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butes more or less efficaciously to the formation and increase of public wealth, because it necessarily occasions the productions with which it is paid.
Is there any kind of Labour more or less productive, more or less favourable to the growth of Wealth ?
THE productiveness of labour in general being established, and, as it were, demonstrated; what side are we to take in the controversy that has arisen between authors of all sects and all countries, concerning what kind of labour is most productive, and most favourable to the growth of wealth ? Is there indeed any kind of labour to which all nations ought preferably to apply their efforts and faculties? This question is of the utmost importance; it is the very foundation of the science, since labour has the greatest share in the formation, increase, and preservation of wealth.
It is very remarkable, that almost every writer on this controversy has regarded the labour which is preferred in his own country as the most productive..
Thus the English writers assign the first rank to commerce and manufactures, which have always en- . joyed the greatest favour in England. Adam Smith is the only one who resisted the torrent of public opinion, and dared to place agriculture above commerce and manufactures; he even went farther, he attempted to
assign different degrees of productiveness to different labours, and, in his extremely ingenious scale, placed agriculture at an immense distance above all other labours. He even was so enamoured of this opinion, that he thought he should be able to make it triumph over the authority of facts, and the experience of ages. He allowed, however, that manufactures and commerce have more contributed to increase the wealth of modern nations, than agriculture ; but he thought their superiority to be owing merely to the peculiar favour which they have enjoyed above agriculture.
In France, where agriculture has always predominated, the writers on political economy have generally granted agriculture the precedency before commerce and manufactures.*
In Italy, opinions have been divided; and according as they inhabited either the interior of the maritime provinces, the writers on sabjects connected with political economy, have extolled agriculture, or manufactures and commerce.
Amidst this struggle of contrary or various opinions, I think no satisfactory solution can be obtained
* I know but two French writers who have given the preference to manufactures and commerce before agriculture; namely, Dangeul, in his Remarques sur les Avantages et les Désavantages de la France et de la Grande Bretagne, 1754; and Forbonnais, in his Elémens de Commerce,
+ The Curate Paoletti, a Milanese, Beccaria, a Milanése, and Corniani of Brescia, rank agriculture above manufactures and commerce; Gahani, Genovesi, end Palmieri, of Naples, give the preference to mmerce and manufactures before agriculture:
on so important a point of the science, but by atteinpting to determine whether agriculture, or commerce and manufactures, are most conducive to the growth of public and private wealth, to the welfare of individuals, the prosperity of nations, and their absolute and relative power; or, in other words, by determining which of these labours obtains the greatest value for its produce on its being exchanged; which circumstance is, at once, the promoter, regulator, and arbitrator of wealth. · When, after having for a long time subsisted on the produce of hunting, fishing, and their flocks, men prefer to such precarious, uncertain, and limited means of subsistence, the more abundant, more various, and more certain productions of agriculture ; this direction of their labour undoubtedly opens a road to wealth : but whither does this road lead them?
By this new application of labour, men may succeed in procuring corn and cattle for their food, and raw materials for their raiments and dwellings; perhaps they may even acquire sufficient abilities to give convenient forms and shapes to these objects of first necessity.
But here the progress of wealth stops; and how it could go beyond their actual wants, or how they could think of producing any surplus, or of saving • and accumulating any stock, it is impossible to conceive.
Were even the inclination of mankind for propagating a sufficient inducement to accumulate, measures of foresight would be limited to individuals ; they would not always be successful, and would fre
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 ? Would they make them a free gift of their stores ?. 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 beiug 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 c 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 ?
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 vegitate in a state similar to that in which it is found in small market-towns and villages, and could never be drawn from this copfined condition by the solita ry operatiou 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 labourmultiplies population and agricultural produce to such a degree, that the land owners obtain their net produce without any labour; and that this net produce is suthiciently large to procure them a comforta: ble and even affluent existence: how many obstacles anust 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 plienomena 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 thatthese observations on the slow progress of wealth in the agricultural system, are contradicted by the example of ancient Egypt, China, and North Americą, where agriculture has raised a numerous population, accumulated vast riches, and multiplied the benefits of civilization. But are these examples