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than formerly, but he would obtain the same quantity of commodities in exchange for them. Whatever, therefore, may be the state of money wages in a country, whether they are ls. or 5s. a-day, it is certain that, if the amount of the national capital and the population continue the same, or increase or diminish in the same proportion, no variation will take place in the rate of wages. Wages never really rise except when the proportion of capital to population is enlarged, and they never really fall, except when that proportion is diminished."
labouring classes are therefore especially dependent on the relation which their increase bears to the increase of the capital that is to feed and employ them. If they increase faster than capital, their wages will be reduced, and if they increase slower, they will be augmented. In fact, there are no means whatever by which the command of the labouring class over the necessaries and conveniences of life can be enlarged, other than by accelerating the increase of capital as compared with population, or by retarding the increase of population, as compared with capital; and every scheme for improving the condition of the labourer, which is not bottomed on this principle, or which has not an increase of the ratio of capital to population for its object, must be completely nugatory and ineffectual. "The wages of labour are most commonly either paid or estimated in money; and it may perhaps be thought that their amount will, in consequence, depend more on the quantity of money in circulation in a country, than on the magnitude of its capital. It is really, however, quite indifferent to the labourer whether the quantity of money received by him as wages be great or small. He will always receive such a quantity as will suffice to put him in possession of the portion of the national capital falling to his share. Men cannot subsist on coin or paper. Where wages are paid in money, the labourers must exchange it for necessaries and conveniences; and it is not the quantity of money they receive, but the quantity of necessaries and conveniences for which that money will exchange, which is to be considered as really forming their wages. If the quantity of money in Great Britain were reduced a half, the rate of wages estimated in money would decline in the same proportion; but unless some change had at the same time taken place in the amount of that portion of the capital of the country, consisting of food, clothes, and other articles, which enter into the consumption of the labourer, he would continue in precisely the same situation. He would carry a smaller quantity of pieces of gold and silver to market
When it has thus been ascertained that the rate of wages in any given country, at any particular period of its progress, depends entirely on the proportion between that part of its capital appropriated to the payment of wages and the number of its labourers, it next becomes an important object to discover whether capital or population have a tendency to increase or diminish in the same or in different proportions. Our author, therefore, proceeds, in the second section of his Essay, to inquire into the comparative increase of capital and population. It is not possible to obtain any precisely accurate estimate of the absolute quantity of capital in a country at different periods, but the capacity of that capital to feed and employ labourers, and the rate of its increase, may notwithstanding be learned with sufficient accuracy, for the purpose of such an inquiry, by referring to the progress of population. Whenever we find the people of a country increasing without any, or with but very little variation taking place in their condition, we may conclude that the capital of a country is increasing in the same, or very nearly the same proportion. Now, it has been established, that the population of several of the states of North America has, after making due allowance for immigrants during the last century, continued to double in so short a period as twenty, or at most twentyfive years. And as the quantity of necessaries and conveniences falling to the share of an inhabitant of the United States has not been materially increased or diminished during that century, this increase of population
is a proof that the capital of the country had advanced in a corresponding ratio. But in all old-settled countries, the increase of capital, and consequently of population, is much slower. The population of Scotland, for example, is supposed to have amounted to 1,050,000 in 1700; and as it amounted to 2,135,000 in 1821, it would follow, on the principle already stated, that the capital of the country had required about 120 years to double. But it has, in reality, more than doubled, as the condition of all classes has been greatly improved. Again, the population of England and Wales amounted to 6,064,000 in 1740, and to 12,256,000 in 1821, shewing that the population, and therefore the capital of that country, applicable to the support of man, or the supply of food, clothes, and other articles necessary for the support of human life, had doubled in about eighty
The cause of this discrepancy in the rates at which capital and population advance in different countries is to be found in the circumstance of industry being more productive in some than in others. Capital is nothing but the accumulated produce of previous industry, and whereever, therefore, industry is most productive, there must necessarily be the greatest power to increase capital. It is obvious, too, that the increase of that portion of the capital of a country which consists of the food and other raw products required for the subsistence and accommodation of the labourer, must mainly depend on the fertility of the soils that are under tillage. Suppose the science of agriculture to be in the same state of advancement in two different countries. If the fertility of the soils under cultivation was twice as great in the one as in the other, it is evident that the power of adding to that portion of capital, which consists of food and other raw materials, and which is always the most important, would also be twice as great in the country where the soil was of the highest, as in that where it was of the lowest fertility. It is on this principle that we are enabled to account for the extraordinarily rapid increase of capital, and consequently
of population, in the United States, and generally in all colonies planted in fertile and thinly-peopled countries. America possesses a boundless extent of fertile, and hitherto-unoccupied land; and her agriculturists, who are acquainted with all the arts and sciences of Europe, apply themselves only to the cultivation of the finest foils. Their industry is in consequence extremely well rewarded. Each cultivator has a great deal more produce than is required for his own consumption, or that of his family; and as he accumulates the surplus, there is a proportionally rapid increase of capital, and consequently also of population.
