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he hears the Poor Laws assigned as the true reason of the present excess and consequent depression of the population, is this ; that the effect has come upon us with the suddenness of an unexpected visitation of Providence, while the alleged cause of the evil is of about two hundred years standing. Twenty years ago, who was there that dreamed of any such thing as a redundant population ? Twenty years ago, the Poor were taught that to marry, and even to marry young, was a meritorious act. The very object of the Legislature, during the administration of Mr. Pitt, seemed to be to encourage marriage by the provisions and exemptions in favour of married men, which formed so conspicuous a feature of bis scheme of taxation. Wbatever was the minister's intention, it is certain that those measures partook of the nature of a bonus upon marriage; and it is impossible that their tendency should have been overlooked, bad an excess of population then been apprehended as an evil. And why was it not regarded in this light ? Clearly, because it was not then felt to be an evil; because, in other words, this excess was not perceptible, or rather, it had no existence. Excess as measured by employment, there was little or none. The condition of the inass of the people, in the manufacturing districts at least, was tolerably good; ihe rate of wages in some instances high, and, in almost every branch of industry, fully adequate to the increased dearness of provisions. It was in agricultural districts that the pressure of poverty was principally felt, owing to a depreciation of labour, or what comes to the same thing, a rise in the price of commodities greater than the rise in the wages labour. The extent of the progressive reduction thus silently effected in the incomes of the agricultural labourer and artisan, it is difficult to ineasure with accuracy; but Mr. Barton cannot be far from correctness in stating, that the actual expense of subsistence is now about three times greater than it was in the early or the middle part of the last century, while the wages of agricultural labourers, and of such common artificers as carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, and masons, have within the same period barely doubled; so that the recompense of their industry has decreased one third.
• The workman receives for his day's toil, twice as large an amount in money as he received in the reign of George II., but he can purchase with that double amount, only two thirds of the quantity of goods. Wages, estimated in money, have risen a hundred per
cent: estimated in commodities, they have fallen thirty three per cent.'
Estimated in pints of wheat, husbandry wages have, since 1750, been gradually falling. In 1751, money wages were 6s. per week; in 1803, they were 118. 5d. But at the former period, 68. was equal to 96 pints of wheat; at the latter period, 118. 5d. was equal to only 63 pints : so that wages underwent in the in
terval, a depreciation of thirty three per cent. The wages of carpenters, bricklayers, and other domestic artificers, declined, during the same period, froin 247 pints of wheat to 116.
The depreciation of husbandry labour, then, the only kind of labour which till very lately has come under the supposed operation of the Poor Laws, has been a growing evil during the past seventy years. And yet, for a great part of that time, this country has enjoyed an unexampled degree of prosperity. Agriculture, in particular, bas proved so profitable, not withstanding all the burdens entailed upon the land, as to draw to itself an immense accession of capital. Our farmers have been growing rich, have actually risen as a class in the scale of society; while the landed aristocracy have been enabled to secure a vast augmentation of revenue. This progressive reduction of the wages of labour, which has proved a source of profit to the farmer, would seem to have been necessarily attended by a proportionate increase of suffering on the part of the labouring classes : but such has not been the case.
• Although the labourer's command over the necessaries and conveniences of life is very materially lessened, that unfavourable change has been so far counteracted by improved habits of living, that upon the whole his condition seems to be more tolerable than it was sixty or seventy years ago ; for our registers of mortality, which afford a pretty accurate standard of the measure of suffering endured by the poor at different periods, decisively prove that the healthiness of the people is greatly increased. The improvement in this respect within the last century is indeed so astonishingly great, that it would appear quite incredible, had we noi so much evidence on the subject, collected from such various quarters, and founded on different principles of computa. tion, yet agreeing in the general result. The average number of deaths yearly within the limits of the London Bills of Mortality, exceeded in the reign of George I. 26,000:-of late years, notwithstanding the prodigious accession of inhabitants, it has not amounted to 20,000. From 1780 to 1784, the average number of deaths yearly entered in the Parish Registers of England and Wales, equalled 1.40th part of the populationg-from 1804 to 1809 only 1-53d. It is hardly possible that This extraordinary change can arise from anyinaccuracy in the registers ; --for the omissions are likely to be fewer in later years, since a higher degree of importance has been attached to their correctness, than formerly. But if the omissions in early times were more numerous than at present, the rate of mortality was in fact still higher in comparison with Jater years than the above statements would indicate.
It may be added that the registers not only shew a great decrease in the total number of deaths, they also indicate that those deaths take place on an average at a mucb later period of life; that a much smaller proportion die in infancy than forinerly,-a much larger proportion attain to longevity.' pp.13~ 15.
Mr. Barton remarks that there is no satisfactory way of aceounting for this wonderful increase of healthiness, except by
referring it to an improvement in the habits of the people ; since the abatement of mortality is far from being most sensible jo those diseases of which the mode of treatment bas received the greatest improvement. The cause of this decided alteration in the health of the people of England, Dr. Heberden explicitly attributes to the improvements which have gradually taken place in all great towns, particularly with respect to cleanliness and Ventilation. The cheapness of manufactured goods, owing to the perfection to which the use of machinery has been carried; by which means our lower classes generally are better clothed; while their clothing; being in itself less substantial, is more frequently renewed,-may be assigned as a fürther cause of the improved habits of the people in respect to decency and cleanli. ness, and of the consequent decrease of mortality. • To what cause soever the change is referrible, it is a fact, that the habits and the condition of the poor have been bettered, at the same time that the effective incoine of the industrious classes has suffered a vast reduction. And now what becomes of the charges so often brought against the poor, of increased extravagance and idleness? Mr. Barton cites the language of the First Report of the Commons' Committee on the Poor Laws, in which the necessities of the depressed population are ascribed to an abatement of those exertions on which, accord• ing to the nature of things, the welfare and happiness of man.
