In this last case, does the workman receive a recompense equal to that which awaits the soldier’s praiseworthy, but sterile courage—a place in an asylum for invalids? No.
What does the country care about it? And if the master should happen to be ungrateful, the mutilated workman, incapable of further service, may die of want in some corner.
Finally, in our pompous festivals of commerce, do we ever assemble any of the skillful workmen who alone have woven those admirable stuffs, forged and damascened those shining weapons, chiselled those goblets of gold and silver, carved the wood and ivory of that costly furniture, and set those dazzling jewels with such exquisite art? No.
In the obscurity of their garrets, in the midst of a miserable and starving family, hardly able to subsist on their scanty wages, these workmen have contributed, at least, one half to bestow those wonders upon their country, which make its wealth, its glory, and its pride.
A minister of commerce, who had the least intelligence of his high functions and duties, would require of every factory that exhibits on these occasions, the selection by vote of a certain number of candidates, amongst whom the manufacturer would point out the one that appeared most worthy to represent the working classes in these great industrial solemnities.
Would it not be a noble and encouraging example to see the master propose for public recompense and distinction the workman, deputed by his peers, as amongst the most honest, laborious, and intelligent of his profession? Then one most grievous injustice would disappear, and the virtues of the workman would be stimulated by a generous and noble ambition—he would have an interest in doing well.
Doubtless, the manufacturer himself, because of the intelligence he displays, the capital he risks, the establishment he founds, and the good he sometimes does, has a legitimate right to the prizes bestowed upon him. But why is the workman to be rigorously excluded from these rewards, which have so powerful an influence upon the people? Are generals and officers the only ones that receive rewards in the army? And when we have remunerated the captains of this great and powerful army of industry, why should we neglect the privates?
Why for them is there no sign of public gratitude? no kind or consoling word from august lips? Why do we not see in France, a single workman wearing a medal as a reward for his courageous industry, his long and laborious career? The token and the little pension attached to it, would be to him a double recompense, justly deserved. But, no! for humble labor that sustains the State, there is only forgetfulness, injustice, indifference, and disdain!
By this neglect of the public, often aggravated by individual selfishness and ingratitude, our workmen are placed in a deplorable situation.