« НазадПродовжити »
villenage, in which not only the slave has property and legal rights, but his obligations are more or less limited by usage, and he partly labors for his own benefit, his condition is seldom such as to produce a rapid growth of population. This cannot be from physical privation, for no slave-laborers are worse fed, clothed, or lodged than the free peasantry of Ireland. The cause usually assigned is, the great disproportion of the sexes which almost always exists where slaves are not bred but imported; this cannot however be the sole cause, as the negro population of our West India colonies continued nearly stationary, after the slave trade to those colonies was suppressed. Whatever be the causes, a slave population is seldom a rapidly increasing one. Slave countries, unless of very small extent or limited natural resources, are generally underpeopled in proportion to their cultivable land. The labor of the slaves, therefore, under any tolerable management, produces much more than is sufficient for their support; especially as the great amount of superintendence which their labor requires, preventing the dispersion of the population, insures some of the advantages of combined labor. Hence, in a good soil and climate, and with reasonable care of his own interests, the owner of many slaves has the means of being rich.
$ 2. The influence, however, of such a state of society on production, is perfectly well understood. It is a truism to assert, that labor extorted by fear of punishment is inefficient and unproductive. It is true that in some circumstances, human beings can be driven by the lash to attempt, and even to accomplish, things which they would not have undertaken for any payment which it could have been worth while to an employer to offer them. And it is likely that productive operations which require much combination of labor, the production of sugar for example, would not have taken place so soon in the American colonies, if slavery
had not existed to keep masses of labor together. There are also savage tribes so averse from regular industry, that industrial life is scarcely able to introduce itself among them until they are either conquered or made slaves of, or become conquerors and make others so. But after allowing the full value of these considerations, it remains certain that slavery, even in the most mitigated form, is incompatible with any high state of the arts of life, and any real efficiency of labor. For all products which require much skill, slave countries are always dependent on foreigners. Hopeless slavery effectually brutifies the intellect; and intelligence in the slaves, though often encouraged in the ancient world and in the East, is in a more advanced state of society a source of so much danger and an object of so much dread to the masters, that in some countries it is a highly penal offence to teach a slave to read. All processes carried on by slave labor are conducted in the rudest and most unimproved manner. And even the animal strength of the slave is, on an average, not half exerted. The mildest form of slavery is certainly the condition of the serf, who is attached to the soil, supports himself from his allotment, and works a certain number of days in the week for his lord. Yet there is but one opinion on the extreme inefficiency of serf labor. The following passage is from Professor Jones,* whose Essay on the Distribution of Wealth (or rather on Rent) is a copious repertory of valuable facts on the landed tenures of different countries.
" The Russians, or rather those German writers who have observed the manners and habits of Russia, state some strong facts on this point. Two Middlesex mowers, they say, will mow in a day as much grass as six Russian serfs, and in spite of the dearness of provisions in England and their cheapness in Russia, the mowing a quantity of hay, which would cost an English farmer half a copeck, will cost a Russian proprietor three or four copecks.* The Prussian counsellor of state, Jacob, is considered to have proved, that in Russia, where everything is cheap, the labor of a serf is doubly as expensive as that of a laborer in England. M. Schmalz gives a startling account of the unproductiveness of serf labor in Prussia, from his own knowledge and observation.t In Austria, it is distinctly stated, that the labor of a serf is equal to only one third of that of a free hired laborer. This calculation, made in an able work on agriculture, (with some extracts from which I have been favored,) is applied to the practical purpose of deciding on the number of laborers necessary to cultivate an estate of a given magnitude. So palpable, indeed, are the ill effects of labor rents on the industry of the agricultural population, that in Austria itself, where proposals for changes of any kind do not readily make their way, schemes and plans for the commutation of labor rents are as popular as in the more stirring German provinces of the North.”
* Essay on the Distribution of Wealth and on the Sources of Taxation. By the Rev. Richard Jones. Page 50.
What is wanting in the quality of the labor itself, is not made up by any excellence in the direction and superintendence. As the same writers remarks, the landed proprietors “are necessarily, in their character of cultivators of their own domains, the only guides and directors of the industry of the agricultural population,” since there can be no intermediate class of capitalist farmers where the laborers are the property of the lord. Great land-owners are everywhere an idle class, or if they labor at all, addict themselves only to the more exciting kinds of exertion; that lion's share which superiors always reserve for themselves. “It would,” as Mr. Jones observes, “ be hopeless and irrational
• "Schmalz, Economie Politique, French translation, vol. i. p. 66." + “Vol. ii. p. 107."
Jones, pp. 53, 54.
to expect that a race of noble proprietors, fenced round with privileges and dignity, and attracted to military and political pursuits by the advantages and habits of their station, should ever become attentive cultivators as a body.” Even in England, if the cultivation of every estate depended upon its proprietor, any one can judge what would be the result. There would be a few cases of great science and energy, and numerous individual instances of moderate success; but the general state of agriculture would be contemptible.
§ 3. Whether the proprietors themselves would lose by the emancipation of their slaves, is a different question from the comparative effectiveness of free and slave labor to the community. There has been much discussion of this question as an abstract thesis ; as if it could possibly admit of any universal solution. Whether slavery or free labor is most profitable to the employer, depends on the wages of the free laborer. These, again, depend on the numbers of the laboring population, compared with the capital and the land. Hired labor is generally so much more efficient than slave labor, that the employer can pay a considerably greater value in wages, than the maintenance of his slaves cost him before, and yet be a gainer by the change; but he cannot do this without limit. The decline of serfdom in Europe, and its extinction in the Western nations, was doubtless hastened by the changes which the growth of population must have made in the pecuniary interests of the master. As population pressed harder upon the land, without any improvement in agriculture, the maintenance of the serfs necessarily became more costly, and their labor less valuable. With the rate of wages such as it is in Ireland, or in England, (where in proportion to its efficiency labor is quite as cheap as in Ireland,) no one can for a moment imagine that slavery could be profitable. If the Irish peasantry were slaves, their masters would be as willing, as their landlords now are, to pay large sums merely to get rid of them. In the rich and underpeopled soil of the West India islands, there is just as little doubt that the balance of profits between free and slave labor was greatly on the side of slavery, and that the compensation granted to the slave-owners for its abolition was not more, but in all probability less, than an equivalent for their loss.
More needs not be said here on a cause so completely judged and decided as that of slavery. It will be curious to see how long the other nations possessing slave colonies will be content to remain behind England in a matter of such concernment both to justice, which decidedly is not at present a fashionable virtue, and to philanthropy, which certainly is so. Europe is far more inexcusable than America in tolerating an enormity, of which she could rid herself with so much greater ease. I speak of negro slavery, not of the servage of the Slavonic nations, who have not yet advanced beyond a state of civilization corresponding to the age of villenage in Western Europe, and can only be expected to emerge from it in the same gradual manner, however much accelerated by the salutary influence of the ideas of more advanced countries.