Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Artificer

ARTIFICER is a person employed in manufacturing any kind of goods or wares, such as those of iron, brass, wool, &c. Of this description are smiths, braziers, and weavers. They are distinguished from artists, by exercising professions which require an inferior degree of taste and genius; on which account they might more properly be called artisans.

By the English laws, artificers in wool, iron, steel, brass, or other metal, leaving the kingdom, and departing to a foreign country, without license, are liable to be imprisoned for three months, and fined in a sum not exceeding one hundred pounds. Those who go abroad, and do not return on receiving notice from our Ambassadors, are disabled from holding land by descent or devise; from receiving any legacy, &c. and are deemed aliens. A penalty is also inflicted on those who seduce artificers to quit their native soil.

The author of an excellent treatise "On the Laws and Policy of England," published in 1765, on considering the effects which plenty and scarcity of provisions have on our manufacturers, justly observes, that we should endeavour to render the expence of living cheaper than it is abroad, in order to reduce the price of labour, which will enable us to offer our merchandizes at a cheaper rate, and consequently obtain a preference at all the foreign markets: for as plenty or scarcity will determine the price of provisions, so the price of provisions will in general regulate the price of labour; and this again will influence the price of all commodities and productions. Hence he asserts, that it will avail but little, to impose penalties on those who raise the price of provisions, unless the same be also inflicted on such persons as combine to raise the price of labour; that a general liberty granted to produce our necessary provisions, will procure us a general plenty for sale; that a general indulgence allowed to sale, will reduce them to a general cheapness; that a general cheapness will enable our poor to work in every occupation upon more moderate terms—an expedient the most necessary in this country; because, as Englishmen will not submit to that coarse fare to which some of our neighbours are accustomed, a reduction of the price of provisions is the only method we can resort to, for an abatement in the price of labour.

These remarks are peculiarly applicable to the present times, when every description of artisans are combining to raise the price of their labour; the natural consequence of which is, that an almost entire stagnation has taken place in many of the principal trades exercised in the metropolis. It is not our province to enter on an investigation of the justness of those claims made by the different journeymen. In some manufactures and trades, the law has limited their demands; in others, they are submitted to the decision of a court of justice; but, as the latter is both an expensive and tedious experiment, on account of the difficulty of procuring the necessary information, the evil frequently remains without redress.

Under the ancient regime of France, the magistrates had the power of deciding ali disputes between masters and journeymen, without the interference of a solicitor or counsel: this measure, though apparently despotic, was attended with the best effects, inasmuch as the public was not liable to be injured by the conspiracy of a few individuals.