Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART II. DISTRIBUTION. - The Wages Question: A Treatise on Wages and the Wages Class
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
PART II. DISTRIBUTION. - Francis Amasa Walker, The Wages Question: A Treatise on Wages and the Wages Class 
The Wages Question: A Treatise on Wages and the Wages Class (London: Macmillan, 1888).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
|1. The Wages Class||Wages.|
|2. The Capitalist Class||Returns of Capital (Rent: Interest).|
|3. The Employing Class||Profits.|
Are the returns of capital already at or near the minimum? A very common answer to complaints respecting the inadequacy of wages, or to schemes for securing their increase, is that the returns of capital are already as low as it is for the interest of the laborers themselves they should go; that if a smaller annual return were to be made to the capitalist for the use of his accumulated wealth, the disposition to save would be so far affected thereby as to reduce the store of capital, and thus diminish employment. I am embarrassed in making quotations from economical writers to show the direction of this argument, by the fact that they generally use the word profits80 to express the returns of capital (including remuneration for its risk), but with always a possible addition of "the wages of supervision and management." It is, therefore, difficult to say whether, in a specific instance, the rate of interest is referred to alone, or the remuneration of the man of business, after estimating the proper returns of capital, is also included. But as the latter element is treated as of comparatively slight importance, I think I may assume that, when Professor Cairnes says "Profits are already at or within a hand's breadth of the minimum,"81 he refers chiefly, if not wholly, to the returns upon capital. Of course, if profits be at the minimum, any increase of wages which involved a further reduction in the returns of capital,82 would unquestionably be detrimental. Prof. Fawcett thus works out the effects of such a reduction: "If profits are diminished, there is not so great an inducement to save, and the amount of capital accumulated will decrease; the wages fund will consequently be diminished, and there will be a smaller amount to distribute among the laboring classes."83
But I fail wholly to understand what evidence Prof. Cairnes can have had that the returns of capital are at o[???] near the minimum. If he had in view the fact that in England the rate of interest and the returns from capital invested in land are now so low that a continually increasing amount of capital is going abroad to newer countries, this is undoubtedly true; but it affords no proof that the rate of interest in England has reached the point where a further reduction would touch the principle of frugality in the quick. Every dollar of British capital fortunately invested in Australia or the United States helps to cheapen the materials of British manufactures, and to widen the market for British products. So long as these new countries enjoy such extraordinary natural advantages, English capital will doubtless continue to go abroad; but were these countries filled up with capital, so as to bring the rate of interest down to what it is in England, where is the reason for believing that Englishmen would not save their wealth for the sake of an annual return lower than the present? The return to an investor in the British consols, which are regarded as the ideal security, is about three and three-sevenths per cent. per annum. The insurance companies realize about four and one-half per cent. on their investments. Railway shares paying five per cent. a year sell ordinarily close on 100. Could Prof. Cairnes have meant that, if Englishmen could not get five per cent. for their capital, or at least three and three-sevenths per annum, they would consume it in self-indulgence? But we know that the Dutch have accumulated vast savings on still lower inducements, for the rate of interest in Holland long ruled at two and one-half per cent., while the government borrowed freely at two per cent. Nor have we any grounds for assuming that even a lower rate might not find people still saving, be it from profits, from wages, or from the returns of previously existing capital.
One consideration of importance, which is often lost sight of in this connection, is that the motive to save contains an element besides the expectation of an annual income from the accumulation. Saving is also in the nature of an insurance against the casualties of life. The strength of this motive to self-denial for the sake of insurance alone, is seen in communities where there are no banks, as in many of the departments of France, and no means of ordinary investment, where yet vast sums are accumulated by the peasantry.84 Not the less in countries where banks afford the safe and sure means of deriving present revenue from savings, does this desire to save, as an insurance against the inevitable ills of life, constitute a considerable part of the motive to accumulation. Men would in a degree provide against old age and sickness, provide for the possible widowhood and orphanage of those dependent on them, were there no interest on money; and saving thus, a very low rate of interest on absolutely safe investments would call their funds into productive use.
Now this view, the justice of which cannot, I think, be questioned, affords the means of judging somewhat more critically the statement of Prof. Fawcett just quoted. Prof. Fawcett says, If wages are enhanced, profits are diminished, and hence less capital will be accumulated. But we know, both from the reason of the case and from the statistics of the savings banks, that capital may be accumulated from wages as well as from profits, whether we understand by that term, the returns of capital, or the gains of business. Does any one say, a reduction in the rate of interest would affect the disposition of the laborers to save out of their wages equally with the disposition of the capitalist or the employers, to save out of their earnings? I answer, no, decidedly not. The motive to save, for the sake of insurance, operates with far greater force among the laboring class than among the more fortunate classes. Thus, taking the case of a hundred laborers working for one employer, can it be doubted that the desires of all these individuals, even if we make deduction of spendthrifts and drunkards, to provide against old age, sickness, and the premature death of the bread-winner, would constitute a stronger force to direct towards savings an extra thousand pounds of wages, than would the corresponding desire on the part of the single employer, in the matter of an extra thousand pounds of profits? That this would be so in France or Germany, would not, I think, be questioned by any Frenchman or German. If it should not prove so in England, it would be in no small degree due to the fact that the tenure of the land, the true savings banks of the people, has been so much embarrassed by statute and by judicial fictions.
It should, of course, be expected that a large and sudden increase of wages, due to general industrial causes like that which took place four years ago in the iron and coal85 trades of Great Britain, would, most likely, human nature being what it is, be employed in ministering, more or less, to folly and vice, or squandered in expenditures, not perhaps hurtful in themselves, but unnecessary, and therefore, as against a strong reason for saving, mischievous. The possible increase of wages which I have in view is rather a steady advance due to the increasing mobility of labor from the growth of the industrial virtues, enabling the wages class to resort more promptly to their market, and to press their employers more closely with a truly effective competition. Wages thus won would, in general, be well employed.
So much for that desire to make savings as an insurance against the contingencies of life and health, which is one element of the principle of frugality. Of the other, and doubtless more important, element, the desire to secure an annual income from investments, or from the personal use of capital, it is not necessary to speak here at any length. I know no reason for believing that interest in any country has reached its minimum, that is, the point where the desire to spend overpowers the disposition to save, in such a proportion of instances as to waste capital, or to prevent it from increasing proportionally to population and to the opportunities for its reproductive use at current rates.
It is quite another question whether it makes any difference whether the returns of capital are at the minimum, or are very much above that point. I have already86 quoted a paragraph from Prof. Perry in which he takes the ground that if, from any cause, an undue amount of the product of industry goes to the share of the capitalist-employer, nothing can defeat the tendency that the excess shall be restored to wages. Prof. Cairnes, in his "Leading Principles," has expressed himself on the same question as follows:
"Thus, supposing," he says, "a group of employers to have succeeded, as no doubt would be perfectly possible for them, in temporarily forcing down wages by combination in a particular trade, a portion of their wealth previously invested would now become free—how would it be employed? Unless we are to suppose the character of a large section of a community to be suddenly changed in a leading attribute, the wealth so withdrawn from wages would, in the end, and before long, be restored to wages. The same motives which led to its investment would lead to its reinvestment, and once reinvested, the interests of those concerned would cause it to be distributed amongst the several elements of capital in the same proportion as before. In this way covetousness is held in check by covetousness, and the desire for aggrandizement sets limits to its own gratification."
The doctrine here seems to be that the desire for accumulation, or aggrandizement,87 is a constant force, and thus the effects of covetousness, through the employer's efforts to give the laborer as little as may be for his services, are compensated by the effects of covetousness through the employer's efforts to make a profit on the amount thus saved by again employing it in the purchase of labor. The motives to investment and reinvestment are therefore equal.
Now it seems to me that this doctrine is inconsistent with any recognition of the varying strength of the economical motives. While in particular instances, with persons of the miserly disposition, the passion for accumulation may grow with increasing wealth, the observation of every one must convince him that, with the vast majority of men, especially in this age of refinement and of artificial wants, the impulse to spend luxuriously acquires force, after the comforts and decencies of life are once provided for, faster than the impulse to save; that large incomes are not applied as severely and judiciously to further getting as are moderate incomes; that the rich expend their revenues with a lavishness, a capriciousness and a heed-lessness which are unknown to men of smaller means. If this be so, and, with full regard to no inconsiderable number of particular instances to the contrary, I do not think it will be denied, then the motives to reinvestment cannot be held to be necessarily equal to the motives to investment; and instead of covetousness being held in check by covetousness, luxuriousness comes in to consume a portion at least of such excessive gains.
It needs to be noted, moreover, that, upon Prof. Cairnes' own doctrine of "non-competing groups,"88 it would not follow that the sums thus taken from one body of laborers in excessive profits will be restored in wages to the class or classes suffering such losses. Capital having, on Prof. Cairnes' statement, a much higher degree of mobility than labor, the body of laborers to be benefited by such restoration of profits to wages, will not necessarily, or even probably, be identical with that which was in the first instance depleted. And if a right distribution of the products of industry be important to secure the highest industry and zeal in future production, then incontestibly, in addition to all considerations of the iniquity of thus bleeding one class for the benefit of others, we have a strictly economic argument against the theory of the practical indifference of the present proportions of wages and profits.
But we may go further and say that all this kind of reasoning in economics which makes the employing or the capitalist class, in a state of imperfect competition, the guardians of the wages class, in such a way that it really doesn't matter whether the laborer gets all the wages he might, or even, at any specified time, gets any at all, because excessive profits will further enrich those other classes who hold their wealth as a sort of sacred trust for him, so that at another time he will get all the more, if he gets less or nothing now—all this sort of reasoning is much to be distrusted. And I cannot sufficiently express my astonishment that an economist of Prof. Cairnes' eminent ability, who made the most important contribution ever offered in modification of the theory of competition, and who pointed out the frightful hiatus in Bastiat's composition of the Economical Harmonies,89 should have fallen into the trap at this point. Anything more contradictory of his own doctrine of the extensive failure of competition, and the want of harmony between the interests of the workman and the employer, as each understands his interests and is prepared to act with reference thereto, than this assumption of the certain restoration to wages of all sums taken for excessive profits, it would be impossible to conceive.
It is a poor rule that doesn't work both ways. Yet writers who hold it to be of no consequence at all that the "capitalists" should, by pressure brought upon the laborers, reduce their wages below the equitable point, since the extra profits thus acquired are certain to be restored to wages, seem to regard it as a subject of just apprehension lest laborers should, by trades unions or strikes, bring a pressure to bear, on their side, which might reduce profits unduly. But why should not such extra wages be restored to profits, just as certainly, peacefully, and automatically? What difference does it make if the "capitalist," in any given time or place, gets an inadequate profit, or indeed no profit at all? He will only get just so much more the next time. Certainly, if the laborer can wait to have excessive profits restored to wages, the "capitalist" can wait to have extra wages restored to profits.
This notion of a see-saw between wages and profits is well hit-off in a story which Governor Winthrop tells: "I may upon this occasion report a passage between one of Rowley and his servant. The master being forced to sell a pair of oxen to pay his servant his wages, told his servant he could keep him no longer, not knowing how to pay him the next year. The servant answered him that he would serve him for more of his cattle. But how shall I do (saith the master) when all my cattle are gone? The servant replied, you shall then serve me, and so you may have your cattle again."90 Surely, if a man becomes an employer in industry, only because he is a capitalist, and as he is a capitalist, the servant in this story was not more of a wag than of a political economist.
No, in a state of imperfect competition, the employer is not the laborer's guardian, or the trustee of his earnings. The workman's legitimate wages are a great deal better in his own pocket, or standing in his own name on the books of the savings bank, than paid into the hands of the employer as extra profits. The reasoning to the contrary, on the assumption of a vital harmony of interests, cannot fail to remind one of the economical plea, with which it is point by point identical, once so widely urged, that the owner's interest would abundantly protect the slave against physical abuse or privation. It is also closely analogous with the political plea by which the privileged classes have always sought to show that it really didn't matter how much political power was entrusted to them; that the interests of rich and poor, high and low were indissolubly bound up together, so that if one suffered, all must suffer with it; and that, therefore, the class most intelligent, most apt for government, having most leisure for public affairs, with, moreover, the largest stake in society, might safely be trusted to make and execute all laws, their own true and permanent interests prohibiting them from any and every course prejudicial to the lower classes, who could not, it was urged, be in any way oppressed but that social and industrial disorders would afford immediate retribution for the neglect of duty or abuse of power on the part of their self-constituted guardians.
The argument is a very pretty one, but alas! and alas! what a dreary and sickening tale is that of the exactions and oppressions of the Old Regime! There is no class fit to determine its own rights and prescribe the duties of others. Inevitably will tyranny be engendered, whenever there is weakness or helplessness on the one side. Noblesse oblige; and the sentiments of compassion and charity go far to mitigate the natural severity of legislation and administration; but, after all, there is only one way in which the rights of any body of men can be secured, and that is by being placed in their own keeping.
Part II, Chapter XIV
THE EMPLOYING CLASS: THE ENTREPRENEUR FUNCTION:
THE PROFITS OF BUSINESS.
WE have seen (Chapter I.) that much confusion has been introduced into the theory of wages by the economists carrying the classification which results from their analysis of functions in production over into the distribution of wealth, assuming, it would seem, that industrial functions must needs characterize distinct industrial classes. We have seen that, in fact, the laborer and the capitalist are largely the same person; and that no division of the product into shares, representing the claims of different parties, in such cases takes place. We have now to note a further source of error in the almost universal neglect by the text-book writers to make account of an industrial function which, while, the world over and history through, it characterizes a class no more91 than labor or capital, does yet, in the most highly organized forms of industry, especially in these modern times, characterize a distinct and a most important class. This class comprises the modern employers of labor, men of business, "captains of industry." It is much to be regretted that we have not a single English word which exactly fits the person who performs this office in modern industry. The word "undertaker," the man who undertakes, at one time had very much this extent; but it has long since been so exclusively devoted to funereal uses as to become an impossible term in political economy. The word "adventurer," the man who makes ventures, also had this sense; but in modern parlance it has acquired a wholly sinister meaning. The French word "entrepreneur" has very nearly the desired significance; and it may be that the exigencies of politico-economical reasoning will yet lead to its being naturalized among us.
This function, then, of the man of business, middleman, undertaker, adventurer, entrepreneur, employer, requires to be carefully discriminated.
The economists, almost without exception, have regarded capital and labor as together sufficient unto production, the capitalist being the employer, the laborer being the employed. It may fairly be presumed that the failure to recognize a third party to production, the middleman, has been due in part to the fact that these writers have been accustomed to take their illustrations of the offices of labor and capital from the savage state, or at least from a very primitive condition of industry. The bow, the spear, the canoe, are the favorite subjects when it is to be shown how it is that the results of labor may pass into the form of capital; how it is that capital may assist current labor; and how it is that a reward can be given to capital out of the product of industry without any wrong being done to the laborer. And it is true that when the forms of production are few and simple, and when the producer and the consumer are either the same person, or are found in close proximity, the possession of capital is the one sufficient qualification for the employment of labor; and, on the other hand, a supply of food and of tools and materials is all that labor needs to institute production.
But when, in the development of industry, the forms of production become almost infinitely numerous and complicated; when many persons of all degrees of skill and strength must be joined in labor, each in his place contributing to a result which he very imperfectly, if at all, comprehends; when the materials to be used are brought from distant fields, and the products are in turn to be scattered by the agencies of commerce over vast regions, the consumers constituting an ill-defined or an undefined body, personally unknown to the producer or any immediate agent of his; then a reason for an employer exists which is wholly in addition to that which exists in a primitive condition of industry. The mere possession of capital no longer constitutes the one qualification for employing labor; and, on the other hand, the laborer no longer looks to the employer to furnish merely food and the materials and tools of the trade; but to furnish also technical skill, commercial knowledge, and powers of administration; to assume responsibilities and provide against contingencies; to shape and direct production, and to organize and control the industrial machinery. And, moreover, so much more important and difficult are the last specified duties of the employer; so much rarer are the abilities they require, that he who can perform these will find it easy to perform those; if he be the man to conduct business, capital to purchase food, tools, and materials will not, under our modern system of credit, long be wanting to him. On the other hand, without these higher qualifications, the capitalist will employ labor at the risk, or almost the certainty, of total or partial loss. The employer thus rises to be master of the situation. It is no longer true that a man becomes an employer because he is a capitalist. Men command capital because they have the qualifications to profitably employ labor. To these, captains of industry, despots of industry, if one pleases to call them so, capital and labor alike resort for the opportunity to perform their several functions. I do not mean that the employer is not in any case, or to any extent, a capitalist; but that he is not an employer simply because he is a capitalist, or [???] the extent only to which he is a capitalist.
Now all this is evident to any man who looks carefully on our modern industry. Yet the economists, having made their analysis of production in a primitive state wholly neglect these later developed duties of the employer, this new and far higher function; and insist on regarding the capitalist as himself the employer. They resolve the entire industrial community into capitalists and laborers;92 and divide the whole product between the two. To the contrary, I hold that no theory of the distribution of wealth, in modern industry, can be complete which fails to make account of the employing class, as distinguished in idea, and largely also in its personnel, from the capitalist class.
It would, I admit, be difficult to prove the importance of the entrepreneur function in industry, just as it would be difficult by argument to establish in the mind of an objector, a true conception of the functions of the general in war. Those who know nothing about warfare might believe that campaigns could be conducted on the principle of popular rights and universal suffrage. Why not? There is the materiel of war (capital) in abundance; here are the soldiers (laborers), who, if any fighting is to be done, will have to do the whole of it; why should not these soldiers take those guns, and do their work? In much the same way, those who know little practically about production are easily persuaded that the trouble-some and expensive "captain of industry" may be dispensed with, and his place occupied by a committee or a mass meeting.
We have had but few instances of actual attempts to conduct campaigns on the town-meeting plan, the most notable, perhaps, being the crusade of Walter the Penniless and the first Bull Run; but there have been numerous efforts made to get rid of the entrepreneur, and it is in the almost universal failure of such efforts that we have the highest evidence of the importance of this functionary in modern industry. Coöperation,93 which is nothing more or less than the doing away with the middleman, has several distinct advantages, of vast scope, in production; yet these have been weighed down again and again, even under conditions most favorable to the experiment, by the losses resulting from the suspension of the employing function. Let those who resolve the industrial community into capitalists and laborers only, and divide the whole product between these two classes, explain, if they can, the failures of coöperation.
It has been said that the omission of the economists to recognize the employers as a distinct class in modern industry, is presumably due, in part, to the tendency to go back to the savage, or to a very primitive state, for illustrations of the nature and offices of labor and capital. But I believe that it is also in part due to the fact that the real employing class is covered up, more or less, from casual view, by what may be called a false employing class, many times more numerous. This false employing class, as I make bold to call it, is composed of several considerable bodies of so-called employers.
1. Those who hire servants or retain assistants who are to be paid out of revenues already acquired. Reasons have already94 been assigned for removing persons so engaged or employed from the wages class, and treating them by themselves as the "salary or stipend class." Of course, the same reasons require the removal of their masters or patrons from the lists of the employing class. If we were to consider the domestic servants, alone, of England and the United States, we should find the so-called employers to be far more numerous than those who pay wages to laborers whom they hire for profit. No wonder that when those who are paid out of revenue are confounded with those who are paid out of the product of their labor, the inclusion of the masters of the former class should obstruct the view of the far less numerous employers of the latter class.
2. In this false employing class are large numbers of artisans who have single apprentices. Such an artisan might, for instance, earn $500 a year by his own unassisted labor, while his gains by the apprentice's services might be $50. So far, doubtless, he is an employer of labor, and his gains are entitled, on a nice judgment of the case, to be called "profits;" but these bear so small a proportion to his other source of income, and he is, in his capacity of employer, of so little account, that we cannot afford to be encumbered by carrying him on as the employer of a third or a fifth part of an able laborer. A single cotton manufacturer or iron master may employ a thousand times, or five thousand times, as much effective labor. It is of more importance that we should see the cotton manufacturer and the iron master in their true relations to the great body of labor seeking employment, than that we should trouble ourselves about the economical status of the fraction of a laborer who is perhaps, at present, spoiling more material than his work is worth. The principle of the law, de minimis non curatur, applies with even greater force in political economy. What we need in studying the problem of distribution is not a nice theoretical classification, but a just and strong exhibition of the great groups of our modern industrial society.95
3. Another large body which we need to exclude, temporarily, at least, from the employing class, in order that we may get a proper view of its real constitution, is that where the condition is one of nominal employment but of substantial partnership. This includes a great number of cases where two men, or perhaps three, of a trade, approximately equal in skill and experience, the work of the one being merely a repetition of the work of the other, labor together at the bench, one being recognized as the master, the other receiving wages; yet where the reason for one being the employer and the other the employed is so slight, the equality of skill and experience so well maintained, the character and the profits of the business so well understood by him who receives wages, and the ability of that person to set up for himself so evident, that the employer virtually becomes little more than the senior member of a partnership where the nominal wages and terms of service are scaled to give a substantial equality of remuneration, with some slight compensation to the senior member for extra trouble and responsibility.
4. There remains to be characterized a fourth class of persons to whom I do not wish to deny the title of employer, but whom it is desirable for the moment to isolate, those, namely, who, having mistakenly become by occupation the employers of labor, through helplessness or false pride cling to the skirts of the profession, and remain in a small and miserable way conductors of industry, following humbly and at a distance the example of leading houses; content, in flush times, to make a little profit on a little product, using generally antiquated machinery, consuming materials of doubtful quality, and making a low class of goods, but shutting up promptly on the first intimation of hard times, or just so soon as competition becomes close and persistent. Numerically the men of this class constitute a considerable proportion of every trade; but if we consider the aggregate product, their part is comparatively slight.
I do not mean to embrace in this class any manufacturer merely because his establishment is a small one. It would be easy to show that in some departments of production, perhaps in most, petty establishments fill a place, take up a certain amount of labor not otherwise employed (as, for instance, the labor of the wives and daughters of agriculturists in the immediate neighborhood), find a distinct market to which, in a homely but useful way, they adapt themselves perhaps better than the monster factory can do. The commerce of the world requires not only the ship of 5,000 tons, but the schooner, the lighter, and the dory.
Yet of no small part of these petty establishments which make short runs from point to point between storm and squall, it may be boldly asserted that they answer no true industrial purpose. Their only raison d'être is found in the fact that their proprietors, having committed themselves to the profession of the entrepreneur, having come into the possession of a certain amount of the machinery and agencies of production, and being unable to betake themselves, at the point of life they have reached, to another occupation, or being unwilling to so openly confess failure, can pick up a very poor living in this way. And of employers of this sort, it is significant to note, laborers are not apt to be jealous. They are known to have a pretty hard time of it. Their lot is not envied, and they commonly receive the sympathy of the general community and of their hands; while the successful captain of industry, who amasses a giant fortune, is regarded by not a few as having despoiled the laboring class. Yet it is incontestable that the profits of the former constitute by far the heavier tax, dollar for dollar, upon the product of labor. Nothing costs the working classes so dearly, in the long run, as the bad or merely commonplace conduct of business.
Putting aside for the moment the several classes enumerated, we have plainly in view the real employing class of our modern industrial society: a comparatively small body of men, who control the destinies of labor no more than they do the destinies of capital. These men constitute a class strictly limited in numbers, and dealing most despotically, as indeed they must, with the outside world. The conditions of admission are a long self-initiation, a high premium of immediate loss, and a great degree of uncertainty as to ultimate success. Into this guild, in these modern days, no aspirant for profits needs to be inducted with ceremonies, or first invited by the existing membership. All are in theory free to enter; but the number who venture is closely restricted by the known conditions of business. Those only undertake it who are able, or, like the rowers of Mnestheus, think they are able, to sustain the ordeal of fierce and unrelenting competition; while those who have the courage to venture are continually sifted by commercial and industrial pressures and panics, so that only the fittest survive.
I have no wish to idealize the successful employer of labor. He may easily be found to be a very unamiable and a very uninteresting person. For the perfect temper of business something doubtless of hardness is needed, just as it is the alloy of baser metal which fits the gold for circulating in the hands of men. A little too much sensibility or a little too much imagination, is often a sufficient cause of failure in the stern competitions of business. The successful entrepreneur need not even understand the theory of trade, or be a financier in the larger sense of that word. A kind of subtle instinct often directs the movements of the ablest merchants, bankers, and manufacturers. They know that the market is about to experience a convulsion, because they know it; just as the cattle know that a storm is brewing. They not only could not give reasons intelligible to others for the course they take; they do not even analyze their intellectual processes for their own satisfaction.
It is not necessary to draw the outlines of the representative entrepreneur. Living illustrations will rise before the mind of every reader, far more vivid than any art of mine could execute. M. Courcelle-Seneuil, in his Opérations de Banque, has grouped the qualities the employer should possess: "du jugement, du bon sens, de la fermeté, de la décision, une appréciation froide et calme, une intelligence ouverte et vigilante, peu d'imagination, beaucoup de mémoire et d'application."96
I said that the real employing class is comparatively small. I do not speak alone of those employing workmen by the thousand or the ten thousand, or even of those alone whose pay-rolls count up hundreds of hands.97 If we go down to the captains of fifties and the captains of tens, it still remains true that the bulk of the wage-labor of England, France, Germany, and the United States, is controlled by a small, choice band of men, who are masters in industry because, whatever be their social quality, in industry they are masterly. To call these men the creatures of their workmen, and speak of the sums they exact in royalty on all the business which passes through their hands, as "the wages of supervision and management," seems to me as idle a fiction as it would have been to cal' the seigniors under the Old Regime the social representatives of the tiers etat, and to speak of the sums they lavished in pomp and pleasure, as their "allowances."
Are profits already at the minimum, so that we may not look to see an increase of wages obtained from this source? Much of what has been said relative to the asserted restoration to wages, of all sums which may go in excessive returns to capital, applies equally in the case of excessive profits, the remuneration of the man of business, the employer, the entrepreneur. It cannot safely be assumed that, to use Prof. Cairnes' phrase,98 covetousness be held in check by covetousness, inasmuch as luxuriousness will inevitably enter to absorb a portion of such undue gains. But here still another reason appears, namely, that, as the part of the employer in production is active; not abstinence, as in the case of the capitalist, but exertion; in addition, then, to the effects of luxuriousness, excessive profits will, with no small proportion of employers, allow the native propensity to indolence and ease of life to enter to take something from the zeal and enterprise with which business is conducted. It is only the exceptionally ambitious and resolute who will wholly withstand this propensity. So that when Prof. Perry says, "If, in the division between profits and wages, at the end of any industrial cycle, profits get more than their due share, these very profits will wish to become capital, and will thus become an extra demand for labor, and the next wages fund will be larger than the last,"99 I am obliged to take the exception that a portion of these profits, so far as Prof. Perry includes in that term the gains of the man of business, will wish to become fine horses and houses, fine clothes and opera boxes; while another portion will wish to take the form of coming to the office an hour later in the morning and going home an hour earlier in the afternoon.
Hence, if we cannot safely assume that it is a matter of indifference to the wages class whether a little more or less goes in profits to the employer, it becomes of importance to inquire whether there is any reason to believe that profits are already at the minimum. And as to this, one can have no hesitation in saying that the probabilities are strongly against such a supposition. The present average rate of profits, or annual aggregate of profits, has notoriously been reached as the result of unequal competition, in which employers have been active, alert, and mobile, while laborers have been, in a great degree, ignorant and inert, resorting to the right market tardily, or mistakenly to the wrong market. It does not follow that because the laborers have lost heavily by this failure of competition, the employers have gained it all. Much has been lost to the laborers and to the world. Nowhere does the monopolist gain all that others lose by him. Yet the employing class have profited, and still profit, greatly by this partial immobility of labor. The lowest price which any laborer will receive for his services is no longer the highest price which any employer can afford to give.
In the first part of this work, when treating of production, I had occasion to show that the wages of the laborer might be increased in several ways without diminishing profits, the explanation being that the laborer's efficiency will be increased proportionally or more than proportionally. In dealing with the problem of Distribution, the laborer's efficiency will be assumed constant, and I shall inquire what causes may operate to increase the laborer's share of the product, not the absolute amount of his wages.
And, first, let it be noted that a gain might be effected through a reduction in what may be called the cost of employment, without involving any reduction in the aggregate profits of employers as a body. Let me illustrate: I was much struck at the complaints made at some of the meetings of agricultural laborers in England during the lockout of 1874, that many of the employers were hard-drinking men and poor farmers, and that if they attended more closely to their business and managed it better, they could afford to pay higher wages. Now no one should lightly credit the complaints of angry men; nor was there any reason to suppose that the farmers of the lockout section comprised more than the usual proportion of dissolute and negligent employers. What occurs to me as noticeable in this matter is the correctness with which these laborers apprehended the principle that when men who are unfit to conduct business force themselves into the employment of labor, it is at the expense of labor. The theory of competition assumes the intelligence and capacity of the employer to see and follow his own interests.100 His doing this is (assuming the mobility of labor) to be the very means by which the laborer's interest is secured. If the employer fails in this requirement of intelligence and capacity, it may be not the better but the worse for the laborer. Bad business management is the heaviest possible tax on production, and while the incapable employer gets little for himself, the laborer loses heavily in the rate or the regularity of his wages.
Now, several causes may help to swell the proportion of incapable employers. Shilly-shally laws relating to insolvency do this; fictitious currency does this; truck does this.101 Each of these causes enables men to escape the consequences of incompetency, and to hang miserably on to business, where they are an obstruction and a nuisance. Any thing which should decisively cut them off, and remit them to subordinate positions, would be a great gain to the laboring classes, and very likely, in the result, prove a real relief to themselves. Slavery, in like manner, enables men to control labor and direct production who never would become, on an equal scale, the employers of free labor; and it is not more to the inefficiency of the slave than to the incompetency of the master, that the unproductiveness of chattel labor is due.
The lower the industrial quality of free labor, the more ignorant and inert the individual laborer, the lower may be the industrial quality of the men who can just sustain themselves in the position of employer. Men become the employers of cheap labor who would never be the employers of dear labor, and who ought not to be the employers of any sort of labor. The more active becomes the competition among the wages class, the more prompt their resort to market, the more persistent their demand for every possible increase of remuneration, the greater will be the pressure brought to bear upon such employers to drop out of the place into which they have crowded themselves at the cost of the general community, and where they have been able to maintain themselves only because the working classes have failed, through ignorance and inertness, to exact their full terms.
But, secondly, a rise of wages due to a quickened competition on the part of the wages class, might be to a very great extent compensated by increased zeal, energy, and economy on the part of the really able men of business. It does no man good to have much odds given him; and the inertness of labor has always a mischievous effect even upon the best of the employing class. So far as the increasing demands of the laborer are due to his greater vigilance, activity, and social ambition, we may be pretty sure that these demands will be responded to fully by the entrepreneur. Whether we consider business on its side of enterprise, or on its side of economy, we shall find that it does the manager no harm to be sharply followed up. Where large margins are afforded, there is likely to be much waste; and, on the other hand, no man does his best except when his best is required. "It was an axiom of the late Mr. John Kennedy, who was called the father of the cotton manufacture, that no manufacturing improvements were ever made except on threadbare profits." Mr. Babbage, in his Economy of Manufactures,102 has shown that inventions and improvements in the mechanical arts have sometimes been healthfully stimulated by the goadings of industrial distress; and Mr. Chadwick has given an interesting exposition103 of the manner in which the increasing pressure of competition has served to promote the commercial ventures which have successively widened the market for British manufactures. But surely we need no "modern instances" to establish a principle so old and familiar. The weighty words of Gibbon: "the spirit of monopolists is barren, lazy, and oppressive," apply to all production in just the degree in which competition is defeated or deferred, whether by the force of law, or by the ignorance and inertness of the laboring classes.
Perhaps as good an illustration as could be given of the effects of increased competition in winnowing the employing class of its least efficient members, and stimulating the enterprise and the economy of those who survive the process, is afforded by the course of English agriculture since the repeal of the Corn Laws, a measure which the landed interest believed at the time would be absolutely fatal, and which, indeed, would have ruined that interest but for the saving virtue of the forces here invoked. Yet English agriculture never stood on a better foundation than to-day: the gains of the farmer probably were never larger through an equal term of years. The reason is that the repeal of the Corn Laws, and the opening of English markets to the bread-stuffs of the world, put the agricultural interest on its mettle; the farmers found that they must abandon the old clumsy and wasteful ways; break up the old clumsy and wasteful machinery; pay higher wages for better work; breed only from the choicest stock; make improvements in every process of cultivation, from selecting the seed to garnering the grain; find some chance for saving, every day, from harvest round to harvest again, and that, too, without pinching useful expenditures. These things the farmers of England had to do, and consequently did them. The less energetic and thrifty, one by one, dropped out of a contest so severe and unremitting; those who survived studied their business as never before, scanned their expenses as men do who have small margin for waste, brought the latest results of chemical and physiological science into their selection of crops and of breeding animals, made a business, and not a drinking bout, of the annual fair, set up agricultural clubs, compared notes among themselves, and read Mr. Caird's letters in the Times.
But, thirdly, a rise of wages due to a quickened competition on the part of the wages class become more intelligent, frugal, and self-assertive, should it proceed so far, after exhausting the two resources already named, as to cut into the profits of the employing class, as a whole, would bring a partial compensation in the increased dignity and the heightened intellectual gratification attending the conduct of business and the control of labor, under such a condition. I have said, in a previous chapter, that the pride of directing great operations, and the sense of power in moving masses of men at will, could not, at present at least, be relied upon, primarily or principally, as furnishing the motive to production on the part of the employing class. And yet we know these do enter, in no inconsiderable degree, to make up the remuneration of the entrepreneur. It is true that but a small portion of the human race are much alive to these feelings, but it is also true that the men of the entrepreneur stamp are just those of all in the world to respond to such impulses.104
We have a very pleasant and instructive picture, by Mr. Gould in his report to the British government in 1872, of the relations existing between the employer and the laborer in Switzerland. No country has achieved industrial success under heavier disadvantages. No continental country has developed a higher order of business managers. The Swiss employers maintain themselves against a severe and unremitting competition only by the constant exercise of all the industrial virtues. But the Swiss laborers are politically and socially their equals. The employer has no feeling of degradation in the contact: the laborer no feeling of inferiority. Perfect democracy and universal education have cast out all notions of that sort as between free Switzers. Hence the employers of labor of every class, even such as are wealthy, are found in general among their men, not to be distinguished from them in appearance, and taking hold freely with them at any part of the work, as occasion serves.105
I cannot but believe that, as the working classes advance in individual and mutual intelligence, and push their employers closer with a more searching and vital competition, more and more will the reward of the employer come to consist of the zest of intellectual activity, the joys of creative energy, the honor of directing affairs, and the social distinctions of mastership.
