The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey
How Slavery Grows In England.
The Roman people sought to centralize within their walls the power of governing and taxing all the nations of the earth, and to a great extent they succeeded; but in the effort to acquire power over others they lost all power over themselves. As the city grew in size and as its great men became greater, the proportions of the people everywhere became less. The freemen of the Campagna had almost disappeared even in the days of the elder Scipio, and their humble habitations had given way to palaces, the centre of great estates, cultivated by slaves. Step by step with the increase of power abroad came increased consolidation of the land at home, and, as the people were more and more driven from the soil the city grew in numbers and magnificence, and in the poverty and rapacity of its inhabitants. The populace needed to be fed, and that they might be so there was established a great system of poor-laws, carried into effect by aid of the taxation of distant provinces, at whose expense they were both fed and entertained. They demanded cheap food, and they obtained their desires at the cost of the cultivators, abroad and at home, who became more and more enslaved as Rome itself was more cheaply supplied. Desires grew with their indulgence, and the greater the facility for living without labour, the greater became the necessity for seeking new markets in which to exercise their powers of appropriation, and the more extensive became the domain of slavery. Bankers and middlemen grew more and more in power, and while the wealth of Crassus enabled him to obtain the control of the East, enormous loans gave to Cæsar the command of the West, leaving to Pompey and his moneyed friends the power to tax the centre and the South. Next, Augustus finds the city of brick and leaves it of marble; and Herodes Atticus appears upon the stage sole improver, and almost sole owner, in Attica, once so free, while bankers and nobles accumulate enormous possessions in Africa, Gaul, and Britain, and the greater the extent of absentee ownership the greater becomes the wretchedness and the crime of the pauper mob of Rome. Still onward the city grows, absorbing the wealth of the world, and with it grow the poverty, slavery, and rapacity of the people, the exhaustion of provinces, and the avarice and tyranny of rulers and magistrates, until at length the empire, rotten at the heart, becomes the prey of barbarians, and all become slaves alike, thus furnishing proof conclusive that the community which desires to command respect for its own rights must practise respect for those of others; or in other words, must adopt as its motto the great lesson which lies at the base of all Christianity Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.
A survey of the British Empire at the present moment presents to view some features so strongly resembling those observed in ancient Rome as to warrant calling the attention of the reader to their careful observation. Like Rome, England has desired to establish political centralization by aid of fleets and armies, but to this she has added commercial centralization, far more destructive in its effects, and far more rapid in its operation. Rome was content that her subjects should occupy themselves as they pleased, either in the fields or in the factories, provided only that they paid their taxes. England, on the contrary, has sought to restrict her subjects and the people of the world in their modes of employment; and this she has done with a view to compel them to make all their exchanges in her single market, leaving to her to fix the prices of all she bought and all she sold, thus taxing them at her discretion in both time and money. She has sought to compel all other nations to follow the plough, leaving to her the loom and the anvil, and thus to render it necessary that they should bring to her all their products in the rudest form, at great cost of transportation, and total loss of the manure yielded by them, thus exhausting their soil and themselves; and the consequences of this are seen in the ruin, depopulation, and slavery of the West Indies, Ireland, India, Portugal, Turkey, and other countries that have been partially or wholly subjected to her dominion. Hence it is that she is seen to be everywhere seeking new markets. Bengal having been in a great degree exhausted, it became necessary to annex the North-west provinces, and thence we find her stretching out her hand at one moment to seize on Affghanistan, at another to force the Chinese into permitting her to smuggle opium, and at a third to expel the Sikhs and occupy the Punjab, as preliminary to this invasion and subjection of the Burman Empire. She needs, and must have new markets, as Rome needed new provinces, and for the same reason, the exhaustion of the old ones. She rejoices with great joy at the creation of a new market in Australia, and looks with a longing eye on the Empire of Japan, whose prosperous people, under a peaceful government, prefer to avoid entering on the same course of action that has resulted in the reduction of the wealthy and powerful Hindostan to its present distressed condition.
It was against this system that Adam Smith cautioned his countrymen, as not only a violation of the most sacred rights of man, but as leading inevitably to consequences in the highest degree injurious to themselves, in depreciating the value of both labour and capital. Up to his time, however, it had been carried out in a very small degree. The colonies were then few in number, but, those were heavily taxed, as has been shown in the candid admission of Joshua Gee, that the colonists carried home but one-fourth of the value of the commodities they brought to the great market. The system was then only in its infancy. In India, the Company had but then first obtained the concession of a right to act in the capacity of tax-gatherer for Bengal. On this continent, the right thus to tax the colonists was seriously contested, and The Wealth of Nations had not been long before the world before it came to be explicitly and successfully denied. The tendency of the system was, however, so obvious to its author, that he desired to warn his countrymen against the effort to build up colonies of customers, as unworthy of a great people, and worthy only of a nation of shopkeepers, and happy for them would it have been had his advice been taken. It was not. From that day to the present, every step has been in the direction against which he cautioned them, as was shown in a former chapter, and from year to year the people of England have become more and more the mere traders in the products of the labours of other men, and more and more compelled to seek new markets, as did the Roman people, the only difference being that in every case the exhaustion has been accomplished with a rapidity unparalleled in the annals of Rome, or of the world. A century since, India was rich, and now her government, collecting annually one-fifth of the whole value of the land, is sustained only by means of a monopoly of the power to poison and enslave the Chinese by means of a vile drug, and the poor Hindoo is forced to seek for food in the swamps of Jamaica and Guiana. Half a century since, Ireland had a highly cultivated society, with a press that sent forth large editions of the most valuable and expensive books produced in England, and now her people are decimated by famine and pestilence. Twenty years since, there existed some little prospect that the poor negroes of Jamaica and Guiana might at some future time become civilized, but that hope has passed away, as has the value of the land upon which they have been employed. What has been the effect of this course of policy upon the condition of the people of England we may now inquire.
In the days of Adam Smith it was estimated that there were in that country 220,000 owners of land, and as a necessary consequence of this extensive ownership of property, there was a very decided tendency toward an increase in the freedom of man, as shown in the efforts made but a few years later for obtaining a reform in various matters of government. The French Revolution came, however, and now the doctrine of ships, colonies, and commerce had much to do in bringing about a state of war, during the whole of which England enjoyed almost a monopoly of the trade of the world. Having all the woollen and cotton machinery, and almost all the machinery for the production of iron, she was enabled to buy produce and sell manufactures at her own prices; and thus were the already wealthy greatly enriched. The poor-houses were, however, everywhere filled with starving labourers, and so rapidly did their number increase that it became at length necessary to give to the statute of Elizabeth a new and enlarged construction; and here do we find another coincidence in the working of Roman and British centralization. A still further one will be found in the fact that precisely as the labourer was losing all power of self-government, the little proprietors of land disappeared, to be replaced by day-labourers.
The peace, however came, and with it a desire on the part of other nations to supply themselves with cloth, iron, and other manufactured commodities; and to enable them to carry into effect their wishes, many of them imposed duties having for their object the bringing together of the plough and the loom, the hammer and the harrow. This produced, of course, a necessity for new exertions to underwork those nations, leading to constant improvements of machinery, each tending to enable the capitalist more and more to accumulate fortune and purchase land, the consolidation of which has been continued until at length it has resulted in the fact, that in place of the 220,000 English land-owners of the days of Adam Smith, there now exist but 30,000, while all the land of Scotland has, as is stated, accumulated in the hands of 6000 persons.
As the 190,000 proprietors came by degrees to be represented by day-labourers, pauperism increased, and the labourer became from year to year more enslaved, and more dependent for existence upon the favours of farmers, parish beadles, and constables, until at length a reform of the system having become absolutely necessary, it was undertaken. Instead, however, of inquiring into the causes of this increased dependence with a view to their abolition, it was determined to abolish the relief that they had rendered necessary, and hence the existence of the new poor-law. By virtue of its provisions, inability to obtain food became a crime punishable by the separation of husbands from wives and parents from children; and thus we see that in the last twenty years English legislation has tended greatly in the same direction with the domestic slave trade of this country.
Consolidation of the land drove the labourers from the cultivation of the soil, while improved machinery tended constantly to drive them out from the factory, and thus were the poor made poorer and weaker, as the rich grew richer and stronger. Ireland, too, contributed largely to the same result. As the Act of Union gradually closed her factories and drove her people to cultivation as the sole means of supporting life, they found themselves, like the Italians of olden time, forced to emigrate to the place where taxes were distributed, in the hope of obtaining wages, and their competition threw the English labourer still more in the hands of the capitalist. From year to year the small proprietor was seen to pass into the condition of a day-labourer, and the small employing mechanic or tradesman to pass into a receiver of wages, and thus did the whole people tend more and more to become divided into two great classes, separated from each other by an impassable gulf, the very rich and the very poor, the master and the slave.
As England became more and more flooded with the wretched people of the sister island, driven from home in search of employment, the wealthy found it more and more easy to accomplish the great works for which, as the London Times inform us, the country is indebted to the cheap labour of Ireland, and the greater the influx of this labour the more rapid was the decline in the power of both Ireland and Britain to furnish a market for the products of the manufacturing, labour of England. Hence arose, of course, a necessity for looking abroad for new markets to take the place of those before obtained at home, and thus cheap labour, a consequence of the system, became in its turn a cause of new efforts at dispensing with and further cheapening labour. As the Irishman could no longer buy, it became necessary that the Hindoo should be driven from his own market. As the Highlander was expelled, it became more and more necessary to underwork the spinners and weavers of China. As the Bengalese now become impoverished, there arises a necessity for filling the Punjab, and Affghanistan, Burmah and Borneo, with British goods. Pauperism lies necessarily at the root of such a system. It is, said a speaker at the late Bradford election for representative in Parliament
Its root. That system is based on foreign competition. Now I assert, that under the buy cheap and sell dear principle, brought to bear on foreign competition, the ruin of the working and small trading classes must go on. Why? Labour is the creator of all wealth. A man must work before a grain is grown, or a yard is woven. But there is no self-employment for the working-man in this country. Labour is a hired commodity labour is a thing in the market that is bought and sold; consequently, as labour creates all wealth, labour is the first thing bought. Buy cheap! buy cheap! Labour is bought in the cheapest market. But now comes the next. Sell dear! sell dear! Sell what? Labors produce. To whom? To the foreigner ay! and to the labourer himself for labour not being self-employed, the labourer is not the partaker of the first-fruits of his toil. Buy cheap, sell dear. How do you like it? Buy cheap, sell dear. Buy the working-mans labour cheaply, and sell back to that very working-man the produce of his own labour dear! The principle of inherent loss is in the bargain. The employer buys the labour cheap he sells, and on the sale he must, make a profit: he sells to the working-man himself and thus every bargain between employer and employed is a deliberate cheat on the part of the employer. Thus labour has to sink through eternal loss, that capital may rise through lasting fraud. But the system stops not here. THIS IS BROUGHT TO BEAR ON FOREIGN COMPETITION WHICH MEANS, WE MUST RUIN THE TRADE OF OTHER COUNTRIES, AS WE HAVE RUINED THE LABOUR OF OUR OWN. How does it work? The high-taxed country has to undersell the low-taxed. Competition abroad is constantly increasing, consequently cheapness must increase also. Therefore, wages in England must keep constantly falling. And how do they effect the fall? By surplus labour. By monopoly of the land, which drives more hands than are wanted into the factory. By monopoly of machinery, which drives those hands into the street; by woman labour, which drives the man from the shuttle; by child labour, which drives the woman from the loom. Then planting their foot upon that living base of surplus, they press its aching heart beneath their heel, and cry Starvation! Wholl work? A half loaf is better than no bread at all; and the writhing mass grasps greedily at their terms. Such is the system for the working-man. But, electors, how does it operate on you? how does it affect home trade, the shopkeeper, poors rate, and taxation? For every increase of competition abroad there must be an increase of cheapness at home. Every increase of cheapness in labour is based on increase of labour surplus, and this surplus is obtained by an increase of machinery. I repeat, how does this operate on you? The Manchester liberal on my left establishes a new patent, and throws three hundred men as a surplus in the streets. Shopkeepers! Three hundred customers less. Rate-payers! Three hundred paupers more. But, mark me! The evil stops not there. These three hundred men operate first to bring down the wages of those who remain at work in their own trade. The employer says, Now I reduce your wages. The men demur. Then he adds, Do you see those three hundred men who have just walked out? you may change places if you like, theyre sighing to come in on any terms, for theyre starving. The men feel it, and are crushed. Ah! You Manchester liberal! Pharisee of politics! those men are listening have I got you now? But the evil stops not yet. Those men, driven from their own trade, seek employment in others, when they swell the surplus and bring wages down.
Strong as is all this, it is nevertheless true, England is engaged in a war of extermination waged against the labour of all other countries employed in any pursuit except that of raising raw produce to be sent to her own market, there to be exchanged for the cloth and the iron produced at the mills and furnaces of her millionaires, who have accumulated their vast fortunes at the expense of Ireland, India, Portugal, Turkey, and the other countries that have been ruined by the system which looks to the exhaustion of the soil of all other lands, to the impoverishment and enslavement of their people, and which was so indignantly denounced by Adam Smith. In the effort to crush them she has been crushing her own people, and the more rapid the spread of pauperism at home the greater have been her efforts to produce the surplus labour which causes a fall of wages at home and abroad.
With the consolidation of land in the hands of a few proprietors there is a steady decline in the number of people employed upon it, and an equally steady one in that hope of rising in the world which is elsewhere seen to be the best incentive to exertion. The peasant knows, says a recent English writer, that he must die in the same position in which he was born. Again, he says, the want of small farms deprives the peasant of all hope of improving his condition in life. The London Times assures its readers that once a peasant in England, the man must remain a peasant for ever; and Mr. Kay, after careful examination of the condition of the people of continental Europe, assures his readers that, as one of the consequences of this state of things, the peasantry of England are more ignorant, more demoralized, less capable of helping themselves, and more pauperized, than those of any other country in Europe, if we except Russia, Turkey, South Italy, and some parts of the Austrian Empire.
Under such circumstances, the middle class tends gradually to pass away, and its condition is well expressed by the term now so frequently, used, the uneasy class. The small capitalist, who would elsewhere purchase a piece of land, a horse and cart, or a machine of some kind calculated to enable him to double the productiveness of his labour and increase its reward, is in England forced to make his investments in savings banks or life-insurance offices, and thus to place his little capital in the hands of others, at three percent, whereas he could have fifty or a hundred percent, could he be permitted to use it himself. There is, therefore, a perpetual strife for life, and each man is, as has been said, endeavouring to snatch the piece of bread from his neighbours mouth. The atmosphere of England is one of intense gloom. Every one is anxious for the future, for himself or his children. There is a universal feeling of doubt as to how to dispose of the labour or the talents of themselves or their sons, and the largest fees are paid to men already wealthy, in the hope of obtaining aid toward securing steady employment. This gloom of England, says a late English writer
Is in truth one of the most formidable evils of modern times. With all the advance, in morality and decency of the present century, we have receded rather than gone forward in the attainment of that true Christian cheerfulness, which notwithstanding the popular proverb I believe to be the blessing next in value to godliness.
I truly believe, he continues, that one of the chief obstacles to the progress of pure living Christianity in this country is to be found in that worldly carefulness which causes our intense gravity, and makes us the most silent nation in Europe. The respectability of England is its bane; we worship respectability, and thus contrive to lose both the enjoyments of earth and the enjoyments of heaven. If Great Britain could once learn to laugh like a child, she would be in the way once more to pray like a saint.
But this is not all: the sensuality and gross vice, and the hateful moroseness and harshness of temper, which result from our indisposition for gayety and enjoyment, are literally awful to think of. Pride and licentiousness triumph in our land, because we are too careworn or too stupid to enter heartily into innocent recreations. Those two demons, one of which first cast man out of Paradise, while the other has degraded him to the level of the brutes, are served by myriads of helpless slaves, who are handed over to a bondage of passion, through the gloominess that broods over our national character. The young and the old alike, the poor and the wealthy, are literally driven to excess, because there is nothing in our state of society to refresh them after their toils, or to make life as much a season of enjoyment as the inevitable lot of mortality will allow.
Men fly to vice for the want of pure and innocent pleasures. The gin-shops receive those who might be entertaining themselves with the works of art in a public gallery. The whole animal portion of our being is fostered at the expense of the spiritual. We become brutalized, because we are morbidly afraid of being frivolous and of wasting our time. The devil keeps possession of an Englishmans heart, through the instrumentality of his carnal passions, because he is too proud and too stupid to laugh and enjoy himself.
Secret sin destroys its myriads, immolated on the altar of outward respectability and of a regard for the opinion of a money-getting world.
The existence of such a state of things is indeed a formidable evil, but how could it fail to exist in a country in which all individuality is being lost as the little land-owner gradually disappears to be replaced by the day-labourer, and as the little shop-keeper gradually sinks into a clerk? How could it be otherwise in a country in which weak women, and children of the most tender age, spend their nights in cellars, and the long day of twelve or fifteen hours in factories, whose owners know of them nothing but, as in a penitentiary, their number a country in which males and females work naked in coal-mines and find themselves compelled to do all these things because of the necessity for preventing the poor Hindoo from calling to his aid the powerful steam, and for compelling him, his wife, and his children, to limit themselves to the labour of the field? How could it be otherwise in a country in which labourers, whether well off or not, never attempt to be better? How otherwise in a country distinguished among all others for the enormous wealth of a few, for the intensity of toil and labour of all below them, and for the anxiety with which the future is regarded by all but those who, bereft of hope, know that all they can expect on this side of the grave is an indifferent supply of food and raiment? In no country of the world, says Mr. Kay
Is so much time spent in the mere acquisition of wealth, and so little time in the enjoyment of life and of all the means of happiness which God has given to man, as in England.
In no country in the world do the middle classes labour so intensely as here. One would think, to view the present state of English society, that man was created for no other purpose than to collect wealth, and that he was forbidden to gratify the beautiful tastes with which he has been gifted for the sake of his own happiness. To be rich, with us, is the great virtue, the pass into all society, the excuse for many frailties, and the mask for numerous deformities.
