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The illustrations which may be offered upon these three points are enough, I think, to prove that they are vastly more important than any measure of natural advantages, including even that on which most stress has been laid, — the inherited qualities of race, or the national, inbred inclination to labor and enterprise. I am no great believer in the natural excellences of Anglo-Saxon blood, but I have great faith in the acquired excellences of Anglo-Saxon institutions. My reason for distrust in the former case is, that time was, and that not many years ago, when the Dutch certainly, if not the Swiss, were decidedly superior to the English in industry, frugality, and the spirit of commercial adventure. In this last respect, even the Spaniards and the Portuguese were ahead of their English competitors. And here in America, where our population is a conglomerate of all the races of the earth, the first generation born on American soil, be its parents English, Irish, Dutch, French, or Spaniards, is sure to show the characteristic American trait, — a disposition to toil, to dare, and to save. Results so general can be accounted for only by some peculiarity in the air that we breathe, or in the institutions that we live under. And as the researches of chemists have proved that our atmosphere contains about the usual proportion of oxygen and nitrogen, I am inclined to refer this peculiarity altogether to our "institutions" ; — understanding, however, this term in its widest sense; making it comprehend not merely our republican polity, our national and State organizations, but our republican habits, feelings, and tendencies, — our disposition to manage our own affairs in our own town-meetings, and there to allot the greatest trust to him who is distinguished above all others by this very American trait, this disposition to toil, to dare, and to save, be his race or parentage what it may.
First, then, security in the receipt and enjoyment of the fruits of labor is not merely the great stimulus, but the indispensable prerequisite, to general industry and frugality. "Security" means not only the absence of war, tyranny, intestine commotions, and all other causes of spoliation, interference, and undue control, but the absence of all dread, of all probability, or possibility, of such unhappy contingencies. Labor and enterprise are elastic, and will quickly recover from the effects of any sudden or unexpected misfortune, however great, if the workmen or adventurers think they have a reasonable protection against its recurrence. If the calamity is such that the country is not actually depopulated by it, the next harvest will make up the temporary scarcity of food, and less than a year's labor will replace the customary stock of manufactured commodities; for the circulating capital of the manufacturer is usually "turned over," as the phrase goes, or consumed and reproduced, oftener than once in a year; and if his fixed capital, his machines, buildings, and other improvements, require a little longer time for their value to be restored, (the potent influence of credit causing them to be actually rebuilt in a very short period,) it is still matter of certain calculation, that a few years will make up the loss. But if a dread should hang over the people, lest a similar catastrophe should soon recur, few would labor at all, and those few would put but little heart into their work; since few are willing to produce what others are to consume. The general feeling would be like that which prevails on shipboard, after all hope of saving the vessel is lost: "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."
Security has been well defined by Mr. Mill as "the completeness of the protection which society affords to its members. This consists of protection by the government, and against the government. The latter is the more important. Where a person known to possess anything worth taking away can expect nothing but to have it torn from him, with every circumstance of tyrannical violence, by the agents of a rapacious government, it is not likely that many will exert themselves to produce much more than necessaries. This is the acknowledged explanation of the poverty of many fertile tracts of Asia, which were once prosperous and populous." Take, for instance, the very fertile and finely situated tract, once called Mesopotamia, from its position between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates, — now a parched and dusty plain, roamed over, rather than inhabited, by a few tribes of half-starved Bedouin Arabs. Yet there stood, and there now stand the ruins of, the great city of Nineveh, that "exceeding great city," of three days' journey, which probably contained over half a million of inhabitants. What a vast suburban and rural population must have existed in the immediate vicinity, in order to supply that great and wealthy metropolis with food! Over three thousand years ago, the banks of the Tigris must have been nearly as populous as are now the banks of the Seine near Paris. Their depopulation and consequent aridity, but few traces now remaining of the gigantic works by which that great plain was formerly irrigated, must be ascribed to the constant sense of insecurity arising from many changes of dynasty, predatory inroads, invasion and conquest, and the rigors of war exercised by barbarian conquerors. Yet these invasions, so far as appears from history, were not so frequent, but that the people might with ease have recovered from them during the intervals, had not the constant fear that they might recur at any day gradually paralyzed all effort, till the nation at last wasted away, and a feeble remnant sought shelter among the mountains, leaving that fertile plain to desolation.
