Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECT. V.—: VASCO DE GAMA AND COLUMBUS. - Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economic Policy with Biographical Sketches of Quesnay, Adam Smith & Ricardo
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SECT. V.—: VASCO DE GAMA AND COLUMBUS. - John Ramsay McCulloch, Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economic Policy with Biographical Sketches of Quesnay, Adam Smith & Ricardo 
Treatises and Essays on Subjects connected with Economic Policy with Biographical Sketches of Quesnay, Adam Smith & Ricardo (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1853).
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VASCO DE GAMA AND COLUMBUS.
The voyages of the Genoese and Venetians to France and Great Britain, and the vast improvement which the art of steering by the compass had introduced into navigation, prepared the way for the extraordinary discoveries which will for ever distinguish the close of the 15th century. From about the year 1400, the Portuguese were engaged in a series of exploratory voyages along the west coast of Africa, principally in the view of ascertaining whether it were not possible to reach India by that route. And at length this grand object was achieved by the famous Admiral Vasco de Gama, who, having doubled the southern extremity of Africa in November 1497, arrived, after a prosperous voyage, at the port of Calicut, on the Malabar coast. It would not be easy to exaggerate the importance of this discovery. It dispelled the notions that had come down from antiquity, with respect to the uninhabitable nature of the Torrid Zone; and it opened a new route for the intercourse between Europe and the East. Egypt ceased to be the centre of the commercial world. And Lisbon, Amsterdam, and other ports on the Atlantic, became the entrepôts of the trade which had been so long engrossed by Venice, Genoa, and other Italian cities. Few revolutions have been more complete. But, as previously seen, another great change is now going on, and the trade with the East is once more reverting to the channels from which it was diverted by the voyage of De Gama.
The discovery of America took place nearly at the same time with the discovery of the route to the East by the Cape of Good Hope. This unparalleled achievement was the result of the genius and enterprise of Christopher Columbus or Colon, a citizen of the Genoese republic.1 Having been brought up to the sea, being also well versed in geometry and astronomy, and of a thoughtful and determined character, Columbus was well fitted to make discoveries. A residence of some length in Lisbon, made him acquainted with the views and proceedings of the Portuguese navigators. And as the route to India by Africa was already occupied, he formed the bold and novel project of attempting to reach it by sailing directly westward. Having convinced himself of the practicability of this plan, he communicated it to the rulers of his native state, craving their assistance to enable him to carry it into effect. Being rejected by them, he appealed with no better success to the courts of Lisbon and London. At length, after a tedious and protracted suit, Queen Isabella of Castile interested herself in the fortunes and schemes of Columbus. She gave him the title of Admiral, and supplied him with money, raised by pledging her jewels, to fit out a small flotilla. He set sail from the port of Palos, in Andalusia, on the 3d of August 1492. And after a voyage, the most magnificent in its design, the most difficult in its execution, and the most stupendous in its results, of any that have ever been undertaken, the New World was discovered on the 12th of October 1492.1
Columbus returned to Europe in about seven months from the time he had set out on his arduous undertaking. And though none could then foresee a hundredth part of the consequences of his great discovery, it struck the whole world with astonishment, and gave a vast impulse to the spirit of adventure and enterprise. This was especially manifested in Spain. Its government did little towards the subjugation of Mexico, Peru, and its other dominions in the New World. But its neglect or indifference was amply compensated by the zeal and energy of individuals; and in about fifty years from the period when Columbus set out from Palos the greater portion of America, from the northern frontier of Mexico to the southern frontier of Chili, was occupied by Spaniards, and willingly acknowledged the supremacy of the Spanish crown.
But notwithstanding the splendour of the discoveries made by Vasco de Gama and Columbus, philosophers and moralists have not been wanting who have doubted whether they have been beneficial to the human race. The flimsy paradoxes of Rousseau and Raynal may be dismissed without notice; but their prejudices have been entertained by writers of a very different cast. “What mankind,” says Dr Johnson, “has lost and gained by the genius and designs of Prince Henry2 of Portugal, it would be long to compare, and very difficult to estimate. Much knowledge has been acquired, and much cruelty been committed; the belief of religion has been very little propagated, and its laws have been outrageously and enormously violated. The Europeans have scarcely visited any coast but to gratify avarice and extend corruption; to arrogate dominion without right, and practise cruelty without incentive. Happy had it been for the oppressed, that the designs of De Gama and Columbus had slept in their bosoms; and surely more happy for the oppressors. But there is reason to hope that out of so much evil good may sometimes be produced; and that the light of the Gospel will at last illuminate the sands of Africa, and the deserts of America.” And elsewhere he says, “Columbus was under the necessity of travelling from court to court, scorned and repulsed as a wild projector, an idle promiser of kingdoms in the clouds; nor has any part of the world yet had reason to rejoice that he found at last reception and employment.”1
But although the conduct of the Spaniards, and other Europeans, in America and elsewhere, has been in many respects objectionable, still there can be no reasonable doubt that mankind have gained immeasurably by the discoveries in question. It has been said, indeed, that the settlements in the New World and in Australia are founded on injustice, and that we had no right, other than that of being the stronger party, to take possession of these countries, and subdue, or exterminate their inhabitants. And we concede that it may sometimes be not a little difficult to decide in how far civilised and powerful nations may be justified in subjugating and coercing those which are less advanced than themselves. But, from the remotest antiquity down to the present times, the former have never scrupled to subject the latter to their authority, and, if necessary, to dispossess them of their territories. And every unprejudiced individual, in any degree acquainted with history, must admit, looking at it in a practical point of view, that this conduct has been of inestimable advantage. A salutiferous and fertilising stream cannot, however, have its source in impure and poisonous fountains; nor can proceedings which have prevailed in all ages, and which have done more than anything else to increase population and diffuse civilisation and the arts, be truly said to be unjustifiable, or inconsistent with the beneficent arrangements of Providence. Great political questions of this sort are not to be decided by à priori reasonings, or the dogmatism of schoolmen and divines, but by carefully attending to and weighing their results.
“Ipsa utilitas justi prope mater et æqui.”
It is true that cultivated nations, in dealing with their inferiors, have not unfrequently abused their greater power and intelligence. But while we admit and regret the fact, it is no less true that, but for their dictating to, and appropriating the possessions of others, more than half the civilised world would at this moment have been immersed in the grossest barbarism. Those who may be disposed to question this statement, have only to compare the America discovered by Columbus with the America of the present day. At the former period, the far greater part of that immense continent was occupied by the scanty population of savage tribes, ignorant of almost every useful art; making war on each other with a deadly and implacable ferocity; subsisting on the precarious produce of the chace; and often involved in the most dreadful privations. It would be a libel on Providence to suppose that it was intended that this state of things should be perpetual, that these vast and fruitful regions should be occupied only by hunters and wild1 animals. And as the red man could effect no great object—as he could neither replenish the land, nor exercise dominion over it, his subjugation, if not his extermination, was indispensable to enable the foundations of a better order of things to be laid;2 and would, therefore, appear to be consonant to enlarged and just views of benevolence, as well as to expediency.3
Even in Mexico and Peru, where some advances had been made in civilisation, the condition of the population was abject and wretched in the extreme. In the former, crowds of slaves were sacrificed at the obsequies of every important personage. And at their great religious and state festivals, there was a wholesale butchery to the extent of thousands, not merely of captives taken in war, but of innumerable victims drawn from the conquered provinces, and from all classes of the community. However we may blame the cruelty by which it was accompanied, it is impossible not to rejoice at the destruction of so sanguinary and atrocious a system.1 The superstition of the Peruvians was of a less bloody and diabolical character than that of the Mexicans. But even among them it was not unusual to slaughter children as a propitiatory sacrifice for the health of a sick Inca; and at his death, a number of his attendants and favourite concubines, amounting sometimes it is said to a thousand or upwards, were immolated on his tomb.2
The invasion of the Spaniards swept over these miserable countries like the irruption of an Attila, or the course of a hurricane, involving the despots and the priests, with their sacrifices and their dupes, in one universal ruin. But dreadful as this visitation was, its destructive effects were not of an enduring character. It was not, like the bloody and barbarous superstition which it subverted, fitted to perpetuate itself by debasing its victims. And though their religion, and the vicious system of colonial policy adopted by the Spaniards, have done much to retard the progress of the countries which they overran, they have attained to a respectable degree of population and civilisation.
It may be said, perhaps, that this desirable change might have been effected by less violent means, by the instruction and kindly treatment of the Indians; and it were much to be wished that this had been the case. But, unhappily, there does not appear to be any good ground for entertaining such an opinion. The attempts that have been made to civilise and improve the Indians, have proved complete failures. So long as they are treated like children, as was the case with those in Paraguay during the lengthened ascendancy of the Jesuits, their progress seems to be perfectly satisfactory. But the moment they are left to themselves, the factitious nature of their improvement becomes evident, and they speedily relapse into their original barbarism. All experience shows that the red man is incapable of making any considerable progress in civilisation. Most probably, indeed, this is the case with all savage tribes. With the single and very questionable exception of the Maorians of New Zealand, none of them have had sagacity to profit by the example of the civilised races with whom they have come into contact. Their barbarism would seem to be inherent in their nature, and uneradicable. And supposing such to be really the case, to complain of their extinction is hardly more reasonable than it would be to complain of the drainage of marshes, or the disappearance of wild animals.
But in deciding this great question, we must not refer to the case of Spanish America only. Let us turn, our eyes from Mexico and Peru to the United States. Who will presume to say that the interests of humanity have not gained incalculably by the settlement of this great republic? Here, where, not more than two hundred and fifty years ago, a few half-starved hunters were the only inhabitants, large cities are built, filled with an enterprising, an intelligent, and a wealthy population; canals and railways unite the most distant portions of the Union; agriculture and its subsidiary arts have been widely spread over what were formerly impenetrable thickets; manufactures on a large scale are everywhere established and vigorously prosecuted; gigantic rivers that were crossed only by some wandering savage in his rude canoe, are covered with ships laden with the produce of every country and every climate; education is universally diffused; and a moderate and liberal government secures alike the independence of the nation and the rights of the citizens. And besides the direct gain to humanity by the introduction of religion, literature, science, and arts, into the huge wilderness of America, her settlement has conferred inestimable advantages on Europe, and especially on England, by the infinite variety of new and desirable products she has supplied to stimulate and reward the industry and invention of our manufacturers and merchants; and by the all but unlimited field she has afforded for the profitable employment of the idle, the discontented, and the rejected population of the old world. To these America has been “a city of refuge.” The hosts of paupers and outcasts who have fled, or been driven, to her hospitable shores, have mostly risen from poverty to affluence; and have become industrious and deserving citizens of free and flourishing communities. It will ever be the boast of England, that she was the magna virum mater, that she formed and bred the men who established this vast transatlantic empire. And it has been truly said, that she is more illustrious in having done this than in her many triumphs in arts and arms, great and unequalled as these have been.
The following extract from Locke’s “History of Voyages and Travels,” is worthy of attention. That great philosopher had no doubts in regard to the signal advantages conferred on mankind by the discovery of America, and of the route to India by the Cape of Good Hope.—“After so long a discourse of voyages and discoveries, it may seem superfluous to treat of the advantages the public receives by navigation, and the faithful journals and accounts of travellers. The matter is natural; and no man can read the one without being sensible of the other; and therefore a few words may suffice on this subject, to avoid cloying the judicious reader with what is so visible and plain, and to save running out this introduction to an unreasonable length. What was cosmography, before these discoveries, but an imperfect fragment of science, scarce deserving so good a name? when all the known world was only Europe, a small part of Africa, and the lesser portion of Asia; so that of this terraqueous globe not one-sixth part had ever been seen or heard of. Nay, so great was the ignorance of man in this particular, that learned persons made a doubt of its being round; others, no less knowing, imagined all they were not acquainted with desert and uninhabitable. But now geography and hydrography have received some perfection by the pains of so many mariners and travellers, who, to evince the rotundity of the earth and water, have sailed and travelled round it, as has been here made appear, to show there is no part uninhabitable, unless the frozen polar regions; have visited all other countries, though never so remote, which they have found well peopled, and most of them rich and delightful; and to demonstrate the antipodes, have pointed them out to us. Astronomy has received the addition of many constellations never seen before; natural and moral history is embellished with the most beneficial increase of so many thousands of plants it had never before received; so many drugs and spices; such variety of beasts, birds, and fishes; such varieties in minerals, mountains, and waters; such unaccountable diversity of climates and men, and in them of complexions, tempers, habits, manners, politics, and religions. Trade is raised to the highest pitch, each part of the world supplying the other with what it wants, and bringing home what is accounted most precious and valuable; and this not in a niggard and scanty manner, as when the Venetians served all Europe with spice and drugs from India by the way of Turkey and the Red Sea; or as when gold and silver were only drawn from some poor European and African mines; but with plenty and affluence, as we now see most nations resorting freely to the East Indies and the West yearly, sending forth prodigious quantities of the most esteemed and valuable metals. To conclude, the empire of Europe is now extended to the utmost bounds of the earth, where several of its nations have conquests and colonies. These, and many more, are the advantages drawn from the labours of those who expose themselves to the dangers of the vast ocean, and of unknown nations, which those who sit still at home abundantly reap in every kind: and the relation of one traveller is an incentive to stir up another to imitate him, whilst the rest of mankind, in their accounts, without stirring a foot, compass the earth and seas, visit all countries, and converse with all nations.”
AN ESSAY ON THE RISE, PROGRESS, AND DECLINE OF COMMERCE IN HOLLAND.
The history of Holland, or the Seven United Provinces, evinces in the most striking manner the wonderful influence of a well-directed spirit of industry and economy, at the same time that it shows the means by which that spirit may be most effectually called forth. The Hollanders, though placed apparently under circumstances the most unfavourable for the accumulation of wealth, overcame with matchless perseverance one difficulty after another, until they rendered their country the centre of European commerce, their traffickers the “honourable of the earth,” and diffused opulence, and a taste for conveniences and enjoyments, among the lowest orders of the people. There is no nation whose career has been more extraordinary. And there is none whose history deserves so much to be studied by all who wish to become acquainted with those circumstances which elevate nations to a high pitch of commercial prosperity, and with those, also, which sap the foundations of their power, and sink them to a lower level. For these reasons, we beg briefly to call the attention of the reader to a few remarks on what seem to have been the more prominent causes of the rise and progress of commerce in Holland, and of its subsequent decline.
Occupying a sandy, marshy, and unfruitful country, liable to be overflowed by the large rivers which intersect it, and to be laid waste by the more violent irruptions of the ocean, the Hollanders were obliged to guard against inundations, by constructing vast artificial mounds along the banks of the rivers and the sea-coast, and to seek in fishing and navigation for that support which they could not derive from agriculture. The duris urgens in rebus egestas whetted their ingenuity, and gave them courage to undertake, and patience to overcome, the most formidable enterprises. They could not subsist without drawing a portion of their supplies from foreigners, so that commerce was to them not a matter of choice, but of necessity. Cæsar describes the Batavians as addicted to a seafaring life, and deriving a part of their subsistence from the fishery. The earliest accounts transmitted to us by modern chroniclers and historians represent them as engaged in naval enterprises, and possessing numerous fleets. The foundations of the Hanseatic League were laid in the 12th and 13th centuries, and several of the towns of Holland were amongst its oldest members. In 1477, Philip of Burgundy wrote to the Pope, that “Holland and Zealand were rich islands, inhabited by a brave and warlike people, who have never been conquered by their neighbours, and who prosecute their commerce on every sea.”1 The discovery of the mode of curing and barrelling herring, by an obscure individual of the name of Beukels, or Beukelzon, towards the middle of the 14th century, contributed more, perhaps, than anything else, to increase the maritime power and wealth of Holland. At a period when the prohibition of eating butchers’ meat-during two days every week, and forty days before Easter, was universal, a supply of some sort of subsidiary food was urgently required; so that the discovery of Beukels was of the greatest consequence, not to his countrymen only, but to the Christian world. It should be mentioned, to the honour of the emperor Charles V., that being, in 1550, at Biervliet, where Beukels is buried, he visited his grave, and ordered a magnificent monument to be erected, to record the memory of a man who had rendered so signal a service to his country.
For a long period, the Hollanders enjoyed nearly a complete monopoly of the herring-fishery. They carried it on not only in the bays and inlets of their own country, but along the British coasts, from the Shetland and Orkney Islands to the mouth of the Thames. Their sense of its importance was shown by the saying in common use amongst them, that “The foundations of Amsterdam were laid on herring bones.”1
But they were, if possible, still more indebted to the whale-fishery, which they prosecuted to an extent, and with a degree of success, that completely distanced all their competitors. This fishery, when in its most flourishing condition, was principally carried on in the seas and bays round Spitzbergen. And there the Hollanders constructed the village of Smeerenberg,2 where they boiled the blubber, and prepared the oil and the bone. The destruction of the whales, and the retreat of those who survived to the open seas, and then to the coasts of Greenland and Davis’ Straits, put an end to the establishment at Smeerenberg, and with it terminated the golden age of the whale-fishery.3
It would lead us into too wide a field, were we to enter into any lengthened details with respect to the circumstances which occasioned the revolt and independence of the United Provinces. It is sufficient for our purpose to observe, that the government of Holland, during the period when she began to be distinguished as a naval power, was essentially free. The Earls, or Counts, of Holland, like those of Flanders, enjoyed a comparatively limited authority. Hemmed in on all sides by powerful neighbours, and engaged in frequent contests with each other, they were perpetually under the necessity of applying to their subjects for supplies. In consequence, the nobility, clergy, and above all the corporate bodies established in the different towns, acquired a large share of authority. The supreme government was vested in an assembly of the states, which met as often as it thought proper, and without whose consent no taxes could be imposed, wars entered into, or treaties either of peace or alliance concluded. The prerogatives of the earls were, indeed, more like those enjoyed by the elective chief magistrates of republican governments than those that usually belong to hereditary sovereigns.
This free system of government, the security thence resulting, and the scope which it gave to the exercise of talent and industry, was no doubt the principal circumstance that so early rendered Flanders one of the richest, best cultivated, and most commercial countries of Europe, and which enabled the Hollanders to surmount all the difficulties incident to their situation. A striking proof of the enlightened and constitutional policy of the Flemish government, occurs so far back as the reign of Edward I. of England. That monarch, in a letter addressed to Robert, Earl of Flanders, states that he had learned that an active intercourse was carried on between the Scotch and the Flemings; and as the Scotch had taken part with Robert Bruce, who was in rebellion against him, and excommunicated by the Pope, he begged that the earl would put a stop to this intercourse, and exclude the Scotch from his dominions. The earl returned an answer full of expressions of respect for Edward, adding, however, “We must not conceal it from your majesty, that our country of Flanders is common to all the world, where every person finds a free admission. Nor can we take away this privilege from persons concerned in commerce, without bringing ruin and destruction upon our country. If the Scotch go to our ports, and our subjects go to theirs, it is neither the intention of ourselves nor our subjects to encourage them in their error, but only to carry on our traffic, without taking any part with them.”1
The provinces continued for several ages under the moderate and constitutional government of their native princes, till, by the extinction of the male line in some families, by marriage, conquest, and other casualties, they fell under the dominion of the House of Burgundy. But, notwithstanding the increased power of their new sovereigns, they continued to enjoy their ancient privileges, and were governed according to the laws enacted by their representatives. The taxes and other public burdens, were indeed considerably augmented. But as their commerce and opulence increased in a still greater ratio, this burden was submitted to, if not without reluctance, without any disturbance.
In 1477, the sovereignty of the Low Countries passed from the House of Burgundy to that of Hapsburgh, by the marriage of the only daughter of Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy, to Maximilian, afterwards Emperor of Germany. Charles V., the grandson of Maximilian, was born in the Low Countries, and entertained a kindly feeling towards the people. He treated them with regard, respected their privileges, and though, on a few occasions, he stretched his prerogative to an unconstitutional length, little opposition was made to his government. But it was far otherwise with his son and successor, Philip II. The Reformation having made a considerable progress in the Netherlands, this gloomy and unrelenting bigot, in the view of arresting its progress, established tribunals equivalent to the Inquisition, and subjected every one accused of heresy to the most barbarous punishments. The command of a large army, quartered in the Provinces, and composed principally of Spanish and Italian troops, was entrusted to the famous Ferdinand de Toledo, Duke of Alva, whose bigotry and ferocity were nowise inferior to Philip’s. Alva’s object was twofold, to extirpate every vestige of the Reformed religion, and by trampling under foot the civil rights of the people, to render the government as despotical as that of Castile. But, in endeavouring to accomplish these objects, his cruelties excited a spirit of resistance, which all the power of Spain was unable to overcome. In Flanders, indeed, the Spaniards succeeded; but Holland and the Northern provinces achieved their independence. No contest was ever engaged in with means apparently so unequal. The Spanish monarchy was then, beyond all question, the most powerful in Europe. Its resources seemed equal to the greatest undertakings; its troops were brave, numerous, and well appointed; and in Alva, Farnese, and Spinola, it could boast of generals that would have done honour to any age. To so mighty a power the Hollanders, few in number, had nothing to oppose but their hatred of tyranny, their invincible courage and constancy, the advantages derived from the peculiar situation of their country, and the talents of William I., Prince of Orange, and his successor Maurice.1 Luckily, however, these proved sufficient. This great struggle was prolonged for above half a century; and whether we consider its duration, the sacrifices and efforts of the weaker party, or the advantages resulting from their success, it may be safely affirmed to have no parallel in the history of the world.
By an unlooked-for train of consequences, the contest with the Spaniards, instead of being injurious to the commerce of Holland, was a principal cause of its increase. Bruges had been at one time the greatest trading city in the Low Countries, having formed the centre of the communication carried on by sea between the southern and northern parts of Europe.1 But owing to some severities exercised on it by the Emperor Frederick III., in consequence of the citizens having imprisoned his son Maximilian, to whose marriage with the heiress of the House of Burgundy we have alluded, the commerce carried on at Bruges was gradually removed to Antwerp. In consequence principally of this circumstance, but partly also of its advantageous situation, the trade of Antwerp was rapidly augmented; and it had become, at the breaking out of the troubles, one of the richest and greatest commercial cities of Europe. Ludovico Guicciardini has given, in his description of the Low Countries,2 an interesting account of Antwerp in 1560, when it had attained the acme of its prosperity, and of the commerce carried on by its merchants. Though too long to copy, this account contains a few particulars which may be worth mentioning. Armuyden, in the island of Walcheren, was the place of rendezvous for the shipping of Antwerp; and in it, Guicciardini says, 500 large ships had been lying at one time, bound to, or newly returned from, distant parts of the world. He adds, that it was no uncommon thing for 500 ships of all sizes to go and come in a single day; that 10,000 carts were employed in conveying merchandise to and from the neighbouring countries, besides hundreds of waggons daily coming and going with passengers; and 500 coaches used by people of distinction. In his enumeration of the different trades, Guicciardini reckons 92 fishmongers, 78 butchers, and 124 goldsmiths, who at that time acted as bankers, or rather exchangers of money. The houses were computed to amount to 13,500, and the inhabitants to about 100,000. Few only of the ships frequenting the port of Antwerp belonged to its citizens, its oversea trade being principally carried on by the ships of foreign nations. Many of its merchants were possessed of immense fortunes.
Its siege and capture by the Spaniards, under Farnese, in 1585, proved fatal to the trade of this great emporium. The terms obtained by the citizens were indeed comparatively favourable. But their aversion to the Spanish government being insurmountable, they lost no time in removing themselves, their commerce, and effects, to Amsterdam, Middleburgh, and other cities, where they hoped to enjoy that security and freedom which they could not look for under their conquerors. To lessen the importance of a place which had fallen into the hands of their enemies, the Hollanders built forts on the Scheldt, to intercept such ships as might attempt to get to Antwerp; and at length resorted to the device of rendering the river unnavigable, by sinking vessels loaded with stones in its channel. The commerce, which had enriched the Netherlands, was thus wholly transferred to Holland, and brought with it an accession of wealth and power, which had a material influence over the fate of the war.
Among the various branches of commerce which Antwerp enjoyed, one of the most valuable was carried on with the Portuguese, who supplied her warehouses with the spices and other productions of India. These were chiefly bought by the Dutch merchants, who conveyed them to England, and the countries bordering on the Baltic, or carried them up the great rivers into the interior of Germany. Philip II. having, in 1580, made himself master of Portugal, one of his first measures was to put a stop, in as far as possible, to the intercourse between Lisbon and his rebellious subjects in the Low Countries. But the Hollanders having participated in the advantages of the trade in Indian commodities, since they could no longer obtain them at second hand, resolved to procure them direct from the places of their growth. At first they endeavoured to effect their object by a north-east passage; but this proving unsuccessful, they determined on attempting the passage by the Cape of Good Hope. Houtman, a Hollander who had been in the Portuguese service in India, commanded the first fleet of Dutch ships that appeared in the Indian ocean, in 1594. In a mercantile point of view, this adventure was not very successful; but it was immediately followed by others that were eminently so. The Portuguese, whose martial ardour had abated during a long period of peace, detested by the natives for their bad faith, rapacity, and intolerance, and little anxious about preserving the dominion of India for the Spaniards, whose subjects they had become, opposed no effectual resistance to the encroachments of the Dutch. The English also having appeared about the same time in the eastern seas, the Portuguese empire, attacked by both, was subverted in even less time than it had been raised. And Philip II. had the mortification to behold the most valuable branches of the commerce of the Peninsula pass into the hands of those whom his persecutions and atrocities had rendered his implacable enemies.
In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was formed; and notwithstanding its pernicious influence, the Indian trade increased rapidly in magnitude and importance. Ships fitted both for commercial and warlike purposes, and having a considerable number of soldiers on board, were sent out within a few years of the Company’s establishment. Amboyna and the Moluccas were first wrested from the Portuguese, and with them the Dutch obtained the monopoly of the spice trade. Factories and fortifications were in no long time established from Bussorah at the mouth of the Tigris, in the Persian Gulph, along the coasts and islands of India as far as Japan. Alliances were formed with several of the native princes; and in many parts, particularly on the coasts of Ceylon, and in various districts of Malabar and Coromandel, the Dutch were themselves the sovereigns. Batavia, in the large and fertile island of Java, the greater part of which they had conquered, formed the centre of their Indian commerce. Though unhealthy, its port was excellent, and it was admirably situated for commanding the trade of the Eastern Archipelago. In 1651, they planted a colony at the Cape of Good Hope, which had been strangely neglected by the Portuguese.
Every branch of commerce was vigorously prosecuted by the Dutch. But that carried on with the Baltic was the most extensive and important. Guicciardini mentions that their trade with Poland, Denmark, Prussia, etc., even before the revolutionary struggle, was so great, that fleets of 300 ships arrived twice a-year at Amsterdam from Dantzic and Livonia only; and it was largely increased during the latter part of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries. The dense population of Holland, and the limited extent and unfruitful nature of the soil, render the inhabitants dependent on foreigners for the greater part of their supplies of corn. And these have always been principally furnished by the countries round the Baltic; they also have supplied the timber, iron, hemp and flax, pitch and tar, tallow, ashes, and other bulky articles required in the building of houses and ships, and in various manufactures.
Nothing redounds more to the credit of the Dutch, than their policy with respect to the corn trade. They had at all times a large capital embarked in it. And the variations which are perpetually occurring in the harvests, early led them to engage very extensively in speculative enterprises. When the crops were unusually productive, and prices low, they bought and stored up large quantities of grain, in the expectation of profiting by the advance that was sure to take place on the occurrence of an unfavourable season. Repeated efforts were made in periods when prices were rising, or high, to prevail on the government to prohibit exportation; but they invariably refused to interfere. In consequence of this enlightened policy, Holland was long the most important entrepôt for corn; and her markets were on all occasions furnished with abundant supplies. Those scarcities which are so very disastrous in countries without commerce, or where the trade in corn is restricted, were not known in Holland, except as being a copious source of wealth to her merchants, who then found an advantageous vent for the stocks accumulated in their warehouses. “Amsterdam,” said Sir Walter Raleigh,1 “is never without 700,000 quarters of corn, none of it the growth of the country. A dearth of only one year in any other part of Europe, enriches Holland for seven years. In the course of a year and a half, during a scarcity in England, there were carried away from the ports of Southampton, Bristol, and Exeter alone, nearly £200,000; and if London and the rest of England be included, above £2,000,000 must have been carried away.”
The well-informed author of the “Richesse de la Hollande,” published in 1778, observes, in allusion to these circumstances, “Que la disette de grains regne dans les quatre parties du monde; vous trouverez du froment, du seigle, et d’autres grains à Amsterdam; ils n’y manquent jamais.”1
The Bank of Amsterdam was founded in 1609. It was principally intended to obviate the inconvenience and uncertainty arising from the circulation of the coins imported into Amsterdam from all parts of the world. The merchants who carried coin or bullion to the Bank obtained credit for an equal value in its books; this was called bank-money: and all considerable payments were effected by writing it off from the account of one individual to that of another. This establishment continued to flourish till the invasion of the French in 1795.
In 1621, the Dutch formed a West India Company. Within the short period of fifteen years this association conquered the greater part of Brazil, fitted out 800 trading and warlike ships, at a vast expense, and captured from the Spaniards and Portuguese 545 ships which were supposed to be worth ninety millions florins.2 But the success of the Company’s warlike enterprises by sea proved their ruin. In their ardour to prosecute them, they neither completed the conquest of Brazil, nor put the provinces which they had conquered into a posture of defence. In 1640, the Portuguese shook off the Spanish yoke; and soon after set about making preparations to recover the valuable possessions they had lost in Brazil. Prince Maurice of Nassau, who had been captain-general in South America, having been imprudently recalled in 1644, the administration fell into incompetent hands. The Portuguese took advantage of this circumstance; and the Dutch being vigorously attacked, and not properly supported from home, were compelled finally to abandon the country in 1654. This circumstance occasioned the fall of the Company, which was abolished in 1674; when a new one, whose career was hardly more prosperous, but whose privileges were much less extensive, was established on its ruins.
Between the years 1651 and 1672, when the republic was invaded by the French, the commerce of Holland seems to have reached its greatest height. The author of the “True Interest of Holland” estimates its increase from the treaty with Spain, concluded at Munster in 1643 to 1669, at fully a half. He adds, that during the war with Holland, Spain lost the greater part of her naval power; that, since the peace, the Dutch had obtained most part of the trade to that country, which had been previously carried on by the Hanseatic merchants and the English; that almost all the coasting trade of Spain was carried on by Dutch bottoms; that Spain had even been forced to hire Dutch ships to sail to her American possessions; and that, so great was the exportation of goods from Holland to Spain, that all the merchandise brought from the Spanish West Indies was not sufficient to make returns for them.
