“Considering the probable composition of the labourers, and the known fact that, where the labour is compulsory, the greater the number of labourers brought together (unless, indeed, where co-operation of many hands is rendered essential by a particular kind of work or of machinery) the less are the proportional profits, it may be doubted whether the surplus from that source merely, beyond the support of the establishment, would sufficiently accumulate in five, or even more years, for the objects in view. And candor obliges me to say that I am not satisfied either that the prospect of emancipation at a future day will sufficiently overcome the natural and habitual repugnance to labour, or that there is such an advantage of united over individual labour as is taken for granted.
“In cases where portions of time have been allotted to slaves, as among the Spaniards, with a view to their working out their freedom, it is believed that but few have availed themselves of the opportunity by a voluntary industry; and such a result could be less relied on in a case where each individual would feel that the fruits of his exertions would be shared by others, whether equally or unequally making them, and that the exertions of others would equally avail him, notwithstanding a deficiency in his own. Skilful arrangements might palliate this tendency, but it would be difficult to counteract it effectually.
“The examples of the Moravians, the Harmonites, and the Shakers, in which the united labours of many for a common object have been successful, have, no doubt, an imposing character. But it must be recollected that in all these establishments there is a religious impulse in the members, and a religious authority in the head, for which there will be no substitutes of equivalent efficacy in the emancipating establishment. The code of rules by which Mr. Rapp manages his conscientious and devoted flock, and enriches a common treasury, must be little applicable to the dissimilar assemblage in question. His experience may afford valuable aid in its general organization, and in the distribution of details of the work to be performed. But an efficient administration must, as is judiciously proposed, be in hands practically acquainted with the propensities and habits of the members of the new community.”
FROM FREDERICK DOUGLASS’S PAPER, 1853: “LEARN TRADES OR STARVE”
These are the obvious alternatives sternly presented to the free colored people of the United States. It is idle, yea even ruinous, to disguise the matter for a single hour longer; every day begins and ends with the impressive lesson that free negroes must learn trades, or die.
The old avocations, by which colored men obtained a livelihood, are rapidly, unceasingly and inevitably passing into other hands; every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place; and so we believe it will continue to be until the last prop is levelled beneath us.