Northern Labor and Antislavery: A Documentary History

By Philip S. Foner; Herbert Shapiro | Go to book overview

I
Wage Labor
and Chattel Slavery

THIS OPENING CHAPTER PRESENTS DOCUMENTS OFFERING COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE SYSTEM OF WAGE LABOR AND THAT OF CHATTEL SLAVERY.

1. A Rhode Island newspaper rebuts the slaveholder argument that slaves were better treated than wage workers but also calls attention to conditions of exploitation prevailing in New England textile mills.


OPPRESSIONS IN COTTON FACTORIES

Food for the Southern Slave-holders

When the abominable system of Southern slavery is spoken of to the people of the south, they are apt to retort upon their northern accusers, by pointing them to the condition of the laborers in our cotton factories. They say that their slaves are treated better than our factory help. Now this is not true; yet they have too much to make of it, after all. There is, in many of our factories, down-right oppression. I am not now speaking of Pawtucket. On the score of working-hours the Pawtucket owners and agents are humane compared with many in this State. On the 7th of June I happened to be at Natick about noon. I found that they gave the help but 30 minutes at dinner. On inquiry I was informed that they rung them in to mill in the morning before sunrise (at 4 o'clock,) and kept them until nearly 8. Thus they drill them nearly 15 hours out of twenty-four, as I figure. This, considering all the circumstances is downright oppression: atrocious barbarity. I am informed that this is the practice all up and down the Warwick and Coventry Mills. Never, perhaps, were the manufacturers doing better than they are now; and yet they work their help, who have but small wages, at this rate. I would speak freely to Gov. Sprague, one of the owners of the Natick mills, on this subject. He and I were fellow-townsmen-- bro't up in the same neighborhood. I was in his father's employ--his Clerk--when he started his first spindle. William, (since then Governor and Senator in Congress,) was

-1-

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Northern Labor and Antislavery: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xxvii
  • I- Wage Labor and Chattel Slavery 1
  • II- Abolition Addresses Labor 83
  • III- Land Monopoly, Universal Reform and Slavery 126
  • IV- Voices of Labor on Slavery and Abolition 195
  • V- From the 1850s Crisis to Civil War 242
  • Index 297
  • About the Editors *
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