At this period, indeed, the Dutch engrossed, not by means of any artificial monopoly, but by the greater number of their ships, and their superior skill and economy in all that regarded navigation, almost the whole carrying trade of Europe. The value of the goods exported from France on Dutch bottoms, towards the middle of the 14th century, exceeded forty millions of livres; and the commerce of England with the Low Countries was, for a lengthened period, almost entirely carried on in the same way.
The business of marine insurance was largely prosecuted at Amsterdam. Ordinances published in 1551, 1563, and 1570, contain regulations for the settlement of such disputes as were likely to arise in conducting this difficult but highly useful business. It is singular, however, notwithstanding their sagacity, and their desire to strengthen industrious habits, that the Dutch should have prohibited insurance upon lives. It was reserved for England to show the many advantages derivable from this application of the science of probabilities.
In one respect, the division and combination of commercial pursuits was carried farther in Holland than in most other countries. Not only merchants, but towns, applied themselves in preference to one line of business. Middleburgh, for example, was engaged in the wine trade; Flushing, in the West India trade; Swaardam, in ship-building; Sluys, in the herring-fishery; Amsterdam, in the East India, Spanish, and Mediterranean trades, etc. Competition in every branch was intense, and they were all conducted with the utmost skill and economy.
The author of the “True Interest of Holland” says that in his time the republic had 10,000 sail of shipping and 168,000 seamen; “although,” he adds, “the country itself affords them neither materials, nor victual, nor merchandise.” In 1690, Sir William Petty estimated the shipping of Europe at about 2,000,000 tons, which he supposed to be distributed as follows, viz., England, 500,000; France, 100,000; Hamburgh, Denmark, Sweden, and Dantzic, 250,000; Spain, Portugal, and Italy, 250,000; that of the Seven United Provinces amounting, according to him, to 900,000 tons, or to nearly half the whole tonnage of Europe! No great dependence can, indeed, be placed upon these estimates. But the probability is, that had they been more accurate, the preponderance in favour of Holland would have been greater than it appears to be; for the official returns to the circulars addressed in 1701 by the commissioners of customs to the officers at the different ports, show that the whole mercantile navy of England amounted at that period to only 261,222 tons, carrying 27,196 men.1
It may, therefore, be fairly concluded that, during the 17th century, the foreign trade and navigation of Holland was greater than that of all Europe besides. And yet the country which was the seat of this vast commerce had no native produce to export, nor even a piece of timber fit for ship-building. All had been the fruit of industry, economy, and a fortunate combination of circumstances. “Holland,” to use the words of Sir William Temple, “did not grow rich by any native commodities, but by force of industry; by the improvement and manufacture of all foreign growths; by being the general magazine of Europe, and furnishing all parts with whatever the market wants or invites; and by their seamen being, as they have been properly called, the common carriers of the world.”
In this brief sketch of the progress of Dutch commerce, we have touched upon some of the circumstances which seem to have been principally instrumental in accelerating its increase. But before proceeding to offer any further remarks of our own, either upon these or any of the other causes which may be supposed to have concurred in bringing about these extraordinary results, we beg to call the reader’s attention to a very important statement with respect to them, which might have been advantageously referred to on some late occasions in this country.
After the war terminated by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the attention of the Dutch government was forcibly attracted to the state of the shipping and foreign commerce of the republic. They had been gradually declining from the beginning of the century; and the discovery of means by which this decline might be arrested, and the trade of the republic, if possible, restored to its ancient flourishing condition, became a prominent object in the speculations of every one who felt interested in the public welfare. That the most correct information might be had on the subject, the Stadtholder, William IV., circulated the following queries among some of the more extensive and intelligent Dutch merchants, desiring them to favour him with their answers:—
“1. What is the actual state of trade? and if the same should be found to be diminished and fallen to decay, then, 2. To inquire by what methods the same may be supported and advanced, or, if possible, restored to its former lustre, repute, and dignity?”
In discussing these questions, the merchants had to trace and exhibit the causes which had raised the commerce of Holland to the high pitch of prosperity to which it had once attained, and those which had occasioned its subsequent decline. It is stated that, though not of the same opinion upon all points, they concurred generally in regard to those of most importance. When their answers had been obtained, and compared with each other, the Stadtholder had a dissertation prepared from them and other authentic sources, on the commerce of the republic, to which proposals were subjoined for its amendment. Some of the principles therein advanced apply to Holland only; but they are mostly of universal application, and are as sound as they are comprehensive. The benefits resulting from religious toleration, political liberty, and the freedom of industry, have seldom been more clearly set forth than in this dissertation. At the same time, it contains nothing which was supposed to be hypothetical or doubtful. Its authors being all either practical or official men, largely engaged in business, or engrossed with the duties and details of office, proceeded on the sober and solid grounds of experience and observation. And yet neither Locke nor Smith could have gone farther in recommending free institutions and the freedom of commerce.
The dissertation begins by an enumeration of the causes which contributed to advance the commerce of the republic to its former unexampled prosperity: these the authors divide into three classes, embracing under the first those which were natural and physical; under the second, those which they denominate moral; and, under the third, those which they considered adventitious and external, remarking on them in succession, as follows:—
“I. The natural and physical causes are the advantages of the situation of the country, on the sea, and at the mouth of considerable rivers. Its situation between the northern and southern parts, which, by being in a manner the centre of all Europe, made the republic become the general market, where the merchants on both sides used to bring their superfluous commodities, in order to barter and exchange the same for other goods they wanted.
“Nor have the barrenness of the country, and the necessities of the natives arising from that cause, less contributed to set them upon exerting all their application, industry, and utmost stretch of genius, to fetch from foreign countries what they stand in need of in their own, and to support themselves by trade.
“The abundance of fish in the neighbouring seas put them in a condition not only to supply their own occasions, but, with the overplus, to carry on a trade with foreigners; and out of the produce of the fishery to find an equivalent for what they so wanted, through the sterility and narrow boundaries and extent of their own country.
“II. Among the moral and political causes are to be placed,—The unalterable maxim and fundamental law relating to the free exercise of different religions; and always to consider this toleration and connivance as the most effectual means to draw foreigners from adjacent countries to settle and reside here, and so become instrumental to the peopling of these provinces.
“The constant policy of the republic to make this country a perpetual, safe, and secure asylum for all persecuted and oppressed strangers, no alliance, no treaty, no regard for, or solicitation from any potentate whatever, has at any time been able to weaken or destroy; or make the state recede from protecting those who have fled to it for their own security and self-preservation.
“Throughout the whole course of all the persecutions and oppressions that have occurred in other countries, the steady adherence of the republic to this fundamental law has been the cause that many people have not only fled hither for refuge, with their whole stock in ready cash, and their most valuable effects, but have also settled and established many trades, fabrics, manufactures, arts, and sciences, in this country; notwithstanding the first materials for the said fabrics and manufactures were almost wholly wanting in it, and not to be procured but at a great expense from foreign parts.
“The constitution of our form of government, and the liberty from thence accruing to the citizens, are further reasons to which the growth of trade, and its establishment in the republic, may fairly be attributed. And all her policy and laws are put on such an equitable footing, that neither life, estates, or dignities, depend on the caprice or arbitrary power of any single individual; nor is there any room for any person, who, by care, frugality, and diligence, has once acquired an affluent fortune or estate, to fear a deprivation of them by any act of violence, oppression, or injustice.
“The administration of justice in the country has, in like manner, always been clear and impartial, and without distinction of superior or inferior rank; whether the parties have been rich or poor, or even this a foreigner and that a native. And it were greatly to be wished we could at this day boast of such impartial quickness and despatch in all our legal processes, considering how great an influence it hath on trade.
“To sum up all, amongst the moral and political causes of the former flourishing state of trade, may be likewise placed the wisdom and prudence of the administration; the intrepid firmness of the councils; the faithfulness with which treaties and engagements were wont to be fulfilled and ratified; and particularly the care and caution practised to preserve tranquillity and peace, and to decline, instead of entering on a scene of war, merely to gratify the ambitious views of gaining fruitless or imaginary conquests.
“By these moral and political maxims was the glory and reputation of the republic so far spread, and foreigners animated to place so great a confidence on the steady determinations of a state so wisely and so prudently conducted, that a concourse of them stocked this country with an augmentation of inhabitants and useful hands, whereby its trade and opulence were constantly from time to time increased.
“III. Amongst the adventitious and external causes of the rise and flourishing state of our trade may be reckoned—
“That at the time when the best and wisest maxims were adopted in the republic as the means of making trade to flourish, they were neglected in almost all other countries; and any one, on reading the history of those times, may easily discover, that the persecutions on account of religion throughout Spain, Brabant, Flanders, and many other states and kingdoms, have given rise to the establishment of trade in the republic.
“To this happy event, and the settling of manufactures in our country, the long continuance of the civil wars in France, which were afterwards carried on in Germany, England, and divers other parts, have also very much contributed.
“It must be added, in the last place, that during our most burdensome and heavy wars with Spain and Portugal (however ruinous that period was for commerce otherwise), these powers had both neglected their navy; whilst the republic, by a conduct directly the reverse, was at the same time formidable, and in a capacity not only to protect the trade of their own subjects, but to annoy and crush that of their enemies in all quarters.”1
It will, we presume, be generally admitted that these statements reflect very great credit on the Dutch merchants and government. The barrenness of the soil of Holland, and its liability to inundation, made industry and perseverance indispensable, not to the comfort merely, but to the very existence of the inhabitants; while its central situation, its sea frontier, and its command of some of the principal inlets of the Continent, impelled them to engage in navigation and trade. But the concurrent influence of these circumstances, however powerful, would not of itself have sufficed to produce the results we have witnessed. Without that free system of government, that toleration of all religions, and that perfect security of property, which they early and for a while almost exclusively enjoyed, the Dutch could not have figured as they have done among the nations of Europe. The intolerance, the persecutions, and the follies of their neighbours, drove many of their most valuable and intelligent citizens to seek an asylum in Holland. Bayle, Locke, and Shaftesbury, were of the number of these refugees. We need not, therefore, wonder at the fortitude, the boldness, and the enterprise displayed by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries. The progress of commerce and industry has everywhere, indeed, been pretty nearly proportioned to the liberality of the government, and the security and freedom enjoyed by the people. These were the circumstances which, though imperfectly developed, occasioned the revival of commerce and arts in the towns and cities of Italy, Germany, and Europe generally, in the middle ages, when the rural population was a prey to every sort of disorder. So long as the Spaniards possessed their Cortes, and the civil and religious privileges accorded by their ancient laws, they made rapid advances in civilisation. Their vigour, wealth, and industry, kept pace with those of their most favoured neighbours. But after the crooked and selfish policy of Ferdinand, followed by the unrelenting bigotry of Philip II., had established the Inquisition and destroyed the freedom of the press and the liberties of the nation, its physical as well as its moral energies were completely paralysed. It continued, indeed, to swarm with priests, and to abound in festivals, processions, and every sort of superstitious mummery; but its industry, intelligence, and enterprise disappeared. It is, however, some consolation to know, that this wretched system has proved no less fatal to the monarchs, for whose aggrandisement it was established, than to their subjects. While, on the one hand, the inhabitants of the Peninsula have been remarkable, for more than two centuries, for ignorance, bigotry, poverty, and laziness; the successors of Charles V. have, on the other, sunk to the lowest place among princes. Instead of being regarded, as of old, when they ruled over a free people, with envy and apprehension, they have become a by-word among nations, and are not so much objects of respect as of scorn and contempt.
Many dissertations have been written to account for the decline of the commerce of Holland. But, if we mistake not, its leading causes may be classed under two prominent heads, viz., first, the growth of commerce and navigation in other countries; and second, the increase of taxation at home. During the period when the republic rose to eminence as a commercial state, England and France, distracted by civil and religious dissensions, or engrossed wholly by schemes of foreign conquest, were unable to apply their energies to the cultivation of commerce, or to withstand the competition of so industrious a people as the Dutch. They, therefore, were under the necessity of allowing the greater part of their foreign, and even of their coasting trade, to be carried on in Dutch bottoms under the superintendence of Dutch factors. But after the accession of Louis XIV. and the ascendancy of Cromwell had put an end to internal commotions in France and England, the energies of these two great nations began to be directed to pursuits of which the Dutch had acquired almost a monopoly. This growing inclination on the part of the English and French people, was fostered and promoted by their respective governments, who, envying the wealth and power to which their trade and navigation had raised the States-General, were anxious to turn the industry of their subjects into the same channels. In 1651, the Parliament of England passed the Act of Navigation, the main object of which was to exclude the Dutch from the carrying trade of this country; and in 1664, Colbert promulgated the tariff compiled under his direction, in the view of promoting the trade and mercantile marine of France, by harassing those of the republic. There is, however, good reason to doubt whether these regulations had the influence commonly ascribed to them. At best they only hastened by a few years a result which must have taken place though they had not been enacted. Their popularity is, indeed, a sufficient proof that they were in unison with the spirit of the age, and strengthened a bias which the course of events had already given to the national industry. It was not to be supposed, after tranquillity and a regular system of government had been established in France and England, that their active and enterprising inhabitants would submit to see one of their most valuable branches of industry engrossed by foreigners. The Dutch ceased to be the carriers of Europe, without any fault of their own. Their performance of that function necessarily terminated as soon as other nations became possessed of a mercantile marine, and were able to do that for themselves which had previously been done for them by their neighbours.
Whatever, therefore, might have been the condition of Holland in other respects, the natural advance of rival nations could hardly fail to strip her of a large portion of the commerce which she once possessed. The progress of decline seems also to have been considerably accelerated, or rather, perhaps, the efforts to arrest it were rendered ineffectual, by the extremely heavy taxation to which she was subjected. It should, however, be observed, that this taxation was not occasioned by any misconduct on the part of the rulers of the republic—the most severe spirit of economy having always pervaded every department of the public expenditure—but by the unavoidable expenses incurred in the administration of the government, in the construction and repair of the vast works required to keep out the sea, and in the heavy cost of the revolutionary struggle with Spain, and the subsequent contests with France and England. Necessity, notwithstanding every exertion to the contrary, compelled the States, on more than one occasion, to reduce the interest of the public debt. And it also obliged them to impose taxes on corn, on flour when ground at the mill, and on bread when it came from the oven; on butter, fish, and fruit; on income and legacies; on the sale of houses; and, in short, on almost every article either of necessity or convenience. Sir William Temple mentions that in his time—and taxes were greatly increased afterwards—a fish sauce in common use, paid no fewer than thirty different duties of excise. And it was a common saying at Amsterdam, that every dish of fish brought to table was paid for once to the fisherman, and six times to the state.
The pernicious influence of this excess of taxation has been illustrated by the author of the “Richesse de la Hollande,” and other well-informed writers; and it has also been forcibly pointed out in the Dissertation already referred to, drawn up from the communications of the Dutch merchants. “Oppressive taxes,” it is there stated, “must be placed at the head of all the causes that have co-operated to the prejudice and discouragement of trade; and it may be justly said, that it can only be attributed to these taxes, that the trade of this country has been diverted out of its channel, and transferred to our neighbours, and must daily be still more and more alienated and shut out from us, unless the progress thereof be stopt by some quick and effectual remedy: Nor is it difficult to see, from these contemplations on the state of our trade, that the same will be effected by no other means than a diminution of all duties.
“In former times this was reckoned the only trading republic in Europe; and foreigners were content to pay the taxes, as well on the goods they brought thither, as on those they came there to buy; without examining whether they could evade or save them, by fetching the goods from the places where they were produced, and carrying others to the places where they were consumed: In short, they paid the Dutch their taxes with pleasure, without any farther inquiry.
“But since the last century, the system of trade is altered all over Europe: Foreign nations seeing the wonderful effect of our trade, and to what an eminence the Dutch had rose only by means thereof, they did likewise apply themselves to it; and to save our duties, sent their superfluous products beside our country, to the places where they are most consumed; and in return for the same, furnished themselves from the first hands with what they wanted.”1
But, notwithstanding this authoritative exposition of the pernicious influence of excessive taxation, the necessary expenses of the state were so great as to render it impossible to make any sufficient reductions. And, with the exception of the transit trade carried on through the Rhine and the Meuse, which is in great measure independent of foreign competition, and the Indian trade, the other branches of the trade of Holland, though still very considerable, continue in a depressed state.
In consequence principally of the oppressiveness of taxation, but partly, too, of the accumulation of capital which had taken place while the Dutch engrossed the carrying trade of Europe, profits in Holland were greatly reduced towards the middle of the 17th century, and have ever since continued extremely low. This circumstance would of itself have undermined the foundations of her greatness. Her capitalists, who could hardly expect to clear more than two or three per cent. of nett profit by any sort of undertaking carried on at home, were tempted to vest their capital in other countries, and to speculate in loans to foreign governments. Hence, until very lately, the Dutch were the largest creditors of any nation in Europe. It is impossible, indeed, to form an accurate estimate either of the amount of the sums owing to them by foreigners, previously to the late French war, or at the present time; but there can be no doubt that at the former period it was immense, and that it is still very large. Demeunier1 estimates the capital lent by the Dutch to foreign governments, exclusive of the large sums lent to France during the American war, at seventy-three millions sterling. According to the author of the “Richesse de la Hollande,”2 the sums lent to France and England only, previously to 1778, amounted to 1,500,000 livres tournois, or sixty millions sterling. And besides these, vast sums were lent to private individuals in foreign countries, both regularly as loans at interest, and in the shape of goods advanced at long credits. Such was the difficulty of finding an advantageous investment for money in Holland, that Sir William Temple mentions, that the payment of any part of the national debt was looked upon by the creditors as an evil of the first magnitude. “They receive it,” says he, “with tears, not knowing how to dispose of it to interest with such safety and ease.”
In consequence of the preference given in Holland to ready money transactions, it was not a country in which adventurers without capital had much chance of speedily making a fortune. “Rien, en effet, de plus facile que de s’établir à Amsterdam; mais rien de plus difficile que de s’y soutenir sans des grandes ressources. Dans cette ville, où l’argent abonde, où on le prête contre des sûrétes à si bon marché, il est pourtant impossible de s’en procurer à crédit; et sans argent il n’y a plus de possibilité d’y travailler, que de trouver quelqu’un qui veuille de se charger d’un papier nouveau qui ne seroit pas appuyé d’un crédit que l’opinion, la protection, ou des effets réels feroient valoir à la bourse. Les Hollandois suivent lá-dessus des maximes très austères, même á l’égard des maisons d’une certaine considération.”1 But this austerity was not a disadvantage, but the reverse. It prevented commerce from degenerating, as it has too often done in other places, into gambling adventures. And, combined with the severe spirit of economy by which all classes have uniformly been actuated, placed it on a comparatively solid foundation. And it should be mentioned, to the honour of the Dutch, and as a proof of the excellence of this system, that notwithstanding the distress and loss of trade occasioned by the invasion and occupation of their country by the French, the bankruptcies in 1795 and subsequent years were not, comparatively, so numerous as in England in ordinary seasons.
Among the subordinate causes which contributed to the decline of Dutch commerce, or which at all events prevented its growth, we may reckon the circumstance of the commerce with India having been subjected to the trammels of monopoly. The author of the “True Interest of Holland” expresses his conviction, that the abolition of the East India Company would have contributed to increase the trade with the East; and no doubt can now remain in the mind of any one that such would have been the case. The Company’s directors did not exert themselves to carry on an extensive trade with a moderate profit, but to carry on a limited trade with a very large profit. To effect this purpose, they laboured with unequalled perseverance to obtain and preserve the monopoly of the spice trade; evincing, in their conduct with respect to it, a degree of rapacity, and a contempt for the rights and interests of others, that is hardly, we believe, to be matched in the history of any other association. “That they might,” said Mr Crawfurd, “regulate and control the production and price of cloves just as they thought proper, the clove trees were extirpated everywhere but in Amboyna, the seat of their power; and the surrounding princes were bribed by annual stipends to league with them for the destruction of their subjects’ property. This plan was begun about the year 1631. The contracts are still in force; and their annual fleet visits the surrounding islands to suppress the growth of cloves, which, in their native country, spring up with a luxuriance which these measures of satanic rigour, and of sacrilege towards bountiful nature, can scarce repress. In consequence of this plan—a plan carried on with so much iniquity and bloodshed—the country of spices is rendered a petty farm, of which the natural owners are reduced to the worst condition of predial slavery, and the great monopoliser and oppressor is that government whose duty it should have been to ensure freedom and afford protection. Human iniquity could hardly devise a plan more destructive of industry, more hostile to the growth of public wealth, or injurious to morals, than this system, framed in a barbarous age; and it reflects disgrace upon the character of a civilised people to persevere in it.”1
The same miserable system was followed with respect to the production of nutmegs, and, generally, of all those spices which are understood to be the exclusive growth of the Moluccas. In consequence, the trade in them was so much reduced, as to have been, for a lengthened period, unable to afford employment for the capital of half-a-dozen wealthy merchants; and the unrestrained rapacity of a few monopolists made the Dutch character be looked upon in Asia, for more than a century and a half, as an epitome of all that is base and mercenary.
But we are glad to have to state, that the old monopoly, with its long train of abuses, is now wholly abolished in the Moluccas, in Java, and throughout all the Dutch possessions in the East. Proprietors of estates and villages, who have lands assigned to them by government, are obliged to furnish to its agents a certain quantity of spice, or of some other article, at a fixed and reasonable price, as a land-tax or rent. But this is the only obligation imposed on them. In all other respects they are quite free to act as they please; and hence the extraordinary progress which these colonies have made since 1815.1
But to return: The capital of the Dutch East India Company amounted to only 6,500,000 florins, being about £542,000 sterling, divided into transferable shares of 3,000 florins each. The ascendancy they early gained over the Portuguese, the rich prizes they took from them, and their monopoly of the spice trade, enabled the Company, notwithstanding the wars in which they were engaged, and their losses by shipwreck and otherwise, to realise for a while enormous profits. The annual dividends for the six years ending with 1610 were as high as 36 per cent. In 1606, they rose to the astonishing rate of 75 per cent.; and in 1616 they were 62½ per cent. At one period, the price of a share in the Company’s stock was as high as 26,000 florins, being more than eight times its original cost. The dividends gradually declined, according as the trade of the English and other nations with India was extended. For some years previously to the dissolution of the Company in 1796, they were nominally 12 per cent., but were in reality much less.
Unlike their countrymen engaged in other branches of commerce, the East India Company made no efforts to prosecute trade on fair mercantile principles. Their whole object was to exclude competition; to grasp at the monopoly of particular products; and when they had obtained it, they took care, by narrowing the supplies brought to market, to raise their price to many times their real cost.1 They succeeded for a short time in getting the exclusive command of the pepper trade; and the first use which they made of it was, to raise the price of pepper to eight shillings a pound, being about 100 per cent. higher than the Portuguese prices. It is supposed that they must, during a few years, have made a profit of not less than 3,800 per cent. on this single article.2
In consequence of this system, the imports of Indian produce, and the Company’s trade, were confined within the narrowest limits. It has been estimated, apparently on good grounds, that the Indian trade, had it been conducted on the principle of open competition, instead of only requiring a capital of £542,000, would have furnished an advantageous employment for one of eight or ten millions. The truth is, that the notions which were long current with respect to the magnitude of the commerce of the Dutch East India Company were quite as visionary as those entertained in this country with regard to the profitableness of the trade carried on by our Company. It has been already seen, that when the “True Interest of Holland” was published (1667), the trade of the republic is supposed to have employed 10,000 sail of shipping; yet, even then, the ships annually engaged in the East India trade amounted to “only ten or sixteen going and coming.”3 From 1614 to 1730, the prosperous period of the Company’s affairs, the whole number of ships which arrived in Holland from India, was but 1621, giving only fourteen ships at an average to each year.4 If any farther proof of the ruinous influence of monopoly, of its tendency to narrow and choke up what would otherwise be the broadest and deepest commercial channels, could be desired, it would be found in the fact, that the American free-traders engaged in the trade between the United States and the dependencies of Holland in the East Indies, very far exceed, both in number and tonnage, the ships employed by the Dutch Company.
It may justly excite surprise, that so sagacious a people should have tolerated so great an abuse, and that the States-General did not early perceive the impolicy of surrendering so important a branch of commerce to a Company acting on such narrow principles. But, instead of being looked upon as a nuisance, which should at all hazards be abated, the East India Company was very generally regarded as one of the principal supports of the republic. It occasionally, indeed, rendered some direct service to the state, and, unlike some similar associations, it was always able to maintain itself without any aid from the public treasury. But these advantages were purchased at an enormous cost; and by blinding the public to the real influence of the monopoly, were positively injurious. Perhaps, however, the peculiar constitution of the Company contributed more than any thing else to its duration. Had its management and patronage been entirely in the hands of the merchants of Amsterdam, the Company would doubtless have had to encounter the hostility of those in the out-ports. This, however, was not the case. The Company’s stock was distributed among six of the principal towns, each of which had a separate chamber, or board of directors, amounting in all to sixty-five. The patronage was distributed amongst these chambers, according to the value of the stock held by each, and the directors had all handsome salaries. A board of seventeen directors was chosen from among the subordinate chambers, in which the supreme administration was vested. This board met alternately at Amsterdam and Middleburgh, six years at the former, and two at the latter.1 In consequence of this constitution, almost all the leading capitalists and merchants throughout the republic were directly concerned in the administration of the Company’s affairs; being at once the disposers and receivers of the patronage it had to bestow. Those whose interest would otherwise have led them to oppose the Company and to insist on the trade being thrown open, were thus induced to lend it an efficient support, and exerted themselves to protect an institution the most injurious that can well be imagined, to the commerce and navigation of the republic.
It is not, perhaps, very generally known, that how injurious soever to its trade, the Dutch India Company had no exclusive right to supply the markets of Holland with the products of India. They were the only Hollanders entitled to carry on a direct intercourse with India; but every one might import Indian commodities from England, France, and other European countries. The Company had, therefore, no means of obtaining a monopoly price for the produce they imported, unless they could engross it in India; and hence the unwearied perseverance with which they laboured to obtain the monopoly of the spice trade. In this respect the constitution of the Dutch East India Company was entirely different from that of the English Company. Had tea been as popular a beverage in Holland as in England, the Dutch Company must, in order to sell the article at an artificial price, have got possession of China, or, at all events have been able to obstruct all intercourse between the Celestial Empire, and every other European and American power. But previously to 1834, when the trade was thrown open, the British Company was relieved from all fear of competition. Not only had it the exclusive right to engage in the China trade, but no English merchant could import tea or other Chinese products from Hamburg or New York, even though they might have been able to sell them here with a good profit for half or two-thirds the price charged by the Company. The monopoly in its favour appears, therefore, to have been more objectionable than that in favour of the Dutch Company. While the latter existed, Indian and Chinese products were sold as cheap in Holland, and generally indeed cheaper, than in any other country. The Company might engross, if they could, a product in the East; but no Dutch statesman ever proposed to give them a monopoly of the home market. This was, at all times, open to Indian goods imported from foreign countries.
In illustration of what has now been stated, it may be mentioned, that previously to the renewal of the East India Company’s charter by Cromwell, in 1657, the trade from England to India had, for some years, been substantially free. And, as might be anticipated, the private adventurers carried it on with a zeal, economy, and success, which monopoly can never expect to rival. It is stated in a work, entitled “Britannia Languens,” or a Discourse of Trade, published in 1680, the author of which must have been alike well-informed and intelligent, that during the years 1653-4, etc., when the trade to India was open, the private traders imported East Indian commodities in such large quantities, and sold them at such reduced prices, that they not only fully supplied the British markets, but had even come into successful competition with the Dutch in the market of Amsterdam, and “had very much sunk the actions (shares) of the Dutch East India Company.”1
The report, that Cromwell intended to dissolve the English Company, caused the greatest consternation among the partners of the Dutch Company, who foresaw that there would be an end of their exorbitant profits if they were brought into competition with free English traders. A letter from the Hague, 15th January 1654, in the third volume of Thurlow’s “State Papers,” states, “That the merchants of Amsterdam have advice, that the Lord Protector intends to dissolve the East India Company at London, and to declare the navigation and commerce of the East Indies free and open, which doth cause great jealousy at Amsterdam, as a thing that will very much prejudice the East India Company in Holland.”
The interference of the administration in regulating the mode in which some of the most important branches of industry should be carried on, seems also to have been not a little injurious. Every proceeding with respect to the herring fishery, for example, was regulated by orders from government, carried into effect by officers appointed for that purpose. Some of these regulations were exceedingly vexatious. The period when the fishery might begin, was fixed at five minutes past twelve o’clock of the night of the 24th June! and the master and pilot of every vessel leaving Holland for the fishery, were obliged to make oath that they would respect this regulation. The species of salt to be made use of in curing different sorts of herrings was also fixed by law; and there were endless regulations with respect to the size of the barrels, the number and thickness of the staves of which they were to be made; the gutting and packing of the herrings; the branding of the barrels, etc., etc.1 These regulations were intended to secure to the Hollanders that superiority which they had early attained in the fishery; and to prevent the reputation of their herrings from being injured by the bad faith of individuals. But their real effect was the reverse of this. By tying up the fishers to a system of routine, they prevented them from making improvements; while the facility of counterfeiting the public marks opened a wider door to fraud, than would have been opened had government declined interfering in the matter.
But notwithstanding the East India monopoly, and the regulations now described, the commercial policy of Holland, for a lengthened period, was more liberal than that of any other nation. And, in consequence, a country not more extensive than Wales, and naturally not more fertile, conquered, indeed, in great measure from the sea, and kept from being submerged by constant watchfulness and a heavy expenditure, accumulated a population of about three millions; maintained wars of unexampled duration with the most powerful monarchies; and besides laying out immense sums in works of utility and ornament at home, lent hundreds of millions to foreigners. Notwithstanding their want of native timber and iron, they are abundantly supplied with all the materials of carpentry, ship-building, and manufacture. Their towns, which are numerous and magnificent, are the great marts for the spices, the coffee, and the sugar of the East; and abound, indeed, in all the products of all the countries of the world. Thus, where freedom and industry prevail,
Omnis fert omnia tellus.
