'The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes' by Kay-Shuttleworth (1832)

A selection from 'The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester' by Sir J Kay-Shuttleworth (1832)


"The poor laws provide, we fear, too frequenly a plea for improvidence and idleness. When reckless of the future, the intelligence of man is confined by the narrow limits of the present. By that very step he debases himself beneath the animals whose instincts teach them to lay up stores for the season of need. The artificial structure of society, in providing security against existing evils, has too frequently neglected the remote moral influence of its arrangements on the community. Humanity rejoices in the consciousness, that the poorest may obtain the advantages of skillful care in disease, and succour in want; that there are Asylums for infirmity, age, and decrepitude; but the unlimited extension of benefits, devised by a wise intelligence for the relief of evils which no human prescience could elude, has a direct tendency to encourage, amoung the poor, apathy concerning present exigencies, and the neglect of a provision for the contingencies of the future. The effect of this will be favoured by every other demoralizing cause, and will therefore operate most powerfully among those who are most debased."

"The absence of religious feeling, the neglect of all religious ordinances, we conceive to afford substantive evidence of so great a moral degradation of the community, as generally to ensure a concomitant civic debasement. The social body cannot be constructed like a machine, on abstract principles which merely include physical motions, and their numerical results in the production of wealth. The mutual relation of men is not merely dynamical, nor can the the composition of their forces be subjected to a purely mathematical calculation. Political Economy, though its object be to ascertain the means of increasing the wealth of nations, cannot accomplish its design, without at the same time regarding their happiness, and as its largest ingredient the cultivation of religion and morality.  [...] The standard of morality is exceedingly debased, and that religious observances are neglected amongst the operative population of Manchester. The bonds of domestic sympathy are too generally relaxed; and as a consequence, the filial and paternal duties are uncultivated. [...] An Apathy benumbs his spirit."