Chapter 1

Section V. The Independence accruing to the Moderns from the Advancement of Industry Icon

September 30, 2015

The maxims of political economy are immutable; ere yet observed or discovered, they were operating in the way above described;

the same cause regularly producing the same effect; the wealth of Tyre and of Amsterdam originated in a common source. It is society that has been subject to change, in the progressive advancement of industry.

The ancients were not nearly so far behind the moderns in agriculture, as in the mechanical arts. Wherefore, since agricultural products are alone 55 essential to the multiplication of mankind, the unoccupied surplus of human labour was larger than in modern days. Those, who happened to have little or no land, unable to subsist upon the product of their own industry, unprovided with capital, and too proud to engage in those subordinate employments, which were commonly filled by slaves, had no resource but to borrow, without a prospect of the ability to repay, and were continually demanding that equal division of property, which was utterly impracticable.

With a view to stifle their discontents, the leading men of the state were obliged to engage them in warlike enterprises, and, in the intervals of peace, to subsist them on the spoils of the enemy, or on their own private means. This was the grand source of the civil disorder and discord, which continually distracted the states of antiquity; of the frequency of their wars, of the corruption of their suffrages, and of the connexion One sometimes meets with masters, who, in their anxiety to justify their avaricious practices by argument, assert roundly, that the labourer would perform less work, if better paid, and of patron and client, which backed the ambition of a Marius and a Sylla, a Pompey and a Caesar, an Antony and an Octavius, and which finally reduced the whole Roman people to the condition of servile attendants upon the court of a Caligula, a Heliogabalus, or some monster of equal enormity, whose grand condition of empire was the subsistence of the objects of his atrocious tyranny.

present preponderance of industry and civilized habits amongst the general mass of mankind seems to exclude all probability of a recurrence of such calamitous events. Indeed, the improvement of military science takes away all fear of the result of such a conflict.

There is yet one step more to be made; and that can only be rendered practicable by the wider diffusion of the principles of political economy. They will some day have taught man- kind that the sacrifice of their lives, in a contest for the acqui- sition or retention of colonial dominion or commercial mo- nopoly, is a vain pursuit of a costly and delusive good; that external products, even those of the colonial dependencies of a nation, are only procurable with the products of domestic growth= that internal production is, therefore, the proper ob- ject of solicitude, and is best to be promoted by political tran- quillity, moderate and equal laws, and facility of intercourse. The fate of nations will thenceforth hang no longer upon the precarious tenure of political pre- eminence, but upon the relative degree of information and intelligence. Public functionaries will grow more and more dependent upon the productive classes, to whom they must look for supplies; the people, retaining the right of taxation in their own hands, will always be well governed; and the struggles of power against the current of improvement will end in its own subversion; for it will vainly strive against the dispensations of nature.

The industrious cities of Tyre, Corinth, and Carthage, were somewhat differently circumstanced; but they could not permanently resist the hostility of poorer and more warlike nations, impelled by the prospect of plunder. Industry and civilization were the continual prey of barbarism and penury; and Rome herself at length yielded to the attack of Gothic and Vandalic conquerors.

Thus re-plunged into a state of barbarism, the condition of Europe, during the middle ages, was but a revival of the ear- liest scenes of Grecian and Italian history, in an aggravated form. Each baron or great landholder, was surrounded by a circle of vassals or clients on his domain, ready to follow him in civil broils or foreign warfare. I should trench upon the province of the historian, were I to attempt the delineation of the various causes that have aided the progress of industry since that period; but I may be al- lowed merely to note, by the way, the great change that has been effected, and the consequence of that change. Industry has become a means of subsistence to the bulk of the popula- tion, independent of the caprice of the large proprietors, and without being to them a constant source of alarm= it is nursed and supported by the capital accumulated by its own exer- tions. The relation of client and vassal has ceased to exist; and the poorest individual is his own master, and dependent upon his personal faculties alone. Nations can support them- selves upon their internal resources; and governments derive from their subjects those supplies, which they were wont to dispense as a matter of favour.


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