Don't Know Much

Who Said It (8/20/18)


Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

President Abraham Lincoln, First Annual Message (December 3, 1861)


Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class–neither work for others nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families–wives, sons, and daughters–work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other.

Source: Abraham Lincoln: “First Annual Message,” December 3, 1861. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.  

For a history of the roots of Labor Day, read “The Blood and Sweat Behind Labor Day

Or watch this brief animated video I did with Ted ED: “Why do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day?

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