Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

may

or, in other words, if they be ignorant of the principles of Political Economy, how shall they know what measures to adopt? How can they understand the true interests of the country? How shall they know when to encourage, or when to repress, any peculiar modes of production; whether it would be safe to do either; or, if it would, what are the most effectual means for gaining the end? A statesman, ignorant of Political Economy, is like an empiric in medicine, who knows nothing of the science of physiology. If he prescribe remedies for his patient, he does it altogether in the dark, and at hazard. Ignorant of the laws of our animal constitution, he may administer stimulants, where we need sedatives; or he may prescribe depletion, when we need a tonic; and at the very time when he designs to restore the health of the patient,

he be dealing death-blows to his constitution. Such is precisely the relation of the incompetent statesman to the economic* condition of the country. And yet, I greatly fear, that if every statesman who is defective in this matter were to resign his seat, we should have no small number of vacancies to fill.

Hence we see again, that Political Economy is a science which ought to be generally diffused throughout the land. We have no civil officers by hereditary right. They must be found among the people at large. And as every man is eligible to office, every one ought to furnish himself with the requisite qualifications, or else renounce all claim to such privileges. The man who suffers himself to be put in office who is destitute of the knowledge proper to his station, sacrifices the interests of his country to a criminal selfishness. If this be not knavery, we leave others to find a better name for it.

But farther, civil officers are but the selected agents of the people: the people, therefore, in respect to them, are the principal. Now, in all such relations, it is requisite that the principal have at least some general knowledge of the subject on which he requires the as. sistance of an agent. If he have not, he can neither trust his own judgment in the selection of his agent, nor exercise a judicious supervision of his doings. This is the case in civil affairs more than in any other department of agencies. The skill and knowledge of the lawyer and the physician are more within reach of our examination. The mode of treatment is submitted directly to our personal scrutiny; prescription and result are more obviously connected ; cause and effect are open to investigation. In legislation it is not so.

Here, causes and effects are wider apart; there are more intervening agencies; the effects of a certain measure are so blended with other measures, and certain results so liable to be assigned to false causes, that it requires much greater stretch of thought, and breadth of survey, to take in and comprehend the whole. Hence arise the ridiculous notions about legislative capacity to encourage domestic industry; the constant harpings upon the balance of trade; the uses and value of money; all of which, and many other points, are so frequently the subjects of demagogue declamation, and which have so imposing an appearance to the

* I must beg indulgence for using this word in an unauthorized sense. know no other that conveys the precise meaning.

But I

minds of the ignorant. Were the knowledge of this science more widely diffused, we should not see men so often elevated to office for merely popular blandishments, for a certain glare and tinsel of character, nor yet for the possession of mere military or professional talents. Nor would our truly competent statesmen so often feel themselves compelled to truckle to popular prejudice and clamour, and enact laws at variance with the true interests of the nation, because the people will have them. Ignorance is the bane of a republic, and the fruitful mother of all commotions and disasters.

But what has the science of national wealth to do with our moral and religious condition? “Much every way.” It is universally admitted, I believe, that comfort in life, and easy circumstances, are favorable to good morals. That in proportion to the facilities of subsistence, and the multiplication of the comforts of domestic life, and the improvement of the social state, the temptations to certain kinds of vice are diminished. Hence we generally, not to say invariably, see a thriving community in a healthful moral condition, and comparatively ready to attend to the claims of piety. On the other hand, poverty, wretchedness, and vice, generally go together; and a community of such persons is almost inaccessible to religious influence. It is perfectly natural to draw our conclusion as to the moral state of a village or hamlet, from its external appearance. Where every thing seems to smile in prosperity, where neatness, comfort, and good taste prevail, we expect to find a virtuous and happy people. Where we see much physical misery, we expect a proportionate moral and social degradation. Such is the established connection in our thoughts; and it is founded as well on principles of sound philosophy, as on the basis of Christian truth. I do not deny that there may be occasional exceptions; but this would not overturn a general law, nor disprove the general tendencies of which we speak. The exceptions may be always otherwise accounted for.