An Eastern proverb says that curses, like young chickens, always come home to roost. Few cases could be presented of a more perfect realization of this than is found in the present condition of England. Half a century since it was decreed that the poor people of Ireland should confine themselves to the cultivation and exhaustion of their soil, abstaining from the mining of coal, the smelting of ore, or the making of cloth; and during nearly all that time they have so flooded England with cheap labour as to have produced from the Times the declaration, before referred to, that for a whole generation man has been a drug and population a nuisance precisely the state of things in which men tend most to become enslaved. Cheap corn, cheap cotton, cheap tobacco, and cheap sugar, mean low-priced agricultural labour; and the low-priced labourer is always a slave, and aiding to produce elsewhere the slavery of his fellow-labourers, whether in the field or in the workshop. This, however, is in perfect accordance with the doctrines of some of Englands most distinguished statesmen, as the reader has already seen in the declaration of Mr. Huskisson, that to give capital a fair remuneration, the price of labour must be kept down, by which he proved the perfect accuracy of the predictions of the author of The Wealth of Nations.
The harmony of true interests among nations is perfect, and an enlightened self-interest would lead every nation to carry into full effect the golden rule of Christianity; and yet even now, the most distinguished men in England regard smuggling almost as a virtuous act, and the smuggler as a great reformer, because his labours tend to enable their countrymen to do everywhere what has been done in the West Indies, in Ireland, Portugal, Turkey, and India separate the consumer from the producer. They regard it as the appointed work of England to convert the whole earth into one vast farm dependent upon one vast workshop, and that shop in the island of Great Britain. Such being the views of peers of the realm, lord chancellors, ministers of state, political economists, and statisticians, can we wonder at a decline of morality among the middle class, under the combined influence of the struggle for life, and the assurance that the end sanctifies the means, and that false invoices are but a means of working out a great reformation in the commercial system of the world? Good ends rarely require such means for their accomplishment, and the very fact that it was needed to have Gibraltar as a means of smuggling into Spain, Canada as a means of smuggling into this country, and Hong Kong for the purpose of poisoning the Chinese with smuggled opium, should have led to a careful consideration of the question whether or not the system which looked to exhausting the soil of Virginia and driving the poor negro to the sugar culture in Texas, was one of the modes of doing God service.
Unsound moral feeling is a necessary consequence of an exclusive devotion to trade such as is now seen to exist in England. It is the business of the trader to buy cheaply and sell dearly, be the consequences what they may to those from whom he buys, or to whom he sells; and unhappily the prosperity of England now depends so entirely on buying cheaply and selling dearly that she is forced to overlook the effects upon those to whom she sells, or from whom she buys, and she therefore rejoices when others are being ruined, and grieves when they are being enriched. Her interests are always, and necessarily so, opposed to those of the rest of the world. She must look at every thing with the eyes of the mere trader who wishes to buy cheaply and sell dearly, living at the cost of the producer and the consumer. The former desires good prices for his sugar, and yet so anxious was she to obtain cheap sugar that she forgot her engagements with the poor emancipated negroes of Jamaica. The former desires good prices for his corn, but so anxious was she to have cheap corn, that she forgot having deprived the people of Ireland of all employment but in agriculture, and at once adopted measures whose action is now expelling the whole nation from the scenes of their youth, and separating husbands and wives, mothers and children. She has placed herself in a false position, and cannot now afford to reflect upon the operation of cheap sugar and cheap corn, cheap cotton and cheap tobacco, upon the people who produce them; and therefore it is that the situation of Ireland and India, and of the poor people of Jamaica, is so much shut out from discussion. Such being the case with those who should give tone to public opinion, how can we look for sound or correct feeling among the poor occupants of the sweaters den, or among the 20,000 tailors of London, seeking for work and unable to find it? Or, how look for it among the poor shopkeepers, compelled in self-defence to adulterate almost every thing they sell, when they see the great cotton manufacturer using annually hundreds of barrels of flour to enable him to impose worthless cloth upon the poor Hindoo, and thus annihilate his foreign competitor? Or, how expect to find it among the poor operatives of Lancashire, at one moment working full time, at another but three days in a week, and at a third totally deprived of employment, because goods can no longer be smuggled into foreign countries to leave a profit? With them, the question of food or no food is dependent altogether upon the size of the cotton crop. If the slave trade is brisk, much cotton is made, and they have wages with which to support their wives and children. If the crop is large, the planter may be ruined, but they themselves are fed. The weekly mail from America, we are told
Is not of more moment to the great cotton lord of Manchester, than it is to John Shuttle the weaver. *** If he ever thinks how entirely his own existence and that of his own little household depend upon the American crop *** he would tremble at the least rumour of war with the Yankees. War with America a hurricane in Georgia a flood in Alabama are one and all death-cries to the mill-spinner and power-loom weaver. *** When the cotton fields of the Southern States yield less than the usual quantity of cotton, the Manchester operative eats less than his average quantity of food. When his blood boils at the indignities and cruelties heaped upon the coloured race in the Land of the Free, he does not always remember that to the slave States of America he owes his all that it is for his advantage that the negro should wear his chains in peace. Household Words.
If his blood boils at the sufferings of the negro in Brazil, or of the Hindoo in the Mauritius, he must recollect that it is at the cost of those sufferings that he is supplied with cheap sugar. If he be shocked at the continuance of the African slave trade, he must recollect that if negroes ceased to be imported into Cuba, he might have to pay a higher price for his coffee. If he is excited at the idea of the domestic slave trade of this country, he must calm himself by reflecting that it is for his advantage it is continued, and that without it he could not have cheap cotton. The labourers of the various parts of the world are thus taught that there is among themselves an universal antagonism of interests, and this tends, of course, to the production of a bad state of moral feeling, and an universal tendency to decline in the feeling of self-dependence. Men, women, and children are becoming from day to day more dependent on the will of others, and as it is that dependence which constitutes slavery, we might with reason expect to find some of the vices of the slave and were we to find them we should not greatly err in attributing their existence to the system thus described by Adam Smith:
The industry of Great Britain, instead of being accommodated to a great number of small markets, has been principally suited to one great market. Her commerce, instead of running in a great number of small channels, has been taught to run principally in one great channel. But the whole system of her industry and commerce has thereby been rendered less secure, the whole state of her body politic less healthful than it otherwise would have been. In her present condition, Great Britain resembles one of those unwholesome bodies in which some of the vital parts are overgrown, and which, upon that account, are liable to many dangerous disorders, scarce incident to those in which all the parts are more properly proportioned. A small stop in that great blood-vessel which has been artificially swelled beyond its natural dimensions, and through which an unnatural proportion of the industry and commerce of the country has been forced to circulate, is very likely to bring on the most dangerous disorders upon the whole body politic.
This is an accurate picture of that country under a system that seeks to direct the whole energies of its people into one direction, that of buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest one, the pursuit that is, of all others, the least favourable to the development of the moral and intellectual faculties of man. How it is operating may be judged by the following description from an English writer already quoted:
Of the children of the poor, who are yearly born in England, vast numbers never receive any education at all, while many others never enter any thing better than a dame or a Sunday-school. In the towns they are left in crowds until about eight or nine years of age, to amuse themselves in the dirt of the streets, while their parents pursue their daily toil. In these public thoroughfares, during the part of their lives which is most susceptible of impressions and most retentive of them, they acquire dirty, immoral, and disorderly habits; they become accustomed to wear filthy and ragged clothes; they learn to pilfer and to steal; they associate with boys who have been in prison, and who have there been hardened in crime by evil associates; they learn how to curse one another, how to fight, how to gamble, and how to fill up idle hours by vicious pastimes; they acquire no knowledge except the knowledge of vice; they never come in contact with their betters; and they are not taught either the truths of religion or the way by which to improve their condition in life. Their amusements are as low as their habits. The excitements of low debauchery too horrible to be named, of spirituous liquors, which they begin to drink as early as they can collect pence wherewith to buy them, of the commission and concealments of thefts, and of rude and disgusting sports, are the pleasures of their life. The idea of going to musical meetings such as those of the German poor, would be scoffed at, even if there were any such meetings for them to attend. Innocent dancing is unknown to them. Country sports they cannot have. Read they cannot. So they hurry for amusement and excitement to the gratification of sensual desires and appetites. In this manner, filthy, lewd, sensual, boisterous, and skilful in the commission of crime, a great part of the populations of our towns grow up to manhood. Of the truth or falsehood of this description any one can convince himself, who will examine our criminal records, or who will visit the back streets of any English town, when the schools are full, and count the children upon the door-steps and pavements, and note their condition, manners, and appearance, and their degraded and disgusting practices. Kay, vol. i. 33.
This is, however, little different from what might be looked, for in a country whose provision for the education of its people is thus described:
About one-half of our poor can neither read nor write. The test of signing the name at marriage is a very imperfect absolute test of education, but it is a very good relative one: taking that test, how stands Leeds itself in the Registrar-Generals returns? In Leeds, which is the centre of the movement for letting education remain as it is, left entirely to chance and charity to supply its deficiencies, how do we find the fact? This, that in 1846, the last year to which these returns are brought down, of 1850 marriages celebrated in Leeds and Hunslet, 508 of the men and 1020 of the women, or considerably more than one-half of the latter, signed their names with marks. I have also a personal knowledge of this fact that of 47 men employed upon a railway in this immediate neighbourhood, only 14 men can sign their names in the receipt of their wages; and this not because of any diffidence on their part, but positively because they cannot write. And only lately, the Leeds Mercury itself gave a most striking instance of ignorance among persons from Boeotian Pudsey: of 12 witnesses, all of respectable appearance, examined before the Mayor of Bradford at the court-house there, only one man could sign his name, and that indifferently. Mr. Nelson has clearly shown in statistics of crime in England and Wales from 1834 to 1844, that crime is invariably the most prevalent in those districts where the fewest numbers in proportion to the population can read and write. Is it not indeed beginning at the wrong end to try and reform men, after they have become criminals? Yet you cannot begin, with children, from want of schools. Poverty is the result of ignorance, and then ignorance is again the unhappy result of poverty. Ignorance makes men improvident and thoughtless women as well as men; it makes them blind to the future to the future of this life as well as the life beyond. It makes them dead to higher pleasures than those of the mere senses, and keeps them down to the level of the mere animal. Hence the enormous extent of drunkenness throughout this country, and the frightful waste of means which it involves. At Bilston, amidst 20,000 people, there are but two struggling schools one has lately ceased; at Millenhall, Darlaston, and Pelsall, amid a teeming population, no school whatever. In Oldham, among 100,000, but one public day-school for the labouring classes; the others are an infant school, and some dame and factory schools. At Birmingham, there are 21,824 children at school, and 23,176, at no school; at Liverpool, 50,000 out of 90,000 at no school; at Leicester, 8200 out of 12,500; and at Leeds itself, in 1841, (the date of the latest returns,) some 9600 out of 16,400, were at no school whatever. It is the same in the counties. I have seen it stated, that a woman for some time had to officiate as clerk in a church in Norfolk, there being no adult male in the parish able to read and write. For a population of 17,000,000 we have but twelve normal schools; while in Massachusetts they have three such schools for only 800,000 of population.
Such being the education of the young, we may now look to see how Mr. Kay describes that provided for people of a more advanced period of life:
The crowd of low pot-houses in our manufacturing districts is a sad and singular spectacle. They are to be found in every street and alley of the towns, and in almost every lane and turning of the more rural villages of those districts, if any of those villages can be called rural.
The habit of drunkenness pervades the masses of the operatives to an extent never before known in our country.
In a great number of these taverns and pot-houses of the manufacturing districts, prostitutes are kept for the express purpose of enticing the operatives to frequent them, thus rendering them doubly immoral and pernicious. I have been assured in Lancashire, on the best authority, that in one of the manufacturing towns, and that, too, about third rate in point of size and population, there are sixty taverns, where prostitutes are kept by the tavern landlords, in order to entice customers into them. Their demoralizing influence upon the population cannot be exaggerated; and yet these are almost the only resorts which the operatives have, when seeking amusement or relaxation.
In those taverns where prostitutes are not actually kept for the purpose of enticing customers, they are always to be found in the evenings, at the time the workmen go there to drink. In London and in Lancashire the gin-palaces are the regular rendezvous for the abandoned of both sexes, and the places where the lowest grade of women-of-the-town resort to find customers. It is quite clear that young men, who once begin to meet their, friends at these places, cannot long escape the moral degradation of these hot-houses of vice.
The singular and remarkable difference between the respective condition of the peasants and operatives of Germany and Switzerland, and those of England and Ireland, in this respect, is alone sufficient to prove the singular difference between their respective social condition.
The village inn in Germany is quite a different kind of place to the village inn in England. It is intended and used less for mere drinking, than, as a place for meeting and conversation; it is, so to speak, the villagers club.Vol. i. 232.
Under such circumstances, we cannot be surprised when told by Mr. Alison that over the whole kingdom crime increases four times as fast as the population, and that in Lancashire population doubles in thirty years, crime in five years and a half. How, indeed, could it be otherwise under a system based upon the idea of keeping labour down one that tends to the consolidation of the land and the exclusion of men from the work of cultivation, and then excludes them from the factory, while forcing hundreds of thousands of indigent and almost starving Irish into England in search of employment? The process of eviction in Ireland has been already described. How the same work has been, and is being, performed in England is thus stated by the Times:
Our village peasantry are jostled about from cottage to cottage, or from cottage to no cottage at all, as freely and with as little regard to their personal tastes, and conveniences as if we were removing our pigs, cows, and horses from one sty or shed to another. If they cannot get a house over their heads they go to the Union, and are distributed the man in one part, the wife in another, and the children again somewhere else. That is a settled thing. Our peasantry bear it, or, if they cant bear it, they die, and there is an end of it on this side of the grave; though how it will stand at the great audit, we leave an English Catholic to imagine. We only mean to say that in England the work has been done; cotters have been exterminated; small holdings abolished; the process of eviction rendered superfluous; the landlords word made law; the refuge of the discontented reduced to a workhouse, and all without a shot, or a bludgeon, or a missile being heard of.
Thus driven from the land, they are forced to take refuge in London and Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, and accordingly there it is that we find nearly the whole increase of population in the last ten years. Out of less than two millions, more than 400,000 were added to the number of London alone, and those who are familiar with Mr. Mayhews work, London Labour and London Poor, do not need to be told of the extraordinary wretchedness, nor of the immorality that there abound. Inquiries get on foot by Lord Ashley have shown that in the midst of that city there are, says Mr. Kay
Persons, forming a separate class, having pursuits, interests, manners; and customs of their own, and that the filthy, deserted, roaming, and lawless children, who may be called the source of 19-20ths of the crime which desolates the metropolis, are not fewer in number than THIRTY THOUSAND!
These 30,000 are quite independent of the number of mere pauper children, who crowd the streets of London, and who never enter a school: but of these latter nothing will be said here.
Now, what are the pursuits, the dwelling-houses, and the habits of these poor wretches? Of 1600, who were examined, 162 confessed that they had been in prison, not merely once, or even twice, but some of them several times; 116 had run away from their homes; 170 slept in the lodging-houses; 253 had lived altogether by beggary; 216 had neither shoes nor stockings; 280 had no hat or cap, or covering for the head; 101 had no linen; 249 had never slept in a bed; many had no recollection of ever having been in a bed; 68 were the children of convicts,Vol. i. 394.
In the towns of the manufacturing districts there are, says the same author
A great number of cellars beneath the houses of the small shopkeepers and operatives, which are inhabited by crowds of poor inhabitants. Each of these cellar-houses contains at the most two, and often, and in some towns generally, only one room. These rooms measure in Liverpool, from 10 to 12 feet square. In some other towns, they are rather larger. They are generally flagged. The flags lie directly upon the earth, and are generally wretchedly damp. In wet weather they are very often not dry for weeks together. Within a few feet of the windows of these cellars, rises the wall which keeps the street from falling in upon them, darkening the gloomy rooms, and preventing the suns rays penetrating into them.
Dr. Duncan, in describing the cellar-houses of the manufacturing districts, says The cellars are ten or twelve feet square; generally flagged, but frequently having only the bare earth for a floor, and sometimes less than six feet in height. There is frequently no window, so that light and air can gain access to the cellar only by the door, the top of which is often not higher than the level of the street. In such cellars ventilation is out of the question. They, are of course dark; and from the defective drainage, they are also very generally damp. There is sometimes a back cellar, used as a sleeping apartment, having no direct communication with the external atmosphere, and deriving its scanty supply of light and air solely from the front apartment. Vol. i. 447.
One of the city missionaries, describing the state of the Mint district in the city of London, says, it is utterly impossible to describe the scenes, which are to be witnessed here, or to set forth in its naked deformity the awful characters sin here assumes. *** In Mint street, alone, there are nineteen lodging-houses. The majority of these latter are awful sinks of iniquity, and are used as houses of accommodation. In some of them, both sexes sleep together indiscriminately, and such acts are practised and witnessed, that married persons, who are in other respects awfully depraved, have been so shocked, as to be compelled to get up in the night and leave the house. Many of the half-naked impostors, who perambulate the streets of London in the daytime, and obtain a livelihood by their deceptions, after having thrown off their bandages, crutches, &c., may be found here in their true character; some regaling themselves in the most extravagant manner; others gambling or playing cards, while the worst of language proceeds from their lips. Quarrels and fights are very common, and the cry of murder is frequently heard. The public-houses in this street are crowded to excess, especially, on the Sabbath evening.
In the police reports published in the Sun newspaper of the 11th of October, 1849, the following account is given of a penny lodging-house in Blue Anchor Yard, Rosemary Lane. One of the policemen examined, thus describes a room in this lodging-house: It was a very small one, extremely filthy, and there was no furniture of any description in it. There were sixteen men, women, and children lying on the floor, without covering. Some of them were half naked. For this miserable shelter, each lodger paid a penny. The stench was intolerable, and the place had not been cleaned out for some time.
If the nightly inmates of these dens are added to the tramps who seek lodging in the vagrant-wards of the workhouses, we shall find that there are at least between 40,000 and 50,000 tramps who are daily infesting our roads and streets! Vol. i. 431.
In the agricultural districts, whole families, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, sleep together, and here we find a source of extraordinary immorality. The accounts we receive, says Mr. Kay
From all parts of the country show that these miserable cottages are crowded to an extreme, and that the crowding is progressively increasing. People of both sexes, and of all ages, both married and unmarried parents, brothers, sisters, and strangers sleep in the same rooms and often in the same beds. One gentleman tells us of six people of different sexes and ages, two of whom were man and wife, sleeping in the same bed, three with their heads at the top and three with their heads at the foot of the bed. Another tells us of adult uncles and nieces sleeping in the same room close to each other; another of the uncles and nieces sleeping in the same bed together; another of adult brothers, and sisters sleeping in the same room with a brother and his wife just married; many tell us of adult brothers and sisters sleeping in the same beds; another tells us of rooms so filled with beds that there is no space between them, but that brothers, sisters, and parents crawl over each other half naked in order to get to their respective resting-places; another of its being common for men and women, not being relations, to undress together in the same room, without any feeling of its being indelicate; another of cases where women have been delivered in bed-rooms crowded with men, young women, and children; and others mention facts of these crowded bed-rooms much too horrible to be alluded to. Nor are these solitary instances, but similar reports are given by gentlemen writing in ALL parts of the country.
