Front Page Titles (by Subject) [I.viii] CHAPTER VIII: Of the Wages of Labour - Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2a An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 1
Return to Title Page for Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2a An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
[I.viii] CHAPTER VIII: Of the Wages of Labour - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2a An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 1 
An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. I ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, vol. II of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
About Liberty Fund:
The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith and the associated volumes are published in hardcover by Oxford University Press. The six titles of the Glasgow Edition, but not the associated volumes, are being published in softcover by Liberty Fund. The online edition is published by Liberty Fund under license from Oxford University Press.
©Oxford University Press 1976. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be stored transmitted retransmitted lent or reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of Oxford University Press.
Fair use statement:
Of the Wages of Labour
1The produce of labour constitutes the natural recompence or wages of labour.
2In that original state of things, which precedes both the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock,1 the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer2 . He has neither landlord nor master to share with him.
3Had this state continued, the wages of labour would have augmented with all those improvements in its productive powers, to which the division of labour gives occasion. All things would gradually have become cheaper. They would have been produced by a smaller quantity of labour; and as the commodities produced by equal quantities of labour would naturally in this state of things be exchanged for one another, they would have been purchased likewise with the produce of a smaller quantity.
4But though all things would have become cheaper in reality, in appearance many things might have become dearer than before, or have been exchanged for a greater quantity of other goods. Let us suppose, for example, that in the greater part of employments the productive powers of labour had been improved to tenfold, or that a day’s labour could produce ten times the quantity of work which it had done originally; but that in a particular employment they had been improved only to double, or that a day’s labour could produce only twice the quantity of work which it had done before. In exchanging the produce of a day’s labour in the greater part of employments, for that of a day’s labour in this particular one, ten times the original quantity of work in them would purchase only twice the original quantity in it. Any particular quantity in it, therefore, a pound weight, for example, would appear to be five times dearer than before. In reality, however, it would be twice as cheap. Though it required five times the quantity of other goods to purchase it, it would require only half the quantity of labour either to purchase or to produce it. The acquisition, therefore, would be twice as easy as before.
5But this original state of things, in which the labourer enjoyed the whole produce of his own labour, could not last beyond the first introduction of the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock. It was at an end, therefore, long before the most considerable improvements were made in the productive powers of labour, and it would be to no purpose to trace afarthera what might have been its effects upon the recompence or wages of labour.
6As soon as land becomes private property, the landlord demands a share of balmost all theb produce cwhichc the labourer can either raise, or collect from it. His rent makes the first deduction from the produce of the labour which is employed upon land.
7It seldom happens that the person who tills the ground has wherewithal to maintain himself till he reaps the harvest. His maintenance is generally advanced to him from the stock of a master, the farmer who employs him, and who would have no interest to employ him, unless he was to share in the produce of his labour, or unless his stock was to be replaced to him with a profit. This profit makes a second deduction from the produce of the labour which is employed upon land.
8The produce of almost all other labour is liable to the like deduction of profit. In all arts and manufactures the greater part of the workmen stand in need of a master to advance them the materials of their work, and their wages and maintenance till it be compleated. He shares in the produce of their labour, or in the value which it adds to the materials upon which it is bestowed; and in this share consists his profit.3
9It sometimes happens, indeed, that a single independent workman has stock sufficient both to purchase the materials of his work, and to maintain himself till it be compleated. He is both master and workman, and enjoys the whole produce of his own labour, or the whole value which it adds to the materials upon which it is bestowed. It includes what are usually two distinct revenues, belonging to two distinct persons, the profits of stock, and the wages of labour.4
10Such cases, however, are not very frequent, and in every part of Europe, twenty workmen serve under a master for one that is independent; and the wages of labour are every where understood to be, what they usually are, when the labourer is one person, and the owner of the stock which employs him another.
11What are the common wages of labour depends every where upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower the wages of labour.
12 It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in number, dcan combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations,d while it prohibits those of the workmen.5 We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the price of work; but many against combining to raise it. In all such disputes the masters can hold out much longer. A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year without employment. In the long–run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.
13We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters; though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and every where in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is every where a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things which nobody ever hears of.6 Masters too sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen; who sometimes too, without any provocation of this kind, combine of their own accord to raise the price of their labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the high price of provisions;7 sometimes the great profit which their masters make by their work. But whether their combinations be offensive or defensive, they are always abundantly heard of. In order to bring the point to a speedy decision, they have always recourse to the loudest clamour, and sometimes to the most shocking violence and outrage. They are desperate, and act with the folly and extravagance of desperate men, who must eeithere starve, or frighten their masters into an immediate compliance with their demands. The masters upon these occasions are just as clamorous upon the other side, and never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, labourers, and journeymen. The workmen, accordingly, very seldom derive any advantage from the violence of those tumultuous combinations, which, partly from the interposition of the civil magistrate, partly from the superior steadiness of the masters, partly from the necessity which the greater part of the workmen are under of submitting for the sake of present subsistence, generally end in nothing, but the punishment or ruin of the ringleaders.8
But though in disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have the advantage, there is however a certain rate below which it seems impossible to reduce, for any considerable time, the ordinary wages even of the lowest species of labour.
15A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more; otherwise it would be impossible ffor himf to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation. Mr. Cantillon seems, upon this account, to suppose that the lowest species of common labourers must every where earn at least double their own maintenance, in order that one with another they may be enabled to bring up two children; the labour of the wife, on account of her necessary attendance on the children, being supposed no more than sufficient to provide for herself. But one–half the children born, it is computed, die before the age of manhood.9 The poorest labourers, therefore, according to this account, must, one with another, attempt to rear at least four children, in order that two may have an equal chance of living to that age. But the necessary maintenance of four children, it is supposed, may be nearly equal to that of one man. The labour of an able–bodied slave, the same author adds, is computed to be worth double his maintenance; and that of the meanest labourer, he thinks, cannot be worth less than that of an able–bodied slave. Thus far at least seems certain, that, in order to bring up a family, the labour of the husband and wife together must, even in the lowest species of common labour, be able to earn something more than what is precisely necessary for their own maintenance;10 but in what proportion, whether in that abovementioned, or in any other, I shall not take upon me to determine.11
16There are certain circumstances, however, which sometimes give the labourers an advantage, and enable them to raise their wages considerably above this rate; evidently the lowest which is consistent with common humanity.
17When in any country the demand for those who live by wages; labourers, journeymen, servants of every kind, is continually increasing; when every year furnishes employment for a greater number than had been employed the year before, the workmen have no occasion to combine in order to raise their wages. The scarcity of hands occasions a competition among masters, who bid against one another, in order to get gworkmeng and thus voluntarily break through the natural combination of masters not to raise wages.
