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An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 10

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

Chapter X. Of Wages And Profit In The Different Employments Of Labour And Stock.

The whole of the advantages and disadvantages of the different
employments of labour and stock, must, in the same neighbourhood, be
either perfectly equal, or continually tending to equality. If, in the
same neighbourhood, there was any employment evidently either more or
less advantageous than the rest, so many people would crowd into it
in the one case, and so many would desert it in the other, that its
advantages would soon return to the level of other employments. This, at
least, would be the case in a society where things were left to follow
their natural course, where there was perfect liberty, and where every
man was perfectly free both to choose what occupation he thought proper,
and to change it as often as he thought proper. Every man's
interest would prompt him to seek the advantageous, and to shun the
disadvantageous employment.

Pecuniary wages and profit, indeed, are everywhere in Europe extremely
different, according to the different employments of labour and stock.
But this difference arises, partly from certain circumstances in
the employments themselves, which, either really, or at least in the
imagination of men, make up for a small pecuniary gain in some, and
counterbalance a great one in others, and partly from the policy of
Europe, which nowhere leaves things at perfect liberty.

The particular consideration of those circumstances, and of that policy,
will divide this Chapter into two parts.

PART I. Inequalities arising from the nature of the employments

The five following are the principal circumstances which, so far as I
have been able to observe, make up for a small pecuniary gain in some
employments, and counterbalance a great one in others. First, the
agreeableness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves;
secondly, the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of
learning them; thirdly, the constancy or inconstancy of employment in
them; fourthly, the small or great trust which must be reposed in those
who exercise them; and, fifthly, the probability or improbability of
success in them.

First, the wages of labour vary with the ease or hardship, the
cleanliness or dirtiness, the honourableness or dishonourableness, of
the employment. Thus in most places, take the year round, a journeyman
tailor earns less than a journeyman weaver. His work is much easier. A
journeyman weaver earns less than a journeyman smith. His work is not
always easier, but it is much cleanlier. A journeyman blacksmith, though
an artificer, seldom earns so much in twelve hours, as a collier, who is
only a labourer, does in eight. His work is not quite so dirty, is less
dangerous, and is carried on in day-light, and above ground. Honour
makes a great part of the reward of all honourable professions. In
point of pecuniary gain, all things considered, they are generally
under-recompensed, as I shall endeavour to shew by and by. Disgrace has
the contrary effect. The trade of a butcher is a brutal and an odious
business; but it is in most places more profitable than the greater part
of common trades. The most detestable of all employments, that of public
executioner, is, in proportion to the quantity of work done, better paid
than any common trade whatever.

Hunting and fishing, the most important employments of mankind in
the rude state of society, become, in its advanced state, their most
agreeable amusements, and they pursue for pleasure what they once
followed from necessity. In the advanced state of society, therefore,
they are all very poor people who follow as a trade, what other
people pursue as a pastime. Fishermen have been so since the time of
Theocritus. {See Idyllium xxi.}. A poacher is everywhere a very poor man
in Great Britain. In countries where the rigour of the law suffers no
poachers, the licensed hunter is not in a much better condition. The
natural taste for those employments makes more people follow them,
than can live comfortably by them; and the produce of their labour, in
proportion to its quantity, comes always too cheap to market, to afford
any thing but the most scanty subsistence to the labourers.

Disagreeableness and disgrace affect the profits of stock in the same
manner as the wages of labour. The keeper of an inn or tavern, who is
never master of his own house, and who is exposed to the brutality of
every drunkard, exercises neither a very agreeable nor a very creditable
business. But there is scarce any common trade in which a small stock
yields so great a profit.

Secondly, the wages of labour vary with the easiness and cheapness, or
the difficulty and expense, of learning the business.

When any expensive machine is erected, the extraordinary work to be
performed by it before it is worn out, it must be expected, will replace
the capital laid out upon it, with at least the ordinary profits. A
man educated at the expense of much labour and time to any of those
employments which require extraordinary dexterity and skill, may be
compared to one of those expensive machines. The work which he learns to
perform, it must be expected, over and above the usual wages of common
labour, will replace to him the whole expense of his education, with at
least the ordinary profits of an equally valuable capital. It must do
this too in a reasonable time, regard being had to the very uncertain
duration of human life, in the same manner as to the more certain
duration of the machine.

