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labour in the market is not lessened, and of course the rate of wages does not rise. The additional sum which a bushel of corn obtains in the market, instead of being equally divided between the labourer and his employer, falls exclusively to the share of the latter.
It is not till the level is in some measure restored between agricultural profits and commercial profits, that husbandry labour begins to advance. When corn sells so high as to raise the gains of the grower to an equality with those of the manufacturer, or the foreign merchant, a portion of capital may be drawn back to the cultivation of the soil ; this will necessarily create a new demand for country labour, and enhance its value. It is to be observed, however, that the rise of wages thus slowly brought about, by no means compensates for the rise of provisions : – it follows only at a long interval, and in a much inferior degree. An influx of money, therefore, always enriches the farmer, while it depresses the condition of the labourer: a new division of the produce of industry takes place, to the advantage of the employer, and the loss of this workman. Nor is it only in agriculture that this change becomes sensible. In all departments of industry, unconnected with foreign trade, the same operation may be traced : thus the condition of cominon artificers. - bricklayers, carpenters, masons, plumbers, and the like, -- is affected by a fall in the value of money just in the same manner with the condition of the country labourer. The same observation may be extended to some branches of manufacture, where the article produced is destiped entirely for home consumption : thus the wages of the silk weavers in Spitalfields, and of the shawl weavers at Norwich, have not, if I am rightly informed, advanced in equal proportion with the expense of subsistence. ,55-60.
That the depreciation of labour as measured by commodities, (for the money price bas not fallen,) has arisen from the depreciated value of the circulating medium, is not a novel opinion : Mr. Barton has, however, succeeded in throwing a stronger light upon the fact. He shews that the fluctuations of ivares during three centuries, from the reign of Henry VII. to the present day, (a period comprising three remarkable changes in tlie yalue of money,) agree perfectly with the theory; thai in 1495, previously to the discovery of the American mines, a labourerearned per week a sum equal.in value to 199 points of wheat; that dur: ing the sixteenth century, when the influx of the precious metals quadrupled the prices of commodities, the earnings of the labourer fell to 82 pints of wheat; and in 1610, they had further declined to 46 pints, at about which rate they continued in the middle of the seventeenth century. From this era, the annual prosluce of the mines baving ceased to increase, while the extension of commerce and ibe growth of luxury required annually an additional supply, the price of corn began to decline, continuing to fall progressively till the middle of the last century. During the same period, busbandry wages consequently advanced from 48
to 96 pints of wheat per week; that is, were exactly doubled in the course of a century, notwithstanding the Poor Laws had been all that time in full operation. Since 1750, the value of money has again fallen, and husbandry wages have been reduced from 96 to 63 pints of wheat per week. Tbere can be no doubt, we think, that this view of the subject is correct; and the labouring class is not the only one which is suffering from the effects of the depreciated value of money. Still, it requires to be more fully explained, how it comes to pass that wages have not in a more proportionate degree participated in the general advancement of prices. It is easy to understand that the value of labour should be the last thing to accommodate itself to the altered value of money; but its continued and excessive depreciation during a period distinguished by so very considerable an ausmentation of the agricultural capital of the country, is a fact which would seein to demand some further explanation.
