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when in work, each man out of employment has a right to a weekly allowance. Such a society is, doubtless, highly beneficial, especially in a trade where the demand for labour is much greater at one period of the year than another. It has one drawback, in operating as a combination to regulate and keep up wages; and so far has this been successful, that no reduction in the wages of tailors appears to have taken place since 1815, notwithstanding the change in prices of almost every article of life. As respects a class of journeymen employed entirely on articles of home consumption, this may not be esteemed a disadvantage; but it is evident that if the same combination existed among workmen manufacturing articles of export which had to compete with the fabrics of other countries, such a system might be ruinous both to masters and men.
The journeymen brushmakers, amounting to not more than one thousand in number throughout the kingdom, support a union for mutual aid in scarcity of employment. The carpet-manufacturers, and other trades, are united for a similar purpose. Few of these, however, have any fund beforehand, but draw the support from increased contributions by the men who remain at work.
Some workmen of superior character make a provision for periods of temporary stagnation of trade, by accumulating a small fund in a savings-bank; but the great majority have no resource when out of work but to live much worse, to exhaust their credit,
pawn their clothes and furniture, and finally apply to the parish, where their spirit is broken and independent feeling lost.
The master-manufacturers resort to two expedients of a very different character for meeting temporary stagnations of trade. In the one case, on the demand for goods becoming slack, the quantity made is diminished; a less amount of work being given out and the workmen paid (by the piece) nearly as much as before. Having, however, but three or four days work per week they are obliged either to economize their expenses or resort for support during the other days to whatever fund their forethought may have provided; thereby, the quantity of goods made being reduced nearly to the real demand, no glut is formed in the market, and on the revival of trade the men again resume full work without great loss. This is the case with several trades having a fund to fall back upon, and is beneficial to all parties.
In the other case, where there is no fund or provision for support during temporary stagnations of demand, the reduction takes place by lowering the wages of workmen on the same amount of work done; the consequence of which is, that they endeavour to make up the difference by lengthening the hours of labour and redoubling their exertions: hereby, at the time when the actual demand for their manufacture is the least, raising the supply to the highest point. By this means a great accumulation of the goods made take place; and even when an
increased demand again commences it takes a long time to work off the stores in the hands of capitalists, which have been supplied at a rate of wages ruinously low to the working classes. In many
important trades this is more or less the case; it has been exemplified in the iron trade at Wolverhampton and elsewhere: and a very intelligent mastermanufacturer of Manchester informed a parliamentary committee that in the cotton trade "the worst years are almost always accompanied by the greatest quantity of work done."
I shall conclude with remarking that the subject of this chapter has not before been brought specifically under public notice; but in the existing state of society it is of vast importance, well meriting the attention of both statesmen and economical writers. Fluctuations in employment are the great bane of communities. A nation had better be stationary in riches than be carried transiently forward by a sudden impulse of prosperity to be followed by equal or deeper depression. The high price of farm produce, occasioned in different degrees by the war, by paper currency and corn-laws has been a primary cause of the redundancy of labour, and consequent low wages, privation, pauperism, and insubordination recently experienced in the agricultural districts. Were our vast superstructure of commercial and manufacturing industry to sustain a corresponding reaction, the effects would be far more tremendous in the densely-peopled midland and northern counties.
UNIONS OF TRADES.
Classes of the Industrious confederated either for an increase of Profit or Wages-Origin and Downfal of the Trading Guilds and Fraternities--First notice of Combinations of Workmen-National Association for the Protection of Labour -Principles and Constitution of Trades' Unions-How far they are defensible-Examples of Combinations hurtful to Operatives-Better Wages should be high than ProfitsComparative Treatment of Factory Children now and Thirty Years ago-Proof that Wages are not always regulated by Profit, and that Industry sometimes needs legislative Protection-Foreign Trade not injured by Unions but Competition of Manufacturers-Effect of extreme Low Prices on Masters and Workmen.
SIMILARITY of pursuit offers so many motives to association it may be safely assumed, that the unions of trades are hardly less ancient than the origin of the trades themselves. The builder of a hut or canoe would naturally seek the society of other builders, either for help or improvement. Inducements of a like kind have consolidated into castes other classes of society-the learned for the advancement of science; merchants for the promotion of commerce, and the wealthy and aristocratic orders for the pursuits of pleasure and ambition. So constant and universal has been the operation of this principle that I can hardly find a single division of labour which is not associated; the shipowners, coalowners, West
India planters, bakers, brewers, gas-light companies, and booksellers; as well as the woollen-manufacturers, coopers, cotton-spinners, coachmakers, brushmakers, tailors, and printers, are all in direct or tacit combination, the object of which is their separate conservation and advantage. Anciently the trades united for personal security as well as improvement in their respective crafts; these purposes have been superseded by the progress of industry, science, police, and government, and the great ends now sought to be attained by mercantile and operative unions are the maintenance by the former of a high rate of profit, of the latter a high rate of
It cannot be uninteresting shortly to advert to the progress of Trades' Unions in order to prepare the way for a few observations on the principles on which they have been established. The only portion of the industrious classes which has not resolved into associations of this nature are those employed in agriculture, and which may be ascribed to their scattered location, and not enjoying the same facilities as those employed in manufactures for acquiring information.
The most ancient examples of the unions of workmen are the trading guilds or fraternities, remains of which still subsist in many of the principal towns of England, and on the continent. Traces of these societies may be found under the Roman emperors; and during the times of the Anglo-Saxons, when they formed a separate and favoured portion of the