Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

sumption. The effect, so far as agriculture was concerned, was suspended in 1847, and partially in 1848, by the potatorot in Ireland, and the partial failure of the crops in England and on the Continent, which caused a large demand for American articles of food to be exported. But the demand and the price fell oft* again in subsequent years. In 1850 and 1851, the average price of flour in our Atlantic seaports was about five dollars a barrel, a price at which the farmers of the West cannot afford to export it at all, except for the purpose of relieving a glutted market by a sacrifice* Meanwhile, the sale of British manufactures in this country, to the great depression of our domestic industry, rapidly increased. Our imports of the manufactures of wool, cotton,, and iron, for the year ending in June, 1851, had become forty-three per cent, and for that ending in June, 1853, one hundred and twenty-five per cent, greater than they were the year before the alteration of the tariff. To pay for these extravagant importations, we were obliged to sell our agricultural products at the reduced price just mentioned, and to export an immense amount of California gold besides.

The effect upon the demand for labor in manufacturing operations in the United States may be very briefly illustrated. In Pennsylvania, the number of blast furnaces for the production of iron from the ore was 304, capable of making half a million of tons annually. Within three years after the effects of the new tariff began to be felt, 167 of these furnaces, or 56 per cent, were put out of blast, and the iron made by the remainder was 49 per cent less than the quantity previously manufactured. There were also 200 establishments for the manufacture of wrought iron, and they produced about 200,000 tons annually; within two years after the enactment of the new tariff, their product fell off 33 per cent, and the manufacture generally ceased to yield any profit, and was continued only to avoid a heavy sacrifice in the cost of the machinery.j The capital invested in the 504 iron works in Pennsylvania exceeded twenty millions of dollars; and the number of persons directly employed in them, when all at work, would be 30,103. Reckoning also the hands employed in mining and transporting coal and ore to the works, and in transporting the finished iron to market, we have a grand total of 41,616 men dependent on the iron business in Pennsylvania alone. This State probably produces half of all the iron manufactured in the United States; and as the statistics now given leave no doubt that at least one half of the workmen formerly engaged in making iron were dismissed, it is certain that the new tariff threw out of employment 40,000 laborers in this business alone. Most of these discharged workmen necessarily became farmers and agricultural laborers, and, by their competition, tended to reduce the prices, already ruinously low, of agricultural produce.

* The present enhanced price (1855) of American provisions and bread-stuffs does not affect this argument. A deficiency of the crops in England, the war with Kussia, and the disturbing effect upon the prices of all commodities of the great influx of Californian and Australian gold, is the cause of this enhanced price, which, to a considerable degree, is merely nominal.

t To the suggestion, that these unfortunate results may possibly be attributable to over-trading, and not to the tariff of 1846, the conclusive answer may be made, that, in the year when the production of Pennsylvania iron was greatest, the country imported over 50,000 tons of pig and bar iron, exclusive of chains, wrought-iron, hardware, &c. A manufacture cannot be deemed excessive which is insufficient to supply the home market.

This is not all. "Within three years after this reduction of the tariff, the price of the imported iron began to rise rapidly, and in 1852 and 1853, it was even higher than it had been before the ruin of the home manufacture. Then, at a great cost, the old business was resumed, the deserted works were repaired, the machinery replaced, and the manufacture was again in the full tide of activity, but subject to another decline and fall with the next fluctuation in the foreign market. The injury done to American industry arises not so much from the quantity, as from the ruinous fluctuations in price, of the imported commodities. "What is needed from a protective tariff in this country is, to prevent the foreign article from being frequently sent hither to be sold below its cost, in order to relieve the glutted English market. The aggregate cost of iron to American consumers, during the eight years preceding 1854, was undoubtedly greater than if the reduction of the duties through the tariff of 1846 had never taken place.

