« AnteriorContinuar »
performed in the Polar seas. It showed that Davis's Strait is absolutely shut along the north side; and proved that either no passage exists on its western coast, or none which is, for the shortest time of the year, practicable. Baffin constructed a chart, which, on account of the expense, was never published.
That very able and even scientific navigator, was some years afterwards unfortunately killed, while making astronomical observations, by a random shot, at the siege of Ormus in the East Indies.
It is impossible not to admire the daring enterprise which distinguished our early navigators. Indeed nothing has been attempted since, in the Arctic seas, that deserves, under all the circumstances of the case, to be compared with their bold discoveries. A very short enumeration of the subsequent voyages undertaken to those extreme regions, may therefore suffice.
In 1631, Fox sailed from Deptford, and explored Hudson's Bay, where he made a number of valuable hydrographical observations. In that very year, James was sent from Bristol to the same quarter. He was obliged to winter on, Charleton Island at the bottom of the bay; but, though not farther north than the parallel of 52°, his crew suffered cruelly from the intense cold, and were, besides, attacked by an alarming scurvy. In 1668, Prince Rupert, who was fond of commercial speculation, sent out Gillam, to examine Hudson's Bay, and procured, next year, the singular patent, erecting that Company, which has always been reproached for acting with very selfish and narrow views. In consequence of such complaints, the Hudson's Bay Company found themselves in some measure obliged to attempt the discovery of a north-west passage. They sent, in 1720, Knight and Barlow, who were never afterwards heard of; and again, in 1722, Scroggs, who effected nothing of the smallest note. In 1737, Mr Arthur Dobbs, a gentleman of considerable weight and information, prevailed on that Company, by mere dint of importunity, to despatch a sloop for discovery; but it returned without achieving any thing. Application being next made to Government, u bombketch, in 1741, was entrusted to Middleton, who examined the shores of Hudson's Bay from Repulse Bay to Cape Comfort, and met with abundance of ice, but no opening, Mr Dobbs, dissatisfied with this result, now persuaded the public to form a joint stock to the amount of 10,0001., for the purpose of resuming the search un, der better auspices. Two ships were accordingly despatched under the command of Moor and Smith in the spring of 1746, These navigators wintered in Hudson's Bay, and explored it Dext summer in their long-boat; They found yarious creeks, but no distinct passage; and the great object of their pursuit seemed quite hopeless. The Admiralty again sent the Lion brig to Davis's Strait, in the years 1776 and 1777, under the successive command of Lieutenants Pickersgill and Lane; but these naval officers made very little progress, and effected no eliscovery whatever.
This retrospect of the voyages undertaken to the North, sufficiently proves that the Polar seas have remained in the same condition during a series of ages. The great icy barrier may partially shift its position in different seasons; but it soon returns to its ancient limits, and for ever repels all approach of the navigator. Whether some new application of human ingenuity, joined to perseverance, shall at last surmount that frozen rampart, is still in the womb of time. We may indulge the hope, but can scarcely entertain any just expectation, of achieving such a triumph.
But the possibility of ever sailing through the Polar seas into the Pacific Ocean, appears to be still less probable. If any passage really exists, it must, from its very high latitude, be almost constantly choked with ice. Besides, the currents that might serve to keep it open are feebler in those Arctic regions, since the tides and other causes which produce them, regularly diminish in approximating to the Pole. The notion of a stream rushing beneath a frozen arch, cannot be easily admitted ; for the power of the water to melt and undermine the incumbent ice, augments rapidly with the increase of its velocity, insomuch, that the rate of only three miles an hour will multiply the ordinary effect of dissolution tenfold.
Any passage from the North must evidently have its first outlet in the Tartarian Sea. That quarter especially, therefore, , invites research. But the belief of the disjunction of the American Continent from the Old World has perhaps been too hastily embraced. A little reflection will show on what slender grounds this opinion rests. The Russian navigators, who by an easterly progress explored the White Sea, and reached the River Anadir, in the country of the Tschuktzkis, did not proceed by a single course: they employed kotschis, a sort of craft particularly adapted for working amidst ice, which are easily taken to pieces as occasion requires, the planks being only fastened to the beams by straps of leather. Such vessels, when broken up, were carried over fields of ice, or necks of land, and again refitted and launched into the sea; nor, to the amphibious travellers, would the distinction appear very marked, betwcen a mere frozen isthmus, and an icy tract covered
with snow. Till more conclusive evidence shall be produced, we may consider Bering's Strait, not as the separation of two great continents, but merely as the entrance to a vast bay or inland sea. Such is the idea of Captain Burney, whose authority has deservedly much weight; both because he enjoyed the peculiar advantage of sailing round the world under the celebrated Cook, and because he has since devoted his life to the compilation and critical examination of the numerous reports of nautical discoveries. In a paper lately communicated to the Royal Society of London, he states the reasons which led him and Mr Bailey, the astronomer, at the very time their illustrious commander was exploring, between the parallels of 70 and 71 degrees, the expanse beyond Bering's Strait, to suspect that it was only a mediterranean sea. Near the Strait itself, they found hardly any current; and, above it, the water was generally smooth, entirely exempt from the influence of tides, and very shallow, its soundings rarely exceeding thirty fathoms. An immense barrier of ice prevented, as usual, their farther advance to the North. This ice appeared to drift from the north-east; but another body formed a solid and impregnable frontier on the west side, or projecting from the Asiatic Continent, in approaching to which, likewise, the soundings always decreased. These are obviously distinct indications of an enclosed sea.
