AT about the period of the Revolution that gave birth to our republic there began another revolution, in its origin not political but industrial, much slower in its progress but productive of results quite as momentous. Working by means of changes in the manual and mechanical processes by which men minister to one another and earn their daily bread, its results affected the mass of men more directly if not more vitally than any political changes could possibly do. While the political problems attending the organization of a new republic under unprecedented conditions and upon a nobler plan may be said to have been in a manner solved by a century of experience, the problems proposed to mankind as the result of the industrial revolution are but now beginning to be appreciated in their true importance, and to occupy a chief place in public attention.
The history of this movement would embrace, directly or indirectly, an account of all that chiefly distinguishes the nineteenth century from the eighteenth, the old régime from the new. It would include an account of the origin and rise of the factory system of industry, replacing the home work or small and scattered workshops of the old time by the aggregation of men and machinery at industrial centers. It would be much concerned with the discovery and perfection of the steam engine, the mighty prime mover in these changes, and after that with the discovery and development of its chief modes of application to the spindle, the weaving-frame, the forge, the printing-press, the mill, and innumerable other instruments of production; to the railway, the steamship, and other means of transportation and communication.
But only in its origin is the revolution exclusively industrial, and in the next stage are seen its immediate effects upon human life, of which perhaps the most important spring from the aggregation of industries and consequently of men in cities, accompa