Зображення сторінки

having never learned such trade, might by some accident become expert in its mysteries. The tine devoted to apprenticeship ought to be considered as so much capital added to labour; and the person who appears in the market without that capital, ought not, in common fairness, to be allowed to compete with the man who appears with it. The workman who has gone through a regular course of apprenticeship in any business, ought undoubtedly to have a preference, as compared with the workman who has passed through no such ordeal. We would apply this observation, however, only to those crafts in which apprenticeships are essentially necessary.

All the others we would throw open to the most unlimited competition.

The history which the author gives of the oppressive laws which formerly existed in this country, affecting labourers of every description, seems to be accurately compiled, and fraught with many lessons eminently instructive to the legislator. Originally, they were villeins, or slaves; centuries elapsed before they were permitted a modified share of freedom, and even that share was repeatedly altered and diminished by acts of parliament. Sometimes their wages were regulated; sometimes they were confined like paupers, to their native parishes; sometimes their costume was prescribed, and persons not worth forty shillings were compelled

to wear the coarsest cloth, called russet, and to be served once a day with meat, or fish, and the offal of other victuals.' But as the prices of the necessary articles of life constantly fluctuated, and frequently were so high, that wages, abundantly sufficient under one price, would not afford even offal' under another : the legislature next attempted, with the assistance of the magistrates, to vary the scale of wages by that of the prices of the ordinary neces

This was found, upon trial, to be impracticable. The legislature still went on in its system of regulating labour, until it reduced great numbers of the operatives to pauperism, and then the poor laws commenced that destructive career, which they are still pursuing—a career not less pernicious to the labourer than it is to the country at large; and which, sooner or later, must terminate in consequences of a tremendous character, unless the condition of the workmen be taken into serious consideration, and be very materially improved.

The subject, though one of great difficulty, is not, however, altogether intangible. It is true that the numbers of the labouring population have vastly increased, and that it inight, perhaps, be found impossible to afford them all constant and beneficial employment at home. If upon patient and full examination this should be found to be the fact, it might, perhaps, be met by a well-regulated system of perpetual emigration to the colonies. There are those who maintain, that abundant occupation might easily be found at home, for every person of matured strength in this country. The labourer complains that this "might be ” is never realized ; and


while authors are reasoning upon possibilities, he is starving in the circumstances that actually exist. At the same time, it is perfectly manifest, that if the population of workmen has greatly increased, the capital of the country has also accumulated to an unprecedented amount. For instance, it appears, that in the year 1788, only sixty thousand tons of cast-iron were manufactured in England, whereas, in 1828, the produce of cast-iron amounted to no fewer than six hundred thousand tons. Here is an increase in consumption, and of course in capital, which would seem to exceed the proportional increase of the population within the same period. If we look at the enormous amount of all the articles produced at present in Great Britain alone, we should be disposed to assume, that it is almost impossible for any considerable portion of our labouring population to be long out of employment, for without their assistance such production could not take place.

• Of wheat, fifteen million quarters are annually consumed in Great Britain. This is about a quarter of wheat to each individual. Of malt, twenty-five million bushels are annually used in breweries and distilleries in the United Kingdon; and there are forty-six thousand acres under cultivation with hops. Of the quantity of potatoes and other vegetables consumed we have no accounts. Of meat, about one million, two hundred and fifty thousand head of cattle, sheep, and pigs, are sold during the year in Smithfield market alone, which is probably about a tenth of the consumption of the whole kingdom. The quantity of tea consumed in the United Kingdom, is about thirty million pounds annually. Of sugar, nearly four million hundred-weights, or about five hundred million lbs. every year; which is a consumption of twenty pounds for every individual, reckoning the population at twenty-five millions; and of coffee about twenty million lbs. are annually consumed. Of soap, one hundred and fourteen million lbs. are consumed; and of candles, about a hundred and seventeen million pounds. Of sea-borne coals alone, there are about three million chaldron consumed in England and Wales; and it is estimated that, adding the coals of the midland counties, each person of the population consumes a chaldron throughout the kingdom. Of clothing, we annually manufacture about two hundred million lbs. of cotton wool, which produce twelve hundred million yards of calico and various other cotton fabrics, and of these we export about a third; so that eight hundred million vards remain for home consumption, being about thirty-two yards annually for each person. The woollen manufacture consumes about thirty million lbs. of wool. Of hides and skins about fifty million are annually tanned and dressed. Of

paper, about fifty million lbs. are yearly manufactured, which is about two million reams, of five hundred sheets to the ream.

