Chapter 8



The produce of labour constitutes the natural recompence or wages of labour.

In that original state of things which precedes both the appropriation of
land and the accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labour belongs to
the labourer. He has neither landlord nor master to share with him.

Had this state continued, the wages of labour would have augmented with all
those improvements in its productive powers, to which the division of labour
gives occasion. All things would gradually have become cheaper. They would
have been produced by a smaller quantity of labour ; and as the commodities
produced by equal quantities of labour would naturally in this state of
things be exchanged for one another, they would have been purchased likewise
with the produce of a smaller quantity.

But though all things would have become cheaper in reality, in appearance
many things might have become dearer, than before, or have been exchanged
for a greater quantity of other goods. Let us suppose, for example, that in
the greater part of employments the productive powers of labour had been
improved to tenfold, or that a day's labour could produce ten times the
quantity of work which it had done originally ; but that in a particular
employment they had been improved only to double, or that a day's labour
could produce only twice the quantity of work which it had done before. In
exchanging the produce of a day's labour in the greater part of employments
for that of a day's labour in this particular one, ten times the original
quantity of work in them would purchase only twice the original quantity in
it. Any particular quantity in it, therefore, a pound weight, for example,
would appear to be five times dearer than before. In reality, however, it
would be twice as cheap. Though it required five times the quantity of other
goods to purchase it, it would require only half the quantity of labour
either to purchase or to produce it. The acquisition, therefore, would be
twice as easy as before.

But this original state of things, in which the labourer enjoyed the whole
produce of his own labour, could not last beyond the first introduction of
the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock. It was at an end,
therefore, long before the most considerable improvements were made in the
productive powers of labour ; and it would be to no purpose to trace further
what might have been its effects upon the recompence or wages of labour.

As soon as land becomes private property, the landlord demands a share of
almost all the produce which the labourer can either raise or collect from
it. His rent makes the first deduction from the produce of the labour which
is employed upon land.

It seldom happens that the person who tills the ground has wherewithal to
maintain himself till he reaps the harvest. His maintenance is generally
advanced to him from the stock of a master, the farmer who employs him, and
who would have no interest to employ him, unless he was to share in the
produce of his labour, or unless his stock was to be replaced to him with a
profit. This profit makes a second deduction from the produce of the labour
which is employed upon land.

The produce of almost all other labour is liable to the like deduction of
profit. In all arts and manufactures, the greater part of the workmen stand
in need of a master, to advance them the materials of their work, and their
wages and maintenance, till it be completed. He shares in the produce of
their labour, or in the value which it adds to the materials upon which it
is bestowed; and in this share consists his profit.

It sometimes happens, indeed, that a single independent workman has stock
sufficient both to purchase the materials of his work, and to maintain
himself till it be completed. He is both master and workman, and enjoys the
whole produce of his own labour, or the whole value which it adds to the
materials upon which it is bestowed. It includes what are usually two
distinct revenues, belonging to two distinct persons, the profits of stock,
and the wages of labour.

Such cases, however, are not very frequent; and in every part of Europe
twenty workmen serve under a master for one that is independent, and the
wages of labour are everywhere understood to be, what they usually are, when
the labourer is one person, and the owner of the stock which employs him

What are the common wages of labour, depends everywhere upon the contract
usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the
same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little, as
possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter
in order to lower, the wages of labour.

It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon
all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the
other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in
number, can combine much more easily: and the law, besides, authorises, or
at least does not prohibit, their combinations, while it prohibits those of
the workmen. We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the
price of work, but many against combining to raise it. In all such disputes,
the masters can hold out much longer. A landlord, a farmer, a master
manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman,
could generally live a year or two upon the stocks, which they have already
acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month,
and scarce any a year, without employment. In the long run, the workman may
be as necessary to his master as his master is to him ; but the necessity is
not so immediate.

We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though
frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account,
that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject.
Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and
uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual
rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and
a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom,
indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and, one may say,
the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of. Masters, too,
sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour
even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and
secrecy till the moment of execution; and when the workmen yield, as they
sometimes do without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are
never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently
resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen, who sometimes,
too, without any provocation of this kind, combine, of their own accord, to
raise tile price of their labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the
high price of provisions, sometimes the great profit which their masters
make by their work. But whether their combinations be offensive or
defensive, they are always abundantly heard of. In order to bring the point
to a speedy decision, they have always recourse to the loudest clamour, and
sometimes to the most shocking violence and outrage. They are desperate, and
act with the folly and extravagance of desperate men, who must either
starve, or frighten their masters into an immediate compliance with their
demands. The masters, upon these occasions, are just as clamorous upon the
other side, and never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil
magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted
with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers, and
journeymen. The workmen, accordingly, very seldom derive any advantage from
the violence of those tumultuous combinations, which, partly from the
interposition of the civil magistrate, partly from the superior steadiness
of the masters, partly from the necessity which the greater part of the
workmen are under of submitting for the sake of present subsistence,
generally end in nothing but the punishment or ruin of the ringleaders.

