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Vol. 2.) According to this same Strype, in Somersetshire, in one year, 40 per-
sons were executed, 35 robbers burnt in the hand, 37 whipped, and 183 dis-
charged as "incorrigible vagabonds." Nevertheless, he is pf opinion that this
large number of prisoners does not comprise even a fifth of the actual crimi-
nals, thanks tc the negligence of the justices and the foolish compassion of
the people; and the other counties of England were not better oft in this
respect than Somersetshire, while some were even worse.


Paris. Even at the beginning of Louis XVI.'s reign (Ordinance
of July 13th, 1777) every man in good health from 16 to 60 years
of age, if without means of subsistence and not practising a trade,
is to be sent to the galleys. Of the same nature are the statute of
Charles V. for the Netherlands (October, 1537), the first edict of
the States and Towns of Holland (March 10, 1614), the "Plakaat"
of the United Provinces (June 26, 1649), &c.

Thus were the agricultural people, first forcibly expropriated
from the soil, driven from their homes, turned into vagabonds,
and then whipped, branded, tortured by laws grotesquely terri-
ble, into the discipline necessary for the wage system.

It is not enough that the conditions of labour are concen-
trated in a mass, in the shape of capital, at the one pole of society,
while at the other are grouped masses of men, who have noth-
ing to sell but their labour-power. Neither is it enough that they
are compelled to sell it voluntarily. The advance of capitalist
production develops a working-class, which by education, tra-
dition, habit, looks upon the conditions of that mode of produc-
tion as self-evident laws of Nature. The organisation of the capi-
talist process of production, once fully developed, breaks down
all resistance. The constant generation of a relative surplus-pop-
ulation keeps the law of supply and demand of labour, and there-
fore keeps wages, in a rut that corresponds with the wants of
capital. The dull compulsion of economic relations completes the
subjection of the labourer to the capitalist. Direct force, outside
economic conditions, is of course still used, but only exceptional-
ly. In the ordinary run of things, the labourer can be left to the
"natural laws of production," i.e., to his dependence on capital,
a dependence springing from, and guaranteed in perpetuity by,
the conditions of production themselves. It is otherwise during
the historic genesis of capitalist production. The bourgeoisie,
at its rise, wants and uses the power of the state to "regulate"
wages, i.e., to force them within the limits suitable for surplus-
value making, to lengthen the working-day and to keep the la-
bourer himself in the normal degree of dependence. This is an
essential element of the so-called primitive accumulation.

The class of wage-labourers, which arose in the latter half
of the 14th century formed then and in the following cen-
tury only a very small part of the population, well protected
in its position by the independent peasant proprietary in the
country and the guild-organisation in the town. In country and
town master and workmen stood close together socially. The subor-
dination of labour to capital was only formal i.e., the mode


of production itself had as yet no specific capitalistic character.
Variable capital preponderated greatly over constant. The demand
for wage-labour grew, therefore, rapidly with every accumulation
of capital, whilst the supply of wage-labour followed but slowly.
A large part of the national product, changed later into a fund
of capitalist accumulation, then still entered into the consumption-
fund of the labourer.

Legislation on wage-labour (from the first, aimed at the ex-
ploitation of the labourer and, as it advanced, always equally
hostile to him), 1 is started in England by the Statute of La-
bourers, of Edward III., 1349. The ordinance of 1350 in France,
issued in the name of King John, corresponds with it. English
and French legislation run parallel and are identical in purport.
So far as the labour-statutes aim at compulsory extension of the
working-day, I do not return to them, as this point was treated
earlier (Chap. X., Section 5).