kind has been made to rest, accompanied by a growing indiss position to make provision in the season of health and vigour . for the wants of sickness and old age;' and he then justly asks for the proof of the growth of these alleged vicious propensities
"On what grounds is the accusation built ? Every presumption surely is against il. Does the present state of the Savings Banks imply any backwardness on the part of the poor to make a reserve from their earnings against a day of want? Is any increasing carelessness of the future discos verable in the fact that nearly a million of our labouring population are members of Friendly Societies; associations formed by the poot thema selves, generally without the aid, often without the countenance, of their superiors, for the express purpose of“ making a provision in the season of health and vigour for the wants of sickness and old age?" The only evi. dence brought forward to prove the reality of this moral deterioration is the progressive growth of pauperism. If we ask why the number of poor increases, we are told that the people are less careful and industrious than formerly:--if we require proof that they are less careful and industrious, we are referred back to the spread of pauperism. But it is very clear that if the recompence of labour decline, the demands on parochial funds may increase without supposing any peculiar misconduct on the part of the applicants. When the ordinary rate of wages does not more ibani suffice for the decent maintenance of a wife and two children, those who have larger fainilies can do no other than apply for relief. Wheti
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the price of bread in good years is so high as only just to allow the labourer to live on his earnings, it argues no extraordinary defect of care and forethought if he is in part supported by the public after a bad harvest. In fact it is admitted on all bands that this description of allowances, viz. allowances granted to able labourers in compensation of the deficiency of their earnings, has principally contributed to raise the amount of parochial taxation to its present height. It is not pretended that the relief granted to those reduced to indigence by their own misconduct, forms any considerable proportion of the burden; nor is there any reason to suppose that the number of paupers of this unworthy class has experienced any considerable increase. To the depreciation of labour, therefore, the growing pressure of pauperism in agricultural districts may be safely attributed, rather than to any unfavourable change in the moral character or habits of the labourer.' pp. 17–19.
But although this depreciation of country labour bas hitberto been attended by mitigating circumstances which have prevented much of the misery that would otherwise bave ensued, there is obviously a point at which the condition of the labourer must become intolerable, unless some remedy can be proposed that shall prevent any further depression. The great evil, the root of all the sufferings of the poor, is, the low price of labour; that is, of agricultural labour, the price of which is liable to none of those violent fluctuations wbich are inevitable in some branches of manufacturing industry, in consequence of a stagnation of trade. In such cases, the wages of the workmen often suffer a sudden and extreme depression, for which it would be ridiculous to assign as the cause a redundant population, and still more so to refer the excess of supply beyond demand to any other origin than the over stimulated power of production in the hands of the capitalists. There can be no question that the country is suffering at this moment from an excess of population : but how has this excess been produced ? As to the inanufacturing class of labourers, the answer is clearly this : either there is no longer capital sufficient to co-operate with the number of hands which were formerly demanded for the production of mercantile wealth, or there is no longer room for the operations of manufacturing capital. The unemployed poor may be viewed in much the same light as so much fixed capital, of which there bas taken place throughout the country an abandonment to a great extent; but unfortunately, this species of fixed capital, the living machinery, cannot be put up to the hammer and sold for the materials. In agricultural districts, there also exists, confessedly, a redundant population, but we deny that this has arisen from the causes to which it is generally referred. Those writers whose object it is to throw the blame of all the present distresses on the Poor Laws, have taken it for granted that the existing excess has arisen from a growing increase of early or
improvident marriages. But it is highly remarkable that the proportion which the number of marriages yearly contracted bears to the whole population, has not increased since 1780. On the contrary, Mr. Barton shews that a very considerable reduction has taken place in the pumber of marriages, as measured by the number of persons marriageable, while there is reason to think that they take place at a later, instead of an earlier, period than formerly. "The increased thoughtlessness • and improvidence of the lower orders exist,' he remarks, only ' in our own imaginations.'
• The growth of our agricultural population arises exclusively, it will be seen, from the improved healthiness of the labourer ; which, in its turn, arises from better habits of living, greater decency, cleanliness, and sobriety. And though the accession of numbers has undoubtedly contributed, by enlarging the supply of labour at market, to lower their effective earnings, and depress their condition, yet it cannot fail to give pleasure to every benevolent mind to discover that this disadvantageous change has its source in the melioration, not in the debasement of the moral character of the people.'
Mr. Barton, by the term exclusively, in the above reference, means, we apprehend, no more than exclusively of the alleged cause, the improvidence of the poor ; or else he must be understood as speaking of the progressive increase of the population in itself considered ; of its growth, not of its redundance ; for to the latter circumstance, his language would not properly apply. With regard to the growth of our agricultural popu. lation, it is very remarkable, that whereas during the last thirty years of the last century, the number of births was greater in the agricultural than in the manufacturing counties, in the last thirty or forty years it was less by more than one balf. Mr. Barton selects for the purpose of instituting this comparison, ten counties where the labouring classes are employed chiefly in husbandry; viz. Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Norfolk, Sussex, and Essex; and seven manufacturing counties; viz. Cheshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the ten agricultural counties, the average number of births amounted, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, to 28,600, while those in the seven manufacturing counties, amounted to only 23,572. But in the years 1806-10, the proportion was so completely changed, that the numbers stood at 47,339 and 77,705 : the births having more than trebled in the seven manufacturing counties, while, in the ten agricultural counties, they bad not even doubled, in the course of the century. The rate of increase would not seem to have been greater in the latter instance, than the accumulation of capital and the exigencies of