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CHAPTER II.: OF THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF LEGISLATION AND GOVERNMENT. - Dugald Stewart, Lectures on Political Economy, vol. 1 
Lectures on Political Economy. Now first published. Vol. I. To which is Prefixed, Part Third of the Outlines of Moral Philosophy, edited by Sir William Hamilton (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable, 1855).
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OF THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF LEGISLATION AND GOVERNMENT.
OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.*
Art. 1. Of the Writings of Grotius and his Successors on Natural Jurisprudence, and their influence in suggesting the Modern Speculations concerning Political Economy.
Art. 2. Of the Objects of Political Economy, and the more important general Conclusions to which the study of it has led.
Art. 3. Of the Coincidence of the Principles of Justice and of Expediency, in the Political Conclusions to which they lead.—[Slavery.]—1st Edit.
Art. 4. Of the Connexion between just Views of Political Economy, and the Intellectual and Moral Improvement of Mankind.
OF THE DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT; AND OF THE VARIOUS FORMS IN WHICH THEY ARE COMBINED IN THE CONSTITUTIONS OF DIFFERENT STATES.
Art. 1. Of the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Powers.
Art. 2. Of the Simple Forms of Government, according to the definitions of Speculative Politicians; and of the Uses to which this theoretical view of the subject is subservient, in the examination of actual Constitutions.
Art. 3. Of Mixed Governments.
Art. 4. Of the English Constitution.
Art. 5. Of the Influence of Forms of Government on National Character and Manners.
Art. 6. Of the Duties arising from the Political Union.
Art. 7. Of the Political Relations of different States to each other; and of the Laws of Morality as applicable to Nations.
LECTURES ON POLITICAL ECONOMY.
Page xxiii., omitted the signature of the Editor—W. H.
Page 203, at the end of note †, add,—See App. I. p. 429, seq.
Page 269, Heading, after unproductive, insert (§ 1.). So also on the right-hand pages, until p. 307.
Page — l. 6, insert, [sect. i.]—specially, on the system of the economists, and dele the title in the following line.
Page 309, Heading, after unproductive, insert (§ 2.). So also on the right-hand pages, until p. 331.
Page — l. 1, for i. read ii.
[OF THE TITLE AND COMPREHENSION OF THE SCIENCE, IN ITS MOST EXTENSIVE MEANING.]
It was before intimated,† that when the phrase Political Economy occurs in the course of this Dissertation, it is to be understood in the most extensive sense of these words. By most of our English writers, as well as by those in the other countries of Europe, this phrase has been hitherto restricted to inquiries concerning Wealth and Population; or to what have sometimes been called the resources of a State. It is in this limited sense it is used by the disciples of Quesnai in France, and also by Sir James Steuart, Mr. Smith, and a long list of respectable authors in this Island, both before and after the publication of Quesnai’s works. Without, however, presuming to censure in the slightest degree the propriety of their language, I think that the same title may be extended with much advantage to all those speculations which have for their object the happiness and improvement of Political Society, or, in other words, which have for their object the great and ultimate ends from which Political regulations derive all their value; and to which Wealth and Population themselves are to be regarded as only subordinate and instrumental. Such are the speculations which aim at ascertaining those fundamental Principles of Policy, which Lord Bacon has so significantly and so happily described, as “Leges Legum, ex quibus informatio peti possit, quid in singulis Legibus bene aut perperam positum aut constitutum sit.”* In this employment of the phrase Political Economy, I may perhaps be accused of a deviation from established practice; but the language does not afford me another expression less exceptionable, for denoting this particular department of Political Science; and the use which Dr. Johnson and other classical authorities have made of the word Economy, to denote “disposition and regulation in general,” justifies me at least in some measure, for extending its ordinary acceptation when applied to the internal policy of nations.
If we could suppose that this departure from the common language of Political writers were to be sanctioned by general use, its advantages, if I do not deceive myself, would be found of material importance. I shall only mention at present the effect it would necessarily have in keeping constantly before the mind of the speculative Politician, the Standard by which the wisdom and expediency of every institution is to be estimated; and in checking those partial views of human affairs which have led so many eminent writers in their zeal for the advancement of National Riches, to overlook the more essential objects of the Political Union.
That the idea which I thus propose to annex to this study is sufficiently precise, must appear evident to all who are conversant with Political inquiries. In the meantime, (as I find it impossible to convey this idea to others by any general definition or description,) a few examples may serve to illustrate the questions which I propose to comprehend under the title of Political Economy, and those subordinate discussions, which, although essentially different in their nature and aim, are apt, from their apparent relation to the same objects, to be confounded together under the same title.
