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An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 8 continue

1. Introduction And Plan Of The Work

2. Book 1, Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 8 continue

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 10 continue

14. Chapter 11

15. Chapter 11 continue

16. Chapter 11 continue.

17. Chapter 11 continue..

18. Chapter 11 continue...

19. Conclusion of the Chapter 11

20. Book 2 Introduction

21. Chapter 1

22. Chapter II

23. Chapter II continue

24. Chapter II continue

25. Chapter 3

26. Chapter 4

27. Chapter 5

28. Book 3, Chapter 1

29. Chapter 2

30. Chapter 3

31. Chapter 4

32. Book 4, Chapter 1

33. Chapter 1 continue

34. Chapter 2

35. Chapter 3, Part 1

36. Chapter 3, Part 2

37. Chapter 4

38. Chapter 5

39. Chapter 5 continue

40. Chapter 6

41. Chapter 7, Part 1

42. Chapter 7, Part 2

43. Chapter 7, Part 3

44. Chapter 7, Part 3 continue

45. Chapter 8

46. Chapter 9

47. Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

48. Chapter 1, Part 2

49. Chapter 1, Part 3

50. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

51. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue B

52. Chapter 1, Part 4

53. Chapter 2, Part 1

54. Chapter 2, Part 2

55. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue

56. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue B

57. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue C

58. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue D

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 3 continue

Fourthly, the variations in the price of labour not only do not
correspond, either in place or time, with those in the price of
provisions, but they are frequently quite opposite.

Grain, the food of the common people, is dearer in Scotland than in
England, whence Scotland receives almost every year very large supplies.
But English corn must be sold dearer in Scotland, the country to which
it is brought, than in England, the country from which it comes; and in
proportion to its quality it cannot be sold dearer in Scotland than the
Scotch corn that comes to the same market in competition with it. The
quality of grain depends chiefly upon the quantity of flour or meal
which it yields at the mill; and, in this respect, English grain is so
much superior to the Scotch, that though often dearer in appearance,
or in proportion to the measure of its bulk, it is generally cheaper in
reality, or in proportion to its quality, or even to the measure of its
weight. The price of labour, on the contrary, is dearer in England
than in Scotland. If the labouring poor, therefore, can maintain
their families in the one part of the united kingdom, they must be in
affluence in the other. Oatmeal, indeed, supplies the common people in
Scotland with the greatest and the best part of their food, which is, in
general, much inferior to that of their neighbours of the same rank in
England. This difference, however, in the mode of their subsistence, is
not the cause, but the effect, of the difference in their wages; though,
by a strange misapprehension, I have frequently heard it represented as
the cause. It is not because one man keeps a coach, while his neighbour
walks a-foot, that the one is rich, and the other poor; but because the
one is rich, he keeps a coach, and because the other is poor, he walks

During the course of the last century, taking one year with another,
grain was dearer in both parts of the united kingdom than during that
of the present. This is a matter of fact which cannot now admit of
any reasonable doubt; and the proof of it is, if possible, still more
decisive with regard to Scotland than with regard to England. It is
in Scotland supported by the evidence of the public fiars, annual
valuations made upon oath, according to the actual state of the markets,
of all the different sorts of grain in every different county of
Scotland. If such direct proof could require any collateral evidence
to confirm it, I would observe, that this has likewise been the case
in France, and probably in most other parts of Europe. With regard to
France, there is the clearest proof. But though it is certain, that in
both parts of the united kingdom grain was somewhat dearer in the last
century than in the present, it is equally certain that labour was much
cheaper. If the labouring poor, therefore, could bring up their families
then, they must be much more at their ease now. In the last century,
the most usual day-wages of common labour through the greater part
of Scotland were sixpence in summer, and fivepence in winter. Three
shillings a-week, the same price, very nearly still continues to be paid
in some parts of the Highlands and Western islands. Through the greater
part of the Low country, the most usual wages of common labour are now
eight pence a-day; tenpence, sometimes a shilling, about Edinburgh,
in the counties which border upon England, probably on account of that
neighbourhood, and in a few other places where there has lately been
a considerable rise in the demand for labour, about Glasgow,
Carron, Ayrshire, etc. In England, the improvements of agriculture,
manufactures, and commerce, began much earlier than in Scotland. The
demand for labour, and consequently its price, must necessarily have
increased with those improvements. In the last century, accordingly, as
well as in the present, the wages of labour were higher in England than
in Scotland. They have risen, too, considerably since that time, though,
on account of the greater variety of wages paid there in different
places, it is more difficult to ascertain how much. In 1614, the pay of
a foot soldier was the same as in the present times, eightpence a-day.
When it was first established, it would naturally be regulated by the
usual wages of common labourers, the rank of people from which foot
soldiers are commonly drawn. Lord-chief-justice Hales, who wrote in
the time of Charles II. computes the necessary expense of a labourer's
family, consisting of six persons, the father and mother, two children
able to do something, and two not able, at ten shillings a-week, or
twenty-six pounds a-year. If they cannot earn this by their labour, they
must make it up, he supposes, either by begging or stealing. He appears
to have enquired very carefully into this subject {See his scheme for
the maintenance of the poor, in Burn's History of the Poor Laws.}. In
1688, Mr Gregory King, whose skill in political arithmetic is so much
extolled by Dr Davenant, computed the ordinary income of labourers and
out-servants to be fifteen pounds a-year to a family, which he
supposed to consist, one with another, of three and a half persons. His
calculation, therefore, though different in appearance, corresponds
very nearly at bottom with that of Judge Hales. Both suppose the weekly
expense of such families to be about twenty-pence a-head. Both
the pecuniary income and expense of such families have increased
considerably since that time through the greater part of the kingdom,
in some places more, and in some less, though perhaps scarce anywhere
so much as some exaggerated accounts of the present wages of labour have
lately represented them to the public. The price of labour, it must
be observed, cannot be ascertained very accurately anywhere, different
prices being often paid at the same place and for the same sort of
labour, not only according to the different abilities of the workman,
but according to the easiness or hardness of the masters. Where wages
are not regulated by law, all that we can pretend to determine is, what
are the most usual; and experience seems to shew that law can never
regulate them properly, though it has often pretended to do so.

