Sir James Steuart (1767)
Having pointed out the natural distribution of inhabitants into the two capital classes of which we have been treating, I am going to examine how far their employment must decide as to their place of residence.
First, When mankind is fed upon the spontaneous fruits of the earth, the distribution of their residence depends upon the division of the lands. If these are in common to all, then the inhabitants will be scattered abroad, or gathered together, according as the productions of the earth are equally distributed over the face of the country, or confined to some fruitful spots only.
Hence the Tartars wander with their flocks and feed upon them: hence the hunting Indians are scattered in small societies, through the woods, and live upon game: hence others, who feed upon the fruits of the earth, are collected in greater numbers upon the sides of rivers, and in watered valleys.
Where therefore the surface of the earth is not appropriated, there the place producing the food determines the place of residence of every one of the society, and there mankind may live in idleness, and remain free from every constraint.
Secondly, When the earth is not in common to those who live upon her spontaneous fruits, but is appropriated by a few, there either slavery or industry must be introduced among those who consume the surplus of the proprietors; because these will expect either service or work in return for their superfluity. In this case, the residence of the inhabitants will depend upon the circumstances we are going to consider; and the object of agriculture in countries where the surface of the earth is not broken up, being solely directed towards the gathering in of fruits, will determine the residence of those only who are necessary for that purpose: consequently it will follow, that in climates where the earth produces spontaneously, and in vast abundance, there may be found large cities; because the number of those who are necessary for gathering in the fruits is small in proportion to the quantity of them; whereas in other countries, where the earth's productions are scanty, and where the climate refuses those of the copious and luxuriant kind, there will hardly be found any considerable town, because the number of those who are necessary for collecting the subsistence, bears a great proportion to the fruits themselves. I do not say, that in the first case there must be large towns, or that in the other there can be none; but I say that, in the first case, those who may be gathered into towns, bear a great proportion to the whole society; and that, in the second, they bear a small one.
I think I have found this principle confirmed by experience. When I compare the bulk and populousness of the cities of Lombardy, and still more, those of the watered provinces of Spain, with the inhabitants of the territory which maintains them, I find the proportion of the first vastly greater than in those of France and England; and still more again in these two last mentioned kingdoms, than in the more northern countries and provinces, where the earth's productions bear a less proportion to the labour bestowed in producing them. Now, although I allow that neither the one or the other is fed by spontaneous productions, yet still it may be inferred, that the more the climate contributes to favour the labour of man, the more the productions participate of the spontaneous nature.
Again, in countries where labour is required for feeding a society, the smaller the proportion of labourers, the greater will be that of the free hands. Fruits which are produced by annual labour, and still more, such as are the consequence of a thorough cultivation, (such as luxuriant pasture,) give returns far superior to the nourishment of those employed in the cultivation; consequently, all the surplus is consumed by people not employed in agriculture; consequently, by those who are not bound to reside upon the spot which feeds them, and who may choose the habitation best adapted for the exercise of that industry which is most proper to produce an equivalent to the farmers for their superfluities.
From this it is plain that the residence of the farmers only is essentially attached to the place of cultivation. Hence, farms in some provinces, villages in others.
I now proceed to the other class of inhabitants; the free hands who live upon the surplus of the farmers.
These I must subdivide into two conditions. The first, those to whom this surplus directly belongs, or who, with a revenue in money already acquired, can purchase it. The second, those who purchase it with their daily labour or personal service.
Those of the first condition may live where they please; those of the second, must live where they can. The residence of the consumers determines, in many cases, that of the suppliers. In proportion, therefore, as those who live where they please choose to live together, in this proportion must the others follow them. And in proportion as the state thinks fit to place the administration of government in one place, in the same proportion must the administrators, and every one depending upon them, be gathered together. These I take to be principles which influence the swelling of the bulk of capitals, and smaller cities.
When the residence of the consumer does not determine that of him who supplies it, other considerations are allowed to operate. This is the case in what may properly be called manufactures, distinguished from trades, whether they be for home-consumption, or foreign exportation. These considerations are,
First, Relative to the place and situation of the establishment; which gives a preference to the sides of rivers and rivulets, when machines wrought by water are necessary; to the proximity of forests and collieries, when fire is employed; to the place which produces the substance of the manufacture; as in mines, collieries, brick-works, &c.
Secondly, Relative to the convenience of transportation, as upon navigable rivers, or by great roads.
Thirdly, Relative to the cheapness of living, consequently not (frequently) in great cities, except for their own consumption. But it must be observed, that this last consideration can hardly ever be permanent: for the very establishment being the means of raising prices, the advantage must diminish in proportion as the undertaking comes to succeed. The best rule therefore is, to set down such manufactures upon the banks of navigable rivers, where all necessary provisions may be brought from a distance at a small cost. This advantage is permanent, the others are not; and may prove in time hurtful, by a change in those very circumstances which decided as to the choice of the situation. From the establishment of manufactures we see hamlets swell into villages, and villages into towns.
Sea-ports owe their establishment to foreign trade. From one or other of these and similar principles, are mankind gathered into hamlets, villages, towns, and cities.
I am next going to examine the consequences resulting to the state, to the citizens, and to the landed interest, from this kind of separation, as I may call it, between the parent earth and her laborious children, which naturally takes place every where in proportion to the progress of industry, luxury, and the swift circulation of money.