18The demand for those who live by wages, it is evident, cannot increase but in proportion to the increase of the funds which are destined for the payment of wages. These funds are of two kinds; first, the revenue which is over and above what is necessary for the maintenance; and, secondly, the stock which is over and above what is necessary for the employment of their masters.
19When the landlord, annuitant, or monied man, has a greater revenue than what he judges sufficient to maintain his own family, he employs either the whole or a part of the surplus in maintaining one or more menial servants. Increase this surplus, and he will naturally increase the number of those servants.
20When an independent workman, such as a weaver or shoe–maker, has got more stock than what is sufficient to purchase the materials of his own work, and to maintain himself till he can dispose of it, he naturally employs one or more journeymen with the surplus, in order to make a profit by their work. Increase this surplus, and he will naturally increase the number of his journeymen.
21The demand for those who live by wages, therefore, necessarily increases with the increase of the revenue and stock of every country, and cannot possibly increase without it. The increase of revenue and stock is the increase of national wealth. The demand for those who live by wages, therefore, naturally increases with the increase of national wealth, and cannot possibly increase without it.
22It is not the actual greatness of national wealth, but its continual increase, which occasions a rise in the wages of labour. It is not, accordingly, in the richest countries, but in the most thriving, or in those which are growing rich the fastest, that the wages of labour are highest. England is certainly, in the present times, a much richer country than any part of North America. The wages of labour, however, are much higher in North America than in any part of England.12 In the province of New York, common labourers earn* three shillings and sixpence currency, equal to two shillings sterling, a day; ship carpenters, ten shillings and sixpence currency, with a pint of rum worth sixpence sterling, equal in all to six shillings and sixpence sterling; house carpenters and bricklayers, eight shillings currency, equal to four shillings and sixpence sterling; journeymen taylors, five shillings currency, equal to about two shillings and ten pence sterling. These prices are all above the London price; and wages are said to be as high in the other colonies as in New York. The price of provisions is every where in North America much lower than in England. A dearth has never been known there. In the worst seasons, they have always had a sufficiency for themselves, though less for exportation. If the money price of labour, therefore, be higher than it is any where in the mother country, its real price, the real command of the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it conveys to the labourer, must be higher in a still greater proportion.
23But though North America is not yet so rich as England, it is much more thriving, and advancing with much greater rapidity to the further acquisition of riches.13 The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants. In Great Britain, and most other European countries, they are not supposed to double in less than five hundred years.14 In the British colonies in North America, it has been found, that they double in twenty or five–and–twenty years.15 Nor in the present times is this increase principally owing to the continual importation of new inhabitants, but to the great multiplication of the species. Those who live to old age, it is said, frequently see there from fifty to a hundred, and sometimes many more, descendants from their own body. Labour is there so well rewarded that a numerous family of children, instead of being a burthen is a source of opulence and prosperity to the parents. The labour of each child, before it can leave their house, is computed to be worth a hundred pounds clear gain to them. A young widow with four or five young children, who, among the middling or inferior ranks of people in Europe, would have so little chance for a second husband, is there frequently courted as a sort of fortune. The value of children is the greatest of all encouragements to marriage. We cannot, therefore, wonder that the people in North America should generally marry very young. Notwithstanding the great increase occasioned by such early marriages, there is a continual complaint of the scarcity of hands in North America.16 The demand for labourers, the funds destined for maintaining them, increase, it seems, still faster than they can find labourers to employ.17
24Though the wealth of a country should be very great, yet if it has been long stationary, we must not expect to find the wages of labour very high in it. The funds destined for the payment of wages, the revenue and stock of its inhabitants, may be of the greatest extent, but if they have continued for several centuries of the same, or very nearly of the same extent, the number of labourers employed every year could easily supply, and even more than supply, the number wanted the following year. There could seldom be any scarcity of hands, nor could the masters be obliged to bid against one another in order to get them. The hands, on the contrary, would, in this case, naturally multiply beyond their employment. There would be a constant scarcity of employment, and the labourers would be obliged to bid against one another in order to get it. If in such a country the wages of labour had ever been more than sufficient to maintain the labourer, and to enable him to bring up a family, the competition of the labourers and the interest of the masters would soon reduce them to this lowest rate which is consistent with common humanity. China has been long one of the richest, that is, one of the most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious, and most populous countries in the world. It seems, however, to have been long stationary. Marco Polo, who visited it more than five hundred years ago,18 describes its cultivation, industry, and populousness, almost in the same terms in which they are described by travellers in the present times. It had perhaps, even long before his time, acquired that full complement of riches which the nature of its laws and institutions permits it to acquire.19 The accounts of all travellers, inconsistent in many other respects, agree in the low wages of labour, and in the difficulty which a labourer finds in bringing up a family in China. If by digging the ground a whole day he can get what will purchase a small quantity of rice in the evening, he is contented. The condition of artificers is, if possible, still worse. Instead of waiting indolently in their work–houses, for the calls of their customers, as in Europe, they are continually running about the streets with the tools of their respective trades, offering their service, and as it were begging employment.20 The poverty of the lower ranks of people in China far surpasses that of the most beggarly nations in Europe. In the neighbourhood of Canton many hundred, it is commonly said, many thousand families have no habitation on the land, but live constantly in little fishing boats upon the rivers and canals. The subsistence which they find there is so scanty that they are eager to fish up the nastiest garbage thrown overboard from any European ship. Any carrion, the carcase of a dead dog or cat, for example, though half putrid and stinking, is as welcome to them as the most wholesome food to the people of other countries. Marriage is encouraged in China, not by the profitableness of children, but by the liberty of destroying them. In all great towns several are every night exposed in the street, or drowned like puppies in the water. The performance of this horrid office is even said to be the avowed business by which some people earn their subsistence.21
25China, however, though it may perhaps stand still, does not seem to go backwards. Its towns are no–where deserted by their inhabitants. The lands which had once been cultivated are no–where neglected. The same or very nearly the same annual labour must therefore continue to be performed, and the funds destined for maintaining it must not, consequently, be sensibly diminished. The lowest class of labourers, therefore, notwithstanding their scanty subsistence, must some way or another make shift to continue their race so far as to keep up their usual numbers.
