John Hopkins's Notions on Political Economy
By Jane Haldimand Marcet
THE miscellaneous character of the following Tracts is accounted for by their having been written at different periods. Some of them were published, with the Author’s permission, about two years ago, by a Society established in Glamorganshire for the improvement of the labouring classes. It will be obvious to the reader, that it is for that rank of life that this little work is principally intended. [From the advertisement for the book]
First Pub. Date
London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longman
1st edition. Some essays published earlier as pamphlets
The text of this edition is in the public domain.
THE WEDDING GOWN.
ONE evening, when John returned from his work, he found his daughter Patty showing off a new silk gown to her mother. It was a present which her lover had just given her, for the approaching wedding day. Patty’s eyes, which had seldom beheld any thing so beautiful, shone with delight, as her mother admired it; and her father gave her a hearty kiss, and said she would be as smart a bride as had ever been married in the village. “Ay, and it is a French silk, too, mother,” exclaimed Patty.—”Why, as for that,” replied her mother, “I don’t see the more merit in its being French; and I did not think, Patty, you were such a silly girl as to have all that nonsense in your head. No, indeed, it is bad enough for the great lady-folks to make such a fuss about French finery, so that they can’t wear a
bit of honest English riband. I don’t like your gown a bit the better for being French. No; and I should have thought that your husband, that is to be, might have given you an English silk instead.”
Patty was not pleased that her mother should find any fault with her new present, and her future husband; so she said, she thought there was no harm in the gown being French, if Barton could afford to give it to her; “and for my own wedding too,” added she, with a blush.—”It is not that he can’t afford it, child; but don’t you see the shame of an Englishman going to buy French silks, while his own countrymen are working so hard for their bread at the manufactories at home? Why, they can get nobody to buy their English goods now, and the poor workmen will soon have to go to the parish or starve; and all because the fine ladies must be for ever sending over to foreign parts for their lace and silks, and all that.”
Poor Patty was sadly put out: but her mother did not perceive it; and she went on abusing the gown, which she had admired so much until she had learned that it was French. “No, no,” continued she, “I shall be ashamed if my girl is not married in an English gown, and tell Barton so,” she added, pushing aside the smart present.
Patty tried to put in a word, but in vain. “Why, there is our girl Nancy, who works for a riband weaver at Nottingham, your father wrote to ask whether she could get in one of her youngest sisters; but she sent back word that trade was very slack, and that they were more likely to turn off hands than to take any more in: that while so many ribands came from France one could expect no better; and that it was well if we did not see her home again for want of work. It is a crying sin,” added the dame, indignantly; “and I should be glad to know whether my Nancy can’t make as good a riband as any of the French girls? I’m sure the one she sent me was as pretty as any one need wish to look on.” John readily agreed that the English could make these things just as well at home, as others could in foreign countries. “Nay, and even if we did not,” said the wife, “I think the great people ought to give a turn to their own country folks, and encourage home manufactures, instead of having all their finery made by foreign hands, and sent to them from foreign parts. Why, I have heard Lady Charlotte’s maid, up at the castle, say, there’s no end to the loads of silks, and laces, and ribands, and flowers, her Lady-ship gets from beyond seas; and, instead of
being ashamed of it, she is proud to wear them, and to show them off to her acquaintances.”
Now Tom, who was a good sharp lad, and given to be waggish, said,—”I wish that the French mounseers, instead of sending so much frippery for the rich, would send some good bread and cheese for us poor folks.”—”And so they would, if you would pay for it,” replied his father; “for they are not such fools as to send us their goods for nothing.”—”Well, but how are the goods paid for?” asked Tom; “for uncle Bob, who has been over the sea to foreign lands, tells me, that when he goes to an alehouse in those outlandish parts, and has to pay for a draught of beer, they won’t take our English money?” Uncle Bob, although he had not yet joined in the talk, had been in the room all the while; for he had come up from Liverpool on purpose to be present at Patty’s wedding. He now pulled off his spectacles, and laying down the newspaper, which he had been quietly reading in a corner, said,—”That is true, but you should not say an alehouse, Tom, for there is little enough of ale or beer to be had there: they give you nothing but wine at their public houses. And, sure enough, they would take neither pence nor shillings, nor pounds either (if I had had them). The French will be paid in their own money, which
they call sols and francs; and the Spaniards will have their own dollars.”—”And how do you manage to pay for what you buy there?” asked John.—”Why, I get my English money changed into the money of the country where I happen to be. That is easy enough for the little I want; but it would never do to pay for all the goods that come over here from foreign parts.”
