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and obscure mass of our mercantile literature, a dim line of twilight truth upon these subjects ;-a suspicion rather hinted at than revealed, that after all, the accumulating gold and silver might not, when nations were in question, be the only mode of increasing their real wealth. But still it was not till Galiani in Italy, Harris in England, Quesnay in France, and above all Smith in Scotland, had published their respective works, that it became admitted to be an established principle, systematically examined and demonstratively proved, that national wealth may consist not only of gold and silver, but of all such things at least as men are content to give gold and silver in exchange for.
The circumstances which encourage and make easy, or which discourage and obstruct the production of wealth, taking this new and enlarged view of it, became at once the objects of anxious enquiry and speculation. In this new path Smith took the lead; and nothing which has been done since his time in this direction, will bear a comparison with the results of his labors. But to those engaged in the pursuit of this branch of political economy, another soon presented itself. not possible to investigate carefully the circumstances which affect the production of national wealth, without being struck by the importance and influence of those which are connected with its
distribution: and attempts to discover the laws which determine the respective shares of the landed proprietors, the owners of personal property, and the laborers, in the annual produce, gave occasion to a great deal of research, or rather perhaps a great deal of speculation. Such speculations were pursued the more earnestly, when it was perceived, as it necessarily soon was, that the power of nations to support and render productive peculiar forms of taxation, could be little understood, till the laws were developed which determine the respective shares of the various classes of a community in the wealth annually created.
But the labors of those who have treated of the principles which govern the distribution of wealth, have as yet been rewarded by no such success as that which has crowned the efforts of those who have investigated the circumstances which influence the amount produced. On this last branch of the subject, much knowledge has been accumulated, and principles have been established, important both for theoretical and practical purposes, however difficult the application of them to particular circumstances may sometimes be. These constitute a body of political truths, in the solidity and permanence of which a majority of the enlightened and reflecting part of mankind may be said to have acquiesced: while attempts to explain the appointed
course of the distribution of wealth, and to unfold
of the doctrines of the earliest lead-
useful, than they must otherwise have been. The system found, it is true, some devoted and fanatical adherents; but in spite of the zeal of these supporters, and of its own theoretical plausibility, the instinctive judgement of mankind revolted from its strange conclusions; and by the great body of the reading world, it was first derided, and then, except as occupying its spot in literary history, forgotten. Smith attempted little on this part of his great subject, and that little he did not do well: but his good sense kept him aloof from absurdities, like those which disfigure the works of some who preceded, and of many who have followed him: and the caution with which he shrunk from plunging deep into the investigation, shews, perhaps, that he was conscious of difficulties which he chose to avoid. Of him, however, it may be said with truth, that he had done as much as could be expected from one mind, when he had illustrated, applied, connected and multiplied the truths which before his time existed insulated, and for the most part half developed, on one main branch of his subject. That subject too we know was itself at once elevated by the success of his work to a rank among the great objects of the intellectual efforts of mankind, which it is little likely ever again to lose; and which, we must hope, will, at some future day, ensure the developement of all its intricacies.
Mr. Malthus was the first philosopher, after Smith, who laid foundations for the farther progress of knowledge. The earliest distinct views of those laws which govern the revenues of the landed proprietors, and the wages of the laborers in the most advanced stages of civilization', will always be to be traced in his works on population, and on rent: and enough will remain to leave him the character of a powerful and original enquirer after truth, when time and the labors of many other minds have corrected some essential errors, and some hasty extensions of principles,—true in themselves, though of more local or limited application, than amidst the fervor of discovery they appeared to their author to be. But Mr. Malthus has been singularly unfortunate in his successors; under their treatment, his works, instead of being made the foundations of a superstructure of useful truth, have been used to give the semblance of plausibility to a mass of error, ingenious and harmless in some of its parts, but as a whole, most delusive, and unfortunately most mischievous.
On the subject of rent, Mr. Malthus, discarding the errors of the economists, shewed satisfactorily, that where land is cultivated by capitalists
1 As far as rent is concerned, the late Sir Edward West ought to share this praise.