To carry on the commerce of this country with foreign nations, and between distant parts of the United Kingdom, there are twenty thousand ships in constant employ, belonging to our own merchants. To carry on the commerce with ourselves, the total length of our turnpike-roads is twenty-five thousand miles, and three thousand miles of canals. To produce food for the inhabitants of the country, we have forty million acres under coltivation. To clothe them we have millions of spindles worked by

steam, instead of a few thousand turned by hand, as they were a century ago. The fixed capital of the country insured in fire-offices, that insurance being far short of its real amount, is above five hundred million pounds sterling. The fixed capital uninsured, or not represented by this species of insurance, is perhaps as much. The capital expended in improvement in land, is, we should conceive, equal to the capital which is represented by houses, and furniture, and shipping, and stocks of goods. The public capital of the country expended in roads, canals, docks, harbours, and buildings, is equal to at least half the private capital. All this capital is the accumulated labour of two thousand years, when the civilization of the country first began. The greater portion of it is the accumulated labour of the last four hundred years, when labour and capital, through the partial abolition of slavery, first began to work together with freedom, and therefore with energy and skill.'-pp. 121-124.

But much of this, it will be said by the workman, is the result of machinery. So it is, and without machinery, perhaps the tenth part of this production could not have taken place, even with the assistance of a much larger population-a fact of itself which shews the great utility of machinery, without which the common necessaries of food and clothing, and the ordinary articles of convenience, would be at least four or five times the price they are. Machinery is the result of science, and science is the result of the noblest of all labour, the labour of the intellect. The benefits which this species of labour have conferred upon mankind, are very neatly put forth in this little treatise.

A seaman, by the guidance of principles laid down by the great minds that have directed their mathematical powers to the study of astronomysuch minds as those of Newton and La Place,-measures the moon's apparent distance from a particular star. He turns to a page in the Nautical Almanac, and, by a calculation, directed principally by this table, can determine whereabout he is upon the broad ocean, although he may not have seen land for three months. Sir W. Herschell, a mathematician of our own times, who has united to the greatest scientific reputatiou the rare desire to make the vast possessions of the world of science accessible to all, has given, in his “ Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy," an instance of the accuracy of such lunar observations, in an account of a voyage of eight thousand miles, by Captain Basil Hall, who, without a single landmark during eighty-nine days, ran his ship into the harbour of Rio as accurately, and with as little deviation, as a coachman drives his stage into an inn-yard. But what has this, you say, to do with the price of clothing ?-Exactly this : part of the price arises from the cost of transport. If there were no “ lunar distances" in the Nautical Almanac, the voyage from New York to Liverpool might require three months instead of three weeks. But go a step farther back in the influence of science upon navigation. There was a time when ships could hardly venture to leave the shore. In the days of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, a man who had made three voyages across the Straits was entitled to rank as a thane, or nobleman. This feat, then held of so much difficulty, and therefore so highly honoured, is now as easy as crossing the Thames from Westminster to Lambeth. Long after this early period of England's navigation, voyages

across the Atlantic could never have been attempted. That was before the invention of the mariner's compass; but even after that invention, when astronomy was not scientifically applied to navigation, long voyages were considered in the highest degree dangerous. The crews both of Vasco de Gama, who discovered the passage to India, and of Columbus, principally consisted of criminals, who were pardoned on condition of undertaking a service of such peril

. The discovery of magnetism, however, changed the whole principle of navigation, and raised seamanship to a science. If the mariner's compass had not been invented, America could never have been discovered; and if America, and the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, had never been discovered, cotton would never have been brought to England; and if cotton had never been brought to England, we should have been as badly off for clothing as the people of the middle ages, and the million of working men and women, manufacturers of cotton, would have been without employment.

