Page:The Chartist Movement.djvu/57

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captains of industry, whose fathers had perhaps been content to follow the example of the domestic master by living next to their workshops and factories, built themselves country houses farther away from the town, whilst their employees festered amidst the appallingly insanitary streets and alleys which had grown up around the factories. This separation was emphasised when, with the rise of joint-stock companies, the employer became practically the agent for a number of persons who had no other connection with or interest in industry than those arising out of the due payment of dividends. Such conditions arouse no particular feelings of discontent at the present day, but at a time when organisations for mutual protection against oppression were very infrequent and seldom very effective, it was felt that the personal and social contact of the employer and his workmen was the only guarantee of sympathetic treatment.[1] This divorce of classes in industrial society was making headway everywhere, even in those industries which were still under domestic arrangements, as the industry fell more and more into the hands of large wholesale houses. Crude ideas of class war were making their presence felt amongst the working people, whilst employers, who were influenced by the equally one-sided political economy of the period, tended to regard the interests of their class as paramount and essential to the development of national prosperity. The bane of the industrial system was the encouragement it gave to the rise of a brood of small capitalists but little removed in culture and education from the working people themselves, slender of resources, precarious in position, and therefore unable to abate one jot of the advantage which their position gave them over their workmen, often unscrupulous and fraudulent, and generally hated by those who came under their sway. There was as yet no healthy public opinion such as at present reacts with some effect upon industrial relationships, though such an opinion was growing up by the year 1840. Ignorance allowed many abuses to flourish, such as the hideous exploitation of women and children in mines and collieries as well as in other non-regulated industries. Working men might with reason feel that they were isolated, neglected, and exposed to the oppression of a social system which was not of their own making or choosing, but which, as they thought, was not beyond the control of their united power.

  1. See the very interesting remarks in the report on the silk industry of Coventry. Parliamentary Papers, 1840, xxiv. pp. 188 et seq.