The difference between the wages of skilled labour and those of common
labour, is founded upon this principle.

The policy of Europe considers the labour of all mechanics, artificers,
and manufacturers, as skilled labour; and that of all country labourers
us common labour. It seems to suppose that of the former to be of a more
nice and delicate nature than that of the latter. It is so perhaps in
some cases; but in the greater part it is quite otherwise, as I shall
endeavour to shew by and by. The laws and customs of Europe, therefore,
in order to qualify any person for exercising the one species of labour,
impose the necessity of an apprenticeship, though with different degrees
of rigour in different places. They leave the other free and open to
every body. During the continuance of the apprenticeship, the whole
labour of the apprentice belongs to his master. In the meantime he must,
in many cases, be maintained by his parents or relations, and, in almost
all cases, must be clothed by them. Some money, too, is commonly given
to the master for teaching him his trade. They who cannot give money,
give time, or become bound for more than the usual number of years; a
consideration which, though it is not always advantageous to the
master, on account of the usual idleness of apprentices, is always
disadvantageous to the apprentice. In country labour, on the contrary,
the labourer, while he is employed about the easier, learns the more
difficult parts of his business, and his own labour maintains him
through all the different stages of his employment. It is reasonable,
therefore, that in Europe the wages of mechanics, artificers, and
manufacturers, should be somewhat higher than those of common labourers.
They are so accordingly, and their superior gains make them, in most
places, be considered as a superior rank of people. This superiority,
however, is generally very small: the daily or weekly earnings of
journeymen in the more common sorts of manufactures, such as those of
plain linen and woollen cloth, computed at an average, are, in most
places, very little more than the day-wages of common labourers. Their
employment, indeed, is more steady and uniform, and the superiority of
their earnings, taking the whole year together, may be somewhat greater.
It seems evidently, however, to be no greater than what is sufficient
to compensate the superior expense of their education. Education in the
ingenious arts, and in the liberal professions, is still more tedious
and expensive. The pecuniary recompence, therefore, of painters and
sculptors, of lawyers and physicians, ought to be much more liberal; and
it is so accordingly.

The profits of stock seem to be very little affected by the easiness
or difficulty of learning the trade in which it is employed. All the
different ways in which stock is commonly employed in great towns seem,
in reality, to be almost equally easy and equally difficult to learn.
One branch, either of foreign or domestic trade, cannot well be a much
more intricate business than another.

Thirdly, the wages of labour in different occupations vary with the
constancy or inconstancy of employment.

Employment is much more constant in some trades than in others. In
the greater part of manufactures, a journeyman maybe pretty sure of
employment almost every day in the year that he is able to work. A mason
or bricklayer, on the contrary, can work neither in hard frost nor in
foul weather, and his employment at all other times depends upon the
occasional calls of his customers. He is liable, in consequence, to be
frequently without any. What he earns, therefore, while he is employed,
must not only maintain him while he is idle, but make him some
compensation for those anxious and desponding moments which the thought
of so precarious a situation must sometimes occasion. Where the computed
earnings of the greater part of manufacturers, accordingly, are nearly
upon a level with the day-wages of common labourers, those of masons
and bricklayers are generally from one-half more to double those wages.
Where common labourers earn four or five shillings a-week, masons and
bricklayers frequently earn seven and eight; where the former earn six,
the latter often earn nine and ten; and where the former earn nine and
ten, as in London, the latter commonly earn fifteen and eighteen. No
species of skilled labour, however, seems more easy to learn than that
of masons and bricklayers. Chairmen in London, during the summer season,
are said sometimes 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 a more ingenious
trade than a mason. In most places, however, for it is not universally
so, 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 tailors, accordingly, earn their 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 tailors
frequently scarce equal those of common labour; but in London they are
often many weeks without employment, particularly during the summer.

