INCREASE AND LIMIT OF EMPLOYMENT.
1. THE great and immediate demand is for the application
of the external remedies; and, till these have done their uttermost, the
feeling is, that the application of the internal is meanwhile uncalled for. So
long, it is imagined, as there are still unevoked any possible resources from
without, it is yet time to think of a restraint from within. It is readily
admitted, that, as cultivation is carried downward through the gradation of
soils, the last which has been entered on does no more, in the existing state
of our agriculture, than barely remunerate the operations of its husbandry- or,
laying capital at present out of the account, than feed the agricultural
labourers and their secondaries. And it is farther granted, that, if the last
possible limit is ever to be reached, the tendency of the population to
increase must either be corrected by the positive, or kept in by the preventive
checks; and that, were the operation of the moral preventive cheek sufficiently
powerful, there might, even in the ultimate state of the worlds
agriculture, be as high, or a more highly-conditioned peasantry, than at any
preceding stage of the worlds history.
But it is not seen, that, long anterior to this consummation, the moral preventive check may be imperiously called for, in order to sustain the comfort and circumstances of the working population. Nevertheless, this moral restraint is desirable now, as well as then; and that just because the tendency to an increase in the number of labourers far outstrips the tendency to an increase in the productive powers of labour. It is quite true, that, by the inventions of machinery, and the improvements which are ever taking place, both in the methods of agriculture, and the implements of agricultural labour, the poorer soils may, for an indefinitely long period, be made to yield as much, in return for the same work, as did their predecessor soils in the series of cultivation. Yet there is nothing in this to supersede the moral restraint - and precisely because, with every possible enlargement, subsistence will not increase, so fast as population would increase. And therefore it is, that, notwithstanding all which may be alleged of the still unexhausted capabilities of the soil, either in this or in any other country of the world, we cannot possibly be saved from the present and the perpetual miseries of a redundant population, but by a higher taste for the comforts and the decencies of life among the population themselves. This, by its controlling effect on the date of marriage, and so on the largeness and number of rising families, keeps up the price of labour, by keeping down the supply of it in the labour market. This we hold to be the great specific for ensuring a high average style of comfort and enjoyment among our peasantry, nor do we regard it as a less wise and beautiful connexion in the mechanism of society, that the most direct way to establish it is through the medium of popular intelligence and virtue - giving thereby a practical importance to efficient Christian instruction, unknown to the most of economists, and which no mere economist can possibly realize.
2. But though the progress of cultivation, and the produce extracted by labourers from the last and farthest margin of it, do truly represent both the progress in numbers, and the state in respect to comfort, of our operative population; and though, when viewed in this way, the conclusion seems irresistible, that there is a slowly-receding limit to the means of subsistence, on which population is ever pressing, so that if it press too hardly, it must straiten and depress the condition of labourers- yet we hear of a thousand other expedients for an amelioration in the state of the working classes of society, beside the only effectual expedient of a general principle and prudence in regard to marriages, which it is for the working classes of society, and them alone, to put into operation. What gives plausibility to these expedients is, that society is so exceedingly complicated a thing; insomuch that, when viewed in some one aspect, it holds out a promise of improvement or relief, which, under another or more comprehensive aspect, is seen to be quite illusory. For example, when one witnesses the vast diversity of trades or employments in society, by each of which, or at least in the prosecution of which, so many thriving families are supported, then it is conceived, that, the highway for the relief of the unprovided is to find them a trade, to find them employment. Or, when looking to the connexion between capital and labour, and perceiving that the office of the former is to maintain the latter - then, on the idea that capital may, by the operation of parsimony and good management, be extended ad infinitum, is it held, by almost ,every economist of high name, that every accumulation of capital carries an addition along with it to the subsistence of labourers. Or again, when one looks to the multitudes supported by foreign trade, in all its departments, the imagination is, that, as agriculture has its capabilities, so commerce has its distinct and additional capabilities; and that, whatever limit there may be to the power of the one for the maintenance of families, this is amply made up by the indefinite extension which might be given to the other. Again, we often hear taxation vaguely, though confidently talked of, as the great incubus on the prosperity of labourers; and that, if this were only lightened or removed, there would thenceforth ensue a mighty enlargement both of industry and comfort to the families of the working classes. And then, in the list of national grievances, we hear of the enormous and overgrown properties which are vested in the few - and a general abundance diffused among the many is figured to be the consequence that would result, if not from the spoliation and forcible division of this wealth, at least from the abolition of entails, and of the law of primogeniture. Or in the absence, perhaps the failure, of all the expedients, emigration is held forth as a sovereign specific for all the distresses of an overcrowded land. And, lastly, after every thing but the moral habit of labourers themselves has been thought of, there follows, in this list of artifices for their relief, a scheme which, no longer existing in fancy, has been bodied forth into actual operation, and is the one of all-others most directly fitted to undermine the principle and prudence of labourers - even a compulsory tax on the wealthy for the relief of the destitute, so as to disarm poverty of its terrors, and proclaim a universal impunity for dissipation and idleness. Now that this last great expedient has been adverted to, we need scarcely advert to any of those lesser ones, which, though but the crudities of mere sentimentalism, have been proposed, each as a grand panacea, for all the disorders of the social state, - such as the cottage system, and the cow system, and the village economy of Mr. Owen, and the various plans of home colonization that have been thought to supersede the lessons of Malthus, or, at least, practically to absolve us from all regard to them for centuries to come.
