When the question of slavery is not considered, there is little to say respecting the condition of master and its correlative conditions, constituted by the different kinds of servants. All these conditions are the effects of contracts; these contracts the parties interested may arrange to suit themselves.
The condition of master, to which the condition of apprentice corresponds, is a mixed condition: the master of an apprentice is at the same time master and tutor; tutor for the art which be teaches, master as to the profit which he derives from him.
The work that the apprentice does, after the period at which the produce of his labour is worth more than what it costs to develop his talent, is the salary or reward of the master for his former pains and expenses.
This salary will naturally be greater or less according to the difficulty of the art. Some arts may be learnt in seven days; others may require seven years. The competition among the dealers regulates the price of these mutual services, as well as of all other objects of commerce: and here, as in other cases, industry finds its just reward.
The greater number of governments have not adopted this free system. They have sought to establish what they call order among the professions; that is, to substitute an artificial for a natural arrangement, that they might have the pleasure of regulating that, which would regulate itself. As they have meddled with what they did not understand, they have been most frequently led by an idea of uniformity in objects of very different natures. For example, the ministers of Elizabeth fixed the same term of apprenticeship, the term of seven years, for the most simple as well as for the most difficult arts.
The regulating mania disguised itself under a common pretext. It would perfect the arts; it would prevent there being any bad workmen; it would secure the credit and the honour of the national manufactures. For the accomplishment of this object, natural and simple method presented itself: permission to every one to use his own judgment, to reject the bad, to choose the good, to determine his preferences by merit, and thus to excite emulation in all the artists by the liberty of competition. But no:---it determined that the public was not in a condition to judge of the quality of any work; but so soon as a workman had been employed upon a certain kind of labour a certain number of years, his work ought to be regarded as good. That the proper question to be asked respecting an artisan is not, does he work well? but how long has been his apprenticeship? for if it be necessary still to judge of work by its merit, so much the better would it be to allow every one liberty to work at his own peril and risk.
One might then be a master without having served an apprenticeship; another might remain all his life only an apprentice.[Back to:]