The connection between national wealth and national religion is not less obvious and intimate. We have already said that competency is favorable to morality; and, by withdrawing temptations to vice, and leaving the mind free from many distressing anxieties, it lays the heart more open to religious truth; and the mind is more at liberty to reflect upon a future world, when the claims of the present become less urgent. It was the judicious prayer of the wise son of Jakeh, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord ? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain;" Prov. xxx, 8, 9. Now, Political Economy has for its object the general diffusion of competency and comfort. It directs us in the most profitable employment of industry and capital, and natural agencies. It teaches how to render the labor of the operative most productive, and it tends to make the wealth of the capitalist the encouragement and the reward of the industrious. Its tendency is to equalize the blessings of fortune, or at least to multiply the means of human comfort, happiness, and improvement, and more generally to diffuse them.

Again, it shows the connection which exists among the various classes of society; the dependance and influence of each upon the other; the appropriate spheres of action and particular utility of the several branches of industry, agriculture, commerce, and manufactures; and the necessity of the several compartments into which these are subdivided, as, the science or theory, the use or application, and the labor or execution. Thus it loosens the prejudices with which the different classes view each other; it multiplies the human sympathies; it tightens the bands of the social compact. Now all this has an indirect connection with religion. It encourages the social influences which are most favorable to piety, and fosters those dispositions of the heart, in which no small share of piety consists. Thus we have additional evidence that Christianity is in accordance with man's temporal welfare, and that the laws of our physical and of our spiritual happiness are the emanations of the same benevolent mind.

How this subject is connected with the operation and extension of the Christian church, may be easily seen. According to the provisions of the gospel, the diffusion of religion is to be by human instrumentality ; this demands human means, commensurate with the extent of the undertaking; and these means are the product of human industry and capital. The support of religious and benevolent societies, the publication of Bibles, tracts, and other books, the sending abroad of missionaries, and the employment of the various religious or benevolent agencies at home; in short, the whole material machinery of Christianity, are the result of a right application of these principles. In proportion as a nation is more abundant in the production of these materials, or of the means whereby to acquire them, in the same proportion she will be able to do more for the cause of Christ. For it is very clear that a nation may go to the extent of her means in these undertakings, but can never go beyond them. Great Britain and the United States are prolific in the works of piety and benevolence, because they are abundantly productive in the means. Enlarge their productive agency, or give it a better direction, and make it more available, and with the same force of religious principle, they will make still greater exertions in the cause of truth.

Political Economy, moreover, corrects many of the errors into which we are apt to fall in regard to missionary and other religious operations.

For instance, the enemies of religion say, that “ by collecting so much money for these purposes, and sending it abroad, you help to empoverish our own land :" and this the Christian, perhaps, admits, but regards it as a sacrifice on our part to be submitted to for the sake of piety. The principle of the Christian shows his benevolence; but it is altogether gratuitous, and founded in error. Of all the money collected by the Christian churches for religious purposes, how much of it goes out of the country? Certainly a very small part. How then is it employed? Why, in printing books at home, making paper, founding type, building offices for agencies, paying the salaries and supporting the families of home agents, printers, clerks, porters, and laborers of various descriptions. How many hundreds, might I not say thousands, of persons are, directly or indirectly, supported in whole or in part by the Ame

rican Bible Society, Sunday School Union, and by the Book Concern of the Methodist Episcopal Church? Very little of the money goes out of the country, except the inere salaries of the missionaries; and possibly these are not paid in money, but in drafts on some foreign house ; or, it may be, a considerable portion of it is paid in articles of our own manufacture, which serve to encourage our own industry.

But, says the objector, “ if you do not send the money, you send its value in something else, and this amounts to the same thing.” Observe, the Christian religion necessarily embraces all the elements of civilization, teaches the arts, and provides for the wants of civilized life. It has been long ago demonstrated, that Christianity and civilization are inseparable. Now let us hear what the celebrated Political Economist, M. Say, teaches, though without any intended reference to this subject. The position of a nation, in respect of its neighbors, is analogous to the relation of one of its provinces to the others, or of a country to the town; it has an interest in its prosperity, being sure to profit by their opulence. The government of the United States, therefore, acted most wisely in their attempt, about the year 1802, to civilize their savage neighbors, the Creek Indians. The design was to introduce habits of industry among them, and make them producers, capable of carrying on a barter with the States of the Union ; for there is nothing to be got by dealing with a people that have nothing to pay.” (Say's Political Economy, p. 82. Phila. delphia, 1832.) Now, it is no matter whether he was correct or not, as to the “ designof the United States in civilizing the Indians ; since it is the result that we are looking at. And as little does it mat. ter, whether the nations civilized be beyond the Rocky Mountains or the Atlantic Ocean ; since the effect of opening a trade with them amounts to the same thing.. If a nation can raise what we want, and we can raise what they want, the advantage of trading together is mutual; but the advantage to us of trading with them becomes greater as they become more wealthy, i, e., in proportion as they raise more products, and have more means to purchase our materials. The ad. vantage is twofold: they yield us a larger supply of what we want, and thus multiply our comforts; and they take a larger quantity of our products, and thereby encourage our industry,

Now Christianity necessarily produces civilization, increases the wants and physical happiness of men, and enlarges their productive agency. If, therefore, in sending the gospel, to-, a pagan country we do all this, we create a market, a vent, for our own commodities. We send them books, missionaries, schools, clothing, utensils, machinery; and we receive in return, tea, coffee, sugar, ivory, logwood, mahogany, furs, yams, or whatever. else may be the productions of the country. All know that the immense trade in silk had its origin in missionary labor; and the facilities for obtaining African products are greater, through the Christian colonies on her coasts, than they ever were before.

But the objector says again, “may we not make greater gains out of these people in their savage state?” Not unless wrong and injus. tice, cheating and knavery, are good policy. If we are satisfied with fair trade, we shall find it more profitable to trade with them when civilized, than while savage, for the reason before given; they will

VOL. VIII.- October, 1837. 35

[ocr errors]

have, on the one hand, more wants ; and, on the other, more to bery with. Moreover, there is no risk in asserting, that to trade fairly with a civilized nation, is vastly more profitable than all the cheating or overreaching that can be practised on barbarians. The trade with Great Britain is a source of greater profit, and supplies us with more comforts, than all the trade carried on with all savage nations put together.

It will be understood, I hope, that I am not urging a motive to missionary exertion, but only removing an objection frequently brought against it. It shows, that while immense good is done abroad, no serious injury is felt at home.

It has been common among a' certain class to defend luxury and profusion, on the ground that they contribute to the support of the poor. Nay, we have sometimes known clerical dignitaries, of whose intelligence we should have expected better things, assume the same ground.

Let us again hear the teachings of the Political Economist already quoted, and whose voice may, perhaps, have the greater force with some, because it was not from any religious predilection that he ad. vanced these sentiments.

6 Vanity may take pride in idle expense, but will ever be held in no less contempt by the wise, on account of its pernicious effects, than it has been all along for the motives by which it is actuated.

“ These conclusions of theory have been confirmed by experience. Misery is the inseparable companion of luxury. The man of wealth and ostentation squanders upon costly trinkets, somptuous repasts, magnificent mansions, dogs, horses, and mistresses, a portion of value, which, vested in productive occupation, would enable a multitude of willing laborers, whom his extravagance now consigns to idleness and misery, to provide themselves with warm clothing, nourishing food, and household conveniences. The gold buckles of the rich man leave the poor one without shoes to his feet; and the laborer will want a shirt to his back, while his rich neighbor glitters in velvet and embroi. dery." (Say's Political Economy, pages 369, 370. Philadelphia, 1832.)

The truth is, that whatever we expend upon one kind of production, takes from us just so much means of encouraging another kind; and the demand for any class of articles turns labor to their production. The man who spends his money in fine houses, furniture, equipage, and jewellery, has so much the less to spend on really useful and im. proving objects. If the demand for the latter were increased, and the demand for the former lessened, they who make a livelihood by the one, must devote themselves to the production of the other. It would, therefore, only be a change of employments. Instead of gaining a livelihood by fabricating articles which do no one any good, he would accomplish the end, by making such as add to the convenience, the comfort, or improvement of society.

Nor is this all. The larger the portion of labor devoted to any kind of production, the greater will be the quantity produced, and then the price is proportionably lowered. Hence a greater amount of them will be brought within reach of a larger portion of society, and in the same ratio, the means of happiness and improvement will be multiplied and extended. Hence we see the truth of Say's observation, “ the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »