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bages, &c. If in the progrefs of improve- C HA P. ment, therefore, the real price of one fpecies of food neceffarily rifes, that of another as neceffarily falls, and it becomes a matter of more nicety to judge how far the rife in the one may be compenfated by the fall in the other. When the real price of butcher's-meat has once got to its height (which, with regard to every fort, except, perhaps, that of hog's flefh, it feems to have done through a great part of England more than a century ago), any rife which can afterwards happen in that of any other fort of animal food, cannot much affect the circumftances of the inferior ranks of people. The circumftances of the poor through a great part of England cannot furely be fo much diftreffed by any rife in the price of poultry, fish, wild-fowl, or venifon, as they must be relieved by the fall in that of potatoes.
In the prefent feafon of fcarcity the high price of corn no doubt diftreffes the poor. But in times of moderate plenty, when corn is at its ordinary or average price, the natural rife in the price of any other fort of rude produce cannot much affect them. They fuffer more, perhaps, by the artificial rife which has been occafioned by taxes in the price of fome manufactured commodities; as of falt, soap, leather, candles, malt, beer, and ale, &c.
Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon the real Price of
T is the natural effect of improvement, how
ver, to diminish gradually the real price of almost all manufactures. That of the manufac turing workmanship diminishes, perhaps, in all of them without exception. In confequence of better machinery, of greater dexterity, and of a more proper divifion and diftribution of work, all of which are the natural effects of improvement, a much smaller quantity of labour be comes requifite for executing any particular piece of work; and though, in confequence of the flourishing circumstances of the fociety, the real price of labour should rife very confiderably, yet the great diminution of the quantity will generally much more than compenfate the greatest rife which can happen in the price.
There are, indeed, a few manufactures, in which the neceffary rife in the real price of the rude materials will more than compenfate all the advantages which improvement can introduce into the execution of the work. In carpenters and joiners work, and in the coarfer fort of cabinet work, the neceffary rife in the real price of barren timber, in confequence of the improvement of land, will more than compenfate all the advantages which can be derived from the best machinery, the greatest dexterity, and the most proper divifion and diftribution of work.
But in all cafes in which the real price of the CHAP. rude materials either does not rife at all, or does not rise very much, that of the manufactured commodity finks very confiderably.
This diminution of price has, in the course of the present and preceding century, been most remarkable in thofe manufactures of which the materials are the coarfer metals. A better movement of a watch, than about the middle of the laft century could have been bought for twenty pounds, may now perhaps be had for twenty fhillings. In the work of cutlers and locksmiths, in all the toys which are made of the coarfer metals, and in all thofe goods which are commonly known by the name of Birmingham and Sheffield ware, there has been, during the fame period, a very great reduction of price, though not altogether fo great as in watch-work. It has, however, been fufficient to aftonifh the workmen of every other part of Europe, who in many cafes acknowledge that they can produce no work of equal goodness for double, or even for triple the price. There are perhaps no manufactures in which the divifion of labour can be carried further, or in which the machinery employed admits of a greater variety of improvements, than those of which the materials are the coarfer metals.
In the clothing manufacture there has, during the fame period, been no fuch fenfible reduction of price. The price of fuperfine cloth, I have been affured, on the contrary, has, within these five-and-twenty or thirty years, rifen fomewhat
BOOK in proportion to its quality; owing, it was faid,
rial, which confifts altogether of Spanish wool.
But the reduction will appear much more fenfible and undeniable, if we compare the price of this manufacture in the present times with what it was in a much remoter period, towards the end of the fifteenth century, when the labour was probably much lefs fubdivided, and the machinery employed much more imperfect, than it is at prefent.
In 1487, being the 4th of Henry VII., it was enacted, that "whofoever fhall fell by retail a "broad yard of the finest scarlet grained, or of "other grained cloth of the fineft making, ❝ above fixteen fhillings, fhall forfeit forty fhil
lings for every yard fo fold." Sixteen fhillings, therefore, containing about the fame quantity of filver as four-and-twenty fhillings of our prefent money, was, at that time, reckoned
not an unreasonable price for a yard of the fineft CHAP. cloth; and as this is a fumptuary law, fuch cloth, it is probable, had ufually been fold fomewhat dearer. A guinea may be reckoned the highest price in the prefent times. Even though the quality of the cloths, therefore, should be fuppofed equal, and that of the prefent times is most probably much fuperior, yet, even upon this fuppofition, the money price of the finest cloth appears to have been confiderably reduced fince the end of the fifteenth century. But its real price has been much more reduced. Six fhillings and eight-pence was then, and long afterwards, reckoned the average price of a quarter of wheat. Sixteen fhillings, therefore, was the price of two quarters and more than three bufhels of wheat. Valuing a quarter of wheat in the prefent times at eight-and-twenty fhillings, the real price of a yard of fine cloth muft, in thofe times, have been equal to at least three pounds fix fhillings and fixpence of our prefent money. The man who bought it must have parted with the command of a quantity of labour and fubfiftence equal to what that fum would purchase in the present times.
The reduction in the real price of the coarse manufacture, though confiderable, has not been fo great as in that of the fine.
In 1463, being the 3d of Edward IV., it was enacted, that "no fervant in husbandry, nor "common labourer, nor fervant to any artificer " inhabiting out of a city or burgh, fhall ufe or “wear in their clothing any cloth above two "fhillings