Page images

ing themselves thereby ; but rent constitutes but a small portion of the produce of the soil, and, therefore, to ascertain the connexion between the amount of population and the size of properties, we should look to the effect of the latter on the quantity of agricultural produce, the food of all classes, and not to its effect on the number of one particular class alone, the proprietors. Some writers, Mr. ). s. Mill* among the number, lay down that it does not follow because landed property is minutely divided, that farms will be So; for as large properties are perfectly compatible with small farms, so also are small ones with farms of an adequate size. But though this may be maintained by closet philosophers, who have never had occasion to trouble their heads with the management of landed property, it may easily be shown to be fallacious; and as for the few examples which have been brought forward of small proprietors throwing their lands into one holding for purposes of cultivation, these are not to be looked upon as events of ordinary occurrence, but rather as such which by their very singularity have recommended themselves to travellers to enter in their note books. No landlord likes much to depend for all his income on the solvency of a single farmer, or even two or three, or any other very small number. He prefers a greater number of tenants, so that should a few of them fail, the proportion of his income thus cut off for a year will not be so considerable as to put him to heavy inconvenience. Hence though properties be not so small as to be individually incompatible with farms of adequate extent, yet they throw a strong obstacle in the way of the adoption of such, as it is highly improbable on the grounds already stated that each property will be let in one or two holdings, and not in a number so much greater as to lead to the formation of holdings not large enough for the purposes of advantageous cultivation. And when we come to properties too small individually for good farms, it is in the last degree improbable they will be consolidated for occupation so as to get over the

difficulty. Landlords dislike, not unreasonably, to have their properties occupied jointly, the chances being that the boundaries of each in the lapse of time will become greatly con fused either from neglect or fraud ; and thus should the joint occupation terininate, as in the nature of things it must from time to time, it may prove hard and expensive, not to say occasionally impossible, for each proprietor to mark out and resume por session of his own. Any one who has had a little experience of landed property is aware of the objection entertained by landlords to let a fartu to a tenant occupying an adjoining property belonging to some one else, their reason being the very one which has just been stated. This shows how far there is any connexion be tween the size of properties and that of farms; the true state of the case being that though large properties and small farms are quite compatible, the converse of the proposition does not hold good. Thus, instead of apparently yielding to the assertion that small properties are favourable to population, Dugald Stawart should have applied the sensibleremark he had made elsewhere, and drawn attention to the fact that thongh small properties promote the collection of a large agricultural population, it should not be concluded the land was maintaining more people than it would if less sub-divided, since, in the latter case, it might be supporting a greater number, the fact being concealed be cause they resided elsewhere, in the towns and cities, and not in the rural districts.

When our author comes to deal with the purely scientific questions of Political Economy, whether of classification or otherwise, his deficiencies are most apparent ; and we can not better exemplify this than by rk ference to his discussions concerning productive and unproductive labour, and the theory of money. The latter has been termed by Leibnitz a semimathematical investigation-a designation which appears to be highly applicable ; and in this point of view Dugald Stewart approached the sal ject with considerable advantages. His father had occupied the chair of mathematics in the University of Edinburgh, and he himself must have been deemed a proficient in that most abstract science, as he was called upon now and then to assist in lecturing upon it: “the philosophic sire and son," as Burns described Dugald Stewart and his parent, having shared occasionally between them the labours of the latter's situation. But in Economic Science we find more traces in our author of the doubtful and speculative cast of mind of the mental philosopher, than of the certainty and precision of the mathematician. He questions everything, and never arrives at a definite conclusion ; and no where is this more apparent than when he treats of money, the very department of the science in which the most rigorous deductions can be drawn, on account of the data of the questions which there arise being but little encumbered with the presence of matters extraneous to Political Economy. As an example of the mode in which the subject is dealt with, we give the first lines of a disquisition (p. 371) on the effects of plenty or scarcity of the precious metals upon prices :-“I now proceed to offer some remarks on the principles by which the relative value of money and commodities are adjusted in commercial transations. It is a subject of extreme difficulty, and I am much afraid that what I have to state will tend more to invalidate the reasonings of others, than to establish any satisfactory conclusions of my own.” The sequel demonstrates that the latter portion of his apprehension was remarkably well founded ; and on turning to some notes of his, which appeared about ten years afterwards, we find he continued in the same state of doubt and indecision. The Bank of England and other banks having been released for a time, by the Suspension of Cash Payments Act of 1797, from the obligation of paying for their notes on demand the specie they purported to represent, naturally increased their issues to an unprecedented amount, being stimulated by the desire of gaining interest on a large amount of discounts, and undeterred by the fear of these excessive issues being thrown back upon their hands. In consequence of this great increase of the currency, prices

