Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

BOOK manufactures of the country, as well as all other artificers fubfervient to them, wheel-makers, reelmakers, &c. may exercise their trades in any town corporate without paying any fine. In all towns corporate all perfons are free to fell butcher's meat upon any lawful day of the week. Three years is in Scotland a common term of apprenticeship, even in fome very nice trades; and in general I know of no country in Europe in which corporation laws are fo little oppreffive.

The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, fo it is the most facred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most facred property. It is a manifeft encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman, and of those who might be disposed to employ him. As it hinders the one from working at what he thinks proper, fo it hinders the others from employing whom they think proper. To judge whether he is fit to be employed, may furely be trusted to the discretion of the employers whose interest it so much concerns. The affected anxiety of the law-giver left they fhould employ an improper perfon, is evidently as impertinent as it is oppreffive.

The inftitution of long apprenticeships can give no fecurity that infufficient workmanship shall not frequently be expofed to public fale. When this


is done it is generally the effect of fraud, and CHA P. not of inability; and the longest apprenticeship can give no fecurity against fraud. Quite dif ferent regulations are neceffary to prevent this abuse. The sterling mark upon plate, and the stamps upon linen and woollen cloth, give the purchafer much greater fecurity than any statute of apprenticeship. He generally looks at these, but never thinks it worth while to enquire whether the workmen had ferved a feven years apprenticeship.

The inftitution of long apprenticeships has no tendency to form young people to industry. A journeyman who works by the piece is likely to be industrious, because he derives a benefit from every exertion of his induftry. An apprentice is likely to be idle, and almoft always is fo, because he has no immediate interest to be otherwise. In the inferior employments, the fweets of labour confift altogether in the recompence of labour. They who are fooneft in a condition to enjoy the fweets of it, are likely fooneft to conceive a relish for it, and to acquire the early habit of industry. A young man naturally conceives an averfion to labour, when for a long time he receives no benefit from it. The boys who are put out apprentices from public charities are generally bound for more than the ufual number of years, and they generally turn out very idle and worthlefs.

Apprenticeships were altogether unknown to the ancients. The reciprocal duties of master and apprentice make a confiderable article in

BOOK every modern code. The Roman law is per I. fectly filent with regard to them. I know no

Greek or Latin word (I might venture, I believe, to affert that there is none) which expreffes the idea we now annex to the word Apa prentice, a fervant bound to work at a particular trade for the benefit of a mafter, during a term of years, upon condition that the mafter fhall teach him that trade.

Long apprenticeships are altogether unne ceffary. The arts, which are much fuperior to common trades, fuch as thofe of making elocks and watches, contain no fuch mystery as to require a long courfe of inftruction. The firft invention of fuch beautiful machines, indeed, and even that of fome of the inftruments employed in making them, muft, no doubt, have been the work of deep thought and long time, and may justly be confidered as among the happieft efforts of human ingenuity. But when both have been fairly invented and are well understood, to explain to any young man, in the completest manner, how to apply the inftruments and how to conftruct the machines, cannot well require more than the leffons of a few weeks: perhaps thofe of a few days might be fufficient. In the common mechanic trades, thofe of a few days might certainly be fufficient. The dexterity of hand, indeed, even in common trades, cannot be acquired without much prac tice and experience. But a young man would practise with much more diligence and attention, if from the beginning he wrought as a journey



man, being paid in proportion to the little work CHA P. which he could execute, and paying in his turn for the materials which he might fometimes fpoil through awkwardnefs and inexperience. His education would generally in this way be more effectual, and always lefs tedious and expenfive. The mafter, indeed, would be a lofer. He would lofe all the wages of the apprentice, which he now faves for seven years together. In the end, perhaps, the apprentice himself would be a lofer. In a trade fo eafily learnt he would have more competitors, and his wages, when he came to be a complete workman, would be much lefs than at prefent. The fame increase of competition would reduce the profits of the mafters as well as the wages of the workmen. The trades, the crafts, the myfteries, would all be lofers. But the public would be a gainer, the work of all artificers coming in this way much cheaper to market.

It is to prevent this reduction of price, and confequently of wages and profit, by restraining that free competition which would moft certainly occafion it, that all corporations, and the greater part of corporation laws, have been established. In order to erect a corporation, no other authority in ancient times was requifite in many parts of Europe, but that of the town corporate in which it was established. In England, indeed, a charter from the king was likewife neceffary. But this prerogative of the crown feems to have been referved rather for extorting money from the fubject, than for the defence of the common liberty


BOOK liberty against such oppreffive monopolies. Upon I. paying a fine to the king, the charter feems generally to have been readily granted; and when any particular clafs of artificers or traders thought proper to act as a corporation without a charter, fuch adulterine guilds, as they were called, were not always disfranchised upon that account, but obliged to fine annually to the king for permiffion to exercise their ufurped privileges *. The immediate inspection of all corporations, and of the bye-laws which they might think proper to enact for their own government, belonged to the town corporate in which they were established; and whatever difcipline was exercised over them, proceeded commonly, not. from the king, but from that greater incorporation of which thofe fubordinate ones were only parts or members.

The government of towns corporate was altogether in the hands of traders and artificers; and it was the manifest interest of every particular clafs of them, to prevent the market from being overstocked, as they commonly exprefs it, with their own particular species of industry; which is in reality to keep it always under-ftocked. Each clafs was eager to establish regulations proper for this purpose, and, provided it was allowed to do fo, was willing to confent that every other class should do the fame. In confequence of fuch regulations, indeed, each clafs was obliged to buy the goods they had occafion for

* See Madox Firma Burgi, p. 26, &c.

« AnteriorContinuar »