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Partnership en Commandite.
unchecked prevalence. The Crown can now grant, through the instrumentality and on the responsibility of the Board of Trade, charters of incorporation, where, in its wisdom, it shall deem fit, such charters conferring the privilege of limited liability each shareholder being answerable only to the extent of the full amount of his share, — and enforcing publicity of accounts, shares, and transfers. But the expense of obtaining these charters has hitherto been so great as to render them virtually inaccessible to any but large undertakings and wealthy parties. It is in evidence, that a company which was formed for the purpose of improving the dwellings of the poor in the county of Gloucester, was broken up in consequence of the inability to obtain a charter except at a cost which would have been fatal to their humble means; and a similar association in London, which did obtain such a charter, was almost ruined by it: the charter and the legal expenses attending its procural, exceeding 11007., of which, 7247. went to the various departments of the Government. The Committee of last Session recommend, that charters conferring limited liability shall be granted on much easier terms, and on certain fixed rules; and Mr. Ker appears to concur in the suggestion. By this means all bonâ fide, reasonable, and hopeful enterprises might be rendered practicable and easy; while at the same time, the wild burst of speculation and fraud, anticipated from a simple and absolute legalisation of limited liability, would be avoided.
Limitation of liability, however, is chiefly desired for the sake of the middle classes and the public: the poor care little about it; the amounts which they would venture would generally be their all. There is, however, one form of it which it is thought might greatly benefit them, and which is strongly recommended by so high an authority as Mr. Mill. This is partnership en commandite, which affords peculiar facilities for the union of large and small capitalists in joint undertakings; and would enable manufacturers, for instance, in this country to associate their saving workmen with them as partners having a direct interest in the success of the concern, without at the same time giving them the powers or privileges of partners to interfere, to mismanage, or to peculate, as they might do by the existing law. By the law of commandite, commercial or manufacturing companies may be formed with any number of partners, who are divided into two classes,—the general partners, who are usually (or are supposed to be) the largest capitalists, who are responsible to the public to the extent of their entire property, and who retain the uncontrolled management of the business; and the special partners (as they are termed in New York), the
commanditaires (as they are named in France), who are liable only to the amount of the capital they have subscribed (which amount is duly advertised), and who are precluded by law from any interference in the conduct of the enterprise. By this arrangement, the managing partners, of whom alone the public has cognisance, are, as by our ordinary law, responsible with their whole property; and, as against them, the public has therefore the same security as now; while, as against the inferior or special partners, whom it does not know, and who-as comparatively exempt from risk themselves might be disposed to be more reckless and venturesome in their mode of carrying on business, it has the security that they are entirely excluded from any share in the conduct of the concern. The public, again, has the further security that, in case of bankruptcy, the property of these secondary partners goes to swell the assets of the estate; whereas, had they merely lent their money to the concern (as, under our law, they probably would have done), they would claim as creditors, and so swell the liabilities of the estate. To the chief partners, this law offers the advantage of enabling them to increase their own means by the contributions of others (whose knowledge of their skill and integrity induces them to confide their smaller capitals to their charge), without feeling that they are incurring debt thereby; and they are thus enabled to carry out many enterprises which, however safe and profitable, they could not otherwise have undertaken. To the secondary partners, the law offers an easy and advantageous mode of becoming partakers in the profits of capital-a great object of ambition with all the industrious with only a modified degree of risk, and of thus securing a higher return upon their savings than mere Government securities can ever offer. It enables them to lend money at a rate of interest fluctuating with the success of the undertaking, instead of at a fixed rate – a plan surely quite legitimate and beneficial both to borrower and lender.
Now, we are quite aware that there may be objections to the introduction of such a law into England. It is possible-nay, probable that disappointment might be the most general issue of the associations in questions. We are not blind to, nor would we make light of, the chance that the hard savings of workmen may in some cases be lost by entrusting them to imprudent or dishonest employers, or by the facilities afforded to over-rash and confident speculators. But a regard for the wishes of industrious and respectable operatives seems to demand that the plan should have full consideration, and, if possible, a fair trial. Among them, as we have often had occasion to observe, there
Partnership en Commandite.