* See his Principles of Political Economy, Vol. 1, Book 11, Chap. vii., sec. 3

rose, and the exchanges became and continued unfavourable ; and public attention having been called to the matter, a Parliamentary Committee, best known as the “Bullion Committee of 1810,” was appointed to inquire into the matter and make their report. They did so, and, in opposition to all the sophistry of interested traders, came to the plain and business-like conclusion, that prices were high because the currency was excessive. This conclusion Dugald Stewart is not altogether satisfied with. When there is more money than is required for transacting, at the comparative natural worth of the coin of the realm and the commodities purchased with it, all the exchanges in which money is used, prices rise above their accustomed level ; but this requisite quantity is not to be ascertained merely by reference to the amount of the wealth of the country, since, according to circumstances, it may vary in a different proportion. Thus, in a country like Russia, where a great deal of exchanges are effected by barter, without the intervention of coin, so much money in proportion to the amount of goods exchanged will not be required as in one like France, where such transactions are adjusted in general with coin. And going to the other extreme, in a country like England, where so many exchanges are effected with credit, or instruments of credit, less money will be needed in proportion to goods than in those places where sales and purchases, as the rule, are adjusted with metallic currency. Again, in order to ascertain this requisite amount of money, it is to be bome in mind that the same quantity will suffice to transact a greater or smaller extent of purchases according as it circulates more or less rapidly. Thus more will be required in a country where money is hoarded during the interval between accumulation and expenditure, than in one where banks of deposit are general ; much of the money being sent out into circulation by the bankers, which otherwise would have remained locked up in the coffers of the owners. This teaches us not to consider that prices must always vary in the exact proportion of the quantity of goods to the supply of money, and may be brought forward with justice against writers such as Locke and Hume, who, extending their observations over very long periods of years, during which, in most nations, changes in the requirements for money of the kind already adverted to must have occurred, concluded, without taking any such matters into account, that the proportion of coin to goods must either remain constant, or else be indicated by corresponding fluctuations in price. But if the observations extend over a few years only, and there is thus à priori no ground for concluding that changes of the kind above noticed have come to pass to any appreciable extent, it is a mere waste of ingenuity to suggest the possibility of their occurrence as an argument against the connexion of cause and effect between two events which have happenedthe first of which would naturally have produced the second. The Bullion Committee followed this plain and obvious rule, the immediate dictate of common sense. But not so our author ; he rejected any such inference, and refused to come to any definite conclusion until he had satisfied his mind of the state of the case, by tracing all the additional currency through its various stages of circulation, until it reached the pockets of those who were to employ it in consumption ; which, in fact, amounted to the postponement of his judgment sine die, as the lawyers phrase it.

Perhaps in no part of the lectures is the author's inability to deal with what is purely scientific, and his fear of grappling with anything that demands a practical decision, more apparent than where he treats of productive and unproductive labour, and the several questions thence arising. Some centuries back the prosperity of a few small trading communities, such as Venice, Genoa, Holland, and the free cities of the North of Germany, attracted the attention of the ruling classes of the great nations of Europe, and they fell into the error of supposing that these states were prosperous because they were addicted to commercial rather than to other industrial pusuits; the true state of the case being that these states were more prosperous than their neighbours, because they enjoyed greater security of person and property; and they devoted themselves principally

