Page images

of ease, and leads him to work steadily for the greater remuneration which rewards his toil.

Within a very few years machinery has been very extensively applied to agriculture; and with such success that, in many of the most important processes, one man will now perform the work wlich formerly required twenty, and with less muscular effort than each had formerly to exert. There is much encouragement in this direct and successful application of machinery to the production of food, that should of itself give great relief; and it seems quite time that the aid which, in various ways, we are deriving from it, should abridge the hours of labor, and leave to all classes more time for intellectual pursuits; and whenever the laborers, with full knowledge of the alternative involved, are ready to forego a portion of the former, that they may devote more time to the latter, it will be an event at which every right-minded and true-hearted philanthropist will rejoice. Nor would it be less cause of congratulation if the rich should voluntarily, not only abstain from a prodigal use of the products of labor, but should forego a portion of their accustomed comforts; that, less work being needed for the support of the world, more leisure might be allowed to the laborer.

That, as we have already shown, the sacrifice which would be involved in fixing the hours of labor below the point of greatest production would fall mainly on the laborers, should give at least additional influence to any well-considered conclusion to which they may come upon the subject. It is evident that, in a country in which the national expenses are small, the laborers might reduce the hours of labor much below what the same state of living would require from those whose productive industry is heavily taxed to support extravagant civil and ecclesiastical establishments, to prosecute expensive wars, or maintain standing armies.

While this shows the importance of economy in our public expenditures, it also suggests that now, when we have our large national debt to provide for, it would be particularly unfortunate to reduce our productive ability too rapidly. We may regret this obstacle to the allotment of the maximum time for intellectual culture ; but must bear in mind that nothing is more important to the national prosperity of a people, or to

their progress in all that gives superiority to civilization, than good and stable government; and that, to insure this, nothing is more essential than national credit, without which any government in this age is liable to be subverted. Withdraw the protection which organized society gives to the possession of capital, and there would be no accumulation, no fund from which to pay labor or to build labor-saving machinery. Without such security, no one would erect a furnace or forge, and the pointed stick would take the place of the plough. One step farther, and no one would plant what he would have no assurance he might not be permitted to harvest. The savage state, in which men live by hunting and gathering wild berries and roots, would then be reached.

The subversion of governments is not always effected by the conquering armies of rival powers, or by civil commotion. To this end corruption is in itself more potent than either, and often prepares the way for them. There is more danger from fraud than from violence, though from their tendency mutually to produce each other they are generally combined in the work of destruction. It is said that, in some of our States, the bribery which commenced in the buying of votes has gone on to its legitimate consequences in our judicial tribunals; and as it is through these that the rights of individuals and of society are, or should be, guarded, the very foundation of government is here directly threatened. Its power for beneficial action is here most insidiously and effectually undermined. The extension of the suffrage, intended to protect and to elevate the poor, or, rather, to enable them to protect and elevate themselves, has been made the instrument for plundering and debasing them. The increase of purchasable votes has, in such cases, given the whole political power into the hands of the rich, and of the most unscrupulous portion of the rich. For a paltry sum the laborer gives to such men the power to rob him of an indefinite portion of his earnings. This is most frequently effected by peculating upon the public revenues; but when this corruption reaches the courts, it can be more directly accomplished by the judicial transfer of the property of those who will not furnish money to elect or sustain the judges to those who will and do. Those who pay this money will not be likely to make the mistake of electing men who will be scrupulously impartial, and show their influential supporters no favor in their decisions. It is evident that, wherever this condition of things exists, there is little hope that laborers can benefit their pecuniary condition, eren by successful efforts to procure larger compensation for their services. Where bribery prevails, they have no more security against judicial robbery for their earnings, than the serfs formerly had against the rapacious violence of their steelclad masters. Security for the product of their labor should be their first object; and to elevate themselves above the point at which they can be made the tools for their own destruction by those who have more money than principle, they may properly use all the power of combination and all the incentives of individual interest which they can make conducive to that end. Elevate the national morality so as to insure at all times an honest administration of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions in all our governments, and, instead of being oppressed by the burden of our accumulated debt, we shall press forward on the high road of prosperity with an elastic energy of which even here we have yet had no example. In the item of the cost of government we have heretofore had an advantage over the English ; but with them production and accumulation have been greatly encouraged by the perfect protection which their government gives to property, and by the prerailing feeling of security which an implicit confidence in the integrity of their judiciary inspires. In the complete destruction of the security of property, and the consequent absence of inducement to permanent investment, or even to accumulate the means for such investment, we see how direct and short is the process by which judicial corruption may reduce a civilized community to the savage state.

