« ZurückWeiter »
gained for their posterity. Others, fond of showing 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, have been by his employ assisted in maintaining and raising their families ; the farmer has been paid for his labor 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 its importations 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 starye, and sells his clothes to buy drink? Our American commerce is, I confess, a little in this way. We sell our victuals to your islands for rum and sugar; the substantial necessaries of life for its superfluities. But we have plenty and live well nevertheless; though by being soberer we might be richer. By-the-bye, here is just issued an arrèt of council taking off all the duties upon the exportation of brandies, which, it is said, will render them cheaper in America than your rum : in which case there is no doubt but they will be preferred, and we shall be better able to bear your restrictions on our commerce. There are views here by augmenting their settlements, of being able to supply the growing people of America with the sugar that may be wanted there. On the whole, I believe England will get as little by the commercial war she has begun with us as she did by the military. But to return to luxury.
The vast quantity of forest lands 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 private 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 shown, 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 four hours each day in something useful, that labor 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 twentyfour hours might be leisure and pleasure.
What then occasions so much want and misery? It is the employment of men and women in works that produce neither the necessaries nor conveniences of life; who with those who do nothing, consume the necessaries raised by the laborious. To explain this,
The first elements of wealth are obtained by labor from the earth and waters. I have land, and raise corn; with this 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 hewing timber and sawing boards, 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 yea we may all be better clothed and better lodged. And if, insteads
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 the conveniences 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 wbich we fight and destroy 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 labor spent in building and fitting great ships to go to China and Arabia for tea and for 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 great part of it still uncultivated. Many hundred millions of acres in Asia, Africa, and America, are still forest, and a great deal even in Europe. On 100 acres of this forest a man might become a substantial farmer, and 100,000 men employed in clearing each his 100 acres, (instead of being, as they aré, French hair-dressers) would hardly brighten a spot big enough to be visible from the moon, (unless with Herschell's telescope,) so vast are the regions still in the world unimproved.
'Tis 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 not withstanding the mad warş 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 $ca-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 assistauce of spectacles, which could not much impair our finances. But THE EYES OF OTHER PEOPLE are the
that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture. Adieu, my dear friend. I am yours ever,
P.S. This will be delivered to you by my grandson. 'I am persuaded you will afford him your civilities and counsels. Please to accept a little present of books I send by him, curious for the beauty of the impression,
To Dr. Price.
I some time since answered your kind letter of July 12, returning the proof of Mr. Turgot's letter, with the permission of his friends to print it. I hope it came safe to hand. ; I had before received yours of April, which gave me great pleasure, as it acquainted me with your welfare, and that of Dr. Priestley.
The commencement here of the art of flying will, as you observe, be a new epoch. The construction and manner of filling the balloons improves daily. Some of the artists have lately gone to England. It will be well for your philosophers to obtain from them what they know, or you will be behind hand; which in mechanic operations is unusual for Englishmen. . I hope the disagreements in our Royal Society are composed : quarrels often disgrace both sides; and disputes even on small matters often produce quarrels for want of knowing how to differ decently; an art which, 'tis said, scarce'any body possesses but yourself and Dr. Priestley.
I had indeed thoughts of visiting England once more, and of enjoying the great pleasure of seeing again my friends there ; but my malady, otherwise tolerable, is I find irritated by the motion in a carriage, and I fear the consequence of such a journey; yet I am not quite resolved against it. I often think of the agreeable evenings I used to pass with that excellent collection of good men, the club at the Lordon, and wish to be again among them. Perhaps I may pop in some Thursday evening when they least expect me. You may well believe it very pleasing to me to have Dr. Priestley associated with me among the foreign members of the Academy of Sciences. I had mentioned him upon every vacancy that has happened since my residence here, and the place has never been bestowed more worthily.
When you wrote the letter I am now answering, your nation was involved in the confusion of your new election, When I think of your present crazy constitution and its diseases, I imagine the enormous emoluments of place to be among the greatest, and while they exist I doubt whether ever the reform of your representation will cure the evils, çon. stantly arising from your perpetual factions. As it seems to