Зображення сторінки


exchanges. The robbery is an injustice committed against him, who had accumulated the property by a course of successful labour, and an injury to the party, who would have carried on the lawful exchange with him; it strikes, therefore, at the very foundation of commerce, which cannot exist unless in countries where property is

Thus we arrive at two principles; first, that capital is the result of labour, and that capital of one kind cannot be exchanged for capital of another, unless the property of all be equally secure.

Let us put this matter in another point of view. If we suppose that our operative, thrown upon a deserı island, has the means of procuring by labour the food and raiment necessary for his existence, but is informed that the moment he begins to save, his accumulations will be destroyed by ants which infest the island, or by marauders who occasionally visit it. Assured that all the labour which exceeds the necessities of the day, will be so much labour thrown away; he would, as a rational man, forbear from doing more tban was strictly required from him for his own subsistence. Thus we see, that insecurity of property, from whatever cause it springs, would have a decided tendency to prevent accumulation, and there would then, in fact, be no property at all. The moment, therefore, that our operative would become, from old age, or illness, incapable of active labour, he would be the most miserable of men, and would eventually die of starvation.

If, instead of placing our operative upon a desert island, we land him in one of the United States of America, where civilized society has already been established, how is he to proceed, supposing that he has, as most men have, the desire of becoming “possessed of a competency ?He finds that there are numbers around him masters of considerable fortunes, but that he cannot get from any of them any part of their wealth, unless he offer them something in exchange for it. He has, however, nothing to offer, and he will never have any thing unless he labours for it. He obtains employment from the only person who could give it to him--a capitalist : he saves part of his wages, and puts it into the saving bank : his little store increases by his frugality and care, and by-and-by, when his accumulations enable him to become an exchanger, or, in other words, a merchant, he will probably become as wealthy as the wealthiest of those whom he envied on his first arrival. Here again we see the utility of capital, which could not exist without previous labour and security of property ; for if there had been no previous labour there would have been no capital, and if capital had not been secured to its owner by the common consent of society, there would have been nobody to give the stranger employment. He would have found all the inhabitants of the place as destitute as himself; and if he had only a coat upon his back, he would have hastened to shift his quarters from a spot where that coat would not very long, in all probability, have remained his own.

This point of the security of property is further elucidated and

[ocr errors]

enforced in the little work befere us, in a most able argument, clearly the production of a writer different from the individual who has elaborated the greater part of the volume.

The value of an article produced is the labour required for its production.

Capital, the accumulation of past labour, represents the entire amount of that labour which is not consumed ;-it is the old labour stored


for exchange with new labour.

• Those who attach an exclusive value to new labour as distinguished from old labour—or labour as distinguished from capital—say that the new production shall be stimulated by the old production, without allowing the old production to be exchanged against the new ;-that is, that the old production shall be an instrument for the reward of new labour, but not a profitable one to its possessor.

• The doctrine therefore amounts to this; that labour shall be exchanged with labour, but not with the produce of labour, or that there shall be no exchange whatever ; for if present labourers are to have the sole benefit of the capital, the principle of exchange, in which both exchangers benefit, is destroyed. There must be an end of all exchanges when the things to be exchanged are not equally desired by both parties. If the capitalist is to lend or give the capital to the labourer, without a profit, or without a perfect freedom which would entitle him to withhold it if no profit could be obtained, the balance is destroyed between capital and labour. Accumulation is then at an end; because the security of the thing accumulated to the accumulator is at an end. The security is at an end, because, if the new labour is to have the advantage of the old labour without compensation or exchange, the new labour must take the old labour by force or fraud; for the new cannot proceed without the old ;labour cannot stir without capital. Accumulation, therefore, being at an end, labour for an object beyond the wants of an hour is at an end. Society resolves itself into its first elements. We return to the powerless condition, first of the North American Indians ;—and thence, having overturned the security of property which they respect, we go backward to the state of man in the lowest depth of brute degradation, such as scarcely exists amongst the rudest tribes.

