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Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica (London: J. Innes, 1825).
One of the articles James Mill wrote for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THE term “Colony” has not been used with much precision. Dr. Johnson defines it “A body of people drawn from the mother country to inhabit some distant place;” and it would not be easy to find a short expression better calculated to embrace all the particulars to which the name is ever applied. Yet this will be found to include some very heterogeneous objects; nay, more, to embrace particulars to which the term “Colony” really does not extend. When the French Protestants, for example, settled, in great numbers, in England, and in the United Provinces, they were “a body of people drawn from the mother country to inhabit a distant place;” but did not, for that reason, become a colony of France. Let the first part of the definition be supposed to be correct, and that a colony must, of necessity, be “a body of people drawn from the mother country;” something more is necessary to complete the definition, than the idea of inhabiting a distant place; for not every sort of inhabiting constitutes them a colony. It seems necessary, that, inhabiting a distant place, they should not come under the authority of any foreign government, but either remain under the government of the mother country, or exist under a government of their own. Of colonies remaining under the government of the mother country, the West India Islands of the different European states afford an example. Of those existing under a government of their own, the most celebrated example is found in the colonies of the ancient states of Greece. The United States of America, as they constituted an example of colonies of the first sort, before the revolution which disjoined them from the mother country, so they may be regarded as constituting an example of colonies of the Grecian sort, now that they exist under a government of their own. Our resentment at their preferring to live under a government of their own, has indeed often prevented us from regarding them in the endearing light of a colony, or daughter country. It has made us much rather apply to them the name of enemies; and in our feelings towards them, has mixed up a greater proportion of the hostile than the friendly ingredients.
Again, the term “Colony” is sometimes employed in a sense in which the idea of a body of people, drawn from the mother country, hardly seems to be included. Thus, we talk of the British colonies in the east, meaning, by that mode of expression, the East Indies. Yet it can hardly be said, that any body of people is drawn from the mother country to inhabit the East Indies. There is nobody drawn to inhabit, in the proper sense of the word. A small number of persons, such as are sent to hold possession of a conquered country, go; and, in this sense, all the conquered provinces of the ancient Roman Empire might be called what they never have been called, colonies of Rome.
In the meaning of the term “Colony,” the predominant idea among the ancient Greeks and Romans, appears to have been that of the people; the egress of a body of people to a new and permanent abode. Among the moderns, the predominant idea appears to be that of the territory, the possession of an outlying territory; and, in a loose way of speaking, almost any outlying possession, if the idea of permanency is united, would receive the name of “a colony.” If we use the term with so much latitude as to embrace the predominating idea, both of ancients and moderns, we shall say that a colony means an outlying part of the population of the mother country, or an outlying territory belonging to it; either both in conjunction, or any one of the two by itself.
Of this sort were the Roman and the Grecian colonies, and of this sort are some of the British colonies.
1. The Roman colonies arose out of a peculiarity in the situation of the Roman people. In Rome, as in other countries, the lands were originally regarded as belonging to the state; and as belonging to the people, when the people took the powers of government to themselves. A sense of convenience, there, as everywhere else, rendered the land private property by degrees; and, under a form of government so very defective as the Roman, the influence of the leading men enabled them, in a short time, to engross it. The people, when reduced to misery, did not altogether forget, that the land had once been regarded as theirs; and, every now and then, asserted their claims in so formidable a manner, that, when aided by circumstances, they compelled the ruling few to make something of a sacrifice. They did not, indeed, compel them to give up the lands which they had appropriated; but it always happened, that in the countries conquered by the Romans, a portion of the lands was public property, and continued to be cultivated for the benefit of the Roman state. When the importunity of the people for a division of lands began to be troublesome or formidable, a portion of these lands was generally resorted to, enough to take off the most fiery of the spirits, and, contenting the leaders, to quiet the populace for a time. The portion of land, set apart for the purpose, was divided, at the rate of so much for every man; and a sufficient number of persons to occupy it, and to form a community, were sent out, more or less provided with the various supplies which were necessary for commencing the settlement.
In the nature of an establishment of this description, there is no mystery, and hardly any thing which requires explanation. The colonists lived in a Roman province, under Roman laws, and differed not materially from the people of any other local jurisdiction. Being once got rid of, no farther advantage was expected from them than from the other inhabitants of the country, in paying taxes, for example, and furnishing men for the army. In some few instances, in the planting of colonies, some benefit was looked to in the way of defence; when they were established in newly conquered countries, the people of which were not yet patient under the yoke, or when they were placed in the way of invading enemies. But not much advantage of this sort can be derived from a colony, which, in general, has more need to receive, than ability to yield, protection.
These colonies were planted wholly for the benefit of the Roman aristocracy. They were expedients for preserving to them the extraordinary advantages and powers they had been enabled to assume, by allaying that impatience of the people, under which the retention of their usurpations became difficult and doubtful. The wonder is, that the people were so easily contented, and that, having the means of intimidating the aristocracy to so great a degree, they did not insist upon greater advantages. And the pity is, that they understood so little what was for their advantage. If, instead of demanding a portion of land, the benefit of which, at best, was only temporary, they had demanded good laws, and had obtained efficient securities for good government, securities against that prevalence of the interests of the few over the interests of the many; which existed to so great an extent in the Roman government, as it has existed, and still does exist, in almost all other governments; they would have rendered to themselves, and would have rendered to the human race, the greatest of all possible services. But the human mind had not then made sufficient progress to see distinctly what was the real object of good government, or what the means which would be effectual in attaining it.
2. We next come to the class of colonies which are exemplified in the case of those sent out by the Greeks; and we take them in order subsequently to the Roman, because there is something in them for which rather more of explanatian is required. Of those early migrations, which carried a Greek population into Asia Minor, and at a later period into Italy and Sicily, we have not a sufficient number of historical facts to know very accurately the cause. It may be, that internal commotions, as frequently as a superabounding population, were the source from which they were derived. When, of two contending parties, one acquired the ascendency, they frequently made the situation of their opponents so painful to them, and sometimes also the shame of defeat was so great, that the vanquished party chose rather to live any where, than subject to the power and contempt of those over whom they had hoped to domineer. The leaders proposed emigration, and a great part of those who contended under their banners, were ready to depart along with them. In this way they might remove in large bodies, and, carrying with them all their moveable effects, would be in circumstances, when they established themselves on a fertile soil, to attain, in a little time, a great degree of prosperity. All this seems necessary to account for the flourishing state of the Greeks in Asia Minor, among whom arts and sciences flourished sooner, and civilization made still more rapid strides, till checked by Persian domination, than in the mother country itself, where a more dense population, and a less fertile soil, opposed obstructions to the happiness of the people, and the progress of the human mind.
There is nothing in modern times which so much resembles the colonization of Asia Minor by the Greeks, as the colonization of North America by the English. Of the first English planters of North America, a large proportion went out to escape the oppression of a predominating religion, as the Greeks to escape the oppression of a predominating political party. One difference there was—that the English did not go off at once, in any considerable bodies, under distinguished leaders, or with any great accompaniment of capital, the means of future prosperity. Accordingly, the prosperity of the British colonies in North America was much less rapid, and much less brilliant, than that of the Grecian colonies in Asia Minor. Another great difference there was, in that the English colonies, though they made a sort of subordinate government for themselves, were still held to be subject to the government of the mother country. The Grecian colonies became states, in all respects independent, owning no government but that which they established for themselves; though they still looked to the mother country for protection and assistance, and held themselves under a very strong obligation to befriend and assist her in all her difficulties.
In regard to those detachments of the population of the Grecian states, which resulted either from political disgust or political oppression, there is nothing which stands in need of explanation. The motive which gave rise to them is familiar and obvious; and the sort of relation in which they and the mother country stood to one another, importing mutual benevolence, but no right in the one to command, or obligation on the other to obey, every body can immediately understand.
There were other occasions, however, on which the Greeks sent out colonies, and these are the colonies which are commonly meant, when the Grecian principle of colonization is spoken of by way of distinction. These were resorted to, when the population of the mother country became superabundant, and relief was demanded by a diminution of numbers. This is a ground of colonization, which, since the principle of population has been shown to exert so great an influence upon the condition of human beings, deserves profound regard. We shall not, therefore, pass it by without a few observations.
A population is said to be redundant, When? Not when it is numerically either great or small; but solely and exclusively when it is too great for the quantity of food. Any one country produces or procures a certain quantity of food in the year. If it has a population greater than such a quantity of food is sufficient to maintain, all that number which is over and above what it is capable of maintaining, is a redundancy of population.