3. Now the remedies we have just specified, may be regarded as belonging to the first class. They are all external remedies; and it will be our distinct aim, to demonstrate, in succession, the inefficacy of each of them. There is not one of them that will serve as a measure of permanent relief. In as far as they hold out the promise of an indefinite harbourage for an ever-increasing population, they but practise a deceitful mockery on the hopes of the philanthropist. To whichever of the quarters now specified we may, with fond expectation, turn ourselves, we shall speedily be met by a check in every way as difficult to force, as is the last limit between cultivation and barrenness. To this limit, in fact, one and all of them may be reduced - and just as really, though not so obviously, in Britain as in Norway, in every society of complicated structure and widely-diversified interests, many are the distinct propositions that might be offered for enlarging the sustenance and comfort of the human species. They can all, however apparently remote and various among themselves, be brought to the place at which husbandry ceases from her operations, because no longer profitable; and there the merits of each may be tried and pronounced upon. That is the place, in fact, though but recently adverted to in the science of political economy, where many a question can be decided, which involves the greatest earthly hopes and interests of society.
4. It may be thought, however, that, without proceeding further in our argument, we might pronounce at once on the scheme of home-colonization. And we trust it is abundantly obvious, that it is utterly incompetent to the end of providing indefinite sustenance for a population proceeding without restraint in the increase of its numbers. If there be any Sanguine enough to imagine, that cultivation may be so speeded forward beyond its natural rate, under the auspices of government, as to absorb all the redundancies of a population, whom the scheme itself may have helped to emancipate from the checks that would otherwise have restrained them - we would appeal to the mighty enlargement which has taken place in our own land within these few years, the millions which have been added to the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland within the lapse of a single generation. The progress of agriculture during this period, from individual enterprise alone, is quite obvious; and it satisfactorily accounts for the commensurate increase that has taken place in the population. And yet, though a larger, is it a more comfortable population than before? Has the increase of food worked out any sensible increase on the average sufficiency of families? Have not the absolute plenty in the land, and the relative poverty of the people who live in it, kept pace the one with the other? And if this be all the result of that progress in our husbandry which has taken plaae under the enterprise of individuals, and has afforded room for additional millions of human beings - can we anticipate a more prosperous result from any government enterprise, which at best will but afford room and sustenance for as many additional thousands? The history of the last thirty years may well demonstrate, that, with a mighty enlargement in our means of subsistence, the population may retrograde, or at least be stationary, in point of comfort, notwithstanding. It affords the clearest experimental proof of the little which can he done by mere resources for an increasing population, without restraints on the rate of their increase. There was nothing in the vast augmentation which has recently taken place of the one, that superseded the use or necessity for the other. And still less ought it to be superseded by any paltry augmentation of the means ab extra, which can be looked for from the scheme in question. The philosophy of Malthus, or rather, the practical wisdom of families, ought not to be suspended, till home colonization have made full development of the capabilities which belong to it. A reckless population, made more reckless by the show and promise of such a relief, will shoot ahead of all that can possibly be achieved by it. The additional food that may have been created, will be more than overborne in the tide of an increasing population. The only difference will be a greater instead of a smaller number of wretched families - a heavier amount of distress, with less of unbroken ground. in reserve for any future enlargements a society in every way as straitened as before, yet nearer to the extreme limit of their resources than before -in short, a condition, at once of augmented hardship and diminished hope, with all the burden of an expensive and unprofitable scheme to the bargain.
5. We cannot complete our view of the system of home-colonization, without the help of certain ulterior principles, which we shall afterwards apply to the further consideration of this scheme. We shall therefore enter immediately on the proper subject of our present chapter; which is, the increase and limit of employment.
6. But before we commence this attempt, it will be necessary to premise a general view of the manner in which the distribution of the labouring classes is regulated by the state of landed property; and to show how a distinct class of labourers, additional to the agricultural and secondary, arises in the progress of cultivation, and increases in number with every descent which it makes among the inferior soils. Hitherto we have only been attending to the limit of cultivation, where, at the soils last entered upon, the produce is barely adequate to the expenses of the husbandry; or, abstracting still from the consideration of profit, where the produce could do no more than feed the agricultural labourers and their secondaries. But the produce of the superior soils is more than adequate to this object. The same improvement in agriculture, in virtue of which we now draw a full subsistence for its labourers, from land that had long lain beyond the outskirts of cultivation, will enable us to draw from the fertile land, that had long lain within its boundary, a greater surplus of produce than before, over and above the expenses of the farm management. It is this surplus which constitutes rent, - which, generally speaking, is measured by the difference between the produce of a given quantity of labour on any soil, and the produce of the same labour on the soil that yields no rent. It goes in the shape of revenue to the landlord; who either receives it in kind, or receives in money the power of purchasing it - a power which, in the act of expenditure, he transfers in various parts throughout the year, to those who labour in his service, or who minister in various ways to his accommodation.
7. Now, it is this expenditure on the part of landlords, which gives rise to another class of labourers, beside the two that we have already specified. Should the rent but enable the proprietor to provide himself with the necessaries of life - then that part of it, which goes to purchase the first necessaries, would but serve to subsist an idle man instead of a labourer; and that part of it which went to the purchase of second necessaries, would but serve, to discharge additional main tenance, and so give additional extent to the secondary population. But such is the unequal distribution of landed property, and so large are the shares which fall in general to the possessors, that, in the vast majority of instances, the rent can do a great deal more than uphold the proprietor in the necessaries of life. It can enable him to subsist better, and to lodge and clothe himself better than an ordinary workman. He can afford to indulge in the luxuries of life: and the preparation of these constitutes the employment of a very large population. It will be found very convenient to distinguish them by a particular name, even though we should not for this purpose fix on the best appellation. We conceive that the fittest term by which to characterize them, is one descriptive of a circumstance in which their employment differs from that of the two first classes. The two first classes are employed in the preparation of articles which cannot be dispensed with - the preparation of the first and second necessaries of life. The others are employed in the preparation of articles which can be dispensed with. A man can want luxuries - he cannot want necessaries. . He might for-go luxuries altogether; and so dismiss from his service the whole of this third class, who are employed in preparing them. Or, he might commute one set of luxuries for another; and so, without dismissing them from his service, he might at least shift their employment in that service. It is this liability of being transferred from one employment to another, and this power, on the part of their employers, of dispensing, if they choose to make a surrender of their luxuries, with their services altogether, which has led me to affix to this class the title of the disposable. They form the disposable population, in contradistinction to the agricultural and the secondary.
