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An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy
James Steuart
An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy being an
Essay on the Science of Domestic Policy in Free Nations.
in which are particularly considered
Population, Agriculture, Trade, Industry, Money, Coin, Interest,
Circulation, Banks, Exchange, Public Credit, and Taxes
by Sir James Steuart, Bart.
Ore trabit quodcumque potest atque addit acervo.
Hor. Lib. I. Sat. 1
in Two Volumes.
Printed for A. Millar, and T. Cadell, in the Strand.
It is with the greatest diffidence that I present to the
public this attempt towards reducing to principles, and forming
into a regular science, the complicated interests of domestic
policy. When I consider the time and labour employed in the
composition, I am apt to value it from selfish considerations.
When I compare it even with my own abilities, I still think
favourably of it, for a better reason; because it contains a
summary of the most valuable part of all my knowledge. But when I
consider the greatness of my subject, how small does the result
of my application appear!
The imperfections, therefore, discovered in this work, must
be ascribed to the disproportion between the extent of the
undertaking, and that of my capacity. This, I can assure my
reader, has been exerted to the utmost: and if, after all, I have
failed, it may, at least, with justice, be said, that I have
miscarried in an attempt of the greatest importance to mankind.
I no where, I think, have shewn a desire to make my court to
any particular minister, whose administration might have been
hinted at. I have freely followed the thread of my reasoning
without a bias, either in favour of popular opinions, or of any
of the numberless systems which have been formed by those who
have written upon particular parts of my subject. The warmth of
my temper may have led me sometimes into commendations when I
have been pleased; but when I felt the effects of ill humour on
being dissatisfied with particular circumstances, relating to
countries, to men, and to things, which I had in my eye at the
time I was writing, I was immediately aware of the danger of
blaming the steps of any administration, without being well
formed of the whole combination of circumstances which the
minister may have had before him at the time.
This composition being the successive labour of many years
spent in travelling, the reader will find some passages in which
the unities of time and place have not been observed. These I
could have corrected with ease, had I not been advised to leave
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them as characters to point out the circumstances under which I
wrote, and thereby to confirm the authenticity of certain facts.
The modes of thinking, also, peculiar to the several
countries where I have lived, have, no doubt, had an influence on
what I have written concerning their customs: this work,
therefore, will not, in general, correspond to the meridian of
national opinions any where; and of this it is proper the reader
should be apprised, that he may not apply to the domestic
circumstances of his own country what was intended to refer to
those of other nations; nor impute to wilful prejudice, what was
the irresistible effect of my experience and conviction.
Since the first publication of this work some criticisms upon
it have been published in which little regard has been paid to
this advertisement.
The greater part of it by far, (the three first books
particularly) was composed abroad. Can it be supposed, that
during an absence of near twenty years, I should in my studies
have all the while been modelling my speculations upon the
standard of English notions.
It has been alleged that I have imbibed prejudices abroad, by
no means consistent with the present state of England, and the
genius of Englishmen.
To which I answer, that I flatter myself to have imbibed no
prejudices either abroad or at home, at least I think I have
exhibited none of them in my work; because there I have rejected
all party opinions whatever.
According to my way of treating this subject no general rule
can be laid down in political matters: every thing there must be
considered according to the circumstances and spirit of the
nations to which they relate. Accordingly we shall find in this
inquiry some reasonings built on the principles of arbitrary
power, others on those of national liberty, others again on those
of democracy. Had I, in compliment to the sentiments of
Englishmen, suppressed every combination which might apply to the
circumstances of those very countries where I was studying my
subject, from the actual inspection of their policy, what merit
should I have had to plead with my own countrymen from my travels
and from my studies, any local English writer describing English
policy and sounding through every page the most peculiar opinions
of this nation, might have amused his readers far better than
ever I could pretend to.
If, from this work, I have any merit at all, it is by
divesting myself of English notions, so far as to be able to
expose in a fair light, the sentiments and policy of foreign
nations, relatively to their own situation.
Now the principal attention of an intelligent reader who
peruses a book like this, will be directed towards the
investigatory part of it: every step of the reasoning will be
weighed by him until the final conclusion be drawn; he will then
give his assent to it in proportion to the accuracy of the
induction; but he never will recoil from what he has once
assented to, in order to form a general notion conceding any
result by comparing it with his own animal feelings or with the
popular opinion of his countrymen.
This much I am obliged to say in my own justification, with
respect to several passages which have been written at times when
England was very distant from my thoughts.
I have read many authors on the subject of political
oeconomy; and I have endeavoured to draw from them all the
instruction I could. I have travelled, for many years, through
different countries, and have examined them, constantly, with an
eye to my own subject. I have attempted to draw information from
every one with whom I have been acquainted: this, however, I
found to be very difficult until I had attained to some previous
knowledge of my subject. Such difficulties confirmed to me the
justness of Lord Bacon's remark, that he who can draw information
by forming proper questions, must be already possessed of half
the science.
I could form no consistent plan from the various opinions I
met with: hence I was engaged to compile the observations I bad
casually made, in the course of my travels, reading, and
experience. From these I formed the following work after
expunging the numberless inconsistencies and contradictions which
I found had arisen from my separate inquiries into every
particular branch.
I had observed so many persons declining in knowledge as they
advanced in years, that I resolved early to throw upon paper
whatever I had learned; and to this I used to have recourse, as
others have to their memories. The unity of the object of all my
speculations, rendered this practice more useful to me than it
would be to one whose researches are more extended.
Whoever is much accustomed to write for his own use merely,
must contract a more careless style than another who has made
language his study, and who writes in hopes of acquiring a
literary reputation. I never, till very lately, thought of
appearing as an author on this subject; and, in the frequent
perusals of what I had written, my corrections were chiefly in
favour of perspicuity. add to this, that the language in which I
now write was, for many years, foreign to those with whom I lived
and conversed. When these circumstances are added to the
intricacy of my subject, which constantly carried off my
attention from every ornament of language, I flatter myself that
those of my readers, at least, who enter as heartily as I have
done into the spirit of this work, will candidly overlook the
want of that elegance which adorns the style of some celebrated
authors in this Augustan age.
I present this enquiry to the public as nothing more than an
essay which may serve as a canvass for better hands than mine to
work upon.
It contains such observations only as the general view of the
domestic policy of the countries I have seen, has suggested. It
is a speculation, and no more. It is a rough drawing of a mighty
plan, proportioned in correctness to my own sagacity, to my
knowledge of the subject, and to the extent of my ideas.
It goes little farther than to collect and arrange some
elements relating to the most interesting branches of modern
policy, such as population, agriculture, trade, industry, money,
coin, interest, circulation, banks, exchange, public credit, and
taxes. The principles deduced from all these topics, appear
tolerably consistent; and the whole is a train of reasoning,
through which I have adhered to the connection of subjects as
faithfully as I could: but the nature of the work being a
deduction of principles, not a collection of institutions, I
seized the opportunities which my reasoning threw in my way, to
connect every principle, as I went along, with every part of the
inquiry to which it could refer; and when I found the connexion
sufficiently shewn, I broke off such disquisitions as would have
led me from the object then present.
When principles thus casually applied in one part, to matters
intended to be afterwards treated of in another, came to be taken
up a-new, they involved me in what may appear prolixity. This I
found most unavoidable, when I was led to thoughts which were new
to myself, and consequently such as must have cost me the
greatest labour to set in a clear and distinct point of view. Had
I been master of my subject on setting out, the arrangement of
the whole would have been rendered more concise: but had this
been the case, I should never have been able to go through the
painful deduction which forms the whole chain of my reasoning,
and upon which, to many readers slow in forming combinations, the
conviction it carries along with it in a great measure depends:
to the few, again, of a more penetrating genius, to whom the
slightest hint is sufficient to lay open every consequence before
it be drawn, in allusion to Horace, I offer this apology, Clarus
esse laboro, prolixus fio.
The path I have taken was new to me, after all I had read on
the subject. I examined, by my own principles, what I had
gathered from others; and adopted it as far as I found it tally
with collateral circumstances. When, on the other hand, I found a
disagreement, I was apprized immediately of some mistake; and
this I found constantly owing to the narrowness of the
combinations upon which it had been founded.
The great danger of running into error upon particular points
relating to this subject, proceeds from our viewing them in a
light too confined, and to our not attending to the influence of
concomitant circumstances, which render general rules of little
use. Men of parts and knowledge seldom fail to reason
consequentially on every subject; but when inquiries are made
concerning the complicated interests of society, the vivacity of
an author's genius is apt to prevent him from attending to the
variety of circumstances which render uncertain every
consequence, almost, which he can draw from his reasoning. To
this I ascribe the habit of running into what the French call
Systèmes. These are no more than a chain of contingent
consequences, drawn from a few fundamental maxims, adopted,
perhaps, rashly. Such systems are mere conceits; they mislead the
understanding, and efface the path to truth. An induction is
formed, from whence a conclusion, called a principle, is drawn
and defined; but this is no sooner done, than the author extends
its influence far beyond the limits of the ideas present to his
understanding, when he made his definition. The best method,
therefore, to detect a pretended system, is always to substitute
the definition in place of the term.
The imperfection also of language engages us frequently in
disputes merely verbal; and instead of being on our guard against
the many unavoidable ambiguities attending the most careful
speech, we place a great part of our learning when at school, and
of our wit when we appear on the stage of the world, in the
prostitution of language. The learned delight in vague, and the
witty in equivocal terms. In general, we familiarize ourselves so
much to words, and think so little, when we speak and write, that
the signs of our ideas take the place of the images which they
were intended to represent.
Every true proposition, when understood, must be assented to
universally. This is the case always, when simple ideas are
affirmed or denied of each other. Nobody ever doubted that sound
is the object of hearing, or colour that of sight, or that black
is not white. But whenever a dispute arises concerning a
proposition, wherein complex ideas are compared, we may often
rest assured, that the parties do not understand each other.
Luxury, says one, is incompatible with the prosperity of a state.
