The Wages Question: A Treatise on Wages and the Wages Class
By Francis A. Walker
Francis A. Walker’s
The Wages Question is generally credited as having demolished the prior, antiquated “wages fund” theory of wages [see Book I, Chapters
IX]. In the process, Walker simultaneously laid the groundwork for
John Bates Clark’s definitive descriptions of the marginal products of labor and capital. His interest in the nature of the firm contributed to
Frank H. Knight’s work by clearly describing the factors of production and how to categorize their rewards into wages, rent, and profits.Walker’s work and influence served as models not only because he discussed production, labor, and wages with unusual clarity for his time, but also because his interest in monetary issues (influenced by his father, also an economist) enabled him to describe the
difference between nominal and real values. His clarifications of monetary issues coincided with concurrent national interests in
the gold/silver/bimetallism parity controversies of the late 1800s, and the meaning of money for an economy. Walker later wrote a textbook that was used in classrooms till the publication of
Principles of Economics.Walker became the first President of the
American Economic Association. His professorships at Yale and MIT changed the courses of their economics programs. His leadership abilities were evident in every realm of his life, including his stint as a General during the Civil War. His devotion to economics as a profession paved the way for many generations of U.S. economists.For all his contributions, Walker’s popularity may also have been one of the main sources of the promulgatation of many current misunderstandings. His views of
Thomas Robert Malthus’s writings may have been the source of the popular subsequent mis-association of Carlyle’s 1849 term, the
“dismal science,” with Malthus. (Walker’s interest in labor and wages naturally led him to consider population, but may also have caused him to emphasize pressures inherent in rapid population growth, race, and class distinctions over
Malthus’s original interest in the economic incentives that deter overpopulation.) Walker’s general views and influence may have led to other underlying divisions behind different strains in macro- and micro-economic research that persist to this day.Lauren F. Landsburg
First Pub. Date
London: Macmillan and Co.
The text of this edition is in the public domain. Picture of Young courtesy of The Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection at Duke University.
- Front Matter
- Part I, Chapter 1
- Part I, Chapter 2
- Part I, Chapter 3
- Part I, Chapter 4
- Part I, Chapter 5
- Part I, Chapter 6
- Part I, Chapter 7
- Part I, Chapter 8
- Part I, Chapter 9
- Part II, Chapter 10
- Part II, Chapter 11
- Part II, Chapter 12
- Part II, Chapter 13
- Part II, Chapter 14
- Part II, Chapter 15
- Part II, Chapter 16
- Part II, Chapter 17
- Part II, Chapter 18
- Part II, Chapter 19
- Concluding Remarks
ANOTHER distinction which needs to be strongly marked is that between Wages and the Cost of Labor.
In treating wages as high or low we occupy the laborer’s point of view; in treating the cost of labor as high or low we occupy the point of view of the employer. Wages are high or low according to the abundance or scantiness of the necessaries, comforts, and luxuries of life which the laborer can command, without particular reference to the value of the service which he renders to the employer therefor. The cost of labor, on the other hand, is high or low according as the employer gets an ample or a scanty return for what he pays the laborer, whether the same be expressed in money or in commodities for consumption, and this without the least respect to the well-being of the laborer.
Now this distinction is not of importance merely because such a distinction can be drawn, and the same object looked at from different points of view. Not only are the points of view here diametrically opposed, but the objects contemplated are not necessarily the same, so that high wages do not imply a high cost of labor, or low wages a low cost of labor. A sufficient demonstration of this, for the present moment, is found in the well-known fact that employers usually take on their lowest-paid laborers last, and
discharge them first.
*1 The explanation is found in the varying
The extent to which this consideration is popularly neglected may be seen by recurring to any discussion of the question of “protection,” whether in the legislature or in the public press. A day’s labor is almost universally taken as the unit of measure in determining the cost of similar products in different countries. In fact, “a day’s labor” conveys scarcely a more definite idea than the boy’s comparison, “big as a piece of chalk,” or “long as a string.” The mere announcement that a day’s labor can be had in one country for 10 cents, in another for 50, while in a third it commands $1.50, conveys to the mind of one familiar with the statistics of industry not even an impression as to the comparative cost of labor in the several countries. Yet it has been held by a large party in the United States to be conclusive of the question of “protection,” that laborers in other countries are more scantily remunerated than in our own. The avowed object of protective tariffs here has been to keep wages from sinking to the level of Europe and Asia. The allusions to “pauper labor” which crowd the speeches of Clay, Stewart, and Kelley have significance only as it is assumed that a day’s labor in one place is the economical equivalent of a day’s labor anywhere, and that one man’s labor is effective in the same degree as that of any other man.
It is, however, very far from the truth that a day’s labor is always and everywhere the same thing. We can scarcely take the estimate adopted by Lord Mahon,
an English wood-sawyer will perform as much work in the same time as thirty-two East-Indians, as giving the general ratio
*3 between labor in the two countries; yet, on the other hand, the comparison is not absolutely an extreme one. The difference between an English woodsawyer, before a pile of hickory cordwood, and an effeminate East-Indian, accustomed to think it a day’s job to saw off a few lengths of bamboo, is not so great as that which would exist between a Maine mast-man and a Bengalee at the foot of a 40-inch pine. The one would lay the monster low in half a day, the other might peck at it a week and scarcely get through the bark. In the contests of industry the civilized, organized, disciplined, and highly-equipped nations may safely entertain much the same contempt for barbarous antagonists as in the contests of war. “The wolf cares not how many the sheep be,” said one conqueror; “The thicker the grass,” said another, “the easier it is mown.” So vast are the differences in this matter of the efficiency of labor that it is difficult to write respecting them without producing the impression of a disposition to exaggerate, if the reader has not specially studied the conditions of production and is unacquainted with the statistics of industry. Yet in sober earnest we may borrow the language of Edmund Burke respecting the political adaptations of men, and say that, in industry as in government, men of different nationalities may be regarded as so many different kinds of animals.
The testimony to the varying efficiency of labor comes
from so many sources that our only difficulty is that of selection. The comparison of the English with the Irish laborer, whether as a cottar tenant at home or working for hire in the northern counties of England, used to be a favorite one with economists before the famine and the emigration. Of late this disparagement of Irish labor has become infrequent. In the last century Arthur Young, the eminent traveller, who spent two years near Cork as the manager of a large estate, declared an Essex laborer at 2 shillings 6 pence a day to be cheaper than a Tipperary laborer at 5 pence. The improvement in the condition of the Irish peasant and in the methods of industry in Ireland was very marked in the seventy years which next followed; but in 1845 Dr. Kane, in his work on the Industrial Resources of that country, placed the number of native laborers requisite for a given production at two or more where one English laborer would suffice (pp. 397-9). In the iron manufacture he gives the ratio as three to one.
