which compose the great mass of the people, live
mainly upon rice, ragi or millet, with salt and occa-
sionally a little oil or chili for seasoning.
This diet can be supplied for about three or four cents
a day. " A quantity sufficient for two meals," says
Gibson, " can be purchased for a half penny" (one
cent).* Turner, who made an extensive tour through
* "Indian Agriculture," in Journal of Asiatic Society, Vol. III.,
p- IO Â°- LofC.
ioo WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
Bengal in the last quarter of the eighteenth century,
speaking of the cost of living among the common peo-
ple, says : " The value of this can seldom amount to
more than one penny a day, even allowing him to
make his meal of two pounds of boiled rice, a due
proportion of salt, oil, vegetables, fish and chili."*
" From the earliest period to which our knowledge
of India extends," says Buckle, f " an immense ma-
jority of the people, pinched by the most galling pov-
erty, and just living from hand to mouth, always have
remained in a state of stupid debasement."
The truth of this is also shown by the fact that in
most parts of India it is established, both by law and
custom, that if a laborer is unable to pay his debts,
which is a common thing, he or his wife and children,
if he has any, become the property of the creditor,
and by this means, in many places, a large portion of
the laborers have become slaves.;}:
Nor is this exceptional. Turner declaresÂ§ that "the
lower ranks without scruple dispose of their children
for slaves to any purchaser, and that, too, for a very
trifling consideration ; nor yet, though in a traffic so
unnatural, is the agency of a third person ever em-
ployed. Nothing is more common than to see a
mother dress up her child and bring it to the market
with no other hope, no other view, than to enhance
the price she may procure for it."
If we had no other evidence of the simple life, low
wages, and consequent social degradation of the masses
* " Embassy to the Court of Thibet," p. n.
f " History of Civilization," pp. 52, 53.
\ Buchanan's " Journey Through the Countries of Mysore, Canara
and Malabar," Vol. II., pp. 320-562.
Â§ " Embassy to the Court of Thibet," pp. 10, 11.
WAGES IN INDIA. ioi
in India, it is fully shown in their civil and religious
code, the " Institute of Menu,"* which, we are told,
" is still the basis of Hindu jurisprudence, and the
principal features remain to the present day." f Ac-
cording to this remarkable code a sudra (laborer) has
no rights that any superior is bound to respect. For
the slightest offence to a Brahmin he can be cruelly
tortured or put to death. For him to read, or even
listen to the reading of the sacred books, is a most
heinous crime, visited by terrible penalty, and he is ex-
pressly forbidden to attempt to accumulate wealth.^
But we are not confined to these general statements
for evidence that wages and the cost of living in India
go hand in hand. Buchanan, unlike most travellers
in that country, did not content himself with a mere
general survey of the social and industrial condition
of the laboring classes, but in each place he visited he
took special pains to ascertain how the people lived
and what their living cost. Also how much they were
paid, and what they were paid in â€” whether in goods
or in money ; also the kind of money, and its value in
* The " Institute of Menu," Buckle thinks, was drawn up about
900 B.C., but some writers have put it at a much more ancient dale.
See also the works of Sir W. Jones.
f Elphinstone's " History of India," p. 83.
% Buckle's " History of Civilization," Vol. I., pp. 56, 57.
Â§ According to Buchanan, wages in India range from six to nine
cents a day in gold ; fifty to fifty-five cents a month when the laborer
gets one meal a day from the master, etc.
For an extensive statement of wages and the cost of living in India,
which we regret we cannot spare the space to quote, the reader is re-
ferred to his " Journey Through the Countries of Mysore, Canara
and Malabar," Vol. I., pp. 124, 125, 133, 171, 216, 217, 298, 390, 415 ;
Vol. II., pp. 12, 19, 22, go, 108, 132, 217, 218, 481, 523, 525, 562 ;
Vol. III., 181, 363, 364, 428, etc.
102 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
His investigations were not confined to a single
locality, but they cover the greater part of Southern
India. They were taken from places so distinct that
different modes of payment prevailed, and even differ-
ent kinds of money were used. Notwithstanding all
this social isolation and industrial difference, real
wages are everywhere clearly governed by the same
law ; for whether we find the laborer receiving his
wages in food, cloth, house rent and money, or in
grain, without house rent, cloth, or money, or all in
money, makes little or no real difference. In all cases
the laborer's income, of whatever it consists, is, gen-
erally speaking, in close conformity to the cost or
standard of living, and that is the only thing to which
wages appear to sustain any uniform consistency.
