An Inquiry into the Permanent Causes of the Decline and Fall of Powerful and Wealthy Nations.
by William Playfair
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The resultant text was then compared, using a text to speech player, against that of an original print of the 2nd edition held by the Library (Archives & Rare Books), London School of Economics and Political Science. This e-text incorporates the (very few) modifications included in the later edition.

Images of the four Charts are not included nor were they or the Indexes of the respective editions compared. --------------------------

{Here appears before the fly-leaf the first chart, entitled "Chart of Universal Commercial History, from the year 1500 before the Christian Era TO THE PRESENT YEAR 1805. being a space of Three Thousand three hundred and four years, by William Playfair. Inventor of Linear Arithmetic"}













W. Marchant, Printer, 3 Greville-Street, Holborn.


P R E F A C E.


If it is of importance to study by what means a nation may acquire wealth and power, it is not less so to discover by what means wealth and power, when once acquired, may be preserved.

The latter inquiry is, perhaps, the more important of the two; for many nations have remained, during a long period, virtuous and happy, without rising to wealth or greatness; but there is no example of happiness or virtue residing amongst a fallen people.

In looking over the globe, if we fix our eyes on those places where wealth formerly was accumulated, and where commerce flourished, we see them, at the present day, peculiarly desolated and degraded.

From the borders of the Persian Gulf, to the shores of the Baltic Sea; from Babylon and Palmyra, Egypt, Greece, and Italy; to Spain and Portugal, and the whole circle of the Hanseatic League, we trace the same ruinous [end of page #iii] remains of ancient greatness, presenting a melancholy contrast with the poverty, indolence, and ignorance, of the present race of inhabitants, and an irresistible proof of the mutability of human affairs.

As in the hall, in which there has been a sumptuous banquet, we perceive the fragments of a feast now become a prey to beggars and banditti; if, in some instances, the spectacle is less wretched and disgusting; it is, because the banquet is not entirely over, and the guests have not all yet risen from the table.

From this almost universal picture, we learn that the greatness of nations is but of short duration. We learn, also, that the state of a fallen people is infinitely more wretched and miserable than that of those who have never risen from their original state of poverty. It is then well worth while to inquire into the causes of so terrible a reverse, that we may discover whether they are necessary, or only natural; and endeavour, if possible, to find the means by which prosperity may be lengthened out, and the period of humiliation procrastinated to a distant day.

Though the career of prosperity must necessarily have a termination amongst every people, yet there is some reason to think that the degradation, which naturally follows, and which has always followed hitherto, may be [end of page #iv] averted; whether it may be, or may not be so, is the subject of the following Inquiry; which, if it is of importance to any nation on earth, must be peculiarly so to England; a nation that has risen, both in commerce and power, so high above the natural level assigned to it by its population and extent. A nation that rises still, but whose most earnest wish ought to be rather directed to preservation than extension; to defending itself against adversity rather than seeking still farther to augment its power.

With regard to the importance of the Inquiry, there cannot be two opinions; but, concerning its utility and success, opinions may be divided.

One of the most profound and ingenious writers of a late period, has made the following interesting observation on the prosperity of nations. {1}

"In all speculations upon men and human affairs, it is of no small moment to distinguish things of accident from permanent causes, and from effects that cannot be altered. I am not quite of the mind of those speculators, who seem assured, that necessarily, and, by the constitution of things, all states have the same period of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude, that are found in the individuals who compose them. The objects which are

—- {1} Mr Burke. -=-

[end of page #v]

attempted to be forced into an analogy are not founded in the same classes of existence. Individuals are physical beings, subject to laws universal and invariable; but commonwealths are not physical, but moral essences. They are artificial combinations, and, in their proximate efficient cause, the arbitrary productions of the human mind.

We are not yet acquainted with the laws which necessarily influence that kind of work, made by that kind of agent. There is not, in the physical order, a distinct cause by which any of those fabrics must necessarily grow, flourish, and decay; nor, indeed, in my opinion, does the moral world produce any thing more determinate on that subject than what may serve as an amusement (liberal indeed, and ingenious, but still only an amusement) for speculative men. I doubt whether the history of mankind is yet complete enough, if ever it can be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory on the internal causes, which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. I am far from denying the operation of such causes, but they are infinitely uncertain, and much more obscure, and much more difficult to trace than the foreign causes that tend to depress, and, sometimes, overwhelm society."

The writer who has thus expressed his scepticism on this sort of inquiry, speaks, at the same time, of the im-[end of page #vi] portance of distinguishing between accidental and permanent causes. He doubts whether the history of mankind is complete enough, or, if ever it can be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory, on the internal causes which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. Thus, he not only admits the existence of permanent causes, but says, clearly, that it is from history they are discoverable, if ever their discovery can be accomplished. This is going as far as we could wish, and, as for the sure theory, we join issue with him in despairing of ever obtaining one that will deserve the name of sure.

The meaning of the word, sure, in this place, appears to be intended in a sense peculiarly strict. It seems to imply a theory, that would be certain in its application to those vicissitudes and fluctuations to which nations are liable, and not merely to explaining their rise and decline. As to such fluctuations, it would be absurd to enter into any theory about them; they depend on particular combinations of circumstances, too infinite, in variety, to be imagined, or subjected to any general law, and of too momentary an operation to be foreseen.

That Mr. Burke alludes to such fluctuation is, however, evident, from what that fanciful but deeply-read man says, immediately after: "We have seen some states which have spent their vigour at their commencement. Some have [end of page #vii] blazed out in their glory a little before their extinction. The meridian of some has been the most splendid. Others, and they the greatest number, have fluctuated, and experienced, at different periods of their existence, a great variety of fortune. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation; a common soldier, a child, a girl, at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of nature."

From this it is abundantly evident, that the theory he wished for, but despaired of ever establishing, was one that would explain such effects; but the object of this Inquiry is totally different.

When the Romans were in their vigour, their city was besieged by the Gauls, and saved by an animal of proverbial stupidity; but this could not have happened when Attila was under the walls, and the energy of the citizens was gone. The taking or saving the city, in the first instance, would have been equally accidental, and the consequences of short duration; but, in the latter days, the fall of Rome was owing to PERMANENT causes, and the effect has been without a remedy.

It is, then, only concerning the permanent causes, (that is to say, causes that are constantly acting, and produce [end of page #viii] permanent effects) that we mean to inquire; and, even with regard to those, it is not expected to establish a theory that will be applicable, with certainty, to the preservation of a state, but, merely to establish one, which may serve as a safe guide on a subject, the importance of which is great, beyond calculation.

There remains but one other consideration in reply to this, and that is, whether states have, necessarily, by the constitution and nature of things, the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude, that are found in the individuals that compose them? Mr. Burke thinks they have not; and, indeed, if they had, the following Inquiry would be of no sort of utility. It is of no importance to seek for means of preventing what must of necessity come to pass: but, if the word necessity is changed for tendency or propensity, then it becomes an Inquiry deserving attention, and, as all states have risen, flourished, and fallen, there can be no dispute with the regard to their tendency to do so.

However much, at first sight, Mr. Burke's opinion may appear to militate against such an Inquiry, when duly considered, it will be found, not only to approve of the end, but to point out the manner in which the inquiry ought to be conducted; namely, by consulting history. [end of page #ix]

If it is allowed that any practical advantage is to be derived from the history of the past, it can only be, in so far as it is applicable to the present and the future; and, if there is none, it is melancholy to reflect on the volumes that have been written without farther utility than to gratify idle curiosity. Are the true lessons of history, because they are never completely applicable to present affairs, to be ranked with the entertaining, but almost useless, pages of romance? No, certainly. Of the inheritance possessed by the present generation, the history of those that are gone before, is not the least valuable portion. Each reader now makes his application in his own way. It is an irregular application, but not an useless one; and it is, therefore, hoped, that an Inquiry, founded on a regular plan of comparison and analogy, cannot but be of some utility.