8. It is for the sake of defining, and not of stigmatising, that we speak of luxuries. By this term we would comprehend every thing prepared by human labour, and which enters not into the average maintenance of labourers. The landed proprietor must at least have the food of other men - but, in as far as, in style and in quality, it is above that of common labourers, he indulges in luxuries; and so there are cooks and confectionaries, and many others employed in preparing delicacies for the table, who should have their place assigned to them among the disposable population. He must be lodged as well as other men; but then, in as far as his house exceeds in magnitude and elegance that of an ordinary workman, for that excess, he must have an additional service of masons, and carpenters, and roofers, and smiths, who, in respect of their contributing to this higher style, belong not to the secondary but to the disposable population. He must be provided also with furniture and clothing, up to the degree of comfort and tastefulness which prevail among the common people but, in as far as additional labourers are required, for upholding a higher tastefulness, or a greater abundance, there is a host of tradesmen, and artificers, tailors, and shoemakers, and upholsterers, and cabinet-makers, who must be classified in thousands with the disposable population. We shall not attempt to enumerate the exceeding diversity of employments, which the taste, and the humour, and the artificial wants, and the wayward appetency of the landed proprietors give rise to. It is mainly they who impress on the industry of the disposable population, any direction which seemeth unto them good; and who, by spending among them their rents, or, in other words, by making over to them the surplus produce of their estates, (or, which is the same thing, by transferring to them the power of purchasing that produce,) do, in return for their varied services, effuse maintenance upon their families. This disposable population must, like the agricultural, have a train of secondaries attached to them; and receive as much from their employers as shall provide themselves with the first necessaries, and as shall suffice for the food of those who provide them with the second necessaries of life. It is not enough that the disposable population are subsisted - this would only imply their being fed by their employers. They must be maintained, which, in addition to their being fed, implies their being clothed, and lodged, and furnished, in all those secondary accommodations that enter into the average comfort of labourers. The price of their services includes in it the power of purchasing food for themselves, and food for all the secondary labourers who, either mediately or immediately, are employed by them,
9. This completes our view of the distribution which takes place in society of the labouring classes. The agricultural population are employed in providing all with the first necessaries of life. The secondary population, in providing all with the second necessaries of life. And the disposable population, in providing all who are elevated above the condition of labourers with the higher comforts of life, its luxuries, its elegancies, which are not essential to the maintenance of human beings, but minister to the wealthy an endless diversity of gratifications, and give rise to a like diversity of employments among the people. It is needless to explain here, how it is that the wages of labour, in all the three classes, are nearly equalized - insomuch, that they who are toiling at the extreme margin of cultivation, and there trying to force a return from soils which had never been attempted before, are equally remunerated for their services, with those who, in the walks of busy artisanship, are ministering to the most refined enjoyments of the wealthiest and the noblest in our land. For this, and for many other doctrines which we presuppose, without any exhibition of their proof, we must satisfy ourselves with a reference to the general science of political economy.
10. Here, however, we cannot refrain from observing the connexion which obtains between the state of the soil and the state of human society. Had no ground yielded more in return for the labour expended on it, than the food of the cultivators and their secondaries, the existence of one and all of the human race would have been spent in mere labour. Every man would have been doomed to a life of unremitting toil for his bodily subsistence; and none could have been supported in a state of leisure, either for idleness, or for other employments, than those of husbandry, and such coarser manufactures, as serve to provide society with the second necessaries of existence. The species would have risen but a few degrees, whether physical or moral, above the condition of mere savages. It is just because of a fertility in the earth, by which it yields a surplus over and above the food of the direct and secondary labourers, that we can command the services of a disposable population, who, in return for their maintenance, minister to the proprietors of this surplus, all the higher comforts and elegancies of life. It is precisely to this surplus we owe it, that society is provided with more than a coarse and a bare supply for the necessities of animal nature. It is the original fund out of which are paid the expenses of art, and science, and civilization, and luxury, and law, and defence, and all, in short, that contributes either to strengthen or to adorn the commonwealth. Without this surplus, we should have had but an agrarian population - consisting of husbandmen, and those few homely and rustic artificers, who, scattered in hamlets over the land, would have given their secondary service to the whole population. It marks an interesting connexion between the capabilities of the soil and the condition of social life, that to this surplus we stand indispensably indebted, for our crowded cities, our thousand manufactories for the supply of comforts and refinements to society, our wide and diversified commerce, our armies of protection, our schools and colleges of education, our halls of legislation and justice, even our altars of piety and temple services. It has been remarked by geologists, as the evidence of a presiding design in nature, that the waste of the soil is so nicely balanced by the supply from the disintegration of the upland rocks, which are worn and pulverized at such a rate, as to keep up a good vegetable mould on the surface of the earth. But each science teems with the like evidences of a devising and intelligent God; and when we view aright the many beneficent functions, to which, through the instrumentality of its surplus produce, the actual degree of the earths fertility is subservient, we cannot imagine a more wondrous and beautiful adaptation between the state of external nature and the mechanism of human society.
