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´╗┐Title: An Inquiry into the Permanent Causes of the Decline and Fall of Powerful and Wealthy Nations. - Designed To Shew How The Prosperity Of The British Empire - May Be Prolonged
Author: Playfair, William, 1759-1823
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Inquiry into the Permanent Causes of the Decline and Fall of Powerful and Wealthy Nations. - Designed To Shew How The Prosperity Of The British Empire - May Be Prolonged" ***

1st edition held by The British Library, London. (Shelfmark:
432d12/432.d.12). The text was then compared against that
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This book was copy TYPED by
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from an original print of the 1st edition held by
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(Shelfmark: 432d12/432.d.12).

The resultant text was then compared, using a
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This e-text incorporates the (very few)
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Images of the four Charts are not included nor
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{Here appears before the fly-leaf the first chart, entitled
Universal Commercial History,
from the year 1500 before the Christian Era
being a space of Three Thousand three hundred and four years,
by William Playfair.
Inventor of Linear Arithmetic"}













W. Marchant, Printer, 3 Greville-Street, Holborn.


P R E F A C E.


If it is of importance to study by what means a nation may acquire
wealth and power, it is not less so to discover by what means wealth
and power, when once acquired, may be preserved.

The latter inquiry is, perhaps, the more important of the two; for many
nations have remained, during a long period, virtuous and happy,
without rising to wealth or greatness; but there is no example of
happiness or virtue residing amongst a fallen people.

In looking over the globe, if we fix our eyes on those places where
wealth formerly was accumulated, and where commerce flourished,
we see them, at the present day, peculiarly desolated and degraded.

From the borders of the Persian Gulf, to the shores of the Baltic Sea;
from Babylon and Palmyra, Egypt, Greece, and Italy; to Spain and
Portugal, and the whole circle of the Hanseatic League, we trace the
same ruinous [end of page #iii] remains of ancient greatness,
presenting a melancholy contrast with the poverty, indolence, and
ignorance, of the present race of inhabitants, and an irresistible proof
of the mutability of human affairs.

As in the hall, in which there has been a sumptuous banquet, we
perceive the fragments of a feast now become a prey to beggars and
banditti; if, in some instances, the spectacle is less wretched and
disgusting; it is, because the banquet is not entirely over, and the
guests have not all yet risen from the table.

From this almost universal picture, we learn that the greatness of
nations is but of short duration. We learn, also, that the state of a
fallen people is infinitely more wretched and miserable than that of
those who have never risen from their original state of poverty. It is
then well worth while to inquire into the causes of so terrible a
reverse, that we may discover whether they are necessary, or only
natural; and endeavour, if possible, to find the means by which
prosperity may be lengthened out, and the period of humiliation
procrastinated to a distant day.

Though the career of prosperity must necessarily have a termination
amongst every people, yet there is some reason to think that the
degradation, which naturally follows, and which has always followed
hitherto, may be [end of page #iv] averted; whether it may be, or may
not be so, is the subject of the following Inquiry; which, if it is of
importance to any nation on earth, must be peculiarly so to England; a
nation that has risen, both in commerce and power, so high above the
natural level assigned to it by its population and extent. A nation that
rises still, but whose most earnest wish ought to be rather directed to
preservation than extension; to defending itself against adversity
rather than seeking still farther to augment its power.

With regard to the importance of the Inquiry, there cannot be two
opinions; but, concerning its utility and success, opinions may be

One of the most profound and ingenious writers of a late period, has
made the following interesting observation on the prosperity of
nations. {1}

"In all speculations upon men and human affairs, it is of no small
moment to distinguish things of accident from permanent causes, and
from effects that cannot be altered. I am not quite of the mind of those
speculators, who seem assured, that necessarily, and, by the
constitution of things, all states have the same period of infancy,
manhood, and decrepitude, that are found in the individuals who
compose them. The objects which are

{1} Mr Burke.

[end of page #v]

attempted to be forced into an analogy are not founded in the same
classes of existence. Individuals are physical beings, subject to laws
universal and invariable; but commonwealths are not physical, but
moral essences. They are artificial combinations, and, in their
proximate efficient cause, the arbitrary productions of the human

We are not yet acquainted with the laws which necessarily influence
that kind of work, made by that kind of agent. There is not, in the
physical order, a distinct cause by which any of those fabrics must
necessarily grow, flourish, and decay; nor, indeed, in my opinion,
does the moral world produce any thing more determinate on that
subject than what may serve as an amusement (liberal indeed, and
ingenious, but still only an amusement) for speculative men. I doubt
whether the history of mankind is yet complete enough, if ever it can
be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory on the internal causes,
which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. I am far from denying
the operation of such causes, but they are infinitely uncertain, and
much more obscure, and much more difficult to trace than the foreign
causes that tend to depress, and, sometimes, overwhelm society."

The writer who has thus expressed his scepticism on this sort of
inquiry, speaks, at the same time, of the im-[end of page #vi] portance
of distinguishing between accidental and permanent causes. He doubts
whether the history of mankind is complete enough, or, if ever it can
be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory, on the internal causes
which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. Thus, he not only
admits the existence of permanent causes, but says, clearly, that it is
from history they are discoverable, if ever their discovery can be
accomplished. This is going as far as we could wish, and, as for the
sure theory, we join issue with him in despairing of ever obtaining one
that will deserve the name of sure.

The meaning of the word, sure, in this place, appears to be intended in
a sense peculiarly strict. It seems to imply a theory, that would be
certain in its application to those vicissitudes and fluctuations to which
nations are liable, and not merely to explaining their rise and decline.
As to such fluctuations, it would be absurd to enter into any theory
about them; they depend on particular combinations of circumstances,
too infinite, in variety, to be imagined, or subjected to any general
law, and of too momentary an operation to be foreseen.

That Mr. Burke alludes to such fluctuation is, however, evident, from
what that fanciful but deeply-read man says, immediately after: "We
have seen some states which have spent their vigour at their
commencement. Some have [end of page #vii] blazed out in their
glory a little before their extinction. The meridian of some has been
the most splendid. Others, and they the greatest number, have
fluctuated, and experienced, at different periods of their existence, a
great variety of fortune. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his
disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities
on a whole nation; a common soldier, a child, a girl, at the door of an
inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of nature."

From this it is abundantly evident, that the theory he wished for, but
despaired of ever establishing, was one that would explain such
effects; but the object of this Inquiry is totally different.

When the Romans were in their vigour, their city was besieged by the
Gauls, and saved by an animal of proverbial stupidity; but this could
not have happened when Attila was under the walls, and the energy of
the citizens was gone. The taking or saving the city, in the first
instance, would have been equally accidental, and the consequences of
short duration; but, in the latter days, the fall of Rome was owing to
_PERMANENT_ causes, and the effect has been without a remedy.

It is, then, only concerning the permanent causes, (that is to say,
causes that are constantly acting, and produce [end of page #viii]
permanent effects) that we mean to inquire; and, even with regard to
those, it is not expected to establish a theory that will be applicable,
with certainty, to the preservation of a state, but, merely to establish
one, which may serve as a safe guide on a subject, the importance of
which is great, beyond calculation.

There remains but one other consideration in reply to this, and that is,
whether states have, necessarily, by the constitution and nature of
things, the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude, that
are found in the individuals that compose them? Mr. Burke thinks they
have not; and, indeed, if they had, the following Inquiry would be of
no sort of utility. It is of no importance to seek for means of
preventing what must of necessity come to pass: but, if the word
necessity is changed for tendency or propensity, then it becomes an
Inquiry deserving attention, and, as all states have risen, flourished,
and fallen, there can be no dispute with the regard to their tendency to
do so.

However much, at first sight, Mr. Burke's opinion may appear to
militate against such an Inquiry, when duly considered, it will be
found, not only to approve of the end, but to point out the manner in
which the inquiry ought to be conducted; namely, by consulting
history. [end of page #ix]

If it is allowed that any practical advantage is to be derived from the
history of the past, it can only be, in so far as it is applicable to the
present and the future; and, if there is none, it is melancholy to reflect
on the volumes that have been written without farther utility than to
gratify idle curiosity. Are the true lessons of history, because they are
never completely applicable to present affairs, to be ranked with the
entertaining, but almost useless, pages of romance? No, certainly. Of
the inheritance possessed by the present generation, the history of
those that are gone before, is not the least valuable portion. Each
reader now makes his application in his own way. It is an irregular
application, but not an useless one; and it is, therefore, hoped, that an
Inquiry, founded on a regular plan of comparison and analogy, cannot
but be of some utility.

But why do we treat that as hypothetical, of which there can be no
doubt? Wherefore should there be two opinions concerning the utility
of an inquiry into those mighty events, that have removed wealth and
commerce from the Euphrates and the Nile, to the Thames and the
Texel? Does not the sun rise, and do not the seasons return to the
plains of Egypt, and the deserts of Syria, the same as they did three
thousand years ago? Is not [end of page #x] inanimate nature the same
now that it was then? Are the principles of vegetation altered? Or have
the subordinate animals refused to obey the will of man, to assist him
in his labour, or to serve him for his food? No; nature is not less
bountiful, and man has more knowledge and more power than at any
former period; but it is not the man of Syria, or of Egypt, that has
more knowledge, or more power. There he has suffered his race to
decay, and, along with himself, his works have degenerated.

When those countries were peopled with men, who were wise,
prudent, industrious, and brave, their fields were fertile, and their
cities magnificent; and wherever mankind have carried the same
vigour, the same virtues, and the same character, nature has been
found bountiful and obedient.

Throughout the whole of the earth, we see the same causes producing
nearly the same effects; why then do we remain in doubt respecting
their connection? Or, if under no doubt, wherefore do we not
endeavour to trace their operation, that we may know how to preserve
those advantages we are so eager to obtain?

If an Inquiry into the causes of the revolutions of nations is more
imperfect and less satisfactory than when [end of page #xi] directed to
those of individuals, and of single families, if, ever it should be
rendered complete, its application will, at least, be more certain.
Nations are exempt from those accidental vicissitudes which derange
the wisest of human plans upon a smaller scale. Number and
magnitude reduce chances to certainty. The single and unforeseen
cause that overwhelms a man in the midst of prosperity, never ruins a
nation: unless it be ripe for ruin, a nation never falls; and when it does
fall, accident has only the appearance of doing what, in reality, was
already nearly accomplished.

There is no physical cause for the decline of nations, nature remains
the same; and if the physical man has degenerated, it was before the
authentic records of history. The men who built the most stupendous
pyramid in Egypt, did not exceed in stature those who now live in
mean hovels at its immense base. If there is any country in the world
that proves the uniformity of nature, it is this very Egypt. Unlike to
other countries, that owe their fertility to the ordinary succession of
seasons, of which regular registers do not exist, and are never
accurate, it depends on the overflowing of the waters of a single river.
The marks that indicated the rising of the Nile, in the days of the
Pharaos, and of the Ptolemies, do the same [end of page #xii] at the
present day, and are a guarantee for the future regularity of nature, by
the undeniable certainty of it for the past.

By a singular propensity for preserving the bodies of the dead, the
Egyptians have left records equally authentic, with regard to the
structure of the human frame. {2} Here nothing is fabulous; and even
the unintentional errors of language are impossible. We have neither
to depend on the veracity nor the correctness of man. The proofs
exhibited are visible and tangible; they are the object of the senses,
and admit of no mistake.

But while that country exhibits the most authentic proofs of the
uniform course of nature, it affords also the most evident examples of
the degradation of the human mind. It is there we find the cause of
those ruins that astonish, and the desolation that afflicts. Had men
continued their exertions, the labour of their hands would not have
fallen to decay.

It is in the exertion and conduct of man, and in the information of his
mind, that we find the causes of the mutability of human affairs. We
are about to trace

{2} Most part of the mummies found in Egypt, instead of being of a
larger size, are considerably under the middle stature of the people of
England. Those dead monuments of the human frame give the direct
lie to Homer and all the traditions about men's degenerating in size
and strength.

[end of page #xiii]

them through an intricate labyrinth; but, in this, we are not without a

The history of three thousand years, and of nations that have risen to
wealth and power, in a great variety of situations, all terminating with
a considerable degree of similarity, discovers the great outline of the
causes that invigorate or degrade the human mind, and thereby raise or
ruin states and empires. {3}


{3} The utility of this Inquiry is considerably strengthened by the
opinion of a writer of great information and first-rate abilities. {*}

An historical review of different forms under which human affairs
have appeared in different ages and nations naturally suggests the
question, whether the experience of former times may not now furnish
some general principles to enlighten and direct the policy of future
legislators? The discussion, however, to which the question leads is of
singular difficulty; as it requires an accurate analysis of by far the
most complicated class of phenomena that can possibly engage our
attention; those which result from the intricate and often from the
imperceptible mechanism of political society--a subject of
observation which seems at first view so little commensurate to our
faculties, that it has been generally regarded with the same passive
emotions of wonder and submission with which, in the material world,
we survey the effects produced by the mysterious and uncontroulable
operation of phisical =sic= causes. It is fortunate that upon this, as on
many other occasions, the difficulties which had long baffled the
effort of solitary genius begin to appear less formidable to the united
exertions of the race; and that, in proportion as the experience and the
reasonings of different individuals are brought to bear on the objects,
and are combined in such a manner as to illustrate and to limit each
other, the science of politics assumes more and more that systematical
form which encourages and aids the labours of future inquirers.


{*} Mr Dongald Stuart, whose name is well known and much
honoured amongst men whose studies have led them to investigate
these subjects: the intimate friend and biographer of Dr. Adam Smith.

[end of page #xiv]



    _In the following Inquiry I have inserted four engraved Charts, in
    order to illustrate the subjects treated of in the Book, by a method
    approved of both in this and in other countries. {4}

    The Chart, No. 1, representing the rise and fall of all nations or
    countries, that have been particularly distinguished for wealth or
    power, is the first of the sort that ever was engraved, and has,
    therefore, not yet met with public approbation.

    It is constructed to give a distinct view of the migrations of commerce
    and of wealth in general. For a very accurate view, there are no
    materials in existence; neither would it lead to any very different
    conclusion, if the proportional values were ascertained with the
    greatest accuracy.

    I first drew the Chart in order to clear up my own ideas on the
    subject, finding it very troublesome to retain a distinct notion of the
    changes that had taken place. I found it answer the purpose beyond my
    expectation, by bringing into one view the result of details that are
    dispersed over a very wide and intricate field of universal history;
    facts sometimes connected with each other, sometimes not, and always
    requiring reflection each time they were referred to. I found the first
    rough draft give =sic= me a better

    {4} The Charts, Nos. 3 and 4, were copied in Paris, before the
    revolution, and highly approved of by the Academy of Sciences. No. 2,
    though of late invention, has been copied in France and Germany. Of
    No. 1, the public has yet to judge, and, perhaps, it will treat me with
    indulgence and good nature, as on former occasions.

[end of page #xv]

    comprehension of the subject, than all that I had learnt from
    occasional reading, for half of my lifetime; and, on the supposition
    that what was of so much use to me, might be of some to others, I have
    given it with a tolerable degree of accuracy.

    No. 2, relates entirely to the present state of nations in Europe, and
    the extent, revenue, and population, as represented, are taken from the
    most accurate documents. Where statistical writers differed, I
    followed him who appeared to me the most likely to be right.

    Nos. 3 and 4, relate entirely to England, and are drawn from the most
    accurate documents.

    Opposite to each Chart are descriptions and explanations.

    The reader will find, five minutes attention to the principle on which
    they are constructed, a saving of much labour and time; but, without
    that trifling attention, he may as well look at a blank sheet of paper
    as at one of the Charts.

    I know of nothing else, in the Book, that requires previous


    I think it well to embrace this opportunity, the best I have had, and,
    perhaps, the last I ever shall have, of making some return, (as far as
    acknowledgement is a return,) for an obligation, of a nature never to
    be repaid, by acknowledging publicly, that, to the best and most
    affectionate of brothers, I owe the invention of those Charts.

    At a very early period of my life, my brother, who, in a most
    examplary manner, maintained and educated the family his father left,
    made me keep a register of a thermometer, expressing the variations
    by lines on a divided scale. He taught me to know, that, whatever can
    be expressed in numbers, may be represented by lines. The Chart of
    the thermometer was on the same principle with those given here; the
    application only is different. The brother to whom I owe this, now
    fills the Natural Philosophy Chair in the University of Edinburgh_.

[end of page #xvi]






INTRODUCTION and plan of the work.--Explanation of what the
author understands by wealthy and powerful nations, and of the
general cause of wealth and power......1


Of the general causes that operate, both externally and internally, in
bringing down nations that have risen above their level to that
assigned to them by their extent, fertility, and population; and of the
manner in which wealth destroyed power in ancient


Of the nations that rose to wealth and power previous to the conquests
in Asia and Africa, and the causes which ruined them...............20


Of the Romans.--The causes of their rise under the republic, and of
their decline under the emperors.--The great error generally fallen
into with respect to the comparison between Rome and Carthage;
proofs that it is wrong, and not at all applicable to France and


Of the cities and nations that rose to wealth and power in the middle
ages, after the fall of the Western Empire, and previous to the
discovery of the passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope,
and of America.--Different effects of wealth on nations in cold and in
warm climates, and of the fall of the Eastern Empire..............44

[end of page #xvii]


Digression concerning the commerce with India.--This the only one
that raised ancient nations to wealth.--Its continual variations.--The
envy it excited, and revolutions it produced....................51


Of the causes that brought on the decline of the nations that had
flourished in the middle ages, and of Portugal, Spain, Holland, and the
Hans Towns..........62


General view and analysis of the causes that operated in producing the
decline of all nations, with a chart, representing the rise, fall, and
migrations of wealth, in all different countries, from the year 1500,
before the birth of Christ, to the end of the eighteenth century,--a
period of 3300 years...............70



Of the interior causes of decline, arising from the possession of
wealth.--Its general operation on the habits of life, manners,
education, and ways of thinking and acting of the inhabitants of a


Of the education of youth in nations increasing in wealth.--The errors
generally committed by writers on that subject.--Importance of
female education on the manners of a people.--Not noticed by writers
on political economy.--Education of the great body of the people the
chief object.--In what that consists............94


Of increased taxation, as an interior cause of decline.--Its different
effects on industry, according to the degree to which it is carried.--Its
effects on the people and on government.............102


Of the interior causes of decline, arising from the encroachments of
public and privileged bodies; and of those who have a common
interest on those who have no common interest.....................116

[end of page #xviii]


Of the internal causes of decline, arising from the unequal division of
property, and its accumulation in the hands of particular persons.--Its
effects on the employment of capital...............125


Of the interior causes of decline, which arise from the produce of the
soil becoming unequal to the sustenance of a luxurious people.--Of


Of the increase of the poor, as general affluence becomes greater.--
Of children left unprovided for.--Of their division into two classes.--
Those that can labour more or less, and those that can do no
labour.................. 156


Of the tendency of capital and industry to leave a wealthy country,
and of the depreciation of money in agricultural and commercial
countries............. 161


Conclusion of the interior causes.--Their co-operation.--Their
general effect on the government and on the people.--The danger
arising from them does not appear till the progress in decline is far
advanced......... 166


Of the external causes of decline.--The envy and enmity of other
nations.--Their efforts, both in peace and war, to bring wealthy
nations down to their level........ 175


Why the intercourse between nations is ultimately in favour of the
poorer one, though not so at first............................. 179


Conclusion of exterior causes.--Are seldom of much importance,
unless favoured by interior ones.--Rich nations, with care, capable, in
most cases, of prolonging their prosperity.--Digression on the
importance of public revenue, illustrated by a statistical
chart................... 184

[end of page #xix]



Result of the foregoing Inquiry applied to Britain.--Its present state,
in what its wealth consists; illustrated by a chart, shewing the increase
of revenue and commerce........................191


Of education, as conducted in England.--Amelioration proposed.--
Necessity of government interfering, without touching the liberty of
the subject............................ 216


Of the effects of taxation in England........229


Of the national debt and sinking fund.--Advantages and
disadvantages of both.--Errors committed in calculating their effects.
--Causes of error.--Mode proposed for preventing future


Of taxes for the maintenance of the poor.--Their enormous increase.--
The cause.--Comparison between those of England and Scotland.--
Simple, easy, and humane mode of reducing them..............247


Causes of decline, peculiar to England.................... 257


Circumstances peculiar to England, and favourable to it............. 261


Conclusion.................... 276

Application of the present Inquiry to nations in general..............289


I N Q U I R Y,

&c. &c._



_Introduction and Plan of the Work.--Explanation of what the Author
understands by Wealthy and Powerful Nations, and of the General
Causes of Wealth and Power_.

One of the most solid foundations on which an enquirer can proceed
in matters of political economy, as connected with the fate of nations,
seems to be by an appeal to history, a view of the effects that have
been produced, and an investigation of the causes that have operated
in producing them.

Unfortunately, in this case, the materials are but very scanty, and
sometimes rather of doubtful authority; nevertheless, such as they are,
I do not think it well to reject the use of them, and have, therefore,
begun, by taking a view of the causes that have ruined nations that
have been great and wealthy, beginning with the earliest records and
coming down to the present time. {5}

{5} Dr. Robertson very truly says, "It is a cruel mortification, in
searching for what is instructive in the history of past times, to find
that the exploits of conquerors who have desolated the earth, and the
freaks of tyrants who have rendered nations unhappy, are recorded
with minute, and often disgusting accuracy, while the discovery of
useful arts, and the progress of the most beneficial branches of
commerce are passed over in silence, and suffered to sink in oblivion."
Disquisition on the Ancient Commerce to India.

[end of page #1]

I divide this space into three periods, because in each is to be seen a
very distinct feature.

During the first period, previous to the fall of the Roman empire, the
order of things was such as had arisen from the new state of mankind,
who had gradually increased in numbers, and improved in sciences
and arts. The different degrees of wealth were owing, at first, to local
situation, natural advantages, and priority in point of settlement, till
the causes of decline begun to operate on some; when the adventitious
causes of wealth and power, producing conquest, began to establish a
new order of things.

The second period, from the fall of the Roman government till the
discovery of America, and the passage to the East Indies, by the
ocean, has likewise a distinct feature, and is treated of by itself.

The rulers of mankind were not then men, who from the ease and
leisure of pastoral life, under a mild heaven, had studied science, and
cultivated the arts; they were men who had descended from a cold
northern climate, where nature did little to supply their wants, where
hunger and cold could not be avoided but by industry and exertion;
where, in one word, the sterility of nature was counteracted by the
energy of man.

The possessors of milder climates, and of softer manners, falling
under the dominion of such men, inferior greatly in numbers, as well
as in arts, intermixed with them, and formed a new race, of which the
character was different; and it is a circumstance not a little curious,
that while mankind were in a state at which they had arrived by
increasing population, and by the arts of peace, slavery was universal:
but that when governed by men who were conquerors, and owed their
superiority to force alone, where slavery might have been expected to
originate, it was abolished. {6}

{6} This fact, which is indisputable, has, at first sight, a most
extraordinary appearance, that is to say, seems difficult to account for;
but a little examination into circumstances will render it easily

In warm and fertile countries, the love of ease is predominant, and the
services wanted are such as a slave can perform. The indolent habits
of people make them consider freedom as an object of less importance
than exemption from care. While the rulers of mankind were indolent
and luxurious, they were interested in continuing slavery, which must
have [end of page #2] originated in barbarism and ignorance. But the
northern nations were different; with them, neither the moral
character, the physical powers, or the situation of things, favoured
slavery. The services one man wanted of another were not such as a
slave could be forced to perform: neither are men who are fitted for
performing such offices disposed to submit to slavery. Shepherds may
be reduced to the situation of slaves, but hunters will not be likely to
submit to such a situation, even if their occupation admitted of it.
Slaves can only be employed to perform labour that is under the eye
of an overseer or master, or the produce of which is nearly certain: but
the labour of a hunter is neither the one nor the other, it is, therefore,
not of the sort to be performed by slaves. The athletic active life
necessary for a hunter is, besides, unfriendly to slavery, if not totally
at variance with it. What does a slave receive in return for his service?
Lodging, nourishment, and a life free from care. A hunter is obliged to
provide the two former for himself, and the latter it is impossible for
him to enjoy. The same thing goes even to hired servants. In the rudest
state of shepherds, there are hired servants, but men in a rude state
never hunt for wages: they are their own masters: they may hunt in
society or partnership, but never as slaves or hired servants.

The progress towards wealth in this new state of things was very slow,
but the equality that prevailed amongst feudal barons, their love of
war and glory, and the leisure they enjoyed, by degrees extended the
limits of commerce very widely, as the northern world never could
produce many articles which its inhabitants had by their connection
with the south learnt to relish and enjoy.

The intermediate countries, that naturally formed a link of connection
between the ancient nations of the east and the rough inhabitants of
the north, profited the most by this circumstance; and we still find the
borders of the Mediterranean Sea, though no longer the seat of power,
the places where wealth was chiefly concentrated.

The impossibility of the inhabitants of the northern countries
transporting their rude and heavy produce, in order to exchange it for
the luxuries of the south, gave rise to manufactures as well as fishing
on the southern confines of the Baltic Sea; from whence arose the
wealth of Flanders, Holland, and the Hans Towns. This forms an
epoch entirely new in its nature and description, and its termination
was only brought on by the great discovery of the passage to Asia, by
the Cape of Good Hope, and to America, by sailing straight out into
the Atlantic Ocean.

The nations that had till those discoveries been the best situated for
[end of page #3] commerce no longer enjoyed that advantage; by that
means it changed its abode; but not only did it change its abode, it
changed its nature, and the trifling commerce that had hitherto been
carried on by the intervention of caravans by land, or of little barks
coasting on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, (never venturing,
without imminent danger, to lose sight of the shore,) {7} was dropt for
that bold and adventurous navigation, connecting the most distant
parts of the world; between which since then large vessels pass with
greater expedition and safety than they formerly did between the
Grecian Islands, or from Italy to Africa.

Three inventions, two in commerce and the other in war, nearly of
equal antiquity, formed this into one of these epochs that gives a new
feature to things.

The discovery of the magnetic power of the needle improved and
totally altered navigation. The art of printing gave the means of
extending with facility, to mankind at large, the mode of
communicating thoughts and ideas, which had till then been attended
with great difficulty, and confined to a few. This placed men nearer
upon an equality with respect to mind, and greatly facilitated
commerce and the arts. The invention of gun-powder nearly at the
same time changed the art of war, not only in its manner, but in its
effect, a point of far greater importance. While human force was the
power by which men were annoyed, in cases of hostility, bodily
strength laid the foundation for the greatness of individual men, as
well as of whole nations. So long as this was the case, it was
impossible for any nation to cultivate the arts of peace, (as at the
present time), without becoming much inferior in physical force to
nations that preferred hunting or made war their study; or to such as
preferred exercising the body, as rude nations do, to gratifying the
appetites, as practised in wealthy ones. To be wealthy and powerful
long together was then impossible.

Since this last invention, the physical powers of men have ceased to
occupy any material part in their history; superiority in skill is now the
great object of the attainment of those who wish to excel, {8} and

{7} It was forbidden by law, formerly, in Spain, to put to sea from the
11th of November to the 10th of March.

{8} In the divine poem of the Iliad, Nestor, for experience and
wisdom, and Ulysses, for [end of page #4] cunning, are the only two
heroes whose minds gave them a superiority; but they make no figure
compared to Achilles and Hector, or even the strong, rough, and
ignorant Ajax. To bear fatigue, and understand discipline, is the great
object at present; for though, of late years, the increased use of the
bayonet seems to be a slight approximation to the ancient mode of
contending by bodily strength, it is to be considered, on the other
hand, that artillery is more than ever employed, which is increasing
the dissimilarity. Again, though the bayonet is used, it is under
circumstances quite new. Great strength enabled a single man, by
wearing very thick armour, and wielding a longer sword or spear, to
be invulnerable to men of lesser force, while he could perform what
feats he pleased in defeating them. As gun-powder has destroyed the
use of heavy armour, though with the sabre and bayonet men are not
equal, they are all much more nearly so. No one is invulnerable, even
in single combat, with the _arme blanche_, and with fire arms they are
nearly on an equality. The changes that this makes, through every
department of life, are too numerous to be enlarged upon, or not to be
visible to all.

men may devote themselves to a life of ease and enjoyment without
falling under a real inferiority, provided they do not allow the mind to
be degraded or sunk in sloth, ignorance, or vice.

Those discoveries, then, by altering the physical powers of men, by
changing their relations and connections, as well as by opening new
fields for commerce, and new channels for carrying it on, form a very
distinct epoch in the history of wealth and power, and alter greatly
their nature in the detail; though, in the main outline and abstract
definition, they are still the same; having always the same relation to
each other, or to the state of things at the time.

This last period is then very different in its nature, and much more
important than either of the others that preceded it; yet, in one thing,
there is a similarity that runs through the whole, and it is a very
important one.

The passions and propensities of mankind, though they have changed
their objects, and the means of their gratification, have not changed
their nature. The desire of enjoyment; and of enjoyment with the least
trouble possible, appears to be the basis of all the passions. Hence,
envy, jealousy, friendship, and the endless train of second-rate effects,
appear all to be produced by that primary passion; {9} and as from

{9} The very learned and ingenious author of the Inquiry into the
Origin and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, traces all this to an innate
propensity to barter. But barter is only a means, and not even the
means to which mankind shew the greatest pro-[end of page #5]
pensity; for, wherever they have power to take by force or pillage,
they never barter. This is seen both in an infantine and adult state;
children cry for toys, and stretch at them before they offer to
exchange; and, conquerors or soldiers never buy or barter, when they
can take, unless they are guided by some other motive than mere
natural propensity. A highwayman will pay for his dinner at an inn, as
willingly as a traveller, because he acts from other motives than
propensity, but he will strip the inn-keeper when he meets him on the

this originate the wealth as well as the decline of nations, the history
of the revolutions in wealth and power, during the two first periods,
are by no means unimportant; besides, as their duration was much
longer than that of the latter, they lead to a more certain conclusion.

The review of what has taken place will occupy the first book; and
serve as a data for an inquiry into the nature and causes of the fall of

The first part of the second book will be dedicated to investigating the
internal causes of decline; that is to say, all those causes which arise
from the possession of wealth and power, operating on the habits,
manners, and minds of the inhabitants; as also on the political
arrangements, laws, government, and institutions, so far as they are
connected with the prosperity or decline of nations.

The latter part of the same book will treat of the exterior causes of
decline, arising from the envy of other nations; their advancement in
the same arts to which the nations that are rich owe their wealth, or
their excelling them in other arts, by which they can be rivalled,
reduced, or subdued.

After having inquired into external and internal causes; and the
operation of each and of both, (though they never act quite
separately,) accidental causes, will make an object for consideration,
which will bring the general inquiry to a conclusion.

The third book will begin with an application of the information
obtained to the present state of England: by comparing its situation
with that of nations that were great; and, by endeavouring to point out
a means by which its decline may be prevented.

Though we know that, in this world, nothing is eternal, particularly in
the institutions of man; yet, by a sort of fiction in language, when the
final term is not fixed, and the end desirable, what is known to be [end
of page #6] temporary is considered as perpetual. Thus, the contract
between the king and the people, the constituent laws of a country,
&c. are considered as permanent and of eternal duration.

In this case, though the final decline of a nation cannot be prevented;
though the nature of things will either, by that regular chain of causes
which admits of being traced, or by their regular operation of
coincident causes which is termed accidental, sooner or later put an
end to the prosperity of every nation, yet we shall not speak of
prolonging prosperity, but of preventing decline, just as if it were
never to happen at any period.

Before entering upon this Inquiry, it may be well, for the sake of being
explicitly understood, to define what I mean by wealthy and powerful

In speaking of nations, wealth and power are sometimes related to
each other, as cause and effect. Sometimes there is between a mutual
action and re-action. In the natural or ordinary course of things, they
are, at first, intimately connected and dependent on each other, till, at
last, this connection lessening by degrees, and they even act in
opposite directions; when wealth undermines and destroys power, but
power never destroys wealth. {10}

Though wealth and power are often found united, they are sometimes
found separated. Wealth is altogether a real possession; power is
comparative. Thus, a nation may be wealthy in itself, though
unconnected with any other nation; but its power can only be
estimated by a comparison with that of other nations.

Wealth consists in having abundance of whatever mankind want or
desire; and if there were but one nation on earth, it might be wealthy;
but it would, in that case, be impossible to measure its power.

Wealth is, however, not altogether real; it is in a certain degree
comparative, whereas power is altogether comparative.

The Romans, for example, may very justly be called the most

{10} Till a nation has risen above its neighbours, and those to whom it
compares itself, wealth and power act in the same direction; but, after
it has got beyond that point, they begin to counteract each other.

[end of page #7]

powerful nation that ever existed, yet a single battalion of our present
troops, well supported with artillery, would have probably destroyed
the finest army they ever sent into the field. A single ship of the line
would certainly have sunk, taken, or put to flight, all the fleets that
Rome and Carthage ever sent to sea. The feeblest and least powerful
of civilized nations, with the present means of fighting, and the
knowledge of the present day, would defeat an ancient army of the
most powerful description. Power then is entirely relative; and what is
feebleness now, would, at a certain time, have been force or power.

It is not altogether so with wealth, which consists in the abundance of
what men desire. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, had wealth;
and this, though, perhaps, not consisting in the same objects, was,
perhaps, not inferior to ours at the present time; but as wealth, purely
and simply, no comparison between different nations was necessary,
farther than that men's desires are augmented, by seeing the
abundance possessed by others; and therefore they become
comparative, as to wealth. Without, however, entering into a long
examination respecting the various possible combinations of wealth
and power, which are something similarly connected in states, as
health and strength are in the animal body, {11} let both be considered
only in a comparative way; the comparison either being made with
other nations at the same time, or with the same nation at different
times. Thus, for example, in comparing the wealth and power of
Britain now, with what they were at the latter end of Queen
Elizabeth's reign, we find that the merchants of Liverpool, during the
first three years of last =sic= war, fitted out a force of privateers equal
to the Spanish armada; and consequently superior to the whole naval
force of England at that time; there can be no doubt, then, that both the
wealth and power of the nation are increased. Again, if we find that
our ships block up the

{11} A man may be very feeble, yet in very good health for his whole
life-time. He may also have great strength, though he may not enjoy a
very good state of health; yet nevertheless, health and strength are
very intimately connected, and never can be completely separated.

[end of page #8]

ports of Holland, and prevent their navy from venturing to sea, we
must conclude, that the relative power of the two nations is altered,
since the time that the Dutch fleet rode triumphant in the river
Thames. But, if we want to make a comparison between the naval
power of England and that of France and Spain, we must not compare
it with the strength of their navies in the year 1780, when they bid us
defiance at Plymouth, but take things actually as they are at this
present time.

When a nation is upon an equality with others, for wealth, it may be
considered as neither deserving the name of a rich or a poor nation,
whatever its real wealth or poverty may be. The same thing holds with
power. When a nation is merely able to protect itself, but fully equal
to that, though unable to make conquests, or aggrandize itself, against
the will of other nations, it may be said to be neither weak nor strong.
Thus, for example, Denmark as a nation is upon a par with others; and
neither to be called wealthy and powerful, nor weak and poor, though
it certainly has both more actual wealth and power than it had in the
eighth century, when the Danes burnt London, Paris, and Cologne.

Thus, then, with respect to my reasoning, the whole is to be
considered as applying to other nations at the same time; and the
degree they are above or below par, is the measure of wealth and
power, poverty and weakness. {12}

But, with respect to a nation itself, wealth is comparative in the
progression of time. In speaking of power, we compare nations at the
same period, and, in speaking of wealth, we may either compare a
nation with itself at different periods, or with others at the same time.

We shall not find any example of a nation's becoming less wealthy
whilst it increased in power; but we shall find many instances of
nations becoming wealthy whilst they were losing their power,

{12} According to this definition, if all the nations on earth were to
increase in wealth and power equally, they would be considered as
stationary; their relative situations would remain the same; like those
of the fixed stars, or those of soldiers who march in a regiment with
perfect regularity, and retain their relative portion in the same manner
as if they stood still. But this case, among nations, is only an
imaginary one; therefore, the definition given answers the true
purpose of investigation.

[end of page #9]

together with the power, the wealth always, a little sooner or a little
later, vanishes away.

Sometimes nations owe their wealth and greatness to accidental
causes, that, from their nature, must vanish away; and sometimes to
causes which, depending upon the nations themselves, may be
prolonged. In general, both the two sorts of causes have united to
render every nation great that has been distinguished amongst others
for riches or power.

The causes, then, divide themselves into two of distinct kinds;--those
which are independent of the nation itself, and those over which it has
some degree of influence and controul.

In early ages, when knowledge was but little advanced, and when the
small stock that had been accumulated was confined nearly to a single
spot, the first description of causes were the principal ones.--Local
situation, priority in discovery, or in establishment, gave to one nation
a superiority over others, and occasioned the accumulation of wealth,
and the acquisition of power and territory. {13} As in the early stages
of human life, a few years more or less occasion a greater difference,
both in physical powers and mental faculties, than any difference of
innate genius, or adventitious circumstances; so, in the early days of
the world, when it was young in knowledge, and scanty in population,
priority of settlement gave a great advantage to one nation over others,
and, of consequence, enabled them to rule over others; thus the
Assyrian and Egyptian empires were great, powerful, and extensive,
while the nations that were beyond their reach were divided into small
states or kingdoms, on the most contemptible scale.

Time, however, did away the advantages resulting from priority of

Local situation was another cause of superiority, of a more permanent
nature; but this, also, new discovery has transferred from one na-

{13} It is not meant, by any means, to enter into an inquiry, much less
controversy, respecting the antiquity of mankind; but it is very clear
that the knowledge of arts and sciences can be traced to an infant state
about two thousand years before the Christian aera.

[end of page #10]

tion to another. Qualities of the soil and climate are counteracted by
the nature and habits of the inhabitants, which frequently, in the end,
give the superiority where there was at first an inferiority.

If ever the nations of the world come to a state of permanence, (which
in all probability will never be the case,) it must be when population is
nearly proportioned to the means of subsistence in different parts;
when knowledge is nearly equally distributed and when no great
discoveries remain to be made either in arts, science, or geography.

While the causes from which wealth and power rise in a superior
degree, are liable to change from one nation to another, wealth and
power must be liable to the same alterations and changes of place; so
long any equal balance among nations must be artificial. But when
circumstances become similar, and when the pressure becomes equal
on all sides, then nations, like the particles of a fluid, though free to
move, having lost their impulse, will remain at rest.

If such a state of things should ever arrive, then the wealth and power
would be only real, not comparative. The whole might be very rich,
very affluent, and possess great abundance of every thing, either for
enjoyment or for defence, without one nation having an advantage
over another: they would be on an equality.

But this state of things is far from being likely soon to take place.
Population is far from come to its equilibrium, and knowledge {14} is
farther distant still. Russia and America, in particular, are both behind
in population, and the inhabitants of the latter country are far from
being on a par in knowledge with the rest of Europe; when they
become so, the balance will be overturned, and must be re-established

The great discoveries that have taken place in knowledge and
geography have been connected.

While navigation was little understood, the borders of the
Mediterranean Sea, and the islands in it, were naturally the first places
for wealth and commerce.

The discovery of the compass, and others that followed, rendered

{14} By knowledge is only meant the knowledge of the arts that make
men useful, =sic= such as agriculture, manufactures, legislation, &c.

[end of page #11]

the navigation of the open ocean, more easy and safe than that of the
circumscribed seas. This laid a great foundation for change and
discovery; it brought Britain into importance, ruined Italy, Genoa,
Venice, &c. and has laid the foundation for further changes still.

As for discoveries in arts, it would be bold and presumptuous indeed
to attempt to set any bounds to them. Discoveries, however, that alter
the relations of mankind very materially, are probably near at an end.
In arts they give only a temporary preference. {15} If a method should
be discovered to cultivate a field with half the trouble, and to double
the produce, which seems very possible, it would be a great discovery,
and alter the general state of mankind considerably; but it would soon
be extended to all nations, as the use of gunpowder has been. New
produce, or means of procuring the old more easily, are the things
chiefly sought after. Potatoes, coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, silk, distilled
spirits, are new productions, unknown to the Romans. Glass,
gunpowder, printing, windmills, watermills, steam-engines, and the
most part of spinning and weaving machines, are new inventions, but
they can be extended to all countries. The mariners compass changed
the relative position of places, and no new invention of the same
importance, as to its effects on nations, probably can take place.
Navigation does not admit of a similar improvement to that which it
has received. If goods could be conveyed for a quarter of the present
price it would not produce the same sort of effect. To render
navigating the ocean practicable was a greater thing than any possible
improvement on that practicability.

As for new discoveries in geography, they are nearly at an end. The
form and the extent of the earth are known, and the habitable regions
are nearly all explored.

We have, then, arrived at a state of things where many of the causes
that formerly operated on reducing wealthy nations can never again
produce a similar effect. But still there are other causes which ope-

{15} The end of all discovery is to supply men with what they want;
and, accordingly, all nations that are considered as civilised find the
means of participating in the advantage of a new discovery, by
imitating that which possesses the invention first, and that is done
almost immediately. It was very different formerly.

[end of page #12]

rate as they did formerly; accordingly, wealth and power are very
unequally distributed amongst nations at this moment; and, in Europe,
there is not one nation that is not either rising or on its decline. (see
Appendix A.) =sic--there is none.=

The purpose of the present Inquiry is, by tracing those causes that still
continue to operate, to discover how nations that now stand high may
be prevented from sinking below their level: a thing to which history
shews they have a natural tendency, and which history shews also is
attended with very distressing consequences.

We do not labour in Utopia on schemes, but in Britain on real
business; and the inquiry is, how a nation, situated as this is, and
having more than its share of power, importance, and wealth, may
prolong their possession?

In this Inquiry we shall begin with taking a lesson from history, which
will serve as some guide.

As to the rise of other nations, we neither can nor should attempt to
impede that; let them rise to our level, but let us not sink down to
theirs. [end of page #13]


_Of the General Causes that operate, both externally and internally,
in bringing down Nations that have risen above their Level to that
assigned to them by their Extent, Fertility, and Population; and of the
Manner in which Wealth destroyed Power in ancient Nations_.

Without considering the particular causes that have raised some
nations greatly above others, there are some general causes of decline
which operate in all cases; but even the general causes are not always
similar, they vary their way of producing the effect, according to

If a nation excels in arts and manufactures, others acquire a taste for
what they make, and imitate them. If they excel in the art of war, they
teach their enemies to fight as well as themselves. If their territories
are large, the unprotected and far distant parts provoke attack and
plunder. They become more difficult and expensive to govern. If they
owe their superiority to climate and soil, they generally preserve it but
a short time. Necessity acts so much more powerfully on those who do
not enjoy the same advantages, that they soon come to an equality.--
In whatever the superiority exists, emulation and envy prompt to
rivalship in peace, and to frequent trials of strength in war. The
contempt and pride which accompany wealth and power, and the envy
and jealousy they excite amongst other nations, are continual causes
of change, and form the great basis of the revolutions amongst the
human race.

The wants of men increase with their knowledge of what it is good to
enjoy; and it is the desire to gratify those wants that increases
necessity, and this necessity is the spur to action.

There are a few natural wants that require no knowledge in order to be
felt; such as hunger and thirst, and the other appetites which men have
in common with all animals, and which are linked, as it [end of page
#14] were, to their existence. {16} But while nations satisfy
themselves with supplying such wants, there is neither wealth nor
power amongst them. Of consequence, it is not into the conduct of
such that we are to inquire.

Excepting, however, those wants which are inseparable from our
existence, all the others are, more or less, fictitious, and increase with
our knowledge and habits; it is, therefore, evident that the nation that
is the highest above others feels the fewest wants; or, in other words,
feels no wants. She knows nothing that she does not possess, and
therefore may be said to want nothing; or which is the same thing, not
knowing what she does want, she makes no effort to obtain it.

Thus necessity of rising higher, does not operate, on a nation that sees
none higher than itself; at least, it does only operate in a very slender
degree. {17} Whereas, in the nation that is behind hand with other
nations around, every one is led by emulation and envy, and by a
feeling of their own wants, to imitate and equal those that are farther

{16} A child cries for food without knowing what it is; and all the
other natural appetites, though they may be increased by habit, by
knowledge, and fancy, are independent of the mind in its first state.

{17} The necessity, no doubt, continues to preserve what they have;
and, therefore, tends to keep them in a permanent state. Some
individuals again, in less affluence than others, endeavour to equal
them; by which means some progress is still making in the nation that
possesses the greatest share of wealth and power; but it is only partial
and feeble. Those who live in the nation that is the most advanced are
contented and have all they wish; they possess every thing of which
they know, they can have no particular desire for any thing they have
not got, that will produce great energy and exertion. A man may wish
for wings, or for perpetual youth; but, as he can scarcely expect to
obtain either, he will make little exertion. With things really
attainable, but not known, the case is less productive of energy still.
The people of Asia found silk a natural produce of their country; till
the Europeans saw it, they never attempted to produce so rich a
material; but no pains has since been spared to try to produce it, in
almost every country, where there was the least chance of success. We
imitated the silk mills of Italy, and the Italians (as well as many other
nations) are now imitating our cotton mills. In the case of a nation that
follows others, it always knows what it wants, and may judge whether
it can obtain it; but the nation the most advanced, gropes in the dark.

[end of page #15]

Thus it is, that necessity acts but in a very inferior degree on the
nation that is the farthest advanced; while it operates in a very
powerful way on those that are in arrear; and this single reason,
without the intervention of wars or any sort of contest or robbery,
would, in the process of time, bring nations to a sort of equality in
wealth and refinement; that is, it would bring them all into possession
of the means of gratifying their wants.

War, excited by the violent and vile passions,--by the overbearing
pride and insolence of one, and the envy and villainy of another,
derange this natural and smooth operation, which, nevertheless,
continues to act in silence at all times, and in every circumstance, and
which, indeed, is in general the chief cause of those very disorders by
which its operations are sometimes facilitated; sometimes apparently
interrupted; sometimes, their effect for a moment reversed; but their
action never, for one instant, totally suspended.

The desire of enjoyment makes all mankind act as if they were
running a race. They always keep the goal in view, though they
attempt to be the foremost to arrive at it by various means. But the
greatest exertions are never made by those who have got the advance
of their competitors. Amongst the wants of mankind, ease is one of
very permanent operation; and whenever the necessity of supplying
other wants ceases, the desire of supplying that, leads to a state of
inaction and rest. {18} To seek ease, however, does not imply
necessarily to seek total inaction or rest; a diminished exertion is
comparative ease; and this is always observable in a state of
prosperity, either of an individual or of a nation, after the prosperity
has been long enough

{18} The truth of this may be disputed by those who look at mankind
in an artificial state; because a variety of their actions seem without
any particular motive. But not the smallest exertion is ever made
without it. The man who walks out and takes exercise, wants health or
amusement as much as the working man does bread. Even those who
toil in the rounds of pleasure, are always in pursuit of something.
Their not finding the object is another part of the consideration; but
they always have one in view. As to savages, and the poorer classes of
people, they shew their propensity by a more simple process; that is,
merely by resting inactive, when they are not compelled to labour.

[end of page #16]

enjoyed to create a certain degree of lassitude and indifference, which
it does on every nation. {19}

Whatever may be the accidental circumstance which first raises one
nation above others, or the train of adventitious ones that increase for
a while and continue that superiority, nothing can be more clear and
certain, than, that they have a natural tendency to come back to a
level, merely by the exertions of men in the direction of acquiring
wealth by industry, and without any of those causes which arise out of
war, or interrupting the career of each other.

When, from the conduct of one nation towards another, or from
whatever other cause war, =sic= becomes the means by which the
superiority of two nations is to be decided, there are many things in
favour of the least wealthy nation.

It has less to protect and to lose, and more to attack and to gain; the
task is much easier and more alluring. There is a sort of energy in
attempting to obtain, that is not to be found in those who are only
exerting themselves to keep, of which it is difficult to explain the
cause, but of which the existence is very certain.

Where natural strength, and the struggle with want is great, as is the
case with nations who have made but little progress in acquiring
wealth, the contest with a people more enervated by ease, and less
inured to toil is very unequal, and does more than compensate those
artificial aids which are derived from the possession of property. {20}
From this cause, the triumph of poorer over more wealthy nations has
generally arisen, and, in most cases, has occasioned the contest to end
in favour of the more hardy and poorer people.

Of the revolutions that took place in the ancient world; whether
operated by degrees or by violence and suddenly, those may be ge-

{19} Doctor Garth, in his admirable poem of the Dispensary, says;--

"_Even health for want of change becomes disease_."

This is the case with nations sunk in prosperity.

{20} Why men should have been less tenacious to keep that which is
fairly theirs, than rapaciously to obtain that which is not, is a strange
thing; but nothing is more certain; and the effects of that propensity
are very great, and its existence very general. In the ruin of nations, it
is a most active and powerful cause.

[end of page #17]

nerally traced as the causes. In those ancient nations any considerable
degree of luxury and military success were incompatible with each
other; but, in the present age, the case is greatly altered. Military
discipline is not near so severe as formerly, and bodily strength has
but little effect, while the engines of war can only be procured by
those resources which wealth affords; by this means, the decline of
nations is, at least, now become a less natural and slower progress
than formerly; the operations of war have now a quite different
tendency from what they formerly had, and this effect is produced by
the introduction of cannon, and a different mode of attack and
defence; to carry on which, a very considerable degree of wealth is
necessary. {21}

In former times, the character and situation of the people, the object
they had in view, their bravery and the skill of their leaders, did every
thing; but now the skill of leaders and the command of money are the
chief objects; for there is not sufficient difference between any two
nations in Europe as to counterbalance those: and, indeed, (except so
far as military skill is accidental,) it is to be found principally in
nations who have a sufficient degree of wealth to exercise it and call it
into action.

We shall see that the first revolutions in the world were effected by
the natural strength, energy, and bravery of poor nations triumphing
over those that were less hardy, in consequence of the enjoyment of
wealth, until the time of the Romans; who, like other nations, first
triumphed by means of superior energy and bravery; and, afterwards
by making war a trade, continued, by having regular standing armies,
to conquer the nations who had only temporary levies, or militias, to
fight in their defence.

The triumph of poor nations, over others in many respects their
superiors, continued during the middle ages, but the wealth acquired
by certain nations then was not wrested from them by war, but by an
accidental and unforeseen change in the channel through which it

{21} An idea has gone abroad, since the successes of the French
armies, that money is not necessary to war, even in the present times.
It will be shewn, in its proper place, that the French armies were
maintained at very great expense, and that a poor country could not
have done what France did.

flowed. At the same time that this change took place, without the
intervention of force, the art of war changed in favour of wealthy
nations, but the changes took place by slow degrees, and the power of
nations now may almost be estimated by their disposable incomes.

This change, however, has by no means secured the prosperity of
wealthy nations; it has only prevented poor ones, unable by means of
fair competition to do by conquest what they could not effect by
perseverance in arts and industry; for, in other respects, though it
makes the prosperity of a nation more dependant =sic= on wealth, and
more independent of violence; it prevents any nation from preserving
its political importance after it loses its riches. It does not by any
means interrupt that progress by which poor nations gradually rise up
and rival richer ones in arts. It has not done away the advantages that
arise from superior industry and attention to business, or from the
gradual introduction of knowledge amongst the more ignorant,
thereby lessening their inferiority, and tending to bring nations to a
level; on the contrary, by increasing the advantages, and securing the
gradual triumphs gained by arts and industry, from the violence of
war, it makes wealth a more desirable object, and the loss of it a
greater misfortune. It tends to augment the natural propensity that
there is in poor nations to equal richer ones {22}, although it, at the
same time, augments the difficulty of accomplishing their intentions.

The superior energy of poverty and necessity which leads men, under
this pressure, to act incessantly in whatever way they have it in their
power to act, and that seems likely to bring them on a level with those
that are richer, is then the ground-work of the rise and fall of nations,
as well as of individuals. This tendency is sometimes favoured by
particular circumstances, and sometimes it is counteracted by them;
but its operation is incessant, and it has never yet failed in producing
its effect, for the triumph of poverty over wealth on the great scale as
on the small, though very irregular in its pace, has continued without
interruption from the earliest records to the present moment.

{22} The present inferiority of Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, and
Portugal, compared with the rank they held in former times, is easily
accounted for by looking at the scale of their revenues.

[end of page #19]


_Of the Nations that rose to Wealth and Power previously to the
Conquests in Asia and Africa, and the Causes which ruined them_.

Previous to the conquests made by Alexander the Great, the
history of ancient nations is confused, incomplete, and inaccurate.

During the contests of his successors, the intricacy and confusion are
still continued, but materials are more plentiful, more accurate, and
more authentic.

During the first period, excepting what is contained in sacred history,
a few detached facts, collected by writers long after, are our only
guides in judging of the situation of ancient states, some of which
consisted of great empires, and others of single cities possessed of a
very small territory.

Add to this, that great and striking events occupied almost exclusively
the attention of historians. The means by which those events were
produced were considered as of lesser importance.

So far, however, as the present inquiry can be elucidated, although
materials are few, yet, by adhering to a distinct plan, and keeping the
object always before us, we may arrive at a conclusion.

The countries that appear to have been first inhabited were Syria and
Egypt, {23} both of them situated on the borders of the Mediterranean
Sea; and as early as any authentic records extend, those were great and
powerful countries in which agriculture and population had made
great progress, and into which commerce had already brought many of
the luxuries of the East.

The Phoenicians, a people differing in name from those who were
subjected to the Assyrian monarchs, occupied that part of Syria, now
called the Levant, directly on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea;
they were the first who rose to wealth and power by arts and com-

{23} Reasons have been given in the preface for not taking any view
of the situation of India, though, by its produce, it appears, at least of
equal antiquity.

[end of page #20]

merce. Tyre and Sidon were the abodes of commerce long before the
arrival of the Jews in the land of Canaan, situated in the adjacent
country, with whom, in the days of David and Solomon, the
Phoenicians were on terms of friendship and alliance, {24} assisting
the latter to carry on commerce, and enrich his people. (See Appendix
B.) =sic--there is none.=

The whole coast of the Mediterranean lay open to them for navigation,
as did also the Grecian islands, and as their own soil was barren, they
purchased the necessaries of life, giving in exchange the rich stuffs
they had manufactured, and the produce of the East of which they
almost exclusively possessed the commerce.

The Egyptians were possessed of the most fertile soil in the world,
bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, and on the east and
west by barren deserts. Their country was of a triangular form, and
watered by the Nile, which, passing through it in its greatest extent,
runs nearly down the middle.

Thus situated, in the country depending on the Nile for its fertility, and
on all sides protected from enemies, it was exceedingly natural to
cultivate the arts of peace, and it was not possible that it should be
divided into many different nations, as in other countries in early
times was the case, when sovereignty rose from parental authority,
and when there was no natural bond between the heads of different

The great abundance with which the inhabitants were supplied, in
years when the Nile overflowed in a favourable manner, and the
uncertainty of future plenty were inducements for accumulation and
foresight, which are not equally necessary in countries where the
important circumstances of plenty or want do not depend on one
single event over the whole face of a country, separated, besides, from
others by a sea, which they could not navigate, and by deserts not very
easy to pass over.

The difficulties of transporting corn, which were sufficient to deter the
Egyptians from depending on a supply from other parts, did not,
however, prevent other nations from applying to them in times of
scarcity, and accordingly it was the granary of the ancient world.

{24} For farther particulars of this commerce see the Digression on
the Trade to India.

[end of page #21]

To those natural advantages, the Egyptians added some others,
different in their nature, but not less precious.

They enjoyed a mild government, and an admirable and simple code
of laws. Their docility and obedience have never been equalled, and as
one maxim, was, to admit of no person being idle, it is evident that the
population must have increased rapidly, and that there must have been
an impossibility to employ the whole labour of so many hands on the
means of providing subsistence in a country, where the manners were
simple, the soil fertile, and the wants few.

The surplus of the industry of Egypt appears to have been at the
disposal of the sovereigns to whom all the lands belonged, and for
which they exacted a rent in kind, as is the custom among the native
powers on both peninsulas of India to this day. By that means, they
were enabled to produce those stupendous works which have been the
admiration and wonder of all succeeding generations, and of every
nation. The city of Thebes, with the labyrinth; Memphis, the canals,
and the pyramids would all be incredible, had not their singular
structure preserved those latter efforts of industry from the ravages of
time, and left them nearly entire to the present day.

The Phoenicians were a colony from that great country; for the
Egyptians in general had a dislike to the sea. It is well known,
however, that people who live immediately on the coast have a
propensity to navigation, and it is probable that those Egyptians who
left their own fruitful land to settle on the barren borders of Syria,
were from the delta of Lower Egypt, which lies on the sea coast, and
is intersected by a number of branches of the river Nile. {25}

It is not surprising that such a colony, following the natural propensity
to naval affairs, and carrying with it the arts of dying and weaving,
together with whatever else the Egyptians knew, should become under
the influence of necessity, and in a favourable situation for arts and
commerce, as much celebrated for commercial riches, as their mother
country had long been for agriculture and the cultivation of the

{25} That the Phoenicians were from Egypt is not doubted, and their
becoming a totally different people from being on a different soil and
in a different situation, is a strong proof of the influence of physical
circumstances on the characters of nations.

[end of page #22]

Tyre accordingly is the first example of a city becoming rich and
powerful by arts and commerce, and though few details are known,
yet those are of a very decided character.

The pride of the Tyrians appears to have been the cause of their fall,
and that pride was occasioned by the possession of wealth, far beyond
that of any other people then in the world. While they were great they
aimed at monopoly, and were partly the cause of the rapid decay of
Jerusalem. After the death of Solomon, they founded a colony, well
situated for the extention of their own trade, which consisted chiefly in
bringing the rich produce of Arabia, and India, into the western world.
Carthage was placed on the south coast of the Mediterranean to the
west of Egypt, so as never to have any direct intercourse with India
itself, while it lay extremely well for distributing the merchandize,
brought by the Tyrians, from thence in the interior of Africa, Spain,
Sicily, Italy, and the parts that lay distant from the mother city. {26}

From the extent of its territory and situation, Tyre could only be
wealthy; it never could be powerful, as the great Assyrian monarchy,
which lay immediately to the eastward, prevented the possibility of its
extention; and, as to power at sea, there was =sic= at that time no
contests on that element; the most then that could be expected was,
that it should have sufficient strength to protect itself, which, being on
a small island, very near the shore, was not difficult. If Alexander the
Great had not joined it to the land by an earthen mound, or mole, Tyre
could never have been taken till some other power got the superiority
by sea; which could not have been till after the Romans had conquered

Babylon, which was the centre of the Assyrian empire, and commu-

{26} The best account of the commodities in which the commerce of
the Tyrians consisted, as well as the best description of their wealth,
and the cause of the downfall is to be found in Ezekiel, chap. xxvi.
and the two following. It is perfectly distinct and conclusive with
respect to the principal points of wealth, pride, and luxury founded on

The Tyre here spoken of is not the same taken by the king of Babylon,
or Assyrian monarch long before Alexander's time, which only
appears to have been a settlement on the main land belonging to the
same people, and subject to the same prince.

[end of page #23]

nicated with the eastern part of Asia, by the river Euphrates, and by
the Persian Gulf with India, was, as Memphis, of Egypt, a capital; but
the Assyrians were not protected on all sides, like the Egyptians, from
foreign inroads; they consequently did not cultivate the arts of peace
and the sciences so much. On the east, were the Medes and Persians;
on the north, the Scythians and Partheans; but, as the territory was
fertile and extensive, under one of the finest climates of the world, the
monarchs became rich and luxurious, which was the cause of their
subjection, and they were always subdued by people less advanced in
luxury than themselves.

The whole of these countries, Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, and Greece,
fell under the arms of Alexander. This was the first great and general
revolution in that part of the world, from which Carthage alone, of all
the ancient seats of wealth and greatness, escaped.

The triumph of Alexander was, no doubt, that of a great captain; but,
except the destruction of Tyre, and the foundation of Alexandria,
which changed the principal seat of commerce, there was nothing
durable in his conquests. The reigning families were destroyed, and
the dynasties altered; but, under his immediate successors, the
Egyptians, the inhabitants of Syria, and the Greeks, had different

It was after the foundation of Alexandria, and under the successors of
Alexander, that Egypt became really a commercial country. Its wealth
had hitherto arisen rather from the great population and fertility of the
country, than from any participation in the trade to the East; but after
Alexandria was founded, the seat of empire, which had always been in
Upper Egypt, was established in Lower Egypt, canals were dug, and
every means taken to make the passage from the Red Sea to the
Mediterranean as commodious as possible.

Carthage began then to decline. Tyre was no more: and Alexandria
was situated on the same side of the Mediterranean Sea, in a much
more advantageous position for receiving the productions of the East,
and equally advantageous for distributing them.

The Phoenicians never recovered their importance; and indeed it was
not the interest of the Persian monarch to encourage trade by [end of
page #24] the old channel of the Red Sea and Rhinocolura, but rather
to come directly through the Persian Gulf, ascend the Euphrates, and
cross the country to the borders of the Mediterranean, which was a
way not much more expensive than by the old rout =sic=. As the
greater part of the produce imported was to be consumed at the
luxurious court of Persia, and in the numerous rich cities with which
that empire was filled, there is no doubt that the way by the Persian
Gulf was by much the least expensive; for even Solomon, King of
Jerusalem, long before, though he lived at one extremity of the
journey, and had ships for trading by the other channel, had carried on
trade by this way; and, in order to facilitate it, had laid the foundation
of the magnificent city of Palmyra, nearly in the middle between the
Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Persia.

Whilst those revolutions were effecting amongst the ancient nations
on the continents of Asia and Africa, the Greeks, who had been the
most barbarous of all, became, by degrees, the most refined; their
learning and arts were all founded, originally, on the Egyptian
learning; and though at last they carried them to a higher pitch than
their masters; yet Egypt, for many centuries, was looked up to, even
by the Greeks, as they were afterwards for a number of centuries by
the Romans, and the other nations of the world.

The education of the Greeks; very different in some of the states from
what it was in others, had, however, the same tendency in all; that
tendency was to invigorate the body, and instruct and strengthen the
mind. While this continued, we see them at first resist the Persians,
though in very unequal numbers; and, at last, the Grecian vigour,
discipline, and skill, subdue the whole of the then civilized world.

After the conquests of Alexander, the wealth and luxury of Asia were
introduced into Greece, and indeed the Greeks refined on that luxury.
At Athens and the other cities which might be said to give manners to
the rest, shews, and theatrical representations were after that more
attended to than the military art; and cabal, intrigue, and corruption,
were introduced in the place of that manly, pure, and admirable love
of their country, for which, in less wealthy, but in better [end of page
#25] times, they had been so highly distinguished above every other

This was the situation of things when a nation, less advanced in arts,
and uncorrupted with the possession of wealth, but which was still
considered by the Greeks as barbarous, prepared at once to subdue the
whole of them, and give a still more striking proof of the triumph
which vigour and energy obtain over those who have only wealth; the
possession of which, undoubtedly, gives a certain means of defence,
though one very unequal to resisting a nation when excited by the
desire of sharing its possessions, and yet vigorous and strong, not
being unnerved by the enjoyment of ease and luxury. [end of page


_Of the Romans.--the Causes of their Rise under the Republic, and of
their Decline under the Emperors.--the great Error generally fallen
into with respect to the Comparison between Rome and Carthage;
Proofs that it is wrong, and not at all applicable to France and

In the rise and greatness of Rome, there was nothing accidental, all
was the effect of the most unremitting perseverance in a plan, at first,
of petty robbery; which, as it extended, was honoured with the title of
conquest; and, as it succeeded, has been considered as deserving the
appellation of great.

It is true, that there were talents exercised, and methods practised,
which deserve the highest praise, and are worthy of imitation. It is
impossible to withhold admiration at the recital, but the end in view,
from the beginning, cannot be justified.

Although neither the end in view, nor, generally speaking, the means
employed, are deserving of imitation, yet we shall find more
advantage from examining them than from the history of any other

In the first place, so far as prosperity depends on good conduct, and
good conduct depends on the state of the mind, the Romans are a most
striking example. While they preserved the manners that first
occasioned their rise, they continued to become more powerful; as
they forsook these manners, their power abandoned them; and they,
after having conquered all with whom they ever contended, because
they had more skill or less corruption, were themselves overcome, by
men infinitely inferior to what they had been, before they became
enervated and corrupt.

The smallness of the territory, which the Romans at first possessed,
laid them under the necessity of extending it, and drawing resources
from their neighbours; who, being brave and hardy, could not be
easily either robbed or subdued. [end of page #27]

The Romans began with robbing, and finished with subduing them all,
but the modes they practised deserve attention.

It is in vain to think that superior bravery or skill would alone have
done the business; those are often triumphant, but occasionally
defeated. The Romans owed their gradual aggrandizement to a line of
conduct that, whether in good or ill fortune, tended to make them the
sovereigns of the world. A line of conduct in which, if it had been in
human nature to persevere, they would have preserved the situation to
which they had elevated themselves.

Along with this decided conduct, which seems to have arisen from
something innate in themselves, or to have been occasioned by some
circumstance that is not known, the Romans possessed a number of
methods, in addition to personal bravery, by which they advanced the
end they had in view.

When the kings were abolished, Rome was only a small, rude,
irregular place, and a receptacle for plunder; inhabited, however, by
men who had great strength of mind, and who possessed a great
command over themselves.

Their moral code was suitable to their situation. To rob, plunder, and
destroy an enemy was a merit; to betray a trust, or to defraud a fellow
citizen, was a crime of the greatest magnitude. With the Romans,
oaths were inviolable; and attachment to the public was the greatest

As they had neither arts nor commerce, and but very little territory,
plunder was their means of subsistence; it was to them a regular
source of wealth, and it was distributed with perfect impartiality; they
were in fact an association; the wealth of the public, and of the
individual, were, to a certain degree, the same; they were as an
incorporated company, in which private interest conspired with the
love of their country to forward the general interest.

Plundering and pillage, as well as the modes of dividing the spoil,
were reduced to system and method; and the religious observation of
oaths was conducive to the success of both. Every soldier was sworn to
be faithful to his country, both in fighting its battles, and in giving
a rigid account of whatever might be the fruits of the contest. [end of
page #28]

The moveables and lands taken from an enemy were sold for the
benefit of the public; the former went wholly for that purpose, and the
latter were divided into two equal portions; one of which, like the
moveables, went into the general stock, the other was distributed to
the poorer citizens, at the price of a small acknowledgement.

The consequence of this system was, a perpetual state of warfare; in
which it was clear that the armies must obtain a superiority over
neighbours, who but occasionally employed themselves in acts of

From such a plan of operations it naturally followed that they must
either have been subdued altogether, or come off in general with some
advantage, otherwise it would have been impossible to proceed. Of
this they seem to have been fully sensible; for, with them, it was a
maxim never to conclude peace unless they were victorious, and never
to treat with an enemy on their own territory.

