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rable parsimony of the latter. It is certain that, without economy, there is no capital stock; and without capital there is no improvement or increase of labour, and no resource for the unforeseen necessities of individuals and nations.
Some very enlighted philosophers think that the unforeseen necessities of individuals and nations ought to be preferably supplied out of the produce destined for ordinary consumption: but experience has shewn that it is much wiser to supply them at first from the stock accumulated by economy and reserved for extraordinary expences; and barely to levy upon the stock destined for ordinary consumption a slight tax, which, being continued for a long space of time, suffices to pay the interest due to the capitalist, and to extinguish the capital by means of a sinking fund. This way of providing for extraordinary exigencies leaves to labour all its resources, all its faculties, all its power ; the produce of which the labourer is stripped by the tax, is probably recovered by greater efforts, attention, and activity; and the tax thus proves a clear gain to the state; or if the times be so hard, that the tax cannot be recovered by more labour and a greater economy, its burthen will be lighter for being laid on for a greater number of years and for absorbing a smaller quantity of the funds necessary to re-production. In short, the system founded upon the extinction of public debts by means of a sinking fund, has generally prevailed, and promises still greater success, should governments apply it to all extraordinary expences beyond the regular
expenditure of the public service. The utility and advantages of such a plan shall be developed some- ; where else.
Finally, theorists are not yet agreed concerning the most useful employment of capital. The most general doctrine is that it ought to be preferably applied in agricultural labour: but I do not think this theory well founded. The prosperity of agriculture is necessarily subordinate and dependent on the progress of manufactures and commerce; to begin by creating an abundant agricultural produce be ence of the industrious classes, by whom it is to be consumed, is to invert the natural order of things.
The most usefully employed capitals, and the most profitable labours, are those which are devoted to manufactures and commerce.
In the very dawn of political economy, the influence of commerce upon wealth was better felt than known, more praised than studied, more admired than investigated. It was supposed that a country grows rich in proportion to the quantity of gold and silver accumulated by a favourable balance of foreign trade. This system is at present so discredited, that it must be regarded as an antiquated error, barely worthy of being mentioned in the history of the science.
The French economists, who first discovered this fallacy and successfully attacked it, had not, however, any much more correct potions of commerce. They limited its power to the conveyance of the produce of labour from the producer to the consumer, and to the fixing of its value by general competition. To
reduce commerce to a material, and, as it were, mechanical conveyance of goods, is stating only part of its functions, undervaluing its services, confining its influence, and misunderstanding its true property. This depreciating system has met with but an ephemeral success, and can only mislead those who embraced their doctrine with too much credulity or too much levity.
Adam Smith has rendered an imported service to that part of the science, not only by refuting the errors with which it was obstructed, but particularly by ascertaining the fundamental principles of commerce, its direction, its efforts, and its results. In his opinion commerce began by the exchange of the produce which the producer could not or would not consume, for another produce that was more agreeable to him, or that better suited his conveniency. This first exchange led all producers to perceive that the interchange of the produce of their private labour afforded the means of selecting, among the productions of general labour, those which they thought it most advantageous or most gratifying to consume. In proportion as this truth was generalized by experience, any labour was considered as a branch of general labour, any produce as a portion of the universal produce, and the total mass of produce as the stock of general consumption. By circulating the produce of labour from the country to the towns, from the towns to distant nations, and from every part of the globe throughout the world, individuals, hordes, tribes, communities and nations shared in the advantages of all climates, of all soils, of all countries, of
all manufactures, and the inhabited world became, in the eyes of the philosophical observer, an extensive work-shop, a grand manufacture, where the industry of men prepares all objects of consumption, and an immense market where mankind supply their wants, Such is the origin and such the end of the commercial system conceived by Adam Smith.
This system would be perfect and would form one of the most beautiful parts of political economy, had not Adam Smith derived it from causes unconnected with and absolutely independent of it.
Adam Smith thought that commerce, by receiving its impulse and motion from the interchange of that produce which the producers will not or cannot consume, depends on these labours, on their increase, on their progress, and on their success. Hence he assigned to commerce a rank inferior to that of all other productive labours, and unconsciously made it descend from the eminent rank to which he had elevated it. His error is so much the more to be deplored, as, by stripping commerce of the consideration which is its due, it impedes its success and its prosperity.
Commerce undoubtedly owes its existence to the interchange of the produce which the producers will not or cannot consume; but this interchange is only effected by commerce, by the capital, the talents, and tlie genius of mercliants. Commerce is not only the instrument of the interchange of commodities; it is its promoter, its instigator, and frequently its sele cause. It is by constantly exhibiting to all producers fresh enjoyments, by exciting their desires, flattering
their taste, or gratifying their appetite, that commerce stimulates them to labour, developes their industry, keeps them in continual activity, and forces them as it were to augment the mass of their productions, and to give them infinite variety and the highest degree of perfection. Far from being the mere instrument of productive labours, and entitled to rank only after them, commerce is the agent of general production, diffuses its benefits by the equivalents which it affords to every producer in exchange for his produce, and deserves to be considered as the most bountiful source of public and private wealth.
It matters little whether the interchange be more favourable to one of the parties than to the other; they both recover, in the equivalent which they receive, whatever the equivalent they give cost them, Were it not for this condition, the interchange would not take place at all, or would soon cease. The interchange between fellow-subjects, as well as between natives and foreigners, can never be detrimental to any one; and the least favourable exchange still yields an agreeable commodity for one that is not so: it is therefore the interest of all nations to protect, to encourage, to favour commerce. It keeps the mass of wealth up even when it does not augment it; and it prevents the decline of national wealth, even when it cannot effect its increase. The obstructions, restraints and prohibitions, to which commerce has almost always been exposed, with the view to save it from the losses that were apprehended, or to obtain greater benefits from it, are false measures, fatal alike to public and private wealth.