The Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 13 - 21 August 1845)

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The 21 August 1845 issue of the Voice of Industry (Vol. 1 No. 13).

Submitted by adri on November 21, 2023


Within the range of human conception, perhaps there is nothing which impresses itself more intuitively upon the understanding than the law of natural, physical, and mental activity. That man by nature is a working being; constituted with the powers and capabilities to produce something that shall satisfy all his various wants and requirements. Should all that is necessary to nourish and sustain his physical system grow spontaneously over the earth, he must gather and eat or famish, and he must gather in the season thereof; if he collects the fruits of the earth, he must have a store-house, which requires activity and opens new fields for physical and mental labor. Thus man's first instinctive animal wants lead him by degrees from the first stages of his existence to a superior state of civilization and excellence. Man's nature demands activity—he must have it and he will have it—upon his every limb and function is inscribed "industry"; the thousands of little nerves and muscles, which ramify his system all strive together to put in motion the "living clay"—they all work together in unison, each one (when healthy) contributing its due share towards giving life, health, and energy to the whole body. Corresponding to the natural wants of man is external creation—the earth, nature's great laboratory, abounding with treasures vast and rich, enough to satisfy all his demands. But to develop its resources requires labor, to bring them forth; man must be active, he must put into operation the powers of his nature which crave exercise and whose legitimate offices are to administer to the comforts, pleasures, and joys of life. How sublime and ennobling is the contemplation of man—his wonderful adaptation to the natural circumstances around him; his progressive capabilities and everywhere-revealed high destiny. It is a subject which has employed the pen of the philosopher, and inspired the song of the poet, that he was created to labor—that labor is honorable, aye divine. We are told that labor is a Christian duty, that we shall not fulfill the great end of life, unless we contribute our part to the products of society. But how many there are, who are loud and eloquent in sounding forth the praises of labor, its dignity and nobility, who are drones and hangers-on in society; who are living in affluence and luxury without adding one farthing to its wealth, and who are greedy to devour and monopolize the treasure of honest industry. If man is a laboring being by nature, what kind of philosophy is that which exempts a portion from fulfilling this law of their natures and allows them to live upon the products of others' labor, while they lounge about in idleness or waste their energies in unproductive amusements? If labor is honorable and ennobling, should not all become honest and noble by becoming its votaries? and is it not dishonest and degrading to live upon the fruits of others? If labor is a Christian duty, are those Christians, who live without it, or are engaged in vocations useless and injurious to society? We believe that man is by nature an industrious being, fond of life and activity, of mind and body, that if he follows the dictates of his natural unperverted impulses and inclinations, he will produce a superabundance of all that can add to his happiness and make him truly great, physically and intellectually. We further believe that all who are not disabled should labor.

No sound reason can be adduced, that one man should inherit the privilege of being idle, or engage in worthless labor, because his father or friends bequeathed to him an estate, while another is born of poverty and obliged to drag out an existence in oppressive servitude. Suppose two children are born into the world, one of rich parents and the other of poor. The former, according to custom, by virtue of his parents' wealth, inherits an education, all the trappings of fashionable society, and a life of ease and inactivity, while the [latter], by the virtue of his parents' poverty, inherits ignorance, privation, want, and a life of slavish unrequited toil. Look at this picture friends, and see if there is not something unnatural and absurd in it? something contrary to common sense and a natural understanding of justice and the "inalienable rights" of mankind. Should circumstances over which man has no control seal his destiny for life? Is the child of fortune any more "entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuits of happiness," because his father's testament declares him an heir, than the son of poverty who had no agency in his own existence on the circumstances in which he is placed. Has society a right to repeal nature's laws which grant to all at all times "life, liberty, and the pursuits of happiness," and substitute a system of partialism?—a hocus-pocus grab-game system, which violates the self-evident order, harmony, and relation of things and introduces mysticism, chance, confusion, and anarchy among men. Had nature designed one portion of the human family for workingmen and women, and the other for rulers, masters, capitalists, and idlers, she would not have been guilty of omitting certain very important distinctions, by which the servant might be known from his lord. Nature's nabobs would have been born with whips and spurs and their slaves with less brains that they might be submissive and servile, and that no such struggling for freedom and elevation should occur as are now manifested among the working population—that there should be no demand for "reduction of the hours of labor" or advanced wages, but that all should move along in peace and quietude, the master to his luxury and the slave to his task. That labor is a Christian duty, cannot be denied; it is embodied in the great law of love, that "whatsoever ye would, that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them"; hence the duty is binding upon all—all should fulfill their part and receive their share of its products and blessings, and that state of society which encourages a different state of things is wrong and will generate strife, idleness, and vice. We do not charge the present false state of labor directly upon individuals; society is culpable, and those who are best informed, who move and guide public opinion, those who set up standards of right, such as statesmen, teachers, and preachers, are most accountable for palpable evils which exist in society. A person who is engaged in a certain vocation which is injurious to the well-being of the community and mankind at large feels justified in his cause because society sanctions it; he looks no further, for society has created a standard of excellence which education has taught him to reverence and regard, or at least he will indulge in it so long as public sentiment flatters and tolerates. Thus it is with hordes of unproducing exchangers, speculators, and idlers which are living upon the producing classes and oppressing the real workingmen of the country. Let society make honest industry popular and reputable and all would be anxious to work, not from mere necessity to supply their immediate wants and gain wealth, but to gratify their natural desires and inclinations and gain the good will and applause of their fellows. It is a libel upon the character of free labor, that it should be an irksome task, performed with reluctance by menials and slaves. It is made tedious by abuses, protracted duration, and the stigma popularity has placed upon it, and until society washes away this stain, will it be shunned, despised, and avoided.