Acting in this manner, and engaging in wars with different nations,
unconnected with each other by treaties of alliance; without any
common interest, or even any knowledge of each others =sic= affairs;
ignorant, in general, even of what was going on, the Romans had, in
most cases, a great advantage over those with whom they had to

There were in Italy some very warlike people, and those were nearest
to Rome itself. The contest with those was long obstinate, and
repeatedly renewed; but still the system of conquest was followed; and
at last prevailed.

The consular government was favourable, also, for perpetual warfare.
Those temporary chief magistrates did not enjoy their dignity long
enough to become torpid or careless, but were interested in
distinguishing themselves by the activity of their conduct while in
office; whereas, in hereditary power, or elective monarchy, the
personal feelings of the chief, which must have an influence upon the
conduct of a nation, must sometimes, happily for mankind, lead him to
seek peace and quietness. {27}

{27} During the interruption of consular government, by the
decemvirs, though they did not reign long, the energy of the people
was suspended, and their enemies found them much less difficult to

[end of page #29]

Even when the Gauls burned the city, the Romans yielded no
advantages in treaty; they abandoned it to its fate, retired to Veii, and
renewed the war.

In the art of war, the Romans had those advantages which men
generally possess in whatever is the natural bent of their genius, and
their constant occupation. Every thing that continual attention,
experience, or example, could do to increase their success was
attended to; and their hardy manner of education and living, with
constant exercise, enabled them to practice =sic= what other men were
unable to perform.

They accustomed themselves to heavier armour than any other nation.
Their rate of marching was between four and five miles an hour, for
four or five hours together, loaded with a weight of above 60lb. Their
weapons for exercising were double the usual weight, and they were
inured to running and leaping when completely armed.

The success of the Romans in Europe was not sufficiently rapid, nor
were the nations they conquered sufficiently rich to bring on that
luxury and relaxation of discipline, which were the consequences in
those victories obtained in Egypt, Syria, and Greece; nor were the
soldiers the only persons inured to such exercises, for the Roman
citizens practised the same at home, in the Campus Martius.

No people educated with less hardiness of body, or a less firm
attachment to their country, could have undergone, or would have
submitted, to the terrible fatigues of a Roman soldier, which were
such, that, even at a very late period of the republic, they were known
to ask as a favour to be conducted to battle, as a relief from the
fatigues they were made to undergo in the camp. {28}

In addition to this unremitting and very severe discipline, and to the
inventions of many weapons, machines, and stratagems, unknown to
other nations, they had the great wisdom to examine very carefully, if
they found an enemy enjoy any advantage, in what that advantage
consisted. If it arose from any fault of their own, it was rectified

{28} This happened under Sylla, in the war against Mithridates, which
immediately preceded the fall of the republic.

[end of page #30]

without delay; and if it arose from any new mode of fighting, or
superior weapons, they adopted methods with such promptitude that
the advantage was only once in favour of the enemy. {29}

The Asiatic methods of fighting with elephants, though new, never
disconcerted them twice. If they knew of any superior art that they
could imitate, it was done; and when the advantage arose from natural
circumstances, and they could not themselves become masters of the
art, they took other methods. Expert slingers from the Balearian
Islands, and bowmen from Crete, were added to their legions; as, in
modern times, field-ordnance and riflemen are added to ours.

It is impossible not to view with astonishment and admiration such
wise conduct in such haughty men, whose simple citizens treated the
sovereigns of other nations as equals; but that greatness of mind had a
well-founded cause. They knew that the physical powers of men are
limited, and that to obtain a victory with the greatest ease possible it
was necessary to join together all the advantages that could be
obtained; they knew, also, that war is altogether a trial of force, and a
trial of skill, and that neither of the contending parties can act by rule,
but must be guided by circumstances and the conduct of the enemy.

This conduct of the Romans in war was supported by the laws at
home. The equal distribution of lands, their contempt for commerce
and luxury, preserved the population of the country in that state where
good soldiers are to be obtained. The wealthy, in any state, cannot be
numerous; neither are they hardy to bear the fatigue. Their servants,
and the idle, the indolent, and unprincipled persons they have about
them are totally unfit, and a wretched populace, degraded by want, or
inured to ease and plenty are equally unfit.

{29} This conduct appears the more admirable to those who live in the
present times that in the revolutionary war with the French, who
invented a number of new methods of fighting, and had recourse to
new stratagems, the regular generals opposed to them never altered
their modes of warfare, but let themselves be beat in the most regular
way possible. One single general (the Archduke Charles) did not think
himself above the circumstances of the case, and his success was
proportioned to his merit.

{30} The copying the form and structure of a Carthaginian galley that
was stranded.

[end of page #31]

It has been a favourite opinion among many writers on political
economy that artists and workmen are cowardly and unfit for soldiers;
but experience does not warrant that conclusion; though it is certain
that, according to the manner the Romans carried on war, the bodily
fatigue was greater than men bred up promiscuously to trades of
different sorts could in general undergo.

So long as the Romans had enemies to contend with, from whom they
obtained little, the manners and laws, the mode of education, and the
government of their country, remained pure as at first. Their business,
indeed, became more easy; for the terror of their name, their
inflexibility, and the superior means they had of bringing their powers
into action, all served to facilitate their conquests. But when they
conquered Carthage, and begun =sic= to taste the fruits of wealth,
their ground-work altered by degrees, and the superstructure became
less solid. {31}

Wealth, as we have already seen, was confined to Asia and Africa, and
of it the Carthaginians possessed a great share. It has long been the
opinion adopted by writers on those subjects that the Carthaginians, as
being a commercial and a trading nation, were quite an unequal match
for the Romans; that in Rome all was virtue, public spirit, and every
thing that was great and noble, while at Carthage all was venal, vile,
and selfish. A spirit of war and conquest reigned, say they, in one
place together with a spirit of glory, in the other a spirit of gain
presided over private actions and public counsels.

This is all very true, and very well said, with respect to the fact, but
with respect to the cause there is one of the greatest errors into which
a number of men of discernment and ability have ever fallen. {32}

The true state of the case is easily to be understood, if we only

{31} It will be seen, in the subsequent part of this inquiry, that, in the
present mode of warfare, the Romans would not have had equal
advantage.--Skill, and not personal strength, is now the great object,
and money to purchase arms and ammunition is the next.

{32} M. Montesquieu, notwithstanding his very superior knowledge,
accuracy, and acuteness, enlarges upon this subject; and never takes
any notice of the corrupt, mercenary, and degraded state into which
Rome fell when it became as rich as Carthage.

[end of page #32]

throw aside, for a moment, the favour for the brave warrior, and the
dislike to the selfish trader. The fact was, that Rome, in the days of its
vigour, when it was poor, attacked Carthage in the days of its wealth
and of its decline; but let us compare Carthage before its fall to Rome
in the time of the Gordians, of Maximus, or Gallus, and see which was
most vile, most venal, or most cowardly. This would at least be a fair
comparison; and nothing relative to the two cities is more certain, than
that Rome became far more degraded, in the character both of citizens
and soldiers, than ever Carthage was.

Wealth procured by commerce, far from degrading a nation more than
wealth procured by conquest, does not degrade it near so much; and
the reason is easily understood. Whenever a commercial nation
becomes too corrupted and luxurious, its wealth vanishes, and the evil
corrects itself. Whereas, a country that lives by tribute received from
others, may continue for a considerable while to enjoy its revenues.
This is so evident, that it would be absurd to enlarge on the subject.

The reduction of Carthage, and the wealth it produced at Rome, soon
brought on a change in the education, the nature, and the manner of
acting, both in private life and public concerns. The conquest of
Greece, Syria, and Egypt, completed the business; and the same
people who had conquered every enemy, while they retained their
poverty and simplicity, were themselves conquered, when they
became rich and luxurious.. =sic=

After the fall of Carthage {33}, Rome was fundamentally changed;
but the armies still continued to act. Their ambition was now
strengthened by avarice, and became ten times more active and
dangerous to other nations. They then carried on war in every
direction, and neither the riches of the East, nor the poverty of the
North, could secure other nations from the joint effects of ambition
and avarice.

But the Romans did not only get gold and wealth by their con-

{33} Considering circumstances, it is wonderful that the
Carthaginians made so excellent a stand against the Romans: for a
long time they were victorious; they fought excellently, even at the
battle of Zama. The Romans could not say so much for themselves,
when afterwards they were attacked by the barbarians.

[end of page #33]

quests; they became corrupted by adopting the manners of the
inhabitants of countries that had long been drowned in every
voluptuous pleasure. Then it was that they ceased to trust so much to
their bravery for their conquests; they began to employ politics and
intrigue to divide their enemies. With the poorer states, they found
gold a very useful weapon, and, with the richer, they employed
weapons of iron.

The terror of the Roman name, the actual force that they could exert
against a powerful enemy, and the facility with which a weak one
could be silenced, till a proper opportunity arrived for his destruction,
were all calculated, and force and fraud were both called into action.

Whatever truth or honour the Romans had amongst themselves, they
at least had none towards other nations. They, in the most wanton
manner, interfered in every quarrel between strangers; and, whenever
it suited their conveniency to make war, they begun without almost
being at the pains to search for a pretext. They set themselves up
above all opinion, while, at the same time, they required all nations to
submit to theirs.

In a city where all great offices were elective, the evil effects of the
introduction of riches were soon displayed. The first great changes
were, that the people became corrupted, dependent, and degraded;
fortunes became unequally divided; the provinces groaned under the
heavy contributions of generals and proconsuls; and, at last, the
country splitting into factions, the government was overturned.

The splendour of Rome augmented, as a fiery meteor shines most
bright before it falls; but the means by which it obtained the
ascendency over other nations had long been at an end.

The same laws that had been found excellent, when the state was
small and poor, did not answer now that it had become great and
splendid. The freedom of the city, and the title and privileges of a
Roman citizen had been very widely extended; they were therefore
become an illusion, and a very dangerous one for the public weal; they
served as a foundation for cabal and intrigue of every description.

Towards the latter days, after all those internal causes of decline,
which are common to other nations had rendered Rome feeble, several
[end of page #34] external ones began to act.

The provinces became exhausted, and those who ruled them gradually
retained more and more of the money. {34} Thus, while the
oppression of the provinces was augmenting, the resources of the state
were daily on the decline.

The first effect of conquests had been to free the people at home from
taxes; and when, in a state of poverty and simplicity, the effect was
advantageous and tended to preserve that spirit by which the Roman
empire aggrandized itself. After wealth flowed in from the destruction
of Carthage, donations and shews were in use. The Roman populace,
idle and degraded, clamoured for corn and public games. It is almost
as difficult to conceive the degree to which the character of the people
was degraded, as it is to give credit to the wealth and luxury of the
great, in the latter days of the empire.

Agriculture was neglected; and the masters of the world, who had
obtained every thing for which they contended, while they preserved
their purity of manners, now became unable either to govern others, to
protect themselves, or even to provide food. Sicily and Africa supplied
the Roman people with bread, long before the empire had become
feeble, and even at the very time when it is reckoned to have been in
its greatest splendour in the Augustan age. {35} The cause of its
decline was fixed beyond the power of human nature to counteract: it
began by unnerving the human character, and therefore its progress
was accelerated and became irresistible.

Of all the nations, into which luxury is introduced, none feels its

{34} The detached facts related of the wealth of the governors of
provinces, compared with the poverty of the state, are, if not
incredible, at least, difficult to conceive. They are, however, too well
attested to admit of a doubt, though the details are not sufficiently
circumstantial to enable us to know exactly how they happened.

{35} In the time of Augustus, the people depended on the supplies
from Sicily and Egypt, in so complete a manner, that, if those failed,
there was no remedy; and, at one time, when there was only a
sufficient quantity of grain for twenty-four hours, that emperor was
determined to have put an end to his existence: but the supply arrived
in time. Such is the terrible situation into which a people is thrown,
when agriculture and industry are abandoned, and when the
population becomes too great for the production of the country!! This,
however, was a very recent change. Till some time after the conquest
of Egypt, Greece, and Sicily, it could not have happened.

[end of page #35]

so severely as one where it comes by conquest. A people of
conquerors, who are wealthy, must, at all events, be under military
authority, and that is never a desirable circumstance; depending also
on revenues which come without the aid of industry, they must
become doubly degraded.

With such a people, it would be fair to compare the Carthaginians
before their fall; for, to say nothing more than that the principle of
traffic and commerce is founded on morality and virtue, in
comparison to that trade of pillage which robbed and ruined all
nations; the physical situation of the Carthaginians was preferable to
that of the Romans in the days of their decline. This is evident, from
the noble struggle that the former made, and the contemptible manner
in which the mistress of the world terminated her career.

Montesquieu bewails the fate of a monarch, who is oppressed by a
party that prevails after his fall. His enemies are his historians; and
this reflection is employed in mitigation of the crimes imputed to
Tarquin; but, surely, if true, on that occasion, it is no less so with
respect to Carthage. All the historians that give us the character of the
two nations were Romans and of the victorious party; yet most of
them are more equitable than the historians of modern times, for they
had not seen their own country in its last state of degradation and
misery. Those who now make the comparison have proper materials;
and it is the business of the writers of history to free it from the errors
into which cotemporary =sic= authors fall, whether from prejudice, or
from want of knowing those events which happened after their days.

In the case of the Roman historians, the error arose from a
combination of three different causes. In the first place, they compared
Rome in its healthy days and its vigour, to Carthage in its decline.--
They were, next to that, led into an error, by not knowing that all
countries that have been long rich are liable to the same evils as
Carthage. And, last of all, they wrote with a spirit of party, and a
prediliction =sic= in favour of Rome. These three causes are certain;
and, perhaps, there was another. It is possible they did not dare to
speak the truth, if they did know it.

It is true, that the human mind is not proof against the effect pro-[end
of page #36] duced by what is splendid and brilliant; and that success
in all cases diminishes, and, in some, does away the reproach naturally
attached to criminality. It is also to be admitted, that in the Roman
character there was a degree of courage and magnanimity that
commands admiration, though the end to which it was applied was in
itself detestable. Even in individual life (moral principle apart) there is
something that diminishes the horror attendant on injustice and
rapacity, when accompanied with courage and prodigality.

It is no less true, that the manners of commercial men, though their
views are legitimate and their means fair, are prejudicial to them in the
opinion of others. Individuals, gaining money by commerce, may
sometimes have the splendour and magnanimity of princes; but
nations that depend only on commerce for wealth never can. No
nation, while it continues great or wealthy, can rid itself of the
characteristic manners that attend the way in which it obtains its
wealth and greatness. Merchants owe their wealth to a strict adherence
to their interest, and they cannot help shewing it.

The cruelties of the Spaniards have not excited the detestation they
deserved, because they were accompanied with courage, and crowned
with success; and that nation found means, in the midst of the most
horrible of human crimes, to preserve an appearance of greatness and
dignity of character. But the Dutch, who have gained wealth, like the
Carthaginians, and though they were conquerors, never quitted the
character of merchants, and they never possessed dignity of character,
though they triumphed by virtue, perseverance, and bravery, over that
very Spain which did preserve her dignity.

It is much more difficult to reconcile the character of trading nations
with the qualities that are improperly called great, than that of any
other. A commercial nation naturally will be just; it may be generous;
but it never can become extravagant and wasteful; neither can it be
incumbered with the lazy and the idle; for the moment that either of
these takes place, commerce flies to another habitation. {36}

{36} It follows, from this, that a commercial people never become so
degraded as those who obtain wealth by other means; but, then, it also
follows, that they exist a much shorter time after they become so, and
that wealth and power leave them much more speedily.

[end of page #37]

The purpose of this inquiry being, to examine the effects of wealth,
and its operation in the decline of nations; it appears to be of
considerable importance to remove the error, in which historians and
other writers have so long persevered, relative to the two greatest
republics of antiquity; particularly as their example applies the most
readily, and is the most frequently applied to two rival nations of
modern times; although the parallel is extremely imperfect in almost
every particular, and in some directly inadmissible. {37}

It cannot but be attended with some advantage to set this matter right.
It may, perhaps, tend in some degree to prevent the French from
attempting to imitate the Romans, when we shew them that a state,
whether a whole people, or a single city, exempted from taxes, and
living by the tribute of other countries, must, at all events, be
dependent on its armies. In short, military government and tributary
revenue are inseparable. We see how closely they were connected in
ancient Rome. It is fit that its imitators should know at what rate they
pay (and in what coin) for those exemptions from taxes, occasioned by
the burthens imposed upon other nations.

In general we find, that all nations are inclined to push to the extreme
those means by which they have attained wealth or power; and it will
also be found that their ruin is thereby brought on with greater

{37} The reader must see the allusion is to England and France; but, in
point of time, their situation is absolutely different. France is
farther advanced in luxury than England. Rome was far behind Carthage.
The Romans exceeded their rivals in perseverance; in following up their
plans, and in attention to their liberty. The contrary is the case with
France and England.

The French, indeed, resemble the Romans in restlessness and
ambition; but not in their mode of exerting the former, or of gratifying
the latter: the resemblance, therefore, is a very faint one, even where it
does hold at all. The English, in whatever they may resemble the
Carthaginians, such as they have been represented, neither do it in
their want of faith and honour, nor in their progress towards decline.
The different wars with Rome, in which Carthage came off a loser and
became tributary, though only for a limited time, were not the only
causes of its decline. The trade of Alexandria, which was better
situated for commerce, had diminished the resources of Carthage; so
that it was, in every sense of the word, a falling nation. It will be seen,
in the subsequent part of this inquiry, how, from the different modes
of making war and also the different effects of wealth in the present
times, the comparison is still less founded.

[end of page #38]

Had the Romans stopped the career of conquest at an earlier period,
they probably would not have so soon sunk into a state of corruption.
It is very probable, that if Caesar had never attempted the useless
conquest of Britain, he never would have succeeded in conquering the
liberties of his own country. The reputation of having conquered an
island, and the passage of the British Channel, made way for the
passage of the Rubicon, and the battle of Pharsalia.

Conquerors must be paid as well as common soldiers: and though
every man may have his price, and money and dignities may be a
sufficient reward for the most part, there are some who despise any
reward under that of royal power.--Caesar was one of those men; and
both ancient and modern history shew, that though, perhaps, in his
abilities, he has had no equal, there have been others who have rated
theirs at as high a price.

The Romans at last became sensible, when too late, that they had
pushed the spirit of conquest too far; and, as they had something great
in all they did, they had the magnanimity to retract their error.

The greatest extent of the Roman empire being from the north of
England to the Gulf of Persia, they consequently abandoned Britain,
and those conquests in Asia, which were the most difficult to keep.
The river Euphrates became the boundary, the Emperor Adrian
having, in a voluntary manner, given up all the country to the north of
that river, situated on its left bank.

The decline of the empire might have been as regular as the rise of the
republic, had it not been for the different characters of the emperors;
some of whom did honour to human nature, from their possessing
almost every virtue, while others were such monsters, that their crimes
excite the highest degree of horror and indignation, and are almost
beyond credibility.

It is but justice to the Romans to observe, that though they robbed and
conquered, yet their policy was to instruct, improve, and civilize those
whom they had robbed and conquered, wherever they stood in want of
it. They aimed, in every case, at making the most of the circumstances
in which they were placed, and they very truly conceived, that it was
more profitable and advantageous, to rule over a civilized than a rude
people. [end of page #39]

After the great influx of wealth had corrupted Rome, its public
expenses increased at an enormous rate, till at last that portion of the
tribute exacted from the provinces, which it pleased the armies and the
generals to remit to Rome, became unequal to the expenditure.
Taxation of every kind then became necessary, in Italy itself, and the
evils that attend the multiplication of imposts were greatly augmented
by the ignorant manner in which they were laid on, by men who
understood little but military affairs, added to the severe manner in
which were they =sic= levied by a rude, imperious, and debauched

The characters of soldier and citizen, which had been so long united,
ceased to have any connection. Soon after this, the corruption of
manners became general; and, at last, the Romans unable to find
soldiers amongst themselves, were obliged to retain barbarians to fight
in their defence, {38} and to bribe the Persians, and other nations, to
leave them in a state of tranquility.

No nation that ever yet submitted to pay tribute, has long preserved its
independence. The Romans knew this well; and if any one, having had
recourse to that expedient, has escaped ruin, it has been from some
other circumstance than its own exertion; or it has sometimes been the
effort of despair when pushed to extremity.

Though, in many respects, Montesquieu's opinion of the affairs of
Rome is by no means to be taken, yet his short account of the whole is
unexceptionally just.

"Take," says that able and profound writer, "this compendium of the
Roman history. The Romans subdued all nations by their maxims; but,
when they had succeeded in doing so, they could no longer preserve
their republican form of government. It was necessary to change the
plan, and maxims contrary to their first, being introduced, they were
divested of all their grandeur."

This was literally the case; but then it is clear that this compendium,
only includes the secondary causes, and their effects; for the
perseverance in maxims till they had obtained their end, and then

{38} This is exactly one of the charges brought against the
Carthaginians in the last Punic war.

[end of page #40]

them, which was not an act of the will, must have been occasioned by
some cause inherent in their situation, which had gradually changed.

In searching for this cause we shall be very much assisted, and the
conclusion will be rendered more certain, by observing in what
particular circumstances, they resembled other nations who had
undergone a similar changes. =sic=

In doing this, we find the inquiry wonderfully abridged indeed, and
the conclusion reduced nearly to a mathematical certainty, by
observing that the change of maxims, that is to say, the change in
ways of thinking, whenever it has taken place, has followed soon after
the introduction of wealth and refinement, which change manners, and
consequently maxims.

Wealth, acquired by conquest, was incompatible with that austere
virtue and independent principle which form the basis of republican

As all public employments were obtained by the favour of the people;
and as all wealth and power were obtained by the channels of public
employment; bribery and corruption, which cannot take place in a
poor republic, became very common in this wealthy one; so that this
republican government, so constituted, lost all those advantages it
possessed while it was poor.

Had the murderers of Julius Caesar, either understood the real
corruption of the commonwealth, or foreseen that a new master would
rise up, they would never have destroyed that admirable man. Had
Rome not been ready to receive a master, Julius Caesar, with all his
ambition, would never have grasped at the crown.

In nations that obtain wealth by commerce, manufactures, or any other
means than by conquests, the corruption of the state is not naturally so
great. The wealth originates in the people, and not in the state; and,
besides that they are more difficult to purchase, there is less means of
doing so, and less inducement; neither can they, being the sources of
wealth themselves, become so idle and corrupted. {39}

{39} The wild and ungovernable direction that the French revolution
took originated chiefly in the creation of assignats, which not only
exempted the people from taxes at first, but had the effect of
producing an artificial and temporary degree of wealth, that [end of
page #41] enabled vast numbers, either in the pay of others, or at their
own expense, to make cabals and politics their whole study. Rome
never was in such a licentious state, because, before the citizens got
into that situation, the military power was established.

In the ancient nations that fell one after another, we have seen the
young and vigorous subdue the more wealthy and luxurious; or we
have seen superior art and skill get the better of valour and ignorance;
but, in the fall of the Roman empire, the art and skill were all on the
side of those who fell, and the vigour of those who conquered was not
so powerful an agent as the very low and degraded state into which
the masters of the world had themselves fallen.

It is by no means consistent with the plan of this work, nor is it any
way necessary for the inquiry, to enter into the particular details of the
degraded and miserable state to which the Romans were reduced;
insomuch, that those who emigrated previously to its fall, and settled
amongst barbarous nations, found themselves more happy than they
had been, being freed from taxation and a variety of oppressions.

Though the Roman people are, of all others, those whose rise and fall
are the most distinctly known; yet, in some circumstances, their case
does not apply to nations in general. Had they cultivated commerce
and the arts, with the same success that they pursued conquest, they
must have become wealthy at a much earlier period, and they would
not have found themselves in possession of an almost boundless
empire, composed of different nations, subdued by force, and
requiring force to be preserved.

The decline of nations, who become rich by means of industry, may
be natural; but, the fall of a nation, owing its greatness to the
subjugation of others, must be necessary. Human affairs are too
complicated and varied to admit of perfect equality, and the relative
situations of mankind are always changing; yet, in some instances,
perhaps, changes might be obviated, or protracted, by timely
preventives. But there is no possibility of keeping them long in so
unnatural a situation, as that of a nation of wealthy and idle people,
ruling over and keeping in subjection others who are more hardy,
poorer, and more virtuous, than themselves.

Before the western empire fell, the following causes of its weakness
were arrived at a great height. [end of page #42]

Manners were corrupted to the highest degree; there was neither
public nor private virtue; intrigue, cabal, and money, did every thing.

Property was all in the hands of a few; the great mass of the people
were wretchedly poor, mutinous, and idle.

Italy was unable to supply its inhabitants with food. The lands were in
the possession of men, who, by rapacity in the provinces, had acquired
large incomes, and to whom cultivation was no object; the country
was either laid out in pleasure grounds, or neglected.

The revenues of the state were wasted on the soldiers; in shews to
keep the people occupied, and on the purchase of corn, brought to
Rome from a distance.

The load of taxes was so great, that the Roman citizens envied the
barbarians, and thought they could not be worse than they were,
should they fall under a foreign yoke. All attachment to their country
was gone; and every motive to public spirit had entirely ceased to

The old noble families, who alone preserved a sense of their ancient
dignity, were neglected in times of quiet, and persecuted in times of
trouble. They still preserved an attachment to their country, but they
had neither wealth, power, nor authority.

The vile populace, having lost every species of military valour, were
unable to recruit the armies; the defence, against the provinces which
rebelled, was in the hands of foreign mercenaries; and Rome paid
tribute to obtain peace from some of those she had insulted in the hour
of her prosperity and insolence.

Gold corrupted all the courts of justice; there were no laws for the
rich, who committed crimes with impunity; while the poor did the
same through want, wretchedness, and despair.

In this miserable state of things, the poor, for the sake of protection,
became a sort of partizans or retainers of the rich, whom they were
ready to serve on all occasions: so that, except in a few forms, there
was no trace left of the institutions that had raised the Romans above
all other nations. [end of page #43]


_Of the Cities and Nations that rose to Wealth and Power in the
middle Ages, after the Fall of the Western Empire, and previously to
the Discovery of the Passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good
Hope, and of America.--Different Effects of Wealth on Nations in cold
and in warm Climates, and of the Fall of the Eastern Empire_.

After the fall of the western empire, the Italian states were the first
that revived commerce in the west of Europe, which they may indeed
be said alone to have kept alive, with the single exception of the city
of Marseilles.

Venice had begun to flourish when the barbarians took Rome; and
Florence afforded a refuge for those of the nobility who escaped from
their terrible grasp: but, for four centuries after, till the time of
Charlemagne, there was, indeed, nothing that had either the semblance
of power, wealth, or greatness, in Europe. The Saracens, as early as
the seventh century, had got possession of Egypt, and had extended
their ravages in Asia, to the borders of the Black Sea, having in vain
endeavoured to take the city of Constantinople, and make themselves
masters of the eastern empire, as their rivals, the Goths, had conquered
that in the west.

The momentary greatness which shone forth in the reign of
Charlemagne was, in many respects, like that during the reign of
Alexander the Great. The power of each depended on the individual
character of the man, and their empires, extended by their courage and
skill, fell to pieces immediately after they were no more.

As the only permanent change that Alexander had effected was that of
removing the chief seat of commerce from Phoenicia to the southern
border of the Mediterranean Sea; so, the only permanent effect of the
reign of Charles the Great was, his extending Christianity, and some
degree of civilization, to the north of the Danube; {40} thus bring-

{40} The people to the north of the Danube had never been subdued
by the Romans. In the time of Charlemagne they were Pagans, and in
a most rude state of barbarism.

[end of page #44]

ing the borders of the Baltic Sea within the limits of the civilized

Charlemagne paved the way for the greatness of the Flemings, the
Saxons, and the Hans Towns, which began to flourish a few centuries
after his time; but his own country was never in a more abject
situation than soon after his decease.

The Danes took and burned the city of Paris, and they conquered,
settled, and gave its name to the present country of Normandy. {41}

It would throw no light on the subject of the present inquiry to notice
the quarrels, the feuds, and revolutions, that took place during the dark
ages, and the reign of the feudal system, previously to the time of the
crusades; when a wild romantic spirit extended civilization a little
more widely than before, and laid the foundation for a new order of
things, and a new species of wealth and power, different from those of
the ancient world, the extent of which was bounded by the fertile
regions of the south.

The first holy war took place in the eleventh century, and commerce
and industry were introduced into the north of Europe very soon after.
The Danes, who alone had power by sea in those times, exercised it by
piracies and seizing all merchant vessels; particularly such as passed
the Sound, from the Baltic to the North Sea. This rendered it necessary
for the cities that had commerce to carry on to associate for the sake of
protection, as the Arabian merchants had formerly done by land, and
do to this day, to prevent being robbed by those who live by hunting
and depredation.

This gave rise to the famous Hanseatic League, which began to
become formidable towards the end of the twelfth century. {42}

As men living in northern countries have many wants unknown to
those of the south, so the industry that began on the borders of the

{41} They were equally successful in England, but that country was
not then to be considered as making any part of that world, with the
revolutions of which this inquiry is connected.

{42} There is a dispute relative to this: but, as no writers give it a
later date, and some give it an earlier one, it is certain that it must
have existed at that time. Many disputes never ascertain the point
intended, yet clear up something else that is equally useful.

[end of page #45]

Baltic was very different from that which had flourished in ancient
times on those of the Mediterranean Sea.

In this new order of things, Flanders, for its fertility, might be
compared to Egypt, and Holland to Phoenicia, from its want of
territory: but clothing of a more substantial sort, and conveniences and
pleasures of a different nature being necessary, industry took a
different turn. Besides this, the nature of the governments, where men
were more nearly upon an equality, made it necessary to provide for
their wants in a very different way.

Instead of building pyramids for the tombs of kings, industry was
employed in procuring comfort for those who inhabited the country;
and instead of the greatest art being employed on the fabrication of
fine linen, and dying of purple, making vessels of gold and silver, and
every thing for the use of courts, the art of making warm clothing of
wool, and of fishing and salting fish, occupied the attention of this
new race of men.

The Flemish had three sources of wealth at one time: they possessed
the depots of Indian produce, and dispersed it over the north of
Europe; they were the first who excelled in the art of weaving, and in
that of curing fish.

The towns of Flanders and Brabant were associated in the Hanseatic
League, and continued rising from the twelfth to the middle of the
sixteenth century, when several circumstances operated in bringing on
their decline.

The Hanseatic association was one arising from the circumstances of
the times and from necessity. It was an artificial connection or
alliance, where towns, subject to different governments, acted as
independent states, entering into a society which treated on a footing
of equality with kings, and made war and peace like any single
sovereign. It was not to be expected that such a sort of alliance could
greatly outlive the cause of its formation. But neither did the
destruction of the league or federation, of necessity, draw along with it
that of the towns of which it was composed. We shall see, however,
that the general prosperity, and that of the individual members of the
league, disappeared for the most part nearly together. [end of page

The Dutch were far inferior to the Flemings for natural advantages;
but they acted under the influence of necessity, which spurred on their
industry; and no nation ever shewed so well how powerful its
operation is: so that, though they were at first behind the Flemings in
commerce and manufactures, they got the better, and became more
rich and powerful. While the persecution of Philip, who was King of
Spain, while his brother Ferdinand, Emperor of Germany, was at the
head of the Austrian dominions there, and was a dependant of the
Spanish monarchs.

--While the persecution of Philip, uniting the authority of the
hereditary dominions of Austria with that of Spain, compelled many
of the most industrious artisans, of that portion of the Low Countries
that has since been distinguished by the title of the Austrian
Netherlands, to leave their country, the Dutch provinces were making
preparations to throw off the yoke of Spain.

[Transcriber's note: possible partly duplicated section, here reproduced
as-is from the original.]

Not only did the Dutch become more wealthy than their neighbours,
but they became also more tenacious of their liberty, more patriotic
and free; for the situation of their country required economy, union,
and patriotic exertion, even for the preservation of its existence.

After Holland had already made considerable advances towards
wealth, it obtained great superiority by a fortunate improvement on
the art of curing herrings. Though herrings had been barrelled for
exportation, for more than two hundred years, it was only towards the
end of the fourteenth, or beginning of the fifteenth century, that the
present method of curing them was invented by the Dutch, which gave
them a decided superiority in that article. {43} This prepared the way
for the downfal =sic= of Flanders; to which its pride, and the mutinous
spirit of the manufacturers in the towns did not a little contribute.

The decline of the Austrian Low Countries was brought on entirely by
three causes; the oppression of the government, the Dutch excelling
and supplanting them in arts and industry, and their own pride and
insolence. At one time, Bruges, at another time, Antwerp, took on
them to act as sovereigns, and as if independent, while, at the same
time, the people were almost constantly disobedient to their
magistrates. They had first become industrious under the influence of

{43} It was discovered in 1397, or soon after.

[end of page #47]

necessity; but that was gone, and they could not continue in the same
course, when in full enjoyment of wealth, and of every thing they

The Hanseatic Towns, from at first merely defending their trade
against the Danes, became their conquerors at sea, and, in the years
1361 and 1369, they took and burnt Copenhagen, the capital, twice.
Crowned heads became desirous of their alliance, and no power, at
sea, was equal to oppose them; but their insolence to the Dutch, their
oppressions of the English, of Spain, and other powers, laid the
foundation for their decline in less than half a century afterwards.

As the first three centuries of this extraordinary and unexampled
association, were employed in protecting commerce and protecting
trade, all those concerned in its success were ambitious of being
admitted members, or received as friends: but when they began to
assume the pride and dignity of sovereigns, and to meddle in political
quarrels, to become irascible and unjust, their numbers diminished;
and of those members that remained, the wealth and prosperity
gradually began to fall.

The Dutch, by great industry, by a strict attention to their interest, and
by keeping down pride, continued to increase in wealth, while the
Hans Towns and Flanders were considerably advanced in their

While this was happening on the northern shores of the continent of
Europe; to which and to Italy trade had been nearly confined, Spain
and Portugal, France and England, began to see the advantages of
manufactures and commerce, and to encourage them. If money was
wanted to be borrowed, it was either in Italy or Flanders, or in some of
the Hans Towns, that it could alone be found; so, that though the
monarchs of those days rather despised commerce, yet, as a means
merely of procuring what they found so indispensably necessary, they
began to think of encouraging it.

Spain had taken possession of the Canary Islands, and Portugal had
made conquests on the coast of Africa, and seized the island of

{44} In 1411 they were compelled, by Henry IV. of England, to give
him satisfaction for some of the injuries done.

[end of page #48]

Madeira in the early part of the fifteenth century, and by an attention
to naval affairs, and setting a value on possessions beyond seas, laid a
foundation for those new discoveries which have totally changed the
face of the world.

In Europe then, at the end of the fifteenth century, the nations were
nearly in the following state. The Italians, possessed of the whole
trade to India, were wealthy but feeble. They had more art, policy, and
money, than other nations; but they had of themselves scarcely any
effective power, except a little exercised by the Venetians and
Genoese at sea.

The Hanse Towns, extending over the northern part of Europe and
Flanders, which had become wealthy and powerful by their own
industry, and a participation of the trade to India with the Italians,
(though at second hand,) were on the decline, through pride and

Holland alone was advancing fast towards wealth, by industry, and an
attention to commerce and economy. Spain and Portugal had turned
their attention to new discoveries; and France and England were
endeavouring to follow, though at a great distance, those who, in this
career, had gone before them.

Of the places that enjoyed wealth, all were declining in power from
the abuse of it; and Spain, which alone had possessed much power
without wealth, was abusing it, by banishing industry from Flanders,
and the Moors from their own country. In one case, there was wealth
without power; in the other, there was power without wealth; and, in
both, mistaken views and unwise conduct had laid the foundation for

The other nations that had not yet either wealth or power were all
seeking with great energy to acquire them; and they were successful in
their attempts. Even Spain, which had unwisely banished the Moors,
and thereby laid a foundation for its own decline and fall, found that
event retarded for a century, by a most unexpected discovery: in
consequence of which discovery it fell from a greater height at a later
period. {45}

{45} It would not be to the purpose to speak at present either of
Poland, Sweden, or Russia, or of the German empire, in which many
of the Hanse Towns were situated. [end of page #49] The history of
the Hanse Towns is very curious, and well worth attention: perhaps, next
to that of Rome, it is the best calculated to illustrate the subject of
this inquiry; but it is too long to be entered on.

As for the eastern empire; held up by a participation of the commerce
of India, and retaining still some of the civilization of the ancient
world, it had sustained the irregular, though fierce attacks of the
barbarians till the middle of this century; when, having very
imprudently made a display of the riches of the city, and the beauty of
the women, the envy of the Mahomedan barbarians was raised to a
pitch of frenzy, that it would, in any situation, have been difficult to
resist, but for which the enervated emperors of the east were totally

This added one instance more of a poor triumphing over an enervated
and rich people. Nothing could exceed the poverty of the Turks,
unless it was the ugliness of their women. But the case was not the
same here as when the Goths and Vandals, from violence and revenge,
attacked Rome merely to plunder and destroy. The Turks were,
comparatively, from a southern climate themselves; though poor, they
had been living amongst the wreck of ancient greatness, and they
conquered with an intention to occupy and enjoy.

Thus was extinguished the last remains of ancient grandeur, in the
middle of the fifteenth century. About fifty years before, many new
sources of wealth were discovered, and the old ones were entirely
converted into a channel that was new also. Thus, those who had,
from the earliest ages, been in possession of wealth were preparing the
way for enriching poor nations, that, from their geographical situation
and other circumstances, never could otherwise have participated in it.
[end of page #50]


_Digression concerning the Commerce with India.--This the only one
that raised ancient Nations to Wealth.--Its continual Variations.--
The Envy it excited, and Revolutions it produced_.

Before there are any authentic records, Syria and Egypt were
populous; and the monarchs that ruled in those extensive countries had
established their governments upon the plan that has more or less been
adopted by all countries. There were different ranks of people. The
same offices did not fall indifferently upon all. Wealth was unequally
divided; and, of course, a foundation was laid for that commerce
which consists in supplying the affluent with articles of taste and
luxury, which are only produced in some countries; whereas, articles
of necessity are produced in every country that is inhabited.

Commerce appears at first to have been entirely confined to the
productions of the eastern and middle parts of Asia, which have, from
the earliest periods, been sought after with great avidity by the people
of other countries.

All that is most grateful to the taste, the eye, or the smell, is found in
peculiar excellence in India. It is not to be wondered at then, if such
objects of the desires of men were an abundant source of riches to
those nations who had the means of obtaining them.

Egypt and Syria lay immediately in the road for this commerce. They
were rivals, and many contests and vicissitudes were the consequence:
for no commerce has ever created so much envy and jealousy. None
has ever raised those who carried it on so high, or, on forsaking them,
left them so low, as that which has been carried on with India.

Though at a very early period Egypt had a share of this lucrative
commerce, yet the greatest part was carried on through Syria and
Arabia, between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea; that part
now called the Levant, where Tyre and Sidon once stood. [end of page

We shall examine briefly the changes of this commerce; the only one
almost existing, in early times, or at least which gave rise to nearly all
that did exist. {46}

As the common necessaries of life are found in greater or less
abundance in every country, and as the population is in some degree
regulated by their quantity, they made no objects of trade, except in
the cases of famine. The precious metals, spices, jewels, and
aromatics, rare in their production, universally desirable and easily
transported, were long the chief objects of commerce; and the changes
which this commerce has undergone and produced, amongst those
who possessed it, greatly elucidate the subject of this inquiry.

The distance from Babylon to the Persian gulf, down the Euphrates, to
where Bussora now stands, was not great, and across the country to
Tyre there was little interruption; the Assyrian empire extending to the
sea-coast, and its monarchs being too powerful to have any thing to

There was, however, at a very early period, another channel, by which
the Tyrians obtained the productions of the East, namely, by sailing up
the Red Sea, or Arabian Gulf, and across Arabia Petrea to
Rhinocolura. {47}

The Egyptians, at that time, obtained the same sorts of merchandize,
by sailing likewise up the Red Sea, and landing at the western
extremity; from whence they were distributed through Lower Egypt.

Commerce was carried on in this manner, and was nearly all
engrossed by Tyre, when Alexander the Great, bred up under his
father, who had been educated at Athens, and travelled through

{46} To carry on trade, capital is necessary; that is to say, there must
be some means of getting an article before it can be carried away and
sold. Spices, precious stones, and the other produce of the East, cost
little or almost nothing amongst those who had more than they could
use; and, as they produced an immense profit to merchants, they laid a
foundation for those capitals that afterwards were employed in other
sorts of business.

{47} Rhinocolura was merely a sort of sea port for embarking the
merchandizes that had been brought across the desert from the Red
Sea, It was situated at the south-east extremity or corner of the
Mediterranean Sea, and till Alexandria was built was the nearest port
to the Red Sea.

[end of page #52]

turned his arms against those countries in which there was the most to
be got by conquest, and from whom there was the least danger of

Before this took place, the pride and insolence of the inhabitants of
Tyre and Sidon had displayed itself on more than one occasion. After
having been on friendly terms with the Jews, under David and
Solomon, they became their enemies, and excited the King of Babylon
to take Jerusalem; by that means destroying a neighbouring and
dangerous rival. The wealth of these two cities had afterwards induced
the Babylonians to attack them also. Sidon was taken and destroyed;
and that part of the city of Tyre fell, which was upon the main land;
but the Tyre that was the place of real trade, escaped the rage of the
Assyrian monarchs.

Alexander seems to have determined on destroying Tyre, in order to
found Alexandria, which he placed indeed in a better situation for the
eastern trade. His romantic expedition to India had in view the getting
possession of the countries which had produced those gems and
aromatics that were so much sought after in the other parts of the

Had Alexander lived, perhaps he would not have found it in his
interest to depress Syria; but the division of his conquests amongst his
generals gave to Egypt and Syria two different masters. They were
rivals, and then every advantage that nature gave to Alexandria was
improved to the highest pitch under the Ptolemys.

The river Nile, much more navigable than the Euphrates, was also
better adapted for this trade, because, in coming from India, it was
necessary to ascend the latter, while the other was descended. Besides
this, the flat country of the Delta was cut into canals, which greatly
facilitated this channel of commerce. {48}

This was the first great revolution in eastern commerce. It was brought
on first by the envy of Alexander and the pride of the in-

{48} It does not appear what returns were made to the Indians for
their produce, therefore it must have been money. The trade then
consisted in bringing from thence goods, comparatively weighty, and
returning, as it were, empty. The current of the rivers being in
different directions was then an object of importance.

[end of page #53]

habitants of Tyre, and gave a very great superiority to Egypt, which
was increased by the canals dug in that country, and the discovery of
the regular monsoon, (a periodical wind,) which, at a certain time of
the year, carried navigators straight from the mouth of the Red Sea to
the Malabar coast. {49}

Under these disadvantages, flowing from superior prerogatives of
Egypt, the commerce of Syria fell off almost to nothing, till, by
another of those changes to which this commerce seems peculiarly
liable, the Roman empire, which had swallowed up the whole of the
civilized world, was itself divided into two, and one of the capitals
fixed at Constantinople.

The channel through Syria obtained then a preference for all the
eastern part of the empire; and owing to some change, either in the
politics or religion of the Persians, when conquered by the Parthians,
they became willing to permit them the navigation of the Euphrates,
which had long been shut up.

This continued to be the state of matters, particularly after the fall of
the western empire, when barbarians got possession of all that part of
Europe that used to be supplied with East India produce by the way of
Alexandria. It continued till the middle of the seventh century of the
Christian aera, when the Mahometan religion was established from the
westernmost part of Africa to the confines of the Chinese empire; and
as the followers of that religion were unfriendly to commerce, and
none could be carried on with India that did not pass through their
country, it was nearly annihilated, and was almost wholly confined to
the caravans of pilgrims, who, going to visit Jerusalem and Mecca,
under the cloak of religious zeal, exchanged the various articles of
traffic which they had collected in their different countries and on
their journey.

{49} This passage, from the straits of Babelmandel to the point of the
peninsula of India, saved a very long and dangerous navigation by the
coast. It is almost due east, and with the advantage of being much
shorter, and having a fair wind, was next to the discovery of the
passage of the Cape of Good Hope, the greatest discovery for
shortening the route to India. This was discovered during the time that
Egypt was a Roman province.

[end of page #54]

Such were the vicissitudes, changes, and variations of this commerce
in early periods, and during the middle ages; and, when we come to
treat of the same within the last two centuries, we shall find it equally
liable to alteration.

Of all the spots on the face of the earth that have undergone revolution
and ruin, they that are now the most completely sunk below their
natural level, are those which were formerly the highest above it.

We have left uninterrupted the detail of the commercial greatness of
those places, in order not to break the narrative; but as cities cannot be
great without connection, it is necessary to notice, that Marseilles in
France, and Carthagena, and some other places on the coast of Spain,
were those, by which eastern luxuries came into Europe from
Alexandria and Tyre. The Carthaginians, a Tyrian colony, had the
produce from Tyre, and from Rhinocolura, and supplied Spain and the
western portion of Africa; but when Alexandria arose, Carthage began
to fall. Alexandria, situated near to it on the same coast, was a rival,
not a friend, as Tyre had been, and the first Punic war, in which the
pride of that republic had involved it with Rome, following soon after,
hastened its decline. {50}

The nations of Greece, which had risen to power and wealth, owed
these more to their superiority in mind, in learning, and the fine arts,
than to any attention they ever paid to commerce; they had begun by
being the most barbarous of all the people in that part of the globe,
and got their first knowledge from the Egyptians, whom they long
considered as their superiors in science, as the Romans afterwards did
the Greeks; but when the barbarians broke down the western empire,
learning as well as commerce was very soon extinguished.

It was the share of Indian commerce, settled at Constantinople, that
tended more than any other circumstance to preserve that empire so
long. To that, and to the barbarians having other occupation, rather

{50} Marseilles was founded soon after the city of Rome, but it was a
government of itself, and made no part of ancient Gaul. The Gauls
were warlike barbarians. The inhabitants of Marseilles were polished,
like the inhabitants of other towns that enjoyed commercial wealth.
They were always allies, and steady friends to the Romans, whom
they never abandoned.

[end of page #55]

than to any intrinsic strength of its own, did the eastern empire owe its
long preservation.

A new channel for this varying commerce of the East, was opened, as
civilization extended to the north of Europe, and this chiefly on
account of the very small supply that was obtained through the
Mahomedan countries.

Goods were transported by land from Hindostan and China, to
Esterhabad, situated on the south-east corner of the Caspian Sea; from
whence they were carried in vessels to the north-east corner of the
same sea, and from thence by the Wolga and the Don; two rivers
which rise in Russia, and, after nearly meeting together, fall into the
Caspian Sea, and the Black Sea. By ascending the Wolga a short
distance, and descending the Don, with only a few miles of land-
carriage, the produce of India arrived at the Black Sea, and
Constantinople became the emporium of the Indian trade. This was a
great stroke to Venice and Genoa, {51} which rivalled each other in
bringing the Asiatic commodities, for the supply of Europe, through
the old channels. This jealousy of each other, and of Constantinople,
was at its height when the crusades carried most of the princes and
nobles of Europe to Venice and Constantinople. The Venetians,
merely a mercantile people, with little territory or power, neither gave
nor received umbrage from those warlike chiefs; but it was not so with
Constantinople, the seat of a great empire; so that the crusaders and
Venetians united against that power, and the eastern emperors were
compelled to divide their city into four parts: the sovereignty of one
part fell to the lot of the Venetians, who, for more than half a century,
had by this means a decided superiority over both its rivals, and
engrossed nearly the whole commerce of the East. The Genoese and
Greek emperors now found

{51} In the chart which I have given, Venice and Genoa are put
together, as if one, though they were rivals, and the prosperity of the
one injured the other; but as nearly situated the same, and neither
being considered as a nation, but merely as an abode of commerce, I
did not think it necessary to distinguish them in the general history
more than the variations that take place between the different cities of
the same country. If, however, I should do the chart on a large scale, I
should certainly separate them, and shew their rises and falls minutely.

[end of page #56]

it their interest to unite against Venice, and the Genoese, by
supporting their ally with money, expelled the Venetians from
Constantinople. The imperial family was reinstated, and the Genoese
had the suburbs of Pera as a reward for their assistance. This quarter
of the city the Genoese fortified, and the Venetians were compelled to
return to their old channels by Egypt and Syria. {52}

During those contests, Florence arose, and became a rival both to
Venice and Genoa; and some degree of civilization, or, at least, a taste
for the luxuries and produce of the East was brought into the north of
Europe by those who returned from the crusades. The consumption of
Asiatic produce in the North, occasioned depots to be established, and
Bruges and Antwerp became to the north, what Venice and Genoa
were to the south of Europe. The Hans Towns rose to wealth and
opulence just about that period; but the effects of wealth acquired by
commerce in the north were found to be different from what they had
been in southern climates. Italy was going to decay, while three of its
cities were increasing in splendour; but, in the north, the riches
acquired by the cities set industry at work: manufactures were
improved, and affluence and the comforts of life became more
generally diffused than they had ever before been, or than they are in
the southern countries even at the present day.

While Constantinople was thus rivalling the cities of Italy, a new
revolution took place there, which overturned the Greek empire, and
established that of the Ottomans.

When Mahomet II. mounted the throne, the Genoese were expelled
from Pera, {53} and Venice regained the preponderance in eastern

{52} The depot of India commerce being in the Crimea, which is near
the mouth of the Wolga, is a strong reason for believing the trade was
carried on through the Caspian Sea; but it has been asserted, that the
chief route was directly by land from the Tigris to the Black Sea. This
seems a very good way; but, in that case, why cross the Black Sea to
go to the Crimea? Any one who looks at the map will be able to judge
that as being very unlikely. Doctor Robertson, however, has taken no
notice of this difficulty. Two things are certain: that the depot was in
the Crimea, and that merchants never go out of their road without
having some cause for doing it. The reader must then determine for

{53} Before the Genoese were expelled, their insolence and avarice
had time to display themselves in their full extent; about the year
thirteen hundred and forty, says an eye-witness, [end of page #57]
(Nicepho[r/i]as [illeg.] Gregoras,) they dreamed that they had acquired
the dominion of the sea, and claimed an exclusive right to the trade of
the Euxine, prohibiting the Greeks to sail to the Chersonesus, or any
part beyond the mouth of the Danube, without a licence from them.
The Venetians were not excepted, and the arrogance of the Genoese
went so far as to form a scheme for imposing a toll on every vessel
passing through the Bosphorous.

commerce, which she maintained, till the discovery of the passage by
the Cape of Good Hope, which opened a new channel, more certain,
much less expensive, and not so liable to interruption from the
revolutions that nations are liable to. It is deserving of observation,
that whatever alterations took place in the channel through which the
India trade was carried on, whatever were the vicissitudes or the
difficulties, the trade itself never was suspended; so great was the
propensity of those who were affluent in the West, to enjoy the
productions of the East. {54}

The vicissitudes of this eastern commerce were thus very great in
former times. The wealth and arrogance which the possession of it
produced, and the envy it excited, may, in general, be ascribed as the
cause; indeed it is not certain whether the envy of the Genoese, at the
success of the Venetians, did not make them, in an underhand manner,
favour those attempts to find out a new channel which might destroy
the prosperity of a haughty and successful rival. {55}

Whether it was so or not, it is certain that the discovery of the passage
by the Cape of Good Hope was not accidental; but that the Portuguese
were induced to listen to the proposal of trading to India by that route,
under the certainty of rivalling the greatest commercial city of the
world, if she should succeed.

Though no new channel can now be expected, and the present one is
every day becoming more easy and frequented, yet the capricious
shiftings of the India trade were not ended by this new discovery.

Instead of the contest being, as formerly, between cities situated on

{54} The prices of Asiatic produce were exorbitant. Silk was sold for
its weight in gold; and a Roman emperor refused his empress the
luxury, or rather the splendour, of a silk gown.

{55} Amongst the passions that get hold of rivals in commerce, that of
envy is so great, when avarice is defeated, that, to humble a successful
rival, they will meet ruin themselves, without fear, and even with

[end of page #58]

the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, those maritime powers who
navigated the main ocean became the contending parties.

There are only two ways by which wealth is accumulated and brought
into few hands; the one by compulsion and levying taxes, the other by
producing or procuring objects of desire; for a small quantity of
which, people give up a great portion of their labour.

Sovereigns have amassed wealth and possessed revenue by the first
means, and the use they have put it to has been magnificence in
building, or in great or useful works, for war, or for pleasure.

The wealth obtained by the other means, of which the trade to the East
seems to have been the chief, produced a different effect. In Italy it
occasioned the invention of bills of exchange, and gave
encouragement to the fine arts, and to some manufactures. In the north
of Europe it infused a general spirit for trade and manufactures; for the
luxuries of the East only served to teach the people of the north the
necessity of acquiring comfort by manufacturing the produce of their
own country.

To improve the arts of weaving, to make woollen and linen cloths of a
finer texture, was very natural, after having seen the silks and muslins
that came from India; particularly to people living in a cold climate,
where a more substantial covering was wanted, and where the
materials were in abundance.

It was, accordingly, in Flanders, and the adjacent country, that the
modern spirit of manufactures rose up, nourished by the wealth which
the ancient commerce of India had produced.

In the early ages, when the Tyrians had this trade, they amassed great
wealth, though they had not any large countries to supply; for,
probably, neither Egypt nor the eastern part of Syria would receive the
produce by so circuitous a road. But, during the first ages, sacrifices to
the gods and the funeral ceremonies consumed vast quantities of
aromatics of every sort, as well as the enjoyments of the living. The
two former causes of request for aromatics have long been at an end,
owing to the changes in religion. They are now neither burned on the
altar nor at the grave; and custom and taste, which are to a certain [end
of page #59] degree variable and arbitrary, have lessened the
consumption of some, and others have been supplied by the progress
that we have ourselves made in manufactures. {56}

While this diminution of consumption took place, the western world
was advancing in civilization, and the progress of wealth became
vastly more extended; so that if the consumers of eastern luxuries
were less profuse in the use of them, they were, at the same time,
greatly increased in number.

The taste for tea, alone, which was introduced not much above a
century ago, has alone, overbalanced all the others, and it is still
augmenting in Europe; besides the discovery of a new quarter of the
world rapidly increasing in population, into which the custom of
drinking tea, as in Britain, has been introduced also.

The reasonable price at which an article can be afforded, always
augments the consumption: and though we have no criterion to go by
in judging of the prices in former times, yet it is certain they must
have been very great. At the time when silk was sold for its weight in
gold, that metal was compared with common labour of six times the
value that it is now; silk was, then, at least three hundred times as dear
as it is now; indeed, even that extravagant price scarcely accounts for
the parsimony of the Roman emperor, who refused his wife a robe of
that rich material. {57}

Though new discoveries have robbed Egypt and Syria for ever of the
commerce of the East; and though the loss of trade was the proximate
cause of the degradation, yet both countries had long been desolate

{56} Wrought silks, muslins, and porcelains. Cotton stuffs are now no
longer bought as formerly, so that, except in porcelain, the raw
material is the only object of commerce. The silk worm was
introduced into Italy during the time that the intercourse with the East
was very difficult, and therefore had not the increase of wealth, and a
taste for new articles extended the demand and brought a new one, the
trade would at last have been nearly done away.

{57} The carriage is 24 L. a ton backwards and forwards, or out and
home, which is only equal to what is paid in England by land for 500
miles. Indeed, none but articles of a very great value and high price
could pay for the carriage by any of the channels hitherto discovered
but that of the Cape.

[end of page #60]

degraded before this change happened; for though the commerce came
through their countries, the riches it produced centred in Italy. Syria
had long become a desert, and the ruined palaces were become the
habitations of scorpions, reptiles, and beasts of prey, long before those
discoveries which seemed to have sealed their doom. That discovery
only completed what had long been begun, and rendered permanent
and irrevocable what might otherwise have been altered. {58}

At the rate at which this trade now goes on to increase, all the gold
and silver mines in the West, will soon be insufficient to afford
enough of the precious metals to pay for produce from that country:
for few European manufactures are taken in return. This is laying a
foundation for a great revolution, either in manners or in nations at
some future day.

It is extraordinary that, from the earliest ages, the inhabitants of India
have been receiving gold and silver from all other countries, and yet,
that those metals are not so abundant there as with European nations.
As our demand for the produce of the mines increases in order to send
remittances in specie to that country, the mines themselves diminish in
their produce, so that whatever change this may bring on, can be at no
very great distance. {59}

{58} What Dr. Robertson says of Palmyra may be applied nearly to all
the cities in Asia and Africa that shared in this commerce. "Palmyra,
after the conquest by Aurelian never revived." At present, a few
miserable huts of beggarly Arabs are scattered in the courts of its
stately temples, or deform its elegant porticoes, and exhibit a
humiliating contrast to its ancient magnificence.

{59} If the taste of the Anglo Americans for tea continues, allowing
one pound to each person in the year, which is very little, one hundred
millions of pounds weight will be annually wanted in less than half a

[end of page #61]


_Of the Causes that brought on the Decline of the Nations that had
flourished in the middle Ages, and of Portugal, Spain, Holland, and
the Hans Towns_.

The trade with India, which had been almost the only one, and
always an occasion for envy and contest, was sought for by the
Spaniards and the Portuguese; who, as we have seen, were the first
amongst modern nations that seemed to aspire at naval discovery.

The manner in which Spain discovered America; and Portugal, the
passage by the Cape of Good Hope, both nearly at the same period,
and at the beginning of the sixteenth century, is too well known to
require the smallest detail.

Europeans, with the superior degree of knowledge they possessed, and
particularly that of the use of fire-arms: incited also by the love of
gold; and careless of keeping their word with the unsuspecting
natives, soon triumphed wherever they went, and the consequence
was, that both nations brought home immense riches. The trade of
Venice, Alexandria, and Aleppo, was all transferred to Lisbon, {60}
and never was so small a country so suddenly enriched; and it may be
added, more quickly deprived afterwards of the chief source of its

The Dutch had triumphed over the power of Spain, on their own soil,
and they soon rivalled that of Portugal in the East. It was a very
different thing to combat the natives, and to fight with the Dutch, who
very soon deprived Portugal of the rich means of wealth she had
discovered in India.

The prosperity of Portugal, arising from its possession =sic= in the
East, continued at its height exactly a century. Its decline is accounted
for by the following causes.

{60} Lisbon had its depot for the north of Europe, at Antwerp, and the
value of the consignments have been estimated at a million of crowns,
annually; but this is, probably, an exaggeration.

[end of page #62]

Its domineering principles, too great an extent of conquests, which
were widely scattered, and the haughtiness of the Portuguese, both
towards the natives and Europeans; the envy and rivalship which
brought the Dutch into the same countries; a great want of attention
and energy; and, lastly, giving a preference to the trade to the Brazils.
The Brazils had been first discovered by the Portuguese, afterwards
seized upon by the Dutch, whom they, however, expelled about the
middle of the sixteenth century; that is, about fifty years after its first
discovery, and an equal period of time previous to the decline of their
trade in India.

The possession of the whole of this lucrative trade, that had enriched
so many great nations, and that by so easy a channel, and without
almost any contest, for nearly a whole century, had so enriched the
small kingdom of Portugal, that after being too eager, and grasping at
too much, it was almost ready to resign the whole without a struggle,
had it not been for some reasons of another sort. {61} So immense
was the influx of wealth, from the united sources of India and the
Brazils, that the former, which has been at every other period the
object of ambition of all nations, and is so still, was considered as
scarcely worth retaining.

It is almost unnecessary to add, that from that moment Portugal has
been on the decline. If ever the cup of prosperity ran over, in large
streams, it was then; and when the possession of the trade to India was
scarcely thought worth preserving, it is clear that no great efforts
could be made to encourage internal industry.

Spain, extensive and powerful before it discovered the Indies, did not
so immediately feel the effects of the wealth imported, as the
Portuguese had done; but its prosperity was of less duration, though
the decline was not quite so rapid.

The Dutch must have known the effects of wealth on a nation, else

{61} It was debated in council, at Lisbon, whether it would be worth
while to keep India, the wealth from the Brazils was so much more
easily obtained. A scruple of conscience, least =sic= the missionaries
should be destroyed, turned the scale in favour of retaining the trade
of India!!

[end of page #63]

they would scarcely have tried to throw off the yoke of Spain, at the
very moment when it appeared in its greatest splendour and power.

Insolence and pride, we have too often had occasion to remark,
accompany wealth; and Philip was no more proof against its effects,
than those potentates who had gone before him.--There was a great
resemblance between the project of invading England, with the
invincible armada, as it was called, and the attack on Greece by the
King of Persia. That monarch must have thought very meanly of
England, to suppose that the island could be conquered by 30,000
men, even if they could have made good their landing. Indeed, to try
such an experiment on a nation that had supported its claim to valour
so well at Agincourt and Cressy, and which was not, in any respect,
degenerated, manifests his being blinded by the effects of wealth and

The consequence was, a gradual decline of the affairs of his kingdom;
so that, in little less than a century, England placed a king on the
throne of Spain.

Though the effect produced on Spain was not so rapid as on Portugal,
it was, in some respects, more irretrievable. The vast numbers of
persons who quitted that country, in quest of gold, injured its
population, already reduced by the expulsion of the Moors, who were
the most industrious of its inhabitants.

The wealth that came to Spain, came in a very unequal distribution,
which is a considerable disadvantage, and hastens on that state of
things which is the natural forerunner of the decay of a nation. Wealth,
arising by commerce, however great its quantity, must be distributed
with some degree of equality; but the great adventurers in the gold
mines only shared with their sovereign, and the whole of their wealth
came in prodigious quantities, pouring in upon the country. {63}

{62} Though the Dutch were subject to Spain, yet that had not
prevented them from acting in an independent manner in their modes
of following trade and commerce.

{63} We see an example of this in our own trade to India. Captains of
ships, merchants, and all those who get money by that trade, come
home with moderate fortunes; but the governors, and civil and
military officers, who have been settled in the country, come home
with princely fortunes, and eclipse the old nobility of the country.

[end of page #64]

Both Spain and Portugal, finding that wealth came with such ease
from India and America, neglected industry. This, indeed, was a very
natural consequence; and, when the sources of their riches began to
dry up, they found, though too late, that instead of having increased in
wealth, they had only been enriching more industrious nations, and
ruining themselves. The gold that arrives from the West passes
through the hands of its masters with almost the same rapidity as if
they were only agents for the English and the Dutch; so chimerical an
idea is that of wealth existing without industry.

The Dutch were the only rivals of the Portuguese in the East Indies;
for though other nations came afterwards in for a share, yet the
transition from wealth to weakness was already made by the
Portuguese, before any of them had begun to set seriously to work, in
acquiring possessions, or in carrying on trade with that country.

Portugal thus fell, merely from the rivalship of a more industrious and
less advanced nation, after having embraced more territory than she
had power to keep. Spain fell, because she had embraced a wrong
object as a source of riches. {64}

The Hans Towns, which owed their prosperity, partly to their own
wisdom and perseverance, in the beginning, and partly to the contempt
with which sovereigns, in the days of chivalry, viewed commerce,
might, with very little penetration, and much less exertion of wisdom
than they had displayed, have seen that the spirit of commerce was
becoming general, and that moderation and prudence were necessary
to preserve them in their proud situation; but the prudence which they
possessed at first had given way to pride, and abandoned them; and
the first great stroke they received was from Queen Elizabeth. The
ruin of so widely-extended a confederacy could not be astonishing,
and, indeed, was a natural consequence of the changes in the manners
of the times: but it was not so with Flanders. There was nothing to
have prevented the Flemish from continuing to enjoy wealth, and
follow up industry, except in the rivalship of other nations,

{64} So short a time did the wealth remain in the country, that, when
the famous armada was fitted out against England, a loan of money
was solicited, from Genoa, for the purpose.

[end of page #65]

particularly of Holland and England; for, though France was farther
advanced, as a manufacturing and wealthy nation, than England, yet it
was not in the same line of industry with the people of the
Netherlands, whose prosperity was not therefore injured by it in the
same degree.

As for the Dutch, they continued to increase in wealth till the end of
the seventeenth century, and their decline requires a more particular

In addition to their great industry, the fisheries, and art of curing fish,
the Dutch excelled in making machines of various sorts, and became
the nation that supplied others with materials, in a state ready prepared
for manufacturing: this was a new branch of business, and very
lucrative, for, as the machines were kept a secret, the abbreviation of
labour was great, and the materials had still the advantage in their sale
that a raw material has over manufactured goods; so that the
advantages were almost beyond example.

Add to all this, that the Dutch were the first who established the
banking system, (copying in part from the Italians,) on a solid plan.
The advantages that Holland enjoyed were, indeed, all of its own
procuring, but they were numerous and inappretiable, without
counting the trade to India, of which it enjoyed a greater share than
any other nation, for a considerable period.

No nation has shewn, so completely as the Dutch, how exterior
enemies may be repelled, and difficulties overcome, while there is a
true attention to the real welfare of the country. The exertions of the
Romans, to conquer others, scarcely surpassed those of the Dutch to
preserve themselves, when they were in a state of necessity; but, when
they became affluent, energy and unanimity left them. The
manufacturers became merchants, and the merchants became agents
and carriers; so that the solid sources of riches gradually disappeared.

All this time, taxation increased, and though no nation ever allowed its
manners to be less corrupted by the possession of wealth, yet there
was a sensible change; but the change in the way of thinking was the
most pernicious. Discontent with the government, and disagreements
amongst themselves, completed their misfortunes, while England was
[end of page #66] all the time endeavouring to supplant them in the
most beneficial sources of their wealth.

The Dutch, fairly sunk by that rivalship, and natural change of things,
which transfers the seat of wealth and commerce from one nation to
another. There was no violent revolution, no invasion by an enemy; it
was the silent operation of that cause of decline, which has been
already mentioned in the Second Chapter, and will be farther and
more particularly illustrated and explained.

The Dutch had a superabundance of capital; the interest of money was
low; and wealth had begun to leave Holland long before the symptoms
of decay became visible; by which means, the trade of other countries
was encouraged, and, as always will be the case, capital emigrated, the
moment it could find secure employment, and greater profits than
were to be obtained at home. The leading causes of the decline of
Holland may be distinguished thus:

The taxes were gradually increasing.

Its superiority in manufactures over other countries was continually
diminishing; consequently, industry was not so well rewarded, and
less active.

The merchants preferred safe agencies for foreigners to trading on
their own bottom, thereby lending their credit.

Dutch capital was employed to purchase goods in one country and sell
them in another: so that the Dutch became carriers for others, instead
of manufacturing and carrying for themselves.

