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$ 9. That, for centuries past, the progress of affairs in England, France, and other countries, has been in the direction we have indicated, cannot admit the slightest doubt - the proportion of the land-owner and other capitalists having constantly diminished, while that of the laborer has steadily advanced, and the former having become enriched, as the latter has become free. Looking to other portions of the world, however, we see a different state of things — the proportion of the land owner having increased in Ireland, India, and other countries, while that of the laborer has decreased. It is needed, therefore, that we now inquire into the disturbing causes producing such effects — thereby ascertaining how far they tend to the establishment, or disproof, of the proposition, that the lendency to a decline in the proportion of the capitalist, and to an increase in that of the laborer, is in the direct ratio of the circulation of labor and its products.
Attica, in the peaceful days which followed the legislation of Solon, exhibits to us a people among whom the capitalist's proportion was steadily declining - the people becoming, therefore, more free from year to year. Later, war and trade having become the sole pursuits, the mode of distribution changes, and man becomes re-enslaved. When next we see the seat of this once-powerful republic, we find in it a Roman provincethe free citizens of earlier days having been wholly replaced by slaves, dependent on the will of men like Herodes Atticus, for the determination of the question, as to what is to be the distribution of the proceeds of land and labor. The circulation of the social body having gradually ceased, political and moral death had followed, as its necessary consequence.
Turning to Italy, we meet a repetition of what has been seen in Greece — the circulation gradually ceasing, as land becomes monopolised, and individual men acquiring power to direct the distribution of the produce of bosts of slaves. Centralization and slavery inducing always the abandonment of the richest soils, the later days of the empire exhibit the fertile Campagna as having reverted to a state of nature, while Rome itself had become the property of a few great families, recipients of enormous incomes, but wholly incapable of self-defence. *
* The great families of Rome, in the days of Alaric, were 1760 in number -many of them having annual incomes exceeding $500,000. Of the Campagna, half a million of acres had been then abandoned.
Spain expelled her most industrious people — thus producing stoppage of the circulation, and abandonment of her richest soils. Land becoming consolidated, the effects are seen in the gradual growth of power among the few, attended by corresponding weakness in the people and the State.
Louis X. proclaims the abolition of slavery — every man in France being, thenceforth, to be reputed free.* All his measures, and those of his successors, however, tending towards a total suspension of the circulation, their effect is seen in a steady consolidation of the soil in the hands of the nobles and the Church the people perishing like flies in the autumn, while their masters wasted their substance on wars abroad, and palaces at home. +
The British policy having for its fundamental idea, the centralization of manufactures at home, and the stoppage of the circulation abroad, it is in the countries most subject to it, we should find the proportion of the landlord largest — the quantity least
and the power of the laborer over the product of his efforts, at the minimum point. That all these conditions have been complied with, is shown in the facts, that, while the Irish laborer has paid at the rate of five, six, and eight pounds per acre, the land-owners have been so completely ruined, as to have produced a necessity for the revolutionary measure of creating a special court, charged with dispossessing the rent receivers. Turning to the West Indies, we find the land-owner taking so large a proportion of the proceeds of labor, and leaving to the laborer so small an one, as to have caused the entire annihilation of nearly twothirds of all the people who had been imported— thus producing a necessity for a constant importation of laborers, to be, in their turn, annihilated. I Large as was the proportion of the landlords, they yet were ruined, their quantity having been bnt small. Looking, next, to India, we find a government claiming, as annual rent, an amount equal to a fourth of the whole value of the land, yet obtaining an amount not exceeding seventy cents per head - thus furnishing proof conclusive of the application to that great country, of the law in virtue of which, the quantity of rent diminishes, as its proportion increases. * So, too, is it in Turkey and Portugal, the societary circulation there decreasing, with constant diminution in the power of production — requiring the payment, by the occupant of land, of a constantly increasing proportion of its products to be applied in payment of rent and taxes. These, combined, absorb so large a share, that the farm-laborer is unable to command the commonest necessaries of life.
* Proclaiming freedom for all, Louis invited the serfs of the crown domains to purchase their liberty. That they refused to do: whereupon he ordered his officers to take their property, and compel them to become free men. Greedy of revenue, he imposed a tax of two deniers per franc, on every contract of purchase and sale made by the Italians — then the chief manufacturers for Europe. The Jews having been expelled by previous sovereigns, he invited their return - guaranteeing them full power to pursue their debtors, on condition of giving him two-thirds of all that might be recovered.
† See ante, vol. ii. p. 59, for the condition of the subjects of Louis XIV., the founder of Marly and Versailles.
| See ante, vol. i. p. 297.
