The 24 July 1845 issue of the Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 9).
The Natick Correspondent and the Lowell Journal.1
Someone has sent us a copy of the last week's Journal, which contains a long and sophistical production from its correspondent at Natick, Mass., signed H. W., whom it will be recollected, sent out through the same medium a most unjust and illiberal report of the late Workingmen's Convention at Boston, and which we noticed at considerable length in a previous number of the Voice. The article purports to be an answer, or a "passing notice" upon our review of that uncalled for, false colored, and dishonorable attack upon the New England Workingmen's Association; and the writer expresses, as in his former communication an unbounded regard for the "clear headed and stout hearted workingmen of Massachusetts," but proves himself to be one of their greatest enemies, or totally ignorant of their true interests, and the principles and feelings which govern their present movement. Our friend complains of our "misrepresenting" him in stating that he condemned and derided the convention because its numbers were few and "Robert Owen, John A. Collins, Albert Brisbane, W. H. Channing and Horace Greeley addressed them." We hope for his sake we did, for it was one of the smallest tricks that a man could be guilty of under such circumstances. But still we could not shake off the conviction, that this remarkable minuteness, both in numbers and speakers—knowing as he must, that considerable prejudice already existed against some of them on account of their peculiar views on certain subjects—enough to condemn any cause, however pure and philanthropic with which they may be connected in the estimation of a portion of the community who are quite jealous of innovations upon their long cherished doctrines and predilections—was prompted by none other than a desire to bring the meeting into reproach before the clamorous popularity of the day, which seeks numbers rather than virtues and external show before inborn principles and love of truth. By reading the communication before us, we feel our opinion in this respect strongly confirmed, for a more inconsistent and uncharitable series of perversions and sheer misrepresentations than it contains, it has not been our misfortune to read. The writer tells us that he "believes in the progress and improvement of the race"—that he honors and reveres those "noble and generous spirits that, true to their convictions, act and speak out, in spite of the preconceived opinions, sentiments and prejudices of their age." And yet we find him using his time, abilities and the powers his maker has given him in opposing and ridiculing the band of "noble generous spirits," which are "speaking and acting out" in opposition to the combined evils and influences of society which are making men enemies and Ishmaelites and destroying their natural good will and sympathy; causing them to prey upon each other's rights as Christians and citizens, and offering them for sale in the market, or freely sacrificing them upon the bigoted mammons of the age. We find him eager to catch every little seeming wrong and inconsistency, whether true or not, by which he may influence and excite the religious and social prejudices of the people against the workingmen's movement. We find him willfully misrepresenting their sentiments, and misconstruing their language and proclaiming it abroad through the land. We find him upholding and fostering the present laws and customs in this and other countries, which are creating unhappy distinctions between the rich and the poor; making one arrogant, neglectful, sordid and tyrannical; and the other envious, jealous, revengeful, miserably poor and dependent, causing wickedness, crime and bitter contentions in society. In fact we do not hesitate to pronounce this interested friend to the workingmen, opposed to any reform that is calculated to progress and elevate the race—opposed to the "gospel of truth"—a willing slave to party littleness, a devotee to avarice, a bigot to sectarianism, and if we do not mistake a clamorous political demagogue, who made himself quite notorious in 1840, for his party zeal and electioneering greatness. And such is the man, calling himself a patriot! Who "believes in the progress and improvement of the race"; a friend to the workingmen—a lover of truth and Christian friendship, and talks fluently of the high standing and future glories of the working people of America! Shame on such patriotism and friendship. It would lull the working people of New England into lethargy with the delusive idea, that they live in a republican paradise, where they can be statesmen, scholars, and enjoy the fruits of their own labor—educate their children, all of whom can arrive to posts of honor and distinctions, "if they will be industrious, honest, economical" and in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand, "place themselves beyond the reach of want in a few years"—and the while, this same friendship would reduce them to serfs, deplorable dependence and hopeless vassalage. We contend that the same causes are at work in this country, that has made England and some of her sister countries, nations of starving beggars and living skeletons, that too, in a land where there is plenty; and we challenge this Natick correspondent or any other person, to show any valid reason why the working people of New England shall not ultimately become as miserable, should these causes continue to exist and augment. H. W. charges us with being "vexed and disturbed" at the exposure of certain "infamous sentiments"—says that we "re-stated, adopted, defended and endorsed them." These "infamous sentiments" in his first communication were that he heard a delegate from Lowell to the Workingmen's Convention at Boston, in May last, state, (mark that), that "Capitalists and priests had joined hands to put down, grind and oppress the laboring men; that commerce, manufacturing and foreign emigration were killing them; that there was ten times more slavery in Lowell than on the Southern plantations; that Lowell manufactured the prostitutes of New York; and that the first thing to be done to elevate the workingmen, was to collect and burn the Sunday School books, which were poisoning the minds of the young."