The trade to India, and the banking business, were both taken up by
other nations; so that Holland then lost her superiority in these

Thus circumstanced, Holland was gradually sinking, when political
troubles, the end of which it is not easy to foresee, put her at the feet
of France: an event that would not have happened in the manner it did,
when the true spirit of patriotism reigned, that distinguished her in her
more prosperous days. From this, at least, there is one distinct lesson
to be learnt, that however it may be natural for nations to lose a
superiority, owing to arts, inventions, or foreign trade, yet, if the
minds of the people and their manners remain pure, they will not be
degraded, by falling a prey to an enemy. When Holland was not rich
[end of page #67] it resisted Spain in all her glory, during a very hard,
arduous, and continued struggle; but then the people were united as
one man: there were no traitors to raise a voice for Spain against their
country. When Holland was wealthy, it did not even attempt to resist
France when invaded; but then Holland was divided, and there were in
every city men, who wished more for the plunder than the prosperity
of their country.

In viewing the fall of those nations that sunk before the discovery of
America, the eastern empire was the last that attracted attention. It had
been reduced by the Turks, with a vigour and energy that promised a
renovation, which, however, it did not effect. The Turks brought with
them the Mahometan religion, which has debased the manners and
degraded the minds of every people. Constantinople, by this change,
lost the remains of ancient learning and of commerce, which even the
weakness of the emperors, and the repeated wars, had not been able
entirely to destroy. The Greeks were reduced to a state of
subordination and slavery, but the Turks were not civilized. They
adopted what was luxurious and effeminate of Grecian manners, yet
still retained their former ignorance and ferocity. Amongst modern
nations, the Turkish government is, in form, a monster, and its
existence an enigma; yet it extended its sway over all that was most
valuable or most splendid in the ancient world. Greece, Egypt,
Phoenicia, Syria, the three Arabias, and countries then but little
known, are subject to a brutish people, who do not even condescend to
mix with the inhabitants of the country, but who rule over them in a
manner the most humiliating and disgraceful. {65}

The Turkish government has never been powerful. The city of Venice
was always its equal at sea; and, as it disdains to adopt the systems of
other nations, it is every day becoming weaker, in comparison with
them. It has formerly maintained successful struggles against

{65} In all other conquests, the conquered and the conquerors have
become, at last, one people, when they have settled in the same
country, whether Christians or Pagans; but the Turks and Greeks keep
as distinct to this day as at the first, and this is probably owing to the
nature of the Turkish religion.

[end of page #68]

Germany, Poland, and Russia; but that time is now over, and it owes
its present existence to the jealousy of other powers. It is possessed of
a greater quantity of good territory than all the leading nations of
Europe, Russia excepted; and it is not the interest of men living in less
favoured climates, to endeavour to renovate the country of Alexander,
and of the other great nations of antiquity.

The Turkish nation is represented as greatly on the decline, but, soon
after its establishment, it had every vice that could well exist in a
government, and its greatest weakness now arises more from the
alteration produced in other nations for the better, than in itself for the
worse. The difficulty of keeping people in ignorance is becoming
every day greater; and when the Ottoman throne falls the usual order
of things will be reversed. For, as other governments may attribute
their destruction to corruption of manners, and to ignorance, the
Turkish government looks there for its security; and the day that any
reasonable degree of light breaks in amongst its subjects will be its

To endeavour tracing the causes of decline in a state that owes its
existence to its defects, and is in every respect different from other
nations, would be useless in the present Inquiry, it has only been
noticed to shew, that, in the infinite variety of things, some may owe
their existence to what is in general the cause of destruction. [end of
page #69]

CHAP. VII. [=sic=--error in printer's copy, should read VIII.]

_General View and Analysis of the Causes that operated in producing
the Decline of all Nations, with a Chart, representing the Rise, Fall,
and Migrations of Wealth, in all different Countries, from the Year
1500, before the Birth of Christ, to the End of the Eighteenth Century,
--a Period of 3300 Years_.

From the revolutions that have taken place amongst wealthy and
powerful nations to the present time, though the origin has been owing
to very different causes, and the decline and removal from one place
to another has been attended with circumstances not similar; yet the
same leading cause for that decline may not only be traced easily and
distinctly, but is so evident that it is impossible for it to be overlooked
or mistaken.

Local situation, or temporary circumstances, have always afforded the
first means of rising to wealth and greatness. The minds of men, in a
poor state, seem never to have neglected an opportunity, presented
either by the one or the other, and they have generally proved
successful, till energy of mind and industry were banished, by the
habits of luxury, negligence, and pride, which accompany, or at least
soon follow, the acquisition of either.

Where wealth has been acquired first, power has generally been
sought for afterwards; and, where power came first, it has always
sought the readiest road to wealth, by attacking those who were in
possession of it.

The nations and cities on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, where
arts and commerce first began, where agriculture flourished, and
population had risen to a high pitch, carried on perpetual struggles to
supplant each other; and, in those struggles, the most wealthy
generally sunk under; till Alexander, the first great conqueror, with
whose history we are tolerably well acquainted, reduced them all to
[end of page #70] his yoke; one small and brave people triumphing
over the Egyptian and Assyrian empires, where wealth and luxury had
already produced their effects.

Though this triumph of poverty over riches was very complete, except
in one single instance, it did not occasion any real change, either in the
abodes of wealth, or the channels of commerce. Tyre, the richest
commercial city till then, was ruined, to make way for the prosperity
of Alexandria, which became the most wealthy; drawing great part of
the commerce from Carthage on the west, and taking the whole from
Rhinocolura on the east: but, in Egypt and Syria, Babylon and
Memphis still remained great cities.

The whole of this ancient world was for a moment under one chief,
but was soon again divided amongst the generals who succeeded to
that great conqueror; and the Egyptian and Persian empires became
rivals, as Egypt and Syria had been before. The Grecian nations still
remained the chief seats of civilization and the fine arts; and this
continued till the Romans, originally a poorer people than the
Macedonians, conquered the whole. This was the second great
triumph of poverty and energy over wealth and grandeur, and, in this
struggle, Greece itself fell.

The effects of wealth were not less formidable to the Romans
themselves, than they had been to those nations they had enabled that
brave and warlike people to conquer; so that the mistress of the world,
in her turn, fell before nations that were rude and barbarous, but
uncorrupted by wealth and luxury.

The conquerors of Rome were too rude, and too many in number, to
become themselves enervated by wealth, which disappeared under
their rapacious grasp, and which they neither had the art nor
inclination to preserve.

This invasion of the fertile and rich provinces by men rude and
ignorant, but who came from northern climates, established a new
order of things; and only a small remnant of former wealth and
greatness was preserved in Egypt and at Constantinople.

For several centuries of war and confusion commerce and the arts
appear to have been undervalued and neglected; but still the taste [end
of page #71] for oriental luxuries was not entirely banished, and, at the
first interval of peace and safety, sprung up again. It was then that
Alexandria, Venice, Genoa, and Constantinople, became the channels
through which the people of Europe procured the luxuries of Asia.
Babylon, Memphis, Palmyra, and all the other great cities of antiquity,
were no more; even Greece had lost its arts and splendour; Alexandria
and Constantinople were repeatedly assailed, taken, and conquered, by
the barbarians, who envied their wealth, but who still found an interest
in continuing them as channels for procuring to European nations the
refinements of the East. Though Venice and Genoa were wealthy, they
were but small, and of little importance; and all the nations who might
have crushed them at a blow, only considering them as sea-ports of
convenience and utility, allowed them to remain independent.

As an intercourse had been established between the northern and
southern parts, a taste for the luxuries of Asia had extended to the
shores of the Baltic, soon after the victorious arms of Charlemagne
had carried there some degree of civilization, and the Christian

Then it was that a new and more widely-extended system of
commerce, but something like what had formerly existed in Tyre and
Carthage, began in all the maritime towns of Europe, when Italy and
Flanders became the most wealthy parts of Europe. A spirit of
chivalry, and a desire of conquest, not founded on the same principles
with the conquests of ancient nations, or of Rome, to obtain wealth,
pervaded all Europe, and the greatest confusion prevailed. In the
history of wealth and power, as connected together, this is a chasm.
Those who had power despised wealth, and were seeking after what
they esteemed more--military glory; and wealth was confined to a
number of insulated spots, and possessed by men who were
merchants, without any share of power or authority.

This extraordinary and unprecedented state of things gave rise to the
Hanseatic League, which rose at last to such importance that those
who had been so long seeking after glory, without finding it, began to
see the importance which was derived from wealth. They began to see
that, even in the pursuit of their favourite object, wealth was an ex-
[end of page #72] cellent assistant, and the friendship of merchants
begun =sic= to be solicited by princes, as in the days of Tyre and

This progress was greatly facilitated and accelerated by the crusades,
which, at the same time that they beggared half the nobility of Europe,
gave them a taste for the refinements of the East, and taught them to
set some value on the means by which such refinements could be

In this manner were things proceeding, when three great discoveries
changed the situation of mankind. {66}

The mariners compass, gunpowder, and the art of printing, were all
discovered nearly about the same time; and, independent of their great
and permanent effects, they were wonderfully calculated to alter the
situation of nations at that period.

The navigation of the ocean, which led to the discovery of a passage
to the East Indies, and of America, gave a mortal blow to the nations
situated on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, who thus found
themselves deprived of the commerce of the East.

The discovery of gunpowder, a means so powerful of annoying an
enemy, without the aid of human force, which places a giant and a
dwarf in some sort upon an equality, was wonderfully adapted for
doing away the illusions of knight errantry, that had such a powerful
effect in making war be preferred to commerce: while printing
facilitated the communication of every species of knowledge.

It was then that northern nations began to cultivate arts and sciences,
as those of the south under a mild heaven, and on a fertile soil, had
done three thousand years before. But ingenuity and invention took a
different direction in the north from what they had done in the
southern climates; instead of sovereigns and slaves, men were more in
mutual want of each other, and therefore a more equal division of the
fruits of industry was required.

The manufactures of former times had been confined chiefly to
luxuries for the great, and simple necessaries for slaves; and
commerce, though productive of great wealth to a few, was in its
limits equally confined.

{66} For the dates see the chart, and for their effects, chap. i. book ii.
[Transcriber's note: See in the Chart "Mariners Compass
/Gunpowder/Printing Invented 1300-1400"].

[end of page #73]

It was natural that the two nations which had first discovered the
passage to the East, and the continent of the West, which abounded
with the precious metals, should become rich and powerful, as those
cities had formerly done that possessed exclusively the channels of
commerce. Those two countries were Spain and Portugal; but here
again we find the same fatality attend the acquisition of wealth that
had formerly been remarked. It was, indeed, not to be expected, that
the steadiness and virtue of the Spaniards and Portuguese could resist
the operation of a cause, that neither the wisdom of the Egyptians; the
arts and industry of Greece, nor the stubborn and martial patriotism of
the Romans could withstand.

Those two nations soon sunk, and the Dutch, the French, and the
English, became participators of the commerce.

Manufactures were a new source of wealth, almost unknown to the
ancient world. Those begun first to be set in activity in Flanders, then
in Holland and France, and, last of all, in England; but, like
commerce, and every other means by which wealth is acquired, they
have a tendency to leave a country. The cause and the effect are at
variance, after a certain time; and though we cannot illustrate this
from history, as we may the migrations of wealth arising from other
sources, the tendency appears of the same nature, though with this
difference; that men may always labour for themselves, and enjoy the
fruits of their labours, though they cannot always find the means of
being the carriers to other nations, or becoming merchants.

This alteration in the nature of wealth; the inventions of mankind; the
alterations brought on by the facility of communicating knowledge;
the systematical manner in which men pursue their interests, and other
changes: give reason to hope that, in the present situation of things,
those possessions may be rendered permanent, that have hitherto been
found to be so evanescent and fugitive.

Where wealth has not been wrested from a country by absolute force,
(in doing which the poorer nations were always successful,) it has
emigrated from other causes, and taken up its abode amongst a new
people, where circumstances were more favourable for its
encouragement. [end of page #74]

Before we leave this recapitulation, it is necessary, however, to take
notice of one revolution that did not take place on similar principles
with the others, so far as wealth and luxury are in question; but which
has in some respects a similarity, and, in others, is precisely the

About two centuries and a half ago, the Polish nation was one of the
most powerful in Europe; Russia could not then, nor for long after,
contend with it. The Prussians were its vassals; and the capital of the
German empire, when besieged by the Turks, in 1650, owed its safety
to the Poles, its brave and faithful allies.

Such was the case; but, at this day, the Polish nation is no longer in
existence: it is subdued, parcelled out, and divided, amongst those
very powers, to any of which it was at least equal, and to the others
superior, at so late a period.

It may be asked, whether Poland was one of those states that has been
borne down by its own wealth and opulence? If its ambition, injustice,
or any of the other causes so prominent in the decline of nations,
operated in the total extinction of it from the rank of independent
states? Not one of those causes operated, but still it is not altogether an
exception to the general rule.

When the feudal system was established all over Europe, nations
under its influence were so far on an equality; and as they all emerged
from that situation nearly about the same time, Poland excepted, they
still preserved their relative situations. The Poles, during this change
in other states, comparatively lost power. Amongst the alterations
produced, was that of placing in the hands of the sovereign all the
disposable revenue and force of a country, with which standing armies
were maintained. Those irregular militias, till then composed of the
barons and their retainers; a species of force, at best, far inferior to
regular armies, became useless; but particularly so, after the modes of
fighting had been changed by the invention of gunpowder, and the
adoption of large trains of artillery, which could never have been
employed in the feudal armies.

The disposable force of Poland and its revenues did not, by any
means, keep pace with those of neighbouring nations; and what was
still worse, the strength of that unfortunate country was divided; the
[end of page #75] monarchy was elective, and foreign influence had a
means of exertion, which, under a hereditary line of kings, is not
practicable. Poland was not only weaker than its neighbours, but
became a prey to intestine divisions, cabal, and intrigue.

Though Poland was not wealthy, according to the meaning applied to
that word, it was a populous and fertile country, and therefore a
desirable possession to the neighbouring states. To Prussia, a most
ambitious and aggrandising power, with a military government, and of
a very limited extent, it was peculiarly desirable. To Russia, extensive
as it is, the fruitful territory was also an object of ambition, from its
proximity to the seat of an empire, the most fertile and fine provinces
of which lie at a distance. The same desire of possessing what they
wanted, operating at the same time on two neighbouring nations,
occasioned them to unite their power in a first dismemberment of
Poland, for their mutual benefit. The interior convulsions of the
country served as a pretext, and its weakness furnished the means of
executing the design. In 1772, that independent country first lost some
of its finest provinces; but this was only a prelude to its final fall.

The nature of ambition is to augment with success, and as the same
divisions continued in the state, a pretence for a farther interference in
its affairs was easily found; and, in 1794, Poland ceased to be one of
the number of European states. In this last seizure, the house of
Austria had no immediate hand. It was, however, necessary to have its
consent: and, as the aggrandisement of Prussia was not an object of
indifference to Austria, participation in the spoils was proposed, as the
price of acquiescence, and it was readily accepted.

In this case, the weakness of Poland, and the ambition of its rivals and
neighbours, were the immediate causes of its destruction; but that
weakness arose from a want of true patriotism and proper attention in
the people themselves. Jealous of liberties, and disobedient to their
king, the Poles were slaves to the feudal proprietors of the soil.
Though the first cause was different, yet their divisions and quarrels
were the same in effect, as if they had proceeded from real causes of
discontent, and a deranged state of society, such as we have seen,
when the love of the country is lost. In Poland, that love of the country
[end of page #76] was not lost, but it was badly directed, which is
nearly the same thing; at least, it is equally dangerous.

Why, it may be asked, did not the other powers of Europe interfere?
To this, indeed, it would be difficult to give a satisfactory answer.
Those who did not interfere, probably, may have cause to repent their
indifference. It was an infraction of that sort of federation of nations,
which had been found necessary to prevent a repetition of conquests
like those of Alexander, or of the Romans; yet, still there is a way of
accounting for their conduct, though it cannot be vindicated.

In the first place, Poland lays =sic= remote from those powerful
nations that have had the greatest sway in modern times. It was not
very easy to interfere with great efficacy; besides, as Poland was
previously under foreign influence, the essential evil was done. The
example of partitions, indeed, was not given, but it is not impossible
that some powers on the continent, though they got no share, might
not be sorry to see such an example. Britain and Spain certainly could
not wish for the example, but others might, and others probably did
wish for it.

The first division was, besides, only a beginning; some degree of
moderation was preserved, and Poland was only mutilated; it was not
destroyed. The case was not entirely new, nor without example.

The second and last division took place at a time when the nations
whose interest it was, and whose wish it might have been to interfere,
had not the means of doing so. It was when the republican frenzy in
France was at its most desperate height, and whom =sic= the whole of
civilized Europe appeared to be in danger.

There is one more excuse to be found. The aspect of affairs in Poland
resembled, with regard to its revolutions, those of France so much,
that those, who at another time would have probably interfered, were
rather inclined to co-operate in stifling a rising flame in the north,
similar to that which had endangered the whole of the south of

In all this, the thing the most difficult to be accounted for, is the
conduct of the Polish nation; but an inquiry into the causes of that
would be quite foreign to the present subject: this is, however, an
instance of the danger arising from not keeping pace with other
nations [end of page #77] in those arts of government, and internal
policy, which constitute the power of nations in the general order of
things, whatever that may be.

Although we have seldom found intestine divisions carried to so
blameable a length in any other nation that was not corrupt in itself,
yet, it is clear, that the influence obtained by the wealth of its
neighbours was at the bottom of those highly blameable, and
dreadfully fatal divisions.

When aggrandisement is the aim of modern states, there will not now
be any difficulty of pleading example; and there is one of those very
powers that on this occasion participated in the division which has all
the seeds of discord in itself that brought on the ruin of the Polish
empire. That power has already felt the effect of example; and, though
it may repine, it cannot complain, as it might otherwise have done; or
if it does, it cannot expect equal commiseration.


In the chart, at the beginning of the work, the lines, from top to
bottom, represent the division of time into centuries, each indicating
the year, marked under and above it, in the same way that has been
adopted in Dr. Priestley's Chart of Universal History, in works of
chronology, and in statements of commerce and finance.

The countries that have flourished, whether by commerce, or any
other means are supposed to be represented by the parallel spaces
from right to left, according to the names written on the right hand.

The rise of the black part, something like a distant range of low
mountains, shews at what periods the country was great; when its
greatness began and when it ended. This plan would be
unexceptionally correct, if the materials for it could be procured; but if
they were, it would not lead to any very different conclusion from
what it does in its present state. The times, when the elevation began,
and its duration are exact. The rises and falls are, as nearly as I am
able, estimated from existing documents.

The part shaded of a darkish colour, and growing gradually lighter at
both edges, represent those centuries of ignorance which succeeded
the fall of the Roman empire. [end of page #78]

At the bottom, on the part not stained, is a chronological list of events,
inventions, and discoveries, connected with the subject. Those which
are not, however, important or curious, have no place.

The commerce of France, Britain, Russia, and America, are upon a
true scale with respect to their proportional amount, as well as to their
rise and progress. The others are not, owing to want of documents;
but, as before observed, the amount has very little to do with the
subject; the business is to see how wealth and power were divided at
any particular time, if they were rising or falling, or if they were at
their height, comparing them with the manners of the people at the

This is the use of the chart, as to the representation of individual
places and nations.

The general conclusion is, from taking the whole together, that wealth
and power have never been long permanent in any place. That they
never have been renewed when once destroyed, though they have had
rises and falls, and that they travel over the face of the earth,
something like a caravan of merchants. On their arrival, every thing is
found green and fresh; while they remain all is bustle and abundance,
and, when gone, all is left trampled down, barren, and bare.

This chart is a sort of a picture, intended to make those migrations and
change of place distinct and easily conceived, on which the whole of
this book has been occupied. Being once acquainted with the changes
that have taken place, we may more accurately compare them with the
state of this country at the present time. Those who will take the
trouble to read Ferguson's History of the Roman Republic, and
Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Empire, may form a judgement of the
accuracy or inaccuracy of the chart.


To know when Rome was at the highest pitch of greatness, find, on
the right hand, the space marked Roman empire: then look between
the lines for the highest part of the dark ground, and look immediately
under for the year, it will be seen to be at the birth of Christ, that is,
during the reign of Augustus; and by the same means it will be found
declining gradually till the year 490. [end of page #79]

In like manner, Carthage will be found at the zenith of its power about
300 years before Christ. The founding of Alexandria and the wars
with Rome began then to diminish both its wealth and power.

It is intended by the author of this to execute a chart of the same sort
on a very large scale, and assign to the different powers spaces
proportioned to their importance, as nearly as he can ascertain.

With respect to the chronology of this chart, to prevent criticisms
which might perhaps be made; but do not apply to it, according to the
purpose for which it was constructed, the reader is requested to
observe, that I am desirous of illustrating a very important
investigation, by representing a very confused and long series of
events. The result to be derived from this, is not to be affected by any
small inaccuracy. In counting before the birth of Christ, having found
many different opinions, and much uncertainty relative to dates,
(which I neither have abilities nor inclination to investigate,) I
measured backwards, without pretending to settle the year of the
world, respecting which there are so many different opinions.

The materials for ancient history are few, and sometimes not much to
be relied upon; but, in great leading facts, such as alone are of use in
this picture, the authenticity is not to be doubted.

The Assyrian and Egyptian empires had attained wealth and power
previous to the time at which this commences. They stood then, and
for long after, as if it =sic= were alone in the world; their revolutions,
and the rise, prosperity, and decline of other nations, are all

I have not wished to continue the view of France, since the revolution,
its present real situation is so imperfectly known; and, from what is
known of it, it cannot be compared with any other nation, or with
itself previous to that period. [end of page #80]



_Of the Interior Causes of Decline, arising from the Possession of
Wealth.--Its general Operation on the Habits of Life, Manners,
Education, and Ways of thinking and acting of the Inhabitants of a

As necessity was the first cause of industry and invention, from which
wealth and power arise, it is natural that, when the action of that
necessity becomes less urgent, those exertions to which it gave rise
will gradually fall away. Though habit may sometimes counteract this
tendency, in the individual, yet, taken upon a general scale, and from
generation to generation, it must inevitably take place.

In this case, an individual who has obtained wealth enjoys an
advantage, which no nation ever can expect. With only common
prudence, he may cease from exertion or industry, and remain in
affluence. If he has property in land, he may let it, and live on the rent;
if in money, he may lend it, and live on the interest; but one nation
cannot let its lands, or lend its capital to another. It must, by its own
industry, render them productive. The great bulk of every nation, then,
must be industrious, however wealthy it may be; otherwise, the wealth
will soon be dissipated and disappear. The people of Flanders cannot,
for example, cultivate the fields of the French, and live in Flanders;
and, if the agriculture of a country is neglected, that country must soon
become poor and miserable. {67}

{67} We have seen what became of the Romans, when the tribute paid
by other nations enabled them to live in idleness. The influx of wealth
from America produced nearly the same effect on Spain: though it
lasted for a very short time, yet it ruined the country.

[end of page #81]

It is not absolutely necessary, then, for an individual to conciliate
affluence with industry, or, which is the same thing, to preserve one of
the effects of necessity, after the necessity has ceased to exist. But if
it were possible for a sum of money, or property of any sort, to be given
to each individual in a nation, which would be sufficient, in the midst
of an industrious people, to enable him to live in perfect idleness, the
whole nation could not become idle. Such a case never can exist, as
that of all the individuals in a country becoming sufficiently rich to
live without labour. But something approaching towards that state of
things actually does take place, when, by the general increase of
wealth, the necessity for labour is diminished. The number of idle
people is constantly augmenting; and even those who continue to
labour do it less intensely than when the operation of necessity was
more severe. When a cause is diminished, the effect must in time fall
off in proportion.

With individuals, nature has given very powerful auxiliaries to
necessity, which strengthen and prolong its operation, but which do
not operate equally on nations.

Habit or custom is the one auxiliary, and ambition or avarice is the

Habit, in all cases, diminishes the reluctance to labour, which is
inherent in the most part of mankind, and sometimes entirely
overcomes it. {68} Ambition, which appears under many different
forms, renders labour absolutely an enjoyment. Sometimes ambition is
merely a desire of amassing property, an avaricious disposition:
sometimes it is a desire to create a family; and even, sometimes, the
vain and delusive idea of retiring from business, and becoming happy
in a state of total idleness, spurs a man on to labour. It is a very
curious, but well-known fact, that, after necessity has entirely ceased
to promote industry, the love of complete idleness, and the hope of
enjoying it at some distant date, leads the wealthy man on, to his last
hour, in a train of augmented industry. Thus has nature most wisely

{68} There are many instances where habit has rendered a particular
sort of labour absolutely a want. It has become a necessary,--a means
of enjoyment without which life has become a burthen.

[end of page #82]

the disposition of man to idleness; by making the very propensity to it,
after a certain time, active in promoting industry.

But this can never be the case with a race of men: {69} and, as a
nation consists of a greater number of individuals, so, also, its
existence consists of successive generations.

There is a difference between idleness and inaction. It is the natural
propensity of man to be idle, but not to be inactive. Enjoyment is his
aim, after he has secured the means of existence. Enjoyment and
idleness are supposed, in many cases, to go hand in hand; at any rate,
they can be reconciled, whereas inaction and enjoyment are
irreconcilable. {70}

But we may still go farther. As taste for any particular enjoyment is
acquired when a man is young, and the same taste continues in a more
advanced age; a man who has been long in business has had no time to
acquire a taste for those enjoyments that are incompatible with, or
perhaps that admit of being substituted for it.

Reading the study of the fine arts, and such other means of employing
time as men enjoy, who, at an early period of life, are exempted from
labour, afford no amusement to the man who has been always
accustomed to a life of business, {71} with whom there is an absolute

{69} It is perhaps amongst chances that seem likely enough; the only
one that has never happened, that of a race of misers, in the same
lineal descent, for several generations. The reason why I say it never
has happened is, that, if it had, the effects would have become so
conspicuous, by the riches accumulated, that they could not have
passed unobserved.

{70} By inaction is not meant the opposite of loco-motion, such as
laying =sic= in bed, or basking in the sun; it is supposed that a man, to
enjoy himself, must be reading, talking, in company, or _doing

{71} They sometimes affect this, but it is little else than through
vanity. It would be easy to give a hundred striking proofs, but their
frequency renders that unnecessary.

Hunting and fishing, the two most anxious and painful occupations in
the world, are, in all countries, followed by the affluent and idle as
amusements; they want to interest the mind, and occupy themselves.
Gaming, which is attended with very painful sensations, is followed
much more frequently from propensity than from the love of gain;
and, indeed, it would appear, that a life without occupations that
interest the mind, is of all others the most insipid: it appears to be
worse, it appears to be miserable.

[end of page #83]

cessity of filling up the time in one way or another. A certain portion
of time may be spent in company; but even that, to be enjoyed, must
be spent in the society of men of the same class. The inducement,
then, to a man who has dedicated the first part of his life
advantageously to industry, to become idle, is not great, even when he
is at free liberty to follow his inclination.

It is totally different with a young man; his propensity is to idleness,
without any of those favourable circumstances that counteract that
propensity. Necessity alone can be expected to operate on him; it is in
vain to seek for any other substitute. Not that we mean, by idleness, to
signify inaction; but that sort of idleness, which resists regular labour.
There is a natural propensity to action, but then it is a propensity that
operates irregularly, unless under the influence of necessity. It is a
continued and regular exertion, directed to a proper object, that is
wanted to obtain wealth; to procure this, it is well to imitate nature,
and create necessity.

But, in proportion as a nation grows wealthy, that necessity is done
away. It is of the art of prolonging necessity, or rather of reconciling
necessity with affluence and ease, for which we are going to search,
that we may, by that means, reconcile affluence with industry.

We must, in the first place, find what the natural operation is by which
industry leaves a country.

When a country is in a state of poverty, it maintains the same degree
of industry, from generation to generation, without any effort. The
new race is brought up in the same way that the former was before it,
and the same pressure of necessity, acting on the same desire (but no
greater desire) to shun labour, produces the same effect at one time
that it did at another. The son of a man, who has arrived at a greater
degree of affluence than that to which he was born, is generally
brought up differently. He is not brought up so hardily in his infancy
as his father was, nor so soon called to labour; and probably when he
is called to it, he is neither called with so imperious a voice, nor is he
so willing to obey the call.

Though we do not live long enough to see an example of this
operation on a whole nation, the progression being too slow for the
life [end of page #84] of a man, yet we see it in different parts of the
same country, that are in different degrees of advancement. How
frequent are the instances of men, bred in distant counties,
(particularly in the North,) bringing all that industry and those habits
of labour to London, that the poverty of their parents, and the state of
their part of the country naturally occasioned. Some of those have
arrived at affluence, and many of them have to competency; and even
those who do not arrive at a comparatively higher rank in London,
than their father held in his own county, bring up their children in a
very different manner.

Suppose, for example, a blacksmith, from Northumberland, or a baker,
from Scotland, settles in London, as his father did at Newcastle or
Edinburgh, his son or sons will be bred very differently from what he
was; and, after their father's death, the business will most probably go
to some new comer, from a distant county.

The father was brought up with the necessity of labouring, or the
alternative of wanting food to eat. From his earliest days, he
considered himself as fortunate if he could obtain a competent living
by honest industry; and this impression, with the habits acquired while
it was strong, lead a man, so brought up, to fill his place in life with
honour and advantage.

The son, who sees that his father is in affluence, and who partakes of
the fruits of a whole life of industry, seldom considers that he must
continue that industry, otherwise, that the affluence will cease with the
life of his father. It is impossible to make a young man, brought up in
this manner, feel as his father did; and, not having the same impulse
given to him at first, he never can set off in his course of life with the
same energy.

But the cause of this evil does not stop here. Frequently the mother is
an enemy to the industry of her son; and between the workings of real
affection, badly exercised, which leads her to humour the lad; and a
sort of silly vanity, equally misplaced, she encourages him, if not in
idleness, at least, in the hope that he will never need to stoop to
incessant industry. It is not necessary to ascertain the absolute portion
of idleness and pride that is infused into the young man; that depends
[end of page #85] on particular circumstances: {72} but, in most
cases, it is sufficient to prevent his following the footsteps of his
father with equal energy.

Perhaps the capital, or the connections a father leaves in trade, may, in
some degree, and for some time, compensate for this; but the instances
where they do so are not numerous.

This is an example of the manner in which every succeeding
generation is brought up differently from that preceding it; but it is an
extreme example, and one that, though very real in the individuals,
can never suddenly take place on a national scale.

The difference between the general affluence of a nation, and the
change of its manners during the life of a man, is by no means equal to
the difference between a remote province and the capital of an empire;
but, though the example is extreme, the same effect is produced, in the
course of several generations upon a nation, that was occasioned by
change of place in one individual family from father to son. {73}

When a change like this takes place in one family, (and there are
numerous instances of it every day,) poverty comes on again, and the
children fall back into the laborious class of society, probably in a
degraded state; but as the evil is supplied by new people rising up, it is
little felt on the nation; if, however, it occurs very generally, it must
have a bad effect; and, indeed, the best thing that can happen for the

{72} If the mother has been herself born in affluence, she generally
has a sort of smothered contempt for the mean origin of her husband.
She seldom is fully sensible of the merit by which he has raised
himself, and consequently cannot be capable of appreciating the
advantage of bringing up her boy in the same way; on the contrary, the
habits of industry, which the father acquired at an early age, under the
pressure of necessity, are generally secret objects of ridicule to the rest
of the family. If, again, the woman has been of low origin in herself,
and is become affluent, then matters are ten times worse. Then there is
all the pride and vanity that ignorance, and a desire to hide that mean
extraction create. Incapable of shewing delicacy and fine breeding in
herself, she spoils her harmless children by converting them into
specimens of the gentility of the family. For more of this, see the
chapter on Education.

{73} In Rome, after the taking of Carthage; and in Portugal,
immediately after it got possession of the trade to India; the change
must have been as great over the whole of the people in one
generation, as it is generally between a remote province and near the

[end of page #86]

general welfare is, that such men may return to a state of
insignificance and labour as fast as possible; for, while they remain
above that, and in a declining state, they are filling their place in
society badly.

It is different where the change goes on through a whole country, then
no one can supply the place, they are all going the same way, and at
nearly the same rate; {74} the consequence will be, that this will not
be the fall of a family, but the fall of a whole people; the motion will,
indeed, be much more slow, but the moving body will be vastly
greater, and the effect will be in proportion.

In every nation in Europe there is, between the capital and the distant
provinces, a difference of affluence, of wealth, &c. equal to what
probably takes place in a nation in one or two centuries. The
inhabitants of the capital have some great advantages over those that
come from a distance; they have connections, they have money and
stock; and, generally speaking, in their early years, they possess a
more ready and marketable knowledge. But all these avail nothing
against habits of industry, and being taught to expect nothing from
others, but to depend all on one's own powers. With this single, but
signal, advantage, the sons of the wealthy citizens are always yielding
to the son of the peasant; they are one by one giving way, and their
places are filled by a new race; while their descendants are sinking
into poverty, and filling prisons, poor-houses, and hospitals.

This vicissitude is so observable, that it would be unnecessary to dwell
upon it were it, =sic= not of such infinite importance. {75}

The alarming and lamentable increase of the poor, in proportion as

{74} It is always to be observed, that this reasoning is only applicable
in general, and not in every particular case. It has been remarked by
the writer of the notes on the Wealth of Nations, that where a fortune
is not realized in a family, sufficient to enable it to withdraw entirely
from trade, it seldom remains wealthy above two generations. The
sons most frequently want intelligence or industry to augment what
their father got, and the grandsons have generally dissipation enough
to squander entirely away what remains. This is so frequent a case in
London, that it may be called the regular routine of the business; and,
what arises by regular routine, must be derived from some general and
natural cause.

{75} In the chapter on Education, this subject is entered into more
fully, and the education of women makes a principal part. A subject
not noticed by the author of the Wealth of Nations, though very

[end of page #87]

a nation becomes rich, is a proof that it is not in capital cities alone
that the effect takes place, but over the whole of a country. {76}

In England, the number of inhabitants is about six times the number of
those in Scotland; and, perhaps, it costs twice as much to maintain a
poor person in the former as in the latter. The sum necessary for the
maintenance of the poor in England may then be reckoned at about
twelve times as much as in Scotland, in order to preserve a just
proportion between the two countries. But the poor cost more than
sixty times as much in England as in Scotland; that is, at least five
times more than the true proportion that ought to be !!!

This, it may be said, is owing to the different manner of managing the
business, and, in some degree, it no doubt is; {77} but, as the poor are
only maintained in England, and as they are also maintained in
Scotland, it would be wrong to allow so great a difference for that

In order, however, to put the matter out of all doubt, let us compare
England with itself, and we shall find that the poor's rates, or the
expense of maintaining the indigent, has increased more rapidly than
the price of provisions, or the price of labour. This ought not to be the
case, as they would only have augmented in the same proportion,
unless the number of poor was increased as well as the price of the
provisions they eat, at the same time that the nation is growing more

Of whom do the poor in every nation consist, but of the lame, the sick,
the infirm, the aged, or children unprovided for? Of those, the number,
in proportion to the total number of inhabitants, will be pretty nearly
the same at all times; for it is nature that produces this species of
helpless poverty. It would then appear that there is another species of
poverty, not of nature's creation, that comes in and destroys the
proportion. It would likewise appear, that that new species of poverty

{76} The Poor's Rate, and regulations respecting that augmenting
class of persons, are treated in a chapter by itself.

{77} For this see the chapter on the Poor, in which the subject is
investigated at considerable length. At present, it is only mentioned by
way of illustrating the effect of wealth on the manners of the people;
and to prove, that it is not confined to the capital alone, but is general
all over the country of England.

[end of page #88]

is occasioned by the general wealth, since it increases in proportion to

If we find, then, that the increase of wealth renders the descendants of
a particular family helpless, and unable to maintain their place in
society; if we find, also, that it gives those portions of a country,
which are the least advanced, an advantage over those which are the
most advanced; and, if we find that the number of indigent increase
most where the wealth is greatest, we surely must allow, that there is a
strong tendency to decay that accompanies the acquisition of wealth.
The same revolutions that arise amongst the rich and poor inhabitants
of a country, who change places gradually, and without noise, must
naturally take place between the inhabitants of rich and poor
countries, upon a larger scale and in a more permanent manner. {78}
Such changes are generally attended with, or, at least, productive of,
violent commotions. Nations are not subservient to laws like
individuals, but make forcible use of the means of which they are
possessed, to obtain the ends which they have in view.

As this tendency is uniformly felt by a number of individuals over the
whole of a country, when it advances in wealth, and over whole
districts that are more advanced than the others, it must operate, in
length of time, in producing the decline of a whole nation, as well as it
does of a certain portion of its people at all times.

Changes, in the interior of a nation, take place by piece-meal or by
degrees; the whole mass sees nothing of it, and, indeed, it is not felt.
{79} But it is vain to think, that the same cause that gives the poorer
inhabitants of a nation an advantage over the richer, will not likewise

{78} As we find that wealth seldom goes amongst people of business
past the second, and almost never past the third generation, families
that rise so high as to be partners in profit, and not in labour or
attention, are an exception. Nations resemble the families that acquire
enough to be affluent, but not enough to retire from business. A nation
can never retire; it must always be industrious. The inference is clear
and cannot be mistaken; neither can the fact stated be denied.

{79} The number of bankruptcies have been considered as signs of
wealth; and their increase is a sign most undoubtedly of more trade;
but this is a barometer, of which it requires some skill to understand
the real index.

[end of page #89]

give poor nations an advantage over rich ones; or, at least, tend to
raise the one and draw down the other. Though we find, from the
history of the various revolutions that have taken place in different
countries, that they arose from a variety of causes, some peculiar to
one nation, and some to another; yet we have found a change of
manners and ways of thinking and acting, more or less operating in all
of them.

Amongst the interior causes of the decline of wealthy nations, arising
from the wealth itself, we must set this down as one of a very general
and natural operation. We must be particularly careful to remove this,
as far as possible, if we mean to avert those evils which hitherto have
arisen from a superior degree of wealth and power in every nation.

We are now going to examine other internal causes; but though they
are separate from this, yet this is at the root of all, this is perpetually
operating, we meet with it in every corner and at every turning. It is
what Mr. Pope says, speaking of the master-passion in individuals:

"The great disease that must destroy at length,

Grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength."

This radical case of decline is augmented by an ill conceived vanity in
the parents, as well as by necessity ceasing to act on the children.
Each is following a very natural inclination; the one to indulge, the
other to be indulged. It is the duty and the interest of the state to
counteract this tendency, and the manner how that it is to be done will
be inquired into in the first chapter of the third book of this work. =sic
--there is none.=

But it is not merely a neglect of industry and the means of rising in
society, or keeping one's place in it that is hurtful; the general way of
thinking and acting becomes different, and, by degrees, the character
of a nation is entirely altered. This change was the most rapid, and the
most observable in the Roman republic, and was the cause that
brought it to an end, and prepared the people for submitting to be
ruled by the emperors. The human character was as much degraded
under them, when the citizens were rich, as it ever had been exalted
under their consular government, when the people were indigent. [end
of page #90]

The various effects of this change in manners will be considered under
different heads, but it is too deeply rooted in human nature ever to be
entirely counteracted, much less entirely done away. It is firmly
connected with the first principles of action in man, and can no more
be removed than his entire nature can be altered. What is in the
extreme, if dangerous, may be diminished; and that is all that it would
be any way useful to attempt: it may be rendered less formidable in its
operation, and that is all that can be expected.

The degradation of moral character; the loss of attention to the first
principles to which a society owes its prosperity and safety, both of
which accompany wealth, are most powerful agents in the decline of
nations. We have seen that the Romans, the greatest of all nations,
were ruined, chiefly, by degradation of character, by effeminacy, by
ignorance; for we generally find that idleness degenerates, at last, into
sloth and inaction. To a love of justice, and a power of overcoming
danger, or of preventing it, listlessness and a total want of energy
succeed: at length, the mind becomes estranged from hope, and the
body incapable of exertion. This is the case with those who have for a
time enjoyed luxury when they begin to decline; their fall is then
inevitable. The Eastern empire, as well as the Western, fell by this
means; and it may be said to have been the ordinary course in the
decline of nations that have fallen gradually.

The Turks, {80} the Spaniards, and the Portuguese, all owe part of
their present feebleness to this cause; and the government of France
certainly, in a great measure, owed its downfal =sic= to the same.
There the courtiers had sunk in character, and it was become
impossible even for the energy, the activity, and intelligence of the
nation at large, to counteract the baneful effect of the change that had
taken place amongst those who regulated its affairs.

In history we have seen scarcely any thing similar to this, for it was
the effect operating on the rulers of the nation only; the strength of the
great body of the nation, on which it did not operate, supported that

{80} Those nations resemble each other in feebleness, and in the
cause of it, though, with respect to the Turks, it has existed for a
longer period.

[end of page #91]

pride and ignorance; whereas in Spain, Portugal, and Turkey, this evil
being general throughout the state, those who have the conducting of
affairs are held in some check by the general feebleness of the nation.
{81} This not only limits the power of action, but is so visible, that it
is impossible for those who govern not to be led to reflection, and to
be taught moderation by it.

The power of laying on taxes and the means of defending itself against
other nations are regulated by the situation of the people; but the
wisdom with which the affairs are conducted is dependent on the
rulers, and those who govern. It is therefore fortunate, when the rulers
are so far sensible of the feeble state of the country as to be moderate
and reasonable. {82}

None of the nations that know their own weakness would ever have
risked the experiment that was made on St. Domingo by the French;
neither would any nation, in the vigour of acquiring riches, have done
so. It required a nation, ruled by men who were ignorant of the true
principles, who were corrupted with wealth, and, at the same time, had
a vigorous nation to govern, to admit of such a situation of things.
{83} Had the nation been less wealthy or weaker, so as to have made
the poverty or weakness obvious, this could not have happened; or,
had the rulers been less corrupted and ignorant, it could not have taken
place. {84}

{81} The French nation, in reality, was never so powerful and wealthy
as at the time of the revolution breaking out. The effects of luxury had
only perverted the city of Paris and the court. The power which the
energies of the people at large put at the disposition of the government
was ill applied.

{82} Perhaps some of the greatest advantages that arise from a form
of government like that of England are, that those who have ruled,
owe their places to their abilities, and not to favour; that they maintain
their situations by exertion, and not by flattery; and that the situation
of the nation never can be long disguised. Without the turbulence of a
democracy, we have most of the advantages that arise from one, while
we have, at the same time, the benefits that proceed from the stability
and order of established monarchy.

{83} When the Portuguese were for abandoning the India trade, it was
a case pretty similar.

{84} Though the men who overturned the commerce of France were
not the same with the members of the ancient government, yet they
also were men ignorant of the true interests of the nation. A few
amongst them were bent upon an experiment, regardless of the ruin
with which it might be attended.

[end of page #92]

In all the interior causes, for the decline of nations, which we are
endeavouring to investigate, we shall find a change of manners, and
ways of thinking, constantly producing some effect in the direction
towards decline. This takes place, from the time that a nation becomes
more wealthy than its neighbours; until then, when it is only
struggling to equal them, a nation cannot be said to be rich, but to be
emerging from poverty.

The great aim then should be, to counteract this change of mind and
manners, that naturally attends an increased state of prosperity.

[end of page #93]


_Of the Education of Youth in Nations increasing in Wealth.--the
Errors generally committed by Writers on that Subject.--Importance
of Female Education on the Manners of a People.--Not noticed by
Writers on Political Economy.--Education of the great Body of the
People the chief Object.--In what that consists_

The changes of which we have spoken, that take place, gradually, in
a nation, from the increasing luxury and ease in which every
succeeding generation is raised, cannot be prevented. They are the
natural consequences of the situation of the parents being altered. But
when that period of life comes, when children enter upon what is
called education, then a great deal may be done; for, though the
fathers and mothers have still power over their offspring, it is a
diminished power; besides which, they are seldom so much disposed
to exert even what power remains, as at an earlier period.

It is necessary and fair, after the severe censure that has been passed
on parents, for bringing up children wrong, at an early period, to
admit, that for the most part, they would not run into that error, and
spoil their children, if they were sensible of doing so; and that, as they
grow up, they would have them properly instructed, if it were in their
power: that is to say, if they had the means.

There are certain things for which individuals can pay, but which it is
impossible for them to provide individually; and if they attempt to do
it collectively, it is liable to great abuse, and to be badly done.

Individuals never could afford to send their letters, from one end of
the kingdom to the other, without combining together, unless
government furnished them the means: but, by the aid of the
government, they are enabled to do it at a very cheap rate, with
expedition and safety, whilst a profit arises to government greater than
any regular business in the world produces.

There is a possibility of an individual sending a letter by a particu-
[end of page #94] lar messenger, at his own expense, to the greatest
distance, provided he can afford it; but, as it happens, there are many
more letters require sending than there are messengers to send, or
money to defray the expenses.

It is the same with the education of youth. A man may have a tutor to
his son, and educate him privately, if he can afford it; but it happens,
as with the letters, that there are many more sons to educate than there
are tutors to be found, or money to pay them.

As the individual, in the case of the letters, would be obliged to
depend on some self-created carrier, if government did not interfere,
so they are with regard to the education of their children; and, as in the
one case they would be very badly served, so they generally are in the

In the first place, the plans of education are every where bad, and the
manner of executing still worse.--Those to whom the education of
youth, one of the most important offices in society, is intrusted
undergo no sort of examination, to ascertain whether they are fit for
the business. They, in general, depend upon their submissive conduct
towards the parents and improper indulgence of the children for their
success. It was found that the judges of criminal and civil law could
not be intrusted with the administration of justice, while they
depended on the pleasure of the crown. Can it then be expected that a
much more numerous set of men, who are, in every respect, inferior in
rank and education, to judges, will maintain that upright and correct
conduct that is necessary, when they are infinitely more dependent
than the judges ever were at any period?

This is one of the questions that is to be argued on the same principles,
that the independence, under a monarchical or democratic
government, is decided. Under the dominion of one chief, on
particular occasions, which occur but seldom, it may be necessary to
yield to his will, if the ruler is shameless enough and infamous enough
to insist upon it; but, with a community for one's master, there is a
complete system of submission, a perpetual deviation from that which
is right.

In the first place, the fathers and mothers are no judges themselves of
the merits of the master, or the proficiency of the boy, whom the [end
of page #95] master is obliged to treat with indulgence, that he may
not complain. Where there is a complete ignorance of the right and
wrong of the case, any thing will turn the balance; and it is clear, that
where there is no proof of superior merit, there must be good will,
flattery, or some other method taken, to obtain a preference.

There are, occasionally, men of real merit, who distinguish themselves
as teachers; and who, having a solid claim to a preference, use no mean
arts to obtain it. It is but justice to parents in general, to say that
such men are always encouraged, while they keep their good qualities
uncontaminated by some fault that counterbalances them. {85}

As this is a case where individuals cannot serve themselves, nor
provide the means of being properly served, it is one of those in which
the government of every country ought to interfere. Not in giving
salaries, at the public expense, to men, who, perhaps, would do no
duty; but in seeing that the men who undertake the task of education
are qualified, and that when they have undertaken it they do their duty,
and follow a proper system.

There should be proper examinations, from time to time, and registers
should be kept of the number of scholars, and the satisfaction they
have given to those who examined them.

Parents would then have a measure, by which they could estimate the
merit of a school; the master would have another motive for action,
and there would be an emulation amongst the scholars. The business
professed to be done, and undertaken, would then be performed. At
present, at about three times the expense necessary, children learn
about half what they are intended to be taught.

Interfering in this manner would be no infringement on private liberty;
nothing would be done that could hurt, in any way, the individuals,
but what must greatly benefit them. The evil habits that are contracted
in early childhood, at home, would be counteracted, and the

{85} As even those find it is necessary to make a strong impression on
the minds of parents, (and as some wish their children to be treated
with rigour,) there are teachers, who obtain a credit by overstraining
the discipline, after having obtained a fair reputation, by carrying it
only to a proper length.

[end of page #96]

youth would be taught to know what it is that renders a man happy in
himself, and respected and valued by society.

But the consideration of the system to be followed is not the least
important part of the business. The useful should be preferred to the
useless, and in this the example of the ancients might be followed with
advantage. They had no dead languages to study, and the mind
appears to have been in many cases expanded, far beyond its present

Nothing, indeed, can equal the ignorance of the most part of boys,
when they leave school; those who are considered as bad scholars,
have lost the good opinion of themselves, that ought to be maintained
throughout life; they think every thing difficult or impossible. Those,
again, who have excelled, are something less ignorant, but become
vain and conceited, owing perhaps to their having learnt some useless
and superfluous pieces of knowledge.

Education, on the general principle, consists in learning what makes a
man useful, respectable, and happy, in the line for which he is
destined, whether for manual labour, or for study; for a high or a low

What is useful becomes a question, in some sort depending upon
place, and still more on circumstances, it will therefore be better to
discuss it at length in the Third Book, where England is the place, and
particular circumstances are taken into consideration.

There are, however, some general rules that apply to all places and to
all situations.

Good principles, honour, honesty, and integrity, are equally necessary
in every rank of society; with those qualities, even a beggar is
respectable, and will be respected; without them, no man ever was or
ever will be so. In every mode of education, the importance of those
should be inculcated; and that they may be adhered to, every man,
either by inheritance, or by talents, or by habits of industry, should
have it put in his power to command the means of living in the way
that he has been brought up.

Were this attended to, many scenes of misery and vice would be
prevented. Admitting that there are propensities in some minds, [end
of page #97] that lead to evil, independent of every possible check or
control, it must be allowed that the far greater proportion of those who
do well or ill in the world owe it to the manner in which they have
been brought up in their early days.

It follows, from this general rule, that parents should carefully avoid
bringing up children in a manner in which they have not the means of
being afterwards maintained; and that, in the second place, when they
cannot leave them in an independent fortune, they should, by making
them learn a trade or profession, give them the means of obtaining
what they have been accustomed to consider as necessary for them to

There are, indeed, great numbers, and the greatest numbers of all;
unable even to have their children taught what is called a trade. But
there are none whom poverty prevents from bringing their children up
to industry; and, if they have been taught to live according to their
situation, they will find themselves above their wants, and therefore
the same general rule will still apply.

Most writers have considered the subject of education as relative to
that portion of it only which applies to learning; but the first object
of all, in every nation, is to make a man a good member of society; and
this can never be done, unless he is fitted to fill the situation of
life for which he is intended.

Governments and writers on education fall, generally speaking, into
the same errors. They would provide for the education of persons
destined for the learned professions and sometimes for the fine arts;
but agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, are totally left out: {86}
the most essential, the most generally useful, are not noticed at all.

As so much value is set upon the language of the Greeks and Romans,
surely we might pay a little attention to the example of those
distinguished nations.

The Greeks studied the Egyptian learning, and improved upon it; but
this was only confined to those who followed learning as a profes-

{86} Lord Somerville has some excellent observations, relative to
this, in his publication on Agriculture, published in 1800.

[end of page #98]

sion, or whose means allowed them to prosecute it as a study. The
common education of citizens was different; it consisted in teaching
them to perform what was useful, and to esteem what was excellent. It
was a principle with them that all men ought to know how happiness
is attained, and in what virtue consists; but they neither trusted to
precept nor example. They enforced by habit and practice, and in this
the Romans followed the plan the Greeks had laid down, and, by that
means, they surpassed all other nations.

When those great nations of antiquity abandoned their attention to the
useful parts of education, they soon sunk in national character. It so
happens, in this case, that the mode of education and the manners of a
people are so closely connected that it is difficult, from observation, to
know which is the cause, and which the effect. Youth, badly educated,
make bad men, and bad men neglect the education of their children;
they set them a wrong example: such is the case, when a government
does not interfere. How this is to be done with advantage is the

Writers on political economy have, in general, considered female
education as making no part of the system; but surely, if the wealth
and happiness of mankind is the end in view, there can scarcely be a
greater object, for none is more nearly connected with it.

Let it be granted that, in the first instance, women are not educated
with any view to carry on those labours and manufactures, on which
wealth is considered as depending. Let all this be admitted, and that,
in an early state of life, they are of no importance in this respect; yet,
surely, when they become wives and mothers, when the economy of
the family, and the education of the younger children depend chiefly
on them, they are then of very great importance to society. Their
conduct, in that important situation, must be greatly influenced by
their education.

Female education ought then to be considered as one of the things, on
the conducting of which well the prosperity of a state does in a great
measure depend; it ought, therefore, to be attended to in the same
manner as the education of youth of the other sex.

In this case, also, so much depends on place and circumstances, [end
of page #99] that we shall follow the same rule as with male
education. It shall be treated of as for England, and with the different
ranks of society as they are; but there are some general rules not to be
forgotten, and which are applicable to all places and all countries.

The great error, in female education, does not consist in neglecting to
instil good principles; for that is, in most countries, for obvious
reasons, pretty well attended to; but good principles, without the
means of adhering to them, are of little avail. If a desire for dress, or
other enjoyments, that cannot be gratified fairly, and by the means of
which they are possessed, are encouraged, principles will be
abandoned in order to gratify passions.--Females are taught frivolous
accomplishments in place of what would be useful, and expensive
vanity is substituted for that modest dignity that should be taught; the
consequence is, that, in every rank of life, according to her station, the
woman aims at being above it, and affects the manners and dress of
her superiors.

There is too much pains taken with adorning the person, and too little
with instructing the mind, in every civilized country; and when
women are wise, and good, and virtuous, it is more owing to nature
than to education.

As, indeed, the duties of a woman, in ordinary life, are of a nature
more difficult to describe than those of a man, who, when he has
learnt a trade, has little more to do, the care employed in seeing that
proper persons only are intrusted with the important office of teaching
them to perform those duties ought to be proportionally great.

The farther remarks on the subject of education are deferred to the
Fourth Book =sic--there is none.=, where place and circumstances
come into consideration. It is, however, to be observed, that, in all
cases, as a nation becomes more wealthy, the business of education
becomes more important, and has a natural tendency to be worse
managed; it therefore demands a double share of attention.

If the women of a nation are badly educated, it must have a great
effect on the education of their sons, and the conduct of their
husbands. The Spartan and Roman mothers had the glory of making
[end of page #100] their sons esteem bravery, and those qualities in a
man that were most wanted in their state of society. It should be one
part of female education to know and admire the qualities that are
estimable in the other sex. To obtain the approbation of the other sex,
is, at a certain time of life, the greatest object of ambition, and it is
never a matter of indifference.

The great general error consists in considering the woman merely in
her identical self, without thinking of her influence on others. It
appears to be for this reason, that writers on political economy have
paid no attention to female education; but we find no state in which
the virtue of men has been preserved where the women had none;
though there are examples of women preserving their virtues,
notwithstanding the torrent of corruption by which that of the men has
been swept away. [end of page #101]


_Of increased Taxation, as an Interior Cause of Decline.--Its
different Effects on Industry, according to the Degree to which it is
carried.--Its Effects on the People and on Government_.

There has been no instance of a government becoming more
economical, or less expensive, as it became older, even when the
nation itself was not increasing in wealth; but, in every nation that has
increased in wealth, the expenditure, on the part of government, has
augmented in a very rapid manner.

Amongst the interior causes of the decline of nations, and the
overthrow of governments, the increase of taxes has always been very
prominent. It is in the levying of taxes that the sovereign and the
subject act as if they were of opposite interests, or rather as if they
were enemies to each other.

In every case almost, where the subjects have rebelled against their
sovereign, or where they have abandoned their country to its enemies,
the discontents have been occasioned by taxes that were either too
heavy, imprudently laid on, or rigorously levied.

Sometimes the manner of laying on the tax has given the offence;
sometimes its nature, and sometimes its amount. The revolution in
England, in Charles the first's time, began about the manner of levying
a tax. The revolution of the American colonies began in the same way;
and it is generally at the manner that nations enjoying a certain degree
of freedom make objection. The excise had very nearly proved fatal to
the government of this country, as the stamp duties did to that of
France, and as the general amount and enormity of taxes did to the
Western Empire. {87}

{87} The system of taxation was ill understood amongst the Romans,
and its execution, under a military government, is always severe. The
Romans were so tormented, at last, that they lost all regard for their
country. Taxes seem to be the price we pay for the con-[end of page
#102] stitution we live under, and as they increase, the value of the
purchase lessens. The difference between value paid, and value
received, constitutes the advantage or loss of every bargain.

Perhaps the chief motive for submitting to the difficulties, the
oppressions, and the burthens, which people submit to under
republican forms of government arises in deception. They seem to be
paying taxes to themselves, and for themselves, when, in reality, they
are not doing so any more than under a monarchy, where the taxes, in
proportion to the service done, are generally less than in a

{88} America is an exception, but then there is no similarity between
the United States and any other country in the world. Their existence,
as an independent country, is only of twenty-five years standing; they
have had no wars during that time, and the revolutionary war cost
little in actual money. The comparison between the states and other
nations will not hold, but, if we compare the expense of their
government now, and when under the British, it will be found they
pay near thirty times as much; and, even allowing their population to
have risen one-half, they still pay proportionately twenty times as
much. Their revenue now amounts to 16,000,000 of dollars. The
public expense, in 1795, when they revolted, was about 350,000

This was the case in Holland and Venice. In England, the first great
increase of taxes took place under the long Parliament and

The only administration carried on by delegated authority, that is from
necessity obliged to be executed with unabaiting rigour, is the
department of finance. Money is a thing of such a nature, that strict
rules are absolutely necessary in its administration. There is here a
great distinction between money and other property, or money's
worth. A menial servant, of whose honesty there is no proof, and even
when it may be dubious, is habitually trusted with the care of property
to a considerable amount, and the account rendered is seldom very
rigorous; but, in the case of trusting with money, every precaution is
first taken, as to being trust-worthy. Security is generally demanded,
and neither friendship, confidence, nor the highest respectability, will
supply the place of a strict account, which, when not rendered, leaves
an indelible stain. There are many causes for this, but they are so
generally understood, or, at least, so generally felt, that it is not
necessary to examine them; the consequences are in some cases,
however, not so evident. One of the most important is, that the
accuracy with [end of page #103] which those appointed to collect
taxes are obliged to render their accounts, compels them to a strictness
in doing their duty that appears frequently rigorous to an extreme
degree, and scarcely consistent with justice or humanity.

A king is considered as an unrelenting creditor, and he certainly
appears in that character; but it should be considered why he is
obliged to be so; for, as a master, he is generally the most indulgent in
his dominions.

No duty or service is exacted with less rigour than that belonging to a
civil department under government, when it is not connected with
accountability in money; none so rigorous where money is concerned.
How is this to be accounted for, unless it is by shewing that the nature
of the situation admits of giving way to the feelings of humanity in
one case, and not in the other? A few examples will illustrate this
point, which is very important, very well known, but not well

A clerk in a public office wants, either for health or private business,
or, perhaps, only for amusement, to absent himself from duty; if his
conduct merits any indulgence, and if his request is any way
reasonable, it is immediately granted, though his salary during his
absence may amount to a considerable sum; but he receives the gift
under the form of time, not of money. If the same clerk is in arrear for
taxes to one-twentieth part of the amount, if he does not pay, his
furniture will be seized, and that perhaps by order of the same superior
from whom he obtained the leave of absence from his duty. {89}

The consequences would be fatal if the case were reversed. Supposing
that leave of absence had been refused, and that a remission of taxes
had been granted, the man who remitted the tax would be liable to
suspicion, which he could never do away; the receipt of the revenue
would never be secure, and the clerk, who had demanded a fair
indulgence, would be disgusted and provoked at the refusal.

We cannot, however, alter the nature of things. Taxes cannot be
remitted, in any case, without discretional authority, and that it would

{89} Accountability in money may be compared to military discipline,
when on duty. No allowances are to be made for negligence or
deviation from rule. Of this we have lately had a most striking and
memorable example.

[end of page #104]

be ruinous to the revenue to give, we must, therefore, never expect
that the augmentation of taxes will take place without an increase of
discontent, or, at least, an augmented indifference towards

Perhaps nothing evinces more the general feeling, (even of the
respectable part of society,) with regard to the revenues of the state,
than the disposition to profit by evading the payment of duties
imposed upon articles of consumption.

The most respectable of the nobility or gentry will conceal a
contraband article, or one on which there is a heavy duty, on their
return from abroad: and what is more, if detected, they are more
ashamed, on account of their want of address, than on account of the
crime; for such it is, whatever custom may have taught us to think.

A man who is rigorously treated, by what is commonly called a lawful
creditor, whom he would never attempt to defraud must naturally feel
doubly incensed, when still more rigorously treated by one whom he
would think it very little harm, and no disgrace, to defraud. It is then
very clear, that, the common habits of thinking on the subject of debts
due to the king, is such as does not favour taxation, or incline people
to submit willingly to rigorous modes of recovery.

All taxes raise the prices of the articles taxed, but those are most felt
and most obnoxious which fall on personal property, or on persons

All taxes, then, when they pass a certain point, have a tendency to
send away persons, and property, and trade, from a country, which, if
they do, its decline is inevitable. The extent, however, of that effect
must depend on a great variety of circumstances, such as the
comparative situation of other nations, their distance, the difficulty of
removing, &c.

If America were as near to England as France is, the industrious class
would emigrate in multitudes; and, if in France, property and persons
were as safe and free as in England, part of both would go there; but,
as matters are, to the former it is impossible to remove, and, to the
latter, the risk surpasses the advantage.

An increase of taxation tends to raise the wages of labour, and, where
it does so in due proportion, the labourer pays almost nothing; he still
for all that seems to pay, and he has the same disagreeable feeling
[end of page #105] as if he did pay. No feeling is more disagreeable
than that of being obliged, after earning money that can ill be spared,
to pay it away to a surly tax-gatherer, who treats a man and his family
with insolence, while he receives the money that should purchase
them bread. Besides this, though the prices of many articles keep pace
with the wages of labour, yet many others do not. Thus, in a country
where wages are rapidly altering, though some are bettered by it,
penury is entailed on others, who have not the means of raising their

If heavy taxes are levied on a few articles of consumption, then they
become inefficient, and if they are divided amongst a great many, they
become troublesome, so that either way they are attended with
inconvenience and difficulty.

In every country, where taxation has been carried to a great height, it
has, at last, become necessary to bear heavily upon personal property.
Such taxes are always attended with disagreeable feelings, and
peculiar inconveniency. The tax always comes in the form of a debt,
and whether convenient to be paid or not, it admits at best but of little
delay. {90}

In England the nature of the government, the disposition of the people,
and the same sort of genius that made them succeed in commercial
intercourse and regulation, led them to adopt the least objectionable
modes of taxation.

The customs were the first great branch of revenue at the time of the
revolution. The excise, land-tax, and stamps, rose next, none of which
can be objected to; for the person who pays the tax to government
only advances the money, and is reimbursed by the consumer, who,
again on his part, when he really pays the tax (for good and all) does it
under the form of an advance in price. Thus, then, the tax is disguised
to him that really pays it, and it is optional, inasmuch as he

{90} It will be seen, in a future part of this work, that the farmers have
lost nothing, but rather got by the high prices of grain in this country,
and it is so probably in all others. Those who sell necessaries raise the
price; those who make or sell superfluities have no such resource, and
therefore pay in the severest manner.

[end of page #106]

may avoid the tax, by not consuming the article. He never can be sued
for the tax, and he pays it by degrees, as he can spare the money. {91}

Some time before the taxation which the American war rendered
necessary, it was thought that the customs and excise could not be
carried much farther. Ministers did not chuse =sic= to venture on an
additional tax on land, and, consequently, stamps were augmented and
extended, as were also duties on windows. A variety of new taxes on
particular articles of consumption were resorted to. Those sort of taxes
harassed and tormented individuals more than they filled the treasury,
yet still, when, after an interval of a few years of peace, new burthens
became necessary, in 1793, the same plan was pursued, till it was
found ineffectual, being too troublesome and tedious, besides being
unequal to the increase of expenditure.

It was necessity that suggested a plan, which is the simplest and
easiest of any, so long as it succeeds and is productive. =sic= To
increase the excise and customs by an additional five or ten per cent.
on the articles that were supposed able to bear it. This has been done
again and again with those two branches of revenue, and with the
stamps likewise.

But the necessities of the state still outrun the means, and the assessed
taxes, the worst and most obnoxious of all, were augmented in the
same way; but even those were not productive. The inducement to
privation was too great, and the restraints laid on expenditure,
suggested the adoption of a tax on income; that is, on the means a man
has to pay, which carries in its very name a description of its nature.

We have mentioned the influence that necessity has on industry. One
of the effects of taxes, as well as of rent, is to prolong the operation of
necessity, or to increase it. A man who has neither rent nor taxes to
pay, as is the case in some savage nations, only labours to supply his
wants. Whatever proportion rent and taxes bear to the wants of

{91} The land-tax is not precisely the same, but very nearly. It
operates as a tax on the produce of land, that is on commodities for the
use of man, the same as those articles subject to duties of customs or
excise. The landholder just feels as the brewer, distiller, or importer of
foreign goods, he gets the tax reimbursed by the farmer, and the
farmer is reimbursed by the consumer.

[end of page #107]

a people their industry will be increased in the same proportion, unless
their forces are exceeded, and then the operation is indeed very

It follows, from this, that both rent and taxes, to a certain degree,
increase the wealth of a people, by augmenting their industry. As rent
is not compulsive, it never can in general be carried beyond the point
that augmented industry will bear; but taxes are not either regulated by
the industry of the individual, or of the community; they may
therefore be carried too far, and when they are, the people become
degraded, disheartened, their independent spirit is lost and broken,
and industry, in place of increasing, as it did in the first stages of
taxation, flies away.

The government, in this case, generally becomes more severe, and
certainly more obnoxious. The broken spirit of the people makes
submission a matter of course, so that there is no effectual resistance
made to its power. Incapacity to pay comes at last, and defeats the
end; but, between incapacity and resistance, the difference is very

As calculators have been predicting the moment of a total stoppage to
the increase of revenue for nearly half a century; as ministers,
themselves, have never ventured to lay on a new burthen, except when
forced to it by necessity. {92} As taxes have been laid on at random,
in a manner similar to that in which the streets and houses of old cities
were built, without regularity or design, and as the effects predicted
have not taken place, it is fair to conclude, that the subject is not well
understood. If it were, the evil would be in the way to be obviated; but
still the conclusion would be the same, that increased taxation tends to
bring on discontent, and to drive men and capital from a country. The
degree of tendency, and the rapidity of its operations, are a question;
but respecting the tendency itself there can be no question.

Two things more are to be observed, relative to the effects of taxation,
as tending towards decline. The first is, that the taxes are levied by
and expended on men, who, having income only for their lives,

{92} Mr. Pitt seems an exception to this; but the establishment of a
sinking fund, at the end of the war, was as necessary for his
administration as any of the loans, during the war, were for Lord
North; and both measures required new taxes.

[end of page #108]

generally leave families in distress. Those who lose their parents when
young are often left destitute, and those who are farther advanced are
frequently ruined by being educated and accustomed to a rank in life
that they are not able to support. This is a very great evil, and is
renewed as it were every generation. As the revenues of a country
increase, this evil increases also: for, except what goes to the
proprietors of money in the stocks, all the public revenue, very nearly,
goes to people whose income perishes with themselves. To begin with
those who collect the taxes, custom-house officers, excise men,
collectors, and clerks of every rank and demonination =sic=, there is
not one in ten who does not die in indigence; and if he leaves a family,
he leaves it in distress.

