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Now, if Mr Spence had undertaken to prove the very reverse of the proposition here maintained, and to show that commerce of import was profitable, and commerce of export not; we should have thought that he had a much more hopeful task in hand. For, to us, on the first glance, it appears inconceivable, how a nation can get paid for its exports but by its imports; and though we have taken Mr Spence's hint, and have no longer been contented to examine the mere surface of things,' but have endeavoured to penetrate through every stratum of the mine which conceals the grand truths of political economy';' yet, strange to say! our deep-rooted prejudices still remain, and we cannot see on these subjects with the eyes of Mr Spence.
To justify, in some measure, our obstinacy, let us examine his last illustration; and we hope that the remarks to which it will give occasion, will throw some light on the whole passage quoted.
Mr Spence allows, that if an English merchant exports laces or other goods which cost 307. and sells them in a foreign country for 60%, that the profit of 30/. is so much addition to the national wealth. But how, we would ask, is this 30/. to get home? If it comes in the shape of foreign goods, the whole transaction is immediately altered in the vocabulary of Mr Spence. It becomes a commerce of import, an exchange of equivalents, from which no national wealth can possibly be derived. It is necessary, therefore, that it should come home in the shape of gold and silver; and the inevitable result of Mr Spence's reasonings is, that no foreign commercial transaction can enrich a nation, but the purchase of bullion. This certainly is not the doctrine of the economists; and is one of the instances alluded to at the commencement of these observations, in which Mr Spence retains some of the prejudices which they have so ably refuted. If he had attended to them on this subject, they would have told him, and told him truly, that a balance of trade paid in the precious metals, is the pis-aller of foreign commerce, the last and most unprofitable resort, when one nation has exported a quantity of goods, and cannot find an equal value of foreign goods that are wanted at home, in return. But this result of Mr Spence's reasonings, is not only contrary to the doctrines of the economists, but directly contrary to his own definition of wealth; which, he says expressly, does not consist in gold and silver, but in abundance of capital, of cultivated and productive land, and of those things which man usually esteems valuable.' †
We are astonished that the manner in which Mr Spence states
Phifiocratie, Seconde partie, p. 344.
the instance of the exporting merchant, did not lead him to the true source of the national profit derived from the commerce of import; for, as to the commerce of export, we can only consider it as profitable, because it is the necessary condition of getting imports. A slight alteration in Mr Spence's statement will, we think, explain the matter.
The English merchant exports what coft him 3ol., and fells it in a foreign country for 60l. With 30l. of this 6ol. he purchases a certain quantity of foreign goods, which his countrymen at home confider as of equal value with the goods exported; and the undeniable evidence of their confidering them in this light, is their willingness to give 30l. for them. Here, then, appears to be a fair exchange of equivalents: but, in addition to this, the merchant has got another 30l., which he lays out likewife in thofe foreign goods which he thinks are moft wanted by his countrymen; and these furplus goods flow in to the merchant, and through him to the nation, exactly like a rent paid in kind from a foreign country, which increases by its whole amount the quantity of confumable commodities in the nation which receives it. This view of the commerce of import, has, it must be confeffed, every appearance of contributing to national wealth: but all this fair appearance of profit is at once dathed to pieces by Mr Spence, who fays, that the goods flowing in, as just described, will be fold and confumed at home; that what the feller gains, the buyer lofes; and that, though the merchants may obtain ever fo great profits, yet, as they muft neceffarily be collected from their proportionably impoverished cuftomers, the national wealth cannot poffibly be augmented. This is, to be fure, a moft diftrefling argument, if true, from the almost univerfal manner in which it may be applied; but we conceive it to be quite evident that it involves a moft grievous fallacy.
Let us fup ofe a cafe, which we hope may happen, though we confefs that our fears that it will not, greatly preponderate;-let us fuppofe that the emperors of France, Ruffia, and Auftria were to fend to our fraternity of reviewers at Edinburgh, five hundred, thousand quarters of corn, fifty thousand pipes of wine, and ten thoufand poods of tallow, as a flender tettimony of their fenfe of the benefits which they and their fubjects have derived from our critical labours, of which, to ufe the language of our great bard on a still more important occafion, all Europe rings from fide to fide. If, after having well lighted our apartments through the medium of one part of the prefent, and moft fully refreshed ourfelves with the very feasonable supply of the other two, we were to feel the very natural ambition of being well dreffed, as well as well fed, and were in confequence to fell a large part of the remainder for the purpofe of improving our coats, and purchafing
other articles of comfort and convenience, would Mr Spence ima mediately apply his unfortunate doctrine of equivalents, and affert, that though we might be enriched a little at the expense of our foreign friends by what they confumed in kind, yet all that we fold was paid for by the poor Scotch; that what one party gained, the other loft; and that the nation was not a grain the richer. Would it not ftill be true, whether the goods were fold in the country or not, that the confumable commodities in Scot land were increased by five hundred thousand quarters of corn, fifty thousand pipes of wine, and ten thoufand poods of tallow, and that the confequent increafed confumption and enjoyment of the inhabitants were entirely at the expense of the illuftrious po tentates who had fent fo handfome a supply?
