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Documents for Socialist and
Romantic Response

Pierre Proudhon: What Is Property? (1840)

In France, twenty millions of laborers, engaged in all the branches of science, art, and industry, produce every thing which is useful to man. Their annual wages amount, it is estimated. to twenty thousand millions; but, in consequence of the right of property, and the multifarious forms of increase, premiums, tithes, interests, fines, profits, farm-rents, house-rents, revenues, emoluments of every nature and description, their products are estimated by the proprietors and employers at twenty-five thousand millions. What does that signify? That the laborers, who are obliged to repurchase these products in order to live, must either pay five for that which they produced for four, or fast one day in five. . …

Property sells products to the laborer for more than it pays him for them; therefore it is impossible….

Property is impossible; equality does not exist. We hate the former, and yet wish to possess it; the latter rules all our thoughts, yet we know not how to reach it…..

Between woman and man there may exist love, passion, ties of custom, and the like; but there is no real society. Man and woman are not companions. The difference of the sexes places a barrier between them, like that placed between animals by a difference of race. Consequently, far from advocating what is now called the emancipation of woman, I should incline, rather, if there were no other alternative, to exclude her from society……

Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak…… Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation……

All questions of legislation and politics are matters of science, not of opinion. The legislative power belongs only to the reason, methodically recognized and demonstrated. To attribute to any power whatever the right of veto or of sanction, is the last degree of tyranny……

Communism seeks equality and law. Property, born of the sovereignty of the reason, and the sense of personal merit, wishes above all things independence and proportionality.

But communism, mistaking uniformity for law, and levelism for equality, becomes tyrannical and unjust. Property, by its despotism and encroachments, soon proves itself oppressive and anti-social.

The objects of communism and property are good -- their results are bad. And why? Because both are exclusive, and each disregards two elements of society. Communism rejects independence and proportionality; property does not satisfy equality and law.

Now, if we imagine a society based upon these four principles, -- equality, law, independence, and proportionality, -- we find:

         1. That equality, consisting only in equality of conditions, that is, of means, and not in equality of comfort, -- which it is the business of the laborers to achieve for themselves, when provided with equal means, -- in no way violates justice and équité.

         2. That law, resulting from the knowledge of facts, and consequently based upon necessity itself, never clashes with independence.

         3. That individual independence, or the autonomy of the private reason, originating in the difference in talents and capacities, can exist without danger within the limits of the law.

         4. That proportionality, being admitted only in the sphere of intelligence and sentiment, and not as regards material objects, may be observed without violating justice or social equality.

         This third form of society, the synthesis of communism and property, we will call liberty. (libertas,librare, libratio, libra, -- liberty, to liberate, libration, balance. . .words which have a common derivation. Liberty is the balance of rights and duties. To make a man free is to balance him with others, -- that is, to put him or their level.)

         In determining the nature of liberty, we do not unite communism and property indiscriminately; such a process would be absurd eclecticism.

We search by analysis for those elements in each which are true, and in harmony with the laws of Nature and society, disregarding the rest altogether; and the result gives us an adequate expression of the natural form of human society, -- in one word, liberty.

         Liberty is equality, because liberty exists only in society; and in the absence of equality there is no society.

         Liberty is anarchy, because it does not admit the government of the will, but only the authority of the law; that is, of necessity.

Question: In what way is Proudhon's argument a response to both liberalism and communism?

Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels: The Communist Manifesto (1848)

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

         Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. . . .

         The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.

         Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: It has simplified the classantagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other—bourgeoisie and proletariat.

Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune; here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany), there taxable "third estate" of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacture proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general—the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of modern industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie. . . .

         The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature's forces to man, machinery application of chemistry to industry and agriculture steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour? . . .

         In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modem working class, developed—a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.

         Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by increase of the work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of the machinery, etc.

         Modern industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industnal capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overseer, and, above all, by the individual beourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty,the more hateful and the more embittering it is. . . .

         But with the development of industry the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The unceasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon the workers begin to form combinations (trade unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there the contest breaks out into riots. . . .

         This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. . . .

         All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being blown to pieces.

         Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie. . . .

All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.

         The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property.

         The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

         In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. . . .

         You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. . . .

         But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the whole bourgeoisie in chorus.

         The bourgeois sees in his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion than that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

         He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

         For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial. . . .

         The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.

         The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word. . . .

         The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.

         Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

         These measures will of course be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

         1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

         2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

         3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

         4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

         5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.

         6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.

         7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

         8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

         9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

         10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

         When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

         In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

....

Workers of the world unite!

Question: What is the importance of bourgeois actions to ultimate communist revolution?

