The Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 04 - 19 June 1845)

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The 19 June 1845 issue of the Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 4).

Submitted by adri on August 7, 2023

"What do you wish to accomplish?"

From the commencement of the Workingman's movement in this town [Fitchburg], the above question has almost daily greeted our ears. We doubt not there are many people honestly ignorant of the true merits of our cause—its aim and object; who look upon it as akin to the numerous factional and selfish schemes which are continually springing up—full of pretended regard for the "dear people"—overflowing with professional patriotism, philanthropy and love of truth and justice—the sole object of which is to raise some party to political supremacy to promulgate sectarian bigotry or to gratify disaffected aspirancy or personal animosities.

Of this class of inquirers, we would not speak uncharitably, and far be it from us to deal out to them unmeasured censure. There is some foundation for their suspicion; but when they see our cause, as it really is, they will be with us; they cannot help it; their natures will not let them remain in ignorance.

But there is another class of opposers from whom this inquiry comes with quite a disdainful air—whose conduct betrays considerable anxiety and disquietude. No doubt many of them are somewhat alarmed, lest the working people should by some means discover, that they have rights—rights bequeathed to them by virtue of their existence, as nature's inviolate heritage—rights that have been grossly disregarded and trampled upon, by grasping avarice, political monopolization and selfish, heartless aristocracy. Upon the conduct of this class of individuals, we cannot look with any degree of complacency. They are willfully ignorant, and sin against light—they are always ready to speak contemptuously of any cause that is calculated to elevate the mass of mankind and restore their long lost rights. They are a spurred and privileged gang, who wish to make Jackasses of humanity, and with the whip of poverty, the political saddle and the reins of sectarianism ride on roughshod to wealth, fame and glory. Some of these persons are very clamorous in their denunciations, even to profanity and vulgarity. Others more genteel, speak out their slander in a very polite and accomplished manner—"think it very strange that the servants and kitchen maids (what names for humanity and freemen in God's image), the mechanics, factory operatives and laboring people expect to raise themselves to respectable society?" Oh how vulgar! Others "think it wicked to let the poor creatures know how degraded they are; they seem to enjoy themselves pretty well and you ought not to hurt their feelings, by telling them their true condition." How unfeeling and sinful to "let the poor creatures know their condition"—those poor slaves too in the South, how wicked it is to tell them that they, in a land upon whose ensign is encircled—"All men are born free and equal," and that they are slaves sold by freemen and Christians and bought with dust, under a government which declares that "all men are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuits of happiness"—"they seem to enjoy themselves pretty well, we ought not to let the poor creatures know how degraded they are."

Others who oppose us, enter a very sanctimonious protest against the Workingman's cause—they are fearful that it is of an "irreligious character," and tends to "infidelity." The physical, mental and moral elevation of the working classes, irreligious and tending to infidelity! Well the same has been said of other reforms in ages past; the "Carpenter's Son" was accused of being irreligious, and the doctrines he promulgated for the elevation of the poor and the well being of mankind, it was said "tended to infidelity." Thus it is with our various opponents; who after exhausting all their arguments, blackguardism and ridicule is trying to demolish us, turn away apparently dissatisfied with their success by making the former inquiry. "What do you wish to accomplish?"

Well friends, one and all, if you have been desirous to know "what we desire to accomplish," why have you not taken the requisite measures for this information, instead of going about and dealing out unsparingly your obliquy and misrepresentations—and this too when you were ignorant of our purposes and intentions, according to your own statements? Why have you not come to our meetings as honest, candid hearers and inquirers, instead of open railers or secret enemies, to catch something that you might pervert against us and excite the suspicions of a jealous community? Why are you ever ready to expose and retail our supposed faults, while our good deeds are forgotten or covered up? Where is your Christian charity and noble generous disposition, which ought to characterize men calling themselves intelligent reasoning beings?

