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and control of natural laws (See § 2). As regards the higher
or spiritual side of that life, each member of the perfect state is
in some sense a reproduction of the whole body politic, — like it
a free moral personality.

Yet the Apostle Paul applies this analogy of difference and interde-
pendence to the most purely spiritual form of society. " The body is not
one member but many, and all members have not the same office. . . .
The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee."

§ 31. Every fully developed state is a complex form of life,
whose elements may be distinguished as three. There is the
industrial state, the jural state, and the culture-state. The
second embraces the state's political life, the people's advance in
freedom and social morality, and its development in legislation ;
the third is the sphere of intellectual movement, progress in the
fine arts, in literature and the sciences. The first is the sphere
of the material well-being of the people. The full development


of each of the three is essential to the highest well-being of the
whole body politic.

§ 32. In seeking the full and free development of the national
life on all its sides as its chief end, the state cannot be charged
with selfishness. The affections and the attachments of finite
beings are of necessity circumscribed, that they may be intense,
vigorous and healthy. In the family life we should count the
man immoral who loved other men's wives as he loved his own ;
unnatural if he had no more affection for his own children than
for those of other men. To " provide for his own, especially
for them that are of his own house," is one of the first duties
of the head or the member of a nation as well as of a house-

While acting first of all for the interest of his own nation, he
is not bound to seek to injure or cramp the natural develop-
ment of other nations. He can quite consistently cherish the
warmest desires for the welfare of every other national house-
hold, and scrupulously avoid any act that would interfere
with it. The more strong and hearty and pure the attachment
he feels towards his own nation, the more likely he is to sympa-
thize with the patriotic citizens of other nations. The late F. D.
Maurice well says : " If I being an Englishman desire to be
thoroughly an Englishman, I must respect every Frenchman
who desires to be thoroughly a Frenchman, every German who
strives to be thoroughly a German. I must learn more of the
grandeur and worth of his position, the more I estimate the
worth and grandeur of my own. . . Parting with our dis-
tinctive characteristics, we become useless to each other, — we
run in each other's way ; neither brings in his quota to the
common treasure of humanity."

Those who cherish the enthusiasm that men feel for their own nation,
as ethically right, do not necessarily repudiate " the enthusiasm of
humanity." They may very well recognise its value and dignity, while
feeling that it belongs to another sphere than either the jural or indus-
trial state. There is another kingdom, "not of this world" or order, in
which " there is neither Jew nor Greek," founded by him who awakened
the sense of human brotherhood in the hearts of men.


§ 33. The industrial state contains three great fundamental
classes, — the agricultural, the commercial and the manufactur-
ing. A nation takes high rank industrially in proportion as
all the three are fully developed and exist in equilibrium. If
any ons of the three is depressed or hindered in its develop-
ment, the whole body politic suffers accordingly. The others
may seem to prosper at its expense, but because the state is a
living organism and not a dead aggregate of individuals, one
member cannot suffer, but all the members must suffer with it.

§ 34. The individuality of the parts of an organism has its
end in their interdependence and mutual helpfulness. A flock
of animals, though " a collection of individuals," is not a whole
made up of differentiated parts. It is only " a numerical ex-
tension of a single specimen." A mob of men is equally
deficient in true organic unity. It is united only by the exist-
ence of the same overmastering rage or lawlessness in each
single individual, as animates the entire mob. A state is a body
in which men have different functions as well as different per-
sonalities ; in which each has his place of service to the whole
body. The greater and more marked the variety of the parts,
the more closely the whole body is bound in an effective unity.
The nation takes a low rank industrially whose members are not
employed chiefly in serving one another, but in serving the
members of other nationalities.

§ 35. All history illustrates the principle that the chief
growth of the state is from within. Nations have often imparted
to each other wholesome and stimulating impulses, but beyond
a certain limit foreign influence has always been a hindrance,
and has been jealously resented by the wise instincts .of the peo-
ple. We see this in the history of art, literature, language, law
and political institutions, and every other side of the national life.

