Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the State have demanded, or at least have kept pace witli

. It cannot possibly have occasioned the progressive depreciation of labour which has been going on during the last seventy years, since that depreciation has, till very lately, been confined to the agricultural districts, and has not been sensibly felt in commercial towns, where the progress of population has been the quickest. Besides, the number of births in a county, forms but an imperfect criterion of the increase of its population. A very considerable proportion of the excess of births in agricultural counties, is destined to swell the growing population of manufacturing towns, and, in time of war, to replenish our army and navy. Thie number of houses in the ten counties above enumeraied, lias actually decreased during the last century to a very considerable extent: in the seven counties where manufacturing labour is chiefly in demand, the reverse is equally striking. Mr. Barton presents us the following statement.

in 1801. i Bedford

12,170

12,073 Berks

16,996

21,195 Bucks

18,688

20,988 Cambridge

18,629

10,451 Essex

40,545

39,398 Hertford

17,488

18,172 Huntingdon

8,713

6,976 Norfolk

56,579

49,140 Suffolk

47,537

32,805 Sussex

23,451

25,993

in 1690.

[blocks in formation]

472,005 To reconcile these calculations with the fact of a considerable increase of births even in te agricultural districis, during the

same period, it is necessary to suppose that an increasing number of young persons have annually migrated from the country parishes to seek for more profitable employment in commercial towns. Such migrations are continually taking place, and they would, of course, be promoted by a brisk demand for manufacturing labour. Another circumstance requires to be taken into consideration. The number of persons in a family is found to be now somewhat greater than it was in 1700 : at that time, it was only 11-12; at present it is very nearly five. On this computation, the number of persons in the ten counties,

in 1600 will be 1,061,917

in 1801-1,215,915 an increase in our agricultural population, of only fourteen per cent (not withstanding the increase of births) in 112 years; viz. froin 1688 to 1500. Wbat then,' Mr. Barton asks, becomes • of the doctrine which ascribes the depreciation of husbandry Jabour in inodern times, to an excess of people?'

It will have been observed, that a decrease in the number of houses has not taken place in all the ten agricultural counties, but chiefly in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire. In Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Sussex, there has taken place a considerable increase, for which it might not be difficult to account, were we to examine the bistory of those counties, by the extension of manufacturing in. dustry, the growth of particular towns, and, with regard to the last mentioned county, the increasing demand for bouses on the sea coast. As no county has its whole surface occupied by agriculture, and as a very considerable proportion of the manųfacturing counties, is devoted to busbandry, it is obviously impossible to come at any precise results with respect to the relative increase of the population in agricultural and in manufacturing districts. There is one circumstance, however, which ought not to be overlooked in inquiring into the causes of a reduodant population, because it serves to explain, at least in suine measure, the remarkable decrease of the ouinber of houses in those counties in which the population is perhaps more entirely agricultural; we allude to the systein of large furms, which has been so rapidly gaining ground during the latter part of the last century. The immense economy of lab:our which forms in the view of some writers the chief recommendation of this system, and the extensive use of machinery by which human labour has been still further superseded, have obviously tended to produce an excess of population quite irrespectively of an increase in the number of births. Houses and villages have vanished in consequence of the all-absorbing monopoly of large a pitalists : in many districts, the work of depopulatiou has proceeded to a frightlul extent. It is, indeed, still going forward.

The landed proprietors, looking only to the augmentation of their revenues, find it answer their purpose better, to throw two or three farms into one, and to look out for a tenant whose capital may enable himn to cultivate the whole at a saving of expense that shall admit of his paying individually a higher rent than the two or three former tenants whom he displaces, could make up together. As the profits of tillage are lessened by the fall of prices, more and more arable land of inferior quality will be thrown out of cultivation. The quantity of land which has been laid down during the last few years, has been, in some counties, very considerable. This is a further step in the retrograde process by which an artificial excess in the population has been produced, that must inevitably augment the sum of pauperism. So long as the surplus labour of the country could find a market in the manufacturing towns, so long as there was commercial capital enough in active operation to absorb it, and the demand for the produce of manufacturing industry continued sufficient to keep all the vast machinery in motion, the gradual but not the less fatal consequences of agricultural monopoly, were not felt; the war, too, operating as a convenient drain for the redundant population, prevented our suffering the natural effects of this mischievous system. But now that the waste of human life is suspended, and our commerce is no longer adequate to take off the hands of the productive labourer the work he is able to furnish, and our towns are ready to disgorge back upon the country the population with which they have been glutted, now, all at once, the effect has come upon us in the fearful shape of an excess of people, the cause of which is unperceived or denied. What has more directly contributed to produce that excess in agricultural counties, than the destruction of small farms and the boasted economy of human labour, which has alienated from the soil so large numbers of the

the peasantry? The true cause of the depreciation of country labour, is, not an excess of population, but, Mr. Barton contends, the general enhancement of the money price of commodities, unattended by an equal advunce in the money price of labour. This rise of prices is common to all European countries; it has originated in the increased productiveness of the American mines, occasioning a fall in the value of the precious metals, wbich form the standard of value.

