Chapter 8c

Wages in Great Britain Icon

January 17, 2020

27 In Great Britain, wages are in excess of what is needed to bring up a family.

We do not need to calculate the lowest sum needed to raise a family because there are many plain symptoms that wages are not at their lowest rates.

28 1. Summer wages are different from winter wages in Great Britain.

Summer wages are always highest. The maintenance of a family is most expensive in winter due to high fuel costs. Therefore, wages are highest when fuel costs are at their lowest. Wages are not regulated by the cost of fuel, but by the quantity and value of the work done under such a cost. A worker should= save part of his summer wages to defray the increased cost of fuel in the winter, and reduce his expences so that they do not exceed what is needed to maintain his family throughout the year. A slave, however, does not need to do this as his daily subsistence would be proportioned by his master to his daily necessities.

29 2. Wages in Great Britain do not fluctuate with the price of goods which vary monthly and yearly.

But in many places, the money price of labour stays uniform even for half a century. If in these places the working poor can maintain their families in dear years, then they are= at ease in times of moderate plenty, and in affluence in times of extraordinary cheapness. In many parts of Great Britain during the past 10 years, wages have not increased even if the price of provisions has increased. However, wages have increased in some places due to the increase in the demand for labour.

30 3. The price of goods varies more yearly than wages.

On the other hand, wages vary more from place to place than the price of goods. The poor buy all things by retail. Retail prices are generally cheaper in urban areas than rural areas. But wages in an urban area are 20-25% higher. 18 pence a day is the common wage in London. At a few miles from the town, it falls to 14 and 15 pence. 10 pence may be its price in Edinburgh. A few miles away, it falls to 8 pence, which are the usual wages in the low country of Scotland. Wages in Scotland vary much less than in England. Wages in a big town are frequently 20-25% higher than a few miles outside the town. Such differences in prices are not always enough to induce humans to move from one district to another. But it is enough to move commodities from= one district to another, and one end of the world to another. This movement would reduce their prices until they arrive at a natural level. Of all sorts of luggage, humans are the most difficult to transport. Therefore, if the labouring poor can maintain their families where wages are lowest, they would be in affluence where wages are highest.

31 4. The variations in wages are frequently opposite with the price of food both in place and in time.

32 Grain is the food of common people.

The price of grain is higher in Scotland than in England from where Scotland gets large amounts of it. English wheat in Scotland cannot be sold dearer than the Scottish wheat of the same quality that competes with it. The quality of the grain depends chiefly on the quantity of flour which it yields at the mill. In this respect, English grain is so much superior to Scotch grain. Even if English grain is more expensive in terms of size, it is cheaper in terms of quality and weight. On the contrary, wages are higher in England than in Scotland. If the labouring poor can maintain their families in Scotland, they must be in affluence in England. Oatmeal is the food of the common people in Scotland. It is much inferior to the food of the common people of England. This difference in food is the effect of the difference in their wages. I have frequently heard it to be misrepresented as the cause. A man’s coach does not make him rich. A man who walks does not make him poor. Rather, a rich man has a coach, and a poor man walks on foot.

33 In the 17th century, grain was dearer in both Scotland and England than at the 18th century.

This is a fact that cannot be doubted. In Scotland, this fact is proven by the valuations of the public fiars, which are annual valuations made on oath, according to the actual state of the markets of all the grain in the country. This is the same case in France and probably in most other European countries.

The clearest proof is in France. Though grain was dearer then than now, labour was much cheaper.

If the labouring poor could bring up their families then, it must be easier for them now. In the 17th century, the day wages of common labour in Scotland were= 6 pence in summer and 5 pence in winter, 6 pence is still paid in some parts of the Highlands and Western Islands, 8 pence a day is paid in most of the low country, and 10 pence, sometimes a 12 pence a day in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carron, Ayr-shire, etc. where the demand for labour has risen The improvements of agriculture, manufactures and commerce began much earlier in England than in Scotland. The demand and price for labour must have increased with those improvements. In the 17th-18th centuries, wages were higher in England than in Scotland. In 1614, the pay of a foot soldier was 8 pence a day, the same as today. Their pay was regulated by the usual wages of common labourers where foot soldiers are commonly drawn from. img Sir Matthew Hale

Lord Chief Justice Hales looked into this issue very closely during the time of Charles the 2nd.

He computed the necessary expence of a labourer’s family at 120 pence a week or 6,240 pence a year [120 * 52]. This family is made up of= the father, mother, two children able to do something, and two not able. {His scheme for the poor’s maintenance is in Burn’s History of the Poor Laws} He supposes that if they cannot earn this by their labour, they must make it up by begging or stealing. Mr. Gregory King’s skill in political arithmetic was extolled by Doctor Davenant.

In 1688, Mr. King computed the labourers’ ordinary income to be 3,600 pence a year for a family of three and a half persons. His calculation corresponds with that of judge Hales. Both suppose the weekly expence of such families to be about 20 pence a head. Both the money income and expence of such families have increased considerably since then. The price of labour cannot be ascertained very accurately anywhere.

Different wages are often paid at the same place for the same labour, according to= the workers’ different abilities and their masters’ easiness or hardness Where wages are unregulated, we can only determine what are the most usual. Laws can never regulate wages properly, though it has often pretended to do so.

34 The real compensation of labour is the real quantity of the necessaries and conveniencies of life it can procure to the labourer.

In the 18th century, it has increased more than its money price. Grain and other food of the working poor have become much cheaper. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, and cabbages, were formerly raised by the spade but now raised by the plough. They do not cost half the price which they used to do 30-40 years ago. Apples and onions consumed in Great Britain were imported from Flanders in the last century. The improvements in linen and cloth manufactures furnish the labourers with cheaper and better clothing. The improvements in metal manufactures furnish them with better tools and household furniture. Soap, salt, candles, leather, and fermented liquors, have become much dearer because of the taxes on them. However, they are not much consumed by the labouring poor, so their effect is minimal. The increase in the real and nominal wages of the working poor is proven by the common complaint that they will not be contented with the same goods and lodging which satisfied them before. Poverty and the Importance of High Wages in Increasing the Industry of the Poor


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