But though, in disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have
the advantage, there is, however, a certain rate, below which it seems
impossible to reduce, for any considerable time, the ordinary wages even of
the lowest species of labour.

A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be
sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat
more, otherwise it would be impossible for him to bring up a family. and the
race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation. Mr
Cantillon seems, upon this account, to suppose that the lowest species of
common labourers must everywhere earn at least double their own maintenance,
in order that, one with another, they may be enabled to bring up two
children; the labour of the wife, on account of her necessary attendance on
the children, being supposed no more than sufficient to provide for herself:
But one half the children born, it is computed, die before the age of
manhood. The poorest labourers, therefore, according to this account, must,
one with another, attempt to rear at least four children, in order; that two
may have an equal chance of living to that age. But the necessary
maintenance of four children, it is supposed, may be nearly equal to that of
one man. The labour of an able-bodied slave, the same author adds, is
computed to be worth double his maintenance ; and that of the meanest
labourer, he thinks, cannot be worth less than that of an able-bodied slave.
Thus far at least seems certain, that, in order to bring up a family, the
labour of the husband and wife together must, even in the lowest species of
common labour, be able to earn something more than what is precisely
necessary for their own maintenance; but in what proportion, whether in that
above-mentioned, or many other, I shall not take upon me to determine.

There are certain circumstances, however, which sometimes give the labourers
an advantage, and enable them to raise their wages considerably above this
rate, evidently the lowest which is consistent with common humanity.

When in any country the demand for those who live by wages, labourers,
journeymen, servants of every kind, is continually increasing; when every
year furnishes employment for a greater number than had been employed the
year before, the workmen have no occasion to combine in order to raise their
wages. The scarcity of hands occasions a competition among masters, who bid
against one another in order to get workmen, and thus voluntarily break
through the natural combination of masters not to raise wages. The demand
for those who live by wages, it is evident, cannot increase but in proportion
to the increase of the funds which are destined to the payment of
wages. These funds are of two kinds, first, the revenue which is over and
above what is necessary for the maintenance; and, secondly, the stock which
is over and above what is necessary for the employment of their masters.

When the landlord, annuitant, or monied man, has a greater revenue than what
he judges sufficient to maintain his own family, he employs either the whole
or a part of the surplus in maintaining one or more menial servants.
Increase this surplus, and he will naturally increase the number of those

When an independent workman, such as a weaver or shoemaker, has got more
stock than what is sufficient to purchase the materials of his own work, and
to maintain himself till he can dispose of it, he naturally employs one or
more journeymen with the surplus, in order to make a profit by their work.
Increase this surplus, and he will naturally increase the number of his

The demand for those who live by wages, therefore, necessarily increases
with the increase of the revenue and stock of every country, and cannot
possibly increase without it. The increase of revenue and stock is the
increase of national wealth. The demand for those who live by wages,
therefore, naturally increases with the increase of national wealth, and
cannot possibly increase without it.

It is not the actual greatness of national wealth, but its continual
increase, which occasions a rise in the wages of labour. It is not,
accordingly, in the richest countries, but in the most thriving, or in those
which are growing rich the fastest, that the wages of labour are highest.
England is certainly, in the present times, a much richer country than any
part of North America. The wages of labour, however, are much higher in
North America than in any part of England. In the province of New York,
common labourers earned in 1773, before the commencement
of the late disturbances, three shillings and sixpence currency, equal to
two shillings sterling, a-day ; ship-carpenters, ten shillings and sixpence
currency, with a pint of rum, worth sixpence sterling, equal in all to six
shillings and sixpence sterling; house-carpenters and bricklayers, eight
shillings currency, equal to four shillings and sixpence sterling ;
journeymen tailors, five shillings currency, equal to about two shillings
and tenpence sterling. These prices are all above the London price ; and
wages are said to be as high in the other colonies as in New York. The price
of provisions is everywhere in North America much lower than in England. A
dearth has never been known there. In the worst seasons they have always had
a sufficiency for themselves, though less for exportation. If the money
price of labour, therefore, be higher than it is anywhere in the
mother-country, its real price, the real command of the necessaries and
conveniencies of life which it conveys to the labourer, must be higher in a
still greater proportion.

But though North America is not yet so rich as England, it is much more
thriving, and advancing with much greater rapidity to the further
acquisition of riches. The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any
country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants. In Great
Britain, and most other European countries, they are not supposed to double
in less than five hundred years. In the British colonies in North
America, it has been found that they double in twenty or five-and-twenty
years. Nor in the present times is this increase principally owing to the
continual importation of new inhabitants, but to the great multiplication of
the species. Those who live to old age, it is said, frequently see there
from fifty to a hundred, and sometimes many more, descendants from their own
body. Labour is there so well rewarded, that a numerous family of children,
instead of being a burden, is a source of opulence and prosperity to the
parents. The labour of each child, before it can leave their house, is
computed to be worth a hundred pounds clear gain to them. A young widow with
four or five young children, who, among the middling or inferior ranks of
people in Europe, would have so little chance for a second husband, is there
frequently courted as a sort of fortune. The value of children is the
greatest of all encouragements to marriage. We cannot, therefore, wonder
that the people in North America should generally marry very young.
Notwithstanding the great increase occasioned by such early marriages, there
is a continual complaint of the scarcity of hands in North America. The
demand for labourers, the funds destined for maintaining them increase, it
seems, still faster than they can find labourers to employ.