But the rise has been greater in England than in most other parts of the world, because the vast improvement of skill, and exfensive use of machinery among our manufacturers, has enabled us to purchase the precious metals at a cheaper rate than other nations. If we, by twenty days' labour, can produce a piece of cloth which in France requires thirty days' labour, we can purchase gold and sil, yer one third cheaper than the French.-Money, therefore, is ope

third cheaper on one side of the channel than on the other; and with regard to those commodities which in their production do not admit of the application of the same improved skill and machinery, which cost as much manual toil in one country as in the other, they of course exchange for more gold or silver here than in France; that is, they are dearer.' pp. 53, 54.

The Writer then proceeds to shew how this dearness arising from an increased abundance of gold and silver, gradually spreads over the various productions of human industry. As the subject is highly interesting, and the passage is not susceptible of abridgemeni, we shall give it in his owo words.

• In the first place, then, it is to be observed that the precious metals are brought into this country solely by the progress of commerce. They arrive chiefly from Spain and Portugal, or their colonies, for in those colonies are comprised the most productive mines in the world. When a new vein of extraordinary fertility is discovered, a new demand is created for our goods, because the possessors of that vein have acquired new means wherewithal to purchase all kinds of conveniences and gratifications. Perhaps too, additional tools and implements are required from England for the working of the ore.In return for the various commodities and implements thus exported, we receive of course remittances in gold or silver ;-such remittances forming at once the most obvious, the most convenient, and the most profitable mode of repayment; inasmuch as those metals are at once the natural produce of the country whence they are sent, and as they may be brought over in increased quantity without very materially lessening their value ; whereas if Buenos Ayres should send hither an extraordinary quantity of hides, or New Spain of indigo and tobacco, the supply of those commodities at market would exceed the demand, and they could not be disposed of except at a reduction of price.

· Thus the discovery of a new gold mine in Brazil causes an accession of demand for all articles of British manufacture suited to the Brazilian market. This accession of demand raises the price of those goods, and enhances the profits of the persons concerned in their production,-until the gradual transfer of capital from other employe ments, by creating an increased competition, again reduces those profits to the ordinary level. In the mean time a new demand slowly and insensibly arises for all articles of home consumption, on the part of the various merchants, manufacturers, and artizans connected with the South American trade. The increased gains of the commercial classes, the increased sum paid for wages in all these departments of industry, enable the workman as well as his employer to consume a greater quantity of all the necessaries and conveniences of life ; and this new demand slowly raises the price of every commodity intended for domestic use.--It must not be supposed that all kinds of goods are immediately enhanced in value by an influx of the precious metals. It is only by a gradual process that those metals are distributed among the different classes of the community, and come to influence the price of all sorts of productions. As by the operation of foreign commerce alone they are brought into the country, so it is

by the operation of internal trade alone that they are gradually diffused among the people. The different productions of industry suecessively rise as the demand for them is successively enlarged: exportable como modities rise first, because they are wanted by the possessors of the mines ;-articles of domestic use rise afterwards, because they are wanted by the manufacturers. An abundance of money can only raise the value of any comniodity in so far as it adds to the demand for that commodity : the farmer, when he carries his corn to market, does not inquire whether the productiveness of the mines is increasing or decreasing ;-nor does any man consent to give an advanced price for a loaf of bread simply because he learns that fresh importations of specie have taken place. The ordinary transactions of life are not influenced by such fine-spun speculations. The seller obtains the most he can get; and the purchaser buys as cheap as he is able. The proportion borne by the effective demand at any particular time to the actual supply at market, is the sole cause which immediately regulates, in every case, the price of conimodities ;—it is only by altering the terms of this proportion that an abundance of the precious metals affects -indirectly the value of the different productions of human industry ;-it is only as those productions are in their turn sought for by an increased number of purchasers, that they participate in the general enhancement of prices.

• It will now be apparent, perhaps, why the wages of husbandry labour have not risen in proportion with the expense of subsistence. The superior rate of profit obtainable in conimercial employments, while an influx of money is taking place, by drawing away all surplus capital from the land, prevents the cultivator from taking into pay an additional number of workinen, and so hinders the demand for labour from keeping pace, as it naturaily ought to do, with the demand for the produce of labour.' Were it not for this scareity of capital, the increased consumption of food in the manufacturing districts would operate as a powerful stimulus on cultivation :- the farmer or pro. prietor of the soil would be induced by the high price of agricultural produce to raise a larger quantity, either by bringing new land under the plough, or by iniproving that already in tillage. A more abundant supply of provisions being thus brought to market, their price would be somewhat reduced; while on the other hand the necessity of employing an additional number of hands in carrying into effect the newly undertaken improvements, would somewhat enhance the fate of wages :- 50 that between one and the other án equilibriuni would be restored between the price of labour and the expense of subsistence:' But when capital is scarce, and money hardly obtain. able at the legal rate of interest, few persons are willing to lend upon a security so-- little transferable as landed property; or, as it is often expressively termed, to lock up money on mortgage. However much; therefore, the 'cultivator of ihe soil may be tempted by the high price of corn to enlarge the sphere of his operations, he is for the most part compelled to restrict those operations within the limited scope of his own capital; and his projected improvements are necessarily laid aside. The extra hands which he would have employed in : those improvements remaining unoccupied, the supply of disposeable

« НазадПродовжити »