« PreviousContinue »
formed, inclusively I say we ought not to be flat tered: flattery is the reverse of instruction. The poor in that case would be rendered as improvident as the rich, which would not be at all good for them.
Nothing can be so base and so wicked as the political canting language, “the laboring poor.” Let compassion be shown in action, - the moro, the better, – according to every man's ability ; but let there be no lamentation of their condition. It is no relief to their miserable circumstances; it is only an insult to their miserable understandings. It arises from a total want of charity or a total want of thought. Want of one kind was never relieved by want of any other kind. Patience, labor, sobriety, frugality, and religion should be recommended to them; all the rest is downright fraud. It is horrible to call them “tho once happy laborer."
Whether what may be called the moral or philosophıical happiness of the laborious classes is increased or not, I cannot say. The seat of that species of hap piness is in the mind; and there are few data to as
l certain the comparative state of the mind at any two periods. Philosophical happiness is to want little. Civil or vulgar happiness is to want much and to enjoy much.
If the happiness of the animal man (which certainly goes somewhere towards the happiness of the rational nan) be the object of our estimate, then I assert, without the least hesitation, that the condition of those who labor (in all descriptions of labor, and in all gradations of labor, from the highest to the lowest inclusively) is, on the whole, extremely meliorated, if more and better food is any standard of melioration. They work moro, it is certain; but
they have the advantage of their augmented labor: yet whether that increase of labor be on the whole a good or an evil is a consideration that would lead us a great way, and is not for my present purpose. But as to the fact of the melioration of their diet, I shall enter into the detail of proof, wlienever I am called upon : in the mean time, tho known disliculty of contenting them with anything but bread made of the finest flour and meat of the first quality is proof sufficient.
I further assert, that, even under all the hardships i of the last year, the laboring people did, cither out of their direct gains, or from charity, (which it seems is now an insult to them,) in fact, fare better than they did in seasons of common plenty, listy or sixty years ago, or even at the period of my English observation, which is about forty-four years. I even assert that full as many in that class as ever wero known to do it before continued to save money; and this I can prove, so far as my own information and experience extend.
It is not true that the rate of wages has not increased with the nominal price of provisions. I allow, it has not fluctuated with that price, - nor ought it; and the squires of Norfolk had dincd, when they gave it as their opinion that it might or ought to rise and fall with the market of provisions. The rate of wages, in truth, has no direct relation to that price. Labor is a commodity like every other, and riscs or falls according to the demand. This is in the nature of things; however, the nature of things has provided for their necessities. Wages have been twice raised in my time; and they bear a full proportion, or even a greater than formerly, to the medium of provision
labor: whole I load
I am culty de of proof
ships · out coms
1 obOVCI vero and and
during the last bad cycle of twenty years. They bear a full proportion to the result of their labor. It wo were wildly to attempt to force them beyond it, tho stone which we had forced up the hill would only fall back upon them in a diminished demand, or, what indeed is the far lesser evil, an aggravated price of all the provisions which are the result of their manual toil.
There is an implied contract, much stronger than any instrument or article of agreement betwoon the laborer in any occupation and his employer, — that the labor, so far as that labor is concerned, shall be sufficient to pay to the employer a profit on his capital and a compensation for his risk: in a word, that the labor shall produce an advantage cqual to the payment. Whatever is above that is a direct tax; and if the amount of that tax be left to the will and pleasure of another, it is an arbitrary tax.
If I understand it rightly, the tax proposed on tho farming interest of this kingdom is to be levied at what is called the discretion of justices of peace.
The questions arising on this scheme of arbitrary taxation are these: Whether it is better to leave all dealing, in which there is no force or fraud, collusion or combination, entirely to the persons mutually concerned in the matter contracted for,-- or to put the contract into the hands of those who can have none or a pery remote interest in it, and little or no knowledge of the subject.
It might be imagined that there would be very little dilliculty in solving this question : for what man, of any degree of roflection, can think that a want of interest in any subject, closely connected with a want of skill in it, qualifies a person to interineddlo in any
the least affair, -- much less in allairs that vitally concern the agriculture of the kingdom, tho first of all its concerns, and the foundation of all its prosperity in cvery other matter by which that prosperity is produced ?
The vulgar crror on this subject arises from a total confusion in the very idea of things widely different in themselves, – those of convention, and those of judicature. When a contract is making, it is a matter of discretion and of interest between the parties.. In that intercourse, and in what is to arise from it, the parties are the masters. If they are not com: pletely so, they are not free, and therefore their contracts arc void.
But this freedom bas no farther extent, when the contract is made: then their discretionary powers cxpire, and a new order of things takes its origin. Then, and not till then, and on a difference between the parties, the office of the judge commences. He cannot dictate the contract. It is his business to sco that it be enforced, - provided that it is not contrary to preexisting laws, or obtained by forco or fraud. Il lie is in any way a maker or regulator of the contract, in so much he is disqualified from being a judge. But this sort of confused distribution of administrative and judicial characters (of which wo have already as much as is sufficient, and a little more) is not the only perplexity of notions and passions which trouble us in the present lour.
What is doing supposes, or pretends, that the farmer and the laborer have opposite interests, - that the farmer oppresses the laborer', --- and that a gentleman, called a justice of peace, is the protector of the latter, and a control and restraint on the former;
and this is a point I wish to examinc in a manner a good deal different from that in which gentlemen procccd, who conside more in their abilities than is fit, and suppose thein capable of more than any natiral abilities, fed with no other than the provender furnished by their own privato speculations, can accomplish. Legislativo acts attempting to regulato this part of cconomy do, at least as much as any othier, require the exactest detail of circunstances, guided by tho surest general principles that are necessary to direct experiment and inquiry, in order again from those details to clicit principles, firm and luminous general principles, to direct a practical logislative proceeding.
First, then, I deny that it is in this case, as in any other, of necessary implication that contracting parties should originally have had different interests. By accident it may be so, undoubtedly, at the outset: but then the contract is of the nature of a compromisc; and compromise is founded on circumstances that suppose it tho interest of the partics to bo reconciled in some mcdium. The principle of compromisc adopted, of consequence the interests caso to be different.
But in' the case of the farmer and the laborer, their interests are always the same, and it is absolutely impossible that their free contracts can be oncrous to cither party. It is the interest of the farmer that his work should be done with effect and celerity; and that cannot be, unless the laborer is well fed, and otherwise found with such nccessarics of animal life, according to its habitudes, as may keep the body in full force, and tho mind gay and cheerful. For of all the instruments of his trade,