To begin, then, with that science, which, in the judgment of the most enlightened politicians, is the most essential of all to human happiness,—I mean the Science of Agriculture; how various and important are the subjects which belong exclusively to its province! The general principles of vegetation; the chemical analysis of soils; the theory of manures; the principles which regulate the rotation of crops, and which modify the rotation, according to the diversities of soil and climate; the implements of agriculture, both mechanical and animal;—and a thousand other topics of a similar description. To none of these articles does the Political Economist profess to direct his attention; but he speculates on a subject, without a knowledge of which, on the part of the Legislator, that of the other, how generally soever it may be diffused, is of no value. He speculates on the motives which stimulate human industry; and according as he finds these favoured or not in the classes of the people on whose exertions agriculture depends, he predicts the agricultural progress or decline of a nation. He considers with this view the state of landed property, and the laws which regulate its alienation or transmission; the state of the actual occupiers of the ground; the security they possess for reaping, unmolested, the reward of their labours; and the encouragement they enjoy in comparison of that held out in the other walks of lucrative enterprise. Nor does he confine his views to the plenty or scarcity of the immediately succeeding seasons, but endeavours to investigate the means of securing permanent abundance and prosperity to his fellow-citizens. In this respect, too, the principles on which he proceeds differ essentially not only from those of the practical agriculturist, but from those which regulate the views of all the other orders of men who think merely of their individual interests. The exertions of the farmer, it may be reasonably presumed, will be proportioned to the recompense he expects; spirited and vigorous after a few years of high prices, and languid when overstocked markets have for a length of time disappointed his just expectations. The manufacturer, on the other hand, and the various orders of annuitants and stipendiary labourers, exult when the farmer repines, and repine when the farmer exults. In the midst of this conflict of contending interests and prejudices, it is the business of the Political Economist to watch over the concerns of all, and to point out to the Legislator the danger of listening exclusively to claims founded in local or in partial advantages, to remind him that the pressure of a temporary scarcity brings along with it in time its own remedy, while an undue depression of prices may sacrifice to a passing abundance years of future prosperity;—above all, to recommend to him such a policy, as by securing in ordinary years a regular surplus, may restrain the fluctuation of prices within as narrow limits as possible; the only effectual method of consulting at once the real and permanent interests of proprietors, cultivators, and consumers.
What has now been said with respect to agriculture, may be extended to the various other employments of human industry, all of which furnish, in a greater or less degree, interesting subjects of scientific examination. This is exemplified very remarkably in Manufactures, in which the chemists and mechanists of the present age have found so ample a field of observation and of study; and to the improvement of which they have so largely contributed by their discoveries and inventions. To the Philosopher also, manufactures present a most interesting spectacle, and that whether he takes the trouble or not to enter into the detail of their various processes. What are the circumstances which attract manufacturers to one part of a country in preference to another? in what respects is it in the power of the Legislator to encourage them by roads, canals, harbours, and other public works? what are the effects of that division of labour, which takes place in a manufacturing country, on the intellectual and moral powers of the lower orders? what are the political effects of those mechanical contrivances by which labour is abridged? these, and many other questions of a similar nature, depend for their solution, not on that knowledge which is to be acquired in workshops, but on an acquaintance with the nature and condition of man. Such questions, I conceive, belong properly to that science, of which I am now endeavouring to describe the objects.
While the Political Economist thus investigates the sources of Agricultural and Manufacturing wealth, he is naturally led to consider these two great divisions of manual industry in their mutual relations; to inquire in what manner they act and re-act on each other; and how far it is in the power of the statesman to combine their joint influence for increasing the happiness and improvement of the community. Where the freedom of industry is unjustly restrained by laws borrowed from less enlightened ages, and more especially where that species of industry on which man depends for his subsistence is depressed below its proper level, it is his duty to remonstrate against so fatal a perversion of Political Institutions. In doing so, he does not arrogate to himself any superiority of practical knowledge over those whose professional labours are the subject of his discussions; but he thinks himself entitled to be heard, while his conclusions rest, not on the details of any particular art, but on the principles of human nature, and on the physical condition of the human race.
The diversity of pursuits to which individuals betake themselves in the progress of civilized society, in consequence of the various modifications of agricultural and of manufacturing labour, give rise necessarily to a new order of men, whose province it is to facilitate those exchanges which the separation of professions renders indispensable; and who, in thus contributing to the perfection of the social system, open an ample source of emolument to themselves. I allude at present to the order of Merchants, a class of citizens entirely dependent on the labours of the farmer and tradesman; but who, in such a complex state of society as that with which we are connected, exert a very powerful influence over both the others. A practical acquaintance with this department of business, more especially when it embraces the great objects of national concern, requires a longer and more systematical education than what is commonly understood to be necessary to qualify the farmer and the tradesman for their respective occupations; and it is, in truth, only to be acquired completely, by that experience which commercial habits communicate. Among the various callings, accordingly, to which the circumstances of modern Europe have given rise, there is none which has discovered a greater jealousy of uninitiated theorists, or a more arrogant contempt for the speculative conclusions of the closet, than the whole tribe of what are commonly called the monied interest; that is, capitalists, great merchants, and financiers of every description. And, unquestionably, in whatever relates to practical details, or to a quickness of mercantile combination in estimating the probable profits or losses of a particular adventure, their claims to a superior degree of illumination cannot reasonably be disputed. Still, however, there are many questions relating to trade, to the consideration of which the philosopher, and the philosopher alone, is competent. The theory of money (including under this word, paper credit) is of itself a sufficient example; a theory which, after all that has been yet written on the subject, and all the prodigies which the thing itself daily accomplishes before our eyes, remains to this hour in much obscurity. It is not, however, to such a subject as that of money (which Leibnitz has somewhere justly called a semi-mathematical speculation) that I allude chiefly in the foregoing remark. I have an eye more particularly to Trade considered in its relation to other objects of Political Science, animating and combining into one system the labours of the farmer and the artificer, in the most remote corners of an extensive territory, encouraging and calling forth the industry of other nations, and of other quarters of the globe;—exhibiting, in a word, those stupendous effects, both political and moral, which distinguish the condition of mankind in Modern Europe, from everything else that is known in the history of the species. It is unnecessary for me to say, how important that class of laws must be, which affects peculiarly the interests of those whose operations lead to such momentous consequences; how extensive their utility, where they second the salutary tendencies of commerce; and how dangerous the mistakes of the Legislator may prove, when they thwart, in concerns of so vast a magnitude, the beneficial arrangements of nature.
