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tempts that have had been habituation, coffee, and
from the fact, that in other instances where the distresses of the poor have been great, they have been led to betake themselves to similar resources. In a very interesting account published some time ago, of the management of the poor at Hamburgh, we are told that previous to the enlightened attempts that have been lately made for their relief, “the indigent classes in that city had been habituated to live almost entirely on a miserable beverage which was called coffee, and sold in messes, with about half-a-pound of indifferent bread. This wretched substitute for food they took twice a day."1 It is pleasing to add, on the authority of a Report published in 1798, that by the introduction of Count Rumford's soups, a saving of nine parts in sixteen, or rather more than half the former expense of their food, has been gained in the maintenance of the poor at Hamburgh, while a visible improvement in health and strength (particularly in the case of children) has accompanied this reformation.
A very melancholy fact which has been mentioned by Dr. Beddoes in one of his medical publications, adds to the weight of some of the foregoing considerations. What I allude to is the use of opium among some descriptions of our poor. " Whether,” he observes, “it was first taken to recruit the labourer after excessive toil, or occasionally to cheer the gloom of despondence, or to make up the deficiencies of that abominable water-gruel and potato diet, by which the joyless being of so many pale, meagre, shivering women and children is prolonged, I am not informed. I had known,” he adds, “ the fact for some time, and lately received the following account from a medical observer.”
I shall not draw any particular inference from these facts, but must be allowed to remark, that when such habits become generally prevalent, they justify the conclusion, that whatever share of blame may be due to the individuals who adopt them, all is not right in the Political System.
* Paper by the Bishop of Durham.
2 Beddoes' Lectures, &c., p. 69.
[SECT. 111.]—ON SUBJECTING THE COMMERCE OF MONEY TO THE
REGULATION OF LAW.
Having treated of the general principles which regulate the rate of interest, independently of the interposition of the statesman, I proceed now to consider the motives which have influenced the policy of different nations in subjecting the commerce of money to the regulation of law. For this purpose it will be necessary for me to take a pretty wide circuit, by referring to some speculative opinions of the ancients, which have been long exploded as unfounded prejudices, but which have had, nevertheless, a secret effect in modifying the ideas and institutions of Modern Europe. If, in discussing this preliminary point, I should be thought somewhat diffuse, I flatter myself that the nature of the subject, which is curious and interesting, independently of its connexion with the questions to which I mean to apply it, will be a sufficient apology.
In contrasting the opinions of ancient and modern times concerning the rules of practical morality, there is nothing which, at first view, appears more astonishing than the strong terms in which some of their most eminent philosophers reprobate the practice of lending money upon interest,-a practice which is now so familiarized to the minds of all civilized nations, that it would be considered as no less absurd to offer a formal proof of its innocence and equity, than to argue against them. The circumstance on which Aristotle grounds his disapprobation of this practice is of so extraordinary a nature, that although it has been often referred to by modern casuists, it would be improper to pass it over without some animadversion. “Among the various ways," he observes, “of getting money, agriculture and the rearing of cattle are natural and honourable, because the earth itself and all animals are by nature fruitful. But to make gain from money, which is naturally barren and unfruitful, is most justly accounted dishonourable, and is held in detestation ;-inasmuch as it is a perversion of money from its natural use, the purchasing what we want.” The argument is so extremely absurd, that it could never have led this acute and profound philosopher to the conclusion it is employed to support, but may be justly numbered among the instances in which speculative men have exerted their ingenuity to defend, by sophistical reasonings, the established prejudices of the times in which they lived, and in which the supposed evidence of the inference has served, in their estimation, to compensate for the weakness of the premises. It is, however, worthy of observation, that Aristotle's argument (such as it is) was manifestly suggested by the etymology of the word Tókos, (which, in the Greek language, signifies interest,) from the verb TÍKTW, pario,-an etymology wbich seems to imply that the principal generates the interest. The same idea, too, occurs in the scene between Antonio and Shylock, in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.
