Adam Smith's Simplified Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 10h, Part 2: Profit and wage inequality from policy; Restrictions on Immigration -- Poor Laws
Chapter 10h, Part 2: Profit and wage inequality from policy: Restrictions on Immigration -- Poor Laws
97Thirdly, the policy of Europe obstructs the free circulation of labour and stock from employment to employment and from place to place.
It creates a very inconvenient inequality in the different employments.
98 The statute of apprenticeship obstructs the free circulation of labour from one employment to another, even in the same place.
The exclusive privileges of corporations obstruct it from one place to another, even in the same employment.
99 Often, one manufacture gives high wages while another gives only bare subsistence.
The manufacture with high wages is in an advancing state.
It has a continual demand for new workers.
The one with low wages is in a declining state
It has a super-abundance of workers which is continually increasing.
Those two manufactures may sometimes be in the same town or neighbourhood, without assisting one another.
The statute of apprenticeship may stifle the advancing manufacture
Both the statute and an exclusive corporation can stifle the decaying one.
The operations of different manufactures are so much alike, that the workers could easily change trades if those absurd laws did not prevent them.
For example, the arts of weaving plain linen and plain silk are almost the same.
The weaving plain woollen is similar to weaving linen and silk.
A linen or silk weaver can work with wool in a few days.
If any of those three capital manufactures decayed, the workers might go to the other which was in a better condition.
Their wages would neither rise in the thriving, nor sink too low in the decaying manufacture.
The linen manufacture in England is open to everybody by a particular statute.
But it is not much cultivated in the country.
It cannot accommodate the workers of other decaying manufactures.
The statute of apprenticeship renders such workers unqualified for other employments.
It makes them work as common labourers.
Such workers thus choose to go to the parish.
100Whatever obstructs the free circulation of labour from one employment to another obstructs the free circulation of stock because stock depends very much on the labour it employs.
Corporation laws obstruct labour circulation more than stock.
It is much easier for a wealthy merchant to have the privilege of trading in a town corporate, than for a poor artificer to work in it.
101 The obstruction of the corporation laws to the free circulation of labour is common in Europe.
That obstruction caused by the poor laws is peculiar to England.
It gives difficulty to a poor man to:
obtain a settlement and
work in any parish other than his own.
The corporation laws only obstruct the free circulation of the labour of artificers and manufacturers.
The difficulty of obtaining settlements obstructs the circulation of common labour.
This is perhaps the most unjust law in England.
Unjust Immigration Laws
102 After the destruction of monasteries, the poor were deprived of the charity of those religious houses
The 43rd of Elizabeth, c. 2, enacted that:
every parish is bound to provide for its own poor
the overseers of the poor should be appointed and funded by a parish rate
103 This statute imposed on every parish the need to provide for their own poor.
It became important to determine who was the poor of each parish.
The 13th and 14th of Charles II determined that 40 days undisturbed residence should give any person settlement in any parish.
Within that time, churchwardens or overseers could remove any new inhabitant to his old parish, unless he:
rented a tenement of £10 a year or
could give similar security
104 Some frauds were committed through this statute
Parish officers bribed their own poor to go secretly to another parish.
They would conceal themselves for 40 days to gain new settlement there.
The 1st of James II enacted that the 40 days undisturbed residence only begins from the time of written notification to a churchwarden of the parish where he moved to.
This notification has:
the number of his family.
105 But parish officers were not always honest.
They received the notice and did nothing.
The 3rd of William III further enacted that the 40 days residence starts only from the publication of such written notice on Sunday in the church immediately after service.
106 According to Doctor Burn, this new settlement by the poor is very seldom obtained.
The acts prevent the poor from coming into a parish clandestinely.
The rule to give notice only forces the parish to remove them.
By giving notice, the poor compel the parish to allow his settlement uncontested or to remove him.'
107 This statute rendered it impracticable for a poor man to gain a new settlement by 40 days inhabitancy.
There were four other ways to gain new settlement into a parish:
By being taxed to parish rates to pay for the poor
By being elected and serving a year into an annual parish office
By serving an apprenticeship in the parish
By being hired and continuing the service for the rest of the year
108 The first two ways require the public deed of the whole parish.
They are aware of the consequences of adopting any new-comer who only has his labour to support him.
109 No married man can gain any settlement in the last two ways.
An apprentice is rarely ever married.
No married servant can gain any settlement by being hired for a year.
The principal effect of introducing settlement by service was to put out the old fashion of hiring for a year.
Such a practice was so customary in England.
To this day, the law intends that every servant should be hired for a year.
But masters are not always willing to give their servants a settlement by hiring them this way.
Servants are not always willing to be so hired because every last settlement discharges all the foregoing settlements.
They might lose their original settlement where they were born and where their parents live.
110 No independent worker can likely gain new settlement by apprenticeship or by service.
Because the churchwarden could remove him at will unless he rented a tenement for £10 a year which is impossible.
