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often so much sparring before the decisive blow is put in, that the spectator becomes weary and impatient, and, consequently, less disposed to sympathize with its victorious effect. These, however, are faults which leave the substantial merit and value of his performance. unimpaired; and we hope and trust that a new edition will speedily give him an opportunity of correcting them, should he think our humble suggestions at all worth attending to. We confess, likewise, that when that period shall arrive, we should gladly see his disquisition announced with a title somewhat less portentous than the Apostolicity of Trinitarianism!
ART. II.-On Political Economy, in Connexion with the Moral State and Moral Prospects of Society. By Thomas Chalmers, D.D. Professor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh. Glasgow. 1832. 8vo.
POLITICAL ECONOMY, even in its best form, is not a subject which has much attraction for the generality of readers. And this, we think, is to be accounted for chiefly on the two following grounds: First, though it either has, or at least ought always to have, an immediate view to practical results, yet dealing, as all sciences deal, more or less, in general propositions, it is not always applicable to the particular cases of which men are frequently the most anxious to obtain the solution; and secondly, though it treats of that which is so much desiderated and sought after by all viz. wealth, it instructs no one how he may individually grow rich, or, at best, gives him but little information in that respect, which he may not more readily acquire from other more convenient and perhaps surer sources.
Although therefore it is an eminently practical science in reference to the affairs of a great nation, and ought to be carefully studied by all statesmen and legislators, it is purely theoretical as it respects individuals, and can be but of little service to them in the conduct of their every-day concerns.
Hence it is, that our merchants and traders have never been very great patrons of the science which teaches them the rationale of their own transactions; nor indeed have they ever made pretension to much acquaintance with it, except when they have combined together for the purpose of procuring restrictive regulations on other branches, or some exclusive protection in favour of their own, on which occasions they have seldom failed to back their demands by arguments drawn from their own somewhat narrow views of the subject.
But if this science is not of a nature to commend itself much to the public attention, it seems to be still less adapted to the purposes of general reading, when it is treated in a dry, abstract and almost mathematical manner. If therefore it has failed of exciting much general interest, as it appears exhibited in the writings of Adam Smith, which abound in illustrations and practical application, (and that this is the case, is, we think, abundantly proved by the general ignorance which prevails respecting his doctrines and opinions,) it is no marvel that it should be still less suited to the public taste, in the dress in which it is clothed in the pages of Messrs. Mill and Ricardo, where it is cut and carved out into arithmetical problems and algebraic formulas. In the hands of this school political economy has certainly assumed somewhat of a harsh and repulsive aspect. Although their writings exhibit great originality and acuteness, and have excited in some quarters much attention and curiosity, they are but ill calculated to render the science popular among those who have no previous taste for the study of it. It would be uncandid not to allow that they have thrown light upon some points which were before but imperfectly understood, and that they have so far contributed to improve and extend our knowledge of the subject. But, on the other hand, some of their doctrines are founded on such false and imperfect data,-they have frequently used their terms in such new and unusual senses, and their conclusions have sometimes been so repugnant to common notions, and so directly at variance with experience, that, on the whole, they have impressed upon the subject a character not very favourable to its general reception, and it is to be feared have even in some degree contributed to bring it into contempt. The reader who consults their works, though he is often surprised and sometimes even charmed with the novelty and ingenuity of their views, and the plausibility of their reasoning, not unfrequently finds himself bewildered in a labyrinth of difficulties, and at length grows weary of paradoxes which have nothing in common with the real business of life.
But whether it be owing to the particular mode in which the subject has been treated by these writers, or partly perhaps to this cause and to others combined with it, certain it is, that political economy is in no very great repute even among men who are considerably enlightened upon other subjects. It is therefore with no ordinary feelings of delight, that we hail the appearance of this volume of Dr. Chalmers. It is, we think, admirably calculated not only to rescue this useful science from the obloquy which has been poured out upon it, and to dissipate the prejudices which of late years more especially have gathered round its very
name, but even to place it on an eminence still more lofty and honourable than any to which it has hitherto attained. By considering political economy with reference to its influence upon the moral state and moral prospects of society, Dr. Chalmers has given a tone of the highest elevation and dignity to the whole subject, and thrown into it a degree of interest which it never before possessed. Disencumbering it from all topics of inferior and secondary importance, he has addressed himself at once to those more practical and vital questions which connect the science with the well-being of the community at large, and which, while they affect the condition of each particular class, do at the same time bear upon the general happiness and prosperity of the whole.
In the prosecution of his inquiries he has contrived, with admirable dexterity, to avoid all discussions respecting the meaning of terms, and has so introduced those technical words and expressions, which have been the subject of fierce contention among other economists, that it is impossible either to mistake the meaning which he attaches to them, or to quarrel with the use which he makes of them.
Whatever point Dr. Chalmers takes up, he seldom relinquishes it till he has thoroughly exhausted it. His powers of illustration are quite unbounded. No writer ever dressed up his subject in so many different costumes, or took such pains to exhibit it to his reader in every variety of form and shape; and though this is apt to lead him into some diffuseness and prolixity, which is the prevailing character, and perhaps the main defect of his writings, yet the truth, when held up in various points of view, frequently gains the readier admission, and the light will sometimes break in upon the mind through one avenue which finds no access to it through others. Moreover, his style, though not always clothed in a perfectly English dress, is never wearisome, but is so powerful and energetic, and at the same time so full of noble and lofty sentiments, and of splendid and beautiful passages, that it is has in it a peculiar charm which carries the reader imperceptibly along.
In giving, however, this general idea and character of the work before us, it is by no means our intention to represent it as a perfectly faultless performance, or as being entirely exempt from error. Its main principles indeed we conceive to be sound and incontrovertible. Nevertheless, in some instances, they appear to us to have been pushed too far; nor do we think the author always warranted in the conclusions which he draws from them. There is, notwithstanding, so much that is both new and important in the general view which he gives of the subject,-all its parts are so well framed and fitted together-each particular
topic is so clearly and distinctly stated, and so beautifully expanded and illustrated, that we cannot but consider ourselves as greatly indebted to Dr. Chalmers for his labours in this department, and we have no doubt that his work will be eminently serviceable, not only in rendering the subject more generally interesting, and widening the circle of its readers, but also in establishing some valuable truths and correcting many common and prevailing errors.
The point from which Dr. Chalmers sets out, and which forms the basis of his whole argument, is the fact, of comparatively modern discovery, that the last or worst description of soil under cultivation, at any given time, yields little or no rent to its proprietor, being barely more than sufficient to remunerate the labour employed upon it, including the profit of the farmer or cultivator's capital, according to its ordinary or average rate at the time being. Such land may notwithstanding be of very good quality, and yield both high wages and high profits, as is frequently the case in new colonies, or if not naturally fertile, it may become so, by the application of Capital, and either from this cause or its concomitant one, the fall of profits and wages, which usually accompanies the progress of wealth and improvement, it may ultimately yield a very high rent. So long, however, as it pays none, it must always mark the extreme limit of cultivation at the time being. This circumstance which seems to have escaped the penetrating eye of Adam Smith, was first noticed by Mr. Malthus and Sir Edward West; and was, by them beautifully applied in explanation of the nature and origin of rent. It has, we believe, been since acknowledged by all subsequent writers, but it has never been so satisfactorily elucidated, nor so thoroughly traced to its consequences as in the work before us.
It is thus stated by Dr. Chalmers:
Any land, that is cultivated for food to human beings, must, at least, yield as much as shall feed the labourers who are employed in working it. But it must do more than this. These agricultural labourers require to be clothed and lodged, as well as fed. They must be upheld, not in food alone, which is the first necessary; but in what may be termed, the second necessaries of life. The people whose business it is to work up these, may, in contradistinction to the agricultural, be termed the secondary labourers of a country. It is evident, that the worst of cultivated land must, at least, be able to feed those who are directly employed upon the soil, and, moreover, those who prepare for the agricultural labourers all the other articles, beside food, which enter into their support or maintenance.
"It is obvious, that land of this inferior productiveness must mark the extreme limit of cultivation at the time-as land of still inferior quality could not be broken up without loss to the cultivator.”—p. 2.
But our author has been careful to avoid the error into which Mr. Ricardo and his disciples have fallen. These economists have imagined that the most fertile soils were invariably the first occupied, and that whenever land of an inferior quality was taken into cultivation, the condition of the labourer and his employer became necessarily deteriorated. It is to the necessity of resorting to the less fertile portions of land that they exclusively ascribe the gradual decline both of wages and profits in the progress of society, whereas, in point of fact, this fall, arising, as it does, from the increase both of population and capital, precedes the cultivation of the poorer land, and is itself the very cause of that of which they esteem it to be no more than the consequence. According to them therefore the labourer is always the best off in the earliest periods, when none but the richest land is cultivated, which is certainly very far from being generally true to the extent which they supposed.
"In filling up this sketch, or histoire raisonnée, of the conjunct progress of culture and population, economists have given in to certain conceptions, which require to be modified. They sometimes describe the process, as if, at each successive descent to an inferior soil, the comfort and circumstances of the human race underwent deterioration; or as if, under the impulse of a hard and hunger-bitten necessity, men were driven, like so many famishing wolves, to those intractable soils, whence they could only force out a more stinted and penurious fare than before—and that, at a greater expense of toil and of endurance. Agreeably to this supposition even economists and calculators have, by a reverse process, found their way to a golden age at the outset of the world-when men reposed in the lap of abundance; and, with no other fatigue than that of a slight and superficial operation on a soil of first rate quality, richly partook in the bounties of nature. But when all this soil came to be occupied, and the race continued to multiply, land of a second quality must have been taken in-and the conception is, that at every such transition from a better to a worse land, a heavier imposition of toil was laid upon workmen, and a smaller amount of produce was yielded to them in return for their industry. This, certainly, represents to us the species in a course of deterioration, at least, in as far as the comfort of the labouring classes is concerned. They are pictured to the eye, as if goaded on by hard and stubborn necessity at every step of this movement, and going forth, in starving multitudes, from that better land, which is now too narrow for them. each new stretch of cultivation, a more ungrateful soil has to be encountered, on which it is thought that men are more strenuously wrought, and more scantily subsisted, than before-till, at the extreme limit of this progression, a life of utmost toil, and utmost penury, is looked to as the inevitable doom that awaits the working classes of society." pp. 3-5.
Now this representation of the case is not, as our author justly