When the inconstancy of employment is combined with the hardship,
disagreeableness, and 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 occasions, 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 sometimes
earn four and five times those wages. In the inquiry 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 shillings 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
soever those earnings may appear, if they were more than sufficient to
compensate all the disagreeable circumstances of the business, there
would soon 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 everywhere superior to
those of many other workmen, not only of equal, but of much superior
ingenuity, on account of the precious materials with which they are
entrusted. We trust our health to the physician, our fortune, and
sometimes our life and reputation, to the lawyer and attorney. Such
confidence could not safely be reposed in people of a very mean or low
condition. Their reward must be such, therefore, as may give them that
rank in the society which so important a trust requires. The long time
and the great expense 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 the trade, but upon their opinion of his fortune, probity and
prudence. The different rates of profit, therefore, in the different
branches of trade, cannot arise from the different degrees of trust
reposed in the traders.

Fifthly, the wages of labour in different employments vary according to
the probability or improbability of success in them.

The probability that any particular person shall ever be qualified for
the employments to which he is educated, is very different in different
occupations. In the greatest part of mechanic trades success is almost
certain; but very uncertain in the liberal professions. Put your son
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 as at least twenty to
one if he ever makes such 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 lost 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 years of age, begins to make something
by his profession, 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
soever the fees of counsellors at law may sometimes appear, their real
retribution 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, by all the different workmen in any common trade, such as that
of shoemakers or weavers, and you will find that the former sum will
generally exceed the latter. But make the same computation with regard
to all the counsellors and students 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 expense, 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 under-recompensed.

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 abilities, but in his own good fortune.

To excel in any profession, in which but few arrive at mediocrity, it
is the most decisive mark of what is called genius, or superior talents.
The public admiration which attends upon such distinguished 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 physic; a still greater, perhaps, in that of
law; in poetry and philosophy it makes almost the whole.

There are some very agreeable and beautiful talents, of which the
possession commands a certain sort of admiration, but of which the
exercise, for the sake of gain, is considered, whether from reason or
prejudice, as a sort of public prostitution. The pecuniary recompence,
therefore, of those who exercise them in this manner, must be
sufficient, not only to pay for the time, labour, and expense of
acquiring the talents, but for the discredit which attends the
employment of them as the means of subsistence. The exorbitant rewards
of players, opera-singers, opera-dancers, etc. are founded upon those
two principles; the rarity and beauty of the talents, and the discredit
of employing them in this manner. It seems absurd at first sight, that
we should despise their persons, and yet reward their talents with
the most profuse liberality. While we do the one, however, we must of
necessity do the other, Should the public opinion or prejudice ever
alter with regard to such occupations, their pecuniary recompence would
quickly diminish. More people would apply to them, and the competition
would quickly reduce the price of their labour. Such talents, though
far from being common, are by no means so rare as imagined. Many people
possess them in great perfection, who disdain to make this use of them;
and many more are capable of acquiring them, if any thing could be made
honourably by them.

The over-weening conceit which the greater part of men have of their own
abilities, is an ancient evil remarked by the philosophers and moralists
of all ages. Their absurd presumption in their own good fortune has been
less taken notice of. It is, however, if possible, still more universal.
There is no man living, who, when in tolerable health and spirits, has
not some share of it. The chance of gain is by every man more or less
over-valued, and the chance of loss is by most men under-valued, and by
scarce any man, who is in tolerable health and spirits, valued more than
it is worth.

That the chance of gain is naturally overvalued, we may learn from the
universal success of lotteries. The world neither ever saw, nor ever
will see, a perfectly fair lottery, or one in which the whole gain
compensated the whole loss; because the undertaker could make nothing by
it. In the state lotteries, the tickets are really not worth the price
which is paid by the original subscribers, and yet commonly sell in the
market for twenty, thirty, and sometimes forty per cent. advance. The
vain hopes of gaining some of the great prizes is the sole cause of
this demand. The soberest people scarce look upon it as a folly to pay
a small sum for the chance of gaining ten or twenty thousand pounds,
though they know that even that small sum is perhaps twenty or thirty
per cent. more than the chance is worth. In a lottery in which no prize
exceeded twenty pounds, though in other respects it approached much
nearer to a perfectly fair one than the common state lotteries, there
would not be the same demand for tickets. In order to have a better
chance for some of the great prizes, some people purchase several
tickets; and others, small shares in a still greater number. There is
not, however, a more certain proposition in mathematics, than that the
more tickets you adventure upon, the more likely you are to be a loser.
Adventure upon all the tickets in the lottery, and you lose for certain;
and the greater the number of your tickets, the nearer you approach to
this certainty.

