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pear, that, by all these enormous con- labour is supported ; if, therefore, tributions for their relief, their con- the compulsory application of any dition has been in any degree improve part of this wealth tends (as it aled.
ways must tend) to employ the porThis view of the subject, then, tion it distributes less profitably than suggests an important and seemingly it would have been, if left to the inpracticable reformation in the present terested superintendence of its ownadministration of the poor-laws. Iters, it cannot fail, by thus diminishthe act of Queen Elizabeth were strict. ing the funds wbich would otherwise ly confined to its only proper objects, have been applicable to the maintenamely, to such as are disabled by nance of labour, to place the whole age, sickness, or bodily infirinity, a body of labourers in a worse situation large class of paupers would be with, than thut in which they would otherdrawn from the operation of this sys- wise have been placed. tem, and the expence would be pro- The Committee afterwards add the portionally retrenched. It is not following judicious observations :-meant, however, that any reformation “ Under these circumstances, if the of this nature should be attempted demand for labour suddenly decreases, suddenly, or without due warning, the provisions of the poor law alone more especially in the present circum- are looked to, to supply the place of stances of the country, But when all those circumstances which result trade and the demand for labour are only from vigilance and caution ; the somewhat revived, there could be no powers of law, whilst they profess to possible hardship in leaving the able- compel both labour and wages to be bodied labourer, in the full vigour of provided, under these circumstances, health and strength, to depend for in reality effect nothing but a more subsistence on his own industry; and wasteful application of the diminished in warning him that he had no reason capital than would otherwise take to expect relief on any future occasion, place; they tend thereby materially to unless in the case of sickness or infir- reduce the real wages of free labour, mity, from any system of public and thus essentially to injure the lacharity.
bouring classes. In this situation of With respect to another class of things, not only the labourers, who objects comprehended in the act of have hitherto maintained themselves, Queen Elizabeth, namely, the chil- are reduced, by the perversion of the dren of the poor, and those who funds of their employers, to seek ashave no employment, and for this sistance from the rate, but the smaller purpose to procure convenient capitalists themselves are gradually restock of flax, hemp, wool, &c., it duced, by the burden of the assessa seems obvious, as has been already ments, to take refuge in the same res stated, that the overseers cannot pro- source. The effect of these compul. cure those materials on which to set sory distributions is to pull down what the poor to work, without in so far is above, not to raise what is low; and encroaching on the general funds of they depress high and low together, productive industry, of which they beneath the level of what was origia form a part, and that the effect of nally lowest." these contrivances, therefore, is only The Committee then proceed to to divert a portion of the capital of the point out the following method for community into a channel, in which freeing the system from this unneit will be less beneficially employed cessary burden :-“If these views of than when it is allowed to remain in- the effect of undertaking to provide der the management of the private employment for all who want it are manufacturer. These views are ex- founded in truth, there results from plained in the late Report of the Se- them an obvious necessity of aban, lect Committee on this subject with doning gradually the impossible cougreat force and clearness. An in- dition, that all who require it shall be creased demand for labour (it is ob- provided with work, which, whether served) is the only means by which or not it be the real object of the stathe wages of labour can ever be tute, has by many been held to be so. raised ; and there is nothing which On this head, your Committee subcan increase the demand, but the mit, that, if the provision which they increase of the wealth by which have pointed out be made for children
whose parents cannot maintain them, any scope under this system for the and the provision also for such as are hateful passions of envy, anger, or reof the class of poor and impotent be venge, by which the world has been continued, the labouring classes will so long tormented. Mr Owen lays it continue to be relieved from the hea- down as a fundamental proposition, viest part of their necessities. But if that land, labour, and capital, under any portion of the general and indis- more skilful management, might be criminate relief which is now given, made to support four times the nummust of necessity be withheld, your ber of people which are at present Committee think, it can be withheld maintained by it, and, under this nofrom none by whom the privation tion, he proposes collecting into work could so well be borne, as by those houses, containing from 500 to 1500 who are in the full vigour of health persons, all the poor who cannot find and strength; it may therefore be employment; and in these worke worthy of consideration, whether, if, houses they are to be furnished with under favourable circumstances of the work,--to labour in common,- and to country, the demand for labour should form a sort of priinitive society. It again be materially enlarged, it might does not appear that such an estanot be enacted, that no person should blishment, however admirably it might be provided with work by the parish, be managed in its details, would differ other than those who are already so from an ordinary work-house in this provided, and who might be permit- respect, that it must be supported by ted to continue until they could pro- capital taken from the general fund, vide for themselves; but if the change for maintaining productive industry. by this provision might be thought Mr Owen cannot create capital. He too rapid, limitations might still be takes capital already accumulated, and, provided, the effect of which would in so far, he diminishes the stock out render it more gradual, as by enacting, of which labour is employed and supthat none shall be provided with em- ported. The effect of his plans, thereployment who are between the ages of fore, is merely to transfer the labour18 and 30 ; and then, after a certain er to the work-house, and in this lapse of time, that none between 16 and there is neither novelty nor ingenuity, 35, 40, and so on, until the object As to the reformation which he proshall be gradually effected.”
