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portion of the people engaged in blocking the wheels of commerce. Whatever tends to augmentation of their number or their force, tends to lessen the utility of raw materials, and to destroy the value of land and labor. Whatever tends to lessen their number or their power, tends to produce the reverse effects—the value of man then rising rapidly, as a consequence of increase in the rapidity with which consumption follows on production. The trader and transporter are a necessity of society in its earlier stages, when friction is always great. The more it can be increased, the greater is their power; and therefore it is that, while passively wasting their own forces, they are so invariably engaged in actively sacrificing those of the community at large. Wherever their power is most complete, there is the greatest friction between the producer and the consumer, the greatest waste of muscular and intellectual power, and the smallest amount of commerce; as is shown in the countries that have above been named.
§ 5. The commodity at the disposal of all men, and the one in return for which they expect to obtain supplies of the various necessaries and comforts of life, is muscular and mental effort, or labor-power. Of all, it is the most perishable—being lost for ever if not put to use, or, in other words, profitably consumed, at the instant of production. Of all, too, it is the one that least bears transportation — perishing, as it does, in the act of being removed. The man who is distant but a mile from his farm or shop, sacrifices ten or twenty per cent. of his powers on his way to and from the scene of his daily labor. Trebling or quadrupling the distance, the amount of waste becomes so great, that the labor productively applied proves insufficient to yield the fuel necessary to maintain the action of his system, and the machine is brought to a stop—its owner perishing for want of food. Bring the consumer and the producer together, and then instant consumption follows the instant production—all the power yielded by the food being thus economized. Society then tends to take upon itself the natural form, with constant decline in the proportion of those who live by means of appropriation, and increase in the proportion of those engaged in the work of adding to the quantity, and improving the quality, of commodities required for the use of man.
The quantity of human effort produced being dependent altogether upon the demand for its production, the demand is in like manner dependent on the power, on the part of others, to produce commodities or things to be given in exchange — thus making demand for its consumption. The whole constituting but a single circle, the more rapid the motion, the greater must necessarily be the inducement to the production of effort, and the greater the power of all to consume the commodities or things to the production of which that effort must be given.
Production and consumption being, therefore, but measures of each other, both must increase with every augmentation in the number of persons who can draw support from any given surface. That number increases as man is more and more enabled to direct the forces of nature, and to subdue to cultivation the richer soils— every stage of progress being attended with increase in the power to associate, accompanied by rapid development of the faculties by which he is distinguished from the brute. It decreases, on the contrary, as he abandons the effort to obtain control over nature, and gives himself, whether as soldier, trader, or carrier, to obtaining power over his fellow-man—every step in that direction being attended by decline in the development of his faculties, and he, himself, declining towards the condition of the beast of prey, compelled to live on the spoils of others.
Looking to Athens after the battle of Salamis, we see a diminution of population and of wealth, consequent upon the devastations of Persian armies; and there, at once, we find, in diminished consumption, evidence of diminished productive power. Servile followers swell the trains of men like Themistocles and Cimon, Alcibiades and Pericles, while, with few exceptions, the whole people devote themselves to the management of the affairs of others—acting in the capacities of judges and jurors, and gladly accepting as compensation for their services, an obolus per day. Later, we find them in the receipt of gratuitous distributions of corn sent by distant states, anxious to secure their protection against others more rapacious, even, than Athenians. Pauperism becoming thus a privilege of freedom, thousands of citizens, heretofore reputed free, are reduced to slavery, preparatory to an effort for enslaving the whole body of artisans, to whose efforts Athens had been so much indebted. The power of voluntary association having gradually declined, it was now to be abolished by investing a body of middlemen with legal right to be the sole medium of exchange between the men who produced shoes, boots, and coats, and those who needed to consume them. Production steadily diminished, and with it the power of consumption, until at length the richest soils were abandoned — those which yet were occupied being cultivated by hordes of slaves. In Italy, as in Greece, the period of the greatest glory was that of the greatest poverty and wretchedness — the productive power having steadily diminished. With the gradual extension of dominion, land accumulated in the hands of the few who were rich, at the cost of the many who were otherwise; until, at the close of the last Punic war, the flower of the Latin race seems entirely to have disappeared — their places having become occupied by slaves, the property of traders, through whom those who labored were required to make all their exchanges with each other. As a necessary consequence, the