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improving the moral and intellectual faculties of man : services, no doubt, of the utmost importance, but which only modify, or transport the agricultural produce, add nothing to its quantity, and yield no new produce : whence they infer, that agricultural labour is the only productive one, and that all other labours are barren and unproductive. o This system made a great noise by its novelty, but was not otherwise successful ; it was not adopted by any English or Italian writer*; not even by those who consider agricultural labour as the most productive of all labours. I should not, therefore, have ranked it among those systems, the examination of which has any interest for the science; and the feeble sensation which it caused would have alike justified and excused my silence. 2 But the apology which one of our most esteemed writers on political economy-r, has lately made of this system, the plausible arguments on which he relies, to make it triumph over the doctrine of Adam Smith, and over the opinion of all the writers who have opposed the French economists, would not allow me to pass it over in silence. I shall not regret the discussion into which this opinion betrays me, if it serve to deveHope the fundamental principles of political economy, which are still too little, or not familiarly enough known, even to the most enlightened men. Political economy has experienced the fate of all sciences; tenets have preceded observation, visions have been attended to instead of facts, and systems taken for the science itself. Instead of observing labour, in its various relations, combinations, subdivisions, and points of contact with wealth; its numerous ramifications have been separated, each has been considered as a whole endowed with properties which belong only to labour in general. This has given birth to mistakes, paradoxes, and systems; which would have been avoided if a contrary conduct had been observed, and a different road taken, from that which has been followed.
* Except the Curate Paoletti, in his work dell’Annona, quoted before.
+. The French Senator Germain Garnier, in his notes annexed to his Translation of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. And, later still, the Economists have found, in England, with regard at least to their principal tenet, that the soil is the grand source of wealth, a very ingenious advocate in Mr. William Spence, of Hull, F. L. S. See his two pamphlets, Britain independent of Commerce, which has passed through six or seven large editions; and Agriculture the Source of the Wealth of Britain. Cadell and Davies; London; 1808,-T.
In the present state of civilization, we know labour only through the exchange of its produce; in this exchange, every labourer, every family, every class of the community, every nation, find means of supplying their wants, procuring some comforts, obtaining more or less enjoyments, and reaching a more or less elevated point of prosperity, power, and happimess. Though the advantages which may accrue to every labourer from this particular and general interchange, are uncertain; yet, all work unremittingly, they exert all their forces, activity, and skill, and stop only at the point which they cannot pass. This intensity of general labour occasions an abundant produce in all its ramifications; it diffuses comforts, and is the cause of the surplus of produce above consumption, being economised, accumulated, and a stock reserved for the increase of population, the extension of general labour, and the formation of wealth. Considered in this light, labour appears to contribute to wealth merely through its produce being exchanged, and it is by this exchange alone, that its particular and general properties ought to have been estimated. But it is not thus that labour has been appreciated by the French economists; they considered it singly in its different kinds, opposed one to the other, and in this imaginary point of view pronounced it productive or unproductive at their pleasure. To examine whether it be possible to separate labour from the exchange of its produce, would be a very interesting inquiry ; but the discussion would be idle, since it appears evident that unexchanged labour cannot produce any wealth. Under the supposition that labour be not exchanged, every individual is reduced to work, to procure the articles necessary for his food, his raiment, and his dwelling; and whatever may be his dexterity, his ardour, and activity, he is badly provided with what is absolutely necessary, cannot easily attain any kind of comfort, and cannot possibly obtain any surplus ; the only means of growing rich. Thousands of ages would roll along, and the unexchanged labour of an individual would not be able to produce any wealth. Nations of hunters and fishermen, assuredly, labour much ; their labour is even toilsome and dangerous; and yet, far from being conducive to wealth, it always leaves them in misery and indigence. If the condition of nations of shepherds be less wretched than that of hunters and fishermen ; the utmost they can do is to supply their wants; and if, at some periods, they have ranked among rich nations, their wealth was not the produce of labour, but of the spoils of the wealthy nations which they plundered. Their wealth even was not of long continuance; it disappeared as rapidly as it had been acquired. The Tartars, several times, plundered Asia and Europe; Genghis Kan, Tamerlan, and Attila, transported immense riches to the deserts of Tartary, without being able to render them productive ; and nothing remains of their power and grandeur but the remembrance of their ferocity and rapacity. Almost from the creation of the world, the Arabs of the desert have continued to rob every nation, and every individual that has the misfortune to come in their way; and yet they never could grow rich. They will for ever continue poor, because they live on a produce of labour little susceptible of being exchanged, or the exchange of which is extremely limited. Agricultural nations, restricted to mere agricultural labour, and destitute of the means of interchange with other nations, have never existed : we cannot even form an idea of such nations, without going back to the time when they began to be known by other nations: and surely they were then very far from being wealthy ; their condition was rather
wretched, and bordering on extreme poverty”. It is well known, in what condition Greece, Africa, and Italy, were found by the Egyptians and Phoenicians, when they sent colonies to civilize these countries. The situation of the North of Europe was not happier when the Carthaginians, Phocoeans, and Romans, carried thither the arts of civilized life: they were, no doubt, less miserable than nations of shepherds, hunters, and fishermen ; they had more means to supply themselves with food, raiment, and dwellings: but they had not got so far as to accumulate any surplus, and had not the least idea of riches. Whatever be the kind of labour they are employed in, wealth cannot be acquired, increased, and preserved, among - any people, but when commerce, bringing foreign in exchange for the national produce, affords greater means of subsistence, more comforts and enjoyments, and particularly when it directs their labour to new objects, with the utility of which they were unacquainted, and in which they find new
* In 966, says Bishop Fleetwood in his Chronicon Preciosum, “ a palfrey was worth 10s. ; an acre of land was purchased for 1s. ; “ and an hide of land, which contained 120 acres, at one hundred “ shillings.” See Anderson's Historical and Chronological Deduction of the Origin of Commerce, 2 vols. fol. Londos, 1764, vol. i. book iii. p. 52. At present, ten acres of land are worth twenty good horses, and more. The cheapness of the land in the tenth century is accounted for by the great difficulty of and obstruction to the sale of the barons' lands until the statute of King Henry VII. gave leave for their sale. And this circumstance confirms the author’s theory, that it is the possibility of exchanging it, which gives value to any produce of labour—T.