In the early 19th century, industrial society began to be governed by new rules: Traditions were forgotten and replaced by purely economic laws. Labor was viewed as a commodity, like coal or grain, and wages were paid according to the laws of supply and demand, without regard for the needs of the workers. Wages fell to starvation levels, hours of work increased, and working conditions deteriorated.
John Fielden’s book, “The Curse of the Factory System” was written in 1836, and it describes the condition of young children working in the cotton mills. “The small nimble fingers of children being by far the most in request, the custom instantly sprang up of procuring ’apprentices’ from the different parish workhouses of London, Birmingham and elsewhere… Overseers were appointed to see to the works, whose interest it was to work the children to the utmost, because their pay was in proportion to the quantity of work that they could exact.”