poses to accomplish in the habits and Such seem to be the only practi- dispositions of mankind, this is chicable expedients for circumscribing merical in the extreme. The world, the operation of the poor-laws within from time immemorial, has gone on in a their original limits; for, however course of strife, violence, and mischief. other and milder plans may aid the But a new era, we are told, is now to effect of this radical reformation, it is commence. These vices are to be certain that the poor will never be superseded by gentleness, mildness, trained to habits of independence, un- and peace. All is to be changed by til those profuse and indiscriminate the fat of Mr Owen. He seems to donations which they are taught to imagine, that he has found out a redepend ou, be retrenched. No man who cipe for producing whatever quantity can live in idleness will ever practise of wisdom and virtue he chooses to industry, and, if the poor are taught call into action ; and he expects the to look to a certain provision, inde- world to give him credit for the pospendent of their own exertions, we session of this wonderful power. It may be assured that all plans for their is useless to enter farther into the deimprovement will be for ever vain. tails of a scheme which is so wild and
Among other projects for the im- absurd in principle. We know that provement and happiness of the la- the foundation for vice and misery is bouring classes, we may here notice laid deep in the constitution of human the schemes of Mr Owen, which have society,—that these evils, though they of late attracted a considerable share may be palliated by wise and beneof attention. Unlike all other reform- ficial institutions, can never be reers, Mr Owen proposes at once to moved; and the pompous pretensions, banish vice and misery entirely out therefore, of those political projecof the world. He is to place the la- tors, who, seeing no difficulties in bouring classes in such prosperity and the way of their schemes, undertake, plenty, that there will be no longer without hesitation, to reverse the set
COMMERCE OF THE COUNTRY.
tled plan of human society, are not for the poor beyond all reasonable calculated to stand their ground be proportion. The assessments also fore the canvassing spirit of the pre- regularly and uniformly increased sent age. Mr Owen deals chiefly in from their commencement. Claimants that sort of declamation which springs soon arose to absorb all the provision from an ardent and overheated zeal. made, and hence new assessments He seems to belong to the school of were found necessary. This clearly large promise and little performance; shews the danger of the system which and with regard to his motives, we have necessarily tends to corruption. A no doubt they are good, equally so with salutary jealousy still prevails in this those of the Knightof La Mancha, when country against the undue increase of he proceeded to demolish the windmills, public assessments for the poor, and or to indulge in any of the other ge- it is only, we may be well assured, by nerous fancies which sprung from his constant watchfulness and care, that disordered imagination. But we hold they can be restrained within due lithat all schemes which are thorough- mits, and prevented from degeneratly impracticable should be discourag- ing, as in England, into a source of ed as speedily as possible, because their general misery and corruption. tendency is to divert our attention from what is useful and practical, to what is idle and speculative, and therefore GENERAL VIEW OF THE CREDIT AND useless.
