Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

must in the end prove destructive to themselves, as well as to all the other members of the body politic. It cannot be wondered at, that the manufacturing population and interests should have so outgrown themselves, when everything connected with machinery and manufactures is untaxed, and this unnatural premium is held out in favour of manufacturing enterprize. The rates to the poor are paid by the landed interest, but the manufacturing stock in trade is unassessed. In addition to the exemption of all moveable machines, it is a known practice, to assess fixed-plants in trade at such reduced rates as amount to an exemption. Every thing that a working man eats or uses is taxed to the government exigencies. His tea is taxed; his sugar is taxed; his beer is taxed; his tobacco is taxed; his bread is enhanced by a tax; the bricks and timber of which his house is built are taxed; he or his landlord pays taxes for his house, and therefore his rent is taxed. But the machine which is employed as a substitute for men's labour, pays no taxes. The house it is placed in pays no assessed taxes, like other houses; it eats nothing that is taxed; it is wholly unassessed to the poor or the burdens of the state; and the materials of which it is constructed are untaxed. This unjust and impolitic exemption gives an unnatural spur to the increase of machinery, which while it calls for more workmen at certain times, during the temporary prosperity of the particular branch of manufacture, requires them in no proportion whatever to the increase of work performed, and occasions in the end a glut, and a cessation, and a total absence of employment for these increased numbers of working men; and then the

favoured speculators and theorists, who have caused the evil, complain that the population is redundant.

The extension of machinery is a war against the poor.

It is the instrument of oppression in the hands of the rich, to give wealth and capital an advantage in its contest with poverty. The whole history and event of the system has proved this. The only remedy which the working people have against too low wages, is in combinations and strikes. But the argument of the capitalists to show them the impolicy of this step, is that strikes have caused the invention of many ingenious machines, which have superseded more than any others the employment of labourers,—and the operation has been as successful as it professes to be in defeating the workmen.*

The rapid increase of machinery is reducing the workpeople to ruin. It is said, why, see the increase of numbers in manufacturing towns. This increase is drawn thither, and fully employed for a time; just while increased cheapness gives a temporary spur to the demand for a particular article. But, when by all

* A strike of the workmen at Birmingham gave occasion to the invention of the art of rolling gun barrels. A subsequent strike among the welders, caused the invention of the method of welding the barrels under the roller; which is the same as that now used for welding gaspipes.

In the report of the Constabulary Force Commissioners, 1839, will be found an account of the injury to the workmen of Sheffield and other places, from strikes for wages.

The strikes in the potteries, in 1836, caused a loss to the workmen of £155,000.-Report of Statistical Society, London, vol. i.

See account of a strike for wages at Nottingham, by Mr. Felkin. Mr. Slaney's Speech, 1840, pp. 5, 8, 36, 37.

running the same race, they have glutted the markets, and produced disgust by the commonness and inferiority of the article, then these new workmen are all thrown off, and require to be employed and fed; but there is no one to employ or feed them :-while the glut of goods is utterly out of proportion to the number of hands which produced them. In this exigency, the capitalists and machine owners have nothing to do but to let their machines lie idle: which do not feed or cost while keeping, or pay taxes or rates while lying idle, like flesh and blood. These then are folding their hands, and hoarding their riches, and crying aloud that their machines and capital are unproductive; which they make more account of than that thousands of living souls are in misery, who produced their wealth. They do not consider that any portion of their increased capital should go to feed those who produced it; but talk only of relieving the workmen's distress by fresh employment of their machines, which, as soon as employed, will heap to themselves enormous profits, give to the working people a present maintenance, and renew and increase the operation which caused the evil.

Then it is said that, increase production how much soever you will, there will always be a demand, because other producers in the same proportion will have other goods to give in exchange. But, independent of the positive fact that the glut of markets actually exists, and the misery is produced, this has not been considered, that the profits from machines and such multiplied production, goes into the pockets of the machine owners and capitalists, and not into that of the work

men.

It is the machine market which earns everything, and receives all profit; and not the helpless workpeople, who have a subsidiary and powerless position in it, and hold no control, and obtain little benefit from it.

Machines are altogether an advantage to capital and capitalists, and throw the whole control and balance into their power, to the depression of wages and human labour.

It is evident that unless a tax be imposed upon machinery, and manufacturers be made to contribute their fair proportion to the burdens of the country, the equipoise of interests and of population cannot be preserved, and society must be overturned for want of balance. It is said that a tax of a pound upon each horse-power in steam engines, would produce three or four millions. This would do a little to meet the evil. But the operation would be unequal. The four buttonshank machines, worked by one small engine, do the work of some thousands of men. A pumping machine, of the same power, might not supersede one-tenth of the number; and the profits might differ in a still greater proportion. Paper machines supersede ninety-five out of a hundred workmen; occupying only a few yards of space, and paying scarcely any rates or taxes. One of the reasons for using a machine, is to avoid taxes and rates, and the just burthens which other people endure. The most obvious policy is, that every machine should contribute what would have been paid by the workpeople whom it has superseded. It is admitted at all events that taxes ought to bear some proportion to the means of living;—and the system and returns already

L

in use for the purpose of the Income Tax might be applied with success to equalize the contributions towards the poor, as well as to the other public burdens.

An equal tax on machines would be a benefit to the manufacturers.

« AnteriorContinuar »