And though their commerce, be much decayed, the Dutch, even at this moment, are the richest and most comfortable people of Europe. And their present, no less than their former state, shows that industry, a liberal system of government, and the security and free disposal of property and labour, can overcome every obstacle; “can convert the standing pool and lake into fat meadows, cover the barren rock with verdure, and make the desert smile with flowers.”1
AN ESSAY ON THE RISE, PROGRESS, AND DECLINE OF THE HANSEATIC LEAGUE.
The Hanseatic League is the name given to an association formed in the 12th and 13th centuries, of the principal cities in the north of Germany, Prussia, Poland, etc., for the better carrying on of commerce, and for their mutual safety and defence. This confederacy having contributed, in no ordinary degree, to introduce civilisation and good government into the North, a short account of it may not be deemed uninteresting.
Hamburg, founded by Charlemagne in the ninth, and Lubeck, founded about the middle of the 12th century (1140), were the earliest members of the League. The distance between them not being very considerable, and being alike interested in the repression of those disorders to which most parts of Europe, and particularly the coast of the Baltic, were a prey in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, they early formed an intimate political union, partly in the view of maintaining a safe intercourse by land with each other, and partly for the protection of navigation from the pirates, with which every sea was at that time infested. There is no very distinct evidence as to the period when this alliance was consummated; some ascribe its origin to the year 1169, others to the year 1200, and others to the year 1241. But the most probable opinion seems to be, that it grew up by slow degrees, and was perfected according as the advantages derivable from it became more obvious. Such was the origin of the Hanseatic League, so called from the old Teutonic word hansa, signifying an association or confederacy.
Adam of Bremen, who flourished in the 11th century, is the earliest writer who has given any information with respect to the commerce of the countries lying round the Baltic. And from the errors into which he has fallen in describing the northern and eastern shores of that sea, it is evident they had been very little frequented, and not at all known, in his time. But from the beginning of the 12th century, the progress of commerce and navigation in the North was exceedingly rapid. The countries which stretch along the bottom of the Baltic, from Holstein to Russia, and which had been occupied by barbarous tribes of Slavonic origin, were then subjugated by the kings of Denmark, the dukes of Saxony, and other princes. The greater part of the inhabitants being exterminated, their place was filled by German colonists, who founded the towns of Stralsund, Rostock, Wismar, etc. Prussia and Poland were afterwards subjugated by the Christian princes and the knights of the Teutonic Order. So that, in a comparatively short period, the foundations of civilisation and the arts were laid in countries whose barbarism had ever remained impervious to the Roman power.
The cities that were established along the coast of the Baltic, and even in the interior of the countries bordering upon it, eagerly joined the Hanseatic confederation. They were indebted to the merchants of Lubeck for supplies of the commodities produced in more refined countries, and they looked up to them for protection against the barbarians by whom they were surrounded. The progress of the League was in consequence singularly rapid. Previously to the end of the 13th century, it embraced every considerable city in all those vast countries extending from Livonia to Holland, and was a match for the most powerful monarchs.
The Hanseatic confederacy was at its highest degree of power and splendour during the 14th and 15th centuries. It then comprised from sixty to eighty cities, which were distributed into four classes or circles. Lubeck was at the head of the first circle, and had under it Hamburg, Bremen, Rostock, Wismar, etc. Cologne was at the head of the second circle, with twenty-nine towns under it. Brunswick was at the head of the third circle, consisting of thirteen towns. Dantzic was at the head of the fourth circle, having under it eight towns in its vicinity, besides several that were more remote. The supreme authority of the League was vested in the deputies of the different towns assembled in congress. In it they discussed all their measures; decided upon the sum that each city should contribute to the common fund; and upon the questions that arose between the confederacy and other powers, as well as those that frequently arose between the different members of the confederacy. The place for the meeting of congress was not fixed, but it was most frequently held at Lubeck, which was considered as the capital of the League, and there its archives were kept. Sometimes, however, congresses were held at Hamburg, Cologne, and other towns. They met once every three years, or oftener if occasion required. The letters of convocation specified the principal subjects which would most probably be brought under discussion. Any one might be chosen for a deputy; and besides merchants, the congress comprised clergymen, lawyers, artists, etc. When the deliberations were concluded, the decrees were formally communicated to the magistrates of the cities at the head of each circle, by whom they were subsequently communicated to those below them; and the most vigorous measures were adopted for carrying them into effect. One of the burgomasters of Lubeck presided at the meetings of congress; and during the recess the magistrates of that city had the sole, or at all events the principal, direction of the affairs of the League.
Besides the towns already mentioned, there were others that were denominated confederated cities or allies. The latter neither contributed to the common fund of the League, nor sent deputies to congress. Even its members were not all on the same footing in respect to privileges; and the internal commotions by which it was frequently agitated, partly originating in this cause, and partly in the conflicting interests and pretensions of the different cities, materially impaired the power of the confederacy. But despite these disadvantages, it succeeded for a lengthened period, not only in controlling its own refractory members, but in making itself respected and dreaded by others. It produced able generals and admirals, skilful politicians, and some of the most successful and wealthy merchants of modern times.
As the power of the confederated cities was increased and consolidated, they became more ambitious. Instead of limiting their efforts to the mere advancement of commerce and their own protection, they endeavoured to acquire the monopoly of the trade of the North, and to exercise the same dominion over the Baltic that the Venetians exercised over the Adriatic. For this purpose they succeeded in obtaining, partly in return for loans of money, and partly by force, various privileges and immunities from the northern sovereigns, which secured to them almost the whole foreign commerce of Scandinavia, Denmark, Prussia, Poland, Russia, etc. They exclusively carried on the herring fishery of the Sound, at the same time that they endeavoured to obstruct and hinder the navigation of foreign vessels in the Baltic. It should, however, be observed, that the immunities they enjoyed were mostly indispensable to the security of their commerce, in consequence of the barbarism that then prevailed. And notwithstanding their attempts at monopoly, there cannot be a doubt that the progress of refinement in the North was prodigiously accelerated by the influence and ascendancy of the Hanseatic cities. They repressed piracy by sea and robbery by land, which must have broken out again had their power been overthrown before civilisation was fully established; they accustomed the inhabitants to the principles, and set before them the example, of good government and subordination; they introduced amongst them conveniences and enjoyments unknown by their ancestors, or despised by them, and inspired them with a taste for literature and science; they did for the people round the Baltic, what the Phœnicians had done in remoter ages for those round the Mediterranean, and deserve, equally with them, to be placed in the first rank amongst the benefactors of mankind.
“In order,” as has been justly observed, “to accomplish their purpose of rendering the Baltic a large field for the prosecution of commercial and industrious pursuits, it was necessary to instruct men, still barbarous, in the rudiments of industry, and to familiarise them in the principles of civilisation. These great principles were laid by the confederation; and at the close of the 15th century, the Baltic and the neighbouring seas had, by its means, become frequented routes of communication between the North and the South. The people of the former were enabled to follow the progress of the latter in knowledge and industry. The forests of Sweden, Poland, etc., gave place to corn, hemp, and flax; the mines were wrought, and in return the produce and manufactures of the South were imported. Towns and villages were erected in Scandinavia, where huts only were before seen; the skins of the bear and the wolf were exchanged for woollens, linens, and silks; learning was introduced; and printing was hardly invented before it was practised in Denmark, Sweden, etc.”1
The kings of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, were frequently engaged in hostilities with the Hanse towns. They regarded, and it must be admitted not without pretty good reason, the privileges acquired by the League in their kingdoms as so many usurpations. But their efforts to abolish these privileges served, for more than two centuries, only to augment and extend them.
“On the part of the League there was union, subordination, and money; whereas the half-savage Scandinavian monarchies were full of divisions, factions, and troubles; revolution was immediately followed by revolution, and feudal anarchy was at its height. There was another circumstance, not less important, in favour of the Hanseatic cities. The popular governments established amongst them possessed the respect and confidence of the inhabitants, and were able to direct the public energies for the good of the state. The astonishing prosperity of the confederated cities was not wholly the effect of commerce. To the undisciplined armies of the princes of the North—armies composed of vassals without attachment to their lords—the cities opposed, besides the inferior nobles, whose services they liberally rewarded, citizens accustomed to danger, and resolved to defend their liberties and property. Their military operations were combined and directed by a council composed of men of tried talents and experience, devoted to their country, responsible to their fellow-citizens, and enjoying their confidence. It was chiefly, however, on their marine forces that the cities depended. They employed their ships indifferently in war or commerce, so that their naval armaments were fitted out at comparatively small expense. Exclusive, too, of these favourable circumstances, the fortifications of the principal cities were looked upon as impregnable. And as their commerce supplied them abundantly with all sorts of provisions, it need not excite our astonishment that Lubeck alone was able to carry on wars with the surrounding monarchs, and to terminate them with honour and advantage; and still less, that the League should long have enjoyed a decided preponderance in the North.”1
The extirpation of piracy was one of the objects which had originally led to the formation of the League, and which it never ceased to prosecute. Owing, however, to the barbarism then so universally prevalent, and the countenance openly given by many princes and nobles to those engaged in this infamous profession, it was not possible wholly to root it out. But the vigorous efforts of the League to abate the nuisance, though not entirely successful, served to render the navigation of the North Sea and the Baltic comparatively secure, and were of signal advantage to commerce. Nor was this the only mode in which the power of the confederacy was directly employed to promote the common interests of mankind. Their exertions to protect shipwrecked mariners from the atrocities to which they had been subject, and to procure the restitution of shipwrecked property to its legitimate owners, though most probably, like their exertions to repress piracy, a consequence of selfish considerations, were in no ordinary degree meritorious; and contributed not less to the advancement of civilisation than to the security of navigation.1
To facilitate and extend their commercial transactions, the League established various factories in foreign countries; the principal of which were at Novogorod in Russia, London, Bruges in the Netherlands, and Bergen in Norway.
Novogorod, situated at the confluence of the Volkof with the Imler Lake, was for a lengthened period the most renowned emporium in the north-eastern parts of Europe. In the beginning of the 11th century, the inhabitants obtained considerable privileges, that laid the foundation of their liberty and prosperity. Their sovereigns were at first subordinate to the grand dukes or czars of Russia; but as the city and the contiguous territory increased in population and wealth, they gradually acquired an almost absolute independency. The power of these sovereigns over their subjects seems, at the same time, to have been exceedingly limited; and, in effect, Novogorod ought rather to be considered as a republic under an elective magistrate, than as a state subject to a regular line of hereditary monarchs, possessed of extensive prerogatives. During the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, Novogorod formed the entrepôt between the countries to the east of Poland and the Hanseatic cities. Its fairs were frequented by people from all the surrounding countries, as well as by numbers of merchants from the Hanse towns, who engrossed the greater part of its foreign trade, and furnished its markets with the products of distant countries. Novogorod is said to have contained, during its most flourishing period, towards the middle of the 15th century, upwards of 400,000 souls. This, however, is doubtless an extreme exaggeration. But its dominions were then very extensive; and its wealth and power seemed so great and so well established, and the city itself so impregnable, as to give rise to a proverb, Who can resist the gods and great Novogorod?—Quis contra Deos et magnam Novogordiam?1
But its power and prosperity were far from being so firmly established as its eulogists, and those who had only visited its fairs, appear to have supposed. In the latter part of the 15th century, Ivan Vassilievitch, czar of Russia, having secured his dominions against the inroads of the Tartars, and extended his empire by the conquest of some of the neighbouring principalities, asserted his right to the principality of Novogorod, and supported his pretensions by a formidable army. Had the inhabitants been animated by the spirit of unanimity and patriotism, they might have defied his efforts; but their dissensions facilitated their conquest, and rendered them an easy prey. Having entered the city at the head of his troops, Ivan received from the citizens the charter of their liberties, which they either wanted courage or inclination to defend, and carried off an enormous bell to Moscow, which had long been regarded with a sort of superstitious veneration as the palladium of the city. But notwithstanding the despotism to which Novogorod was subject during the reigns of Ivan and his successors, it continued for a considerable period to be the largest, as well as most commercial, city in the Russian empire. The famous Richard Chancellour, who passed through Novogorod in 1554, in his way from the court of the czar, says, that “next unto Moscow, the city of Novogorod is reputed the chiefest of Russia; for although it be in majestie inferior to it, yet in greatness it goeth beyond it. It is the chiefest and greatest mart town of all Muscovy; and albeit the emperor’s seat is not there, but at Moscow, yet the commodiousness of the river falling into the Gulf of Finland, whereby it is well frequented by merchants, makes it more famous than Moscow itself.”
But the scourge of the destroyer soon after fell on this celebrated city. Ivan IV., having discovered, in 1570, a correspondence between some of the principal citizens and the king of Poland relative to a surrender of the city into his hands, punished them in the most inhuman manner. The slaughter by which the bloodthirsty barbarian sought to satisfy his revenge was alike extensive and indiscriminating. The crime of a few citizens was made a pretext for the massacre of 25,000 or 30,000. Though it never recovered from this fatal blow, Novogorod continued to be a place of considerable trade, until the foundation of Petersburg, which immediately became the seat of the commerce of which it had previously been the centre. This ill-fated city is now reduced to an inconsiderable town, with about 8,000 or 9,000 inhabitants; and is remarkable only for its history and antiquities.
The merchants of the Hanse towns, or Hansards, as they were then commonly termed, were established in London at a very early period, and their factory here was of considerable magnitude and importance. They enjoyed various privileges and immunities; they were permitted to govern themselves by their own laws and regulations; the custody of one of the gates of the city (Bishopsgate) was committed to their care; and the duties on various sorts of imported commodities were considerably reduced in their favour. These privileges necessarily excited the ill-will and animosity of the English merchants. The Hansards were every now and then accused of acting with bad faith; of introducing commodities as their own that were really the produce of others, that they might evade the duties with which they ought to have been charged; of capriciously extending the list of towns belonging to the association; and obstructing the commerce of the English in the Baltic. Efforts were continually making to bring these disputes to a termination; but as they really grew out of the privileges granted to and claimed by the Hansards, this was found to be impossible. The latter were exposed to many indignities; and their factory, which was situated in Thames Street, was not unfrequently attacked. The League exerted themselves vigorously in defence of their privileges; and having declared war against England, they succeeded in excluding our vessels from the Baltic, and acted with such energy, that Edward IV. was glad to come to an accommodation with them, on terms which were anything but honourable to the English. In the treaty for this purpose, negotiated in 1474, the privileges of the merchants of the Hanse towns were renewed, and the king assigned to them, in absolute property, a large space of ground, with the buildings upon it, in Thames Street, denominated the Steel Yard, whence the Hanse merchants have been commonly denominated the Association of the Steel Yard. The property of their establishments at Boston and Lynn was also secured to them; and the king engaged to allow no stranger to participate in their privileges. One of the articles bore that the Hanse merchants should be no longer subject to the Judges of the English Admiralty Court, but that a particular tribunal should be formed for the easy and speedy settlement of all disputes that might arise between them and the English. And it was further agreed that the particular privileges awarded to the Hanse merchants should be published as often as the latter judged proper, in all the seaport towns of England, and that such Englishmen as infringed upon them should be punished. In return for these concessions, the English acquired the liberty of freely trading in the Baltic, and especially in the port of Dantzic and in Prussia. In 1498, all direct commerce with the Netherlands being suspended, the trade fell into the hands of the Hanse merchants, whose commerce was in consequence very greatly extended. But, according as the spirit of commercial enterprise awakened in the nation, and as the benefits resulting from the prosecution of foreign trade came to be better known, the privileges of the Hanse merchants became more and more obnoxious. They were, in consequence, considerably modified in the reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., and were at length wholly abolished in 1597.1
The different individuals belonging to the factory in London, as well as those belonging to the other factories of the League, lived together at a common table, and were enjoined to observe the strictest celibacy. The direction of the factory in London was intrusted to an alderman, two assessors, and nine councillors. The latter were sent by the cities forming the different classes into which the League was divided. The business of these functionaries was to devise means for extending and securing the privileges and commerce of the association; to watch over the operations of the merchants; and to adjust any disputes that might arise amongst the members of the confederacy, or between them and the English. The League endeavoured at all times to promote, as much as possible, the employment of their own ships. In pursuance of this object, they went so far, in 1447, as to forbid the importation of English merchandise into the confederated cities, except by their own vessels. But a regulation of this sort could not be carried into full effect; and was enforced or modified according as circumstances were favourable or adverse to the pretensions of the League. Its very existence was, however, an insult to the English nation; and the irritation produced by the occasional attempts to act upon it, contributed materially to the subversion of the privileges which the Hanseatic merchants had acquired amongst us.
By means of their factory at Bergen, and of the privileges which had been either granted to or usurped by them, the League enjoyed for a lengthened period the monopoly of the commerce of Norway.
The principal factory of the League was at Bruges in the Netherlands. Bruges became, at a very early period, one of the first commercial cities of Europe, and the centre of the most extensive trade carried on to the north of Italy. The art of navigation in the 13th and 14th centuries was so imperfect, that a voyage from Italy to the Baltic and back again could not be performed in a single season; and hence, for the sake of their mutual convenience, the Italian and Hanseatic merchants determined on establishing a depôt or storehouse of their respective products in some intermediate situation. Bruges was fixed upon for this purpose; a distinction which it seems to have owed as much to the freedom enjoyed by the inhabitants, and the liberality of the government of the Low Countries, as to the conveniency of its situation. In consequence of this preference, Bruges speedily rose to the very highest rank among commercial cities, and became a place of vast wealth. It was at once a staple for English wool; for the woollen and linen manufactures of the Netherlands; for the timber, hemp and flax, pitch and tar, tallow, corn, fish, ashes, etc., of the North; and for the spices and Indian commodities, as well as their domestic manufactures imported by the Italian merchants. The fairs of Bruges were the best frequented of any in Europe. The Hanseatic merchants were the principal purchasers of Indian commodities; they disposed of them in the ports of the Baltic, or carried them up the great rivers into the heart of Germany. The vivifying effects of this commerce were everywhere felt; the regular intercourse opened between the nations in the north and south of Europe made them sensible of their mutual wants, and gave a wonderful stimulus to the spirit of industry. This was particularly the case with regard to the Netherlands. Manufactures of wool and flax had been established in that country as early as the age of Charlemagne; and the resort of foreigners to their markets, and the great additional vent that was thus opened for their manufactures, made them be carried on with a vigour and success that had been hitherto unknown. These circumstances, combined with the free spirit of their institutions, and the moderation of the government, so greatly promoted every elegant and useful art, that the Netherlands early became the most civilised, best cultivated, richest, and most populous country of Europe.
From the middle of the 15th century, the power of the confederacy, though still very formidable, began to decline. This was not owing to any misconduct on the part of its leaders, but to the progress of that improvement which it had done so much to promote. The superiority enjoyed by the League resulted as much from the anarchy, confusion, and barbarism that prevailed throughout the kingdoms of the North, as from the good government and order that distinguished its towns. But a distinction of this sort could not be permanent. The civilisation which had been at first confined to the cities, gradually spread from them, as from so many centres, over the contiguous country. Feudal anarchy was everywhere superseded by a system of subordination; arts and industry were diffused and cultivated; and the authority of government was at length firmly established. This change not only rendered the princes, over whom the League had so frequently triumphed, superior to it in power; but the inhabitants of the countries amongst which the confederated cities were scattered, having learned to entertain a just sense of the advantages derivable from commerce and navigation, could not brook the superiority of the association, or bear to see its members in possession of immunities of which they were deprived. And in addition to these circumstances, which must speedily have occasioned the dissolution of the League, the interests of the different cities of which it consisted became daily more and more opposed to each other. Lubeck, Hamburg, Bremen, and the towns in their vicinity, were latterly the only ones that had any interest in its maintenance. The cities in Zealand and Holland joined it, chiefly because they would otherwise have been excluded from the commerce of the Baltic; and those of Prussia, Poland, and Russia did the same, because, had they not belonged to it, they would have been shut out from all intercourse with strangers. When, however, the Zealanders and Hollanders became sufficiently powerful at sea to be able to vindicate their right to the free navigation of the Baltic by force of arms, they immediately seceded from the League; and no sooner had the ships of the Dutch, the English, etc., begun to trade directly with the Polish and Prussian Hanse towns, than these also embraced the first opportunity of withdrawing from it. The fall of this great confederacy was really, therefore, a consequence of the improved state of society, and of the development of the commercial spirit in the different nations of Europe. It was most serviceable so long as those for whom its merchants acted as factors and carriers were too barbarous, too much occupied with other matters, or too destitute of the necessary capital and skill, to act in these capacities for themselves. When they were in a situation to do this, the functions of the Hanseatic merchants ceased as a matter of course; their confederacy fell to pieces; and at the middle of the 17th century the cities of Lubeck, Hamburg, and Bremen were all that continued to acknowledge the authority of the League. They still, indeed, preserve the shadow of its power; being acknowledged in the act for the establishment of the Germanic confederation, done at Vienna in 1815, as free Hanseatic cities.
ESSAY ON THE ORIGIN OF THE COMPASS.
It is commonly supposed that the compass was invented by Flavio Gioja, a citizen of the once famous republic of Amalphi, near the beginning of the 14th century. Dr Robertson has adopted this opinion, and regrets that contemporary historians furnish no details respecting the life of a man to whose genius society is so deeply indebted.1 But though Gioja may have made improvements on the compass, he has no claim to be considered as its discoverer. Passages have been produced from writers who flourished more than a century before Gioja, in which the polarity of the needle, when touched by the magnet, is distinctly pointed out. And not only had this singular property been discovered, but also its application to the purposes of navigation, long previously to the 14th century. Old French writers have been quoted,2 which seem fully to establish this fact. But whatever doubts may exist with respect to them, cannot affect the passages which the learned Spaniard, Don Antonio de Capmany3 has given from a work of the famous Raymond Lully,4 published in 1272. In one place Lully says, “as the needle, when touched by the magnet, naturally turns to the north” (sicut acus per naturam vertitur ad septentrionem dum sit tacta à magnete). This is conclusive as to the author’s acquaintance with the polarity of the needle; and the following passage from the same work—“as the nautical needle directs mariners in their navigation” (sicut acus nautica dirigit marinarios in sua navigatione, etc.) is no less conclusive as to its being used by sailors in regulating their course. There are no means of ascertaining the mode in which the needle Raymond Lully had in view was made use of. It has been sufficiently established,1 that it was usual to float the needle, by means of a straw, on the surface of a basin of water; and Capmany contends that we are indebted to Gioja for the card and the method now followed of suspending the needle; improvements which have given to the compass all its convenience, and a very large portion of its utility. But this part of his “Dissertation,” though equally learned and ingenious, is by no means so satisfactory as the other. It is difficult to conceive how mariners at sea could have availed themselves of a floating needle. But, however this may be, it is probable perhaps that Gioja improved the construction of the compass; and that the Amalphitans having been the first to introduce it to general use, he was, with excusable partiality, represented by them, and subsequently regarded by others, as its inventor.
Tiraboschi, in his great work on the history of Italian literature, after showing that there is no foundation for the claims of Gioja to the invention of the compass, supposes that it may have been introduced by the Arabs.2 The same idea was taken up by his learned contemporary Andres, who has exerted himself, though with but indifferent success, to confirm the conjecture of Tiraboschi.3 It has, indeed, been alleged that the use of the needle in navigation was known from a remote period to the Chinese;1 and that that circumstance affords, at least, a presumption in favour of the opinion that we are indebted for it to the East. But the statements in regard to the antiquity of the Chinese compass have been treated with very little respect by some great authorities;2 and are much too questionable to warrant any stress being laid on them. The Chinese have never been in the habit of making distant voyages; but had the needle been used in their trading vessels, the Indians, with whom they came in contact, would no doubt have eagerly availed themselves of so valuable an invention; and they might, in like manner, have communicated it to the Arabs. There is, however, no evidence to show that the compass had been used by the Indians previously to the voyage of De Gama.3 And there are no good grounds for thinking that the Arabs had any knowledge of the instrument, or that it was ever used by them, till after the period when they might have learned it from the Venetians, the Amalphitans, and other European traders. The notion that we are indebted to them for the compass, appears, indeed, to have little else to recommend it, except that it began to become known when the Saracens became powerful in the Mediterranean. This, however, is too weak a ground on which to found a claim. And though it be impossible to speak with perfect confidence on such a subject, the fair conclusion seems to be, that the compass is a European invention; that it was discovered in the 12th or 13th century, and brought into use in some of the provinces bordering on the Mediterranean.
But whether we are indebted for the invention of the compass to the Arabs, the French, or the Italians, “its discovery,” to borrow the language of Macpherson, “has given birth to a new æra in the history of commerce and navigation. The former it has extended to every shore of the globe, and increased and multiplied its operations and beneficial effects in a degree which was not conceivable by those who lived in the earlier ages. The latter it has rendered expeditious, and comparatively safe, by enabling the navigator to launch out upon the ocean free from the danger of rocks and shoals. By the use of this noble instrument, the whole world has become one vast commercial commonwealth, the most distant inhabitants of the earth are brought together for their mutual advantage, ancient prejudices are obliterated, and mankind are civilised and enlightened.”1
SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF MARITIME LAW.
“Nec erit alia lex Romæ, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac; sed et omnes gentes et omni tempore una lex et sempiterna, et immutabilis continebit.”
The earliest system of maritime law, of which we have any information, was compiled by the Rhodians, several centuries before the Christian æra. The most celebrated authors of antiquity have spoken in high terms of the wisdom of the Rhodian laws. Luckily, however, we are not wholly left, in forming our opinion upon them, to the vague, though commendatory, statements of Cicero and Strabo.1 The laws of Rhodes were adopted by Augustus into the legislation of Rome; and such was the estimation in which they were held, that the Emperor Antoninus, being solicited to decide a contested point with respect to shipping, is reported to have answered, that it ought to be decided by the Rhodian laws, which were of paramount authority in such cases, unless they happened to be directly at variance with some regulation of the Roman law.—“Ego quidem mundi dominus, lex autem maris legis id Rhodia, qua de rebus nauticis præscripta est,judicetur, quatenus nulla nostrarum legum adversatur. Hoc idem Divus quoque Augustus judicavit.” The rule of the Rhodian law with respect to average contributions in the event of a sacrifice being made at sea for the safety of the ship and cargo, is expressly laid down in the Digest;1 and the most probable conclusion seems to be, that most part of the regulations in regard to maritime affairs embodied in the compilations of Justinian, have been derived from the same source. The regulations as to average adopted by all modern nations, are borrowed, with hardly any alteration, from the Roman, and therefore, as now seen, from the Rhodian laws—a conclusive proof of the sagacity of those by whom they had been originally framed. The only authentic fragments of the Rhodian laws are those in the Digest. The collection entitled Jus navale Rhodiorum, published at Bâle in 1561, is now generally admitted to be spurious.
The first modern code of maritime law is said to have been compiled at Amalphi, in Italy, a city at present in ruins; but which, besides being early distinguished for its commerce, is celebrated for the supposed invention of the mariner’s compass. The Amalphitan code is said to have been denominated Tabula Amalphitana. It is difficult, however, to suppose, had such a body of law really existed, that neither it, nor any extracts from it, should ever have been published, and that all traces and vestiges of it should have been obliterated. It has, indeed, been referred to by Giannoue,2 Sismondi,3 and other distinguished writers. But Pardessus has gone far to destroy the weight that would otherwise have been attached to this circumstance, by showing that these authorities have satisfied themselves with copying the statement of Freccia, in his book “De Subfeudis,” published in 1570.4 And the presumption undoubtedly is, that the latter had mistaken a foreign code of maritime law, in force in Amalphi, for one of native origin. A code of this description appears to have been compiled at Trani, a town of Naples, on the Adriatic, as early as the 11th century (1063).1 And it seems infinitely more probable that it, or some one else, having been adopted by the Amalphitans, and disseminated by them, should have been supposed by Freccia to belong to that city, than that all traces of the native code, had it ever existed, should have been lost.
Besides Amalphi, Venice, Marseilles, Pisa, Genoa, Barcelona, Valencia, and other towns of the Mediterranean, were early distinguished by the extent to which they carried commerce and navigation. In the absence of any positive information on the subject, it seems reasonable to suppose that their maritime laws would be principally borrowed from those of Rome, with such alterations and modifications as might be deemed requisite to accommodate them to the particular views of each state. But whether in this or in some other way, it is certain that various conflicting regulations were established, which led to much confusion and uncertainty; and the inconveniences thence arising, doubtless contributed to the universal adoption of the Consolato del Mare as a code of maritime law. Nothing certain is known of its origin. Capmany, in his very learned and excellent works on the commerce of Barcelona,2 and on its maritime laws and customs,3 has endeavoured to show that the Consolato was compiled in that city between the years 1258 and 1266; and that it is founded upon, and embodies, the principal rules, regulations, and customs, which the inhabitants of Barcelona, Venice, Pisa, Genoa, and other commercial cities of the Mediterranean had adopted for their guidance in maritime affairs. Azuni contends, on the other hand, in opposition to Capmany, that Pisa is entitled to the glory of having compiled the Consolato. But, notwithstanding the ability displayed in his Dissertation,1 Pardessus, and other able critics, concur in thinking that he has not been able to shake the conclusions of Capmany. The Spanish origin of the Consolato is farther corroborated in a very striking manner by the fact, that it was first published in Catalan, at Barcelona, in 1502, and that the earlier French and Italian editions are, without any exception, translations from this.
