Page images

the kings of those very Lacedaemonians were of a different race from the people, being not of Dorian, but of Achaian extraction.1 There could not have been therefore, at least universally, any such total incompatibility between the moral institutions and principles of the different races. The vindication, therefore, of the system utterly fails, even on the very grounds assumed by its advocates.

'If, however, in any instance such an incompatibility did exist, or (what is far more probable) such a mutual dislike and jealousy, originating in a narrow spirit of clanship—as to render apparently hopeless the complete amalgamation of two tribes as fellow-citizens on equal terms, the wisest—the only wise—course would have been an entire separation. Whether the one tribe migrated in a mass to settle elsewhere, or the territory were divided between the two, so as to form distinct independent States,—in either mode, it would have been better for both parties, than that one should remain tributary subjects of the other. Even the expulsion of the Moors and Jews from Spain, was not, I am convinced, so great an evil, as it would have been to retain them as a degraded and tributary class; like the Greek subjects of the Turkish empire.

'For, if there be any one truth which the deductions of reason alone, independent of history, would lead us to anticipate, and which again history alone would establish independently of antecedent reasoning, it is this: that a whole class of men placed permanently under the ascendancy of another as subjects, without the rights of citizens, must be a source, at the best, of weakness, and generally of danger, to the State. They cannot well be expected, and have rarely been found, to evince much hearty patriotic feeling towards a community in which their neighbours look down on them as an inferior and permanently degraded species. While kept in brutish ignorance, poverty, and weakness, they are likely to feel—like the ass in the fable— indifferent whose panniers they bear. If they increase in power, wealth, and mental development, they are likely to be ever on the watch for an opportunity of shaking off a degrading yoke. Even a complete general despotism, weighing down all classes without exception, is, in general, far more readily borne, than invidious distinctions drawn between a favoured and a depressed race of subjects; for men feel an insult more than a mischief done to them;' and feel no insult so much as one daily and hourly inflicted by their immediate neighbours. A Persian subject of the Great King had probably no greater share of civil rights than a Helot; but he was likely to be less galled by his depression, from being surrounded by those who, though some of them possessed power and dignity, as compared with himself, yet were equally destitute of civil rights, and abject slaves, in common with him, of the one great despot.

1 It is very remarkable that this fact has been adverted to, and prominently set forth by an author who, in the very same in iris, maintains the jmpnssibiliry of different Races being amalgamated together in tho same community. He apliain to have quite forgotten that he had completely disproved his own theory.

'It is notorious, accordingly, how much Sparta was weakened and endangered by the Helots, always ready to avail themselves of any public disaster as an occasion for revolt. The frightful expedient was resorted to of thinning their numbers from time to time by an organized system of massacre; yet, though a great part of the territory held by Lacedaemon was left a desert,* security could not be purchased, even at this price.

'We find Hannibal, again, maintaining himself for sixteen years in Italy against the Romans; and though scantily supplied from Carthage, recruiting his ranks, and maintaining his positions, by the aid of subjects of the Romans. Indeed, almost every page of history teaches the same lesson, and proclaims in every different form, 'How long shall these men be a snare unto us? Let the people go, that they may serve their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed ?'3 'The remnant of these nations which thou shalt not drive out, shall be pricks in thine eyes, and thorns in thy side.' *

'But beside the other causes which have always operated to perpetuate, in spite of experience, so impolitic a system, the difficulty of changing it, when once established, is one of the greatest. The false step is one which it is peculiarly difficult to retrace. Men long debarred from civil rights, almost always become ill-fitted to enjoy them. The brutalizing effects of oppression, which cannot immediately be done away by its

[ocr errors]

removal, at once furnish a pretext for justifying it, and make relief hazardous. Kind and liberal treatment, if very cautiously and judiciously bestowed, will gradually and slowly advance men towards the condition of being worthy of such treatment; but treat men as aliens or enemies—as slaves, as children, or as brutes, and they will speedily and completely justify your conduct.''

'To which purpose (the removing of sedition) serveth

the repressing of waste and excess by sumptuary law* . ... the regulating of prices of things vendible'

Bacon here falls into the error which always prevails in the earlier stages of civilization, and which accordingly was more prevalent in his age than in ours—that of over-governing.

