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WE have attempted, in the following Treatise, to resolve the most important of all economic problems -that is, to trace and exhibit the circumstances which determine the rate of wages and the condition of the labouring classes. Our solution has been compressed within the narrowest limits, by stripping it of extraneous matter, and confining it to an elucidation of the leading principles on which it depends. But we are not aware that any inquiry of importance has been omitted, especially if it regard the labouring classes of the United Kingdom, to whom our investigations peculiarly refer. We are sanguine enough to believe that such of them as may peruse this little work will not regret having done so. Having been written with a sincere desire to contribute to their welfare, we have neither flattered any prejudice of theirs, nor concealed or slurred over any circumstance which might be supposed to be unfavourable to their views. There are none who are more deeply interested in having the truth, as respects their situation, honestly and fairly stated than the work-people. It will be seen that at bottom they have no exclusive interests, and
that their prosperity is intimately connected with, and is indeed inseparable from, the prosperity of the other classes. We have endeavoured to illustrate this connexion, and at the same time to show how much the well-being of the work-people depends on general principles, and how much on individual conduct. The importance of such inquiries ought to procure for them a corresponding degree of attention. And we would fain hope that they are here set in a pretty clear point of view; and are confident that they will be readily and easily followed by all who will give them something like the same consideration which they frequently bestow on subjects of very inferior importance.
Though principally intended for the use of the workpeople, this work may also be of service to the masters. A knowledge of the circumstances which determine the rate of wages and the condition of the labouring classes is of as much importance to the employers as the employed. The more, indeed, that this knowledge is diffused, the more will the lasting and real interests of both classes be seen to correspond, and the fewer will be the chances of the peace and good order of society being disturbed by jealousies and disagreements between the masters and those in their service.
LONDON, February, 1854.