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The word Wealth presents itself to different Book 1.
Chap. i. minds with such variety of meaning, that it will be best to begin by fixing on some conventional limit to Division of the sense in which the term shall be used. The subject. definition of Mr. Malthus is, of the many which have been proposed, perhaps the least objectionable and the most convenient. Wealth, according to him, consists of those material objects which are necessary, useful, or agreeable to mankind. In this restricted sense the word will be used here. Instances of occasional deviation from it, if any occur, shall be marked. It will be understood, however, that this definition is proposed as useful in limiting our subject, not as furnishing the basis of any conclusions relating to it. If a mo
If a more comprehensive interpretation of the term Wealth should be preferred, the
Prin. of Pol. Econ. p. 28. I think this definition as it stands, is on the whole rather preferable to the slightly altered version of it, which Mr. Malthus has since adopted in his Work on Definitions, p. 234. Neither of them perhaps, are perfectly proof against a pains-taking objector. Either, would very well answer our present purpose, of restricting the subject on which we are about to enter to some definite limits.
Book I. results of the facts or reasonings we shall have to Chap. i.
adduce, will be in no degree affected by the Division of change. subject. All wealth, whatever be its source, is made
available for the purposes of man by human labor: by that even the spontaneous productions of the earth must be gathered and appropriated. Hence the hands from which all wealth is first distributed must be those of the laborer. But the laborer is rarely in a condition to retain the whole produce of his exertions. In whatever state of society he exists, some tie, or some want, makes him to a certain extent dependent upon others. Those who constitute the larger proportion of the laboring class throughout the world find no fund accumulated by others, from which they may draw their daily subsistence : they are obliged therefore to raise it with their own hands from the soil. If that soil belongs to others, this circumstance alone makes the peasants at once tributary to the proprietors, and a portion of the produce is distributed as Rent. If besides the soil other things are needful to facilitate their exertions, to the owner of these things another part of the produce must be resigned, and hence the origin of Profits. The share of the laborer, the reward of mere personal exertion, in whatever shape, or manner, or time, it may be received, constitutes the Wages of labor. Into these three portions, Rent, Profits, and Wages, the annual produce of the land and labor of every country is in the first instance divided : all other revenues are derived from these. The whole subject of the distribution of wealth then naturally separates itself into three divisions, which may conveniently be made Book I. the subject of three books, devoted to the examination Chap. i. of those circumstances which in different stages of Division of society determine the amount, first of Rent, then subject. of Wages, thirdly of Profits. In a fourth book, if our plan should be completed, we shall attempt to trace the revenue which the state at successive periods usually derives from each of these.
The present volume will contain the book on Rent.
On the Origin of Rents : on their Division into Primary
and Secondary, or Peasant and Farmer's Rents.
WHEN mankind have become sufficiently nume- Book I. rous to be driven from the pastoral state to agri
Chap. i. culture for subsistence, and before sufficient funds have accumulated in the possession of others to supply Origin and the body of the people with their daily bread, they Rents. must extract it with their own hands from the soil, or they must starve. While thus circumstanced they may, or may not, be themselves the owners of the implements, seed, &c. by the assistance of which their manual labor applied to the soil produces them a continuous maintenance; a stock which if used for any other purpose must soon be exhausted: such a stock, if they possess it, is in their peculiar circum
Book I. stances entirely deprived of its mobility; it is conChap. i.
vertible to no other purpose, and is confined to the
task of assisting cultivation, by the same necessity Origin and which compels its owners to extract their food from
the earth : and the returns to stock so situated, like the returns to the labors of its owners (or their wages), must be governed by the terms on which land can be obtained. Should the surface of the country which such a people inhabit be appropriated, the only chance which the cultivator has of being allowed to occupy that portion of it, from which he is to draw his subsistence, rests upon his being able to pay some tribute to the owner. The power of the earth to yield, even to the rudest labors of mankind, more than is necessary for the subsistence of the cultivator himself, enables him to pay such a tribute: hence the origin of rent. A very large proportion of the inhabitants of the whole earth are precisely in the circumstances we have been describing; sufficiently numerous to have resorted to agriculture; too rude to possess any accumulated fund in the shape of capital, from which the wages of the laboring cultivators can be advanced. These cultivators in such a state of society comprise always, from causes we shall hereafter arrive in sight of, an overwhelming majority of the nation. As the land is then the direct source of the subsistence of the population, so the nature of the property established in the land, and the forms and terms of tenancy to which that property gives birth, furnish to the people the most influential elements of their national character. We may be prepared