What Buchanan found in the last quarter of the eigh-
teenth century, the elder Mr. Brassey found in the
middle of the nineteenth.
Speaking of the laborers of India employed by his
father in building railroads in that country, Sir
Thomas Brassey says : * " Their food consists of two
pounds of rice a day, mixed with a little curry, and the
cost of living on this, their usual diet, is only a shil-
ling (twenty-four cents) a week. " " In India, wages,"
says the same writer, " ranged from fourpence to
fourpence-half-penny (nine to ten cents) a day," which
are substantially the same as those given by Buchanan.
If we turn from India to China we find a similar state
of things. While it is difficult to get reliable data as
to the industrial system of China, the little we have
confirms the view we have taken. The testimony of
travellers, inconsistent in many other respects, all goes
* " Work and Wages," p. 88, ninth edition.
MODE OF LIVING IN INDIA AND CHINA. 103
to show that the wants of the laboring classes in China
are very few â€” that their diet consists mainly of rice
and a few vegetables â€” that their costumes are of the
simplest and cheapest kind. They huddle together,
large numbers crowding into small apartments,* almost
without furniture â€” if tin cans, chop-sticks, and board
bunks and benches admit of such a designation â€” and,
consequently, the cost of their living is but a few
cents a day. All this is fully confirmed by what we
see of the habits and modes of living of Chinese labor-
ers who have emigrated to other countries, especially
to Australia and this country â€” -notably in California â€”
where they have settled in sufficiently large numbers
to carry with them their national habits.
While parents do not sell their children in open
market for slaves in China, as in India, they frequently
destroy them because of their inability to give them
a living. " Marriage is encouraged in China," says
Adam Smith, " not by the profitableness of chil-
dren, but by the liberty of destroying them. In all
great towns several (children) are every night exposed
in the streets, or drowned like puppies in the water.
The performance of this horrid office is even said to
be the avowed business by which some people earn
their subsistence." f
True, the political and social institutions of China
are in many respects essentially different, and, perhaps,
* " Their wants are few and they are easily satisfied. The poorer
classes live almost entirely on rice and vegetables, to which they
sometimes add small pieces of fish or meat. Their clothes are of the
cheapest kind, and they are so accustomed to crowded apartments that
house rent forms an insignificant item in a Chinaman's expenditures."
â€” " Encyclopedia Britannica," Vol. V., p. 671.
f " Wealth of Nations," Book I., ch. 8, pp. 55, 56.
104 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
superior, to those of India. In China education is
general, if not universal ; " it being intended," says
Draper,* " that every Chinese shall know how to read
and write ;" and, public officers being selected by "com-
petitive examination, the way to public advancement
is (theoretically, at least) open to all ;" while in India
the laborer not only receives little or no education,
but is forbidden even to associate with those who do.
He is also excluded, by the combined force of caste,
custom, and law, from the possibility of social distinc-
tion or political power. f But, notwithstanding the
constitutional difference between the political and
social institutions of the two countries, there is one
thing in which the sudra of India and the laborer in
China are very similar â€” that is, in their mode and
their cost of living. In both countries the main
diet of the laborers is rice, or some other equally
cheap vegetable, with a little seasoning ; in both
countries house rent is a mere fractional item, and
furniture almost out of the question. In both coun-
tries clothing is of the simplest and cheapest kind ; but
in China, if it is not dearer, a rather larger quantity is
Thus, with the exception of clothing, the cost of
living in the two countries is very much the same.
Therefore, if the doctrine that the cost of living is the
law of wages be true, for the same reason that wages
are low in India may we expect to find them nearly as
low in China, and, so far as reliable data is obtainable,
this is precisely what we do find. Accordingly, while
wages vary from five to eight cents a day in India,
they are from six to ten cents a day in China.
* " Intellectual Development of Europe," p 618.
\ Buckle's " History of Civilization," pp. 56, 57.