11. By this mechanism of human society, as far as we have explained it, the exceeding diversity of trades and employments may be accounted for. Even were the barrenness of the land such, that it only yielded food for an agricultural and a secondary population - this distribution would of itself give rise to a considerable variety of distinct occupation; and, under the system of a division in labour, we should have shoemakers, and tailors, and weavers, and masons, and carpenters, and artificers in hardware, and dealers, as well as fabricators, in sundry more articles - making out, on the whole, a pretty copious enumeration of separate callings, with the separate interests belonging to them. But when, in addition to the subsistence of an agricultural and a secondary, there is fertility in the land for the subsistence of a disposable population, the multiplication of trades and employments is thereby indefinitely extended - being as numerous as the caprices of human fancy and taste, or the varieties of human indulgence. It is thus that, in proportion as the mechanism of social life becomes more complex, it is also all the more bewildering; and, amid the intricacy of its manifold combinations, we lose sight both of the springs and the limits of human maintenance. One very tide and prevalent delusion, more especially, and which has misguided both the charity of philanthropists and the policy of statesmen, is, that the employment in which men are engaged is the source of their maintenance, - whereas, it is only the channel through which they draw that maintenance from the hands of those who buy the products of their employment. This principle has in it all the simplicity of a truism and yet it is wonderful with what perversity of apprehension, both the managers of a state and the managers of a parish miss the sight of it. Whether we look to acts of parliament, or to the actings of a parochial vestry - we shall find them proceeding on its being the grand specific for the relief of the poor, to find employment for them. Now, unless that employment be the raising of food, it does nothing to alleviate the disproportion between the numbers of the people and the means of their subsistence, - and if there be a limit, as we have already demonstrated, to the food, we. may be very sure that this device of employment will not turn out a panacea for the distresses of an overburdened land.
12. But the fallacy to which we now advert, is not confined to the matters of practical administration. It may also be recognised in the theories of those who have attempted to adjust the philosophy of the subject. In political economy it will often be found, that the channel is confounded with the source, and hence a delusion, not in the business of charity alone, but which has extended far and wide among the lessons of the science.
13. And yet it is a delusion which, one might think, should be dissipated by but one step of explanation. A single truism puts it to flight. Nothing appears more obvious, than that any trade or manufacture originates only its own products. All that a stocking-maker contributes to society is simply stockings. This, and nothing more, is what comes forth of his establishment. And the same is true of all the other trades or employments which can be specified. They work off nothing, they emit nothing but their own peculiar articles. Were this sure and ample axiom but clearly and steadfastly kept in view, it would put to flight a number of illusions in political science, - illusions which have taken obstinate hold of our legislators, and which to this moment keep firm possession in the systems of many of our economists, They almost all, in a greater or less degree, accredit a manufacture with something more than its own products. The inclination is, to accredit it also with the maintenance of its labourers. In every transaction of buying and selling, there are two distinct elements, - the commodity, and the price of the commodity; of which price, the maintenance of the labourers is generally far the largest ingredient. Now, the thing to be constantly kept in view is, that a manufacture should only be accredited with its own commodity, and not, over and above this, with the price of its commodity. These two stand, as it were, on different sides of an exchange. To the manufacture is to be ascribed all that we behold on the one side. It furnishes the commodity for the market. But it did not also create the wealth that supplies the price of the commodity. It does not furnish society with both itself and its equivalent. The latter comes from a distinct quarter; and we repeat, that by confounding, in imagination, two things which are distinct in fact, a false direction has been given, both to the policy of states, and to the theories of philosophers.
14. This confusion of sentiment appears in a variety of ways. When one sees a thriving and industrious village, and that the employment of the families secures for them their maintenance, it is most natural to invest the former with a power of command, tantamount to a power of creation over the latter. The two go together; and because when the employment ceases, the maintenance ceases, it is conceived of the former, that in the order of causation it has the precedency. We affirm of a shawl-making village, that all which it yields to society is shawls. We accredit it with this, but with nothing more. But it is accredited with a great deal more, by those who talk in lofty style of our manufacturing interests, and the dependence thereupon of a nations support and a nations greatness. We hold, that if, through the exhaustion of the raw material, or any other cause, there were to be an extinction of the employment, the country would only be deprived of its wonted supply of shawls; but the prevalent imagination is, that the country would be deprived of its wonted support for so many hundred families. The whole amount of the mischief, in our estimation, would be the disappearance of shawls; in theirs, it would be the disappearance of that which upheld an integral part of the countrys population. It is forgotten, that though shawls may no longer be produced or brought to market, the price that wont to be paid for them is still in reserve, and ready to be expended by the purchasers on some other article of accommodation or luxury. The circumstances which have brought the manufacture to ruin, do not affect the ability of those who consumed the products of the manufacture. The employment is put an end to; but the maintenance comes from another quarter, and can be discharged in as great abundance as before, on as large a population. Their employment in making shawls was not the source of their maintenance; it was only the channel by which they drew it to their homes. The destruction or stoppage of the channel does not infer a stoppage at the source; that will find for itself another channel, through which all that enters into the maintenance of our industrious families might be effused upon them as liberally as before. We dispute not the temporary evils of the transition. We allow that a change of employment may bring individual and temporary distress along with it. But we contend, that the expenditure of those who support our disposable population will not be lessened, but only shifted, by this new state of things; and that, after the change is accomplished in the direction of their industry, we should behold as numerous a society as ever, upheld with the same liberality in every thing (with the single exception of shawls, and the substitution of some other luxury in their place) that enters into the comfort and convenience of families.
