Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

§ 2. What, however, is capital 7 Seeking an answer to this question, the reader will do well to turn again to the chapter he has just now read, and study anew the never-ending round of production and consumption—finding there that the food is consumed in producing the man — the man in producing the bow and the canoe — the bow and the canoe in the production of food — and the food again in maintaining and developing the mental and physical powers of the man. That the mens sana may exist, there must be, first, the corpus sanum. The wretched Esquimaux, always occupied in the search for food, gives but little time to the development of the faculties by which he is distinguished from the brute beast, whose services he would command—remaining, therefore, little better than the brute.

The food consumed by Crusoe was capital, the result of physical and mental effort. Did it then cease to be capital * Certainly not. On the contrary, it had assumed a higher form — that of mental and physical force. Next, it reappeared in the form of a bow, to whose construction force had been applied. Reappearing once again, in the form of increased supplies and higher quality of food, and thus enabling him to devote more time and mind to the study of nature and her powers, it promotes the further accumulation of capital in the form of that higher intelligence by means of which he compels the water and the wind to do his work; thus obtaining that mastery over nature which constitutes wealth. Capital is the instrument by means of which that mastery is acquired existing at one moment in the form of food; at another, in that of physical and mental force; and, at a third, in that of bows, arrows, canoes, ships, lands, houses, furnaces, and mills. Every increase of command over the instrument is attended by corresponding increase in the power of association, in the development of his individual faculties, and in his power of further progress. Every increase in the power of the instrument over him is attended with directly opposite effects—the power of association then declining, with constant diminution in the rapidity of motion, in the development of individuality, and in the power of further accumulation.

§ 3. The savage wanders over extensive surfaces, seeking almost in vain a supply of food, even though assisted by the bow and the canoe. In another stage of society, the ox is tamed, and the cow is employed in the conversion of grass into food fitted for man's consumption. Like the savage, however, the shepherd is a wanderer — changing his place, and that of his flocks, whenever the supply of food diminishes. His capital consists in tents, oxen, sheep, and other movable commodities, among the most important of which are weapons for self-defence. At length, however—acquiring power to compel nature to do his work—he becomes a tiller of the earth; and now he finds more continuous demand for his faculties than had before existed. Compelled, however, to cultivate the poorer soils, and to be always on his guard against the attacks of others like himself, we find him universally occupying the higher lands, and obtaining but small return to all his efforts. In time, however — acquiring more and better machinery — he is enabled to subject to cultivation richer soils — yielding larger returns to labor. The demand upon his powers for the means of present support constantly diminishes, with corresponding increase in the proportion of his labors that may be applied to preparing his land for future use, and in the rapidity with which his capital augments. The proportion borne by movable to fixed capital tends now steadily to decline. The power of combination increasing, and person and property becoming more secure, he finds less use for swords and spears. The richer soils producing largely, he is less dependent on his flocks. Exchanges at home increasing, by reason of the greater proximity of the tailor and the shoemaker, his need for horses is diminished. The spinner, the weaver, the miner, and the smelter of ores, coming nearer to him, he is less dependent on ships and wagons. Becoming now enabled to command the services of nature, he is less dependent on the chances and changes of the weather; and less required to preserve large stocks of grain as provision against deficient crops. Each such change involving a new demand upon his mental faculties, the supply is constantly increased, with constant increase of force, and of the steadiness with which that force may be applied. The circulation becoming more continuous, the limestone and the granite are now quarried, and the coal and ore are mined. The house of stone replaces the early one of wood — the iron road, too, replacing the turnpike that, in its turn, had superseded the original Indian path. Permanence becoming now the characteristic of all improvements, the proportion of the labor of the community required for their maintenance steadily diminishes—with corresponding increase in the proportion that may be given to further development of the hidden treasures of the earth. Coal and iron, lime and marl, lead, tin, and copper, being now brought to light from places at which their existence has hitherto been unsuspected, sandstone and granite are employed in constructing buildings for the reception of engines that do more work in a week, than in earlier times could have been done in centuries, by those who now mine the coal and ore, and make the iron. Furnaces next appearing, the fire-clay is utilized, with constant diminution in the value of iron, and increase in the value of man. Land, too, constantly acquires value *— the fixed capital of the society thus steadily increasing in the proportion borne to that which is movable, with constantly increasing tendency to local activity, and towards the attainment by society of those proportions which combine strength with steadiness of movement. With augmented numbers, we find increasing power of combination, and increasing commerce — the scattered spinning-wheels giving way to mills in which hundreds combine their efforts for the production of cloth ; while bleaching and printing works accomplish as much as was done by tens of thousands of men when the cloth was whitened by means of solar light, and the figure printed by help of the human hand alone. Here, as everywhere, association tends to the development of individuality — that, in turn, facilitating association, with constant increase in the appreciation of the benefits resulting from combination. In the early periods of society, strength of limb constitutes the only claim to distinction. The weak of arm, and the weak of sex, are then but slaves, as is now the case among barbarian tribes, and in the purely agricultural nations of the earth. Capital, however, accumulating, and man acquiring power to command the services of nature, the fingers of the woman, and the faculties by which she is distinguished from the man, are utilized — placing her more and more on an equality with the stronger sex. The more perfect the diversification of employments, the greater, therefore, must be the tendency to equality between the sexes, and between the physically strong, and physically weak, of the human race. The more rapid the growth of power over nature — the more rapid the growth of wealth — the greater is the tendency to this diversification — the more perfect the power of association — and the more rapid the approach towards equality of position. Capital is, therefore, the great leveller. The greater the tendency towards equality, the more continuous and rapid becomes the motion of society, and the greater the power of accumulation. Further capital produces further increase of motion; and thus it is that man is seen to move with constantly accelerated force. In the early perlods of society — the printing-press being unknown, and books being scarce and dear—it was required that students should come from abroad, if they would familiarize themselves with the teachings of a Plato, or an Aristotle, a Friar Bacon, or an Abelard. The knowledge by them communicated floated about the world — centuries elapsing before it became fixed in a manner tending to promote the progress of the human race. Now, on the contrary, the printing-press has brought about an equality that then could scarcely have been imagined. Almost all reading, the discoveries of Arago, Faraday, or Ehrenberg are scarcely announced at home before they are carried on the wings of the wind to the remotest corners of the earth, and made to serve as the basis of new investigations, tending to enable man, everywhere, to obtain new control over the various forces of nature—with growing tendency towards further equality. The tendency towards improvement is in the ratio of the increase of fixed, as compared with circulating, capital. With every new development of the forces of nature—with every swamp that is drained, and every new and better soil subjected to cultivation—with every new mine, and every new bed of marl or lime, that is worked—and every new water-power made to labor in his service — local attraction increases, and central attraction diminishes; and with every step in that direction, the home has greater attractions — the family is more and more enabled to revolve around its own centre — the town or township acquires greater individuality—the revolution of all the various bodies becoming more continuous; with constant increase of force among themselves, and in the greater community of which these lesser ones form parts.