For speculations which embrace so complicated a variety of objects, the details of a particular branch of trade are surely not the best preparation; nor is that quick-sighted regard to personal interest which commercial pursuits communicate, necessarily accompanied with views equally just, concerning questions of public utility. The truth is, that no wise statesman will reckon much on the disinterested benevolence of any one order of individuals; and the only occasions on which their professional knowledge is likely to be turned to national advantage, is when the interest of their order, and the interest of the community, are one and the same. That this is less the case with manufacturers and merchants than with farmers and country gentlemen, is frequently remarked by Mr. Smith in the course of his Inquiry;* and the same observation has been sanctioned by a still more unexceptionable authority, that of Sir Josiah Child.† “Merchants,” says this very intelligent and liberal writer, who was himself in an eminent degree conversant with the practical details of trade, “Merchants, while they are in the busy and eager prosecution of their particular objects, although they be very wise and good men, are not always the best judges of commerce, as it relates to the power and profit of a kingdom. The reason may be, because their eyes are so continually fixed on what makes for their peculiar gain or loss, that they have no leisure to expatiate, or to turn their thoughts to what is most advantageous for the kingdom in general.”
“The like,” he adds, “may be said of all shopkeepers, artificers, and manufacturers, until they have left off their trades, and being rich, become, by the purchase of lands, of the same common interest with most of their countrymen.”1
The same train of thought might be easily extended to the other subjects which I comprehend under the title of Political Economy. But what I have already stated is fully sufficient to illustrate the nature of those general and fundamental principles which I propose to investigate, and to justify the concise and expressive description of them formerly quoted from Lord Bacon, [p. 10,] where he calls them, “Leges Legum, ex quibus informatio peti possit, quid in singulis Legibus bene aut perperam positum aut constitutum sit.”
According to the idea of Political Economy which I have adopted, this science is not confined to any particular description of Laws, or to any particular department of the general science of Legislation. Among the means, for example, of advancing national wealth, what so efficacious as the laws which give security to the right of property, and check an inordinate inequality in its distribution? To secure these ends, is one great aim both of civil and criminal jurisprudence; and therefore, even those regulations which appear, on a superficial view, to be altogether foreign to the subject of national resources, may yet involve in the consequences, the most effectual provisions by which national resources are to be secured and augmented.
The science of Political Economy, considered in its more extensive signification, as comprehending every regulation which affects the sum of national improvement and enjoyment, must necessarily embrace discussions of a still more miscellaneous nature. Among its various objects, however, one of the most important is the solution of that problem which Mr. Burke has pronounced to be one of the finest in legislation:—“to ascertain what the State ought to take upon itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual discretion.” The mischievous consequences that may result from the tendency of mistaken notions on this point, to produce an undue multiplication of the objects of law, must be evident to every person who has the slightest acquaintance with Mr. Smith’s political disquisitions. In point of fact, it is the very problem stated by Mr. Burke, which renders it so difficult to define with precision the object of Political Economy. Its general aim is to enlighten those who are destined for the functions of government, and to enlighten public opinion with respect to their conduct; but unless it be previously ascertained how far the legitimate province of the Statesman extends, it is impossible to draw the line distinctly between those subjects which belong properly to the science of Legislation, and those of which the regulation ought to be entrusted to the selfish passions and motives inseparable from human nature.
I have dwelt the longer on this subject, as I was anxious to point out its intimate connexion with the Philosophy of the Human Mind. The only infallible rules of political wisdom are founded ultimately on a knowledge of the prevailing springs of human action, and he who loses himself in the details of the social mechanism, while he overlooks those moral powers which give motion to the whole, though he may accumulate a mass of information highly useful in the pursuits of private life, must remain in total ignorance of those primary causes on which depend the prosperity and the safety of nations.
