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their taste or talent, their labor, whether physical or mental. The English woman is thus degraded to the condition of a mere instrument for crushing her fellow-women throughout the world — her own poverty, wretchedness, and recklessness, being then adduced as evidence of the truth of the doctrine of over-population. Driven to despair—hopeless of improvement in this world, and careless about the future—she next is urged to the adoption of the Malthusian panacea of “moral restraint” l It is a mere mockery of words, to suggest the idea to English women, under existing circumstances. Centralization forces Irish women to seek in England purchasers for their labor—thus augmenting the competition for the sale of that one commodity, human effort, which perishes at the moment of its production, and giving to those who need to purchase, power to determine what shall be the quantity of effort given, and what the compensation paid. That is slavery. — Centralization, in like manner, is steadily producing the effect of making London the one and only place in England itself, for the sale of female taste or skill, while greatly limiting the range of female employments.” The effect of this is seen in the unhappy condition of poor girls who aspire to become milliners, compelled, as they are, to labor, for months together, no less than 20 hours out of the 24 —breathing the foul air of the workshops, and receiving the poorest food in exchange for instruction, of which they are perpetually defrauded. Consumption closes the career of these more delicate instruments of trade—leaving to the hardier and lessaspiring journey women, to seek in prostitution the means of support in the intervals of the seasons.f
* “On the continent, though we see women often doing men's work, employed in a coarse kind of field-labor not suitable to women, yet, as a compensation for this, they are not deprived of their own proper work so much as they are in this country. The Paris ladies' shops do, indeed, employ men to some extent, but not to such an extent as we do; and, at foreign railway stations, women are often ticket-keepers. Women in France act as copyingclerks, and serve in all shops where books, prints, and light goods are retailed. In Switzerland, they are watchmakers. In America, they are compositors in printing-offices. Our system is wholly in the direction of depriving women of all work, but we cannot think for a moment that English ladies, once realizing the effect of this system, will allow a few trifling advantages to outweigh the great and terrible evils which result from a violation of the proper apportionment of labor.”—London Times.
† For a general view of the condition of the working-women of England, see the work above referred to, the Wrongs of Women, by CHARLotte Elizabeth. * North British Review, “The Employment of Women,” p. 171. # Ibid.
Lower, even, than these latter, are the slop-workers, the “horrors” of whose “white slavery,” says a recent writer, “have not been exaggerated.” “How,” he continues, “could such colossal fortunes be made by Hebrew and other outfitters, if the soil from which the harvest issued were not plentifully watered and manured with blood and tears? Everybody knows that London is full of ‘distressed needle-women.” But how, it may be asked, is this to be helped ? There is a demand for cheap garments. And there is a demand for employment in the making of cheap garments, even greater than the demand for the garments themselves. Miserable as is the pittance which they receive, it is better than nothing. It is better to be hungry than to die. You may see the poor creatures clustering about the doors of the slop-shops, with their sharp, eager faces, waiting for their supply of wretched work, as though their very lives depended upon the issue. One wonders that it should be so — but so it is.” + An inquiry made some years since, showed that there were in London, of such persons, no less than 33,000, “permanently at the starvation-point—working at the wages of a few pence per day.”
These poor women are all competing with each other for the sale of their only commodity — failing to dispose of which, they are driven to prostitution. Such being the facts, need we wonder that it should be now probable, that 50,000 females walk the streets of that great city, at night, “wholly because they are unable to obtain a living in any other way.” A large proportion of these, as we are assured, having been domestic servants, needlewomen, waistcoat makers, &c., “driven to dishonesty by the difficulty of obtaining honest employment, there is scarcely one of them who would not forsake her unhappy calling, to-morrow, if honorable work could be provided for her.” + “We err,” says the same writer, “more barbarously than those nations among whom a plurality of wives is permitted, and who regard women purely as so much live stock; for among such people women are, at all events, provided with shelter, with food, and clothing— they are ‘cared for' as cattle are. There is a completeness in such a system. But among ourselves, we treat women as cattle, without providing for them as cattle. We take the worst part of barbarism, and the worst part of civilization, and work them into a heterogeneous whole. We bring up our women to be dependent, and then leave them without any one to depend on. There is no one—there is nothing for them to lean upon; and they fall to the ground.” This is slavery, and of the worst kind, and the longer the system shall be maintained, the more oppressive must it become — the foundation of the system, now as in the days of Adam Smith, being found in the idea of cheapening labor, and all other raw materials of manufacture. The more that prices are reduced in England, the greater must be the tendency towards reduction in America—it being there already declared, that the only remedy for the cure of the distressed needle-women, is to be found in the reduction of wages “to the famine point.” The more they are there reduced, the greater must be the reduction in England— the tendency of the modern free trade system being that of increasing the dependence of the laborer, and making of her that mere instrument to be used by trade, so well described by Hood, in his admirable, but melancholy, “Song of a Shirt.” Colonization being, as we are told, the remedy for excess