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Soothed by these rather ill-natured reflections, I turned to the illuminated scene, and the thronging thousands below, descended once more to the garden, passed down the steps, worked my way through the crowd, and fell into a long avenue, like all the rest of the garden, brilliantly lighted, but entirely deserted. At the end of the avenue, I came to an artificial lake, opposite which was a small square two-story cottage, being the old residence of Peter the Great, the founder of all the magnificence of Peterhoff. It was exactly in the style of our ordinary country houses, and the furniture was of a simplicity that contrasted strangely with the surrounding splendor. The door opened into a little hall, in which were two old-fashioned Dutch mahogany tables, with oval leaves, legs tapering and enlarging at the feet into something like a horse-shoe; just such a table as every one may remember in his grandfather's house, and recalling to mind the simpler style of our own country, some thirty or forty years ago. In a room on one side was the old Czar's bed, a low, broad wooden bedstead, with a sort of canopy over it, the covering of the canopy and the coverlet being of striped calico; the whole house, inside and out, was hung with lamps, illumining it with a glare that was almost distressing, contrasted with the simplicity of Peter's residence; and, as if to give greater contrast to this simplicity, while I was standing in the door of the hall, I saw roll by me, in splendid equipages, the emperor and empress, with the whole of the brilliant court which I had left in the banqueting hall, now making a tour of the gardens. The carriages were all of one pattern, long, hung low, without any tops, and somewhat like our omnibuses, except that, instead of seats being on one side, there was a partition in the middle, not higher than the back of a sofa, with large seats like sofas on each side, on which the company sat in a row, with their backs to each other; in front was a high and large box for the coachman, and a footman behind. It was so light that I could distinguish the faces of every gentleman and lady as they passed; and there was something so unique in the exhibition, that, with the splendor of the court dresses, it seemed the climax of the brilliant scenes at Peterhoff. I followed them with my eyes till they were out of sight, gave one more look to the modest pillow on which old Peter reposed his careworn head, and at about one o'clock in the morning left the garden. A frigate brilliantly illuminated was firing a salute, the flash of her guns lighting up the dark surface of the water, as I embarked on board the steam-boat. At two o'clock, the morning twilight was like that of day; at three o'clock, I was at my hotel, and probably at ten minutes past, asleep.
SHE smiled in death, and still her cold, pale face
Is sheeted by a nightly frost with ice,
Still it reflects the face of heaven unchanged,
THE capital source of by far the greatest part of the poverty and unhappiness of all civilized countries, arises from the waste made by the rich of their revenues on that which is not wealth, and which affords no gratification that a reasonable being ought not to be ashamed of; and the poor labor to produce that which is not wealth, which adds nothing to the common stock of good and useful things, from which the wants of rich and poor alike are supplied, but which serves only to degrade and ruin the fashionable class, and all other classes, in the degree in which they follow their example. To form some estimate of the loss society suffers from this misemployment of revenue and labor, it is necessary to recur to an elementary principle of political economy.
Why are cotton fabrics so much cheaper than they were forty years ago? The answer is ready with every body. Through the means of improved machinery, more productive power has been brought to bear upon the manufacture. The product has been multiplied almost beyond calculation. Its price has fallen in some proportion to the additional power which has been brought to the aid of the manufacturer. The fabric is more plenty. Its use is enjoyed by millions who could not before afford the expense. Every other useful product is subject to the same law. Now, whatever amount
of labor and capital is expended in the production and purchase of useless things, is so much withdrawn from the beneficial industry of a nation. Its effect is equivalent to what would follow the breaking up of a corresponding number of cotton-spinning machines, or rather their perversion to the use of some manufacture quite destitute of intrinsic value, and too expensive for most people to buy. The substantial wealth and comfort of the people suffers a dead loss, to the full amount of the good things that might be produced by the labor and capital thrown away. The useless labor expended on some article of short-lived, fashionable finery, would have sufficed to produce a number of articles of durable use, both to the rich and the poor.
This double fault of the consumers and producers of wealth, deserves to be examined a little more particularly. Much of the vulgar finery, and other useless things, paid for by all classes, and especially by the fashionable rich, require in their production a degree of skill beyond that of the great body of artizans. Ten times more
is paid by a class of wealthy people; (we use the terms rich' and 'wealthy,' in their popular sense, not that we think they are rightly used; we maintain that at least ninety-nine hundredths of mankind are poor, destitute of a thousand useful and elegant things, which they ought to have, because they might have;) but some among those who pass for rich, we say, pay ten times more for articles of rare and curious workmanship, and some empty and frivolous enjoyments, than for the really useful, and often more beautiful products, to which the skill of the majority of workmen is equal. The consequence is, that this class of people do very little by their expenditure to support useful industry. They pay thousands to a celebrated dancer, or the artificer of some rare finery in dress and furniture; but have often less than their less wealthy neighbors to pay to the creators of those useful and permanently valuable things, on which the welfare and improvement of society depend.
Those who defend the production and use of every variety of frivolous luxuries, on the assumption that it is necessary to afford employment to the poor, would have a good foundation for their argument, if all the actual wants of people were supplied, and every commendable desire furnished with ample means for its gratification. If we had every desirable comfort in our houses, good and fine gardens, green houses; libraries well selected, and well read, cabinets of minerals, and other specimens in natural history; good schoolhouses, and school-masters, paid as gentlemen in an important learned profession ought to be; servants suitably employed, well paid, and contented; if we were supplied with all these, and innumerable other things which minister to the comfort, the real happiness and dignity of man, and if there were any poor people still unemployed, it would then be time, if we could find nothing better for them to do, to employ them in making that species of fashionable finery for which some people, who might be independent, pay out the largest half of their incomes; or, as Mr. Sedgwick would say, set them to blowing soap-bubbles. The question is, not whether we shall expend our money for frivolous luxuries, or let the producers of those luxuries starve, but whether we shall gratify a distempered vanity at the
cost of depriving ourselves of actual comforts, and a number of permanently useful and elegant fabrics; or, by the purchase of useful things, encourage that kind of industry which is worthy of men, and discourage that which tends to make them slaves.