A curious phenomenon here presents itself. A redundancy of population, in the states of ancient Greece, made itself visible even to vulgar eyes. A redundancy of population in modern Europe never makes itself visible to any but the most enlightened eyes. Ask an ordinary man, ask almost any man, if the population of his country is too great; if the population of any country in Europe is, or ever was, too great: so far, he will tell you, is it from being too great, that good policy would consist in making it, if possible, still greater; and he might quote, in his own support, the authority of almost all governments, which are commonly at pains to prevent the emigration of their people, and to give encouragement to marriage.
The explanation of the phenomena is easy, but it is also of the highest importance. When the supply of food is too small for the population, the deficiency operates, in modern Europe, in a manner different from that in which it operated in ancient Greece. In modern Europe, the greatest portion of the food is bought by the great body of the people. What the great body of the people have to give for it is nothing but labour. When the quantity of food is not sufficient for all, and when some are in danger of not getting any, each man is induced, in order to secure a portion to himself, to give better terms for it than any other man, that is, more labour. In other words, that part of the population who have nothing to give for food but labour, take less wages. This is the primary effect, clear, immediate, certain. It is only requisite, farther, to trace the secondary, or derivative effects.
When we say, that in the case in which the supply of food has become too small for the population, the great body of the people take less wages, that is, less food, for their labour; we mean that they take less than is necessary for comfortable subsistence; because they would only have what is necessary for comfortable subsistence in the case in which the supply of food is not too small for the whole.
The effect, then, of a disproportion between the food and the population, is not to feed to the full measure that portion of the population which it is sufficient to feed, and to leave the redundant portion destitute; it is to take, according to a certain rate, a portion of his due quantity from each individual of that great class who have nothing to give for it but ordinary labour.
What this state of things imports is most easily seen. The great class who have nothing to give for food but ordinary labour, are the great body of the people. When every individual in the great body of the people has less than the due quantity of food, less than would fall to his share if the quantity of food were not too small for the population, the state of the great body of the people is the state of sordid, painful, and degrading poverty. They are wretchedly fed, wretchedly clothed, have wretched houses, and neither time nor means to keep either their houses or their persons free from disgusting impurity. Those of them, who, either from bodily infirmities, have less than the ordinary quantity of labour to bestow, or from the state of their families, need a greater than the ordinary quantity of food, are condemned to starve; either wholly, if they have not enough to keep them alive, or partially, if they have enough to yield them a lingering, diseased, and, after all, a shortened existence.
What the ignorant and vulgar spectator sees in all this, is not a redundant population, it is only a poor population. He sees nobody without food who has enough to give for it. To his eye, therefore, it is not food which is wanting, but that which is to be given for it. When events succeed in this train, and are viewed with these eyes, there never can appear to be a redundancy of population.
Events succeeded in a different train in the states of ancient Greece, and rendered a redundancy of population somewhat more visible, even to vulgar and ignorant eyes.
In ancient Greece, the greatest portion of the food was not bought by the great body of the people; the state of whom, wretched or comfortable, legislation has never yet been wise enough much to regard. All manual labour, or, at least, the far greatest portion of it, was performed, not by free labourers serving for wages, but by slaves, who were the property of the great men. The deficiency of food, therefore, was not distributed in the shape of general poverty and wretchedness over the great body of the population, by reduction of wages; a case which affects, with very slight sensations, those who regard themselves as in no degree liable to fall into that miserable situation. It was felt, first of all, by the great men, in the greater cost of maintaining their slaves. And what is felt as disagreeable by the great men, is sure never to continue long without an effort, either wise or foolish, for the removal of it. This law of human nature was not less faithfully observed in the states of ancient Greece, for their being called republics. Called republics, they in reality were aristocracies; and aristocracies of a very bad description. They were aristocracies in which the people were cheated with an idea of power, merely because they were able, at certain distant intervals, when violently excited, to overpower the aristocracy in some one particular point; but they were aristocracies in which there was not one efficient security to prevent the interests of the many from being sacrificed to the interests of the few; they were aristocracies, accordingly, in which the interests of the many were habitually sacrificed to the interests of the few; meaning by the many, not the slaves merely, but the great body of the free citizens. This was the case in all the states of Greece, and not least in Athens. This is not seen in reading the French and English histories of Greece. It is not seen in reading Mitford, who has written a History of Greece for no other purpose but that of showing that the interests of the many always ought to be sacrificed to the interests of the few; and of abusing the people of Greece, because every now and then, the Many in those countries showed, that they were by no means patient under the habitual sacrifice of their interests to the interests of the Few. But it is very distinctly seen, among other occasions, in reading the Greek orators, in reading Demosthenes for example, in reading the Oration against Midias, the Oration on Leptines, and others, in which the licence of the rich and powerful, and their means of oppressing the body of the people, are shown to have been excessive, and to have been exercised with a shameless atrocity, which the gentleness and modesty of the manners of modern Europe, even in the most aristocratically despotic countries, wholly preclude.
In Greece, then, any thing which so intimately affected the great men, as a growing cost of maintaining their slaves, would not long remain without serious attempts to find a remedy.
It was not, however, in this way alone, that a redundant population showed itself in Greece. As not many of the free citizens maintained themselves by manual labour, they had but two resources more,—the land, and profits of stock. Those who lived on profits of stock, did so, commonly, by employing slaves in some of the known arts and manufactures, and of course were affected by the growing cost of maintaining their slaves. Those who lived on the produce of a certain portion of the land, could not but exhibit very distinctly the redundancy of their numbers, when, by the multiplication of families, portions came to be so far subdivided, that what belonged to each individual was insufficient for his maintenance.
In this manner, then, it is very distinctly seen, why, to vulgar eyes, there never appears, in modern Europe, to be any redundancy of population, any demand for relieving the country by carrying away a portion of the people; and why, in ancient Greece, that redundancy made itself be very sensibly perceived; and created, at various times, a perfectly efficient demand for removing to distant places a considerable portion of the people.
But what if that redundancy of population which shows itself in modern Europe, in the effects of reduced wages, and a poor and starving people, should suggest to rulers the policy of ancient Greece, and some time or other recommend colonization? A few reflections may be well bestowed upon a supposition of this kind.
In the first place, it should be very distinctly understood, what it is we mean, when we say, in regard to such a country as Great Britain, for example, that the supply of food is too small for the population; because it may be said immediately, that the quantity of food may be increased in Great Britain; a proposition which no man will think of denying.
Let us suppose that in any given year, this year for example, the food in Great Britain is too small for the people, by 10,000 individuals. It is no doubt true, that additional food sufficient to supply 10,000 individuals might be raised next year; but where would be the amelioration, if 10,000 individuals were at the same time added to the numbers to be fed? Now, the tendency of population is such, as to make, in almost all cases, the real state of the facts correspond with this supposition. Population not only rises to the level of the present supply of food; but, if you go on every year increasing the quantity of food, population goes on increasing at the same time, and so fast, that the food is commonly still too small for the people. This is the grand proposition of Mr. Malthus’s book; it is not only quite original, but it is that point of the subject from which all the more important consequences flow, consequences which, till that point was made known, could not be understood.
When we say that the quantity of food in any country is too small for the quantity of the people, and that, though we may increase the quantity of food, the population will at the same time increase so fast, that the food will still be too small for the people; we may be encountered with another proposition. It may be said, that we may increase food still faster than it is possible to increase population. And there are situations in which we must allow that the proposition is true.
In countries newly inhabited, or in which there is a small number of people, there is commonly a quantity of land, yielding a large produce for a given portion of labour. So long as the land continues to yield in this liberal manner, how fast soever population increases, food may increase with equal rapidity, and plenty remain. When population, however, has increased to a certain extent, all the best land is occupied; if it increases any farther, land of a worse quality must be taken in hand; when land of the next best quality is all exhausted, land of a still inferior quality must be employed, till, at last you come to that which is exceedingly barren. In this progress it is very evident that it is always gradually becoming more and more difficult to make food increase with any given degree of rapidity, and that you must come at last to a point where it is altogether impossible.
It may, however, be said, and has been said in substance, though not very clearly, by some of Mr. Malthus’s opponents, that it is improper to speak of food as too small for the population, so long as food can be made to increase at an equal pace with population; and though it is no doubt true, that, in the states of modern Europe, food does not actually increase so fast as the population, and hence the poverty and wretchedness of the people; yet it would be very possible to make food increase as fast as population, and hence to make the people happy without diminishing their numbers by colonization: and that it is owing to unfavourable, to ill-contrived institutions, that such is not the effect universally experienced.