There are no means of ascertaining precisely the effect produced by the new tariff on the manufactures of cotton and wool. According to the census of 1850, these manufactures then gave employment to upwards of 55,000 male operatives, and to over 75,000 females, a number probably not so great by 50 per cent as it would have been, but for the reduction of duties in 1846. The vicissitudes to which these manufacturers have been exposed, have not been destructive to many works already in existence; but there has been no such development or extension of them as the interests of the country required. It is not enough for the peculiar situation in which the people of this country are now placed, that the great departments of industry should be able merely to sustain themselves, by a great effort, at the point which they had reached ten years ago. They must be developed and multiplied at a rate proportioned at least to the rapid growth of our population both from native and foreign sources. Otherwise, the profits of capital and the wages of labor must sink to the level at which they have long rested in Great Britain. The inevitable consequence of free trade and constantly increasing commercial intercourse between the two countries must be, to establish among the inhabitants of both of them the same standard of material well-being, the same measure and distribution of individual prosperity. Great Britain is now pouring upon us in a full tide both the surplus of her population and the products of her overtasked manufacturing industry. She is giving us more mouths to feed, at the moment when she is taking away from us the means of feeding them in any other way than by forcing them into agricultural industry, and thus cheapening still farther the agricultural products which alone she can receive from us in exchange. The ocean, which once separated us, steam has contracted to a span. For all purposes of free intercourse, we are now virtually two contiguous countries, separated by no mountain barriers, by no differences of race, language, or polity, by no fundamental dissimilarity of our political institutions, and governed by the same system of municipal law. We are rapidly becoming as much one people as the English and the Irish, or the English and the Scotch. To expect that, in two countries thus situated, without any special direction of public policy towards maintaining some barrier between them, the pressure of population, the profits of capital, and the wages of labor can long remain very ■unequal, would be as idle as to believe that, without the erection of a dam, water could be maintained at two different levels in the same pond. Throw down the little that remains of our protective system, and let the emigration from Great Britain and Ireland to our shores increase to half a million annually, and within the lifetime of the present generation, the laborer's hire in our Atlantic States will be as low as it is in England. Our manufactures would flourish then, as those of Great Britain flourish now; cheap labor is the only requisite for placing them upon the same level. It is not, then, for the sake of the capital now embarked in our manufacturing enterprises, that we would advocate a return to what has been well denominated "the American policy." But that the bulk of our laboring population should fall into that condition where they would be exposed to such evils as have visited the laboring classes of Great Britain and Ireland during the last ten years, — that the necessary standard of wages, as the English economists call it, should be here, as well as there, the smallest sum which will give a mere subsistence, — this we should regard as the greatest calamity which the folly of men or the wrath of Heaven could bring upon the land.

CHAPTER XV.

THE CAUSES OF DIFFERENT RATES OF WAGES IN DIFFERENT EMPLOYMENTS.

The effect of competition upon the rates of wages in different employments has been admirably illustrated by Adam Smith. It is matter of common observation, that the workmen in different arts and trades are paid very unequally, if their wages be reckoned only in money. A blacksmith usually earns more than a farm-laborer; a watchmaker more than a blacksmith; a lawyer or a physician — for these also are laborers for hire — more than a watch-maker. How can such inequalities exist, when competition, the great equalizing agent, is always at work, and tends always to bring profits, wages, and prices to a level? Why do not persons leave those employments that are underpaid, and flock into those which receive more than the average? The answer is, that laborers are paid for their services not only in money, but in the various degrees of credit or estimation in which their business is held, in the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the occupation, the ease or difficulty of learning it, and in its several other peculiarities; and that competition is often limited by circumstances, so that it is unable to produce its full effect. Competition is free only when all persons are at liberty to enter into it; and men compete for employment in different occupations according to their view, not merely of the pecuniary gains which it offers, but of the various circumstances, among which the nominal amount of wages is only one, that render it more or less desirable. I borrow with some enlargement the illustrations of this topic by Adam Smith and other economists.

First, "the wages of labor vary with the ease or hardship, the cleanliness or dirtiness, the honorableness or dishonorableness, of the employment." Thus, the work of a stevedore, that of loading and unloading vessels at the wharves, as it is more humble, dirty, and fatiguing, is more highly paid, than that of a shoemaker. "A journeyman blacksmith, though an artificer, seldom earns so much in twelve hours as a collier, who is only a laborer, does in eight; his work is not quite so dirty, is less dangerous, and is carried on in daylight and above ground. Honor makes a great part of the reward of all honorable professions." The profession of a teacher is more respectable than that of a dressmaker; and therefore many young women, here in New England, will keep school at three dollars a week, when they might earn six dollars in the same time by ministering to their countrywomen's love of fashion and elegance in dress. Occupations which can be pursued at home are not so largely remunerated as those which must be carried on within the precincts of a great manufactory. A farmer's daughter, who has what is called "slop-work" supplied to her at home from the cheap-clothing establishments, cannot earn one third as much as she would receive for tending a loom in a cotton-factory; but then she can choose her

« НазадПродовжити »