The Ten Hour System and Its Advocates
There is no subject that agitates and interests us as a people more than the subject of a reduction of the hours of labor. All who oppose it, agree in saying it is just and right. But instead of removing obstacles, they are raising up more barriers, and creating insurmountable difficulties. We will not charge these professed friends with dishonesty, nor insist that they do not believe all they say—but we are quite certain they have taken a one-sided view of the subject and need only to see it in all its bearings, to become its advocate. We would not venture an opinion that those who oppose the labor reform movement, are less humane, than others; but we insist that those who oppose it on account of dollars and cents, have low and sordid views of human existence, or they do not represent them-selves truly.
We are fully aware that none, be they ever so wise can realize the weary tediousness of the life of the operative. We have heard many give expression to their own worn-out and debilitated physical strength, but it falls far below the reality.
It is truly painful to hear the complaints of this unfortunate class. As the day dawns upon them, they regret that it is not past, and as the evening closes, and they retire, they wish that it would not so soon be morning. Is there a human heart that would destine the fair daughters of New England to such an existence? Is there a man in our city, nay; is there a man in this universe that would perpetuate such a state of things? We are sure there is not. Avarice and familiarity with such a life of toil, may blunt his feelings on this subject, and his own condition and that of his children may give him a sort of assurance that he nor they shall suffer such a life of toil and privation; But amid all this security there are times when conscience speaks in thunder tones, and its voice, must be heard whether we will or not. It is then we see this subject in its true light—and he who had looked calmly and indifferently, takes, a more correct view. He sees the weary toiler as the child of some fond parent, whose affection is as strong and pure as his own; who watches the slow moving hour-glass, and counts the minutes when they shall return, wearied and depressed with toil. He stops amid his plans for future gain and listens to hear the prayer that goes up from the family alter; and as blessings are invoked, upon the absent children who are doomed to toil on, amid the crowd, he sees their wasted forms, and like the gibbering of a ghost it haunts his quiet by day and his dreams by night. We are fully aware that if a reduction in the hours of labor were to take place, everyone whether capitalist or agent would feel a great degree of satisfaction. It is not in the human heart to love misery; and when the question shall be fairly settled, (as it surely will be) the bright and joyous hearts and happy faces will more than compensate for the trifle that capital may lose. We will not follow this subject farther at this time but take it up in our next number and give some of the reasons why we should labor to bring about so desirable an event.
The Ten Hour System and Its Advocates (Continued)
As we promised to give some of the inducements, to labor for the Ten Hour System; we will consider, some of the objections before entering directly upon the subject. One of the strongest reasons urged by those who oppose it is; that the time allowed to the operatives, would be spent in vicious indulgence, and annoying the peaceable citizens of our city. Now to me, it seems somewhat contradictory, to hear those who contend long and loud, that we have a "moral police," so vigilant that it is hardly possible for an operative to be vicious, (if she is kept upon the corporation day and night,) talk about the "virtuous and puritanical daughters of the New England farmers," being kept within the walls of a cotton mill, longer than is consistent with their physical or intellectual condition, to keep them virtuous. Think you the benevolence of the "powers that be" ordained the "all day system" of labor? was it not rather their avarice? Ye sticklers for decency and propriety—why do not they give the operatives a few minutes more for their meals; they would not stay from the corporation, and this would be doing some- thing to improve their condition. How miserable such evasions of the real system of labor looks to one who has examined its relative claims to the morality of the masses.
At one time, they tell us that our "free institutions" are based upon the virtue and intelligence of the American people, and the influence of the mother, form and mould the man—and the next breath, that the way to make the mothers of the next generations virtuous, is to enclose them within the brick walls of a cotton mill from twelve and a half to thirteen and a half hours per day. How is it about the intelligence? Do not overlook that part in the premises, lest you come to wrong conclusions. There cannot be found an individual who claims for himself common observation, who will admit that the operatives of our country have a suitable portion of time for improvement. No man will allow his own children the education of a machine tender and expect her to read French or Latin, or be skillful in mathematics. He takes the child from the mill, and sends her to school, if he wishes her to be educated. The reader is ready to enquire how the operatives spend their "leisure hours?" we will take it for granted, that the enquirer is a lady.
Let me remind you (for you know) of the duty the young woman owes to herself in the way of personal appearance. The factory girl has to wash and iron every article of clothing used by her, except her mill dress. Her pocket handkerchief, collars, hose, etc., are to be washed nearly every week, if she attends church and an evening lecture, and no one would suppose for a moment, that one short evening in the week, would be sufficient time to consume in that department of taking care of one self. But let us enquire how much time the operative has to look after herself. She has no time in the morning, for she is called from the table to the mill. She has no time at noon,—thirty minutes only are allowed her to go to her meals—eat and return to her work. How is it at night? The lamps that have been burning from 30 to 50 minutes in the morning to assist the weary operative to labor before the morning light,—is again relighted, and she must toil on until seven and a half, or according to Boston time, within ten minutes of eight o'clock. You would not expect her to go to her boarding house and take her evening meal in less than thirty minutes and according to Lowell time, it would be eight o'clock and still later by the Boston time.
