Popular Political Economy: Four Lectures Delivered at the London Mechanics' Institution

Hodgskin, Thomas
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
London: Charles Tait
Pub. Date

1. [1] "Principles of Political Economy," page 1. This definition seems, in one respect, to be rather at variance with the tenor and spirit of Mr. M'Culloch's writings. In many parts of them he carefully distinguishes between natural circumstances and social regulations; but the definition confounds under the one term laws, those eternal and invariable laws which he elsewhere says are the same, both in republics and monarchies; and those varying enactments which forbid during one, what is enjoined in the subsequent session of Parliament.

2. [2] Warden's United States of America.

3. [3] Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. i.

4. [4] Introduction to Population Returns. Vide Parl. Papers.

5. [5] Humboldt's Travels in Equinoctial America.

6. [6] For these extracts from Humboldt, the reader may see "Principles of Political Economy," by Mr. Malthus, p. 382, et sub.; or the original work, "Essai Politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne."

7. [7] Wealth of Nations, book i.

8. [8] Article, "Political Economy." Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica.

9. [9] Principes d'Economie Politique, p. 6.

10. [10] M. Say, Traité d'Econ. Polit. 2 ed. tome l. p. 99.

11. [11] Wealth of Nations, Book I. Chap. I. and II.

12. [12] Wealth of Nations, Book I. Chap. VIII.

Part I, Chapter I

13. [13] The Marquis Garnier.

Part I, Chapter II

14. [14] Notes to M. Say's edition of Cours d'Economie Politique, by Henri Storch, vol. i. p. 167.

15. [15] Notes to Cours d'Economie, vol. i. p. 167.

16. [16] History of Cultivated Vegetables, by Henry Phillips. Art Potatoe.

17. [17] Encyclopædia of Agriculture, by J. C. London, p. 784.

18. [18] Should I hereafter satisfy the reader that the increase of population is the chief natural circumstance which promotes the increase of knowledge, and which extends division of labour; thus augmenting productive power, not merely in the simple ratio of the increase in the number of labourers, but in the compound ratio of this increase, multiplied by the effects of knowledge, and division of labour, whatever they may be, he will then perceive, that every improvement, which, like the introduction of potatoes into husbandry, augments the means of subsistence, is a cause, by increasing the number of people, of multiplying to an astonishing degree the productive power of our species. Consequently, the view given in the text of the advantages of such improvements, as add to our means of subsistence, is essentially incomplete, and falls far short of what actually occurs.

19. [19] Encyclopædia Britannica, article Ireland.

20. [20] Afterwards Lord Treasurer, created Earl of Portland in the reign of Charles I.

21. [21] A Treatise on Diet, etc., by J. A. Paris, M. D., F. R. S. page 8.

22. [22] Cours d'Economie Politique, vol. 3, page 319.

23. [23] Phillips's History of Cultivated Vegetables. Art. Tea.

24. [24] Quarterly Review, No. lxvii, for June 1826.

25. [25] Quarterly Review. No. 67. p. 93.

Part I, Chapter III

26. [26] A Few Doubts as to the Correctness of some Opinions generally entertained on the Subjects of Population and Political Economy. By Piercy Ravenstone. London, 1821.

27. [27] Wealth of Nations.

28. [28] Wealth of Nations, book 1, chap. i.

29. [29] Notes to Storch.

30. [30] Wealth of Nations.

31. [31] A System of Chemistry, Introduction, page 9, 6th edit.

32. [32] It may be as well just to remind the reader, that all our vast maritime knowledge and maritime power, which have in general been most absurdly attributed to some misbegotten, ill-tempered regulations of Oliver Cromwell and Charles II. (which have been more often suspended than enforced,) may all be very easily traced to the geographical nature of our country. Exclusive of colonies, we have four times as much sea coast as France, and four times as large a maritime population. This is the natural and simple source of our maritime power, which our celebrated navigation laws, commercial restrictions, and most abominable naval regulations, have done much to weaken. It is most gratifying to trace our national prosperity and greatness to a higher point than the wisdom of our lawgivers; and in the unalterable circumstances of our geographical position, we have the strongest possible guarantee for our future prosperity and greatness.

33. [33] Principles of Political Economy, page 118.