In the same manner the Russian serf was, up to the time of the Emancipation, often adduced as illustrating the low efficiency of brutalized and underfed labor. Thus Prof. Jones says: “In spite of the dearness of provisions in England and their cheapness in Russia, the mowing a quantity of hay which would cost an English farmer half a copeck, will cost a Russian farmer three or four copecks.”
But it is not only in comparison with the oppressed laborers of Ireland and with the serfs of Russia that the superiority of English labor has been asserted on high authority. Mr. Edwin Rose, long employed as an operative engineer in France and Germany, testified before the Factory Commission, forty years and more ago, that it required fully twice as many hands to perform most kinds of factory work in France and Switzerland as in England; and the statistics of
per capita product and of the ratio between hands and machines amply bore out Mr. Rose’s statement. The estimate of Mr. Briavoinne, founded on the total production of Belgium, gave 116 pieces of cloth printed for
each workman per annum. The production of certain establishments, however, was estimated as high as 300 pieces. At the same time the workmen of the great establishment of Ainsworth & Co., in England, were turning out 1000 pieces per head. In cotton-spinning, again, we find from the best international statistics available that the number of spindles attended by a single operative to-day in England ranges from two to four times the corresponding number on the Continent.
*4 The statistics of the iron industry of France show that on the average 42 men are employed to do the same work in smelting pig iron, as is done by 25 men at the Clarence Factories on the Tees. And so it comes about that, while wages are higher in England than in any other country of Europe, English manufactures have to be excluded by heavy duties from competition with the so-called cheaper labor
*5 of the Continent.
But by far the most important body of evidence on the varying efficiency of labor is contained in the treatise of Mr. Thomas Brassey, M.P., entitled “Work and Wages,” published in 1872. Mr. Brassey’s father was perhaps the greatest “captain of industry” the world has ever seen, having been engaged, between 1834 and 1870, in the construction of railways in England, France, Saxony, Austria, Hungary, Moldavia, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia, the Argentine Republic, Syria, Persia, and India. “There were periods in his career,” says Sir Arthur Helps,
*6 “during which he and his partners were giving employment to 80,000, upon works requiring seventeen millions (sterling) of capital for their completion.” The aggregate length of the railways thus constructed appears to have exceeded six thousand five hundred miles. The chief value of Mr. Brassey, Jr.’s work is derived from his possession of the full and authentic labor-accounts of his father’s transactions. “Frenchmen, Belgians, Germans, Italians, Russians, Spaniards, and Danes came under the close inspection of Mr. Brassey and his agents; and we are told how the men of these various nationalities acquitted themselves in their respective employments.”
*7 Some of the results of this vast experiment of labor are given by Mr. Brassey, Jr., in his chapter on the Cost of Labor.
On the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada the French-Canadian laborers received 3
d. a day, while the Englishmen received from 5
s. to 6
s. a day; “but it was found that the English did the greatest amount of work for the money.”
Contrasting the wages paid on an English railway, 3
s. to 3
d. a day, with those paid on an Irish road, 1
d., Mr. Brassey remarks, “Yet with this immense difference in the rate of wages, sub-contracts on the Irish railway were let at the same prices which had been previously paid in South Staffordshire.”
“In India, although the cost of daily labor ranges from 4½ to 6
d. a day, mile for mile the cost of railway work is about the same as in England.” “In Italy, masonry and other work requiring skilled labor is rather dearer than in England.”
“Great pains were taken to ascertain the relative industrial capacity of the Englishman
*11 and the Frenchman on the Paris and Rouen line; and on comparison of half a dozen ‘pays,’ it was found that the capacity of the Englishman was to that of the Frenchman as five to three.”
*12 “Mining is perhaps the most exhausting and laborious of all occupations. It has been found that in this description of work the English miner surpasses the foreigner all over the world. On the Continent, long after earth-work and all the other operations involved in the construction of railways had been committed to the native workmen, English miners were still employed in the tunnels.”
“In the quarry at Bonnières, in which Frenchmen, Irishmen, and Englishmen were employed side by side, the Frenchman received three, the Irishman four, and the Englishman six francs a day. At those different rates, the Englishman was found to be the most advantageous workman of the three.”
Such differences in industrial efficiency as have been indicated may exist not only between nations, but between geographical sections of the same people. The very minute
and careful researches of M. Dupin in the early part of this century seemed to establish a decided superiority in productive power of the artisans of northern over those of southern France. In England the superiority of the agricultural population of the northern counties is unmistakably very great. “Any one,” says Mr. Mundella, M.P., “who has witnessed agricultural operations in the west of England, will agree that the ill-paid and ill-fed laborer of those parts is dearer at 9
s. or 10
s. per week than the Nottinghamshire man at 16
*14 “It would be a great mistake,” says Mr. Walter Bagehot, in the
Economist,*15 “to put down as equal the day’s hire of a Dorsetshire laborer and that of a Lincolnshire laborer. It would be like having a general price for steam-engines
not specifying the horse-power. The Lincolnshire man is far the more efficient man of the two.”
From a single page of the Report for 1869 of the Commission on the Employment of Children, Women and Young Persons in Agriculture, I extract the following testimony respecting the inefficiency of the laborers of Berkshire: “I would rather pay a Northumbrian hind 16 shillings a week than a Berks carter 12 shillings,” testifies one farm bailiff. “Our men here,” says another, “are very inferior to Scotch laborers;
*16 two men there do as much as three here.” Another bailiff testifies that “he was obliged to employ as many men in Berkshire, at certain kinds of work, as he had been accustomed to employ of women in Perthshire.”
In view of such wide differences in the productive power of individuals, communities, and peoples, no attempt at a philosophy of wages can omit to inquire into the causes of the varying efficiency of labor. These causes I shall enumerate under six heads; but the possible effect of no one cause will be fully apprehended unless it be held constantly in mind that
the value of the laborer’s services to the employer is the net result of two elements, one positive, one negative, namely, work and waste; that in some degree waste, using the term in its broadest sense to express the breakage and the undue wear and tear of implements and machinery, the destruction or impairment of materials,
*18 the cost of supervision and oversight to keep men from idling or blundering, and, finally, the hinderance of many by the fault or failure of one,
*19 is inseparable from work; and that, with the highly finished products of our modern industry, with its complicated and often delicate machinery, and its costly materials, themselves perhaps the result of many antecedent processes, it is frequently a question of
more or less waste whether work shall be worth having
*20 or not.
The various causes which go to create differences in industrial efficiency may be grouped under six heads, as follows:
I. Peculiarities of stock and breeding.
II. The meagreness or liberality of diet.
III. Habits, voluntary or involuntary, respecting cleanliness of the person, and purity of air and water.
IV. The general intelligence of the laborer.
V. Technical education and industrial environment.
VI. Cheerfulness and hopefulness in labor, growing out of self-respect and social ambition, and the laborer’s interest in the results of his work.
