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trade begins to languish, the master manufacturers, according to their late practice, dismiss their workmen, and the manufacturing workmen, in their turn, destroy machinery; if the foundations, not merely of our wealth, but of our existence, are thus impaired, will twelve millions, or twenty millions, or even a hundred millions sterling represent the loss?
It is true, that if we adopt no preventive measures, if we persist blindly in our course of error, the temporary relief afforded by emigration will come to an end, and the vacuum will, in sixteen or seventeen years, be filled up. But is it certain that we shall not profit by experience? Have we a right, or, rather, are we compelled, to assume, as a link in the argument, that we and our successors must be madmen? If a man has been outrunning his income, is it quite certain that we can do him no good by paying his debts, on the ground that if he goes on in the same thoughtless expenditure, he will again be involved as deeply as ever? And even granting that the vacuum will be filled up, will it be nothing to have obtained sixteen years' respite?-to have weathered the existing storm?-to have adjourned the crisis to a period which may be more favourable, and cannot possibly be less so?
We are told that the labourers form the strength
of the country, and that to diminish their number is to incur voluntary feebleness. But does the pauper, the man whose labour is not worth his subsistence, who consumes more than he produces, -does he add to the strength of the country? When I hear such remarks, I fancy myself standing by the bedside of an apoplectic patient, and hearing the nurse and the friends prohibit the lancet. 'The blood,' says one, is the support of life: how can you think of diminishing it in his present state of weakness?' 'If you do dimi'nish it,' cries out another, with his habits of free 'living, it will be renewed; in a year the vacuum 'will be filled up.' But is it impossible that the blood can be in excess? Is it certain that his habits are unchangeable? Shall we let him die now, lest we should have to bleed him again a year hence?
It will be observed, that I have assumed that the paupers are willing to emigrate. That they
have been so as yet, is unquestionable: I hope, I had almost said I trust, that they still continue to be so. But if they are allowed to fix the labour they are to give, and the wages they are to receive; if they are to help themselves, while it lasts, from the whole property of the country, it is too much to expect that they will not prefer idleness, riot, and plunder at home, to subsistence,
however ample, to be earned by toil and hardship abroad. But this only shows the danger, the madness of delay. While we are deliberating, or even before we have begun to deliberate, the moment for applying the remedy is passing away.
Hitherto, it has been common to defend every existing practice as agreeable to common sense, in opposition to the visionary schemes of political theorists; to plead experience in behalf of everything that has long prevailed, and to deprecate 1, and to deprecate new experiments. It is high time that those who profess to venerate experience should now, at length, show that they can learn from it. To what has common prejudice, reigning under the title of common sense, brought us? Have the practical men who have hitherto administered our system of poor-laws, saved us from being brought to the very brink of ruin? Or have they suggested any effectual means for stopping our downward career? Surely common sense, if there be any such thing in the country, will now, at last, bear witness to the truth of Bacon's maxim, that 'he who dreads new remedies, must expect new evils!'
Lincoln's Inn, December 3, 1830.
THE labourers form the mass of every community.. The inquiry into the causes affecting wages is, therefore, the most important branch of political economy. In the following Lectures I propose, first, to explain some ambiguities in the terms high and low wages; secondly, to state the proximate cause which regulates the amount of wages; and, lastly, to expose some prevalent errors respecting that cause; leaving the remoter causes, the causes of the proximate cause, for discussion in a subsequent course.
Wages are the remuneration received by the labourer in recompense for having exerted his faculties of mind and body; and they are termed high or low, in proportion to the extent of that remuneration. That extent has been estimated
by three different measures; and the words high -and-low wages have, consequently, been used in three different senses.
First. Wages have been termed high or low, according to the amount of money earned by the labourer within a given period, without any reference to the commodities which that money would
purchase; as when we say that wages have risen
since the reign of Henry VII,, because the labourer now receives 1s. 6d. or 2s. a day, and then received only 4d..
Secondly. They have been termed high or low, according to the quantity and quality of the commodities obtained by the labourer, without any reference to his receipts in money; as when we say that wages have fallen since the reign of Henry VII., because the labourer then earned two pecks of wheat a day, and now earns only one.
Thirdly. They have been termed high or low, according to the share or proportion which the labourer receives of the produce of his own labour, without any reference to the total amount of that 1-produce.
- The first nomenclature, that which measures