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the contrary. We may well doubt, for example, whether any amount of adversity could have made Nero a good sovereign, or a conscientious man; but it is not the less true that his tyranny and the fate it brought upon him have proved a salutary warning to many a prince since his time. In a similar manner, it may be said that the reckless, inveterate speculator is proof against all lessons. The man whose ruling motive is to say or to do anything by which he can make money, without incurring the penalty of the jail, or the penitentiary, is not likely to learn honesty from his failure as a cheat. Depravity has taken too strong a hold of him to permit him to see that the evil which befals him, however great may be its magnitude, is the natural result of his own dishonesty. That all who make it a point to defraud those with whom they have any dealing do not come to an evil end, but, on the contrary, that many such bequeath wealth to their posterity, proves no more against the law of retribution than that many a murderer not only escapes detection, but grows rich on the property of his victim.
Even in time of war we see sufficient illustration of the precept that honesty is the best policy. Those whose conduct has been most exemplary may indeed meet with reverses -nay, be reduced to indigence; but, except when there are popular outbreaks and violent revolutions, it is those who have carried on a fraudulent business that fail, in nine cases out of ten. No such outbreaks have occurred during the present war; none of our loyal citizens have been deprived of their rights, much less of their property, save in those instances in which the rebels have confiscated or plundered the latter. The laws of trade, then, have undergone but little change; so that, according to the principles we have laid down-principles which have the sanction of the greatest statesmen and political economists from Solon and Lycurgus to Montesquieu and Adam Smith—those who have failed in business—at least those who have made assignments-are, in the great majority of instances, persons who, had they got their deserts, would long since have ceased to be ranked among respectable dealers.
Now is the time to reflect on this. Even those already tainted by the prevailing passion for making money at the expense of truth and honesty, may be induced to ask themselves, whether after all they had not better eschew fraud, and be prepared, when peace is restored, to commence a new
The history of the world affords examples enough of this kind. There is scarcely a war in which the great nations of antiquity were engaged, by which the morals of their business men were not greatly improved. The Punic wars proved alike beneficial in their effects on the merchants of Carthage and Rome, until the former was no longer able to resist the latter. The same results were produced by the same causes in the republics of Venice and the Netherlands, and, when each in turn ceased to exist as a nation, she could well say that she could still have continued to bid defiance to the greatest powers of the earth, had her business men not degenerated into a community of swindlers and cheats. This is particularly true of Venice, whose merchants, however, became honest again, but only when it was too late -after the fall from which she has not yet risen.
Constantinople, too, was once one of the most flourishing cities in the world. No other city was more admirably situated for all the purposes of commerce. “ Enjoying," as an eminent French writer* says, “the most beautiful situation on earth-surrounded by the most fertile and populous provinces of the empire of Constantine, it appeared enfranchised from all the obstacles which a country arrived at mature growth complains of having received from its infancy. Abounding in literature, gorged with chefs d'ouvre of all kinds, familiar with all the processes of industry, possessing immense and absorbing manufactures, an unlimited commerce with Europe, Asia, and Africa—what rival has Constantinople ever had ? For what corner of the earth could Heaven have done more than for that majestic metropolis ?” But, amid all this glory, scarcely could any two merchants believe each other. In time, foreign merchants would believe neither. As a natural result of this want of confidence, trade fell off by little and little, until there was scarcely any of it left. But this is not the worst. So certain as a nation, once great and flourishing, declines in her commerce, will her ple lose their courage and become effeminate in proportion, thus paving the way for their own subjugation. This is the startling lesson taught us in turn by Carthage, Rome, Venice, and Byzantium—and yet, are we to take no warning ?
Far be it from us to attempt to depreciate the pursuit of commerce. On the contrary, we hold that civilization has
* M. de Gobineau.
no more powerful instrument; no other agency, save religion alone, has contributed so much to the development of the human mind. In all ages and countries, in proportion as it has flourished, the arts and the sciences have flourished with it; and as it declined, so did art and science. All historians bear testimony to its effects in softening the manners of the half civilized and barbarous races of all nations, and in contributing to refine the civilized.* If we compare commercial nations with non-commercial nations, we shall find striking differences in their manners and customs. “Where the exclusion of the industrial race (that is, the Pelasgic) was broken down,” says McCullagh, “the habits of the dominant race were improved ; the well-born engaged in commerce, and took pleasure in the pursuits of agriculture; while the protection of rights and privileges gave a higher and nobler stimulus to humble thrift and toil.” On the other hand, where trade and agriculture were despised, as in Crete, Sparta, and Boeotia, the dominant class sought to indemnify themselves by overworking their slaves. The Athenians and Corinthians were always a commercial, industrious people, and the Thebans were the reverse ; and need we say how great was the superiority of the former over the latter. Thus, in Thebes, it was held that no one should be eligible to any public trust or station, who, during the ten preceding years, had been in any way connected with mercantile pursuits; and in Epidamnus, another Grecian city, no citizen was permitted, under any pretence, to engage in trade or business.
