I'm new to this forum. I really interested in tracing my Liverpool roots and happened across this newspaper article from the Guardian 1864 in the course of my research.
Can it be true?
Lives of misery and ignorance in Manchester
Tuesday January 5, 1864
I have lately been exploring the less public districts of Manchester, with a view to understanding thoroughly whether any progress in social economics or education is being made.
The result is that I have been shocked and alarmed to find vast masses of people rotting and festering in ignorance and corruption. I do not exaggerate. No words are strong enough to convey any idea of the truth; and the most fearful sign is that the evil is rapidly increasing. We look at the census, find every year a large increase of population , and look upon it as an index to the prosperity of the district. At present, nearly the whole addition which is being made to the population is of this ignorant, half-starved class, who are constantly spreading into districts that formerly contained only the moderately well-to-do classes. These latter are now extending only outside the limits of Manchester.
It seems to be overlooked entirely that in a manufacturing and commercial city like Manchester there is very little chance of success for any man who has not the germs of education. In rural districts it is of comparatively little importance. A man can do, and generally obtain, labourer's work. But here there are continual changes of manufacture and every change throws out of employment many who had learnt to do some specialty work.
If the worker has never had his intellect awakened, he cannot take the same wide and intelligent view of his position; he cannot obtain the needful information as to what he ought to do; his range of possibility is bounded by what he sees with his eyes. The probability is that he just sinks into one of the dens of misery, and he and his family slowly die there - die by inches.
But this is one of those things that is not seen by the intelligent classes, because they do not know Manchester. Nowhere - even in London - is the separation of classes so complete as in the great commercial towns of England. It is one of the changes which have insensibly crept upon us, as the result of railways and the manufacturing system of modern times.
I speak far within compass when I say that in Manchester and Salford there are more than 50,000 children who ought to be at school and are not. These must almost of necessity, grow up idle, reckless, and many of them criminal. Most people in Manchester believe that this vast mass of ignorance is being reduced. I confess I had a vague idea of this kind myself, until I began to investigate. My conclusion now is, that this ignorant population is growing at the rate of more than 2,000 per annum.