It is no doubt the lot of the great bulk of mankind, that is to say, the
labouring part of the community in every country, to leave children
unprovided for; but then they are left in a rank of society that does not
prevent their going to work or to service, which is not the case with
the vast number left by those who enjoy, during life, a genteel and
easy existence under government.

The education of such persons is either neglected entirely, or ill fitted
for the line of life into which they are to go. If the sum-total of human
vice and misery was to be divided into shares, and if it were calculated
how much fell to each person, there is not a doubt but at least a double
portion would fall to the lot of those unfortunate persons who are left
by parents enjoying offices for life; who are generally obliged to
expend their income as they earn it. As, according to the natural
chance of things, a number of such persons must leave young families,
the seeds of misery are continually sowing a-fresh, to the great
detriment of society. This evil depends in a great degree upon the
habits and nature of the people, which augment or diminish it; and, in
commercial nations, the evil is far the greatest. Where commerce does
not flourish, persons belonging to the revenue-department are seldom
highly paid, and they by no means consider themselves as a class of
persons distinguished above the general run, or obliged to live more
expensively; but, in a manufacturing country, to live without working,
implies a degree of gentility that is extremely ruinous to those who
enjoy that fatal and flimsy pre-eminence. [end of page #109]

A manufacturer, who is getting a thousand pounds a year, will,
perhaps, not assume so much importance as a man in office who does
not get one hundred pounds; and the former, as well as his family,
knowing that they are beholden to industry for what they have, do not
think themselves above following it. {93}

Unfortunately, it also happens, that, in all sorts of occupation where
trust is reposed and punctuality required, more than in ordinary
business, it is rather late in life before those employed rise to
situations of considerable emolument. When they are old, their
families are generally young; thus it is, that the persons who are the
most unfit to marry late in life are generally those who do so. This
order of things cannot easily be changed. In the rate of payments
governments are regulated by the service done, and by the dependence
that can be placed on the person employed, who, on the other hand,
follows the natural propensities of human nature. When young, and on
a small allowance, a revenue-officer remains single; but when it is
necessary to become serious, attentive, and confidential, and when he
finds he has the means, he betakes himself to a domestic life, which is
the most natural to men arrived at a certain time of life, and the best
fitted for those who are to be depended upon for the correctness of
their conduct. It is impossible to prevent this natural state of things;
and if let go uncorrected, if not counteracted, the consequences are
very pernicious. It is to this, in a great measure, the augmentation of
vice and mendicity =sic= is to be attributed in nations, as they become
wealthy and great.

Perhaps more depends upon the manner of taxation than the amount;
at least it certainly is so in all countries where the amount is not very
high. In America, for example, the amount is of no importance; the
manner might be of very pernicious consequence. In France, before
the revolution, the taxes were more oppressive, from the manner of
levying them than from their amount. The same thing might be said

{93} This is a very important part of the consideration; but, as
education and it are connected, and that comes into the Fourth Book
=sic--there is none.=, the whole consideration is left till then; not only
the national prosperity is injured, but the feelings of humanity are
hurt, and the sum of human misery increased by this consequence.

[end of page #110]

of almost every country in Europe, England and Holland excepted. At
present, the case is greatly altered, in many countries, by the increase:
yet, still, one of the principal evils arises from the manner of levying
the taxes; the restraints imposed by them, the inconveniency, the
vexation, and, finally, the misery and ruin they, in many cases,

Of all the examples, where taxation contributed most to the fall of a
country, Rome is the greatest. The luxury of the imperial court, and
the expenses of a licentious and disorderly army, added to the
ignorance of the subject, rendered the taxes every way burthensome.
From the fall of Rome, to the time of Louis XIV. the splendour of
courts, and their expenses, were objects of no great importance. We
are but lately arrived at a new aera in taxation; for, though taxation has
been the occasion of much discontent at all times, it was carried to no
considerable length, in any country in Europe, except in Spain and
Holland, till within this last century.

Indeed, when we consider the great noise that has often been made
about raising an inconsiderable sum, it is impossible not to be
astonished at the reluctance with which people pay taxes, when they
feel that they are paying them, and are not accustomed to the feeling.

Taxation is, then, to the feelings of men, disagreeable; to their
manners hurtful; they are also, in their operation, to a certain degree,
inimical to liberty. The ultimate consequence of this is, that persons
and property have both of them a tendency to quit a country where
taxes are high, and to go to one, where, with the same means, there
may be more enjoyment.

Taxes may be called a rent paid for living in a country, and operate
exactly like the rent of houses or land, or rent for any thing else; that
is, they make the tenant remove to a cheaper place, unless he finds
advantages where he is to counterbalance the expense.

Unfortunately, the persons who have the greatest disposition to quit a
country that is heavily taxed are those, who, having a certain income,
which they cannot increase, wish to enjoy it with some degree of
economy. They are, likewise, the persons who can remove with the
greatest [end of page #111] facility. Thus, people whose income is in
money are always the first to quit a country that is become too dear to
live in with comfort.

Many circumstances may favour or counteract this tendency, such as
the difficulty of finding an agreeable place to retire to, where the
money will be secure, or the interest regularly paid; but, an inquiry
into that will come more properly when we examine the external
causes of decline.

Though the increase of taxes, by augmenting the expense of living, and of
the necessaries of life, is little felt by the labouring class, their
wages rising in proportion; yet a most disastrous effect is produced on
the fine arts, and on all productions of which the price does not bear a
proportional rise.

Where taxes are high, and luxury great, there must be some persons
who have a great deal of ostentation, even if they have little taste. A
picture or a jewel of great value will, very certainly, find a purchaser,
but that will only serve as a motive for bringing the fine painting from
another country, where the necessaries of life are cheaper, and where
men enjoy that careless ease which is incompatible with a high state of

When Rome became luxurious, to the highest pitch, there were neither
poets, painters, nor historians, bred within its walls; buffoons and
fiddlers could get more money than philosophers, and they had more
saleable talents. Had Virgil not found an Augustus, had he lived three
centuries later, he must either have written ballads and lampoons, or
have starved; otherwise he must have quitted Italy.

When Rome was full of luxury, and commanded the world and its
wealth, there was not an artist in it capable of executing the statues of
its victorious generals. {94}

Some Greek island, barren and bare, would breed artists capable of
making ornaments for imperial Rome.

{94} They were obliged to cut the heads off from ancient statues, as
their artists were only sufficiently expert to carve the drapery of the

[end of page #112]

It is an easy matter, in a rich country, to pay for a fine piece of art,
But a difficult matter to find a price for the bringing up a fine
artist. {95}

The fine arts have not, indeed, any intimate or immediate connection
with the wealth or strength of a nation. The balance of trade has never
been greatly increased by the exportation of great masterpieces of art,
nor have nations been subdued by the powers of oratory; but the
knowledge and the arts, by which wealth and greatness are obtained,
follow in the train of the finer performances of human genius.

Where money becomes the universal agent, where it is impossible to
enjoy ease or comfort for a single day without it, it becomes an object
of adoration, as it were. To despise gold, which purchases all things, is
reckoned a greater crime than to despise him to whose bounty we are
indebted for all things; consequently, ambition, without which there
never is excellence, is, at an early period of life, bent towards the
gaining a fortune. A man, indeed, must either be of a singularly odd
and obstinate disposition, or very indifferent about the opinion of
others, and even about the good things of this world, (as they are
termed,) to persevere in obtaining perfection in science or art, while
without bread, when he might, with a tenth part of the care and study,
live in affluence, and get money from day to day. There are few such
obstinate fools; and without them, in a wealthy country, there can be
found few men profound in science, or excelling in any of the arts.

The augmentation of taxes, by rendering the produce of industry
dearer than in other countries, tends to cut off a nation of that de-

{95} This is liable to some exceptions. Natural genius may make a
man excel; but, even then, it is ten to one if he is not compelled to
labour in order to get bread, in place of trying to obtain fame. It was
thus the great Dr. Johnson, with a genius that might have procured
him immortal fame, drudged, during life, on weekly or daily labours,
which will soon be forgotten. Even his dictionary, wonderful as it is
for a single man, is not worthy of the English nation, and Johnson's
name is little known beyond the limits of his own country. His genius
was great, but his labours were little. His mind was in fetters; it was
Sampson grinding at the mill to amuse the Philistines; not Sampson
slaying lions, and putting to flight armies.

[end of page #113]

scription, from the markets in poorer countries. If all other countries
are poorer; and the taxes lower; it has a tendency to shut it out from all
the markets in the world.

An operation, that, at the same time that it renders people less happy,
less contented, and more indifferent to the fate of their country, and at
the same time tends to shut them out from foreign markets, is certainly
very hurtful to any country, but particularly so to one, the greatness of
which is founded on manufactures and commerce.

It would be useless to enlarge on so self-evident a consequence; yet,
even in this case, we shall find something of that mixture of good,
along with the bad, which is to be found in all human things.

As exertion originates in necessity or want, which it removes, taxation
has the effect of prolonging the operation of necessity, after it would
otherwise have ceased, and of rendering its pressure greater than it
otherwise would be; the consequence of this is a greater and larger
continued exertion on the part of those who have to pay the taxes.
Human exertion, either in the way of invention or of industry, is like a
spring that is pressed upon, and gains strength according to the
pressure, until a certain point, when it gives way entirely.

Those investigators, who have calculated the effect of such and such a
degree of taxation, of national debt, &c. have all erred, in not making
any, or a sufficient, allowance for the action of this elastic power. Mr.
Hume and Mr. Smith, certainly, both of them, men of profound
research, have erred completely in this. The former, in calculating the
ultimatum of exertion, at a point which we have long since passed;
and, the latter, in reasoning on the taxation at the time he wrote, as if
nearly the utmost degree, though it has since trebled, and the difficulty
in paying seems to be diminished; at least it appears not to have

To fix the point at which this can stop is not, indeed, very easy;
particularly, as the value of gold and silver, which are the measures of
other values, do themselves vary. Thus, for example, a working man
can, with his day's wages, purchase as much bread and beer as he
could have done with it forty years ago. Though the national debt [end
of page #114] is five times as great as it was then, at the present price
of bread, it would not take twice the number of loaves to pay it that it
would have required at that time.

The depreciation of money, then, as well as the continuation and
augmented pressure of necessity, counteract, to a certain degree, and
for a certain time, the natural tendency of taxes; but that counteraction,
though operating in all cases, in its degree and duration, must depend
upon particular circumstances; and though, perhaps, it cannot be, with
much accuracy, ascertained in any case, it is impossible to attempt
resolving the question in a general way; we shall, therefore, return to
the subject, when we apply the general principles to the particular
situation of England.

One conclusion, however, is, that as taxes, carried to a great extent,
are very dangerous, though not so if only carried to a certain point; as
that point cannot be ascertained, it ought to be a general rule to lay on
as few taxes as possible; and the giving as little trouble and
derangement to the contributor as may be, is also another point, with
respect to which there cannot be two different opinions. [end of page


_Of the interior Causes of Decline, arising from the Encroachments of
public and privileged Bodies, and of those who have a common
Interest; on those who have no common Interest_. {96}

From the moment that any particular form of government or order is
established in a nation, there must be separate and adverse interests;
or, which is the same thing, bodies acting in opposition to each other,
and seeking their own power and advantage at the expense of the rest.

In a country where the executive government is under no sufficient
control, its strides to arbitrary power are well known; but, in a
government poised like that of England, where there are deliberative
bodies, with different interests, acting separately, and interested in
keeping each other and the executive in check, it is not from the
government that much danger is to be apprehended.

It is not meant to dwell on this particular part of the subject. As those
governed hold a check on the executive power, which alone can be
supposed to profit by oppression, there is a means of defence, in the
first instance, and of redress, in the second, which diminishes greatly,
if it does not entirely do away all danger from encroachment.

Another thing to be said about this government is, that government
and the subject never come into opposition with each other, except
where there is law or precedent to determine between them.

The danger, then, of encroachment on that side, is not very great, and
it is the less so in this country, that, when there have been contests,
they have always ended in favour of the people; whereas, in most

{96} The public certainly has a common interest, but it feels it not,
and even those who have separate interests make part of that very
public.--This will be exemplified, in a variety of instances, in the
course of the present chapter.

[end of page #116]

other countries, they have terminated in favour of the executive

It is not so, however, with many other of the component parts of
society. Those deliberating bodies, who have separate interests, and all
those who live, as it were, on the public, and have what they call, in
France, _l'esprit du corps_, for which we have no proper expression,
though it may be defined to be those who have a common interest, a
fellow feeling, and the means of acting in concert, are much more

In nations where the executive power has no control, the progress of
public bodies is less dangerous than where the power of the king is
limited. It is always the interest of the sovereign, who monopolises all
power, and those around him, to prevent any man, or body of men,
from infringing on the liberty of the subject, or becoming rivals, by
laying industry under contribution, so we find that, in every such
nation, the clergy excepted, all public bodies are kept under proper
subjection. {97}

{97} In all countries, those who have the care of religious matters
must necessarily have some control over the minds of the people,
which they can to a certain degree turn either to a good or a bad
purpose. It is, therefore, impossible that the government and clergy
can, for any length of time, act in opposition to each other: one or
other of the two must soon fall, and there have been instances of the
triumph of each. We have sometimes seen kings triumph over the
clergy, but not very often; and we have frequently seen governments
overturned by their means: except, therefore, in a state of revolution,
they must mutually support each other. This is the natural state of
things; but, in Roman Catholic countries, priests have a superior sway
to what they have in any other, for several reasons that are very
obvious. In the first place, the sovereign of the nation is not the head
of the church; and, in the second, by means of a very superior degree
of art and attention, during the dark ages, when the laity were sunk in
ignorance, the catholic clergy contrived to entail the church property,
from generation to generation, upon the whole body: at the same time,
enjoining celibacy, by which all chance of alienation, even of personal
property, was done away. As to the means of acquiring property, and
of augmenting it; they were many, and, in every contest with the
secular authority, they had a great advantage, by speaking, as it were,
through ten thousand mouths at once, and giving the alarm to the
consciences of the weak. In countries where the protestant religion has
been established, the case is widely different. Gothic darkness was
nearly fled before the reformation: besides this, the clergy are like
other men, with regard to the manner of living; they are fathers and
husbands, and, as such, liable to have all the property that is their own
alienated, as much as any other set of men [end of page #117]
whatever. The reformers, who were neither destitute of penetration nor
zeal, and who knew all the abuses of the church of Rome, in matters
of regulation as well as of opinion, were very careful to settle the new
order of things on such a plan, as to be free from the evils which they
had experienced, and against which they had risen with such energy
and zeal.

The simple state of the case is, that the interest of the people is that of
the sovereign; and, except in cases where there is a profound
ignorance of what is good for the nation, every wise sovereign takes
the part of the people. But, under a limited monarchy, or in a
democracy, the case is different. There, those bodies, which an
arbitrary monarch would reduce to obedience at once, stand upon
prerogative themselves; they form a band in the legislature, and act
true to their own interests; so that the sovereign himself is compelled
to admit of abuses, which he is willing but not able to remedy.

It is a great mistake, and one of the greatest into which people have of
late been apt to run, that the government and people of a country are
of opposite interests; and that governments wish to oppress the people,
and rob them of the means of being affluent and happy: the very
contrary is the case; all enlightened monarchs have acted quite

Alfred the Great, Edward III. Queen Elizabeth, and nearly all her
successors have endeavoured to increase the wealth and happiness of
the people in England. Henry IV. of France, even Louis XIV. Peter the
Great of Russia, Catherine, and indeed all his successors, as also the
Kings of Prussia, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and other sovereigns,
who know how to shew their disposition, have tried to enrich their
people, and render them happy. The great study of the English
government has always been directed to that end, and the Romans
extended their care even to the nations they subdued. Though there are
many sovereigns who have not known how to do this, and therefore
have either not attempted it, or erred in the mode they have taken; yet,
with very few exceptions indeed, sovereigns have been found to wish
for the prosperity of the nations over which they ruled.

In all human institutions there is much that is bad, and something [end
of page #118] that is good; and the best, as well as the worst, are only
combinations of good and evil, differing in the proportions. In mixt
governments, or in limited governments, the people can defend their
rights better against the sovereign than against those bodies that spring
up amongst themselves: whereas, in pure monarchies, they have only
to guard against the encroachments of the sovereign; and he will take
care to prevent them from being oppressed by any other power.

This tendency to destruction, from encroachments of public bodies in
established governments, is more to be dreaded in limited monarchies,
and in democracies, than in pure monarchies; but we have had little
occasion to observe the progress in governments of the former sort,
excepting the clergy, though the military and the nobles generally play
their part.

In Rome, the military never were dangerous, while the armies were
only raised, like militias, for the purpose of a particular war; but, when
they became a standing body, they were the proximate efficient cause
of destroying liberty, though this was only the prelude to that decline
which afterwards took place.

In limited monarchies, the lawyers are the greatest body, from which
this sort of danger arises, and the reasons are numerous and evident.

United in interest, and constantly occupied in studying the law of the
country, while the public at large are occupied on a variety of different
objects, and without any bond of union, there can be nothing more
natural than that they should contrive to render the business which
they alone can understand, of as much importance and profit as

In the criminal law of the country, where the king is the prosecutor,
and where the lawyers are not interested in multiplying expense or
embarrassment, our laws are administered with admirable attention;
though, perhaps, in some cases, they are blamed for severity, they are
justly admired over the world for their mode of administration.

It is very different in cases of property, or civil actions, where it is
man against man, and where both solicitor and council =sic= are
interested in the intricacy of the case. Here, indeed, the public is so
glaringly imposed upon, that it would be almost useless to dwell on
the sub-[end of page #119] ject, and, as a part of the plan of this work
is to offer, or point out, a remedy, it may be sufficient, in this case, to
go over the business once, and leave the examples till the relief is

At present, it is, however, necessary to shew why, as things are
constituted in mixed governments like this, no remedy is to be had.
The public only acts by representatives; and, in the House of Lords,
the law-lords, who have _l'esprit du corps_, may easily contrive to
manage every thing. One or two noblemen excepted, no one either
has, or pretends to have sufficient knowledge to argue or adjust a
point of law. Indeed, it is no easy matter to do so with effect, for,
besides that, the law-lords have ministers on their side, or, which is
the same thing, are on the side of ministers, the speaker is himself at
the head of the law. The other members who look up to the law-lords,
and who are generally very few in number on a law-question,
generally give their assent. In the House of Commons, in which there
are a number of lawyers, they are still less opposed. The country
gentlemen profess ignorance. They think that to watch money-bills,
the privileges of the house, the general interests of the nation, roads,
canals, and inclosures, is their province. The mercantile, and other
interests, composed of men getting money with great rapidity,
consider the abuses of law as not to them of much importance; they do
not feel the inconvenience, and have neither time nor inclination to
study the subject. {98}

The prerogative of the king to refuse his assent, might, perhaps, be
expected to come in as a protection, but here there is least of all any
thing to be expected. In the first place, it is thought to be wise never to
use that prerogative, and, in the second place, the lord-high-chancellor
is the king's guide in every thing of the sort, insomuch, that he is
styled the keeper of the king's conscience.

With power, influence, and interest on one side, and nothing to oppose
it on the other, (for the common proverb is true, as all common

{98} The law is the widest, and the shortest, and the nearest road to a
peerage. A Howe, Nelson, and St. Vincent, play a game, partly of
skill, and partly of chance, for title; they must have luck and
opportunity. The others are sure with fewer competitors to have more

[end of page #120]

proverbs are, that what is every body's business is nobody's,) the
lawyers must encroach on the public, and they have done so to a most
alarming degree.

In this case, it is not, as in others, where the great cut out work for and
employ the small. No. The great generally (indeed almost always)
begin with the advice and by the means of an attorney, who is only
supposed to understand law-practice. The proceeding does not
originate with the council, who could form some judgment of the
justice of the case, so that a mean petty-fogging attorney may, for a
trifle, which he puts into his own pocket, ruin two ignorant and honest
men; he may set the ablest council to work, and occupy, for a time, the
courts of justice, to the general interruption of law, and injury of the

This is, perhaps, one of the greatest and most crying evils in the land,
and calls out the most loudly for redress, as the effects are very
universal. In a commercial country, so many interests clash, and there
are such a variety of circumstances, that the vast swarms of attorneys,
who crowd the kingdom, find no difficulty in misleading one of the
parties, and that is the cause of most law-suits.

As commercial wealth increases the evil augments, not in simple
proportion, but in a far more rapid progression; first, in proportion to
the wealth and gain to be obtained, and, secondly, according to the
opportunities which augment with the business done.

In addition to the real dead expense, the loss of time, the attention, and
the misfortune and misery occasioned by the law, are terrible evils;
and, if ever the moment comes, that a general dissatisfaction prevails,
it will be the law that will precipitate the evil.

The mildness of the civil laws in France, and the restraints under
which lawyers are held, served greatly to soften the rigours of the
revolution for the first two years. Had they possessed the power and
the means they do in England, the revolution must have become much
more terrible than it was at the first outset.

The lawyers owe all their power to the nature of the government. An
arbitrary monarch will have no oppressor but himself, but here the
[end of page #121] different interests are supposed to be poised; and
when they are, all goes right, but, when they happen not to be so, the
most active interest carries the day.

Though the law is the greatest of those bodies that is of a different
interest from the public at large, yet there are some others deserving
notice, and requiring reformation. It is the interest of all those who are
connected with government to do away abuses that tend to endanger
its security, or diminish its resources.

As the public revenue is all derived from those who labour, and as it
can come from no other persons, if the prosperity and happiness of the
subject were a mere matter of indifference, which it cannot be
supposed to be; still it would be an object for government to preserve
his resources undiminished. It was our lot, in another chapter, to
mention the enormous increase of the poor's rate, which was in part
attributed to the general increase of wealth; mal-administration is,
however, another cause, and, the public is the more to be pitied, that
the parish-officers defend their conduct against their constituents at
the expense of their constituents.

In an inquiry after truth, it should be spoken without fear of offending;
and, in this case, though the feelings of Englishmen may, perhaps, be
hurt, and their pride wounded, it must be allowed, that if it were not
for the mock-democratical form of administrating =sic= the funds for
the maintenance of the poor, they would never suffer the extortion,
and the bare-faced iniquities that are committed. {99} The ship-
money, the poll-tax, the taxes on the Americans, and others, that have
caused so much bloodshed and strife, never amounted to one-tenth, if
all added together, of what the English public pays to be applied to
maintain the poor, and administered by rude illiterate men, who render
scarcely any account, and certainly, in general, evade all regular
control. Those administrators, though chosen by the people, always,
while in office, imbibe _l'esprit du corps_, and make a common

{99} In Brabant and Flanders the people were very jealous of their
liberties. They were, however, most terribly oppressed by the
churchmen and lawyers.

[end of page #122]

The repairs of highways, bridges, streets, and expenses of police in
general; whatever falls on parishes, towns, or counties, in the form of
a tax or rate, is generally ill-administered, and the wastefulness
increases with wealth. The difficulty of controling or redressing those
evils proceeds from the same spirit pervading all the separate
administrations. Government alone can remedy this; and it is both the
interest and duty of the government to keep a strict watch over every
body of men that has an interest separate from that of the public at
large. Similar to the human body, which becomes stiff and rigid with
age, so, as states get older, regulation upon regulation, and
encroachment on encroachment, add friction and difficulty to the
machine, till its force is overcome, and the motion stops. In the human
body, if no violent disease intervenes, age occasions death. In the
body politic, if no accidental event comes to accelerate the effect, it
brings on a revolution; hence, as a nation never dies, it throws off the
old grievances, and begins a new career.

The tendency that all laws and regulations have to become more
complicated, and that all bodies, united by one common interest, have
to encroach on the general weal, are known from the earliest periods;
but we have no occasion to go back to early periods for a proof of that
in this country. As wealth increases, the temptation augments, and the
resistance decreases. The wealthy part of society are scarcely pressed
upon by the evils, and they love ease too well to trouble themselves
with fighting the battles of the public. Those who are engaged in trade
are too much occupied to spare time; and, if they were not, they
neither in general know how to proceed, nor have they any fund at
their disposal, from which to draw the necessary money for

It sometimes happens, that an individual, from a real public spirit, or
from a particular humour or disposition, or, perhaps, because he has
been severely oppressed, musters sufficient courage to undertake the
redress of some particular grievance; but, unless he is very fortunate,
and possesses both money and abilities, it is generally the ruin of his
peace, if not of his fortune. He finds himself at once beset with a host
of enemies, who throw every embarrassment in his way: his friends
[end of page #123] may admire and pity, but they very seldom lend
him any assistance. If some progress is made in redressing the
grievance, it is generally attended with such consequences to the
individual, as to deter others from undertaking a similar cause. Thus
the incorporated body becomes safe, and goes on with its
encroachments with impunity.

Much more may be said upon this subject; but, as it is rather one of
which the operation is regulated by particular circumstances, than by
general rules, the object being to apply the result of the inquiry to
England, we shall leave it till we come to the application of it to that
country, only observing, that the church, the army, and the law, are the
three bodies universally and principally to be looked to as dangerous;
and each of them according to the situation and the form of
government of the respective countries, though, in England, the
church has less means than in any country in Europe of extending its
revenues or power, the law and corporate bodies the most; and, under
arbitrary governments, the church and the military have the most, and
the law and corporate bodies little or none. [end of page #124]


_Of the internal Causes of Decline, arising from the unequal Division
of Property, and its Accumulation in the Hands of particular Persons.--
Its Effects on the Employment of Capital_.

In every country, the wealth that is in it has a natural tendency to
accumulate in the hands of certain individuals, whether the laws of the
society do or do not favour that accumulation. Although it has been
observed in a former chapter that wealth follows industry, and flies
from the son of the affluent citizen to the poor country boy, yet that is
only the case with wealth, the possessor of which requires industry to
keep it; for, where wealth has been obtained, so as to be in the form of
land or money at interest, this is no longer the case. {100}

In America, and in countries that are new, or in those of which the
inhabitants have been sufficiently hardy, and rash to overturn every
ancient institution, precautions have been taken against the
accumulation of too much wealth in the hands of one person, or at
least to discourage and counteract it; but, in old nations, where we do
not chuse =sic= to run such risks, the case is different. The natural
vanity of raising a family, the means that a rich man has to
accumulate, the natural chance of wealth accumulating by marriages,
and many other circumstances, operate in favour of all those rich men,
who are freed from risk, and independent of industry. In some cases,
extravagance dissipates wealth, but the laws favour accumulation of
landed property, and counteract extravagance; the advantages are in
favour of all the wealthy in general, and the consequence is, that from
the first origin of any particular order of things, till some convulsion
takes place, the division of property becomes more and more unequal.

Far from counteracting this by the laws of the land, in all those

{100} Amongst the Romans, in early times, property in land was by
law to be equally divided; but that absurd law was never strictly
attended to, and when the country became wealthy was totally set

[end of page #125]

countries, the governments of which took strength during this feudal
system, there are regulations leading greatly to accelerate the progress.
The law of primogeniture has this effect; and the law of entails, both
immoral and impolitic in its operation, has a still greater tendency.

These laws only extend to agricultural property; but commerce, which
at first tends to disseminate wealth, in the end, has the same effect of
accumulating it in private hands.

Industry, art, and intelligence, are, in the early ages, the spring of
commerce; but, as machinery and capital become necessary, a set of
persons rise up who engross all the great profits, and amass immense
fortunes. {101}

The consequence of great fortunes, and the unequal division of
property, are, that the lower ranks, though expensively maintained,
become degraded, disorderly, and uncomfortable, while the middling
classes disappear by degrees. Discontent pervades the great mass of
the people, and the supporters of the government, though powerful,
are too few in number, and too inefficient in character to preserve it
from ruin.

The proprietors of land or money should never be so far raised above
the ordinary class of the people as to be totally ignorant of their
manner of feeling and existing, or to lose sight of the connection
between industry and prosperity; for, whenever they do, the
industrious are oppressed, and wealth vanishes. {102}

It requires not much knowledge, and little love of justice, to see that
there must be gradations in society, which, instead of diminishing,
increase the general happiness of mankind; but when we

{101} Invention has nearly the same effect in commerce that the
introduction of gunpowder and artillery have on the art of war. Wealth
is rendered more necessary to carry them on. Every new improvement
that is made, in either the personal strength and energy of man
becomes of less importance.

{102} Some of the greatest proprietors in this kingdom, much to their
honour, are the most exemplary men in it, with respect to their
conduct to their tenantry; but though the instances are honourable and
splendid, they are not general; nor is it in the nature of things that they
can be general. In France, matters were in general different; and the
inattention of the nobility to their duty was one cause of the
revolution; they had forgot, that, if they neglected or oppressed the
industrious, they must ruin themselves.

[end of page #126]

find that the chance of being born half an hour sooner or later makes
one man the proprietor of 50,000 acres and another little better than a
beggar; when we consider that, by means of industry, he never may be
able to purchase a garden to grow cabbages for his family, it loosens
our attachment to the order of things we see before us, it hurts our
ideas of moral equity. A man of reflection wishes the evil to be
silently counteracted, and if he is violent, and has any disposition to
try a change, it furnishes him with arguments and abettors.

When the Romans (with whose history we are tolerably well
acquainted) {103} grew rich, the division of property became very
unequal, and the attachment of the people for their government
declined, the middle classes lost their importance, and the lower
orders of free citizens became a mere rabble. When Rome was poor,
the people did not cry for bread, but when the brick buildings were
turned into marble palaces, when a lamprey was sold for fifty-six
pounds, {104} the people became a degraded populace, not much
better, or less disorderly than the Lazzeroni of Naples. A donation of
corn was a bribe to a Roman citizen; {105} though there is not,
perhaps, an order of peasantry in the most remote corner of Europe,
who would consider such a donation in ordinary times as an object
either worthy of clamour or deserving of thanks. {106}

The Romans, at the time when Cincinatus held the plough, and the
conquerors of nations roasted their own turnips, would have thought
themselves degraded by eating bread obtained by such means; but it
was different with the Romans after they had conquered the world.

In a more recent example, we may trace a similar effect, arising from a
cause not very different.

{103} We know better about the laws and manners of the Romans
2000 years ago, in the time of the first Punic War, than about those of
England, in the time of Henry the Fourth. They had fixed laws, their
state was young, and the division of property tolerably equal.

{104} See Arbuthnot on Coins.

{105} Do not the soup-shops of late invention, and certainly well
intended, bear some resemblance to these days of Roman
wretchedness and magnificence.

{106} It is to be observed, these donations were not on account of
scarcity, but to save the people from the trouble of working to earn the
corn; they were become idle in body and degraded in mind.

[end of page #127]

The unequal division of property in France was one of the chief causes
of the revolution; the intention of which was, to overturn the then
existing order of things. The ignorance of the great proprietors
concerning of their true interests, and the smallness of their numbers,
disabled them from protecting themselves. The middle orders were
discontented, and wished for a change; and the lower orders were so
degraded, that, at the first signal, they became as mutinous and as
mean as the Plebians at Rome, in the days of its splendor. {107}

That this was not alone owing to the unequal division of property is
certain, there were other causes, but that was a principal one. As a
proof that this was so in England, where property is more equally
divided than it was in France, the common people are more attached
to government, and of a different spirit, though they are changing
since the late great influx of wealth into this country, and since
difficulties which have accumulated on the heads of the middle orders,
while those who have large fortunes feel a greater facility of
augmenting them than at any former period.

In those parts of this country, where wealth has made the least
progress, the character of the people supports itself the best amongst
the lower classes; and the inverse progress of that character, and of the
acquisition of wealth, is sufficiently striking to be noticed by one who
is neither a very near, nor a very nice observer.

Discontent and envy rise arise from comparison; and, where they
become prevalent, society can never stand long. They are enemies to
fair industry.

Whatever may have been the delusive theories into which ill-
intentioned, designing, and subtile men have sometimes deluded the
great mass of the people, they have never been successful, except
when they could fight under the appearance of justice, and thereby
create discontent. The unequal division of property has frequently
served them in this case.

{107} The Parisian populace were the instruments in the hand of those
who destroyed the former government, as the regular army is in the
hands of him who has erected that which now exists.

[end of page #128]

[Transcriber's note: possible omissis--page 128 ends as above, page 129
starts as next follows...]

while it increased the ignorance, and diminished the number of the
enemies they had to encounter.

As this evil has arisen to a greater height in countries which have had
less wealth in the aggregate than England, it is not the most dangerous
thing we have to encounter; but, as the tendency to it increases very
rapidly of late years, we must, by no means, overlook it. A future
Chapter will be dedicated to the purpose of inquiring how this may be
counteracted in some cases, in others modified and disguised, so as to
prevent, in some degree, the evil effects that naturally arise from it.

Of all the ways in which property accumulates, in particular hands, the
most dangerous is landed property; not only on account of entails, and
the law of primogeniture, (which attach to land alone,) but because it
is the property the most easily retained, the least liable to be alienated,
and the only one that augments in value in a state that is growing rich.

An estate in land augments in value, without augmenting in extent,
when a country becomes richer. A fortune, lent at interest, diminishes,
as the value of money sinks. A fortune engaged in trade is liable to
risks, and requires industry to preserve it: but industry, it has been
observed, never is to be found for any great length of time in any
single line of men; consequently, there are few great monied men,
except such as have acquired their own fortunes, and those can never
be very numerous nor overgrown.

Besides our having facts to furnish proofs that there are no very great
fortunes, except landed fortunes; it can scarcely have escaped the
notice of any one, that no other gives such umbrage, or shews the
inferiority men =sic= who have none so much. {108}

That there is a perpetual tendency to the accumulation of property, in
the hands of individuals, is certain; for, amongst the nations

{108} If a man has wealth, in any other form, it is only known by the
expenditure he makes, and it is quickly diminished by
mismanagement; but the great landed estate, which is seldom well
attended to, is mismanaged to the public detriment without ruin to the

[end of page #129]

of Europe, those who are the most ancient, exhibit the most striking
contrasts of poverty and riches.

Nations obtaining wealth by commerce are less liable to this danger
than any others; at least we are led to believe so, from the present
situation of things: we are, perhaps, however, not altogether right in
the conclusion.

In France there were, and in Germany, Russia, and Poland, there are
some immense fortunes, though general wealth is not nearly equal to
that of England: so much for a comparison between nations of the
present day. Again, it is certain, there were some fortunes in England,
in the times of the Plantagenets and Tudors, much greater than any of
the present times. {109} England was not then near so wealthy as it is
now, and had very little commerce: it would then appear, that whether
we compare England with what it was before it became a wealthy and
commercial nation, or with other nations, at the present time, which
are not wealthy, commerce and riches appear to have operated in
dividing riches, and making that division more equal, rather than in
rendering their accumulation great in particular hands, and their
distribution unequal.

Before we are too positive about the cause, though we admit this
effect, let us inquire whether there are not some other circumstances
that are peculiar to the present situation of England, that may, if not
wholly, at least in part, account for it.

The form of government in England is different from that of any of
those countries. It is also different in its nature, though not in its
form, from what it was under the Plantagenets and Tudors. Court favour
cannot enrich a family in this country, and the operation of the law is
tolerably equal. As neither protection, nor rank, in this country, raise
a man above the rest of society, so the richest subject is obliged to
obtain, by his expenditure, that consideration which he would ob-

{109} Two centuries ago, land was sold for twelve years purchase,
and the rents are five times as great as they were then; 10,000 L.
employed in buying land then would now produce 5000 L. a year. Had
the same money been lent, at interest, it would but produce 500 L. The
land, too, would sell for 140,000 L. The monied capital would remain
what it was.

[end of page #130]

tain by other means, under another form of government, {110} and he
is as much compelled to pay his debts as any other man.

It is not, however, the great wealth of one individual, or even of a few
individuals, that is an object of consideration. It will be found that the
great number of persons, who live upon revenues, sufficiently
abundant to exempt them from care and attention, and to enable them
to injure the manners of the people, (being above the necessity of
economy, feeling none of its wants, and contributing nothing by their
own exertion to its wealth or strength,) is a very great evil, and one
that tends constantly to increase.

But if this progress goes on, while a nation is acquiring wealth, how
much faster does it not proceed when it approaches towards its
decline? It is, then, indeed, that the extremes of poverty and riches are
to be seen in the most striking degree.

The higher classes can never be made to contribute their share towards
the prosperity of a state; where there are no middling classes to
connect the higher and lower orders, and to protect the lower orders
from the power of the higher, a state must gradually decline.

It is in the middling classes that the freedom, the intelligence, and the
industry of a country reside. The higher class may be very intelligent,
but can never be very numerous; and being above the feeling of want,
except in a few instances, (where nature has endowed the wealthy
with innate good qualities,) there is nothing to be expected or obtained
of them, {111} towards the general good.

From the working and laborious classes, again, little is to be expected.
They fill the part assigned to them when they perform their duty to
themselves and families; and they have neither leisure, nor other
means of contributing to general prosperity as public men;

{110} In France, the richest subject under the crown was a prince of
the blood, &c.

{111} In this case, the English form of government is good, because,
it not only hinders any man from forgetting that he is a man, but
whenever there is any ambition, no one in this country can rise above
the necessity of acting with, and feeling for, their inferiors, of whom
they sometimes have to ask favours, which they never do under a pure

[end of page #131]

they, indeed, pay more than their share of taxes in almost every
country; {112} but they cannot directly, even by election, participate
in the government of the country.

If any number of persons engross the whole of the lands of a nation,
then the labourers that live on those lands must be in a degraded
situation; they then become less sound and less important members of
the state than they would otherwise be.

Necessity does not act with that favourable impulse on people, where
property is very unequally divided, that it does where the gradation
from the state of poverty to that of riches is more regular.

As the action of the body is brought on by the effect produced on the
mind; and as there is no hope of obtaining wealth where it appears
very unequally divided, so also there is no exertion where there is no
hope. {113}

Where there is no regular gradation of rank and division of property,
emulation, which is the spur to action, when absolute necessity ceases
to operate, is entirely destroyed; thus the lower classes become
degraded and discouraged, as is universally found to be the case in
nations that have passed their meridian; the contrary being as regularly
and constantly the case with rising nations.

Besides the degradation and listlessness occasioned in the lower ranks,
by an unequal distribution of property, the most agreeable, and the
strongest bond of society is thereby broken. The bond that

{112} This is less the case in England than in any other country.

{113} It is strange how possibility, which is the mother of hope, acts
upon, and controuls, the passions. Envy is generally directed to those
who are but a little raised above us. They are reckoned to be madmen
who envy kings, or fall in love with princesses, and, in fact, they are
such, unless when they belong to the same rank themselves.

Love, for example, which is not a voluntary passion, or under the
controul of reason, ought, according to the chances of things,
sometimes to make a sensible and wise man become enamoured of a
princess, but that never happens. It would appear, that, in order to
become the object of desire, there must be a hope founded on a
reasonable expectation of obtaining the object. This can be but very
small in the lower classes, when they look at the overgrown rich, and
have no intermediate rank to envy or emulate.

[end of page #132]

consists, in the attachment of the inferior classes, to those immediately
above them. Where the distance is great, there is but little connection,
and that connection is merely founded upon conveniency, not on a
similarity of feeling, or an occasional interchange of good actions, or
mutual services. By this means, the whole society becomes, as it were,
disjointed, and if the chain is not entirely broken, it has at least lost
that strength and pliability that is necessary, either for the raising a
nation to greatness, or supporting it after it has risen to a superior
degree of rank or power.

Amongst the causes of the decline of wealthy nations, this then is one.
The great lose sight of the origin of their wealth, and cease to
consider, that all wealth originates in labour, and that, therefore, the
industrious and productive classes are the sinews of riches and power.
The French nation, to which we have had occasion to allude already,
was in this situation before the revolution. Rome was so likewise
before its fall. We are not, however, to expect to find this as a
principal cause in the fall of all nations; many of them fell from
exterior and not interior causes. Venice, Genoa, and all the places that
flourished in the middle ages, fell from other causes. Whatever their
internal energy might have been, their fate could not have been
altered, nor their fall prevented. The case is different with nations of
which the extent is sufficiently great to protect them against the
attacks of their enemies; and where the local situation is such as to
secure them from a change taking place in the channels of commerce,
a cause of decline which is not to be resisted by any power inherent in
a nation itself.

In Spain and Portugal the internal causes are the preponderating ones,
and, in some measure, though not altogether so, in Holland. If
England should ever fall, internal causes must have a great share in
the catastrophe. In this inquiry, then, we must consider the interior
state of the country as of great importance.

When property is very unequally divided, the monied capital of a
nation, upon the employment of which, next to its industry, its wealth,
or revenue, depend, begins to be applied less advantageously. A
preference is given to employments, by which money is got with most
ease and [end of page #133] certainty, though in less quantity. A
preference also is given to lines of business that are reckoned the most
noble and independent.

Manufacturers aspire to become merchants, and merchants to become
mere lenders of money, or agents. The detail is done by brokers, by
men who take the trouble, and understand the nature of the particular
branches they undertake, but who furnish no capital.

The Dutch were the greatest example of this. Independent of those
great political events, which have, as it were, completed the ruin of
their country, they had long ceased to give that great encouragement
to manufactures, which had, at first, raised them to wealth and power
in so surprising a manner. They had, in the latter times, become agents
for others, rather than merchants on their own account; so that the
capital, which, at one time, brought in, probably, twenty or twenty-
five per cent. annually, and which had, even at a late period, produced
ten or fifteen, was employed in a way that scarcely produced three.

If it were possible to employ large capitals with as much advantage,
and to make them set in motion and maintain as much industry as
small ones are made to do, there would scarcely be any limit to the
accumulation of money in a country; but a vast variety of causes
operate on preventing this.

Whatever, therefore, tends to accumulate the capital of a nation in a
few hands (thereby depriving the many) not only increases luxury, and
corrupts manners and morals, but diminishes the activity of the capital
and the industry of the country. {114}

In all the great places that are now in a state of decay, we find families
living on the interest of money, that formerly were engaged in
manufactures or commerce. Antwerp, Genoa, and Venice, were full

{114} It is a strange fact, that when this country was not nearly so far
advanced as it is now, almost all the merchants traded on their own
capitals; they purchased goods, paid for them, sold them, and waited
for the returns; but now it is quite different. They purchase on credit,
and draw bills on those to whom they sell, and are continually obliged
to obtain discounts; or, in other words, to borrow money, till the
regular time of payment comes round; they may, therefore, be said to
be trading with the capital of money-lenders, who afford them

[end of page #134]

of such, but those persons would not have ventured a single shilling in
a new enterprise. The connection between industry and revenue was
lost in their ideas. They knew nothing of it, and the remnants of the
industrious, who still cultivated the ancient modes of procuring
wealth, were considered as an inferior class of persons, depending
upon less certain means of existence, and generally greatly straitened
for capital, which, as soon as they possessed in sufficient quantity,
enabled them to follow the same example, and to retire to the less
affluent, but more esteemed and idle practice of living upon interest.

In countries where there are nobility, the capital of the commercial
world is constantly going to them, either by marriage of daughters, or
by the other means, which rich people take to become noble. Even
where there are no nobility, the class of citizens living without any
immediate connection with trade consider themselves as forming the
highest order of society, and they become the envy of the others.
There appears to be no means of preventing capital, when unequally
divided, from being invested in the least profitable way that produces
revenue. When more equally divided, it is employed in the way that
produces the greatest possible income, by setting to work and
maintaining the greatest possible quantity of labour.

If there is not sufficient means of employing capital within a nation or
country that has a very unequal division of wealth, there are plenty of
opportunities furnished by poorer nations. Accordingly, every one of
the nations, states, or towns, that has ever been wealthy, has furnished
those who wanted it with capital, at a low interest. Amsterdam has lent
great sums to England, to Russia, and France. The French owed a very
large sum to Genoa at the beginning of the revolution. Antwerp,
Cologne, and every one of the ancient, rich, and decayed towns had
vested money in the hands of foreign nations, or lent to German
princes, or to the great proprietors of land, on the security of their
estates. The American funds found purchasers amongst the wealthy all
over Europe, when they could not find any in their own states; and, it
is probable, that the far greater portion of their debt is at this time in
the hands of foreigners.

Thus it is that wealthy nations let the means by which the wealth [end
of page #135] was acquired go out of their hands; each individual in a
new state, or in an old, follows his own interest and disposition in the
disposal of his property. In the new state, the individual interest and
that of the country are generally the same; in the old one, they are in
opposition to each other, and that opposition is greatly increased by
the unequal division of property. The middling class of proprietors
never seek the most profitable employment for their money; the very
wealthy are always inclined to seek for good security and certain
payment, without any consideration of the interest of their country.

To counteract the tendency of property to accumulate, without
infringing on the rights of individuals, will be found desirable. In the
Fourth Book =sic--there is none.=, a mode of doing this shall be
attentively taken into consideration.

[end of page #136]


_Of the Interior Causes of Decline, which arise from the Produce of
the Soil becoming unequal to the Sustenance of a luxurious People.--
Of Monopoly_.

It has already been mentioned, and we have seen, in the case of Rome
and Italy, that the country which was sufficient to maintain a certain
population, when the manners of the people were simple, becomes
incapable of doing so, when wealth has introduced luxury.

The case of the Romans, though the most clearly ascertained of any,
and the circumstances the best known, is only in part applicable to an
inquiry into the effects of luxury at the present day. The nature of
luxury, the nature of the wants of man, and the diffusion of that
luxury, its distribution amongst the different classes, are so unlike to
what they were, that the comparison scarcely holds in any single

A most enormous increase of population (a forced population as it
were) in a small country, together with large tracts of land converted
from agriculture to the purposes of pleasure were the principal causes
why Italy, in latter times, was incapable of supplying itself with corn.
Wherever wealth comes in more easily and in abundance, by other
means than by agriculture, that is to a certain degree neglected. To
cultivate ceases to be an object where it is more easy to purchase. This
certainly is, at all times, and in all places, one of the consequences of
an influx of wealth, from wheresoever it comes, or by whatever means
it is acquired; though, in Italy, it was felt more than perhaps in any
other part of the world. The manner in which wealth comes into a
nation has a great effect on the consumption of produce, owing to the
description of persons into whose hands it first comes. In Rome, the
wealth came into the hands of the great. The slaves and servants,
though more numerous, were, perhaps, fed in the same manner with
the slaves in earlier periods, though probably not with so much
economy. In a manufacturing country, [end of page #137] the greatest
part of the wealth comes first into the hands of the labouring people,
who then live better and consume more of the produce of the earth;
not by eating a greater quantity, but by eating of a different quality.

In every manufacturing or commercial country, wealth displays itself
in general opulence amongst the lower orders, and the means of
supplying that greater consumption is the same as it was in Rome. The
money that arrives from other countries enables the community to
purchase from other countries the deficiency of provisions, and
prevents the evil effects from being felt at the moment.

When, in course of time, there comes to be a difficulty of obtaining
the supply, from the want of produce in the country itself, then the
decline begins; and as no wealth, arising either from conquest,
colonies, or commerce, bears any great proportion to the daily food of
a people, its effect is soon felt in a very ruinous and terrible manner.

England is the greatest country for extensive commerce that ever
existed, yet the amount of the whole of its foreign trade would not do
much more than furnish the people with bread, and certainly not with
all the simple necessaries of life. If, therefore, a country, such as this
is, were unable to furnish itself with the necessaries of life, the whole
balance of trade, now in its favour, would not be sufficient to supply
any considerable deficiency.

The desire of eating animal food, in place of vegetables, is very
general and, amongst a people living by manufactures, will always be
indulged. If the country was fully peopled, before animal food was so
much used; that is, if the population was as great as the vegetable
produce of the country was able to supply; as the same quantity of
ground cannot feed the same number of people with animal food,
there will be a necessity of importing the deficiency.

The change that this produces, when once it begins to operate, is a
most powerful and effectual cause of decline; and, without the
intervention of conquest, or any violent revolution, would of itself be
sufficient to impoverish, in the first instance, and, in the second, to
depopulate a country.

We find every country that was once wealthy, but that has fallen [end
of page #138] into decline, is thinly peopled; and if it were not for the
want of information, from which the cause may be traced, a deficiency
of food might most probably be found to be one of the most efficient.

Flanders, which is one of the most fertile countries in Europe, and has
experienced a partial decline, is probably not near so fully peopled as
it once was. Its present population would not support those armies, or
give it that rank amongst nations which it at one time maintained. It is
true there have been persecutions and emigrations, which must have
reduced the population of the country for a time, but not to an extent
that would account for such a diminution in its numbers, as there is
reason to think has taken place.

Ghent, a town of an amazing size, could, at one time, send out fifty
thousand fighting men. It certainly could not now (that is to say, at the
time the French subdued the country) have furnished one-fourth part
of the number. Ghent is not the only town in this situation, the others
have all fallen off in the same manner. When manufactures declined,
the people did not go to live in the country, for that also is thinly
inhabited, the richness of the soil being taken into consideration.

The peasants of that country lived much better than their French
neighbours; they apparently brought up their children with more ease,
and fed them more fully; but the country was not so populous, in
proportion to its fertility.

In southern climates, where the heat of the sun is great, and vegetation
difficult, unless the crop is of a nature to protect the ground from its
effects, natural grass is never luxuriant; and the cattle are neither so
large nor so fat as in more northerly latitudes. Corn, on the other hand,
which rises to a sufficient height, before the hot season, to protect the
ground from the rays of the sun, is a more profitable crop; and, indeed,
the only one that could (potatoes excepted) support a great population.

In such countries, scarcely any degree of general affluence would
enable the labouring classes to eat animal food. No degree of wealth,
that can well be supposed, would enable the inhabitants of the
southern parts of France, or of Spain, to live on butcher-meat, which,
[end of page #139] if it became to be in general demand, would be
dearer than poultry, or even than game. The absolute necessity of
living on vegetables, or rather the absolute impossibility of contracting
a habit of living on animal food, must, then, in those countries,
counteract the taste, and prevent depopulation being produced by that
cause.--But it is very different with more northerly countries, where it
is almost a matter of indifference, in point of expense, to an individual
who enjoys any degree of affluence, whether he lives on vegetable or
animal food, and where he gives a decided preference to the former.

It is probable that nature (so admirable in adapting the manners of the
inhabitants to the nature of the country) has made heavy animal food
less congenial to the taste of southern nations than to those of the
north. There is, indeed, reason to believe it is so, but, whether it is or
not, as natural philosophy is not here the study, but political economy,
the fact is, that if southern nations had the same propensity, it would
be impossible to indulge it to an equal extent.

As wealth and power are intimately connected with population, and
depend in a great measure upon it, wherever they are the cause of
introducing a taste that will, in the end, depopulate a country, they
must, in so far, undermine their own support, and bring on decay. This
is a case that applies to all northern nations, and particularly to
Britain; in order, therefore, to treat the subject at full length, it
will be better to enter into the minute examination when we come to
apply the case directly to this country, and seek for a remedy.

{115} The proportion between the prices of bread and butcher meat
will help to a conclusion on this subject. The warmer and dryer the
climate, the cheaper bread is in proportion. At Paris, which is a dry,
but not a very warm climate, the proportion, in ordinary times, was as
four to one. A loaf of bread of four pounds, and a pound of meat, were
supposed to be nearly the same price, but the meat was generally the
higher of the two. In England, the proportion (before the late
revolution in prices) was about two to one, and, in Ireland, where the
soil and climate are more moist, and better for cattle, flesh meat was
still cheaper, in proportion. The poverty of the people, indeed,
prevented them from living on animal food, but buttermilk, (an animal
production) and potatoes, a cheaper vegetable, are their chief

[end of page #140]

Though this cause of depopulation, arising from wealth, increasing the
consumption of food, is peculiar to northern nations, yet there are
others that have a similar effect, that fall more heavily on the
inhabitants of the south.

Rest from labour is, in warm climates, a great propensity, and easily
indulged. In no northern nation could there be found so idle a set of
beings as the Lazzeroni of Naples. If the nations of the north have a
desire to indulge themselves in consuming more, those of the south have
a propensity to be idle, and produce less, the effect of which is in
nearly the same; for, whether they produce any thing or not, they must
consume something. The same listlessness and desire of rest, that
produces idleness and beggary amongst the poor, makes the rich
inclined to have a great retinue of servants, and, as those servants are
idly inclined, they serve for low wages, on condition of having but
light work to perform. Thus it is that the fertility of the soil, and the
other natural advantages are destroyed by the disposition of the

It does not appear, however, that this disposition was indulged or
encouraged to any hurtful extent, until wealth had vitiated the original
manners of the inhabitants. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, all of
them performed works requiring great exertion. They encouraged
industry and arts, and became great, wealthy, and populous; but, when
once they fell to decline, the same fate attended the descendants of
them all. {116}

Of all the countries that were once great, and have fallen to decay,
Italy has retained its population the best; but, for this, there is an
evident cause to be found in the natural fertility of the country, and the
resource still drawn from foreigners, who have never ceased to visit
that once famous seat of arts and military glory.

The number of horses and of domestic animals maintained by the

{116} After the Augustan age, the populace of Rome seem to have
degenerated with great rapidity, as the donations of corn clearly prove.
Had the tributary countries not furnished the means of providing food,
the Goths would have been saved the trouble of sacking the city, as
the people must have perished for want.

[end of page #141]

fruits of the earth, but producing nothing, as they increase, in every
country where wealth prevails, may be considered as a cause of
depopulation, confined to no part of the world. Thus we find either the
same cause acting throughout, or different causes producing the same
effect in different countries; thereby reducing them all much more
nearly to an equality than we could at first imagine.

It has been observed, that when wealth comes to the working orders,
and makes them indulge in animal food, it produces a greater effect,
with respect to the consumption of produce, than if the same wealth
came into the hands of the rich; this is, however, in some degree,
compensated by their not keeping pleasure horses, the greatest of all
consumers of the produce of the earth. One horse will consume as
much as a family of four persons living on corn, and the ordinary
vegetables used in England; and as much as two families, living as
they do in Ireland or Scotland, on oat-meal, milk, and potatoes.

As we find depopulation one of the effects that is universally
occasioned by decline, it must originate in some cause equally
general, and that cause must be one attending the state of wealth and
greatness, for it does not appear to be a necessary effect of decline.
We can very easily conceive a people, degraded and numerous,
reduced to live poorly, as they do in Naples, Cairo, and some other
particular spots: but taking the whole of those countries together, we
find evident marks of a falling off in population; and we find it not
progressive, but of long standing. Those countries seem to have found
a new maximum of population, far inferior to the former standard,
immediately after they ceased to be wealthy and flourishing.

Perhaps it was from this cause that the idea of sumptuary laws
originated; for though, in some cases, the pride of being distinguished
might occasion the sovereign to enact, or the higher orders of society
to solicit them, yet they were always considered as tending to prevent
ruinous extravagance. When states become very wealthy, they may
consider such regulations as ridiculous, and perhaps they may neither
be necessary nor effectual; yet, nevertheless, there must be some cause
for the general opinion of their utility. Though it is not the fashion of
the present times to hold an opinion as good be-[end of page #142]
cause it is general, and its prevalence in ignorant times is considered
as a mark of its being erroneous; yet, observation and common sense
have never been wanting at any period, and it is from those sources
that such maxims and opinions arise. Any man who had travelled, first
through Italy and Spain, and then through England and America,
would be very likely to invent sumptuary laws, if he had never heard
of such a thing before. In the application of sumptuary laws, as a
device, for preventing decline, the traveller might, perhaps, be very
whimsical; sometimes forbidding what would never be attempted; but
there would be nothing at all ridiculous in his general intention. {117}

It will certainly be found that, in all the causes of the decay of nations,
the increase of consumption, and decrease of production, takes the
greatest variety of forms, and disguises itself the most; it is,
therefore, one that is much to be guarded against, particularly as its
effects seem to be difficult to remedy.

As the manner in which a country acquires riches has a considerable
influence on the habits of the people, a country acquiring riches by
conquest, or colonies, must naturally expend it in splendour and

Merchants are less splendid than conquerors and planters. Their
ostentation is of a different sort; and, as the fortunes made in that way
are rather more equally divided, they cannot launch out quite so far.
Besides, merchants are seldom entirely independent of credit and
industry; at least, when acquiring their fortunes they were not so; and,
therefore, whether the necessity continues or not, the habit, once
contracted, is never quite effaced.

Manufacturers, again, are still less splendid than merchants. With
them, the gifts of fortune are more equally divided than with either of
the other three, and they seldom arrive at more than an ordinary
degree of affluence; which affords the means of gratifying personal
wants, of living with hospitality, ease, and comfort.

{117} If, for example, it were a law at Manchester or Birmingham,
that no man should keep above fifty servants in livery, or burn more
than three-dozen wax-lights at a time, it would be like mockery, and
would be perfectly useless; at Rome it would be very useful.

[end of page #143]

The greatest part of manufacturing wealth, and that, indeed, is divided
with a pretty equal hand, is that which goes to the working people,
who spend nearly the whole on personal enjoyment.

The quantity of food that an individual may consume is nearly limited
by nature; but the extent of ground on which that food grows depends
chiefly on the quality. Thus, for example, it will require nearly ten
times the number of acres to maintain one hundred people, who live
on animal food, that =sic= it would require to supply the same persons
living on vegetables; and, as wealth increases, animal food always
obtains the preference. This is evident, from so many proofs, that it
scarcely needs illustration. In London, which is the most wealthy part
of England, there is more animal food consumed than in any other
part, in proportion to the numbers; and, in the country there is always
less than in the towns. In the country, and in the towns of England,
there is more than in any proportional part of Scotland, or in France,
or, indeed, any part of Europe. Expensive as animal food is here, still
it bears less proportion to the wages of labour, or the general wealth,
than in any other country. In every country, as riches have increased,
the consumption of the produce of the earth has augmented.

The Dutch seem to have been well aware of the danger of wealth
making the people consume too much. A man in moderate
circumstances loses his credit there, who roasts his meat instead of
boiling it. It is reckoned wastefulness, and, as such, is the occasion of
confidence being withdrawn from him: it has nearly as bad an effect
on a man's credit, as if he were seen coming from a gaming-house.

It will, perhaps, be said, that the parsimony of the Dutch is ridiculous,
but we ought not to attribute this merely to parsimony, but to a feeling
similar to what we have very properly in England when we see bread
wasted. It arises from a feeling of the general want, not of the
particular loss, which is totally a different thing. If a man give away
imprudently, that loss is to himself, not to the community. As there
cannot be givers without receivers it is a change of hands, but there
ends the matter. A habit of wasting is another [end of page #144]
thing, it is a general loss, and, therefore, hurts the community at large
as well as the individual.

When this augmented consumption takes place, to any great extent, it
is the infallible cause of depopulation. How nearly depopulation and
decline are connected with each other is very easily and well
understood; indeed, it is impossible not to see their intimate
connection. {118}

While the exports of a country amount to a great sum, a few millions
can be spared for the importation of provisions, without any great
difficulty; but the evil may increase imperceptibly, till it becomes
impossible to remedy it. The distress that must be occasioned, in such
a case, is beyond the power of calculation; for though, in times of
plenty, animal food is preferred, whenever there comes any thing like
want, that can only be supplied by corn, and there is no wealth
sufficient, in any country, to procure that for a number of years, to any
great extent. {119}

It is calculated, by the author of the notes on Dr. Smith's Inquiry into
the Wealth of Nations, that, if the supply of corn were to fall short,
one-fourth part, in England, for a number of years running, there
would be no means of finding either corn to buy, ships to transport it,
or money to pay for it, without totally deranging the commerce of the

In every country there are a number of persons who can afford to

{118} Till within these twelve or fourteen years, England always was
able to export some grain; but now the demand for importation is great
and regular. It has had a vast influence on the balance of trade, which,
though it has been great some years, has not, upon the whole, been
equal to what it was previous to the American war, when the whole
amount of foreign commerce was not one-half of what it has been for
these last ten years.

{119} If it could be done, it would bring on poverty; but, as the excess
of crops over the consumption is not, in any nation, equal to one-tenth
of its whole revenue; and, as the expense of eatables amount to nearly
one-half, the wealth of a nation would soon be destroyed, if it were
possible to produce from other nations a supply. The calculation
would be nearly as under for England, putting the population at nine

In ordinary times, nine millions of people living on bread, potatoes,
&c. would require about four millions of acres; but nine millions,
living on animal food, will require thirty-six millions of acres.

[end of page #145]

live in a more expensive way than the rest; perhaps, this may be
reckoned at one-fourth, but, in countries that are poor, even that fourth
cannot afford to eat animal food. If, however, a country becomes
sufficiently rich for one-sixth to live chiefly on animal food, and the
other five-sixths to live one day in the week on that food, the effect
will be as if one-third lived on it constantly, which would require two-
thirds more territory than when the whole lived on bread.

Those who think that such matters find their own level, and regulate
themselves, may be right in the long run, for so they indeed do. But
how? When poverty and want came, no doubt the consumption of
flesh-meat would be diminished; when the country had no means of
supplying itself as it did when it was rich, famine would play its part
in becoming one of the regulators; but, before this regulation could be
effected, the evil we wish to prevent would have taken place. The
country would be depopulated and ruined. We must, therefore, in
trying to avert the decline of a nation, not set any thing down for the
counteracting and adjusting power, which is known sometimes to
interfere so very advantageously in the affairs of men. Though it is true
that it does interfere, it is in all cases of this sort too late, it is
an effect of the cause which we wish to avoid; we can only look to it here
for stopping the career in process of time, but, never for preventing it.
We know that the extravagance of an individual impairs his fortune,
and, that the diminution of means will, at length, counteract the
extravagance; but, then it will do so when it is too late, and after he is
ruined. Wastefulness may be stopped, but it cannot possibly stop
itself, as the diminution of means is the cause of the extravagance
ceasing, and itself is an effect of the prior existence of the

Regarding men merely then as producing and consuming, (the
proportion between which regulates the wealth of a nation,) we find
that, in their own persons, there is a rooted tendency to bring on the
decline. But we shall farther find that not only do people in wealthy
and luxurious nations produce less and consume more than in nations
less advanced, but they increase the number of unproductive
labourers, all of whom consume without producing. They also main-
[end of page #146] tain animals who consume, but do nothing towards
production. {120} No country, in which the people live much upon
animal food, can be well peopled. Two hundred persons to a square
mile of country is nearly the highest population of any nation in
Europe, that is, as near as may be, three acres and a quarter to each
person; but, on an average, even in France, there are more than four
acres to each.

Supposing that one-half of the land is cultivated, then that gives about
two acres to each person.

Supposing, again, that one-third of this is consumed by horses or other
animals who labour; or, supposing that they do not serve for the food
of man, then there will be nearly about one acre and a quarter for the
maintenance of each person.

It will, however, only require half an acre to one person, if they all
lived on field vegetables; {121} and, if they all lived on fresh meat, it
would require four acres; the natural conclusion is, that one-fourth live
on animal food, and the other three-fourths on vegetables, or what is
the same thing, that the proportions of the two sorts of food are as one
to three.

According to the proportion of the prices in France, of four to one, it
would certainly cost double the price to live on animal food that =sic=
it does on vegetables; that is to say, if the only vegetable was bread,
supposing which is the case, that one pound of meat supplies the place
of two pounds of bread, as it certainly does. In England, where beef is
only twice the price of bread, {122} it is almost a matter of
indifference as to price, whether a working man lives on vegetables or
animal food. To the taste and the stomach, however, it is no matter of
indifference, the animal food, therefore, is preferred; but if it were a
matter of some importance, in point of economy, that would not
prevent the people of a country, flourishing by manufactures, from

{120} One good horse well kept, whether for pleasure or labour (it has
already been said) will consume nearly as much as a moderate family.

{121} Vegetables raised in the kitchen-garden would go vastly
further, but this is a rough average, the subject neither admitting of,
nor requiring accurate investigation.

{122} That is about the usual proportion, though about a year ago it
was four times as much in France.

[end of page #147]

eating it, and thereby at length sinking to a lower degree of population
than a poor country living on vegetable food.

In all nations getting wealthy this is a consideration, but most so when
the wealth is acquired by manufactures, when the lower and numerous
class have an opportunity of gratifying themselves by indulging in the
species of food which they find the most agreeable.

This, like the other changes of manners, of which it is only a part, is a
natural consequence of a propensity inherent in human nature; it
cannot, therefore, be prevented or done away, though it may, to a
certain degree, be counteracted. The manner of counteracting it not
being a general manner, but depending on circumstances, shall be
treated of when investigating the increasing danger, arising from this
cause, in the English nation.

It remains at present for us to examine another evil attendant on the
inadequacy of the soil to supply the consumption of a country.

One of the most alarming circumstances attendant on this situation of
things is, that provisions become an object of monopoly, and the most
dangerous and destructive of all objects. The law has interfered in
regulating the interest of money, but not in the rent of houses or of
other use of property. Circumstances may occur, in which the
necessity of procuring a loan of money is so great, as to induce the
borrower to engage to pay an interest that would be ruinous to
himself, and that would grant the lender the means of extortion, or of
obtaining exorbitant profit. The same interference would be just as
reasonable, wherever the same sort of necessity, by existing, puts one
man in the power of another. This is the case with every necessary
article of provision, which, indeed, may be considered as all one
article, for the price of one is connected with the prices of all the

Provisions, indeed, are, in general, articles that cannot be preserved
for any very great length of time; but then, again, they are articles of a
nature that the consumers must have within a limited time also, and
for which they are inclined to give an exorbitant price rather than not
to have. The interference of the law between a man and the use of his
property, ought to be as seldom as possible; but it has never been
maintained as a general principle, that it ought never to interfere. [end
of page #148] If it is at any time, or in any case, right to interfere
legally, the question of when it is to be done becomes merely one of
expediency, one of circumstance, but not one that admits of a general

A writer of great (and deservedly great) reputation has said so much
on this subject, and treated it in a way that both reason and experience
prove to be wrong, that it is become indispensably necessary to argue
the point. {123} Monopoly, regrating, and forestalling, which two last
are only particular modes of monopolizing, have been considered as
chimeras, as imaginary practices that have never existed, and that
cannot possibly exist. They have been likewise assimilated to
witchcraft, an ideal belief, arising in the times of ignorance. It is now
become the creed of legislators and ministers, that trade should be left
to regulate itself, that monopoly cannot exist.

With all the respect justly due to the learned writer who advanced so
bold an opinion, it may be asked, since many instances occur, both in
sacred and profane history, in ancient times, and in our own days, of
provisions, on particular occasions, selling at one hundred times their
natural price, (and, every price above the natural one, is called a
monopoly price,) how can it be asserted that they may not become an
object of monopoly in a more general way, though not at so exorbitant
a price?

How, it may be asked, can this thing, that has so often occurred in an
extreme degree, a thing that is allowed to be possible, be compared
with the miraculous effect of witchcraft, of the existence of which
there does not appear to be one authentic record? The one, at all
events, a natural, and the other, a supernatural effect. How are those to
be admitted in fair comparison?

