Page images

grinding, oppressive, and of long es- and dexterity in what manner he tablishment, before they can account thinks proper, without injury to his for such effects following a repeal by neighbours, is a plain violation of this which they were suddenly removed most sacred property.” Now, al. or redressed. The argument was a though it is well known to all who weak one, and pushed to an absurd bave read the Wealth of Nations, extent; and we cannot help think, that Dr Smith regarded Combination ing that some of those who then used Laws with an inimical eye, it is it so strenuously, felt, from the so- equally well known to them, that phistical shape in which they occa- this passage, constantly quoted as it sionally put it, that its strength was has been, on this argument, has not so great as in their zeal they no reference whatever to the Comwished it to be thought. Had they bination Laws — but to Corporafelt that it was conclusive and unan- tion Laws. It is the law of apprenswerable, they would have used ticeship that he is reasoning against ; plainer words, and despised the and he goes on to say, " that it is a feeble and suspicious aid of so many manifest encroachment upon the just delicate circumlocutions.

liberty both of the workman and of We mention those facts, that they those who might be disposed to em. may be set against those vague and ploy him. As it hinders the one from indefinite expressions--effervescence working at what he thinks proper -extravagance-delight in the ex- -so it binders the others from emercise of a new faculty, and so forth; ploying whom they may think pronot that they are to be considered per. To judge whether he is fit to be as arguments conclusive against the employed, may surely be trusted repeal. Those excesses were thus to the discretion of the employers, written about by writers, who had the whose interest it so much concerns. credit, with many, of having treated The affected anxiety of the lawgirer, the subject most liberally, most phi- lest they should employ an improper losophically, and most like Political person, is evidently as partial as it Economists. Let those excesses then is oppressive." be, without exaggeration, stated; It is, therefore, neither doing juslet them be attributed to their right tice to the subject under discussion, causes; and then, if such experience nor to the person himself who could indeed be kept out of sight, and may be discussing it, nor to his all the feelings repressed, to which reader, nor to the illustrious author it naturally and properly gave rise, of the Wealth of Nations, to take a -let the question be decided by ab- sentence from one of that great man's stract reasoning, and such principles arguments on one subject, and transas the science of Political Economy fer it, without saying so, to another does in its present state supply. -in many-indeed in all essential

All the world will agree with Mr respects-different. M'Culloch's dictum, that

wages, Thus taking their ground upon like everything else, should be always the authority of Smith--that is to say, left to be regulated by the fair and upon the authority of an aphorism free competition [attend to these words applied by him to the decision of a -fair and free) of the parties in the different question—some of the most market, and ought never to be con- eager, and, perhaps, not the least untrolled by the interference of the prejudiced of the reasoners against the Legislature.”. All the world will principle of the Combination Laws, agree with Adam Smith, from whom – taking their ground, we say, on the that dictum is adopted—“ The pro- admission that workmen should be perty,” says Adam Smith, in a pas- allowed to dispose of their labour sage quoted by Mr M‘Culloch for in any way they please, and that there the hundredth time—" wbich every should be no laws of apprenticeship man has in his own labour, as it is the asked how that could be, so long original foundation of all other pro. as workmen were prevented from perty, so it is the most sacred and concerting with each other the terms inviolable. The patrimony of the on which they were to sell it, and poor man lies in the strength and so long as there were laws against dexterity of his bands; and to bin- Combinations ? Adam Smith's ob der him from employing this strength servation applies to the one case,

[ocr errors]

without any exception or qualifica- must depend upon circumstances tion. For whatever other arguments affecting the trade of the country? may be advanced in defence of the Have the masters the fixing of the laws of apprenticeship, or of corpo- rate of wages in their own hands? rate bodies — and there are many- Certainly not. And, should wages still, certainly they do, in some sense, therefore for a time be very low-that interfere with the property which is, so low as to reduce the labourer to every man has in his own labour, and distress-does it follow that they can, prevent, under certain circumstances, withoutinjury and injustice to the emits employment. But Adam Smith ployers of labour, be raised by combiwould not have used the same argu- nation? If the labourer thinks that ment against the Combination Laws. bis wages are too low, he can go into He has not used the same argument; any other employment; but will he and for tbis manifest reason, that the find wages higher there? He will combinations among workmen do not. Much stress is laid in the above as often interfere with the property paragraph on the words, not injuwhich every man has in his own la- rious to the just rights of others,". bour, as the laws against them. and on the word, voluptary.'

