The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey
How Wealth Tends To Increase.
The first poor cultivator commences, as we have seen, his operations on the hillside. Below him are lands upon which have been carried by force of water the richer portions of those above, as well as the leaves of trees, and the fallen trees themselves, all of which have from time immemorial rotted and become incorporated with the earth, and thus have been produced soils fitted to yield the largest returns to labour; yet for this reason are they inaccessible. Their character exhibits itself in the enormous trees with which they are covered, and in their power of retaining the water necessary to aid the process of decomposition, but the poor settler wants the power either to clear them of their timber, or to drain them of the superfluous moisture. He begins on the hillside, but by degrees he obtains better machinery of cultivation, and with each step in this direction we find him descending the hill and obtaining larger return to labour. He has more food for himself, and he has now the means of feeding a horse or an ox. Aided by the manure that is thus yielded to him by the better lands, we see him next retracing his steps, improving the hillside, and compelling it to yield a return double that which he at first obtained. With each step down the hill, he obtains still larger reward for his labour, and at each he returns, with increased power, to the cultivation of the original poor soil. He has now horses and oxen, and while by their aid he extracts from the new soils the manure that had accumulated for ages, he has also carts and wagons to carry it up the hill; and at each step his reward is increased, while his labours are lessened. He goes back to the sand and raises the marl, with which he covers the surface; or he returns to the clay and sinks into the limestone, by aid of which he doubles its product. He is all the time making a machine which feeds him while he makes it, and which increases in its powers the more he takes from it. At first it was worthless. Having now fed and clothed him for years, it has acquired a large value, and those who might desire to use it would pay him a large rent for permission so to do.
The earth is a great machine given to man to be fashioned to his purpose. The more he works it, the better it feeds him, because each step is but preparatory to a new one more productive than the last requiring less labour and yielding larger return. The labour of clearing is great, yet the return is small. The earth is covered with stumps, and filled with roots. With each year the roots decay, and the ground becomes enriched, while the labour of ploughing is diminished. At length, the stumps disappear, and the return is doubled, while the labour is less by one-half than at first. To forward this process the owner has done nothing but crop the ground, nature having done the rest. The aid he thus obtains from her yields him as much food as in the outset was obtained by the labour of felling the trees. This, however, is not all. The surplus thus yielded has given him means of improving the poorer lands, by furnishing manure with which to enrich them, and thus has he trebled his original return without further labour; for that which he saves in working the new soils suffices to carry the manure to the older ones. He is obtaining a daily increased power over the various treasures of the earth.
With every operation connected with the fashioning of the earth, the result is the same. The first step is, invariably, the most costly one, and the least productive. The first drain commences near the stream, where the labour is heaviest. It frees from water but a few acres. A little higher, the same quantity of labour, profiting by what has been already done, frees twice the number. Again the number is doubled; and now the most perfect system of thorough drainage may be established with less labour than was at first required for one of the most imperfect kind. To bring the lime into connection with the clay, upon fifty acres, is lighter labour than was the clearing of a single one, yet the process doubles the return for each acre of fifty. The man who needs a little fuel for his own use, expends much labour in opening the neighbouring vein of coal; but to enlarge this, so as to double the product, is a work of comparatively small labour. To sink a shaft to the first vein below the surface, and erect a steam-engine, are expensive operations; but these once accomplished, every future step becomes more productive, while less costly. To sink to the next vein below, and to tunnel to another, are trifles in comparison with the first, yet each furnishes a return equally large. The first line of railroad runs by houses and towns occupied by two or three hundred thousand persons. Half a dozen little branches, costing together far less labour than the first, bring into connection with it half a million, or perhaps a million. The trade increases, and a second track, a third, or a fourth, may be required. The original one facilitates the passage of the materials and the removal of the obstructions, and three new ones may now be made with less labour than was at first required for a single one.
All labour thus expended in fashioning the great machine is but the prelude to the application of further labour, with still increased returns. With each such application, wages rise, and hence it is that portions of the machine, as it exists, invariably exchange, when brought to market, for far less labour than they have cost. There is thus a steady decline of the value of capital in labour, and a daily increase in the power of labour over capital, and with each step in this direction man becomes more free. The man who cultivated the thin soils was happy to obtain a hundred bushels for his years work. With the progress of himself and his neighbour down the hill into the more fertile soils, wages have risen, and two hundred bushels are now required. His farm will yield a thousand bushels; but it requires the labour of four men, who must have two hundred bushels each, and the surplus is but two hundred bushels. At twenty years purchase this gives a capital of four thousand bushels, or the equivalent of twenty years wages; whereas it has cost, in the labour of himself, his sons, and his assistants, the equivalent of a hundred years of labour, or perhaps far more. During all this time, however, it has fed and clothed them all, and the farm has been produced by the insensible contributions made from year to year, unthought of and unfelt.