This puzzled John not a little, when suddenly a wiser thought than usual came across him:—”If they won’t take the money,” said he, “perhaps they will take the money’s worth, and that is all one.”—”What do you mean by the money’s worth, father?”—”Why, something that’s worth as much as the money. They will take goods, for instance, instead of money. Ay, for now I remember, when I went over to Leeds to see your brother that works in the cloth factory, there was such a power of broad cloth piled up, of all sorts and fashions; there were some with mighty fine patterns; and I thought them rather queer for us Englishmen to wear; but Dick said that all those pieces were for foreign parts; and that if they did not please the fancy of foreigners, who liked showy patterns, they would not take our goods. ‘You may guess,’ added Dick, ‘by the piles you see of them yonder, how much they
like these.’ And he told me they had orders for many more, so that they should be wanting more hands; and that if I sent one of the boys next spring, he thought they could find work for him. Now, don’t you see, Tom, this is the way we pay for French goods. We pay them in kind, as it were; goods for goods; and the goods being worth as much as the money we should have paid for them, it is all one, as if we had paid in money.”—”Why, it is much like my changing my top again Harry Fair-burn’s marbles,” said Tom. “And do they send us as much goods as we send them?”
“Why, as for that,” replied his father, scratching his head, while he was thinking of an answer, “as broadcloth is much more bulky than laces or silks, we must send over larger cargoes than we receive in return. But, mind you, not more costly. No, no, we are sharper than that comes to. We should never be such fools as to send to foreigners what was worth more than they sent us. We give money’s worth for money’s worth.”
“Then, if they work for us as much as we work for them,” said Tom, “methinks it’s tit for tat; and there is no one turned out of work, neither here nor there.”
“Why, have not you just heard that your sister Nancy is like to be turned off at Nottingham,
because they will wear so many French ribands?”
“Ay, but,” said Tom archly, who could not help thinking of his own prospect, “but have not you said that I am likely to be taken in at Leeds, because foreigners wear our English cloths. So you see, father, it is as broad as it is long.”
The father was puzzled, and he could think of nothing to reply to Tom, who had certainly the best of the argument. While he remained half grumbling at being set down by so young a lad, uncle Bob exclaimed, “The boy is right enough. Where is the sense of crying down French silks? why, it is just crying down our own broad cloth.”—Patty’s face brightened up, and she thought that Barton was right after all, and that she should wear her gay gown at the wedding. Uncle Bob continued,—”If we won’t wear any more foreign merchandise, why foreigners won’t wear any more of ours; for we shan’t send ours over for nothing, that is quite certain.”—”So much the better,” muttered John, “let us each wear our own manufactures.”
“Better for Nancy, but worse for Dick and Tom too,” cried uncle Bob; “for, if there are no French silks and ribands to pay for, there will be no cloth made to pay them with, for
look ye, cloth is the money we pay with. I say, and I’ll maintain it too, that every piece of silk, and not silk only, but lace, or cambric, or wine, or what not, that comes from France, or Spain, or Germany, or even from as far off as the Indies, East or West (for Bob was fond of talking of the many countries he had seen); I say, every piece of foreign goods that comes over to England employs just as many of our workmen as if they made it themselves. What care our workmen whether they are making ribands and silks for their own countryfolk, or broad cloth for foreigners? What they want is to be employed, and that is all.—Why it is as clear as broad day; though it never struck me before, till the lad hit on it.”
John was not much pleased to find his brother take part with Tom; however, he could not but think they seemed to be in the right, and that foreign trade did neither good nor harm. But they had not got at the whole truth yet, as the second part of the story will show.
JOHN had pondered all these things a good deal in his mind, at a loss what to think or what to believe, when one day his landlord looked in upon him to talk over farming matters. Before
the squire went away, John took courage to ask him about what was uppermost in his mind, and said,—”May I be so bold as to ask your honour a question?” The landlord nodded good naturedly. “Why, then, my brother Bob and my son Tom, but a bit of a chap as he is, have been arguing with me that we neither gain nor lose by trading with foreign parts, and wearing foreign manufactures.” Then observing the landlord smile, “you may think, perhaps,” added he, twirling his hat in his hands, “that I ought to be minding my own concerns, and not troubling my head about what is above my capacity.”