The real recompence of labour, the real quantity of the necessaries and
conveniencies of life which it can procure to the labourer, has, during
the course of the present century, increased perhaps in a still greater
proportion than its money price. Not only grain has become somewhat
cheaper, but many other things, from which the industrious poor derive
an agreeable and wholesome variety of food, have become a great deal
cheaper. Potatoes, for example, do not at present, through the greater
part of the kingdom, cost half the price which they used to do thirty
or forty years ago. The same thing may be said of turnips, carrots,
cabbages; things which were formerly never raised but by the spade, but
which are now commonly raised by the plough. All sort of garden stuff,
too, has become cheaper. The greater part of the apples, and even of the
onions, consumed in Great Britain, were, in the last century, imported
from Flanders. The great improvements in the coarser manufactories of
both linen and woollen cloth furnish the labourers with cheaper and
better clothing; and those in the manufactories of the coarser metals,
with cheaper and better instruments of trade, as well as with many
agreeable and convenient pieces of household furniture. Soap, salt,
candles, leather, and fermented liquors, have, indeed, become a good
deal dearer, chiefly from the taxes which have been laid upon them.
The quantity of these, however, which the labouring poor an under any
necessity of consuming, is so very small, that the increase in their
price does not compensate the diminution in that of so many other
things. The common complaint, that luxury extends itself even to the
lowest ranks of the people, and that the labouring poor will not now
be contented with the same food, clothing, and lodging, which satisfied
them in former times, may convince us that it is not the money price of
labour only, but its real recompence, which has augmented.

Is this improvement in the circumstances of the lower ranks of the
people to be regarded as an advantage, or as an inconveniency, to
the society? The answer seems at first abundantly plain. Servants,
labourers, and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part
of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances
of the greater part, can never be regarded as any inconveniency to the
whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far
greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity,
besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the
people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as
to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.

Poverty, though it no doubt discourages, does not always prevent,
marriage. It seems even to be favourable to generation. A half-starved
Highland woman frequently bears more than twenty children, while a
pampered fine lady is often incapable of bearing any, and is generally
exhausted by two or three. Barrenness, so frequent among women of
fashion, is very rare among those of inferior station. Luxury, in the
fair sex, while it inflames, perhaps, the passion for enjoyment, seems
always to weaken, and frequently to destroy altogether, the powers of

But poverty, though it does not prevent the generation, is extremely
unfavourable to the rearing of children. The tender plant is produced;
but in so cold a soil, and so severe a climate, soon withers and dies.
It is not uncommon, I have been frequently told, in the Highlands of
Scotland, for a mother who has born twenty children not to have two
alive. Several officers of great experience have assured me, that, so
far from recruiting their regiment, they have never been able to supply
it with drums and fifes, from all the soldiers' children that were
born in it. A greater number of fine children, however, is seldom seen
anywhere than about a barrack of soldiers. Very few of them, it seems,
arrive at the age of thirteen or fourteen. In some places, one half the
children die before they are four years of age, in many places before
they are seven, and in almost all places before they are nine or ten.
This great mortality, however will everywhere be found chiefly among the
children of the common people, who cannot afford to tend them with
the same care as those of better station. Though their marriages are
generally more fruitful than those of people of fashion, a smaller
proportion of their children arrive at maturity. In foundling hospitals,
and among the children brought up by parish charities, the mortality is
still greater than among those of the common people.

Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the means
of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply be yond it. But
in civilized society, it is only among the inferior ranks of people
that the scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further
multiplication of the human species; and it can do so in no other way
than by destroying a great part of the children which their fruitful
marriages produce.

The liberal reward of labour, by enabling them to provide better for
their children, and consequently to bring up a greater number, naturally
tends to widen and extend those limits. It deserves to be remarked, too,
that it necessarily does this as nearly as possible in the proportion
which the demand for labour requires. If this demand is continually
increasing, the reward of labour must necessarily encourage in such a
manner the marriage and multiplication of labourers, as may enable them
to supply that continually increasing demand by a continually increasing
population. If the reward should at any time be less than what was
requisite for this purpose, the deficiency of hands would soon raise
it; and if it should at any time be more, their excessive multiplication
would soon lower it to this necessary rate. The market would be so much
understocked with labour in the one case, and so much overstocked in the
other, as would soon force back its price to that proper rate which the
circumstances of the society required. It is in this manner that the
demand for men, like that for any other commodity, necessarily regulates
the production of men, quickens it when it goes on too slowly, and stops
it when it advances too fast. It is this demand which regulates and
determines the state of propagation in all the different countries of
the world; in North America, in Europe, and in China; which renders it
rapidly progressive in the first, slow and gradual in the second, and
altogether stationary in the last.

The wear and tear of a slave, it has been said, is at the expense of his
master; but that of a free servant is at his own expense. The wear and
tear of the latter, however, is, in reality, as much at the expense
of his master as that of the former. The wages paid to journeymen and
servants of every kind must be such as may enable them, one with another
to continue the race of journeymen and servants, according as the
increasing, diminishing, or stationary demand of the society, may happen
to require. But though the wear and tear of a free servant be equally at
the expense of his master, it generally costs him much less than that of
a slave. The fund destined for replacing or repairing, if I may say
so, the wear and tear of the slave, is commonly managed by a negligent
master or careless overseer. That destined for performing the same
office with regard to the freeman is managed by the freeman himself. The
disorders which generally prevail in the economy of the rich, naturally
introduce themselves into the management of the former; the strict
frugality and parsimonious attention of the poor as naturally establish
themselves in that of the latter. Under such different management, the
same purpose must require very different degrees of expense to execute
it. It appears, accordingly, from the experience of all ages and
nations, I believe, that the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the
end than that performed by slaves. It is found to do so even at Boston,
New-York, and Philadelphia, where the wages of common labour are so very

The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the effect of
increasing wealth, so it is the cause of increasing population. To
complain of it, is to lament over the necessary cause and effect of the
greatest public prosperity.

It deserves to be remarked, perhaps, that it is in the progressive
state, while the society is advancing to the further acquisition,
rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the
condition of the labouring poor, of the great body of the people,
seems to be the happiest and the most comfortable. It is hard in the
stationary, and miserable in the declining state. The progressive state
is, in reality, the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different
orders of the society; the stationary is dull; the declining melancholy.

The liberal reward of labour, as it encourages the propagation, so it
increases the industry of the common people. The wages of labour are
the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality,
improves in proportion to the encouragement it receives. A plentiful
subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer, and the
comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days,
perhaps, in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to
the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the
workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low;
in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighbourhood of great
towns, than in remote country places. Some workmen, indeed, when they
can earn in four days what will maintain them through the week, will be
idle the other three. This, however, is by no means the case with the
greater part. Workmen, on the contrary, when they are liberally paid by
the piece, are very apt to overwork themselves, and to ruin their health
and constitution in a few years. A carpenter in London, and in some
other places, is not supposed to last in his utmost vigour above eight
years. Something of the same kind happens in many other trades, in
which the workmen are paid by the piece; as they generally are in
manufactures, and even in country labour, wherever wages are higher than
ordinary. Almost every class of artificers is subject to some peculiar
infirmity occasioned by excessive application to their peculiar
species of work. Ramuzzini, an eminent Italian physician, has written a
particular book concerning such diseases. We do not reckon our soldiers
the most industrious set of people among us; yet when soldiers have been
employed in some particular sorts of work, and liberally paid by the
piece, their officers have frequently been obliged to stipulate with the
undertaker, that they should not be allowed to earn above a certain
sum every day, according to the rate at which they were paid. Till this
stipulation was made, mutual emulation, and the desire of greater gain,
frequently prompted them to overwork themselves, and to hurt their
health by excessive labour. Excessive application, during four days
of the week, is frequently the real cause of the idleness of the other
three, so much and so loudly complained of. Great labour, either of mind
or body, continued for several days together is, in most men, naturally
followed by a great desire of relaxation, which, if not restrained by
force, or by some strong necessity, is almost irresistible. It is
the call of nature, which requires to be relieved by some indulgence,
sometimes of ease only, but sometimes too of dissipation and diversion.
If it is not complied with, the consequences are often dangerous and
sometimes fatal, and such as almost always, sooner or later, bring on
the peculiar infirmity of the trade. If masters would always listen
to the dictates of reason and humanity, they have frequently occasion
rather to moderate, than to animate the application of many of their
workmen. It will be found, I believe, in every sort of trade, that the
man who works so moderately, as to be able to work constantly, not
only preserves his health the longest, but, in the course of the year,
executes the greatest quantity of work.