The first reason which we are called to recognize for the great differences in industrial efficiency which exist among men is found in peculiarities of stock and breeding. Of the causes which have produced such widely diverse types of manhood as the Esquimaux, the Hottentot, and the Bengalee at the one extreme, and the Frenchman, the Englishman, and the American of to-day at the other,
*21 it is not necessary to speak here at all. The effects of local climate and national food, continued through generations, upon the physical structure, have become so familiar to the public through the writings of geographers and ethnologists that they may fairly be assumed for our present purpose. The scope and power of these causes are far more likely to
be magnified than disparaged by the scientific spirit of this age. But we have also to recognize large differences as existing between far advanced and highly civilized peoples as to average height, strength, manual dexterity, accuracy of vision, health, and longevity.
Thus, for example, the mean height of the Belgian male was given by MM. Quetelet and Villermé, about 1836, as 5 feet 6 3/10 inches; that of the Frenchman, as 5 feet 4 inches; that of the Englishman, 5 feet 9½ inches. Such differences in stature exist as well between sections of the same country; thus the Breton peasants are notably deficient even as measured by the low French standard; while the proportion of “tall men” (
i.e., 6 feet) examined for the British army was out of every 10,000 English, 104; out of every 10,000 Scotchmen, 194; out of every 10,000 Irishmen, 91.
At the same time, the largest proportion of rejections for unsoundness was among the Irish, the least among the Scotch. MM. Quetelet and Villermé give the following determinations of mean weight for the same three countries:
|Belgian, male (Brussels and environs)…||140.49|
|Frenchman (Pairs and environs…||136.89|
There is reason to suspect that these are all pitched a little high. Among the sections of the American Union the difference in mean weight, as determined by measurements during the war, 1861-5, was very decided. Thus of men weighed in health, those from New-England averaged 140.05 lbs.; those from New-York, New-Jersey, and Pennsylvania, 141.39; those from Ohio and Indiana, 145.99; those from Kentucky and Tennessee, 150.58.
Such and other physical differences on which it is not needful to dwell are due in part to the influences of local climate and national diet, but in part, also, to causes social and industrial.
Of social causes ample, in their aggregate effect, to produce much of the difference between the Englishman and the Frenchman of to-day, may be instanced the war system, by which, in France, the principle of natural selection has been violently reversed, and the men of superior size, strength, and courage have, generation after generation, been shut up in barracks or torn to pieces on the battle-field, while the feebler males have been left at home to propagate the stock. It is beyond question that not a little of the difference in industrial efficiency which makes a French navvy dear at 3 francs, while an English navvy is cheap at 5
d., is due to the wholesale operation of this cause among the French people during the eighty years since 1793, during which time the standard of the army has been reduced from 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 1½ inch. During the same
period the French horse was steadily gaining in size and weight.
Among the industrial causes tending to create such differences in laboring power we may instance the employment of children of tender age at hard labor and under circumstances of exposure; and the employment of women, first, in work wholly unsuited to their sex, as formerly in England in mines, where they were even harnessed with cattle to loads of ore, and as now on the pit-banks and coke-hearths, and, secondly, at their ordinary work with too short an interval after childbearing.
Looked at with no eye of charity, but with a strictly economical regard, such acts as these constitute a horrible waste of industrial force, both in the present and in their effects on the laboring power of the next generation.
At the meeting of the Social Science Association in 1870, Mr. George Smith presented a lump of clay weighing 43 lbs., which in a wet state he had taken, a few days before, off the head of a child 9 years of age, who had daily to walk 12½ miles in a brickyard, half that distance with such a burden. “The clay,” said Mr. Smith, “was taken from the child, and the calculations made by me, in the presence of both master and men.”
*25 Two or three instances taken at random from the report
*26 of Mr. J. E. White, Assistant
Commissioner, 1865, will perhaps help the American reader to appreciate the scope and force of the cause we are adducing. A boy, now 11, who went at 9 years old to hardening and tempering crinoline steel, worked there from 7 A.M. till 9½ P.M. four nights a week “for many and many a month,” “many a time till 12 at night,” and once or twice worked from 7 in the morning all through the next night and day, and on till 12 the following night. Another, at 9 years old, sometimes made three 12-hour shifts running, and, when 10, has made two days and two nights running. Another, now 13, at a former place worked from 6 P.M. till noon next day for a week together, and sometimes for three shifts together,
e.g., from Monday morning till Tuesday night.
Nor is it only in mines or factories, in a stifling atmosphere and amid poisonous exhalations, that children are, even yet, in happy England, exposed to the influences which stunt, distort, and weaken them, and lower the average vitality of the population, and with this its industrial efficiency. The driving of children six, eight, and ten years
*27 afield to work for 12 and 14 hours, whether under a hot sun or against chilling, cutting winds, must tend to disorganize the cartilages of the joints, to produce curvature of the spine, to dwarf the growth, and to prepare the way for an early breaking down from rheumatism and scrofula.
I repeat I have not adduced these facts and incidents for charity’s sake, or in any sentimental vein, but wholly for their economical significance, and I propose to use them in strict subordination to recognized economical principles.
II. A further reason for the greater industrial efficiency of one laborer than of another, and of one class or nation of laborers than of another, is a most vulgar one, namely, better
feeding. The human stomach is to the animal frame what the furnace is to the steam-engine. It is there the force is generated which is to drive the machine. The power with which an engine will work will, up to a certain point, increase with every addition made to the fuel in the furnace; and, within the limits of thorough digestion and assimilation, it is equally true that the power which the laborer will carry into his work will depend on the character and amount of his food. What the employer will get out of his workman will depend, therefore, very much on what he first gets into him. Not only are bone and muscle to be built up and kept up by food, but every stroke of the arm involves an expenditure of nervous energy, which is to be supplied only through the alimentary canal. What a man can do in 24 hours will depend very much on what he can have to eat in those 24 hours; or perhaps it would be more correct to say, what he has had to eat the 24 hours previous. If his diet be liberal, his work may be mighty. If he be underfed, he must underwork. So far away as the Hundred Years’ War, Englishmen were accustomed to assign a more generous diet as the reason why their “beef-fed knaves” so easily vanquished their traditional enemies, and even into this century the island writers were accustomed to speak as if still for the same reason, in work at least if not in war,
“Upon one pair of English legs did march three Frenchmen.”
Of course in this, as in every other department of
expenditure, there is an economical maximum, where the greatest proportional return is received. Beyond this, though an increase of food may yield an increase of force, it does not yield a proportional increase, just as in a furnace with a given height of chimney, the combustion of a given number of pounds of coal to the square foot of grate-surface yields the economical maximum of power. More fuel burned will evaporate more water, but not proportionally more. With the laborer the economical maximum of expenditure on food is reached far short of the point at which “gorging and guzzling” begin; it shuts off every thing that partakes of luxury or ministers to delicacy; yet till that maximum be reached every addition to food brings a proportional, or more than proportional, addition of working strength. To stop far short of that limit and starve the laboring man is as bad economy as to rob the engine of its fuel. Thus with a furnace of a given height, having for its economical maximum 12 lbs. of coal to the square foot of grate-surface, the consumption of 6 lbs. might yield far less than one half the power, while 3 lbs. might scarcely serve to keep the furnace warm under the constant loss by radiation and the cooling influence of the water in the boilers. In much the same way a laborer may be kept on so low an allowance of food that it will all go to keeping the man alive, and nothing be left to generate working power.