As this observation has in it a remarkable combination of truth and error, it is worthy of a little pains to make the separation.
There can be no doubt that, by employing next year a greater proportion of the people upon the land than this year, we should raise a greater quantity of food; by employing a still greater proportion the year following, we should produce a still greater quantity of food; and, in this way it would be possible to go on for some time, increasing food as fast as it would be possible for the population to increase. But observe at what cost this effect would be attained. As the land yields gradually less and less to every new portion of labour, it would be necessary to employ, gradually, not only a greater and greater number, but a greater and greater proportion of the people in raising food. But the greater the proportion of the people which is employed in raising food, the smaller is the proportion which can be employed in producing anything else. You can only, therefore, increase the quantity of food, to meet the demand of an increasing population, by diminishing the supply of those other things which minister to human desires.
There can be no doubt, that, by increasing every year the proportion of the population which you employ in raising food, and diminishing every year the proportion employed in every thing else, you may go on increasing food as fast as population increases, till the labour of a man upon the land, is just sufficient to add as much to the produce, as will maintain himself and raise a family. Suppose, where the principle of population is free from all restriction, the average number of children reared in a family is five; in that case, so long as the man’s labour, added to the labour already employed upon the land, can produce food sufficient for himself, and the rearing of five children, food may be made to keep pace with population. But if things were made to go on in such an order, till they arrived at that pass, men would have food, but they would have nothing else. They would have neither clothes, nor houses, nor furniture. There would be nothing for elegance, nothing for ease, nothing for pleasure. There would be no class, exempt from the necessity of perpetual labour, by whom knowledge might be cultivated, and discoveries useful to mankind might be made. There would be no physicians, no legislators. The human race would become a mere multitude of animals, of a very low description, having just two functions, that of raising food, and that of consuming it.
To shorten this analysis, let us, then, assume, what will hardly be disputed, that it is by no means desirable for human nature to be brought into a situation in which it would be necessary for every human being to be employed, and fully employed, in the raising of food; that it never can be desirable that more than a certain proportion should be employed in the raising of food; that it must for ever be desirable that a certain proportion should be employed in producing other things which minister to human desires; and that there should be a class possessed of leisure, among whom the desire of knowledge may be fostered, and those individuals reared who are qualified to advance the boundaries of knowledge, and add to the powers and enjoyments of man.
It is useless, then, to tell us, that we have the physical power of increasing food as fast as population. As soon as we have arrived at that point at which the due distribution of the population is made between those who raise food, and those who are in other ways employed in contributing to the well-being of the members of the community, any increase of the food, faster than is consistent with that distribution, can only be made at the expense of those other things, by the enjoyment of which the life of man is preferable to that of the brutes. At this point the progress of population ought undoubtedly to be restrained. Population may still increase, because the quantity of food may still be capable of being increased, though not beyond a certain slowness of rate, without requiring to the production of it a greater than the due proportion of the population.
Suppose, then, when the due proportion of the population is allotted to the raising of food, and the due proportion to other desirable occupations, that the institutions of society were such as to prevent a greater proportion from being withdrawn from those occupations to the raising of food. It would, surely, be very desirable that the institutions of society should secure this important object. If population, in that case, should go on at its full rate of increase—in other words, faster than with such a distribution of the population it would be possible for food to be increased, what would be the consequences? The answer is abundantly plain. All those effects would take place which have already been described as following upon the existence of a redundant population in modern Europe, and in all countries in which the great body of those who have nothing to give for food but labour, are free labourers. Wages would fall; poverty would overspread the population; and all those horrid phenomena would exhibit themselves, which are the never-failing attendants on a poor population.
It is of no great importance, though the institutions of society may be such, as to make the proportion of the population, kept back from the providing of food, rather greater than it might be. All that happens is, that the redundancy of population begins a little earlier. The unrestrained progress of population would soon have added the deficient number to the proportion employed in the raising of food: and, at whatever point the redundancy begins, the effects are always the same.
What are the best means of checking the progress of population, when it cannot go on unrestrained, without producing one or other of two most undesirable effects, either drawing an undue proportion of the population to the mere raising of food, or producing poverty and wretchedness, it is not now the time to inquire. It is, indeed, the most important practical problem to which the wisdom of the politician and moralist can be applied. It has, till this time, been miserably evaded by all those who have meddled with the subject, as well as by all those who were called upon by their situation to find a remedy for the evils to which it relates. And yet, if the superstitions of the nursery were discarded, and the principle of utility kept steadily in view, a solution might not be very difficult to be found; and the means of drying up one of the most copious sources of human evil; a source which, if all other sources of evil were taken away, would alone suffice to retain the great mass of human beings in misery, might be seen to be neither doubtful nor difficult to be applied.
The only question to which we are here required to find an answer, is that of colonization. When the population of a country is full, and its increase cannot go on at its most rapid pace, without producing one of the two evils of redundancy, a portion of the people, sent off to another country, may create a void, and till this is filled up, population may go on as rapidly as before, and so on for any number of times.
In certain circumstances, this is a better resource than any scheme for diminishing the rate of population. So long as the earth is not peopled to that state of fulness which is most conducive to human happiness, it contributes to that important effect. It is highly desirable, on many accounts, that every portion of the earth, the physical circumstances of which are not inconsistent with human well-being, should be inhabited, as fully as the conditions of human happiness admit. It is only, in certain circumstances, however, that a body of people can be advantageously removed from one country, for the purpose of colonizing another. In the first place, it is necessary that the land which they are about to occupy, should be capable of yielding a greater return to their labour than the land which they leave; otherwise, though relief is given to the population they leave behind, their own circumstances are not better than they would have been had they remained.
Another condition is, that the expense of removal from the mother country to the colonized country, should not be too great; and that expense is usually created by distance.
If the expense is too great, the population which remains behind in the mother country, may suffer more by the loss of capital, than it gains by the diminution of numbers.
It has been often enough, and clearly enough, explained, that it is only capital which gives employment to labour; we may, therefore, take it as a postulate. A certain quantity of capital, then, is necessary to give employment to the population which any removal for the sake of colonization may leave behind. But if, to afford the expence of that removal, so much is taken from the capital of the country, that the remainder is not sufficient for the employment of the remaining population, there is, in that case, a redundancy of population, and all the evils which it brings. For the well-being of the remaining population, a certain quantity of food is required, and a certain quantity of all those other things which minister to human happiness. But to raise this quantity of food, and this quantity of other things, a certain quantity of capital is indispensably necessary. If that quantity of capital is not supplied, the food, and other things, cannot be obtained.
On the subject of that class of colonies, in the conception of which the idea of the people is the predominating idea, we have now explained the principle which is exemplified in the Roman, and that which is exemplified in the Grecian cases: belonging to the same class, there are British colonies, in which another, and a very remarkable principle is exemplified. The Greeks planted colonies for the sake of getting rid of a redundant population;—the British, for the sake of getting rid of a delinquent population.
3. The brilliant idea of a colony for the sake of getting rid of a delinquent population, if not peculiar to English policy, is, at any rate, a much more remarkable part of the policy of England, than of that of any other country. We have not time here to trace the history of this singular portion of English policy, nor is it of much importance. Every body knows, that this mode of disposing of delinquents, was carried to a considerable height before this country lost her dominion over the North American colonies, to which she annually transported a considerable number of convicts. It will suffice, for the present occasion, to offer a few observations on the nature of such an establishment as that of New South Wales.
Considered in the light of its utility as a territory, the colony of New South Wales will be included in the investigation of that class of colonies, in the conception of which the idea of territory is the predominating idea. At present it is to be considered in its capacity of a place for receiving the delinquent part of the British population.
In dealing with a delinquent population, the end to be aimed at, the security of the non-delinquent, embraces two particulars; security from the crimes of this or that individual delinquent himself, and security from those of other men who may be tempted to follow his example. The first object is comparatively easy. It is not difficult to prevent an individual from doing any mischief. What is chiefly desirable is, that the individual who is proved to be a delinquent, should be so dealt with, that the mode of dealing with him may be as effectual as possible in deterring others from the commission of similar offences.
