labour,’ and described in detail the sufferings endured by children in the factories. His speech deeply moved the House of Commons and the nation. The main features of Sadler's bill were ‘to prohibit the labour of infants under nine years; to limit the actual work, from nine to eighteen years of age, to ten hours daily, exclusive of time allowed for meals, with an abatement of two hours on Saturday, and to forbid all night work under the age of twenty-one.’ He had intended to insert clauses (1) ‘subjecting the millowners or occupiers to a heavy fine when any serious accident occurred in consequence of any negligence in not properly sheathing or defending the machinery,’ and (2) proposing ‘a remission of an hour from each day's labour for children under fourteen, or otherwise of six hours on one day in each week, for the purpose of affording them some opportunity of receiving the rudiments of instruction.’ He had also contemplated a further clause putting down night work altogether. But, not to endanger the principal object which he had in view, and ‘regarding the present attempt as the commencement only of a series of measures in behalf of the industrious classes,’ he had confined his measure within narrower limits. The reply to Sadler was that his statements were exaggerated, and that a committee should investigate his facts. Sadler consented to an inquiry, and the bill, after being read a second time, was referred to a committee of thirty members, to whom seven more were afterwards added. The committee included Sadler as chairman, Lord Morpeth, Sir J. C. Hobhouse, Sir Robert Peel, Sir Robert Inglis, and Messrs. Poulet Thomson and Fowell Buxton. It held its first sitting on 12 April 1832, met forty-three times, and examined eighty-nine witnesses.
About half the witnesses were workpeople. The appearance of these working-class witnesses was much resented by some of the employers, and on 30 July 1832 Sadler addressed the House of Commons on behalf of two of them who had been dismissed from their employment for giving evidence, and prayed for compensation. Among the physicians summoned before the committee were Sir Anthony Carlisle, Dr. Thomas Hodgkin, Dr. P. M. Roget, Sir W. Blizard, and Sir Charles Bell, who all condemned the existing arrangements. The committee reported the minutes of evidence on 8 Aug. 1832. The report impressed the public with the gravity of the question. Even Lord Ashley had heard nothing of the matter until extracts from the evidence appeared in the newspapers (ib. i. 148). J. R. McCulloch, the economist, writing to Lord Ashley on 28 March 1833, said: ‘I look upon the facts disclosed in the late report (i.e. of Sadler's committee) as most disgraceful to the nation, and I confess that until I read it I could not have conceived it possible that such enormities were committed’ (ib. p. 157). The chief burden of the work and of the collection of evidence fell on Sadler, and his health never recovered from the strain.
Sadler had been one of the chief speakers at the great county meeting which Oastler organised at York on 24 April 1832 to demonstrate to parliament the strength of public opinion in favour of a ten-hour bill. Later in the year, sixteen thousand persons assembled in Fixby Park, near Huddersfield, to thank him for his efforts in the committee. At Manchester, on 23 Aug., over one hundred thousand persons are said to have been present at a demonstration held in honour of him and Oastler, and in support of the agitation for the bill (Alfred, History of the Factory Movement, i. 235–57). His parliamentary career, however, had drawn to a close. Aldborough, for which he sat, was deprived of its member by the Reform Bill of 1832, and, at the dissolution in December, he declined other offers in order to stand for Leeds. His chief opponent was Macaulay, who defeated him by 388 votes. The fight was a bitter one (cf. Trevelyan, Life and Letters of Macaulay, p. 209). In 1834 Sadler stood unsuccessfully for Huddersfield, but failing health compelled him to decline all later invitations. After his rejection for Leeds, his place as parliamentary leader of the ten-hour movement was taken, in February 1833, by Lord Ashley [see Cooper, Antony Ashley, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury], who never failed to recall the services previously rendered by Sadler to the cause (Hodder, Life of Lord Shaftesbury, i. 153; Alfred, History of the Factory Movement, ii. 17, 19–20).
The manufacturers complained that, when the session of 1832 ended, they had not had time to open their case before Sadler's committee. Accordingly in 1833 the government appointed a royal commission to collect information in the manufacturing districts with respect to the employment of children in factories. In May Sadler published a ‘Protest against the Secret Proceedings of the Factory Commission in Leeds,’ urging that the inquiry should be open and public; and in June renewed his protest in a ‘Reply to the Two Letters of J. E. Drinkwater and Alfred Power, Esqs., Factory Commissioners.’ After this, his health failed, and he took no further part in public affairs.