The Absorbing Idea of the 19th Century

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Peter I. Blacker. "The Absorbing Idea of the 19th Century." The Boston Investigator, 19, 3 (May 23, 1849), 2.


The Absorbing Idea of the 19th Century.

There are many ideas now before the world which are termed the ideas of the age. But perhaps the idea which is likely to take precedence of all others, throughout Europe arid the United States, is the great question of labor vs. capital. As the working classes advance in intelligence they are discovering that they work not for themselves but for capitalists; they are realizing that they who build the palaces, the churches, exchanges, banks &c., must live in little better than hovels, and as in Ireland be liable to be ejected on the high-read to starve at the will of a landlord. They are beginning to see that the man who makes the coats of $7 broadcloth, cannot afford himself one of $3; that the man who makes the $7 boots, cannot afford himself a $3 pair that just in proportion as they perform the most useful labor and that which is the hardest and most repulsive, they are degraded arid their wages are reduced, while on the other hand every stimulus is held out for our young men to cuter and pursue some profession by 'which they can reap the fruits of others' labor. Let any one just ask himself how the swarms of lawyers, priests, physicians, clerks, soldiers, &c., that are now being educated to live above productive labor in our colleges, seminaries, &c., are to live without this world being a complete hell on earth for the classes that have got to support them?

But the signs of the times are encouraging. The working classes in Europe and in this country are giving their attention to the subject of commercial and financial reforms. Many of the European correspondents of the conservative papers continue to write that Socialism cannot get a foothold in the United Stares, but those best informed en the subject know the state of the minds and feelings of the working classes on these subjects; and the establishment of the Divisions of the Protective Unions all over New England, speaks something.—Every where the subject is agitated, and the question is, how can we use what little money we receive for our labor in order to obtain more of the necessaries arid comforts of life for our families? A more fortunate movement was perhaps never made than the establishment of these Divisions in order to bring the laborers together to consult anti act for their own welfare; and 'what is better than all, the reform pays well for itself and no martyrs are required. All that is wanting is for mechanics and laborers to make themselves acquainted with the prices of all articles of consumption in the different markets, arid then they will be able to see what the producers get and what commerce gets. Many mechanics anti laborers are engaged earnestly in the temperance, National Reform, Anti-Slavery and Prison Reform, all of which measures are calculated to better the social condition of man. Therefore, to those who say that Socialism cannot get a foothold in rise United States, I would say go on and enjoy your pleasant reverie; there is no good that you would probably do if you were awake, but when you do wake up, you will do it without gaping many times.

P. I. B.

Boston, May 15, 1849.