Part I, Chapter IV

34. [34] Wealth of Nations, i. p. 14.

35. [35] Article, Political Economy, Supp. Encyclop. Britt.

36. [36] Conversations on Political Economy.

37. [37] Wealth of Nations, book I, chap. i.

Part I, Chapter V

38. [38] Cours d'Economie Politique, tom. 1.

39. [39] Wealth of Nations, book I. chap. II.

40. [40] Wealth of Nations, book ii., Introduction.

41. [41] Cours d'Economie, book 1. ch. 8.

42. [42] It may be worth while here, to remind the reader that these means of facilitating intercourse are the results of invention and discovery; thus, such inventions promote division of labour—not only as they give rise to new employments, but by bringing more human beings to communicate with each other.

43. [43] Principles of Political Economy, p. 91.

Part I, Chapter VI

44. [44] For these statements the reader may see the writings of Dr. Smith, Mr. Storch, and of those economists who have contentedly repeated the doctrines of their great master.

45. [45] At a village called Horsemonden, now only celebrated for hops and fine scenery, there is a large piece of water, which bears to this day the name of the Furnace Pond, and in the neighbourhood of it, the iron railings mentioned in the text were made. Beyond a common smith, there is not at present, either at Horsemonden, or any of the adjacent villages, a single worker in iron to be met with.

46. [46] Wealth of Nations, Book 5. Chap. II.

47. [47] Cours d'Economie Politique, vol. 1

Part I, Chapter VII

48. [48] Wealth of Nations, book 2. chap. 5.

49. [49] I take the difference of time required to complete the products of agriculture, and of other species of labour, to be the main cause of the great dependence of the agriculturists. They cannot bring their commodities to market in less time than a year. For that whole period they are obliged to borrow of the shoemaker, the tailor, the smith, the wheelwright, and the various other labourers, whose products they cannot dispense with, but which are completed in a few days or weeks. Owing to this natural circumstance, and owing to the more rapid increase of the wealth produced by other labour than that of agriculture, the monopolizers of all the land, though they have also monopolized legislation, have not been able to save themselves and their servants, the farmers, from becoming the most dependent class of men in the community. They can no longer prosper without continued legislative protection. The length of time required to complete agricultural productions, causing the dependence of those who cultivate the ground on other men, takes from them the power, wherever labour is in the least free, which they might otherwise possess, of starving the rest of the community. The observation may be extended to different communities as well as to the members of the same community, and convinces me, that those politicians who dread the dependence of our manufacturers on foreign agriculturists have never formed a correct notion of the phenomena of social production.

50. [50] Elements of Poliltical Economy, p. 84.

51. [51] Norway planks are not exactly excluded from our market, but they are burdened with a heavy duty, in order to impose on those who use planks the additional labour of bringing them from Canada. It is, perhaps, fortunate for the Norwegians, that lobsters were formerly considered a great luxury, and were chiefly consumed by the rich. They, with turbot, another article of luxury, were accordingly, under our much praised Navigation laws, allowed to be imported into this country in the vessels of any nation, I believe, while the importation of every other species of fish, which might have contributed to the subsistence of the people, was strictly confined to British vessels.

52. [52] It may be worth observing, that our people are quite as dependent for subsistence on these foreign products, as if they constituted their actual food. Were the supply of silk and cotton to be cut off, it would as surely annihilate all our silk and cotton manufacturers, as if the food necessary for their subsistence could no longer be produced. They would then have nothing to give for food, and the landed gentry and farmers would most certainly not allow them to have food without an equivalent. There is no class of men, however, interested in preventing the importation of cotton and silk, and, therefore, this species of dependence never excites any sinister forebodings. No apprehension is entertained of our people being starved by the supply of cotton or silk being withheld; but we are told, though the thing seems impossible, that were we to eat foreign corn, we should be reduced even to a worse state of bondage, than that sought to be imposed on us by the lords of our soil. To me the dependence, and of course the danger, if there be any, arising from so many of our people subsisting by working up cotton and silk, seems far greater than would arise from importing food. Cotton and silk are the products of comparatively limited spaces; but food of one kind or another, and even wheat, is the produce of almost all the climates of the globe. We can find almost numberless substitutes for any particular kind of food: if one nation will not allow us to have wheat, we can procure rye, or barley, or flour, or maize, from some other; but if our supplies of cotton and silk were withheld, what could we substitute for them? To me it is plain, that the dependence of men on men, whether they live under the same government or not, is the necessary consequence of the beneficial practice of division of labour; and politicians, unless they abolish this practice, cannot prevent the mutual dependence of nations; though, by their ill-timed jealousies and absurd restrictions, they may sow strife where Nature meant to teach kindness, and they may bring into jeopardy the existence of several millions of industrious men.

