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produces precisely the same effect as the expenditure which has been described as incident to a state of war. If poor land be brought into cultivation, under a supposition that the high price of corn will be maintained,-and, in the issue, that high price of corn is not maintained, distress will result from the unnatural stimulus that has been given to agricultural production. If, on the other hand, the presumed demands of foreign markets are miscalculated, and manufacturing production is stimulated in consequence of such miscalculation or if the effect of the competition of foreign markets, the natural result of a state of peace, be totally overlooked, and the production of manufactures be stimulated, under the idea of the demand increasing beyond what experience will verify; all the evils which have been illustrated by reference to war expenditure, and to individual expenditure, will be verified on precisely the same grounds.
To return, then, to the proposition.-Will a diminished price of corn, arising from foreign importation, immediately relieve those manufacturing and labouring classes who are now in a state of destitution? The answer is-It must have a tendency contingently and ultimately to assist in their relief; but for immediate assistance, it would be really inoperative.
If our manufacturing population be now redundant, (and who is there who would deny the fact?) as long as that redundancy exists,-until the supply of manufacturing labour be adequately adjusted to the demand-complete adjustment being out of the question-any fall in the price of corn which could be contemplated under any alteration of the corn laws, would be inevitably attended with a diminution of the wages of such artisans ;* and the immediate gain would be on the part of the master manufacturers, and not on the part of the working classes. Take Glasgow, for instance. It is an unquestionable fact, that in that city many manufacturing labourers are thrown out of employment altogether, and that there are many others who only work partially. Is it to be credited, that, with such a redundant supply of labour, any master manufacturer would give higher wages to those labourers whom he does employ in full work, than what would be sufficient as the minimum for their maintenance? His interest as a manufacturer necessarily compels him to purchase labour as cheap as he can get it. Let it be supposed that the minimum in question is ninepence per day; and let it be supposed (everything remaining
Undoubtedly, if the quantity of corn now consumed in this country were to be doubled, the excess would reach the weaver, notwithstanding the line of argument maintained in this passage, but we need not embarrass ourselves at present with
the same, as far as supply and demand go, for on that concession the whole argument rests) that a diminution in the price of corn enables the manufacturing labourer to purchase as much with sevenpence in March, 1827, as he purchased with ninepence in the present month; the question is, will he continue to receive the ninepence under that diminution of price? The answer is, unequivocally not, for the most simple reason ;-the half employed, or the wholly unemployed manufacturing labourer, would be happy to work for sevenpence, which, by the terms of the proposition, is now become the minimum. Is it to be supposed that the master manufacturer would say, It is true that I can obtain the services of an artisan, quite as able in every respect as you are, to execute a given quantity of work for me for sevenpence, and that he will be as glad to work for me for that sum as you are now for ninepence; but out of charity to you, I shall make a present to you of the difference between the two sums?' Such an absurdity could not be entertained for a moment. To call the master inhuman for not allowing the artisan to have this advantage, is worse than foolish-it is itself inhumane. If one individual, or ten individuals, or ten hundred individuals, were, under the influence of a spurious and irrational humanity, to consent to pay ninepence for labour which could be as well obtained for sevenpence, other individual capitalists would take advantage of the absurdity, and, by a diminution of the cost of production, would undersell those philanthropists. If the prac tical truth of these propositions be admitted, (and no practical man will be found to deny their truth,) what is the inference which a statesman should deduce from an exposition of this series of facts? It appears to be this :-that that most important class of the community, the labouring class, can never avail themselves of their proportionate claim on the increased cheapness of any of the necessaries of life, as long as the supply of labour is redundant with reference to the demand. As long as this supply is redundant, legislation, humanity, custom, are all equally inoperative to afford them that advantage to which they have a real claim. The moment that an adequate adjustment of the supply of labour to the demand is made, and the balance restored, that moment they could resist any forcible reduction of wages which the master manufacturers might plead as necessary, in consequence of the diminished price of the necessaries of life; that is to say, if the master manufacturers attempted to avail themselves of the whole advantage of that reduction, the labourer could successfully resist it: but the principle of competition would here tell again to a certain extent, and would lead to the result which the state ought
to consider as the most desirable, namely, the natural division of the advantages of cheapness between the capitalist and the workman. For example, let it be supposed that the supply of labour is adjusted to the demand, and that eighteenpence is the average wages of the artisan, founded upon the price of the necessaries of life, taken, not at the minimum, but on the average of his fair claims as a labourer: let it be supposed that the artisan, under these circumstances, can purchase for fifteenpence what before required eighteenpence to purchase, the master manufacturer could no longer intercept that profit; for, by the terms of the proposition, there being a real demand for the services of all those artisans, if they refused to work in the first instance for other than the same wages, the master manufacturer would be compelled to give it them, or to leave part of his capital unemployed and inproductive; and of these alternatives, he naturally would accept the least prejudicial. But under such a supposed state of things, would the artisan retain the whole threepence? Decidedly not; for there would be an immediate tendency on the part of his brother artisans to work for less than eighteenpence, inasmuch as, if they worked for sixteenpence, by the terms of the proposition, they would have a penny of daily advantage over their preceding state. The consequence of such a state of things must be, that wages would oscillate between fifteen and eighteenpence, and the whole threepence gained would thus be divided between the master and workman, regulated, in its accidental variations, by the alternations between the supply and the demand.
