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instead of migrating to Belfast, Dundee, Bradford, and other towns, in which the linen and woollen trades were at the same time exceptionally active, were induced to stay in Lancashire, in consequence of the charity which was so liberally dispensed to them. It is a fact that during the distress in Lancashire the total manufacture of textile fabrics did not diminish; for the falling-off in the supply of cotton caused a greatly increased production of linen and woollen goods. Had the Lancashire operatives migrated to those localities, where their labour would have been welcomed, the distress would have been alleviated, and the depression in the cotton trade would not have lasted so long. It was many years before Lancashire recovered from the ill effects of the charity which she received during the cotton famine. A large part of her population was permanently pauperised ; and for years after the cessation of the war a great number of the mills were worked only on half time, because the number of operatives was so much greater than the production required.
Such an instance as this is a most striking example of the harm that may be done by interfering with the operation of competition. Had those who organised the relieving societies during the Lancashire famine remembered that competition tends to make the effect of good or bad trade upon wages only temporary, they would have hesitated before they used such powerful means to check the operation of competition. Had it even been recognised that the free migration of labour from one locality to another was the best means of preventing permanent distress among labourers, the kindly intentions of the charitable might have been satisfied by using some part of their subscriptions to assist the cotton operatives to migrate to those localities where their labour was so urgently required. It is frequently said that the best means of helping the poor is to help them to help themselves. If this principle were acted upon as often as it is asserted, the effects of charity would be less disastrous.
Although it is possible to make unfavourable criticisms on the manner in which national charity was dispensed during the cotton famine, it should never be forgotten that the Lancashire operatives behaved most nobly throughout the whole period of their distress, and that it was worth something that cannot be measured in money, that the whole country testified its sympathy with their misfortunes, and its admiration for the heroic courage with which those misfortunes were borne.
Free competition among labourers always tends to reduce exceptionally high wages, and to raise wages when they are exceptionally low. Competition, however, acts much more slowly in equalising the price of labour in different localities than in regulating the price of commodities. The difference between the price of corn, for instance, in London and in the most remote counties in England, can never remain in excess of the cost of conveying the corn from the one place to the other. The price of labour is, however, not so readily influenced by competition. A labourer may be aware that he will earn 25. a week more by migrating to an adjoining county, but he has to consider whether he has the means of meeting the expense of removing himself, his family, and his little stock of furniture. He may also be reluctant to forsake the place in which he has spent all his life, and to leave his old friends.
Competition is almost inoperative among the Agricultural Labourers. Such feelings as these act very powerfully with the agricultural labourers. Many of them are very simple, ignorant people, who have never been beyond the limits of their own parishes. To them a place a hundred miles off is more unknown, and apparently more inaccess
ible, than Central Africa is to an ordinarily well-informed person. Hence competition, which must always act more slowly on the price of labour than on that of commodities, is almost inoperative in many agricultural districts. An agricultural labourer in Wiltshire or Dorsetshire, who brings up a large family on 125. a week, knows perfectly well that he will have to subsist in his old age on parochial relief. He may perhaps have been told that in some other part of the country, such as Lancashire or Northumberland, his wages would be greater by 50 or 60 per cent. ; but his poverty is such that he cannot migrate, and, in many cases, his ignorance is so great that he would not migrate even if he could.
The strikes that have lately occurred among agricultural labourers in different parts of the country, have, among other effects, caused a considerable amount of migration and emigration to take place. There can be little doubt that the movement for higher wages will gradually spread all over the country, and that migration and emigration will follow as the natural consequences of the peasant waking up to the fact that it is possible for him to better his condition.
Adam Smith's Five Causes which produce Differences of Wages in different employments. If competition acted freely among all classes of labourers, the 'inequalities of wages for the same work in different localities would cease to exist. There are, however, differences in wages in different employments which are permanent in their character. Adam Smith has thus enumerated the five causes which produce different rates of wages in various employments :
Ist. The agreeableness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves.
2nd. The easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense, of learning them.
3rd. The constancy or inconstancy of employment in them.
4th. The small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them.
5th. The probability or improbability of success in them.
To these must be added the limitation of competition among the higher and lower sections or groups into which labourers are divided, and which practically limits the choice of a labourer, selecting his employment, to trades of about the same grade as that in which he was born. The son of an agricultural labourer, for instance, would be as powerless to choose the employment of a banker's clerk as he would be to select that of a prime minister or an archbishop.
Mining industry affords several examples of the manner in which the agreeableness or disagreeableness of an employment acts upon the wages of those engaged in it. The miners who work underground receive much higher wages than those who are employed in the less dangerous and more agreeable occupation of breaking, sifting, and washing the ore on the surface. No workmen would enter into an occupation which is exceptionally dangerous or injurious to the health, unless they were compensated for the risk they incur by an exceptionally high rate of wages. Those who labour in a coal mine receive, over and above the ordinary wages current in the district, a sum sufficient to induce them to risk their lives in a peculiarly dangerous occupation. Other things being equal, the more dangerous a mine is, the higher are the wages of those engaged in working it.
Under the head “ agreeableness or disagreeableness of an employment” may be included those occupations which bring respect or contempt and dislike upon those who practise them. The payment given in exchange for
the services of officers in the army and clergymen is, as a rule, extremely small. Many, however, enter the church or the army on account of the social position which members of these professions obtain. The dignity accruing to their position is a compensation for the small remuneration which they receive. On the other hand, those who practise a trade which brings upon its members contempt and dislike are compensated by a large amount of wages. No one would voluntarily undertake the duties of a hangman, for example, if he were not induced to do so by the hope of receiving exceptionally large wages. It is not an uncommon circumstance for a nobleman to give his cook a higher salary than his private secretary. This may be partly accounted for by the fact that a certain amount of contempt attaches to the office of a man-cook, whereas the employment of a secretary is considered to be quite compatible with the character and position of an educated gentleman.
It is also obvious that the higher salary earned by the cook is in great part due to the second of Adam Smith's
If wages in any employment are influenced by the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of learning it, it is not unreasonable that the cook should have more wages than the secretary. Any moderately well educated person is capable of performing the duties of a secretary at a day's notice : whereas a really first-rate cook cannot perhaps be made in less than five years, and he will probably remain a student of culinary art all his life. Compare the work of a man like Soyer with the ordinary routine work of a secretary, and it is obvious that the capacity to perform the first is difficult and expensive to acquire, whilst it is the easiest and least expensive thing in the world for a man of ordinary education to acquire a complete knowledge of the second. There are many industries which require a long appren