53. [53] Oranges, cheap as they appear, pay a duty of 15s. the 1000, or 75l. per cent. on their value; or 2s. 6d. per box, containing 5000 cubic inches. See Act 7, Geo IV.

54. [54] The principle stated in the text, obviously holds good throughout all countries under the same government; and if it do not hold good in countries not under the same government, the cause of the variation is political—not natural.

55. [55] The following passage from Mr. D. Hume's Essay, "Of the Jealousy of Trade," may perhaps not be without interest as confirming the view taken in the text, and exemplifying the great alteration which has taken place since a period somewhat prior to the time he wrote, in the relative situation of this country to the surrounding countries. "I go farther," he says, "and observe that where an open communication is preserved among nations, it is impossible but the domestic industry of every one must receive an increase from the improvements of the others. Compare the situation of Great Britain at present with what it was two centuries ago. All the arts of agriculture and manufactures were then extremely rude and imperfect. Every improvement we have since made, has arisen from our imitation of foreigners, and we ought so far to esteem it happy that they had previously made advances in arts and ingenuity. But this intercourse is still upheld to our great advantage; notwithstanding the advanced state of our manufacturers, we daily adopt in every art the inventions and improvements of our neighbours. The commodity is first imported from abroad to our discontent while we imagine it drains us of our money. Afterwards the art itself is gradually imported to our visible advantage; yet we continue still to repine that our neighbours should possess any art, industry, and invention, forgetting that had they not first instructed us, we should have been at present barbarians; and did they not still continue these instructions, the arts must fall into a state of languor, and lose that emulation and novelty which contribute so much to their advancement." At present Britain has become the teacher of her former teachers, and although we require the competition of other nations to stimulate us onward in our career, the instruction we at present derive from them is so little that there can be no fear, though it should wholly cease, of the arts falling into languor.

56. [56] Moral Philosophy, vol. ii.

Part I, Chapter VIII

57. [57] Wealth of Nations, book i., chap. 4.

58. [58] Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. 4.

59. [59] Cours d'Economie Politique. The armour of Diomede is said by Homer to have cost nine oxen, but M. Garnier has shown, according to M. Say, Notes to Storch, that this valuation was made in a species of metallic money having an ox or a bull stamped on it, and so called from this circumstance; just as we call a certain coin a sovereign, from its bearing the image of the King's head. There is no reason to suppose that the King's head is stamped on the gold because it is worth about twenty shillings, but an ox was probably about equal in value to the piece of metal on which it was stamped, and was selected because oxen had previously been used as money.

60. [60] It is perhaps necessary for me to notice that some authors reject labour as the exclusive standard of value; and add profit and include rent. With their trifling, verbal, and nonsensical discussions, I have no wish to take up the reader's time, particularly as all the observations in the text apply only to the relative value of commodities, which is, for all commodities, equally affected by rent and profit; which, therefore, as far as the relation I am considering is concerned, may be rejected, even on their theories, without leading to any error. (The reasoning would be wrong, certainly, if I were to include labour, the creator of all wealth, as they most erroneously do, under the term commodities.

61. [61] Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. 11.

62. [62] Genesis, chap. xxiii.

63. [63] Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. 4.

64. [64] For the illustration of the statement in the text, I must refer to the "Wealth of Nations," book 1. chap 4; to Mr. Storch's Cours d' Economie Politique, vol. 4, Note on "Banking;" and to an admirable article by Mr. M'Culloch entitled "Money" in the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica. Such writings teach real practical wisdom.

