Imágenes de páginas

tion, made experiment of a small assortment of dried leaves, from which the Chinese were in the habit of preparing their favourite beverage. Thus commenced the tea-trade, which now occasions the annual transport of more than 45 millions of pounds weight, that are sold in Europe for a sum of more than 400,000,000 fr.*

In some cases of very rare occurrence, boldness is nearly certain of success. When the Europeans had recently discovered the passage round the Cape of Good Hope and the continent of America, their world was suddenly expanded to the East and West; and such was the infinity of new objects. of desire in two hemispheres, whereof one was not at all, and the other but very imperfectly, known before, that an adventurer had only to make the voyage, and was sure of selling his returns to great advantage.

In all but such extraordinary cases, it is perhaps prudent to defray the charges of experiments in industry, not out of the capital engaged in the regular and approved channels of production, but out of the revenue that individuals have to dispose of at pleasure, without fear of impairing their fortune. The whims and caprices that divert to an useful end the leisure and revenue which most men devote to mere amusement, or perhaps to something worse, can not be too highly encouraged. I can conceive no more noble employment of wealth and talent. A rich and philanthrophic individual may, in this way, be the means of conferring upon the industrious classes, and upon consumers at large, in other words, upon the mass of mankind, a benefit far beyond the mere value of what he actually disburses, perhaps beyond the whole amount of his fortune, however princely it may be. Who will attempt to calculate the value conferred on mankind by the unknown inventor of the plough?t

A government, that knows and practises its duties and has large resources at its disposal, does not abandon to individuals the whole glory and merit of invention and discovery in the field of industry. The charges of experiment when defrayed by the government, are not subtracted from the national capital, but from the national revenue; for taxation never does, or,

[ocr errors]

Voyage Commerciel et Politique aux Indes Orientales, par M. Felix Renouard de Sainte Croix.

Thanks to the art of printing, the names of the benefactors of mankind will henceforward be lastingly recorded: and, if I mistake not, with more veneration than those which derive lustre from the deplorable exploits of military prowess. Among these will be preserved the names of Olivier de Serres, the father of French agriculture; the first who established an experimental farm; of Duhamel, of Malsherbes, to whom France is indebted for many vegetables now naturalized in her soil and climate: of Lavoisier, whose new system of chemistry has effected a still more important revolution in the arts; and of the numerous scientific travellers of modern times; for travels, with an useful object, may be regarded as adventures in the field of industry.

[ocr errors]

at least, never ought to touch any thing, beyond the revenues of individuals. The portion of them so spent is scarely felt at all, because the burthen is divided among innumerable contributors; and, the advantages resulting from success being a common benefit to all, it is by no means inequitable that the sacrifices, by which they are obtained, should fall on the community at large.



By the term labour I shall designate that continuous action, exerted to perform any one of the operations of industry, or a part only of one of those operations.

Labour, upon whichever of those operations it be bestowed, is productive, because it concurs in the creation of a product. Thus the labour of the philosopher, whether experimental or literary, is productive; the labour of the adventurer or master-manufacturer is productive, although he perform no actual manual work; the labour of every operative workman is productive, from the common day-labourer in agriculture to the pilot that governs the motion of a ship.

Labour of an unproductive kind, that is to say, such as does not contribute to the raising of the products of some branch of industry or other, is seldom undertaken voluntarily; for labour, under the definition above given, implies trouble, and trouble so bestowed could yield no compensation or resulting benefit; wherefore, it would be mere folly or waste in the person bestowing it. When trouble is directed to the stripping another person of the goods in his possession by means of fraud or violence, what was before mere extravagance and folly, degenerates to absolute criminality; and there results no production, but only a forcible transfer of wealth from one individual to another.

Man, as we have already seen, obliges natural agents, and even the products of his own previous industry, to work in concert with him in the business of production. There will, therefore, be no difficulty in comprehending the terms labour or productive service of nature, and labour or productive service of capital.

The labour performed by natural agents, and that executed by pre-existent products, to which we have given the name of capital, are closely analogous, and are perpetually confounded one with the other: for the tools and machines which form a

principal item of capital, are commonly but expedients more or less ingenious, for turning natural powers to account. The steam engine is but a complicated method of taking advantage of the alternation of the elasticity of water reduced to vapour, and of the weight of the atmosphere. So that, in point of fact, a steam-engine, employs more productive agency, than the agency of the capital embarked in it: for that machine is an expedient for forcing into the service of man a variety of natural agents, whose gratuitous aid may perhaps infinitely exceed in value the interest of the capital vested in the machine. It is in this light, that all machinery must be regarded, from the simplest to the most complicated instrument, from a common file to the most expensive and complex apparatus. Tools are but simple machines, and machines but complicated tools, whereby we enlarge the limited powers of our hands and fingers; and both are, in many respects, mere means of obtaining the co-operation of natural agents.* Their obvious effect is to make less labour requisite for the raising the same quantity of produce, or, what comes exactly to the same thing, to obtain a larger produce from the same quantity of human labour.— And this is the grand object and the acme of industry.

Whenever a new machine, or a new and more expeditious process is substituted in the place of human labour previously in activity, part of the industrious human agents, whose service is thus ingeniously dispensed with, must needs be thrown out of employ. Whence many objections have been raised against the use of machinery, which has been often obstructed by popular violence, and sometimes by the act of authority itself. To give any chance of wise conduct in such cases, it is necessary beforehand to acquire a clear notion of the economical effect resulting from the introduction of machinery.