If we know that, at the siege of Mantua, the provisions rose to one
hundred times their usual price, we may believe the same thing
possible, at the siege of Jerusalem, two thousand years ago, and at the
siege of Leyden, or at that of Paris. If we know that a guinea is given
for a

{123} Dr. Smith, in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the
Wealth of Nations. The author of the notes, and continuation, has,
indeed, answered his arguments; but that does not render it less
necessary to do so here.

[end of page #149]

bad dinner at an inn, which is not worth a shilling, merely because
some particular circumstance has drawn more people together than
can be provided for; and, because hunger admits not patiently of
delay, can we dispute the inclination to extortion on the one hand, and
the disposition to submit to it on the other?

If that is admitted, the interference of the law is allowable on the same
principle on which it regulates the interest of money, though not to the
same extent; that is, it is allowable, in particular instances, where the
effects are similar, but not in all instances, because, in all instances,
they are not similar. {124}

The rate of provisions is then liable, on particular occasions, to rise to
a monopoly price, such as that of those rare productions of nature, the
quantity of which cannot be increased, whatever the demand may be.
{125} It follows, as an evident consequence, that the price increases
as the scarcity augments; but, if it only did so, the evil would not be
so great as it really is. In the first place, the anxiety attendant on
the risk of wanting so necessary an article creates a greater competition
amongst buyers than the degree of scarcity would occasion in an article
of less necessity and importance. In a wealthy nation, the evil is
still farther increased, by two other causes.

The high price which one part of the society is able to afford, and the
wealth of those who sell, enables them to keep back the provisions
from the market; the first cause operates in all countries nearly alike,
for, the anxiety to have food is nearly equal all the world over. But the
last two operate more or less, according to the wealth of the buyers
and of the sellers, as the eagerness and ability of the former to
purchase, and the interest and ability of the latter to keep back from
selling, are regulated by the degree of wealth in a country. {126}

{124} The law concerning money is a general law, because, at all
times, there are some individuals in want of it, and would be liable to
grant exorbitant interest. It is not so with provisions, for, it is only
occasionally that they cannot be had at reasonable prices.

{125} Dr. Smith divides produce into three different sorts; the two
first are such as can be only produced in a certain quantity, whatever
the demand may be; and such as can be produced always in sufficient

{126} This was proved by what happened in Paris in 1789, and in
England in 1790. The [end of page #150] want in Paris was so real
that there often was not, in that great city, bread, and materials to
make it, more than sufficient for twenty-four hours: yet it never rose
to above double the usual price, or twopence English the pound, (that
is, sixteen sols for the four-pound loaf,) although the people were
obliged to wait from six in the morning till two or three in the
afternoon, before they could get a loaf a piece, and more they were not
permitted to purchase or carry away. In London, where bread could
always be had in plenty, for money, it rose to more than three times
the usual price, (one and tenpence the quartern loaf,) yet bread is a
much more necessary article to the poor in Paris than in London. But
the case was, in London, the people are richer, and, in each place, it
rose as high as the people were found able to pay.

When the necessaries of life become dear, and arrive at a monopoly-
price, then all taxes and other burthens laid on the people become a
matter comparatively of little importance. In England, where the taxes
are higher than in any nation in the world, they do not come on the
poor to above three pounds a head; {127} and, of those, at least one-
half can be avoided by a little self-denial. But, when the provisions
increase one-half in price, it amounts to at least four pounds a head to
each person; so that the effect falls on the population of the country,
with a most extraordinary degree of severity.

But, great as this evil is, it has, by the circumstances and nature of
things, a tendency to increase the very cause in which it originates.
Though the highness of price diminishes the consumption of victuals
in general, it diminishes the consumption of vegetable food, or bread,
more than it does that of animal food. Though all sorts of eatables rise
in price, in times of scarcity, yet bread, being the article that excites
the greatest anxiety, rises higher in proportion than the others. This
affords an encouragement to gratify the propensity for eating animal
food; and this propensity is encouraged by an absurd and mistaken
policy, by which (or perhaps rather an affectation of policy) economy
in bread is prescribed, and not in other food; so that when people
devour animal food, and increase the evil, they think they are most
patriotically and humanely diminishing it. {128}

{127} The whole taxes in this country do not amount to above four
pounds a head, of which one-third is paid entirely by those wealthy, or
at least affluent; it is, then, putting the share paid by the labouring
body very high to put it at three pounds each person.

{128} Both in France and England, during the last scarcity, the use of
every other sort of [end of page #151] food was recommended, to save
the consumption of bread-corn. Potatoes are the only substitute that
tended really to relieve the distress; all others, and, in particular,
animal food, had an effect in augmenting it.

The danger of wanting food, though very formidable, does not act so
instantaneously as to serve as an excuse for want of reflection, like an
alarm of fire, where the anxiety to escape sometimes prevents the
possibility of doing so; yet the fact is, that all the measures that have
generally been taken, in times of scarcity, have tended rather to
increase than to diminish the evil.

In monopoly, a sort of combination is supposed to exist between the
sellers of an article, when the article does not happen to be all in the
hands of one person, or one body of persons. But combinations are of
various sorts; there are express combinations entered into by people
having the same interest for a particular purpose. Those are done by a
sort of an agreement, when the interest of the individual and of the
body are the same. Such combinations are generally effectual, {129}
but unlawful. There are combinations not less effectual, that arise
merely from circulating intelligence of prices, and certain
circumstances on which prices are known to depend, amongst all
those concerned, who immediately know how to act in unison.--This
is not unlawful.

An elegant historian has said that there was a time when the sovereign
pontiff, like the leader of a band of musicians, could regulate all the
clergy in Europe, so that the same tones should proceed from all the
pulpits on the same day. The list of prices, at a great corn-market, has
the same effect on the minds of all the sellers within a certain distance.
Intelligence now flies so swift that there is no interval of uncertainty;
the whole of the dealers know how to act, according to circumstances,
and they are all led to act nearly as if they were in one single body.
Like gamesters, who have won a great deal, rather than hasten to sell,
even when they fear that prices may fall, they keep back their stock,
and risk to lose something of what they have gained, by continuing to
speculate on the agreeable and winning chance by which they have
already profited.

{129} There are sometimes combinations which it is the interest of a
whole body to preserve, but of each individual to break, if he can with
impunity; such generally soon fall to the ground.

[end of page #152]

The dealers in an article of ready sale, or for which there is a certain
demand, have never any difficulty, in a wealthy country, of procuring
money to make purchases, or to enable them to keep their stock; and
the gains are so immense that there is no speculation equally

As the rent of land, in England, is reckoned at twenty-five millions a
year; and it is reckoned that, in a common year, the rent is worth one-
third of the produce; it follows that, of all sorts of produce of land, the
value is seventy-five millions. But, in the year 1799, when the prices
were more than doubled, the value was one hundred and fifty millions,
of which the landlord received (as usual) twenty-five to his share,
leaving for the farmer, &c. one hundred and twenty-five, instead of
fifty, the usual sum. As the wages of servants remained the same, and,
in an ordinary year, would amount to one-third of the rent, eight
millions went for that, leaving one-hundred and seventeen millions, in
place of forty-two, the usual residue. Two-thirds of the value of rent,
or sixteen millions, is, in an ordinary year, supposed to go for seed,
the maintenance of cattle, and labourers; so that, in that year, the
portion so consumed must be estimated at double value, or thirty-four
millions, which, deducted from one hundred and seventeen, leaves
eighty-three for the farmers, in place of twenty-five, in an ordinary
year: so that, when the price doubles, the farmers =sic= profit does
more than triple. In the year 1799, the farmers were known to have the
profit of four ordinary years, supposing that they had been the actual
sellers in the market. The fact was otherwise no doubt, with regard to
those who pocketed the profit, which went in part only to farmers, and
the rest went to the monopolists, dealers, regraters, forestallers, &c.
who advanced money to keep up the price. To the public who paid,
the matter is the same, and, to the business itself, there is little
difference as to who profited, or who found capital; for, as they shared
the profit amongst them, and as they received three times as much as
in an ordinary year, they could, out of the sales of the first four or five
months, make all the payments [end of page #153] for the whole year
to the landlord; and, therefore, could have the means of keeping the
remainder, just as long as they thought proper.

Thus, then, while there is any degree of scarcity, the provisions of a
country are at a monopoly-price; and the dealers act, though
individually, as if they enjoyed one general monopoly. {130}

Before leaving his important subject, it is necessary to observe, that,
though dealers in provisions, in times of any degree of scarcity, that is,
when there is not quite enough fully to supply the consumption of the
country, act, in keeping up prices, as if they had an exclusive privilege
for monopoly, yet that is the only cases =sic= in which they do so. A
single monopolizer can diminish the quantity, and perhaps destroy a
part of it with advantage to himself. Thus the Dutch East India
company were said to have done with the spices. {131} But the
individual dealer, though he is interested in a general high price and
monopoly, is still more interested in selling as much as he can; and the
higher the price, the more careful he is not to waste or consume more
than he can help. In this respect, the monopoly of the many is not half
so hurtful as the individual monopoly. This proves that all the vulgar
errors, which occasion reports of farmers and dealers destroying their
corn, are not only without foundation, but would produce an effect
quite contrary to the avaricious principle, by which such men are
considered as being governed. {132}

{130} There is one moment only when they do not, that is, when they
find out, for certain, that prices are going to fall. There, for a moment,
individual interest, and general interest are opposite, and they hasten
to sell, and to reduce the price too much. But even this does not
relieve the public; for, though it makes the reduction very rapid for a
time, and may sometimes bring it below the level, it quickly rises
again and finishes when the panic amongst the dealers is over, by
remaining higher than it ought to be.

{131} If diminishing the quantity one-quarter rises =sic= the price
one-half, then the monopolist gains, if he possesses the whole market;
but the individual dealer, if he were to burn his whole stock, would
not diminish the quantity in the country one-thousandth part, and
therefore make no sensible difference.

{132} Both in London and Paris, the reports of this sort, and, (making
a little allowance for the language and nature of the people,)
exceedingly similar in nature and tendency, prevailed during the
scarcity of 1789 and 1799.

[end of page #154]

Monopoly of this sort, by raising the prices of the necessaries of life,
in the end, augments the prices of labour, the rent of land, and the
taxes of a country. We have already examined the tendency of all this;
it is only necessary to observe that the rise in prices, or depreciation of
money, which other causes bring on by degrees, this brings on
violently and suddenly. {133} This cause will always exist in a
country that cannot provide enough for its own subsistence.

How far this may go it is not easy to say; for if it is clear that the
farmer, by double prices, gets eighty-three pounds in place of twenty-
five, he can certainly afford to give his landlord something more. If he
gave him double the usual rent, it would still leave more than double
for himself. {134}

Of all the causes, then, that hasten the crisis of a country, none is
equal to that of the produce becoming unequal to the maintenance of
the inhabitants; for it is only in that case that the effects of monopoly
are to be dreaded.

In the case of animal food becoming too much in request, there is a
remedy which may be easily applied; of which it will be our purpose
to speak, in treating of the application of the present inquiry to the
advantage of the British dominions.

{133} The few years of dearth altered wages and rent more than had
been known for half a century before. Wages rose more, from 1790 to
1802, than they had done from 1740 to 1790.

{134} As the usual rent was twenty-five, and the usual profit twenty-
five, the landlord and tenant had fifty to divide, at ordinary prices; but,
at double prices, they had eighty-three added to twenty-five, or one
hundred and seven to divide: so that, if the farmer gave fifty, that is,
double, he would still have fifty-seven to himself, which is more than
double, by nearly one-third over and above.

No allowance has been made in this calculation for the diminution in
quantity. The reason is, that was comparatively very small; increased
consumption, rather than deficiency of produce, being the cause.
Besides, we only stated the rise as being double the usual price,
whereas, it was three times greater. [end of page #155]


_Of the Increase of the Poor, as general Affluence becomes greater.--
Of Children left unprovided for.--Of their Division into two Classes--
Those that can labour more or less, and those that can do no Labour_.

In the career of wealth, in its early state, when individual industry is
almost without any aid from capital, men are as nearly on an equality
as the nature of things can admit. But, in proportion as capital comes
in to the aid of industry, that equality dies away, and men, who have
nothing but industry, lose their means of exerting it with advantage,
some become then incapable of maintaining their rank in society

At the same time that this is taking place, articles of every sort, that
are necessary for the existence of men, are becoming dearer. As some
ranks of society have been described as bringing up their children not
to know the existence of necessity, others, who are depressed below
the natural situation of men, are bringing them up to feel the extreme
pressure of want.

There is no situation of things in which a man, with natural strength,
and a very slender capacity, may not gain sufficient to maintain
himself, if he will be industrious; but, in a wealthy country, numbers
are so pressed upon by penury, in their younger years, that neither the
powers of their body, nor of their mind, arrive at maturity.

Accustomed, from an early age, to depend rather upon chance, or
charity, for existence, than upon industry, or energy of their own, they
neither know the value of labour, nor are they accustomed to look to it
for a supply to their wants.

Whilst the foundation of idleness and poverty is laid in, for one part of
a nation, from the affluence of their parents, another portion seems as
if it were chained down to misery, from the indigence in which they
were born and brought up. [end of page #156]

The depressed and degraded populace of great and wealthy cities are
not the accidental victims of misfortune; they are born to its hard
inheritance, and their numbers contaminate more, who, were it not for
their own misconduct and imprudence, might have shared a better lot.

When nations increase in wealth, the fate of individuals ceases to
become an object of attention; and, of all the animals that exist, and
are capable of labour, the least value is set upon the human species.
{135} Like individuals who rise to wealth, and forget their origin,
societies forget the first foundation of all wealth, happiness, and
power. That individuals should do so is not to be wondered at. They
never saw society in an infant state; nor is it the business of individual
citizens to occupy themselves with public affairs; but those who are
intrusted with their management, and whose business is to know the
original sources of prosperity, ought to attend to and counteract this
growing evil.

When the Romans were poor, the people depended on exertion, and
they enjoyed plenty; but when Lucullus and other citizens were
squandering millions, at a single banquet, the people were clamouring
for bread. While the person of a Roman lady was ornamented with the
wealth of a province, the multitude were covered with rags, and
depressed with misery. It would have been no hard matter, then, to
have foretold the fate of Rome. The natural order of things was
deranged to too violent an extreme to be of long duration. The state
was become like a wall that had declined from the perpendicular,
while age was every day weakening the cement, by which it was held
together, and though of the time and hour of destruction no man knew,
the event was certain.

It would, at first sight, appear that great cities are the only places in
which misery of this description arises; but that is not the case.

{135} It was never heard of, that a young horse, or any useful animal
of the brute creation, was left to die with hunger in a land of plenty;
but it happens to many of the human race, because there is no
provision made, by which those who furnish them food may be repaid
by their labour, which would be a very easy matter to adjust, if a little
attention were paid to the subject.

[end of page #157]

Great cities are the refuge of the miserable, who, perhaps, find it in
some shapes augmented, by a residence in so friendless an asylum; but
there they avoid shame, they see not the faces that have smiled upon
them in better days; they are more at ease amongst strangers, and they
are kept in countenance by companions in penury and want. {136}

In every wealthy nation, the rich shun the view of wretchedness,
which is attended with a silent reproach. Those who have property,
mistrust the honesty, and blame the conduct of those who have none.
In this state of things, the country affords no retreat nor residence, and
want and wretchedness find the evils of a crowded society, where they
pass unnoticed, much more tolerable.

In most countries, the law has taken precautions to punish, or to stop
the evil in the individual; but in no great and wealthy country has it
been thought of sufficient importance to take effectual means to
prevent it.

In small states, when society is new, and under some absolute
sovereigns, (remarkable for their penetration, genius, and love of their
people,) a momentary stop has been put to this career of misery; but,
in the first place, there has been no such monarch in any wealthy
country; and, in the second, as soon as power fell into other hands, the
progress has begun again where it left off.

One great cause of the increase of mendicity is the increase of
unproductive labourers, as a state becomes more wealthy, who, dying
before their children are able to provide for themselves, increase the
number of the indigent. Men living by active industry naturally marry
at an early age; menial servants, revenue officers, and all those who
administer to the gratifications of a wealthy and luxurious people,
marry later in life; and besides their not having an industrious example
to set before their children, are torn from them sooner, by the course
of things.

{136} If one of the brute creation is in want, it will supply that where
it is most easily to be had, physical difficulty is the only one it knows;
bodily pain the only one it feels. But men are different, they often
undergo great want amongst strangers, to avoid more insufferable
feelings amongst friends.

[end of page #158]

It has been noticed, that, in every society, as wealth increases
hospitality dies away. And those good offices interchanged between
man and man, to which life owes many of its comforts in a less
advanced state of society, and which protect individuals from the
frowns of fortune, gradually disappear. The social feelings become
less active, and men turn selfish and interested, thinking for
themselves, and careless for the community; while, on the other hand,
the causes for poverty increase; on the other, the means of relief are
misapplied, neglected, or squandered away. The funds that ought to be
administered with disinteredness and integrity are committed to the
hands of men who live on the general misfortune, and thus the
wretched, who are relieved, are not fairly treated, while the public,
that is burthened with their misfortunes, is loaded far beyond its
proper degree.

The population of a country is diminished in a double ratio as the poor
increases: they create nothing, but they consume; and if a country sees
one-tenth of its population living on charity, it is equivalent at least to
seeing one-seventh diminished in numbers altogether.

Most sorts of labour require those employed in it to have some capital,
such as decent clothes, or tools, or money to live upon till wages are
due. Little as that capital is, yet thousands are reduced to absolute
beggary for want of it; their industry finding no means of exertion. A
man becomes dependant =sic= on charity for existence; and, though
able to work, eats the bread of idleness, and that without being in

The number of persons absolutely unable to labour is nearly the same
in every country, and is not much augmented by its wealth; so that if
there were, as there easily might be, always employment for those
who would otherwise be entitled to relief, and if they were allowed a
fair price for their labour, they would then cease either to be a burthen
to themselves or to the public.

Little coercion would, in this case, be necessary. A few proper
regulations, to prevent theft and losses, would be all that could be
wanted with those who could labour; and those who could not, being
few in number, would be provided for in a better manner than when
[end of page #159] they can be, where their portion is shared with
those who are able to procure for themselves an existence.

We must by no means look for relief, in cases of this sort, from
difficult or intricate management and regulation. If we look at the
nature of things, it points out the way.

Those that cannot labour are the only persons who ought to be a
burthen on the public; and they are the only ones that would be so, if
the matters were properly regulated and attended to. As it is in most
countries, there are many who cannot get work to do, and those are
provided for in different ways, but always at the expense of the public.
Sometimes it is by a regular assessment, sometimes by theft and
depredation, sometimes by individual charity, or those other means to
which a man has recourse before he will absolutely starve for want.

Those who, from philanthropy, are for relieving all, soon find
themselves deceived, and unable to proceed. Those who, disgusted
with the vices of a few, consider them all as equally culpable are much
to blame. Surely, the individual case of a fellow-creature in misfortune
is worth attending to; and he must be ignorant indeed who cannot, in
most instances, avoid deception. [end of page #160]


_Of the Tendency of Capital and Industry to leave a wealthy Country,
and of the Depreciation of Money in agricultural and commercial

As the increase of capital in every country is the consequence of
former productive industry, so also is it the support of future exertion.

When the capital of a country has become sufficient for all the
employment that can be procured for it, the first effect is the lowering
of interest, which sinks down under the rate appointed by law, and
under the rate at which it is lent out at in other countries.

When capital is not in sufficient quantity, those who want to borrow
are more numerous than those who have money to lend; then the
competition is amongst the borrowers to obtain the preference, and
they all give as high an interest as the law allows, and would give
more if they could avoid the penalty, which, in all countries, has been
attached to accepting more than the regulated sum; a sum regulated
merely to prevent the effect of competition, which might induce
people to give more than in the end they would find they could afford
to pay.

When capital becomes over abundant, the very reverse takes place; the
lenders become rivals, and offer to lend at an under rate of interest.

The first effect of this is, that people who were but scantily supplied
with capital before borrow, and carry on business more at ease, so that
more capital is employed in business, and new employments are found
out for capital.

The usual employments for a superabundant capital are improving
lands, building houses, erecting machines, digging canals, &c. for the
use of trade; and finally, giving longer credit to merchants in other
countries, {137} as well as to those who are running in debt in their
own. The stock on hand in manufactured goods increases something
also. But when all these have taken place, to as great an extent as
wanted, then the money begins to flow into other countries. By
degrees, more money is sent away than should go, and the persons
who are the proprietors of it frequently follow.

If the capital that leaves a country were only that which cannot find
employment in it, the harm would not be great, though it would tend
to enrich other countries, and bring them nearer a level. But that is not
the case, the advantage of lending money abroad, if regularly paid at a
higher interest than can be obtained at home, induces people to draw
their money from trade, and vest it in the hands of foreigners. The
Venetians, the Genoese, the Dutch, the Hanseatic Towns, and the
cities of Flanders, did this; and the capital, which, when employed at
home, formerly maintained perhaps one hundred people in affluence
and industry, only supported one single family living in indolence and
splendid penury. {138}

After being in possession of money for a considerable time, men
prefer a certain employment at a low interest to one attended with risk,
even where the interest is higher; and when great sums have been got
by trade, those who have got them retire and live on the interest,
which men, who have only gained a small capital cannot do.

There are many other circumstances, besides the abundance of capital,
that tend to carry it away from a wealthy country. The depreciation of
money that takes place, in every country that grows

{137} As the subject is here treated in the general way, applicable to
all nations, the employment found by national debt, and the funds
rising is not taken into account, as it will be noticed in the case of
England. When money is plenty, all individuals in trade give longer
credit; but this employs little more capital, when they give it to each
other it employs no more, but when to consumers it does.

{138} The manner in which those families live is peculiar to
themselves; great shew with great economy, and without the smallest
spark of love, either for their fellow-citizens or their country.

[end of page #162]

rich, falls nearly all on the lender at interest, {139} who, as he cannot
bring back things to their former value, seeks enjoyment in another
country, and obtains, by change of place, what he lost by lapse of

The weight of taxes is another cause that drives capital from wealthy
to poorer countries; and last of all, in case of anxiety, or of mistrust,
the capitalists are generally the first to emigrate. [{140}] Anxiety and
mistrust are periodical amongst a wealthy people.

As the burthens sustained by a people in prosperity are generally
great, in proportion to their capital and industry, it is clear, that when
capital and industry diminish, the burthens, (which do not admit of
being diminished in the same proportion,) fall more heavily on those
who remain; this increased cause produces, naturally, an increased
effect. Thus, like a falling column, the weight increases, and the
momentum becomes irresistible.

It is then that necessity, the spur to industry in new and rising nations,
(that spur which taxes and rent continue to excite, for the good of
mankind, for a certain period,) begins to crush what it had raised, and
to stab where it formerly stimulated. Then it is that the money-lenders,
who, at first, sent off their capital, having ceased to be engaged in
trade, withdraw, by degrees, and rather content themselves with a
diminished income in another country, than struggle with the
difficulties they find they have to encounter in their own.

{139} Money lent out at interest loses, money laid out in purchases
gains, in a country that is advancing in riches.

If a man, who had 2000 L. thirty years ago, had laid out 1000 L. at
interest, and, with the other bought land, he would, indeed, have got
less rent for his land at first, but now it would be doubled, he would
get 60 L. a year, and if he wished to sell he would get 2000 L.
whereas, the other 1000 L. would only produce 50 L. and, if called in,
the single thousand would be all he would receive.

{140} [Transcriber's note: footnote not assigned a place in the original
text, intended location assumed to be as shown] This was seen at the
beginning of the French revolution, though the assignats, by lowering
the rate of exchange, frightened many from transferring their money, at
an apparent loss of twelve or fifteen per cent. But those that overlooked
this loss have rejoiced in it ever since, as the others have repented
bitterly the avarice that made them risk all to save a little, and to
become beggars.

[end of page #163]

It is difficult to say at what point this would stop, if the effect
produced did not affix the boundary.

The prices of land, of rent, of houses, and of provisions, sink low, and
induce some people to remain; for, as those articles cannot be
transported, or carried off, and are always worth possessing and
enjoying, it is clear there must be a term set to the decay and
emigration, by the nature of things. Unfortunately for countries that
have been great, that term does not seem to arrive till it is reduced far
below the level of other nations. {141}

There are, however, some peculiar causes that operate in some modern
nations, in counteracting this effect, so far as it is occasioned by a
superabundance of capital; but, as this is not general to all nations, the
proper place for speaking of it will be when we come to treat of the
tendency of capital to quit this country.

The effects, arising from that depreciation of money, which takes
place in every wealthy country, are great and numerous, and have
been always found where wealth abounded. The people in such
countries can easily command the labour of others that are not so rich,
but the others cannot afford to pay for theirs; this tends to remove
industry. On the other hand, if a supply of the necessaries of life are
wanted in a rich country, they may be obtained from countries where
the value of money is less, without throwing prices out of their level;
whereas, in the country where money is of great value, that is not the

The price of bread, for instance, is, at Paris, one penny the pound, and
in London at eight-pence the quartern loaf, which weighs just four
French pounds, the price is exactly double. If every thing was
conducted in a fair way, corn, from all countries, where it is equally as
cheap as in France, might be brought and sold in London, at the

{141} At Bruges, (in Flanders) at Antwerp, Cologne, Ghent, or any of
those decayed towns, house-rent was fallen, before the French
revolution, to little more than an acknowledgement for occupation,
where the houses were large and retired. This induced people to live at
those places, who would not otherwise have done so. Small houses,
lately built, were more expensive than the large old ones, built in the
time that commerce flourished.

[end of page #164]

usual market price; but, before Paris could get a supply from London,
the bread would cost three times its usual price. This circumstance, if
properly managed, might be turned to advantage; why it is not, is
difficult to say, and is a proof that there are either regulations, or
practices without regulation, that counteract the true nature of things;
for it would not cost a farthing a pound to bring the corn from Paris to
the London market.

Paris is only mentioned here for the sake of comparison, and because
the average prices have nearly the proportion of one to two. The
reasons why corn is not brought from thence are no secret, but the
same reasoning will apply to American corn, corn from Barbary, or
the Baltic, and from other places, where the value of money is greater
than in England. {142}

The principal of the other effects of the depreciation of money are to
be found in the chapter on the exterior Causes of the Decline of
Nations, as it is in its foreign transactions that the depreciation of
money is the most felt.

In the interior, that depreciation only acts when there is a considerable
lapse of time, during which the value has altered; it has, in general, no
effect on transactions that are begun and finished within a short
period, and in the interior of the country itself.

The depreciation of money, wherever it takes place, would cause an
increase of taxes, even if there were no other reason for it; but, in so
far it counteracts itself, by making them to be more easily born. =sic=
Whatever its particular effects may be, and however complicated they
are, the general tendency of the depreciation of money is to depress
industry in that country, and to encourage it in others, where the value
is greater than in it.

{142} In America the value of money is less than in England,
compared with wages; but the usual proportion, between the wages of
labour and the price of corn, is different in that country from every
other with which we have any connection.

[end of page #165]


_Conclusion of the interior Causes.--Their Co-operation.--Their
general Effect on the Government and on the People.--The Danger
arising from them does not appear till the Progress in Decline is far

Though these causes enumerated have all one general tendency, yet
their distinguishing characteristics deserve attention.

Some begin their operation from the moment the wealth of a country
commences, others are only felt late in the progress of its decline. The
effects of some may be diminished greatly, others may be prevented
entirely; but, in all cases, the attention of government is necessary, and
that before the operation of decline is actually commenced; for,
prevention, and not remedy, is what ought to be aimed at, besides
which, when decline has once begun, governments are too feeble to be
capable of any effectual regulations.

To assist nature, in every case where her operations are favourable to
the enjoyment and happiness of men, and to counteract those that are
unfavourable, is the business of individuals and of states. What the
individual is unable to do, should be done by those to whom the care
of public affairs is given; by those who act for the benefit of all, and in
the name of all.

From the first approaches of a state to wealth and greatness, we find
that there are a combination of causes that begin to operate in
promoting its decline. The first moving principle, necessity, is
gradually done away, and with it flies industry; so that, from one
generation to another, both the moral and physical man becomes
changed, till he is unable to sustain the weight that he has raised; and,
at last, he is crushed by the decent =sic= of the ponderous mass.

While a gradual progress destroys that industry, from which all wealth
springs, other causes act to remove or misapply the labour [end of
page #166] that is left, while others again are putting capital to flight,
or leading to a misapplication of it.

Last of all come discord and war, the most universal cause of all those
that tend to depopulate a country, and to diminish as well as degrade
the inhabitants, thus giving durability to misfortune, and rendering
hopeless the fate of a fallen nation.

Amongst all the causes of decline, one alone is found that has a double
effect, and counteracts in one direction what it promotes in another.

This is taxation, a very certain cause of ruin if carried too far, and
always dangerous; but, for a length of time, having a very powerful
effect in repressing the progress of luxury, in continuing the action of
necessity, the mother of industry, and in preventing that species of
consumption that lays the foundation for the depopulation of a

From this it would seem to be almost as dangerous to take off the
burthens that have been laid upon a people, as to lay them on with too
heavy a hand. There is not any example worth noticing of such a case,
therefore, it must stand on its own ground: history informs us nothing
on the subject.

The supposed case would be thus. That a nation should rise to a high
pitch of wealth by industry, and support a heavy load of taxes, still
increasing in wealth, and superior to most other nations. We are to
suppose the load of taxes greatly diminished, and then to investigate
the consequences.

Perhaps this is an useless hyyothesis =sic=, the case never has been, and
perhaps never will be; but, still it is, at least, a possible case; it is
a matter of curiosity, at least, if it is not one of utility, and I have a
great example to plead as my apology. Dr. Adam Smith amused himself in
his inquiry into the causes of the wealth of nations =sic= in a similar
manner, by a hypothesis concerning the taxation of the British

Supposing the pressure of necessity were to be suddenly taken away,
those whose income is regulated by their efforts would relax in
exertion; that is to say, the productive labourers of the country would
relax, while those whose incomes are fixed, that is principally [end of
page #167] the unproductive labourers, would become comparatively
more opulent, and their luxury would increase.

This is an effect very different from what the public expects. The most
useful class would gain little or nothing, while the drones of society
would find their wealth greatly augmented, which would be one of the
most unfortunate effects that could well be conceived, and might very
soon bring about a very serious and disagreeable event.

In the course of investigating the national debt of England, in the
Fourth Book =sic--there is none.=, it will be necessary to examine this
at length, but, there it will be attended with another circumstance, not
one of general consideration; (as national debt is not any general or
necessary appendage to a government) namely, the letting loose a
great monied capital, which must either be employed here, or it will
seek employment in another country, which may rise on the ruin of

In considering the reduction of taxes that have been long standing, and
have risen to a great amount, there is certainly reason to fear evil
consequences, though this is no argument in favour of taxation; on the
contrary, it is a reason for avoiding it, for, it is in all cases dangerous
to do what it will be attended with danger to undo.

Though the precise case of taxes being done away may never come
before us, there is, at this time, an operation going on that is nearly
similar, and the result of which will soon be known.

The French people were loaded with nearly twenty-five millions
sterling annually to the church, and they do not now pay three. This,
indeed, was partly in taxes, and part in church-lands; they have also
got rid of a great deal of rent, by the sale of emigrant estates, the lands
have got into the hands of men, who mostly cultivate them
themselves, and have no rent to pay.

On the supposition that the new government is not more expensive
than the old, (and it ought not to be so, the debts having been nearly
all wiped off,) the burthens on industry will be much less than
formerly, it will then be curious to observe if agriculture flourishes
more, if prices are reduced, and if the taxes that still remain are better
paid. There are, indeed, many concomitant circumstances that will
tend to derange the experiment, or render the conclusion uncertain;
but, still it is an in-[end of page #168] teresting and a great event, and
will be worth attentive observation. {143}

We must, so far as this investigation goes, conclude, that, unless the
natural tendency of things to decline is powerfully counteracted, every
country that rises to wealth must have a fall; and that, therefore, it
merits investigation, whether it is or is not possible to counteract the
tendency to decline, without interrupting the progress towards greater
prosperity, and, to manage matters so, that whether it is not possible,
after having attained the summit of wealth, we may remain there
instead of immediately descending, as most nations have hitherto

From individuals, the exertion necessary is not to be expected; but, it
may be looked for from the government of a country, which, though
composed of individuals, the succession of persons is differently
carried on; it is not from age to age, and from an old father to a young
son, but from men in the vigour of life, to men in the vigour of life,
who, while they are occupied in public affairs, may be considered,
with respect to whatever is to be done for the good of the nation, (for
its prosperity, defence, or protection,) as animated with the same
spirit, without any interruption.

With respect to the interior causes of decline, they may be
counteracted always with more or less effect, by a proper system of

{143} The burthens on the industry of old France, were,

Rent of land                                700,000,000
Revenues of clergy                          600,000,000
Taxes, including the expense of levying     800,000,000

In sterling money                         L. 87,500,000
Half land now occupied by the cultivators, }
and the remainder let at lower rents }      350,000,000
Revenues of clergy, and the expenses         50,000,000
Taxes as before                             800,000,000
Or in sterling money                      L. 50,400,000

This makes a diminution of L. 37,100,000; or something more than a
third of the whole expense, and more than all the taxes to the state
estimated at the highest rate.

[end of page #169]

ment. In the latter portion of this work we shall endeavour to shew
how that may be attempted with safety, if not accomplished with full

Before, however, we conclude this subject, and rely on government, it
is necessary to mention that, in treating with other nations, a kind of
overbearing haughty pride is natural to those who govern a powerful
and wealthy people. In that case, they act as individuals, and are not to
be trusted; and the less so, that a nation of proud pampered citizens is
but too apt to applaud insolence in those who govern them.

This pride has been a very constant forerunner of the fall of wealthy
and great nations, and, in Rome excepted, it has never failed. The
emperors of Rome were much less haughty than the ambassadors of
the republic; a love of false splendour had supplanted a ferocious
affectation of dignity, yet, the former was the less humiliating of the
two to other nations. {144}

While the rulers of wealthy nations are apt to act haughtily to others,
they are liable to fall into another error, in mistaking the strength of
their own people, and loading them too heavily, trusting too much
both to their internal energy, and external force.

As the near observers of the inability of the people are generally afraid
to carry unwelcome tidings to their superior; and, if they did, as he is
seldom inclined to give credit to unwelcome news, the ruin of a nation
has probably made a very considerable progress before he, whose
business it is to put a stop to it, is aware of the danger.

The continual clamour that is made about every new burthen that is
laid on, and the cry of ruin, which perpetually is sounded in the ears of
a minister, and of those who execute his orders, are some ex-

{144} The appearance of virtue and self-command, which the
republican Romans preserved, added to the bravery with which they
maintained whatever claims they put in, overawed a great part of their
enemies; and those, who were not absolutely overawed thought that
defeat and submission were, at least, robbed of their shame, when
such was the character of the conqueror; and the claim once allowed
was no longer questioned. Very different was the case, when the
emperor was a fidler, or a buffoon, the senators puppets, and the pro-
consuls themselves robbers.

[end of page #170]

cuses for their not attending to them; but the consequence is not the
less fatal to the nation on that account.

A nation that is feeble has, at least, the advantage of knowing it, and is
not insensible if she receives a wound; but the government of a
powerful nation is like the pilot of a ship, who navigates in a sea, the
depth of which he cannot sound, and who spreads all his sails: if he
strikes upon a rock, his ship is dashed to pieces in a moment. The
other, sailing amongst shallows and sands, proceeds with caution,
avoids them if possible, and, if she touches, it is so gently, that even
her feeble frame is scarcely injured.

The rulers of nations appear, in general, not to be aware of the evil
that arises from the government they have to manage becoming too
unwieldly =sic=, or too complicated; in either case, a check, though
but of short duration, is irretrievable. This is a great oversight, and, at
least, greatly augments the chances against the durability of a
government. In proportion as the machine is unmanageable and
complex, the embarrassment of those who have the conduct of it will
be great, and the enemies will be proportionately bold and audacious.
In all such conflicts, much depends on the spirit of the combatants,
and more still on that of those who, at first, are lookers on, who act in
consequence of the opinion they have of the force or feebleness of
either party. {145}

The tendency that a nation has to decline is not, then, in general,
counteracted, by the government; but, on the contrary, is pushed on by
it, and precipitated into the gulf. No wonder, then, that the career is
rapid, and the fall irretrievable.

It is, nevertheless, to the government, and to it alone, that we must
look for that counteracting force that is to stay the general current.
Individuals can only look to their own conduct, and they neither can

{145} Not only when the French revolution began, but a hundred
times afterwards, did the party triumph that appeared the strongest,
merely because it appeared so. All those who stand neutral at first,
take a side the moment they have fixed their opinion as to the strength
of the contending parties, and this decision is always in favour of the
party they think the strongest.

[end of page #171]

be expected to have time nor inclination to study the public welfare,
and, even if they had, they would want the means.

Government can never be better employed than in counteracting this
tendency to decay. It has the means, and is but performing its duty in
doing so. The previous step to all this, however, is a knowledge of
what is to be done, a full sense of the necessity of doing it, and a
disposition to submit to the regimen necessary.

For this purpose, both the government and the people must give up
something. The people must allow government to interfere in the
education of children, and, in that, give up a little of their liberty;
{146} and those who govern must attend to many things which are
generally neglected. To do the routine business of the day is the
occupation of most of the governments of Europe, whether in war or
at peace; they therefore habitually become agents of necessity, and
what can be procrastinated is never done; that is to say, what is good
is very seldom done, and what is necessary to prevent immediate evil,
is always the chief, and sometimes the only, occupation.

There are some men in the world who prosper merely because they
look beforehand, and conduct their affairs. There are others who, with
equal industry, and much more trouble and care, are always a little
behind, and allow their affairs to conduct them; such men never
succeed, and, if they can keep off the extreme of misfortune, it is all
that is to be expected.

Most governments, in wealthy nations, are like those latter species of
individuals,--they do not conduct their affairs, but are conducted by
them, and think they succeed, when the necessary business of the day
is done. This listlessness must be done away, and, though the

{146} From the impossibility of a nation, once immersed in sloth and
luxury, returning to the tone and energy of a new people, we may
judge of the impossibility of a nation going on progressively towards
wealth, not suffering from the manner of educating children. The
leading distinction between a rising and a fallen people is the
disposition to industry and exertion, in the one, and to sloth and
negligence, in the other. It is while a nation is increasing in wealth that
this alteration gradually takes place; and, as this is the main point on
which all depends, the nation is safe when it is well attended to, even
if other things are, in some degree, neglected.

[end of page #172]

governments of countries that are wealthy have no occasion, like Peter
the Great, or the founders of new states, to create new institutions, and
eternally try to ameliorate, they ought to be very carefully and
constantly employed in preventing those good things that they enjoy
from escaping their grasp, so far as it depends upon interior
arrangement. Exterior causes are not within their power to regulate,
therefore they should be the more attentive to those that are; and,
though exterior causes are out of their dominion, yet, sometimes, by
wise interior regulations, the evil effects of exterior ones may be
prevented. Nothing of all this can be done, however, until the
government rises above the routine business of the day, and until all
the necessary and pressing business is got over. The first thing, then,
for a government is to extricate itself from the situation of one who
struggles with necessity, after which, but not before, it may study what
is beneficial, and of permanent utility.

So far it would appear all nations are situated alike, with regard to the
general tendency to decay; {147} and so far all of them may be guided
by general rules, but as to the particular manner of applying those
rules, it must depend on the peculiar circumstances of the nation to
which they are meant to be applied.

In general, revenue has become the great object with modern nations:
and, as their rulers have not ventured to tax the necessaries of the
people to any high degree, but have laid their vices, rather than their
wants, under contribution, the revenue-system, (as it may be called,)
tends to make a government encourage expensive vice, by which it
profits, and check innocent enjoyment, by which it has nothing to
gain. This is a terrible, but it is a very prevalent system; it is immoral,
inhuman, and impolitic.

So far as this goes, a government, instead of checking, accelerates the
decline of a people; but, as this is not a natural cause of decline, as
it is not universal or necessary, it is to be considered with due

{147} The Chinese, and, in general, the nations of Asia have not been
considered as included in this inquiry. The Chinese, in particular, are a
people in a permanent situation: they do not increase in riches, and
they seem to have no tendency to decline. Their laws and mode of
education and living remain the same.

[end of page #173]

regard to particular circumstances. In general, we may say, that, in
place of inviting the lower classes to pass their time in drinking, by the
innumerable receptacles that there are for those who are addicted to
that vice, every impediment should be put in the way. Drinking is a
vice, the disposition to which grows with its gratification; most other
avocations (for drinking in moderation is only such) have no tendency
of the sort. Those enjoyments which have a tendency to degenerate
into vice should be kept under some check; those which have no such
tendency ought to be encouraged; for, where the main and general
mass of the population of a country is corrupted, it is impossible to
prevent its decline. If it remains uncorrupted, the matter is very easy,
or, more properly, it may be said that prosperity is the natural

Manners will always be found of more consequence than laws, and
they depend, in a great measure, on the wise regulations of
government in every country.

Not only do most governments profit by laying the vices of the people
under contribution; but, as revenue is, by a very false rule, taken as a
criterion from which the prosperity of a nation may be estimated, the
very evil that brings on decay serves to disguise its approach. A nation
may be irretrievably undone, before it is perceived that it has any
tendency to decline; it is, therefore, unwise for governments to wait
till they see the effects of decay, and then to hope to counteract them;
they must look before-hand, and prevent, otherwise all their exertions
will prove ineffectual. [end of page #174]


_Of the external Causes of Decline.--the Envy and Enmity of other
Nations.--their Efforts, both in Peace and War, to bring Wealthy
Nations down to their level_.

The external causes of the decline of nations are much more simple
in themselves than the internal ones, besides which, their action is
more visible; the way of operation is such as to excite attention, and
has made them thought more worthy of being recorded.

The origin of envy and enmity are the same. The possession of what is
desirable, in a superior degree, is the cause of envy. That occasions
injurious and unjust proceedings, and enmity is the consequence,
though both originated in the same feeling at first, they assume
distinct characteristics in the course of time.

The desire of possession, in order to enjoy, is the cause of enmity and
envy; and all the crimes of nations, and of individuals, have the same
common origin.

It follows, as a natural consequence, arising from this state of things,
that those nations which enjoyed a superior degree of wealth, became
the objects of the envy of others. If that wealth was accompanied by
sufficient power for its protection, then the only way to endeavour to
share it was by imitation; but if the wealth was found unprotected,
then conquest or violence was always considered as the most ready
way of obtaining possession.

The wandering Arabs, who are the only nations that profess robbery at
the present day, (by land,) follow still the same maxim with regard to
those whose wealth they mean to enjoy. If too powerful to be
compelled by force to give up what they have got, they traffic and
barter with the merchants of a caravan; but if they find themselves
able to take, they never give themselves the trouble to adopt the
legitimate but less expeditious method of plunder and robbery =sic=.
[end of page #175]

As it has been found that wealth operates, by degrees, in destroying
the bravery of a people, after a certain time, so it happens that, in the
common course of things, a moment arrives when it is considered
safe, by some one power or other, to attack the wealthy nation, and
partake of its riches; thus it was that the cities of Tyre and of Babylon
were attacked by Alexander; and thus it was that his successors, in
their turn, were attacked and conquered by the Romans; and, again,
the Romans themselves, by the barbarous nations of the north.

Besides those great revolutions, of which the consequences were
permanent, there have been endless and innumerable struggles for the
possession of wealth, amongst different nations; but the real and
leading causes are so uniform, and so evident, that there is not a
shadow of a doubt left on that subject.

Mr. Burke had good reason to say that the external causes were much
easier traced, and more simple, than the internal ones; for, the Romans
excepted, the instances of rich nations attacking and conquering poor
ones are very rare indeed.

The Romans had erected their republic on a different plan from that of
any other; they had neither arts, industry, nor territory of their own,
and they conquered nations upon speculation, and for the sake of
civilizing the people, and making them contribute revenue; how they
were successful has been explained. But even the Romans would not
have attacked poor nations, if they had been, at an earlier period,
possessed of the means of attacking those that were wealthy.

Necessity obliged them to begin with Italy: their safety made them
defend themselves against the Gauls, and, till they had a navy, it was
impracticable to carry their conquests into Asia or Africa; but, after
they had conquered Carthage, they lost very little time in attacking
Egypt, and those countries occupied by the successors of Alexander.

The taking of Constantinople was the last decided victory of this sort,
and in nothing but time and circumstance did it differ from the others;
in all the great outlines it was exactly the same. [end of page #176]

The effeminacy and luxury of the rich, those interior causes, of which
we have already spoken, always give facility to those efforts which
envy and avarice excite.

The rivalship, in time of peace, is a contest confined to modern
nations; or, at least, but little known to the ancients. Indeed, it is
only amongst commercial nations that it can exist. There can be no
competition in agriculture; and, indeed, it is only in war, or in
commerce, that nations can interfere with each other.

The Phoenicians were the only commercial people of antiquity.
Carthage was the colony, and received the Indian produce at second
hand. It was in no way a rival.

When Solomon mounted on the throne of his father David, he applied
himself to commerce; but the wisdom and power he possessed were
such as bore down all opposition during his reign. Having married the
daughter of the King of Egypt, who assisted him in several conquests,
he founded the city of Palmyra, or Tadmore in the Wilderness, for the
greater conveniency of the Eastern trade. The King of Tyre was his
ally, but he was so, most probably, from necessity, for the alliance was
very unnatural; and, soon after the death of Solomon, the Tyrians
excited the King of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem: so, that if there had
been, in ancient times, more people concerned in commerce, there is
no doubt there would likewise have been more envy and rivality.

The cities of Italy, the Dutch, the Flemish, the English, and the
French, have been incessantly struggling to supplant each other in
manufactures and commerce; and the war of custom-house duties and
drawbacks has become very active and formidable.

This modern species of warfare is not only less bloody, but the object
is more legitimate, and the consequences neither so sudden nor so
fatal as open force; to which is to be added, that if a nation will but
determine to be industrious, it never can be greatly injured. If it
enjoyed any peculiarly great advantages, those may, indeed, be
wrested from it, but that is only taking away what it has no right to
possess, and what it may always do without. [end of page #177]

The intention of this inquiry is not to discover a method by which a
nation may engross the trade that ought to belong to others, it is only
to enable it, by industry and other means, to guard against the
approaches of adversity, which tend to sink it far below its level,
thereby making way for the elevation of some other nation, on the
ruins of its greatness.

As, in the interior causes of decline, we have traced the most part to
the manners and habits of the people, so, in the exterior causes, it will
be found that much depends upon the conduct of the government. [end
of page #178]


_Why the Intercourse between Nations is ultimately in Favour of the
poorer one, though not so at first_.

In all commercial intercourse with each other, (or competition in
selling to a third nation,) the poorer nation has the advantage in its
gain; but this advantage is generally prevented by the length of credit
which the wealthy nation is enabled to give, by which manufacturers
are sometimes ruined in their own country by strangers, who can
neither rival them in lowness of price nor goodness in quality.

In countries that are poor, those who have the selling, but not the
manufacturing of goods, are so much greater gainers by selling goods
purchased on credit, of which they can keep a good stock and
assortment, than in selling from a shop or store scantily supplied with
ready money, that there is not almost any question about either price
or quality; there is not scarcely an alternative. In one line, a man can
begin who has scarcely any capital, and do a great deal of business; he
can even afford to sell the articles he purchases on credit with very
little profit, because they procure him ready money; whereas, if he
sells an article upon which he has no credit, he must replace it with
another, by paying money immediately. The consequence is, that
while those who sell to the public are poor, the nation or manufacturer
that gives the longest credit will have the preference; but this is daily
diminishing, for even with the capital of the rich nation itself, the
manufactures of the poor one are encouraged; the manner is as

A, at New York, purchases goods for one thousand pounds from B, at
London, which he sells without any profit, and, perhaps, at a
considerable loss; because B gives him twelve months credit. But A,
who has, by this means, got hold of money, as if by a loan, will not lay
that out with B, nor let him touch it till the year's end; and, having
made no profit by the sale of B's goods, he must turn to advantage the
money he obtained for them. According to the situation of mat-[end
of page #179] ters in the country, and the nature of A's concerns, he
will make more or less, but what he makes it is not the business to
investigate; it is sufficient to know, that he will lay his ready money
out with those who will sell cheap, in order to get by it; that is to say,
he will lay it out with some person in his own country. {148} Thus,
though the rich nation sells goods on credit at a price which cannot be
obtained for them by the purchaser, yet its capital serves to give
activity to the manufacturers in the poor country. It is true, that this
operation is slow, but it produces an effect in time, and finishes by
robbing the wealthy nation of its superiority, obtained by giving credit.
It is thus that in all their intercourse, the first advantage is to the
rich nation, but terminates in favour of the poor; for whenever equality
of prices are the question, and both can give sufficient credit, the
poorer nation has the advantage in point of price.

With regard to rivalling each other, in a third place, the poor nation
has the advantage, if the merchants there have the means of paying
with ready money, because the price is lower than that of the richer
country. {149} If they have not that means, they cannot deal with
them, but must wait till they have, by perseverance; and, in course of
time, come to have the means when the poor nation is certain to enter
into competition with advantage.

But this is not the only way in which the capital of a rich nation is
employed in fostering a rivalship in a poorer nation. Were the
manufacturers the only persons who sold goods, it would be confined
to this; but that is not the case, for merchants, who are the sellers,
study only where they can purchase the cheapest; thus English
merchants purchase cloths in Silesia, watches in Switzerland, fire-
arms at Liege,

{148} The Dutch used to give long credit, and buy with ready money,
by which means they had great advantage for a long time; but, at last,
the ready money they paid to some, and the credit they gave to others,
set their industry at work, and they became rivals. Dutch capital was,
at one period, of great service to the English, as that of England now is
to the Americans.

{149} This is not meant to apply to any particular sort of manufacture.
In some, a nation may have a permanent advantage over another; in
others, only a temporary one, and in the greater portion no other
advantage than what arises from superior capital.

[end of page #180]

in preference to laying out the money in England or Ireland; and they
will give credit, as before explained, to the nation that wants it.

In this manner it is, that the capital of a rich country supplies the want
of it in poorer ones, and that, by degrees, a nation saps the foundation
of its own wealth and greatness, and gives encouragement to them in

It is then that the weight of taxes, the high price of commodities, and
the various causes which encumber those who live in wealthy nations,
begin to produce a pernicious effect. The tendency of industry is to
remove its abode, and the capital of the merchants, who know no
country, but understand arithmetic, and the profits of trade, gives the
industry the means of doing it with more ease and promptitude.

The Dutch, for the last century, employed their capital in this manner,
and, at one time, were the chief carriers, for they secured custom by
paying readily and giving credit largely. They ruined many of their
own manufactures in this manner, but it is impossible to separate the
calculation of gain from the mercantile system and mercantile practice
in individuals; therefore it is no reproach to their patriotism, for
patriotism cannot be the rule in purchasing goods from an individual.
A merchant can have no other rule, but his own advantage, or, if he
has, he will soon be ruined.

There are many manufactures in England that originally rose by
means of Dutch capital, not lent capital, but by ready money paid for
goods, which were carried to other nations, and sold here upon credit.

The English have, for a long time, been able to do this piece of
business for themselves; and, of course, the Dutch did not find the
same means of supporting their carrying trade; and as they had ruined
many of their own manufactures, they sunk both as a commercial and
manufacturing people.

If the time should ever come that capital should be so abundant in all
nations, as that obtaining credit will not be an object, then it will be
seen that no nation will have so very great a share of manufactures
and commerce more than others, as has hitherto been the case.

In countries where the common practice is to sell, chiefly, for [end of
page #181] ready money, great fortunes are seldom gained. Even in
wealthy countries, in branches of business where no credit is given,
great fortunes are very seldom got, and for a very simple reason. The
business is pretty equally divided. But in a country that gives long
credits, or in a branch of trade on which long credits are given, we
always see some individuals gaining immense fortunes, by means of
doing a great deal more business than others, who, having less capital,
are enabled to do less.

There is not any one thing in which a nation resembles an individual
so much, as in mercantile transactions; the rule of one is the rule of all,
and the rich individual acts like a rich nation, and the poor one like a
poor nation. The consequences are the same in both cases. The rich
carry on an extensive trade, by means of great capital; the poor, a
limited one, dependant =sic= chiefly on industry; but wherever the
poor persevere in good conduct, they finish by getting the command
of the capital of the rich, and then becoming their rivals.

There is one thing peculiar to the intercourse of rich and poor nations,
in which it differs from the intercourse between rich and poor
individuals in the same country. Money, which is the common
measure of value, has a different price in different countries, and,
indeed, in different parts of the same country. If a man, from a poor
country, carries a bushel of corn with him into a rich, he can live as
long upon it as if he had remained where he was; but if he carry the
money, that would have bought a bushel of corn at home, he perhaps
may not be able to live upon it half so long. {150}

The effect that this produces, in the intercourse between two countries,
is, that in proportion as the difference becomes greater, the rich
country feels it can command more of the industry of the poor, and the
poor feels it can command less of the industry of the rich; so that

{150} In common life, this difference, between carrying money and
necessaries, is perfectly well understood, but it is experience that is
the teacher; and the rough countryman, or woman, when they have the
opportunity of judging from fact, understand the motives as well as
the most profound and ingenius =sic= writer on political economy.

[end of page #182]

when their industry can be both applied, with any degree of equality,
to the same object, the poor supplies the rich, and therefore increases
its own wealth.

It is thus that great numbers of the people in London are fed with
butcher-meat from Scotland, and wear shoes from Yorkshire; but there
would be a very limited sale in either of those places for meat from
Smithfield, or shoes manufactured in London. {151}

This diminution of the value of money, that takes place in all rich
countries, serves farther to increase the advantage of poorer ones in
manufacturing, and accelerates the natural effect of competition,
which is facilitated, as has been said, by the capital of the rich country
giving activity to the industry of the poorer one.

This last neither can be called an exterior nor an interior cause, as it is
derived entirely from the relative situations of the two countries, and
belongs to both, or originates in both; but, as it raises the poor nation
nearer the level of the rich one, its effect gradually becomes less
powerful. Though there is no means of preventing the operation of
two nations coming nearly to a level by this means, yet it does not
appear to be a necessary consequence that the nation that was the
richer should become the poorer. As this, however, has been a general
case, we must conclude it to be a natural one, but there we stop, and
make a distinction between what is natural only, and what is a
necessary effect. Their coming to a level was a necessary effect; but,
though the other may be natural, it cannot be necessary, and therefore
may be counteracted; to find the means of doing this, is all that is
proposed by the present inquiry.

{151} If it was not for taxes and rent, that are chiefly spent in large
towns, as well as law-expenses, and the prices of luxuries, of dress,
and furniture, the cities, like London, would soon be reduced.

[end of page #183]


_Conclusion of exteror Causes.--Are seldom of much Importance,
unless favoured by interior ones.--Rich Nations, with care, capable,
in most Cases, of prolonging their Prosperity.--Digression on the
Importance of Public Revenue, illustrated by a statistical Chart_.

The exterior causes of the decline of any nation, that has risen above
its level, though formidable, are nothing, in comparison to the interior
causes, and are of no great effect without their co-operation.

As the government of a country has an influence over the interior
causes, so its alliances, and the laws of nations, though not very well
attended to, (yet seldom altogether forgot,) have a tendency to stop the
progress of the exterior causes, before they advance too far; that is to
say, before they absolutely depress a nation.

For several centuries, the stronger nations of Europe protected the
weaker, and the matter was carried so far, that the weak powers
generally gained the most. Prussia and Sardinia are two examples of
nations rising by political connections; and though the system is lately
changed, and Poland has been despoiled and divided amongst nations,
to each of which it was superior in power only two centuries ago, and
though Holland and Switzerland groan under the yoke of France, yet,
it is to be hoped, the old system is not abandoned, otherwise there will
be no end to the encroachments of the great powers on the smaller.

The means of communicating, between nations, are now easy; they
have felt the advantage of preserving a sort of balance, {152} and the

{152} The expression, balance of power, gives a false idea. It seems
to imply, that alliances in Europe were so nicely arranged, as to make
the force of nations, in opposite interests, equal; but this never was the
case for half an hour, nor was it ever intended. The whole [end of page
#184] that is meant, is to prevent the present order from being
overturned, by one nation annihilating or subduing another; and then,
by their united strength, swallowing up a third, as was the case with
the Romans.

vantages are so great, that they probably never will be entirely
abandoned, though we have strong proofs, of late years, that they are
not always held very sacred.

The chart subjoined to this, giving a statistical representation of the
powers of Europe, shews nearly in what manner power is distributed
at this time; the population and extent are there represented with
accuracy: these are the foundation of power; and the amount of the
revenue may be said to shew the means, which a nation has of
exerting that power. (For the description and explanation see the page
opposite the chart). [Transcriber's note: seemingly a reference to Chart
No. 2; the explanation in fact appears on page 190.]

The balance of power, however well attended to, could not prevent the
decline of a nation from interior causes. It may prevent the operation
of exterior causes from pushing a nation to the extreme of humiliation,
by taking advantage of its internal situation. But the decline of almost
every nation has commenced within its own bosom, and has been
completed by causes acting from without.

The common termination of the interior causes of decline is revolt, or
a division into parties, when the party that has the disadvantage
generally calls in some neighbour to its aid. This is the most miserable
fate that can befal =sic= a country, and no punishment is sufficiently
severe for the men, who have so far lost every sentiment of patriotism
as to have recourse to such a step.

The exterior causes of decline, namely, rivalship in peace and the
combined efforts of enemies in war may be considered as irresistible,
if the government, which has the direction of a nation, does not act
wisely; but, if it does, they may be put at defiance. If a nation
preserves its interior sources of prosperity, and acts with moderation
and firmness towards others, their envy and efforts will be without
effect, and need never be a cause of much uneasiness.

In its relation to other nations, the government of a country acts like
an individual. The first thing is to regulate its interior affairs, and,
the next is, in treating with others, to consider circumstances, and take
justice and moderation for a rule of conduct. [end of page #185]

The circuitous politics attributed to ambassadors, who represent states,
is a common theme of invective: as custom has established it as a sort
of rule, in all such transactions as they conduct, to conceal a part of
what is meant, to demand more than is expected to be obtained, and
offer less than is intended to be given, there is no immediate remedy;
but this is only in the mode and manner of treating, and does not
necessarily imply unfair intention. If it has become a custom to ask
three by way of obtaining two, and of offering only two to prevent the
necessity of giving four, (which would be expected if three, the
number intended to be given, were offered at first) it is an abuse of
language, in so far that what is expressed is neither meant by one, nor
understood by the other to be meant; but, it is nothing more: neither is
it a custom void of meaning; it is founded on the nature of man.

If men were perfect, and capable of seeing at one view what was fair,
each might come prepared to ask exactly what he wanted, and
determined not to yield any thing; and it would result from their being
perfect, that each would just demand what was right, and the other
was disposed to give; but, as men are not perfect, and as it is the
inclination and even the duty of each to obtain the most favourable
terms he can, (and as he does not see exactly what is right,) he
naturally demands more than he has a right to expect, or than the other
is disposed to give. If ambassadors met together with a determination
to speak explicitly at first, and with a determination not to recede, the
consequence would probably be, that they would not treat at all, so
that the mode of receding a little does not absolutely imply that more
is asked than is wished for, but that each party over-rates its own
pretensions, in order to obtain what is right.

One thing is certain, that the treaties that have been the best observed
have been those founded on equity, where the contracting parties were
neither of them under the influence of fear or necessity.

The exterior dangers of a country are not only more simple in their
nature than the interior ones, but, being less silent and gradual in their
progress have been more noticed by historians.

Even the ambitious rapacity of the Romans was first directed [end of
page #186] against Carthage, on account of its pride and injustice in
attacking other states; and, in the history of the nations of the world,
there is scarcely a single example of national prosperity being
unattended with some degree of pride, arrogance, and injustice; nor
can it easily be otherwise, for, notwithstanding all the boasted law of
nations, power seems amongst them to be one of the principal claims
on which right is founded, though, in the moral nature of things,
power and right have not the most distant connection.

It is then an object for those who govern nations, in the first place, to
counteract as much as possible the internal tendency to decline,
arising from the causes that have been enumerated; and, after having
done that, to regulate their conduct with regard to other nations, so as
to protect themselves from those external causes of decline, on the
existence of which they have no direct influence, but which are not
capable of producing any great effect, unless favoured by the internal
state of the country, and by the unwise conduct of those by whom it is


_Digression concerning the Importance of Public Revenue_.

No state, what ever its wealth may be, can possess power, unless a
certain portion of that wealth is applicable to public purposes. As the
want of revenue has not been a very common cause of weakness, we
shall give, as an example, the almost solitary, but very strong, case of
Poland. Its feebleness, in repelling the attacks of its enemies, was
occasioned, in a great measure, by want of revenue. It was with far
superior population, with more fertile soil, and a people no way
inferior in bravery, greatly inferior in actual exertion to Prussia.
When, at last, the Poles, seeing their danger, united together, and were
willing to make every personal exertion and sacrifice, to preserve their
country, they had no means of executing their good intentions. They
had not kept up an army when it was not wanted, and they could not,
on the emergency, create one when it was become necessary. [end of
page #187]

The definition given of power makes it a relative thing, and, therefore,
the revenue necessary to maintain that power or force must be relative
also; it, therefore, depends on circumstances, what is to be considered
as a sufficient or insufficient revenue.

If the United States of America were accessible with ease to European
nations, or if they had powerful neighbours on their own soil, they
would find their present revenues quite unequal to preserving their
independence; but, as it is, perhaps they are the most wealthy
civilized nation in the world, if an excess of revenue constitutes

In Europe, whatever nations are unable to keep up forces sufficient to
make those exertions which, according to their alliances and dangers,
may be necessary, they are weak from want of revenue, and ought to
augment it.

In the course of making greater exertions than the revenues would
bear, some nations have contracted debts. It is not the purpose here to
enter into the complication such debts occasion, and the alterations
they make on the revenue, and the disposal of the revenue of a
country; but, so far as that subject is yet understood, it appears that the
clear revenue, after paying the interest of the debt, ought to be as great
as it would be altogether, if there were no debt; that is to say, after
paying interest, there ought to remain a sufficient surplus to pay all the
expenses necessary for government and defence.

The money that goes for the payment of interest has some tendency to
increase the influence of government at home, but is of no manner of
use with regard to enemies.

From the statistical chart here annexed, which shews the relative
proportion of the revenues of all the nations in Europe, as well as their
actual amount, it is perfectly clear, that, great and extensive as the
Russian empire is, it will not be very powerful until its revenues are
considerably increased.

The great value of money, and the prices of provisions, and many
sorts of warlike stores, enable great armies to be maintained in that
country, even with small revenues; but the Russians can make no great
effort, at a distance from home, till their revenues are augmented.

The revenues of Spain are considerable; but the free revenue is not,
[end of page #188] and it has no credit to supply the place. The same
thing may be said of Portugal; and if England had no credit, it would
be in the same situation; but as it has better credit than any nation ever
had, so, likewise, it is the only one whose efforts have never been in
any way, or at any time, either restricted or suspended, for want of
money to carry them into effect.

The Dutch were, at one time, situated nearly as England is now; they
had not sufficient free revenue, but they had good credit; of which,
however, they were not willing to make the necessary use, and the
French marched into Amsterdam with greater ease than the Russians
did into Warsaw.

The greatest victories of the French, during the revolution, were
gained at a time when her regular revenues were inconsiderable, and
when she was in a state of absolute bankruptcy. This is considered by
some as a proof that force is independent of revenue, and that
Frederick the Great was mistaken in saying, that money was the
sinews of war; but this case has been misunderstood as well as

Though, in general, regular resources for money are necessary to
support war, and regular resources imply revenue, it never was
asserted, that, if irregular resources could be obtained, they would not
answer the same purpose, so long as they lasted. During the first five
years of the French revolution, a sum equal to at least four hundred
millions sterling was consumed, besides what was pillaged from the
enemy. So that at the time that France was without regular revenue,
she was actually expending seventy-five millions sterling per annum:
a sum greater than any other nation ever had at its disposal.

The impossibility of such a resource continuing is of no importance in
the present argument, although it is luckily of very great importance to
the peace of mankind. France supported war, for a certain time, by
consuming capital, and without revenue, but not without money; so
that what his Prussian Majesty said, stands uncontroverted, and the
necessity of revenue, regular and durable, for the maintenance of
regular and durable force, is established beyond the power of
contradiction. [end of page #189]


In this chart, the different nations of Europe are represented by circles,
bearing the proportion of their relative extent. This is done in order to
give a better idea of the proportions than a geographical map, where
the dissimilar and irregular forms prevent the eye from making a

The graduated scale of lines represents millions of pounds sterling;
and the red lines, that rise on the left of each circle, express the
number of inhabitants in millions, which may be known by observing
at what cross-line the red one stops.

The yellow lines, on the right of the circles, shew the amount of
revenue in pounds sterling.

The nations stained green, are maritime powers; those stained pale
red, are only powerful by land.

The dotted lines, to connect the extremities of the lines of population
and revenue, serve, by their descent from right to left, or from left to
right, to shew how revenue and population are proportioned to each

The impression made by this chart is such, that it is impossible not to
see by what means Sweden and Denmark are of little importance, as
to wealth or power; for, though population and territory are the
original foundation of power, finances are the means of exerting it.

What must the consequences be if the Russian empire should one day
become like other nations? If ever that should happen, it either will be
divided, or it will crush all Europe.

The prodigious territory of Russia, and the immense revenues of
England, are the most astonishing things represented in that chart;
they are out of all proportion to the rest. [end of page #190]



_Result of the foregoing Inquiry applied to Britain.--Its present State,
in what its Wealth consists, illustrated by a Chart, shewing the
Increase of Revenue and Commerce_.

Having now taken a view, and inquired into the causes that have
ruined nations that have been great and wealthy, from the earliest to
the present time; having also inquired into the causes that naturally
will operate where those did not, and that would, at a later period,
have produced the same effect; it is now the business to examine how
far and in what way the result of the inquiry applies to the British

The power and wealth of Britain, according to the definition given at
the beginning of this work, are founded not on conquests, extent of
territory, superior population, or a more favourable soil or climate, or
even in bravery; for in those it is but on a par with other nations.

The only natural advantages of Britain are, its insular situation and the
disposition of the people, and the excellent form of its government.

From the two first have arisen that good government, commerce, and
industry; and on those have arisen again a great naval power, and an
uncommon degree of wealth.

In arms, it does not appear that England is so powerful by land, in
proportion as in former times: her power must then be considered as a
naval power, and that founded principally on commerce. {153}

{153} Our last brilliant achievements by land were under the Duke of
Marlborough; but even then, with allies to assist, we were but a
balance to France. Before the conquest, England seems to have been
far below the level of most other nations, as a power by land. Soon
after [end of page #191] she appears to have risen above France, and
other nations, or they probably rather sunk; but, ever since England
became formidable at sea, she has lost her superiority in the army;
although she has never sunk under the level, and never, in any
instance, were her armies beat when the numbers were equal to those
of the enemy.

