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British merchants would operate to prevent that distress, intended to be brought upon Britain by our stoppage of commerce with her; for the merchants, receiving this money, and no orders with it for further supplies, would either lay it out in public funds, or in employing manufacturers to accumulate goods for a future hungry market in America upon an expected accommodation, by which means the funds would be kept up and the manufacturers prevented from murmuring. But against this it was alleged, that injuries from ministers should not be revenged on merchants; that the credit was in consequence of private contracts made in confidence of good faith; that these ought to be held sacred and faithfully complied with; for that, whatever public utility might be supposed to arise from a breach of private faith, it was unjust, and would in the end be found unwise, honesty being in truth the best policy. On this principle the proposition was universally rejected; and though the English prosecuted the war with unexampled barbarity, burning our defenceless towns in the midst of winter, and arming savages against us, the debt was punctually paid, and the merchants of London have testified to the Parliament, and will testify to all the world, that from their experience in dealing with us they had, before the war, no apprehension of our unfairness, and that, since the war, they have been convinced that their good opinion of us was well founded. England, on the contrary, an old, corrupt government, extravagant and profligate nation, sees herself deep in debt, which she is in no condition to pay, and yet is madly and dishonestly running deeper, without any possibility of discharging her debt but by a public bankruptcy.
It appears, therefore, from the general industry, fru gality, ability, prudence, and virtue of America, that
she is a much safer debtor than Britain; to say nothing of the satisfaction generous minds must have in reflecting, that by loans to America they are opposing tyranny, and aiding the cause of liberty, which is the cause of all mankind.
AUGMENTATION OF WAGES,
WHICH WILL BE OCCASIONED IN EUROPE BY THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
I know not whether these Reflections have ever before appearea in an English dress. They are here presented in a translation from the French, as published in CASTÉRA's edition of the author's writings. Castéra says, that a copy was found among Franklin's papers, and inserted in the Journal d'Economie Publique, (du 10 Ventôse an V.); but, not being able to procure that journal, he translated it from the German version contained in the Minerva, edited by Archenholz. The following is a translation from Castéra's version; and, after having thus passed through two languages, the style and other characteristics of the original must of course be essentially changed, and not for the better. But the sentiments and train of reasoning are perhaps retained with sufficient accuracy, and, even in this imperfect form, it may be deemed worthy of the author. Whether his views are not more ingenious than sound, and whether they have been confirmed by experience, are at least questionable points. The paper was probably written in France, during the American Revolution, or immediately after the peace. EDITOR.
THE independence and prosperity of the United States of America will raise the price of wages in Europe, an advantage of which I believe no one has yet spoken.
The low rate of wages is one of the greatest defects in the political associations of Europe, or rather of the old world.
If the term wages be taken in its widest signification, it will be found that almost all the citizens of a large state receive and pay wages. I shall confine my remarks, however, to one description of wages, the only one with which government should intermeddle, or which requires its care. I mean the wages of the lowest class, those men without property, without capital, who live solely by the labor of their hands. This is always the most numerous class in a state; and, consequently, that community cannot be pronounced happy, in which, from the lowness and insufficiency of wages, the laboring class procure so scanty a subsistence, that, barely able to provide for their own necessities, they have not the means of marrying and rearing a family, and are reduced to beggary, whenever employment fails them, or age and sickness oblige them to give up work.
Further, the wages under consideration ought not to be estimated by their amount in money, but by the quantity of provisions, clothing, and other commodities, which the laborer can procure for the money which he receives.
Unhappily, in all the political states of the old world, , a numerous class of citizens have nothing to live upon but their wages, and these are inadequate to their support. This is the real cause of the misery of so many day-laborers, who work in the fields, or in manufactories in towns; of pauperism, an evil which is spreading every day, more and more, because governments attempt to check it by feeble remedies only; of depravity of morals; and of almost every crime. The policy of tyranny and of commerce has overlooked and disguised these truths. The horrible maxim, that the people must poor, in order that they may remain in subjection, is still held by many persons of hard hearts and perverted understanding, with whom it were useless to contend. Others, again, think that the people should be poor,
from a regard for the supposed interests of commerce. They believe that to increase the rate of wages would raise the price of the productions of the soil, and especially of industry, which are sold to foreign nations, and thus that exportation and the profits arising from it would be diminished. But this motive is at once cruel
It is cruel; for, whatever may be the advantages of foreign commerce, if, in order to possess them, half the nation must languish in misery, we cannot without crime endeavour to obtain them, and it becomes the duty of a government to relinquish them. To desire to keep down the rate of wages, with the view of favoring the exportation of merchandise, is to seek to render the citizens of a state miserable, in order that foreigners may purchase its productions at a cheaper rate; it is, at most, attempting to enrich a few merchants by impoverishing the body of the nation; it is taking the part of the stronger in that contest, already so unequal, between the man who can pay wages, and him who is under the necessity of receiving them; it is, in one word, to forget, that the object of every political society ought to be the happiness of the largest number.
This motive is, moreover, ill-founded; for, in order to secure to a nation a profitable export for the products of its agriculture and manufactures, it is not necessary that the rate of wages should be reduced so extremely low, as we find it in almost all the countries of Europe. It is not the wages of the workman, but the price of the merchandise, that should be lowered, in order that this merchandise may be sold to foreign nations. But men have always neglected to make this distinction. The wages of the laborer are the price of his day's work The price of merchandise is the sum it costs to gather the produce of the soil, or prepare any product