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salutary effect in averting extreme poverty and consequent misery."
At Lubeck, “marriages 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 £4."* At Frankfort, "the government prescribes no age for marrying, but the permission to marry is only granted on proving a livelihood.”+
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 able-bodied 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 of the smaller German states.
05. Where there is no general law restrictive of marrage, there are often customs equivalent to it. When the guilds, or trade corporations of the middle ages, were in vigor, their bye-laws or regulations were conceived with a very vigilant eye to the advantage which the trade derived from limiting competition; and they made it very effectually the interest of artisans not to marry until after passing through the two stages of apprentice and journeyman, and attaining the rank of master. I In Norway, where the labor
• Appendix, p. 419. + Thid. p. 567.
En general," says Sismondi, “le nombre des maitres était fixe dans chaque communauté, et le maitre pouvait seul tenir boutique, acheter et Tendre pour son compte. Chaque maitre ne pouvait fermer qu'un certain VOL. I.
is chiefly agricultural, it is forbidden by law to engage a farmservant for less than a year; which was the general English
nombre d'apprentis, auxquels il enseignait son métier; et dans plusieurs communautés, il n'en pouvait tenir qu'un seul. Chaque maître pouvait de même tenir un nombre limité d'ouvriers, qui portaient le nom de compagnons; et, dans les métiers où l'on ne pouvait avoir qu'un seul apprenti, on ne pouvait avoir non plus qu'un seul, ou que deux compagnons. Aucun homme ne pouvait acheter, vendre, ou travailler dans un métier, s'il n'était apprenti, compagnon, ou maitre; aucun homme ne pouvait devenir com. pagnon s'il n'avait servi un nombre d'années déterminé comme apprenti, ou devenir maitre s'il n'avait servi un nombre égal d'années comme compagnon; et s'il n'avait de plus fait son chef-d'œuvre, ou exécuté un travail designé dans son métier, qui devait être jugé par sa jurande. On voit que cette organisation mettait entièrement dans la main des maîtres le renouvellement des corps de métier. Eux seuls pouvaient recevoir des apprentis; mais ils n'étaient point obligés à en prendre; aussi se faisaient-ils payer cette faveur, et souvent à un prix très-élevé; en sorte qu'un jeune homme ne pouvait entrer dans un métier s'il n'avait, au préalable, la somme qu'il fallait payer pour son apprentissage, et celle qui lui était nécessaire pour se sustenter pendant la durée de cet apprentissage; car, pendant quatre, cinq, ou sept ans, tout son travail appartenait à son maitre. Sa dépendance de ce maitre était tout aussi longtemps absolue; car un seul acte de la volonté, ou même du caprice de celui-ci, pouvait lui fermer l'entrée des professions lucratives. L'apprenti, devenu compagnon, acquérait un peu plus de liberté ; il pouvait s'engager avec quel maitre il voulait, passer de l'un à l'autre; et comme l'entrée au compagnonage n'était ouverte que par l'apprentissage, il commençait à profiter du monopole dont il avait souffert, et il était à peu près sûr de se faire bien payer un travail que personne ne pouvait faire, si ce n'est lui. Cependant il dépendait de la jurande pour obtenir la maitrise; aussi ne se regardait-il point encore comme assuré de son sort, comme ayant un état. En général, il ne se mariait point qu'il ne fut passé maitre."
“Il est bien certain, et comme fait et comme théorie, que l'établissement des corps de métier empêchait et devait empêcher la naissance d'une population surabondante. D'après les statuts de presque tous les corps de métier, un homme ne pouvait être passé maître qu'après vingt-cinq ans; mais s'il n'avait pas un capital à lui, s'il n'avait pas fait des économies sutisantes, il continuait bien plus longtemps à travailler comme compagnon; plusieurs, et peut-être le plus grand nombre des artisans, demeuraient compagnons toute leur vie. It était presque sans exemple, cependant, qu'ils se mariassent avant d'être reçus maîtres; quand ils auraient été assez imprudens pour le désirer, aucun père n'aurait voulu donner sa fille à un homme qui n'avait point d'état."-- Nouveaux Principes, book iv. ch. 10. See also Adam Smith, book i. ch. 10. part 2.
practice until the poor-laws destroyed it, by enabling the farmer to cast his laborers on parish pay whenever he did not immediately require their labor. In consequence of this custom, and of its enforcement by law, the whole of the rather limited class of agricultural laborers 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 neighborhood whether there is, or is like to be, a vacancy, and unless there is, a young man does not marry, knowing that he could not obtain employment. The custom still exists in Cumberland 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 they seldom leave until, through the death of some relation or neighbor, they succeed to the ownership or lease of a cottage farm. What is called surplus labor, 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 Other customs restrictive of population 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 unmarried. But such family arrangements are not likely to exist among day laborers. They are the resource of small proprietors and metayers, for preventing too minute a subdivision of the land.
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 land-owners, the increase of resident laborers is still occasionally obstructed, by preventing cottages from being built, or by pulling down those which exist; thus restraining the population liable to become locally chargeable, without any material effect on population generally, the work required in those parishes being performed by laborers 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.
* See Thornton on Over- Population, p. 18, and the authorities there cited.
† Supra, p. 193.
§ 6. In the case, therefore, of the common agricultural laborer, 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 not withstanding 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 ; 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 in reserve for us; especially considering how
much the Irish themselves contribute to it, by migrating to this country and underbidding its native inhabitants. 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 habits to their circumstances; the existing condition of the laborers of some of the most exclusively agricultural counties, Wiltshire, Somersetshire, Dorsetshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, is sufficiently painful to contemplate. The laborers of these counties, with large families, and seven or perhaps eight shillings for their weekly wages when in full employment, have lately become 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 instead of common sense is the genius that 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 laborers, 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 at present; but there is a tacit agreement to ignore totally the law of wages, or to dismiss it in a parenthesis, with such terms as “hardhearted 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 forgetting that the conduct, which it is VOL. I.