Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

but those who have received licences to reside in towns, or who have learned any profession, or have been successful, are charged far greater sums; sometimes even as much as a thousand roubles a year or upwards! Others, instead of an abrock, perform task work; others, again, deliver a certain portion of their produce; and from some, all these are demanded. Runaway slaves are punished by imprisonment and hard labor.

“Besides having power lo dispose of his time and labor, the master may inflict corporeal punishment on his slaves, but he is forbidden by law(which, however, is often evaded,) from treating him with any great cruelty; and he is guilty of a capital offence, if death arise from his chastisement within twenty-four hours. When one class may exercise such power over another, very great abuses cannot fail to exist. The insecurity, too, under which the peasants are placed, is recessarily fatal to their industry. Oppression and ill-treatment are now, however, a good deal less common than formerly; and it is certainly true that the condition of the boors is, by no means, so bad as might, a priori, be concluded; and that, as respects their command over the necessaries of life, they are in a much better situation than the peasantry of Ireland.

“Those on the estates of humane and enlightened landlords, are in decidedly comfortable circumstances; while they mostly all have sufficient supplies of the articles they consider necessary to existence. Some licensed slaves have accumulated very large fortunes. One of this class of persons is mentioned as having 4,000 laborers in his employment; and another planned and built the finest church in Petersburg

“The peasants are of a souud constitution, stout and firmly built, and generally of a middle stature. They live in wooden cottages, formed of whole trees piled upon each other, and built together in villages, the gables to the road. Sometimes they consist of two stories, but more frequently only of one. They are heated by stoves, and though dirty, are not uncomfortable, nor ill-suited to the climate. Their furniture consists, generally, of wooden articles, with a pan or two. Beds are little used; the family generally sleeping on the ground, on benches, or on the stoves.

“The dress of the peasant consists of a long coarse drugget coat, fastened by a belt around the waist; but, in winter they wear a sheep-skin, with the wooly side inwards. Their trousers are of coarse linen; instead of stockings, woolen or flannel cloth is wrapped round the legs, and boots or shoes of matted Jinden bark are frequently substituted for those of leather. The neck, even in winter, is bare, and the head is covered by a peaked round hat or cap.”

In this account of the relation which exists between the Russian peasant and the land holder, we find enumerated all the badges that denote clavery of the most absolute character, with the slight exception that the owner may not immediately take the life of his slave, with impunity; but, if he survives the punishment inflicted by the master for the space of twenty-four hours, it would se exn

that the latter is not accountable for his death. The author says: “ The time and labor of slaves belonging to private individuals, are absolutely at the disposal of their masters, who may seize whatever property they may bappen to acquire. And, again, “ the master may inflict corporeal punishment on the slave ; but he is forbidden, by law, (which, however, is often evaded,) from treating him with any great degree of cruelty.” Every thing here mentioned to show the comfortable condition of the Russian peasant, may be affirmed with truth in regard to the condition of slaves in the United States, except that licenses are not, perhaps, as .common in this country as in that; but this can be of little benefit to the slave, when the master may, at his pleasure, seize all the property which he acquires

And, furthermore, we are informed that in Russia land is of no intrinsic value. We quote from a document prepared by a Russian nobleman, published in the London Economist, and adopted by the Commissioner of Patents, as a part of his report. The author says: “Agriculture, in Russia, is still in its primitive state, though the number of products, and their quantity, is great, no province furnishes more than one-half of its natural capacity. For this reason does the soil, in by far the greater portion of Russia, possess no real intrinsic value ; the latter depending entirely on the labor of man-so that, instead of asking the number of acres, the number of hands that belong to it, form the measure of its value. The best cultivated provinces of Russia are on the Baltic, in the provinces adjacent to Moscow, and in the Russian provinces of Poland; and even in these provinces are to be found immense districts, of which not the fifteenth part is, as yet, taken into cultivation.” Here is a practical combination of " free soil” and slavery. And we ask if there is any individual who can, with these facts before him, arrive at the conclusion that the freemen of the United States, cultivating land valued at from ten to fifty dollars per acre, can produce wheat in successful competition against 44,000,000 Russian slaves, who subsist principally on rye bread and porridge, clothe in sheep skins, sleep on the ground, and labor on land, which costs their masters nothing?