But why do we treat that as hypothetical, of which there can be no doubt? Wherefore should there be two opinions concerning the utility of an inquiry into those mighty events, that have removed wealth and commerce from the Euphrates and the Nile, to the Thames and the Texel? Does not the sun rise, and do not the seasons return to the plains of Egypt, and the deserts of Syria, the same as they did three thousand years ago? Is not [end of page #x] inanimate nature the same now that it was then? Are the principles of vegetation altered? Or have the subordinate animals refused to obey the will of man, to assist him in his labour, or to serve him for his food? No; nature is not less bountiful, and man has more knowledge and more power than at any former period; but it is not the man of Syria, or of Egypt, that has more knowledge, or more power. There he has suffered his race to decay, and, along with himself, his works have degenerated.

When those countries were peopled with men, who were wise, prudent, industrious, and brave, their fields were fertile, and their cities magnificent; and wherever mankind have carried the same vigour, the same virtues, and the same character, nature has been found bountiful and obedient.

Throughout the whole of the earth, we see the same causes producing nearly the same effects; why then do we remain in doubt respecting their connection? Or, if under no doubt, wherefore do we not endeavour to trace their operation, that we may know how to preserve those advantages we are so eager to obtain?

If an Inquiry into the causes of the revolutions of nations is more imperfect and less satisfactory than when [end of page #xi] directed to those of individuals, and of single families, if, ever it should be rendered complete, its application will, at least, be more certain. Nations are exempt from those accidental vicissitudes which derange the wisest of human plans upon a smaller scale. Number and magnitude reduce chances to certainty. The single and unforeseen cause that overwhelms a man in the midst of prosperity, never ruins a nation: unless it be ripe for ruin, a nation never falls; and when it does fall, accident has only the appearance of doing what, in reality, was already nearly accomplished.

There is no physical cause for the decline of nations, nature remains the same; and if the physical man has degenerated, it was before the authentic records of history. The men who built the most stupendous pyramid in Egypt, did not exceed in stature those who now live in mean hovels at its immense base. If there is any country in the world that proves the uniformity of nature, it is this very Egypt. Unlike to other countries, that owe their fertility to the ordinary succession of seasons, of which regular registers do not exist, and are never accurate, it depends on the overflowing of the waters of a single river. The marks that indicated the rising of the Nile, in the days of the Pharaos, and of the Ptolemies, do the same [end of page #xii] at the present day, and are a guarantee for the future regularity of nature, by the undeniable certainty of it for the past.

By a singular propensity for preserving the bodies of the dead, the Egyptians have left records equally authentic, with regard to the structure of the human frame. {2} Here nothing is fabulous; and even the unintentional errors of language are impossible. We have neither to depend on the veracity nor the correctness of man. The proofs exhibited are visible and tangible; they are the object of the senses, and admit of no mistake.

But while that country exhibits the most authentic proofs of the uniform course of nature, it affords also the most evident examples of the degradation of the human mind. It is there we find the cause of those ruins that astonish, and the desolation that afflicts. Had men continued their exertions, the labour of their hands would not have fallen to decay.

It is in the exertion and conduct of man, and in the information of his mind, that we find the causes of the mutability of human affairs. We are about to trace

—- {2} Most part of the mummies found in Egypt, instead of being of a larger size, are considerably under the middle stature of the people of England. Those dead monuments of the human frame give the direct lie to Homer and all the traditions about men's degenerating in size and strength. -=-

[end of page #xiii]

them through an intricate labyrinth; but, in this, we are not without a guide.

The history of three thousand years, and of nations that have risen to wealth and power, in a great variety of situations, all terminating with a considerable degree of similarity, discovers the great outline of the causes that invigorate or degrade the human mind, and thereby raise or ruin states and empires. {3}

{3} The utility of this Inquiry is considerably strengthened by the opinion of a writer of great information and first-rate abilities. {*}

An historical review of different forms under which human affairs have appeared in different ages and nations naturally suggests the question, whether the experience of former times may not now furnish some general principles to enlighten and direct the policy of future legislators? The discussion, however, to which the question leads is of singular difficulty; as it requires an accurate analysis of by far the most complicated class of phenomena that can possibly engage our attention; those which result from the intricate and often from the imperceptible mechanism of political society—a subject of observation which seems at first view so little commensurate to our faculties, that it has been generally regarded with the same passive emotions of wonder and submission with which, in the material world, we survey the effects produced by the mysterious and uncontroulable operation of phisical sic causes. It is fortunate that upon this, as on many other occasions, the difficulties which had long baffled the effort of solitary genius begin to appear less formidable to the united exertions of the race; and that, in proportion as the experience and the reasonings of different individuals are brought to bear on the objects, and are combined in such a manner as to illustrate and to limit each other, the science of politics assumes more and more that systematical form which encourages and aids the labours of future inquirers.

—- {*} Mr Dongald Stuart, whose name is well known and much honoured amongst men whose studies have led them to investigate these subjects: the intimate friend and biographer of Dr. Adam Smith. -=-

[end of page #xiv]



_In the following Inquiry I have inserted four engraved Charts, in order to illustrate the subjects treated of in the Book, by a method approved of both in this and in other countries. {4}

The Chart, No. 1, representing the rise and fall of all nations or countries, that have been particularly distinguished for wealth or power, is the first of the sort that ever was engraved, and has, therefore, not yet met with public approbation.

It is constructed to give a distinct view of the migrations of commerce and of wealth in general. For a very accurate view, there are no materials in existence; neither would it lead to any very different conclusion, if the proportional values were ascertained with the greatest accuracy.

I first drew the Chart in order to clear up my own ideas on the subject, finding it very troublesome to retain a distinct notion of the changes that had taken place. I found it answer the purpose beyond my expectation, by bringing into one view the result of details that are dispersed over a very wide and intricate field of universal history; facts sometimes connected with each other, sometimes not, and always requiring reflection each time they were referred to. I found the first rough draft give sic me a better

—- {4} The Charts, Nos. 3 and 4, were copied in Paris, before the revolution, and highly approved of by the Academy of Sciences. No. 2, though of late invention, has been copied in France and Germany. Of No. 1, the public has yet to judge, and, perhaps, it will treat me with indulgence and good nature, as on former occasions. -=-

[end of page #xv]

comprehension of the subject, than all that I had learnt from occasional reading, for half of my lifetime; and, on the supposition that what was of so much use to me, might be of some to others, I have given it with a tolerable degree of accuracy.

No. 2, relates entirely to the present state of nations in Europe, and the extent, revenue, and population, as represented, are taken from the most accurate documents. Where statistical writers differed, I followed him who appeared to me the most likely to be right.

Nos. 3 and 4, relate entirely to England, and are drawn from the most accurate documents.

Opposite to each Chart are descriptions and explanations.

The reader will find, five minutes attention to the principle on which they are constructed, a saving of much labour and time; but, without that trifling attention, he may as well look at a blank sheet of paper as at one of the Charts.

I know of nothing else, in the Book, that requires previous explanation.

I think it well to embrace this opportunity, the best I have had, and, perhaps, the last I ever shall have, of making some return, (as far as acknowledgement is a return,) for an obligation, of a nature never to be repaid, by acknowledging publicly, that, to the best and most affectionate of brothers, I owe the invention of those Charts.

At a very early period of my life, my brother, who, in a most examplary manner, maintained and educated the family his father left, made me keep a register of a thermometer, expressing the variations by lines on a divided scale. He taught me to know, that, whatever can be expressed in numbers, may be represented by lines. The Chart of the thermometer was on the same principle with those given here; the application only is different. The brother to whom I owe this, now fills the Natural Philosophy Chair in the University of Edinburgh_.