George Gordon, Lord Byron : On This Day I Complete My Thirty-sixth Year (1824)

Byron wrote this poem at Missolonghi, the site of a battle for the independence of Greece, where Byron had traveled to support the effort.  He wrote this poem on January 22, and died in Greece on April 19.

'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,

    Since others it hath ceased to move:

Yet, though I cannot be beloved,

         Still let me love!

My days are in the yellow leaf;

    The flowers and fruits of love are gone;

The worm, the canker, and the grief

          Are mine alone!

The fire that on my bosom preys

    Is lone as some volcanic isle

No torch is kindled at its blaze—

           A funeral pile.

The hope, the fear, the jealous care,

    The exalted portion of the pain

And power of love, I cannot share,

            But wear the chain.

But 'tis not thus—and 'tis not here—

    Such thoughts should shake my soul.

Where glory decks the hero's bier,

            Or binds his brow.

The sword, the banner, and the field

    Glory and Greece, around us see!

The Spartan, borne upon his shield,

           Was not more free.

Awake! (not Greece—she is awake!)

    Awake, my spirit! Think through whom

Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake,

           And then strike home!

Tread those reviving passions down

    Unworthy manhood!—unto thee

Indifferent should the smile or frown

            Of beauty be.

If thou regrett'st thy youth, why live?

    The land of honorable death

Is here:—up to the field, and give

           Away thy breath!

Seek out—less often sought than found—

    A soldier's grave, for thee the best

Then look around, and choose thy ground,

           And take thy rest.

Question:  In what way does this poem and the circumstances surrounding it reflect the Romantic ideal?

 

Goethe: Faust (1832)

Faust has sold his soul to the devil, Mephistopheles, in return for riches and, in this scene, women.

Faust, then Margareta passing by.

FAUST. Pray take my arm, fair lady.

Let me dare To give you escort homeward, if I may.

MARGARETA. No ladyship am I, nor am I fair,

And need no escort, Sir, to find my way. (Exit.)

FAUST. By Heaven, there goes a maid of rarest beauty:

I never saw a girl more exquisite,

With such an air of goodness and of duty,

And yet the mettle of a lively wit.

Her cheek's soft light, the crimson of her lips,

Will shine for me, outlasting time's eclipse:

For on my soul she printed, as she passed,

Her looks so tender-eyed and so downcast;

And in her brevity, when she replied,

She seemed enchanting youth personified. (Mephistopheles enters.)

Listen! The girl, go win her, Sir, for me!

MEPHISTOPHELES. The girl—what girl?

FAUST. That passed just now.

MEPHISTOPHELES.  She's just been to her priest, in penitence.

Confessing sins; and he absolved the lot.

I overheard her, lurking round the spot, 

And know her for a thing of innocence:

Sinless the girl attends confession-hour,

And over her the devil has no power.

FAUST. But, none the less, she must be turned fourteen.

MEPHISTOPHELES.  There speaks the lad who plays the libertine,

And thinks he has a right to every flower,

Knowing no grace or honourable name

Beyond his reach, to pluck it and devour

It often can't be done, Sir, all the same.

FAUST. Spare me, Professor Plausible, your saws

And plaguey discourse on the moral laws.

To cut the story short, I tell you plain,

Unless her sweet young loveliness has lain

Within my arms' embrace this very night,

The stroke of twelve shall end our pact outright.

MEPHISTOPHELES.  Consider the requirements of the case:

A fortnight is the minimum of space,

To engineer the proper time and place.

FAUST. Give me the girl and seven hours of grace

I wouldn't ask the devil for assistance

To overcome the little thing's resistance.

MEPHISTOPHELES.  Quite like a rake of Paris, Sir, already!

But I advise a strategy more steady,

For what's the good of snatching at your joy?

The pleasure's far more wonderful, my boy,

If first you make a dainty to and fro,

Prepare the darling with love's puppet-show,

And pet her, like your novelistic stallions,

After the manner of the best Italians.

FAUST. That's nothing to the hunger of my heart.

MEPHISTOPHELES.

 Pray hear me now, Sir, pleasantry apart,

 I tell you once for all, that lovely girl

 Is never to be taken in a whirl.

 We stand to lose by forcing of the pace,

 When gentle subterfuge would meet our case.

FAUST. Get me a trifle from that angel's nest,

Or lead me to the dwelling of my dove !

Get me the kerchief that has touched her breast,

Or bring her girdle for my thoughts of love!

MEPHISTOPHELES.

To prove to you the loyalty and zeal

With which I serve the passion that you feel,

I'll guide your eager steps without delay,

And you shall stand within her room this day.

FAUST. And shall I see her? - have her?

MEPHISTOPHELES.  No, good Sir, She's on a visit to a cottager;

But you, meanwhile, may pass sweet hours away

And breathe her aura to your heart's content,

And nurse the thoughts of love's enravishment.

