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tention to some of the objects in it, of which, as I have thought much, I must speak in the language of conviction respecting them.
Let me then remind you, that the classes are very numerous, of those who are wholly dependent upon wages. They would, indeed, be numerous, if we looked for them among those only who have no trade, and who are generally distinguished alone, as labouring men. This large division includes shop, market, and other porters; carmen; those who are employed in lading, and unlading vessels; wood-sawyers; hod-carriers; house servants; those employed by mechanics in a single branch of their business; and multitudes, who are men and women of any work, occasionally required in families, as washing, scouring, &c.; or on the wharves, or in the streets of the city. Besides these, the number is great of those, who are journeymen, and many of whom will never be any thing but journeymen, in the various mechanic arts; and considerable numbers are also employed in the different departments of large manufactories, who possess no capital; and who know, and will continue to know, little or nothing in any other departinent of these establishments, except that in which they are themselves employed. All these, in the strictest sense, and in the common acceptation of the term, are dependent on the wages which they can obtain for their services. But even this view of the subject does not comprehend the whole of it. Let us then change our position for a moment, and look at it in its more extended relations.
Wages are defined to be “the hire paid for time, talents and labour, employed in the creation of a pro
duct of industry."* In this view of it, the term comprehends salaries; and extends to the hire that is paid for every service, that is performed for a stated price. The terms, interest, rent, and wages, express receipts in the various forms in which returns are made, or income is produced, by industry, by land, and by capital. All income, therefore, which is independent of land, or of capital possessed, or improved, in the sense in which the political economist views it, is wages. This view of the subject is important. For although the principles by which wages are graduated, or affected, admit of some modifications: for example, in the services in which rare and distinguished talents are wanted, and in which they cannot be increased according to the demand there may be for them;--yet, with these exceptions, the principles which affect wages in one class, must, and will, more or less, affect them in all the other classes of a community. They who are hired, and receive wages, in the service of government, and are appointed to offices which involve, or are supposed to involve, great and peculiar responsibility; and they too, who receive 'wages as the ministers of religion; and some others, who act as the agents of great establishments, which require peculiar intelligence, skill, or tried uprightness, as well as time, may not suffer, and generally do not suffer, in the temporary checks and changes of commerce, trade, manufactures, and agriculture, as others suffer, for whose services there is a demand exactly proportioned to the state of trade and commerce, of manufactures, and of agriculture; and of whom there is always a very speedy sup,
Say's Catechism of Political Economy, Chap. Wages.
ply, equal at least to the demand, and generally beyond it. Besides, the salaries, or wages, which are given to those who act in these offices, do not depend on the interest, or the will, of a single individual. Men in these departments of labour, are generally ap. pointed by large numbers; or, if by a few, it is by those who feel that great interests are concerned in the question, of the change of a labourer, to whom a large hire is given. But so it is not with a labourer of more common talents, who is hired by an individual, and who is employed in a work for which another may easily be substituted. He, whether he be a clerk or a porter, a journeyman, or a scavenger, must work for the wages that he can get; and these will be proportioned to the existing demand for his service. He may even be obliged to live without work, because he may not be able to obtain the work that he can do. This is not theory, but simple fact. And we must look at facts as they are on all subjects, if we would rightly compre. hend, and act wisely in regard to them.
The principles which determine the rate of wages, and the ease or difficulty of obtaining thein, may be reduced to two. The first is, the proportion which the supply of labourers bears to the existing demand for them. The second is, the price of rent, and of food and clothing; or, in other words, of the means of subsistence.
These, however, are general principles, and they are derived only from general facts. It is, indeed, with general principles, and general facts alone, that the political economist concerns himself. “ The price of labour,” says Malthus,* 6 when left to find its na
Essay on Population, vol. ü. pp. 155-157.
tural level, is a most important political barometer, expressing the relation between the price of provisions, and the demand for them; between the quantity to be consumed, and the number of consumers; and, taken in the average, independently of accidental circumstances, it further expresses clearly the wants of the society respecting population.” But it is one thing to arrive at correct general principles, on this great subject, so intimately affecting the condition and happiness of many ten thousands of our fellow beings; and it is quite another thing to settle the principles, which are applicable to those “ accidental circumstances,” which are of frequent occurrence; and which sometimes occasion a most serious temporary depression of wages, and even an utter inability to obtain labour, while the price both of rent, and of provisions, is long kept above the level of the price of labour. There are times, indeed, when the hire of labour finds its na. tural level, or its fair proportion to the prices of rent, and of provisions. But, suppose the case, that it should fall below this level. Suppose even, that by any peculiar combination of causes, extending their depressing influence at once, to commerce and trade, to agriculture, and to manufactures, many thousands should be thrown out of employment, or should find it impracticable to obtain the employment, by which they might pay their rent, and feed, and clothe their fami. lies. Or, suppose, even still further, that under this general depression, there should be in a large city, at once double the number of labourers required for its services, while the price of rent continued to be, what it was in the most prosperous times; and, while butchers' meat, and some other articles of food, were
at best reduced but little below their old prices. It requires no prophet's eye to see, that here must necessarily be a greatly increased amount of suffering. The political economist looks upon the checks and embarrassments, which produced this suffering, as "accidental circumstances;" and speaks of this suffering, as “a transient evil."* But in truth, it sometimes comprehends more than any language can describe. Nor is it a mere vagary of the imagination, that such a state of things may exist. I have said, that I know little of poverty, and of the poor, but as I have seen, and as I daily see them, in Boston. But that which exists kere, may also, and probably will, in a greater or less degree, sometimes at least, be found elsewhere. Let us then bring before us the facts on the subject, as they are to be seen within this narrow circle. In other words, the present state of wages, and the present condition of the poor, in Boston, what are they?
We are now suffering greatly, from the checks which have been given to our trade and commerce, and from the failure of some of our large manufacturing establishments. We deplore this state of things, in view of the losses it has occasioned to some of our capitalists; the utter ruin of some, who, a short time since, thought themselves secure in the possession of an ample fortune; the difficulties and embarrassments of many of our men in trade; and of many, too, of our enterprising mechanics. But, should we forget the number, ten times larger, of those who have no capital but time and industry; who have no resource for selfsupport, but their daily labour; and who, in a failure of
Say's Political Economy, B. 1, Chap. 7, p. 31.