The Condition of England. I. The Eighteenth Century

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written February 1844

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 3, p. 469;
Written: in February 1844;
First published: in Vorwärts!(Paris) Nos. 70, 71, 72 and 73, Aug. 31, Sep. 4, 7 and 11, 1844;

This and the following article are the continuation of The Condition of England published in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (see Note 187). Both articles were evidently written not later than February-March 1844, as can be judged by their contents and, in particular, the references to some facts (rejection of the motion to publish parliamentary minutes, O'Connell’s trial) as events that had taken place several weeks before (see pp. 500 and 506 of this volume). It is possible that Engels ceased writing this series because of the closure of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. From the last lines of the preceding article we see that the central theme of this series was to he the condition of the working class in England. In English the article was first published in the book: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Articles on Britain, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971.

Vorwärts! No. 70, August 31, 1844[edit source]

The century of revolution has to all appearances passed England by, causing little change. While on the Continent an entire old world was shattered, while a twenty-five-year war [1] cleared the air, in England everything remained calm, neither state nor church were in any way threatened. And yet since the middle of the last century England has experienced a greater upheaval than any other country — an upheaval which is all the more momentous the more quietly it is brought about, and it will therefore in all probability attain its goal more readily in practice than the political revolution in France or the philosophical revolution in Germany. The revolution in England is a social one and therefore more comprehensive and far-reaching than any other. There are no fields — however remote — of human knowledge and no conditions of life which have not contributed to it and which in turn have not been affected by it. The only true revolution is a social revolution, to which political and philosophical revolution must lead; and this social revolution has already been in progress in England for seventy or eighty years and is rapidly approaching its crisis at this very time.

The eighteenth century was the assembling, the gathering of mankind from the fragmentation and isolation into which it had been driven by Christianity; it was the penultimate step towards the self-understanding and self-liberation of mankind, but just because it was the penultimate step it was still partial and remained within the contradictions. The eighteenth century collated the results of the past, which had previously been scattered and appeared to be fortuitous, and laid bare their necessity and inner connection. The jumble of countless scientific discoveries was put in order, classified and the causal connections shown; knowledge became science, and the sciences approached their perfection, that is to say, they took philosophy on the one hand and practice on the other as their point of departure. Before the eighteenth century science did not exist; the study of nature assumed its scientific form only in the eighteenth century or, in some fields, a few years earlier. Newton created scientific astronomy with the law of gravitation, scientific optics with the decomposition of light, scientific mathematics with the binomial theorem and the theory of infinity, and scientific mechanics with the analysis of the nature of forces. Physics likewise acquired its scientific character in the eighteenth century; chemistry was only brought into being by Black, Lavoisier and Priestley; geography became a science with the establishment of the form of the earth and the many voyages which only now were of benefit to science; with Buffon and Linné natural history too became a science; even geology gradually began to struggle free from the whirl of fantastic hypotheses which threatened to engulf it. The concept of the Encyclopaedia was typical of the eighteenth century; it was based on the awareness that all these sciences were interconnected but it was not yet able to show these connections, so that only a simple juxtaposition could be achieved. History was in a similar position; now for the first time we find voluminous compilations of world history, as yet without any critical comment, and entirely without a philosophical approach, but nevertheless universal history instead of the previous historical fragments limited both in time and place. Politics was given a human foundation, and political economy was reformed by Adam Smith. The culmination of science in the eighteenth century was materialism, the first system of natural philosophy and the consequence of this development of the natural sciences. The struggle against the abstract subjectivity of Christianity forced the philosophy of the eighteenth century to the other extreme; it opposed subjectivity with objectivity, the mind with nature, spiritualism with materialism, the abstract individual with the abstract universal or substance. The eighteenth century represents the revival of the spirit of antiquity as against that of Christianity. Materialism and the republic; the philosophy and politics of the ancient world, arose anew, and the French, the exponents of the ethos of antiquity within Christianity, assumed the historical initiative for a time.

The eighteenth century thus did not resolve the great antithesis which has been the concern of history from the beginning and whose development constitutes history, the antithesis of substance and subject, nature and mind, necessity and freedom; but it set the two sides against each other, fully developed and in all their sharpness, and thereby made it necessary to overcome the antithesis. The consequence ‘Of this clear final evolution of the antithesis was general revolution which spread over various nations and whose imminent completion will at the same time resolve the antithesis of history up to the present. The Germans, the nation of Christian spiritualism, experienced a philosophical revolution; the French, the nation of classical materialism and hence of politics, had to go through a political revolution; the English, a nation that is a mixture of German and French elements, who therefore embody both sides of the antithesis and are for that reason more universal than either of the two factors taken separately, were for that reason drawn into a more universal, a social revolution.

This will need to be elaborated in greater detail, for the position of nations, at least with regard to recent times, has in our philosophy of history so far been dealt with very inadequately, or rather not at all.