to foreign trade, merely because pe culiar circumstances rendered it more profitable to them than other pursuits. But this was overlooked, and the Mercantile System sprungup, the object of which was to turn the industry of the people to trade and manufactures rather than to agriculture, and fill the country with money by encouraging the exportation of goods, and checking their importation. This system led to one of an opposite nature, and a sect which assumed to themselves the title of “Economists,” par excellence, sprung up in France, and laid down that the policy hitherto adopted of fostering, or, rather, attempting to foster, trade and commerce, and neglecting agriculture was altogether erroneous; the latter species of industry, and not the former, being the true source of wealth. The principal men of this sect were Quesnał, a physician at the court of Louis XV., and the celebrated minister T'urgot; and their system went by the name of the AgriculturalorPhysiocratic. The“Economists” did not propose, however, to encourage agriculture at the expense of trade and commerce; they only suggested that both should be disencumbered from restrictions, and perfect freedom in every species of industry allowed vithout any interference by the state; whence their system acquired the name of laissez-faire, or laissez-passer. But though in practice they recommended this species of equality, they held some very peculiar views as to the relative advantageousness of labour employed in agriculture and manufactures, and restricted the term “ productive" to the former alone, stigmatising the latter as “unproductive." Adam Smith's strong common sense revolteil against this misapplication of language: and he rejected their distinction, but did not succeed in exposing the fallacy on which they proceeded. The “Eco. nomists” observed, as the result of agricultural labour aided by the vege: tative powers of nature, that a small quantity of matter of some kind or other was converted into a greater : but when manufacturers worked, all they did was to transform into a new shape or character, what before had existed under a different aspect, without in an way occasioning an increase in the quantity of the subject of their toil. Influenced by thisand somer other considerations, they termed agriculty.

ral labour alone "productive,' and manufacturing “unproductive," —distinctions quite correct if the term had relation to quantity only. But they went much beyond this, and stepping from the inference that the one labour only was productive of increased matter, and the other unproductive thereof, laid down in addition that the first alone was productive of increased wealth, of which the latter they contended was necessarily unproductive. Now as of articles containing the same quantity of matter, some may be much more valuable than others, it follows that we cannot conclude because a particular kind of labour does not increase matter, it cannot increase wealth. Theman whoalters raw materials worth a few shillings into clothing, habitation, and implements worth many pounds, appears to us entitled to rank as a productive labourer in the ordinary sense of the word ; and there are not many who will disagree with Adam Smith when he accuses the “Economists” of love of paradox for asserting the contrary. But the “Economists' support their position by contending that the result of such labour is not a creation but a transference of wealth, the value of the manufactured article, over and above that of the raw material, representing the wages consumed and destroyed by the labourers during the process of the production. Thus when Adam Smith, in defence of his classification of manufacturing labouras productive, observes that a man grows rich by employing such, it is replied to him that though such is the case, so far as the individual is concerned, yet notwithstanding, the labour cannot be deemed productive to the nation, since what the manufacturers gain is so much transferred from others. The worth of the manufactured article, it was contended, should be expended on its production, and thus society at large would be no richer at the end of the process than the beginning, or as Dugald Stewart himself puts it (p. 266):

“Any saving a manufacturer makes from his wages is so much taken out of the hands of another person, and can no more be said to increase the funds of the community than the gains made at a gambling table.” But as for agricultural produce, it was said, the case was different, for there


over and above what should be expended on the producers, thereremained under the name of "rent,” a clear surplus. This alone, in their estimation, represented the “net revenue" of the country, that is the excess of the gross revenue overand above what should be consumed and destroyed in order to produce it; and the labour from which this resulted they deemed accordingly the only kind which deserved the appellation of productive." To enter with anything like fullness into a discussion of this whimsical theory, wonld involve a long and unprofitable discussion ; but it is enough to point out the fallacy which lies in the assumption that all which is expended in production is thereby destroyed. Over and above what is necessary to supply implements and materials, and support the existence of the producers, there is nothing in the world which involves the destruction of what is expended in carrying on industry. Much of it may be, and usually is accumulated, without the producers reducing themselves to anything like want in the ordinary sense of the word ; and hence when any kind of production is completed, the result is, in general, an increase to the net revenue of society, the increase being measured by the excess of the value of what is produced over that which has been destroyed during the process of production. But by overlooking this obvious inference, the curious doctrine known as the Agricultural System was founded and it is quite astonishing how wide was its influence and extensive its circulation among scientific men.

