Yes, this is a very extraordinary fact. All the NON-WORKING classes have plenty: all the WORKING CLASSES are in distress. You will say, if this be true, it must be the consequence of some great system of injustice in the world. The rich must have tyrannised over the workmen, and reduced them to want, and distress. We answer, no such thing. How can the rich, who are few in number, tyrannise over the workmen, who are many times more numerous than themselves? This is impossible; that the few should be stronger than the many. The CAUSE of all this, must therefore be sought in something else. As it is at present, the workman makes his bargain with his master, and everyman, however stupid, knows that “a bargain is a bargain.”
The whole secret of the business lies in this, that the WORKMEN DO NOT WORK FOR THEMSELVES. The workman sells his time, strength, skill, and labour, all his ingenuity, all his cleverness, all his industry, all his health, to his master.
If he performed a thousand times as much work as he does, he would be no better off. His master would be the only person benefitted. The greater the quantity of work done, the richer would the masters and the upper classes become; but not a jot richer would the workman be. Indeed, the very contrary is proved to be the fact. For the working classes have now, by the aid of machinery, which they have themselves invented, produced such an abundance of food, and of all kinds of necessaries, that their labour is no longer wanted. “The market, say the wise ones, is over-stocked “with workmen: there are too many poor: too many of the lower “orders: too much population. The workmen must be sent out of the “kingdom—they are the greatest evil we have to contend against. If “we could but get rid of the working classes, we should do very well.”
Such are the reflections, which are every day made, upon the present state of things. Which prove completely, that if the workmen were to produce a thousand times as much as they do, they would be no better off: or rather, that the more food, clothes, and houses they produce, the fewer necessaries, comforts, and enjoyments they must themselves necessarily possess.
But would this be the case if the working classes WORKED FOR THEMSELVES, and not for others? Most certainly not.
They already produce enough for themselves, and all the world besides. Therefore, if they worked for themselves alone, they would be supplied most abundantly—not only with the necessaries of life, but with all its luxuries into the bargain.
It is difficult, no doubt, to believe that this would be the case : and, supposing that we COULD convince ourselves that plenty of food and comforts would flow in upon the working classes, IF they were to contrive to work for themselves, instead of others : yet, that IF is so great an IF, that it may seem, at first sight, ridiculous to expect it, or to indulge the slightest hope that it can ever come to pass.
The workman of the present day, unlike the “bold and virtuous peasantry” of old— “their country's pride,” do not “Jocund drive their team a-field;” nor, when “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,” do they return to a peaceful cottage, a plentiful table, and an affectionate family of children, who, in grateful return for a careful education, will support with filial piety, the steps of their aged parents; and with the toil of their own hands, supply every wish, and satisfy every want: and at last, with decent obsequies, deposit their remains in the silent tomb, purchased and adorned by the fruits of their own honest independence.
(To be continued)