As to the state, it is, I think, very plain, that, without such a distribution of inhabitants, it would be impossible to levy taxes. For as long as the earth nourishes directly those who are upon her surface, as long as she delivers her fruits into the very hand of him who consumes them, there is no alienation, no occasion for money, consequently no possibility of establishing an extensive taxation, as shall in its place be fully explained. From this principle is, I imagine, to be deduced the reason, why we find taxation so little known under the feudal form of government.
The personal service of the vassals, with their cattle and servants upon all occasions, made the power and wealth of the lords, and their rents were mostly paid in kind. They lived upon their lands, were commonly jealous of one another, and had constant disputes. This was a very good reason to keep them from coming together. Towns were situated round their habitations. These were mostly composed of the few tradesmen and manufacturers that were in the country. The lord's judge, his fiscal, and his court of record, added to these numbers; lawsuits, and the lord's attendance, brought the vassals frequently together; this gave encouragement to houses of entertainment; and this I take to be the picture of the greatest part of small towns, if we ascend three or four hundred years from the present time.
Cities were the residence of bishops. These lords were very independent of the civil government, and had at the same time the principal direction in it. They procured privileges to their cities, and these communities formed themselves by degrees into small republics: taxes here have ever been familiar. The feudal lords seldom appeared here, and the inferior classes of the people enjoyed liberty and ease in these cities only.
In some countries of Europe, as in Germany, the principal citizens, in time, became patricians. In France certain offices of public trust sometimes procured nobility to those who bore them, and always consideration. The representatives of the citizens were even admitted into the states, and formed the tiers êtat. Elsewhere they received casual marks of distinction from the sovereign, as the Lord Mayor of London does to this day usually receive knighthood. In short, the only dawning of public liberty to be met with during the feudal government, was in the cities; no wonder then if they increased.
Upon the discovery of America and the East-Indies, industry, trade, and luxury, were soon introduced in the kingdoms of Spain, France, and England: the grandeur and power of the Hanstowns had already pointed out to sovereigns the importance of these objects.
The courts of princes then became magnificent; the feudal lords insensibly began to frequent them with more assiduity than formerly. The splendor of the prince soon eclipsed those rays which shone around them upon their own lands. They now no more appeared to one another as objects of jealousy, but of emulation. They became acquainted, began to relish a court life, and every one proposed to have a house in the capital. A change of habitation made a change of circumstances, both as to city and country. As to the city; so far as inhabitants were increased, by the addition of the great lords, and of those who followed their example, so far demand increased for every sort of provision and labour; and this quickly drew more inhabitants together. Every one vied with another in magnificence of palaces, clothes, equipages. Modes changed and by turns enlivened the different branches of ingenuity. Whence came so great a number of inhabitants all of a sudden? He who would have cast his eyes on the deserted residences of the nobility, would quickly have discovered the source; he would there have seen the old people weeping and wailing, and nothing heard among them but complaints of desolation: the youth were retired to the city: there was no change as to them.
This is no doubt a plain consequence of a sudden revolution, which never can happen without being attended with great inconveniences. Many of the numerous attendants of the nobility who uselessly filled every house and habitation belonging to the great man, were starving for want. He was at court, and calling aloud for money, a thing he was seldom accustomed to have occasion for, except to lock up in his chest. In order to procure this money, he found it expedient to convert a portion of the personal services of his vassals into cash: by this he lost his authority. He then looked out for a farmer (not a husbandman) for an estate which he formerly consumed in its fruits. This undertaker, as I may call him, began by dismissing idle mouths. Still greater complaints ensued. At last, the money spent in the city began to flow into the hands of the industrious: this raised an emulation and the children of the miserable, who had felt the sad effects of the revolution, but who could not foresee the consequences, began to profit by it. They became easy and independent in the great city, by furnishing to the extravagance of those under whose dominion they were born.
This progression is perhaps too minutely traced to be exact; I therefore stop, to consider the situation of affairs at that period, when all the inconveniences of the sudden revolution had ceased, and when things were come to the state in which we now find them. Capitals swelled to a great extent; Paris and London appearing monstrous to some, as being a load upon the rest of the country. This must be examined.
We agree, I suppose, that the inhabitants of cities are not employed in agriculture, and we may agree that they are fed by it: we have examined into the causes of the increase of cities, and we have seen the fund provided for their subsistence, to wit, the surplus of fruits produced by husbandmen.
What are then the advantages resulting to the citizens from this great increase of their city? I cannot find any great benefit resulting to each individual from this circumstance; but I conclude, that the same advantages which many find in particular, must be common to great numbers, consequently great numbers are gathered together.
The principal objections against great cities are, that health there is not so good, that marriages are not so frequent as in the country, that debauchery prevails, and that abuses are multiplied.
To this I answer, that these objections lie equally against most cities, and are not peculiar to those complained of for their bulk; and that the evils proceed more from the spirit of the inhabitants, than from the size of the capital.
It is further urged, that the number of deaths exceeds the number of births in great cities; consequently smaller towns, and even the country, is stripped of its inhabitants, in order to recruit these capitals.