Luxury is the fountain of a nation's welfare and happiness, says
another. There may, in reality, be no difference in the
sentiments of these two persons. The first may consider luxury as
prejudicial to foreign trade, and as corrupting the morals of a
people. The other may consider luxury as the means of providing
employment for such as must live by their industry, and of
promoting an equable circulation of wealth and subsistence,
through all the classes of inhabitants. If each of them had
attended to the other's complex idea of luxury, with all its
consequences, they would have rendered their propositions less
The difference, therefore, of opinion between men is
frequently more apparent than real. When we compare our own
ideas, we constantly see their relations with perspicuity; but
when we come to communicate these relations to other people, it
is often impossible to put them into words sufficiently
expressive of the precise combination of them we have made in our
own minds.
This being the case, I have avoided, as much as possible,
condemning such opinions as I have taken the liberty to review;
because I have examined such only as have been advanced by men of
genius and reputation; and since all matters of controversy
regard the comparison of our ideas, if the terms we use to
express them were sufficiently understood by both parties, most
political disputes would, I am persuaded, be soon at an end.
Here it may be objected, that we frequently adopt an opinion,
without being able to give a sufficient reason for it; and yet we
cannot persuade ourselves to give it up, though we find it
combated by the strongest arguments. To this I answer, that in
such cases we do not adhere to our own opinions, but to those of
others received upon trust. It is our regard for the authority,
and not for the opinion, which makes us tenacious: for were the
opinion truly our own, we could not fail of seeing, or at least
we should not long be at a loss in recollecting, the ground upon
which it is built. But when we assent implicitly to any political
doctrine, there is no room for reason: we then satisfy ourselves
with the persuasion that those whom we trust have sufficient
reasons for what they advance. While our assent therefore is
implicit, we are beyond conviction; not because we do not
perceive the force of the arguments brought against our opinion,
but because we are ignorant of the force of those which can be
brought to support it: and as no body will sell what belongs to
him, without being previously informed of its value, so no body
will give up an implicit opinion, without knowing all that can be
said for it. To this class of men I do not address myself in this
But I insensibly run into a metaphysical speculation, in
order to prove, that in political questions it is better for
people to judge from experience and reason, than from authority
to explain their terms, than to dispute about words; and to
extend the combinations of their own ideas, than to follow
conceits, however decorated with the name of systems. How far I
have avoided such defects, the reader will determine.
Every writer values himself upon his impartiality; because he
is not sensible of his fetters. The wandering and independent
life I have led may naturally have set me free, in some measure,
from strong attachments to popular opinions. This may be called
impartiality. But as no man can be deemed impartial, who leans to
any side whatever, I have been particularly on my guard against
the consequences of this sort of negative impartiality; because I
have found it sometimes carrying me too far from that to which a
national prejudice might have led me.
In discussing general points, the best method I found to
maintain a just balance in this respect, was to avert my eye from
the country in which I lived at the time; and to judge of absent
things by the absent. Objects which are present, are apt to
produce perceptions too strong to be impartially compared with
those recalled by memory only.
When I have had occasion to dip into any question concerning
the preference to be given to certain forms of government above
others, and to touch upon points which have been the object of
sharp disputes, I have given my opinion with freedom, when it
seemed proper: but in stating the question, I have endeavoured to
avoid all trite, and, as I may call them, technical terms of
party; which in such disputes every side chuses to take in their
own acceptation: and as there is no sentiment of concord or
good-will in their hearts, instead of coming to explanations
together, they are charmed to find an occasion to differ
concerning general propositions, from those they hate for
particular considerations.
I have sometimes entered so heartily into the spirit of the
statesman, as to be apt to forget my station in the society where
I live; and when as a private man I have read over the work of
the politician, my natural partiality in favour of individuals
has led me to condemn, as Machiavellian principles, every
sentiment, approving the sacrifice of private concerns in favour
of a general plan.
In order, therefore, to reconcile me to myself in this
particular, and to prevent certain expressions here and there
interspersed, from making the slightest impression upon a reader
of delicate sentiments, I must observe, that nothing would have
been so easy as to soften many passages, where the politician
appears to have snatched the pen out of the hand of the private
citizen: but as I write for such only who can follow a close
reasoning, and attend to the general scope of the whole inquiry,
I have, purposely, made no correction; but continued painting, in
the strongest colours, every inconvenience which must affect
certain individuals living under our free modern governments,
whenever a wise statesman sets about correcting old abuses,
proceeding from idleness, sloth, or fraud in the lower classes,
arbitrary jurisdictions in the higher, and neglects in
administrations with respect to the interests of both. The more
any cure is painful and dangerous, the more ought men carefully
to avoid the disease. This leads me to say a word concerning the
connection between the theory of morals and that of politics.
I lay it down as a general maxim, that the characteristic of
a good action consists in the conformity between the motive, and
the duty of the agent. Were there but one man upon earth, his
duty would contain no other precepts than those dictated by
self-love. If he come to be a father, a husband, a friend, his
self-love falls immediately under limitations: he must withhold
from himself, and give to his children; he must know how to
sacrifice some of his fancies, in order to gratify, now and then,
those of his wife, or of his friend. If he come to be a judge, a
magistrate; he must frequently forget that he is a friend, or a
father: and if he rise to be a statesman, he must disregard many
other attachments more comprehensive, such as family, place of
birth, and even, in certain cases, his native country. His duty
here becomes relative to the general good of that society of
which he is the head: and as the death of a criminal cannot be
imputed to the judge who condemns him, neither can a particular
inconvenience resulting to an individual, in consequence of a
step taken for a general reformation, be imputed to him who sits
at the helm of government.
If it should be asked, of what utility a speculation such as
this can be to a statesman, to whom it is in a manner addressed
from the beginning to the end: I answer, that although it seem
addressed to a statesman, the real object of the inquiry is to
influence the spirit of those whom he governs; and the variety of
matter contained in it, may even suggest useful hints to himself.
But his own genius and experience will enable him to carry such
notions far beyond the reach of my abilities.
I have already said that I considered my work as no more than
a canvass prepared for more able hands than mine to work upon.
Now although the sketch it contains be not sufficiently correct,
I have still made some progress, I think, in preparing the way
for others to improve upon my plan, by contriving proper
questions to be resolved by men of experience in the practical
part of government.
I leave it therefore to masters in the science to correct and
extend my ideas: and those who have not made the principles of
policy their particular study, may have an opportunity of
comparing the exposition I have given of them with the commonly
received opinions concerning many questions of great importance
to society. They will, for instance, be able to judge how far
population can be increased usefully, by multiplying marriages,
and by dividing lands: how far the swelling of capitals, cities
and towns, tends to depopulate a country: how far the progress of
luxury brings distress upon the poor industrious man: how far
restrictions laid upon the corn trade, tend to promote an ample
supply of subsistence in all our markets: how far the increase of
public debts tends to involve us in a general bankruptcy: how far
the abolition of paper currency would have the effect of reducing
the price of all commodities: how far a tax tends to enhance
their value: and how far the diminution of duties is an essential
requisite for securing the liberty, and promoting the prosperity
and happiness of a people.
Is it not of the greatest importance to examine, with
candour, the operations by which all Europe has been engaged in a
system of policy so generally declaimed against, and so contrary
to that which we hear daily recommended as the best? To shew,
from the plain principles of common sense, that our present
situation is the unavoidable consequence of the spirit and
manners of the present times; and that it is quite compatible
with all the liberty, affluence, and prosperity, which any human
society ever enjoyed in any age, or under any form of government?
A people taught to expect from a statesman the execution of
plans, big with impossibility and contradiction, will remain
discontented under the government of the best of Kings.
Book I
Of Population and Agriculture
Oeconomy, in general, is the art of providing for all the
wants of a family, with prudence and frugality.
If any thing necessary or useful be found wanting, if any
thing provided be lost or misapplied, if any servant, any animal,
be supernumerary or useless, if any one sick or infirm be
neglected, we immediately perceive a want of oeconomy. The object
of it, in a private family, is therefore to provide for the
nourishment, the other wants, and the employment of every
individual. In the first place, for the master, who is the head,
and who directs the whole; next for the children, who interest
him above all other things; and last for the servants, who being
useful to the head, and essential to the well-being of the
family, have therefore a title to become an object of the
master's care and concern.
The whole oeconomy must be directed by the head, who is both
lord and steward of the family. It is however necessary, that
these two offices be not confounded with one another. As lord, he
establishes the laws of his oeconomy; as steward, he puts them in
execution. As lord, he may restrain and give his commands to all
within the house as he thinks proper; as steward, he must conduct
with gentleness and address, and is bound by his own regulations.
The better the oeconomist, the more uniformity is perceived in
all his actions, and the less liberties are taken to depart from
stated rules. He is not so much master, as that he may break
through the laws of his oeconomy, although in every respect he
may keep each individual within the house, in the most exact
subordination to his commands. Oeconomy and government, even in a
private family, present therefore two different ideas, and have
also two different objects.
What oeconomy is in a family, political oeconomy is in a
state: with these essential differences, however, that in a state
there are no servants, all are children: that a family may be
formed when and how a man pleases, and he may there establish
what plan of oeconomy he thinks fit; but states are found formed,
and the Oeconomy of these depends upon a thousand circumstances.
The statesman (this is a general term to signify the legislature
and supreme power, according to the form of government) is
neither master to establish what oeconomy he pleases, or, in the
exercise of his sublime authority, to overturn at will the
established laws of it, let him be the most despotic monarch upon
The great art therefore of political oeconomy is, first to
adapt the different operations of it to the spirit, manners,
habits, and customs of the people; and afterwards to model these
circumstances so, as to be able to introduce a set of new and
more useful institutions.
The principal object of this science is to secure a certain
fund of subsistence for all the inhabitants, to obviate every
circumstance which may render it precarious; to provide every
thing necessary for supplying the wants of the society, and to
employ the inhabitants (supposing them to be free-men) in such a
manner as naturally to create reciprocal relations and
dependencies between them, so as to make their several interests
lead them to supply one another with their reciprocal wants.
If one considers the variety which is found in different
countries, in the distribution of property, subordination of
classes, genius of people, proceeding from the variety of forms
of government, laws, climate, and manners, one may conclude, that
the political oeconomy in each must necessarily be different, and
that principles, however universally true, may become quite
ineffectual in practice, without a sufficient preparation of the
spirit of a people.
