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No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour, as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged."-Wealth of Nations, b. i. ch. 8.
Government is interested not less than the people, in the diffusion of such sentiments. It can never be the pride of authority to rule over an ignorant, ill-fed, and degraded population. The diffusion of political power has assimilated society to the nature of a jointstock association, in which the rulers and ruled have a common interest. Government cannot be rich, while the body of the community is indigent; it cannot be safe, while that on which it mainly rests, cannot be depended on for support. It is not the opulent who demand legislative attention; they are exempt from want, and as they assume to be educated, they ought to be exempt from crime; they form that part of the social waste, which has been reclaimed and cultivated: but the poor, if not still in the wilderness, are only on its verge, and require to be brought forward by the application of those practical truths I have endeavoured to explain and enforce.
FLUCTUATIONS IN EMPLOYMENTS.
Variations in Rural Labour-Fluctuations in Manufacturing Employments-the Commercial Cycle-Changes of Fashion and the Site of Manufactories-Effects of Machinery-Not lessened aggregate Employment of Society, but displaced particular Branches of Industry-Shearmen, Flax-dressers, and Hand-loom Weavers-Enormous Increase of the Manufacturing, compared with the Agricultural Population-Specific Advantages of Machinery stated-Suggestions for Mitigating the Effects of Fluctuations of Employment— Tailors, Brushmakers, and Carpet-manufacturers-Methods adopted by Masters to meet temporary Stagnation of Trade -Novelty and Importance of the Subject to Statesmen and Economical Writers.
THE quantity of employment is not uniform in any branch of industry. It may be affected by changes of seasons, the alterations of fashion, or the vicissitudes of commerce. The demand for manufactured products is different at different periods of the year. In agriculture the demand for labour is greater during spring and harvest, than in winter. These are periodic variations in rural industry, which may be foreseen and provided for; but others are of a more irregular and inappreciable character. Agriculture, like other pursuits, may either be in a progressive or declining state; it may be extending from the natural causes, arising from the increase of capital or of population, or from artificial encouragement, which excludes foreign
competition in the home market. The absence of any of these stimulants, will render agriculture stationary, if not retrograde; in the latter case there will be a permanent and increasing redundancy of labour, entailing calamities of a more serious description, than those resulting from revolutions of the seasons.
Although rural employment is not exempt from fluctuation, it is less liable thereto than commercial and manufacturing industry. In the latter is a greater expensive power than the former, it is capable of more sudden development or contraction. A fortunate discovery in mechanics may at once quadruple the productive power of machinery; or a manufacturer, when he finds it expedient from slackness of trade, may at once dismiss his workmen, and stop the working of his mills and factories. A farmer has not equal power in husbandry. New lands cannot be suddenly reclaimed nor abandoned; neither can capital laid out in the improved culture of old lands, be hastily withdrawn. It follows the demand for labour increases or diminishes more gradually in agriculture than in manufactures. Add to which, the products of the former chiefly belong to the class of necessaries, of the latter to luxuries, the consumption of which may be dispensed with, or varies with the changing circumstances of the buyer, or the fluctuations of taste and fashion.
More powerful machinery, an increase of the hours of working, or the number of workpeople, always enables the manufacturer to proportion the
supply of his commodities to the demand. This is one of the most general causes of fluctuation of employment, and of the alternate periods of depression and prosperity, inseparable from mercantile pursuits. Spring is not a more sure harbinger of summer, than great commercial activity of depression, or stagnation of trade of its subsequent revival. arises from the opposite influence of high and low prices on consumption. A cessation of demand causes prices to fall, but consumption is promoted by cheapness, as it is lessened by dearness. As consumption increases, prices increase also; and the temptation of higher prices tends to increase the quantity of industry applied to production. But a rise in prices operates on consumption like the power which retards the ascent of bodies on an inclined plane; as prices advance, consumption proportionally diminishes, till at length the additional employment created by the temptation of high prices, becomes redundant, and then follows what is significantly denominated in the commercial world, a reaction.
Such are the general principles which influence commercial depression and prosperity. They depend on the influence of high and low prices on consumption. Banking and the introduction of paper currency, may have increased their intensity, and caused them to alternate in shorter periods, but they would have occurred independently of these machinery. Mercantile reactions were of frequent occurrence before the general establishment of
banks; as those of 1763, 1772, and 1793. They have occurred more frequently since the extension of private credit by bills and bankers' notes, and within the last twenty-two years we have had no fewer than four mercantile revulsions; namely, those of 1811, 1816, 1818, and 1825-6. They may be likened to the plague and pestilence which formerly desolated the earth, and return nearly with as much periodic regularity. As improvements in medical science, and the art of preserving the public health, have taught us to avert or mitigate the former, we may hope that a more intimate acquaintance with the principles of trade, will teach similar power of prevention in respect of the latter.
In addition to the general principles which govern the commercial cycle, there are minor causes of fluctuations in manufacturing employments. Some of these are local, others general; without entering into elaborate or minute inquiries, these may be principally classed under the following heads: 1. Foreign rivalry, regulations, and prohibitions ; 2. Changes of fashion or of place; 3. Improvements in machinery.
The effect of foreign duties and regulations is frequently injurious, and a source of fluctuation in manufacturing employment. Of this we had an example in the American tariff, which was severely felt by the workmen of Kidderminster, Wolverhampton, and other places. The pertinacity with which the French adhere to the restrictions of the mercantile system, is not only a source of fluctua