Chap. 4: How the Commerce of the Towns Contributed to the Improvement of the Country
1 The increase and riches of commercial and manufacturing towns contributed to the improvement and cultivation of their countries in three ways.
- 2 They encouraged its cultivation and improvement by affording a great and ready market for the rude produce of the country.
- This benefit was not even confined to their own countries.
- It extended to all countries they dealt with.
- To those other countries, those towns afforded a market for their rude or manufactured produce.
- They encouraged the industry and improvement of all.
- The country of those towns, however, derived the greatest benefit from this market.
- Its rude produce was charged with less carriage.
- The traders could pay the growers a better price yet make it as cheap to the consumers of distant countries.
- 3 The wealth acquired by the city people was frequently used to purchase uncultivated land.
- Merchants commonly want to become country gentlemen.
- They are generally the best of all improvers when they do.
- A merchant is used to employing his money in profitable projects.
- A country gentleman is used to employing his money in expence and very seldom expects to see his money once he parts with it.
- Those different habits naturally affect their temper and disposition in business.
- A merchant is commonly a bold undertaker.
- A country gentleman a timid undertaker.
- The merchant is not afraid to spend a large capital at once to improve his land when there is a prospect of gain.
- The country gentleman seldom ventures to employ it in this way.
- If he improves at all, it is commonly with what he can save out of his annual revenue and not with a capital.
- The country gentleman seldom ventures to employ it in this way.
- The operations of merchants are much more spirited than those of country gentlemen.
- This can be observed in mercantile towns in an unimproved country.
- The habits of order, economy, and attention, which mercantile business naturally forms a merchant, render him much fitter to execute any project of improvement, with profit and success.
- 4 Commerce and manufactures gradually introduced order, good government, and the liberty and security of individuals, among the people of the countryside.
- They lived before in a continual state of war with their neighbours and were servile to their superiors.
- This by far was the most important of all their effects, though it has been the least observed.
- Mr. Hume was the only writer to notice it.
5 In a country which has neither foreign commerce nor finer manufactures, a great proprietor has nothing to exchange for the excess produce of his lands.
- He consumes such excess in rustic hospitality at home.
- If this surplus is sufficient to maintain 100 or 1,000 men, he can use it to maintain only 100 or 1,000 men.
- He is surrounded with many retainers and dependants at all times
- In return, they must obey him, for the same reason that soldiers must obey the prince who pays them.
- Before the extension of commerce and manufacture in Europe, the hospitality of the rich and the great, from the sovereign down to the smallest baron, exceeded everything we can think of today.
- Westminster Hall was the dining-room of William Rufus.
- It was frequently, perhaps, not be too large for his company.
- It was reckoned a piece of magnificence in Thomas Becket that he strewed the floor of his hall with clean hay so that the knights and squires who could not get seats might not spoil their fine clothes when they sat down on the floor to eat their dinner.
- The great Earl of Warwick entertained 30,000 people every day at his manors.
- Though this number may have been exaggerated, it must have been very great.
- A hospitality nearly of the same kind was exercised not many years ago in the highlands of Scotland.
- It seems to be common in all nations where commerce and manufactures are little known.
- Doctor Pococke has seen an Arabian chief dine in the streets of a town where he came to sell his cattle.
- He invited all passengers, even common beggars, to sit down with him and partake of his banquet.
6 The occupiers of land were as dependent on the great proprietor as his retainers.
- The occupiers who were not serfs were tenants at will.
- They paid a rent less than the subsistence the land provided.
- A crown, half a crown, a sheep, a lamb, was some years ago in the highlands of Scotland a common rent for lands which maintained a family.
- In some places it is so at this day.
- Money there at present will not purchase more commodities than in other places.
- In a country where the surplus produce of a large estate must be consumed on the estate itself, it will be more convenient for the proprietor that it be consumed at a distance from his house if its consumers were his retainers or menial servants.
- He is saved from the embarrassment of too large a company or too large a family.
