Imágenes de páginas


BOOK neral should work lefs when they work for themfelves, than when they work for other people. A poor independent workman will generally be more industrious than even a journeyman who works by the piece. The one enjoys the whole produce of his own industry; the other shares it with his master. The one, in his feparate independent state, is less liable to the temptations of bad company, which in large manufactories fo frequently ruin the morals of the other. The fuperiority of the independent workman over those fervants who are hired by the month or by the year, and whofe wages and maintenance are the fame whether they do much or do little, is likely to be still greater. Cheap years tend to increase the proportion of independent workmen to journeymen and fervants of all kinds, and dear years to diminish it.

A French author of great knowledge and ingenuity, Mr. Meffance, receiver of the taillies in the election of St. Etienne, endeavours to show that the poor do more work in cheap than in dear years, by comparing the quantity and value of the goods made upon thofe different occafions in three different manufactures; one of coarse woollens carried on at Elbeuf; one of linen, and another of filk, both which extend through the whole generality of Rouen. It appears from his account, which is copied from the registers of the public offices, that the quantity and value of the goods made in all those three manufactures has generally been greater in cheap than in dear years; and that it has always


been greatest in the cheapeft, and least in the CHA P. deareft years. All the three feem to be ftationary manufactures, or which, though their produce may vary fomewhat from year to year, are upon the whole neither going backwards nor forwards.

The manufacture of linen in Scotland, and that of coarse woollens in the west riding of Yorkshire, are growing manufactures, of which the produce is generally, though with fome variations, increafing both in quantity and value. Upon examining, however, the accounts which have been published of their annual produce, I have not been able to obferve that its variations have had any fenfible connection with the dearnefs or cheapness of the feafons. In 1740, a year of great scarcity, both manufactures, indeed, appear to have declined very confiderably. But in 1756, another year of great fcarcity, the Scotch manufacture made more than ordinary advances. The Yorkshire manufacture, indeed, declined, and its produce did not rise to what it had been in 1755 till 1766, after the repeal of the American stamp act. In that and the following year it greatly exceeded what it had ever been before, and it has continued to advance ever fince.

The produce of all great manufactures for diftant fale muft neceffarily depend, not fo much upon the dearnefs or cheapnefs of the feafons in the countries where they are carried on, as upon the circumstances which affect the demand in the countries where they are confumed; upon peace or war, upon the profperity or declenfion of




[ocr errors]

BOOK other rival manufactures, and upon the good of I. bad humour of their principal cuftomers. A great part of the extraordinary work, befides, which is probably done in cheap years, never enters the public registers of manufactures. The men fervants who leave their masters become independent labourers. The women return to their parents, and commonly fpin in order to make cloaths for themselves and their families. Even the independent workmen do not always work for public fale, but are employed by fome of their neighbours in manufactures for family ufe. The produce of their labour, therefore, frequently makes no figure in those public registers of which the records are fometimes published with fo much parade, and from which our merchants and manufacturers would often vainly pretend to announce the prosperity or declenfion of the greateft empires.

Though the variations in the price of labour, not only do not always correfpond with thofe in the price of provifions, but are frequently quite oppofite, we muft not, upon this account, imagine that the price of provifions has no influ ence upon that of labour. The money price of labour is neceffarily regulated by two circumftances; the demand for labour, and the price of the neceffaries and conveniences of life. The demand for labour, according as it happens to be increasing, stationary, or declining, or to require an increasing, stationary, or declining population, determines the quantity of the neceffa ries and conveniences of life which must be


[ocr errors]


given to the labourer; and the money price of CHA P. labour is determined by what is requifite for purchafing this quantity. Though the money price of labour, therefore, is fometimes high where the price of provifions is low, it would be ftill higher, the demand continuing the fame, if the price of provifions was high.


It is because the demand for labour increases years of fudden and extraordinary plenty, and diminishes in thofe of fudden and extraordinary fcarcity, that the money price of labour fometimes rifes in the one, and finks in the other.

In a year of fudden and extraordinary plenty, there are funds in the hands of many of the employers of induftry, fufficient to maintain and employ a greater number of industrious people than had been employed the year before; and this extraordinary number cannot always be had. Those masters, therefore, who want more workmen, bid against one another, in order to get them, which fometimes raises both the real and the money price of their labour.

The contrary of this happens in a year of fudden and extraordinary fcarcity. The funds deftined for employing industry are less than they had been the year before. A confiderable number of people are thrown out of employment, who bid against one another, in order to get it, which fometimes lowers both the real and the money price of labour. In 1740, a year of extraordinary -fcarcity, many people were willing to work for bare fubfiftence. In the fucceeding years

K 2

BOOK years of plenty, it was more difficult to get


labourers and fervants.

The fcarcity of a dear year, by diminishing the demand for labour, tends to lower its price, as the high price of provifions tends to raise it. The plenty of a cheap year, on the contrary, by increafing the demand, tends to raise the price of labour, as the cheapnefs of provifions tends to lower it. In the ordinary variations of the price of provifions, thofe two oppofite causes seem to counterbalance one another; which is probably in part the reason why the wages of labour are every-where fo much more fteady and permanent than the price of provifions.

The increase in the wages of labour neceffarily increases the price of many commodities, by increafing that part of it which refolves itself into wages, and fo far tends to diminish their confumption both at home and abroad. The fame caufe, however, which raises the wages of labour, the increase of stock, tends to increase its productive powers, and to make a fmaller quantity of labour produce a greater quantity of work. The owner of the stock which employs a great number of labourers, neceffarily endeavours for his own advantage, to make fuch a proper divifion and diftribution of employment, that they may be enabled to produce the greatest quantity of work poffible. For the fame reafon he endeavours to fupply them with the best machinery which either he or they can think of. What takes place among the labourers in a particular workhouse,

« AnteriorContinuar »