Nor is it in this respect alone that the sciences of Morals and of Politics are related to each other; it is justly and profoundly remarked in one of the oldest fragments now extant of Grecian Philosophy, that “among the external circumstances necessary to the happiness of the individual, the first place is due to a well constituted State, without which the rational and social animal is imperfect, and unable to fulfil the purpose of its being.”* I shall endeavour afterwards to shew, that this observation applies with far less force to that part of the political order which depends immediately on the form of government, than to the system of Political Economy which that government encourages. At present I shall content myself with suggesting in general, in confirmation of the Pythagorean maxim just now quoted, that it is in the political union, and in the gradual improvement of which it is susceptible, that the chief provision has been made for a gradual development of our faculties, and for a proportionate enlargement in our capacities of enjoyment, insomuch that it may be confidently affirmed, that by the particular modification of the political order existing in any country, both the intellectual and moral condition of the great body of the people is infallibly determined.
I am perfectly aware of the objections to this doctrine, which will immediately occur to such as have adopted the prejudices which have been so industriously fostered for the last twenty years† by the advocates of civil and religious tyranny, (and by none more zealously than by the existing Government of France,‡ ) against all those branches of Philosophy which have human affairs for their object. But to these I think it quite superfluous to offer a formal reply; not only because their injustice and absurdity are completely felt and understood by their authors; but because all I could allege on the other side of the question would amount to nothing more than to an apology for the actual state of society in this part of the world, when contrasted with that which existed during the dark ages.
It was indeed against the authors of the most important blessings transmitted to us by our forefathers, that the outcry was the loudest and most general, not many years ago, in all the absolute monarchies on the Continent; in some of those most remarkably which have since fallen victims to their own blindness and imbecility; and where the people were prepared by unqualified panegyrics on the excellence and tranquillity of despotical Governments, to consider a change of masters as a circumstance of too little importance to their political condition to animate them in struggling against the arms of their invaders. The acknowledged mischiefs and horrors which were produced in France in the earlier stages of her revolution, by what the popular leaders dignified with the title of Philosophy, while everything which really merited the name was silenced and proscribed, has furnished to the enemies of human reason too specious a pretence for confounding, under one common appellation, the doctrines of sophistry and the salutary lessons of wisdom. The consequences have been everywhere such as were to be expected. The false theories which were once so generally propagated have been suppressed solely by the terrors of the sword; and that mild Philosophy, which addresses herself to minds unwarped by passion and by the spirit of faction, has been forced to reserve her admonitions for other times. In no country of Europe has this observation been verified in so remarkable a degree as in that where the evil originated; and if it applied to that country exclusively, it would afford much ground of consolation and hope to the human race.
“Di meliora piis, erroremque hostibus illum!”
I blush, however, to confess, that even among ourselves it is only now that the more candid and intelligent are beginning to acknowledge, that the radical source of the calamities of our age has been the ignorance and prejudices of the people; and that it is only by diffusing the light of knowledge and of liberality in those countries which have survived the general storm, that a provision can be made against those political convulsions which, in our own times, have derived their origin from the artifices of ambitious demagogues, operating on the credulity and profligacy of an uneducated multitude.
This growing change in public opinion, has given rise, of late years, to a much more general attention to speculative politics, than existed at any former period; and from this new direction of the public curiosity the happiest consequences may be anticipated. “Nothing,” says Mr. Smith, “tends so much to promote public spirit as the study of politics; of the several systems of Civil Government; their advantages and disadvantages; of the condition of our own country; its situation and interest with regard to foreign nations; its commerce; its defence; the disadvantages it labours under; the dangers to which it may be exposed; how to remove the one, and how to guard against the other. Upon this account, Political Disquisitions, if just and reasonable and practicable, are, of all the works of speculation, the most useful. Even the weakest and the worst of them are not altogether without their utility. They serve at least to animate the public passions of men, and rouse them to seek out the means of promoting the happiness of society.”1
A very able and candid critic, in some strictures which he did me the honour to make on the First Part of this Dissertation,* was pleased to express his regret that I should have announced my intention, in the farther prosecution of my subject, to abstain from all speculations concerning the Theory of Government, and to confine myself exclusively to the modern science of Political Economy. For this omission I might perhaps find a sufficient apology, in the novelty of Political Economy considered in the light of a science; (no attempt having been made to reduce its principles into a systematical form till the middle of the last century;) but as the reasons which chiefly weighed with me were really of a different nature, and as they are in my own opinion of considerable importance, I shall take this opportunity of submitting them, at some length, to the consideration of my readers.
In most of the Systematical Treatises published by political writers, the attention of the student is directed, in the first instance, to an examination and comparison of the different Forms of Government, and is afterwards led to some of those subjects which I have comprehended under the title of Political Economy. On a superficial view, this arrangement is apt to appear the most natural; for it is to the establishment of Government we are indebted for the existence of the Social Order; and without the executive power of Government, Law would be merely a dead letter. In this instance, however, I am inclined to think, as in many others, the most obvious arrangement is not the most natural; and that it would be better to invert the arrangement commonly followed, by beginning, first with the Principles of Political Economy, and afterwards proceeding to the Theory of Government.* My reasons for thinking so are various; but the following are some of the most important.