number desiring to consume, increased with a rapidity corresponding with that which marked the decline in the powers of those who were required to produce. All who yet claimed to be free, flocked to the great central city, there to be amused and fed. Pauperism at home grew with the growth of power abroad — the gratuitous distribution of food having followed close upon the destruction of Carthage — upon the attainment of exclusive dominion over the countries bordering on the Mediterranean — and upon the elevation of the Scipios to the high position they since have occupied in the books that pass for histories. As great men increased in number, and as land became more and more consolidated, the slaves increased in their proportion to the numbers claiming to be free, while the latter became more and more pauperized and brutalized—thus producing that wretched populace which held itself at all times ready, on condition of participation in the plunder, to lend its aid to a Marius or a Sylla, a Pompey or a Caesar, a Tiberius or a Nero, a Caligula or a Domitian. Turning now to the Netherlands of the Middle Ages, we find a steady growth of numbers, attended by a development of individuality such as was scarcely elsewhere known in Europe. Increasing power of combination was accompanied by a constant increase in the ability to direct the forces of nature to man's service — exhibited in the extension of cultivation over rich soils that, in the days of Caesar, had been a mass of swamps and forests. In no part of Europe did consumption so rapidly follow on production ; and in none did any similar population exercise so great an amount of power, at home or abroad. Looking next to France, their immediate neighbor, we find a state of affairs directly the reverse of that above described. From the days of Charlemagne almost to the Revolution, she has abounded in wandering vagrants — peers and paupers — men whose hand was against every man, while every man's hand was against them. At home, her history is a record of almost unceasing civil war; while abroad she has been the constant disturber of the public peace. Nowhere in Europe has centralization more existed, and nowhere have its effects in arresting the circulation of society been more fully and disastrously exhibited. Always seeking dominion abroad, at home she has been always wasting power that, properly applied, would have made of the country a garden — yielding abundant support to a population thrice greater than that by which it now is occupied.
§ 6. An unceasing waste of labor being one of the conditions of early society and a scattered people, the advantage resulting from the growth of wealth and population is nowhere more fully exhibited, than in the equal manner in which employment is distributed throughout the year. Where a whole population is limited to scratching the earth in quest of food, large numbers are required in harvest, for whose services there is no demand at other times. As employments become diversified, the workshop absorbs the labor that before was wasted, and the circulation of society becomes more regular—enabling the farmer to increase his cultivation, which before was limited within his power to make the harvest; as is now the case in the planting States.
In England, at the close of the fourteenth century, there were employed, in securing the crop of corn from 200 acres, 250 reapers and thatchers on one day, and 200 on another. On another occasion, 212 were hired, for a day, to cut and tie up 13 acres of wheat and one of oats. Admitting these acres to have yielded even a dozen bushels each, it would follow that 212 persons were employed to harvest 168 bushels of grain—an operation that could now with ease be accomplished by a single man. The wages then paid to reapers, “during the first week in August, were 2d. per day, and from that time to the end of the month, 3d., without food. To weeders and haymakers, 10.” Were we to estimate wages, during thé year, at a penny, we should, however, err greatly, because employment was only occasional—leaving a large portion of the labor-power wholly without demand. In proof of this, we may take Ireland as she now stands—occupying a position analogous to that of England, when the latter exported wool and imported cloth. In a collection of papers relative to that country published, some twenty years since, by order of the government, the average price of wheat for two years is given at 52s. 6d. per quarter, and the wages of common laborers at 8s. – enabling them to obtain nearly a bushel and a half for a week's labor. Almost simultaneously, however, with the publication of these tables, appeared the work of a highly intelligent English traveller, who had visited Ireland with a special desire to understand the condition of her working population; and by him we are told that, while 10d. per day, without food, is the highest rate of wages, 6d. is often “willingly accepted;” but that, “with diet, 6d. is the sum usually given.” + Small as is this sum, it would yet give 3s. a week and board; and to him who, centuries hence, may study such subjects, it will appear difficult to reconcile even this with the picture of a nation “starving by millions,” almost simultaneously exhibited to the British public. Examining the question more closely, however, he would find that employment had, as a rule, been only occasional, and that while, at one place, “seventy-five per cent. of the working population” were “not in constant employment,” at another “a couple of hundred laborers” could be had “at 4d., even for a temporary employment;” and that the average amount at the command of the laborer, for the support of his family and himself, did not exceed 4d. Summing up the result of his observations, our traveller—and he is not at all to be suspected of any disposition to underrate the position occupied by the laborer —