Though the wealth of a country should be very great, yet if it has been long
stationary, we must not expect to find the wages of labour very high in it.
The funds destined for the payment of wages, the revenue and stock of its
inhabitants, may be of the greatest extent; but if they have continued for
several centuries of the same, or very nearly of the same extent, the number
of labourers employed every year could easily supply, and even more than
supply, the number wanted the following year. There could seldom be any
scarcity of hands, nor could the masters be obliged to bid against one
another in order to get them. The hands, on the contrary, would, in this
case, naturally multiply beyond their employment. There would be a constant
scarcity of employment, and the labourers would be obliged to bid against
one another in order to get it. If in such a country the wages off labour had
ever been more than sufficient to maintain the labourer, and to enable him
to bring up a family, the competition of the labourers and the interest of
the masters would soon reduce them to the lowest rate which is consistent
with common humanity. China has been long one of the richest, that is, one
of the most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious, and most populous,
countries in the world. It seems, however, to have been long stationary.
Marco Polo, who visited it more than five hundred years ago, describes its
cultivation, industry, and populousness, almost in the same terms in which
they are described by travellers in the present times. It had, perhaps, even
long before his time, acquired that full complement of riches which the
nature of its laws and institutions permits it to acquire. The accounts of
all travellers, inconsistent in many other respects, agree in the low wages
of labour, and in the difficulty which a labourer finds in bringing up a
family in China. If by digging the ground a whole day he can get what will
purchase a small quantity of rice in the evening, he is contented. The
condition of artificers is, if possible, still worse. Instead of waiting
indolently in their work-houses for the calls of their customers, as in
Europe, they are continually running about the streets with the tools of
their respective trades, offering their services, and, as it were, begging
employment. The poverty of the lower ranks of people in China far surpasses
that of the most beggarly nations in Europe. In the neighbourhood of Canton,
many hundred, it is commonly said, many thousand families have no habitation
on the land, but live constantly in little fishing-boats upon the rivers and
canals. The subsistence which they find there is so scanty, that they are
eager to fish up the nastiest garbage thrown overboard from any European
ship. Any carrion, the carcase of a dead dog or cat, for example, though
half putrid and stinking, is as welcome to them as the most wholesome food
to the people of other countries. Marriage is encouraged in China, not by
the profitableness of children, but by the liberty of destroying them. In
all great towns, several are every night exposed in the street, or drowned
like puppies in the water. The performance of this horrid office is even
said to be the avowed business by which some people earn their subsistence.

China, however, though it may, perhaps, stand still, does not seem to go
backwards. Its towns are nowhere deserted by their inhabitants. The lands
which had once been cultivated, are nowhere neglected. The same, or very
nearly the same, annual labour, must, therefore, continue to be performed,
and the funds destined for maintaining it must not, consequently, be
sensibly diminished. The lowest class of labourers, therefore,
notwithstanding their scanty subsistence, must some way or another make
shift to continue their race so far as to keep up their usual numbers.

But it would be otherwise in a country where the funds destined for the
maintenance of labour were sensibly decaying. Every year the demand for
servants and labourers would, in all the different classes of employments,
be less than it had been the year before. Many who had been bred in the
superior classes, not being able to find employment in their own business,
would be glad to seek it in the lowest. The lowest class being not only
overstocked with its own workmen, but with the overflowings of all the other
classes, the competition for employment would be so great in it, as to
reduce the wages of labour to the most miserable and scanty subsistence of
the labourer. Many would not he able to find employment even upon these hard
terms, but would either starve, or be driven to seek a subsistence, either
by begging, or by the perpetration perhaps, of the greatest enormities.
Want, famine, and mortality, would immediately prevail in that class, and
from thence extend themselves to all the superior classes, till the number
of inhabitants in the country was reduced to what could easily be maintained
by the revenue and stock which remained in it, and which had escaped either
the tyranny or calamity which had destroyed the rest. This, perhaps, is
nearly the present state of Bengal, and of some other of the English
settlements in the East Indies. In a fertile country, which had before been
much depopulated, where subsistence, consequently, should not be very
difficult, and where, notwithstanding, three or four hundred thousand people
die of hunger in one year, we maybe assured that the funds destined for the
maintenance of the labouring poor are fast decaying. The difference between
the genius of the British constitution, which protects and governs North
America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in
the East Indies, cannot, perhaps, be better illustrated than by the
different state of those countries.

The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the necessary effect, so
it is the natural symptom of increasing national wealth. The scanty
maintenance of the labouring poor, on the other hand, is the natural symptom
that things are at a stand, and their starving condition, that they are
going fast backwards.

