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15,000 out of 20,000 of our class are enduring now. We shall become the slaves, often the bodily prisoners, of Jews, middlemen, and sweaters, who draw their livelihood out of our starvation. We shall,” as he continues, “have to face, as the rest have, ever decreasing prices of labor, ever increasing profits made out of that labor by the contractors who will employ us— arbitrary fines, inflicted at the caprice of hirelings — the competition of women, and children, and starving Irish — our hours of work will increase one-third, our actual pay decrease to less than one-half; and in all this we shall have no hope, no chance of improvement in wages, but ever more penury, slavery, misery, as we are pressed on by those who are sacked by fifties—almost by hundreds—yearly, out of the honorable trade in which we were brought up, into the infernal system of contract-work, which is devouring our trade and many others, body and soul. Our wives will be forced to sit up night and day to help us—our children must labor from the cradle, without chance of going to school, hardly of breathing the fresh air of heaven — our boys, as they grow up, must turn beggars or paupers—our daughters, as thousands do, must eke out their miserable earnings by prostitution. And, after all, a whole family will not gain what one of us has been doing, as yet, single-handed.”” This is slavery; and that slavery, too, a consequence of a long-continued effort for the enslavement of others, to be accomplished by means of monopolies of the command of great powers given by the Creator, for the use of all mankind. Had the people of Ireland, India, Portugal, Turkey, and Jamaica, been encouraged to avail themselves of the command of steam — had they been urged to develop the powers of the earth, by bringing to light their various ores—had there been thus produced, throughout those countries, a competition for the purchase of the potential energies of man and land — all would now be different. Producing much, they would have much to sell— becoming better customers to the people of England, from year to year. As it is, they produce little, and can buy but little— that little, too, becoming less, and the competition for the purchase of labor diminishing, when it should increase. England, herself, as has been shown, no longer produces things to be given * Alton Locke.
in exchange for those she needs–her whole consumption of cotton, sugar, tea, coffee, and other commodities, being supplied by profits derived from standing between the people who labor to produce, and those who need to consume.* The larger the profits, the more wretched must be the condition of the agricultural communities of the earth—the share of the trader always growing "most rapidly as the people upon whom he lives, and upon whom he acts, tend most towards slavery and barbarism.
§ 6. Following in the lead of England, the general tendency of American policy has been in the direction of trade, and adverse to commerce. The effects are visible in the facts, that they have been constantly increasing the competition for the sale of all the raw materials of manufactures, and thus producing decline of prices both at home and abroad, to the disadvantage of all the agricultural nations of the world. At times, and for brief periods, commerce has obtained control, as in the periods terminated in 1817, 1834, and 1847; but her resistance having now ceased, trade has, to all appearance, obtained the mastery of the nation's destiny. Such being the case, we may, if we seek to cast its horoscope, consult with advantage the following diagram, representing the highest and lowest conditions of the laborer, in the last half century:
Close of protection in.................. 1815 1833 1847
At no period in the history of the country, has the competition for the purchase of labor, at home and abroad, been so great as in 1815, 1833, and 1847—the closing years of the several periods of protection. At none, therefore, has the improvement in the laborer's condition been so great.
At none, has distress been so universal – at none, has the competition for the sale of labor been so great—as in 1822, 1842, and the moment at which we write.
At none, has the tendency towards an increase in the competition for the sale of labor been more marked than in 1850, when the downward movement was arrested by the discovery of Californian gold deposits, whose influence has already disappeared— competition for the sale of labor now steadily increasing, and the quantity of food and clothing obtainable in exchange for labor as steadily diminishing. All commodities tend towards those places at which they command the highest prices—human energies being mo exception to the general rule. Men going always to those places at which they are best paid, the movement of immigration should afford conclusive evidence of the effect of the several systems in producing competition for the purchase, or the sale, of labor. That it does so, will be seen by the following facts:— From 1825 to 1834, the number of immigrants increased with great steadiness, until, from 10,000 in 1825, it had arrived, in 1834, at 65,000. Thenceforward, it became very unsteady– rising and falling after the several periods of excitement and depression by which this period was characterised, but giving an average, for the eight years ending in 1842, of only 70,000– having scarcely at all increased. Once again, it went up rapidly, until, in 1847, it had already reached 235,000 — increasing, then, to 297,000, in 1849. In the years that since have passed, it has been stimulated by the thirst for California for gold; but it has fallen now to a little more than 100,000.*
* See ante, vol. ii., p. 86.