[end of page #xvi]






INTRODUCTION and plan of the work.—Explanation of what the author understands by wealthy and powerful nations, and of the general cause of wealth and power......1


Of the general causes that operate, both externally and internally, in bringing down nations that have risen above their level to that assigned to them by their extent, fertility, and population; and of the manner in which wealth destroyed power in ancient nations...............14


Of the nations that rose to wealth and power previous to the conquests in Asia and Africa, and the causes which ruined them...............20


Of the Romans.—The causes of their rise under the republic, and of their decline under the emperors.—The great error generally fallen into with respect to the comparison between Rome and Carthage; proofs that it is wrong, and not at all applicable to France and England................27


Of the cities and nations that rose to wealth and power in the middle ages, after the fall of the Western Empire, and previous to the discovery of the passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, and of America.—Different effects of wealth on nations in cold and in warm climates, and of the fall of the Eastern Empire..............44

[end of page #xvii]


Digression concerning the commerce with India.—This the only one that raised ancient nations to wealth.—Its continual variations.—The envy it excited, and revolutions it produced....................51


Of the causes that brought on the decline of the nations that had flourished in the middle ages, and of Portugal, Spain, Holland, and the Hans Towns..........62


General view and analysis of the causes that operated in producing the decline of all nations, with a chart, representing the rise, fall, and migrations of wealth, in all different countries, from the year 1500, before the birth of Christ, to the end of the eighteenth century,—a period of 3300 years...............70



Of the interior causes of decline, arising from the possession of wealth.—Its general operation on the habits of life, manners, education, and ways of thinking and acting of the inhabitants of a country................81


Of the education of youth in nations increasing in wealth.—The errors generally committed by writers on that subject.—Importance of female education on the manners of a people.—Not noticed by writers on political economy.—Education of the great body of the people the chief object.—In what that consists............94


Of increased taxation, as an interior cause of decline.—Its different effects on industry, according to the degree to which it is carried.—Its effects on the people and on government.............102


Of the interior causes of decline, arising from the encroachments of public and privileged bodies; and of those who have a common interest on those who have no common interest.....................116

[end of page #xviii]


Of the internal causes of decline, arising from the unequal division of property, and its accumulation in the hands of particular persons.—Its effects on the employment of capital...............125


Of the interior causes of decline, which arise from the produce of the soil becoming unequal to the sustenance of a luxurious people.—Of monopoly............137


Of the increase of the poor, as general affluence becomes greater.— Of children left unprovided for.—Of their division into two classes.— Those that can labour more or less, and those that can do no labour.................. 156


Of the tendency of capital and industry to leave a wealthy country, and of the depreciation of money in agricultural and commercial countries............. 161


Conclusion of the interior causes.—Their co-operation.—Their general effect on the government and on the people.—The danger arising from them does not appear till the progress in decline is far advanced......... 166


Of the external causes of decline.—The envy and enmity of other nations.—Their efforts, both in peace and war, to bring wealthy nations down to their level........ 175


Why the intercourse between nations is ultimately in favour of the poorer one, though not so at first............................. 179


Conclusion of exterior causes.—Are seldom of much importance, unless favoured by interior ones.—Rich nations, with care, capable, in most cases, of prolonging their prosperity.—Digression on the importance of public revenue, illustrated by a statistical chart................... 184

[end of page #xix]



Result of the foregoing Inquiry applied to Britain.—Its present state, in what its wealth consists; illustrated by a chart, shewing the increase of revenue and commerce........................191


Of education, as conducted in England.—Amelioration proposed.— Necessity of government interfering, without touching the liberty of the subject............................ 216


Of the effects of taxation in England........229


Of the national debt and sinking fund.—Advantages and disadvantages of both.—Errors committed in calculating their effects. —Causes of error.—Mode proposed for preventing future increase....................234


Of taxes for the maintenance of the poor.—Their enormous increase.— The cause.—Comparison between those of England and Scotland.— Simple, easy, and humane mode of reducing them..............247


Causes of decline, peculiar to England.................... 257


Circumstances peculiar to England, and favourable to it............. 261


Conclusion.................... 276

Application of the present Inquiry to nations in general..............289


I N Q U I R Y,

&c. &c._

====== BOOK I. ======


Introduction and Plan of the Work.—Explanation of what the Author understands by Wealthy and Powerful Nations, and of the General Causes of Wealth and Power.

One of the most solid foundations on which an enquirer can proceed in matters of political economy, as connected with the fate of nations, seems to be by an appeal to history, a view of the effects that have been produced, and an investigation of the causes that have operated in producing them.

Unfortunately, in this case, the materials are but very scanty, and sometimes rather of doubtful authority; nevertheless, such as they are, I do not think it well to reject the use of them, and have, therefore, begun, by taking a view of the causes that have ruined nations that have been great and wealthy, beginning with the earliest records and coming down to the present time. {5}

—- {5} Dr. Robertson very truly says, "It is a cruel mortification, in searching for what is instructive in the history of past times, to find that the exploits of conquerors who have desolated the earth, and the freaks of tyrants who have rendered nations unhappy, are recorded with minute, and often disgusting accuracy, while the discovery of useful arts, and the progress of the most beneficial branches of commerce are passed over in silence, and suffered to sink in oblivion." Disquisition on the Ancient Commerce to India. -=-

[end of page #1]

I divide this space into three periods, because in each is to be seen a very distinct feature.

During the first period, previous to the fall of the Roman empire, the order of things was such as had arisen from the new state of mankind, who had gradually increased in numbers, and improved in sciences and arts. The different degrees of wealth were owing, at first, to local situation, natural advantages, and priority in point of settlement, till the causes of decline begun to operate on some; when the adventitious causes of wealth and power, producing conquest, began to establish a new order of things.

The second period, from the fall of the Roman government till the discovery of America, and the passage to the East Indies, by the ocean, has likewise a distinct feature, and is treated of by itself.

The rulers of mankind were not then men, who from the ease and leisure of pastoral life, under a mild heaven, had studied science, and cultivated the arts; they were men who had descended from a cold northern climate, where nature did little to supply their wants, where hunger and cold could not be avoided but by industry and exertion; where, in one word, the sterility of nature was counteracted by the energy of man.

The possessors of milder climates, and of softer manners, falling under the dominion of such men, inferior greatly in numbers, as well as in arts, intermixed with them, and formed a new race, of which the character was different; and it is a circumstance not a little curious, that while mankind were in a state at which they had arrived by increasing population, and by the arts of peace, slavery was universal: but that when governed by men who were conquerors, and owed their superiority to force alone, where slavery might have been expected to originate, it was abolished. {6}

—- {6} This fact, which is indisputable, has, at first sight, a most extraordinary appearance, that is to say, seems difficult to account for; but a little examination into circumstances will render it easily understood.

In warm and fertile countries, the love of ease is predominant, and the services wanted are such as a slave can perform. The indolent habits of people make them consider freedom as an object of less importance than exemption from care. While the rulers of mankind were indolent and luxurious, they were interested in continuing slavery, which must have [end of page #2] originated in barbarism and ignorance. But the northern nations were different; with them, neither the moral character, the physical powers, or the situation of things, favoured slavery. The services one man wanted of another were not such as a slave could be forced to perform: neither are men who are fitted for performing such offices disposed to submit to slavery. Shepherds may be reduced to the situation of slaves, but hunters will not be likely to submit to such a situation, even if their occupation admitted of it. Slaves can only be employed to perform labour that is under the eye of an overseer or master, or the produce of which is nearly certain: but the labour of a hunter is neither the one nor the other, it is, therefore, not of the sort to be performed by slaves. The athletic active life necessary for a hunter is, besides, unfriendly to slavery, if not totally at variance with it. What does a slave receive in return for his service? Lodging, nourishment, and a life free from care. A hunter is obliged to provide the two former for himself, and the latter it is impossible for him to enjoy. The same thing goes even to hired servants. In the rudest state of shepherds, there are hired servants, but men in a rude state never hunt for wages: they are their own masters: they may hunt in society or partnership, but never as slaves or hired servants. -=-

The progress towards wealth in this new state of things was very slow, but the equality that prevailed amongst feudal barons, their love of war and glory, and the leisure they enjoyed, by degrees extended the limits of commerce very widely, as the northern world never could produce many articles which its inhabitants had by their connection with the south learnt to relish and enjoy.

