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Factory Owners In the Industrial Revolution

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Ben Smith

on 17 March 2015

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Transcript of Factory Owners In the Industrial Revolution

Factory Owners in the 19th Century

By: Ben Smith
Wealth of Nations (1776) excerpt

By Adam Smith

There are three orders in society - those who live by rent, by labour and by profits. Employers constitute the third order. . . The proposal of any new law by or regulation which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with the greatest precaution and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public. . .

Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit but constant and uniform combination not to raise the wages of workers. . . . Masters. . .sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the level of wages. . . These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy. . .

Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality, instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all. . .

perfect liberty can never happen if government heeds or is entrusted to the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufacturers who neither are, nor ought to be the rulers of mankind.


Primary Source One
Primary Source Two
Primary Source Three
Overall Impact Rating
19th Century Tractor
Richard Arkwright

Entrepreneur and factory owner Richard Arkwright was said to be the father of the modern factory system, funding the invention of the first cotton spinning jenny, Arkwright was able to revolutionize the production of cotton. His increasing capital was the result of minor expenses and minimal workers in his factory. With his wealth he was able to increase his social status making him one of the very first "nouveau riche" challenging the historic power of the feudalist aristocracy.
Impact Rating: +2
Significance Rating: +2
Adam Smith's book
Wealth of Nations
This short excerpt of Smith's laissez-faire capitalist minded writing, demonstrates the effects of classic liberalism on three main categories of people. Those who live by rent, by labour, and by profit. Also to be classified as the aristocracy, the workers, and the entrepreneurs or factory workers.This third faction is said by Smith to be deceitful and powerful, however in the eyes of the factory owners this individual prosperity was nothing short of desired. These factory owners were able to successfully exercise their rights to private property, economic freedom, and self-interest. The impact of these ideologies created an imbalance between the masters and the workers with all the entrepreneurs trying to sink wages and increase their self profit, and they did this completely free from limitation. This way a factory owner was able to lay off a skilled worker demanding higher pay, for a worker who would accept cheap pay and long hours because that way profits would peak from minimal expenses. Smith said that where there is great property there is great inequality. This is because the civil government, in protecting the property of factory owners, is in reality protecting the rich from the poor. A positive and helpful impact for those entrepreneurs who maintain such great capital. The only drawback of these ideologies for the common factory worker is that the relations with workers and underprivileged citizens are harsh and attacking. The poor do not respect the unequal protection of the rich creating negative opposition against those who upheld the principles of capitalism in entrepreneurial success. Despite the negative bias in the excerpt it is clear that the benefits of the factory owners is unequally limitless under the protection from the civil government, allowing the easy prosperity of those who profit from cheap labour. The significance of this impact could be described as moderately important because the prosperity of factory owners in turn sparked a revolution for the factory system and the industrial revolution, and brought wealth to a middle class of entrepreneurs who would later challenge the authority of the aristocracy. However this positive impact was not entirely significant in that it only really provided capital for those who owned property, and angered those who didn't. Being that it was only a spark for the industrial revolution, factory system, and challenging of the aristocracy but not a direct radical movement, the significance of these ideologies and their impact can only be given a +2 rating.
The early invention of the tractor became one of the main causes for increased workforce in towns and cities. With more machinery and easier agricultural operation, less farm workers were needed to run the farms, therefore causing those who weren't needed to move to the city for work where factories had high demand for workers. This increased workforce gave factory owners more stability to lower wages with more workers and increase production and profit substantially.
Advancements in Agricultural Technology
Impact Rating: +3
Significance Rating: +2
Click to view the primary source first
The second source provided in terms of classic liberalism in the 19th century is the early invention of the tractor. Along with many other developments and progress in mechanical inventions the tractor was one of the few tools that enhanced the efficiency of farm work to the point that it began to render many farmers obsolete. This loss of jobs out in the vast countryside caused many farmers to begin a search for work in the big cities, which were now in large demand for factory workers. This movement reflected the classic liberalism principle of progress, being that the technology was advancing making large jobs and mass production much more efficient, and developing the strength of the factory system. This new unguided work force of farmers would soon become the next wave of cheap labour for the factory owners, who could provide jobs for those in need and pay them unfairly low wages because they needed the job to survive. This again would in turn boost the profits of the factory and the owner would make much more money. The impact of the agricultural advancements like the tractor were purely positive on the entrepreneurs, because these people needed jobs and without them they would die. This interdependency placed a lot of power in the hands of the factory owners and there could be no downfall to this arrangement because the farmers either worked for what they were paid or they lost their job and could not survive. With the immediate supply of workers factory owners could then choose those who would work for the least amount of money and those who would work the longest hours. To the factory owners there were no challenges associated with the invention of the tractor, and the results of its creation were purely beneficial resulting in the impact rating of +3. Much like the ideologies in the first primary source the advancement of farming technologies would only bring more wealth and power to the factory owners from the fresh supply of workers, but would not be the root cause of any radical changes. This increased capital would later provide a base for middle class entrepreneurs to challenge the historical authority of the aristocracy but the only direct significance made by this impact was the increased wealth of the factory owners and the efficiency with which their wealth could be increased.
Richard Arkwright; Father of the Factory System
Impact Rating: +3
Significance rating: +3
Click to view the primary source first
Richard Arkwright, the inventor of the spinning jenny, started out his career as a factory owner when his invention caught the popular eye and he began hiring workers for the mass production of cotton. Arkwright's factory was the first ever in Britain and revolutionized the system for production versus the traditional cottage production where workers worked out of their own home and created the textiles by hand. With his brilliant new idea for efficient production Arkwright was able to acquire a lot of capital in the free economy and with no limits on his production he became very rich. It was successful entrepreneurs and factory owners like Arkwright that began to challenge the traditional authority of the aristocracy. The aristocracy were the people who owned the land and inherited it from ancestors, making them inevitably rich, and higher in status than the commoners. This feudalistic class system began to be revolutionized when people like Arkwright and other members of the "nouveau riche" (newly rich) were able to afford the clothing and lifestyle that was unheard of before the industrial revolution. This gave this middle class authority close to the aristocracy and began to decentralize the power of the state. Those who traditionally had the money and status to influence decisions in society and maintain control over the poor, were then beginning to lose central control in the presence of factory owners and entrepreneurs who had the same capital control as them. Thus making the impact of inventors like Richard Arkright on factory owners a strong positive in that it revolutionized the factory system and reflected the classic liberalist principle of decentralized power by challenging the aristocracy. Arkwright was also able to excersise the principle of individual sovereignty being that he held his own private property and made his own decisions regarding its production that were in his best self interest. The impact rating of inventors such as Arkwright can once again only be described as a full positive with respect to factory owners, because his revolutionary system allowed for cheap mass production, his invention of the spinning jenny cut production times, and his newly found wealth made him a prime factor of the decentralization of the aristocratic powers in 19th century Britain. These benefits and revolutionary changes both resulted in an explanatory +3 rating for both the the impact itself and the significance of the impact.
Net Rating: +2
Overall Impact rating
The overall impact of liberalism on 19th century factory owners was significantly positive. With many of the primary sources developing a basis for evidence that the liberalist ideology inevitably provided substantial wealth and power for those who owned private property or businesses. The theories of Adam Smith were backed by the civil government and the entrepreneurs themselves ensuring protection against the poor, creating an inequality in society, catering more to the the factory owners beneficial self-interest. The advantageous use of supply and demand in boosting profit was an obviously beneficial impact on the factory owners when farmers moved to the cities in search for jobs. Decentralizing aristocratic power was another liberalist principle that was reflected by the factory owners when the newly wealthy were able to oppose the traditional authority of the inherited land owners capital. This was beneficial to the factory owners because they then had more freedom to work in their best self-interest with no other economic powers interfering with their progress. The only drawback from the perspective of factory owners in the 19th century were that the negative relationships formed with workers and the common poor created an opposition against the classic liberalism principles being exercised profitably by the entrepreneurs. This opposition was dangerous being that it invoked change to the system that allowed factory owners to be as prosperous as they were. This final drawback in contradiction to the mostly positive impacts on factory owners is the consideration that leaves the net impact rating at a +2 rather than a +3.
Click to view the primary source first
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