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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. It was 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 the laws which limit and determine rents, wages and profits, have hitherto led to little besides contradictory opinions; and startling, and in some instances, unhappily, disgusting and most mischievous paradoxes.
The germ of the doctrines of the earliest leading writers on these points, the French economists, may be traced pretty clearly to some hasty, and certainly very erroneous opinions, of our own great Locke. That sect of philosophers at last fancied they could rigidly demonstrate, that a portion of the rent, (the produit net,) constituted a peculiar fund, from which alone all the revenues of the state must directly or indirectly be derived; and this strange and futile dogma came from their hands based on reasonings and assumptions, from which it appeared to result that the amount of wages, and the rate of profits, are determined by causes which keep them beyond the reach of change, and preserve them untouched amidst the workings of any possible scheme of taxation. Mixed with some absurdities, and much rash and sophisticated reasoning, the writings of the economists contain many truths; and some of a high order and lasting importance: but even these could not save their reputation; and by being interwoven in a mass of error, were for a time less current, and therefore less
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
As far as rent is concerned, the late Sir Edward West ought to share this praise.