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enjoyed by some special class of labourers in old countries, from an extraordinarily rapid growth, not of capital generally, but of the capital employed in a particular occupation. So gigantic has been the progress of the cotton manufacture since the inventions of Watt and Arkwright, that the capital engaged in it has probably quadrupled in the time which population requires for doubling. While, therefore, it has attracted from other employments nearly all the hands which geographical circumstances and the habits or inclinations of the people rendered available; and while the demand it created for infant labour has enlisted the immediate pecuniary interest of the operatives in favour of promoting, instead of restraining, the increase of population; nevertheless wages in the great seats of the manufacture are generally so high, that the collective earnings of a family amount, on an average of years, to a very satisfactory sum ; and there is, as yet, no sign of ermanent decrease, while the effect has also been felt in raising the general standard of agricultural wages in the counties adjoining. soil those circumstances of a country, or of an occupation, in which population can with impunity increase at its utmost rate, are rare, and transitory. Very few are the countries presenting the needful union of conditions. Either the industrial arts are backward and stationary, and capital therefore increases slowly; or the effective desire of accumulation being low, the increase soon reaches its limit; or, even though both these elements are at their highest known degree, the increase of capital is checked, because there is not fresh land to be resorted to, of as good quality as that already occupied. Though capital should for a time double itself simultaneously with population, if all this capital and population are to find employment on the same land, they cannot without an unexampled succession of agricultural inventions continue doubling the produce; therefore, if wages do not fall, rofits must ; and when profits fall, crease of capital is slackened. Be
sides, even if wages did not fall, the price of food (as will be shown more fully hereafter) would in these circum, stances necessarily rise; which is equivalent to a fall of wages. Except, therefore, in the very peculiar cases which I have just noticed, of which the only one of any practical importance is that of a new colony, or a country in circumstances equivalent to it; it is impossible that population should increase at its utmost rate without lowering wages. Nor will the fall be stopped at any point, short of that which either by its physical or its moral operation, checks the increase of population. In no old country, therefore, does population increase at anything like its utmost rate; in most, at a very moderate rate: in some countries not at all. These facts are only to be accounted for in two ways. Either the whole number of births which nature admits of, and which happen in some circumstances, do not take place; or if they do, a large proportion of those who are born, die. The retardation of increase results either from mortality or prudence; from Mr. Malthus's positive, or from his preventive check: and one or the other of these must and does exist, and very powerfully too, in all old societies. Wherever opulation is not kept down . the pru§. eitherofindividuals or of the state, it is kept down by starvation or disease. Mr. Malthus has taken great pains to ascertain, for almost every country in the world, which of these checks it is that operates: and the evidence which he collected on the subject, in his Essay on Population, may ever now be read with advantage. Through out Asia, and formerly in most Euro pean countries in which the labouring classes were not in personal bondage, there is, or was, no restrainer of population but death. The mortality was not always the result of poverty: much of it proceeded from ...; and careless management of children, from uncleanly and otherwise unhealthy habits of life among the adult population, and from the almost periodical occurrence of destructive epidemics. Throughout Europe these causes of shortened life have much diminished, but they have not ceased to exist. Until a period not very remote, hardly any of our large towns kept o its population, independently of the stream always flowing into them from the rural districts: this was still true of Liverpool until very recently; and even in London, the mortality is larger, and the average duration of life shorter, than in rural districts where there is much greater poverty. In Ireland, epidemic fevers, and deaths from the exhaustion of the constitution by insufficient nutriment, have always accompanied even the most moderate deficiency of the potato crop. Nevertheless, it cannot now be said that in any part of Europe, population is principally kept down by disease, still less by starvation, either in a direct or in an indirect form. The agency by which it is limited is chiefly
reventive, not (in the language of W. Malthus) positive. But the preventive remedy seldom, I believe, consists in the unaided operation of prudential motives on a class wholly or mainly composed of labourers for hire, and looking forward to no other lot. In England, for example, I much doubt if the generality of agricultural labourers practise any prudential restraint whatever. They generally marry as early, and have as many children to a marriage, as they would or could do if they were settlers in the United States. During the generation which preceded the enactment of the present Poor Law, they received the most direct encouragement to this sort of improvidence: being not only assured of support, on easy terms, whenever out of employment, but even when in employment, very commonly receiving from the parish a weekly allowance proportioned to their number of children; and the married with large families being always, from a shortsighted economy, employed in preference to the unmarried; which last
remium on population still exists.
