William Dealtry.

The laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society online

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with 900 men, and destroyed the public stores. 200,000
people in Virginia were made helpless by slaves. The
Governor could only get 200 persons to attack this bold in-
vader. The excuse was, slaves had to be watched. Slaves
fortified Savannah, and made it impregnable against the at-
tacks of Count D'Estaing and Gen. Lincoln. Hundreds
of Americans were slain in ditches dug by slaves.*

An article in Harper's Magazine, 1864, "The burning of
Washington, in 1814," says: "The 5,000 men that burned
the city were composed of infantry, marines, and negroes^
who were bribed by promises, and forced by threats, to
enter the British army."

The "great Democratic party" has ever been the bul-
wark of slavery ; the advocate of a system of cruelty that
has made this government the derision of the world. Had
there been no slaves, the United States would have had no
wars. It was 500,000 slaves, in 1776, that invited a for-
eign army to these shores. It was to enable the South to
sell cotton, rice, tobacco, and sugar in Europe, that caused
the war of 1812. It was to recover 1,500 runaway slaves
that the Florida Indians were fought. The Florida war
cost this nation $40,000,000, and the lives of 4,500 soldiers.
The Mexican war was to favor slavery, and took thousands

*See "History of Slavery " p. 333. By W. O. BLAKE, Columbus, O. 1857.


of lives and cost $60,000,000. This war, and the repeal of
the "Missouri Compromise/' has led to the late unhappy
war, the evil effects of which will be felt for a generation.

If this country had been without wars, there would have
been twice as many cities, houses, and farms. There can
be no apology for African slavery. The importation of
African slaves degenerates the people who receive them,
their manners become like those of the slave. Slavery, bru-
talizes master and slaves, makes a people feeble in intellect
and resources, and incapable of self-defense from internal
and foreign invasion.

Look at the condition of the savage ; he is always on the
verge of famine. In civilized society there is an abundance ;
it is very unequally distributed. Slavery may have been a
cause of this abundance. Queen Anne, in N. Y. State gave
Van Rensselaer, the right to take a piece of land containing
5,000 square miles, and has now more than 300,000 persons
on it. Fulton had a conception of a steamboat, and was too
poor to build it. Had he asked any of the farmers who
inhabit this wide domain, for assistance he would have got
none. He asked for help of one of the u lords of a manor,"
and with it gave the world a steamboat. The sight of
wealth is a stimulant to invention and toil. As slavery has
passed away, the laborer should try and get more of earth's
comforts. There is nothing in nature why the laborer, who
does quadruple work, should only get single pay.




" Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in fetters." ROUSSEAU.

IT must be self-evident to those who will reason
human society needs reconstructing. This can be
proved by the many scenes of suffering around us.
A poor mother was found in the railroad station, at Day-
ton, with a dead child in her arms ; it had died with hunger.
The parents and other children were in a starving con-
dition for want of food. In London a woman went in the
street to sell flowers ; her child died in her arms for want of
nourishment. It is true there is public relief, but doled
out in small quantities, and grudgingly given; those who ap-
ply for it are often rudely repulsed. In a state of nature
all things are common. The Australian native does not
suffer like those who live in ruder climes. The bill of fare
to these natives is not very scanty. The whale, when cast
on the shore, opens in the heart of the discoverer feelings
of hospitality; he kindles a fire on the beach, which is the
signal for his companions to come and have a feast. Pieces
of whale are toasted on sticks before the fire. Eating and
sleeping, singing and dancing, for days now take place. A
hunter in civilized countries i$ often a gentleman, and cares



nothing for what he kills ; it is the sport, the appetite to eat
up other's food that is wanted. It is with an Australian a
more serious affair . Hunting quickens his sight and hear-
ing. With skill and patience he throws a spear at an ani-
mal, whose hind legs are twice as long as his fore ones.
If killed, wife and children prepare and cook it. A hole is
heated in the sand. When hot the animal with his skin
on, is put in. A fire on the top cooks it. The women
dig and bake roots for this feast. Seals are sometimes sur-
prised. The wife and children witness the skill and activ-
ity of the father ; he plays and romps with his children till the
seal is cooked. The Australian is very dextrous in feeling
with his toes for turtles in the ponds, and he is skillful at
fishing ; these are wrapped in grass and baked in hot sand.

