1841 12 Bartlett (Homer) Response
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Lowell, Massachusetts
December 1, 1841
To: Horace Mann
Dear Sir, --In replying to your interrogatories, respecting the effect of education upon the laboring classes, I might be very brief; but the subject is one in which I feel so deep an interest, that I propose to go a little into detail, and hope to do so without being tedious.

I have been engaged for nearly ten years in manufacturing, and have had the constant charge of from four hundred to nine hundred persons during that time. The greater part of them have been Americans; but there have always been more or less foreigners. During this time, I have had charge of two different establishments in different parts of the State.

In answering your second interrogatory, I can say, that I have come in contact with a very great variety of character and disposition, and have seen mind applied to production in the Mechanic and Manufacturing Arts, possessing different degrees of intelligence, from gross ignorance to a high degree of cultivation; and I have no hesitation in affirming that I have found the best educated to be the most profitable help; even those females who merely tend machinery give a result somewhat in proportion to the advantages enjoyed in early life for education, -- those who have a good common-school education giving, as a class, invariably, a better production than those brought up in ignorance.

The former make the best wages. If any one should doubt the fact, let him examine the pay-roll of any establishment in New England, and ascertain the character of the girls who get the most money, and he will be satisfied that I am correct. I am equally clear, that, as a class, they do their work better. There are many reasons why it should be so. They have more order and system; they not only keep their persons neater, but their machinery in better condition.

But there are other advantages, besides mere knowledge, growing out of a good common-school education. Such an education is calculated to strengthen the whole system, intellectual, moral, and physical. It educates the whole man or woman, and gives him or her more energy and greater capacity for production in all departments of labor. Minds formed by such an education are superior in the combination and arrangement of what is already known, and more frequently devise new methods of operation.
Your third inquiry relates to the effect of education upon the domestic and social habits of persons in my employ. I have never considered mere knowledge, valuable as it is in itself to the laborer, as the only advantage derived from a good common-school education. I have uniformly found the better educated, as a class, possessing a higher and better state of morals, more orderly and respectful in their deportment, and more ready to comply with the wholesome and necessary regulations of an establishment. And in times of agitation on account of some change in regulations or wages, I have always looked to the most intelligent, best educated, and the most moral, for support, and have seldom been disappointed. For, while they are the last to submit to imposition, they reason; and, if your requirements are reasonable, they will generally acquiesce, and exert a salutary influence upon their associates. But the ignorant and uneducated I have generally found the most turbulent and troublesome, acting under the impulse of excited passion and jealousy. 

The former appear to have an interest in sustaining good order, while the latter seem roe reckless of consequences. And, to my mind, all this is perfectly natural. The better educated have more and stronger attachments binding them to the place where they are. They are generally neater, as I have before said, in their persons, dress, and houses; surrounded with more comforts, with fewer of "the ills which flesh is heir to." In short, I have found the educated, as a class, more cheerful and contented,-- devoting a portion of their leisure time to reading and intellectual pursuits, more with their families, and less in scenes of dissipation.

The good effect of all this is seen in the more orderly and comfortable appearance of the whole household, but nowhere more strikingly than in the children. A mother who has had a good common-school education will rarely suffer her children to grow up in ignorance.

As I have said, this class of persons is more quiet, more orderly, and, I may add, more regular in their attendance upon public worship, and more punctual in the performance of all their duties.

Your fourth inquiry refers to the relative stand taken in society by those who have received an early education; and my answers to your inquiries under that head might be inferred quite as much to females as to males, but what I shall say under this will refer particularly to the latter.

I have generally observed individuals exerting an influence among their co-laborers and citizens somewhat in proportion to their education. And, in cases of difficulty and arbitration, the most ignorant have paid an involuntary respect to the value of education by the selection of those who have enjoyed its benefits for the settlement of their controversies.

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a young man, who had not an education equal to a good common-school education, to rise from grade to grade, until he should obtain the berth of an Overseer; and in making promotions, as a general thing, it would be 
unnecessary to make inquiry as to the education of the young men form whom you would select; for their mental cultivation would be sufficiently indicated by their general appearance and standing among their fellows; and, if you had reference to merit and qualifications, very seldom indeed would an uneducated young man rise to "a better place and better pay."

Young men who expect to resort to manufacturing establishments for employment cannot prize too highly a good education. It will give them standing among their associates, and be the means of promotion from their employers.