{Here appears at page 192 the second chart, entitled

Representing the
Extent, Population & Revenue
-of the-
--in 1804--by
W. Playfair"}

As such then we have only to examine the foundation on which she
stands, and find in what she is vulnerable.

We must first begin with the interior situation, to follow the same
order that has been attended to in the rest of the work.

Changes of manners, habits of education, and the natural effects of
luxury, are as likely to operate on the British empire, as on some
others which they have destroyed.

From the unequal division of property, there is perhaps less danger,
but from the employment of capital there is more than almost in any
other nation.

From the abuses of law and public institutions and _l'esprit du corps_,
we run a very great risk; more indeed than under an arbitrary
government or even a republic. These last are the dangers that most
seriously threaten a nation living under a mixed government.

As to the produce of the soil becoming unequal to the maintenance of
a people addicted to luxurious habits, we have much also to fear from
that: the operation is begun, and its effects will soon be most serious:
they are already felt, and very visible.

From taxation, unproductive and idle people, we have more to fear
than most nations; and from an alteration in the manner of thinking,
and persons and property leaving the nation, we have as much as any
other nation, according to the degree of wealth that we possess; so
that, upon the whole, the interior causes of decline are such as it is
extremely necessary to guard against in the most attentive manner.

In respect to the exterior causes, we are exempt entirely from some,
from others we are not; and, in one case, we have exterior causes for
hope that no nation ever yet had.

The advancement of other nations, their enmity and envy, are full as
likely to operate against this nation as against any other that ever
existed; but as we owe none of our superiority to geographical situa-
[end of page #192] tion like the Greek islands, the Delta of Egypt, and
borders of the Mediterranean Sea, we run no risk of any discovery in
geography, or in navigation, operating much to our disadvantage.

We are not so far advanced before other nations in arts as to have any
great reason to dread that their advancement will be our ruin; but still
we must allow, that a number of external causes may combine to bring
us to their level, when the effects of our present wealth may soon
operate in reducing us under it.

Since, then, commerce is the foundation of our wealth, and since our
power, which is naval, is built upon commerce, let us begin with
taking a view of its present situation.

The increase of the trade of Britain to foreign parts, within these last
fifteen years, though a very natural effect of the causes that have
operated during that period, is not itself a natural increase, because the
causes that produced it are uncommon, temporary, and unnatural.

The East and West India trades have been both lost to France and
Holland. The French, before the revolution, had a greater share of the
West India trade than ever we had, and they could undersell us in
foreign markets.

The Dutch and French together had a very great share of the
commerce of the East; this partly accounts for the rapid increase of
English commerce since they lost theirs. Besides, the French nation
itself, which formerly consumed scarcely any English manufactures,
and supplied Germany, and many parts of Europe, with its own, has
been employed for several years in consuming its manufactured stock,
eating up its capital, and ruining its own manufactories; so that France
itself, Germany, and a great portion of the continent, have been
obliged to apply to Britain, both for manufactures and colonial
produce, as well as for the goods that come from India.

Add to this, that capital on the continent of Europe has suffered an
unexampled diminution, from a variety of causes. A great part has
been consumed in France, and in all the countries into which her
armies have penetrated, particularly in Holland; and that confidence,
[end of page #193] which serves in place of capital, has been impaired
in all countries, and ruined in many.

It has already been shewn that the want of capital prevents a poor
nation from supplying itself, and furnishes a rich one with the means
of supplying it, and, as it were, extorting usury from it by giving
credit. The misfortunes of the continent had, by this means, all of
them a direct tendency to advance the commercial prosperity of
England; but still the matter does not rest even here, for the real
capital that fled from the continent of Europe has, in part, taken refuge
in England. We have risen, (for the moment,) by their depression; and
though the advantage will be of some duration, yet we ought not to
consider it as permanent. {154}

Those causes have operated, as indeed might be expected, in a most
powerful manner, but that operation has already begun to cease. In
such uncommon and unexampled circumstances as the present, it is
impossible to forsee =sic= what may happen, yet it is scarcely possible
to suppose things will remain as they are. Terror and alarm are too
painful to continue their action long on the human mind; and even if
the cause were not diminished, the effect would become less violent
with time and custom. Again, we are not to suppose, that such times as
those of 1793 and 1794 are ever to return, therefore the alarm will be
diminished, new capital will rise up, and, as security of private
property is now understood to be the basis of all wealth and
prosperity, confidence will be restored by degrees.

The increase of trade is not then to be expected from the same causes
that have of late operated with so rapid and powerful an effect: on the
contrary, they may be expected so far to cease, as to occasion a
diminution of our exports.

This will, however, be counteracted by some circumstances, while
others will tend to augment the violence of its effects.

The trade with the American States and with Russia increase, from

{154} As one proof of capital taking refuge in England, the sudden
rise of stock, during the first three years of the French revolution, may
be adduced, without fear of being contradicted as to the fact, or the
assigned cause controverted. [end of page #194]

no temporary or fallacious cause. In the former country, population
very rapidly increases, and, in the latter, wealth and civilization, which
have a similar effect {155} upon the wants of a nation. These are in
favour of a manufacturing country, like England.

These two are not only, then, permanent, but augmenting causes for
our commerce; {156} they are causes that augment rapidly, and may,
with proper care, be carried to a great extent.

The superiority in the West India trade is so far of a permanent nature,
that France will never again be a formidable rival there. St. Domingo
is not only lost, but probably lost for ever, while it is expected that
Britain may retain her islands. This trade, then, may be set down as
permanent; that is to say, that there does not seem to be any immediate
cause for its decline; {157} and the government of this country is
sufficiently aware of consequences not to neglect taking every
precaution possible.

The East India trade does not, indeed, appear equally secure. There we
are powerfully rivalled by the Americans, and the merchants of other
countries; but, on the other hand, the demand for the produce of Asia
is augmenting rapidly all over the continent of Europe; so that perhaps
we may be able to maintain our ground, even though other nations
regain part of the trade they have lost.

To remain, then, in the situation in which we are, with respect to

{155} The great augmentation of fine fertile territory, in America, will
retard the progress of manufactures and commerce in that country, by
employing the capital and attention of the inhabitants on agriculture.
This may be the case for half a century, and, if England improves, the
circumstances may continue to operate in favour of British
manufactures for many centuries to come.

{156} The ports in the Black Sea add a new district to the commercial
world, which, in course of time, must greatly increase the demand for
such articles, as a civilized people consume. The fineness of the
climate and of the country will enable the inhabitants to gratify the
taste which civilization will bring along with it.

{157} It would be quite foreign to the end of this inquiry to examine
into the interior state of the West India islands, or as to their
continuing subject to Great Britain. This is entirely a political affair,
unconnected with commerce, though its effects on it would be
prodigious. [end of page #195]

foreign trade, we must exert ourselves; those external causes that have
forced trade upon us, for these last fifteen years, being but of a
temporary nature.

In order to be more sensible of this necessity, let us consider a few
other circumstances.

The wealth of England, which was the envy of Europe, even previous
to the American war, in which we stood single-handed and alone
(having the three most powerful maritime nations against us, and none
to take our part) has now become more conspicuous, and much more
likely to excite envy.

Not only the situation of Britain is much more exalted, but the other
nations feel a comparison that is infinitely more humiliating; add to
this, that old attachments, and a regard to the laws of nations, and to a
balance of power in Europe, are much enfeebled, or rather nearly done

Britain has alone, for some time, stood forward to resist the
innovations and power of France; and, after having at first subsidized
every nation that would fight in the common cause, it has alone
maintained the common right itself, thereby adding a double
humiliation to those who wanted means of assisting, or whose courage
had failed.

France, with all its acquisition of territory and alliance, with all that
influence over neutral nations, which terror of its arms inspires, will
never cease to combat the prosperity of England. Some other nations,
through envy or shame, stimulated by a hope of partaking in the
wealth that England loses, will either sit passive or assist. {158}

The East India trade is that which excites the greatest portion of envy,
and it will be difficult to resist its effects. This superior degree of
envy is occasioned by three principal causes:

The splendid establishments of the East India company, its fleets,

{158} Gratitude, some will say, may prevent this; but nations have no
gratitude, they only know their interest, and nothing retrospective is
any motive for action. We need not search into remote periods for
proofs of this, see Holland, Spain, Russia, &c. during the latter part of
the last war. [end of page #196]

and the fact that it is the greatest commercial company that does now,
or ever did, exist, constitute the first cause, not only for envy, but
for a wish to participate in the trade.

The second cause arises from the extent of our possessions, the
immensity of the territorial revenues, and the evident injustice of a
company of merchants becoming sovereigns, and holding the ancient
princes of the East, and the successors of the Great Mogul, as tributary
vassals. {159}

It is in vain that we say the people are happier than they were before
we did them the honour to become their masters. Whether this is true
or not, there is no means of proving it, besides there can be no right
established by London merchants to force the inhabitants of Hindostan
to become happy, whether they will or not.

The same pretence has been used by the French, in subduing Flanders
and Brabant, in governing Holland and Switzerland; but they have not
been able to obtain credit. The regular governments, who partitioned
Poland, have pretended the same thing; and our slave-merchants and
planters give very positive assurances that the negroes toiling on the
West India plantations are much happier than they were in their own
country; yet, in defiance of all this cloud of witnesses, there is
something in the human breast that resists and rejects such evidence;
evidence doubtful, on account of the quarter from whence it comes,
and the interests of the witnesses, as well as con-

{159} However we may look upon this, other nations certainly see the
matter as iniquitous and unjust; and it is well known with what
feelings such a belief is entertained.

Though the revolutions in Farther Asia have not made any part of the
basis of our inquiry, yet it is impossible, having mentioned the Mogul
empire, not to notice its rapid and terrible fall. In 1707, only ninety-
eight years ago, the Great Mogul ruled over a country equal in extent,
and little inferior in population, to France, Spain, Germany, and
England. His revenues amounted to thirty-two millions sterling,
which, at that time, was nearly equal to the whole revenues of all the
monarchs of Europe. He is now circumscribed to a territory less than
the smallest county in England, and is the vassal at will of a company
of English merchants, who, with all their greatness, do not divide
profits equal to one week of his former revenues! [end of page #197]

trary to the natural feelings of beings endowed with the power of
reason; at variance, also, with an opinion of a very ancient origin,
"that coercion and force are enemies to enjoyment."

In defiance, then, of our assertions, the other nations of Europe will
and do view this acquired territory with anger, as well as envy; and,
though it is true, that, out of the immense revenues that arise to the
company, they divide little profit, though their debts are annually
augmenting, yet individual Englishmen, it must be admitted, bring
home great fortunes.

This fact is not to be denied, and is so much the worse, that though a
government even of merchants may be supposed to obtain revenues
fairly, individuals, who rapidly acquire great wealth are always
supposed to do it by extortion or unfair means. {160}

The third cause for envy is of great antiquity. The commerce of the
East, from the earliest ages, has been that which has enriched all the
nations that ever possessed it; and, consequently, has been a perpetual
cause of envy and contention, as we have already seen, in its proper
place. For all those reasons, not one of which we can remove entirely,
the East India trade is a particular object of envy; and, unless great
care is taken, will entail the same danger on this country, as it has on
all those that ever possessed it. Tyre and Sidon, in Syria, Alexandria,
in Egypt, Venice, Genoa, the Hans Towns, and Portugal, have all been
raised and ruined by this trade, which seems to

{160} So far back as 1793, Mr. Dundas estimated the sums remitted
by individuals at an annual million; add to this, plunder arising from
war, (which is become as natural a state in India as peace,) and we
shall see that now the revenues and establishments are nearly doubled.
The following will not be an unfair estimate:

Private fortunes remitted in 1793            L. 1,000,000
Average ditto arising from years
of war, the plunder of
Seringapatam, &c                                  300,000
Increase remitted home since,
in proportion to revenue                          700,000

Remitted now by the same description
of men                                       L. 2,000,000

Besides what is remitted home, those servants of the company expend
immense sums in the country, living there in the greatest luxury. [end
of page #198]

have been the cradle and the grave of most of those nations that have
become rich and powerful by the means of commerce.

Our West India wealth, though derived from a source still more, or at
least equally, impure, and though not inferior in amount, is, for several
reasons, not the cause of so much envy. It is not confined to a
company, and therefore the splendour and ostentation that, in the case
of the Asiatic trade, occasion envy, do not exist in that to the
American islands.

Our monopoly is by no means so complete, which has a double effect
in our favour; for, besides preventing others from envying us so much,
it prevents them from condemning us so severely.

The same nations that see, in its full force, the injustice of subjecting
the inhabitants of the East, in their own country, in a way that, at the
worst, is not very rigorous, join cordially in robbing Africa of its
inhabitants, to make them slaves in America, in a way, that, at the
best, is very rigorous.

Such are the baneful effects of sordid interest acting on the mind of
man! But our business is not here to investigate opinions, but their
result; and, in the present instance, we find that to admit participation
in criminality is the only way to avoid envy and offence.

The third cause for envy is likewise wanting. The commerce with the
West Indies is but of a recent date, and no nation has ever owed its
greatness or decline to that single source. {161} It is not like the
Asiatic trade, a sort of hereditary cause of quarrel; a species of
heirloom, entailing upon the possessor the envy and enmity of all
other nations.

The envy occasioned by the West India trade is farther diminished by
the circumstance that the plantations have been raised with the money
of the persons by whom they are possessed; and that if they had no
original right to the soil in its barren state, the cultivation at least is
owing to their capital and industry.

The most solid and secure portion of our trade is that which con-

{161} France was the nation that, before the revolution, gained the
most by this trade; indeed, no nation has, to this date, gained so much
as it did.

[end of page #199]

sists of our manufactures at home. In those, though we excite envy,
we excite no other of the hateful passions. Emulation is natural, and
admiration is unavoidable, on seeing the vast progress that arts and
industry have made in this country; so that England is absolutely
considered as the first country in the world for manufactures.

This cause of greatness and wealth operates in a more uniform and
durable manner; though, like others, it has its bounds, yet the nature of
them is not easily ascertained.

In this there are two things essential,--the procuring a market, and the
means of supplying it. We have always yet found the means of
supplying every market we have got; but we have not always been
able to extend our market so much as it might have been wished.

America and Russia offer new markets, as has already been observed,
but, to extend our old markets, we must either reduce the price,
improve the quality, or extend the credit, and invention is the only
means by which these things can be done; and there is no possibility
of knowing where to set bounds to invention, aided by capital and the
division of labour. We are, however, not to forget that priority in point
of time being one of the causes of a nation's rise, and being of a nature
to be destroyed in the course of years, the superiority we enjoy may
leave us, as it did other nations in former times.

When a country produces the raw material, and labour is cheap, and
the art established, we might suppose the superiority secure; but it is
not. The cotton trade was first established in the East Indies, where the
material grows, where the labour is not a tenth of the price that it is in
England, and the quality of the manufactured article is good; yet
machinery and capital have transplanted it to England. But the same
machinery may give a superiority, or at least an equality, to some
other country; it is, therefore, our business to persevere in encouraging
invention, by the means that have hitherto been found so successful.

{162} The law of patents, and the premiums offered by the Society of
Arts, suggest improvements, and reward them when made. To those,
to the security of property, and nature of the government, we chiefly
owe the great improvements made in England.

[end of page #200]

The most necessary thing for our commerce is the support of
mercantile credit, without which it is in vain to expect that trade will
be carried on to any great amount. In 1772, when a great failure
occasioned want of confidence, the exports of the country fell off
above three millions, but its imports fell off very little. {163} In 1793,
when the internal credit of the mercantile people was staggered,
precisely the same effect was produced. These are the only two
instances of individual credit being staggered to such a degree, as to
prevent mercantile men from putting confidence in each other; and
they are the only two instances of any very great falling off in the
exports in one year, except during the American war, when the chief
branches of trade in the country were cut off or diminished.

The falling off, in exports, in 1803, which was very great indeed,
(being no less than one-third of the whole,) was not occasioned by the
same cause, but appears to have been owing to three others of a
different nature.

First, the French had actually shut us out from a great extent of coast,
and this occasioned a diminution of exports, which will, in part, be
done away, when new channels of conveyance are found out. It will
nevertheless operate in causing some diminution, as circuitous
channels render goods more difficult to be introduced, and
consequently dearer to the consumers.

The second cause appears to have been, the uncertainty of our
merchants where to send the goods, and who to trust, as the fear of the
extension of French power took away confidence, and produced a sort
of irresolution, which is always hurtful to business.

The third cause of the diminution of trade, no doubt, arose from the
cessation of that alarm about property, that has been described as
having occasioned so much to be sent from the continent to England.
In other words, it is the return of the pendulum which had vibrated,

{163} This is a sort of paradox: when money became scarce, the
nation bought nearly as much as ever, but sold less. This is not the
case with individuals, and, at first sight, does not appear natural.

[end of page #201]

through a temporary impulse, beyond the natural perpendicular. Had
there been no revolution in France, and had it not been conducted on
the principles it was, our trade could not have augmented so fast as it
did; but a falling off of fifteen millions in one year is too much to be
ascribed to that cause alone. An examination of the branches that did
fall off will elucidate this.

The commerce with the United States of America is one of those that
has fallen off, and is the only one that does not appear to be directly
connected with these causes. There are some reasons, however, for
thinking that it had an indirect connection with them.

Whatever interrupts our connection with the continent of Europe, or
renders it unsafe, has, in some degree, the same effect with a
stagnation of credit at home. This has taken place; and as it of course
affected every branch of trade, that with America felt the blow
amongst the rest, and, indeed, more than in proportion; for, as there is
no course of exchange with any town in America, and as the credits
there are long, the exportation to that country suffers in a particular
manner when there is any heaviness in the money market here. Thus it
was that, in 1772, the American exports suffered a diminution of two
millions from the stagnation; and, in 1793, of rather more than half a
million. In the former case, the American trade seems alone almost to
have suffered, and, even in the latter case, it fell off more than in its
just proportion.

It has been observed, that the improving our manufactures at home is
the most secure support of our foreign trade, which chiefly depends on
superior skill, industry, and invention, the wages of labour being
greatly against us. We shall consider by what stability of tenure we
hold that advantage.

The nation or individual that proceeds first in improvement is always
uncertain how much farther it can be carried; those who follow, on the
contrary, know what can be done, and therefore act with certainty and
confidence. As to individuals, those who are the foremost in
improvement have great difficulties to encounter; they seldom can
procure the pecuniary aid necessary, and always do so with great
difficulty; whereas, those who copy, without half their merit, or, [end
of page #202] perhaps, without any merit at all, meet with support
from every quarter. {164}

From this it is very evident, that the nation the farthest advanced in
invention has only to remain stationary a few years, and it will soon be
overtaken, and perhaps surpassed. Holland, Flanders, and France,
were all originally superior, in the arts of manufacturing most goods,
to England; and, indeed, it is no great length of time since we obtained
the superiority over Holland in several articles of importance, and in
particular where machinery was wanting. If it were necessary, it
would not be difficult to give examples, to shew with what eagerness
those who imported inventions were taken by the hand, on the bare
probability of success, while the inventors of machines, and of
methods of manufacturing entirely new, and of still more importance,
were left to grope their way, and, until crowned with success, rather
considered as objects of pity than of praise or admiration. {165}

It is not then altogether by a sure or lasting tenure that we hold this
superiority of manufactures. We have examined several other sources
of wealth, and the general conclusion is, that, without care and atten-

{164} Mr. Arkwright, who produced the cotton-spinning machine,
underwent great difficulties for many years; as also did Mr. Watt, the
ingenious and scientific improver of the steam-engine; and, had not
good fortune thrown him in the way of Mr. Boulton, a man of fortune
and resource, and himself a man of genius, he probably must have
languished in obscurity, and the nation remained without his
admirable invention. The profits derived from the spinning-machine
may, at first sight, appear the greater national advantage of the two;
but it is not so in reality, for the spinning-machine only manufactures
a raw material, brought from another country, cheaper than before;
whereas, the steam-engine enables us to obtain raw materials from our
own soil cheaper; a thing more important, more permanent, and of
which we were more in want: besides this, the steam-engine is
extending the scope of its utility every day; whereas, the spinning
machines can go little farther. But to leave this digression, which is
not altogether foreign to the purpose, and return to the facility with
which inventors are followed, it is a fact, that in almost every country
in Europe, money can be got by any adventurer who will propose to
establish either a cotton spinning machine, or a manufactory of steam-
engines; and it is a fact, that immense sums have been, and are still
given, for those purposes.

{165} Slitting-mills, saw-mills, the art of imitating porcelain, and of
making good earthen-ware, and paper, together with a vast number of
other inventions, were imported from Holland; in every one of which
we have gone beyond the Dutch, just as they got the better of the
Flemings in the art of curing herrings. Priority of invention is not then
a permanent tenure.

[end of page #203]

tion, this nation cannot be expected long to maintain its superiority
over others, in the degree it at present enjoys.

The American market, {166} and the Russian (in a smaller degree,)
however, hold out a prospect of increased commerce to us, from
external causes, that we cannot flatter ourselves with in the internal
ones. It is to those we must look, and to those only, for the extension
of the sale of our manufactures; but, even in this case, we must use
efforts, for it is very seldom that a good end is effected by accident, or
without a view towards its accomplishment.

Having now taken a view of the situation of this country, and seen
that, though it is not likely to be deprived of its commerce by
conquest, like Babylon, Tyre, or Alexandria, or by a new discovery in
geography and the art of navigation, like Venice and Genoa; though,
indeed, it has no great appearance of sharing the fate of Spain,
Portugal, or Holland, yet there are other causes that may stop its
career. If it is exempt from the dangers they laboured under, it is
subject to others from which they were free.

We have already examined the effect of taxes and national debt on the
industry of a country, even whilst augmenting in wealth; but we have
not examined what that effect will be when a country comes to be on a
level with other nations that do not labour under the same burthens.

There is no possibility of standing long still with a burthen on the
shoulders, it must either be thrown off or it will become a cause of
decline. Let us endeavour to point out methods by which that may be
averted, or at least procrastinated. In doing this, we are either exposing
our ignorance and presumption, or doing a signal service to our

{166} The American exports from this country consist almost entirely
in manufactures; we neither supply that country with East or West
India produce. The Russians are aspiring at possessions in the West
Indies, and, no doubt, will succeed; they are advancing still more
rapidly in power than the Americans are in population. It was only in
1769, (not forty years ago,) that the first Russian flag was seen in the
Mediterranean Sea, and now Russia stands fair to be sovereign of a
number of the Greek islands; and, at any rate, by the Dardanelles, to
carry on a great commerce. What may thirty years more not effect
with such a country, and such a race of sovereigns?

[end of page #204]

The load must be taken off, or it will crush the bearer; but how this is
to be done is the difficulty. If our debt is paid off, the capital will go
to other nations, for it will not find employment amongst ourselves; and
this will reduce the nation, and raise others. If it continues, we sink
under it; and, if we break faith with the creditors, it destroys
confidence for ever; we can no longer give law, by means of our
capital, to the markets in other nations, and we probably overturn the
government of our own.

Amongst the _exterior_ causes of decline that are general, none
applies so completely to Great Britain as that of the envy and enmity,
occasioned by the possession of colonies we have settled, or countries
we have conquered.

The wealth of Britain and its power arise from agriculture,
manufactures, commerce, colonies, and conquests. The envy they
excite is not, however, in proportion to the wealth that arises from
them, but rather to the right we have to possess them, and the
consequent right that others have to contest the possession.

Improved agriculture has never been a source of enmity amongst
civilized nations, though it has been an object of conquest when an
opportunity presented itself.

Manufactures, the great source of our wealth, are, in a certain degree,
beyond the reach of our enemies. Our greatest consumption for them
is amongst ourselves, and if we did not export to any part of the world,
except enough to procure materials, we should enjoy nearly all that we
now do. Our wealth would not be very materially diminished, though
our naval strength would. The means of destroying our manufactures
is not then very easily to be found.

The commerce with other nations, our enemies, or rivals, have a more
effectual means of diminishing, by the laying on duties on our
manufactures, and augmenting those duties when the goods happen to
be carried in English vessels; but still the advantage we enjoy in this
competition is great.

Not so with our colonies and conquests. The whole imports from the
East Indies, from 1700 to the present day, have only amounted [end of
page #205] to 165,000,000 L. and our exports, during the same period,
to 83,000,000 L. while our total exports have amounted to 1,486,000
L. during the same period. {167}

There would be much affectation, and little accuracy, in attempting to
make any thing like a strict comparison between the relative
proportions of the wealth procured by general trade, and that procured
by trade with India. The exports amount to about one-nineteenth part
of the whole; and, perhaps, as they are manufactured goods, to about
one-tenth part of the whole manufactures of the country exported: but
the manufactures exported are not equal to one-third part of those
consumed at home, so that not above one-thirtieth part of our
manufacturers are maintained by the trade to India.

In 1793, when the charter of the company was renewed, the India-
budget stated the private fortunes acquired and brought home, at one
million annually: that has probably increased since then; but it was at
that time greater than it had been before: if, then, we take the annual
arrival, since the year 1765, at one million, it will make forty millions,
which, compared with the balance of trade during that period, amounts
to about one-sixth part of the balance supposed to come into the

How much of our national debt might be set down to the account of
India, is another question. By debt contracted, and interest of debt
paid, during the same period, we have disbursed the sum of
1,100,000,000 L. which is equal to more than twelve times the whole
of the property acquired by our India affairs, supposing the
45,000,000 L.

{167} Comparison between the total foreign trade of the country, to
that with the East Indies only, for 104 years.

Total Exports.        Total Balance        Exports to India.
                      in our favour.

to 1760,
L540,000,000           L249,000,000        L18,000,000

1760 to
L370,000,000           L101,000,000        L25,000,000

1785 to
L576,000,000           L142,000,000        L40,000,000
____________           ____________        ____________
L1,486,000,000         L492,000,000        L80,000,000
____________           ____________        ____________

[Transcriber's note: L=GBP/Pounds Sterling.]

This is about a nineteenth part of our foreign trade, and the balance
is greatly against us.

[end of page #206]

remitted, to be all gain, together with one-half of the 83,000,000 L.
which surely is allowing the gain at the highest rate for both. {168}

Supposing, then, that the wars that India has occasioned have cost (or
the proportion of the debt they have occasioned) one-sixth part of the
whole of our debt, and that the profits on goods to India, and private
fortunes, came into the public treasury, there would still have been a
great loss to the state; but this has not been the case, the interest of
the debt has been levied on the people, and will continue to be so, till
all is paid off; which, according to the plan of the sinking fund, will be
in thirty-five years, so that we shall have about 750,000,000 L. more to
pay, {169} supposing we have peace all that time, and continue to
possess India.

There is something very gloomy in this view of national affairs, and
yet there is no apparent method of making it more pleasing.

It is, on the contrary, very possible, that as Malta, on account of its
being supposed the key to India, has cost us 20,000,000 L. within a
few years, that, in less than thirty-five years, it may cost us
_something_ more; and, it is not by any means impossible, that, before
that period, we may either lose India, or give it away; on either of
which suppositions, the arithmetical balance of profit and loss will be
greatly altered, to our farther disadvantage.

On the possessions in India, and the complicated manner in which our
imports (again exported) affect the nation, a volume might be written,
but it would be to very little purpose, in a general inquiry of this sort.
It is sufficient to shew here that the wealth obtained by that channel is
not of great magnitude, in comparison either of the

{168} The nearness of the balance of trade, to the amount of debt
contracted, will naturally excite attention, but it appears merely
accidental, and to have not any real connection.

Debt borrowed                              L500,000,000
Interest paid                              L590,000,000

[Transcriber's note: L=GBP/Pounds Sterling.]

{169} Let the future profits and expenses be set against each other,
like the last.

[end of page #207]

wealth acquired by foreign trade, or by our industry at home; and that,
at the same time, we see that it excites more envy and jealousy than all
the rest of the advantages we enjoy put together.

Badly as men act in matters of interest, and much as envy blinds them
in cases of rivalship, yet still there is a certain degree of justice
predominant in the mind, that admits the claim of merit and true
desert. Every person, who has heard the conversation, or read the
opinions of people in other nations, on the wealth and greatness of
England, will allow, that, as commercial men, and as manufacturers,
we are the wonder of the world, and excite admiration; but,
concerning our dominion over India, and our plantations in the
American islands, foreigners speak very differently.

In order to bring down a nation, that has risen above its level, there is
followed a system of enmity in war, and rivalship in peace.

The Portuguese seized on a lucky opportunity to undermine and
supplant the Venecians and the Genoese, who had long been the envy
of all nations, for the wealth they obtained, by the monopoly of the
trade to India. The Dutch soon rivalled the Portuguese in trade, and
the Flemings in manufactures; and, indeed, there is no saying in how
great a variety of ways the superiority of a nation may not be pulled

England, commencing later than any, has now obtained her full share
of the commerce of the East, and of manufactures; but the nations that
envy the wealth of others have always several great advantages. The
nation that is highest treads in discovery, invention, &c. a new path,
and is never certain how far she can go, nor how to proceed. Those
who follow have, in general, but to copy, and, in doing that, it is
generally pretty easy to improve. At all events, a day must arrive when
the nation that is highest, ceasing to proceed, the others must overtake

As the nation that is farthest advanced is ignorant of the improvements
that may be made, it does not feel what it wants; and, like a man in
full health, will give no encouragement to the physician. The countries
that follow behind act differently; and they generally, in order [end of
page #208] to protect their rising manufactures, impose duties on
similar ones imported; thus preventing a competition between old
established manufactures, and those recently begun.

So far as priority of settlement, or of invention, give a superiority to a
nation over others, the equalizing principle acts with a very natural
and evident force; but, when the manners and modes of thinking of a
people have once taken a settled turn, in addition to their proficiency
in manufactures, it does not appear easily to be altered.

The Germans excelled at working in metals, and possessed most of the
arts, in a superior degree to any other people in Europe, a few
centuries ago. In some arts they have been surpassed by the French, in
more by the Dutch, and in nearly all by the English. {170}

Conquests and colonies are wrested from nations suddenly and by
force; arts and manufactures leave them in time of peace, silently and
by degrees, without noise or convulsion; but the consequences are not
the less fatal on that account; nor, indeed, is the effect slower, though
more silent. Though colonies or conquests pass away at once, such
changes only take place after a long chain of causes have prepared the
way for them; whereas, manufactures are perpetually emigrating from
one country to another: the operation, though slow and silent, is
incessant, and the ultimate effect great beyond calculation.

A good government, and wise laws, that protect industry and property,
and preserve, in purity, the manners of the people, are the most
difficult obstacles for a rival nation to overcome. Prosperity, which is
founded upon that basis, is of all others the most secure. There are
sometimes customs and habits that favour industry, the operation of
which is not perceptible to those who wish to imitate and rival
successful and wealthy nations.

In general, it is not to be expected that the southern nations can come
in competition with those living in more northerly climates in

{170} The individual German workmen have not been excelled by the
workmen of any other nation, but the German nation itself has been

[end of page #209]

those manufactures, where continued or hard labour is necessary.
Nature has compensated the inhabitants of such countries for this
incapacity, by giving them a fine climate, and, in general, a fertile soil;
and, when they do justice to it, they may live affluent and happy. But,
since industry and civilization have got into northern countries, it is
impossible for the southern ones to rival them in manufactures.

It would be impossible for any people living on the banks of the Nile,
where the finest linen was once manufactured, to rival the cloths of
Silesia, or of Ireland: as well might we think to bring back the
commerce with India to Alexandria by the Red Sea.

The fine manufactures of India, notwithstanding the materials are all
found in the country, the lowness of labour, and the antiquity of their
establishment, are, in many cases, unable to keep their ground against
the invention and industry of Europeans. The art of making porcelain-
ware, from a want of some of the materials, has not, in every respect,
equalled that manufactured in China; but in everything else, except
material, it excels so much, that the trade to that country in that article
is entirely over.

Many of the finest stuffs are nearly sharing the same fate, and they all
probably will do so in time. Those whom we hope to surpass are
determined to remain as they are, while Europeans aim at going as far
in improvement as the nature of things will allow.

But the nations that follow others in arts are not always confined to
imitation, though we have seen that even there they have a great
advantage. It frequently happens that they get hold of some invention
which renders them superior, in a particular line, to those whom they
only intended to imitate.

When the superiority of a nation arises from the natural produce of the
earth, such as valuable minerals, then it is very difficult for others to
rival it with advantage; and it is very unwise of any nation to employ
its efforts in rivalling another in an article where nature has given to
the other a decided advantage; and it is equally ill-judged of a nation
to neglect cultivating the advantages which she enjoys from nature, as
they are the most permanent and their possession the most certain of
any she can enjoy.

[end of page #210]

If nations were to consider in what branches of manufacture they are
best fitted to excel, it would save much rivalship, misunderstanding,
and jealousy; at the same time that it would tend greatly to increase
the general aggregate wealth of mankind. It is not to industry and
effort alone that mankind owe wealth, but to industry and effort well

This is well explained in the excellent Inquiry into the Causes of the
Wealth of Nations, and it is to be regretted that this truth is not more
generally understood; for it would contribute still more to the peace
and happiness of mankind, than to their commercial wealth.

There is not, however, any subject on which nations are so apt to err,
and, indeed, the error is natural enough, if the ambition of a rival is
not checked by judgement and attention to circumstances.

When a nation is particularly successful in one branch of manufacture
more than in any other, it is generally because some peculiar
circumstances give it an advantage. This ought to operate as a reason
for doubting whether it might be prudent to attempt to rival a nation in
an object in which it had particular advantages; but quite the contrary
is the case; a rival nation aims directly at the thing in which another
excels the most, and frequently fails when, in any other object, she
might have proved successful. {171}

The changes of the taste and manners of mankind, as well as
discoveries in arts and science, lay a foundation for political changes;
but it is an irregular foundation for change; its operation is sometimes
in favour of, and sometimes against the same nation, and it never can
be calculated beforehand.

As the nations that have improved in manufactures the latest have
always carried them to the greatest perfection, it is natural to inquire
how this happens.

The exertion of the mind and body are both of them greatly aug-

{171} How many ridiculous attempts have been made, in the north, to
rival the Italians in raising silk, and by enlightened men too; but it is
not sufficient to be enlightened, it is necessary to follow a proper train
of reasoning.--Good natural sense sometimes supplies the place of
regular reasoning, and, as if it were intuitively, arrives at a true

[end of page #211]

mented by success, and diminished by any thing of a contrary
description. The rising nation has always an increased energy, and that
which is about being rivalled a sort of discouragement and dismay.
This is one cause, but there are others.

So far as methods of working and machinery are connected, the
imitating nation has the advantage; it copies the best sort of machine,
and the best manner of working at once. The workmen have neither an
attachment to the old inferior methods, nor do they use old inferior
machines, to avoid the expense of new ones. {172} In short, they
adopt all improvements without much additional expense; and, as
men's minds are always more occupied in thinking about a new object
than an old one, they are even more likely to make improvements.

As to difficulties in rivalling a nation in skill, in any mechanical art,
there are none. The only difficulties in manufactures are in the
inventions and improvements, and those have been overcome by the
leading nation, and are no difficulties to that which follows. There are,
indeed, some arts which require particular talents, and a real exertion
of genius; but those are so few in number, and have so little
connection with the common affairs of mankind, or the wealth of
nations, that they do not deserve to be noticed.

There is nothing in the art of weaving, or working in metals, or in any
other material for common use, that is of such difficulty but that any
man, with a common capacity, may do it nearly as well as any other
man. The habits and manners of mankind, their disposition to labour,
and the nature of the government under which they live, may
encourage or discourage manufacturing; but both the strength and
capacity of any of the natives of Europe, taking them on an average,
are fully sufficient to enable them to excel in any work.

{172} Where machines are very expensive, new improvements, that
require other machinery, are sometimes crushed and rejected on that
account. To adopt them, a man must sometimes begin by sacrificing
half his fortune, by destroying his old machinery.

There have been several instances of this seen, particularly in the
making of iron, when it was proposed to convert the rough gueze into
good malleable iron bar, by rolling it at a welding heat, instead of
hammering it by a forge-mill.

[end of page #212]

{Here appears at page 212 the third chart, entitled
Shewing the Amount of the
Exports and Imports
to and from all parts
from 1800 to 1805"}

The British nation has begun to seek for wealth from agriculture. It
had long been the mode to pay attention and give the preference to
manufactures; but the current is, for the present, set in, in another
direction. Calculation has, till of late, been confined to mercantile
men; but, after all, they have not carried it to a very great length: and,
as to their speculative wisdom, it consists chiefly in taking a ready
advantage of some immediate object.


The space from right to left is divided into years, each line
representing the year marked under and above. From the beginning of
the last century, till the year 1770, every tenth year only is expressed,
and the average amount of exports and imports only is shewn; but,
from 1770 to the present time, every year is separately represented by
a line going from the top to the bottom.

The divisions from top to bottom are millions of pounds sterling, each
representing a million, measuring from the bottom, the number of
millions indicated is marked on the right margin.

As the exports, which are expressed by a red line, increased or
diminished, the red line rises or falls, crossing the division
representing the year at the line which indicates the number of
millions to which the exports amounted that year.

The yellow line is drawn on the same principle, and represents the
imports for the same years; the difference between the two, which is
stained green, being the balance for or against England.

Thus, for example, we see that, till the year 1775, the exports rose
very fast, and were far above the imports, but that then their
proportion begun =sic= to vary; insomuch that, in 1781, the yellow
line rose above the red, when the balance in favour of England turned
against it, to the amount of a million for one year. In 1782, the balance
again became favourable; but, though the trade was increasing, the
balance was once more, in 1785, against England; ever since which it
has been more or less in our favour.

The difference between the two lines is stained pale green, when the
balance was favourable, but of a pale red when against England.

[end of page #213]

The advantages proposed by this mode of representing matters are the
same that maps and plans have over descriptions, and dimensions
written in figures; and the same accuracy is in one case as the other;
for, whatever quantities can be expressed in numbers may be
represented by lines; and, where proportional progression is the
business, what the eye does in an instant, would otherwise require
much time.

The impression is not only simple, but it is as lasting in retaining as it
is easy in receiving. Such are the advantages claimed for the invention
twenty years ago, when it first appeared; the claim has been allowed
by many, and not objected to, so far as the inventor knows, either in
this or in any other country.


Chart of revenue, from the time of Queen Elizabeth to the present day.

Till the accession of William III. in 1688, the materials for this are not
altogether accurate; but they are not far wrong, and indeed, the low
state of the revenue, previous to that period, is such that it is a matter
of little importance whether or not they are very exact. It is
represented here rather as a contrast to the present high revenue, and a
matter of curiosity, than as being of much importance.

The pale red part expresses the free revenue, or what is over, after
paying the interest of our debt.

This free revenue has not increased so fast as the value of money has
decreased, previous to the year 1793; and certainly, at that time, the
annual sum of 7,000,000 L. was no equal to 4,000,000 L. in the reign
of Queen Anne.

The green part shews the annual interest of the national debt, and
proves, beyond contradiction, that, under such a system, expenses of
war (for the whole debt has been contracted for wars) augment in
much more than a simple proportion.

The yellow part, bounded by a curved line, shews the manner in which
the sinking fund will increase in its operation of paying off the debt,
on the supposition that the nation continues to borrow as it has [end of
page #214] done for the last twelve years; setting apart one per cent.
on every new loan, for its liquidation.

As comparative views are the great object of these charts, a yellow
dotted line is made, representing the amount of the revenue of France
during the same period, till 1789, when the revolution stopped its
progress; since which its amount has not been regularly known. {173}

{173} The author published an Atlas, containing twenty-seven charts
of the different branches of commerce, revenue, and finance, of
England, which was translated into French. The fifth edition, much
improved, and brought to the present time, is now printing, and will be
published in November.

[end of page #215]

CHAP. III. [=sic=--error in printer's copy, should read II.]

_Of Education, as conducted in England.--Amelioration proposed.--
Necessity of Government interfering, without touching the Liberty of
the Subject_.

The importance of education has been already mentioned, as it in
general regards all nations, and certainly when we have examples to
shew what are the lasting and terrible consequences of degradation of
national character and manners, it is impossible to pay too strict an
attention to that subject.

The natural tendency in a nation, while growing richer, to alter its
character, owing to the different manner in which the children are
educated and brought up, applies particularly to England, and to every
nation getting rich by trade or manufactures. In another part, it has
been observed, that where the wealth of a country circulates amongst
the labouring classes first, it alters the manner of living more than
when it originates with the higher; it produces, also, a greater change
on the education of children.

No part of the general inquiry is so particularly applicable to England,
in an excessive degree, as that relative to education. In proportion as
ignorant people arrive at that sort of affluence, which manufactures
and trade produce, in that same proportion do they ruin their children.
The manners, the nature of the government, and the way of thinking of
the people, all lead to this in England; and so far as it is possible to
observe the effect, it may be said to appear as if it operated with
rapidity at the present period.

Many volumes have been written on education, by the ablest men; but
it has already been observed, that they have all treated the subject in a
manner much too intricate and complex. Fully aware of the
importance, they seem to have thought that it could not be treated too
much at length, or investigated too minutely; and, by this means, what
they have said is little applicable to general purposes; for, if to educate
a man for common life were a difficult complicated operation, it
would very seldom be performed. [end of page #216]

{Here appears at page 216 the fourth and final chart, entitled
Representing the
Increase of the Annual Revenues
from the beginning of the 17th Century to
the present time"}

The word education itself appears to be misapplied or misunderstood,
owing, probably, to its original construction and use, and no other
word having been substituted in its place.

By education was meant, in former times, the teaching to read and
write; and these accomplishments, which, at that time, distinguished a
gentleman from the lower classes, and, by that means, education is
still considered as only applying to the learning of what is taught at
schools or universities. It is principally in this light that those who
have written on it have viewed it, though in fact _well brought up
(bien eleve)_ comes nearer to the meaning than being _well learnt_,
which is equivalent to well educated.

In this, as in every other thing, the end in view should never be
forgotten; but, as it happens with respect to the middling and lower
orders, it is forgotten so soon as affluence has made a little progress in
a country.

The education of the higher classes is generally pretty well conducted;
and, indeed, human beings, when beyond the reach of want, who do
not inherit the necessity derived from Adam, of gaining their bread by
the sweat of their brows, require much more teaching than others,
whose conduct is regulated by necessity, and who have not the means
of giving way to the passions that beset human nature.

With respect, however, to the higher classes, it is scarcely possible for
a government to interfere to much purpose. Those who are possessed
of fortune will act according to inclination; and, in respect to this class
of society, in England, it is already in less need of reform or
interference than any others, while the lower and middling classes
require it more.

There is no possibility for an ignorant man to become of any
importance in this country, even with the aid of wealth and fortune.
An immoral character, or a mean selfish one, has not a much better
chance, while, by talents and good conduct, every thing desirable may
be obtained: perhaps, nothing further can be done to excite men of
rank and fortune to emulation and virtue.

With respect to the learned professions, the modes by which students
are brought up to them are by no means unexceptionable; but that is
not a point of very great national importance; at any rate, [end of page
#217] it is not the part in which England stands the most in need of
attention {174} and interference from the government of the country.

The two classes to whom bringing up, as it is generally understood,
would apply better than the word education, are the middle rank of
society, and the lower order of people in trade.

The middle rank of society is, in all countries, the most important in
point of principles and manners. To keep it pure is always of the
highest importance, and it is the most difficult, for there a baneful
change is the most apt to take place.

Gentlemen of rank, in all countries, resemble each other very nearly;
not, perhaps, in exterior, because that depends on fashion, which is
arbitrary, but in mind and manners there is less difference than
between men in a second rank of society.

The lower orders, so far as they are forced, by necessity, to labour,
resemble each other also; they are pressed by necessities and passions
on one side, and the desire of rest on the other; and a fair allowance
being made for variety of climate, of circumstances, and of natural
dispositions, there is nothing very different amongst them. {175}

What applies with respect to the higher and lower orders does not

{174} Our lawyers (barristers) are probably superior to those of any
other nation, and the clergy are, at least, equal. This is not, indeed,
saying a great deal; but it is so difficult, in matters of religion, to
temper zeal, and draw a line between emulation and fanaticism, that,
perhaps, it is better that they should be a little remiss than righteous
overmuch. It is not in the education of churchmen, but in the manner
of paying and providing for them, that the error lies; and that subject is
treated elsewhere.

{175} Cervantes, in his admirable romance of Don Quixote, paints the
mind of a gentleman, which all countries will acknowledge to be like
the truth. The madness apart, the manner of thinking and acting was
that of the gentleman of Spain, France, Germany, or England. Neither
was he the gentleman of the fifteenth or eighteenth century, but of any
other century. His dress was Spanish; his madness and manners
belonged to the ages of chivalry and romance, but the mind and
principles of the gentleman suited all ages and all countries.

Sancho, again, barring likewise his oddities, is the peasant of all
countries; studying to live as well as he can, and labour as little as he
may. In short, a mind continually occupied about personal wants, and
alive to personal interest. In the middle ranks of society there is no
such similarity.

[end of page #218]

apply at all to the middling classes, nor even to the most wealthy class
of labourers in a manufacturing country: in those we can find no fixed
character; it is as variable as the circumstances in which the
individuals are placed, and it is there that a government should
interfere. It should interfere in guiding the richer classes of working
people, and the middling ranks, in the education of their children, and
in assisting those of the lower orders, who are too much pressed upon
by indigence.

The end in view in all education is to make the persons, whether men
or women, fill their place well and properly in life; and this is only to
be done by setting a good example, instilling good principles,
accustoming them, when young, to good habits; and, above all, by
teaching them how to gain more than they are habituated to spend.

It follows from this, that industry, and a trade, are the chief parts of
education, that reading and writing are not, being but of a very
doubtful utility to the labouring class of society.

On this subject, it is absolutely necessary to advert to what Dr. Smith
says relative to apprenticeships; the opinion of so great a writer is of
too much importance not to be examined, and refuted, if found wrong.

Apprenticeships, or teaching a trade, is the basis of the future
happiness and prosperity of the individual in the lower and middle
classes. On this subject, however, Mr. Smith says quite the contrary.
That the idleness of apprentices is well known, that their inducement
to industry is small, and that, as to what they have to learn, a few
weeks, or sometimes a few days, would, in most cases, be sufficient.
In short, he maintains, that they would learn better, be more
industrious and useful, if employed on wages, than if bound for a term
of years; and, finally, that there were no apprentices amongst the
ancients. As to there being no apprentices in the ancient world, if that
was the case, is no argument with respect to the present state of things;
for, while most part of working men were slaves, there could not
possibly be much occasion for apprentices; but are we quite certain,
that the freed men, so often mentioned, were not people who had
served apprenticeships? Freed men are so often mentioned, that there
must have been probably something else to which they owed their
freedom, besides the goodwill or [end of page #219] caprice of their
masters, particularly as that goodwill must have been exercised to
deserving objects, and consequently the sacrifice made in giving
liberty was the greater. {176}

As men cultivated difficult arts; that is, as luxury increased, it must
have become difficult to get labour done by slaves, merely by
compulsive means; there must have been bargain and mutual interest
settled between the master and the slave, so as to accomplish the end
intended. {177} Amongst rewards to a slave, liberty, at a certain
period, is not only the greatest, but is the only one that effectually
serves the slave; for, while he remains the property of a master, his
rewards can consist of little else than good treatment, as all property
given is liable to be taken back again.

Supposing, however, the point yielded, and that there were no
apprentices in the early ages; but that the practice originated in the
days of ignorance; in the dark ages, under the feudal system, together
with the invention of corporations and privileged bodies, against
whose existence the whole set of economists have leagued together, as
the Greeks did against Troy; still the obscurity of the origin is no
objection. A constitution like that of Britain, for example, is not an
invention of antiquity; it took its rise in the dark ages and in times of
ignorance, but it is not for that the less an object of admiration. Many
other examples may be furnished of the admirable things that took rise
in the dark ages; and amongst them, not the least, is the abolition of
slavery itself. {178}

Let us, however, examine the effect of apprenticeships in those places
where they can be compared with persons brought up entirely free.

{176} We may form some idea of the difficulty of getting work done
by people in no way interested in the success, by the workhouses in
this country. The smallest quantity, and of the most simple nature, is
all we get done, because the overseers are ignorant, and the nation
inattentive, and the labour compulsive.

{177} In Egypt, and most other ancient countries, the son followed, by
law, the trade of his father: this was equivalent to an apprenticeship.

{178} Whether it arose from the mixture of a northern with the
southern people, or from what other cause, it is certain, that, during
the ages of ignorance, the foundation was laid for almost all that is
great, at the present time.

[end of page #220]

If there are trades, where it is true, (as Mr. Smith affirms,) that the art
of working may be learnt in a few weeks, what are the consequences?
At the age of sixteen or seventeen, a boy can get as much money as he
will be able to earn at any future time in his life; he will be able to get
as much as a man, who has a wife and five or six children to maintain.
There will be required a very great share of moderation and wisdom,
indeed, under such circumstances, to prevent such a boy from wasting
his money in ways that will incapacitate him from living easy when he
shall become a father of a family himself, or from idling away the
spare time that his gains afford him. He will, naturally, do part of
both: but the way that is generally done is this. Without controul from
a master, and totally independent of parents, who are quite left behind
in poverty, (not having more to maintain their whole family than the
youth himself earns,) he despises them, saves a little money at first,
and purchases finery. The novelty of dress soon wears off, and the
more immediate pleasures of eating, drinking, and keeping company,
as it is termed, take the lead. The consequence of the same is idleness
and rags. Ashamed to shew himself amongst persons of better
conduct, the youth changes his place of residence and work; habit has
got hold of him, and labour becomes hateful; a soldier's life appears
the best for a youth of such a description; and, it is an undoubted fact,
that, at those places where trades are carried on, that can be learnt in a
short time, {179} there are more recruits obtained for the army than in
any other districts of equal population. It is also an undoubted fact,
that, in these same districts, the most respectable people bind their
sons apprentices; and, in doing so, they are guided by experience, and
affection for their children, not by interested motives.

{179} This is not the case with many trades, and Mr. Smith is under a
mistake as to the fact; but, granting it to be true, the places in
question, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, and other towns where the
division of labour reduces every operation to great simplicity, are the
best for recruiting the army. In those places, all respectable people,
who can afford it, bind their sons apprentices, to prevent the danger.

[end of page #221]

In the other case, again, where a trade is not easily learnt, how is skill
to be obtained but by an apprenticeship. The bringing the son up to his
father's trade, a practice that prevails in the eastern parts of Asia, is
one way; parental authority needs not the aid of a written indenture;
but, where this is not the case, who is to teach a youth, if he is not to
be bound for a certain number of years, but to go away as soon as he
has learnt a trade? The father, in some cases, may be able to pay for
his son learning the trade, and this experiment has sometimes been
tried, but generally with very imperfect success. The youth, for the
most part, in those cases, considers himself as independent of the
master, and gives himself very little trouble to learn his business.

Where the reward of the master, or rather the remuneration for his
pains and trouble, is to arise from the labour of the boy, the master is
interested in his learning; and the other feels an obligation, as well as
an interest in learning. Though the apprentice is not absolutely paid
for what he does, he finds his ease, his importance, and comfort, all
depend on his proficiency; and, with young minds, such motives are
much more powerful, and act through a better channel than avarice.

The power that the legislature gives to a master over his apprentice
appears not only to be wise but necessary; and, if rewards for earning
a trade could be given, in addition to that without infringing on liberty,
or burthening the state, it would be a great advantage.

But learning a trade is not the only advantage of an apprenticeship; a
good moral conduct, fidelity, and attention to his duties, are all
acquired at the same time, or ought to be so; whereas, the youth who,
at an early age, is left without control, is apt to learn just the

Where people have fortune, circumstances give them a control over
their children by expectancies; but, where there is no fortune, and
children must provide for themselves, an apprenticeship is a substitute
for expectancies, which appears highly necessary; and it is wonderful
how so discriminating and profound a man as Dr. Smith could
overlook so material a circumstance. It shews how far prejudice, and
an [end of page #222] opinion once adopted, will lead men of the first
judgement and genius astray; {180} for it is not to be supposed that
any person will stand forward of himself to maintain an opinion
against which experience speaks so decidedly.

To learn a trade, and be taught a good moral conduct, and attention to
one's duty, is certainly the essential part of education, both in the
lower and middling classes; and that portion of education, which
appears to have got an exclusive title to the name, reading and writing,
are, with the working classes, a very inferior object.

One of the duties of government, then, is to watch over the education
of the children of the middling and lower orders, which has a tendency
to grow worse, as the nation advances in wealth.

In England, the pride of the middling classes is to have their children
educated at boarding-schools, where the business of eating, sleeping,
dressing, and exercise, is pretty well understood; where the branches
of education, pretended to be taught, are little attended to, (writing,
and some exterior accomplishments, of which the father and mother
can judge, excepted,) where moral conduct, the duties in life, and the
conduct necessary to be followed, are scarcely once thought of.

It is true, that, till a certain age, it is generally not known for what
particular line of life a young man is intended; but, there are certain
things necessary to every line of life, and those should never be
neglected. The habits contracted at schools are very often of a sort
never to be got the better of; and how can good habits be contracted
when no attention is bestowed on the subject?

The consequence of this is, that, when the good sense of the father or
mother, or of the boy himself, does not correct the evil, he is bred up
to consider himself as born to be waited on, and provided for, without
any effort of his own; he is led to suppose that he is to indulge

{180} In the notes upon the Wealth of Nations, this case is argued, but
the matter is too important not to be examined on every occasion and
opportunity. The opinion here alluded to is that general way of
thinking, respecting corporations, privileges, and regulations, or
restraints of every sort imposed on trade, which the writers on political
economy, in general, think ought all to be entirely done away.

[end of page #223]

in a life similar to that his father leads at home, where a few
indulgencies =sic= are the natural consequences of age, and the fair
returns for a life employed in care and industry.

In England, it would be absolutely necessary to make school-masters
undergo an examination; not only at first, and before the school should
be licensed, but the boys should be examined twice a year, and the
result enregistered, so that the business would really be to learn
something, and not merely to spend the time.

The small proficiency made in the schools, in England, and around
London in particular, is incredible. It is even difficult to conceive how
the boys avoid learning a little more than they generally do, during
eight or ten years. {181} The masters pretend, for the most part, to
teach boys Latin, by way of teaching them English, but without almost
ever accomplishing it. In arithmetic, the common rules are taught, but
scarcely ever decimal fractions, and almost never book-keeping, so
useful and so easy an art.

Writing and spelling are better taught, perhaps, than in any other
country, and, certainly, those are great advantages; but, according to
the time and money spent, it is the least that can be expected. Here we
may remark, that those are the only acquirements with the proficiency
in which the father and mother are necessarily acquainted; it therefore
gives reason for thinking, that, if the same check were held in other
branches of their education, they would be excited to make equal

When the time comes that it is fixed on what line of life a young man
is to adopt, then there should be schools for different branches, where

{181} Without contesting the point, whether dead languages are of
any use, it will be allowed that the study costs pretty dear. Three-
quarters of the time, for seven years employed on that is equal to five
years employed constantly, and twenty pounds a year, at least, is the
expense. Not above one in one hundred learns to read even Latin
decently well, that is one good reader for every 10,000 L. expended.
As to speaking Latin, perhaps, one out of one thousand may learn that,
so that there is a speaker for each sum of 100,000 L. spent on the
language. It will, perhaps, be said, that Latin is necessary to the
understanding English, but the Greeks, (particularly at Athens,) who
learnt no language but their own, understood and spoke it better than
the people of any other country.

[end of page #224]

there should be knowledge taught, analogous to the profession. For the
mercantile line, for agriculture, for every line of life, boys should be
prepared; and, above all, it should never be neglected to instil into
them the advantages of attention to industry, to doing their duty, and
in every case making themselves worthy of trust.

Public examinations, such honours and rewards as would be
gratifying, but not expensive, for those that excelled, would produce
emulation. Though, perhaps, it is not of very great importance to excel
in some of the studies to which a young man applies at school, yet it is
of great importance to be taught that habit of application that produces

With regard to the education of the lower classes, it would be no great
additional burthen to the nation if there were proper schools
established in every parish in the kingdom, at the expense of the
public, in order that there might be a proper control over those who
teach, and over what is taught. {182} Without going so far as to
compel people of the lower classes to send their children to school,
they might be induced to do it for a short time, and, at all events, care
should be taken that the teachers were fit for the office they undertake.

In no country do the lower classes neglect the care of their children
more, or set them a worse example, than in England; they are mostly
brought up as if the business of eating and drinking were the chief
purpose of human existence; they are taught to be difficult to please,
and to consider as necessary what, in every other nation in Europe, is
considered, by the same rank of people, as superfluous.

Although the lower orders have as good a right as the most affluent to
indulge in every enjoyment they can afford, yet to teach this to
children, without knowing what may be their lot, is doing both them
and society an injury. A great number of crimes arise from early

{182} As there are between nine and ten thousand parishes, twenty
pounds given in each, to which the schoolmaster would be allowed to
add what those who were able could pay, might perhaps answer the
purpose, and would not amount to a great sum.

[end of page #225]

gence of children, and from neglecting to instil into them those
principles which are necessary to make them go through life with
credit and contentment. {183}

The Spartans used to shew their youth slaves or Helots in a state of
intoxication, in order to make them detest the vice of drunkenness; but
this was the exhibition of a contemptible and mean person in a
disgraceful situation. The effect is very different when children see
those they love and respect in this state; it must have the effect of
either rendering the parent contemptible, or the vice less odious, it
perhaps has some effect both ways; but, at all events, it must operate
as a bad example, and, amongst the lower classes, it is a very common

When a nation becomes the slave of its revenue, and sacrifices very
=sic= thing to that object, abuses that favour revenue are difficult to
reform; but surely it would be well to take some mode to prevent the
facility with which people get drunk, and the temptation that is laid to
do so. The immense number of public houses, and the way in which
they give credit, are undoubtedly, in part, causes of this evil. It would
be easy to lessen the number, without hurting liberty, and it would be
no injustice if publicans were prevented from legal recovery for beer
or spirits consumed in their houses, in the same manner that payment
cannot be enforced of any person under twenty-one years of age,
unless for necessaries. There could be no hardship in this, and it would
produce a great reform in the manners of the lower orders.

There are only three modes of teaching youth the way to well-doing,--
by precept, by example, and by habit at an early age. Precept,
without example and habit, has but little weight, yet how can a child
have either of these, if the parents are encouraged and assisted in
living a vicious life? Nations and individuals should guard

{183} The French, before the revolution, were not be =sic=
considered as a more virtuous people than the English, yet there were
fewer crimes, and less dissipation amongst the lower orders than in
England, and more amongst the higher. The French, particularly the
mothers, have less affection for their children, yet they brought them
up better, both in habits and in principles.

[end of page #226]

against those vices to which they find they have a natural disposition;
and drinking and gluttony are the vices to which the common people
in this country are the most addicted.

Whatever other things may be taught, let this truth be instilled into all
children brought up to earn their bread, that in proportion to their
diligence will be their ease and enjoyment, and that this world is a
world of sorrow and grief to the idle and the ignorant; that knowledge
does not consist in being able to read books, but in understanding
one's business and duty in life, and that industry consists in doing it.

Female education, in England, requires as much reform as that of the
other sex; but, though the subject is not much less important, it is
perhaps still more difficult. It has been remarked, by those who have
travelled abroad, that, in other countries, women are in general not
better, but rather worse dressed than men of the same rank: in England
it is different; for, at an early age, the women are dressed, both as to
style and quality of clothes, far above their rank. This might, perhaps,
not be difficult to account for, but it undoubtedly is a misfortune, and
one that is greatly increased by the mode of education and manner of
thinking; for the main and indispensable virtue of that amiable sex
excepted, (for which Englishwomen are highly distinguished,) perhaps
no women in the world are brought up in a more frivolous unmeaning
manner. The French women, with all their vivacity and giddy airs,
have more accomplishment; {184} and, as they speak their mind
pretty plainly, they have, on many occasions, testified surprise to find
English ladies, who had studied music for years, who could scarcely
play a tune, and who, after devoting years to the needle, were
incapable of embroidering a pin-cushion.

Novels, a species of light, insipid, and dangerous reading, are the bane
of English female education. They teach a sort of false romantic
sentiment, and withdraw the mind from attention to the duties of

{184} The emigrants have taught to ladies of rank, fashions; and to
those of an inferior class, arts and industry. The English women did
not know half what they could do, till the French came amongst them,
about twelve years ago.

[end of page #227]

life, at a time when it should be taught to learn their high importance.
In female education the government should interfere; for the education
of the mother will always have an influence on the education of the
son, as her conduct in life must have on that of her husband.

As one general observation, relative to the education given at most
public schools, it may be observed, that, whilst much time is taken up
in teaching things that can never probably be of great utility, that
species of knowledge that does not belong to any particular class, but
which is of the utmost importance, is left to chance and to accident.
While a boy is tormented with learning a dead language he is left to
glean, as in a barren field, for all those rules of conduct on which the
prosperity and happiness of his future life depends. {185}

A public education is, in many respects, better than a private one for
boys, but, in some things, it is inferior: consequently those who can
afford it, and wish to give their sons the most complete education, try
to unite the advantages of both, by sending them to a public school,
under the care of a private tutor. It is not in the power of the middling
classes to do this; but modes should be adopted to give the boys, either
by books or public lectures, those instructions, relative to moral
conduct, to prudence, behaviour, &c. which a private tutor gives to
those under his particular charge.

As to female education, it is a difficult subject: one great improvement
would, nevertheless, be not to allow above a certain number in any
one seminary; to have people of irreproachable conduct over them,
and, wherever the parents can, to bring them home at the age of
thirteen or fourteen. The public education ought certainly to finish at
an early age, and, in all cases, with respect to females, a private is
much preferable to a public education. {186}

{185} The most virtuous of the Roman emperors attributed to his
preceptors every one of those excellent qualities he possessed. The
ancient education of Greece and Rome was very different from that of
the moderns.

{186} Since this was written, we understand a book for this very
purpose is about to be printed, with the professed design of uniting the
advantages of a public and private education.

[end of page #228]


_Of the Effects of Taxation in England_.

What has been said of the increase of taxes, their tendency to ruin a
nation, and bring on its decline, together with the counteraction
occasioned by the continuance of necessity, as being applicable to all
nations in general, applies, in every sense, to England, and even more
to England than to any other nation. Taxes are carried to greater
excess than in any other country; and, as England flourishes by trade
and manufactures, (the price of which taxes enhance,) they gradually
tend to shut foreign markets against us. This has already been
explained; we, however, still have to inquire into the particular
manner in which it operates upon this country.

That the system of taxation, though irregular in England, is less so
than in any other country, in proportion to the extent to which it has
been carried, is true; but still, however, if a number of the most
troublesome and ill-contrived taxes were done away, and others
established in their place, it would be a great advantage.

Greater danger arises from the augmentation of taxes in a wealthy
country than in a poor one, when they stretch beyond the proper line,
because the general prosperity hinders the effect from being visible,
till it has advanced beyond the power of remedy; whereas, in a poor
country, the injury is soon felt.

The invention and industry of this country have been most
wonderfully increased by the necessity of exertion, under the
protection of good laws, which rendered property secure. But we trust
too much to our resources, and, like men in health and vigour, are the
most likely to injure our constitution.

The most part of the arts, in point of manufacturing, seem to have
come to nearly the last degree of perfection, so far as abbreviation of
labour can carry them. [end of page #229]

The division of labour, and the modes of working in the iron and
metal branches, have not of late been in any material degree improved
in our towns, the most famous for them; and as to any particular gift
of bringing things to perfection, or reducing prices, it does not appear
to be confined to England. Watches and fire-arms are two of the most
ingenious and nice branches of metal manufactures; yet, at Liege, the
latter is carried to greater perfection than at Birmingham, and London
and Lancashire are outdone by Switzerland, in the former. Those,
indeed, are not manufactures of which the taste or form is constantly
altering; but they are a proof of the ability to work with equal
advantage, both as to quality and price, with the manufacturers of this

The next great branches are the weaving. For silks, France has always
had the advantage of us; and our fine woollen cloths have never
equalled those of Louvier and Sedan for quality, although, in point of
price, they have the advantage.

In linens, we enjoy no particular pre-eminence; and, in the American
market, we are beginning to be undersold by those of Silesia. For a
second quality of woollen cloth, and for the manufacture of cotton, in
all its branches, we still have the superiority; but our great advantage,
the cause of the general preference to our manufactures is the long
credit we give, which, if it should ever cease to be practicable, would
ruin not one, but all our manufactures, nearly at a stroke.

It is very natural and very well for Englishmen, who have never been
out of their own country, to ascribe to superiority of quality, (and
inferiority of price is the same thing,) the great success they have in
selling their goods in foreign countries; but such as have had an
opportunity to see how it really is, know the contrary; and those who
have not, may know it by observing who are the individuals in any
branch of business at home that do the most, and they will find it
always to be those who have the power of giving the longest credit. It
is true that, in the course of time, and by struggling hard, those who
have little means of extending their business at first, do it by degrees;
but, until they do, they never can, in point of quantity, rival those who
give long credit.

[end of page #230]

In the inability of other nations to give equal length of credit, consists
our principal advantage; but we have seen, by the vicissitudes of
ancient nations, that the wants of others, or their being behindhand,
are but a very insecure tenure for the prosperity of any nation.

The exportation of Britain was but inconsiderable at the beginning of
last =sic= century, or about one-ninth of what it was two years
ago.{187} Previous to the American war, it gradually increased to
about three times what it was in the year 1700; that is, in seventy-five
years. The progression was pretty regular till the year 1750, when it
had risen to nearly double; but, in twenty-five years after, it increased
as much as it had in fifty years before. The American war threw it
back forty years, but it soon got up again to where it probably would
have been, had the American war not intervened; it, however, rose
beyond any thing that had ever been seen. It doubled in less than ten
years; and, from this, we are led to conclude, that the taxes had not
then begun to hurt national industry. But we shall see the reason, for
the great increase was not owing so much to any cause inherent in this
nation, as to the absolute impossibility of other nations continuing
their commerce. We had got all the East and West India trade of the
French and Dutch, and America had again become our greatest
customer for British manufactures.

Capital that could be removed was, in a manner, banished from the
continent of Europe, and had taken refuge in England, and a great
extent of the continent had been desolated with war. We are not,
however, to expect this amazing export trade to continue; indeed, it
has already fallen, in one year, as much as it ever rose in any three
years; it fell fifteen millions in one year. The taxes may have operated
much against our prosperity, without our knowing it, in a crisis of this
sort, though they did not absolutely counteract the favourable effect
produced by other causes.

The commerce of the American states, which were, (like England,)
out of the vortex of danger, and secure, increased in fully as rapid

{187} In 1802, the exports amounted to 45,500,000 L. In 1702 to
5,500,000 L.

[end of page #231]

a manner as ours, and fell off in the same way. We must not then,
consider as durable, or owing to ourselves, circumstances that arose
out of the general and temporary situation of other nations.