65. [65] There is abundant reason to believe that the practice of coining originated with individuals, and was carried on by them before it was seized on and monopolized by governments. "In many countries," says Mr. Storch, "the care of ascertaining the weight and stamping the metals was left to individuals."—"Such was for a long time the practice in Russia." The Royal prerogative of coining therefore, about which so much has been said in Parliament, is of no remote antiquity. It smacks much more of usurpation than the practice of issuing bank-notes. Individual coiners would always be responsible to the public; but the individuals who possess the powers of government are in almost all countries irresponsible. They alone may defraud the community uncontrolled; they therefore ought not to have temptation laid in their way, by being the only privileged coiners.

66. [66] Cours d'Economie Politique, book vi. chap. 14.

67. [67] Cours d'Economie Politique, vol. 4. note xvi.

68. [68] A Letter to the Right Hon. G. Canning, &c. &c. By Henry Burgess, Esq., page 19.

69. [69] Ibid. page 24. This letter is evidently written by a man well acquainted with the commercial districts of England; and the statement deserves, I am informed, the confidence of the reader.

70. [70] If the statement in the text, as to the origin of paper-money, and the source of its utility, be correct, we cannot condemn every species of government paper-money too strongly; governments are not producers, they have no commodities on their road to the market, and can have no claim whatever to issue paper-money. Even exchequer bills are wrong, they represent a revenue hereafter to be received, but all the credit which can be reasonably obtained on the commodities which will constitute that revenue, is obtained and used by bills and notes of one kind or another, while the merchants and manufacturers are preparing these commodities, or bringing them to market. All bills drawn and circulated on mere revenue by those who do not produce commodities, although they may hereafter be entitled to receive certain sums, are more than is required for the business of the country, and are always issued that the issuer may obtain a share of other men's produce before he has any legal claim to it.

71. [71] See Edinburgh Review, No. 87. Article Commercial Revulsions.

72. [72] The consequences of Messrs. Canning and Huskisson, departing in this instance from the liberal principles of free trade, on which their popularity was founded, are now coming home to them. By destroying country bank notes, they added to the general distress, lowered prices, and increased the difficulties they must at any time have encountered in amending the corn laws, to which they stand pledged. On the one hand they gave, by increasing the distress, additional urgency to the claims of the manufacturing classes for the repeal of those laws; on the other, by lessening the quantity of the circulating medium and thus lowering the price of corn, they alarmed all the agriculturists and all the landlords, who are under engagements to pay specific sums, and roused such opposition and such dread of the consequences of altering the corn laws, that it is doubtful if they can carry through their poor and spiritless measure; and it is certain they can accomplish by it nothing beneficial. To have obtained a satisfactory modification of the corn laws from the landed gentry, it was necessary that prices should be high, that they should have been threatened with an inundation of foreign corn under the present law; but this necessity, which began to exist, was in part removed by the illiberal measure respecting country bankers, which thus supplied those who previously hated both Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson with arguments against them, and has tended to destroy their popularity and ruin their reputation.


73. [73] The following passages from Mr. Tooke's book, On Prices, set the distinction between natural and social price in a striking point of view; and though the political obstructions alluded to, were of a more weighty nature than in general, yet some such obstructions exist at all times and places, and make all social much higher than natural prices. "During the late war," says Mr. Tooke, "some silk came to this country through France, and the charges of conveyance from Italy to Havre, and duty of transit, amounted to nearly 100l. per bale of 240 lb. net weight, exclusive of freight and insurance from Havre hither. The whole expense of freight and insurance from Italy, does not at present amount to more than 6l. per bale." "The charges of freight and French licence on a vessel of little more than 100 tons burthen, have been known to amount to 50,000l. for the voyage merely from Calais to London and back: this made the proportion of freight on indigo, amount to 4s. 6d. per pound; the freight at present is about 1d. per pound."—"A ship, of which the whole cost and outfit did not amount to 4000l. earned a gross freight of 80,000l, on a voyage from Bordeaux to London and back."

