Before we can determine if the wage laborers in the North were able to exercise freedom we have to know what freedom is. According to www.dictionary.com freedom is the power of self-determined attribution to will; or the quality of being independent, the power or right to act, think, or speak, without hinderance or restraint. The wage laborers may have worked long hours for little pay but they were more than able to chose and make decisions for themselves and they didn't have that bad of conditions.
“Labor republicanism inherited the idea that designing men perpetually sought to undermine liberty and to “enslave” the people. Chattel slavery stood as the ultimate expression of the denial of liberty” (Pg 341). What the book is trying to say is that people have always wanted to take away liberty and enslave people, but slavery of the blacks took it to an extreme level. Compared to the slaves the wage laborers had ample freedom.
Slavery might have had better conditions like: clothes and medical care, according to New York Historical Society but, Wage laborers could leave work and go home when there jobs were done. They were free to make decisions. If for some reason the wage laborers needed to stay home from work, there would have been consequences but, they always had that decision. Wage laborers also never had to worry about being taken away from their families like the slaves would when they would go through slave trade.
Wage Laborers were employed for long hours with low wages. From meager earning Northerners had to pay for all necessities. (New York Historical Society) A Lowell factory girl describes her job as “[...] laborious as that of almost any female who earns her own living, while it has also it's sunny spots and it's cheerful intervals, which make her hard labor seem comparatively pleasant and easy.” (Pg. 335) This just proves that even the wage laborers didn't see their work as terrible. She was able to see the bright side to her situation that made her not have to worry about the hardships of work. Another example comes from page 335 paragraph four, “Look at her as she commences her weekly task. The rest of the sabbath has made her heart...