|The Story of Mankind|
|by Hendrik Willem Van Loon|
|Relates the story of western civilization from earliest times through the beginning of the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the people and events that changed the course of history. Portrays in vivid prose the achievements of mankind in the areas of art and discovery, as well as the political forces leading to the modern nation-states. Richly illustrated with drawings by the author. Winner of the first Newbery Award in 1922, The Story of Mankind has introduced generations of children to the pageant of world history. Ages 10-14 |
THE GENERAL INTRODUCTION OF MACHINERY DID NOT BRING ABOUT THE ERA OF HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY WHICH HAD BEEN PREDICTED BY THE GENERATION WHICH SAW THE STAGE COACH REPLACED BY THE RAILROAD. SEVERAL REMEDIES WERE SUGGESTED BUT NONE OF THESE QUITE SOLVED THE PROBLEM
 IN the year 1831, just before the passing of the first Reform
Bill Jeremy Bentham, the great English student of legislative
methods and the most practical political reformer of that
day, wrote to a friend: "The way to be comfortable is to
make others comfortable. The way to make others comfortable
is to appear to love them. The way to appear to love them
is to love them in reality." Jeremy was an honest man. He
said what he believed to be true. His opinions were shared by
thousands of his countrymen. They felt responsible for the
happiness of their less fortunate neighbours and they tried
their very best to help them. And Heaven knows it was time
that something be done!
The ideal of "economic freedom" (the "laissez faire" of
Turgot) had been necessary in the old society where mediaeval
restrictions lamed all industrial effort. But this "liberty of
action" which had been the highest law of the land had led to
a terrible, yea, a frightful condition. The hours in the
fac-  tory were limited only by the physical strength of the workers.
As long as a woman could sit before her loom, without
fainting from fatigue, she was supposed to work. Children of
five and six were taken to the cotton mills, to save them from
the dangers of the street and a life of idleness. A law had
been passed which forced the children of paupers to go to work
or be punished by being chained to their machines. In return
for their services they got enough bad food to keep them alive
and a sort of pigsty in which they could rest at night. Often
they were so tired that they fell asleep at their job. To keep
them awake a foreman with a whip made the rounds and beat
them on the knuckles when it was necessary to bring them back
to their duties. Of course, under these circumstances thousands
of little children died. This was regrettable and the employers,
who after all were human beings and not without a heart, sincerely
wished that they could abolish "child labour." But since
man was "free" it followed that children were "free" too.
Besides, if Mr. Jones had tried to work his factory without the
use of children of five and six, his rival, Mr. Stone, would have
hired an extra supply of little boys and Jones would have been
forced into bankruptcy. It was therefore impossible for Jones
to do without child labour until such time as an act of Parliament
should forbid it for all employers.
But as Parliament was no longer dominated by the old
landed aristocracy (which had despised the upstart
factory-owners with their money bags and had treated them with open
contempt), but was under control of the representatives from
the industrial centres, and as long as the law did not allow
workmen to combine in labour-unions, very little was accomplished.
Of course the intelligent and decent people of that
time were not blind to these terrible conditions. They were
just helpless. Machinery had conquered the world by surprise
and it took a great many years and the efforts of thousands
of noble men and women to make the machine what it
ought to be, man's servant, and not his master.
Curiously enough, the first attack upon the outrageous
system of employment which was then common in all parts of
 the world, was made on behalf of the black slaves of Africa
and America. Slavery had been introduced into the American
continent by the Spaniards. They had tried to use the
Indians as labourers in the fields and in the mines, but the
Indians, when taken away from a life in the open, had lain down
and died and to save them from extinction a kind-hearted priest
had suggested that negroes be brought from Africa to do the
work. The negroes were strong and could stand rough treatment.
Besides, association with the white man would give
them a chance to learn Christianity and in this way, they would
be able to save their souls, and so from every possible point of
view, it would be an excellent arrangement both for the kindly
white man and for his ignorant black brother. But with the
introduction of machinery there had been a greater demand for
cotton and the negroes were forced to work harder than ever
before, and they too, like the Indians, began to die under the
treatment which they received at the hands of the overseers.
Stories of incredible cruelty constantly found their way to
Europe and in all countries men and women began to agitate
for the abolition of slavery. In England, William Wilberforce
and Zachary Macaulay, (the father of the great historian whose
history of England you must read if you want to know how
wonderfully interesting a history-book can be,) organised a
society for the suppression of slavery. First of all they got a
law passed which made "slave trading" illegal. And after the
year 1840 there was not a single slave in any of the British
colonies. The revolution of 1848 put an end to slavery in the
French possessions. The Portuguese passed a law in the year
1858 which promised all slaves their liberty in twenty years
from date. The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863 and in the
same year Tsar Alexander II returned to his serfs that liberty
which had been taken away from them more than two centuries
In the United States of America the question led to grave
difficulties and a prolonged war. Although the Declaration
of Independence had laid down the principle that "all men
were created equal," an exception had been made for
 those men and women whose skins were dark and who worked
on the plantations of the southern states. As time went on, the
dislike of the people of the North for the institution of slavery
increased and they made no secret of their feelings. The southerners
however claimed that they could not grow their cotton
without slave-labour, and for almost fifty years a mighty debate
raged in both the Congress and the Senate.
The North remained obdurate and the South would not give
in. When it appeared impossible to reach a compromise, the
southern states threatened to leave the Union. It was a most
dangerous point in the history of the Union. Many things
"might" have happened. That they did not happen was the
work of a very great and very good man.