Pardessus appears to have been sufficiently disposed, had there been any grounds to go upon, to set up a claim in favour of Marseilles, to the honour of being the birthplace of the Consolato. But he admits that no such pretension could be supported, and unwillingly adheres to Capmany’s opinion.—“Quoique Français,” says he, “quoique portée par des sentimens de reconnoissance, qu’aucun évènement ne sauroit affoiblir, à faire valoir tout ce qui est en faveur de Marseilles, je dois reconnoître franchement que les probabilités l’emportent en faveur de Barcelone.”2
But to whichever city the honour of compiling the Consolato may be due, its antiquity has been greatly exaggerated. It is affirmed, in a preface to the different editions, that it was solemnly accepted, subscribed, and promulgated, as a body of maritime law, by the Holy See, in 1075, and by the kings of France and other potentates at different periods between 1075 and 1270. But Capmany, Jorio, and Pardessus, have shown in the clearest and most satisfactory manner, that the circumstances alluded to in this preface could not possibly have taken place, and that it is unworthy of attention. The most probable opinion seems to be, that it was compiled, and began to be introduced, about the end of the 13th, or the beginning of the 14th century. And notwithstanding its prolixity, and its want of precision and clearness,1 the correspondence of the greater number of its rules with the ascertained principles of justice and public utility, gradually led, without the intervention of any agreement, to its adoption as a system of maritime jurisprudence by the various nations contiguous to the Mediterranean. It is still of high authority. Casaregis says of it, though perhaps too strongly,—“Consulatis maris, in materiis maritimis, tanquam universalis consuetudo habens vim legis, inviolabiliter attendenda est apud omnes provincias et nationes.”2
The collection of sea laws next in celebrity, but anterior, perhaps, in point of time, is that denominated the Roole des Jugements d’Oleron. There is as much diversity of opinion in regard to the origin of these laws, as there is in regard to the origin of the Consolato. The prevailing opinion in Great Britain has been, that they were compiled by direction of Queen Eleanor, wife of Henry II., in her quality of Duchess of Guienne; and that they were afterwards enlarged and improved by her son Richard I., at his return from the Holy Land. But this statement is now admitted to rest on no good foundation. The most probable theory seems to be, that they are a collection of the rules or practices followed at the principal French ports on the Atlantic, as Bordeaux, La Rochelle, St Malo, etc. They contain, indeed, rules that are essential to all maritime transactions, wherever they may be carried on; but the references in the code sufficiently prove that it is of French origin.3 The circumstance of our monarchs having large possessions in France at the period when the Rules of Oleron were collected, naturally facilitated their introduction into England; and they have long enjoyed a high degree of authority in this country. “I call them the Laws of Oleron,” said a great civilian,”1 “not but that they are peculiarly enough English, being long since incorporated into the customs and statutes of our admiralties; but the equity of them is so great, and the use and reason of them so general, that they are known and received all the world over by that rather than by any other name.” Molloy, however, has more correctly, perhaps, said of the laws of Oleron, that “they never obtained any other or greater force than those of Rhodes formerly did; that is, they were esteemed for the reason and equity found in them, and applied to the case emergent.”2
A code of maritime law issued at Wisby, in the island of Gothland, in the Baltic, has long enjoyed a high reputation in the North. The date of its compilation is uncertain; but it is comparatively modern. Some northern jurists have, indeed, contended that the laws of Wisby are older than the rules of Oleron, and that the latter are chiefly copied from the former. But it has been repeatedly shown that there is no foundation for this statement.3 The laws of Wisby are not certainly older than the latter part of the 14th or the beginning of the 15th century; and have obviously been compiled from the “Consolato del Mare,” the rules of Oleron, and other codes that were then in use. They have, however, been, and continue to be, of great authority in the North. Grotius says that the same deference is paid to them in the Baltic, which was formerly paid to the laws of Rhodes in the Mediterranean, and which continues to be paid to the rules of Oleron in France and other countries.4
Besides the codes now mentioned, the ordinances of the Hanse Towns, issued in 1597 and 1614, contain a system of laws relating to navigation that is of great authority. The judgments of Damme, the customs of Amsterdam, etc., are also often quoted.1
But by far the most complete and well digested system of maritime jurisprudence which has ever appeared, is comprised in the famous “Ordonnance de la Marine,” issued by Louis XIV. in 1681. This excellent code was compiled under the direction of Colbert, the celebrated minister, by individuals of great talent and learning, after a careful revision of all the ancient sea laws of France and other countries, and upon consultation with the different parliaments, the courts of admiralty, and the chambers of commerce of the different towns. It combines whatever experience and the wisdom of ages had shown to be best in the Roman laws, and in the institutions of the modern maritime states of Europe. In the preface to his treatise on the “Law of Shipping,” Lord Tenterden says,—“If the reader should be offended at the frequent references to this ordinance, I must request him to recollect that those references are made to the maritime code of a great commercial nation, which has attributed much of its national prosperity to that code: a code composed in the reign of a politic prince; under the auspices of a wise and enlightened minister; by laborious and learned persons, who selected the most valuable principles of all the maritime laws then existing; and which, in matter, method, and style, is one of the most finished acts of legislation that ever was promulgated.”
The ordinance of 1681 was published in 1760, with a detailed and elaborate commentary by Valin, in two volumes 4to.2 It is difficult which to admire most in this commentary, the learning or the sound good sense of the writer. Lord Mansfield was indebted for no inconsiderable portion of his superior knowledge of the principles of maritime jurisprudence to a careful study of Valin’s work.
That part of the “Code de Commerce” which treats of maritime affairs, insurance, etc., is copied with little alteration, from the ordinance of 1681. The few changes that have been made are not always improvements.
No system or code of maritime law has ever been issued by authority in Great Britain. The laws and practices that now obtain amongst us in reference to maritime affairs have been founded principally on the practices of merchants, the principles laid down in the civil law, the laws of Oleron and Wisby, the works of distinguished jurisconsults, the judicial decisions of our own and foreign countries, etc. A law so constructed has necessarily been in a progressive state of improvement; and, though still susceptible of amendment, it corresponds, at this moment, more nearly, perhaps, than any other system of maritime law, with those universally recognised principles of justice and general convenience by which the transactions of merchants and navigators ought to be regulated.
The decisions of Lord Mansfield had the greatest influence in fixing the principles and improving and perfecting the maritime law of England. “In the reign of George II.,” says Lord Campbell, “England had grown into the greatest manufacturing and commercial country in the world, while her jurisprudence had by no means been expanded or developed in the same proportion. The legislature had literally done nothing to supply the insufficiency of feudal law to regulate the concerns of a trading population; and the common law judges had, generally speaking, been too unenlightened and too timorous to be of much service in improving our code by judicial decisions. Hence, when questions necessarily arose respecting the buying and selling of goods—respecting the affreightment of ships—respecting marine insurances—and respecting bills of exchange and promissory notes—no one knew how they were to be determined. Not a treatise had been published upon any one of these subjects, and no cases respecting them were to be found in our books of reports. Mercantile questions were so ignorantly treated when they came into Westminster Hall, that they were usually settled by private arbitration among the merchants themselves. If an action turning upon a mercantile question was brought into a court of law, the judge submitted it to the jury, who determined it according to their own notions of what was fair, and no general rule was laid down which could afterwards be referred to for the purpose of settling similar disputes.”
“Lord Mansfield,” continues the same great authority, “saw the noble field that lay before him, and he resolved to reap the rich harvest of glory which it presented to him. Instead of proceeding by legislation, and attempting to codify as the French had done very successfully in the ‘Coustumier de Paris,’ and the ‘Ordonnance de la Marine,’ he wisely thought it more according to the genius of our institutions to introduce his improvements gradually by way of judicial decisions. As respected commerce, there were no vicious rules to be overturned. He had only to consider what was just, expedient, and sanctioned by the experience of nations farther advanced in the science of jurisprudence. His plan seems to have been, to avail himself, as often as opportunity admitted, of his ample stores of knowledge, acquired from his study of the Roman civil law, and of the juridical writers produced in modern times by France, Germany, Holland, and Italy, not only in doing justice to the parties litigating before him, but in settling with precision and upon sound principles, a general rule, afterwards to be quoted and recognised as governing all similar cases.”1
Lord Mansfield’s success was such as might be anticipated from his ability and industry. The principles which he established with such admirable clearness in his decisions, and the rules which have been deduced from them, have since served to guide and direct judges and juries in all cases of difficulty.
The maritime law is also under considerable obligations to Lord Stowell. His decisions chiefly, indeed, respect questions of neutrality, growing out of the conflicting pretensions of belligerents and neutrals during the late war. But the principles and doctrines which he unfolds in treating these questions, throw a strong and steady light, not on them only, but on most branches of maritime law. It has occasionally, indeed, been alleged, and the allegation is probably in some degree well founded, that his lordship has conceded too much to the claims of belligerents. Still, however, his judgments must be regarded, allowing for this excusable bias, as among the noblest monuments of judicial wisdom of which any country can boast. “They will be contemplated,” says Mr Serjeant Marshall, “with applause and veneration, as long as depth of learning, soundness of argument, enlightened wisdom, and the chaste beauties of eloquence, hold any place in the estimation of mankind.”1
The “Treatise of the Law relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen,” by Lord Tenterden, late Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, does credit to its noble and learned author. It gives, within a brief compass, an admirable exposition of the most important branches of our maritime law; and may be consulted with equal facility and advantage by the merchant, the general scholar, and the lawyer. Mr Serjeant Marshall has entered very fully into some, and has touched upon most, points of maritime law, in his work on “Insurance;” and has discussed them with great learning and sagacity. The works of Mr Justice Park, Mr Holt, and a few others, are also valuable. Of the earlier treatises, the “Lex Mercatoria” of Malynes is by far the best; and, considering the period of its publication (1622), is a very extraordinary performance.
The preceding remarks refer merely to the principles or leading doctrines of our maritime law. These, however, have often been very much modified by statutory enactments; and the excessive multiplication of acts of parliament, suspending, repealing, or altering parts of other acts, has often involved our commercial and maritime law in almost inextricable confusion, and been most injurious to the public interests. No one, indeed, who is not pretty conversant with the subject, would readily imagine to what an extent this abuse has sometimes been carried. From the Revolution down to 1786 some hundreds of acts were passed, each enacting some addition, diminution, or change of the duties, drawbacks, bounties, and regulations, previously existing in the customs. In consequence, the customs laws became so intricate and unintelligible, that hardly one merchant in fifty could tell the exact amount of duty affecting any article, or the course to be followed either in entering or clearing out vessels; being obliged to leave it entirely to the clerks of the Custom-house to calculate the amount of duties, and to direct him how to proceed so as to avoid forfeiting the goods and the ship! And yet, so powerful is the influence of habit in procuring toleration for the most pernicious absurdities, that this monstrous abuse was allowed to go on increasing for fifty years after it had been denounced as intolerable. Mr Pitt has the merit of having introduced something like order into this chaos. Under his auspices, all the separate customs duties existing in 1787 were repealed, and new ones substituted in their stead; consisting, in most instances, of the equivalents, so far at least as they could be ascertained, of the old duties. The regulations as to entries and clearances were also simplified.
The advantages resulting from this measure were very great; but during the war so many new duties and regulations were passed, that the necessity for a fresh consolidation became again very urgent, and was effected in 1819. It was not, however, in the customs department only, or in the mere article of duties, that merchants and ship-owners were bewildered by the multiplicity of statutory regulations. There was not a single branch of the law regulating their transactions that escaped the rage for legislation. Previously to 1822, no fewer than 113 statutes had been passed relating to the fisheries; and the makers and buyers of sails and cordage were supposed to be familiar with the various obscure and contradictory regulations embodied in twenty-three acts of parliament relating to these articles! But the enormity of the abuse will be rendered more apparent, by laying before the reader the following extract from the “Report of the Lords’ Committee on Foreign Trade in 1820”:—
“Before,” say their lordships, “your committee proceed to advert to the points which have been the principal objects of their inquiry, they are anxious to call the attention of the House to the excessive accumulation and complexity of the laws under which the commerce of the country is regulated, with which they were forcibly impressed in the very earliest stage of their proceedings. These laws, passed at different periods, and many of them arising out of temporary circumstances, amount, as stated in a recent computation of them, to upwards of two thousand, of which no less than 1,100 were in force in 1815; and many additions have been since made. After such a statement, it will not appear extraordinary that it should be matter of complaint by the British merchant, that, so far from the course in which he is to guide his transactions being plain and simple, so far from being able to undertake his operations, and to avail himself of favourable openings as they arise with promptitude and confidence, he is frequently reduced to the necessity of resorting to the services of professional advisers, to ascertain what he may venture to do, and what he must avoid, before he is able to embark in his commercial adventures with the assurance of being secure from the consequences of an infringement of the law. If this be the case (as is stated to your committee) with the most experienced among the merchants, even in England, in how much greater a degree must the same perplexity and apprehension of danger operate in foreign countries and on foreign merchants, whose acquaintance with our statute-book must be supposed to be comparatively limited, and who are destitute of the professional authority which the merchant at home may at all times consult for his direction? When it is recollected, besides, that a trivial unintentional deviation from the strict letter of the acts of parliament may expose a ship and cargo to the inconvenience of seizure, which (whether sustained or abandoned) is attended always with delay and expense, and frequently followed by litigation, it cannot be doubted that such a state of the law must have the most prejudicial influence both upon commercial enterprise in the country, and upon our mercantile relations and intercourse with foreign nations; and, perhaps, no service more valuable could be rendered to the trade of the empire, nor any measure more effectually contribute to promote the objects contemplated by the House in the appointment of this committee, than an accurate revision of this vast and confused mass of legislation, and the establishment of some certain, simple, and consistent principles, to which all the regulations of commerce might be referred, and under which the transactions of merchants engaged in the trade of the United Kingdom might be conducted with facility, safety, and confidence.”1
Since this Report was printed, a very considerable progress has been made in simplifying and clearing up the statute law, on the principles laid down in it. The law as to shipping and navigation has been particularly improved. The reforms which Mr Huskisson effected, by repealing antiquated and contradictory statutes, and substituting others in their stead, compiled with commendable brevity and clearness, were attended with the happiest results. And, since his time, the repeal of a vast number of customs-duties, and the many important and beneficial changes effected by Sir Robert Peel, have greatly simplified the matters with which commercial legislation has to deal. Still, however, there is an unnecessary, and therefore a mischievous, multiplication of laws in regard to trade and navigation. A session hardly, indeed, passes in which more or fewer statutes are not enacted introducing changes or modifications of some sort or other into the laws relating to navigation and the customs-duties. And where these changes apply only to some particular case or emergency, and do not affect the principles or rules laid down in other statutes, they may be advantageously embodied in separate acts. But when any modification or alteration is to be made in any principle or rule of law, the better way is to introduce it directly into the leading act on the subject, re-enacting it in an amended or altered form. In no other way is it possible to preserve that unity and clearness which are so very desirable. The multiplication of statutes is a very great evil, not only from the difficulty of ascertaining the exact degree in which one modifies another, but from its invariably leading to the enactment of contradictory clauses. The property and transactions of merchants ought not to depend upon the subtleties and niceties of forced constructions, but upon plain and obvious rules, about which there can be no mistake. And it would be idle to expect that such rules should ever be deduced from the conflicting provisions of a number of statutes: those in the same statute are not always in harmony with each other.
AN ESSAY ON THE COLONIAL SYSTEM OF THE ANCIENTS.
“Nec omnibus eadem causa relinquendi quærendique patriam fuit. Alios excidia urbium suarum, hostilibus armis elapsos, in aliena, spoliatos suis, expulerunt: Alios domestica seditio submovit: Alios nimia superfluentis populi frequentia, ad exonerandas vires, emisit: Alios pestilentia, aut frequens terrarum hiatus, aut aliqua intoleranda infelicis soli ejecerunt: Quosdam fertilis oræ, et in majus laudatæ, fama corrupit: Alios alia causa excivit domibus suis.”
—Seneca,Consol. ad Helviam, c. 6.
Colonies may be defined to be settlements formed in foreign countries by bodies of men who voluntarily emigrate from, or are forcibly sent abroad by, their mother countries. Various motives have led, under different circumstances, to the formation of colonies. Of these, the principal seem to have been the wish to provide for the wants of a redundant population, to escape the fury of contending or victorious factions, to enlarge the circle of commerce and civilisation, and to consolidate the dominion of the parent state over subjugated provinces. In the earlier ages, when large portions of the globe were almost uninhabited, and the means of obtaining supplies of necessary or desirable articles from distant countries, by the intervention of merchants, few and imperfect, the emigration of a portion of the citizens was the only way in which an excess of population could be disposed of. Ancient history is full of references to these migrations. And when agriculture was in its infancy, manufactures and trade all but unknown, and the rearing of cattle and flocks the principal occupation, a removal to a new country did not impose any peculiar hardship on the emigrants. These early migrations were wholly carried on by land. A lengthened period elapsed before ships were fitted out capable of conveying individuals to distant settlements across the sea. The shores bounding the ocean or its more extensive arms, seemed then to mark out the limits of the habitable globe. All beyond them was supposed to be water, or terra incognita, which the inhabitants neither had the means nor the wish to explore. The first essays in the art of shipbuilding were limited to the construction of rafts and canoes, fitted with difficulty to make their way across rivers and narrow arms of the sea. And ages probably passed away before mankind acquired the ability, or were animated by the desire, to commit themselves to the ocean.
We have elsewhere briefly noticed the more prominent of the circumstances which seem to have awakened a spirit of commercial enterprise amongst the Phœnicians. At present it may suffice to remark, that they were the first people recorded in history, who undertook distant voyages of discovery, and who founded colonies in the view of diffusing refinement, extending the sphere of commerce, and rendering it more secure. Cyprus was probably the seat of their earliest settlements. And in addition to those in this valuable island, they established colonies, but more frequently factories, in Greece, Sicily, Thrace, Spain, etc., and in various places along the coast of northern Africa. Of these, Utica, Carthage, which afterwards became the seat of a powerful empire, and Gades, now Cadiz, were the most remarkable. Wherever the Phœnician adventurers came, they familiarised the natives with foreign products, and made them, in some measure, aware of the advantages resulting from the practice of commerce and the arts.
With the exception, perhaps, of those in Cyprus, the Phœnician colonies seem in general to have been really or substantially independent. It is doubtful, indeed, whether the Phœnicians had either the power or the inclination to retain their more distant settlements in a state of dependence. Much would, no doubt, depend on circumstances peculiar to each colony. Those which, like Carthage, were founded by considerable bodies of adventurers, or which speedily rose to importance, would, most likely, be independent from the outset, or from a very early date; while those which comprised only a few settlers, or which were stations or strongholds rather than colonies, would continue in a state of dependence. On the whole, however, it is abundantly certain that the advantages which the Phœnicians derived from their foreign settlements, were wholly, or almost wholly, of a commercial character. They either did not attempt to acquire, or did not succeed in acquiring, extensive colonial dominion. They were the merchants and factors, not the oppressors, of those among whom they dwelt. They were enriched by the trade, and not by the tributes, of their colonies.
The Carthaginians were at once a warlike and a commercial people. Having gradually subdued the other Phœnician settlements on the northern shores of Africa, they extended their sway over the whole coast, for about 2,000 miles, from the Pillars of Hercules to the Syrtis Major. And not satisfied with their African territories, they extended their conquests to other countries. At an early period they were masters of Sardinia and Córsica, in each of which they founded settlements; and subsequently they subjugated a large portion of Spain. Their empire in the Peninsula was, however, of but short duration, and was never very firmly established. Besides Lilybœum, they held some other strongly fortified cities on the southern coast of Sicily; and made many, and some very vigorous though unsuccessful, attempts to acquire the dominion of that large and fertile island.
Next to the Phœnicians, the Greeks were the principal founders of colonies in the ancient world. Their early colonies seem to have been mostly established by citizens expelled from the mother cities by opposite factions which had gained the ascendancy. Sometimes, however, they were undertaken to relieve the mother country of those who could not find the means of subsistence at home; and sometimes also for commercial purposes. The coasts of Asia Minor, Southern Italy, Sicily, and the Black Sea, were the principal seats of the Greek colonies. And owing to the enterprising character of the colonists, the freedom of their institutions, and their superiority in the arts over the native inhabitants of most part of the countries in which they planted themselves, their settlements rose, in a comparatively short space, to a high pitch of opulence and refinement. And many amongst them, as Miletus and Ephesus in Asia Minor, Syracuse and Agrigentum in Sicily, and Tarentum, Crotona, Sybaris, and Locri, in Italy, not only equalled but surpassed their mother cities in wealth and power. These cities became in their turn the founders of other colonies. In the days of her prosperity, Miletus was, next to Tyre and Carthage, the first emporium of the ancient world. For a while she engrossed almost the entire trade of the Euxine; and she is said to have had nearly a hundred colonies and factories round the coasts of that sea and the Palus Mæotis. She had also an extensive land-trade, which extended far into the interior of Asia.1
The colonists who were thus distributed over the shores and islands of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, were all imbued with the enterprising spirit of their ancestors. And as they and their mother cities were connected by the powerful ties of kindred, language, customs, and religion, an intercourse subsisted amongst them which, though less extensive than we might suppose it would have been, was still pretty considerable. It contributed to improve the industry and to sharpen the inventive powers of the Greeks, to enlarge their ideas, and promote their civilisation.
Much diversity of opinion has existed with respect to the connection which subsisted between the ancient colonies and their mother cities. Mr Barron of St Andrews published, in 1777, an able anonymous treatise on “The Colonisation of the Free States of Antiquity,” in which he endeavoured to show that the ancients exercised the same control over their colonies which has usually been exercised by the moderns. This tract called forth various answers; and seems to have given rise to the valuable work of St Croix, “De l’ Etat et du sort des Anciennes Colonies.” But without entering into the minutiæ of this controversy, it is obvious that the relations between a colony and its parent state will, in great measure, depend on the motives which led to the foundation of the former, and the mode in which it was founded. The colonies and factories of Carthage being, for the most part, intended to extend the empire as well as the commerce of the parent city, were planted by her orders and protected at her expense. Hence they were in no respect distinct or independent communities, but portions only of the Carthaginian dominions. And while they continued in this dependent state, the presumption is, that their trade would be subjected to such regulations as Carthage might choose to impose. And it has been said that the desire to grasp at exclusive privileges and advantages is so very natural, that the Carthaginians appear, above 2,300 years ago, to have adopted the greater number of the rules and regulations embodied in the colonial policy of modern times. In proof of this statement, we are referred to two treaties between Carthage and Rome, preserved by Polybius,1 the first of which appears to have been entered into 510 years bc These treaties are remarkable for their brevity and clearness, as well as for the insight which they are supposed to afford into the commercial economy of the Carthaginians. Both of them breathe a jealous spirit, but the first is less illiberal than the second. It excludes all Roman ships from all parts of the coast of Africa, belonging to the Carthaginians and their allies, to the south of the Fair Promontory (Candidum Promontorium), forty-five miles north-west Carthage, excepting only the city itself. In the event of their being driven upon the prohibited coast by stress of weather, they were bound to depart within five days. Besides the city of Carthage, the Romans were allowed free access to the ports of Africa west of the Fair Promontory; to Sardinia, and to those parts of Sicily which belonged to the Carthaginians. The treaty also exempted the commodities sold by the Romans from all tolls or imposts.
At the period when this treaty was concluded the Romans had few ships; and in allowing them to enter their harbours to the west of the Fair Promontory and in Sardinia, the Carthaginians conceded a privilege which they probably thought would be seldom exercised. Polybius supposes that the Carthaginians excluded the Romans from that portion of the coast to the south of the Fair Promontory, from a desire not to inflame their cupidity by allowing them to become acquainted with the fertile country round Byzacium and the lesser Syrtis.
The date of the second treaty is not specified, but probably it was about 347 years bc1 It excludes Roman ships from nearly all the coast of Africa west from Carthage; from Africa Propria, excepting Carthage itself; and from the island of Sardinia. They are, however, admitted, as in the former treaty, to the ports belonging to the Carthaginians in Sicily. But nothing is said in regard to any diminution of duties in favour of the commodities sold or bought by the Romans.
The exclusion, in this treaty, of Roman ships from Sardinia, and from mostly all the ports of Africa except Carthage, has been said to afford a proof, not only of the Carthaginians assuming a right to regulate the trade of their dependencies, but of their policy in making Carthage a grand centre of their traffic, and obliging their colonists and other dependents to sell all their exports and buy all their imports in her markets.2 But the foundation is much too narrow for so great a superstructure. There cannot, indeed, be a doubt that, when she had the power, Carthage regulated the intercourse with her dependencies, which she sometimes treated with such severity as to provoke their rebellion. There is, however, no proof, nor in fact any ground, for supposing that the exclusion of the ships of the Romans from Africa Propria and Sardinia was dictated by any wish to monopolise their trade. At the periods when these treaties were framed, there were other powers whose ships, for anything we know to the contrary, might be freely admitted into the ports from which the Romans were excluded. The grasping and warlike character of the latter, was well known to the Carthaginians. And the probability is, that their exclusion from the countries referred to was owing to reasons similar to those assigned by Polybius, that is, to a desire to hinder them from becoming acquainted with their capabilities, caballing with their inhabitants, and perhaps gaining a settlement on their shores. The ordinary policy of the Carthaginians is said, indeed, to have been characterised by an unusual degree of jealousy and suspicion. Without, however, laying much stress on this circumstance, which is perhaps little to be depended upon, we may safely conclude that, had they been able, they would have excluded the Romans from Sicily as well as from Sardinia. But while the commerce with the latter, owing to its barbarism and distance from Rome, was of little importance to the Romans, the civilisation, wealth, and proximity of Sicily, and the influence they had already obtained in it, would have made them reject any treaty which proposed to exclude them from any considerable portion of that island. All, therefore, that can be legitimately inferred from these treaties is merely that the Carthaginians were extremely jealous of Rome; and few will deny that, in this case at least, their jealousy was reasonable and well-founded.
The Grecian colonies differed very widely from those of the Carthaginians. They were, for the most part, founded without any assistance from their parent states, and frequently against their will, by private adventurers forced by the violence of adverse factions, or led by a wish to improve their condition, to seek foreign settlements. The mother cities did not attempt to exercise any sort of supremacy over them; nor, if they had, is there any likelihood that it would have been submitted to. But though politically independent, an intimate connection was generally maintained between the colonies and their parent cities. Their common origin, the identity of their religion, language, and institutions, gave rise to the same sort of union and friendship between the colonists and those from whom they were descended, that obtains in private life among allied families. In consequence, it seems to have been commonly held throughout Greece, that it was the duty of parent states to treat their colonists with parental kindness, and of the latter to look up to the land of their fathers with filial respect and veneration. And, conformably to this statement, we find that it was usual for colonists to yield the place of distinction, at public games and festivals, to deputies from their mother cities, who also enjoyed the privilege of first inspecting the entrails of the victims at sacrifices. Colonists were occasionally, also, in the habit of appointing a high priest of the mother city to preside over their religious solemnities; of sending offerings of first fruits to her gods; of requesting her to furnish them with an officer when they intended to establish a new settlement in a distant country; and sometimes, also, with a general to command their armies. And a variety of other observances and customs might be specified, serving to mark the deference which was usually entertained by colonists for their ancestors, and to maintain a friendly intercourse and good understanding between them.1
The most important of the reciprocal duties of mother cities and colonies had reference to the conduct of the one when the other was engaged in war. There is some discrepancy in the statements of historians and critics on this important point. And, in truth, there was nothing better than customary observances, which differed under different circumstances, on which to build a conclusion. On the whole, however, it seems sufficiently clear that colonies were considered as morally bound to assist their mother cities in war; not, however, as subjects, but as allies, on fair and equal terms. Colonies which declined to render this assistance were said, unless they could plead in excuse some very obvious or plausible reasons, to have committed a flagrant breach of duty. And the conduct of such colonies as, instead of assisting their mother cities, or remaining neuter, sided with their enemies, was stigmatised as impious, and offensive alike to gods and men. On the other hand, mother countries were held to be in duty bound to promote the interests of their colonists, and, if necessary, to support them with their arms. To fail in the performance of these important obligations was a serious offence. And hardly any provocation was thought sufficient to excuse a parent state in taking up arms against her descendants; this was regarded in the light of a Medea doing violence to her offspring.1
It would be easy to quote various examples in proof of these statements. It will, however, be enough to refer to the rupture between Corinth and her colony, Corcyra. The insular situation of the latter, and her attention to naval affairs, had raised her to a prominent place among the Greek states; and, elated with her power, she first neglected, and ultimately refused, to pay the usual marks of respect and deference to her mother city. Corinth, who felt hurt by this conduct, and who most probably, also, had become jealous of her naval power, resolved to chastise Corcyra for her presumption. An occasion for her interference speedily presented itself. Epidamnus,2 a colony of Corcyra, on the coast of Epirus, being hard pressed by the Illyrians, applied for assistance to her parent city. But the distress and supplications of their descendants having failed to induce the Corcyræans to interpose in their behalf, they sent ambassadors to Corinth to solicit that assistance from their remote, which had been refused by their immediate, ancestors. The Corinthians readily granted their request; and sent, without delay, an armament to Epidamnus, in the view, not merely of defending that city against the barbarians, but of detaching it from the interests of Corcyra.
The Corcyræans, indignant at the Corinthians having presumed to interfere in the affairs of their colony, immediately resorted to arms. And having defeated the fleet of Corinth in an obstinate engagement, they recovered possession of Epidamnus. During the two years following this event, the Corinthians laboured with the greatest diligence, by equipping a fleet and securing allies, to acquire the ability to punish the impious audacity, as they termed it, of their rebellious children. The Corcyræans, who foresaw the approaching storm, made every effort to meet it. And being aware of the latent enmity existing between the Athenians and the Corinthians and their allies, they resolved to send an embassy to the former to solicit their support. The Corinthians having learned or suspected their intention, the Corcyræan envoys were met at Athens by others from Corinth sent to expose and frustrate their schemes. And as all matters of importance were discussed in public, both parties were allowed a hearing in the assembly. Thucydides has preserved the speeches made on this occasion, or rather he has given, in speeches ascribed to the envoys, a summary of the arguments which they probably employed.1
But on this, as on most similar occasions, the speeches made to the assembly were principally directed to show, on the one hand, the advantages the Athenians would gain; and, on the other, the hazards they would encounter, by engaging in the contest as allies of Corcyra. The circumstances in which it originated, and the principles of colonial policy which it involved, were regarded as of inferior importance. They were not, however, wholly lost sight of; and the notice taken of them throws some light on the reciprocal claims and duties of colonies and their mother cities.
The Corcyræans, who spoke first, contended, among other things, that the Athenians could not be accused of injustice if they interfered in their behalf. They admitted that colonies, when treated with kindness, were bound to honour and respect their mother states; but that, when injuriously treated, they were justly alienated. Colonists, they said, were not sent out to be the slaves, but the equals of those who remained behind; and they protested that the violence and injustice of the Corinthians were evinced by their refusing to submit the question in regard to Epidamnus to arbitration.
The Corinthians, in their reply, did not attempt to controvert the principles laid down by their opponents. They pleaded that they had not sent colonists to Corcyra to be ill-treated by them, but that they might continue in lawful dependence, and give them due honour and reverence; that their other colonies willingly showed them every mark of duty and respect; that the perverse and unjustifiable conduct of the Corcyræans was evident, from their having renounced their allegiance, and taken up arms against their parent city; that even had the latter been in the wrong, the Corcyræans should have averted her anger by condescension; and that their outrageous conduct was to be ascribed to their pride and the insolence of wealth.