of numbers, every nerve is strained in the effort to expel the surplus people, to whose existence it is due, that population has become “a nuisance.” Who are they, however, who emigrate o The men—leaving wives, daughters, and sisters, behind, to provide for themselves as they may. The surplus of females in Great Britain already exceed half a million, and it must increase—the whole tendency of the existing system, being that of dispersing the men, in the hope of thereby further cheapening the rude products of the soil, and with the effect of increasing, every where, the competition for the sale of labor, and labor's products. * The world presents to view nothing that is more sad, than the condition of the female portion of the British population. That of the women of Central and Northern Europe, is by no means satisfactory, but, in comparing them, it must always be recollected that, while England has enjoyed domestic peace during many centuries, continental Europe has been the theatre of constant wars; and, that the condition of English men and women was, a century since, almost infinitely superior to that of their continental neighbors—the one having been free, while the others were almost, even when not quite, enslaved.—England, too, preceded the continent in the subjugation of the great natural forces to man's direction —the latter remaining very far behind.—Further, it must be borne in mind, that – there being a solidarity of interest among all the people of the world — whatever tends to lessen the productive power of any one community, is injurious to all. Were the labor of the English people more productive, English women could make more demand for the products of the skill and taste of the women of France; and were American women enabled to find, in the making of cloth, a demand for their peculiar powers, they could become better customers for the taste and skill of the women of both France and England. Protection tends to increase competition for the purchase of labor—thereby emancipating both men and women. The British system, wherever found, increases competition for its sale —thereby enslaving all who need to sell it, be they male or female.
* From 1839 to 1856, female crime, in offences against the person, rose in its proportions, from 11:2 to 18.1 per cent., and in those against property, from 26:9 to 30-8 —Women are driven to the perpetration of crime, and then transported as criminals.
§ 5. Here, as every where, the American Union is a country of contrasts, one portion exhibiting woman in the enjoyment of a degree of freedom elsewhere unknown, while in another, females, married and unmarried, are passed from hand to hand as mere chattels—being sold at the auction-block, with, or without, fathers, husbands, sisters, brothers, children.—Looking towards commerce, the tendency, in the former, has been towards the creation of local centres, facilitating association, and producing development of the latent powers of the earth, and of the men and women for whose use that earth was given. —Believing in the omnipotence of trade, and seeking the extension of its dominion, the latter has, however, moved in the reverse direction – the result being seen in annihilation of local centres, diminution of the power of association, exhaustion of the soil, and limitation of demand for female powers.-In the one, the tendency is uniform in the direction of such alterations of the English law, as shall give to the wife a separate right of property. In the other, it has as uniformly been in that of taking from woman the power, under any circumstances, to obtain the right of property in themselves.
Comparing his countrymen with the men of America, a distinguished French traveller says: “We buy our wives with our fortunes, as we sell ourselves to them for their dowries. The American,” as he continues, “chooses her, or rather offers himself to her, for her beauty, her intelligence, and the qualities of her heart; it is the only dowry which he seeks. Thus, while we make of that which is most sacred, a matter of business, these traders affect a delicacy, and an elevation of sentiment, which would have done honor to the most perfect models of chivalry.” As a consequence, the marriage tie is here, more generally than elsewhere, held sacred—such being the necessary consequence of a political system based upon the creation of local centres, and on that division of the land which tends in the direction of securing to each and all, homes of their own, for the benefit of their wives, their children, and themselves.f Every where, there is manifested, towards the sex—old and young—rich and poor—high and low —a degree of deference elsewhere little known. They travel, unprotected, for thousands of miles, fearing no intrusion, and encountering none of those discomforts to which they are in other countries so much exposed. With marriage, the husband assumes the task of providing for the family; the wife being left to the performance of the duties of the household, and the care of her children — the performance of those duties, too, being lightened in its labor by improved machinery. $ In no part of the Union, however, is she seen to the same advantage as in Massachusetts, where a naturally sterile soil, close to market, has been made to yield larger returns than the rich soils of Western prairies, most of whose products are swallowed up in the cost of transportation.
* CHEvaLIER: Lettres sur l'Amerique du Nord. + “You may estimate the morality of any population, when you have ascertained that of the women; and one cannot contemplate American society without admiration for the respect which there encircles the tie of marriage. The same sentiment existed to a like degree among no nations of antiquity; and the existing societies of Europe, in their corruption, have not even a conception of such purity of morals.”—M. DE BEAUMont. “The marriage tie is more sacred among American workmen than among the middle-classes of various countries of Europe.”—CHEvalier. “One of the first peculiarities that must strike a foreigner in the United States, is the deference paid universally to the sex, without regard to rank or station.”—LYELL. ź “The inventive spirit of the people of New England, and of their descendants throughout the Union, is displayed in the production of machinery for economizing the time and labor of their wives.”—CHEvaLIER.