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PUBLICATION OF AN INQUIRY INTO THE EXTENT AND STABILITY OF NATIONAL RESOURCES-DEATH OF HIS SISTER BARBARA.
MR. CHALMERS returned to Kilmany in July, and the transition was immediate from the bustle of the metropolis and the varieties of the wayside, to the solitary labours of the desk
"KILMANY, September 9, 1807.
"DEAR JAMES,-I should have written you sooner, but the eternal sameness of the country suggests no subject that can at all interest you. I by no means dislike the country, however; and much indeed would I regret it, if my jaunt to London had inspired disgust with my situation. The truth is, I have come down to Scotland more of the country parson than I ever was in my life before, quite devoted to the sober work of visiting and examining-scarcely ever without the limits of my parish, and not once at Anster or St. Andrews since I returned from my excursion.
"You hinted to me, when in London, the propriety of making some effort in the way of publication. To this I am encouraged by the success of my last effort, which, however little known in London, and in spite of the angry opposition it met with, sold unexpectedly well in this part of the country. I have accordingly been engaged in some discussions on the subject of the Public Revenue, which I think may excite the attention of politicians. Wilkie, the celebrated painter, spent a day with me lately, and promises to make the thing as ex
tensively known as possible among his literary acquaintances in London. * * Yours affectionately,
One-half of the projected volume was already written, when his brother was thus told of its being commenced. At a still earlier period of his life, Political Economy had been a favourite study of Mr. Chalmers ;* and the state of public affairs at this particular crisis invited him to certain investigations in that branch of science, the results of which he longed to promulgate, as in the highest degree consolatory and encouraging to the country. With the prospect before her of a protracted and expensive war, the alarm had spread widely that her capabilities to continue it were about to be extensively crippled. In November 1806, Bonaparte had issued his famous Berlin Decree, shutting the ports of every country on the continent over which his influence extended against all vessels which had cleared from British harbours, and confiscating all cargoes of British goods, however carried. Austria, Prussia, and Russia, their armies beaten on the field by France, had already been forced into this commercial war with England, and Portugal and Spain, threatened by the same victorious power, appeared to be on the eve of joining a coalition which was to place the British islands in a state of blockade. Our merchants and manufacturers fancied themselves on the brink of ruin; and the country generally shared their terror, believing that, to whatever extent our trade was curtailed, to the same extent our national resources would suffer loss. In the apprehension of Mr. Chalmers, this alarm was altogether groundless. He could demonstrate, he thought, that the whole loss which the country should suffer, even if the measures of Bonaparte were to succeed, would be the loss of those luxuries which foreign trade * See Testimonial by Dr. Brown, in Appendix G.
supplied-not any diminution of that general fund out of which these luxuries were paid for, and by which all our manufactures were upheld; and, if that fund remained entire, then, with less to do in ministering to personal enjoyment, it would have more than ever to offer to Government for the upholding of national independence. The discussions out of which this cheering conclusion emerged were so vigorously prosecuted, that they should have been completed ere the year had closed, had not a severe illness intervened.
"ANSTRUTHER, December 4, 1807.
"DEAR JAMES,-I am here for a change of air, having just recovered from a fever which has thrown me back two months in all my speculations. In your last you seem to intimate something like a suspicion that the subject of my proposed publication is not a popular one. Of all others, I believe it a subject most adapted to the present circumstances of the country. It is entitled an Inquiry into the Extent and Stability of National Resources; and though upon a general subject, and chiefly intended to elucidate some questions in the science of political economy, yet I cannot forbear interspersing a number of allusions to the present aspect of affairs. I got a pamphlet lately from London, entitled 'Britain Independent of Commerce,'* which I see has attracted the notice of
* "Britain Independent of Commerce; or, Proofs deduced from an Investigation into the true Causes of the Wealth of Nations, that our riches, prosperity, and power, are derived from resources inherent in ourselves, and would not be affected even though our Commerce were annihilated. By William Spence, F.L.S. London: Cadell and Davies, 1807." This pamphlet ran rapidly through three editions, and was reviewed both in the Monthly and Edinburgh Reviews. It was answered by James Mill in an elaborate pamphlet of 154 pages, entitled “Commerce Defended; an Answer to the Arguments by which Mr. Spence, Mr. Cobbett, and others, have attempted to prove that Commerce is not a Source of National Wealth;" and, by K. Torrens, in a pamphlet called “The Economists Refuted; or, an Enquiry into the Nature and Extent of the Advantages derived from Trade.” In 1808, Mr. Spence published a second pamphlet, entitled "Agriculture the
Cobbett, the author of the Political Register. Several of its discussions coincide with those I had before prepared upon the same subject, though my plan embraces a greater variety of investigation; and I have the vanity to think that my illustrations of the argument are more perspicuous and impressive.
"The great burden of my argument is, that the manufacturer who prepares an article for home consumption is the servant of the inland consumer, labouring for his gratification, and supported by the price which he pays for the article ;-that the manufacturer of an article for exportation is no less the servant of the inland consumer, because, though he does not labour immediately for his gratification, he labours for a return from foreign countries. This return comes in articles of luxury, which fetch a price from our inland consumers. Hence it is ultimately
from the inland consumer that the manufacturer of the exported article derives his maintenance. Suppose, then, that trade and manufacture were destroyed, this does not affect the ability of the inland consumer. The whole amount of the mischief is, that he loses the luxuries which were before provided for him, but he still retains the ability to give the same maintenance as before to the immense population who are now discarded from their former employments. Suppose this ability to be transferred to Government in the form of a tax. Government takes the discarded population into its service. They follow their subsistence wherever it can be found; and thus, from the ruin of our trading and manufacturing interest, GoSource of the Wealth of Britain; a Reply to the Objections urged by Mr. Mill, the Edinburgh Reviewers, and others, against the doctrine of a pamphlet entitled 'Britain Independent of Commerce;' with Remarks on the Criticism of the Monthly Reviewers upon that work. By W. Spence." Not satisfied with leaving the controversy in this condition, the Edinburgh Reviewers entered the lists a second time, in vol. xiv. p. 50. There can be little doubt that the pre-occupation of the public mind with the speculations of Mr. Spence seriously interfered with the success of Mr. Chalmers' publication.
vernment collects the means of adding to the naval and military establishments of the country. I therefore anticipate that Bonaparte, after he has succeeded in shutting up the markets of the continent against us, will be astonished-and that the mercantile politicians of our own country will be no less astonished-to find Britain as hale and vigorous as ever, and fitter than before for all the purposes of defence and security, and political independence.-Yours affectionately,
KILMANY, January 5, 1808.
"DEAR JAMES,-I received yours, and feel myself a good deal stimulated by your observations. With all my activity, however, I shall not get my revisal finished before the 1st of February. My fever was a cruel interruption; and it left a languor behind it which rendered me useless for several weeks. It is perhaps unfortunate for my book, that my two first chapters are among the most abstract and uninteresting of the whole. This was unavoidable, as it was necessary to establish the principles of my reasoning before I could proceed to the more useful or popular applications. The following is a catalogue of my chapters:
Chap. I.-The Case of a country secluded from all Foreign Intercourse.
"I here attempt to prove, that the utility of a manufacture lies entirely in working up certain articles for the enjoyment of customers. If the manufacture is destroyed, the whole amount of the mischief is the loss of the enjoyment. The maintenance of the manufacturers ought not to be taken into the account. This maintenance still lies in the hands of their customers, and can be given to them with as much liberality as ever for some new service. If this new service is the service of the Government in the capacity of soldiers, the whole