Such was the theory of the "economists” as to productive and unpro ductive labours, and such the fallacy on which it was founded. But if it were correct, and the national wealth, accordingly, to be found in its agricultural produce alone, (that which existed in a different form having involved the destruction of as much of the others, so that it should be looked upon only as so much wealth which had once been agricultural produce.) the financial system recommended by the economists” in France, and by Locke before them in England, followed as a matter of course, and this was that all miscellaneous taxes should be abolished, and replaced by a single impost, a land-tax. For if the entire

B ?

wealth of the country was or had beun agricultural produce, by taxing nothing but the latter all the wealth of the country would be taxed; and were taxation imposed on anything elye, it would be, it was alleged, soon thrown back on the land. “It is in vain," says Locke, “in a country whose great fund is land, to hope to lay the public charge of the government on anything else. There at last it will terminate. The merchant, do what you can, will not bear it, the labourers cannot, and therefore the landholders must." This doctrine follows plainly from the agricultural system ; but Dugald Stewart, though seeming to adopt the theory in opposition to Adam Smith, was afraid of its legitimate conclusion; his natural indecision having been, doubtless, enhanced by the difference between the circumstances which prevailed in his days and in those of the “economists. When they wrote, agriculture, though discouraged, was the principal occupation of the people, and but little wealth arose from any other source. If was not, therefore, very extraordinary that the latter should have been passed over altogether. But it was different when trade and manufactures had assumed the important position they occupied at the beginning of the century; and any proposal to exempt from taxation those engaged in such pursuits, upon the plea put forth by the "economists," would be apt to be deemed a senseless

paradox. Hence Dugald Stewart does not adopt the suggested financial sys tem, but runs away from it. When discussing the subject of produr. tive and unproductive labours, be observes (vol. i., p. 297), “ In what I have now said I would not be under. stood to intimate any opinion with respect to the territorial tax. The discussion properly belongs to the article of taxation.” But when he comes to taxation, he dismisses the matter again to some future occasion, saying, (vol. ii., p. 238), “I shall no at present attempt any statement of the reasonings which have been offered for or against it."

From these specimens it will be perceived the reader is not likely to increase his knowledge of the sciente of political economy by stadying the lectures of Dugald Stewart. They come before the public under circunstances entitling the author to every consideration ; but even making due allowance for all this, there appear to be ample grounds for concluding that he never deserved any great if putation as an economist, and his friends would have been more prudent, if instead of publishing the entire course of lectures which came to their hands, they had remained satisfied with bringing forward a few judicious selections only, and consigned the rest to that oblivion to which it is to be hoped, for the sake of the well-earned reputation of Dugald Stewart in other departments, they may speedily return.

THE PROTECTORATE OF RICHARD CROMWELL.* THERE is no period of the checkered tried and found wanting-almost History of England more tortuous and every element of civil administration intricate in its scenes, or more finely was exhausted. During the nine years illustrative of the philosophy of poli which elapsed between the execution tics, than the Drama of the Restora of Charles I. and the opening of the tion. During the twenty-one months drama which M.Guizot here describes intervening between the death of the (1649-1658), the nation had been GREAT PROTECTOR, and the restoration subjected, first, to a system of anitof Charles II. to the throne of his an chical liberty in the shape of Parliscestors, the system of government in mentary Supremacy, and next to % England became the subject of revo- military despotism in the Protectoral lutions, numerous enough to have Government of Oliver Cromwell. overturned all the dynasties of Eu. These systems were successively exrope. In that short period almost hausted, the one by the inherent every form of polity was successively weakness of the component body, and

* A History of the Protectorate of Richard Cromwell, and the Dawn of the Restoration : M. Guizot, translated by Andrew Scobell. 2 vols. Richard Bentley, New Burlington-streets 1856.

« PreviousContinue »