Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

wise and so beneficent, was there none to save thee? None! none ! Essex. I now perceive that thou lamentest what almost every father is destined to lament. Happiness must be bought, although the payment may be delayed. Consider, the same calamity might have befallen thee here in London. Neither the houses of ambassadors, nor the palaces of kings, nor the altars of God himself, are asylums against death. How do I know but under this very roof there may sleep some latent calamity, that in an instant shall cover with gloom every inmate of the house, and every far dependant ? Spenser.—God avert it! Essex.—Every day, every hour of the year do hundreds mourn what thou mournest. Spenser.-Oh! no, no, no ! Calamities there are around us; calamities there are all over the earth; calamities there are in all seasons; but none in any season, none in any place, like mine. Essex.-So say all fathers—so say all husbands. Look at any old mansion, and let the sun shine as it may on the golden vanes, or the arms recently quartered over the gateway, or the embayed window, and on the happy pair that haply is toying at it, nevertheless thou mayest say, that of a certainty the same fabric hath seen much sorrow within its chambers, and heard many wailings: and each time this was the heaviest stroke of all. Funerals have passed along through the stout-hearted knights upon the wainscot, and amid the laughing nymphs upon the arras. Old servants have shaken their heads, as if somebody had deceived them, when they found that beauty and nobility could perish-Edmund! The things that are too true, pass by us as if they were not true at all; and when they have singled us out, then only do they strike us. Thou and I must go too. Perhaps the next year may blow us away with its fallen leaves. Spenser.–For you, my lord, many years, I trust, are waiting ; I never shall see those fallen leaves. No leaf, no bud, will spring upon the earth, before I sink into her breast for ever. Essex. Thou, who art wiser than most men, shouldest bear with patience, equanimity and courage, what is common to all. Spenser.- Enough! enough! enough! Have all men seen their infant burnt to ashes before their eyes ? Essex.—Gracious God! merciful Father! what is this? Spenser: Burned alive! burned to ashes! burned to ashes ! The flames dart their serpent tongues through the nursery window. I cannot quit thee, my Elizabeth ! I cannot lay down our Edmund. Oh! these flames! they persecute, they enthrall me—they curl round my temples-they hiss upon my brain—they taunt me with their fierce, foul voices—they carp at me—they wither me—they consume me — throwing back to me a little of life, to roll and suffer in, with their fangs upon me. Ask me, my lord, the things you wish to know from me; I may answer them; I am now composed again.

Command me, my gracious lord, I would yet serve you ; soon I shall be unable. You have stooped to raise me up-you have borne with me-you have pitied me, even like one not powerful. You have brought comfort, and will leave it with me; fr gratitude is comfort -Oh! my memory stands all a-tiptoe on one burning point: when it drops from it, then it perishes. Spare me; ask me nothing ; let me weeld before thee in peace; the kindest act of greatness. Essex.-I should

rather have dared to mount into the midst of the conflagration, than I now dare entreat thee not to weep. The tears that overflow thy heart, my Spenser, will staunch and heal it in their sacred stream, but not without hope in God. Spenser.--My hope in God is, that I may soon see again what he has taken from me. Amid the myriads of angels, there is not one so beautiful : and even he (if there be any) who is appointed my guardian, could never love me so. Ah! these are idle thoughts, vain wanderings, distempered dreams. If there ever were guardian angels, he who so wanted one, my helpless boy, would not have left these arms upon my knees. Essex.-God help and sustain thee, too gentle Spenser! I will never desert thee. But what am I? Great they have called me! Alas ! how powerless, then, and infantile is greatness in the presence of calamity."-Vol. ii. pp. 239242.

Of one who could produce this noble and melting scene, we feel that it would be unhallowed, that it would be ungrateful in us to renew our censures, while the sacred source of sympathy within us, unlocked by his master hand, is still unclosed. We are content with the expression of our opinion already made. Against the judgments of his “ enemies,” (his name for unfavourable critics,) he has appealed to posterity, and posterity alone can settle his doom. We wonder greatly what it will be. We willingly acknowledge that he is a very remarkable writer, but is he to be loved and honoured as a great one ?

ART. IV.-The Philosophy of Trade ; or, Outlines of a Theory

of Profits and Prices, including an Examination of the Principles which determine the relative value of Corn Labour and Currency._By PATRICK JAMES STIRLING. Edinburgh : Oliver & Boyd. 1846.

POLITICAL ECONOMY has suffered in many respects from its having been dealt with too exclusively and too rigidly, as if it were one of the exact sciences. Yet it is not to be wondered at, nay it is most natural, that it should have been thus dealt with There is enough of number, and measurement, and proportion in the very terms which it employs, and the elements wherewith it has to do, to account for its having been regarded mainly as a science of quantities, and being treated accordingly. Possessing, as it does, these mathematical qualities, we need be at no loss to explain why so mathematical a treatment has been bestowed on it. There is scarcely one of its data which does not admit of

