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“ only as long as other nations remain in a state of ignorance and unskilfulness,-a state from which
they will be so much the more disposed to emerge, “the more they use the manufactured commodities .6% of the industrious nations; and that, in proportion “as these other nations improve in skill, the manu“ facturing countries will rapidly decline, and be exposed to the most fatal extremities.”
But is this reflection as solid and well grounded as it is specious and capivating ? Have manufactures and commerce only a temporary and precarious superiority over agriculture ? Is the progress of knowledge, sciences, and arts, calculated not only to re-establish the equilibrium between those different labours, but even to incline the scales in favour of
agriculture ? This is a question of the utmost importance, which deserves to be examined with the most scrupulous attention.
An agricultural nation cannot become a trading and manufacturing one but by the slow and uncertain progress of time, by the growth of local wealth, and the improvement of knowledge, sciences and arts, or by a concurrence of circumstances over which they have no control, and on which they cannot rely.
If they attempt to force the natural order of things, to create prodigies, and all at once to appropriate to themselves the benefits of manufactures and commerce; they cannot accomplish this but by taking from agriculture part of the hands and capitals which caused it to flourish and prosper. Bereft of its usual means, agriculture languishes, its produce decreases, and this portion of public wealth withers and decays.
On the other hand, the unskilfulness and inexperience of new manufacturers and merchants yield for a long time none but productions inferior to those of manufacturing and trading nations, which cannot stand the competition in the general and particular market. The attempt of transforming all at once part of an agricultural nation into manufacturers and traders is therefore equally prejudicial to agriculture, manufactures and commerce, and necessarily produc- . tive of the decay of national wealth.
Of all agricultural countries, France is the only one that attempted to raise herself all at once to the rank of manufacturing and trading countries. Colbert wrought this wonder during his memorable ad•ministration, but not without injury to agriculture. Public opinion accused him of having sacrificed agriculture to manufactures and commerce ; and the incalculable advantages, which have accrued to the French from this inovation in their system of political economy, have not yet cleared that great man of this unavoidable and transitory wrong. Contemporaries rarely forgive a statesman the privations which he imposes upon them for the purpose of ameliorating their future condition; and posterity, which
the fruit of his skilful combinations, is frequently ungrateful to its benefactor.
The bold enterprise of Colbert, which was so successful and yet so badly rewarded, had never been attempted before, and has not been repeated since, The annals of manufactures and commerce prove, in every page, that all ancient and modern nations which have ranked among manufacturing and trading na
tions, have attained this rank but slowly, gradually, and, as it were imperceptibly; most of them were indebted for their success to colonization, factories, or the emigration of manufacturing and trading people.
From Egypt and Phænicia' issued the numerous colonies which carried the benefits of industry and commerce into Greece, Africa, Italy, and part of the Gauls.
When, after eight centuries of oppression, rapine, and destruction, trade and manufactures revived in some cities of Italy, whence they were diffused throughout Europe ; the circumstance was owing to the numerous factories which the Italian cities established in the North of Europe, and which proved as many schools that formed the creators of the manufactures of Flanders and of the commerce of the Baltic.
In modern times, the tyranny of Philip the Second, the persecutions of the Stuarts, and the blind intolesance of Louis XIV, carriedthe seeds of manufactures and commerce to Holland, England, the North of Germany, and the New World.
But the progress of manufactures and commerce, from the most remote period until our own times, shews, that, in all countries and among all nations, it has always been slow, toilsome, difficult, and generally the work of ages ; and that it never proved prejudicial to manufacturing and trading nations, and consequently ought to give them no uneasiness. In proportion as they are obliged to renouncé certain markets, they resort to others, or open new ones among less civilized people ; and until the inhabitants of the
whole world are all become agriculturists, manufacturers, and traders, (a period which is not near at hand,) manufacturing and trading nations are not likely to lose any of their advantages, and will always preserve their wealth and their power.
It might even be said, and the assertion would not appear too paradoxical, that, far from having any thing to apprehend from the progress of manufactures and commerce among agricultural nations, this progress would afford manufacturing and trading nations fresh means of prosperity and wealth.
The phenomenon is easily explained.
When an agricultural country, supplied by foreign manufactures, establishes national manufactures to supply herself and to share in the benefits of the
general market, she gives to her labour and capitals a direction more useful and more profitable than be fore, and consequently becomes richer by all the pro. fits derived from her new manufactures and trade : but whatever may be her efforts, she cannot concentrate this new wealth in herself; it scatters itself abroad, and feeds foreign industry.
If this wealth amounts to ten millions a year, these ten millions are mostly carried to the general market to be exchanged for the productions of the industry of other nations; they cannot take any other direction, because there alone they meet with commodities that serve as equivalents. This new demand of the produce of ancient industry necessarily raises its price, increases the gains of the ancient producers, favours their manufactures and commerce, and accelerates the growth of general wealth. Among all nations without
, exception the increase of national wealth'occasions a larger importation of foreign productions; and these imports are necessarily an increase of wealth to the producing nations"; these relative benefits are nécessary and indispensable. It is therefore evident, that the introduction of manufactures and commerce among agricultural nations, which is to them an increase of wealth, can never be prejudicial to the wealth of manufacturing and trading nations.
A truth so important in its consequences has escaped the attention of the most esteemed writers on political economy, because they have preferred argument to observation': and their observations have been directed rather to particular than to general facts: they also have not perceived, that when wealth produced by manufactures and commerce has been introduced among recent nations, the ancient manufacturing and trading nations have by no means been impoverished. The fact is however notorious, and there is not one better ascertained in modern history.
When the cities of the North of Europe appropriated to themselves the commerce and manufactures which the Italian cities had carried thither, the latter were not injured either by the exclusion or competition, and their wealth was not impaired; the domain of their manufactures and commerce was extended to the Baltic, Flanders, and Germany; the number of consumers increased with the number of manufacturing and trading towns, and the more particular markets were multiplied, the more facilities had the Italian cities to vend the produce of their commerce and