That the chance of loss is frequently undervalued, and scarce ever
valued more than it is worth, we may learn from the very moderate profit
of insurers. In order to make insurance, either from fire or sea-risk,
a trade at all, the common premium must be sufficient to compensate the
common losses, to pay the expense of management, and to afford such a
profit as might have been drawn from an equal capital employed in any
common trade. The person who pays no more than this, evidently pays no
more than the real value of the risk, or the lowest price at which he
can reasonably expect to insure it. But though many people have made a
little money by insurance, very few have made a great fortune; and,
from this consideration alone, it seems evident enough that the ordinary
balance of profit and loss is not more advantageous in this than in
other common trades, by which so many people make fortunes. Moderate,
however, as the premium of insurance commonly is, many people despise
the risk too much to care to pay it. Taking the whole kingdom at an
average, nineteen houses in twenty, or rather, perhaps, ninety-nine in
a hundred, are not insured from fire. Sea-risk is more alarming to the
greater part of people; and the proportion of ships insured to those not
insured is much greater. Many sail, however, at all seasons, and even in
time of war, without any insurance. This may sometimes, perhaps, be done
without any imprudence. When a great company, or even a great merchant,
has twenty or thirty ships at sea, they may, as it were, insure one
another. The premium saved up on them all may more than compensate such
losses as they are likely to meet with in the common course of chances.
The neglect of insurance upon shipping, however, in the same manner as
upon houses, is, in most cases, the effect of no such nice calculation,
but of mere thoughtless rashness, and presumptuous contempt of the risk.

The contempt of risk, and the presumptuous hope of success, are in no
period of life more active than at the age at which young people choose
their professions. How little the fear of misfortune is then capable
of balancing the hope of good luck, appears still more evidently in the
readiness of the common people to enlist as soldiers, or to go to sea,
than in the eagerness of those of better fashion to enter into what are
called the liberal professions.

What a common soldier may lose is obvious enough. Without regarding
the danger, however, young volunteers never enlist so readily as at
the beginning of a new war; and though they have scarce any chance of
preferment, they figure to themselves, in their youthful fancies, a
thousand occasions of acquiring honour and distinction which never
occur. These romantic hopes make the whole price of their blood. Their
pay is less than that of common labourers, and, in actual service, their
fatigues are much greater.

The lottery of the sea is not altogether so disadvantageous as that of
the army. The son of a creditable labourer or artificer may frequently
go to sea with his father's consent; but if he enlists as a soldier,
it is always without it. Other people see some chance of his making
something by the one trade; nobody but himself sees any of his making
any thing by the other. The great admiral is less the object of public
admiration than the great general; and the highest success in the sea
service promises a less brilliant fortune and reputation than equal
success in the land. The same difference runs through all the inferior
degrees of preferment in both. By the rules of precedency, a captain in
the navy ranks with a colonel in the army; but he does not rank with him
in the common estimation. As the great prizes in the lottery are less,
the smaller ones must be more numerous. Common sailors, therefore, more
frequently get some fortune and preferment than common soldiers; and the
hope of those prizes is what principally recommends the trade. Though
their skill and dexterity are much superior to that of almost any
artificers; and though their whole life is one continual scene of
hardship and danger; yet for all this dexterity and skill, for all those
hardships and dangers, while they remain in the condition of common
sailors, they receive scarce any other recompence but the pleasure of
exercising the one and of surmounting the other. Their wages are not
greater than those of common labourers at the port which regulates the
rate of seamen's wages. As they are continually going from port to port,
the monthly pay of those who sail from all the different ports of Great
Britain, is more nearly upon a level than that of any other workmen in
those different places; and the rate of the port to and from which the
greatest number sail, that is, the port of London, regulates that of
all the rest. At London, the wages of the greater part of the different
classes of workmen are about double those of the same classes at
Edinburgh. But the sailors who sail from the port of London, seldom earn
above three or four shillings a month more than those who sail from the
port of Leith, and the difference is frequently not so great. In time of
peace, and in the merchant-service, the London price is from a guinea to
about seven-and-twenty shillings the calendar month. A common labourer
in London, at the rate of nine or ten shillings a week, may earn in
the calendar month from forty to five-and-forty shillings. The sailor,
indeed, over and above his pay, is supplied with provisions. Their
value, however, may not perhaps always exceed the difference between his
pay and that of the common labourer; and though it sometimes should, the
excess will not be clear gain to the sailor, because he cannot share
it with his wife and family, whom he must maintain out of his wages at

