Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

sorts of provisions be owing altogether to a fall- c in the value of silver, it is owing to a circumstance from which nothing can be inferred but the fertility of the American mines. The real wealth of the country, the annual produce of its land and labour, may, notwithstanding this circumstance, be either gradually declining, as in Portugal and Poland; or gradually advancing, as in most other parts of Europe. But if this rife in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing to a rife in the real value of the land which produces them, to its increased fertility; or, in consequence of more extended improvement and good cultivation, to its having been rendered sit for producing corn; it is owing to a circumstance which indicates in the clearest manner the prosperous and advancing state of the country. The land constitutes by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of the wealth of every extensive country. It may surely be of some use, or, at least, it may give some satisfaction to the Public, to have so decisive a proof of the increasing value of by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of its wealth.

It may too be of some use to the Public in regulating the pecuniary reward of some of its inferior servants. If this rife in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing to a fall in the value of silver, their pecuniary reward, provided it was not too large before, ought certainly to be augmented in proportion to the extent of this fall. If it is not augmented, their real re

compence

K compence will evidently be so much diminished. But if this rife of price is owing to the increased value, in consequence of the improved fertility of the land which produces such provisions, it becomes a much nicer matter to judge either in what proportion any pecuniary reward ought te be augmented, or whether it ought to be augmented at all. The extension of improvement and cultivation, as it necessarily raises more or less, in proportion to the price of corn, that of every fort of animal food, so it as necessarily lowers that of, I believe, every fort of vegetable food. It raises the price of animal food; because a great part of the land which produces it, being rendered sit for producing corn, must afford to the landlord and farmer the rent and prosit of corn land. It lowers the price of vegetable food; because, by increasing the fertility of the land, it increases its abundance. The improvements of agriculture too introduce many forts of vegetable food, which, requiring less land and not more labour than corn, come much cheaper to market. Such are potatoes and maize, or what is called Indian corn, the two most important improvements which the agriculture of Europe, perhaps, which Europe itself, has received from the great extension of its commerce and navigation. Many forts of vegetable food, besides, which in the rude state of agriculture are consined to the kitchen-garden, and raised only by the spade, come in its improved state to be introduced into common sields, and to be raised by the plough: such as turnips, carrots, cabbages,

bages, &c. If in the progress of improve- c ment, therefore, the real price of one species of food necessarily rises, that of another as necessarily falls, and it becomes a matter of more nicety to judge how far the rife in the one may be compensated by the fall in the other. When the real price of butcher's-meat has once got to its height (which, with regard to every fort, except, perhaps, that of hog's flesh, it seems to have done through a great part of England more than a century ago), any rife which can afterwards happen in that of any other fort of animal food, cannot much affect the circumstances of the inferior ranks of people. The circumstances of the poor through a great part of England cannot surely be so much distressed by any rise in the price of poultry, sish, wild-fowl, or venison, as they must be relieved by the fall in that of potatoes.

In the present season of scarcity the high price of corn no doubt distresses the poor. But in times of moderate plenty, when corn is at its or- dinary or average price, the natural rife in the price of any other fort of rude produce cannot much affect them. They suffer more, perhaps, by the artisicial rife which has been occasioned by taxes in the price of some manufactured commodities; as of salt, soap, leather, candles, malt, beer, and ale, &c.

BOOK
I.

1 «.'

EjfeEts of the Progress of Improvement upon the real Price tf
ManufaElures.

T T is the natural effect of improvement, how.*- ver, to diminish gradually the real price of almost all manufactures. That of the manufacturing workmanship diminishes, perhaps, in all of them without exception. In consequence of better machinery, of greater dexterity, and of a more proper division and distribution of work, all of which are the natural effects of improvement, a much smaller quantity of labour becomes requisite for executing any particular piece of work; and though, in consequence of the flourishing circumstances of the society, the real price of labour should rise very considerably, yet the great diminution of the quantity will generally much more than compensate the greatest rise which can happen in the price.

There are, indeed, a few manufactures, in which the necessary rife in the real price of the rude materials will more than compensate all the advantages which improvement can introduce into the execution of the work. . In carpenters and joiners work, and in the coarser sort of cabinet work, the necessary rise in the real price of barren timber, in consequence of the improvement of land, will more than compensate all the advantages which can be derived from the best machinery, the greatest dexterity, and the most proper division and distribution of work.

But

But in all cases in which the real price of the rude materials either does not rife at all, or does not rife very much, that of the manufactured commodity sinks very considerably.

This diminution of price has, in the course of the present and preceding century, been moil remarkable in those manufactures of which the materials are the coarser metals. A better movenient of a watch, than about the middle of the last century could have been bought for twenty pounds, may now perhaps be had for twenty shillings. In the work of cutlers and locksmiths, in all the toys which are made of the coarser metals, and in all those goods which ape commonly known by the name of Birmingham and Sheffield ware, there has been, during the fame period, a very great reduction of price, though not altogether so great as in watch-work. It has, however, been sufficient to astonish the workmen of every other part of Europe, who in many cases acknowledge that they can produce no work of equal goodness for double, or even for triple the price. There are perhaps no manufactures in which the division of labour can be carried further, or in which the machinery employed admits of a greater variety of improvements, than those of which the materials are the coarser metals.

In the clothing manufacture there has, during the fame period, been no such sensible reduction Of price. The price of supersine cloth, I have been. assured, on the contrary, has, within these five'-and-twenty or thirty years, risen somewhat Vol. Ii. c c in

« ForrigeFortsett »