The 31 July 1845 issue of the Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 10).
The Natick Correspondent and the Lowell Journal.1
Agreeable to our notice last week, we resume the consideration of an article in the July 18th No. of the Lowell Journal, from the pen of a correspondent at Natick, Mass., signed H. W., being a wholesale denunciation of the present workingmen's movement in New England and other parts of the country, and also in the old world, for their physical, mental and moral amelioration.
We do not give the article this protracted review, because it contains either truthfulness or logic, worthy our attention; but as it embraces the stereotyped edition of charges usually preferred against the laborer's reform, we deem it a duty to our cause and truth to show its fallacy, hoping the community will be led to look upon us and our cause as we really are, instead of viewing us through such an uncharitable and selfish medium of error and prejudice.
We showed conclusively last week, that the position we first took in relation to this controversy remains unharmed, and our sentiments uncontroverted. We stated nothing that facts, reason and Christian principles will not support us in; and though we are a mechanic and obliged to toil for our daily support, yet we are willing to devote a few moments "from nature stolen" to defend any sentiments we have advanced or endorsed against the combined talent, sophistry, party tact and smooth hypocrisy of all the powers opposed to universal justice, humanity and the inalienable rights of man, "to life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness," upon which our reform is founded. We now pass to notice that portion of H. W.'s communication which refers to the general character of the workingmen's reform. He tells us, that our "views of society here are incorrect. Society is not what we represent it to be. Our views and opinions are all imported." What are our views of society here?—that we are the "most degraded, depraved, brutalized and oppressed people on the face of the globe," as our Natick friend represents them? No, we believe no such thing—we have no desire to color or exaggerate the evils of New England society, the plain unvarnished truth is bad enough, and this we wish to bring before the working people and the whole population in the spirit of Christian kindness. Ours is no partial fragmentary reform which takes hold and excites the passions without appealing to the reason and better judgement of the people—we do not wish to array one class against another, but have ever repudiated such a spirit. We do not wish to benefit the laborer at the expense of the employer, but to benefit both, not merely so far as dollars and cents are concerned, but in point of true human elevation, that man—all men, without distinction of color or capacity may live out what they were designed to, and realize that degree of happiness they are capable of enjoying, that this world may not prove a "vale of tears"—made so by the sins of devastation of its children, but a beautiful world "wherein dwelleth righteousness." Our reform is broad and universal, excluding none who wears the semblance of humanity; it is based deep down upon the eternal principles of truth and justice, which we believe should and will be acknowledged and made practical ere men will live at peace with each other. New England society and policy are at war with these principles; selfishness predominates over charity and benevolence; her mad avariciousness is swallowing up and poisoning all her philanthropy and love for the good of the race. She acts from the impulse of avarice and self-aggrandizing, as our friend H. W.'s article clearly evinces, rather than justice and regard for the happiness of her people—her rail roads have been built by avarice, her commerce and manufactories are the works of avarice—her "cities and villages that are springing up around all her waterfalls, the busy abodes of toiling thousands," are reared by avarice—avarice has raised many of her spires and founded many of her systems of education; avarice and selfish party ambition legislate in her councils, as the treatment of numerous petitions for the reduction of the hours of labor in our manufactories, and the "Lien Law" at the last session of the Massachusetts Legislature, strongly demonstrate. In fact our whole political and social organizations are full of the seeds of avarice and selfishness, which are fast developing themselves every year, in the various forms of vice, wickedness, poverty, strife and bitterness, which we daily witness around us. We are not deceived in our views of society, facts and sad experience daily press them home to our sensibilities. The condition of the laboring people as a class of this country is constantly growing worse; they are becoming more and more dependent upon capital; their resources are being curtailed, the price of their labor [left] more uncertain and difficult to obtain, which causes an increase of idleness, want, crime and the numerous dissipations and immoralities of society. These things are not mere assertions, but facts of which statistical proof can be adduced, and he who would cover them up, or unhesitatingly deny their existence, is an enemy to his race and devoted to the perpetuation of oppression. Still the Journal correspondent has the hardihood to assert, that the condition of our laboring people is "rapidly improving," that "labor is better rewarded than formerly," that "all men are equal before the state, that labor is honored and respected, and that there is social equality in our society"! How absurd for a man to call himself a friend to the workingman and throw out such unqualified, false and prejudiced statements as to their condition and prosperity! Will he inform us how many honest laboring men there are "before the states"? Will he tell us what ratio of the national and state offices are filled by the "bone and sinew of the country"? Will he tell us where labor is "honored and respected," and where there is social equality between the rich and the poor? For it is what we are striving for, what we should delight to see and what we expect to accomplish. These statements are false—capitalists and conning, intriguing demagogues and their immediate tools and favorites fill the offices of our country, and social equality is not to be found, even in New England society. The factory girl, the seamstress and "hired maid" are not regarded as equals, nor admitted into the society of the daughters of wealth, who lounge about in idleness and luxury; [unless] they possess some superior and uncommon natural talent and grace that finally triumphs over the distinctions of society. The great majority of the operatives are scorned and despised for no other reason, than that they labor. We know this, for we have seen it with our own eyes—we have seen them insulted and neglected by the very persons they had made wealthy through their industry and toil; and the same results to a great degree attend the success of our indigent workingmen, however meritorious they may be.
