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or other more than nominal.* The British Government of India always simplifies the tenure by consolidating the various assessments into one, thus making the rent nominally as well as really an arbitrary thing, or at least a matter of specific agreement: but it scrupulously respects the right of the ryot to the land, though until the reforms of the present generation (reforms even now only partially carried into effect) it seldom left him much more than a bare subsistence.
In modern Europe the cultivators have gradually emerged from a state of personal slavery. The barbarian conquerors of the Western empire found that the easiest mode of managing their conquests would be to leave the occupation of the land in the hands in which they found it, and to save themselves a labour so uncongenial as the superintendence of troops of slaves, by allowing the slaves to retain in a certain degree the control of their own actions, under an obligation to furnish the lord with provisions and labour. A common expedient was to assign to the serf, for his exclusive use, as much land as was thought sufficient for his support, and to make him work on the other lands of his lord whenever required. By degrees these indefinite obligations were transformed into a definite one, of supplying a fixed quantity of provisions or a fixed quantity of labour: and as the lords, in time, became inclined to employ their income in the purchase of luxuries rather than in the maintenance of retainers, the payments in kind were commuted for payments in money. Each concession, at first voluntary and revocable at pleasure, gradually acquired the force of custom, and was at last recognised and enforced by the tribunals. In this manner the serfs progressively rose into a free tenantry, who held their land in perpetuity on fixed conditions. The conditions were sometimes very onerous, and the people very miserable.
* The ancient law books of the Hindoos mention in some cases one-sixth, in others one-fourth of the produce, as a proper rent; hut there is no evidence that the rules laid down in those books were, at any period of history, really acted upon.
But their obligations were determined by the usage or law of the country, and not by competition.
Where the cultivators had never been, strictly speaking, in personal bondage, or after they had ceased to be so, the exigencies of a poor and little advanced society gave rise to another arrangement, which in some parts of Europe, even highly improved parts, has been found sufficiently advantageous to be continued to the present day. I speak of the metayer system. Under this, the land is divided, in small farms, among single families, the landlord generally supplying the stock which the agricultural system of the country is considered to require, and receiving, in lieu of rent and profit, a fixed proportion of the produce. This proportion, which is generally paid in kind, is usually (as is implied in the words metayer, mezzaiuolo, and medietarius,) one-half. There are places, however, such as the rich volcanic soil of the province of Naples, where the landlord takes two-thirds, and yet the cultivator by means ot an excellent agriculture contrives to live. But whether the proportion is two-thirds or one-half, it is a fixed proportion; not variable from farm to farm, or from tenant to tenant. The custom of the country is the universal rule; nobody thinks of raising or lowering rents, or of letting land on other than the customary conditions. Competition, as a regulator of rent, has no existence.
§ 3. Prices, whenever there was no monopoly, came earlier under the influence of competition, and are much more universally subject to it, than rents: but that influence is by no means, even in the present activity of mercantile competition, so absolute as is sometimes assumed. There is no proposition which meets us in the field of political economy oftener than this —that there cannot be two prices in the same market. Such undoubtedly is the natural effect of unimpeded competition; yet every one knows that there are, almost always, two prices in the same market. Not only are there in every large town, and in almost every trade,
cheap shops and dear shops, but the same shop often sells the same article at different prices to different customers: and, as a general rule, each retailer adapts his scale of
Erices to the class of customers whom e expects. The wholesale trade, in the great articles of commerce, is really under the dominion of competition. There, the buyers as well as sellers are traders or manufacturers, and their purchases are not influenced by indolence or vulgar finery, nor depend on the smaller motives of personal convenience, but are business transactions. In the wholesale markets therefore it is true as a general proposition, that there are not two prices at one time for the same thing: there is at each time and place a market price, which can be quoted in a price-current. But retail price, the price paid by the actual consumer, seems to feel very slowly and imperfectly the effect of competition; and when competition does exist, it often, instead oflowering prices, merely divides the gains of the high price among a greater number of dealers. Hence it is that, of the price paid by the consumer, so large a proportion is absorbed by the gains of retailers; and any one who inquires into the amount which reaches the hands of those who made the things he buys, will often be astonished at its smallness. When indeed the market, being that of a great city, holds out a sufficient inducement to large capitalists to engage in retail operations, it is generally found a better speculation to attract a large business by underselling others, than merely to divide the field of employment with them. This influence of competition is making itself felt more and more through the principal branches of retail trade in the large towns; and the rapidity and cheapness of transport, by making consumers less dependent on the dealers in their immediate neighbourhood, are tending to assimilate more and more the whole country to a large town; but hitherto it is only in the great centres of business that retail transactions have been chiefly, or even much, determined by competition. Elsewhere it rather acts,
when it acts at all, as an occasional disturbing influence; the habitual regulator is custom, modified from time to time by notions existing in the minds of purchasers and sellers, of some kind of equity or justice.
