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tation of being disliked or despised for not doing it. We are often told that the most thorough perception of the dependence of wages on population will not influence the conduct of a laboring man, because it is not the children he himself can have that will produce any effect in generally depressing the labor-market. True: and it is also true, that one soldier's running away will not lose the battle; accordingly, it is not that consideration which keeps each soldier in his rank; it is the disgrace which naturally and inevitably attends on conduct by any one individual, which if pursued by a majority, everybody can see would be fatal. Men are seldom found to brave the general opinion of their class, unless supported either by some principle higher than regard for opinion, or by some strong body of opinion elsewhere.
It must be borne in mind also, that the opinion here in question, as soon as it attained any prevalence, would have powerful auxiliaries in the great majority of women. It is never by the choice of the wife that families are too numerous; on her devolves (along with all the physical suffering and at least a full share of the privations) the whole of the intolerable domestic drudgery resulting from the excess. To be relieved from it would be hailed as a blessing by multitudes of women who now never venture to urge such a claim, but who would urge it, if supported by the moral feelings of the community. Among the barbarisms which law and morals have not yet ceased to sanction, the most disgusting surely is, that any human being should be permitted to consider himself as having a right to the person of another.
If the opinion were once generally established among the laboring class, that their welfare required a due regulation of the numbers of families, the respectable and well-conducted of the body would conform to the prescription, and only those would exempt themselves from it, who were in
the habit of making light of social obligations generally; and it is then that a justification would exist for converting the moral obligation against bringing children into the world who are a burden to the community, into a legal one; just as in many other cases of the progress of opinion, the law ends by enforcing against recalcitrant minorities, obligations which to be useful must be general, and which, from a sense of their utility, a large majority have voluntarily consented to take upon themselves. Whether a legal sanction would be ultimately required, or moral sanctions, and the indirect influence of law and policy, would suffice
and if legal measures were necessary, of what nature it would be advantageous that they should be, it would be premature, in the present state of the question, to discuss.*
The prospects, then, of the existing system of society, depend upon this: What chance is there that opinions and feelings, grounded on the law of the dependence of wages on population, will arise among the laboring classes? and by what means can such opinions and feelings be called forth? Before considering the grounds of hope on this subject, a hope which many persons, no doubt, will be ready without consideration to pronounce chimerical, I will remark, that on the possibility of making a satisfactory answer to these two questions, depends the acquittal or the condemnation of the industrial system prevailing in this country, and regarded by many writers as the ne plus ultra of civilization—the permanent dependence of the whole laboring class of the community on the wages of hired labor. The question we are considering is, whether, of this state of things, over-population and a degraded condition of the laboring class are the inevitable consequence. If a prudent regulation of population were not reconcilable with the system of hired labor, the conclusion would be that the system is a nuisance, and that the grand object of economical statesmanship should be, (by whatever arrangements of property and alterations in the modes of applying industry,) to bring the laboring people under the influence of stronger and more obvious inducements to this kind of prudence, than the relation of workmen and employers could afford.
* Although, in this place, where the subject under discussion is the causes and remedies of low wages, the question of population is treated chiefly as a laborer's question, the principle contended for includes not only the laboring classes, but all persons, except the few who being able to give to their offspring the means of independent support during the whole of life, do not leave them to swell the competition for emplor. ment.
There is, however, no such incompatibility. The causes of poverty are not so obvious at first sight to a population of hired laborers, as to one of proprietors, but they are in no way mysterious. The dependence of wages on the number of the competitors for employment, is so far from hard of comprehension, or unintelligible to the laboring classes, that by great bodies of them it is already recognized and habitually acted on. It is familiar to all Trades Unions; every successful combination to keep up wages, owes its success to contrivances for restricting the number of the competitors; all skilled trades are anxious to keep down their own numbers, and many impose, or endeavor to impose, as a condition upon employers, that they shall not take more than a prescribed number of apprentices. There is, of course, a great difference between limiting their numbers by excluding other people, and doing the same thing by a restraint imposed on themselves; but the one as much as the other shows a clear perception of the relation between their numbers and their remuneration. The principle is understood in its application to any one employment, but not to the general mass of employment. For this there are several reasons: first, the operation of causes is more easily and distinctly seen in the more circumscribed field ; secondly, skilled artisans are a more intelligent class than ordinary manual laborers; and the habit of concert, and of passing in review their general condition as a trade, keeps up a better understanding of their collective interests; thirdly and lastly, they are the most provident, because they are the best off, and have the most to preserve. What, however, is clearly perceived and admitted in particular instances, it cannot be hopeless to see understood and acknowledged as a general truth. Its recognition, at least in theory, seems a thing which must necessarily and immediately come to pass, when the minds of the laboring classes become capable of taking any rational view of their own aggregate condition. Of this the majority of them have until now been incapable, either from the uncultivated state of their intelligence, or from poverty, which, leaving them neither the fear of worse, nor the smallest hope of better, makes them careless of the consequences of their actions, and without thought for the future.
$ 3. For the purpose, therefore, of altering the habits of the laboring people, there is need of a twofold action, directed simultaneously upon their intelligence and their poverty. An effective national education of the children of the laboring class, is the first thing needful; and, coincidently with this, a system of measures which shall (as the Revolution did in France) extinguish extreme poverty. for one whole generation.
This is not the place for discussing, even in the most general manner, either the principles or the machinery of National Education. Of the little which is fit to be said on such a subject in a treatise like the present, the smallest portion only can be alluded to in this part of it. But it is to be hoped that opinion on the subject is advancing, and that an education of mere words would not now satisfy us, slow as our progress is towards giving anything better even
to those for whom we profess to do our very best. Without entering into disputable points, it may be asserted without scruple, that the aim of all intellectual training for the mass of the people, should be to cultivate common sense; to qualify them for forming a sound practical judgment of the circumstances by which they are surrounded. Whatever, in the intellectual department can be superadded to this, is chiefly ornamental; while this is the indispensable groundwork on which education must rest. Let this object be acknowledged and kept in view as the thing to be first aimed at, and there will be little difficulty in deciding either what to teach, or in what manner to teach it.
An education directed to diffuse good sense among the people, with such knowledge as would qualify them to judge of the tendencies of their actions, would be certain, even without any direct inculcation, to raise up a public opinion by which intemperance and improvidence of every kind would be held discreditable, and the improvidence which overstocks the labor market would be severely condemned, as an offence against the common weal. But though the sufficiency of such a state of opinion, supposing it formed, to keep the increase of population within proper limits, cannot, I think, be doubted; yet for the formation of the opinion, it would not do to trust to education alone. Education is not compatible with extreme poverty. It is impossible effectually to teach an indigent population. And it is difficult to make those feel the value of comfort who have never enjoyed it, or those appreciate the wretchedness of a precarious subsistence, who have been made reckless, by always living from hand to mouth. Individuals often struggle upwards into a condition of ease; but the utmost that can be expected from a whole people is to maintain themselves in it; and improvement in the habits and requirements of the mass of unskilled day-laborers will be difficult and tardy, unless means can be contrived of