15. But we are further persuaded, that the confusion of sentiment which we are now attempting to expose, has had a most misleading effect on the views and the policy of statesmen: at one time, inspiring a false hope on the promised extension of trade and manufactures; and, at another time, creating a false alarm on the appearance of their decay. Our legislators do ascribe a higher function to trade and manufactures, than that of simply furnishing society with the articles manufactured. They conceive of them as the dispensers of a transcendently greater benefit than the mere use and enjoyment of these articles. There are other and nobler interests associated in their minds with the trade and manufactures of the country, than the mere gratification and convenience which individuals have in the use of their products. This will at once be evident, if we resolve the manufacturing interest into its several parts, as the shawl-making interest, wherewith our senate would not for a moment concern themselves, if they thought that all which hinged upon it was the supply of shawls - nor the stocking-making interest, if in their opinion nothing else depended on it but the supply of stockings nor the carpet-making interest, if it involved no other or higher consideration than the supply of carpets, nor the buckle-making interest, if they did not suppose that, beside owing t it the supply of buckles, we furthermore owed the maintenance and wealth of bucklemakers. And the remark may be extended from manufactures to commerce. We should have had no grave deliberations on the China trade, or the Portuguese trade, or the West India trade, if something far loftier had not been associated with these respective processes, than that of serving the families of the land with tea, or wine, or oranges, or sugar, or coffee, or tobacco. These mighty commercial interests are conceived to be productive of something greatly more magnificent and national; and not only the income of all the capitalists, and the maintenance of all the labourers engaged in them, but the strength, and revenue, and political greatness of the state, are somehow associated with their defence and preservation. It is forgotten, of each trade and each manufacture, that it furnishes, and can furnish, nothing but its own proper and peculiar articles; and that, abstracting from the use and enjoyment of these, every other associated benefit is comprehended in the equivalent price which is paid for them. All that the wine trade of Portugal, for example, furnishes to our nation is wine; and, in reference either to the public revenue which arises from it, or to the private revenue wherewith it both enriches the capitalists, and supports the labourers employed in it, these are yielded, not most assuredly by the wine, but by the price given for the wine. The wine trade is but the channel through which these flow, and not the source in which they originate. But, notwithstanding, there is yet a mystic power ascribed to the wine trade, as if part of the nations glory and the nations strength were linked with the continuance of it. And hence a legislature tremulously alive to the state of our relations.with Portugal, lest the wine trade should be destroyed. Now though, from the interruption of these relations, or from any other cause, the wine trade, on the one side, were destroyed, the counterpart wealth, on the other side, would not be destroyed. It would remain with its owners, to be expended by them on the purchase of some new luxury in place of the wine; by the natural price of which, the same return could be made to capitalists and labourers, and by a tax on which, the same revenue might be secured to government as before.
16. It must be obvious, that employment in agriculture is not an indefinite resource for an indefinite population - seeing that it must stop short at the land which refuses to yield the essential food of its direct and secondary labourers. And it should be equally obvious, that as little is employment in manufactures an indefinite resource seeing that the definite quantity of food raised can only sustain a certain and definite number of labourers. The latter position seems, on the first announcement, to carry its own evidence along with it; yet there is a certain subtle imagination in its way, which we have attempted to dispose of. Our argument rests on the veriest truism - that a manufacture is creative of nothing beyond its own products. But truism though it is, it has been strangely overlooked, not only in the devices of the charitable, but both in the policy of statesmen, and in the doctrinal schemes of the economists. Yet we think a sufficient explanation can be given, both of the manner in which the perverse misconception at first arose, and of the obstinacy wherewith it still lingers and keeps its ground amongst these.
17. In opposition, then, to the principle, that employment is creative of nothing but its own products, it might be alleged, that the presentation of these products excites a desire for the acquisition of them, and so stimulates other employments in the fabrication of new products, to be given in exchange for the former ones. This was remarkably exemplified throughout the whole of Europe, at the termination of the middle ages. Of this we have a masterly sketch by Dr Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations; when he traces the great economic change which took place, in virtue of a new taste and a new habit on the part of the landholders. Historically, it was the presentation to their notice of those articles of splendour and luxury which manufactures had produced, and which commerce brought to their doors, that prompted the change. This was the moving force, which shifted their old expenditure, arid gave another direction to it. They dismissed their idle retainers, and appropriated the surplus produce by which they had been fed, to the purchase of luxuries in dress, or of luxuries in equipage and furniture. They furnished subsistence to as many as before, but in a new capacity, and in return for a different service. The disposable population were differently disposed of. Instead of so many idle marauders, living, save at their seasons of warfare, in sloth and sordidness, on the domain of their feudal lord, they were transmuted into orderly, industrious citizens - as dependent, for the first necessaries of life, on the country as before, but yielding, in return for these, not the homage of their personal attendance, but the tangible produce of their own handiwork. And along with this economic, there was effected a great moral change in the state of society. The efforts of violence between adjoining proprietors, were exchanged for the more peaceful contests and rivalships of vanity. The hundreds, who in other days would have followed them to the field, on services of revenge or plunder, were now at peaceful occupation in their workshops - congregated into villages, which grew into cities, and there placed under the protection of law and social order. Liberty, and justice, and civilization, and right government, all emerged from this altered condition of things; and when we reflect, that commerce was the prime mover in this great transitions by the new desires which it infused, and the change which it effected in the style of living and habit of our landlords - it must be allowed, that, historically, to commerce we owe benefits of a much higher order, than the mere gratification of any of the physical or inferior appetencies of our nature.
