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Chapter VII.: GETTING UP IN THE WORLD. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 1 (Life in the Wilds, Hill and the Valley, Brooke and Brooke Farm) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 1.
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GETTING UP IN THE WORLD.
A rapid improvement took place in the affairs of the settlement within three months. An abundant supply of food being secured by the getting in of the harvest, the most efficient labour of the society was directed towards the procuring of the domestic comforts for which every man, woman, and child of them was beginning to pine. Their condition at tiffs time may be best described by giving a picture of a sick-room, inhabited, alas! by Mrs. Stone, who had fallen ill of a fever in consequence of over-exertion, and of anxiety for her husband and for the poor little girl who had appeared too young and tender for the hardships of a settler's life. Mr. Stone, however, had suffered nothing beyond temporary fatigue; and the little girl was taken so much care of by every body, that she throve as well as she could have done under any circumstances. The warmest corner of the cave and the softest bed of dry grass had been set apart for this child. Little Mary was presented with a straw-hat by Kate before her lover's was even begun; and it was made large enough to protect her delicate skin as well as to shade her eyes from the glare of the sun. The first draught that was milked from the antelope was brought to little Mary; and dame Fulton tied a charm round her neck to prevent her being wounded by any venomous reptile. Nobody, to be sure, thought this of any use but the dame herself; but as the child was never stung by any thing worse than midges, the old lady appealed triumphantly to fact in defence of her charm. The men used to carry Mary on their shoulders to the wood and hold her up to gather an orange or a bunch of grapes; and then the fruit was brought to the captain or Mary's papa as the little girl's gift. Then the boys had a tame monkey, and they taught Mary how to play with it without teasing it; and they trained one of the dogs to carry the little girl while one of the older lads held her on; and she generally took a ride every morning and every evening, before and after work; and being thus carefully tended and so well amused, little Mary grew fat and strong, and her papa found, as regularly as Sunday came about, (for he could not be much with her on other days,) that she had learned to do something which she could not do the week before. At last, Mrs. Stone ceased to be anxious about her child, and then she fell ill herself. It was not a dangerous illness; but it was a tedious time to herself, and a very uneasy one to her husband, who sighed for many comforts on her account that he would never have cared for on his own. She tried continually to console him, and often pointed out her many blessings, and expressed her thankfulness for the care that was taken of her. Mr. Hill, who was not very sorry to have a patient once more, was experienced as well as attentive. He was a good deal put out at first at having neither phials nor gallipots to send in to his patient, for he had been accustomed to think them as essential to a sickroom as the medicines themselves: but when he found that the lady slept as well after taking her draught out of a coarse earthen pipkin as if it had been brought, duly labelled, in a phial, he began to think, as she did, that it was a fine thing to have medicine at all in such a situation, and that his importance was wholly independent of the furniture of his surgery.
It was a happy circumstance that the removal from the cave had taken place before Mrs. Stone's illness began. She was lodged in the largest of the three reed-houses which bad been built, and each of which had been partitioned off into apartments for the families of the settlement. The invalid had the middlemost one, as being the coolest. A very good bed had been made by sewing up a soft hide into a bag and filling it with chaff. This was laid in one corner, on a frame supported by blocks of wood, the second bottom being made of hide in the absence of sacking. It is too dangerous to lie on the ground in places where venomous insects may enter. The covering of the bed was a light, flexible mat, woven by Kate's neat hands. A shelf of wood rested on tressels, within reach of the patient, on which stood a rude earthenware plate of figs and grapes, and a basin of cooling drink pressed from the sweet orange, and flavoured with its fragrant rind. There was a cupboard, stored with little dainties sent in by the neighbours to tempt the appetite of the sick lady:— sweetmeats, made of various fruits and honey; cakes of wheat and other flour with orange peel, honey, and seeds of various flavour; and abun-dance of broth, jelly, and other preparations of animal food. The only comfort the lady wanted was that of books; but as she knew it was impossible at present to procure them, she said nothing of her wish. Her neighbours were very kind in coming to see her and amuse her with accounts of all that was going on; and her husband spent by her side whatever time his other duties allowed. She had also a well-stored mind, and was thankful to be able to interest herself again in what she had read when she had little idea that she should ever be debarred from books. But with all these resources, she could not help sighing now and then for one favourite volume or another that might improve her knowledge and occupy her attention.
One day when she was sitting up, and when her husband was sure she was so much better as to be able to see a new face without too much fatigue, he brought the captain to pay her a visit.