We think the Journal correspondent is not so far lost to the true state of our society as to deny these things, were he free from selfishness and party influences; for we notice in his article an unconscious admission, that there are "fictitious distinctions" in society and that "moral and intellectual worth" are disregarded or trampled upon and this too, after he had extolled our society for its "social equality," and the respect it pays to man and labor, thereby acknowledging our views of society in part, and for which [he] had denounced us. H. W.'s remarks about "petty aristocrats, petty tyrants and demagogues," come with quite an ill grace from a man who is engaged in upholding and apologizing for the present systems in society, which are filling it with demagogues, tyrants and aristocrats. We would ask him what kind of a demagogue he is, who is inflaming the community with political strife, "arraying one portion of the people against the other," that one set of hungry aspirants may rule, reign and fill their pockets with the people's money instead of another equally deserving? What kind of tyranny is heartless capital arrayed against the poor and dependent, regarding them as tools and treating them as beasts of burden? What kind of aristocracy is that which builds up casts of respectability, founded upon wealth, and denies the honest workingmen and women admission because they are poor and labor for a living? Our society is full of this demagogueism, tyranny and aristocracy and our friend at Natick is striving to perpetuate them and, we predict that an industrious poor man or woman would be treated with coldness if not contempt by this sympathetic brother should they consider themselves his equals or associates.
The writer has an abundance of good advice that he would deal out to the laboring men, among which is the following: "If I could speak to every laboring man in the land I would say to him, be industrious and honest, cultivate your moral, social and intellectual powers, regard all men as brothers of one great family, and treat them as equals whether rich or poor." Good advice indeed—and what would he say to the capitalist and rich idler? Has he not a little good advice for them? Should they not be "industrious and honest, and regard all men as brothers of one great family whether rich or poor"? The laboring men have well nigh starved upon such heartless advice, without one jot of precept—the cry of demagogues, capitalists and their numerous speaking-trumpets has ever been, "be honest, be industrious, be contented you are the bone and sinew of the country, the country's pride and glory," while they have been sucking away their hard earnings and raising themselves to wealth and distinction by the industry and suffrages of the honest laborer; whose good they disregard; whose health and happiness, they trample upon, and whose society they shun and despise. What is it that causes idleness and dishonesty among the poor people? The disgrace that fashionable society has placed upon honest industry. Hence they resort to all means, honest or dishonest, to gain a livelihood and the trappings of society, without actual producing-labor—by fraud, trickery and speculation. And for this state of things society is culpable; for she has erected this standard of excellence and respectability. How are the laboring men to cultivate their moral, social and intellectual powers" while they are obliged to labor six days of the week, twelve or fourteen hours per day, to supply their immediate physical wants—and this fast becoming precarious by surplus laborers and reduced wages, and in many cases on the seventh listen to sectarian dogmas or that they should "bear their afflictions with Christian fortitude, thank God that their condition is no worse, and hope on for a better world of rest from their labors and trials"?