For after all, it must be remembered that the employment of labor is an occupation, as truly as is manual labor itself; and that the body of employers must continue to employ labor, or find other ways and means to live. To assume that employers generally are going to leave business on account of a reduction of profits, would be more sensible if it were shown that they would also leave the world on that account. Not a little of the reasoning in books as to what employers will do, or capitalists will do, or laborers will do, if something happens which they cannot be expected to like, practically assumes that men have a choice whether they will be born into this world or not; and that, once in it, if they are not satisfied, they have at hand one or more eligible spheres into which they can pass, easily and gracefully, with a perfect assurance of welcome; and that indeed they will be quite likely to do so, unless treated with distinguished consideration here. Whereas, the most of us, in this world, do, not what we would like, but what we must, or the best we can; and I entertain no manner of doubt that long after profits should be forced down, if that were to happen, below what might be deemed an equitable rate, the superior men of every country, the men of thought, of prudence, and of natural command, would be found directing and animating the movements of industry.
Part II, Chapter XV
COÖPERATION: GETTING RID OF THE EMPLOYING CLASS.
IN its first and largest sense, coöperation signifies the union in production of different persons, it may be of different classes of persons, and it may be on the most unequal terms. In this sense, coöperation is compatible with the subordination of the employed to the employer and with the existence of industrial "principalities and powers." In the sense which has been made of late years so popular, and in which alone it will be used in this treatise, coöperation means union in production, upon equal terms. It is democracy introduced into labor.
It is as we turn from discussing the industrial character of the employing class, that we can most advantageously consider the schemes proposed, under the title of coöperation, for the amelioration of the condition of the wages class; and, at the same time, it is as we try to find the real significance of these schemes that we realize most fully the confusion introduced into the theory of distribution by the failure to discriminate the entrepreneur-function, and by the undue extension of the word profits. In my opinion, it is simply not possible to give an intelligible account of coöperation through the use of the definitions by the text-book writers. If what we have called the profits of business are only "the wages of supervision and management," what is it that coöperation aims to effect? Supervision and management must still be exercised, or coöperation will come to a very speedy end. If supervision and management are to be exercised, it must be by some one, and if the present supervisors and managers (the employers, as I call them) are to be turned adrift or reduced to the ranks, then these duties will have to be performed by men now taking some other part in industry, and to them "the wages of supervision and management" will be paid. Wherein have the workmen gained anything? It is fairly to be presumed that these peculiar and difficult duties will not be performed any better by men chosen by caucus and ballot, than by men selected through the stern processes of unremitting business competition.
If the wages of supervision and management are to be paid, in manner and in amount, as heretofore, to supervisors and managers chosen by the workmen themselves, we can readily understand that the pride of the workmen may be gratified (whether that will tend to make them more easily supervised and managed, is a question we need not anticipate); but wherein is the economical advantage? If it is said, wages are not to be paid to the supervisors and managers, under the coöperative system, equal to those paid under the existing industrial organization, while yet the work is done as well, what does this amount to but a confession that the sums now received by the employers are not wages, but something more than, and different from, wages; the difference in amount representing the power given to the employer by his industrial position to wrest an undue share of the products of industry?
To repeat: if, under the coöperative system, the work of "supervision and management" is to be done by a new set of men for the same "wages," the workmen will gain nothing; if, on the other hand, the workmen, controlling the operations of industry for themselves, can get the work done for less (and the great promises held out as to the benefits of coöperation would imply that it must be for very much less), then it must be concluded that employers at present receive something more than and different from wages.
But if we find it difficult to conceive what account one could give of coöperation, using the definitions of the text-books, we find that, if we stand aside and allow the text-book writers to state it in their own way, the result is not a whit the more happy. Prof. Cairnes, so highly distinguished for his justness and clearness of reasoning, stumbles, at the very threshold of the subject, across an obstacle of his own devising. Thus in the very act of bringing forward the scheme of coöperation as a cure for the industrial ills of society, he makes a statement of coöperation which reduces it to a nullity: "It appears to me that the condition of any substantial improvement of a permanent kind in the laborer's lot is that the separation of industrial classes into laborers and capitalists shall not be maintained; that the laborer shall cease to be a mere laborer—in a word, that profits shall be brought to reënforce the wages fund."1 And again, more tersely: "The characteristic feature of coöperation, looked at from the economic point of view, is that it combines in the same person the two capacities of laborer and capitalist."2 This needs but to be looked at a moment to reveal its utter fallacy. Remember, this is not the declaration of an irresponsible philanthropist that every workman ought to have a palace and a coach, but the grave statement of an accountable economist as to the manner in which the welfare of the working class may, under economical conditions, be advanced. What is this industrial panacea? Why, the laborers are to become capitalists. A most felicitous result truly; but how is it to be accomplished? By saving their own earnings? But this they can and do accomplish at present; and, through the medium of the bank of savings, they may and do lend their money in vast amounts to the employing class (oftentimes to their individual employers), and thus, under the present system profits (in Prof. Cairnes' sense) may be and are "brought to reënforce" wages. Is it, then, by saving somebody else's earnings, and bringing the profits thereof to "reënforce the wages fund"? But this is spoliation, confiscation, a resort which no one would be before Prof. Cairnes in denouncing, and whose disastrous consequences to the laborers themselves no one could more forcibly portray.
We see, therefore, that Prof. Cairnes' statement is a form utterly without content. Coöperation is to be an admirable thing, because in coöperation the workmen are to be both laborers and capitalists. But if we inquire how they are to become capitalists, otherwise than at present, we fail to find an answer.
No! Coöperation, considered as a question in the distribution of wealth, is nothing more or less than getting rid of the employer, the entrepreneur, the middleman. It does not get rid of the capitalist. In modern industrial society, that society which Prof. Cairnes is contemplating when he finds the condition of the workman hard and requiring relief, there are three functions, not two merely; and the reform to be effected through coöperation, if indeed coöperation be practicable, is by combining in the same person, not the labor function and the capital function, but the labor function and the entrepreneur function.
What then is the attitude of laborers in coöperation? To the employer they say: You have performed an important part in production, and you have performed it well; but you are now relieved. You have charged too high for your services. Your annual profits, taking good years and bad together, are greater than we need to pay to get the work done, if we will take the responsibilities of business on ourselves, and exercise a forethought, patience, and pains we have had no call to exercise while you were in charge. Up to this time the state of the case has been this:
- 1. A product, varying with seasons and circumstances multifarious.
- 2. Our wages, fixed; you making yourself responsible for their payment, whatever be the character of the season or the state of the market, yourself receiving nothing till we are paid.
- 3. From a variable quantity deducting a fixed quantity leaves a variable remainder, viz., your profits fluctuating with good or bad fortune, good or bad management.
Hereafter the state of the case will be:
- 1. A product, variable, so long as the laws of nature remain the same.
- 2. A fixed salary paid to a manager whom we select, and to whom we make ourselves responsible with whatever we possess, meanwhile receiving nothing till he is paid.
- 3. From a variable quantity deducting a certain quantity leaves a variable result: our earnings, no longer called wages, greater in good years, smaller in bad years; greater as we labor with zeal and conduct our business with discretion, smaller as we fail in either respect.
One word more before we part. We intend no disrespect. With workmen who are ignorant, dissolute, unwilling to subordinate the present to the future, incapable of organization, such services as you are qualified to render are absolutely indispensable; and we will not say that such remuneration as you exact is excessive. But we profess better things. We are prepared to exercise patience, industry, economy, and to subject our individual desires to the general will, for the sake of dividing among ourselves the profits you have been accustomed to make out of us.3 We know it will be hard; but we believe it can be done. If men are not fit for an industrial republic, then they must submit to the despot of industry, and they have no right to complain of Civil List and Privy Purse. But we are republicans, cheerfully accepting all the responsibilities of freedom, and boldly laying claim to all its privileges.
This is, in effect, what the laborers, by coöperation, say to the entrepreneur. Do they give the capitalist his congé after the same fashion? Do they assert independence of him, and ability to go along without him? Not in the least. Not a word of it. Coöperation is not going to rid them of dependence on capital. They are to be just as dependent on the capitalist as were their employers whose place they aspire to fill. They know that they must have just as much and just as good machinery, just as abundant and good materials, as competing establishments under entrepreneur management. So far as they themselves have capital, the results of their savings out of past wages, they will employ these and receive the returns therefrom directly, instead of lending it to the entrepreneur through the savings bank and getting interest therefor. So far as they want capital for their operations over what they can scrape together, they must go to the banks or to private lenders, and pay as high a price for its use as their quondam employer was wont to do; indeed, for awhile at least, probably a higher price, as their credit will not be likely to be so good at first as his. And if coöperation should start earliest, and make most progress, in those industries where the amount of capital required is comparatively small, this would be but a recognition [???] the fact that coöperation has no tendency to free the laboring class from any domination of capital, of which complaint may have been made, but that its sole object is to
GET RID OF THE ENTREPRENEUR.
Such being, as I apprehend it, the true nature of coöperation, let us inquire as to the advantages which may be anticipated from it, if accomplished; as to the obstacles to be encountered by it; and as to the probability of its success in any such measure as to afford an appreciable relief from the peculiar hardships of the wages class. Let it be remembered that it is the question of wages, and not the question of labor, which coöperation aims to solve. The welfare of labor depends on the laws of production, under the rule of diminishing returns, taken in connection with the laws of population. The question of wages is a question in the distribution of wealth, and arises out of the dependence of a portion of the laboring population upon the entrepreneur-class for employment.
What, then, might we fairly look to coöperation to accomplish?
Considering the scheme from the laborer's point of view, we say:
First, to reap the profits of the entrepreneur, which are very large,4 large enough if divided among the wages class to make a substantial addition to their means of subsistence.
Second: to secure employment independently of the will of the "middle man." It has been shown in a previous chapter, that the interest which the employer has in production is found in the balance of profit left after the payment of wages. The payment of these, perhaps to the extent of ten, twenty, or fifty times his profit, is to him merely a necessary means to that end. It may be, as has been said, that his relations to a body of customers shall be such as to induce him to continue producing even though, for a time, he sinks his own profit. After the effect of this has been exhausted, however, and it is soon exhausted, he will pay wages only to get a profit. But the condition of the market will often be such as to render him exceedingly doubtful of his profit, or even apprehensive of a loss; and then his whole interest in production ceases. Because he can not see his way to make ten or five thousand dollars profit, he is ready to stop a production, the agencies and instrumentalities of which are wholly at his command, which involves the payment of one or two hundred thousand dollars in wages. Now, with reference to such an oft recurring condition of industry, a body of workmen may properly say that, while they cannot blame the employer for refusing to risk the payment of such large amounts in wages to them, without a reasonable assurance of getting it back, with a profit, in the price of the goods, yet they are much disposed to take the responsibility of production upon themselves. Thus, especially in branches of manufacture where the value of the materials bears a small proportion to the value of the finished goods, they might propose to go on producing moderately in spite of the most unfavorable aspect of the market, on the ground that they might just as well be laboring as lying idle, and sell the product for what it would bring. All they should thus receive would be clear gain, as against a period of enforced idleness, and it might not infrequently happen that, on settling up their venture, they would find a turn in the market giving them a compensation as large or nearly as large as usual.
But it may be asked why should not the employer in times of business depression, agree with his workmen to pay them whatever he should find in the result he could afford. But this would be coöperation, slightly disguised. The essence of wages is that they are stipulated beforehand: the essence of profits is that they are, as DeQuincey calls them, "the leavings of wages," and therefore vary as the product varies under the varying conditions of industry, natural or artificial. It is of the essence of the relation of employer and employed, that the employer secures to the employed their wages, and after that, appropriates his own remuneration. Were the employed to consent to give the employer his profit first, and take their wages afterwards, their relations would merely be reversed. Five hundred mill hands entering into this arrangement would become a body of coöperative producers; the so-called manufacturer would become simply their paid manager, their hired man.
It is true that arrangements for a "sliding scale" of wages, adapted to the market price of the product, are sometimes entered into in coal and iron mining; but these cover only a portion of the ground embraced in the coöperative plan, as the cost of materials and transportation, rent, interest, and the general expenses of business management, may vary so greatly as very much to reduce, and at times to destroy, the employer's expectations of profit, in spite of the sliding scale of wages.
Such, as we understand the matter, are the two economical advantages for which the wages class look to coöperation. There is still another advantage, non-economical and therefore not in our province, namely, the getting rid of the feeling of dependence and the securing of a higher social standing.
In addition to the advantages which the wages class have generally in contemplation when plans of coöperation are proposed, the political economist sees three advantages of high importance which would result from this system if fairly established.
First: coöperation would, by the very terms of it, obviate strikes. The employer being abolished, the workmen being now self-employed, these destructive contests would cease. The industrial "non-ego" disappearing, the industrial egotism which precipitates strikes would disappear also. Second: the workman would be stimulated to greater industry and greater carefulness. He would work more and waste less, for, under the coöperative system, he would receive a direct, instant, and certain advantage from his own increased carefulness and laboriousness. It is true that the pressure thus brought to bear upon the individual laborer is not so great as in the case of the individual proprietor of land, since there the gain is all his own, while here the workman has to divide with his fellow-coöperators the advantages of his own extra exertions, looking, though not with absolute assurance, to receive an equivalent from each of them in turn. Third: the workman would be incited to frugality. He has at once furnished him the best possible opportunity for investing his savings, namely, in materials and implements which he is himself to use in labor. Especially in the early days of coöperative industry, when the great need of coöperators is capital, will this pressure be felt, constraining the workman to invest in his trade all of his earnings that can be spared from necessary subsistence. Capital thus saved and thus invested is likely to be cared for and used to the best ability of the coöperators. They will make the most of it, for it will have cost them dear.
The additional considerations that coöperation tends to improve the moral, social, and political character of the workman, by giving him a larger stake in society, making his remuneration depend more directly on his own conduct, and all allowing him to participate in the deliberations and decisions of industry: these considerations, being non-economical, belong to the statesman and the moralist.
Here are several distinct advantages, not fanciful but real and unquestionable, which together make up an argument for coöperation which is simply unanswerable and overwhelming, unless there is validity in our theory of the character and functions of the employing class.
In spite of these marked advantages, however, we have to note that coöperation in mechanical industry has achieved a very slight and even doubtful success. Mr. Frederick Harrison has called attention in the Fortnightly Review5 to the fact that the vast majority of all the coöperative establishments maintained in England are simply stores, i.e. shops, "for the sale of food and sometimes clothing." "These, of course, cannot affect the condition of industry materially. Labor here does not in any sense share in the produce with capital. The relation of employer and employed remains just the same, and not a single workman would change the conditions of his employment if the store were to extinguish all the shops of a town."
The industrial coöperative societies, Mr. Harrison continues, are mainly flour mills and cotton mills. The flour mills chiefly supply members, though they often employ persons unconnected with the society, at ordinary market wages, and on the usual terms. They are joint-stock companies, for a specific purpose, like gas or railway companies. The only true instances of manufacturing coöperative societies of any importance are the cotton mills. "Some of the mills never got to work at all; some took the simple form of joint-stock companies in few hands; others passed into the hands of small capitalists, or the shares were concentrated among the promoters. In fact, there is now, I believe, no coöperative cotton mill, owned by working men, in actual operation, on any scale, with the notable exception of Rochdale.... Here and there, an association of bootmakers, hatters, painters, or gilders, is carried on, upon a small scale, with varying success.... But small bodies of handicraftsmen (or rather artists), working in common, with moderate capital, plant and premises, obviously establish nothing."
This is certainly a discouraging account to come from a labor-champion, at the end of thirty years of effort, and after the inauguration of so many hopeful enterprises which have enjoyed an amount of gratuitous advertisement, from philanthropic journals and sanguine economists, which would have sufficed to sell a hundred millions of railroad bonds, or make the fortunes of a hundred manufacturing establishments.
A later writer gives a not more encouraging picture: "A large proportion of all coöperative societies are dealers in food, provisions, and articles of clothing, consumed chiefly by themselves and families. Others, but in a small ratio, are manufacturers of flax, spinners of cotton or wool, and manufacturers of shoes, etc. But very few of them succeed; and the failures are to be found chiefly in these attempts at production."6
The same tale comes from France, where these enterprises were inaugurated during the revolutionary period of 1848. M. Ducarre's report of 1875, from the Commission on Wages and the Relations between Workmen and their Employers, claims even less success for coöperative production in that country than is reported in England and Germany.7
In Switzerland, the nursery of accomplished artisans, whose citizens are trained in self-government more perfectly than those of any other country in the world, we find, at the latest date for which the facts are given,8 only thirteen small coöperative societies of production. In these inconsiderable results, if not failure, of coöperative manufacturing, we find the most striking testimony that could be given to the importance of the entrepreneur-function in modern industry. Small groups of highly skilled artisans—artists, Mr. Harrison would call them—carefully selected, using inexpensive materials and small "plant," and working for a market9 close at hand, perhaps for customers personally known, may achieve success by the exercise of no impossible patience and pains. But where laborers of very various qualifications, of all ages and both sexes, are to be brought together in industries which involve a great many processes requiring differing degrees of strength and skill, and which produce goods for distant, and perhaps, at the time of production, unknown markets, we see as yet scarcely a sign of the services of the employer being dispensed with. What, then, is the reason for this comparative failure of industrial coöperation? I answer, the difficulty of effecting coöperation on a large scale is directly as its desirableness. It is solely because of the importance of the entrepreneur-function that the employing class are enabled to realize those large profits which so naturally and properly excite the desires of the wages class; and it is for precisely the same reason that it is found so difficult to get rid of the employing class.
The qualities of the successful entrepreneur are rare. We need only to look around us, within the most limited field, and for the shortest time, to see how vast a difference is made by the able, as contrasted with the merely common-place, not to say bad, conduct of business; and how great losses may be incurred by the failure to realize all the conditions of purchase, production, and sale. And the more extensively markets are opened by the removal of commercial restrictions, the more intense competition becomes under the opportunities of frequent communication and rapid transportation, the richer the prizes, the heavier the penalties, of the entrepreneur; the wider the breach between the able and the commonplace management of business. In these days, a person who should, upon the strength of respectable general abilities, undertake a branch of manufacture to which he had not been trained, and in which he had not long been exercised in subordinate positions, would run a serious risk of sinking a large part of his capital in a few years, it might be in a few months; and this, without any great catastrophe in trade, or any flagrant instance of misconduct in the operations undertaken. Simply not to do well is generally, in production, to do very ill.
It is, of course, hard for workmen to see such large amounts taken out of the product to remunerate the entrepreneur, leaving so much the less to be divided among themselves; and the ambition which leads them to attempt to earn these profits by undertaking this part in industry, is wholly honorable and commendable. But it is clear that it is a great deal better, even for the work-men, that this heavy tax should be paid to the entrepreneur, than that production should be carried on without the highest skill, efficiency, and energy. The proof is that, as a rule almost without exception, those employers who make the highest profits are the employers who, when regularity of employment is taken into account, as it ought to be, pay the highest wages. Business must be well conducted, no matter how much is paid for it: that is the first condition of modern industrial life. The question who shall conduct it, must, even in the interest of the working classes, be secondary and subordinate.
Is it asked, why may not the men who have the knowledge, skill, and experience requisite for the conduct of business, be employed as agents of coöperators, receiving wages for their services? In the first place, I answer, the same men cannot conduct the same business as well for others as for themselves. You might as well expect the bow to send the arrow as far when unbent as when bent. The knowledge that he will gain what is gained; that he will lose what is lost, is essential to the temper of the man of business. No matter how faithfully disposed, he simply cannot meet the exigencies and make the choices of purchase, production, and sale, if the gain or the loss is to be another's, with the same spirit as if the gain or the loss were to be all his own. That alertness and activity of mind, that perfect mingling of caution and audacity, those unaccountable suggestions of possibilities, opportunities, and contingencies, which, at least, make the difference between great and merely moderate success, are not to be had at a salary.10
Yet I do not claim that the effect of this would extend so far as to neutralize all the great advantages11 of coöperation. If a body of workmen possessed the faith and patience necessary to carry them through the period of outlay and experiment, if they had the good judgment to select the best manager they could find, the good sense to pay him enough to keep him solidly attached to them, and the good humor to support him heartily, submit promptly to his decisions, and remain harmonious among themselves, coöperation might become a triumphant success with them. But let us see how much all this demands from poor human nature.
In the first place, there is the all-important choice of a manager. Not to dwell on the danger of a body of workmen mistaking presumption for a true self-confidence, a brave show of information for thorough knowledge, an affected brusqueness for decision of character; or being led away by the plausibility and popular acts of a candidate, we have the almost certainty that such a body would, in the result, lose the best man, if not by turns every competent man, through indisposition to pay a sufficient salary. In his address before the Coöperative Congress already quoted, Mr. Thomas Brassey asked: "Where shall we find coöperative shareholders ready to give £5,000 a year for a competent manager? And yet the sum I have named is sometimes readily paid by private employers to an able lieutenant."12 But it is not merely an able lieutenant, but a "captain of industry," that coöperators must secure, if they are to conduct purchase, production, and sale in competition with establishments under individual control. Can we imagine such a body paying $50,000 a year to a manager, when they receive on an average not more than $500 themselves? Would not jealousy of such high wages sooner or later, in one way or another, overcome their sense of their own interest? Even if we suppose them intellectually convinced of the expediency, upon general principles, of paying largely for good service, will they not be found calculating that for this particular manager this particular sum is altogether too much, or, without any disparagement of his merits, experimenting to see how much they can "cut him down" without driving him off, an experiment always dangerous, always breeding ill-feeling, and preparing the way for a separation. For why should the man who has the skill and knowledge necessary to conduct business on his own account be content to remain on a salary greatly below the amount he might fairly expect to earn for himself? Is it said his salary is regular and his profits always more or less uncertain? But the men of the temper to conduct business are not generally timid men or self-distrustful; they like responsibility and the exercise of authority—it is a part of their pay. Nor are they averse to a risk well taken; it braces them up and makes the game exciting. Is it said that want of capital may constrain some of the best men to seek employment at the hand of such associations? This is true, in a degree, and here is one of the possibilities of coöperation. Yet if a man have the real stuff in him, want of capital is not likely long to keep him under. The history of modern industry teaches that. Getting into business in the most humble way, the merchants from whom he buys his materials, those to whom he sells his products, and the bankers to whom he resorts with his modest note,13 all soon take his measure, and when they have taken his measure they give him room. Genius will have its appointed course: antagonism and adversity only incite, inspire, instruct.
We have thus far spoken only of those difficulties of coöperation which attend the selection and retention of able managers. On the difficulties to which this is but an introduction, arising out of the tendency to intrigue which exists in all numerous bodies, and the disposition to meddlesomeness on the part of committees or boards of directors,14 I need not dwell. A sufficient lively impression of them is likely to be created by the merest mention. I will only further refer to an embarrassment which attends the extension of the coöperative plan to all branches of manufacture which employ laborers of very different degrees of industrial efficiency. Thus, in a cotton or woolen mill are to be found persons of both sexes and of all ages, earning under the present system from a few pence up to as many shillings a day. Under the coöperative plan, how is the scale of prices to be fixed? To say that all should be paid alike would be monstrous, impossible. It would be grossly unjust, and would be quite sufficient to wreck the enterprise from the start.15 But if the laborers are to be paid at different rates, who, I ask again, is to determine the proportions in which the product shall be divided? How is general consent to be obtained to a scheme which must condemn the great majority to receive but a contemptible fraction of their proportional share? Without general consent, what chance of harmonious action? But if we suppose the scale of distribution to be fixed, who is to assign the personnel of the association to their several categories, to say that this man shall go into one class, and that man, who thinks quite as well of himself, shall go into a lower class? Is there not here the occasion, almost the provocation, of disputes and bad blood highly dangerous to such an enterprise?
I have no desire to multiply objections to this system or to magnify the scope of those that offer themselves to view. Heartily do I wish that workingmen might be found rising more and more to the demands which coöperation makes upon them; but I entertain no great expectations of success in this direction. The reduction of profits through increasing intelligence, sobriety and frugality on the part of the wages class, securing them a prompt, easy and sure resort to the best market, is the most hopeful path of progress for the immediate future. There are of course some departments of industry where the services of the entrepreneur can be more easily dispensed with, than in others. Here coöperation under good auspices may achieve no doubtful success.
It would appear that if coöperation could be introduced anywhere, it would be in agriculture: yet in no department of production have the experiments tried proved less satisfactory.16 One reason which, in addition to those already enumerated, will probably always serve to delay the extension of the coöperative system in this direction, is the great difficulty of determining the actual profits of a year or a term of years, with reference, as is essential, to the value of unexhausted improvements. So long as the coöperators hold together and divide the yearly produce, all goes well; but if at any time one desires to withdraw, and men will not enter into associations of this character without the right of retiring, at pleasure, without forfeiture, the question of undivided profits becomes of the most serious importance. To settle it with absolute justice is simply impossible,17 and no method of arriving roughly at a result of substantial justice, is likely to avoid deep dissatisfaction and sense of wrong.
The difficulties of industrial coöperation have been so manifest that schemes have been suggested for avoiding them in great part, by methods which should sacrifice a proportionally smaller part of the advantages looked for from coöperation. Among these schemes, one, which seems to have been first definitely brought forward by Mr. Babbage,18 has been tried upon a considerable scale. By this plan, which may be called one of partial coöperation, the employer is induced to admit his workmen to a participation to a certain extent in the profits of manufacture, while himself retaining the full authority and responsibility of the entrepreneur. By this plan the employer might fairly hope to attach his workmen to himself by more than the slight tie of daily or monthly employment, and to interest them so directly in the production of the establishment, as to secure a greater activity in labor and more carefulness in avoiding waste. The resulting advantages to the workmen would clearly be both moral and economical. There is quite a body of literature relating to the experiments in this direction, of MM. Leclaire,19 Dupont, Gisquet, and Lemaire, in France; of the Messrs. Briggs, owners of extensive collieries and others in England;20 of a few manufacturers in a small way in Switzerland,21 of M. Cini, an extensive paper manufacturer of Tuscany,22 and the Messrs. Brewster,23 carriage manufacturers, of Broome st., New York. That something of the sort is practicable, with the exercise of no more of patience, pains and mutual good faith than it is reasonable to expect of many employers and many bodies of workmen, I am greatly disposed to believe. Many experiments, and probably much disappointment and some failures, will be required to develop the possibilities of this scheme, and determine its best working shape, yet in the end I see no reason to doubt that such a relation will be introduced extensively with the most beneficial results.
The objections which have been shown to exist to productive coöperation do not apply with anything like equal force to distributive coöperation, so-called (but which could more properly be termed consumptive coöperation), that is, the supplying of the wages class with the necessaries of life through agencies established and supported by themselves.
By productive coöperation, workmen seek to increase their incomes.
By distributive or consumptive coöperation, they seek to expend their incomes to better advantage. They no longer seek to divide among themselves the profits of manufacture, but the profits of retail24 and perhaps even of wholesale25 trade.
The advantages of this species of coöperation are:
First: the division among the coöperators of the ordinary net profits of the retail trade.
Second: the saving of all expenses in the line of advertising, whether in the way of printing and bill posting, or of the decoration of stores with gilding and frescoing, with costly counters, shelves, and show cases, with plate glass windows and elaborate lighting apparatus, or of high rents paid on account of superior location. The aggregate saving on these accounts is very large. The "union" store may be on a back street, with the simplest arrangements, yet the associates will be certain to go to it for their supplies, without invitation through newspapers or posters.
Third: a great reduction in the expenses of handling and dealing out goods. The retail trader must be prepared at all times to serve the public, and he does not dare to greatly delay one while serving another, lest he should drive custom to a rival shop. He is therefore obliged to be at an expense for clerks and porters far exceeding what would be required were the trade of the day somewhat more concentrated. Some curious results of observations concerning the average number of customers in shops in London, are given in Mr. Head's paper before the Social Science Association,26 which may be summarized as follows:
- 1st observation: time, 4 to 6 o'clock P. M.; in 88 shops there were 76 persons = .86 persons to a shop.
- 2d observation: time, 11 A.M. to 1 P. M.; 54 persons in the same 88 shops = .61 persons to a shop.
- 3d observation: time, 2 to 4 P.M.; 114 persons = 1.3 persons to a shop. Average of the three observations: .92 persons to a shop.
Now coöperators can effect a great saving in this respect. Being sure of their custom, they can control it, and concentrate it into a few hours of the day, or perhaps of the evening wholly.
Fourth: a saving, of vast moment, in the abolition of the credit system, involving as that does the keeping of books, the rendering of accounts, and much solicitation of payment, and, secondly, a very considerable percentage of loss by bad debts.
Fifth: security, so far as possible with human agencies, against the frauds in weight and measure and in the adulteration of goods, which are perpetrated extensively under the system of retail trade, the poorest customers being generally those who suffer most.
The difficulties of consumptive are fewer and less severe than those of productive coöperation. To handle and sell goods is a much less serious business than to produce them. When once marketed, the contingencies of production are past, the quality of the goods is already determined, and in the great majority of cases, only moderate care is required to prevent deterioration. Then again, the profits of retail trade are relatively higher, for the capital and skill required, than the profits of manufacture; and hence there is more to be gained by total or even a partial success. Finally and chiefly, the destination of the goods is already practically provided for; the members are certain to take off what is bought, if only ordinary discretion is used; waste and loss are therefore reduced to the minimum.
There are, therefore, powerful reasons, in the nature of the case, for the success of consumptive coöperation. The facts bear out the prognostication, although even this form of association has had many disappointments and often come to grief, not always from causes easily to be determined. "Coöperation," says Mr. Holyoake, the historian of the movement in England, "is the most unaccountable thing that is found amongst the working classes. Nobody can tell under what conditions it will arise. Why it flourishes when it does, and why it does not flourish when it should, are alike inexplicable. Why should it succeed in Rochdale, Blaydon, and Sowerby Bridge, and never take root in Birmingham, Sheffield, or Glasgow? There is no place in Great Britain so unlikely as Sowerby Bridge to produce coöperators. There are no places so likely as London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Sheffield. Yet coöperators in some of these places make no more progress than a society of Naggletons. In Sheffield the socialists have tried coöperation; the Methodists have tried it; the Catholics have tried it; but neither Owen, Wesley, nor the Pope have any success in that robust town, where mechanics have more advantages, independence, and means, and as much intelligence as in any town in England."27 We may fairly presume that the case is not altogether so mysterious as Mr. Holyoake would make it out to be. Lack of interest in the result, and consequent lack of the patience, pains, and self-denial necessary to achieve success, and unfortunate choice of managers, through indifference or intrigue, would probably explain most of the failures of coöperative trading, where the principle of cash payments has been strictly adhered to, and where the enterprises have been confined to the supply of the coöperators with the simple necessaries and comforts of life, without venturing into lines where fashion and taste predominate. The latest statistics attainable show 746 coöperative societies existing in England and Wales. The total share capital reaches £2,784,000. The money taken for goods sold during the year was £11,379,000. The largest of all these societies is the "Civil Service Supply Association," which musters 4,500 associates, and which in the six months ending February 28, 1874, took in, from sales, £819,428.
It is to be noted that these "stores" do not try to undersell the retail shops, but sell their goods at ordinary prices, and divide all profits, after a reasonable addition to the "reserve," annually or semi-annually, among their stockholders. The sums thus coming once or twice a year to a workman are likely to be so considerable as strongly to suggest the savings bank.
In France, M. Ducarre's report, while announcing the comparative failure of coöperative societies of production, states that those devoted to the supply of articles for consumption, have at once had a much wider trial and achieved a much larger degree of success.28 In Germany, Belgium, and Italy, the movement for consumptive coöperation is in full present vigor.29 Even in little Denmark, where but one industrial coöperative society exists, 37 coöperative establishments are reported30 for the sale of articles of domestic consumption. In Austria, account is given31 of 237 coöperative store-unions. In the United States, consumptive coöperation has been widely established in connection with the "Granger" movement, and also, more on its own merits, through the organization known as the "Sovereigns of Industry."32
Part II, Chapter XVI
THE TRUE WAGES QUESTION.
IF the three great classes which together make up modern industrial society, in its highest development, have been justly delineated, it will be seen how inaccurate is that statement of the wages question which makes it identical with the labor question. The true wages question is the question of employment. Hence the popular phrase, "the contest of labor and capital," becomes at once revealed as a misnomer. The true controversy is not between the laborer and the capitalist, but between the laborer and his employer, to whom laborer and capitalist alike are compelled to resort for the opportunity to produce wealth and to derive an income.
In the highly-complicated organization of modern industry, the employer, the entrepreneur, stands between the capitalist and the laborer, makes his terms with each, and directs the courses and methods of industry with almost unquestioned authority. To laborer and to capitalist alike he guarantees a reward at fixed rates, taking for himself whatever his skill, enterprise, and good fortune shall secure. How completely the laborer accepts this situation of affairs we see in the fewness of the attempts to establish productive co-operation, as shown in the preceding chapter. But the laborer does not accept the situation more utterly, more passively, than does the capitalist. Quite as closely does the man of wealth who has not been trained to business, respect his own limitations; quite as little is he disposed to venture for himself.
We have a striking exemplification of this impotence of the capitalist, as capitalist, in the experience of the United States during the past three years. What have the capitalists done, what can the capitalists do, to help themselves in the event of a withdrawal of the business class? They have done nothing, certainly, in the present crisis: they can do nothing important, of themselves. They can lower their terms and offer their capital at diminished rates, affording enterprise thus a wider margin for profits; but if enterprise finds this inducement insufficient, the capitalist has nothing to do. The money lies in bank; the shops and stores are tenantless.
Does the capitalist, discontented with the inadequacy of his remuneration when he has for months received but two or three per cent per annum upon his money, set up business in order to employ his own capital and make a better interest for himself? I trow not. The very fact that the veteran professional conductors of business have withdrawn from production, or have greatly curtailed their operations, is a sufficient advertisement to him that it is no time for outsiders to push into the field. He knows that, in the best of seasons, a single venture into an industry of which he has had no personal experience, or even into one from which he has retired, but so long ago as to have become rusty in its methods, unfamiliar with its latest machinery, and strange to the personnel of the trade, might well cost him a year's interest on his fortune; while an attempt to carry on production, merely for the sake of employing his capital, in a time when the masters of the business shrink from the prospect of disaster, would, most likely, cost him the bulk of the capital itself. It is not in such a time, if ever, that the outside capitalist ventures into the field of industry. Even less than the laborer, who may be goaded by the stings of personal want, is he likely to step forward to take the place from which the entrepreneur retires. He, too, waits for better times, and meanwhile gets what he can for his money "on call."
I shall, then, in the four remaining chapters of this work confine myself to (1) the comparative advantages, either in the essence of the relationship or in the accidental constitution of the classes as they are found in existing economical society, which the employers and the employed may be seen to possess; and (2) the means by which that class which we shall find at a relative disadvantage may be helped or hindered in competition for the product of industry.
And, in the first place, it should be inquired, has either a natural advantage over the other?
It is to be observed that they are respectively buyers and sellers of the same thing,33 service or labor; and each finds his own interest only as the bargain is effected. Unless that bargain be made, the employer can not have his profits any more than the laborer can have his wages. So far their interest is common: that the laborer shall be employed. It is only as to the rate of wages and the rate of profits that opinions and interests diverge. Hence we say, the relation of the two parties is not and can not be one of antagonism, for the object and effect of antagonism is to destroy or to supplant.
