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was no one, perhaps, to whom I owed more than to her. How I suffered on the day of her funeral ! A discourse by the min. ister of Coppet at the bier, in presence of Madame de Broglie and Miss Randall kneeling before the coffin, had begun to soften my heart, to make me feel the full extent of my loss, and I could not restrain my tears." "
Four years afterwards he was called to suffer a still greater bereavement. While at Geneva, in September, 1821, the news arrived that his mother was dying at Pescia. He immediately set out, and travelled night and day to join her, but arrived too late. On the 30th of that month, feeling the approach of death, Madame de Sismondi had caused herself to be raised and carried to the window of her room, where, in sight of the rich landscape gilded by the setting sun, and with no regret but for the absence of her child,
she expired. His father had died suddenly about eleven years before, and the only object of affection in his own family who now remained to Sismondi was a married sister, who resided at Pescia, to whom he was greatly attached, while he watched over the welfare of her children with constant and tender solicitude. His avocations, however, did not permit him to reside near them, and fortunately his own home now was not a solitary one. Two years before he had married Miss Jessy Allen, whose elder sister was the wife of his friend, Sir James Mackintosh. In her he had a devoted and intellectual companion, who sympathized with him in his pursuits, while her accomplishments and sweetness of disposition were a constant source of cheerfulness and solace to him for the rest of his days.
He had purchased a country-house near Chêne, about three miles from Geneva, where he resided after his marriage. Except occasional journeys to France, Italy, and England, he passed the last twenty years of his life at this place, devoted assiduously to his literary employments, and entertaining many visitors, especially those who had been driven from their own homes by their exertions in the cause of freedom. The Genevese were proud of him, and many distinguished foreigners were drawn to his doors by his widely diffused reputation. The larger portion of the day was given to his studies and labor with the pen, the remainder to the exercise of walking, and to numerous correspondents in all the countries of Europe, and the evening always VOL. LXVI. - No. 138.
to conversation, " which he could keep up in the language of each of his guests.” He had refused, in 1819, a chair of political economy which had been offered to him in France, because it would have prevented him from passing a portion of each year, as was his habit, with his mother and sister in Tuscany. Sixteen years afterwards, he declined also the title of special professor of history, which the Genevese Council of State had awarded to him. He was never ambitious of mere titular honors, though, in 1838, be accepted with pleasure the distinguished compliment paid to him by the French Institute, in making him one of the five foreign associates of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. He also accepted, in 1841, the cross of the Legion of Honor, which he had declined when it was proffered to him by Napoleon.
In 1822, Sismondi published what was in form an historical novel, in three volumes, called Julia Severa, or the Year 492 ; but it was in truth an historical and antiquarian disquisition, which had grown out of his studies for the beginning of his History of the French. Its object was to show the condition of Gaul under Clovis by a series of dramatic pictures, which might convey in a pleasing form all necessary information respecting the institutions, the manners, and customs of the Franks. Ten years afterwards, he inserted in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia an abridgment of his History of the Italian Republics, in one volume, and at the same time published this abridgment in French, under the title of Histoire de la Renaissance de la Liberté en Italie. In the winter of 1821, he gave a course of lectures at Geneva on the history of the first half of the Middle Ages ; and in 1835, he published in Lardner's Cyclopædia, and also in French, the substance of these lectures, under the title of A History of the Fall of the Roman Empire, and the Decline of Civilization, from the year 250 to 1000.
The works of which we have already enumerated the titles make an aggregate of about sixty volumes, to the composition of every one of which great labor and research were necessary, and which are all executed with an equal measure of conscientious diligence, fidelity, and taste. They are all standard works, and if he had published nothing else, would have secured a brilliant and lasting celebrity for his
But we have yet hardly alluded to that class of his
works which he valued most highly, as they contained the fruits of the observations and theories which were most peculiarly his own, and in which he was most deeply interested, because they were related most intimately to the subject at all times nearest his heart, the well-being of all classes of society, the causes of the evils which they suffered, and the means of improving their condition. We refer to his publications on Political Economy after he had ceased to be a disciple of the common English school in that science, and had, indeed, openly revolted from the authority of Adam Smith. His works on this subject, written before the change of opinion here alluded to, and published at the very beginning of his career an author, have already been briefly mentioned. The first work which betrayed the alteration of his opinions was the article on Political Economy which he furnished for Dr. Brewster's Edinburgh Encyclopædia, in 1815. Four years afterwards he republished the substance of this article in French, somewhat altered, and with material additions, in three volumes octavo, entitled New Views of Political Economy, or Wealth considered in its Relation to Population. In 1827, the work passed to a second edition, and was greatly enlarged. In 1836 - 38, appeared the three volumes of his Studies in the Social Sciences, two of which were devoted to Studies in Political Economy, and contained additional proofs and illustrations of the doctrines he had formerly advanced. They were among the latest labors of his life, and he looked for the reception of them by the public with keener interest and anxiety, perhaps, than he had ever before felt on the appearance of any of his works at the bar of public opinion.