In Great Britain, the wages of labour seem, in the present times, to be
evidently more than what is precisely necessary to enable the labourer to
bring up a family. In order to satisfy ourselves upon this point, it will
not be necessary to enter into any tedious or doubtful calculation of what
may be the lowest sum upon winch it is possible to do this. There are many
plain symptoms, that the wages of labour are nowhere in this country
regulated by this lowest rate, which is consistent with common humanity.

First, in almost every part of Great Britain there is a distinction, even in
the lowest species of labour, between summer and winter wages. Summer wages
are always highest. But, on account of the extraordinary expense of fuel,
the maintenance of a family is most expensive in winter. Wages, therefore,
being highest when this expense is lowest, it seems evident that they are
not regulated by what is necessary for this expense, but by the quantity and
supposed value of the work. A labourer, it may be said, indeed, ought to
save part of his summer wages, in order to defray his winter expense; and
that, through the whole year, they do not exceed what is necessary to
maintain his family through the whole year. A slave, however, or one
absolutely dependent on us for immediate subsistence, would not be treated
in this manner. His daily subsistence would be proportioned to his daily
Secondly, the wages of labour do not, in Great Britain, fluctuate with
the price of provisions. These vary everywhere from year to year, frequently
from month to month. But in many places, the money price of labour remains
uniformly the same, sometimes for half a century together. If, in these
places, therefore, the labouring poor can maintain their families in dear
years, they must be at their ease in times of moderate plenty, and in
affluence in those of extraordinary cheapness. The high price of provisions
during these ten years past, has not, in many parts of the kingdom, been
accompanied with any sensible rise in the money price of labour. It has,
indeed, in some ; owing, probably, more to the increase of the demand for
labour, than to that of the price of provisions.

Thirdly, as the price of provisions varies more from year to year than the
wages of labour, so, on the other hand, the wages of labour vary more from
place to place than the price of provisions. The prices of bread and
butchers' meat are generally the same, or very nearly the same, through the
greater part of the united kingdom. These, and most other things which are
sold by retail, the way in which the labouring poor buy all things, are
generally fully as cheap, or cheaper, in great towns than in the remoter
parts of the country, for reasons which I shall have occasion to explain
hereafter. But the wages of labour in a great town and its neighbourhood,
are frequently a fourth or a fifth part, twenty or five-and--twenty per
cent. higher than at a few miles distance. Eighteen pence a day may be
reckoned the common price of labour in London and its neighbourhood. At a
few miles distance. it falls to fourteen and fifteen pence. Tenpence may be
reckoned its price in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood. At a few miles
distance, it falls to eightpence, the usual price of common labour through
the greater part of the low country of Scotland, where it varies a good deal
less than in England. Such a difference of prices, which, it seems, is not
always sufficient to transport a man from one parish to another, would
necessarily occasion so great a transportation of the most bulky
commodities, not only from one parish to another, but from one end of the
kingdom, almost from one end of the world to the other, as would soon reduce
them more nearly to a level. After all that has been said of the levity and
inconstancy of human nature, it appears evidently from experience, that man
is, of all sorts of luggage, the most difficult to be transported. If the
labouring poor, therefore, can maintain their families in those parts of the
kingdom where the price of labour is lowest, they must be in affluence where
it is highest.

Fourthly, the variations in the price of labour not only do not correspond,
either in place or time, with those in the price of provisions, but they are
frequently quite opposite.

Grain, the food of the common people, is dearer in Scotland than in England,
whence Scotland receives almost every year very large supplies. But English
corn must be sold dearer in Scotland, the country to which it is brought,
than in England, the country from which it comes; and in proportion to its
quality it cannot be sold dearer in Scotland than the Scotch corn that comes
to the same market in competition with it. The quality of grain depends
chiefly upon the quantity of flour or meal which it yields at the mill ;
and, in this respect, English grain is so much superior to the Scotch, that
though often dearer in appearance, or in proportion to the measure of its
bulk, it is generally cheaper in reality, or in proportion to its quality,
or even to the measure of its weight. The price of labour, on the contrary,
is dearer in England than in Scotland. If the labouring poor, therefore, can
maintain their families in the one part of the united kingdom, they must be
in affluence in the other. Oatmeal, indeed, supplies the common people in
Scotland with the greatest and the best part of their food, which is, in
general, much inferior to that of their neighbours of the same rank in
England. This difference, however, in the mode of their subsistence, is not
the cause, but the effect, of the difference in their wages; though, by a
strange misapprehension, I have frequently heard it represented as the
cause. It is not because one man keeps a coach, while his neighbour walks
a-foot, that the one is rich, and the other poor; but because the one is
rich, he keeps a coach, and because the other is poor, he walks a-foot.

