Civilization the Result of Compulsory Labor – George Fitzhugh, 1858 (Letter)

Civilization the Result of Compulsory Labor – George Fitzhugh, 1858

Gentlemen: You permit the discussion of sociological and all other scientific questions in your columns, provided it be
unattended with sectional or partisan spirit. I take advantage of your liberality to announce a very simple proposition,
which, if true, will go very far to allay all sections disrespect and ill feeling. No man or woman would produce by their
own labor their fine clothes, tine equipage, costly furniture, and magnificent residences. The laborers who produce the
luxuries of life never use or consume them. Part are produced by domestic slaves at the building of the master-far the
large portion by free laborers, compelled by skill and capital and their own wants, to produce them for the skillful and
rich. These laborers produce, by compulsory labor. luxuries for others, in order to procure necessaries for themselves.
If property were in common, artificial wants would cease, compulsory labor would cease, and each man laboring tbr
himself alone-would produce the merest necessaries of life. But for compulsory labor all men would become savages.
Now, compulsory labor is slavery, whether hunger, or cold, or nakedness, or the will of a master be the means of compulsion.
Our language is defective, all languages are defective in having no word to define exactly and precisely the social status
of laborers who are dependent on capitalists or property holders for employment and support. Southerners and northerners,
too, call it slavery to capital. This is correct, for slavery is a generic term, and includes every status of human subjection
or dependence. But we need a term more definite and specific that shall distinguish slavery to capital from domestic slavery;
for the latter is considered and felt to-be degrading and disgraceful under all circumstances, whilst the former, though liable
to abuse in dense populations. is not, in its nature and essence, a stigma of inferiority. Sociology is a new science, and will
require the invention of a great many new words. Aristotle complained more than two thousand years ago that there were
no words to express the social subjection of wives and children. There are none yet. Until invented, we are compelled to
speak of-slaves to capital, “slaves to parents,” and “slaves to husbands.” No sensible man will take exception to such
necessary expressions. – Geo. Fitzhugh

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