It has been said in the general chapter on taxation, and again repeated
in that on national debt, that both the one and the other operate, for a
certain time, in augmenting the industry and wealth of a country, but
that there is some point at which they begin to have a contrary effect;
that point, however, being dependent on a variety of circumstances, is
not a fixed one, it cannot be discovered by investigation before the
time, but it may by symptoms and signs that become visible soon

It is a sign that a nation has passed the point at which taxes cease to be
a spur to industry, when the duties on consumption, or optional duties,
which one may avoid paying, by not using the article taxed, become
less productive than formerly, and when it is found necessary to lay
taxes on land, houses, and such sort of property as can be made to pay,
independent of the will of the proprietor.

When taxes are laid upon property, not on consumption, it is to be
supposed the latter can bear no more. Taxes on property are forced
taxes; on consnmption =sic=, they are generally, to a certain degree,
voluntary, though not always so.

The augmentation of wealth has, in this country, been great, but it has
never been regular or uninterrupted; that of taxation has, on the
contrary, been uninterrupted, and this is better seen from the chart
than from any thing that can be said. There can be no doubt that,
though hitherto our increasing prosperity has been so great as to
counteract the effect of heavy taxation, yet that the same thing cannot
be expected to continue long. How long it may continue, or whether it
has not already ceased, or is on the point of ceasing, is uncertain; but
there is nothing more positive, than that, if taxes increase, they must,
in process of time, crush industry, and, therefore, at all events, they
should be kept as low as possible.

The whole income of the country is estimated only at 150,000,000 L.
The taxes to the state amount to 40,000,000 L. and those for the
maintenance of the poor to 5,500,000 L. But this is the mere money
ac-[end of page #232] count, without estimating loss of time, trouble,
and inconvenience; so that it may fairly and reasonably be put down at
one-third of the whole revenue or income of the individuals, yet the
complaints are not so loud, and the clamour is not so great, as when
they did not amount to one-twentieth of that revenue. This may,
however, be accounted for.

One-third part of revenue is derived from the state itself, so that there
are but two-thirds remain independent of it. The habit of bearing
burthens, and experience of the inutility of complaint, are likewise
reasons for acquiescence; besides these, we cannot but all be sensible,
that complaints were very violent when there was little occasion for
them. We cannot deny, that the nation has been prospering for a
hundred years, while the cry of ruin has been resounding perpetually
in every corner; it is therefore natural to mistrust our fears, and sit in
silence, waiting the event.

The portion of our expense that consists in interest of money, on
which no economy can operate, is so great, that it prevents any hope
of much diminution from economy; and, indeed, in the time of peace,
no economy that could be practised, more than what has commonly
been done, would diminish our burthens one-fiftieth part. Even that
would be very difficult, perhaps impracticable; for our free revenue, in
time of peace, has not augmented in proportion to the diminution of
the value of money; so that, in 1792, the expenses of the state were
comparatively less than in the reign of Queen Anne.

Economy, then, is not the mode in which we must seek relief in time
of peace. To carry on war in a less expensive manner in future, and
take a solid and effectual method of reducing our debts, are the means,
both of which are treated of in their proper place.

The modes of relief then, are three:

1. Economy in war.

2. A solid and fair method of reducing the present interest.

3. Attention, to render the system of taxation as little troublesome, and
as fair and equal as possible.

[end of page #233]


_Of the National Debt and Sinking Fund.--Advantages and
Disadvantages of both.--Errors committed in calculating their
Effects.--Causes of Error.--Mode proposed for preventing future

In no circumstance does the British empire differ so widely from all
nations recorded in history, or from any now in existence, as with
regard to the national debt.

Not only the invention of contracting debt to carry on war is but of
recent origin, but no nation has ever carried it to near the extent that it
has arrived at in England. The Italian states, in which this mode was
first practised, never had the means of carrying it very far. In Spain,
France, and Holland, national debt met with obstacles that arrested its
progress long before it arrived at the pitch to which it has now come in
this country.

The interest of the debt is above thrice the free revenue of the country,
in time of peace, as that revenue was, previous to hostilities in 1793.

Whenever any operation is begun, the result of which is not known,
owing to its being new, but which is in itself of great importance; the
anxiety it occasions must be great, and, generally, the alarm is more
than proportioned to the danger. If ever this truth was exemplified in
any thing, it has been with regard to the national debt of England,
which has been a continual object of terror since its first creation; not
a public terror, merely amongst the ignorant, but the most profound
and enlightened statesmen. Calculators, and writers on political
economy, have served to augment the uneasiness by their predictions
of a fatal termination.

While the debt has been augmenting with great rapidity, the wealth
and resources of the nation have, at least, augmented equally fast, and
the matter of fact has given the lie to all the forebodings of those who
[end of page #234] occasioned the alarm. This very extraordinary
circumstance merits an investigation.

It unfortunately happens, that, where people are deeply interested in a
subject, they form their opinion before they begin to examine and
investigate, and consequently the mind commences with a bias, and
acts under its influence, the consequence of which is, that the
conclusion is not so accurate as it otherwise would be. Not that, in
calculating with figures, the disposition of the mind can make an unit
of difference, the question being once fairly stated; but the previous
impression on the mind tends to prevent the fair statement of the

That an uninterrupted practice of borrowing must end in an inability to
pay is a self-evident axiom. It is not a matter that admits of dispute;
but to fix the point where the inability will commence is a problem to
resolve of a very difficult nature; it is indeed a problem, the re-
solution =sic= of which depends upon some circumstances that cannot
be ascertained. There are, it is true, certain fixed principles; but there
are some points also that depend on events entirely unconnected with
the debt, and, in themselves, uncertain. Two great considerations, that
operate powerfully, have been omitted by most writers on this subject.
The first, is the increased energy of human exertion, under an
increased operation of necessity; the second, is the effect that the
depreciation of money has, on lessening the apparent burthen
occasioned by the interest of the debt. That these two causes, which
have not been taken into account, have rendered the calculations
erroneous, there is not a doubt; and how far they may still continue to
operate is, at this time, as uncertain as ever; but they ought not to be
considered as of operation beyond a certain unknown point, else the
practice of contracting debt would be capable of infinite extension,
which is impossible.

But the augmentation of the debt itself is not the only circumstance
that excites attention, as intimately connected with the fate of this

The increasing wealth and prosperity of the nation, under the heavy
load of taxes, of which the debt is the principal occasion, is as much a
matter of surprize as the ultimate result is an object of anxiety.

So long, however, as the nation is not actually born =sic= down by the
[end of page #235] weight of taxes, its wealth must increase; and,
what is considered as a very strange phenomenon, is only the natural
and necessary consequence of increased taxation.

When men inhabit and cultivate land of their own, they are under no
necessity of creating any greater value than they consume; but, when
they pay RENT and TAXES, they are laid under a necessity of
producing enough to supply their own wants, and to pay the rent and
taxes to which they are subject. The same is the case with regard to
manufacturers in every line of business, for though they do not,
perhaps, consume any part of what they produce, (what comes to the
same thing is that,) they are obliged to produce as much as will
exchange, or sell, for all they want to consume, over and above paying
their rent and taxes.

Without rent and taxes there are only three things that excite the
exertion of man:--Necessity, arising from natural wants; a love of
pleasure; or, a love of accumulation.

When a man labours no more than for his mere natural necessities, he
is a poor man, in the usual acceptation =sic= of the word, that is, he
has no wealth; {188} and a nation, peopled with such men, would
justly be called a poor nation. When a man labours for nothing more
than what he expends on pleasure, or to gratify his taste and passions,
it is still the same, he consumes what he creates, and there is an end of
the matter; and, whether he creates much or little, as his consumption
is regulated by it, no difference is made to society; but, when rent and
taxes constitute a part of the price of every commodity, the
consumption of every man, whether he pays any taxes directly or not,
himself, is attended with an increase to the revenues of those who
receive the rent and taxes, and obliges him to create more than he

{188} Some philosophers call a man rich, who wants little, and has
that little; they are quite right, in their way, but that does not apply
here. Perhaps, according to their definition, the Lazzaroni of Naples
are richer than the merchants of London; and, a man who is contented
in a parish work-house, is, beyond dispute, rich; to say that such a man
is wealthy would be absurd, because wealth, with writers on political
economy, implies being possessed of real tangible property.

[end of page #236]

It arises from this, that the aggregate wealth of a people increases with
rent and taxes; for, where there are neither, the desire of accumulation
is the only thing that increases wealth. {189}

It is for this reason, that, by obliging a man to create more than he
himself consumes, taxation increases the wealth of a nation; so that
the flourishing state of England is a very natural effect of heavy
taxation. The misery and poverty of those people who have little or
nothing to pay, is equally natural, though it does not astonish one quite
so much.

As there is nothing in the world without a bound, and a limit, it is
clear, that, in laying it down as a principle, that rent and taxes
occasion wealth instead of poverty, it is only to be understood, to a
certain extent; that is to say, to the length to which the nature of things
will admit of the exertion of man augmenting his industry, but not a
step farther.

To ascertain this point would be to solve a most curious problem;
observing, that the solution would, in every case, depend on a great
variety of particular circumstances.

Something like a general investigation, however, is possible. It will
not be accurate, nor is that wanted, but it may lay the foundation for
understanding the matter better at a future period.

In London, rent and taxes are heavier than in any other part of the
kingdom, and in Scotland they are less than in any other; yet, the
working people, from all parts of the kingdom, come to London, and
from the poorest places, in the greatest numbers. Ireland, Scotland,
and Wales, are the poor countries, _lightly taxed_, and from them

{189} Accumulation is sometimes not a passion, but arises from
necessity; by accumulation, is meant the increasing the value of the
stock you possess, whether it consists of land, cattle, money, or

Thus, for example, the Americans are increasing in wealth, from
necessity, because their country is becoming better, by being
cultivated, in order to produce what is necessary. They cannot have
what they want, in the way they wish, without increasing or bettering
the property of which they have taken possession.

If they had no more rent and taxes than they have, and if this were not
the case, they would remain a poor people. Thus, the inhabitants of
Syria, of Egypt, of Arabia Felix, formerly the finest countries in the
world, having a property that does not better in their possession, and
having scarcely either rent or taxes to pay, remain, from generation to
generation, creating little, and consuming what they create.

[end of page #237]

people come, perpetually, to pay _heavy taxes_ in London. Yes, but it
will be said, in answer, these are poor countries. They are, however,
richer than England was in the days of Queen Elizabeth; and, if the
nature of things could have admitted of people _changing centuries_,
as they _change countries_, the people of the seventeenth century,
with light taxes, would have emigrated to the nineteenth century, with
all its heavy taxes, just as those Irish and Scotch come to London.

This proves that, even in London, the excess of taxes is not yet such as
to create a retrograde effect, and it proves it in a very striking manner.
Though there may, at first sight, appear something ludicrous in the
idea of emigrating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth, from the
reign of Queen Elizabeth to that of his present majesty, it is a perfectly
fair comparison, and will hold good, examine it as much as one will.
The common expression, (and a very significant one it is,) that one
part of the country is a century behind another, or twenty years, or
fifty years, is exactly the same idea, expressed in other words, for it is
a comparison between the changes which a lapse of time makes in one
case, and a removal of place in the other. The present times are then
better to live in than those of Elizabeth, as London is better than any
distant part of the country.

That the ability of the nation to sustain a given burthen, for a certain
number of years, is no proof of a permanent ability to support it, must
be admitted, even if the same annual resources were to continue; but,
that permanent ability becomes much less certain, when we consider
that the annual resources are perpetually varying, that, therefore, they
have so many uncertain quantities, that it is impossible to resolve the

As to the effect, with respect to the increasing the burthens of the
people, that has been treated under the general head of taxation.
Whether the money goes to pay for a ship of war, a regiment of
soldiers, or the interest of loans, makes no difference to him who pays
the tax; and, indeed, makes little to the general system of national
economy, as, in every case, what is paid to the state is employed on
unproductive labourers or idle people. That is to say, it is consumed,
and never appears again.

[end of page #238]

National debt, then, so far as it increases the taxes of a country, is like
any other national expenditure; and, in maintaining unproductive and
idle people, it is also the same; but it has, in another point of view, a
different effect, and that effect is an advantageous one.

In every nation, the greatest part of the capital is employed, or, as it is
called, sunk. Land, houses, machines, merchandize, &c. are the
principal employments of capital. As those are transferred from one to
another, or as the use or produce of them is paid for, by one to
another, money is wanted occasionally; and, if there were no other
employments, money must either be lying idle in some persons =sic=
hands, till an employment could be found for it, or the possessor of it
must begin some enterprise, and sink it himself.

But, when money is thus employed, it is no longer in the power of the
proprietor; and, though money may be borrowed on such sort of
security, it is slowly, and with difficulty. The expense, the
inconveniency =sic=, and time necessary, prevent the lenders of
money from lending any for occasional purposes on such sort of
security; but when a nation borrows, and the stock is divisible and
transferable at will, money can always be realized when it is wanted
for any purpose that affords a greater advantage than the stock affords.

Without this had been one of the effects of national debt, how could
the facility of borrowing have increased, {191} as it has done? or how
could merchants and individuals raise the sums they now do? {192}

{190} In 1793, 5,000,000 L. was lent to merchants on exchequer-bills.
The property, on which the money was secured, was really
merchandize, but the lenders would have nothing to do with the
goods; government stepped in, and took the goods as a security,
creating a stock transferrable, that represented the same goods, and, as
if by magic, the money was found in a moment. I know of no
operation so fit for elucidating the advantage of national debt as this.

{191} Borrowing on life rents is bad, for this reason; where there is no
employment of this sort, all money is constantly employed in some
sort of trade or enterprise that will produce profit, but cannot be
realised. Example, Paris, &c.

{192} When money was wanted, in Queen Anne's time, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, (Mr. Montague,) attended by the Lord
Mayor and Sheriffs, went about, from shop to shop, to borrow it,
much in the way that is occasionally practised by the beadles for a
public charity!! Yet England's credit was good, it owed little, the war
was popular, and the country rich.

[end of page #239]

It must be allowed that one hundred millions, or at least a much
smaller sum than our debts amount to now, would have produced this
effect, and might answer every purpose of this sort, but there is still a
consideration arising from the fluctuations in a stock, when it is small,
and also from the number of persons possessed of it. People buy in
and sell out with total indifference when the quantity is great, and the
fluctuations small; but, the moment the funds are agitated, whether in
rising or falling, money becomes scarce for those who want it for
other purposes.

That the number of persons ready to buy and sell must be
proportioned, in some degree, to the quantity of stock, is of itself so
evident, that it would be useless to enlarge upon it; but it must be
granted that the national debt has long ago passed the sum that was
necessary to produce this advantage.

We find, then, that the evils attending the increase of debt are greatly
counteracted by the debt itself, and that, to a certain amount, it is
productive of a very considerable advantage to a trading nation. As
those who calculated its ill effects, and foretold the ruin it would bring
upon the state, did not take into account those circumstances, the
result of their enquiries was necessarily wrong, in point of time,
though the effect of which they spoke is perfectly certain to take place,
if the debt continues to increase. Their reasoning may be compared to
that of an astronomer, who observed the position of a planet, but, in
his calculations, made no allowance for the refraction of the
atmosphere, who would therefore err as to the place of the star, but not
as to its existence.

Let us now consider the natural consequence, supposing that future
increase is prevented by means of the sinking fund established for that
purpose. As to the probability of this, it depends on so many
circumstances that are concealed in the womb of time, that it would be
madness to give any other than a hypothetical solution of the question.

If the war continues, and expenses increase nearly as they have
hitherto done, great as is the operation of a sinking fund, it will not
have time to counteract the evil. If the war stops soon, it will dim-
[end of page #240] inish the debt with a most prodigious rapidity,
{193} if it continues; the question, whether taxes can be found to pay
the interest or not? can only be answered as a matter of opinion, which
is, in a case of this sort, equivalent to no answer at all.

With respect to the supposed case of the debt augmenting, the
observations that apply to that have been made already; they now only
remain to be made with respect to the debt being paid off.

It has been observed already, in the chapter on Taxation, that the case
of taxes being taken off to a great amount would be a new one of
sudden and hurtful operation. Wages of labour would be diminished,
as well as the burthens on those who live on settled income; it would
therefore render people of fixed income more affluent, without giving
ease to those who want it; in short, as the augmentation of taxes falls
most on people with fixed incomes, so the advantages of this would
principally be felt by them; and, as the baneful operation carries a sort
of counteracting antidote with it, so, likewise, this beneficial operation
would be attended with some drawback and inconveniency =sic=.

The diminution of taxes, though the ultimate is not, however, the
immediate consequence of the operation of the sinking fund, the
efficacy of which depends on the taxes being kept up to their full
extent for a considerable time. =sic= The first effect of the fund is,
that a large sum, annually expended, as revenue drawn from the
subject, is reimbursed to the stockholders, and becomes capital.

This would immediately raise the funds, and thereby would counteract
the sinking fund itself in a very material degree. Money would
become abundant for all the purposes of trade, and it would be

{193} A sort of ridicule has been thrown on the operation of
compound interest, because its effects are so amazing as not to be
capable of being realized; but, on this subject, two things are to be
said,--first of all, it has never been to the operation during the first
hundred years that either incredulity or ridicule have applied, and the
sinking fund was never meant to continue to operate so long.
Secondly, though there are many drawbacks on the employment of
large sums laid out at interest, that diminish, and would at last destroy,
the result of the calculation in accumulating; it is not so in paying off
debt, where the effect calculated is produced with the greatest

[end of page #241]

to find employment for it; and, if the progress continued, part of it
would most undoubtedly be sent to other countries, and so be the
means of impoverishing this.

If, then, we could suppose fifty years of peace, and that the national
debt could be paid off, (as it might be in that time,) the situation of
productive labourers would be worse; of unproductive, better; and,
finally, capital would leave the country, which would be deprived of
that transferable stock, the beneficial effects of which have been

The necessity that creates industry would be diminished, so that
nothing could tend more effectually to bring on the decline of the
nation than if all the debt were to be paid off; an operation which,
though possible in calculation, never certainly would take place; the
evils attending it would be so manifest, so clear, and so palpably felt
before that was accomplished.

To let the national debt continue to increase is, then, certain ruin, at
some period unknown, but perhaps not very distant; to pay it off
would be equally dangerous: what then are we to do?

We must try to raise the resources necessary for war within the year,
by which means we may avoid augmenting the debt. That is not,
however, to be done while the present heavy interest remains, and that
cannot be got rid of, according to any method yet publicly known,
without bankruptcy, breaking faith with creditors, or paying off the
debt; a resource in itself dangerous, and one that, after all, would bring
relief at a very distant day.

Since the debt has been contracted, let it be kept up; but let a mode be
taken of reducing the interest, without breaking faith with the creditors
of the state, so that we may never be obliged to borrow any more.

At present, the sum that goes annually for interest, and for the sinking
fund, (that is for paying off capital,) amounts to twenty-four millions,
and the expenses of a year of war do not exceed that sum. Twelve
millions of this may be found by war-taxes, and twelve millions
diminution of the interest would just leave a residue sufficient to pay
for a constant state of war; and, if peace came, the war-taxes would be
taken off. The enemies of England would then not be able to make
notches [end of page #242] in a stick, and say, "When we come to
such a notch England will be ruined."

If this could be done it would be a solid and permanent system of
revenue, arising out of an unsolid and transitory one.

Any thing like want of faith with the creditors would, however, not
only be disgraceful and dishonourable, but would reduce such
numbers to beggary, and ruin credit so completely, that the nation
would be lost for ever; and, certainly, if we are to be ruined, there is
no balancing between ruin with honour and ruin with disgrace.

There is a mode that would be fair and practicable, and the present is
the most favourable moment for executing it; indeed, it is perhaps the
only one when it has been practicable or would be just. By
practicability and justice, two words very well understood, we mean,
in this instance, that it is a moment when those who would have to pay
the difference would be willing to do it, would see their interest in
doing it, and would feel that they ought to do it.

We mean not to propose any of those imaginary means, by which
debts will be paid off without burthens laid on. We have no talent for
schemes, where all is produced from nothing, and no faith in their

The late and present wars, which have occasioned one-half of the debt,
and for which our exertions are to be continued, were undertaken for
the preservation of property; for, though the French system is so
completely bad that even the beggars in England would be losers by
adopting it, yet, it will be allowed, that the evil to people of property
would be much greater than to those who have no property. Let us
look to Flanders, Holland, and other countries, and say no if we can.

It was on this idea that an income-tax, afterwards termed a property-
tax, was laid on, by which the rich are made to pay, and the poor are
exempted. The justice and expediency of this was universally
admitted: there might be some difference of opinion as to modes and
rates, but there was none as to the general principle.

We would, then, propose to RAISE LOANS, at a low rate of interest
to reimburse the present creditors, ON THE SAME PRINCIPLE ON
WHICH THE PROPERTY-TAX EXISTS, in the following manner:

There are, by Mr. Pitt's calculation, (and his may be taken [end of
page #243] in order to prevent caviling) 2,400,000,000 L. of capital in
the kingdom. Let us then create a two and a half per cent. stock, into
which every person possessed of property should be _compelled_ to
purchase at par, in proportion to their capital, so as to redeem fifty
millions every year, thereby creating fifty millions of new debt at two
and a half per cent. and reimbursing an equal sum bearing an interest
of five per cent.

A loan of two per cent. per annum, on each man's capital would do
this, and would never be an object for the safety of the whole,
particularly as it would only last for ten years. As he would have
interest at two and a half per cent. he would, in reality, only lose half,
that is, one per cent. a year during twelve years; so that a man, with
10,000 L. would only have given 100 L. a year for twelve years.

At the end of ten years, the interest of the national debt would be
reduced to one-half its present amount, which, together with the war-
taxes, would be sufficient to prevent the necessity of creating more
debt. This, however, is not all, a more prompt effect and advantage
may be expected. It is more than probable, that the moment our enemy
found that the nation, could, without any great exertion, put its
finances on a permanent footing, the present contest would finish. It is
now only continued, in hopes of ruining our finances, and it is on the
accumulation of the debt that the expectation of that is alone founded.

We observed, in the beginning of this Chapter, that most people are
biased by hope or fear, in examining a question of great importance;
and that, therefore, they do not state it quite fairly, without being
sensible of their error. In the case of the gloomy calculators of this
country, fear and anxiety operated in causing a misstatement; but, with
regard to our enemies, hope is the cause of their magnifying the effect
of our national debt, and, it must be allowed, that hope had seldom
ever a more easy business to perform. The general conclusion is
certain, and all the question that remains, is with respect to time.

The only mode of putting an end to this hope of our enemy, and to the
war, at once, will be by shewing that enemy _that it is quite out of his
power to augment our debt_, but untill =sic= a method shall be
adopted by [end of page #244] us, that is PRACTICABLE AND
EASILY UNDERSTOOD, that will not be believed by our enemy.

The rapidity of the operation of a sinking fund is easily calculated, but
not so easily credited, particularly by people not inclined to do so, and
who would not themselves have the constancy and self-denial to leave
it time to operate. Besides, by this operation, we shall not get free of
debt till the taxes are raised far above their present amount. Our
enemies may be pardoned for believing it impracticable, particularly
as many of our friends are of the same opinion.

France, which has always been the rival of this country, and hates it
now more than ever, (envy being now an ingredient of its hatred,)
knows well that it is fallen and degraded, that it has less wealth and
happiness than England; but then it considers, that, however bad its
finances may be, they are getting no worse; that to continue the war
for twenty years will bring no more ruin on the nation, while half the
term would probably ruin us. Till we show the fallacy of this
calculation, we cannot expect a durable peace. Our ruin is become an
object, not only of ambition, but of necessity, as it were, to France;
and nothing but despair of being able to accomplish their object will
make them abandon the attempt.

We must be permitted here to ask a few questions:

Is not the time favourable for the plan here proposed?

Would it not be fair in its operation?

Would it not bring relief effectually and speedily?

Would it not reduce our burthens, without breaking faith with the
creditors of the state?

Would it not reduce the interest, without setting too much capital
afloat, that might leave the country?

Could our enemies then calculate on the national debt destroying

The affairs of nations, it has been observed, become so complicated,
and the details so multiplied, that those who have the management of
them are scarcely equal to the business of the day; and they have no
leisure to inquire into the best modes of keeping off evil when it is yet
distant; of this we have had ample experience.

[end of page #245]

Allowing all the credit possible to the sinking fund, (and a great deal
is due,) still during war its operation is a sort of paradox; it does not
obtain relief: it is liable to be questioned; but we are come to a point,
where the stability of our finances ought to be put out of doubt, and
beyond all question. The mode of settling our affairs ought not only to
be such as in the end may succeed, but its efficacy and practicability
ought to be such as our enemies can understand and give credit to.
Without this, we shall have no end to the contest.

With respect to what our enemies will give credit to, a good deal
depends on their own natural disposition. A fickle and arbitrary
people, who are continually breaking their faith, can have little belief
in the constancy of a sinking fund, but they will be perfectly well
inclined to believe, that men of property may be compelled, and will
even be glad to pay one per cent. a year, for ten years, to ensure the
safety of that property. Supposing then that the sinking fund were the
better plan of the two in reality, it would not be so in the present
circumstances, because it would not obtain credit, and the other will.

As to the rest, deprive the French of their hopes of ruining our
finances, and they will make peace on reasonable terms, whenever we
please; their object for continuing the war will then be at an end; and,
if they do continue it, we can go on as long as they can, without any
addition to our burthens.

Whatever the cause of a war may be, the hope of success is the only
possible motive for persisting in it. The French have been led into two
errors; first, by the comparison of this country to Carthage, and of
their own to Rome, (an absurd comparison that does not hold,) and, in
the second place, by looking on our ruin, from the increase of our
debt, as certain. We ought to undeceive them, and then they will have
less inclination to persist in war. No pains has hitherto been taken to
set them right; nor, indeed, with respect to the national debt, can it
ever be done by the present method, till they see the effect; for though
the progress of a sinking fund in peace is easily understood, in time of
war there is much appearance of deception; it looks like slight =sic=
of hand more than a real and solid transaction.

[end of page #246]


_Of Taxes for the Maintenance of the Poor.--Their enormous
Increase.--The Cause.--Comparison between those of England and
Scotland.--Simple, easy, and humane Mode of reducing them_.

Amongst the interior causes that threaten England with decline,
none is more alarming than the increasing expenses of the poor;
expenses evidently rising in a proportion beyond our prosperity, and
totally without example, either in the history of past times, or in that
of any modern nation.

The poor of England cost more to maintain than the free revenue of
the country amounted to thirty years ago, and to nearly three times the
amount of the whole revenues of the nation, at the time of the

The proportion between the healthy and the sick cannot have changed
so much as to account for this augmentation; we must, therefore, seek
for the cause elsewhere.

It probably arises from several causes; the increasing luxury, which
leaves more persons in indigence when they come to an advanced age,
owing to their being unwilling or unable to undergo the hardships to
which nature subjects those who have been born to labour, and outlive
their vigour; being thereby deprived of those indulgences which, in
better days, they have experienced. In England, menial servants are
accustomed to consume more than people of moderate fortune do in
other countries, and they are the race of people most likely to be left to
penury in their old age. In countries where there are, indeed, greater
trains of menial attendants than in England, they, in general, belong to
the great, who make some provision for them, or who, keeping them
from ostentation, can retain them to a more advanced age; and, at all
events, as they live a less luxurious life, they can make a better stand
against that penury which it is their hard destiny to encounter. [end of
page #247]

In a commercial country there is less attachment between master and
servant, than in any other; and the instances of provision for them are
very rare.

In proportion as a nation gets wealthy, the human race shares the same
fate with other animals employed in labour; they are worked hard, and
well fed while they are able to work, but their services are not
regarded when they can do but little. {194}

Want of economy in the management of the funds destined for the
purpose of their maintenance is another cause of increase in the
expense of the poor. In a nation where every individual is fully
occupied with his affairs, and has little time to attend to any thing else,
those who manage the affairs of the poor find that few are inclined to
look close into matters, and fewer still have the means of doing it if
they would; so that abuses increase, as is always the case when there
is no counteracting check to keep them within bounds.

Another cause, no doubt, is that, as the number of unproductive
labourers increase, greater numbers of children are left in want.

To all those causes we must add the increase of towns, and the
decrease of hamlets and villages. Towns are the places where
indigence has the greatest consolation, and where the relief which is
held out is attended with the least degree of humiliation and reproach.

When we compare the cases of England and Scotland, the causes
cannot be doubted; for, there, servants live harder, the working class
do not labour so hard, and are not so soon worn out, neither have the
towns increased so much, at the expense of the hamlets and villages.

The greatest of all the causes of the increase of poor, however, arises
from taxation and rent. It has been observed, in the chapter on
Taxation, that, for a certain length, taxes and rent are productive of
industry, and that, at last, they finish by crushing it entirely.

{194} If it were the custom to keep horses that were worn out till they
died a natural death, the maintenance of them would cost more in
England than in any other country; for their vigour is exhausted before
the term of old age arrives. The calculation is in this country, to pay
well, and be well served.

[end of page #248]

The manner that this happens, is, that long before a country is as
highly taxed as the majority of its inhabitants will bear, those who are
the least able to pay are crushed, and reduced to absolute poverty.

There are two causes which may render a person unable to support the
burthen of taxation: the one is, having a great family; the other is,
being able to gain but little from weakness, or some other cause; and,
where there are two causes that tend to produce the same effect,
though they operate separately, they must, of course, sometimes act in

The weakest part of society gives way first, in every country; and, on
account of the arbitrary and ignorant, though lavish method of
relieving that portion of society, in England, the evil is increased to
more than double.

There is no relief at home in their own houses, no help, no aid, for the
indigent, which might produce so admirable an effect, by
counteracting the ruin brought on by heavy taxes and high prices; no,
the family must support itself, or go wholesale to the workhouse. This
is one of those clumsy rude modes of proceeding that a wealthy
people, not overburthened with knowledge, naturally takes to
overcome a difficulty, but without care or tenderness for the feelings
of those relieved, or that regard for public interest, which ought to go
hand in hand. For this it would be well to search a remedy.

A father and mother, and six children, will cost, at least, fifty pounds a
year in a workhouse; but, perhaps, the aid of twelve or fifteen pounds
would keep them from going there, and by that means save the
greatest part of the money, while the country, which loses their
industry, would be doubly a gainer.

There is a sort of rough, vulgar, and unfeeling character, prevalent
amongst the parish-officers, that is a disgrace to the country and to the
character of Englishmen. It is highly prejudicial to the nation; and, if
there were no moral evil attending it, if the feelings of the poor were
no object, =sic= the rich ought to attend to it for self-interest. If they
will not, the government of the country is interested, both in honour
and in interest, to do so.

Exemption from taxes will do little or nothing, the lower orders [end
of page #249] are nearly all exempt, but that general dearness, that is
the consequence of a general weight of taxes, is severely felt by them,
and from that they cannot be exempted. They must get relief by
assistance, and that assistance ought to be given in a manner that will
not throw them altogether a burthen on the public. {195}

It is impossible to tax the people of a nation so highly, as they can all
bear, because, before some will feel, others will be crushed; before the
bachelor feels the tax, the father of a large family is obliged to starve
his innocent offspring. Before he who has only two children feels the
hard pressure, the family of twelve will be reduced to want; and so in
proportion. The mode, then, to raise the most money possible, would
be to tax the whole nearly as high as the bachelor can bear, and then to
give a drawback in favour of the man with the children, they would
then be on a perfect equality as to taxation, and the highest sum
possible might be raised without hurting any one portion of the people
more than another.

If the links of a chain are not all equally strong, before any strain is
felt by the strong links the weak ones give way, and the chain is
broken. The case is the same with the members of a community. Now,
when you lay on taxes, the general tendency is to raise the price of
food and labour; most labourers receive the advantage of the price of
labour, but many pay unequally for the rise of food.

A tax on the wealthy, it will be said, is the thing proposed, but no, that
would do nothing, it must be a premium or drawback to men with
families who are poor, not merely to counteract the effect of any one
tax, but the total effect of taxation with respect to maintaining their
children. Wide, indeed, is the difference between a tax on those who
are well able to pay, and a premium or drawback in favour of those
who are not.

The manner of providing for the poor in England leads to a degree

{195} Probably, the reason that so small a sum serves the purpose in
Scotland is, that relief is administered to the families, at their own
houses, by the minister and elders of the parish. It is a rare instance of
an administration, without emoluments and without controul. The
funds are distributed with clean hands, in all cases, and impartially in

[end of page #250]

of wastefulness and improvidence unknown in any other country.
Improvidence ought as much as possible to be discouraged; for, with
those who labour hard and are indigent, the desire to gratify some
pressing want, or present appetite, is continually uppermost. This may
be termed the war between the belly and the back, in which the former
is generally the conqueror. It would be a small evil if this victory were
decided seldom, as in other countries, but in the great towns of
England there is as it were a continual state of hostility. In London,
the battle is fought, on an average, at least, once a week; and idleness,
and the profits of those sort of petty usurers, called pawnbrokers, are
greatly promoted by it.

Some part of this evil cannot, perhaps, be remedied, but there are
certain articles that ought not to be taken in pledge, such as the clothes
of young children and working tools. {196}

There is no doubt but, that, in a populous inhospitable trading town,
where there is no means of obtaining aid, from friendship, where the
want is sometimes extreme, the resource of pledging is a necessary
one. This is to be admitted in the degree, but by no means without
limitation; for the facility creates the want, (even when it is a real
want) for it brings on improvidence and carelessness. The lower
classes come to consider their apparel as money, only that it requires
changing before it is quite current. {197}

If this matter were well looked into, together with the other causes
from which mendicity proceeds, which increases so rapidly, we

{196} In Scripture it is forbidden to pledge the upper or the nether
mill-stone. This is a proof, of very great antiquity, and indisputable
authority, of the care taken to prevent that sort of improvidence that
hurts the general interest of a people. It should be imitated in this
country with regard, to all portable implements of labour, such as
mill-stones were in those early times.

{197} In Scotland, twenty years ago, there were not so many
pawnbrokers as there are in Brentford, or any little village round
London. In Paris, as debauched a town as London, and where charity
was as little to be expected, there was only one lending company, the
profits of which, after dividing six per cent., went to the Foundling
Hospital. It was, as in London, a resource in cases of necessity, but
there was too much trouble to run it on every trifling occasion, as is
done in London, and, indeed, in most towns in England.

[end of page #251]

soon perceive a diminution of the poors' rates, and the wealthiest
country of Europe would not exhibit the greatest and most multiplied
scenes of misery and distress.

The numbers of children left in indigence, by their parents, would be
comparatively lower, and there would not be that waste in the
administration of the funds on which they are supported.

There is, probably, no means of greatly diminishing the number of
helpless poor, but by an encouragement to lay up in the hour of health
an abundance to supply the wants of feebleness and age, but this
might go a great way to diminishing the evil. All persons who have
places under government, of whatever nature, ought to be compelled
to subscribe to such institutions; this would be doing the individuals,
as well as the community, a real service, and would go a great way to
the counteracting of the evil. {198} Preventatives are first to be
applied, and after those have operated as far as may be, remedies.

The poor, &c. to whose maintenance 5,500,000 L. a year goes, (a sum
greater than the revenues of any second rate monarchy in Europe,)
may be divided into three classes:

First, Those who by proper means might be prevented from wanting

Second, Those who, for various reasons, cannot get a living in the
regular way, but might, with a little aid, either maintain themselves, or
nearly so; and,

Third, Those who, from inability, extreme age, tender youth, or bodily
disease, are unable to do any thing, and must be supported at the
public expense. Nobody will dispute that there are of all those
descriptions maintained at pressnt =sic=; and, therefore, all that can
create a difference of opinion is about the proportions between the

It is probable that one-half, at least, could maintain, or nearly

{198} The widows scheme, as it is called in Scotland, for the aid of
the widows and children of clergymen, is a most excellent institution;
it has been attended with the best effects, both on individual happiness
and national prosperity so far as it goes. The plan is such as might,
with very little variation, be applied to all the officers of the revenue,
clerks in office, &c. &c.

[end of page #252]

maintain, themselves; one-quarter might be prevented from ever
requiring any aid at all; and the other quarter would be assisted as at

This would reduce the expenses to less than one-third, and, probably,
to one-quarter of what they are now; that is, of 5,500,000 L. there
would be a saving of 3,500,000 L. but that is not all, for the national
industry would be augmented by 2,000,000 L. and more; that is to say,
by the industry of the half that maintained themselves, so that the
nation would gain partly in money saved, and partly in money got,
5,500,000 L.

According to the true spirit of the English nation, in which there is a
great fund of generosity and goodness at the bottom, it may perhaps
be said, that the poor are not able to labour at all, and, that the plan
would not answer. This is but a rough manner of answering a
proposal, which neither is in reality, nor is meant to be, void of
humanity. There were, by last years =sic= accounts, nearly 900,000
persons of one sort and another maintained or relieved, which does not
make above six pounds a year for each person, now, where is there a
person that can work at all, that cannot earn above four-pence a day in
England? {199}

The plan for remedying this abuse ought to be very simple, for it will
be administered by such ignorant and rough directors, that, if it is not
simple, it must fail entirely.

{199} It would be foreign to the plan of this Inquiry to enter into the
details of the poor persons, and shew the absurdity of the
management; but, it is very evident, from those that are printed, that
they get no work to do, the quantity of materials delivered to them to
work upon will not admit of earning money to maintain themselves.

The following is a specimen of the attention given to this subject, and
the means taken to enable the poor to pay for their maintenance, by
their labour. In Middlesex, where the expense amounted, in 1803, to
123,700 L. or about 340 L. a day, the sum expended to buy materials
amounted to no more than 4L.1s.11d. !!! It is impossible to
comprehend how this capital stock could be distributed amongst
above ten thousand labourers. It is not very easy to conceive the
impertinence of those who presented this item, as a statement to the
House of Commons, which would have done well to have committed
to the custody of the sergeant-at-mace, the persons who so grossly
insulted it. One thing, however, is very easily understood and
collected from all this. The business altogether is conducted with
ignorance, and executed carelessly and negligently, and that to an
extreme and shameful degree.

[end of page #253]

To have a good surgeon or physician is essential; and those who
would not work, and who were able, should have the same allowance
that a prisoner has in a jail; but those who would work should be paid
a fair price, and allowed to lay out the money, to hoard it, or do as
they please, except drinking to excess. [{200}]

Though many for want of vigour are refused employment in a
workshop, some for want of character, and others for various reasons,
become burthensome, yet there are not a few, who, from mere
laziness, throw themselves upon the parish, where they live a careless
life, free from hunger, cold, and labour. When the mind is once
reconciled to this situation, the temptation is considerable, and there
are many of those poor people, who will boast that the have
themselves been overseers, and paid their share to the expenses.

Whatever evil is found to have a tendency to increase with the wealth
of a nation ought, most carefully, to be kept under; and this is one not
of the least formidable, and, of all others, most evidently arising from
bad management and want of attention.

It would be necessary to have all sorts of employment, that the
persons in such places can, with advantage, be occupied in doing, and
a small allowance should be made to defray general expenses;
amongst which, ought to be that of surveyors of districts, who should,
like those employed by the excise-office, inspect into the state of the
different poor-houses, and the whole should be reported, in a proper
and regular manner, to the government of the country, from time to

Those little paltry parish democracies that tax one part of the people,
and maltreat the other, ought to be under some proper con-

{200} [Transcriber's note: assumed location--footnote not assigned a
place in the text.]
The system, in England, of only employing people in the vigour of life
is a source of much mischief, and is an increasing evil, which
government, the East India company, and all the public bodies, are
encouraging. Men are treated in this instance exactly like horses. They
are worked hard and well rewarded in their vigour; but, in so wealthy
a county =sic= as this, those occupied in commerce, and men in
power, will not be troubled with any but such as can do their business
with little trouble to the master. They do not consider what mischief
they are preparing for their country. Shenstone, the poet, seems to
have thought of this when he says, in a case of woe:

"But power and wealth's unvarying cheek was dry."

[end of page #254]

troul; and the happiness and prosperity of England should not be left
at their mercy.

In a country where every thing is done with such admirable accuracy
in the revenue-department, as England, it would be useless to attempt
pointing out the manner of executing the plan; it is sufficient to shew
its practicability and the necessity of attending to it.

If, in the first instance, the advantage would be such as is here
mentioned, it would, in a few years, be much greater, particularly in so
far as fewer families would be left in a state of indigence; for, it is
clear, that such families are a continual encumbrance on the rising
generation, and tend to the diminution of the general mass of useful

If it should so happen, that taxes augment, or that trade falls off, (both
of which may very likely happen,) then the interference of
government may become a matter of absolute necessity; but then,
perhaps, it may be too late. It would be much better if government
would interfere, before the evil is actually come to the highest pitch.
The parishes might, perhaps, look with jealousy on an interference of
this sort, as being an infringement on their rights; for Englishmen are
sometimes very tenacious of privileges that are highly pernicious to
themselves. This difficulty, (for it probably would be one,) might be
got over, by previously establishing inspectors in the different bishop's
sees, who should be obliged to render an account to the bishop, to be
communicated to government, by which means, the evil would either
be removed, or its existence ascertained, so as to answer the
complaints that might be made, and thereby prevent all discontent on
the subject.

Without being able to say what might absolutely be the best remedy, it
is, at least, fair to ask the question, whether it is fit that the
administration of 5,500,000 L. a year should be intrusted to the hands
of ignorant men? It may likewise be asked, if the feelings of the
necessitous ranks of society (as keen in many instances as those of
their betters,) should be wounded by men, who have not sufficient
knowledge of any sort to act with the humanity necessary. The
candidates for popular favour, amongst the lower housekeepers, are
generally flattering, fauning =sic=, cringing men, and such are almost
without exception, cunning, ignorant, and overbearing, wherever they
have the least [end of page #255] authority over others. Such, in
general, are the parish-officers, to whose care this important affair is

Though this is an institution almost on the purely democratic principle
of equal representation, it is a very bad specimen of that mode of
government. The shameful lawsuits between parishes, about paupers,
the disgraceful and barbarous treatment of women, who have been
betrayed and abandoned, admit of no excuse. They are not productive
even of gain or economy. Amongst some tribes of savage Indians, the
aged and helpless are put to death, that they may not remain a burthen
on those who are able and in health; and it is equally true, that, in
England, the young innocents, who have not parents to protect them,
are considered as a burthen; and, if they are not absolutely sent out of
the world, the means necessary to preserve them in it are very
inadequate to the purpose. If criminality could be engraved on a
graduated scale, their deaths ought in general to be written down at
some intermediate point between accidental homicide and wilful
murder. The persecution of this unfortunate race may be said to
commence before they are born; and, though the strength of a nation
depends much on its population, less care is taken to encourage it,
than to produce mushrooms, or to preserve hares and partridges.

[end of page #256]


_Causes of Decline, peculiar to England_.

In addition to the causes of decline which Britain, as a wealthy
country, has, in common with most other nations, it has some peculiar
to itself, (or of which the degree at least is peculiar to it).

The national debt, the high rate of taxation, the prodigious expense of
the poor, and the nature of the government, are peculiar to this
country. There are other circumstances in its favour, of which we shall
speak in the next chapter; but, in this, we shall review those that are
against it, and of an unfavourable nature and operation.

The high rate of taxation, for the very reason that it is the highest ever
known, inspires our enemies with hopes of our downfall, and makes
them persevere in continuing to put us to expense.

The unprecedented commerce we enjoy, of which every other nation
would wish to have a share, (and of which each, most mistakenly,
thinks it would have a share, if Britain was undone,) is a cause of
attracting envy and enmity, and repelling friendship. Our colonies in
the West, and our possessions in the East, act like the conductors that
draw the electric fluid to a building, but they do not, like those
conductors, serve to protect it from violence. We have seen, that the
advantage arising from them is more than doubtful, that they enrich
individuals and impoverish the state; but all this would be nothing
new, were it not for the vast scale on which those evils exist.

The poor's rate, which is in itself completely unexampled, though a
common thing to all nations, is so exorbitant in England, that it may
very properly be ranked amongst the dangers peculiar to this country.
Who would believe, that Frederick the Great of Prussia carried on his
brilliant and successful wars against the most formidable enemies,
expended more than one-eighth of his revenues annually on the
encouragement of industry, and left his treasury well stored, yet all
this with an income, less by one-fourth than the sums that go to
support [end of page #257] the poor in England, notwithstanding all
the miserable manoeuvres that are practiced =sic= to avoid giving
them assistance?

The form of government in England, though best for the liberty of the
subject, and for the security of persons and property, is deficient in the
means of repressing those infringements which particular bodies of
people make upon the community at large. The representative system,
when well understood, divides itself into parties, having different
interests. There are the commercial, the landed, the East India, the
West India, and the law, all of which have great parliamentary
influence, and can be formidable to any minister; they therefore have a
means of defending their interests, and they are concerned so deeply
as to take a very active part whenever any questions are agitated
relative to them.

The landed interest and the law are, indeed, the only ones that have
any great party in the House of Peers; but then the House of Peers
seldom interferes in matters that concern the interests of the others.
The Lords seem not to think it their province; and, in general, more
through diffidence than negligence, they avoid meddling, though, to
do that honourable house justice, to it we owe much. Many bills, of a
dangerous tendency, have been thrown out by it, after they had passed
the other house; and it has been generally done with a wisdom,
magnanimity, and moderation, which is only to be accounted for by a
true love of the country and an upright intention. {201}

{201} It is wonderful to what a length good intention, (zeal apart,)
will go in leading men right, even when they have not paid very
particular attention to a subject. There is a feeling of what is wise, as
well as of what is right, that partakes a little of instinct, perhaps, but
is more unerring than far fetched theory on many occasions. This was
seen in a most exemplary manner, at the time that the principles of the
French revolution were most approved of here. Those principles were
plausible, though flimsy, and founded on sophisms, and a species of
reasoning, that plain unlettered men could not answer, and men who
did give themselves the pains to reason might have answered; yet,
three times in four, it was the man who could not answer it, who,
guided by upright intentions, rejected it as bad, without being able to
tell why. The most acute were, in this case, the most deceived; for it
must now be allowed, that all approbation of the theories, relative to
the rights of man, and the manner of asserting them were wrong.
Many of those who fell into the error had, no doubt, unblameable
intentions, but they did not consult common sense.

[end of page #258]

In every assembly, a small number, who completely understand their
own interest, can do a great deal, if they will act together; but, this is
not all, they can use arguments with a minister that pave the way for
obtaining the ends they have in view, while the general interests of the
country alarm no one but upon great occasions.

Under arbitrary monarchs, all bodies with separate interests, are kept
in due order, they have no means of defending themselves but by
remonstrance, which, against power, is but a very inadequate

There is nothing forced or chimerical in this statement of the case, and
the consequence is, that no country ever saw any bodies rise to such a
height, except the clergy in Roman Catholic countries, and the barons
during the feudal system, when they had arms in their hands; who, if
they could not absolutely resist their sovereign, were at least able to
refuse him aid, and could annoy him greatly. But those examples will
bear no comparison with the separate interests in England at this time.
The barons have long lost their power, and the Roman Catholic clergy
have lost the greatest part of their power and revenue also. If they had
not, wealthy and powerful kingdoms would not have existed.

Under a free government, where people think that an opposition to a
minister in parliament is a most excellent thing, the energies of the
nation, as to war, are greatly lessened. This must, in its connections
with other nations, produce very hurtful effects; but, where the evil is
without a remedy, there is no advantage in dwelling upon it; and it
does not appear that there is any possibility of separating from a free
government, some sort of an opposing power, that must hamper the
executive, and lessen the energies of the nation.

Under pure monarchies, kings can reward merit; they can encourage
talents, and act according to circumstances. In England, the king, or
his ministers, have no fund from which they can do this. An
application to parliament is expensive and troublesome; and, in many
cases, where the object would be fair, it would be unattainable. But
this is not all, for when, by act of parliament, any thing of the sort is
[end of page #259] once done, it is left without proper controul, and
the expense is generally double what it ought to be.

On the whole, there is too little of discretional =sic= power in a
representative government; good cannot be done but by rules, which,
in many cases, it is impossible to comply with. This is a disadvantage
which we labour under, and is a sort of drawback on our excellent
form of government; but this is not like the opposition in the senate, it
may be got over, and merits attention.

Such appear to be the disadvantages to which Britain is peculiarly
liable, either in toto, or in the degree; but, on the other hand, she has
many circumstances in her favour, if they are properly taken hold of;
and, indeed, some, of which the effect will be favourable, whether any
particular attention is paid to them or not. To those we shall advert
with peculiar pleasure, and hope that they will not be neglected, but
that they may afford a means of continuing our career of prosperity on
the increasing scale, or that, at least, they may prevent us from sharing
the fate of those nations that have gone before.

[end of page #260]


_Circumstances peculiar to England, and favourable to it_.

It has been observed, that, in northern nations, where luxury is not
attended with such a degree of sloth and effeminacy as in warm
climates, the habits of industry can never so completely leave a
country. The feelings of cold and a keen appetite are enemies to sloth
and laziness; indeed they are totally incompatible with those habits
and that degradation of character, that are to be found in southern
climates. This advantage Britain shares with other nations of the
north; but she has some peculiar to herself.

Situated in an island, the people have a character peculiar to
themselves, that prevents foreigners and foreign influence from
producing those baneful effects that are so evident in many nations,
where they come and depart with more facility, and where a greater
similarity in manners and in character enable them to act a
conspicuous and a very dangerous part, in the cases of
misunderstanding and party dispute.

In all the wars, bloody and long-contested as they were, between the
houses of York and Lancaster, foreign influence never produced any
effect such as that of Spain did in France, previous to the accession of
Henry IV. or as the influence of France and Spain have produced in
Italy, or that of France on Spain itself, or those of Russia and Prussia
in Poland, with numerous other examples on the continent.

We know of no ideal boundaries in this country. In this country we are
all one people, and can distinguish ourselves from any other; indeed,
the national character is rather too averse to mixing with people from
the continent; but this, that seems now a fault, may some day be
considered as a very useful virtue.

Even in the times when an unfortunate jealousy and mistaken interest
kept England and Scotland at variance, and when the latter kingdom
was in the habit of adopting the politics of France, and [end of page
#261] embracing its interests, there seems to have been some repelling
principle that kept the little nation out of the gripe of the great one.

The French never had any preponderating power there, and, indeed, in
latter times so little, as not to be able to defend Queen Mary or the
Romish religion against the reformers; to do both of which there was
no want of inclination. It appears, then, very clearly, that though, on
the best terms of friendship, the Scotch had at the bottom that British
mistrust of foreigners, that, ever since it was civilized, has freed the
island from foreign influence.

The form of government, the security of property, and the free scope
that is given to exertion in every line of business, will continue to
enable this country to hold itself high, even if some of its present
sources of wealth should be dried up; and, whatever may be the
feelings of the representatives of the people upon ordinary occasions,
the moment that any real danger occurs, they will, we are certain, act
like men, determined to stand by their country.

How feeble was the former French government when assailed with
difficulty? It was at once as if struck motionless, or, the little
animation that was left was just sufficient to enable it to go from one
blunder to another. How different has England been on every
emergency? In place of the arm of government seeming to slacken in
the day of danger, it has risen superior to it. We have never seen the
same scenes happen here, that have taken place in Poland, Sweden,
and so many other places. In the three attempts to invasion, {202}
(Monmouth's and the two other rebellions,) where foreign influence
was used, the event was the most fatal possible to those who made
them; they were contemptible in the extreme; and, if it is considered in
whose favour they were, it is probable the support from a foreign
power rather did injury to the cause.

{202} Here we must not confound the case of the Stuarts with that of
the King of France. In England, it was the government that was
divided, the legislative being against the executive; _one_ part of the
government was feeble, but the other was not, and therefore we cannot
say that the government was feeble. In France, the king and ministers
governed alone, they were the whole government, and therefore as
they were feeble, the government may be taxed with weakness.

[end of page #262]

The form of government has this great advantage in it, that, as abilities
are the way to preferment, the higher classes (at least) have a better
education than the same rank of persons in any other nation, so far as
regards the interest of the public, and the nature of the connection
between the different orders of society; ignorance of which, is the
surest way to be destroyed.

In all new and rising states the higher orders, even under despotic
governments, and where all the distinctions of ranks are completely
established, have a proper regard for the importance and welfare of the
lower orders of people. As they increase in wealth and have lost sight
of its origin, which is industry, they change their mode of thinking;
and, by degrees, the lower classes are considered as only made for the
convenience of the rich. The degradation into which the lower orders
themselves fall, by vice and indolence, widens the difference and
increases the contempt in which they are held. This is one of the
invariable marks of the decline of nations; but the nature of the
English government prevents that, by keeping up a connection and
mutual dependence amongst the poor and the rich, which is not found
either under absolute monarchies or in republics. In republics, the
people become factious and idle, when they become any way wealthy.
In this country, besides the insular situation, circumstances in general
are such as to prevent the lower classes from falling into that sort of
idleness, apathy, and contempt, that they do in other countries, even
supposing these burthens were done away, that at present necessitate

To those causes let another still be added, the religious worship of the
country, which, without any dispute or question, is greatly in its

To speak nothing of the religious opinions or modes of worship in
ancient times, there are three at present that merit attention and admit
of comparison.

The Christian religion is distinguished for raising men in character,
and the Mahomedan for sinking them low. Whenever the Mahomedan
faith has extended, the people are degraded in their manners, and the
governments despotic. The disposition of a Mahomedan king [end of
page #263] or emperor is more different in its nature, from that of a
Christian sovereign, than the form of a hat is from that of a turban.

Under the most despotic Christian sovereigns, matters are governed by
law, there are no regular murders committed by the hand of power,
without the intervention of justice; and if plenitude of power admits of
the greatest excesses in the sovereign, in some Christian countries, the
opinion of his fellow men, the fear of his God, or some sentiment or
principle in his own breast, restrains him in the exercise of it.

It is not so with Mahomedan princes: with them, nothing is sacred that
they hate, nothing shameful that they do. Whatever their conscience
may be, whatever may be the nature of their moral rules, rapine and
murder are certainly not forbidden by them, or the law is not obeyed.
In proportion to the despotism and ferocity of the sovereign, is the
slavishness of the people, their brutality, and vice, in all Mahomedan
countries; their character and its great inferiority is so well known,
that it is impossible for any person to be ignorant of it.

When the Mahomedan governments possess power, they are proud
and overbearing; the people luxurious, and given to every refinement
in vice. When they sink, that pride becomes ferocity, and the luxury
degenerates into brutality and sloth; but neither in the one nor in the
other case have they the proper value for science, for literature, for
liberty, or for any of the acquirements that either make a man
estimable or useful. They neither excel in arts, nor in science;
phisically =sic=, they are inferior in utility, and their minds are less
instructed. They are not equal to Christians either in war or in peace,
nor to be compared to them for any one good quality.

The greatest and the best portion of the old world is, however, in their
hands; but, in point of wealth or power, they are of little importance,
and every day they are sinking lower still.

Amongst those who profess Christianity it has been remarked, by all
who have travelled, and who have had an opportunity of observing it,
that agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, flourish most in
Protestant countries. Even where there are different sects of the
Christian religion in the same country, arts, manufactures, and
commerce, appear to have flourished most amongst the Protestants.
The [end of page #264] cruelties of the Duke of Alva, and the absurd
bigotry of Louis XIV. drove the most industrious inhabitants from the
Netherlands, and from France, merely because they happened to be
Protestants, which is a proof that there is a connection between that
branch of the Christian religion and industry. The Protestants were the
most industrious.

The Protestants appear also to be the most attentive to preserving a
good form of government, and to set a greater value upon liberty than
people of any other religion. In this, England has an advantage that is
inappretiable. {203}

The reformation in religion, and the establishment of manufactures in
England, date from nearly the same period; it was about the same time,
also, that the spirit of liberty began to break out first in Scotland,
and then in England, which terminated in the revolution. There are,
therefore, many reasons, from experience, for believing that the
Protestant religion is particularly favourable to industry and freedom.
There are other reasons, likewise, that arise from a consideration of
the subject, that would lead one to the same conclusion, even if there
were no experience of the fact.

Whatever frees the human mind from useless prejudice, and leads it to
pure morality, gives dignity to man, and increases his power of
becoming a good and useful member of society.

The Christian religion not only contains the most pure moral code, but
the best, most useful, and simple rules for conduct in life are

{203} The great influence, founded on attachment to her person, and
the feeling of the long happiness they had enjoyed, under Queen
Elizabeth: her great authority, supported by esteem, and confirmed by
long habit, restrained the spirit of freedom which so soon after
tormented her successors. James had had full experience of that spirit
before he left Scotland; and, when he mounted the English throne, was
known, frequently, to exclaim against presbytry, as the enemy of
monarchy. He, as was very natural, thought that the difference of
religion caused the superior love of freedom in Scotland, for he was
not sensible of the different effects produced by the calm, steady, and
dignified deportment of Elizabeth, and the unsteady conduct of his
unhappy mother, Mary. He also confounded hatred for arbitrary
prerogative in kings, with hatred for kings themselves; and considered
monarchy, and his own sort of monarchy, as essentially the same. Had
he lived in our days, he would have experienced the difference, and
not have considered the church of Scotland as being a greater enemy
to kingly power than that of England, or as being more favourable to

[end of page #265]

there promulgated. The Roman Catholic faith was clogged, in the
early days of the church, with a great number, both of dogmatical and
practical errors, that tend not only to fetter the mind, but actually
embarrass the business of human life.

In a former chapter, we had occasion to speak of the encroachments
made by public bodies on the general mass of the people, but none
ever was so pernicious in its effects, so grasping, and so well
calculated to retain, as the Roman Catholic church.

Their celibacy took away from the clergy every disposition to alienate
even personal property, while the practice of auricular confession, and
the doctrine of the remission of sins, gave them an opportunity of
besieging the human mind in its weakest moment, and the weakest
place, in order to rob posterity, and enrich the church. In the moment
of weakness, when a man's mind is occupied in reflecting on the
errors, and perhaps the crimes, of a long and variegated life; when his
ties to this world are loosened, and his interest in eternity becomes
more lively, and near; a religion that enables a zealous or interested
priest (aided by the casuistry and argument of centuries) to barter a
promise of everlasting bliss, for lands and tenements bequeathed to
the church, provides amply for the acquisition of earthly treasure, for
its ministers, and those devoted to a life of religious pursuits. It is,
indeed, wonderful, that, with such means, the church, in Roman
Catholic countries, did not become more wealthy than it was. {204}
With a continual means of acquiring, and none of alienating, it
appears well qualified for absorbing the whole landed property of a
nation. Such an encroachment on the public wealth, and industry of a
people, is a sufficient reason for the Protestant countries (where the
clergy have not the same means) becoming more wealthy and

It would not be difficult to prove that there is an effect produced on
the minds of individuals in Protestant countries, that is favourable to
industry; but a discussion of this nature might seem displaced in a
book of this sort. It is sufficient that we see, from experience and

{204} In France, before the revolution, the revenues of the clergy, in
lands, tythes, &c. were reckoned to amount to 25,000,000 L. sterling
per annum. The number of feasts and fasts was also a great drawback
on industry.

[end of page #266]

reason, that, of all religions, the Christian is the most favourable to the
prosperity of a people, and that of its different branches, the
Protestant, or what is termed the Reformed Religion, is again the best.
It is the religion established in Britain.

Another source of hope arises from a circumstance of very great
importance, and very peculiarly favourable to Great Britain.

It has been observed, that the colonies in the West, and conquests in
the East, cost a great deal and produce little; that, in short, their
possession is of very doubtful advantage.

The possession of the North American provinces, now the United
States, were a great burthen to England, from their first settlement till
about the year 1755, when their trade began to be of advantage to this
nation; but, in twenty years after, the revolt took place, and cost
England a prodigious sum.

To enter into a long detail on this subject it is not necessary; but no
sooner were the hostilities at an end, than the American states bought
more of our manufactures than ever. Their laws and manners are
similar to our own, the same language, and a government evidently
approaching as near to ours as a republican well can to a monarchical
form. There is not, at this time, any branch of trade, either so great in
its amount, or beneficial in its nature, as that with the United States;
with this farther advantage, that it is every day augmenting, {205} and
as no country ever increased so fast in population and wealth, so none
ever promised to afford so extensive a market for our mannfactures
=sic= as the United States. This market is the more secure, that it will
not be the interest of the people who have got possession of that
immense tract of country to neglect agriculture and become
manufacturers, for a long period of time.

The greatest project, by which any nation ever endeavoured to enrich
itself, was certainly that of peopling America with a civilized race of
inhabitants. It was a fair and legitimate mode of extending her means
of acquiring riches; but Britain failed in the manner of obtaining her
object, though not in the object itself, and

{205} By this is not literally meant, that the trade every year is greater
than the preceding, but that it continues to increase.

[end of page #267]

the United States promise to support the industry of England, now that
it has humbled its ambition, far more than both the Indies, which
gratify it so much.

It is highly probable, that America will increase more rapidly in
wealth and population than in manufactures, such as she at present
takes from great Britain; but if the ratio merely continues the same
that it is now, the purpose will be completely answered, and a market
for British manufactures insured for ages to come. In 1802, by the last
census, the inhabitants of the United States amounted to about eight
millions; and, for several years together, the exports of British goods
have amounted to seven millions, so that it is fair to reckon a
consumption equal to sixteen shillings a year to each person. It was
about the same in 1774, previous to the revolt; and, as the population
doubles in about fifteen years, in the course of thirty years more, the
exports to that country alone would amount to 24,000,000 L. provided
we continue to be able to sell at such rates as not to be undersold by
others =sic= nations in the American market.

There is nothing great, nothing brilliant, in this commerce, all is solid
and good; it is a connection founded on mutual wants and mutual
conveniencey, not on monopoly, restriction, or coercion; for that
reason it will be the more durable, and ought to be the more valued;
but it is not. Governments, like individuals, are most attached to what
is dear to purchase and difficult to keep. It is to be hoped, however,
that this matter will be seen in its true light.

One circumstance, that makes the matter still more favourable for
Britain is, that the western country of America, by far the most fertile,
as well as the most extensive, is now peopling very rapidly. The
labour and capital of the inhabitants are entirely turned to agriculture
and not to manufactures, and will be so for a great number of years;
for, when there are fifty millions of inhabitants in the United States,
their population will not amount to one-half of what may naturally be
expected, or sufficient to occupy the lands. The fertility of the soil will
enable the Americans, with great ease to themselves, to make returns
in produce wanted in Europe, so that we may expect a durable, a great,
and an advantageous trade with them. In British [end of page #268]
manufactures our trade was not near so great before the revolt, for we
then supplied America with every article.

This, however, will depend partly on our circumstances; for, if wages
and the prices of our manufactures rise, as they lately have done, our
merchants will buy upon the continent of Europe, what they otherwise
would purchase in England, to supply the American market.

America is the only country in the world where, with respect to the
wages of labour, and the produce of industry, money is of less value
than in England. The Americans will then be able to afford to
purchase English goods, when other nations will not; but then, they
will only purchase such articles as cannot be had elsewhere; for
though they may and will continue able to purchase, they will not do it
if they can get goods that suit them elsewhere. {206}

No country, that we read of in history, ever enjoyed equal advantages
with the American states; they have good laws, a free government,
and are possessed of all the inventions and knowledge of the old
world. Arts are now conveyed across the Atlantic with more ease than
they formerly were from one village to another. It is possible, that a
new market of so great an extent being opened may do away those
jealousies of commerce, which have, for these two or three last
centuries, occasioned many quarrels, and which are peculiarly
dangerous to a nation that has risen high above its level.

All those things, with care and attention, will prove advantageous to
Britain in a superior degree. They afford us much reason for hope and
comfort, and do away one of the causes for fearing a decline that has
been stated, namely, the being supplanted by poorer nations, or by not
having a market for our increasing manufactures.

There remains yet another consideration in favour of Britain, as a
manufacturing and a commercial country; for, as such, we must view
it, reckoning more on industry than on the ideal wealth of our colonies
in the West, and our conquests in the East. It is this, we are the

{206} England begins already to lose the market for linen-cloth,
window-glass, fire-arms, and a number of other articles. It would have
entirely lost that of books, if any nation on the continent of Europe
could print English correctly. As, it is, they are printing in America, in
place of our keeping the trade, which we might have done with great
profit and advantage.

[end of page #269]

latest of European nations that has risen to wealth by commerce and
manufactures. In looking over the map, there does not seem to be any
one to supplant us; all those, who have great advantages, have already
gone before, and, till we see the example of a country renewing itself,
we have a right to disbelieve that it is possible.

Russia is the only country in Europe that is newer than England, and
many circumstances will prevent it from becoming a rival in
commerce. It does not, nor it ever can increase in population, and
carry civilization and manufactures to the same point. Though, very
new, as a powerful European nation, the people are as ancient as most
others in Europe; the territory is so extensive, the climate so cold, and
the Baltic Sea so much to the north, and frozen so many months in the
year, that it never will either be a carrying or a manufacturing country.
To cultivate its soil, and export the produce of its mines, the skins,
tallow, hides, timber, &c. &c. will be more profitable, and suit better
the inhabitants than any competition in manufactures.

It is not in great extensive empires that manufactures thrive the most,
they are great objects for small countries, like England or Holland;
but, for such as Russia, Turkey, or France, they are a less object than
attention to soil and natural productions; and, thus we see, that China,
the greatest of all countries in extent, encourages interior trade and
manufactures, but despises foreign commerce. {207}

One peculiar advantage England enjoys favourable to manufactures,
deserves notice. The law of patents, if it does not make people invent
or seek after new inventions, it at least encourages and enables them
to improve their inventions. Invention is the least part of the business
in respect to public wealth and utility. There has long been a
collection of models, at Paris, made by one of the most in-

{207} The smaller a district, or an island is, the exports and imports
will be the greater, when compared with the number of inhabitants.
Take the exports and imports of all Europe, with the other quarters of
the world;--considering Europe as one country, and it will not be
found to amount to one shilling a person per annum. Take the amount
in Britain, it will be found about forty shillings a person. Consider
what is bought and sold by a single village, and it will be still greater
than that; and, last of all, a single labouring family buys all that it
uses, and sells all that it produces. And the meanest family, taken in
this way, does proportionably =sic= more buying and selling than the
richest state, taken in a body. Consider the whole earth as one state,
and it neither exports nor imports.

[end of page #270]

genious mechanics of the last century, (Mr. Vaucusson,) at the
expense of that government, in which were nearly all the curious
inventions brought forth in England, together with many not known in
it. Some Englishmen, in going through it, brought over new inventions
here, for which they obtained patents, and, by which, they, as well as
the public, were gainers, while the inventions lay useless and dormant
in France.

Invention is not a thing in a man's power, and great inventions are
generally more the effect of accident than of superior abilities; at any
rate, no encouragement is certain to produce invention, but it always
will produce improvement on invention. When a man has a patent for
fourteen years, he does every thing in his power to make the object of
that patent become as generally useful as possible, and this is only to
be done by carrying the improvements as far as he is able. {208}
Others, again, who have no patent, but are of the same trade,
endeavour to preserve their business by improvement, and to this
contest in excellence may be attributed the great progress, made in
England, in bringing manufactures to a higher degree of perfection
than in any other country.

The great inventions, from which others branch out and spring, are not
due, it has often been asserted, to natives of this country. Probably this
may be owing to the circumstance, that they were known before the
advancement of this country in any of the arts; but let that be as it
may, there are a vast number of inventions carried to greater

{208} This is sufficiently important to deserve to be illustrated by
some examples. The improvement of the steam-engine, by Mr. Watt,
was a matter of accident; an accident, indeed, that could not have
happened, had he been an ignorant man; but the improvement of it
was not accidental. It was, in consequence of great encouragement
given, and to the prolongation of the patent, by an express act of
parliament. This patent has been the occasion of almost totally
changing the machine, and of extending its use to a vast variety of
objects, to which it probably might never have been extended, had it
not been the sole business of a very able man, aided by a number of
other ingenious persons, whom he was enabled to employ. It was the
cause of improving the mechanism of mills for grinding corn, and
others of different descriptions, far beyond what they had been,
although the most able engineer in that line (Mr. Smeaton) died before
the last and greatest improvements were made.

The same thing may be observed of the cotton-spinning-machines, and
with a little difference of all the inventions that have been brought to
perfection, under the influence of exclusive privileges.

[end of page #271]

perfection, and turned to more advantage in this country than in any

This advantage, which England enjoys over other countries, is a more
solid one than it appears to be, for it is intimately connected with the
government and laws of the country, and with that spirit which sees
the law well administered, which, in the case of patents, is a matter of
no small difficulty, and prevents others from becoming our rivals, or
attaining the same degree of perfection; {209} for, unless the law is
well administered, there can never be the great exertion that is
necessary to create excellence.

The fine arts and the mechanic arts are quite different in regard to the
manner in which they are brought to perfection. Individual capacity
and genius will make a man, even without much teaching, excel in one
of the fine arts; whereas, in the mechanic arts, to know how an
operation is performed is every thing, and all men can do it nearly
equally well. The consequence of this is, that, as experience improves
the manner of working, the mechanic arts improve, from age to age, as
long as they are encouraged and practised. It is not so with the fine
arts, or only so in a very small degree, and from this it arises, that, in
sculpture, poetry, painting, and music, the ancients, perhaps, excelled
the moderns. In the mechanic arts they were quite inferior. The best
examples of this, (and better need not be,) are an antique medal,
boldly and finely executed, but ragged on the edges, not on a flat
ground, or of equal thickness, compared with a new guinea, or a
Birmingham button tamely engraved but trimly executed. In the
former, there is every mark of the artist, none of the machine. In the
latter, there are some faint and flat traces of an artist, but great proof
of mechanical excellence. The skill of the artist, necessary to produce
the first, cannot be commanded, though it may, by encouragement, be
called forth; but the reunion of talents, such as are necessary for the
latter, is so certainly obtainable, that it, at all times, may be procured
at will, after it has once been possessed.

{209} In 1790 the French laid down the law of patents, on the English
plan, and rather, in some respects, improved; but the people never
understood it. The lawyers never understood it; and, even before the
anarchy came on, it was evident it would never produce any very great
effect, for want of proper administration.

[end of page #272]

Security, to reap the fruits of improvements, is all that is wanted, and
this the law of patents, as applied and enforced in England, affords in
a very superior degree. Although, by the communication everywhere,
the ground-work of every art whatever is now no longer confinable to
any one nation, though the contrary is the case, and that the
knowledge necessary circulates freely, and is extended by a regular
sort of system, in periodical publications of various descriptions, yet
the manner of turning that knowledge to advantage does not, by any
means, seem equally easy to communicate.

The legislature of the United States of America has, indeed, in this
case, done full justice to the encouragement of arts and to inventions;
but circumstances, as has been already said, make other objects more
advantageous for the employment of labour and skill in that country.
For these reasons, therefore, we may look forward with some
confidence, to the flourishing of arts and manufactures, for a long
term of years, if the same attention that has been paid to their
encouragement still continues; but neither this advantage alone, nor all
the advantages united, that have been enumerated, will be sufficient to
preserve our superiority, if those, who regulate the affairs of the
country, do not favour them.

It is in consequence of great pains and care, that manufactures have
flourished in this country, and they cannot be preserved without a
continuation of the same care, although it is individual effort that
appears to be the principal cause. Thus, the travellers, on a well-made
highway, proceed with rapidity and ease, at their individual expense,
and by their individual energy; but, if the road is not kept in repair,
their progress must be impeded, and their efforts will cease to produce
the same effect, for they cannot individually repair the road.

Such appear to be the peculiar circumstances that favour Great
Britain; and that under disadvantages that are also peculiarly great,
give hopes of prolonging the prosperity of the country.

There is still, however, something wanting to increase our advantage.
Any person acquainted with the manufactures of England will
naturally have observed, that they are all such as meet with a market
in this country. We have no mannfactories =sic= for goods, for the
sole [end of page #273] purpose of our foreign markets; so that,
though we consider ourselves as so much interested in foreign trade,
yet we have adapted all our manufacturies, expressly, as if it were to
supply the home market.

This observation will be found to apply very generally, though there
are a few exceptions, and though the quality of the goods
manufactured, and intended for exportation, is adapted to the market
for which they are destined. This last, indeed, is very natural, nor
could it well be otherwise, but that is not going half the length

Instead of carrying our goods into a strange country, and trying
whether the inhabitants will purchase, we should bring home patterns
of such articles as they use themselves, and try if we can supply them
with advantage. Nations vary, exceedingly, in taste, and so they
always will. The colour of the stuffs, the figures on printed cottons,
and even the forms of cutlery, and articles of utility, are, in some sort,
matters of taste. If we are to manufacture for other nations, let us try to
suit their taste as we do to suit that of our own people at home. The
reasons why we do not do this are pretty evident. In the first place, it
would not answer the purpose of an individual to procure the
information necessary, and make a collection where the advantage, in
case of success, would be divided with all that chose to imitate them;
besides this, in many cases, the means are wanting to procure what is

The study of botany has been greatly advanced, and kitchen gardens
greatly enriched, by the importation of exotic plants; and, probably,
our manufactures might be greatly extended, if the same care were
taken to collect foreign articles, the produce of industry. {210} We do
not find every foreign plant succeed in this country, but if it seems

{210} A collection of all sorts of stuffs, with the prices in the country,
where worn, and the same of all sorts of hardware, toys, trinkets, &c.,
should be made, at the public expense, and be open, on application, to
the inspection of every person who might apply in a proper manner;
and even specimens, or patterns, should be delivered out, on the value
being deposited. In Persia, and many places, if we would copy their
colours and patterns, we might sell great quantities of cotton stuffs.
Our hatchets, and some other of our tools, are not made of a form
liked by the Americans.

[end of page #274]

bable, and worth trying, we never fail to do that; we trust it would be
so with foreign manufactures, if we had proper patterns. A fair trial
would be made, where success seemed probable, and the event would
determine the future exertion.

Accidental circumstances, a few centuries ago, brought new plants
into this country, they now come into it in consequence of regular
exertions for that purpose. What was then true, with regard to plants
imported, is still true with respect to manufactures exported. We
manufacture for ourselves, and if any thing of the same sort suits other
nations, we send it, if not, there is no trade to that part; now, this must
be allowed to be an accidental cause, for the promotion of foreign

Wherever it is possible to prevent the debasing the quality of an
article, so as to hinder it answering the purpose, or gratifying the
expectations of the purchaser, that ought to be done, for it has long
been such a practice for English manufacturers to undersell each other,
that they stick at no means of being able to do so.

A variety of qualities, according to price, is necessary. All persons
cannot afford to buy the best sort of goods; but, when a reduction of
price is carried so far as to be obtained by making an article that is
useless, this is a means of losing the trade; and it would be very easy
to prove that such examples are very numerous, and that various
branches of trade have been lost by that means.

With regard to the extent of sea coast, the advantage that may be
derived from the fisheries, and the benefit arising from that
circumstance to commerce, they are natural advantages, and already
perfectly understood. [end of page #275]



After having gone through the subject of the Inquiry, according to
the mode that appeared to be the best, in which there has been one
invariable rule, never to oppose theory and reasoning to facts, but to
take experience as the surest guide, a recapitulation can scarcely be
very necessary; but a conclusion, applicable to the situation of this
country, certainly may.

This, however, ought to be short, as the reader has all the materials for
it in his own power, but it may save him trouble.

The great end of all human effort is, to improve upon the means which
nature has furnished men with, for obtaining the objects of their wants
and wishes, and to obviate, to counteract, or do away those
inconveniencies =sic= and disadvantages which nature has thrown in
the way of their enjoyment. {211}

With the mind, the same course should be used as with material
bodies. It is impossible, in either case, to create; but we may turn the
good to as profitable an advantage as we are able, and counteract the

To attempt to hinder men from following their propensities, when in
power, is always arduous, generally ineffectual, and frequently
impracticable; besides, when it can be done coercively, it infringes too
much on the liberty and the enjoyment of mankind. A controuling
power should be employed as seldom as possible.

{211} Thus, in building a house, you form the stones, the clay, and
other materials, which nature has furnished, in order to counteract the
effect of heat or cold, moist or dry, as is most agreeable. Thus, men
have learned to melt and vitrify the sand on the sea-shore, to make
glass, grind it into a form, and make a microscope to view the most
minute objects of nature, or to bring the most distant nearer, by the
telescope: thus, rectifying the imperfection of human sight. Perhaps
the burning of _coals_ to convert _water_ into _steam_, and, with that
_steam_, raising _coals_ and _water_ from the mine is the most
complete triumph of human skill over physical difficulties. How
invention and discovery have improved the state of man since the time
that the uses of corn and fire were unknown in Greece!!!

[end of page #276]

To attempt to smother the passions is vain, to controul them difficult;
besides, it is from energy, arising from passions or propensities, that
all good, as well as all evil, arise. The business, then, will neither be
to curb nor to crush, but to give a proper direction. This is to be done
by good habits, when young, and a proper education, which cannot be
obtained by individual exertion, without the assistance of government;
an assistance that it is therefore bound to give.

The general tendency of wealth and power are to enervate people, to
make them proud and indolent, and, after a certain time, they leave a
country. Individuals have no means to counteract this tendency, unless
the governing power of the country gives a general impulse to them,
in cases where they can act, and acts itself, with care and attention,
where individuals can do nothing.

In the case of education and manners, in the case of providing for
children, individuals may do much, but government must not only
give the means, but the impulse. In the case of the soil becoming
insufficient for the inhabitants, and of taxes and national debt
increasing, government may stop the progress; and in the cases of
individual bodies trenching on the general weal, as well as in the
tendency of inventions, capital, &c. to emigrate to other countries, the
government may counteract, and, perhaps, totally prevent them all.

In all cases, individuals will and must follow their lawful propensities,
both in the means of employing capital and expending revenue; that is,
they must be left free, in a general way, and only interrupted and
regulated in particular cases; but, sometimes, the means must be
furnished them of going right, and in other cases the inducements to
do so augmented. We shall take the subjects in the same order that
they followed in the Second Book.

Though the manners of people, arrived at maturity, can only be
regulated by their education, when young, if that is properly attended
to, it will be sufficient; for though it will not prevent the generation
that has attained wealth, from enjoying it according to the prevailing
taste, it will prevent contamination being communicated with
increased force, as it now is, to the children. The evils then will go on
in a simple proportion; they now go on with a compound one, and the
evils arising from the [end of page #277] luxury of each generation are
doubled on that which follows after. If that is prevented, it will be all
that probably is necessary; at all events it is probably all that is

In taxation, the government should study to do away what is
obnoxious in its mode of collection, for that does more injury to the
subject, in many cases, than an equal sum would do levied in another
manner; and when payments are to be made, the mode should be
rendered as easy as possible. Every unnecessary trouble should be
avoided in collecting a tax. In the tax on receipts and bills, why should
the sums to which they extend not be printed on them, so as to prevent
error, which is sometimes attended with great loss, and always with
inconvenience? If this had been done, how many law-suits, how many
nefarious tricks, would have been prevented? But not to speak of those
inconveniences only, how much useless trouble, uneasiness, and
uncertainty, would have been saved in the common way of transacting
business? In most cases, the subject is treated as if neither his time,
nor his conveniency, nor his feelings, were worth attending to. This is
equally impolitic and unjust: there is, perhaps, no country where
people are more careful to keep within the pale of the law, than in
England; but when they are within it, and have power, no people use it
with a more insulting rigour; and for this there is no redress.

In many cases, this would be entirely prevented by proper attention in
first laying on the tax. There should be a board of taxation, to receive,
digest, and examine, the suggestions of others. In short, pains should
be taken to bring to perfection the system. At present, it is left to
chance; that is to say, it is left for those to do who have not time to do
it, and, of consequence, the blunders committed are seen by all the
world. {212}

{212} An act of parliament for a new tax is seldom ever right till it
has been evaded a number of times, and even then in perfectioning
=sic= it, an increase of revenue is the only object attended to; the
conveniency of the subject is scarcely ever thought of. Taxes are laid
on, that experience proves to be unproductive and oppressive, and
sometimes are, and oftener ought, to be repealed; thousands of persons
are sometimes ruined for a mere experiment. As the public pays for it,
they, at least, might be indulged with a little attention; nothing costs
less than civility. If half the attention were paid to preventing
unnecessary trouble to the subject, [end of page #278] in cases of
taxation, that is paid to the preservation of partridges, we should have
the thing very differently managed. There should also be a public
office, to hear just complaints against those who give unnecessary
trouble, as there is for hackney coachmen. Men in all situations
require to be under some controul, where they have power. Most of
those who _drive_ others, go wrong sometimes, unless held in check
by some authority.

The encroachments of separate bodies on the public, it is entirely in
the power of the state to prevent. It is owing to weakness or
carelessness, or ignorance, that governments admit of such
encroachments, and they are easily to be prevented, partly, as has been
shewn, by positive regulation, and partly by counteracting them,
whenever they appear to be proceeding in a direction any way
doubtful. When they do so, the conclusion may be, that they are
working for themselves; and, in that case, they ought to be very
minutely examined into; and, as all public bodies, and men belonging
to a class that has a particular interest generally derive their means of
trenching on the public from government, it may very easily controul
their action, or counteract the effect.

As lawyers have the administration of justice amongst themselves; as
the executive part is in their hand, the law-makers should be
particularly careful to make them amenable by law for bad conduct; it
ought not to be left in the bosom of a court, to strike off, or keep on,
an improper man. It is not right, on the one hand, that attorneys, or any
set of men, should be subject to an arbitrary exertion of power; and it
is equally unfair for them to be protected, by having those who are to
judge between them and the public, always belonging to their own
body. In defence of this, it is said, that attornies are servants of the
court, and that the business of the court being to do justice, their
correction cannot be in better hands. This is a tolerably ingenious
assertion, if it were strictly true; but the court consists both of judge
and jury; whereas, in this case, the judge assumes all the power; that is
to say, when a case is to be determined relative to the conduct of a
lawyer, a lawyer is to be the sole judge, and the jury, who represent
the public, are to have their power set aside; thus, when their opinion
is most wanted, it is not allowed to be given. Under such regulation,
what real redress can be expected? As for the taxing costs by a master,
it is [end of page #279] rarely that a client, from prudential motives,
dares appeal; and, when he does, the remedy is frequently worse than
the disease; and, even in this case a lawyer judges a lawyer. Without
saying any thing against the judgments, it will be allowed, that in
neither case is the principle of Magna Carta adhered to, of a man
being judged by his peers; besides, in every other fraud there is
punishment proportioned to the crime. In this case there is no
punishment, unless the extortion is exorbitant, and then the
punishment is too great. It ought to be proportioned to the offence, as
in cases of usury, and then it would be effectual; but to let small
misdemeanors go free and to punish great ones beyond measure is the
way to elude punishment in all cases. A man ought to pay his bill; let
the attorney take the money at his peril, and let there be a court to
judge fairly, at little expense, and with promptitude, and punish the
extortion by a treble fine. This would answer; but all regulations,
relative to law, are left to the lawyers themselves; and the fable of the
Man, the Lion, and the Picture, was never so well exemplified, Never,
in any case, was redress more wanted; perhaps, never was it less likely
to be had.

The unequal division of property, as has been shewn, arises partly
from bad laws, and partly from neglect of regulation; it is, indeed, one
of the most delicate points to interfere in; nevertheless, as it has been
proved, that laws do already interfere between a man and the use of
his property, (and that it is, in some cases, necessary that they should
do so) the question is reduced to one of circumstances and
expediency, it is not one to be determined, in the abstract, on
principle. It is also of too nice a nature to be touched roughly by
general regulation; but, if large estates in land, and large farms, were
taxed higher in proportion than small ones, it would counteract, to a
certain degree, the tendency of landed property to accumulate in any
one person's hand; and, except in land, property seldom remains long
enough in one family to accumulate to a dangerous degree. {213}

{213} Besides the above truth, of other property being liable to be
dissipated from its nature the law of primogeniture does not attach on
it, and the evil, if it did, would not be any way considerable.

[end of page #280]

The increased consumption of a nation, which we have found one of
the causes of decline that increases with its wealth, may be more
effectually prevented than any other; not by interfering with the mode
in which individuals expend their wealth, but by managing it so that
vegetable food shall always be in abundance; and if so, the high prices
of animal food, and the low price of vegetables will answer the
purpose of counteracting the taste for the former, which is the cause of
the dearth, and brings on depopulation; and therefore its hurtful effect
will be prevented. {214}

To this, gentlemen of landed property may object, and no doubt will
object, but let them consider how rapidly ruin is coming on. At the
rate matters now go, it would not be a surprising, but a natural effect,
if most of the fields in Britain were converted into pasture, and our
chief supply of corn obtained from abroad. The rent of land would,
indeed, be doubled, the wages of labour would rise more than in an
equal proportion, and a very few years would complete the ruin of this
country. The landed proprietors surely would not, for any momentary
gain, risk the ruin of themselves and of their country, for both may be
the consequence of persisting in this system. {215} Or, if they will
persist in it, will the government, which has other interests to consult
and to protect, allow that single one to swallow up all the rest?

It is true, the freedom of trade will be invoked; but the freedom of

{214} Suppose that, of the waste lands, eleven millions of acres were
cultivated, and that as much as possible (suppose five millions) were
always in grain, those five millions would be able to supply the nation
nearly in an ordinary year. A law might also be made, compelling all
landlords and farmers to have only three-fourths in grass; this could be
no hardship. There would then be always corn in plenty; monopoly
would be prevented, because anxiety would be avoided; for a real
deficiency to a small amount gives cause to great anxiety and grievous
monopoly. The waste lands, when disposed of, might have whatever
condition attached to them was thought fit.

{215} We say persisting in this system, for when bread fell to be at a
moderate price, last summer, (1804,) the outcry amongst the farmers
was great and violent, and the legislature altered the law about
exports; the consequence of this was, that the price of wheat rose
regularly every week till it was doubled. All this was the effect of
opinion, for the price of corn rose too quickly to allow any to be sent
out of the kingdom, by the new law.

[end of page #281]

trade is a principle not to be adopted without limitation, but with due
regard to times and circumstances; let it then never be invoked upon a
general question, without examination. Though this is the true way of
arguing the question, let freedom of trade be taken in another way; let
it be considered as a general principle, it will then be immutable, and
cannot be changed. {216} The present corn-laws must on that
principle be done away, and no bounty allowed for exportation or for
importation, which indeed would be the best way; but, at all events, let
us have one weight and one measure for both parties, and not invoke
freedom of trade to protect the corn-dealers when prices are high, and
enact laws to counteract the effects of plenty, which produces low

On this subject, government must set itself above every consideration,
but that of the welfare of the country: it is too important to be trifled
with, or to be bartered for any inferior consideration.

The prices of our manufactures will soon become too high for other
nations. Our inventions, to abbreviate labour, cannot be perpetual,
and, in some cases, they can go no farther than they have already
gone; besides, the same inventions, copied by nations where labour is
cheaper, give them still a superiority over us.

If increased consumption was the leading cause of the destruction of
Rome, to which money was sent from tributary nations, and employed
to purchase corn, (so that its supply was independent of its industry,)
how much more forcible and rapid must be its effects in this country,
living by manufactures, and having no other means to procure a
supply from strangers, when that is necessary? {217}

The burthens of our national taxes continuing the same, those for

{216} When corn was dear, and the public cry was for regulation, it
was announced, in the highest quarters, that trade was free. Ministers
acted as if they had been the colleagues of of =sic= the economist
Turgot; but, when prices fell, the language was changed, and new
regulations were made. Compare the Duke of Portland's letter, in
1799, with the act for the exportation of grain, in 1804.

{217} The money sent out of the country for corn is a direct
diminution of the balance due to us from other nations, and it now
amounts to near three millions a year on an average. The balance in
our favour is not much more than twice that sum at the most, and was
not equal to that till lately: the imports of grain may soon turn the
balance against us.

[end of page #282]

the poor increasing, our means diminishing; what could possibly
produce a more rapid decline?

The danger is too great and too evident to require any thing farther to
be said; particularly as the last ten years have taught us so much, by

It is unnecessary to repeat what was said about the mode of reducing
the interest of the national debt without setting too much capital
afloat; without breaking faith with the creditors of the state, or
burthening the industry of the country.

On the increase of the poor and the means of diminishing their
numbers enough has been said. That must originate with government
in every case and in some cases exclusively belongs to it. They must
act of themselves entirely, with respect to the very poor and to their
children. With those who are not quite reduced to poverty, they should
grant aid, to enable them to struggle against adversity, and prevent
their offspring from becoming burthensome to the public.

The other affairs well attended to, capital and industry will lose their
tendency to leave the country; and, if they should continue to leave it,
the case will be desperate; for, after the lands are improved, and the
best encouragement given to the employment of capital, and to the
greatest extent nothing more can be done. It will find employment

The efficacy of a remedy, like every thing else in this world, has a
boundary, but the extent and compass of that depends, in a great
degree, on exertion and skill, and particularly so in the present
instance. It remains with the government to make that exertion, either
directly itself, or by putting individuals in the way to make it.

The government of a country must then interfere, in an active manner,
in the prevention of the interior causes of decline. As to the exterior
ones, they do not depend on a country itself; but, so far as they do, it is
exclusively on the government, and in no degree on the individual

The envy and enmity which superior wealth create, can only be
diminished by the moderation and justice with which a nation
conducts itself towards others; and if they are sufficiently envious and
[end of page #283] unfair to persist, a nation like Britain has nothing
to fear. But we must separate from envy and enmity occasioned by the
possession of wealth, that envy and enmity that are excited by the
unjust manner in which wealth is acquired.

In respect to Britain, it has been shewn, that the envy and enmity
excited, are chiefly by her possessions in the East Indies; we have
seen, also, that the wealth obtained by those possessions is but very
inconsiderable, and that they have, at least, brought on one-third of
our national debt; it would then be well, magnanimously to state the
question, and examine whether we ought not to abandon the
possession of such unprofitable, such expensive, and such a dangerous
acquisition; till we do so, it is to be feared that we shall never have a
true friend, nor be without a bitter enemy.

We have had experience from America, which is become precious to
us now, that we have lost it, and which was a mill-stone about our
neck, while we were in possession of it. Let us take a lesson from
experience, and apply its result to what is at this moment going on,
and we cannot mistake the conclusion to be formed. Let the nation be
above the little vanity of retaining a thing, merely because it has
possessed it. {218} Let the great general outline of happiness, and of
permanent happiness, be considered, and not that ephemerical
splendour and opulence, that gilded pomp that remains but for a day,
and leaves a nation in eternal poverty and want. Britain can only be
firm and just in its conduct towards other nations, give up useless
possessions, defend its true rights to the last point, encourage industry
at home, and take every step to prevent the operation of those causes
of decline that we have been examining; let merit be encouraged, and

{218} In this country, public opinion would be against a minister, who
proposed to give up any possession abroad, however useless. This is
owing to the pride occasioned by wealth. The people are not rapacious
for conquests, but once in possession they are very unwilling to let
them go.

It is not necessary to quit the trade to India, or abandon all our
possessions, but to diminish our establishments, circumscribe our
conquests, and not aim at possessing more than we had thirty years
ago. That moderation would conciliate all nations, and envy would
find its occupation gone.

[end of page #284]

let it never be forgotten or lost sight of, that wealth and greatness can
only be supported, for a length of time, by industry and abilities well
directed, guided by justice and fair intention. This is the truth of which
we are never to lose sight. We may keep sounding for the bottom, and
reconnoitring the shore, the better to direct our steps, but we must
never lose sight of the beacon, with the help of which alone we can
safely enter the wished-for harbour.

There is a great disposition in the human mind to give the law, when
there is the power of doing it. The abuse of power appears to be
natural and dangerous; yet, we have seen, that most nations, both
ancient and modern, have fallen into that error. The hour of British
insolence has also been mentioned, and, certainly, with regard to
America, we did not more materially mistake our power than we did
the rights of those with whom we had to treat.

It is much to be questioned, whether the undaunted and brave spirit of
our naval commanders does not, in some cases, lead them too far in
their rencontres with vessels of other nations on the high seas, and we
ought not to forget that, in this case, the match played is that of
England against all the world. As no other nation is under the same
circumstances with this, no one will be inclined to take our part, or to
wink at, or pardon, any error we may commit.

The Hans Towns, at one time, were paramount at sea; they could bid
defiance to all the world; and, at first, they did great actions, and
employed their power to a good purpose. They destroyed the pirates,
and humbled the Danes, after they had robbed both the English and
French, and burnt both London and Paris; but they also had their hour
of insolence. They began to be unjust, and to be insolent, and the cities
that had begged to be united to them, in the times when their conduct
was honourable and wise, withdrew from the participation of their
injustice, pride, and arrogance. While they attended to protecting
themselves, and to following their own affairs, they did numberless
good offices to the ships of foreign nations; they had universal good
will and commanded admiration. But, when they became supercilious,
and a terror to others, their pride was soon humbled, never again to
rise. [end of page #285]

In considering the whole, there is a considerable degree of consolation
arises to British subjects, to see the very mistaken comparisons that
have, in the first place, been made between Rome and Carthage; and,
in the second place, the still more unfair comparison made between
those two rival powers, and France and England.

As opinion and belief have a great power over the minds of men,
whether they act in conformity to their views and wishes, or in
opposition to them, it is of great importance to remove an error, which
was of very long standing, very general, and had the direct tendency to
make the people of both countries think the parallel well drawn, and
therefore conclude that this mercantile country must, sooner or later,
sink under the power of France. But, when it appears that most authors
have been inadvertently led into the same mistake, with respect to
those two ancient republics, and that, even if there had not been the
mistake, the parallel drawn would not have been true, then France will
probably cease to found her hopes on that comparison, and we may, at
least, cease to feel any apprehension from so ill-grounded a cause.

That a nation once gone on in the career of opulence can never go
back with impunity is as certain as its tendency to going back is. The
possession of riches is of a transitory nature, and their loss attended
with innumerable evils. Though nations in affluence, like men in
health, refuse to follow any regimen, and use great freedom with
themselves, yet they should consider there is a vast difference. A man,
well and in health, is in his natural state; yet even that will not resist
too much liberty taken with his constitution; but a nation that has risen
to more wealth than others is always in an artificial state, insomuch as
it owes its superiority, not to nature, but either to peculiar
circumstances, our =sic--sc.: or = superior exertion and care; it is
therefore not to be supposed capable of being preserved, without some
of that attention and care, which are necessary to all nations under
similar circumstances, and which, in the history of the world, we have
not yet seen one nation able to resist.

There are sufficient circumstances, new and favourable in the [end of
page #286] case of Britain, to inspire us with the courage necessary
for making the effort.

There is one part of the application of this Inquiry, to the British
dominions, left intentionally incomplete. It has been left so with a
design to keep clear of those discussions that awaken a spirit of party,
which prevents candid attention. It is of little use to enquire, unless
those who read can do it without prevention or prejudice. It is
therefore, very necessary not to awaken those feelings, by adding any
thing that may rouse a spirit of party; and it is difficult to touch
matters that concern men, deeply interested in an object, without that
danger. What seems impartial to an unconcerned man, seems partial to
those who are concerned; and sometimes the observer is blamed by
both the parties, between whom he thinks he is keeping in the middle

The advantages of the form of government adopted in Britain have
been fairly stated in account; but constitutions and forms of
government, however good, are only so in the degree; they are never
perfect, and have all a tendency to wear out, to get worse, and to get
encumbered. The French were the first, perhaps, that ever tried the
mad scheme of remedying this by making a constitution that could be
renewed at pleasure. But it was a violent remedy, to implant, in the
constitution itself, the power of its own destruction, under the idea of
renovation. The English constitution has taken, perhaps, the best way
that is possible for this purpose; it has given to king, lords, and
commons, the power of counteracting each other, and so preserving its
first principles. Without going into that inquiry, it is sufficient to say,
that the advantages which may be derived from the British
constitution can only be expected by the three different powers having
that will, and exercising it; for, if they should act together on a system
of confidence, without an attention to preserving the balance, they
must overset, instead of navigating the vessel.

The individuals of whom a nation is composed, we have seen, never
can, by their efforts, prevent its decline, as their natural propensities
tend to bring it on. It is to the rulers of nations we must look for the
[end of page #287] prolongation of prosperity, which they cannot
accomplish, unless they look before them, and, in place of seeking for
remedies, seek for preventatives.

It is very natural and very common for those who wield the power of a
great nation, to trust to the exertion of that power, when the moment
of necessity arrives; but that will seldom, if ever, be found to answer.
The time for the efficacy of remedy will be past before the evil
presents itself in the form of pressing necessity; and that very power,
which can so effectually be applied in other cases, in this will be
diminished, and found unequal to what it has to perform.

[end of page #288]

_Application of the present Inquiry to Nations in general_

IF there is a lesson taught by political economy that is of greater
importance than any other, it is, that industry, well directed, is the way
to obtain wealth; and that the modes by which nations sought after it
in the early and middle ages, by war and conquest, are, in comparison,
very ineffectual.

Notwithstanding that princes themselves are now convinced of the
truth of this, by a strange fatality, the possession of commercial wealth
has itself become the cause of wars, not less ruinous than those that
formerly were the chief occupation of mankind.

It was discovered a few centuries ago, that small principalities, and
even single cities, acquired more wealth by industry, than all the
mighty monarchs of the middle ages did by war; but we are not yet
advanced to the ultimate end of the lessons that experience and reason
give in regard to the interests of nations, with regard to wealth and

To suppose that mankind will ever live entirely at peace is absurd, and
is to suppose them to change their nature. Such a reverie would only
suit one of the revolutionists of France; but let us hope that there is
still a possibility to lessen the causes of quarrels amongst nations. The
true principles of political economy lead to that, and the object is
sufficiently important.

By _agriculture_ and _manufactures_; that is, by producing such
things as are conducive to the happiness of man, the _aggregate
wealth of mankind_ can alone be increased.

By _commerce_, which consists in conveying or selling the produce
of industry, the aggregate wealth of mankind is not increased, but its
_distribution is altered_. {219}

{219} Though the produce of soil is not obtained without industry,
yet, to make a distinction that is simple and easily understood and
retained, we suppose manufactured produce to go by the name of the
produce of industry.

[end of page #289]

As individuals, and sometimes nations, have obtained great wealth,
not by producing, but by altering the distribution of wealth produced;
that is, by commerce, that seems, to those who aim at wealth, to be the
greatest object of ambition.

If every nation in the world were industrious, and contented with
consuming the articles it produced, they would all be wealthy and
happy without commerce; or, if each nation enjoyed a share of
commerce, in proportion to what it produced, there would be no
superiority to create envy.

Variety of soil and climate, difference of taste, of manners, and an
infinity of other causes, have rendered commerce necessary, though it
does not increase the aggregate wealth of mankind: but nations are in
an error when they set a greater value on commerce than on
productive industry.

Some nations are situated by nature so as to be commercial, just as
others are to raise grapes and fine fruits; therefore, though one nation
has more than what appears to be an equal share of commerce, it
ought not to be a reason for envy, much less for enmity.

Some nations also find it their interest to attend chiefly to agriculture,
others may find it necessary to attend more to manufactures; but that
ought to be no cause of enmity or rivalship.

With a view, if possible, to diminish a little the envy and rivalship that
still subsists, let us take a view of this business in its present state.

Britain, the wealthiest of nations, at this time, sells little of the
produce of her soil, and a great deal of the produce of her industry; but
she purchases a great deal of the produce of the soil of other countries,
though not much of their industry: in this there is great mutual
conveniency and no rivalship. In fact, her wealth arises nearly
altogether from internal industry, and, by no means from that
commerce that is the envy of other nations; for it is clear, that whoever
produces a great deal may consume a great deal, without any
exchange of commodities, and without commerce.

The English, number for number, produce more, by one-half, than
[end of page #290] any other people; they can, therefore, consume
more; they are, therefore, richer.

If France would cultivate her soil with the same care that we attend to
manufactures, (at the same time manufacturing for herself as much as
she did before the revolution,) she would be a much richer country
than England, without having a single manufacture for exportation.
Her wines, brandies, fruits, &c. &c. would procure her amply
whatever she might want from other nations. Let France make good
laws to favour industry; and, above all, render property secure, and
she will have no occasion to envy England.

Russia, part of Germany, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, are all in a similar
situation with France in this respect; they will each be as rich as
England the moment they are as industrious, and have as many
inventions for the abbreviation of labour.

Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Prussia, and some parts of Germany, are,
more or less, in the same situation with England; they require to pay
attention to manufactures, for they have not the means of raising
produce enough to exchange for all they want.

If there is any occasion for rivalship, or ground for envy, it is then but
very small, and it happens that the rivalship which exists is between
those nations that, in reality, ought to be the least envious of each
other, the nations who have the fewest quarrels are those who really
might be rivals.

Rivalship is natural between those who are in similar situations.
France, Spain, and Portugal, might be rivals. England, Holland,
Prussia, and Denmark, might also be rivals; but there can be no reason
for France envying England her manufactures and commerce, any
more than for England envying France for her climate, soil, extent,
=sic= of territory and population.

The way to produce the most, being to give industry its best direction.
Nations, differently situated, ought never to be rivals or enemies, on
account of trade.

If those, who regulate the affairs of nations, were to consider this in its
true light, there would be less jealousy and more industry. [end of
page #291]

There appears to be only one real cause for war, so far as it is
occasioned by a wish to obtain wealth; and that arises from
possessions in the East and West Indies, and in America.

If there were no such possessions, or if they were more equally
divided, there would be very little cause for war amongst nations.

It may, very possibly, at some distant time, be an object for a general
congress of nations, to settle this point; so that it shall be no longer an
object of jealousy. This can be done only by abandoning entirely, or
dividing more equally; but, at present, the animosity and enmity
occasioned is considerable, though not well founded.

The Spaniards are not envied for the possession of Peru, nor the
Portuguese for the Brazils, though they draw more wealth from them
than ever England or Holland did from their foreign possessions; yet,
England is, and Holland was, an object of envy, on account of
possessions abroad. This is the more unreasonable, that the Spaniards
and Portuguese keep the trade strictly to themselves, while England
allows nations, at peace with her, the most liberal conditions for
trading with her Indian possessions: conditions, indeed, that give them
a superiority over ourselves. {220} This conduct ought not to bring
down upon England, envy or enmity, (though it does); for the fact is,
that if all nations were at peace with England, they might, if they had
capital and skill, (and that they have not is no fault of England,) trade
with India to great advantage, while we should have the trouble of
defending our establishments, and of keeping the country.

Before the revolution, France obtained more produce from Saint
Domingo alone, in one year, than Britain did from all her West India
Islands together, in three years, and much more than England did from
all her foreign possessions together; yet, France was never obnoxious
to other nations on that account.

{220} This may seem strange, but it is literally true; the quarrels
between the India Company, and the free trade, as it is called, are an
ample proof of the truth of it. The free-trade-merchants chiefly act
under the name of agents for Swedish and Danish houses, so liberally
has England acted with regard to neutral nations.

[end of page #292]

It appears, then, very evident, that the envy and jealousy do not arise
from the _magnitude or value of foreign possessions_, but from some
other cause, though it is laid to that account. This cause is worth
inquiring into.

It appears that Holland and England have, alone, been causes of
jealousy to other nations, on account of foreign possessions; but, that
Spain, Portugal, and France, never have, though there was more real
reason for envy and jealousy.

The reason of this appears to be, that those nations, who excited no
envy, escaped it, because their indolence, or internal economy,
prevented them from becoming rich; but, that Holland and England,
which, in reality, owed their wealth chiefly to internal industry, and
very little of it to foreign possessions, have excited great envy, and
that England does so to the present hour. {221}

It is, then, wealth arising from industry, that is the object to be aimed
at, and that cannot be obtained by war or conquest. The purpose is not
advanced, but retarded, by such contests; and if those, who rule
nations, would condescend to enter into the merits of the case, they
would find, not only that the happiness of the people, and every
purpose at which they aim, would be better answered than by
contesting about the means of wealth, which, consisting in internal
industry, does not admit of a transfer. One nation may be ruined, and
another may rise, (as, indeed, they are continually doing,) but one
nation does not rise merely by ruining another; the wealth of a nation,
like the happiness of an individual, draws the source from its own

{221} From both the East and West Indies, England never has, till
within these last ten years, drawn three millions a year, that could be
termed profit or gain, and, even in the last and most prosperous times,
not eight millions, which is not equal to more than one-twentieth part
of the produce of national industry at home. Even the foreign
commerce of England, except so far as it procures us things we want,
in exchange for things we have to spare, is not productive of much
wealth. Supposing the balance in our favour to be six millions a year,
which it has never uniformly been, it would only amount to one-
twenty-fourth of our internal productive industry. In short, we gain
five times as much by a wise division of labour, the use of machinery,
ready and expeditious methods of working, as by the possession of
both the Indies!!!

[end of page #293]

bosom. The possession of all the Indies would never make an indolent
people rich; and while a people are industrious, and the industry is
well directed, they never can be poor.

It is to be hoped, that the time is fast approaching, when nations will
cease to fight about an object that is not to be obtained by fighting,
and that they will seek for what they want, by such means as are safe
and practicable. [end of page #294]


[Transcriber's note: the original work itself omits the page
references in the many instances where there is a trailing comma.]

[=sic=--no section heading in original]

ABSOLUTE monarchy, in some particular instances, has an
advantage over limited monarchy; particularly in preventing the
infringement made by corporate bodies or professions on the public,
117, 118, 119.

AGES, middle, commerce made slow progress during them, 3.--What
places flourished in them, 44 to 50.

AGE, golden, the tradition, if that founded in any thing, must have
been a very ignorant one, though very happy, 214.

ALEXANDER, the Great, history confused before his time, 20.--His
conquests had no permanent consequences, 24.--The only permanent
consequence was Alexandria supplanting Tyre, 52.--His expedition to
India was on purpose to get possession of the fine countries that
produced aromatics and precious stones, 53.

ALEXANDRIA, rendered Egypt first a commercial country, and
brought on the decline of Carthage, 24.--Loses its commerce in the
7th century by the conquests of the Mahomedans, 54, 55.

ALFRED the Great, made many efforts to render the people happy,

AMBASSADOR. See Diplomacy.

AMBITION, sometimes renders labour an enjoyment, 82.

AMERICA, its discovery forms a new epoch in the history of
commerce, 3.--Little similarity between it and other nations, 103.--
United States, of, their revenues, ib.--May take all the goods Britain
can manufacture, 195.--British exports to, consist nearly all of
manufactured goods, 204.--Probability of its great increase and
consumption of English manufactures, 268, 269.--Encourages arts
and inventions, but agriculture a better object to it, 273.

ANCIENT nations. See Nations.

ANIMAL food, much used in northern nations and by manufacturing
people, 138.--Its effects on population, 139 to 146.--Price compared
with bread, 147.--In case of the demand becoming too great, a
remedy proposed, 155.

ANTWERP, at one time acted as a sovereign, 47.--Became, in the
north, what Venice was in the south of Europe, 57.

APPRENTICES. See Education.

ARABIAN Gulf. See Red Sea.

ARKWRIGHT, Sir Richard, as an inventor met with great difficulties,

ARTS. See Manufactures.

ARTS, fine. See Fine Arts.

ARTISTS, not unfit for soldiers, 32.--Banished by luxury from a
country, 113.

ASIA, passage to it by the Cape of Good Hope a new aera in
commerce, 3.--Its mode of fighting with elephants only disconcerted
the Romans once, 31.

ASSIGNATS. See France.

ATHENS. See Greece.

AUGUSTUS, his resolution to kill himself when supplies of corn
were likely to fail, 35.

[=sic=--no section heading in original]

BABYLON. See Syria.

BALANCE of trade, of England, has never much exceeded five
millions.--To be seen on the chart 3, p.213, during 105 years.--Is not
equal to more than one twenty-fourth of the produce of industry, 293.

BALANCE of power could not preserve a nation from interior causes
producing decline, 185.

BALTIC Sea, manufacturers early established on its southern shores,
45 to 48.

BARTER, not an innate principle, as Dr. Smith thinks, 5, 6.

BLACK Sea, a new market opened to commerce,195.

BIRMINGHAM division of labour renders business easy, 217.--
Apprenticeships not necessary to learn the art, but for other reasons.--
Recruiting service succeeds there, ib.

BOARDING Schools. See Education.

BODIES Corporate and Public, their tendency to trench on the public,
117 to 124.

BOULTON, M. Esq. his spirited conduct in bringing forward the
improvements, invented by Mr. Watt, on the steam-engine, 203.


BRAZILS. See Portugal.

BREAD, proportion between the price of, and butchers meat, 140.--
Prices in Paris and London,164.

BRITAIN, in what its power and wealth consist, 191.--Its interior
situation and exterior, 192, 193, 194, 195.--Its conquests and
colonies, 196 to 200.--Its great increase, 201.--

[end of page #295] Farthest advanced in manufacture, the
consequence of that investigated, 203, 204, 205.--Comparison
between its general trade and that to India, 206 to 211.--Begins to
encourage agriculture, 213.--Its exports and imports represented in
chart 3 described, 213, 214.

BRUGES acted once as a sovereign, 47.--Became a depot for India
goods in the north, as Venice was in the south, 157.

BURKE, Right Honourable Edmund, his opinion relative to exterior
causes of decline, 176.

BUTCHERS meat. See Animal Food.


CAPE of Good Hope. Its passage a new epoch in commercial history,

CAPITAL, the result of past industry, 161.--Commands trade, but
supplies poor countries at the expense of richer ones, 181.--Tends to
leave a country when it becomes too abundant, 161, 162, 163.--
Would leave England if the sinking fund were to operate long in time
of peace, 242.

CARTHAGE, of wealthy places alone escaped the conquests of
Alexander, 24.--Mistake relative to its state, 32, 33.--Its fall ruined
the Roman manners, ib.--Comparison between it and Rome unfair,
36, 37, 38.--Was never so degraded as Rome, ib.

CASPIAN Sea, goods brought by that route from India, 56.

CHANGES, interior, take place by degrees, 89.--Most rapid and
observable amongst the Romans, 91.

CHARLEMAGNE, from the fall of the Roman empire till his time,
nothing like wealth or power, 44.--Paved the way for civilizing and
enriching the north of Europe, 45.

CHARTS, description and explanation of, illustrating the rise and fall
of nations, 78, 79, 80.--Statistical explanation of, 190.--Of
commerce, exports and imports, 213.--Of revenue and debts, 214.

CHILDREN. See Education.

CHRISTIAN religion most favourable to industry, 263, 264, 265, 267.

COMMERCE, progress slow in feudal times, 3.--Changed its abode
when the magnet rendered navigating the ocean practicable, 4.--
Commercial wealth degrades a nation less than wealth obtained by
conquests, 33.--Commercial spirit, its operation on national character,
37.--Commerce with India, the only one in the ancient world, 51.--
How carried on, 52.--Its vicissitudes, the envy it created, quarrels and
revolutions it occasioned, 53 to 59.--Of Britain during the last fifteen
years; the increase great, but not arising from any permanent cause,
193.--Its dependence on credit, 201.

CONSTANTINOPLE shares in the trade of India, 56.--Revolution
occasioned partly by the contests about that commerce, 57.--Sunk
before the discovery of America, by the conquest of the eastern
Empire by the Turks, 68.

CONSUMPTION of food regulates the population of a country, 140.--
Its nature and tendency in northern nations, 141, 142, 143.--Requires
attention from government, 146.

CONQUEST first altered the natural state of the world, 2.--Its first
effect to lessen taxes, 35.--Ultimately degrades a nation, ib.

CONDUCT in life. See Education.

CORN, donations of at Rome, 35.--State of crops in England, 145.--
Impossibility, if it fell much short, to find ships to bring over the
quantity wanted, ib.--calculations concerning, 146 to 154.

CREDIT necessary to carry on trade extensively, 202, 203.

CRUSADES tended to extend civilization and commerce, 45.

CUSTOMS, the first great branch of public revenue, 106.

CURING herrings, an improvement in the mode of, raised Holland
above Flanders, 47.


DEAD languages. See Education.

DECAY. See Decline.

DECLINE of nations. Though it cannot be finally prevented, may be
considered as if it never were to come on in this Inquiry, 7.--Are of
two sorts, 10.--Of the Carthaginians attended with less degradation
than that of the Romans, 36.--Mistaken or misrepresented by
historians in the instances of Rome and Carthage, 37.--Cause of it
amongst the Romans, 39, 40, 41, &c.--Cause of in Flanders, 47.--
General in all nations that had been wealthy at the time of the
discovery of the passage to India and of America, 49.--Of the Turkish
government, 69.--Occasioned by taxation, 167.--How to be
prevented or retarded, 169.--Interior causes may be counteracted, ib.--
In general hastened by the conduct of governments, 171.--Might be
otherwise, ib.--Certain causes of, common to all nations, 173.--
External causes of operating on a nation, envy, enmity, &c. 176, 177,
178.--Causes of peculiar to Great Britain, 257, 258, 259, 260.

DENMARK. Example of comparative power.--Occasions the
Hanseatic League by its piracies, and is afterwards pillaged and nearly
ruined by that confederacy, 48.

DEPRECIATION of money counteracts the effect of taxation, 114,
115.--Takes place where ever wealth is, 164.--Its effects in dealing
with poor nations, 165.

DIPLOMACY. The circuitous conduct ascribed to ambassadors,
partly necessary and not to be blamed, 186.

[end of page #296]

DIVISION of land. See Property.

DIVISION of property. See Property.

DUTCH. See Holland.



EASTERN Empire. See Constantinople.

EDUCATION of children in all countries grows worse as a nation
grows more wealthy, 90.--Brings on a change of manners, 91.--
Would be better managed if parents were aided by govetnment, =sic=
94.--Cannot be properly taken care of without the aid of government,
95.--In what it consists generally, 96, 97, 98.--Has been in general
wrong understood =sic= by writers on it, 98, 99.--Female, its
importance, ib.--Has been ill understood and conducted, 100, 101.--
Its importance, 216.--Of the higher classes of society is well enough,
217.--Not so of the lower, ib.--Apprenticeships, their advantages,
218.--To become a good member of society, the end of all education,
whatever the rank or situation, 219.--Dr. Smith's opinion about
apprenticeships examined, ib. and 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226.--
Of females in England badly conducted, 227, 228.

EGYPT, one of the first countries settled, 20.--Its fertility, &c. 21.--
Its surplus industry appears to have belonged to the sovereign, 22.--
Shared in the commerce to India at an early period, 51, 52.--Became
the chief channel for the trade to India after the founding of
Alexandria, 54.

ELIZABETH, queen, Spanish armada in her reign not equal to the
privateers of our merchants now, 8.--Endeavoured to enrich the
country, 118.

EMIGRANT ladies, astonishment shewn by them at the little progress
made in female education at public schools in this country, 228.

ENERGY of those who attack greater than that of they =sic= who
defend, 17.--Occasioned by poverty, and necessity the cause of
changes and revolution, 19.

ENGLAND began to see the advantages of manufactures and
commerce very late, 48, 74.--Its form of government a great
advantage, 191.--Manners likely to change, 193.--Increase of its
trade since 1791, owing to temporary causes, 195.--The American
and Russian markets great and increasing, 204.--Envy and enmity
excited by its conquests in India, 206.--Effects of taxation on it, 229,
230, 231, 232, 233.--Its national debt, 234 to 246.--Causes of decline
peculiar to it, 257 to 260.--Circumstances peculiarly favourable to it,
261 to 270.--Ought not to be envied for its possessions in India 291.--
Owes its wealth chiefly to internal industry, 293.

ENVY leads to rivalship in peace and brings on war, 14.--One of the
external causes of the fall of nations, 175.--Occasioned the fall of
Jerusalem after the death of Solomon, 177.--Excited by the wealth of
England, and particularly by its possessions in the east, 206.

ESPRIT DE CORPS. See Bodies public and corporate.


EUROPE, wealth and power unequally divided in it, 13.--Division of
states, with the population and revenues, illustrated by a statistical

EXCISE, established long after the customs, 107.

EXPENDITURE of England consists chiefly in interest of debt, 233.--
Cannot by any economy be much reduced in time of peace. ib.

EXPORTS, chart shewing, 213.

EXTERNAL causes of decline, cannot be prevented altogether by
internal arrangements, but their effect greatly diminished, 173.--More
simple than the internal causes, 175.--Envy and enmity, ib.--Opinion
of Mr. Burke, 176, 177, 178.--Causes arising from poor nations
having the advantage over rich in all dealings, 179.--High value of
money in poorer nations, 182.--Conclusion of exterior causes, 184 to


FALL. See Decline.

FINANCES. See Revenue.

FINE arts do not flourish in a very wealthy country, 113.--Very
different as to their improvement, from the mechanic arts.

FLANDERS enriched by manufactures, 3, 46.--The discovery of a
bettar =sic= method of curing herrings by the Dutch is hurtful to it, 47.

FLORENCE served as a refuge for the nobles of Rome, when the city
was taken by the Goths, 44.

FOOD. See Animal Food and Corn.

FORCE, human, the superiority it gave nearly done away by the
invention of gun-powder, 4.


FRANCE has, since the revolution, invented new modes of fighting,
31.--Does not resemble Rome, 38.--Its assignats the principal cause
of the nature of the revolution, 48.--Its monied capital was sent away
when the revolution broke out,163.--Its burthens before the
revolution, 169.--It expended great sums in the last war, 189.--It,
before the revolution, gained more by the west-India trade than any
other nation, 193.--Have now nearly lost it, ib.--Its capital greatly
diminished, ib.--Will probably never possess great West-India trade
again, 195.--Will never cease to be an enemy to England, 196.

FREED men.

FREE revenue. See Revenue.

FUND, public. See National Debt.

FUND, sinking. See National Debt.


GAMING, though attended with painful sensations, is oftener
followed from propensity, as a mode of occupying the mind and
interesting it, than from a love of gain, 83. [end of page #297]

GENTLEMEN resemble each other pretty nearly in all countries, 218.

GEOGRAPHICAL discovery so far as connected with the rise and fall
of nations nearly at an end, 12.

GENOA, why put with Venice in the chart of commercial history, 56.--
Its greatness, ib.--Loses its superiority, 57.--Its power in the Black-
Sea, ib.

GOLD. See Money.

GOLDEN Age. See Age.

GOVERNMENTS ought to aid in the education of the lower and
middling classes, 94, 95.--Neglect education in the useful arts, 98.--
Should counteract the internal causes of decline, 172, 173, 187.--
Government of Great Britain should take care of education, 225.

GRAIN. See Corn.

GREEKS, their education peculiar to themselves, 25.--Studied
Egyptian learning, 98, 99.

GUN-POWDER changed the art of war, 4.


HANS Towns rose first to wealth in the north of Europe, 3.--Became
formidable towards the end twelfth century, 45.--Arose from the
circumstances of the times and necessity.--Became conquerors, 48.--
Began to decline through pride and luxury, 49.

HERRINGS, a new mode of curing them, discovered by the Dutch,
raised that country, and began to make Flanders decline, 47.

HISTORY, an appeal to the best mode of inquiry, 1.--Dr. Robertson's
complaint about the scarcity of materials, ib.--Is confused previous to
the conquests of Alexander the Great, 20.--Commercial chart of, for
3005 years, 78.

HOLLAND compared to the Phoenicians, 46.--New method of curing
herrings raised it above Flanders. Great industry and economy, 48.--
Triumph over Spain at home, and Portugal in India, 62, 63, 64, 65.--
Increase in wealth till the end of the seventeenth century, 66.--The
best example of overcoming difficulties, ib.--How it began to fall,
67.--How it at last sunk before France, 68.

HORSES, there =sic= great consumption of food, 147, 157.

HOUSE rent. See Rent.

HUME, David, Esq. his errors respecting national debt, though a man
of great abilities, 114.


JAMES I. did not understand the true reason, why the Scotch were
greater lovers of liberty in his time than the English, 280.

IDLENESS, incompatible with riches in a nation, in every case, but
not so with an individual, 82.

IMPORTS of, England, chart of, 213.

INDIA. Its productions seem to have been the first objects of
commerce, 51.--Digression concerning this trade, 51 to 69.--Its trade
and possessions excite envy, 193, 194, 195.--Our possessions too
great, 197.--Budget, its statement and calculation of sums remitted
home, 198.--Has lost the cotton trade notwithstanding the low rate of
labour, 200.--Its trade compared with that of the country at large, 206,
207.--A peculiar cause of other nations envying England, 257.--
Ought not to be so, as they produce very little wealth compared with
what springs from national industry, 291.--The division of labour,
ready methods of working, and inventions produce more wealth than
both the Indies, 293.

INDIES, West, the trade of, lost to France, 193.--Trade of England to,
of a permanent nature, 195.--A cause of envy, 196, 197, 198, 199.--
Ought not to be a cause of envy.

INDIVIDUALS, some may live without labour, but all those of a
country never can, 82.--Can pay for certain things, for which they
cannot provide, 95.

INDUSTRY caused by poverty and necessity, 19.--A more
permanent source of wealth than any other, 42.--Industry in youth, the
great advantage of through life, 84.--Diminishes as wealth increases,
90.--Tends to leave a wealthy nation after a certain time, 161.--
Industry of England, the great support of its wealth, and if other
nations were as industrious, each in the way most advantageous, they
would be as rich as England, 292.

INTERIOR causes of decline enumerated and examined as habits of
life and manners, 81 to 93.--Arising from education, 94 to 101. The
effects on the people and the government, from 102 to 115.--Arising
from public bodies, from 116 to 124.--Arising from unequal division
of property and employment of capital, from 125 to 136.--Arising
from the produce of the soil, becoming unequal to the consumption,
from page 137 to 160.--From the tendency of industry and capital to
leave a wealthy country, from 161 to 166.--Conclusion of interior
causes, from 166 to 174.

INTEREST, compound, its progress, more certain in paying off debts
than in accumulating capital, 241.

INVENTIONS, three great ones almost totally changed the state of
mankind, 4.--Inventions render more capital necessary to commerce,
126.--Is one of the things that renders our superiority in manufactures
secure, 202.--A nation that remains stationary will soon be surpassed,

JOHNSON, Dr. would have been a greater man if he had lived in a
poorer nation, 113.

ITALY was unable to supply its inhabitants with food in the splendour
of the Roman empire, 43.


LABOUR, some individuals may, but a nation never [end of page
#28] can exist without it, 82.--Division of, produces great wealth.

LAND, price of, two centuries ago, and comparison of the profit of
purchasing, or lending on interest in a nation increasing in wealth,
130.--Its unequal division discourages industry, 132, 133, 134.--Total
amount of rent in England, 153, 154, 155.

LANGUAGES, dead. See Education.

LAWS better administered in England in criminal than civil cases,
119.--Tend to become more complicated, 123.

LAWYERS, their ESPRIT DE CORPS, 120, 121, 122.--Individuals
have no means to resist their incroachments, 123.--Government ought
to do it, 124.

LIVERPOOL fitted out privateers last war, equal in tonnage and men
to the Spanish Armada, 8.

LOANS. See National Debt.

LOCAL situation, one of the causes of wealth, 2.--The discoveries in
geography and navigation have changed that with regard to particular

LONDON burnt by the Danes, 9.--Rent and taxes heavier than in any
other place, 237.--People prefer living in London, where all is dear, to
the cheaper parts of England, 238, 239.


MISERS, never a race of them for three or four generations, 83.

MOGUL, the prodigious and rapid decline of his empire, 197.

MONEY corrupted every thing at Rome when its decline begun, 46.--
Money to borrow, only to be found in Italy and Flanders, 48.--Let
=sic= out at interest, loses; laid out to buy land, gains in a country
growing rich, 163.--Its value less in England than any country except
America, 165.--Though the best measure of value is not accurate,
being different in different countries, 182.--Its great value in poor
countries serves to enrich them in dealing with wealthy nations, 183.

MONARCHY. See Absolute Monarchy.

MONOPOLY not an imaginary evil, 49.--Dr. Smith's opinion
contradicted by experience, 150.--Proof of its existence, 151, 152,
153, 154.--Augments rent, and labour, and prices, 153.

MONTESQUEU, his mistake relative to Rome and Carthage, 32.--
His opinion of the affairs of Rome, 40.

MONTAGUE, chancellor of the exchequer, attended by the lord
mayor and sheriffs, went from shop to shop in London to borrow
money, 239.

MORALS. See Education.

MOTHERS. See Education.

MACHINERY. See Manufactures.

MAHOMEDAN RELIGION, its rapid establishment, 54.--Its effects
on the commerce with India, ib.

MANNERS greatly corrupted at Rome, 43.--A change in them
constantly going on, and tending to bring decline,

MANUFACTURES settled early on the shores of the Baltic, 3.--
Those who possess them first, lose them by imitation of others, 14.--
India surpassed in them by England, 63.--In ancient times, only,
extended to luxuries for the great and simple necessaries for the poor,
73.--Manufacturers less splendid than merchants, 143.--The working
men consume more animal food than the same rank of people in any
other nation, 144.--England considered as excelling all other nations
for manufacturers =sic=, 200.--The effects of the inventions of the
steam engine and spinning machines, 203.--Scarcely any thing sold to
the American states, except our own manufactures, 204.--Southern
nations cannot rival northerly ones, 210.--Manufactures, and
agriculture, more conducive to wealth than commerce, are not the
same thing, 209.

MEDITERRANEAN, its shores the first abodes of commerce, 3 and
4, 20.--Lost its importance by the discovery of America, the magnet,
and the passage to India by the Cape,

MERCHANTS less splendid than conquerors and planters, 143.--Can
have no rule of conduct in transactions but their own advantage, 181.


NATIONS, none that ever submitted to pay tribute, ever flourished
long, 40.--Enriched by commerce, not so certain to decline as by
conquests, 41.--There =sic= situation with respect to wealth and
power previous to the discovery of America, 49.--Feeble nations have
some advantage in knowing their weakness, 171.--Exterior causes of
their decline of less importance than interior ones, 184.--Should
consider which is the best object on which to employ their industry,
210, 211.--Their comparative extent, revenues, and population,
illustrated by an engraved chart, 213, 214.--Nations of Europe,
application of the present inquiry to them, 284.

NECESSITY consisting of a desire to supply wants, the cause of
industry and wealth, 14.--Necessity ceases its operation on the nation
that is risen highest, 15, 16.--Operated very powerfully on the Dutch,
47.--Habit prolongs the action of it, 81.--With young men that can,
alone, produce industry, 84.--Less and less on each generation as
wealth increases, 85. The consequences of this, 87.--Its operation
prolonged to a certain degree by taxation, 239.--

NORTHERN countries most favourable to industry, 44.

NILE. See Egypt.


PALMYRA founded by Solomon, King of Israol =sic=, for the
purpose of trading with India,

PARIS burnt by the Danes soon after the death of Charlemagne.
Prices of bread at, compared with those of London, 150.

PARISH-OFFICERS defend themselves against the public at the
expense of the public, 122.--Bad administrators, 123, 124.--Rough,
vulgar, and a disgrace to the country, 249.

PATENTS, laws of, its utility, 200, 201.

PETER the Great endeavoured to improve his country, and make his
people happy, 118.

PITT, Right Hon. W. his estimate of national property, 243, 244.

POLAND, causes of its decline, and subjugation, different from that
of most other nations, 75.

POOR, their wretched state at Rome, 43.--Of England cost six times
as much, in proportion, as in Scotland, and fifty times as much in
reality, 88.--Increase, as capital becomes necessary for industry, 156.--
Causes of their increase, &c. &c. 157, 158, 159, 160.--Of England,
cost more to maintain, than the revenues of many kingdoms, 247.--
Causes, inquired into, and remedy, 248 to 256.

POPULATION, 142.--Connected with wealth, and the manner of
living, so that a nation may not require to import ordinary food in
great quantities 159.--May be considered as diminished in a double
ratio as the poor increase, 249.


POWER in nations, sometimes united with wealth, sometimes not, 7.--
Definition of, 8, 9.--Sought after by the Romans, and most nations,
too eagerly, 39.--Quitted Rome when wealth was too great, 36.

PRICES of animal and vegetable food; highness of price diminishes
consumption, 161.--Those of the late dearth at Paris compared with
London, ib.--When known to the corn-dealers, they can combine
without any express stipulation, 152, 153.--Rises to that of monopoly
as soon as an article of necessity becomes scarce, 154, 155.--Of rent
and wages have advanced more within these last twelve years, than in
half a century before, 155.

PRINCIPLES. See Education.

PRIORITY of possession of settlement, or of invention, one of the
causes of wealth and power,

PRODUCE, indulging in eating animal food renders it unequal to
maintaining the population of a country, 138, 139.--Of Italy,
inadequate to its population in the time of Augustus, 3.--Easier
purchased than raised when a nation is rich,

PROPERTY at Rome very unequally divided before its fall, 43.--Has
a natural tendency to accumulate in particular hands as a nation gets
rich, 125, 126, 127.--Its accumulation and unequal division, one of
the causes of decline, 128.--In land, the accumulation is the most
dangerous, 129 to 136.

PROSPERITY. See Wealth and Power.


REFORMATION favourable to manufactures and industry,

RELIGION, Christian, more favourable than any other to industry and
good moral conduct, 264.--Protestant still more favourable than the
Roman Catholic, 265, 266, 267.

RENT. See Prices.

REVENUE of Rome wasted on soldiers and public shews, 43.--Want
of, tended to ruin Poland, 75.--Digression concerning, 187, 188, 189,
190.--When it becomes the chief object of, to government,
encourages vice, 226.

REVOLUTIONS in ancient nations traced, 17, 18, 53, 54, 55.--Of
Poland, the account of, 75, 76, 77.

ROBINSON, Dr. his complaint about ancient history, 1.

ROME, her rise not accidental, but from the most unremitting
perseverance, 27.--An account of her conduct in war, and internal
policy, 28 to 33.--Lost her purity of manners, neglected agriculture
and the arts, when she became rich by her conquests in Asia, and the
fall of Carthage, 34, 35.--Became more degraded than ever Carthage
was, 36, 37.--Her courts of justice became venal, property divided in
a very unequal way, taxes became oppressive, her armies enervated,
and she fell, 38, 39, 40.


SARACENS got possession of Egypt, &c. 44.

SCHOOLS. See Education.

SINKING Fund, its progress shewn in a stained chart, 215.--Will not
immediately diminish the taxes, 241.--When the capital was
reimbursed to individuals, part of it would leave the country, 242.--If
it completely paid off the debt in time of peace, would be productive
of much mischief, ib.--Plan proposed to be substituted for it, 243.--If
ever so effectual, its operation in time of war will never obtain credit
amongst ourselves, and much less with the enemy, 244, 245, 246.

SMITH, Dr. Adam, did not make proper allowance about national
debt, 114.--His opinions concerning monopoly, examined, 149, 150.--
His opinion about apprentices, 219.

SOLOMON, king of Israel, on terms of friendship with the king of
Tyre, 21.--Founded Palmyra for the purpose of trade to India, 25.--
After his death, rivalship in trade, and the envy of the Tyrians, caused
them to excite the king of Babylon to besiege Jerusalem, 53.

SPAIN, its grand armada not equal to the privateers fitted out at
Liverpool during the last war, 8.--Persecutes the Flemings, 47.--The
effects of wealth on it, 63.--Its insolence and pride, 64.--And sudden
decline, ib.--Wealth made it neglect industry, 65.--Gains great sums
by South America, yet is not an object of envy, 292.


TAXES at Rome, in its decline, became terrible, 40,--41, 42.--Taxes
in France taken off while the assignats were creating, 42.--So great at
Rome, that the citizens envied the barbarians, 43.--The power of
laying on depends on circumstances, 92.--Always increasing, 102.--
Of the American States an exception, 103.--Why collected rigorously,
104.--Those which fall on persons or personal property, the most
obnoxious, 105.--Of England, laid on better than in any other nation,
106.--Prolong the action of necessity, and augment industry to a
certain point, which, when they pass, they crush it, 107, 108.--Their
produce expended on unproductive people, 109, 110, 111.--Are like a
rent paid for living in a country, 112 to 115.--In England, their
effects, 229 to 233.--Taxes and rent augment industry, 236, 237.--In
London, heavier than elsewhere, yet people crowd to London, 238,
239.--If taken off suddenly, would be hurtful, 240 to 244.--For the
maintenance of poor, 247 to 256.

TRADE--See Commerce.

TREATIES, the best observed, have been those founded on equity
add =sic= mutual interest, 186.

TYRE, early commerce, 21, 23.--Its destruction one of the most
permanent effects of Alexander's wars, 24.--Excited the king of
Babylon to take Jerusalem, 45.


VENICE, its greatness, 56, 57.

UNITED STATES. See States of America.


WAGES. See Prices.

WAR generally occasioned by envy or rivalship, 14, 175, 219.--
Ought not to be followed to procure wealth, as it is much more easily
done by industry, 293.

WATT, James Esq. his invention of the steam engine, 203.

WEALTH, its definition in contra-distinction to power, 8, 9, 10.--
Diminishes the necessity of industry, 29, 30.--Leaves richer to go into
poorer countries, 93.--In England arises from industry, not from
foreign possessions, 293, 294.

WEST Indies. See Indies, West.


YOUTH. See Education.

---> _The reader will observe, on one =sic= of the pages, reference to
an Appendix, but the design was altered, from the consideration that
readers of history do not require solitary facts, by way of illustration,
though such are very easy to be produced._



W. Marchant, Printer, Greville-street.


[Transcriber's note:
In the original work:
--the footnotes are designated by [*] but are here serially
numbered for ease of reference;
--in some cases the same word is spelt differently in various
parts of the text, e.g. controul/control; Hans/Hanse Towns,
shew/show (one instance only of the latter) etc. These and
other vagaries are reproduced largely without special note.
Likewise treated are the numerous examples of the number
of the subject not agreeing with that of the verb.]

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