During the course of the last century, taking one year with another, grain
was dearer in both parts of the united kingdom than during that of the
present. This is a matter of fact which cannot now admit of any reasonable
doubt ; and the proof of it is, if possible, still more decisive with regard
to Scotland than with regard to England. It is in Scotland supported by the
evidence of the public fiars, annual valuations made upon oath, according to
the actual state of the markets, of all the different sorts of grain in
every different county of Scotland. If such direct proof could require any
collateral evidence to confirm it, I would observe, that this has likewise
been the case in France, and probably in most other parts of Europe. With
regard to France, there is the clearest proof. But though it is certain,
that in both parts of the united kingdom grain was somewhat dearer in the
last century than in the present, it is equally certain that labour was much
cheaper. If the labouring poor, therefore, could bring up their families
then, they must be much more at their ease now. In the last century, the
most usual day-wages of common labour through the greater part of Scotland
were sixpence in summer, and fivepence in winter. Three shillings a-week,
the same price, very nearly still continues to be paid in some parts of the
Highlands and Western islands. Through the greater part of the Low country,
the most usual wages of common labour are now eight pence a-day ; tenpence,
sometimes a shilling, about Edinburgh, in the counties which border upon
England, probably on account of that neighbourhood, and in a few other
places where there has lately been a considerable rise in the demand for
labour, about Glasgow, Carron, Ayrshire, etc. In England, the improvements
of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, began much earlier than in
Scotland. The demand for labour, and consequently its price, must
necessarily have increased with those improvements. In the last century,
accordingly, as well as in the present, the wages of labour were higher in
England than in Scotland. They have risen, too, considerably since that
time, though, on account of the greater variety of wages paid there in
different places, it is more difficult to ascertain how much. In 1614, the
pay of a foot soldier was the same as in the present times, eightpence
a-day. When it was first established, it would naturally be regulated by the
usual wages of common labourers, the rank of people from which foot soldiers
are commonly drawn. Lord-chief-justice Hales, who wrote in the time of
Charles II. computes the necessary expense of a labourer's family,
consisting of six persons, the father and mother, two children able to do
something, and two not able, at ten shillings a-week, or twenty-six pounds
a-year. If they cannot earn this by their labour, they must make it up, he
supposes, either by begging or stealing. He appears to have enquired very
carefully into this subject {See his scheme for the maintenance of the
poor, in Burn's History of the Poor Laws.}. In 1688, Mr Gregory King, whose
skill in political arithmetic is so much extolled by Dr Davenant, computed
the ordinary income of labourers and out-servants to be fifteen pounds
a-year to a family, which he supposed to consist, one with another, of three
and a half persons. His calculation, therefore, though different in
appearance, corresponds very nearly at bottom with that of Judge Hales. Both
suppose the weekly expense of such families to be about twenty-pence a-head.
Both the pecuniary income and expense of such families have increased
considerably since that time through the greater part of the kingdom, in
some places more, and in some less, though perhaps scarce anywhere so much
as some exaggerated accounts of the present wages of labour have lately
represented them to the public. The price of labour, it must be observed,
cannot be ascertained very accurately anywhere, different prices being often
paid at the same place and for the same sort of labour, not only according
to the different abilities of the workman, but according to the easiness or
hardness of the masters. Where wages are not regulated by law, all that we
can pretend to determine is, what are the most usual; and experience seems
to shew that law can never regulate them properly, though it has often
pretended to do so.

The real recompence of labour, the real quantity of the necessaries and
conveniencies of life which it can procure to the labourer, has, during the
course of the present century, increased perhaps in a still greater
proportion than its money price. Not only grain has become somewhat cheaper,
but many other things, from which the industrious poor derive an agreeable
and wholesome variety of food, have become a great deal cheaper. Potatoes,
for example, do not at present, through the greater part of the kingdom,
cost half the price which they used to do thirty or forty years ago. The
same thing may be said of turnips, carrots, cabbages ; things which were
formerly never raised but by the spade, but which are now commonly raised by
the plough. All sort of garden stuff, too, has become cheaper. The greater
part of the apples, and even of the onions, consumed in Great Britain, were,
in the last century, imported from Flanders. The great improvements in the
coarser manufactories of both linen and woollen cloth furnish the labourers
with cheaper and better clothing; and those in the manufactories of the
coarser metals, with cheaper and better instruments of trade, as well as
with many agreeable and convenient pieces of household furniture. Soap,
salt, candles, leather, and fermented liquors, have, indeed, become a good
deal dearer, chiefly from the taxes which have been laid upon them. The
quantity of these, however, which the labouring poor an under any necessity
of consuming, is so very small, that the increase in their price does not
compensate the diminution in that of so many other things. The common
complaint, that luxury extends itself even to the lowest ranks of the
people, and that the labouring poor will not now be contented with the same
food, clothing, and lodging, which satisfied them in former times, may
convince us that it is not the money price of labour only, but its real
recompence, which has augmented.