If these principles be true, it must be taken as an axiom that the prosperity of the labourer must depend on the demand for labour being in proportion to the supply; and vice versú, the prosperity of the capitalist by the effective demand for the production of labour being in proportion to the supply; for although, in cases where the demand for the manufactured article is much greater than the supply, he may have extravagant profits for the moment, they will in the end be neutralised by diminished profits, under the alternation of converse circumstances which it is impossible to avoid. The inevitable consequence of high price is increased production, and, finally, over-production, that is, glut; and its re-action produces the converse state of things. The interest of the agricultural landlord is precisely the same, namely, the adjustment of the supply of food to the demand, involving steady and equable prices, under which equitable and permanent contracts can be made.
If it be admitted that the prosperity of the labouring classes, agricultural and manufacturing, is involved in the adequate adjust
ment of the supply of labour to the demand, two considerations present themselves to the practical statesman at the present moment, with respect to the specific distress of the manufacturing part of the community. First, is it probable that any alteration of the corn-laws, which, as adequately protecting the landed interest, will be compatible with justice and policy, would produce such a diminution in the expense of manufacturing production as to force a real and permanent demand for the manufactures of this country, which would absorb, and having absorbed, would retain all the present race of manufacturers, employed and unemployed, in a state of adequate average employment? If there be reason to suppose that such would be the result of a practical change in the corn-laws, undoubtedly it would be wise to wait for the realization of such an expectation. If, on the contrary, the answer be, that no such results can be fairly expected or calculated upon,-if it be contended that much of the manufacturing distress has been created by artificial stimulus, now effectually removed, and which no real stimulus can be forthcoming to represent and replace,-in that case no choice remains but to leave the misery and distress in full force and operation, or to resort to some other and new measure for the mitigation of it. Secondly, if it must be reluctantly admitted that there is a permanent redundancy in the manufacturing population, which no probable extension of foreign or domestic commerce is likely to absorb, are there any other classes of labourers in this country into which the redundant part of that population may be drafted, without prejudice to those classes, in the sense of diminishing their wages, and consequently deteriorating their comforts? It is to be feared that the answer (however reluctantly) must be given, that there is no such class,--that, in point of fact, even now, in agriculture, taking England, Ireland, and Scotland collectively,-whose population, be it remembered, is now blended together a new feature in our political condition, there is an actual redundancy, although a redundancy (excepting Ireland) bearing no ratio to the redundancy of the manufacturing population in particular districts.
Under these circumstances what alternative remains? Can the government make itself a manufacturer at home, embark itself as a great capitalist, and buy goods upon a speculative experiment? No experiment can be so fatal as any such attempt on the part of government. The mischief already done by a very partial adoption of that principle is far too manifest to hazard even a chance of its recurrence. When government supply loans of money for the temporary employment of labour on works of national utility (be it admitted) in the abstract, but of no utility
which carries with it a compensating increase of revenue, much present assistance may appear to be given-much future inconvenience is inevitably incurred. It might, indeed, admit of an argument, whether, at a given moment, when there happened to be a temporary discontinuance of employment in any branch of trade, the temporary employment of workmen, until the state of things had balanced itself, and the natural demand for the labour of those persons had been reproduced, might not be justified; to secure that justification, however, the most confident expectation and conviction should be entertained of the temporary nature of the absence of demand: But where the want of employment arises from permanent causes, and a temporary stimulus is given, (as in the case in the illustration already introduced of private expenditure,) till the government contributions are expended,individuals may have married and localised themselves under this state of things, hoping that they would be permanent, and the re-action of distress will be found to be infinitely more poignant, than its temporary mitigation to be palliative and remedial.
Another suggestion is-Locate these people at home on the unoccupied waste lands. Such lands are admitted to be of an inferior class of fertility. If they were of the first class, or of any high class, of fertility, no reasonable man would entertain a doubt of the propriety of cultivating them; but every man of common sense knows that had they been cultivable, they would long ago have been cultivated. The omission of their cultivation down to this day is the most conclusive proof of their comparative sterility. It may be true that a temporary benefit might arise; but population would be encouraged under such a stimulus, and the lands, except for the moment, would never produce as much food as the population upon them would present mouths to consume. The national distress would be inconceivably increased, instead of diminished, by such a system; and in proportion as the price of corn was diminished by allowing importation from more fertile countries, such an experiment would be still more irrational.
What, then, remains within the scope of legislative enactment or executive direction, to mitigate the undenied calamity which the dislocation of the supply and demand of labour has produced, is producing, and must, we grieve to say, continue to produce? The answer would appear to be, a judicious and cautious system of emigration, or rather colonisation, under which the individuals removed should be placed on lands of a degree of fertility above the average fertility of the mother-country,-lands which they and their children could cultivate, so as to produce infinitely more