Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/598

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
578
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
In 1875 there were no less than 4,519 of the so-called "master-weavers" in Chemnitz, each of whom employed from one to ten journeymen at hand-loom weaving in their own houses. The introduction of machinery, however, imposed conditions upon these weavers which they found the more difficult to meet the more the machinery was improved. The plainer goods were made on power looms, and work in the factories was found to be more remunerative. Instead of giving work to others, they were gradually compelled to seek work for themselves. The independent "master" soon fell into ranks with the dependent factory-hand, but as he grew older and his eyesight failed him lie was replaced by younger and more active hands, and what once promised to become a well to-do citizen in his old age now bids fair to become a burden upon the community. Those who had means of procuring the newer Jacquard contrivance, or even the improved "leaf" or "shaft-looms," managed to eke out a subsistence; but the prospects of the weavers who have learned to work only with the handlooms are becoming more hopeless every day.

Now, while such cases of displacement of labor appeal most strongly to human sympathy, and pre-eminently constitute a field for individual or societary action for the purpose of relief, it should be at the same time remembered that the world, especially during the last century, has had a large experience in such matters, and that the following points may be regarded as established beyond the possibility of contravention: 1. That such phases of human suffering are now, always have been, and undoubtedly always will be, the inevitable concomitants of the progress of civilization, or the transitions of the life of society to a higher and better stage. They seem to be in the nature of "growing-pains," or of penalty which Nature exacts at the outset, but for once only, whenever mankind subordinates her forces in greater degree to its own will and uses. 2. That it is not within the power of statute enactment to arrest such transitions, even when a large and immediate amount of human suffering can certainly be predicated as their consequent, except so far as it initiates and favors a return of society toward barbarism; for the whole progress in civilization consists in accomplishing greater or better results with the same or lesser effort, physical or mental. 3. All experience shows that, whatever of disadvantage or detriment the introduction and use of new and improved instrumentalities or methods of production and distribution may temporarily entail on individuals or classes, the ultimate result is always an almost immeasurable degree of increased good to mankind in general. In illustration and proof of this, attention is asked to the following selection from the record of a great number of well ascertained and pertinent experiences:

The invention of the various machines which culminated in the knitting or weaving of stockings by machinery in place of by hand, occasioned great disturbances about the commencement of the present century among a large body of operatives in the counties of Leicester and Nottingham, in England, who had been educated to old methods of stocking-making and were dependent upon the continued prose-