Mr. Edward Atkinson says that there are two things “very much needed in these days,” and the first is “for rich men to find out how poor men live.” The individual manufacturer can do little to ameliorate or alter the workings of the present industrial system, but if each were to do that which he can, the aggregate effort would greatly ameliorate and alter the system. If manufacturers possessed an intimate knowledge of the daily experience of their operatives, it would waken a sympathy which must constrain them to do all they could to benefit them, and to try constantly to find methods in which to do more. By way of promoting this intimate acquaintance, it has seemed to me well to make the effort to approach as closely as possible to the daily existence of the operatives, and to describe their homes in this paper. There are some results of tenement ownership by the manufacturers which, while they affect the material fortunes of the male operatives, also influence very decidedly the conditions in which the stream of ordinary life moves for the women and children. When a whole village or a large portion of it belongs to one man or to one company, whose function of landlordism is only accessory to another business, it is true that sanitary regulations may be enforced on a wholesale scale; but in addition it is unfortunately true that the large and varied demands of the whole business occasionally make sanitary neglect quite possible, and cause unsavory corners to be overlooked. No moral excuse can be made for such carelessness, but it is probable that the women and children are at least as secure from the dangers arising from such neglect as they would be if the houses were owned by many different landlords, who would not act in concert as to such matters. The village institution as at present administered, and perhaps inevitably, renders removal from town to town so easy as to foster a nomadic spirit which is inimical to domestic thrift; still, it affords a probability of shelter in any place to which an operative family wish to go, actuated by the hope of getting easier work or better pay, and this feature of the system must often be a decided comfort to anxious souls and weary bodies. If a family has in it members who can work, it is pretty sure of being able to obtain in any village a dwelling within convenient distance of the mill in which they are to be employed. This probability, so cheering to those who need the home, must be held to offset, in a measure, the pain which, as has been intimated in a former paper, is sometimes caused when a family which is no longer able to contribute to the factory service is obliged to vacate in favor of new-comers, and to seek some less loved or more expensive residence. The mill tenements are cheap. No land-lords except the mill proprietors would maintain the rents at such a low rate. They do it, not, it is to be feared, from motives of humanity, but because it is to their interest to attract a population which can furnish them workers; and they are the more able to afford it, because they are certain of being paid out of the wages of their help. Each mill-owner wants his property together, so that the oversight of it all may be easier; and he also desires to have his tenements, if possible, nearer to his own factory than any other, in order that stray members of the force will not be likely to seek less convenient employment. Such proximity of dwelling and working places could hardly be secured by any other system at all harmonious with the general institutions of property and business that distinguish the society of this age.
The land near the mills is now so valuable that the workers can, unfortunately, seldom be householders. Or if they did come into possession, they would probably soon become landlords themselves, using their property to bring in to them a money income. All owners except the manufacturers would lack alike the security as to payment of house-dues, and the motive for trying to accommodate the operative class as tenants. Rents would be raised, and the mill families driven to seek homes in the distant suburbs. The land now occupied for tenements would probably be diverted largely to business purposes, and this would accelerate the removal of the factory population to habitations less convenient for their use than their present ones.