"Among the means devised by the ingenuity and enterprise of adventurers, to elude or overcome the obstacles presented by the decrees of the enemy, one in particular, which was resorted to on an extensive scale, deserves to be mentioned, as illustrating in a striking manner the degree in which those obstacles were calculated to increase the cost to the consumer. Several vessels laden with sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton-twist, and other valuable commodities, were despatched from hence, at very high rates of freight and insurance, to Salonica, where the goods were landed, thence conveyed on horses and mules through Servia and Hungary, to Vienna, for the purpose of being distributed over Germany, and possibly into France. Thus it might happen, that the inhabitants of that part of the continent of Europe most contiguous to this country, could not receive their supplies from hence, without an expense of conveyance equivalent to what it would be if they were removed to a distance of a sea voyage twice round the globe, but not subject to fiscal and political obstructions."

74. [74] Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. 11.

75. [75] This statement is taken from Principles of Political Economy, by Mr. Malthus.

76. [76] All the subsequent statements are copied from Mr. Tooke's work On Prices.

77. [77] In a former part of this work, page 86, I endeavoured to explain the effect of necessity, or the increased demand arising from an increase of people, in promoting the improvement of cultivation, and lowering the price of corn. As soon as division of labour is introduced into society, or as soon as the principal part of the agriculturist's produce is intended not for his own consumption, but to be sold, this increased demand can only be known to him by an increase in the price of corn. Such an increase is the immediate stimulus to his exertions, and the cause of an increase in his ingenuity; which, in the long run, tends invariably to supply us with agricultural produce by less labour, and thus to lower price. If this be a correct explanation of what actually and naturally occurs, it shows us how short-sighted was that selfishness in the non-agricultural classes, which induced them, in times past, continually to appeal to governments to keep the price of corn from rising by artificial regulations; and it shows how perversely ignorant were those governments which, in consequence of such appeals, actually fixed a maximum for the price of corn and bread. The effect of such appeals, and of such regulations, must have been the very opposite from what the parties wished and intended. They must have diminished the stimulus to agricultural improvements, have lessened the supply, and have prevented that fall of price which I contend would naturally and necessarily have taken place. This observation is of some practical importance, because there is yet a disposition to call out for regulations to keep down prices; and yet, not a few parts of the world, where the governments endeavour to accomplish this by regulations.

Part II, Chapter X

78. [78] Published in London by Knight and Lacy, in 1825.

79. [79] Wealth of Nations, book ii. chap. 2.

80. [80] It is somewhat extraordinary that many of the acquired and useful abilities mentioned in the text, are the only parts of the national fixed capital which never bring their owner a profit, while the produce of these acquired and useful abilities in the possession of the capitalist, obtains an ample reward. "The national capital," says M. Storch, "includes the natural and acquired faculties of the productive classes, the nature of individual capital excludes them. However gifted with such faculties an individual may be, and however large may be the revenue he acquires by them; it would overthrow all our received ideas to call him a capitalist, if he did not possess besides this personal and unalienable capital, a capital composed of transmissable values." "Cours d'Economie Politique," vol. v. p. 60. This anomaly is not explained by any existing theory of the distribution of wealth.

81. [81] Elements of Political Economy, by James Mill, Esq. second Edition.

82. [82] It deserves to be remarked, that the claims now made by landlords and farmers, to be allowed to tax the rest of the community for the capital vested in the soil, are neither more nor less than claims to make us pay them for the labour they have extorted from the parish-fed peasant. There is no other capital vested in the ground, nor can there be any other than the labour of the labourer; and his task-master, having already grown rich on it, now tries to exact a further reward for his oppression.

83. [83] If the invention and employment of paper-money had done nothing else but show the incorrectness of the notion, that capital is something saved, it would have led to one important consequence. As long as the capitalist, to realize his wealth, or command over other people's labour, was obliged to have in his possession an actual accumulation of the precious metals or of commodities, we might have continued to suppose, that accumulation of capital was the result of an actual saving, and that on it depended the progress of society. But when paper-money and parchment securities were invented,—when the possessor of nothing but such a piece of parchment received an annual revenue in pieces of paper with which he obtained whatever was necessary for his own use or consumption, and not giving away all the pieces of paper, was richer at the end of the year than at the beginning, or was entitled next year to receive a still greater number of pieces of paper, obtaining a still greater command over the produce of labour, it became evident to demonstration that capital was not any thing saved; and that the individual capitalist did not grow rich by an actual and material saving, but by doing something which enabled him, according to some conventional usage, to obtain more of the produce of other men's labour.

End of Notes

Top of File

Return to top