Any plan of human life, any project for human improvement,
which, either in the interest of imperial ambition or of cosmo-
politan philanthropy, ignores the existence of the nations as parts
of the world's providential order, can work only mischief and



Wealth and Nature.

§36. We are engaged in "an inquiry into the nature and
causes of the wealth of nations." The word wealth is used in
two senses ; as meaning either the aggregate of possessions that
minister to man's necessities and tastes, or the possession of an
abundance of such objects. In the former or popular sense
wealth is the measure of man's power over nature ; in the latter
or scientific sense it is the power itself developed to more than
the average decree.

Closely connected with the term wealth is the term value.
The one is the antithesis of the other. If wealth is the mea-
sure of man's power over nature, value is the measure of
nature's power over man, — of the resistance that she offers to
his efforts to master her. Some of the natural substances are to
be had everywhere, always and in the form needed for man's
consumption. These have no value, though the very highest
utility. Others, such as the water for the supply of a great
city, need to be changed in place, and have a value proportional
to the cost of their transfer. Others need to be changed in form
by manufacture as well as changed in place before their use, and
have a still higher value. In other instances the resistance
takes the form of scarcity, and is therefore in some degree in-
superable, and the degree of the value is still higher.

§ 37. Man stands in close relation to nature, as the possessor
of a body which forms part of the physical world. He there-
fore needs the services of nature continually. His body is un-
dergoing incessant decays and renewals. Motion, respiration,
sensation, digestion, circulation of the blood, even thought itself
wear away its tissues, and unless this waste be replaced the man
must die literally of exhaustion.

Furthermore, these vital processes can be carried on only in
the presence of a certain amount of animal heat, which must be


supplied from within, and (in most climates) shielded from
without to prevent its excessive radiation.

The chemical substances that form the bodily frame are chiefly Oxygen,
Hydrogen, Carbon and Nitrogen. The two first in the form of water
make 75 per cent, of the whole body, and 83 per cent, of the most com-
mon foods. Berzelius says that the living organism is to be regarded as
a mass diffused in water, and another chemist has humorously defined man
as fifty pounds of nitrogen and carbon suspended in six buckets-full of

The starch which forms so large an element in the ordinary foods
enters into the composition of none of the tissues. It is consumed in the
lungs to furnish the vital heat, and breathed off as carbonic acid.

§ 38. Hence man's two great material necessities are food
and clothing. The desires for these furnish the motive to the
vastest activities of the race. As his brain expands, indeed,
and as society develops, other desires grow into life and become
motives to action ; but these two are universal. Others are
voluntary ; these are enforced by the sensations of hunger and
cold. Others are directed to comforts or luxuries; these to
things necessary and indispensable.

The productions of the three kingdoms of nature do not
equally satisfy these desires. Though there are apparent ex-
ceptions, it may be laid down as a rule that he obtains food and
clothing from the animal and vegetable kingdoms only. The
animaLkingdom as a whole is supported by the vegetable, which
in its turn depends upon the abundance and fitness of the great
mixtures of vegetable and mineral substances which we call
soil. Only the lowest type of vegetation can support its life
upon mineral food alone.

§ 39. We can trace the story of the earth's development back
to a period when vegetation, and therefore soil, did not yet exist
upon its surface. Some of the natural agents already at work
were indeed preparing for the formation of soil. Glacial corro-
sion and other violent forms of action were grinding masses of
rock into fine sand, and the frosts were chipping away the edges
and faces of the rocks by sudden expansion of the water that
they had absorbed.

Vegetatiou began with the lichens and the mosses, which


secured a foothold on the surface of the rocks, and slowly crum-
bled down a few grains of sand from the hard mass (by the
action of the oxalic acid which they secrete), and dying, mingled
therewith the ashes of their own decay. This furnished the
first soil for the next highest order of vegetable life, and thus
through successive orders of vegetable life the soil was deepened
and enriched.