It is the business of a statesman to judge of the expediency
of different schemes of oeconomy, and by degrees to model the
minds of his subjects so as to induce them, from the allurement
of private interest, to concur in the execution of his plan.
The speculative person who, removed from the practice,
extracts the principles of this science from observation and
reflection, should divest himself, as far as possible, of every
prejudice in favour of established opinions, however reasonable,
when examined relatively to particular nations: he must do his
utmost to become a citizen of the world, comparing customs,
examining minutely institutions which appear alike, when in
different countries they are found to produce different effects:
he should examine the cause of such differences with the utmost
diligence and attention. It is from such inquiries that the true
principles are discovered.
He who takes up the pen upon this subject, keeping in his eye
the customs of his own or any other country, will fall more
naturally into a description of one particular system of it, than
into an examination of the principles of the science in general;
he will applaud such institutions as he finds rightly
administered at home; he will condemn those which are
administered with abuse; but, without comparing different methods
of executing the same plan in different countries, he will not
easily distinguish the disadvantages which are essential to the
institution, from those which proceed from the abuse. For this
reason a land-tax excites he indignation of a Frenchman, an
excise that of an Englishman. One who looks into the execution of
both, in each country, and in every branch of their management,
will discover the real effects of these impositions, and be able
to distinguish what proceeds from abuse, from what is essential
to the burden.
Nothing is more effectual towards preparing the spirit of a
people to receive a good plan of oeconomy, than a proper
representation of it. On the other hand, nothing is better
calculated to keep the statesman, who is at the head of affairs,
in awe.
When principles are well understood, the real consequences of
burdensome institutions are clearly seen: when the purposes they
are intended for are not obtained, the abuse of the statesman's
administration appears palpable. People then will not so much cry
out against the imposition, as against the misapplication. It
will not be a land-tax of four shillings in the pound, nor an
excise upon wines and tobacco, which will excite the murmurs of a
nation; it will be the prodigal dissipation and misapplication of
the amount of these taxes after they are laid on. But when
principles are not known, all inquiry is at an end, the moment a
nation can be engaged to submit to the burden. It is the same
with regard to many other parts of this science: while people
remain blind they are always mistrustful.
Having pointed out the object of my pursuit, I shall only
add, that my intention is to attach myself principally to a clear
deduction of principles, and a short application of them to
familiar examples, in order to avoid abstraction as much as
possible. I farther intend to confine myself to such parts of
this extensive subject, as shall appear the most interesting in
the general system of modern politics; of which I shall treat
with that spirit of liberty, which reigns more and more every
day, throughout all the polite and flourishing nations of Europe.
When I compare the elegant performances which have appeared
in Great Britain and in France with my dry and abstracted manner
of treating the same subject, in a plain language void of
ornament, I own I am discouraged on many accounts. If I be
obliged to set out by laying down, as fundamental principles, the
most obvious truths, I dread the imputation of pedantry, and of
pretending to turn common sense into science. If I follow these
principles through a minute detail, I may appear trifling. I
therefore hope the reader will believe me, when I tell him, that
these defects have not escaped my discernment, but that my
genius, the nature of the work, and the connection of the
subject, have obliged me to write in an order and in a style,
where every thing has been sacrificed to perspicuity.
My principal aim shall be to discover truth, and to enable my
reader to touch the very link of the chain where I may at any
time go astray.
My business shall not be to seek for new thoughts, but to
reason consequentially; and if any thing new shall be found, it
will be in the conclusions.
Long steps in political reasoning lead to error: close
reasoning is tedious, and to many appears trivial: this, however,
must be my plan, and my consolation is, that the farther I
advance, I shall become the more interesting.
Every supposition must be considered as strictly relative to
the circumstances presupposed; and though, in order to prevent
misapplication, and to avoid abstraction as much as possible, I
frequently make use of examples for illustrating every principle;
yet these, which are taken from matters of fact, must be supposed
divested of every foreign circumstance inconsistent with the
I shall combat no particular opinion in such intricate
matters; though sometimes I may pass them in review, in order to
point out how I am led to differ from them.
I pretend to form no system, but, by tracing out a succession
of principles, consistent with the nature of man and with one
another, I shall endeavour to furnish some materials towards the
forming of a good one.
Chap. I
Of the Government of Mankind
Man we find acting uniformly in all age, in all countries,
and in all climates, from the principles of self-interest,
expediency, duty, or passion. In this he is alike, in nothing
These motives of human actions produce such a variety of
circumstances, that if we consider the several species of animals
in the creation, we shall find the individuals of no class so
unlike to one another, as man to man. No wonder then if people
differ in opinion with regard to every thing almost which relates
to our species.
As this noble animal is a sociable creature, both from
necessity and inclination, we find also, in all ages, climates
and countries, a certain modification of government and
subordination established among them. Here again we are presented
with as great a variety, as there are different societies; all
however agreeing in this, that the end of a voluntary
subordination to authority is with a view to promote the general
Constant and uninterrupted experience has proved to man, that
virtue and justice, in those who govern, are sufficient to render
the society happy, under any form of government. Virtue and
justice, when applied to government, mean no more than a tender
affection for the whole society, and an exact and impartial
regard for the interest of every class.
All actions, and all things indeed, are good or bad by
relation only. Nothing is so complex as relations when considered
with regard to a society, and nothing is so difficult as to
discover truth, when involved and blended with these relations.
We are not to conclude from this, that every operation of
government must become problematical and uncertain as to its
consequences: some are evidently good; others are notoriously
bad; those, the tendency of which is less evident, are always the
least essential, and the more complex they appear to a discerning
eye, the more trivial they are found to be in their immediate
A government must be continually in action, and one principal
object of its attention must be, the consequences and effects of
new institutions.
Experience alone will shew, what human prudence could not
foresee; and mistakes must be corrected as often as expediency
All governments have what they call their fundamental laws;
but fundamental, that is, invariable laws, can never subsist
among men, the most variable thing we know: the only fundamental
law, salus populi, must ever be relative, like every other thing.
But this is rather a maxim than a law.
It is however expedient, nay absolutely necessary, that in
every state, certain laws be supposed fundamental and invariable:
both to serve as a curb to the ambition of individuals, and to
point out to the statesman the outlines, or sketch of that plan
of government, which experience has proved to be the best adapted
to the spirit of his people.
Such laws may even be considered as actually invariable,
while a state subsists without convulsions or revolutions;
because then the alterations are so gradual, that they become
imperceptible to all, but the most discerning, who can compare
the customs and manners of the same people in different periods
of time and under different circumstances.
As we have taken for granted the fundamental maxim, that
every operation of government should be calculated for the good
of the people, so we may with equal certainty decide, that in
order to make a people happy, they must be governed according to
the spirit which prevails among them.
I am next to explain what I mean by the spirit of a people,
and to show how far this spirit must be made to influence the
government of every society.
Chap. II
Of the Spirit of a People
The spirit of a people is formed upon a set of received
opinions relative to three objects; morals, government, and
manners: these once generally adopted by any society, confirmed
by long and constant habit, and never called in question, form
the basis of all laws, regulate the form of every government, and
determine what is commonly called the customs of a country.
To know a people, we must examine them under these general
heads. We acquire the knowledge of their morals with ease, by
consulting the tenets of their religion, and from what is taught
among them by authority.
The second, or government, is more disguised, as it is
constantly changing from circumstances, partly resulting from
domestic and partly from foreign considerations. A thorough
knowledge of their history, and conversation with their ministers
of state, may give one, who has access to these helps, a very
competent knowledge of this branch.
The last, or the knowledge of the manners of a people, is by
far the most difficult to acquire, and yet is the most open to
every person's observation. Certain circumstances with regard to
manners are supposed by every one in the country to be so well
known, so generally followed and observed, that it seldom occurs
to any body to inform a stranger concerning them. In one country
nothing is so injurious as a stroke with a stick, or even a
gesture which implies a design or a desire to strike. in another
a stroke is not near so offensive as an opprobrious expression.
An innocent liberty with the fair sex, which in one country
passes without censure, is looked upon in another as the highest
indignity. In general, the opinion of a people with regard to
injuries is established by custom only, and nothing is more
necessary in government, than an exact attention to every
circumstance peculiar to the people to be governed.
The kingdom of Spain was lost for a violence committed upon
chastity;(2*) the city of Genoa for a blow;(3*) the kingdoms of
Naples and Sicily have ever been ready to revolt; because having
been for many ages under the dominion of strangers, the people
have never been governed according to the true spirit of their
manners. Let us consult the revolutions of all countries, and we
shall find, that the most trivial circumstances have had a
greater influence on such events, than the more weighty reasons,
which are always set forth as the real motives. I need not
enlarge upon this subject, my intention is only to suggest an
idea which any one may pursue, and which will be applied upon
many occasions as we go along; for there is no treating any point
which regards the political oeconomy of a nation, without
accompanying the example with some supposition relative to the
spirit of the people.
I have said, that the most difficult thing to learn
concerning a people, is the spirit of their manners.
Consequently, the most difficult thing for a stranger to adopt,
is their manner. Men acquire the language, nay even lose the
foreign accent, before they lose the peculiarity of their manner.
The reason is plain. The inclinations must be changed, the taste
for amusements must be new-modelled; established maims upon
government, manners, nay even upon some moral actions, must
undergo certain new modifications, before the stranger's
conversation and behaviour can become consistent with the spirit
of the people with whom he lives.
From these considerations, we may find the reason, why
nothing is more heavy to bear than the government of conquerors,
in spite of all their endeavours to render themselves agreeable
to the conquered. Of this, experience has ever proved the truth,
and princes are so much persuaded of it, that when a country is
subdued in our days, or when it otherwise changes masters, there
is seldom any question of altering, but by very slow degrees and
length of time, the established laws and customs of the
inhabitants. I might safely say, there is no form of government
upon earth so excellent in itself, as, necessarily, to make the
people happy under it. Freedom itself, imposed upon a people
groaning under the greatest slavery, will not make them happy,
unless it is made to undergo certain modifications, relative to
their established habits.
