BY JAMES FINLAY W. JOHNSTON
People profess to be alarmed at the increase of manufacturers in the United States, but in reality these manufacturers are not increasing so fast as the population; and, in truth, there are two circumstances which must keep back the manufacturers from being able fairly to enter into successful competition with us, except in heavy goods, and in such as involve little labour. These are the high price of labour and the expensive was in which manufacturing is at present generally conducted.
The male and female operatives in Lowell receive, in addition to their board, an average daily and weekly wage of -
Per Day Per Week
80 cents, or
The females live in boarding-houses, generally belonging to the factory in which they are employed. Their rooms and accommodation are very comfortable, costing 1 dollar and 35 cents (about 5s. 9.d) a-week, and they are under careful superintendence. The esprit de corps is so strong that, upon the slightest suspicion of impropriety of behaviour, the suspected party must be dismissed, or the mills stop forthwith for want of hands. It is melancholy to think that the very progress of which Massachusetts is so proud, must inevitable bring this fine moral control to an end.
I have said that masters and workmen have already arrayed themselves on opposite side in the manufacturing districts; and there are not wanting abundance of persons to foster distrust and dislike among the working classes. The democrats are jealous of corporations—of all person, who, by employing many, or bearing the relation of landlord to many, may exercise, directly or indirectly, what is regarded as an undue influence upon the elections. I was informed by a gentleman high in office in Massachusetts, that to the Irish who arrive at Boston one of the first lessons taught is, that the manufacturers in their new country are to the employed what their landlords were to them at home—what Britain is to Ireland!—that tyrant and slave are relations they bear to each other. In consequence, nearly all such importations become additions to the democratic party.
The, at the elections, the democratic press does not fail to stignatise the 10,000 female workers as slaves, and the mill-owners as aristocrats, and to denounce the influence exercised by their employers over the votes of the 3744 males employed in the mills, when the whigs gain victory. This outcry on a late occasion became so strong, that, in self-defence, the mill corporations found it expedient to publish a list of votes, showing that no influence in favour of the whig party could have been exercised, inasmuch as a majority of the workmen and managers of the mills actually voted with the democratics.
How the feeling of soreness in the minds of the employed, comfortable and well paid as they are, is encouraged by the public press, is shown by such paragraphs as the following, which I extract from an Albany periodical:—
“That prince of manufacturers, Abbott Lawrence, has made a donation
of 50,000 dollars, for the purpose of erecting suitable buildings, and
endowing professorships, for
“Was any of this trumpet-tongued charity made up from the sixpenny a-week clippings from the wages of weavers and spinners at Lowell? How many, many thousand extra hours of wearisome, life-wearing toil did it add to the over-wrought limbs and hands of the operatives, in order that one man may be gazetted as a great public benefactor?
. . .When feelings such as those I have spoken of, as being served up and fostered in Lowell, take root to any extent among the workmen, and in a country where each grown-up man has a vote, the struggle to maintain prices must be both more violent and more prolonged than among ourselves, and the victory more frequently on the side of the employed. On the part of the masters, the tendency will be, in consequence, as much as possible to employ machinery, female labour, and persons under age, and as little as possible the higher priced, full-grown, more unmanageable, political-power-possessing labour of the males. The influence of this tendency, indeed, is already perceptible, I think, in the Lowell mills. It is machine or power-loom weaving that is almost exclusively practiced. The “Lowell Manufacturing Company” make 12,000 yards of carpet per week upon 124 power carpet-looms, which are attended by women. It was very pleasing sight to see the large rooms full of these beautiful carpet-looms, all braced together by which patterns are formed working as easily as if only plain calicoes were the fabric produced. The Middlesex Company, also who manufacture 20,000 yards a-week of broad-cloths and cassimeres, upon 400 looms, and have 4 mills and 3 dyehouses, employ 730 women to 575 men.
Still, like our own manufacturers, before they were submitted to so many trials, the Lowell and other mills in Massachusetts—as I was informed by an English mill-owner who had visited them much more extensively than myself, and with a view to judge of their economical condition—are conducted expensively, independent of the price of labour. He mentioned processes to me, in which he knew that large annual savings might be effected; and generally he said, the “expense gone to produce such inferior goods, would not pay at all in England.”
There are two reasons why this expensive management should continue.
First, the mills are nearly all joint-stock concerns, and it is not in
the nature of things, as a general rile, that a manager, who has at most
only a small share in a business, should as if the whole profit of such
improvements were to come to himself and his few partners. Beside, protecting
duties remove the stimulus to such improvements as would naturally cheapen
the manufacturer. At p[resent Lowell mills divide something less than ten
per sent, while the import duty, charges and commissions, add fifty per
cent to the price of English manufactured goods, before they can compete
with them in the American market/. So long as the other states consent
to pay this fifty per cent higher price for manufactured goods than the
same can be said for in Liverpool, so long they contribute not merely to
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