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their personal habits and social condition, it might be anticipated that they would possess a degree of prudence and self-control greater than other Asiatics, but inferior to most European nations; and the following evidence is adduced of the fact. “Durability is one of the chief qualities, marking a high degree of the effective desire of accumulation. The testimony of travellers ascribes to the instruments formed by the Chinese, a very inferior durability to similar instruments constructed by Europeans. The houses, we are told, unless of the higher ranks, are in general of unburnt bricks, of clay, or of hurdles plastered with earth ; the roofs, of reeds fastened to laths. We can scarcely conceive more unsubstantial or temporary fabrics. Their partitions are of paper, requiring to be renewed every year. A similar observation may be made concerning their implements of husbandry, and other utensils. They are almost entirely of wood, the metals entering but very sparingly into their construction; consequently they soon wear out, and require frequent renewals. A greater degree of strength in the effective desire of accumulation, would cause them to be constructed of materials requiring a greater present expenditure, but being far more durable. From the same cause, much land, that in other countries would be cultivated, lies waste. All travellers take notice of large tracts of lands, chiefly swamps, which continue in a state of nature. To bring a swamp into tillage is generally a process, to complete which, requires several years. It must be previously drained, the surface long exposed to the sun, and many operations performed, before it can be made capable of bearing a crop. Though yielding, probably, a very considerable return for the labour bestowed on it, that return is not made until a long time has elapsed. The cultivation of such land implies a greater strength of the effective desire of accumulation than exists in the empire. “The produce of the harvest is, as we have remarked, always an instrument of some order or another; it is a provision for future want, and regulated by the same laws as those to which other means of attaining a similar end conform. It is there chiefly rice, of which there are two harvests, the one in June, the other in October. The period then of eight months between October and June, is that for which provision is made each year, and the different estimate they make of to-day and this day eight months will appear in the self-denial they practise now, in order to guard against want then. The amount of this self-denial would seem to be small. The father Parennin, indeed, (who seems to have been one of the most intelligent of the Jesuits, and spent a long life among the Chinese of all classes,) asserts, that it is their great deficiency in forethought and frugality in this respect, which is the cause of the scarcities and famines that frequently occur.”
That it is defect of providence, not defect of industry, that limits production among the Chinese, is still more obvious than in the case of the semi-agriculturized Indians. “Where the returns are quick, where the instruments formed require but little time to bring the events for which they were formed to an issue,” it is well known that “the great progress which has been made in the knowledge of the arts suited to the nature of the country and the wants of its inhabitants” makes industry energetic and effective. “The warmth of the climate, the natural fertility of the country, the knowledge which the inhabitants have acquired of the arts of agriculture, and the discovery and gradual adaptation to every soil of the most useful vegetable productions, enable them very speedily to draw from almost any part of the surface, what is there esteemed an equivalent to much more than the labour bestowed in tilling and cropping it. They have commonly double, sometimes treble harvests. These, when they consist of a grain so productive as rice, the usual crop, can scarce fail to yield to their skill, from almost any portion of soil that can
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be at once brought into culture, very ample returns. Accordingly there is no spot that labour can immediately bring under cultivation that is not made to yield to it. Hills, even mountains, are ascended and formed into terraces; and water, in that country the great productive agent, is led to every part by drains, or carried up to it by the ingenious and simple hydraulic machines which have been in use from time immemorial among this singular people. They effect this the more easily, from the soil, even in these situations, being very deep and covered with much vegetable mould. But what yet more than this marks the readiness with which labour is forced to form the most difficult materials into instruments, where these instruments soon bring to an issue the events for which they are formed, is the frequent occurrence on many of their lakes and rivers, of structures resembling the floating gardens of the Peruvians, rafts covered with vegetable soil and cultivated. Labour in this way draws from the materials on which it acts very speedy returns. Nothing can exceed the luxuriance of vegetation when the quickening powers of a genial sun are ministered to by a rich soil and abundant moisture. It is otherwise, as we have seen, in cases where the return, though copious, is distant. European travellers are surprised at meeting these little floating farms by the side of swamps which only require draining to render them tillable. It seems to them strange that labour should not rather be bestowed on the solid earth, where its fruits might endure, than on structures that must decay and penis, in a few years. The people they are among think not so much of future years as of the present time. The effective desire of accumulation is of very different strength in the one, from what it is in the other. The views of the European extend to a distant futurity, and he is surprised at the Chinese, condemned, through improvidence, and want of sufficient prospective care, to incessant toil, and as he thinks, insufferable wretchedness. The views of the Chinese are confined to narrower bounds; he is content to live from day to day, and has learnt to conceive even a life of toil a blessing.”* When a country has carried production as far as in the existing state of knowledge it can be carried with an amount of return corresponding to the average strength of the effective desire of accumulation in that country, it has reached what is called the stationary state; the state in which no further addition will be made to capital, unless there takes. place either some improvement in the arts of production, or an increase in the strength of the desire to accumulate. In the stationary state, though capital does not on the whole increase, some persons grow richer and others poorer. Those whose degree of providence is below the usual standard, become impoverished, their capital perishes, and makes room for the savings of those whose effective desire of accumulation exceeds the average. These become the natural purchasers of the lands, manufactories, and other instruments of production owned by their less provident countrymen. What the causes are which make the return to capital greater in one country than in another, and which, in certain circumstances, make it impossible for any additional capital to find investment unless at diminished returns, will appear clearly hereafter. In China, if that country has really attained, as it is supposed to have done, the stationary state, accumulation has stopped when the returns to capital are still as high as is indicated by a rate of interest legally twelve per cent, and practically varying (it is said) between eighteen and thirty-six. It is to be presumed therefore that no greater amount of capital than the country already possesses, can find employment at this high rate of profit, and that any lower rate does not hold out to a Chinese sufficient temptation to induce him to abstain from present enjoyment. What a contrast with Holland, where, during the most flourishing period of its history, the government was able habitually to borrow at two per cent, and private individuals, on good security, at three. Since China is not a country like Burmah, or the native states of India, where an enormous interest is but an indispensable compensation for the risk incurred from the bad faith or poverty of the state, and of almost all private borrowers; the fact, if fact it be, that the increase of capital has come to a stand while the returns to it are still so large, denotes a much less degree of the effective desire of accumulation, in other words a much lower estimate of the future relatively to the present, than that of most European nations.
§ 4. We have hitherto spoken of countries in which the average strength of the desire to accumulate is short of that which, in circumstances of any tolerable security, reason and sober calculation would approve. We have now to speak of others in which it decidedly surpasses that standard. In the more prosperous countries of Europe, there are to be found abundance of prodigals; in some of them (and in none more than England) the ordinary degree of economy and providence among those who live by manual labour cannot be considered high : still, in a very numerous portion of the community, the professional, manufacturing, and trading classes, being those who, generally speaking, unite more of the means with more of the motives for saving than any other class, the spirit of accumulation is so strong, that the signs of rapidly increasing wealth meet every eye : and the great amount of capital seeking investment excites astonishment, whenever peculiar circumstances turning much of it into some one channel, such as railway construction or foreign speculative adventure, bring the largeness of the total amount into evidence.
There are many circumstances, which, in England, give a peculiar force to the accumulating propensity. The long exemption of the country from the ravages of war, and the far earlier period than elsewhere at which property was