The miserable character of the houses of our peasantry, is, of itself, and independently of the causes which have made the houses so wretched, degrading and demoralising the poor of our rural districts in a fearful manner. It stimulates the unhealthy and unnatural increase of population. The young peasants from their earliest years are accustomed to sleep in the same bed-rooms with people of both sexes, and with both married and unmarried persons. They therefore lose all sense of the indelicacy of such a life. They know, too, that they can gain nothing by deferring their marriages and by saving; that it is impossible for them to obtain better houses by so doing; and that in many cases they must wait many years before they could obtain a separate house of any sort. They feel that if they defer their marriage for ten or fifteen years, they will be at the end of that period in just the same position as before, and no better off for their waiting. Having then lost all hope of any improvement of their social situation, and all sense of the indelicacy of taking a wife home to the bedroom already occupied by parents, brothers, and sisters, they marry early in life, often, if not generally, before the age of twenty, and very often occupy, for the first part of their married life, another bed in the already crowded sleeping-room of their parents! In this way the morality of the peasants is destroyed; the numbers of this degraded population are unnaturally increased, and their means of subsistence are diminished by the increasing competition of their increasing numbers. Vol. i. 472.
A necessary consequence of this demoralization is that infanticide prevails to a degree unknown in any other part of the civilized world. The London Leader informs its readers that upon a recent occasion
It was declared by the coroner of Leeds, and assented to as probable by the surgeon, that there were, as near as could be calculated, about three hundred children put to death yearly in Leeds alone that were not registered by the law. In other words, three hundred infants were murdered to avoid the consequences of their living, and these murders, as the coroner said, are never detected.
The reader may now advantageously turn to the account of the state of education in Leeds, already given, with a view to ascertain the intellectual condition of the women guilty of the foul and unnatural crime of child-murder. Doing so, he will find that out of eighteen hundred and fifty that were married there were one thousand and twenty who could not sign their names and this in the centre of civilization in the middle of the nineteenth century!
But a short time since, the Morning Chronicle gave its readers a list of twenty-two trials, for child-murder alone, that had been reported in its columns, and these were stated to be but one-half of those that had taken place in the short period of twenty-seven days! On the same occasion it stated that although English ruffianism had not taken to the knife, it had
Advanced in the devilish accomplishment of biting off noses and scooping out eyes. Kicking a man to death while he is down, it continued, or treating, a wife in the same way stamping on an enemy or a paramour with hobnailed boots smashing a womans head with a hand-iron these atrocities, which are of almost daily occurrence in our cities, are not so much imputed crimes as they are the extravagant exaggerations of the coarse, brutal, sullen temper of an Englishman, brutified by ignorance and stupefied by drink.
On the same occasion the Chronicle stated that in villages few young people of the present day marry until, as the phrase is, it has become necessary. It is, it continued, the rural practice to keep company in a very loose sense, till a cradle is as necessary as a ring. On another, and quite recent occasion, the same journal furnished its readers with the following striking illustration of the state of morals:
In one of the recent Dorsetshire cases, [of child murder,] common cause was made by the girls of the county. They attended the trial in large numbers; and we are informed that on the acquittal of the prisoner a general expression of delight was perceptible in the court; and they left the assizes town boasting that they might now do as they liked. We are then, it seems, with all our boasted civilization, relapsing into a barbarous and savage state of society.
Lest it might be supposed that this condition of things had been inherited, the editor stated that
This deplorable state of morals was of comparatively recent growth. Old people, he continued, can often tell the year when the first of such cases occurred in their families; and what a sensation of shame it then excited; while they will also tell us that the difficulty now is to find a lowly couple in village life with whom the rule of decency and Christianity is not the exception. It is a disgraceful factand one which education, and especially religious education, has to account for that a state of morals has grown up in which it can no longer be said that our maidens are given in marriage.
Infanticide is not, however, confined to the unmarried. Burial clubs abound. In our large provincial towns, says Mr. Kay
The poor are in the habit of entering their children in what are called burial clubs. A small sum is paid every year by the parent, and this entitles him to receive from 3£. to 5£. from the club, on the death of the child. Many parents enter their children in several clubs. One man in Manchester has been known to enter his child in nineteen different clubs. On the death of such a child, the parent becomes entitled to receive a large sum of money; and as the burial of the child does not necessarily cost more than 1£., or, at the most, 1£.10s., the parent realizes a considerable sum after all the expenses are paid!
It has been clearly ascertained, that it is a common practice among the more degraded classes of poor in many of our towns, to enter their infants in these clubs, and then to cause their death either by starvation, ill-usage, or poison! What more horrible symptom of moral degradation can be conceived? Ones mind revolts against it, and would fain reject it as a monstrous fiction. But, alas! it seems to be but too true.
Mr. Chadwick says, officers of these burial societies, relieving officers, and others, whose administrative duties put them in communication with the lowest classes in these districts, (the manufacturing districts,) express their moral conviction of the operation of such bounties to produce instances of the visible neglect of children of which they are witnesses. They often say, You are not treating that child properly; it will not live: is it in the club? And the answer corresponds with the impression produced by the sight.Vol. i. 433.
Commenting on these and numerous other facts of similar kind, the same author says
These accounts are really almost too horrible to be believed at all; and were they not given us on the authority of such great experience and benevolence, we should totally discredit them.
But, alas, they are only too true! There can be no doubt, that a great part of the poorer classes of this country are sunk into such a frightful depth of hoplessness, misery, and utter moral degradation, that even mothers forget their affection for their helpless little offspring, and kill them, as a butcher does his lambs, in order to make money by the murder, and therewith to lessen their pauperism and misery? P. 446.
How rapid is the progress of demoralization may be seen from the fact that in the thirty years from 1821 to 1851, the consumption of British spirits increased from 4,125,616 to 9,595,368 gallons, or in a ratio more than double that of the population. The use of opium is also increasing with rapidity. Intemperance and improvidence go hand in hand with each other, and hence arises a necessity for burial clubs for the disposal of the children and the maintenance of the parents.
A recent English journal states that
It is estimated that in Manchester there are 1500 unfortunate females; that they lead to an annual expenditure of £470,000; and that some 250 of them die, in horror and despair, yearly. In England it is calculated that there are 40,000 houses of ill-fame, and 280,000 prostitutes; and, further, that not less than £8,000,000 are spent annually in these places.
This may, or may not, be exaggerated, but the condition to which are reduced so many of the weaker sex would warrant us in expecting a great decay of morality. When severe labour cannot command a sufficiency of food, can we be surprised that women find themselves forced to resort to prostitution as a means of support?
A committee of gentlemen who had investigated the condition of the sewing-women of London made a report stating that no less than 33,000 of them were permanently at the starvation point, and were compelled to resort to prostitution as a means of eking out a subsistence. But a few weeks since, the Times informed its readers that shirts were made for a penny a piece by women who found the needles and thread, and the Daily News furnished evidence that hundreds of young women had no choice but between prostitution and making artificial flowers at twopence a day! Young ladies seeking to be governesses, and capable of giving varied instruction, are expected to be satisfied with the wages and treatment of scullions, and find it difficult to obtain situations even on such terms. It is in such facts as these that we must find the causes of those given in the above paragraph.
If we desire to find the character of the young we must look to that of the aged, and especially to that of the mothers. We see here something of the hundreds of thousands of young women who are to supply the future population of England; and if the character of the latter be in accordance with that of the former, with what hope can we look to the future ?
Nothing indicates more fully the deterioration resulting from this unceasing struggle for life, than the harsh treatment to which are subjected persons who need aid in their distress. A case of this kind, furnished by the Times, as occurring at the Lambeth workhouse, so strongly indicates the decay of kind and generous feeling, that, long as it is, it is here given:
A poor creature, a young English girl to be sure, she is not a black a parcel of drenched rags clinging to her trembling form, every mark of agony and despair in her countenance, lifts her hand to the bell. She rings once and again, and at length the door porter appears, accompanied by a person holding a situation under the guardians his name is Brooke and he is a policeman. She is starving, she is pregnant, and almost in the pains of labour, but the stern officials will not take her in. Why? Because she had been in the workhouse until Tuesday morning last, and had then been discharged by order of the guardians. Nor is this all. The tale of parochial bounty is not yet half told out. During that long wet Tuesday she wandered about. She had not a friend in this great town to whom she could apply for the smallest assistance, and on Tuesday night she came back to implore once more the kindly shelter of the parish workhouse. For yet that night she was taken in, but the next morning cast forth into the world again with a piece of dry bread in her hand. On Wednesday the same scene was renewed the same fruitless casting about for food and shelter, the same disappointment, and the same despair. But parochial bounty can only go thus far, and no farther. Charity herself was worn out with the importunity of this persevering pauper, and on Thursday night the doors of the parish workhouse were finally and sternly shut in her face.
But she was not alone in her sufferings. You might have supposed that the misery of London enormous as the amount of London misery undoubtedly is could have shown no counterpart to the frightful position of this unfortunate creature without a home, without a friend, without a character, without a shelter, without a bite of food betrayed by her seducer, and the mark for the last twelve hours of the floodgates of heaven. *** Can it be there are two of them? Yes! Another young woman, precisely in the same situation, knocks at the same workhouse door, and is refused admittance by the same stern guardians of the ratepayers pockets. The two unfortunates club their anguish and their despair together, and set forth in quest of some archway or place of shelter, beneath which they may crouch until the gas-lamps are put out, and the day breaks once more upon their sufferings. Well, on they roamed, until one of the two, Sarah Sherford, was actually seized with the pangs of labour, when they resolved to stagger back to the workhouse; but again the door was shut in their faces. What was to be done? They were driven away from the house, and moved slowly along, with many a pause of agony, no doubt, until they met with a policeman, one Daniel Donovan, who directed them to a coffee-house where they might hope to get shelter. The coffee-house did not open till 2 oclock, when they had two hours shelter. But at that hour they were again cast out, as the keeper was obliged to come into the street with his stall and attend to it. At this time (we will here copy the language of our report) Sherfords labour pains had considerably increased, and they again spoke to the same policeman, Donovan, and told him that, unless she was taken into the workhouse or some other place, she must give birth to her infant in the street. Daniel Donovan accordingly conveyed the two unfortunate creatures to the workhouse once more, at 4 oclock in the morning. The policeman on duty there, said this witness, told him that they had been there before, and seemed to have some hesitation about admitting them, but on being told that one was in the pains of labour, he let them in.
What slavery can be worse than this? Here are young women, women in distress, starving and almost in the pains of labour, driven about from post to pillar, and from pillar to post, by day and by night, totally unable to obtain the smallest aid. Assuredly it would be difficult to find any thing to equal this in any other country claiming to rank among the civilized nations of the world.
At the moment of writing this page, an English journal furnishes a case of death from starvation, and closes its account with the following paragraph, strikingly illustrative of the state of things which naturally arises where every man is trying to live by snatching the bread from his neighbours mouth.
It is hardly possible to conceive a more horrible case. A stalwart, strong-framed man, in the prime of life his long pilgrimage of martyrdom from London to Stoney-Stratford his wretched appeals for help to the civilization around him his seven days fast his brutal abandonment by his fellow-men his seeking shelter and being driven from resting-place to resting-place the crowning inhumanity of the person named Slade and the patient, miserable death of the worn-out man are a picture perfectly astonishing to contemplate.
No doubt he invaded the rights of property, when he sought shelter in the shed and in the lone barn!!!
The recent developments in regard to Bethlem Hospital are thus described:
Some of the cases of cruelty brought to light by the examiners are almost too revolting to describe. It appears that the incurables are lodged in cells partially under ground, where their only couches are troughs filled with straw and covered with a blanket. On these miserable beds, worse than many a man gives to his horse or dog, the victims lie in the coldest weather, without night-clothes, frequently creeping into the straw in order to keep warm. These poor unfortunates also are often fed in a way as disgusting as it is cruel, being laid on their backs, and held down by one of the nurses, while another forces into the mouth the bread and milk which is their allotted food. This revolting practice is adopted to save time, for it was proved on oath that patients, thus treated, ate their meals by themselves, if allowed sufficient leisure. The imbecile patients, instead of being bathed with decency, as humanity and health demands, are thrown on the stone-floor, in a state of nudity, and there mopped by the nurses. Such things would seem incredible, if they had not been proved on oath. Some who were not incurable, having been treated in this manner, exposed these atrocities, after their recovery; and the result was an investigation, which led to the discovery of the abominable manner in which this vast charity has been administered.
These things are a necessary consequence of an universal trading spirit. For the first time in the annals of the world it has been proclaimed in England that the paramount object of desire with the people of a great and Christian nation is to buy cheaply and sell dearly; and when men find themselves, in self-defence, compelled to beat down the poor sewing-woman to a penny for making a shirt, or the poor flower-girl to a scale of wages so low that she must resort to prostitution for the purpose of supporting life, they can neither be expected to be charitable themselves, nor to tolerate much charity in the public officers charged with the expenditure of their contributions. There is consequently everywhere to be seen a degree of harshness in the treatment of those who have the misfortune to be poor, and a degree of contempt in the mode of speech adopted in relation to them, totally incompatible with the idea of advance in real civilization.
The facts thus far given rest, as the reader will have seen, on the highest English authority. It is scarcely possible to study them without arriving at the conclusion that the labouring people of England are gradually losing all control over the disposition of their own labour or in other words, that they are becoming enslaved and that with the decay of freedom there has been a decay of morality, such as has been observed in every other country similarly circumstanced. To ascertain the cause of this we must refer again to Adam Smith, who tells us that
No equal quantity of productive labour or capital employed in manufacture can ever occasion so great a reproduction as if it were employed in agriculture. In these, nature does nothing, man does all, and the reproduction must always be proportioned to the strength of the agents that occasion it. The capital employed in agriculture, therefore, not only puts into motion a greater quantity of productive labour than any equal capital employed in manufacture; but, in proportion, too, to the quantity of productive labour which it employs, it adds a much greater value to the annual value of the land and labour of the country, to the real wealth and revenue of its inhabitants. Of all the ways which a capital can be employed, it is by far the most advantageous to society.
This is the starting point of his whole system, and is directly the opposite of that from which starts the modern English politico-economical school that professes to follow in his footsteps, as will now be shown. The passage here given, which really constitutes the base upon which rests the whole structure of Dr. Smiths work, is regarded by Mr. McCulloch as the most objectionable one in it, and he expresses great surprise that so acute and sagacious a reasoner should have maintained a doctrine so manifestly erroneous. So far indeed, says that gentleman
Is it from being true that nature does much for man in agriculture, and nothing for manufactures, that the fact is more nearly the reverse. There are no limits to the bounty of nature in manufactures; but there are limits, and those not very remote, to her bounty in agriculture. The greatest possible amount of capital might be expended in the construction of steam-engines, or of any other sort of machinery, and, after they had been multiplied indefinitely, the last would be as prompt and efficient in producing commodities and saving labour as the first. Such, however, is not the case with the soil. Lands of the first quality are speedily exhausted; and it is impossible to apply capital indefinitely even to the best soils, without obtaining from it a constantly diminishing rate of profit. Principles of Political Economy.
The error here results from the general error of Mr. Ricardos system, which places the poor cultivator among the rich soils of the swamps and river-bottoms, and sends his rich successors to the poor soils of the hills, being directly the reverse of what has happened in every country of the world, in every county in England, and on every farm in each and all of those counties. Had he not been misled by the idea of the constantly increasing sterility of the soil, Mr. McCulloch could not have failed to see that the only advantage resulting from the use of the steam-engine, or the loom, or any other machine in use for the conversion of the products of the earth, was, that it diminished the quantity of labour required to be so applied, and increased the quantity that might be given to the work of production.
It is quite true that wheelbarrows and carts, wagons and ships, may be increased indefinitely; but of what use can they possibly be, unless the things to be carried be first produced, and whence can those things be obtained except from the earth? The grist-mill is useful, provided there is grain to be ground, but not otherwise. The cotton-mill would be useless unless the cotton was first produced. Agriculture must precede manufactures, and last of all, says Dr. Smith, comes foreign commerce.
The reader has had before him a passage from Mr. J.S. Mill, in which that gentleman says that if the law [of the occupation of the land] were different, almost all the phenomena of the production and distribution of wealth would be different from what they now are. In the days of Adam Smith it had not yet been suggested that men began by the cultivation of rich soils, and then passed to poor ones, with constantly diminishing power to obtain food. Population, therefore, had not come to be regarded as a nuisance to be abated by any measures, however revolting, and imposing upon Christian men the necessity of hardening their hearts, and permitting their fellow-men to suffer every extremity of poverty and distress short of absolute death, with a view to bring about a necessity for refraining to gratify that natural inclination which leads men and women to associate in the manner tending to promote the growth of numbers and the development of the best feelings of the human heart. It was then considered right that men and women should marry, and increase of population was regarded as evidence of increased wealth and strength. Dr. Smith, therefore, looked at the affairs of the world as they were, and he saw that the production of commodities not only preceded their conversion and exchange, but that in the work of production the earth aided man by increasing the quantity of things to, be consumed; whereas labour applied in other ways could change them only in their form or in their place, making no addition to their quantity. He, therefore, saw clearly that the nearer the spinner and the weaver came to the producer of food and wool, the more would be the quantity of food and cloth to be divided between them; and thus was he led to see how great an act of injustice it was on the part of his countrymen to endeavour to compel the people of the world to send their raw materials to them to be converted, at such vast loss of transportation. He had no faith in the productive power of ships or wagons. He knew that the barrel of flour or the bale of cotton, put into the ship, came out a barrel of flour or a bale of cotton, the weight of neither having been increased by the labour employed in transporting it from this place of production to that of consumption. He saw clearly that to place the consumer by the side of the producer was to economize labour and aid production, and therefore to increase the power to trade. He was, therefore, in favour of the local application of labour and capital, by aid of which towns should grow up in the midst of producers of food; and he believed that if human institutions had not been at war with the best interests of man, those towns would nowhere have increased beyond what the improvement and cultivation of the territory in which they were situated could support. Widely different is all this from the system which builds up London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, to be the manufacturing centres of the world, and urges upon all nations the adoption of a system looking directly to their maintenance and increase!