In pursuit of the first object, securing society from the crimes of the convicted individual, there is a good mode, and a bad mode. The best of all modes, unquestionably, is the reformation of the offender. Wherever this can be accomplished, every other mode, it is evident, is a bad one. Now, in regard to the reformation of the offender, there is but one testimony, that New South Wales, of all places on the face of the earth, except, perhaps, a British prison, is the place where there is the least chance for the reformation of an offender, the greatest chance of his being improved and perfected in every species of wickedness.
If it be said, that taking a man to New South Wales at any rate affords to the British community security against the crimes of that man, we may answer, that putting him to death would do so. And we farther pronounce, that saving a man from death, with the mind of a delinquent, and sending him to New South Wales, to all the effects of his vicious propensities, is seldom doing even him any good.
It is, however, not true, that sending a delinquent to New South Wales, secures the British community from his future offences. A very great proportion of those who are sent to New South Wales find the means of returning; and those who do so are, in general, and may always be expected to be, the very worst.
We have a high authority for this affirmation. The Committee of the House of Commons, who were appointed in the session of 1812, “to inquire into the manner in which sentences of transportation are executed, and the effects which have been produced by that mode of punishment,” stated solemnly, in their Report, that “No difficulty appears to exist among the major part of the men who do not wish to remain in the colony, of finding means to return to this country. All but the aged and infirm easily find employment on board the ships visiting New South Wales, and are allowed to work their passage home. But such facility is not afforded to the women. They have no possible method of leaving the colony, but by prostituting themselves on board the ships whose masters may choose to receive them. They who are sent to New South Wales, that their former habits may be relinquished, cannot obtain a return to this country, but by relapsing into that mode of life which, with many, has been the first cause of all their crimes and misfortunes. To those who shrink from these means, or are unable, even thus, to obtain a passage for themselves, transportation for seven years is converted into a banishment for life; and the just and humane provisions of the law, by which different periods of transportation are apportioned to different degrees of crime, are rendered entirely null.”
So much, then, with regard to the reformation of the individual, and security from his crimes, neither of which is attained. But, even on the supposition that both were ever so completely attained, there would still be a question of great importance; viz. whether the same effects could not be attained at a smaller expense. It never ought to be forgotten, that society is injured by every particle of unnecessary expense; that one of the most remarkable of all the points of bad government, is, that of rendering the services of government at a greater than the smallest possible expence; and that one of the most remarkable of all the points of good government is, that of rendering every service which it is called upon to render at the smallest possible expense.
In this respect also, the policy of the New South Wales establishment is faulty beyond all endurance. The cost of disposing in this way of a delinquent population is prodigious. We have no room for details, and there is no occasion for proof; the fact is notorious: whereas, on the contrary, it is now well known, that in houses of industry and reformation, upon the best possible plan, that, for example, of Mr. Bentham’s Panopticon, which has no parallel, there is little or no expence, there is perfect security against the future crimes of the delinquent, and that, to a great degree, by the best of all possible modes,—his reformation.
If the mode of dealing with a delinquent according to such an institution as that of New South Wales, is thus wretched, as far as regards the securing of the community from the future crimes of the convicted delinquent; it is not less so in what regards the deterring of all other men from following similar courses to those of the delinquent.
It is very evident that this last is by far the most important of the two objects. It is now agreed that this is the end, the only good end, of all punishment, properly so called; for mere safe custody, and satisfaction to the injured party, are not, in the proper sense of the word, punishments; they are for other ends than punishment, in any point of view in which it is ever contemplated.
The great importance of this above the previous case, consists in this, that when you take security against the crimes of the convicted delinquent, you take security against the crimes of only one man, and that, a man in your hands, with whom you can deal as you please. When, by means of the mode of dealing with him, you deter all other men from following similar courses, you provide security, not against one man alone, but many men, any number of men, of men undetected, and not in your power, each of whom may be guilty of many crimes before he can be stopt.
On this point it is only necessary, for form’s sake, to write down what is the fact; for every human being of common reflection, must anticipate the observation before it is made. If an assembly of ingenious men, in the character of legislators, had taken pains to devise a method of dealing with delinquents, which, while it had some appearance of securing society from the crimes of the detected individual, should be, to the greatest possible degree, devoid, both of the reality and even the appearance of any efficacy of deterring other men from the pursuit of similar courses, they could not have devised any thing better calculated for that preposterous end, than the colony of New South Wales. Nothing can operate where it is not. The men to be operated upon are in England; the example which should operate is in New South Wales. Much more might be said, but it is unnecessary. In the great majority of cases, a voyage to New South Wales has not even the appearance of a punishment. Men of that description have neither friends nor affections. They leave behind nobody whom they like, and nobody who likes them. What is it to such men, that they are for a while, or for ever, taken away from England, along, very frequently, with the only sort of persons with whom they have any connection, the companions of their debaucheries and of their crimes?
Of this sort are most of the colonies of the states of modern Europe; the British possessions, for example, in the East and West Indies.
The question is, in what way or ways, abstracting from the questions of population, an outlying territory, considered merely as territory, is calculated to be advantageous; or, in other words, what reasons can any country have for desiring to possess the government of such territories.
There are two ways, which will easily present themselves to every mind, as ways in which advantage may accrue to the governing country. First, these outlying dominions may yield a tribute to the mother country; secondly, they may yield an advantageous trade.
This will not require many words, as few persons are much in error on the subject. In regard to the West Indies, no such idea as that of a tribute has ever been entertained. Even in regard to those taxes, which a vain and unprofitable attempt was made to impose upon the formerly existing colonies in North America, they were never dreamt of as a tribute, and never spoken of but in a sense contrary to the very idea of a tribute, that of reimbursing to the mother country a part, and no more than a part, of that which they cost her in governing and defending them.
With regard to the East Indies, we believe, there exists more or less of prejudice. Under the ignorance in which Englishmen have remained of East India affairs, it floats in the minds of a great many persons, that, some how or other, a tribute, or what is equivalent to a tribute, does come from the East Indies. Never did an opinion exist, more completely without evidence, contrary to evidence, evidence notorious, and well-known to the persons themselves, by whom the belief is entertained. India, instead of yielding a tribute to England, has never yielded enough for the expence of its own government. What is the proof? That its government has always been in debt; and has been under the necessity of continually augmenting its debt, till it has arrived at a magnitude which it has often itself described as alarming.
So far is India from yielding a tribute to Great Britain, that, in loans and aids, and the expence of fleets and armies, it has cost this country enormous sums. It is no doubt true, that some acts of Parliament have assumed the existence of a tribute from India, or what has been called a surplus revenue, for the use of the nation. But Parliament, we have pretty good experience, cannot make things by affirming them. Things are a little more stubborn than the credulity of Englishmen. That, in general, is obedient enough to the affirmations of those who lead the Parliament, and who have sometimes an interest in leading it wrong. Facts take their own course, without regard to the affirmations of Parliament, or the plastic faith of those who follow them.
A general proposition on this subject, may be safely advanced. We may affirm it, as a deduction from the experienced laws of human society, that there is, if not an absolute, at least, a moral impossibility, that a colony should ever benefit the mother country, by yielding it a permanent tribute.
Let any body but consider what is included in the word government; and when he has done that, let him then tell himself, that the colonies must be governed. If he has the sufficient degree of knowledge and reflection, no further proof will be necessary.
No proposition in regard to government is more universal, more free from all exception than this, that a government always spends as much as it finds it possible or safe to extract from the people. It would not suit the limits of the present design, to run over the different governments of the world, for the experimental proof of this proposition. We must invite every reader to do it for himself. Of one thing we are perfectly sure, that the more profoundly he is read in history, the more thoroughly will he be convinced of the universality of the fact.
Now, then, consider whether this universal fact be not inconsistent with the idea of a tribute from a colony. The government of the mother country itself cannot keep its expences within bounds. It takes from the people all it can possibly take, and is still going beyond its resources. But if such is the course of government at home, things must be worse in the colonies. The farther servants are removed from the eye of the master, the worse, generally speaking, their conduct will be. The government of the colonies, managed by delegates from home, is sure to be worse, in all respects, than the government at home; and, as expence is one of the shapes in which the badness of government is most prone to manifest itself, it is sure, above all things, to be in proportion to its resources more expensive. Whatever springs operate at home to restrain the badness of government, cannot fail to operate with diminished force, at the distance of a colony. The conclusion is irresistible. If the government of the mother country is sure to spend up to the resources of the country; and if a still stronger necessity operates upon the government of the colony to produce this effect, how can it possibly afford any tribute?
