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former state. To produce permanent advantage, the temporary cause operating upon them must be sufficient to make a great change in their condition—a change such as will be felt for many years, notwithstanding any stimulus which it may give during one generation to the increase of people. When, indeed, the improvement is of this signal character, and a generation grows up which has always been used to an improved scale of comfort, the habits of this new generation in respect to population become formed upon a higher minimum, and the improvement in their condition becomes permanent. Of cases in point, the most remarkable is France after the Bevolution. The majority of the population being suddenly raised from misery, to independence and comparative comfort; the immediate effect was that population, notwithstanding the destructive wars of the period, started forward with unexampled rapidity, partly because improved circumstances enabled many children to be reared who would otherwise have died, and partly from increase of births. The succeeding generation however grew up with habits considerably altered; and though the country was never before in so prosperous a state, the annual number of births is now nearly stationary,* and the increase of population extremely llow.-f
* Supra, pp. 177,178.
t A similar, though not an equal improvement in the standard of living took place among the labourers of England during the remarkable fifty years from 1716 to 1765, which were distinguished by such an extraordinary succession of fine harvests (the years of decided deficiency not exceeding five in all that period) that the average price of wheat during those years was much iower than during the previous half century. Mr. Malthus computes that on the average of sixty years preceding 1720, the labourer could purchase with a day's earnings only two-thirds of a peck of wheat, while from 1720 to 1760 he could purchase a whole peck. The average price of wheat according to the Eton tables, for fifty years ending with 1715, was 41s. 7jd. the quarter, and for the last twenty-three of these, 45s. 8d., while for the fifty years following, it was no more than 34b. lid. So considerable an improvement in the condition of the labouring class, though arising from the accidents of seasons, yet continuing for more than a generation,
§ 3. Wages depend, then, on the proportion between the number of the labouring population, and the capital or other funds devoted to the purchase of labour; we will say, for shortness, the capital. If wages are higher at one time or place than at another, if the subsistence and comfort of the class of hired labourers are more ample, it is for no other reason than because capital bears a greater proportion to population. It is not the absolute amount of accumulation or of production, that is of importance to the labouring class; it is not the amount even of the funds destined for distribution among the labourers: it is the proportion between those funds and the numbers among whom they are shared. The condition of the class can be bettered in no other way than by altering that proportion to their advantage: and every scheme for their benefit, which does not proceed on this as its foundation, is, for all permanent purposes, a delusion.
In countries like North America and the Australian colonies, where the knowledge and arts of civilized life, and a high effective desire of accumulation, co-exist with a boundless extent of unoccupied land; the growth of capital easily keeps pace with the utmost possible increase of population, and is chiefly retarded by the impracticability of obtaining labourers enough. AU, therefore, who can possibly be born, can find employment without overstocking the market: every labouring family enjoys in abundance the necessaries, many of the comforts, and some of the luxuries of life; and, unless in case of individual misconduct, or actual inability to work, poverty does not, and dependence needs not, exist. A similar advantage, though in a less degree, is occasionally
had time to work a change in the habitual requirements of the labouring class; and this period is always noted as the date of " a marked improvement of the quality of the food consumed, and a decided elevation in the standard of their comforts and conveniences."— (.Vulthus, Principle* of Political Economy, p. 226.) For the character of the period, see Mr. Tooke's excellent History of Prices, vol. i. pp. 38 to 61, and for the prices of corn, the Appendix to that work.
enjoyed by some special class of labourers in old countries, from an extraordinarily rapid growth, not of capital generally, but of the capital employed in a particular occupation. So gigantic has been the progress of the cotton manufacture since the inventions of Watt and Arkwright, that the capital engaged in it has probably quadrupled in the time which population requires for doubling. While, therefore, it has attracted from other employments nearly all the hands which geographical circumstances and the habits or inclinations of the people rendered available; and while the demand it created for infant labour has enlisted the immediate pecuniary interest of the operatives in favour of promoting, instead of restraining, the increase of population; nevertheless wages in the great seats of the manufacture are generally so high, that the collective earnings of a family amount, on an average of years, to a very satisfactory cum; and there is, as yet, no sign of permanent decrease, while the effect has also been felt in raising the general standard of agricultural wages in the counties adjoining.