Sismondi had enjoyed singular advantage as a political economist, — not, perhaps, for excelling in the theory of the science, but for noting by observation the effect of different systems, when reduced to practice, on the welfare of the people. He had lived in Tuscany, Rome, and Geneva, in France and England; he had witnessed the effects of the metayer system, of the minute subdivision of the land in France, and of its aggregation into monster farms in England ; and he had been no inattentive observer of the workings of what may be called one of the great characteristic features of modern civilization, the manufacturing system. His studies in history, moreover, had carried him over the
period of transition from the theory and practice of the ancients to those of the moderns, had led him to investigate the causes of the depopulation of the fields of Italy under the Roman empire, and of the changes brought about by the invasion of the barbarians, the effects of the establislıment of the feudal system, the reasons of the prosperity and the decay of the Italian commercial republics, and of the various degrees of comfort enjoyed by the peasantry of the several subdivisions of Italy in modern times. Certainly, few had ever possessed more abundant means for informing his theories on this subject by the light of experience.
The peculiarities of his views may be attributed in part to this fact, that his conclusions were formed a posteriori, or under the guidance of actual observation, and not by logical deduction from abstract principles, after the manner of Ricardo and his followers. But they were derived in a still greater degree from the qualities of his heart ; he was more of a philanthropist than a man of science ; the great object of his speculations was to point out the means of ameliorating the condition of the laboring classes. Hence he utterly rejected the common definition of political economy, that it is the science which treats only of the production and consumption of wealth ; he maintained, on the contrary, in cordance with the etymology of the phrase, that the object of political economy is the political regulation of society as if it were a household, – that is, with a view to the general well-being, the equal distribution of happiness among all its classes and members. He asserts that the proper appellation of the science which the English economists have exclusively studied is Chrematistics, - η τέχνη χρηματιστική, phrase applied by Aristotle to the art of money-making. Ricardo and his disciples, while professing to separate the two objects, have really confounded them; looking, in truth, merely to the creation of value, they have tacitly assumed that this was the only interest of society, the only end which legislation should have in view. No sooner do they arrive at a principle, than they demand the immediate application of it, – that it should be incorporated into the laws, and made binding upon the people. The proposition on which they act, though they seldom directly enunciate it, is, that the augmentation of the national wealth is at once the sign and the measure of national prosperity. Sismondi admits
that it is so, if the wealth be distributed with some approach to equality among the people. But if the vast majority of the nation is beggared, while enormous fortunes are accumulated by a few, if pauperism increases at one end of the social scale as rapidly as wealth is heaped up at the other, then, even though the ratio of the aggregate wealth to the aggregate population is constantly growing larger, the tendency of things is downward, and sooner or later, unless a remedy be applied, society will rush into degradation and ruin.
The great merit of Sismondi as an economist consists in this attempt to give a new direction to the science by holding up the general welfare, the material prosperity of all classes, as its chief aim and purpose, and by considering the mere production of wealth only as subsidiary to this end. His leading doctrine, that the distribution of riches is a matter even more important than their rapid increase, he illustrated by a vast collection of facts and arguments, and urged it upon the attention of the public with the most passionate earnestness. He made a twofold application of it, the first to landed property and the condition of the peasantry, the second to commercial wealth and the condition of the inhabitants of towns. He was far more successful in the former case, as his observations had been made chiefly in the country, and he was but little acquainted with the theory and effects of the commercial and manufacturing systems. He protested against the aggregation of land into vast estates, and its cultivation in large farms, tracing to these causes the misery and final disappearance of the peasantry, and the depopulation of the country. The illustrations of these doctrines which he found in England and Italy are very striking, and are set forth with more animation and eloquence than are often found in his other writings. His account of the Campagna of Rome is a vigorous and highly colored sketch, written in parts with great pathos and beauty, and showing by a very clear deduction of historical facts the causes of the present desolateness of this magnificent plain. To the latifundia of the Roman nobles in Pliny's time, and to the princely domains of opulent landholders in our own day, the preference of pasturage to tillage, and the natural decay and impoverishment of the true cultivators of the soil, whose places are gradually filled by im