As illustrating Goethe's law of progress by differentiation of the parts
from the whole and from each other (see # 30), it is worth while to notice
the stages of this development as given in the great classification of
Okcn. First come the acotyledons (lichens, mosses, &c), which have
neither root nor stem, neither bark nor wood, neither leaves nor seeds.
Then the monocotyledons (grasses, lilies and palms), which have no
branches nor true leaves, but may have either woody stems, or venous
liber, or bark — never the three united. The third are the dicotyledons
(fruit and forest trees, &c), which unite all these parts in one organism.

This process of the formation of soil on a rocky surface by
successive vegetable growths, still takes place with some modifi-
cations in the coral islands of the Pacific. When the coral
polyp has raised its rocky fortress above the sea level, the
surface is soon strewed with fragments that the waves break off
and grind into sand, which is mixed with the remains of the
coral insects. A cocoanut carried safely in its rough husk on a
long voyage is washed ashore and takes root. The decay of its
leaves forms a new soil, and the birds that rest on its branches
bring the seeds of other vegetation in their crops, so that a
multifarious growth rapidly covers the barren rock.

§ 40. The sustenance that the growing plant derives from
the mineral kingdom is not taken solely nor even mainly from
the soil through its roots, but from the air through its leaves.
Were it otherwise, the growth of the soil must stop as soon as its
depth became as great as that to which the plants thrust down
their roots. But six feet of soil is not uncommonly found on the
prairies of the West, and even that depth still increasing. The
chief food of plants is carbonic acid, one of the elements of the
air, which in the early geological ages was so abundant that only
vegetable life could have existed on the earth's surface. The


first luxuriant vegetable growths, the mosses and the ferns,
absorbed it in vast quantities, growing with marvellous rapidity,
and forming the deposits of decayed vegetation, now known to
us as coal, after having been subjected to vast pressure for
unnumbered ages. By burning this as fuel we give back to the
atmosphere a small part of the carbonic acid that once saturated
it, and thus furnish food for new vegetation from the substance
of those that flourished ages ago. Nothing that is consumed or
that decays upon the earth's surface is wasted; — nothing is
wasted but what goes into the sea. " Atmospheric air is the
grand receptacle from which all things spring and to which they
will return. It is the cradle of vegetable and the cofSn of
animal life" (Dr. Jno. W. Draper).

Carbonic acid forms but a thousandth part of the chemical mixture
that we call air.

§ 41. The foliage of the plant is a vegetable substitute for
mouth and lungs. It presents a vast absorptive surface to the
air through which it drinks in carbonic acid and transmutes it
into woody fibre. To pluck all the leaves of a tree in the early
summer would be to kill it by suffocation and starvation. From
the vast storehouse of the air the plant draws its food, and the
atmospheric supply is kept up by the decay of other plants, by
the respiration of animals, and by the consumption of wood and
coal as fuel. When the plant dies, a small percentage escapes
back to the air again, but the great mass is added to the wealth
of the soil, from which so little was taken.

The proportion of sustenance that a plant takes from the air
has been ascertained by experiment to be about nine parts in
ten. In one case a willow tree weighing five pounds was planted
in a box, in two hundred pounds of soil that had been carefully
dried and weighed. To prevent the settlement of dust in any
appreciable quantity, the soil was covered with a metal plate
pierced with very fine holes to allow the free passage of the air ;
and it was moistened with rain-water only. After a few years
the tree was removed, and the soil was carefully collected and


dried. On weighing them it was found that the tree had

gained sixty-seven pounds and the soil had lost eight ouuces.

The late Prof. J. F. Frazer told me that while engaged in the geological
survey of Pennsylvania he found a willow tree growing in the cleft of a
rock where there was absolutely no soil whatever, but a continual ooze
of water was keeping the cleft moist.