Has society reached the acme of perfection, and is there no need of progress, no improvement to be made, no oppressions to complain of, no wrong to be redressed, no hungry to be fed, no naked to be clothed, no disconsolate to cheer and encourage, no ignorant to enlighten, no wandering to reclaim? Are truth, justice, temperance and peace extant in our land and the world? if so, then are our efforts vain, our cause a "man of straw," and we fanatics. But every person of years and understanding knows or ought to know that this is not the case. Ignorance, superstition, want, oppression and misery are on every hand, and the working people are the greatest sufferers. And for these evils, our governments, religious ethics, benevolent and charitable societies, science (as now applied), systems of education, prisons, gallows and houses of correction have failed to prove the antidote; every year finds more oppression, ignorance, want, poverty, crime and almost every other evil. This state of things betrays something wrong, radically wrong. It shows that we are generating and fostering [...] popular evils that are neutralizing all our efforts in suppressing the wrongs of men—evils which like gangrene are eating away upon the very vitals of the physical, mental and moral constitutions of our people. We are daily cultivating and watering every eye the great Umpas [sic] which is already big with the fruits of destruction, that are poisoning the natural, healthful appetites and desires of the race. For these reasons, the laboring people have entered the field that is already overgrown with thorns and thistles. We have long looked to government, church and society to better our condition, but they are fast joining hand in hand to make our condition more intolerable. "We labor for the abolition of idleness, want and oppression, [and] the prevalence of industry, virtue and intelligence." This is what "we wish to accomplish," and this is what we expect to accomplish, ere the workingmen leave the contest. We wish to make people industrious, virtuous and friendly; by placing them in circumstances that encourage industry and friendship. We wish to make people intelligent by giving them opportunities of becoming so, instead of dooming them to servitude, and requiring them to labor twelve or thirteen hours per day, to provide luxuries for the idle, for which they receive a mere subsistence. We wish to make people Christians by placing them in Christian relations, where they will not be induced to cheat, deceive and overreach each other to gain a livelihood, or the great desideratum of the day: wealth. In fine, we labor for universal happiness among mankind, as the legitimate results of obedience to nature's laws. Friends and Christians, cannot this be accomplished here? If not, then call no longer the Bible the "Book of Books" and your Creator a Being of wisdom and benevolent design—say it is all a vain speculation, that nature has no lessons to teach, and that this is a strange, mysterious world of chance.

Address by Robert Owen, On leaving the United States for Europe1

Americans:—After an absence of fifteen years I have again spent nine months in your States, and nearly four months of that period in the city of Washington, during the last session of Congress. I have seen in my travels through New England and the middle States, and presume that the same has occurred in the south and west, a great increase to your cities—to your population, and in the extended cultivation of the soil. I have also ascertained that your means to increase wealth and power, for good or evil, are illimitable for hundreds of thousands of years, and you could now beneficially absorb into your Union the present population of Europe.

You have also progressed in an extraordinary manner in new discoveries in science and in mechanical inventions to render manual labor of diminished value, and to open the path to a new state of things, which will make labor of light or of little or no commercial value, or unsaleable, for the rightful support of the industrious.

In proportion as your scientific power to create wealth has increased, individual competition has increased ignorant selfishness, vice, crime and misery among the masses, as to make all parties blind to their present position of high capabilities and to their interests as individuals and members of society.

Your statesmen are occupied in unprofitable and nationally injurious politics.

Your politicians in petty local party contests useless for the attainment of great results.

Your capitalists and extensive merchants are overwhelmed in speculations, hazardous to themselves, and of little comparative benefit to their country or to the world. There is no foresight, wisdom or order; no permanent, prosperous future in any of their proceedings.

Your traders, wholesale and retail, are wasting, most injuriously, much of the capital talent and industry of your country, and at the same time keeping the mind and morals of the Union upon a low level, most disadvantageous to every class.

Your most industrious classes are kept unnecessarily in toil, ignorance, and consequent degradation.

Senseless superstitions pervade the land without a particle of real charity being created between any of the classes, sects or parties, possessing any one of these monster obstacles to human progress, for any who have been made to differ from them; and religion is perverted to worldly purposes.

Your prisons and punishments increase; and the necessity for more, while the present state of things continues, will daily become stronger.

You have already, to a great extent throughout the Union, ignorance, poverty, division and misery. And yet, as the causes of these evils have been discovered, they may be now easily removed.

For you are in secure possession of a most magnificent country; of a territory, even now more than sufficient to amply supply the population of the world: more than sufficient to ensure high comfort and elevation of mind and feeling for all.

You have all the materials to effect these results in illimitable masses, and surplus power to obtain and apply them.

There is nothing in your position deficient but the knowledge how, peaceably and beneficially for all, to apply the means to accomplish these glorious results.


- Robert Owen
New York, 24th May, 1845

Note: spelling and punctuation have been slightly modified.

  • 1The Voice reprinted this text from the New York Herald.