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quently prove useless to those who should take them : whilst they might be necessary to those by whom they had been neglected. What expedient would be resorted to in that case ? What could induce individuals or families, that had stored a surplus which they do not want, to cede this surplus to those to whom idleness, improvidence, the vicissitudes of temperature, and accidents inseparable from agricultural pursuits, had rendered them necessary 2 Would they make them a free gift of their stores 2 In that case, they would not be very eager to reproduce them. Would they ask for an equivalent in return ? But how could any equivalent be obtained, all agricultural productions being uniform and identic in the same country Under this supposition, the circulation of any surplus, if not absolutely impossible, would be, at least, extremely difficult; and it is very probable, that, in this case, a population continually exposed to wants, for which they can obtain no supplies, would frequently be reduced to the same condition, as brutes that never multiply beyond the average proportion of the spontaneous produce of the soil. Let us, however, admit, that the combined progress of agriculture and population should lead to the division of labour, and the separation of the labouring classes; and let us inquire, what would be the growth of public and private wealth under this hypothesis 2 As agricultural productions afford the means of subsistence, the wages of all labour, the patrimony of all labouring classes, they would be distributed in proportion to the wants of the husbandmen, and the progress of agriculture; consequently, the share of the industrious classes would be small, and would not allow them to extend, to prosper, or to aspire to a free and independent condition : industry would vegetate in a state similar to that in which it is found in small market-towns and villages, and could never be drawn from this confined condition by the solitary operation of agricultural labour. Let us advance one step farther, and connect again, by a fresh hypothesis, a chain which is broken at every link: let us suppose that the division of labour multiplies population and agricultural produce to such a degree, that the land-owners obtain their met produce without any labour; and that this net produce is sufficiently large to procure them a comfortable and even affluent existence: how many obstacles must be overcome, how many difficulties conquered, how much time passed, before this net produce could develope the powers of industry, multiply the industrious classes, raise a great number of wealthy and populous cities, and create all the phenomena of genius, arts, and commerce! That such would be the many and splendid results of agricultural labour, may amuse the fancy of a credulous and confident reader; but cannot stand the test of philosophical doubts and inquiries. I know that these observations on the slow progress of wealth in the agricultural system, are contradicted by the example of ancient Egypt, China, and North America, where agriculture has raised a numerous population, accumulated vast riches, and multiplied the benefits of civilization. But are these examples
as conclusive as some philosophers have endeavoured to believe ; and may they not be accounted for by peculiar circumstances, foreign to the agricultural system | - - The distinction of the Egyptians in casts; the division of lands among these casts ; the influence of political, religious, and civil institutions upon each cast; their manner of cultivating a soil rendered productive beyond measure by the overflowing of the Nile”; the temperance so natural to the people of the South, and so imperiously prescribed to the inhabitants of Egypt; and, above all, the immense extent of their passive trade with the nations of Africa, Hindostan, Arabia, and Asia; all these causes, unconnected with agriculture, explain the phenomenon of the wealth and population of Egypt, but cannot be applied to the people of the North, who live in a climate less. favoured by nature, under different constitutions and laws; who are forced, or accustomed to a great consumption ; and who would find but few resources in their agriculture, were it even encouraged by the passive trade of other nations. The Chinese, of whom we have so many various accounts, are yet too little known to allow us to argue with any degree of certainty respecting their innumerable population, and the prodigies of their agriculture, their wealth, and their civilization. The
clouds in which their mysterious opulence is enveloped,
* The soil requires no other expence than the seed : some sorts of grain, like doura and millet, give an incredibly multiplied produce. De Paw, sur les Chinois et les Egyptiens. H
are rendered still more impenetrable by the contradictory narratives of travellers, and leave us no means to re-ascend from effects to causes, and to obtain certain and positive results. There is no doubt that the Chinese honour agriculture; and it is, perhaps, to their gratitude for an art productive of food and raw materials for commerce and industry, that the honours which they pay to it must be ascribed. But does this art owe its progress to its own impulse 2 May not the political and civil institutions of China, the extraordinary fertility of her climateo, the innumerable channels by which her vast empire is intersected and supplied with an immense quantity of fish-ho, the variety of the productions of her territory, which is equal in extent to the whole of Europe; and, lastly, her passive trade with all the nations of the world; may not these circumstances have as great a share, as agriculture, in whatever travellers relate of the wealth and population of China : The problem has not yet been resolved, and is perhaps incapable of being resolved in the present state of our knowledge of the
* If China contains an immense population, it is because rice is the only food of the multitude ; in several provinces it yields annually three abundant harvests. The soil wants no rest in China, and its produce is frequently hundredfold. Le Commerce et le Gouvernement, par Condillac. Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en général, par Cantillon.
+ It is even possible that the oleaginous parts of fish are more productive of the matter which serves for generation. This circumstance would account for the immense population of Japan aid China, where fish is almost the sole food. Montesquiew, Esprit des Lois, book xxiii. chap. 13.
-coomical system of the Chinese. It would thereore be the height of imprudence to ground upon the Chinese system of political economy that of nations dwelling in a temperature less prodigal of its gifts, and in a climate which, as has been observed by one of the most celebrated French philosophers, produces nothing spontaneously but forests, stones, and wild fruits *.
If North America be indebted to her agriculture for the rapid increase of her population and riches, her agriculture owes its growth and success to the capitals and industry of Europe; to these she owes the sale of her produce, its abundance, and her prosperity. Had she been confined to agriculture, unconnected with the Old World and without any foreign trade, she would have advanced less rapidly on the road to wealth ; and instead of being quoted as an instance of the power of the agricultural system, she would afford a memorable example of its inconsiderable influence upon the grandeur and destiny of nations +.
Ancient Egypt, China, and North America, are therefore but equivocal and suspicious evidences of the power of agriculture and its productiveness of wealth.
* Poltaire, Essai sur les Mazurs, vol. i., page 302. Edition of 1785.
t “ In our North-American colonies, the plantations have “ constantly followed either the sea-coast or the banks of the “ navigable rivers, and have searcely any where extended them“selves to any considerable distance from both.”—Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations; Eleventh edition, London, 1805, vol. i.