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though they make but a small part of the whole nation, the number is considerable, — too great, indeed, for the business they are employed in; for the consumption of goods in every country has its limits, the faculties of the people, that is, their ability to buy and pay, being equal only to a certain quantity of merchandise. If merchants calculate amiss on this proportion, and import too much, they will of course find the sale dull for the overplus, and some of them will say that trade languishes. They should, and doubtless will, grow wiser by experience, and import less. If too many artificers in town and farmers from the country, flattering themselves with the idea of leading easier lives, turn shop-keepers, the whole natural quantity of that business divided among them all may afford too small a share for each, and occasion complaints that trade is dead; these may also suppose that it is owing to scarcity of money, while, in fact, it is not so much from the fewness of buyers as from the excessive number of sellers that the mischief arises; and, if every shop-keeping farmer and mechanic would return to the use of his plough and working-tools, there would remain of widows, and other women, shop-keepers sufficient for the business, which might then afford them a comfortable maintenance. Whoever has travelled through the various parts of Europe, and observed how small is the proportion of people in affluence or easy circumstances there, compared with those in poverty and misery, - the few rich and haughty landlords, the multitude of poor, abject, rack-rented, tithe-paying tenants, and half-paid and half-starved ragged laborers, – and views here the happy mediocrity that so generally prevails throughout these states, where the cultivator works for himself, and supports his family in decent plenty, will, methinks, see abundant reason to bless Divine Providence for the evident and great difference in our favor, and be convinced that no nation known to us enjoys a greater share of human felicity. It is true that in some of the states there are parties and discords; but, let us look back, and ask if we were ever without them. Such will exist wherever there is liberty; and perhaps they help to preserve it. By the collision of different sentiments, sparks of truth are struck out, and political light is obtained. The different factions, which at present divide us, aim all at the public good: the differences are only about the various modes of promoting it. Things, actions, measures, and objects of all kinds, present themselves to the minds of men in such a variety of lights, that it is not possible we should all think alike at the same time on every subject, when hardly the same man retains at all times the same ideas of it. Parties are therefore the common lot of humanity; and ours are by no means more mischievous or less beneficial than those of other countries, nations and ages, enjoying in the same degree the great blessing of political liberty. Some, indeed, among us are not so much grieved for the present state of our affairs as apprehensive for the future. The growth of luxury alarms them, and they think we are, from that alone, in the high road to ruin. They observe that no revenue is sufficient without economy, and that the most plentiful income of a whole people from the natural productions of their country may be dissipated in vain and needless expenses, and poverty be introduced in the place of affluence. This may be possible. It, however, rarely happens: for there seems to be in every nation a greater proportion of industry and frugality, which tend to enrich, than of idleness and prodigality, which occasion poverty; so that, upon the whole, there is a continual accumulation. Reflect what Spain, Gaul, Germany and Britain, were in the time of the Romans, inhabited by people little richer than our savages; and consider the wealth they at present possess, in numerous well-built cities, improved farms, rich movables, magazines stocked with valuable manufactures, to say nothing of plate, jewels, and coined money; and all this notwithstanding their bad, wasting, plundering governments, and their mad, destructive wars; and yet luxury and extravagant living has never suffered much restraint in those countries. Then consider the great proportion of industrious, frugal farmers inhabiting the interior parts of these American States, and of whom the body of our nation consists, and judge whether it is possible that the luxury of our sea-ports can be sufficient to ruin such a country. If the importation of foreign luxuries could ruin a people, we should probably have been ruined long ago; for the British nation claimed a right, and practised it, of importing among us not only the Superfluities of their own production, but those of every nation under heaven; we bought and consumed them, and yet we flourished and grew rich. At present our independent governments may do what we could not then do, - discourage by heavy duties, or prevent by heavy prohibitions, such importations, and thereby grow richer; if, indeed, - which may admit of dispute, – the desire of adorning ourselves with fine clothes, possessing fine furniture, with elegant houses, &c., is not, by strongly inciting to labor and industry, the occasion of producing a greater value than is consumed in the gratification of that desire The agriculture and fisheries of the United States are the great sources of our increasing wealth. He that puts a seed into the earth is recompensed, perhaps, by receiving forty out of it; * he who draws a fish out of our water draws up a piece of Silver.
Let us (and there is no doubt but we shall) be attentive to these, and then the power of rivals, with all their restraining and prohibiting acts, cannot much hurt us. We are sons of the earth and seas; and, like Antaeus in the fable, if, in wrestling with a Hercules, we now and then receive a fall, the touch of our parents will communicate to us fresh strength and vigor to renew the contest.