- A tenant at will who has sufficient land to maintain his family in exchange for a quit-rent, is dependent on the proprietor as any servant or retainer.
- He must obey him with as little reserve.
- Such a proprietor feeds his servants and retainers at his own house and feeds his tenants at their houses.
- The subsistence of both is derived from his bounty.
- Its continuance depends on his pleasure.
7 The power of the ancient barons was founded on the authority the great proprietor had over their tenants and retainers.
- They became the judges in peace and the leaders in war of all who dwelt on their estates.
- They could maintain order and execute the law within their respective demesnes.
- Each of them could turn the whole force of all the people against the injustice of anyone.
- No other persons had sufficient authority to do this.
- The king in particular had not.
- In those ancient times, the king was the greatest proprietor in his dominions.
- Other great proprietors paid certain respects to him for the sake of common defence against their common enemies.
- It would have cost the king the same effort to extinguish a civil war to enforce payment of a small debt within his lands by his own authority.
- Because all its people were armed and accustomed to stand by one another.
- He abandoned the administration of justice to those who were capable of administering it, for the same reason of leaving the command of the militia to those whom that militia would obey.
8 It is a mistake to imagine that those territorial jurisdictions originated from the feudal law.
- Several centuries before the feudal law was known in Europe, the great proprietors of land possessed all rights allodially:
- The highest civil and criminal jurisdictions
- The power of levying troops
- Coining money
- Making by-laws for the government of their own people
- The authority and jurisdiction of the Saxon lords in England were as great before the Conquest as that of the Norman lords after it.
- But the feudal law was not the common law of England until after the conquest.
- The most extensive authority and jurisdictions were possessed by the great French lords allodially long before the feudal law was introduced there.
- That authority and those jurisdictions all flowed from the state of property and manners described above.
- Without remounting to the remote antiquities of the French or English monarchies, we may find in much later times many proofs that such effects must always flow from such causes.
- It is not 30 years ago since Mr. Cameron of Lochiel used to exercise the highest criminal jurisdiction over his own people.
- He was a gentleman of Lochabar in Scotland
- He did not have any legal warrant
- He was not a lord of regality, nor a tenant in chief
- He was a vassal of the Duke of Argyle and not much a justice of peace.
- He is said to have done so with great equity, though without any of the formalities of justice.
- It is not improbable that the state of that part of the country at that time made it necessary for him to assume this authority to maintain the public peace.
- That gentleman, whose rent never exceeded 500 pounds a year, carried in 1745, 800 of his own people into the rebellion with him.
9 The introduction of the feudal law was an attempt to moderate the authority of the great allodial lords.
- It established a regular subordination with a long train of services and duties, from the king down to the smallest proprietor.
- During the minority of the proprietor, the rent and the management of his lands, fell into the hands of his immediate superior.
- The rent of and the management of the lands of all great proprietors fell into the hands of the king.
- The king was charged with the maintenance and education of the pupil.
- The king, as guardian, had the right of disposing of him in marriage in a way suitable to his will.
- This institution strengthened the authority of the king
- It weakened the authority of the great proprietors.
- However, it could not do either sufficiently for establishing order and good government in the country.
- Because it could not sufficiently alter that state of property and manners from which the disorders arose.
- The authority of government still continued to be too weak in the head and too strong in the inferior members.
- The excessive strength of the inferior members was the cause of the weakness of the head.
- After the institution of feudal subordination, the king was as incapable of restraining the violence of the great lords as before.
- They still continued to make war at their own discretion, on one another and on the king.
- The open country still continued to be a scene of violence, rapine, and disorder.
10 “But what all the violence of the feudal institutions could never have effected, the silent and insensible operation of foreign commerce and manufactures gradually brought about.”
- These gradually furnished the great proprietors with something for which they could exchange their surplus produce.
- They gained something they could consume themselves without having to share it with tenants or retainers.
- “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”
- As soon as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no need to share them with others.
- For a pair of diamond buckles, they exchanged the maintenance of 1,000 men for a year and the authority it gave them.