FAUST. Can we go now?

MEPHISTOPHELES.   It is too early yet.

FAUST.  Prepare a gift, the best that wealth can get. (Exit.)

MEPHISTOPHELES.

Presents, so soon? - He'll win her, past a doubt!

Full many a pretty place I know

With treasure buried long ago,

I'll go and get the baubles sorted out.

Question:  What values are being explored in this excerpt?

Charles Dickens: A Walk in a Workhouse' (1850)

         A few Sundays ago, I formed one of the congregation assembled in the chapel of a large metropolitan Workhouse. With the exception of the clergyman and clerk, and a very few officials, there were none but paupers present. The children sat in the galleries; the women in the body of the chapel, and in one of the side aisles; the men in the remaining aisle. The service was decorously performed, though the sermon might have been much better adapted to the comprehension and to the circumstances of the hearers. The usual supplications were offered, with more than the usual significancy in such a place, for the fatherless children and widows, for all sick persons and young children, for all that were desolate and oppressed, for the comforting and helping of the weakhearted, for the raising-up of them that had fallen; for all that were in danger, necessity, and tribulation. The prayers of the congregation were desired "for several persons in the various wards dangerously ill"; and others who were recovering returned their thanks to Heaven....

         When the service was over, I walked with the humane and conscientious gentleman whose duty it was to take that walk that Sunday morning, through the little world of poverty enclosed within the workhouse walls. It was inhabited by a population of some fifteen hundred or two thousand paupers, ranging from the infant newly born or not yet come into the pauper world to the old man dying on his bed.

         In a room opening from a squalid yard, where a number of listless women were lounging to and fro, trying to get warm in the ineffectual sunshine of the tardy May morning,—in the "Itch-Ward," not to compromise the truth,—a woman, such as Hogarth has often drawn, was hurriedly getting on her gown before a dusty fire. She was the nurse, or wardswoman, of that insalubrious department—herself a pauper—flabby, rawboned, untidy—unpromising and coarse of aspect as need be But on being spoken to about the patients whom she had in charge, she turned round, with her shabby gown half on, half off, and fell a-crying with all her might. Not for show, not querulously, not in any mawkish sentiment, but in the deep grief and affliction of her heart; turning away her disheveled head; sobbing most bitterly, wringing her hands. and letting fall abundance of great tears, that choked her utterance. What was the matter with the nurse of the itch-ward? Oh, "the dropped child" was dead! Oh, the child that was found in the street, and she had brought up ever since, had died an hour ago, and see where the little creature lay, beneath this cloth! The dear, the pretty dear!

         The dropped child seemed too small and poor a thing for Death to be in earnest with, but Death had taken it; and already its diminutive form was neatly washed, composed, and stretched as if in sleep upon a box. I thought I heard a voice from Heaven saying, It shall be well for thee, O nurse of the itch-ward, when some less gentle pauper does those offices to thy cold form, that such as the dropped child are the angels who behold my Father's face! ...

         In one place, the Newgate of the Workhouse, a company of boys and youths were locked up in a yard alone; their dayroom being a kind of kennel where the casual poor used formerly to be littered down at night. Divers of them had been there some long time. "Are they never going away?" was the natural enquiry. "Most of them are crippled, in some form or other," said the wardsman, "and not fit for anything." They slunk about, like dispirited wolves or hyaenas; and made a pounce at their food when it was served out, much as those animals do. The big-headed idiot shuffling his feet along the pavement, in the sunlight outside, was a more agreeable object every way.

         Groves of babies in arms; groves of mothers and other sick women in bed; groves of lunatics; jungles of men in stone-paved down-stairs day-rooms. waiting for their dinners; longer and longer groves of old people, in up-stairs Infirmary wards, wearing out life, God knows how—this was the scenery through which the walk lay, for two hours. In some of these latter chambers there were pictures stuck against the wall, and a neat display of crockery and pewter on a kind of sideboard; now and then it was a treat to see a plant or two; in almost every ward there was a cat.

         In all of these Long Walks of aged and infirm, some old people were bedridden, and had been for a long time; some were sitting on their beds half naked; some dying in their beds; some out of bed, and sitting at a table near the fire. A sullen or lethargic indifference to what was asked, a blunted sensibility to everything but warmth and food, a moody absence of complaint as being of no use, a dogged silence and resentful desire to be left alone again, I thought were generally apparent. On our walking into the midst of, one of these dreary perspectives of old men, nearly the following little dialogue took place, the nurse not being immediately at hand:—

         "All well here?"

         No answer. An old man in a Scotch cap sitting among others on a form at the table, eating out of a tin porringer, pushes back his cap a little to look at us, claps it down on his forehead again with the palm of his hand, and goes on eating.

