« ZurückWeiter »
FROM JULY, TO DECEMBER, 1808, INCLUSIVE:
Printed for LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
For JULY, 1808.
Art. I. An Enguiry into the Extent and Stability of National Resources,
By the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, Kilmany. 8vo. pp. 365. Price 8m · boarde. Edinburgh, Oliphant and Brown; Longman and Co. 1808. AMONG many who take upon themselves the business M of prescribing for our country in its present critical state is Mr. Chalmers, who, like some other doctors, begins by exaggerating on all the symptoms of the malady, and then propos es his nostrum as something at once new and infallible. Bonaparte, he tells us, has rendered himself a prodigious military power; he has subdued worlds, as it were, every thing but us; and unspeakable is the danger that he will subdue us too. He proposes the only possible remedy, which we shall soon explain.
Mr. Chalmers seems to be acquainted with the maxim ; « desperate diseases require desperate remedies." We shall endeavour to 'give such a clear account of the work, as will enable the reader to satisfy himself, whether Mr. C. bas been duly aware of another observation, which is very often applica. ble to similar cases, “ that the cure is as bad as the disease." The book which Mr. C. has given the world has no lack of words, either in quantity, or quality, (for in common estia mation we expect he will be held an eloquent man) ; but as he has not buřthened his reader with a great complication of ideas, his theory may be explained sufficiently in very narrow space.
He divides the members of a civilized society into three great classes. The first class consists of those who are employe ed in raising subsistence, i. e. food requisite to support life, for the entire community. Besides food, the order of la. bourers require clothing, loog.ng, and other accommodations, which in point of value depend, he says, in a great measure, on the acquired habits of that order. The articles of food he denomina'es first cecessaries; those cher articles of a pea. sant's consuniption he denommates second necessaries; and as VOL. IV.
the first class, into which he divides the members of a civilized society, are employed in providing the first necessaries, so the second class of those members ars the persons who are neces. sarily employed in providing the second. The third class of the members of a civilized society comprehends all those individuals who are not included in either of the other two, all the idle, and all the artificers, as well as all the consumers of luxuries.,
The labours of the two first classes Mr. Chalmers regards as indispensable to the welfare of the society. The labours of the last class he thinks may be disposed of at will, by the authority of the state ; and he therefore denominates this class the disposable part of the population. While government cannot, without trenching upon the resources of the country, withdraw any part of the population, or diminish the quantity of industry, which is devoted to the first and second necessaries, the rest of the population may be withdrawn, and disposed of as government pleases. They may be employed as soldiers and sailors in any proportion, or entirely; and all the difference that arises to the state, is only in the quantity of luxuries which individuals are permitted to enjoy. But who can make any comparison between freedom and luxury Mean are the peo. ple who would spare any exertion in favour of the first, for the sake of enjoying a great portion of the latter. Now, says Mr. Chalmers, as our freedom and independence are in the greatest jeopardy from that astonishing conqueror Bonaparte, we cannot too willingly part with our luxuries. Let government, therefore, lay their hands on the population, and employ it in the naval and military service ; let them double the enormous martial establishments which we possess, or quadruple them, if need be; let them augment in any proportion the incredible amount of taxes, which we already pay ; nothing can be more wise, or patriotic. For what is the effect? nothing, but that we pay away luxuries for security ; a cheap and ad. vantageous bargain.
As there is some danger that our readers may suspect us of caricaturing the sentiments of our author, we think it necessary to present them with a specimen of his courtly creed in his own words.
All that government has to do, is to meet the present emergencies of the country by the extension of our naval and military establishments. This they never can do without an addition to our taxes. In the name of every thing dear to the country, tax us with an unsparing hand : It is to avert a greater calamity; and if any grumble, he is not a patriot; he de.
serves not that an ear should be turned to his remonstrances!' p. 162. : Mr. Chalmers's exhortations are vehement in proportion to
the value of the advice. He again addresses the government in these terms ;
No, this is not the time to hesitate about trifles. Accommodate the distribution of your people to the existing necessity. Be prompt, be vigore ous, be unfaultering ; for I swear by the ambition of Bonaparte, that he will be soon among us at the head of his marauders, if he knows, that instead of meeting the population of the island in warlike and defensive array, he will find them labouring in their workshops, writing in their counting-houses, balancing their ledgers, and persevering in the good old way of their forefathers."
Would we had the pen of a Longinus to celebrate as we ought this Demosthenian figure! This is indeed a rival to that famed and memorable où à Tols in Magalwys agoxuyduyeúcartas, &c. Either fear is a potent counsellor with Mr. Chalmers, or he thinks it is a very potent one with his countrymen..
The scruples to part with our luxuries, if by these we can be actuated, he treats in a very lofty stile of contempt. It may be somewhat amusing to contemplate him in this eleva
... But it may be said, that the country is wedded to its luxuries, and will not abandon them. If this be the case, let every patriot dismiss his anxieties. It is a country not worth the preserving. I thought it possible that such a country might fall because it misconceived its resources, and laboured under the bewildering infatuation of mercantile prejudices. But after it comes to see that there is nothing to oppose the extension of our army; after it comes to see, that not a single interest is affected but their own personal indulgences ; after the alternative of luxury or independence has been laid fairly before them, and they still refuse, and hesitate, and delay; let every feeling of regret be extinguished, and let the country hasten as it may to the destiny which awaits it. All that remains for the patriot, is to acknowledge that he has been mistaken, and to resign the delusion of his country's worth and country's independence which once animated him. Let him give up the bitterness of his anxieties, and acquiesce in the fall of his country as a gloomy necessity in the history of human affairs. He can. not controul the elements of human aature, nor resist the omnipotence of that law of which history furnishes so many affecting examples, that the progress of wealth will often extinguish the patriotism of a country, and that it is in the power of luxury to degenerate and euslare the best of peos ple.
Mr. Chalmers newmodels society with astonishing facility. It occurs to an ordinary contemplator, that, if we should consent to give up our luxuries, that part of the population, who gain their subsistence by providing them, would be thrown out of employment and deprived of bread. Mr. Chalmers, however, prevents this inconvenience, by employing them in the service of government. He enlists them all in the army and navy. That money which was given to the manufacturers, hroughout the country, for the commodities which they pro