The Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 11 - 7 August 1845)

voice of industry cover

The 7 August 1845 issue of the Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 11).

Submitted by adri on August 26, 2023

The Working Classes in England.1

Mr. Willis, in a letter to the Mirror, gives the following account of the working classes of England:

During the four or five hours that I was playing the hanger-on to a vulgar and saucy custom house officer at Liverpool, one or two contrasts crept in at my dull eyes—contrasts between what I had left, and what was before me. The most striking was the utter want of hope in the countenances of the working classes—the look of dogged submission and animal endurance of their condition of life. They act like horses and cows. A showy equipage goes by, and they have not the curiosity to look up. Their gait is that of tired donkeys, saving as much trouble at leg-lifting as possible. Their mouths and eyes are wholly sensual, expressing no capability of a want above food. Their dress is without a thought of more than warmth and covering, drab covered with dirt.

Their voices are a half-note above a grunt. Indeed, comparing their condition with the horse, I would prefer being an English horse to being an English workingman. And you will easily see the very strong contrast there is between this picture, and that of the ambitious and lively workingmen of our country.

Another contrast strikes, probably, all Americans on first landing—that of female dress. The entire absence of that ornamental—of anything indeed, except decent covering—in all classes below the wealthy, is particularly English and particularly un-American. I do not believe you would find ten female servants in New York without (pardon my naming it), a "bustle." Yet I saw as many as two hundred women in the streets of Liverpool, and not one with a bustle! I saw some ladies get out of carriages who wore them, so that it is not because it is not the fashion, but simply because the pride (of those whose backs form but one line) does not outweigh the price of the bran. They wore thick shoes, such as scarcely a man would wear with us, no gloves of course, and their whole appearance was that of females in whose minds never entered the thought of ornament on week days. This trifling exponent of the condition of women in England, has a large field of speculation within and around it, and the result of philosophizing on it would be vastly in favor of our side of the water.

The Workingmen of the East.2

Large meetings of the workingmen have been held lately in Boston, New York, and other places on the Atlantic border. On Friday evening the 6th ult., a general meeting of the trades was held at National Hall, New York, and arrangements made for future operations. The speeches and general proceedings of the meeting exhibit much talent and energy of action. The chief reform advocated by this and other assemblages of the working classes of the East is to make the public lands free to actual settlers, and thereby remove honest, poverty-stricken industry beyond the reach of concentrated capital. In the older portions of the country labor is daily becoming more servile, and capital more tyrannical. If the proposed reform will tend to the emancipation of labor, (and who can doubt this?) the Democratic Party will give it a warm support. Hitherto the conflict between capital and labor has been most unequal. Capital, which ought to be left to take care of itself, has been nursed and pampered by legislation and public opinion, till it has become as proud and insolent as Lucifer himself, and now demands as a right, what it formerly prayed for as a privilege. All the profits of labor must be thrown into the hands of incorporated capital, while labor itself is insulted, spit upon, and too frequently turned out to starve.

If there is a constitutional remedy for this—a reform which will give to every man, however poor, the privilege of being a freeman in fact, as well as in name—by all that is just let it come. The freedom of the public lands would be a small price for the freedom of millions of men, who would otherwise become the spirit-broken slaves of concentrated capital.

We shall endeavor hereafter to notice more particularly the doings of the workingmen of the Atlantic states. No subject so well deserves our attention. The laboring classes, have few chroniclers and fewer eulogists, while the doings of the commercial, financial and fashionable world are duly narrated by the press with the most exact particularity. Yet, among the laboring classes is there to be found more virtue and patriotism, than in any other. Why then should we regard their complaints and plans of reform with indifference and contempt? They are weak—weak in action, patient in suffering. That is the reason. Might then commands respect! Even so. Yes, might gets wealth, and wealth buys up all opposition to the unjust exactions of might. The laboring classes have only to get might (which they can have any moment) to command respect, and enforce their just demands. Let them show that they have might on their side, (numbers and concert of action) and the learned trumpeters of public opinion will proclaim their greatness far and wide. Let them also remember that truth and justice alone endure forever.

In seeking a remedy for the evils that so grievously oppress them, the laboring classes may indeed, as they have, commit great errors. They may pursue illusory phantoms, and deceptive reforms, yet they are not on that account to be treated with contempt. For, remember, these laboring men, so toil-worn, are the wealth producers of the land, and that you Mr. Capitalist, you Mr. Banker, and you Mr. Merchant, Mr. Speculator, Mr. Preacher, Mr. Office-holder, and all you other Misters and Squires who follow well paid and "genteel" callings—remember, sirs, you live, laugh and grow fat by means of their skill and labor, and but for them would have either to go work yourselves, or roam the face of the earth naked and shelterless.

God consecrated labor to noble ends—man alone, by making it the slave of capital, degrades it to base and wicked purposes.

The Approaching Convention at Fall River.