"But the situation of Great Britain, and of all old-settled and comparatively populous countries, is entirely different.
Our most fertile lands have long since been brought under tillage, and we are now obliged to raise whatever additional supplies of food we require, either by forcing the more fertile lands, or by resorting to such as are of very inferior productive power. The consequence is, that agricultural industry is here comparatively ill rewarded. A given quantity of labour, applied to the worst lands under tillage in England, does not certainly yield above half the quantity of food and other raw products that it would yield were it applied to the cultivation of lands of the same degree of fertility as the worst that are under tillage in the Western States of America. And hence it follows, that the undertaker of any work in England, who should pay the same amount of produce to his labourers, as wages that is paid to labourers in America, would have a much less quantity remaining to himself, and would have a proportionally small power of accumulating capital. It is true, that in the event of wages being reduced when tillage is extended over inferior soils, as is most commonly the case, the share of the produce falling to the employers of workmen is not diminished to the same extent that production is diminished. But as the labourers must always obtain such a supply of necessaries and conveniences as is sufficient to enable them to exist and continue their race, no very consider
able reduction can, in most cases, be made from the wages earned by them. And, in point of fact, it is invariably found, that wherever tillage is widely extended over inferior soils, the share of the produce falling to the capitalist is very much diminished, and there is a proportionally slow increase of capital, and consequently also of population."
It was the leading object of Mr Malthus, in his "Essay on the Principle of Population,"-the work in which it was first conclusively shown, that the natural tendency of population is not merely to keep pace with the increase of the means of subsistence, but to exceed them,-to point out the bad effects of a redundant population, and to shew the extreme importance of the principle of moral restraint, and the pernicious and fatal consequences which result from the bringing of human beings into the world, without a rational prospect of being able to provide for their subsistence and education. Now, so far from this doctrine being, as has been often stated, unfavourable to human happiness, it must appear, to every one who calmly and thoroughly examines the subject, that no rational expectation can be formed of any material change for the better being effected in the condition of the great bulk of society, until the justice of this doctrine shall be generally felt and acknowledged, and a vigorous and persevering effort made to give it a practical bearing, and real influence. That poverty is the fertile source of by far the greatest portion of the ills which afflict humanity, is so plain and self-evident a proposition, that it must be universally assented to; and there can be no doubt, that a too rapid increase of population, by occasioning a redundant supply of labour, and an excessive competition for employment, and low wages, is of all others the most efficient cause of poverty. Mr M'Culloch well observes, that it is now too late to contend, that a crowded population is a sure symptom of national prosperity. The population of the United States is infinitely less dense than that of Ireland; but who will presume to affirm that they are also less flourishing and happy? The truth appears
now to be, that the well-being and prosperity of a nation does not depend on the number of its inhabitants, but on the degree of their industry and intelligence, and on the extent of their command over the necessaries and conveniences of human life. It has been truly and eloquently remarked, that "the earth affords room only for a certain number of human beings to be trained to any degree of perfection; and every real philanthropist would rather witness the existence of a thousand such beings, than that of a million of millions of creatures pressing against the limits of subsistence, burdensome to themselves, and contemptible to one another." The same great truth has been expressed by the illustrious Madame de Staël, in a passage in her work on Germany: "To multiply human births," says this lady," without ennobling the destiny of man, is only to prepare a more sumptuous banquet for death." Wherever the number of labourers increase in a greater proportion than the capital which is to support and employ them, their wages must be gradually reduced to the lowest possible limit. And it ought always to be remembered, that the labourer who is placed under such circumstances is entirely cut off from all expectation of rising in the world, and improving his condition. His exertions can neither be inspired by hope nor ambition. Unable to accumulate stock, or to acquire a stake in society, he has no inducement to make any extraordinary efforts. In consequence, he becomes indolent and dissipated, and if not pressed by hunger, would be always idle.
