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Locke, J.[ames W.]
Autograph Letter Signed, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, March 15, 1836, to his sister, Mary Louisa Locke, New Ipswich, New Hampshire

quarto, two pages, plus stamp-less address leaf, in very good, clean condition.

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Locke writes:

“… in case I get any money, for I am distressingly short just now … I have provided myself with a ticket for the Roxbury Lyceum course of lectures [which] began last evening. Introductory by Mr. Webster on popular education. It was a very good one but the views were not sound. He attributed the general increase of popular knowledge to the application of science… and to general use of labor saving machines or rather, as he called them, Labordoing machines, which by doing up the work afford much time for the improvement of the mind. He then went on to state that the more of these things the better and advocate the encouragement of monopolies and corporations for the purpose of carrying on all sorts of Business, manufactures and machinery operations – Now that is just the trouble with his whig principles. The poor man forgot to mention that in England the land of monopolies and of corporations and of capital and of Laboring machines, the poorer laboring classes are in a far less agreeable situation than the same are with us. How ignorant and degraded are they in comparison to ours. Poor man, he forgot that in the land where his favorite system is in the fullest operation, there its effect, which sounds so well in theory, in practice has a most unfavorable effect. Webster knows better than to stick so closely to the miserable English system of Political Economy, He does it all to compliment the Boston people…”

Little is known about the astute 21 year-old writer, whose life was sadly short. Born in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, he came to Massachusetts to care for a farm owned by his family. Less than ten years later, he died, in Arkansas at age 29. As for Daniel Webster, his 1836 speech at Roxbury may have been a rehearsal for an address he delivered two years later on the floor of the United States Senate in which he lauded Massachusetts as the most “highly civilized society” on earth, with the greatest “equality in the condition of men”, all of whom might be called “aristocrats”. He also praised science for “creating millions of laborers in the form of machines, all but automatic”, surely one of the earliest American tribute to automation in the era of the British Luddites.