Punch,  2 (1842), 26.

Man versus Machine

Q, pseud.  [[Douglas W Jerrold]] *


Essay, Polemic


Machinery, Steam-power, Artisans, Human Development, Progress, Politics, Class, Commerce, Political Economy

People mentioned:

Francis Bacon (1st Viscount St Alban)

    A fiery attack on the greed created by the mechanical systems of manufacture. A court-room confrontation is described in which a puny, 'famine-stricken' labourer sues the manufacturer whose systems of production have forced his family into poverty. The defendant employs a 'Sergeant Mammon' as his lawyer, who throws 'the scorn of disbelief upon the plaintiff' and advises him to return to 'his cellar' where he will starve with the rest of his family. The plaintiff then identifies the evils of extending manufactures which, following Robert Peel's view that a connection exists between increased demand for manufactures and increased machine power, he believes will 'bring into play more machinery and not employ manual labour in anything like the rate of the increase in the machine department'. Breaking away from this drama, the author then attacks the progress of machinery as a 'terrible calamity' that has 'made the strong man so much live lumber'. He goes on to ask how 'statesmen and philosophers' are going to 'prepare for the crisis' given that 'tens of thousand-thousand hands' will be 'made idle by the ingenuity of human mind', and believes that the 'multitude' will 'shout for an adjustment of interests'. Concludes by insisting that the 'steam-engine [...] must and will carry statesmen back to first principles. As it is machinery is a fiend to the poor; the time will come when it will be as a beneficient angel'.

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