“ To shew," continued Mr M'Cul. But are all combinations, that call loch, adopting the disjunctive form themselves and pretend to be voof reasoning, “ that laws against com- luntary, really so ? Much intimidabination of workmen are unnecessary, tion-much compulsion-much deit has been stated, that the wages ception-many arts and artifices, have of any set of workmen who enter ever been employed in most combiinto a combination for the purpose nations-over many of their members; of raising them, must be either, Ist, and although every body must agree below the natural and proper rate with M‘Culloch, when he says" that of wages in the particular branch of it is a contradiction and an absurdity industry to which they belong; or, to pretend that masters have any 2d, that they must be coincident right or title whatever to the serwith that rate, or above it; and that vices of free workmen, in the event in either case alike, such laws are of of the latter not choosing to accept no avail.

the price offered them for their la“ In the first place, if wages have bour," yet there is no contradicbeen depressed below their natural tion or absurdity in telling those free level, it is affirmed that the claim workmen to carry their labour to of the workmen is fair and reason. another market-each man being able; and it would obviously be un- left free to judge and act for himjust and oppressive to prevent them self, which he is perhaps more likely from adopting any measures, not in- to be when left to himself, than when jurious to the just rights of others, he has become a member of a comwhich they might think best fitted bination, and inspired with the esto render the claim effectual. But a prit de corps. voluntary combination among work- “ No master ever willingly conmen is certainly in no respect inju- sents to raise wages,” says Mr Mrious to any of the rights of their Culloch, "and the claim of either masters.”

one or of a few individuals for an Now, two remarks may be made advance of wages, is likely to be dison this passage; and the first is, that regarded, so long as their fellows if there be any truth in Economical continue to work at the old rates. Science, it is true, that there are causes It is only when the whole, or the in continual operation, tending to greater part of the workmen belongequalize wages in all employments, ing to a particular master, or departand to keep wages from remaining ment of industry, combine together, permanently, or for any consider that it becomes the immediate inteable time, below the natural level. rest of the master to comply with How, then, can it be said that the their demands." claim of the workman for an advance This pernicious assertion, we mainof wages is fair and reasonable, since tain, is in direct contradiction to every the depression or elevation of wages established principle of Political Ecois no more in the power of the em- nomy. And Mr M‘Culloch himself ployers than of the employed, but overthrows his own reasoning in the


[ocr errors]

very next paragraph. For he says of Free Trade to preserve unviolatruly, “ that the competition on the ted,-because, in themselves, they part of the masters will always raise do necessarily guard the interests of wages that have been unduly de- the workmen in all different empressed, and that it is from not ad- ployments. verting to this fact, that the influence But Mr M‘Culloch should bare of the Combination Laws, in depress- stated distinctly what he meant by ing wages, has been so very greatly wages being “ depressed below the exaggerated. If the wages paid to natural and proper rate”-“ improthe labourers engaged in any parti- perly reduced "~"unduly depresscular employment, are improperly ed”—for these are the terms he reduced, the capitalists who carry it uses—without any farther explanaon must obviously gain the whole tion. No doubt, if all the masters amount of this reduction, over and in any one trade were to combine to above the common and ordinary rate reduce the wages of their workmen, of profit obtained by the capitalists in order to raise unduly-i, e. above engaged in other businesses. But a the rate of profits in other tradesdiscrepancy of this kind could not their own profits, any counter com. possibly continue. Additional capi. bination to resist it could not be con. tal would immediately begin to be sidered unjust: but such a case does attracted to the department where not seem to have been in the wriwages were low and profits high, ter's contemplation; neither is it and its owners would be obliged, in conceivable that any one master order to obtain labourers, to offer could ever hope to succeed in such them bigher wages.

It is certain, an attempt. If the trade itself were therefore, that whenever wages are depressed, then both profits and unduly reduced in any branch of wages having fallen, the master would industry, they will be raised to their carry his capital elsewhere, and the proper level, without any effort on workmen would do the same with the part of the workmen, by the their labour. mere competition of the capitalists. It is admitted, that the object of Looking, therefore, to the whole of the second class of combinations, the employments carried on in the those which take place when the country, we do not believe that the wages of the combining workmen Combination Laws had the slightest are already equal to, or above their effect on the average and usual rate natural and proper rate, is improper of profits. In some very confined and unreasonable ; but it is denied businesses, it is not improbable that that this impropriety and unreasonthey may have kept wages at a lower ableness furnish any ground for their rate than they would otherwise have prohibition by law. For, supposing sunk to; but if so, then, for that very that this mass of workmen should oc reason, they must have tended equal. casionally combine together, still it ly to elevate them in others.” appears “ improbable in the last de

All this is perfectly sound doc- gree,” that their combinations should trine—and by many had it been ever enable them to obtain from preached long before M'Culloch's their masters more than a due day,—but we do not think that Mr share of the produce of their la M Culloch deduces from it the bour. That the masters would resoundest conclusions. According to sist a demand for any greater por: his own views here, and they are the tion is certain ; and the slightest views of all good Economists, one glance at the relative condition of does not see why workmen should the parties must satisfy every one combine to produce that effect that ihey cannot fail, in all ordinary which, without their combination, cases, to succeed in defeating it. will flow from causes already at The workmen always suffer more work! He says, " that their combi- from a strike than the masters. It nation may raise their wages sooner" is, indeed, true, as Dr Smith has ob--but if so, they will be doing in- served,“ that in the long run they are jury to others—they will manifestly as necessary to their masters, as their be interfering with the operation of masters are to them; but this necesthose general principles, which it is sity is plainly far from being so im. the great object of all the advocates mediate. The stock and credit of the master is, in almost every in- business during the period of the stance, infinitely greater than the strike, they would be compelled to stock and credit of his labourer; accept a lower rate of wages than and he is therefore able to maintain they had previously enjoyed.” himself for a much longer time with- Throughout all this passage it is out their labour, than they can main- assumed, by far too generally, that tain themselves without his wages. In there is such a close connexion beall old settled and fully peopled coun- tween trades, that men can turn eftries, wages are seldom or never so fectively from one to the other at a high as to enable labourers to accu- few days' notice, or with a few days' mulate any considerable stock; and preparation. It may be so with a the moment their scanty funds are few of the clumsier trades; but, with exhausted, there is necessarily an nine of ten, the very opposite is the end of the combination, and instead truth. Nor, in the case of a general of dictating terms, they must accept strike, is it, except rarely, in the those that are offered to them." power of the master to employ hands

Now, granting, for the present, from another trade. Indeed, Mr all this reasoning to be correct, M'Culloch himself was well aware (but that when thus generally put of that; and the knowledge of the it is incorrect-nay, wholly false fact led him into a most ludicrous -events, of which none can be blunder in logic. For he says, tha ignorant, have now indisputably in the case of a strike, the workproved) to what does it amount? men who enter into a new employ, That in a pernicious and unjust ment must necessarily lose ; and struggle for higher wages, the work yet he maintains, that, without loss men will ultimately be defeated to the employer or the consumer, by the masters. It is granted that their place may be supplied by their object was improper and unrea- workmen to whom this business is sonable; and it is shewn that in equally new. So that, to make out their attempts to attain it by combi- the argument, it is assumed, that nation they will be impoverished, workmen can turn themselves withbaffled, and forced, perhaps, at last, out loss to a new trade, and also to accept terms that are too severe. that they cannot. “ The Duke of Now, might it not be better for all Hamilton, and the proprietor of the parties, particularly the workmen Calder Iron Works, have, by acting themselves, to prevent, by law, all on that principle, effectually supsuch improper, unreasonable, una pressed a combination among their vailing, and ruinous combinations ? colliers, by bringing other labourers