The intermediate countries, that naturally formed a link of connection between the ancient nations of the east and the rough inhabitants of the north, profited the most by this circumstance; and we still find the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, though no longer the seat of power, the places where wealth was chiefly concentrated.

The impossibility of the inhabitants of the northern countries transporting their rude and heavy produce, in order to exchange it for the luxuries of the south, gave rise to manufactures as well as fishing on the southern confines of the Baltic Sea; from whence arose the wealth of Flanders, Holland, and the Hans Towns. This forms an epoch entirely new in its nature and description, and its termination was only brought on by the great discovery of the passage to Asia, by the Cape of Good Hope, and to America, by sailing straight out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The nations that had till those discoveries been the best situated for [end of page #3] commerce no longer enjoyed that advantage; by that means it changed its abode; but not only did it change its abode, it changed its nature, and the trifling commerce that had hitherto been carried on by the intervention of caravans by land, or of little barks coasting on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, (never venturing, without imminent danger, to lose sight of the shore,) {7} was dropt for that bold and adventurous navigation, connecting the most distant parts of the world; between which since then large vessels pass with greater expedition and safety than they formerly did between the Grecian Islands, or from Italy to Africa.

Three inventions, two in commerce and the other in war, nearly of equal antiquity, formed this into one of these epochs that gives a new feature to things.

The discovery of the magnetic power of the needle improved and totally altered navigation. The art of printing gave the means of extending with facility, to mankind at large, the mode of communicating thoughts and ideas, which had till then been attended with great difficulty, and confined to a few. This placed men nearer upon an equality with respect to mind, and greatly facilitated commerce and the arts. The invention of gun-powder nearly at the same time changed the art of war, not only in its manner, but in its effect, a point of far greater importance. While human force was the power by which men were annoyed, in cases of hostility, bodily strength laid the foundation for the greatness of individual men, as well as of whole nations. So long as this was the case, it was impossible for any nation to cultivate the arts of peace, (as at the present time), without becoming much inferior in physical force to nations that preferred hunting or made war their study; or to such as preferred exercising the body, as rude nations do, to gratifying the appetites, as practised in wealthy ones. To be wealthy and powerful long together was then impossible.

Since this last invention, the physical powers of men have ceased to occupy any material part in their history; superiority in skill is now the great object of the attainment of those who wish to excel, {8} and

—- {7} It was forbidden by law, formerly, in Spain, to put to sea from the 11th of November to the 10th of March.

{8} In the divine poem of the Iliad, Nestor, for experience and wisdom, and Ulysses, for [end of page #4] cunning, are the only two heroes whose minds gave them a superiority; but they make no figure compared to Achilles and Hector, or even the strong, rough, and ignorant Ajax. To bear fatigue, and understand discipline, is the great object at present; for though, of late years, the increased use of the bayonet seems to be a slight approximation to the ancient mode of contending by bodily strength, it is to be considered, on the other hand, that artillery is more than ever employed, which is increasing the dissimilarity. Again, though the bayonet is used, it is under circumstances quite new. Great strength enabled a single man, by wearing very thick armour, and wielding a longer sword or spear, to be invulnerable to men of lesser force, while he could perform what feats he pleased in defeating them. As gun-powder has destroyed the use of heavy armour, though with the sabre and bayonet men are not equal, they are all much more nearly so. No one is invulnerable, even in single combat, with the arme blanche, and with fire arms they are nearly on an equality. The changes that this makes, through every department of life, are too numerous to be enlarged upon, or not to be visible to all. -=-

men may devote themselves to a life of ease and enjoyment without falling under a real inferiority, provided they do not allow the mind to be degraded or sunk in sloth, ignorance, or vice.

Those discoveries, then, by altering the physical powers of men, by changing their relations and connections, as well as by opening new fields for commerce, and new channels for carrying it on, form a very distinct epoch in the history of wealth and power, and alter greatly their nature in the detail; though, in the main outline and abstract definition, they are still the same; having always the same relation to each other, or to the state of things at the time.

This last period is then very different in its nature, and much more important than either of the others that preceded it; yet, in one thing, there is a similarity that runs through the whole, and it is a very important one.

The passions and propensities of mankind, though they have changed their objects, and the means of their gratification, have not changed their nature. The desire of enjoyment; and of enjoyment with the least trouble possible, appears to be the basis of all the passions. Hence, envy, jealousy, friendship, and the endless train of second-rate effects, appear all to be produced by that primary passion; {9} and as from

—- {9} The very learned and ingenious author of the Inquiry into the Origin and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, traces all this to an innate propensity to barter. But barter is only a means, and not even the means to which mankind shew the greatest pro-[end of page #5] pensity; for, wherever they have power to take by force or pillage, they never barter. This is seen both in an infantine and adult state; children cry for toys, and stretch at them before they offer to exchange; and, conquerors or soldiers never buy or barter, when they can take, unless they are guided by some other motive than mere natural propensity. A highwayman will pay for his dinner at an inn, as willingly as a traveller, because he acts from other motives than propensity, but he will strip the inn-keeper when he meets him on the road. -=-

this originate the wealth as well as the decline of nations, the history of the revolutions in wealth and power, during the two first periods, are by no means unimportant; besides, as their duration was much longer than that of the latter, they lead to a more certain conclusion.

The review of what has taken place will occupy the first book; and serve as a data for an inquiry into the nature and causes of the fall of nations.

The first part of the second book will be dedicated to investigating the internal causes of decline; that is to say, all those causes which arise from the possession of wealth and power, operating on the habits, manners, and minds of the inhabitants; as also on the political arrangements, laws, government, and institutions, so far as they are connected with the prosperity or decline of nations.

The latter part of the same book will treat of the exterior causes of decline, arising from the envy of other nations; their advancement in the same arts to which the nations that are rich owe their wealth, or their excelling them in other arts, by which they can be rivalled, reduced, or subdued.

After having inquired into external and internal causes; and the operation of each and of both, (though they never act quite separately,) accidental causes, will make an object for consideration, which will bring the general inquiry to a conclusion.

The third book will begin with an application of the information obtained to the present state of England: by comparing its situation with that of nations that were great; and, by endeavouring to point out a means by which its decline may be prevented.

Though we know that, in this world, nothing is eternal, particularly in the institutions of man; yet, by a sort of fiction in language, when the final term is not fixed, and the end desirable, what is known to be [end of page #6] temporary is considered as perpetual. Thus, the contract between the king and the people, the constituent laws of a country, &c. are considered as permanent and of eternal duration.

In this case, though the final decline of a nation cannot be prevented; though the nature of things will either, by that regular chain of causes which admits of being traced, or by their regular operation of coincident causes which is termed accidental, sooner or later put an end to the prosperity of every nation, yet we shall not speak of prolonging prosperity, but of preventing decline, just as if it were never to happen at any period.

Before entering upon this Inquiry, it may be well, for the sake of being explicitly understood, to define what I mean by wealthy and powerful nations.

In speaking of nations, wealth and power are sometimes related to each other, as cause and effect. Sometimes there is between a mutual action and re-action. In the natural or ordinary course of things, they are, at first, intimately connected and dependent on each other, till, at last, this connection lessening by degrees, and they even act in opposite directions; when wealth undermines and destroys power, but power never destroys wealth. {10}

Though wealth and power are often found united, they are sometimes found separated. Wealth is altogether a real possession; power is comparative. Thus, a nation may be wealthy in itself, though unconnected with any other nation; but its power can only be estimated by a comparison with that of other nations.

Wealth consists in having abundance of whatever mankind want or desire; and if there were but one nation on earth, it might be wealthy; but it would, in that case, be impossible to measure its power.