The civilized man is often in want of food. Those who
possess the soil can make all others obedient to their will.
The Commercial inquires, "Why are there bread riots in
England ? The country is filled with gold, and the nation
has an abundant harvest.*' The reason is plain, the coun-
try is filled with machines, that do the labor; the living
laborer is not wanted. The abundance that is made, feeds
men abroad seeking for diamonds, pearls, silver, and gold.

The twentieth annual report of the Board of Directors of
Girard College, says: "That 500 pupils were educated. Dif-
ficulty is experienced in binding out pupils in accordance
with Mr. Girard's will, in consequence of the breaking up
of the old system of apprenticeship, and the introduction of
machinery into trades. It is apprehended that in the future
permanent situations can only be for a few." Sad news
to be told there are no places for boys to work in. It is
sadder still to know that 2,000,000 of persons in this land,
have soil sufficient to keep 200,000,000 in food. Much
of this land is for speculation v to the injury of poor boys


who want homes. These boys, to get this land,will have to
toil very hard. Blackstone says : U A few words on parch-
ment does not give the dominion of land." It seems to be
the will of Providence that a few should monopolize the soil,
to improve the rest. The wide domains that Queen Anne
gave to her favorites did not belong to her. The rich men
will pass away when the laborer is intelligent.

For a long time after the conquest, the Anglo-Saxon di-
visions of society were maintained, and the inhabitants of
England were divided into freemen and slaves. Except the
great baronial proprietors and their free tenants, the rest of
the nation was depressed in servitude, which was uniform
in its principle. Those who had fallen into bondage could
not acquire any right to any species of property.

One class of villains, or villagers, though bound to the
most servile offices of rural industry, were permitted to oc-
cupy small portions of land to sustain themselves and fam-
ilies. Other ranks of men, equally servile, are noticed in
the ancient records, particularly the bordars and the cottars.
The former, in consideration of being allowed a small cot-
tage, were required to provide poultry, eggs, and other arti-
cles of diet for the lord's table. The latter were employed
as smiths, carpenters, and other handicrafts, in which they
had been instructed, at the expense of the lord. Inferior to
these were the thralls, or servi, employed in menial services
around the mansion. Their lives were protected by law.
With the consent of their owners these cottars could pur-
chase their manumission. In other respects they were in
the lowest degradation ; and were to be considered as mere
chattels and regular articles of commerce.

Giraldus says: "That so great was the number ex-
ported into Ireland, for sale, in the reign of Henry II, that
the market was overstocked. From William I to the time


of John, scarcely a cottage in Scotland but what possessed
an English slave." In the details of the border wars, men-
tion is frequently made of the number of slaves taken pris-
oners as forming a principal part of the booty.

It is not easy to ascertain from writers, the difference in
the condition of the bondmen. It arose, probably,* from the
utility of their occupations. The servi, or serfs, were
less valuable than cottars or bordars, who had been trained
to useful arts. All, however, alike have been denied the
attributes of freemen. The law recognised in none the
uncontrolled right to property, or change of place, without
the consent of the superior. The lord had the absolute
disposal of their persons, they might be attached to the soil,
or transferred from one owner to another ; in short, they
were slaves, in the strictest sense of the word men under
perpetual servitude, which the master only could dissolve.

Sharon Turner says : "The population of England, after
the desolation of the Normans, amounted to 1,700,000, or
near that number. It is supposed that 100,000 persons
were swept away by the Conqueror, in laying waste the
country betwixt the Humber and the Tees. Attempts
have been made to class the population, at the close of the
the Anglo-Saxon period, into -the several proportions of no-
bles, freemen, and those of servile condition, but with no
pretensions to accuracy. In thirty-four counties the citi-
zens are made to amount to 17,100, the villains to 102,700 ;
the bordars to 74,800 ; the cottars to 5,900 ; the thralls or
serfs to 26,500. The remaining population consisted of
freemen, ecclesiastics, knights, thanes, and land-owners."

Of the domestic comforts enjoyed by this class we know
but little. It may be presumed that from motives of inter-
est, the lord would supply his villain in infancy and manhood,
with the essential necessaries of life. It creates in the

This full-fed man offers this little outcast, a street sweeper, some money to buy a
new broom. It is to test his honesty, so that he can assist him to gain wealth and
ease. Such objects would never pain our minds, in this wintry scene, if the chil-
dren of the poor were sent to a school of industry, and taught to plant, build, spin,
and weave, so that they can cultivate the earth, and produce their food and fleece*.
The managers of " Girard College ," in their report, say it is difficult for them to
find places for their orphans to learn trades; and the cause of this is, labor is done
by machinery. This fact proves that society should do something to promote the
happiness of those poor and abject boys, whose labor is of no utility to any person.


master the same motives for rearing and preserving his
thralls as his cattle a tie dissolved by the laborer becom-
ing independent, and left to his own prudence to make a
provision for the vicissitudes of health and employment.

The work of mitigation and final extinction of English
slavery, was a gradual and lengthened operation. The first
blow the system received was the disuse of the practice
of converting war prisoners into bondmen. The diffusion
of Christianity, by teaching mankind that they were equal,
early awakened men to a sense of the injustice of making
one man the property of another. Frequently at the interces-
sion of confessors, the feudal lords were induced to enfran-
chise their slaves. In the eleventh century, the Pope for-
mally issued a bull for the emancipation of slaves. It was
declared at the great council, in 1 102, held at Westminster,
unlawful to sell slaves in the open market.
. It would be a mistake to suppose that slavery ceased in
the land with this decree. In the Magna Charta, and the
charter of Henry III, obtained in 1225, a class of men
are mentioned, who appear to have been treated as chattel
property. The prohibition to guardians from wasting the
men or cattle, on the estates of minors, is a clear proof that
villains were held by servile tenures.* Long after this pe-
riod they were considered a salable commodity. Sir F.Eden
cites these instances from ancient authorities: "In 1283, a
slave and his family were sold by the abbot of Dunstable,
for 135. id. In 1333, a lord granted to a chantry several
messuages, together with the bodies of eight natives dwell-
ing there, with all their chattels and offspring. In 1339,15
an instance of a gift of a nief[a female slave,] with all her
family, and all that she might possess, and did then own.
It was not till the reign of Charles II, that slavery was

*VILLAINS- those who lived in villages. BORDARS cultivators of bordage lands.


wholly abolished by statute." So late even as 1775, the
colliers in Scotland were bondmen. If they left the ground
to which they belonged, and as pertaining to which their
services were bought and sold, they were liable to be
brought back by summary procedure before a magistrate.
This slavery was ended by Act 15, Geo. Ill cap. 28.

Wm. Howitt, in his "Rural Life in England," says: U A
person is struck, when he enters Durham, with the sight of
bands of women working in fields, under the surveillance of
a man. You inquire why such regular bands of female la-
borers. The answer is : ' Oh, they are the bondagers.' Bon-
dagers ? that is an odd sound in England. What ! have
we a rural serfdom still existing in England ? Even so. It
is a fact. As I cast my eyes on these female bands, I was
reminded of the slave-gangs of the West Indies."

Wm. Cobbett says: "The single laborers are kept in
this manner: about four of them are put in a shed; which
shed, Dr. Jameson, in his Dictionary, calls a 'boothie' a
place where laboring servants are lodged. A boothie is a
little booth ; and here these men live and sleep, having an
allowance of oat, barley, and peameal, upon which they live,
mixing it with milk or water. They are allowed some
little matter of money to buy clothes with. They hire for
the year, under very severe punishment in case of misbeha-
vior or quitting service. A new place can not be had without
a character from the last master, and also from the minister.
Upon a steam-engine farm are the married laborers. These
live in a long shed, with stone walls, and divided into boo-
thies. Each boothie is twenty feet square. In this a man,
his wife and family have to live. To make the most of the
room, berths are erected, which they get up into when they
go to bed ; and here they are, a man, his wife, and a parcel
of children, squeezed up in a miserable hole, with their


meal and washing-tackle, and other things. It is a shame
that they are permitted to enjoy so small a portion of the
fruits of all their labors. Their dwelling place is bad, their
food is worse, that upon which horses and hogs are fed.

"The married man receives about four pounds a year.
He also has sixty bushels of oats, thirty of barley, twelve of
peas, and three of potatoes, and also pasture for a cow.
The oatmeal is made into porridge. The barley-meal and
pea-meal are mixed and baked into cakes. These cultiva-
tors get no wheaten bread, beef, or mutton, though the land
is covered with wheat and cattle. The laborer is wholly
at the mercy of the master, who, if he will not keep him
beyond the year, can totally ruin him, by refusing him a
character. The necessity of a character from the last em-
ployer makes the man a real slave, worse off than the negro
by many degrees. The master has no motive to attend to
his health or preserve his life. From daylight to dark these
people work. The cattle, sheep, and wheat are sold. The
farmer gets a little of the money, almost the whole of it is
squandered, by the lord at London, Paris, and Rome, to
whom the laborers are slaves, and the farmers slave-drivers.
Farm-yards are factories for making corn and meat."

In the reign of Edward I the condition of the villains
was so far ameliorated, that they were not obliged to per-
form every mean and servile office that the will of the lord
required. Tenures were acquired on lands on condition of
rendering certain services, such as reaping the lord's corn, or
cleaning his fish-ponds, harrowing lands for two days in the
year, or carting the lord's timber. As early as 1257, a ser-
vile tenant, if employed before midsummer, received wages,
and he was permitted, instead of working himself, to pro-
vide a laborer for the lord ; from which it is evident he pos-
sessed the means of hiring one. At this period a class of la-


borers began to exist, who were at liberty to barter their
services to the best bidder. These were important trans-
actions, indicating the rise of a middle class and indepen-
dent race of workers. By granting to the vassals a right to
property, they received a stimulus to acquire more ; and by
giving to them a part of the immunities of freemen, they
were raised one step in the social scale, and put in a state
to contend and treat with their oppressors for the remainder.

While the people were in a state of slavery, it may be
conjectured that their diet would be the mere offal and re-
fuse of their master ; and no more than necessary, to en-
able them to support their toil. At this period, the food of
the laborer was principally fish, bread, and beer. Mutton
and cheese were considered articles of luxury, which formed
the harvest-home feast.

Wages were a penny a day at harvest, and a half-penny
at other times. Their habitations were without chimneys,
and their principal furniture consisted of a brass pot, valued
at three shillings ; and a bed at six shillings.

The variations in the prices of commodities were great,
owing to the absence of middlemen. The trade of a corn-
dealer was unknown ; except at the Abbey-Granges. The
natural consequence must have been, that the farmers had
no capital, and disposed of their crops at moderate prices
soon after the harvest. Purchasers who only looked to im-
mediate use, and having corn cheap, were usually improvi-
dent. As the year advanced, the price frequently arose
enormously before harvest. Stowe relates, that in 1317,
before harvest the supply of wheat was nearly exhausted, the
price was 4. the quarter. After harvest it was 6s. 8d. A
reference to the table of wages and the price of food tells
of the misery of the times.

The progress of manufacturing industry, and town pop-


ulation operated favorably on the condition of the working
classes. The woolen manufacture had been known as
early as the Conquest, and, for greater security during a bar-
barous age, had been chiefly established in boroughs and
cities. It was at first carried on by the Flemings. The
privileges, conferred by the sovereign, on weavers, fullers,
and clothiers, in allowing them to carry on their trades in
walled towns, and form themselves into guilds and compa-
nies, governed by corporate laws, were not more intended
for the advancement of their art, than to protect their per-
sons from popular outrage, and their property from depre-
dation. Such was the want of police during the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, that robbers formed themselves
into bands, under powerful barons, who employed them in
acts of violence and plunder, and justified their conduct,
and partook of their booty. The king's retinue was often
beset and pillaged by banditti. Towns, during the fairs,
were assaulted and ransacked, and men of rank carried off
and confined in the castle of some lawless chieftain, till
their ransom was paid. In so general a state of insecurity it
was impossible that the pursuits of agriculture should thrive
without special protection. The immunities granted to
merchants and manufacturers, to make laws, to raise troops
for their own defense, enabled them to taste the blessings
of order and protection, and enrich themselves, while the
occupiers of land were languishing in poverty and servitude.
The superior comforts enjoyed in towns, no doubt, inspired
the dependents of a manor with ideas of emancipation
from a state in which they could scarcely obtain the com-
forts of life.*