“Why, really,” said he, when he began to look round him, “though this is not exactly the way one would furnish a sick-room if one had the choice, it is surprising how comfortable this place has been made.”
“I assure you,” said Mrs. Stone, “I have wanted for nothing really necessary, and have had many luxuries. I do not believe I should have recovered a day sooner if I had had the best room in the best house in England.”
“Every thing needful for bodily comfort has been furnished,” said her husband; “but it has been a daily regret to me that we could not supply you with the independent enjoyment of books. If we could, you would have been spared many a tedious hour when I was obliged to be away from you.”
“I have certainly felt enough of this,” said his wife, “to be more than ever sensible that, though it is a most desirable thing that the external comforts of life should be provided for every body, these comforts are after all only means to a higher end. When we have all that can be obtained in that way, we remain unsatisfied unless there be pursuits to occupy the mind.”
“It is as a pursuit occupying the mind,” observed her husband, “that productive industry is chiefly valuable. It has another object,— to place us in a condition fit for a further and better pursuit: and if we stop short when we have secured the requisite leisure and comfort, we stop short of what we were made for.”
“I am rather afraid of our people mistaking the means for the end,” said Mrs. Stone. “They know that they are doing their duty—that they are employed to the best possible purpose at present, in providing for the support and comfort of themselves and their families; and the pursuit itself keeps their minds active, and therefore makes them happy. But I am afraid of their going on to make this their only object, when they ought to be reaching forward to something better. In a few months we shall have stores of whatever we want; and it would be a pity to forget all we have learned from books and seen in the world, for the sake of heaping up more food and clothing than we can possibly use.”
“You need not fear, madam,” said the captain. “Our people are already thinking of trading with the next settlement, and even with Cape Town. I should not wonder if in five years we have a flourishing commerce, exchanging our productions for the manufactures of England. If we should go on working till we have a regular town of brick or stone houses, and roads and bridges, and periodical conveyances to and from Cape Town, with all the new objects which would be introduced by these means, you would no longer fear our people's not having a sufficient variety of pursuits, would you?”
“Certainly not,” said Mrs. Stone, “because I know what is the natural course of things where such improvements take place. We shall by that time have a chapel and a school-house, and a library; and, however the business of the society may be extended and varied, its members will become more and more disposed to find leisure for the improvement of their minds.”
“And this in its turn,” said the captain, “will tend to the improvement of their temporal condition. We shall have new inventions and discoveries which will help us to procure the comforts we have been used to with more and more ease continually, and will supply us with new ones which we little dream of at present. There are no bounds to what labour can do when directed by knowledge.”
“We were saying one night over our fire, captain, (as I dare say you remember,) that it is Nature that works, and that human labour only brings her materials together. Now,—as we do not know nearly all the materials that there are in nature, nor nearly all the different ways in which they may be combined, we do not know nearly all that human labour can do.”
“Witness what has been already done,” said the captain. “It is probable that men were possessed of timber, and cloth, and ropes, and that they had observed the power of the winds, long before they brought these things together to make a ship. And see what human labour, working with nature, has done in enabling men to cross oceans, and to traverse the globe if they choose. And so it is with the steam-engine, and with all the arts of life which raise the condition of man higher and higher. Nature has furnished the materials ever since the day of creation; it is human labour directed by knowledge, which makes more and more use of them from age to age.”
“We can see no bounds to the improvements which will take place,” said Mr. Stone, “because we see no bounds to the means which constitute them. Nature appears inexhaustible; human labour increases with the increase of population; to say nothing of a more rapid mode of growth.”
“What is that?” asked his wife.
“I will explain myself by and by. Natural materials and human labour are inexhaustible, and the other thing wanted—the directing wisdom of man—seems likely to grow for ever. So where shall improvement stop?”
“Providence,” said the captain, “by which all these things are framed and adapted, seems to work on a plan of perpetual progress, and to open a prospect of growing brightness to all who will look far enough. Providence points out one great truth respecting the temporal condition of mankind which, if properly understood, would banish all fear for the temporal prosperity of the whole race in the long run; and if duly acted upon, would put an end to most of the partial distress which now exists.”
“What is that truth?”
“That Labour is a power of which Man is the machine; and that its operation can be limited only by the resources of Man.”
“And how do you mean to act upon your knowledge of this truth, captain? You hold a very responsible situation; and I know you are not the man to let a truth lie by idle when you have a firm hold of it.”
“I have been thinking a great deal about my duty in this matter, I assure you,” replied the captain. “The more I consider the influence of a government in guiding or perverting this vast power of human labour, the more anxious I am to exercise my share of influence properly.”
“I thought,” said Mrs. Stone, “the only thing government had to do in this matter was to let people alone, and leave labour to find its right direction.”
“That is true,” replied the captain, “as far as the different kinds of labour are in question. It is no business of mine to pronounce a farmer's labour better than a shopkeeper's, or to show favour to any one class more than to another; but it is in my power to increase or lessen the usefulness of labour by the policy I pursue.”
“For instance,” said Mr. Stone, “if you encourage the division of labour to the utmost that our supply will allow, you increase its power immeasurably. If, on the other hand, you were to use your influence in persuading our people to work apart, each for himself, you would be wasting, to the utmost, the chief resource of the settlement.”
“True,” said the captain; “and thus may the energy of labour be increased without bounds by encouraging the division of labour: for, by such division, the same quantity of labour furnishes a more abundant produce: and the same remark applies to the encouragement of machinery; for machines shorten and assist all the operations of industry to a greater degree than we can calculate. But I have it in my power also to affect the extent of labour. I must take care that the more mouths there are to feed, the more industry there is in raising food. I must allow no idleness, and see that the number of unproductive labourers is not out of proportion to the productive.”
“You can do this in a little settlement like ours, captain; but surely the rulers of an empire cannot?”
“It is not the duty of the English government,” replied the captain, “to inquire who is idle in the kingdom and who is not, and to punish or encourage individuals accordingly. This would be an endless task, and an irksome one both to rulers and the ruled. But the same work may be done in a shorter way. Governments should protect the natural liberty of industry by removing all obstacles,—all bounties and prohibitions,—all devices by which one set of people tries to obtain unfair advantages over another set. If this were fairly done, industry would find its natural reward and idleness its natural punishment; and there would be neither more nor less unproductive labourers than the good of society would require.”
“I see plainly,” said Mrs. Stone, “the truth of what you have last said, but I want to know———”
Before she could explain what it was that she wished to learn, a message was brought in that the gentlemen were wanted.
“Which of us?”
“Both, sir, I fancy. There has been a meeting held under the great chestnut, and I believe it is a deputation from the meeting that is waiting without.”
Mrs. Stone said that if her husband would give her his arm, she should like to go and sit in the porch, and hear what was going forward. In answer to his fears that she would be tired, she declared that conversation, like a book, refreshed instead of fatiguing her, and that she was quite disposed for more of it.
Hill, who was one of the deputation, was surprised to see his patient advancing and appearing fully able to walk with her husband's assistance. Suiting his advice to the inclinations of his patient, (which medical men know it is often wise to do,) he doubted not that she would find the air reviving; and if she was strong enough to be amused, nothing could be better for her. So the lady was soon seated in the porch with her pillow at her back, and a log at her feet for a footstool, and a straw hat, as large as a West India planter's, on her head. Little Mary saw from a distance that something was doing in the porch, and came to look on. She had left her mamma on the bed an hour before, and had no idea of seeing her any where else this day.
“Mamma! mamma!” cried the delighted child, trying to climb the seat. “Take me up on your lap, mamma; I want you to kiss me.”
Her papa lifted her upon the seat, and she nestled with her head on her mamma's shoulder, and would not go to play again, though her companions came and peeped and called her. They all looked in in turn, that they might each have a nod and a smile from Mrs. Stone, and then they ran away, and left Mary where she wished to be.
“Well, my friends,” said the captain to Hill, and Harrison, and Dunn, who composed the deputation— “take a seat and tell us what is your business with us.”
There had hitherto been very little observance of ranks in the settlement, since the calamity which, befalling all alike, had reduced all to one level. On the present occasion, however, the deputation persisted in remaining standing and uncovered.
Their business was to report that a meeting of the people had been held to consider what were their resources, with a view to providing a permanent establishment for the captain as their chief magistrate, and for Mr. Stone as their chaplain and the schoolmaster of the society. They proposed to build a good house for each, as soon as the necessary tools should arrive; and to set apart for each a specified share of the productions of the place, till the introduction of money should enable them to pay a salary in the usual mode. This offer was accompanied with many grateful acknowledgments of the benefits which the society had derived from the exertions of both gentlemen, and with apologies for the freedom which had prevailed in their intercourse while poverty reduced all to a temporary equality. Now that they were rising above want was the time for each man to take his own station again, and the gentlemen should henceforth be treated with the deference which belonged to their superior rank.
