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On the left, he finds the trader, or the warrior-chief, taking a large proportion of the product of labor—leaving the laborer so little, that he remains enslaved. On the right, the proportion to be divided among the middlemen is very small, while labor is largely paid. In the one case, the power of the trader to purchase service is very great; in the other, it is very small.
The peaceful effects of the beautiful law of nature which controls and determines the distribution of the things produced, are here exhibited, and in a manner worthy of serious attention. Examining history where we may, we find that when population is small, wages are very low; while the proportion of labor's products taken by the trader, or warrior, is very large–facilitating the hiring of men, to aid him in the accomplishment of his desires. So is it, now, in all declining countries—it being easier to hire thousands, for warlike purposes, in Ireland, India, or Mexico, than hundreds in Massachusetts. So was it, in the early ages of England, as is shown by the large proportion of the population that, in the days of the Plantagenets, was constantly in the field. So, too, in those of France, as is proved by the facility with which armies were raised, by kings and nobles, throughout the reigns of the various sovereigns of the Valois family. The castles of counts and dukes, destitute, as they were, of even the commonest comforts, were thronged with their retainers; and yet, the revenues of men who were followed to the field by hundreds, if not even thousands, scarcely equalled those of tolerably prosperous farmers of modern times. Even so late as the middle of the last century, “Cameron of Lochiel, a gentleman,” says Adam Smith, “whose rent never exceeded 4500 a-year, carried 800 of his own people into the rebellion with him.” On the other hand, the laird of the little island of Skye, contributed no less than 2000 of his own retainers to the support of government. So is it, even now, in the slave States of the American Union. Wretched as are, not unfrequently, the house accommodations of the planter, and destitute, as he almost everywhere is, in regard to clothing, books, or pictures, his house is filled with servants, half-a-dozen of whom are required for doing the work that should be done by one—the same facts thus presenting themselves in all countries, ancient or modern, as we recede from those times, or places, in which the prices of raw materials and finished commodities approximate, towards those in which they are widely separated from each other. On the right of the diagram, the soldier and the trader have little power of disturbance. Commerce, therefore, grows—the circulation becoming more rapid from day to day, with large development of the mental faculties, and great increase of wealth and freedom. On the left, the power of the soldier and the trader is great. Commerce, therefore, declines—the circulation becoming more sluggish, and men becoming more and more enslaved, as we move in that direction. Concentration grows in the one—man and land there acquiring value, and society taking, more and more, that natural form described by Dr. Smith. Centralization grows in the other— man and land losing value, and society assuming the form regarded, by the teachers of the Ricardo-Malthusian school, as being the one fore-ordained by the Being who gave to man the faculties required for enabling him to control and direct the vast and various powers of air and earth.
§ 4. Studying the history of Greece, we find, through many centuries, a tendency towards an union such as is above described—exhibiting itself in the gradual formation of the Athenian and other States, and in the extensive combinations for the maintenance of the Olympic, Isthmian, and Nemean games, as well as in the Amphictyonic league. So, too, in the union of the cities of Latium, of the communities of the Netherlands, and of India. Man, however, in the early ages, having been poor, and destitute of power to subject to cultivation the richer lands, he is found, invariably, occupying the higher and poorer soils; and hence the frequent contests for the possession of tracts of land that appear, to us, to have been entirely insignificant. Poverty tends, thus, to produce war—that, in turn, stopping the circulation of society, augmenting the difficulty of obtaining food, and producing a necessity for further war; as is so well exhibited in almost every page of Gallic history. Throughout the Middle Ages, France presents a series of civil wars; rarely broken, except when kings and barons united for plundering their weaker neighbors. The consequences of this are seen in the fact, that down to the Revolution, the right to labor was held to be a privilege, to be paid for to the crown, while kings and nobles made of themselves the conduits by means of which the wealth of the kingdom was passed to foreign countries, in payment for luxuries that, under existing circumstances, could not be produced at home. Eleven-twelfths of the products of the land, had to go forth from the place of production, in payment of the taille, and other taxes—the people being corvéeable à volonté, for making the roads by which they were to pass towards the central city for distribution. In no part of Europe was centralization more complete. In none, were the obstacles standing between the producer and the consumer so great. In none, therefore—extremes always meeting—were the people poorer, or those by whom they were governed more magnificent. Centralization, in that country, is still exceedingly great. The road requiring repair, orders therefor must come from Paris– passing through a series of forms, requiring the co-operation of hosts of officials, before the permission can be granted.