26But it would be otherwise in a country where the funds destined for the maintenance of labour were sensibly decaying. Every year the demand for servants and labourers would, in all the different classes of employments, be less than it had been the year before. Many who had been bred in the superior classes, not being able to find employment in their own business, would be glad to seek it in the lowest. The lowest class being not only overstocked with its own workmen, but with the overflowings of all the other classes, the competition for employment would be so great in it, as to reduce the wages of labour to the most miserable and scanty subsistence of the labourer. Many would not be able to find employment even upon these hard terms, but would either starve, or be driven to seek a subsistence either by begging, or by the perpetration perhaps of the greatest enormities. Want, famine, and mortality would immediately prevail in that class, and from thence extend themselves to all the superior classes, till the number of inhabitants in the country was reduced to what could easily be maintained by the revenue and stock which remained in it, and which had escaped either the tyranny or calamity which had destroyed the rest. This perhaps is nearly the present state of Bengal, and of some other of the English settlements in the East Indies.22 In a fertile country which had before been much depopulated, where subsistence, consequently, should not be very difficult, and where, notwithstanding, three or four hundred thousand people die of hunger in one year, we may be assured that the funds destined for the maintenance of the labouring poor are fast decaying. The difference between the genius of the British constitution which protects and governs North America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries.23
27The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the necessary effect, so it is the natural symptom of increasing national wealth. The scanty maintenance of the labouring poor, on the other hand, is the natural symptom that things are at a stand, and their starving condition that they are going fast backwards.
28In Great Britain the wages of labour seem, in the present times, to be evidently more than what is precisely necessary to enable the labourer to bring up a family. In order to satisfy ourselves upon this point it will not be necessary to enter into any tedious or doubtful calculation of what may be the lowest sum upon which it is possible to do this. There are many plain symptoms that the wages of labour are no–where in this country regulated by this lowest rate which is consistent with common humanity.
29First, in almost every part of Great Britain there is a distinction, even in the lowest species of labour, between summer and winter wages. Summer wages are always highest. But on account of the extraordinary expense of fewel, the maintenance of a family is most expensive in winter. Wages, therefore, being highest when this expence is lowest, it seems evident that they are not regulated by what is necessary for this expence; but by the quantity and supposed value of the work. A labourer, it may be said indeed, ought to save part of his summer wages in order to defray his winter expence; and that through the whole year they do not exceed what is necessary to maintain his family through the whole year. A slave, however, or one absolutely dependent on us for immediate subsistence, would not be treated in this manner. His daily subsistence would be proportioned to his daily necessities.
30Secondly, the wages of labour do not in Great Britain fluctuate with the price of provisions. These vary every–where from year to year, frequently from month to month. But in many places the money price of labour remains uniformly the same sometimes for half a century together. If in these places, therefore, the labouring poor can maintain their families in dear years, they must be at their ease in times of moderate plenty, and in affluence in those of extraordinary cheapness. The high price of provisions during these ten years past has not in many parts of the kingdom been accompanied with any sensible rise in the money price of labour. It has, indeed, in some; owing probably more to the increase of the demand for labour, than to that of the price of provisions.
31Thirdly, as the price of provisions varies more from year to year than the wages of labour, so, on the other hand, the wages of labour vary more from place to place than the price of provisions. The prices of bread and butcher’s meat are generally the same or very nearly the same through the greater part of the united kingdom. These and most other things which are sold by retail, the way in which the labouring poor buy all things, are generally fully as cheap or cheaper in great towns than in the remoter parts of the country, for reasons which I shall have occasion to explain hereafter.24 But the wages of labour in a great town and its neighbourhood are frequently a fourth or a fifth part, twenty or five–and–twenty per cent. higher than at a few miles distance. Eighteen pence a day may be reckoned the common price of labour in London and its neighbourhood. At a few miles distance it falls to fourteen and fifteen pence. Ten pence may may be reckoned its price in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood.25 At a few miles distance it falls to eight pence, the usual price of common labour through the greater part of the low country of Scotland, where it varies a good deal less than in England.26 Such a difference of prices, which it seems is not always sufficient to transport a man from one parish to another, would necessarily occasion so great a transportation of the most bulky commodities, not only from one parish to another, but from one end of the kingdom, almost from one end of the world to the other, as would soon reduce them more nearly to a level. After all that has been said of the levity and inconstancy of human nature, it appears evidently from experience that a man is of all sorts of luggage the most difficult to be transported. If the labouring poor, therefore, can maintain their families in those parts of the kingdom where the price of labour is lowest, they must be in affluence where it is highest.
32Fourthly, the variations in the price of labour not only do not correspond either in place or time with those in the price of provisions, but they are frequently quite opposite.
33Grain, the food of the common people, is dearer in Scotland than in England, whence Scotland receives almost every year very large supplies. But English corn must be sold dearer in Scotland, the country to which it is brought, than in England, the country from which it comes; and in proportion to its quality it cannot be sold dearer in Scotland than the Scotch corn that comes to the same market in competition with it.27 The quality of grain depends chiefly upon the quantity of flour or meal which it yields at the mill, and in this respect English grain is so much superior to the Scotch, that, though often dearer in appearance, or in proportion to the measure of its bulk, it is generally cheaper in reality, or in proportion to its quality, or even to the measure of its weight. The price of labour, on the contrary, is dearer in England than in Scotland. If the labouring poor, therefore, can maintain their families in the one part of the united kingdom, they must be in affluence in the other. Oatmeal indeed supplies the common people in Scotland with the greatest and the best part of their food, which is in general much inferior to that of their neighbours of the same rank in England.28 This difference, however, in the mode of their subsistence is not the cause, but the effect of the difference in their wages; though, by a strange misapprehension, I have frequently heard it represented as the cause. It is not because one man keeps a coach while his neighbour walks a–foot, that the one is rich and the other poor; but because the one is rich he keeps a coach, and because the other is poor he walks a–foot.
