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BOOK manufactures of the country, as well as all other
artificers subservient to them, wheel-makers, reel. makers, &c. may exercise their trades in any town corporate without paying any fine. In all towns corporate all persons are free to sell butcher's meat upon any lawful day of the week. Three years is in Scotland a common term of apprenticeship, even in some very nice trades; and in general I know of no country in Europe in which corporation laws are so little oppressive.
The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most facred and in. violable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most sacred property. It is a manifeft encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman, and of those who might be disposed to employ him. As it hinders the one from working at what he thinks proper, so it hinders the others from employing whom they think proper. To judge whether he is fit to be employed, may surely be trusted to the discretion of the employers whose interest it so much concerns. The affected anxiety of the law-giver left they should employ an improper person, is evidently as impertinent as it is oppressive.
The institution of long apprenticeships can give no security that insufficient workmanshipshall not frequently be exposed to public fale. When this
is done it is generally the effect of fraud, and cHA P. not of inability; and the longest apprenticeship can give no security against fraud. Quite different regulations are necessary to prevent this abuse. The sterling mark upon plate, and the stamps upon linen and woollen cloth, give the purchaser much greater security than any
statute of apprenticeship. He generally looks at these, but never thinks it worth while to enquire whe. ther the workmen had served a seven years apprenticeship
The institution of long apprenticeships has no tendency to form young people to industry. A journeyman who works by the piece is likely to be industrious, because he derives a benefit from every exertion of his industry. An apprentice is likely to be idle, and almost always is fo, because he has no immediate interest to be otherwise. In the inferior employments, the sweets of labour confift altogether in the recompence of labour. They who are sooneft in a condition to enjoy the sweets of it, are likely sooneft to conceive a relish for it, and to acquire the early habit of industry. A young man naturally conceives an averfion to labour, when for a long time he receives no benefit from it. The boys who are put out apprentices from public charities are generally bound for more than the usual number of years, and they generally turn out very idle and worthless.
Apprenticeships were altogether unknown to the ancients. The reciprocal duties of master and apprentice make a considerable article in
BOO K every modern code. The Roman law is pera
fectly filent with regard to them. I know no Greek or Latin word (I might venture, I believe, to affert that there is none) which expresses the idea we now annex to the word Apprentice, a servant bound to work at a particular trade for the benefit of a master, during a term of years, upon condition that the master thall teach him that trade.
Long apprenticeships are altogether unnecessary. The arts, which are much fupcrior to common trades, such as those of making clocks and watches, contain no such mystery as to require a long course of instruction. The first invention of such beautiful machines, indeed, and even that of some of the instruments employed in making them, muft, no doubt, have been the work of deep thought and long time, and may justly be considered as among the happiest efforts of human ingenuity. But when both have been fairly invented and are well understood, to explain to any young man, in the completest manner, how to apply the inftruments and how to construct the machines, cannot well require more than the lessons of a few weeks : perhaps those of a few days might be fufficient. In the common mechanic trades, those of a few days might certainly be sufficient. The dexterity of hand, indeed, even in common trades, cannot be acquired without much prac- . tice and experience. But a young man would practise with much more diligence and attention, if from the beginning he wrought as a journey
man, being paid in proportion to the little work c H A P. which he could execute, and paying in his turn for the materials which he might sometimes spoil through awkwardness and inexperience. His education would generally in this way be more effectual, and always less tedious and expensive. The master, indeed, would be a loser. He would lose all the wages of the apprentice, which he now faves for seven years together. In the end, perhaps, the apprentice himself would be a loser. In a trade so easily learnt he would have more competitors, and his wages, when he came to be a complete workman, would be much less than at present. The same increase of competition would reduce the profits of the masters as well as the wages of the workmen. The trades, the crafts, the mysteries, would all be losers. But the public would be a gainer, the work of all artificers coming in this way much cheaper to market.
It is to prevent this reduction of price, and confequently of wages and profit, by restraining that free competition which would most certainly occafion it, that all corporations, and the greater part of corporation laws, have been established. In order to erect a corporation, no other authority in ancient times was requisite in many parts of Europe, but that of the town corporate in which it was established. In England, indeed, a charter from the king was likewise neceffary. But this prerogative of the crown seems to have been reserved rather for extorting money from the subject, than for the defence of the common
BOO K liberty against such oppressive monopolies. Upon
paying a fine to the king, the charter seems generally to have been readily granted ; and when any particular class of artificers or traders thought proper to act as a corporation without a charter, such adulterine guilds, as they were called, were not always disfranchised upon that account, but obliged to fine annually to the king for permission to exercise their usurped privileges * The immediate inspection of all cor. porations, and of the bye-laws which they might think proper to enact for their own government, belonged to the town corporate in which they were established; and whatever discipline was exercised over them, proceeded commonly, not from the king, but from that greater incorporation of which those subordinate ones were only parts or members.
The government of towns corporate was altogether in the hands of traders and artificers; and it was the manifest interest of every particular class of them, to prevent the market from being overstocked, as they commonly express it, with their own particular species of industry ; which is in reality to keep it always under-stocked. Each class was eager to establish regulations proper for this purpose, and, provided it was allowed to do so, was willing to consent that every other class should do the fame. In consequence of such regulations, indeed, each class was obliged to buy the goods they had occasion for
• Sec Madox Firma Burgi, p. 26, &c.