It has become worth twenty years wages, because its owner has for years taken from it a thousand bushels annually; but when it had lain for centuries accumulating wealth it was worth nothing. Such is the case with the earth everywhere. The more that is taken from it the more there is to be returned, and the greater our power to draw upon it. When the coal-mines of England were untouched, they were valueless. Now their value is almost countless; yet the land contains abundant supplies for thousands of years. Iron ore, a century since, was a drug, and leases were granted at almost nominal rents. Now, such leases are deemed equivalent to the possession of large fortunes, notwithstanding the great quantities that have been removed, although the amount of ore now known to exist is probably fifty times greater than it was then.
The earth is the sole producer. From her man receives the corn and the cotton-wool, and all that he can do is to change them in their form, or in their place. The first he may convert into bread, and the last into cloth, and both maybe transported to distant places, but there his power ends. He can make no addition to their quantity. A part of his labour is applied to the preparation and improvement of the great machine of production, and this produces changes that are permanent. The drain, once cut, remains a drain; and the limestone, once reduced to lime, never again becomes limestone. It passes into the food of man and animals, and ever after takes its part in the same round with the clay with which it has been incorporated. The iron rusts and gradually passes into soil, to take its part with the clay and the lime. That portion of his labour gives him wages while preparing the machine for greater future production. That other portion which he expends on fashioning and exchanging the products of the machine, produces temporary results and gives him wages alone. Whatever tends to diminish the quantity of labour required for the production of food tends to enable him to give more to the preparation of machinery required for the fashioning and exchanging of the products; and that machinery in its turn tends to augment the quantity that may be given to increasing the amount of products, and to preparing the great machine; and thus, while increasing the present return to labour, preparing for a future further increase.
The first poor cultivator obtains a hundred bushels for his years wages. To pound this between two stones requires many days of labour, and the work is not half done. Had he a mill in the neighbourhood he would have better flour, and he would have almost the whole of those days to bestow upon his land. He pulls up his grain. Had he a scythe, he would have more time for the preparation of the machine of production. He loses his axe, and it requires days of himself and his horse on the road, to obtain another. His machine loses the time and the manure, both of which would have been saved had the axe-maker been at hand. The real advantage derived from the mill and the scythe, and from the proximity of the axe-maker, consists simply in the power which they afford him to devote his labour more and more to the preparation of the great machine of production, and such is the case with all the machinery of conversion and exchange. The plough enables him to do as much in one day as with a spade he could do in five. He saves four days for drainage. The steam-engine drains as much as, without it, could be drained by thousands of days of labour. He has more leisure to marl or lime his land. The more he can extract from his property the greater is its value, because every thing he takes is, by the very act of taking it, fashioned to aid further production. The machine, therefore, improves by use, whereas spades, and ploughs, and steam-engines, and all other of the instruments used by man, are but the various forms into which he fashions parts of the great original machine, to disappear in the act of being used; as much so as food, though not so rapidly. The earth is the great labour-savings bank, and the value to man of all other machines is in the direct ratio of their tendency to aid him in increasing his deposites in that only bank whose dividends are perpetually increasing, while its capital is perpetually doubling. That it may continue for ever so to do, all that it asks is that it shall receive back the refuse of its produce, the manure; and that it may do so, the consumer and the producer must take their places by each other. That done, every change that is effected becomes permanent, and tends to facilitate other and greater changes. The whole business of the farmer consists in making and improving soils, and the earth rewards him for his kindness by giving him more and more food the more attention he bestows upon her. All that he receives from her must be regarded as a loan, and when he fails to pay his debts, she starves him out.
The absolute necessity for returning to the land the manure yielded by its products is so generally admitted that it would appear scarcely necessary to do more than state the fact; for every land-owner knows that when he grants the lease of a farm, one of the conditions he desires to insert is, that all the hay that is made shall be fed upon the land, and that manure shall be purchased to supply the waste resulting from the sale of corn or flax from off the land. In order, however, that it may be so supplied, it is indispensable that the place of consumption shall not be far distant from the place of production, as otherwise the cost of transportation will be greater than the value of the manure. In a recent work on the agriculture of Mecklenburgh, it is stated that a quantity of grain that would be worth close to market fifteen hundred dollars would be worth nothing at a distance of fifty German, or about two hundred English miles, from it, as the whole value would be absorbed in the cost of transporting the grain to market and the manure from market and that the manure which close to the town would be worth five dollars to the farmer, would be worth nothing at a distance of 4¾ German, or 19 English miles from it and that thus the whole question of the value of land and the wealth of its owner was dependent upon its distance from the place at which its products could be exchanged. At a greater distance than 28 German, or 112 English miles, in Mecklenburgh, the land ceases to yield rent, because it cannot be cultivated without loss. As we approach the place of exchange the value of land increases, from the simultaneous action of two causes: First, a greater variety of commodities can be cultivated, and the advantage resulting from a rotation of crops is well known. At a distance, the farmer can raise only those of which the earth yields but little, and which are valuable in proportion to their little bulk as, for instance, wheat or cotton; but near the place of exchange he may raise potatoes, turnips, cabbages, and hay, of which the bulk is great in proportion to the value. Second, the cost of returning the manure to the land increases as the value of the products of land diminishes with the increase of distance; and from the combination of these two causes, land in Mecklenburgh that would be worth, if close to the town or city, an annual rent of 29,808 dollars, would be worth at a distance of but 4 German, or 16 English, miles, only 7,467 dollars.