*29 From this low point, where the bad economy of starving the laborer is manifest even to the most selfish or stupid overseer, up to a point where it requires a great deal of good sense and more magnanimity of character on the part of the employer to make him feel sure of a return for added expenditure, there is a steady
progression in working power as the diet becomes more ample and nutritious.
Now this principle, if I have correctly stated it, as to the economical relation between food and laboring force, becomes of validity not only to explain in part the great differences in industrial efficiency which we have seen to exist among bodies of laborers, but also to show how, in cases where the subsistence of the laborer is below the economical maximum, a rise of wages may take place without a loss to profits.
That a large portion of the wage-laboring class are kept below the economical limit of subsistence there can be no doubt. “To-day, in the west of England,” says Prof. Fawcett, “it is impossible for an agricultural laborer to eat meat more than once a week.”
*30 Of the Devon peasant Canon Girdlestone writes: “The laborer breakfasts on teakettle broth—hot water poured on bread and flavored with onions;—dines on bread and hard cheese at 2
d. a pound, with cider very washy and sour; and sups on potatoes or cabbage greased with a tiny bit of fat bacon. He seldom more than sees or smells butcher’s meat.”
*31 Little wonder is it that the Devon laborer is a different sort of animal from the Lincoln or Lothian laborer. No Devon farmer would doubt that it was bad economy to keep his cattle on a low, unnutritious diet. No reputable Devon
farmer would reason that, as he was but just able now to make a living profit, he would be ruined, for good and for all, were he to give his horses enough to keep them in good condition for work. And if one were found so niggardly and so foolish as to act and talk thus, his neighbors at least would tell him that the very reason why he made such bare profits now was that he starved his stock, and that with better feeding they would better earn their keep.
*32 Yet the farmers of the west of England, almost as a body, when they had to meet the demands of their laborers for increase of wages in 1873 and in 1874, under the instigation of the Agricultural Union, declared that they would be ruined if they paid higher wages; and there are not wanting economists of reputation to corroborate them, and assert that it is “physically impossible”
*33 that wages should be advanced without impairing profits. If there is any physical impossibility in the case, it is that the wretched peasants could be better fed without adding to the value of their labor to their employers.
The revelations of the Poor-Law Commission of 1833 respecting the comparative subsistence of the soldier, the agricultural laborer, and the pauper were very striking. The soldier, who had active duties and needed to be kept in at least tolerable physical condition, received a ration of 168 OZ., the able-bodied pauper received 151 OZ., while the independent laborer, sole surviving representative of the yeomanry of Crecy and Agincourt, received 122 OZ. per week. Now it goes without saying that when the day laborer, toiling from morning till night in the fields, receives a smaller amount of nourishment than the sense of public decency will allow to be given to paupers, that
laborer is underfed, in the sense that he must and will underwork.
To avoid multiplying titles, I will in this connection mention clothing as in most climates a condition of efficiency in production. A portion, in some countries a large portion, of the food taken into the stomach goes to support the necessary warmth of the body. Clothing goes to the same object. Within certain limits, it is a matter of indifference whether you keep up the temperature of the body by putting food into a man or clothing on to him. As Mr. Peshine Smith has said, “A sheet-iron jacket put around the boiler prevents the waste of heat in the one case, just as a woollen jacket about the body of the laborer does in the other.”
*34 Here, again, there is an economical maximum beyond which expenditure will not be justified by the return; but here, again, it can not be doubted that large classes of laborers suffer a great loss of industrial efficiency from the want of adequate clothing. Prof. Fawcett quotes
*35 the poor-law inspectors as stating that one fifth in number of the population are insufficiently clothed. Insufficiency of clothing means, of course, feebleness of working and excessive sickness and mortality.
But I may be here called to meet an objection to my statements under this head, based on the assumed sufficiency of the sense of self-interest in employers. How, it may be asked, do you account for the failure of employers to pay wages which will allow their laborers a more liberal sustenance, if indeed it is for their own advantage to do so?
In the first place, I challenge the assumption which underlies the orthodox doctrine of wages, namely, the sufficiency of the sense of self-interest. Mankind, always
less than wise, and too often foolish to the point of stupidity, on the one side, and of fanaticism, on the other, whether in government, in domestic life, in the care of their bodies, or in the care of their souls, do not suddenly become wise in industrial concerns. The argument for keeping a laborer well that he may work well applies with equal force to the maintenance of a slave. Yet we know, by a mass of revolting testimony, that in all countries avarice, the consuming lust of immediate gain, a passion which stands in the way of a true and enlarged view of self-interest and works unceasing despite to self-interest, has always
*36despoiled the slave of a part of the food and clothing necessary to his highest efficiency as a laborer. The same argument would apply with equal force to the care of livestock. Yet it is the hardest thing in the world to bring a body of farmers up to the conviction, and hold them there steadily, that it pays to feed cattle well and treat them well. England, what with unending fairs and premiums,
*37 with royal and noble patronage and ensample, and with a very limited proprietorship which it might be supposed could be more easily kept informed as to the real economy of agriculture—England, I say, has managed to create a public sentiment which keeps her farmers reasonably up to the standard in this matter of the care of stock;
yet even in England the exceptions are not few; while, the world over, the rule is niggardliness of expenditure working deep and lasting prejudice to production.
I might thus abundantly shelter myself behind the analogous cases which have been cited, where true self-interest is most conspicuously sacrificed to greed.
*38 But another reason appears in the case of the wage-laborer. It is that the employer has none of that security which the owner of stock or the master of slaves possesses, that what goes in food shall come back to him in work. A man buying an underfed slave or an underfed ox knows that when he has brought his property into good condition, the advantage will be his; but the free laborer when he waxes fat may, like Jeshurun, kick, and take himself off. There is no law yet which gives an employer compensation for “unexhausted improvements” in the person of his laborer. The employer therefore takes his risk, in respect to all subsistence which goes to build up bone and sinew in his workmen, that the added laboring power may be sold to a neighbor or carried away bodily to Australia.
III. Another reason for differences in industrial efficiency is found in differing habits, whether of choice or necessity in their origin, respecting cleanliness of the person and purity of air and water. The first great prison reformer shocked the civilized world with the revelations which he
made of the abodes of the convict classes. Yet, a distinguished sanitarian, often quoted in these pages, has said: “More filth, worse physical suffering and moral disorder than Howard describes as affecting the prisoners, are to be found among the cellar population of the working people of Liverpool, Manchester, or Leeds, and in large portions of the metropolis.”
*39 “Out of a population of 85,000 householders,” says Prof. Gairdner, speaking of Glasgow, “30,000 or 35,000 belong to a class who are most dangerous in a sanitary point of view.”