• Feeling, therefore, as we must do when not blinded by ignorance or a desire for plunder, that production depends upon the union of capital and labour, and that the first right of each is security of property, let us see what facility of production does for the condition of the lowest and the feeblest man—such as the prodigal, who would have starved at once had there been imperfect production, or, at any rate, could never have passed out of the condition of a labourer.

• When we look at the nature of the accumulated wealth of society, it is easy to see that the pocrest member of it who dedicates himself to profitable labour, is in a certain sense rich, -rich, as compared with the unproductive and therefore poor individuals of any uncivilized tribe. The very scaffolding, if we may so express it, of the social structure, and the moral forces by which that structure was reared, and is upheld, is to him riches. To be rich is to possess the means of supplying our wants—to be poor is to be destitule of those means. Riches do not consist only of money and

lands, of stores of food or clothing, of machines and tools. The particular knowledge of any art-the general understanding of the laws of nature,--the babit from experience of doing any work in the readiest way,the facility of communicating ideas by written language,—the enjoyment of institutions conceived in the spirit of social improvement, the use of the general conveniences of civilized life, such as roads,—ibese advantages, which the poorest man in England possesses or may possess, constitute individual property. They are means for the supply of wants, which in them selves are essentially more valuable for obtaining his full share of what is appropriated, than if all the productive powers of nature were unappropriated, and if, consequently, these great elements of civilization did not exist. Society obtains its almost unlimited command over riches, by the increase and preservation of knowledge, and by the division of employments, including union of power. In his double capacity of a consumer and a producer, the humblest man has the full benefit of these means of wealth-of these great instruments by which the productive power of labour is carried to its highest point.

• But if these common advantages, these public means of society, offering so many important agents to the individual for the gratification of his wants, alone are worth more to him than all the precarious power of the savage state,-how incomparably greater are his advantages, when we consider the wonderful accumulations, in the form of private wealth, which are ready to be exchanged with the labour of all those who are in a condition to add to the store. It has been truly said, “ it is a great misfortune to be poor, but it is a much greater misfortune for the pour man to be surrounded only with other poor like himself.” The reason is obvious. The productive power of labour can be carried but a very little way without accumulation of capital. Iu a highly civilized country, capital is heaped up on every side by ages of toil and perseverance. A succession, during a long series of years, of small advantages to individuals unceasingly renewed and carried forward by the principle of exchanges, has produced this prodigious amount of the aggregate capital of a country whose civilization is of ancient date. This accumulation of the means of existence, and of all that makes existence comfortable, is principally resulting from the labours of those who have gone before us. It is a stock which was beyond their own immediate wants, and which was not extinguished with their lives. It is our capital. It has been produced by labour alone, physical and mental. It can be kept up only by the same power which has created it, carried to the highest point of productiveness by the arrangements of society.'-pp. 58–62.

From this reasoning it follows obviously, that without capital labour cannot be profitably employed; that the more capital there is in a country, the greater will be the extent of profitable employment; and that every thing done to waste or injure the former, tends equally to the reduction of the latter. Thus the fires which consumed so many stacks of corn last winter, and which seem to have been to some extent renewed during the present winter, instead of serving the agricultural labourers, are actually more ruinous to them than to any other class of society. They, deluded men, imagine, that by destroying the corn already accumulated,

they will compel the occupiers of the land to farm more extensively next year, and of course to employ a greater number of hands. But they do not reflect, that for every stack which they burn, they take so much out of the pocket of the farmer, and that consequently he will not be able to employ so many labourers next year as he employed last harvest. If these fires continue, there will be no accumulations of corn at all, or they will be warehoused at an expense which would still affect the farmer's gains, and limit his means of affording employment to the labourer. Similar evils occurred in this country in former times. When a solitary farmer,' says the author of the work before us, ‘or abbot, attempted to accumulate corn, which accumulation could alone prevent the dreadful famines invariably resulting from having no stock that might be available upon a bad harvest, the people burnt the ricks of the provident men, by way of lessening the evils of scarcity. Theconsequence was, that no person thought of accumulating at all, and that the price of wheat often rose, just before harvest, from five shillings a quarter to five pounds!' Here is a striking instance of the consequences which inevitably arise from the insecurity of property. The author places this point in a still stronger light.