It may be reckoned a kind of puerility: for you will generally find young persons prone to it, and also those legislators who lived in the younger (i.e., the earlier) ages of the world. They naturally wish to enforce by law everything that they consider to be good, and forcibly to prevent men from doing anything that is unadvisable. And the amount of mischief is incalculable that has been caused by this meddlesome kind of legislation. For not only have such legislators been, as often as not, mistaken, as to what really is beneficial or hurtful, but also when they have been right in their judgment on that point, they have often done more harm than good by attempting to enforce by law what had better be left to each man's own discretion.

As an example of the first kind of error, may be taken the many efforts made by the legislators of various countries to restrict foreign commerce, on the supposition that it would be advantageous to supply all our wants ourselves, and that we must be losers by purchasing anything from abroad. If a weaver were to spend half his time in attempting to make shoes and furniture for himself, or a shoemaker to neglect bis trade while endeavouring to raise corn for his own consumption, they would be guilty of no greater folly than has often been, and in many instances still is, forced on many nations by their governments; which have endeavoured to withdraw from agriculture to manufactures a people possessing abundance of fertile land; or who have forced them to the home cultivation of such articles as their soil and climate are not suited to, and thus compelled them to supply themselves with an inferior commodity at a greater cost.

1 Estays on some of the Danyere to the Christian Faith. 2nd edition, note F, pp. 212-217.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that early hours are healthful, and that men ought not to squander their money on luxurious feasts and costly dress, unsuited to their means; but when governments thereupon undertook to prescribe the hours at which men should go to rest, requiring them to put out their lights at the sound of the curfew-bell, and enacted sumptuary laws as to the garments they were to wear, and the dishes of meat they were to have at their tables, this meddling kind of legislation was always found excessively galling, and moreover entirely ineffectual; since men's dislike to such laws always produced contrivances for evading the spirit of them.

Bacon, however, was far from always seeing his way rightly in these questions; which is certainly not to be wondered at, considering that we, who live three centuries later, have only just emerged from thick darkness into twilight, and are far from having yet completely thrown off those erroneous notions of our forefathers. The regulating of prices by law still existed, in the memory of most of us, with respect to bread—and the error of legislating against engrossing of commodities has only very lately been exploded.

Many restrictions, of various kinds, have been maintained by persons who probably would not themselves have introduced them, but who have an over-dread of innovation; urging that the burden of proof lies on those who advocate any change; the presumption being on the side of leaving things unaltered. And as a general rule this is true. But in the case of any restriction, the presumption is the other way. For since no restriction is a good in itself, the burden of proof lies on those who would either introduce or continue it.

'Whatsoever is somewhere gotten is somewhere lost.'

This error—and it is a very hurtful one—was not exploded till long after Bacon's time. The following extract from the Annwd Register for 1779 (Appendix, p. 114), may serve to sbow what absurd notions on political economy were afloat even in the memory of persons now living. The extract is from a 'Plan by Dr. Franklin and Mr. Dalrymple for benefiting distant Countries.'

'Fair commerce is, where equal values are exchanged for equal, the expense of transport included. Thus, if it costs A in England as much labour and charge to raise a bushel of wheat, as it costs B in France to produce four gallons of wine, then are four gallons of wine the fair exchange for a bushel of wheat, A and B meeting at half distance with their commodities, to make the exchange. The advantage of this fair commerce is, that each party increases the number of his enjoyments, having, instead of wheat alone, or wine alone, the use of both wheat and wine.

'Where the labour and expense of producing both commodities are known to both parties, bargains will generally be fair and equal. Where they are known to one party only, bargains will often be unequal,—knowledge taking its advantage of ignorance.

'Thus, he that carries a thousand bushels of wheat abroad to sell, may not probably obtain so great a profit thereon as if he had first turned the wheat into manufactures, by subsisting therewith the workmen while producing those manufactures. Since there are many expediting and facilitating methods of working, not generally known; and strangers to the manufactures, though they know pretty well the expense of raising wheat, are unacquainted with those short methods of working, and thence being apt to suppose more labour employed in the manufactures than there really is, are more easily imposed on in their value, and induced to allow more for them than they are honestly worth. Thus, the advantage of having manufactures in a country does not consist, as is commonly supposed, in their highly advancing the value of rough materials of which they are formed: since though six pennyworths of flax may be worth twenty shillings when worked into lace, yet the very cause of its being worth twenty shillings is, that, besides the flax, it has cost nineteen shillings and sixpence in subsistence to the manufacturer. But the advantage of manufactures is, that under their shape provisions may be more easily carried to a foreign market; and by their means our traders may more

« PreviousContinue »