Directly opposed in this respect to Dr. Smith, Mr. McCulloch has unbounded faith in the productive power of ships and wagons. To him
It is plain that the capital and labour employed in carrying commodities from where they are to be produced to where they are to be consumed, and in dividing them into minute portions so as to fit the wants of consumers, are really as productive as if they were employed in agriculture or in manufactures. Principles, 166.
The man who carries the food adds, as he seems to think, as much to the quantity to be consumed as did the one who ploughed the ground and sowed the seed; and he who stands at the counter measuring cloth adds as much to the quantity of cloth as did he who produced it. No benefit, in his view, results from any saving of the labour of transportation or exchange. He has, therefore, no faith in the advantage to be derived from the local application of labour or capital. He believes that it matters nothing to the farmer of Ireland whether his food be consumed on the farm or at a distance from it whether his grass be fed on the land or carried to market whether the manure be returned to the land or wasted on the road whether, of course, the land be impoverished or enriched. He is even disposed to believe that it is frequently more to the advantage of the people of that country that the food there produced should be divided among the labourers of France or Italy than among themselves. He believes in the advantage of large manufacturing towns at a distance from those who produce the food and raw materials of manufacture; and that perfect freedom of trade consists in the quiet submission of the farmers and planters of the world to the working of a system which Dr. Smith, regarded as tending so greatly to the discouragement of agriculture, that it was the main object of his work to teach the people of Britain that it was not more unjust to others than injurious to themselves.
In a work just issued from the press, Mr. McCulloch tells his readers that
For the reasons now stated, a village built in the immediate vicinity of a gentlemans seat generally declines on his becoming an absentee. That, however, is in most cases any thing but an injury. The inhabitants of such villages are generally poor, needy dependants, destitute of any invention, and without any wish to distinguish themselves. But when the proprietors are elsewhere, they are forced to trust to their own resources, and either establish some sort of manufacture, or resort to those manufacturing and commercial cities where there is always a ready demand for labourers, and where every latent spark of genius is sure to be elicited. Although, therefore, it be certainly true that absenteeism has a tendency to reduce the villages which are found in the neighbourhood of the residences of extensive proprietors, it is not on that account prejudicial to the country at large, but the reverse.
It is here seen that the people who own large estates are supposed to be surrounded by poor and needy dependants, who are to be stimulated to exertion by the pressure of want, and that this pressure is to be produced by the absenteeism of the proprietor. We have here the master administering the lash to his poor slave, and the only difference between the English master and the Jamaica one appears to be, that absenteeism in the one case forces the poor labourer to seek the lanes and alleys of a great city, and in the other causes him to be worked to death. The slavery of Ireland, Jamaica, and India is a natural consequence of the absenteeism of the great land-owners; and the larger the properties, the greater must be the tendency to absenteeism, centralization, and slavery; and yet Mr. McCulloch assures his readers that
The advantage of preserving large estates from being frittered down by a scheme of equal division is not limited to its effects on the younger children of their owners. It raises universally the standard of competence, and gives new force to the springs which set industry in motion. The manner of living in great landlords is that in which every one is ambitious of being able to indulge; and their habits of expense, though somewhat injurious to themselves, act as powerful incentives to the ingenuity and enterprise of other classes, who never think their fortunes sufficiently ample unless they will enable them to emulate the splendour of the richest landlords; so that the custom of primogeniture seems to render all classes more industrious, and to augment at the same time the mass of wealth and the scale of enjoyment. Principles.
The modern system tends necessarily to the consolidation of land, and the more completely that object can be attained, the greater must, be the splendour of the richest landlords, the greater the habits of expense among the few, the greater their power to absent themselves, the greater the power of the rapacious middleman or agent, the greater the poverty and squalor of the poor and needy dependants, and the greater the necessity for seeking shelter in the cellars of Manchester, the wynds of Glasgow, or the brothels of London and Liverpool; but the larger must be the supply of the commodity called cheap labour. In other words, slaves will be more numerous, and masters will he more able to decide on what shall be the employment of the labourer, and what shall be its reward.
Adam Smith knew nothing of all this. He saw that capital was always best managed by its owner, and therefore had no faith in a universal system of agencies. He saw that the little proprietor was by far the greatest improver, and he had no belief in the advantage of great farmers surrounded by day-labourers. He believed in the advantage of making twelve exchanges in a year in place of one, and he saw clearly that the nearer the consumer could come to the producer the larger and more profitable would be commerce. He therefore taught that the workman should go to the place where, food being abundant, moderate labour would command much food. His successors teach that the food should come to the place where, men being abundant and food scarce, much labour will command little food, and that when population has thus been rendered superabundant, the surplus should go abroad to raise more food for the supply of those they left behind. The one teaches the concentration of man, and the local division of labour. The other, the dispersion of man, and the territorial division of labour. They differ thus in every thing, except that they both use the word free trade but with reference to totally distinct ideas. With the one, COMMERCE has that enlarged signification which embraces every description of intercourse resulting from the exercise of mans natural inclination for association, while with the other TRADE has reference to no idea, beyond that of the mere pedler who buys in the cheapest market and sells in the dearest one. The system of the one is perfectly harmonious, and tends toward peace among men. The other is a mass of discords, tending toward war among the men and the nations of the earth.
As ordinarily used, the word Commerce has scarcely any signification except that of trade with distant men, and yet that is the least profitable commerce that can be maintained, as the reader may satisfy himself if he will reflect that when the miller and the farmer are near neighbours they divide between them all the flour that is made, whereas, when they are widely separated, a third man, the carrier, intervenes between them and takes a large portion of it, leaving less to be divided between those who raise the wheat and those who convert it into flour. The more perfect the power of association the greater must be the power to maintain commerce, for every act of association is an act of commerce, as it is proposed now to show, beginning at the beginning, in the family, which long precedes the nation. Doing so, we find the husband exchanging his services in the raising of food and the materials of clothing, for those of his wife, employed in the preparation of food for the table, and the conversion of raw materials into clothing, and here it is we find the greatest of all trades. Of all the labour employed on the farms and in the farm-houses of the Union, we should, could we have an accurate statement, find that the proportion of its products exchanged beyond their own limits, scarcely exceeded one-third, and was certainly far less than one-half, the remainder being given to the raising of food and raw materials for their own consumption, and the conversion of that food and those materials into the forms fitting them for their own uses.
At the next step we find ourselves in the little community, of which the owner of this farm constitutes a portion; and here we find the farmer exchanging his wheat with one neighbour for a days labour the use of his wagon and his horse for other days of labour his potatoes with a third for the shoeing of his horse, and with a fourth for the shoeing of himself and his children, or the making of his coat. On one day he or his family have labour to spare, and they pass it off to a neighbour to be repaid by him in labour on another day. One requires aid in the spring, the other in the autumn; one gives a days labour in hauling lumber, in exchange for that of another, employed in mining coal or iron ore. Another trades the labour that has been employed in the purchase of a plough for that of his neighbour which had been applied to the purchase of a cradle. Exchanges being thus made on the spot, from hour to hour and from day to day, with little or no intervention of persons whose business is trade, their amount is large, and, combined with those of the family, equals probably four-fifths of the total product of the labour of the community, leaving not more than one-fifth to be traded off with distant men; and this proportion is often greatly diminished as with increasing population and wealth a market is made on the land for the products of the land.
This little community forms part of a larger one, styled a nation, the members of which are distant hundreds or thousands of miles from each other, and here we find difficulties tending greatly to limit the power to trade. The man in latitude 40° may have labour to sell for which he can find no purchaser, while he who lives in latitude 50° is at the moment grieving to see his crop perish on the ground for want of aid in harvest. The first may have potatoes rotting, and his wagon and horses idle, while the second may need potatoes, and have his lumber on his hands for want of means of transportation yet distance forbids exchange between them.
Again, this nation forms part of a world, the inhabitants of which are distant tens of thousands of miles from each other, and totally unable to effect exchanges of labour, or even of commodities, except of certain kinds that will bear transportation to distant markets. Commerce tends, therefore, to diminish in its amount with every circumstance tending to increase the necessity for going to a distance, and to increase in amount with every one tending to diminish the distance within which it must be maintained. As it now stands with the great farming interest of the Union, the proportions are probably as follows:
Exchanges in the family 55 percent. " in the neighbourhood 25 " " in the nation 15 " " with other nations 5 " Total ...... 100
It will now be obvious that any law, domestic or foreign, tending to interfere with the exchanges of the family or the neighbourhood, would be of more serious importance than one that should, to the same extent, affect those with the rest of the nation, and that one which should affect the trade of one part of the nation with another, would be more injurious than one which should tend to limit the trade with distant nations. Japan refuses to have intercourse with either Europe or America, yet this total interdiction of trade with a great empire is less important to the farmers of the Union than would be the imposition of a duty of one farthing a bushel upon the vegetable food raised on their farms to be consumed in their families.
The great trade is the home trade, and the greater the tendency to the performance of trade at home the more rapid will be the increase of prosperity, and the greater the power to effect exchanges abroad. The reason of this is to be found in the fact that the power of production increases with the power of combined exertion, and all combination is an exchange of labour for labour, the exchange being made at home. The more exchanges are thus effected the smaller is the number of the men, wagons, ships, or sailors employed in making them, and the greater the number of persons employed in the work of production, with increase in the quantity of commodities produced, and the power to exchange grows with the power to produce, while the power to produce diminishes with every increase in the necessity for exchange. Again, when the work of exchange is performed at home, the power of combination facilitates the disposal of a vast amount of labour that would otherwise be wasted, and an infinite number of things that would otherwise have no value whatever, but which, combined with the labour that is saved, are quite sufficient to make one community rich by comparison with another in which such savings cannot be effected. Virginia wastes more labour and more commodities that would have value in New England, than would pay five times over for all the cloth and iron she consumes.
Again, the quantity of capital required for effecting exchanges tends to diminish as commerce comes nearer home. The ship that goes to China performs no more exchanges in a year than the canal-boat that trades from city to city performs in a month; and the little and inexpensive railroad car passing from village to village may perform almost twice as many as the fine packet-ship that has cost ninety or a hundred thousand dollars. With the extension of the home trade, labour and capital become, therefore, more productive of commodities required for the support and comfort of man, and the wages of the labourer and the profits of the capitalist tend to increase, and commerce tends still further to increase. On the other hand, with the diminution of the power to effect exchanges at home, labour and capital become less productive of commodities; the wages of the labourer and the profits of the capitalist tend to decrease, and trade tends still further to diminish. All this will be found fully exemplified among ourselves on a comparison of the years 1835-36 with 1841-42, while the contrary and upward tendency is exemplified by the years 1845-6 and 7, as compared with 1841-2.
The fashionable doctrine of our day is, however, that the prosperity of a nation is to be measured by the amount of its trade with people, who are distant, as manifested by custom-house returns, and not by the quantity of exchanges among persons who live near each other, and who trade without the intervention of ships, and with little need of steamboats or wagons. If the trade of a neighbourhood be closed by the failure of a furnace or a mill, and the workman be thus deprived of the power to trade off the labour of himself or his children, or the farmer deprived of the power to trade off his food, consolation is found in the increased quantity of exports itself, perhaps, the direct consequence of a diminished ability to consume at home. If canal-boats cease to be built, the nation is deemed to be enriched by the substitution of ocean steamers requiring fifty times the capital for the performance of the same quantity of exchanges. If the failure of mills and furnaces causes men to be thrown out of employment, the remedy is to be found, not in the revisal of the measures that have produced these effects, but in the exportation of the men themselves to distant climes, thus producing a necessity for the permanent use of ships instead of canal-boats, with diminished power to maintain trade, and every increase of this necessity is regarded as an evidence of growing wealth and power.
The whole tendency of modern commercial policy is to the substitution of the distant market for the near one. England exports her people to Australia that they may there grow the wool that might be grown at home more cheaply; and we export to California, by hundreds of thousands, men who enjoy themselves in hunting gold, leaving behind them untouched the real gold-mines those of coal and iron in which their labour would be thrice more productive. The reports of a late Secretary of the Treasury abound in suggestions as to the value of the distant trade. Steam-ships were, he thought, needed to enable us to obtain the control of the commerce of China and Japan. With our front on both oceans and the gulf, it was thought, we might secure this commerce, and with it, in time, command the trade of the world. England, not to be outdone in this race for the commerce of the world, adds steadily to her fleet of ocean steamers, and the government contributes its aid for their maintenance, by the payment of enormous sums withdrawn from the people at home, and diminishing the home market to thrice the extent that it increases the foreign one. The latest accounts inform us of new arrangements about to be made with a view to competition with this country for the passenger traffic to and within the tropics, while the greatest of all trades now left to British ships is represented to be the transport of British men, women, and children, so heavily taxed at home for the maintenance of this very system that they are compelled to seek an asylum abroad. In all this there is nothing like freedom of trade, or freedom of man; as the only real difference between the freeman and the slave is, that the former exchanges himself, his labour and his products, while the latter must permit another to do it for him.
Mr. McCulloch regards himself as a disciple of Adam Smith, and so does Lord John Russell. We, too, are his disciple, but in The Wealth of Nations, can find no warrant for the system advocated by either. The system of Dr. Smith tended to the production of that natural freedom of trade, each step toward which would have been attended with improvement in the condition of the people, and increase in the power to trade, thus affording proof conclusive of the soundness of the doctrine; whereas every step in the direction now known as free trade is attended with deterioration of condition, and increased necessity for trade, with diminished power to trade. Those who profess to be his followers and suppose that they are carrying out his principles, find results directly the reverse of their anticipations; and the reason for this may readily be found in the fact that the English school of political economists long since repudiated the whole of the system of Dr. Smith, retaining of it little more than the mere words free trade.
The basis of all commerce is to be found in production, and therefore it was that Dr. Smith looked upon agriculture, the science of production, as the first pursuit of man, and manufactures and commerce as beneficial only to the extent that they tended to aid agriculture and increase the quantity of commodities to be converted or exchanged, preparatory to their being consumed. He held, therefore, that the return to labour would be greater in a trade in which exchanges could be made once a month than in another in which they could only be made once in a year, and he was opposed to the system then in vogue, because it had, in all cases, turned trade,
From a foreign trade of consumption with a neighbouring, into one with a more distant country; in many cases, from a direct foreign trade of consumption, into a round-about one; and in some cases, from all foreign trade of consumption, into a carrying trade. It has in all cases, therefore, he continues, turned it from a direction in which it would have maintained a greater quantity of productive labour, into one in which it can maintain a much smaller quantity.
All this is directly the reverse of what is taught by the modern British economists; and we have thus two distinct schools, that of Adam Smith and that of his successors. The one taught that labour directly applied to production was most advantageous, and that by bringing the consumer to take his place by the side of the producer, production and the consequent power to trade would be increased. The other teaches, that every increase of capital or labour applied to production must be attended with diminished return, whereas ships and steam-engines may be increased ad infinitum without such diminution: the necessary inference from which is, that the more widely the consumer and the producer are separated, with increased necessity for the use of ships and engines, the more advantageously labour will be applied, and the greater will be the power to trade. The two systems start from a different base, and tend in an opposite direction, and yet the modern school claims Dr. Smith as founder. While teaching a theory of production totally different, Mr. McCulloch informs us that the fundamental principles on which the production of wealth depends were established by Dr. Smith, beyond the reach of cavil or dispute.
The difference between the two schools may be thus illustrated: Dr. Smith regarded commerce as forming a true pyramid, thus
Exchanges at home.
Conversion into cloth and iron.
Production of food and other raw materials.
This is in exact accordance with what we know to be true; but according to the modern school, commerce forms an inverted pyramid, thus
Exchanges with distant men.
Exchanges at home.
The difference between these figures is great, but not greater than that between two systems, the one of which regards the earth as the great and perpetually improving machine to which the labour of man may be profitably applied, while the other gives precedence to those very minute and perpetually deteriorating portions of it which go to the construction of ships, wagons, and steam-engines. An examination of these figures will perhaps enable the reader to understand the cause of the unsteadiness observed wherever the modern system is adopted.
It will be easy now to see why it is that the commercial policy of England has always been so diametrically opposed to that advocated by the author of The Wealth of Nations. He saw clearly that the man and the easily transported spindle should go to the food and the cotton, and that, when once there, they were there for ever; whereas the bulky food and cotton might be transported to the man and the spindle for a thousand years, and that the necessity for transportation in the thousand and first would be as great as it had been in the first; and that the more transportation was needed, the less food and cloth would fall to the share of both producer and consumer. His countrymen denied the truth of this, and from that day to the present they have endeavoured to prevent the other nations of the world from obtaining machinery of any kind that would enable them to obtain the aid of those natural agents which they themselves regard as more useful than the earth itself. The power of water, says Mr. McCulloch
And of wind, which move our machinery, support our ships, and impel them over the deep the pressure of the atmosphere, and the elasticity of steam, which enables us to work the most powerful engines, are they not the spontaneous gifts of nature? Machinery is advantageous only because it gives us the means of pressing some of the powers of nature into our service, and of making them perform the principal part of what, we must otherwise have wholly performed ourselves. In navigation is it possible to doubt that the powers of nature the buoyancy of the water, the impulse of the wind, and the polarity of the magnet contribute fully as much as the labours of the sailor to waft our ships from one hemisphere to another? In bleaching and fermentation the whole processes are carried on by natural agents. And it is to the effects of heat in softening and melting metals, in preparing our food, and in warming our houses, that we owe many of our most powerful and convenient instruments, and that those northern climates have been made to afford a comfortable habitation. Principles, 165.
This is all most true, but what does it prove in regard to British policy? Has not its object been that of preventing the people of the world from availing themselves of the vast deposites, of iron ore and of fuel throughout the earth, and thus to deprive them of the power to call to their aid the pressure of the atmosphere and the elasticity of steam? Has it not looked to depriving them of all power to avail themselves of the natural agents required in the processes of bleaching and fermentation, in softening woods, and melting metals, and was not that the object had in view by a distinguished statesman, since Chancellor of England, when he said, that the country could well afford the losses then resulting from the exportation of manufactured goods, as its effect would be to smother in the cradle the manufactures of other nations? Has not this been the object of every movement of Great Britain since the days of Adam Smith, and does not the following diagram represent exactly what would be the state of affairs if she could carry into full effect her desire to become the workshop of the world?