It is well to bear in mind, however, that these laws were not enacted until the merchants had rendered them
• The opinion of Montesquieu is, that, to a certain extent, commerce has the effect of softening the manners, but that pure manners are corrupted by it. On peut dire que les lois de commerce perfectionnent les mours par la même raison que les mêmes lois perdent les moeurs. Les commerce corrompt les meurs pures ; c'etait le sujet des plaintes de Platon ; il polit et adoucit les meurs barbares, comme nous le voyons tous les jour. He reminds us that it is on the same principle that Cæsar remarks, in his Commentaries on the Gallic war, that before the Gauls had been corrupted by the commerce carried on by the Greeks at Marseilles, they had always defeated the Germans in battle, but that subsequently they became inferior to the latter. Aristotle was of opinion that commerce was destructive of hospitality ; and Tacitus, in his History of the Germans, gives his testimony in favor of the same theory, though in a different way-by showing that the barbarous Germans regarded it as a sacrilege to close their house against any man, known or unknown. Not only was it deemed a sacred duty to entertain the stranger in the best possible manner, but the host was expected to accompany him to the next place, lest he might fail himself in securing lodgings-Et qui modo hospes fuerat monstrator hospitii.-De Moribus Germanorum.
selves odious and infamous by their habitual knavery. Anterior even to the time of Homer, the Greeks in general carried on an extensive trade both by sea and land; but centuries afterwards, while, as Mitford tells us, it was thought not unbecoming a prince to be a carpenter, to supply his own wants and luxuries, to be a merchant for gain was held to be a disreputable employment—as much so as that of a common pirate. But, as we have observed, Athens was in favor of commerce in the time of Lycurgus, and Sparta did all she could to prohibit it. Then mark the difference, even in humanity, between the two states! They both had slaves, but the Athenian laws provided expressly for their comfort and protected them from cruel treatment; whereas it makes the blood run cold to read, even now, after the lapse of thousands of years, of the atrocious cruelties with which they were treated by the Spartans. No fact in all history is better authenticated than that the Spartan youths used to murder the Helots in thousands, sometimes merely as an amusement; but generally, when large numbers were slaughtered together, we are told that it was because they multiplied too fast in spite of their wretched condition.* Much as Plutarch admires the simplicity of Spartan character, he does not attempt to deny this revolting practice, but tries to palliate it on the plea of expediency. “The governors,” he says, “of the youth ordered the shrewdest of them, from time to time, to disperse themselves into the country, provided only with daggers and some necessary provisions. In the daytime they hid themselves and rested in the most private places they could find, but at night they sallied out into the roads and killed all the Helotes they could meet with. Nay, sometimes by day they fell upon them in the fields and murdered the ablest and strongest of them. Thucydides relates, in his history of the Peloponnesian war, that the Spartans selected such of them as were distinguished by their courage, to the number of two thousand or more, declared them free, crowned them with garlands, and conducted them to the temples of the gods; but, soon after, they all disappeared, and no one could,
6 A modern author has written a book to prove that poverty is favorable to the increase of population. (See Doubleday's
True Theory of Population.) Adam Smith maintains the same theory in his “ Wealth of Nations." ty," he says, though no doubt it discourages, does not always prevent marriage. It seems even to be favorable to generation. A half starved Highland woman frequently bears more than twenty children ; while a pampered, fine lady, is often incapable of bearing any, and is generally exhausted by two or three. Barrenness, so frequent among women of fashion, is very rare amongst those of
either then or since, give account in what manner they were destroyed. Aristotle says that as soon as the Ephori were invested in their office, they declared war against the Helotes, that they might be massacred under pretence of law."
Such are the extremes to which nations, like individuals, run. And be it remembered, that the people thus massacred, merely to prevent their being too numerous for their masters, were not negroes, but white men, generally members of the Caucasian race-men whose only crime was their poverty, or, rather, the poverty of their ancestors. What is strange is, that the people who saw no harm in atrocities like these, should regard it as a deadly offence to be called a merchant or trader, as at the present day one would resent being accused of forgery. This fact alone would prove that the Spartans had long been a business people, if not a commercial people. Commerce or trade did not become a disgrace without a cause. Merchants had doubtless cheated and swindled 'all they could, for centuries ; they became such habitual liars that no one could believe them ; until, finally, the outraged, indignant people insisted on the enactment of laws that would put an end to their depredations, as to a nuisance, and then run into the opposite extreme.
Is there no danger that similar results may be produced by similar causes in modern times? It may be replied that we have the benefit of Christianity to protect us. This, indeed, ought to be entirely satisfactory; but, unfortunately, it is not, though through no fault of Christianity, whose influence, when properly exercised, is to reconcile all interests to each other, however conflicting in themselves. But has it been thus exercised ? Let a minister of the gospel answer. “When commerce, with her newly invented mariner's compass in her hand,” says Dr. Stone, “ went forth to the discovery of a new world, peopled with before unknown races of men, simple and guileless, generous and trusting, what a precious, what a glorious opportunity, was presented for carrying to them the blessings of real civilization, of useful knowledge, and of pure religion; and thus, for pouring the very soul of a heaven-descended Christianity into the minds, into the social state, and into the political and religious institutions of those who looked up to the newly arrived with feelings of veneration, as to beings of a superior order! How was this opportunity improved ? By holding out, at