers attended school. Only seven opposed requiring child workers to attend school. Sixteen preferred allowing the government to decide the issue, as the peers had recommended.

Renouard, in tabling his unrevised report for the second time, stated that on the basis of such advice his committee had concluded that it could have made its recommendations on education even stronger. It did not suggest doing so, however, for the sake of easier implementation. Most importantly, the advisory bodies supported the committee against the peers in its desire to make primary education compulsory for all child workers.(35)

Given such broad support, it is hardly surprising that when the deputies finally came to debate the child labour legislation in December of 1840, they had less to say on education than had the peers. Perhaps it was, as Gueneau argues, that the opposition, impressed by the conclusions of the 1840 enquete, had capitulated. At least the government had. Minister of Commerce Cunin-Gridaine was first off the mark in announcing that the government supported the committee's bill "without reservation."(36)

In the face of such powerful support for the bill, deputies who opposed it, and its educational provisions in particular, concentrated not so much on the principle of the bill as on the practical difficulties inherent in implementing such legislation. They emphasized the inequality in making education compulsory for such a limited category as child workers, and the difficulties that would arise from requiring schooling when schools still did not exist in many areas. Until such time as schools were established in every commune where factories existed, the industrialist and mayor of Rouen, Henri Barbet, argued, giving child workers four hours off each day risked turning them out into the street where they would fall into vagabondage. August Darblay, a wealthy grain merchant from Corbeil (Seine-et-Oise), agreed with Barbet and suggested that until schools existed, it would be best to limit child workers' education to sunday schools. And perhaps, he concluded, it was more important to ensure work for all before providing education. "Each century is dominated by a powerful force; for one it is religion, for another it is literature. For ours it is work, industry, profit, and savings. Perhaps today profit and saving are the true roads to education and moralization and to a return to religion."(37)

The industrialist Eugene Dietrich, who supported the legislation, admitted that the lack of educational institutions was a problem. His workers told him that if their children could be cared for outside the factory, they would prefer to leave them there until they were ten or twelve. Thus not only were more schools necessary, but so also were more day-care facilities. Money spent on such care would, in the long run, save money spent on prisons. The proposed bill should, therefore, be only the beginning of legislation on such matters.(38)

Those deputies opposing the bill did not, therefore, dispute the principle that education would be useful in moralizing the workers. No deputy even raised the issue of compulsion in connection with education. Alphonse Taillandier, appeal court justice at Paris but representative of Cambrai in the industrial Nord department, alone warned of increased expenses, and he was worried only about having to hire inspectors.(39)

Gustave Beaumont, well-known liberal and friend of Alexis de Tocqueville, worried about British competition. Although Britain had led the way in introducing restrictive legislation on child labour, it could better afford the consequences than the French because it had greater capital and more consumers. And even so, Beaumont pointed out, the British had exempted the silk industry, probably because in that area they could not compete with the French. Furthermore, the bill before the deputies tried to overcome difficulties that were far more easily resolved in Britain where, alongside the interests of manufacturers, there was a profound religious and philanthropic sentiment supported by the protestant religion. That sentiment supported education and poor relief. While Beaumont did not want to slander his own country, he wondered whether that sentiment existed in France to the same degree.(40)

Supporters of compulsory education recognized the practical difficulties, but they argued that one needed to begin somewhere in reforming the system and that specific difficulties could be dealt with as they appeared during the course of implementation. Critics who continue to use the limited nature of the law as evidence of bad faith or ignorance on the part of deputies ignore this reply from the deputies themselves.

Both sides in the debate accepted the functional importance of education in furthering industrial development. Deputies saw moral regeneration in terms of correcting workers' dissipation and of instilling in them the habit of hard work as a means of ensuring industrial progress. Doctor Gaspar Lestiboudois, of Lille, who opposed the eight-hour day as too restrictive of industrial development, recognized that education was necessary because it would give children the instruction that would make their work more intelligible and thus less fatiguing and more lucrative. It would also make them better appreciate the chance to improve themselves, and thus induce them to save so they would have a cushion in case of accidents and generally to take better care of their health and stop them from squandering their wages.(41)

Deputies also saw religious education as an important part of the moral regeneration they sought. Villemain, now Minister of Education, urged the deputies to place "moral and religious education" at the head of the law, while the legitimist vicomte de Villeneuve-Bargemont, a prominent social catholic, called on the government to get together with priests and pastors to ensure religious education.(42)

The Alsatian ironmaster Dietrich perhaps best summed up the deputies' reasons for supporting compulsory education of child workers. He argued that the misery of the workers was caused not by lack of wages but by lack of morality, and popular education was necessary to correct that situation. Such reform would benefit all, for the future of manufacturing and of the working population were interdependent. The Industrial Society of Mulhouse, Dietrich pointed out, had recognized the connection between the prosperity of manufacturing industries and the well-being of the working population in initially proposing legislation on child labour.(43) While it is impossible to say definitely that a majority of deputies supported compulsory education of child workers because of that connection, it does seem the most persuasive explanation considering the times and the milieu.

At any rate, on 26 December 1840, the deputies approved the committee's recommendations on education in a voice vote, and on 29 December 1840, they passed the first French child labour law by a vote of 185 to 50.(44) An analysis of the deputies who spoke in the debate once again illustrates that during the July Monarchy political affiliation had little to do with positions taken on social-economic issues. Of the five prominent opponents of the bill, two supported the government and three opposed it.(45) Five of the nine who favoured legislation supported the government while four, including one Legitimist, sat in the opposition.(46) Nor was occupation any indicator: only two of the five opposed were industrialists, although two others represented the industrial Nord department, while three of those in favour of limiting the freedom of industry were also businessmen.(47) Not surprisingly, the legal profession was the largest single occupation group, with four lawyers and two magistrates. Of these, four supported legislation and two opposed it. Another two favouring the bill were nobles, including the son of Destutt de Tracy.(48) Beaumont seems to have been the only classical liberal. In other words, both sides could be seen as representing a fair cross-section of the chamber at large, and neither political affiliation nor occupation, nor even involvement in business, necessarily indicated one's position on this issue.

Once the deputies passed the bill it returned to the peers, in January of 1841, for their consideration. In reporting on the deputies' revisions, Minister of Commerce Cunin-Gridaine announced that the state had the right to intervene, "for the honor of humanity," to ensure that parents exercised their duties, as well as their rights, toward their children. He specifically pointed out that the deputies had restored compulsory education for child workers, and that they had been supported in this by the General Council of Manufacturers and an overwhelming majority of departmental councils, chambers of commerce, and prud'hommes. Cunin-Gridaine also affirmed that the reduction in the work day to eight hours was designed not so much to ensure that children were not overworked as to give them time to go to school.(49)

The peers quietly accepted the restoration of compulsory education. The marquis de Laplace commented that he had originally suspected the government of not really wanting a law, but he now happily admitted his error. After a brief two-day debate, the peers adopted the deputies' version and the child labour law was finally proclaimed on 22 March 1841.(50)

What, then, do these debates tell us about French elite opinion on popular education? Firstly, laissez-faire arguments about individual freedom of workers, parents and manufacturers seem to have had little impact, for in the end they were ignored in both houses. Secondly, only opposition peers raised arguments against compulsory education and the expense of universal schooling. The deputies who questioned the proposed legislation merely argued for delay until sufficient schools existed or questioned the equity of imposing education only on factory workers.

Since one could argue that the peers were not so much opposed to education as such as unable to see the necessity of making it compulsory, the most significant question is why a strong majority of deputies did see it as imperative. The major motive expressed in both chambers was moralization, but the deputies stressed its impact on industrial progress more than the peers. Renouard answered the peers' objections for all deputies: factory workers needed special provisions for their education because they were falling behind. The deputies concluded that education was particularly necessary for young workers because moralizing them would not only help alleviate their misery, but also make them better workers, and they would thus contribute more to industrial prosperity. Society could only benefit as well. Thus the deputies combined the basic motives usually put forth to explain the notables' support of education in France.