Mr. McCulloch insists that agriculture is less profitable than manufactures and trade, and his countrymen insist that all the world outside of England shall be one great farm, leaving to England herself the use of all the various natural agents required in manufactures and commerce, that they may remain poor while she becomes rich. There is in all this a degree of selfishness not to be paralleled, and particularly when we reflect that it involves a necessity on the part of all other nations for abstaining from those scientific pursuits required for the development of the intellect, and which so naturally accompany the habit of association in towns, for the purpose of converting the food, the wool, the hides, and the timber of the farmer into clothing and furniture for his use. It is the policy of barbarism, and directly opposed to any advance in civilization, as will be fully seen when we examine into its working in reference to any particular trade or country.
The annual average production of cotton is probably seventeen hundred millions of pounds, or less than two pounds per head for the population of the world; and certainly not one-tenth of what would be consumed could they find means to pay for it; and not one-tenth of what would be good for them; and yet it is a drug, selling in India at two and three cents per pound, and commanding here at this moment, notwithstanding the abundance of gold, but eight or nine cents, with a certainty that, should we again be favoured, as we were a few years since, with a succession of large crops, it will fall to a lower point than it ever yet has seen: a state of things that could not exist were the people of the world to consume even one-third as much as would be good for them. Why do they not? Why is it that India, with her hundred millions of population, and with her domestic manufacture in a state of ruin, consumes of British cottons to the extent of only sixteen cents per head or little more, probably, than a couple of yards of cloth? To these questions an answer may perhaps be found upon an examination of the circumstances which govern the consumption of other commodities; for we may be quite certain that cotton obeys precisely the same laws as sugar and coffee, wine and wheat. Such an examination would result in showing that when a commodity is at once produced at or near the place of growth in the form fitting it for use, the consumption is invariably large; and that when it has to go through many and distant hands before being consumed, it is as invariably small. The consumption of sugar on a plantation is large; but if it were needed that before being consumed it should be sent to Holland to be refined, and then brought back again, we may feel well assured that there would not be one pound consumed on any given plantation where now there are twenty, or possibly fifty. The consumption of cotton on the plantation is very small indeed, because, before being consumed, it has to be dragged through long and muddy roads to the landing, thence carried to New Orleans, thence to Liverpool, and thence to Manchester, after which the cloth has to be returned, the planter receiving one bale for every five he sent away, and giving the labour of cultivating an acre in exchange for fifty, sixty, or eighty pounds of its product. If, now, the people who raised the cotton were free to call to their aid the various natural agents of whose service it is the object of the British system to deprive them, and if, therefore, the work of converting it into cloth were performed on the ground where it was raised, or in its neighbourhood, is it not clear that the consumption would be largely increased? The people who made the cloth would be the consumers of numerous things raised on the plantation that are now wasted, while the facility of converting such things into cloth would be a bounty on raising them; and thus, while five times the quantity of cotton would be consumed, the real cost that is, the labour cost would be less than it is for the smaller quantity now used. So, too, in India. It may be regarded as doubtful if the quantity of cotton to day consumed in that country is one-half what it was half a century since and for the reason that the number of people now interposed between the consumer and the producer is so great. The consumption of wine in France is enormous, whereas here there is scarcely any consumed; and yet the apparent excess of price is not so great as would warrant us in expecting to find so great a difference. The real cause is not so much to be found in the excess of price, though that is considerable, as in the mode of payment. A peasant in France obtains wine in exchange for much that would be wasted but for the proximity of the wine-vat, and the demand it makes for the labour of himself and others. He raises milk, eggs, and chickens, and he has fruit, cabbages, potatoes, or turnips, commodities that from their bulky or perishable nature cannot be sent to a distance, but can be exchanged at home. The farmer of Ohio cannot exchange his spare labour, or that of his horses, for wine, nor can he pay for it in peaches or strawberries, of which the yield of an acre might produce him hundreds of dollars nor in potatoes or turnips, of which he can obtain hundreds of bushels; but he must pay in wheat, of which an acre yields him a dozen bushels, one-half of which are eaten up in the process of exchange between him and the wine-grower. Whenever the culture of the grape shall come to be established in that State, and wine shall be made at home, it will be found that the gallons consumed will be almost as numerous as are now the drops. Look where we may, we shall find the same result. Wherever the consumer and the producer are brought into close connection with each other, the increase of consumption is wonderful, even where there is no reduction in the nominal price; and wherever they are separated, the diminution of consumption is equally wonderful, even where there is a reduction of the nominal price and it is so because the facility of exchange diminishes as the distance increases. A man who has even a single hours labour to spare may exchange it with his neighbour for as much cotton cloth as would make a shirt; but if the labour market is distant, he may, and will, waste daily as much time as would buy him a whole piece of cotton cloth, and may have to go shirtless while cotton is a drug. When the labour market is near, land acquires value and men become rich and free. When it is distant, land is of little value and men continue poor and enslaved.
Before proceeding further, it would be well for the reader to look around his own neighbourhood, and see how many exchanges are even now made that could not be made by people that were separated even ten or twenty miles from each other, and how many conveniences and comforts are enjoyed in exchange for both labour and commodities that would be wasted but for the existence of direct intercourse between the parties and, then to satisfy himself if the same law which may be deduced from the small facts of a village neighbourhood, will not be found equally applicable to the great ones of larger communities.
Having reflected upon these things, let him next look at the present condition of the cotton trade, and remark the fact that scarcely any of the wool produced is consumed without first travelling thousands of miles, and passing through almost hundreds of hands. The places of production are India, Egypt, Brazil, the West Indies, and our Southern States. In the first, the manufacture is in a state of ruin. In the second, third, and fourth, it has never been permitted to have an existence; and in the last it has but recently made an effort to struggle into life, but from month to month we hear of the stoppage or destruction of Southern mills, and the day is apparently now not far distant when we shall have again to say that no portion of the cotton crop can be consumed in the cotton-growing region until after it shall have travelled thousands of miles in quest of hands to convert it into cloth.
Why is this? Why is it that the light and easily transported spindle and loom are not placed in and about the cotton fields? The planters have labour, that is now wasted, that would be abundant for the conversion of half their crops, if they could but bring the machinery to the land, instead of taking the produce of the land to the machinery. Once brought there, it would be there for ever; whereas, let them carry the cotton to the spindle as long as they may, the work must still be repeated. Again, why is it that the people of India, to whom the world was so long indebted for all its cotton goods, have not only ceased to supply distant countries, but have actually ceased to spin yarn or make cloth for themselves? Why should they carry raw cotton on the backs of bullocks for hundreds of miles, and then send it by sea for thousands of miles, paying freights, commissions, and charges of all kinds to an amount so greatly exceeding the original price, to part with sixty millions of pounds of raw material, to receive in exchange eight or ten millions of pounds of cloth and yarn? Is it not clear that the labour of converting the cotton into yarn is not one-quarter as great as was the labour of raising, the cotton itself? Nevertheless, we here see them giving six or eight pounds of cotton for probably a single one of yarn, while labour unemployed abounds throughout India. Further, Brazil raises cotton, and she has spare labour, and yet she sends her cotton to look for the spindle, instead of bringing the spindle to look for the cotton, as she might so readily do. Why does she so? The answer to these questions is to be found in British legislation, founded on the idea that the mode of securing to the people of England the highest prosperity is to deprive all mankind, outside of her own limits, of the power to mine coal, make iron, construct machinery, or use steam, in aid of their efforts to obtain food, clothing, or any other of the necessaries of life. This system is directly opposed to that advocated by Adam Smith. Not only, said he, is it injurious to other nations, but it must be injurious to yourselves, for it will diminish the productiveness of both labour and capital, and will, at the same time, render you daily more and more dependent upon the operations of other countries, when you should be becoming more independent of them. His warnings were then, as they are now, unheeded; and from his day to the present, England has been engaged in an incessant effort utterly to destroy the manufactures of India, and to crush every attempt elsewhere to establish any competition with her for the purchase of cotton. The reader will determine for himself if this is not a true picture of the operations of the last seventy years. If it is, let him next determine if the tendency of the system is not that of enslaving the producers of cotton, white, brown, and black, and compelling them to carry all their wool to a single market, in which one set of masters dictates the price at which they must sell the raw material and must buy the manufactured one. Could there be a greater tyranny than this?
To fully understand the working of the system in diminishing the power to consume, let us apply elsewhere the same principle, placing in Rochester, on the Falls of the Genesee, a set of corn-millers who had contrived so effectually to crush all attempts to establish mills in other parts of the Middle States, that no man could eat bread that had not travelled up to that place in its most bulky form, coming back in its most compact one, leaving at the mill all the refuse that might have been applied to the fattening of hogs and cattle and let us suppose that the diagram on the following page represented the corn trade of that portion of the Union.
Now, suppose all the grain of half a dozen States had to make its way through such a narrow passage as is above indicated, is it not clear that the owners of roads, wagons, and mills would be masters of the owners of land? Is it not clear that the larger the crops the higher would be freights, and the larger the charge for the use of mills, the smaller would be the price of a bushel of wheat as compared with that of a bag of meal? Would not the farmers find themselves to be mere slaves to the owners of a small quantity of mill machinery? That such would be the case, no one can even for a moment doubt nor is it at all susceptible of doubt that the establishment of such a system would diminish by one-half the consumption of food, throughout those States, and also the power to produce it, for all the refuse would be fed at and near Rochester, and the manure yielded by it would be totally lost to the farmer who raised the food. The value of both labour and land would thus be greatly diminished. Admitting, for a moment, that such a system existed, what would be the remedy? Would it not be found in an effort to break down the monopoly, and thus to establish among the people the power to trade among themselves without paying, toll to the millers of Rochester? Assuredly it would; and to that end they would be seen uniting among themselves to induce millers to come and settle among them, precisely as we see men every where uniting to bring schools and colleges to their neighbourhood, well assured that a small present outlay is soon made up, even in a pecuniary point of view, in being enabled to keep their children at home while being educated, instead of sending them abroad, there to be boarded and lodged, while food is wasted at home that they might eat, and chambers are empty that they might occupy. Education thus obtained costs a parent almost literally nothing, while that for which a child must go to a distance is so costly that few can obtain it. Precisely so is it with food and with cloth. The mere labour of converting grain into flour is as nothing when compared with that required for its transportation hundreds of miles; and the mere labour required for the conversion of cotton into cloth is as nothing compared with the charges attendant upon its transportation from the plantation to Manchester and back again. Commercial centralization looks, however, to compelling the planter to pay treble the cost of conversion, in the wages and profits of the people employed in transporting and exchanging the cotton.
Admitting that the grain and flour trade were thus centralized, what would be the effect of a succession of large crops, or even of a single one? Would not the roads be covered with wagons whenever they were passable, and even at times when, they were almost impassable? Would not every one be anxious to anticipate the apprehended fall of prices by being early in the market? Would not freights be high? Would not the farmer, on his arrival in Rochester, find that every store-house was filled to overflowing? Would not storage be high? Would he not approach the miller, cap in hand, and would not the latter receive him with his hat on his head? Assuredly such would be the case, and he would hear everywhere of the astonishing extent of the surplus of how rapidly production was exceeding consumption of the length of time his grain must remain on hand before it could be ground of the low price of flour, &c. &c.; and the result would be that the more grain carried to market the less would be carried back, and the less he would be able to consume; and at last he would arrive at the conclusion that the only effect of large crops granted him by the bounty of Heaven was that of enriching the miller at his expense, by compelling him to allow more toll for the privilege of creeping through the hole provided for him by the miller. He would pray for droughts and freshets for storms and frosts as the only means of escape from ruin.
The reader may determine for himself if this is not a fair picture of the cotton trade? Do the planters profit by good crops? Assuredly not. The more they send to market the less they receive for it. Do they profit by improvements in the transportation of their commodity? Certainly not. With the growth of railroads, cotton has fallen in price, and will not this day command on the plantation near as much, per pound, as it did before the railroad was invented. In India, the cost of transportation from the place of production to England has fallen in the last forty years sevenpence, and yet the grower of cotton obtains for it one-third less than he did before receiving now little more than two cents, when before he had from three to four. Who profits by the reduction of cost of transportation and conversion? The man who keeps the toll-gate through which it passes to the world, and who opens it only gradually, so as to permit the increased quantity to pass through slowly, paying largely for the privilege. That all this is perfectly in accordance with the facts of the ease must be obvious to every reader. The planter becomes rich when crops are short, but then the mill-owner makes but little profit. He is almost ruined when crops are large, but then it is that the mill-owner is enriched and thus it is that the system produces universal discord, whereas under a natural system there would be as perfect harmony of national, as there is of individual interests.
We may now inquire how this would affect the farmers around Rochester. The consumption of the Middle States would be largely diminished because of the heavy expense of transporting the wheat to mill and the flour back again, and this would cause a great increase of the surplus for which a market must be elsewhere found. This, of course, would reduce prices, and prevent increase, if it did not produce large diminution in the value of land. The millers would become millionaires great men among their poorer neighbours and they would purchase large farms to be managed by great farmers, and fine houses surrounded by large pleasure-grounds. Land would become everywhere more and more consolidated, because people who could do so would fly from a country in which such a tyranny existed. The demand for labour would diminish as the smaller properties became absorbed. Rochester itself would grow, because it would be filled with cheap labour from the country, seeking employment, and because there would be great numbers of wagoners and their horses to be cared for, while porters innumerable would be engaged in carrying wheat in one direction and flour in another. Hotels would grow large, thieves and prostitutes would abound, and morals would decline. From year to year the millers would become greater men, and the farmers and labourers smaller men, and step by step all would find themselves becoming slaves to the caprices of the owners of a little machinery, the whole cost of which would scarcely exceed the daily loss resulting from the existence of the system. By degrees, the vices of the slave would become more and more apparent. Intemperance would grow, and education would diminish, as the people of the surrounding country became more dependent on the millers for food and clothing in exchange for cheap grain and cheaper labour. The smaller towns would everywhere decline, and from day to day the millers would find it more easy so to direct the affairs of the community as to secure a continuance of their monopoly. Local newspapers would pass away, and in their stead the people throughout the country would be supplied with the Rochester Times, which would assure the farmers that cheap food tended to produce cheaper labour, and the land-owners that if they did not obtain high rents it was their own fault, the defect being in their own bad cultivation and the more rapid the augmentation of the millers fortunes, and of the extent of their pleasure-grounds, the greater, they would be assured, must be the prosperity of the whole people; even although the same paper might find itself obliged to inform its readers that the overgrown capital presented it as
A strange result of the terrible statistics of society, that there was upon an average one person out of twenty of the inhabitants of the luxurious metropolis every day destitute of food and employment, and every night without a place for shelter or repose?London Times.
We have here slavery at home as a consequence of the determination, to subject to slavery people abroad. With each step in the growth of the millers fortunes, and of the splendour of their residences, land would have become consolidated and production would have diminished, and the whole population would have tended more and more to become a mass of mere traders, producing nothing themselves, but buying cheaply and selling dearly, and thus deriving their support from the exercise of the power to tax the unfortunate people forced to trade with them; a state of things in the highest degree adverse to moral, intellectual, or political improvement.
The reader may now turn to the extracts from Mr. McCullochs works already given, (page 240 ante,) and compare with them this view of the effects of supposed commercial centralization on this side of the Atlantic. Doing so, he will find it there stated that it is to the consolidation of the land, and to the luxury of the style of living of the great landlords, surrounded, as they, in most cases are, by poor and needy dependants, whose necessities finally compel them to seek in large cities a market for their own labour, and that of their wives and children, that we are to look for an augmentation of the mass of wealth and the scale of enjoyment! Modern British political economy holds no single idea that is in harmony with the real doctrines of Adam Smith, and yet it claims him as its head!
The reader is requested now to remark
I. That the system of commercial centralization sought to be established by Great Britain is precisely similar to the one here ascribed to the millers of Rochester, with the difference only, that it has for its object to compel all descriptions of raw produce to pass through England on its way from the consumer and the producer, even when the latter are near neighbours to each other, and England distant many thousand of miles from both.
II. That to carry out that system it was required that all other nations should be prevented from obtaining either the knowledge or the machinery required for enabling them cheaply to mine coal, smelt iron ore, or manufacture machines by aid of which they could command the services of the great natural agents whose value to man is so well described by Mr. McCulloch. (See page 249 ante.)
III. That this was at first accomplished by means of prohibitions, and that it is now maintained by the most strenuous efforts for cheapening labour, and thus depriving the labourer at home of the power to determine for whom he will work or what shall be his wages.
IV. That the more perfectly this system can be carried out, the more entirely must all other nations limit themselves, men, women and children, to the labour of the field, and the lower must be the standard of intellect.
V. That while the number of agriculturists in other countries must thus be increased, the power to consume their own products must be diminished, because of the great increase of the charges between the producer and the consumer.
VI. That this, in turn, must be attended with an increase in the quantity of food and other raw materials thrown on the market of Britain, with great increase in the competition between the foreign and domestic producers for the possession of that market, and great diminution of prices.
VII. That this tends necessarily to discourage agriculture in Britain, and to prevent the application of labour to the improvement of the land.
VIII. That it likewise tends to the deterioration of the condition of the foreign agriculturist, who is thus deprived of the power to improve his land, or to increase the quantity of his products.
IX. That the smaller the quantity of commodities produced, the less must be the power to pay for labour, and the less the competition for the purchase of the labourers services.
X. That with the decline in the demand for labour, the less must be the power of consumption on the part of the labourer, the greater must be the tendency to a glut of foreign and domestic produce, in the general market of the world, and the greater the tendency to a further diminution of the labourers reward.
XI. That, the greater the quantity of raw produce seeking to pass through the market of England, the greater must be the tendency to a decline in the value of English land, and the larger the charges of the owners of the mills, ships, and shops, through which the produce must pass, and the greater their power of accumulation, at the cost of both labour and land.
XII. That the less the labour applied to the improvement of the soil, the more must the population of the country be driven from off the land, the greater must be the tendency of the latter toward consolidation, and the greater the tendency toward absenteeism and the substitution of great farmers and day-labourers for small proprietors, with further decline in production and in the demand for labour.
XIII. That with the reduction of the country population, local places of exchange must pass away; and that labour and land must decline in power as ships, mills, and their owners become more united and more powerful.