34During the course of the last century, taking one year with another, grain was dearer in both parts of the united kingdom than during that of the present. This is a matter of fact which cannot now admit of any reasonable doubt; and the proof of it is, if possible, still more decisive with regard to Scotland than with regard to England. It is in Scotland supported by the evidence of the publick fiars,29 annual valuations made upon oath, according to the actual state of the markets, of all the different sorts of grain in every different county of Scotland. If such direct proof could require any collateral evidence to confirm it, I would observe that this has likewise been the case in France, and probably in most other parts of Europe. With regard to France there is the clearest proof.30 But though it is certain that in both parts of the united kingdom grain was somewhat dearer in the last century than in the present, it is equally certain that labour was much cheaper. If the labouring poor, therefore, could bring up their families then, they must be much more at their ease now. In the last century, the most usual day–wages of common labour through the greater part of Scotland were sixpence in summer and five–pence in winter. Three shillings a week, the same price very nearly, still continues to be paid in some parts of the Highlands and Western Islands. Through the greater part of the low country the most usual wages of common labour are now eight–pence a day; ten–pence, sometimes a shilling about Edinburgh, in the counties which border upon England, probably on account of that neighbourhood, and in a few other places where there has lately been a considerable rise in the demand for labour, about Glasgow, Carron, Ayrshire, &c. In England the improvements of agriculture, manufactures and commerce began much earlier than in Scotland. The demand for labour, and consequently its price, must necessarily have increased with those improvements. In the last century, accordingly, as well as in the present, the wages of labour were higher in England than in Scotland. They have risen too considerably since that time, though, on account of the greater variety of wages paid there in different places, it is more difficult to ascertain how much. In 1614, the pay of a foot soldier was the same as in the present times, eight pence a day. When it was first established it would naturally be regulated by the usual wages of common labourers, the rank of people from which foot soldiers are commonly drawn.31 Lord Chief Justice Hales, who wrote in the time of Charles II. computes the necessary expence of a labourer’s family, consisting of six persons, the father and mother, two children able to do something, and two not able, at ten shillings a week, or twenty–six pounds a year. If they cannot earn this by their labour, they must make it up, he supposes, either by begging or stealing.32 He appears to have enquired very carefully into this subject* . In 1688, Mr. Gregory King, whose skill in political arithmetick is so much extolled by Doctor Davenant,33 computed the ordinary income of labourers and out–servants to be fifteen pounds a year to a family, which he supposed to consist, one with another, of three and a half persons. His calculation, therefore, though different in appearance, corresponds very nearly at bottom with that of judge Hales. Both suppose the weekly expence of such families to be about twenty pence a head. Both the pecuniary income and expence of such families have increased considerably since that time through the greater part of the kingdom; in some places more, and in some less; though perhaps scarce any where so much as some exaggerated accounts of the present wages of labour have lately represented them to the publick. The price of labour, it must be observed, cannot be ascertained very accurately any where, different prices being often paid at the same place and for the same sort of labour, not only according to the different abilities of the workmen, but according to the easiness or hardness of the masters. Where wages are not regulated by law, all that we can pretend to determine is what are the most usual; and experience seems to show that law can never regulate them properly, though it has often pretended to do so.
35The real recompence of labour, the real quantity of the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it can procure to the labourer, has, during the course of the present century, increased perhaps in a still greater proportion than its money price. Not only grain has become somewhat cheaper, but many other things from which the industrious poor derive an agreeable and wholesome variety of food, have become a great deal cheaper. Potatoes, for example, do not at present, through the greater part of the kingdom, cost half the price which they used to do thirty or forty years ago. The same thing may be said of turnips, carrots, cabbages; things which were formerly never raised but by the spade, but which are now commonly raised by the plough.34 All sort of garden stuff too has become cheaper. The greater part of the apples and even of the onions consumed in Great Britain were in the last century imported from Flanders. The great improvements in the coarser manufactures of both linen and woollen cloth furnish the labourers with cheaper and better cloathing; and those in the manufactures of the coarser metals, with cheaper and better instruments of trade, as well as with many agreeable and convenient pieces of houshold furniture. Soap, salt, candles, leather, and fermented liquors have, indeed, become a good deal dearer; chiefly from the taxes which have been laid upon them. The quantity of these, however, which the labouring poor are under any necessity of consuming, is so very small, that the increase in their price does not compensate the diminution in that of so many other things.35 The common complaint that luxury extends itself even to the lowest ranks of the people, and that the labouring poor will not now be contented with the same food, cloathing and lodging which satisfied them in former times, may convince us that it is not the money price of labour only, but its real recompence, which has augumented.
36Is this improvement in the circumstances of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency to the society? The answer seems at first sight abundantly plain. Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.
37Poverty, though it no doubt discourages, does not always prevent marriage. It seems even to be favourable to generation.36 A half–starved Highland woman frequently bears more than twenty children, while a pampered fine lady is often incapable of bearing any, and is generally exhausted by two or three. Barrenness, so frequent among women of fashion, is very rare among those of inferior station. Luxury in the fair sex, while it enflames perhaps the passion for enjoyment, seems always to weaken, and frequently to destroy altogether, the powers of generation.
38But poverty, though it does not prevent the generation, is extremely unfavourable to the rearing of children. The tender plant is produced, but in so cold a soil and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies. It is not uncommon, I have been frequently told, in the Highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne twenty children not to have two alive. Several officers of great experience have assured me, that so far from recruiting their regiment, they have never been able to supply it with drums and fifes from all the soldiers children that were born in it. A greater number of fine children, however, is seldom seen anywhere than about a barrack of soldiers. Very few of them, it seems, arrive at the age of thirteen or fourteen. In some places one half the children born die before they are four years of age; in many places before they are seven; and in almost all places before they are nine or ten.37 This great mortality, however, will every where be found chiefly among the children of the common people, who cannot afford to tend them with the same care as those of better station. Though their marriages are generally more fruitful than those of people of fashion, a smaller proportion of their children arrive at maturity. In foundling hospitals, and among the children brought up by parish charities, the mortality is still greater than among those of the common people.
39Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the means of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply beyond it.38 But in civilized society it is only among the inferior ranks of people that the scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further multiplication of the human species; and it can do so in no other way than by destroying a great part of the children which their fruitful marriages produce.
40The liberal reward of labour, by enabling them to provide better for their children, and consequently to bring up a greater number, naturally tends to widen and extend those limits. It deserves to be remarked too, that it necessarily does this as nearly as possible in the proportion which the demand for labour requires. If this demand is continually increasing, the reward of labour must necessarily encourage in such a manner the marriage and multiplication of labourers, as may enable them to supply that continually increasing demand by a continually increasing population. If kthe rewardk should at any time be less than what was requisite for this purpose, the deficiency of hands would soon raise it; and if it should at any time be more, their excessive multiplication would soon lower it to this necessary rate. The market would be so much under–stocked with labour in the one case, and so much over–stocked in the other, as would soon force back its price to that proper rate which the circumstances of the society required. It is in this manner that the demand for men, like that for any other commodity, necessarily regulates the production of men; quickens it when it goes on too slowly, and stops it when it advances too fast. It is this demand which regulates and determines the state of propagation in all the different countries of the world, in North America, in Europe, and in China; which renders it rapidly progressive in the first, slow and gradual in the second, and altogether stationary in the last.
41The lwear and tearl of a slave, it has been said, is at the expence of his master; but that of a free servant is at his own expence. The mwear and tearm of the latter, however, is, in reality, as much at the expence of his master as that of the former. The wages paid to journeymen and servants of every kind must be such as may enable them, one with another, to continue the race of journeymen and servants, according as the increasing, diminishing, or stationary demand of the society may happen to require. But though the nwear and tearn of a free servant be equally at the expence of his master, it generally costs him much less than that of a slave. The fund destined for replacing or repairing, if I may say so, the owear and tearo of the slave, is commonly managed by a negligent master or careless overseer. That destined for performing the same office with regard to the free man, is managed by the free man himself. The disorders which generally prevail in the œconomy of the rich, naturally introduce themselves into the management of the former: The strict frugality and parsimonious attention of the poor as naturally establish themselves in that of the latter. Under such different management, the same purpose must require very different degrees of expence to execute it. It appears, accordingly, from the experience of all ages and nations, I believe, that the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves.39 It is found to do so even at Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, where the wages of common labour are so very high.
