The Cotton Mill: the Herod Among Industries

A.J. McKelway
1911 The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science  
Good old Nathaniel Morton, in his New England Memorial, assigned as one of the reasons why the Pilgrim Fathers left the Old World for the New this: &dquoThat many of their children, through the extreme necessity that was upon them, although of the best dispositions and graciously inclined, and willing to bear part of their parents' burdens, were oftentimes so oppressed with their heavy labors, that although their spirits were free and willing, yet their bodies bowed under 'the weight of the
more » ... e weight of the same and became decrepit in their early youth, and the vigor of nature was consumed in the very bud.&dquo When we begin to study the child labor system in England, which the Pilgrim Fathers found so oppressive to their children that its existence was one reason for coming to the New World, we find that the cotton mill occupied a bad eminence. All through the eighteenth century we find references to the employment of children of tenderest years in cotton mills. These references are mostly of a congratulatory nature that a place for the child has been found in the world of industry, and that the child is no longer an encumbrance but an asset. The attitude of the English people during this century may be summed up in the following quotation: &dquoA quarter of the mass of mankind are children, males and females, under seven years old, from whom little labor is to be expected.&dquo It is interesting to note that though the Pilgrim Fathers say they came to America partly to escape the oppression of their children, child labor preceded them, for in 16ig, the year before the Fathers planted their considerable feet on Plymouth Rock, there is an acknowledgment of the General Court of Virginia of the one hundred children sent over, &dquosave such as dyed in the waie.&dquo A letter from England in 1627 mentions incidentally the fact that &dquothere are many ships going to Virginia, and with them fourteen or fifteen hundred children.&dquo These children were mostly paupers,
doi:10.1177/0002716211038001s06 fatcat:itzm4ggfnneobekqvpzoetdvzq