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had to mere temporary measures, which are always impotent against urgent evils. Statesmen were even inclined to fancy the calamity less than it was pretended to be; their ignorance stifled their remorses; and we shall presently find, that he who, first wrote on that subject in France, although a very enlightened man in other respects,* firmly believed the evil which was complained of, to be merely imaginary, and to have no way impaired either public or private wealth. Can we wonder, after this, at the slow progress of wealth in France,-in a country where it ought to have surpassed that of all other nations, had her inhabitants known how to avail themselves of her natural advantages ?
While, in Italy, philosophers were endeavouring to regulate the circulating medium of gold and silver, and in France every regulation was imprudently derided, a more particular attention was paid in England to the influence of the medium of exchange upon wealth ; and some English writers did not hesitate to maintain that wealth depended on the lowering of the interest of money, were it even forced.
The exaggeration of this opinion did not tend to its discredit; it was faithfully followed in England for nearly two centuries, and it constantly regulated the views, determinations, and financial measures of her legislature and government. Her bank, her sinkingfund, her public credit, are all built upon the principle of the utility of lowering the interest of money.
* Melon, Essai Politique sur le Commerce en 1731.
+ Thomas Culpeper, Sir Josiuh Child, Locke, Patersun, and Barnard
*This doctrine, which was introduced in France by the famous Law, was as fatal to that country as it had proved beneficial to England; and the reason of this difference is easily perceived. When Thomas Culpeper in 1641, Sir Josiah Child in 1670, Paterson in 1694, Locke in 1700, and Barnard in 1714, solicited the lowering of the rate of interest, public opinion had already anticipated their efforts. The interest of money had been lowered in all private transactions, and the law did nothing but countenance the general disposition of the people.
The case was widely different in France. When Law proposed to lower the rate of interest by indirect and forced means, confidence was destroyed, the discredit general, and money hoarded; it could scarcely be had even at the highest interest.
The two countries were in a totally different situation, and by an infallible consequence, the measure which succeeded in England, failed, and must necessarily have failed, in France, where it produced the most disastrous effects, and formed one of the most lamentable periods of the history of her wealth. May this event be a lesson to all governments, and guard them against absolute principles in political economy, and, above all, against specifics which the science disclaims, and which are an insult to reason!
Shaken in its very foundations by the doctrine of the forced lowering of the rate of interest, and by an excessive paper-circulation, wealth, in France, had no longer any solid basis, fixed principle, or steady direction. Though it was still supposed to have its source
in foreign commerce, and in the abundance of gold and silver, which are to be obtained only by commerce ; people yet could not perceive how a good metallic currency increases
increases and preserves wealth. In the midst of this general disposition of men's minds, a writer, remarkable for his knowledge, infor. mation, and talents, gave them a fresh impulse by starting the most whimsical and revolting paradox. Melon pretended “ that the weight and fineness " of money ought to be exclusively attended to, " and not its current value, which is indifferent, " and which, having been raised from one to above
sixty, without injuring commerce and finances, could never be prejudicial to either."
This assertion was completely destructive of the mercantile system, since it debased their gold and silver currency, and afforded the means of increasing it by augmenting its numeric value. Hence it excited a lively controversy between the French and Italian writers. Dutot in France*, and the Italian authors quoted above, proved to demonstration that a metallic currency facilitates exchanges merely on account of the value of the metals of which it is com. posed, and up to that value only; and that, whenever this fundamental principle of circulation is lost sight of, considerable losses accrue to individuals and to the state.
The result of this discussion, as generally happens in almost all controversies, proved very different from
* Réflexions Politiques sur les Finances,
that which was expected. It was inferred, that gold and silver, which, till then, had been considered as true wealth, are only the instruments of its circulation; and this view of the subject gave birth to fresle inquiries into the nature of wealth. *
Dr. Quesnay in particular acquired great celebrity by the new and transcendent views of his Theory of the Sources of Wealth.
He does not place the source of vealth in commerce, because all its operations are limited to the conveyance of the produce of the soil and industry from one place to the other.
Neither can industry aspire to this eminent prerogative; because it only transforms the territorial produce into different shapes, without adding any thing to its quantity; and because its productions are only the material representatives of the produce of the soil which the manufacturer has employed or consumed.
Land alone is the true source of wealth ; because it produces every thing that man desires for the supply of his wants, for his enjoyments, his pleasures, and his fancies; and because it constantly re-produces a quantity superior to what has been consumed to effect its re-production. This excess of re-production, this gratuitous gift of the soil, this net produce, is the only fund that can be employed to encourage the progress of labour, to reward its success, to promote improvements, and indefinitely to increase the sum of public and private wealthi.
*La Moneta non è Richezill, ma imagine sul cd Isfrumento ili saggirarlo. (ialioni della Moneta.
Agricultural labour, by a necessary consequence, is the only productive one ; all other labours are barren and unproductive.
By another consequence not less just, the surplus of the produce of the soil above all expences to obtain it, being a gratuitous gift of the land, ought to belong to the land-owners; they alone can distribute it to the other classes of the community ; which circumstance gives them the character of paymasters, and to those who receive it the character of mercenaries.
On this respective paying and being paid, the economists built the relative rights of governors and governed. They asserted, that the land-owners, as paying, ought alone to share in the government; and that all those who are paid, cannot take any part in it without an evident and manifest usurpation. And, finally, Dr. Quesnay maintained that, the net produce being the sole disposable wealth, the public, revenue can only be derived from part of this produce; that the act of sharing in the net produce renders government a co-proprietor of the soil; and that this co-propriety constitutes its right to government; which right is limited by its co-proprietors. This doctrine caused a strong sensation. It
presented an idea simple and easy to comprehend; flattered the pride of the land-owners, that important class entitled to so much regard and consideration; and had a tendency to mitigate the lot of the husbandmen, the most numerous and undoubtedly the most wretched portion of inhabitants in every country and under all governments; yet its success was not equal to its brilliant fame. With the exception of two authors who