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Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

ployment many independent workmen who were before engaged in fabrications of a similar natúre. This effect has been placed in a strong point of view by Daniel de Foe, in an address to parliament, entitled, Giving alms no charity. Speaking of the employment of parish children in manufactures he says, For every skein of worsted these poor children spin there must be a skein the less spun by some poor family that spun it before; and for every piece of bays so made in London, there must be a piece the less made at Colchester, or somewhere else. Sir F. M. Eden, on the same subject, observes, that whether mops and brooms are made by parish children or by private workmen, no more can be sold than the public is in want of.?

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1 See extracts from Daniel de Foe, in Sir F. M. Eden's valuable work on the poor, yol. i.

261. 2 Sir F. Eden, speaking of the supposed right of the poor to be supplied with employment while able to work, and with a maintenance when incapacitated from labor, very justly remarks, “ It may however be doubted, whe“ther any right, the gratification of which seems to be im« practicable, can be said to exist;" vol. i. p. 447. No man has collected so many materials for forming a judg. ment on effects of the poor laws as Sir F. Eden, and the result he thus expresses. “ Upon the whole therefore there “ seems to be just grounds for concluding, that the sum

Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

It will be said perhaps that the same reasoning might be applied to any new capital brought into competition in a particular trade or manufacture, which can rarely be done without injuring, in some degree, those that were engaged in it before. But there is a material difference in the two cases. In this, the competition is perfectly fair, and what every man on entering into business must lay his account to. He may rest secure that he will not be supplanted, unless his competitor possess superior skill and industry. In the other case, the competition is supported by a great bounty, by which means, notwithstanding very inferior skill and industry on the part of his competitors, the independent workman may be undersold, and unjustly ex. cluded from the market. He himself perhaps is made to contribute to this competition against his own earnings, and the funds for the maintenance of labor are thus turned from the support of a trade which yields a proper profit, to one which cannot maintain itself without a bounty. It should be

" of good to be expected from a compulsory maintenance är of the poor will be far out-balanced by the sum of evil 16 which it will inevitably create," vol. i. p. 467. I am happy to have the sanction of so practical an inquirer to my opinion of the poor laws. vol. ii.

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Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

observed in general that when a fund for the maintenance of labor is raised by assessment, the greatest part of it is not a new capital brought into trade, but an old one, which before was much more profitably employed, turned into a new channel. The farmer pays to the poor's rates for the encouragement of a bad and unprofitable manufacture, what he would have employed on his land with infinitely more advantage to his country. In the one case, the funds for the maintenance of labor are daily diminished; in the other, daily increased. And this obvious tendency of assessments for the employment of the poor, to decrease the real funds for the maintenance of labor in any country, aggravates the absurdity of supposing that it is in the power of a government to find employment for all its subjects, however fast they may increase.

It is not intended that these reasonings should be applied against every mode of employing the poor on a limited scale, and with such restrictions as may not encourage at the same time their in

I would never wish to push general principles too far, though I think that they ought al. ways to be kept in view. In particular cases, the individual good to be obtained may be so great,

crease.

Subject of Poor Laws, continued.

and the general evil so slight, that the former may clearly overbalance the latter,

The intention is merely to show, that the poor laws as a general system are founded on a gross error ; and that the common declamation on the subject of the poor, which we see so often in print, and hear continually in conversation, namely, that the market price of labor ought always to be sufficient decently to support a family, and that em. ployment ought to be found for all those who are willing to work is in effect to say, that the funds for the maintenance of labor in this country are not only infinite, but might be made to increase with such rapidity, that supposing us to have at present six millions of laborers, including their families, we might have 96 millions in another century; or if these funds had been properly managed since the beginning of the reign of Edward I. supposing that there were then only two millions of laborers, we might now have possessed above four million millions of laborers, or about four thousand times as many laborers as it has been calculated that there are people now on the face of the earth.

CHAPTER VII.

Of increasing Wealth as it affects the Condition

of the Poor.

THE professed object of Dr. Smith's inqu ry is, the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. There is another however perhaps still more interesting, which he occasionally mixes with it, the causes that affect the happiness and comfort of the lower orders of society, which in every na. tion form the most numerous class. I am suffi. ciently aware of the near connexion of these two subjects, and that generally speakingthe causes which contribute to increase the wealth of a state tend also to increase the happiness of the lower classes of the people. But perhaps Dr. Smith has considered these two inquiries, as still more nearly connected than they really are ; at least he has not stopped to take notice of those instances, where the wealth of a society may increase according to his definition of wealth, without having a proportional tendency to increase the comforts of the laboring

part of it:

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