If, indeed, the question were between hoarding wealth, as misers, (a description of maniacs, we may hope, extinct in this country, at least,) and expending it under the dispensation of fashion, it would need but little intelligence to vote for the latter abuse. Better the heaps of the miser were distributed by any means, short of plunder, than to remain buried.
It is true, the revenues of the rich cannot contribute to the support of the laboring poor, unless they are consumed in some way, productively or unproductively. If unproductive consumption is preferred, there is still a choice to be made between transient gratifications and frivolous toys, and those things which render comfortable, adorn, and dignify human life. In either case, a product of human labor is paid for; the latter are the products of that kind of labor which is beneficial to all classes of mankind; the former, of that kind of labor which tends to the poverty of the greater part, and the debasement of all. But if productive consumption is preferred, these results follow: The revenue becomes capital, and yields an interest or profit to its owner; a more respectable satisfaction than is procured by some kinds of unproductive consumption. This capital creates a demand for labor, and tends to raise wages; it extends and facilitates industry, and cheapens its products. On such grounds as these, Adam Smith pronounces every careful and frugal person to be a benefactor to society. The position of Malthus, Chalmers, etc., that production, and consequently the demand for capital, must find, if it has not already found, a limit in the inability of purchasers, is opposed to plain fact. The owners of this capital, and they whose industry it puts in motion, are themselves the purchasers, the consumers, for they comprise the whole of mankind; the lenders of money, and other property; the managers, the workmen, the learned professions, and public functionaries, who all, if they are honest, work to a good purpose, with their hands, or heads, or capital. They are all producers, and they all purchase one another's products. Every description of buying and selling is only a way of exchanging the product of one kind of labor for the product of some other kind. The doctrine, if it means any thing, then, amounts to this: that, if the different classes of producers produce too many of their several kinds of valuable things, they will be no longer able to purchase, for want of wherewithal to pay! We should suppose, however, that the owner of one hundred hats, and the owner of a hundred pair of boots, were in as good a condition for driving a bargain, as the owners respectively of one hat and one pair of boots. And though the amount of hats and boots that can be profitably produced, must be always limited by the number of heads and feet, there is a multitude of other valuable and beautiful products, the demand for which is subject to no such limitation.
As we have no reason to suppose that industry will ever be less skilfully applied and less productive than at present, so we have no reason to believe that capital, which is its instrument, will ever
yield a less revenue. In England, notwithstanding the more than tenfold increase of capital, the rate of interest has experienced little if any depreciation since the reign of Queen Anne. In all new countries, money must always bear a high rate of interest, because real estate, the thing which it chiefly represents, experiences, in the progress of settlement and cultivation, a rapid appreciation of value. Interest is the capitalist's share of the profits of business, as wages are the workman's share. Both, as expressed in money, may experience no fluctuation for a series of years; while from the increased efficiency of both agencies, (labor and capital,) all useful products may be greatly cheapened, and the actual rewards of the capitalist and laborer increased in proportion. Such, very nearly, has been the fact for the last fifty years, in the countries where the greatest improvements in the processes of industry have been made. The experience of the past, certainly, no more than the reason of the thing, affords any ground to believe that the indefinite accumulation of capital will be attended necessarily by a diminution of profits or interest. On the contrary, as every variety of productive agency becomes more efficient, when directed by superior knowledge, both experience and reason warrant the conclusion, that capital and industry will be, for an indefinite period, at least, attended by a still improving reward.
And if the world should ever become so densely peopled, that the produce of its soil could feed no additional number of laborers, even this remote event, perhaps, would not prevent an ever-augmenting capital from being vested in an ever-improving machinery to facilitate production. But if all the possible appliances of mechanical power and chemical combination should be carried to the highest possible perfection, and provided in such abundance as to employ all the workmen whom the produce of the earth is capable of sustaining, so that all occasion for the increase of productive investments would be at an end, still there would be no excuse for men expending their revenues or wages on short-lived fashionable luxuries, while the legitimate wants and ennobling desires which demand for their satisfaction an unlimited amount of useful and permanently valuable, and truly beautiful things, still belong to their nature. The important truth will still hold good, that the luxuries which serve only for the vanity of display, or the gratification of low sensuality, must be procured at the sacrifice of real comforts and conveniences; must ever be an exchange of nobler gratifications for meaner ones. By the unchangeable law of man's nature, profusion in that which is not good for him must ever have for its counterpart poverty and destitution, in that which is true wealth.
It may be trite to remark that, as the fitness and beauty of many things depend entirely upon the circumstances of the person using them, so, as comforts and conveniences are multiplied among men, more luxuries in dress, furniture, and equipage, become symmetrical with the economy of life, and add to its beauty. Parts ornamental in a neat and comfortable edifice, would be only grotesque deformities in a cabin or a shed.
What we have said of the principles which should regulate the consumption of those who are called rich, well-off in the world,' applies of course, with tenfold stress, to those of narrower incomes. That expenditure which is vexation and partial poverty to the for