— Theodore Parker abolitionist 1810 - 1860
Context: The world no doubt grows better; comfort is increased from age to age. What is a luxury in one generation, scarce attainable by the wealthy, becomes at last the possession of most men. Solomon with all his wealth had no carpet on his chamber-floor; no glass in his windows; no shirt to his back. But as the world goes, the increase of comforts does not fall chiefly into the hands of those who create them by their work. The mechanic cannot use the costly furniture he makes. This, however, is of small consequence; but he has not always the more valuable consideration, TIME TO GROW WISER AND BETTER IN. As Society advances, the standard of poverty rises. A man in NewEngland is called poor at this day, who would have been rich a hundred and fifty years ago; but as it rises, the number that falls beneath that standard becomes a greater part of the whole population. Of course the comfort of a few is purchased by the loss of the many. The world has grown rich and refined, but chiefly by the efforts of those who themselves continue poor and ignorant. So the ass, while he carried wood and spices to the Roman bath, contributed to the happiness of the state, but was himself always dirty and overworked. It is easy to see these evils, and weep for them. It is common also to censure some one class of men — the rich or the educated, the manufacturers, the merchants, or the politicians, for example — as if the sin rested solely with them, while it belongs to society at large. But the world yet waits for some one to heal these dreadful evils, by devising some new remedy, or applying the old. Who shall apply for us Christianity to social life?
"Thoughts on Labour" in The Dial (April 1841).