It is on the particular system of Political Economy which is established in any country, that the happiness of the people immediately depends; and it is from the remote tendency that wise forms of Government have to produce wise systems of Political Economy, that the utility of the former in a great measure arises. The one, indeed, leads naturally to the other; but it does not lead to it necessarily; for it is extremely possible that inexpedient laws may, in consequence of ignorance and prejudice, be sanctioned for ages by a Government excellent in its constitution, and just in its administration; while the evils threatened by a Government fundamentally bad, may, to a great degree, be corrected by an enlightened system of internal policy.
An idea very similar to this is stated by Mr. Hume, (though in a manner somewhat too paradoxical,) in one of his Essays. “We are, therefore, to look upon all the vast apparatus of our Government as having ultimately no other object or purpose but the distribution of justice, or the support of the twelve Judges. Kings and parliaments, fleets and armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, ministers and privy councillors, are all subordinate in their end, to this part of administration. Even the clergy, as their duty leads them to inculcate morality, may justly be thought, so far as regards this world, to have no other useful object of their institution.”*
In farther illustration of this fundamental principle, it may be remarked, that there are two very different points of view in which Laws may be considered;—first, with respect to their origin; and, secondly, with respect to their tendency. If they are equitable in both respects, that is, if they arise from a just constitution of Government, and if they are favourable to general happiness, they possess every possible recommendation; but if they are to want the one recommendation or the other, the former (it ought always to be recollected) is of trifling moment in comparison of the latter. Unfortunately, however, for the world, the contrary idea has very generally prevailed; and has led men to direct their efforts much more to improve the Theory of Government, than to ascertain the just principles of Political Economy. What has contributed much to produce this effect is, that every change in an established form of administration, presents an immediate field of action to the ambitious and the turbulent; whereas improvements in Political Economy open only those distant prospects of general utility, which, however they may interest the calm benevolence of speculative men, are not likely to engage the passions of the multitude, or to attract the attention of those who aspire to be their leaders.
I before observed, that the mistaken notions concerning Political Liberty which have been so widely disseminated in Europe by the writings of Mr. Locke, have contributed greatly to divert the studies of speculative politicians from the proper objects of their attention. On this subject I beg leave to refer to the remarks I offered on Locke and his followers, when treating on the foundation of the duty of Allegiance;* and I have only to add at present, that the conclusion to which these and other observations of the same kind lead, is, not that the share of political power vested in the people is of trifling moment, but that its importance to their happiness depends on the protection and support it provides for their civil rights. Happiness is, in truth, the only object of legislation which is of intrinsic value; and what is called Political Liberty, is only one of the means of obtaining this end. With the advantage of good laws, a people, although not possessed of political power, may yet enjoy a great degree of happiness; and, on the contrary, where laws are unjust and inexpedient, the political power of the people, so far from furnishing any compensation for their misery, is likely to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to improvement, by employing the despotism of numbers in support of principles of which the multitude are incompetent to judge.
On the other hand, it is no less evident, that the only effectual and permanent bulwark against the encroachments of tyranny, is to be found in the political privileges which the Constitution secures to the governed. This, indeed, is demonstrated by the history of all those arbitrary establishments in which the condition of the subjects is decided by the personal character of the Sovereign; and hence the jealousy with which, under better constitutions, every encroachment on these privileges has been watched by the enlightened friends of freedom. The want of them, however, does not, like that of civil liberty, necessarily affect the happiness, nor impair the natural rights of individuals; for their value is founded entirely on considerations of political expediency; and, therefore, the measure of them, which a wise man would desire for himself and his fellow-citizens, is determined, not by the degree in which every individual consents, directly or indirectly, to the laws by which he is governed; but by the share of power which it is necessary for the people to possess, in order to place their civil rights beyond the danger of violation.—In so far as this object is attained under any establishment, the civil liberty of the people rests on a solid foundation; and their political power accomplishes completely the only purpose from which its value is derived. Nor must it be forgotten, how often it has happened in the history of mankind, that a people, by losing sight of the end, in the blind pursuit of the means, have forfeited both the one and the other.
These considerations, added to what was formerly stated, appear fully sufficient to justify my general position, that of the two branches of Political Science, (the Theory of Government and Political Economy,) the latter is that which is most immediately connected with human happiness and improvement; and which is therefore entitled, in the first instance,* to the attention of the student. But this is not all. Some knowledge of Political Economy is indispensably necessary to enable us to appreciate the different Forms of Government, and to compare them together, in respect of their fitness to accomplish the great ends to which they ought to be subservient: whereas Political Economy may be studied without any reference to constitutional forms; not only because the tendency of laws may be investigated abstractedly from all consideration of their origin, but because there are many principles of Political Economy which may be sanctioned by governments very different in their constitutions; and some so essentially connected with the happiness of society that no Government can violate them, without counteracting the very purposes for which Government is established.
In contrasting, as I have now done, the study of Political Economy with that of the Theory of Government, I think it necessary for me once more to repeat, (before concluding this Lecture,* ) that I do not mean to deny their very intimate connexion with each other. I have already said that it is only under equitable constitutions that we can have any reasonable prospect of seeing wise systems of policy steadily pursued; and it is no less true, on the other hand, that every improvement which takes place in the internal policy of a State, by meliorating the condition and the morals of the great mass of the people, has a tendency to prepare society for undergoing, without any shock or convulsion, those gradual alterations which time produces on all human institutions.
These observations may appear at first view to be contradicted by a passage in the Historical Fragment of Mr. Fox, of which, in consideration of the high authority of that eminent person, I think it necessary for me to take some notice. Speaking of the reign of Charles II., and particularly of the spirit of Government in the year 1675, he observes: “It is to be remarked, that to these times of heat and passion, and to one of those Parliaments which so disgraced themselves and the nation, by the countenance given to Oates and Bedloe, and by the persecution of so many innocent victims, we are indebted for the Habeas Corpus Act, the most important barrier against tyranny, and best framed protection for the liberty of individuals, that has ever existed in any ancient or modern Commonwealth.”
“But the inefficacy of mere laws in favour of the subjects, in case of the administration of them falling into the hands of persons hostile to the spirit in which they had been provided, had been so fatally evinced by the general history of England ever since the grant of the Great Charter, and more especially by the transactions of the preceding reign, that the Parliament justly deemed their work incomplete, unless the Duke of York were excluded from the succession to the Crown.”* To the same purpose he has elsewhere said, that “the reign of Charles II. forms one of the most singular as well as one of the most important periods of history. It is the æra of good laws and of bad government. The abolition of the Court of Wards; the repeal of the Act De Heretico Comburendo; the Triennial Parliament Bill; the establishment of the Rights of the House of Commons in regard to Impeachment; the expiration of the License Act; and, above all, the glorious Statute of Habeas Corpus, have therefore induced a modern writer of great eminence [Hume,] to fix the year 1679 as the period at which our constitution had arrived at its greatest theoretical perfection; but he owns, in a short note upon the passage alluded to, that the times immediately following were times of great practical oppression. What a field for meditation does this short observation from such a man furnish! What reflections does it not suggest to a thinking mind, upon the inefficacy of human laws, and the imperfection of human constitutions! We are called from the contemplation of the progress of our constitution, and our attention fixed with the most minute accuracy to a particular point, when it is said to have risen to its utmost perfection. Here we are then, at the best moment of the best constitution that ever human wisdom formed. What follows? A time of oppression and misery, not arising from external or accidental causes, such as war, pestilence, or famine, nor even from any such alteration of the laws as might be supposed to impair this boasted perfection, but from a corrupt and wicked administration, which all the so-much admired checks of the constitution were not able to prevent. How vain, then, how idle, how presumptuous is the opinion that laws can do everything! And how weak and pernicious the maxim founded upon it, that measures, not men, are to be attended to.”†
The sentiments of an eminent Scotch Judge with respect to the Act 1701, (which has been called the Habeas Corpus Act of Scotland,) may be quoted as a supplement to this citation from Mr. Fox. “The Habeas Corpus in England was passed in the reign of Charles II., and you may remember what Mr. Hume says, that that Act for securing the personal liberty of the subject, rendered the constitution of England the best the world had ever seen. The Habeas Corpus Act, however, was rendered altogether nugatory and unavailing in the infamous government which followed, and which produced the Revolution 1688. The Revolution also took place in this country; but there had been no Habeas Corpus Act here, and it was found necessary to pass the Act 1701. In England personal liberty was unavailing without political freedom; and in Scotland, political freedom was discovered to be nugatory without personal liberty. The Act 1701, was meant to consummate the Revolution.”1
What is the moral to which these reflections lead? Not, certainly, that laws are of little moment to national felicity; or even that they are of less moment than the theoretical plan of the government, but that without the vivifying spirit of an enlightened people, jealous of their rights and determined to preserve them, the wisest political institutions are little better than a dead letter.
Delolme has made some judicious remarks on this subject, when treating of the Censorial Power exercised by the people of England over the conduct of government by means of the press. “Whoever considers,” he observes, “what it is that constitutes the moving principles of what we call great affairs, and the invincible sensibility of man to the opinion of his fellow-creatures, will not hesitate to affirm, that, if it were possible for the Liberty of the Press to exist in a despotic government, and (what is not less difficult) for it to exist without changing the constitution, this liberty of the press would alone form a counterpoise to the power of the Prince. If, for example, in an empire of the East, a sanctuary could be found which, rendered respectable by the ancient religion of the people, might ensure safety to those who should bring thither their observations of any kind, and that from thence printed papers should issue, which, under a certain seal, might be equally respected, and which in their daily appearance, should examine and freely discuss the conduct of the Cadis, the Bashaws, the Vizier, the Divan, and the Sultan himself,—that would introduce immediately some degree of liberty.”*
It is much to be regretted that Mr. Fox had not lent this argument the support of his talents and eloquence, but at the time he wrote, it was too little attended to by our best Whig writers; and, indeed, since the period of his death, the influence of the Press, in consequence of the diffusion of knowledge among the lower orders in every part of the island, and the astonishing multiplication of pamphlets and of periodical prints, has increased to a degree of which, twenty years ago, the most sanguine imagination could not have formed a conception. While this organ of public opinion and of the public will, shall remain unrestrained, the friends of liberty need entertain no serious apprehensions about the fate of our happy constitution. At least, any hazard to which it may be exposed can arise only from some incorrigible defect in the morals and public spirit of the people, which renders them no longer able or worthy to enjoy its blessings.
The following remarks of a profound and eloquent philosopher† will exhaust all that I wish farther to observe on this head. The passage is long, but is so important and so appropriate to my present purpose, that I am unwilling to weaken its effect by attempting to abridge it.
“It is not in mere laws that we are to look for the securities of justice, but in the powers by which these laws have been obtained, and without whose constant support they must fall into disuse. Statutes serve to record the rights of a people, and speak the intention of parties to defend what the letter of the law has expressed; but without the vigour to maintain what is acknowledged as a right, the mere record, or the feeble intention, is of little avail.
“A populace roused by oppression, or an order of men possessed of a temporary advantage, have obtained many charters, concessions, and stipulations in favour of their claims; but where no adequate preparation was made to preserve them, the written articles were often forgotten, together with the occasion on which they were framed.
“The history of England, and of every free country, abounds with the example of statutes enacted when the people or their representatives assembled, but never executed when the crown or the executive was left to itself. The most equitable laws on paper are consistent with the utmost despotism in administration. Even the form of trial by juries in England had its authority in law, while the proceedings of the courts were arbitrary and oppressive.
“We must admire as the key-stone of civil liberty, the statute which forces the secrets of every prison to be revealed, the cause of every commitment to be declared, and the person of the accused to be produced, that he may claim his enlargement or his trial, within a limited time. No wiser form was ever opposed to the abuses of power. But it requires a fabric no less than the whole political constitution of Great Britain, a spirit no less than the refractory and turbulent zeal of this fortunate people, to secure its effects.”*
[OF THE CONTENTS AND DISTRIBUTION OF POLITICAL ECONOMY PROPER,—OR OF PART FIRST.]
In the last chapter I endeavoured to convey a general idea of the nature of those disquisitions which I comprehend under the title of Political Economy, and to which I have in this Dissertation restricted the meaning of Political Philosophy. In point of fact, the subjects of Population and of National Wealth have of late appropriated the title of Political Economy almost exclusively to themselves; but I flatter myself that the reasons I have assigned for enlarging the province of this science will be found satisfactory.
That the science of Political Economy, in the common acceptation of the phrase, is of modern origin, is universally admitted; and that the same observation is applicable to the other subjects to which I propose to extend the same title, will appear in the course of the following remarks. Indeed, upon all of them many of the conclusions which now very generally unite the suffrages of speculative men, stand in direct opposition to the maxims of ancient policy. It seems, therefore, naturally to occur as an object of preliminary inquiry, what are the peculiarities in the circumstances of Modern Europe which have given birth to this new science, and which have imposed on statesmen the necessity of searching for other lights than what are to be collected from the institutions of Ancient Greece and Rome? In considering this question, I shall have occasion to point out the natural connexion by which the different branches of Political Economy are united into one department of knowledge, and the easy transitions by which the consideration of any one of them leads to that of all the others. The remarks which I have to offer under this head will serve, at the same time, to explain, why in this part of my Dissertation so many of my observations are rather of a prospective, than of a historical or retrospective nature. This view of the subject I found to be unavoidable in treating of a science which, though it has suddenly burst into preternatural maturity, is still in point of years only in a state of infancy.
[* ] [The three following articles appear in the first edition only, 1793:]
Art. 1. Of Population.
Art. 2. Of National Wealth.
1.) Of the Distribution of Wealth among the body of the People,—and of the Regulations respecting the Poor.
2.) Of the Revenue of the Sovereign.
[After an Art. 3, the same as in the text, there follows:]
Art. 4. Of the instruction of the Lower Orders; and of the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes.
[* ] [This seems to correspond with the “Introduction to a Course of Elementary Lectures on Political Economy,” as enumerated in the table of contents given by Miss Stewart; (see Editor’s Advertisement). It escaped the fate of the other writings in that list, in consequence of an extra copy having been taken. For, its first certainly, and apparently also its second chapter, were latterly intended by Mr. Stewart to be incorporated in the Third Part of his Dissertation; and various changes were accordingly (about 1819 and down to 1823) made to fit them for this transference; which, however, was never completed. It is perhaps needless to observe, that these alterations are merely superficial, and that the chapters, in all essential respects, correspond with their original accommodation.]