• Astronomy, therefore, you see, and navigation, both sciences the results of long ages of patient inquiry, have opened a communication between the uttermost ends of the earth; and therefore have had a slow, but certain effect upon the production of wealth, and the consequent diffusion of all the necessaries, comforts, and conveniences of civilized life. The connexion between manufactures and science, practical commerce and abstract speculation, is so intimate that it might be traced in a thousand striking instances. Columbus, the discoverer of America, satisfied his mind that the earth was round; and when he had got this abstract idea firmly in his head, he next became satisfied that he should find a new continent by sailing in a westerly course. The abstract notion which filled the mind of Columbus that the earth was a sphere, ultimately changed the condition of every living being in the Old World that then existed, or has since existed. The course of the great river Niger, in Africa, has just been discovered by an enterprising man who was servant to a naval officer who perished in attempting to make the discovery. The knowledge of the course of this river, and its connexion with the sea, may, in process of time, have the greatest influence upon the commerce of England; but the problem to be solved—the difficulty of determining its course—had occupied the minds of the scientific men of Europe long before the question was set at rest by this persevering traveller, after so many others had sunk under the dangers and fatigues of the attempt. In the year 1488, the first geographical maps and charts that had been seen in England were brought hither by the brother of the great Christopher Columbus. If these maps had not been constructed by the unceasing labours of men in their closets, Columbus would never have thought of discovering “ the unknown land” which occupied his whole sonl. If the scanty knowledge of geography which existed in the time of Columbus had not received immense additions from the subsequent labours of other students of geography, England would not have twenty thousand merchant ships ready to trade wherever men have anything to exchange,- that is, wherever men are enabled to give of their abundance for our abundance, each being immensely benefited by the intercourse. A map now appears a common thing, but it is impossible to overrate the extent of the accumulated observations that go to make up a map. An almanac seems a common thing, but it is impossible to overrate the prodigious accumulations of science that go to make up an almanac.

the map

With these accumulations, it is now no very difficult matter to construct a map or an almanac. But if society could be deprived of the accumulations, and we had to re-create and remodel everything for the formation of our map and our almanac, it would, perhaps, require many centuries before these accumulations could be built up again ; and all the arts of life would go backward, for want of the guidance of the principles of which

and the almanac are the interpreters for popular use. • Science, we see, connects distant regions, and renders the world one great commercial market. Science is, therefore, a chief instrument in the production of commercial wealth. But we have a world beneath our feet which science has only just now begun to explore. We want fuel and metallic ore to be raised from the bowels of the earth ; and, till within a few years, we used to dig at random when we desired to dig a mine, or confided the outlay of thousands of pounds to be used in digging, to some quack whose pretensions to knowledge were even more deceptive than a reliance upon chance. The science of geology, almost within the last quarter of a century, has been able, upon certain principles, to determine where coal especially can be found, by knowing in what strata of earth coal is necessarily formed ; and thus the expense of digging through earth to search for coal, when science would at once pronounce that no coal was there, has been altogether withdrawn from the amount of capital to be expended in the raising of coal. That this saving has not been small, we may know from the fact, that eighty thousand pounds were expended fruitlessly in digging for coal at Bexhill, in Sussex, not many years ago, which expense geology would have instantly prevented ; and have thus accumulated capital, and given a profitable stimulus to labour, by saving their waste.

• Whatever diminishes the risk to life or health, in any mechanical operation, or any exertion of bodily labour, lessens the cost of production, by diminishing the premium which is charged by the producers to cover the risk. The safety-lamp of Sir Humphry Davy, by diminishing the waste of human life employed in raising coals, diminished the price of coals. The magnetic mask, which prevents iron-filings escaping down the throats of grinders and polishers, and thus prevents the consumption of the lungs, to which these trades are peculiarly obnoxious, would diminish the price of steel goods, if the workmen did not prefer receiving the premium in the shape of higher wages, to the health and long life which they would get, without the premium, by the use of the mask. This is not wisdom on the part of the workmen. But whether they are wise or not, the natural and inevitable influence of the discovery, sooner or later, to lessen the cost of production in that trade, by lessening the risk of the labourers, must be established. The lightning conductor of Franklin, which is used very generally on the Continent, and almost universally in shipping, diminishes the risk of property, in the same way that the safety-lamp diminishes the risk of life ; and, by this diminution, the rate of insurance is lessened, and the cost of production therefore lessened. Lightning is one of the destructive forces of Nature, in particular cases, which science knows how to control. A few years ago, all the timber in the Hartz Forest in Germany was destroyed by a species of beetle, which, gnawing completely round the bark, prevented the sap from rising. This destructive animal made its appearance in England ; and science very soon discovered the cause of the

« НазадПродовжити »