Is this improvement in the circumstances of the lower ranks of the people to
be regarded as an advantage, or as an inconveniency, to the society ? The
answer seems at first abundantly plain. Servants, labourers, and workmen of
different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political
society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part, can never
be regarded as any inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be
flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor
and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and
lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce
of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and

Poverty, though it no doubt discourages, does not always prevent, marriage.
It seems even to be favourable to generation. A half-starved Highland woman
frequently bears more than twenty children, while a pampered fine lady is
often incapable of bearing any, and is generally exhausted by two or three.
Barrenness, so frequent among women of fashion, is very rare among those of
inferior station. Luxury, in the fair sex, while it inflames, perhaps, the
passion for enjoyment, seems always to weaken, and frequently to destroy
altogether, the powers of generation.

But poverty, though it does not prevent the generation, is extremely
unfavourable to the rearing of children. The tender plant is produced ; but
in so cold a soil, and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies. It is not
uncommon, I have been frequently told, in the Highlands of Scotland, for a
mother who has born twenty children not to have two alive. Several officers
of great experience have assured me, that, so far from recruiting their
regiment, they have never been able to supply it with drums and fifes, from
all the soldiers' children that were born in it. A greater number of fine
children, however, is seldom seen anywhere than about a barrack of soldiers.
Very few of them, it seems, arrive at the age of thirteen or fourteen. In
some places, one half the children die before they are four years of age, in
many places before they are seven, and in almost all places before they are
nine or ten. This great mortality, however will everywhere be found chiefly
among the children of the common people, who cannot afford to tend them with
the same care as those of better station. Though their marriages are
generally more fruitful than those of people of fashion, a smaller
proportion of their children arrive at maturity. In foundling hospitals, and
among the children brought up by parish charities, the mortality is still
greater than among those of the common people.
Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the
means of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply be yond it. But
in civilized society, it is only among the inferior ranks of people that the
scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further multiplication of
the human species ; and it can do so in no other way than by destroying a
great part of the children which their fruitful marriages produce.

The liberal reward of labour, by enabling them to provide better for their
children, and consequently to bring up a greater number, naturally tends to
widen and extend those limits. It deserves to be remarked, too, that it
necessarily does this as nearly as possible in the proportion which the
demand for labour requires. If this demand is continually increasing, the
reward of labour must necessarily encourage in such a manner the marriage
and multiplication of labourers, as may enable them to supply that
continually increasing demand by a continually increasing population. If the
reward should at any time be less than what was requisite for this purpose,
the deficiency of hands would soon raise it ; and if it should at any time
be more, their excessive multiplication would soon lower it to this
necessary rate. The market would be so much understocked with labour in the
one case, and so much overstocked in the other, as would soon force back its
price to that proper rate which the circumstances of the society required.
It is in this manner that the demand for men, like that for any other
commodity, necessarily regulates the production of men, quickens it when it
goes on too slowly, and stops it when it advances too fast. It is this
demand which regulates and determines the state of propagation in all the
different countries of the world ; in North America, in Europe, and in China
; which renders it rapidly progressive in the first, slow and gradual in the
second, and altogether stationary in the last.

The wear and tear of a slave, it has been said, is at the expense of his
master ; but that of a free servant is at his own expense. The wear and tear
of the latter, however, is, in reality, as much at the expense of his master
as that of the former. The wages paid to journeymen and servants of every
kind must be such as may enable them, one with another to continue the race
of journeymen and servants, according as the increasing, diminishing, or
stationary demand of the society, may happen to require. But though the wear
and tear of a free servant be equally at the expense of his master, it
generally costs him much less than that of a slave. The fund destined for
replacing or repairing, if I may say so, the wear and tear of the slave, is
commonly managed by a negligent master or careless overseer. That destined
for performing the same office with regard to the freeman is managed by the
freeman himself. The disorders which generally prevail in the economy of the
rich, naturally introduce themselves into the management of the former; the
strict frugality and parsimonious attention of the poor as naturally
establish themselves in that of the latter. Under such different management,
the same purpose must require very different degrees of expense to execute
it. It appears, accordingly, from the experience of all ages and nations, I
believe, that the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that
performed by slaves. It is found to do so even at Boston, New-York, and
Philadelphia, where the wages of common labour are so very high.

The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the effect of increasing
wealth, so it is the cause of increasing population. To complain of it, is
to lament over the necessary cause and effect of the greatest public

It deserves to be remarked, perhaps, that it is in the progressive state,
while the society is advancing to the further acquisition, rather than when
it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the
labouring poor, of the great body of the people, seems to be the happiest
and the most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary, and miserable in the
declining state. The progressive state is, in reality, the cheerful and the
hearty state to all the different orders of the society; the stationary is
dull ; the declining melancholy.