A new machine supplants a portion of human labour, but does not diminish the amount of the product; if it did, it would be absurd to adopt it. When water-carriers are relieved in the supply of a city by any kind of hydraulic engine, the inhabitants are equally well supplied with water. The revenue of the district is at least as great, but it takes a different direction. That of the water-carriers is reduced, while that of the mechanists and capitalists, who furnish the funds, is increased. But, if the superior abundance of the product and the inferior charges of its production, lower its exchangeable value, the revenue of the consumers is benefited; for to them every saving of expenditure is so much gain.

This new direction of revenue, however advantageous to the community at large, as we shall presently see, is always attended with some painful circumstances. For the distress of

Generalization may at pleasure be carried still further: a landed estate may be considered as a vast machine for the production of grain, which is refitted and kept in repair by cultivation: or a flock of sheep as a machine for the raising of mutton or wool,


a capitalist, when his funds are unprofitably engaged or in a state of inactivity, is nothing to that of an industrious population deprived of the means of subsistence.

Inasmuch as machinery produces that evil, it is clearly objectionable. But there are circumstances that commonly accompany its introduction, and wonderfully reduce the mischiefs, while at the same time they give full play to the benefits of the innovation. For,

1. New machines are slowly constructed, and still more slowly brought into use; so as to give time for those who are interested, to take their measures, and for the public administration to provide a remedy.

2. Machines can not be constructed without considerable labour, which gives occupation to the hands they throw out of employ. For instance, the supply of a city with water by conduits gives increased occupation to carpenters, masons, smiths, paviours, &c. in the construction of the works, the laying down the main and branch pipes, &c. &c.

3. The condition of consumers at large, and consequently, amongst them of the class of labourers affected by the innovation, is improved by the reduced value of the product that class was occupied upon.

Besides it would be vain to attempt to avoid the transient evil, consequential upon the invention of a new machine, by prohibiting its employment. If beneficial, it is or will be introduced somewhere or other; its products will be cheaper than those of labour conducted on the old principle; and sooner or later that cheapness will run away with the consumption and demand. Had the cotton spinners on the old principle, who destroyed the spinning-jennies on their introduction into Normandy, in 1789; succeeded in their object, France must have abandoned the cotton manufacture; every body would have bought the foreign article, or used some substitute; and the spinners of Normandy, who in the end, most of them found employment in the new establishments, would have been yet worse off for employment.

So much for the immediate effect of the introduction of machinery. The ultimate effect is wholly in its favour.

Indeed, if by its means man makes a conquest of nature, and compels the powers of nature and the properties of natural agents to work for his use and advantage, the gain is too obvious to need illustration. There must always be an increase

Without having recourse to local or temporary restrictions on the use of new methods or machinery, which are invasions of the property of the inventors or fabricators, a benevolent administration can make provision for the employment of supplanted or inactive labour in the construction of works of public utility at the public expense, as of canals, roads, churches, or the like; in extended colonization; in the transfer of population from one spot to another. Employment is the more readily found for the hands thrown out of work by machinery, because they are commonly already inured to la


of product, or a diminution in the cost of production. If the sale-price of a product do not fall, the acquisition redounds to the profit of the producer; and that without any loss to the consumer. If it do fall, the consumer is benefited to the whole amount of the fall without any loss to the producer.

The multiplication of a product commonly reduces its price, that reduction extends its consumption; and so its production, though become more rapid, nevertheless gives employment to more hands than before. It is beyond question, that the manufacture of cotton now occupies more hands in England, France, and Germany, than it did before the introduction of the machinery that has abridged and perfected this branch of manufacture in so remarkable a degree.

Another striking example of a similar effect is presented by the machine used to multiply with rapidity the copies of a literary performance,-I mean the printing-press.

Setting aside all consideration of the prodigious impulse given by the art of printing to the progress of human knowledge and civilization, I will speak of it merely as a manufacture, and in an economical point of view. When printing was first brought into use, a multitude of copyists were of course immediately deprived of occupation; for it may be fairly reckoned, that one journeyman printer does the business of two hundred copyists. We may, therefore, conclude, that 199 out of 200 were thrown out of work. What followed? Why, in a little time, the greater facility of reading printed than written books, the low price to which books fell, the stimulus this invention gave to authorship, whether devoted to amusement or instruction, the combination, in short, of all these causes, operated so effectually as to set at work, in a very little time, more journeymen printers than there were formerly copyists. And if we could now calculate with precision, besides the number of journeymen printers, the total number of other industrious people, that the press finds occupation for, whether as typefounders and moulders, paper-makers, carriers, compositors, bookbinders, or booksellers, and the like, we should probably find, that the number of persons occupied in the manufacture of books is now 100 times what it was before the art of printing was invented.

It may be allowable to add, that viewing human labour and machinery in the aggregate, in the supposition of the extreme case, viz. that machinery should be brought to supersede human labour altogether, yet the numbers of mankind would not be thinned, for the sum total of products would be the same, and there would probably be less suffering to the poorer and labouring classes to be apprehended; for in that case the momentary fluctuations, that distress the different branches of industry, would principally affect machinery, which, and not human labour, would be paralysed; and machinery can not die of hunger; it can only cease to yield profit to its employers,

« AnteriorContinuar »