*40 “Hovels, cellars, mere dark dens,” says Inglis, in describing the city homes of Ireland in 1834, “damp, filthy, stagnant, unwholesome places, into which we should not in England put any domestic animal.”
*41 But even in England and to-day Canon Girdlestone says of the homes of the peasants of Devon: “The cottages as a rule, are not fit to house pigs in.”
*42 Of 309 cottages at Ramsbottom, near Bury, “one of the best districts in Lancashire,” remarks Col. Sykes,
*43 137 had but one bedroom each, the aggregate occupants being 777; 172 had two bedrooms each, the aggregate occupants being 1223. Some of the families occupying a single bedroom consisted of from 8 to 13 individuals. At Bristol, out of 6000 families reported on, 556 occupied part of a room only; 2244 one room only; the average number of persons to a family being 3.46. “One third of the population of Scotland in 1861,” says Mr. Caird, “lived in houses of one room only; another third in houses of two rooms only.”
*44 The subject is not a pleasant one to pursue, but as none holds more important relations to the philosophy of wages than the one now under consideration, I must ask my readers to endure the following descriptions of human habitations taken from the Poor-Law Report of 1842.
“Shepherd’s Buildings consist of two rows of houses with a street seven yards wide between them; each row consists of what are styled back and front houses; that is, two houses placed back to back. There are no yards or out-conveniences; the privies are in the centre of each row, about a yard wide; over them there is part of a sleeping-room; there is no ventilation in the bedrooms. Each house contains two rooms, namely, a house-place and sleeping-room above; each room is about three yards wide and four long. In one of these houses there are nine persons belonging to one family, and the mother on the eve of her confinement. The cellars are let off as separate dwellings; these are dark, damp, and very low, not more than six feet between the ceiling and floor. The street between the two rows is seven yards wide, in the centre of which is the common gutter, or, more properly, sink, into which all sorts of refuse are thrown.”—Report, pp. 17, 18.
This is a description of the cottages of a manufacturing village. The same report gives an account of the homes of the peasantry of Durham, “built of rubble or unhewn stone, loosely cemented.” “The chimneys have lost half their original height, and lean on the roof with fearful gravitation. The rafters are evidently rotten and displaced, and the thatch, yawning to admit the wind and wet in some parts, and in all parts utterly unfit for its original purpose of giving protection from the weather, looks more like the top of a dunghill than a cottage. Such is the exterior; and when the hind comes to take possession, he finds it no better than a shed. The wet, if it happens to rain, is making a puddle on the earth floor…. They have no byre for their cows, nor sties for their pigs; no pumps or wells; nothing to promote cleanliness or comfort. The average size of these sheds is about 24 by 16. They are dark and unwholesome; the windows do not open, and many of them are not larger than 20 inches by 16; and into this place are crowded 8, 10, or even 12 persons.”—Report, pp. 22, 23.
The climax of possible horror would seem to be reached in the description of the wynds of Edinburgh; but I will not offend the reader’s sensibilities by quoting from it. It will perhaps be quite as effective to compare the experience of sickness in these dens of abomination with that of other localities. The following table shows the average number of days’ sickness suffered in a year by a family in the wynds in comparison (1) with the experience of the Benefit Societies in Scotland, and (2) with the experience of places under sanitary measures.
|AGE.||Benefit Societies.||Under Sanitary Measures.||The Wynds.|
So much for the places where men live during the half of the day devoted to sleep and refreshment. In the places where they labor there is not such a dreary monotony of squalor and misery. Neither indifference nor malignity even, on the part of employers could succeed in placing the great majority of workingmen so wretchedly. The first occupation of man still employs by far the greater part of the race, and for them sunlight and air are provided by the indefeasible bounty of nature. If the Durham and Devon hind does not “sleep all night in Elysium,” he at least “sweats all day in the eye of Phœbus.” Nor is it only the agriculturist who pursues his occupation in the open air. In no small proportion of the mechanical trades either the conditions of the work do not allow the laborer to be shut in between walls, or the expense of enclosure outweighs its advantages, and the trade, though it might be even better prosecuted under cover, is, in fact, carried on out-doors. After all deductions, however, there remain a melancholy multitude who are called to breathe the foul
air of mines; to labor in the stifling atmosphere of mills and factories, “hazy” or “cloudy” with particles irritating to the lungs or poisonous to the blood, and to pant through the hours of work in “sweating dens” like those which the indignant eloquence of Kingsley
*45 has made so painfully familiar to his English and American readers, though all verbal description must fall short of the shocking reality.
I have not dwelt thus at length upon descriptions of human habitations unfit for cattle or for swine, for the purpose of harrowing the feelings of my readers, or even with a view to excite compassion for the condition of the working classes. My single object has been to afford illustration of the influence of the cause we are now considering, upon the efficiency of labor. A great part, if not the great majority, of the laborers of the world are to-day housed thus miserably; uncounted millions worse. Even of those whose lot is more fortunate but a very small proportion, in any of the older countries, have in their lodging the light and air which the least exacting hygiene declares to be essential to the harmonious development and adequate sustentation of the bodily powers.
It is in abodes such as have been described that children grow to maturity and get the size and strength which are to determine their quality as workers. It is in abodes like these that laboring men have to seek repose and refreshment after the complete exhaustion of a hard day’s work; that they breathe the air which is to oxydize their blood, and eat and undertake to digest the food on which to-morrow’s work is to be done. What wonder that children grow up stunted and weazen and deformed; that the blood of manhood becomes foul and lethargic, the nerves unstrung, the sight, on which depends much of the use of all the
other powers, weakened or distorted, and the whole tone of life
*47 and of labor depressed and intermittent?
I have spoken of the dwellings too often inhabited by the laboring classes, and of the air which they have to breathe. As to the water they have to drink, it will suffice here to cite the results of an inspection and chemical analysis of 140 specimens of drinking-water made in a large number of the cities and towns of Scotland by Dr. Stevenson Macadam:
|Number grossly contaminated by sewage matter and decidedly unwholesome…||104|
|Number less contaminated and less unwholesome…||32|
|Number tinged with sewage matter…||4|
|Number free from all contamination…||0|
IV. The general intelligence of the laborer is a factor of his industrial efficiency. This proposition is too well established and too familiar to need extended illustration. The intelligent laborer is more useful not merely because he knows how to apply
*49 his bodily force in his work with the greatest effect, but also because
a) He requires a shorter apprenticeship and less technical
instruction. “A recruit,” says Prof. Rogers, “who knows how to read and write can learn his drill in half the time in which a totally ignorant person can.”
b) He requires far less superintendence. Superintendence is always costly. If an overseer is required for every ten men engaged on a piece of work, the product must pay for the time and labor, not of ten men but of eleven; and if the overseer obtains, as he most likely will, twice the wages of a common laborer, then the product must pay for the time and labor of twelve. The employer would just as soon pay his hands 20 per cent more if he could dispense with the overseer.
c) He is far less wasteful of material. Even in agriculture no product can be obtained from labor without the sacrifice of pre-existing wealth. A bushel of wheat must be sown for every six or eight bushels to be reaped, and with it must be buried large quantities of costly manures. But in mechanical industry it often happens that the value of the materials used in a manufacture, being themselves the result of antecedent processes, far exceeds the value proposed to be added by labor. Thus, in the United States in 1870, we find a group of industries employing 101,504 hands, where the value of the materials was $707,361,378, while only $31,734,815 were paid in wages.