The Statute of Labourers was passed at the urgent instance
of the House of Commons. A Tory says naively: "Formerly the
poor demanded such high wages as to threaten industry and wealth.
Next, their wages are so low as to threaten industry and wealth
equally and perhaps more, but in another way." 2 A tariff of wages
was fixed by law for town and country, for piece-work and day-
work. The agricultural labourers were to hire themselves out by
the year, the town ones "in open market." It was forbidden, under
pain of imprisonment, to pay higher wages than those fixed by the
statute, but the taking of higher wages was more severely punished
than the giving them. [So also in Sections 18 and 19 of the Statute
of Apprentices of Elizabeth, ten days' imprisonment is decreed
for him that pays the higher wages, but twenty-one days for him
that receives them.] A statute of 1360 increased the penalties
and authorised the masters to extort labour at the legal rate of
wages by corporal punishment. All combinations, contracts, oaths,
&c., by which masons and carpenters reciprocally bound them-
selves, were declared null and void. Coalition of the labourers is
treated as a heinous crime from the 14th centurv to 1825, the


year of the repeal of the laws against Trades' Unions. The spirit
of the Statute of Labourers of 1349 and of its offshoots, comes out

1 "Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences be-
tween masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters,"
says A. Smith. "L'esprit des lois, c'est la propriete," says'Linguet.

"Sophisms of Free Trade." By a Barrister. Lond., 1850, p. 206. He adds
maliciously: "We were ready enough to interfere for the employer, can
nothing now be done for the employed?"


clearly in the fact, that indeed a maximum of wages is dictated by
the State, but on no account a minimum.

In the 16th century, the condition of the Labourers had, as
we know, become much worse. The money wage rose, but not
in proportion to the depreciation of money and the correspond-
ing rise in the prices of commodities. Wages, therefore, in reality
fell. Nevertheless, the laws for keeping them down remained in
force, together with the ear-clipping and branding of those "whom
no one was willing to take into service." By the Statute of Appren-
tices 5 Elizabeth, c. 3, the justices of the peace were empowered to
fix certain wages and to modify them according to the time of the
year and the price of commodities. James I. extended these regu-
lations of labour also to weavers, spinners, and all possible cate-
gories of workers. 1 George II. extended the laws against coali-
tions of labourers to manufactures. In the manufacturing period
par excellence, the capitalist mode of production had become
sufficiently strong to render legal regulation of wages as impracti-
cable as it was unnecessary; but the ruling classes were unwilling
in case of necessity to be without the weapons of the old arsenal.

Still, 8 George II. forbade a higher day's wage than 2s. 7yd. for

journeymen tailors in and around London, except in cases of gen-
eral mourning; still, 13 George III., c. 68, gave the regulation of
the wages of silk-weavers to the justices of the peace; still, in
1706, it required two judgments of the higher courts to decide,
whether the mandates of justices of the peace as to wages held
good also for non-agricultural labourers; still, in 1799, an act of

1 From a clause of Statute 2 James I., c. 6, we see that certain cloth-
makers took upon themselves to dictate, in their capacity of justices of the
peace, the official tariff of wages in their own shops. In Germany, especially
after the Thirty Years' War, statutes for keeping down wages were general.
"The want of servants and labourers was very troublesome to the landed pro-
prietors in the depopulated districts. All villagers were forbidden to let rooms
to single men and women; all the latter were to be reported to the authorities
and cast into prison if they were unwilling to become servants, even if they
were employed at any other work, such as sowing seeds for the peasants at a
daily wage, or even buying and selling corn. (Imperial privileges and sanc-
tions for Silesia, I . , 25. ) For a whole century in the decrees of the small German
potentates a bitter cry goes up again and again about the wicked and imper-
tinent rabble that will not reconcile itself to its hard lot, will not be content
with the legal wage; the individual landed proprietors are forbidden to pay
more than the State had fixed by a tariff. And yet the conditions of service
were at times better after the war than 100 years later; the farm servants of
Silesia had, in 1652, meat twice a week, whilst even in our century, districts
are known where they have it only three times a year. Further, wages after
the war were higher than in the following century." (G. Freytag.)


Parliament ordered that the wages of the Scotch miners should
continue to be regulated by a statute of Elizabeth and two Scotch
acts of 1661 and 1671. How completely in the meantime circum-
stances had changed, is proved by an occurrence unheard-of before
in the English Lower House. In that place, where for more than
400 years laws had been made for the maximum, beyond which
wages absolutely must not rise, Whitbread in 1796 proposed a
legal minimum wage for agricultural labourers. Pitt opposed this,
but confessed that the "condition of the poor was cruel." Finally,
in 1813, the laws for the regulation of wages were repealed. They
were an absurd anomaly, since the capitalist regulated his factory
by his private legislation, and could by the poor-rates make up
the wage of the agricultural labourer to the indispensable mini-
mum. The provisions of the labour statutes as to contracts between
master and workman, as to giving notice and the like, which only
allow of a civil action against the contract-breaking master, but
on the contrary permit a criminal action against the contract-
breaking workman, are to this hour (1873) in full force. The barba-
rous laws against Trades' Unions fell in 1825 before the threatening
bearing of the proletariat. Despite this, they fell only in part. Cer-
tain beautiful fragments of the old statute vanished only in 1859.
Finally, the act of Parliament of June 29, 1871, made a pretence
of removing the last traces of this class of legislation by legal
recognition of Trades' Unions. But an act of Parliament of the same
date (an act to amend the criminal law relating to violence, threats,
and molestation), re-established, in point of fact, the former
state of things in a new shape. By this Parliamentary escamotage
the means which the labourers could use in a strike or lock-out
were withdrawn from the laws common to all citizens, and placed
under exceptional penal legislation, the interpretation of which
fell to the masters themselves in their capacity as justices of the
peace. Two years earlier, the same House of Commons and the
same Mr. Gladstone in the well-known straightforward fashion
brought in a bill for the abolition of all exceptional penal legis-
lation against the working-class. But this was never allowed to
go beyond the second reading, and the matter was thus protracted
until at last the "great Liberal party," by an alliance with the
Tories, found courage to turn against the very proletariat that
had carried it into power. Not content with this treachery, the
"great Liberal party" allowed the English judges, ever complais-
ant in the service of the ruling classes, to dig up again the earlier
laws against "conspiracy," and to apply them to coalitions of labour-
ers. We see that only against its will and under the pressure of the


masses did the English Parliament give up the laws against
Strikes and Trades' Unions, after it had itself, for 500 years,
held, with shameless egoism, the position of a permanent Trades'
Union of the capitalists against the labourers.

During the very first storms of the revolution, the French
bourgeoisie dared to take away from the workers the right of
association but just acquired. By a decree of June 14, 1791,
they declared all coalition of the workers as "an attempt against
liberty and the declaration of the rights of man," punishable by
a fine of 500 livres, together with deprivation of the rights of an
active citizen for one year. l This law which, by means of State
compulsion, confined the struggle between capital and labour
within limits comfortable for capital, has outlived revolutions
and changes of dynasties. Even the Reign of Terror left it un-
touched. It was but quite recently struck out of the Penal Code.
Nothing is more characteristic than the pretext for this bourgeois
coup d'etat. "Granting," says Chapelier, the reporter of the Select
Committee on this law, "that wages ought to be a little higher
than they are, ... that they ought to be high enough for him
that receives them, to be free from that state of absolute dependence
due to the want of the necessaries of life, and which is almost
that of slaverv-" yet the workers must not be allowed to come to

/ ' /

any understanding about their own interests, nor to act in common
and thereby lessen their "absolute denendence, which is almost

V J.

that of slavery;" because, forsooth, in doing this they injure "the
freedom of their cidevant masters, the present entrepreneurs,"
and because a coalition against the despotism of the quondam
masters of the corporations is guess what! - is a restoration
of i he corporations abolished by the French constitution. 2

1 Article I. of this law runs: "L'aneantissement de toute espece de corpo-
rations du meme etat et profession etant Tune des bases fondamentales de la
constitution francaise, il est defendu de les retablir de fait sous quelque pre-
texte et sous quelque forme que ce soit." Article IV. declares, that if "des ci-
toyens attaches aux monies professions, arts et metiers prenaient des delibe-
rations, faisaient entre eux des conventions tendantes a refuser de concert ou
a n'accorder qu'a un prix determine le secours de leur Industrie ou de leurs
travaux, les dites deliberations et conventions ... seront declarees inconsti-
tutionnelles, attentatoires a la liberte et a la declaration des droits de
1'homme, &.C."; felony, therefore, as in the old labour-statutes. ("Revolu-
tions de Paris," Paris, 1791, t. Ill, p. 523.)

2 Buchez et Roux: "Histoire Parlementaire," t. x., p. 195.



Now that we have considered the forcible creation of a class of
outlawed proletarians, the bloody discipline that turned them
into wage-labourers, the disgraceful action of the State which
employed the police to accelerate the accumulation of capital
by increasing the degree of exploitation of labour, the question
remains: whence came the capitalists originally? For the expro-
priation of the agricultural population creates, directly, none but
great landed proprietors. As far, however, as concerns the genesis
of the farmer, we can, so to say, put our hand on it, because it is
a slow process evolving through many centuries. The serfs, as
well as the free small proprietors, held land under very different
tenures, and were therefore emancipated under very different
economic conditions. In England the first form of the farmer is
the bailiff, himself a serf. His position is similar to that of the old
Roman villicus, only in a more limited sphere of action. During
the second half of the 14th century he is replaced by a farmer,
whom the landlord provides with seed, cattle and implements.
His condition is not very different from that of the peasant. Only he
exploits more wage-labour. Soon he becomes a metayer, a half-
farmer. He advances one part of the agricultural stock, the landlord
the other. The two divide the total product in proportions deter-
mined by contract. This form quickly disappears in England, to
give place to the farmer proper, who makes his own capital breed
by employing wage-labourers, and pays a part of the surplus-prod-
uct, in money or in kind, to the landlord as rent. So long, during
the 15th century, as the independent peasant and the farm-labour-
er working for himself as well as for wages, enriched themselves
by their own labour, the circumstances of the farmer, and his


field of production, were equally mediocre. The agricultural revo-
lution which commenced in the last third of the 15th century,
and continued during almost the whole of the 16th (excepting,
however, its last decade), enriched him just as speedily as it
impoverished the mass of the agricultural people. 1

The usurpation of the common lands allowed him to augment
greatly his stock of cattle, almost without cost, whilst they yielded
him a richer supply of manure for the tillage of the soil. To this,
was- added in the 16th century, a very important element. At that
time the contracts for farms ran for a long time, often for 99 years.
The progressive fall in the value of the precious metals, and there-
fore of money, brought the farmers golden fruit. Apart from all
the other circumstances discussed above, it lowered wages. A
portion of the latter was now added to the profits of the farm. The
continuous rise in the price of corn, wool, meat, in a word of all
agricultural produce, swelled the money capital of the farmer
without any action on his part, whilst the rent he paid (being
calculated on the old value of money) diminished in reality. 2

1 Harrison in his "Description of England," says "although peradven-
ture foure pounds of old rent be improved to fortie, toward the end of his
term, if he have not six or seven yeares rent lieng by him, fiftie or a hundred
pounds, yet will the farmer thinke his gaines verie small."

2 On the influence of the depreciation of money in the 16th century,
on the different classes of society, see "A Compendious or Briefe Examina-
tion of Certayne Ordinary Complaints of Divers of our Countrymen in these
our Days." By W. S., Gentleman. (London 1581.) The dialogue form of this
work led people for a long time to ascribe it to Shakespeare, and even in 1751,
it was published under his name. Its author is William Stafford. In one place
the knight reasons as follows:

"Knight: You, my neighbour, the husbandman, you Maister Mercer, and
you Goodman Cooper, with other artificers, may save yourselves metely well.
For as much as all things are dearer than they were, so much do you arise
in the pryce of your wares and occupations that ye sell agayne. But we have
nothing to sell whereby we might advance ye price there of, to countervail
those things that we must buy agayne." In another place the knight asks the
doctor: "I pray you, what be those sorts that ye meane. And first, of those that
ye thinke should have no losse thereby? Doctor: I mean all those that live
by buying and selling, for as they buy deare, they sell thereafter. Knight:
What is the next sort that ye say would win by it? Doctor: Marry, all such as
have takings of fearmes in their owne manurance [cultivation] at the old
rent, for where they pay after the olde rate they sell after the newe that is,
they paye for theire lande good cheape, and sell all things growing thereof
deare. Knight: What sorte is that which, ye sayde should have greater losse
hereby, than these men had profit? Doctor: It is all noblemen, gentlemen, and
all other that live either by a stinted rent or stypend, or do not manure
[cultivation] the ground, or doe occupy no buying and selling."


Thus they grew rich at the expense both of their labourers and
their landlords. No wonder therefore, that England, at the end
of the 16th century, had a class of capitalist farmers, rich, con-
sidering the circumstances of the time. l

1 In France, the regisseur, steward, collector of dues for the feudal lords
during the earlier part of the'middle ages, soon became an homme d'affaires,
who by extortion, cheating, &c., swindled himself into a capitalist. These re-
gisseurs themselves were sometimes noblemen. E.g. "C'est li compte que
messire Jacques de Thoraine, chevalier chastelain sor Besangon rent es-seig-
neur tenant les comptes a Dijon pour monseigneur le due et comte de Bourgoi-
gne, des rentes appartenant a la dite chastellenie, depuis xxve jour de decem-
breMGGCLIX jusqu'au xxviiie jour de de"cembre MGCCLX." (Alexis Moriteil:
"Traite de Materiaux Manuscrits etc.," pp. 234, 235.) Already it is evident here
how in all spheres of social life the lion's share falls to the middleman. In the
economic domain, e.g., financiers, stock-exchange speculators, merchants,
shopkeepers skim the cream; in civil matters, the lawyer fleeces his clients; in
politics the representative is of more importance than the voters, the minis-
ter than the sovereign; in religion God is pushed into the background by the
"Mediator," and the latter again is shoved back by the priests, the inevitable
middlemen between the good shepherd and his sheep. In France, as in Eng-
land, the great feudal ttfritories were divided Into innumerable small home-
steads, but under conditions incomparably more unfavourable for the peo-
ple. During the 14th century arose the farms or terriers. Their number grew

1 1
constantly, far beyond 100,000 They paid rents varying from 7^ to-r- of the

product in money or in kind. These farms were fiefs, sub-fiefs, &,c., according
to the value and extent of the domains, many of them only containing a
few acres. But these farmers had rights of jurisdiction in some degree over the
dwellers on the soil; there were four grades. The oppression of the agricultural
population under all these petty tyrants will be understood Monteil says that
there were once in France 160,000 judges, where to-day, 4,000 tribunals,
including justices of the peace, suffice.






Tne expropriation and expulsion of the agricultural popula*
tion, intermittent but renewed again and again, supplied, as we
saw, the town industries with a mass of proletarians entirely uncon-
nected with the corporate guilds and unfettered by them; a for-
tunate circumstance that makes old A. Anderson (not to be con-
founded with James Anderson) in his "History of Commerce,"
believe in the direct intervention of Providence. We must still
pause a moment on this element of primitive accumulation. The
thinning-out of the independent, self-supporting peasants not only
brought about the crowding together of the industrial proletariat,
in the way that GeofTroy Saint Hilaire explained the condensation
of cosmical matter at one place, by its rarefaction at another. l
In spite of the smaller number of its cultivators, the soil brought
forth as much or more produce, after as before, because the revo-
lution in the conditions of landed property was accompanied by
improved methods of culture, greater co-operation, concentra-
tion of the means of production, &c., and because not only were the
agricultural wage-labourers put on the strain more intensely, 2
but the field of production on which they worked for themselves,
became more and more contracted. With the setting free of a
part of the agricultural population, therefore, their former means
of nourishment were also set free. They were now transformed into
material elements of variable capital. The peasant, expropriated
and cast adrift, must buy their value in the form of wages, from
liis new master, the industrial capitalist. That which holdc good
of the means of subsistence holds with the raw materials of industry

1 In his "Notions de Philosophie Naturelle." Paris, 1838.

2 A point that Sir James Steuart emphasises.


dependent upon home agriculture. They were transformed into
an element of constant capital. Suppose, e.g., a part of the West-
phalian peasants, who, at the time of Frederick II., all span flax,
forcibly expropriated and hunted from the soil; and the other
part that remained, turned into day-labourers of large farmers.
At the same time arise large establishments for flax-spinning and

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