Since, then, the employer gets his profits only as the laborer gets his wages,34 and because the laborer gets his wages, it is difficult to see that the employer is any more necessary to the laborer than the laborer is to the employer, or that either has any natural advantage over the other.
Not a little, however, has been written to prove that the employer has such an advantage. Mr. Thornton, in his well-known treatise On Labor, has sought to show that the sellers of labor are at a disadvantage.
"All other commodities," he says,35 "may be stored up for a longer or a shorter time without loss either in quantity or quality. But labor will not keep; it can not be left unused for one moment without partially wasting away. Unless it be sold immediately some portion of it can never be sold at all. To-day's labor can not be sold after to-day, for to-morrow it will have ceased to exist. A laborer can not, for however short a time, postpone the sale of his labor without losing the price of the labor which he might have exercised during the period of the postponement."
Mr. Thornton certainly did not intend to say that labor can not be unused "for one moment" without wasting away, since the very first condition of labor is that for several hours in each day, perhaps one half of the twenty-four, it shall be unused. But taking this expression as a mere slip of the pen, we note that Mr. Thornton overlooks a common experience in industry when he asserts that the omission to labor on any day carries with it a total loss of the labor that might have been performed. It surely can not be denied that a man may work considerably harder one day for having lain-by the day before, provided it was not for a debauch, or in honor of Saint Monday, but that the time was really taken for rest. So that it is entirely possible, if, to save contention, we take the case of a man engaged in piece-work or hired by the hour, that a man may still have left him to sell a part at least of the labor which, on Mr. Thornton's assumption, he would entirely and forever lose by failing to work, whether from deliberate choice, or by higgling with his employer, or by looking about for better terms than those offered him.
Nor is it only on the day following that he may find himself able to render a portion of the service which Mr. Thornton assumes to be wholly lost by the failure to perform a day's work every day. It is notorious that a laborer may be able, by lying-by a whole week, to perform a distinctly greater amount of work every day of the week following; not, perhaps, that he can well do two ordinary weeks' work in one, but that he can in six days do considerably more than one ordinary week's work, if he has been prepared for the effort by a long rest. And this capability of storing-up the power of labor is not wholly confined within the limits of a secular week. It is well known that in many trades, having peculiar natural or industrial conditions, workmen acquire an anaconda-like faculty of alternately gorging and digesting36 through periods amounting to entire seasons of the year. I do not say that this is desirable; I merely assert it as a fact. In none, it may be assumed, do the workmen perform as much, in the aggregate for twelve months, as if they had worked continuously, or at least with intervals of rest and recreation expressly adapted to maintain the highest degree of physical vigor; yet in none, probably, do they fail to perform more, and it may be very much more, than it would have been possible for them to perform in equal periods, without the preparation of a long term of complete rest.
But it was not alone to correct Mr. Thornton in this particular that I quoted him here. Granting, for the time, the total loss of labor in the instances given, and admitting, for argument's sake, that the sellers of labor are in a different position from the sellers of any other commodity, is not the buyer of labor in the same situation precisely? If he does not buy to-day's labor to-day, he surely can not buy it to-morrow; it will then, on Mr. Thornton's assumption, have ceased to exist. If the laborer does not realize wages on his present capacity for labor, the employer certainly can not realize profits on it. Manual labor is the essential condition of all production of wealth. If manual labor is withdrawn, land can not yield rent, money interest, or business-enterprise profits. Labor, meanwhile, and just for the same length of time, loses its wages. If the stoppage is for a month, each party loses one twelfth of its year.
But that is an even stranger reason which Mr. Thornton has discovered for attributing to the employer, in his turn, a disadvantage to a degree counterbalancing that which he attributes to the laborer, as above. It is that the employer, in case of the continued cessation of industry, will become "industrially defunct" (On Labor, p. 275) when he has eaten up all his capital, whereas "the laborer, who is trying conclusions with him, provided only that his health be not permanently impaired by the privations he is meanwhile enduring, in preserving his thews and sinews preserves also his stock-in-trade and his industrial ability." Mr. Thornton elsewhere (p. 177) explains what he means by employers becoming industrially defunct: "to them entire exhaustion of resources would be absolutely fatal.... For the capitalist in losing his capital loses his all, distinctive class-existence included; he ceases to be a capitalist." So, we suppose, if the laborer should starve to death for want of employment, he would lose his distinctive class-existence, with his other existence, and cease to be a laborer.
Now, in the first place, who, pray (accepting Mr. Thornton's definitions of laborer and capitalist), is to find subsistence for the laborer, whom Mr. Thornton takes as habitually poor, through the long struggle during which the capitalist is to become industrially defunct? Is it not something very like a bull to make the assumption that the means of the employing capitalist would be exhausted before the means of the striking laborer, who accordingly remains sound and plump in "thew and sinew," while the emaciated master sinks out of his distinctive class-existence and, economically speaking, expires of inanition?
But, secondly, the employer (here spoken of by Mr. Thornton as the capitalist) does not necessarily lose all and become industrially defunct on losing his capital. "Goodwill" remains, constituted of business connection and business reputation, which has been in countless cases better than a fortune to the able and deserving man of business. It is scarcely too much to say that an employer of character and standing, who should sink his capital in such a contest as Mr. Thornton supposes, would not fail to command the means to resume and carry forward his industrial operations. Indeed, it is, at least in the United States, uncommon for a really reputable house to be extinguished even by a failure on commercial grounds. Witness the great liquidation of 1873-6.
We do not, then, find any ground for attributing to either employer or laborer a natural advantage over the other. Certainly, if there be truth in the adage of Chateaubriand, "Le salaire n'est que l'esclavage prolongé," it is not on account of any thing essential in the nature of the relations of the employer and the employed.
We have already, in discussing the causes which diminish industrial mobility, alluded to the principal causes which place the wage-laborer at a disadvantage in competition. Now that we have formally arrayed the employing and the employed classes over against each other, two of these causes may instructively be considered more in detail. The first is the accidental fact of the superiority of numbers on the side of the employed, giving the employers an advantage which is not at all of the essence of the relationship. In most countries and in most occupations37 the buyers of labor are few, the sellers of labor are many. Aside from the effects of possible combinations among the buyers or the sellers, there is in this an element of weakness to the individual seller. For instance, if we consider the case of a manufacturer employing usually. twenty hands, we may say that his need to employ those workmen is correspondent precisely to their need of employment. If the conditions of his business would allow the profitable employment of twenty hands, his loss, if for any cause he employs but nineteen, may be assumed to be as great as the twenty workmen, taken as a body, suffer therefrom. But just here is the rub: the twenty are not a body having a common interest. The loss is not to be divided equally among them. It is to fall entire on a single one of the number; and this calamity each one for himself seeks to escape.
In the apprehension, amounting it may be to terror, of being left out of the number of the employed, each of the twenty is ready to accept terms below the ordinary rate. It does not require any analysis of the elements of the case to show that, in such a temper of the competitors for employment, wages will go below—it may be greatly below—the limit at which the employer might be able fairly to reimburse himself for his expenditure and make his average profits. Here we have a result of distinct economical advantage on the part of the employer, arising not from the essential character of the relation, but from the accident that the employers are few, the employed many.
The second great fact in regard to the wages class as we find them, is their habitual poverty. This poverty is not at all involved in the position of a wage-laborer, and in fact it is not found as a rule in some communities, nor without exception in any community. The vast majority, however, of all wage-laborers have little or no accumulations, many being even without the means of subsisting themselves a month, or a week, without work. They are, therefore, unable to stand out against their employers and make terms for their services, or to seek a better market for their labor in another town or city, but must accept the first offer of employment, however meagre the compensation. Even though the matter in dispute between them and their employers may be sufficient to justify a protracted contest, they lack the primary physical means of sustaining that contest. The wage-laborer is thus like a poor litigant who must lose a valuable claim because he has not the money to pay the cost of a suit; and after a struggle, short at the utmost, he sees himself on the verge of suffering or even of starvation; and, if not for his own sake, at least for that of his wife and children, is fain to accept the terms that are offered him.
The employer, on the other hand, has only to calculate whether the matter in dispute between him and his hands is really worth a contest; and if he find it so, he can, so far as his own mere physical maintenance is concerned, protract the contest indefinitely. By "indefinitely" I mean that the term through which the master can withhold employment is altogether out of proportion to the term during which the laborer, as he is found in actual life to be furnished with the means of subsistence, can manage to live without employment.
But the employer may not deem the matter in dispute worth a contest, and hence it is of great importance to the laborer that he should have the ability, at least for a time, to dispute the employer's terms, and make him fairly face the prospect of a struggle before deciding against his demands. If, then, the employer sees that the profits which the lower wages would enable him, in a given period, to make will be eaten up in a period of inactivity, it may fairly be assumed that, if he can, he will concede what is asked. This, of course, implies that the question of pecuniary interest only is considered, and that bad temper and creature pugnacity38 do not enter as elements in the situation.
In connection with this assumed calculation by the employer as to the expediency of standing out against a demand for wages which he may be able, though reluctant, to concede, we have to take into account two elements which are additional to the simple one of the amount of wages to be paid.
The first is the employer's interest in the continuity of production.
The interest which the employer has in the continuity of production, over and above the mere profits which he might expect to realize in a given period during which a suspension of industry might be proposed or threatened, arises mainly out of that business connection and that business reputation which are summed up in the phrase "goodwill." Altogether besides the loss of immediate profits, an employer of labor has to contemplate a certain loss of custom as involved in any protracted stoppage of his works.
The world of politics does not sooner forget a former leader in retirement than the world of business forgets one who withdraws from the competitions of trade. Even the strongest houses, however completely they may seem to have the control of the market in their line, do not like to have their customers and correspondents learn to go elsewhere, through any failure of theirs to meet every demand upon them. Hence they not infrequently continue producing through considerable periods of depression, making a sacrifice of their accustomed profits, and sometimes even for shorter periods producing at an actual loss, though on a scale as much diminished as is consistent with keeping their hold on their connection.39
But, secondly, the employer has an interest in the continuity of employment.
This arises (a) out of the knowledge acquired, through previous service, of the laborer's disposition and character, especially as to honesty, truthfulness, and sobriety; (b) out of that mutual adaptation, in way and habit, extending even to the tone of the voice and the carriage of the body, which results between man and master, and between every man and his mates, from long acquaintance; (c) out of that familiarity which the workman acquires with the peculiarities of his employer's business, which is wholly additional to a mastery of the technicalities of the occupation, and which includes an intimate knowledge of the localities in which the industry is prosecuted, of the fixtures and machinery in use, of the customers, it may be, of the establishment; and lastly, of the minor yet important characteristics which often distinguish the product of one establishment from that of any other, and thus give it a quality which, though it perhaps adds nothing to its utility in the hands of the consumer, yet serves the purposes of the producer for the advertisement and easy recognition of his wares40 ; and (d) out of the loss of time or of energy which every change, simply as change, involves, in greater or less degree.
The interest which, on the above several accounts, employers have in preserving the continuity of employment, varies greatly. No employer, it may be assumed, but is interested to a degree in knowing how far he may look to his individual workmen for the simple virtues of honesty, truthfulness, and sobriety; but in many large departments of industry the advantages which we have indicated as implied in the retention of workmen would seem shadowy and unsubstantial. New men taken on in an emergency do as much work, and perhaps do it as well, as the old. The conditions of the business, the nature of the products, are not such as to make it worth while to retain a workman at any great sacrifice, so long as another of the same industrial grade can be had.
In other branches of industry, however, the advantages which have been enumerated are not only substantial but of great importance. At times, indeed, they are recognized in the grading of wages somewhat according to the length of service; and probably few employers of labor in these branches would deny that the reason of the case would justify that system being carried much further than it is. Yet, while the distinct acknowledgment of the advantages of continuity of employment, by money payments proportioned to length of service, is still highly exceptional, it may be said that these advantages are almost as a rule recognized by employers in a preference given to their older employees in the event of a reduction of force; and since, as has been shown heretofore, regularity of employment is to be taken into account in reducing nominal to real wages, we may fairly say that these advantages are actually paid for in no inconsiderable amount.
Yet, though workmen are thus compensated through money payments, or, more frequently, by preference given them in reductions of force, for the power they have acquired, through continuance in employment, of rendering a higher quality of service; in general, at least, there is strong reason to believe that they are not paid as much on this account as the considerations adduced would warrant. The force of custom, the jealousy of fellow-employees, the stress of trades-union regulations,41 and, not least, the failure of the employer to recognize the full merit of the workman and the degree in which it contributes to his own success; these latter, in connection with the master's knowledge that, though the workman may take from him these advantages, he can not carry them to any one else, are in a great majority of cases sufficient to keep the remuneration of the higher grades of labor from rising proportionally to their real worth. Yet we can not doubt that the employer's conscious interest in the continuity of employment does enter,42 in almost every issue joined between him and his workmen, as an element in deduction from the computed difference between the wages paid and the wages demanded. Few masters in any branch of industry could contemplate the sudden change of their entire laboring force as less than a business calamity, while in many branches of production it would involve great loss if not ruin. Partial changes may indeed be effected without actual sacrifice of capital, but not without a marked increase of labor and of anxiety on the part of employers.
Part II, Chapter XVII
WHAT MAY PLACE THE WAGES CLASS AT A DISADVANTAGE?
WE have seen (Chapter X.) that the only security which the wages class can have that they shall receive the largest possible remuneration which is compatible with the existing conditions of industry, is found in their own perfect mobility. Without this, they are clearly subject to reductions of wages under pressure, to be succeeded only too surely by industrial degradation (Chapter IV.). And it is further evident that it matters not, in the result, whether the total or partial immobility of labor be produced by physical causes, by the force of positive law, or by fear, ignorance, or superstition. Any thing which deceives the sense of the wage-laborer or confuses his apprehension of his own interest may be just as mischievous, in a given case, as bodily constraint.
Following out this line of thought, we find that the wage-laborer may be put at disadvantage,
I. By laws which act in restraint of movement or contract. Such laws may not be prohibitory, but merely regulative in their intention, and yet retard more or less seriously the passage from occupation to occupation, or from place to place. Even the mere necessity of registration imposed must have an effect, however slight, in the nature of obstruction; and unless it can be shown43 that, by increasing the intelligence and confidence with which changes of location or of occupation may be effected, it more than compensates for the degree of hindrance and irritation which the merest act of registration involves, it must be condemned as prejudicial to the wages class, whose supreme interest is the easy, ready flow of labor to its market.
But it is not of such incidental or perhaps wholly undesigned mischief that labor has had chiefly to complain in the past. Those countries are very young whose history does not afford repeated instances of direct and purposed obstruction to industrial movement and contract, in the interest of the employing class, which has generally been largely identical with the law-making class. The vicious maxims of English legislation in this respect extended even to the American colonies, free as they kept themselves otherwise from the industrial errors of the mother country, and laws in regulation of service and of wages remained long on the statute-books of these enlightened communities.
A brief recital of the English legislation in restraint of the natural rights of labor will not prove uninstructive.
After the frightful plague, called the Black Death, which swept over England in 1348-49, carrying away "perhaps from one third to one half of the population,"44 wages rose, from the temporary scarcity of labor, to rates previously unknown; nor can it be doubted that laborers, thus by a great accident made for the time masters of the situation, assumed a tone which employers relished quite as little as they liked their higher terms. To meet this exigency,45 Edward III. issued a proclamation forbidding the payment of more than customary wages,46 and requiring workmen to serve in their accustomed place. About a year later, the disputes which arose in determining what wages had been customary before the plague led to the enactment of a law (25 Edward III.) fixing for the whole kingdom the precise amount to be paid in wages in each of the principal occupations. Servants were to be "sworn two times in the year before lords, stewards, bailiffs, and constables of every town to hold and do these ordinances."... "And those which refuse to make such oath, or to perform that that they be sworn to or have taken upon them, shall be put in the stocks by the said lords, stewards, bailiffs, and constables of the towns by three days or more, or sent to the next gaol, there to remain till they will justify themselves." The statute prescribed the "liveries and wages" of "carters, ploughmen, drivers of the plough, shepherds, swineherds, deies, and all other servants" in husbandry; of "carpenters, masons and tilers, and other workmen of houses," including their "knaves," and of "plaisterers and other workers of mudwalls and their knaves."47
But by the 13th year of Richard II. Parliament had accumulated experience enough of the evils of settling a common rate for all England to provide that "forasmuch as a man can not put the price of corn and other victuals in certain,"48 justices of the peace should in every county make occasional proclamation, "by their discretion, according to the dearth of victuals, how much every mason, carpenter, tiler, and other craftsman, workman, and other laborers by the day, as well in harvest as in other times of the year, after their degree, shall take, with meat and drink or without meat and drink." By the important act of 5 Elizabeth this power of justices to fix wages was re-enacted, and, though long disused, it was not until the 53 George III. that the authority was formally withdrawn.
But it was not the rate of wages alone which received the attention of the early parliaments. The statute of 37 Edward III. required that "artificers, handicraft people, hold them every one to one mystery, which he will choose betwixt this and the (said) feast of Candlemas; and two of every craft shall be chosen to survey that none use other craft than the same which he hath chosen." By statute of 12 Richard II. it was ordained that "he or she which use to labor at the plough and cart, or other labor or service of husbandry, till they be of the age of twelve years; that from thenceforth they shall abide at the same labor, without being put to any mystery or handicraft." But the statute of the largest effect in constraining the courses of labor was that of the 5th Elizabeth known as the Statute of Apprentices, by which the access of unskilled labor to the trades and professions was restricted within the narrowest bounds. A single section will suffice. No merchant, mercer, draper, goldsmith, ironmonger, embroiderer, or clothier may take an apprentice, "except such servant or apprentice be his son, or else that the father or mother of such apprentice or servant shall have, at the time of taking of such apprentice or servant, lands, tenements, or other hereditaments of the clear yearly value of forty shillings of one estate of inheritance or freehold at the least."
So much for restraints on movement from one occupation to another. Movement from place to place was restricted with equal jealousy. By statute of 25 Edward III. it was ordained that, with exception of certain counties, no laborer in agriculture should "go out of the town where he dwelleth in the winter to serve the summer, if he may serve in the same town, taking as before is said." By the statute of 12 Richard II. it was provided that "no servant or laborer, be he man or woman, shall depart at the end of his term out of the hundred, rape, or wapentake where he is dwelling, to serve or dwell elsewhere, or by color to go from thence in pilgrimage, unless he bring a letter-patent containing the cause of his going, and the time of his return, if he ought to return, under the king's seal," etc. Although all life had long passed out of these statutes, it was not until 1824 that the laws prohibiting the emigration of artisans from the kingdom were repealed, as vain and uselessly irritating.
Such extracts as have been presented will perhaps serve sufficiently to convey an impression of the minuteness and rigidity of the numerous acts which sought to regulate the industry of England. It is not necessary to show that such laws were always fully enforced,49 to establish the certainty that they wrought grievous evil to the working classes. If they had effect only in part, if they were only enforced here and there and now and then, or even if they were always to be evaded, but by resort to concealment, stratagem, or indirection, then they must have seriously affected the mobility of labor.
But it is doubtful if all the barbarous enactments we have cited are together responsible for more of the present pauperism and destitution of England than is the law of parochial settlement. This act originated in the reign of Charles II., and while other restrictions upon the movement of population were gradually giving way before the expansion of industrial enterprise and the liberalizing tendencies of modern thought, the mischievous provisions of the Law of Settlement were given a wider scope and an increased severity from reign to reign. It is only within the last twelve years that the cords that crossed the political body in all directions, cutting off the circulation until every portion of the surface broke out in putrefying sores, have been loosened. The image may seem extravagant; but no language can exaggerate the effect of such restraints on population. Migration within the kingdom was practically prohibited. If the laborer in search of employment ventured across the boundaries of his parish (and there are 15,535 parishes in England and Wales), he was liable to be apprehended and returned to the place of his settlement; while parish officers were perpetually incited by the fears of the ratepayers to zeal in hunting down and running out all possible claimants of public charity on whom, if unmolested, residence would confer a right to support. "When an employer wished to engage a servant from a foreign parish, he was not permitted to do so unless he entered into a recognizance, often to a considerable amount, to the effect that the incomer should not obtain the settlement, else the bond to be good against the employer. Parochial registers are full of such acknowledgments."50
The peasant and the artisan, thus shut up within the place of their birth, were compelled to meet the fate which awaited the industry of that locality. All local calamities fell with unbroken force upon a population that had no escape. The calamity might be temporary, but the effects upon character and life were not. Industry might look up again, but the peasant, broken in his self-respect, brutalized, pauperized, could never afterwards be the same man. Employment might revive; but no art of man, no power of government could reconstitute the shattered manhood.
It is probably safe to say that no Continental country has, at least within late years, maintained any law so injurious in its practical effects in producing a helpless immobility of labor, as the English law of settlement, the original object of which was to keep, not laborers, but paupers, in their place. But of laws directly seeking, in the interests of employers, to control the movements of labor, whether from place to place or from occupation to occupation, there is in the history of European legislation limit neither to number nor to variety. In France,51 in spite of some contradictory features, it may be said that freedom of labor was achieved by the Revolution. In Germany, and among the Scandinavian52 peoples, the system of restriction was strongly intrenched, and still survives with no little force, nothwithstanding the tremendous breaches made in it by the liberalizing tendencies of the last twelve or fifteen years. In Denmark, perhaps, of all these countries, free trade in labor is most nearly achieved.53 In Austria laws instituting the "Genossenschaften," or guilds, are so far modified that these are no longer close corporations. They are still, however, compulsory associations, to which every Austrian workman is under legal obligation to belong.54
II. The wage-laborer may be put at disadvantage by a fictitious currency. The laborer suffers, with other classes of the community, from the disturbances of industry which are always occasioned by an inflated and fluctuating circulation; but the injury to which I refer under the present title is due to the difficulty which the laborer experiences in adjusting his demand upon his employer to the rapid and violent changes in the currency cost of living, and to the illusions created by paper wealth, by which the laborer's expenditure is inevitably more or less perverted and distorted.
The most difficult mental operation which ordinary men are called upon to perform is that of discount. Even the book-educated and men of affairs find it laborious and painful. Mr. Laing, the well-known traveller, has left a curious bit of testimony on this point in a remark made in his Tour in Sweden, to the effect that he always caught himself thinking of a mile in that country as he would of a mile in England, although the Swedish mile is seven times as long. If such is the experience of a cultivated mind in so simple and familiar a matter, what can be expected of men of limited views and little information, subject unduly to the first impression of things and untrained to arithmetical computations, when called to render their wages into terms corresponding to the rapidly changing prices of the necessaries of life? It is a work which would task the powers of a philosopher; it is extremely improbable that a workingman will succeed in accomplishing it. The laborer's interest will not come to him: he must go to it; and to do so he must be able to identify and locate it with precision and assurance. In the absence, therefore, of clear and definite ideas on the relation of wages and prices, the laborer must under such a currency follow blindly around after prices, guided only by a general sense of the inadequacy of his wages in making his demands upon his employer. Acting without intelligence in the premises, it is a matter of course that he sacrifices in some degree his own interests. He either demands too much, and failing perhaps in a persistent demand injures alike himself and his employer; or, asking too little, he rests content with getting that.
It was doubtless with reference to this inability of the laboring class to meet such sudden and violent changes of conditions as are caused by a fictitious currency that Mr. Mill assigned to "custom" in economics the same beneficent function which it has performed in the sphere of politics as "the most powerful protector of the weak against the strong." Habit, usage, constitutes a barrier which in a degree preserves the economically weak from the hustlings and jostlings of the marketplace, and gives them room to stand.55 A fictitious currency breaks down this barrier and involves all classes of the community in a furious and incessant struggle for existence in which the weakest are certain to be trampled down.
But it is not alone in competition with the employer that the laborer is placed at disadvantage by a fictitious currency. If it is difficult for the laborer to secure the adjustment of his wages to the varying cost of living, much more difficult is it for him to hold his own in the contest with the retail dealer from whom he obtains the necessaries of life. A laborer's earnings are expended in hundreds of small purchases. If his earnings come to him in depreciated paper, and are to be expended in commodities at inflated prices, he is, if he would judge either of the proportion between his present and past expenditures as a whole, or between the price of any one article and that which he has had to pay for it, obliged to perform operations of discount which would be laborious to an arithmetician. All hold being lost on "custom," how can he tell what he ought to pay per pound, per bushel, or per yard for articles of ordinary consumption? He knows nothing about the conditions of their production, and has no longer a traditional price to guide him. Formerly, if an article of domestic consumption advanced considerably, he was in the mood and in the position to resist the advance until it proved itself a genuine one. He disputed the higher price; he alleged the customary price; he held off purchasing as long as he could, because he disliked to pay the advance; he inquired elsewhere to ascertain whether other dealers were asking the same. With a community in this temper, retail prices will not be wantonly advanced; nothing less than a substantial reason in the state of the market will succeed in establishing a new price, and since every step will be taken against resistance, that new price will be kept down to something like the necessity of the case.
But under a fluctuating currency this hold of the retail buyer upon customary price is lost. It is with prescription as with a bank-bill: when once it is broken, the pieces are soon gone.56 The laborer loses his reckoning. When prices go up far beyond what is usual, he can not presume to judge whereabouts they should stop. After finding advance upon advance established, in spite of his questioning and complaints, he becomes discouraged. He learns to pay without dispute whatever the shopkeeper demands, for he has no means of determining the justice of that demand. It is this temper which enables the retail dealer to gather his largest profits and work his worst extortions.
This it was, over and above the proper effects of currency inflation, which allowed retail prices to be carried up to such an unprecedented height in the United States during the war of secession, and to be kept up by combinations of dealers long after whatever reason had existed for the advance ceased. The extravagant profits thus realized had not, as is well known, the effect to invite true competition tending to reduce prices, but merely served to allow the multiplication of shops and stands at every corner and to support an army of middlemen.57
This point is of so much importance in the philosophy of wages, that I take the further space to present some notable extracts from the writings of Mr. Mill and Prof. Cairnes relative to the function of "custom" in retail trade.
"Hitherto," says Mr. Mill, "it is only in the great centres of business that retail transactions have been chiefly, or even much, determined by competition. Elsewhere it rather acts, when it acts at all, as an occasional disturbing influence. The habitual regulator is custom, modified, from time to time, by notions existing in the minds of purchasers and sellers, of some kind of equity or justice... Retail price, the price paid by the actual consumer, seems to feel slowly and imperfectly the effect of competition, and where competition does exist, it often, instead of lowering prices, merely divides the gain among a greater number of dealers."58
"Competition in retail markets," says Prof. Cairnes, "is conducted under conditions which may be described as of greater friction than those which exist in wholesale trade. In the wholesale market the sellers and purchasers meet together in the same place, affording thus to each other reciprocally the opportunity of comparing directly and at once the terms on which they are severally disposed to trade. In retail dealing it is otherwise. In each place of sale there is but one seller; and though it is possible to compare his terms with the prices demanded elsewhere by others, this can not always be done on the moment, and may involve much inconvenience and delay. A purchaser frequently finds it on the whole better to take the word of the seller for the fairness of the price demanded, than to verify his statements by going on the occasion of every purchase to another shop. It is probable, indeed, that if the charge be excessive, the purchaser will in time come to discover this, and may then transfer his custom to a cheaper market. This shows that competition is not inoperative in retail trade, but it shows also the sort of friction under which it works, and helps to explain what has often been remarked upon, and what, as a matter of fact, it is practically important people should bear in mind—the different prices at which the same commodity is frequently found to sell within a very limited range of retail dealing, almost in what we may call the same market. This is one circumstance that distinguishes retail from wholesale trading. The other lies in the advantage which his superior knowledge gives the seller over the buyer in the transaction taking place between them—a superiority which has no counterpart in the relations of wholesale dealers. In the wholesale market buyer and seller are upon a strictly equal footing as regards knowledge of all the circumstances calculated to affect the price of the commodity dealt in.... The circumstances of retail dealing are here again in contrast with those of the wholesale trade. The transactions do not take place between dealers possessing, or with the opportunities of acquiring, equal knowledge respecting the commodities dealt in, but between experts on one side, and, on the other, persons in most cases wholly ignorant of the circumstances at the time affecting the market. Between persons so qualified the game of exchange, if the rules be rigorously enforced, is not a fair one; and it has consequently been recognized universally in England, and very extensively among the better classes of retail dealers in Continental countries, as a principle of commercial morality, that the dealer should not demand from his customer a higher price for his commodity than the lowest he is prepared to take.59 Retail buying and selling is (sic) thus made to rest upon a moral rather than an economical basis; and, there can be no doubt, for the advantage of all concerned."60
Prof. Cairnes elsewhere refers to "the excessive friction in the action of competition in retail dealing." "The sluggish action of competition in this department of industry" (p. 132).
III. The laborer may be put at a disadvantage through the incidence61 of taxation.
A theory of taxation which has been urged somewhat widely asserts the entire indifference of the place or the subject of imposition. Instead of looking to the individual citizen to pay his personal contribution, in proportion to his means, towards the support of government, it is proposed to levy upon the agencies of production, or upon commodities in the course of exchange, or upon certain species of property visible and tangible, without consideration of the persons thus first called upon to pay the taxes, in the assurance that the burden will, through the operation of "the laws of trade," be diffused, in the course of time, equally over the entire community.62
We have, however, reached a point of view from which we can discern the fallacy of this doctrine. The diffusion theory rests upon the assumption of perfect competition. It is true only under the conditions which secure the complete mobility of capital and labor. Just so far as any class of the community is impeded in its resort to its best market by ignorance, poverty, fear, inertia, just so far is it possible that the burden of taxation may rest where it first falls. In the language of Prof. Rogers,63 "taxes tend to remain upon the person who immediately pays them; or, in other words, it requires an effort, which is made with varying degrees of ease or difficulty, to shift a tax which is paid by the first payer to the shoulders of another." Not only is the effort of the first payer made with varying degrees of ease or difficulty, but the resistance of the other person, on to whose shoulders he seeks to shift his own burden, may be of any degree of effectiveness, powerful, intelligent, and tenacious, or weak, ignorant, and spasmodic. The result of the struggle will depend on the relative strength of the two parties; and as the two parties are never precisely the same in the case of two taxes, or two forms of the same tax, it must make a difference upon what subjects duties are laid, what is the severity of the imposition, and at what stage of producduction or exchange the tax is collected.64 There can, I think, be no question that under the old regime a direction was given to taxation in every country of Europe, except Switzerland and Holland, which was intended to relieve the law-making classes from their just share of the expenses of government; and there can, I think, be as little doubt that, clumsy and unintelligent as was much of the financiering of those evil days, in this respect at least the intention of the law-making classes was effectually accomplished. It is the opinion of Prof. Rogers, than whom, certainly, no man living is more competent to judge of such a point, that the real weight of taxation during the great continental wars of England, fell upon and was endured by the poorer classes.65 If this was true of England, where the common people never lost their power of self-assertion, what shall be said of the misera plebs contribuens of the Continent?
Speaking of France under the old régime, Sir Arch. Alison says: "Heavy taxes on the farmer, from which the clergy and nobility were exempt, aggravated by the arbitrary manner in which their amount was fixed by the intendant, and the vexatious feudal privileges of the landed proprietors, depressed the laboring classes, and rendered prosperity and good management little more than a signal for increased assessment. Such was the accumulated effect of these burdens that the produce of an acre being estimated under the old régime at £3 2s. 7d., the king drew £1 18s. 4d., the landlord 19s. 3d., and to the cultivator was left the miserable pittance of 5s., or one twelfth of the whole, and one eighth of the proprietor's share; or if the proprietor cultivated his own land, the king drew £1 18s. 4d., and the proprietor only £1 4s. 3d. Whereas in England the produce of an acre being calculated at £8, the rent may be stated at £1 10s., land tax and poor rates 10s., and there remains £6 for the farmer, being twelve times the amount of the public burdens, and four times that of the rent to the landlord." (On Population, i. 412.) And the same writer (Hist. Europe, xxii. 490, 491) quotes from Balleydier as follows respecting the taxation of Hungary prior to 1848:
"To such a length had the abuse of these privileges been carried that the nobles and their servants paid no toll on passing the bridge into Pesth, though it contributed one of the principal sources of revenue enjoyed by the town. The peasants, bourgeoisie, and mechanics alone were burdened with it. The peasant alone paid the hearth-tax; he alone contributed to the expenses of the Diet and the county charges; he paid the dues of the schoolmasters, guards, notaries, clergy, and curates; he alone kept up the roads, the bridges, the churches, the public buildings, the dykes, and the canals; he alone paid the whole war taxes, and furnished the recruits to the army; and in addition to all this he was compelled to hand over a ninth of his income to his lord, and to give him fifty-two days' service in the year. Finally, besides the charges of transporting wood for his lord's family, he was burdened exclusively with the quartering of soldiers, and he was compelled at all times, and for a merely nominal remuneration, to furnish such to the county authorities or their attendants. The Spartan Helots were kings in comparison."
It may appropriately be added in this connection that while taxation, unequal in its incidence, may have the effect to place the laborer at a disadvantage, frequent changes of tax-laws are almost certain to prove prejudicial to his interests. We have seen that there is no assurance that excessive burdens imposed by taxation ill-considered or intentionally oppressive will be diffused by the course of exchange over the entire community in due proportion, but it can at least be claimed that there is a tendency to such a result, however far that tendency may be defeated or deferred. That this tendency should even begin to operate it is, however, essential that time should be given. It is only by a long course that the ameliorating effects looked for in the diffusion of burdens can be brought around, if at all. If tax-laws are often to be changed, the class which is from any cause already at disadvantage is sure to suffer further and increasingly. Those who are buying and selling, watching and manipulating the market, are certain to get all the benefit of the remissions, and to recoup themselves for all the substituted impositions. Those who are economically weakest, the ignorant, the very poor, and those who are distant from the centres of information and of trade, will suffer most.
IV. The wages class may be put at disadvantage by injudicious poor-laws. The subject is a large one, and I must be content with a "fierce abridgment." Let us go back at once to the elementary question, Why does the laborer work? Clearly that he may eat. If he may eat without it, he will not work. Simple and obvious; yet the neglect or contempt of this truth by the English Parliament, between 1767 and 1832, brought the working classes to the verge of ruin, created a vast body of pauperism which has become hereditary, and engendered vices in the whole labor-system of the kingdom which work their evil work to this day. The Law of Settlement has already been spoken of among the acts restraining labor in its resort to market; let us now contemplate the English poor-laws as destroying the very disposition of the laboring class to seek an opportunity to labor.
