T. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) Leslie.

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not upon her feet, but in her hands. Five-and-twenty years ago
such a girl would have no more minded the effect of the sun on
the skin of her face, than she now minds the effect of the earth
on the skin of her foot ; and five-and-twenty years hence it
may be safely predicted that such a girl will not only think it
advisable to wear her shoes on her feet, but will discover that
they really hurt less there, when one is used to them, than the
stones upon the road. At the same time, we must admit that
the shoemakers of mankind — and of womankind, too, we pre-
sume — have left nothing undone to perpetuate a prejudice
against their own particular production, and to weaken the
force of the love of money for the sake of obtaining it. There
is, again, in the inventory of modern wealth, and among the
civilized uses of money, another article of dress of so obvious
and simple a character that many persons may naturally suppose
that it descends from the most remote antiquity. Yet, some
centuries ago, all the wardrobes in England did not comprise a
single night-dress for lady or gentleman, king or queen. Take
again, another institution of the modern dressing-room — the
bath. There is a history of civilization in the Tale of a Tub.
There is a letter to the old ' Spectator,' on the effects of the love
of money, in which the writer says that it is to that we owe the
politician, the merchant, and the lawyer ; ' Nay,' he adds, ' I
believe to that also we are indebted for our ' Spectator.' ' "Wo
are not prepared to explain the various motives which inspire
the pens of authors. Did Shakspeare write for money ? Did
Pope ? Did Dr. Johnson ? Did Lord Macaulay ? Does Sir
Edward Bulwer Lytton ? We are concerned at present with
the motives of consumers rather than producers ; and one thing
at least is clear, that it is highly to the credit of the former to
elicit such productions from the latter, and that the love of
money in the modern world is to a great extent the love of
good, elevating, and instructive objects — a love which meets
with its return. New desires for health, decency, knowledge,
refinement, and intellectual pleasures, have, in fact, revolu-
tionised production. The antithesis to modern wealth is not

S The Love of Money.

so mucli poverty as a different kind of wealth. The change
is more remarkable in the quality than in the quantity.
No inconsiderable part of human wealth, it is true, still con-
sists of the means of unhappiness rather than of happiness, and
of the gratification of vice rather than of virtue. On the whole,
however, there is a transformation in the moral character of
wealth, and of the desires involved in the general love of money.
For the most part, instead of representing wickedness, brutal
delight, and idle pomp, or conquest, tyranny, and plunder, the
wealth of Europe represents peace, culture, liberty, and the
comfort of the many rather than the magnificence of the few.
Where man's treasure is, there his heart is also ; and the trea-
sures of modern civilization seem to us to show as remarkable an
improvement in the moral as in the intellectual and physical
condition of society. ' Riches,' said Milton, ' grow in hell ; ' for
even in his time much of the wealth that grew on earth bore
many marks of being the property of bad and unhappy beings.
But we may venture now to ask those well-meaning persons who,
without regard to time and place, and without discrimination
between good and evil, repeat ancient warnings against the love
of money and the pursuit of wealth, whether they mean to
praise dirt under the name of poverty, and whether they think
idleness better than industry, ignorance better than science and
art, and barbarism better than civilized progress ? To political
economists, on the other hand, we venture to suggest the cul-
tivation of a department of the philosophy of riches which has
never been scientifically investigated. The laws which regulate
the value of the supply forthcoming from producers have been
almost exhaustively developed in political economy ; but the
deeper laws which regulate the demand of the consumers, and
which give the love of money all its force and all its meaning,
have never yet received the regular attention of any school of



It has long been a prevalent notion, that political economy is
a series of deductions from the principle of selfishness or private
interest alone. The common desire of men to grow rich by the
shortest and easiest methods — to obtain every gratification with
the smallest sacrifice on their own part — has been supposed to
be all that the political economist desires to have granted in
theory, or to see regulating in practice the transactions of the
world, to ensure its material prosperity. A late eminent writer
has described as follows the doctrine of Adam Smith, in the
* Wealth of Nations ' : ' He everywhere assumes that the great
moving power of all men, all interests, and all classes in all
ages and in all countries, is selfishness. He represents men as
pursuing wealth for sordid objects, and for the narrowest
2)ersonal pleasures. The fundamental assumption of his work
is that each man follows his own interest, or what he deems to
be his interest. And one of the peculiar features of his book
is to show that, considering society as a whole, it nearly always
happens that men, in promoting their own, will unintentionally
promote the interest of others. 't

But, in truth, the acquisitive and selfish propensities of
mankind, their anxiety to get as much as possible of everything
they like, and to give as little as possible in return, are in their
very nature principles of aggression and injury instead of
mutual benefit : the mode of acquisition to which they im-

* Macinillan''s Magazine, February, 1863.
t Buckle's History of Civilization, vol. ii.