It is evident, from these statements, that the relation between the mother countries and their colonies in the Grecian world was vague in the extreme. It consisted of rights and obligations, on the one side and the other, to which custom and public opinion had given a sort of sanction. But as these were neither defined by treaties, nor fixed or regulated by any public law, they admitted of every variety of interpretation, and might be made to suit the views either of those who wished to strengthen, or of those who wished to relax, the dependence of the colonies. In this case, the Athenians decided in favour of Corcyra. But the wish to secure the alliance of a people who, besides being very powerful at sea, were most conveniently situated either for trade or war with Sicily, and not the justice of her quarrel with Corinth, most probably made them decide in her favour.
Mr Barron has attempted to show, from the example of Athens after the Persian war, that the states of Greece were in the habit of laying taxes on their colonies. But, independently of the circumstances already mentioned, which show that no such power belonged to the mother countries, or was exercised by them, everybody knows that the taxes in question originated in voluntary payments made to Athens as head of the league, by the Greek states confederated to protect themselves against the Persians. The treasure was at first kept in the central and sacred island of Delos. And though it be true that the Athenians, who had the ascendancy amongst the allies, were not long in perverting it to purposes of their own, that abuse did not alter the source or the original character of the contribution. It was set on foot by independent states, was paid into a common fund, and appropriated to a common object. And when this object was abandoned, and its payment was enforced by Athens, as if it had been a tribute legitimately due to her, she exacted it with the same rigour from states who were not, as from those who were, her colonies. Nor, when reproached with this unwarrantable conduct, had she anything better to allege in its excuse than the maxim, which though often acted upon is but seldom avowed, that it was the will of the gods that the weaker should in all cases submit to the stronger party!
It is plain from these statements, that the Grecian system of colonisation was entirely different from that of the moderns. Attempts were rarely, if ever, made by mother countries to interfere in the domestic affairs of their colonies. The commercial intercourse of the latter with other states was not subjected to any species of restraint but such as they might themselves impose. They had full liberty to make peace or war; and to contract offensive and defensive alliances with all countries which did not happen to be, at the time, in a state of hostility with their metropolis. Neither was there any positive law or institution to debar them from the exercise of this latter power. But it was opposed to the prevailing sentiment of the Grecian world. And except in a few anomalous instances, colonies were ranked amongst the allies of their parent states.
The Roman colonies were formed in a very different manner, and for very different purposes, from those of any other people of antiquity. Their foundation was not left to private adventurers, but was in all cases determined by the government at home, after a careful consideration of the circumstances. The Romans were the only ancient people who acted towards their vanquished enemies on the principles of an enlarged and liberal policy. And their extraordinary success is not more, perhaps, to be ascribed to their disciplined valour, and invincible constancy of purpose, than to their moderation. “What else,” says Tacitus, “occasioned the ruin of the Lacedæmonians and Athenians, notwithstanding they excelled in arms, except that they treated those they conquered as strangers and enemies?” And he adds, that the ascendancy of the Romans had resulted from their adopting, from the foundation of the city, a totally opposite policy; from their endeavouring to conciliate those they had subdued, and raising them to the rank of Roman citizens.1 And this is no flattering or exaggerated representation. Instead of attempting to enslave or exterminate the nations they subjugated, or irritating them by oppression and ill-treatment, the Roman legislators laboured to attach them to their interests, by showing them kindness, admitting them to a participation in many important privileges, and impressing them with a conviction that their well-being was identified with that of Rome. In the earlier ages of the republic some of the conquered states coalesced with, and became portions of, the Roman people. But after they had extended their conquests beyond the confines of Latium, some restrictions were laid on the privileges of the newly-associated or subdued citizens. Those who, by a ready submission to their arms, deserved the highest favours, were formed into municipia, or civic communities, which most commonly retained their ancient laws and institutions, in so far as these were not inconsistent with the supremacy of Rome. Sometimes, however, the municipia renounced their own laws to adopt those of the Romans, and being admitted into their tribes, had free access to the highest offices and honours.
Those parties who entered into alliances with Rome, were termed socii, or allies. They preserved, in so far as regarded their private and local affairs, a considerable portion of their previous independence. But in all matters of public or general importance, they were obliged to submit to the mandates of Rome, the senate fixing the number of troops and the amount of taxes they were bound to contribute to the army and the treasury of the commonwealth. On the whole, however, they were treated for a lengthened period with great moderation. And the good effects of this policy were strikingly displayed during the Carthaginian invasion. Notwithstanding his decisive victories, Hannibal did not succeed in gaining over one of the allies of Rome. Having, says Livy, been governed according to the dictates of justice and moderation, nothing could detach them from our interests; “nec abnuebant,” he adds, “quod unum vinculum fidei est, melioribus parere.”1
But it is of importance to observe that the practical influence of this wise and generous policy depended in great measure on the way in which it was carried out. In the earlier ages of the republic, and down to the destruction of Carthage, the generals and other officers were mostly actuated in their conduct towards the allies and subjects of Rome by the same enlightened and liberal views that pervaded the policy of the state. But at a later period, after the old Roman simplicity and purity had given way to refinement and corruption, the treatment of allied and subjugated nations was sadly changed for the worse. The proconsuls, prætors, quæstors, and other provincial rulers, being necessarily invested with very extensive powers, over which there was no efficient check or control, very frequently perverted them to the advancement of their own selfish ends; and did not scruple to practise every sort of extortion, and to connive at and perpetrate every abuse.
In the earlier periods of the Roman history, a people who had made a determined opposition to their arms, were usually, on being conquered, mulcted of some portion of their lands, which was, either wholly or in part, assigned to a colony from Rome. The Romans did not erect fortresses to keep their subjugated foes in check; for these would have been expensive to garrison and maintain; and might, had they fallen into the hands of their enemies, have given them means of protection and defence. They adopted the wiser and more politic plan of establishing, in the conquered countries, colonies of Roman citizens, whose property and even existence depended on the support and ascendancy of Rome. These have been truly described by Cicero as the propugnacula,1 or bulwarks of the state. At first they consisted only of small bodies of men, and were usually placed in the principal towns taken from the enemy. And agreeably to the spirit of the age, the allotments of land which were made for their support, were very limited indeed.2 But in the course of time, these early practices were greatly modified, the colonies sent out being much larger, their locality not being confined to towns, and the lands assigned to each colonist being more extensive. By associating and dealing with the inhabitants of the districts in which they were planted, the colonists diffused a knowledge of their language, arts, and religion. The native population were thus insensibly led to forget their ancient independence, to contract a reverence for the Roman name, and a desire of sharing in its honours and advantages.
It was formerly said of the English established in Ireland, that in no long time they became more Irish than the Irish themselves (Hibernis ipsis hiberniores). And it may, perhaps, be thought surprising that something similar did not happen in the case of the Roman colonists; and that, in the end, they did not identify their interests with those among whom they dwelt and were intimately connected, rather than with the distant city from which they were, perhaps remotely, descended. But with the exception of the one planted in Velitræ, the old capital of the Volsci, which espoused the cause of the Latins, none of the colonies of Rome appear to have renounced their allegiance, or taken part with her enemies. And nothing can show better than this, how skilfully they had been adapted to their grand purpose of bridling those among whom they were established.1
The liberality of the senate and people of Rome did not, however, keep pace with the eagerness of the allied and dependent states to obtain a complete participation in the rights and privileges of Roman citizens. They consequently endeavoured to extort by force what they could not obtain from the measured generosity of their masters; and, after a violent contest, they succeeded in their object. The Social War was terminated, 90 years bc, by the famous Julian law which conceded the freedom of the city, first, to the allies who had remained faithful to Rome, and soon after to the whole of Italy.
“From the foot of the Alps,” says Gibbon, “to the extremity of Calabria, all the natives of Italy were (henceforth) born citizens of Rome. Their partial distinctions were obliterated, and they insensibly coalesced into one great nation, united by language, manners, and civil institutions, and equal to the weight of a powerful empire. The republic gloried in her generous policy, and was frequently rewarded by the merit and services of her adopted sons. Had she always confined the distinction of Romans to the ancient families within the walls of the city, that immortal name would have been deprived of some of its noblest ornaments. Virgil was a native of Mantua; Horace was inclined to doubt whether he should call himself an Apulian or a Lucanian; it was in Padua that an historian was found worthy to record the majestic series of Roman victories. The patriot family of the Catos emerged from Tusculum; and the little town of Arpinum claimed the double honour of producing Marius and Cicero, the former of whom deserved, after Romulus and Camillus, to be styled the third founder of Rome, and the latter, after saving his country from the designs of Catiline, enabled her to contend with Athens for the palm of eloquence.”1
The establishment of colonies, destined to consolidate and strengthen the foundations of so great an empire, was obviously a matter of high public interest. It was usual to select the most distinguished citizens to conduct the colonists to their destination. Caius Gracchus, when tribune of the people, and all-powerful at Rome, was appointed, on his own solicitation, to lead a colony to Carthage; and Pompey was one of the commissioners chosen to distribute the deserted lands of Campania amongst new settlers.2 When the establishment of a colony was resolved upon, a law was passed, giving it a name, specifying the number of settlers of whom it was to consist, and the extent of land to be assigned to each. Those disposed to join in the emigration sent their names to the commissioners for the colony. If more volunteers came forward than were required, it was decided by lot who should be preferred. But as emigration, in the case at least of civic colonies, was a voluntary and not a compulsory act, when colonies were projected which were not supposed to hold out any very inviting prospects, it was sometimes difficult to find the requisite number of volunteers.3 When, however, the lists had been filled up, and other preparations made, the commissioners conducted the colonists to the territory on which they were to settle, distributed the lands amongst them, and assisted them in establishing a government.
This, as might be expected, was closely modelled on that of Rome. The colonists had the same laws, magistrates, religion, and fétes. The image of the metropolis was reflected in her colonies, throughout every part of her vast empire.1 The regulation of their civil affairs, in so far as these did not interfere with the public policy of the state, was left to the colonists. They passed such local acts as were necessary for the administration of justice, and inflicted such punishments on crimes as their peculiar circumstances seemed to require; but in all matters of importance they were subject to the superior and controlling authority of Rome. Many of their principal functionaries were sent from the capital. They supplied troops to the legions, and taxes to the imperial treasury. And the orders of government were as promptly obeyed in them as in the city itself.2
A distinction is frequently made in the ancient writers between Roman and Latin colonies. The former were wholly formed of Roman citizens; while the latter consisted either wholly of emigrants enjoying only the privileges accorded to the Latins, or partly of them, and partly of Roman citizens by whom they were joined. Inasmuch, however, as these auxiliaries renounced by this junction their distinctive privileges, it is probable that they generally belonged to the poorest class, and were attracted to the colony by a wish to share in the lands to be distributed among the settlers. The object of both descriptions of colonies was the same. And though they differed in some particulars, especially in regard to the rights and franchises of the colonists, they were sufficiently alike to warrant our considering them in the same point of view. After the Julian law, all distinctions between them were obliterated.
The colonists were in most respects Roman citizens. But previously to the Julian law, they have been supposed to have lost, so long at least as they continued to reside in the colonies, the right of voting in the assemblies at Rome, and of being elected to public offices in the city. This, however, is a very doubtful point; and some able critics contend that the loss of the suffrage affected the Latin colonies only, and not the Roman; while others, including Sigonius, with Spanheim, Beaufort, Barron, etc., have endeavoured to show that it affected the latter as well as the former. Practically, indeed, the question is of little importance, for, owing to the distance of most colonies from Rome, their right of suffrage in the assemblies of that city, supposing the colonists to have enjoyed it, could be rarely exercised, and consequently of only trifling value. When, however, the allies had been admitted, in virtue of the Julian law, to the freedom of the city, the same privilege was conceded, as a matter of course, to all descriptions of colonists.
Though it could no longer be denied, and was in some respects advantageous, the abolition of all distinctions between the colonists and other inhabitants of Italy, and the citizens of the metropolis, virtually terminated the old republican constitution. The Romans being practically unacquainted with the principle of representation, their public assemblies latterly degenerated into mere mobs. And from this time forward, any rich or powerful individual was able, by bringing up crowds of dependent voters from the adjoining towns and districts, to swamp those that were independent, and to exercise a paramount influence over the Assembly.
Livy mentions that previously to the second Punic war, about thirty colonies had been established in Italy; and there are good grounds for thinking that this number is considerably within the mark. Subsequently, however, to this contest, the senate seems to have become rather indisposed to found new colonies, and but few were established during the century which preceded the subversion of its power. The reasons for this growing dislike to colonisation seem pretty obvious. The supremacy of Rome had been fully established in all parts of Italy; and as every new colony received a grant of a greater or less extent of those public lands which furnished the larger portion of the national revenue, it tended in so far to impoverish the treasury. Cicero repeatedly complains, on the ground now stated, of the distribution of the public lands of Campania, on which Julius Cæsar settled twenty thousand colonists. “Taxes,” he observes, “being abolished in Italy, and the lands of Campania alienated, no public revenue is left except the 5 per cent. duty on the sale of slaves.”1 Colonies might, no doubt, have been settled beyond the confines of Italy, in Sicily, Spain, Macedonia, etc. But the senate does not seem to have approved of such a line of policy; for, with two exceptions only,2 no Roman colonies were established in the extra-Italian provinces during the republican government.
According to Velleius Paterculus, the senate declined to found colonies elsewhere than in Italy, lest they might become too powerful; and be tempted, by their distance from Rome, and the example of Carthage, Marseilles, and Syracuse, to throw off all dependence on their metropolis.3 And though it may have been unfounded, this apprehension was far from unreasonable. But under the emperors a different policy was followed. Rome had then become so powerful that she had nothing to fear from the defection of any colonies, however flourishing, and they were therefore multiplied on all sides. Julius Cæsar is said to have established upwards of 80,000 individuals in settlements out of Italy. He rebuilt Carthage and Corinth; and founded various colonies in Gaul, Spain, Macedonia, Asia Minor, and Syria. His successors followed his example. But their policy led them to establish colonies, in preference, on the frontiers of the empire, under the protection of the legions quartered in their vicinity, to whom, on their part, they were able to render important services.4
There were nine colonies in Britain; of which, exclusive of London, Bath, Gloucester, Chester, and Lincoln, still remain considerable cities.
During the flourishing period of the republic, the colonists were chiefly selected from among the lowest and poorest classes of citizens. But during its decline, and under the emperors, colonies were most commonly formed of troops who had received their discharge. From the contest between Marius and Sylla, down to the final ascendancy of Augustus, the civil wars which raged in every quarter of the Roman dominions were more numerous than those with barbarians, and incomparably more bloody and destructive. The leaders engaged in these suicidal struggles had no means of attaching or rewarding the bravery and devotion of the legions who supported their cause, except by a wholesale system of pillage. Whichever party was victorious, the result involved the confiscation of the property of their opponents, and its distribution among their own adherents. And while thousands of disbanded soldiers occupied the lands from which their former possessors had been violently ejected, they secured the obedience of the adjacent districts, and were ready, on any emergency, to crowd to the standards of their generals and benefactors. Sylla is said to have introduced this practice. His confiscations were on the widest scale, including whole cities and states. On lands so acquired, principally in Etruria, he is said to have at one time settled no fewer than twenty-three legions, which can hardly be estimated at less than 138,000 men. Julius Cæsar, and the triumvirs Octavius, Anthony, and Lepidus, followed the same plan. And after the battle of Actium made Augustus master of the Roman world, he proscribed most citizens of consideration who had been attached to the party of his rivals, and went far to extirpate the inhabitants of various districts of Italy. His confiscations were not, however, confined to the latter. And the vacant spaces both in the Peninsula and in the provinces, were re-peopled by the legions whose exertions had raised him to supreme power, and on whose fidelity he could safely depend. The organisation of these colonies did not differ materially from those by which they had been preceded, except that it was more entirely military.
But though admirable as contrivances for perpetuating the power and influence of the founders, in most other respects the military colonies were extremely prejudicial. The confiscations by which they were preceded, and the prospect of sharing in which filled the ranks of the contending armies, diffused in all quarters a sense of insecurity, paralysed all sorts of industry, and were especially ruinous to agriculture. The verses in which Virgil laments the evils inflicted on the expatriated inhabitants of the district round Mantua, where Augustus established a military colony, might have been repeated in most parts of Italy:—
And after the old inhabitants had been forcibly removed, their place could not be said to be filled by the troops to whom their lands were assigned. The latter, who frequently belonged to distant countries, habituated to war and bloodshed, and to all manner of excesses, were about the least fitted to become useful colonists. Not a few of them, indeed, voluntarily abandoned their possessions, while others sold them to those who supplied their place with slaves. It is difficult to exaggerate the irreparable injury which was done to Italy by this system. Those large pastoral estates, and that slave-cultivation, which had so powerful and so deleterious an influence over Italian husbandry and population, may be principally ascribed to the confiscations and the military colonies of Sylla and his successors.
It is evident from this brief sketch of the ancient system of colonisation, that with the exception, perhaps, of those founded by the Carthaginians, none of the colonies of antiquity bore any considerable resemblance to those of modern times. The Greek colonies were in every essential particular really independent. The mother cities did not presume to interfere in their internal affairs; and the connection which subsisted between them, was limited to an intercourse of good offices—to a demonstration of respect and attachment on the one hand, and of regard and protection on the other. The Roman colonies again were held in the strictest dependency upon, and subjection to, Rome. The Roman maxim was, Colonia nudum instrumentum est populi mittentis, et migrat non ut cives esse desinant sed ut alibi habitent; indeque manent sub potestate et imperio mittentium. They were not established that they might become independent, but that they might help to extend and consolidate the empire of which they formed the bulwarks. They were, in fact, military stations, garrisons employed to ensure the subjection of conquered provinces. They received their orders from Rome, and in all cases yielded a ready obedience to her commands. But there is no evidence to show, or reasons for thinking, that she ever troubled herself about their trade. She left them to deal on their own terms with those with whom they chose to maintain an intercourse.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF FRANCIS QUESNAY.
Francis Quesnay, though a physician of considerable eminence, is chiefly known as an ingenious inquirer into the constitution of society, and as the founder of the sect of the Economists.
Unlike that of most literary men, the life of this distinguished person abounded in incident and adventure. But the information respecting it is meagre and contradictory. Neither the place of his birth, nor the condition of his parents, is well ascertained. The accounts apparently most entitled to credit state that he was born at the village of Ecquivilly, in the Isle de France, in 1694; and that his father was a labourer, or, more probably, a small proprietor, who cultivated his own little property.1 His humble origin is indeed evident from the fact, mentioned by all his biographers, of his early education being almost entirely neglected, and of his having reached his fourteenth or sixteenth year without having been either sent to school or taught to read. But though placed in such unfavourable circumstances, young Quesnay was imbued with an ardent love of knowledge, and a strong desire to emerge from the obscure station in which he was placed. He is said to have learned to read the “Maison Rustique” of Liebaut, the first book that came into his hands, by the assistance of a few lessons which he received from a gardener of the village. Its perusal, which seems to have had a material influence over his future studies, awakened his latent powers, and stimulated him to make further efforts to obtain information. Having acquired a competent knowledge of his vernacular tongue, by the eager reading of such French books as came within his reach, he next applied himself to the study of the learned languages; and he attained, partly by the slender assistance of self-dubbed surgeon of the village, but chiefly by his own industry, to a tolerable proficiency in Latin and Greek.
Having resolved, in opposition to the wishes of his parents, to devote himself to the profession of surgery, Quesnay received the rudiments of his instruction in that art from the village doctor who had assisted him in his philological studies. But the pupil very soon surpassed the master; and when the latter applied to be admitted into the Maitrise, or Corporation of Surgeons, he presented, as evidence of his skill in his profession, some Essays which Quesnay had written, and which were received with much applause. The latter was not aware of this trick; but soon after its occurrence he left his paternal village, and set out to prosecute his studies at Paris. We are not informed how he supported himself in that city, nor how long he remained there. While, however, his industry and zeal enabled him to make great progress in his studies, his merit and modesty procured him several friends. Besides attending the prelections on the various branches of surgery, and the different hospitals, he found leisure to devote some portion of his time to metaphysical researches and the study of philosophy, for which the perusal of the “Recherche de la Verité” of Malebranche had given him a taste. Nay, such was his vigour and versatility, that having accidentally met, during his stay in Paris, with M. Cochin, of the Royal Academy of Painting, he put himself under his tuition. And we are told that he profited so well by the few lessons he received, as to be able not only to take remarkably good likenesses, but to design and engrave the various bones of the human skeleton, in a manner which would not have discredited the most skilful artists!
On finishing his studies at Paris, Quesnay resolved to establish himself as a surgeon in Mantes, a considerable town in his native province, and presented himself to the surgeons of its corporation for examination. But they refused, perhaps from jealousy of his talents, to admit him to trial. He was thus laid under the necessity of returning to Paris, where he passed his examinations with éclat; and received, in 1718, letters ordering him to be admitted into the Corporation of Mantes.
After his establishment at the latter, his reputation soon extended itself. He was employed by some of the first families of the neighbourhood, and, among others, by that of the Duke of Villeroi, who persuaded him to leave his residence in the country, and to accompany him to Paris as his surgeon, as nearly as we can collect, in 1729 or 1730. An incident not long after occurred, which had the most material influence over his future prospects and life. Having accompanied the Duke to the house of the Countess d’Estrades, he continued in the carriage while his Grace left it to pay his respects to her Ladyship, who, during the interview, was seized with an epileptic fit. Quesnay being called in, and perceiving the nature of the attack, with singular presence of mind immediately ordered the Duke and the attendants out of the room, and managed so well as to succeed in concealing the malady. The Countess was so much pleased with this dexterity and address, that she lost no time in recommending Quesnay to her all-powerful friend, Madame d’Etioles, afterwards Marchioness of Pompadour. The latter made him her physician; and, besides apartments at Versailles, obtained for him, in 1737, the place of Surgeon in Ordinary to the King.1
Quesnay was shortly after appointed Secretary to the Royal Academy of Surgery, established in 1731. In addition to several articles on particular branches of Surgery, he contributed the preface to the first volume of its Memoirs; which has always been reckoned peculiarly valuable for its able and discriminating observations on the uses of theory and observation, and on the assistance which they reciprocally lend to each other.
Being from an early period a martyr to the gout, and, in consequence, ill fitted to act as surgeon, Quesnay took the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1744. He was soon after appointed, through the influence of his fair patroness, consulting physician to the king, Louis XV. In this capacity he attended his majesty in the campaigns of 1744 and 1745; and, amid the distractions of a camp, collected and prepared the greater part of the materials for his “Treatise on Fevers,” published in 1753.
His appointment as Physician to the King was preceded by the grant of letters of nobility, issued on the recovery of the Dauphin from the small-pox. Louis, who was much struck with the justice and solidity of Quesnay’s remarks, with whom he was in the habit of conversing on various subjects, familiarly called him son penseur, and gave him, in allusion to this title, three pansey flowers (in French pensées) for his arms, with the motto propter cogitationem mentis.
The leisure Quesnay now enjoyed, enabled him to prosecute his studies with greater assiduity. In 1747, he republished an enlarged edition, in three volumes, 12mo, of his “Essai Physique sur l’Economie Animale,” originally published in 1736. In 1748, he published, in 12mo, an “Examen impartiel des Contestations des Medecins et des Chirurgiens de Paris,” which was followed, in 1749, by an “Histoire de l’Origine et des Progrès de la Chirurgie en France,” in 4to, and by two separate treatises, in 12mo, on Suppuration and Gangrene. In 1750, he republished his “Traité des Effets et de l’Usage de la Saigné,” written during his residence at Mantes, and originally published in 1730; and, in 1753, he published a “Treatise on Continuous Fevers,” in two volumes, 12mo.
These works have been held in high estimation. An excellent judge has given it as his opinion, that “the Traité de la Gangrene is by far the most valuable publication which we yet possess upon this subject.” “Every page of this work,” he adds, “is distinguished by the same talent for accurate observation and perspicuous arrangement, which are so remarkable in all the other writings of this celebrated author.”1
The “Traité des Fievres” was the last of Quesnay’s professional works. He appears to have henceforth comparatively abandoned his medical studies. At no period, indeed, had he allowed them exclusively to occupy his attention; and he now devoted himself, in preference, to other and not less interesting inquiries. He had always entertained a strong predilection for agricultural pursuits, the effect, perhaps, of his situation in early life. And this, combined with the speculative and metaphysical cast of his mind, seems to have led him to those peculiar notions respecting the paramount importance of agriculture as a source of wealth, and the constitution of society, which have rendered his name so celebrated in economical science. The articles “Fermier” and “Grains,” in the “Encyclopedie,” published in 1756 and 1757, contain the earliest development of his views on this subject. They are ably written, and display great powers of analysis. In the article “Grains,” the distinction between gross and nett produce (produit total and produit net), between the productiveness of agriculture and the supposed unproductiveness of all other employments, the superior advantageousness of commercial freedom, and most of the other leading principles in the theory of the Economists, are laid down and illustrated with much ingenuity and talent. The “Tableau Economique,” and the “Maximes Générales du Gouvernement Economique,” annexed to it, under the title of “Extraits des Economies Royales, de M. de Sully,” were printed, by command of the king, at Versailles in 1758. On the title-page is the following rather remarkable motto for a work brought forth at such a place and under such auspices: “Pauvres paysans, pauvre royaume; pauvre royaume, pauvre Souverain!” The maxims, which contain a short and comprehensive abstract of the economical system, were reprinted, with an analysis of the Table, and a selection from various articles, contributed by Quesnay to the “Journal d’Agriculture” and the “Ephemerides du Citoyen,”1 in the collection of his economical works, entitled “Physiocratie, ou Constitution Naturelle du Gouvernement le plus Avantageux au Genre Humain,” edited by his friend and scholar, Dupont, in 1767.
We have elsewhere entered at considerable length into an examination of the speculations of Quesnay and his followers, with respect to the constitution of political societies, and the sources of public wealth.1 It cannot be doubted, that they are in many respects erroneous. There is, indeed, no foundation whatever for the distinguishing feature of their system, or for the supposition, that manufactures and commerce add nothing to the wealth of nations, and that agriculture is the only productive employment. But it must, notwithstanding, be acknowledged, that their works embody many novel, just, and discriminating views of the nature and constitution of society, and the sources of wealth. Probably, however, the principal merit of Quesnay and the sect of which he was the founder, does not consist so much in the discoveries they made, as in their having been among the earliest philosophers who distinctly perceived that the institutions of society should harmonise with the natural principles on which it is founded, or, as they termed it, with the Ordre naturel et essentiel des Sociétés Politiques. Economical science is, they said, “l’etude et la demonstrationdes loix de la nature,relatives à la subsistence, et la multiplication du genre humain. L’observation universelle de ces loix est l’interet commun et general de tous les hommes. La connaissance universelle de ces loix est donc le preliminaire indispensable, et le moyen necessaire du bonheur de tous.”2 It is to be regretted that, in investigating these laws, they proceeded too much on abstract and speculative principles, without sufficiently attending to the disturbing effects of existing institutions, associations, and habits. But, despite the defective mode in which they conducted their researches, they succeeded in establishing various important principles; and there is, at least, as much reason to admire the correctness of many of their conclusions, as to feel surprise at the errors into which they fell. According to Quesnay and his disciples, society is formed for the purpose of procuring the greatest advantage to its members; the security of property and the freedom of industry are its basis; the business of the legislator is not, they said, to regulate the pursuits of individuals, but to protect their equal rights and liberties, and to secure the perfect freedom of competition in all departments of industry.1 And though it be true, that most part of these principles had been pointed out by previous writers, Quesnay and his school were the first who showed their dependence on each other, who presented them in a systematic form, and who also showed the injustice and impolicy of the institutions which ignorance or mistaken views of national interest had established in opposition to them.
It is needless to make any remarks on the exploded notion of Quesnay with respect to agriculture being the only source of wealth, or on his project for consolidating all taxes into a single tax (l’impôt unique), to be laid directly on the land! This extraordinary, and in truth impossible project, necessarily, indeed, resulted from the principles of his system; and it is singular, that it did not make him suspect their solidity. We may add that the legal despotism in the hands of an hereditary monarch, without limitation or check of any kind, which he strangely supposed was the best of all governments, is shown by the experience of all ages and countries to be about the very worst.2
Notwithstanding his great age, and the sufferings resulting from almost incessant attacks of gout, the activity of Quesnay’s mind continued unimpaired. He contributed, subsesequently to the publication of the “Physiocratie,” various articles to the “Ephemerides du Citoyen;” and continued wholly occupied with these studies and mathematics, to which he latterly paid considerable attention, till his death, which took place at Versailles in December 1774, in the 80th year of his age.
Quesnay possessed inflexible integrity, a nice sense of honour, and the greatest prudence and discretion. Though highly esteemed by the king, and long resident at court, he never intermixed in the intrigues of which it was the theatre. None ever scrupled to express themselves freely in his presence, and this confidence was never betrayed. “Il recevoit chez lui des personnes de tous les partis, mais en petit nombre, et qui toutes avoient une grand confiance en lui. On y parloit tres hardiment de tout; et ce qui fait leur eloge et le sien, jamais on n’a rien repèté.”1 He was one of the handsomest men2 at court; and combined the utmost frankness and sincerity, with the address and manners of a courtier, and the intelligence of a philosopher. Though little solicitous of distinguishing himself, he was careful not to offend the self-esteem of others. His conversation was animated, without any effort at brilliancy. So much, indeed, was he averse to every appearance of pretension, that he was in the habit of veiling the most profound remarks and observations under the form of apologues, which generally referred to some subject connected with rural affairs, to which he was always particularly attached. He was most indulgent to the faults and errors of others, provided they were unalloyed by any taint of artifice or baseness, for which he never hesitated, whatever might be the rank of the party, to express his contempt. Quesnay was truly a patriot and a philosopher. And it would be difficult to point out another instance of one who, having lived so long in a profligate and luxurious court, unsullied by its vices, and aloof from its contentions, preserved to an extreme old age all those generous and kindly feelings, with that unobtrusive but ardent zeal in the cause of humanity, and that love of speculation and inquiry, which distinguished his earlier years.