That Germany, France and England are the three foremost countries at the present moment in history, I can doubtless take for granted; that the Germans represent the Christian spiritual principle, the French that of classical materialism, in other words, that the former represent religion and the church and the latter politics and the state, is equally obvious or will be made so in due course; the significance of the English in recent history is less conspicuous and yet for our present purpose it is the most important. The English nation was formed from Germanic and Romance people at a time when the two nations had only just separated from one another and their development towards the two sides of the antithesis had scarcely begun. The Germanic and Romance elements developed alongside one another and eventually formed one nation which contains the two unmediated sides. Germanic idealism retained abundant scope so that it was even able to turn into its opposite, abstract externalism; the fact that women and children may still be legally sold, and indeed the whole mercantile spirit of the English, must definitely be attributed to the Germanic element. In a similar fashion, Romance materialism turned into abstract idealism, inwardness and piety; hence the phenomenon of Romance Catholicism persisting within Germanic Protestantism, the Established Church, the papacy of the sovereign and the thoroughly Catholic manner of disposing of religion with mere formalities. The English nation is characterised by this unresolved contradiction and the mingling of the sharpest contrasts. The English are the most religious nation on earth and at the same time the most irreligious; they worry more about the next world than any other nation, and at the same time they live as though this world were all that mattered to them; their expectation of heaven does not hinder them in the slightest from believing equally firmly in the “hell of making no money” and in the everlasting inner restlessness of the English, which is caught up in the sense of being unable to resolve the contradiction and which drives them out of themselves and into activity. The sense of contradiction is the source of energy, but merely external energy, and this sense of contradiction was the source of colonisation, seafaring, industry and the immense practical activity of the English in general. The inability to resolve the contradiction runs like a thread through the whole of English philosophy and forces it into empiricism and scepticism. Because Bacon could not resolve the contradiction between idealism and realism with his intellect, the intellect as such had to be incapable of solving it, idealism was simply discarded and empiricism regarded as the only remedy. From the same source derives the critical analysis of cognition and the whole psychological tendency within whose bounds English philosophy has moved from the outset, and in the end, after many unsuccessful attempts at resolving the contradiction, philosophy declares it to be insoluble and the intellect to be inadequate, and seeks a way out either in religious faith or in empiricism. Humean scepticism is still the form all irreligious philosophising takes in England today. We cannot know, this viewpoint argues, whether a God exists; if one exists, he is incapable of any communication with us, and we have therefore so to arrange our practical affairs as if he did not exist. We cannot know whether the mind is distinct from the body and immortal; we therefore live as if this life were the only one we have and do not bother about things that go beyond our understanding. In short, this scepticism is in practice exactly the same as French materialism, but in metaphysical theory it never advances beyond the inability of arriving at any definitive conclusion.

However because the English embodied within them both the elements which were responsible for historical progress on the Continent, they were therefore able, even without having much contact with the Continent, to keep abreast of development there and at times even to be ahead of it. The English revolution of the seventeenth century provides the exact model for the French one of 1789. In the “Long Parliament” the three stages which in France took the form of Constituent and Legislative Assembly and National Convention, are easy to distinguish; the transition from constitutional monarchy to democracy, military despotism, restoration and juste-milieu revolution [The French revolution of July 1830] is sharply delineated in the English revolution. Cromwell is Robespierre and Napoleon rolled into one; the Presbyterians, Independents and Levellers correspond to the Gironde, the Montagnards and the Hébertists and Babeuvists; in both cases the political outcome is rather pitiable, and the whole parallel, which could be elaborated in much greater detail incidentally also proves that a religious and an irreligious revolution, as long as they remain political, will in the final analysis amount to the same thing. Admittedly, this lead the English had over the Continent was only temporary and was gradually evened out again; the English revolution ended in juste-milieu and the creation of two national parties, whilst the French one is not yet complete and cannot be so until it achieves the result which the German philosophical and the English social revolutions have to achieve as well.

The English national character is thus substantially different both from the German and from the French character; the despair of overcoming the contradiction and the consequent total surrender to empiricism are its peculiar characteristics. The pure Germanic element converted its abstract inwardness into abstract outwardness, but this outwardness never lost the mark of its origin and always remained subordinate to inwardness and spiritualism. The French too are to be found on the side of materialism and empiricism; but because this empiricism is the primary national tendency and not a secondary consequence of a national consciousness divided within itself, it asserts itself nationally, generally and finds expression in political activity. The Germans asserted the absolute justification of spiritualism and hence sought to set forth the universal interests of mankind in religious and later in philosophic terms. The French opposed this spiritualism with materialism as something absolutely justified and consequently considered that the state was the eternal manifestation of these interests. The English however have no universal interests, they cannot mention them without touching that sore spot, the contradiction, they despair of them and have only individual interests. This absolute subjectivity, the fragmentation of the universal into the many individual parts, is admittedly of Germanic origin, but, as we have said, it is cut off from its roots and therefore only takes effect empirically, which is precisely what distinguishes English social empiricism from French political empiricism. France’s actions were always national, conscious of their entireness and universality from the start; England’s actions were the work of independent coexisting individuals — the movement of disconnected atoms — who rarely acted together as one whole, and even then only from individual motives, and whose lack of unity is at this very time exposed to the light of day in the universal misery and complete fragmentation of society.

In other words, only England has a social history. Only in England have individuals as such, without consciously standing for universal principles, furthered national development and brought it near to its conclusion. Only here have the masses acted as masses, for the sake of their interests as individuals; only here have principles been turned into interests before they were able to influence history. The French and the Germans are gradually attaining a social history too, but they have not got one yet. On the Continent too there have been poverty, misery and social oppression, this however has had no effect on national development; but the misery and poverty of the working class in present-day England has national and even world-historical importance. On the Continent the social aspect is still completely hidden by the political aspect and has not yet become detached from it, whilst in England the social aspect has gradually prevailed over the political one and has made it subservient. The whole of English politics is fundamentally social in nature, and social questions are expressed in a political way only because England has not yet advanced beyond the state, and because politics is a necessary expedient there.

As long as church and state are the only forms in which the universal characteristics of human nature are realised, there can be no question of social history. Antiquity and the Middle Ages were also therefore without social development; only the Reformation, the first, as yet biased and blundering attempt at a reaction against the Middle Ages, brought about a major social change, the transformation of serfs into “free” workers. But even this change remained without much enduring effect on the Continent, indeed it really took root there only after the revolution of the eighteenth century; whereas in England the category of serfs was transformed during the Reformation into villeins, bordars and cottars and thus into a class of workers enjoying personal freedom [2] and as early as the eighteenth century the consequences of this revolution became evident there. Why this happened only in England is explained above.

Vorwärts! No. 71, September 4, 1844[edit source]

Antiquity, which as yet knew nothing of the rights of the individual, whose whole outlook was essentially abstract, universal and material, could therefore not exist without slavery. The Christian-Germanic view of the world, by contrast with antiquity, set up abstract subjectivity, and hence arbitrariness, inwardness and spiritualism, as the basic principle. However this subjectivity, precisely because it was abstract and one-sided, was bound to turn at once into its opposite and to engender, not the freedom of the individual, but the enslavement of the individual. Abstract inwardness became abstract outwardness, the rejection and alienation of man, and the first consequence of the new principle was the restoration of slavery in another form, that of serfdom, which was less offensive but for that reason hypocritical and more inhuman. The dissolution of the feudal system, the political Reformation, in other words, the apparent acknowledgment of reason, and hence really the culmination of unreason, appeared to abolish this serfdom, but in reality only made it more inhuman and more universal. It was the first to declare that mankind should no longer be held together by force, that is, by political means, but by self-interest, that is, by social means, and through this new principle it laid the foundation for social advance. But although it thus negated the state, on the other hand it actually revived the state by restoring to it the content which had previously been usurped by the church, and thus gave the state, which in the Middle Ages had been an empty form of little consequence, the strength for further development. The Christian state, the culmination of the political aspect of the Christian world order, arose from the ruins of feudalism; another aspect of the Christian world order attained its culmination by elevating interestedness to a general principle. For interest is essentially subjective and egoistical, it is the interest of the individual, and as such the highest point of the Germanic and Christian principle of subjectivity and particularisation. The consequence of elevating interest to the nexus of man to man — that is as long as interest remains directly subjective and purely egoistical — is bound to be universal fragmentation, the concentration of each individual upon himself, isolation, the transformation of mankind into a collection of mutually repelling atoms; and this particularisation is again the ultimate consequence of the Christian principle of subjectivity, the culmination of the Christian world order.

Moreover, as long as private property, the basic form of alienation, exists, interest must necessarily be the interest of the individual and its domination will be the domination of property. The abolition of feudal servitude has made “cash-payment the sole relation of human beings” [Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, p. 198] Property, a natural, spiritless principle, as opposed to the human and spiritual principle, is thus enthroned, and ultimately, to complete this alienation, money — the alienated, empty abstraction of property — is made master of the world. Man has ceased to be the slave of men and has become the slave of things; the perversion of the human condition is complete; the servitude of the modern commercial world, this highly developed, total, universal venality, is more inhuman and more all-embracing than the serfdom of the feudal era; prostitution is more immoral and more bestial than the jus primae noctis.

The Christian world order cannot be taken any further than this; it must collapse under its own weight and make way for a humane, rational order. The Christian state is merely the last possible manifestation of the state as such; its demise will necessarily mean the demise of the state as such. The disintegration of mankind into a mass of isolated, mutually repelling atoms in itself means the destruction of all corporate, national and indeed of any particular interests and is the last necessary step towards the free and spontaneous association of men. The supremacy of,money as the culmination of the process of alienation is an inevitable stage which has to be passed through, if man is to return to himself, as he is now on the verge of doing.

These consequences of the abolition of the feudal system have been taken to such lengths by the social revolution in England that the crisis which will destroy the Christian world order can no longer be far away, and indeed that the time of this crisis can be predicted with certainty, even if not quantitatively, in years, at least qualitatively; for this crisis must begin when the Corn Laws are repealed and the People’s Charter introduced [3], in other words, when the aristocracy of birth has been politically overcome by the money aristocracy and the latter in turn by working-class democracy.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had brought into being all the preconditions for social revolution, they had destroyed the Middle Ages, established social, political and religious Protestantism, created England’s colonies, sea-power and trade, and set up alongside the aristocracy a growing and already quite powerful middle class. Social conditions gradually settled down after the disturbances of the seventeenth century and acquired a stable form which they retained until about 1780 or 1790.

There were at that time three classes of landowners, the aristocratical landlords, still the only, and unchallenged, nobility of the kingdom, who leased their estates in parcels and consumed the income in London or while travelling; the non-aristocratical landlords or country gentlemen (usually called squires), who lived at their country-seats, put out their land on lease and enjoyed among their tenants and other local inhabitants the aristocratic esteem which was denied to them in the town on account of their humble origin, lack of education and unpolished country manners. This class has now totally disappeared. The old squires who ruled with patriarchal authority the country-folk of the district and acted as advisers, arbiters and everything rolled into one, are quite extinct; their descendants call themselves the untitled aristocracy of England, as regards education and fine manners, luxury and aristocratic demeanour they vie with the aristocracy, which has little advantage left over them, and all they have in common with their rude and unpolished forefathers are their estates.

The third class of landowners was that of the yeomen who owned small plots of land which they worked themselves, usually in the good old careless manner of their forebears; this class too has disappeared from the face of England, the social revolution has expropriated it and brought about the curious situation, that at the same time as in France the large landed estates were being forcibly parcelled out, in England the parcels were being attracted by the large landed estates and swallowed up by them. Alongside the yeomen there were small tenant farmers who were usually engaged in weaving as well as farming; they too are no longer to be found in modern England; almost all the land belongs now to a small number of large estates and is thus let on lease. The competition of the large tenant farmers drove the small tenant farmers and yeomen out of the market and impoverished them; they became agricultural day-labourers and weavers dependent on wages and supplied the masses whose influx caused the towns to grow with such amazing rapidity.

The farmers of those days led a quiet and placid life of godliness and propriety, they lived with few cares, but also without any changes, without general interests, without culture and mental activity; they were still at the prehistoric stage. The position in the towns was not very different. Only London was an important centre of trade; Liverpool, Hull, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow were still insignificant. The main industries, spinning and weaving, were carried on chiefly in the country or at least not within the towns, but in their vicinity; the production of metal and pottery wares was still at the handicraft stage of development; not much was therefore likely to happen in the towns. The extreme simplicity of the electoral system relieved the townsfolk of any political cares, they were nominally Whig or Tory, but knew very well that it really made no difference, for they did not have the vote; small merchants, shopkeepers and craftsmen made up the whole urban population and led that familiar life of the small provincial town which is so totally incomprehensible to the English today. Little use was as yet made of the mines; iron, copper and tin lay more or less undisturbed below ground, and coal was only used for domestic purposes. In short, the situation in England was then similar to that which, alas, still exists in most of France and particularly in Germany, that is, a state of antediluvian apathy towards all general and intellectual interests, a state of social infancy, in which society does not as yet exist, where there is as yet no life, no consciousness, no activity. This state is in fact a continuation of feudalism and of medieval thoughtlessness, and will only be overcome with the arrival of modern feudalism, with the division of society into owners of property and non-owners. We on the Continent, as we have said, are still deeply immersed in this state; the English fought against it for eighty years and overcame it forty years ago. If civilisation is a matter of practice, — a social quality, then the English are indeed the most civilised people in the world.

I mentioned above that the sciences had assumed their scientific form in the eighteenth century and were consequently connected on the one hand with philosophy and on the other with practice. The result of taking philosophy as the point of departure was materialism (for which Newton was just as much a prerequisite as Locke), the Enlightenment and the French political revolution. The result of taking practice as the point of departure was the English social revolution.

In 1760 George III began his reign, drove out the Whigs — who had held office almost uninterruptedly since the reign of George I but had of course governed in a thoroughly conservative manner — and laid the foundation of the Tory monopoly which lasted until 1830. The government thereby regained its inner truth; in a politically conservative period in England, it was quite appropriate that the conservative party should rule. From then on social developments absorbed the energies of the nation and ousted political interests, indeed destroyed them, for all domestic politics is from then on just concealed socialism, the form that social issues take to succeed in asserting themselves generally and nationally.

In 1763 Dr. James Watt of Greenock began working on the design of the steam-engine, and completed it in 1768.

In 1763 Josiah Wedgwood laid the foundations of the English pottery industry by the introduction of scientific principles. By his efforts a desolate area of Staffordshire has been turned into an industrial region — the Potteries — which now employs 60,000 people and has played a very important part in the social and political movement of recent years.

In 1764 in Lancashire James Hargreaves invented the spinning-jenny, a machine operated by one worker, which enabled him to spin sixteen times as much yarn as on the old spinning-wheel. In 1768 Richard Arkwright, a barber from Preston in Lancashire, invented the spinning-throstle, the first spinning-machine which was designed from the outset for mechanical power. It produced water-twist, that is, yarn used for warps in weaving.

In 1776 in Bolton, Lancashire, Samuel Crompton invented the spinning-mule by combining the mechanical principles applied in the jenny and the throstle. The mule, like the jenny, spins the mule-twist, that is, the weaver’s weft; all three machines are designed for the working-up of cotton.

In 1787 Dr. Cartwright invented the power-loom, which however still had to undergo a number of improvements and could not be used in practice until 1801.

These inventions stimulated social development. Their most immediate consequence was the rise of English industry, or more specifically of cotton manufacture in the first instance. The jenny had, it is true, made the production of yarn cheaper, and by the expansion of the market that followed from this, it had given the first impetus to industry; but it left the social aspect, the character of the industrial enterprise, more or less unaffected. It was Arkwright’s and Crompton’s machines and Watt’s steam engine that first set the movement going, by creating the factory system. Smaller factories, driven by horses or water-power, arose first, but were soon displaced by the larger factories driven by water or steam. The first steam spinning-mill was set up by Watt in Nottinghamshire in 1785; others followed it, and soon the new system became general. The spread of the steam spinning-mill, like all the other industrial improvements introduced simultaneously or later, proceeded with enormous speed. The import of raw cotton, which in 1770 was still less than five million pounds a year, rose to 54 million pounds (1800) and 360 million pounds (1836). Then the steam-loom was actually introduced and gave a new impetus to industrial progress; all the machines underwent countless small but, when taken together, very significant improvements, and each new improvement encouraged the spread of the industrial system as a whole. All branches of the cotton industry were revolutionised; printing was immensely improved by the introduction of mechanical aids and simultaneously by the advances made in chemistry, by which dyeing and bleaching profited as well. Hosiery manufacture too was carried along by this current; and since 1809 machines were used to manufacture fine cotton goods, tulle, lace, etc. I have not the space here to pursue the progress of cotton manufacture through all the details of its history; I can only indicate the outcome, and that, when compared with the antediluvian cotton industry with its four million pounds of imported cotton, with its spinning-wheel, hand-carding and hand-loom, cannot fail to impress.

In 1833, 10,264 million skeins of yarn were spun in Britain, their length amounting to over 5,000 million miles, and 350 million ells of cotton fabric were printed; 1,300 cotton mills were in operation, which employed 237,000 spinners and weavers; over 9 million spindles, 100,000 steam-looms and 240,000 hand-looms, 33,000 hosiery looms and 3,500 bobbinet machines were in operation; cotton-manufacturing machinery used 33,000 h.p. of steam-power and 11,000 h.p. of water-power, and one and a half million people lived directly or indirectly from this industry. Lancashire derives its subsistence solely and Lanarkshire largely from the spinning and weaving of cotton; the subsidiary branches of the cotton industry are chiefly located in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. The quantity of exported cotton goods has increased eightfold since 1801; the amount consumed in the country itself has increased a great deal more.

Vorwärts! No. 72, September 7, 1844[edit source]

The impetus given to cotton manufacturing was soon communicated to other branches of industry. The woollen industry had until then been the most important branch of industry; it was now displaced by cotton, but instead of declining, it also grew. In 1785 the whole wool crop of three preceding years lay unused; the spinners could not work it up as long as they had no alternative to their crude spinning-wheel. Then people began to apply the machines for spinning cotton to wool, and this, after a few modifications, was entirely successful; then the wool industry experienced the same rapid growth as we have already observed in the case of cotton manufacture. The import of raw wool rose from 7 million pounds (1801) to 42 million pounds (1835); in the latter year 1,300 woollen mills employing 71,300 workers were in operation, not counting a host of hand-weavers who worked at home, and printers, dyers, bleachers, etc., etc., who also live indirectly from the wool industry. This industry is chiefly located in the West Riding of Yorkshire and the west of England (especially Somerset, Wiltshire, etc.).