10 The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Power.

mediately prompt is that of plunder or tlieft, and the compe-
tition which they tend to induce is that of conflict and war.
Their first suggestion is not, ' I will labour for you,' but 'you
shall labour for me ;' not, ' Give me this, and I will give you
what will suit you better in exchange,' but, ' Give it to me, or
else I will take it by force.' The conqueror rather than the
capitalist, the pirate rather than the merchant, the brigand
rather than the labourer, the wolf rather than the watch-dog,
obey the impulses of nature. The history of the pursuit of
gain is far from being the simple history of industry, with
growing national prosperity ; it is the history also of depreda-
tion, tyranny, and rapine. One passage in it is thus given, in
the early annals of our own country : ' Every rich man built
his castle, and they filled the land with castles. They greatly
oppressed the wretched people by making them work at their
castles, and, when they were finished, they filled them with evil
men. Then they took those v/hom they suspected to have any
goods, seizing both men and women by night and day; and
they put them in prisons for their gold and silver, and tortured
them with pains unspeakable. . . . The earth bare no corn ;
you might as well have tilled the sea; for the land was all
ruined by such deeds.'

But if misery and desolation are the natural fruits of the
natural instincts of mankind, how has the prosperity of Europe
steadily advanced in spite of the enemy to it which nature
seems to have planted in every man's breast ? How has the
predatory spirit been transformed into the industrial and com-
mercial spirit ? Under what conditions are individual efforts
exerted, for the most part, for the general good ? These are
the chief problems solved in Adam Smith's ' Inquiry into the
Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.' He has been
careful to point out that ' the interests of individuals and par-
ticular orders of men, far from being always coincident with,
are frequently opposed to, the interests of the public ; ' and he
observes that * all for themselves and nothing for other people
seems to have been, in every age, the vile maxim of the masters
of mankind.' The effort of every man to improve his own

The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Poiver. 11

condition is, it is true, in Adam Smith's philosophy, a principle
of preservation in the body politic ; but his aim was to demon-
strate that this natural effort is operative for the good of society
at large only in proportion to the just liberty secured to every
member of it to employ his natural powers as he thinks proper,
whether for his own advantage or for that of others. Every
infraction of, and every interference with, individual liberty he
denounced as being as economically impolitic as morally unjust.
His systematic purpose was to expose the losses which a nation
suffers, not only from permission of the grosser forms of violence
and oppression, but from every sort of restriction whatever upon
voluntary labour and enterprise. Of laws regulating agriculture
and manufactures for the supposed advantage of the public, he
said, ' both were evident violations of natural liberty, and there-
fore unjust, and they were both too as impolitic as they were un just-
That security, he added, which the laws in Great Britain give
to every man, that he shall enjoy the fruits of his own labour,
is alone sufficient to make any country flourish. The history
of Europe, in so far as it is the history of the progress of
opulence, is not, in his pages, the history of selfishness, but of
improving justice ; of emancipated industry, and of protection
for the poor and weak. It is, accordingly, the history of
strengthening restraints upon the selfish disposition of mankind
to sacrifice the happiness and good of others to their advantage
or immediate pleasure. The fundamental principles on which
the increase of the wealth of nations rests are thus summed up,
at the end of Adam Smith's Fourth Book : * All systems, either
of preference or restraint, being thus completely taken away,
the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes
itself of its own accord. Every man, so long as he does not
violate the laws of justice, is left x^erfectly free to pursue his
own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and
his capital into competition with those of any man or order of

The treatise on the 'Wealth of Nations' is, therefore, not to
be regarded, as it was by Mr. Buckle, as a demonstration of the
public benefit of private selfishness. Adam Smith denies neither

12 The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Power.

the existence nor the value of higher motives to exertion. The
springs of industry are various. Domestic affection, public
spirit, the sense of duty, inherent energy and intellectual tastes,
make busy workmen, as well as personal interest. And personal
interest is itself a phrase for many different motives and pursuits,
deserving the name of selfishness or not according to their
nature and degree ; just as wealth under a single term includes
many things of very different moral quality, according to their
character and use. The aims of men in life may be high or low ;
they may seek for riches of very different kinds and for very
different purposes. In a recent essay in the * Revue des Deux
Mondes,' the eminent economist, M. de Lavergne, maintains
that political economy and religion are, though essentially
distinct, related to each other as the soul and body are. Wealth,
he says, means food, clothes, and houses ; and religion, though
it treats of higher things, does not teach that men should be
left to perish of hunger and cold. Political economy has for its
special end the satisfaction of the bodily wants, and religion
that of the spiritual wants, of man. M. de Lavergne seems to
have been led astray by the economic use of general terms, such
as material wealth, material interests, and material progress.
Por wealth is not really or properly limited in political economy
to such things as satisfy the bodily or material wants of humanity.
It comprehends many things, the use of which is to minister to
man's intellectual and moral life, but which have, notwith-
standing, a price or value. Books, for example, as well as bread
and meat, are wealth. Spiritual and other instructors are paid
for as well as butchers and doctors. Wealth means, in fact,
many different things, more or less material or immaterial, in
different ages and countries. The highest kinds of wealth will
be found where there is most general freedom for the develop-
ment of the highest powers of humanity, and where no class
have a licence for the gratification of their selfish passions at the
expense of any other class. But what Adam Smith contended
for was, that no class of men, be their motives good or bad,
should be suffered, under any pretext, to encroach upon the
industrial liberty of other men. The true moving power of

