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serve, as the safeguards of innocence and preservatives against unintentional wrong; it may administer wild justice, but justice is its aim ; it wields the sword against unprovoked aggressions upon persons or property, and often with terrible effect.
C H A P T E R V III.
THE INCREASE OF CAPITAL AS AFFECTED BY THE ENCOURAGE-MENT OF MANUFACTUREs, AND BY THE CONCENTRATION OF THE PEOPLE IN CITIES AND TOWNS.
THE second of the moral causes indicated as affecting the increase of capital is, that such increase is most rapid in any country, when, from the variety of employments that exist there, most of its inhabitants may be engaged in those occupations for which they are peculiarly fitted by nature, which require most skill and intelligence, and in which, consequently, their labor is most productive. If the labor of one practised and skilful artisan is equal to that of at least three raw hands or rude laborers, then it is very much for the economical interests of a country, that as many as possible of its inhabitants should be skilled artisans, and as few as possible should be raw laborers. We say “as many as possible”; because some rude labor is always needed. There must be, in every country, some hewers of wood and drawers of water, — some work that tasks a man’s thews and sinews very severely, while it affords but little employment to his brains, - such work as is often performed by machines and domesticated animals, but which the circumstances of time and place sometimes absolutely require to be performed by men, – usually by men who are capable of nothing else. There is a large proportion of such work required in agriculture, where one skilful and careful farmer can profitably direct the exertions of a dozen or more hands, in such operations as ditching, fencing, making hay, and the like. Many, though not so many, laborers of this lowest class are also required in manufactures, where numerous skilled and expert hands require to be waited on by mere porters and hewers, in order that the valuable time of the former may not be wasted on the coarser operations that are necessary. Thus the bricklayer must have his hod-carrier; the driver of the steam-engine must have his fireman; the printing-office must have its errand-boys, technically called “devils.” There is work even on board a ship at sea, which can only be performed by boys. Commerce demands a higher average of skill and intelligence from those who are engaged in it than any other of the great branches of industry; yet even here, in the various operations subsidiary to the transportation and exchange of goods, there is a considerable demand for this lowest kind of exertion. We say a “ demand ” for it, because the fact that laborers of this class expect only the lowest rate of wages, causes them to be sought for in preference to all others, when the work is such that they can perform it. From various causes, there is an abundance of this kind of labor in the market in almost every country. The stinted bounty of nature, casualties that lessen the average capacity, vice, ignorance, and extreme poverty, are among the causes which here keep the supply up to the demand, and, in nearly all cases, make it go greatly beyond the demand. The only evil to be dreaded is a superfluity of this class of laborers, – a superfluity which sometimes, as at present in Great Britain and Ireland, exists to a frightful extent. Popular education, as that phrase is commonly understood, meaning the general cultivation of the intellect, though unquestionably a very powerful agent for lessening this evil, is not the only preservative against it. A man wholly uneducated in the common meaning of the word, that is, unable either to write or read, may yet become a very expert workman in the finest and most difficult kinds of manufacture. On the other hand, men may be quite well taught, and still be unable to get any but the rudest sort of work to do, or to obtain employment more than half the time even at that. The Scotch, for instance, are a very well educated people; the standard of instruction among them, for all classes, is probably quite as high as it is here in New England. Yet there is as large a surplus of rude labor in Scotland, in proportion to its population, as in England, – proba
The loss which a country suffers by having a large portion of its people condemned to this rude labor, when most of them are capable, or may be made capable, of much finer work or more effective industry, is very great; so great, indeed, that I doubt whether any other single cause of national poverty can equal it. Men are differently constituted by nature, or by those circumstances which, in early youth, determine the bent of their inclinations and the applicability of their powers to one task rather than another. The labor of a people is effectually used only when the field of employment in the country offers scope for every variety of taste and talent, and when no formidable or insuperable obstacles prevent any individual from finding out and performing just that task which God and nature appointed him to do. If agriculture alone is pursued, all the mechanical skill of the people is wasted,— all their fitness for commerce, all their enterprise in trade, is wasted. If four millions are obliged to be rude laborers, when three millions of them might be skilled artisans, the labor of one of the latter being supposed to be equal in value to that of at least three of the former, then the value actually created is to the value which might be created as four is to ten ; in other words, the yearly product of the national industry might be two and a half times greater than it is; and the yearly unproductive consumption need not be at all increased, since, in either case, there would be four millions of people to be supplied with food, clothing, and shelter. Of course, – and here comes the application of the principle to present circumstances, – the country could afford to pay a higher price for their manufactures, for the sake of having the articles manufactured at home. They could afford to spend more, for they would have more to spend.
