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attempted to propagate it in Italy”, all those who at that time wrote on subjects connected with political economy in England and Italy, continued more or less attached to the system of foreign commerce. Sir James Steuart, in England, published, in an extensive work, a complete theory of the mercantile system ; and as if he had wished to oppose it to the theory of the French economists, he distinguished two sorts of agriculture, one abusive, or useless, which provides only for the maintenance of the husbandmen, and is of no benefit to the community; the other useful, which produces not only the subsistence of the husbandmen, but also that of all other classes of the community, and which he calls commercial agriculture.-But it was particularly in Italy that the mercantile system met with eloquent and celebrated panegyrists; Genovesi, Beccaria, Carli, Perri, made wealth depend on the unlimited liberty of foreign commerce, and triumphantly refuted the system of the French economists. At that time the Italians infinitely surpassed the rest of Europe in the science of political economy; they kept this superiority until Adam Smith inquired into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations, and combating the mercantile and agricultural system with weapons equally formidable, assigned other principles
* Discorso Economico dall' Archid. Bandini.
Paoletti dell’ Annona. *
+ Sir James Steuart's linquiry into the Principles of Political Economy. 1760, book i. ch. 14.
i In 1776.
to political economy, and was, as it were, the creator of the science. But it must be owned, that this justly celebrated writer, by not separating the controversial from the dogmatical part, has rendered his work rather diffuse and obscure; and that it is sometimes difficult to discover his precise tenets on the sources of wealth.* A modern English author (the Earl of Lauderdale) has even asserted that Adam Smith had no fixed opinion on that important point. The noble Lord grounds this strange assertion upon several passages: extracted from the work of that celebrated writer. Indeed Adam Smith in one place states, that “ the “ annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life, which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations.#" Elsewhere. — “ Lands, mines, and fisheries,” are
* The circumstance, that the valuable treatise of Adam Smith is incumbered with highly important, but perhaps toe extensive and rather misplaced digressive accompaniments, has led many students of political economy to wish for a more easy access to the science, and produced several elementary works in France and Germany. It was also with the view to smooth the approach to the science, that I discussed the elements of political economy in regular order and suc. cinct language, in An Introduction to the Study of Political Economy, published by Cadell and Davies, Strand; 1811.—T.
+ Earl of Lauderdale's Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Public Wealth. Edinb. 1804. p. 116.
# Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, eleventh edition. London. 1805. Vol. i. page 1.
regarded by Adam Smith, as “replacing with profit “ not only the capitals employed on them, but all the “ other capitals employed in the community.” In another place, plain reason is stated by him to dictate, “ that the real wealth of a country consists “ in the annual produce of its land and labour.h.” However, in another part of his work he teaches, that “ land and capital stock are the two original “ sources of all revenue, both private and public: capi“tal stock pays the wages of productive labour, whe“ ther employed in agriculture, manufactures, or “ commerce.f.” Lastly, Adam Smith in another part of his work asserts, that we ought to consider land, labour, and capital, as being all three sources of wealth : for “whoever derives his revenue from a fund that is his “ own, must draw it either from his labour, his stock, “ or his land.S.” All these passages, which it is difficult to reconcile, appear to warrant the conclusion drawn by Lord Lauderdale, that “Adam Smith seems to have had no fixed “ ideas in relation to the sources of wealth.” But after having attentively studied his work, we are fully conVinced that he has placed the source of wealth in “labour, which fixes and realizes itself in some parti“cular subject, that lasts for some time at least after “ that labour is past, whose power is augmented by
Wealth of Nations, vol. ii. book ii. chap. 5. page 48,
“ sub-division, which is developed by the freedom of “ trade, improved by competition, and proportioned to “ the extent of the market, capitals, and wages.” This theory, admirable for the greatness of the mind by which it was conceived, commands still greater respect for the profundity of the views of its author, the sagacity of his discoveries, and his concatenation of effects with causes, and of consequences with principles. The usefulness of each kind of labour, of every employment of capital, of each species of commerce, and of every sort of consumption, is submitted to calculations that are sometimes strict, frequently plausible, and always ingenious. Even when we are forced to doubt their accuracy, the very principles which the author has established serve to guard us against their fallacy, and manifest again the beauty of his doctrine. If, after having earnestly meditated and mastered the theory of that important work, we direct our attention to one that was published nearly at the same time by the abbé Ortes at Venice, we are not a little surprised at the eccentricities of the human mind *. It is difficult indeed to conceive how a subject which drew from Adam Smith so many just observations, ingenious combinations, and important results, could appear to the abbé Ortes nothing but a brilliant chimaera, a delusive dream, a captivating error. Like Plato, the Abbé fancies no advantage or benefit can accrue to any individual or nation, but another individual or nation must suffer an injury, and no one
* Economie Nationale, par l’Abbé Ortés.
can be a gainer without another being a loser. With him, wealth, grandeur, and power, are synonymous with pillage, robbery, and ruin: they are but ephemeral and precarious, as they cause an increase of population which soon re-establishes the level of the wants of misery and poverty; so that the unemployed, the idle, and the poor, are always in ratio of the labouring, industrious, and rich. The author even goes farther; he considers the idleness of the unemployed as the result of the extreme avidity of the laborious. Were the latter less covetous, less active, and less skilful, the unemployed would be less idle and less poor; and there is not any poor man that would not rather be indebted for his means of subsistence to his labour than to the labour and charity of others. I shall not pursue any farther this monstrous and discouraging system, which holds out the painful prospect of unavoidable and continued misery. Fortunately, it rests upon false notions of political economy, and will be completely refuted in the sequel of the work which I have undertaken. I hope, at least, I shall make it evident to the least sagacious and most inattentive observer, that in the theory of wealth proceeding from the exchanged produce of labour, there is no robbery nor injury committed against any individual; that, on the contrary, all may be benefited and rich. Ever since Adam Smith established this fundamental truth of his system, no other theory has been proposed; and though he may not have assigned the limits of the science, he yet has so well determined its