* Value being the measure of nature's power over man, it may here be asked how land can acquire it. In its original condition, it is, like the coal and the ore, without value — that which it gradually obtains, being but a consequence of the incorporation with it of the labor required for overcoming the resistance offered by nature to its occupation and cultivation.—As wealth increases, it declines in value as compared with labor — both man and land, however, rising, as compared with the products of land and labor. See ante, vol. ii., p. 268.

§4. Centralization tends to increase the proportion of movable— while diminishing that of fixed, property. The great land-holder —being strong of arm—compels the weak to labor for him; and the right to do so he regards as property, that may be bought and sold. Men, women, and children then become mere chattels; and then it is that land is nearly valueless, as is now the case in India, Jamaica, Virginia, and Carolina. In all of these, the products of labor must pass through the hands of the trader in men's services, or the trader in commodities, before they can be distributed — he, in turn, being obliged to send them to the distant market before they can be exchanged. In this state of things, nearly all the property is purely personal.

The warrior-chief imposes heavy taxes on his subjects, the proceeds of which are to be applied to the support of his armies, his family, and himself. The whole of them pass from distant provinces to his central treasury, there to remain in the form of unfixed capital; whereas, had his people been exempt from such contributions, they would, almost at once, have become fixed in the form of improvements on their little farms.

The trader opposes obstacles to all exchanges not made through himself—the more he can separate the consumer from the producer, the longer, necessarily, being the time elapsing between the production and consumption of commodities, and the larger the proportion borne by the floating to the fixed capital. The greater the quantity of corn, cotton, or sugar, collected in magazines, and waiting demand, the larger, necessarily, will be his proportion of the price at which they are sold, and the greater his power to purchase ships and cannon, with which to enforce submission to his demands; but the smaller

« НазадПродовжити »