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was nevertheless an advantage to us; for it was the first thing that put our girls upon knitting worsted mittens for sale at Philadelphia, that they might have wherewithal to buy caps and ribbons there ; and you know that that industry has continued, and is likely to continue and increase to a much greater value, and answer better purposes."—Upon the whole, I was more reconciled to this little piece of luxury, since not only the girls were made happier by fine caps, but the Philadelphians by the supply of warm mittens.
In our commercial towns upon the sea-coast, fortunes will occasionally be made. Some of those who grow rich will be prudent, live within bounds, and preserve what they have gained for their posterity: others fond of shewing their wealth, will be extravagant and ruin themselves. Laws cannot prevent this: and perhaps it is not always an evil to the public. A shilling spent idly by a fool, may be picked up by a wiser person, who knows better what to do with it. It is therefore not lost. A vain, silly fellow builds a fine house, furnishes it richly, lives in it expensively, and in a few years ruins himself: but the masons, carpenters, smiths, and other honest tradesmen, Jive been by his employ assisted in maintaining and raising their families; the farmer has been paid for his labour and encouraged, and the estate is now in better hands..-. In some cases, indeed, certain modes of luxury may be a public evil, in the same manner as it is a private one. If there be a nation, for instance, that exports its beef
and linen, to pay for the importation of claret and porter, while a great part of its people live upon potatoes, and wear no shirts; wherein does it differ from the sot who lets his family starve, and sells his clothes to buy drink? Our American commerce is, I confess, a little in this way. We sell our victuals to the islands for rum and sugar; the substantial necessaries of life for superfluities. But we have plenty, and live well nevertheless, though, by being soberer, we might be richer. •
The vast quantity of forest land we have yet to clear and put in order for cultivation, will for a long time keep the body of our nation laborious and frugal. Forming an opinion of. our people and their manners, by what is seen among the inhabitants of the sea-ports, is judging from an«improper sample. The people of the trading towns may be rich and luxurious, while the country possesses all the virtues that tend to promote happiness and public prosperity, Those towns are not much regarded by the country; they are hardly considered as an essential part of the states; and the experience of the last war has shewn, that their being in possession of the enemy did not necessarily draw on the subjection of the country; which bravely continued to maintain its freedom and independence notwithstanding.
It has been computed by some political arithmetician, that if every man and woman would work for four hours each day on something useful, that labour would produce sufficient to procure all the necessaries and comforts of life; want and misery would be banished out of the world, and the rest of the twenty-four hours might be leisure and pleasure.
What occasions then so much want and misery? It is the employment of men and women in works that produce neither the necessaries or conveniences of life, who, with those that do nothing, consume necessaries raised by the laborious. To' explain this:
The first elements of wealth are maintained by labour, from the earth and waters. I have land, and raise corn. With this", if I feed a family that does nothing, my corn will be consumed, and at the end of the year I shall be no richer than I was at the beginning. But if while I feed them, I employ them, some in spinning, others in making bricks, &c. for building, the value of my corn will be arrested and remain with me, and at the end of the year we may be all better clothed and better lodged. And if, instead of employing a man I feed in making bricks, I employ him in fiddling for me, the corn he eats is gone, and no part of his manufacture remains to augment the wealth and convenience of the family; I shall therefore be the poorer for this fiddling man, unless the rest of my family work more, or eat less, to make up the deficiency he occasions.
Look round the world, and see the millions employed in doing nothing, or in something that amounts to nothing, when the necessaries and conveniences of life are in question. What is the bulk of commerce, for which we fight and dertroy each other, but the toil of millions for superfluities, to the great hazard and loss of many lives, by the constant dangers of the sea ?— How much labour is spent in building and fitting great ships to go to China and Arabia for tea and coffee, to the West Indies for sugar, to America for tobacco? These things cannot be called the necessaries of life, for our ancestors lived very comfortably without them.
A question may be asked: Could all these people now employed in raising, making, or carrying superfluities, be subsisted by raising necessaries? I think they might. The world is large, and a gre> t part of it uncultivated. Many hundred millions of acres in Asia, Africa, and America, are still in a forest; and a great deal even in Europe. On a hundred acres of this forest, a man might become a substantial farmer; and a hundred thousand men employed in clearing each his hundred acres, would hardly brighter, a spot big enough to be visible from the moon, unless with Herschel's telescope; so vast are the regions still in wood.
It is however some comfort to reflect, that, upon the whole, the quantity of industry and prudence among mankind exceeds the quantity of idleness and folly.—Hence the increase of good buildings, farms cultivated, and populous cities filled with wealth, all over Europe, which a few ages since were only to be found on the coasts of the Mediterranean; and this notwithstanding the mad wars continually raging, by which are often destroyed in one year the works of many years peace. So that we may hope, the luxury of a few merchants on the coast will not be the ruin of America.
One reflection more, and I will end this long rambling letter. Almost all the parts of our bodies require some expense. The feet demand shoes; the legs stockings; the rest of the body clothing; and the belly a good deal of victuals. Our eyes, though exceedingly useful, ask, when reasonable, only the cheap assistance of spectacles, which could not much impair our finances. But the eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.
ON THE SLAVE TRADE.
READING in the newspapers the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress, against meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of slaves, it put me in mind of a similar speech, made about an hundred years since, by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member' of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martha's account of his consulship,. 1687.—It was against granting the petition of the sect called Erika or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery, as being unjust.—Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it. If therefore, some of its reasoning, are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may ..only .