The linen industry was formerly located chiefly in Ireland. The first factories for the processing of flax were built towards the end of the last century in Scotland. The machinery was however still very far from perfect; the material gave rise to difficulties which necessitated significant modifications in the machines. They were first improved by the Frenchman Girard (1810); but these improvements,. acquired practical importance first of all in England. The introduction of steam-looms into the linen industry took place even later; and from this point on linen manufacture expanded at immense speed, although it suffered from the competition of cotton. In England Leeds became the centre of the linen industry, in Scotland Dundee and in Ireland Belfast. Dundee alone imported 3,000 tons of flax in 1814 and 19,000 tons in 1834. The export of linen from Ireland, where hand-weaving continued to exist alongside power-weaving, rose by 20 million yards from 1800 to 1825, almost all of which went to England, and from there Some of it was re-exported. Exports from the whole of Britain to foreign countries rose by 27 million yards between 1820 and 1833; in 1835 there were 347 flax mills in operation, 170 of these in Scotland; 33,000 workers were employed in these mills, not counting the many Irish artisans.

The silk industry only became important after 1824 with the abolition of the heavy customs duties; since then the import of raw silk has doubled and the number of factories increased to 266, employing 30,000 workers. This industry is chiefly located in Cheshire (Macclesfield, Congleton and district), then follow Manchester, and Paisley in Scotland. The centre of ribbon-making is Coventry in Warwickshire.

These four industries which produce yarn and fabrics, totally revolutionised. Domestic industry was replaced by were thus collective labour in large buildings; manual labour was supplanted by steam-power and the use of machinery. With the aid of the machine a child of eight was now able to produce more than twenty grown men before. Six hundred thousand factory workers, of whom half are children and more than half female, are doing the work of one hundred and fifty million people.

But that is only the beginning of the industrial revolution. We have seen that dyeing, printing and bleaching expanded as a result of the advance in spinning and weaving and consequently sought the assistance of engineering and chemistry. Since the application of the steam-engine and of metal cylinders in printing, one man does the work of two hundred; the use of chlorine instead of oxygen in bleaching has reduced the time required for this operation from a few months to a few hours. While the industrial revolution thus affected the processes to which the product was subjected after spinning and weaving, its repercussions on the materials used by the new industry were even more significant. It was only through the steam-engine that the inexhaustible coal fields beneath the surface of England acquired their great importance; new coal mines were opened in large numbers and the old ones worked with redoubled energy. The manufacture of spinning-machines and looms also began to constitute a separate branch of industry and reached a degree of perfection unattained by any other nation. The machines were made by machines, and by a division of labour extending to the minutest detail, it was possible to achieve the precision and exactitude which distinguish English machines. The machine-building industry in its turn influenced iron and copper mining, which however received their chief impetus from another direction, but this too was caused by the original revolution effected by Watt and Arkwright.

The consequences of an industrial impetus, once given, are endless. The progress made in one industry is communicated to all the others. The newly-created forces demand nourishment, as we have just seen; the newly-created working population brings in its wake new conditions of life and new needs. The mechanical advantages of factory production reduce the price of manufactured articles, and therefore make the necessities of life and in consequence wages in general cheaper; all other products can be sold more cheaply and thereby reach a wider market in proportion to their cheapness. Once the advantageous application of mechanical devices has been demonstrated, it is gradually imitated throughout industry; the advance in civilisation, which is the inevitable consequence of all industrial improvements, generates new needs, new industries and thus again new improvements. The consequence of the revolution in cotton-spinning was necessarily a revolution in the whole of industry; and if we cannot always trace how the motive forces are imparted to the more remote branches of the industrial system, only the absence of statistical and historical information is to blame. But we shall see everywhere that the introduction of mechanical devices and of scientific principles in general has been the mainspring of progress.

After spinning and weaving, metal-working is the most important industry in England. It is chiefly located in Warwickshire (Birmingham) and Staffordshire (Wolverhampton). Steam-power was very soon employed in this industry and this, together with division of labour, cut the production costs of metal goods by three-quarters. On the other hand, exports multiplied fourfold from 1800 to 1835. In the former year 86,000 cwt. of iron goods and the same quantity of copper goods were exported, in the latter year 320,000 cwt. of iron and 210,000 cwt. of copper and brass goods. The export of bar-iron and pig-iron became significant at the same time; in 1800, 4,600 tons of bar-iron were exported, in 1835, 92,000 tons of bar-iron and 14,000 tons of pig-iron.

English cutlery is made exclusively in Sheffield. The use of steam-power, especially for grinding and polishing blades, the conversion of iron into steel, which only then became important, and the newly-invented method of casting steel, brought about a complete revolution here too. Sheffield alone consumes annually 500,000 tons of coal and 12,000 tons of iron, of which 10,000 tons come from abroad (particularly from Sweden).

The use of cast-iron goods also dates from the second half of the last century and has attained its present importance only in the last few years. Gas-lighting (introduced, in effect, since 1804) created an enormous demand for cast-iron pipes; the railways, suspension bridges, etc., machinery, etc., increased this demand still more. In 1780 puddling was invented, that is, the conversion of cast into wrought iron by heating and removing the carbon, and this gave new importance to the English iron-ore mines. For lack of charcoal the English had until then to obtain all their wrought iron from abroad. Since 1790 nails have been made by machine, and screws since 1810; in Sheffield Huntsman invented crucible steel-making in 1760; wire was drawn by machinery, and generally a host of new machines was introduced throughout the iron and brass industry, manual labour was ousted and, insofar as the nature of the business permitted, the factory system was established.