From principles thus clearly deduced from the history of nations, both in ancient and modern times, our author comes to the same conclusion as Mr Malthus in his celebrated Essay, that the rate of wages, and consequently the condition of the great bulk of society, must always depend more on the conduct of the people themselves than on that of their rulers. However well a country may be governed, and however rapid the increase of its capital, it iş yet perfectly true, that, in the event of the inhabitants increasing faster
than capital, their condition will be deteriorated. And, on the contrary, however ill a country may be governed, and however slow the increase of its capital, it is yet true, that, if the inhabitants increase slower than capital, their condition, though still perhaps exceedingly wretched, will be in so far improved. These statements, however, are no apology for the faults or errors of Governments. Every country, it is clear, has a right to be governed in the best possible manner; and nothing, certainly, could be more reprehensible, than to attempt to justify any abuse, either in the constitution of Governments, or in their administration. But it is unquestionably dealing uncandidly and unfairly by the rulers of a country, to make them wholly responsible for the condition of their subjects, while it is also deceiving and deluding the people on a subject, with respect to which, it is of the last importance that they should be well instructed, and leading them to rely on the exertions of others, when they are themselves the arbiters of their own fortunes. It is a truth which cannot be too often or too strongly impressed on the minds of the people, that it is not in the power of any Government to protect them from misery and degradation, if they overstock the market with labour. The labourers are really the masters of the only means by which their command over the necessaries and conveniences of life can ever be materially extended, and if they will not avail themselves of these means, they have themselves, and no one else, to blame.
These statements receive the most complete corroboration from the comparative situation of the two countries of Great Britain and Ireland. Within the last century, the population of Ireland has quadrupled, whilst that of Great Britain has no more than doubled, and, at the same time, it is on all hands admitted, that the capital of Great Britain has gone on, augmenting far more rapidly, in proportion to the population, than that of Ireland. What has been the consequence? There cannot be the shadow of a doubt, that the excessive increase of the population in Ireland is the im
mediate and proximate cause of the want of demand for labour in that country, and of the misery and extreme porverty of the people. The number of persons soliciting employment, compared with the means of rewarding their exertions, is so great, that wages have been reduced to the lowest pittance that can afford the smallest supply of the coarsest and cheapest species of food required to support human life. All the witnesses examined by the Committee of the House of Commons on "The Employment of the Poor of Ireland" in 1823, concur in representing their numbers as excessive, and their condition as wretched in the extreme. Their cabins, which are of the most miserable description, are utterly unprovided with any thing that can be called furniture; in many families there are no such things as bedclothes; the children, in extensive districts in Munster, and the other provinces, have not a single rag to cover their nakedness; and whenever the potato-crop becomes, even in a slight degree, deficient, the scourge of famine and disease is felt in every corner of the country. And even when the crops are most abundant, the wretched inhabitants are engaged in a constant struggle for the bare necessaries of life, and never enjoy its comforts.