42The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the effect of increasing wealth, so it is the cause of increasing population. To complain of it is to lament over the necessary effect and cause of the greatest publick prosperity.
43It deserves to be remarked, perhaps, that it is in the progressive state, while the society is advancing to the further acquisition, rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the labouring poor, of the great body of the people, seems to be the happiest and the most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary, and miserable in the declining state. The progressive state is in reality the chearful and the hearty state to all the different orders of the society. The stationary is dull; the declining, melancholy.
44 The liberal reward of labour, as it encourages the propagation, so it increases the industry of the common people. The wages of labour are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition,40 and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low; in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighbourhood of great towns, than in remote country places. Some workmen, indeed, when they can earn in four days what will maintain them through the week, will be idle the other three.41 This, however, is by no means the case with the greater part.42 Workmen, on the contrary, when they are liberally paid by the piece, are very apt to over–work themselves, and to ruin their health and constitution in a few years. A carpenter in London, and in some other places, is not supposed to last in his utmost vigour above eight years. Something of the same kind happens in many other trades, in which the workmen are paid by the piece; as they generally are in manufactures, and even in country labour, wherever wages are higher than ordinary. Almost every class of artificers is subject to some peculiar infirmity occasioned by excessive application to their peculiar species of work. Ramuzzini, an eminent Italian physician, has written a particular book concerning such diseases.43 We do not reckon our soldiers the most industrious set of people among us. Yet when soldiers have been employed in some particular sorts of work, and liberally paid by the piece, their officers have frequently been obliged to stipulate with the undertaker, that they should not be allowed to earn above a certain sum every day, according to the rate at which they were paid.44 Till this stipulation was made, mutual emulation and the desire of greater gain, frequently prompted them to over–work themselves, and to hurt their health by excessive labour. Excessive application during four days of the week, is frequently the real cause of the idleness of the other three, so much and so loudly complained of. Great labour, either of mind or body, continued for several days together, is in most men naturally followed by a great desire of relaxation, which, if not restrained by force or by some strong necessity, is almost irresistible. It is the call of nature, which requires to be relieved by some indulgence, sometimes of ease only, but sometimes too of dissipation and diversion. If it is not complied with, the consequences are often dangerous, and sometimes fatal, and such as almost always, sooner or later, bring on the peculiar infirmity of the trade. If masters would always listen to the dictates of reason and humanity, they have frequently occasion rather to moderate, than to animate the application of many of their workmen. It will be found, I believe, in every sort of trade, that the man who works so moderately, as to be able to work constantly, not only preserves his health the longest, but, in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of work.
45In cheap years, it is pretended, workmen are generally more idle, and in dear ones more industrious than ordinary. A plentiful subsistence, therefore, it has been concluded, relaxes, and a scanty one quickens their industry. That a little more plenty than ordinary may render some workmen idle, cannot well be doubted; but that it should have this effect upon the greater part, or that men in general should work better when they are ill fed than when they are well fed, when they are disheartened than when they are in good spirits, when they are frequently sick than when they are generally in good health, seems not very probable. Years of dearth, it is to be observed, are generally among the common people years of sickness and mortality, which cannot fail to diminish the produce of their industry.
46In years of plenty, servants frequently leave their masters, and trust their subsistence to what they can make by their own industry. But the same cheapness of provisions, by increasing the fund which is destined for the maintenance of servants, encourages masters, farmers especially, to employ a greater number. Farmers upon such occasions expect more profit from their corn by maintaining a few more labouring servants, than by selling it at a low price in the market. The demand for servants increases, while the number of those who offer to supply that demand diminishes. The price of labour, therefore, frequently rises in cheap years.45
47In years of scarcity, the difficulty and uncertainty of subsistence make all such people eager to return to service. But the high price of provisions, by diminishing the funds destined for the maintenance of servants, disposes masters rather to diminish than to increase the number of those they have. In dear years too, poor independent workmen frequently consume the little stocks with which they had used to supply themselves with the materials of their work, and are obliged to become journeymen for subsistence. More people want employment than can easily get it; many are willing to take it upon lower terms than ordinary, and the wages of both servants and journeymen frequently sink in dear years.
48Masters of all sorts, therefore, frequently make better bargains with their servants in dear than in cheap years, and find them more humble and dependent in the former than in the latter. They naturally, therefore, commend the former as more favourable to industry. Landlords and farmers, besides, two of the largest classes of masters, have another reason for being pleased with dear years. The rents of the one and the profits of the other depend very much upon the price of provisions. Nothing can be more absurd, however, than to imagine that men in general should work less when they work for themselves, than when they work for other people. A poor independent workman will generally be more industrious than even a journeyman who works by the piece. The one enjoys the whole produce of his own industry; the other shares it with his master. The one, in his separate independent state, is less liable to the temptations of bad company, which in large manufactories so frequently ruin the morals of the other.46 The superiority of the independent workman over those servants who are hired by the month or by the year, and whose wages and maintenance are the same whether they do much or do little, is likely to be still greater. Cheap years tend to increase the proportion of independent workmen to journeymen and servants of all kinds, and dear years to diminish it.
49A French author of great knowledge and ingenuity, Mr. Messance, receiver of the ptaillesp in the election of St. Etienne, endeavours to show that the poor do more work in cheap than in dear years, by comparing the quantity and value of the goods made upon those different occasions in three different manufactures; one of coarse woollens carried on at Elbeuf; one of linen, and another of silk, both which extend through the whole generality of Rouen.47 It appears from his account, which is copied from the registers of the publick offices, that the quantity and value of the goods made in all those three manufactures has generally been greater in cheap than in dear years; and that it has always been greatest in the cheapest, and least in the dearest years. All the three seem to be stationary manufactures, or which, though their produce may vary somewhat from year to year, are upon the whole neither going backwards nor forwards.
50The manufacture of linen in Scotland, and that of coarse woollens in the west riding of Yorkshire, are growing manufactures, of which the produce is generally, though with some variations, increasing both in quantity and value. Upon examining, however, the accounts which have been published of their annual produce, I have not been able to observe that its variations have had any sensible connection with the dearness or cheapness of the seasons. In 1740, a year of great scarcity, both manufactures, indeed, appear to have declined very considerably.48 But in 1756, another year of great scarcity, the Scotch manufacture made more than ordinary advances.49 The Yorkshire manufacture, indeed, declined, and its produce did not rise to what it had been in 1755 till 1766, after the repeal of the American stamp act.50 In that and the following year it greatly exceeded what it had ever been before, and it has continued to qadvanceq ever since.