For illustration, we will take the two extreme cases of Ireland and Massachusetts. To avoid burdening the memory with statistics, we shall employ the nearest round numbers. The population of Ireland, in 1851, was about 6% millions; that of Massachusetts, in 1850, was about one million. According to the Irish census of 1841, which was taken with extraordinary pains and minuteness, the whole number of families in Ireland was one million and a half, of whom one million, or just two thirds of the whole, were engaged in agriculture ; and only three hundred and fifty thousand families, or a little less than one fourth of the whole, were employed in manufactures and trade. It is obvious that the agricultural population was excessive, for in England, where agriculture is carried to greater perfection than in any other country on the face of the globe, there was but one agricultural family to every thirty-four acres of arable land, while in Ireland there was one such family to every fourteen acres. In Massachusetts, according to the census of 1850, out of a free male population, over fifteen years of age, amounting to 295,300, about 194,600, or nearly 66 per cent, were employed in commerce, manufactures, and the mechanic arts, mining, and navigation, and only 84,700, or somewhat over 28 per cent, in agriculture and its subsidiary employments.” The proportions in Ireland, as we have seen, were about 23 per cent in commerce and manufactures, and 66 per cent in agriculture.
Now contrast the condition of the people in the two countries. The paupers in Massachusetts are about one in fifty of the whole population; but as nearly half of these are recent English or Irish immigrants, principally Irish, the real proportion is about one in a hundred. In Ireland, according to the Returns of the Poor Law Commissioners, the whole number of paupers who received relief in the workhouses during the year ending September 29th, 1851, added to the number of out-door poor who were assisted at the public charge, was 755,357, or nearly twelve per cent of the total population. Three years before, the number of paupers was at least thrice as great. The cost of relieving these 755,357 paupers was nearly six millions of dollars. It should be remembered, also, that during the five years preceding September, 1851, the emigration from Ireland averaged at least 200,000 persons a year, most of the emigrants being of that class who would probably have become paupers had they remained at home. Can we, then, attribute this great, this frightful difference, to the unequal distribution of the bounty of Providence, — to the fact that the Irish are crowded together on land not broad or fertile enough to supply them all with food, while we in Massachusetts are fattening on the spontaneous riches of the earth? According to the estimate which we have already formed of the effect upon national well-being of what are termed “natural advantages,” this is not very likely to be the case; but let us look at the facts. Here, where our only natural exports are ice and granite, it is notorious that we do not raise food enough for our own consumption. We import nearly all our wheat, the chief article of our bread-stuffs, and also buy from the other States large droves of cattle. But Ireland raises more food than is necessary for her sustenance, and exports annually vast quantities of provision to England. Her export of the cereal grains, chiefly oats, and of other edible products of the soil, increased, from less than seven millions of bushels in 1817, to twenty-six millions of bushels in 1845. Even in 1847, the year of famine in Ireland, nearly eight millions of bushels of grain and meal were exported; and in the following year, which was one of great scarcity, these exports rose again to sixteen millions. The exportation of beef, pork, butter, and other animal products, has also gone on increasing, though in a lower ratio. In each of the four years from 1846 to 1850, about 200,000 horned cattle and 250,000 sheep and lambs were shipped from Ireland to Great Britain. It is certain, then, that the penuriousness of nature is not the source of the difficulty; it is not fertile land which is wanting, but wealth; and the people do not produce that, because the field of employment is so limited that very little except rude labor is possible. There is no opening for the exertion of skill and enterprise, and whatever natural qualifications the people may possess in these respects cannot be developed. Nearly the whole native population of Massachusetts being occupied with tasks that require skill, care, and ingenuity, we depend for a supply of rude labor almost exclusively upon immigrant foreigners. These do all the coarse work in building our railways and canals, and in the several other occupations
* The numbers actually returned by the census are, 146,002, or 49 per cent, in “commerce, trade, manufactures, mechanic arts, and mining”; 55,699, or 19 per cent, in “agriculture,” 57,942, or 20 per cent, in “labor not agricultural,” and 19,598, or 7 per cent, in “sea and river mavigation.” As navigation is subsidiary to commerce, I have added the number of persons engaged in it to those returned under the head of commerce ; and have also ranked under the same head 28,971 persons, or one half of those enumerated as engaged in “labor not agricultural.” As the compiler of the census remarks that, although laborers were regarded as “non
agricultural,” many of them are probably farm laborers, I have added the other half of their number to the agricultural population.