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I hare lately seen a half-pay cavalry officer, from India, who knew a gentleman of the name of Dalton, who married a daughter of this H. Lightfoot, by the king, but who is dead, leaving several accomplished daughters, who with the father are coming to England; these daughters are secluded from society like nuns, but no pains spared in their education; probably on the arrival of this gentleman more light will be thrown upon the subject than now exists. The person who wrote the above letter is distantly related to me, and my mother (deceased some years) was related to II. Lightfoot, and. well knew her. I never heard her say more than I have described already, except that she was short of stature, and very pretty. An Inquirer.
For the Monthly Magazine. THE POLITICAL ECONOMIST,
No. I. Consisting of Observations and Strictures on Modern Systems of Political Economy.
ADAM SMITH. ri^HE late Dr. Colquhoun, of statisA tical memory, was a particular instance of that class of economists who attach an almost exclusive importance to the mere augmentation of national wealth. The Doctor never appeared in such high glee, as when turning into pounds, shillings and pence, the value of our steam-engines, highways, public buildings, docks, canals, agricultural implements and other items which make up the aggregate stock and capital of the community. But though these unquestionably are very important, especially as sources of public revenue and external power, we know, from experience, that the possession of them is compatible with a very high degree of internal misery, and that a nation may abound in ships, commerce and manufactures, while the mass of the population is in a very lamentable state of indigence and degradation. So far then, at least, the science of political economy is defective, when its inquiries are directed solely to the acquisition of wealth, and not to the more important object of rendering that wealth conducive to public happiness.
In this way unfor(unately,has the subject been usually treated by the most eminent economists from Adam Smith downwards. They taught how nations might become rich rather than happy.
They sacrificed the end to the means, and seemed to consider it the same thing, provided the volume of wealth were augmented, whether it rolled down one magnificent river, or were the product of a thousand streams, circulating through different channels of society. Hence their precepts were directed solely to obtain the largest produce with the least expence ofproductive agency. For this purpose labour was not only to be subdivided to the utmost limit, but to be economized by every possible contrivance—capital to take whatever direction was the most profitable—and industry to be left without the least controul or interference from authority. Man was considered a being purely selfish, who, by being suffered to pursue his own interest, would best promote the interest of the community.
What changes such a system might induce—how far it was compatible with the interest of morality, individual liberty, or national independence—wa3 never contemplated by its authors. They viewed their subject only on one side; it was a mere theory, professing indeed to be simple and practical, but in reality founded on false views of human nature and the ends of society. First, Man is more a creature of his passions than of his reason; and instead of pursuing calculations of interest, he is frequently guided by habit, pride, or a love of ease,
Secondly, Capital and industry, though they may sometimes be more advantageously employed in other channels, they cannot be moved about with the facility of a fluid. A loss is always sustained, in the first instance, by a change of employment, and such is the fluctuation in the demand for particular products, from variations in public taste and other causes, that it is not impossible a second transfer may become necessary before the gain derived from the first has compensated for the loss it occasioned. In this case society would be impoverished rather than enriched by the original change of occupation.
Thirdly, Though labour may be economized, seeing there is a certain number of people to maintain in every state, it may happen that what is gained by the substitution of machinery, may be counterbalanced by having to maintain an unemployed population. This is on the supposition, that the workmen thrown out of employment cannot find a resource in other branches
of of industry; or that the increased cheapness of commodities produced by machinery does not so far augment the consumption as to create new employment equal to the old it has superseded. Fourthly, The advantage of an extreme division of labour, which tends to perfect each branch of industry, is
Sartly compensated by the intellectual egradation produced by the human mind being confined to one simple occupation. To have never done any thing, as M. Say remarks, but make the eighteenth part of a pin, is a sorry account for a fellow-creature to give of his existence.
Fifthly, The kind of employment is of importance with a-view to the moral and physical character of a people. For example, no one would wish to see the entire population, though it were the most profitable, employed in the manufacture of woollens, linens, and hardware, to the exclusion of rural pursuits.
Lastly, Every country is liable to have its relations of peace interrupted, consequently it were extreme impolicy in a nation aspiring to independence, to depend on a neighbouring state, with whom it may be at war, for the means of subsistence.
These are a summary of the most important reasons which may be urged against the unqualified adoption of the theory of " The Wealth of Nations."
But to illustrate more clearly the tendency of Smith's system, it is only necessary to advert tothecircumstances in which a nation may be placed by following out his principles. Supposing then the employment of capital and industry were abandoned entirely to individual cupidity, what would be the result?—how would society be constituted? It would evidently undergo great changes; manual labour would probably for the most part, be performed by machinery; a few rich capitalists would carry on the great business of agriculture and manufacture; the working classes and smaller tradesmen, would either disappear altogether, or their condition be entirely altered; the former perhaps metamorphosed into paupers and menials—the latter into clerks, collectors, overseers, and superintendents. The middle ranks, which constitute the chief excellence of modern society, would be supplanted by an aristocracy of wealth.
Or the change might be much more pernicious. Instead of capital being divided betwixt agriculture and manu
facture, it might flow entirely to the latter, and- the whole country become a congregation of workshops and counting-houses—its surface—its corn-fields and pastures turned into bleaching grounds, or striped out into canals and highways; while the people themselves depended for their daily bread on supplies from France, Poland or Odessa. On either supposition society would be any thing rather than improved; its moral no less than physical landscape would be impaired. Nevertheless it might have augmented its wealth— might possess a larger nett reven ue— be able to pay a greater amount in taxes —to maintain a more numerous standing army—a more powerful navy—or more expensive ecclesiastical establishment,—but these would be very inadequate equivalents for the loss the community had sustained by the extinction of the intermediate gradations of society; dividing it into two great classes, the rich and the poor, and establishing a chain of monopoly and dependence more oppresssive than the feudal system.
Such, however, might be the consequences of following the doctrines of Smith. The wealth which he seemed to consider as the exclusive object of national policy, is obviously only a mean of public no more than individual happiness: it may exist in great abundance, yet from a viciousapplication be an injury rather than a benefit. A nation is only advantageously rich, when its wealth is so distributed as not only to augment the number but the intensity of the enjoyments of the mass of the population.
Hence appears the necessity of watching over the employment of capital and industry, so as to render them most conducive to the general welfare. They will undoubtedly flow into the most profitable channels, as it is termed, but it is this tendency to accumulate in particular directions, so as to induce an unnatural state of society, that may sometimes render it expedient to regulate their movements.
The policy of thus occasionally interfering with public Industry, has given rise to a new class of economists, whose doctrines bear the relation to the principles of the Wealth of Nations, as that great work bore to the Agricultural System of the French writers. In both cases the difference is rather about the applicability of certain principles than the truth of the principles themselves. Smith did not deny the
abstract abstract truth of the discoveries of Quesnai and Turgot, he only doubted their practical utility; neither does Sismondi, nor those who adopt his views, undervalue the principles of the Wealth of Nations,—they only question their compatibility with an augmentation of public felicity. They do not deny that the doctrines of Smith may increase the riches of a country, but they doubt whether riches so acquired would be an advantage. Smith looked only to the total physical result of his system, not to its effect on the internal oiganization of states. His chief error lay in contemplating man only in his selfish, social capacity, not as an individual being of sentiment and passion. Besides an abundance of the physical means of enjoyment, morality, liberty and independence are essential to human welfare; and besides society providing for an augmentation of the general wealth, it ought also to piovide for its equitable distribution, otherwise it may become a source of national disease rather than of healthful vigour.
To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine.
I AGREE with Mr. Wright in attaching great consequence to the manner in which the overseers of the poor perform the duties of their office in the present distressful times, but it is necessary to consider that these gentlemen have double duties to attend to, they have their duties to their neighbours and themselves, on the one hand, and their duties to the poor, on the other; these two interests are continually opposing each other, and while the overseer has to overcome the avarice and economy of the parish, he has also to contend against the cunning and the impositions which are well known to be practised by the paupers in most of the parishes of this kingdom, as has been correctly noticed by your correspondent; it must be admitted, therefore, that his task is by no means an easy one.
1st. How can the poor be best employed in agricultural districts?
Ans. By labour or spade husbandry. For this purpose land must be engaged, and the poor must be superintended by those whose habits enable them to direct their labour to the most useful results; they will then leave their workhouse, not as now, with an accession of idle and depraved opinions and habits, but with the knowledge of the means of providing their bread honestly.
2nd. What is the best method of preventing the impositions which are practised on the overseers?
Ans. By sending all applicants for relief at once to the workhouse: if they are distressed, they will be sheltered, fed, and clothed; if they are impostors, the labour which they must be forced to undergo, or be subject to punishment, will soon induce them to shift their quarters.
The third question, as to the success of such a plan as that I here propose, if it were to be adopted, I cannot answer; but I am quite willing and desirous to give my time and attention to any experiment which may be attempted, and with this view I have sent round to several parishes in London a notice which follows, and with which I respectfully take my leave; observing previously, however, that neither Mr. Owen's plan, nor any other plan for establishing families in cottages, will ever relieve the parishes from the burthen of those temporary calls for relief, that are too frequent, troublesome, and burthensome.