XIV. That the tendency of the whole system is, therefore, toward diminishing the value and the power of land, and toward rendering the labourer a mere slave to the trading community, which obtains from day to day more and more the power to impose taxes at its pleasure, and to centralize in its own hands the direction of the affairs of the nation; to the destruction of local self-government, and to the deterioration of the physical, moral, intellectual, and political condition of the people.
In accordance with these views, an examination of the productive power of the United Kingdom should result in showing that production has not kept pace with population; and that such had been the ease we should be disposed to infer from the increasing demand for cheap labour, and from the decline that has unquestionably taken place in the control of the labourer over his own operations. That the facts are in accordance with this inference the reader may perhaps be disposed to admit after having examined carefully the following figures.
In 1815, now thirty-eight years since, the declared value of the exports of the United Kingdom, of British produce and manufacture, was as follows:
Of woollen manufactures .............. £9,381,426 " cotton " ............. 20,620,000 " silk " ............. 622,118 " linen " ............. 1,777,563 And of other commodities.............. 19,231,684 Total .............................. 51,632,791
In the same year there were imported of
Wool........................ 13,634,000 lbs. Cotton.................... 99,306,000 " Silk....................... 1,807,000 " Flax....................... 41,000,000 " Grain...................... 267,000 qrs. Flour...................... 202,000 cwts. Butter..................... 125,000 " Cheese..................... 106,000 "
If to the raw cotton, wool, silk, and flax that were re-exported in a manufactured state, and to the dyeing materials and other articles required for their manufacture, we now add the whole foreign food, as above shown, we can scarcely make, of foreign commodities re-exported, an amount exceeding twelve, or at most thirteen millions, leaving thirty-eight millions as the value of the British produce exported in that year; and this divided among the people of the United Kingdom would give nearly £2 per head.
In 1851 the exports, were as follows:
Manufactures of wool................ £10,314,000 " cotton................ 30,078,000 " silk................ 1,329,000 " flax................ 5,048,000 All other commodities............... 21,723,569 Total............................... £68,492,569
We see thus that nearly the whole increase that had taken place in the long period of thirty-six years was to be found in four branches of manufacture, the materials of which were wholly drawn from abroad, as is shown in the following statement of imports for that year:
Wool................................ 3,000,000 lbs. Cotton............................. 00,000,000 " Silk............................... 5,020,000 " Flax.............................. 135,000,000 " Eggs.............................. 115,000,000 " Oxen, cows, calves, sheep, hogs, &c.. 300,000 " Corn................................ 8,147,675 qrs. Flour............................. 5,384,552 cwts. Potatoes.......................... 635,000 " Provisions........................ 450,000 " Butter............................ 354,000 " Cheese............................ 338,000 " Hams and lard..................... 130,000 "
The wool imported was more than was required to produce the cloth exported, and from this it follows that the whole export represented foreign wool. The cotton, silk, flax, dyeing-materials, &c. exported were all foreign, and the food imported was adequate, or nearly so, to feed the people who produced the goods exported. Such being the case, it would follow that the total exports of British and Irish produce could scarcely have amounted to even £15,000,000, and it certainly could not have exceeded that sum and that would give about 10s. per head, or one-fourth as much as in 1815.
The difference between the two periods is precisely the same as that between the farmer and the shoemaker. The man who, by the labour of himself and sons, is enabled to send to market the equivalent of a thousand bushels of wheat, has first fed himself and them, and therefore he has the whole proceeds of his sales to apply to the purchase of clothing, furniture, or books, or to add to his capital. His neighbour buys food and leather, and sells shoes. He has been fed, and the first appropriation to be made of the proceeds of his sales is to buy more food and leather; and all he has to apply to other purposes is the difference between the price at which he buys and that at which he sells. Admitting that difference to be one-sixth, it would follow that his sales must be six times as large to enable him to have the same value to be applied to the purchase of other commodities than food, or to the increase of his capital. Another neighbour buys and sells wheat, or shoes, at a commission of five percent, out of which he has to be fed. To enable him to have an amount of gross commissions equal to the farmers sales, he must do twenty times as much business; and if, we allow one-half of it for the purchase of food, he must do forty times as much to enable him to have the same amount with which to purchase other commodities, or to increase his capital. Precisely so is it with a nation. When it sells its own food and leather, it has fed itself, and may dispose as it will of the whole amount of sales. When it buys food and leather, and sells shoes, it has been fed, and must first pay the producers of those commodities; and all that it can appropriate to the purchase of clothing or furniture, or to the increase, of its capital, is the difference; and, to enable it to have the same amount to be so applied, it must sell six times as much in value. When it acts as a mere buyer and seller of sugar, cotton, cloth, or shoes, it has to be fed out of the differences, and then it may require forty times the amount of sales to yield the same result.
These things being understood, we may now compare the two years above referred to. In the first, 1815, the sales of domestic produce amounted to ......................... £38,600,000 And if to this we add the difference on £13,000,000 ..................................... 2,166,667 We obtain the amount, applicable to the purchase of other commodities than food................. £40,766,667 In the second, 1851, the sales of domestic produce were ................................... £15,000,000 To which add differences on £53,492,000, say.... 9,000,000 We have, as applicable to other purposes than the purchase of food............................ £24,000,000
Divided among the population, of those years, it gives £2 per head in the first, and 16s. in the other; but even this, great as it is, does not represent in its full extent the decline that has taken place. The smaller the change of form made in the commodity imported before exporting it, the more nearly does the business resemble that of the mere trader, and the larger must be the quantity of merchandise passing, to leave behind the same result. In 1815, the export of yarn of any kind was trivial, because other countries were then unprovided with looms. In 1851 the export of mere yarn, upon which the expenditure of British labour had been only that of twisting it, was as follows:
Cotton........................ 144,000,000 lbs. Linen......................... 19,000,000 " Silk.......................... 390,000 " Woollen....................... 14,800,000 "
The reader will readily perceive that in all these cases the foreign raw material bears a much larger proportion to the value than would have been the case had the exports taken place in the form of cloth. An examination of these facts can scarcely fail to satisfy him how deceptive are any calculations based upon statements of the amount of exports and imports; and yet it is to them we are always referred for evidence of the growing prosperity of England. With every year there must be an increasing tendency in the same direction, as the manufacturers of India are more and more compelled to depend on England for yarn, and as the nations of Europe become more and more enabled to shut out cloth and limit their imports to yarn. From producer, England has become, or is rapidly becoming, a mere trader, and trade has not grown to such an extent as was required to make amends for the change. She is therefore in the position of the man who has substituted a trade of a thousand dollars a year for a production of five hundred. In 1815, the people of the United Kingdom had to divide among themselves, then twenty millions in number, almost forty millions, the value of their surplus products exported to all parts of the earth. In 1851, being nearly thirty millions in number, they had to divide only fifteen millions, whereas had production been maintained, it should have reached sixty millions, or almost the total amount of exports. In place of this vast amount of products for sale, they had only the differences upon an excess trade of £40,000,000, and this can scarcely be estimated at more than eight or ten, toward making up a deficit of forty-five millions. Such being the facts, it will not now be difficult for the reader to understand why it is that there is a decline in the material and moral condition of the people.
How this state of things has been brought about is shown by the steady diminution in the proportion of the population engaged in the work of production. Adam Smith cautioned his countrymen that if the whole surplus produce of America in grain of all sorts, salt provisions, and fish, were forced into the market of Great Britain, it would interfere too much with the prosperity of our own people. He thought it would be a great discouragement to agriculture. And yet, from that hour to the present, no effort has been spared to increase in all the nations of the world the surplus of raw produce, to be poured into the British market, and thus to produce competition between the producers abroad and the producers at home, to the manifest injury of both. The more the linen manufacture, or those of wool, hemp, or iron, could be discouraged abroad, the greater was the quantity of raw products to be sent to London and Liverpool, and the less the inducement for applying labour to the improvement of English land. For a time, this operation, so far as regarded food, was restrained by the corn-laws; but now the whole system is precisely that which was reprobated by the most profound political economist that Britain has ever produced. Its consequences are seen in the following figures: In 1811, the proportion of the population of England engaged in agriculture was 35 percent. In 1841 it had fallen to 25 percent, and now it can scarcely exceed 22 percent, and even in 1841 the actual number was less than it had been thirty years before.
Thus driven out from the land, Englishmen had to seek other employment, while the same system was annually driving to England tens of thousands of the poor people of Scotland and Ireland; and thus forced competition for the sale in England of the raw products of the earth produced competition there for the sale of labour; the result of which is seen in the fact that agricultural wages have been from 6s. to 9s. a week, and the labourer has become from year to year more a slave to the caprices of his employer, whether the great farmer or the wealthy owner of mills or furnaces. The total population of the United Kingdom dependent upon agriculture cannot be taken at more than ten millions; and as agricultural wages cannot be estimated at a higher average than 5s. per week, there cannot be, including the earnings of women, more than 6s. per family; and if that be divided among four, it gives 1s. 6d. per head, or £3 18s. per annum, and a total amount, to be divided among ten millions of people, of 40 millions of pounds, or 192 millions of dollars. In reflecting upon this, the reader is requested to bear in mind that it provides wages for every week in the year, whereas throughout a considerable portion of the United Kingdom very much of the time is unoccupied.
Cheap labour has, in every country, gone hand in hand with cheap land. Such having been the case, it may not now be difficult to account for the small value of land when compared with the vast advantages it possesses in being everywhere close to a market in which to exchange its raw products for manufactured ones, and also for manure. The reader has seen the estimate of M. Thunen, one of the best agriculturists of Germany, of the vast difference in the value of land in Mecklenburgh close to market, as compared with that distant from it; but he can everywhere see for himself that that which is close to a city will command thrice as much rent as that distant twenty miles, and ten times as much as that which is five hundred miles distant. Now, almost the whole land of the United Kingdom is in the condition of the best of that here described. The distances are everywhere small, and the roads are, or ought to be, good; and yet the total rental of land, mines, and minerals, is but £55,000,000, and this for an area of 70 millions of acres, giving an average of only about $3.60 per acre, or $9 less than £2, per head of the population. This is very small indeed, and it tends to show to how great an extent the system must have discouraged agriculture. In 1815, with a population of only twenty millions, the rental amounted, exclusive of houses, mines, minerals, fisheries, &c., to fifty-two and a half millions, and the exports of the produce of British and Irish land were then almost three times as great as they are now, with a population almost one-half greater than it was then.
The very small value of the land of the United Kingdom, when compared with its advantages, can be properly appreciated by the reader only after an examination of the course of things elsewhere. The price of food raised in this country is dependent, almost entirely, on what can be obtained for the very small quantity sent to England. Mark Lane, as it is said, governs the worlds prices. It does govern them in New York and Philadelphia, where prices must be as much below those of London or Liverpool as the cost of transportation, insurance, and commissions, or there could be no export. Their prices, in turn, govern those of Ohio and Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois, which must always be as much below those of New York as the cost of getting the produce there. If, now, we examine into the mere cost of transporting the average produce of an acre of land from the farm to the market of England, we shall find that it would be far more than the average rental of English land; and yet that rental includes coal, copper, iron, and tin mines that supply a large portion of the world.
Under such circumstances, land in this country should be of very small value, if even of any; and yet the following facts tend to show that the people of Massachusetts, with a population of only 994,000, scattered over a surface of five millions of acres, with a soil so poor that but 2,133,000 are improved, and possessed of no mines of coal, iron, tin, lead, or copper, have, in the short period they have occupied it, acquired rights in land equal, per acre, to those acquired by the people of England in their fertile soils, with their rich mines, in two thousand years. The cash value of the farms of that State in 1850 was $109,000,000, which, divided over the whole surface, would give $22 per acre, and this, at six percent, would yield $1.32. Add to this the difference between wages of four, six, and eight shillings per week in the United Kingdom, and twenty or twenty-five dollars per month in Massachusetts, and it will be found that the return in the latter is quite equal to that in the former; and yet the price of agricultural produce generally, is as much below that of England as the cost of freight and commission, which alone are greater than the whole rent of English land.
New York has thirty millions of acres, of which only twelve millions have been in any manner improved; and those she has been steadily exhausting, because of the absence of a market on or near the land, such as is possessed by England. She has neither coal nor other mines of any importance, and her factories are few in number; and yet the cash value of farms, as returned by the Marshal, was 554 millions of dollars, and that was certainly less than the real value. If we take the latter at 620 millions, it will gives $50 per acre for the improved land, or an average of $20 for all. Taking the rent at six percent on $50, we obtain $3 per acre, or nearly the average of the United Kingdom; and it would be quite reasonable to make the mines and minerals of the latter a set-off against the land that is unimproved.
If the reader desire to understand the cause of the small value, of English land when compared with its vast advantages, he may find it in the following passage:
Land-owners possess extensive territories which owe little or nothing to the hand of the improver; where undeveloped sources of production lie wasting and useless in the midst of the most certain and tempting markets of the vast consuming population of this country. Economist, London.
Unfortunately, however, those markets are small, while the tendency of the whole British system is toward converting the entire earth into one vast farm for their supply, and thus preventing the application of labour to the improvement of land at home. The tendency of prices, whether of land, labour, or their products, is toward a level, and whatever tends to lessen the price of any of those commodities in Ireland, India, Virginia, or Carolina, tends to produce the same effect in England; and we have seen that such is the direct tendency of English policy with regard to the land of all those countries. With decline in value, there must ever be a tendency to consolidation, and thus the policy advocated by the Economist produces the evil of which it so much and so frequently complains.
The profits of farmers are generally estimated at half the rental, which would give for a total of rents and profits about 85 millions; and if to this be added the wages of agricultural labour, we obtain but about 125 millions, of which less than one-third goes to the labourer. We have here the necessary result of consolidation of land itself the result of an attempt to compel the whole people of the world to compete with each other in a single and limited market for the sale of raw produce. With every increase of this competition, the small proprietor has found himself less and less able to pay the taxes to which he was subjected, and has finally been obliged to pass into the condition of a day-labourer, to compete with the almost starving Irishman, or the poor native of Scotland, driven into England in search of employment; and hence have resulted the extraordinary facts that in many parts of that country, enjoying, as it does, every advantage except a sound system of trade, men gladly labour for six shillings ($1.44) a week; that women labour in the fields; and that thousands of the latter, destitute of a change of under-clothing, are compelled to go to bed while their chemises are being washed.
Driven from the land by the cheap food and cheap labour of Ireland, the English labourer has to seek the town, and there he finds himself at the mercy of the great manufacturer; and thus, between the tenant-farmer on the one hand, and the large capitalist on the other, he is ground as between the upper and the nether millstone. The result is seen in the facts heretofore given. He loses gradually all self-respect, and he, his wife, and his children become vagrants, and fall on the public for support. Of the wandering life of great numbers of these poor people some idea may be formed from the following statement of Mr. Mayhew:
I happened to be in the country a little time back, and it astonished me to find, in a town with a population of 20,800, that no less than 11,000 vagabonds passed through the town in thirteen weeks. We have large classes known in the metropolis as the people of the streets.
It will, however, be said that if cheap corn tend to drive him from employment, he has a compensation in cheaper sugar, cotton, coffee, rum, and other foreign commodities and such is undoubtedly the case; but he enjoys these things at the cost of his fellow labourers, black, white, and brown, in this country, the West Indies, India, and elsewhere. The destruction of manufactures in this country in 1815 and 1816 drove the whole population to the raising of food, tobacco, and cotton; and a similar operation in India drove the people of that country to the raising of rice, indigo, sugar, and cotton, that must go to the market of England, because of the diminution in the domestic markets for labour or its products. The diminished domestic consumption of India forces her cotton into the one great market, there to compete with that of other countries, and to reduce their prices. It forces the Hindoo to the Mauritius, to aid in destroying the poor negroes of Jamaica, Cuba, and Brazil; but the more the sugar and cotton that must go to the distant market, the higher will be the freights, the lower will be the prices, the larger will be the British revenue, the greater will be the consumption, and the greater will be the prosperity of England, but the more enslaved will be the producers of those commodities. Competition for their sale tends to produce low prices, and the more the people of the world, men, women, and children, can be limited to agriculture, the greater must be the necessity for dependence on England for cloth and iron, the higher will be their prices, and the more wretched will be the poor labourer everywhere.
The reader may perhaps understand the working of the system after an examination of the following comparative prices of commodities:
1815. 1852. England sells Bar iron, per ton.... £13 5s. 0d. ..... £9 0s. 0d. Tin, per cwt........ 7 0 0 ..... 5 2 0 Copper " ........ 6 5 0 ..... 5 10 0 Lead " ........ 1 6 6 ..... 1 4 0 England buys Cotton, per lb....... 0 1 6 ..... 0 0 6 Sugar, per cwt....... 3 0 0 ..... 1 0 0
While these principal articles of raw produce have fallen to one-third of the prices of 1815, iron, copper, tin, and lead, the commodities that she supplies to the world, have not fallen more than twenty-five percent. It is more difficult to exhibit the changes of woven goods, but that the planters are constantly giving more cotton for less cloth will be seen on an examination of the following facts in relation to a recent large-crop year, as compared with the course of things but a dozen years before. From 1830 to 1835, the price of cotton here was about eleven cents, which we may suppose to be about what it would yield in England, free of freight and charges. In those years our average export was about 320,000,000, yielding about $35,000,000, and the average price of cotton cloth, per piece of 24 yards, weighing 5 lbs. 12 oz., was 7s. 10d., ($1.88,) and that of iron £6 10s. ($31.20.) Our exports would therefore have produced, delivered in Liverpool, 18,500,000 pieces of cloth, or about 1,100,000 tons of iron. In 1845 and 1846, the home consumption of cotton by the people of England was almost the same quantity, say 311,000,000 pounds, and the average price here was 6-½ cents, making the product $20,000,000. The price of cloth then was 6s. 6-¾ d., ($1.57½,) and that of iron about £10, ($48;) and the result was, that the planters could have, for nearly the same quantity of cotton, about 12,500,000 pieces of cloth, or about 420,000 tons of iron, also delivered in Liverpool. Dividing the return between the two commodities, it stands thus:
Average from: 1830 to 1835. 1845-6. Loss. Cloth, pieces... 9,250,000 ... 6,250,000 3,000,000 And iron, tons.. 550,000 ... 210,000 340,000
The labour required for converting cotton into cloth had been greatly diminished, and yet the proportion, retained by the manufacturers had greatly increased, as will now be shown:
Weight of Cotton Weight of Cotton Retained by the used. given to the manufacturers. planters. 1830 to 1835... 320,000,000... 110,000,000... 210,000,000 1845 and 1846.. 311,000,000... 74,000,000.... 237,000,000
In the first period, the planter would have had 34 percent of his cotton returned to him in the form of cloth, but in the second only 24 percent. The grist miller gives the farmer from year to year a larger proportion of the product of his grain, and thus the latter has all the profit of every improvement. The cotton miller gives the planter from year to year a smaller proportion of the cloth produced. The one miller comes daily nearer to the producer. The other goes daily farther from him, for with the increased product the surface over which it is raised is increased.
