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strictions, in the most able and masterly manner, and with an amplitude of illustration that leaves NOTHING to be desired."*
After perusing the passages here cited, whereby, on account of the great and unqualified commendation they bestow, the mind of the reader is induced to entertain a notion of completeness or perfection respecting the work of which they were written, it excites no little surprise to find the following matter by the same author, occurring too in the same page as that wherefrom the second quotation is taken:
"But however excellent in many respects, still it cannot be denied that there are errors, and those too of no slight importance, in 'The Wealth of Nations.' Dr. Smith does not say that, in prosecuting such branches of industry as are most advantageous to themselves, individuals necessarily prosecute such as are at the same time most advantageous to the public. His leaning to the system of M. Quesnay, a leaning perceptible in every part of his work, made him so far swerve from the sounder principles of his own system, as to admit that the preference shown by individuals in favour of particular employments is not always a true test of their public advantageousness. He considered agriculture, though not the only productive employment, as the most productive of any; the home trade as more productive than the direct foreign trade; and the latter than the carrying trade. It is clear, however, that these distinctions are all fundamentally
And again, at the bottom of the same page:-"Perhaps, however, the principal defect in The Wealth of Nations,' consists in the erroneous doctrines laid down with respect to the invariable value of corn, and the effect of fluctuations in
Principles of Political Economy, by J. R. M'Culloch, p. 158.
wages and profits on prices. These have prevented Dr. Smith from acquiring clear and accurate notions respecting the nature and causes of rent, and the laws which govern the rate of profit: and have, in consequence, vitiated the theoretical conclusions in those parts of his work which treat of the distribution of wealth and the principles of taxation."
It is greatly to be lamented that in treating of a science wherein it is professed to expound both social and physical law, and where, consequently, soundness and consistency of judgment and accuracy of description are of such immense importance to mankind, this author should have practised the latitude here exhibited. It will be seen, that having first extolled, in the highest degree, the contributions which Dr. Smith has made to the science of Political Economy, he has then lodged a most formidable list of exceptions against the character of these contributions. In one passage he has declared that the fundamental principles on which the production of wealth depends have been established by Dr. Smith beyond the reach of cavil and dispute; whilst, within the space of two succeeding pages, he has declared reversely, that the doctrine propounded and inculcated by Dr. Smith respecting the value to a nation of its agricultural production, of its home trade, of its foreign trade, and of its carrying trade, is fundamentally erroneous. And then, in addition to the erroneous views and reasonings thus enumerated, he brings into instance other erroneous doctrines in "The Wealth of Nations," alleging that these constitute its principal defect.
Now, it will be seen that agricultural productions, and trade in these productions, all home trade, foreign trade, and carrying trade, comprise a very large part, indeed, of a nation's system. Mr. M'Culloch has declared that a theoretical and practical system, in which all these are treated of
erroneously, presents, nevertheless, for the admiration and acceptance of the world, "a consistent, harmonious, and beautiful system," and a system which has been explained "with an amplitude of illustration that leaves nothing to be desired."
If one item alone were selected from the list of exceptions which Mr. McCulloch has been under the necessity of advancing against the work of Adam Smith, yet this would be sufficient to place all the great conclusions of the work in abeyance. The particular exception is this: "the laws which govern the rate of profit." Mr. M'Culloch has declared that Dr. Smith had not acquired clear and accurate notions respecting the laws which govern the rate of profit. Now, as the object required to be found is the creation of capital or wealth; as profit is a term signifying the increase of capital or wealth; so, failing to find the laws which govern the rate of profit is failing to find the laws of the creation and formation of capital; or, in other words, failing to develop the main subject-matter of the science.
When a careful examination is directed to the scope and character of "The Wealth of Nations," and when astonishment is felt that its author should have presumed to adopt positive conclusions respecting the subject-matter of the science of Political Economy, whilst throughout the whole body of his efforts, there was an absence of that adducement of evidence and correct arrangement of it, by which alone positive conclusions can be established; the reader of the work may discover that the feeling which prompted this undue, and, therefore, unwarranted adoption of positive conclusions, had its origin in an abhorrence of that abuse of governmental regulations by which the commerce of the different nations of the world had been in so many instances unduly restricted and cramped, and by which the interest
of the general body of the people had been sacrificed for the purpose of insuring the benefit or increasing the wealth of the few, who were thus made to constitute a favoured, a privileged, and so a monopolising class.
An honourable feeling of indignation and hatred against these courses of perverted and abused regulations, or the diversion of governmental regulations of trade from off a sound social principle, and the placement of them on an unsound and bad basis, and, by this means, constituting and rasing up within nations an unjust monopoly, - may be discovered to have been the main incitement by which the author of "The Wealth of Nations" was induced to hold in far too high estimation his own opinions and reasonings, and to suppose that the character of demonstrated truth appertained to the many unsound assumptions and unsupported conclusions with which his work abounds.
It is upon this foundation, constructed by the renowned Scotch Economist, so weakly and badly composed by him, that party cause and party interest have been reared. On account of the encouragement and indulgence of this mere party impulse, the people of our own and of all other nations. have to pay a weighty penalty. Emancipating ourselves from this feeling of party, and rising into a far clearer and more expanded region of social truth, it becomes a solemn duty to bestow upon the subject itself that faithful consideration, and that due application of principle, which, hitherto, have been withheld from the treatment of it.
I propose, in the next chapter, to enter upon an examination of that department of the modern school which is comprised of the views, reasonings, and doctrines of Malthus. By this writer, matter of a character analogous with that supplied by Dr. Smith, and which has been lately under examination, has been adopted and promulged; so that a
very considerable part of the writings of this author has also to be erased from that large volume of matter which, unhappily, has been commended to the world, and received as if it were really invested with the quality of science. I have to show that the assignment of this high quality cannot be maintained.