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few. Thns we are told that in Norway Jo one can many without !showing, to the satisfaction of the clergyman, that he is permanently settled in snch 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 clergvman 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 661. 13s. id. to 842. 3s. id.) . in smaller, from 400 to 500 florins: in villages, 200 florins (161. 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."t
At Lubeck, " marriages among the poor a.-3 delayed by the necessity a man is under, 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 rhi il..-:— :„ «r — ci.
the allusion, m 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, ho 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 heavyfine. 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
fnilds or trade corporations of the liddle 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 mado
• Appendix, p. 419. t Ibid. p. 567. t Kay, as before cited, 1. 63.
It very effectually the interest ofartizans 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, by 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
* "In general," says Sismondi," the number of masters in each corporation was fixed, and no one but a master could keep a shop, or buy 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 hare 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'cBuvre, (masterpiece) 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 had 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; £or the master's will, or even caprice, could
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 metavers, for preventing too minute a subdivision of the land.
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 ho did not marry until he had passed as a master.
u 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 asamaster before theageof twenty-five i 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."—2feu> 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.
In England generally there is now scarcely a relic of these indirect checks to population; except that in parishes owned by one or a very small number of landowners, the increase of resident labourers is still occasionally obstructed, by preventing cottages from being built, or by pulling down those which exist; thus restraining the population liable to become locally chargeable, without any material effect on population generally, the work required in those parishes being performed by labourers settled elsewhere. The surrounding districts always feel themselves much aggrieved by this practice, against which they cannot defend themselves by similar means, since a single acre of land owned by any one who does not enter into the combination, enables him to defeat the attempt, very profitably to himself, by covering that acre with cottages. To meet these complaints it has already been under the consideration of Parliament to abolish parochial settlements, and make the poor rate a charge not on the parish, but on the whole union. If this proposition be adopted, which for other reasons is very desirable, it will remove the small remnant of what was once a check to population: the value of which, however, from the narrow limits of its operation, must now be considered very trifling.
§ 6. In the case, therefore, of the common agricultural labourer, the checks to population may almost be considered as non-existent. If the growth of the towns, and of the capital there employed, by which the factory operatives are maintained at their present average rate of wages notwithstanding their rapid increase, did not also absorb a great part of the annual addition to the rural population, there seems no reason in the present habits of the people why they should not fall into as miserable a condition as the Irish previous to 1846; and if the market for our manufactures should, I do not say fall off, but even cease to expand at the rapid rate of the last fifty years, there is no certainty that this fate may not be reserved for us.
Without carrying onr anticipations forward to such a calamity, which the great and growing intelligence of the factory population would, it may be hoped, avert, by an adaptation of their habits to their circumstances; the existing condition of the labourers of some of the most exclusively agricultural counties, Wiltshire, Somersetshire, Dorsetshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, is sufficiently painful to contemplate. The labourers of these counties, with large families, and eight or perhaps nine shillings for their weekly wages when in full employment, have for some time been one of the stock objects of popular compassion: it is time that they had the benefit also of some application of common sense.
Unhappily, sentimentality rather than common sense usually presides over the discussion of these subjects; and while there is a growing sensitiveness to the hardships of the poor, and a ready disposition to admit claims in them upon the good offices of other people, there is an all but universal unwillingness to face the real difficulty of their position, or advert at all to the conditions which nature has made indispensable to the improvement of their physical lot. Discussions on the condition of the labourers, lamentations over its wretchedness, denunciations of all who are supposed to be indifferent to it, projects of one kind or another for improving it, were in no country and in no time of the world so rife as in the present generation; but there is a tacit agreement to ignore totally the law of wages, or to dismiss it in a parenthesis, with such terms as "hard-hearted Malthusianism;" as if it were not a thousand times more hard-hearted to tell human beings that they may, than that they may not, call into existence swarms of creatures who are sure to be miserable, and most likely to be depraved; and forgetting that the conduct, which it is reckoned so cruel to diiapprove, is a degrading slavery to a brute instinct in one of the persons concerned, and most commonly, in the other, helpless submission to a revolting abuse of power.
