Page images
PDF
EPUB

These moral considerations will either he interwoven with the principal sub jects or embodied in separate articles at the conclusion of each number, as may appear most appropriate and convenient.

Although we esteem this branch of our subject as properly belonging to political economy, yet as it has not, hitherto, been treated in connection with that science, we shall call it “moral economy;" and, by that title, shall refer to it as occasion may require.

The field of investigation upon which we are about to enter, is not only extensive, but, in many respects, new; and although fertile, yet will require much labor, to make it fruitful. These considerations, however, will not disconrage us, if we shall be so fortunate as to receive the approbation of our readers.

DISTRIBUTION OF LABOR. The primary wants of man in a state of nature, are food, and protection from the inclemencies of the seasons. These are merely physical: civilization adds others equally essential; and, among the first of these, we must place mental and moral improvement. Hence the propriety of uniting moral with political economy; for, although food and shelter may sustain man in a state of nature, civilization can only be sustained by mental and moral culture.

The spontaneous productions of nature are only sufficient to support a sman number of human beings in a state of barbarism : all beyond this limit is the result of labor and knowledge combined; and without this combination the earth must have remained a wilderness, and the human family a horde of savages.

The inhabitants of the earth having increased far beyond its capacity to sustain them without labor, and, for the reason that labor cannot be profitably directed without knowledge, it will be readily perceived that not only the comfort but the existence, also, of a large portion of the human family depend upon a wise direction of their employment.

Man is so constituted, that a certain degree of exercise is necessary to insure a healthful condition of his physical nature; and, without this, all physical enjoyments lose their relish and fail to delight his senses. This exercise was doubtless designed by the Creator to be appropriated to the production of the means of human comfort, and to redeem man from a state of barbarism. Ilence we conclude, that, if every individual were to appropriate that exercise which is necessary to sustain health, to some useful purpose, that this would be sufficient to produce the appliances of every reasonable comfort, and leave ample time for mental improvement, and social intercourse.

Were it not so, little, or perhaps, no advancement could be made in civilization, except by such as should avail themselves of the labor of others; therefore, if all should not be ;'oyed according to their capacity, and a considerable portion should subsist upon the labor of other hands than their own, the burthen would become unequal; and those upon whom it should bear the heaviest, must faint by the way, and fall behind in the march of civilization.

An equal distribution of labor among the inhabitants of a country, and a judicious direction of this labor to proper objects, constitute the true basis of political economy: and the permanent prosperity of every country, must mainly depend upon the observance of this proposition.

In considering the condition of the inhabitants of a country, we must constantly bear in mind that there are certain wants, which are common to every individual. Among these, are food and clothing, shelter from the inclemencies of the seasons, exercise and rest, intellectual improvement and moral instruction; and if these wants are not supplied, physical suffering, and moral degradation, are the necessary consequences. Every departure from an equal distribution of labor, tends to deprive a portion of the community of the means of supplying some one or more of these wants.

To illustrate the effects of an unequal distribution of labor, we will suppose, that a community of ten individuals should have so ordered their time, as to labor seven hours out of twenty-four; and, finding this sufficient to produce every reasonable comfort, they should appropriate the other seventeen hours to mental improvement, social intercourse, rest, and refreshment. Now, if one of the number should, from any cause, cease to labor, and subsist by the labor of the other nine, they would be compelled to forego a portion of their former comforts, or add forty-six minutes per diem to their time of employment. If two of this community should cease to labor, and subsist in like manner upon the labor of the other eight, these must increase their time to eight hours and forty-five minutes. And if three should cease to labor, and still draw their subsistence from the labor of the remaining seven, the latter would be required to labor just terr hours per diem; or, otherwise, suffer great diminution in their former comforts. This withdrawal of three out of ten would leave the remaining seven but little time to devote to mental improvement or to social intercourse; and, moreover, the time for improvement would not only be lessened, but the faculties of the mind would be impaired also; for when physical exercise is carried beyond a certain point, it ceases to afford pleasure, and produces a state of suffering, arising from exhaustion; and the mind, sympathizing with the body, loses its elasticity and yields to the physical demand for repose.

Hence we perceive how important it is to the advancement of civilization, that every individual should be usefully employed; for it is utterly impracticable that any considerable portion of a community can subsist upon the labor of the other without producing a state of want and moral degradation ; and it may be well questioned, whether the moral condition of any country can improve, where as many as three individuals out of every ten, who are capable, should, from any cause, fail to be engaged in some useful employment. It 'not sufficient that those who are not usefully employed should pay in money for all that they consume;

this would not alter the case in the end -- it would not lessen the amount of productive labor required to support the community; for, money being the

F

representative of labor, which was performed, perhaps, a thousand years ago, in digging the metal from the mines, can, in no way, lessen the amount of labor at present required to support the human family.

DIRECTION OF LABOR. It is not only important that labor should be equally distributed, but it is like a important, to the prosperity of every country, that it should be wisely directed; for it may happen that although every individual should contribute their just proportion of labor, yet, because of its unwise application, the community may not prosper. The worn out and exhausted condition of the old States of the Union, south of the Potomac, afford undeniable and convincing proof in support of this proposition ; and, as far as we are acquainted with history, the same causes have produced like effects in every country which has pursued the policy of transporting their agricultural products in a raw condition, and have relied upon foreign countries for a considerable portion of their necessary comforts.

The effects of this policy are the same as those produced by the voluntary withdrawal of a portion of the community from useful employment. The intrinsic value of a commodity is in no way increased by transportation, but often diminished. A barrel of flour affords no more nutriment at Manchester, England, than in Missouri, where it is produced ; nor will a yard of cloth manufactured at Manchester, make a larger or more comfortable garment in Missouri, than it would at the place of its production. Therefore, the labor and cost incident to the transportation of these articles, is so much withdrawn from the ranks of the producers, and necessarily tends to increase the burthen of labor.

We do not wish to be understood as proposing to dispense with the transportation and exchange of commodities; on the contrary, we hold that these exchanges are necessary to the advancement of civilization, and to the general distribution of human comfort. Our principal design is to show the importance of locating the producers and consumers, of every commodity, as near to each other as the nature of the case will admit. This we esteem the true policy of the people of every country; and upon its adoption, or rejection, will depend their ultimate prosperity.

The first, and perhaps the most important, consideration connected with this policy, is the preservation and proper application of the natural wealth of the country. This consists, mainly, of the soils, minerals, forests, and water courses ; and if these should be improvidently destroyed, or suffered to lie unimproved, no artificial means can secure permanent prosperity.

The soil being the most important object of natural wealth, its preservation and improvement should ever be kept in view, and regarded as the leading principle in the policy of every country. But it is searcely possible to preserve the soil — much less to improve it -- in a country that exports its products in the form of raw material; for every article exported carries with it a portion of the productive properties of the soil, which never return; and to that extent lessens the

Datural wealth of the country. Besides this, none other than the principal staples can be profitably exported; and as these are generally great exhausters of the soil, a rotation of crops becomes necessary; and if not adopted, the land must lie idle to rest. From this cause, much of the land in staple-growing districts is thrown out of cultivation, and finally abandoned as worthless; for where there is no demand for the alternating crop, the cultivation of the staple is usually contin. ued until the crop will no longer pay for the labor bestowed upon it. But if the manufacturer and artist were located near the agriculturalist, then there would be not only a better demand for the staples, but for the more bulky and perishable articles also. Root crops, grass, the produce of the orchard and garden, with many other articles, which are now of little or no value, would find a ready and profitable market; and thus the whole area of arable land would be cultivated, and made to produce a valuable crop every year. By thus increasing the variety of products, much employment would be found suitable for children and other weak hands, that are of little or no use in the production of the great staples.

The forest, also, which, in many parts of the country, is considered a disadvantage, rather than a benefit, would become a great source of wealth. The water power would likewise be appropriated to useful purposes; and even the rocks, which are now considered worse than useless, would, in many places, if not every where, in time, become sources of wealth. But what shall we say of the extensive coal fields of the Mississippi Valley? In these there slumbers a physical power surpassing the combined strength of the whole human race; nor is the political and moral power which these are calculated to impart, less important. But all these are of but little utility to a country which is merely agricul. tural; and more especially to those staple-growing districts which rely upon foreign consumers for a market, and upon foreign producers for clothing and other articles of comfort and convenience. . This reliance upon foreign consumers for a demand, may be considered among the great evils of the present age; especially in the Valley of the Mississippi. In producing for foreign markets, we come in competition with the producers of every other part of the earth. Let us examine the true nature of this competition. Two busbels of wheat is produced in Missouri and transported to Liverpool. When it arrives there, the grower, supposing him still to be the owner, gives one bushel to pay for the transportation of the other. Thus giving away one half of the produce of his own labor for the privilege of competing with the wheat grower in England. Now if we assume that it requires the same amount of labor to produce a bushel of wheat in each country, and that the English farmer gives one half of his crop to the land owner, as rent, still he would be in a better condition than the Missouri farmer, who had given one half of his wheat to pay the transportation and other incidental charges: for rent, or the interest on the capital invested in land, must be paid in Missouri, in addition to the cost of transportation. Labor is also cheaper in England than here; which is also an advantage in favor of the English farmer. Hence it will be perceived, that notwithstanding the cheapness and fertility of soil, combined with all the advantages of a cheap and free government, yet, owing to an absurd and defective system of political economy, labor in Missouri is no better rewarded than in England, where it is burthened with the support of a landed aristocracy and the most expensive government upon earth.

But we not only come in competition with the English farmer, but with all Europe ; and especially with the northern part, where farm labor costs less than half the price paid for it in Missouri; and the cost of transportation thence to England is much less than from this country. We do not forget (for we desire to treat the subject fairly,) that, so far as the products of the Missouri farmer are consumed at home, he possesses an advantage over the foreign producer; but we consider this advantage more than counterbalanced by the increased price which he pays for clothing and articles of foreign manufacture. But there are other evils, arising from this reliance upon foreign markets, besides the loss of labor.

The foreign demand depends upon so many contingencies that it is impossible for the farmer in Missouri to form any reliable opinion in regard to the markets ; and being often disappointed, he becomes discouraged, and produces less than he would if a reasonable calculation could be made in regard to the demand and the price of his produce. This uncertainty also has a tendency to encourage speculation and over-trading in both merchandize and produce, and gives rise to a spirit of restlessness and discontent throughout the land. Furthermore, it subjects us to the influence of the pecuniary revulsions which take place in foreign countries, which adds greatly to the ntingencies and accidents incident to every branch of industry. These are evils which no foresight can guard against, and to which we must always be subject, so long as our present policy continues.

Nor is the commerce between the Mississippi Valley and the eastern States, in some respects, upon a footing more favorable to the west than that with Great Britain. Twenty cents per bushel may be assumed as the average price of corn in Missouri; and if a farmer here should desire to exchange corn for cotton cloth worth ten cents per yard, he would get two yards for one bushel of corn: while the farmer in Massachusetts would get seven yards of cloth, of the same quality, for the same quantity of corn — valuing the cloth at nine cents per yard, and the corn at sixty-three cents per bushel, which would be about the average price there of the two articles. And thus the farmer in Missouri gets only two-sevenths as much of every article of eastern manufacture, which he pays for in corn, as does the corn grower in Massachusetts. Indeed, if the articles should be heavy and bulky, the freight upon them would increase this ratio of cost to the Missouri farmer. It is, beyond question, owing to the proximity of the producers of com and cotton cloth, that secures this advantage to the eastern farmer; for five bushels out of the seven of the Missouri corn goes to pay the carriers, commission merchants, and others, engaged in effecting the exchange. If the farmer desired to

« PreviousContinue »