According to Adam Smith the wages of labour are regu-lated by the following circumstances :-1. The agreeable-ness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves. 2. The easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of learning them. 3. The constancy or inconstancy of employment in them. 4. The small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them. 5. The probability or improbability of success in them.
Mr. Mill makes the following observations with regard to the salaries of clerks:-
" A clerk from whom nothing is required but the mechanical labour of copying, gains more than an equivalent for his mere exertion if he receives the wages of a bricklayer's labourer. His work is not a tenth part as hard, it is quite as easy to learn, and his condition is less precarious, a clerk's place being generally a place for life. The higher rate of his remuneration, therefore, must be partly ascribed to monopoly, the small degree of education required being not even yet so generally diffused as to call forth the natural number of competitors, and partly to the remaining influences of an ancient custom, which requires that clerks should maintain the dress and appearance of a more highly paid class.
"It is usual to pay greatly beyond the market price of their labour all persons in "whom the employer wishes to place peculiar trust, or from whom he requires something besides their mere services. For example, most persons who can afford it, pay to their domestic servants higher wages than would purchase in the market the labour of persons fully as competent to the work required. They do this, not from mere ostentation, but from reasonable motives-because they desire that those they employ should serve them cheerfully, and be anxious to remain in their service-because they do not like to drive a hard bargain with people whom they are in constant intercourse with-and because they dislike to have near their persons, and continually in their sight, people with the appearance and habits which are the usual accompaniments of a mean remuneration. Similar feelings operate in the minds of men in business with respect to their clerks." l
There would be considerable difficulty in applying the rules laid down by political economists with regard to the wages of labour to the case of bank clerks. A banker does not hire a clerk because he is the cheapest man he can get, nor does he dismiss him as soon as he can get another man to do the same work at a lower price. He would not find it his interest to do this; for his work is of a peculiar kind. His clerks must have a certain degree of education and of manner, and be taken from a certain class in society. They are not allowed to engage in any other employment. They have to maintain a respectable appearance. They must be qualified not merely for the lowest post in the bank, but must be prepared to take higher posts should vacancies occur. And in every post they are entrusted with a large amount of property, and upon their integrity and prudence much reliance must at all times be placed. All these circumstances serve to show, that, in fixing the amount of their salaries, the banker should be anxious to err (if he errs at all) on the side of liberality.
1 " Principles of Political Economy," by John Stuart Mill, vol. i. pp. 461-475.
He ought also to take into consideration the effect which the amount of salary produces on the mind and condition of the party receiving it. If an advance of salary quickens the attention or the zeal, or strengthens the fidelity of a party, or induces him to cultivate those talents which add to his efficiency-or if it enables him to move in a higher class of society, and gives him a station and an influence which enables him to be useful to the bank-then is such an advance of salary-though entered in the books under the item of expenditure-an outlay of capital which is repaid to the banker with interest in the effect it produces-an outlay that becomes probably one of the most profitable of his investments.1
1 We have great pleasure in transcribing the following letter from Mr. Samuel Jones Loyd.* It was addressed to the chief clerk of his London bank. We abstain from all eulogiurn. as the letter will speak for itself:-
" Dear Mr. Kirby,
" The enclosed draft for £1.000 I request you will place to the credit of the ' Clerks' Christmas Fund.' At the close of the first year since my accession to the head of this concern, I am desirous of offering to those through whose assistance I have been enabled to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion some substantial proof of my sense of their services, and of the interest which I feel in all that concerns their comfort and happiness. The year now closing has been marked by some circumstances of an accidental and temporary character, which have tended to throw an unusual degree of labour and trouble on the clerical department of the office. Of the readiness with which this difficulty has been
* Subsequently Lord Overstone.
In all banks the junior clerks have lower salaries than the senior clerks. In Scotland, a clerk usually serves an apprenticeship of three years, during which he receives but a small salary. This plan has been introduced into some of our country banks. In London it does not exist. In the private banks, a junior clerk usually commences with £60 a-year, and a portion of the Christmas money. In the joint-stock banks, where no Christmas money is allowed, the commencing salary is usually £80. But the rules of advance are various, and, indeed, must be so, depending as they do upon the prosperity of the banks, and other contingent circumstances. One bank may assign a certain fixed annual increase to each clerk, whether he advance in rank or not. In this case, his salary will be regulated entirely by the number of his years of service. Another bank may have a fixed salary for each post, and a clerk has no increase of salary except when he takes a step in rank. Another bank may adopt a scale of salaries combining the principles of the other two. For instance, every post in the bank may have a fixed minimum salary. But each clerk holding a post for a certain period (say for five years) has an annual advance for that period. Then he stops, and receives no further advance until he is promoted to the next post, where again he becomes entitled to the annual advances belonging to that post. "We give no opinion as to the respective merit of these plans. But there is one principle we would enforce - that the salaries of the clerks should be regulated by the prosperity of the met and overcome I am very sensible, and for this, as well as for the uniform zeal and integrity with which the general duties of the office are discharged, I beg that the clerks will accept my grateful acknowledgment, and that you and they will believe me to be the faithful friend of you all.
(Signed) " S. J. Loyd.
" Lothbury, Dec. 24th, 1845." bank. If the bank is prosperous, the clerks ought to share in its prosperity; and if the bank is unfortunate, the clerks must consent to share in its ill fortune. But. under any circumstances, a scale of salaries is desirable. It prevents caprice on the part of the bank, and jealousy on the part of the clerks. The amount of salary in each case should be fixed by rule, and not by favour.
With reference to this subject we quote from Mr. Taylor's work, entitled " The Statesman" - a work which he states to have been the result of twelve years' official experience :-
"It is often said, that in order to get efficient service good pay must be offered. But this is not true, as applied to first appointments of young men. On the contrary, it will often happen that the largeness of the temptation, by bringing into activity the most powerful interests through which abuses of patronage are engendered, will lead to the appointment of a worse man than would have been obtained by a smaller offer. On the other hand, though men of promise are to be had cheap, whilst they are young and their value is little known to themselves or others, they cannot, when this is no longer their condition, be kept for a small consideration, or at least kept contented. But a reasonable degree of contentment is of essential importance where the understanding is the workman. There is no position so strong as that of a man who stands upon his head; and if he be not induced to the activity just thinking and clear reasoning, he will hardly be coerced to it. Upon the whole, therefore, I would say. that what is most conducive to good appointments in the first instance, and thenceforward to deriving benefit from them, is to offer small remuneration to the beginner, with successive expectancies proportioned to the merits which he shall manifest, and of such increasing: amount as shall be calculated to keep easy, through the progressive wants of single and married life, the mind of a prudent man. Upon such a system, if unfit men belonging to influential families shall make good an entrance into the service, they will be more easily got rid of; since, finding that they have got but little in hand, and have but little more to look to, they will hardly be desirous to continue in a career in which they must expect to see their competitors shoot ahead of them."