“I am very far from thinking,” said the landlord, “that it is not your business to reflect and consider what is or what is not good for your country. It is not only the right but the duty of every free-born Englishman to do so to the best of his abilities. This, thank God, is not a land in which we are afraid of the people learning to distinguish between right and wrong, even in matters which concern the welfare of the country.”
John was pleased: he held up his head and seemed to think all the better of himself for being counted among those who had a right to think about the welfare of the country. “I am sure,” thought he, “if I had informed myself
to the best of my ability before I went to the fairy, I should never have been such a fool as to have made her turn every thing upside down, as I did twice running.” Then, addressing the landlord, he said,—” Indeed, your honour’s right; for, in my mind, there is more mischief done for want of knowing better than there is from sheer wickedness.”
“I am quite of your opinion,” replied the landlord; “but, as for Bob and young Tom, there, I think they are somewhat mistaken in supposing that the country neither loses nor gains by foreign trade.”
“Ay, I told you so,” said John, exultingly, addressing himself to his brother and the boy.
“Then I hope your honour will set us right,” replied Bob.—”Why,” said the landlord, “I maintain that, when two countries trade freely with each other, they are both gainers.”—”Hear what his honour says now,” cried Bob: “no loss on either side, but both gainers:—all prizes, and no blanks!”
“This requires some explanation,” said the landlord, “which I will try to give you. Foreigners send over to us such goods as they can make or produce cheaper and better than we can; therefore, when we buy those goods, we get them cheaper or better than we could have made them ourselves.”
“There’s no denying that,” cried Bob, “for
if they were not either cheaper or better than we can make, we should not buy them.” Tom chuckled in a corner, though he did not dare open his lips.
“Now, for instance,” continued the landlord, observing the piece of silk for Patty’s wedding-gown, which was laid upon the table; “they have the art of making silks cheaper in France than we have in England. You may buy a silk in France for the value of two shillings a yard, which would cost you three in England. Well, then, every yard of French silk sold in England (supposing there were no duty) would be a shilling saved to those who buy it.”
“And a shilling saved is a shilling gained,” said Bob. “Then, she who buys a French instead of an English silk gown (supposing it took ten yards) would have ten shillings left in her pocket, would she not?”
“Certainly; and so, if many French gowns were bought, there would be many a ten shillings saved. This money,” continued the land-lord, “might be laid by till wanted; or it might be spent immediately, in cotton gowns, perhaps, for the children, or shoes and stockings, or pots and pans; in short, whatever article may chance to be wanted; but, whatever it be, it will have employed people to produce it; and there is so much the more work for the labouring classes. While, on the other hand, if an
English silk gown had been bought, the ten shillings saved would have been spent, and nothing more could have been purchased.”—”Then it is very clear,” said Bob, “that, if people wear the dear English silk gowns instead of the cheaper French ones, there is less work for our work people.”
“You are quite right,” answered the landlord; “and it is just the same with every other article that is purchased from abroad as it is with silk. So long as we get goods cheaper we make a saving, and that saving sets more hands to work.”
“Ay,” said John, “that’s all very well for us; but your honour told us that the French were gainers by the trade as well as ourselves: now, it seems to me, that what we gain must be their loss.”
“Why so?” cried the landlord. “Take an example or two:—We have more iron in the bowels of the earth, here, than they have in France; we are therefore more used to work it, and do it better than they do. Then we know how to construct steam-engines better; so that the. French can purchase wrought iron and steam-engines cheaper and better of us than they can make them at home. If, then, we send them iron and steam engines in exchange for their silks, they are gainers as well as we.”
“But I thought,” said John, “that we sent the French people broad cloths in exchange for their silk and laces.”
“No; the broad cloths, I believe,” said the landlord, “are exported to Spain, Portugal, and other countries. But the name of the country is of no consequence, any more than the name of the goods exchanged; the principle is the same. Buy the goods wherever they are to be had cheapest and best.”
“To be sure,” cried Dame Hopkins; “that is just what we do ourselves, husband: often is the time that I trudge over to the market town to buy things a trifle cheaper than I can get them in the village.”—”Yes, and when you get there,” cried Bob, “you go to the best shop, without caring whether its master be friend or foe.”
“But,” said John, “we don’t go over to France to choose the goods as we do at market. It is they send them over to us; and they may chance to send us such goods as we can make as well and as cheap at home: in a word, goods that we don’t want from them.”
“I can assure you,” replied the landlord, “that merchants often do go to foreign countries for the very purpose of choosing such goods as will be most wanted in England. And when they don’t go, they write, which answers much
the same purpose.”—”But how can they tell what is wanted?” cried Bob; “for, one wants one thing, another wants another; but, to say what most people want, must be a hard matter to make out.”—”Far from it,” said the landlord; “there is as sure a means of knowing it as if the different sorts of goods had each a voice, and one cried out, ‘I am the most wanted;’ another, ‘I am next;’ and another, ‘I not at all.'”
This made them all stare; and they listened with great attention to learn what this voice could be.—”It is neither more nor less than the
price of the goods,” said the landlord. “The more goods are wanted the better price they will fetch; so it is the price which I call their voice; and, moreover, a voice that always speaks the truth.”—This set them all laughing. “Now,” continued the landlord, as soon as they had had their laugh out, “we cannot expect that the French or any other foreigners should send over such goods as we want, just for the pleasure of obliging us: their view is to make money.”—”As every dealer’s is and ought to be,” interrupted Bob, “when it is done above board; that is, fairly and honestly; so we need bear them no grudge for that.”
“Very true,” continued the landlord; “they seek their own interest, not ours; and send over
the goods that will fetch the best price, because those will give them the greatest profit.”
“If they don’t seek our interest, they find it nevertheless,” said Bob; “for the goods which will fetch the best price, are just those which we most want. So, what suits them to sell, suits us to buy: well, to be sure, that is cleverly contrived.”
“No wonder that it is clever,” replied the landlord; “for it is in the nature of things; which means that it is so ordained by the Author of Nature, an all-wise and beneficent Providence.
“Well, you see, my good friends,” continued the landlord, “that foreign trade—that is, trading with foreign countries—is advantageous to every country engaged in it; for, what is true of one, is true of all: and when we buy a piece of foreign goods, be it what it may, or come from whence it will, we encourage the British manufacture thereby, just as much as if we bought the piece of goods at Leeds or Manchester.”
“Ay, and a little more, too,” cried Bob, “according to your honour’s reckoning; for you have forgot to take into the account the money saved by buying the cheaper goods, which saving is laid out in something else, and so sets more hands to work.”
“That is true,” cried the landlord; “I was falling into your argument, my honest tar, that there was neither loss nor gain in foreign trade; but I am glad to find you steer so clear of error that you can become my pilot. We are agreed then, that there is gain on both sides; and I hope, John, that you begin to think so too.”
“Why,” said John, “to be sure your honour must know best; and, if all you say be true, (as no doubt it is,) why I can’t but say it must be so.”
“Well,” continued the landlord, “but there is another advantage in foreign trade, which I have not yet mentioned. There are some things, such as good wine, that it would be impossible for us to make, because our climate is not hot enough to cultivate vineyards; so, if we did not get it from other countries, we should be obliged to go without.”
“Oh! for the matter of that,” cried John, “foreign wines will never come within our reach: we poor folk should not be the better for them, even if they paid no duty at all.”
“But you are sometimes the better for foreign spirits, John, I take it,” said the landlord.
“And sometimes the worse, too,” said his wife. “However, I have no right to complain; for that is only once in a way.”
“Well, to say nothing of the wine and the
spirits,” continued the landlord, addressing himself to the wife, “you, good dame, would not have a spoonful of sugar to sweeten your tea, without foreign trade. Nor could you give me a pinch of snuff,” added he, holding out his hand to John, who first tapped his box and then opening it, respectfully offered it to his landlord.—”And as for the English silks,” said Bob, “why we should have had none to dispute about without foreign trade; for, though we can spin and weave silk, we can’t breed silk-worms in our climate.”—”Nor could you smoke your pipe,” said the landlord; “for tobacco is not raised in England any more than silk.”—”But I have heard some talk,” said John, “of passing a law to let them grow tobacco in Ireland.”
