Changes in Great Britain: Mill v. Carlyle

894 Words4 Pages
Britain in the nineteenth century was experiencing a growth, a movement, and a change. Along with change came prosperity, wealth, and support. However, along with the good came the negative. The negative was the people who were traditional. They did not want change because they liked their world the way it was. One of these people was Thomas Carlyle. He was tremendously pessimistic towards the change of the nineteenth century and he wrote an essay titled The "Mechanical Age" explaining why. His former friend, a supporter of change, John Stuart Mill also wrote a paper. Mill's paper was aptly called The Spirit of the Age, as he was exceptionally welcome to the idea of a revolution. These once former friends have incredibly different and strong points of view; they give their opinions of what the world should be like.

In the nineteenth century the industrial revolution in Britain was at its peak. Machines were rapidly being used in factories and being used throughout the country. Carlyle opposed of this process and believed it to be destruction of moral character. His attitude throughout the excerpt was that machines, although helpful, are destroying nature and all things truly important, the human soul. He believes that not only do machines destroy the physical being of humans, they destroy the "internal and spiritual also."

At that time, trains were just invented and were rapidly becoming popular. These trains could transport goods and products much quicker and more efficiently. Steam engines were being used to navigate the seas. Carlyle himself stated that "The sailor furls his sail, and lays down his oar; and bids a strong, unwearied servant, on vaporous wings, bear him through the waters. This detailed imagery of a steam engine did just that. It transformed sea travel from a long and rigorous task into a much more efficient and simpler one. However, Carlyle believed it was wrong. Why? Because Carlyle thought that mankind was falling into the power of the machines. He truly believed that machines would corrupt society and that society is making a mistake by relying so heavily on the usage of mechanical inventions.

While Carlyle mainly focused on the emphasis of machines and the destruction of society due to them, Mill was much more optimistic about a new start.
Open Document