We see thus, how great is the tendency to the growth of wealth as men are enabled more and more to combine their exertions with those of their fellow-men, consuming on or near the land the products of the land, and enabling the farmer, not only to repair readily the exhaustion caused by each successive crop, but also to call to his aid the services of the chemist in the preparation of artificial manures, as well as to call into activity the mineral ones by which he is almost everywhere surrounded. We see, too, how much it must be opposed to the interests of every community to have its products exported in their rude state, and thus to have its land exhausted. The same author from whom the above quotations have been made informs us that when the manure is not returned to the land the yield must diminish from year to year, until at length it will not be more than one-fourth of what it had originally been: and this is in accordance with all observation.
The natural tendency of the loom and the anvil to seek to take their place by the side of the plough and harrow, is thus exhibited by Adam Smith:
An inland country, naturally fertile and easily cultivated, produces a great surplus of provisions beyond what is necessary for maintaining the cultivators; and on account of the expense of land carriage, and inconveniency of river navigation, it may frequently be difficult to send this surplus abroad. Abundance, therefore, renders provisions cheap, and encourages a great number of workmen to settle in the neighbourhood, who find that their industry can there procure them more of the necessaries and conveniences of life than in other places. They work up the materials of manufacture which the land produces, and exchange their finished work, or, what is the same thing, the price of it, for more materials and provisions. They give a new value to the surplus part of the rude produce, by saving the expense of carrying it to the waterside, or to some distant market; and they furnish the cultivators with something in exchange for it, that is either useful or agreeable to them, upon easier terms than they could have obtained it before. The cultivators get a better price for their surplus produce, and can purchase cheaper other conveniences which they have occasion for. They are thus both encouraged and enabled to increase this surplus produce by a further improvement and better cultivation of the land; and as the fertility of the land has given birth to the manufacture, so the progress of the manufacture reacts upon the land, and increases still further its fertility. The manufacturers first supply the neighbourhood, and afterward, as their work improves and refines, more distant markets. For though neither the rude produce, nor even the coarse manufacture, could, without the greatest difficulty, support the expense of a considerable land carriage, the refined and improved manufacture easily may. In a small bulk it frequently contains the price of a great quantity of the raw produce. A piece of fine cloth, for example, which weighs, only eighty pounds, contains in it the price, not only of eighty pounds of wool, but sometimes of several thousand weight of corn, the maintenance of the different working people, and of their immediate employers. The corn which could with difficulty have been carried abroad in its own shape, is in this manner virtually exported in that of the complete manufacture, and may easily be sent to the remotest corners of the world.
The greater the number and revenue of the inhabitants of the town, the more extensive is the market which it affords to those of the country; and the more extensive that market, it is always the more advantageous to a great number. The corn which grows within a mile of the town, sells there for the same price with that which comes from twenty miles distance. But the price of the latter must, generally, not only pay the expense of raising it and bringing it to market, but afford, too, the ordinary profits, of agriculture to the farmer. The proprietors and cultivators of the country, therefore, which lies in the neighbourhood of the town, over and above the ordinary profits of agriculture, gain, in the price of what they sell, the whole value of the carriage of the like produce that is brought from more distant parts; and they save, besides, the whole value of this carriage in the price of what they buy. Compare the cultivation of the lands in the neighbourhood of any considerable town, with that of those which lie at some distance from it, and you will easily satisfy yourself how much the country is benefited by the commerce of the town.
These views are in perfect accordance with the facts. The labourer rejoices when the market for his labour is brought to his door by the erection of a mill or a furnace, or the construction of a road. The farmer rejoices in the opening of a market for labour at his door giving him a market for his food. His land rejoices in the home consumption of the products it has yielded, for its owner is thereby enabled to return to it the refuse of its product in the form of manure. The planter rejoices in the erection of a mill in his neighbourhood, giving him a market for his cotton and his food. The parent rejoices when a market for their labour enables his sons and his daughters to supply themselves with food and clothing. Every one rejoices in the growth of a home market for labour and its products, for trade is then increasing daily and rapidly; and every one mourns the diminution of the home market, for it is one the deficiency of which cannot be supplied.
With each step in this direction man becomes more and more free as land becomes more valuable and labour becomes more productive, and as the land becomes more divided. The effect of this upon both the man and the land is thus exhibited by Dr. Smith:
A small proprietor, who knows every part of his little territory, views it with all the affection which property, especially small property, naturally inspires, and who upon that account takes pleasure not only in cultivating, but in adorning it, is generally of all improvers the most industrious, the most intelligent, and the most successful.
The tendency of the land to become divided as wealth and population increase will be obvious to the reader on an examination of the facts of daily occurrence in and near a growing town or city; and the contrary tendency to the consolidation of land in few hands may be seen in the neighbourhood of all declining towns or cities, and throughout all declining states.
1 The land of England itself has become and is becoming more consolidated, the cause of which will be shown in a future chapter.