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mense herds of cattle, are naturally attributed. Then passing to happy Tuscany, the place of refuge of his early manhood, and of which, notwithstanding his frequent imprisonments there, he had so many pleasant recollections, he draws an Arcadian picture of the happiness of its peasantry, cultivating with minute care their small farms, and paying rents in kind and proportionate to the amount of their harvests. The contrast is a striking one, and is drawn by one who had a heart to appreciate the vast difference between the two cases, and a mind capable of tracing this difference to its true causes. In the last number of this Journal, we borrowed his eloquent account of the depopulation of the Scottish Highlands by the heartless Duchess of Sutherland and her noble coproprietors.
On the subject of manufactures and the wretchedness of the laboring classes in towns, as we have intimated, Sismondi is not so successful. He shows, indeed, with great clearness and vigor the extent of the evil, the deplorable state to which the operatives with their families have been reduced, and the necessity of applying some remedy, so as to prevent alarming outbreaks, and even the utter disorganization of society. But he is not happy in tracing out the origin and nature of the evils complained of, nor in finding the remedy which all admit to be necessary. The subject of over-production is a difficult one ; Ricardo, Mill, and McCulloch contend that a general glut is impossible, as every article brought to market is a source both of supply and demand, the owner of it being always desirous of exchanging it for something else of equivalent value, and thus contributing, by his desire to purchase, to lighten the market to precisely the same extent to which he burdened it by his desire to sell. This theory is ingenious, but unsound ;
it overlooks the important fact, that the demand and supply of one capital article, food, are regulated by causes peculiar to itself, wholly irrespective of the presence or absence, the high or low prices, of other commodities. The consumption of agricultural products depends on the number of appetites to be satisfied, and can be enlarged only by an increase of the population ; the supply of these products is determined by the quantity of land capable of cultivation, and by improvements in the modes of husbandry. Neither of these sources of supply can be increased at will, or on demand ;
the land is all occupied or owned, and the number of acres is limited; improvements in agriculture are made by the progress of discovery and invention, and not merely because they are needed to feed the people. Now, manufactures must be exchanged for food, and consequently may be produced in too great abundance ; there is no limit to their increase, but there is a limit to the supply of the only article for which they can be bartered. And we cannot here say, as the English economists are fond of saying in the case of a particular glut, “ Transfer your industry from the article of which there is a surplus to that of which there is a deficiency.” Industry cannot be transferred from manufactures to agriculture ; the land is all owned and held at a monopoly price, and the landlords refuse to employ more labor upon it, even if a greater amount of food should be produced by the introduction of more hands. They find, or think that they find, that a greater net product remains to themselves when few hands are employed than when there are many. Hence, they endeavour to get rid of the agricultural laborers, instead of increasing their number. The policy of English landlords, as we have recently shown, is to depopulate their estates, to make the peasantry give place to flocks and herds, to imitate the system which has been practised for centuries on the Roman Campagna, which reduced the fields of Italy in the age of Pliny to a desert, and subsequently surrendered them to the Northern barbarians because there were no men left to defend them. The dispossessed peasantry are driven into manufacturing industry, and thus the glut of manufactures is increased by the very causes which diminish the supply of food. The present distress of England is attributable, not to the manufacturers, but to the landlords.
To cry out, then, as Sismondi did, against over-production and the displacement of human labor in manufactures by machines, is to mistake the cause and the birthplace of the evil. The distress of the poorer classes is more manifest in the manufacturing than the agricultural districts, it is true ; but it had not its origin there. It is created in the country, though it appears in the most aggravated form in the cities, as the poor fly thither for refuge; it is caused by such landlords as the Dukes of Sutherland and Buccleuch, and the Earl of Kenmare, to whose policy in the management of their vast estates may be applied the indignant re
proach which was uttered by Galgacus against the Romans, that “they make a solitude, and call it peace.” The evidence of statistics on this point is so clear, that the conclusion is irresistible. In England, only one fifth of the population is engaged in agriculture, while in France at least two thirds, and in the United States more than three fourths, derive their subsistence immediately from the soil. In respect to the ownership of the land, to its division among a greater or smaller number of proprietors, the disproportion between these three countries is even greater. And this enormous, this fatal difference for England is attributable entirely to her aristocratic institutions, her laws of primogeniture and entail. The system which leads to these results is advocated by such economists as Ricardo, McCulloch, Alison, and Chalmers ; the great merit of Sismondi is, that he was the first strenuously to protest against it. Their favorite maxim, laissez faire, he interpreted in its true meaning; laissez faire la misère ; laissez passer la mort. " What !" he cried, answering Ricardo in a long conversation which they had at Geneva shortly before Ricardo's death ; “is wealth, then, every thing? Are men nothing ?”