Here I first deny, that in all capitals the number of deaths exceeds the number of births; for in Paris it is otherwise. But supposing the assertion to be true, what conclusion can be drawn from it, except that many people who are born in the country die in town. That the country should furnish cities with inhabitants is no evil. What occasion has the country for supernumerary hands? If it has enough for the supply of its own wants, and of the demands of cities, has it not enough? Had it more, the supernumeraries would either consume without working, or, if added to the class of labourers, instead of being added to the number of free hands, would overturn the balance between the two classes; grain would become too plentiful, and that would cast a general discouragement upon agriculture: whereas, by going to cities, they acquire money, and therewith purchase the grain they would have consumed, had they remained in the country; and this money, which their additional labour in cities will force into circulation, would otherwise have remained locked up, or at least would not have gone into the country, but in consequence of the desertion of the supernumeraries. The proper and only right encouragement for agriculture, is a moderate and gradual increase of demand for the productions of the earth: this works a natural and beneficial increase of inhabitants; and this demand must come from cities, for the husbandmen never have occasion to demand; it is they who offer to sale.
The high prices of most things in large cities is a benefit surely, not a loss to the country. But I must observe, that the great expence of living in capitals does not affect the lower classes, nor the moderate and frugal, in any proportion to what it does the rich. If you live on beef, mutton, bread, and beer, you may live as cheap in London and in Paris as in most cities I know. These articles abound, and though the demand be great, the provision made for supplying it is in proportion. But when you come to fish, fowl, and game; delicacies of every kind brought from far, by the post, by ships, and by messengers; when you have fine equipages, large houses, expensive servants, and abundance of waste in every article, without one grain of oeconomy in any, it is no wonder that money should run away so fast. I do not, from what has been said, conclude, that there is any evident advantage in having so overgrown a capital as London in such a kingdom as England; but that I do not find great force in the objections I have met with against it. That there may be others which I do not know, I will not deny, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with that kingdom to be a competent judge of the matter.
Let me now conclude this chapter, by mentioning in what respects I think cities an advantage, in general, to a country; and, as I go along, I shall point out wherein they prove a disadvantage, in particular, to some parts of it.
The general advantages of them are:
First, To remove the necessary load upon the land; those idle people, who eat up a part of the produce of labour without contributing to it.
Secondly, The opportunity of levying taxes, and of making these affect the rich, in proportion to the consumption they make, without hurting industry or exportation.
Thirdly, The advantages resulting to the landed interest are no less considerable. This is proved by universal experience; for we see every where, that the moment any city, town, or village, begins to encrease, by the establishment of trade or manufactures, the lands round about immediately rise in their value. The reason of this seems easily deduced from the above principles.
When a farmer has got his oeconomy under right regulations, not one supernumerary, nor useless mouth, but abundance of hands for every kind of labour, which is generally the case near towns and cities, the proximity of them discharges him of every superfluity. His cattle consume the exact quantity of grain and of forage necessary; what remains is money, a superfluous egg is money; a superfluous day of a cart, of a horse, a superfluous hour of a servant, is all money to the farmer. There is a constant demand for every thing he can do or furnish. To make this the more sensibly perceived, remove into a province, far from a town, and compare situations. There you find abundance of things superfluous, which cannot be turned into money, which therefore are consumed without much necessity, and with little profit. It is good to have an estate there, when you want to live upon it; it is better to have one near the great town, when you do not.
It may be alleged, that the disadvantages felt by the distant farmer and proprietor, when they compare situations with those residing near the town, proceed from the town: this must be examined.
If the town consume the produce of this distant farm, it must consume it in competition with every place at a smaller distance; consequently this competition must do more good than harm to the distant farm. If the city consume none of the produce, wherein does it affect it? It may be answered, that, by entering into competition with the distant farmer for the labouring inhabitants, these desert agriculture, in favour of a more lucrative occupation, to be found in the city. Scarcity of hands in the country raises the price of labour on one hand, while it diminishes the price of subsistence on the other; consequently the farmer suffers a double disadvantage. Of this there can be no doubt; but as these revolutions cannot by their nature be sudden, it becomes the duty of the statesman, whom I suppose constantly awake, directly to set on foot some branch of industry in every such distant part of the country; and as prices of subsistence will diminish for a while, for the reasons above-mentioned, this will prove an encouragement to the establishment; this again will accelerate propagation, as it will prove an outlet for children, and, in a short time, the farmer will find himself in a better situation than ever. But even without this assistance from industry the state, a few years will set all to rights, provided the spirit of is kept up: for cities, by swelling, extend their demand to the most distant corners of a country; the inhabitants who desert do not cease to consume, and thereby they repair the hurt they do by their desertion. I appeal to experience for the truth of this. Do we not perceive demand extending every year farther and farther from great capitals? I know places in France which, twenty years ago, never knew what it was to send even a delicacy to Paris, but by the post, and which now send thither every week loaded waggons, with many thousand weight of provisions, so much that I may almost say, that a fatted chicken in the most distant province of that country can be sold with great profit in the Paris market during all the winter season; and cattle carry thither their own flesh cheaper than any waggon can. What distant farm then can complain of the greatness of that noble city? There is however a case, where a distant part of a country may suffer in every respect, to wit, when the revolution is sudden; as when a rich man, who used to spend his income in his province, for the encouragement of industry, goes to Paris or London, and stays away for a year or two, without minding the interest of the estate he abandons. No doubt this must affect his province in proportion; but in every revolution which comes on gradually by the desertion of such only as lived by their industry, new mouths are born and supply the old. The only question is about employing them well: while you have superfluous food and good oeconomy, a country will always reap the same benefit from her natural advantages.