Having explained what I mean by the spirit of a people, I
come next to consider, how far this spirit must influence
If governments be taken in general, we shall find them
analogous to the spirit of the people. But the point under
consideration is, how a statesman is to proceed, when expediency
and refinement require a change of administration, or when it
becomes necessary from a change of circumstances.
The great alteration in the affairs of Europe within these
three centuries, by the discovery of America and the Indies, the
springing up of industry and learning, the introduction of trade
and the luxurious arts, the establishment of public credit, and a
general system of taxation, have entirely altered the plan of
government every where.
From feudal and military, it is become free and commercial. I
oppose freedom in government to the feudal system, to mark only
that there is not found now that chain of subordination among the
subjects, which made the essential part of the feudal form. The
head there had little power, and the lower classes of the people
little liberty. Now every industrious man, who lives with
oeconomy, is free and independent under most forms of government.
Formerly, the power of the barons swallowed up the independency
of all inferior classes. I oppose commercial to military; because
the military governments now are made to subsist from the
consequences and effects of commerce only. that is, from the
revenue of the state, proceeding from taxes. Formerly, every
thing was brought about by numbers; now, numbers of men cannot be
kept together without money.
This is sufficient to point out the nature of the revolution
in the political state, and of consequence in the manners of
The spirit of a people changes no doubt of itself, but by
slow degrees. The same generation commonly adheres to the same
principles, and retains the same spirit. In every country we find
two generations upon the stage at a time; that is to say, we may
distribute into two classes the spirit which prevails; the one
amongst men between twenty and thirty, when opinions are forming;
the other of those who are past fifty, when opinions and habits
are formed and confirmed. A person of judgment and observation
may foresee many things relative to government, from an exact
attention to the rise and progress of new customs and opinions,
provided he preserve his mind free from all attachments and
prejudices, in favour of those which he himself has adopted, and
in that delicacy of sensation necessary to perceive the influence
of a change of circumstances. This is the genius proper to form a
great minister.
In every new step the spirit of the people should be first
examined; and if this be not found ripe for the execution of the
plan, it ought to be put off, kept entirely secret, and every
method used to prepare the people to relish the innovation.
The project of introducing popery into England was blown
before it was put in practice, and so miscarried. Queen Elizabeth
kept her own secret, and succeeded in a similar attempt. The
scheme of a general excise was pushed with too much vivacity, was
made a matter of party, was ill-timed, and the people nowise
prepared for it; hence it will be the more difficult to bring
about at another time, without the greatest precautions.
In turning and working upon the spirit of a people, nothing
is impossible to an able statesman. When a people can be engaged
to murder their wives and children, and to burn themselves,
rather than submit to a foreign enemy, when they can be brought
to give their most precious effects, their ornaments of gold and
silver, for the support of a common cause; when women are brought
to give their hair to make ropes, and the most decrepit old men
to mount the walls of a town for its defence; I think I may say,
that by properly conducting and managing the spirit of a people,
nothing is impossible to be accomplished. But when I say, nothing
is impossible, I must be understood to mean, that nothing
essentially necessary for the good of the people is impossible;
and this is all that is required in government.
That it requires a particular talent in a statesman to
dispose the minds of a people to approve even of the scheme which
is the most conducive to their interest and prosperity, appears
from this, that we see examples of wise, rich, and powerful
nations languishing in inactivity, at a time when every
individual is animated with a quite contrary spirit; becoming a
prey to their enemies, like the city of Jerusalem, while they are
taken up with their domestic animosities, merely because the
remedies proposed against these evils contradict the spirit of
the times.
The great art of governing is to divest oneself of prejudices
and attachments to particular opinions, particular classes, and
above all to particular persons; to consult the spirit of the
people, to give way to it in appearance, and in so doing to give
it a turn capable of inspiring those sentiments which may induce
them to relish the change, which an alteration of circumstances
has rendered necessary.
Can any change be greater among free men, than from a state
of absolute liberty and independence to become subject to
constraint in the most trivial actions? This change has however
taken place over all Europe within these three hundred years, and
yet we think ourselves more free than ever our fathers were.
Formerly a gentleman who enjoyed a bit of land, knew not what it
was to have any demand made upon him, but in virtue of
obligations by himself contracted. He disposed of the fruits of
the earth, and of the labour of his servants or vassals, as he
thought fit. Every thing was bought, sold, transferred,
transported, modified, and composed, for private consumption, or
for public use, without ever the state's being once found
interested in what was doing. This, I say, was formerly the
general situation of Europe, among free nations under a regular
administration; and the only impositions commonly known to affect
landed men, were made in consequence of a contract of
subordination, feudal or other, which had certain limitations;
and the impositions were appropriated for certain purposes.
Daily experience shews, that nothing is more against the
inclinations of a people than the imposition of taxes; and the
less they are accustomed to them, the more difficult it is to get
them established.
The great abuse of governors in the application of taxes
contributes not a little to entertain and augment this repugnancy
in the governed: but besides abuse, there is often too little
management used to prepare the spirits of the people for such
innovations; for we see them upon many occasions submitting with
cheerfulness to very heavy impositions, provided they he
well-timed, and consistent with their manners and disposition. A
French gentleman, who cannot bear the thought of being put upon a
level with a peasant in paying a land-tax, pays contentedly, in
time of war, a general tax upon all his effects, under a
different name. To pay for your head is terrible in one country;
to pay for light appears as terrible in another.
It often happens, that statesmen take the hint of new
impositions from the example of other nations, and not from a
nice examination of their own domestic circumstances. But when
these are rightly attended to, it becomes easy to discover the
means of executing the same plan, in a way quite adapted to the
spirit, temper, and circumstances of the people. When strangers
are employed as statesmen, the disorder is still greater, unless
there be extraordinary penetration, temper, and, above all,
flexibility and discretion.
Statesmen have sometimes recourse to artifice instead of
reason, because their intentions often are not upright. This
destroys all confidence between them and the people; and
confidence is necessary when you are in a manner obliged to ask a
favour, or when what you demand is not indisputably your right. A
people thus tricked into an imposition, though expedient for
their prosperity, will oppose violently, at another time, a like
measure, even when essential to their preservation.
At other times, we see statesmen presenting the allurement of
present ease, precisely at the time when people's minds are best
disposed to receive a burden. I mean when war threatens, and when
the mind is heated with a resentment of injuries. Is it not
wonderful, at such a time as this, to increase taxes in
proportion only to the interest of money wanted; does not this
imply a shortsightedness, or at least an indifference as to what
is to come? Is it not more natural, that a people should consent
to come under burdens to gratify revenge, than submit to repay a
large debt when their minds are restored to a state of
From the examples I have given, I hope what I mean by the
spirit of a people is sufficiently understood, and I think I have
abundantly shewn the necessity of its being properly disposed, in
order to establish a right plan of oeconomy. This is so true,
that many examples may be found, of a people's rejecting the most
beneficial institutions, and even the greatest favours, merely
because some circumstance had shocked their established customs.
No wonder then, if we see them refuse to come under limitations,
restraints, and burdens, when the utmost they can be flattered
with from them, is a distant prospect of national good.
I have found it necessary to premise these general
reflections, in order to obviate many objections which might
naturally enough occur in the perusal of this inquiry. I shall
have occasion to make a number of suppositions, and to draw
consequences from them, which are abundantly natural, provided a
proper spirit in the people be presupposed, but which would be
far from being natural without this supposition. I suppose, for
example, that a poor man, loaded with many children, would be
glad to have the state maintain them; that another, who has waste
lands, would be obliged to one who would gratuitously build him a
farm-house upon it. yet in both suppositions I may prove
mistaken; for fathers there are, who would rather see their
children dead than out of their hands; and proprietors are to be
found, who, for the sake of hunting, would lay the finest country
in Europe into a waste.
In order to communicate an adequate idea of what I understand
by political oeconomy, I have explained the term, by pointing out
the object of the art; which is, to provide food, other
necessaries, and employment to every one of the society.
This is a very simple and a very general method of defining a
most complicated operation.
To provide a proper employment for all the members of a
society, is the same as to model and conduct every branch of
their concerns.
Upon this idea may be formed, I think, the most extensive
basis for an inquiry into the principles of political oeconomy.
The next thing to be done, is to fall upon a distinct method
of analysing so extensive a subject, by contriving a train of
ideas, which may be directed towards every part of the plan, and
which, at the same time, may be made to arise methodically from
one another.
For this purpose I have taken a hint from what the late
revolutions in the politics of Europe have pointed out to be the
regular progress of mankind, from great simplicity to complicated
This first book shall then set out with taking up society in
the cradle, as I may say. I shall here examine the principles
which influence their multiplication, the method of providing for
their subsistence, the origin of their labour, the effects of
their liberty and slavery, the distribution of them into classes,
with some other topics which relate to mankind in general.
Here we shall find the principles of industry influencing the
multiplication of mankind, and the cultivation of the soil. This
I have thrown in on purpose to prepare my reader for the subject
of the second book; where he will find the same principle (under
the wings of liberty) providing an easy subsistence for a
numerous populace, by the means of trade, which sends the labour
of an industrious people over the whole world.
From the experience of what has happened these last two
hundred years, we find to what a pitch the trade and industry of
Europe has increased alienations, and the circulation of money. I
shall therefore closely adhere to these, as the most immediate
consequences of the preceding improvement; and, by analysing
them, I shall form my third and fourth books, in which I intend
to treat of money and credit.
We see also how credit has engaged nations to avail
themselves of it in their wars, and how, by the use of it, they
have been led to contract debts; which they never can satisfy and
pay, without imposing taxes. The doctrine, then, of debts and
taxes will very naturally follow that of credit in this great
chain of political consequences.
By this kind of historical clue, I shall conduct myself
through the great avenues of this extensive labyrinth; and in my
review of every particular district, I shall step from
consequence to consequence, until I have penetrated into the
inmost recesses of my own understanding.
When a subject is broken off, I shall render my transitions
as gradual as I can, by still preserving some chain of connexion;
and although I cannot flatter myself (in such infinite variety of
choice, as to order and distribution) to hit at all times on that
method, which may appear to every reader the most natural and the
most correct, yet I shall spare no pains in casting the materials
into different forms, so as to make the best distribution of them
in my power.
Chap. III
Upon what Principles, and from what natural Causes do Mankind
multiply? And what are the Effects of Procreation in Countries
where Numbers are found to increase?
The multiplication of mankind has been treated of in
different ways; some have made out tables to show the progression
of multiplication, others have treated the question historically.
The state of numbers in different ages of the world, or in
different countries at different times, has been made the object
of inquiry; and the most exact scrutiny has been made into
ancient authors, as the means of investigating the truth of this
matter. All passages relative to the subject have been laid
together, and accompanied with glosses and interpretations the
most plausible, in order to determine the main question. The
elaborate performances of Mr Hume, and Dr Wallace, who have
adopted opposite opinions in regard to the populousness of the
ancient world, have left nothing new to be said upon this
subject; at least the application they appear to have given in
examining the ancients, is a great discouragement to any one who
might otherwise still flatter himself to find out circumstances
in them, proper to cast a new light upon the question.
My intention in this chapter is not to decide, nor even to
give my opinion upon that matter, far less to combat the
arguments advanced on either side. I am to consider the question
under a different point of view; not to inquire what numbers of
people were found upon the earth at a certain time, but to
examine the natural and rational causes of multipliCation. If we
can discover these, we may perhaps be led to judge how far they
might have operated in different ages and in different countries.
The fundamental principle of the multiplication of all
animals, and consequently of man, is generation; the next is
food: generation gives existence, food preserves it. Did the
earth produce of itself the proper nourishment for man with
unlimited abundance, we should find no occasion to labour in
order to procure it. Now in all countries found inhabited, as in
those which have been found desolate, if the state of animals be
inquired into, the number of them will be found in proportion to
the quantity of food produced by the earth, regularly throughout
the year, for their subsistence. I say, regularly throughout the
year, because we perceive, in those animals which produce in
great abundance, such as all the feathered sort, that vast
multitudes are destroyed in winter; they are brought forth with
the fruits of the earth, and fall in proportion to their decay.
This principle is so natural, that I think it can hardly be
As to man, the earth does not spontaneously produce
nourishment for him in any considerable degree. I allow that as
some species of animals support life by devouring others, so may
man; but it must be observed, that the species feeding must
always be much inferior in number to the species fed upon. This
is evident in reason and in fact.
Were the earth therefore uncultivated, the numbers of mankind
would not exceed the proportion of the spontaneous fruits which
she offers for their immediate use, or for that of the animals
which might be the proper nourishment of man.
There is therefore a certain number of mankind which the
earth would be able to maintain without any labour: allow me to
call this quantity (A). Does it not, from this exposition of the
matter, appear plain, that without labour (A) never can increase
any more than animals, which do not work for themselves, can
increase beyond the proportion of food provided for them by
nature? Let it be however observed, that I do not pretend to
limit (A) to a determinate number. The seasons will no doubt
influence the numbers of mankind, as we see they influence the
plenty of other animals; but I say (A) will never increase beyond
the fixed proportion above mentioned.
Having resolved one question with regard to multiplication,
and shewn that numbers must become greater or smaller according
to the productions of nature, I come to the second thing proposed
to be treated of in the chapter; to wit, what will become of the
generative faculty after it has produced the full proportion of
(A), and what effects will afterwards follow.
We see how beneficent, I might have said prodigal, nature is
in bestowing life by generation. Several kinds of animals,
especially insects, multiply by thousands, and yet the species
does not appear annually to increase. Nobody can pretend that
particular individuals of any species have a privilege to live,
and that others die from a difference in their nature. It is
therefore reasonable to conclude, that what destroys such vast
quantities of those produced, must be, among other causes, the
want of food. Let us apply this to man.
Those who are supposed to be fed with the spontaneous fruits
of the earth, cannot, from what has been said, multiply beyond
that proportion; at the same time the generative faculty will
work its natural effects in augmenting numbers. The consequence
will be, that certain individuals must become worse fed,
consequently weaker. consequently, if, in that weakly state,
nature should withhold a part of her usual plenty, the whole
multitude will be affected by it; a disease may take place, and
sweep off a far greater number than that proportioned to the
deficiency of the season. What results from this? That those who
have escaped, finding food more plentiful, become vigorous and
strong. generation gives life to additional numbers, food
preserves it, until they rise up to the former standard.
Thus the generative faculty resembles a spring loaded with a
weight, which always exerts itself in proportion to the
diminution of resistance: when food has remained some time
without augmentation or diminution, generation will carry numbers
as high as possible; if then food come to be diminished, the
spring is overpowered; the force of it becomes less than nothing.
Inhabitants will diminish, at least, in proportion to the
overcharge. If, upon the other hand, food be increased, the
spring which stood at 0, will begin to exert itself in proportion
as the resistance diminishes; people will begin to be better fed;
they will multiply, and, in proportion as they increase in
numbers, the food will become scarce again.
I must here subjoin a remark very analogous to this subject.
That the generative faculty in man (which we have compared to a
spring), and the care and love we have for our children, first
prompt us to multiply, and then engage us to divide what we have
with our little ones. Thus from dividing and subdividing it
happens, that in every country where food is limited to a certain
quantity, the inhabitants must be subsisted in a regular
progression, descending down from plenty and ample subsistence,
to the last periods of want, and even sometimes starving for
Although the examples of this last extremity are not common
in some countries, yet I believe they are more so than is
generally imagined; and the other stages of want are productive
of many diseases, and of a decay which extinguishes the faculty
of generation, or which weakens it, so as to produce children
less vigorous and less healthy. I appeal to experience, if this
reasoning be not just.
Put two or three pairs of rabbits into a field proper for
them, the multiplication will be rapid; and in a few years the
warren will be stocked: you may take yearly from it a hundred
pairs, I shall suppose, and keep your warren in good order: give
over taking any for some years, you will perhaps find your
original stock rather diminished than increased, for the reasons
above mentioned. Africa yearly furnishes many thousands for the
cultivation of America; in this she resembles the warren. I have
little doubt but that if all her sons were returned to her at
once, by far the greater part would die of hunger.
Chap. IV
Continuation of the same Subject, with regard to the natural and
immediate Effects of Agriculture, as to Population
I now suppose man to add his labour and industry to the
natural activity of the soil: so far, as by this he produces an
additional quantity of food, so far he lays a foundation for the
maintenance of an additional number. This number I shall call
(B). From this I conclude, that as (A) is supposed to be in a
constant proportion to the spontaneous fruits, so (B) must be in
proportion to agriculture (by this term I understand at present
every method of augmenting food by labour), consequently the
number maintained by the labour of mankind must be to the whole
number of mankind as (B) is to (A + B), or as (B) is to (A) and
(B) jointly.
By this operation we find mankind immediately divided into
two classes; those who, without working, live upon the
spontaneous fruits of the earth; that is, upon milk, cattle,
hunting, &c. The other part, those who are obliged to labour the
soil. It is proper next to inquire what should naturally oblige a
man to labour; and what are the natural consequences of it as to
We have already said, that the principle of generation is
inherent in man, and prompts him to multiply. Another principle,
as naturally inherent in the mind, as the first is in the body,
is self-love, or a desire of ease and happiness, which prompts
those who find in themselves any superiority, whether personal or
political, to make use of every natural advantage. Consequently,
such will multiply proportionably: because by appropriating to
themselves the fruits of the earth, they have the means of
subsisting their offspring. The others, I think, will very
naturally become their servants; as this method is, of all
others, the most easy to procure subsistence. This is so
analogous to the nature of man, that we see every where, even
among children, that the smallest superiority in any one over the
rest, constantly draws along with it a tribute of service in one
way or other. Those who become servants for the sake of food,
will soon become slaves: for slavery is but the abuse of service,
established by a civil institution; and men who find no
possibility of subsisting otherwise, will be obliged to serve
upon the conditions prescribed to them.
This seems a consequence not unnatural in the infancy of the
world: yet I do not pretend to affirm that this was the origin of
slavery. Servants, however, there have always been; and the abuse
of service is what we understand by slavery. The subordination of
children to their parents, and of servants to their masters,
seems to be the most rational origin of society and government.
The first of these is natural, and follows as the unavoidable
consequence of an entire dependence: the second is political, and
may very naturally take place as to those who cannot otherwise
procure subsistence. This last species of subordination may, I
think, have taken place, the moment man became obliged to labour
for subsistence, but no sooner.
The wants of man are not confined to food, merely. When food
is to be produced from the rude surface of the earth, a great
part of his time must be taken up with this object, even
supposing him to be provided with every utensil proper for the
exercise of his industry: he must therefore be in a worse
condition to provide for his other wants: consequently, he may be
willing to serve any one who will do it for him. Whereas, on the
other hand, if we suppose all mankind idle and fed, living upon
the spontaneous fruits of the earth, the plan of universal
liberty becomes quite natural: because under such circumstances
they find no inducement to come under a voluntary subordination.
Let us now borrow the idea of a primitive society, of a
government, of a king, from the most ancient history we have, the
better to point out the effects of agriculture and
multiplication. The society is the whole taken together; it is
Jacob, his sons, their wives, their children, and all the
servants. The government regards the institutions prescribed by
Jacob, to every one of the family, concerning their respective
subordination and duty. Multiplication will here go forward, not
in proportion to the generative faculty, but according to the
employment of the persons already generated. If Jacob continue
pasturing his herds, he must extend the limits of his right of
pasture; he must multiply his stock of cattle, in proportion as
the mouths of his family augment. He is charged with all this
detail: for he is master, and director, and statesman, and
general provider. His servants will work as they are ordered; but
if he has not had the proper foresight, to break up lands so soon
as his family comes nearly up to that proportion which his flocks
can easily feed; if in this case, a dry season should burn up the
grass in Palestine, he will be obliged to send some of his stock
of cattle, by some of his family, to market, there to be sold;
and with the price he must buy corn. For in this early age, there
was money, there were manufactures of sackcloth, of common
raiment, and of party-coloured garments; there was a trade in
corn, in spicery, balm, and myrrh. Jacob and his family were
shepherds, but they lived not entirely on flesh; they eat bread:
consequently there was tillage in those days, though they
exercised none. The famine however was ready to destroy them, and
probably would have done it, but for the providential
circumstance of Joseph's being governor of Egypt. He relieved
their distress, he gave to his family the best country in the
whole kingdom for pasture; and they had a gratuitous supply of
No doubt, so long as these favourable circumstances
subsisted, multiplication would go on apace. What supernatural
assistance God was pleased to grant for the increase of his
chosen people, does not concern my inquiry.