In cheap years it is pretended, workmen are generally more idle, and
in dear times more industrious than ordinary. A plentiful subsistence,
therefore, it has been concluded, relaxes, and a scanty one quickens
their industry. That a little more plenty than ordinary may render
some workmen idle, cannot be well doubted; but that it should have this
effect upon the greater part, or that men in general should work better
when they are ill fed, than when they are well fed, when they are
disheartened than when they are in good spirits, when they are
frequently sick than when they are generally in good health, seems not
very probable. Years of dearth, it is to be observed, are generally
among the common people years of sickness and mortality, which cannot
fail to diminish the produce of their industry.

In years of plenty, servants frequently leave their masters, and trust
their subsistence to what they can make by their own industry. But the
same cheapness of provisions, by increasing the fund which is destined
for the maintenance of servants, encourages masters, farmers especially,
to employ a greater number. Farmers, upon such occasions, expect more
profit from their corn by maintaining a few more labouring servants,
than by selling it at a low price in the market. The demand for servants
increases, while the number of those who offer to supply that demand
diminishes. The price of labour, therefore, frequently rises in cheap

In years of scarcity, the difficulty and uncertainty of subsistence
make all such people eager to return to service. But the high price of
provisions, by diminishing the funds destined for the maintenance of
servants, disposes masters rather to diminish than to increase the
number of those they have. In dear years, too, poor independent workmen
frequently consume the little stock with which they had used to supply
themselves with the materials of their work, and are obliged to become
journeymen for subsistence. More people want employment than easily get
it; many are willing to take it upon lower terms than ordinary; and the
wages of both servants and journeymen frequently sink in dear years.

Masters of all sorts, therefore, frequently make better bargains with
their servants in dear than in cheap years, and find them more humble
and dependent in the former than in the latter. They naturally,
therefore, commend the former as more favourable to industry. Landlords
and farmers, besides, two of the largest classes of masters, have
another reason for being pleased with dear years. The rents of the
one, and the profits of the other, depend very much upon the price of
provisions. Nothing can be more absurd, however, than to imagine that
men in general should work less when they work for themselves, than when
they work for other people. A poor independent workman will generally be
more industrious than even a journeyman who works by the piece. The one
enjoys the whole produce of his own industry, the other shares it with
his master. The one, in his separate independent state, is less liable
to the temptations of bad company, which, in large manufactories,
so frequently ruin the morals of the other. The superiority of the
independent workman over those servants who are hired by the month or by
the year, and whose wages and maintenance are the same, whether they do
much or do little, is likely to be still greater. Cheap years tend
to increase the proportion of independent workmen to journeymen and
servants of all kinds, and dear years to diminish it.

A French author of great knowledge and ingenuity, Mr Messance, receiver
of the taillies in the election of St Etienne, endeavours to shew that
the poor do more work in cheap than in dear years, by comparing the
quantity and value of the goods made upon those different occasions
in three different manufactures; one of coarse woollens, carried on at
Elbeuf; one of linen, and another of silk, both which extend through the
whole generality of Rouen. It appears from his account, which is copied
from the registers of the public offices, that the quantity and value
of the goods made in all those three manufactories has generally been
greater in cheap than in dear years, and that it has always been;
greatest in the cheapest, and least in the dearest years. All the three
seem to be stationary manufactures, or which, though their produce may
vary somewhat from year to year, are, upon the whole, neither going
backwards nor forwards.

