The Problem of the Age

All eyes are turned upon the existing and increasing evils of present society, and all philanthropic hearts are earnestly seeking for a remedy. Our literature, our conversation, our public lectures, are all pregnant with the spirit of reform. Our poetry, our music, works of art, are prophetic aspirations for human freedom and human happiness. Now, as never before, are we asking for the embodiment of Christianity in the relations of life, and the intercourse of man with man. From every heart, that is worthy to be culled a heart, there comes an utterance of deep sympathy for the oppressed and wronged, and a demand as stern as justice for the abolition of social falseness, the breaking down of all castes and distinctions, the bridging of the widening gulf between the rich and the poor, and the distribution of honors and wealth according to merit and usefulness.

And the establishments of this law of social justice is certain as the reign of Providence. Unbearable and intolerable to the masses have become our present modes of oppression and injustice, in the sphere of industry. People are now rewarded in a proportion to their useless and idleness, and punished in proportion to their service to humanity.

The operative, who toils the live-long day, year in and year out, receives the poorest accommodations and the coarsest fare, with perhaps her $2 per week; while the factory baron who lives in his palace, surrounded with the luxuries and refinements of life, from the spoils of victorious commerce, and unjust dividends from monopolized labor, is paid his $200,000 per year.

Such is the social justice of the present internal order of society, and such the modes of distribution of the products of industry. Dependence and comparative poverty for the sons and daughters of toil – and honors and wealth for the scheming gambler in the “game of grab.” The creators of the world’s wealth, poor – the consumers of the products of labor, rich.

The omnipotent spirit of the times is setting like a tide against this outrageous system of distribution. A mode of rendering to every man his due, which shall not be unjust to capital, but shall be just to labor, just to the producer, is demanded, and the time for its adoption by the people cannot safely be delayed.

“In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat they bread.” “He that will not work, neither shall he eat.”  “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” “What a man produces by his own toil, is his own against the universe.” Such is the law of distributive justice ordained by Almighty God, and sustained by the common sense of mankind. And such is the law, too, which our present industrial baronage, in the North not less than the South, have trampled beneath their feet – which from first to last they not only disregard themselves, but consider it a crime for their cringing serfs to propose for their august- consideration.

This law must be incorporated into the structure of society. If a commercial federalism, or if all Loaferdom stands in the way, the spirit of this age, the reform-cry, warns them to “clear the track,” or be crushed beneath the wheels. “Fiat justitia, ruat” infernum. The evils must be remedied. And unless capital will move in this matter, and restore the violated rights of labor, the work shall be done by the people themselves.

When king-craft become intolerable, the people abolished it, and organized a government based on the sovereignty of humanity. When religious despotism became endurable no longer, the people asserted their right to spiritual freedom, and they achieved it. And if the people can organize their own politics, organize their own judiciary, organize their own forms of religion, organize their systems of education – why in the name of common sense, cannot they organize industry? Why can they not through their representatives apply this law of distributive justice, in rendering to every man according to works? Why may they not re-establish the right of human beings to live and labor on the earth as freemen, subject to no dictation of overseers, fleeced by no oligarchy of monopolists, and enjoying, every one, the creations of his own toil?

It must be done, it will be done. The work commenced by our fathers, will not be perfected till it is done. Organize Labor, and give to every man an equivalent of what he produces. Such is the mission to which we are called – such is the problem of the age.


The Voice of Industry is in the public domain.


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