Industrial Revolution-era critics believed that a narrow or unequal distribution of wealth was not beneficial to Americans. Name three Industrial Revolution critics and explain what solution he...

Industrial Revolution-era critics believed that a narrow or unequal distribution of wealth was not beneficial to Americans. Name three Industrial Revolution critics and explain what solution he suggested to reverse the negative economic trend he identified. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the Industrial Revolution wrought stupendous advancements in technology and greatly expanded the financial power of England, there were many tragic human consequences to it. As the agrarian areas felt the effects of mechanical reaping and the shared pastures were enclosed, those in the rural areas suffered hardships. With the invention of the mechanized looms, the cottage industry in which people weaved cloth ended, and more people lost their livelihoods. Consequently, they migrated to the cities to seek work. But, there were not enough jobs and thousands were destitute. In 1823, Henry Mahew studied the effects of the Industrial Revolution and found that out of 4,500,000 people of the lower class only 1,500,000 were wholly employed and that same number of people were completely without work. Truly, conditions in the large cities were terrible.

  • Friedrick Engels, a Prussian, wrote The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844

Right and left a multitude of covered passages lead from the main street into numerous courts... into a filth and disgusting grime, the equal of which is not to be found - especially in the courts which lead down to the Irk, and which contain unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet beheld. In one of these courts... at the end of the covered passage, a privy without a door, so dirty that the inhabitants can pass into and out of the court only by passing through foul pools of stagnant urine and excrement. 

Appalled by the working and living conditions of the lower classes, Engels, who was a radical journalist, went on to help Karx Marx compose The Communist Manifesto. This document proposes a form of Socialism, an economic system which theoretically values the public good and equality over capitalistic individualism and competition, the tenets of Industrialism.

  • A member of the British Parliament in the 1830s, Michael Sadler, a leader in factory reform, worked toward the elimination of child labor and a reduction of labor hours. He sent people to interview children; these transcripts are testimonials to the exploitation of children. The Sadler Report urged these reforms:
  1. Prohibition of labor for children 9 years old and younger
  2. A ten-hour work day for children from 9-18
  3. A lunch period
  4. Free time of two hours on Saturday
  5. A ban on working all night for those under 21
  • Henry Orator Hunt and Richard Carlile, two English opponents of the oppression of the lower classes, arranged a meeting to occur in Manchester. They proposed suffrage for these people who had no voice in the government, as well as better working conditions. When the meeting drew over 50,000 people, the military was called in with devastating effects. As they charged into the crowd, the soldiers killed and wounded hundreds of people. This incident was called the Peterloo Massacre. Carlile was given a prison sentence for sedition, but when released, he continued to fight for freedom of the press, women's suffrage, and laws against child labor.
  • Another social reformer was the writer Charles Dickens, himself a victim of the conditions of the Industrial Revolution. When his parents were taken to the London debtors' prison, the boy Charles had to work in a blacking house. As he experienced first-hand many of the conditions of the lower classes, Dickens wrote about the social ills of his country in such novels as Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, in which the poor are trapped in a social prison with a separate justice for the wealthy.