[† ] [See above, Vol. I., (Dissertation,) p. 22; though probably reference is made to a more proximate passage in the intended previous Lecture or Chapter, entitled, Allegiance to Government, now lost.]
[* ] [De Aug. Scient. Lib. VIII. cap. iii. Exemplum Tractatus de Justitia Universali, Aph. 6.]
[* ] [“Manufactures,” says Smith, “may flourish amidst the ruin of their country, and begin to decay upon the return of its prosperity.” This may serve as a specimen. Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. i.]
[† ] [Discourse on Trade.]
[1 ] Even after the trader has become a landed proprietor, he will naturally feel the influence of his former habits of thinking and judging, and will regard with undue partiality the associates of those pursuits to which he is indebted for his fortune. Mr. Ricardo himself, with all his liberality, sometimes betrays in his parliamentary opinions, a stronger fellow-feeling with Fund-holders, than the country gentlemen of England are disposed to sympathize with. (See Debate, Feb. 11, 1822.)
[* ] [Mr. Stewart probably refers to the Pseudo-Pythagorean Fragment On Happiness, under the name of Thurius; (Gale’s Opuscula, edition of Amsterdam, p. 663.) But a weightier and surer authority for the same doctrine is that of Aristotle, in his Politics; who there shews, that Man, only in Society attains to the perfection of which he is capable, and therefore, that a State is prior in the order of nature, to an Individual or a Family. “The solitary,” he says, “is either a god or a beast;” “Man is by nature political, in a sense higher than the bee or the ant, or any gregarious animal.” As he elsewhere expresses it: “Man is to Man the condition of his highest happiness and improvement,”—Ἀνθϱώπῳ ἥδιστον ἄνθοωπος, ϰ. τ. λ.]
[† ] [In her transcript, Miss Stewart notes—“What date? I think about 1819, but am doubtful.”]
[‡ ] [Relative to acts, in and after 1820. See “Notice sur M. Cousin,” 1835.]
[1 ]Theory of Moral Sentiments, Vol. I. pp. 471, 472, [sixth edition.]
[* ] [Sir James Mackintosh; (see Edinburgh Review, Sept. 1816, Vol. XXVII. p. 220.) His words are:—“The mention of Buchanan excites our regret that Mr. Stewart should have excluded from his plan the history of those questions respecting the principles and forms of government, which form one of the principal subjects of political philosophy, properly so called. No writer could have more safely trusted himself in that stormy region. He was much less likely to have been tainted by its turbulence, than to have composed it by the serenity of his philosophical character. Every history of the other parts of moral and political science is incomplete, unless it be combined with that of political opinion; the link which, however unobserved, always unites the most abstruse of ethical discussions with the feelings and affairs of men.”]
[* ] [The order here indicated has been followed in the present publication: but, it will be observed, that this distribution is different from what may possibly be viewed as Mr. Stewart’s ultimate arrangement; (see the preliminary Advertisement.) By that arrangement, the Theory of Government and its several Forms are, relatively to Political Economy proper, considered in the first instance.—It should be mentioned, that Mr. Stewart usually delivered a series of lectures on the Theory and Forms of Government, in addition to, but as a part of his ordinary course of Moral Philosophy. These Political lectures were thus altogether distinct from his separate course of Political Economy.]
[* ] [Essays, Vol. I., Essay Of the Origin of Government.]
[* ] [Miss Stewart, in her transcript says:—“I fear this chapter on Allegiance is lost.”]
[* ] [See note, p. 21.]
[* ] [This parenthesis is deleted in the transcript from which Miss Stewart copied, and is omitted by her.]
[* ] [A History of the Early Part of the Reign of James II., Chap. I. p. 38, orig. ed.]
[† ] [Ibid. p. 22, seq.]
[1 ] Speech of Lord Gillies in the case Duncan v. His Majesty’s Advocate, as reported in the Scotsman, February 8, 1823. [This marks a date, after which the context was written.]
[* ] [Constitution, &c., Book II. chap. xii.]
[† ] [Dr. Adam Ferguson, Mr. Stewart’s predecessor in the chair of Moral Philosophy, in whose Essay on the History of Civil Society the passage is found;—Part III., sect. vi.]
[* ] [From the previous Introduction it thus appears, that we are warranted in dividing the following Lectures on Political Economy into two Parts:—to wit, 1°, into a part comprising the matters usually referred to Political Economy proper; and 2°, into a part comprising the Theory of Government and Forms of Administration, that is, Politics proper. In its sequel, the Introduction further enumerates the subordinate constituents of the First Part; to wit, 1°, Population,—2°, National Wealth,—3°, The Poor,—4°, Education: and these we may consider as so many Books into which this Part is distributed.—Of the Second Part, this Introduction takes no account.]
[* ] [Miss Stewart notes upon her transcript,—“All after this is old.”—If hereby she means, that the process of accommodating the Lectures to the Dissertation ceases with the first Chapter, this is manifestly incorrect; as is apparent from the earlier portion, at least, of the following chapter.]