§ 42. The fertility of the earth is therefore not an accom-
plished fact, but a vast process that is still going on. Nature is
preparing for the time when man will make still larger demands
upon her resources than at present. Even when the fertility
of a piece of ground has been exhausted by continual abuse,
she brings her restorative energies into play. Thus the aban-
doned tobacco plantations of Eastern Virginia have been covered
by a growth of pines, whose long taproots reach down below
the exhausted surface, and bring up mineral substances, which
after the fall of the leaves and the decay of the stems enrich
the. soil. A similar instrument of recuperation she furnishes to
the farmer in the clover plant, whose peculiarity it is to thrust
down its roots to the mineral subsoil and feed only upon that.

§ 43. The soil, it has been already said, is a mixture of
mineral and vegetable matter. The former, even when less in
amouut, is by no means inferior in importance. It predominates
in the subsoil, and in- the best soils appears mainly as siliceous
sand and clay. The first use of the former is to keep the soil porous
and make it ready to receive, — of the latter to keep it compact
and able to retain. An excess of either substance imparts to
the soil a corresponding defect.

In the plant the silex or flint of the sand reappears as the
skeleton. The slight and fragile stalks of our grains and grasses
are kept upright under their load of seed by a thin coating or
varnish of silica. Every acre of wheat requires from 93 to 150
pounds. This mineral element is but slightly present in the
fruits and seeds which man carries from the soil ; somewhat
more largely in the stems and trunks of trees, but most of all
in the leaves which return to the soil at once, or after having
served as food for cattle. The leaves of trees contain fifteen
times as much as the trunks.


§ 44. Persistent human stupidity can bring to nought the
most beneficent arrangements of nature. The fertility of the
soil may be destroyed in spite of tendencies to perpetuate and
extend itself, and that in more ways than one.

(1) By the absence of any system of rotation of crops. Year
after year men will take the same elements from the soil by
growing the same crop upon it, wheat or tobacco, or some other.
There is land around Albany where forty-five bushels to the acre
was once no excessive yield in wheat, but where at present not
more than fifteen can be grown. Much of the country in which
the last battles of the late civil war were fought is made up of
exhausted tobacco plantations. The whole system of Southern
agriculture under the slaveholdiug regime tended to the same

§ 45. (2) By continually taking away from the soil and never
making any return. The absence of a single element that enters
into the composition of a plant will as much prevent its growth
as would the absence of all. ' : For every fourteen tons of
fodder carried off from the soil there are carried away two casks
of potash, two of lime, one of soda, a carboy of vitriol, a large
demijohn of phosphoric acid, and other essential ingredients"
(Prof. JohnstonJ.

Substances that have served as food for birds and animals are
worth most to keep up the fertility of the soil. In passing
through the digestive organs they are reduced in size to their
finest particles, and enriched with organic elements, which the
animal derives from the atmosphere. They are especially much
richer in nitrogen than the food itself. In some districts of
England cattle are stall-fed with oil-cake and other expensive
foods, simply for the sake of the manure, and by this system one
district of moorland in Lancashire has been reclaimed and
brought up to a high degree of fertility.

Whenever, therefore, the products of the soil are consumed
in the vicinity of the farm, the fanner will have at hand the
means of making such a return to the soil as will keep up and
even increase its fertility. But whenever they are transported


to a considerable distance for consumption the power to make an
adequate return to the soil is seriously diminished, if not abso-
lutely destroyed. The richest soil cannot long sustain such a
process of exhaustion, if its proprietors are engaged in sending
its natural wealth over land and sea to a distant market.

§ 46. The existence of the means and the power to make
adequate returns to the soil is no guarantee that these will be
fully employed. Through the sewers of our great cities, and
the rivers into which they empty, immense quantities of fertili-
zing matter are poured into the sea, and are thus utterly losi-
The soil around the city of Chicago, for instance, is naturally
sterile ; in the refuse of her slaughtering-houses the city has
the means of raising it to a very high degree of fertility. At a
great expense provision has been made to carry off the whole
mass and pour it through the Illinois and the Mississippi rivers
into the Gulf of Mexico ; on all hands the measure is applauded
as a bold and wise piece of engineering. Belgium is the only
civilized nation that is fully awake to the importance of this
subject, but England bids fair to emulate her.