Wealth is, however, not altogether real; it is in a certain degree comparative, whereas power is altogether comparative.

The Romans, for example, may very justly be called the most

—- {10} Till a nation has risen above its neighbours, and those to whom it compares itself, wealth and power act in the same direction; but, after it has got beyond that point, they begin to counteract each other. -=-

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powerful nation that ever existed, yet a single battalion of our present troops, well supported with artillery, would have probably destroyed the finest army they ever sent into the field. A single ship of the line would certainly have sunk, taken, or put to flight, all the fleets that Rome and Carthage ever sent to sea. The feeblest and least powerful of civilized nations, with the present means of fighting, and the knowledge of the present day, would defeat an ancient army of the most powerful description. Power then is entirely relative; and what is feebleness now, would, at a certain time, have been force or power.

It is not altogether so with wealth, which consists in the abundance of what men desire. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, had wealth; and this, though, perhaps, not consisting in the same objects, was, perhaps, not inferior to ours at the present time; but as wealth, purely and simply, no comparison between different nations was necessary, farther than that men's desires are augmented, by seeing the abundance possessed by others; and therefore they become comparative, as to wealth. Without, however, entering into a long examination respecting the various possible combinations of wealth and power, which are something similarly connected in states, as health and strength are in the animal body, {11} let both be considered only in a comparative way; the comparison either being made with other nations at the same time, or with the same nation at different times. Thus, for example, in comparing the wealth and power of Britain now, with what they were at the latter end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, we find that the merchants of Liverpool, during the first three years of last sic war, fitted out a force of privateers equal to the Spanish armada; and consequently superior to the whole naval force of England at that time; there can be no doubt, then, that both the wealth and power of the nation are increased. Again, if we find that our ships block up the

—- {11} A man may be very feeble, yet in very good health for his whole life-time. He may also have great strength, though he may not enjoy a very good state of health; yet nevertheless, health and strength are very intimately connected, and never can be completely separated. -=-

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ports of Holland, and prevent their navy from venturing to sea, we must conclude, that the relative power of the two nations is altered, since the time that the Dutch fleet rode triumphant in the river Thames. But, if we want to make a comparison between the naval power of England and that of France and Spain, we must not compare it with the strength of their navies in the year 1780, when they bid us defiance at Plymouth, but take things actually as they are at this present time.

When a nation is upon an equality with others, for wealth, it may be considered as neither deserving the name of a rich or a poor nation, whatever its real wealth or poverty may be. The same thing holds with power. When a nation is merely able to protect itself, but fully equal to that, though unable to make conquests, or aggrandize itself, against the will of other nations, it may be said to be neither weak nor strong. Thus, for example, Denmark as a nation is upon a par with others; and neither to be called wealthy and powerful, nor weak and poor, though it certainly has both more actual wealth and power than it had in the eighth century, when the Danes burnt London, Paris, and Cologne.

Thus, then, with respect to my reasoning, the whole is to be considered as applying to other nations at the same time; and the degree they are above or below par, is the measure of wealth and power, poverty and weakness. {12}

But, with respect to a nation itself, wealth is comparative in the progression of time. In speaking of power, we compare nations at the same period, and, in speaking of wealth, we may either compare a nation with itself at different periods, or with others at the same time.

We shall not find any example of a nation's becoming less wealthy whilst it increased in power; but we shall find many instances of nations becoming wealthy whilst they were losing their power, though,

—- {12} According to this definition, if all the nations on earth were to increase in wealth and power equally, they would be considered as stationary; their relative situations would remain the same; like those of the fixed stars, or those of soldiers who march in a regiment with perfect regularity, and retain their relative portion in the same manner as if they stood still. But this case, among nations, is only an imaginary one; therefore, the definition given answers the true purpose of investigation. -=-

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together with the power, the wealth always, a little sooner or a little later, vanishes away.

Sometimes nations owe their wealth and greatness to accidental causes, that, from their nature, must vanish away; and sometimes to causes which, depending upon the nations themselves, may be prolonged. In general, both the two sorts of causes have united to render every nation great that has been distinguished amongst others for riches or power.

The causes, then, divide themselves into two of distinct kinds;—those which are independent of the nation itself, and those over which it has some degree of influence and controul.

In early ages, when knowledge was but little advanced, and when the small stock that had been accumulated was confined nearly to a single spot, the first description of causes were the principal ones.—Local situation, priority in discovery, or in establishment, gave to one nation a superiority over others, and occasioned the accumulation of wealth, and the acquisition of power and territory. {13} As in the early stages of human life, a few years more or less occasion a greater difference, both in physical powers and mental faculties, than any difference of innate genius, or adventitious circumstances; so, in the early days of the world, when it was young in knowledge, and scanty in population, priority of settlement gave a great advantage to one nation over others, and, of consequence, enabled them to rule over others; thus the Assyrian and Egyptian empires were great, powerful, and extensive, while the nations that were beyond their reach were divided into small states or kingdoms, on the most contemptible scale.

Time, however, did away the advantages resulting from priority of establishment.

Local situation was another cause of superiority, of a more permanent nature; but this, also, new discovery has transferred from one na-

—- {13} It is not meant, by any means, to enter into an inquiry, much less controversy, respecting the antiquity of mankind; but it is very clear that the knowledge of arts and sciences can be traced to an infant state about two thousand years before the Christian aera. -=-

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tion to another. Qualities of the soil and climate are counteracted by the nature and habits of the inhabitants, which frequently, in the end, give the superiority where there was at first an inferiority.

If ever the nations of the world come to a state of permanence, (which in all probability will never be the case,) it must be when population is nearly proportioned to the means of subsistence in different parts; when knowledge is nearly equally distributed and when no great discoveries remain to be made either in arts, science, or geography.

While the causes from which wealth and power rise in a superior degree, are liable to change from one nation to another, wealth and power must be liable to the same alterations and changes of place; so long any equal balance among nations must be artificial. But when circumstances become similar, and when the pressure becomes equal on all sides, then nations, like the particles of a fluid, though free to move, having lost their impulse, will remain at rest.

If such a state of things should ever arrive, then the wealth and power would be only real, not comparative. The whole might be very rich, very affluent, and possess great abundance of every thing, either for enjoyment or for defence, without one nation having an advantage over another: they would be on an equality.

But this state of things is far from being likely soon to take place. Population is far from come to its equilibrium, and knowledge {14} is farther distant still. Russia and America, in particular, are both behind in population, and the inhabitants of the latter country are far from being on a par in knowledge with the rest of Europe; when they become so, the balance will be overturned, and must be re-established anew.

The great discoveries that have taken place in knowledge and geography have been connected.

While navigation was little understood, the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, and the islands in it, were naturally the first places for wealth and commerce.

The discovery of the compass, and others that followed, rendered

—- {14} By knowledge is only meant the knowledge of the arts that make men useful, =sic= such as agriculture, manufactures, legislation, &c. -=-

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the navigation of the open ocean, more easy and safe than that of the circumscribed seas. This laid a great foundation for change and discovery; it brought Britain into importance, ruined Italy, Genoa, Venice, &c. and has laid the foundation for further changes still.

As for discoveries in arts, it would be bold and presumptuous indeed to attempt to set any bounds to them. Discoveries, however, that alter the relations of mankind very materially, are probably near at an end. In arts they give only a temporary preference. {15} If a method should be discovered to cultivate a field with half the trouble, and to double the produce, which seems very possible, it would be a great discovery, and alter the general state of mankind considerably; but it would soon be extended to all nations, as the use of gunpowder has been. New produce, or means of procuring the old more easily, are the things chiefly sought after. Potatoes, coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, silk, distilled spirits, are new productions, unknown to the Romans. Glass, gunpowder, printing, windmills, watermills, steam-engines, and the most part of spinning and weaving machines, are new inventions, but they can be extended to all countries. The mariners compass changed the relative position of places, and no new invention of the same importance, as to its effects on nations, probably can take place. Navigation does not admit of a similar improvement to that which it has received. If goods could be conveyed for a quarter of the present price it would not produce the same sort of effect. To render navigating the ocean practicable was a greater thing than any possible improvement on that practicability.