They cannot afford security above £30.
It was enacted that the purchase of a freehold estate of less than £30 as security is insufficient to gain settlement.
No labourer can afford such an amount.
111 Certificates were invented to circulate labour prevented by those statutes.
The 8th and 9th of William III enacted that other parishes should receive any person who brings a certificate from his old parish.
He should not be removed until he is chargeable.
The parish which gave the certificate should pay for his maintenance and removal.
He can only gain settlement by renting a tenement of 10 pounds a year as security, or serving for one whole year only.
The 12th of Queen Anne stat. I, C. 18 enacted that the servants and apprentices of such a certificated man cannot gain any settlement in the same parish.
112 Doctor Burn judiciously explains the effect of those statutes on the free circulation of labour.
113The good reasons for requiring certificates are:
To prevent settlement by any means
To make the old parish pay the current parish for their removal and maintenance
This discourages parishes from granting certificates.
114 The moral seems that certificates should always be required by a poor man's new parish and be very seldom granted by his old parish.
115 Doctor Burns is the very intelligent author of the History of the Poor Laws.
Certificates authorize the parish officer to imprison a poor man who settles in the new parish and prevents him from leaving his current parish.
116 The certificate is not proof of good behaviour, only that the person belongs to his old parish
The parish officers can grant or refuse it.
A mandamus* was proposed to compel the churchwardens to sign a certificate.
It was rejected as strange by the court of King's Bench.
[* a judicial writ commanding a person to perform a public or statutory duty]
117 The obstruction of the law of settlements by certificates for the labouring poor is probably the cause of the very unequal price of labour in England in places near each other.
A single man, may sometimes reside by toleration without a certificate.
But a married man will be removed if he tried to settle in a new parish.
The scarcity of hands in one parish cannot always be relieved by their super-abundance in another.
This is different in Scotland or other countries where there is no difficulty of settlement.
In such countries, wages may sometimes:
rise in a great town or wherever there is an extraordinary demand for labour
sink gradually the farther from the town until they fall back to the common rate
In those countries there are no sudden differences in the wages of neighbouring places as found in England
In England, it is often easier for a poor man to pass natural boundaries of mountain ridges than the artificial boundary of a parish.
Both boundaries can cause wage inequality between two places.
118 Removing a man who has committed no misdemeanour from the parish where he chooses to reside, is a violation of natural liberty and justice.
The common people of England misunderstand and are so jealous of the liberty of others.
For more than a century, they have exposed themselves to this oppression without a remedy.
The law of settlements was never the object of any popular clamour.
Common people have clamoured against the general warrants which were abusive but not oppressive.
Almost all poor men in England of 40 years of age have been most cruelly oppressed by this ill-contrived law of settlements.
119 The ancient practice of setting wages by laws have now gone entirely into disuse.
120 Doctor Burns says:
After over 400 years, the attempt to strictly require or limit everyone to equal wages should by now be ended to allow industry and ingenuity.
121 Particular acts of parliament, however, still attempt to regulate wages.
The 8th of George III prohibits all master tailors in London and five miles round it, from giving more than 31.5 pence a day, except during a general mourning.
Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters.
When the regulation is in favour of the workers, it is always just and equitable.
It is sometimes not just when it is in favour of the masters.
The law which obliges masters to pay their workers in money and not in goods is just and equitable.
It is in favour of the workers.
It imposes no real hardship on the masters.
It only obliges them to pay that value in money, which they pretended to pay in goods.
When masters combine to reduce wages, they commonly enter into a private agreement with certain penalties.
If workers enter into a contrary combination not to accept of a certain wage under a certain penalty, the law would punish them very severely.
If the law was dealt impartially, it would also punish the masters in the same way.
The 8th of George III is in favour of the masters.
It forces workers to accept a certain wage which masters attempt to establish by such combinations.
The workers correctly complain that it puts the most industrious on the same footing as the ordinary worker.
122 In ancient times, it was usual to attempt to regulate the profits of merchants by rating prices.
The assize of bread is the only remnant of this ancient usage.
Where there is an exclusive corporation, it might be proper to regulate the price of this necessity.
When there is no corporation, the competition will regulate it much better than any assize.
The 31st of George II fixed the assize of bread.
It could not be done in Scotland because it depended on the office of clerk of the market which does not exist there.
The 3rd of George III remedied this.
The lack of an assize created no inconvenience nor advantage.
In most Scottish towns, however, there are bakers' corporations which are not very strictly guarded.
123 The proportion between wages and profit in different employments is not much affected by the advancing, stationary, or declining state of the society.
The changing state of society affects the general rates of wages and profit initially.
But in the end, those changes affect the rates equally in all employments.
Therefore the proportion between them must remain the same.
It cannot be altered by such changes in the state of society, at least for any considerable time.