In connection with the quantity, the division, and the security of the products of labor, the provident or wasteful use of it deserves consideration. There is a prevailing belief that the prodigality of the rich helps the poor. In this prodigality, however, the rich man only uses the power which the possession of wealth gives him to appropriate more than his share of the labor of the world to his own personal gratification. It is said that, in doing this, he employs and pays laborers. Sup


pose it suited his fancy to employ and pay them for raising corn, and then to burn all the corn. It is evident that, in such case, the gratification of his caprice might cause some people to suffer from hunger. But the effect is obviously the same, if he employs and pays the laborers to minister to his own exclusive personal gratification in any other way. Any man who consumes more than he produces converts to his own use what the labor of others has provided, and thus inflicts an injury, while those who produce more than they consume confer a benefit, by contributing to the supply of the wants of others.

In the immediate application of products to use, there is great room for improvement. In the preparation of food, we are in this country thought to be far behind most European nations. In the manufacture of cloth, some of the processes attended with considerable labor lessen its durability; and in tanning leather with too much haste, or by improper processes, its beneficial properties are much diminished. It may be said that a portion of labor may properly be expended to minister to taste, refinement, and the sentiment of beauty ; but this cannot be urged in favor of the waste in the application of products last mentioned, nor to a large class of articles which, in common phrase, are said to be "not honestly made.”

As the results of our inquiries, we find, then,

1st. That the laborer can at best get only a certain proportion of what he produces; and that, with any considerable reduction of production, this proportion is more likely to be diminished than increased.

2d. That any one laborer reducing his time of work will obtain more actual remuneration if all others continue full work, than if a large body of them unite in short time; and that, even if the combination extended to the whole world, the result would still be unfavorable to him; and hence, so far as regards his own compensation, it is not expedient for him to persuade others to do less work; while any attempt by violence, intimidation, or social coercion to interfere with the liberty of others to work as they please, is such an outrage upon their rights, such a flagrant wrong, that only evil consequences can be expected from it.

3d. That accumulation or increase of capital is beneficial to the laborer, making a larger fund for the payment of wages and for providing labor-saving machinery. From this larger fund larger wages will be paid, but this will be neutralized by the prices of products being increased in the same ratio. With the increase of capital, it will generally happen that more people will be able to live without work. This will lessen the supply of labor, and thus tend to enhance wages; but this again will be neutralized by the higher price of the diminished products, so that the great benefit derived from increase of capital is the ability to provide aids to labor by which products are increased and all can more easily obtain them. That the large amount of machinery now used has not yet given more leisure, is because people have striven to raise the standard of living rather than to diminish their toil; but it is from a change in this respect that we mainly look for the accomplishment of the latter object. In what we have said of accumulation, we do not intend to imply that it should be concentrated in the hands of large capitalists, but, on the contrary, we believe it better that it should be much diffused.

4th. That a prodigal use of labor and its products, though paid for at full prices, is injurious to the whole community, while a universal economy would lessen the toil of providing for the general support, and thus facilitate a diminution in hours of labor.

5th. That to encourage accumulation, but more especially to get the benefits of its various applications in aid of labor, security in possession is essential ; and hence, in view of this, as also of the benefits of national economy, before alluded to, comes the importance to the laborer of preserving the integrity and purity of our governments, State and National, and especially of the judiciary, in which the protecting power chiefly resides.

6th. That an improved, that is, a more intelligent, economy in the application of the products of industry to the immediate uses of life, and an honest purpose on the part of artisans and manufacturers to work up materials in a manner most beneficial to the world, would also tend to relieve the laborers of a portion of the toil now required to support the world, and leave them more time for self-culture. VOL. CII. — NO. 210.


« PreviousContinue »