I have mentioned transiently this example of the patriarch,
to point out only how ancient the use of money, the invention of
trade and manufactures appear to have been. Without such previous
establishments, I consider mankind as savages, living on the
spontaneous fruits of the earth, as in the first supposition; and
confined, as to numbers, to the actual extent of these
From what has been said, we may conclude, that the numbers of
mankind must depend upon the quantity of food produced by the
earth for their nourishment; from which, as a corollary, may be
That mankind have been, as to numbers, and must ever be, in
proportion to the food produced; and that the food produced will
be in the compound proportion of the fertility of the climate,
and the industry of the inhabitants.
From this last proposition it appears plain, that there can
be no general rule for determining the number of inhabitants
necessary for agriculture, not even in the same country. The
fertility of the soil when laboured, the ease of labouring it,
the quantity of good spontaneous fruits, the plenty of fish in
the rivers and sea, the abundance of wild birds and beasts, have
in all ages, and ever must influence greatly the nourishment,
and, consequently, regulate the multiplication of man, and
determine his employment.
To make an establishment in a country not before inhabited,
to root out woods, destroy wild and venomous animals, drain
marshy grounds, give a free course to water, and to lay down the
surface into corn fields, must surely require more hands than to
cultivate the same after it is improved. For the truth of this, I
appeal to our American brethren.
We may therefore conclude, that the most essential requisite
for population, is that of agriculture, or the providing of
subsistence. Upon this all the rest depends: while subsistence is
upon a precarious footing, no statesman can turn his attention to
any thing else.
The great importance of this object has engaged some to
imagine, that the luxurious arts, in our days, are prejudicial
both to agriculture and multiplication. It is sometimes of ill
consequence to fix one's attention too much upon any one object,
however important. Nobody can dispute that agriculture is the
foundation of multiplication, and the most essential requisite
for the prosperity of a state. But it does not follow from this,
that every body almost in the state should be employed in it;
that would be inverting the order of things, and turning the
master into the servant. The duty and business of man is not to
feed; he is fed, in order to do his duty, and to become useful in
his profession; whether agriculture, art, or science.
It is not sufficient for my purpose to know, that the
introduction of agriculture, by multiplying the quantity of the
earth's productions, does evidently tend to increase the numbers
of mankind. I must examine the political causes which must
concur, in order to operate this effect.
For this purpose, my next inquiry shall be directed towards
discovering the true principles which influence the employment of
man, with respect to agriculture. I shall spare no pains in
examining this point to the bottom, even though it should lead me
to anticipate some branches of my subject.
I shall endeavour to lay down principles consistent with the
nature of man, with agriculture, and with multiplication, in
order, by their means, to discover both the use and abuse of the
two last. When these parts are well understood, the rest will go
on more smoothly, and I shall find the less occasion to interrupt
my subject, in order to explain the topics upon which the whole
Chap. V
In what Manner, and according to what Principles, and political
Causes, does Agriculture augment Population?
I have already shewn, how the spontaneous fruits of the earth
provide a fund of nourishment for a determinate number of men,
and have slightly touched upon the consequences of adding labour
to the natural activity of the soil.
Let me now carry this inquiry a little farther. Let me
suppose a country fertile in spontaneous productions, capable of
improvements of every kind, inhabited by a people living under a
free government, and in the most refined simplicity, without
trade, without the luxurious arts, and without ambition. Let me
here suppose a statesman, who shall inspire a taste for
agriculture and for labour into those who formerly consumed the
spontaneous fruits of the earth in ease and idleness. What will
become of this augmentation of food produced by this additional
The sudden increase of food, such as that here supposed, will
immediately diffuse vigour into all; and if the additional
quantity be not very great, no superfluity will be found. No
sooner will the inhabitants be fully nourished, but they will
begin to multiply a-new: then they will come to divide with their
children, and food will become scarce again.
Thus much is necessary for the illustration of one principle;
but the effects, which we have been pointing out, will not be
produced barely by engaging those who lived by hunting (I
suppose) to quit that trade, and turn farmers. The statesman must
also find out a method to make the produce of this new branch of
industry circulate downwards, so as to relieve the wants of the
most necessitous: Otherwise, the plenty produced, remaining in
the hands of those who produced it, will become to them an
absolute superfluity; which, had they any trade with a
neighbouring state, they would sell, or exchange, and leave their
fellow-citizens to starve. And as we suppose no trade at all,
this superfluity will perish like their cherries, in a year of
plenty; and consequently the farmers will immediately give over
If, to prevent this inconveniency, the statesman shall force
certain classes to labour the soil, and, with discretion,
distribute the produce of it to all that have occasion for
subsistence, taking in return their services for the public
benefit; this will prove an infallible way of multiplying
inhabitants, of making them laborious, and of preserving a
simplicity of manners; but it is also the picture of ancient
slavery, and is therefore excluded from the supposition.
If he acts consistently with that spirit of liberty, which we
have supposed to animate his subjects, he has no method left, but
to contrive different employments for the hands of the
necessitous, that, by their labour, they may produce an
equivalent which may be acceptable to the farmers, in lieu of
this superfluity; for these last certainly will not raise it, if
they cannot dispose of it; nor will they dispose of it, but for a
proper equivalent. This is the only method (in a free state) of
procuring additional food, and of distributing it through the
society, as the price of those hours which before were spent in
idleness: and, as this will prove a more certain and more
extensive fund of subsistence, than the precarious productions of
spontaneous fruits, which cannot be increased at discretion, and
in proportion to demand, it will greatly increase numbers; but,
on the other hand, it must evidently destroy that simplicity of
manners which naturally reigns among nations who do not labour.
A people, therefore, who have an industrious turn, will
multiply in proportion to the superfluity produced by their
farmers; because the labour of the necessitous will prove an
equivalent for it.
Now this additional number of inhabitants, being raised and
fed with the superfluity actually produced by the farmers, can
never be supposed necessary for providing this quantity, which
(though relatively to the farmers it be called a superfluity) is
merely a sufficiency relatively to the whole society. and,
therefore, if it be found necessary to employ the new inhabitants
also in farming, it must be with a view only to a still greater
Farther, we may lay it down as a principle, that a farmer
will not labour to produce a superfluity of grain relatively to
his own consumption, unless he finds some want which may be
supplied by means of that superfluity'. neither will other
industrious persons work to supply the wants of the farmer for
any other reason than to procure subsistence, which they cannot
otherwise so easily obtain. These are the reciprocal wants which
the statesman must create, in order to bind the society together.
Here, then, is one principle: Agriculture among a free people
will augment population, in proportion only as the necessitous
are put in a situation to purchase subsistence with their labour.
If, in any country which actually produces nourishment for
its inhabitants, according to the progression above-mentioned, a
plan is set on foot for the extension of agriculture; the
augmentation must be made to bear a due proportion to the
progress of industry and wants of the people, or else an outlet
must be provided for disposing of the superfluity. And if, at
setting out, a foreign consumption cannot be procured for the
produce of husbandry, the greatest caution must be had to keep
the improvement of the soil within proper bounds: for, without
this, the plan intended for an improvement will, by over-doing,
turn out to the detriment of agriculture. This will be the case,
if the fruits of the earth be made to increase faster than the
numbers and the industry of those who are to consume them. For if
the whole be not consumed, the regorging plenty will discourage
the industry of the farmer.
But if, together with an encouragement to agriculture, a
proper outlet be found for the superfluity, until the numbers and
industry of the people, by increasing, shall augment the
home-consumption, which again by degrees will diminish the
quantity of exportation, then the spring will easily overcome the
resistance; it will dilate; that is, numbers will continue to
From this may be derived another principle: That agriculture,
when encouraged for the sake of multiplying inhabitants, must
keep pace with the progress of industry; or else an outlet must
be provided for all superfluity.
In the foregoing example, I have supposed no exportation, the
more to simplify the supposition: I was, therefore, obliged to
throw in a circumstance, in order to supply the want of it; to
wit, an augmentation of inland demand from the suspension of
hunting; and I have supposed those who formerly supported
themselves by this, to consume the superfluous food of the
farmers for the price of their labour. This may do well enough as
a supposition, and has been made use of merely to explain
principles. but the manners of a people are not so easily
changed; and therefore I have a little anticipated the
supposition of trade, to shew only how it must concur with
industry, in the advancement of agriculture and multiplication.
Let me next consider the consequences of an augmentation of
agriculture in a country where the inhabitants are lazy; or where
they live in such simplicity of manners, as to have few wants
which labour and industry can supply. In this case, I say, the
scheme of agriculture will not succeed; and, if set on foot, a
part of the grounds will soon become again uncultivated.
The laziest part of the farmers, disgusted with a labour
which produces a plenty superfluous to themselves, which they
cannot dispose of for any equivalent, will give over working, and
return to their ancient simplicity. The more laborious will not
furnish food to the necessitous for nothing: such therefore who
cannot otherwise subsist, will naturally serve the industrious,
and thereby sell their service for food. Thus by the diminution
of labour, a part of the country, proportional to the quantity of
food which the farmers formerly found superfluous, will again
become uncultivated.
Here then will be found a country, the population of which
must stop for want of food; and which, by the supposition, is
abundantly able to produce more. Experience every where shews the
possible existence of such a case, since no country in Europe is
cultivated to the utmost: and that there are many still, where
cultivation, and consequently multiplication, is at a stop. These
nations I consider as in a moral incapacity of multiplying: the
incapacity would be physical, if there was an actual
impossibility of their procuring an augmentation of food by any
means whatsoever.