Such a conclusion would be absurd in the extreme; and, moreover, it may be safely affirmed, that, but for the duty imposed on the importation of wheat into this country, Russia would successfully compete with American wheat growers, in our own markets.

The production of a staple for exportation is opposed to the genius and economy of free labor. It is calculated to turn both labor and capital into one channel, and tends to make the staple growing districts dependent on other countries for almost every commodity of convenience and comfort. But there is a portion of the American people, so ardent in search of foreign markets, that they seem to overJook both facts and reason, and appear incapable of comprehending the most obvious and simple principles of political economy. Their delusion, in this respect, is not less absurd than was that of the Alchimists in searching for the Philosophers Stone; and, could they accomplish all they so much desire, success

would tend to destroy, rather than promote, the prosperity of the country, We should have regarded the Commissioner's estimates of the surplus of wheat as extravagantly large, but for the quantity drawn into market by the high prices of 1847. This incident has established the fact, that an immense amount of the products of the labor of this country perishes, or is wasted, annually, for lack of a demand. And if, without any notice or preparation for a foreign demand, we could turn out over 26,000,000 bushels of wheat, in the short period of a few months, what could we not do if the demand were to continue for years in succession ?

We commend the diligence of the Commissioner of Patents, in seeking a market for our surplus grain ; but, with all his industry, he has shown that all the wheat purchasing countries require only about 33,000,000 bushels. And, if we should suppose that they needed an equal quantity of all other kinds of grain, and that we should, to the exclusion of the rest of the world, supply the entire demand, yet there would remain a surplus of 158,384,502 bushels—a quantity equal to the labor of 316,769 individuals, supposing them to produce 500 bushels each-and sufficient to sustain a population of 15,800,000, allowing 10 bushels per annum to each individual.

These estimates appear so enormous that we can scarcely believe them true ; but, when we consider the quantity of grain which we exported in 1847, and that there was still an immense amount left in the country, we conclude that the calculation in regard to wheat, cannot be deemed very extravagant. But, if we should abate one-half the quantity, it would still appear that the labor of 158,384 individuals, employed in grain growing, was lost for want of a market, even after supplying the entire demand of all the grain purchasing countries.

Having shown conclusively, as we think, that it is impossible to find a foreign market for but a very small portion of our surplus grain, let us now enquire whether it is practicable to create a demand at home, equal to the supply. We have so frequently urged the importance of building up a home market for our breadstuffs, by encouraging manufactures, that we begin to fear that our readers may suspect that we are insane on this subject. And, having hitherto relied on our own reasoning, we now beg to fortify the arguments which we have so frequently urged, by the opinions of others.

In a letter from Gen. Jackson to Dr. L. H. Coleman, of North Carolina, dated in 1824, he asks: “Where has the American farmer a market for his surplus produce ? Except for cotton, he has neither a foreign or a home market. Does not this clearly prove, when there is no market at home or abroad, that there is too much labor employed in agriculture, and that the channels for labor should be multiplied? Common sense at once points out the remedy: Draw fram agriculture this superabundant labor; employ it in mechanism and manufactures thereby creating a home market for your breadstufts-distributing labor to the most profitable account-and benefits to the country will result. Take from

agriculture in the United States 600,000 men, women, and children, and you will, at once, give a market for more breadstuffs, than all Europe now furnishes us with. In short, sir, we have been too long subject to the policy of British merchants. It is time we should become a little more Americanised ; and instead of feeding the paupers and laborers of England, feed our own; or else, in a short time, by continuing our present policy, we shall be paupers ourselves.” Here is the answer to the inquiry with which we set out in the commencement of this article; and, in our opinion, it is the only true answer that can be given to it.

Mr. Jefferson says, in a letter to Benjamin Austin, in 1816: We must now place our manufacturers by the side of the agriculturalist.”