18. But there is still another reason (beside the new direction given to the expenditure of landlords) why commerce might be said to have been creative at that period of more than their own immediate products. When the landlords parted with their idle retainers, and they were compelled to be industrious for their livelihood along with a new habit of indulgence among the proprietors, there sprung up a new habit of industry among the people. At one and the same time, the proprietors became more luxurious than before, and the people became more laborious than before. Even these latter participated to some degree in the taste of their superiors, and were willing also to make their sacrifices, that they might be admitted to their own humble share in those recent gratifications which were beginning to be placed too within reach of the peasantry, and were every-where raising the standard of enjoyment. They accordingly made sacrifice of tleir indolence and love of ease, even as the grandees above them made sacrifice of their power and parade of attendance. At the same time, the rights of all were beginning to be more recognised and respected; and, under the administration of more benign and equitable laws, the poor man felt a greater stimulus to labour than before, in the greater security which he now had for the possession and enjoyment of its fruits. And then the severe and regular industry of manufactures, was followed by a more severe and regular industry than heretofore in agriculture. The desire of each man to better his condition, now began to develop its energies in all the classes of society. Landlords, with a larger and juster sense of their interests, disposed of their farms in the way that yielded the greatest revenue to themselves; and husbandmen, with the benefit of a now more industrious peasantry, so laboured the farms, as to work out the greatest remainder of produce for themselves. In addition to this, the business of the country participated, though never to such a degree, with the business of towns, in the benefits that result from the division of labour, and in the greater power given by mechanical invention to the implements of labour. Altogether, the limit of cultivation, under the operation of these various causes, has receded an immense way back within these three centuries. Millions of acres, that, under the old lazzaroni system, had never been entered on, are now yielding subsistence to man; and the increase of food has been surely and speedily followed up by an increase of population. The land of inferior soils, that formerly yielded nothing, is now productive; and the land that formerly produced, is now, in virtue of deeper and more laborious culture, of tenfold greater fertility than before. Now, in Europe, all this may be in a great measure traced to the reaction of commerce upon agriculture. It was commerce which gave the impulse; and, in addition to its own products, it, through the medium of the new system of society which it introduced, called forth products from the earth, that, but for it, might never have been extracted. In this instance at least, commerce seems to have been the creator, not of its own commodities alone, but of the equivalents for these commodities a fountain-head, not merely for the products of its labour, but for the maintenance of its labourers.
19. It is not to be wondered at, then, that he who traced with so graphic and powerful a hand the reflex influence of commerce upon agriculture, should.have sometimes forgotten the natural order of precedency betwixt them. He certainly did more than any of his predecessors in the science, in restoring to agriculture the proper honours and ascendeney which belong to her. Yet he does give a power to the enterprise and the accumulation of merchants, which neither experience nor the nature of things will justify. None was more successful than he, in exposing the crude imaginations of those who thought to enrich the country by means of a restricted commerce. But along with this, he greatly overrated the effect of an emancipated commerce, or of commerce set at liberty from its fetters. He very clearly demonstrated the impolicy of those artificial checks, which, in the shape of monopoly or prohibition, had been laid upon trade. But he seems not to have been fully aware of the natural check which stands in the way of its indefinite extension - and by which a gradual retardation, and ultimately an immovable arrest, are laid on the progress of agriculture, and of population, and of capital, and so of commerce. The truth does appear, throughout the work of this great author, in occasional glimpses but not so explicitly, or with such application and effect, as it would have done had the doctrine of population been understood in his day. This single element alone would have modified a number of his conclusions; and, more particularly, he would not have held out to society the promise of an endless advancement, as if every effort of parsimony, and every accumulation of capital, were infallibly to speed it forward. He seems to reason as if the simple act of preparing commodities, and placing them as it were on one side of an exchange, will, through the operation of stimulus, call forth into existence equivalent commodities on the other side of it. This process, it is true, was conspicuously and memorably exemplified, at that period in history, which may be characterized as the period of transition from the middle to the modern ages of Europe. But that was no sufficient cause, why it should have been regarded and reasoned upon as the universal process for all ages.
20. There is, in truth, a wide difference between the state of things at the commencement, and after the full establishment and continuance, of this new era. Then the passion for war had just given place to the passion for wealth and luxury; and this latter passion, when newly awoke, found a soil of boundless and yet unentered capabilities on which to expatiate. The rude and infant husbandry of Europe had a mighty career before it, along which the increasing products of commerce met with their sure return in the increasing products of agriculture. The spirit of mercantile adventure could safely indulge in every variety of caprice and speculation; for the unsated appetite of the landlord found, in the before untouched resources of his land, the means of extended gratification. Commerce appeared to anticipate agriculture, and might almost have ventured in reality to do so, yet not be disappointed; for however it multiplied its wares and its whimsies, it found a ready admission for them in the growing wealth, and the now stimulated fancy and taste of its country customers. It is really not to be wondered at, that men should have been led to imagine, as if commerce had a commencing and a creative virtue in this process; and that it had only to accumulate, and to employ, and to produce, in order to carry forward the prosperity of the nation with uniform, or with accelerated progress. Commerce, in fact, was the prime, the executive agent in Europe, for unlocking the capabilities of the soil; and, at a period when these were rapidly evolved, the articles which it fabricated and brought to market seldom failed to meet with purchasers of sufficient wealth and sufficient number; and so also with a price which enveloped in it the profit of all the capitalists, the comfortable subsistence of all the labourers. It was most natural, in these circumstances, to conceive of commerce as an efficient cause, not merely for the commodities of its own workmanship, but for the maintenance of its own workmen; and, if agriculture was not just made of subordinate rank to commerce, commerce was regarded as of fully co-ordinate rank with agriculture. Nevertheless it will be found, we think, on further consideration, that however events may have fallen out historically in the order of time, there is an order of nature, and an order of influence, which must be attended to, ere the essential relations of agriculture and commerce be rightly understood. We hold the real dependence of the latter upon the former, to be a truth of capital importance in political economy; and that, if steadfastly kept in view, and carried forward to its legitimate applications, it would put to flight a number of those delusions and errors which, in the course of speculation, have gathered around the science.
21. One plain distinction, and a distinction not to be overlooked by the slight exceptions which can be alleged against it, is, that to agriculture mainly we owe the necessaries of life; whereas, many of its luxuries cannot be had without cornmerce and manufactures. This is a most momentous distinction, and a vast deal turns upon it. We not only see in it, that manufactures must necessarily, in point of extent, be limited by the produce of the soil; but that the owners of the soil, in virtue of the property which belongs to them, have a natural superiority over all other classes of men, which by no device of politics or law can be taken away from them. The holder of what I cannot want, is the master of my services. He can impress upon them any direction which seemeth unto him good. He can transfer his demand from one luxury to another; and so, as far as his consumption goes, he can extend one manufacture at the expense of a proportional abridgment on another manufacture. Or, he can part with the use of some tangible commodity altogether, and, with the price which went to purchase it, may obtain for himself the use of a menial servant; and, in so doing, he effects an absolute reduction in the manufactures of the country. Or, whether in the spirit of a voluntary patriotism, or in submission to lawful authority, he may render to the state the price of many luxuries; and thus withdraw so many of the disposable population from the business of trade, to the business of our national establishments. It is thus that any given change in the taste or habit of our landlords, would effect a corresponding change in the employment of the great mass of our disposable population. They are virtually the holders of the maintenance of this class of labourers; and it is their collective will which fixes the direction of their labour. Apart from the importation of food, there can be no more labourers in the country than the produce of their estates will subsist. It is the quantity of this produce which fixes the amount of labour; and as far as the labour of the disposable population is concerned, it is the will of the holders of this produce which fixes the direction of it. They are the natural masters of the country; and the ascendancy wherewith their property invests them, hinges on this clear and simple distinction - Men can want luxuries; they cannot want necessaries.
22. But more than this. Every increase of food is followed up by an increase of population. It is not so with any other manufactured goods, save in as far as that may work an increase of food, by pushing on the limit of cultivation in the way that we have already explained. Such, at all events, is the difference between the two sorts of produce, that the market cannot permanently be overladen with corn, even though its growers should persist in keeping up and increasing the supply of it. Unlike to all other articles of merchandise, an increased supp]y of food is surely and speedily followed up by an increased demand for it. It may be a drug in the market for a year or two; but though it should continue to be sent, in the same, or in superior abundance, season after season, it will not remain so. The reason is, that, unlike to other commodities, it creates a market for itself. Through the medium of the stimulus given to population, it does what no other articles of merchandise can do - it multiplies its own consumers. A plenty of the necessaries, is the only species of plenty which surely and largely tells on the population. A plenty of luxuries has no such effect; and not even a plenty of the second necessaries, as shoes or stockings, or the materials of house-building. The proprietors of the first necessaries are on the only sure vantage-ground. They alone have nothing to fear ultimately from the indefinite supply of their peculiar commodity. The produce of agriculture may be made to increase, up to the uttermost limit of its capabilities; for, whatever the additional number may be which it can feed, that number will rise to be fed by it.
23. We can therefore be at no loss to perceive, how an indefinite supply of the products of agriculture, must be followed up by a like indefinite supply of the, products of manufactures or commerce. The people whom it feeds, give, in their handiwork, a return for their subsistence. But this does not hold true of the reverse proposition. The products of manufactures do not indefinitely call forth the products of agriculture. They did so historically, at that period when they effected a change in the taste and habit of landlords. They still do so gradually, when, in virtue of their greater supply by an improvement in the powers of labour, they reduce the numbers of the secondary class, and so push cultivation further among the inferior soils. But beyond this limit they have no power. An increase of agricultural produce will, through the medium of an increasing population, be followed up, pan passu, by an increase of manufactured commodities. But a mere increase of manufactured commodities, cannot force the existing barrier in the way of cultivation, or force an entrance upon that land which is not able to feed its agricultural labourers and their secondaries. There is one way in which this barrier may be made to retire. Labourers may consent to be worse fed than before, or to put up with fewer of the secondary accommodations. If, with this reduction in the standard of enjoyment, they still work as hardly, or, if even with the same, and perhaps a higher standard, they are willing to put forth more than their wonted labour - this might widen the limits, and so multiply the products of agriculture. Still, after these modifications are admitted, there is a wide difference between agriculture and manufactures - the former influencing the latter, in a way that the latter cannot influence the former. Agriculture, with every permanent increase of its products, can, through the medium of an increasing population, command a like increase in the products of manufactures. Manufactures cannot, by any increase of their products, while the standard of enjoyment, and the powers of personal and mechanical labour remain the same, force a like increase in the products of agriculture.
24. This distinction between agriculture and manufactures, would serve greatly to modify the reasonings of Dr Smith, when, without reference to any such distinction, he tells of one species of commodities stimulating the production of another species of commodities. It follows not, because commerce had the power, by tempting landlords from an old to a new habit of expenditure, of extorting additional products from a soil whose capabilities had scarcely been entered on; it therefore has this power, when agriculture, with its stationary or slowly-receding limit, has either reached, or is so much nearer the uttermost length to which it can be carried. The stimulus might be as powerful as before. There might be as intense a desire for the increase of enjoyments, whether they be the enjoyments of pleasure, or those of pageantry. But this moving force is in contact now with an obstacle which stood then at a distance so remote, as to have permitted an advancing movement, and that a tolerably free one, for several centuries. We now begin to feel, and may indeed be said to have long felt the utter powerlessness of mere production in manufactures, to enlarge the wealth, or speed forward the economic prosperity of a land. What commerce did in an incipient, it cannot do in an extreme state of agriculture; and in the oldest and richest countries of Europe, the sanguine, the splendid anticipations which the earlier experience awakened, checked and chastised as they have been by the later experience, are now beginning to be abandoned.
