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of authenticated facts, and by the reasoning of abler men, be found untenable, should this humble essay be the means of stimulating others to the discovery of any facts useful to mankind, the author will rest satisfied that his labours have not been altogether fruitless.
“ What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint labourer with the day,
Hamlet, Act I., Scene I.
The wealth, the comforts, and the enjoyment of civilized man,—all, in short, that distinguishes him from the naked savage, is the product of labour, Unassisted by labour, nature affords little or nothing for the consumption of man. Some persons, it is true, do not labour at all; but, to supply their wants, others must labour more abundantly. But those who have no means of subsistence but their labour, no fortune but their industry, compose the greater portion of mankind, and may be said to form the basis upon which the superstructure of society rests. Whilst this foundation continues sound, the building is secure ; when it decays, the whole fabric is in danger. The peaceful relations of civilized society have been more often disturbed, the laws trampled on, and life and property set at nought, by want or discontent among the labouring classes, than by all the persecutions of fanaticism or intrigues of ambition. An inquiry, therefore, into the causes that affect the condition of the working classes will have the first claim to our attention.
We find in one country the peasant ill-lodged, badly-clothed, and satisfied with the meanest food ; while, in another country, we find him comfortably lodged and decently clothed, possessed of many comforts unknown in the other, and able to afford his children a religious and useful education.
Labouring men in general stand in need of a master, to advance them the materials of their work, and to maintain them until the work be completed. The master, in return, shares in the produce of their labour ; and in his share consists his profits. Sometimes, indeed, an independent workman has stock sufficient to purchase the materials of his work, and to maintain himself until it is completed. He works upon his own account, and may be said to be both workman and master : for his income consists both of the value of his labour, and the value of his stock,
-sources of income generally distinct, and which must be carefully separated in reasoning upon this subject. We will therefore consider as wages the reward that a man gets for his day's work, without minding by whom it is paid.
The labourer derives his support from wages, and his condition will depend upon what those wages will procure for him. The comparative condition of two labourers will be as their wages. These are usually calculated in money, which, as a measure of value, answers well enough for common purposes ; for it is evident, that if two men are working together, and are paid the same amount of money, the one can buy exactly the same amount of goods as the other. But we cannot compare the condition of a labourer who lived a hundred years ago with one of the present day by the difference of their moneywages ; for the money price of everything that a labourer consumes has probably changed since that time. The same money may now purchase twice as much of some description of goods as it would have done a century ago. In like manner, other things may have become dearer. Many conveniences at this time in common use could not formerly have been procured at all. Again, the money price of every article may rise or fall at the same time, according to the state of the currency: thus prices in general were higher during the war than they are now. Also, in distant places, at the same time, the same thing may be dearer in one country than in another. So that money is not, for all purposes, an accurate measure of wages. We must, therefore, look rather to what a labourer can purchase with his wages than to the amount of money he receives. And it will be found important to distinguish between the amount of food on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the amount of comforts and conveniences that are brought within his reach.