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the reduction of wages in a shorter time—and where the withdrawing this excess would also operate more speedily in restoring these wages to their former and ordinary level. the opus operandum a certain definite task, like the cutting down of harvest, the amount of which could neither be increased nor diminished, the effect would be quite immediate. The same holds true, though in a less degree, of the employment of household servants, and of the employment of ground laa bour in most of its varieties. In these instances, there is a certain quantity of work to be done; and this quantity, generally speaking, does not admit of being much extended, merely on the temptation of labour being offered at a cheaper rate; and in as far as the possible extent of a work is an element that is invariable, in so far will either an excess or deficiency of labourers for that work tell instantly on the wages of their employment. The same effect would follow in any manufacture, where the raw material out of which a commodity is wrought could not be raised or accumulated to a degree much exceeding the annual consumption, and where the commodity itself did not admit of being so accumulated. The employment of baking exemplifies this. Speaking generally, the grain of one year is consumed in the year following; and if the grain does not admit of being stored beyond certain limits, the bread that is manufactured admits, still less of it. A steady number of operative bakers will thus suffice for the need of a country. So that, should a number of good journeymen in that profession suddenly appear amongst us, though only amounting to a twentieth part of their whole, the effect in bringing down their wages would both be great and instantaneous; while the full and speedy restoration of these wages, on the transference of a small portion of these operatives to other lines of employment, would convince us, how a cause, seemingly weak and disproportionate, may work for a time a serious and alarming depression in the comfort of an industrious class of the community.

Now, it so happens, that in the manufacture by which cotton is turned into muslin, there are many circumstances which serve to affect the law of those luctuations to which the wages of the operatives are liable. There is, in the first place, a very great facility of learning the work; so that, in a short period of prosperity, an indefinite number of additional hands can be turned to the loom. In the second place, the raw material of successive seasons may be stored to any amount in warehouses; and, should it be necessary, the annual quantity of cotton raised in the world could be far more easily augmented a hundredfold, than the annual quantity of corn could be doubled. There is no ļimit, therefore, to the bringing in of workmen in this partieular line. And, in the third place, what they do work may also be stored. The muslin of very many months may

lie in reserve for future demand—while bread cannot lie in reserve for as many days. Additional bakers, therefore, can never be admitted beyond what are sufficient for supplying the current consumption of this article: But additional weavers can be admitted for the purposes of future as well as of present consumption ; and, to add to the elasticity of the latter concern, the wages of the operative weaver form a far larger ingredient of the price of muslin, than the wages of the operative baker do of the price of bread; so that if the wages of the former become much lower by the increase of the number of weavers, the muslin that they work becomes much cheaper, and the wearing of it becomes much more general; for, in the nature of things, the cheapness of an article of fine and ornamental dress will add much more to the consumption of that article, than the cheapness of bread can ever add to the consumption of bread.

Put together all these considerations, and it will be seen, how, though when an excess of competitors appears for any employment that requires a distinct and definite number of hands, the effect in reducing its wages is quite instantaneous—yet the same excess might appear for the weaving of muslin, without so instantaneous, or, at least for the time, so great a reduction in the wages. There ought, of course, on the very first appearance of this excess, to be a descending movement in the price of this labour; but, ere it has completed its course, it is met by a counter-movement on the part of capitalists and master-manufacturers, who will feel encouraged, for a time, by this cheapening of labour, and will store up its produce beyond the present demand of the market, and will accumulate goods for distant and future sales, under the present advantage of having these goods wrought at a rate which is gradually sinking. In this way, an increase in the supply of labour may for a time increase the demand for it; not so as to keep up its price, for then the very stimulus of the augmenting demand would be done away--but so as to prevent the depression of wages from coming suddenly to its maximum--so as to smooth, and to graduate the descent by which the operatives are conducted from the level of sufficiency to an abyss of most pitiable degradation. Had their work been of such a nature, that, like that of cutting down the harvest, no more than a given quancity could be admitted within the limits of each month, then all at once would the excess of workmen have had its full effect in lowering the price of their work. But it is the power of producing and heaping up to any extent, which, apart from sudden fluctuations in the demand for the article, causes the price of the work to descend, not by a desultory, but by a continuous movement; and postpones the period when the remuneration of the workmen arrives at the lowest point in the line of its variation.


And when the price has arrived at this point, there are two peculiar causes why it should linger obstinately there. The article produced by operative bakers is carried off in a single day; and there is always a fresh recurring demand for the same quantity of work from them. Their work does not admit of being much extended; and therefore an excess of workmen must cause an immediate and certain fall of wages. But neither does the produce of their work admit of being accumulated, so that there is no intervening stock of their article between them and their consumers; and therefore, in parting with the excess of their hands, the restoration of their wages would be just as sudden as the fall. But the work of weavers does admit of being extended, and therefore the fall of their wages may be gradual. The produce of their work admits also of being accumulated; and for this reason the reviving of their wages is gradual also. The stock on hand may be a barrier for many months between the need of the purchaser, and the work of the operative; and, in the declining prices of a glutted market, the inducement for keeping up this stock may be done away. In these circumstances, a much larger excess of weavers must go out of employment, that the matter may be righted speedily. It is not enough that the quantity of work be reduced to the current demand for the article. It must be reduced beneath this demand, so as to permit the stock to clear away. If more operatives can be taken on in this line of industry than in most others, without so immediate a reduction of their wages, more also must go off, for the purpose of bringing about a speedy restoration. So that we are not aware at present of any branch of employment whatever where the circumstances of the operatives, both in respect of the price of their work, and the number of workmen, are doomed to alternate along so extended an arch of vibration.