• During these dark periods the crown carried on the war against capital with an industry that could not be exceeded by that of the nobles or the people. Before the great charter the Commons complained that King Henry seized upon whatever was suited to his royal pleasure-horses, implements, food, any thing that presented itself in the shape of accumulated labour. In the reign of Henry III. a statute was passed to remedy excessive distresses; from which it appeared that it was no unfrequent practice for the king's officers to take the opportunity of seizing the farmer's oxen, at the moment when they were employed in ploughing, or, as the statute says, “winning the earth,"—taking them off, and starving them to death, or only restoring them with new and enormous exactions for their keep. Previous to the Charter of the Forest no man could dig a marl-pit on his own ground, lest the king's horses should fall into it when he was hunting. As late as the time of James the First we find, from a speech of the great Lord Bacon, that it was a pretty constant practice of the king's purveyors to extort large sums of money by threatening to cut down favourite trees which grew near a mansion-house, or in avenues. Despotism, in all ages, has depopulated the finest countries, by rendering capital insecure, and therefore unproductive; insomuch that Montesquieu lays it down as a maxim, that lands are not cultivated in proportion to their fertility, but in proportion to their freedom. In the fifteenth century, in England, we find sums of money voted for the restoration of decayed towns and villages. Just laws would have restored them much more quickly and effectually. The state of agriculture was so low, that the most absurd enactments were made to compel farmers to till and sow their own lands, and calling upon every man to plant at least forty beans. All the laws for the regulation of labourers, at the same period, assumed that they should be compelled 10 work, and not wander about the country, just in the same way that farmers should be compelled to sow and till. It is perfectly clear that the

lowns would not have been depopulated, and gone to decay, if the accumulation of capital had not been obstructed by insecurity and wasted by ignorance; and that the same insecurity, and the same waste, rendered it necessary to assume that the farmer would not till and sow, and the labourer would not labour, without compulsion. The natural stimulus to industry was wanting, and therefore there was no industry, or only unprofitable industry. The towns decayed—the country was uncultivated-production languished—the people were all poor and wretched; and the government dreamt that acts of parliament and royal ordinances could rebuild the houses and cultivate the land, when the means of building and cultivation, namely, the capital of the country, was exhausted by injustice producing insecurity.'-pp. 81–83.

Considering the miseries which this system of depredation must have produced, we cannot be surprised to find it stated by Harrison, that, during the single reign of Henry VIII., seventy-two thousand thieves were hanged in England. If the law had been properly enforced, it is not improbable that this number would have been doubled, as in such a condition of society, there being no security whatever for property, it must have been looked upon as common prey wherever it was found.

If it be necessary that capital, which gives employment to labour, shall be protected, it is equally necessary and just, that labour, which produces capital, shall also be protected to the utmost possible extent. His labour is in fact the property of the poor man; as such he ought to be as much master of it as the rich man is of his wealth, and entitled at all times to take it freely to the best market. If he make a contract with respect to the performance of any work, that contract he must of course be bound to fulfil, so long as the person who employs him keeps the engagement upon his side. If there be any laws upon the statute-book, or any privileges of a municipal character, which interfere injuriously with the free course of labour, they ought undoubtedly to be removed. The author goes farther, and proposes that the labourer should be rescued, not only from the effect of corporate monopolies, but also from those of masters and workmen; and that he may turn from one employment to another, if he so think fit, without being confined to the trade he originally learnt, or may strike into any line of employment, without having regularly learnt it at all.' We can hardly think that it would be for the benefit of the workman, that a system should prevail altogether so free from restraint, as that suggested in the latter part of the last sentence. It would go to destroy the necessity for apprenticeships, the only means we have of compelling young persons to initiate themselves in the practice of any handicraft, and would render them all so many idlers. If apprenticeships should still be deemed expedient, it would be but fair also, that men regularly brought up to a trade, and who have devoted three, five, or seven years, to the acquisition of it, should not be liable to be thrown out of employment by persons who,

« НазадПродовжити »