These principles seem to be confirmed by experience; whether
we compare them with the manner of living among the free American
savages, or among the free, industrious, and laborious Europeans.
We find the productions of all countries, generally speaking, in
proportion to the number of their inhabitants; and, on the other
hand, the inhabitants are most commonly in proportion to the
I beg that this may not be looked upon as a quibble, or what
is called a vicious circle. I have qualified the general
proposition by subjoining that it is found true most commonly;
and from what is to follow, we shall better discover both the
truth and meaning of what is here advanced. While certain causes
operate, food will augment, and mankind will increase in
proportion; when these causes cease, procreation will not augment
numbers; then the general proposition will take place; numbers
and food will remain the same, and balance one another. This I
imagine to be so in fact; and I hope to shew that it is rational
also. Let me now put an end to this chapter, by drawing some
conclusions from what has been laid down, in order to enlarge our
ideas, and to enable us to extend our plan.
First, One consequence of a fruitful soil, possessed by a
free people, given to agriculture, and inclined to industry, will
be the production of a superfluous quantity of food, over and
above what is necessary to feed the farmers. Inhabitants will
multiply; and, according to their increase, a certain number of
the whole, proportional to such superfluity of nourishment
produced, will apply themselves to industry and to the supplying
of other wants.
Secondly, From this operation produced by industry, we find
the people distributed into two classes. The first is that of the
farmers who produce the subsistence, and who are necessarily
employed in this branch of business; the other I shall call free
hands; because their occupation being to procure themselves
subsistence out of the superfluity of the farmers, and by a
labour adapted to the wants of the society, may vary according to
these wants, and these again according to the spirit of the
Thirdly, If, in the country we are treating of, both money
and the luxurious arts be supposed to be unknown, then the
superfluity of the farmers will be in proportion to the number of
those whose labour will be found sufficient to provide for all
the other necessities of the inhabitants; and, so soon as this is
accomplished, the consumption and produce becoming equally
balanced, the inhabitants will increase no more, or at least very
precariously, unless their wants be multiplied.
Chap. VI
How the Wants of Mankind promote their Multiplication
If the country we were treating of in the former chapter be
supposed of a considerable extent and fruitfulness, and if the
inhabitants have turn for industry, in a short time luxury, and
the use of money (or of something participating of the nature of
money), will infallibly be introduced.
By LUXURY, I understand the consumption of any thing produced
by the labour or ingenuity of man, which flatters our senses or
taste of living, and which is neither necessary for our being
well fed, well clothed, well defended against the injuries of the
weather, or for securing us against every thing which can hurt
By MONEY, I understand any commodity, which purely in itself
is of no material use to man for the purposes above-mentioned,
but which acquires such an estimation from his opinion of it, as
to become the universal measure of what is called value, and an
adequate equivalent for any thing alienable.(5*)
Here a new scene opens. This money must be found in the hands
of some of the inhabitants; naturally, of such as have had the
wit to invent it, and the address to make their countrymen fond
of it, by representing it as an equivalent value for food and
necessaries; that is to say, the means of procuring, without work
or toil, not only the labour of others, but food itself.
Here then is produced a new object of want. Every person
becomes fond of having money; but how to get it is the question.
The proprietors will not give it for nothing, and, by our former
supposition, every one within the society was understood to be
abundantly supplied with food and necessaries; the farmers, from
their labouring the ground; the free hands, by the return of
their own ingenuity, in furnishing necessaries. The proprietors
therefore of this money have all their wants supplied, and still
are possessors of this new kind of riches, which we now suppose
to be coveted by all.
The natural consequence here will be, that those who have the
money will cease to labour, and yet will consume; and they will
not consume for nothing, for they will pay with money.
Here then is a number of inhabitants, who live and consume
the produce of the earth without labouring; food will soon become
scarce; demand for it will rise, and that will be paid with
money, this is the best equivalent of all; many will run to the
plough; the superfluity of the farmers will augment; the rich
will call for superfluities; the free hands will supply them, and
demand food in their turn. These will, the rich, who not be found
a burden on the husbandman, as formerly hired of them their
labour or service, must pay them with money, and this money in
their hands will serve as an equivalent for the superfluity of
nourishment produced by additional agriculture.
When once this imaginary wealth (money) becomes well
introduced into a country, luxury will very naturally follow; and
when money becomes the object of our wants, mankind become
industrious, in turning their labour towards every object which
may engage the rich to part with it; and thus the inhabitants of
any country may increase in numbers, until the ground refuses
farther nourishment. The consequences of this will make the
subject of another chapter.
Before we proceed, something must be said, in order a little
to restrain these general assertions.
We have supposed a very rapid progress of industry, and a
very sudden augmentation of inhabitants, from the introduction of
money. But it must be observed, that many circumstances have
concurred with the money to produce this effect.
We have supposed a country capable of improvement, a
laborious people, a taste for refinement and luxury in the rich,
an ambition to become so, and an application to labour and
ingenuity in the lower classes of men. According to the greater
or less degree of force, or concurrence of these and like
circumstances, will the country in question become more or less
cultivated, and consequently peopled.
If the soil be vastly rich, situated in a warm climate, and
naturally watered, the productions of the earth will be almost
spontaneous: this will make the inhabitants lazy. Laziness is the
greatest of all obstacles to labour and industry. Manufactures
will never flourish here. The rich, with all their money, will
not become luxurious with delicacy and refinement; for I do not
mean by luxury the gratification of the animal appetites, nor the
abuse of riches, but an elegance of taste and in living, which
has for its object the labour and ingenuity of man; and as the
ingenuity of workmen begets a taste in the rich, so the
allurement of riches kindles an ambition, and encourages an
application to works of ingenuity, in the poor.
Riches therefore will here be adored as a god, but not made
subservient to the uses of man; and it is by the means of swift
circulation only (as shall be observed in its proper place) that
they become productive of the effects mentioned above.(6*)
When money does not circulate, it is the same thing as if it
did not exist; and as the treasures found in countries where the
inhabitants are lazy do not circulate, they are rather ornamental
than useful.
It is not therefore in the most fruitful countries of the
world, nor in those which are the best calculated for nourishing
great multitudes, that we find the most inhabitants. It is in
climates less favoured by nature, and where the soil produces to
those only who labour, and in proportion to the industry of every
one, where we may expect to find great multitudes; and even these
multitudes will be found greater or less, in proportion as the
turn of the inhabitants is directed to ingenuity and industry.
In such countries where industry is made to flourish, the
free hands (of whom we have spoken above) will be employed in
useful manufactures, which, being refined upon by the ingenious,
will determine what is called the standard of taste; this taste
will increase consumption, which again will multiply workmen, and
these will encourage the production of food for their
Let it therefore never be said, that there are too many
manufacturers employed in a country; it is the same as if it were
said, there are too few idle persons, too few beggars, and too
many husbandmen.
We have more than once endeavoured to shew, that these
manufacturers never can be fed but out of the superfluity of the
farmers. It is a contradiction, I think, to say, that those who
are fed upon the surplus of those who cultivate the soil are
necessary for producing a sufficiency to themselves. For if even
this surplus were to diminish, the manufacturers, not the
labourers, would be the first to be extinguished for want of
The importance of the distributive proportion of mankind into
labourers and free hands appears so great, and has so intimate a
connection with this subject, that it engages me to seek for an
illustration of the principles I have been laying down, in an
example drawn from facts, as they are found to stand in one of
the greatest and most flourishing nations in Europe. But before I
proceed farther in this part of my subject, I must examine the
consequences of slavery with regard to the subject we are now
upon. Relations here are so many and so various, that it is
necessary to have sometimes recourse to transitions, of which I
give notice to my reader, that he may not lose the connection.
Chap. VII
The Effects of Slavery upon the Multiplication and Employment of
Before I go on to follow the consequences of the above
reasoning, I must stop to consider a difference of no small
importance between ancient and modern times, which will serve to
illustrate the nature of slavery, with regard to population and
the employment of mankind.
We have endeavoured to lay down the principles which seem to
influence this question, supposing all to be free. In this case,
I imagine the human species will multiply pretty much in
proportion to their industry; their industry will increase
according to their wants, and these again will be diversified
according to the spirit of the times.
From this I conclude, that the more free and simple the
manners of any country are, caeteris paribus, the fewer
inhabitants will be found in it. This is proved by experience
every where. The Tartars, who freely wander up and down a country
of vast extent, multiply but little; the savages in America, who
live upon hunting, in a state of great independence; the
inhabitants of several mountainous countries in Europe, where
there are few manufactures, and where the inhabitants do not
leave the country; in all such places mankind do not multiply.
What is the reason of this? One would imagine, where there is a
great extent of ground capable of producing food, that mankind
should multiply until the soil refused to give more. I imagine
the answer may be easily discovered from the principles above
laid down.
Where mankind have few wants, the number of free hands
necessary to supply them is very small, consequently very little
surplus from the farmers is sufficient to maintain them. When
therefore it happens, that any poor family in the class of free
hands is very numerous, division there comes to be carried to its
utmost extent, and the greatest part become quite idle, because
there is no demand for their work. As long as they can be fed by
the division of the emoluments arising from the labour of their
parents, or by the charity of others, they live; when these
resources fail, they become miserable. In so wretched a situation
it is not easy to find bread. The farmers will not double their
diligence from a charitable disposition. Those who have land will
not allow those indigent people a liberty to raise grain in it
for nothing; and although they should, the poor are not in a
capacity to provide what is necessary for doing it. All other
work is fully stocked, the wretched die, or extinguish without
To make this more evident, let us suppose the wants of
mankind, in any polite nation of Europe, which lives and
flourishes in our days upon the produce of its own soil, reduced
all at once to the simplicity of the ancient patriarchs, or even
to that of the old Romans. Suppose all the hands now employed in
the luxurious arts, and in every branch of modern manufactures,
to become quite idle, and all foreign trade to be cut off, how
could they be subsisted? What oeconomy could be set on foot, able
to preserve so many lives useful to the state? Yet it is plain by
the supposition, that the farmers of the country are capable of
maintaining them, since they actually do so. It would be absurd
to propose to employ them in agriculture, since there are enough
employed in this, to provide food for the whole.
