Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

that require nothing but muscular strength. The rude labor, to which alone they have been accustomed, has so incapacitated them for higher tasks, that it is now an established principle in our large manufactories, that the machines cannot profitably be worked if more than one third of the operatives be foreigners. It is not only more economical to pay the higher wages required by native workmen; but foreigners generally, and the Irish in particular, cannot be employed at all, except in that small proportion to the whole number of hands which will make it possible to restrict them to the lower or less difficult tasks. Because our own people are so generally trained to the finer and more productive branches of industry, new expedients are constantly invented by them for performing the drudgery by machines. The locomotive steam excavators, that are often employed on the line of a proposed railroad, and the various contrivances that have been patented for cutting and hoisting ice on our ponds, are instances of this sort of labor-saving machinery. The superfluity and consequent cheapness of rude labor in foreign countries render these expedients unnecessary, and the work is profitably done by hand.

Consider the rapid growth of capital in this State, which is the result of this most effective application of its industry, and also the immense unproductive consumption of the people, — their ample supply, not only of the necessaries, but of the comforts and luxuries of life; and contrast these with the poverty and destitution of Ireland. The productive part of the consumption leads to the increase of the national wealth; the unproductive part is an index of the general well-being of the community. In Ireland, the people are literally too poor to create a demand for anything but potatoes; and the country therefore affords hardly any market either for British or Irish manufactures. There is but little opening there for the mechanic arts, or for the many small occupations which are created by a due regard for the comforts and conveniences of life. The field of employment for skilled industry is consequently limited almost to a span, and the bulk of the people are driven back upon rude labor in agriculture, — to ditching, cutting turf, and planting potatoes; the meagre returns from such toil being hardly sufficient to keep them from starvation. The United States, on the other hand, afford a better market for manufactured goods than any other country of equal population on the globe; because the universal prosperity of the community enables them to consume more. If the relation of cause and effect in this proposition be reversed, so as to say that the people consume more because they produce more, it will amount to the same thing, and be equally favorable for the purposes of the argument. More wealth is created, more is consumed, and the amount of enjoyment is thereby increased.

Unquestionably, we pay a somewhat higher price for our manufactured goods, as a return for the privilege of manufacturing them at home, and thereby having a field of employment for our skilled labor. But what does this tax amount to? The average duty levied by the present tariff on our chief articles of import is less than thirty per cent. But as one of the chief objects of a protective duty is to guard against the injurious fluctuation of prices in foreign markets, whereby we might be deluged with imported goods one year, and be very scantily supplied with them the next, the duty is fixed with reference to the lowest price at which they are ever sold abroad, and not with reference to the average price. The effect of a protective duty of thirty per cent, then, at the utmost, is to raise the average price fifteen per cent.

Whenever we have occasion for any of these small articles, we are obliged to spend a dollar for what might be obtained for eighty-five cents, if we would buy of foreigners; that is, we might save this fifteen cents, if we were willing to give up all our home manufactures, all opportunity for earning high wages by the exhibition of skill and ingenuity, and to confine the whole people to the comparatively rude pursuits of agriculture, thereby overstocking the market with food, and reducing the gains of farmers all over the country. Ireland has acted upon this rule, laid down by most political economists, -— always to buy in the cheapest market, whatever may be the effect upon domestic enterprise. Grain and other provision can be raised most cheaply in Ireland, owing to the low rate of wages there; manufactures can be produced to best advantage in England, owing to the abundance of English capital. Ireland, therefore, raises food to buy English manufactures with; and the present condition of the Irish people is the consequence. They have the advantage, it is true, of the offer of the manufactured goods at prices fifteen per cent less than what they command in America;—an advantage which would be more sensibly felt, if the Irish were not too poor to purchase them at any price.

The proposition, I think, can be laid down as a general one, that a country, the population of which is chiefly or altogether devoted to agriculture, cannot become wealthy, whatever may be the fertility of its soil or the favorableness of its situation. Of course, its inhabitants must buy manufactures with food; that is, they must exchange the products of rude labor for the products of skilled labor; that is, again, they must give the labor of three persons for the labor of one person. The general principle of economical science is, to cause the industry of a country to take that direction in which it can be applied to the greatest advantage. Now the fertility of the soil is one advantage, and the capacity of the people for the higher departments of labor, their skill and enterprise, is another. There is no reason for allowing either of these advantages to remain latent or unworked; and in choosing between them, we are to be decided by their comparative amount and importance. Fortunate as this country is in the extent of its territory and the richness of its soil, this advantage is as nothing, — nay, it would turn out to our positive detriment, — if, in consideration of it, we should sacrifice the talents and the energies of our people, — if we should doom our whole population to the rude labor of turning up the earth, for the sake of the trifling advantage of purchasing our manufactured goods at a little lower price.