Fourthly, Another advantage of cities is, the necessity arising from thence of having great roads, and these again prove a considerable encouragement to agriculture.
The miserable condition of roads over all Europe almost, till within these hundred years, is a plain proof of the scanty condition of the cities, and of the small encouragement formerly given towards extending the improvement of the soil.
Let any one examine the situation of the landed interest before the making of great roads in several provinces in France, and compare it with what it is at present. If this be found a difficult inquiry, let him compare the appearance of young gentlemen of middling fortune, as he finds them at Paris, or in their regiment, with that of their fathers, who live in their province in the old way, and he will have a very good opportunity of perceiving the progress of ease and refinement in this class, which has proceeded from no other cause than the improvement of the soil. People complain that prices are risen; of this there is no doubt with regard to many articles. Is not this quite consistent with our principles? It is not because there is now a larger mass of money in the kingdom, though I allow this to be true, and also that this circumstance may have contributed to raise prices; but the direct principle which has influenced them, and which will always regulate their rise and fall, is the increase of demand. Now the great roads in a manner carry the goods to market; they seem to shorten distances, they augment the number of carriages of all sorts, they remove the inconveniences above-mentioned resulting from the distance of the city. The more distant parts of the country come to market, in competition with the farmers in the neighbourhood of the cities. This competition might make the rents of lands lying round such cities as were the first to encourage industry, sink in their value. But the hurt in this respect done to the proprietors of these lands would soon be repaired. The cities would increase in bulk, demand would increase also, and prices would rise a-new. Every thing which employs inhabitants usefully promotes consumption; and this again is an advantage to the state, as it draws money from the treasures of the rich into the hands of the industrious. The easy transportation of fruits produces this effect: the distant farmer can employ his idle hours in providing, and the idle days of his servants and cattle in sending things to market, from farms which formerly never knew what it was to sell such productions.
I shall carry these speculations no farther, but conclude by observing, that the making of roads and navigable canals must advance population, as they contribute to the advancement of agriculture.
Having deduced the effects of modern policy, in assembling so large a proportion of inhabitants into cities, it is proper to point the principles which should direct the statesman to the proper means of providing, supporting, and employing them. Without this they neither can live nor multiply. Their parent, Earth, has in a manner banished them from her bosom; they have her no more to suckle them in idleness; industry has gathered them together, labour must support them, and this must produce a surplus for bringing up children. If this resource should fail, misery will ensue: the depopulation of the cities will be followed by the ruin of the lands, and all will go to wreck together. We have already laid down the principles which appear the most natural to engage mankind to labour, supposing all to be free and we have observed how slavery, in former times, might work the same effect, as to peopling the world, that trade and industry do now; men were then forced to labour because they were slaves to others, men are forced to labour now because they are slaves to their own wants: provided man be made to labour, and make the earth produce abundantly, and provided that either authority, industry, or charity, can make the produce circulate for the nourishment of the free hands, the principle of a great population is brought to a full activity.
I shall now suppose these principles to be well understood. Wants promote industry, industry gives food, food increases numbers: the next question is, how numbers are to be well employed?
It is a general maxim in the mouth of every body; increase the inhabitants of the state: the strength and power of a state is in proportion to the number of its inhabitants.
I am not fond of condemning opinions; but I am very much for limiting general propositions. I have hardly ever escaped being led into error by every one I have laid down. Nothing is so systematical, nothing so pretty in a treatise as general maxims; they facilitate the distribution of our ideas, and I have never been able to dash them out but with a certain regret.
As I often recur to private oeconomics for clearing up my ideas it be a general rule, that concerning the political, I have asked myself, if it be a general rule, that, the master of a family should increase the mouths of it, to the full proportion of all he can feed? Now it is my opinion, that in a small family well composed, and where every one is properly employed, both master and servants are much happier than in others vastly more numerous, where the same order and regularity is not kept up; and that a small number of well disciplined soldiers is more formidable, and really stronger, than the numerous populace of a large city.
The use of inhabitants is to be mutually serviceable one to another in particular, and to the society in general. Consequently, every state should, in good policy, first apply itself to make the inhabitants they have answer this purpose, before they carry their views towards augmenting their numbers. I think it is absurd to wish for new inhabitants, without first knowing how to employ the old; and it is ignorance of the real effects of population, to imagine that an increase of numbers will infallibly remove inconveniences which proceed from the abuses of those already existing.
I shall then begin by supposing that inhabitants require rather to be well employed than increased in numbers.
If I know the number of inhabitants, I may know the proportion which die every year: consequently, I know how many pairs of breeders are necessary to keep up the stock. If I want to raise twenty bushels of grain only, I do not sow my lands with twenty bushels. If I have as many children born as there are people who die, I have enough by the supposition. But these children must be raised proportionally, from the different classes of inhabitants, which I here consider as distributed into two conditions; those who do not labour, and those who do. May I not venture to say, that there is no absolute necessity that those of the first class should multiply in order to recruit the second. If then the second class is kept up to its proper standard by its own multiplication, and if their work be all consumed, will it not be found that the diminution of those mouths who do not work, and which appear useful in consideration only of the consumption they make, is no real loss to the nation? But to this it is objected, that if the number of the first class be diminished, the work of the second will lie upon hand.
