The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

all we like sheep

Our woollen manufacturers have been more successful than any other class of workmen, in persuading the legislature that the prosperity of the nation depended upon the success and extension of their particular business. They have not only obtained a monopoly against the consumers, by an absolute prohibition of importing woollen cloths from any foreign country; but they have likewise obtained another monopoly against the sheep farmers and growers of wool, by a similar prohibition of the exportation of live sheep and wool. The severity of many of the laws which have been enacted for the security of the revenue is very justly complained of, as imposing heavy penalties upon actions which, antecedent to the statutes that declared them to be crimes, had always been understood to be innocent. But the cruellest of our revenue laws, I will venture to affirm, are mild and gentle, in comparison to some of those which the clamour of our merchants and manufacturers has extorted from the legislature, for the support of their own absurd and oppressive monopolies. Like the laws of Draco, these laws may be said to be all written in blood.

—Adam Smith (…Wealth of Nations, IV.8, p. 262)

Beside the trifling fines imposed by the factory act, the mill-owners took good care to have it so framed, that the greatest facilities are afforded for passing by its enactments, and as the inspectors unanimously declare, ‘almost insuperable difficulties prevent them from putting an effective stop to the illegal working.’ They also concur in stigmatizing the willful commission of fraud by persons of large property; the mean contrivances to which they have recourse in order to elude detection; and the base intrigues they set on foot against the inspectors and sub-inspectors entrusted with the protection of the factory slave. In bringing forward a charge of overworking, the inspectors, sub-inspectors, or their constables, must be prepared to swear that the men have been employed at illegal hours. Now, suppose they appear after 6 o’clock in the evening. The manufacturing machinery is immediately stopped, and although the people could be there for no other purpose than attending upon it, the charge cannot be sustained, by reason of the wording of the act. The workmen are then sent out of the mill in great haste, often more doors than one facilitating their rapid dispersion. In some instances the gas was extinguished, when the sub-inspectors entered the room, leaving them suddenly in darkness among complicated machinery. In those places which have acquired a notoriety for overworking, there is an organized plan for giving notice at the mills of the approach of an inspector, servants at railway stations and at inns being employed for this purpose.

These vampyres, fattening on the life-blood of the young working generation of their own country, are they not the fit companions of the British opium smugglers, and the natural supporters of the ‘truly British Ministers’?

—Karl Marx (‘Condition of Factory Laborers’, New York Tribune, April 22, 1857)


ego hoc feci mm–MMXXIV · cc 2000–2024 M.F.C.