But those circumstances of a country, or of an occupation, in which population can with impunity increase at its utmost rate, are rare, and transitory. Very few are the countries presenting the needful union of conditions. Either the industrial arts are backward and stationary, and capital therefore increases slowly; or the effective desire of accumulation being low, the increase soon reaches its limit; or, even though both these elements are at their highest known degree, the increase of capital is checked, because there is not fresh land to be resorted to, of as good quality as that already occupied. Though capital should for a time double itself simultaneously with population, if all this capital and population are to find employment on the same land, they cannot without an unexampled succession of agricultural inventions continue doubling the produce; therefore, if wages do not fall, profits must; and when profits fall, increase of capital is slackened. Be
sides, even if wages did not fall, the price of food (as will be shown more fully hereafter) would in these circumstances necessarily rise ; which is equivalent to a fall of wages.
Except, therefore, in the very peculiar cases which I have just noticed, of which the only one of any practical importance is that of a new colony, or a country in circumstances equivalent to it; it is impossible that population should increase at its utmost rate without lowering wages. Nor will the fall be stopped at any point, short of that which either by its physical or its moral operation, checks the increase of population. In no old country, therefore, does population increase at anything like its utmost rate; in most, at a very moderate rate: in some countries not at all. These facts are only to be accounted for in two ways. Either the whole number of births which nature admits of, and which happen in some circumstances, do not take place ; or if they do, a large proportion of those who are born, die. The retardation of increase results either from mortality or prudence; from Mr. Malthus's positive, or from his preventive check: and one or the other of these must and does exist, and very powerfully too, in all old societies. Wherever population is not kept down by the prudence eitherof individuals or of the state, it is kept down by starvation or disease.
Mr. Malthus has taken great pains to ascertain, for almost every country in the world, which of these checks it is that operates: and the evidence which he collected on the subject, in his Essay on Population, may even now be read with advantage. Throughout Asia, and formerly in most European countries in which the labouring classes were not in personal bondage, there is, or was, no restrainer of population but death. The mortality was not always the result of poverty: much of it proceeded from unskilful and careless management of children, from uncleanly and otherwise unhealthy habits of life among the adult population, and from the almost periodical occurrence of destructive epidemics. Throughout Europe these causes of shortened life have much diminished, but they have not ceased to exist. Until a period not very remote, hardly any of our large towns kept up its population, independently of the stream always flowing into them from the rural districts: this was still true of Liverpool until very recently; and even in London, the mortality is larger, and the average duration of life shorter, than in rural districts where there is much greater poverty. In Ireland, epidemic fevers, and deaths from the exhaustion of the constitution by insufficient nutriment, have always accompanied even the most moderate deficiency of the potato crop. Nevertheless, it cannot now be said that in any part of Europe, population is principally kept down by disease, still less by starvation, either in a direct or in an indirect form. The agency by which it is limited is chiefly preventive, not (in the language of Mr. Malthus) positive. But the preventive remedy seldom, I believe, consists in the unaided operation of prudential motives on a class wholly or mainly composed of labourers for hire, and looking forward to no other lot. In England, for example, I much doubt if the generality of agricultural labourers practise any prudential restraint whatever. They generally marry as early, and have as many children to a marriage, as they would or could do if they were settlers in the United States. During the geneiation which preceded the enactment of the present Poor Law, they received the most direct encouragement to this sort of improvidence: being not only assured of support, on easy terms, whenever out of employment, but even when in employment, very commonly receiving from the parish a weekly allowance proportioned to their number of children; and the married with large families being always, from a shortsighted economy, employed in preference to the unmarried; which last premium on population still exists. Under such prompting, the rural labourers acquired habits of recklessness, which are so congenial to the uncultivated mind, that in whatever manner oroduced, they in general long
survive their immediate causes. There are so many new elements at work in society, even in those deeper strata which are inaccessible to the mere movements on the surface, that it is hazardous to affirm anything positive on the mental state or practical impulses of classes and bodies of men, when the same assertion may be true to-day, and may require great modification in a few years time. It does, however, seem, that if the rate of increase of population depended solely on the agricultural labourers, it would, as far as dependent on births, and unless repressed by deaths, be as rapid in the southern counties of England as in America. The restraining principle lies in the very great proportion of the population composed of the middle classes and the skilled artizans, who in this country almost equal in number the common labourers, and on whom prudential motives do, in a considerable degree, operate.
