This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
c. The laborer is not all workman. While his special occupation provides for his subsistence, and endows him with energy, industry, and concentrativeness of mind and character, he has other hours and other duties, ample, if reasonably used, to compensate for all the evil mental effects of his continuous toil.
It will be observed, that it is only to the division of labor beyond a certain point, that the objections we have discussed have any application. A more ill-developed society, with more ill-developed members, could not be conceived than where this principle was not applied at all. In fact, there could be neither members nor society; but here and there a savage would bask in the summer sun, or hide himself in the storms of winter, in hopeless, helpless barbarism.
However we may speculate, a priori, on the consequences of dividing minutely the parts of labor, we may perhaps get a stronger light and a better view by observing the mightiest experiment of industry ever known in the world, — that of England to-day. Nowhere are the natural advantages of agriculture more apparant; nowhere has manufacturing been more elaborated. Yet no person can be cognizant of the condition of the English population, without being assured that the manufacturing, laboring class is almost immeasurably above the agricultural in intelligence, in independence of character, and obedience to law. Probably the most conservative nobleman of the realm would admit that the former class is far better qualified for the franchise than the latter.
3d, It will follow, from what has been already urged, that division of labor, in its greatest extension, has a tendency, or at least there is found in it a liability, to lower the average of health, to shorten life, and prevent the natural increase of population.
All these results are found, on examination, more or less, but still above the general facts of the country, in all the great centres of manufacturing industry, where the full possibilities of the mechanic arts are realized by the intense subdivision of labor. This result can only be partially and confusedly shown by statistics: still enough can be extracted to assure us that there is a great loss of vital energy, whether or not it is necessary to such a state of industry.
The American average of life may be expressed nearly as follows: * —
Cultivators of the earth...... 64 years.
Active mechanics out of shops .... 50 „
Active mechanics in shops..... 47½ „
Inactive mechanics in shops..... 413/4 „
Laborers, no special trades..... 45½ „
These statistics, accurately gathered and showing the results of many years, require " correction " in several particulars, if the real lesson of them is to be obtained. In the first place, two-thirds of the Class of mechanics as presented here are engaged in such occupations as do not allow any very extended subdivision of the parts, so that the average of the great manufacturing establishments and their dependent cities would be found still more striking. In the second place, the agricultural occupations are continually making contribution to manufacturers of their best blood and bone, renewing the natural waste of the mill and shop, and so interfering with the statistics of the subject. This element can neither be eliminated nor determined. We shall rest satisfied with knowing it is there. So important is it at times, that Lowell appears on the tables as one of the healthiest cities of America. It is unquestionably true that much of the historical feebleness and mortality of such places has been avoided by more humane and intelligent precautions, by gymnastic sports and out-door games, and by a better adaptation of all the conditions of production to the necessities of life and well-being. But the great fact which accounts for this seeming healthfulness of a manufacturing city is the constant infusion of the fresh, vigorous, young blood of the country.
* Massachusetts Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
It is not necessarily a disadvantage in this respect, that manufactures, in their greatest centralization, prevent the full natural increase of population. Indeed, it is a beneficent provision of Nature which checks propagation in precisely those circumstances where the offspring is less likely to receive that nourishment and care and exercise which shall secure its best development. Far from being a misfortune, it is well that those who are to live in the cities should be born in the.country, and get size and strength on the hills and in the open air. This tendency does not go so far as to deprive the dwellers in the cities, and the workers in brass and wool, of the cares and the pleasures and the culture of paternity. Yet the law that men shall be •born upon the land is as clear in history, and in our common observation, as any fiat of Nature.