A century since, it was complained, in France, that rent and taxes absorbed eleven-twelfths of the produce --- leaving but a single twelfth for the man who tilled the land. Still less than that, is now the proportion of the English farmlaborer—it being, as we see, somewhat doubtful if he receives, for his share, even a twentieth of the product of his labor. His condition is, therefore, lower than that of persons of a corresponding condition of life, in almost any community claiming a place among the civilized nations of the world. †
* * The revenue of this country was derived from taxes, and was distinct from the income of the proprietors of the country. But the revenue of India was made up of both; for our Government had, by fraud and usurpation, occupied the position of landlords and proprietors, as well as governors, in India; and the wretched twenty or twenty-one millions that we annually wrung from a starving people, were made up partly of rent that we received from the land, which never exceeded thirteen millions, and partly from the taxes. It would be impossible to add anything to the amount of our present revenue, which was partly raised by a land-tax amounting to sixty per cent., calculated, not according to the valuo of the land, but according to the probable value of the crop; and partly by other taxes imposed on articles of all descriptions, from those of luxury and vice down to the most indispensable necessaries of life. And yet, this small revenue was raised from a territory as large as Europe, infinitely more fertile, better peopled, more completely in the hands of the Government, blessed with three or four harvests in a year, and abounding in every production that could be named among the products of the tropics."— Speech of Mr. Anstey in the British House of Commons.
† “If we have enormous wealth, we ought to remember that we havo enormous pauperism also; if we have middle classes richer and more intelligent than those of any other country in the world, we have poor classes, forming the majority of the people of this country, more ignorant, more pauperised, and more morally degraded, than the poorer classes of most of the countries of Western Europe.”—KAY: Social Condition of the people of Enyland and of Europe, vol. i. p. 6.
The farmer stands between the owner of the land and the daylaborer, who does the work; the trader, between the man who makes the coat and him who wears it; the banker, the broker, and thousands of other middlemen, between the owner of capital and those who need to use it; the lawyer, and the parliamentary agent, between those who would have roads, and those who desire to make them. It is the system of middlemen; and hence the creation of such enormous fortunes by bankers, traders, agents, and others, who live at the public cost.* The proportion of the manufacturer has fallen, but here again, and for the same reason—want of activity in the circulation—the artisan and his family are unable to command proper supplies of either food or clothing. The proportion of the owner of capital in the form of money, has fallen, and yet, the rate of interest paid by the poorer members of society, is as great as in almost any part of Europe. The cause of these phenomena is to be found in the fact, that the system tends to increase the friction of society -- thus stopping circulation and building up trade at the expense of commerce.
Turning now to the United States, we see a country of almost perpetual change — the rate of interest, always high, being at times quadrupled. Seeking the cause of this, we find these changes always attending stoppages in the rapidity of circulation - the capitalist's proportion tending upwards, when the policy of the country tends to promote the export of raw materials and of gold; downwards, when it tends in the contrary direction. As a consequence of this it is, that free-trade periods always signalise themselves by agitations for the repeal of laws restraining the demands of moneyed capitalists. Under a system tending to the creation of a favorable balance of trade, the capitalist's proportion would tend steadily to decline—money becoming, gradually, as cheap as in any other country of the world. Under the existing one, it tends upwards; and for the reason, that the American people give a constantly increasing quantity of their own rude products, for a gradually diminishing one of all the metals, gold and silver included. The proportion of the capitalist is now steadily advancing; and hence it is, that the palaces of merchant princes so much increase in number and in splendor, while crime and pauperism make such giant strides.
* See ante, vol. i. p. 437, for the enormous proportions of the traders of England, and the small proportion of labor's products falling to the producer. This state of things it was, that led M. Blanqui to doubt the accuracy of the doctrine of Adam Smith, in reference to private rights — telling his readers, that, while it had produced an extraordinary development of industry, it has borne "bitter fruits in the creation of immense wealth, side by side with the most frightful poverty. Enriching the nation, it has," as he continues, “most cruelly treated a portion of its people. Therefore is it,” as he adds, “ that we are now obliged to seek a regulator, capable of restraining the gigantic instruments of production, which both nourish and famish a people -- which clothe, while despoiling them — which relieve their distresses, while grinding them to powder."-Histoire de l'Economie Politique, vol. ii. p. 145.
A more careful study of the Wealth of Nations, would have satisfied M. Blanqui that the facts he here describes, are but the consequences predicted by Dr. Smith, as certain to result to the people of England, from persistence in an insane effort to make of their country the one and only workshop of the world—thus establishing a centralization leading, inevitably, to poverty, slavery, and death.
§ 10. All the facts thus far laid before to the reader, in relation to wages, profits, and rents, and all those presented by the history of the world, now range themselves under the following propositions :
That, in the early periods of society, population being small, and widely scattered, the possession of a small amount of capital gives to its owner a great amount of power - enabling him to hold the laborer dependent on his will, as serf or slave :
That, with growth of wealth and numbers, the power of combination increases, with great increase in the productiveness of labor, and in the power of accumulation
every step in that direction, being attended by decline in the power of the already existing capital to command the services of the laborer, and by increase of power on the part of the latter to command the aid of capital :
That the proportion of the increased product of labor assigned to the laborer tends, thus, steadily to increase, while that of the capitalist tends, as regularly, to decline :
That the quantity assigned to both, increases — that of the laborer growing, however, far more rapidly than that retained by the capitalist — the latter having a smaller proportion of the augmented quantity, while the former has a constantly increasing proportion of the rapidly increasing quantity :
That the tendency to equality is, therefore, in the direct ratio of the growth of wealth, and consequent productiveness of labor :