The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Potver, 13

the economic world, according to his system, is not individual
selfishness, but individual energy and self-control. His funda-
mental principle is perfect liberty. The * Wealth of Nations *
is, in short, an exhaustive argument for free labour and free
trade, and a demonstration of the economical policy of justice
and equal laws. Arguing against the law of apprenticeship,
the philosopher said : * The property which every man has in
his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other
property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony
of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands ;
and to hinder him from employing his strength and dexterity in
what manner he thinks proper for his own advantage is a plain
violation of that most sacred property. It is a manifest
encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman and
of those who might be disposed to employ him. As it hinders
the one from working at what he thinks proper, so it hinders
the others from employing whom they think proper.'

The system, therefore, which is most subversive of the
doctrines of political economy, as taught by Adam Smith, is
that most selfish of all possible systems — slavery. The political
economist must condemn it as loudly as the moralist. It attacks
the life of industry, and prevents the existence of exchange. It
robs the labourer of his patrimony; it robs those who would
hire him in the market of their lawful profits ; and it is a
fraudulent abstraction from the general wealth of nations, the
quantity and quality of which depend upon the degree of
industrial liberty secured to every individual throughout the
world for the exercise of his highest powers. Of the property
of the slaveholder in the industry of his slaves, the paradox, la
propn'ete c'est le vol^ is a literal truth according to political
economy as well as common morality, and as regards not only
the slaves, but the whole commercial world. Yet slavery is a
system within the legitimate range of economic inquiry,
which is by no means limited, as has sometimes been con-
tended, to the phenomena of an imaginary world of free ex-
changes, but extends to all the economic phenomena of the real
world, in which wealth is produced and distributed according

14 The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Poiver.

to very different systems. Injustice and oppression have their
natural train of economic consequences as well as liberty and
equal laws, and the economist is concerned with both, as the
physician studies the laws of disease as weU as health. ' Writers
on political economy,' says the chief among them in our time,
' propose to investigate the nature of wealth, and the laws of its
production and distribution, including, directly or remotely, the
operation of all the causes by which the condition of human
beings is made prosperous or the reverse.' There is not a
country in Europe at this day, not excepting our own, the
economic phenomena of which the principle of exchange would
be sufficient to interpret. But, even if pure commercial com-
petition now regulated, throughout the whole of Europe, the
production and distribution of every article of wealth, the
whole domain of history, and the breadths of Asia, Africa, and
America, would remain for the economist to explore, and to
account on other principles for the direction and results of
human industry, the use of natural resources, and the division
of the produce. The economy of the Slave States of America,
for example, afforded an opportunity for this inquiry, of which
Mr. Cairnes availed himself in his admirable essay on the
Slave Power. In an earlier essay, he described political
economy as belonging to ' the class of studies which includes
historical, political, and social investigations,' and defined it as
* the science which traces the phenomena of the production and
distribution of wealth up to their causes in the principles of
human nature, and the laws and events of the external world.'*
In the later essay, instead of deducing unreal consequences
from the hypothesis of industrial liberty, he has traced the
origin and consequences of the opposite order of things. Instead
of the theory of wages, profit, and rent, applicable to a free
society, he lays bare the structure of a society which excludes
wages, for the labourer is fed and flogged like a beast of burden ;
in which there is no profit, according to the economist's defi-

* Logical Method of Political Economy. By J. E. Cairnes, Professor of
Political Economy in the University of Dublin.