being stated numerically; and one of the likeliest consequences in the world is, that not only the reasoning upon these should have been in the style and character of an algebraic demonstration, but that the doctrine which emerged from it should have been given forth in the aspect and manner of an algebraic formula. To satisfy our readers as to the truth of this observation, we need do little more than repeat the chief words or phrases which enter into the nomenclature of political economy,--as value, and profit, and capital, and prices, and wages, and rent; all of which can be expressed arithmetically, and so the relation between them be stated in the form of an arithmetical proportion. And hence the mighty stress that has been laid, and the earnest controversies which have been held by the respective theorists, on the terms of their science. It is perfectly right that these should be defined with clearness, and with the consent, when it can be had, of all parties; for how can men understand each other unless they annex the same meaning to the words which they employ? But then, along with this, there has been a lurking imagination that the whole doctrine of the science could be raised from the groundwork of these definitions—just as the entire body of geometrical truth, vast, and various, and voluminous, nay, of infinite magnitude as it is,—that the whole of this, known and unknown, might be said to rest on the basis of a few outset definitions in geometry. And hence the abstract and demonstrative style of many of its writers, in whom the logical has greatly prevailed over the observational; and who, by playing at logic with the terms of their science, have elicited in the form, and with all the pretension of demonstrative truths, so many dogmata which do come sadly into conflict with the lessons of ordinary experience. They could not have been carried so far astray by the analogy which has misled them, had they prosecuted their science less in the manner of the pure mathematics, and more in that of the mixed mathematics, so as to have let in more of light from the outer world ; and by which they could have so modified their conclusions as to have brought them into closer adjustment with what takes place in living and palpable reality on the theatre of human affairs. In this respect Dr. Adam Smith has mightily the advantage both of Mill and of Ricardo although even in his political economy some of its best reasoned and goodliest propositions would need to be greatly qualified ere they could be admitted as universal truths, and still more ere they should be acted on as rules for the guidance of statesmen or for the well-being of society. For though the analogy be much closer between the economical and the mathematical sciences when the former is conducted less in the methods of the pure, and more in those of the mixed mathematics, there still re

mains a very wide diversity between them. Whatever of observation enters into the mixed mathematics, or into what have been termed the mathematico-physical sciences, is drawn from the material world, and only from that department in it too where the forces are exceedingly few and simple, being all reducible to impulse, attraction, and repulsion, or perhaps only to two of these the law of impulse being resolvable into the repulsion which takes place between the particles of matter when brought within certain microscopic distances from each other. And thus it is that astronomy, and mechanics, and optics, though partly demonstrative and partly experimental sciences—yet are the data which they import from the latter of these two territories of so simple and manageable a nature, that, even after these have been admitted into the ratiocination, do the sciences now named remain of as purely and rigorously demonstrative a character as abstract geometry itself

. But it is exceedingly different with political economy, where the observation that enters is drawn from the field of human nature the principles of which are not capable of being assigned in terms of such determinate quantity and force; and which, besides, are so variously modified among the complex relationships of human society. And thus though our science has a dynamics, and may be said to have a mechanism of its own, yet it is far more difficult to trace its movements, or to assign the precise results of its operation. When we read of demand and supply, and of their varying intensity, just as we should of two physical forces; or when we read of every thing in commerce finding its level, as fluids do in hydrostatics ; or when we read of legislation with its disturbing influences, and by which it so thwarts the operations of that beautiful and prosperous mechanism, from which we now expect to realize the blessings of a golden age in the system of free trade-why, when such views, couched in such phraseology, are presented to the reader, if he have a mind given at all to geometrical conceptions, or trained in the habits of geometrical reasoning, he is very apt to be betrayed into the confidence, that, on the strength of a few simple elements or generalities, he will be able to find his way, and, just by following his own processes of excogitation, to conclusions as infallible as are the propositions of Euclid or the final results in Algebra. And so he would, if he but admitted into his reasoning all the elements of economical science. But, in truth, these are neither so simple nor so few as he apprehends them to be; and just because he omits or overlooks some, and mystifies others, our science has been run into such paradoxes and obviously false results, as have greatly impaired its credit, and exposed it to the distrust and derision of general society.

But we shall be better understood if we illustrate our meaning

by a few examples. Our first example is taken from Dr. Smith's celebrated doctrine of Free Trade, which has at length found its way

into Parliament; and, after the arduous struggle of many long years, has been ratified there. But he was betrayed into an unfortunate generalization, and his followers are in the utmost danger of falling into the same error, when he denounced in such sweeping and unmeasured terms, all express interference on the part of Government with the operation of demand and supplywhether in the shape of artificial encouragements on the one hand, or of prohibitions on the other. A fuller view of human nature would have suggested some important corrections upon his theory, and so as to limit and restrain the universal application of it. It might be well that most of the articles of ordinary merchandise should be left to find their own natural level, because, in regard to these, men might, with all safety and advantage, be left to themselves—their demand for a commodity being usually up to, nay, often beyond, the extent of its being necessary or useful. But there are certain commodities, certain most desirable things for a nation to have, purchasable things too, to be had for a price, but such a price as many left individually to their own choice are not willing to bestow upon them; and which price a Government does wisely and rightly in helping out by its own grants, even though it should incur the charge of a departure from the philosophy of Free Trade by the imposition of that obnoxious thing called a bounty. For instance, it should give a bounty on education-first on popular education, and this, in order that it might be diffused throughout the land, because there is no such effective demand for it throughout the community at large, as to call forth an adequate supply of sound and good education. And, secondly, on the education of lofty and abstract science—for certain it is, that there is no such spontaneous desire or aspiration towards it, on the part of the wealthier classes, as would ensure its requisite encouragement in the midst of us. And hence the sound policy both of endowed schools and endowed universities—the latter of which, in particular, are looked to, and more especially by our grosser utilitarians both in and out of Parliament, with a hard and evil eye. The salaries given to professors are likened to bounties upon commerce ; and so a species of philosophy, the philosophy of Free Trade, has been conjured up in opposition to them. We doubt not that Smith's Wealth of Nations has given currency to this order of sentiment among very many of our economists and statesmen, who little know how much they have contributed, and under the guise, too, of a philosophic maxim, not only to vulgarise the policy, but greatly to injure and deteriorate some of the highest and most substantial interests of our nation. On the continent of Europe,

« PoprzedniaDalej »