The dangers and hair-breadth escapes of a life of adventures, instead
of disheartening young people, seem frequently to recommend a trade
to them. A tender mother, among the inferior ranks of people, is often
afraid to send her son to school at a sea-port town, lest the sight of
the ships, and the conversation and adventures of the sailors, should
entice him to go to sea. The distant prospect of hazards, from which
we can hope to extricate ourselves by courage and address, is not
disagreeable to us, and does not raise the wages of labour in any
employment. It is otherwise with those in which courage and address can
be of no avail. In trades which are known to be very unwholesome, the
wages of labour are always remarkably high. Unwholesomeness is a species
of disagreeableness, and its effects upon the wages of labour are to be
ranked under that general head.

In all the different employments of stock, the ordinary rate of profit
varies more or less with the certainty or uncertainty of the returns.
These are, in general, less uncertain in the inland than in the foreign
trade, and in some branches of foreign trade than in others; in the
trade to North America, for example, than in that to Jamaica. The
ordinary rate of profit always rises more or less with the risk. It does
not, however, seem to rise in proportion to it, or so as to compensate
it completely. Bankruptcies are most frequent in the most hazardous
trades. The most hazardous of all trades, that of a smuggler, though,
when the adventure succeeds, it is likewise the most profitable, is the
infallible road to bankruptcy. The presumptuous hope of success seems to
act here as upon all other occasions, and to entice so many adventurers
into those hazardous trades, that their competition reduces the profit
below what is sufficient to compensate the risk. To compensate it
completely, the common returns ought, over and above the ordinary
profits of stock, not only to make up for all occasional losses, but to
afford a surplus profit to the adventurers, of the same nature with the
profit of insurers. But if the common returns were sufficient for all
this, bankruptcies would not be more frequent in these than in other

Of the five circumstances, therefore, which vary the wages of
labour, two only affect the profits of stock; the agreeableness or
disagreeableness of the business, and the risk or security with which
it is attended. In point of agreeableness or disagreeableness, there
is little or no difference in the far greater part of the different
employments of stock, but a great deal in those of labour; and the
ordinary profit of stock, though it rises with the risk, does not always
seem to rise in proportion to it. It should follow from all this, that,
in the same society or neighbourhood, the average and ordinary rates of
profit in the different employments of stock should be more nearly upon
a level than the pecuniary wages of the different sorts of labour.

They are so accordingly. The difference between the earnings of a common
labourer and those of a well employed lawyer or physician, is evidently
much greater than that between the ordinary profits in any two different
branches of trade. The apparent difference, besides, in the profits of
different trades, is generally a deception arising from our not always
distinguishing what ought to be considered as wages, from what ought to
be considered as profit.

Apothecaries' profit is become a bye-word, denoting something uncommonly
extravagant. This great apparent profit, however, is frequently no more
than the reasonable wages of labour. The skill of an apothecary is a
much nicer and more delicate matter than that of any artificer whatever;
and the trust which is reposed in him is of much greater importance.
He is the physician of the poor in all cases, and of the rich when the
distress or danger is not very great. His reward, therefore, ought to
be suitable to his skill and his trust; and it arises generally from the
price at which he sells his drugs. But the whole drugs which the best
employed apothecary in a large market-town, will sell in a year, may
not perhaps cost him above thirty or forty pounds. Though he should sell
them, therefore, for three or four hundred, or at a thousand per cent.
profit, this may frequently be no more than the reasonable wages of his
labour, charged, in the only way in which he can charge them, upon the
price of his drugs. The greater part of the apparent profit is real
wages disguised in the garb of profit.

