Daniel Webster as an Economist

By Robert Lincoln Carey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
OPINIONS ON SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF PRODUCTION

I. MACHINE TECHNIQUE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

WEBSTER'S observations on the machine technique and its alleged benefits are worthy of respect and consideration. That he was favorably disposed toward the use of machinery was shown in his splendid speech of 1836 before the Boston literary society. He could not have been so enthusiastic all his life over the machine principle, else the noble expressions of the free-trade speeches in which he opposed its rapid growth in this country and referred to the "unwholesome workshops, the whirl of spindles, and the grating of rasps and saws" would be meaningless. His expressed opinions concerning machinery, like those of industrialism as a whole, underwent a change after the abandonment of the free-trade cause. Following that occurrence, almost nothing but praise was given to the automaton in industry as a device relieving man of many burdens and enabling him to reap the fruits of leisure time. He attributed the beginnings of material improvement and popular education to the birth of the mechanical era. He hailed the Industrial Revolution as a great blessing and elevated Arkwright to a place among the immortals. "Arkwright deserves to be regarded as the benefactor of mankind."1 Why he ignored the other great inventors and assigned so much honor to Arkwright is not known.

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1
Lecture before the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Boston, November 11, 1836, Writings and Speeches, vol. xiii, p. 69.

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