“If the law of the land should allow them, I doubt whether the law of nature would,” replied the landlord; “for the warm climate of Virginia, in America, whence it comes, is much more favourable to its growth; and, if they attempt to raise it in Ireland, I doubt but that it will cost them dearer, and not be so good.”—”Why, then,” said John, “it would be wiser to make a law to prevent instead of to allow them to grow it.”
“The best way would be to pass no law, either for or against,” replied the landlord.
“Let men have their own way, and plant and sow, buy and sell, just where and how they like; they will soon find out what will answer best. If they can raise tobacco in Ireland as cheap and as good as in America, they will do it; and if they cannot, they will let it alone.”
“Ay,” cried Bob, “a man has a sharper look out for his own interest than any one else can have for him.”
“So you see, my friends,” continued the landlord, “foreign trade has two advantages; for it not only procures things better and cheaper, but things which our climate renders it impossible for us to produce at home; such as wine, sugar, tobacco, plums, currants, rice, spices, cotton, silks, and other things without number.”
“Oh, then,” cried the good woman, “I could not even treat my children with a plum pudding at Christmas without foreign trade; for there’s no making it without plums and spices.”
Patty smiled, and cast a look upon her wedding gown, which her mother observing, said,—”Well, child, take it up and make it up. I should be loth to say or think ill of it, after all the squire has told us.”
“Well, after all,” said John, “it’s lucky for us they won’t take our English money for their goods in foreign countries; for, if we sent them money instead of goods, it might be quite another story.”—”And why not send them money?” enquired the landlord. “Why, your honour’s joking, now,” said John, with a smile and a shrug: “you know it would not encourage our manufactures; for we do not manufacture money: we get it from South America, as I have heard.”—”And have you heard,” asked the landlord, “how we pay for it?”—”Why no, I can’t say I have,” said John, ruminating. “Pay for money! why it’s like giving them the money back again; it can’t be so: and yet it must be paid somehow.”—”It’s sure enough,” cried Bob, “the Americans will not send it us for nothing: they would no more do that than the French would send us their silks for nothing: and yet, how to pay for money I can’t well guess. We cannot give gold for gold; that would be like sending coals to Newcastle.”
“If we paid for the money in cash,” said John, “it would be just sending them back what they had sent us. And there would be
all the expense of sending it across the ocean and back again, just for nothing at all.”
“Besides, I doubt their taking it back,” said Bob; “for they want any thing there rather than money.”—”True,” said the landlord; “they are all so busy digging for gold and silver there, that they have no time to manufacture goods; so it is manufactured goods which they want.”
“Then we pay for money with manufactured goods,” said John: “that seems very odd to us, who are so used to do just the contrary, and pay for goods with money.”—” And what do the Americans do?” said the landlord.—”They give us the money in return for our goods,” replied John.
“Why, father,” cried Tom, “methinks that’s no more nor less than buying our goods.”
“Sure enough,” cried Bob, “they buy our goods with gold, and we buy their gold with goods.”
“Now,” said the landlord, “supposing that you sent money to France to pay for their silks and laces, you would want more gold from America, and you must manufacture more goods to pay for that gold.”
“Ah, so it is,” cried John, as the truth suddenly came across his mind; “and it’s all one whether we send the goods to America to pay
for the gold, or to France to pay for the silks.”
“In both cases,” continued the landlord, “the labouring manufacturer will have employment. Thus, you see, my friends, work in one country is sure to produce work in another country, provided a free trade—that is, liberty to exchange goods—be allowed. But, though this advantage will be general, I do not mean to say that it will be without exception: some manufactures may occasionally suffer. If we import French silks and French china, we shall make less silk and less china at home; but then, other manufactures will flourish in proportion as these fail; so that, if workmen are turned off in the one, they may find employment in the other.”
“Ay, but,” observed John, “it’s no such easy matter to turn one’s hand from one sort of work to another.”
“That’s very true,” replied the landlord; “and many are the poor who suffer from being obliged to make such a change. This world is not perfect, as we all well know; but it is improving; and a free foreign trade would do much towards increasing the industry, wealth, and comforts of the poor; for, I trust you are now satisfied, that the country which deals with foreign nations will employ considerably more
labourers than those which produce and manufacture only for themselves.”
The landlord now took his leave; and John confessed that he had explained it all so clearly, that he had been quite brought over to his way of thinking. Patty had understood so far as related to her wedding gown, which she now took up, and skipped away in great glee to have it made up.