How this operates on a large scale will now be seen on an examination of the following facts:
The declared or actual value of exports of British produce in manufactures in 1815 was.. £51,632,971 And the quantity of foreign merchandise retained for consumption in that year was........ £17,238,841
This shows, of course, that the prices of the raw products of the earth were then high by comparison with those of the articles that Great Britain had to sell.
In 1849, the value of British exports was..... £63,596,025 And the quantity of foreign merchandise retained for consumption was no less than....... £80,312,717
We see thus that while the value of exports had increased only one-fourth, the produce received in exchange was almost five times greater; and here it is that we find the effect of that unlimited competition for the sale in England of the raw products of the world, and limited competition for the purchase of the manufactured ones, which it is the object of the system to establish. The nation is rapidly passing from the strong and independent position of one that produces commodities for sale, into the weak and dependent one of the mere trader who depends for his living upon the differences between the prices at which he sells and those at which he buys that is, upon his power to tax the producers and consumers of the earth. It is the most extraordinary and most universal system of taxation ever devised, and it is carried out at the cost of weakening and enfeebling the people of all the purely agricultural countries. The more completely all the world, outside of England, can be rendered one great farm, in which men, women, and children, the strong and the weak, the young and the aged, can be reduced to field labour as the only means of support, the larger will be the sum of those differences upon which the English people are now to so great an extent maintained, but the more rapid will be the tendency everywhere toward barbarism and slavery. The more, on the other hand, that the artisan can be brought to the side of the farmer, the smaller must be the sum of these differences, or taxes, and the greater will everywhere be the tendency toward civilization and freedom; but the greater will be that English distress which is seen always to exist when the producers of the world obtain much cloth and iron in exchange for their sugar and their cotton. The English system is therefore a war for the perpetuation and extension of slavery.
On a recent occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer congratulated the House of Commons on the flourishing state of the revenue, notwithstanding, that, they had
In ten years repealed or reduced the duties on coffee, timber, currants, wool, sugar, molasses, cotton wool, butter, cheese, silk manufactures, tallow, spirits, copper ore, oil and sperm, and an amazing number of other articles, which produced a small amount of revenue, with respect to which it is not material, and would be almost preposterous, that I should trouble the House in detail. It is sufficient for me to observe this remarkable fact, that the reduction of your customs duties from 1842 has been systematically continuous; that in 1842 you struck off nearly £1,500,000 of revenue calculated from the customs duties; that in 1843 you struck off £126,000; in 1844, £279,000; in 1845, upwards of £3,500,000; in 1846, upwards of £1,150,000; in 1847, upwards of £343,000; in 1848, upwards of £578,000; in 1849, upwards of £384,000; in 1850, upwards of £331,000; and in 1851, upwards of £801,000making an aggregate, in those ten years, of nearly £9,000,000 sterling.
The reason of all this is, that the cultivator abroad is steadily giving more raw produce for less cloth and iron. The more exclusively the people of India can be forced to devote themselves to the raising of cotton and sugar, the cheaper they will be, and the larger will be the British revenue. The more the price of corn can be diminished, the greater will be the flight to Texas, and the cheaper will be cotton, but the larger will be the slave trade of America, India, and Ireland; and thus it is that the prosperity of the owners of mills and furnaces in England is always greatest when the people of the world are becoming most enslaved.
It may be asked, however, if this diminution of the prices of foreign produce is not beneficial to the people of England. It is not, because it tends to reduce the general price of labour, the commodity they have to sell. Cheap Irish labour greatly diminishes the value of that of England, and cheap Irish grain greatly diminishes the demand for labour in England, while increasing the supply by forcing the Irish people to cross the Channel. The land and labour of the world have one common interest, and that is to give as little as possible to those who perform the exchanges, and to those who superintend them the traders and the government. The latter have everywhere one common interest, and that is to take as much as possible from the producers and give as little as possible to the consumers, buying cheaply and selling dearly. Like fire and water, they are excellent servants, but very bad masters. The nearer the artisan comes to the producer of the food and the wool, the less is the power of the middleman to impose taxes, and the greater the power of the farmer to protect himself. The tendency of the British system, wherever found, is to impoverish the land-owner and the labourer, and to render both from year to year more tributary to the owners of an amount of machinery so small that its whole value would be paid by the weekly if not even by the daily loss inflicted upon the working population of the world by the system. The more the owners of that machinery become enriched, the more must the labourer everywhere become enslaved.
That such must necessarily be the case will be obvious to any reader who will reflect how adverse is the system to the development of intellect. Where all are farmers, there can be little association for the purpose of maintaining schools, or for the exchange of ideas of any kind. Employment being limited to the labours of the field, the women cannot attend to the care of their children, who grow up, necessarily, rude and barbarous; and such we see now to be the case in the West Indies, whence schools are rapidly disappearing. In Portugal and Turkey there is scarcely any provision for instruction, and in India there has been a decline in that respect, the extent of which is almost exactly measured by the age of the foreign occupation. In the Punjab, the country last acquired, men read and write, but in Bengal and Madras they are entirely uneducated. Ireland had, seventy years since, a public press of great efficiency, but it has almost entirely disappeared, as has the demand for books, which before the Union was so great as to warrant the republication of a large portion of those that appeared in England. Scotland, too, seventy years since, gave to the Empire many of its best writers, but she, like Ireland, has greatly declined. How bad is the provision for education throughout England, and how low is the standard of intellect among a large portion of her manufacturing population, the reader has seen, and he can estimate for himself how much there can be of the reading of books, or newspapers among an agricultural population hired by the day at the rate of six, eight, or even nine shillings a week and it will, therefore not surprise him to learn that there is no daily newspaper published out of London. It is, however, somewhat extraordinary that in that city, there should be, as has recently been stated, but a single one that is not published at a loss. That one circulates 40,000 copies, or more than twice the number of all the other daily papers united. This is a most unfavourable sign, for centralization and progress have never gone hand in hand with each other.
The system, too, is repulsive in its character. It tends to the production of discord among individuals and nations, and hence it is that we see the numerous strikes and combinations of workmen, elsewhere so little known. Abroad it is productive of war, as is now seen in India, and as was so recently the case in China. In Ireland it is expelling the whole population, and in Scotland it has depopulated provinces. The vast emigration now going on, and which has reached the enormous extent of 360,000 in a single year, bears testimony to the fact that the repulsive power has entirely overcome the attractive one, and that the love of home, kindred, and friends is rapidly diminishing. How, indeed, could it be otherwise, in a country in which labour has been so far cheapened that the leading journal assures its readers that during a whole generation man has been a drug, and population a nuisance?
The fact that such a declaration should be made, and that that and other influential journals should rejoice in the expulsion of a whole nation, is evidence how far an unsound system can go toward steeling the heart against the miseries of our fellow-creatures. These poor people do not emigrate voluntarily. They are forced to leave their homes, precisely as is the case with the negro slave of Virginia; but they have not, as has the slave, any certainty of being fed and clothed at the end of the journey. Nevertheless, throughout England there is an almost universal expression of satisfaction at the idea that the land is being rid of what is held to be its superabundant population; and one highly respectable journal, after showing that at the same rate Ireland would be entirely emptied in twenty-four years, actually assures its readers that it views the process without either alarm or regret, and that it has no fear of the process being carried too far or continued too long.
We see thus, on one hand, the people of England engaged in shutting in the poor people of Africa, lest they should be forced to Cuba; and, on the other, rejoicing at evictions, as the best means of driving out the poor people of Ireland. In all this there is a total absence of consistency; but so far as the Irish people are concerned, it is but a natural consequence of that unsound social philosophy, based upon the Ricardo-Malthusian doctrine, which after having annihilated the small land-owner and the small trader, denies that the Creator meant that every man should find a place at his table, and sees no more reason why a poor labourer should have any more right to be fed, if willing to work, than the Manchester cotton-spinner should have to find a purchaser for his cloth. Labour, we are told, is a commodity, and if men will marry and bring up children to an overstocked and expiring trade, it is for them to take the consequences and if we stand between the error and its consequences, we stand between the evil and its cure if we intercept the penalty (where it does not amount to positive death) we perpetuate the sin.
Such being the state of opinion in regard to the claims of labour, we need scarcely be surprised to find a similar state of things in regard to the rights of property. The act of emancipation was a great interference with those rights. However proper it might have been deemed to free the negroes, it was not right to cause the heaviest portion of the loss to be borne by the few and weak planters. If justice required the act, all should have borne their equal share of the burden. So again in regard to Ireland, where special laws have been passed to enable the mortgagees to sell a large portion of the land, rendered valueless by a system that had for long years prevented the Irishman from employing himself except in the work of cultivation. India appears likely now to come in for its share of similar legislation. Centralization has not there, we are told, been carried far enough. Private rights in land, trivial even as they now are, must be annihilated. None, we are told, can be permitted to stand between the cultivator and the government, even if the collection of the taxes should render necessary so large an army of employés as to threaten the absorption of the lions share of them. In regard to the rights to land in England itself, one of her most distinguished writers says that
When the sacredness of property is talked of, it should always be remembered that this sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property. No man made the land. *** The claim of the land-owners to the land is altogether subordinate to the general policy of the state. *** Subject to this proviso (that of compensation) the state is at liberty to deal with landed property as the general interests of the community may require, even to the extent, if it so happen, of doing with the whole what is done with a part whenever a bill is passed for a railroad or a street. J.S. Mill, Principles, book ii. chap. ii.
In regard to the disposal of property at the death of its owner, the same author is of opinion that a certain moderate provision, such as is admitted to be reasonable in the case of illegitimate children, and of younger children is all that parents owe to their children, and all, therefore, which the state owes to the children of those who die intestate. The surplus, if any, he holds it may rightfully appropriate to the general purposes of the community. Ibid.
Extremes generally meet. From the days of Adam Smith to the present time the policy of England has looked in the direction that led necessarily to the impoverishment of the small land-owner, and to the consolidation of land, and during the whole of that period we have been told of the superior advantages of large farms and great tenant-farmers; but now, when the injurious effects of the system are becoming from day to day more obvious, the question of the existence of any right to land is being discussed, and we are told that public reasons existed for its being appropriated, and if those reasons have lost their force, the thing would be unjust. From this to confiscation the step would not be a very great one. No such idea certainly could exist in the mind of so enlightened a man as Mr. Mill, who insists upon compensation; but when a whole people, among whom the productive power is steadily diminishing as individual fortunes become more and more colossal, are told that the proprietors of land, great and small, receive compensation for its use, for no other reason than that they have been enabled to possess themselves of a monopoly of its powers, and that rent is to be regarded as the recompense of no sacrifice whatever, but as being received by those who neither labour nor put by, but merely hold out their hands to receive the offerings of the rest of the community, can we doubt that the day is approaching when the right to property in land will be tested in England, as it has elsewhere been? Assuredly not. Ricardo-Malthusianism tends directly to what is commonly called Communism, and at that point will England arrive, under the system which looks to the consolidation of the land, the aggrandizement of the few, and the destruction of the physical, moral, intellectual, and political powers of the whole body of labourers, abroad and at home.
Where population and wealth increase together, there is always found a growing respect for the rights of persons and property. Where they decline, that respect diminishes; and the tendency of the whole British politico-economical system being toward the destruction of population and wealth at home and abroad, it tends necessarily toward agrarianism in its worst form. That such is the tendency of things in England we have the assurance of the London Times, by which, it has recently been shown, says Mr. Kay,
That during the last half century, every thing has been done to deprive the peasant of any interest in the preservation of public order; of any wish to maintain the existing constitution of society; of all hope of raising himself in the world, or of improving his condition in life; of all attachment to his country; of all feelings of there really existing any community of interest between himself and the higher ranks of society; and of all consciousness that he has any thing to lose by political changes; and that every thing has been done to render him dissatisfied with his condition, envious of the richer classes, and discontented with the existing order of things.
The labourer, he continues has no longer any connection with the land which he cultivates; he has no stake in the country; he has nothing to lose, nothing to defend, and nothing to hope for. The word cottage has ceased to mean what it once meant a small house surrounded by its little plot of land, which the inmate might cultivate as he pleased, for the support and gratification of his family and himself. The small freeholds have long since been bought up and merged in the great estates. Copyholds have become almost extinct, or have been purchased by the great land-owners. The commons, upon which the villagers once had the right of pasturing cattle for their own use, and on which, too, the games and pastimes of the villages were held, have followed the same course: they are enclosed, and now form part of the possessions of the great landowners. Small holdings of every kind have, in like manner, almost entirely disappeared. Farms have gradually become larger and larger, and are now, in most parts of the country, far out of the peasants reach, on account of their size, and of the amount of capital requisite to cultivate them. The gulf between the peasant and the next step in the social scale the farmer is widening and increasing day by day. The labourer is thus left without any chance of improving his condition. His position is one of hopeless and irremediable dependence. The workhouse stands near him, pointing out his dismal fate if he falls one step lower, and, like a grim scarecrow, warning him to betake himself to some more hospitable region, where he will find no middle-age institutions opposing his industrious efforts.Vol. i. 361.
This is slavery, and it is an indication of poverty, and yet we hear much of the wealth of England. Where, however, is it? The whole rental of the land, houses, mills, furnaces, and mines of the United Kingdom but little exceeds one hundred millions of pounds sterling, of which about one-half is derived from buildings and if we take the whole, perishable and imperishable, at twenty years purchase, it is but two-thousand millions. If next we add for machinery of all kinds, ships, farming stock and implements, 600 millions, we obtain a total of only 2600 millions, or 12,500 millions of dollars, as the whole accumulation of more than two thousand years given to the improvement of the land, the building of houses, towns, and cities and this gives but little over 400 dollars per head. Sixty years since, New York had a population of only 340,000, and it was a poor State, and to this hour it has no mines of any importance that are worked. Throughout the whole period, her people have been exhausting her soil, and the product of wheat, on lands that formerly gave twenty-five and thirty bushels to the acre, has fallen to six or eight, and yet her houses and lands are valued at almost twelve hundred millions of dollars, and the total value of the real and personal estate is not less than fifteen hundred millions, or about $500 per head and these are the accumulations almost of the present century.
The apparent wealth of England is, however, great, and it is so for the same reason that Rome appeared so rich in the days of Crassus and Lucullus, surrounded by people owning nothing, when compared with the days when Cincinnatus was surrounded by a vast body of small proprietors. Consolidation of the land and enormous manufacturing establishments have almost annihilated the power profitably to use small capitals, and the consequence is that their owners are forced to place them in saving funds, life-insurance companies, and in banks at small interest, and by all of these they are lent out to the large holders of land and large operators in mills, furnaces, railroads, &c. As the land has become consolidated, it has been covered with mortgages, and the effect of this is to double the apparent quantity of property. While the small proprietors held it, it was assessed to the revenue as land only. Now, it is assessed, first, as land, upon which its owner pays a tax, and next as mortgage, upon which the mortgagee pays the income-tax. The land-owner is thus holding his property with other peoples means, and the extent to which this is the case throughout England is wonderfully great. Banks trade little on their own capital, but almost entirely on that of others. The capital of the Bank of England having been expended by the government, it has always traded exclusively on its deposites and circulation. The East India Company has no capital, but a very large debt, and nothing to represent it; and the example of these great institutions is copied by the smaller ones. Life-insurance companies abound, and the capitals are said to be large, but nine-tenths of them are declared to be in a state of ruinous insolvency; and it is now discovered the true mode of conducting that business is to have no capital whatsoever. The trade of England is to a great extent based on the property of foreigners, in the form of wool, silk, cotton, tobacco, sugar, and other commodities, sent there for sale, and these furnish much of the capital of her merchants. While holding this vast amount of foreign capital, they supply iron and cloth, for which they take the bonds of the people of other nations; and whenever the amount of these bonds becomes too large, there comes a pressure in the money market, and the prices of all foreign commodities are forced down, to the ruin of their distant owners. To the absence of real capital it is due that revulsions are so frequent, and so destructive to all countries intimately connected with her; and it is a necessary consequence of the vast extent of trading on borrowed capital that the losses by bankruptcy are so astonishingly great. From 1839 to 1843, a period of profound peace, eighty-two private bankers became bankrupt; of whom forty-six paid no dividends, twelve paid under twenty-five percent, twelve under fifty percent, three under seventy-five percent, and two under one hundred percent; leaving seven unascertained at the date of the report from which this statement is derived. The last revulsion brought to light the fact that many of the oldest and most respectable houses in London had been for years trading entirely on credit, and without even a shilling of capital; and in Liverpool the destruction was so universal that it was difficult to discover more than half a dozen houses to whom a cargo could be confided. Revulsions are a necessary consequence of such a state of things, and at each and every one of them the small manufacturer and the small trader or land-owner are more and more swept away, while centralization steadily increases and centralization is adverse to the growth of wealth and civilization. The whole fabric tends steadily more and more to take the form of an inverted pyramid, that may be thus represented:
Ships and mills,
In confirmation of this view we have the following facts given in a speech of Mr. George Wilson, at a réunion in Manchester, a few weeks since:
In the five counties of Buckingham, Dorset, Wilts, Northampton, and Salop, 63 members were returned by 52,921 voters, while only the same number were returned by Lancashire and Yorkshire, with 89,669 county and 84,612 borough voters, making a total of 174,281. So that, if they returned members in proportion to voters alone, those five counties could only claim 19; while, if Lancashire took their proportion, it would be entitled to 207. There were twelve large cities or boroughs (taking London as a double borough) returning 24 members, with 192,000 voters, and a population of 3,268,218, and 388,000 inhabited houses. On the other side, 24 members were returned by Andover, Buckingham, Chippenham, Cockermouth, Totnes, Harwich, Bedford, Lymington, Marlborough, Great Marlborough, and Richmond; but they had only 3,569 voters, 67,434 inhabitants, and 1,373 inhabited houses. *** The most timid reformer and most moderate man would hardly object to the disfranchisement of those boroughs which had a population less than 5000, and to handing over the 20 members to those large constituencies.