25. But not only is there a visionary hope associated with this contemplation, - there is also an alarm which, it is comfortable to think, is alike visionary. They who so count on the reaction of a stimulus, as to imagine, that every addition beyond their present extent to our manufactures, will give a proportional enlargement to our agriculture, might also imagine, that every subtraction beneath their present extent from our manufactures, will proportionally lessen and contract our agriculture also. The two imaginations, in fact, are products. of one and the same fallacy.. He who thinks that it was the creation of a manufacture which stimulated and called forth an increase of agriculture, may well be apprehensive lest the destruction of the manufacture should as much throw the agriculture back again. Now, it is not so. Though a particular manufacture should be brought to ruin, and the employment in it should cease, the counterpart maintenance will not cease; and our security against this effect is, that there would still remain a sufficiency of objects, on which it were not only possible, but felt by the landlords to be desirable, that they should still spend their incomes. There is not a luxury that can be named, the loss of which would cause our agriculture to go back; even though, historically, it may have been the first presentation of that luxury to their notice, which, by its effect on the appetency of landlords, helped to bring the agriculture forward. Now that the revulsion has taken place from the habit of the middle ages, there is no danger of the surplus produce of their estates lying idle in their hands. They will set their hearts on as large a revenue as before; and notwithstanding the ruin or disappearance of many separate trades, they will still find use for it all. In other words, amid the numerous failures and fluctuations of employment, they in the meanwhile will not let down the cultivation of a single acre; so that there shall remain as large a maintenance for the same population as before. The expenditure of its holders would be changed, but not lessened. The destruction of one manufacture would be followed up by the creation or the extension of another; or there would be a proportionate addition to the retinue of our landlords. At all events, we should behold as large a disposable class as well supported as ever. It may be Utopianism to expect, that beyond the limits of our present agriculture, there lies before us a career of endless and ever-advancing prosperity; but we might at least give up all our sensitive alarms, lest, by any revolution in the trading world, our prosperity shall ever be sensibly and permanently reduced beneath that limit. So long as we have law and liberty amongst us, our economic resources will be found as stable as the constitution of the seasons or of the soil. Unless we are struck from Heaven with the curse of barrenness, the present means of our subsistence will remain to us. We may have little to hope from a great enlargement of these means, yet have every thing to hope from a right distribution of them. There may be, there is, an impassable limit to the physical abundance of our products. Ther is no limit to the moral cultivation of our people. We may not be able greatly to increase our stores; but with the stores we have, a mighty achievement remains to us. We may indefinitely increase the virtuous and prudential habits of the community; and on these mainly, on these we should say exclusively, it depends, whether there shall or shall not be a high average of sufficiency and comfort among the families of the land.
26. It is now high time that the statesmen and philanthropists of the old world should take this direction. It is to a moral restraint on the numbers of mankind, and not to a physical enlargement of the means for their subsistence, that we shall be henceforth beholden for sufficiency or peace in our commonwealth. It is from the power of Christian education, and not from the devices of the economists, that our deliverance is to come. And yet we abide almost as reckless of this truth, as if in the morning of our history we had still the world to begin, or had still in reserve a land of boundless extent and fertility, on which, as in America, we might expatiate unchecked by any barrier of physical necessity for many generations. To employ the language of the schoolmen, we are still looking objectively to the enlargement of resources in the outer world of matter, instead of looking subjectively to the establishment of habit and principle in the inner world of mind. Yet thence, and thence alone, will proceed our help and our emancipation from the miseries which beset and straiten us; and nothing will more effectually demonstrate the supremacy of the moral over the physical, in the system of human affairs, than will the ameliorated condition coming in the train of ameliorated character, after the tried impotency of all other expedients.
27. Meanwhile, as the difficulties thicken, and the pressure becomes more severe, the expedients multiply. This is a teeming age for all sorts of crudities; and we have no doubt, that our very nearness to the ultimate and immovable barrier of our resources, has made the necessity to be all the more intensely felt, and so given additional impulse to the speculations of philanthropists. Among others, the favourite device of employment has been acted on to a very great extent; though its inefficacy as a resource one might think, should be abundantly obvious, on the simple axiom, that employment is creative of nothing but its own products. It was a far more rational and likely expedient centuries ago, in the earlier stage of our agriculture, than it is at present; nor need we wonder, though in these days they should often have experienced a most convenient absorption of poverty and idleness in whole masses, simply by providing and dealing out work. There was room then for such an absorption, when the increasing products of the towns and villages could be met by the increasing products of a land, whose capabilities were yet so far from being fully overtaken. We accordingly meet with this expedient in the innumerable parliamentary acts of other days, for the suppression or the regulation of mendicity; and it was long the favourite scheme, both of parochial counsellors, and of individual philanthropists. The general rule of society is, that each man lives by his business; and the first natural imagination is, that this conjunction between work and maintenance is just, in every instance where poverty and idleness are seen together, to be repeated over again. England is rife with this experiment throughout her teeming parishes; and quarrying, and roadmaking, and breaking stones, and digging in gravel pits, and the manifold branches of in-door labour in workhouses, have all been devised; that, if possible, by the products of their industry, their surplus people might earn for themselves their subsistence, or a part of their subsistence. The conception is prevalent all ovor, and has been endlessly diversified into various ingenuities, alike amiable and abortive. The platting of straw, and picking of hemp, and various sorts of millinery and hand-manufactures, have all been tried and found wanting. Tbe effect is a general depression in the price of the prepared article, whatever it may be; or if the article be altogether new, the purchasers who are allured to it, are withdrawn from the purchase of other articles. On either supposition, a whole body of regular labourers are impoverished by the weight of these additional projects upon the general market; and so utterly fruitless indeed has it turned out as a permanent resource, that, in despair, the expedient has been abandoned in many parishes, and the extra population are suffered to lead a kind of lazzaroni life in idleness, and in the mischief and crime which are attendant upon idleness. The truth is, that if home-colonization fails, employment in manufactures is far more likely to fail. By the former, a certain portion at least of sustenance, is drawn from the earth in return for labour - though made adequate to the full maintenance of the labourers. -By the other, something is produced too, but it is not sustenance; but a commodity to be offered in return for sustenance; and which cannot earn that sustenance for additional labourers, save at the expense of all previous labourers. The home-colonist, at work among the inferior soils, may perhaps extract from them three-fourths of his maintenance, and leave the remaining fourth a burden upon society. The workman in a charity manufacture, burdens society with the whole of his subsistence. The article he prepares becomes cheaper and more plentiful than before; but he himself becomes the instrument of a general distress, by inducing a dearness and a scarcity on that which is most essential to families.
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