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    Book I: Chapter 8

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    Chapter 9
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    The produce of labour constitutes the natural recompence or wages of labour.

    In that original state of things which precedes both the appropriation of
    land and the accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labour belongs to
    the labourer. He has neither landlord nor master to share with him.

    Had 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.

    But 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.

    But 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 further
    what might have been its effects upon the recompence or wages of labour.

    As soon as land becomes private property, the landlord demands a share of
    almost all the produce which 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.

    It 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.

    The 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 completed. 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.

    It 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 completed. 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.

    Such 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 everywhere understood to be, what they usually are, when
    the labourer is one person, and the owner of the stock which employs him

    What are the common wages of labour, depends everywhere 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.

    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, can combine much more easily: and the law, besides, authorises, or
    at least does not prohibit, their combinations, while it prohibits those of
    the workmen. 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.

    We 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 everywhere 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 everywhere 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. 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 tile price of their labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the
    high price of provisions, 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 either
    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 combination 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.

    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.

    A 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 for him 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 everywhere 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. 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; but in what proportion, whether in that
    above-mentioned, or many other, I shall not take upon me to determine.

    There 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.

    When 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 workmen, and thus voluntarily break
    through the natural combination of masters not to raise wages. The demand
    for those who live by wages, it is evident, cannot increase but in proportion
    to the increase of the funds which are destined to 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.

    When 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

    When an independent workman, such as a weaver or shoemaker, 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

    The 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.

    It 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. In the province of New York,
    common labourers earned in 1773, before the commencement
    of the late disturbances, 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 tailors, five shillings currency, equal to about two shillings
    and tenpence 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 everywhere 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 anywhere 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.

    But 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. 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. In the British colonies in North
    America, it has been found that they double in twenty or five-and-twenty
    years. 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 burden, 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. The
    demand for labourers, the funds destined for maintaining them increase, it
    seems, still faster than they can find labourers to employ.

    Though 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 off 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 the 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, 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. 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 services, and, as it were, begging
    employment. 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.

    China, however, though it may, perhaps, stand still, does not seem to go
    backwards. Its towns are nowhere deserted by their inhabitants. The lands
    which had once been cultivated, are nowhere 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.

    But 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 he 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. 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 maybe 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.

    The 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.

    In 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 winch it is possible to do this. There are many
    plain symptoms, that the wages of labour are nowhere in this country
    regulated by this lowest rate, which is consistent with common humanity.

    First, 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 fuel,
    the maintenance of a family is most expensive in winter. Wages, therefore,
    being highest when this expense is lowest, it seems evident that they are
    not regulated by what is necessary for this expense, 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 expense; 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
    Secondly, the wages of labour do not, in Great Britain, fluctuate with
    the price of provisions. These vary everywhere 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.

    Thirdly, 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
    butchers' 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. 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. Tenpence may be
    reckoned its price in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood. At a few miles
    distance, it falls to eightpence, 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. 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 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.

    Fourthly, 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.

    Grain, 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. 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. 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.

    During 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 public fiars, 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. 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 fivepence 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 ; tenpence,
    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, etc. 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, eightpence
    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. Lord-chief-justice Hales, who wrote in the time of
    Charles II. computes the necessary expense 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. He appears to have enquired very
    carefully into this subject {See his scheme for the maintenance of the
    poor, in Burn's History of the Poor Laws.}. In 1688, Mr Gregory King, whose
    skill in political arithmetic is so much extolled by Dr Davenant, 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 expense of such families to be about twenty-pence a-head.
    Both the pecuniary income and expense 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 anywhere so much
    as some exaggerated accounts of the present wages of labour have lately
    represented them to the public. The price of labour, it must be observed,
    cannot be ascertained very accurately anywhere, 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 workman, 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 shew that law can never regulate them properly, though it has often
    pretended to do so.

    The 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. 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 manufactories of both linen and woollen cloth furnish the labourers
    with cheaper and better clothing; and those in the manufactories of the
    coarser metals, with cheaper and better instruments of trade, as well as
    with many agreeable and convenient pieces of household 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 an 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. 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, clothing, 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 augmented.

    Is 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 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 any 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, clothe, 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, clothed, and

    Poverty, though it no doubt discourages, does not always prevent, marriage.
    It seems even to be favourable to generation. 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 inflames, perhaps, the
    passion for enjoyment, seems always to weaken, and frequently to destroy
    altogether, the powers of generation.

    But 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 born 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 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. This great mortality, however will everywhere 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.
    Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the
    means of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply be yond it. 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.

    The 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 the
    reward 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 understocked with labour in the
    one case, and so much overstocked 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.

    The wear and tear of a slave, it has been said, is at the expense of his
    master ; but that of a free servant is at his own expense. The wear and tear
    of the latter, however, is, in reality, as much at the expense 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 wear
    and tear of a free servant be equally at the expense 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 wear and tear of the slave, is
    commonly managed by a negligent master or careless overseer. That destined
    for performing the same office with regard to the freeman is managed by the
    freeman himself. The disorders which generally prevail in the economy 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 expense 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. It is found to do so even at Boston, New-York, and
    Philadelphia, where the wages of common labour are so very high.

    The 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 cause and effect of the greatest public

    It 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 cheerful and the
    hearty state to all the different orders of the society; the stationary is
    dull ; the declining melancholy.

    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, 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. This, however,
    is by no means the case with the greater part. Workmen, on the contrary,
    when they are liberally paid by the piece, are very apt to overwork
    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. 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. Till this
    stipulation was made, mutual emulation, and the desire of greater gain,
    frequently prompted them to overwork 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.

    In cheap years it is pretended, workmen are generally more idle, and in dear
    times 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 be
    well 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.

    In 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.

    In 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
    stock 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 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.

    Masters 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. 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.

    A French author of great knowledge and ingenuity, Mr Messance, receiver of
    the taillies in the election of St Etienne, endeavours to shew 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. It appears from his account, which is copied from the registers of
    the public offices, that the quantity and value of the goods made in all
    those three manufactories 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.

    The 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. But in 1756, another year or
    great scarcity, the Scotch manufactures made more than ordinary advances.
    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. In that and the following year, it greatly exceeded what it had ever
    been before, and it has continued to advance ever since.

    The 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 public 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 clothes for themselves and
    their families. Even the independent workmen do not always, work for public
    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 public 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.

    Through 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. 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. 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 quantities 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.

    It 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.

    In 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

    The 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 one against 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. The scarcity of a dear year, by diminishing the demand for labour,
    tends to lower its price, as the high price of provisions 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 prices of provisions, those two
    opposite causes seem to counterbalance one another, which is probably, in
    part, the reason why the wages of labour are everywhere so much more steady
    and permanent than the price of provisions.

    The 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. 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
    employments. 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 me many commodities, therefore, which, in consequence of
    these improvements, come to be produced by so much less labour than be.
    fore, that the increase of its price is more than compensated by the
    diminution of its quantity.
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