Mr. Barton will not admit that the employer of labour lias any control over the rate of wages, or that the mischievous system of making up the wages of the labourer by parish allowances, bas had any effect in keeping down the price of labour. He argues thus :
• Let us suppose that while fifteen shillings per week is the natural price of labour, (that is, the price it would bear if no parochial relief existed,) an attempt be made by the cultivators of land to reduce it to twelve shillings per week;~-making up the deficiency from the poor rates. Fifteen shillings per week being a fair price, of course leaves a fair profit to the master; twelve shillings per week must therefore leave him an extraordinary profit. It is then his interest to buy as mnch of this cheap labour as he can get; just as a low price tempts purchasers in all other cases. True, he pays more in poor rates than formerly, if he pays less in wages. But the saving is all his own, the expense he divides with his neighbours. Whether he employ ten workmen, or only eight, makes not a shilling difference in the amount of his rate. He has then clearly an interest to add to the number of hands in his employ. But as all his neighbours have an equal interest in doing the same thing, competition will quickly raise wages again to their former level. If indeed a conspiracy to depress the price of labour were formed at once in all parts of the kingdom, by farmers universally agreeing not to bid against one another, then undoubtedly they might dictate their own terms to their workmen. But this is just as chimerical as the notion of a conspiracy to raise the price of corn. When individual interest coines into competition with the interest of some hundred thousand other persons, of whom å vast majority are unknown even by name to cach other, it requires no profound skill in the science of human nature to determine what will be the result. On the other hand, it is clear that nothing short of a national conspiracy would suffice for carrying such a scheme into effect. For if the agriculturists of any particular parish should make the attempt, what is to prevent their labourers from seeking
work elsewhere? In the adjoining parishes the rate of wages is fifteen shillings per week, without any parochial allowances in this it is twelve shillings per week with a parochial allowance. But this allowance is not given indiscriminately, and in equal proportions, to all. Men with large families receive more ; men with small families less ; single men none at all. Is it to be believed, then, that any single man, or any married man whose wages and allowance amount together to less than fifteen shillings per week, will continue in such unpro: fitable employment, when he may obtain a full rate of earnings without difficulty in the next village? The framers of the plot would quickly be left with no other labourers than those burdened with large families ; that is to say, those whose allowances more than compensate for the reduction of wages. Thus, instead of gain, such a scheme would be attended with certain loss.' pp. 45, 46.
Had the fallacies contained in this chain of reasoning been less obvious, we should nevertheless, from our knowledge of facts, have felt assured that the Writer, in this instance, bas been misled by his eagerness to make his theory explain every thing. But there is clearly more than one flaw in his argument. The quantity of labour which a cultivator of the land is able to purchase, does not depend, as this representation of the case would make it appear, altogether on its cheapness, or on the profits it would yield, but on the amount of capital wbich he has to employ. The cheapness of labour would, it is true, put it in his power to purchase more of it; for instance, a depreciation of wages from 158. to 128. per week, would allow of his employing five men where he now employs four; but he could go no further. It would, however, by no means follow from his being able to purchase a larger quantity of labour than before, that it must be his interest to take on a single additional hand; much less' to buy as much of this cheap labour as he can get.' There are some farmers, (it is admitted the number is small,) whose consideration for their labourers induces them constantly to employ as inany as the land can possibly require, and more than they derive any immediate profit from employing. Now, let a further depreciation of labour take place to the greatest extent conceivable, and it will not be the interest of such persons to purchase any more of it. The fact is, that, not the high price of labour, (for how can the present wages of labour be termed high, inadequate as they universally are to the labourer's maintenance?) but the pressure of taxation in all its varieties of tithe, rate, indirect taxes, and assessment, added to a high rent, prevent the farmer, in nine cases out of ten, from employing as many regular hands as he otherwise would do, leading him to refrain from such occasional operations as are not of pressing necessity. While, therefore, the same motive which induces him to economise labour, is constantly prompting his endeavours to obtain it for the lowest wages possible, the greater