Who is it that is indisposed to "regard all men as brothers of one family, and treat them as equals whether rich or poor"? He who is living in splendor upon the toil of the poor. The workingmen have not created this distinction; it is the false arrangement of the products of labor, which bestows the largest portion upon those who do the least work, and induces them to treat the poor laborer as a drudge and slave, not worthy their society; but an underling who should do their bidding. The laborers are cast out from this aristocracy of wealth which makes them servants and slaves, instead of equals and brothers; and yet the Natick friend is urging them to be industrious, honest, brotherly, and cherish good will, while he is defending the very system and causes, which make them otherwise, and render them jealous, dishonest, unkind, and prevent them from cultivating their moral, physical, social and intellectual powers. Let it be understood that the workingmen's warfare is not with individuals but systems—systems which make the rich tyrannical, powerful, haughty, aristocratic, hardened and neglectful of the duties they owe to their race and their fellow men around them; and the poor, envious and contentious, or servile and obedient to the mandates of wealth, and those more favored. It is capital and power, in the hands of the non-producers, that arrays the poor against the rich, and one class of laborers against the other; or in other words, the capitalists and non-producers are arrayed against the laborers, by depriving them of their just claims to the products of their own toil, which is indispensably requisite to their peace and happiness. That the laboring man stands upon an equal before the state with wealth and political craft, that labor is rewarded and honored, and that the poor workingmen, if he is industrious and honest, "can place himself beyond the reach of want in a few years" is false and unfounded; merely the demagogues flourish to keep the laborer quiet that he may continue his system of wrong and self-aggrandizement. The laborer is not honored, or labor respected. Labor is not as well rewarded now as formerly; the physical condition of laboring men and women is not improving, but the tendency of society is to bring reproach upon honest industry, and disrespect upon those who produce the wealth of the land, and we pity the disposition, so recreant to truth, justice, humanity and the welfare of its country and the race as to oppose and vilify the hand of philanthropic and Christian-hearted workingmen and women who have associated themselves together for their own elevation and to lift up their brothers and sisters whom the car of oppression has debased—to make labor ennobling, and multiply its blessings—to inculcate brotherly love and mutual interests—to embrace and adopt all that is true and elevating, and abandon all error, wrong and that which degrades the human character—to render science and philosophy a universal good, instead of instruments in the hands of the few to oppress the many, and to assuage and reconcile all the elements of discord and hatred among men, that they may live out their native dignity, a blessing to themselves and others, and an honor to human excellence.
A Letter from the Secretary of the L. L. R. A.
Mr. Editor:—At the last meeting of the Ladies Labor Reform Association in this city, it was voted that "we appoint some lady of this Association, a correspondent of your valuable paper, who shall furnish articles herself, and receive them from others who may feel disposed to contribute to the support and interest of the same, by giving interesting items and facts, which may come under their observation." Miss H. J. Stone was accordingly chosen to act in the capacity of correspondent from this Association. She will endeavor in future to furnish an article herself, for every paper if desirable, and obtain as many others as may be. Her influence will ever be given on the side of equal rights, and the just claims of humanity whether black or white, living at the North or South, whether friends smile or frown on her humble efforts! She feels that there is a great work to be accomplished through the humble instrumentality of means ere our nation is elevated to that high and sublimely glorious pinnacle of fame, which it is her privilege, nay, her imperative duty to attain! Believing as she does, that each and every individual has some duty to perform, some mission to accomplish for the great good of all, and the elevation of the mass to a position worthy our far famed and republican nation, she will gladly contribute her "two mites" to strengthen that "voice" which has been heard above the roar of elements, and the discordant sounds of human degradation and woe, that it may be enabled to speak in tones which shall cause the flinty heart to quake, the stubborn knee to bow, before the mighty and all conquering power of eternal truth and justice!
God speed thee in thy holy mission gentle "voice," mayest thou speak comfort to the despairing—whisper hope to the ear, and pour balm into the heart lacerated and festering with the cankering cares of life—reclaim the wandering, sin-enslaved, wretched and lost ones of our Father's family, and write them in the bonds of fraternal love and union—thus shalt thou be a blessing in thy day and generation! And when thy "voice" shall be hushed in death, its soothing tones, and encouraging words, shall thrill through every heart, while life or being lasts!
Note: spelling and punctuation have been slightly modified.
- 1See Vol. 1 No. 6 of the Voice for what this article is in reference to.