In a small sea-port town, a little grocer will make forty or fifty per
cent. upon a stock of a single hundred pounds, while a considerable
wholesale merchant in the same place will scarce make eight or ten
per cent. upon a stock of ten thousand. The trade of the grocer may be
necessary for the conveniency of the inhabitants, and the narrowness
of the market may not admit the employment of a larger capital in the
business. The man, however, must not only live by his trade, but live by
it suitably to the qualifications which it requires. Besides possessing
a little capital, he must be able to read, write, and account and must
be a tolerable judge, too, of perhaps fifty or sixty different sorts of
goods, their prices, qualities, and the markets where they are to be had
cheapest. He must have all the knowledge, in short, that is necessary
for a great merchant, which nothing hinders him from becoming but the
want of a sufficient capital. Thirty or forty pounds a year cannot
be considered as too great a recompence for the labour of a person
so accomplished. Deduct this from the seemingly great profits of his
capital, and little more will remain, perhaps, than the ordinary profits
of stock. The greater part of the apparent profit is, in this case too,
real wages.

The difference between the apparent profit of the retail and that of
the wholesale trade, is much less in the capital than in small towns
and country villages. Where ten thousand pounds can be employed in the
grocery trade, the wages of the grocer's labour must be a very trifling
addition to the real profits of so great a stock. The apparent profits
of the wealthy retailer, therefore, are there more nearly upon a level
with those of the wholesale merchant. It is upon this account that goods
sold by retail are generally as cheap, and frequently much cheaper, in
the capital than in small towns and country villages. Grocery goods, for
example, are generally much cheaper; bread and butchers' meat frequently
as cheap. It costs no more to bring grocery goods to the great town than
to the country village; but it costs a great deal more to bring corn and
cattle, as the greater part of them must be brought from a much greater
distance. The prime cost of grocery goods, therefore, being the same in
both places, they are cheapest where the least profit is charged upon
them. The prime cost of bread and butchers' meat is greater in the
great town than in the country village; and though the profit is less,
therefore they are not always cheaper there, but often equally cheap.
In such articles as bread and butchers' meat, the same cause which
diminishes apparent profit, increases prime cost. The extent of the
market, by giving employment to greater stocks, diminishes apparent
profit; but by requiring supplies from a greater distance, it increases
prime cost. This diminution of the one and increase of the other, seem,
in most cases, nearly to counterbalance one another; which is probably
the reason that, though the prices of corn and cattle are commonly
very different in different parts of the kingdom, those of bread and
butchers' meat are generally very nearly the same through the greater
part of it.

Though the profits of stock, both in the wholesale and retail trade, are
generally less in the capital than in small towns and country villages,
yet great fortunes are frequently acquired from small beginnings in
the former, and scarce ever in the latter. In small towns and country
villages, on account of the narrowness of the market, trade cannot
always be extended as stock extends. In such places, therefore, though
the rate of a particular person's profits may be very high, the sum or
amount of them can never be very great, nor consequently that of his
annual accumulation. In great towns, on the contrary, trade can be
extended as stock increases, and the credit of a frugal and thriving
man increases much faster than his stock. His trade is extended in
proportion to the amount of both; and the sum or amount of his profits
is in proportion to the extent of his trade, and his annual accumulation
in proportion to the amount of his profits. It seldom happens, however,
that great fortunes are made, even in great towns, by any one regular,
established, and well-known branch of business, but in consequence of
a long life of industry, frugality, and attention. Sudden fortunes,
indeed, are sometimes made in such places, by what is called the trade
of speculation. The speculative merchant exercises no one regular,
established, or well-known branch of business. He is a corn merchant
this year, and a wine merchant the next, and a sugar, tobacco, or tea
merchant the year after. He enters into every trade, when he foresees
that it is likely to lie more than commonly profitable, and he quits it
when he foresees that its profits are likely to return to the level of
other trades. His profits and losses, therefore, can bear no regular
proportion to those of any one established and well-known branch of
business. A bold adventurer may sometimes acquire a considerable fortune
by two or three successful speculations, but is just as likely to lose
one by two or three unsuccessful ones. This trade can be carried on
nowhere but in great towns. It is only in places of the most extensive
commerce and correspondence that the intelligence requisite for it can
be had.

The five circumstances above mentioned, though they occasion
considerable inequalities in the wages of labour and profits of stock,
occasion none in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages, real or
imaginary, of the different employments of either. The nature of those
circumstances is such, that they make up for a small pecuniary gain in
some, and counterbalance a great one in others.