“You are all in the wrong, my good friends,” cried the captain, rising and throwing off his cap. “Upon my word, I don't know what you mean. I am the son of a tradesman, and therefore exactly on a level with yourself, Mr. Dunn; for I have done nothing to gain a higher rank. And I must differ from you so far as to say that such circumstances as we have lately been in are the best test of rank, and that I, for one, would give not a fig for that sort of dignity which disappears just when the dignity of man should show itself. If I was on an equality with you when we were all in danger together———”
“But you were not, sir,” said Hill; “and that was one thing which Dunn was to have said, but I suppose he forgot it. It is because you guided us then, that we want you to govern us now. It was because you showed yourself superior to us then, that we want to honour you now.”
“Indeed!” said the captain. “Well, that is another matter. No man can be more sensible than I am of the advantages of a gradation of ranks in society, provided it be founded on a right principle: and I therefore cheerfully accept the honours you offer me, as well as the office to which it is right they should belong. It is for you and not for me to judge whether I have deserved either the one or the other; and there would be no true humility in questioning your decision. Will you be pleased to make known to those who have sent you my gratification at possessing their good opinion, and my acceptance of the office they propose, and of their plan for maintaining the charges of such an office?”
The deputation bowed low.
“I shall wish,” continued the captain, “to call a meeting of the whole society, in order to explain the principles on which I shall proceed in my government, and to obtain their advice respecting some regulations, and their consent to others which I may wish to adopt for the public good. This meeting, however, cannot be held till the return of our messenger from Cape Town shall enable us to calculate our resources for maintenance and defence.”
The three messengers bowed again, and then turned to Mr. Stone for his reply. He thus spoke:
“I receive with much satisfaction your request that I will continue my exertions as the guide of your religious services, and as the teacher of your children. Such a request implies much that it is gratifying to me to know. It implies that your interest in concerns of the highest importance is not lessened by the anxieties which have pressed upon you of late: and if not lessened, we may hope it is increased; for if adversity does not harden the heart, it softens it: if it does not make us discontented with Providence, it must draw us towards God.—Your request also implies that the immediate pressure of your adversity is past, or you would not be thinking of giving up the labour of your children in order that they might be taught by me, or of sparing some of your earnings for such a purpose.— Again: your request implies that you have that opinion of my services which it has been my endeavour to earn, and which I shall labour no less diligently to retain.—These considerations leave me no inclination to object to your plan, except in one particular.”
Here every body looked eager to know the nature of the objection. Mr. Stone continued,
“The captain is right in accepting a salary for his office;—because the benefit cannot in such a case be apportioned to individuals so that each may afford a recompense for the good he receives. The blessings of a good government are general in the society governed; and all ought to pay their share for those blessings; and none can know what amount of evil he escapes by living under such a government. But the case is different with services like mine; and the reward should therefore be differently given. Let every man who finds himself benefited by my religious services bring me such a portion of his temporal goods as he is inclined to offer. Let every father, whose children are taught by me, set apart whatever he may think an equivalent for the pains I shall bestow. If I find I am possessed of more than I want for present and future purposes, I will return a part. If I have not enough, I will ask for more.”
“If I might venture to speak, sir,” said Hill, —“this is all very well between you and us who understand one another so well; but this is not the rule to go upon with all pastors and schoolmasters, is it?”
“I believe you will always find,” replied Mr. Stone, “that the work of any office is best done where the reward is proportioned to the labour, instead of being given in the form of a fixed salary. In many government and other offices, this cannot be done with any precision; but where it can be, it should be; whether in the case of a pastor or a schoolmaster, or any other labourer for the public. Magistrates, soldiers, domestic servants and others, must be paid by salaries; but in every office where the benefit can be estimated in individual cases, let the payment be made accordingly. This may be depended upon as the best way of making the labourer exert himself, and exciting the benefited to make the most of his exertions. May I trouble you to explain my views to your companions?”
And then, after a few more expressions of mutual good will, the parties separated.
When Mr. Stone turned to speak to his wife, he saw tears upon her cheek. She was still weak-spirited, and the honour paid to her husband had affected her. He calmed her by turning her attention to the improvement which must be taking place in the affairs of the settlement, if its inhabitants could thus meet to deliberate on its judicial interests.
“Yes, indeed,” said the captain, “the appointment of a deputation to bring messages like these is a pretty good proof that we are getting up in the world.”