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avarice or prodigality are the worst of our political convulsions ascribable? If man be made for society, ( and that he is, one may be excused proving) then must every thing that really cements it be for his weal, and every thing tending to dissolve it, for hisunhappiness. Nothing has this latter, miserable tendency so much as the inspiring of individuals with a feeling that they are independent of the community in which they live. True philosophy teaches, that men have little cause to be vain of their individuality. Considered as mere individuals, and without reference to any proposed end in our creation, other animals equal,if not surpass us. What confers grandeur on our species is to represent it as a corporate body, which ceases to exist, as soon as it ceases to be united. Many creatures go alone, and to continue their kind have need of no more than a periodical, momentary interview between two of different sexes. Could man be reduced to a similar state, he would be far inferior to most animals. It is in society that he becomes evidently and infinitely superior to them all. We are then nothing more than fragile links of one bright universal chain, and (in spite of ingenious rhapsodies) it is in the order of nature which is welfare, that we should continue dependant on our fellow-creatures, and they on us. It is almost exclusively by money that such salutary dependence is dissolved; and whether it be care in the acquisition or in the preservation or in the
consumption of riches that be uppermost in our thoughts, it is alike subversive of patriotism. One tie broken, others soon follow: but the more you weaken the voluntary connexion between individuals, the stronger the force necessary to preserve peace between them; the more independent each becomes, the more despotic must the Government become, if it is intended to administer justice; and as soon as all the natural links of society are spurned, there remain none that can preserve it except unnatural ones . Wherever there has been most individual dependence, there has been most National liberty: And when to the public devotedness of the Ancients is substituted an attachment to private lucre when submission of the will is no more when (men receding
to a mighty distance from the Patriarchal system) attachment to birth place and family decays when agriculture yields in dignity to manufactures when the endearing, reciprocal reliance between landlords and tenants vanishes when merchants become over-numerous, who (bearing their fortunes in their pockets and educating their itinerant offspring in utter indifference to customs and sojourns) consider as home any sea-port on the globe which may answer their momentary interests when town-frequenting nobility begin to leave the provinces desolate when
the Capital is filled with extravagant dissipation and the most iniquitous usury when respect
for station disappears, and rapacious buying, borrowing , lending , selling , and intriguing for places are the usual occupations of all classes of the people: then is experienced the entire truth of what I say, that much individual independence is not compatible with civil liberty, and leads of necessity to one or all of these slaveries (each ruthless and ignominous, and more ruthless from being alternate) the ferocity of anarchy, of oligarchy, or of despotism . More properly, this last is the term in every such case: the only difference is between the despotism of one, or of few, or of many. Which of these horrible gulfs is less heartchilling, I scarcely know or care: but if they are all brought about by money, it were no libel to call it' the sack of universal woe.' By it we are betrayed into that appalling circle which knows no redemption ( anarchy , oligarchy, despotism, anarchy, oligarchy , despotism ) and to whose hopeless nature nothing is more applicable than Dante's own verse
Lasciate ogni speranza voi che 'ntratr. If a large portion of Europe be thus fallen, America may consider the ghosts of her murdered sons as laid, as far as vengeance can do it. Her gold has amply retaliated her wrongs; and has had a vast share in producing the general corruption of European politics. It has transferred the destinies of men from their own good swords to a banker's quill, has turned war into a question of finance,
and made the funds sole criterion of its justice or injustice; in lieu of the cry of patriotism are heard the prognostics of the stock-broker; and for valour and constancy, the state of the exchange. How far this despicable disease has hitherto succeeded in breaking up society, I need not inquire; but that to it, much more than to any intemperate theories of sceptics or materialists, are to be ascribed the worst disasters of the past century, I have no difficulty in asserting.
I have strayed from the literal interpretation of the text; not from its spirit. Dante foresaw the ruin which Plutus was bringing on his country: and its actual state is a complete verification of my reasonings. There is no where more individual independence than in Italy; no where less political freedom. The links of society hang so loosely, that they are scarcely felt by individuals; while
the nation is in hopeless thraldom hopeless
not on occount of the governors, but the governed . Sismondi undertakes a difficult cause, when he would make the mercantile body more friendly to liberty than the proprietors 6f the soil . The latter (he says) must crouch to the enslaver of their native land to which they are irremediably attached; while the former fly from it, and seek for freedom elsewhere . But what kind of patriotism is that which flies from its country in her utmost distress? Such egoists are incapable of being real freemen: and are much more likely to
sow the seeds of slavery in each free shore to which thd^ resort, on account of those commercial advantages which liberty always possesses; and from which shore they will quickly retire, on those advantages diminishing by the breaking out of that pestilential slavery of which they had themselves imported the first germ a selfish, insatiable thirst of gold. Instead of hearing freedom, they bear its bane; their circumnavigation is infection . According to M. Sismondi's theory, they must have long since fled from Italy; but they first ruined her. It was a merchant who openly enslaved her most flourishing Republic Florence.
In a great country there is full room for both the followers of commerce and the landed proprietors. Why represent their interests at variance? Their true interests are essentially the same : it is unjust to both to undervalue either. Practically, a wise legislature will preserve as much as possible an equality between them the rapidly accumulating riches of one class being balanced by the hereditary honours of the other: but in speculation , the natural defenders of the soil must be avowed to be the owners of the soil, and real patriots those who have no hopes beyond their country; not men who are ready to seek another home, and retire before slavery instead of hazarding a mortal combat.