If in the hands of a poor cultivator, oppressed with the
services of villainage, some little stock should accumulate,

*Sir F. EDEN'S State of the poor, vol. I p 1 8.


he would naturally conceal it from his master, by whom it
would be claimed, and take the first opportunity to escape
to a town. The law was indulgent to the inhabitants of
towns, and so favorable to diminishing the authority of the
lord, over those in the country, that if a vassal should con-
ceal himself from the pursuit of his lord for one year he
was free forever.

By the demand for manufactures, a large number of vil-
lains were converted into free laborers. The number was
increased, during the long wars of Edward III, in France,
which must have obliged him to give freedom to many of
his villains, to recruit his exhausted armies. The legisla-
tion of 1350, gives us this fact, that those who worked at
husbandry and the loom worked for hire.

In 1344, a terrible pestilence prevailed, labor became ex-
tremely dear. A proclamation was issued to fix the price
of labor. "The Statute of Laborers" was enacted to en-
force it, by fines. The statute says, since the pestilence no
person would serve unless allowed double wages, to the de-
triment of the lords and commons. It provides that in fu-
ture plowmen, carters, shepherds, swineherds, and other
servants shall receive such liveries and wages as they re-
ceived in the twentieth year of the king's reign. If paid in
wheat it was to be tenpence a bushel. Hay-makers and
weeders were to be paid a penny a day ; mowers were to
receive fivepence a day ; reapers twopence a day, without
diet. Laborers were enjoined to carry their implements of
industry in their hands to the market towns, in a public
place, to be hired.

This unjust interference with the freedom of industry
was repeatedly confirmed by succeeding parliaments. A law
of 1363, regulated the diet and apparel of laborers; and
that of 1388, which prohibits servants from removing from


one place to another; and finally, to conclude these oppres-
sive enactments, justices of peace were to fix the price of
labor every Easter. The statute of 1363, directs that arti-
ficers, servants, and laborers, shall be served once a day,
with meat and fish, or the waste of other victuals, as milk
and cheese, according to their station. The cloth of yeo-
men and tradesmen, was not to cost more than one shilling
and sixpence a yard. Plowmen and other farm hands were
to use only black russet, at twelve pence a yard. Clothiers
were to make and keep a sufficiency on hand.

One important fact may be elicited : the laborers had ex-
tricated themselves from the grasp of their feudal masters,
who were compelled to resort to acts of parliament to get
power to compel servitude. Law was in place of arbitrary
power. Before the end of the fourteenth century, freedom,
order, and industry, had made considerable progress. The
mass of the people, when contrasted with those of the Con-
quest, were rich and thriving. Historians are silent on
many points there is evidence that domestic happiness was
greatly improved. The immunities granted to cities, the
introduction of manufactures, the dawning of the polite
arts, the humanizing tendency of Christianity, are causes
which have ameliorated the condition of the community.

It is to these that we may ascribe the changes in the po-
litical opinions of the laboring classes. Wat Tyler, in the
year 1381, required of the king abolition of slavery; free-
dom of commerce in market towns, without toll or impost,
and a fixed rent on lands instead of services by villainage.

"These requests," says Mr. Hume, "though extreme-
ly reasonable in themselves, the nation was not prepared to
receive, and which it were dangerous to have yielded to in-
timidations, were however complied with. Charters of
manumission were granted, and although they were revoked


after the rebellion was crushed many hundreds of the
insurgents were executed as traitors. The spirit that man-
ifested itself during this period, prevented masters from inv
posing, and vassals from again submitting, to the oppressive
service of bondage."

Various causes changed the villains into free laborers,

Online LibraryWilliam DealtryThe laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society → online text (page 5 of 33)