THE PRIVATE JOURNAL AND LETTERS
M. DE SISMONDI.
Edinburgh, August 7th, 1826.—We dined with the Homers, and met Macculloch, who has something hard in his countenance and manners, and who for a long time measured me with his eye, as if I was an adversary whom he ought to combat. I led the conversation to political economy: he attacked me on the facts which I gave from the reports of Chaptal, and some others. There was something in his ironical smile which hurt me, so I fought him on his own ground, laying hold on all the errors in facts, which were certainly numerous, as the increase of mendicity in France, the custom in France of borrowing only for life. I think I had constantly the advantage of him, but I fear I was sometimes rude, and that he will retain some resentment against me.
August 13th.—Returning from Edinburgh to London I had for a travelling companion a Mr. Graban, a member of the senate of Lubeck, probably a corn merchant, who told me that he could charge 17s. or 18s. at Lubeck for corn of prime quality, which would be worth here 56s. a quarter, so that he could well bear a tax on importation of 15s. He was struok, like me, with the absence of peasants, who are rich in his country.
January 2ND, 1826.—I think that the true definition of capital is, the accumulation of the time and the trouble which have created useful things, and immaterial capital is a mortgage on the time and labour which will create them in future.
26th September, 1826.—I had this morning a visit from Say, who said to me that his friendship for M. Ricardo, and his school, has very often cramped him, but that in truth he finds that they have injured the science by the abstractions into which they have thrown it, and that he shall be obliged, in the new edition he is preparing, absolutely to oppose them.
5th September, 1828.—I have had a letter from M. Say, who announces to me a second volume of his book, with some concessions to my principles on the limits of production.
September, 1833.—You have exactly answered my question respecting the peasants of Austria; you have confirmed what I knew already, but you have added facts, both new and well chosen. I call upon your well-ordered mind for still more research into, for more reflection on, political economy. It is a fine science, and a science which is suitable for women, for it is the theory of universal beneficence; but we must not take it from books, we must distrust modern writings, where principles are given as axioms which experience falsifies every day. A noble result of this experience is that which we have gained in regard to the class of cultivating proprietors in Austria, who are in such easy circumstances that they give to their daughters portions which the gentry of England do not give to theirs, who are never displaced by the great proprietors, but who keep up almost always the same number. If all this is contrary to the principles of political economy, those principles are wrong, not because the science is not a valuable one, not that it is not our duty to seek for the greatest good for all, but because we are too eager to reckon an error among the principles in that science, because, in particular, we have for some time imagined that universal competition, that the effort of each one to get every thing for himself, to displace every one else, was the normal State of society; whilst, looking at the past, we often find that the tendency of that legislation which has diffused much happiness was directly opposed to it, that it guaranteed the positions which had been obtained, that it repressed that effervescence of personal interests, that struggle of each against all, which forces all upon the greatest possible efforts with the smallest results. In that old petrified state of society in Austria, which, repelling every change with all the apathy of Germany and all the distrust of the government, has preserved many parts of the organization of the middle ages, there are many things to study, much as to the effects of institutions every where else condemned, and to which people will not believe that any advantages can be attached; this is true even in politics. In that science, also, there are many false maxims which have been elevated into principles during the last half century. If I were to say that to the French, they would think I was abandoning principles to which I have devoted my life. If I were to say it to the Austrians, they would think that I am adopting their system, that these are things which must not be spoken of. Both would deceive themselves; more certainly still they would think me in my dotage if they knew that these reflections were addressed to a young and pretty woman.
19th September, 1834.—This morning I had a letter from Fix (Editor of the old Revue Encyclopédique), who tells me that my article on the workpeople has made a great impression at Paris, even so far as to have shaken the convictions of Bionqui (an economist who opposed his Nouveaux Principes).
I read that article in the National of the 12th October, which Mr.——had recommended to me. He attacks with violence, and even some hauteur, what he calls the English political economy; but I do not see that he has any very clear ideas as to what he would substitute for it; on the contrary, he appears also to lean towards unlimited production.
