It has already been said that the average rate of inhabitancy is six persons per house in the State of Massachusetts, but the presence of the French in Holyoke actually doubles the inhabitancy of the whole town, with what effect upon their own special quarter may easily be imagined. Probably nowhere in Europe could there be found more crowded houses, and worse physical conditions of life, than in the quarters inhabited by certain alien operatives in many manufacturing towns of the United States.
Sharp contrasts as they are, these sketches fairly picture the heights and depths of industrial conditions in a region which, as I would again remind you, contains nearly one-half of all the factory operatives in America. More than this, while the States in question would yield to no others their claims to represent advanced civilization, Massachusetts, the creation of the Puritan refugees, and the cradle of American independence, stands confessedly at the head of all her sister States for enlightened philanthropy. There are no greater lovers of right, honorers of industry, and friends to education in the world than its people, yet the present social condition of Holyoke and of Lowell, as of many other manufacturing cities, would have shocked all America thirty years ago, and been impossible less than half a century back. It is time we should ask, How is America going to treat a problem, formerly the danger and still the perplexity of Europe, for which democratic institutions have failed to furnish the solution once confidently, but unfairly, expected from them?
The State, the Church, and the School are all doing their best to prevent the lapse to lower conditions which seems to threaten labor in the States, each of them trying their utmost to "make Americans" of alien laborers, by means of the political, religious, and educational institutions of the country. How inadequate these unaided agencies are for the accomplishment of their gigantic task is nowhere so clearly realized as in the common, or free, schools of the States. These, in districts such as I have distinguished as "American," are filled with boys and girls, of all ages from five to eighteen, whose appearance and intelligence bespeak high social conditions. Whatever the occupation which these young people may ultimately adopt - and all of them are destined for work-a-day lives - an observer feels quite sure that they are more likely to raise the character of their several employments, than to be themselves degraded to lower social levels, on quitting school.
But no similar confidence in the future of American labor is engendered by visits to the schools where sits the progeny of alien labor. In the case of the Canadians, indeed, parents and priests alike bend all their energies to the establishment of "parochial schools," which, if they forward the cause of the Church, do little for education in the American sense of requiring good citizens, even more than good scholars, at the hands of the national teachers.
The primary schools of great industrial towns, such as Fall River, the Manchester of America, are filled, to quite as great an extent as similar schools in Europe, with ignorant, ragged, and bare-footed urchins. These children are, indeed, no less well cared for and taught than their Yankee fellows, and one cannot sufficiently admire the energy and enthusiasm with which school-teachers generally endeavor to "make Americans" of their stolid and ragged little alien charges. In these cases, however, where often the children have had no schooling at all before they are old enough to work, it is quite clear that the school cannot do all that is required to raise the labor of to-day up to the levels it occupied in the past. And, if the school itself is ineffective in this regard, how much more so must be the Church, to which immigrant youth is a comparative stranger; or those democratic institutions which are based, to quote the words of Washington himself, upon "the virtue and intelligence of the people."
Whether the present condition of labor in America will ever again be lifted to the levels of the past depends, in truth, less upon the State, the Church, and the School, than upon the part which the American employer is taking or about to take in this question. It is impossible for any unprejudiced observer to be long in the States, and especially in the New England States, without coming to the conclusion that a large number of employers are very anxious about the character of the labor they employ, and willing to assist to the utmost of their power in improving it. In spite of the love of money and luxury which is so conspicuous a feature of certain sections of American society, a high ideal of the proper function of wealth has arisen in the States, where large fortunes are chiefly things of recent date, among large and influential classes having an enlightened regard for the best welfare of the country. This regard finds expression now in the establishment of a factory, managed with one eye on profits and another on the elevation of the artisan, and now in the endowment of free libraries or similar institutions, offering opportunities of improvement to all.
To give only a few instances of the former movement: Mr. Pullman, the great car-builder, has recently established, on Lake Calumet, a vast system of workshops and workmen's homes, a description of which reads like a chapter from More's "Utopia." The Waterbury Watch Company has lately built a factory, employing 600 hands, on similar lines to those of Mr. Pullman. Cheney Brothers' silk mills at South Manchester remain now, after Irish labor has entirely taken the place of native hands, at almost the same high level as that which, in common with Lowell, they held forty years ago. Messrs. Fairbanks, of St. Johnsbury, in Vermont, conduct a large establishment, where every married employe owns a house in the village, almost an Eden for beauty and order, which has grown up around these remote but remarkable scale works. Similarly, the Cranes at Dalton, in Massachusetts; Messrs. Brown, Sharpe and Co., at Providence, Rhode Island; Mr. Hazard at Peacedale, Narragansett; and last, not least, Col. Barrows, at Willimantic, in Connecticut, have all succeeded in restoring the past conditions of native American labor among operatives, now, for the most part, of alien origin.