The liberal reward of labour, as it encourages the propagation, so it
increases the industry of the common people. The wages of labour 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 labourer, and the comfortable hope of
bettering his condition, and of 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 neighbourhood of great towns, than in remote country
places. Some workmen, indeed, when they can earn in four days what will
maintain them through the week, will be idle the other three. This, however,
is by no means the case with the greater part. Workmen, on the contrary,
when they are liberally paid by the piece, are very apt to overwork
themselves, and to ruin their health and constitution in a few years. A
carpenter in London, and in some other places, is not supposed to last in
his utmost vigour above eight years. Something of the same kind happens in
many other trades, in which the workmen are paid by the piece; as they
generally are in manufactures, and even in country labour, wherever wages
are higher than ordinary. Almost every class of artificers is subject to
some peculiar infirmity occasioned by excessive application to their
peculiar species of work. Ramuzzini, an eminent Italian physician, has
written a particular book concerning such diseases. We do not reckon our
soldiers the most industrious set of people among us; yet when soldiers have
been employed in some particular sorts of work, and liberally paid by the
piece, their officers have frequently been obliged to stipulate with the
undertaker, that they should not be allowed to earn above a certain sum
every day, according to the rate at which they were paid. Till this
stipulation was made, mutual emulation, and the desire of greater gain,
frequently prompted them to overwork themselves, and to hurt their health by
excessive labour. Excessive application, during four days of the week, is
frequently the real cause of the idleness of the other three, so much and so
loudly complained of. Great labour, either of mind or body, continued for
several days together is, in most men, naturally followed by a great desire
of relaxation, which, if not restrained by force, or by some strong
necessity, is almost irresistible. It is the call of nature, which requires
to be relieved by some indulgence, sometimes of ease only, but sometimes too
of dissipation and diversion. If it is not complied with, the consequences
are often dangerous and sometimes fatal, and such as almost always, sooner
or later, bring on the peculiar infirmity of the trade. If masters would
always listen to the dictates of reason and humanity, they have frequently
occasion rather to moderate, than to animate the application of many of
their workmen. It will be found, I believe, in every sort of trade, that the
man who works so moderately, as to be able to work constantly, not only
preserves his health the longest, but, in the course of the year, executes
the greatest quantity of work.

In cheap years it is pretended, workmen are generally more idle, and in dear
times more industrious than ordinary. A plentiful subsistence, therefore, it
has been concluded, relaxes, and a scanty one quickens their industry. That
a little more plenty than ordinary may render some workmen idle, cannot be
well doubted; but that it should have this effect upon the greater part, or
that men in general should work better when they are ill fed, than when they
are well fed, when they are disheartened than when they are in good spirits,
when they are frequently sick than when they are generally in good health,
seems not very probable. Years of dearth, it is to be observed, are
generally among the common people years of sickness and mortality, which
cannot fail to diminish the produce of their industry.

In years of plenty, servants frequently leave their masters, and trust their
subsistence to what they can make by their own industry. But the same
cheapness of provisions, by increasing the fund which is destined for the
maintenance of servants, encourages masters, farmers especially, to employ a
greater number. Farmers, upon such occasions, expect more profit from their
corn by maintaining a few more labouring servants, than by selling it at a
low price in the market. The demand for servants increases, while the number
of those who offer to supply that demand diminishes. The price of labour,
therefore, frequently rises in cheap years.

In years of scarcity, the difficulty and uncertainty of subsistence make all
such people eager to return to service. But the high price of provisions, by
diminishing the funds destined for the maintenance of servants, disposes
masters rather to diminish than to increase the number of those they have.
In dear years, too, poor independent workmen frequently consume the little
stock with which they had used to supply themselves with the materials of
their work, and are obliged to become journeymen for subsistence. More
people want employment than easily get it ; many are willing to take it upon
lower terms than ordinary ; and the wages of both servants and journeymen
frequently sink in dear years.

Masters of all sorts, therefore, frequently make better bargains with their
servants in dear than in cheap years, and find them more humble and
dependent in the former than in the latter. They naturally, therefore,
commend the former as more favourable to industry. Landlords and farmers,
besides, two of the largest classes of masters, have another reason for
being pleased with dear years. The rents of the one, and the profits of the
other, depend very much upon the price of provisions. Nothing can be more
absurd, however, than to imagine that men in general should work less when
they work for themselves, than when they work for other people. A poor
independent workman will generally be more industrious than even a
journeyman who works by the piece. The one enjoys the whole produce of his
own industry, the other shares it with his master. The one, in his separate
independent state, is less liable to the temptations of bad company, which,
in large manufactories, so frequently ruin the morals of the other. The
superiority of the independent workman over those servants who are hired by
the month or by the year, and whose wages and maintenance are the same,
whether they do much or do little, is likely to be still greater. Cheap
years tend to increase the proportion of independent workmen to journeymen
and servants of all kinds, and dear years to diminish it.

A French author of great knowledge and ingenuity, Mr Messance, receiver of
the taillies in the election of St Etienne, endeavours to shew that the poor
do more work in cheap than in dear years, by comparing the quantity and
value of the goods made upon those different occasions in three different
manufactures; one of coarse woollens, carried on at Elbeuf; one of linen,
and another of silk, both which extend through the whole generality of
Rouen. It appears from his account, which is copied from the registers of
the public offices, that the quantity and value of the goods made in all
those three manufactories has generally been greater in cheap than in dear
years, and that it has always been; greatest in the cheapest, and least in
the dearest years. All the three seem to be stationary manufactures, or
which, though their produce may vary somewhat from year to year, are, upon
the whole, neither going backwards nor forwards.

