Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

disposition ? To assert, that they cannot, appears evidently ridiculous. As the land is able to maintain more than an its inhabitants, they could never, in such an Utopian state, feel any other ills, than those which arise from bodily ficka ness; and these are not the half of huinan miseries. All other ills spring from fome vice, either in ourselves or os thers ; and even many of our diseases proceed from the same origin. Remove the vices, and the ills follow. You must, only take care to remove all the vices. If you remove part only, you may render the matter worse. By banishing vicious luxury, without curing floth and an indifference to others, you only diminish industry in the state, and add nothing to men's charity or their generofity. Let us, therefore, rest contented with asserting, that two opposite vices in a state, may be more advantageous than either of them alone; but let us never pronounce vice in it self advantageous. Is it not very inconsistent for an author to affert in one page, that moral distinctions are inventions of politicians for public intereft ; and in the next page maintain, that vice is advantageous to the public? And indeed, it feems, upon any system of morality, little less than a contradiction in terms, to talk of a vice, that is in general beneficial to society.

I thought this reafoning necessary, in order to give fome light to a philofophical question, which has been much disputed in Britain. I call it a philosophical question, not a political one. For whatever may be the consequence of fuch a miraculous transformation of mankind, as would endow them with every species of virtue, and free them from every vice, this concerns not the magistrate, who aims on ly at poffibilities. He cannot cure every vice, by subftituting a virtue in its place. Very often he can cure only one vice by another; and in that cafe, he ought to prefer what is least pernicious to fociety. Luxury, when exceffive, is the fource of many ills; but is in general preferable to floth and idleness, which would commonly succeed in its place, and are more pernicious both to private persons and to the public. When floth reigns, a mean uncultivated way of life prevails amongft individuals, without fociety, without enjoyment. And if the fovereign, in fuch a fituation, demands the service of his fubjects, the labour of the ftate fuffices only to furnith the neceffaries of life to the la. bourers, and can afford nothing to those, who are employed in the public fervice.'

The

[ocr errors]

The Subject of our Author's third discourse is Money; a subject, on which he has made many curious and uncommon'observations. The abfolute quantity of money in any ftate, he tells us, is a matter of great indifference, and that there are only two circumstances of any importance, viz. its gradual increase, and its thorough concoction and circulation through the state; the influence of both which circumstances is in this discourse very particularly explained,

In his fourth discourse our author treats of interest; he introduces it with observing that nothing is esteemed' more certain fign of the fourishing condition of any nation than the lowness of interest, but that plenty of money, tho' it be generally affigned as the cause of lowness of interest, is not the true one; money, however plentiful, having no other effect, if fixt, than to raise the price of labour. - High interest, says he, arises from three circumftances : a great demand for borrowing ; little riches to supply that demand, and great profits arising from commerce: and these circumstances are a clear proof of the small advance of commerce and industry, not of the scarcity of gold and silver. Low intereft, on the other hand, preceeds from the three oppofite circumstances: a small demand for borrowing ; great riches to supply that demand; and small profits arising from commerce: and these circumftances are all connected together, and proceed from the increase of industry and commerce : not of gold and silver.' These points he endeavours fully and distinctly to prove in the fubsequent part of this discourse, and points out the reasons of this popular mistake with regard to the cause of low intereft.

In treating the balance of trade, the subject of our author's fifth discourse, after taking notice of feveral gross, and palpable errors that have prevailed among nations ignorant of the nature of commerce, he oblerves that there still prevails, even among nations well acquainted with commerce, a strong jealousy with regard to the balance of trade, and a fear, that all their gold and silver may be leaving them. This seems to him, almost in every cafe, a very groundless apprehension, but as it can never be refuted by a particular detail of all the exports, which counterbalánce the imports, he forms a general argument to prove the impoffibility of such an event, as long as the people and industry of a kingdom are preferved.

Suppose, says he, four fifths of all the money in Britain to be annihilated in one night, and the nation reduced

to the same condition, in this particular, as in the reigns of the Harrys and Edwards ; what would be the consequence? Must not the price of all labour and commodities sink in proportion, and every thing he fold as cheap as they were in those ages ? What nation could then dispute with us in any foreign market, or pretend to navigate or to sell manufactures at the same price, which to us would afford fufficient profit? In how little time, therefore, must this bring back the money, which we had lost, and raise us to the level of all the neighbouring nations ? Where, after we have arrived, we immediately lose the advantage of the cheap:ess of labour and commodities ; and the farther flow. ing in of money is stopt by our fulness and repletion.'

Again ; suppose, that all the money in Britain were multiplied fourfold in a night, must not the contrary effect follow ? Must not all labour and commodities rise to such an exorbitant height, that no neighbouring nations could afford to buy from us; while their commodities, on the other hand, became so cheap in 'comparison, that, in spite of all the Laws which could be formed, they would be run in upon us, and our money would flow out; till we fell to a level with foreigners, and lose that great superiority of riches, which had laid us under such disadvan

tages?

