uncultivated, the population has perished or emigrated, and the traveller who had seen that country in a high state of cultivation, well peopled, and rich, and beholds it again poor, uncultivated, and as it were uninhabited, is afraid of having lost himself, and does not know to whom to apply to calm his fears and his uneasiness. Numerous are the examples which the history of antiquity and the middle age affords of such dreadful catastrophes. What is become of the powerful empires of Asia; of that wealthy and populous Egypt, still famous for its monuments and its ruins; of the innumerable republics of Greece; of the opulent cities of Asia Minor 2 There is no vestige remaining of their wealth, of their power, and of their grandeur. Their destruction and ruin are generally attributed to the evils of war, the ravages of time, national calamities, and a number of political and moral causes: but it would be easy to shew that all these causes would have been transitory, of short duration, and rapidly remedied, if the burthens laid upon the people by their lawful governments, or by blind or improvident conquerors, beyond their annual income, had not deprived them of the means of repairing by their industry the evils inflicted by the ravages of war and the imbecility of their governors. The excess of consumption above income may therefore occasion the ruin of nations, as it does the misery of individuals. It is true that, in the mercantile system, when the generality of the people obliged to labour experience every day the difficulty of providing for their subsistence, and know how to appreciate the advantages of economy and capital, there is no danger that great numbers will addict themselves to a fatal dissipation, rush into misery, and dig the precipice which is to engulph public and private prosperity. All wish to turn to advantage what they have economized, and wealth is formed, maintained, preserved by the labour, and increased, extended, and consolidated by the economy of all. The dilapidation of private individuals is as little injurious to national wealth, as the penurious avarice of a few is detrimental to its progress. The power of general labour repairs private errors, nearly in the same manner as the plentiful harvest of one province covers the losses which bad seasons occasion in some districts. But this advantage, it must be acknowledged, is peculiar to the mercantile system of modern nations, and is not to be found in any other system. In the economical system of the nations of antiquity, among which there were but idle men and slaves who performed the general labour, prodigality, profusion, dissipation, and luxury, were equally prejudicial in a moral and economical respect. Luxury, by destroying the fortunes of the first families of the state, ruined the patricians, and converted aristocratical governments into oligarchical and monarchical governments into despotical ones; or if it gave birth to new fortunes besides those of the patricians, aristocracy degenerated into democracy, or monarchy into aristocracy; so that the division of large fortunes essentially altered the political system of the state. On the other hand, luxury, by scattering the fortunes of the first families of the empire, afflicted the people with the lamentable sight of decayed patricians stripped of wealth and credit, it vitiated public morals, broke the bonds of civil and political dependence, caused the inequality of conditions to disappear, corrupted private manners, and destroyed every notion of order, consideration, and respect. Finally, by absorbing the capitals of a great number of families, luxury diminished the quantity of labour which they would have supported, weakened the national income, and impoverished the state. Such capitals, by being scattered among a number of .individuals, instead of encouraging them to labour, frequently incited them to a greater consumption, and consequently contributed to increase the general misery. : It is therefore very justly that all the authors of antiquity recommended economy, nay, honoured parsimony; and imputed to luxury the decay of morals, the ruin of private fortunes, and the loss of the state. In such an order of things, avarice was a virtue, and luxury a sort of public crime. In the middle age, under the feudal system, at a time when the state was divided among great and petty land-owners and bondmen, and when the political constitution was purely aristocratical, it was thought necessary to guard against the dissipation of large fortunes, which were justly considered as the basis of the state. This gave rise to the laws of primogeniture and entail, and others which it is useless to enumerate here. But these political laws, by preserving fortunes in families, impoverished all the individuals of the nation. They enriched a few at the expence of all, and created general misery to establish a few private fortunes. What luxury could ever have been pregnant with greater calamities! However, every enlightened individual who was initiated in the mystery of that legislation, justly lifted his voice against luxury, and condemned it with as much severity as the nations of antiquity. Inheritors of their doctrine, our political, moral and economical writers have almost all re-produced it in their writings; and though this doctrine be no longer applicable to our manners, to our interests, to our politics; though it be as fatal to us as it was beneficial to the people for whom it was designed, it still predominates in our books; and all that the boldest innovators have dared to advance is, that luxury becomes prejudicial only when it deprives the prodigal of the means of performing his individual, domestic, and social duties. Will men then never cease to judge of the present by the past, and of the future by their fears; will they not at length perceive that, whatever may be the circumstances that have led modern nations to the mercantile system, their political, moral, and economical condition has no conformity with and bears no relation to that of the nations of antiquity and the middle age 2 If those nations were interested in condemning private luxury, the moderms have nothing to dread from it, and need not take any measures to repress or to guard against luxury. Wherever wealth proceeds from general labour, there is no danger that it will be dissipated by the private luxury of a smaller or greater number of individuals. The general tendency of commercial nations can never be towards dissipation, luxury, and magnificence. But that which is not to be apprehended from individuals, may be done by governments; and it is in this respect only that wealth may run some risk. The revenue of governments generally consists of contributions levied upon individuals. If, either from a love of luxury and magnificence, or from the passion of conquests, or from a bad economical system, or from a vicious administration, these contributions are raised to an excessive height, the efforts of the individual members of the nation, to repair by their labour and economy the evil of an excessive expenditure of government, must prove abortive. If this expenditure, coupled with that of the individual members of the nation, exceeds the annual produce of the national labour, the aggregate of the nation is placed in the same predicament as an individual who spends more than his income. Capitals are swallowed up, labour is left to pine, its produce is diminished, population reduced, and the impoverished nation declines, and is perhaps exhausted to such a degree that it is no longer ranked among free and independent powers. Though it be therefore of little importance in the mercantile system, whether some individuals consume above their income or not, both the prosperity and the safety of the state require that the totality of the nation should not consume more than the portion of the annual produce reserved for general consumption. To suppose that, the more there is consumed, the more is produced, is, as has been well observed by a G G

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