*51 Now, waste is inevitable in all handling of material. It is merely a question of more or less; and in this respect the range between ignorant and intelligent labor is very great. By waste is not meant alone the total destruction of material, but its impairment in any degree so that the finished product takes a lower commercial value. So great are the possibilities of loss from this source that in all the higher branches of production unintelligent labor is not regarded as worth having at any price however low.
d) He can use delicate and intricate machinery.
The cost of repairing and replacing this with ignorant labor very soon eats up the profits of production, and not unfrequently the effect is to practically prohibit the use of all but the coarsest tools. “Experienced mechanicians assert that, notwithstanding the progress of machinery in agriculture, there is probably as much sound practical labor-saving invention and machinery unused as there is used; and that it is unused solely in consequence of the ignorance and incompetency of the workpeople.”
We have some striking testimony on this point from Asia and Eastern Europe. Wheeler, in his “Cotton Cultivation,” states that the women of India were accustomed to earn with the native “churka” from three farthings to a little over a penny a day, while with the Manchester cotton-gin they could have earned with ease three pence and possibly four and a half pence.
*53 And H. B. M. Consul Stuart reports concerning the laborers of Epirus: “In dealing with weights and resistance
they use direct physical force; the aids of the pulley or windlass are but seldom called in, while handbarrows and wheelbarrows are seen only on rare occasions. It is a singular fact that during the fifty years of British occupation in the Ionian Islands, not a single mechanical improvement crossed from Corfu to Epirus, if I may except the screw and the buckle, which found their way here some few years ago, and are now in limited use.”
V. Still another reason for the large differences which exist in respect to industrial efficiency is found in technical education and industrial environment. Perhaps no one of the causes already mentioned contributes more to this result. Even more, I am disposed to believe, than stock and breeding, even more than national diet, do the inherited instincts of a people in respect to labor, and their habits and methods of work, consciously or unconsciously acquired,
esprit and the dominating ideas of the national industry, determine the degree of efficiency which will be reached in the production of any country. Handiness, aptness, and fertility of resource become congenital; in some communities the child is brought into the world half an artisan. Then, too, he becomes a better workman simply by reason of being accustomed, through the years of his own inability to labor, to see tools used with address, and through watching the alert movement, the prompt co-operation,
*55 the precise manipulation, of bodies of workmen. The better part of industrial as of every other kind of education is unconsciously obtained. And when the boy is himself apprenticed to a trade, or sets himself at work, he finds all about him a thorough and minute organization of labor which conduces to the highest production; he has examples on every side to imitate; if he encounters special obstacles, he has only to stop, or hardly even to stop, to see some older hand deal with the same; if he needs help, it is already at his elbow; and, above all, he comes under impulses and incitements to exertion and to the exercise of thoughtfulness and ingenuity, which are as powerful and unremitting as the impulses and incitements which a recruit experiences in a crack regiment from the moment he dons the uniform.
Very striking testimony is borne in many official reports to the differences in the industrial spirit of the different nations. Mr. Edwin Rose testified before the Factory Commission to the great superiority of the English laborer over his Continental rival in his habits of close and continuous application; and at a subsequent inquiry Mr. Thompson, of Clitheroe, spoke from a vast personal observation
of the “enduring, untiring, savage industry” of the English workman. “The labor of Alsace,” he says, “the best and cheapest in France, is dearer than the labor of Lancashire.” That was forty years ago. To-day the
esprit and the
technique of industry on the Continent are perhaps advanced somewhat beyond where England was in 1835; but the English are looking back with not a little wonder at their own want of force and
drive industrially, in the time of which Mr. Thompson speaks. Thus we find Dr. Bridges and Mr. Holmes, in their report to the Local Government Board of 1873, writing of the Scotch flax district as follows:
“We were struck by the easy and almost leisurely way in which labor was carried on in the spinning-rooms as compared with the unremitting application of the Lancashire operatives. All the spinners had seats provided for them, of which a large number availed themselves. The number of spindles assigned to each was small, varying from 50 to 80;
*56 and the number of ends breaking was in no case such as to necessitate constant movement. Some of the women were knitting, and all appeared much at their ease. In fact, the work very much resembled the picture frequently drawn to us, whether truly or otherwise, of
Lancashire weaving and spinning as it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Now it is needless to say that some of this heightened
activity is of bad and not of good. Undoubtedly it involves in some degree overwork and the undue wear and tear of the muscular and the nervous system. But by no means all, or probably the greater part, comes to this. It is because manual dexterity and visual accuracy have been developed to a high point in one generation and bred into the next generation; because habits of subordination and co-operation have become instinctive; because organization and discipline have been brought nearly to perfection, that mechanical labor in England is so much more effective than on the Continent. Nor is keen, persistent activity necessarily injurious. Dawdling and loafing over one’s work are not beneficial to health. Man was made for labor, for energetic, enthusiastic labor, and within certain limits, not narrow ones, industry brings rewards sanitary as well as economical.
I have spoken of the faculty of organization
*58 as accounting for much of the difference in the efficiency of labor between England and France, for example. I beg to insist on this with reference to the point of the wear and tear of the laboring force. Those who are familiar with the movements of armies know that a body of troops may be marched thirty miles in a day if kept in a steady, equable motion, with measured periods of rest, and not be brought into camp, at night, so tired as another body of troops that have come only half the distance, but have been fretted and worried, now delayed and now crowded forward, every
portion of the column balked by turns, and kept waiting for long periods in that most wearing expectation of instant movement. Now, this is not an extreme contrast as regards military movements; nor need any thing be taken from its extent when we come to apply it to the operations of industry. In an establishment where each person has his place and perfectly knows his duty, where work never chokes its channels and never runs low, where nothing ever comes out wrong end foremost, where there is no fretting or chafing, where there are no blunders and no catastrophes, where there is no clamor and no fuss, a pace may be maintained which would kill outright the operatives of a noisy, ill-disciplined, badly-organized shop. For, as was said in opening this subject of the efficiency of labor, there is in all industry a positive and a negative element. Waste is inseparable from work; but the proportions in which the two shall appear may be made to vary greatly. It is only when we see a perfectly-trained operative performing his task that we realize how much of what the undisciplined and ignorant call their work is merely waste; how little of their expenditure of muscular and nervous force really goes to the object; how much of it is aside from, or in opposition to, that object. And the remark applies not alone to the exertions of the individual but, in a still higher degree, to the operations of bodies of men.