As for new discoveries in geography, they are nearly at an end. The form and the extent of the earth are known, and the habitable regions are nearly all explored.

We have, then, arrived at a state of things where many of the causes that formerly operated on reducing wealthy nations can never again produce a similar effect. But still there are other causes which ope-

—- {15} The end of all discovery is to supply men with what they want; and, accordingly, all nations that are considered as civilised find the means of participating in the advantage of a new discovery, by imitating that which possesses the invention first, and that is done almost immediately. It was very different formerly. -=-

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rate as they did formerly; accordingly, wealth and power are very unequally distributed amongst nations at this moment; and, in Europe, there is not one nation that is not either rising or on its decline. (see Appendix A.) sic—there is none.

The purpose of the present Inquiry is, by tracing those causes that still continue to operate, to discover how nations that now stand high may be prevented from sinking below their level: a thing to which history shews they have a natural tendency, and which history shews also is attended with very distressing consequences.

We do not labour in Utopia on schemes, but in Britain on real business; and the inquiry is, how a nation, situated as this is, and having more than its share of power, importance, and wealth, may prolong their possession?

In this Inquiry we shall begin with taking a lesson from history, which will serve as some guide.

As to the rise of other nations, we neither can nor should attempt to impede that; let them rise to our level, but let us not sink down to theirs. [end of page #13]


Of the General Causes that operate, both externally and internally, in bringing down Nations that have risen above their Level to that assigned to them by their Extent, Fertility, and Population; and of the Manner in which Wealth destroyed Power in ancient Nations.

Without considering the particular causes that have raised some nations greatly above others, there are some general causes of decline which operate in all cases; but even the general causes are not always similar, they vary their way of producing the effect, according to circumstances.

If a nation excels in arts and manufactures, others acquire a taste for what they make, and imitate them. If they excel in the art of war, they teach their enemies to fight as well as themselves. If their territories are large, the unprotected and far distant parts provoke attack and plunder. They become more difficult and expensive to govern. If they owe their superiority to climate and soil, they generally preserve it but a short time. Necessity acts so much more powerfully on those who do not enjoy the same advantages, that they soon come to an equality.— In whatever the superiority exists, emulation and envy prompt to rivalship in peace, and to frequent trials of strength in war. The contempt and pride which accompany wealth and power, and the envy and jealousy they excite amongst other nations, are continual causes of change, and form the great basis of the revolutions amongst the human race.

The wants of men increase with their knowledge of what it is good to enjoy; and it is the desire to gratify those wants that increases necessity, and this necessity is the spur to action.

There are a few natural wants that require no knowledge in order to be felt; such as hunger and thirst, and the other appetites which men have in common with all animals, and which are linked, as it [end of page #14] were, to their existence. {16} But while nations satisfy themselves with supplying such wants, there is neither wealth nor power amongst them. Of consequence, it is not into the conduct of such that we are to inquire.

Excepting, however, those wants which are inseparable from our existence, all the others are, more or less, fictitious, and increase with our knowledge and habits; it is, therefore, evident that the nation that is the highest above others feels the fewest wants; or, in other words, feels no wants. She knows nothing that she does not possess, and therefore may be said to want nothing; or which is the same thing, not knowing what she does want, she makes no effort to obtain it.

Thus necessity of rising higher, does not operate, on a nation that sees none higher than itself; at least, it does only operate in a very slender degree. {17} Whereas, in the nation that is behind hand with other nations around, every one is led by emulation and envy, and by a feeling of their own wants, to imitate and equal those that are farther advanced.

—- {16} A child cries for food without knowing what it is; and all the other natural appetites, though they may be increased by habit, by knowledge, and fancy, are independent of the mind in its first state.

{17} The necessity, no doubt, continues to preserve what they have; and, therefore, tends to keep them in a permanent state. Some individuals again, in less affluence than others, endeavour to equal them; by which means some progress is still making in the nation that possesses the greatest share of wealth and power; but it is only partial and feeble. Those who live in the nation that is the most advanced are contented and have all they wish; they possess every thing of which they know, they can have no particular desire for any thing they have not got, that will produce great energy and exertion. A man may wish for wings, or for perpetual youth; but, as he can scarcely expect to obtain either, he will make little exertion. With things really attainable, but not known, the case is less productive of energy still. The people of Asia found silk a natural produce of their country; till the Europeans saw it, they never attempted to produce so rich a material; but no pains has since been spared to try to produce it, in almost every country, where there was the least chance of success. We imitated the silk mills of Italy, and the Italians (as well as many other nations) are now imitating our cotton mills. In the case of a nation that follows others, it always knows what it wants, and may judge whether it can obtain it; but the nation the most advanced, gropes in the dark. -=-

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Thus it is, that necessity acts but in a very inferior degree on the nation that is the farthest advanced; while it operates in a very powerful way on those that are in arrear; and this single reason, without the intervention of wars or any sort of contest or robbery, would, in the process of time, bring nations to a sort of equality in wealth and refinement; that is, it would bring them all into possession of the means of gratifying their wants.

War, excited by the violent and vile passions,—by the overbearing pride and insolence of one, and the envy and villainy of another, derange this natural and smooth operation, which, nevertheless, continues to act in silence at all times, and in every circumstance, and which, indeed, is in general the chief cause of those very disorders by which its operations are sometimes facilitated; sometimes apparently interrupted; sometimes, their effect for a moment reversed; but their action never, for one instant, totally suspended.

The desire of enjoyment makes all mankind act as if they were running a race. They always keep the goal in view, though they attempt to be the foremost to arrive at it by various means. But the greatest exertions are never made by those who have got the advance of their competitors. Amongst the wants of mankind, ease is one of very permanent operation; and whenever the necessity of supplying other wants ceases, the desire of supplying that, leads to a state of inaction and rest. {18} To seek ease, however, does not imply necessarily to seek total inaction or rest; a diminished exertion is comparative ease; and this is always observable in a state of prosperity, either of an individual or of a nation, after the prosperity has been long enough

—- {18} The truth of this may be disputed by those who look at mankind in an artificial state; because a variety of their actions seem without any particular motive. But not the smallest exertion is ever made without it. The man who walks out and takes exercise, wants health or amusement as much as the working man does bread. Even those who toil in the rounds of pleasure, are always in pursuit of something. Their not finding the object is another part of the consideration; but they always have one in view. As to savages, and the poorer classes of people, they shew their propensity by a more simple process; that is, merely by resting inactive, when they are not compelled to labour. -=-

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enjoyed to create a certain degree of lassitude and indifference, which it does on every nation. {19}

Whatever may be the accidental circumstance which first raises one nation above others, or the train of adventitious ones that increase for a while and continue that superiority, nothing can be more clear and certain, than, that they have a natural tendency to come back to a level, merely by the exertions of men in the direction of acquiring wealth by industry, and without any of those causes which arise out of war, or interrupting the career of each other.

When, from the conduct of one nation towards another, or from whatever other cause war, sic becomes the means by which the superiority of two nations is to be decided, there are many things in favour of the least wealthy nation.

It has less to protect and to lose, and more to attack and to gain; the task is much easier and more alluring. There is a sort of energy in attempting to obtain, that is not to be found in those who are only exerting themselves to keep, of which it is difficult to explain the cause, but of which the existence is very certain.

Where natural strength, and the struggle with want is great, as is the case with nations who have made but little progress in acquiring wealth, the contest with a people more enervated by ease, and less inured to toil is very unequal, and does more than compensate those artificial aids which are derived from the possession of property. {20} From this cause, the triumph of poorer over more wealthy nations has generally arisen, and, in most cases, has occasioned the contest to end in favour of the more hardy and poorer people.