The manufacture of linen in Scotland, and that of coarse woollens in the
West Riding of Yorkshire, are growing manufactures, of which the produce
is generally, though with some variations, increasing both in quantity
and value. Upon examining, however, the accounts which have been
published of their annual produce, I have not been able to observe that
its variations have had any sensible connection with the dearness
or cheapness of the seasons. In 1740, a year of great scarcity, both
manufactures, indeed, appear to have declined very considerably. But in
1756, another year or great scarcity, the Scotch manufactures made more
than ordinary advances. The Yorkshire manufacture, indeed, declined, and
its produce did not rise to what it had been in 1755, till 1766, after
the repeal of the American stamp act. In that and the following year, it
greatly exceeded what it had ever been before, and it has continued to
advance ever since.

The produce of all great manufactures for distant sale must necessarily
depend, not so much upon the dearness or cheapness of the seasons in
the countries where they are carried on, as upon the circumstances which
affect the demand in the countries where they are consumed; upon peace
or war, upon the prosperity or declension of other rival manufactures
and upon the good or bad humour of their principal customers. A great
part of the extraordinary work, besides, which is probably done in
cheap years, never enters the public registers of manufactures. The
men-servants, who leave their masters, become independent labourers.
The women return to their parents, and commonly spin, in order to make
clothes for themselves and their families. Even the independent workmen
do not always, work for public sale, but are employed by some of their
neighbours in manufactures for family use. The produce of their labour,
therefore, frequently makes no figure in those public registers, of
which the records are sometimes published with so much parade, and from
which our merchants and manufacturers would often vainly pretend to
announce the prosperity or declension of the greatest empires.

Through the variations in the price of labour not only do not always
correspond with those in the price of provisions, but are frequently
quite opposite, we must not, upon this account, imagine that the price
of provisions has no influence upon that of labour. The money price of
labour is necessarily regulated by two circumstances; the demand for
labour, and the price of the necessaries and conveniencies of life. The
demand for labour, according as it happens to be increasing, stationary,
or declining, or to require an increasing, stationary, or declining
population, determines the quantities of the necessaries and
conveniencies of life which must be given to the labourer; and the money
price of labour is determined by what is requisite for purchasing this
quantity. Though the money price of labour, therefore, is sometimes
high where the price of provisions is low, it would be still higher, the
demand continuing the same, if the price of provisions was high.

It is because the demand for labour increases in years of sudden
and extraordinary plenty, and diminishes in those of sudden and
extraordinary scarcity, that the money price of labour sometimes rises
in the one, and sinks in the other.

In a year of sudden and extraordinary plenty, there are funds in the
hands of many of the employers of industry, sufficient to maintain and
employ a greater number of industrious people than had been employed the
year before; and this extraordinary number cannot always be had. Those
masters, therefore, who want more workmen, bid against one another, in
order to get them, which sometimes raises both the real and the money
price of their labour.

The contrary of this happens in a year of sudden and extraordinary
scarcity. The funds destined for employing industry are less than they
had been the year before. A considerable number of people are thrown out
of employment, who bid one against another, in order to get it, which
sometimes lowers both the real and the money price of labour. In 1740,
a year of extraordinary scarcity, many people were willing to work
for bare subsistence. In the succeeding years of plenty, it was more
difficult to get labourers and servants. The scarcity of a dear year, by
diminishing the demand for labour, tends to lower its price, as the high
price of provisions tends to raise it. The plenty of a cheap year, on
the contrary, by increasing the demand, tends to raise the price
of labour, as the cheapness of provisions tends to lower it. In the
ordinary variations of the prices of provisions, those two opposite
causes seem to counterbalance one another, which is probably, in part,
the reason why the wages of labour are everywhere so much more steady
and permanent than the price of provisions.

The increase in the wages of labour necessarily increases the price of
many commodities, by increasing that part of it which resolves itself
into wages, and so far tends to diminish their consumption, both at home
and abroad. The same cause, however, which raises the wages of labour,
the increase of stock, tends to increase its productive powers, and to
make a smaller quantity of labour produce a greater quantity of work.
The owner of the stock which employs a great number of labourers
necessarily endeavours, for his own advantage, to make such a proper
division and distribution of employment, that they may be enabled to
produce the greatest quantity of work possible. For the same reason,
he endeavours to supply them with the best machinery which either he or
they can think of. What takes place among the labourers in a particular
workhouse, takes place, for the same reason, among those of a great
society. The greater their number, the more they naturally divide
themselves into different classes and subdivisions of employments. More
heads are occupied in inventing the most proper machinery for executing
the work of each, and it is, therefore, more likely to be invented.
There me many commodities, therefore, which, in consequence of these
improvements, come to be produced by so much less labour than before,
that the increase of its price is more than compensated by the
diminution of its quantity.

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