“Quesnay,” says Madame du Hausset, “étoit un grand genie, suivant l’opinion de tous ceux qui l’avoit connu, et de plus un homme fort gai. Il aimoit causer avec moi de la campagne; j’y avois été elevée, et il me faisoit parler des herbages de Normandie et du Poitou, de la richesse des fermiers, et de la maniere de cultiver. C’étoit le meilleur homme du monde, et la plus éloignè de la plus petite intrigue. Il étoit bien plus occupé à la cour de la meilleure maniere de cultiver la terre que de tout ce que s’y passoit.”1
“Tandis,” says Marmontel, “que les orages se formoient et se dissipoient au-dessus de l’entresol de Quesnay, il griffonnoit ses axiomes et ses calculs d’économie rustique, aussi tranquille, aussi indifférent à ces mouvemens de la cour, que s’il en eût été à cent lieues de distance. Là bas, on déliberait de la paix, de la guerre, du choix des généraux, du renvoi des ministres; et nous, dans l’entresol, nous raisonnions d’agriculture; nous calculions le produit net, ou quelquefois nous dînions gaiement avec Diderot, d’Alembert, Duclos, Helvétius, Turgot, Buffon; et Madame de Pompadour, ne pouvant pas engager cette troupe de philosophes à descendre dans son salon, venoit elle-même les voir à table et causer avec eux.”2
Dr Smith was well acquainted with Quesnay. He frequently met him during his residence at Paris in 1766. And while he bears testimony to the “modesty and simplicity” of his character, he has pronounced his system to be, “with all its imperfections, the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published on the subject of Political Economy.”3 So highly, indeed, was Smith impressed with a sense of his merits, that he intended, had he not been prevented by Quesnay’s death, to have inscribed to him the “Wealth of Nations.”4
Having married when at Mantes, Quesnay had a son, to whom he gave an excellent education; but he refused to solicit for him any place or situation under government. This son ultimately settled in the country on an estate near Beauvoir. Turgot gave a place in the administration to one of Quesnay’s grandsons; and another, who entered the army, served as captain of infantry at the battle of Jemappes.
Quesnay repaid the esteem of his friends by his readiness, on every occasion, to do all in his power to advance their interests. Mercier de la Rivière, the author of the work “Sur l’ordre Naturel et Essentiel des Sociétés Politiques,”1 occupied a high place in his affections. He was also much attached to the elder Mirabeau, Turgot, Dupont, St Peravy,2 the Abbe Baudeau, and other leading Economists, who willingly acknowledged him for their master, and exerted themselves to defend and propagate his doctrines. It is to be regretted that in doing this, they too often displayed a sectarian and unphilosophical spirit. They seem to have regarded Quesnay’s writings as all but inspired; not as being generally correct, but as being in every respect perfect. Hence, they did not presume to examine the foundations of his theory, or even to question his most startling conclusions. But assuming them to be unassailable and applicable to every state of circumstances, they confined themselves to attempts to set them in a clearer light, and to obviate the objections which were urged against them. Hence their works are characterised by an unusual degree of sameness, so that when one of them has been read with ordinary attention, there is but little to be learned from the others. This abject deference to the authority of their master, the extravagant terms in which they spoke of him, and their pedantic phraseology, deservedly exposed them to much ridicule, diminished their influence, and obstructed the progress of the science. But despite these defects, they were in reality, and not in appearance merely, a sect of whom it may be truly said,—
We beg to subjoin, from the work of Dupont, “Sur l’Origine et Progrès d’une Science Nouvelle,” a summary of the various institutions, rules, and conditions, which the economists held to be necessary for the good government and prosperity of a country:—
“Voici le résumé de toutes les institutions sociales fondées sur l’ordre naturel, sur la constitution physique des hommes et des autres êtres dont ils sont environnés.
“Propriété personelle, établie par la nature, par la nécessité physique dont il est à chaque individu de disposer de toutes les facultés de sa personne, pour se procurer les choses propres à satisfaire ses besoins, sous peine de souffrance et de mort.
“Liberté de travail, inséparable de la propriété personelle dont elle forme une partie constitutive.
Propriété mobiliaire, qui n’est que la propriété personelle même, cousidérée dans son usage, dans son objet, dans son extension nécessaire sur les choses acquises par le travail de sa personne.
“Liberté d’échange, de commerce, d’emploi de ses richesses, inséparable de la propriété personelle et de la propriété mobiliaire.
“Culture, qui est un usage de la propriété personelle, de la propriété mobiliaire et de la liberté qui en est inséparable: usage profitable, nécessaire, indispensable pour que la population puisse s’accroître, par une suite de la multiplication des productions nécessaires à la subsistance des hommes.
“Propriété fonciere, suite nécessaire de la culture, et qui n’est que la conservation de la propriété personelle et de la propriété mobiliaire, employées aux travaux et aux dépenses preparatoires indispensables pour mettre la terre en état d’être cultivée.
“Liberté de l’emploi de sa terre, de l’espece de sa culture, de toutes les conventions relatives à l’exploitation, à la concession, à la rétrocession, à l’échange, à la vente de sa terre, inséparable de la propriété fonciere.
“Partage naturel des récoltes, en reprises des cultivateurs, ou richesses dont l’emploi doit indispensablement être de perpétuer la culture, sous peine de diminution des récoltes et de la population; et produit net, ou richesses disponibles dont la grandeur décide de la prospérité de la société, dont l’emploi est abandonné à la volonté et à l’intérêt des propriétaires fonciers, et qui constitue pour eux le prix naturel et légitime des dépenses qu’ils on faites, et des travaux auxquels ils es sont livrés pour mettre la terre en état d’être cultivée.
“Sureté, sans laquelle la propriété et la liberté ne seraient que de droit et non de fait, sans laquelle le produit net serait bientôt anéanti, sans laquelle la culture même ne pourrait subsister.
“Autorité tutèlaire et souveraine, pour procurer la sureté essentiellement nécessaire à la propriété et à la liberté; et qui s’acquitte de cet important ministere, en promulguant et faisant exécuter les loix de l’ordre naturel, par lesquelles la propriété et la liberté sont établies.
“Magistrats, pour décider dans les cas particuliers quelle doit être l’application des loix de l’ordre naturel, réduites en loix positives par l’autorité souveraine; et qui ont le devoir impérieux de comparer les Ordonnances des Souverains avec les loix de la Justice par essence, avant de s’engager à prendre ces Ordonnances positives, pour régle de leurs jugemens.
“Instruction publique et favorisée, pour que les citoyens l’autorité et les magistrats, ne puissent jamais perdre de vue les loix invariables de l’ordre naturel, et se laisser égarer par les prestiges de l’opinion, ou par l’attrait des intérêts particuliers exclusifs qui, dès qu’ils sont exclusifs sont toujours malentendus.
“Revenu public, pour constituer la force et le pouvoir nécessaire à l’autorité Souveraine; pour faire les frais de son ministere protecteur, des fonctions importantes des magistrats, et de l’instruction indispensable des loix de l’ordre naturel.
“Impôt direct, ou partage du produit net du territoire, entre les propriétaires fonciers et l’autorité Souveraine; pour former le revenu public d’une maniere qui ne restraigne ni la propriété ni la liberté, et qui par conséquent ne soit pas destructive.
“Proportion essentielle et nécessaire de l’impôt direct, avec le produit net, telle qu’elle donne à la sociéte le plus grand revenu public qui soit possible, et par conséquent le plus grand degré possible de sureté, sans que le sort des propriétaires fonciers cesse d’être le meilleur sort dont on puisse jouir dans la société.
“Monarchie hèréditaire, pour que tous les intérêts présens et futurs du dépositaire de l’autorité Souveraine, soit intimement liés avec ceux de la société par le partage proportionnel du produit net.”
SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADAM SMITH, LL.D.
Adam Smith, author of the “Wealth of Nations,” was born at Kirkcaldy, on the 5th of June 1723. His father, who held the situation of comptroller of customs in that town, died a few months before his birth; so that the charge of his early education devolved wholly on his mother, the daughter of Mr Douglas of Strathenry, in the county of Fife.
His constitution during infancy is said to have been extremely infirm and delicate, and required all the anxious attention of his mother, who treated him with the greatest indulgence. This, however, had no unfavourable influence over his temper or dispositions; and he repaid the fond solicitude of his parent by every attention that filial gratitude and affection could dictate, during the long period of sixty years.
When only three years of age, he was stolen by a party of gypsies from Strathenry, to which place he had been carried by his mother. Fortunately, however, the future reformer of the commercial policy of nations was speedily restored to his parent and to society.
He received the first rudiments of his education in the grammar school of Kirkcaldy. The weakness of his constitution prevented him from indulging in the amusements common to boys of his age. But Dugald Stewart states,1 that he was even then distinguished by his passion for books, and by the extraordinary powers of his memory; that he was much beloved by his schoolfellows, many of whom subsequently attained to great eminence; and that he was thus early remarkable for those habits which remained with him through life, of speaking to himself when alone, and of absence in company.
He continued at Kirkcaldy until 1737, when he was sent to the University of Glasgow, where he remained for three years. He then entered Baliol College, Oxford, as an exhibitioner on Snell’s foundation; and continued for seven years to prosecute his studies at that celebrated seminary.
Stewart mentions, on the authority of Dr Maclaine of the Hague, that mathematics and natural philosophy formed young Smith’s favourite pursuits while at Glasgow. But, subsequently to his removal to Oxford, he seems to have entirely abandoned them, and to have principally devoted the time not consumed in the routine duty of the University to the study of the belles lettres, and of those moral and political sciences of which he was destined afterwards to become so great a master.2
Smith does not seem to have felt any very peculiar respect for his English alma mater. The just though severe remarks in the “Wealth of Nations” on the system of education followed in Oxford and Cambridge, had evidently been suggested by his own observation. He shows that it is reasonable to expect that the plan of appointing professors with handsome salaries, who are not permitted to receive fees from their pupils, should, in all ordinary cases, induce them either wholly to neglect the important duties of their office, or to discharge them in the most slovenly manner; and he refers to the example of Oxford, to prove the accuracy of this conclusion; “the greater part of the public professors of that seminary having, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.”
While at Oxford, Smith frequently employed himself in translating, particularly from the French, in the view of improving his style; and he used often to express a favourable opinion of such exercises. But this was a species of employment he might have prosecuted with nearly equal advantage at any other place. No doubt, however, he must have reaped considerable advantage from his residence at Oxford, by its contributing to improve and perfect his acquaintance with the niceties and delicacies of the English language, as well as by rendering him a greater proficient in classical learning, of which his knowledge was both extensive and accurate; but it is not, perhaps, very easy to discover what other obligations he could owe to it. What advantage could he derive in prosecuting his inquiries respecting the history of society, and into “those principles which ought to run through and be the foundation of the laws of all nations,” from living among those who were satisfied with what had been known on these subjects two thousand years ago? and who compelled the noble and aspiring youth of the country, committed to their charge, to draw the principal part of their information with respect to politics and philosophy from the politics and the logic of Aristotle?1
Something had occurred, while Smith was at Oxford, to excite the suspicions of his superiors with respect to the nature of his private pursuits; and the heads of his college, having entered his apartment without his being aware, unluckily found him engaged reading Hume’s “Treatise of Human Nature.” The objectionable work was, of course, seized; the young philosopher being at the same time severely reprimanded.1
He continued, subsequently to his return from Oxford in 1747, to reside for nearly two years at Kirkcaldy, with his mother. He had been sent to Oxford that he might qualify himself for entering the Church of England. The ecclesiastical profession was not, however, agreeable to his taste; and, in opposition to the advice of his friends, he returned to Scotland, resolved to devote himself exclusively to literary pursuits.
In the latter part of the year 1748, Smith fixed his residence in Edinburgh, where he was prevailed upon, by the encouragement and persuasion of Lord Kames, and some of his other friends, to deliver, during that and the two following years, a course of lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres. The lectures were well attended by an auditory composed chiefly of students of law and theology. He had the honour to reckon among his pupils Mr Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Loughborough; Mr William Johnston, afterwards Sir William Pulteney; Dr Blair, etc.; with all of whom he subsequently continued on the most intimate terms. It was at this period also that he laid the foundation of that friendship with Mr David Hume, which lasted, without the slightest interruption, till the death of the latter.
No part of these lectures was ever published; but it would appear from the statement of Dr Blair, who commenced his course of lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres in 1758, ten years after Smith’s first course, that they had been reduced into a systematic shape. In a note to his eighteenth lecture, Blair mentions that he had borrowed several of the ideas respecting the general characters of style, particularly the plain and simple, and the characters of those English authors who are classed under them, from a manuscript treatise of Smith on Rhetoric, of which the author had shown him a part.
His increasing celebrity procured for Smith, in 1751, the honour of being elected Professor of Logic in the University of Glasgow; and in the following year he was elevated to the chair of Moral Philosophy in the same University, vacant by the death of Mr Craigie, the immediate successor of the celebrated Dr Hutcheson, under whom Smith had formerly studied. He continued to hold this situation for thirteen years; and, as the studies and inquiries in which his academical duties daily engaged him, were those most agreeable to his taste, it is not surprising that he should have considered his residence at Glasgow as the happiest portion of his life. At the same time, it seems reasonable to conclude that his professional pursuits must have had a great effect in maturing his speculations in morals and politics, and, consequently, in determining him to undertake the great works which have immortalised his name.
Mr Millar, author of the “Historical View of the English Government,” and Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow, had the advantage of hearing Smith’s course of lectures on Moral Philosophy, of which he has given the following account:—
“His course of lectures was divided into four parts. The first contained Natural Theology; in which he considered the proofs of the being and attributes of God, and those principles of the human mind upon which religion is founded. The second comprehended Ethics, strictly so called, and consisted chiefly of the doctrines which he afterwards published in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. In the third part, he treated at more length of that branch of morality which relates to justice, and which, being susceptible of precise and accurate rules, is for that reason capable of a full and particular explanation.
“Upon this subject he followed the plan that seems to be suggested by Montesquieu; endeavouring to trace the gradual progress of jurisprudence, both public and private, from the rudest to the most refined ages, and to point out the effects of those arts which contribute to subsistence, and to the accumulation of property, in producing correspondent improvements or alterations in law and government. This important branch of his labours he also intended to give to the public; but his intention, which is mentioned in the conclusion of the ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments,’ he did not live to fulfil.
“In the last part of his lectures, he examined those political regulations which are founded, not upon the principle of justice, but that of expediency, and which are calculated to increase the riches, the power, and the prosperity of a state. Under this view, he considered the political institutions relating to commerce, to finances, to ecclesiastical and military establishments. What he delivered on these subjects contained the substance of the work he afterwards published under the title of ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.’
“There was no situation in which the abilities of Dr Smith appeared to greater advantage than as a professor. In delivering his lectures, he trusted almost entirely to extemporary elocution. His manner, though not graceful, was plain and unaffected; and, as he seemed to be always interested in the subject, he never failed to interest his hearers. Each discourse consisted commonly of several distinct propositions, which he successively endeavoured to prove and illustrate. These propositions, when announced in general terms, had, from their extent, not unfrequently something of the air of a paradox. In his attempts to explain them, he often appeared, at first, not to be sufficiently possessed of the subject, and spoke with some hesitation. As he advanced, however, the matter seemed to crowd upon him, his manner became warm and animated, and his expression easy and fluent. In points susceptible of controversy, you could easily discern, that he secretly conceived an opposition to his opinions, and that he was led upon this account to support them with greater energy and vehemence. By the fulness and variety of his illustrations, the subject gradually swelled in his hands, and acquired a dimension which, without a tedious repetition of the same views, was calculated to seize the attention of his audience, and to afford them pleasure, as well as instruction, in following the same object through all the diversity of shades and aspects in which it was presented, and afterwards in tracing it backwards to that original proposition or general truth from which this beautiful train of speculation had proceeded.
“His reputation as a professor was accordingly raised very high, and a multitude of students from a great distance resorted to the University, merely upon his account. Those branches of science which he taught became fashionable at this place, and his opinions were the chief topics of discussion in clubs and literary societies. Even the small peculiarities in his pronunciation or manner of speaking became frequently the objects of imitation.”
Smith made his debût as an author by contributing, anonymously, two articles to the “Edinburgh Review,” commenced in 1755, of which only two numbers were published. The first of these articles is a review of Dr Johnson’s Dictionary, and the second a letter to the editor, containing some observations on the literature of the different European countries. The latter is worth notice as evincing the attention paid by the author to Continental literature, at a period when it was comparatively neglected in this country.
In 1759 Dr Smith published his “Theory of Moral Sentiments.” He had been engaged for a very considerable period in the composition of this work, which is throughout elaborated with the greatest care. The fundamental principle maintained by the author is, that sympathy forms the real foundation of morals; that we do not immediately approve or disapprove of any given action, when we have become acquainted with the intention of the agent and the consequences of what he has done, but that we previously enter, by means of that sympathetic affection which is natural to us, into the feelings of the agent and those to whom the action relates; that, having considered all the motives and passions by which the agent was actuated, we pronounce, with respect to the propriety or impropriety of the action, according as we sympathise or not with him; while we pronounce, with respect to the merit or demerit of the action, according as we sympathise with the gratitude or resentment of those who were its objects, and that we necessarily judge of our own conduct by comparing it with such maxims and rules as we have deduced from observations previously made on the conduct of others.
“Whatever judgment,” says Smith, “we form with respect to our own motives and actions must always bear some secret reference, either to what are, or to what, upon a certain condition, would be, or to what we imagine ought to be, the judgment of others. We endeavour to examine our own conduct as we imagine any other fair and impartial spectator would examine it. If, upon placing ourselves in his situation, we thoroughly enter into all the passions and motives which influenced it, we approve of it by sympathy with the approbation of this supposed equitable judge. If otherwise, we enter into his disapprobation and condemn it.”1
Several, and, as it is now generally admitted, some unanswerable, objections have been urged against this most ingenious theory. But whatever difference of opinion may exist with respect to the truth of the principle it involves, the “Theory of Moral Sentiments” has been universally allowed to abound in the most admirable disquisitions, in a faithful and skilful delineation of character, and in the soundest and most elevated maxims for the practical regulation of human life. The style various, but always eloquent, is worthy of the subject; and while it serves, by the beauty and richness of its colouring, to relieve the dryness of some of the more abstract discussions, it gives additional force to the powerful recommendations of generous, upright, and disinterested conduct to be found in every part of the work.
Dr Brown, who has criticised this theory with his usual acuteness, and has shown that though sympathy may diffuse moral sentiments it cannot originate them, bears, notwithstanding, the strongest testimony to the transcendant merits of Smith’s work. “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” he observes, “is, without all question, one of the most interesting works, perhaps I should have said the most interesting work, in moral science. It is valuable, however, as I before remarked, not for the leading doctrine, of which we have seen the fallacy, but for the minor theories which are adduced in illustration of it; for the refined analysis which it exhibits in many of its details; and for an eloquence which, adapting itself to all the temporary varieties of its subject, familiar, with a sort of majestic grace, and simple even in its magnificence, can play amid the little decencies and proprieties of common life, or rise to all the dignity of that sublime and celestial virtue, which it seems to bring from heaven indeed, but to bring down gently and humbly, to the humble bosom of man.”1
Having published the substance of so important a part of his lectures, Smith was enabled to make considerable retrenchments from the ethical part of his course, and to give a proportional extension to the disquisitions on Jurisprudence and Political Economy. He had long been in the habit of embodying the results of his studies and investigations with respect to both these departments of political science, and particularly the latter, in his lectures. And it appears, from a statement which he drew up in 1755, to vindicate his claims to certain political and literary opinions, that he had been in the habit of teaching, from the time he obtained a chair in the University of Glasgow, and even when at Edinburgh, the same enlarged and liberal doctrines with respect to the freedom of industry, and the injurious influence of restraints and regulations, which he afterwards so fully established in the “Wealth of Nations.” His residence in a large commercial city, like Glasgow, gave him considerable advantage in the prosecution of his favourite studies, by affording means of easily obtaining that correct practical information on many points, which cannot be learned from books, and by enabling him to compare his theoretical doctrines with the experimental conclusions of his mercantile friends. Notwithstanding the disinclination, so common among men of business, to listen to speculative opinions, and the opposition of his leading principles to the old maxims of trade, he was able, before he quitted his situation in the University, to rank some very eminent merchants among his proselytes.
The publication of the “Theory of Moral Sentiments” brought a vast accession of reputation to Smith; and placed him, in the estimation of all who were qualified to form an opinion on such a subject, in the first rank of moralists, and of able and eloquent writers.
In 1762 the Senatus Academicus of the University of Glasgow unanimously conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws; in testimony, as it is expressed in the minutes of the meeting, of their respect for his universally acknowledged talents, and of the advantage that had resulted to the University from the ability with which he had for many years expounded the principles of jurisprudence. But the most important effect of his increasing celebrity, in so far at least as respected himself, was his receiving in 1763 an invitation from Mr Charles Townsend, who had married the Duchess of Buccleuch, to attend her Grace’s son, the young Duke, on his travels; and the advantageous terms that were offered, combined with the strong desire he entertained of visiting the Continent, induced him to accept the offer, and to resign his chair at Glasgow. “With the connection which he was led to form in consequence of this change in his situation,” says Stewart, “he had reason to be satisfied in an uncommon degree, and he always spoke of it with pleasure and gratitude. To the public it was not perhaps a change equally fortunate; as it interrupted that studious leisure for which nature seems to have destined him, and in which alone he could have hoped to accomplish those literary projects which had flattered the ambition of his youthful genius.”
Dr Smith set out for France in company with his noble pupil in March 1764. They remained only a few days at Paris on their first visit to that capital, but proceeded to Toulouse, where they resided for about eighteen months. The society of Toulouse, a considerable city, and at that time the seat of a parliament, must have been a good deal superior to that of most country towns; and Smith no doubt availed himself of it, and of the leisure he then enjoyed, to perfect and extend his knowledge of the literature, internal policy, and state of France. He has told us that he was not disposed to place much confidence in the facts and reasonings of political arithmeticians; and it is evident, from his rarely stating facts on the authority of others, and from the references he occasionally makes to circumstances connected with Toulouse, Geneva, and other places he visited, that he was chiefly indebted to his own observation and inquiries for the accurate and extensive information which he is universally acknowledged to have possessed with respect to the institutions, habits, and condition of the French people.
After leaving Toulouse, Smith and his noble pupil proceeded to Geneva, where they resided two months. They returned to Paris at Christmas, 1765, and remained in that city for nearly twelve months. During the whole of this period, Smith lived on the most friendly footing with the best society in Paris. Turgot, afterwards Comptroller-General of Finance, D’Alembert, Helvetius, Marmontel, the Abbé Morellet,1 the Duke of la Rochefoucault, Madame Riccoboni, etc., were of the number of his acquaintances; and some of them he continued ever after to reckon among his friends. He was also on familiar terms with M. Quesnay, founder of the sect of the Economists; and there is every reason to think that he derived considerable advantage from his intercourse with that able and excellent person, than whom none was better qualified to strike out original and ingenious views. So sensible, indeed, was Smith of his merits as a man and a philosopher, that he intended, had he not been prevented by Quesnay’s death, to have left a lasting testimony of the estimation in which he held him, by dedicating to him the “Wealth of Nations.”
In October 1766, the Duke of Buccleuch, accompanied by Smith, returned to London. The latter soon after removed to his old residence at Kirkcaldy; where he continued to reside, with little interruption, for about ten years, habitually occupied in study, and in the elaboration of his great work. The “Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” appeared in 1776; an æra that will be for ever memorable in the history of political philosophy. But having elsewhere examined most part of the leading theories and doctrines advanced in this work,1 it is sufficient at present to observe, that notwithstanding the errors and defects which have been discovered in some of its principles, and the objections which have been made, and perhaps with justice, to its arrangement, it will ever remain one of the noblest monuments of profound sagacity, various learning, and persevering research, directed to the most useful purposes. In particular parts it might be improved; but as a whole it has so many excellences, and such a well-founded celebrity, that it will doubtless continue, for a lengthened period, to be the fountain whence succeeding economists must draw inspiration,—
Smith has an unquestionable claim to be regarded as the real founder of the modern system of Political Economy. In adopting the discoveries of others, he made them his own. And in such complicated and difficult subjects, a higher degree of merit belongs to the party who first establishes the truth, and traces the consequences, of a new doctrine, than to him who may previously have stumbled upon it by accident, or who dismisses it as if it were valueless. Though he has not left a perfect work, Smith has left one which contains a greater number of useful truths than have ever been given to the world by any other individual; and he has pointed out and smoothed the route, by following which subsequent philosophers have been able to perfect much that he left incomplete, to rectify the mistakes into which he fell, and to make many new and important discoveries. Whether, indeed, we refer to the soundness of its leading doctrines, the liberality and universal applicability of its practical conclusions, or the powerful and beneficial influence it has had on the progress of economical science, and on the policy and conduct of nations, the “Wealth of Nations” must be placed in the foremost rank of those works which have helped to liberalise, enlighten, and enrich mankind.1
Hume, who was then labouring under his last illness, addressed a congratulatory letter to Smith on the publication of the “Wealth of Nations.” And it is a curious fact, that he points out in it what is the principal blemish of the work, viz., the erroneous view which it gives of the nature and causes of rent. He says, “he cannot think that the rent of farms makes any part of the price of produce.” It is not known whether Hume had himself arrived at this conclusion, or had derived it from the writings or conversation of Dr Anderson, by whom it had been already established. But it is singular, seeing that his attention had been directed to the subject by one he so greatly esteemed, that Smith did not submit his statements in regard to rent to a more searching and careful analysis. Had he done this, he would most probably have adopted the views of Anderson and Hume, and materially improved his great work.1
Smith survived the publication of the “Wealth of Nations” fifteen years. He had the satisfaction to see it translated into all the languages of Europe; to hear his opinions quoted in the House of Commons; to be consulted by the minister; and to observe that the principles he had expounded were beginning to produce a material change in the public opinion, and in the councils of this and other countries. And he must have enjoyed the full conviction that the progress of events would ensure their ultimate triumph, by showing that they were productive of signal advantage, not only to the general mass of mankind, but to the inhabitants of every country which should have good sense enough to adopt them.
Hume died soon after the publication of the “Wealth of Nations.” Smith, with whom he had long lived on the most intimate terms, was most solicitous in his attentions to his illustrious friend during his illness; and gave a brief but interesting account of the circumstances connected with his death, and a sketch of his character, in a letter addressed to Mr Strachan of London, which was soon after published as a supplement to Mr Hume’s autobiography. In it he says that his deceased friend “approached as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man as, perhaps, the nature of human frailty will permit.” This unqualified eulogium excited the indignation of those who took offence at Hume’s religious opinions. Dr Horne, Bishop of Norwich, in an anonymous letter, attacked Smith on this ground; and ascribed to him, though without any certain data to go upon, the same sceptical tenets that had been entertained by Hume. But he took no notice of this effusion; and wisely declined entering upon a controversy which could have had no useful result.
Smith resided principally in London during the two years immediately subsequent to the publication of the “Wealth of Nations,” caressed by the most distinguished persons in the metropolis, who were justly proud of his acquaintance, and who, though they could not always subscribe to the justice of his remarks, were delighted with the goodness of his heart, his simplicity, and the vigour of his understanding. In 1778 he was appointed, through the unsolicited application of his old pupil and friend, the Duke of Buccleuch, a commissioner of customs for Scotland. In consequence, he removed to Edinburgh, where he continued afterwards to reside, possessed of an income more than equal to his wants, and in the enjoyment of the society of his earliest and most esteemed friends. His mother, then in extreme old age, and his cousin, Miss Douglas, accompanied him to Edinburgh, the latter superintending the domestic arrangements and economy of his family.
But though his appointment to the customs reflects much credit on the nobleman by whose intervention it was procured, it was neither worthy of the country nor of Smith. The philosopher who had produced a work in which the true sources of national wealth and prosperity were, for the first time, fully explored and laid open, deserved a different and a higher reward. Thousands of persons could have performed the duties of a commissioner of the customs quite as well as Smith, or perhaps better; but there was not one, besides himself, who could have given that “account of the general principles of law and government, and of the different revolutions they have undergone in the different ages and periods of society,”1 which it was his intention to give. And this intention he would most probably have fulfilled, had not the well-earned bounty of the public been clogged by the performance of petty routine duties which engrossed the greater part of his time, and left him but little leisure for study.
In 1787 Smith was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. On this occasion he addressed a letter to that learned body, which strikingly evinces the high sense he felt of this honour, and his regard for those from whom it emanated. “No preferment,” says he, “could have given me so much real satisfaction. No man can owe greater obligations to a society than I do to the University of Glasgow. They educated me; they sent me to Oxford. Soon after my return to Scotland, they elected me one of their own members; and afterwards preferred me to another office, to which the abilities and virtues of the never-to-be-forgotten Dr Hutcheson had given a superior degree of illustration. The period of thirteen years, which I spent as a member of that society, I remember as by far the most useful, and therefore as by far the happiest and most honourable, period of my life; and now, after three-and-twenty years’ absence, to be remembered in so very agreeable a manner by my old friends and protectors, gives me a heart-felt joy which I cannot easily express to you.”
His constitution, which had at no time been robust, began early to give way; and his decline was accelerated by the grief and vexation he felt on account of the death of his mother, to whom he had been most tenderly attached, in 1784, and of Miss Douglas, in 1788. He survived the latter only about two years, having died in July 1790. His last illness, which was occasioned by a chronic obstruction of the bowels, was both tedious and painful. But he bore it with the greatest fortitude and resignation: his cheerfulness never forsook him; and he had all the consolation that could be derived from the sympathy and attention of his friends.
His conduct in private life did not belie the generous principles inculcated in his works. He was in the habit of allotting a considerable part of his income to offices of secret charity. Stewart mentions that he had been made acquainted with some very affecting instances of his beneficence. “They were all,” he observes, “on a scale much beyond what might have been expected from his fortune; and were accompanied with circumstances equally honourable to the delicacy of his feelings and the liberality of his heart.”
Smith acquired a valuable and well-selected, though not a very extensive, library. He collected only the best editions of the best works in the different departments of literature and philosophy, and the finest copies of each. “The first time,” says Mr Smellie, “I happened to be in his library, observing me looking at the books with some degree of curiosity, and perhaps surprise, for most of the volumes were elegantly, and some of them most superbly bound, ‘You must have remarked,’ said he, ‘that I am a beau in nothing but my books.’ ”1
Notwithstanding the apparent flow and artlessness of his style, and his great experience in composition, Smith stated, not long before his death, that he continued to compose as slowly, and with as great difficulty, as at first. He did not write with his own hand, but generally walked up and down his apartment, dictating to an amanuensis,2 a habit which may in part, perhaps, account for that diffuseness and redundancy of style which is so observable in the “Wealth of Nations.” He regarded the works of Middleton as affording the best specimens of English composition; and he was accustomed to recommend the careful study of his “Life of Cicero” to all who wished to write easily, perspicuously, and in correct English.