We really cannot distinguish the national profit derived from the incident here noticed, from that which is derived from the clear profits of a foreign merchant to the same amount, brought home in foreign goods: and the circumstance of their being sold at home, instead of being distributed gratis, so far from de tracting from the national advantage, would, in our opinion, greatly add to it; as the wish to possess these desireable articles would stimulate many kinds of industry, and the consumable commodities of the country would be increased by much more than the goods imported. If Mr Spence were consistent in the application of his doctrine of equivalents, he would be com pelled to say, that no part of the produce of a landed estate which was brought to market and sold, could contribute to na tional wealth, because an equivalent was always given for it by the purchaser. We have no doubt, that even Mr Spence himself would start at this conclusion; and yet it is certain, that at the end of his pamphlet, when he is speaking of our colonial posses sions, he has advanced some positions which, in point of absurdity, do not fall short of the conclusion here noticed. As the mistakes to which we allude belong entirely to the present subject, we will point them out before we quit it, that we may not have occasion to revert to it again.
The economists would have told Mr Spence, and he might have seen the point fully and clearly established in Mr Brougham's able Inquiry into the Colonial Policy of the European Powers, that colonies ought to be considered as provinces of the mother country, only to be distinguished from them by their want of conti guity. This want of contiguity indeed is, in some points of view, a very important defect, particularly as it subjects them,
* Des colonies font des provinces de la metropole. Phifidcratie, feconde partie. Sommaire, p. 506.
and the capital employed upon them, to be cut off at once from the main body of the empire; but there can be no doubt that, as long as the connexion exists, the national wealth derived from them is of the same nature as that from a contiguous province. The principal part of what Great Britain receives from her West Indian colonies, consists of remittances of rents and profits to the proprietors of West India estates living in England. These rents and profits, of course, greatly exceed in value all that goes from this country in the form of capital; and the balance is sent to the landlords in London, in the shape of sugar and rum, &c. Now we own that our intellectual optics can perceive no essential difference between this transaction and that which would take place in the case of a land proprietor living in London, who might choose to farm an estate which he had near Berwick upon Tweed, by means of an agent, and receive his tents in kind. He might occasionally remit some capital from London, in the shape of improved farming machinery, or of oats or clothing for his labourers, when these articles happened to be cheaper at London than at Berwick; but a large balance, in proportion to the value of his estate and the capital laid out upon it, would evidently be due to him; and the agent would remit it in Berwick smacks (if they were not too much crowded with passengers), in the shape of wheat and malt. But Mr Spence observes, that the sugar and rum would be sold, and the profits collected from the consumers in England.-So would the wheat and malt. Where then is the difference?
On the subject of wealth derived from colonies, Mr Spence makes one of the oddest concessions which we ever recollect to have met with. He admits, that if the greater part of our colonial produce were sold with a profit to other nations, and if this profit were drawn either in gold or silver, or in any other wealth, into the mother country, we should then gain an accession of wealth *.' This, the reader will see, for we quote the author's words, is merely an expression of Mr Spence's opinion, that gold or silver, or any other wealth, is better than colonial produce. Now we really think that this is a question which should be left to the choice and taste of the public; and as we have great reason, from experience, to expect, that, if they were left at liberty, they would employ the gold or silver, or other wealth acquired in the way proposed by Mir Spence, inthe purchase of colonial produce, we really cannot see what great accession of wealth could be derived from this very roundabout mode of getting at what they want.
VOL. XI. NO. 22.
* Page 85.
The cultivation of the West India islands, however, by British capital, on account probably of the strong resemblance which it occasions between an English, and West Indian landlord, seems, in a slight degree, to have staggered Mr Spence; and on this subject, he does not appear to us to speak quite in his usual high tone. But as soon as he looks towards the East, all his confidence returns, and he exultingly exclaims, No one will pretend that the tea, &c. which we import from it, are raised by British capital; and consequently every one must admit, that whatever may be the profit of the East India Company on the articles they import, the whole of it is drawn from the consumers of these articles, and therefore that the dividends of the East India proprietors, are a mere transfer from the pockets of the community to them.'*
The first part of this observation we are by no means disposed to controvert. We are far from, pretending, that the produce of the East is raised by British capital; but this acknowledgement, instead of detracting from the wealth we derive from India, appears to us to increase the net amount of it. A certain number of gentlemen and ladies living in Great Britain, however strange it may appear at first sight, are in fact territorial sovereigns of a very large part of India. A portion of this territorial revenue, their servants and factors in the East invest in Indian and Chinese goods, to an amount which, in the estimation of the people of Great Britain, is equal to from six to ten millions: and, that their real value in London, whatever they might have cost in the East, is this, is clearly evinced by the voluntary offer of English coin,. English bank notes, or English goods, to this amount, which is made to obtain them, It is allowed, that very little, comparatively, is sent out to India; that the balance consequently is prodigious; and if this great balance, flowing in to the country in the shape of consumable commodities, be not an accession to the national wealth, all our ideas on these subjects are at once confounded, and we must go to school again. We would willingly take lessons in political economy, even from Mr Spence, if he would write a little consistently, and in a manner to produce conviction; but, unfortunately, when we attempt to begin his publication again, we stumble upon his definition of wealth, and are at once bewildered in our attempts to reconcile his present assertion, that a great accession of Indian and Chinese goods does not increase the riches of a nation, with a definition of wealth, which makes it consist in the abundance of those things which man usually considers as valuable.