has long existed a rooted dissatisfaction with the remuneration of their labour. They are convinced that the division of profits between the employers and themselves of the produce of their conjoined capital and labour is unfair; that they, as labourers, receive only scanty and inadequate wages, while the capitalist, their master, pockets enormous returns upon his investment, which they, as they conceive it, make profitable for him. That this impression is generally unfounded, and is often the very reverse of true, few persons closely acquainted with the matter will dispute; but it is so ingrained into the artisan mind,' and has been so recklessly confirmed by the wild assertions of both orators and writers, that nothing but experience will disabuse them of it. It is on all accounts very desirable that workmen should, where it is practicable, be made practically cognisant of the uncertainties of the manufacturing or other enterprise in which they are employed that their interests should be more closely and more obviously bound up with those of the capitalist who employs them that they should learn, by individual experience, what the profits of capital, when fairly reckoned, really are. As long as such participation is denied them, they will continue, and perhaps ought to continue, dissatisfied, jealous, and suspicious. They would not perhaps, on the whole, be richer, but they would assuredly be wiser and more contented for the experiment. To some such plan we should look, not without hope, as the best means of eradicating that hostile feeling which too often subsists between the operative classes and their employers. The latter, we are sure, would be gainers by the attempt. A manufacturing enterprise, in which all the head workmen should be partners en commandite, and should, in consequence, feel their own interests bound up with the success of the concern, without having any right of interference with its management would find itself possessed of quite a new element of prosperity. Economy would be studied-processes would be shortened-waste would be avoided, and energy would be infused into every department, to a degree unattainable in concerns conducted in the ordinary way. It would be as if the master could be omnipresent-personally and incessantly watching each department and subdivision of the business. But the chief benefit most unquestionably would be this: that, if successful, the operative would cease to be jealous of his master's prosperity, because he would be a sharer in it; and if unsuccessful, he would learn to accuse no man falsely, and to be content with his wages.' The bitter controversy between capital and labour, as to the division of their joint earnings, would receive the only satisfactory solution of which it is
capable, by combining the two controversialists in one actual experiment together.
Some of our Christian Socialist friends will imagine they can trace, in certain passages and expressions of this Article, indications of an approaching conversion to their views. We can encourage no such hopes. We must remind them that we are the advocates of nothing here which we have not recommended often before; and we pray them to observe that there is a wide difference between wishing that the principle of co-operation should have a fair field, and believing that it ever can, or ought to, supersede the principle of competition. We are as far as ever from conceiving that working men's associations and co-operative stores will prove the agencies they are expected to be for the regeneration of our social state. We anticipate that the attempts to combine the functions and monopolise the profits of labour, capital, and superintendence in the same hands, will, in the majority of instances, result, as they always have resulted, in failure and disappointment; that the same good sense and the same experience which originally led to the separation of the capitalist and labourer-operative and superintendent — manufacturer and merchant-producer and distributor-will reproduce and perpetuate these distinctions; and that their harmonious combination as separate functions, and not their artificial amalgamation, will continue for an indefinite period in spite of occasional and experimental exceptions-the normal condition of the several elements of the economic world. Still, though Christian Economists, and not Christian Socialists; though holding the great truths of Economic Science to be ascertained and unassailable, and the great facts, propensities, and principles of human nature to be permanent and ineradicable; though convinced, therefore, that schemes which run counter to those truths must come to nought, and that hopes founded upon the extinction or transmutation of these propensities and principles are built upon the sand; yet, above all and before all, we are lovers of justice. We know that no experiment can be fairly pronounced upon till it has been fairly tried. We know that the trial and failure of any scheme can alone disabuse its advocates of their sanguine anticipations. We believe that the working classes now possess so much power and so much intelligence, that it is idle, and would be foolish, to thwart any of their legitimate endeavours to help themselves, and to find their own way out of their own dilemmas; and that in political position and in mental activity, at least, if not in wisdom, they have passed that stage of helpless and submissive
John Knox's Liturgy.
childhood in which the State could and ought to prevent them from 'swearing to their own hurt,' and might fitly step in to spare them from learning in the common and costly school of human nature that of experience. We think, moreover, that these co-operative associations may be one of the most powerful of the many influences now at work for the education of the lower orders of the people; that wisdom will be gained, if not wealth, from the industry, self-control, and mutual forbearance needed to conduct them; and that like the children of the wise old man who set them to dig over his land in all directions for hidden riches (which was not gold, as they supposed, but the fertility which they thus unintentionally conferred upon the soil) these associated labourers may find in their experiment, not indeed the treasure which they seek, but a treasure not less real nor less lasting. The principle of association is unquestionably a mighty and prolific one;-if, as Socialists conceive, it does really contain a secret strength by virtue of which society can be purified, its wounds healed, its heartburnings soothed, and its bitter animosities lulled to rest for ever, why, the fairer field we afford to its development, the sooner and the surer will this vivifying energy be brought to light. If, as older and soberer men who 'stand the old upon way cline to fear, these sanguine hopes are in the main delusive, and altogether exaggerated, why, the more free and unhampered be the opportunities offered for the trial, the more clearly and promptly will the delusion be made manifest. At all events, it is not well to leave to the advocates of Socialism the possibility of ascribing the failure of their schemes, not to the inherent unsoundness of their principles or the native impracticability of their means, but to artificial impediments-to the injustice of the law to the envy or the enmity of the rich and great.
ART. VI.-1. The Liturgy of the Church of Scotland, or John Knox's Book of Common Order. Edited and carefully revised by the Rev. JOHN CUMMING, M. A., Minister of the Scotch Church, Crown Court, Little Russel Street, Covent Garden. London: 1840.
2. Calvin's Tracts. Containing Treatises on the Sacraments, Catechism of the Church of Geneva, Forms of Prayer, and Confessions of Faith. Printed for the Calvin Translation Society. Edinburgh: 1849.
3. La Liturgie, ou la Manière de célébrer le Service divin dans l'Eglise de Genève. Genève: 1828.