farmer, a master manufacturer, or merchant, 
though they did not employ a single workman
could generally live a year or two upon the 
stocks, which they have already acquired
Many workmen could not subsist a week, few 
could subsist a month, and scarce any a year, 
without employment. In the long run, the 
workman may be as necessary to his master as 
his master is to him; but the necessity is not 
so immediate. 
We rarely hear, it has been said, of the 
combinations of masters, though frequently of 
those of workmen. But whoever imagines
upon this account, that masters rarely combine
is as ignorant of the world as of the subject
Masters are always and everywhere in 
a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination
not to raise the wages of labour above 
their actual rate. To violate this combination 
is everywhere a most unpopular action
and a sort of reproach to a master among 
his neighbors and equals. We seldom, indeed, 
hear of this combination, because it is 
the usual, and, one may say, the natural state 
of things, which nobody ever hears of. Masters
too, sometimes enter into particular combinations 
to sink the wages of labour even below 
this rate. These are always conducted 
with the utmost silence and secrecy till the 
moment of execution; and when the workmen 
yield, as they sometimes do without resistance
though severely felt by them, they 
are never heard of by other people. Such 
combinations, however, are frequently resisted 
by a contrary defensive combination of the 
workmen, who sometimes, too, without any 
provocation of this kind, combine, of their 
own accord, to raise the price of their labour
Their usual pretences are, sometimes the high 
price of provisions, sometimes the great profit 
which their masters make by their work. But 
whether their combinations be offensive or defensive, 
they are always abundantly heard of. 
In order to bring the point to a speedy decision, 
they have always recourse to the loudest 
clamour, and sometimes to the most shocking 
violence and outrage. They are desperate
and act with the folly and extravagance of 
desperate men, who must either starve, or 
frighten their masters into an immediate compliance 
with their demands. The masters
upon these occasions, are just as clamorous 
upon the other side, and never cease to call 
aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, 
and the rigorous execution of those laws which 
have been enacted with so much severity against 
the combination of servants, labourers
and journeymen. The workmen, accordingly, 
very seldom derive any advantage from the 
violence of those tumultuous combinations
which, partly from the interposition of the 
civil magistrate, partly from the superior steadiness 
of the masters, partly from the necessity 
which the greater part of the workmen are 
under of submitting for the sake of present 
subsistence, generally end in nothing but the 
punishment or ruin of the ringleaders
But though, in disputes with their workmen
masters must generally have the advantage
there is, however, a certain rate, below 
which it seems impossible to reduce, for any 
considerable time, the ordinary wages even of 
the lowest species of labour
A man must always live by his work, and 
his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain 
him. They must even upon most occasions 
be somewhat more, otherwise it would 
be impossible for him to bring up a family
and the race of such workmen could not last 
beyond the first generation. Mr. Cantillon 
seems, upon this account, to suppose that the 
lowest species of common labourers must 
everywhere earn at least double their own 
maintenance, in order that, one with another, 
they may be enabled to bring up two children
the labour of the wife, on account of 
her necessary attendance on the children, being 
supposed no more than sufficient to provide 
for herself. But one half the children 
born, it is computed, die before the age of 
manhood. The poorest labourers, therefore, 
according to this account, must, one with 
another, attempt to rear at least four children
in order that two may have an equal chance 
of living to that age. But the necessary 
maintenance of four children, it is supposed
may be nearly equal to that of one man. The 
labour of an able-bodied slave, the same 
author adds, is computed to be worth double 
his maintenance; and that of the meanest labourer
he thinks, cannot be worth less than 
that of an able-bodied slave. Thus far at 
least seems certain, that, in order to bring up 
a family, the labour of the husband and wife 
together must, even in the lowest species of 
common labour, be able to earn something 
more than what in precisely necessary for their 
own maintenance; but in what proportion
whether in that above-mentioned, or in any 
other, I shall not take upon me to determine. 
There are certain circumstances, however, 
which sometimes give the labourers an advantage
and enable them to raise their wages 
considerably above this rate, evidently the 
lowest which is consistent with common humanity
When in any country the demand for those 
who live by wages, labourers, journeymen
servants of every kind, is continually increasing
when every year furnishes employment 
for a greater number than had been employed 
the year before, the workmen have no occasion 
to combine in order to raise their wages
The scarcity of hands occasions a competition 
among masters, who bid against one another 
in order to get workmen, and thus voluntarily 
break through the natural combination of master 
not to raise wages
The demand for those who live by wages
it is evident, cannot increase but in proportion