Now in the article before us it will be noticed that the writer has left his first position and considerably modified his charge; in as much as he uses the term substance instead of a positive declaration that this was the precise language used by the Lowell delegate—of course taking the responsibility of being his own interpreter, and construing it to suit his own peculiar case. We deny the charge of endorsing all of the above assertions; and had H. W. exercised a liberal and Christian spirit while [writing] his reply, he would not have thus falsely represented our remarks. We did not endorse the statement that, "there was ten times more slavery in Lowell than on the Southern plantations," but asserted that we believed there was slavery both at Lowell and on the Southern plantations, signifying no disposition whatever to uphold either, or to measure their difference, but a sincere wish to do away with both. The operatives in our mills are not slaves in the same sense that we understand Southern slavery, they are nominally free, but that they are to a great degree slaves, together with a large portion of the working people of the North is undeniable—slaves of necessity and want—slaves to capital, and obliged to obey its dictates, or suffer; and it is our honest conviction that a portion of our northern laborers suffer more mental anxiety and enjoy less annual happiness, than the favored class among the slave population of the South. Not that we would entertain even one apology for Southern slavery—God forbid—we are opposed to slavery in every and all forms, and while we sympathize for one portion of our brothers in bondage, we would not be neglectful of others who toil and suffer under the garb of freedom. We did not endorse the sentiment, "that the first thing to be done to elevate the workingmen was to collect and burn the Sunday School books, which were poisoning the minds of the young," but promptly denied it, stating that we, or the New England Workingmen's Association, cherished no such desire or thought, though it was stated by a delegate in that Convention. But we have since learned from those present during the entire session, that no such sentiment was offered not even in "substance." In our previous remarks upon this point we merely showed up the absurdity of resorting to such means to awaken the opposition of the religious community against the workingmen's cause, and that it was a mere subterfuge without a shadow of reason or good sense, and that Sunday School books were as various and conflicting as sects and doctrines in the world.
The other "infamous sentiments" we "adopted and defended" without any "vexation" or "disturbance," because we believed them to be truths which interested the workingmen of the country. And what are these "infamous sentiments"? Simply, that the church and capital were to a great degree united in supporting systems to the injury of the workingmen—that commerce, manufacturing and foreign emigration, as they now exist, are in opposition to their true interests—that the manufacturing system of Lowell, as now conducted, is not conducive to the virtue and chastity of its population.
We endorsed and defended openly and boldly the above sentiments and are willing to have our views go abroad, believing that the workingmen of New England, who are free to think and act, will acknowledge with us that they are truths, however "infamous" they may appear to the tender sensibilities of our Natick friend, the Lowell Journal and all those who are engaged in rearing and nourishing the feudal systems of America, in opposition to the industrial classes. As the Journal correspondent has left these sentiments entirely uncontroverted we shall not continue their consideration further; and for want of room shall defer the remainder of his article, which consists of a train of unfounded assertions and grave declarations false, and inconsistent, until next week, when we design giving it another notice.
"Poor but Honest."
"Poor but Honest."—The newspapers, and other equally great authorities, make use of this phrase in biographical notices—"He was born of poor but honest parents"! Poor but honest! That is to infer that the parents ought to have been dishonest because they were poor; but that in the particular case they were honest [in] spite of their poverty. This common phrase is a direct insult to the condition of ninety-nine men out of the hundred, and an indignity to human nature. There might be, considering the manner in which many fortunes are acquired, some little shade of meaning in saying of the heir of fortune—"He was born of rich but honest parents"!—but the "poor but honest" phrase is atrocious.
It is not necessary to recapitulate the horrors I have witnessed in the regions of poverty. It is said that the eras of pestilence and famine are passed, but so will not those say who have visited the dwellings of the operatives of our great manufacturing towns, when the markets are glutted, and the mills and manufactories are closed. Pestilence still rages fiercely as ever, in the form of typhus, engendered by want. In the mission I have called myself to, I have stood upon the mud floor, over the corpse of the mother and the newborn child—both the victims of want. I have seen a man (God's image) stretched on straw, wrapped only in a mat, resign his breath, from starvation, in the prime of age. I have entered on a sultry Summer's night, a small house, situated on the banks of a common sewer, wherein one hundred and twenty-seven human beings, of both sexes and all ages, where indiscriminately crowded. I have been in the pestilential hovels of our great manufacturing cities, where life was corrupted in every possible mode from the malaria of the sewer to the poison of the gin bottle. I have been in sheds of the peasant, worse than the hovel of the Russian, where eight squalid, dirty, boorish creatures were to be kept alive by eight shillings per week irregularly paid. I have seen the humanities of life desecrated in every way. I have seen father snatch the bread from the child, and the mother offer the gin bottle for the breast. I have seen too, generous sacrifices and tender considerations, to which the boasted chivalries of Sydney and Edward were childish ostentation. I have found wrong so exalted, and right so debased—I have seen and known of so much misery, that the faith in good has shivered within me.
- Douglas Jerrold's Magazine
A gentleman left Lowell the 16th of May, went to England, remained there about a week, went to Scotland, and had a machine built, remained there ten days, learned how to work the machine, and got back to Lowell on the 3rd of July.3
Note: spelling and punctuation have been slightly modified.
- 1See the Vol. 1 No. 6 issue of the Voice for what this article is in reference to.
- 2Text reprinted from Douglas Jerrold's Magazine.
- 3This could be a direct or indirect reference to how American manufacturers copied/stole machine designs from the British (e.g. Samuel Slater, Francis Cabot Lowell, etc...).