By statute of the 27th year of Henry VIII. giving of alms was forbidden, and collections for the impotent poor were to be made in each parish. By 1st Edward VI. bishops were authorized to proceed against persons who should refuse to contribute or dissuade others from contributing. By 5th Elizabeth the justices were made judges of what constituted a reasonable contribution. By 14th Elizabeth regular compulsory contributions were exacted. But the more famous act of 43d Elizabeth created the permament poor-system of England. By it every person was given a legal right to relief, and the body of inhabitants were to be taxed for this object.66 By subsequent legislation the burden was thrown entire upon the landowners. Voluntary pauperism was vigorously dealt with; the able-bodied were compelled to work; while by the act of 9th George I. parishes or unions of parishes were authorized to build workhouses, a residence in which might be made the condition of relief. This system, fairly administered, reduced the necessary evil of pauperism to the minimum. But, unfortunately for the working classes, a different theory directed legislation in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and a different temper of administration began to prevail. Six acts, passed in the early part of the reign of George III., intimated the changed spirit in which pauperism was thereafter to be dealt with. This spirit found fuller expression in Gilbert's act (22d George III.). Guardians were to be appointed to protect the poor against the natural parsimony of parish officers. The workhouse test was repealed for the able-bodied poor. Guardians were required to find work for all applicants as near their own homes as might be, and to make up, out of the rates, any deficiency in wages. By this latter provision, says Sir George Nicholls,67 "the act appears to assume that there can never be a lack of profitable employment, and it makes the guardian of the parish answerable for finding it near the laborer's own residence, where, if it existed at all, the laborer might surely, by due diligence, find it himself. But why—it may be asked—should he use such diligence when the guardian is bound to find it for him, and take the whole responsibility of bargaining for wages and making up to him all deficiency? He is certain of employment. He is certain of receiving, either from the parish or the employer, sufficient for the maintenance of himself and his family; and if he earns a surplus, he is certain of its being paid over to him. There may be uncertainty with others and in other occupations. The farmer, the lawyer, the merchant, the manufacturer, however industrious, active, and observant, may labor under uncertainties in their several callings; not so the laborer. He bears, as it were, a charmed life in this respect, and is made secure, and that, too, without the exercise of care or forethought. Could a more certain way be devised for lowering character, destroying self-reliance, and discouraging, if not absolutely preventing, improvement?"
The experience of England, under the operation of the false and vicious principle of Gilbert's act, answers the inquiry with which this quotation closes, in the negative. By 1832 the principle had been carried logically out to its limits in almost universal pauperism. In the case of one parish, the collections of the poor-rates had actually ceased, because the landlords preferred to give up their rents, the clergyman his glebe and tithes, the farmers their tenancies.68 In numerous other parishes the pressure of the poor-rate had become so great that the net rent was reduced one half and more, while it was impossible for land-lords to find tenants. The pauper class had been elevated by a system of liberal relief, unaccompanied by a work-house test, far above the condition of the independent laborers,69 who had only to drop-down upon the rates to be better fed, clothed, and lodged than their utmost exertions could effect while working for hire. Thus not only did industry lose its natural reward, but a positive premium was put upon indolence, wastefulness, and vice. All the incidents of the English system were bad: the allowance for each additional child was so much out of proportion to the allowance for adults, that the more numerous a man's family the better his condition;70 while the allowance for illegitimate children was more liberal than for those born in wedlock.
Such was the system which the wisdom of Parliament, under the influence of the squirearchy, substituted for the economic law that he that would eat must work. The natural effects of this system were wrought speedily and completely. The disposition to labor was cut up by the roots; all restraints upon increase of population disappeared under a premium upon births; self-respect and social decency vanished under a premium upon bastardy.71 The amount expended in the relief and maintenance of the poor had risen to £7,036,969, or 10 shillings per head of the population. In this exigency, which in truth constituted one of the gravest crises of English history, Parliament, by the Poor-Law Amendment Act (4th and 5th William IV.), returned to the principle of the earlier laws; that principle being, as expressed by Prof. Senior, that it is "the great object of pauper legislation" to render "the situation of the pauper less agreeable than that of the independent laborer."72 The workhouse test was restored, allowances in aid of wages were abolished, paid overseers were to be appointed, and a central commission was instituted for the due supervision of the system. Illegitimacy was discouraged by making the father responsible, instead of rewarding the mother, as under the former system. The conditions of "settlement" were mitigated so as to facilitate the migration of laborers in search of employment.
By this great legislative reform the burden of pauperism, notwithstanding that the evil effects of the old system still remained in a great degree, had by 1837 become so much reduced that the expenditure, per head of the population, sank to 5s. 5d. Mr. Baxter in his work on Local Taxation73 gives some of the details by counties:
There is no need to draw, at any length, the moral of this episode in the industrial history of England. It is of the highest economical importance that pauperism shall not be made inviting. It is not necessary that any brutality of administration shall deter the worthy poor from public relief, but, in Prof. Senior's phrase, the situation of the pauper, whether in or out of the workhouse, should always be made less agreeable than that of the independent laborer. The workhouse test for all the able-bodied poor, and genuine labor up to the limit of strength within the workhouse, are imperatively demanded by the interests of self-supporting labor. One might, indeed, hesitate to carry the labor test quite so far as Pennant observed it in his Second Tour in Scotland, where he writes: "The workhouse is thinly inhabited, for few of the poor choose to enter: those whomever necessity compels are most usefully employed. With pleasure I observed old age, idiocy, and even infants of three years of age contributing to their own support by the pulling of oakum."74 There is no reason that I know of, why the principle of the factory acts should not be extended to the poor-asylum, to excuse infants of tender years from work, or any danger to helpful labor in allowing repose to old age or idiocy; but wherever there is a possible choice between self-support and public support, there the inclination of the poor to labor for their own subsistence should be quickened by something of a penalty, though not in the way of cruelty or of actual privation, upon the pauper condition. "All," says Mr. George Woodyatt Hastings, "who have administered the Poor Law must know the fatal readiness with which those hovering on the brink of pauperism believe that they can not earn a living, and the marvellous way in which, if the test be firmly applied, the means of subsistence will be found somehow."75
V. May the laborer be put at disadvantage through the form in which his wages are paid? A great deal of public indignation and not a little of the force of law76 have been levelled at TRUCK. How, in an effort to treat the wages question systematically, are we to regard this practice?
To truck (Fr. Troc) is to exchange commodities, to barter. The truck system of wages, then, is the barter system introduced between the laborer and his employer. What objection can there be to this? How can it be supposed to injure the laboring class? I shall discuss this question at length, not more on account of its intrinsic importance, than because it affords an excellent practical application of important principles relating to the distribution of wealth.
The truck system may take two forms. First, there may be given to the laborer a portion of that which he actually produces, whether that product be suitable to his wants or not, leaving him, in the latter event, to exchange it as he can for whatever he may desire, food, drink, clothing, fuel or shelter. Second, under the truck system the laborer may receive, not what he produces, but what he is to consume; he is paid in commodities supposed to be more or less suited to his wants.
Both these forms of truck are as old as labor; but in the earliest times they were generally found not separate but united. What the workman produced he also desired to consume, and for his labor in tending sheep and cattle, and in sowing and reaping grain, he received wool for his clothing, and meat and bread for his food. And so to-day are the laborers of many countries mainly paid; and doubtless in the majority of cases the practice is both necessary and beneficial. But when distinction came to be made of labor as agricultural and as mechanical, and when employments came to be much subdivided, it would happen that a laborer's production was calculated to supply but a part only, or perhaps none at all, of his wants; for it might be that an artisan of Birmingham or Sheffield would be employed in making an article which he not only never used but never even saw used. Hence, if he were to be paid in kind, he would be obliged to sell or exchange the same for commodities more suitable to his necessities, and this, it will be seen, he might have to do at a very great disadvantage, having no place of trade, no business acquaintance, and no time to spend in bartering off his wares. So we find, in the fourth year (1464) of King Edward IV. of England, an act passed in which occurs the following:
"Also whereas, before this Time, in the occupations of Cloth-Making, the Laborers thereof have been driven to take a great part of their Wages in Pins, Girdles, and other unprofitable wares, under such price that it did not extend unto... therefore it is ordained and established that every man and woman being cloth-makers, from the (said) feast of St. Peter, shall pay to the carders, spinsters, and all such other laborers, in any part of the said trade, lawful money for all their lawful wages."
This is the first English act aimed at the truck system. Between that and the act of 1st and 2d William IV. (c. 37) intervened nearly four centuries, during which this system, in one or both its phases, prevailed in respect to a great part of English labor, and apparently the British Parliament has not even yet done legislating about it.
I have said that the second form of truck is where the laborer is paid in commodities supposed to be suitable to his wants as a consumer, irrespective of the question whether he has helped to produce the identical articles or similar articles himself. This is done where board is given as a part of wages, but truck to this extent was expressly excepted77 from the prohibitions of the great English truck act—namely, that of William IV., already referred to. Another form of partial payment which is in the nature of truck, is the allowance of perquisites and privileges, such as the keep of a cow, the gleaning of the wheat-field, the cutting of turf, and others which we have had occasion to mention in speaking of the difficulty of estimating the real wages of the laborer. This kind of payment prevails, from the nature of the case, mainly in respect to agricultural labor, and agricultural truck was not forbidden78 by the act of William IV. One form of agricultural truck deserves especially to be noted. It is found in the beer or cider allowances so prevalent in England.79 The farms in that country where such payment is not stipulated or is not customary would doubtless be found, on a count, to be in a decided minority. In many cases the allowance is in amount reasonable, if we assume that the use of these drinks in any quantity at all is desirable; but in a vast number of instances the figures of these allowances as reported are startling to minds unfamiliar with the statistics of beer-gardens. In some places Mr. Purdy reports80 that the men have from 2 to 4 quarts of beer daily; women and children half that quantity. The cider-truck would seem to be carried to a far greater extent. Mr. Edward Spender states81 that the agricultural laborers of the cider-producing countries, particularly Herefordshire and Devonshire, receive from 20 to 50 per cent of their wages in cider! Eight to twenty pints a day he indicates as the actual range.82 With such a state of things, no wonder Mr. Spender can quote the statement of a medical gentleman, long resident in the cider district, that "the failure of the apple crop has the same favorable effects on the health of the laborer as the good drainage of a parish has on the health of the inhabitants generally."
But the form of truck which has especially excited the opposition of the working classes, and which has been stringently prohibited83 by law in England, is the furnishing by the employer to the mechanical laborer, of goods for his personal and family consumption, the charges for the same being set off against the wages due. It is of truck in this sense only that we shall hereafter speak.
The custom of part-payment in goods, which at one time prevailed almost universally in many districts in England and very generally in the United States, did not fail to find excuse for itself in the supposed advantage of both parties. It was claimed that, in many branches of industry, the proximity of stores and shops kept by persons disconnected with the employers could not be relied on to the degree required for the supply of the laborers' wants. This plea was urged with most assurance, and probably with the greatest degree of truth, in respect to truck-stores for navvies engaged upon canals and railways, as the gangs employed on such works are, from the nature of the work, continually shifting their place, and often pushing into districts settled sparsely or not at all. At the same time, evidence was presented in the Commons Report on Railway Laborers (1846) going to show that the supposed necessity for truck did not exist even here.84 But as the building of canals and railways had reached no great proportions in 1831, when the act of 1st and 2d William IV. prohibiting truck passed, this department of industry was omitted from the enumeration in that act, and the truck system was kept up in full vigor on the canals and railways of the kingdom long after it had ceased elsewhere, or had sunk into an illicit traffic maintained, under disguise and at risk, by the least reputable employers.
The department of industry which, next to that mentioned, put in the strongest plea for truck, was coal and iron mining. In the nature of the case, works of this character are found principally at considerable elevations, upon difficult and broken ground, and often at considerable distances from market towns.85 Hence the proprietors were not without a show of reason in holding that the prompt and sure supply of a large and perhaps fluctuating body of workmen required that shops for the sale of the necessaries of life should be established in immediate connection with the works themselves.
But the opportunity to add to the profits of manufacture the profits, and (through the unscrupulous exercise of the influence and authority of the employer) more than the ordinary profits, of trade, did not suffer truck to be confined to departments of industry presenting so much of an excuse for the system as the building of canals and railways, and the mining of coal and iron. Truck long prevailed, to a vast extent, in connection with many branches of manufacture, and in many communities, where no reason but the greed of employers existed for the practice. Workmen were compelled to buy at the master's store, on pain of discharge. Sometimes hints accomplished the object; sometimes threats were necessary; sometimes examples had to be made. However strong the disapprobation of the workmen, or of the larger community around, the profits of truck were so enormous as to overcome the scruples and the shame of many employers. Those profits were five-fold. First, the ordinary profit of the retail trader, large as that is, and larger as we know it becomes, in proportion to the ignorance and poverty of the customer. Second, there was a great diminution of ordinary expenses, due to the compulsion exercised. The trader, who was also the manufacturer, did not have to resort to costly advertising to draw custom, to maintain an attractive establishment in a convenient location, or to keep up an efficient body of clerks and attendants. The only advertisement needed was the ominous notice to trade there: the store might be the merest barn, the service might be reduced to a degree involving the greatest inconvenience, and even hardship, to the customer.86 Third, it seems to be abundantly proved, by the evidence before the several commissions and committees, that the charges at the truck-shops were generally higher by 5, 10, or 15 per cent than at the ordinary retail stores. Fourth, the employer, having the absolute control of the laborers' wages, incurred no bad debts such as eat up the profit of the open trader. Fifth, the quality of the goods furnished was likely to be as best suited the interests of the employer, who, for the best of reasons, feared no loss of custom.
Such was truck in England before the act of 1st and 2d William IV.; and there can be no question in the mind of any candid person who peruses the painful evidence adduced in the course of the several inquiries which took place before and after that legislation, and who carefully considers the nature of the case, that, whether the system be intrinsically mischievous or not, abuses87 shameful and even horrible were perpetrated under it. Doubtless there was much passionate exaggeration by men smarting under its evils, as there was in respect to the abuses of the old unreformed jails; to the wrongs of American slavery; to the outrages of the Confederate prison-pens; but if the simple truth respecting truck in England in the early days of this century could be written out, it would form one of the most painful chapters in the long and dreary story of "man's inhumanity to man."
Another wrong which it is charged is done to laborers through the form of their payment, is by the so-called rental by the employer to the laborer, of the tools and machines necessary to production, the wages being stopped to the amount of the "rent." This alleged abuse attracted attention from economists and legislators in England particularly in connection with the hosiery manufacture, and we will, for brevity, draw our illustrations wholly from that branch of industry.
The system of Frame Rents, as exposed by the evidence before the Commission of 1844 and the Committee of 1855, was this:
Instead of the employer hiring laborers to work upon his own machines, paying them net wages for their service, the knitting is let out to middlemen upon contracts; "the middleman supplies the workman with frames and other machinery, sometimes belonging to himself and sometimes hired of the manufacturer or other owner, and when he settles with the workman, he deducts out of the gross price per dozen of the work performed, first, a sum as rent for the use of the frame; secondly, a sum for winding the yarn, which is a necessary operation for each workman; a third sum to remunerate himself for the use of the premises where the work is performed, and for the standing-room of the frame; and a fourth for his trouble and loss of time in procuring and conveying to the workman the materials to be manufactured, for his responsibility to the manufacturer for the due return of the materials when manufactured, for superintending the work itself, and for his pains in sorting the goods when made, and in redelivering them at the warehouse of the manufacturer." The language quoted is that of the Committee of 1855.
That this system of gross wages, with deductions to be made for the use of machinery employed and on the other accounts specified, was not necessary to protect the owners of the machinery was abundantly proved by the fact that in trades requiring the use of even more costly and delicate machinery, the plan of clear net wages prevailed. The real reason for the frame-rent system, as brought out unmistakably by the evidence, was the profit to be made from the use of the frames, owned partly by the manufacturers and partly by the middlemen. This was admitted by the manufacturers themselves, who even claimed that but for this profit they could not carry on their business in a depressed condition of trade.88
The fact of rents so high as to make this profit often enormous was abundantly proved. Mr. Muggeridge presented authentic accounts of transactions where the annual rent charged approached, equalled, or even exceeded the value of the frames. Thus one workman in 22 years paid as rent upon a frame worth but £8 or £9 between £170 and £180.89 Another paid ninepence a week for 30 years, on a frame costing at the beginning but £7, and requiring but £6 or £7 for repairs during the entire period. Still, again, Mr. William Biggs, a member of the Committee of 1855, had testified before the Commission of 1844 that during the two years 1835-36 his firm owned £8000 of frames; that the rents amounted to £5100, which, after deducting 5 per cent interest per annum on the capital invested, and the cost of all repairs and incidental expenses, left a clear profit of £1950, or 24½ per cent for the two years.
Such was the system by the admission of those interested in its maintenance. But there can be no question that abuses were easily perpetrated under it. "The amount of this deduction," says Mr. Muggeridge,90 "is regulated by no fixed rule or principle whatever; it is not dependent upon the value of the frame, upon the amount of money earned on it, or on the extent of the work made; it has differed in amount at different times, and now does so in different places; the youthful learner or apprentice pays the same rate from his scanty earnings as the most expert and skilful workman in the trade from his of four-fold the amount." Moreover, the workman, obliged to hire the machine if he would have employment at all, was compelled, not infrequently, to pay the rent not only when prevented by sickness from labor, but also when no work was furnished him by the middleman, who had a direct interest not only in "spreading the work over a greater number of frames than were requisite,"91 the amount given out being, accordingly, in some cases, "what would be three full days' work in a week, in others four, in some as little as two,"92 but also in keeping inferior machines of antiquated pattern worn to the very edge of absolute inefficiency, since the less each machine could perform, the larger the number which would be required; and the more hands he could hold in dependence on him for an inadequate occupation, the more complete his control over these unfortunates; the more meagre the living they were able to get off their frames, the less likely they were to have either the spirit or the material means to remove.
I have given so much space to the questions of Truck and Frame Rents, both because of their prominence in the history of labor and in economical literature, and because they afford illustrations of certain very important principles in the philosophy of wages.
To the appeals of the working classes for legislation abolishing these systems, the economists of the Manchester school have replied with the doctrine of laissez faire. Asserting, as they did in their contest for free trade, the self-sufficiency of capital, they felt bound to vindicate their consistency by asserting the self-sufficiency of labor. To them truck and frame-rents were a mode of ascertaining the wages of labor; and they deemed the hours and methods of labor and the amount and kind of wages matters to be left to employers and employed,93 subject only to the "law of supply and demand." By the operation of this law, they claimed, the employer gets the laborer's services for the least sum possible under the conditions of supply; and on the other, the laborer secures the greatest sum for his services consistent with the existing demand. The employer's least price and the laborer's greatest price are therefore the same, and no injustice can be done so long as both parties are left free by law.
It is, however, fairly a question whether the writers and statesmen of this school, in their valorous disposition to stand by their principle in every case where issue on it might be joined, have not mistaken their ground in the matter of frame-rents and truck. Surely, freedom of contract, on which the Manchesterians insist so strongly, does not involve freedom to break contracts or to evade contracts; nor does the most advanced advocate of laissez faire propose that breach of contract shall be left to be punished by natural causes—that is, by the loss of business reputation, by the withdrawal of confidence, or by public reprobation. But if exactitude of performance may be enforced by law without any interference with industrial freedom, why, pray, may not precision in terms be required by the law, as the very first condition of a due and just enforcement of contracts? Precision in terms is, however, manifestly incompatible, in the very nature of the case, with truck; for if the employer says to the laborer, "I will pay you for your work twenty shillings a week, but you shall take it in commodities at my prices," he does not in fact agree how much he will pay the laborer; the use of the term twenty shillings becomes purely deceptive: it may mean more or less according as the employer chooses to fix his prices at the time; the laborer can not tell what his wages really are; the law can not tell, and therefore can not enforce the laborer's right if litigated.94 Perhaps we can not say that precision in terms is incompatible with the very nature of the system of machine rents; but there is ample evidence to prove that it has been so in fact, and therefore the law, which is bound to enforce the contract, may justly demand that the contract shall not contain an element unsusceptible of exact determination. This is not interference with freedom of contract, but with looseness and uncertainty of contract, or with the power of one party to a contract to break, evade, or pervert its terms.
But I am not anxious to reconcile the prohibition of truck and machine rents with laissez faire. The authority accorded to that precept is not, in my opinion, to be justified on strictly economical principles.
We have previously (p. 168-9) discussed the principles on which it should be judged whether a law prohibitive or regulative in form really impairs competition, and prevents the resort of labor to its market. It was there seen that such a measure, though unquestionably obstructive as against a supposed pre-existing condition of perfect practical freedom, might, by removing important moral or intellectual obstacles to free action, which actually exist in human society as it is, have the effect to promote, and not retard, industrial movement.
Now, let us apply this principle to a proposed law in regulation or restraint of truck. It is, say Mr. Bright and Prof. Fawcett, an interference with freedom of contract and an obstruction to trade, and therefore mischievous— laissez faire, laissez passer. But is it really or only formally obstructive? There will not be absolute freedom of movement with it. Granted. But is there absolute freedom of movement without it? Assuredly not. Shall not, then, the question be, whether there will be more freedom with or without such a law?
Now, if we ask the question respecting truck and frame-rents in England as they were in the first half of the century, it must, I think, be answered that interference with the formal freedom of contract in these particulars served to enhance, in a most important degree, the substantial freedom of movement among the laboring classes. The laborer's practical ability to seek his best market is made up of a material element—the means of transportation and present subsistence—and of intellectual and moral elements quite as essential, the knowledge of the comparative advantages of the different occupations and locations offering themselves, and the courage to break away from place and custom to seek his fortune elsewhere. Ignorance and fear keep far more men in a miserable lot than does the sheer physical difficulty of getting from place to place, and sustaining life meanwhile.
At the laborer's knowledge of the comparative advantages of different occupations and locations, the truck and machine-rent systems struck a deadly blow. In addition to the inevitable difficulties in determining the real wages of labor, which were detailed in Chapter II., this system introduced a new and most hopeless element of uncertainty. The laborer's wages, paid nominally in money, were to be converted into commodities for his consumption, by an illicit process, at rates governed by the pleasure of the individual employer at the particular time. The truck system was maintained for the purpose chiefly, as was admitted, of enabling the employers to "sweat" their laborers' wages, as counterfeiters "sweat" the coin of the realm. It was claimed that in this way employers might make themselves good, if the nominal wages they were paying were too high, more easily than they could obtain a reduction in the nominal wages themselves. Moreover, the degree to which wages should be thus reduced would depend upon the rapacity or the necessities of individual employers, and also upon the state of manufacture and trade.95 The great flexibility of these charges was universally admitted; and, indeed, the readiness with which they could be adapted, in form and degree, to the times and exigencies of the master's business was made one of the chief recommendations.
If workmen are to seek their own interests, they must know them. Every thing that tends to simplify wages makes it easier for the laborer to dispose of his service to the highest advantage. Every thing that tends to complicate wages puts the laborer at disadvantage. A system of gross wages, with deductions "regulated by no fixed rule or principle whatever" (Muggeridge), varying with times and places, and, as Sir A. Alison admits, varying with the state of trade and the disposition of employers, makes it impossible for the most enlightened workman to act intelligently respecting his interests, while the uneducated workman loses his reckoning completely: his senses are deceived, and he is put wholly at the mercy of the extortioner.96
But it is said the workman may not, indeed, be able to compute with exactness his net wages and those of his fellows, through all this system of allowances and deductions and payments in kind; but he surely can appreciate the result so far as his own comfort and well-being are concerned; he surely knows whether he is well off or not; and if he feels himself wronged, he will seek a better employer. But how, I ask, is he to judge in advance, under such a system of combined truck and machine rents as oppressed the framework-knitters of England fifty years ago, whether his condition would be more tolerable under another master or in another place? Suppose him to have the rare intelligence and enterprise to ascertain the gross wages paid by other employers, perhaps in distant localities, and to find some more favorable than his own, how can he have the slightest assurance that greater severity in the administration of the system of stoppages and deductions, and greater greed in pursuing the profits of truck, might not make the difference, and perchance more than the difference, in nominal rates? He can not tell until he has tried, and how often would a workman, on such a narrow margin of living, and it may be with a family, be able to change employers and shift his place in order to better his lot? How surely would he, after one or two bitter disappointments, relinquish the effort, and sink without a struggle into his miserable place, getting what wages he could, and taking for them what he might, at "the master's store." The fact is, the system of truck and machine rents, as administered in England in the early part of the century, completely blindfolded the workman, and left him to grope about in search of his true interest, in peril of pitfalls and quagmires, or, as was most likely, to submit in sullen despair to every indignity and injury of the position in which he found himself.
Surely, then, we are entitled to say that laws in restraint of these practices differ from those other laws affecting labor which have been described in this chapter, in the one all-important particular, that the latter were intended to diminish that mobility by which laborers could seek their best market, while the former have the effect to make competition more easy and certain.
Is truck, then, always subject to economical censure? I answer, No. Truck is a form of barter; and he would be a bold man who should say that barter is always and everywhere prejudicial. When truck arises naturally, is compatible with the general usages of exchange, and is maintained in good faith by common consent, it may not only be unobjectionable but highly advantageous to all classes.97 When, however, truck is forced upon a body of impoverished and ignorant workmen against the general usages of exchange, and maintained by intimidation as the means of "sweating" their wages, and keeping them down to the barest subsistence and under an incapacity to migrate, then truck becomes a horrid wrong and outrage. This varying aspect of truck, according to the circumstances and character of the community among which it is introduced, exemplifies the futility of setting up as economical principles what are in truth mere rules of expediency.
Thus, if barter be the general condition of exchanges in a new community, as it ordinarily is in the scarcity of currency, we may fairly say that it constitutes no special hardship to the laboring classes that they have to receive their wages in kind. Doubtless, in the further development of society and industry, the introduction of money payments in such a community will prove a real and great industrial advantage to all classes. Doubtless, also, the wages class, as presumably the poorest class, and that, also, the members of which have least time and opportunity for rendering the commodities they may chance to receive in payment, into the commodities they desire to consume, would be most helped by such an advance. Yet, prior to that consummation, the wages class, or the economist speaking for them, could scarcely make complaint that they were obliged to share in the general inconvenience, even though, from their industrial position, they might feel it more severely than others; or demand that exemption from truck be secured them by law. Indeed, in such a general condition of exchange, it is quite conceivable that a class which should be enabled to enforce money payments to itself might thus secure an undue advantage which would be resented by others as obtained at their expense. An amusing illustration of this is furnished by Gov. Winthrop in his History of New-England, as follows:
"One Richard ——, servant to one —— Williams, of Dorchester, being come out of service, fell to work at his own hand, and took great wages above others, and would not work but for ready money. By this means, in a year or a little more, he had scraped together about twenty-five pounds, and then returned, with his prey, into England, speaking evil of the country by the way," etc., etc. (Vol. ii. 98, 99.) The good governor notes with apparent gusto the fact that he was met by the cavaliers and eased of his money—his prey—on his arrival.
But if we come, now, to consider a state of industrial society in which exchanges are generally effected through the use of money, and inquire as to the results to a single class of the community of being reduced, through some force operating upon them when in a position of disadvantage, to accept payment for their services in commodities98 instead of currency, those, at least, who discard the theory of diffusion can easily see that wrong amounting to robbery might be wrought by this means. To deny to one class the advantage they would naturally derive from the introduction of a universal "standard of value and medium of exchange," while allowing it to the classes with which that single class is to compete for the possession of wealth, would be not unlike prohibiting to one merchant the use of the railway, and sending him back to the stage-coach, while his competitors were permitted to use the telegraph and the steam-car. So long as the coach was common to all, none had equitable cause of complaint of the want of a better means of transportation. The hardship, such as it was, lay in the constitution of things. When the steam-car and telegraph came, they did not benefit all alike; on the contrary, they tended to inequality;99 to make the great greater, the small, by comparison at least, smaller, yet no one could rightfully charge blame in that he received less than others of the great addition to human well-being. It would be quite another thing, however, were one individual or class to be prohibited from participating, in his measure, in what should be the gain of all. This would be ground for complaint; this would be gross, palpable injustice. And such a wrong was that truck against which the statute of 1st and 2d William IV. was levelled. Truck prevailed, not because it consisted with the general system of exchange in the country at the time, not because it was for the convenience of both parties, not from any scarcity of currency to allow cash payments, but, in the vast majority of instances, it had been forced100 upon the working classes simply and solely because it enabled the employers to add the profits of trade to the profits of manufacture; because it kept the laborers always poor and in debt, and diminished the ease, or practically destroyed the possibility, of migration.
Part II, Chapter XVIII
WHAT MAY HELP THE WAGES CLASS IN ITS COMPETITION
FOR THE PRODUCTS OF INDUSTRY.
IN Chapter III. were set forth certain causes which go to heighten the efficiency of labor and increase the product of industry. Under the present title I shall have occasion to speak of causes, some of them the same, as operating to give the wage-laborer a larger share of that product, without reference to its absolute amount.
Bearing in mind still that it is competition in the full sense of that word, involving as it does the strong desire and the persistent effort to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, which alone is needed to give the wages class the highest remuneration which the existing conditions of industry will allow, we can not find difficulty in enumerating the principal helps to this end.1 These are:
I. Frugality. All capital is the result of saving; and the frugality of the working classes, contributing to the increase of the wealth available for the purposes of industry, secures indirectly an increase of production. But we have here only to do with the fact that, without reference to any increase of production, the workman's frugality gives him a distinct advantage, rendering competition on his side, in one degree, more effective. No matter how clearly workingmen may discern their interest in a prompt resort to another market, whether that imply a change of occupation or of place, or both, without some savings out of their past earnings they must e'en say, with the "Third Citizen" in Coriolanus, "We have the power in ourselves to do it; but it is a power that we have no power to do." No human thought can distinguish the several parts of ignorance and of penury in the immobility of agricultural labor in the West of England; but it can not be doubted that the poverty which has existed among that class since the Napoleonic wars has contributed largely to the miserable result. Their scanty earnings have rendered it extremely difficult for them to make any savings out of their wages; the lack of savings has placed them at the mercy of their employers by rendering it extremely difficult for them to escape to localities offering superior inducements. Prof. Fawcett, writing from Salisbury in 1873 or '4, says of the agricultural laborers of that section: "They are so poor that it is absolutely impossible for many of them to pay the expense of removing even to a neighboring county."2 I have already cited the testimony of Mr. Muggeridge3 respecting the removal of large numbers from the south and west of England at the public expense, by which persons who had actually been supported as paupers were immediately brought to a condition of comfortable self-support. In some rare instances this removal of laborers has been effected by the enterprise of private employers. Thus, at the meeting of the Social Science Association in 1874. Mr. C. M. Palmer, of Newcastle, one of the largest employers in England, stated that some years previously, when there was great distress in Cornwall, he had sent an agent to collect laborers, paying him so much for each man recruited, offering minimum wages until the men should become instructed in mining, one half the cost of transportation to be ultimately deducted from their wages. Mr. Palmer deemed that the enterprise had been very prosperous both in his own interest and in that of the laborers. The philanthropic endeavors of Canon Girdlestone in securing the removal of laborers from the crowded districts have also been alluded to. But whether such schemes are undertaken by government, by business enterprise, or by private charity, they are almost sure to be successful, if at all, in some lower degree than where the laborer is furnished with means of his own earning and saving, and undertakes his own removal. In strong contrast with the helpless condition of the agricultural laborers of the south and west, Prof. Rogers notes the independence of the laborers of Cumberland and Westmoreland, of whom it is reported that they "never allow themselves to be destitute of such a sum of money as will enable them to emigrate in case the ordinary rate of wages shows signs of yielding to the pressure for employment."4
On men thus provided, the casualties of production will work small permanent injury. Their reserves enable them to tide over any commercial disaster, and the return of prosperity finds their efficiency unimpaired. If, on the other hand, the steady decline of industry in their section, under any general or special cause, imposes on them the necessity of migration, they can go at the best time and in the best way. Thus we see that frugality on the part of the working classes goes far to supply that condition on which competition will secure to them absolutely the highest wages which the existing conditions of industry allow. "Wages," says Mr. Mill, "are likely to be high where none are compelled by necessity to sell their labor."5
But while frugality is thus a condition of great importance in securing a beneficent distribution of the product of industry, we are compelled to acknowledge that the condition of the wage-laborer is not conducive to the development of this quality. We saw6 that he must, human nature being what it is, be somewhat less industrious than the person who works on his own account; he is also likely to be less frugal. Take the case of the "peasant proprietor" of land. Is there an hour of the day left, there is always something to be done; the land is ever crying out for labor. Has he a few shillings to spare at the end of the month, there is always something connected with the land which demands its investment. Whether it be work on the growing crop, or the ditching, fencing, and clearing of land, the increase of live stock and implements, or additions to stables and barns, the small farmer has always a good use to which to put every hour of labor and every shilling of money which he can command. After all, it is as Sismondi said: "The true savings-bank is the land."
With the wage-laborer the case is different. He can not reapply any portion of the product of his labor directly to the subject-matter of his labor, for that is not his. If he would put any portion of his wages to a reproductive use, he must seek out some borrower, and the amount he has to lend being small, this borrower must be the bank, which will lend the money out, he knows not when, he knows not where. This is a very cold-blooded affair compared with the application of earnings to the land by the proprietor thereof, who works over it and lives upon it, who feels that it is all his, and shall be his children's after him. Neither the imagination nor the affections are addressed very powerfully by the savings-bank. There is, besides, some delay involved in a deposit, which, however slight, defeats many a good resolution and brings many a half-consecrated sixpence to the grocery or the bar-room.
I have named in the last word the great foe to frugality in the working classes. Wholly aside from the perversion of instincts, the loss of laboring power, and the actual vice and crime resulting from drunkenness, the waste of wealth shown by the statistics of the consumption of wine, beer, and liquors by the working-classes is appalling.
I had occasion in the preceding chapter to refer to the payment of beer and cider as a part of agricultural wages in England. The amount of money actually received and spent for these and stronger drinks is estimated, on respectable authority, as follows:7 1869, £113,464,874; 1871, £118,906,066; 1873, £140,014,712. The author of this computation proceeds to estimate the cost of the bread consumed annually by the people of England at £2 12s. 6d. per head; the cost of tea, coffee, sugar, rice, and cocoa consumed, at £1. 10s. 9d. per head: making altogether an average expenditure for these articles of £4. 7s. 3d., against an expenditure of £4. 7s. 2d. for alcoholic drinks, on the basis of 1873. At this rate, six years' expenditure would amount to enough to pay the national debt, or to build a house worth £150 for every family in the kingdom. There may be some exaggeration in these estimates; and it is to be considered that the expenditure of the higher classes on this account is more than proportional; yet one can not set the cost of wines, ales, and liquors consumed by the wage-laboring classes of Great Britain lower than £100,000,000 per annum. Mr. G. R. Porter, in a paper read before the Statistical Society, adopted the estimate that one-half the income of workingmen earning between ten and fifteen shillings a week was spent by them on objects in which other members of the family had no share; while the proportion thus selfishly devoted by higher paid and presumedly more temperate artisans earning from twenty to thirty shillings, not infrequently reached one third.8
Yet, in spite of strong and urgent tendencies to dissipation and extravagance among the manual-labor classes, the statistics of the savings-banks show a steady growth of the principle of frugality, the total deposits in 1873 reaching $312,000,000. The deposits in savings-banks throughout all Europe,9 exclusive of Russia10 and Turkey, are estimated, in a report of M. Normandie to the French National Assembly in 1875, at a total of $1,180,000,000.