So long as mankind remained in a nemi-barbarous si ate, with the indolence and the few wants of the savage, it probably was not desirable that population should be restrained: the pressure of physical want may have been a necessary stimulus, in that stage of the human mind, to the exertion of labour and ingenuity required for accomplishing that greatest of all past changes in human modes of existence, by which industrial life attained predominance over the hunting, the pastoral, and the military or predatory state. Want, in that age of the world, had its uses, as even slavery had; and there may be corners of the earth where those uses are not yet superseded, though they might easily be so were a helping hand held out by more civilized communities. But in Europe the time, if it ever existed, is long past, when a life of privation had the smallest tendency to make men either better workmen ormore civilized beings. It is, on the contrary, evident, that if the agricultural labourers were better off, they would both work more efficiently, and be better citizens. I ask, then, is it true, or not, that if their numbers were fewer they would obtain higher wages? This is the question, and no other: and it is idle to divert attention from it, by attacking any incidental position of Malthus or some other writer, and pretending that to refute that, is to disprove the principle of population. Some, for instance, have achieved an easy victory over a passing remark of Mr. Malthus, hazarded chiefly by way of illustration, that the increase of food may perhaps be assumed to take place in an arithmetical ratio, while population increases in a geometrical: when every candid reader knows that Mr. Malthus laid no stress on this unlucky attempt to give numerical precision to things which do not admit of it, and every person capable of reasoning must see that it is wholly superfluous to his argument. Others have attached immense importance to a correction which more recent political economists have made in the mere language of the earlier followers of Mr. Malthus. Seve
ral writers have said that it is the tendency of population to increase faster than the means of subsistence. The assertion was true in the sense in which they meant it, namely that population would in most circumstances increase faster than the means of subsistence, if it were not checked either by mortality or by prudence. But inasmuch as these checks act with unequal force at different times and places, it was possible to interpret the language of these writers as if they had meant that population is usually gaining ground upon subsistence, and the poverty of the people becoming greater. Under this interpretation of their meaning, it was urged that the reverse is the truth: that as civilization advances, the prudential check tends to become stronger, and population to slacken its rate of increase, relatively to subsistence; and that it is an error to maintain that population, in any improving community, tends to increase faster than, or even so fast as, subsistence. The word tendency is here used in a totally different sense from that of the writers who affirmed the proposition: but waving the verbal question, is it not allowed on both sides, that in old countries, population presses too closely upon the means of subsistence? And though its pressure diminishes, the more the id :as and habits of the poorest clasS of labourers can be improved, to which it is to be hoped that there is always some tendency in a progressive country, yet since that tendency has hitherto been, and still is, extremely faint, and (to descend to particulars) has not yet extended to giving to the Wiltshire labourers higher wages than eight shillings a week, the only thing which it is necessary to consider is, whether that is a sufficient and suitable provision for a labourer? for if not, population does, as an existing fact, bear too great a proportion to the wages fund; and whether it pre'ssed still harder or not quite so hard at some former period, is practically of no moment, except that, if the ratio is an improving one, there is the better hope that by proper aids and en* .Lvagenienis it maj be made to in. prove more and faster.
It is not, however, against reason, that the argument on this subject has to struggle; but against a feeling of dislike, which will only reconcile itself to the unwelcome truth, when every device is exhausted by which the recognition of that truth can be evaded. It is necessary, therefore, to enter into a detailed examination of these devices,
ard to fcros every position which k
taken np by the enemies of the population principle, in their determination to find some refuge for the labourers, some plausible means of improving their condition, without requiring the exercise, either enforced or voluntary, of any self-restraint, or any greater control than at present over the animal power of multiplication. This will be the object of the next chapter.
OP POPULAR REMEDIES FOR LOW WAGES.
§ 1. The simplest expedient which .can be imagined for keeping the wages of labour up to the desirable point, would be to fix them by law: and this is virtually the object aimed at in a variety of plans which have at different times been, or still are, current, for "remodelling the relation between labourers and employers. No one probably ever suggested that wages should be absolutely fixed; since the interests of all concerned, often require that they should be variable; but some have proposed to fix a minimum of wages, leaving the variations above that point to be adjusted by competition. Another plan, which has found many advocates among the leaders of the operatives, is that councils should be formed, which inEnglandhave been calledlocal boards •of trade, in France " conseils de prud'hommes," and oCher names; consisting •of delegates from the workpeople and from the employers, who, meeting in conference, should agree upon a rate of wages, and promulgate it from authority, to be binding generally on .employers and workmen; the ground of decision being, not the state of the labour-market, but natural equity; to provide that the workmen shall have reasonable wages, and the capitalist reasonable profits.
Others again (but these are rather philanthropists interesting themselves for the labouring classes, than the
labouring people themselves) are shy of admitting the interference of authority in contracts for labour: they fear that if law intervened, it would intervene rashly and ignorantly; they are convinced that two parties, with opposite interests, attempting to adjust those interests by negotiation through their representatives on principles of equity, when no rule could be laid down to determine what was equitable, would merely exasperate their differences instead of healing them; but what it is useless to attempt by the legal sanction, these persons desire to compass by the moral. Every employer, they think, ought to give sufficient wages; and if he does it not willingly, should be compelled to it by general opinion; the test of sufficient wages being their own feelings, or what they suppose to be those of the public. This is, I think, a fair representation of a considerable body of existing opinion on the subject.
I desire to confine my remarks to the principle involved in all these suggestions, without taking into account practical difficulties, serious as these must at once be seen to be. I shall suppose that by one or other of these contrivances, wages could be kept above the point to which they would be brought by competition. This is as much as to say, above the highest rate which can be afforded by the