If it be objected to this conclusion, that this propensity of governments to spend may be corrected, we answer, that this is not the present question. Take governments as, with hardly any exception, they have always been, (this is a pretty wide experience;) and the effect is certain. There is one way, to be sure, of preventing the great evil, and preventing it thoroughly. But there is only one. In the constitution of the government, make the interest of the many to have the ascendency over the interest of the few, and the expence of government will not be large. The services expected from government may, generally speaking, be all rendered in the best possible manner, at very little expense. Whenever the interests of the many are made, in the framing of governments, to have the ascendency over the interests of the few, the services of government will always be rendered at the smallest possible expence. So long as the interests of the few are made to have the ascendency over the interests of the many, the services of government are all sure to be rendered at the greatest possible expence. In almost all governments that ever yet existed, the interest of the few has had an ascendency over the interests of the many. In all, the expence of government has, accordingly, been always as great, as, in existing circumstances, the people could be made, or could be made with safety, to give the means of making it.
One other supposition may be urged in favour of the tribute. The expence, it may be said, of governing the colony by a deputation from the mother country, may be escaped, by allowing the colony to govern itself. In that case, the colony will not choose to pay a tribute. If the tribute rests upon the ground of friendship, it will not be lasting. If the mother country extorts it by force, the colony is, in fact, governed by the mother country; and all the expence of that mode of government is ensured. If it be urged that the colony may continue to pay a tribute to the mother country, and that voluntarily, because the mother country may be of use to it; that, we may answer, is a bargain, not a tribute. The mother country, for example, may yield a certain portion of defence. But the colony is saved from the expense of providing for itself that defence which it receives from the mother country, and makes a good bargain if it gets it from the mother country cheaper than it could be provided by itself. In this case, too, the expence incurred by the mother country is apt to be a very full equivalent for the tribute received. It is evident, that this sort of bargain may subsist between any two states whose circumstances it may suit, and is not confined to a mother and daughter country. It is, therefore, no part of the question relating to colonies.
We have now investigated the first of the modes in which a colony, considered as territory merely, may be expected to benefit the mother country; and we have seen the chances of good which it affords. The second of these modes, viz. the trade, by means of which it is supposed that colonies may benefit the mother country, is a topic of some importance; for it is on account of the trade, that colonies have remained an object of affection to Englishmen. It is on account of trade, solely, that the colonies in the West Indies are valued; and though an idea of something like a tribute from the East Indies has till this time maintained a place in the minds of the unthinking part of the community, still it is the trade which has been supposed to be the principal source of the advantage which has been ascribed to what we call “the British Empire in the East.”
In the idea of deriving a peculiar advantage from the trade of the colonies, is necessarily included the idea of monopoly. If the trade of the colony were free, other nations would derive as much advantage from it as the mother country; and the mother country would derive as much advantage from it, if the colony were not a colony.
Dr. Smith affirms that this monopoly can never be of any advantage; must always, on the contrary, be a source of great disadvantage to the mother country.
If the trade of the colony is left open to all the merchants of the mother country, it will no doubt happen, that the competition of these merchants, one with another, will make them sell as cheap in the colony as they can afford to sell, that is, buy as dear as they can afford to buy. The produce of the colony will, in that case, go as cheap to the foreign as to the home consumer.
There is another case; namely, that in which the trade of the colony is placed in the hands of an exclusive company. In that case it is true, that the mother country may obtain a given quantity of the goods of the colony for a less quantity of her own than otherwise she would do. The goods of the mother country are, in that case, placed, with regard to the goods of the colony, in the situation in which those commodities which can only be produced in a limited quantity, particular wines, for example, which can only be produced on one particular spot, are placed with regard to all the rest of the goods in the world. It is evident that any quantity of the rest of the goods in the world may be given for those wines, if people are sufficiently desirous to possess them; that there is no limit, in short, to that quantity, but the unwillingness of people to part with more of the things which they possess, to obtain the commodities which are thus in request. The same would be the case with a colony, the trade of which was entirely in the hands of an exclusive company. The exclusive company, by limiting the quantity of the goods of the mother country which they chose to send to the colony, might compel the colonists to give for that limited quantity any quantity of the produce of their own land and labour, which their desire to obtain the goods of the mother country would admit. If the goods of the mother country were goods which excited a very strong desire, if they were goods of the first necessity, the necessary materials of food or the instruments of their industry, there would be no limit but one to the greatness of the quantity of their own produce, which they might be compelled to pay for a given quantity of the produce of the mother country. When nothing was left to the colony of the whole produce of its labour, but just enough to keep the labourers alive, it could not go any farther. Up to that point, if dependent for articles of the first necessity, it might, by an exclusive company, undoubtedly be stript.
Even where the monopoly is not confined to an exclusive company, but extended to all the merchants of the mother country, she might still, in one supposeable case, draw an ordinary advantage from the trade of the colony.
The facts would be these. Whatever foreign goods the colony bought, she would still be obliged to purchase from the mother country. No doubt, the competition of the merchants of the mother country would, in this case, compel them to sell as cheap to the colony as to any other country. Wherein, then, would consist the advantage? In this, that England might thus sell in the colony, with the usual profits of stock, certain kinds of goods, which not being able to manufacture so cheaply as some other countries, she would cease to manufacture, except for the monopoly. But still a very natural question arises:—What advantage does she derive from forcing this manufacture, since she makes by it no more than the ordinary profits of stock, and might make the ordinary profits of stock by the same capital in some other employment? The answer is, that she might, by this means, obtain a greater quantity of the goods of the colony, by a given quantity of the produce of her own labour, or what comes to the same thing, an equal quantity of the goods of the colony, by a less quantity of the produce of her own labour, than she could in a case of freedom.
It may be seen to be so in this manner. England desires to purchase, say 10,000 hogsheads of sugar. This is her consumption. For this she will give, of the produce of her own labour, whatever quantity it is necessary to give. She wishes, however, to give as little as possible; and the question is, in what way she may give the least. The sugar is worth, say £500,000. England sends goods to the colony which sell for £500,000. Now, apply the supposition introduced above. Suppose that, if trade were free, these goods from England, which the manufacturers and merchants of England cannot afford to sell for less than £500,000, could be had for £400,000, from some other country. In that case it is evident that the same quantity of these same goods with which England, under the monopoly, purchased 10,000 hogsheads of sugar, would now purchase only 8000; for that is the ratio of the £400,000 to the £500,000. What, then, would happen, supposing England still to resolve upon having 10,000 hogsheads of sugar? One of two things must of necessity happen. Either she will purchase the sugar with the same goods, or she will not. If she purchases it with the same goods, it is evident that she must give a greater quantity of goods; she must give one fifth more of the produce of her labour; one fifth more of her industrious people must be withdrawn from administering to other productions, and employed in enabling her to obtain the same quantity of sugar. This quantity of produce, in that case, the mother country saves, by means of the monopolized trade of the colony. This quantity she loses, by losing such a colony. But, undoubtedly the mother country would, in such a case, endeavour to purchase the sugar, not with such goods as she purchased it with before, but other goods. She would endeavour to punchase it with goods which she could manufacture as cheaply as any other country. But supposing the colony had no demand for any goods which the mother country could afford as cheap as any other country; even in that case the mother country would still have a resource. If there was any country in which she could sell such goods for money, she could purchase the same quantity of sugar, for the same quantity of the produce of her own labour as before.
It is not then true, according to Dr. Smith, that in no case can the mother country derive any peculiar advantage in the way of trade, from the possession of colonies. We see that there are two cases, in which she may derive an advantage in that way. It remains to inquire what that advantage is ultimately worth; not only what it is in itself independently, but what it is, after compensation is made for all the disadvantages with which the attainment of it is naturally attended.
We are first to enquire what is the value of that advantage, all deductions made, which the mother country may derive, through an exclusive company, from the trade of a colony?
It is very evident, in the first place, that, whatever the mother country gains, the colony loses. Now, if the colony were part of the dominions of a foreign state, there is a certain way of viewing such questions, in which that result would appear to be perfectly desirable. But, suppose that the colony, which is the fact, is not part of the dominions of a foreign state, but of the same state; that it is, in truth, not part of a different country, but of the same country; its subjects not part of a different community, but of the same community; its poverty or riches, not the poverty or riches of another country, but of the same country. How is the result to be viewed in that case? Is it not exactly the same sort of policy, as if Yorkshire were to be drained and oppressed for the benefit of Middlesex? What difference does it make, that one of the portions of the same empire is somewhat farther off than another? Would it, for that reason, be more rational to pillage Caithness, than to pillage Yorkshire, for the sake of Middlesex? Does the wealth of a state consist in the wealth of one part, effected by the misery of another? What opinion must we form of such a rule for guiding the policy of state? Assuredly, this would be a contrivance, not for increasing her wealth and happiness upon the whole. It would be a contrivance for diminishing it. In the first place, when, from one of two parties, equally provided with the means of enjoyment, you take a portion to give it to the other, the fact is,—a fact too well established, and too consonant with the experience of every man, to need illustration here,—that you do not add to the happiness of the one, so much as you take from the happiness of the other; and that you diminish the sum of happiness of the two taken together. This, in truth, is the foundation, upon which the laws for the protection of property rest. As the happiness of one man is, or ought to be, of no more value to the state, than the happiness of another man, if the man who takes from another man a part of his property, added to his own happiness, as much as he took from the happiness of the other, there would be no loss of happiness upon the whole, and the state would have no ground, in utility, on which to interfere.
But this is not all: not only is the quantity of happiness diminished upon the whole, but by that operation which gives the mother country an advantage by the trade of the colony, the quantity of produce of the community is diminished upon the whole. The subjects of the state, taken as a whole, not only enjoy less than they would otherwise enjoy, but they produce less than they would otherwise produce. The state is not a richer state; it is, on the contrary, a poorer state, by means of such a colonial policy.
By means of such a policy, a portion of the capital of the state is employed in a channel in which it is less productive than it would have been in the channel into which it would have gone of its own accord. It is a point established in the science of Political Economy, that it is not good policy to confine consumption to any sort of home manufacture, when it can be purchased more cheaply abroad. It is upon this ground that we have laughed at the late and present outcries of the Germans, because the English sell their goods cheaper than they can make them. The reason is, because when a country continues to consume an article made at home, which it could get cheaper from another country, it does neither more nor less than insist, that it shall employ a certain number of men’s labour in providing it with that article, more than it would be necessary to employ if it imported the article; and, of course, it loses completely the benefit of these men’s labour, who would otherwise be employed in producing for it something else. The country is, therefore, the poorer, by the whole value of these men’s labour. The case is exactly the same, where the colonies are confined to the manufactures of the mother country. When the colony is obliged to employ, for the purpose of obtaining a certain quantity of goods from the mother country, the labour of a greater number of men than she would be obliged to employ to get the same quantity of goods from another country, she loses the labour of all that additional number of men. At the same time, the mother country does not gain it; for if the mother country did not manufacture for the colony, her capital would be liberated to another employment, and would yield the same profits in that as it did in the former employment.
We have still, however, to examine that extraordinary case which we before supposed, in which the mother country cannot produce any sort of commodity whatsoever as cheap as other countries; and, if trade were free, of course would sell nothing in a foreign market. The case here is somewhat altered. In liberating the colony from the monopoly of the mother country, there would be no change of capital from a less to a more productive employment; because, by the supposition, the mother country has not a more productive employment to which her liberated capital can be sent. Events would succeed in the following order. The colony would obtain the goods which it demanded, with a smaller portion of its own labour, would hence be more amply supplied with goods. But it is not supposed that this event would give to its industry a more beneficial direction. In the case of a sugar colony, at any rate, its industry would remain in the same channels as before. Such would be the effects in regard to the colony. What would they be in regard to the mother country? If her capital is no longer employed in manufacturing for the colony, she can always, indeed, employ it with the same profit as before. But she still desires the same quantity of sugar; and her goods will not go so far as before in the purchase of it. Whatever fall would be necessary in the price of her goods to bring them upon a level with the goods of other countries, is equivalent, as far as she is concerned, to a rise of the same amount, in the price of sugar. In this case, the mother country would lose exactly as much as the colony would gain. The community, taken as a whole, would be neither the richer nor the poorer, for driving things out of the free, into the compulsory channel. The people of the mother country would be so much the richer, the people of the colony would be so much the poorer.
This, however, still remains to be said. There is only one case in which this sort of monopoly would not diminish the produce of the community, and render it positively poorer upon the whole. There is only that one case, supposed above, in which the mother country has not one commodity which she can sell as cheap as other countries. Now this may fairly be regarded as a case, if not altogether, at any rate, very nearly impossible. It is not easy to conceive a country so situated, as not to have advantages in regard to the production of some sorts of commodities, which set her on a level with other countries. As long as this is the case, she can obtain money on as good terms as any other country; and if she can obtain money on as good terms, she can obtain sugar, and every thing else.
The question, then, as to the benefit capable of being derived from a colony through the medium of an exclusive trade, is now brought to a short issue. There is no benefit, except through the medium of a monopoly. There is only one case in which the monopoly does not make the whole community poorer than it would otherwise be. In that case, it does not make the community richer than it would otherwise be; and that case is one, which can either never be realized, or so rarely, as to be one of the rarest of all exceptions to one of the most constant of all general rules. The policy of holding a colony for the benefit of its trade, is, therefore, a bad policy.
To these conclusions, one or two of the doctrines of Dr. Smith will be seen to be opposed, and, therefore, require a few words of elucidation.
If an advantage, in the two cases just explained, would arise from colonies, it would be counterbalanced, he says, by the disadvantage attending the rise in the profits of stock.
Both parts of this doctrine may be disputed. In the first place, it may be disputed, whether the monopoly of the colony trade has any tendency to raise the profits of stock in the mother country. In the next place, it may be disputed, whether a high rate of profits in any country, has any tendency to lay it under any disadvantage in its traffic with other nations.
First, it may be disputed, whether the monopoly of the colony trade would increase the profits. The expulsion of foreign capital would create a vacuum, whence, according to Smith, a rise of profit, and an absorption of capital from the mother country. The question is, whether capital would not flow into the colonies from the mother country, till it reduced the profits in the colony, to the level of the profits in the mother country, instead of raising those in the mother country, in any degree toward a level with those of the colony. That it would do so, appears to be capable of demonstration. Mr. Ricardo’s argument would be very short. Nothing, he would say, can raise the profits of stock, but that which lowers the wages of labour. Nothing can lower the wages of labour, but that which lowers the necessaries of the labourer. But nobody will pretend to say, that there is any thing in the monopoly of the colony trade, which has any tendency to lower the price of the necessaries of the labourer. It is, therefore, impossible that the monopoly of the colony trade can raise the profits of stock. By those who are acquainted with the profound reasonings of Mr. Ricardo, in proof of the two premises, this argument will be seen to be complete. There is not a demonstration in Euclid, in which the links are more indissoluble. To those who are not acquainted with those reasonings, we are aware that the propositions will appear mysterious; and yet, we are afraid that, in the few words to which we are confined, it will not be possible to give them much satisfaction.
With regard to the last of the two propositions, that nothing can lower the wages of labour, but that which lowers the necessaries of the labourer, we may confine ourselves to that combination of circumstances which marks the habitual state, without adverting to the modifications exemplified in those states of circumstances which are to be regarded as exceptions. The habitual state of population is such, that wages are at the lowest terms; and cannot be reduced lower without checking population, that is, reducing the number of labourers. In this case, it is self-evident, that nothing can lower the wages of labour, but lowering the necessaries of the labourer. In all, then, except the extraordinary cases, which it would require too many words here to explain, in which a country is but partially peopled, and in which part of the best land is still unemployed, the proposition of Mr. Ricardo is indisputable, that nothing can lower the wages of labour, except a fall in the necessaries of the labourer.
Let us next consider the proposition, That nothing can raise the profits of stock but that which lowers the wages of labour.
One thing is perfectly clear, that if the whole of what is produced by the joint operations of capital and labour, were, whatever it is, divided, without deduction, between the owner of the stock, and the labourers whom it employs, in that case, whatever raised the wages of labour, would lower profits of stock, and profits of stock could never rise, except in proportion as wages of labour fell. The whole being divided between the two parties, in whatever proportion the one received more, it is certain that the other would receive less.
But what is here put in the way of supposition, viz. that the whole of what is produced by the joint operations of capital and labour, is divided between the capitalists and the labourers, is literally and rigidly the fact. It is, then, undeniable, that nothing can raise the profits of stock, but that which lowers the wages of labour.
The whole produce, without any exception, of every country, is divided into three portions, rent, wages, and profits. If there were no rent, and the whole were divided into profits and wages, the case would be clear; because nothing could be added to the one without being detracted from the other.
Rent, however, does, in reality, make no difference. Rent is no part of the joint produce of labour and capital. It is the produce, exclusively, of a particular degree of fertility in particular lands; and is yielded over and above a return to the whole of the labour and capital employed upon that land, over and above a return equal to the joint produce of an equal portion of labour and capital in any other employment.
So much, then, for Dr. Smith’s opinion, that the monopoly of the colonial trade raises the profits of stock. Let us next inquire if it be true, that a rise in the profits of stock, if it were produced by the monopoly, would occasion, as he supposes, any discouragement to the foreign trade of the mother country.
It would occasion this discouragement, he says, by raising prices. If, then, it can be shown, that it would certainly not raise prices, every reason for supposing that it would afford any discouragement to foreign trade is taken away. But that a high rate of profits does not, and cannot raise prices, is evident from what has been deduced above. The whole produce of the joint operations of labour and capital being divided between profits and wages, in whatever degree profits rise, wages fall; the cost of production remains the same as before.
Not only does a variation in the state of wages and profits give no obstruction to foreign trade, a variation even in the cost of production gives no obstruction. A nation exports to another country, not because it can make cheaper than another country; for it may continue to export, though it can make nothing cheaper. It exports, because it can, by that means, get something cheaper from another country, than it can make it at home. But how can it, in that case, get it cheaper than it can make it at home? By exchanging for it something which costs it less labour than making it at home would cost it. No matter how much of that commodity it is necessary to give in exchange. So long as what it does give is produced by less labour, than the commodity which it gets for it could be produced by at home, it is the interest of the country to export. Suppose that the same quantity of corn which is produced in England by the labour of 100 men, England can purchase in Poland with a quantity of cotton goods which she has produced with the labour of 90 men; it is evident that England is benefited by importing the corn and exporting the cotton goods, whatever may be the price of the cotton goods in Poland, or the cost of producing them. Suppose that the cotton goods could be produced in Poland with the labour of 85 men, that is, less than they are supposed to be produced with in England. Even that would not hinder the trade between them. Suppose that the same quantity of corn, which is raised in England with the labour of 100 men, is raised in Poland with the labour of 80; in that case, it is plain, that Poland can get with 80 men’s labour, through the medium of her corn, the same quantity of cotton goods which would cost her the labour of 85 men, if she was to make them at home. Both nations, therefore, profit by this transaction; England, to the extent of 10 men’s labour, Poland to the extent of 5 men’s labour; and the transaction, in a state of freedom, will be sure to take place between them, though England is less favourably situated than Poland with regard to both articles of production.
In what manner this class of transactions is affected by the intervention of the precious metals; in what manner the precious metals distribute themselves, so as to leave the motives to this barter exactly the same as they would be, if no precious metal intervened, it would require too many words here to explain. The reader who recurs for that explanation to Mr. Ricardo, the first author of it, will not lose his time or his pains.
One other disadvantage of the colony trade is adduced by Dr. Smith. It turns the capital of the country out of a more, into a less profitable employment, by turning it from the home to a foreign trade, from a foreign of quick, to a foreign of slow returns, and from a foreign to a carrying trade. This doctrine, too, requires some explanation, and more, to be sufficiently clear, than can here be bestowed upon it. The home trade is not necessarily more advantageous than the foreign, nor the foreign of quick, than the foreign of slow returns, nor any of them all than the carrying trade. These trades, it may be allowed, increase the gross produce of a country, in the order in which Dr. Smith has arranged them. But a country is happy and powerful, not in proportion to its gross, but in proportion to its net revenue; not in proportion to what it consumes for the sake of production, but to what it has over and above the cost of production. This is an important fact, which, in almost all his reasonings Dr. Smith has overlooked. It will hardly, however, be denied, that in various circumstances, any one of these trades, the carrying trade itself, may be more conducive to a net revenue, than any of the rest; and in a state of freedom will be sure to be so, as often as the interest of individuals draws into that channel any portion of the national stock.
We have now, therefore, considered all those cases which, in the study of colonial policy, can be regarded in the light of species or classes. There are one or two singular cases, which are of sufficient importance to require a separate mention.
That English law, which established the monopoly of the colonies, at least of the transatlantic ones, professes to have in view, not trade so much as defence. The reason of that round-about policy is in this manner deduced. The defence of England stands very much upon her navy; her navy depends altogether upon her sailors; the colony trade and its monopoly breed sailors; therefore, colonies ought to be cultivated, and their trade monopolized.
Upon the strength of this reasoning, in which, for a long time, it would have appeared to be little less than impiety to have discovered a flaw, the navigation laws, as they are called, were embraced, with a passionate fondness, by Englishmen.
Nothing is worthy of more attention, in tracing the causes of political evil, than the facility with which mankind are governed by their fears; and the degree of constancy with which, under the influence of that passion, they are governed wrong. The fear of Englishmen to see an enemy in their country has made them do an infinite number of things, which had a much greater tendency to bring enemies into their country than to keep them away.
In nothing, perhaps, have the fears of communities done them so much mischief, as in the taking of securities against enemies. When sufficiently frightened, bad governments found little difficulty in persuading them, that they never could have securities enough. Hence come large standing armies; enormous military establishments; and all the evils which follow in their train. Such are the effects of taking too much security against enemies!
A small share of reflection might teach mankind, that in nothing is the rigid exercise of a sound temperance more indispensable to the well-being of the community than in this. It is clear to reason (alas, that reason should so rarely be the guide in these matters!) that the provision for defence should always be kept down to the lowest possible, rather than always raised to the highest possible terms! At the highest possible terms, the provision for defence really does all the mischief to a community which a foreign enemy could do; often does a great deal more than he would. A moderate provision against evils of frequent and sudden occurrence, a provision strictly proportioned to the occasion, and not allowed to go beyond it, will save more evil than it produces. All beyond this infallibly produces more evil than it prevents. It enfeebles, by impoverishing the nation, and by degrading with poverty and slavery the minds of those from whom its defence must ultimately proceed. It makes the country, in this manner, a much easier prey to a powerful enemy, than if it had been allowed to gather strength by the accumulation of its wealth, and by that energy in the defence of their country, which the people of a well-governed country alone can evince.
A navy is useful for the defence of Great Britain. But a navy of what extent? One would not, for example, wish the whole people of Great Britain engaged in the navy. The reason, we suppose, would be; because this would not contribute to strength, but weakness. This is an important admission. There is, then, a line to be drawn; a line between that extent of navy which contributes to strength, and that extent which, instead of contributing to strength, produces weakness. Surely it is a matter of first-rate importance to draw that line correctly. What attempt has ever been made to draw that line correctly? What attempt has ever been made to draw it at all? Can any body point out any land-marks which have been set up by the proper authority? Or, has the matter been always managed without measure or rule? And has it not thus always been an easy task to keep the navy in a state of excess, always beyond the line which separates the degree that would contribute to strength from the degree that infallibly contributes to weakness?
As the passion of England has always been to have too great a navy; a navy which, by its undue expence, contributed to weakness; so it has been its passion to have too many sailors for the supply of that navy. The sailors of a navy are drawn from the sailors of the maritime trade. But a navy of a certain extent requires, for its supply, a maritime trade of only a certain extent. If it goes beyond that extent, all the excess is useless, with regard to the supply of the navy. Now, what reason has ever been assigned to prove, that the maritime traffic of Great Britain would not, without the monopoly of the colonies, afford a sufficient supply of sailors to a sufficient navy? None, whatsoever: none, that will bear to be looked at. But till a reason of that sort, and a reason of indubitable strength, is adduced, the policy of the navigation laws remains totally without a foundation. In that case, it deserves nothing but rejection, as all the world must allow. It is a violent interference with the free and natural course of things; the course into which the interests of the community would otherwise lead them; without any case being made to appear which requires that violent disturbance.
The discussion of this supposed benefit of colonies, we shall not pursue any farther; for, it is a signal proof of the diffusion of liberal ideas, that the policy of the navigation laws has become an object of ridicule in the British Parliament, and finds even there but a small number of defenders.
There is another singular case, created by mines of the precious metals. A colony may be formed and retained for the sake of the gold and silver it may produce. Of this species of colony, we have something of a specimen in the Spanish colonies of Mexico and Peru. The question is, whether any advantage can ever be derived from a colony of this description? The answer to this question is not doubtful; but it is not very easy, within the limits to which we are confined, to make the evidence of it perfectly clear to every body. In one case, and in one case alone, an advantage may be derived. That is the case, in which the colony contains the richest mines in the world. The richest mines in the world always, in the case of the precious metals, supply the whole world; because, from those mines, the metals can be afforded cheaper than the expense of working will allow them to be afforded from any other mines; and the principle of competition soon excludes the produce of all other mines from the market.
Now, the country, which contains the richest mines, may so order matters, as to gain from foreign countries, on all the precious metals which she sells to them, nearly the whole of that difference which exists between what the metal in working costs to her, and what, in working, it costs at the mines, which, next to hers, are the most fertile in the world.
She must always sell the metal so cheap, as to exclude the metal of those other mines from the market; that is, a trifle cheaper than they can afford to sell it. But, if her mines are sufficiently fertile, the metal may cost her much less in working than the price at which she may thus dispose of it. All the difference she may put in her exchequer. In three ways this might be done. The government might work the mines wholly itself. It might let them to an exclusive company. It might impose a tax upon the produce of the mine. In any one of these ways it might derive a sort of tribute from the rest of the world, on account of the gold and silver with which it supplied them. This could not be done, if the mines, without being taxed, were allowed to be worked by the people at large; because, in that case, the competition of the different adventurers would make them undersell one another, till they reduced the price as low as the cost of working would allow. Could the tax at the mine be duly regulated, that would be the most profitable mode; because the private adventurers would work the mines far more economically, than either the government or an exclusive company.
It is evident that this is a mode of deriving advantage from the possession of the richest mines of the precious metals, very different from that which was pursued by the Spanish government, and which has been so beautifully exposed by Dr. Smith. That government endeavoured to derive advantage from its mines, by preventing other countries from getting any part of their produce, and by accumulating the whole at home. By accumulating at home the whole of the produce of its mines, it believed (such was the state of its mind) that Spain would become exceedingly rich. By preventing other countries from receiving any part of that produce, it believed that it would compel them to continue poor. And, if all countries continued poor, and Spain became exceedingly rich, Spain would be the master of all countries.
In this specimen of political logic, which it would not be difficult to match nearer home, there are two assumptions, and both of them false. In the first place, that a country can accumulate, to any considerable extent, the precious metals; that is, any other way than by locking them up and guarding them in strong holds: In the next place that, if it could accumulate them, it would be richer by that means.
The first of these assumptions, that a country can keep in circulation a greater proportion than other countries of the precious metals, “by hedging in the cuckoo,” as it is humourously described by Dr. Smith, has been finely exposed by that illustrious philosopher, and requires no explanation here.
On the second assumption, that a country, if it could hedge in the precious metals, would become richer by that process, a few reflections appear to be required.
It is now sufficiently understood, that money, in any country, supposing other things to remain the same, is valuable just in proportion to its quantity. Take Mr. Hume’s supposition, that England were walled round by a wall of brass, and that the quantity of her money were, in one night, by a miracle, either raised to double, or reduced to one half. In the first case, every piece would be reduced to one half of its former value; in the second case, it would be raised to double its former value, and the value of the whole would remain exactly the same. The country would, therefore, be neither the richer nor the poorer; she would neither produce more nor enjoy more on that account.
It is never then, by keeping the precious metals, that a country can derive any advantage from them; it is by the very opposite, by parting with them. If it has been foolish enough to hoard up a quantity of the produce of its capital and labour in the shape of gold and silver, it may, when it pleases, make a better use of it. It may exchange it with other countries for something that is useful. Gold and silver, so long as they are hoarded up, are of no use whatsoever. They contribute neither to enjoyment nor production. You may, however, purchase with them, something that is useful. You may exchange them either for some article of luxury, and then they contribute to enjoyment; or you may exchange them for the materials of some manufacture, or the necessaries of the labourer, and then they contribute to production; then the effect of them is to augment the riches, augment the active capital, augment the annual produce of the country. So long as any country hoards up gold and silver, so long as it abstains from parting with them to other countries for other things, so long it deprives itself of a great advantage.
If colonies are so little calculated to yield any advantage to the countries that hold them, a very important question suggests itself. What is the reason that nations, the nations of modern Europe, at least, discover so great an affection for them? Is this affection to be wholly ascribed to mistaken views of their utility, or partly to other causes?
It never ought to be forgotten, that, in every country, there is “a Few,” and there is “a Many;” that in all countries in which the government is not very good, the interest of “the Few” prevails over the interest of “the Many,” and is promoted at their expence. “The Few” is the part that governs; “the Many” the part that is governed. It is according to the interest of “the Few” that colonies should be cultivated. This, if it is true, accounts for the attachment to colonies, which most of the countries, that is, of the governments of modern Europe, have displayed. In what way it is true, a short explanation will sufficiently disclose.
Sancho Panza had a scheme for deriving advantage from the government of an island. He would sell the people for slaves, and put the money in his pocket. “The Few,” in some countries, find in colonies, a thing which is very dear to them; they find, the one part of them, the precious matter with which to influence; the other, the precious matter with which to be influenced;—the one, the precious matter with which to make political dependents; the other, the precious matter with which they are made political dependents;—the one, the precious matter by which they augment their power; the other, the precious matter by which they augment their riches. Both portions of the “ruling Few,” therefore, find their account in the possession of colonies. There is not one of the colonies but what augments the number of places. There are governorships and judgeships, and a long train of et ceteras; and above all, there is not one of them but what requires an additional number of troops, and an additional portion of navy. In every additional portion of army and navy, beside the glory of the thing, there are generalships, and colonelships, and captainships, and lieutenantships, and in the equipping and supplying of additional portions of army and navy, there are always gains, which may be thrown in the way of a friend. All this is enough to account for a very considerable quantity of affection maintained towards colonies.
But beside all this, there is another thing of still greater importance; a thing, indeed, to which, in whatever point of view we regard it, hardly any thing else can be esteemed of equal importance. The colonies are a grand source of wars. Now wars, even in countries completely arbitrary and despotical, have so many things agreeable to the ruling few, that the ruling few hardly ever seem to be happy, except when engaged in them. There is nothing to which history bears so invariable a testimony as this. Nothing is more remarkable than the frivolous causes which almost always suffice for going to war, even when there is little or no prospect of gaining, often when there is the greatest prospect of losing by it, and that, even in their own sense of losing. But if the motives for being as much as possible in war are so very strong, even to governments which are already perfectly despotic, they are much stronger in the case of governments, which are not yet perfectly despotic, of governments of which the power is still, in any considerable degree, limited and restrained.
There is nothing in the world, where a government is, in any degree, limited and restrained, so useful for getting rid of all limit and restraint, as wars. The power of almost all governments is greater during war than during peace. But in the case of limited governments, it is so, in a very remarkable degree.
In the first place, there is the physical force of the army, and the terror and awe which it impresses upon the minds of men. In the next place, there is the splendour and parade, which captivate and subdue the imagination, and make men contented, one would almost say happy, to be slaves. All this surely is not of small importance. Then there is an additional power with which the government is entrusted during war. And, far above all, when the government is limited by the will of only a certain portion of the people; as, it is, under the British government, by the will of those who supply with members the two houses of Parliament; war affords the greatest portion of the precious matter with which that will may be guided and secured. Nothing augments so much the quantity of that portion of the national wealth which is placed at the command of the government, as war. Of course, nothing puts it in the power of government to create so great a number of dependents, so great a number of persons, bound by their hopes and fears to do and say whatever it wishes them to do and say.
Of the proposition, that colonies are a grand source of wars, and of additional expence in wars; that expence, by which the ruling few always profit at the cost of the subject many; it is not probable that much of proof will be required.
With regard to additional expence, it can hardly appear to be less than self-evident. Whenever a war breaks out, additional troops, and an additional portion of navy, are always required for the protection of the colonies. Even during peace, the colonies afford the pretext for a large portion of the peace establishment, as it is called; that is, a mass of warlike apparatus and expence, which would be burdensome even in a season of war. How much the cost amounts to, of a small additional portion, not to speak of a large additional portion, of army and navy, Englishmen have had experience to instruct them; and how great the mischief which is done by every particle of unnecessary expence, they are daily becoming more and more capable of seeing and understanding.
That the colonies multiply exceedingly the causes and pretexts of war, is matter of history; and might have been foreseen, before reaping the fruits of a bitter experience. Whatever brings you in contact with a greater number of states, increases, in the same proportion, those clashings of interest and pride, out of which the pretexts for war are frequently created. It would exhibit a result, which probably would surprise a good many readers, if any body would examine all the wars which have afflicted this country, from the time when she first began to have colonies, and would show how very great a proportion of them have grown out of colony disputes.
J. Innes, Printer, 61, Wells-street, Oxford-street, London.