In many trades the terms on which business is done are a matter of positive arrangement among the trade, who use the means they always possess of making the situation of any member of the body who departs from its fixed customs, inconvenient or disagreeable. It is well known that the bookselling trade was, until lately, one of these, and that notwithstanding the active spirit of rivalry in the trade, competition did not produce its natural effect in breaking down the trade rules. All professional remuneration is regulated by custom. The fees of physicians, surgeons, and barristers, the charges of attorneys, are nearly invariable. Not certainly for want of abundant competition in those professions, but because the competition operates by diminishing each competitor's chance of fees, not by lowering the fees themselves.
Since custom stands its ground against competition to so considerable an extent, even where, from the multitude of competitors and the general energy in the pursuit of gain, the spirit of competition is strongest, we may be sure that this is much more the case where people are content with smaller gains, and estimate their pecuniary interest at a lower rate when balanced against their ease or their pleasure. I believe it will often be found, in Continental Europe, that prices and charges, of some or of all sorts, are much higher in some places than in others not far distant, without its being possible to assign any other cause than that it has always been so: the customers are used to it, and acquiesce in it. An enterprising competitor, with sufficient capital, might force down the charges, and make his fortune during the process; but there are no enterprising competitors; those who have capital prefer to leave it where it is, or to make less profit by it in ft more quiet way.
These observations must be received as a general correction, to be applied whenever relevant, whether expressly mentioned or not, to the conclusions contained in the subsequent portions of this Treatise. Our reasonings must, in general proceed as if the known and natural effects of competition were actually produced by it, iu all cases in which it is not restrained by some positive obstacle. Where competition, though free to exist, does not exist, or where it exists, but has its natural consequences overruled by any other agency, the conclusions will fail more or less of being applicable. To escape
error, we ought, in applying the conclusions of political economy to the actual affairs of life, to consider not only what will happen supposing the maximum of competition, but how far the result will be affected if competition falls short of the maximum.
The states of economical relation which stand first in order, to be discussed and appreciated, are those in which competition has no part, the arbiter of transactions being either brute force or established usage. These will be the subject of the next four chapters.
§ 1. Among the forms which socioty assumes under the influence of the institution of property, there are, as 1 have already remarked, two, otherwise of a widely dissimilar character, but resembling in this, that the ownership of the land, the labour, and the capital, is in the same hands. One of these cases is that of slavery, the other is that of peasant proprietors. In the one, the landowner owns the labour, in the other the labourer owns the land. We begin with the first.
In this system all the produce belongs to the landlord. The food and other necessaries of his labourers are part of his expenses. The labourers possess nothing but what he thinks fit to give them, and until he thinks fit to take it back: and they work as hard as he chooses, or is able, to compel them. Their wretchedness is cnly limited by his humanity, or his pecuniary interest. With the first consideration, we have on the present occasion nothing to do. What the second in so detestable a constitution of society may dictate, depends on the facilities for importing fresh slaves. It full-grown able-bodied slaves can be procured in sufficient numbers, and
imported at a moderate expense, selfinterest will recommend working the slaves to death, and replacing them by importation, in preference to the slow and expensive process of breeding them. Nor are the slave-owners generally backward in learning this lesson. It is notorious that such was the practice in our slave colonies, while the slave trade was legal; and it is said to be so still in Cuba.
When, as among the ancients, the slave-market could only be supplied by captives either taken in war, or kidnapped from thinly scattered tribes on the remote confines of the known world, it was generally more profitable to keep up the number by breeding, which necessitates a far better treatment of them; and for this reason, joined with several others, the condition of slaves, notwithstanding occasional enormities, was probably much less bad in the ancient world than in the colonies of modern nations. The Helots are usually cited as the type of the most hideous form of personal slavery, but with how little truth, appears from the fact that they were regularly armed (though not with the panoply of the hoplite) and formed an integral part of the military strength of the State. They were doubtless an inferior and degraded caste, but their slavery seems to have been one of the least onerous varieties of serfdom. Slavery appears in far more frightful colours among the Romans, during the period in which the Roman aristocracy was gorging itself with the plunder of a newly conquered world. The Romans were a cruel people, and the worthless nobles sported with the lives of their myriads of slaves with the same reckless prodigality with which they squandered any other part of their ill-acquired possessions. Yet, slavery is divested of one of its worst features when it is compatible with hope: enfranchisement was easy and common: enfranchised slaves obtained at once the full rights of citizens, and instances were frequent of their acquiring not only riches, but latterly even honours. By the progress of milder legislation under the Emperors, much of the protection of law was thrown round the slave, he became capable of possessing property, and the evil altogether assumed a considerably gentler aspect. Until, however, slavery assumes the mitigated form of villenage, in which not only the slaves have property and legal rights, but their obligations are more or less limited by usage, and they partly labour for their own benefit; their condition is seldom such as to produce a rapid growth either of population or of production.
