requires another such day. That the love of lucre induces an easy belief in such miracles, and that sycophant doctrinaires are never wanting to prove them, is vouched for by the following incident of historical celebrity.





One fine morning, in the year 1836, Nassau W. Senior, who may be called the bel-esprit of English economists, well known, alike for his economic "science," and for his beautiful style, was summoned from Oxford to Manchester, to learn in the latter place, the Political Economy that he taught in the former. The manufacturers elected him as their champion, not only against the newly passed Factory Act, but against the still more menacing Ten-hours' agitation. With their usual practical acuteness, they had found out- that the learned Professor "wanted a good deal of finishing;" it was this discovery that caused them to write for him. On his side the Professor has embodied the lecture he received from the Manchester manufacturers, in a pamphlet, entitled: "Letters on the Factory Act, as it affects the cotton manufacture." London, 1837. Here we find, amongst others, the following edifying passage: "Under the present law, no mill in which persons under 18 years of age are employed, ... can be worked more than 11 1/2 hours a day, that is 12 hours for 5 days in the week, and nine on Saturday.

"Now the following analysis (!) will show that in a mill so worked, the whole net profit is derived from the last hour. I will suppose a manufacturer to invest £100,000: — £80,000 in his mill and machinery, and £20,000 in raw material and wages. The annual return of that mill, supposing the capital to be turned once a year, and gross profits to be 15 per cent., ought to be goods worth £15,000.... Of this £115,000, each of the twenty-three half-hours of work produces 5-115ths or one twenty-third. Of these 23-23rds (constituting the whole £115,000) twenty, that is to say £100,000 out of the £115,000, simply replace the capital; — one twenty-third (or £5,000 out of the £115,000) makes up for the deterioration of the mill and machinery. The remaining 2-23rds, that is, the last two of the twenty-three half-hours of every day, produce the net profit of 10 per cent. If, therefore (prices remaining the same), the factory could be kept at work thirteen hours instead of eleven and a half, with an addition of about £2,600 to the circulating capital, the net profit would be more than doubled. On the other hand, if the hours of working were reduced by one hour per day (prices remaining the same), the net profit would be destroyed — if they were reduced by one hour and a half, even the gross profit would be destroyed."10

 Apart from efforts in principle, Senior's statement is confused. What he really intended to say was this: The manufacturer employs the workman for 11 1/2 hours or for 23 half-hours daily. As the working-day, so, too, the working year, may be conceived to consist of 11 1/2 hours or 23 half-hours, but each multiplied by the number of working-days in the year. On this supposition, the 23 half-hours yield an annual product of £115,000; one half-hour yields 1/23 x £115,000; 20 half-hours yield 20/23 x £115,000 = £100,000, i.e., they replace no more than the capital advanced. There remain 3 half-hours, which yield 3/23 x £115,000 = £5,000 or the gross profit. Of these 3 half-hours, one yields 1/23 x £115,000 = £5,000; i.e., it makes up for the wear and tear of the machinery; the remaining 2 half-hours, i.e., the last hour, yield 2/23 x £115,000 = £10,000 or the net profit. In the text Senior converts the last 2/23 of the product into portions of the working-day itself.

And the Professor calls this an "analysis!" If, giving credence to the out-cries of the manufacturers, he believed that the workmen spend the best part of the day in the production, i.e., the reproduction or replacement of the value of the buildings, machinery, cotton, coal, &c., then his analysis was superfluous. His answer would simply have been: — Gentlemen! if you work your mills for 10 hours instead of 11 1/2, then, other things being equal, the daily consumption of cotton, machinery, &c., will decrease in proportion. You gain just as much as you lose. Your work-people will in future spend one hour and a half less time in reproducing or replacing the capital that has been advanced. — If, on the other hand, he did not believe them without further inquiry, but, as being an expert in such matters, deemed an analysis necessary, then he ought, in a question that is concerned exclusively with the relations of net profit to the length of the working-day, before all things to have asked the manufacturers, to be careful not to lump together

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.