Here I look for my answer from what daily experience points out. Two persons (A) and (B) have each 1000 l. a year; (A) has many children, (B) has none: they both spend their income; (A) upon the necessaries of life for his family, and for the education of his children; for the supplying of which, those of the working class only are employed, for whoever does or gives any thing for money, I consider as a worker: (B) spends his income as a fashionable young gentleman: he has a fine chariot, abundance of footmen in laced liveries; in short, without examining into the particulars of his expence, I find the whole 1000 l. spent at the end of the year. Neither (A) or (B) do any work; or are any of (A's) children necessary as a supply to the working hands, by the supposition. Is it not true then, that (B) has consumed as much work or service, for these I consider as the same thing, as (A) with his family? Nay, I may still go farther, and affirm, that (B) has contributed as much, if not more, to population than (A). For if it he true, that he who gives food gives numbers, I say, that the expence of (B) has given food to the children of the industrious employed by him: consequently, instead of having directly contributed to the increase of the idle of the state, which is the case with (A), he has indirectly contributed to the multiplication of the industrious. What good then does the state reap from (A's) children, from his marriage, from his multiplication? Indeed, I see no harm although he had remained a batchelor: for those who produce idle consumers only, certainly add neither riches, strength, or ease to a state. And it is of such people alone that there is any question here.
From this I conclude, that there can be no determinate number of rich idle consumers necessary to employ a determinate number of industrious people, no more than of masters to employ a fixed number of menial servants. Do we not see a single man frequently attended by more servants than are necessary when he gets a wife and family? nay, it many times happens, that a young man, upon his marriage, diminishes the number of his domestics, in order to give bread to his children.
If riches be calculated, as I hope to prove, for the encouragement of industry; if circulation is to be accelerated by every method, in order to give bread to those who are disposed to work, or, in other words, who are disposed to become vigorous members of the commonwealth, by contributing with their strength, their ingenuity, or their talents, to supply her wants, to augment her riches, to promote and administer a good government at home, or to serve it abroad: then, I say, the too great multiplication of those who come under none of these classes, the idle consumers as I have called them, contribute directly to make the other part languish.
There is no governing a state in perfection, and consequently no executing the plan for a right distribution of the inhabitants, without exactly knowing their situation as to numbers, their employment, the gains upon every species of industry, the numbers produced from each class. These are the means of judging how far those of a particular trade or occupation are in a situation to bring up a family. To examine, on the other hand, the state of the higher classes who do not labour, the ease of their circumstances, and the use the state has for their service; this may appear superfluous; since those who do not work, must be supposed to have wherewithal to live; and consequently, not to stand in need of assistance. But this is not every where, nor always the case; and many excellent subjects are lost to a state, for want of a proper attention in the statesman to this object.
I have observed how necessary a thing it is to govern a people according to their spirit; now by governing I understand, protecting, cherishing, and supporting, as well as punishing, restraining, and exacting. If, therefore, there be found in any country, a very numerous nobility, who look upon trade and the inferior arts as unbecoming their birth; a good statesman must reflect upon the spirit of former times, and compare it with that of the present. He will then perceive, that these sentiments have been transmitted from father to son, and that six generations are not elapsed since, over all Europe, they were universally adopted: that, although the revolution we talked off in the 10th chapter has in effect rendered them less adapted to the spirit of the present times, they are however productive of excellent consequences; they serve as a bulwark to virtue, against the allurements of riches; and it is dangerous to force a set of men who form a considerable body in a state, from necessity, to trample under foot, what they have been persuaded from their infancy to be the test of a noble and generous mind.
About two hundred years ago, the nobility of several nations, (I mean, by this term, all people well born, whether adorned with particular marks of royal favour or not,) used to live upon the produce of their lands. In those days there was little luxury, little circulation; the lands fed numbers of useless mouths, in the modern acceptation of useless, consequently produced a very moderate income in money to the proprietors, who notwithstanding were the most considerable persons in the state. This class of inhabitants remaining inactive in the country, during the revolution above mentioned, have, in consequence of the introduction of industry, trade and luxury, insensibly had the balance of wealth, and consequently of consideration turned against them. Of this there is no doubt. This class however has retained the military spirit, the lofty sentiments; and notwithstanding their depression in point of fortune, are found calculated to shine the brightest, when set in a proper elevation. In times of peace, when trade flourishes, the lustre of those who wallow in public money, the weight and consideration of the wealthy merchant, and even the ease and affluence of the industrious tradesman, eclipse the poor nobility; they become an object of contempt to bad citizens, an object of compassion to the good; and political writers imagine they render them an important service, when they propose to receive them into the lower classes of the people. But when danger threatens from abroad, and when armies are brought into the field, compare the behaviour of those conducted by a warlike nobility, with those conducted by the sons of labour and industry; those who have glory, with those who have gain for their point of view. Let the state suffer only this nobility to languish without a proper encouragement, there is no fear but they will soon disappear; their lands will become possessed by people of a way of thinking more à-la-mode, and the army will quickly adopt new sentiments, more analogous to the spirit of a moneyed interest.