51The produce of all great manufactures for distant sale must necessarily depend, not so much upon the dearness or cheapness of the seasons in the countries where they are carried on, as upon the circumstances which affect the demand in the countries where they are consumed; upon peace or war, upon the prosperity or declension of other rival manufactures, and upon the good or bad humour of their principal customers. A great part of the extraordinary work, besides, which is probably done in cheap years, never enters the publick registers of manufactures. The men servants who leave their masters become independent labourers. The women return to their parents, and commonly spin in order to make cloaths for themselves and their families. Even the independent workmen do not always work for publick sale, but are employed by some of their neighbours in manufactures for family use. The produce of their labour, therefore, frequently makes no figure in those publick registers of which the records are sometimes published with so much parade, and from which our merchants and manufacturers would often vainly pretend to announce the prosperity or declension of the greatest empires.
52Though the variations in the price of labour, not only do not always correspond with those in the price of provisions, but are frequently quite opposite, we must not, upon this account, imagine that the price of provisions has no influence upon that of labour.51 The money price of labour is necessarily regulated by two circumstances; the demand for labour, and the price of the necessaries and conveniencies of life.52 The demand for labour, according as it happens to be increasing, stationary, or declining, or to require an increasing, stationary, or declining population, determines the quantity of the necessaries and conveniencies of life which must be given to the labourer; and the money price of labour is determined by what is requisite for purchasing this quantity. Though the money price of labour, therefore, is sometimes high where the price of provisions is low, it would be still higher, the demand continuing the same, if the price of provisions was high.
53It is because the demand for labour increases in years of sudden and extraordinary plenty, and diminishes in those of sudden and extraordinary scarcity, that the money price of labour sometimes rises in the one, and sinks in the other.
54In a year of sudden and extraordinary plenty, there are funds in the hands of many of the employers of industry, sufficient to maintain and employ a greater number of industrious people than had been employed the year before; and this extraordinary number cannot always be had. Those masters, therefore, who want more workmen, bid against one another, in order to get them, which sometimes raises both the real and the money price of their labour.
55The contrary of this happens in a year of sudden and extraordinary scarcity. The funds destined for employing industry are less than they had been the year before. A considerable number of people are thrown out of employment, who bid ragainst oner another, in order to get it, which sometimes lowers both the real and the money price of labour. In 1740, a year of extraordinary scarcity, many people were willing to work for bare subsistence. In the succeeding years of plenty, it was more difficult to get labourers and servants.
56The scarcity of a dear year, by diminishing the demand for labour, tends to lower its price, as the high price of sprovisionss tends to raise it. The plenty of a cheap year, on the contrary, by increasing the demand, tends to raise the price of labour, as the cheapness of provisions tends to lower it. In the ordinary variations of the price of provisions, those two opposite causes seem to counterbalance one another; which is probably in part the reason why the wages of labour are every–where so much more steady and permanent than the price of provisions.
57The increase in the wages of labour necessarily increases the price of many commodities, by increasing that part of it which resolves itself into wages, and so far tends to diminish their consumption both at home and abroad. The same cause, however, which raises the wages of labour, the increase of stock, tends to increase its productive powers, and to make a smaller quantity of labour produce a greater quantity of work. The owner of the stock which employs a great number of labourers, necessarily endeavours, for his own advantage, to make such a proper division and distribution of employment, that they may be enabled to produce the greatest quantity of work possible. For the same reason, he endeavours to supply them with the best machinery which either he or they can think of.53 What takes place among the labourers in a particular workhouse, takes place, for the same reason, among those of a great society. The greater their number, the more they naturally divide themselves into different classes and subdivisions of employment. More heads are occupied in inventing the most proper machinery for executing the work of each, and it is, therefore, more likely to be invented. There are many commodities, therefore, which, in consequence of these improvements, come to be produced by so much less labour than before, that the increase of its price tis more than compensated byt the diminution of its quantity.54
[1 ]The same words are used, but in a different order, at I.vi.1.
[2 ]The same words are used above, I.vi.4.
[a–a]further 1, 4–6
[3 ]See above, I.vi.5.
[4 ]Smith comments on the need to distinguish between types of return at I.vi.19.
[d–d]cannot only combine more easily, but the law authorizes their combinations, or at least does not prohibit them, 1
[5 ]Smith comments on the role of government at I.x.c.34 and mentions statutes affecting wages at I.x.c.61.7 George I, st.1, c.13 (1720) regulated journeymen tailors; 12 George I, c.34 (1725) regulated certain workmen in the woollen manufactures; 12 George I, c.35 (1725) regulated brickmakers; and 22 George II, c.27 (1748) extended the provisions to a wide range of industries.
[6 ]See below, I.x.c.61.
[7 ]Smith comments on the influence of the price of provisions on wages below, I.viii.46–57.
[8 ]It is noted in the index under the article ‘Labourers’ that they ‘are seldom successful in their outrageous combinations’. The same point is made under the article ‘Wages’.
[9 ]‘According to the calculations and observations of the celebrated Dr. Halley’ (Cantillon, Essai, 42–3, ed. Higgs 33). Examples of child mortality are given at I.viii.38.
[10 ]Cf. Harris, Essay, i.9–10: ‘It may be reasonably allowed, that a labouring man ought to earn at least, twice as much as will maintain himself in ordinary food and cloathing; that he may be enabled to breed up children, pay rent for a small dwelling, find himself in necessary utensils, &c. So much at least the labourer must be allowed, that the community may be perpetuated.’
[11 ]Cantillon holds that the problem ‘does not admit of exact calculation, and exactitude is not very necessary; it suffices to be near enough to the truth’ (Essai 44, ed. Higgs 35). It is noteworthy, in this connection, that in speaking of the subsistence wage, Smith made allowance for customary expense and for ‘those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people’. See, for example, V.ii.k.3 and 15.
[12 ]In commenting on Smith’s doctrine that the highest wages would be found in those countries which had the highest rates of growth Pownall pointed out that the rate of increase in the price of commodities might outstrip the rate of increase in the ‘price’ of wages, so that in the ‘triumph of prosperity’ the lower orders could find themselves in ‘a constant state of helpless oppression’. Letter, 15–16. He makes a similar point at p. 7, suggesting that commodity prices ‘do forerun, and must, during the progress of improvement, always forerun’ both wages and rent. Pownall made the additional point at pp. 32–3 that in a country enjoying a rapid rate of improvement, the rate of change in the prices of manufactured goods would tend to outstrip that of corn, thus placing both landlords and wagelabour in a relatively unfavourable position. Pownall argued that ‘the landed men and labourers must be in a continual state of oppression and distress: that they are so in fact, the invariable and universal experience of all improving countries.’ For a modern examination of a similar problem, see H. J. Habakkuk, American and British Technology in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1962).
[13 ]See below, II.v.21, where the rapid rate of growth in America is ascribed to the predominance of investment in agriculture, and cf. IV.vii.c.79.