The want of notes, and the fewness of references to authorities, may be mentioned as a peculiarity of Smith’s writings; and one in which they differ very widely from those of his illustrious contemporaries, Hume and Robertson, especially the last. Stewart says, that “Smith considered every species of note as a blemish or imperfection, indicating either an idle accumulation of superfluous particulars, or a want of skill and comprehension in the general design.”1 But, though it must be admitted that Robertson, in his Histories of Charles V. and America, has embodied in notes a large amount of interesting matter, which might have been advantageously incorporated with the text, Smith has certainly carried the opposite practice to an extreme. It is impossible, indeed, to lay down any precise rules on subjects of this sort, or to say positively when notes or references had better be made or omitted. Their excess, and their total, or nearly total omission, seem to be alike objectionable. At all events, there does not appear to be much room for doubting that the arrangement of the “Wealth of Nations” would have gained materially in clearness and simplicity, had the author adopted, in part at least, the plan of Robertson, and thrown some of the numerous digressions by which the thread of the investigation is interrupted into the form of notes or supplementary chapters. And there are many occasions when a reference to the facts or authorities on which an argument is founded, would have given it additional strength, and been satisfactory to the reader.
Smith had early resolved that such only of his manuscripts as he himself judged fit for publication should ever see the light; and a few days before his death, he gave effect to this resolution, by having all his papers committed to the flames, excepting some fragments of essays, intended to illustrate the principles that lead and direct philosophical inquiries, which he left to his friends to publish or not as they thought proper. The contents of the manuscripts that were destroyed are not exactly known; but they certainly comprised the course of lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres delivered at Edinburgh in 1748, and the lectures on jurisprudence and natural religion, which formed a most important part of the course of moral philosophy delivered at Glasgow. The loss of the latter must ever be a subject of deep regret, and is, in truth, one of the most serious which philosophy has to deplore. We are ignorant of the motives which led to their destruction; but Mr Stewart surmises that it was not so much on account of any apprehended injury to the author’s literary reputation from the publication of such unfinished works, as from an anxiety lest the progress of truth should be retarded by the statement of doctrines the proofs of which were not fully developed.
The following observations on the private character and habits of Smith proceed from the pen of Dugald Stewart, who knew him well, and who was the last survivor of that galaxy of illustrious men who shed, during the last century, so imperishable a glory over the literature of Scotland. “The more delicate and characteristical features of his mind,” Stewart observes, “it is perhaps impossible to trace. That there are many peculiarities, both in his manners and in his intellectual habits, was manifest to the most superficial observer; but although, to those who knew him, these peculiarities detracted nothing from the respect which his abilities commanded; and although, to his intimate friends, they added an inexpressible charm to his conversation, while they displayed, in the most interesting light, the artless simplicity of his heart; yet it would require a very skilful pencil to present them to the public eye. He was certainly not fitted for the general commerce of the world, or for the business of active life. The comprehensive speculations with which he had been occupied from his youth, and the variety of materials which his own invention continually supplied to his thoughts, rendered him habitually inattentive to familiar objects, and to common occurrences; and he frequently exhibited instances of absence, which had scarcely been surpassed by the fancy of La Bruyere.1 Even in company he was apt to be engrossed with his studies; and appeared at times, by the motion of his lips, as well as by his looks and gestures, to be in the fervour of composition. I have often, however, been struck, at the distance of years, with his accurate memory of the most trifling particulars; and am inclined to believe, from this and some other circumstances, that he possessed a power, not perhaps uncommon among absent men, of recollecting, in consequence of subsequent efforts of reflection, many occurrences which, at the time when they happened, did not seem to have sensibly attracted his notice.
“To the defect now mentioned, it was probably owing, in part, that he did not fall in easily with the common dialogue of conversation, and that he was somewhat apt to convey his own ideas in the form of a lecture. When he did so, however, it never proceeded from a wish to engross the discourse, or to gratify his vanity. His own inclination disposed him so strongly to enjoy in silence the gaiety of those around him, that his friends were often led to concert little schemes, in order to engage him in the discussions most likely to interest him. Nor do I think I shall be accused of going too far when I say, that he was scarcely ever known to start a new topic himself, or to appear unprepared upon those topics that were introduced by others. Indeed, his conversation was never more amusing than when he gave a loose to his genius upon the very few branches of knowledge of which he only possessed the outlines.
“The opinions he formed of men, upon a slight acquaintance, were frequently erroneous; but the tendency of his nature inclined him much more to blind partiality than to ill-founded prejudice. The enlarged views of human affairs, on which his mind habitually dwelt, left him neither time nor inclination to study, in detail, the uninteresting peculiarities of ordinary characters; and accordingly, though intimately acquainted with the capacities of the intellect, and the workings of the heart, and accustomed, in his theories, to mark, with the most delicate hand, the nicest shades, both of genius and of the passions; yet, in judging of individuals, it sometimes happened that his estimates were, in a surprising degree, wide of the truth.
“The opinions, too, which in the thoughtlessness and confidence of his social hours, he was accustomed to hazard on books, and on questions of speculation, were not uniformly such as might have been expected from the superiority of his understanding, and the singular consistency of his philosophical principles. They were liable to be influenced by accidental circumstances, and by the humour of the moment; and, when retailed by those who only saw him occasionally, suggested false and contradictory ideas of his real sentiments. On these, however, as on most other occasions, there was always much truth, as well as ingenuity, in his remarks; and if the different opinions which, at different times, he pronounced upon the same subject had been all combined together, so as to modify and limit each other, they would probably have afforded materials for a decision, equally comprehensive and just. But, in the society of his friends, he had no disposition to form those qualified conclusions that we admire in his writings; and he generally contented himself with a bold and masterly sketch of the object, from the first point of view in which his temper, or his fancy, presented it. Something of the same kind might be remarked, when he attempted, in the flow of his spirits, to delineate those characters which, from long intimacy, he might have been supposed to understand thoroughly. The picture was always lively and expressive, and commonly bore a strong and amusing resemblance to the original, when viewed under one particular aspect; but seldom, perhaps, conveyed a just and complete conception of it in all its dimensions and proportions. In a word, it was the fault of his unpremeditated judgment to be too systematical, and too much in extremes.
“But, in whatever way these trifling peculiarities in his manners may be explained, there can be no doubt that they were intimately connected with the genuine artlessness of his mind. In this amiable quality, he often recalled to his friends the accounts that are given of good La Fontaine; a quality which in him derived a peculiar grace from the singularity of its combination with those powers of reason and of eloquence, which, in his political and moral writings, have long engaged the admiration of Europe.
“In his external form and appearance there was nothing uncommon. When perfectly at ease, and when warmed with conversation, his gestures were animated, and not ungraceful; and, in the society of those he loved, his features were often brightened with a smile of inexpressible benignity. In the company of strangers, his tendency to absence, and perhaps still more his consciousness of this tendency, rendered his manner somewhat embarrassed;—an effect which was probably not a little heightened by those speculative ideas of propriety, which his recluse habits tended at once to perfect in his conception, and to diminish his power of realising. He never sat for his picture; but the medallion of Tassie conveys an exact idea of his profile, and of the general expression of his countenance.”
The following is a list of the published works of Dr Smith:—
1. Two articles in the “Edinburgh Review” for 1755, being (1) a Review of “Johnson’s English Dictionary;” and (2) “A Letter to the Editors.”
2. “Theory of Moral Sentiments.” The first edition of this work was published in 8vo, early in 1759. The sixth edition was published a short time before the author’s death. It contains several additions, most of which were executed during his last illness.
3. “Considerations concerning the first Formation of Languages, and the different Genius of Original and Compounded Languages.”
This essay was originally subjoined to the first edition of the “Moral Sentiments.” It is an ingenious and pretty successful attempt to explain the formation and progress of language, by means of that species of investigation to which Dugald Stewart has given the appropriate name of Theoretical or Conjectural History; and which consists in endeavouring to trace the progress and vicissitudes of any art or science, partly from such historical facts as have reference to it, and, where facts are wanting, from inferences derived from considering what would be the most natural and probable conduct of mankind under the circumstances supposed.
4. “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” The first edition was published at London in 1776, in two volumes 4to. The fourth edition, which was the last revised by the author, appeared, in three volumes 8vo, in 1786.
5. His posthumous works, or those which he exempted from the general destruction of his manuscripts, and which were published by his friends, Doctors Black and Hutton. These gentlemen, in an advertisement prefixed to the publication, state that, when the papers which Dr Smith had left in their hands were examined, “the greater number appeared to be parts of a plan he once had formed for giving a connected history of the liberal sciences and elegant arts.” “It is long,” they add, “since he found it necessary to abandon that plan, as far too extensive; and these parts of it lay beside him neglected until his death. The reader will find in them that happy connection, that full and accurate expression, and that clear illustration, which are conspicuous in the rest of his works; and though it is difficult to add much to the great fame he so justly acquired by his other writings, these will be read with satisfaction and pleasure.” The papers in question comprise,—I. Fragments of a great work “On the Principles which lead and direct Philosophical Inquiries, illustrated—(1) by the History of Astronomy; (2) by the History of the Ancient Physics; and (3) by the History of the Ancient Logics and Metaphysics.” II. An essay entitled, “Of the Nature of that Imitation which takes place in what are called the Imitative Arts.” III. A short tract, “Of the Affinity between certain English and Italian Verses.” IV. A disquisition, “Of the External Senses.”
Of the historical dissertations, the first only, on the “History of Astronomy,” seems to be nearly complete. They are all written on the plan of the dissertation on the “Formation of Languages,” being partly theoretical, and partly founded on fact. In the essay on the “History of Astronomy,” after premising some acute and ingenious speculations with respect to the effects of unexpectedness and surprise, and of wonder and novelty, the author proceeds to give a brief outline of the different astronomical systems, from the earliest ages down to that of Newton.
The fragments that remain of the other two historical essays are much less complete, and do not possess the interest of the former.
Dr Smith contends, in the essay on the “Imitative Arts,” that the pleasure derived from them depends principally upon the difficulty of the imitation, or, as he has expressed it, “upon our wonder at seeing an object of one kind represent so well an object of a very different kind, and upon our admiration of the art which surmounts so happily that disparity which nature had established between them.”1 On this principle he explained the preference so generally given in tragedy to blank verse over prose; and Stewart mentions that, for the same reason, he was inclined to prefer rhyme in tragedy to blank verse, and that he extended the same principle to comedy; and even went so far as to regret that those graphic delineations of real life and manners, exhibited on the English stage, had not been subjected to the fetters of rhyme, and executed in the manner of the French school. His theoretical conclusions on this curious topic of speculation were confirmed by the admiration he entertained for the great dramatic authors of France—an admiration that was heightened in no small degree when he saw their chefs-d’œuvre represented on the stage.
The short essay, “Of the Affinity between certain English and Italian Verses,” is curious rather than valuable. It affords a curious illustration of the variety of the author’s literary pursuits.
The disquisition with respect to the “External Senses” is of considerable extent. It embraces some ingenious discussions; and is a valuable contribution to the science of which it treats.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF DAVID RICARDO, ESQ., M.P.
Mr Ricardo was placed, in early life, under circumstances apparently the least favourable for the formation of those habits of patient and comprehensive investigation, which afterwards raised him to a high rank among political philosophers.
He was the third of a numerous family, and was born on the 19th of April 1772. His father, a native of Holland, and of the Jewish persuasion, settled in this country early in life. He is said to have been a man of good talents, and of the strictest integrity; and, having become a member of the Stock Exchange, he acquired a respectable fortune, and possessed considerable influence in his circle. David, the subject of the present memoir, was destined for the same line of business as his father; and received, partly in England, and partly at a school in Holland, where he resided two years, such an education as is usually given to young men intended for the mercantile profession. Classical learning formed no part of his early instruction; and it has been questioned, with how much justice we shall not undertake to decide, whether its acquisition would have done him service; and whether it might not probably have made him seek for relaxation in the study of elegant literature, rather than in the severer exercises of the understanding, and prompted him to adopt opinions sanctioned by authority, without inquiring very anxiously into the grounds on which they rested.
Mr Ricardo began to be confidentially employed by his father in the business of the Stock Exchange when he was only fourteen years of age. Neither then, however, nor at any subsequent period, was he wholly engrossed by the details of his profession. From his earliest years he evinced a taste for abstract reasoning; and manifested that determination to probe every subject of interest to the bottom, and to form his opinion upon it according to the conviction of his mind, which was a distinguishing feature of his character.
Mr Ricardo, senior, had been accustomed to subscribe, without investigation, to the opinions of his ancestors on all questions connected with religion and politics, and he was desirous that his children should do the same. But this system of passive obedience, and of blind submission to the dictates of authority, was quite repugnant to the principles of young Ricardo, who, though he did not fail to testify the sincerest affection and respect for his father, found reason to differ from him on many important points, and even to secede from the Hebrew faith.
Not long after this event, and shortly after he had attained the age of majority, Mr Ricardo formed a matrimonial union, productive of unalloyed domestic happiness. Having been separated from his father, he was now thrown on his own resources, and commenced business for himself. At this important epoch of his history, the oldest and most respectable members of the Stock Exchange gave a striking proof of the esteem entertained by them for his talents and character, by voluntarily coming forward to support him in his undertakings. His success exceeded the most sanguine expectations of his friends; and in a few years he realised an ample fortune.
“The talent for obtaining wealth,” says one of Mr Ricardo’s near relations, from whose account of his life we have borrowed these particulars, “is not held in much estimation; but perhaps in nothing did Mr R. more evince his extraordinary powers than he did in his business. His complete knowledge of all its intricacies,—his surprising quickness at figures and calculation,—his capability of getting through, without any apparent exertion, the immense transactions in which he was concerned,—his coolness and judgment, combined certainly with (for him) a fortunate tissue of public events,—enabled him to leave all his contemporaries at the Stock Exchange far behind, and to raise himself infinitely higher, not only in fortune, but in general character and estimation, than any man had ever done before in that house. Such was the impression which these qualities had made on his competitors, that several of the most discerning among them, long before he had emerged into public notoriety, prognosticated in their admiration that he would live to fill some of the highest stations in the state.”1
According as his solicitude about his success in life declined, Ricardo devoted a greater portion of his time to scientific and literary pursuits. When about twenty-five years of age, he began the study of some branches of mathematical science, and made considerable progress in chemistry and mineralogy. He fitted up a laboratory, formed a collection of minerals, and was one of the original members of the Geological Society. But he never entered warmly into the study of these sciences. They were not adapted to the peculiar cast of his mind; and he abandoned them entirely, as soon as his attention was directed to the more congenial study of Political Economy.
He is stated to have become acquainted, for the first time, with the “Wealth of Nations” in 1799, while on a visit at Bath. He was highly gratified by its perusal; and it is most probable that the inquiries about which it is conversant continued henceforth to engage a considerable share of his attention, though it was not till a later period that his spare time was almost exclusively occupied with their study.
Ricardo made his first appearance as an author in 1809. The rise in the market price of bullion, and the fall of the exchange, which had taken place in the course of that year, excited a good deal of attention. Ricardo applied himself to the consideration of the subject; and the studies in which he had latterly been engaged, combined with the experience he had derived from his moneyed transactions, not only enabled him to perceive the true causes of the phenomena in question, but to trace and exhibit their practical bearing and real effect. He began this investigation without intending to lay the result of his researches before the public. But having shown his manuscript to the late Mr Perry, the proprietor and editor of the “Morning Chronicle,” the latter prevailed upon him, though not without considerable difficulty, to consent to its publication, in the shape of letters, in that journal. The first of these appeared on the 6th of September 1809. They made a considerable impression, and elicited various answers. This success, and the increasing interest of the subject, induced him to commit his opinions upon it to the judgment of the public, in a more enlarged and systematic form, in the tract entitled, “The High Price of Bullion a Proof of the Depreciation of Bank Notes,” which led the way in the far-famed bullion controversy. It issued from the press several months previously to the appointment of the Bullion Committee, and is believed to have had no inconsiderable effect in forwarding that important measure. In this tract Mr Ricardo showed that redundancy and deficiency of currency are only relative terms; and that, so long as the currency of any particular country consists exclusively of gold and silver coins, or of paper immediately convertible into such coins, its value can neither rise above nor fall below the value of the metallic currencies of other countries, by a greater sum than will suffice to defray the expense of importing foreign coin or bullion, if the currency be deficient; or of exporting a portion of the existing supply, if it be redundant. But when a country issues inconvertible paper notes (as was then the case in England), they cannot be exported to other countries in the event of their becoming redundant at home; and whenever, under such circumstances, the exchange with foreign states is depressed below, or the price of bullion rises above, its mint price, more than the cost of sending coin or bullion abroad, it shows conclusively that too much paper has been issued, and that its value is depreciated from excess. The principles which pervade the “Report of the Bullion Committee” are substantially the same with those established by Ricardo in this pamphlet. But the more comprehensive and popular manner in which they are illustrated in the Report, and the circumstance of their being recommended by a committee comprising some of the ablest men in the country, gave them a weight and authority which they could not otherwise have obtained. And though the prejudices and ignorance of some, and the interested, and therefore determined, opposition of others, prevented for a while the adoption of the measures proposed by Ricardo and the committee for restoring the currency to a sound and healthy state, they were afterwards carried into full effect; and afford one of the most memorable examples in our history of the triumph of principle over selfishness, sophistry, and error.
The fourth edition of this tract is the most valuable. An Appendix added to it has some observations on certain disputed questions in the theory of exchange; and it also contains the first germ of the original idea of making bank notes exchangeable for bars of gold bullion.
Among those who entered the lists in opposition to the principles laid down, and the practical measures suggested in this tract, and in the Report of the Bullion Committee, a prominent place is due to Mr Bosanquet. This gentleman had great experience as a merchant; and as he professed that the statements and conclusions embodied in his “Practical Observations,” which are completely at variance with those in the Report, were the result of a careful examination of the theoretical opinions of the Committee by the test of fact and experiment, they were well fitted to make, and did make, a very considerable impression. The triumph of Mr Bosanquet was, however, of very short duration. Mr Ricardo did not hesitate to attack this formidable adversary in his stronghold. His tract, entitled “Reply to Mr Bosanquet’s Practical Observations on the Report of the Bullion Committee,” was published in 1811, and is one of the best essays that has appeared on any disputed question of Political Economy. In this pamphlet, Ricardo met Bosanquet on his own ground, and overthrew him with his own weapons. He examined the proofs which the latter had brought forward, of the pretended discrepancy between the facts stated in his own tract, which he said were consistent with experience, and the theory laid down in the Bullion Report; and showed that Mr Bosanquet had either mistaken the cases by which he proposed to test the theory, or that the discrepancy was apparent only, and was entirely a consequence of his inability to apply the theory, and not of anything erroneous or deficient in it. The victory of Ricardo was perfect and complete; and the elaborate errors and misstatements of Bosanquet served only, in the words of Dr Coppleston, “to illustrate the abilities of the writer who stepped forward to vindicate the truth.”1
This tract affords a striking example of the ascendancy which those who possess a knowledge both of principle and practice, have over those who are familiar only with the latter. And though the interest of the question which led to its publication has subsided, it will always be read with delight by such as are not insensible of the high gratification which all ingenuous minds must feel in observing the ease with which a superior intellect clears away the irrelevant matter with which a question has been designedly embarrassed, reduces false facts to their just value, and traces and exhibits the constant operation of the same general principle through all the mazy intricacies of practical detail.
The merit of these pamphlets was duly appreciated; and Mr Ricardo’s society was, in consequence, courted by men of the first eminence, who were not less pleased with his modesty and unassuming manners, than with the vigour of his understanding. He formed, about this time, an intimacy with Mr Malthus, and Mr Mill, the historian of British India, which ended only with his death. To the latter he was particularly attached, and readily acknowledged how much he owed to his friendship.
Mr Ricardo next appeared as an author in 1815, during the discussions on the bill, afterwards passed into a law, for raising the limit at which foreign corn might be imported for consumption, to 80s. Malthus, and a “Fellow of University College, Oxford” (afterwards Sir Edward West), had, by a curious coincidence, in tracts published almost consentaneously, elucidated the true theory of rent, which, though fully explained by Dr Anderson as early as 1777, appears to have been entirely forgotten. But neither of these gentlemen perceived the bearing of the theory on the question in regard to the restriction of the importation of foreign corn. This was reserved for Ricardo, who, in his “Essay on the Influence of a Low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock,” showed the effect of an increase in the price of raw produce on wages and profits; and founded a cogent argument in favour of the freedom of the corn trade, on the very grounds on which Malthus had endeavoured to show the propriety of subjecting it to fresh restrictions.
In 1816, Mr Ricardo published his “Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency, with Observations on the Profits of the Bank of England.” In this pamphlet he examined the circumstances which determine the value of money, when every individual has the power to supply it, and when that power is restricted or placed under a monopoly; and he showed that, in the former case, its value will depend, like that of all other freely supplied articles, on its cost; while, in the latter, it will be unaffected by that circumstance, and will depend on the extent to which it may be issued compared with the demand. This is a principle of great importance; for it shows that intrinsic worth is not necessary to a currency, and that, provided the supply of paper notes, declared to be legal tender, be sufficiently limited, their value may be maintained on a par with the value of gold, or raised to any higher level. If, therefore, it were practicable to devise a plan for preserving the value of paper on a level with that of gold, without making it convertible into coin at the pleasure of the holder, the heavy expense of a metallic currency would be saved. To effect this desirable object, Ricardo proposed that, instead of being made exchangeable for gold coins, bank notes should be made exchangeable for bars of gold bullion of the standard weight and purity. This plan, than which nothing can be more simple, was obviously fitted to check the over-issue of paper quite as effectually as it is checked by making it convertible into coin; while, as bars could not be used as currency, it prevented any gold from getting into circulation, and, consequently, saved the expense of coinage, and the wear and tear and loss of coins. It was recommended by the Committees of the Houses of Lords and Commons appointed, in 1819, to consider the expediency of the Bank of England resuming cash payments; and was adopted in the bill for their resumption introduced by Sir Robert Peel. In practice it was found completely to answer the object of checking over-issue. Inasmuch, however, as it required that the place of sovereigns should be filled with one pound notes, the forgery of the latter began to be extensively carried on. And it was wisely judged better to incur the expense of recurring to and keeping up a mixed currency, than to continue a plan which, though productive of a large saving, held out an all but irresistible temptation to crime.
In 1817, Mr Ricardo published his great work on the “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.” This was a step which he did not take without much hesitation. He was not, and did not affect to be, insensible of the value of literary and philosophical reputation; but his modesty always led him to undervalue his own powers; and having acquired a high degree of celebrity as a writer on currency, he was unwilling to risk what he already possessed, by attempting to gain more. Ultimately, however, he was prevailed upon, by the entreaties of his friends, to allow his work to be sent to press. Its appearance forms a memorable æra in the history of political science. Exclusive of many valuable subsidiary inquiries, he has pointed out, in this work, the source and limiting principle of exchangeable value, and has traced the laws which determine the distribution of wealth among the various ranks and orders of society. The powers of mind displayed in these investigations, the dexterity with which the most abstruse questions are unravelled, the sagacity displayed in tracing the operation of general principles, in disentangling them from such as are of a secondary and accidental nature, and in perceiving and estimating their remote consequences, have never been surpassed; and will secure the name of Ricardo a permanent place among those who have done most to unfold the mechanism of society, and to discover the circumstances on which the well-being of its various orders must always mainly depend.
The principle, that the exchangeable value of commodities, or their worth as compared with each other, depends on the quantities of labour necessarily required to produce them and bring them to market, is fully established in this work. Adam Smith had shown that this principle determines the value of commodities in the earlier stages of society, before land is appropriated and capital accumulated; but he supposed that, after land has become property and rent begins to be paid, and after capital has been amassed and workmen are hired by capitalists, the value of commodities fluctuates not only according to variations in the labour required to produce and bring them to market, but also according to variations of rents and wages. Ricardo, however, has shown that this theory is erroneous, and that the value of commodities is determined, in all states of society, by the same principle, or by the quantities of labour required for their production. He has shown that variations of profits or wages, by affecting different commodities to the same, or nearly the same extent, would either have no influence over their exchangeable value, or, if they had any, it would depend upon the degree in which they occasionally affect some products more than others. And Dr Anderson and others having already shown that rent is not an element of cost or value, it follows that the cost or value of all freely produced commodities, the supply of which may be indefinitely increased (abstracting from temporary variations of supply and demand), depends wholly on the quantities of labour required for their production, and not upon the rate at which that labour may be paid; so that, supposing the labour required to produce any number of commodities to remain constant, their cost and value will also remain constant, whether wages fall from 3s. to 1s., or rise from 3s. to 5s. or 7s. a-day. This is the fundamental theorem of the science of value, and the clue which unravels the intricate labyrinth of the laws which regulate the distribution of wealth. Its discovery has shed a flood of light on what was previously shrouded in all but impenetrable mystery; and the knotty and formerly insoluble questions regarding the action of wages and profits on each other and on prices, have since ceased to present any insuperable difficulties. What the researches of Locke and Smith did for the production of wealth, those of Ricardo have done for its value and distribution.
The establishment of general principles being Ricardo’s great object, he has paid comparatively little attention to their practical application, and sometimes, indeed, he has in great measure overlooked the circumstances by which they are occasionally countervailed. In illustration of this we may mention, that society being laid under the necessity of constantly resorting to inferior soils to obtain additional supplies of food, he lays it down that, in the progress of society, raw produce and wages have a constant tendency to rise and profits to fall. And this, no doubt, is in the abstract true. But it must at the same time be observed, that if on the one hand society be obliged constantly to resort to inferior soils, agriculture is on the other hand susceptible of indefinite improvement; and this improvement necessarily in so far countervails the decreasing fertility of the soil; and may, and in fact frequently does, more than countervail it. Ricardo has also very generally overlooked the influence of increased prices in diminishing consumption and stimulating industry, so that his conclusions, though true according to his assumptions, do not always harmonise with what really takes place. But his is not a practical work; and it did not enter into his plan to exhibit the circumstances which give rise to the discrepancies in question. The “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” is not even a systematic treatise, but is principally an inquiry respecting certain fundamental principles, most of which had previously been undiscovered. And though it be often exceedingly difficult, or it may be all but impossible, to estimate the extent to which these principles may in certain cases be modified by other principles and combinations of circumstances, it is obviously of the greatest importance to have ascertained their existence. They are so many land-marks to which to refer, and can never be lost sight of even in matters most essentially practical.
The portion of his work, in which Ricardo traces the incidence of taxes on rent, profit, wages, and raw produce, is more practical than the others; and should be carefully studied by those who wish to make themselves well acquainted with this department of political science.
Mr Ricardo had now become an extensive landed proprietor, and had wholly retired from business, with a fortune acquired with the universal respect and esteem of his competitors. But he did not retire from the bustle of active life, to the mere enjoyment of his acres. Non fuit consilium socordia atque desidia bonum otium conterere. He had other objects in view; and while his leisure hours, when in the country, were chiefly devoted to inquiries connected with that science, of which he was now confessedly at the head, he determined to extend the sphere of his usefulness, by entering the House of Commons. In 1819 he took his seat as member for Portarlington. His diffidence in his own powers had, however, nearly deprived the public of the services which he rendered in this situation. In a letter to one of his friends, dated the 7th of April 1819, he says—“You will have seen that I have taken my seat in the House of Commons. I fear that I shall be of little use there. I have twice attempted to speak; but I proceeded in the most embarrassed manner; and I have no hope of conquering the alarm with which I am assailed the moment I hear the sound of my own voice.” And in a letter to the same gentleman, dated the 22d of June 1819, he says,—“I thank you for your endeavours to inspire me with confidence on the occasion of my addressing the House. Their indulgent reception of me has, in some degree, made the task of speaking more easy to me; but there are yet so many formidable obstacles to my success, and some, I fear, of a nature nearly insurmountable, that I apprehend it will be wisdom and sound discretion in me to content myself with giving silent votes.” Fortunately he did not adopt this resolution. The difficulties with which he had at first to struggle, and his diffidence in himself, gradually subsided; while the mildness of his manners, the mastery which he possessed over the subjects on which he spoke, and the purity of his intentions, speedily secured him a very extensive influence both in the House and the country, and gave great weight to his opinions.
Mr Ricardo was not one of those who make speeches to suit the ephemeral circumstances and politics of the day; he spoke only from principle, and with a fixed resolution never to diverge in any degree from the path which it pointed out; he neither concealed nor modified an opinion for the purpose of conciliating the favour, or of disarming the prejudices or hostility, of any man or set of men; nor did he ever make a speech or give a vote which he was not well convinced was founded on just principles, and calculated to promote the lasting interests of the public. Trained to habits of profound thinking, independent in his fortune, and inflexible in his principles, Ricardo had little in common with mere party politicians. The public good was the grand object of his parliamentary exertions; and he laboured to promote it, not by engaging in party combinations, but by supporting the rights and liberties of all classes, and by unfolding the true sources of national wealth and general prosperity.
The change that has taken place in public opinion respecting the financial and commercial policy of the country, since the period when Ricardo obtained a seat in the House of Commons, is as complete as it is gratifying. Not only are the most enlarged principles advocated by all the leading members of both Houses; not only are they ready to admit that it is sound policy to admit free competition in every branch of industry, and to deal with all the world on a fair and liberal footing; but they have embodied these doctrines in the law of the land, and given them the sanction of parliamentary authority. Sir Robert Peel,1 at a vast personal sacrifice, and despite obstacles which none else could have overcome, carried out and established, in their fullest extent, the principles of commercial freedom developed by Smith and his followers. And that great statesman willingly admitted that the writings and speeches of Ricardo had contributed in no ordinary degree to pave the way for this desirable consummation. As he was known to be a master of economical science, his opinion, from the moment he entered the House of Commons, was referred to on all important occasions.2 And he acquired additional influence and consideration, according as experience served to render the House and the country better acquainted with his talents, and his singleness of purpose.
In 1820, Ricardo contributed an article on the “Funding System,” to the Supplement to the “Encyclopædia Britannica.” This tract, though confused in its arrangement, and in many respects defective, embraces some valuable discussions. He was a decided friend to the plan for raising the supplies for a war within the year, by an equivalent increase of taxation. And he also thought (in which opinion few probably will be disposed to concur) that it would be not only expedient but practicable to pay off the public debt by an assessment on capital.
In 1822, Ricardo published, during the parliamentary discussions on the subject of the corn laws, his tract on “Protection to Agriculture.” This is the best of all his pamphlets, and is, indeed, a chef-d’œuvre. The questions respecting remunerating price, the influence of a low and high value of corn over wages and profits, the influence of taxation over agriculture and manufactures, and many other topics of equal difficulty and interest, are all discussed in the short compass of eighty or ninety pages, with a precision and clearness that leaves nothing to be desired. Had he never written anything else, this pamphlet would have placed Ricardo in the first rank of political economists.