One could still argue that the deputies were not motivated by humanitarian concerns, nor by the desire to moralize because it would benefit the workers, or even society. Rather, they were interested primarily in producing more docile and disciplined workers. But that is to assume that they could clearly separate these arguments. The difficulty in establishing motive goes beyond the problem of whether the elite were giving their "true" reasons. They may have been unable to give one clear, rational reason for supporting the compulsory education of child workers because they could not in their own minds separate the various reasons as neatly as rational analysis demands. In discussing motive, the most simple strategy is to use class interests. A more complex method is to associate specific motives with specific groups, as among social Catholics, bourgeois reformers, and industrialists. A third possibility is the one suggested here: individuals may accept a variety of reasons without establishing a hierarchy of such reasons in their own minds.

Nor do we necessarily need to look for hidden motives. Both the peers and the deputies talked about individual rights and moralization, but no one talked about "social control." We cannot be sure that when they pronounced the importance of "moralizing" the workers they necessarily meant controlling them rather than freeing them from ignorance and vice. If the notables had an underlying motive in supporting the compulsory education of child workers, it is as easy to argue that it was their desire to open up to individual workers the possibilities of improving their lot in life by becoming better workers and citizens as to argue that it was their desire to control the workers as a class. It makes the most sense, perhaps, to suggest that middle-class legislators in the 1840s would have been most comfortable in asserting, and believing, the former.

More importantly, in arguing for the need to educate young workers, the legislators were also conscious of the need to actively promote intellectual as well as industrial development. The Orleanist legislators thus proved to be not the anachronistic politicians of legend, but rather active participants in fostering the socio-economic changes of the years 1840-47, years that David Pinkney has described as forming "the crucial watershed of modern French history."(51)

(1) For an excellent discussion of the difficulty in determining motive see Katherine A. Lynch, Family, Class, and Ideology in Early Industrial France: Social Policy and the Working-Class Family, 1825-1848 (Madison, 1988), pp. 24-29.

(2) Colin Heywood, Childwood in Nineteenth-Century France: Work, Health and Education among the "classes popularies" (Cambridge, 1988); Lynch, ibid.; Lee Shai Weissbach, Child Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century France: Assuring the Future Harvest (Baton Rouge, 1989). For further useful discussions of the child labour law see Peter Stearns's excellent discussion of industrialists and their motives for reform, Paths to Authority: The Middle Class and the Industrial Labor Force in France, 1820-48 (Urbana, 1978), in particular chapter 6, "Toward Social Reform,"and the older but still useful Louis Gueneau, "La legislation restrictive du travail des enfants: la loi francais du 22 mars 1841," Revue d'histoire economique et sociale (1927): 420-503.

(3) Le Moniteur, 12 and 15 Jan. 1840.

(4) Le Moniteur, 17 Jan. and 23 Feb. 1840.

(5) Le Moniteur, 23 Feb. 1840, pp. 350-53.

(6) Le comte Chollet in Le Moniteur, 6 Mar. 1840, p. 428. Chollet was an hereditary peer and an artillery officer who supported the Orleans regime, as he had the Restoration.

(7) Le Moniteur, 6 Mar. pp. 426, 429; 8 Mar. pp. 441-43. Some peers suggested increasing educational opportunities. De Praslin, for example, recommended requiring that child workers spend two hours a day in schools, as the British had done. The banker Antoine Odier argued for raising the starting age from eight years to nine in order to allow an extrayear of full-time schooling. Le Moniteur, 7 Mar. 1940, p. 433.

(8) The due de Broglie, for example, the eminent former doctrinaire and prime minister, in his speech of 6 Mar. Le Moniteur, p. 428.

(9) Joseph Gay-Lussac, a professor of chemistry connected with the metallurgical industry. Le Moniteur, 10 Mar. pp. 458-59.

(10) Le Moniteur, 5 Mar. p. 418. The baron's 1832 book on worker misery influenced the prominent social catholic Villeneuve-Bargemont. See Lynch, Family, Class, and Ideology, pp. 35-36.

(11) Le Moniteur, 8 Mar. 1840, pp. 441-42. Some critics of the law have suggested that ensuring a ready supply of healthy soldiers was a prime motivation of those supporting the law. See, for example, Weissbach, Child Labor Reform, p. 65. It is also possible, however, toview the focus on the health of recruits as evidence of the need for legislation rather than asthe goal, especially given that the military provided the best statistics.

(12) See, for example, Francois Furet and Jacques Ozouf, Reading and Writing: Literacy in France from Calvin to Jules Ferry (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 120-23; Robert Gildea, Education in Provincial France, 1800-1914: A Study of Three Departments (Oxford, 1983), pp. 235-41. Itis applied more systematically and thoroughly by Jacques Donzelot in The Policing of Families (New York, 1979). For two excellent general discussions of this issue, see Mary Jo Maynes, Schooling in Western Europe: A Social History (Albany, 1985), pp. 35-37; and Lynch, Family, Class, and Ideology, pp. 21-26.

(13) Gildea, Education in Provincial France, p. 239.

(14) Le oniteur, 5 Mar. 1840, pp. 418-19. The marquis de Cordone, Humblot-Conte, and Doubouchage all agreed that religious education was more important than mere instruction because it provided moral guidance. Le Moniteur, 7 and 8 Mar. 1840, pp. 433, 444.

(15) For a general discussion of this motive see Stearns, Paths to Authority, pp. 147-48; and Carter Jefferson, "Worker Education in England and France, 1800-1914," Comparative Studies in Society and History, 6 (1964): 350-51.

(16) Le Moniteur, 8 and 10 Mar. 1840, pp. 442, 459.

(17) Raymond Oberle, L'Enseignement a Mulhouse de 1789 a 1870 (Paris, 1961), especially pp. 15, 85-96, 124-26; and Marie Kahan-Rabecq, L'Alsace economique et sociale sous le regne de Louis Phillippe (Paris, 1938). For a rebuttal, see Stearns, Paths to Authority, p. 142, n. 4.

(18) Furet and Ozouf, Reading and Writing, p. 119; Georges Duveau, La pensee ouvriere sur l'education pendant la Seconde Republique et le Second Empire (Paris, 1948), pp.27-29.

(19)Douglas Johnson, Guizot: Aspects of French History, 1787-1874 (London and Toronto, 1963), pp. 104-16, 111-12. Jefferson, "Worker Education," p. 363, suggests that well-to-do employers were ambivalent: they feared educated workers might be restless but hoped that "proper education" would tend to stabilize society.

(20)See, for example, Louis Oges, L'Instruction primaire dans le Finistere sous le regime de la loi Guizot, 1833-1850 (Quimper, 1935), p. 17.

(21)Le Moniteur, 6 Mar. 1840, pp. 425-26.

(22)Le Moniteur, 6 Mar. pp. 424-28. Dupin claimed, in reply, that all communes with factories also had schools. Le Moniteur, 6 Mar. p. 443. But he cited only the major manufacturing areas of Alsace, Normandy, Picardy, and the Nord. In fact, the absence of schools in the neighbourhood of isolated factories and workshops proved to be the major stumbling block in implementing the child labor law. Heywood, Childhood in Nineteenth-Century France, pp. 244-45.

(23)Cousin had, on 1 Mar. become minister of education in Adolphe Thiers' ministry.

(24)Le Moniteur, 8 Mar. 1840, pp. 440-41. Cousin's arguments were supported by the barons Daunant and Mounier and by Humblot-Conte. Le Moniteur, 8 Mar. pp. 441, 443-44.