nder such prompting, the rural labourers acquired habits of recklessness, which are so congenial to the uncultivated mind, that in whatever manner produced, they in general long
survive their immediate causes. There are so many new elements at work in society, even in those deeper strata which are inaccessible to the mere movements on the surface, that it is hazardous to affirm anything positive on the mental state or practical impulses of classes and bodies of men, when the same assertion may be true to-day, and may require great modification in a few years time. It does, however, seem, that if the rate of increase of population depended solely on the agricultural labourers, it would, as far as dependent on births, and unless repressed by deaths, be as rapid in the southern counties of England as in America. The restraining principle lies in the very great proportion of the population composed of the middle classes and the skilled artizans, who in this country almost equal in number the common labourers, and on whom prudential motives do, in a conj. degree, operate.
§ 4. Where a labouring class who have no property but their daily wages, and no hope of acquiring it, refrain from over-rapid multiplication, the cause, I believe, has always hitherto been, either actual legal restraint, or a custom of some sort which, without intention on their part, insensibly moulds their conduct, or affords immediate inducements not to marry. It is not generally known in how many countries of Europe direct legal obstacles are opposed to improvident marriages. The communications made to the original Poor Law Commission by our foreign ministers and consuls in different parts of Europe, contain a considerable amount of information on this subject. Mr. Senior, in his preface to those communications,” says that in the countries which recognise a legal right to relief, “marriage on the part of persons in the actual receipt of relief appears to be everywhere prohibited, and the marriage of those who are not likely to possess the means of independent support is allowed by very
* Forming an Appendix (F) to the General Report of the Commissioners, and also published by authority as a separate volume.
few. Thus we are told that in Norway no one can marty without ‘showing, to the satisfaction of the clergyman, that he is permanently settled in such a manner as to offer a fair prospect that he can maintain a family. “In Mecklenburg, that ‘marriages are delayed by conscription in the twenty-second year, and military service for six years; besides, the parties must have a dwelling, without which a clergyman is not permitted to marry then. The men marry at from twentyfive to thirty, the women not much earlier, as both must first gain by service enough to establish themselves.” “In Saxony, that “a man may not marry before he is twenty-one years old, if liable to serve in the army. In Dresden, professionists (by which word artizans are probably meant) may not marry until they become masters in their trade.” “In Wurtemberg, that “no man is allowed to marry till his twenty-fifth year, on account of his military duties, unless permission be especially obtained or purchased: at that age he must also obtain permission, which is granted on proving that he and his wife would have together sufficient to maintain a family or to establish themselves; in large towns, say from 800 to 1000 florins (from .66l. 13s. 4d. to 84l. 3s. 4d.); in smaller, from 400 to 500 florins: in villages, 200 florins (16l. 13s. 4d.)” The minister at Munich says, “The great casse why the number of the poor is kept so low in this country arises from the prevention by law of marriages in cases in which it cannot be proved that the parties have reasonable means of subsistence; and this regulation is in all places and at all times strictly adhered to. The effect of a constant and firm observance of this rule has, it is true, a considerable influence in keeping down the population of Bavaria, which is at present low for the extent of country, but it has a most salutary effect in averting extreme poverty and consequent misery.”f