1

Now, 'tis evident, that the same causes, which would correct these exorbitant inequalities, were they to happen miraculously, must prevent their happening in the common course of nature, and must for ever, in all neighbouring nations, preserve money nearly proportioned to the art and industry of each nation. All water, wherever it communicates, remains always at a level: ask naturalists the reafon; they tell you, that were it to be raised in any one place, the superior gravity of that part, not being balanced must depress it, till it meets a counterpoize; and that the same cause, which redresses the inequality when it happens, muft for ever prevent it, without some violent external operation.

'Can one imagine, that it had ever been possible, by any laws, or even by any art, or industry, to have preserved all the money in Spain, which the Gallions have brought from the Indies? Or that all commodities could be sold in France for a tenth of the price they would yield on the other side of the Pyrenees, without finding their way thither, and draining from that immense treasure ? What

other

other reason, indeed, is there, why all nations, at present, gain in their trade with Spain and Portugal; but because it is impoffible to heap up money, more than any fluid, beyond its proper level ? The sovereigns of these countries have shewn, that they wanted not inclination to keep their gold and silver to themselves, had it been in any degree practicable.'

As our Author, throughout this discourse, frequently speaks of the level of money, he desires that it may be carefully remarked, that he always means its proportional level to the commodities, labour, industry, and skill, which is in the several states ; and he affirms that where these advantages are double, triple, quadruple, to what they are in the neighbouring states, the money infallibly will also be double, triple, quadruple.

He observes, that there is one expedient, by which it is polible to sink, and another by which we may raise, money beyond its natural level in any kingdom ; but that these cases, when examined, will be found to resolve into, and bring authority to, his general theory. I scarce know, says he, any method of sinking money below its level, but those institutions of banks, funds, and paper credit, with which we are in this kingdom so much infatuated. These render paper equivalent to money, circulate it thro' the whole state, make it supply the place of gold and silver, raise proportionably the price of labour and commodities, and by that means either banith a great part of those precious metals, or prevent their farther increase. What can be more short-fighted than our reasonings on this head? We fancy, because an individual would be much richer, were his stock of money doubled, that the same good effect would follow were the

every one encreased ; not confidering, that this would raise as much the price of every commodity, and reduce every man, in time, to the same condition as before. 'Tis only in our public negociations and transactions with foreigners, that a greater stock of money is advantageous; and as our paper is there absolutely insignificant, we teel, by its means, all the ill effects, arising from a great abundance of out reaping any of the advantages.

• Suppose there are twelve millions of paper, that circulate in the kingdom as money (for we are not to imagine, that all our enormous funds are employed in that shape) and suppose, that the real calh of the kingdom is eighteen

millions :

money of

money, with

[ocr errors][merged small]

millions : Here is a state, which is found by experience able
to hold a stock of thirty millions. I say, if it be able to
hold it, it must of necessity have acquired it in gold and
silver, had we not obstructed the entrance of these metals
by this new invention of paper. Whence would it have
quired that sum ? From all the kingdoms of the world.
But why? Because, if you remove these twelve millions,
money in this state is below its level, compared with our
neighbours; and we must immediately draw from all of them,
till we be full and saturate, fo to speak, and can hold no
more. By our wile politics, we are as careful to stuff the
, nation with this fine commodity of bank bills and chequer
notes, as if we were afraid of being over-burthened with the
precious metals.

''Tis not to be doubted, but the great plenty of bullion in France, is, in a great measure, owing to the want of paper credit. The French have no banks · Merchants bills do not there circulate as with us : Usury or lending on intereft is not directly permitted ; so that many have large fums in their cuífers : great quantities of plate are used in private houses ; and all the churches are full of it. By this means, provisions and labour itill remain much cheaper among them than in nations that are not half so rich'in gold and silver.

The advantage of this situation in point of trade, as well as in great public emergencies, is too evident to be disputed.—What pity Lycurgus did not think of paper credit, when he wanted to banish gold and silver froin Sparta ! It would have served his purpose better than the lumps of iron he made use of as money; and would also have prevented more effectually all commerce with strangers, as being of so much less real and intrinsic vajue.

But as our dailing projects of paper credit are pernicious, being almoit the only expedient, by which we can link money bclcw its level; lo in my opinion the only expedient, by which we can raise money above its level, is a practice we would all exclaim against as destructive, viz. the gathering large fums into a public treasure, locking them up, and absolutely preventing their circulation. The Auid not communicating with the neighbouring element, may, by such an artifice, be raised to what height we please.

prove this, we need only return to our firit fupposition, of the annihilating the half or any part of our cath; where we found, that the immediate confequence of such an event

would

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »