Home >> Cyclopedia Of Knowledge >> Knight Of Shire to Militia >> Machinery_P1


labour, nature, production, society, stronger, object, faster and strength

Page: 1 2 3 4 5

MACHINERY. It is proposed to con sider, in this article, the influence which is exercised by machinery upon the ge.

neral interests of mankind, and especially upon the well-being of different classes of society. There is no subject in the pre sent age which is more deserving of attention ; and none, perhaps, in which all classes are so much concerned. What ever theoretical opinions may be enter tained by speculative men, the use of ma chinery in aid of human labour. or, as some contend, instead of it, is rapidly in creasing and cannot be restrained; it is right therefore for all men to endeavour to judge for themselves in what manner it is valuable to society, and whether the in juries attributed to it be real or imagi nary. By some, every new machine is viewed as an addition to the wealth and resources of a country ; by others it is regarded as a hateful rival of human in dustry—as iron contending with straining sinews—as steam struggling against the life and blood of man. The one view is full of hope and promise : the other is fraught with gloom and sadness. One would present society advancing in wealth and comfort ; the other would show it descending faster and faster into wretchedness. But even those who be lieve that the inventive faculties of men have been engaged in devising for them selves a curse, would Fladly be con vinced that cheerful anticipations of good are consistent with sound philosophy.

The influence of machinery is of two kinds, 1st, as it affects the production and consumption of commodities ; and 2ndly, as it affects the employment of labour.

As regards production, the effects of machinery have been well described to be the same "as if every man among us had become suddenly much stronger and more industrious." (Results of Machi nery, 7th edit., p. 36.) If, by the aid of machinery, ten men can perform the work of twenty, and perform it better and more quickly, the products of their labour are as much increased as if they had really "become suddenly much stronger and more industrious," and, it may be added, more skilful. Thus production, which is the object of all labour, is more abun dant, and society enjoys the results of in dustry at a less cost. Who can doubt that this is a great benefit, unless it be attended with evils which are not at first perceptible ? No man labours more lien is necessary to effect his object, and his constant desire is to contrive modes of saving his own physical exertions. A rich soil and a fine climate are universally esteemed as blessings because the people enjoy abundance with comparatively little labour. A poor soil and bad climate

are evils, because the husbandman must labour much though the produce of his industry be small.

Labour without adequate results is always regarded as a curse, and almost every human invention, from the earliest times, has had for its object the saving of labour and the increase of production. Horses and other beasts of burden were made to work for man : to bear loads which otherwise they must have borne themselves ; to draw the plough which otherwise their own strength must have forced through the soil. To the same object all nature has been made subser vient. The stream turns the mill, and does the work of man ; the wind per forms the same office. A boat is built to save men the labour of carrying their goods to a distance, and it is less labour to row the boat than to carry its cargo : but rowing is laborious, and sails were invented that the wind should do the work of man. In all other matters it has been the same. Man is weak in body, and ill endowed by nature with the means of self-preservation and subsistence. Many animals are stronger and most ani mals are more active than himself: they can pursue their prey with more cer tainty, they are armed with weapons of offence and defence, and they need no shelter from the weather but that which nature has provided , their own powers and their own instinct suffice for their preservation. But man was created naked and defenceless. To live he must invent, and reason was given to him that he might force all nature into his ser vice. His teeth and nails were powerless against the fangs and claws of the wild beast; but his hands were formed with wondrous aptitude for executing the tasks which reason set them. He invented tools and implements and weapons, and all nature became his slave. He was now able to make his own strength effect as much as if he had become stronger and more industrious. He produced more for his own comfort and subsistence, with little labour, than the greatest exertions could otherwise have obtained for him. Every successive invention has made him more powerful, has increased his strength, and multiplied the productions of his industry; and at length the giant power of steam has peopled the world with inanimate slaves who do his work faster and better than he did it himself with the greatest labour and the most ingenious tools.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5