I find nothing more affecting to a good mind, than to see the distress of a poor nobility in both sexes. Some have proposed trade for this class. Why do you not trade? I answer, for the nobility; because, in order to trade, I must have money. This objection is unanswerable. Why then do you not apply to other branches of industry? If it is the state who is supposed to ask the question, I ask, in my turn, What advantage she can reap from their industry? What profit from their becoming shop-keepers, weavers, or taylors? Are not, or ought not all these employments to be provided with hands from their own multiplication? What advantage can she reap by the children of one class taking the bread out of the mouths of another?
If the sentiments in which the nobility have been educated, prove detrimental to the state, throw a discouragement upon them. If birth is to be no mark of distinction, let it not be distinguished by any particular privilege, which in appearance sets this class above the level of those with whom the state intends it should be incorporated. You do not make your valet-de-chambre get behind your coach, though upon an occasion it might be convenient, and though perhaps he had been your footman the day before; you would even turn him out of doors, did he not change his company with his rank.
If you cannot afford to have a nobility, let it die away: grant, as in England, the title of noble to one of a family only, and let all the rest be commoners; that is to say, distinguished by no personal privilege whatsoever from the lowest classes of the people. But if you want them to serve you as soldiers, and wish they should preserve those sentiments you approve of in a soldier, take care at least of their children. If these appear to you poor and ragged, while they are wandering up and down their father's lands, chasing a wretched hare or a partridge compare them, when in the troops, with those of your wealthy neighbours, if any such you have.
The establishment of an hôtel militaire shews that there are some people at least who lend an ear to such representations. I do not propose that a prince should divert into this channel those streams of wealth which flow from every part of the state, though nothing is more reasonable than for men to pay in order to protect their gains; but let a tax be imposed upon noble property, and let it be appropriated for the education of the generous youth from their earliest years. There the state will have all under her eye, they are her children, her subjects, and they ask no more than to be taken from the obscurity of their habitations, and rendered capable of being employed while young and vigorous. When they have done their task, the country which produced them will receive them back into her warm bosom; there they will produce others like themselves, and support the spirit and propagation of their own class, without becoming any charge upon others.
A statesman should make it his endeavour to employ as many of every class as possible, and when employment fails in the common run of affairs, to contrive new outlets for young people of every denomination. The old and idle are, in many particulars, lost beyond recovery.
The mutual relations likewise, through industry, between class and class, should be multiplied and encouraged to the utmost. Relations by marriage, I am apt to believe, prove here more hurtful than beneficial. That is to say, I would rather discourage the intermarriage of the persons of different classes; but I would encourage, as much as possible, all sorts of mutual dependences between them, in the way of their trades. The last tends to keep every one employed, according to the wants and spirit of his class; the first is productive in general of no good effect that I can perceive; which is reason sufficient for a state to give at least no encouragement to such marriages, and this is all the restraint proper to be imposed.
Such members of the society as remain unemployed, either from natural infirmities or misfortunes, and who thereby become a load upon others, are really a load upon the state. This is a disease which must be endured. There is no body, no thing, without diseases. A state should provide retreats of all sorts, for the different conditions of her decayed inhabitants: humanity, good policy, and christianity, require it. Thus much may be said in general upon the principles which direct the employment and distribution of inhabitants, which in every state must be different, according to circumstances relating to the extension, situation, and soil of the country, and above all, to the spirit of the people. I am next to offer some considerations with regard to the proper methods of augmenting numbers.
We have the happiness to live in an age where daily opportunities offer, of perceiving the difference between exercising an art according to the mechanical received practice, and according to the principles which study and refinement have introduced for bringing it to perfection. This will appear in the strongest light to one who compares the operation of building an ordinary house, with that of executing a great public work, where the most able architects are employed; the making a common parish road, with that of a military way, through mountains, forests, and marshes. In the first, every difficulty appears unsurmountable: in the second, the greatest obstacles are made to vanish. By comparing these things, we distinguish between the artist, who proceeds by the rules of the science, and the ordinary tradesman, who has no other resource than common practice, aided by his own ingenuity.
Every branch of science must be carried to perfection by a master in it, formed by the hand of nature, and improved by application and experience. The great genius of Mr de Colbert saw through the confusion and perplexity of the administration of the French finances; he invented resources for swelling the public treasure, which never would have been liable to so many inconveniences as are complained of, had the administration been conducted with as much disinterestedness, as it was set on foot with ability. The genius of Mr Law was original as to figures and paper credit. Sir Robert Walpole discovered new principles of taxation; he extended the plan of public credit, and reduced the application of it to a science. These were horn statesmen in the common acceptation of the word, they were creators of new ideas, they found out new principles for the government of men, and led them by their interest to concur in the execution of their plans. Men of a speculative disposition may broach hints, although the force of theory, destitute of practice, and unassisted by experiment, be not sufficient to carry them the length of forming a plan. A great genius, with power and authority, has occasion for no more than a hint to strike out the system, and to carry it, with success, into execution.
No problems of political oeconomy seem more obscure than those which influence the multiplication of the human species, and which determine the distribution and employment of them, so as best to advance the prosperity of each particular society.
I have no where found these matters treated to my wish, nor have I ever been able to satisfy myself concerning them. There are many clouds which still cover the fruitful fields of this science; and until these be dissipated, the political eye cannot take in the whole landscape, nor judge of the deformities which appear in the many representations which our modern painters are daily giving of it.
