« ForrigeFortsett »
BOO K Chairmen in London, during the summer season,
are faid fometimes to be employed as bricklayers. · The high wages of those workmen, therefore, are not so much the recompence of their skill, as the compensation for the inconstancy of their employment.
A house carpenter seems to exercise rather a nicer and more ingenious trade than a mason. In most places, however, for it is not universally fo, his day-wages are somewhat lower. His employment, though it depends much, does not depend so entirely upon the occasional calls of his customers; and it is not liable to be interrupted by the weather.
When the trades which generally afford constant employment, happen in a particular place not to do so, the wages of the workmen always rise a good deal above their ordinary proportion to those of common labour. In London almost all journeymen artificers are liable to be called upon and dismissed by their masters from day to day, and from week to week, in the same manner as day-labourers in other places. The lowest order of artificers, journeymen taylors, accordingly, earn there half a crown a day, though eighteen pence may be reckoned the wages of common labour. In small towns and country villages, the wages of journeymen taylors frequently scarce equal those of common labour ; but in London they are often many weeks without employment, particularly during the fummer,
When the inconftancy of employment is com- CHA P. bined with the hardship, disagreeableness, and X. dirtiness of the work, it sometimes raises the wages of the most common labour above those of the most skilful artificers. A collier working by the piece is supposed, at Newcastle, to earn commonly about double, and in many parts of Scotland about three times the wages of common labour.
His high wages arise altogether from the hardship, disagreeableness, and dirtiness of his work. His employment may, upon most occafions, be as constant as he pleases. The coal-heavers in London exercise a trade which in hardship, dirtiness, and disagreeableness, almost equals that of colliers; and from the unavoidable irregularity in the arrivals of coal, ships, the employment of the greater part of them is necessarily very inconstant. If colliers, therefore, commonly earn double and triple the wages of common labour, it ought not to seem unreasonable that coal-heavers should fometimes earn four and five times those wages. In the enquiry made into their condition a few
years ago, it was found that at the rate at which they were then paid, they could earn from six to ten Thillings a day. Six shillings are about four times the wages of common labour in London, and in every particular trade, the lowest common earnings may always be considered as those of the far greater number. How extravagant foever those earnings may appear, if they were more than sufficient to compensate all the disa agreeable circumstances of the business, there
BOO K would foon be so great a number of competitors
as, in a trade which has no exclusive privilege, would quickly reduce them to a lower rate.
The constancy or inconstancy of employment cannot affect the ordinary profits of stock in any particular trade. Whether the stock is or is not constantly employed depends, not upon the trade, but the trader.
Fourthly, The wages of labour vary according to the small or great trust which must be reposed in the workmen.
The wages of goldsmiths and jewellers are every-where superior to those of many other workmen, not only of equal, but of much fuperior ingenuity; on account of the precious materials with which they are intrusted.
We trust our health to the physician ; our fortune and sometimes our life and reputation to the lawyer and attorney. Such confidence could not fafely be reposed in people of a very mean or low condition. Their reward must be fuch, therefore, as may give them that rank in the society which so important a trust requires. The long time and the great expence which must be laid out in their education, when combined with this circumstance, necessarily enhance still further the price of their labour.
When a person employs only his own stock in trade, there is no trust; and the credit which he may get from other people, depends, not upon the nature of his trade, but upon their opinion of his fortune, probity, and prudence. The dif
ferent rates of profit, therefore, in the different C HA P. branches of trade, cannot arise from the different degrees of trust reposed in the traders.
Fifthly, The wages of labour in different em. ployments vary according to the probability or improbability of success in them.
The probability that any particular person shall ever be qualified for the employment to which he is educated, is very different in different occupations. In the greater part of mechanic trades, success is almost certain; but very uncertain in the liberal professions. Put your
apprentice to a shoemaker, there is little doubt of his learning to make a pair of shoes: But send him to study the law, it is at least twenty to one if ever he makes such a proficiency as will enable him to live by the business. In a perfectly fair lottery, those who draw the prizes ought to gain all that is loft by those who draw the blanks. In a profession where twenty fail for one that succeeds, that one ought to gain all that should have been gained by the unsuccessful twenty. The counsellor at law, who, perhaps, at near forty
age, begins to make something by his profeffion, ought to receive the retribution, not only of his own so tedious and expensive education, but of that of more than twenty others who are never likely to make any thing by it. How extravagant foever the fees of counsellors at law may sometimes appear, their real retribu. tion is never equal to this. Compute in any particular place, what is likely to be annually gained, and what is likely to be annually spent, VOL. II.
BOO K all the different workmen in any common trade,
such as that of shoemakers or weavers, and you will find that the former fum will generally exceed the latter. But make the same computation with regard to all the counsellors and stu. dents of law, in all the different inns of court, and
you will find that their annual gains bear but a very small proportion to their annual ex. pence, even though you rate the former as high, and the latter as low, as can well be done. The lottery of the law, therefore, is very far from being a perfectly fair lottery; and that, as well as many other liberal and honourable professions, is, in point of pecuniary gain, evidently underrecompenced.
Those professions keep their level, however, with other occupations, and, notwithstanding these discouragements, all the most generous and liberal spirits are eager to crowd into them. Two different causes contribute to recommend them. First, the desire of the reputation which attends upon superior excellence in any of them; and, secondly, the natural confidence which every man has more or less, not only in his own abili. ties, but in his own good fortune.
To excel in any profession, in which but few arrive at mediocrity, is the most decisive mark of what is called genius or superior talents. The public admiration which attends upon such diftinguished abilities, makes always a part of their reward; a greater or smaller in proportion as it is higher or lower in degree. It makes a considerable part of that reward in the profession of