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EPITOME OF NEWS.

AGRICULTURE. -

THE CHILDREN OF THE AGRICULTURAL…

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THE CHILDREN OF THE AGRICUL- TURAL LABOURER. The Rev. W. B. Hopkins, Vicar of Wisbech, in reference to a letter that appeared in the Times, stating that the children of the agricultural labourer were well cared for, says in reply Most persons who have read Mr. Bowker's letter of the 17th inst. will come to the conclusion that Whittlesea is a highly favoured parish. The parents of the children must, indeed, feel happy when they reflect that on leaving the National School their boys and girls are merely draughted into gangs, where their morals are better cared for than before. And, theugh Mr. Bowker seems to have some misgivings when he admits that there are evils attending this system," yet it is re- assuring to learn that they "may be easily corrected." I confess that it would have been more satisfactory to me, and possibly to others, if he had gone on to say that he, for his part, would never in future employ a gang which contained a child under nine years," or a girl above the age of fourteen; that when the corn is high and wet" he will only employ boys to weed it, and that he intends to separate the boys from the girls," and to engage a woman to superintend the girls." In the meantime, however, I crave your permission to state some faots, obtained from a parish which does not appear to be so well ordered as Whittlesea. I have ascertained, and am ready to produce evidence (if re- quired) to prove:— 1. That in the parish to which I refer boys and girls work promiscuously in the gangs. 2. That young persons of both sexes are employed up to the age of 18, and sometimes older persons of feeble intellect. The following are Ahe ages taken at random of some of the children employed in a gang this present sammer :-9, 9, 6, 16, 12, 14, 12, 10. 3. That sewing work or knitting are scarcely ever seen in the hands of a girl accustomed to gang work. 4. That no girl who has been regularly with a gang ever likes to go to domestic service. 5. That the gang when assembled has to walk many miles to work-on an average six miles out, and six miles home again. 6. That profane swearing is habitual, more common with girls than boys, and not rebuked by the ganger, who himself, does not scruple to swear at the gang. 7. That a child lagging behind when at work is liable to be beaten, to make it keep up with the rest of the gang. 8. That young children often dread going out with the gang, and entreat with tears not to be sent. 9. That every Friday evening-the gang does not work on Saturday-the boys and girls stay behind when the ganger is gone, and engage in rough and sometimes immodest play together. 10. That children employed in the gang become rude and disorderly in the streets and in the schools, and learn to think lightly of every place of worship. When such facts as these are patent, it is no wonder that the local press should speak strongly when it dares; and even that the cry of such wrongs should at length find utterance in Parliament. The marvel is that a louder remonstrance has not been oalled forth. The secret seems to be that the oppressed will endure much in silence when they fear to lose their bread if they venture to speak out. Mr. Bowker asks, Why are not the farmers to have the benefit of children's labour as well as the manufacturer ?" It is surely fair to ask in reply, Why are not farmers to bo made subject to the same humane regulations as the manufacturers, if they too are to reap the benefit of children's labour ? Manu- facturers who employ children of tender years are bound to send them to school at their own expense for half the day. If, then, farmers employ children for half the year in labour, which is sometimes wet and unhealthy, let them be bound to keep the children at school and at their own expense for the other half of the year. Let the farmers also be obliged to provide proper gangers—men for the boys and women for the girls, and pay them for superintending, instead of allow- ing them (as it seems they do from Mr. Bowker's letter) to put into their pockets a percentage of the earnings of all the children in the gang. Without presuming to say anything in defence of the Whittlesea National Schools, which are, I believe, largely supported by Mr. Childers, and under excel- lent local management, I would add that most persons who wish well to the agricultural labourer desire to see his children employed in the fields; but they be- lieve that this point may be secured, and yet some portion of time reserved during which the children may sit in school, "with clean faces and smooth hair," learning to read the Bible, to write to a brother in the army, or to a sister in America, and to do an easy sum.

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