If it be certain that such people would die for want without
any resource; must it not follow that, unless their parents had
found the means of maintaining them when children, and they
themselves the means of afterwards subsisting by their industry
in supplying wants, they could not have existed beyond their
first infancy?
This seems to strike deep against the populousness of the old
world, where we know that the wants of mankind, with regard to
trades and manufactures, were so few.
But in those days the wants of mankind were of a different
nature. At present, there is a demand for the ingenuity of man;
then, there was a demand for his person and service. Now,
provided there be a demand for man, whatever use he be put to,
the species will multiply; for those who stand in need of them
will always feed them, and, as long as food is to be found,
numbers will increase.
In the present times food cannot, in general, be found, but
by labour, and that cannot be found but to supply wants. Nobody
will feed a free man, more than he will feed the wild birds or
beasts of the field, unless he has occasion for the labour of the
one or flesh of the other.
In the old world the principles were the same, but the spirit
of nations was different. Princes wanted to have numerous armies.
Free states sought for power in the number of their citizens. The
wants of Mankind being few, and a simplicity of manners
established, to have encouraged industry, excepting in
agriculture, which in all ages has been the foundation of
population, would have been an inconsistency. To make mankind
labour beyond their wants, to make one part of a state work to
maintain the other gratuitously, could only be brought about by
slavery, and slavery was therefore introduced universally.
Slavery was then as necessary towards multiplication, as it would
now be destructive of it. The reason is plain. If mankind be not
forced to labour, they will labour for themselves only; and if
they have few wants, there will be little labour. But when states
come to be formed, and have occasion for idle hands to defend
them against the violence of their enemies, food at any rate must
be procured for those who do not labour; and, as by the
supposition, the wants of the labourers are small, a method must
be found to increase their labour above the proportion of their
For this purpose slavery was calculated: it had two excellent
effects with respect to population. The first, that, in
unpolished nations, living upon the spontaneous fruits of the
earth, and almost continually in war, lives were preserved for
the sake of making slaves of the captives. These, sold to private
people, or different states, were sure of being fed; whereas,
remaining in their own country, they occupied a place only,
which, by the force of the generative faculty, as has been
observed, was soon to be filled up by propagation: for it must
not be forgot, that when numbers are swept off, by any sudden
calamity, which does not proportionally diminish subsistence, a
new multiplication immediately takes place. Thus we perceive the
hurt done by plagues, by war, and by other devastations, either
among men, or cattle, repaired in a few years, even in those
countries where the standard number of both is seldom found to
increase. What immense quantities of cattle are yearly
slaughtered ! Does any body imagine that if all were allowed to
live, numbers would increase in proportion? The same is true of
The second advantage of slavery was, that in countries where
a good police prevailed, and where the people had fewer wants by
far than are felt in modern times, the slaves were forced to
labour the soil which fed both them and the idle freemen, as was
the case in Sparta; or they filled all the servile places which
freemen fill now, and they were likewise employed, as in Greece
and in Rome, in supplying with manufactures those whose service
was necessary for the state.
Here then was a violent method making mankind laborious in
raising food; and provided this be accomplished, (by any means
whatever,) numbers will increase.
Trade, industry, and manufactures, tend only to multiply the
numbers of men, by encouraging agriculture. If it be therefore
supposed, that two states are equally extended, equally fruitful,
and equally cultivated, and the produce consumed at home, I
believe they will be found equally peopled. But suppose the one
laboured by free men, the other by slaves, what difference will
be found in making war? In the first, the free hands must, by
their industry and labour, purchase their food, and a day lost is
in a manner a day of fasting: in the last, the slaves produce the
food, they are first fed, and the rest costs nothing to the body
of free men, who may be all employed in war, without the smallest
prejudice to industry.
From these principles it appears, that slavery in former
times had the same effect in peopling the world that trade and
industry have now. Men were then forced to labour because they
were slaves to others; men are now forced to labour because they
are slaves to their own wants.
I do not, however, pretend, that in fact slavery in ancient
times did every where contribute to population, any more than I
can affirm that the spirit of industry in the Dutch is common to
all free nations in our days. All that is necessary for my
purpose is, to set forth the two principles, and to shew the
natural effects of the one and the other, with respect to the
multiplication of mankind and advancement of agriculture, the
principal objects of our attention throughout this book.
I shall at present enlarge no farther upon this matter, but
return to where I left off in the preceding chapter, and take up
the farther examination of the fundamental distribution of
inhabitants into labourers and free hands.
Chap. VII
What Proportion of Inhabitants is necessary for Agriculture, and
what Proportion may be usefully employed in every other
I have proposed this question, not with an intention to
answer it fully, but to point out, how, with the proper lights
given, it may be answered.
As I write under circumstances not the most favourable for
having recourse to books, I must employ those I have. The article
Political Arithmetic, of Mr Chambers's Cyclopedia, furnishes me
with some extracts from Sir William Petty, and Dr Davenant, which
I here intend to employ, towards pointing out a solution of the
question proposed. These authors consider the state of England as
it appeared to them, and what they say is conclusive with respect
to that state only.
Sir William Petty supposes the inhabitants of England to be
six millions, the value of grain yearly consumed by them ten
millions sterling, the bushel of wheat reckoned at 5s., and that
of barley at 2s. 6d. If we cast the two together, and reckon upon
an average, this will make the quarter, or eight bushels of
grain, worth 1l. 10s.: but in regard, the barley cannot amount to
one half of all the grain consumed, especially as there is a good
quantity of rye made use of, which is worth more than the barley,
though less than the wheat; let us suppose the grain worth 32s.
per quarter, at a medium; then ten millions sterling will
purchase six millions of quarters of grain, or thereabouts;
which, used for nourishment, in bread and beer, gives the mean
quantity of one quarter, or 512 pounds troy of grain for every
inhabitant, including the nourishment of his proportional part of
animals; supposing that Sir William attended to this
circumstance, for it is not mentioned by Chambers. And I must
observe, by-the-bye, that this computation may hold good as to
England, where people eat so little bread; but would not answer
in France, nor in almost any other country I have seen.
Dr Davenant, correcting Sir William's calculation, makes the
inhabitants 5,545,000. These, according to Sir William's prices
and proportions, would consume to the amount of 8,872,000l.
sterling. but the Dr carries it, with reason, a little higher,
and states it at 9,075,000l. sterling; the difference, however,
is inconsiderable. From this he concludes the gross produce of
the corn-fields to be about 9,075,000l. sterling. I make no
criticism upon this computation.
Next, as to the value of other lands; I find Sir William
reckons the gross produce of them in butter, cheese, milk, wool,
horses yearly bred, flesh for food, tallow, hides, hay, and
timber, to amount to 12,000,000l. sterling: The amount therefore
of the gross produce of all the lands in England must be equal to
these two sums added together, that is, to 21,075,000l. sterling.
From these data, the Dr values the yearly rent of corn-lands
at two million sterling, and those of pasture, &c. at seven
millions; in all, nine millions.
From this it appears, that the land-rents of England are to
the gross produce, as nine is to twenty-one, or thereabouts.
Let me now examine some other proportions.
The rents of the corn-lands are to the gross produce of them,
as two is to nine; those of pasture, as seven to twelve.
Now it is very certain, that all rents are in a pretty just
proportion to the gross produce, after deducting three principal
First, The nourishment of the farmer, his family, and
Secondly, The necessary expences of his family, for
manufactures, and instruments for cultivating the ground.
Thirdly, His reasonable profits, according to the custom of
every country.
Of these three articles, let us distinguish what part implies
the direct consumption of the pure produce, from what does not.
Of the first sort are the nourishment of men and cattle, wool
and flax for clothing, firing, and other smaller articles.
Of the second are all manufactures bought, servants' wages,
the hire of labourers occasionally, and profits, either spent in
luxury, (that is, superfluity,) lent, or laid up.
The three articles above mentioned (which we have distributed
under two heads) being deducted from the gross produce, the
remaining value shews the land-rent.
This being the case, I am next to examine the cause of the
great disproportion between the rents of corn-lands, and those of
pasture, when compared with the gross produce, in order to draw
some conclusion, which may lead to the solution of the question
here proposed.
This difference must proceed from the greater proportion of
labouring and other inhabitants employed in consequence of
tillage; which makes the expence of it far greater than that of
pasture. And since, in the one and the other, every article of
necessary expence or consumption ought naturally to be
proportionally equal among those concerned in both, that is,
proportional to the number of labouring inhabitants; it follows,
that the proportion of people employed in agriculture, and upon
the account of it, in different countries, is nearly in the ratio
of the gross produce, to the land-rent; or, in other words, in
the proportion of the consumption made by the farmers, and by
those employed necessarily by them, to the net produce, which is
the same thing.
Now as the consumption upon corn-farms is 7/9, and that upon
pasture 5/12, the proportion of these two fractions must mark the
ratio between the populousness of pasture-lands, and those in
tillage; that is to say, tillage-lands in England were, at that
time, peopled in proportion to pasture-lands, as 84 is to 45, or
as 28 to 15.
This point being settled, I proceed to another: to wit, the
application of this net produce or surplus of the quantity of
food and necessaries remaining over and above the nourishment,
consumption, and expence, of the inhabitants employed in
agriculture; and which we have observed above to be equal to the
land-rents of England, that is to say, to nine millions yearly.
Must not this of necessity be employed in the nourishment,
and for the use of those whom we have called the free hands; who
may be employed in manufactures, trades, or in any other way,
according to the taste of the times?
Now the numbers of a people, I take to be very nearly in the
proportion of the quantity of food they consume; especially when
a society is taken thus, in such accumulative proportion, and
when all are supposed to be under the same circumstances as to
the plenty of the year.
The whole gross produce of England we have said to be
21,000,000 l. sterling, of which 9 millions have remained for
those not employed in agriculture; the farmers, therefore, and
their attendants, must annually consume 12 millions; co