- The buckles, however, were to be all their own.
- No other human creature could have any share of them.
- Whereas in the more ancient method of expence they must have shared with at least 1,000 people.
- This difference was perfectly decisive with the judges.
- Thus, for the gratification of the meanest, most sordid and most childish of vanities, they gradually bartered their whole power.
11 In a country with no foreign commerce nor finer manufactures, a man of £10,000 a year can only employ his revenue in maintaining, perhaps, 1,000 families who are all at his command.
- Presently in Europe, a man of £10,000 a year can spend his whole revenue without directly maintaining 20 people.
- He can spend it without being able to command more than 10 footmen not worth the commanding.
- Indirectly, perhaps, he maintains more people than he could have done by the ancient method of expence.
- Though the quantity of precious productions he buys is very small, the number of workmen employed in making them must have been very great.
- Its great price arises from their wages and the profits of all their immediate employers.
- By paying that price, he indirectly pays all those wages and profits.
- He thus indirectly contributes to maintain all the workmen and their employers.
- He generally contributes a very small proportion to each, perhaps:
- 10% to a very few,
- 1% to many,
- less than 0.1% or even 0.01% of their whole annual maintenance
- Though he contributes to the maintenance of them all, they are all independent of him because they can all be maintained without him.
12 When great proprietors of land spend their rents in maintaining their tenants and retainers, they maintain all their own tenants and retainers.
- But when they spend them in maintaining tradesmen and artificers, they all may maintain more people than those maintained by wasteful rustic hospitality.
- Each of them taken singly, contributes a very small share to the maintenance of any individual of this greater number.
- Each tradesman or artificer derives his subsistence from the employment of a thousand different customers.
- He is not absolutely dependent on any one of them, though in some measure obliged to them all.
13 The personal expence of the great proprietors gradually increased in this manner.
- It was impossible that the number of their retainers should not as gradually diminish till they were at last dismissed altogether.
- They gradually dismissed their unnecessary tenants.
- Farms were enlarged, and the occupiers of land, notwithstanding the complaints of depopulation, reduced to the number necessary for cultivating it, according to the imperfect state of cultivation and improvement in those times.
- A greater surplus was obtained for the proprietor by:
- The removal of unnecessary mouths
- Exacting from the farmer the full value of the farm
- The merchants and manufacturers soon furnished him with a method of spending on his own person.
- The proprietor was desirous to raise his rents above what his lands could afford.
- His tenants could agree to this on one condition only:
- That they should possess the land until they can recover with profit their expences in improving the land.
- The expensive vanity of the landlord made him willing to accept this condition and hence the origin of long leases.
14 Even a tenant at will who pays the full value of the land, is not dependent on the landlord.
- The pecuniary advantages they receive from one another are mutual and equal
- Such a tenant will expose neither his life nor his fortune in the service of the proprietor.
- But if he has a long term lease, he is independent
- His landlord must not expect from him any service beyond what is expressly stipulated in the lease or imposed on him by the law.
15 The great proprietors could no longer interrupt justice or disturb the peace of the country when their tenants became independent and their retainers were dismissed.
- They became as insignificant as any substantial burgher or tradesman in a city.
- Because they sold their birth-right, in the wantonness of plenty, for trinkets and baubles which are not the serious pursuits of men.
- Unlike Esau who sold his for a mess of pottage in time of hunger and necessity.
- A regular government was established in the country as well as in the city, nobody having sufficient power to disturb its operations in the one any more than in the other.
16 I cannot help remarking, that very old families are very rare in commercial countries.
- Such are families which have possessed some considerable estate from father to son for many successive generations.
- In countries which have little commerce such as Wales or the highlands of Scotland, on the contrary, they are very common.
The Arabian histories seem to be all full of genealogies.
- There is a history written by a Tartar Khan, translated into European languages, which contains scarce any thing else.
- It is a proof that ancient families are very common in those nations.
- In countries where a rich man can only spend his revenue in maintaining many people, he is not apt to run out.