Of the revolutions that took place in the ancient world; whether operated by degrees or by violence and suddenly, those may be ge-

—- {19} Doctor Garth, in his admirable poem of the Dispensary, says;—

"Even health for want of change becomes disease."

This is the case with nations sunk in prosperity.

{20} Why men should have been less tenacious to keep that which is fairly theirs, than rapaciously to obtain that which is not, is a strange thing; but nothing is more certain; and the effects of that propensity are very great, and its existence very general. In the ruin of nations, it is a most active and powerful cause. -=-

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nerally traced as the causes. In those ancient nations any considerable degree of luxury and military success were incompatible with each other; but, in the present age, the case is greatly altered. Military discipline is not near so severe as formerly, and bodily strength has but little effect, while the engines of war can only be procured by those resources which wealth affords; by this means, the decline of nations is, at least, now become a less natural and slower progress than formerly; the operations of war have now a quite different tendency from what they formerly had, and this effect is produced by the introduction of cannon, and a different mode of attack and defence; to carry on which, a very considerable degree of wealth is necessary. {21}

In former times, the character and situation of the people, the object they had in view, their bravery and the skill of their leaders, did every thing; but now the skill of leaders and the command of money are the chief objects; for there is not sufficient difference between any two nations in Europe as to counterbalance those: and, indeed, (except so far as military skill is accidental,) it is to be found principally in nations who have a sufficient degree of wealth to exercise it and call it into action.

We shall see that the first revolutions in the world were effected by the natural strength, energy, and bravery of poor nations triumphing over those that were less hardy, in consequence of the enjoyment of wealth, until the time of the Romans; who, like other nations, first triumphed by means of superior energy and bravery; and, afterwards by making war a trade, continued, by having regular standing armies, to conquer the nations who had only temporary levies, or militias, to fight in their defence.

The triumph of poor nations, over others in many respects their superiors, continued during the middle ages, but the wealth acquired by certain nations then was not wrested from them by war, but by an accidental and unforeseen change in the channel through which it

—- {21} An idea has gone abroad, since the successes of the French armies, that money is not necessary to war, even in the present times. It will be shewn, in its proper place, that the French armies were maintained at very great expense, and that a poor country could not have done what France did. -=-

flowed. At the same time that this change took place, without the intervention of force, the art of war changed in favour of wealthy nations, but the changes took place by slow degrees, and the power of nations now may almost be estimated by their disposable incomes.

This change, however, has by no means secured the prosperity of wealthy nations; it has only prevented poor ones, unable by means of fair competition to do by conquest what they could not effect by perseverance in arts and industry; for, in other respects, though it makes the prosperity of a nation more dependant sic on wealth, and more independent of violence; it prevents any nation from preserving its political importance after it loses its riches. It does not by any means interrupt that progress by which poor nations gradually rise up and rival richer ones in arts. It has not done away the advantages that arise from superior industry and attention to business, or from the gradual introduction of knowledge amongst the more ignorant, thereby lessening their inferiority, and tending to bring nations to a level; on the contrary, by increasing the advantages, and securing the gradual triumphs gained by arts and industry, from the violence of war, it makes wealth a more desirable object, and the loss of it a greater misfortune. It tends to augment the natural propensity that there is in poor nations to equal richer ones {22}, although it, at the same time, augments the difficulty of accomplishing their intentions.

The superior energy of poverty and necessity which leads men, under this pressure, to act incessantly in whatever way they have it in their power to act, and that seems likely to bring them on a level with those that are richer, is then the ground-work of the rise and fall of nations, as well as of individuals. This tendency is sometimes favoured by particular circumstances, and sometimes it is counteracted by them; but its operation is incessant, and it has never yet failed in producing its effect, for the triumph of poverty over wealth on the great scale as on the small, though very irregular in its pace, has continued without interruption from the earliest records to the present moment.

—- {22} The present inferiority of Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal, compared with the rank they held in former times, is easily accounted for by looking at the scale of their revenues. -=-

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Of the Nations that rose to Wealth and Power previously to the Conquests in Asia and Africa, and the Causes which ruined them.

Previous to the conquests made by Alexander the Great, the history of ancient nations is confused, incomplete, and inaccurate.

During the contests of his successors, the intricacy and confusion are still continued, but materials are more plentiful, more accurate, and more authentic.

During the first period, excepting what is contained in sacred history, a few detached facts, collected by writers long after, are our only guides in judging of the situation of ancient states, some of which consisted of great empires, and others of single cities possessed of a very small territory.

Add to this, that great and striking events occupied almost exclusively the attention of historians. The means by which those events were produced were considered as of lesser importance.

So far, however, as the present inquiry can be elucidated, although materials are few, yet, by adhering to a distinct plan, and keeping the object always before us, we may arrive at a conclusion.

The countries that appear to have been first inhabited were Syria and Egypt, {23} both of them situated on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea; and as early as any authentic records extend, those were great and powerful countries in which agriculture and population had made great progress, and into which commerce had already brought many of the luxuries of the East.

The Phoenicians, a people differing in name from those who were subjected to the Assyrian monarchs, occupied that part of Syria, now called the Levant, directly on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea; they were the first who rose to wealth and power by arts and com-

—- {23} Reasons have been given in the preface for not taking any view of the situation of India, though, by its produce, it appears, at least of equal antiquity. -=-

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merce. Tyre and Sidon were the abodes of commerce long before the arrival of the Jews in the land of Canaan, situated in the adjacent country, with whom, in the days of David and Solomon, the Phoenicians were on terms of friendship and alliance, {24} assisting the latter to carry on commerce, and enrich his people. (See Appendix B.) sic—there is none.

The whole coast of the Mediterranean lay open to them for navigation, as did also the Grecian islands, and as their own soil was barren, they purchased the necessaries of life, giving in exchange the rich stuffs they had manufactured, and the produce of the East of which they almost exclusively possessed the commerce.

The Egyptians were possessed of the most fertile soil in the world, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, and on the east and west by barren deserts. Their country was of a triangular form, and watered by the Nile, which, passing through it in its greatest extent, runs nearly down the middle.

Thus situated, in the country depending on the Nile for its fertility, and on all sides protected from enemies, it was exceedingly natural to cultivate the arts of peace, and it was not possible that it should be divided into many different nations, as in other countries in early times was the case, when sovereignty rose from parental authority, and when there was no natural bond between the heads of different families.

The great abundance with which the inhabitants were supplied, in years when the Nile overflowed in a favourable manner, and the uncertainty of future plenty were inducements for accumulation and foresight, which are not equally necessary in countries where the important circumstances of plenty or want do not depend on one single event over the whole face of a country, separated, besides, from others by a sea, which they could not navigate, and by deserts not very easy to pass over.

The difficulties of transporting corn, which were sufficient to deter the Egyptians from depending on a supply from other parts, did not, however, prevent other nations from applying to them in times of scarcity, and accordingly it was the granary of the ancient world.

—- {24} For farther particulars of this commerce see the Digression on the Trade to India. -=-

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To those natural advantages, the Egyptians added some others, different in their nature, but not less precious.

They enjoyed a mild government, and an admirable and simple code of laws. Their docility and obedience have never been equalled, and as one maxim, was, to admit of no person being idle, it is evident that the population must have increased rapidly, and that there must have been an impossibility to employ the whole labour of so many hands on the means of providing subsistence in a country, where the manners were simple, the soil fertile, and the wants few.

The surplus of the industry of Egypt appears to have been at the disposal of the sovereigns to whom all the lands belonged, and for which they exacted a rent in kind, as is the custom among the native powers on both peninsulas of India to this day. By that means, they were enabled to produce those stupendous works which have been the admiration and wonder of all succeeding generations, and of every nation. The city of Thebes, with the labyrinth; Memphis, the canals, and the pyramids would all be incredible, had not their singular structure preserved those latter efforts of industry from the ravages of time, and left them nearly entire to the present day.