        "All well here?" (repeated).

         No answer. Another old man sitting on his bed, paralytically peeling a boiled potato, lifts his head and stares.

        "Enough to eat?"   No answer. Another old man, in bed, turns himself and coughs.

         "How are you to-day?" To the last old man.

         That old man says nothing; but another old man, a tall old man of very good address, speaking with perfect correctness, comes forward from somewhere, and volunteers an answer. The reply almost always proceeds from a volunteer, and not from the person looked at or spoken to.

         "We are very old, sir," in a mild, distinct voice. "We can't expect to be well, most of us."

         "Are you comfortable?"

         "I have no complaint to make, sir." With a half shake of his head, a half shrug of his shoulders, and a kind of apologetic smile.

         "Enough to eat?"

         "Why, sir, I have but a poor appetite," with the same air as before; "and yet I get through my allowance very easily."

         "But," showing a porringer with a Sunday dinner in it, "here is a portion of mutton and three potatoes. You can't starve on that?"

         "Oh, dear, no, sir," with the same apologetic air. "Not starve."

         "What do you want?"

         "We have very little bread, sir. It's an exceedingly small quantity of bread."

         The nurse, who is now rubbing her hands at the questioner's elbow, interferes with, "It ain't much really, sir. You see they've only six ounces a day, and when they've took their breakfast, there can only be a little left for night, sir."

          An old man, hitherto invisible, rises out of his bedclothes, as out of a grave, and looks on.

         "You have tea at night?" The questioner is still addressing the well-spoken old man.

         "Yes, sir, we have tea at night."

         "And you save what bread you can from the morning, to eat with it?"

         "Yes, sir—if we can save any."

         "And you want more to eat with it?"

         "Yes, sir." With a very anxious face.

         The questioner, in the kindness of his heart, appears a little discomposed, and changes the subject.

         "What has become of the old man who used to lie in that bed in the corner?"

         The nurse don't remember what old man is referred to. There has been such a many old men. The well-spoken old man is doubtful. The spectral old man who has come to life in bed says, "Billy Stevens." Another old man who has previously had his head in the fireplace pipes out:—

         "Charley Walters."

         Something like a feeble interest is awakened. I suppose Charley Walters had conversation in him.

         "He's dead," says the piping old man.

         Another old man, with one eye screwed up, hastily displaces the piping old man, and says:—

         "Yes! Charley Walters died in that bed, and—and—"

         "Billy Stevens," persists the spectral old man.

         "No, no! and Johnny Rogers died in that bed, and—and —they're both on 'em dead—and Sam'l Bowyer" (this seems very extraordinary to him), "he went out!"

         With this he subsides, and all the old men (having had quite enough of it) subside, and the spectral old man goes into his grave again, and takes the shade of Billy Stevens with him.

         As we turn to go out at the door, another previously invisible old man, a hoarse old man in a flannel gown, is standing there, as if he had just come up through the floor.

         "I beg your pardon, sir, could I take the liberty of saying a word?"

         "Yes, what is it?"

         "I am greatly better in my health, sir; but what I want to get me quite round," with his hand on his throat, "is a little fresh air, sir. It has always done my complaint so much good, sir. The regular leave for going out comes round so seldom, that if the gentlemen, next Friday, would give me leave to go out walking, now and then—for only an hour or so, sir!— "

Who could wonder, looking through those weary vistas of bed and infirmity, that it should do him good to meet with soma other scenes, and assure himself that there was something else on earth? Who could help wondering why the old men lived on as they did; what grasp they had on life: what crumbs of interest or occupation they could pick up from its bare board; whether Charley Walters had ever described to them the days when he kept company with some old pauper woman in the bud, or Billy Stevens ever told them of the time when he was a dweller in the far-off foreign land called Home!

         The morsel of burnt child, lying in another room, so patiently, in bed, wrapped in lint, and looking steadfastly at us with his bright quiet eyes when we spoke to him kindly, looked as if the knowledge of these things, and of all the tender things there are to think about, might have been in his mind—as if he thought, with us, that there was a fellowfeeling in the pauper nurses which appeared to make them more kind to their charges than the race of common nurses in the hospitals—as if he mused upon the Future of some older children lying around him in the same place, and thought it best, perhaps, all things considered, that he should die—as if he knew, without fear, of those many coffins, made and unmade, piled up in the store below, and of his unknown friend, "the dropped child," calm upon the box-lid covered with a cloth. But there was something wistful and appealing, too, in his tiny face, as if, in the midst of all the hard necessities and incongruities he pondered on, he pleaded, in behalf of the helpless and the aged poor, for a little more liberty—and a little more bread.

Question:  What does this passage tell you about conditions in the workhouses?