Imágenes de páginas

pense, however, of public and private teachers, small as it may appear, would undoubtedly be less than it is, if the competition of those yet more indigent men of letters who write for bread was not taken out of the market. Before the invention of the art of printing, a scholar and a beggar seem to have been terms very nearly synonymous. The different governors of the universities before that time appear to have often granted licenses to their scholars to beg."

§ 4. The demand for literary labour has so greatly increased since Adam Smith wrote, while the provisions for eleemosynary education have nowhere been much added to, and in the countries which have experienced revolutions have been much diminished, that little effect in keeping down the recompense of literary labour can now be ascribed to the influence of those institutions. But an effect nearly equivalent is now produced by a cause somewhat similar-the competition of persons who, by analogy with other arts, may be called amateurs. Literary occupation is one of those pursuits in which success may be attained by persons the greater part of whose time is taken up by other employments; and the education necessary for it, is the common education of all cultivated persons. The inducements to it, independently of money, in the present state of the world, to all who have either vanity to gratify, or personal or public objects to promote, are extremely strong. These motives now attract into this career a great and increasing number of persons who do not need its pecuniary fruits, and who would equally resort to it if it afforded no remuneration at all. In our own country (to cite known examples), the most influential, and on the whole most eminent philosophical writer of recent times (Bentham), the greatest political economist (Ricardo), the most ephemerally celebrated, and the really greatest poets (Byron and Shelley), and the most successful writer of prose fiction (Scott), were none of them authors by profession; and only

two of the five, Scott and Byron, could have supported themselves by the works which they wrote. Nearly all the higher departments of authorship are, to a great extent, similarly filled. In consequence, although the highest pecuniary prizes of successful authorship are incomparably greater than at any former period, yet on any rational calculation of chances, in the existing competition, no writer can hope to gain a living by books, and to do so by magazines and reviews becomes daily more difficult. It is only the more troublesome and disagreeable kinds of literary labour, and those which confer no personal celebrity, such as most of those connected with newspapers, or with the smaller periodicals, on which an educated person can now rely for subsistence. Of these, the remuneration is, on the whole, decidedly high; because, though exposed to the competition of what used to be called "poor scholars," (persons who had received a learned education from some public or private charity), they are exempt from that of amateurs, those who have other means of support being seldom candidates for such employments. Whether these considerations are not connected with something radically amiss in the idea of authorship as a profession, and whether any social arrangement under which the teachers of mankind consist of persons giving out doctrines for bread, is suited to be, or can possibly be, a permanent thing-would be a subject well worthy of the attention of thinkers.

The clerical, like the literary profession, is frequently adopted by persons of independent means, either from religious zeal, or for the sake of the honour or usefulness which may belong to it, or for a chance of the high prizes which it holds out: and it is now principally for this reason that the salaries of curates are so low; those salaries, although considerably raised by the influence of public opinion, being still generally insufficient as the sole means of support for one who has to maintain the externals expected from a clergyman of the established church.

When an occupation is carried on chiefly by persons who derive the main portion of their subsistence from other sources, its remuneration may be lower, almost to any extent, than the wages of equally severe labour in other employments. The principal example of the kind is domestic manufactures. When spinning and knitting were carried on in every cottage, by families deriving their principal support from agriculture, the price at which their produce was sold (which constituted the remuneration of the labour) was often so low, that there would have been required great perfection of machinery to undersell it. The amount of the remuneration in such a case, depends chiefly upon whether the quantity of the commodity, produced by this description of labour, suffices to supply the whole of the demand. If it does not, and there is consequently a necessity for some labourers who devote themselves entirely to the employment, the price of the article must be sufficient to pay those labourers at the ordinary rate, and to reward therefore very handsomely the domestic producers. But if the demand is so limited that the domestic manufacture can do more than satisfy it, the price is naturally kept down to the lowest rate at which peasant families think it worth while to continue the production. It is, no doubt, because the Swiss artisans do not depend for the whole of their subsistence upon their looms, that Zurich is able to maintain a competition in the European market even with English capital, and English fuel and machinery*. Thus far, as to the remuneration of the subsidiary employment; but the effect to the labourers, of having this additional resource, is almost certain to be (unless peculiar counteracting causes intervene) a proportional

Four-fifths of the manufacturers of the Canton of Zurich are small farmers, generally proprietors of their farms. The cotton manufacture occupies either wholly or partially 23,000 people, nearly a tenth part of the population; and they consume a greater quantity of cotton per inhabitant than either France or England. See the statistical account of Zurich, formerly cited, pp. 105, 108, 110.

diminution of the wages of their main occupation. The habits of the people (as has already been so often remarked) everywhere require some particular scale of living, and no more, as the condition under which they are willing to bring up a family. Whether the income which maintains them in this condition comes from one source or from two, makes no difference: if there is a second source of income, they will require less from the first; and will multiply (at least this has always hitherto been the case) to a point which leaves them no more from both employments, than they would probably have had from either if it had been their sole occupation.

For the same reason it is found that, cæteris paribus, those trades are by far the worst paid, in which the wife and children of the artisan aid in the work. The income which the habits of the class demand, and down to which they are almost sure to multiply, is made up, in those trades, by the earnings of the whole family, while in others the same income must be obtained by the labour of the man alone. It is even probable that their collective earnings will amount to a smaller sum than those of the man alone in other trades; because the prudential restraint on marriage is unusually weak when the only consequence immediately felt is an improvement of circumstances, the joint earnings of the two going further in their domestic economy after marriage than before. Such accordingly is the fact, in the case of hand-loom weavers. In most kinds of weaving, women can and do earn as much as men, and children may be and are employed at a very early age; but the aggregate earnings of a family are lower than in almost any other kind of industry, and the marriages earlier. It is noticeable also that there are certain branches of hand-loom weaving in which wages are much above the rate common in the trade, and that these are the branches in which, from the degree of bodily strength requisite, neither women nor young persons are employed. These facts were authenticated by the inquiries of the Hand-loom Weavers'

Commission, which made its report in 1841. The case of factory women and children may be quoted on the other side of the question; but that case is an exception to ordinary principles, inasmuch as from successive improvements in machinery, and a consequent progressive cheapening of the manufactured article, the expansion of factory employment has for half a century outstripped even the rapid growth of the factory population.

§ 5. It deserves consideration, why the wages of women are generally lower, and very much lower, than those of men. They are not universally so. Where men and women work at the same employment, if it be one for which they are equally fitted in point of physical power, it does not appear that they are in general unequally paid. Women, in factories, earn as much as men; and so they do in handloom weaving, which, being paid by the piece, brings their efficiency to a sure test. If the pay is unequal where the efficiency is equal, the only explanation that can be given is custom; grounded either in a prejudice, or in the present constitution of society, which, making almost every woman, socially speaking, an appendage of some man, enables men to take systematically the lion's share of whatever belongs to both. When an employment (as is the case with many trades) is divided into several parts, of some of which men alone are considered capable, while women or children are employed in the others, it is natural that those who cannot be dispensed with, should be able to make better terms for themselves than those who can. But the principal question relates to the peculiar employments of women. The remuneration of these is always, I believe, greatly below that of employments of equal skill and equal disagreeableness, carried on by men. The explanation of this must be, that they are overstocked: that although so much smaller a number of women, than of men, support themselves by wages, the occupations which law and custom make accessible to them

« AnteriorContinuar »