The Phoenicians were a colony from that great country; for the Egyptians in general had a dislike to the sea. It is well known, however, that people who live immediately on the coast have a propensity to navigation, and it is probable that those Egyptians who left their own fruitful land to settle on the barren borders of Syria, were from the delta of Lower Egypt, which lies on the sea coast, and is intersected by a number of branches of the river Nile. {25}

It is not surprising that such a colony, following the natural propensity to naval affairs, and carrying with it the arts of dying and weaving, together with whatever else the Egyptians knew, should become under the influence of necessity, and in a favourable situation for arts and commerce, as much celebrated for commercial riches, as their mother country had long been for agriculture and the cultivation of the sciences.

—- {25} That the Phoenicians were from Egypt is not doubted, and their becoming a totally different people from being on a different soil and in a different situation, is a strong proof of the influence of physical circumstances on the characters of nations. -=-

[end of page #22]

Tyre accordingly is the first example of a city becoming rich and powerful by arts and commerce, and though few details are known, yet those are of a very decided character.

The pride of the Tyrians appears to have been the cause of their fall, and that pride was occasioned by the possession of wealth, far beyond that of any other people then in the world. While they were great they aimed at monopoly, and were partly the cause of the rapid decay of Jerusalem. After the death of Solomon, they founded a colony, well situated for the extention of their own trade, which consisted chiefly in bringing the rich produce of Arabia, and India, into the western world. Carthage was placed on the south coast of the Mediterranean to the west of Egypt, so as never to have any direct intercourse with India itself, while it lay extremely well for distributing the merchandize, brought by the Tyrians, from thence in the interior of Africa, Spain, Sicily, Italy, and the parts that lay distant from the mother city. {26}

From the extent of its territory and situation, Tyre could only be wealthy; it never could be powerful, as the great Assyrian monarchy, which lay immediately to the eastward, prevented the possibility of its extention; and, as to power at sea, there was sic at that time no contests on that element; the most then that could be expected was, that it should have sufficient strength to protect itself, which, being on a small island, very near the shore, was not difficult. If Alexander the Great had not joined it to the land by an earthen mound, or mole, Tyre could never have been taken till some other power got the superiority by sea; which could not have been till after the Romans had conquered Carthage.

Babylon, which was the centre of the Assyrian empire, and commu-

—- {26} The best account of the commodities in which the commerce of the Tyrians consisted, as well as the best description of their wealth, and the cause of the downfall is to be found in Ezekiel, chap. xxvi. and the two following. It is perfectly distinct and conclusive with respect to the principal points of wealth, pride, and luxury founded on wealth.

The Tyre here spoken of is not the same taken by the king of Babylon, or Assyrian monarch long before Alexander's time, which only appears to have been a settlement on the main land belonging to the same people, and subject to the same prince. -=-

[end of page #23]

nicated with the eastern part of Asia, by the river Euphrates, and by the Persian Gulf with India, was, as Memphis, of Egypt, a capital; but the Assyrians were not protected on all sides, like the Egyptians, from foreign inroads; they consequently did not cultivate the arts of peace and the sciences so much. On the east, were the Medes and Persians; on the north, the Scythians and Partheans; but, as the territory was fertile and extensive, under one of the finest climates of the world, the monarchs became rich and luxurious, which was the cause of their subjection, and they were always subdued by people less advanced in luxury than themselves.

The whole of these countries, Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, and Greece, fell under the arms of Alexander. This was the first great and general revolution in that part of the world, from which Carthage alone, of all the ancient seats of wealth and greatness, escaped.

The triumph of Alexander was, no doubt, that of a great captain; but, except the destruction of Tyre, and the foundation of Alexandria, which changed the principal seat of commerce, there was nothing durable in his conquests. The reigning families were destroyed, and the dynasties altered; but, under his immediate successors, the Egyptians, the inhabitants of Syria, and the Greeks, had different masters.

It was after the foundation of Alexandria, and under the successors of Alexander, that Egypt became really a commercial country. Its wealth had hitherto arisen rather from the great population and fertility of the country, than from any participation in the trade to the East; but after Alexandria was founded, the seat of empire, which had always been in Upper Egypt, was established in Lower Egypt, canals were dug, and every means taken to make the passage from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean as commodious as possible.

Carthage began then to decline. Tyre was no more: and Alexandria was situated on the same side of the Mediterranean Sea, in a much more advantageous position for receiving the productions of the East, and equally advantageous for distributing them.

The Phoenicians never recovered their importance; and indeed it was not the interest of the Persian monarch to encourage trade by [end of page #24] the old channel of the Red Sea and Rhinocolura, but rather to come directly through the Persian Gulf, ascend the Euphrates, and cross the country to the borders of the Mediterranean, which was a way not much more expensive than by the old rout sic. As the greater part of the produce imported was to be consumed at the luxurious court of Persia, and in the numerous rich cities with which that empire was filled, there is no doubt that the way by the Persian Gulf was by much the least expensive; for even Solomon, King of Jerusalem, long before, though he lived at one extremity of the journey, and had ships for trading by the other channel, had carried on trade by this way; and, in order to facilitate it, had laid the foundation of the magnificent city of Palmyra, nearly in the middle between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Persia.

Whilst those revolutions were effecting amongst the ancient nations on the continents of Asia and Africa, the Greeks, who had been the most barbarous of all, became, by degrees, the most refined; their learning and arts were all founded, originally, on the Egyptian learning; and though at last they carried them to a higher pitch than their masters; yet Egypt, for many centuries, was looked up to, even by the Greeks, as they were afterwards for a number of centuries by the Romans, and the other nations of the world.

The education of the Greeks; very different in some of the states from what it was in others, had, however, the same tendency in all; that tendency was to invigorate the body, and instruct and strengthen the mind. While this continued, we see them at first resist the Persians, though in very unequal numbers; and, at last, the Grecian vigour, discipline, and skill, subdue the whole of the then civilized world.

After the conquests of Alexander, the wealth and luxury of Asia were introduced into Greece, and indeed the Greeks refined on that luxury. At Athens and the other cities which might be said to give manners to the rest, shews, and theatrical representations were after that more attended to than the military art; and cabal, intrigue, and corruption, were introduced in the place of that manly, pure, and admirable love of their country, for which, in less wealthy, but in better [end of page #25] times, they had been so highly distinguished above every other people.

This was the situation of things when a nation, less advanced in arts, and uncorrupted with the possession of wealth, but which was still considered by the Greeks as barbarous, prepared at once to subdue the whole of them, and give a still more striking proof of the triumph which vigour and energy obtain over those who have only wealth; the possession of which, undoubtedly, gives a certain means of defence, though one very unequal to resisting a nation when excited by the desire of sharing its possessions, and yet vigorous and strong, not being unnerved by the enjoyment of ease and luxury. [end of page #26]


Of the Romans.—the Causes of their Rise under the Republic, and of their Decline under the Emperors.—the great Error generally fallen into with respect to the Comparison between Rome and Carthage; Proofs that it is wrong, and not at all applicable to France and England.

In the rise and greatness of Rome, there was nothing accidental, all was the effect of the most unremitting perseverance in a plan, at first, of petty robbery; which, as it extended, was honoured with the title of conquest; and, as it succeeded, has been considered as deserving the appellation of great.

It is true, that there were talents exercised, and methods practised, which deserve the highest praise, and are worthy of imitation. It is impossible to withhold admiration at the recital, but the end in view, from the beginning, cannot be justified.

Although neither the end in view, nor, generally speaking, the means employed, are deserving of imitation, yet we shall find more advantage from examining them than from the history of any other nation.

In the first place, so far as prosperity depends on good conduct, and good conduct depends on the state of the mind, the Romans are a most striking example. While they preserved the manners that first occasioned their rise, they continued to become more powerful; as they forsook these manners, their power abandoned them; and they, after having conquered all with whom they ever contended, because they had more skill or less corruption, were themselves overcome, by men infinitely inferior to what they had been, before they became enervated and corrupt.

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