In order, however, that this equality may take place in the whole of
their advantages or disadvantages, three things are requisite, even
where there is the most perfect freedom. First the employments must be
well known and long established in the neighbourhood; secondly, they
must be in their ordinary, or what may be called their natural state;
and, thirdly, they must be the sole or principal employments of those
who occupy them.

First, This equality can take place only in those employments which are
well known, and have been long established in the neighbourhood.

Where all other circumstances are equal, wages are generally higher in
new than in old trades. When a projector attempts to establish a new
manufacture, he must at first entice his workmen from other employments,
by higher wages than they can either earn in their own trades, or than
the nature of his work would otherwise require; and a considerable time
must pass away before he can venture to reduce them to the common level.
Manufactures for which the demand arises altogether from fashion and
fancy, are continually changing, and seldom last long enough to be
considered as old established manufactures. Those, on the contrary, for
which the demand arises chiefly from use or necessity, are less liable
to change, and the same form or fabric may continue in demand for whole
centuries together. The wages of labour, therefore, are likely to be
higher in manufactures of the former, than in those of the latter kind.
Birmingham deals chiefly in manufactures of the former kind; Sheffield
in those of the latter; and the wages of labour in those two different
places are said to be suitable to this difference in the nature of their

The establishment of any new manufacture, of any new branch of commerce,
or of any new practice in agriculture, is always a speculation from
which the projector promises himself extraordinary profits. These
profits sometimes are very great, and sometimes, more frequently,
perhaps, they are quite otherwise; but, in general, they bear no regular
proportion to those of other old trades in the neighbourhood. If the
project succeeds, they are commonly at first very high. When the
trade or practice becomes thoroughly established and well known, the
competition reduces them to the level of other trades.

Secondly, this equality in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages
of the different employments of labour and stock, can take place only
in the ordinary, or what may be called the natural state of those

The demand for almost every different species of labour is sometimes
greater, and sometimes less than usual. In the one case, the advantages
of the employment rise above, in the other they fall below the common
level. The demand for country labour is greater at hay-time and harvest
than during the greater part of the year; and wages rise with the
demand. In time of war, when forty or fifty thousand sailors are forced
from the merchant service into that of the king, the demand for sailors
to merchant ships necessarily rises with their scarcity; and
their wages, upon such occasions, commonly rise from a guinea and
seven-and-twenty shillings to forty shilling's and three pounds a-month.
In a decaying manufacture, on the contrary, many workmen, rather than
quit their own trade, are contented with smaller wages than would
otherwise be suitable to the nature of their employment.

The profits of stock vary with the price of the commodities in which it
is employed. As the price of any commodity rises above the ordinary or
average rate, the profits of at least some part of the stock that is
employed in bringing it to market, rise above their proper level, and as
it falls they sink below it. All commodities are more or less liable
to variations of price, but some are much more so than others. In
all commodities which are produced by human industry, the quantity
of industry annually employed is necessarily regulated by the annual
demand, in such a manner that the average annual produce may, as
nearly as possible, be equal to the average annual consumption. In some
employments, it has already been observed, the same quantity of industry
will always produce the same, or very nearly the same quantity of
commodities. In the linen or woollen manufactures, for example, the same
number of hands will annually work up very nearly the same quantity
of linen and woollen cloth. The variations in the market price of such
commodities, therefore, can arise only from some accidental variation
in the demand. A public mourning raises the price of black cloth. But
as the demand for most sorts of plain linen and woollen cloth is pretty
uniform, so is likewise the price. But there are other employments in
which the same quantity of industry will not always produce the same
quantity of commodities. The same quantity of industry, for example,
will, in different years, produce very different quantities of
corn, wine, hops, sugar tobacco, etc. The price of such commodities,
therefore, varies not only with the variations of demand, but with
the much greater and more frequent variations of quantity, and is
consequently extremely fluctuating; but the profit of some of the
dealers must necessarily fluctuate with the price of the commodities.
The operations of the speculative merchant are principally employed
about such commodities. He endeavours to buy them up when he foresees
that their price is likely to rise, and to sell them when it is likely
to fall.

