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XI.

bages, &c.

If in the progress of improve- C HA P. ment, therefore, the real price of one fpecies of food neceffarily rises, that of another as neceffarily falls, and it becomes a matter of more nicety to judge how far the rise in the one may be compensated by the fall in the other. When the real price of butcher's-meat has once got to its height (which, with regard to every fort, except, perhaps, that of hog's flesh, it seems to have done through a great part of England more than a century ago), any rise which can afterwards happen in that of any other sort of animal food, cannot much affect the circumstances of the inferior ranks of people. The circumstances of the poor through a great part of Eng. land cannot surely be so much distressed by any rise in the price of poultry, fish, wild-fowl, or venison, as they must be relieved by the fall in that of potatoes.

In the present season of scarcity the high price of corn no doubt distresses the poor. But in times of moderate plenty, when corn is at its dinary or average price, the natural rife in the price of any other fort of rude produce cannot much affect them. They suffer more, perhaps; by the artificial rise which has been occafioned by taxes in the price of some manufactured commo dities; as of falt, foap, leather, candles, malt, beer, and ale, &c.

or

2 Effeas

BOOK

I.

Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon the real Price of

Manufactures.

IT is the natural effect of improvement, how:

ver, to diminish gradually the real price of almost all manufactures. That of the manufac. turing workmanship diminishes, perhaps, in all of them without exception. In consequence of better machinery, of greater dexterity, and of a more proper division and distribution of work, all of which are the natural effects of improvement, a much smaller quantity of labour becomes requisite for executing any particular piece of work; and though, in consequence of the flourishing circumstances of the society, the real price of labour should rise very considerably, yet the great diminution of the quantity will generally much more than compensate the greatest rise which can happen in the price.

There are, indeed, a few manufactures, in which the necessary rise in the real price of the rude materials will more than compensate all the advantages which improvement can introduce into the execution of the work. In carpenters and joiners work, and in the coarser fort of cabinet work, the neceffary rise in the real price of barren timber, in consequence of the improvement of land, will more than compensate all the advantages which can be derived from the best machinery, the greatest dexterity, and the most proper division and distribution of work.

But

XI.

But in all cases in which the real price of the C HA P. rude materials either does not rise at all, or does not rise very much, that of the manufactured commodity finks very considerably.

This diminution of price has, in the course of the present and preceding century, been most remarkable in those manufactures of which the materials are the coarser metals. A better movement of a watch, than about the middle of the last century could have been bought for twenty pounds, may now perhaps be had for twenty shillings. In the work of cutlers and locksmiths, in all the toys which are made of the coarser metals, and in all those goods which are commonly known by the name of Birmingham and Sheffield ware, there has been, during the same period, a very great reduction of price, though not altogether so great as in watch-work. It has, however, been sufficient to astonish the workmen of every other part of Europe, who in many cases acknowledge that they can produce no work of equal goodness for double, or even for triple the price. There are perhaps no manufactures in which the division of labour can be carried further, or in which the machinery employed admits of a greater variety of improvements, than those of which the materials are the coarser metals.

In the clothing manufacture there has, during the fame period, been no fuch sensible reduction of price. The price of fuperfine cloth, I have been affured, on the contrary, has, within these five-and-twenty or thirty years, risen fomewhat

in

VOL. II.

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There may,

BO O K in proportion to its quality; owing, it was said,

to a considerable rise in the price of the mate:
rial, which consists altogether of Spanish wool,
That of the Yorkshire cloth, which is made al-
together of English wool, is said indeed, during
the course of the present century, to have fallen
a good deal in proportion to its quality. Qua-
lity, however, is so very disputable a matter,
that I look upon all information of this kind as
somewhat uncertain. In the clothing manu-
facture, the division of labour is nearly the same
now as it was a century ago, and the machinery
employed is not very different.
however, have been some small improvements in
both, which may have occasioned fome reduction
of price.

But the reduction will appear much more fenfible and undeniable, if we compare the price of this manufacture in the present times with what it was in a much remoter period, towards the end of the fifteenth century, when the labour was probably much less subdivided, and the ma. chinery employed much more imperfect, than it is at present.

In 1487, being the 4th of Henry VII., it was enacted, that “ whosoever shall fell by retail a “ broad yard of the finest scarlet grained, or of “ other grained cloth of the finest making, « above fixteen shillings, shall forfeit forty shil“lings for every yard fo fold.” Sixteen shillings, therefore, containing about the fame quantity of silver as four-and-twenty shillings of our present money, was, at that time, reckoned

XI.

not an unreafonable price for a yard of the finest c H A P. cloth; and as this is a sumptuary law, such cloth, it is probable, had usually been fold fomewhat dearer. A guinea may be reckoned the highest price in the present times. Even though the quality of the cloths, therefore, should be supposed equal, and that of the present times is most probably much superior, yet, even upon this supposition, the money price of the finest cloth appears to have been considerably reduced since the end of the fifteenth century. But its real price has been much more reduced. Six shillings and eight-pence was then, and long afterwards, reckoned the average price of a quarter of wheat. Sixteen shillings, therefore, was the price of two quarters and more than three bushels of wheat. Valuing a quarter of wheat in the present times at eight-and-twenty shillings, the real price of a yard of fine cloth must, in those times, have been equal to at least three pounds fix shillings and fixpence of our present money The man who bought it must have parted with the command of a quantity of labour and subfiftence equal to what that sum would purchase in the present times.

The reduction in the real price of the coarse manufacture, though considerable, has not been so great as in that of the fine.

In 1463, being the 3d of Edward IV., it was enacted, that " no servant in husbandry, nor “ common labourer, nor servant to any artificer “ inhabiting out of a city or burgh, shall use or wear in their clothing any cloth above two

CC 2

“ shillings

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