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BOOK to be granted by that which he proposes to leave. "There is fomewhat of hardship in this matter "of certificates," fays the fame very intelligent Author, in his Hiftory of the Poor Laws, "by "putting it in the power of a parish officer, to "imprison a man as it were for life; however "inconvenient it may be for him to continue at "that place where he has had the misfortune to "acquire what is called a fettlement, or what"ever advantage he may propofe to himself by "living elsewhere."
Though a certificate carries along with it no teftimonial of good behaviour, and certifies nothing but that the perfon belongs to the parish to which he really does belong, it is altogether discretionary in the parish officers either to grant or to refuse it. A mandamus was once moved for, fays Doctor Burn, to compel the churchwardens and overfeers to fign a certificate; but the court of King's Bench rejected the motion as a very strange attempt.
The very unequal price of labour which we frequently find in England in places at no great distance from one another, is probably owing to the obstruction which the law of fettlements gives to a poor man who would carry his industry from one parish to another without a certificate. A fingle man, indeed, who is healthy and induftrious, may fometimes refide by fufferance without one; but a man with a wife and family who should attempt to do fo, would in most parishes be fure of being removed, and if the fingle man fhould afterwards marry, he would generally be removed
removed likewife. The fcarcity of hands in one CHAP. parish, therefore, cannot always be relieved by their fuper-abundance in another, as it is conftantly in Scotland, and, I believe, in all other countries where there is no difficulty of fettlement. In fuch countries, though wages may fometimes rife a little in the neighbourhood of a great town, or wherever elfe there is an extraordinary demand for labour, and fink gradually as the distance from fuch places increafes, till they fall back to the common rate of the country; yet we never meet with thofe fudden and unaccountable differences in the wages of neighbouring places which we fometimes find in England, where it is often more difficult for a poor man to pass the artificial boundary of a parish, than an arm of the fea or a ridge of high mountains, natural boundaries which fometimes feparate very distinctly different rates of wages in
To remove a man who has committed no mif demeanour from the parish where he chufes to refide, is an evident violation of natural liberty and juftice. The common people of England, however, fo jealous of their liberty, but like the common people of moft other countries never rightly understanding wherein it confifts, have now for more than a century together suffered themselves to be exposed to this oppreffion without a remedy. Though men of reflexion too have fometimes complained of the law of fettlements as a public grievance; yet it has never been the object of any general popular clamour,
BOOK fuch as that against general warrants, an abufive practice undoubtedly, but such a one as was not likely to occafion any general oppreffion. There is fcarce a poor man in England of forty years of age, I will venture to fay, who has not in fome part of his life felt himself moft cruelly oppreffed by this ill-contrived law of fettlements.
I fhall conclude this long chapter with obferving, that though anciently it was ufual to rate wages, first by general laws extending over the whole kingdom, and afterwards by particular orders of the juftices of peace in every particular county, both these practices have now gone entirely into difufe. "By the experience of above "four hundred years," fays Doctor Burn, “it "feems time to lay afide all endeavours to bring "under ftrict regulations, what in its own na"ture feems incapable of minute limitation: for "if all perfons in the fame kind of work were "to receive equal wages, there would be no emulation, and no room left for industry or 66 ingenuity."
Particular acts of parliament, however, still attempt sometimes to regulate wages in particular trades and in particular places. Thus the 8th of George III. prohibits under heavy penalties all master taylors in London, and five miles round it, from giving, and their workmen from accepting, more than two fhillings and fevenpence halfpenny a day, except in the cafe of a general mourning. Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are
always the masters. When the regulation, there- c HA P. fore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is fometimes otherwife when in favour of the mafters. Thus the law which obliges the masters in several different trades to pay their workmen in money and not in goods, is quite juft and equitable. It impofes no real hardship upon the masters. It only obliges them to pay that value in money, which they pretended to pay, but did not always really pay, in goods. This law is in favour of the workmen; but the 8th of George III. is in favour of the mafters. When mafters combine together in order to reduce the wages of their workmen, they commonly enter into a private bond or agreement, not to give more than a certain wage under a certain penalty. Were the workmen to enter into a contrary combination of the fame kind, not to accept of a certain wage under a certain penalty, the law would punish them very feverely; and if it dealt impartially, it would treat the masters in the fame manner. But the 8th of George III. enforces by law that very regulation which mafters fometimes attempt to establish by fuch combinations. The complaint of the workmen, that it puts the ableft and most industrious upon the fame footing with an ordinary workman, feems perfectly well founded.
In ancient times too it was ufual to attempt to regulate the profits of merchants and other dealers, by rating the price both of provifions and other goods. The affize of bread is, so far
BOOK as I know, the only remnant of this ancient ufage. Where there is an exclufive corporation, it may perhaps be proper to regulate the price of the firft neceffary of life. But where there is none, the competition will regulate it much better than any affize. The method of fixing the affize of bread established by the 31ft of George II. could not be put in practice in Scotland, on account of a defect in the law; its execution depending upon the office of clerk of the market, which does not exist there. This defect was not remedied till the third of George III. The want of an affize occafioned no fenfible inconveniency, and the establishment of one in the few places where it has yet taken place, has produced no fenfible advantage. In the greater part of the towns of Scotland, however, there is an incorporation of bakers who claim exclufive privileges, though they are not very ftrictly guarded.
The proportion between the different rates both of wages and profit in the different employ ments of labour and ftock, seems not to be much affected, as has already been obferved, by the riches or poverty, the advancing, stationary, or declining state of the fociety. Such revolutions in the public welfare, though they affect the general rates both of wages and profit, must in the end affect them equally in all different employments. The proportion between them, therefore, must remain the fame, and cannot well be altered, at least for any confiderable time, by any fuch revolutions.