Page images
PDF
EPUB

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.

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 Annual Register for 1779, (Appendix, p. 114,) may serve to show 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 easily cheat strangers. Few, where it is not made, are judges of the value of lace. The importer may demand forty, and perhaps get thirty shillings, for that which cost him but twenty, 'Finally, there seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The, first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbours. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third is by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed sown in the ground, in a kind of continual miracle wrought by the hand of God in his favour, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.'

The reader will observe that, in this disquisition, labour is made the sole measure of value, without any regard to the questions, whose labour? or how directed? and, with what results? On this principle, therefore, if a Raphael takes only as much time and trouble in making a fine picture, as a shoemaker in making a pair of boots, he is a cheat if he receives more for his picture than the other for the boots! And if it costs the same labour to produce a cask of ordinary Cape-wine, and one of Constantia, they ought in justice to sell for the same price! Thus our notions of morality, as well as of political economy, are thrown into disorder.

Yet such nonsense as this passed current in the days of our fathers. And it is only in our own days that people have been permitted to buy food where they could get it cheapest.

'There useth to be more trepidation in court upon the first breaking out of troubles than were fit ... .'

To expect to tranquillize and benefit a country by gratifying its agitators, would be like the practice of the superstitious of old with their sympathetic powders and ointments; who, instead of applying medicaments to the wound, contented themselves with salving the sword which had inflicted it. Since the days of Dane-gelt downwards, nay, since the world was created, nothing but evil has resulted from concessions made to intimidation.

ESSAY XVI. OF ATHEISM.

I HAD rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind; and, therefore, God never wrought miracles to convince1 atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth Man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion; for while the mind of Man lookcth upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no farther; but when it beholdcth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity: nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism, doth most demonstrate religion; that is, the school of Leucippus, and Democritus, and Epicurus—for it is a thousand times more credible, that four mutable elements and one immutable fifth essence, duly and eternally placed, need no God, than that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds, unplaced, should have produced this order and beauty without a divine marshal. The Scripture saith, ' The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God;" it ia not said, 'The fool hath thought in his heart;' so as3 he rather saith it by rote to himself, as that4 he would have, than that he can thoroughly believe it, or be persuaded of it; for none deny there is a God, but those for whom it maketh5 that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that atheism is rather in the lip than in the heart of Man, than by this, that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened by the consent" of others; nay, more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth with other sects; and, which is most of all, you shall have them that will suffer for atheism, and not recant: whereas, if they did truly think that there were no such thing as God, why should they trouble themselves? Epicurus is charged, that he did but dissemble for his credit's sake, when he affirmed there were blest natures, but such as enjoy themselves without having respect to the government of the world, wherein they say he did temporize, though in secret he thought there was no God; but certainly he is traduced, for his words are noble and divine; 'Non deos vulgi negare profanum: sed vulgi opiniones diis applicare profanum.'' Plato could have said no more; and although he had the confidence3 to deny the administration, he had not the power to deny the nature. The Indians of the West have names for their particular gods, though they have no name for God; as if the heathens should have had the names Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, &c., but not the word Deus: which shows, that even those barbarous people have the notion, though they have not the latitude and extent of it; so that against atheists the very savages take part with the very subtilest philosophers. The contemplative atheist is rare—a Diagoras, a Bion, a Lucian, perhaps, and some others: and yet they seem to be more than they are, for that all that impugn a received religion, or superstition, are, by the adverse part, branded with the name of atheists; but the great atheists indeed are hypocrites, which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling, so as they must needs be cauterized in the end.

1 Convince. Convict; prove guilty. 'To convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds.'—Jipislle of Jude.

"Psalm xiv. I. 'As. That. Sec page 23.

* That. What. Pee page 73.

s For whom it maketh. To whom it would be advantageous.

6 Consent. Agreement in opinion. 'Socrates, by the consent of all excellent writers that followed him, was approved to be the wisest man of all Greece.'—Sir J. Elyot.

The causes of atheism are, divisions in religion, if there be many; for any one main division addeth zeal to both sides, but many divisions introduce atheism: another is, scandal of priests, when it is come to that which St. Bernard saith, 'Non est jam dicere, ut populus, sic sacerdos; quia nee sic populus, ut sacerdos.'3 A third is, a custom of profane scoffing in holy matters, which doth by little and little deface the reverence of religion: and lastly, learned times, especially with peace and prosperity; for troubles and adversities do more bow men's minds to religion. They that deny a God destroy a man's

1 * It is not profane to deny the gods of the common people, but it is profane to apply to the gods the notions of the common people.'—Diog. Laert. x. 123.

1 Confidence. Boldness,

'' It is not now to be said. As the people, so the priest; because the people are not such as the priests are.'

« PreviousContinue »