Thirdly, this equality in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages
of the different employments of labour and stock, can take place only in
such as are the sole or principal employments of those who occupy them.

When a person derives his subsistence from one employment, which does
not occupy the greater part of his time, in the intervals of his
leisure he is often willing to work at another for less wages than would
otherwise suit the nature of the employment.

There still subsists, in many parts of Scotland, a set of people called
cottars or cottagers, though they were more frequent some years ago
than they are now. They are a sort of out-servants of the landlords
and farmers. The usual reward which they receive from their master is a
house, a small garden for pot-herbs, as much grass as will feed a cow,
and, perhaps, an acre or two of bad arable land. When their master has
occasion for their labour, he gives them, besides, two pecks of oatmeal
a-week, worth about sixteen pence sterling. During a great part of the
year, he has little or no occasion for their labour, and the cultivation
of their own little possession is not sufficient to occupy the time
which is left at their own disposal. When such occupiers were more
numerous than they are at present, they are said to have been willing
to give their spare time for a very small recompence to any body, and to
have wrought for less wages than other labourers. In ancient times, they
seem to have been common all over Europe. In countries ill cultivated,
and worse inhabited, the greater part of landlords and farmers could
not otherwise provide themselves with the extraordinary number of hands
which country labour requires at certain seasons. The daily or weekly
recompence which such labourers occasionally received from their
masters, was evidently not the whole price of their labour. Their
small tenement made a considerable part of it. This daily or weekly
recompence, however, seems to have been considered as the whole of it,
by many writers who have collected the prices of labour and provisions
in ancient times, and who have taken pleasure in representing both as
wonderfully low.

The produce of such labour comes frequently cheaper to market than
would otherwise be suitable to its nature. Stockings, in many parts of
Scotland, are knit much cheaper than they can anywhere be wrought upon
the loom. They are the work of servants and labourers who derive the
principal part of their subsistence from some other employment. More
than a thousand pair of Shetland stockings are annually imported into
Leith, of which the price is from fivepence to seven-pence a pair. At
Lerwick, the small capital of the Shetland islands, tenpence a-day,
I have been assured, is a common price of common labour. In the same
islands, they knit worsted stockings to the value of a guinea a pair and

The spinning of linen yarn is carried on in Scotland nearly in the same
way as the knitting of stockings, by servants, who are chiefly hired for
other purposes. They earn but a very scanty subsistence, who endeavour
to get their livelihood by either of those trades. In most parts of
Scotland, she is a good spinner who can earn twentypence a-week.

In opulent countries, the market is generally so extensive, that any one
trade is sufficient to employ the whole labour and stock of those who
occupy it. Instances of people living by one employment, and, at the
same time, deriving some little advantage from another, occur chiefly
in pour countries. The following instance, however, of something of the
same kind, is to be found in the capital of a very rich one. There is no
city in Europe, I believe, in which house-rent is dearer than in London,
and yet I know no capital in which a furnished apartment can be hired so
cheap. Lodging is not only much cheaper in London than in Paris; it is
much cheaper than in Edinburgh, of the same degree of goodness; and,
what may seem extraordinary, the dearness of house-rent is the cause of
the cheapness of lodging. The dearness of house-rent in London arises,
not only from those causes which render it dear in all great capitals,
the dearness of labour, the dearness of all the materials of building,
which must generally be brought from a great distance, and, above
all, the dearness of ground-rent, every landlord acting the part of a
monopolist, and frequently exacting a higher rent for a single acre of
bad land in a town, than can be had for a hundred of the best in the
country; but it arises in part from the peculiar manners and customs of
the people, which oblige every master of a family to hire a whole house
from top to bottom. A dwelling-house in England means every thing that
is contained under the same roof. In France, Scotland, and many other
parts of Europe, it frequently means no more than a single storey. A
tradesman in London is obliged to hire a whole house in that part of the
town where his customers live. His shop is upon the ground floor, and he
and his family sleep in the garret; and he endeavours to pay a part of
his house-rent by letting the two middle storeys to lodgers. He expects
to maintain his family by his trade, and not by his lodgers. Whereas
at Paris and Edinburgh, people who let lodgings have commonly no other
means of subsistence; and the price of the lodging must pay, not only
the rent of the house, but the whole expense of the family.

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