The increase in mining was only the necessary consequence of this. Until 1788 all iron-ore had been smelted with charcoal and iron extraction had therefore been limited by the small quantity of fuel available. After 1788 coke (coked coal) began to be used instead of charcoal and the amount produced annually was as a result multiplied by six in six years. In 1740, the annual output was 17,000 tons, in 1835, 553,000 tons. Extraction from the tin and copper mines has trebled since 1770. But along with the iron mines the coal mines are the most important in England. The growth of coal production since the middle of the last century cannot be assessed. The vast quantity of coal which is now consumed by the countless steam-engines working in the factories and mines, by the forges, by the smelting-furnaces and casting-works and by the domestic heating of a population that has doubled, bears no relation whatever to the amount consumed one hundred or eighty years ago. The smelting of pig-iron alone devours over three million tons a year (at twenty cwt. a ton).

The most immediate consequence of the creation of industry was the improvement of the means of communication. In the last century the roads in England were just as bad as elsewhere and remained so until the celebrated McAdam based road-building on scientific principles and thereby gave a new impetus to the advance of civilisation. From 1818 to 1829 new highways with a total length of 1,000 English miles were laid down in England and Wales, not counting smaller country lanes, and almost all the old roads were reconstructed according to McAdam’s principles. In Scotland the public works authorities have built over 1,000 bridges since 1803. In Ireland, the wide, desolate bogs of the south, inhabited by half-wild robbers, were traversed by roads. By these means the remotest localities in the country, which had previously had no contact with the outside world, were now made accessible; in particular the Celtic-speaking areas of Wales, the Scottish Highlands and the south of Ireland were thereby compelled to make acquaintance with the outside world and accept the civilisation imposed upon them.

In 1755 the first canal of any note was constructed in Lancashire; in 1759 the Duke of Bridgewater started to build a canal from Worsley to Manchester. Since then canals have been constructed to a total length of 2,200 miles; in addition England has another 1,800 miles of navigable rivers, which for the most part have also been opened up only recently.

Since 1807, steam-power has been used for the propulsion of ships, and since the construction of the first British steamship (1811), 600 others have been built. In 1835 there were some 550 steamships sailing from British ports.

The first public railway was built in Surrey in 1801; but only with the opening of the Liverpool-Manchester railway (1830) did the new form of transport become important. Six years later, 680 miles of railway had been constructed and four major lines — from London to Birmingham, Bristol and Southampton, and from Birmingham to Manchester and Liverpool — were in operation. Since then the network has been extended over the whole of England; London is the junction of nine railways, and Manchester of five. [The above statistical data are mainly drawn from The Progress of the Nation by G. Porter, a Board of Trade official under the Whig Ministry, that is, from official sources.-Note by Engels. [4]]

This revolution through which British industry has passed is the foundation of every aspect of modern English life, the driving force behind all social development. Its first consequence was, as we have already indicated,’ the elevation of self-interest to a position of dominance over man. Self-interest seized the newly-created industrial powers and exploited them for its own purposes; these powers, which by right belong to mankind, became, owing to the influence of private property, the monopoly of a few rich capitalists and the means to the enslavement of the masses. Commerce absorbed industry into itself and thereby became omnipotent, it became the nexus of mankind; all personal and national intercourse was reduced to commercial intercourse, and — which amounts to the same thing — property, things, became master of the world.

Vorwärts! No. 73, September 11, 1844[edit source]

The domination of property was bound to turn first against the state and to destroy it, or, at least, as it cannot do without it, to undermine it. Adam Smith began this undermining at the very time of the industrial revolution by publishing in 1776 his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and thereby created the science of finance. Up to now all finance had been entirely national; the economy had been regarded as a mere branch of affairs of the state as a whole and subordinated to the state as such; Adam Smith subordinated cosmopolitanism to national aims and raised the economy of the state to the very essence and purpose of the state. He reduced politics, parties, religion, indeed everything, to economic categories and thereby recognised property as the essence of the state and enrichment as its purpose. On the other hand, William Godwin ([An Enquiry Concerning] Political Justice, 1793 ) Supported the republican political system, propounded, at the same time as J. Bentham, the principle of utility, whereby the republican salts publica supreme lex [The public good is the supreme law] was taken to its legitimate conclusions, and attacked the very essence of the state itself with his aphorism that the state is an evil. Godwin still defines the principle of utility quite generally as the duty of the citizen to live only for the general good without regard to his individual interest; Bentham, on the contrary, takes the essentially social nature of this principle further and in accordance with the national trend of that time makes the individual interest the basis of the general interest: he recognises that the two are identical in the proposition, which his pupil Mill in particular developed, that charity is nothing but enlightened egoism, and he substitutes the greatest happiness of the greatest number for the “general good”. Bentham here makes the same error in his empiricism as Hegel made in his theory; he does not seriously try to overcome the contradictions, he turns the subject into the predicate, subordinates the whole to the part and in so doing stands everything on its head. First he says that the general and individual interests are inseparable and then he stays unilaterally at the crudest individual interest. His proposition is only the empirical expression of another one, namely, that man is mankind, but because it is expressed empirically it grants the rights of the species not to the free, self-conscious, creative man, but to the crude and blind man who remains within the confines of the contradictions. Bentham makes free competition the essence of morality, regulates human relations according to the laws of property, of things, according to the laws of nature, and thus represents the culmination of the old, naturally evolved Christian world order, the highest point of alienation, and not the beginning of a new order to be created by self-conscious man in full freedom. He does not advance beyond the state, but strips it of all meaning, substitutes social principles for political ones, turns the political organisation into the form of the social content and thus carries the contradiction to its extreme limit.