On the sixth of November of the year 1860, Abraham Lincoln,
an Illinois lawyer, and a man who had made his own intellectual
fortune, had been elected president by the Republicans
who were very strong in the anti-slavery states. He
knew the evils of human bondage at first hand and his shrewd
common-sense told him that there was no room on the northern
continent for two rival nations. When a number of southern
states seceded and formed the "Confederate States of America,"
Lincoln accepted the challenge. The Northern states
were called upon for volunteers. Hundreds of thousands of
young men responded with eager enthusiasm and there followed
four years of bitter civil war. The South, better prepared
and following the brilliant leadership of Lee and Jackson,
repeatedly defeated the armies of the North. Then the
economic strength of New England and the West began to
tell. An unknown officer by the name of Grant arose from obscurity
and became the Charles Martel of the great slave war.
Without interruption he hammered his mighty blows upon the
crumbling defences of the South. Early in the year 1863,
President Lincoln issued his "Emancipation Proclamation"
which set all slaves free. In April of the year 1865 Lee
surrendered the last of his brave armies at Appomattox. A few
days later, President Lincoln was murdered by a lunatic. But
his work was done. With the exception of Cuba which was
 still under Spanish domination, slavery had come to an end in
every part of the civilised world.
But while the black man was enjoying an increasing amount
of liberty, the "free" workmen of Europe did not fare quite so
well. Indeed, it is a matter of surprise to many contemporary
writers and observers that the masses of workmen (the
so-called proletariat) did not die out from sheer misery. They
lived in dirty houses situated in miserable parts of the slums.
They ate bad food. They received just enough schooling to
fit them for their tasks. In case of death or an accident, their
families were not provided for. But the brewery and distillery
interests, (who could exercise great influence upon the Legislature,)
encouraged them to forget their woes by offering them
unlimited quantities of whisky and gin at very cheap rates.
The enormous improvement which has taken place since the
thirties and the forties of the last century is not due to the efforts
of a single man. The best brains of two generations devoted
themselves to the task of saving the world from the disastrous
results of the all-too-sudden introduction of machinery.
They did not try to destroy the capitalistic system. This would
have been very foolish, for the accumulated wealth of other
people, when intelligently used, may be of very great benefit
to all mankind. But they tried to combat the notion that true
equality can exist between the man who has wealth and owns
the factories and can close their doors at will without the risk
of going hungry, and the labourer who must take whatever job
is offered, at whatever wage he can get, or face the risk of
starvation for himself, his wife and his children.
They endeavoured to introduce a number of laws which regulated
the relations between the factory owners and the factory
workers. In this, the reformers have been increasingly
successful in all countries. To-day, the majority of the labourers
are well protected; their hours are being reduced to the
excellent average of eight, and their children are sent to the
schools instead of to the mine pit and to the carding-room of
the cotton mills.
But there were other men who also contemplated the sight
 of all the belching smoke-stacks, who heard the rattle of the
railroad trains, who saw the store-houses filled with a surplus
of all sorts of materials, and who wondered to what ultimate
goal this tremendous activity would lead in the years to come.
They remembered that the human race had lived for hundreds
of thousands of years without commercial and industrial competition.
Could they change the existing order of things and
do away with a system of rivalry which so often sacrificed human
happiness to profits?
This idea—this vague hope for a better day—was not restricted
to a single country. In England, Robert Owen, the
owner of many cotton mills, established a so-called "socialistic
community" which was a success. But when he died, the prosperity
of New Lanark came to an end and an attempt of Louis
Blanc, a French journalist, to establish "social workshops"
all over France fared no better. Indeed, the increasing number
of socialistic writers soon began to see that little individual
communities which remained outside of the regular industrial
life, would never be able to accomplish anything at all. It
was necessary to study the fundamental principles underlying
the whole industrial and capitalistic society before useful remedies
could be suggested.
The practical socialists like Robert Owen and Louis
Blanc and François Fournier were succeeded by theoretical
students of socialism like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Of
these two, Marx is the best known. He was a very brilliant
Jew whose family had for a long time lived in Germany. He
had heard of the experiments of Owen and Blanc and he began
to interest himself in questions of labour and wages and
unemployment. But his liberal views made him very unpopular
with the police authorities of Germany, and he was forced to
flee to Brussels and then to London, where he lived a poor and
shabby life as the correspondent of the New York Tribune.
No one, thus far, had paid much attention to his books on
economic subjects. But in the year 1864 he organised the first
international association of working men and three years later
in 1867, he published the first volume of his well-known
trea-  tise called "Capital." Marx believed that all history was a
long struggle between those who "have" and those who "don't
have." The introduction and general use of machinery had
created a new class in society, that of the capitalists who used
their surplus wealth to buy the tools which were then used by
the labourers to produce still more wealth, which was again used
to build more factories and so on, until the end of time. Meanwhile,
according to Marx, the third estate (the bourgeoisie)
was growing richer and richer and the fourth estate (the proletariat)
was growing poorer and poorer, and he predicted that
in the end, one man would possess all the wealth of the world
while the others would be his employees and dependent upon
his good will.
To prevent such a state of affairs, Marx advised working
men of all countries to unite and to fight for a number of political
and economic measures which he had enumerated in a Manifesto
in the year 1848, the year of the last great European
These views of course were very unpopular with the governments
of Europe, many countries, especially Prussia, passed
severe laws against the Socialists and policemen were ordered
to break up the Socialist meetings and to arrest the speakers.
But that sort of persecution never does any good. Martyrs
are the best possible advertisements for an unpopular cause.
In Europe the number of socialists steadily increased and it
was soon clear that the Socialists did not contemplate a violent
revolution but were using their increasing power in the different
Parliaments to promote the interests of the labouring
classes. Socialists were even called upon to act as Cabinet
Ministers, and they co-operated with progressive Catholics and
Protestants to undo the damage that had been caused by the
Industrial Revolution and to bring about a fairer division of
the many benefits which had followed the introduction of machinery
and the increased production of wealth.
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