The following is from the pen...

The following is from the pen of a correspondent to the New York Tribune. We copy to expose its falsity. The writer has recently visited Lowell and after giving various statistics and extolling her factory system to the skies, remarks as follows:

As regards physical condition, from all that I could learn, two-thirds of the females have improved in health while employed in the Mills; and the same fact will apply to one-half of the males. The toil is more constant than heavy or sedentary, and is limited to ten hours in the day. All New England—indeed all the North bears on its face the Tariff argument, but at Lowell it is condensed to a conviction.

The above clearly betrays the Tariff mania, and shows how far party prejudice will cause a man to misrepresent and pervert the true condition of things, or how party eyes will see things to suit their peculiar vision. "Two-thirds of the females have improved in health while employed in the Mills." Let all the hospitals and various institutions of health be turned into factories and let invalids, instead of wasting away their strength and lives in seeking for health in distant climes, by the seashore or by inhaling the pure breezes of heaven, immediately fly to these hygeias of health, these panaceas for the ills to which "flesh is heir," and spend their days amid the din, gaseous air, and dust of "temples glittering with trophies of happy industry," and gain immortal life. But why do "those fresh spirits, gathered down from the Granite Hills and from the green peaceful valleys," those who have improved their health while employed in the mills, "return with renewed strength to the pleasures of toil"?—strange infatuation this! "And is limited to ten hours in the day." That the operative labors but ten hours per day is so abundantly false, that it needs no refutation—every person who is sufficiently informed to attempt to make it public knows, or should know, that the Lowell mills are in operation twelve and a half hours each day, and that the operatives average twelve hours, and most of them work during the whole time, twelve and a half hours.

We were surprised to find such a barefaced falsehood admitted into the Tribune, in fact, the whole article widely contrasts with the expressed sentiments of its philanthropic and liberal editor, and we trust he will be inclined to make a correction.

What Next?1

What Next?—A couple of machines which are intended to perform the work now done by some hundreds of poor sweepers have lately been tried—with what success I am not yet aware. Alderman Briggs, the modest deputy surveyor, is straining heaven and earth in endeavoring to induce the Common Council to adopt one of them, and in case of success he is to be rewarded for his disinterested exertions by the proprietor, with the paltry sum of one thousand dollars. Dan, is this the way you intend showing your oft-expressed love for the poor dupes, by whose exertions you have been made Alderman and deputy surveyor? Have you not made enough already and are you not yet making enough to satisfy your sordid thirst for pelf, without pocketing a thousand dollars more by taking the least crust out of the mouths of the most helpless and impoverished portion of your constituents? Answer this, you shameless, shallow-brained sycophant! Let the members of the Common Council be cautious how they listen to the selfish suggestions of this pitiful wretch; if not, I may make them remember their foolish villainy. When the earth is thrown open to all who are willing to labor on it, or when plenty of justly compensated employment is procured for every man who wants to work, then you may set as many street-sweeping machines in operation as you please; but until then I am inclined to doubt the democracy or justice of turning several hundred families on the world to further swell the already overflowing mass of misery and destitution by which we are already surrounded. - Subterranean

Note: spelling and punctuation have been slightly modified.

  • 1Article reprinted by the Voice from the newspaper Subterranean.