§ 47. (3) The fertility of a country may be destroyed by
stripping it of its trees, which seem to affect very greatly the
amount of rain that falls on its surface. In some parts of
upper India the trees have been cut away, the wells have sunk,
the rain-fall has ceased, and the country threateus to become a
wilderness. The Punjaub seemed likely to meet the same fate ;
when the British conquered it not a single tree was observed in
its vast area, and the country was rapidly becoming a desert,
when its plantation was begun and the waste was arrested.
Numidia, the Plain of Babylon, and Judea are instances of
countries once proverbially fertile, and now barren (it is
believed) through denudation. When Europeans occupied
the Cape Verde and Canary Islands, and St. Helena, they
found them well wooded and fertile. As the trees have been
recklessly cut down, droughts have become common, and the
capacity of the islands to support a large population has disap-
peared. The increasing sterility of parts of France, of Lorn-


bardy, and of large districts of Spain, is ascribed to tbe same
cause. In Lombardy it has been found that the denudation of
the country contributes to the rapidity and the volume in which
its light and friable soil is washed into the Adriatic by the Po
and its tributaries. Great injury has thus been done to the
agricultural capacity of the country, and still greater is feared.
And as a rule, the absence of trees seems to lead to the concen-
tration of the rain-fall in great storms, and the disappearance of
better distributed and more moderate showers. The streams
alternate betweeu the destructive violence of torrents and the
desolation of drought. The tribes of Arabia perceived the con-
nection between drought and the absence of trees ; the oldest
law recognised as binding on the whole peninsula is one for
their protection, and it was repeated in the injunctions given
by the Prophet and the Caliphs to the captains whom they sent
forth to subdue the world.

§ 48. All these ruinous results are matters for control and
correction by the action of the state. Individual selfishness is
always shortsighted ; the nation as the supreme owner of the
national domain has the fullest right to guard against its reckless
exhaustion. The state is owner of the national domain in a
sense that is not true of individual proprietors. Much or all
of it that is incapable of individual appropriation, is national
property, — such as rivers and other inland waters, harbors and

Especially is it a question of national policy, because insoluble
to individual effort, to bring the farmer and artisan into neigh-
borhood, and secure the consumption of the crops within rea-
sonable distance of the farm.


The Science and Economy of Population.

§ 49. The evolution of life upon our planet, after passing
through the vegetable and the merely animal stages, was crowned
in the advent of man, the especial theme of social science. All
the great processes of nature's development that preceded his
coming, were but preparations to fit the earth to be his home,
and to gratify the capacities and bring into action the powers
with which he was endowed. The earth was given into his
hands, and he was commanded to "multiply and replenish the
earth and subdue it."

§ 50. To " subdue the earth," to become master over nature,
is, as we have seen, only another way of stating the transition
from poverty to wealth. And, as the command implies, that
transition has gone hand in hand with tbe increase of numbers.
In the earlier stages of society man lives in comparative isola-
tion from his fellows, weak in the presence of nature's vast
powers and therefore poor in the command of her resources.
The scattered families, the isolated tribes, are unequal to helpful
cooperation ; for the most part they are confined to the use of
such of nature's provisions as are easily accessible to their inef-
fectual and wasteful labor. First the wild beasts and birds and
fruits of the forest are brought into use; then the peaceful
flocks whose skins furnish ready-woven clothing, and whose
milk and flesh supply food. The wealth of the mine, of the
grain-field, of the cotton plantation, are utterly beyond their

§ 51. But with the growth of numbers too great to be fed by
the mere pasturage of the land, comes the transition to agricul-
tural industry. New powers of nature, forces that lay unused
so long as the scantiness of men forbade efficient cooperation for
their mastery, are made to serve man ; cattle that ran wild and

Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 4 of 38)