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It is horrible to call them "The once happy labourer."
Whether what may be called the moral or philofophical happiness of the laborious claffes is increafed or not, I cannot fay. The feat of that fpecies of happiness is in the mind; and there are few data to ascertain the comparative state of the mind at any two periods. Philofophical happiness is to want little. Civil or vulgar happiness is to want much, and to enjoy much.
If the happiness of the animal man (which certainly goes fomewhere towards the happiness of the rational man) be the object of our estimate, then I affert, without the least hesitation, that the condition of those who labour (in all defcriptions of labour, and in all gradations of labour, from the highest to the lowest inclusively) is on the whole extremely meliorated, if more and better food is any ftandard of melioration. They work more, it is certain; but they have the advantage of their augmented labour; yet whether that increase of labour be on the whole a good or an evil, is a confideration that would lead us a great way, and is not for my prefent purpose. But as to the fact of the melioration of their diet, I fhall enter into the detail of proof whenever I am called upon : in the mean time, the known difficulty of contenting them with any thing but bread made of the finest
flour, and meat of the firft quality, is proof fufficient.
I further affert, that even under all the hardships of the last year, the labouring people did, either out of their direct gains, or from charity, (which it seems is now an infult to them) in fact, fare better than they did, in feafons of common plenty, fifty or fixty years ago; or even at the period of my English obfervation, which is about forty-four years. I even affert, that full as many in that class, as ever were known to do it before, continued to fave money; and this I can prove, fo far as my own information and experience extend.
It is not true that the rate of wages has not increased with the nominal price of provifions. I allow it has not fluctuated with that price, nor ought it; and the fquires of Norfolk had dined, when they gave it as their opinion, that it might or ought to rise and fall with the market of provifions. The rate of wages in truth has no direct relation to that price. Labour is a commodity like every other, and rifes or falls according to the demand. This is in the nature of things; however, the nature of things has provided for their neceffrties. Wages have been twice raised in my time, and they bear a full proportion, or even a greater than formerly, to the medium of provifion during the laft bad cycle of twenty years. They bear a full proportion to the refult of their labour. If
we were wildly to attempt to force them beyond it, the ftone which we had forced up the hill would only fall back upon them in a diminished demand, or, what indeed is the far leffer evil, an aggavated price of all the provifions, which are the refult of their manual toil.
There is an implied contract, much stronger than any inftrument or article of agreement between the labourer in any occupation and his employerthat the labour, fo far as that labour is concerned, fhall be fufficient to pay to the employer a profit on his capital, and a compenfation for his risk; in a word, that the labour fhall produce an advantage equal to the payment. Whatever is above that, is a direct tax; and if the amount of that tax be left to the will and pleasure of another, it is an arbitrary tax.
If I understand it rightly, the tax propofed on the farming intereft of this kingdom, is to be le, vied at what is called the difcretion of juftices of peace.
The questions arising on this scheme of arbitrary taxation are thefe-Whether it is better to leave all dealing, in which there is no force or fraud, col. lufion or combination, entirely to the perfons mutually concerned in the matter contracted for; or to put the contract in the hands of those who can have none, or a very remote intereft in it, and little or no knowledge of the subject.
It might be imagined that there would be very little difficulty in folving this queftion; for what man, of any degree of reflection, can think, that a want of interest in any fubject closely connected with a want of fkill in it, qualifies a perfon to intermeddle in any the leaft affair; much lefs in affairs that vitally concern the agriculture of the kingdom, the first of all its concerns, and the foundation of all its profperity in every other matter, by which that profperity is produced.
The vulgar errour on this fubject arifes from a total confusion in the very idea of things widely different in themfelves; thofe of convention, and those of judicature. When a contract is making, it is a matter of difcretion and of intereft between the parties. In that intercourse, and in what is to arife from it, the parties are the mafters. If they are not completely fo, they are not free, and therefore their contracts are void.
But this freedom has no farther extent, wher the contract is made; then their difcretionary powers expire, and a new order of things takes its origin. Then, and not till then, and on a difference between the parties, the office of the judge Commences. He cannot dictate the contract. It' is his business to fee that it be enforced; provided that it is not contrary to pre-exifting laws, or obtained by force or fraud. If he is in any way a maker or regulator of the contract, in fo much he
is difqualified from being a judge. But this fort of confused diftribution of administrative and judicial characters, (of which we have already as much as is fufficient, and a little more) is not the only perplexity of notions and paffions which trouble us in the present hour.
What is doing, fuppofes or pretends that the farmer and the labourer have oppofite interefts;-that the farmer oppreffes the labourer; and that a gentleman called a juftice of peace, is the protector of the latter, and a controul and restraint on the former; and this is a point I wish to examine in a manner a good deal different from that in which gentlemen proceed, who confide more in their abilities than is fit, and fuppofe them capable of more than any natural abilities, fed with no other than the provender furnished by their own private fpeculations, can accomplish. Legislative acts attempting to regulate this part of œconomy, do, at least, as much as any other, require the exacteft detail of circumstances, guided by the fureft general principles that are neceffary to direct experiment and inquiry, in order again from thofe details to elicit, principles, firm and luminous general principles, to direct a practical legislative proceeding.
First, then, I deny that it is in this cafe, as in any other of neceffary implication, that contracting parties fhould originally have had different interefts. By accident it may be fo undoubtedly at the