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developed themselves dislocated all the existing machinery of society, disturbed its very framework, and must necessarily produce, as they have produced, a considerable amount of confusion and suffering until the difficult task of re-adjustment is completed. А giant forcing his way into a densely-wedged crowd extends pain and disturbance to its remotest extremity : the individuals he pushes aside push others in their turn, though none know the cause of pressure save those with whom the intruder is immediately in contact; and thus also the Factory system causes its presence to be felt in districts where no manufactures are established : all classes are pressed to make room for the stranger, and all are interested in knowing something of what is thus forced upon their acquaintance. Antecedent to any inquiry it would be well to recognise the Factory system as what statesmen call un fait accompli ; it exists, and must continue to exist; it is not practicable, even if it were desirable, to get rid of it; millions of human beings depend upon the Factories for their daily bread, -were there heads sufficiently bold and hearts sufficiently hard to propose their extermination, where are the hands by which the sanguinary decree could be executed ?*
* « Be machinery and its concomitants a good, an evil, or, like most other things pertaining to humanity, a mingled web of good and ill together, its existence is a matter of fact, it is an institution rooted in our civilization, a step made in a path, that admits of no retrogradation. It is not merely, what the author has called it, “ un fait accompli ;" it is a fact that carries with it an indefinite series of consequences, which cannot be resisted; which, by wisdom, forecast, and honesty, may be directed to national greatness and the increase of human happiness, even to the furthermost ends of the world; but which, if neglected or disregarded, will become pregnant with the deepest calamity.”—Atheneum.
It would be absurd to speak of Factories as mere abstractions, and consider them apart from the manufacturing population that population is a stern reality, and cannot be neglected with impunity. As a stranger passes through the masses of human beings which have been accumulated round the mills and print-works in this and the neighbouring towns, he cannot contemplate these “crowded hives” without feelings of anxiety and apprehension almost amounting to dismay. The population, like the system to which it belongs, is new; but it is hourly increasing in breadth and strength. It is an aggregate of masses, our conceptions of which clothe themselves in terms that express something portentous and fearful. We speak not of them indeed as of sudden convulsions, tempestuous seas, or furious hurricanes, but as of the slow rising and gradual swelling of an ocean which must, at some future and no distant time, bear all the elements of society aloft upon its bosom, and float them—Heaven knows whither. There are mighty energies slumbering in those masses : had our ancestors witnessed the assemblage of such a multitude as is poured forth every evening from the mills of Union Street, magistrates would have assembled, special constables would have been sworn, the riot act read, the military called out, and most probably some fatal collision would have taken place. The crowd now scarcely attracts the notice of a passing policeman, but it is, nevertheless, a crowd, and therefore susceptible of the passions which may animate a multitude.*
The most striking phenomenon of the Factory system is, the amount of population which it has suddenly accumulated on certain points : there has been long a continuous influx of operatives into the manufacturing districts from other parts of Britain; these men have very speedily laid aside all their old habits and associations, to assume those of the mass in which they are mingled. The manufacturing population is not new in its formation alone : it is new in its habits of thought and action, which have been formed by the circumstances of its condition, with little instruction, and less guidance, from external sources.
be matter of question whether the circumstances surrounding the manufacturing labourer are better or worse than those belonging to the agricultural condi
* “ This passage-at the moment we are writing so painfully illustrated—is in itself a sufficient demonstration of the folly put forth about arresting the march of manufacture, and returning the people to agricultural occupations. But who was ever the dupe of such propositions ? Not those who put them forth,not any one, gentle or simple, whose reason was not perverted by the corrupted logic of ill-understood self-interests. Still the proposition has been pressed on public attention with confidence, and the implied possibility, having been suffered to creep unperceived into argument, has operated powerfully to lead to the falsest conclusions."--Athenæum, August 20.
tion, but there can be no doubt that the former are preferred by the operative. In the present severe pressure of commercial distress there are scores, and probably hundreds of workmen, whom the authorities would gladly send back to their parishes if they could bring them legally under the designation of paupers, but these men submit to the pressure of hunger, and all its attendant sufferings, with an iron endurance which nothing can bend, rather than be carried back to an agricultural district. However severe the condition of the manufacturing operative may be, there is a something behind which he dreads more : he clings to his new state with desperate fidelity, and faces famine rather than return to the farm. The Factory system is, therefore, preferred to the more usual conditions of labour by the population which it employs, and this at once ensures its permanence as a formative element of society, and at the same time renders its influence directly efficacious on character.
I have visited Manchester at seasons when trade was pre-eminently prosperous : I see it now suffering under severe and unprecedented distress; and I have been very forcibly struck by observing the little change which the altered circumstances have produced in the moral aspect of the population. Agricultural distress soon makes itself known ; Swing at this side of the water, and Rock at the other, write the tales of their grievances in characters which no man can mistake, and seek redress by measures strongly marked
with the insanity of despair. But suffering here has not Joosened the bands of confidence; millions of property remain at the mercy of a rusty nail or the ashes of a tobacco-pipe, and yet no one feels alarm for the safety of his stock or machinery, though in case of an operative Jacquerie they could not be defended by all the military force of England. This very crisis has been a rigid test of the strength of the Factory system, and precludes the necessity of any further argument to show that it cannot be overthrown.
Without detaining you any longer by these general remarks, I shall proceed to examine the social condition of Manchester, which may be considered as the metropolis of the cotton manufacture. No person, however casual a visitor, can for a moment mistake the character of the town. It is essentially a place of business, where pleasure is unknown as a pursuit, and amusements scarcely rank as secondary considerations. Every person who passes you in the street has the look of thought and the step of haste. Few private carriages are to be seen; there is only one street of handsome shops, and that is of modern date; there are some very stately public buildings, but only one of them is dedicated to recreation, the rest are devoted to religion, charity, science, or business. A modern author has started the theory, that, as certain insects assume the colours and marks of the leaves on which they feed, so the citizens of certain towns offer