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by the badness of trade. When trade is good, the masters are not the only gainers; their workpeople have more to do, and get higher wages besides. A time of prosperity to the masters, is also a time of prosperity to their men, for large profits and high wages go together; and a time of loss to tho men, is also a time of loss to the masters, for low wages and small profits go together.
Some people have the same false notion about the value of labour, that they have about the value of other things; they think it depends, or ought to depend, on its usefulness. Such persons are astonished to hear of a celebrated singer's earning a hundred pounds in one night, as many have done, while a country surgeon has often to work for a whole year, to get the same sum. Perhaps most of such persons would say it is a shame that a singer's labour should sell for so much more than a surgeon's, or a minister's labour, which is so much more useful. But it is no more a shame for it to be so, than it is that gold should sell for so much more than iron, which is so much more useful than gold. The best singers are as well paid as they are, because it is so difficult to get the knowledge and skill they require, and because such good voices as theirs are very few, and there are so many people willing to pay well for hearing them; that is, the value of their labour, like the value of nearly every other person's, depends on the difficulty of performing it, and on the supply and demand.
LESSON 69.-WAGES, PRICE OF PROVISIONS,
EQUALITY OF WAGES. THROUGH not knowing on what the value of their labour really depends, working-men often make mistakes, which sometimes lead them into much trouble, as we shall presently see. One of these, is the mistake of supposing that the price of food, or provisions, has anything to do with the price of labour. It is a very
common thing for work-people to think their masters ought to raise their wages when provisions are dear; and it is almost as common for them to demand higher wages at such a time, and to call their masters very unjust men, for not giving it to them. They do not consider that the dearness of provisions cannot make their labour worth any more to their masters, and that to receive more for their labour without its being any the more valuable, would be to take more for it than it is worth; that is, it would be unjust to do so. Besides, if it is fair for the men to get a higher price for their labour, because food is dear, it is just as fair for the masters to charge more for their goods, for the same reason; yet no one would give them
and therefore they could not afford to pay their men more for their labour. People would think any master a very silly fellow, for trying to raise the price of his goods, because of the dearness of food; they would ask him what the price of provisions has to do with the price of his goods, and why he should try to charge more for them when bread is dear, than when hats or shoes are dear. As a master could not get more for his goods, because of the high price of provisions, he would lose by giving his men more for their labour; for he would be giving extra money to them, without getting anything in return for it, either from his workpeople, or from his customers. It is true that masters have sometimes given their men a little more for their labour, when everything has been very dear for a long time, but when they have done so, it has been because they have felt pity for their men, and have given it to them out of kindness, and not because their men have had any right to it.
Again, if the workman has a right to more for his labour, when food is dear, the shopkeeper has just as much right to a higher price for his goods, for the same
But it is quite certain that the workman would think it very unfair, to have to pay more to the shoemaker for a pair of boots, because of the dearness
of bread, and he would grumble very much at being made to do it. Yet it would be just as right for the shoemaker to do this, as for the workman to charge more for his labour. Every other person, would have the same right to charge more for what he had for sale; and if all were to do so, the workman, having been paid more for his labour, because of the dearness of provisions, would in his turn, have to pay more for coal, clothes, furniture, and rent, and then what would he be the better off ?
When a workman asks for a higher wage, because food is dear, he makes out that the
value of his labour depends, or ought to depend, on the price of provisions. Now if it ought to depend on that at one time, it ought to do so at all times, and therefore when provisions are cheap, as well as when they are dear. This you see, would be nothing but fair, and therefore when provisions are cheap, wages ought to be low; and if men ought to ask for high wages when things are dear, they ought to offer to work for low wages, when they become cheap. But workmen never think of doing this, and if their masters were to expect them to do so, the men would say “No, our labour is just as valuable to you now, as when provisions are dear; and so long as there is plenty of work for us at the wage we ask, we shall not take less, no matter what may be the price of food; and if you will not give it to us, we shall go to work for others who will." Men sometimes earn high wages, when provisions are cheap, because the demand for their labour, happens just then, to be larger than the supply. It sometimes happens too, that men earn but low wages, when provisions are very dear, because at the time, the supply of their labour is larger than the demand for it.
There have been some workpeople so foolish as to say that it would be better for all who work at the same trade, to be paid alike; for there to be an equality of wages. But it is impossible to show how that could be,
and very easy to show that it would be very unjust to the workpeople, and very bad for trade.
It would be unjust to the workpeople, for then the industrious man would get no more than the idle, although he produced more work. It would be unjust to the skilful man, for he would get no more for his work of a good quality, than the unskilful man would get for his work of a poor quality. It would be still more unjust to the industrious and skilful man, to give him no more than the idle and unskilful man, when his work is not only larger in quantity, but better in quality also.
An equality of wages would be a bad thing for trade as well, as it would soon put an end to the industrious and skilful men, and prevent others from becoming such. For it cannot be expected, that the industrious and skilful men, would continue to labour hard, and to take pains with their work, when they saw the idle and unskilful, being paid as much as themselves. Then too, there would be nothing to encourage those who are not industrious and skilful, to become so; for it is the high wage that such workmen get, which tempts others to work harder and better. Only think what a bad thing it would be for this country, if all the industrious and skilful men, were to become idle and careless about their work, and if all who are so, were to remain what they are! Yet this is what would surely take place, if all men were paid alike. Fortunately, very few people now think there ought to be an equality of wages, for they see what would be the sure consequence.
LESSON 70.-HAMLET'S SOLILOQUY ON
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, born at Stratford-on-Avon, 1564, died 1616, the finest dramatist England has produced. His works have exercised more influence on the English language than those of any other writer, many of his expressions have become household words,” and all our literary men consciously or unconsciously borrow from him. Hallam says of him: "The name of Shakespeare is the greatest in our literature; it is the greatest in all literature. No man ever came near him in the creative powers of his mind. No man had ever such strength at once, and such variety of imagination.”
To be, or not to be, that is the question :