§ 7. The men who produce cotton are, everywhere, too poor to compete with others for its purchase—the Hindoo being compelled to limit himself to less than is required by common decency, and the Carolina slave being obliged to rest content with the trivial quantity of clothing his master can afford to give him. Why should this be so 7 Because the prohibition, to India, of the use of machinery, and the constantly recurring failure of all efforts to introduce it into the Southern States, have compelled the cotton producers of the world to compete with each other, for the sale of their products, in a distant market, with constant, and necessary, decline of price.
* In all the operations treated of by social science, time is an element of much importance; but especially is it so, in regard to immigration. Demand for labor in one year, produces supplies in future years; and therefore it is, that the average of the years from 1835 to 1842, slightly exceeds the quantity of 1834. Low wages do not arrest immigration in the year in which they occur, but in later ones; and therefore it is, that 1843 is lower than 1841 and 1842.
So, too, is it with food — the rice producers of India and Carolina obtaining little to eat, and being, like the cotton producers of both, obliged to compete with each other for the sale of the little they have to sell. The trader desires to produce competition for the sale of all the raw materials of manufactures, food, cotton, and labor—the greater that competition, the larger being the proportion that falls to him, and the greater being his profits.
So, too, is it with corn—the American price of which, for forty years, continued steadily to fall.” Why should this be so 2 Because the inability to make a market on, or near, the land, produces a necessity for competing with Germany, Russia, Egypt, and Italy, for the sale of food, with injury to all. The greater the competition for the sale of the rude products of the earth, the larger is the proportion of the trader, and the greater is the tendency towards the slavery of man.
Throughout Central and Northern Europe, there is an universal tendency towards competition for the purchase of labor, and of the rude products of the earth; and therefore it is, that land is there increasing in value, and becoming divided, as men become more free. Throughout the countries that follow in the train of England, there is a growing competition for the sale of labor and raw materials; and therefore it is, that, in all of them, land declines in value, and becomes consolidated, as man is more and more enslaved.
§ 8. We are told, however, that all nations may now manufacture, if they wish — that machinery may be exported—that artisans are free to go abroad—and that the people of England rejoice in seeing the extension of manufactures. All people, too, are free to read; but, before they read, they must be taught. The growth of the habit of association comes with wealth; but wealth, itself, can never grow, under a system tending to exhaustion of the soil. That man may acquire wealth, he must have a scientific agriculture, which always follows, and never precedes, manufactures. By forbidding the existence of the latter, cen
- * See ante, vol. ii. p. 189.
tralization forbids the creation of the former; and hence it is, that the decline in the value of land and labor becomes more rapid from year to year, in all the unprotected countries of the world. Raw materials and labor gravitate towards the centre; and the greater their tendency so to do, the greater must be the competition for the sale of labor, and the less the power, at the centre, for its purchase — decline in the prices of all the raw materials of manufactures, at the centre, corresponding with the increase in the competition for their sale that is thus produced. Such were the effects so clearly pointed out by Adam Smith, as resulting, necessarily, from a system based upon the idea of having but a single workshop for the world. That such results have been produced, is proved by the fact, that the agricultural laborer of England receives but a shilling and a half of his day's labor, a fifth of which goes for the rent of his cottage— leaving him, on an average, not more than a shilling with which to purchase food and clothing for his wife, his children, and himself.” Deprived of competition for the purchase of his products at home, the distant farmer and planter find little abroad —declination in the value of their own land and labor being followed by similar effects elsewhere. They are thus effectually prevented from accumulating the wealth required for promoting the growth of that power of combination, so indispensable to the maintenance of competition with advanced communi
* The following is given as the distribution of the wages of an English field-laborer:—
Rent............ 1s. 6d.
Here are ten cents per week for meat, sixteen cents per week for fuel, and a dollar and twenty cents for bread, for a family; yet is the condition of these poor people comfortable, compared with that of tens of thousands of hand-loom weavers, always receiving low wages, even when employed, and often wholly deprived of employment. It is comfortable, compared with that of the hundreds of thousands who fill the cellars, or occupy the lanes and alleys, of London and Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow; all of whom are competitors for the sale of labor, leaving the buyers to fix the price.