§ 2. So long as slave countries are nnderpeopled in proportion to their cultivable land, the labour of the slaves, under any tolerable management, produces much more than is sufficient for their support; especially as the great amount of superintendence which their labour requires, preventing the dispersion of the population, ensures some of the advantages of combined labour. Hence, in a good soil and climate, and with reasonable care of his own interests, the owner of many slaves has the means of being rich. The influence, however, of such a state of society on production, is perfectly well understood. It is a truism to
assert, that labour extorted by fear of punishment is inefficient and unproductive. It is true that in some circumstances, human beings can be driven by the lash to attempt, and even to accomplish, things which they would not have undertaken for any payment which it could have been worth while to an employer to offer them. And it is likely that productive operations which require much combination of labour, the production of sugar for example, would not have taken place so soon in the American colonies, if slavery had not existed tc keep masses of labour together. Then are also savage tribes so averse from regular industry, that industrial life is scarcely able to introduce itself among them until they are either conquered and made slaves of, or become conquerors and make others so. But after allowing the full value of these considerations, it remains certain that slavery is incompatible with any high state of the arts of life, and any great efficiency of labour. For all products which require much skill, slave countries are usually dependent on foreigners. Hopeless slavery effectually brutifies the intellect; and intelligence in the slaves, though often encouraged in the ancient world and in the East, is in a more advanced state of society a source of so much danger and an object of so much dread to the masters, that in some of the States of America it is a highly penal offence to teach a slave to read. All processes carried on by slave labour are conducted in the rudest and most unimproved manner. And even the animal strength of the slave is, on an average, not half exerted. The unproductiveness and wastefulness of the industrial system in the Slave States is instructively displayed in the valuable writings of Mr. Olmsted. The mildest form of slavery is certainly the condition of the serf, who is attached to the soil, supports himself from his allotment, and works a certain number of days in the week for his lord. Yet there is but one opinion on the extreme inefficiency of serf labour. The following passage is from Professor Jones,* whose Essay on the Distribution of Wealth (or rather on Rent), is a copious repertory of valuable facts on the landed tenures of different countries.
"The Russians, or rather those German writers who have observed the manners and habits of Russia, state some strong facts on this point. Two Middlesex mowers, they say, will mow in a day as much grass as six Russian serfs, and in spite of the dearness of provisions in England and their cheapness in Russia, the mowing a quantity of hay which would cost an English farmer half a copeck, will cost a Russion proprietor three or four copecks.f The Prussian counsellor of state, Jacob, is considered to have proved, that in Russia, where everything is cheap, the labour of a serf is doubly as expensive as that of a labourer in England. M. Schmalz gives a startling account of the unproductiveness of serf labour in Prussia, from his own knowledge and observation.^ In Austria, it is distinctly stated, that the labour of a serf is equal to only one-third of that of a free nired labourer. This calculation, made in an able work on agriculture (with some extracts from which I have been favoured), is applied to the practical purpose of deciding on the number of labourers necessary to cultivate an estate of a given magnitude. So palpable, indeed, are the ill effects of labour rents on the industry of the agricultural population, that in Austria itself, where proposals of changes of any kind do not readily make their way, schemes and plans for the commutation of labour rents are as popular as in the more stirring German provinces of the North."§
What is wanting in the quality of the labour itself, is not made up by any excellence in the direction and
* Essay on the Distribution of Wealth and on the Sources of Taxation, By the Rev. Richard Jones. Page 60.
t " Schmalz. Economie Politique, French translation, vol. i. p. 66."
X Vol. ii. p. 107.
4 The Hungarian revolutionary government, during its brief existence, bestowed on that country one of the greatest benefits it could receive, and one which the tyranny that succeeded has not dared to take away:
superintendence. As the same writer* remarks, the landed proprietors "are necessarily, in their character of cultivators of their own domains, the only guides and directors of the industry of the agricultural population," since there can he no intermediate class of capitalist farmers where the labourers are the property of the lord. . Great landowners are everywhere an idle class, or if they labour at all, addict themselves only to the more exciting kinds of exertion; that lion's share which superiors always reserve for themselves. "It would," as Mr. Jones observes, "be hopeless and irrational to expect,' that a race of noble proprietors, fenced round with privileges and dignity, and attracted to military and political pursuits by the advantages and habits of their station, should ever become attentive cultivators as a body." Even in England, if the cultivation of every estate depended upon its proprietor, any one can judge what would be the result. There would be a few cases of great science and energy, and numerous individual instances of moderate success, but the general state of agriculture would be contemptible.
§ 3. Whether the proprietors themselves would lose by the emancipation of their slaves, is a different question from the comparative effectiveness of free and slave labour to the community. There has been much discussion of this question as an abstract thesis; as if it could possibly admit of any universal solution. Whether slavery or free labour is most profitable to the employer, depends on the wages of the free labourer. These, again, depend on the numbers of the labouring population, compared with the capital and the land. Hired labour is generally so much more efficient than slave labour, that the employer can pay a considerably greater value in wages, than the maintenance of his slaves cost him before, and yet be a gainer
it freed the peasantry from what remained of the bondage of serfdom, the labour rents; decreeing compensation to the landlords at the expense of the state, and not at that of the liberated peasants.
* Jones, pp. 53, 64.