[14 ]Sir William Petty calculated ‘360 Years for the time of doubling (including some Allowance for Wars, Plagues, and Famine, the Effects thereof, though they be Terrible at the Times and Places where they happen, yet in a period of 360 Years, is no great Matter in the whole Nation.)’ (Another Essay in Political Arithmetick concerning the Growth of the City of London (London, 1683), 15, ed. C. H. Hull, ii.463.) Cf. Gregory King: ‘That, Anno 1260, or about 200 years after the Norman Conquest, the kingdom had 2,750,000 people, or half the present number; so that the people of England have doubled in about 435 years last past; That in probability the next doubling of the people of England will be in about 600 years to come.’ (Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England, 1688, in G. Chalmers, Comparative Strength of Great Britain to 1803 (London, 1804), 41; quoted in C. D’avenant, Political and Commercial Works, ed. C. Whitworth (London, 1771), ii.176.)
[15 ]The same figures are cited below, III.iv.19. It is stated at IV.iii.c.12 that the population of France was 24, and that of America, 3 millions. The same figure for America is cited at V.iii.76 where it is also stated that Britain had less than 8 and Ireland more than 2 million inhabitants. Richard Price also remarked, on the authority of Dr. Heberden, that: ‘in Madeira, the inhabitants double their own number in 84 years. But this . . . is a very slow increase, compared with that which takes place among our colonies in america. In the back settlements, where the inhabitants apply themselves entirely to agriculture, and luxury is not known, they double their own number in 15 years; and all thro’ the northern colonies, in 25 years.’ (Observations on Reversionary Payments (London, 1772), 203.) Evidently Smith did not admire Price. Letter 251 addressed to George Chalmers, dated 22 December 1785 reads: ‘Price’s speculations cannot fail to sink into the neglect that they always deserved. I have always considered him as a factious citizen, a most superficial Philosopher and by no means an able calculator.’
[16 ]The profitability of children is mentioned at IV.vii.b.2.
[17 ]It is pointed out in LJ (B) 329–30, ed. Cannan 256, that in Scotland there is relatively little demand for the labour of the very young, owing to prevailing economic conditions: ‘This however is not the case in the commercial parts of England. A boy of 6 or 7 years of age at Birmingham can gain his 3 pence or sixpence a day, and parents find it to be their interest to set them soon to work.’ See below, V.i.f.53.
[18 ]In 1275. Marco Polo is also mentioned below, IV.vii.a.8.
[19 ]See below, I.ix.15.
[20 ]‘Les artisans courent les villes du matin au soir pour chercher pratique.’ (F. Quesnay, Oeuvres économiques et philosophiques, ed. A. Oncken (Paris, 1888), 581.)
[21 ]The authority is probably J. B. Du Halde, Description geographique, historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l’Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise (Paris, 1735), ii.73–4. See also Cantillon, Essai, 88–90, ed. Higgs 67–9. TMS V.i.2.15 refers to the barbarous custom of exposing children and observes that the practice was followed by civilized nations such as the Greeks, and condoned by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Smith added: ‘We find, at this day, that this practice prevails among all savage nations; and in that rudest and lowest state of society it is undoubtedly more pardonable than in any other.’ He makes the same points in LJ (A) iii.80–1 and also refers to the practice in China where women were said to go from house to house collecting children to be thrown into the river: ‘as we would send a parcell of puppies or kittens to be drowned. The fathers [i.e. of the Church] make a great merit of their conduct on this occasion. They converted to Christianity two of these women, and took their promise that they should bring them to be baptised before they drowned them. And in this they glory as having saved a vast number of souls.’ In LJ (A) iii.79 Smith mentioned the exposure of children in Rome, and Athens, and that it was also ‘practised in most early nations’ and in many countries where polygamy took place. He also pointed out in LJ (B) 146, ed. Cannan 104, that ‘Even in the times of exposition, when an infant was some time kept it was thought cruel to put him to death.’ The Anderson Notes contain the comment that exposure ‘took place among the Greeks and Romans, but if the child lived several weeks the father had no right to expose it’ (28). In his essay ‘Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations’ Hume refers to the modern Chinese practice of exposing children and makes the point that in ancient times it was so common that it was ‘not spoken of by any author of those times with the horror it deserves, or scarcely even with dissapprobation’ (Essays Moral, Political and Literary, ed. Green and Grose, i.396). See also Montesquieu, Esprit, VIII.xxi.13, XXIII.xvi.1 and xxii.
[22 ]It is stated at I.xi.g.25 that Spain and Portugal, alone among the European nations, seem to have gone ‘backwards’ since the discovery of America.
[23 ]The influence of British institutions on the development of America is considered at IV.vii.b.17–21 and IV.vii.b.51. The government of the East India Company is described at IV.vii.c.101–7.
[24 ]See below, I.x.b.37.
[25 ]Smith may overestimate the wage rates slightly. At Whittinghame in East Lothian a day labourer earned 4d. to 6d. in 1760 and 10d to 1s. in 1790. Old Statistical Account, ii.354. See also below, I.x.b.31.
[26 ]Smith mentioned the law of settlement in England as part of the explanation for the relatively wide differences in wage rates at I.x.c.58.
[27 ]The same point is made in similar words at I.xi.e.34.
[28 ]Smith judges by contemporary social conventions and not by modern nutritional standards. R. H. Campbell, ‘Diet in Scotland: An Example of Regional Variation’, in T. C. Barker, J. C. McKenzie, and J. Yudkin, Our Changing Fare (London, 1966), 48. A. H. Kitchen and R. Passmore, The Scotsman’s Food (Edinburgh, 1949), 6–13. See below, I.xi.b.41. Smith later points out that ‘it is not more than a century ago that in many parts of the highlands of Scotland, butcher’s–meat was as cheap or cheaper than even bread made of oatmeal’ (I.xi.b.8). But contemporary livestock husbandry was inefficient because of the low price (see below, I.xi.l.2).
[29 ]The fiars’ prices do not necessarily prove Smith’s point. Prices were lower in the early eighteenth century. R. Mitchison, ‘The Movements of Scottish Corn Prices in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, Economic History Review xviii (1965), 278. Prices were certainly higher during the years of scarcity in the later seventeenth century. For further discussion of fiars’ prices see below I.xi.n.5.
[30 ]See below I.xi.n.5.
[31 ]‘The common pay of a private man in the infantry was eight pence a–day, a lieutenant two shillings, an ensign eighteen pence.’ (D. Hume, History of England, (1778), vi.178, quoting Rymer, xvi.717.) In LJ (A) vi.138 a soldier’s pay is calculated at £9 per year, ‘and he has besides this kept as his arrears nearly £3 for cloathes and lodging’. Cf. LJ (A) iii.134: ‘A man according to the ordinary computation may make a shift to support himself and perhaps a wife and family on ten pounds a year.’ Steuart remarked that ‘If a foot soldier have eight pence per diem, he is in a higher class than a Scots labourer who gains eight pence per diem; because he is paid for Sundays, as well as days of sickness and interruption from labour.’ Principles, ed. Skinner ii.399 (this passage did not appear in the 1767 edition).
