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extent, than the wages of equally severe labor in other employments. The principal example of the kind is domestic manufactures. When spinning and knitting were carried on in every cottage, by families deriving their principal support from agriculture, the price at which their produce was sold (which constituted the remuneration of the labor) was often so low, that there would have been required great perfection of machinery to undersell it. The amount of the remuneration in such a case, depends chiefly upon whether the quantity of the commodity, produced by this description of labor, suffices to supply the whole of the demand. If it does not, and there is consequently a necessity for some laborers who devote themselves entirely to the employment, the price of the article must be sufficient to pay those laborers at the ordinary rate, and to reward therefore very handsomely the domestic producers. But if the demand is so limited that the domestic manufacture can do more than satisfy it, the price is naturally kept down to the lowest rate at which peasant families think it worth while to continue the production. It is, no doubt, because the Swiss artisans do not depend for the whole of their subsistence upon their looms, that Zurich is able to maintain a competition in the European market even with English capital, and English fuel and machinery.* Thus far, as to the remuneration of the subsidiary employment; but the effect to the laborers, of having this additional resource, is almost certain to be (unless peculiar counteracting causes intervene) a proportional diminution of the wages of their main occupation. The habits of the people (as has already been so often remarked) everywhere require some particular scale of living, and no more, as the condition under which they are willing to bring up a family. Whether the income which maintains them in this condition comes from one source or from two, makes no difference; if there is a second source of income, they will require less from the first; and will multiply (at least this has always hitherto been the case) to a point which leaves them no more from both employments, than they would probably have had from either if it had been their sole occupation.
* Four fifths of the manufacturers of the canton of Zurich are small farmers, generally proprietors of their farms. The cotton manufacture occupies either wholly or partially 23,000 people, nearly a tenth part of the population ; and they consume a greater quantity of cotton per inhabitant than either France or England. See the statistical account of Zurich, formerly cited, pp. 306, 309.
For the same reason it is found that, cæteris paribus, those trades are by far the worst paid, in which the wife and children of the artisan aid in the work. The income which the habits of the class demand, and down to which they are almost sure to multiply, is made up in those trades, by the earnings of the whole family, while in others the same income must be obtained by the labor of the man alone. It is even probable that their collective earnings will amount to a smaller sum than those of the man alone in other trades; because the prudential restraint on marriage is unusually weak when the only consequence immediately felt is an improvement of circumstances, the joint earnings of the two going further in their domestic economy after marriage than before. Such accordingly is the fact, in the case of hand-loom weavers. In most kinds of weaving, women can and do earn as much as men, and children may be and are employed at a very early age ; but the aggregate earnings of a family are lower than in almost any other kind of industry, and the marriages earlier. It is noticeable also that there are certain branches of hand-loom weaving in which wages are much above the rate common in the trade, and that these are the branches in which, from the degree of bodily strength requisite, neither women nor young persons are employed. These facts were authenticated by the inquiries of the Hand-loom Weavers' Commis
sion, which made its report in 1841. The case of factory women and children may be quoted on the other side of the question; but that case is an exception to ordinary principles, inasmuch as from successive improvements in machinery, and a consequent progressive cheapening of the manufactured article, the expansion of factory employment has for half a century outstripped even the rapid growth of the factory population.
$ 5. It deserves consideration, why the wages of women are generally lower, and very much lower, than those of men. They are not universally so. Where men and women work at the same employment, if it be one for which they are equally fitted in point of physical power, it does not appear that they are in general unequally paid. Women, in factories, earn as much as men; and so they do in hand-loom weaving, which, being paid by the piece, brings their efficiency to a sure test. If the pay is unequal where the efficiency is equal, the only explanation that can be given is custom; grounded either in a prejudice, or in the present constitution of society, which, making almost every woman, socially speaking, an appendage of some man, enables men to take systematically the lion's share of whatever belongs to both. When an employment (as is the case with many trades) is divided into several parts, of some of which men alone are considered capable, while women or children are employed in the others, it is natural that those who cannot be dispensed with, should be able to make better terms for themselves than those who can. But the principal question relates to the peculiar employments of women. The remuneration of these is always, I believe, greatly below that of employments of equal skill and equal disagreeableness, carried on by men. The explanation of this must be, that they are overstocked; that although so much smaller a number of women, than
ultimately very injurious to themselves. But, in so far as they do succeed in keeping up the wages of any trade by limiting its numbers, I look upon them as simply intrenching round a particular spot against the inroads of overpopulation, and making their wages depend upon their own rate of increase, instead of depending on that of a more reckless and improvident class than themselves. And I should rejoice if by trade regulations, or even by trades unions, the employments thus specially protected could be multiplied to a much greater extent than experience has shown to be practicable. What at first sight seems the injustice of excluding the more numerous class from sharing the gains of a comparatively few, disappears when we consider that by being admitted they would not be made better off, for more than a short time; the only permanent effect which their admission would produce, would be to lower the others to their own level. If, indeed, the general mass of the people were so improved in their standard of living, as not to press closer against the means of employment than those trades do; if, in other words, there were no greater degree of overcrowding outside the barrier, than within it—there would be no need of a barrier, and if it had any effects at all, they must be bad ones; but in that case the barrier would fall of itself, since there would no longer be any motive for keeping it up. On similar grounds, if there were no other escape from that fatal immigration of Irish, which has done and is doing so much to degrade the condition of our agricultural, and some classes of our town population, I should see no injustice, and the greatest possible expediency in checking that destructive inroad by prohibitive laws. But there is a better mode of putting an end to this mischief, namely, by improving the condition of the Irish themselves; and England owes an atonement to Ireland for past injuries, which she ought to suffer almost any inconvenience rather than VOL. I.
wages of common labor. They might be so kept without any assignable limit, were it not that wages which exceed the usual rate require corresponding prices, and that there is a limit to the price at which even a restricted number of producers can dispose of all they produce. In most civilized countries, the restrictions of this kind which once existed have been either abolished or very much relaxed, and will, no doubt, soon disappear entirely. In some trades, however, and to some extent, the combinations of workmen produce a similar effect. Those combinations always fail to uphold wages at an artificial rate, unless they also limit the number of competitors. But they do occasionally succeed in accomplishing this. In several trades the workmen have been able to make it almost impracticable for strangers to obtain admission either as journeymen or as apprentices, except in limited numbers, and under such restrictions as they choose to impose. It was given in evidence to the Hand-Loom Weavers' Commission, that this is one of the hardships which aggravate the grievous condition of that depressed class. Their own employment is overstocked and almost ruined; but there are many other trades which it would not be difficult for them to learn ; to this, however, the combinations of workmen in those other trades, are said to interpose an obstacle hitherto insurmountable.
Notwithstanding, however, the cruel manner in which the exclusive principle of these combinations operates in a case of this peculiar nature, I find it impossible to wish, in the present state of the general habits of the people, that no such combinations existed. Acts of atrocity are sometimes committed by them, in the way of personal outrage or intimidation, which cannot be too rigidly repressed ; and even their legitimate liberty of refusing to work unless their own terms are conceded to them, they not unfrequently exercise in an injudicious, unenlightened manner,