What has been done preparatory to this meeting of the New England Workingmen? Are our brothers and sisters of the different Associations awake to the subject? We must be active, vigilant and persevering. We must have union of action, and concentration of purpose. Our ranks are weak and confused, while they might be strong and harmonious. We have long been our own enemies and oppressors, by refusing to use the just means within our power to free ourselves from the clutches of misused avarice, and the various insidious influences which are making bondsmen, dupes, slaves and dependents of those whom God created free, with capacities of self-government, self-protection, and self-elevation. Come brothers, let us arouse to a true sense of our present situation and the great mission which devolves upon us, to forward as friends of justice, truth, our fellow beings around us, and ourselves. Let us not waste our time and energies in contending for petty differences of opinion on trivial points of action; but lay hold of the great fundamentals upon which our reform is based—the best good of the race, and work together like Christians, friends and brothers, engaged in one noble cause, with one final end—the redemption of humanity from the thraldom of unholy servitude, slavery and oppression in all their hydra forms. Our field of labor is at present circumscribed; but while we are striving to stay the onward progress of tyranny and lust for wealth and self-aggrandizement, which are sacrificing the happiness, prosperity and lives of our people, (in our own country) our sympathies will extend to the victims of wrong wherever they exist, of whatever name, nation or color. The antidote which we apply to remedy the evils that afflict the laboring people of New England, and America, must be universal in its application; as all wrong emanates from the same source—whether in America, or England, in kingdoms or republics, at the North or the South, or among Christians or heathens. Anything short of this will fail to accomplish the philanthropic purpose we have in view—by anything short of this, we shall fail to witness the fruits of our labors upon the action and interest of our generation. We hope our friends at Boston, Lowell, Lynn, Woburn, Fall River, and many other places will see that nothing is wanting on their part, to make the coming Convention what it should be, and what it may be, if the workingmen are true to their trust. Let them prepare themselves to meet together with a firm determination to do what within them lies, to advance the cause of Christian, self-evident equality and justice among men, throwing aside all narrow policies and selfish motives, and viewing their present and future course with large and liberal feelings, exercising the spirit of charity towards those who are opposed to them, but with an uncompromising hostility towards every known encroachment upon the already fully acknowledged and attested rights of mankind at large. Thus may the Convention at Fall River tell upon the future prosperity of our cause—prove a blessing, and send a new ray of hope to those who are looking for a brighter day, when labor shall be honored, its fruits dispensed in righteous profusion, and its followers elevated, ennobled and made truly happy.

Pauperism alias Fourierism.3

Nearly $310,000 is annually paid by the tax payers of Massachusetts for the support of paupers. In the new state of society proposed by Robert Owen, Fourier, and their associates, it is contemplated to do away with not less than nineteen-twentieths of this expense by making all men industrious, temperate and frugal. By giving to all suitable employment and adequate remuneration, it can be readily seen how easily this may be effected. But a moral revolution, such as the world has never yet undergone, and which, when once fully commenced, can never be stayed short of the consummation of its glorious designs, will be necessary to effect this one, to say nothing of a thousand other desirable objects. The combined efforts of "Religion, Liberty and Law"—each for more than 1800 years, professing to aim at man's moral and physical elevation—have proved abortive in ridding the world of misery, though each in its turn has brought to its aid torture and death in every form to effect the object. How much more sublime and beautiful then will this new system for man's redemption from the thraldom of "inevitable woe" appear, if without the shedding of blood, in the noiseless course of harmony and love, it gloriously triumphs over the pride and prejudice of a cankering aristocracy, the haughty self-conceit of salaried idlers and the pompous insolence of the bar. God speed the reformation.

- Vox Populi

There is not a brainless...

There is not a brainless rich man but what thinks himself the superior of the man whom he employs, and that he it is, who favors them, [by] giving them work solely for the purpose of supporting them! Did he know anything of the relative value of labor and capital he would perceive that he was the receiver, not the dispenser, of favors.

Note: spelling and punctuation have been slightly modified.

  • 1Letter from American writer Nathaniel Parker Willis that appeared in the New York Mirror. I used the version of this quote/letter as it appears in Famous Persons and Places (1854 book by Willis), since the Voice's quote contains some errors.
  • 2Text reprinted from the Ohio Eagle.
  • 3Text reprinted from Vox Populi.

Comments

adri

7 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by adri on August 28, 2023

They act like horses and cows. A showy equipage goes by, and they have not the curiosity to look up. Their gait is that of tired donkeys, saving as much trouble at leg-lifting as possible.

Their voices are a half-note above a grunt. Indeed, comparing their condition with the horse, I would prefer being an English horse to being an English workingman.

The entire absence of that ornamental—of anything indeed, except decent covering—in all classes below the wealthy, is particularly English and particularly un-American. I do not believe you would find ten female servants in New York without (pardon my naming it), a "bustle." Yet I saw as many as two hundred women in the streets of Liverpool, and not one with a bustle!

"tired, grunting, bustleless donkeys"—Willis' description of the English working class borders on insult... Fwiw I think he also gives a false impression of American workers when he describes them as "ambitious and lively"; the writing in the Voice itself sort of disproves that. Nonetheless it's true that the overall condition of American workers was still much better than the conditions in Europe at the time, partly owing to the lack of development of American capitalism.