The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Poiver. 15

nition, for labour is not hired, but stolen; in which, there
is little or no rent, for only the best soils can be cultivated,
and they are constantly becoming worthless instead of grow-
ing in value ; in which fear is substituted for the hope of
bettering his condition, and torment for reward, as the stimulus
to the labourer's exertion ; and in which wealth exists only in
its rudest forms, because the natural division of employments
has no place, and only the rudest instruments of production can
be used. Adam Smith had previously examined the milder
conditions of feudal servitude, demonstrating that the backward-
ness of mediooval Europe was attributable to these and similar
discouragements to industry, and showing how it was forced
into unnatural channels by such obstructions. For, through
every part of his philosophy, ' Dr. Smith sought,' as Dugald
Stewart relates, ' to trace, from the principles of human nature
and the circumstances of society, the origin of the positive in-
stitutions and conditions of mankind.' The ' Wealth of Nations'
contains the substance of the last division of a complete course
of lectures upon moral science, in which Adam Smith expounded,
in succession. Natural Theology, Ethics, Jurisprudence, and
Political Economy. His lectures on Jurisprudence have not
survived ; but his pupil. Dr. Miller, states that ' he followed in
them the plan suggested by Montesquieu, endeavouring to trace
the gradual progress of jurisprudence from the rudest to the
most refined ages, and to point out the eif ect of those arts which
contribute to subsistence and to the accumulation of property,
in producing corresponding improvements or alterations in law
and government.' From this it is clear that his conception of
the true scope and method of jurisprudence agreed with his con-
ception of the true scope and method of economic inquiry. And
in the ' Wealth of Nations,' accordingly, he traced the operation
both of the causes vvhich rescued Europe from barbarism and
occasioned its progress in opulence, and of those which impeded
the action of the natural principles of preservation and improve-
ment. In short, his treatise included an inquiry into the causes
of the poverty as well as of the wealth of nations, and an
investigation of the actual constitution and career of industrial

16 The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Power.

society. He showed how rural industry and progress were
thwarted in the middle ages by such impediments that, but
for the happier circumstances of its towns, Europe could never
have emerged from the calamities which befel it after tho
dissolution of the Eoman Empire. The servile and insecure
position of the cultivators of the soil prevented industry from
achieving its first triumphs in the country according to the
course of nature, which makes agriculture the primary, because
the most necessary, business of mankind. ' Order and good go-
vernment, on the other hand, and along with them the liberty
and security of individuals, were established in cities at a time
when the occupiers of land in the country were exposed to every
sort of violence. But men in this defenceless condition naturally
content themselves with a bare subsistence, because to acquire
more might only tempt the injustice of their oppressors. On
the contrary, when they are secure of enjoying the fruits of
their industry, they naturally exert it to better their condition,
and to acquire, not only the necessaries, but the comforts and
elegancies of life. That industry, therefore, which aims at
something more than necessary subsistence, was established in
cities long before it was commonly practised by the occupiers of
land in the country.' In this manner, Adam Smith has traced
the causes of the actual and, as he calls it, the 'unnatural' course
of industry in the slow and chequered progress of modern
Europe. He investigated the phenomena of what was, happily
for us, on the whole, a progressive society. Mr. Cairnes, on the
contrary, has investigated those of a retrograde one.

In the Slave States of America Mr. Buckle might have seen
the economical results of a society based upon selfishness instead
of justice. The negro shows elsewhere* his capacity to take

* The following statement, affording evidence as to the character, capacity, and
enterprise of the negroes, is contained in a letter to the writer of this Paper from
one of the principal English residents in Victoria, the Capital of Vancouver's
Island. It formed part of a general description of the Colony, furnished without
any reference to the question of slavery : — ' Before the gold excitement, hut during
the same year (1858), the Legislature of California passed a law forbidding the
immigration of negroes. This caused the latter to appoint a deputation, which
visited the British possession of Vancouver's Island ; and so favourable was their

The Wealth of Nations and the Slave Power. 17

his part in the free division of labour, and the consequent
multiplication of the productions of tlie different arts, which
occasions, in the words of Adam Smith, in a well-governed
society that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest
ranks of the people. In the squalid and comfortless homes even
of the higher ranks of the people in the American Slave States
we see the consequence of oppressed and degraded industry.
' It may be,' says Adam Smith again, ' that the accommodation
of a European prince does not always so much exceed that of
an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of
the latter exceeds that of an African king, the absolute master
of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages.' The
American slave-owner is, as it were, a petty African king, and
in real penury, as well as in power, resembles such a ruler. It
is said, indeed, that we owed to slavery the produce which
supplied the principal manufacture of Great Britain , But the
whole of this production was in truth to be credited to free
industry, while all the waste and ruin which accompanied it
must be ascribed to slavery. The possibility of the profitable
growtli of so much cotton was caused by the commerce and
invention of liberty, while the barbarism of the poor whites, the
brutifying of the negro population, and the exhaustion of the
American soil, are the net results of slavery. In truth, to Watt,
Hargreaves, Crompton, and Whitney — free citizens of England
and the Northern States — the southern planters owed the whole
value of their cotton. What slavery may really claim as its
own work is that, by exhausting the soil it occupies by a
barbarous agriculture, which sets the laws of chemistry as well
as of political economy at defiance, it hastens its own extinction
from the day that its area is once definitely and narrowly

report, that it not only caused many coloured people to leave California, but also
aroused general attention, particularly that of British subjects ; for by all who
had occasionally heard of the island before it was considered a sort of petty

Online LibraryT. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) LeslieEssays in political economy → online text (page 2 of 41)