“It is not,” says Mr. Laing, “the expertness, dispatch, and skill of the operative himself that are concerned in the prodigious amount of his production in a given time, but the laborer who wheels coals to his fire, the girl who makes ready his breakfast, the whole population, in short, from the pot-boy who brings his beer, to the banker who keeps his employer’s cash, are in fact working to his hand with the same quickness and punctuality that he works with himself.”
We have some interesting instances in proof that such
industrial superiority as has been described is not due alone to differences of stock and breeding or of general intelligence, but that strangers placed within the same industrial environment, and afforded opportunities of like technical education, tend steadily, and it may be rapidly, to advance towards the efficiency of the native laborer. Thus Mr. Brassey, after dwelling on the advantages of carrying out English navvies, at vast expense, even to Canada or to Queensland, adds significantly: “The superiority of the English workmen was most conspicuous when they first commenced work in a country in which no railways had been previously constructed.”
The Commissioners (1867) on the Employment of Women and Children in Agriculture, in their second report,
*61 1869, give the results of a very considerable experiment in draining in Northumberland, extended over a series of years, in which large numbers both of English and Irish were employed, from which it appears that “whereas the English beginner earns an average of four shillings a week more than the Irish beginner, better food and about ten years’ practice reduce the difference to 1
d.” And Mr. Chadwick states
*62 “that agricultural laborers who have joined gangs of navvies and have been drilled, with them, into their energetic piece-work habits, on returning to farm labor will do their tasks of work in half the time of the common day-laborers. Examples,” he adds, “of the highest order of agricultural piece-work, with increased wages closely approaching manufacturing wages, are presented in the market-garden culture near the metropolis.”
VI. The last reason which I shall assign for the superior efficiency of individual laborers, classes of laborers, or nations of laborers, is cheerfulness and hopefulness in labor, growing out of self-respect and social ambition and the laborer’s personal interest in the result of his work.
I have spoken of causes which affect the laborer’s bone and sinew, his physical integrity and his muscular activity.
I have spoken also of causes which affect his intellectual qualification for his work, the intelligence which shall direct his bodily powers to the end of production. The causes now in view are moral, affecting the will.
After all, it is in the moral elements of industry that we find the most potent cause of differences in efficiency. If it constitutes one a sentimentalist to recognize the power of sentiment in human action, whether in politics or in economics, the writer gladly accepts the appellation. Cheerfulness and hopefulness in the laborer are the spring of exertions in comparison with which the brute strength of the slave or the eye-server is but weakness.
The inferiority of the labor of the slave
*63 to that of the freeman, even of the lowest industrial grade, is proverbial. Slave labor is always and everywhere ineffective and wasteful because it has not its reward.
*64 No matter how complete the authority of the master over the person and the life, he cannot command all the faculties of his slave. The slave may be made to work, but he can not be made to think; he may be made to work, but he can not be kept from waste; to work, indeed, but not with energy. Energy is not to be commanded, it must be called forth by hope, ambition, and aspiration. The whip only stimulates the flesh on which it is laid. It does not reach the parts of the man where lie the springs of action. No brutality of rule can evoke even the whole physical power of a human being. The man himself, even if he would, can not
render his own best service unless some passion of the higher nature, love, gratitude, or hope, be awakened. The nervous force, which is to the muscular what the steam is to the parts of the engine, is only in a small degree under the control of the conscious will. It is a little fire only that fear kindles, and it is a little force only that is generated thereby to move the frame. I speak of fear alone, that is, mere fear of evil. When love of life and home and friends are present and give meaning to fear, the utmost energies may be evoked; but not by fear alone, which is, the rather, paralyzing in its effect.
Were it not for this impotence of the lash, the nations would either not have risen from the once almost universal condition of servitude, or would have risen far more slowly. The slave has always been able to make it for his master’s interest to sell him freedom. He could always afford to pay more than could be made out of him. This is a well-recognized principle, and hence the former slave States of the American Union, building their political and social institutions on slavery as the corner-stone, had to forbid entirely or to put under serious disabilities the exercise of manumission. Even with the little the brutalized black could apprehend of the privileges of freedom, even with his feeble hopes and aspirations, condemned, as he knew, by his color to perpetual exclusion, he could always buy himself if permitted. This unprofitableness of slave or bond labor
*65 has prepared the way for those great changes, generally, it is true, effected immediately under the pressure of political necessities,
*66 which have transformed whole populations of slaves or serfs into nations of freemen.
But great as is the superiority, arising from this cause alone, of free over serf or slave labor, the difference is yet not so great as exists between grades of free labor, as cheerfulness and hopefulness in labor, due to self-respect and social ambition, are found, in greater or in less degree, animating classes and communities of laborers.
It is in the proprietor of land under equal laws that we find the moral qualities which are the incentive of industry most highly developed. Arthur Young’s saying has become proverbial: “Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden;”
*67 as also his other saying, “The magic of property turns sand into gold.”
*68 The energy which fear and pain can not command, joy and hope call forth in its utmost possibilities. The man not only will, he can. The waste of muscular force is perhaps not half as great in toil which is taken up freely and gladly. Nervous exhaustion comes late and comes slowly when the laborer sees his reward manifestly growing before his eyes.
It is the fulness and the directness of this relation of labor to its reward which, without bell or whip, drives the peasant proprietor afield, and,
“From the rising of the lark to the lodging of the lamb,”
“When I used to open my casement, between four and five in the morning, to look out upon the lake and the distant Alps, I saw the laborer in the fields; and when I returned from an evening walk, long after sunset, as late perhaps as half past eight, there was the laborer, mowing his grass or tying up his vines.”
“No men in the world,” says Prof. Hearn, “exhibit a greater degree of habitual energy than the Scottish subjects of Queen Victoria; yet when her great-grandfather was heir to the throne, the Scottish people were conspicuous for their incorrigible indolence. The lazy Scotch were in the last century as notorious as the lazy Irish
*69 of a later day. In both countries a like effect was produced by a like cause.”
When we turn from the proprietor of land to the hired laborer, we note at once a loss of energy. In the constitution of things it can not be otherwise. When the relation of labor to its reward becomes indirect and contingent, and the workman finds that the difference, to himself, of very faithful or but little faithful service is only to be experienced in a remote and roundabout way, according as the master’s future ability to employ him may be in a degree affected thereby, his own present wages being fixed by contract, and secure upon compliance with the formal requirements of service; or according as his own reputation for efficiency or inefficiency may lead to his being longer retained or earlier discharged, in the event of a future reduction of force—I say, when the relation of labor
to its reward becomes thus indirect and contingent, the workman not only will not, he can not, being man, labor as he would labor for himself. Even without the least wilful intention to shirk exertion or responsibility, there will be, there must be, a falling off in energy and in carefulness: a falling off which will make a vast difference in production long before it is sufficiently a subject of consciousness on the part of the laborer himself to become “eye-service,” or of observation on the part of the employer to lead to complaint.
