Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ciple by which the nature and coffects of labour in general are regulated; and it would be improper to dwell any longer upon it. The nature and effects of labour in general being fixed and known, let us see which means the different systems recommend to increase its force, develope its faculties, and extend its power, and what obstacies oppose its progress, paralyse its efforts, and impede

its success.

CHAP. IV.

Of the Causes which invigorate Labour, improve its Powers, and ameliorate its Produce.

ADAM Smith, who first assigned to labour such important functions, demonstrated its powerful influence upon wealth, and rendered it so interesting in economical respects, is also the first who bestowed particular attention upon the causes which invigorate labour, improve its faculties, and augment and ameliorate its produce. He ascribes all its improvements to the division of its parts, or the confiding to several hands the different branches of the same labour, which gives each labourer more dexterity, avoids the loss of time occasioned by the change of labour, and is conducive to the invention of machines which shorten and facilitate labour, and enable one individual to perform the labour of many. This fruitful principle, on which Adam Smith reared his system of political economy, to which he bent his theory, and which exercises a sort of domination over the science, had hitherto been considered as one of the facts which have most accelerated the progress of political economy and most contributed to the celebrity of its author. But this title to glory has not been respected by the Earl of Lauderdale; and it is, no doubt, interesting to behold the efforts of the Noble Author to overturn the main pillar of political economy. Lord Lauderdale begins by observing, “ that the idea of the effects of the division of labour is not new ; that the dexterity which man acquires in performing labour, by confining himself to one particular branch, has been dwelt upon from the times of Xenophon to the present day; and that, on this

“ principle, professions in ancient times had been

“ made hereditary; as was the case in Egypt, in some

“ parts of India, and in Peru.” To this rather critical than instructive observation, the noble Earl, adds, that “ the great number of dis

“ tinct operations that contribute towards the forma

tion of some of the most trifling manufactures,

“ such as the trade of pin-making, is not derived

“ from any degree of habitual dexterity, or from the

“ saving of time, as results of the division of labour;

“ but from the circumstance of supplanting and

“ performing labour by capital. Without the machi

“ nerv, which the faculty that man possesses of supy, y | l

“ planting labour by capital introduces, no great

“ progress could have been made in the rapidity with

“ which pins are formed ; and one man, with the use

“ of this machinery, though he goes through and per“ forms all the operations himself, must, obviously,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

manufacture more pins in an hour, than would be formed in a month, even in a year, by any number of men amongst whom the labour could be divided, if unaided by the circumstance of part of their labour being supplanted and performed by capital. —The progress made of late years in Scotland, in the art of distilling spirits, affords a strong illustration and example of the vast resources of human ingenuity in abridging labour by mechanical contrivances.”

“ In the year 1785, a proposal was made to collect the duty on the manufacture of spirits in Scotland by way of licence, to be paid annually for every still, according to its size, at a fixed rate per gallon, in lieu of all other duties.” “ The London distillers, men the most experienced in their profession, who agreed to the rate of the licence on the gallon, supposed to be equivalent to the former duties, declared themselves, from experience, satisfied, that the time of working stills with benefit was limited to an extent perfectly well known ; and that whoever exceeded these limits would infallibly lose upon his materials and the quality of the goods what he gained in point of time; and in conformity to their opinion, the duty was in the year 1786 settled, upon the supposition that stills could be discharged about seven times in a week.” *

“ Two years after this, in a memorial presented to

the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, the same men alleged, that the Scotch distillers had, by the ingenuity of their contrivances, found means to

discharge their stills upwards of forty times a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

week; and we since know, from a report made to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, in the

year 1790, that a forty-three-gallon still was

brought to such a degree of perfection, as to be

discharged at the rate of once in two minutes and

“ three quarters; which is almost twenty-two times “ in an hour. It appears also from this report, that the operation of distillation was capable of being “ performed in a still shorter time, and that the

* *

quality of the spirit was no wise injured by the rapidity of the operation.” From this fact Lord Lauderdale concludes, that it

is to the introduction of some sort of machinery, to

the effect of the application of chemistry to manu

factures, and to the increase or command of capital chabling the manufacturers to reduce the price of manufactured commodities, that we are indebted for

the wealth and comforts generally enjoyed by civilized

Society.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ In the annals,” adds the noble author, “ of the transactions and negociations that have taken place between different nations on the subject of commercial arrangements, the danger of admitting a country to a commercial competition, because the division of labour was there carried farther than in any other, is a thing unheard of; whilst the constant and uniform ground of objection, urged by men whose prejudices led them to think that commerce may be conducted in a manner injurious to a nation, is the superiority that the one country has

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

over the other, derived from dexterity in Sup- | planting and performing labour by capital.” o “ Adam Smith has vainly laboured to impress the belief that the introduction of n.acilitiery is origi- | mally owing to the division of labour, of which it is considered as a mere consequence.”

“But, in truth, the history of man shews us,

that the simplest and most effic acious machines

for supplanting labour—(instrum... is with which habit has so familiarized us, that 2 hardly dignify them with the name of , acilinery)—are introduced, at an early period of society, when the division of labour is comparatively unpre-tised and unknown, for the purpose of soppiant. Ug the personal labour of man in the conduct of agricultural industry;-an ait which. : "clogh its reeminence in the production of wealth, is act... -ledged (even by those who wish to establo the division of labour is ti, great so to - 9 o' increased opulence of mankind), is in & ... of society distinguished by reaping belov in on the division of labour.” “ The eagerness and anxiety of the author of the Wealth of Nations to enforce his favourke opinion, has made him assert, that a great part of the machines employed in those manufactures in which labour is most subdivided, were originally the inventions of common workinen, who, being each of them employed in son,e very simple operation, naturally turned their thoughts towards finding out easier and readier methods of performing it.

« ForrigeFortsett »