On the Continent of Europe the amount of deposits in savings-banks represents but a fraction of the accumulations of the working classes. The passion of the common people for acquiring land leads to the continuous application of circulating capital to the purchase of this species of property,11 while the various classes of credit institutions facilitate the erection of workingmen's houses. If it be asked how the acquisition of real property by the working classes consists with the mobility of labor which is so much to be desired, I answer, one need have no fear that the true mobility of labor will be impaired at all by any form which the savings of the working classes may take; that the virtues which are required for the exercise of frugality, and which the exercise of frugality strengthens, afford the best security for all needed movement of labor at the right time and in the right way; and finally, that the individual acquisition of real property is never likely to become so general as not to leave a considerable portion of the members of every trade without ties to the soil.
It is quite another question how the extensive acquisition of public property by the Swiss communes12 affects the desired mobility of labor in that country. It would certainly appear at this distance to be inexpedient, as requiring an undue sacrifice on the part of individuals whom the conditions of industry seem to invite to other localities.
The statistics of savings-banks in the United States are not to be used with much confidence, for the reason that onerous taxation has in several States driven large amounts of personal property, belonging to persons of means, under the protection of these institutions, which enjoy a partial immunity from contribution. It is not unusual to deposit, up to the limit of the amount authorized by law, in each of a number of banks, and still further to multiply such deposits by entering equal amounts in the names of wife and children.13
Notwithstanding this, however, it is evident that a vast body of wealth is held by the laboring classes of the United States in movable form, in addition to the sums invested in houses and lands. In 1873 the savings-banks of Maine showed 91,398 separate accounts, with an aggregate deposit of $29,556,524; Rhode Island, 93,124 accounts, $46,617,183; Massachusetts, 666,229 accounts, $202,195,344; New-York, 839,472 accounts, $285,520,085.
II. Individual and mutual intelligence among the working classes. The phrase mobility of labor is very useful in discussions of the questions of wages, as expressing better than any other the one condition upon which laborers can receive the highest remuneration which the state of productive industry (their own present efficiency being taken into account) will allow, and the sole security which society can have that the inevitable immediate effects of industrial pressure or disaster shall not become permanent. Yet there is danger that the conception of what is involved in this term will be inadequate. Assuming the desire of industrial well-being to be universal, the mobility of labor should supply on the part of the wages class all that is needed for a perfect competition; and this clearly requires something more than legalized freedom of movement, something more, even, than the possession of the physical means of transportation and subsistence needed for migration. The laborer must be in a position to discern where his real interest lies, for to move in any other than the right direction may be more injurious than to abide in his lot, since all movement implies loss of force, and is only to be justified by the prospect of a distinct gain in the result.
This ability to discern where one's interest lies requires two things, the acquisition of just information and the rejection of false information. Of the former it is not necessary to speak. It is seen in the mere mention, how large is the requirement it makes of the working classes; how slight the probability that this requirement will be completely filled. The second requirement is, among an ignorant population, even more difficult. So prone to discouragement are men, especially men lacking in mental training and culture; so efficient is Rumor in her evil office of spreading the news of failure and disaster, that the effects of acting upon false information in a single instance may, with ignorant persons, neutralize the most substantial inducements of self-interest in many other instances. Such persons have little to hold on to, or steady their minds upon; they generalize hastily and passionately, or, rather, they do not in any true sense generalize at all; and after the first shock to their confidence they become absurdly suspicious.
Even in enterprises of less pith and moment, the cloud of prejudice, vague apprehensions, and false conceits, originating in ignorance, obscures the view, in every direction, of the laborer's true interest.
"Few," says Mr. Chadwick,14 "who have not had experience in the administration of relief to the destitute in periods of wide distress, can be fully sensible of the difference, in amount of trouble and chargeability to the ratepayers, between educated and intelligent and uneducated and unintelligent people of the wage-class—the heavy lumpishness of the uneducated, their abject prostration, their liability to misconception and to wild passion, their frequent moroseness and intractability, and the difficulty of teaching them, as compared with the self-help of the better educated, who can write and inquire for themselves, and find out for themselves new outlets and sources of productive employment, and who can read for themselves and act on written or printed instructions. The really well-trained, educated, and intelligent are the best to bear distress; they are the last to come upon charitable relief-lists, and the first to leave them."
III. Sexual self-restraint. I am not speaking here in the Malthusian sense with reference to the general supply of labor. In Malthusianism the average number of children to the family is the single consideration; it matters not whether each family have four children, or one family none, and the next eight: the supply of labor is equally affected. Again, while in Malthusianism the age at which marriage shall be contracted and children produced is not a matter of indifference, it is only of consequence as it affects the period within which population shall double. I here adduce the desirableness of sexual self-restraint on an account which is wholly additional to this—namely, the influence it must exert upon the mobility of the laborer. We have seen the occasion in modern society for a frequent, one might almost say an incessant, readjustment of population and industry. It is clear, that though the laborer can never wholly escape from this necessity, it is of peculiar importance that he should be as disembarrassed as possible during the years when he is coming to find out his own powers and capabilities, learning how to work, and getting into industrial relations, presumably for life. It is certain that he can make a favorable disposition of his labor then, if ever; that he will never be able afterwards to seek his market with so little of effort and so little of loss.
It is, therefore, economically desirable, without respect to the effect his earlier marriage might have on the general supply of labor, that at this critical period his mobility should be at the maximum. Of course, this proposition does not apply generally to communities in the condition of the American colonies and the early United States, where labor was almost painfully deficient, and where land was abundant. A young man there could scarcely have placed himself wrong; and any disadvantage the impediments of a youthful marriage might have occasioned him was amply compensated by the access of productive power which his rising family soon brought him, in a country where the condition of "diminishing returns" had not been reached. But when settlements became dense and production diversified, the necessity of a precise adaptation of labor to industry, and a consequent readjustment of population, becomes urgent, and that urgency increases with increase of numbers and diversification of products. Hence it is that early and improvident marriages, such as characterize the Irish15 at home and in foreign lands, influence unfavorably the rate of wages, wholly besides their effect on the general supply of labor. The young laborer is no longer free to abandon the avocation his adaptation to which he finds he has wrongly estimated, or the locality where he finds himself crowded by equally needy competitors, and to seek the price of his labor in a better market; but, tied down by the cares of family, and harassed by immediate necessities, he sinks hopelessly into what he knows to be the wrong place for him.
But if we turn our attention from the fortunes of the individual to those of the whole wages class, we shall see an additional reason, in the interest of a beneficent distribution of the products of industry, for the procrastination of marriage. The desideratum is, we have seen, to secure the readjustment of population to industry. It is clearly true that the longer marriage is postponed, the larger the proportion of the total laboring population which will be free, so far as domestic incumbrances are concerned, to respond to economical impulses suggesting a change of avocation or of residence. It is not merely that, if they go in obedience to such suggestions, they secure their own highest remuneration, but they also relieve the market in those localities or occupations which they forsake. With the disposable element thus increased by the procrastination of marriage, the heads of families, those who, in the words of Bacon, "have given hostages to fortune," may to a very large extent, except only in extraordinary emergencies, be exempt from this necessity.
The average age at which marriages are contracted varies greatly with the industrial necessities and the social habits of different communities.16 In Belgium, in 21.17 out of 100 marriages the groom is under 25 years; in Holland, 21.42; in Sweden, 21.83; in Norway, 23.95; in Austria, 28.40; in France, 29.06; in Scotland, 41.32; in England, 50.95.
IV. Legal regulations clearly correspondent to infirmities in the mass of laborers, which tend to defeat the real freedom of choice and power of movement.
After making all allowances for the proneness of legislatures to meddle and blunder, and for defects in administration of the law, it still remains true that the wages class may, in exceptional instances, be helped forward in an important degree towards a real and vital competition, by the exercise of the prohibitory power of the State. During the present century, says the Duke of Argyle, in his Reign of Law, 17 "two great discoveries have been made in the science of government: the one is the immense advantage of abolishing restrictions upon Trade; the other is the absolute necessity of imposing restrictions upon Labor." There is here no inconsistency. I have shown in a preceding chapter that those economists who refuse to carry into the department of Distribution the rule of perfect freedom from restraint which they accept in the department of Exchange, do not abandon an economical principle, but only leave behind a practical rule, the conditions of which no longer exist.
The possible justification of Factory Acts and kindred legislation may be thus briefly stated. For perfect competition in wage-labor it is required that the employer and the laborer shall each understand and pursue his own true permanent interest. But this requirement is never completely fulfilled. The employer, on his part, is always, in a higher or lower degree, unduly under the domination of immediate purposes. The haste to be rich, which often makes waste; greed, which is always unwise; parsimony, which disables from business success many a man who has every other qualification, rendering him incapable of ever taking a large and liberal view of his industrial relations; rivalry, mutual jealousy among manufacturers affecting the temper of business and warping production from its best course—these passions and infirmities among employers, quickened at times by stringent financial necessities, must more or less make separation between their seeming present and their true permanent interest. Thus it becomes possible that the employer shall seek to crowd down wages, extend the hours of work, quicken the movement of machinery, admit children of tender age to painful and protracted labor,18 scrimp in the conveniences of production, and neglect the ventilation and sanitary care of his shop or factory, all in the effort to increase the month's and the year's profits, though such a course is, in the long view, prejudicial alike to himself and his hands. Perfect competition would make the employer the guardian of the laborer's interests. What sort of a guardian imperfect competition makes of the employer unrestrained by law or an active public sentiment, may be read in the official reports of Great Britain, in which the condition of her mines and mills and factories prior to their legal regulation is described.
But the failure of true competition is, as has already been abundantly shown, far greater on the side of the wages class, though in this respect very wide differences exist, due both to the industrial quality of the individual laborer and to the nature of the occupation pursued. The skilled workman, receiving high wages, with an ample margin of subsistence, is always fairly able to seek his best market. Doubtless he fails in a considerable degree, at times, for want of apprehension, or of the spirit of enterprise; but, in the main, he satisfies the condition of a right distribution. Even the unskilled and unintelligent laborer, in occupations involving no extensive subdivision of work or expensive machinery and materials, may find his place tardily and painfully, and make his terms, though at some loss. It is when laborers of both sexes and all ages, each doing some special operation—a small part of a great work—are aggregated in mills and factories where costly materials are consumed and complicated machinery is employed, that the control of the individual over his lot is diminished to the minimum. What is the single laborer in a cotton-mill? What does his will or wish stand for? The mill itself becomes one vast machine which rolls on in its appointed work, tearing, crushing, or grinding its human, just as relentlessly as it does its other, material. The force of discipline completely subjects the interests and the objects of the individual to the necessities of a great establishment. Whoever fails to keep up, or faints by the way, is relentlessly thrown out. If the wheel runs for twelve hours in the day, every operative must be in his place from the first to the last revolution. If it runs for thirteen hours or fourteen, he must still be at his post. Personality disappears; even the instinct of self-assertion is lost; apathy soon succeeds to ambition and hopefulness. The laborer can quarrel no more with the foul air of his unventilated factory, burdened with poisons, than he can quarrel with the great wheel that turns below.
This helplessness, this subjection to an order which the workman has not established, and can not in one particular change, becomes more complete in the case of women and children, while the responsibility of the State therefor becomes more direct and urgent.
It is on such considerations as these, that the economist may, acting under the fullest accountability to strictly economical principles, advocate what Mr. Newmarch calls19 "a sound system of interference with the hours of labor."
The Factory legislation of England, the necessity and economical justification of which the Duke of Argyle has called one of the great discoveries of the century in the science of government, began in 1802 with the act of 42d George III., limiting the hours of labor in woolen and cotton mills and factories to twelve, exclusive of meal-times, imposing many sanitary regulations upon the working and sleeping rooms of operatives, requiring the instruction of children in letters for the first four years of their apprenticeship, and providing an official inspection of establishments for the due execution of the law. Additional legislation was had in 1816 and 1831; and in 1833 was passed the important act known as 3d and 4th William IV. (c. 103), which forbade night-work in the case of all persons under eighteen years of age, and limited the labor of such persons to twelve hours, inclusive of an hour and a half for meals; prohibited the employment (except in silk-mills) of children under nine years of age, while between the ages of nine and thirteen the hours were reduced to eight a day (in silk-mills, ten); prescribed a certain number of half-holidays in the year, and required medical certificates of health on the admission of children to factory labor. The scope of these provisions has been extended, successively, by legislation in 1844, 1847, 1850, 1853, 1861, 1864, and 1867, until they now embrace all persons engaged in processes incidental to the manufacture of textile fabrics, with but slight exception, and also to the manufacture of earthenware, lucifer-matches, percussion-caps and cartridges, or in the employments of paper-staining and fustian-cutting.
The principle of the English Factory Acts has been slowly extended over a considerable portion of Europe. Before 1839 England, Prussia, and Austria had, in greater or less degree, controlled the labor of children,20 though to but little effect in the last-named country, where the day of labor was still cruelly long, frequently reaching to fifteen hours, exclusive of meals, and sometimes to seventeen.21
French factory legislation dates from 1841. By the act of that year (March 22d) children were not to be admitted to factories under eight years of age. They were only to work eight hours in the twenty-four up to twelve years, and twelve hours from twelve years to sixteen. They were not to work at night, with a few exceptions in the case of children above thirteen, or to work at all on Sundays or holidays. School attendance was required up to twelve years. The number of children in 1870 working subject to this act was about 100,000, nine-tenths of these being employed in spinning and weaving factories.22 May 19th, 1874, a new law of much greater range and higher efficiency was passed by the National Assembly. By this act children under ten years of age can not be admitted to work in factories, mines, or shops; from ten to twelve years they can work only in certain industries to be specially designated by a government commission, and they only work for six hours in the day; from twelve years onwards they are not to work in excess of twelve hours a day. Until sixteen years of age they are not to work at night. No child can be admitted to work in mines under twelve years, and no female at any age. Universal primary instruction is provided by the law, and a rigid inspection of all establishments in which children are employed.23
In Belgium there has been no legislation protective of children since the decree of 1813, which prohibited their employment under ten years of age in mines.
In Germany, by the Industrial Code of April 6th, 1869 (p. 127-132), the age of admission to labor is fixed at twelve years; from twelve to fourteen, children can be employed but six hours a day; from fourteen to sixteen, but ten hours, with two intervals of rest. Night-labor is prohibited. School-attendance and factory-inspection are rigidly enforced.
In Switzerland the age of admission varies according to the character of the industry pursued; in some twelve years, in others thirteen, in others fourteen.24
In Italy there are no laws relating to the employment of children in factories, but children under ten years are not permitted to work in mines.25
In Sweden, by royal statute of June 18th, 1864, children under twelve years are not allowed to work in factories, nor any person under eighteen years to be employed at night.26
In Spain and Portugal no laws exist respecting the age at which, or the number of hours in the day for which, children shall be employed.
In Russia and in Holland there were, according to the British Consular Reports of 1873 relative to Textile Factories, no laws regulating or restricting the labor of children.27 Mr. Walsham reported that in the Netherlands children were employed so young that they could earn but a shilling a week. Mr. Egerton reported that in Russia thirteen hours a day was the general average of the factories, the children working as long as the men.
V. Sympathy and respect for labor in the community.
It is at this point that we traverse most completely the orthodox political economy. There has been no end of contemptuous ridicule, or grave rebuke from the professors of the science, and from reviews and journals especially affecting that character, towards those who have assumed that a friendly public opinion could effect any substantial improvement in the condition of the working classes. "It is not unusual," says Mr. McLeod, "to hear persons of benevolence who see the shocking misery which even now prevails among so many in this country, exclaim that employers ought to pay higher wages. But all such ideas are visionary."28
Especially has the agitation respecting the wages of women been deprecated as useless or mischievous. We are told that "the inexorable laws of supply and demand" determine the rate of wages; that benevolence has no more to do here than with the operations of the steam-engine; that competition is the one irresistible, unrelenting force which overbears all considerations of compassion or charity, and works out a predetermined result with unerring certainty. Who is not familiar with these phrases?
The man would be weak or ignorant who should expect that any but the most exceptional and eccentric of mortals would at any given time pay more than the market rate of wages, or should look upon such possible exhibitions of disinterested philanthropy as likely to set a fashion to be followed by the shrewd, eager, and but little unselfish men who make up the mass of employers. But the question is, whether the force we here invoke may not help to fix that very market rate of wages. It is not asserted that this sympathy and respect entertained for labor by the general community need ever be distinctly present in the consciousness, as a motive to individual or class for advancing wages. But I base the proposition that these do constitute one condition of a right distribution of the products of industry, upon accepted principles of moral philosophy, supported by inferences, which appear to me conclusive, from economic statistics of wide range and undoubted authority in a kindred department of industrial contract.
First, of the reason of the case. Let us recall the principle so frequently insisted on, that it is only as competition is perfect that the wages class have any security that they will receive the highest remuneration which the existing conditions of industry will permit; that in the failure of competition they may be pushed down grade after grade in the industrial as in the social scale, there being almost no limit to the possible degradation of the working classes where a free circulation of labor is denied. Let us recall, moreover, that the failure of competition may be due to moral as much as to physical causes; that if the workman from any cause does not pursue his interest, he loses his interest, whether he refrain from bodily fear, from poverty, from ignorance, from timidity and dread of censure, or from the effects of bad political economy which assures him that if he does not seek his interest, his interest will seek him. Let us bear in mind, moreover, that it matters nothing whether competition fails in his case because he does not begin to seek a better market, or, having begun, gives up in discouragement.
Now, I ask, can it be doubtful that the respect and sympathy of the community must strengthen the wages class in this unceasing struggle for economical advantages; must give weight and force to all their reasonable demands; must make them more resolute and patient in resisting encroachment; must add to the confidence with which each individual laborer will rely on the good faith of those who are joined with him in his cause, and make it harder for any weak or doubtful comrade to succumb in the contest?
And, on the other hand, will not the consciousness that the whole community sympathize with the efforts of labor to advance its condition by all fair means, inevitably weaken the resistance of the employing class to claims which can be conceded, diminish the confidence with which each employer looks to his fellows to hold out to the end, and make it easier for the less resolute to retire from the contest and grant, amid general applause, what has been demanded? He must be more than human or less than human who is uninfluenced by the friendly or the cold regards of men.
And if such a disposition of the public mind must confirm the union and exalt the courage and sustain the faith of the party that hears everywhere approving words, meets everywhere looks of sympathy, and must tend to impair somewhat, at least, the mutual trust and common resolution of their opponents, who shall say that wages may not be affected thereby?
Let us apply these principles to an individual case. Hodge thinks—Hodge is a ploughman, and has been getting twelve shillings a week—that he ought to have more wages; or, rather—for Hodge would scarcely put it so abruptly—he feels that it is dreadfully hard to live on twelve shillings. He has attended a lecture delivered by Mr. Joseph Arch, from a wagon on the green. He is uneasy, and wants to improve his condition. So far, then, he is a hopeful subject economically. The desire to improve one's condition is the sine qua non of competition. Will these stirrings of industrial ambition come to any thing? Will this little leaven of unrest leaven the whole of the very lumpish lump christened Hodge? Will the discontented ploughman seek and find his better market? This is a great question, for upon the answer to it depends the future of Hodge, and perhaps of his sons and grandsons. Let the Spectator29 tell how he is assisted on his way and encouraged in his weak, ignorant, doubting mind by landlord, bishop, and judge.
"The man has been, so to speak, morally whipped for six months. He has found no friend anywhere, except in a press he can neither read nor understand. The duke has deprived him of his allotment; the bishop has recommended that his instructor should be ducked; the squire has threatened him with dismissal in winter; the magistrate has fined him for quitting work, which is just, and scolded him for listening to lectures, which is tyranny; the mayor at Evesham has prohibited him from meeting on the green; and the lawyer—witness a recent case near Chelmsford—has told him that any one who advises and helps him to emigrate is a hopeless rascal."
Now, I ask, is Hodge quite as likely to pursue his interest and persist in whatever that requires, as if his social superiors and the men who should be his instructors and helpers were encouraging him to better his fortune if he finds a chance, instead of telling him that if he demands more wages, he is kicking against the wage-fund, and that if he kicks against the wage-fund, he is defying an ordinance of heaven; or as if the law were administered occasionally by men indifferent30 in the dispute between himself and his employer; as if the shop-keeper and the publican and the lawyer and the rector were not all ranged against him? Is it not possible that, for the lack of a little fanning, the feeble flame in Hodge's breast may die out, and he, giving up all thoughts of seeking his fortune elsewhere, return to his furrow, never to stray from it again? And so vale, Hodge!
Political economy, says Mr. Mill, is concerned with man "solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end.... It makes entire abstraction of every other human passion or motive except those which may be regarded as perpetually antagonizing principles to the desire of wealth—namely, aversion to labor and desire of the present enjoyment of costly indulgences."
Among beings thus constituted, doubtless competition would prove "inexorable." But, surely, economists should be careful how they apply to mankind as they are, conclusions which they have deduced from the study of such a monstrous race, made up entire of laziness and greed, incapable of love or hate or shame.
Abstract every other human passion and motive! eliminate respect and sympathy! Why, who can say how largely THIS VERY LOVE OF WEALTH is due to the unwillingness to be thought meanly of by our fellow-men, or the more positive desire to excite their envy or admiration? And if regard for the opinions of others may be a sufficient reason, as we know it is, for men to exert themselves laboriously and painfully, why may it not be a reason for men to forbear31 to press their power and their undoubted rights to the point of cruelty?
As this subject is of prime importance, I beg my reader's indulgence in making an excursion into another department of political economy—namely, that of rent—to see if we may not find there evidence of the influence of this very cause which we have invoked in aid of labor. If competition is "inexorable;" if the laws of supply and demand are "immutable;" if the desire of gain is an all-controlling passion, these things ought to be found so in the department of rent as truly as in the department of wages. As we must make a selection, let us take three countries whose land systems have been carefully studied; countries in which peasant proprietorship is found in an exceptionally small degree, and where, consequently, the question of rent becomes of the highest importance to the welfare of the people. These are England, Italy, and Ireland.
In England, Prof. Thorold Rogers declares, rents have remained at a point much below that to which competition alone would carry them. The vaunted generosity of land-owners is, he says, "really the necessity of the situation. Englishmen would not tamely acquiesce in a practice which continually revalued their occupancies and made their own outlay the basis for an enhanced rent. The rent of agricultural land is therefore seldom the maximum annual value of the occupancy; in many cases, is considerably below such an amount."32 Again he says: "The tenant is virtually protected by the disreputable publicity which would be given to a sudden eviction or a dishonest appropriation of the tenant's improvements."33
In Italy we find local usages respecting land nearly allpowerful, though exceptions exist of provinces where competition34 has entered to enhance rents. "The same misfortune," says Sismondi, in writing of Tuscany, "would probably have befallen this people if public opinion did not protect the cultivator; but a proprietor would not dare to impose conditions unusual in the country; and even in changing one metayer for another, he alters nothing of the terms of the engagement."
The third country I have taken is probably the only one of Western Europe to which we could turn as affording an example of rents kept at the point to which unrestrained competition would carry them. And if we ask why it was that the "laws of supply and demand" proved here indeed "inexorable," we find not contradiction but corroboration of our principle. It is not necessary to go far back in the history of Ireland to show why it was that nothing intervened here to prevent the tenantry from being ground down by unintermitted competition. It was because sympathy and confidence and mutual respect35 were unknown between the two classes of the population. It was not merely that the land-owners of Ireland and its peasantry were of different races, of different religions,36 and, to no small degree, of different speech—distinctions in themselves of tremendous moment. There was more than this and worse than this in Ireland. The title of the landlord was from conquest and confiscation, and to sustain an original wrong had required a system of legal discrimination and proscription, of which the judicious Hallam says: "To have exterminated the Catholics by the sword, or expelled them like the Moriscoes of Spain, would have been little more repugnant to justice and humanity, but incomparably more politic."37
It is thus that Macaulay describes the relations of the Saxon and the Celtic inhabitants of Ireland in 1685: "On the same soil dwelt two populations locally intermixed, morally and politically sundered. The difference of religion was by no means the only difference, or even the chief difference. They sprang from different stocks; they spoke different languages. They had different national characters, as strongly opposed as any two national characters in Europe. They were in widely different stages of civilization. Between two such populations there could be little sympathy; and centuries of calamities and wrongs had generated a strong antipathy. The relation in which the minority stood to the majority resembled the relation in which the followers of William the Conqueror stood to the Saxon churls, or the relation in which the followers of Cortes stood to the Indians of Mexico."38
This truly is a state of things in which we might look with confidence to find the law of supply and demand "inexorable," and so, in these circumstances, it proved. The improvidence and ignorance of the peasantry concurring, rents were advanced by the acquisitive and aggressive passion of the land-holding class, unchecked by public sentiment or generally by individual kindness, until Lord Devon's commission, in 1844, found that in numerous cases the nominal rent of land was greater than the money value of the annual produce, the tenant being kept thereby perpetually in debt to the landlord, whose interest it became to allow him, thus involved, to remain upon the soil.39
Now, I desire not to disparage the influence of other causes in bringing about this result, but I can not think that the history of the land in Ireland would have been what we know it was, had the landlord and tenant classes constituted one proper population, with ties of a common speech, faith, and blood, having equal rights before the law, and with those kindly feelings which, for all that is evil in us, are more natural between men and classes of men, than distrust and dislike. And even with such a miserable relation as existed between the two classes of the Irish population, I, for one, do not believe that such a miserable result would have been possible, had not so large a portion of the land-owners been absentees,40 conducting their exactions through agents selected and rewarded for their success in wringing money from the soil, seeing and hearing nothing of the wretchedness they caused, and drowning all misgivings in the revelry of foreign capitals.
Time would fail to trace the course of that improvement in the condition of the people which, by general admission, has taken place in Ireland since 1850. Here, again, I desire not to disparage the influence of other causes, but I can not doubt that some part of the beneficial result observed has been due, first, to the great liberalizing and ameliorating movement throughout the kingdom, which threw down so many of the old hateful distinctions of faith and class; a movement in which the reform of the criminal code, Catholic emancipation, the suffrage act of 1832, the repeal of the penal acts against Jews and Dissenters, and the abolition of the corn-laws—each was at once effect and cause of new effects; a movement which was felt latest in Ireland because Ireland had been so widely and deeply sundered in interest and feeling; and, secondly, to the remorse and shame and pity which were awakened by the disclosures of Lord Devon's commission, followed close by that horrible and sickening demonstration, the Famine of 1846-7, which brought home to every man and woman in the United Kingdom, in images never to fade from view, the wrongs and miseries of Ireland. If the peasantry of the Green Isle are better off to-day than a generation ago, it is due, not alone to the general industrial advances of the intervening period, or to the migration of surplus labor, if, indeed, that labor was ever truly in excess, but also, and in no small part, to the happy change which has passed over the moral relations of landlord and tenant.
If, then, after so brief a survey we find public opinion operating thus powerfully in the department of Rent, are we not justified in the assertion that it must also be operative in some degree in Wages?
I do not, be it observed, claim that wages can be enhanced by any but economical causes; I merely assert that respect for labor and sympathy with the body of laborers, on the part of the general community, constitute an economical cause, in just so far as they strengthen the laborer in his pursuit of his own interest, thus making competition on his part more effective, and in just so far as they take something from the severity with which the employer insists upon his immediate interest, thus reducing the force of competition on that side, making it more nearly equal to that which the laborer, poor, fearful, and ignorant, may be able to oppose.
It is in the partial failure of the condition on which I have here dwelt so much at length that we find one important cause of the inadequate wages of women.
But first as to the fact of wages inadequate to the service performed. Nothing is more common than the assertion, in print, that women are paid but one half or one third as much as men for performing the same work. Such assertions are generally based on a misconception of the actual constitution of industrial society. Because a woman working in a woollen factory receives but twelve shillings a week while a man gets twenty-four, it can not properly be said that the latter receives twice as much for doing the same work, since the work done in a factory is of many kinds, making very different demands upon the operatives in the respects of strength, skill, and intelligence, and hence justly remunerated at very different rates, from threepence a day, it may be, to as many shillings. And if we inquire, we shall find that women in a woollen factory are in fact rarely engaged upon the same kind of work as the men. Thus in an account of the organization of a representative establishment given in the Statistical Journal, where the number and sex of the operatives of each class are stated, and the wages paid to each, I note that all the hand-loom weavers are men, all the power-loom weavers women. And I also note what is significant, that the wages of the men employed as handloom weavers are much nearer women's wages than the wages of the men employed in any other department of the factory.
In the same way, in his history of the cotton manufacture, published a generation ago, Mr. Baines stated that large departments were then entirely given up to women and children. Now, clearly, as Mr. Baines remarks, "that which is only a child's labor can be remunerated only by a child's wages." We have seen that the employer can not pay in wages more than he may fairly look to get back in the price of his products. Hence the fact that a woman may require more to subsist upon than a twelve-year-old boy affords no economical reason why she should receive more wages if she only does the same kind of work.
But even though women performed the same kind of work as men, receiving therefor wages less than men, it would not follow, as of course, that their wages were inadequate to their service. The differences existing in respect to the efficiency of labor, both on the side of work and on the side of waste, have been seen (Chapter III.) to be very great as between laborers actually employed in the same operation. Hence it might be true that a man and a woman working at the same table, upon the same material, with the same implements, or laboring side by side in the fields,41 should receive wages in very different amounts, and yet their respective services be most exactly recompensed.
Now, there are reasons, some of a social and some of a physiological nature, for the services of women, as a body, being in a degree less desirable to employers than those of men. The physiological reasons have been well stated by Dr. Ames in his recent book, Sex in Industry. These are sufficient totally to debar women from many occupations, and greatly to reduce their efficiency in others.42 Among social reasons we may adduce the generally less practical education which girls receive as compared with that given to boys, and the almost universal expectation of domesticity which is inherent and ineradicable in the constitution of woman, interfering not only with her preparation for active pursuits, but also with her prosecution of them, because it reduces the singleness of purpose and interest with which her duties are discharged, and depreciates in the eyes of her employer, and justly so, the value of services which may abruptly be terminated by marriage. Nor are these industrial disabilities to be wholly cured by any cause that shall not disrupt and destroy society. Just so long as girls grow up in the belief that their mission is not to work in a shop, but to adorn a home, their education will take shape accordingly. Parents and school-boards may lay out courses of study with never so much of utilitarian intention, the mind of the girl will secrete sweetness and grace from whatever food is offered it. And just so long as the same tender illusion lasts—and we know it will outlast much bitter experience—woman will serve distraite, if not unhappy, as one who has a name she has not yet taken, a city to which she has not come. If a man marries, he as a rule becomes a better and more stable workman on that account. If a woman marries, it is most probable that she will leave her employment; it is almost certain that if she remains she will be a less desirable laborer than before. This expectation of domesticity is always likely to exist with greater or less force in the female mind, and will inevitably, wherever it exists, reduce the efficiency of female labor.
Yet though there is thus much misapprehension of the relation between the wages of women and those of men, there can, I think, be no question that the wages of the former43 are in a degree inadequate to the service rendered, after due allowance for all differences of amount and quality. If there be such inadequacy, the sole cause must, as we have seen (Chapter X.), be found in the failure of competition.
Inasmuch as the failure of competition comes mainly through the immobility of labor, let us inquire whether female labor is under any exceptional disabilities in respect to movement.
In the first place, it needs to be observed that women have far more occasion, relatively, to move to the labor-market than men, and have need, therefore, to be far more mobile and active. This is due to the fact that the industries for which women are physiologically suited are highly localized. Wherever there is population, there are women who feel the necessity of working outside their own families for subsistence: yet the opportunities for their employment in mechanical work are found only here and there. Thus, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, we find that there were in 187044 29,139 men employed in mechanical labor, and but 1723 women; in Erie County, New-York, 11,357 men and but 960 women; in Wayne County, Michigan, 11,543 men and but 1454 women; in St. Louis County, Missouri, 32,484 men and but 3455 women; in Cook County, Illinois, 24,705 men and but 4652 women; in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, 8698 men and but 791 women. On the other hand, there were 5887 women employed in Hillsborough County, New-Hampshire, against 7627 men; in Androscoggin and York Counties, Maine, respectively 4045 and 4512 women against 3908 and 3689 men. These are only given as instances to show how irregularly and how rarely at the best, the opportunities for the employment of women in mechanical industry occur. An examination of the statistics of industry in the United States discloses that of the women employed in mechanical pursuits, fortytwo per cent are found in only seven counties, comprising but seven per cent of the population of the country.
While women have thus far more occasion relatively to move to their market than men, we find them disabled therefrom, in a great measure, by physical weakness, by timidity, and by those liabilities to misconstruction, insult, and outrage which arise out of their sexual characteristics. Having more need than men to be free to move from place to place, they have far less ability to do so. It must be remembered that it is not a question merely of taking a journey from home to a place where a "situation" has already been engaged, but, it may be, of seeking out employment from street to street, and from shop to shop, by repeated inquiries, and often through much urgency and persistency of application. This is what men have to do to "get a place," often going into doubtful localities, freely encountering strangers, and sleeping in casual company. These, with men, are among the conditions of the mobility of labor which not only secures employment for the individual applicant, but relieves the pressure upon the market elsewhere, and oftentimes prevents that painful or fatal "congestion of labor" which breaks down wages, crushes the hopefulness and self-respect of the operative class, and engenders habits of laboring and living which it may take long, even under favorable conditions, to wear out of the industrial body.
To state these conditions is to show some of the disadvantages under which women have labored in the past from their natural indisposition and disqualification to encounter strangers and make terms for themselves. I would not seek to idealize the sex in dealing with so plain and practical a matter. No one who has had to do with book-agents of both sexes would unhesitatingly award the palm for persistency and assurance to the man; while it is proverbial that female venders of fish, in all countries and ages, have succeeded so far in overcoming their native meekness and bashfulness as to qualify them fully to hold their own whether in a bargain or in a wrangle. Nor would it be just to speak of female labor anywhere as if it were absolutely immobile. Country girls have always gone to the city to find employment in shops and stores; while the cotton factories and the boot and shoe shops of Massachusetts and Rhode Island have always been filled with women from the rural parts of New-England and even from the British Provinces.
Yet, after all allowances that require to be made, it remains true that while, from the specialization and localization of the industries in which female labor is employed, women have far more occasion than men to keep themselves free to seek their own market, they are in fact, from many causes, under serious disabilities in respect to movement from place to place,45 with all which that implies for females poor and unprotected, and, it may be, also ignorant and fearful.
While much of this disqualification of woman for seeking the labor-market arises out of her physiological conditions, and is not to be cured by law or opinion, it is also true that no inconsiderable part has been due, in the past, to a lack of respect and sympathy for her in her capacity as a laborer, if not to positive prejudice and even to actual physical obstruction46 offered to her industrial movements. Of the insults and violence not infrequently offered to women seeking employment in departments of industry which men have chosen to regard as exclusively their own, it is not necessary to speak. Women scarcely need this to restrain them from pursuing their economical interests. Intensely sensitive to opinion,47 they shrink from the faintest utterances of blame; while coldness and indifference alone are often sufficient to repress their impulses to activity.
This unfortunate result—namely, a public opinion unfavorable, or less favorable than is desirable, to the extension of female labor—is doubtless due in some part to the comparative newness of the occasion which women have to enter the general market of labor, from which it results that their entrance is not unnaturally greeted by the body of male laborers interested therein as an intrusion threatening a reduction of their own wages, while the outside community, though disinterested, remains indifferent, not having been educated up to the point of giving women a warm and strong moral support in their efforts to find employment, and of providing adequate protection to them in the casual and often rude encounters which the search for employment may involve.
The necessity for the employment of women in wagelabor not agricultural, in any thing like the extent which exists at present, dates from the decay of the system of domestic manufactures which followed the extensive introduction of machinery in the latter part of the eighteenth century. "The original artisans," says Mr. Mill, "were either slaves or the women of the family."48 It was the women who wove and spun, fashioned and sewed, the garments, the blankets, and the nets of our ancestors. It is true we occasionally find record of women earning wages in other occupations.49 Prof. Rogers has pointed out that, in the fourteenth century, the thatcher's help, or "homo," was generally a woman.50 But, speaking broadly, there was, until the inventions of Watt, Hargreaves, and Arkwright antiquated the distaff and the spinning-wheel, work enough within the house for all the women of the family if we except the harvest season, when agriculture was, as it is to-day in Europe, the occupation, and in Russia the equal occupation, of both sexes.51
But no longer can the wife and daughter, in a family where children must needs go mainly uncared for, and housekeeping becomes reduced to the minimum by the scantiness at once of space and of food, do their equal share, or at any rate seem to do their equal share, in the support of the household, within the house. All which now enters into domestic consumption must come in from without; and so wife and daughter must, or think they must, go out and bring in a part of it. At the same time the extension of water and steam-power has made the labor of women useful in a thousand operations for which their strength was formerly inadequate.52 This it is which has driven women into the labor-market. In families where bread comes hardly, the services of the house are foregone, and wife and daughter, no longer working as of old for the head of the house, go out to seek strange employers and be jostled in public places. Shame on the man, if he be man, who will not gladly give them room!
Coincidently with this great industrial change, involving the necessity of wives and daughters contributing by wage labor to the support of the family, have occurred social changes, of scarcely less importance, which have resulted in a steady increase in the proportion53 of women who are wholly dependent on themselves for maintenance. What these social changes are I need not point out; the result itself is patent, palpable, and needs no proof.
I have spoken of wife and daughter entering the market of wage labor, as a necessity resulting from the social and industrial changes indicated. And so, in a melancholy proportion of cases, it is. Yet there can be little doubt that it is sometimes accepted as a necessity where more courage and patience and a broader view of self-interest would prove that this might be avoided; and in such a case it would often be truer economy to forego wages to be earned at the expense of leaving the house uncared for. "I find," says Mr. Fraser, Assistant Commissioner on the Employment of Women and Children in Agriculture, "that in my own parish, in Berkshire, the women have a sort of proverb that 'there's only four-pence a year difference between what she gets who goes out to work and what she gets who stays at home, and she who stays at home wins it.'"54
With something of exaggeration there is, no doubt, much of truth in this proverb of the Berkshire women. In the eagerness to increase the family income it is not sufficiently considered that, in the absence of the wife and mother, great loss must necessarily be sustained in the expenditure of that income; and secondly, that the ill-effects on the health of the family, on the duration of the laboring power, and on the moral elements of industry may be sufficient in many cases to offset the nominal gain achieved by stripping the house of its service and depriving the household of their proper care. The failure to appreciate that a penny saved is a penny earned, lies at the bottom of many a far-reaching mistake in domestic life as in productive industry. Waste in food, clothing, and utensils; waste in laboring force through ill-prepared and ill-preserved food; waste of the vital endowment of the rising generation through lack of that constant care which is the essential condition of well-being in childhood; waste of character and the formation of indolent and vicious habits through neglect to instruct and train the young, and through making the house cheerless and distasteful to the mature: the waste in these and many other forms which the entry of the wife and daughter on wage labor necessarily implies, in greater or less degree, will surely balance the addition of many shillings a week to the family income.55
Yet, after all, there is an increasing multitude of women who, through having no house to keep, or through the straitness of the family means, have no choice but to enter the mill or the shop, and submit to the rude hustlings of the market-place—and room has not been made for them.
It may sound strangely that even in the United States, where it is of general consent that women are treated with higher relative consideration than in any other country in the world, respect and sympathy for them are wanting in such a degree as to deprive them of any part of their equitable wages. I speak, however, of respect and sympathy for women as laborers. In their "sphere," to use the phrase which so exasperates the advocates of suffrage without regard to sex, women have always received homage and service, but as wage-laborers in the public market they have suffered not a little in the past. This has not been from want of chivalry, but from defects of education. The need that woman is coming to have, in modern life, to enter the competitions of industry, has not become sufficiently familiar to the public mind; the idea has been strange, her image in such garb unwelcome.56 That public opinion which should open to her avenues of employment; which should be a strong support to her in her demands for fair remuneration; which should be a defence to her in her close pursuit of employment, in her urgent and persistent application for work, in her necessary exposure to gaze and comment, and in her contact with much that is strange and rude, has not yet been created in such a degree as to give to the sex all that freedom of industrial movement which might be consistent with feminine purity and delicacy. We have not yet come to appreciate the obligation which their necessity imposes upon us, as men and gentlemen, to follow them with our earnest, active sympathy, and to protect and champion them not less in their labor than at dance or festival.
And what is the remedy? Agitation and the diffusion of correct ideas. Let gifted women continue, as in the past, to appeal for public respect and sympathy for their sisters in their work; let the schools teach that public opinion may powerfully affect wages, and that nothing which depends on human volition is "inexorable;" let the statistics of women's wages be carefully gathered and persistently held up to view. Efforts like these will not fail to strengthen and support woman in her resort to market, thus enabling her the better to realize the condition upon which alone she can expect to receive the highest wages which the existing state of industry will allow.
Part II, Chapter XIX
MAY ANY ADVANTAGE BE ACQUIRED BY THE WAGES CLASS
THROUGH STRIKES OR TRADES-UNIONS?
IT was seen in our analysis of the operation of competition (Chapter X.) that the members of the wages class on their side, and the members of the employing class on theirs, act singly, each for himself, with individual spontaneity; and that out of this complete mobility of the individual, in subjection only to his own sense of his own interest, issue the highest conceivable industrial order and an absolutely right division of burdens and diffusion of benefits.
The question in the present chapter is, whether, there being an acknowledged failure of competition, greater or less, on the side of the wages class, from ignorance, inertia, poverty, or the undue anxiety of individuals to snatch, each for himself, at the first employment offered, any thing can be added to the real power of this class in competition, through restraints voluntarily adopted. The perfect reasonableness of supposing that some advantage might be derived by the wages class from such arrangements, will be seen if we compare their situation with that of an audience seeking to escape from a crowded theatre which has taken fire. There may be time enough to allow the safe discharge of every soul, and in that case the individual interest of each person clearly coincides with the interest of the audience taken collectively—namely, that he should fall-in precisely according to his present situation relative to the common place of exit. Yet we know that, human nature being what it is, panic is likely to arise and a crazy rush ensue, each trying to get before his neighbor, with the certain result that the discharge of the whole mass will be impeded, and the strong probability that not a few will be trampled to death. If now, upon men in such a situation, discipline can be imposed, and the procedure which is for the interest alike of each and of all can be allowed to go forward steadily, swiftly, and surely under authoritative direction, a great deal of misery may be prevented. Discipline, restraint, create no force, but they may save much waste.
In just such a situation, say those who are the professed advocates of the "cause of labor," is the wages class in many if not in most communities. Grant that the true interest of each member consists with the interest of the whole, no one will assert that each man's interest, as he may understand it and be prepared to act on it, necessarily consists with the good of all. When industry slackens and employment becomes scarce, there is the same danger to the mass, from the headlong haste and greed of individuals, as in the case of the theatre just referred to. A mistaken sense of self-interest may even pervert competition from its true ends, and make its force destructive. If, then, it is urged, bodies of labor can be put under discipline so that they shall proceed in order and with temper, great injury may be averted: injury which once wrought may become permanent.
There is, surely, nothing unreasonable in this claim. Let us, therefore, without prejudice proceed to consider the agencies by which, under this plan, it is proposed to meet the infirmities of the laboring classes.
The issue is not whether joint action is superior to the individual action of persons enlightened as to their industrial interests, but whether joint action may not be better than the tumultuous action of a mass, each pursuing his individual interest with more or less of ignorance, fear, and passion.
The question of strikes has generally been disposed of by economists with a summary reference to the doctrine of the wage-fund. Strikes could not increase the wage-fund, therefore they could not enhance wages. If they should appear to raise the rate in any trade, this must be due either to a corresponding loss in the regularity of employment or to an equivalent loss, in regularity or in rate, by some other trade or trades occupying a position of economical disadvantage. Hence, strikes could not benefit the wages class. But we have rid ourselves of the incubus of the wage-fund; and the question of strikes is, therefore, with us an open question as yet. We have seen57 that the amount of wages received by the laborer may be insufficient to furnish the food necessary to his maximum efficiency, and that an increase of wages might, by increasing his laboring power, increase the product not only proportionally, but even more than proportionally, under-feeding, whether of men or cattle, being admittedly false economy. If a strike should enable a body of laborers to secure such an advance against the reluctance of their employers, it might easily turn out that the masters would not only not be injured, but would be benefited in the result. The same would be true of an advance of wages which allowed the workmen to obtain more light and warmth and better air in more commodious dwellings. The same might prove to be the case with an advance of wages which merely stimulated the social ambition of the workmen, the wages of labor being, in the language of Adam Smith, "the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives." The same would probably be the result, though after some delay, of an advance of wages which enabled workmen to send their children to school, thus bringing them into the mill or shop, a few years later, far more intelligent and physically more capable than if they had been put at work at seven or eight years of age. It might easily prove, according to the principles which have been laid down respecting the efficiency of labor, that such expenditures would be found to be the best investment which the employer ever made of the same amount of money, giving him industrial recruits of a much higher order.
I might multiply illustrations showing how an advance of wages which masters were unwilling to concede, and which workmen through their isolated and mutually jealous and suspicious action would be unable to command, if effected through united action might prove to be for the interest of both masters and men.
By others, again, the question of strikes is dismissed with the assertion that they generally fail of their objects. "Never, in any case," says Mr. R. W. Hopper, "has an extensive strike resulted in an advance of wages."58 To a request to act in a mediation between masters and men, Lord Cranworth replied, "In the game, so to say, of combination the workmen eventually fail."59 M. Théodore Fix, in his work Les Classes Ouvrières,60 writes: "After making vast sacrifices, the workmen almost invariably succumb."
Granting that this is so in the sense in which the terms are used—that is, that in the great majority of cases workmen making a demand and seeking to enforce it by a strike, are beaten, and, after the exhaustion of their resources, have to go to work again on their master's terms61 —is this quite conclusive of the whole question? The argument used against strikes is, it will be observed, much the same as that which was formerly employed by reactionary essayists, and even admitted with reluctance by many liberal writers, in proof of the failure of the French Revolution. The States-General had been succeeded by the Assembly; the Assembly by the Convention; the Convention by the Directory; the Directory had been turned out by the First Consul; the First Consul had been made Consul for life; the Consul had become Emperor; the Emperor had been driven from France; and after an interval of insolent foreign domination, a legitimate prince, unrestrained by a single constitutional check, untrammelled by a single pledge, led back priest and noble, unforgiving and unforgetting, to resume their interrupted license. There had been revolution after revolution; constitution after constitution; there had been proscriptions, confiscations, and massacres; there had been untold loss of blood and treasure; and in the end a king had returned who did not accept a constitution, but conferred a charter.
It is not an inspiring thought that arguments like these were for a whole human generation held sufficient to prove that the French Revolution was a mistake and a failure; for we know now that the Bourbons were restored only in seeming; that the restoration of the old régime was forever impossible. The king and the princes had indeed returned, the same race besotted with the vain conceit of divine right; they led back, indeed, the same train of priests and nobles, untaught and incapable of learning; but they came back, not to the same, but to another France. Is it not conceivable that those who look on the submission of a body of laborers after a strike as a proof that their entire effort has been fruitless, may commit the same mistake as those who looked on the return of Louis XVIII. as the restoration of the Bourbons? But perhaps another insurrection, political in form but industrial in origin, may even better illustrate this point. I refer to the rising of the peasantry of England in the reign of Richard II. "The rebellion," says Prof. Rogers,62 "was put down, but the demands of the villains were silently and effectually accorded; as they were masters for a week of the position, the dread of another servile war promoted the liberty of the serf."
Strikes are the insurrections of labor. Like insurrections in the political body, they are a purely destructive agency. There is no creative or healing virtue in them. Yet, as an insurrection may destroy political institutions which have outlived their usefulness, and have become first senseless and then pernicious, thus clearing the way for an after-work of harmonious construction, so a strike may have the effect to break up a crust of custom which has formed over the remuneration of a class of laborers, or to break through a combination of employers to withstand an advance of wages, where the isolated efforts of the individuals of the wages class, acting with imperfect knowledge and under a fear of personal proscription, would be wholly inadequate to accomplish those objects. But a strike can only justify itself by its results.63 Unless it is to make way for a better order, it is waste, and waste of the worse sort, since not only is a great loss of production incurred,64 but bad habits are likely to be formed in a period of enforced idleness, and bad blood certain to be generated by the contest.
Insurrections mark the first stages of the movement towards political freedom. Happy are the people who have got past insurrections, and can make their further progress "with even step and slow." Strikes are only of unquestionable utility in the first stages of the elevation of masses of labor long abused and deeply abased. Happy is the wages class when it has acquired that individual and mutual intelligence and that activity of industrial movement which put them beyond the necessity of such a brutal resort! Yet I can not conceive how one can look at the condition of the manufacturing operatives as they were left at the repeal of the iniquitous Combinations acts in 1824, and question that the early strikes in England were essential to the breaking up of the power of custom and of fear over the minds of the working classes, habituated to submission under the terror of laws now universally recognized as oppressive, unaccustomed to concerted action, illiterate, jealous, suspicious, tax-ridden, and poverty-stricken. What but some great struggle could have taught them the self-confidence and readiness for self-assertion which should overcome that fearful inertia? What else would have impressed the employing classes with a due respect for their laborers, or inspired that lively sense of the possible consequences of withstanding a just demand which is essential to competition in any true sense? "Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate."65 It is well enough for the peace of industrial society and the mutual understanding of all parties, that masters should be made to know that two can play at that game. There is nothing to quicken the sense of justice and equity like the consciousness that unjust and inequitable demands or acts are likely to be promptly and fearlessly resisted or resented.
LEGISLATION AGAINST STRIKES AND COMBINATIONS.
We have seen that by the Statute of Laborers in England, workmen were not allowed to ask or receive wages above a fixed amount, not even, on pain of imprisonment, to accept "meat, drink, or other courtesy" (25th Edward III.) in addition to the stipulated sum. It will readily be believed that combinations of workmen for increase of wages were not favored of the law. By statute of 2d and 3d Henry VI., it was premised that "artificers, handicraftsmen, and laborers have made confederacies and promises, and have sworn mutual oaths not only that they should not meddle one with another's work, and perform and finish that another hath begun, but also to constitute and appoint how much work they shall do in a day, and what hours and times they shall work;" and therefore it was enacted that "if any artificers, workmen, or laborers do conspire, covenant, or promise together, or make oaths that they shall not make or do their works but at a certain price and rate, or shall not enterprise or take upon them to finish that another had begun, or shall do but a certain work in a day, or shall not work but at certain hours and times," every person so offending should be visited in severe penalties, the punishment for the third offence being loss of ears and infamy. This statute was followed thick by others, so that the act of 1824 which exempts from criminal responsibility66 meetings and combinations for fixing wages and altering the hours of work, provided no violence, threats, intimidation, molestation, or obstruction be done or offered towards masters or other workmen, repeals, if I have rightly counted them, twenty-eight acts, representing the wisdom of Parliaments in the reigns of ten different kings or queens.
While the law of England thus, by direct inhibition, sought to reduce to the minimum competition for labor, no statute, so far as I have observed, made even the decent pretence of restraining masters from combinations, until the beginning of the present century. "We have no acts of Parliament against combining to lower the price of work,"67 said Adam Smith, "but many against combining to raise it." By statute of 40th George III. (c. 106), however, "all contracts, covenants, and agreements whatever, in writing or not in writing, made or to be made, by or between any masters or other persons, for reducing the wages of workmen, or adding to or altering the usual hours or time of working, or for increasing the quantity of work," were declared unlawful, under a penalty of £20.
This act is also specially noticeable for two provisions: one, that no master should act as justice of the peace for executing any of its provisions (sec. xvi.), a concession not yet made in respect to disputes between agricultural laborers and their employers; the other, that "whereas it will be a great convenience and advantage to masters and workmen engaged in manufactures that a cheap and summary mode be established for settling all disputes that may arise between them respecting wages and work," arbitrators should be appointed, under legal sanction, for determining the respective rights of the two parties in case of controversy. This last well-intentioned provision was, however, admitted by an act of four years later (44th George III., c. 87) to have failed of its purpose.
But in 1824 (5th George IV., c. 95) Parliament repealed all the statutes which prohibited combinations of workmen. In 1825 this measure was perfected (6th George IV., c. 129) under the lead of Huskisson, who announced the broad principle that "every man is entitled to carry that talent which nature has given him, and those acquirements which his diligence has obtained, to any market in which he is likely to obtain the highest remuneration."
In France, combinations of workmen for the purpose of influencing wages were prohibited with great severity by the Penal Code of 1810, which also punished, though with less severity, combinations of employers for the purpose of unjustly depressing wages. By the law of 1849 the penalties decreed against combinations of masters and of workmen were equalized. By the law of May 25th, 1864, combinations free from violence or show of violence were sanctioned. "Le point de depart de la loi," said M. Ollivier, who reported the bill, "est celui-ci: Liberté absolue des coalitions, repression rigoureuse de la violence et de la fraude."68 The act of 1864 did not fail of its purpose through being neglected by the working classes, who seemed to accept the permission to strike as a sort of legislative recommendation.
"There is scarcely a trade in France," said Mr. Ward, writing in 1868, "of which, during the last three years, the members have not combined for the purpose of increasing the rate of wages and diminishing the hours of labor, and their efforts to this end have usually met with success."69
In Belgium, strikes are freely resorted to, especially in Brussels,70 yet perhaps nowhere is the workman's industrial responsibility for the abuse of this power more direct and certain than in this kingdom, owing to its geographical position and its peculiar commercial relations.
From the Netherlands M. Locock reports: "Such a thing as a strike is here almost unknown. Once or twice, indeed, it has been attempted, but it met with little sympathy, and was speedily suppressed."71 The reason for the non-appearance of the strike movement in this kingdom is found in the fact that the provisions of the Penal Code of 1810 prohibitory of combinations (arts. 415 and 416), which we have seen were repealed in France by the law of 25th May, 1864, are still in force here.
Throughout North Germany liberty to combine was granted by articles 152 and 153 of the Industrial Code (Gewerbe-Ordnung72 ) of June 21st, 1869, and the same provisions have since been extended throughout the Empire: a vast change, whether we consider the extent of territory and of population affected, or the severity of the régime abolished by the Code of 1869.73
In Austria strikes are prohibited, and rarely occur. Ringleaders may, by the Code (art. 481), be punished with imprisonment, or expelled from the empire.
From Norway, H.B.M. Consul-General Crowe reports: "No instance is on record of any combination having occurred to coerce masters with the view to obtain higher wages."74
In Denmark, Mr. Strachey reports that strikes seldom occur. "In 1848 the printers struck and received an advance in wages; in 1865 the bricklayers and carpenters struck for ten days; in 1867 the carpenters again struck, with the result of an additional twopence per week for their trouble."75
In Italy, the Penal Code is stringently prohibitive of combinations and strikes, the penalty being three months' imprisonment to all participants, and six months' to ring-leaders.76 Strikes, however, occur in spite of the law. Mr. Ward gives a short list77 of them, some successful, some unsuccessful, some resulting in compromise. The more recent statements of Mr. Herries78 show no tendency to an increase in their number or severity.
In Russia, though there is no general organization of the laboring classes, Mr. Egerton79 reports: "Strikes are by no means unusual."
The expediency of trades-unions is usually discussed as if connected with the expediency of strikes so directly and intimately that a decision upon one would be conclusive in respect to the other. Thus, many persons, having proved to their own satisfaction that strikes have had a great agency in advancing wages, have assumed that the existence of trades-unions is thereby justified. Others, having demonstrated, as they think, the mischievous tendency of trades-unions,80 have carried their conclusions out against strikes as if there were a vital connection between the two systems. No such relation in principle exists. Strikes are, as has been said, of the nature of insurrection. Trades-unions are associations for facilitating insurrection, like secret political clubs, and the desirability of these may well be regarded as a different question. The virtue of an insurrection is that it comes because it must come—comes because evils have grown intolerable, and to destroy is better than to conserve. We may recognize the office of violence in breaking up an utterly outworn order and clearing the ground for a reorganization of society and industry, yet fail to recognize an advantage in making systematic provision, in advance, for the easy resort to violence. Doubtless we might say, not only that, of all successful insurrections, those have been most beneficent in their results which have broken forth unprepared, out of the indignant sense of wrongs suffered and of burdens borne past patience, but also that, as a rule, insurrections are more likely to be successful when in the main spontaneous. It is not meant that any popular rising was ever unpreceded by more or less of conference among the natural leaders of the injured classes. But I apprehend that those risings which have been most elaborately devised, and in which the machinery of insurrection has been most extensively employed, are generally those which have most signally and often ignominiously failed. There is a double reason for this: on the one hand, there is a concert in the common sense of injury which gives a wonderful instantaneousness to the action of outraged masses; on the other hand, there is often a singular impotence in conspiracy. But this is by the way. The comparison has been introduced only to enforce the thought that the proved expediency of strikes would not carry with it the expediency of the permanent organization of labor for the initiation and conduct of strikes. Being a destructive agency, these should never be resorted to except in a real and serious exigency which would, among any generous and manly class under a free government, furnish an organization for the occasion more vital and apt than any derived from a state of industrial peace.
But this assumes that the body of the working classes are at least tolerably intelligent, understanding their own interests and the conditions of their industry, having among them men of natural leadership, capable of uniting for a common cause, and of remaining firm and true to each other in enforcing their demands. It assumes, moreover, that a considerable proportion, at least, of these classes have something in the way of accumulations from past industry, and, as a consequence of this, have also a certain degree of credit with the trading class. But if, as is the melancholy fact in many countries of Europe, the body of laborers are found in a condition, no matter how induced, of dense ignorance, unaccustomed to the communication of thought, and to association for political or other purposes, with only here and there a laborer so fortunate or so wise as to have saved any thing from the avails of past labor: then doubtless they must be long drilled to subordination and concert of action in associations permanently maintained, and the funds requisite for the initiation and conduct of strikes must be accumulated in advance by the painful exactions of "the society" out of scant weekly earnings.
And it will be among the infelicities of such a situation, that these organizations will be dragged into strikes founded on demands which can not be maintained, which ignorance or passion on the part of the members—it may be of a bare majority only—or meddlesomeness and arrogance on the part of officers and managers, have caused to be put forward without due consideration of the state of the market or the equities of distribution: demands which, by reason of their offensiveness or their extravagance, masters would not, without terrible punishment, concede if they could, and perchance could not if they would concede without ultimately checking production and diminishing employment. Such demands workmen would be much less likely to make if they had to combine especially for the purpose. The reason of the case would have to be shown very clearly to overcome the doubts of the cautious or the more experienced. There would be deliberation, the weighing of the cause, and the counting of the cost. But where a discipline approaching military perfection has already been established, where authority has been erected, and men have come, more or less voluntarily, but most explicitly, under obligation to obey the decrees of that authority, action upon claims of doubtful legality or expediency is likely to be prompt and peremptory.
I have thus far spoken of trades-unions as if they were maintained only for the purpose of initiating and conducting strikes, for increase of wages or reduction in the hours of labor. Trades-unions do, however, perform three other offices: first, as friendly societies; secondly, as sequestering trades and limiting their membership; thirdly, in legislating upon the methods of industry.
Of trades-unions as friendly societies insuring their members against the contingencies of sickness, loss of tools, involuntary loss of employment, or providing the rites of burial and a pension to the widow or to dependent children,81 it is not needful to speak here at any length. A controversial advantage might be taken, by one inimically disposed, of the fact, brought so startlingly to light by recent actuarial inquiry, that nearly all the friendly societies of Great Britain have been conducting their business on an unsound basis, and that, in consequence, they have involved themselves in obligations which their realized and anticipated funds will be inadequate to meet;1 but it ought, in fairness, to be remembered, in extenuation, that the British Government was in 1819 discovered, by Mr. Finlaison, to have been for twelve years doing quite as foolish a thing in the sale of its annuities.82 The friendly societies have, so far as appears, shown every disposition to correct an error which it has taken the actuaries of England some time to discover.
Of the advantages of making the trade the unit of life and health insurance, much could be said. Only two points need be mentioned: first, it affords the very perfection of advertisement and agency. This is the weak point of life insurance as it exists outside of natural associations, like trades and professions. The report of the Insurance Commissioners of Massachusetts for 1870 shows that, of the companies doing business in that State, seventeen per cent of the gross receipts went to expenses; and of this, ten and a half per cent went in commissions to agents. But this is not all. Even agencies sustained at such an expense fail to give the system of life insurance any thing like the extension which its economical advantages deserve, while among the working classes who especially need insurance, since calamities with them cut so deep into the quick and work such lasting injury, the ordinary sort of life insurance performs scarcely an appreciable office. But a friendly society, confined to a particular trade, having a natural constituency more or less bound together by personal acquaintance and common interests, and actually managed by its contributors, furnishes, as has been said, the very perfection of advertisement and agency. Secondly, to make the trade the unit of life and health insurance, affords the most equitable rule of contribution. Wide differences exist as to the healthfulness and longevity of occupations, as has been shown by some instances previously cited.83 In the friendly society men who belong to long-lived and healthy trades, and whose money wages are perhaps considerably reduced in consequence thereof, are not obliged to pay for the sickness and the premature mortality of members of other trades, who are perhaps paid much higher rates, in compensation for the dangers and hardships of their work.
But of trades-unions as friendly societies it is enough here to say that these humane and useful provisions can be better accomplished by associations which do not assume or attempt to legislate on the methods of industry, or to dictate terms to employers, than by societies which are liaable at any time to be dragged into protracted and exhausting contests, and compelled to expend in industrial warfare the funds long and painfully gathered against the providential necessities of labor. The trade-clubs of Denmark and the Netherlands and the "artels" of Russia are examples of friendly societies which avoid this dangerous confusion of functions. The distinction between trade-societies and benefit-societies is also very strongly marked in Prussia. In 1860 the relief-societies amounted to 3644, with an aggregate membership of 427,190 and an annual income of nearly one million dollars.84
In France these societies are, under the decree of 1852, classified as "approved" or "authorized." The total number in 1867 was 5829, of which 4127 were approved and 1702 authorized. Those which are approved conform to the requirements of the statutes, and enjoy certain privileges in consequence. The funds of the societies at the close of 1867 amounted to forty-six millions of francs, the annual receipts rising to fourteen millions. Members had received sick-allowances during that year to the extent of 3,998,216 days. The total membership of both classes of societies reached 750,590, of whom 120,387 were women.85
In Denmark, Mr. Strachey reports not more than one workman in fifteen, or at the outside one in ten, as subscribing to sick-clubs.86 In Italy, Mr. Herries reports about 600 friendly societies, with a membership not ascertained.87 In Russia the only species of friendly societies existing is the "artel," a small club rarely of more than thirty or forty members, more often of but ten to twenty.88
It is in Great Britain that we find friendly societies most widely spread and taking deepest root among the working classes. The Commissioners in their Fourth Report (1874) estimate that in England and Wales there are 32,000 such societies, with an aggregate of four million members and an accumulation of funds in hand in excess of fifty-five millions of dollars. They add an estimate that these societies save to the poor-rates ten million dollars a year.89
But, secondly, besides the offices already indicated, trades-unions effect the object, whether desirable or not, of sequestering90 their respective trades, reducing the accessions by apprenticeship to the minimum, and practically prohibiting all accessions to their number, after the first general muster, except through the door of apprenticeship, thereby strictly limiting the number of workmen in each occupation and keeping the price of their services artificially high.
By what means the constant warfare upon non-society men is carried on; by what arguments and appliances able workmen are convinced that it would be for their interest to enter these close labor-corporations; to what shifts the excluded are put for employment in the presence of powerful societies, proscribing them and all who shall employ them, or on what terms of humiliation they are at times tolerated, it is not my purpose to speak in detail here. To the objection that, by the organization of such close industrial corporations, the great body of laborers are, in a degree, shut out from the benefits of employment, while the enhanced prices of labor, thus protected from competition, are in a great measure paid by the unprotected wage-laborers, whose condition is rendered only the more miserable, the advocates of trades-unions make in substance these answers:
First, that without such restrictions the increase of uninstructed and un-provided labor would cause every trade to be overrun in turn, the wages in each being slowly but surely brought down, and the whole body of workmen degraded to the lowest level of mere animal subsistence; that nearly all the trades in England were in that condition when the unions undertook the work of restriction; that for those trades which are now happily rescued from such a condition and lifted to a position of industrial independence, to remove their barriers out of sympathy with the general mass of labor and admit all freely into competition, would afford but the briefest relief, inasmuch as the improvidence of the ignorant, weak, and vicious would soon fill the space thus opened with just as hungry and wretched a crowd as now surges outside the barriers, and the sole effect would thus be to ruin the privileged trades without helping their less fortunate brethren, as a drowning man catches and drags down one who might swim and save himself.
Secondly, that instead of the associated trades throwing themselves thus away in a delusive Quixotism, they do in effect accomplish a much better result for the less skilled laborers by maintaining a high standard of work and wages, and by acting, in their strong estate, as a bulwark against the invasions of "capital," affording example and opportunity to all inferior bodies of labor to associate and govern themselves by similar methods.
Thirdly (what has been intimated above), that there is really no limit to the principle of association among wage-laborers, and no reason, in the nature of the case, why every branch of industry, even to the day-laboring class, should not be protected by similar organizations and regulations. The recent extension of agricultural unions among the scattered farm-laborers of England is pointed to with not a little force as proving the adaptation of the system of industrial federation to conditions the least favorable. When, then, it is said all industries are thus organized and established, none will be at advantage or disadvantage relatively to another, but all will be at an advantage with respect to the employing class. Meanwhile the result of universal federation would not be hastened but retarded by our relaxing our restrictions and abandoning the good principle. It is wholesome rigor which we exercise; our measures seem selfish, and indeed they are taken with consideration only of our own interests, but the results are sure to favor the whole cause of labor.
In each and all these claims there is enough of truth to entitle them to somewhat more respectful treatment than has been accorded them. The student of history recognizes that the ancient guilds of which the trades-unions are the indirect successors performed a high office in their time.91 Selfish as were the aims and proscriptive as were the methods of the guild, it had yet its part to play in the strife of the people against king and priest and noble; and it played that part, on the whole, well. Selfish and proscriptive as the modern trade-union has been, it has curbed the authority of the employing class which sought to domineer not in their own proper strength, but through a cruel advantage given them by class legislation, by sanitary maladministration, and by laws debarring the people in effect from access to the soil. My difference with such defenders of trades-unions as Mr. Thornton is merely as to the time when these should be put away as an outgrown thing. I find no ground for expecting any benefit to the wages class as a whole, from restricting the access to professions and trades in any country where education is general, where trade is free, where there is a popular tenure of the soil, and where full civil rights, with some measure of political franchises, are accorded to workingmen.
But it is as associations for legislating respecting the methods and courses of industry, that trades-unions acquire their highest importance.
Strong as the passion of meddling is in all political communities, it appears nowhere so strong as in organizations of workingmen; mischievous as have been the restrictions upon trade and industry, imposed in the past by governments, it would be difficult to match some of the latest trades-union edicts out of the statutes of Edward III. and Richard II.
The Reports of the British Commissioners (Sir William Erle, chairman) of 1867 show that there were in force among trades-unions rules like the following, to be enforced, wherever the unions should find themselves strong enough, by fines levied on the masters, or by strikes:
Prohibiting a man from employing his own brother or son, or even from laboring with his own hands at his own work, unless duly admitted to membership of the proper trade society.
Prohibiting a workman to work out of his trade, so that a mason may not, for the shortest time, do the least part of the work of a bricklayer, or a bricklayer undertake the smallest casual patch of plastering or of stone-laying, or a carpenter finish a remnant of bricklayer's or mason's work, and if called in to fit a door or set a post, he may not, if he find the space accidentally left too small, remove so much as one loose brick, but must wait for the appropriate artisan to be summoned.
Prohibiting a workman, where an assistant is usually required, to be his own assistant, for never so small a job or short a time, so that a plasterer, called to a piece of work where an assistant would not be actively employed for one eighth of the time, must still come attended by his "homo," who, if he can not be kept usefully busy, will, for the good of the craft, remain dignifiedly lazy during the whole operation.
Prohibiting any one to be known as an exceptionally good workman in his trade; against walking fast to the place of work when in the employer's time; against carrying more than a certain load, as eight brick at a time in Leeds, ten brick in London, or twelve brick in Liverpool.
Prohibiting use to be made or advantage taken of natural agents, of improved machinery, or of special local facilities. Thus we have regulations against brick being wheeled in a barrow instead of being carried in a hod, for no other reason alleged than that brick can be wheeled more easily than carried; against brick being made by machinery or stone dressed by machinery, so that inventions of vast capability remain almost unused in England; against stone being dressed, even by hand, at the quarry where it is soft and can be easily worked.
Prohibiting with more than Chinese intolerance the use within small districts, arbitrarily circumscribed, of material produced outside, so that brick can not be carried into Manchester from brickyards distant only four miles without the certainty of a strike; prohibiting an employer from taking a job outside the place of his own residence, unless he shall take with him at least one half the workmen to be employed; prohibiting members to "work for any gentleman, at any job whatever, who finds his own materials or does not employ a regular master in the trade to find the same;" and, finally, making war at every stage upon "piece-work."
It is not to be understood that any one society has adopted all these rules, or that all societies have adopted any one of them; but, to a very great extent, rules like those recited, and many others quite as minutely restrictive, are enforced by the whole striking-power of the trade.
All such regulations and restrictions must clearly be judged by the principle which has been applied to State legislation on similar subjects. If they can be shown, beyond any reasonable doubt, to be correspondent to human infirmities in such a way that labor, on the whole and in the long run, has actually a freer resort to its best market by reason of them, then they stand justified on economical grounds. But if they are not thus required to correct liabilities which threaten the mobility of labor, they must be pronounced as mischievous as they are irritating and insulting. And this liability and strong proclivity of associations of workingmen to intermeddle and dictate concerning the methods and courses of industry must be accepted as a valid, practical argument from human nature against trades-unions.
[1.]"L'économie politique que j'appellerais volontiers orthodoxe... semblait être définitivement constituée, Comme l'église de Rome, elle avait son Credo."—E. de Laveleye, Revue des Deux Mondes, July 15 1875.
[2.]See p. 143.
[3.]"Certes, le partage des produits du travail est digne de toute la sollicitude de quiconque a de l'intelligence et du cœur. Cependant, elle est moins urgente à discuter, et pratiquement elle sera bien moins embarrassante que celle de l'accroisement harmonique et régulier de la production."—Troisième discours d'Ouverture du cours de l'année, 1841-2.
[4.]Let me not seem, by omission, to do injustice. Many of the writers of this school have recognized, in the fullest manner, not only the moral and social, but also the industrial, advantages of education and political freedom, in increasing the productive power of the workman; but for the distribution of wealth, they hold strictly economical forces to be sufficient.
[5.]No man can buy anything, unless at the same time, he sells something; else he does not buy the thing he gets; it is given to him. When a man buys a pound of meat he sells a shilling, more or less. The butcher may say, I will send home the meat now, and you may hand in the shilling at the end of the week, or of the month; but the credit given does not alter the substantial relations of the parties to the transaction.
[6.]We here assume the industrial quality of all laborers to be the same, and all employers to stand on the same footing as regards business capacity and credit.
[7.]"Every scene of competition is called a market."—F. W. Newman, Lectures on Pol. Econ., p. 5.
[8.]"For this class (the prolétaires) as for all, the operation of competition is two-fold. They feel it both as buyers, and as sellers of services."—Bastiat, "Harmonies of Pol. Econ.," p. 280. Doubtless; but do they feel it equally, in their two capacities? For what Prof. Cairnes calls "the excessive friction" of retail trade, see p. 313-5.
[9.]Le point de départ des Katheder-socialisten est entiérement différent de celui des économistes orthodoxes, qu'ils designent sous le nom de Manchester-thum, on secte de Manchester, parce que c'est en effet, l'ecole des libres échangistes qui a exposé avec plus de logique les dogmes du Credo ancien."—Laveleye.—Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 July, 1875.
[10.]See this term defined and truck practices described, pp. 324-42.
[11.]Fawcett, Speeches, p. 130.
[12.]The Factory Act of 1844 was passed against the opposition of the majority of English economists in Parliament and out.
[13.]Essays in Pol. Econ. p. 251.
[14.]The mobility of labor forms the subject of Chap. XI.
[15.]Charles Lamb—Essays of Elis.
[16.]Essays in Pol. Econ., p. 246.
[17.]Count Rumford's Essays contain much interesting matter in illustration of the losses which the working classes suffer in the domestic use of what they have purchased, from the want of simple and elementary apparatus for cooking, storing, etc.
[18.]Thus, I cannot hesitate to assent to the opinion of M. Say, that the breaking down of all the fraternities in Paris, after the Revolution of 1830, and the sudden rush, without order or discretion, of a mob of labor into trades immemorially restricted, was the cause of great disaster in 1831; that it would have been better, both for the trades and for the mass of outside labor, had the barriers been removed more gradually.
[19.]"Employment of children in factories," p. 15. Mr. Horner, who was government inspector of factories, states that in the lace mills of Nottingham, children, 9 to 15 years of age, were frequently employed 20 hours on a stretch, from 4 A.M. to 12 at night. [p. 14.] He quotes a witness who testified that "being frequently detained in his counting-house late at night, till 12 or 1 o'clock, he has often, in going home, in the depth of winter, met mothers taking their children to the neighboring print-works, the children crying." [p. 123.]
Dr. Villermé, in his memorable report to the French Academy used the following language in writing of the factory laborers of Alsace: "The rents in the manufacturing towns and villages immediately adjoining, are so high that they are often obliged to live at the distance of a league and even a league and a half. The poor children, many of whom are scarcely seven years old, and some even younger, have to take from their sleep and their meal-hours, whatever is required to traverse that long and weary road, in the morning to get to the factory, in the evening to get home.... To judge how excessive is the labor of children in the factories, one has only to recollect that it is unlawful to employ galley-slaves more than 12 hours a day, and these 12 must be broken by two hours for meals, reducing the actual labor to ten hours a day; while the young people of whom I speak have to toil 13 hours, and sometimes 13½, independent of their meal times."
[20.]"So understood, I hold it to be a pretentious sophism, destitute of foundation in nature and fact, and rapidly becoming an obstruction and nuisance in public affairs."—J. E. Cairnes' Essays in Pol. Econ., p. 252.
[21.]In England, the absence of a system of registering titles has burdened the transfer of estates most oppressively.
[22.]"L'économie politique s'appuie sur les memes principes que le politique."—8th Discours d'ouverture de l'année, 1847-8.
[23.]"It is one thing to repudiate the scientific authority of laissez faire, freedom of contract, and so forth: it is a totally different thing to set up the opposite principle of state control, the doctrine of paternal government. For my part, I accept neither one doctrine nor the other, and, as a practical rule, I hold laissez faire to be incomparably the safer guide. Only let us remember that it is a practical rule, and not a doctrine of science; a rule in the main sound, but, like most other sound practical rules, liable to numerous exceptions; above all, a rule which must never for a moment be allowed to stand in the way of the candid consideration of any promising proposal of social or industrial reform."—J. E. Cairnes' Essays in Pol. Econ., p. 251.
[24.]If Mr. Mill had said, "Political economy considers mankind solely as occupied in acquiring and consuming wealth," the statement would have been unexceptionable. But if "Political economy considers mankind as occupied solely in acquiring and consuming wealth," Political economy considers mankind most falsely; and the results in economical reasoning of that unwarranted assumption have been most mischievous. Political economy is not bound to consider mankind so far as they are occupied in anything else than in acquiring and consuming wealth; but it is bound in simple honesty not to consider them as occupied in acquiring and consuming wealth when they are not, and to a degree they are not.
[25.]Introduction to R. Jones' Pol. Econ.
[26.]The effects of speech-differences in preventing the easy and rapid flow of labor are clearly to be seen in France and Scotland. The greater number of the Bas Bretons cannot speak or understand French, and are hence confined more closely to their native fields, than the people of any other section. [Report of H. B. M. Consul Clipperton, 1872, p. 160.]
The commissioners of the Scotch Census of 1871 found the influence of this cause very powerful in preventing emigration from the northern and western parts of Scotland, including the Isles, where the Gaelic is still spoken. [Report p. 20. cf. 4th Report (1870) on the employment of women and children in Agr., p. 117.]
[27.]Miss Martineau notes the jealousy of "imported labor" (from Ireland) during the Napoleonic wars. [Hist, England I. 332.] Even so late as 1846, the committee on Railway Laborers reported that not only did the Irish and the Scotch not work on the same gangs with the English navvies, but they were kept apart from each other. [Report p. 5.] There was especial jealousy manifested toward the Irish importations. [Ibid. p. 52, 77.]
[28.]The knitting frame caused stocking-making in England to be transferred from its former seat at Norwich. The woolen manufacture has, within living memory, migrated from Essex and Suffolk to the North. Between 1857 and 1861 occurred a falling off in the muslin embroidery manufacture of Ireland and Scotland, which involved a reduction in the number of persons employed of 146,000 (Statistical Journal XXIV. 516.7). About 1846, the English power-loom caused the absolute destruction of an industry which supported 250,000 workmen in Flanders. (Ibid, XXVIII, 15.) Seemingly petty changes in fashion will often produce wide-reaching effects in production. Mr. Malthus states that the substitution of shoe ribbons for buckles was a severe blow, long felt by Sheffield and Birmingham "On a smaller scale and with less notoriety," says a writer in the Athenæum, "the dismal tragedy of the cotton famine, is enacted every year in one or another of our great cities. Every time fashion selects a new material for dress, or a new invention supercedes old contrivances, workmen are thrown out of employment." Prof. Rogers gives the following piquant illustration of the effect of changes in the mere fashion of dress. "A year or two ago every woman who made any pretension to dress according to the custom of the day, surrounded herself with a congeries of parallel steel hoops. It is said that fifty tons of crinoline wire were turned out weekly from the factories chiefly in Yorkshire. The fashion has passed away and the demand for the material and the labor has ceased. Thousands of persons once engaged in this production are now reduced to enforced idleness, or constrained to betake themselves to some other occupation. Again, a few years ago, women dressed themselves plentifully with ribbons. This fashion has also changed; where a hundred yards were sold, one is hardly purchased now, and the looms of a multitude of silk operatives are idle. To quote another instance. At the present time women are pleased to walk about bareheaded. The straw-plaiters of Bedfordshire, Bucks, Hertfordshire and Essex are reduced suddenly from a condition of tolerable prosperity to one of great poverty and distress." (Pol. Econ., 1869, pp. 77-8.)
[29.]But it may be said, if industry abandons population, and wages become reduced, this of itself constitutes a reason for industry to return, as it will have the advantage of cheap labor. This is much as if one should say: the approach of cold induces shivering: shivering is of the nature of exercise: exercise induces warmth; therefore a man may not freeze on a Minnesota prairie in an ice-storm, with the thermometer at 40 degrees below zero; and indeed the colder it gets, the more he will shake, and consequently, the warmer he will be.
[30.]In 1870, 7,500,000 persons of the native population were living in states other than those of their birth.—See Census Reports. "The full-blooded American," says Chevalier, "has this in common with the Tartar, that he is encamped, not established, on the soil he treads upon."—Travels in the United States, p. 129.—In Russia, too, the freedom of migration from place to place, has frequently been noted. Sir Arch. Alison attributes this to the Tartar blood.—History of Europe xv, 164.—See Sir A. Buchanan's account of the industrial nomads of Russia.—Reports, H. B. M. Consuls, etc. 1870, p. 301.
[31.]"No cause has, perhaps, more promoted, in every respect, the general improvement of the United States than the absence of those systems of internal restriction and monopoly, which continue to disfigure the state of society in other countries. No laws exist here directly or indirectly confining men to a particular occupation or place, or excluding any citizen from any branch he may at any time think proper to pursue. Industry is in every respect free and unfettered."—Albert Gallatin.
[32.]The Advance, Dec. 10, 1874. In the last century the Irish emigration was from an altogether different class. "The spirit of emigration in Ireland," said Arthur Young in 1777, "appears to be confined to two circumstances, the Presbyterian religion and the linen manufacture."—Pinkerton, iii. 868.
[33.]Fortnightly Review, III. 50.
[34.]Statistical Journal, xx. 75.
[35.]"The assumption commonly made in treatises of political economy, is that, as between occupations and localities within the same country, the freedom of movement of capital and labor is perfect." [J E. Cairnes, "Some Leading Principles," etc., p. 362.]
[36.]Statistical Journal, xxviii. p. 12.
[37.]A part of this effect, viz., the preference of emigration from the kingdom over migration within the kingdom, is due to the ineffable stupidity of the act of 12 and 13 Victoria (c. 103) which enables guardians of the poor to borrow money to send laborers out of the country; but does not authorize them to spend a penny in sending a person from the parish of his residence to another part of the kingdom where employment may be freely offered.
[38.]Report on the Stoppage of Wages, p. 172.
[39.]Wealth of Nations, I. 79.
[40.]In discussing his extremely valuable Returns before the Statistical Society, Mr. Purdy says: "It would appear that no commodity in this country presents so great a variation in price at one time, as agricultural labor, taking the money wages of the men as the best exponent of its value. A laborer's wages in Dorset or Devon are barely half the sum given for similar services in the Northern parts of England."—Statistical Journal, xxiv. 344. Mr. Purdy refers, as among the causes of this, "to the natural vis inertiæ of the class.... and above all, a well founded dread of the miseries of a disputed poor-law settlement in the hour of their destitution."
[41.]Professor Rogers, in his History of Agriculture and Prices, expresses the opinion that not only the transport of freight, but the transit of persons, was as free in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth, as in the eighteenth century. The roads were maintained in good order, chiefly by the monasteries, and travelling was then professional in many trades. The tiler, the slater, the mason, and the finer carpenter (who made furniture) were migratory. [Hist. I. 234-5]. Of a period a little later, Prof. Rogers says, "Labor travelled in those days (1530-1620) as freely as now; indeed, in the account books of Elizabeth, we find that mechanics for Greenwich and the Tower are procured from places as distant as Cardiff, Dorchester, Brighton, Bristol and Bridgewater."—[Statistical Journal, xxiv. 548.]
The practice of travelling or "wandering" as it is called, which has come down from this period, still prevails extensively in Germany among the younger journeymen ("Herbergen")—see Mr. Petre's report on the condition of the industrial classes, 1870, p. 56. The ease with which the German artisans are "metamorphosed into Frenchmen, Englishmen, Italians, Americans or Turks" (Mr. Strachey, Ibid p. 507) has doubtless contributed to the freedom of their movement. Not less than 8,000 German workmen were reported at Mulhouse before the war of 1870.
Consul Wilkinson reports that the settled population of the province of Macedonia is augmented in winter by five or six thousand itinerant artisans who quit their native mountains in central Albania, and distribute themselves over the province in quest of employment, [ibid p. 248]. M. Ducarre's report to the French assembly of 1875, notes the considerable proportions of the annual migration from Italy into Corsica. [p. 247.]
[42.]Pol. Econ. p. 167.
[43.]See p. 26.
[44.]It is not merely by differences in the birth-rate and in the death-rate of these natural labor-populations, that the supply of labor is made to vary. The census of Scotland quoted above, shows that the proportion of males born varies greatly in the different occupations. Thus, among the workers in chemicals there are but 85.2 males to 100 female children under five years of age; among operatives in silk factories, there are 93.9, in cotton-factories, 95.3, in woolen factories 97.8; while among the agricultural population there are 105.2, among fishermen, 107.5, among general out-door laborers, 106.6, among quarry-men and brickmakers, 107.8, and among railway laborers and navvies, 117.1. See Report, p. 44. Of course the greater the proportional number of males, the greater the supply of effective labor.
[45.]Report, p. 42.
[46.]Wealth of Nations i, pp. 103-4.
[47.]Some Leading Principles, etc., p. 362.
[48.]"The founder of the cotton manufacture was a barber. The inventor of the power loom was a clergyman. A farmer devised the application of the screw-propeller. A fancy-goods shopkeeper is one of the most enterprising experimentalists in agriculture. The most remarkable architectural design of our day has been furnished by a gardener. The first person who supplied London with water was a goldsmith. The first extensive maker of English roads was a blind man, bred to no trade. The father of English inland navigation was a duke, and his engineer was a millwright. The first great builder of iron bridges was a stone mason, and the greatest railway engineer commenced his life as a colliery engineer."—Hearn's Plutology, p. 279.
[49.]Some Leading Principles, etc., pp. 70-3.
[50.]"That doctrine may be thus briefly stated: International values are governed by the reciprocal demand of commercial countries for each other's productions, or more precisely, by the demand of each country for the productions of all other countries as against the demand of all other countries for what it produces.... Whatever be the exchanging proportions—or, let us say, whatever be the state of relative prices—in different countries, which is requisite to secure this result, those exchanging proportions, that state of relative prices, will become normal—will furnish the central point toward which the fluctuations of international prices will gravitate."—"Some Leading Principles, etc." pp. 99, 100.
[51.]Some Leading Principles, etc., p. [???].
[52.]"Even sometimes as many as eighty or one hundred may be taken from a neighboring town to one farm." Report of E. B. Portman, asst. comm'r.,—Employment of women and children, 1867-8, p. 95. "At present, parents solicit employers to take children into service often so young as to be worthless."—Ibid. p. 97. "In Cambridgeshire, the children go out to work as young as six years old, many at seven or eight."—Ibid, p. 95. of. pp. 12, 15, note.
[53.]Social Science Transactions, 1874, p. 4.
[54.]Report of 1865, p. 13.
[55.]"An agricultural laborer is not suddenly converted into a cotton weaver. Such a transition rarely takes place; but if there is a manufactory close at hand many of the children of the agricultural laborers will be employed therein."—Pol. Econ., p. 170.
[56.]"Whose Essay on the distribution of Wealth (or rather Rent) is a copious repertory of valuable facts on the landed tenure of different countries."—J. S. Mill, Pol. Econ., I. 297.
[57.]Pol. Econ., p. 15.
[58.]"You have no other peasantry like that of England. You have no other country in which it is entirely divorced from the land. There is no other country in the world where you will not find men turning up the furrow in their own freehold."—Cobden, Speeches, II, 116.
[59.]Address of Lord Napier and Ettrick. Soc. Sc. Transactions, 1872.
[60.]Wealth of Nations, I. 69.
[61.]"In Tuscany," writes Sismondi, and the remark holds true of most parts of Italy where the metayer system prevails, "public opinion protects the cultivator. A proprietor would not dare to impose conditions unusual in the country, and even in changing one metayer for another he alters nothing of the rent."
"In this country (England) the cultivator of the soil and the owner of the soil are, as a rule, different persons; in other countries they are, as a rule, the same; or where they are not the same the owner of the soil rather occupies the position of a perpetual lessor or mortgagee than that of a landlord whose contracts with his tenants are constantly liable to revision."—Prof. Rogers' Pol. Econ., p. 151.
[62.]Prof. Jones finds the origin of the metayer system of Western Europe, in Greece, from which it was adopted by the Romans, and introduced into Italy first, and France and Spain afterwards. Prof. Rogers finds that the metayer system was introduced quite generally into England after the great plague of 1348, and prevailed for about sixty years, when it was "superseded by the growth of a hardy and prosperous yeomanry, who either purchased the land in parcels, or bargained to work it with their own capital, and at a money rent." Pol. Econ., 168, 170. The fate of these yeomen in England has been noticed.
[63.]Of the 682,237 holdings in Ireland, 512,080 are of less value than 15l. a year each, 527,000 are tenancies at will.—Statistical Journal, xxxiii, 152.
[64.]Day-laborers in agriculture were, until recently, almost unknown in Ireland. They are now appearing in considerable numbers.—Leslie's Land Systems, etc. p. 44.
[65.]"The unhired laborers who are peasant cultivators," according to Prof. Jones, comprised in his day "probably two-thirds of the laboring population of the globe."—Pol. Econ., p. 14.
[66.]Pol. Econ., p. 420.
[67.]Wealth of Nations, I, 332.
[68.]Wealth of Nations.
[69.]"The (third) class of hired laborers, paid from capital, has so exclusively met the eyes and occupied the thoughts of English writers on wages, that it has led them into some serious and very unfortunate mistakes as to the nature, extent, and formation of the funds out of which the laboring population of the globe is fed, and, as usual, they have misled foreign writers."—R. Jones, Pol. Econ., p. 15.
[70.]Log. Meth. Pol. Econ. p. 139-141.
[72.]With the assistance, it may be, of his wife and minor children whose labor is, in the eye of the law, his own.
[73.]"No English agricultural laborer, in his most sanguine dreams has the vision of occupying, still less of possessing, land."—Rogers Hist. of Agr. and Prices, I, 693.
[74.]Ricardo's theory of rent applies to land only as it is assumed to be unimproved. Differences of fertility wrought by actual applications of capital, are to be compensated on the same principles as investments of equal safety and permanence.
[75.]Mr. Ricardo makes this distinction in respect to the banker himself. "The distinctive function of the banker begins as soon as he uses the money of others." Yet, though it is the use of other people's money that characterizes the banker, it is important that he should be known or supposed to have money of his own to afford guaranty of his good faith and prudence.
[76.]E.g., Lawyers, physicians, clergymen, architects, engineers, government officials, and the like.
[77.]Bagehot's Lombard Street, p. 12.
[78.]"Profits proper, or interest."—Prof.Rogers, Pol. Econ., p. 189. "The return for abstinence is profit."—Prof.Cairnes' "Some Leading Principles," etc., p. 48.
[79.]As Mr. Amasa Walker is the only systematic writer on political economy, with whose work I am familiar, who recognizes the employers of labor as constituting a distinct industrial class, so he is the only one who gives the word Profits the significance it has in the text, "By the term profits we mean that share of wealth, which, in the general distribution, falls to those who effect an advantageous union between labor and capital... the parties, then, to production are (1) the laborer, (2) the capitalist, (3) the employer, or manager. Each has a distinct province and a separate interest."—Science of Wealth, pp.279-80.
[80.]"Profit: a word which, like many others in political economy, is very loosely applied."—Prof. Rogers' Pol. Econ., p. 5.
[81.]"Some Leading Principles," etc., p. 258.
[82.]It has been shown that it is possible that an advance of wages may be made in several ways without involving a reduction either in profits or in the returns of capital.
[83.]Pol. Econ., p. 243.
[84.]European financiers have been more than once astonished by the enormous accumulations of the French peasantry, when these were tapped by a popular loan.
[85.]Coal rose, between July 1871, and February, 1872 in the proportion of 100 to 256, iron following, though at a considerable interval.
[88.]See p. 194.
[89.]See p. 164.
[90.]History of New England, II. 219-20.
[91.]Thus the peasant proprietor takes all the responsibilities of production, determines its courses and its methods, and acts, so to speak, as the entrepreneur in respect to his own little affairs, at the same time owning the capital employed and performing all the labor.
[92.]"The ultimate partners in any production may be divided into two classes, capitalists and laborers.... If the distributor be the capitalist, the share of the laborer is called wages. If the distributor be the laborer, the share of the capitalist is called either interest or rent."—Hearn's Plutology, pp. 325-7.
[93.]A wholly erroneous conception of coöperation, due to the neglect of the entrepreneur-function, is exposed on page 264.
[95.]For remarks of Prof. Cairnes regarding the office of economic definition, see page 218.
[97.]Thus, even in Austria, one of the most backward of European countries in the organization of industry, we find that 493 employers provide lodging for not less than 59,343 workmen. In France, Messrs. Schneider & Co. ("Le Creusot") employ 10,000 workmen. Anzin employs 15,000 under a single direction. At the great cannon foundry of Krupp, at Essen in Westphalia, between 8,000 and 10,000 are employed. In Great Britain, like gigantic establishments abound.
[99.]The Financier, August 1, 1874.
[100.]Errors in directing production are never offset one against another, as mistakes in computation so often are with a result of substantial accuracy. Whether the employer err in being too timid or too venturesome, loss is alike sustained, an injury is suffered which is without compensation. There is no balancing of one mistake against another in industry.
It is needless to say that the employer is almost always either too timid or too venturesome. The perfect temper of business, we might suppose, is found in no living man. But the sterner the responsibility to which the employer is held, the more steady and severe the competition to which he is subjected, the nearer will be the approach to this ideal, the less will be the waste in production due to mis-direction of the industrial force.
[101.]The evidence before the Committee of 1854 brought out strongly this feature of the truck system; that it was chiefly resorted to by small and doubtful establishments which thus contrived to make up, by "sweating" the wages of their operatives, what they could not make in legitimate profits, and thus kept themselves alive. Indeed, the excuse most frequently urged by truck masters was that, but for gains thus realized, they would be obliged to give up business. It is needless to say that the sooner such employers are driven out, the better for the laboring class.
[103.]Statistical Journal, xxviii. 3-5.
[104.]"As, even when relieved from the pressure of necessity, the large-brained Europeans voluntarily enter on enterprises or activities which the savage could not keep up, even to satisfy urgent wants; so their larger brained descendants will, in a still higher degree, find their gratification in careers entailing still greater mental expenditures."—H. Spencer, Principles of Biology, II. 520.
[105.]Mr. Gould's Report, p. 346. Mr. Bonar reported in 1870: "In enumerating the highly favorable circumstances in which the Swiss working man is placed, prominence must be given to the immense extension of the principle of democracy, which, whatever may be its defects and dangers from a political point of view, when pushed to extremes, serves in Switzerland, in its economical effects, to advance the cause of the operative, by removing the barriers dividing class from class, and to establish among all grades the bonds of mutual sympathy and good will."—Report, p. 271. Coxe, in his travels in Switzerland during the last century, notes the frank, courteous assumption of absolute equality on the part of the Swiss peasantry.—(Pinkerton, V. 657).
[1.]"Some Leading Principles," etc., p. 339.
[2.]"Essays on Political Economy." How singularly unfortunate this would be as a definition, even were Prof. Cairnes not mistaken in his general view of coöperation, will be seen when we say that the above would be a very good description of a peasant proprietor, or small American farmer. He "combines in the same person the two capacities of laborer and capitalist." Is he [???] coöperator?
[3.]"A scheme... by which the laborer can unite the functions and earn the wages of laborer and employer by superseding the necessity of using the services of the latter functionary."—Prof. Rogers, Pol. Econ., 108. This is a strictly accurate, and but for the regretable use of the word wages, would be a felicitous, statement of the design of coöperation.
[4.]"Double interest is, in Great Britain, reckoned what the merchants call a good, moderate, reasonable profit." Adam Smith 1, 102.
Sir Arch. Alison gives as an argument against what would practically be coöperation, that the profits if divided among the laborers, "would not make an addition to them of more than thirty or forty per cent"—(Hist. Europe, xxii, 237.) "Profits" here include both the returns of capital and the gains of the middleman. Prof. Senior says; "it may be laid down generally, that in no country have profits continued for any considerable period at the average rate of fifty per cent per annum." (Pol. Econ., p. 140.)
Mr. Purdy estimates the division of the annual product of the land of England and Wales as follows:
|Landlord's share (returns of capital)...||£42,955,963|
|Farmer's share (profits)...||21,477,981|
|Laborer's share (wages)...||39,766,156|
|[Statistical Journal [illegible text—Econlib Ed.]iv, 358.]|
[5.]Fortnightly Review, III., 482.
[6.]Social Science Transactions, 1871, p. 585.
[7.]"Les sociétés coöpératives n'ont pas en jusqu'à ce jour en France le succès qu'elles ont obtenu, soit en Angleterre, soit en Allemagne.... En France, les societés de production n'existent qu'à l'état de minimes exceptions"—pp. 264-5.
[8.]Report of Mr. Gould, on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1872, p. 355.
[9.]"Pour la petite industrie, les placements sont en quelque sorts assurés; le marché est là sous les yeux du producteur, il en peut à chaque instant consulter les besoins, il reconnaît à des signes certains l'engorgement et la pléthore, aussi bien que l'insuffisance et la disette."—Blanqui (aîné), Cours d'Économie Industrielle, II., 62.
[10.]"It is impossible to hire commercial genius, or the instincts of a skilful trader."—Fred'k Harrison, Fortnightly Review, III, 492.
[11.]"I am confident that the manual operations will be skilfully and probably more diligently performed in a coöperative establishment. The personal interests of the workmen will be so directly advanced by their application and perseverance that they will naturally work hard. But their best efforts will fail to ensure a satisfactory result, unless the general organization is perfect also."—Mr. Brassey, at Hali fax. The Times' Report.
[12.]The Times' Report.
[13.]My honored father has told me of the discussion once held over a note for $250, offered at the bank of which he was a director, signed with the then unknown name of James M. Beebe.
[14.]Mr. Thornton (On Labor, p. 441) argues that while societies of workingmen may be unable to administer their affairs directly, they may be competent, like political societies, "to provide for their own government." To the contrary, Mr. Harrison urges (Fortnightly Review, III., 492) that "he who is unfit to manage, is unfit to direct the manager."
[15.]Mr. Babbage has shown (Econ. of Manufactures, p. 172-188) that the earnings of persons employed in the production of pins, in his day ranged from 4½d. to 6s. If the workmen who were capable of doing the higher parts of the work (pointing, whitening, etc.) were to be put to making the whole pin, through all the ten processes described, the cost of the pins would be three and three-quarter times as great as under the application of the division of labor, with payments to each workman according to his capacity.
[16.]An apparently successful experiment in this direction obtains notice in Prof. Fawcett's Pol. Econ., pp. 292-3, note.
[17.]Perhaps the difficulty of the problem will be best outlined, to those who are not familiar with this special subject of undivided profits, or "unexhausted improvements," in agriculture, by presenting the following classification of tenants' expenditures on the soil, which was embraced in the Duke of Richmond's Bill of 1875. That bill divided improvements into three categories; permanent, wasting and temporary. In the first class were included reclaiming, warping, draining, making or improving watercourses, ponds, etc., roads, fences, buildings, and the planting of orchards and gardens. With respect to these, it was proposed that an outgoing tenant should be allowed compensation for the unexhausted value of such of them as he might have made within 20 years of the termination of his tenancy with the written consent of his landlord. The second class included liming, claying, chalking, marling, boring, clay-burning, and planting hops, and it was proposed that the tenant should be able to claim for these processes, if done within seven years of the end of his tenancy, no consent being necessary. So also with respect to the third class—consuming by cattle, sheep, or pigs, of corn, cake, or other feeding stuffs, or using artificial manures—where, however, a claim could not go back beyond two years.
[18.]In Mr. Babbage's admirable little work on "the Economy of Manufactures," published in 1832, a plan of industrial organization is proposed on the idea that "a considerable part of the wages received by each person employed should depend on the profits made by the establishment." (pp. 249-50.)
[19.]J. S. Mill, Pol. Econ., ii. 335-7.
[20.]Thornton "On Labor," pp. 369-84—McDonnell's Survey of Pol Econ. 220-1.
[21.]Report of Mr. Gould on the condition of the industrial classes 1872, p. 355.
[22.]Report of Mr. Herries on the condition of the industrial classes of Italy. 1871 p. 234-5.
[23.]The proposal of the Messrs. Brewster was most honorable at once to the good feeling and to the sagacity of the members of the firm, especially Mr. J. W. Britton, with whom the enterprise originated. The firm offered to divide ten per cent of their net profits among their employees, in proportion to the wages severally earned by them, no charge to be made by the members of the firm for their services prior to this deduction of ten per cent, or for interest on the capital invested; the business of each year to stand by itself, and be independent of that of any other year. This handsome proposal was accepted by the employees, and an association formed. The plan worked to the satisfaction of all parties, as high as $11,000 a year being divided among the hands: but at the great strike of the trades in New York three years ago, the workmen of this establishment were carried away by the general excitement, and the strong pressure brought to bear upon them from the outside; and the scheme was abandoned. So long as it worked, it worked well; and showed that the plan had no financial or industrial weaknesses. The failure was at the point of patience, forbearance and faith, a very important point; but may not masters and men be educated up to this requirement, in view of the great advantages to result?
[24.]For remarks of Messrs. Mill and Cairnes respecting the "excessive friction," and consequent undue profits and expenses of retail trade, the reader is referred to page 313-5.
[25.]Very recently the coöperative societies of England have decided on a new and far reaching step, and have undertaken the importation of foreign supplies required for their numerous stores and shops. This step evidently involves a very large addition of responsibility and risk, without, as I should apprehend, a proportional gain in the event of success.
[26.]Transactions, 1872, pp. 449-50.
[27.]Soc. Science Transactions, 1864, p. 6-8.
[29.]McDonnell's Survey of Pol. Econ., pp. 224-5.
[30.]Report of Mr. Strachy, 1870, p. 512.
[31.]Report of Mr. Lytton, 1870, p. 564.
[32.]I am disappointed to find so little precise statistical information in Mr. Chamberlain's work on the Sovereigns of Industry. Figures of arithmetic are more needed than figures of speech, in discussions of coöperation.
[33.]Mr. Frederick Harrison, in a somewhat noted article in the Fort-nightly Review (vol. iii., p. 50), strenuously maintains that "the laborer has not got a thing to sell." This seems to be a question of the proper use of two words, thing and sell. There are no facts or economical principles involved in the dispute. If Mr. Harrison were to acknowledge the propriety of our use of those two monosyllables, he would not object to our statement otherwise. If, again, we were to take Mr. Harrison's view of the etymology of these words, we should not claim that the laborer had a thing to sell.
[34.]I am here speaking broadly. In an individual transaction the employer may fail of his anticipated profits and the laborer yet receive his wages all the same; and in other possible cases an employer may consent to pay wages, and sacrifice his own present interest in the product, for the sake of profits to be made in better times.
[35.]On Labor, p. 93.
[36.]The scholars and men of letters who distribute their labors equally over the fifty-two weeks of the year are, I apprehend, very few.
[37.]The most marked exception is found in the matter of domestic service. The employers are here more numerous, but only in a moderate degree. The number of families employing one or two servants only, vastly exceed the more highly-organized households. But, upon our definition, domestic servants belong to the salary or stipend class, and not to the wages class.
[38.]This exception is important. We have a strange dictum from Professor Cairnes in his work, Some Leading Principles of Political Economy (p. 268), as follows: "The temporary success of a strike does not necessarily prove its wisdom; but the failure of a strike, immediate or ultimate, is decisive evidence that it ought never to have been undertaken." It would be possible to place a construction on this language which should remove the remark from the criticism which the plain sense of the words invites. Surely it is conceivable that a body of workmen should make a demand on their employer which the state of the market would fairly allow him to concede, and which, in another mood, he might cheerfully concede. The demand, however, being made or met, it matters not which, in bad temper, illblood is aroused and a conflict precipitated. In such a contest the workmen might be beaten by the longer purse of a wilful, resolute employer, and finally obliged to yield, without proving their demands unreasonable, any more than a poor patentee being obliged to abandon an invention to a powerful combination of manufacturers, in these days of tardy and costly justice, would prove that he never had any rights in the case. Of course, if it be held that failure in human affairs of itself proves folly, Professor Cairnes's remark is justified. In that case it would be correct to say of a ship which should sail by the usual route from Liverpool to New-York and be sunk by an iceberg halfway across, that she ought never to have undertaken the voyage.
[39.]Somewhat aside from this consideration, yet here mentioned in order to avoid multiplying distinctions, is the fact that, in some industries, besides the sacrifice of the employer's profits during a stoppage, there are considerable expenses (additional to loss of rent and interest) to be incurred in maintaining the service in condition for resumption. Such expenses are those of keeping mines free from water, and keeping furnaces in blast. If these things are to be done, it is at a great cost; if omitted to be done, and the mines are allowed to fill up and the fires to go out, a heavy tax is imposed upon the resumption of production. On the other hand, it deserves to be mentioned that the suspension of production may at times be a relief to the employer. This may happen when the reduction of profits, through the depression of trade, coincides with an occasion for repairing or renewing machinery or enlarging works, or converting buildings to different uses. Thus we find it stated concerning the great Glasgow strike of 1874: "Advantage is being taken of the present opportunity to execute any important repairs and reconstructions that can be undertaken; so that even though the strike were at an end to-morrow, some days would elapse before the work of production could possibly be in full swing again."—Iron and Coal Trades Review.
[40.]Many manufacturers and dealers will recognize this element as of no small importance. They identify the products of different establishments by their style and finish, as easily and certainly as the editor of a newspaper comes to identify the smallest clipping from a contemporary by its paper, type, and "make-up."
[41.]Many trades unions or societies disavow the purpose to prevent workmen of exceptional merit from receiving wages above the average.