[32 ]‘. . . a Poor Man and his Wife though able to work, may have four Children, two of them possibly able to work, two not able: The Father and Mother are not able to maintain themselves and their Family in Meat, Drink, Cloathing and House–rent under ten Shillings per Week, and so much they might probably get if imployed; This amounts to £26 per Annum . . . without a supply Equivalent to this they must live by Begging or Stealing, or Starve.’ (M. Hale, Discourse touching Provision for the Poor (London 1683), 16–17.)
[33 ]Gregory King, State and Condition of England, in G. Chalmers, Comparative Strength of Great Britain to 1803, 49; quoted in C. D’avenant, Political and Commercial Works, ed. Whitworth, ii.175. Gregory King is also mentioned at I.xi.g.9. Smith comments on his own lack of faith in ‘political arithmetic’ at IV.v.b.30.
[34 ]See below, I.xi.n.10.
[35 ]It is remarked in LJ (B) 231, ed. Cannan 179, that taxes keep up the price of commodities and thus diminish public opulence, such as ‘all taxes upon industry, upon leather and upon shoes, which people grudge most, upon salt, beer, or whatever is the strong drink of the country, for no country wants some kind of it’. Similar points are made in LJ (A) vi.85 and see below, I.xi.n.11, IV.ii.33, and V.ii.k.4–13 where it is stated that salt, leather, soap, and candles may be regarded as necessaries so that taxes on them must raise the price of subsistence and therefore wages. Spirits are stated to be a luxury at V.ii.k.3 and Smith went on to argue that taxes on this commodity would not therefore raise wages but rather have the desirable effect of reducing consumption, V.ii.k.50.
[36 ]See below, V.ii.k.7.
[37 ]LJ (A) iii.133 comments: ‘It is generally reckon’d that half of mankind die before 5 years of age. But this is the case only with the meaner and poorer sort, whose children are neglected and exposed to many hardships from the inclemencies of the weather and other dangers. The better sort, who can afford attendance and attention to their children, seldom lose near so many. Few women of middling rank who have borne 8 children have lost 4 by the time they are 5 years old, and frequently none of them at all. It is therefore neglect alone that is the cause of this great mortality.’ See also I.viii.15. Cf. Anderson Notes, 36: ‘Of mankind the half die under 7, and of these the children of the vulgar most commonly. It is not unusual in Wales, Ireland, and the Highlands to see women without a child who have borne half a dozen, which is owing to their poverty which renders them unfit to bring up the most tender of all animals, viz infants.’
[38 ]LJ (A) iii.47 comments that: ‘the number of men is proportion’d to the quantity of subsistence’. The same point is made below, I.xi.b.1. With regard to the link between population and the food supply, see also I.xi.c.7, IV.ii.22, and IV.v.a.8. Cf. Cantillon, Essai, 110, ed. Higgs 83: ‘Men multiply like Mice in a barn if they have unlimited Means of Subsistence.’ In speaking of the relationship between population and the food supply, Steuart remarked that ‘the generative faculty resembles a spring loaded with a weight, which always exerts itself in proportion to the diminution of resistance’ (Principles, i.20, ed. Skinner i.32).
[l–l]tear and wear 1
[m–m]tear and wear 1
[n–n]tear and wear 1
[o–o]tear and wear 1
[39 ]ED 5.6 remarks that ‘the work which is done by slaves always [comes] dearer than that which is done by freemen’. The same point is made in LJ (B) 290,299, ed. Cannan 225,231. Cf. LJ (A) iii.111: ‘the advantage gained by the labours of the slaves, if we deduce their originall cost and the expence of their maintenance, will not be so great as that which is gain’d from free tenants.’ The labour of freemen is stated to be cheaper than that of slaves at III.ii.9 and IV.ix.47; cf. IV.vii.b.54.
[40 ]See below, II.iii.31, where Smith refers to the ‘uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition’.
[41 ]LJ (B) 330, ed. Cannan 257, comments that ‘their work thro’ half the week is sufficient to maintain them, and thro’ want of education they have no amusement for the other but riot and debauchery.’ Cf. Mandeville (The Fable of the Bees, pt.i.211, ed. Kaye, i.192.) ‘Every Body knows that there is a vast number of Journey–men Weavers, Tailors, Clothworkers, and twenty other Handicrafts; who, if by four Days Labour in a Week they can maintain themselves, will hardly be persuaded to work the fifth; . . .’
[42 ]Cf. I.x.c.14 where it is stated that in the inferior employments, the sweets of labour consist entirely in its recompense.
[43 ]B. Ramazzini, De morbis artificum diatriba, translated into English as A Treatise of the Diseases of Tradesmen (London, 1705).
[44 ]See below, V.i.d.10 and note. Smith also comments on the use of piece rates at I.x.c.14.
[45 ]This example is extensively examined in LJ (A) vi.78–80 and see also LJ (B) 230, ed. Cannan 178.
[46 ]See below, V.i.g.12, where Smith comments on the additional problems presented by the quality of life in large cities.
[47 ]Messance, Recherches sur la population des généralites d’Auvergne, de Lyon, de Rouen et de quelques provinces et villes du royaume, avec des réflexions sur la valeur du bled taut en France qu’en Angleterre, depuis 1674, jusqu’en 1764 (Paris 1766). Messance is one of the authorities cited in I.xi.n.5.
[48 ]Smith overstates his case.
(B. R. Mitchell, Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge, 1962), 189 and 200.)
[49 ]The increase in output of Scottish linen was more probably the result of the restoration of export bounties, which were first granted in 1742 and withdrawn for two years in 1754. R. H. Campbell, States of the Annual Progress of the Linen Manufacture, 1727–54 (Edinburgh, 1964), vi.
[50 ]The increase in output of West Riding cloth in 1766 may have followed improved methods of supervision. H. Heaton, The Yorkshire Woollen and Worsted Industries (Oxford, 1920), 414–16. The stamp act is mentioned below, IV.vii.c.43.
[q–q]do so 1
[51 ]See below, IV.v.a.12.
[52 ]See below, V.ii.k.4.
[r–r]one against 6
[53 ]A similar point is made in the introduction to II.
[t–t]does not compensate 1
[54 ]See below, I.xi.o. and V.i.e.26 (p. 748), where it is pointed out with regard to an increase in the level of demand for manufactured goods, that ‘though in the beginning it may sometimes raise the price of goods, never fails to lower it in the long run’.