Such are the evils of a government which cannot withstand aggression from abroad. Hardly less injurious in its effects is the government which is too feeble or indolent to protect the people against themselves; which cannot enforce the laws, or guard the community against the machinations and violence of the turbulent, the discontented, and the ambitious, so that society is a constant prey to rapine, confusion, and civil broils. Hence the present condition of Mexico and most of the South American republics, where, though the soil and climate are among the finest on earth, and mineral wealth abounds, yet agriculture is impeded, trade languishes, and manufactures cannot be established, the bonds of society being virtually dissolved, and the country wasted by anarchy and misrule.
Arbitrary exactions, uncertain in amount, and uncertain as to the time when they will be made, do vastly more injury than larger amounts taken by fixed and regular taxation. Industry will accommodate itself to heavy burdens, and even flourish under them, if the pressure be equable and constant, so that all calculations respecting the future may be made with as much certainty as if there were no weight to support. The regular tax comes to be esteemed as one of the charges, or a part of the cost, of production, — having the same effect as a more rigorous climate, or a less fertile soil, would have, in increasing the amount of labor required. The people of England, for instance, are at this moment taxed more heavily, — they pay a larger sum to their rulers, than was ever levied from a population of equal size by the most cruel and despotic government of ancient times. If it were possible to distribute the enormous weight of English taxation with perfect equality and fairness, maldng it bear on all interests alike, and on every individual in just proportion to his means, I should be far from considering it as any material obstacle to the prosperity of the country. But the changes which from time to time become necessary, or are thought to be necessary, in that distribution, — the great change, for instance, that was made by the abolition of the Corn Laws, the frequent changes in the sugar duties, and the uncertainty of the amount required by the Poor Laws, — are very serious evils. The change when completed in all its effects, the new law once thoroughly incorporated by time with the old ones, may be an improvement; but the transition is always injurious. Better a bad system, so that it be fixed, than a fluctuating and uncertain one. An alteration of the law, a shifting of the burden, always produces some change in the direction of labor and capital, whereby a portion of the skill already acquired by practice is wasted, a portion of the machinery already built becomes useless, and time and capital must be consumed in learning new employments and constructing new machines. This is one evil caused by change; and another is, that, most of the operations of industry in modern times being complex, and covering much time and space, people are tempted to engage in them only by the nice calculations that are made of their probable ultimate results; any uncertainty as to the manner in which these results may be affected by taxation, any probability that the law may be changed while the process is yet incomplete, may prevent the enterprise from being undertaken at all. It is not too much to say, that, in this country, for the last thirty years, there has not been a time when commercial and manufacturing enterprise was not materially retarded by the apprehension that the Congress then in session, or the ensuing one, might make some important modifications in the tariff of customsduties.
"The only insecurity," says Mr. Mill, "which is altogether paralyzing to the active energies of producers, is that arising from the government or from persons invested with its authority. Against all other depredators there is a hope of defending one's self. Greece and the Greek colonies in the ancient world, Flanders and Italy in the Middle Ages, by no means enjoyed what any one with modern ideas would call security; the state of society was most unsettled and turbulent; person and property were exposed to a thousand dangers. But they were free countries; they were neither arbitrarily oppressed, nor systematically plundered by their governments. Against other enemies, the individual energy which their institutions called forth enabled them to make successful resistance. Their labor, therefore, was eminently productive, and their riches, while they remained free, were constantly on the increase. The Roman despotism, putting an end to wars and internal conflicts throughout the empire, relieved the subject population from much of the former insecurity; but because it left them under the grinding yoke of its own rapacity,"—witness the administration of Verres in Sicily, which has been damned to everlasting fame by the eloquent invective of Cicero,— "they became enervated and impoverished, until they were an easy prey to barbarous but free invaders. They would neither fight nor labor, because they were no longer suffered to enjoy that for which they fought and labored."
"Much of the security of person and property in modern nations is the effect of manners and opinion, rather than of law. There are countries in Europe where the monarch is nominally absolute; but where, from the restraints imposed by established usage, no subject feels practically in the smallest danger of having his possessions arbitrarily seized, or a contribution levied on them by the government." These countries — Russia, for instance — are far better off in respect of security than France, where, not long ago, the institutions of government were nominally not unlike our own, but where there is great probability of a revolution once a fortnight. No government is ever wicked enough to aim directly and avowedly at the encouragement of vice, the distress of innocence, and the punishment of goodness. Even an Asiatic despotism professes, and probably intends, to punish theft, perjury, fraud, and unprovoked injury, in all cases where its own interest is not immediately concerned; that is, of course, in the great majority of cases that arise among its subjects. It may omit many of the forms and precautions that civilized nations have come to ob~