"If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friend, (for when did friendship take
It is perhaps treating this very puerile conceit with more respect than is due to it, to quote, by way of reply, the following consideration, which, one would suppose, (as an ingenious writer of our own time remarks,) might naturally enough have occurred to a man of Aristotle's penetration; more particularly when we consider “the great number of pieces of money that had passed through his hands; more, perhaps, than were passed through the hands of philosopher before or since !" “ That though a daric would not beget another daric any more than it would a ram or a ewe, yet for a daric which a man borrowed, he might get a ram and a couple of ewes, and that the ewes, if the ram were left with them a certain time, would probably not be barren. That, then, at the end of the year, he would find himself master of his three sheep, together
1 Gibbon, [Decline and Fall, chap. xliv., footnote.]
with two, if not three lambs; and that if he sold his sheep again to pay back his daric, and gave one of his lambs for the use of it in the meantime, he would be two lambs, or at least, one lamb richer than if he made no such bargain.”
The passage of Aristotle to which the foregoing remarks relate, occurs in the tenth chapter of the First Book of his Politics, and is sufficient of itself to enable us to form a judgment of the propriety of a censure which a late writer has bestowed on Mr. Smith and Mr. Hume, as well as on the sect of French writers known by the name of Economists, as if they had borrowed from Aristotle, without the smallest acknowledgment, the fundamental principles of their theories of Political Economy.* When we consider how much the interest of money enters as an element into all commercial speculations in modern times, is it possible to imagine there should be anything more than the most general and accidental coincidence between the reasonings of such writers as Hume and Smith, and those of an author, whose experience of the nature and effects of commerce was so limited as to impress his mind with a conviction, that to receive a premium for the use of money was inconsistent with the rules of morality ?
The same sentiments with respect to usury, (fonus,) (under which title was comprehended every premium, great or small, which was received by way of interest,) occurs in the Roman writers. “Concerning the arts," says Cicero, in his First Book of De Officiis, “and the means of acquiring wealth, which are to be accounted liberal, and which mean, the following are the sentiments usually entertained. Those means of gain are in least credit which incur the hatred of mankind,-as those of tax-gatherers and usurers.”+ The same author (in the Second Book of the same work) mentions an anecdote of old Cato, who being asked what he thought of lending money upon interest, answered, “What do you think of the crime of murder ?"| The comparison certainly appears to us extrava
De Oncerning they of inte
* (Mr. Stewart refers to Dr. Gillies. See a note in his translation of the Politics of Aristotle, p. 38, seq., first edit.]
+ [Cap. xlii.] † (Cap. xxv.]
gant and absurd in the extreme; and yet (as I formerly had occasion to observe) the very same language was held in the English House of Commons about two centuries ago.
The regulations of the Jewish Lawgiver on this subject are more peculiarly interesting to us, as they have had a more immediate influence upon the opinions that have prevailed in Modern Europe.
“Thou shalt not lend,” it is said, “upon usury to thy brother: usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent.--Unto a stranger thou mayst lend upon usury, but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury, that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thy hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”*
From this prohibition in the Mosaic Law, the primitive Christians were led to conclude, that the practice of usury was in all cases inconsistent with their profession, inasmuch as the Christian dispensation having abolished the distinction betwixt Jew and Gentile, the same liberality which Moses had enjoined towards their own nation, became necessarily incumbent on them towards all mankind; and accordingly, there is no crime against which the Fathers in their homilies declaim with more vehemence. “On this point," Mr. Gibbon remarks, † “ they are quite unanimous ;” and refers in support of his assertion to Barbeyrac's Morale des Pères, and a learned work by Gerard Noodt, De Foenere et Usuris. The same abhorrence of usury of every kind appears in the Canon Law, insomuch that the penalty of that law is excommunication ; nor is the usurer allowed burial until he has made restitution of what he had gained in the exercise of this iniquitous profession, or security was given that restitution should be made after his death.
A circumstance which probably contributed not a little to strengthen this prejudice, was the hatred which the Christians in former ages entertained against the Jews and all their opinions and practices. To lend money on interest was to engage in a trade rendered infamous in the general estimation by the
* (Deuteronomy, xxiii. 19, 20.) + [Decline and Fall, Chap. xliv., footnote.)