The democratic party originated at the same time as the industrial revolution. In 1769 J. Horne Tooke founded the Society of the Bill of rights, in which, for the first time since the republic [of 1649-60], democratic principles were discussed again. As in France, the democrats were exclusively men with a philosophical education, but they soon found that the upper and middle classes were opposed to them and only the working class lent a ready ear to their principles. Amongst the latter class they soon founded a party, which by 1794 was already fairly strong [5] and yet still only strong enough to act by fits and starts. From 1797 to 1816 it disappeared from view; in the turbulent years from 1816 to 1823 it was again very active but then subsided once more into inactivity until the July revolution. From then on it has maintained its importance alongside the old parties and is making steady progress, as we shall later see.

The most important effect of the eighteenth century for England was the creation of the proletariat by the industrial revolution. The new industry demanded a constantly available mass of workers for the countless new branches of production, and moreover workers such as had previously not existed. Up to 1780 England had few proletarians, a fact which emerges inevitably from the social condition of the nation as described above. Industry concentrated work in factories and towns; it became impossible to combine manufacturing and agricultural activity, and the new working class was reduced to complete dependence on its labour. What had hitherto been the exception became the rule and spread gradually outside the towns too. Small-scale farming was ousted by the large tenant farmers and thus a new class of agricultural labourers was created. The population of the towns trebled and quadrupled and almost the whole of this increase consisted solely of workers. The expansion of mining likewise required a large number of new workers, and these too lived solely from their daily wage.

On the other hand, the middle class rose to become definitely aristocratic. During the industrial advance manufacturers multiplied their capital in an amazingly rapid fashion; the merchants likewise received their share, and the capital created by this revolution was the means by which the English aristocracy fought the French Revolution.

The result of this whole development was that England is now split into three parties, the landed aristocracy, the monied aristocracy, and working-class democracy. These are the only parties in England, they alone act as driving forces, and how they act we will perhaps try to describe in a later article.

  1. The reference is to the coalition wars of European states against revolutionary and Napoleonic France lasting from 1792 till 1815. England was an active member of these coalitions
  2. According to later historical investigations, in the 15th-17th centuries copyholders (a category of peasants holding land by copy, life and hereditary tenants who paid feudal rent) comprised the majority of the English peasants who had freed themselves from serf bondage. Modern science uses the terms villeins, bordars and cottars to denote the various categories of serf peasants in medieval England
  3. The People’s Charter — see Note 139
  4. In the Introduction to the second German edit 1 ion (1892) of his book The Condition of the Working-Class in England (see this edition, Vol. 4), Engels made .the following addition to the analogous note: “The historical outline of the industrial revolution given above is not exact in certain details; but in 1843-44 no better sources were available.” The more precise information gained from later investigations includes, in particular, the fact that Arkwright was not the inventor of the spinning-jenny but used a number of inventions made by others. judging by the corresponding passages in The Condition of the Working-Class in England, Engels here made use of other books besides Porter’s work: E. Baines, History of the Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain, London. 1835; A. Ure, The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain, Systematically Investigated and Illustrated, Vols. 1-2, London, 1836
  5. The reference is to the democratic correspondence societies organised in various English towns in the 90s of the eighteenth century under the influence of the French revolution. The first — the London Correspondence Society — was founded in 1792. In the autumn of 1793 an attempt was made to unite these organisations by convening a congress in Edinburgh which assumed the name of the Convention. The government answered with reprisals; some members of the Convention were condemned to penal servitude. In 1794 the leaders, of the London Correspondence Society (Thomas Hardy, Horne Tooke and others) were arrested. By the end of the 90s the activity of the correspondence societies ceased; however, their ideas and traditions had a great influence on the further development of the radical movement in England, especially in the period of intensive agitation for the democratic reorganisation of its political system in 1816-23