At Lubeck, o: among the poor are delayed by the necessity a man is under, first, of previously proving that he is in a regular employ, work, or profession, that will enable him to maintain a wife: and secondly, of becoming a burgher, and equipping himself in the uniform of the burgher guard, which together may cost him nearly 4l.” At Frankfort, “the government prescribes no age for marrying, but the permission to marry is only granted on proving alivelihood.”f The allusion, in some of these statements, to military duties, points out an indirect obstacle to marriage, interposed by the laws of some countries in which there is no direct legal restraint. In Prussia, for instance, the institutions which compel every ablebodied man to serve for several years in the army, at the time of life at which imprudent marriages are most likely to take place, are probably a full equivalent, in effect on population, for the legal restrictions .# the smaller German states. “So strongly,” says Mr. Kay, “do the people f Switzerland understand from experience the expediency of their sons and daughters postponing the time of their marriages, that the councils of state of four or five of the most democratic of the cantons, elected, be it remembered, by universal suffrage, have passed laws by which all young persons who marry before they have proved to the magistrate of their district, that they are able to support a family, are rendered liable to a heav fine. In Lucerne, Argovie, Unterwalden, and I believe, St. Gall, Schweitz, and Uri, laws of this character have been in force for many years.”f
§ 5. Where there is no general law restrictive of marriage, there are often customs equivalent to it. When the guilds or trade corporations of the Middle Ages were in vigour, their byelaws or regulations were conceived with a very vigilant eye to the advantage o; the o derived from limiting competition: and they made it very effectually the interest of artizans not to marry until after passing through the two stages of apprentice and journeyman, and attaining, the rank of master.” In!Norway, where the labour is chiefly agricultural, it is forbidden to engage a farm-servant for less than a year; which was the general English practice until the poor laws destroyed it, by enabling the farmer to cast his labourers on parish pay whenever he did not immediately require their labour. In consequence of this custom, and of its enforcement by law, the whole of the rather limited class of agricultural labourers in Norway have an engagement for a year at least, which if the parties are content with one another, naturally becomes a permanent engagement: hence it is known in every neighbourhood whether there is, or is likely to be, a vacancy, and unless there is, a young man does not marry, knowing that he could not obtain employment. The oustom still exists in
* Appendix, p. 419. + Ibid. p. 567. 1. Kay, as before cited, i. 68.
* “In general,” says Sismondi, “the number of masters in each corporation was fixed, and no one but a master could keep a shop, or buy and sell on his own account. Each master could only train a certain number of apprentices, whom he instructed in his trade; in some corporations he was only allowed one. Each master could also employ only a limited number of workmen, who were called companions, or journeymen ; and in the trades in which he could only take one apprentice, he was only allowed to have one, or at most two journeymen. No one was allowed to buy, sell, or work at a trade, unless he was either an apprentice, a journeyman, or a master; no one could become a journeyman without having served a given number of years as an apprentice, nor a master, unless he had served the same number of years as a journeyman, and unless he had also executed what was called his chef d’auvre, (masterpiece) a piece of work appointed in his trade, and which was to be judged of by the corporation. It is seen that this organization threw entirely into the hands of the masters the recruiting of the trade. They alone could take apprentices; but they were not compelled to take any; accordingly they required to be paid, often at a very high rate, for the favour ; and a young man could not enter into a trade if he had not, at starting, the sum required to be paid for his apprenticeship, and the means necessary for his support during that apprenticeship; since for four, five, or seven-years, all his work Delonged to his master. His dependence on the master during that time was complete; for the mastor's will, or even caprice, could
Quinberland and Westmoreland, except that the term is half a year instead of a year; and seems to be still attended with the same consequences. The farm-servants are “lodged and boarded in their masters' houses, which the seldom leave until, through the deat of some relation or neighbour, they succeed to the ownership or lease of a cottage farm. What is called surplus labour does not here exist.”* I have mentioned in another chapter the check to population in England during the last century, from the difficulty of obtaining a separate dwelling place.f Qther customs restrictive of popula. tion might be specified: in some parts of Italy, it is the practice, according to Sismondi, among the poor, as it is well known to be in the higher ranks, that all but one of the sons remain unmar ried. But such family arrangements are not likely to exist among day-labourers. They are the resource of small proprietors and metayers, for preventing too minute a subdivision of the land.