But there is still another cause by which this ascending process must be retarded. If the price of labour is reduced, while at the same time it is paid according to its quantity, the workmen will naturally strive to make up by the latter, what they lose in the former. It is in vain that a small fraction of the labourers be withdrawn, if they who remain shall, by increased application to their work, continue to throw off the same quantity of VOL. XXXIII. NO. 66.


the article upon the whole. There may, in this case, be fewer workmen, but not less work than before; and, in such a state of things, it obviously requires a much larger reduction of hands, ere the supply of their labour can be so far diminished, as that the stock of goods should clear away, and the demand of the consumer come again into contact with the work of the operative. So much is there in this cause, that when it was understood in Glasgow that the number of working looms was only reduced from eighteen to thirteen thousand, it was feared that the supply of work would still be as great as ever, and that the process of clearing away the piled and accumulated produce could not yet begin. In the mean time, there cannot be conceived a more cruel dilemma for the poor operative, than that, in eking out a subsistence for his family, he should thus overwork himself, and, by that miserable effort, should only strengthen the barrier that lies in the way of his final deliverance; that for the relief of the present urgencies of Nature, he should be compelled to put forth more than the strength of Nature, and yet find, as the direct result of his exertion, a lengthening out of the period of his distress; that the necessity should thus be laid upon him of what may be called a self-destroying process,---accumulating as he does, with his own hand, the materials of his own wretchedness, and so annoying and overwhelming the earth with the multitude of his commodities, that she looks upon his offerings as an offence, rather than an obligation, and refuses to sustain him. Misery like this may appear singular in its origin; and therefore is it of importance to know, that it is so frequent and extensive in its operation, as to be realized amongst us in the form of a periodic visitation, and often prolonged for months, or even for years together--lest it should be left to pine in neglect, or, what is still worse, should be aggravated by mischievous and misjädging interferences.

We have not here taken into account that fluctuation of demand which arises from a change in the state of foreign markets: though this, of course, will aggravate all the effects that we have now adverted to. But independently of this new and powerful element, we conceive that the phenomenon of our present severe and lengthened depression is sufficiently explained. Nor ought it to be a matter of wonder, that the great accession of hands which came in upon the body of our operative weavers at the breaking up of the war establishments

, should gradually have conducted them to this extremity of distress; and that now, though at the distance of several years, and certainly with a few intermediate vibrations in their state of comfort, they should havé arrived at a degradation from which assuredly nothing but areduction in their numbers can either permanently or effectually deliver them.


There appear to be three ways of meeting such a calamity. The first is, to supply the defective wages, by a direct charitable allowance. This looks the most obvious way of it. Should a family be starving on five shillings a week, there is not a more obvious and straight forward method of relieving them, than simply to eke out for them, say tlıree shillings more, and thus enable them to live on eight shillings a week. This is just what a kind and wealthy neighbour would do with a destitute family at his door; and much of what is tantamount to this, is done by generous individuals going forth unseen on the territory of such a visitation. But what may be done in detail, by the distinct and separate liberalities of the charitable, is often attempted to be done in the gross, by means of a public, and, therefore, visible combination. No one can question the amiableness of such a proceeding; but if truth be permitted to have a place in the argument along with tenderness, it will soon be acknowledged, that what is compassion at the origin, is cruelty in the result: For a fund raised to supply a defect in the wages of any class of labourers, has the sure effect of keeping many at their employment, who would else have cast about for another mode of subsistence. Wherever there is such a fund, there will not be so free or so copious a dispersion of hands away from a branch of overstocked industry; insomuch that, had a plan of this kind been adopted previous to the month of August, there would not have been nearly so great a reduction in the number of working looms, as from eighteen thousand to thirteen thousand, in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. The glut would have been longer perpetuated in the market; and either a further, or a more lengthened depression of wages would have resulted from such an interference. We have sometimes known, as the effect of a subscription fund, that the argument employed by the manufacturer, in the higgling which obtains between him and the operative, is, that the latter has his recourse upon the fund. But at all events, and whether there be any such avowal or not upon the subject, the fund which is raised to supply wages, is sure in the end to reduce them : This, indeed, is its precise function and necessary operation : So that, after all, the individual cases of alleviation which it produces, are, far more than counterbalanced by the general and protracted sufferings which it brings upon the whole;the consequence infallibly being, that that fractional excess of workmen, which it is of so much importance to detach from the mass, still adheres to it; till the nominal wages and the

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