Even Adam Smith remarks,* that "A small quantity of manufactured produce purchases a great quantity of rude produce. A trading and manufacturing country, therefore, naturally purchases, with a small part of its manufactured produce, a great part of the rude produce of other countries; while, on the contrary, a country without trade and manufactures is generally obliged to purchase, at the expense of a great part of its rude produce, a very small part of the manufactured produce of other countries. The one exports what can subsist and accommodate but a very few, and imports the subsistence and accommodation of a great number. The other exports the accommodation and subsistence of a great number, and imports that of a very few only. The inhabitants of the one must always enjoy a much greater quantity of subsistence than what their own lands, in the actual state of their cultivation, could afford. The inhabitants of the other must always enjoy a much smaller quantity."

* Wealth of Nations, Book IV. Chap. IX.

One mode in which the encouragement of skilled labor, leading to the interfusion of manufactures and commerce with agriculture, favors the increase of national capital, is, by concentrating the population in cities and towns. Agriculture is necessarily diffusive in its effects; the laborers must be distributed over the whole face of the territory which they cultivate. A few large cities spring up at great distances from each other, as an outlet for the commerce created by the exchange of the surplus agricultural products for manufactured goods and other necessaries brought from abroad. The great agricultural districts of Continental Europe, the wheat-plains of Poland and Southern Russia, find an outlet at the cities of Dantzic and Odessa; and we may remark in passing, that the poverty and general low condition of the inhabitants of these districts show the effects of confining a whole population to the rude labor of tilling the ground. It may be, that, from their low capacity, and their want of education and general intelligence, they are incapable of anything better. If so, the fact only strengthens our argument; wherever the capacity exists, if it be not developed, if a field of employment be not offered to it, the same results must follow. Manufactures and commerce, on the other hand, requiring a great division of labor, and also that the participators in the work should be near each other, necessarily create a civic population. They will only nourish in cities and towns, and they are the only means of creating cities and towns.

This principle, perhaps sufficiently obvious in itself, is strikingly illustrated by the differences among the States of this Union. Our Southern and Southwestern States are almost exclusively agricultural; and south of the northern boundary of Virginia and Kentucky, there is but one city, New Orleans, of the first class, numbering over 100,000 inhabitants, and but two cities of the second class, Charleston and Louisville, each numbering over 40,000. These cities, of course, have sprung up from the same causes which sustain Dantzic and Odessa; they afford an outlet for the surplus produce of the vast agricultural districts which depend upon them; manufactures have hardly contributed at all to their growth. If we reckon as civic population those only who dwell in cities or towns having at least 11,000 inhabitants each, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, two manufacturing States, with an aggregate population of only 1,142,059, have a greater civic population than these ten agricultural States, who number in the aggregate over eight millions. The civic population of the two manufacturing States is nearly one third of their whole number; that of the ten agricultural States is about one twenty-fifth of the whole. The cities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have been created almost entirely by manufacturing enterprise, these States not being remarkable for surplus agricultural produce. Wherever there is a considerable fall of water, affording power to move machinery, there a new city springs up, though the soil in the neighborhood should be as barren as the desert of Sahara. But, under the demand for agricultural produce created by that city, the dry sand and the hard rock are converted into gardens of fruit and vegetables; while the plain of Eastern Virginia, once almost unsurpassed for fertility, its powers being now exhausted, is relapsing in part into its primitive wild condition.

Cities and towns are the great agents and tokens of the increase of national opulence, and the progress of civilization. The revival of effective industry, which preceded, and in part caused, the revival of learning in Europe, took place through the agency of the free towns and great trading cities, which sprang up most numerously in Germany and Italy, where they afforded a refuge for the arts and the pursuits of peace. Their establishment was the first effective blow given to the feudal institutions of the Continent. Commerce and manufactures, to which their walls afforded protection against the chances of war and the rapacity of the warlike nobles, "gradually introduced order and good government, and with them the liberty and security of individuals, among the inhabitants of the country, who had before lived almost in a continual state of war with their neighbors, and of servile dependency upon their superiors. By affording a great and ready market for the rude

« НазадПродовжити »