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ing wealth, or 'to convince them of its being morally and politically beneficial, it is to be feared that the same fatal prejudice will be extended to the theory of Wealth, and that mankind will not feel greatly disposed to patronize a science, the object of which is little valued. There is, at least, no hope that it will be diligently studied, successfully cultivated, and eagerly diffused among the enlightened classes of the community, on whose patronage alone the
progress of science depends, and without whose co-operation the solitary efforts of a few courageous partisans, who have to struggle against the torrent of general indifference, must always prove unavailing.
It is, therefore, of the utmost importance for the success of Political Economy, that the mysterious veil, which has hitherto concealed the true nature of wealth, should be removed. The origin of a prejudice so ancient against riches, and the source of the charms which wealth, in despite of this prejudice, constantly possesses in the eyes of individuals and nations, must be investigated. It must be known whether the disastrous effects of which wealth is accused, spring from its nature or from extraneous causes. It must, in fine, be ascertained whether wealth has been the parent of more virtues than vices; whether it deteriorates more than it improves the condition of nations; and whether it has been more prejudicial to the duration and safety of empires, than favourable to their elevation and grandeur.
Wealth is now performing so great a part in all domestic, national, and foreign concerns, and in every public and private transaction, that it is a matter of
much importance not to mistake its essence, its origin, its effects, and the universal application of which it is susceptible. The indifference which has proved so fatal to the theory of wealth, cannot be persevered in without endangering the social bonds of modern nations. At a time when Europe, shaken in her very foundations, is about to be re-established on a new basis, and when it is at length acknowledged that true politics ought no longer to separate the power of governments from the welfare of the people, it particularly behoves us to form correct notions of wealth, and to be acquainted both with the benefits which we are to expect from it, and the calamities which follow in its train. If wealth be useful, its advantages will be the greater for being more justly appreciated; if prejudicial, its disastrous effects will be better avoided or prevented by being known. Though truth be not always certain to please, it is yet sure of a favourable reception whenever it is beneficial to mankind.
Wealth, in the simplest and most general acceptation of the term, consists in the surplus of produce above consumption, or of income above expenditure. The extent both of public and private wealth depends on the accumulation of this surplus, and on the mander in which it is managed and applied.*
The passion for wealth is general, universal, and,
* When individuals, hordes, tribes, and nations, have not enough to supply their wants, they are poor; when their means are adequate to their wants, they are equally removed from poverty
and wealth: when they have a surplus left after having supplied all their wants, this surplus constitutes their wealth.
as it were, inherent in mankind. The history of man and civil society shows it always active and enterprising. It is the spring of every private action, the principle and end of all public resolutions. In every country, in every nation, among the Scythian or Tartar hordes, among the tribes of Arabia or the savages of America, among the ancients and moderns, at all times and under all governments, the desire of riches exercises the same influence; whether mankind live insulated or collected in societies, whether they be governed by instinct or obedient to reason, this desire never varies but in its direction and its means.
The passion for wealth is not peculiar to mankind exclusively: vestigęs of it are even found among some species of the brute creation. Several animals reserve the surplus of their provisions for future wants. By this reservation, they indicate the instinct of riches; and it is extremely remarkable, that these economical and provident classes of creatures happen also to be the most laborious of the animal kind.
But, in the brute creation, this propensity is limited ; in men, it is without bounds. It has not influenced animals to proceed a step beyond the instinct for their own preservation; while, in men, it has been the principle and promoter of intellectual faculties, of liberal and mechanical talents, of ingenious and active industry : it has afforded mankind ample means and vast resources; secured them against want, procured them conveniencies, comforts and enjoyments the most exquisite; and extended, as it were, the domain which nature destined for man, so that the distance which separates mankind from the animal creation, might be measured by the distance of the most refined enjoyments from the most ordinary wants, or in other words, by the distance of wealth from poverty.
Unfortunately, this passion for riches, which nature designed for such useful and beneficial purposes, has long been a constant source of disorder, violence, and calamities, among individuals and nations. Ancient history, and the records of the middle age, continually exhibit the passion for wealth to the philosophical observer as an obstacle to the safety, liberty, and happiness of individuals, to the independence and prosperity of nations, and to the increase and welfare of mankind : it is always arming men against men, çities against cities, and people against people. During those two periods, it seemed as if one inan could not possess more than he stood in need of, without depriving another of the necessaries of life; as if cities could not be rich but at the expense of the country, and as if a nation could not be wealthy but by impoverishing other nations. Every where wealth is wrested from poverty, and opulence amassed out of the wrecks of indigence. Ages had rolled along before men perceived, or even before they suspected a more productive, a more abundant source of wealth, than the misery of their fellow-creatures. Communities, or individuals, all fancied they could not be rich but by seizing the property of others; and all attempted to secure a surplus by depriving others of their absolute necessary.
With this intent were framed the constitutions of the ancients, and of the people of the middle age;
in this spirit were their laws conceived, digested, and executed : such was the peculiar character of their institutions, governments, and public and private manners; such the end of their social compact.
The servitude of the most numerous part of the people was the first consequence of this system. We find slavery established in the most remote times; and this circumstance has betrayed some writers (in other respects estimable) into the supposition that servitude is a law of nature.
Independently of the greatest part of the people being enslaved, we find another considerable portion plunged into a depth of misery little preferable to slavery, and opulence reserved for a few privileged beings, whose number bears no proportion to the multitude bending under the load of social calamities.
To what cause ought we to ascribe a distinction so degrading to humanity ? Not to human nature : it makes neither masters nor slaves, neither rich nor poor. The inequality of strength, courage, and activity, may have produced the inequality of riches; but it could not be the immediate cause of servitude and misery. The individual who is least favoured by nature, may much more easily do without the assistance of his fellow-creatures, in the social state, than in the state of nature: and surely it was not for the greater benefit of the weak man, that he was reduced to slavery by the strong one; nor was it from a motive of humanity, or by way of kindness, that the rich rendered the misery of the poor subservient to the increase of their riches. This distinction of masters and slaves, of rich and