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the private trader, and then they must ruin themselves. Are we not losing our knowledge, in this trading country, of some of the first principles of trading ?
Yet the whole policy of government and of politicians has been to lower profits, and to increase the necessity which is hastening on these evils. The scheme is, to live rather by many profits than good ones ;-by cheapness rather than by the quality of the article. The same system which is going on among the manufacturers, merchants and tradesmen, is extended also to labourers the minimum price is to be given for their work. The government have been aiding this, not only by their theories and example, but also by setting the value of services low, whenever salaries and payments are fixed by act of parliament; and also by permitting Sunday labour, and extending the hours and means of business, -as by two post deliveries in one day.
The effect of Sunday labour, and late hours of business, is not so much to increase the quantity of work done, as to lower the price of labour. A workman is paid no more for seven days' labour in the week, than for six, as appears from those trades in which it is practised. This is so much in the nature of things, that in places which the poor frequent, if a lodger occupies his bed for the six days, on the seventh day, Sunday, it is given to him for nothing. This would not continue to be the custom, if working on Sunday were to become the general practice. Clerks and shopboys are not paid more, now that the hours of business are increased, and though more work is now done in a given time. But the quality of the labour,
well as the quality of goods, must be deteriorated by this increase of quantity; and much more effective services might be rendered in all departments, through proper retirement and relaxation. Piranelli, who keeps some thousands of horses in Ireland, for all kinds of vehicles, gave in evidence before the House of Commons, that he never employed his horses on Sunday, except for the government mails; because a horse could do more in six days than in seven. If he worked six days in the week, he could do eight miles a day, equal to forty-eight miles in the week; if he worked seven days, he could only do six miles a day, equal to forty-two. And no doubt, if we would abstract ourselves entirely from business on Sundays, even our thoughts and conversation, we should do nearly as much business in the six days, as we can do by applying part of our labour and thoughts during the seventh day,--and do it much more effectively.
But this is the system with regard to labour, as it is with regard to wares and merchandize, to increase the quantity and the cheapness,-at the expense of the goodness. We hope to obtain the trade of foreign nations by the cheapness of our articles. This is a race in which we are sure to be beat. The quality is made a secondary consideration. We can teach foreigners to manufacture bad articles easily, and as fast as ourselves; they could not so readily learn to make them of the first quality. There was a time when English goods were characterized chiefly by their excellence; and English trading by its integrity. The endeavour now is to characterize and recommend them by cheapness:--and this is to be at the sacrifice of goodness, in both these respects. “Cheap and bad" is now the characteristic of all kinds of manufactures and merchandize. There was the time when foreigners would have some English goods at whatever cost, and in breach of whatever fiscal and commercial laws, on account of their excellence.*
The time seems to be coming, when from grasping at what is inordinate, by unworthy means, we shall lose what we have got; and our goods will be scouted from every market for their worthlessness, as our merchants for their want of faith. English goods ought to be esteemed, throughout the world, for their quality, not their cheapness; and English merchants, not for their wealth and activity and avarice, but for their honour and credit. +
* Napoleon's army in Germany was supplied and clothed with English manufactures, in breach of his own Berlin decrees.
† A naval officer relates, that he saw a consignment of muskets and other arms opened, which had been ordered from England by an African king. When examined, they were so badly made, and so utterly useless, that they were at once refused and sent back again. The goods had been shipped by a mercantile house of high character, and were made at Birmingham.
A friend informs me, that while he was resident in Madeira, all the English crockery that was imported was what is called wasters, that is, crooked, mishapen and imperfect pieces; such as are set aside as unfit for the regular market.
The Duke of Wellington makes complaint, in his despatches, of the dishonesty of English contractors. He says, “The truth is, that English tradesmen, particularly contractors, are become so dishonest, that no reliance can be placed on any work, particularly in iron, done by any contract. I have the same complaint of some carts made for the commissariat; eighteen out of twenty-five of which broke on a good road, without loads, in eighty miles.”— Freneda, 11th May, 1813.
Six or seven years ago, some consignments of bad Sheffield goods,
But ruin and demoralization go hand in hand, for the the reasons above given, and for others which will be added. As the cheapness and bad quality of goods must go on together inseparably, so the low character of the goods and tradesman must progress together, and be inseparable. And the character and disposition of the customers partakes of, and gives cause and countenance to the same system; so that the disorder and demoralization of all society goes on as one operation.
We do not employ the tradesmen in our own neighbourhood, and make ourselves acquainted with them ; and continue our custom to them for acquaintance sake. Neither do we choose them for their personal character, and depend upon them and remain with them on this ground; and make character and integrity our security, and so call for and encourage it. But we are easily led to change our tradesmen for some trifling reason, from fancy and caprice; or because the best fashion is no longer there; or because we are attracted by an elegant window.
In this manner we encourage character less, while there are greater and greater temptations invading it; and so the only refuge of the tradesman is the advertizing attractions, and other tricks and inventions, by which those thrive who pander best to the cloyed and morbid appetites of the fickle consumers. No one can reckon upon a steady custom and having the name of a first-rate maker forged upon them, destroyed the character of English cutlery in America. Most naval men can give accounts of the miserable quality of the goods consigned to the colonies and foreign markets.
It was during the late war that this system made its first great and rapid strides; though it had begun and been noticed at an earlier period.
established connection for more than two or three
years ; and so all must resort to those speculative contrivances, by which all cannot live, but by which a favoured few may make large fortunes in a few seasons, and by which the greater number of the competitors in the same speculation must be ruined.
The fickleness of fashion requires a constant change; and therefore nothing need be made substantial and lasting. Outside appearance is the desire of the general customers; therefore appearance and outside show are the qualities chiefly aimed at and supplied ; and solidity is disregarded.* Good quality and substance are dispensed with, while at the same time they are more than the manufacturer can afford; and so he is left and tempted to practise all those arts of deception and cunning which are of kin to outside show, and encouraged by the love of appearance.t
• Exs.--Paper, linens,' cottons, toys, furniture, house-building. Winter-felled oak will hardly fetch more than spring-felled timber, though it is at least three times as durable.
Loaf sugar refined from West India sugar fetches no higher price than that refined from East India sugar: because its appearance is the same, though its sweetness is much greater.
+ The habits of the Quakers are contrary to what is here described ; and they are among the most successful in trade. They very seldom fail in business; and at the same time seldom make large fortunes. They are really tradesmen. Their practice in trade is this,—they keep the best articles, and only the best; and charge high prices for them. Their articles are known and depended upon for their goodness, not for their cheapness. We do not see articles ticketed with the price, or bills advertizing cheap goods, in their windows. They thrive in trade, and continue it steadily during their lives. They do not speculate in a large way, or in new and dangerous undertakings; and so they neither are frequently ruined, nor become suddenly rich.