- His benevolence is seldom so violent to attempt to maintain more than he can afford.
- But where he can spend the greatest revenue on his own person, he frequently has no bounds to his expence
- He frequently has no bounds to his vanity or to his affection for his own person.
In commercial countries, riches very seldom remain long in the same family, in spite of the most violent laws to prevent their dissipation.
- Among simple nations, on the contrary, they frequently do without any laws.
- Among nations of shepherds, such as the Tartars and Arabs, the consumable nature of their property renders all such regulations impossible.
17 The greatest revolution to the public happiness was in this manner brought about by two orders of people who did not intend to serve the public.
- To gratify the most childish vanity was the sole motive of the great proprietors.
- The merchants and artificers were much less ridiculous
- They acted merely from a view to their own interest
- They pursued their own pedlar principle of turning a penny wherever a penny was to be got.
- Neither of them had knowledge or foresight of that great revolution which the folly of the one, and the industry of the other, was gradually bringing about.
18 It is thus that through most of Europe, the commerce and manufactures of cities, have been the cause of the improvement and cultivation of the country, instead of being its effect.
19 This order was contrary to the natural course of things
- It is slow and uncertain.
- Compare the slow progress of those European countries with the rapid advances of our North American colonies.
- The wealth of European countries depends very much on their commerce and manufactures
- The wealth our North American colonies is founded in agriculture.
- Through most of Europe, the number of inhabitants is not supposed to double in less than 500 years.
- In our North American colonies, it is found to double in 20 or 25 years.
- In Europe, the law of primogeniture and perpetuities prevent the division of great estates.
- They hinder the multiplication of small proprietors.
- A small proprietor is generally the most industrious, intelligent, and successful of all improvers if:
- He knows every part of his little territory
- He views it all with the affection small property naturally inspires
- He takes pleasure in cultivating and adorning it
- The same regulations keep so much land out of the market that:
- There are always more capitals to buy than there is land to sell
- The land sold always sells at a monopoly price.
- The rent never pays the interest of the purchase-money
- It is burdened with repairs and other charges which the interest of money is not liable.
- “To purchase land is everywhere in Europe a most unprofitable employment of a small capital.”
- For the sake of superior security, a man of moderate circumstances who retires from business, will sometimes choose to lay out his little capital in land.
- A man of profession too, whose revenue is derived from another source, often secures his savings in the same way.
- But a young man must bid farewell forever to great fame and fortune if he employs his capital of 2,000-3,000 pounds to purchase and cultivate a small piece of land, instead of using it to business or some profession, where he can have the same chance of acquiring fortune with other people.
- He might live very happily and very independently with his small land.
- But he cannot aspire at being a proprietor
- He will often disdain to be a farmer.
- The small quantity of land brought to market at a high price prevents capitals from being employed in its cultivation and improvement.
- In North America, 50 or 60 pounds is often found a sufficient stock to begin a plantation with.
- The purchase and improvement of uncultivated land is there the most profitable employment of the smallest and the greatest capitals.
- It is the most direct road to all the fame and fortune which can be acquired in that country.
- In North America, such land can be had for almost nothing or at a price much below the value of the natural produce
- This price is impossible in Europe or in any country where all lands have long been private property.
- “If estates were divided equally among all the children upon the death of any proprietor who left a numerous family, the estate would generally be sold.”
- “So much land would come to market that it could no longer sell at a monopoly price.”
- “The free rent of the land would go nearer to pay the interest of the purchase-money,”
- A small capital might be employed in purchasing land as profitably as in any other way.
20 England is perhaps as well fitted by nature as any large European country to be the seat of foreign commerce, manufactures for distant sale, and all improvements these can occasion due to:
- The natural fertility of the soil
- The great extent of the sea-coast in proportion to the whole country
- Its many navigable rivers which allow water carriage to its most inland parts.
- From the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, the English legislature has been peculiarly attentive to the interests of commerce and manufactures
- There is no other country in Europe, Holland itself not excepted, which laws are more favourable to commerce and manufactures.