—The land-owner, desiring to mine his coal, must seek permission at Paris—paying liberally for it, and waiting years before it can be obtained.—The people of a neighborhood, desiring to open a bank, find themselves precluded therefrom by a monopoly secured to a few individuals, owners of the Bank of France.—The baker, desiring to open a shop, must seek a patent, and pay for it.— The son, desiring to aid his father in supporting his mother and sisters, finds that the State has a mortgage on his services, covering several of the most important years of life. Stoppage of the circulation would seem almost to be the rule of French society. Nevertheless, so great have been the advantages of a system tending towards bringing the consumer and the producer together, and thus relieving the farmer from the oppressive tax of transportation, that the product of agriculture, which, in 1700, was but 1,300,000,000 francs, rose to 5,000,000,000, in the period from 1830 to 1840—the share of the laborer, meantime, rising from thirty-five to sixty per cent., and giving him 500 francs, where, before, he had had but 135. The amount divided, in the first period, among the other classes of society, was equal to the wages of 6,000,000 laborers; whereas, in the last, it would purchase the services of only 4,000,000.* The cost of war increases with every increase of the laborer's proportion. The power of the few to disturb the repose of the many, declines in a corresponding ratio—their share of the product of labor diminishing, as the prices of rude products and finished commodities approximate, and as land and labor rise in value. French taxes, great and oppressive as they yet are, bear to production so much smaller a proportion than they did a century since, that, but for the compulsory military service, French armies would not now be sufficient to cause much disturbance of the peace of Europe.f That centralization tends to diminish as land and labor acquire value, is a fact proved by every page of history. That acquisition being, always, consequent upon approximation in the prices of raw materials and finished products, it follows, necessarily, that the tendency towards freedom must be in the ratio of the growth of commerce, and the decline of power among those who live by trade. However great, then, may be the oppression of existing governments — however much their tendency towards war — the steady pursuit of a policy tending to bring the consumer to take his place by the side of the producer, must lead to the ultimate establishment of peace as the habitual condition of a community.
* See ante, vol. ii. p. 60.
+ The conscription is, of all the forms of taxation, the most oppressive and unjust. Falling, as it does, almost entirely upon those who need to sell their labor, it compels those who have little property to protect, to pay a heavy tax, from which the great capitalist is almost entirely exempt. If he should be drawn, he readily obtains a substitute. His poor neighbor, unable to pay, must serve; and, during his years of service, his whole allowance consists of food and clothing, and about five dollars a-year, of wages.
§ 5. Centralization grows with the growth of the trader's power—the prices of raw materials and finished products then receding from each other—land and labor then declining in value —and the proportion borne by taxation to production being an increasing one. The gross taxation of Great Britain and Ireland, for all purposes, seven years since, was stated by Mr. McCulloch at f73,000,000, but it now exceeds £90,000,000, and is, probably, nearer to £100,000,000; while the total annual value of land does not, certainly, exceed £55,000,000—the persons who direct the government, thus, taking two-thirds more than all that goes to the persons by whom the land is owned. The total taxation of France, for governmental purposes, is 1,200,000,000 francs. Adding to this, for local contributions, and for the tax imposed by the conscription, even 500,000,000, we obtain a total of 1,700,000,000—being less than five-sixths of the annual value of the land. Such being the case, it follows, that the proportion borne by English taxation to the value of land, is almost exactly twice as great as is borne by that of France. Who it is, that pays these heavy taxes, we have already seen. They are the contributions of the land and labor of all the countries that are compelled to exhaust their soils in sending abroad rude products—receiving back a trivial portion in the form of manufactured goods.” How are they applied ? For an answer to this question, we may turn to Mr. Cobden, who told his readers, some years since, and before the breaking out of the Crimean war, that, since 1835, they had been constantly augmenting the number of their troops. In that year, they stood, as he says, at 145,846. At the date of his letter, they were 272,481; and this, too, entirely independent of the Indian army, amounting to 289,529 men — giving a total of 562,010.f During that war, the number was much augmented, but war in India, and wars with China and Persia, have caused a subsequent and great increase.
* See ante, vol. ii., p. 86. f Cobden: Letters on 1793 and 1853.