Nothing, I humbly apprehend, can do for the employment of such persons but forming an establishment that will take applicants at all times, for a shorter or longer period, and that work or labour must be useful, and not consist of making holes and filling them up again. With such families as could with advantage be established in cottages, and permanently fixed, my plan would by no means interfere, it being merely intended for such as only want temporary relief.
To the Churchwardens, Overseers, and Inhabitants of the Parishes of London, Westminster, and within the Bills of Mortality.
Thomas Reid, of No. 6, Norfolk-street, Strand, begs leave to submit to the consideration of the above gentlemen a certain method of diminishing the poors' rate, and rendering the poor more comfortable.
This plan consists in finding advantageous employment for the poor on a farm near London, to be cultivated by the spade; on which wheat and other grain, potatoes, garden stuffs will be raised; from which the poor will be supplied with what is necessary, and the remainder to Be sold in diminution of expences.
The particulars of the plan may be seen at No. 6, Norfolk-street, or the gentlemen of any parish will be waited upon with it, by appointment made; but the principle is to employ beneficially all who are able to work, and the result will be a great diminution-of expence to the parish.
To To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine.
IN the VHIth Chapter, Vol. I. of his History, Mr. Gibbon has exhibited a very fallacious view of the Religion of the antienl Persians, evidently with the design, in his insidious manner, of raising human reason to a level with . divine revelation. For this purpose he has offered a very loose and partial version of a celebrated passage in Herodotus, which in the excellent translation of Beloe appears as follows:—"The Persians have among them neither statues, temples, nor altars; the use of which they censure as impious, and as a gross violation of reason; probably, because in opposition to the Greeks, they do not believe that the Gods partake of our human nature. Theircustom is to offer on the summits of the highest mountains sacrifices to Jove, distinguishing by that appellation all the expanse of the firmament. They also adore the sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and the winds, which may be termed their original deities, &c. &c. Herod. L. I. c 131.
"The most careless observers," says Mr. G. " were struck with the.philosophic simplicity of the Persian worship. 'That people,' says Herodotus, 'reject the use of temples, of altars, and statues, and smile at the folly of those nations who imagine that the gods are sprung from, or bear any affinity with the human nature. The tops of the highest mountains are the places chosen for sacrifices. Hymns and prayers are the principal worship. The supreme God who fills the wide circle of Heaven, is the object to whom they are addressed.' Yes, at the same time, in the true spirit of a polytheist, Herodotus accuses them of adoring earth, water, fire, the winds and the sun and moon. But the Persians of every age have denied the charr/e, aud explained the equivocal conduct which might appear to give a colour to it. The elements, and more particularly fire, light, aud the sun, which they called Mithras, were the objects of their religious reverence; because they considered them as the purest symbols, the noblest productions, and the most powerful agents of the divine power and nature. Evert/ mode of religion, to make a deep and lasting impression on the human mind, must exercise our obedience by enjoining practices of devotion for which we can assign no reason; and must acquire our esteem by inculcating moral duties Monthly Mar. No. 359.
analogous to the dictates of our own hearts. The religion of Zoroaster was abundantly provided with the former, and possessed a sufficient portion of the latter."
The testimony of Herodotus on this subject is remarkably strong and decisive. "I speak," says that historian, "from my owu personal knowledge, when I say that the Persians observe the following manners and customs, &c." Yet he is reproached by Mr. Gibbon, at the distance of more than two thousand years, with falsifying a plain matter of fact; for Herodotus must have known whether the Persians did, or did not, worship the celestial luminaries and the terrestrial elements, as deities. Their religion was evidently pantheism; not making any just distinction between nature and the author of nature. The apology which Mr. G. in his zeal for Magianism, has made for this pantheistic worship, is mere trifling. What the Persians of every age have denied, or admitted, might be tedious to investigate; but what Mr. G. has offered in their behalf, is no more than the most bigotted idolaters may say, and have said, in vindication of their idolatry. Was not Apis adored in Egypt as the sacred emblem of the deity? The worship of the sun and moon is probably the most antient of superstitions ; and an eminent personage, much older than Herodotus, is represented, in the noble record remaining of him, as saying, " If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart has been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity: —for I should have denied the God that is above." It is indeed true that " the heavens declare the glory of God; but would Mr. G. persuade its that there is no difference between the worship of the Creator, and that of the works of his hands? What could be his notion or definition of idolatry.
In this futile, though elaborate attempt, to soften the feature of Magianism, Mr. G. assures us, "there are some remarkable instances in which Zoroaster lays aside the prophet, assumes the legislator, and discovers a liberal concern for private and public happiness, seldom to be found among the grovelling or visionary schemes of superstition." And he cites from the Zendavesta, what he stiles "a wise and benevolent maxim, which compensates for many an absurdity. "He who 2C sows