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their subsistence on the liberality and munificence of the wealthy, had not, and could not have, any other conduct, morality, or virtue, than that of their patrons, magistrates, and benefactors.
The rich themselves, while they enjoyed their immense riches, had nothing to fear, nothing to hope, nothing to wish for. What virtues must they have been possessed of, not to be absolutely vicious! What notions could they have of domestic duties, of the relations of masters and slaves, magistrates and citizens, nations and individuals! The power of satisfying every desire vitiates them all, and renders virtue too difficult, not to say, impossible.
This distribution of wealth smothered every private and public virtue in the bud, and nurtured only the vices destructive of social order,
Both the slaves who were submissive to the will of their masters, and the freemen who depended on the kindness of their patrons, were indifferent to the fate of their country, and took no interest either in its safety or in its glory.
The rich, as sole possessor's of wealth and exclu, sively invested with public offices, shared, or contended for, the supreme power, made war or peace, maintained public order or fomented civil discords, and acted right or wrong, at their convenience or pleasure.
This concentration of wealth and power among the rich had so reduced the number of individuals inte. rested in the safety of the state, that every page of ancient history records the difficulty of finding defenders for the country, and of levying and recruiting
armies. We see the number of combatants decreasing every where in proportion to the increased wealth of the state and its concentration in one single class.
When the law of the Ephorus Epitadeus allowed the Spartans to sell their landed property and to dispose of it by will, and when the estates which had been distributed by Lycurgus among nine thousand citizens, were possessed by one hundred individuals, Sparta had no longer any soldiers, army, or power.
When Athens contained within her walls individuals possessed of three miles of land, while others had not wherewith to get buried, Demosthenes vainly proposed to raise an army of two thousand foot and five hundred horse; a third only of which was to consist of citizens; no one was ready to defend a country which was become the property of a fery families.
At Carthage, the wealth produced by commerce and conquest did not follow the law of concentration of military governments : her political constitution did not accumulate it exclusively in the lap of one class of the people. Hence her citizens were not infected with any of the vices that occasioned the ruin of the other ancient nations, and though Carthage perished like them, it was neither from the same causes nor by the fatal influence of wealth.
But her riches did not prove of great utility for her defence ; perhaps they were even rather unfavourable to those civil and political virtues which are so essential to the prosperity and preservation of states : the reason of this may again be found in the polluted source from which her riches sprang. As the fruits of
commerce and conquest, the wealth of Carthage, partook of the vices of both: the parsimony of the merchant tarnished the warlike virtues of the soldier, and the avidity of the soldier impaired the social virtues of the merchant; both were less occupied with the state than with their private interests, and less anxious for their country than for their wealth. But in this instance, these vices were not the offspring of wealth, they proceedled chiefly from the conquests to which the Carthaginians owed the greatest part of their riches. The influence of the commercial spirit · could not prevail over the spirit of conquest ; they mutually perverted each other, and became equally incapable of saving and defending the country.
Lastly ; Rome, which during the second Punic war counted two hundred and fifty thousand men under arms, beheld, when she was become mistress of the world, hier liberty decided at Pharsale by sixty-three thousand combatants, forty-one thousand of whom were in the army of Pompey, and twenty-two thousand in that of Cæsar; and the world submitted to the decision of that famous battle *
What more striking proof can there be required of the fatal effects of the concentration of riches? And is it possible to ascribe to any other cause the number
* The lands of Italy, which had been originally distributed to poor but free families, were insensibly purchased or usurped by i he avarice of the nobles, and in the century which preceded the fall of the republic, there were scarcely two thousand citizens pos. sessed of an independent fortune sufficient for their maintenance. Gibbon's Declinc and Fall of the Roman Empire.
less calamities which hurled all the empires of antiquity from the summit of grandeur and power?
The Barbarians, who invaded the Roman empire in the middle age, left to the vanquished a part of their riches, and shared in the other part : this partition divided wealth arnong two classes of men, but in proportions so unequal, that, if it did not occasion a concentration similar to that which existed at Sparta, Athens, and Rome, it caused at least so great a disparity, that the people were again divided in three classes ; one composed of slaves and bondinen, the second of small proprietors, and the third of the owners of large estates.
The bondmen, like the slaves of the ancients, were condemned to labour for their masters, and had no more rank in the state than the slaves of Athens and Rome and the Helotes of Sparta. The class doomed to this servitude, composed the major part of the people.
The small proprietors, much more numerous than the great land-owners, were indebted to the latter for their safety and part of their means of subsistence; and in both respects resembled the Proletarians and the poorer citizens of Rome and other ancient states.
The great land-owners, as they disposed of the bondmen and small proprietors, whom they attached to their fortune or rendered dependent, defied public power, warred with each other, and regarded themselves as so many independent sovereigns. This anarchy, again, had evidently its source in the concentration of wealth ; a concentration, the strength of which
increased as the public power was enfeebled; its excess occasioned that general misery which every wbere provoked resistance, and fir:lly delivered Europe from feudal oppression.
Again, therefore, does the history of this period impute the calamities of the times to the concentration of riches, and absolve wealth itself of the reproaches with which many philosophers have judged themselves authorized to load it.
But its moral and political effects, as soon as it circulated, with comparatively less obstacles, in every class and among all individuals, ought, in my opinion, to remove every doubt respecting the nature of wealth and the estimation in which it is to be held.
From that period, wbich separates modern times from the middle age, wealth has been as productive of public and private prosperity, as it had been before of general and individual distress.
Produced by labour, it rendered men particularly attentive to the means of augmenting the productiveness of labour. They soon perceived, that the free labourer who works for his profit, multiplies the produce he consumes during his labour ; while the slave or bondman scarcely replaces what he consumes. In proportion as this truth was diffused by experience, the passion for wealth broke the fetters with which it had held mankind enslaved.
On the other hand, the free but poor class that till then had lived dependent on the great land-owners, being enriched by labour, shook off this dependence, afforded to the public power a force formerly devoted