Yours fifth interrogatory refers to difference of moral character in the two classes, and the dangers which society or men of property have to apprehend from the one or the other. I do not know that I can better answer your inquiries under this head than to give you my views of the value, in the pecuniary point of view, of education and morality, to the stockholders of our manufacturing establishment. If they have no danger to apprehend form a general diffusion of knowledge among those in their employ; if it is a fact that that class of help which has enjoyed a good common-school education are the most tractable, yielding most readily to reasonable requirements, exerting a salutary and conservative influence in times of excitement, while the most ignorant are the most refractory; then it appears to me that the public at large ought to be satisfied that they have more danger to apprehend from the ignorant than form the well educated. I am aware that there is a feeling to a certain, but I hope limited extent, that knowledge among the great mass is dangerous; that it creates discontent, and tends to insubordination. But I believe the fear to be groundless, and that our danger will come from an opposite source. In my view, there is a connection between education and morals; and I believe that our common schools have been nurseries, not only of learning, but of sound morality; and I trust they will always be surrounded by such influences as will strengthen and confirm the moral principles of our youth; and I am confident, that, so long as that shall be the case, society is safe.

From my observation and experience, I am perfectly satisfied that the owners of manufacturing property have a deep pecuniary interest in the education and morals of their help; and I believe the time is not distant when the truth of this will appear more and more clear. And as competition becomes more close, and small circumstances of more importance in turning the scale in favor of one establishment over another, I believe it will be seen that the establishment, other things being equal, which has the best educated and the most moral help, will give the greatest production at the least cost per pound. So confident am I that production is affected by the intellectual and moral character of help, that whenever a mill or a room should fail to give the proper amount of work, my first inquiry, after that respecting the condition of the machinery, would be, as to the character of the help; and if the deficiency remained any great length of time, I am sure I should find many who had made their marks upon the pay-roll, being unable to write their names; and I should be greatly disappointed if I did not, upon inquiry, find a portion of them of irregular habits and suspicious character. My mind has been drawn to this subject for a long time. I have watched its operation, and seen its result, and am satisfied that the pecuniary interest 
of the owners is promoted by the general diffusion of knowledge and morality among those in their employ.

Lowell is a striking illustration of the truth of my remarks on this subject. Probably no other place has done as much for the education and morality of those engaged in manufacturing. She ahs twenty-three public schools, fifteen churches, and numerous associations for intellectual improvement; and the result is seen, not only in the orderly and temperate character of the people, but in the great productiveness of the mills. And where, I would ask, is manufacturing stock of more value? If any one doubts the connection between these institutions and the price of stocks, let the former be destroyed, let those lights be extinguished, let ignorance and vice take the place of intelligence and virtue, let the prevailing influence here be against schools and churches; and my opinion is, that the moral character of the people would not decline faster than the price of manufacturing stocks. The founders of this place were clear and farsighted men; and they put in operation a train of moral influences which has formed and preserved a community distinguished for intelligence, virtue, and great energy of character. Should any owner or manager think otherwise, and surround himself with the ignorant and unprincipled, because for a time he might get them for less wages, I am confident that loss in production would more than keep pace with reduction in pay, -- to say nothing of the insecurity of property in the hands of such persons.

In short, in closing my answer to your fifth interrogatory, I consider that "those who possess property, and hope to transmit it to their children," have nothing to fear from the general diffusion of knowledge; that if their rights are ever invaded, or their property rendered insecure, it will be when ignorance has corrupted the public mind, and prepared it for the controlling influence of some master-spirit possessing intelligence without principle.

Finally, in answering your sixth and last interrogatory, I remark that "those who possess the greatest share in the stock of worldly goods" are deeply interested in this subject as one of mere insurance; that the most effectual way of making insurance on their property would be to contribute from it enough to sustain an efficient system of common-school education, thereby educating the whole mass of mind, and constituting it a police more effective than peace-officers or prisons. By so doing they would bestow a benefaction upon "that class, who, from the accident of birth or parentage, are subjected to the privations and temptations of poverty," and would do much to remove the prejudice and to strengthen the bands of union between the different and extreme portions of society. The great majority always have been, and probably always will be comparatively poor, while a few will possess the greatness share of this world’s goods. And it is a wise provision of Providence which connects so intimately, and as I think so indissolubly, the greatest good of the many with the highest interest of the few.

Yours very respectfully and truly,
H. Bartlett

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