In the third section of his Essay, Mr M'Culloch proceeds to discuss, in an equally luminous style, the natural or necessary rate of wages in given countries and periods, and the effect of fluctuations in the marketrate of wages on the condition of the labourer. Although it be difficult to define them, still there are limits to the extent to which a reduction of wages can be carried. The cost of producing labour, like that of producing all other articles brought to market, must be repaid by the purchasers. The race of labourers would become altogether extinct, were they not to obtain a sufficient quantity of food, and of the other articles required for their own support, and that of their families. This is the lowest amount to which the rate of wages can be permanently reduced; and it is for this reason that it has been defined to be "the natural or necessary rate of
wages." The market, or actual rate of wages, may sink to the level of this rate; but it is plainly impossible that it can continue below it. It is not, as we have already seen, on the quantity of money received by the labourer, but on the quantity of food and other articles required for his support, for which that money will exchange, that his ability to maintain himself, and to rear as many children as may be required to keep up the number of labourers, must depend. The natural or necessary rate of wages must therefore be determined by the cost of producing the food and other articles which enter into the consumption of the labourers. And though a rise in the current rate of wages is seldom exactly coincident with a rise in the price of necessaries, they can never, except in the rare case, when the market-rate of wages greatly exceeds the natural or necessary rate, be very far separated. However high the price of commodities may rise, the labourers must always receive a supply equivalent to their support. If they should not obtain this supply, they would be left destitute; and disease and death would continue to thin the population, until the reduced numbers bore such a proportion to the national capital as would enable them to obtain the means of subsistence. The market-supply of labourers is, in short, like the supply of every other commodity. They neither will nor can be brought or (if you will) come to market, unless the rate of wages be such as will on the average suffice to bring them up, and maintain them in a condition fit to labour. Our author proves by the clearest evidence, which, how ever, our limits will not allow us here to introduce, that an increase in the quantity of food, or in the facility with which the labouring classes can obtain it, accelerates the progress of population, both by augmenting the number of births and diminishing the rate of mortality; and that a scarcity of food retards the increase of the people, by producing in both ways opposite effects.
The natural circumstances of soil and climate, under which every people are placed, and their customs and habits, must determine among
each the rate of necessary wages. This necessary rate cannot therefore, be a fixed and unvarying quantity; and though it be strictly true, that the market-rate of wages can never sink permanently below its contemporary natural rate, it is no less true, that this natural rate has a tendency to rise when the market-rate rises, and to fall when it falls. The reason is, that the number of labourers in the market is a given quantity, which can neither be speedily increased when wages rise, nor speedily diminished when they fall. When wages rise, a period of eighteen or twenty years must plainly elapse before the effect of the increased stimulus, that the rise gives to the principle of population, can be felt in the market. During all this period, therefore, the labourers have an increased command over the necessaries and conveniences of life: In consequence, their habits are improved, and, as they learn to form more exalted notions with respect to what is required for their comfortable and decent support, the natural or necessary rate of wages is proportionably augmented. But, on the other hand, when the rate of wages declines, either in consequence of an actual diminution of the capital of the country, or of a disproportionate increase of population, no corresponding immediate diminution can take place in the number of labourers, unless they have previously been subsisting on the smallest possible quantity of the cheapest species of food, required to support mere animal existence.
"It is this circumstance--the impossibility which usually obtains of speedily adjusting the supply of labour, proportionably to variations in the rate of wages-that gives to these variations the peculiar and extraordinary influence which they exert on the condition of the labouring classes. If the supply of labour could be suddenly increased when wages rise, that rise would be of no advantage to the existing labourers. It would increase their numbers; but it would not enable them to mount in the scale of society, or to acquire a greater command over the necessaries and conveniences of human life. And, on the other hand, if the sup