There are many Ignorant men who speak of the evils which have been brought upon working men by improvements in machinery ; there are others also who say that in old times, when ignorance in the arts and everything else was bliss, that the working men had more to eat and drink than now, and that old England was then " Merry England," her people having plenty of roast-beef and plum-pudding, while now, owing to machinery and 80 on, it is no more Merry England ; her mechanics are half starved, and her working men are whole starved. This is all nonsense, improvements in machinery have improved the conditions of all classes, as the following extract from the London Builder will show : OUR ARTISANS AND THEIR PRESENT PROSPECTS.It certainly seems to us that the artisans of the United Kingdom have never had a better prospect before them than they have now. Nothing is to be done without industry, right endeavor, and good conduct ; but with these they all may, if they please, maintain themselves respectably, and make satisfactory progress. At the present moment we are disposed to think there are comparatively few really good workmen out of employ, and while bread and other necessaries ot life are cheap, wages are high. " At the present day, a Manchester joiner, who earns 4s. 4d. for ten hours' labor, can purchase a day's food for one-fourth of that sum ; hence it follows that his disposable wages are 200 per cent. higher for ten hours labor, than a man could have earned in 1725 by working twelve hours. Compare the prices of things even forty years ago, with the prices nowsalt, sugar, tea, butter, soap, flour, clothes ;examine, too, the increase in the average length of life (an important point,) and the improvement in the material condition is made evident ; while, if you notice the establishment of elementary drawing schools, artisans' schools, schools of design, and free libraries, you will see a good prospect opening for intellectual advancement. At all events, and we offer the advice only to such as are disposed to take it from us, and will not think it impertinent, do not fail to give your children the advantage of the means of improvement and ultimate advancement which offer themselves; send your sons to the elementary drawing schools, and encourage in them a taste for reading.
This article was originally published with the title "Improvements in Machinery Benefit the Working Man" in Scientific American 8, 13, 102 (December 1852)