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forts of provifions be owing altogether to a fall- CHAP. in the value of filver, it is owing to a circumftance from which nothing can be inferred but the fertility of the American mines. The real wealth of the country, the annual produce of its land and labour, may, notwithstanding this circumftance, be either gradually declining, as in Portugal and Poland; or gradually advancing, as in moft other parts of Europe. But if this rife
in the price of fome forts of provifions be owing to a rise in the real value of the land which produces them, to its increafed fertility; or, in confequence of more extended improvement and good cultivation, to its having been rendered fit for producing corn; it is owing to a circumftance which indicates in the clearest manner the profperous and advancing ftate of the country. The land conftitutes by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of the wealth of every extenfive country. It may furely be of fome use, or, at least, it may give fome fatisfaction to the Public, to have fo decifive a proof of the increafing value of by far the greateft, the most important, and the most durable part of its wealth.
It may too be of fome ufe to the Public in regulating the pecuniary reward of fome of its inferior fervants. If this rife in the price of fome forts of provisions be owing to a fall in the value of filver, their pecuniary reward, provided it was not too large before, ought certainly to be augmented in proportion to the extent of this fall. If it is not augmented, their real recompence
BOOK Compence will evidently be fo much diminished. But if this rife of price is owing to the increased value, in confequence of the improved fertility of the land which produces fuch provifions, it becomes a much nicer matter to judge either in what proportion any pecuniary reward ought to be augmented, or whether it ought to be augmented at all. The extenfion of improvement and cultivation, as it neceffarily raises more or lefs, in proportion to the price of corn, that of every fort of animal food, fo it as neceffarily lowers that of, I believe, every fort of vegetable food. It raises the price of animal food; because a great part of the land which produces it, being rendered fit for producing corn, must afford to the landlord and farmer the rent and profit of corn land. It lowers the price of vegetable food; because, by increafing the fertility of the land, it increases its abundance. The improvements of agriculture too introduce many forts of vegetable food, which, requiring less land and not more labour than corn, come much cheaper to market. Such are potatoes and maize, or what is called Indian corn, the two moft important improvements which the agriculture of Europe, perhaps, which Europe itself, has received from the great extenfion of its commerce and navigation. Many forts of vegetable food, befides, which in the rude ftate of agriculture are confined to the kitchen-garden, and raised only by the spade, come in its improved state to be introduced into common fields, and to be raised by the plough: fuch as turnips, carrots, cab
bages, &c. If in the progrefs of improve- c H A P. ment, therefore, the real price of one species of food neceffarily rifes, that of another as neceffarily falls, and it becomes a matter of more nicety to judge how far the rife in the one may be compenfated by the fall in the other. When the real price of butcher's-meat has once got to its height (which, with regard to every fort, except, perhaps, that of hog's flesh, it seems to have done through a great part of England more than a century ago), any rife which can af terwards happen in that of any other fort of animal food, cannot much affect the circumftances of the inferior ranks of people. The circumftances of the poor through a great part of England cannot furely be fo much diftreffed by any rife in the price of poultry, fish, wild-fowl, or venifon, as they must be relieved by the fall in that of potatoes.
In the prefent feafon of scarcity the high price of corn no doubt diftreffes the poor. But in times of moderate plenty, when corn is at its ordinary or average price, the natural rife in the price of any other fort of rude produce cannot much affect them. They fuffer more, perhaps, by the artificial rife which has been occafioned by taxes in the price of fome manufactured commodities; as of falt, foap, leather, candles, malt, beer, and ale, &c.
Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon the real Price of
IT is the natural effect of improvement, how
ver, to diminish gradually the real price of almost all manufactures. That of the manufac turing workmanship diminishes, perhaps, in all of them without exception. In confequence of better machinery, of greater dexterity, and of a more proper division and distribution of work, all of which are the natural effects of improvement, a much smaller quantity of labour be comes requifite for executing any particular piece of work; and though, in confequence of the flourishing circumftances of the fociety, the real price of labour should rife very confiderably, yet the great diminution of the quantity will generally much more than compenfate the greatest rife which can happen in the price.
There are, indeed, a few manufactures, in which the neceffary rife in the real price of the rude materials will more than compenfate all the advantages which improvement can introduce into the execution of the work. In carpenters and joiners work, and in the coarfer fort of cabinet work, the neceffary rife in the real price of barren timber, in confequence of the improvement of land, will more than compenfate all the advantages which can be derived from the best machinery, the greatest dexterity, and the moft proper divifion and diftribution of work.
But in all cafes in which the real price of the CHAP. rude materials either does not rife at all, or does not rife very much, that of the manufactured commodity finks very confiderably.
This diminution of price has, in the course of the present and preceding century, been moft remarkable in thofe manufactures of which the materials are the coarfer metals. A better movement of a watch, than about the middle of the laft century could have been bought for twenty pounds, may now perhaps be had for twenty fhillings. In the work of cutlers and locksmiths, in all the toys which are made of the coarfer metals, and in all thofe goods which are commonly known by the name of Birmingham and Sheffield ware, there has been, during the fame period, a very great reduction of price, though not altogether fo great as in watch-work. It has, however, been fufficient to aftonifh the workmen of every other part of Europe, who in many cafes acknowledge that they can produce no work of equal goodness for double, or even for triple the price. There are perhaps no manufactures in which the divifion of labour can be carried further, or in which the machinery employed admits of a greater variety of improvements, than thofe of which the materials are the coarfer metals.
In the clothing manufacture there has, during the fame period, been no fuch fenfible reduction of price. The price of fuperfine cloth, I have been affured, on the contrary, has, within thefe five-and-twenty or thirty years, rifen fomewhat