cheapness of labour would not, under existiug circumstances, induce him to employ more bands than he finds absolutely requisite; and the quantity of labour which is absolutely requisite, how bigh soever be the rate of wages, he does and must purchase. In the present state of our population, it is next to sidiculous to suppose that the cultivators of the land could by any possibility buy up the cheap labour that should be in the market, so as to raise wages by their competition. But instances of their controlling the rate of wages, by bargaining with the labonrer that bis wages shall be made up a specific sum out of the Poor's rate, are too notorious to require any proof of the fact. The labourer, Mr. Barton says, would not accept of I welze shillings per week on the condition of having it maile up fifteen shillings by a parish allowance, if in a neighbouring Parish he could obtain wages equal to the whole amount. We believe that there are hundreds of labourers who would care little how tþė filteen shillings were made up to tben), could they but secure the receipt of the sum. But the case is, that the labourer sells his labour for the highest price he can get for it, because he finds it difficult to get any work at all, and because, whatever wages may be paid in the neighbouring parish, that parish has too many hands already. Ile is in the condition of a trader in an over-stocked market, who is glad to part with his commodities at any price. Now it is utterly impossible that husbandry wages should have been forced dowú to the miserable pittance which is the nominal price of labour in some distriets, had it not been for the systematic misapplication of the Poor's rate, which bas been so often adverted to in Parliamentary and other documents as the chief source of the alarming increase of the rate itself. Parish allowances do, in fact, ' form a part of
the price of labour,' and Mr. Barton's reasons for believing 10 the contrary could avail bin notising, were they as strong as they are nugatory. For this enormous abuse, we can imagine 1o) other remedy than enacting that no labourer in the receipt of wages shall be entitled to any parish allowance whatsoever. Far better would it be for the poorer class themselves, and far better for the country, if the whole labouring population of a parish were distributed into labourers in full pay, and paupers wholly dependent ou tlie parochial fund for their maintenance, than, as is now so often the case, to have the greater part subsisting half on low wages and half on the rate.
We fully agree with the present Writer, that it is not the Poor Laws in themselves considered, -tbat is, it is not the natural operation of the Poor Laws, which bas led to the present cxcessive depreciation of agricultural labour, either by prowoting babits of improvidence in the Poor, or by stimulating in any uther ray the increase of the population. A political economist
writing in the reign of George the Second, night,' he justly remarks, have maintained that the Poor Laws tend to raise
the recompense of industry, and have appealed, in support of * his opinion, to the undeviating experience of two centuries and
a halt' Only seventy years ago, the country gentlemen were loudly complaining of an increasing want of lusbaudmen and day-Jabourers, of the excessive and increasing prices of work'men' and of the impossibility of procuring a sufficient number
at any price.' But agreeing thus far with the Writer, we see no necessity for shutting our eyes to the notorious fact, that, the wages of agricultural labour having been previously depreciated to the utmost by a fall in the value of money, the present abuse of the Poor's rate bas been operating so as to produce a still further depression; or for denying that the excess of population which the stagnation of trade, the cessation of war, and the progress of agricultural improvement, have thrown upon the country, is a chief cause of its present calamitous predicament.
Mr. Barton's last section is devoted to the cousideration and proposal of Remedies;' a most cheering but too often delusive title! Many of the proposed remedies have already passed under our notice in a former article; and we need not again go over the ground, by pointing out the mischievous tendency of some which have received a high and dangerous sanction. We must • never forget,' says the present Writer,' that the low rate of
wages is the root of the mischief.' In a qualified sense, this is true; and if the evil would seem to admit of being remedied only in one of the following ways : either, by lessening the supply of labour; or by an adequate permanent extension of the demand for labour; or by fixing a minimum price as the wages of labour; or, lastly, the inoney price remaining the same, by a fall in the price of commodities equal to the previous rise occasioned by the depreciation of the standard of value, which would of course restore wages to their just and natural level. The inefficiency, not to say folly, of many well-meant schemes for bettering the condition of the poor, consists in their having no tendency eventually to benefit the labourer in any one of these ways. So far as temporary employment can be furnished to those who are out of work, without prejudice to the regular, hard-working labourer, it is true benevolence to adopt this method of relieving their necessities; but whatever plan of this description falls short of ultimately increasing the permanent demand for labour, can have no pretensions to any higher character than a mere expedient to gain time, till, by some undreamed of means, the vessel of the state shall right itself. To the plan of fixing a minimum price for husbandry labour, there exist strong objections and almost invincible prejudices. Into the force of the one and the reasonableness of the