Now taking into the account, the duties, the operatives owe to themselves in taking care of their clothes, doing their own sewing, knitting and repairing, where do you find their "leisure hours?" (continued next week.)
The Ten Hour System and Its Advocates (Continued)
It may be well, to inform those who do not know the fact that the operatives labors is hard,—that it requires great physical exertion in almost every department. We are aware that Mr. Miles says it is not laborious. But we do not hesitate in the face of his testimony, and add to it, that of Mr. French, (formerly agent of the Boott Corporation,) as given in the report of the committee on the reduction of the hours of labor, page 18. "The amount of muscular strength which a girl is required to exert in any department, is very small." Page 24, he says, “the girls make periodical visits to recruit their wasted energies,—and prepare if need be for another campaign”
Now we do not know which of these testimonies, he expected the world to believe, but they may be assured of one thing,—that the he operatives of Lowell will not believe the former, although it come a from the man whose calling should have entitled him to their respect and confidence. Every operative who is required to tend four “looms, making an average of 160 yards of cloth per day, has the sufficient amount of common sense to know whether she can perform / such an amount of labor as is necessary and unavoidable, without more than "a very small amount of muscular strength." But Mr. Miles and French were not writing for the operatives, but for those who are ignorant of the facts in the case, and those who would not disbelieve what any man might say who has Rev, attached to his name. We would not reproach any honest opinion offered by any man , whether he be clergyman or otherwise, but when a man descends from the sacredness of his calling as a moral teacher, and gives sanction to a system not sanctioned by Him, whose follower he professes to be, it will not be expected that the operatives, whose condition he misrepresents, will keep silent.
One would be induced to believe that every minister of the gospel would labor to bring about the ten hour system, as a "means of grace." How many operatives stay away from church, on account of want of time, to keep their clothes in suitable order to appear at church. Then add to this, the number who stay away on account of fatigue, and then add to these, those who stay away to perform some little job of sewing that they have not found time to do, during the week, and the number would not be small. Now if attending church is necessary for the spiritual growth and perfection of the operative—we put the question, whether the clergy of our city are doing all their duty, by removing all obstacles, in the way of spiritual improvement and perfection.
We do not appear as an apologizer for a neglect of attending church, and yet we doubt whether those who would condemn them would give any better examples, if they were in like circumstances; especially if we take into the account, the constant violation of the Sabbath, by the corporations for whom they work.
We regret such a state of things, and it is for this reason we have laid some of the reasons, which induce us to labor for a reduction of the hours of labor, believing that many of the evils would find a remedy in such an event.
In the next number, we will give some of the positive benefits, to be derived from a reduction of the hours of labor.
The Ten Hour System and Its Advocates (Continued)
The "Ten Hour System" recommends itself to every Patriot, and lover of his country, as a means of security against a monarchial form of Government, being introduced into the boasted land of the free. It is admitted by all, that the intelligence of our country have made our political institutions what they are. Take from the masses, the opportunity of cultivation, and if causes produce their own effects, what will be the results? Our young men will go to the workshop, at sixteen or eighteen years of age, with a good common school education, perhaps—but, is he educated in the political history of our and other countries. He has had but little access to libraries, and needs much time, for general reading, and information, and where will he find that time under the present long hour system? He must remain in the condition in which he commences his apprenticeship.
We have heard many young men give as an excuse for not buying a share in the library, that they have no time to read—they drop to sleep with the book in their hand. This is a lamentable state of things, but it is what every one knows to be true, who has worked under the present regulation of time.
Fathers of our own happy, free New England! Do you sanction this long hour system? Are you willing that your sons, aye, and your daughters, too, shall thus go out into the world? Are you the sons of those who fought so nobly the battles of freedom? Are you the sons of the fathers of '76? If so, let your voices be heard in thundertones, and your hands be stretched forth to save us from the same evils that threatened us when they declared themselves free from a foreign power.
The ten hour system commends itself to every philanthropist. Can a man be in reality a benevolent man, and see his brother starve while he has the means to feed him? Can he see him mentally or morally hunger, and shut him up in a prison, and raise an everlasting barrier that shall prevent him from drinking from the in exhaustible fountain of knowledge? Every one must answer in the negative. Then why box up your benevolence and send it across the Atlantic or to Louisiana? Can you find nothing here in our own city or State, to improve? Has custom sanctioned the present state of things, so that you would not enter a protest against it lest you find yourself on the unpopular side of the question?
How much of this kind of philanthropy we find in our midst, and yet, no object worthy a Howard or an Oberlin, is manifested by their boasted benevolence. Can we not find this sort of philanthropy in existence, in Louisiana, and across the Atlantic, where we are so willing to send ours? They are as free to denounce our inhumanity, as we are theirs.—Then let us see that we do not look so eagerly after the comet, that speeds his fiery course in the heavens, that we heed not the poisonous serpent that lies at our feet, ready to destroy us.
It would seem to many, that the religious part of community should be the first to engage in the work of improving the operative, physically. Has the Master left no examples for your imitation? Ha s he never taken upon himself, the improvement of those with whom he labored? Has he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and had compassion on those who were out of the way? Has he anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, and undo the heavy burdens of those who were bound?
Who are his followers practically? "By their fruits ye shall know them."