We may conclude with observing, that the laws in Scotland, for the sup- THERE can be no doubt that the port of the poor, are similar in their commerce of this country, along with principle to those in England. But that of the world at large, has for the manners of the people have, in a some years past been exposed to see great measure, superseded any general rious derangement; and the consesystem of parochial relief. In Scot- quences arising from this state of land, dependent poverty is consi- things have been severely felt by all dered disgraceful, and even for the those whose livelihood depended in relief of the sick and infirm, there any degree on the ancient state of is in many parishes no stated fund commercial relations existing in Euexcept what
collected weekly at rope. The merchant has been ruined the church doors, the fruit of volun- by the want of a market for his goods, tary charity. In the larger towns, and the mechanic has been exposed to however, assessments are now imposed suffer from the want of a market for for the relief of the poor. The amount his industry; while, in the course of of the sum required is fixed at a joint this disastrons period, the price of promeeting of the minister, elders, and visions has fluctuated between the opheritors of the parish. It falls on the posite extremes of extraordinary cheapreal rents of property, either in houses ness, and extraordinary dearth. or lands, and is paid jointly by the All the evils to which the labourer heritors and tenants. In the admi- was formerly exposed were necessarily nistration of this charity, it is stated aggravated by the scarcity of subsista in the report of the General Assem- ence, while returning plenty brought bly, that no relief is ever given to the not with it all the alleviation of his able-bodied labourer. The money unhappy condition which might have collected is considered to be a provision been expected, for the cheapness of for the sick and the infirm; and the provisions was of little avail to him common labourer, who is relieved in while he was without employment, consequence of sickness, immediately and without the means, therefore, of ceases to receive assistance when he purchasing a sufficient quantity of subreturns to his former industry. In sistence, at however reduced a rate. many parishes, however, where pub- For some time past, however, the counlic assessments. for the poor were try has been recovering from this extraestablished, the ill effects of the sys- ordinary depression ; some favourable tem became very soon apparent. It symptoms in its condition are now was observed, that the introduction of perceptible. Its commerce now finds regular assessments always produced a reviving demand for its products; an influx of paupers from other pa- and the increasing plenty of money rishes, and thus swelled the demands has begun to reanimate its languishe ing industry. Amid all these various extraordinary stimulus to every speand unlooked for changes; amid all cies of industry. To supply this growthe complicated principles of action ing market, manufacturing establishwhich set in motion the vast and nice- ments were extended, -labour was ly regulated machine of modern so- more and more subdivided, -new and ciety, it is a most curious, as well as ingenious machinery was erected, an instructive, task, more especially, and, under this system, the industry where such precious interests are in- of Britain, in place of directly provolved, to trace effects to their causes, ducing a supply of commodities suited and to endeavour precisely to ascer- to her own particular wants, came at tain the source of all those fatal disor- length to be gradually adapted to the ders under which our commerce has general supply of the world. All her been suffering, that, we may, if pos- great manufacturing establishments sible, prevent their recurrence, and produced a surplus of their particular that we may thus derive instruction commodity above what was required for the future from the unerring ex- for home consumption. This surplus perience of the past. Political eco- was necessarily exported, and foreign nomy differs from some other sciences commodities, for which there was a in this, that we can make no experi- demand at home, were imported in ments on the objects in which it is return. In these circumstances, our conversant. But the great map of so- manufactures, evidently depending on ciety lies open to our inspection; and the foreign market for an outlet to it is only by a diligent and close exa- their produce, they are suddenly inmination that we can distinctly trace terdicted from the market of Europe out all its intricate relations, and that by the hostile decrees of France, with we can, in this manner, reconcile all a vast army to execute them, and apparent anomalies, by referring each from that of America by the war particular fact to the operation of some which unhappily broke out between general law.
the two countries. In the loss, thereIn any inquiry of the nature pro- fore, of all our accustomed markets, posed, there are three points which we find a perfectly adequate cause for present themselves to our considera- the decline of our commerce and mation; 1st, What were the immediate nufactures, and for the general discauses which produced the stagnation tress of all that numerous class who of our commerce ? 2dly, Is it likely depended on trade for employment that it will revive, and to what ex- and subsistence. tent? and, 3.ly, What is the cause of II. The more important question, the present increasing plenty of mo- however, remains to be considered, ney, and what are likely to be its ef- namely, whether commerce will speed'fects?
ily revive from its present depres1. The immediate causes which pro- sion? That it will ultimately revive duced the decline of our commerce, we have no doubt. But considering appear to be sufficiently obvious. Du- the long continued annoyance to which ring the whole course of the last and it was exposed, some time must ne"former wars, the commerce and ma- cessarily elapse before it can be restornufactures of Britain were in the mosted to its former flourishing condition. flourishing condition, and many cau- Its progress during the late wars has ses concurred to give to this country already been pointed out, together a very large proportion of the trade of with the various causes which, by inthe world. The distractions of France, creasing the demand, and extending the in consequence of the Revolution, and market for British goods, contributed the wars which desolated the conti- to enlarge the different branches of nent, the effect of which was, to dis- our manufactures far beyond the scale sipate and destroy the funds of pro- of our own particular wants. Under ductive industry, were both adverse this great extension of our commerce, to the progress of commerce. In the the industry of the country was most meantime, Great Britain, enjoying skilfully managed, and its productive domestic prosperity and peace, was powers were greatly increased. But rapidly accumulating capital, and im- the manufactures produced were now proving in manufacturing skill. The in a great measure adapted , to the great and increasing demands, both of foreign market. There was a large Europe and America, gave a new and surplus above what was wanted at
home, and when the demand thereto a level. When this takes place, fore ceased abroad, or when the inter- the demand for British produce will course was obstructed, the supply, in revive,--prices will rise, -wages will order to avoid the difficulties which be increased, --and all classes of manufollowed, ought to have been proporc facturers will be enabled, as before, to tionally retrenched. But various cir- draw a comfortable subsistence from cumstances prevented this. An im- their capital and from their industry, mense capital was now invested in the The commerce of the country, indeed, new and somewhat artificial state of may not be enlarged to the same extent things, which had grown up in eone as before. Other nations will, no sequence of the disorders which had doubt, employ their capital in the prevailed throughout Europe, and it prosecution of manufacturing induscould not be suddenly diverted into try, and the restrictions and duties another channel without the most which have been imposed upon the prodigious loss. The habits of the importation of British goods into Eu. mechanic, also, were thoroughly adapt- rope by those who, from allies in war, ed to certain branches of industry, have become rivals in trade, will unand these being abandoned, it was doubtedly be unfavourable to the exevident that he would be exposed to tension of British commerce. But, to idleness and misery The manufac- overcome these obstacles, we must turers, besides, hoped for better times, trust, in some degree, to the greater and various causes concurred to in- capital, and to the improved machiduce them to exhaust their capitals nery with which the industry of Bris in continuing their respective employ- tain is aided, and to the superior skill ments, and thus the supply of British and ingenuity also of the British memanufactures was prevented from chanic. Hitherto, certainly, neither being reduced to the level of the de- the newly established manufactures mand. The intercourse both with of Europe nor of America have been America and Europe was obstructed, able to stand before the competition -the demand and the consumption of British goods, and one effect fahad ceased, but it was long before vourable to our commerce has thus the supply fell off in proportion, and resulted from the great accumulation the consequence was a continued ace of British manufactures, namely, that cumulation of unsaleable produce the infant establishments both of Amee The market was completely overstock- rica and Europe have, in many cases, ed, and when peace re-opened all the been entirely ruined, and have, in all former channels of British commerce, cases, received a serious check from an inundation of goods from the glut- the immense importation of goods ted warehouses of Britain were forced which has taken place from this into the markets both of Europe and country at such low prices, that they of America. Prices fell ruinously have made their way through every low, and little relief was afforded, be opposing barrier, either of unfavour. cause, although goods to a great a- able laws, or of protecting duties. mount were exported, they were sold III. Since the restoration of peace, to no profit, and they bore no propor- capital has been accumulating in the tion to the supply which was still left country ;-money has become more at home, and which had been accu- plentiful, and mercantile confidence mulated during those years when has begun to revive. The obvious there was little demand aad little con- cause of this appears to be, the cessasumption. The evil then by which tion of the immense loans required by the manufacturer is oppressed--the the public service during the war. weight which still clogs the move. The contributions of capital which ments of commerce, is a load of un- the war imposed on productive indussaleable produce, and until the mar. try were employed in supporting sola ket be cleared by the increase of con- diers or sailors; by whom capital is sumption of what is superfluous, the destroyed without any commercial industry of the country will not be re- equivalent being produced in return. stored to a state of soundness and vi. This annual waste, therefore, necesgour. But the supply and the de- sarily retarded the accumulation of mand naturally tend to suit them- capital. It created a void in the mo
selves to each other, and a little time, ney market, which productive industherefore, will necessarily bring them try was called upon to fill up. All