STYLE OF LIVING IN ASIA AND ENGLAND. 105
If we leave Asia and go to Europe â€” if we turn our
attention from the industrial systems of India and
China to that of England* â€” though the seeming is
different, the fact is the same. While in other re-
spects the conditions of society in England are entirely
different from those of India and China, we find the
same principle obtains in relation to wages. Although
at the time the laboring classes in England began to
emerge from the system of slavery (or serfdom) to that
of wages, the political, social, and religious institutions
under which they lived were entirely different from
those existing in Asiatic countries, there was still one
feature common to them all, viz., their material con-
In England, as in India and China, the laborer's
mode of life was simple, his wants were few, and his
living was cheap. What rice was to the Hindoo and
Chinese laborers, wheat was to the English. f While
in the former countries the laborer's diet mainly con-
sisted of rice or ragi, with a little fish and seasoning,
in the latter it consisted, for the most part, of bread,
herring, and beer.+ Nor can the habitation of the
* We take England because it is there that the wages system has
been in existence the longest and has become the most general, and
also because reliable industrial data is more abundant in that country
than in any other. As Rogers observes, " the archives of English his-
tory are more copious and more continuous than those of any other
people. . . . The information from which the economical history of
England and the facts of its material progress can be derived, become
plentiful and remain continuously numerous from about the last ten
or twelve years of the reign of Henry III.," or about the middle of
the thirteenth century.
f There are, however, certain other facts, which prove the same
position, that the Englishman of the Middle Ages subsisted on wheaten
bread and barley beer." â€” Rogers's " Work and Wages," p. 60.
\ " At this period (the thirteenth century) the food of laborers con-
106 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
English laborer be said to be any better than that of
his Asiatic brother. We find him in the thirteenth
century existing â€” for living it can hardly be called â€” in
a hut that would barely keep out the snow and rain,
which had neither windows nor chimneys, with the
bare ground for the floor, rushes for a bed, and, some
writers say, " a block of wood for a pillow." * And,
with the exception of an iron pot for cooking, and
earthen vessels, their furniture, which was of the
roughest kind, was home-made, all of which, accord-
ing to the inventories made in the taxing rolls of Ed-
ward I., were valued at a few shillings. f
Consequently, we find his wages correspondingly low.
According to some writers, wages in England, in the
thirteenth century, were only " a penny a day in har-
sisted principally of fish, chiefly herrings, and a small quantity of
bread and beer." â€” Wade's "History of the Middle and Working
Classes,' 1 p. 8.
* " In the houses of these villages (in the thirteenth century) the
floor was the bare earth. . . . The wood fire was on a hub of clay.
Chimneys were unknown, except in castles and manor houses, and
the smoke escaped through the door or whatever aperture it could
reach. The house of the peasant cottager was ruder still." â€” Rogers's
" Six Centuries of Work and Wages," pp. 67, 68.
Wade describes them as even worse. See " History of the Middle
and Working Classes," pp. 8, 9, 12.
f The following is a copy of an inventory of household furniture of
a peasant taken in 1301, six years before the death of Edwar I. :
A maize cup Â£0 os. 6d.
Abed 01 6
A tripod 00 3
A brass pot 01 o
A " cup 00 6
An andiron 00 3}-
A brass dish , 00 6
A gridiron 00 6
A rug or coverlet 00 S
Â£0 5-r. Bid.
â€” Eden's " State of the Poor, ' Vol. I., p. 22.
WAGES IN ENGLAND NINE CENTS A DA V. 107
vest and a half-penny at other seasons." * This is so
very small that one is tempted to regard it as excep-
tional, although Hallam f finds " a bailiff's account of
expenses" more than a century later, in 1387, " where
it appears that a ploughman had sixpence (twelve cents)
a week, and five shillings (one dollar and twenty cents)
a year, with an allowance of diet, which seems to have
been only pottage." Thorold Rogers says :$ "His
wants were few, and most of them were satisfied on
the spot. . . . The bailiff hired hands by the year,
but these were constantly paid in allowances of grain
and a small sum of money. Where one does find
day work paid for, it is at about the rate of twopence
(four cents) a day for men, one penny (two cents) for
women, half-penny (one cent) for boys."
But, as " agricultural laborers were rarely paid by
the day," this price was only paid occasionally, and
was evidently exceptionally high, for, when speaking
of the wages of those who had constant employment
throughout the year, he says : " When the hinds were
hired by the year they received a quarter of corn at, say,
four shillings every eight weeks, and six shillings,
money wages, i.e., about the value of thirty-two shil-
lings a year. They were always, however, boarded in
harvest time and at periods of exceptional employ-
ment. This board, as I find from other sources, was
reputed to cost from one and a quarter to one and a half-
pence (two and a half to three cents) a day, and if
we take six weeks as the time thus employed, the real
wages which they received would be in the aggregate
* Wade's " History of the Middle and Working Classes," p. 8.
f " History of the Middle Ages," Vol. II., ch. 9 ; Part II., p. 310.
% " Work and Wages," pp. 169, 170.
108 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
about thirty-five shillings and eightpence a year,"
equal to seventeen cents a week, or about three cents
a day. If we allow for the difference in the value of
money, a penny then representing about as much silver
as threepence does now, wages would be about from
six to nine cents a day. Thus we see that the cost of
living and also the wages of the English laborer in the
thirteenth century were substantially the same as
those of the laborer in India and China.
Since the close of the thirteenth century, however,
a great difference has arisen between the material as
well as the political and social condition of the work-
ing classes in England and that of those in Asia. In
China, and for the most part in India, the wants (stand-
ard of living) of the laboring classes are practically
unchanged, while in England they have undergone a
most wonderful development. The laborer in China
and the sudra of India still live mainly upon rice,
while the diet of the English laborer to-day includes
not only every variety of home production, but also
many of the delicate luxuries produced in almost every
country on the earth. While the Chinaman still hud-
dles in a hole,* eats with chop-sticks, and sleeps on a
board, and the sudra inhabits a hut without furniture,
the English laborer lives in a house well built and bet-
ter furnished than were those of the nobility in the
thirteenth century. \
Accordingly, if the principle we have laid down is
correct, this radical difference in the wants and, conse-
quently, in the cost of living, between the English and
Asiatic laborer will be accompanied by a proportion-
* An apartment six feet by five can hardly be called anything else,
f Henry II. slept on a bed of rushes.
WAGES IN ENGLAND AND ASIA TO-DAY. 109
ate difference in their wages. And so it is. Indeed,
this is the only circumstance which fully explains the
reason why we find the laborer in Asia to-day work-
ing for about the same wages he received six centuries
ago, while those of the British workman have risen
over a thousand per cent. And if we trace the prog-
ress of the English laborer from the thirteenth century
to the present time we shall find that every movement
in his wages from that day to this has been in ac~
cordance with the same law.
THE RISE OF REAL WAGES IN ENGLAND IN THE
SECTION I. â€” Why Real Wages Rose After the Famine
in 13 1 5-21.
BECAUSE prices sometimes rise without an immedi-
ate proportionate rise in wages taking place, Adam
Smith, and most of the able economists who have
followed him â€” including Thorold Rogers â€” have con-
cluded that wages are not controlled by the cost of liv-
ing, but by supply and demand. It is no valid objection
to our theory to find a marked difference between
wages and the cost of living at any given time. On
the contrary, such disparities are, for reasons already
explained,* in perfect harmony with this theory, and
what we may always expect to find wherever prices are
subject to sudden changes. One of the earliest illus-
trations of the operation of this law is shown in the
first distinctive rise of wages that took place in Eng-
land. It was at the time of the great famine in the
first quarter of the fourteenth century (1315-21).
Through the failure of the crops the cost of raising a
bushel of wheat was greatly increased. Now, wages
did not rise simultaneously with the rise in the price
of provisions â€” they never do â€” but they immediately be-
gan to move in that direction. Had the failure of the
* Chapter II., Sec. V., Pjrt II.
INFERRING FACTS TO SAVE A THEORY. in
crops in 1315 been followed by a good harvest in 13 16
wages might have risen but slightly, as in that case
the prices would have returned to the wages. But the
scarcity continued more or less severe for seven years,
during which time wages increased thirty per cent.*
Thorold Rogers, who is forced to recognize the fact
that a great rise of wages did follow this increase in
the cost of living, is manifestly either very loath to ad-
mit, or unable to see, that they rose on that account,
and he makes a strenuous endeavor to explain it on
the theory of supply and demand. In doing this he
affords a striking illustration of the length to which
great men may sometimes be led in creating facts to
sustain a theory, instead of making their theory wholly
depend upon its ability to explain the facts. Upon
the hypothesis that wages can rise only when laborers
are scarce, f and finding that wages did rise, he con-
cludes that there must have been a falling off in the
supply of laborers ; hence, in order to explain this in-
crease in wages, he assumes that the people must have
died from famine, and says \% " That the famines of this
unfortunate period led to a considerable loss of life is
proved by the unquestionable rise in the rate of agri-
cultural wages after their occurrence." This conclu-
sion is philosophically unsound, and, to say the least,
* " The immediate rise in the wages of labor after the famine of
Edward II. 's reign is as much as from twenty-three to thirty per
cent, and a considerable amount of this becomes a permanent charge
on the costs of agriculture." â€” Rogers's " Work and Wages" p. 218.
f " Now it is generally the case that, unless the laborer is paid at a
rate which leaves him no margin over his necessary subsistence, an in-
crease in the price of his food is not followed by an increase in ths
rate of wages, this result being arrived at only when there is a scar-
city of hands." â€” " Work and Wages," p. 217.
X Ibid., p. 217.
112 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
historically doubtful. If it were true, as assumed by
Mr. Rogers and others, that wages never rise except
when the demand for labor is in excess of the supply,
there could have been no increase of wages in England
from the last quarter of the fourteenth century to the
present time. There has not been a time in the his-
tory of England, from the Black Death to this hour,
when the number of laborers in that country has not
been in excess of the demand.
Still, wages have continued to rise, and are to-day
many hundred per cent higher than they were in the
fourteenth century, when labor was the scarcest it was
ever known to be. Therefore, the fact that wages rose
does not of itself justify the assumption that the popu-
lation had decreased or that the supply of laborers was
inadequate to the demand. Nor is it at all clear that
any such increased mortality occurred as to warrant
such a conclusion. There can be little doubt but that
the famine inflicted terrible hardships upon the poor,
and that many died of starvation, but the evidence ap-
pears to be entirely wanting of any such terrible death-
rate as would cause a sufficiently marked scarcity of
labor to account for an increase of thirty per cent in
wages. Although the historical data of that period is
very meagre, a circumstance which struck down the
population by starvation would hardly have escaped
the notice of the best writers, such as Hallam, Eden,
and others, and especially as it occurred only about
thirty years before the Black Death Plague, which
struck terror into all Europe. Indeed, Mr. Rogers
obviously draws his conclusions as to the increased
death-rate more from inference than from fact, and,
instead of connecting the rise of wages with the histor-
ical fact of the falling off of the population, he infers
THOROLD ROGERS'S DILEMMA. 113
the increased mortality from the fact that wages rose,
and says :* " Considerable loss of life is proved by the
unquestionable rise in the rate of agricultural wages."
The rise of wages does not prove any such thing.
Again, this inference is greatly weakened by another
circumstance which he relates on the same page. " It
is said by chroniclers," he adds, " that in the universal
scarcity numbers of servants and domestics were dis-
charged ; that, made desperate, these people became
banditti ; and that the country folk were constrained
to associate themselves in arms in order to check
the depredations of those starving outlaws." Now,
if this be true â€” and there can be little doubt about it,
both because of the frequency with which it is referred
to by other writers, and that it is just what would
naturally occur under such circumstancesâ€” it greatly
impairs the value of the conclusion above, that the rise
of wages was the result of the increased mortality
among the laboring classes. Indeed, the two cir-
cumstances are incompatible with each other. If
it were true that, through the increased death-rate, la-
borers had become so scarce that thirty per cent higher
wages had to be offered in order to obtain them, it is
impossible that discharged laborers should have be-
come " starving outlaws," and desperate, roving
" banditti," for want of employment.
But, when we view the rise of wages as resulting
from the increased cost of living instead of from the
scarcity of labor, the whole phenomena at once be-
comes explainable and appears perfectly natural, and
the increased idleness and increased wages become
quite compatible with each other. The rise in the
* " Work and Wages," p. 217.