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MONTESINOS. Not exactly so.
Some will lose and some will gain ; and the expenditure in which the one sink their capital, will increase the capital of the other by the productive labour which it calls forth.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Columbus was of opinion, that the gold in his conquests might enable the Kings of Spain to make the whole of their dominions like a wellcultivated garden. But then he assumed that this gold would be at the direct disposal of the state.
Ancient Egypt exhibited the finest example of what might be done by a government making the improvement of the country its main object. Every thing was done there which art could do for the advantage and embellishment of the land. Buonaparte did a little in this kind, and boasted largely of it. Our government makes no parade of such things. It leaves travellers to proclaim and even to discover that every creek upon
the coast of Scotland, where a fisher's boat could need shelter, is protected with a pier; that in the wildest and remotest parts of that country, civilization is forwarded by some of the finest roads in the world, and that large ships may pass across the island from sea to sea, by a canal, which is the greatest work of its kind that has ever been attempted either in ancient or in modern times.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
MONTESINOS.. I am sure individuals can; and have often said that, rather than have been born and bred to a great fortune, I should deem it better for myself always to live precariously, and die poor at last.
SIR THOMAS MORE. But for a nation ?
MONTESINOS. I cannot answer that question without distinguishing between a people and a state. A state cannot have more wealth at its command than may be employed for the general good, a liberal expenditure in national works being one of the surest means for promoting national prosperity, and the benefit being still more evident of an expenditure directed to the
of national improvement. But a people may be too rich; because it is the tendency of the commercial, and more especially of the manufacturing system, to collect wealth rather than to diffuse it. Where wealth is successfully employed in any
of the speculations of trade, its increase is in proportion to its amount; great capitalists become like pikes in a fish-pond, who devour the weaker fish; and it is but too certain that the poverty of one part of the people seems to increase in the same ratio as the riches of another. There are examples of this in history. In Portugal, when the high tide of wealth flowed in from the conquests in Africa and the East, the effect of that great influx was not more visible in the augmented splendour of the Court, and the luxury of the higher ranks, than in the distress of the people.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
The prodigality of Henry's courtiers, for which the funds were supplied by sacrilege, was producing the same effect when I was removed from the sight of evils which I had vainly endeavoured to withstand.
In these cases the consequences were so immediate and direct that there could be no doubt concerning the cause. But different causes are in operation at this time, and they are likely to be more permanent and more pernicious. Commerce and manufactures, nearly as they are connected, differ widely in their effects upon society. The former, it cannot be denied, has produced enormous evils when it has been associated with schemes of conquest and usurpation; but this is no natural association; its natural operations are wholly beneficial, binding nations to nations, and man: to man. How opposite the manufacturing system is in its tendency, must be manifest to all who see things as they are, and not through the delusive me. dium of their own theories and prepossessions.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
The desire of gain is common to them both.
MONTESINOS. A distinction must be made between this and the love of lucre." The pursuit of independence,..of that degree of wealth without which the comforts and respectabilities of life are not to be procured,..the ambition even of obtaining enough to command those luxuries which
may innocently and commendably be enjoyed, must be allowed to be beneficial both to the individuals who are thus stimulated to exertion, and to the community which is affected by their exertions. This is inseparable from commerce; in fact it is the main spring of that social order which is established among us. In this, indeed, as in all other desires, self-watchfulness is necessary, and the restraint of a higher principle: and in the mercantile profession there is much to qua
lify it and keep it within due bounds. We are not accustomed to class that profession among the liberal ones; and yet it ought to be classed among the most liberal, as being that which, when properly and wisely exercised, requires the most general knowledge, and affords the fairest opportunities for acquiring and enlarging it. There is nothing in its practice which tends to contract the mind, to sophisticate the understanding, or to corrupt the feelings.
SIR THOMAS MORE. It is from those merchants who were “as Princes," that Princes themselves have derived assistance, states strength, and statesmen information, the arts their best patronage, and literature not unfrequently its best encouragement. Did you know more of the merchants of Tyre, it would appear that in that age no other power or influence upon the face of the earth was so beneficially exercised as theirs. Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries, had such merchants in my days. The Moors had them, before the Portugueze, by the conquest of Ceuta, by the destruction of their little commercial states along the coast of Eastern Africa, where every petty chieftain (like Alcinous) was a merchant, by their seizure of Malacca and Ormuz, and the system of destructive warfare which they car