I may here, without an imputation of vanity, put myself so far upon a level with the great Montesquieu, as to adopt the saying of Correggio, Io anche son pittore; I am also a dauber; for I frankly acknowledge my own incapacity to treat this subject with all the perspicuity it deserves: my frequent repetitions, and my often returning to it at different times, in order to clear up my ideas and those of my readers, shews plainly, that I am sensible of my own insufficiency. By setting it, however, in different lights, and viewing it as it were from different stations, perhaps both my reader and I may come at last to see a little clearer.
In a former chapter, I have endeavoured to lay down the principles which influence multiplication; but alas! they are all so general, that they can be considered only as the most remote. They may satisfy a slight speculation, but can be of little use in practice. I have principally insisted upon those which are found to operate at all times among societies where primitive simplicity prevails. Now this matter comes to be examined in a more complex light, as relative to the manners of modern mankind, which no statesman, however able, can change; where trade, industry, luxury, credit, taxes, and debts, are introduced. In these the most polite nations of Europe are involved. This is a chain of adamant, it hangs together by a cohesion, which the successive revolutions of three centuries have so cemented with the spirit of nations, that it appears to be indissoluble. It is not my business to examine how far the modern system is to be preferred to the ancient; my point of view is, to investigate how a statesman may turn the circumstances which have produced this new plan of oeconomy to the best advantage for mankind, leaving the reformation of such a plan to time and to events, of which I am not the master. Schemes for recalling ancient simplicity and for making mankind honest and virtuous, are beautiful speculations: I admire them as much as any body, but not enough to believe them practicable in our degenerate age.
If therefore the principles I here lay down appear contradictory to so amiable a system of policy, let no man thence conclude any thing to my disadvantage upon the account of my particular opinion concerning it, which is a matter of no importance whatsoever. My object is to examine the consequences of what we feel and see daily passing, and to point out how far the bad may be avoided, and the good turned to the best advantage.
The loss of ancient simplicity, and the introduction of this complicated scheme of living, has rendered the mechanism of government infinitely more difficult, and almost every disorder in the political body affects multiplication. Depopulation is as certain a mark of political diseases, as wasting is of those of the human body. The increase of numbers in a state shews youth and vigour: when numbers do not diminish, we have an idea of manhood, and of age when they decline.
The importance of the subject therefore requires me to bring it once more upon the carpet, in order to inquire into the proper methods of restoring and preserving youth, and of diffusing vigour into every articulation, into every vein, into every nerve, as I may say, of a modern society.
In the republic of Lycurgus an unmarried man met with no respect; because no reason but debauchery could prevent his marrying. Marriage was no load in a state where all were fed and taken care of at the public charge. A Spartan who did not marry, was considered as one who refused to contribute towards recruiting of the army, merely to gratify a vicious habit.
The jus trium liberorum, and the other encouragements given by Augustus Caesar to engage the Romans to marry, were calculated chiefly for the nobility, and for the citizens only, but not at all for the inferior class (the slaves) bound to labour. The vice to be corrected, and that which the emperor had in his eye in those institutions, was the prodigal and dissolute life of rich men who lived in celibacy. This affected the Roman state, and deprived it of its principal force, the military power, the equites. Judge of the force of this class by the numbers of them destroyed at Cannae. In those days, the chief encouragement to multiplication was to be directed towards the higher classes: the lower classes of the people (by far the most numerous in all countries and in all ages) were easily recruited, by the importation of slaves, as they are now in the West Indies, where, consequently, the same principle must naturally operate, which fixed the attention of the wise emperor. The state of affairs in Europe, and in England particularly, is changed entirely, by the establishment of universal liberty. Our lowest classes are absolutely free; they belong to themselves, and must bring up their own children, else the state becomes depopulated. There is no resource to us from importation, whether by ships, or acts of parliament for naturalization. We shall always have a numerous and free common people, and shall constantly have the same inconveniences to struggle with, as long as the lowest classes remain in such depression as not to be able to support their own numbers. Here then lies the difficulty. In order to have a flourishing state, which Sir William Temple beautifully compared to a pyramid, we must form a large and solid basis of the lowest classes of mankind. As the classes mount in wealth, the pyramid draws narrower until it terminate in a point, (as in monarchy,) or in a small square, as in the aristocratical and mixed governments. This lowest class therefore must be kept up, and, as we have said, by its own multiplication. But where every one lives by his own industry, a competition comes in, and he who works cheapest gains the preference. How can a married man, who has children to maintain, dispute this preference with one who is single? The unmarried therefore force the others to starve; and the basis of the pyramid is contracted. Let this short sketch of a most important part of our subject suffice at present; it shall be taken up and examined at more length, in the chapter concerning physical necessaries, or natural wants.
From this results the principal cause of decay in modern states: it results from liberty, and is inseparably connected with it.
Several modern writers upon this subject, recommend marriage, in the strongest manner, to all classes of inhabitants; yet a parish priest might, properly enough, be warranted not to join a couple unless they could make it appear that their children were not likely to become a burden to the parish. Could any fault be found, reasonably, with such a regulation? Those who are gratuitously fed by others are a load upon the state, and no acquisition, certainly, so long as they continue so. Nothing is so easy as to marry; nothing so natural, especially among the lower sort. But as in order to reap, it is not sufficient to plow and to sow, so in order to bring up children, it is not sufficient to marry. A nest is necessary for every animal which produces a helpless brood: a house is the nest for children; but every man who can beget a child cannot build or rent a house.