In this tract, Mr Ricardo explained his views in regard to the proposal, which he supported, of opening the ports to the free importation of corn under a fixed duty, accompanied with a nearly corresponding drawback. These he held to be necessary to countervail the peculiar burdens falling on the land, of the existence and pressure of which he had no doubt whatever. Conformably to this principle, he proposed that a duty of 20s. a-quarter should be laid on wheat (and proportionally on other grain), to be diminished by 1s. a-year till it was reduced to 10s., when it should become permanent; and that the accompanying drawback should be 7s. a-quarter. He adds, “10s. is, I am sure, rather too high as a countervailing duty for the peculiar taxes which are imposed on the corn-grower, over and above those which are imposed on the other classes of producers in the country; but I would rather err on the side of a liberal allowance than of a scanty one; and it is for this reason that I do not propose to allow a drawback quite equal to the duty.”1
In farther illustration of this statement, we may mention, that in a letter,2 which the author of this work had the honour to receive from Mr Ricardo, about a year previously to the publication of the tract now referred to, he expressed himself as follows, viz.:—“Your observations on the Report of the Agricultural Committee (of 1821) are excellent. I fought hard against the principle of the first passage which you quote, but without success. Mr Huskisson did not himself quite agree with its correctness. But the difference between him and me is this: he would uphold agriculture permanently up to its present height; I would reduce it gradually to the level at which it would have been if the trade had been free; for I should call the trade free, if wheat were subject to a permanent duty of 8s. a-quarter, to countervail the peculiar taxes to which land is subject.”
There cannot, therefore, be any doubt in regard to Mr Ricardo’s opinion respecting the proper course to be followed in dealing with the late corn laws. Had he lived to take part in the debates in 1846, there is every probability that he would have supported the measures which were then taken for their abolition. But he would not have done this from a conviction that they were really just and fair to all classes, but because, in addition to their being highly expedient in a general point of view, they had become imperatively necessary in the peculiar circumstances under which the failure of the potato crop had placed the country.1
Though not robust, Mr Ricardo’s constitution was apparently good, and his health such as to promise a long life of usefulness. He had, indeed, been subject for several years to an affection in one of his ears; but as it had not given him any serious inconvenience, he paid it but little attention. When he retired to his seat in Gloucestershire (Gatcomb Park), subsequently to the close of the session of 1823, he was in excellent health and spirits; and, besides completing a tract containing a plan for the establishment of a National Bank, he engaged, with his usual ardour, in elaborate inquiries regarding some of the more abstruse economical doctrines. But he was not destined to bring these inquiries to a close! Early in September he was suddenly seized with a violent pain in the diseased ear. The symptoms were not, however, considered unfavourable; and the breaking of an imposthume that had been formed within the ear contributed greatly to his relief. But the amendment was only transitory. Within two days, inflammation recommenced; and, after a period of the greatest agony, pressure on the brain ensued, which produced a stupor, that continued until death terminated his sufferings, on the 11th September, in his fifty-second year.
In private life, Ricardo was most amiable. He was an indulgent father and husband, and an affectionate and zealous friend. No man could be more thoroughly free from every species of artifice and pretension, more sincere, plain, and unassuming. He was particularly fond of assembling intelligent men around him, and of conversing in the most unrestrained manner on all topics of interest, but more especially on those connected with his favourite science. On these, as on all occasions, he readily gave way to others, and never discovered the least impatience to speak; but when he did speak, the solidity of his judgment, his candour, and his extraordinary talent for resolving a question into its elements, and for setting the most difficult and complicated subjects in the clearest light, arrested the attention of every one, and delighted all who heard him. He never entered into an argument, whether in public or private, for the sake of displaying ingenuity, baffling an opponent, or gaining a victory. The discovery of truth was his exclusive object. He was ever open to conviction. And if he were satisfied he had either advanced or supported an erroneous opinion, he was the first to acknowledge his error, and to caution others against it.
Few men have possessed in a higher degree than Mr Ricardo, the talent of speaking and conversing with clearness and facility on the abstrusest topics. In this respect, his speeches were greatly superior to his publications. The latter cannot be readily understood and followed without considerable attention; but nothing could exceed the skill and felicity with which he illustrated and explained the most difficult questions of Political Economy, both in private conversation and in his speeches. Without being forcible, his style of speaking was easy, fluent, and agreeable. It was impossible to take him off his guard. To those who were not familiar with his speculations, some of his positions were apt to appear paradoxical; but the paradox was only in appearance. He rarely advanced an opinion on which he had not deeply reflected, and without examining it in every point of view. And the readiness with which he overthrew the most specious objections that the ablest men in the House could make to his doctrines, is the best proof of their correctness, and of the superiority of his understanding. That there were greater orators, and men of more varied and general acquirements, in Parliament than Ricardo, we readily allow; but we are bold to say, that in point of deep, clear, and comprehensive intellect, he had no superiors, and very few, if any, equals, either in Parliament or in the country.
Not less generous than intelligent, he was never slow to come forward to the relief of the poor and the distressed; and while he contributed to almost every charitable institution in the metropolis, he supported, at his own expense, an alms-house for the poor, and two schools for the instruction of the young, in the vicinity of his seat in the country.
Besides the publications previously enumerated, he left one or two manuscripts. Among others a “Plan for the Establishment of a National Bank” was found in a finished state, and was soon after published.
He also left “Notes” on Mr Malthus’s Principles of Political Economy; containing a vindication of his own doctrines from the objections of Malthus, and showing the mistakes into which he conceives the latter had fallen. But we doubt whether they have sufficient interest to warrant their publication. The truth is, that Mr Malthus never had any clear perception of Mr Ricardo’s peculiar doctrines, nor was he very successful in elucidating his own. Mr Ricardo refers as follows, in one of his letters, to Malthus’ tract on the “Measure of Value,” published in 1823:—“Have you seen Malthus’ book on the ‘Measure of Value’? His arguments appear to me fallacious from beginning to end. He would have done much better to rest his defence of the standard he has chosen upon the old arguments in its favour, which I think unsatisfactory. But those which he now uses are delusive, and scarcely to be understood.”
Though not properly belonging to the Whig party, Ricardo voted almost uniformly with the Opposition. He was impressed with the conviction that many advantages would result from giving the people a greater influence over the choice of their representatives in the House of Commons than they then possessed; and he was so far a friend to the system of the radical reformers, as to give his cordial support to the plan of voting by ballot; which he considered as the best means for securing the mass of the electors against improper solicitations, and for enabling them to vote in favour of the candidates whom they really approved. He did not, however, agree with the radical reformers in their plan of universal suffrage. He thought the elective franchise should be given to all who possessed a certain amount of property; but he was of opinion, that while it would be a very hazardous experiment, no practical good would result from giving the franchise indiscriminately to all. His opinions on these subjects are fully stated in the “Essay on Parliamentary Reform,” and in the “Speech on the Ballot,” in the collected edition of his works.
Of the value of the services which he rendered to Political Economy, there can be, among intelligent men, only one opinion. His works have made a large addition to the mass of useful and universally interesting truths, and afford some of the finest examples to be met with of discriminating analysis, and of profound and refined discussion. The brevity with which he has stated some of his most important propositions; their intimate dependence on each other; the fewness of his illustrations; and the mathematical cast he has given to his reasoning, render it sometimes a little difficult for readers, unaccustomed to such investigations, readily to follow him. But we can venture to affirm, that those who will give to his works the attention of which they are so worthy, will find them to be as logical and conclusive as they are profound and important. It was the opinion of Quintilian, that the students of eloquence who were highly delighted with Cicero, had made no inconsiderable progress in their art; and the same may, without hesitation, be said of the students of Political Economy who find pleasure in the works of Ricardo: Ille se profecisse sciat, cui Ricardo valde placebit.
When the circumstances under which he spent the greater part of his life are brought under view; and when it is also recollected that he died at the early age of fifty-one, it may be truly said that very few have achieved so much. His industry was as remarkable as his sagacity and his candour.
“The History of Mr Ricardo,” to use the words of Mr Mill, “holds out a bright and inspiring example. Mr Ricardo had everything to do for himself; and he did everything. Let not the generous youth, whose aspirations are higher than his circumstances, despair of attaining either the highest intellectual excellence, or the highest influence on the welfare of his species, when he recollects in what circumstances Mr Ricardo opened, and in what he closed, his memorable life. He had his fortune to make; his mind to form; he had even his education to commence and conduct. In a field of the most intense competition, he realised a large fortune, with the universal esteem and affection of those who could best judge of the honour and purity of his acts. Amid this scene of active exertion and practical detail, he cultivated and he acquired habits of intense, and patient, and comprehensive thinking; such as have been rarely equalled, and never excelled.”
[1 ] Born in 1441.
[1 ] Robertson has given an admirable account of this famous voyage in the History of America, Book ii. Burke has noticed it in the most masterly manner, in his account of the European Settlements in America, vol. i. cap. 1. And it has exercised the pens of Irving and a host of others.
[2 ] One of the earliest and most efficient promoters of Portuguese discovery.
[1 ] Taxation no Tyranny.
[1 ] We may truly say wild, for the horse, the ox, the sheep, and the hog have all been carried to America.
[2 ] Vattel, § 209.
[3 ] It has sometimes been attempted to acquire an indisputable title to lands in America and elsewhere by purchasing them from the natives. But no just title can be obtained in this way unless both parties be fully aware of what they are about; and this is never the case with the parties to the transactions in question. When the Indians of America or of the islands in the Pacific Ocean engage to exchange large tracts of land for a few gallons of rum or pounds of tobacco, they have no clear idea of what they are pledging themselves to give away. In fact, they are in great measure strangers to the right of property in land. The whites are fully aware of this; and the transaction is, on their part, a mere fraud; a pettifogging trick by which they hope to gloss over proceedings which they believe to be unjustifiable.
[1 ] Prescott’s “Mexico,” i. pp. 57, 65, 491, etc., ed. 1849. The Mexicans were in so far cannibals that they devoured the flesh of the human victims offered in sacrifice. And it really matters little (though Mr Prescott be of a different opinion) whether they did this to gratify a brutish appetite or in obedience to their religion.
[2 ] Prescott’s “Peru,” i. p. 30, ed. 1848.
[1 ] Richesse de la Hollande, i. 26.
[1 ] But, despite its extent and importance, the magnitude of the Dutch herring-fishery has been grossly exaggerated. According to the statements in the treatise on “Trade and Commerce” (Birch’s edition, ii. 130), ascribed to Sir Walter Raleigh, and in the “True Interest of Holland,” (Eng. Trans. p. 24), it would appear as if more than a half of the full-grown male inhabitants of Holland had been engaged in the herring trade! And yet these statements, which carry absurdity on their face, have been copied over and over again by writers of authority, as if their accuracy could not be questioned. We may observe that the “True Interest of Holland,” now referred to, was not written, as is commonly supposed, by the eminent statesman, John de Witt, but by his friend, M. Delacourt. It originally appeared in 1667.—See Literature of Political Economy, p. 353.
[2 ] From smeeren, to melt, and berg, a mountain.
[3 ] Bernard de Reste, “Histoire des Pêches,” i. pp. 39-61.
[1 ] Rymer’s “Fœdera,” iii. 771.
[1 ] The antiquity of the houses of Bourbon, Hapsburgh, and Brunswick, is perhaps equal to that of the house of Orange, and they are greatly superior to it in the magnitude of their dominions; but in every other respect they are its inferiors. To have been the principal instruments in rescuing Holland from the despotism of Old Spain, and in the deliverance of England from the tyranny of the Stuarts, is the peculiar distinction of the princes of the house of Orange, and reflects more true glory upon them than they could have derived from the most extensive conquests. There is no single family to whom the civilised world is so largely indebted.
[1 ] See Essay on the History of the Hanseatic League.
[2 ] Descrizzione di Paesi Basse. Antwerp, 1567, folio.
[1 ] “Observations touching Trade and Commerce with the Hollander.”—Miscel. Works, vol. ii. p. 117, Birch’s ed.
[1 ] Tome i. p. 376.
[2 ] Commerce de la Hollande, tom. i. p. 212.
[1 ] Macpherson’s Annals of Commerce, anno 1701.
[1 ] The Dissertation was translated into English, and published at London in 1751. We have quoted from the translation, pp. 12-15.
[1 ] Dissertation, pp. 27, 28.
[1 ] Dictionnaire de l’Economie Politique, tom. iii. p. 720.
[2 ] Tom. ii. p. 292.
[1 ] Encyclopédie Méthodique, Commerce, t. ii. p. 650.
[1 ] Eastern Archipelago, vol. iii. p. 388. See also Temminck, “Possessions Neerlandaises dans l’Inde Archipelagique,” iii. pp. 202-211, where the enormities of the system are pointed out more in detail.
[1 ] Temminck, iii. 209, etc.
[1 ] Sometimes to effect this object, they destroyed large quantities of spice.
[2 ] Crawfurd’s “Eastern Archipelago,” vol. iii. p. 363.
[3 ] “True Interest of Holland,” p. 27. Lond. 1745.
[4 ] Crawfurd’s “Eastern Archipelago,” vol. iii. p. 259.
[1 ] For an account of the constitution, etc., of the Dutch East India Company, see Ricard, “Traité General du Commerce,” i. pp. 37-50, 4to, 1781.
[1 ] Page 132.
[1 ] See the interesting work, entitled “Histoire des Peches, etc., dans les Mers du Nord,” tom. i. cap. 24.
[1 ] Vindication of Commerce and the Arts, p. 90.
[1 ] Catteau, “Tableau de la Mer Baltique,” tom. ii. p. 175.
[1 ] L’Art de vérifier les Dates, 3me partie, tom. viii. p. 204.
[1 ] A series of resolutions were unanimously agreed to by the merchants frequenting the port of Wisby, one of the principal emporiums of the League, in 1287, providing for the restoration of shipwrecked property to its original owners, and threatening to eject from the “consodalitate mercatorum” any city that did not act conformably to the regulations laid down.
[1 ] Coxe’s “Travels in the North of Europe,” vol. ii. p. 80.
[1 ] Anderson’s Hist. Com. Anno 1474, etc.
[1 ] Hist. of America, vol. i. p. 47, 8vo ed. Sismondi has adopted the same theory, ante, p. 316.
[2 ] Macpherson’s Annals of Commerce, anno 1200; Rees’s “Cyclopædia,” art. “Compass,” etc. Capmany, p. 89, etc.
[3 ] Questiones Criticas, p. 73-132.
[4 ] De Contemplatione.
[1 ] See the authorities already referred to, and Azuni, “Dissertation sur l’Origine de la Boussole,” pp. 134-143.
[2 ] Storia della Letteratura Italiana, iv. 209, 4to, 1788.
[3 ] Andres, Progressi, etc., d’Ogni Letteratura, i. pp. 237-246, 4to, 1808. Capmany has animadverted on his statements in the “Questiones Criticas,” pp. 79-82.
[1 ] Davis’s Chinese, p. 277, ed. 1840.
[2 ] Capmany, p. 76, etc. The learned Mr Forster, who is anything but disinclined to underrate the obligations we are under to the Arabs, admits that they were ignorant of the compass.—Mahometanism Unveiled, etc., ii. 223.
[3 ] Azuni, “De la Boussole,” pp. 118-122.
[1 ] Annals of Commerce, i. 366.
[1 ] Cicero pro Lege Manilia; Strab. lib. xiv.
[1 ] Lib. xiv. tit. 2.
[2 ] Storia Civile del Regno di Napoli, lib. i. cap. 4.
[3 ] Republiques Italiennes, i. 264.
[4 ] Lois Maritimes, v. 223.
[1 ] It is given by Pardessus, in his “Lois Maritimes,” v. pp. 237-251.
[2 ] Antigua Comercio de Barcelona, tome i. pp. 170-183.
[3 ] Codigo de las Costumbres Maritimas de Barcelona,” 2 vols. 4to, Discurso Preliminar, pp. xii.-xxv.
[1 ] It is entitled “Des Lois du Consulat de la Mer,” and is contained in his work on Maritime Law, “Droit Maritime de l’Europe,” i. pp. 390-439. But though learned and able, it confers but little credit on Azuni, by whom it has been literally translated, without a word of acknowledgment, from a work by Jorio, a Neapolitan lawyer, in 4 vols. 4to, printed in 1781. (Pardessus, i. 9.) This work, of which the impression was limited to twenty-five copies, taken at the expense of government, comprises a projected code of maritime law, with historical notices of the previous laws, etc. Jorio is also the author of a “History of Commerce and Navigation” (Storia Del Commercio e Della Navigazione), in 4 vols. 4to, Napoli, 1778-83. It comprises only the commerce and navigation of the ancients; and, though learned, is tedious and uninteresting.
[2 ] Tome ii. p. 24.
[1 ] Hubner, in his famous treatise, “De la Saisie Des Batimens Neutres” (2 vols. 12mo, 1759), exaggerates these defects, and speaks much too depreciatingly of the Consolato,—i. p. xi.
[2 ] Disc. 213, n. 12.
[3 ] The “Jugements d’Oleron” were published, with a learned commentary by Cleirac, in 1647, in the work entitled “Us et Coutumes de la Mer,” reprinted in 1671.
[1 ] Sir Leoline Jenkins, “Charge to the Cinque Ports.”
[2 ] De Jure Maritimo et Navali, Introd.
[3 ] Pardessus, “Collection,” etc., i. pp. 425-462.
[4 ] De Jure Belli, lib. ii. cap. 3.
[1 ] A translation of the Laws of Oleron, Wisby, and the Hanse Towns, is given in the third edition of Malyne’s “Lex Mercatoria.” But it is discreditable to this country that we have no good, or even respectable, edition of these and other maritime laws. The collection of M. Pardessus is, both as regards completeness and critical accuracy, infinitely superior to every other.
[2 ] But the best edition is that of La Rochelle, 1776, 2 vols. 4to.
[1 ] See the masterly account of Lord Mansfield in Campbell’s “Lives of the Chief Justices,” ii. 402.
[1 ] On Insurance, Prelim. Disc.
[1 ] P. 4.
[1 ] Heeren’s “Ancient History,” p. 160. Eng. Trans.
[1 ] Hampton’s Polybius, i. p. 311, ed. 1772.
[1 ] This is the date given to it by Barbeyrac, “Histoire des Anciens Traitez,” i. 222.
[2 ] Barron on the “Colonisation of the Free States of Antiquity,” p. 14; Brougham’s “Colonial Policy,” i. 21.
[1 ] See the Essay on the Origin and Privileges of Ancient Colonies, in Heyne’s “Opuscula Academica,” i. pp. 204-227.
[1 ] Bougainville, Sur les Colonies, p. 84, etc.
[2 ] Afterwards Dyrachium, and now Durazzo.
[1 ] Lib. i.
[1 ] Annal. lib. xi. cap. 24. Cicero is equally decisive:—“Illud vero sine ulla dubitatione maxime nostrum fundavit imperium, et populi Romani nomen auxit, quod princeps ille, creator hujus urbis, Romulus, fœdere Sabino doeuit, etiam hostibus recipiendis augeri hanc civitatem opportere; cujus auctoritate et exemplo nunquam est intermissa a majoribus nostris largitio et communicatio civitatis.”—Pro Balbo, cap. 13.
[1 ] Lib. xxii. cap. 13.
[1 ] Agrar. ii. cap. 27.
[2 ] Niebuhr, ii. p. 48. Eng. Trans.
[1 ] On the suppression of the final revolt of the Latins, Velitræ was very severely dealt with. Its walls were pulled down, its lands confiscated, and its inhabitants banished beyond the Tiber. (Liv. lib. viii. cap. 14.) During Hannibal’s invasion of Italy, some of the Roman colonies declined, on pretence of inability, to furnish farther supplies of men and money. This indifference to the common cause was overlooked at the time. But after the defeat of Hannibal, the offending cities were glad, by promptly furnishing the increased supplies which were then demanded, to avert the severe castigation with which they would otherwise have been sure to be visited. (Liv. lib. xxix. cap. 15.)
[1 ] Decline and Fall, cap. ii.
[2 ] Beaufort, “Republique Romaine,” ii. 238, 4to.
[3 ] Smith’s “Dictionary of Antiquities,” art. “Colonia.”
[1 ] “Effigies parva simulacraque populi Romani.”—Gellius, lib. xvi. cap. 13.
[2 ] Barron’s “Colonisation of Free States,” pp. 84, 85.
[1 ] Ad. Att., lib. ii. Ep. 16.
[2 ] Aix, and Narbonne, both in Gaul.
[3 ] Lib. ii. cap. 15.
[4 ] Beaufort, ii. 258.
[1 ] Ecl. i. lin. 71.
[1 ] It is stated in the Eloge Historique of Quesnay, in the “Memoires de l’Academie des Sciences” for 1774, that he was the son of an advocat en Parlement, who practised at Montfort, and that he was born at Merey. But it is difficult to suppose, had his father been in such a station, that his education should have been so entirely neglected. In the brief but interesting notice of Quesnay, given by Mr Crawfurd, in a note to the Journal of Madame du Hausset, waiting-maid of Madame Pompadour, and chere amie of Quesnay, in the “Melanges d’Histoire et de Literature” (p. 276), he is said to have been the son of a labourer. This is also the statement of the “Encyclopedie Methodique.” According to the notice prefixed by Dupont to the Eloge of M. Gournay in the third volume of the “Œuvres de Turgot,” Quesnay was the son of a peasant-proprietor.
[1 ] This incident is related by Crawfurd, “Melanges,” p. 276, and is referred to by Marmontel.
[1 ] Dr Thomson’s “Lectures on Inflammation,” p. 502.
[1 ] The “Ephemerides du Citoyen” was begun in 1767, and was, for a few months, conducted by the Abbé Baudeau, and then by Dupont. It was published monthly, and two numbers make a considerable duodecimo volume. The authors were all disciples of Quesnay, and zealous economists. Their discussions embraced only the moral and political sciences; many branches of which they have treated with much ability and acuteness. There is a valuable Eloge of Quesnay in one of the numbers for 1775, written by the Comte d’Albon. The following extract from the approbation given by the Censor to the third number for 1770 is curious: “J’exhorte de nouveau les auteurs de ce Journal, à resister à la tentation de critiquer. Le bonheur du citoyen tient à sa confiance. On peut et l’on doit quelquefois avertir en secret ceux qui sont preposès à l’administration. Mais on ne doit prêcher aux particuliers que leur propre reforme, et non celle de l’etat.”
[1 ] Principles of Political Economy, Fourth Edition, p. 44, etc.; and Principles of Taxation, Second Edition, p. 50.
[2 ] Ephemerides, du Citoyen, 1769, No. II. p. 13.
[1 ] Qu’on maintienne l’entiere liberté du commerce; car la police du commerce intérieur et extérieur la plus sure, la plus exacte, la plus profitable, à la nation et à l’état, consiste dans la pleine liberté de la concurrence.—25th Maxim.
[2 ] Chalmers affirms (Biographical Dictionary, Vol. xxv. Art. Quesnay), that the “Economists abused their influence by circulating democratical principles!” No statement could be more inaccurate. It would be quite as correct to say, that Locke and his followers abused their influence, by circulating despotical principles.
[1 ] Journal de Madame du Hausset in the Melanges, etc., p. 277. A striking instance of the confidence placed by the most opposite parties in Quesnay is given in the first volume of Marmontel’s Memoirs.
[2 ] His portrait, painted at the expense of the Duke of Villeroi, was admirably engraved by Wille.
[1 ] “Melanges,” p. 343.
[2 ] Mémoires d’un Pere, i. 286, ed. 1827.
[3 ] “Wealth of Nations,” p. 307.
[4 ] See “Sketch of the Life and Writings of Smith.”
[1 ] He had been Intendant at Martinique, and published the work referred to in (2 vols. 12mo) 1767, after his return from that colony. It gives the best exposition of the system of the Economists. “Ce livre excellent,” says Dupont, “garde dans sa logique, à la fois eloquente et serrée, l’ordre même qu’il expose à ses lecteurs. Toujours evident pour les têtes fortes il a superieurement l’art de se rendre intelligible aux têtes foibles, en saisissant le côté par ou les vêrités les plus ignorés sont intimement liés aux vérités les plus connues: Il presente leur union avec une evidence si naive, que chacun s’imagine avoir pensé le premier des choses auxquelles il ne songea jamais.”—Origine et Progrès d’une Science Nouvelle, p. 15.
[2 ] Author of a “Memoire sur les Effets de l’Impôt Indirect,” 12mo, 1768.
[1 ] In his interesting Account of the Life and Writings of Smith.
[2 ] Mr Stewart has justly applied to Smith what Lord Bacon said of Plato: “Illum, licet ad rempublicam non accessisset, tamen naturâ et inclinatione omnino ad res civiles propensum, vires eo præcipue intendisse; neque de Philosophia Naturali admodum sollicitum esse; nisi quatenus ad Philosophi nomen et celebritatem tuendum, et ad majestatem quandam moralibus et civilibus doctrinis addendam et aspergendam sufficeret.”
[1 ] It is perhaps unnecessary to observe, that these remarks apply only to the state of education at Oxford at the period when it was attended by Smith. Latterly it has been very much improved; though the constitution of the University opposes formidable obstacles to the introduction of the best system.
[1 ] Mr Stewart has not mentioned this circumstance, but it rests on the best authority.
[1 ] “Theory of Moral Sentiments,” part iii. chap. 1.
[1 ] “Brown’s Lectures,” vol. iv. p. 132, edit. 1824.
[1 ] The paragraph which follows is extracted from the “Mémoires” of the Abbé Morellet, published in 1821. “J’avais connu Smith dans un voyage qu’il avait fait en France, vers 1762; il parlait fort mal notre langue; mais sa Théorie des Sentimens Moraux, publiée en 1759, m’avait donné une grande idée de sa sagacité et de sa profondeur. Et véritablement je le regarde encore aujourd’hui comme un des hommes qui a fait les observations et les analyses les plus complètes dans toutes les questions qu’il a traitées. M. Turgot, qui aimait ainsi que moi la métaphysique, estimait beaucoup son talent. Nous le vîmes plusieurs fois; il fut présenté chez Helvétius: nous parlâmes théorie commerciale, banque, crédit public, et de plusieurs points du grand ouvrage qu’il méditait. Il me fit présent d’un fort joli portefeuille anglais de poche, qui était à son usage, et dont je me suis servi vingt ans.”—Tome i. p. 237.
[1 ] For a general view of its principal merits and defects, see the Introductory Discourse prefixed to the edition of the “Wealth of Nations,” by the author of this work.
[1 ] Sir James Mackintosh has made the following just and discriminating remarks on the great works of Grotius, Locke, Montesquieu, and Smith:—“The ‘Treatise on the Law of War and Peace,’ the ‘Essay on the Human Understanding,’ the ‘Spirit of Laws,’ and the ‘Inquiry into the Causes of the Wealth of Nations,’ are the works which have most directly influenced the general opinion of Europe during the two last centuries. They are also the most conspicuous landmarks in the progress of the sciences to which they relate. It is remarkable that the defects of all these great works are very similar. The leading notions of none of them can, in the strictest sense, be said to be original, though Locke and Smith in that respect surpass their illustrious rivals. All of them employ great care in ascertaining those laws which are immediately deduced from experience, or directly applicable to practice, but apply metaphysical and abstract principles with considerable negligence. None pursues the order of science, beginning with first elements, and advancing to more and more complicated conclusions; though Locke is, perhaps, less defective in method than the rest. All admit digressions which, though often intrinsically excellent, distract attention, and break the chain of thought. None of them are happy in the choice, or constant in the use, of technical terms; and in none do we find much of that rigorous precision which is the first beauty of philosophical language. Grotius and Montesquieu were imitators of Tacitus,—the first with more gravity, the second with more vivacity; but both were tempted to forsake the simple diction of science in pursuit of the poignant brevity which that great historian has carried to a vicious excess. Locke and Smith chose an easy, clear, and free, but somewhat loose and verbose, style,—more concise in Locke, more elegant in Smith,—in both exempt from pedantry, but not void of ambiguity and repetition. Perhaps all these apparent defects contributed, in some degree, to the specific usefulness of these great works; and, by rendering their contents more accessible and acceptable to the majority of readers, have more completely blended their principles with the common opinions of mankind.”—Article on Stewart’s View of the Progress of Metaphysical, Ethical, and Political Science, in the 71st Number of the Edinburgh Review.
[1 ] In the copy of the letter now referred to, given by Stewart in his “Life of Smith,” the paragraph relating to rent is omitted. Another paragraph is also omitted, in which Hume expresses his belief that the statement in regard to the seignorage charged on coins in France could not be well-founded. And in this case too he was quite right.—See p. 21 of the Wealth of Nations, in one vol., by the author of this work.
[1 ] See the concluding paragraph of the “Theory of Moral Sentiments.”
[1 ] Smellie’s “Lives,” p. 296.
[2 ] Mr Stewart states that all Hume’s works were written with his own hand; and that the last volumes of his history were printed from the original copy, with only a few marginal corrections.
[1 ] Account of the Life and Writings of Robertson, p. 142.
[1 ] Some instances of this sort have been specified in an article in the “Quarterly Review;” but of these some are said to be of doubtful authenticity, and they are all too evidently caricatured to warrant any confidence being placed in them.
[1 ] Smith’s Works, vol. v. p. 261, edit. 1811.
[1 ] See an Account of the Life of Mr Ricardo in the “Annual Obituary” for 1823, supposed to be written by one of his brothers.
[1 ] First Letter to the Right Hon. Robert Peel, by one of his Constituents, p. 61.
[1 ] The most disinterested and truly patriotic minister that this country has had since the Revolution.
[2 ] Mr Ricardo made the first of his prominent appearances on the 24th of May 1819, in the debate on the resolutions proposed by Sir Robert Peel, respecting the resumption of cash payments. He did not rise until he was loudly called upon from all sides of the House.
[1 ] Works, p. 493.
[2 ] Dated 8th July 1821.
[1 ] It is perhaps needless to say, that a thing may be expedient and necessary without being just. It may not only be expedient, but indispensable to the safety of a ship in a storm, to throw overboard some portion of the cargo; but it would be most unjust to allow a sacrifice incurred for the advantage of all, to fall exclusively on the owners of the ejected goods. And hence the practice, as old as the Rhodian law, but neglected in the case referred to, of average contributions.