The old century adage, “all that glitters is not gold,” caught my attention, for this particular assignment. It explains the subject of the Industrial Revolution in a nutshell. Even though it may sound wonderful to say that the “New Industrialization Era” created more employment opportunities, and increased production in many areas of labor; it did not imply that it would come without negative consequences or unforeseen circumstances.
Before I further elaborate on the subject, I will provide a short glimpse of the era between1870 to 1900; the time frame during which the Industrial Revolution took off like a skyrocket. Alexander Hamilton figured Industrialization, would provide a great opportunity for combining agriculture and industry. His point of view was objective and projected into the future. Whereas current President, Thomas Jefferson, argued that the American’s fight for independence was to “allow people to live as ‘virtuous farmers.’ Earning their livelihoods from the soil.”
The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the late 18th Century. It was common in France, Germany, and England, where rules of “Industrialism” had already been created. It was a time where so many things blossomed out of nowhere, in America. These included, but were not limited to: emergence of factories, mega-cities, increased availability of goods and products, new technology
(including inventions), industrial machine-related injuries; child labor; massive immigration of other nationals into the US, and formation of organized labor. It was also a (covert) method of forcing the South to end slavery (by moving slaves from the fields to the factories).
The Industrial Revolutionary period was one, which created a sudden impact/changes in society, its industries, and way of living for human beings. These changes provide limited choices (such as lifestyle), because of their precipitated occurrence. This period of time has often been said to make a revolution revolutionary, for the reasons aforementioned. It was a period of time, which many saw as promising (i.e., better life, future and security), but which carried its unforeseen consequences. Making America great has always been the goal of every American Leader. The Industrial Revolution was indeed the perfect time to lead the nation towards that particular goal of making “America Great.” It was a great opportunity for the wealthy, to become wealthier.
I strongly disagree that the positive, short or long-term effects of the Industrial Revolution, supersede its negative implications. My contention is that what might seem like a “positive” change, is usually accompanied by consequences which affect humanity in many ways. The book, “Out of Many,” and excerpts from “Lecture 17” re-iterate the positive aspects of the Industrial Revolution. These include (but are not limited to): mass production, new inventions and technology, creation of jobs, job opportunities for farmers ; immigrants, an opportunity to achieve the “American Dream,” and above all to rise this great country, America, to be number one in this planet. Why shouldn’t the US be raised to that level? Scientists were inventing all sorts of devices to make jobs, easier and increase productivity. To mention a few, there was Thomas A. Edison, who invented the phonograph, so the employer could record messages to his employees. Edison also invented the light bulb, which replaced candles, which were usually dim at night and produced a lot of smoke. Alexander G Bell invented the telephone, and Samuel F. B. Morse created an encrypted form of messaging called “Morse Code,” and the associated telegraph. Morse Code was widely used by the Army, Navy, and Aviation, in years to follow its invention in 1836.
The negative consequences brought forth by the Industrial Revolution, were those of over-populated cities, which caused the annihilation of farmlands, so as to make way for factories and lucrative buildings and businesses. This urbanization and industrialization encouraged the migration of so many foreigners; however, being poorly skilled, many of them had to accept menial wages, direly ill or dangerous working conditions, and poor, over-populated cities, where communicative diseases were frequently spread among the inhabitants.
Such were the economic conditions for the poor back home, that they were obligated to bring their children to work for pay. The US thought it was a great concept to implement; since they were following the modus operandi of the British. During the 1870-1900’s, there was no such thing as “Labor Law,” to protect adults or children. Thus, employers were not held accountable for injuries, death, or dismemberment sustained as a result of carelessness, accidents, or mechanical malfunctions. Employees saw children as being “indispensable,” since they were small, and could perform “important” duties such as crawling or squeezing into tight spaces where they were asked to wash machinery parts inaccessible to adults.
These children were exploited, over-worked, and poorly paid. Besides this, the children were exposed to dangerous chemical fumes, which were often inhaled, came in contact with the skin, and created physical and/or mental illnesses which often stayed with them for the rest of their life. There were no laws to protect children against abuse or employment at an early age. Neither were there compensatory laws to protect individuals who severed a limb due to defective machinery; or the loss of a child who might have gotten stuck inside a machine, which accidentally “ate” him/her up. On the other hand, if a parent were killed while on duty, the child would then be homeless, and would be called a “street Arab.” If employees complained about wages, working conditions, compensation for wrongful death or dismemberment, the US Government would side with the employer, and putting the blame on the employee.
The US Government always sided with the wealthy employer, because of hefty taxes levied against them. Pretending to be oblivious of job-related incidents was easier than conducting an investigation and creating legislation or organizations to protect the employee. The end result of these conflicts was a high rate of unemployment, which employers resolved, by hiring immigrant workers who were willing to perform any job they were asked to do (including risking their life), for lesser wages than their US counterparts. Americans scorned upon immigrants; their belief was that Immigrants were inferior to them. This brought about the issue of racial tension and slavery, to the surface once again.
America had revolutionized, but at the expense of cheap labor. It was merely the already wealthy Americans, who benefited the most from their investments, because they had the power to purchase, employ, and reap the wealth from their investments. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the US became the third country (in human history), to rule the world; with Spain dominating the 16th Century, and England dominating the 19th.
Back in the South, 90 percent of the workforce was composed of African Americans. In the Piedmont Community (in southern Virginia, central North ; South Carolina, northern Alabama ; Georgia), the workers became number one, in producing yarn and cloth; surpassing that of New England in production. Looking at the wages of these workers, compared to others, would you say America was Great if it was so unfair and unequal? A Southern black woman earned $120; while a white woman $220 (per year for both). Black males earned an annual income of $300, which was at, or below poverty levels.
In conclusion, this author believes that the Industrial Revolution had its pros and its cons; it is all a “matter of relativity,” as Einstein would say. If you ask a wealthy person and another of limited means whether the Industrial Revolution was beneficial or detrimental to their way of living, they would both reply differently. To the wealthy person, it would be beneficial to his company, since increased productivity increases the amount of revenue, as more of the product is made available to the consumer once ready, willing and able to purchase.
On the other hand, for the poor, factory worker, it would be an exciting moment in time, but simultaneously a frightful one. It would be “exciting” in that it’s something relatively new (thus “revolutionary), has no precedent in the US, and therefore it was “frightful” to think that the US economy would plummet, if everything associated with the Industrial Revolution, failed.
The Industrial Revolution would also be seen as “frightful,” if a piece of machinery is seen as a “competitive worker.” Any time there is competition, involving productivity, efficiency and preciseness, there is always room for layoffs and job loss. When you are over worked and under paid, bringing your child to work to make “ends meet,” and one day, upon getting to work, you stumble upon one of these “gigantic metal monsters,” there’s no other sentiment but to feel threatened and intimidated.
It is customary that employers provide their employees with the “positive” aspects of a new machine, product, or procedure. It’s only with time, that pitfalls and dangers involved are discovered. By then, the use of safety standards would be futile, because a human life or limb, are irreplaceable. Thus, a revolutionary Revolution, is bound to bring about positive change, but along the way, it sweeps and carries away with the lives of those who can’t keep up with the demands.