I read in the Westminster Review a striking article on civilization, in which the author points out many of the bad effects of the present system, which hitherto I have been almost the only one to remark, There is much ability in this article, but it inspires one with a melancholy feeling, because the evils are so serious, and one does not see the remedies; the too much of every thing is the evil of the day. It may be remarked even in literature, —the impossibility of fixing attention, the certainty that no book will be read a second time, the necessity of making one's-self remarked, making one's-self of consequence; in commerce and in every thing else, the universal idleness and effeminacy, the cessation of all distinction, the growing avidity for money, &c.
November 18th.—I have a letter from Mr. Tancred, who asks if he may translate my Etudes Sociales. I answered him to say how desirous of it I was, and offering him my proofs.
November 27th.—A letter from Mr. Tancred to say that he had given up the idea of translating the Etudes, because a Mr. Taillot, a bookseller at Oxford, had begun to translate them. (The work never has been translated.) I worked this morning at my chapter on Different Conditions, and it interests me, though I have much sadness at the bottom of my heart. I see at the same time the increasing sufferings of society, and the impossibility of persuading any one of it. I do not think my last volume has been read; that which is just going to appear is not likely to be more so, therefore I have little encouragement to publish the third.
4th March, 1835.—I had a visit to-day from Frederick de Chateauvieux, who came on foot. We had a long conversation on Politics and political economy. From his experience, as director of the manufacture of plate glass, no one has yet described to me more strongly the cruel and dependent condition of the manufacturers, the tyranny and hard-heartedness of the masters. He related to me how, at the moment of the revolution of 1830, they had dismissed all their workmen, reducing at the same time all their families to despair, although they made them a small allowance. They made it a condition that they should not engage in the cotton manufactories, because then they would become a degraded population, beasts rather than men. How they had made use of their workshops for the manufacture of a chemical production, ruining at one blow all those in the north of France; from all which he concluded that the social organlzatiom which he called Mosaic,, and which restricted the number of trades, of families, and of households, was preferable to that of universal competition.
March 14th, 1835.—I ran over ten chapters of the book of M. de Villemain, a Christian political economist. The principal idea, of mixing charity with political economy, is as beautiful as true. Many developments appeared to me very just, and the work, full of facts, is at the same time curious and interesting; but it is exclusive, confounding religion with Catholicism, and that with the sacerdotal spirit. He would put all public charity into the hands of the priesthood, and at the same time would give them all political power.
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER, JUNE 6TH, 1835.
I have not given up any of my youthful enthusiasm; I feel, perhaps, more strongly than ever the desire for nations to become free, for the reform of governments, for the progress of morality and happiness in human society. I hope that I have gained in theory and in experience, if, on the other hand, I have been disenchanted of what I hoped in almost all the men I have known: but this disenganno does not affect the ideas and the sentiments dear to my heart, because my own flag has never been carried into the midst of the conflict. I am a liberal; still more, I am a republican, but never have I been a democrat. I have nothing in common with that party which alarms you by its violence and by its wild theories, any more than with that which is intoxicated with the love of order and furious for tranquillity. My ideal, in respect to government, is union; it is the agreement of the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratieal elements; it is the Roman republic, in short, in its best days of virtue and of strength, and not the modern principles, which I do not acknowledge to be principles.
13th October, 1835.—The Courrier contains an article on my “Condition of Workpeople,” which, though full of fine compliments, is in bad faith and wants comprehension; but as the author has not understood what I have said on the national income, I think it desirable to write a new article on this subject. I shall show, first, the importance of income in domestic economy, and in what it differs from every other form of wealth. I shall then follow out the income of each class in the nation, showing how it arises always mediately or immediately from labour, but from profitable labour; how labour is less profitable the more income diminishes, under its divers forms of wages, profit, interest, rent of fixed capital, and lastly, salaries for services to society or to individuals; whence by a new road I shall arrive at the necessity of labour being in demand in order to be profitable, and that the labour of a great number must be in demand in order for the great number to have income.
I have received two letters from Mad. M., who says she is enchanted with my article on the “Workpeople,” and informs me that Didier will make it the subject of an article in the Revue des deux Mondes; asks me for the sequel to my article on “The Prince,” and to reprint all my articles separately (the first idea of the sciences Sociales). This latter has given me great pleasure, and has a little compensated for my discontent at the article in the Courrier.
November 15th, 1835.—At a dinner given to Dr. Bowring by the Syndic Rigaud of Geneva, he says Dr. B. was very animated; he knows an infinitude of things, and is very intelligent. But he hurt me by his tone of radicalism, almost of Jacobinism, for France. Colonel D. hurt me still more; there is in that party a degree of hatred, of defiance, of presumption, which it is extremely disagreeable to me to mention. I did not find it less so to-day in the contrary party at Maurice's. Every one seems to me to require to be converted by my book, but it is exactly the reason why it will have no success. Bowring is here, charged by the English ministry with making researches into the commerce of Switzerland; he appears very much struck with the prosperity of the country.
December 1st, 1835.—Received a letter from Lord Mahon on my last pamphlets, very flattering and very affectionate. It encourages me as to the work at which I am labouring, (Les Etudes,) and makes me hope for success.
January 29th, 1836.—I continued the reading of Ropolini's Egyptian monuments. He inspires me with much respect for his knowledge, for his ingenious inferences, for his modesty. I begin to feel, in fact, how the sacred language of Egypt has been all at once revealed to us, but at the same time the glance which all this enables me to cast upon history affects me more and more. I find an affinity between the progress of ancient civilization, which brought on its ruin, and ours, which alarms me for human kind. It is always by the same proceeding, centralizing, uniting states as if they were patrimonies, that it was expected to increase their wealth and power, whilst really they became continually weaker and poorer.
June 2nd, 1836.—I worked at my Introduction to-day. I wrote eight pages, and I take a lively interest in it. Perhaps I deceive myself as to the merit of my last works, but my Etudes appear to me to be what I have done best; however, no one in France or England has yet written to me about my politics, and I am afraid when my political economy appears it will be the same. These are subjects on which each one has his opinion settled, and finds it more easy to let his adversary's book fall unnoticed than to answer it.
November 10th —I worked at my essay on Colonization with great interest. I wrote eight pages to-day, and I have great enjoyment in these summaries, which embrace in one point of view the history of the universe. The particular merit of my political economy is continually to bring together, as relating to one another, history, morality, and chresmatistics. I have succeeded in finding almost all I wanted of Greek history for this article.
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER ABOUT THE YEAR 1836.
But, in fact, the endeavour of my thoughts, the object of my studies, is to ascend to the principles which direct men to see man and not individuals, consequently not to love or hate heroes or the guilty great; they only follow a more general impression which I have endeavoured to elucidate, and hatred, even for the worst men, is a bad passion, which grieves and corrupts the heart. But, in taking from before our eyes the human form, we can indulge all our indignation against what is bad in itself, against what is corrupting; and I feel the interior approbation of conscience when I have contributed to brand a bad tendency, a bad principle, with all the power I possess. I have this kind of satisfaction, in thinking of my pamphlet about Algiers. You will there see that I do not think any more than old Pervad, that our civilization gives us the right to disturb the savage in his liberty and his repose, but it makes it a duty to protect him from tyranny and robbery. The more we improve, the more the artificial barriers of nations will sink before the great principle of humanity and reciprocal assistance. It is not because they are barbarians, it is because they are oppressed, despoiled, ill-treated, that we have the right to fly to their assistance; it is because their tyrants have reduced them so low that they cannot extricate themselves, that we have the right to remain, because conquest is the greatest guarantee of peace, of justice, of knowledge, of moral progress.
1838—ON THE PUBLICATION OF LES SCIENCES SOCIALES.
It is possible that the self-love of an author may have some share, without my being aware of it, in the earnest thirst I feel to attract the attention of the public; but this thirst seems to me nothing but the feelings of the immense sufferings of humanitym sufferings which we all centribute, without thinking of it, to increase, by a conduct which in its details we figure to ourselves as indifferent. I cry, Take care, you are bruising, you are crushing miserable persons who do not even see from whence comes the evil which they experience, but who remain languishing and mutilated on the road which you have passed over. I cry out and no one hears me: I cry out and the car of Juggernaut continues to roll on, making new victims.