Art. II. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. By
David Ricardo, Esq. 1 vol. 8vo. pp. 589. Murray, Lon
don, 1817. Such Uch of our readers as take any interest in the progress of
the science of Political Economy, or have attended to the discussions on the Corn-Bill and the State of the Currency, cannot be unacquainted with the merits and writings of Mr Ricardo. His essay · On the High Price of Bullion,' which was published previously to the Report of the Bullion Committee, contains a concise, satisfactory, and luminous exposition of the principles regulating the distribution of the precious metals; and his reply to the observations of Mr Bosanquet on the Report itself, is not only the ablest vindication of the principles and opinions maintained in that celebrated document, but gives by far the best exposition of the theory of exchange with which we are acquainted.
Mr Ricardo's subsequent pamphlets · On the Profits of Stock,' and on the best Means of securing a Safe and Economical Crrrency,' were in every respect worthy of his previous reputation. His plan for making bank notes payable in bullion, a plan which would afford all the security of a gold currency, without any of the expenses of coinage, and without the loss arising from the tear and wear of the coins themselves, is at once happy, original, and ingenious. At present, however, we camot enter upon any inquiry into its merits, but must confine ourselves to the work before us,-in which Mr Ricardo has examined the fundamental principles on which the science of Political Economy rests, and in which, as it appears to us, he has done more for its improvement than any other writer, with perhaps the single exception of Dr Smith.
A very great, if not the principal source, of the errors into which political economists have been betrayed, appears to have originated in their confounding together the Natural and the Market price of commodities. But the laws by which these prices are regulated, are essentially different. Should the supply of any necessary or desirable commodity be increased beyond the effectual demand, or the demand of those who are able and willing to pay the expense of its production, including in that expense the ordinary rate of profit on the capital employed, its price will decline. Those that are inclined to part with this commodity being more numerous than those that are inclined to purchase it at its full value; the former, to be able to dispose of the whole quantity, and in order to save the expense and loss attending the storing it up, will, by reducing its price, endeavour to engage a greater portion of the community to become purchasers. This is the only way in which, in ordinary cases, an excess of produce can be disposed of: and, besides, there are very many commodities of such a nature as will not admit of their being warehoused for any considerable period, and which must be sold for whatever they will bring. In almost every case, too, it will be found more advantageous for the holders of goods to reduce their price, and thereby obtain a ready market for the whole quantity, than, in the expectation of ultimately selling them at a higher price, to incur the expense of keeping them on hand, and to be prevented from making use of their capital.
In the same way, when the supply of any commodity falls short of the quantity usually demanded, the competition on the part of the buyers becomes greater than that on the part of the sellers, and an increase of its ordinary price is the consequence. When the deficient commodity happens to be a necessary of life, or in very great request, its price, should the deficiency be considerable, will be very much increased. Men cannot give up necessaries; and are very reluctant to give up those luxuries to which they have been accustomed. But whatever may be their efforts to procure equal quantities in a season of scarcity as in a season of plenty, it is plain that they cannot all be successful; and that the producers of such commodities will always raise their price to a par with the exertions of the consumers to acquire them. Should the corn crop be considerably deficient, we might offer 120s. or 160s. for a quarter of wheat, which might previously have been purchased for 80s. ; but unless we could thereby increase the supply, those consumers who could with difficulty afford to pay this high price, or who could not afford it at all, would be compelled to diminish their consumption.
These principles, we believe, are now very generally admitted ; and some apology might be necessary for having stated them so much at large, if the error which we wish to expose did not consist in their general misapplication: For though it is perfectly correct to say, in reference to periods of short duration, that 'the • exchangeable value of a commodity increases directly as the de* mand, and inversely as the supply, and vice versa ; ' nothing can be more incorrect than to extend this reasoning, as many political economists have done, to periods of unlimited duration. It is the cost of production, which is the permanent and ultimate regulator of the exchangeable value of every commodity. The occasional variations, arising from an excess or deficiency of supply, or from a variation in the demand, are mere temporary oscillations on one side or the other of this given quantity. It is but seldom, indeed, that the market price and the real price of a commodity entirely correspond; but, except in cases of monopoly, the one can never permanently continue either much above or much below the other. Should the market price of hats, for example, either from the circumstance of an excessive supply, or of a diminished consumption, be reduced considerably below their real price, or that price which is required to pay the expense of their production, capital would be transferred from the manufacture of hats to some other employment; as there can be no reason why the hatter should reșt satisfied with less than the ordinary rate of profit. And, on the other hand, if the market price of hats had been elevated above their real price, capital would have flowed into that department of industry; and competition would very soon have reduced their price to its natural level, or to that sum which would cover the expense of production, including in that expense the ordinary rate of profit on the capital employed in the manufacture.
This is a principle of the greatest importance, and which ought never to be lost sight of. When a fall takes place in the market