§ i. Where a labouring class who have no property but their daily wages, and no hope of acquiring it, refrain from over-rapid multiplication, the cause, I believe, has always hitherto been, either actual legal restraint, or a custom of some sort which, without intention on their part, insensibly moulds their conduct, or affords immediate inducements not to marry. It is not generally known in how many countries of Europe direct legal obstacles are opposed to improvident marriages. The communications made to the original Poor Law Commission by our foreign ministers and consuls in different parts of Europe, contain a, considerable amount of information on this subject. Mr. Senior, in his preface to those communications,* says that in the countries which recognise a, legal right to relief, "marriage on the part of persons in the actual receipt of relief appears to be everywhere prohibited, and the marriage of those who are not likely to possess the means of independent support is allowed by very
* Forming an Appendix (F) to the General Report of the Commissioners, and also published by authority as a separate volume.
few. Thus we are told that in Norway no one can marry without 'showing, to the satisfaction of the clergyman, that he is permanently settled in such a manner as to offer a fair prospect that he can maintain a family.
"In Mecklenburg, that 'marriages lire delayed by conscription in the twenty-second year, and military service for six years; besides, the parties must have a dwelling, without which a clergyman is not permitted to marry them. The men marry at from twentyfive to thirty, the women not much earlier, as both must first gain by service enough to establish themselves.'
"In Saxony, that 'a man may not marry before he is twenty-one years old, if liable to serve in the army. In Dresden, professionists (by which word artizans are probably meant) may not marry until they become masters in their trade.'
"In Wurtemberg, that 'no man is allowed to marry till his twenty-fifth year, on account of his military duties, unless permission be especially obtained or purchased: at that age he must also obtain permission, which is granted on proving that he and his wife would have together sufficient to maintain a family or to establish themselves; in large towns, say from 800 to 1000 florins (from 662. 13s. id. to 842. 3s. id.); in smaller, from 400 to 500 florins: in villages, 200 florins (162. 13s. id.)'"*
The minister at Munich says, "The great cause why the number of the poor is kept so low in this country arises from the prevention by law of marriages in cases in which it cannot be proved that the parties have reasonable means of subsistence; and this regulation is in all places and at all times strictly adhered to. The effect of a constant and firm observance of this rule has, it is true, a considerable influence in keeping down the population of Bavaria, which is at present low for the extent of country, but it has a most salutary effect in averting extreme poverty and consequent misery."-)
* Preface, p. xxxix. t Preface, p. xxxiii., or p. 554 of the Appendix itself.
At Lubeck, "marriages among the poor are delayed by the necessity a man is nnder, first, of previously proving that he is in a regular employ, work, or profession, that will enable him to maintain a wife: and secondly. of becoming a burgher, and equipping himself in the uniform of the burgher guard, which together may cost him nearly il."* At Frankfort, "the government prescribes no age for marrying, but the permission to marry is only granted on proving a livelihood, "f
The allusion, in some of these statements, to military duties, points out an indirect obstacle to marriage, interposed by the laws of some countries in which there is no direct legal restraint. In Prussia, for instance, the institutions which compel every ablebodied man to serve for several years in the army, at the time of life at which imprudent marriages are most likely to take place, are probably a full equivalent, in effect on population, for the legal restrictions of the smaller German states.
"So strongly," says Mr. Kay, "do the people of Switzerland understand from experience the expediency of their sons and daughters postponing the time of their marriages, that the councils of state of four or five of the most democratic of the cantons, elected, be it remembered, by universal suffrage, have passed laws by which all young persons who marry before they have proved to the magistrate of their district that they are able to support a family, are rendered liable to a heavy fine. In Lucerne, Argovie, Unterwalden, and I believe, St. Gall, Schweitz, and Uri, laws of this character have been in force for many years."):
§ 5. Where there is no general law restrictive of marriage, there are often customs equivalent to it. When the guilds or trade corporations of the Middle Ages were in vigour, their byelaws or regulations were conceived with a very vigilant eye to the advantage which the trade derived from limiting competition: and they made
* Appendix, p. 419. t Ibid. p. 567.