These reflections lead me to make a distinction which I apprehend may be of use in clearing up our ideas concerning population. Let me therefore consider the generation of man in a political light, and it will present itself under two forms. The one as a real multiplication; the other as procreation only.
Children produced from parents who are able to maintain them, and bring them up to a way of getting bread for themselves, do really multiply and serve the state. Those born of parents whose subsistence is precarious, or which is proportioned to their own physical necessary only, have a precarious existence, and will undoubtedly begin their life by being beggars. Many such will perish for want of food, but many more for want of ease; their mendicity will be accompanied with that of their parents, and the whole will go to ruin; according to the admirable expression of the Marechal de Vauban, in his Dixime Royale. La mendicite, says he, est un mal qui tue bientot son homme. He had many examples of the truth of it before his eyes; whoever has not, must have seen little of the world.
When marriage is contracted without the requisites for multiplication, it produces a procreation, attended with the above mentioned inconveniences; and as by far the greater part of inhabitants are in the lower classes, it becomes the duty of a statesman to provide against such evils, if he intends, usefully to increase the number of his people.
Every plan proposed for this purpose, which does not proceed upon an exact recapitulation of the inhabitants of a country, parish by parish, will prove nothing more than an expedient for walking in the dark. Among such recapitulations or lists I would recommend, as an improvement upon those I have seen in the Marechal de Vauban's excellent performance above cited, and in the states of his Prussian Majesty, or elsewhere, to have one made out, classing all the inhabitants, not only by the trades they exercise, but by those of their fathers, with a view to distinguish those classes which multiply, from those which only procreate. I should be glad also to see bills of mortality made out for every class, principally to compare the births and deaths of the children in them.
Let me take an example. Suppose then, that I have before me a general recapitulation of all the inhabitants of a country, parish by parish, where they may appear distributed under the respective denominations of their fathers' employment. I shall immediately find a considerable number produced from the higher classes; from those who live upon an income already provided, and upon branches of industry which produce an easy and ample subsistence. These have no occasion for the assistance of the state in bringing up their children, and you may encourage marriage, or permit celibacy in such classes, in proportion to the use you find for their offspring when they are brought up. When I come to the lower classes, I examine, for example, that of shoemakers, where I find a certain number produced. This number I first compare with the number of shoemakers actually existing, and then with the number of marriages subsisting among them, (for I suppose recapitulations of every kind,) from which I discover the fertility of marriage, and the success of multiplication in this part. When the state of the question is examined, class by class, I can decide where marriage succeeds, and where it does not. I have said, that I imagine it an advantage that every class should support at least its own numbers; and when it does more, I should wish (were it possible) that the higher classes might be recruited from the lower, rather than the lower from the higher; the one seems a mark of prosperity, the other of decay: but I must confess that the first is by far the most difficult to be obtained.
According therefore to circumstances, and in consistence with these principles, I would encourage marriage by taking the children off the hands of their parents. Where marriage succeeds the worst, if it happens to be in a very low class, great encouragement should be given to it; perhaps the whole children should be taken care of. Certain trades may be left with the care of one child, others with two, and so progressively. But of this, more in another place. I beg it may not here be imagined that I propose, that the whole of the lower classes of people should marry and propagate, and that the state should feed all their offspring. My view extends no farther, than to be assured of having such a number of children yearly taken care of as shall answer the multiplication proposed, and that these be proportionally raised from each class, and from each part of the country, and produced from marriages protected by the state, distinguished from the others, which under a free government never can be prevented, but which must always be found exposed to the inconveniences of want and misery. To guard against such evils ought to be another object of public care. Hospitals for foundlings are an admirable institution; and colonies are an outlet for superfluous inhabitants. But I insensibly enter into a detail which exceeds my plan. To lay down a scheme, you must suppose a particular state to be perfectly known. This lies beyond my reach, and therefore I shall go no farther, but illustrate what I have said, by some observations and reflections which seem analogous to the subject.
I have not here proposed plans of multiplication inconsistent with the spirit of the nations with which I am a little acquainted; nor with the religion professed in Europe, for many reasons, obvious to any rational man. But principally, because, I believe, it will be found, that a sufficient abundance of children are born already; and that we have neither occasion for concubinage, or polygamy, to increase their numbers. But we want a right method of taking care of those we have, in order to produce a multiplication proportioned to the possibility of our providing nourishment and employment. I have therefore proposed, that a statesman, well informed of the situation of his people, the state of every class, the number of marriages found in each, should say, let a particular encouragement be given to so many marriages among the lower classes and let these be distributed in a certain proportion for every parish, city, borough, &c. in the country; let rules be laid down to direct a preference, in case of a competition, between different couples; and let the consequence of this approbation be, to relieve the parents of all children above what they can maintain, as has been said. I propose no new limitations upon marriage, because I am a friend to liberty, and because such limitations would shock the spirit of the times. I therefore would strongly recommend hospitals for foundlings over all the country; and still more strongly the frugal maintenance of children in such hospitals, and their being bred up early to fill and recruit the lowest classes of the people.
From what has been throw out in this chapter, let no one conclude, that such oeconomical principles would lead to regulations much too minute to be consistent with a just spirit of manly freedom and self-government in the common affairs of life. The regulations I have been recommending, regard those only who cannot support their families without the assistance of the state. In vain do we look for self-government or manly freedom among such classes of inhabitants.
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