close the door of a lucrative profession upon him. After the apprentice became a journeyman he had a little more freedom ; he could engage with any master, he chose, or pass from one to another; and as the condition of a journeyman was only accessible through apprenticeship, he now began to profit by the monopoly from which he had previously suffered, and was almost sure of getting well paid for a work which no one else was allowed to perform. He depended, however, on the corporation for becoming a master, and did not, therefore, regard himself as being yet assured of his lot, or as having a permanent position. In general he did : marry until he had passed as a maser. “It is certain both in fact and in theory that the existence of trade corporations himdered, and could not but hinder, the birth of a superabundant population. By the statutes of almost all the guilds, a man could not pass as amaster before the age of twenty-five : but if he had no capital of his own, if he had not made sufficient savings, he continued to work as a journeyman much longer; some, perhaps the majority of artisans, remained journeymen all their lives. There was, however, scarcely an instance of their marrying before they were received as masters : had they been so imprudent as to desire it, no father would have given his daughter to a man without a position.”—New Principles of
Political Economy, book iv., ch. 10. See also
Adam Smith, book i., ch. 10, part 2. * See Thornton on Over-Population 18, and the authorities there cited. t Supra, p. 99.
In England generally there is now scarcely a relic of these indirect checks to population; except that in parishes owned by one or a very small number of landowners, the increase of resident labourers is stilloccasionally obstructed, by preventing cottages from being built, or by pulling down those which exist; thus restraining the population liable to become locally j. without any material effect on population generally, the work required in those parishes being performed by labourers settled elsewhere. The surrounding districts always feel themselves much aggrieved by this practice, against which they cannot defend themselves by similar means, since a single acre of land owned by any one who does not enter into the combination, enables him to defeat the attempt, very profitably to himself, by covering that acre with cottages. To meet these complaints it has already been under the consideration of Parliament to abolish parochial settlements, and make the poor rate a charge not on the parish, but on the whole union. If this proposition be adopted, which for other reasons is very desirable, it will remove the small remnant of what was once a check to population: the value of which, however, from the narrow limits of its operation, must now be considered very trifling.
§ 6. In the case, therefore, of the common agricultural labourer, the checks to population may almost be considered as non-existent. If the growth of the towns, and of the capital there employed, by which the factory operatives are maintained at their present average rate of wages notwithstanding their rapid increase, did not also absorb a great part of the annual addition to the rural population, there seems no reason in the present habits of the people why they should not fall into as miserable a condition as the Irish previous to 1846; and if the market for our manufactures should, I do not say fall off, but even cease to expand at the rapid rate of the last fifty years, there is no certainty that this fate may not be reserved for us.
Without carrying our anticipations forward to such a calamity, which the great and growing intelligence of the factory population would, it may be hoped, avert, by an adaptation of their i. to their circumstances; the existing condition of the labourers of some of the most exclusively agricultural counties, Wiltshire, Somersetshire, Dorsetshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, is sufficiently painful to contemplate. The labourers of these counties, with large families, and eight or perhaps nine shillings for their weekly wages when in full employment, have for some time been one of the stock objects of popular compassion : it is time that they had the benefit also of some application of common Sense. Unhappily, sentimentality rather than common sense usually presides over the discussion of these subjects; and while there is a growing sensitiveness to the hardships of the poor, and a ready disposition to admit claims in them upon the good offices of other people, there is an all but universal unwillingness to face the real difficulty of their position, or advert at all to the conditions which nature has made indispensable to the improvement of their physical lot. , Discussions on the condition of the labourers, lamentations over its wretchedness, denunciations of all who are supposed to be indifferent to it, projects of one kind or another for improving it, were in no country and in no time of the world so rife as in the present generation; but there is a tacit agreement to ignore totally the law of wages, or to dismiss it in a parenthesis, with such terms as “hard-hearted Malthusianism;” as if it were not a thousand times more hard-hearted to tell human beings that they may, than that they may not, call into existence swarms of creatures who are sure to be miserable, and most likely to be depraved; and forgettin that the conduct, which it is reckone so cruel to disapprove, is a degrading slavery to a brute instinct in one of the persons concerned, and most commonly, in the other, helpless submission to a revolting abuse of power.