(25)Le Moniteur, 8 Mar. p. 442.

(26)See especially the speeches of Villemain, Gerando, and Dupin, Le Moniteur, 8 Mar. pp. 441-43.

(27)For a discussion of this problem see Furet and Ozouf, Reading and Writing, pp. 197-225;

(28)Le Moniteur, 8 Mar. 1840, p. 444.

(29) The biographical profiles are from Adolphe Robert, Dictionnaire des parlementaires francais, 5 vols. (Paris, 1981); and Andre-Jean Tudesq, Les grands notables en France (1840-1849): etude historique d'une psychologie sociale, 2 vols. (Paris, 1964). There is insufficient information on Bordeau, who supported Cousin, to include him in this analysis. Dupin and Gerando were prominent liberal reformers while Bigot de Moroques and Montalembert were noted social catholics.

(30) Le Moniteur, 14 Apr. 1840.

(31) For that failure, and the difficulties encountered in general in implementing the law, see Heywood, Children in Nineteenth-Century France, pp. 23-47.

(32) Le Moniteur, 4 June 1840, pp. 1292-96. Weissbach and Heywood suggest that a Dupin-led pamphlet campaign persuaded the deputies to restore the educational provisions to the Bill. Neither note Renouard's Committee. Heywood, Children in Nineteenth-Century France, pp. 228-29; Weissbach, Child Labor Reform, pp. 72-73, 80.

(33)Le Moniteur, 27 May 1840, p. 1203.

(34)For an analysis of the 1837 enquete, see R. Koepke, "Educating Child Laborers in France: the Enquete of 1837," French Historical Studies, 15 (1988), 646-72.

(35)See Le Moniteur of 17 Dec. 1840, pp. 2456-57, for Renouard's resume of the 1840 enquete.

(36)Gueneau, "La legislation restrictive," pp. 494-95; Le Moniteur, 22 Dec. 1840, p. 2485. The government's pronouncement reveals that the July Monarchy parliament, far from merely rubber stamping administrative directives, actually wrote significant social legislation such as the child labour law. Cunin-Gridaine had regained the commerce portfolio in October in the new SoultGuizot ministry.

(37)Le Moniteur, 22 Dec. 1840, pp. 2483-84, 2489.

(38)Le Moniteur, 22 Dec. pp. 2485-86.

(39)Le Moniteur, 23 Dec. p. 2495.

(40)Le Moniteur, 22 Dec. p. 2487.

(41)Le Moniteur, 22 Dec. p. 2484.

(42)Le Moniteur, 23 Dec. pp. 2494-95.

(43)Le Moniteur, 22 Dec. p. 2488.

(44) The 235 voting represented barely half the 459 sitting deputies.

(45) They were, respectively, Barbet and Darblay, and Beaumont, Lestiboudois, and Tallandier.

(46) The five were Dietrich, Golberty, Legentil, Renouard, and Ressigeac; Corne, Grandin, Tracy and the legitimist Villeneuve were of the opposition.

(47) They were, respectively: Barbet and Darblay; Lestiboudois and Taillander; Dietrich, Grandin, and Legentil.

(48) The other was the vicomte de Villeneuve.

(49) Le Moniteur, 13 Jan. 1841, pp. 85-86. For divergent views on Cunin-Gridane's (changing?) position on the law, see Weissbach, Child Labor Reform, p. 63.

(50) Le Moniteur, 12 Mar. 1841, pp. 625-26. It is interesting to note that, as Weissbach points out, in all these debates little distinction was made between girls and boys. Weissbach, Child Labor Reform, p. 86.

(51) David Pinkney, Decisive Years in France, 1840-1847 (Princeton, 1986), p. xi.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Canadian Journal of History
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Koepke, Robert L.
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:Tsara and commissars: W. Somerset Maugham, "Ashenden" and images of Russia in British adventure fiction, 1890-1930.
Next Article:Symbol of paradox: the Casablanca Conference, 1943.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |