T H E old system of cultivation by the capitalist landlord was hopelessly doomed. Wages were rising, profits and prices were falling. During the twenty years between 1371 and 1390 the labourer was engaged in stereotyping his new rate of remuneration, and during the best part of a generation had accustomed himself to a scale of living and saving, which was far in excess of previous experience. During the last twenty years of the fourteenth century, the price of corn was greatly below the average, though it must be allowed that, when compared with the twenty years to which reference has so often been made, labour was a little cheaper. The fact is, a new class of farmers had become, or was fast becoming, the employers of labour,—those who were occupiers on a lease, and such persons were capable of striking a harder bargain in the open market than the old capitalist landowner was. The rate of wages is always lower when the principal employers are
Prices of Stock. 275 small tenant farmers, if the number of labourers seeking for work and wages is considerable enough to compete against each other for employment. An Irish labourer gets very poor wages from an Irish farmer, an American farm hand gets good wages from an American occupier. But the reason is that the labourers are many in the former case, the employment scanty, and the bargain hard. In the latter the field labourers are comparatively few, and, in consequence, the labourer is often better off than the small farmer. In fourteenth and fifteenth-century England, the labourer was not indeed poorlypaid; far from it, but had it been possible for the old system to have continued, he would have been better off than he was under that which succeeded to the old.