Dispelling Dickens

Jameson's picture
Submitted by Jameson on Sun, 2011-04-03 06:59

I came across this lecture on The Industrial Revolution in the library of the long-gone Aristotle Bookshop over a decade ago, and I've been referencing it ever since. In four easy parts the estimable Robert LeFevre dismantles the infamous report written by Michael Sadler, a propagandist bromide copied with increasing relish by subsequent anti-industrialists. We've all read Dickens' version of events. Not many have read the Supplementary Report to the Sadler Report, which dispels many if not most of the misanthropic myths. LeFevre tracked down one of only four copies in existence and, in the interests of objectivity, sought to paint a warts 'n all portrait of mankind's greatest leap.

We've all heard about the 16-hour days in brutal mills and factories. Now hear the full story. Yes the days were interminably long — in summer; in winter the workers, who were paid by the hour, complained when their wages were halved by the lack of light. Listen as LeFevre explains how the state created the sweatshop with its window tax, and how the lower classes became the Great Middle Class as wages doubled and redoubled thanks to the natural forces of capitalism.

Part One loses sound quality for a period, but bear with it — it's a temporary glitch in an otherwise brilliant presentation. This lecture will arm you with all the ammo you'll need to blast holes in the arguments of those who perpetuate the lies of The Industrial Revolution.

Part One: http://mises.org/mp3/lefevre/1...
Part Two: http://mises.org/mp3/lefevre/1...
Part Three: http://mises.org/mp3/lefevre/1...
Part Four: http://mises.org/mp3/lefevre/1...

Well, I changed...

Marcus's picture

...the Wikipedia entry using these two references.

Let's see if it stays.

It has been up for two days so far.

Very good, Marcus!!

Jameson's picture

Thanks for that Supplementary Report. : )

I found this...

Marcus's picture

...from a Google search.

"The royal inquiry lasted for the better part of two years and the results published in three supplemental reports. They included the expert testimony of ministers and doctors, the latter often the same doctors used by employers to treat the ailments and accidents of the workers.

The findings from this supplemental report did serve to confirm some of what Sadler reported, but only in minor and not substantive ways.

It was true for example that wages were never as high as the workers would have liked, but there was absolutely no evidence that there was any conspiracy among employers to keep wages down.

The hours were certainly long, especially if there was a rush order or during the summer months when additional daylight added to the available working day...

In short, the worst charges of the Sadler report were either completely refuted, or placed in a context that provided a much more balanced and positive view.

Unfortunately, these supplemental reports received little of the attention received by the original Sadler report, perhaps reflective of facts of human nature that remain unchanged to this day."


"In the reports issued by the subsequent commission we can find effective answers to nearly all the charges made before the committee, but few writers mention this; for the most part they proceed as though the stories brought before the committee were confirmed. We can judge of the difference in the character of the evidence by noticing that R.H. Greg, a fierce critic of Sadler's Committee, could nevertheless refer to the evidence published by the Factory Commission as "an official and authenticated mass of evidence to which all must bow." In particular, the charge of systematic cruelties to children was shown to have been entirely without foundation, and we do not think that any careful student reading these reports could doubt that such deliberate cruelties as did exist were practiced on the children by the operatives themselves, against the will and against the knowledge of the masters. The masters were, on the whole, as many of their opponents admitted, "men of humanity."


Dispelling Dickens...

Jameson's picture

... because, Marcus, it's his boot that teachers use to kick the capitalist revolution in the crotch.

Wikipedia supplies a link to LeFevre, which is a recent addition. Wasn't there a little while back. I searched for the Supplementary Report but have been wholly unsuccessful in finding a copy. One in the Library of Congress according to LeFevre, and I think there's one in the British Museum. Don't suppose you could get down there and get a photocopy, could you? : )


Marcus's picture

...if you have the time or inclination, it might be worth updating the wikipedia entry on the Sadler report to include the supplementary report and perhaps also the information supplied here that the Sadler report was discredited by it.


Dispelling Dickens?

Marcus's picture

Why that title?

Dickens is only mentioned once in the lecture and then we are told that his depiction of orphanages and workhouses is entirely accurate.

So why the Dickens bashing?

By the way - Robert LeFevre sounds uncannily like Milton Friedman, any relation?

Very thought-provoking anyway. Thanks for posting it.

I don't think that's right Doug...

Marcus's picture

Although I haven't read the original book, which I soon will, I think it teaches a different lesson than often portrayed in many films.

It shows that Scrooge was not truly selfish in an objectivist sense. He wanted to love and be loved but thought that doing so was mutually exclusive from making money. On top of that, he never enjoyed his money selfishly but instead hoarded it and lived in very frugal and uncomfortable conditions.

He didn't have a rational reason for hoarding it either other than to have money for its own sake.

For that he denied himself love and happiness.

I'm afraid Scrooge fails the test of being a true egoist in the objectivist sense on all counts.

The story, as far as I know, is not asking the government to force people to give their money to the undeserving - but portraying a man going from a world-view of malevolence to benevolence.

It's true there are probably undertones of there being some sort of "duty" to give - however Scrooge ends up giving most to those he loves and finding reward in his giving to them.


Doug Bandler's picture

Whatever his views on socialism, one thing is certain. He opposed egoism and championed altruism. That's the whole point of Mr. Scrooge.

George Orwell, a socialist himself,...

Marcus's picture

...argued quite convincingly in an essay that Dickens was not actually an agitator for socialism, but was a conservative who wanted to preserve the status quo.

"In Hard Times trade unionism is represented as something not much better than a racket, something that happens because employers are not sufficiently paternal. Stephen Blackpool's refusal to join the union is rather a virtue in Dickens's eyes. Also, as Mr. Jackson has pointed out, the apprentices’ association in Barnaby Rudge, to which Sim Tappertit belongs, is probably a hit at the illegal or barely legal unions of Dickens's own day, with their secret assemblies, passwords and so forth. Obviously he wants the workers to be decently treated, but there is no sign that he wants them to take their destiny into their own hands, least of all by open violence."

Orwell on Dickens

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