Intelligence among the Working People

Now while we feel truly proud of the superior intelligence of some of our workingmen, mechanics and factory operatives – the great proficiency they have made in intellectual pursuits against formidable disadvantages; yet we are no way disposed to shroud the truth, that by far the largest portion manifest little or no interest in mental improvement, and as a faithful friend to the well being of society and the numerous class with which we are more particularly identified, we are duty bound to represent things as they really exist. We know that mealymouthed demagogues and unprincipled conservatives, that they may retard the spirit of investigation abroad in the land and more effectually accomplish their selfish and party designs; prattle loud and long about “the intelligence of our laboring population.” But no real enlightenment philanthropist who ardently desires to benefit his fellow beings will be guilty of such wickedness. A greater injustice cannot be committed upon any people than to deceive them upon this subject – to lull them into apathy by an eternal round of fulsome eulogies upon the virtues and intelligence which they do not posses, and thereby encourage ignorance and mental indifference.

But upon whom shall the blame rest for the lamentable indisposition among the workingmen and workmen to cultivate their mental powers? Shall it be charged entirely upon the labors themselves? Is there anything in the nature of healthy bodily exercise that should produce such a result?

We think not, and to the enlightened, reflecting mind, we think it must appear very clear, that the causes of this growing evil is to be charged in a great degree, to overwork and inadequate pay. Hence the evil springs up from the present organization of industry. In order to supply himself and family with the bare comforts of life, the laboring man is obliged to exercise his physical faculties until they are exhausted and he is unfitted for study or reflection. A continued round of daily toil together with the constant anxiety for tomorrow’s work and tomorrow’s bread, finally renders the intellectual aspirations dormant and the man sinks down, a mere pack-horse to carry others burdens.

We admit that this evil is not confined entirely, to the poorest class of workingmen, but many who possess wealth – business men, in the general scramble for more, almost or entirely neglect all faculties of the mind but those directly called into action by their love of gain; but the cause of both cases arises from the present unjust condition of labor – the fear of want and poverty and a desire to become independent from pecuniary embarrassments. When we reflect, that upon the intelligence of the working people of this country, rests the destinies of the nation and then look around us and view its alarming depreciation, and the social, political and industrial engines that are at work in Society to hasten ignorance and crime – we at times tremble for the future.

While by precept men condemn ignorance and vice, they encourage and generate them by their business, social and political relations. A large amount of wealth is invested in this country to support the cause of its concomitant evils. We erect factories the structure of which is cemented together by the blood and tears of Labor; we manufacture gay fabrics, into which are woven the very sinews of Labor; we build fine Stores with elegant Windows in which we display our goods, and when poor Labor comes along with weary frame and disconsolate mind – we stand with smiles and pleasing words and offer him “rare bargains.” We tell him that “fine cloths and trappings makes the man” and thereby lure from him what little means and desire for mental improvement he had left, and then go to the Lecture room or Newspaper columns and censure him for want of intelligence and economy!

O, what a world of “blind leaders of the blind.” When will men learn that justice to all is the only safeguard of National and individual intelligence and prosperity.



Think, all of you, think of yourselves, upon what you read, of the incidents you meet with in life, of your work, of whatever deserves your thought. Do not let the hours glide away, and do nothing with your brain but dream. A laboring man or woman, to become useful in the world, to gain a good name, to meet with troubles, to succeed with their work, to shun all the snares that may be in their path, to be prepared to act out of their place when called upon, to be happy and rich, must think.

Think always. The miser thinks of his money, the merchant of his ships, the manufacturer of his machinery and other property, the farmer of his crops, the rascal of a hundred things at once to make him miserable, but the laborer can think of his work and himself, and ‘know himself’ and be above all those who use the mind for one purpose only. Think thoughts of your own and not depend upon others. Reflect always, and endeavor to ‘go ahead’ and think some new thoughts, and not always live upon musty old notions and never know whether they are right or not.

—The Age


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