It is impossible to do justice to the earnestness with which Sismondi labored and wrote upon this subject, without extending our extracts beyond the proper
limits of an article. The following is taken from a letter which he wrote after the publication of his Studies in Political Economy.
“It is possible that the self-love of an author may have some share, without my being aware of it, in the earnest thirst I feel to attract the attention of the public ; but this thirst seems to me nothing but the feeling of the immense sufferings of humanity, sufferings which we all contribute, without thinking of it, to increase, by a conduct which in its details we figure to ourselves as indifferent. I cry, Take care, you are bruising, you are crushing, miserable persons who do not even see whence comes the evil which they experience, but who remain languishing and mutilated on the road which you have passed over. I cry out, and no one hears me: I cry out, and the car of Juggernaut continues to roll on, making new victims."
We must borrow one paragraph, also, from the conclusion to his History of the French, which he wrote, as already observed, but five weeks before his death.
“My life has been divided between the study of political
- p. 455.
economy and that of history ; thus the economist must often appear, in this long recital, by the side of the historian; I have endeavoured not to let those lessons be lost which are given by experience, as to what contributes to create and to maintain the prosperity of nations. But above all, I have always considered wealth as a means, not as an end. I hope it will be acknowledged by my constant solicitude for the cultivator, for the artisan, for the poor who gain their bread by the sweat of their brow, that all my sympathies are with the laboring and suffering classes.”
The following extract from his anonymous biographer is interesting, as it shows that Sismondi was no radical, and that he rejected with contempt the silly theories which have recently been broached about a new organization of society, and which have found a few advocates among ignorant and enthusiastic persons in our own country.
“ It was painful to Sismondi, after having repudiated the economical theories which England was teaching to France, still to have to repel the different systems which connected themselves with the demand for industrial organization. He rejected in turn the coöperative systems of Owen, the Saint Simonians, and the disciples of Fourier. To attempt to suppress personal interest, and to think that the world can go on without it,' he said to some of them, is sufficiently bold; but to imagine that all the labor of the community, the conducting of all its interests, can be determined at any moment of the day by the plurality of suffrages, is acting like a society of fools. He accused others of ordering a body to walk, after having taken away all the muscles, all the stimulus of individual interest. They take away from you hope, liberty, family affection, cried he, sorrowfully, . all to make you happy! Alas! there is nothing true in their books but the evil they would remedy.'” - p. 43.
The temperate and catholic character of his political opinions, also, appears from a letter which he wrote in the summer of 1835.
“I have not given up any of my youthful enthusiasm ; I feel, perhaps, more strongly than ever the desire for nations to become free, for the reform of governments, for the progress of morality and happiness in human society. I hope that I have gained in theory and in experience, if, on the other hand, I have been disenchanted of what I hoped in almost all the men I have known : but this disinganno does not affect the ideas and the sentiments
dear to my heart, because my own flag has never been carried into the midst of the conflict. I am a liberal; still more, I am a republican ; but never have I been a democrat. I have nothing in common with that party which alarms you by its violence and its wild theories, any more than with that which is intoxicated with the love of order and furious for tranquillity. My ideal, in respect to government, is union ; it is the agreement of the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical elements ; it is the Roman republic, in short, in its best days of virtue and of strength, and not the modern principles, which I do not acknowledge to be principles.” — p. 452.
The health of Sismondi began to fail in 1840 ; the disease, a cancer in the stomach, which finally carried him off, caused him intense suffering, but did not interrupt his labors as a historian, or the fulfilment of his duties towards his country. “During two years he continued writing the history of France under the anguish of this terrible complaint, which was accelerated in its progress by the troubles that overthrew the constitution of Geneva in 1841." That constitution, as we have seen, he had contributed to make, in 1814, acting with Dumont and others, and aiming to render it as liberal as a wise regard to previously existing institutions, the habits of the people, and the necessities of the times would permit. The radical party found that it was not sufficiently democratic, and, having kept the government in anxiety for a long time, they broke out in insurrection in March, 1841, violently overthrew the constitution, and caused a constituent assembly to be called for the purpose of carrying their political theories into effect. 6. Sismondi was elected a member of it, and, notwithstanding his state of suffering and weakness, he caused himself to be carried to the place of meeting to defend to the last the old and salutary institutions of his country. Alone he dared to resist the popular torrent, alone he combated the changes proposed by the victorious party.” On the 30th of March, 1842, in spite of the alarming state of his health, he pronounced before the assembly the last words that he ever uttered in public. “This impromptu speech, full of goodsense, moderation, and power, was interrupted by painful convulsions, and he was carried home in a state of the greatest exhaustion.”
His only desires, now, were to finish his history, and then to go to Pescia to die beneath the beautiful sky of Tuscany,