- Commerce and manufactures have been continually and rapidly advancing during all this period.
- The cultivation and improvement of the country has been gradually advancing too.
- But it seems to have followed more slowly and at a distance.
- Most of the country must probably have been cultivated before the reign of Elizabeth
- Most of it still remains uncultivated or inferiorly cultivated to what it might be.
- The law of England, however, favours agriculture indirectly by the protection of commerce and directly through encouragements.
- Except in times of scarcity, the exportation of corn is free and encouraged by a bounty.
- In times of moderate plenty, the importation of foreign corn is loaded with duties that equals a prohibition.
- The importation of live cattle, except from Ireland, is prohibited at all times and it is but of late that it was permitted from thence.
- Those who cultivate the land have a monopoly against their countrymen for bread and meat.
- Bread and meat are the two greatest and most important produce of land.
- These encouragements demonstrate the good intention of the legislature to favour agriculture
- Though these encouragements are at the bottom and perhaps illusory as I shall show hereafter.
- More importantly, they make the yeomanry of England as secure, independent, and respectable as possible under the law.
- No country can give more encouragement to agriculture than England if that country:
- Has the right of primogeniture
- Pays tithes
- Admits perpetuities which are contrary to the spirit of the law
- Despite these, England’s cultivation is better.
- What would Englahd’s state of cultivation have been if the law did not directly encourage agriculture besides what arose indirectly from the progress of commerce and left the yeomanry in the same condition as in most European countries?
- It is now more than 200 years since the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth
- 200 years is long as human prosperity usually endures.
21 France had a considerable share of foreign commerce a century before England was a distinguished commercial country.
- The marine of France was considerable before the expedition of Charles VIIIth to Naples.
- The cultivation and improvement of France is inferior to that of England.
- The law of the country has never given the same direct encouragement to agriculture.
22 The foreign commerce of Spain and Portugal to the other parts of Europe, carried on in foreign ships, is very considerable.
- That to their commerce to their colonies is carried on in their own, and is much greater, on account of the great riches and extent of those colonies.
- But it has never introduced any manufactures for distant sale into those countries
- Most of both still remains uncultivated.
- The foreign commerce of Portugal is older than any great European country, except Italy.
23 Italy is the only great European country which seems to have been cultivated and improved in every part by means of foreign commerce and manufactures for distant sale.
- According to Guicciardin that before the invasion of Charles 8th, Italy was cultivated not less in the most mountainous and barren parts of the country than in the plainest and most fertile.
- The advantageous situation of the country and the great number of independent states which subsisted in it probably contributed to this general cultivation.
- It is possible too, that Italy was at that time not better cultivated than England is at present.notwithstanding this general expression of one of the most judicious and reserved of modern historians,
24 The capital that is acquired to any country by commerce and manufactures is all a very precarious and uncertain possession till some part of it has been secured and realized in the cultivation and improvement of its lands.
- A merchant is not the citizen of any particular country.
- He is indifferent on from where he carries on his trade
- He will remove his capital and all the industry it supports, from one country to another with very little disgust.
- No part of it can belong to any particular country, till it has been spread in that country, in buildings or in the improvement of lands.
- No vestige remains of the great wealth of the Hans towns except in the obscure histories of the 13th and 14th centuries.
- It is even uncertain where some of them were situated or to what European towns their Latin names belong.
- The misfortunes of Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries greatly diminished the commerce and manufactures of Lombardy and Tuscany.
- Those countries however still continue to be among the most populous and best cultivated in Europe.
- “The civil wars of Flanders and the Spanish government which succeeded them, chased away the great commerce of Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges.”
- Flanders still continues to be one of the richest, best cultivated, and most populous provinces of Europe.
- The ordinary revolutions of war and government easily dry up the sources of commercial wealth.
- The wealth from agricultural improvements is much more durable
- It can only be destroyed by more violent convulsions of hostile and barbarous nations for one or two centuries.
Such as those before and after the fall of the Western Roman empire.
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