The 5 June 1845 issue of the Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 2).
On the Existing Evils in Society.
Under this state of society, from the very nature of things men cannot live at peace with each other. Their interests are antagonizing, and their interests make them enemies, not their natures—hence comes the various train of causes which make labor disreputable, friendship insincere, and religion hypocritical.
From the monopolization of the soil and the common blessings to which every human being is entitled by nature, spring all our isolation of interests and controversies, which are embittering the natural dispositions of mankind, and sowing the thorns of hatred in their hearts.
From the monopolization of the soil and the blessings of life, comes piracies, robberies, murders, prison-houses, mad-houses, poor-houses with all other dens of vice—to which might be added court houses, and tribunals of justice or legislation.
It is the same cause which gathers standing armies, and creates navies, which spreads vice over land and sea, and exhausts the treasures of industry. It is this which keeps the Congress of this nation in session from nearly one year's end to the other, quarreling and fighting about Texas, Western and Eastern boundaries—electioneering for themselves, party, or their favorites—while like vampires they are sucking the best rights, and hard earnings of our people.
The right to the soil by conquest, contract, or hereditary descent has in all ages exerted a baneful and degrading influence upon the political and social system. It has made kings, despots, lords, princes and nabobs of the few; and subject, servants, slaves and beggars, of the many.
In new and sparsely settled countries, where the soil is available by all, the evil is apparently small. (Which shows the correctness of our principles.) But as the population becomes dense, the value of the lands become enhanced, and gradually fall into the hands of rich men and speculators. The unfortunate man, or poor young man, now finds himself deprived of the privileges his ancestors enjoyed, and not having the means to purchase soil that he may call his own, is obliged to sell his labor, or work as a servant, for those into whose possession the soil has fallen. Hence originates servitude—the young man now wears the stigma of a "hired servant"—finding himself degraded by this situation—discarded by those who have inherited an estate, or on whom good fortune has smiled—neglected by society, trammeled in ambition—his nature stifled, his hopes darkened—loses nature's respect—wears out a blighted life, falls into desperation and crime, or sinks into debauchery and dissipation. Thus we see the traffic in the soil, violates the great principle laid down in the declaration "that all men are by nature free and equal"—by denying multitudes of the "rights to life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness," it creates the false relation of master and servant, which makes labor disreputable, and causes ignorance, oppression, idleness and poverty, with all their associate evils among men.
As the country grows older, this state of things becomes more distressing. The landholders, and capitalists, become comparatively less and more powerful. While servants, poor laborers and beggars throng every mart and overflow the country.
This picture of monopolization may be seen in all its real deformity by training our attention to the old world, where beggars lay famishing at the doors of palaces, and poverty starving in the midst of luxury and affluence, where infant princes are salaried with hundreds per day while the offspring of poverty and industry is denied the milk from its mother's breast, who is languishing for bread. Look at England with her genial climate and productive soil, sufficient to provide millions more than now number her population, with all the comforts nay luxuries of life, with her people ground down to abject servitude under this system of monopolization, which has built up a gilded and rotten hearted throne, and drawn around it a horde of lords, dukes and political gormandizers—which has created a system of manufacturing to fill up the coffers of her merchants and speculators, while her populace are living in ignorance and utter dependence, or fainting for the products of the soil which their Creator gave them as a birthright, but of which legal monopolization has robbed them.
Let England boast of having wiped from her national escutcheon the foul stain of black slavery, yet so long as she fosters a system which is making slaves of want, and pinching necessity of millions of her fair sons and daughters and offering their life's blood upon the unhallowed alter of power and avarice, I shall respect her throne as little as the guillotine of the French Revolution or her lords and courtiers, as little as Robespierre, Danton, or Marat.
The same causes, fellow workingmen, exist in America. Yes in New England, and the same results must inevitably follow unless these causes be removed—indeed they are fast developing themselves in our large towns and thickly settled manufacturing districts, and every year finds us nearer the same condition with the mother country.
But tis said "ours is a free republican government, in which the interests of the people are protected." Have we not shown that the interests of our people are as much divided as those of England? Have we not shown that the whole spirit of the declaration that "all men are by nature free and equal" has been violated, and that antagonism, monopoly and oppression are apace of the age of our country? Why boast we of our freedom, and the security of our people from want and oppression, while three million of native born Americans are held in hopeless bondage—born slaves, live slaves, and die slaves, within the guardian walls of our free republic? Why talk we of the security of our people from want and oppression, while millions more are slaves of necessity, whose whole lives and noble natures are narrowed down to the sole object of securing a small pittance of food and raiment to keep the body and soul together? Are not our cities full of paupers, and our country studded with poor houses? Wherein I ask, are our interests united? Our whole political and social fabrics are based upon isolation and there can be no union.
If the better condition of our people compared with England, is the result of our republicanism, why are we not far in advance of our neighbors in Canada, and why are they not reduced to the same state of want and misery as their brethren in England; living as they do under the same government?
It is not owing to the peculiarities of our political organization, that the condition of the people of the United States is more tolerable than those of England; but to the newness of our country, and the same reason holds good with those of Canada. The inhabitants of new and sparsely settled countries digress less from the vital principle of mutuality which we have laid down as essential—their resources being super-abundant, there is very little inducement for monopolization and competition. But as its population increases, and its towns and cities are seen to rise, and as its conflicting and heterogeneous elements approach each other, the result can but be a [constant?] increase of monopolization and antagonism to that deplorable degree witnessed in the old world.
From this we are led to the final important question, what shall be done? Workingmen of Fitchburg, what shall be done, to rescue yourselves and posterity from the devouring jaws of grasping monopolization?
To this great question, the working people of this country and England are truly waking up, and if they will, they can throw off the unholy shackles which have so long bound them.
Some say we must have a reduction of the hours of labor. So far as relates to corporations, this is just. Governments under the pretense pro bono publico [for the public good] have assumed the authority to grant charters of corporation. These corporations from love of gain institute unjust and cruel laws, rules and regulations compelling their operatives to labor more hours than the health of their physical system will allow. This being true, it is the duty of government to regulate these laws [so] that the laborer may receive protection.
But this relief would only be momentary and extend only to those engaged in corporations, and their immediate vocations—it would crop from the branches of the great tree of oppression, while its base would increase from the effects—it must be dug up, root and branch. The workingmen must be disenthralled from the power of avaricious monopolization and isolated competition, and reinstated into the bond of nature's brotherhood and union of interest.
The beginning of this must be mutual labor associations. The laborers should till their own soil; work their own stock; make their own exchanges; and reap the fruits of their own industry instead of supporting such hordes of useless exchangers and mercenary speculations as are now consuming and luxuriating upon their hard earnings.
Let the laborers put together their means, (though they be small) purchase land and materials for mechanical pursuits—encourage useful industry, by making it respectable—discourage idleness and crime by clothing labor in its just reward.
- W. F. Young1
A human being...
Negro. A human being treated as a brute because he is black, by inhuman beings and greater brutes, who happen to be white. The Ethiopians paint the devil white; and they have much better reason for making him look like a European, tha[n] we have for giving him an African complexion.
Note: spelling and punctuation have been slightly modified.
- 1William F. Young was the editor of the Voice at the time. These extracts are from a speech he delivered at a meeting of the Workingmen's Association of Fitchburg.