[42.]A very striking demonstration of the importance of this consideration in many branches of industry is to be seen by the most casual observer in the phenomenon of a part of the laborers in a trade wholly unemployed. Why are not all employed at lower prices? This would be the effect of simple competition. The answer is found partly in the force of personal consideration and respect arising out of acquaintance and association; but mainly in the employer's interest in the continuity of employment. He could not afford for a short time to take on new hands even at lower rates.
[43.]See p. 169.
[44.]Rogers, Hist. of Agr. and Prices.
[45.]"Because a great part of the people, and especially of workmen and servants, late died of the pestilence, many, seeing the necessity of masters and great scarcity of servants, will not serve unless they receive excessive wages," etc., etc.
[46.]Namely, those wages which had been paid in the 20th year of King Edward's reign, or the average of "five or six other common years next before."
[47.]I select the following examples from the laws of the Massachusetts Colony:
1630, 23d August.—"It was ordered that carpenters, joiners, brick-layers, sawyers, and thatchers shall not take above 2s. a day; nor any man shall give more, under pain of 10s. to taker and giver."
28th September.—"It is ordered that no master carpenter, mason, joiner, or bricklayer shall take above 16d. a day for their work, if they have meat and drink, and the second sort not above 12d. a day, under pain of 10s. both to giver and receiver."
Two other acts had been passed of a similar nature, when, on the 22d March, 1631, the General Court "ordered (that whereas the wages of carpenters, joiners, and other artificers and workmen were by order of court restrained to particular sums) shall now be left free, and at liberty as men shall reasonably agree." In September, however, the Court suffered a relapse, and for four years longer continued to fix specifically the wages of labor.
[48.]The Massachusetts General Court reached the same conclusion some hundreds of years later, and having repealed, September 3d, 1635, the law "that restrained workmen's wages to a certainty," enacted in 1636 "that the freemen of every town shall from time to time, as occasion shall require, agree among themselves about the prices and rates of all workmen, laborers, and servants' wages; and every other person inhabiting in any town, whether workman, laborer, or servant, shall be bound to the same rates which the said freemen or the greater part shall bind themselves unto."
[49.]Many of these acts were doubtless passed in the spirit of 2 and 3 Edward VI. (c. 9): "Therefore, as the malice of man increaseth to defrand the intent of good laws, so laws must rise against such guile with the more severity, day by day, for the due repress of the same."
[50.]Rogers, Pol. Econ., p. 122.
[51.]M. Ducarre's Report of 1875, to which I have several times referred, presents a good view of the course of measures by which labor in France has been emancipated (pp. 22-64).
[52.]"The corporation system exists with more vigor in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden," wrote Mr. Laing in 1851, "than in any other country."—Denmark and the Duchies, p. 301.
[53.]Since 1862. See Report of Mr. Strachey on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1870, p. 505.
[54.]Report of Mr. Lytton, 1870, p. 522.
[55.]I am here speaking of wage-laborers as they are and not as they might be. There could be a better state of things still than that in which "custom" protects the poor—that is, a condition in which the laboring class should be so intelligent, and hence so strong, that they could not afford and would not endure to take a defensive position, but should welcome the utmost that competition could do. But so long as the working classes remain, as in most countries, ignorant and inert, it is possible that causes reducing the severity of competition may be properly correspondent to their weaknesses, and thus beneficial. However that may be, it stands by itself, that the working classes, being inadequately prepared to follow around after changes of price, must be injured by whatever makes those changes more frequent and violent.
[56.]The Northern Monthly, May, 1868; article, "The Greenback Era."
[57.]It appears that while the total number of persons reported as of gainful occupations at the census of 1870 was but 18 per cent greater than the corresponding number at 1860, the number engaged in trade and transportation had increased in the decade 44 per cent. "Some Results of the Census." (Soc. Science Journal, 1873, p. 91.)
[58.]Pol. Econ. i. 291, 292.
[59.]"In the great majority of cases, nowadays, the debate about the value of an article, called by Adam Smith, the higgling of the market, is confined to wholesale purchases and sales. But a generation or two ago, the habit of bargaining in matters of retail trade was general. It still is a custom in many European countries. It is all but universal in the East."—Prof. Rogers, Pol. Econ., p. 186. "The value of any thing in Spain is what you can get for it; consequently, every purchase, from the most expensive articles of luxury down to the poorest vegetable, entails a system of haggling and bargaining."—Mr. Ffrench's Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1871, p. 606.
[60.]Some Leading Principles of Political Economy, pp. 128-30.
[61.]I do not speak here of the degree of taxation. Whether government shall take much or take little is a political question. In some countries, even in the present day, the only limit to exactions appears to be the limit of the people's means, and all above bare subsistence is carried away by the strong arm of the law, to be spent in pomp, luxury, or war. But this, as has been said, is a political question, and so long as taxation presses on each class of the community with weight proportional to its strength, I do not see that the economist can take account of the amount, any more than of the objects, of such expenditures.
[62.]"I hold it to be true that a tax laid in any place is like a pebble falling into and making a circle in a lake, till one circle produces and gives motion to another, and the whole circumference is agitated from the centre."—Speech of Lord Mansfield, 1766, on the right of Parliament to tax the colonies.
[63.]Cobden and Political Opinion, pp. 83, 84.
[64.]The Nation, June 11th, 1874.
[65.]Notes to Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, i. 349.
[66.]J. W. Willis Bund on Local Taxation, p. 17.
[67.]History of the English Poor-Laws, ii. 96, 97.
[68.]Ibid., p. 253.
[69.]The commissioners of 1832, as the result of extended comparisons, found that, while the pauper received 151 ounces of solid food per week, the independent laborer received but 122 ounces.
[70.]"In some instances," says Dr. Chalmers, " the vestries have felt themselves obliged to rent and even to furnish houses for the reception of the newly-married couple."—Pol. Econ. 307.
[71.]"The English law has abolished female chastity."—Mr. Cowell's Report.
"It may safely be affirmed that the virtue of female chastity does not exist among the lower orders of England, except to a certain extent among domestic servants, who know that they hold their situations by that tenure, and are more prudent in consequence."—Report of the Commissioners of 1831.
"In many rural districts it was scarcely possible to meet with a young woman who was respectable, so tempting was the parish allowance for infants in a time of great pressure."—Martineau, Hist. England, iii. 168.
[72.]Foreign Poor-Laws, etc., p. 88.
[74.]Pinkerton, iii. 197.
[75.]Soc. Sc. Transactions, 1871, p. 146.
[76.]About sixty acts of the British Parliament have dealt with Truck.
[77.]It was made lawful to stop wages on account of victuals dressed or prepared under the roof of the employer and there consumed by the artificer.
[78.]"Nothing herein contained shall extend to any domestic servant, or servant in husbandry" (xx.). This exception was due in part to the reason of the case, and in part, we can not doubt, to the want of political power in the agricultural labor class.
[79.]The words of the Massachusetts General Court are worthy to be commended to the high and mighty Parliament of England. "Whereas it is found, by too common and sad experience, in all parts of the colony, that the forcing of laborers and other workmen to take wine in pay for their labor is a great nursery or preparative to drunkenness and unlawful tippling,... it is therefore ordered and ordained by this Court that no laborer or workman whatsoever shall, after the publication and promulgation hereof, be enforced or pressed to take wine in pay for his labor." (May 14, 1645.)
[80.]Statistical Journal, xxvii. 526.
[81.]Statistical Journal, xxiv. 333, cf. 339.
[82.]"In Herefordshire it has happened that a farmer paid his laborers 9 shillings a week in money, and during harvest-time 9 gallons of cider a week." Mr. Spender's computations assume that the cider was a good merchantable article. On this point see Heath's English Peasantry. One of the "clergy returns" published in the Report of the Convocation of Canterbury on Intemperance, states the allowance of cider to a laborer at harvest-time at 2½ gallons daily; another at nearly 2 gallons (p. 39). In one of the "workhouse returns" the governor speaks of laborers as "swallowing, some of them, as much as 3 or 4 gallons a day." (Ibid., p. 40.)
[83.]The Act of 1st and 2d William IV. provides that "in all contracts for the hiring of any artificer in any of the trades enumerated, the wages of such artificer shall be made payable in the current coin of the realm, and not otherwise." The trades enumerated are the manufactures of iron and steel; the mining of coal or iron, limestone, salt-rock; the working or getting of clay, stone, or slate; manufactures of salt, bricks, tiles, or quarries; hardware manufactures, textile manufactures, glass, china, and earthenware, manufactures of leather, and others.
There was excepted the right to supply to artificers medicine and medical attendance; fuel, materials, tools, and implements in mining; also hay, corn, and provender to be consumed by any horse or beast of burden employed by the artificer in the occupation; also, to furnish tenements at a rent to be thereon reserved; also, to advance to artificers money to be contributed to friendly societies and savings-banks or for relief in sickness, or for the education of children.
[84.]Sir Morton Peto, then a great contractor, and one of the partners of Thomas Brassey, testified that there was no difficulty in provisioning men on the most remote sections of railway. (Report, p. 75.)
[85.]Commons Committee on Payment of Wages Bill, 1854. Report, pp. 37-9.
[86.]Mr. Seymour Tremenheere, in his exhaustive evidence before the Select Committee of 1854, stated that the truck-shops were so small, and the persons retained to serve customers so few, that the women attending to get supplies for their families, on the credit of their husbands' wages, frequently could not enter, but that fifty or one hundred would be seen collected outside, waiting their turn to be served. He had himself seen women with children in their arms standing in the open air in bad weather, and on asking had been told they had been waiting for hours. (Report, p. 8.)
Other witnesses placed the time for which a woman might thus be compelled to wait at the truck-shop at two, four, or six hours, or even longer. (Report, pp. 42, 128, 156-7, 322, 330, 371.) Meanwhile the children not in arms were locked up at home.
Mr. J. Fellows, Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths at Bilston, but also, it ought to be mentioned, a retail grocer, stated that in sixteen years he had had occasion to record a number of deaths, which he placed, from memory, at eleven, of young children burned in the absence of their mothers while waiting at these shops. (Report, p. 43).
[87.]Sir Archibald Alison appeared before the Committee of 1854 as the champion of truck.
"I think," he said, "generally speaking, the people are furnished with subsistence, and with articles of use for themselves and their families infinitely better than from the stores of private dealers."—Report, p. 229.
"From all that I have seen I think the establishment of stores has been followed by a great improvement in the condition of the workmen."—Ibid.
"I have known instances of workmen going miles to the master's stores in preference to dealing with the private shops."—P. 234. "... the immense advantage of the truck system in compelling the workman to spend a large portion of his earnings in food for himself and his family."—P. 245.
"I think the workmen in the great manufactories and collieries are just like a great ill-disciplined army. It is just as impossible to make them dispose of their money properly as it would be to provide an army with adequate subsistence if you were to abolish the commissariat and pay every man in money, and let him buy his provisions where he pleased."—Pp. 237, 238.
[88.]Just as Sir Archibald Alison admitted, the masters made use of the opportunities of the truck-system. Thus he speaks of "periods of great distress, when the masters are driven to be sharp with their furnishings." (Report of the Committee of 1854, p. 232.) "I have no doubt that under these circumstances, during these periods of distress, they sometimes furnish inferior articles, at least to what they have furnished before."... The complaints which I have heard have almost always been complaints about measure; or, in some instances, I have heard complaints, in periods of distress, that the quality of the goods was inferior."... I think when a master is receiving high prices for his articles, for iron and coal, then his pockets are full of money, he is in affluent circumstances, and he is not, therefore, under the necessity of being strict with his furnishings; that is to say, when trade is good, he gives good measure, he gives the best articles, and is liberal with his workmen; he does not feel the pressure himself. If in bad times he is out at elbow and feels the pressure, as he always does in a monetary crisis, then he is obliged to be more strict with his workmen, and then complaints are made." There is something beautiful in this Tory confidence in human nature, leading to the assurance that masters will never cheat their workmen in measure or quality unless it is positively necessary to save themselves.
[89.]Report of the Committee of 1855, p. 160.
[91.]Report of the Committee of 1855, pp. 163, 164, cf. p. 22.
[92.]Ibid., p. 165, cf. p. 24.
[93.]Fawcett's Speeches, p. 130.
[94.]For instance, suppose in a truck establishment a workman to die having undisputed claims on the employer, for work done, to the nominal amount of 100 shillings: what amount would his widow be entitled to recover in money at law, or would the employer be entitled to pay the debt into court in groceries and provisions, in quantities and at prices to suit himself? If the man had lived, the 100 shillings would have been paid, wholly or in part, in truck. His death certainly does not change the nature of his claim; yet is it conceivable that a court should award a payment in kind?
[95.]See Sir A. Alison's remarkable admissions on this point, quoted in note to page 333.
[96.]"This is a great oppression," quoth Arthur Young. "Farmers and gentlemen keeping accounts with the poor is a great abuse. So many days' work for a cabin, so many for a potato-garden, so many for keeping a horse, and so many for a cow, are clear accounts which a poor man can understand well; but further it ought not to go,—and when he has worked out what he has of this sort, the rest of his work ought punctually to be paid him every Saturday night."—Pinkerton, iii. 815.
[97.]M. Ducarre's report notices with approbation the attempt of the Orleans Railway Company to supply their 14,000 employees with food and clothing. The results seem to show that the workmen thus obtained their supplies thirty per cent cheaper than they could have done at the shops. There is no reason why such enterprises should not be carried out to a much greater extent, to the highest advantage of employers and workmen, and with general consent.
[98.]Clearly the evil, if there is any evil in the system, will be somewhat according to the variety of the articles thus forced upon the laborer. The greater that variety the greater his disadvantage. One of the arguments against abolishing or abating agricultural truck has been that the arrangement was generally restricted to "one, two, or three distinct things."—Testimony of Mr. Tremenheere before the Committee of 1854. Report, p. 102.
[99.]The effects of railways in taking the life out of small country towns, and drawing trade and manufactures to junctions and termini, are too familiar to need illustration.
[100.]In some cases even the pretence of adapting the commodities, in which the laborer was paid, to his wants was abandoned, and the laborer was paid in whatever was most convenient to the employer. Evidence was given before the Committee of 1854 that workmen were sometimes forced to receive such an excess of flour, for instance, as to have to pay their rent in this article, of course at inconvenience and with a loss. (Report, p. 6.)
[1.]Mr. Mill says: "When the object is to raise the permanent condition of a people, small means do not merely produce small effects, they produce no effect at all." (Pol. Econ., i. 459.) The remark is just, but is perhaps liable to be misunderstood. Causes which, when contemplated as operating in a given moment, appear so small as to be inconsiderable, may, if they operate continuously in any direction, produce great effects; but then such causes can not, in a philosophical view, be considered small.
[2.]Correspondence of the Daily News.
[4.]Pol. Econ., pp. 101, 102. The savings-banks statistics bear out this assertion respecting the laboring classes of these counties. By the report of the Penrith Branch of the Carlisle Savings-Bank, it appears that the total amount due to 260 male farm-servants was £9259 9s. 5d.; to 240 female farm-servants, £7904. 8s. 9d. Instances are given of £200, £300, or even £500 having been accumulated by a single person. (Second Report (1869) of the Commission of 1867 on the Employment of Children in Agriculture, p. 141.)
Sir Frederick Eden in his "History of the Poor" has preserved some remarkable instances of considerable accumulations out of earnings. (I. 495. 496, note.)
[5.]Pol. Econ., i. 442.
[7.]The Temperance Reformation and the Christian Church, pp. 112, 113.
[8.]Statistical Journal, xiii. 364.
Mr. Baines states that nineteen-twentieths of the occupants of cottages in Leeds pay their rent weekly, and could not be trusted longer. (Statistical Journal, xxii. 136, 138.) The plan of Monday-morning payments has been widely urged as a simple, practical measure in aid of the laborer's instincts of frugality. French laborers find less difficulty in carrying their earnings past the cabaret.
Mr. Brassey relates that during the construction of the Paris and Rouen Railway, the Frenchmen employed were, at their own request, paid only once a month. (Work and Wages, p. 17.)
Mr. McCulloch in his Commercial Dictionary (p. 478) argues strenuously that the State should refuse to protect small debts, with a view to promote frugality on the part of the working-classes.
[9.]The fullest body of information relating to banks of saving is to be found in a recent report by Prof. Louis Bodio, the accomplished chief of the Italian Bureau of Statistics. "Casse di Risparmio in Italia, ed all' estero."
[10.]Russia, however, has her system of savings-banks, numbering sixty-two, with deposits to the amount of four and a half million roubles, in the name of seventy thousand depositors. In contrast with these facts, we find in little Switzerland not less than 353,855 depositors, or one in every seven of the population. In Denmark the proportion is one to eight and a half.
[11.]In the Canton of Berne, of 500,000 inhabitants, the real property-holders numbered, in 1868, 88,670. (Report of Mr. Gould on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1871, p. 670.)
[12.]"The estimated value of the property held by the Swiss communes between the years 1863 and 1864, independently of the Cantons, may be put down at the large sum of 586,853,077 francs." (Ibid.)
[13.]One case has come to my knowledge where a depositor, after exhausting the list of his human family, entered the maximum amount in the name of his dog.
[14.]Statistical Journal, xxviii. 11, 12.
[15.]Sir Archibald Alison, writing of the Irish peasants in the days before the Famine, speaks of them as "almost always" marrying at eighteen, and not infrequently becoming grandfathers at thirty-four. (Hist. of Europe, xviii. 5.)
[16.]Marriages take place at a very early age in India. Mr. Beverley, the Census Commissioner, calls attention to the fact that the religious beliefs of the people contribute to this result, as it is deemed highly important that the burial rites, on which the welfare of the soul after death, according to their faith, greatly depends, should be performed by male offspring. (Economist, May 9th, 1874, p. 555.) In Ireland early marriages have undoubtedly been promoted by the influence of the priesthood. (J. S. Mill's Pol. Econ. i. 345, 446; Alison's Hist. of Europe, xviii. 10; Statistical Journal, xxii. 217, xxiii. 205; Prof. Senior, quoted in the Edinburgh Review, October, 1868, p. 328, cf. p. 336.) In England Mr. J. S. Mill charges that the policy of the Tory party has been to encourage early marriages. (Pol. Econ., i. 426.)
[17.]Pp. 334, 335.
[18.]"Quand l'enfant n'est pas exténué par un travail prématuré, et quand on attend qu'il ait les forces nécessaires avant de l' astreindre au travail, une fois parvenu à l'âge d'homme, il est meilleur ouvrier, travaille mieux, plus vite et produit davantage."—M. Wolowski:—Legislation sur le Travail des Enfants. (MM. Tallon and Maurice, p. 233.)
[19.]Statistical Journal, xxiv. 462.
[20.]L. Horner, Employment of Children, p. 45, cf. p. 54.
[21.]Ibid, p. 105.
[22.]Report of Mr. Malet on the Condition of the Industrial Classes of France.
[23.]For the text of this law see the work published by MM. Tallon and Maurice in 1875, Legislation sur le Travail des Enfants, pp. 445-53.
[24.]See the work of MM. Tallon and Maurice, p. 24.
[25.]Report of Mr. Herries, 1871, p. 284.
[26.]Report of Mr. Gosling on Textile Factories, 1873, p. 116.
[27.]P. 66 (Mr. Walsham); p. 111 (Mr. Egerton).
[28.]Pol. Econ., pp. 211, 212.
[29.]August 4th, 1872.
[30.]As I understand it, no man in England can be a justice of the peace unless he have an estate of £100 a year in land.
[31.]Mr. Tremenheere, in his testimony on truck before the Committee of 1854 on the Payment of Wages, says: "I believe, from all that I have heard in different mining-districts, that, as a rule, the large companies, and the persons who are amenable to public opinion among gentlemen, do not resort to those petty and indirect modes of cheating their workmen." (Report, p. 40.)
[32.]Cobden and Political Opinion, p. 94.
[33.]Pol. Econ., p. 184.
[34.]Is it said, You are speaking of a failure of competition as if it were favorable to a beneficial distribution of property? I answer, Absolute competition, equal on both sides, is the single condition of a perfect distribution. But if the laborers are disabled from competition by ignorance, poverty, or other cause—as the laborers of so many countries are, in the mass—then it is merciful that public opinion or the force of law enters to prevent them from being crushed, as they would be, in their inertia if competition remained in full force on the master's side. Competition to be beneficial must be exerted like the pressure of the atmosphere—everywhere and uniformly.
[35.]"The landlord of an Irish estate inhabited by Roman Catholics is a sort of despot who yields obedience, in whatever concerns the poor, to no law but that of his will.... Nothing satisfies him but an unlimited submission. Disrespect, or any thing tending toward sauciness, he may punish with his cane or his horse-whip with the most perfect security. A poor man would have his bones broken if he offered to lift his hands in his own defence.... The execution of the laws lies very much in the hands of justices of the peace, many of whom are drawn from the most illiberal class in the kingdom."—Arthur Young, Tour in Ireland (Pinkerton's Travels, iii. 867, cf. p. 816.)
[36.]Of three great divisions of Ireland—Leinster, Munster, and Connaught—Mr. O'Connor Morris says: "Probably seven eighths of the land belong to a proprietary of Protestants, and perhaps even a greater proportion of the occupiers are Roman Catholics." (The Land Question of Ireland, p. 231.)
[37.]Constitutional History of England, iii. 382.
[38.]History of England, chap. vi.
[39.]"The Irish peasantry were incomparably worse off than the French peasantry were before the Revolution."—Prof. Rogers, Pol. Econ. 180.
[40.]"I am aware that, in the view of political economy as taught by writers of the hypothetical school, an absent landlord is identical with a landlord present; just as, by Mr. Mill's definition, Simon Magus and Simon Peter, John of Cappadocia and John the Baptist, are exact economical equivalents"—Address at Amherst, 1874.
[41.]It may fairly be assumed, for instance, that the ratio between the average value of male and of female serfs in Russia employed in agriculture before the emancipation—namely, £50 and £17 respectively (Statistical Journal, xxiii. 379)—fairly represented the relative worth to the owner of the two kinds of labor.
[42.]Mr. Brassey states that in the construction of the Lemberg and Czernowitz railway, in some places half the people employed were women, who earned 1.60 francs a day, while the men earned from two to three francs. (Work and Wages, p. 105.)
[43.]"It is a curious fact that in the great majority of occupations, the average wages of a boy, a woman, and a girl added together amount to those of a man."—Dudley Baxter, National Income, p. 49.
Lord Brabazon gives the average daily pay of French day-laborers in agriculture as one franc seventy-five centimes for men, eighty-five centimes for women, and sixty-three centimes for children; but women and children are employed for only a fraction of a year.
[44.]Ninth census of the United States (Industry and Wealth, table ix, A).
[45.]The disability which women suffer on account of their sex, when the conditions of industry require emigration from the country of their birth, may be seen from the following facts brought out by the Scotch census of 1871. Between 15 and 25 years of age there are 105.4 females for every 100 males; between 25 and 30 years there are 119.7 females for every 100 males. (Report, pp. xvi, xvii.)
[46.]"We can not forget that some years ago certain trades-unionists in the potteries imperatively insisted that a certain rest for the arm which they found almost essential to their work, should not be used by women engaged in the same employment. Not long since, the London tailors, when on a strike, having never admitted a woman to their union, attempted to coerce women from availing themselves of the remunerative employment which was offered in consequence of the strike. But this jealousy of women's labor has not been entirely confined to workmen. The same feeling has extended itself through every class of society. Last autumn a large number of Post-Office clerks objected to the employment of women in the Post-Office."—Henry Fawcett, House of Commons, July 30th, 1873. (Speeches, p. 133, 134.)
"An important strike is now going on in the town of Leicester, and what is the cause of it? Certain manufacturers wished to introduce women into their factories, and the men claimed a right not only to determine the price of labor, but also on what conditions women should be permitted to work. Nor is this all. Within the last fortnight there has been a great meeting of delegates of the Agricultural Laborers' Union. Women were not admitted. Why? On the express ground that the agricultural laborers of this country do not wish to recognize the labor of women."—Ibid, June 23d, 1874. (TheNews' Report.)
[47.]In their report made to the Local Government Board in 1873, Dr. Brydges and Mr. Holmes take note of the peculiar sensitiveness of female laborers to the praise or blame of their employers or overseers: "It would appear, from statements made to us which we have reason to think accurate, that it is very much easier to bring pressure to bear upon the energies of female operatives than of male. It is well known that with many workmen, especially if they be members of trades-unions, the consciousness that their fellow-workmen are present and are watching their work, tends rather to moderate than to intensify their zeal. Animated by the common object of selling their labor dear, they are apt to think an exceptionally zealous workman a traitor to the cause of labor. With women the reverse would seem to be the case. Less able to fix their eyes upon a distant object, less apt to enrol themselves in a well-drilled organization for which sacrifices are to be made, the ultimate compensation for which themselves and those immediately connected with them may never, or not for a long time, touch, they are far more keenly sensitive to the motives of approbation and vanity, and also to those of immediate tangible reward. It would seem to be as easy to goad women as it would be difficult to goad men into doing the greatest amount of piece-work in a given time. The admiration of their companions and the approbation of the overlooker appear to be at least as powerful inducements as the increase of their wages." (Report, p. 20.)
[48.]Pol. Econ., i. 285.
[49.]Brewing and baking were formerly purely domestic operations, and hence were performed by women, as the feminine termination of the words brew-ster and back-ster, like web-ster and spin-ster, indicates.
[50.]By 37th Edward III. women were exempted from the prohibition against exercising more than one craft.
[51.]In European Russia exclusive of the Baltio Provinces the number of females engaged in agriculture is reported as 12,917,593 against 13,444,842 males. In Prussia the number of farm-laborers was reported, in 1867, as follows: 1,054,213 females, 2,232,741 males. In England the census-tables show the following proportion between the sexes in agriculture: 183,450 females, 1,264,031 males. In Scotland the numbers are as follows: 50,464 females, 184,301 males. In the United States it is only among the late servile population of the South, and occasionally among recently-arrived foreigners at the extreme West, that women are seen laboring in the fields, even during the height of the harvest season. But women are probably nowhere employed through so long a period in the year as men. Lord Brabazon (Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1872, p. 44) gives the number of days on which men are employed in France at day labor in agriculture, as 200; for women the number of days is but 120. In England, as Mr. Purdy says, women in agriculture are "employed as supernumeraries to the men, and are only taken on at busy times." Arthur Young gives the following account of the Palatines settled in Ireland: "The women are very industrious, reap the corn, plough the ground sometimes, and do whatever work may be going on; they also spin and weave, and make the children do the same.... The industry of the women is a perfect contrast to the Irish ladies in the cabins, who can not be persuaded, on any consideration, even to make hay, it not being the custom of the country; yet they bind corn and do other work more laborious." (Pinkerton, iii. 849, 850.)
[52.]"Whereas the workman," says M. Jules Simon, in L'Ouvrière, "was once an intelligent force, he is now only an intelligence directing a force—that of steam—and the immediate consequence of the change has been to replace men by women, because women are cheaper and can direct the steam force with equal efficiency."
[53.]These causes operate with much greater force in some countries than in others. The following table shows the number of spinsters in each 100,000 women in England and in Scotland severally, as by the census of 1871. I only insert the figures for the period 20-65.
|Period of Life.||England.||Scotland.||Period of Life.||England.||Scotland.|
England annually celebrated 83 marriages for every 10,000 inhabitants; Scotland only 70.
[54.]Report of 1867-8, p. 17, n.
"The wear and tear of a neglected home," says Mr. R. Smith Baker, "is greater than the income which the wife's labor adds to the weekly means; and he who can earn enough and to spare ought to feel it a degradation for the wife of his bosom to mingle in these dangerous assemblies. Moreover, a workingman's family is his wealth when well brought up; his bane when sickly and unhealthy."
[55.]The disposition to allow married women to undertake paid labor in public places varies greatly in different communities. Mr. Carey in his Essay on Wages (1835) states that out of one thousand females in the Lawrence Factory at Lowell, there were but eleven married women (p. 88, n.) The proportion in these later days is much greater. I am indebted to the Hon. Wm. P. Haines for the information that of 1506 and 1203 persons employed respectively by the Pepperell Manufacturing Company and by the Laconia Company, both of Biddeford, Me., engaged in cotton-spinning, 105 in the former and 135 in the latter were married women.
Much indisposition to allow the wife to go into the mill is seen in the flax and jute districts of Scotland. Of 784 women employed in the mills at Arbroath, only 5½ per cent were married. "It appears," say the commissioners of the Local Government Board (1873), "to be considered somewhat discreditable for a woman to work in a factory after her marriage, and she does so only under the pressure of a stern necessity." At the same time almost 28 per cent of the females of Scotland were actually bread-winners. This is due to the excess of spinsters previously noted. The married women employed in the textile manufactories of England and Wales are estimated by Mr. W. C. Taylor, Inspector of Factories, at about 150,000 (Soc. Sc. Trans., 1874, p. 571). "Married women in factories are exceptional," says Mr. Phipps in his Report of 1870 on the Condition of the Industrial Classes of Wurtemburg (p. 223).
M. LePlay, in his work on the Organization of Labor, dwells strongly on the economical advantages of leaving the mother and daughter at the fireside.
[56.]"Fancy," says Miss Emily Faithfull, "a gentleman seeking remunerative work sub rosa! And yet this is the state of mind in which so many ladies come to our Industrial and Educational Bureau, that they even refuse to state their requirements to the lady manager, but insist upon seeing me personally on ‘strictly private and confidential business.' Public opinion is to be blamed for this; and unless the press will help us to strike a blow at the false pride now in our midst, parents will still, neglect to place their daughters in honorable independent positions."—Letter to the London Times, 1876.
[58.]Fortnightly Review, August, 1865.
[59.]Statistical Journal, xxx. 5.
Doubtless a much larger proportion of the earlier than of the later strikes in England were attended by immediate success. The reason may be presumed to be that, after the repeal of the Combinations Acts in 1824, the workmen struck simply for bread enough to eat. They had been held down by law and ground by an unequal competition till they were reduced below the economical point of subsistence. As to this the testimony of all reports is unanimous. Strikes made for such a palpable cause are more likely to succeed than those which are made, as many of the later ones have been, for doubtful reasons, on ill-chosen occasions, or for the enforcement of trades-unions rules which must appear to any disinterested person as void of sense and against common justice.
[61.]Prof. Fawcett, in his Political Economy, has collected a number of instances of strikes immediately successful. The best succinct account of the strike-movement in England which we have met is contained in Ward's Workmen and Wages. The same work also contains much information respecting strikes and trades-unions on the Continent of Europe.
[62.]Hist. Agr. and Prices, i. 8.
[63.]Not necessarily, as we have shown on a preceding page, by its immediate results.
[64.]The loss to production by strikes is often grossly overestimated. Not a few strikes take place because of a threatened reduction of wages in consequence of previous over-production, and the strike results in clearing the market more thoroughly than would be done otherwise. Then, again, the enforced inactivity of a strike for higher wages is often succeeded by an increased activity, which does something to make good the loss of time.
[65.]Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, ii., 70.
[66.]"Yet they were not made lawful."—Sir William Erle, Trades-Unions, p.26.
A combination of workmen is thus, in England, still to be held to examination in the light of the general principles of the law by which unreasonable restraint of trade is prohibited. 'The practical application of these principles," Sir William remarks, "lies in indictment for violation of duty towards the public, or in action for violation of a private right." (Ibid.)
[67.]Wealth of Nations, i. 70.
[68.]Chaapter xii. of the report of M. Ducarre, already cited, contains the text of the laws of 1810, 1849, and 1864 relating to combinations.
[69.]Workmen and Wages, p. 255.
[70.]Mr. J. G. Kennedy's report (Textile Factories, 1873, p. 24, 25).
[71.]Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1870, p. 25.
[72.]The full text of this Code will be found (in translation) in the Report on the condition of the Industrial Classes of Prussia, 1870, pp. 101-141.
[73.]I speak generally. As I understand the matter, combinations had been legalized in Prussia four or five years previously.
[74.]Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1871, p. 379.
[75.]Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1870, p. 507.
[76.]H.B.M. Consul Colnaghi's Report, 1871, p. 284 (articles 385-7 of the Code).
[77.]Workmen and Wages, p. 283.
[78.]1871, pp. 209-248.
[79.]1873, Textile Factories, p. 112.
[80.]"Worse even than plague, pestilence, or famine, combinations among workmen are the greatest social evil which, in a manufacturing or mining community, afflicts society."—Sir A. Alison (History of Europe, xx. 206.)
[81.]The objects of the "Amalgamated Society of Carpenters," comprising 190 branches and 8261 members, were thus stated by Mr. Applegarth, the Secretary, before Sir W. Erle's Commission: "To raise funds for the mutual support of its members in case of sickness, accident, superannuation; for the burial of members and their wives; emigration, loss of tools by fire, waste, or theft, and for assistance to members out of work; also, for granting assistance in cases of extreme distress not otherwise provided for by the rules." The proposed member "must be in good health, have worked five years at the trade, be a good workman, of steady habits, of good moral character, and not more than forty-three years of age." The admission-fee is 2s. 6d.; the weekly payment 1s. The several benefits are as follows: "Donation benefit for 12 weeks, 10s. per week; for another 12 weeks, 6s. per week; for leaving engagement satisfactory to branch and executive council, 15s.; tool benefit, to any amount of loss (or when a man has been a member for only six months, £5); sick benefit for 26 weeks, 12s. per week, and then 6s. per week so long as his illness continues; funeral benefit, £12 (or £3 10s. when a six-months' member dies); accident benefit, £100; superannuation benefit for life: if a member 25 years, 8s. per week; if a member 18 years, 7s.; if a member 12 years, 5s. The emigration benefit is £6, and there are benevolent grants, according to circumstances, in cases of distress."
The following is the exhibit of the liabilities and assets of the "Manchester Unity," an association numbering 426,663 members, and having 3488 places of business:
|Present value of Sick Benefits...||£8,548 592|
|Present value of Funeral Benefits to members...||1,775 162|
|Present value of Funeral Benefits to wives...||444 086|
|Present value of contributions...||£6,473 531|
|Present value of additional resources...||392 127|
|Capital...||2, 558 735|
[82.]The loss to the government was estimated by Mr. Finlaison at £95,000 a year.
[83.]Pp. 36-38. Speculators in British annuities under the bill of 1808 had a penchant for Scotch gardeners, these appearing to constitute the longest-lived class recognized in the statistical tables.
[84.]Ward's Workmen and Wages, p. 209.
[85.]Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1870, pp. 479-482.
[86.]Report on the Condition of the Industrial Classes, 1870, p. 509.
[87.]Report for 1871, p. 290.
[88.]Mr. Egerton's Report of 1873.
[89.]Report, pp. xvi, xvii.
[90.]This appears to be the sole office of the associations of artisans ("esnaf") in European Turkey. Mutual succor is an object which scarcely appears in their organizations.
[91.]"Although it is undoubtedly true that in a normal condition of society the system of protection and monopoly, of which the corporations were the very ideal, is extremely unfavorable to production, in the anarchy of the Middle Ages it was of very great use in giving the trading classes a union which protected them from plunder and enabled them to incline legislation in their favor."—Lecky's History of Rationalism, ii. 240.