As the people of Ireland are driven from the land to London, Liverpool, or America, the claims of that country to representation necessarily diminish; and so with Scotland, as the Highlands and the Isles undergo the process of wholesale clearance. The same system that depopulates them tends to depopulate the agricultural counties of England, and to drive their people to seek employment in the great cities and manufacturing towns; and this, according to Mr. McCullogh, is one of the principal advantages resulting from absenteeism. The wealthy few congregate in London, and the vast mass of poor labourers in the lanes and alleys, the streets and the cellars, of London and Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds; and thus is there a daily increasing tendency toward having the whole power over England and the world placed in the hands of the owners of a small quantity of machinery the same men that but a few years since were described by Sir Robert Peel as compelling children to work sixteen hours a day during the week, and to appropriate a part of Sunday to cleaning the machinery and the same that recently resisted every attempt at regulating the hours of labour, on the ground that all the profit resulted from the power to require the last hour. Many of these gentlemen are liberal, and are actuated by the best intentions; but they have allowed themselves to be led away by a false and pernicious theory that looks directly to the enslavement of the human race, and are thus blinded to the consequences of the system they advocate; but even were they right, it could not but be dangerous to centralize nearly the whole legislative power in a small portion of the United Kingdom, occupied by people whose existence is almost entirely dependent on the question whether cotton is cheap or dear, and who are liable to be thrown so entirely under the control of their employers.
With each step in this direction, consolidation of the land tends to increase, and there is increased necessity for cheap labour. The whole question of Englands manufacturing superiority, we are told, has become one of a cheap and abundant supply of labour. That is, if labour can be kept down, and the labourer can be prevented from having a choice of employers, then the system may be maintained, but not otherwise. Where, however, the labourer has not the power of determining for whom he will work, he is a slave; and to that condition it is that the system tends to reduce the English people, as it has already done with the once free men of India. Alarmed at the idea that the present flight from England may tend to give the labourer power to select his employer, and to have some control over the amount of his reward, the London Times suggests the expediency of importing cheap labourers from Germany and other parts of the continent, to aid in underworking their fellow-labourers in America and in India.
It has been well said that, according to some political economists, man was made for the land, and not the land for man. In England, it would almost seem as if he had been made for cotton mills. Such would appear now to be the views of the Times, as, a quarter of a century since, they certainly were of Mr. Huskisson. The object of all sound political economy is that of raising the labourer, and increasing the dignity of labour. That of the English system is to keep labour down, and to degrade the labourer to the condition of a mere slave; and such is its effect everywhere and nowhere is its tendency in that direction more obvious than in England itself. Consolidation of land on one side and a determination to underwork the world on the other, are producing a rapid deterioration of material and moral condition, and, as a natural consequence, there is a steady diminution in the power of local self-government. The diminution of the agricultural population and the centralization of exchanges have been attended by decay of the agricultural towns, and their remaining people become less and less capable of performing for themselves those duties to which their predecessors were accustomed and hence it is that political centralization grows so rapidly. Scarcely a session of Parliament now passes without witnessing the creation of a new commission for the management of the poor, the drainage of towns, the regulation of lodging-houses, or other matters that could be better attended to by the local authorities, were it not that the population, is being so rapidly divided into two classes widely remote from each other the poor labourer and the rich absentee landlord or other capitalist.
With the decay of the power of the people over their own actions, the nation is gradually losing its independent position among the nations of the earth. It is seen that the whole prosperity of the country depends on the power to purchase cheap cotton, cheap sugar, and other cheap products of the soil, and it is feared that something may interfere to prevent the continuance of the system which maintains the domestic slave trade of this country. We are, therefore, told by all the English journals, that England is far too dependent on America for her supply of cotton. There is, says the Daily News, too much risk in relying on any one country, if we consider the climate and seasons alone; but the risk is seriously aggravated when the country is not our own, but is inhabited by a nation which, however friendly on the whole, and however closely allied with us by blood and language, has been at war with us more than once, and might possibly some day be so again.
From month to month, and from year to year, we have the same note, always deepening in its intensity, and yet the dependence increases instead of diminishing. On one day, the great prosperity of the country is proved by the publication of a long list of new cotton mills, and, on the next, we are told of
The frightful predicament of multitudes of people whom a natural disaster [a short crop of cotton] denies leave to toil who must work or starve, but who cannot work because the prime material of their work is not to be obtained in the world. Lawsons Merchants Magazine, Dec. 1852.
What worse slavery can we have than this? It is feared that this country will not continue to supply cheap cotton, and it is known that India cannot enlarge its export, and, therefore, the whole mind of England is on the stretch to discover some new source from which it may be derived, that may tend to increase the competition for its sale, and reduce it lower than it even now is. At one time, it is hoped that it may be grown in Australia but cheap labour cannot there be had. At another, it is recommended as expedient to encourage its culture in Natal, (South Africa,) as there it can be grown, as we are assured, by aid of cheap or slave-labour, from India.
It is to this feeling of growing dependence, and growing weakness, that must be attributed the publication of passages like the following, from the London Times:
It used to be said that if Athens, and Lacedæon could but make up their minds to be good friends and make a common cause, they would be masters of the world. The wealth, the science, the maritime enterprise, and daring ambition of the one, assisted by the population, the territory, the warlike spirit, and stern institutions of the other, could not fail to carry the whole world before them. That was a project hostile to the peace and prosperity of mankind, and ministering only to national vanity. A far grander object, of more easy and more honourable acquisition, lies before England and the United States, and all other countries owning our origin and speaking our language. Let them agree not in an alliance offensive and defensive, but simply to never go to war with one another. Let them permit one another to develop as Providence seems to suggest, and the British race will gradually and quietly attain to a pre-eminence beyond the reach of mere policy and arms. The vast and ever-increasing interchange of commodities between the several members of this great family, the almost daily communications now opened across, not one, but several oceans, the perpetual discovery of new means of locomotion, in which steam itself now bids fair to be supplanted by an equally powerful but cheaper and more convenient agency all promise to unite the whole British race throughout the world in one social and commercial unity, more mutually beneficial than any contrivance of politics. Already, what does Austria gain from Hungary, France from Algiers, Russia from Siberia, or any absolute monarchy from its abject population, or what town from its rural suburbs, that England does not derive in a much greater degree from the United States, and the United States from England? What commercial partnership, what industrious household exhibits so direct an exchange of services? All that is wanted is that we should recognise this fact, and give it all the assistance in our power. We cannot be independent of one another. The attempt is more than unsocial; it is suicidal. Could either dispense with the labour of the other, it would immediately lose the reward of its own industry. Whether national jealousy, or the thirst for warlike enterprise, or the grosser appetite of commercial monopoly, attempt the separation, the result and the crime are the same. We are made helps meet for one another. Heaven has joined all who speak the British language, and what Heaven has joined let no man think to put asunder.
The allies of England have been Portugal and Ireland, India and the West Indies, and what is their condition has been shown. With Turkey she has had a most intimate connection, and that great empire is now prostrate. What inducement can she, then, offer in consideration of an alliance with her? The more intimate our connection, the smaller must be the domestic market for food and cotton, the lower must be their prices, and the larger must be the domestic slave trade, now so rapidly increasing. Her system tends toward the enslavement of the labourer throughout the earth, and toward the destruction everywhere of the value of the land; and therefore it is that she needs allies. Therefore; it is that the Times, a journal that but ten years since could find no term of vituperation sufficiently strong to be applied to the people of this country, now tells its readers that
It is the prospect of these expanding and strengthening affinities that imparts so much interest to the mutual hospitalities shown by British and American citizens to the diplomatic representatives of the sister States.
To give capital a fair remuneration, it was needed that the price of English labour should be kept down; and it has been kept down to so low a point as to have enabled the cotton mills of Manchester to supersede the poor Hindoo in his own market, and to drive him to the raising of cheap sugar to supply the cheap labour of England and to supersede the manufacturers of this country, and drive our countrymen to the raising of cheap corn to feed the cheap labour of England, driven out of Ireland. Cheap food next forces the exportation of negroes from Maryland and Virginia to Alabama and Mississippi, there to raise cheap cotton to supersede the wretched cultivator of India; and thus, in succession, each and every part of the agricultural world is forced into competition with every other part, and the labourers of the world become from day to day more enslaved; and all because the people of England are determined that the whole earth shall become one great farm, with but a single workshop, in which shall be fixed the prices of all its occupants have to sell or need to buy. For the first time in the history of the world, there exists a nation whose whole system of policy is found in the shopkeepers maxim, Buy cheap and sell dear; and the results are seen in the fact that that nation is becoming from day to day less powerful and less capable of the exercise of self-government among the community of nations. From day to day England is more and more seen to be losing the independent position of the farmer who sells the produce of his own labour, and occupying more and more that of the shopkeeper, anxious to conciliate the favour of those who have goods to sell or goods to buy; and with each day there is increased anxiety lest there should be a change in the feelings of the customers who bring cotton and take in exchange cloth and iron. The records of history might be searched in vain for a case like hers for a nation voluntarily subjecting itself to a process of the most exhaustive kind. They present no previous case of a great community, abounding in men of high intelligence, rejoicing in the diminution of the proportion of its people capable of feeding themselves and others, and in the increasing proportion requiring to be fed. England now exports in a year nearly 400,000 men and women that have been raised at enormous cost, and she rejoices at receiving in exchange 300,000 infants yet to be raised. She exports the young, and retains the aged. She sends abroad the sound, and keeps at home the unsound. She expels the industrious, and retains the idle. She parts with the small capitalist, but she keeps the pauper. She sends men from her own land, and with them the commodities they must consume while preparing for cultivation distant lands; and all these things are regarded as evidences of growing wealth and power. She sends men from where they could make twelve or twenty exchanges in a year to a distance from, which they can make but one; and this is taken as evidence of the growth of commerce. She sends her people from the land to become trampers in her roads, or to seek refuge in filthy lanes and cellars; and this is hailed as tending to promote the freedom of man. In all this, however, she is but realizing the prophecies of Adam Smith, in relation to the determination of his countrymen to see in foreign trade alone Englands treasure.
In all nations, ancient and modern, freedom has come with the growth of association, and every act of association is an act of commerce. Commerce, and freedom grow, therefore, together, and whatever tends to lessen the one must tend equally to lessen the other. The object of the whole British system is to destroy the power of association, for it seeks to prevent everywhere the growth of the mechanic arts, and without them there can be no local places of exchange, and none of that combination so needful to material, moral, intellectual, and political improvement. That such has been its effect in Portugal and Turkey, the West Indies, and India, and in our Southern States, we know and in all of these freedom declines as the power of association diminishes. That such has been its effect in Ireland and Scotland, the reader has seen. In England we may see everywhere the same tendency to prevent the existence of association, or of freedom of trade. Land, the great instrument of production, is becoming from day to day more consolidated. Capital, the next great instrument, is subjected to the control of the Bank of England an institution that has probably caused more ruin than any other that has ever existed. Associations for banking or manufacturing purposes are restrained by a system of responsibility that tends to prevent prudent men from taking part in their formation. The whole tendency of the system is to fetter and restrain the productive power; and hence it is that it has proved necessary to establish the fact that the great Creator had made a serious mistake in the laws regulating the increase of food and of men, and that the cheapened labourer was bound to correct the error by repressing that natural desire for association which leads to an increase of population. The consequences of all this are seen in the fact that there is in that country no real freedom of commerce. There is no competition for the purchase of labour, and the labourer is therefore a slave to the capitalist. There is no competition for the use of capital, and its owner is a slave to his banker, who requires him to content himself with the smallest profits. There is scarcely any power to sell land, for it is everywhere hedged round with entails, jointures, and marriage settlements, that fetter and enslave its owner. There is no competition for obtaining maidens in marriage, for the Chronicle assures us that marriage now rarely takes place until the cradle has become as necessary as the ring; and when that is the case, the man will always be found a tyrant and the woman a slave. In the effort to destroy the power of association, and the freedom of trade and of man abroad, England has in a great degree annihilated freedom at home; and all this she has done because, from the day of the publication of The Wealth of Nations, her every movement has looked to the perpetuation of the system denounced by its author as a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind.
1 See page 71, ante.
2 Kays Social Condition of England and of Europe, vol. i. 70.
3 Ibid. 359.
4 Kays Social Condition of England and of Europe, vol. 1, 183.
5 On a recent occasion in the House of Lords, it was declared to be important to retain Canada, on the express ground that it greatly facilitated smuggling.
6 Alton Locke.
7 Lord Ashley informs us that there are 30,000 poor children such as these in London alone.
8 Reports of the Health of Towns Commission, vol. i. 127.
9 City Mission Magazine, Oct. 1847.
10 See page 224, ante.
11 The import of 1850 was 103,713 lbs., and that of 1852, 251,792 lbs.
12 The reader who may desire to see this more fully exhibited is referred to the authors work, The Past, the Present, and the Future."
13 See page 59, ante. Wealth of Nations book 3, ch. 1.
14 It may be doubted, considering the circumstances under which most Irish landlords acquired their estates, the difference between their religious tenets and those of their tenants, the peculiar tenures under which the latter hold their lands, and the political condition of the country, whether their residence would have been of any considerable advantage. *** The question really at issue refers merely to the spending of revenue, and has nothing to do with the improvement of estates; and notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, I am not yet convinced that absenteeism is, in this respect, at all injurious." Principles, 157.
15 Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economical Policy.
16 Chapman, Commerce of India.
17 During all this time there was a large increase in the import of food from Ireland; and this, of course, constituted a portion of domestic produce exported in the shape of manufactures, the whole proceeds of which were to be retained at home. Since 1846, the change in that country has been so great that she is now a large importer of foreign grain. The official return for 1849 shows a diminution in the quantity raised, as compared with 1844, of no less than 9,304,607 quarters; and instead of sending to England, as she had been accustomed to do, more than three millions of quarters, she was an importer in that year and the following one of more than a million. This deficiency had to be made up from abroad, and thus was the United Kingdom transformed from the position of seller of four or five millions of quarters say about 40 millions of our bushels of which it retained the whole proceeds, to that of the mere shopkeeper, who retains only the profit on the same quantity. A similar state of things might be shown in regard to many of the other articles of produce above enumerated.
18 In 1834, Mr. McCulloch estimated the produce of the land of great Britain at 146 millions, but at that time wheat was calculated at 50s. A quarter, or almost one-half more than the average of the last two or three years. Other and larger calculations may readily be found; but it would be difficult to determine what becomes of the product if it be not found in rent, farmers profits, or labourers wages.
19 By reference to the report of the Assistant Commissioner, charged with the inquiry into the condition of women and children employed in agriculture, it will be seen that a change of clothes seems to be out of the question. The upper parts of the under-clothes of women at work, even their stays, quickly become wet with perspiration, while the lower parts cannot escape getting equally wet in nearly every kind of work in which they are employed, except in the driest weather. It not unfrequently happens that a woman, on returning from work, is obliged to go to bed for an hour or two to allow her clothes to be dried. It is also by no means uncommon for her, if she does not do this, to put them on again the next morning nearly as wet as when she took them off.
20 London Labour and London Poor.
21 The returns of imports into Great Britain are given according to an official value, established more than a century since, and thus the sum of the values is an exact measure of the quantities imported.
22 The reader will remark that of all the machinery of England but a small portion is required for the forced foreign trade that is thus produced.
23 The whole appropriation for the education of ten millions of people in Western India is stated, in recent memorial from Bombay, to be only £12,500, or $60,000, being six cents for every ten persons.
24 North British Review, Nov. 1852.
25 Edinburgh Review, Oct. 1849. The italics are those of the reviewer.
26 See page 160, ante.
27 Lawsons Merchants Mag., Dec. 1852.
28 Senior, Outlines of Political Economy, 152.
29 At a recent discussion in the London Statistical Society, land in England was valued at thirty years purchase, houses at fifteen, and land in Ireland at eighteen.
30 This will appear a very small estimate when compared with those usually made, but it is equal to the total production of the land and labour of the country for a year and a half, if not for a longer period; and it would be difficult to prove that if the whole labour and capital of the country were applied to that purpose food and clothing being supplied from abroad it could not produce a quantity of commodities equal in value to those now accumulated in England. Even, however, were the amount placed at a thousand millions, the amount of wealth would still be small, under the circumstances of the case.
31 See page 105 ante.
32 The latest number of the Bankers Magazine contains statements of two banks whose joint capitals and reserved funds are about £200,000, while their investments are about a million! and this, would seem to be about the usual state of affairs with most of the English banks.
33 Bankers Magazine, Sept. 1852
34 The amount of expenditure for English railroads is put down at from two to three hundreds of millions of pounds; and yet the real investment was only that of the labour employed in grading the roads, building the bridges, driving the tunnels, and making the iron; and if we take that at £8000 per mile, we obtain only 54 millions. All the balance was merely a transfer of property already existing from one owner to another, as in the case of the land, which in some cases cost ten or twelve thousands of pounds per mile.
35 See page 240, ante.
36 North British Review, Nov. 1852.
This tendency is exhibited in most of the books that treat of the system. Thus, Mr. McCulloch insists on the beneficial effect of the fear of taxation, as will be seen in the following passage:
To the desire of rising in the world, implanted in the breast of every individual, an increase of taxation superadds the fear of being cast down to a lower station, of being deprived of conveniences and gratifications which habit has rendered all but indispensable and the combined influence of the two principles produces results that could not be produced by the unassisted agency of either."
This is only the lash of the slave-driver in another form.
38 Barter, The Dorp and the Veld.
39 Estimating the average cost of raising men and women at only $1000 each, the present forced export is equal to sending abroad a capital of four hundred millions of dollars, no return from which is to be looked for.
40 The recent movement of this institution in raising the rate of interest affords a striking example of its power, and of the absence of the judgment required for its exercise. For two years past the bank has aided in raising prices, but now it desires to reduce them, and at the cost, necessarily, of the weaker portions of the community, for the rich can always take care of themselves. The whole tendency of its operations is toward making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Sir Robert Peel undertook to regulate the great machine, but his scheme for that purpose failed, because he totally misconceived the cause of the evil, and of course applied the wrong remedy. It was one that could only aggravate the mischief, as he could scarcely have failed to see, had he studied the subject with the care its importance merited.
41 Page 230, ante.