X Kay, as before cited, i. 68.
it very effectually the interest of artisans not to marry until after passing through the two stages of apprentice and journeyman, and attaining the rank of master.* In: Norway, where the labour is chiefly agricultural, it is forbidden to engage a farm-servant for less than a year; which was the general English practice until the poor laws destroyed it, bv enabling the farmer to cast his labourers on parish pay whenever he did not immediately require their labour. In consequence of this custom, and of its enforcement by law, the whole of the rather limited class of agricultural labourers in Norway have an engagement for a year at least, which if the parties are content with one another, naturally becomes a permanent engagement: hence it is known in every neighbourhood whether there is, or is likely to be, a vacancy, and unless there is, a young man does not marry, knowing that he could not obtain employment. The custom still exists in
Cumberland and Westmoreland, except that the term is half a year instead of a year; and seems to be still attended with the same consequences. The farm-servants are "lodged and boarded in their masters* houses, which they seldom leave until, through the death of some relation or neighbour, they succeed to the ownership or lease of a cottage farm. What is called surplus labour does not here exist."* I have mentioned in another chapter the check to population in England during the last century, from the difficulty of obtaining a separate dwelling place.'f Other customs restrictive of population might be specified: in some parts of Italy, it is the practice, according to Sismondi, among the poor, as it is well known to be in the higher ranks, that all but one of the sons remain unmar ried. But such family arrangements are not likely to exist among day-labourers. They are the resource of small proprietors and metayers, for preventing too minute a subdivision of the land.
* "In general," says Sismondi, " the number of masters in each corporation was fixed, and no one but a master could keep a shop, or buj and sell on his own account. Each master could only train a certain number of apprentices, whom he instructed in his trade; in some corporations he was only allowed one. Each master could also employ only a limited number of workmen, who were called companions, or journeymen; and in the trades in which he could only take one apprentice, he was only allowed to have one, or at most two journeymen. No one was allowed to buy, sell, or work at a trade, unless he was either an apprentice, a journeyman, or a master; no one could become a journeyman without having served a given number of years as an apprentice, nor a master, unless he had served the same number of years as a journeyman, and unless he had also executed what was called his chefd'eeuvre, (musterpiece) a piece of work appointed in his trade, and which was to be judged of by the corporation. It is seen that this organization threw entirely into the hands of the masters the recruiting of the trade. They alone could take apprentices; but they were not compelled to take any; accordingly they required to be paid, often at a very high rate, for the favour; and a young man could not enter into a trade if he bad not, at starting, the sum required to be paid for his apprenticeship, and the means necessary for his support during that apprenticeship; since for four, five, or seven years, all his work belonged to his master. His dependence on the master during that time was complete; for the master's will, or even caprice, could
close the door of a lucrative profession upon him. After the apprentice became a journeyman he had a little more freedom; he could engage with any master he chose, or pass from one to another; and as the condition of a journeyman was only accessible through apprenticeship, he now began to profit by the monopoly from which he had previously suffered, and was almost sure of getting well paid for a work which no one else was allowed to perform. He depended, however, on the corporation for becoming a master, and did not, therefore, regard himself as being yet assured of his lot, or as having a permanent position. In general he did not marry until he had passed as a master.
"It is certain both in fact and in theory that the existence of trade corporations hindered, and could not but hinder, the birth of a superabundant population. By the statutes of almost all the guilds, a man could not pass as amaster before the ageof twenty-five: but if he had no capital of his own, if he had not made sufficient savings, he continued to work as a journeyman much longer; some, perhaps the majority of artisans, remained journeymen all their lives. There was, however, scarcely an instance of their marrying before they were received as masters: had they been so imprudent as to desire it, no father would have given his daughter to a man without a position."—New Principle* of Political Economy, book iv., ch. 10. See also Adam Smith, book i., ch. 10, part 2.
* See Thornton on Over-Population, page 18, and the authorities there cited. t Supra, p. 99.