THE world, but a few ages since, was in a very poor condition as to trade and navigation, nor indeed were they much better in other matters of useful knowledge. It was a green-headed time. Every useful improvement was hid from them ; they had neither looked into heaven nor earth, into the sea nor land, as has been done since. They had philosophy without experiments, mathematics without instruments, geometry without scale, astronomy without demonstration.
They made war without powder, shot, cannon or mortars; nay, the mob made their bonfires without squibs or crackers. They went to sea without compass, and sailed without the needle. They viewed the stars without telescopes, and measured latitudes without observation. Learning had no printing-press, writing no paper, and paper no ink; the lover was forced to send his mistress a deal board for a love-letter, and a billet-doux might be the size of an ordinary trencher. They were clothed without manufacture, and their richest robes were the skins of the most formidable monsters; they carried on trade without books, and correspondence without posts; their merchants kept no accounts, their shop-keepers no cash-books; they had surgery without anatomy, and physicians without the materia medica : they gave emetics without ipecacuanha, drew blisters without cantharides, and cured agues without the bark.
As for geographical discoveries, they had neither seen the North Cape nor the Cape of Good Hope south. All the discovered inhabited world which they knew and conversed with was circumscribed within very narrow limits, namely, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and Greece; the Lesser Asia, the west part of Persia, Arabia, the north parts of Africa, and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea; and this was the whole world to them; — not that even these countries were fully known, neither, and several parts of them not inquired into at all. Germany was known little further than the banks of the Elbe ; Poland as little beyond the Vistula, or Hungary a little beyond the Danube; Muscovy, or Russia, perfectly unknown, as much as China beyond it, and India only by a little commerce upon the coast about Surat and Malabar; Africa had been more unknown, but, by the ruin of the Carthagenians, all the western coast of it was sunk out of knowledge again, and forgotten ; the northern coast of Africa, in the Mediterranean, remained known, and that was all, for the Saracens, overrunning the nations which were planted there, ruined commerce as well as religion; the Baltic Sea was not discovered, nor even the navigation of it known, for the Teutonic knights came not thither till the 13th century. - America was not heard of, nor so much as a suggestion in the minds of men that any part of the world lay that way. The coasts of Greenland or Spitzbergen, and the whale-fishing, not known; the best navigators in the world, at that time, would have fled from a whale with much more fright and horror than from the devil in the most terrible shapes they had been told he appeared in. The coasts of Angola, Congo, the Gold and the Grain coasts, on the west side of Africa, from whence since that time such immense wealth has been drawn, not discovered, nor the least inquiry made after them. All the East India and China trade, not only undiscovered, but out of the reach of expectation Coffee and tea (those modern blessings of mankind) had never been heard of: all the unbounded ocean we now call the South Sea was hid and unknown : all the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the mouth of the Straits, was frightful and terrible in the distant prospect, nor durst any one peep into it, otherwise than as they might creep along the coast of Africa towards Sallee, or Santa Cruz. The North Sea was hid in a veil of impenetrable darkness; the White Sea, or Archangel, was a very modern discovery, not found out till Sir Hugh Willoughby doubled the North Cape, and paid dear for the adventure, being frozen to death with all his crew on the coast of Lapland, while his companion's ship, with the famous Mr. Chancellor, went on to the Gulf of Russia, called the White Sea, where no Christian strangers had ever been before 1IIl. In these narrow circumstances stood the world's knowledge at the beginning of the fifteenth century, when men of genius began to look abroad and about them. Now, as it was wonderful to see a world so full of people, and people so capable of improving, yet so stupid and so blind, so ignorant and so perfectly unimproved, it was wonderful to see with what a general alacrity they took the alarm almost all together; preparing themselves, as it were, on a sudden, by a general inspiration, to spread knowledge through the earth, and to search into everything that it was impossible to uncover. How surprising is it to look back, so little a way behind us, and see that even in less than two hundred years all this (now so self-wise) part of the world did not so much as know whether there was any such place as a Russia, a China, a Guinea, a Greenland, or a North Cape That, as to America, it was never supposed there was any such place; neither had the world, though they stood upon the shoulders of four thousand years' experience, the least thought so much as that there was any land that way ! As they were ignorant of places, so of things also ; so vast are the improvements of science, that all our knowledge of mathematics, of nature, of the brightest part of human wisdom, had their admission among us within these two last centuries. What was the world, then, before ? And to what were the heads and hands of mankind applied ? The rich had no commerce, the poor no employment; war and the sword was the great field of honor, – the stage of preferment, — and you have scarce a man eminent in the world for anything before that time, but for a furious, outrageous falling upon his fellow-creatures, like Nimrod and his successors of modern memory. The world is now daily increasing in experimental knowledge; and let no man flatter the age with pretending we have arrived to a perfection of discoveries.