We cannot, therefore, agree with into their mines; and though they this verydogmatical writer, that when may perhaps lose a little in the first workmen enter into a combination instance by the change, there can be to enforce an unreasonable demand, no doubt that it will, in the end, be or to raise wages that are already up as advantageous to them, as it is to the common level, “ they must sure to be ruinous to the miners who lose, and can gain nothing, by enter- are turned out of employment.” ing into an employment to which This is but an indifferent argument they have not been bred; while it is against Combination Laws. In the equally evident that a small extra case of collieries, that seems to be sum will be sufficient to entice a possible which in most, certainly Jarge supply of other labourers to the in many, manufactories is imposbusiness they have left. All the sible ; but it is scarcely conceivable great departments of industry have that it can be advantageous to the 80 many closely allied branches, that owners of extensive coal-pits to a workman who is instructed in any work them with new hands—that of them, can, without much train. is, workmen who never had been ing, readily, and without difficulty, in a shaft during their lives. And apply himself to the others; and thus what security is there against these the workmen who had entered into workmen combining too, when they the combination, would not only fail have learnt all the facile mysteof their object, and be obliged to re- ries of the trade? Meanwhile, the turn to their work, but, owing to the consumers of coals have been sufinflux of other labourers into their fering from the combination, and the miners themselves, it is allowed, are torious facts. He has himself alruined. Now if the question simply lowed that it is only by competition were, Which party suffered most by of masters that wages can be raised combination, when resisted ? Per- -and he has also admitted that haps the answer is given, The com- workmen are unfortunately ignobiners, who are all ruined. But this rant of the principles of Political is not the question. The question Economy, and ought to be instructed is_Would it not have been better to in the elements of that science. Then have had a law, of which the opera- how inconsistent to expect from men tion would have been to hinder the ignorant of their interest that they miners from bringing ruin on them. should nevertheless judiciously conBelves by themselves ?

sult it!“If they consult their own inMr M°Culloch therefore concludes, terest!” Did the colliers at the Calder “ For these reasons, we think it im- Iron Works consult their own interest possible that any one who seriously when they combined to raise wages considers the subject can resist co- already high, and by combining, ming to the conclusion, that a com- brought chastisement upon them. bination for an improper object, or selves—and got the evil to cure itself to raise wages above the proper le. by reducing them all to ruin ? Did the vel, must cure itself--that it must Bradford wool-combers consult their necessarily and surely bring its own interest, when they stood out so own destruction along with it.” Now, long, first in insolence of funds, and the short and simple answer to that finally in starvation of poverty, against is-that in numerous instances the their masters, and when on the sound evil did not cure itself—and that of the machinery within the deserted when it does, it is only by the sub- mills, they broke up their combinastitution of one evil for another—the tion, and afraid lest their services "chastisement”—that is, the ruin and might be wholly dispensed with, acbeggary of the infatuated workmen cepted, with sullen gratitude, the who have combined. That they may wages they had spurned, and conhave deserved to be ruined and beg- tinued to work in fear lest the multigared may be very true; but the tude of wheels should reduce their discussion is not ethical, but econo- wages to a pittance? People have mical, and we are enquiring into the a strong passion, from nature, to con. nature and extent of evils which, sult their own interest; but they of. when there are no Combination ten do not know how to set about it Laws to control them, ignorant men --and it is poor philosophy to think may bring upon themselves, and of settling à question in Political which, by combination laws, many Economy by a common place moral persons are strongly inclined to think maxim, indifferently understood, and might have been prevented.

worse applied. Mr M'Culloch then goes on to say, A man of Mr M‘Culloch's talents that" a strike must, under all ordina- and knowledge would scarcely hare ry circumstances, be a subject of the written in this way, but from some most serious concern to workmen ; strong prepossession in favour of that and the privations to which it una- side of the question which he adoptvoidably exposes them form a strong ed, blinding his better judgment-for presumption, that they are honestly be admits the existence of many forimpressed with a conviction that the midable and pernicious combinaadvance of wages claimed by them tions. But then he adds, with that is moderate and reasonable, and that extraordinary inconsistency that runs the strike has been forced upon throughout his whole Essay, “ that them by the improper resistance of though we lament the bad use they their masters. Even in those instan- have made of this newly-acquired ces in which wages are notoriously freedom, yet when the universal igdepressed, workmen will, in general, norance of the working classes with if they consult their own interests, be respect to the circumstances which shy about striking, and will resort to determine the rate of wages are it only as a last resource."

taken into account, we do not think This passage contains many direct there is much reason for wonder at contradictions—both to Mr 'M'Cul- their conduct!” Now, it is this very loch's own doctrines, and to no- ignorance against which the Combi

« PreviousContinue »