But the loss of energy and carefulness due to the making distant or doubtful the reward of extra exertion on the part of the workman, will be much greater with some than with others under precisely similar conditions, and will vary greatly, also, as conditions vary. Whether it be superiority in faith, in conscience, or in imagination,
*71 that makes the difference, there are those who can work in another’s cause almost as zealously and prudently as if it were in their own. Such men more clearly apprehend, however they come to do it, the indirect and remote rewards of zeal and fidelity, or, apprehending these no more strongly than others, they are yet better able to direct their energies to an end, and control and keep under the appetites and impulses which make against a settled purpose. Some men, some races of men, are easily recognized as more genuine, honest, and heroic than others, and these differences in manly quality come out nowhere more conspicuously than in the degrees of interest and zeal exhibited in hired labor.
I have not chosen to introduce into the body of the foregoing discussion the effects of drunkenness and dishonesty
in reducing the efficiency of labor. Throughout all that has been said the laborer has been assumed to be temperate and well-intentioned. Of the frightful waste of productive power, through both the diminution of work and the increase of waste, which results from the vice of drunkenness, so lamentably characterizing certain races, it can not be necessary to speak. More than all the festivals of the Greek or the Roman church, the worship of “Saint Monday”
*72 reduces the current wages of labor, while leaving its ineffaceable marks on heart and brain and hand. The want of common honesty between man and man, though happily less frequent than the indulgence of vicious appetites, works even deeper injury to industry where it prevails in any considerable degree. “A breach of trust among the stoneworkers of Septmoncel,” says Lord Brabazon, in his report of 1872 on the condition of the industrial classes of France, “would be sufficient to cause the banishment of this rich industry from the mountains of the Jura to the workshops of Paris and Amsterdam;”
*73 and the same judicious reporter states that the abstraction of the silk given to the Lyons workmen to manufacture “has always weighed heavily on the trade of that city.” “To meet this,” says M. Beaulieu, in his Populations Ouvrières, “the manufacturer has but one resource, the diminution of the rate of wages. Either the factory or workshop must be closed or wages must be lowered. There is no middle course, and in either case the workman is the sufferer.” It need not be said that the illicit gains thus obtained—sold as the plunder is surreptitiously, under penalty of the galleys—have afforded a very inadequate
compensation to the workmen for the loss which their dishonesty inflicted upon the trade.
I can not better close this extended discussion of the causes which contribute to the efficiency of labor than by introducing two extracts, the first from Dr. Kane’s work on the Industrial Resources of Ireland, in which he accounts very justly for the difference between the Irish and the English laborer of that period; the second from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Both are profoundly significant, and I ask the reader’s careful consideration of them with reference to the principles previously discussed, and also with reference to the doctrine of the wages fund, to be treated hereafter.
“A wretched man,” says Dr. Kane, “who can earn by his exertion but four or five shillings a week, on which to support his family and pay the rent of a sort of habitation, must be so ill-fed and depressed in mind that to work as a man should work is beyond his power. Hence there are often seen about employments in this country a number of hands double what would be required to do the same work in the same time with British laborers…. When I say that the men thus employed at low wages do so much less real work, I do not mean that they intentionally idle, or that they reflect that as they receive so little they should give little value; on the contrary, they do their best honestly to earn their wages; but, supplied only with the lowest descriptions of food, and perhaps in insufficient quantity, they have not the physical ability for labor, and being without any direct prospect of advancement, they are not excited by that laudable ambition to any display of superior energy. If the same men are placed in circumstances where a field for increased exertion is opened to them, and they are made to understand, what at first they are rather incredulous about, that they will receive the full value of any increased labor they perform, they become new beings, the work they execute rises to the highest standard, and they earn as much money as the laborers of any other
Wages are no longer low, but labor is not on that account any dearer than it has been before.”
“The liberal reward of labor,” says Adam Smith,
*75 “as it encourages the propagation, so it encourages the industry, of the common people.
The wages of labor are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the laborer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition and ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious than where they are low: in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighborhood of great towns than in remote country places.”
Sir Joseph Whitworth, the great manufacturer of cannon, told Mr. Chadwick that “he could not afford to work his machines with a horse that cost less than £30.”—Ibid.
In England, moreover, it should be noted, the machinery is almost uniformly run at a speed not known on the Continent.
s. to 15
s. a week in Great Britain; at from 7
d. to 9
d. in France, Belgium, and Germany; at from 2
d. to 2
d. in Russia, the one thing which is most dreaded by the Continental manufacturers everywhere is British competition. The demand for protection is loudest in France, Austria, and Russia, where the average wages reach their minimum….
The average price of labor per day for puddlers is 7
d. to 7
d. in Staffordshire; 6
d. in France; and from 4
d. to 5
s. in Belgium. Yet the average price of merchant bar-iron was £6 10
s. in England, £7 in Belgium, £8 in France.—Mr. D. A. Wells’ reports, as Special Commissioner U. S. Revenue.
Two thousand English and Scotch were sent to Australia to work on the Queensland line.
“It has been calculated that the working colliers at Whitwood and Methley could, by simply taking the trouble to get the coal in large lumps, and by reducing the proportions of slack, add to the colliery profits £1500 a year. If they would further take a little extra care below ground in keeping the best coal separate from the inferior, they could add another £1500 to the profits.” (Soc. Sc. Transactions, 1865, p. 482.) All this without diminishing their own earnings.
The second is the result of an experiment, noticed in the
Statistical Journal (xxviii., pp. 32, 33), for the economy of coal in an engine-furnace, through giving the stokers a share in the money value of whatever saving might be effected. The result was to reduce the consumption of fuel, without loss of power, from 30 to 17.
“Des expériences ont démontré que l’ouvrier français, lorsqu’il est aussi bien nourri qu’un ouvrier anglais rend à peu près autant de travail.”—Batbie, Nouveau Cours de l’Économie politique, i. 71.
I should be disposed to believe that a somewhat greater difference would remain, notwithstanding equivalent subsistence, than M. Batbie’s patriotism will allow him to confess. The causes adduced under the previous head must count for much.
votre machine mère, de laquelle toutes les autres dépendent, puisqu’elles en sont sorties.”—Blanqui (aîné) Cours d’Économie Industrielle, ii. 352.
d. a week more than a man of equal manual dexterity who had not acquired the habit.”—The
|Looms in Cotton Mfr.||Weavers.|
Nearly three looms to 1 weaver in England; not quite 2 looms in Scotland and Ireland. (Report, p. 16.)
In the evidence given before them is found (p. 363) the following highly-suggestive remark: “A cotton manufacturer who left Manchester seven years ago would be driven out of the market by the men who are now living in it, provided his knowledge had not kept pace with those who have been during that time constantly profiting by the progressive improvements that have taken place in that period. This progressive knowledge and experience is our great power and advantage.”
mold, a truer source of wealth than placers or auriferous quartz, has been shown in the maritime districts of Belgium.
Part I, Chapter IV