The manufacture of linen in Scotland, and that of coarse woollens in the
West Riding of Yorkshire, are growing manufactures, of which the produce is
generally, though with some variations, increasing both in quantity and
value. Upon examining, however, the accounts which have been published of
their annual produce, I have not been able to observe that its variations
have had any sensible connection with the dearness or cheapness of the
seasons. In 1740, a year of great scarcity, both manufactures, indeed,
appear to have declined very considerably. But in 1756, another year or
great scarcity, the Scotch manufactures made more than ordinary advances.
The Yorkshire manufacture, indeed, declined, and its produce did not rise to
what it had been in 1755, till 1766, after the repeal of the American stamp
act. In that and the following year, it greatly exceeded what it had ever
been before, and it has continued to advance ever since.

The produce of all great manufactures for distant sale must necessarily
depend, not so much upon the dearness or cheapness of the seasons in the
countries where they are carried on, as upon the circumstances which affect
the demand in the countries where they are consumed; upon peace or war, upon
the prosperity or declension of other rival manufactures and upon the good
or bad humour of their principal customers. A great part of the
extraordinary work, besides, which is probably done in cheap years, never
enters the public registers of manufactures. The men-servants, who leave
their masters, become independent labourers. The women return to their
parents, and commonly spin, in order to make clothes for themselves and
their families. Even the independent workmen do not always, work for public
sale, but are employed by some of their neighbours in manufactures for
family use. The produce of their labour, therefore, frequently makes no
figure in those public registers, of which the records are sometimes
published with so much parade, and from which our merchants and
manufacturers would often vainly pretend to announce the prosperity or
declension of the greatest empires.

Through the variations in the price of labour not only do not always
correspond with those in the price of provisions, but are frequently quite
opposite, we must not, upon this account, imagine that the price of
provisions has no influence upon that of labour. The money price of labour
is necessarily regulated by two circumstances; the demand for labour, and
the price of the necessaries and conveniencies of life. The demand for
labour, according as it happens to be increasing, stationary, or declining,
or to require an increasing, stationary, or declining population, determines
the quantities of the necessaries and conveniencies of life which must be
given to the labourer; and the money price of labour is determined by what
is requisite for purchasing this quantity. Though the money price of labour,
therefore, is sometimes high where the price of provisions is low, it would
be still higher, the demand continuing the same, if the price of provisions
was high.

It is because the demand for labour increases in years of sudden and
extraordinary plenty, and diminishes in those of sudden and extraordinary
scarcity, that the money price of labour sometimes rises in the one, and
sinks in the other.

In a year of sudden and extraordinary plenty, there are funds in the hands
of many of the employers of industry, sufficient to maintain and employ a
greater number of industrious people than had been employed the year before
; and this extraordinary number cannot always be had. Those masters,
therefore, who want more workmen, bid against one another, in order to get
them, which sometimes raises both the real and the money price of their

The contrary of this happens in a year of sudden and extraordinary scarcity.
The funds destined for employing industry are less than they had been the
year before. A considerable number of people are thrown out of employment,
who bid one against another, in order to get it, which sometimes lowers both
the real and the money price of labour. In 1740, a year of extraordinary
scarcity, many people were willing to work for bare subsistence. In the
succeeding years of plenty, it was more difficult to get labourers and
servants. The scarcity of a dear year, by diminishing the demand for labour,
tends to lower its price, as the high price of provisions tends to raise it.
The plenty of a cheap year, on the contrary, by increasing the demand, tends
to raise the price of labour, as the cheapness of provisions tends to lower
it. In the ordinary variations of the prices of provisions, those two
opposite causes seem to counterbalance one another, which is probably, in
part, the reason why the wages of labour are everywhere so much more steady
and permanent than the price of provisions.

The increase in the wages of labour necessarily increases the price of many
commodities, by increasing that part of it which resolves itself into wages,
and so far tends to diminish their consumption, both at home and abroad. The
same cause, however, which raises the wages of labour, the increase of
stock, tends to increase its productive powers, and to make a smaller
quantity of labour produce a greater quantity of work. The owner of the
stock which employs a great number of labourers necessarily endeavours, for
his own advantage, to make such a proper division and distribution of
employment, that they may be enabled to produce the greatest quantity of
work possible. For the same reason, he endeavours to supply them with the
best machinery which either he or they can think of. What takes place among
the labourers in a particular workhouse, takes place, for the same reason,
among those of a great society. The greater their number, the more they
naturally divide themselves into different classes and subdivisions of
employments. More heads are occupied in inventing the most proper machinery
for executing the work of each, and it is, therefore, more likely to be
invented. There me many commodities, therefore, which, in consequence of
these improvements, come to be produced by so much less labour than be.
fore, that the increase of its price is more than compensated by the
diminution of its quantity.

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