We have received a very able and instructive letter from a correspondent, upon the subject of " Mechanics Respecting Themselves," and were it not too long for our columns, we would publish it. The intelligent author of it being pleased with the views expressed by us in the Scientific American, on page 117, agrees with us that our mechanics do not assume tha position in society which their usefulness leJiy entitles them to do, particularly that claifc—millers—to which he belongs. He says, " he believes they are lower in point of scientific nd literary attainments than any other operative mechanics in the United States." This he attributes to the evil system under which they labor, and wrong notions of business men rather than any want of desire for improvement amongst mechanics themselves. This evil system is principally long hours of labor, and the notion among the owners of mills that capital is the foundation of labor, not labor that of capital. This system, and these false ideas must be attacked and uprooted, he believes, before there can be an improvement in the condition and character of millers. We are of opinion that the American millers are as intelligent according to their numbers as some other tradesmen, but certainly they cannot be so intelligent as the mechanics in our cities and villages, whose hours of labor are so much less per day. This letter informs us that it is not an uncommon thing for millers in many places to work 18 hours out of the 24. Where such a system prevails, down it should go with a dash of the battle-axe of progressive common sense. Miserable machinery, we are informed, is the accompaniment of this miserable system, and this is always the case—crushing toil, and clumsy inefficient machinery always go hand in hand; we have never seen it otherwise. With improvements in machinery we have witnessed an improvement in the condition of the working classes—the makers and attenders of machines. In spreading abroad useful information respecting improvements on machinery, we consider that it exerts a happy influence in advancing the interests of employer and employed. It is a mistaken idea with men who own mills of any kind to think that they can make up for defective machinery by making their operatives labor unremitingly during more than ten hours per day. We have noticed that the operatives in those factories which employed the best machinery were the most tidy and intelligent. Since the abolition of the long hour system in England, the improvement in the condition and intelligence of the factory operatives has been gratifying to all men of benevolenWeelings; since improved machinery has been introduced, greater care, assiduity and intelligence have been displayed by the operatives, and there has been a mutual benefit experienced by both factory owners and operatives. Short sighted men saw nothing but ruin in the proposed change of the English factory system ; they have been happily disappointed, and those who at one time j were most opposed to the short hour system, j are now its strongest advocates. We hold to | the doctrine that the interests of the employer and employed are one, however different their positions, and the specific duties of each; they may be compared to different parts of machi- j nery in the same machine; when one part ! does not operate correctly, it tends to strain j and injure the others. Persons who endeavor to create and foster antagonist feelings between I them are neither wise nor upright. At one time we recommended that our manufacturers j throughout the union should hold a convention and agree to work only ten hours per day, so that there might be a uniform superior system adopted—one that would be a credit to our country, and which would take away the refuge that a tory member of Parliament found for the old crushing factory system in Britain, by pointing to the long hour system in Massachusetts. Our best and most liberal minded manufacturers in this State ; stand ready, we believe, to adopt the ten hour system if made general. We would rather our manufacturers moved in this matter than the operatives, for it would conduce to their honor if the reform came through them, rather than to have it wrung from them by law.
This article was originally published with the title "Mechanics, Millers, and Long Hours" in Scientific American 8, 21, 165 (February 1853)