• And, again, “ The grand inquiry now is, shall we make our own comforts, or go without them, at the will of a foreign nation. He, therefore, who is now against domestic manufactures, must be for reducing us either to a dependence upon that nation, or be clothed in skins, and live like beasts, in dens and caverns. I am proud to say, that I am not one of these. Experience has taught me, that monufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort.

It is true that we are less dependent upon foreign countries now, than in 1816; but we are yet very far from being independent of their labor and skill, while at the same time, we have a surplus annually perishing on our hands, nearly equal to the entire amount of our imports from foreign countries. This is the main point to which we desire to call the attention of our readers, and we ask whether we shall continue to waste our labor and wear out our soil in producing an overplus for which there is no demand, either at home or abroad, when it is completely in our power, by“ placing our manufacturers by the side of the agriculturist," to secure to the latter a market and remunerating prices for all our products? This policy would secure to us not only that independence so much desired by Mr. Jefferson, but would ai once enable us to control the commerce of the world. But the moral effects would be more important still. Inadequate prices for labor, and the uncertainty of finding a market for its products, are abundant sources of social evil. To these causes may be attributed, in a great measure, the spirit of traffic and speculation which so strongly characterize the American people; and hence, also, one cause of idleness and all the vices which proceed from it. We invite the reader to call to mind the many individuals of his acquaintance who have failed in trade, and who, with their families, have been driven to want the common comforts of subsistence; suffering too, although it may be unjustly, under the imputation of dishonesty-bankrupt alike in property and reputationshut out from the sympathies of those who were sometime their friends, and, to say nothing of their own unhappy condition, now lost to society. Trace their history back to the commencement of their career in life, and it will be found in a majority of cases, that a superabundance of labor was the cause of their be. coming traders and speculators.

Instinct, perhaps, more than reason, lead them to abandon a pursuit in which

so much labor was lost; but alas ! the evil is not limited to the agriculturalist it is even more fatal to the merchant; and how could it be otherwise when he deals in commodities that are so redundant that the demand can never equal the supply. Local and temporary causes may sometimes enable him to make a profit, and if, like a dextrous gambler, he should stop at the right time, he may retire without loss; but where the chances are so much against him, he must Jose in the end. For in this country, it may be safely affirmed, that the dealer in produce, who all the time trades to the extent of bis means, must, in the end, fail with as much certainty as if he bet at a game where the chances were fifty per centagainst him. And owing to the same cause, the dealer in general merchandise is in a condition but little better than the dealer in produce. The fabrication of foreign commodities, which constitute a very large portion of the merchandise which we consume, depends in so small a degree upon our agricultural products, and the source of supply having little or no relation to our means of purchasing, the dealer can not, in the nature of things, always regulate his purchases according to the demand ; and hence, the chances are necessarily against him, and he too, as well as the dealer in produce, must fail in the end. This proposition is fully established, we think, by the mercantile history of this country. We have not the statistics before us, but we have often seen it stated, that even in Boston, about ninety-five out of every hundred merchants fail in business; and as long as we purchase so large a portion of our manufactured commodities from foreign countries, perhaps no individual could deal in them to the full extent of his means, without being ruined in the course of a lifetime of reasonable length.

If the labor of the country was so divided that the manufacturing and other classes should consume all or nearly all the surplus of the agricultural products, this would establish a relation between the sources of supply and demand, that would relieve every branch of industry and trade from that great degree of uncertainty which now attends them. This would place every branch of business upon an equal footing, and tend to reconcile each individual 10 their respective employments. It would remove the temptation to speculation, give constant employment and adequate remuneration to all, while it would also encourage the idle to habits of industry. And more than all this, it would put an end to the daily occurrence of bankruptcies and disappointments in business, which induces 80 much individual suffering, and deprives society of the usefulness of so many of its members. All this could be effected, and still leave a surplus of grain quite equal to the foreign demand, while our exports of manufactured commodities would be enlarged almost to an indefinite extent.

Before closing this article, we feel constrained to notice a paragraph in the Merchants Magazine of September, 1848, at page 306, which is, in our estimation, calculated to mislead the public mind in regard to the extent of the foreign demand for breadstuffs, and to divert the American people from considering the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »