Adam Smith's Simplified Wealth of Nations, Book 4, Chapter 7e: Economic Democracy
Chapter 7e: Economic Democracy
72 British policy on the colony trade was more liberal and less oppressive, even if it were dictated by the same mercantile spirit as that of other nations.
73Except their foreign trade, English colonists had completely liberty to manage their own affairs their own way.
It is equal to the liberty of their fellow-citizens at home.
It is secured in the same way by representatives of the people.
They claim the sole right of imposing taxes to support the colony government.
The authority of this assembly over-awes the executive power.
As long as he obeys the law, the meanest and the most obnoxious colonist has nothing to fear from the resentment of the governor.
The colony assemblies are like the house of commons in England.
They are not always an equal representation of the people, but close enough.
The executive power cannot corrupt the colony assemblies because it receives its support from the mother country.
The colony assemblies are more influenced by their constituents.
The councils correspond to the house of lords in Great Britain.
They are not composed of an hereditary nobility.
In some of the colonies, as in three of the governments of New England, those councils are not appointed by the king.
They are chosen by the representatives of the people.
There is no hereditary nobility in the English colonies.
In all of them, as in all free countries, the descendant of an old colony family is more respected than an upstart of equal merit and fortune.
But he is only more respected.
He has no privileges which can be troublesome to others.
Before the start of the present disturbances, the colony assemblies had legislative and some executive power.
In Connecticut and Rhode Island, they elected the governor.
In the other colonies, they appointed the revenue officers who collected the taxes imposed by those assemblies.
There is more equality among the English colonists than among the people of Britain.
Their manners are more republican.
Their governments are more republican too, particularly those three provinces of New England.
74 On the contrary, the absolute governments of Spain, Portugal, and France take place in their colonies.
Because of the great distance, the discretionary powers delegated by such governments to their inferior officers are naturally exercised with more than ordinary violence.
"Under all absolute governments there is more liberty in the capital than in any other part of the country."
The sovereign himself can never have interest or inclination to pervert the justice or to oppress the people.
In the capital, his presence over-awes all his inferior officers.
In the remoter provinces, those officers can more safely exercise their tyranny because the complaints of the people are less likely to reach the sovereign.
The European colonies in America are more remote than the most distant provinces of the greatest empires of the past.
Since the world began, the government of the English colonies is the only one which could give perfect security to the people of a very distant province.
The administration of the French colonies was always conducted with more gentleness and moderation than the Spanish and Portuguese.
This superiority of conduct is suitable to the French character.
The nature of a nation's government forms the nation's character.
It is suitable to nature of the French government which is more legal and free than those of Spain and Portugal.
Though it is more arbitrary and violent than that of Great Britain.
75 The superiority of the English policy chiefly appears in the progress of the North American colonies.
The progress of the French sugar colonies has been equal and superior to the progress of most English sugar colonies.
The English sugar colonies enjoy a free government as those in English colonies in North America.
But the French sugar colonies are not discouraged from refining their own sugar.
More importantly, the genius of the French colonial government naturally introduces a better management of their negro slaves.
76 In all European colonies, the culture of the sugar-cane is done by negro slaves.
Europeans born in temperate climate could not labour under the burning sun of the West Indies.
The culture of the sugar-cane presently is all hand labour.
The drill plough might bring great advantage to it.
The profit and success of the cultivation done by cattle depend very much on the good management of those cattle.
So the profit and success of cultivation done by slaves must depend equally on the good management of those slaves.
I think the French planters are superior to the English in the good management of their slaves.
The law which gives some weak protection to the slave against his master's violence is likely to be better executed in a colony with an arbitrary government than in one where it is free.
In a slave country, the magistrate, who protects the slave, intermeddles in the management of the master's private property.
In a free country, the magistrate dares not to do this because the master may be:
an assembly member or
an elector of an assembly member.
The magistrate is obliged to respect the master.
It makes it more difficult for him to protect the slave.
But in a country where the government is more arbitrary, the magistrate usually intermeddles even in the management of private property.
He sends them a lettre de cachet if they do not manage it according to his liking.
It is much easier for him to give some protection to the slave.
Common humanity naturally disposes him to do so.
The protection of the magistrate renders the slave less contemptible to his master.
The master is induced to treat the slave with more gentleness.
Gentle usage renders the slave more faithful, intelligent, and useful.
The slave approaches more to the condition of a free servant.
He may possess some integrity and attachment to his master's interest.
Integrity and common interests are virtues which frequently belong to free servants.
Such virtues can never belong to a slave, as what happens in countries where masters are perfectly free and secure.
77The condition of a slave is better under an arbitrary than under a free government.
In Roman history, the magistrate first protected the slave from the violence of his master during the reign of the emperors.
Vedius Pollio ordered one of his slaves who had committed a slight fault to be cut and thrown into his-fish pond to feed his fishes.
Emperor Augustus commanded him, with indignation, to emancipate immediately all his slaves.
Under the republic, no magistrate could protect the slave, much less to punish the master.
78 The stock which improved the French sugar colonies, particularly in St. Domingo, was raised almost entirely from the gradual improvement and cultivation of those colonies.
It was almost altogether the produce of the soil and industry of the colonies.
It was the price of that produce gradually accumulated by good management.
It was employed in raising a still greater produce.
But most of the stock which improved and cultivated the English sugar colonies came from England.
It was not altogether the produce of the soil and industry of the colonists.
The prosperity of the English sugar colonies was due to the great riches of England which overflowed to those colonies.
But the prosperity of the French sugar colonies was entirely due to the good conduct of the colonists which were somewhat superior that of the English colonists.
This superiority is seen in the good management of their slaves.
79 Such were the European policies regarding their colonies.
80 These policies has very little to boast of regarding:
Their original establishment
The subsequent prosperity of the American colonies from their internal government.
81 Folly and injustice were the principles which directed the establishment of those colonies:
The folly of hunting for gold and silver mines
The injustice of coveting a country whose harmless natives never injured Europeans but instead received the first adventurers with kindness and hospitality
82 The adventurers, who formed the later establishments, joined the chimerical project of finding gold and silver mines.
These motives are more reasonable and more laudable.
But even they do very little honour to European policy.
83 The English Puritans were restrained at home.
They fled for freedom to America and established the four governments of New England.
The English Catholics were treated with much greater injustice
They established the government of Maryland
The Quakers established the government of Pennsylvania.
The Portuguese Jews were persecuted by the Inquisition.
They were stripped of their fortunes and banished to Brazil
They introduced by their example some order and industry among the felons and prostitutes who originally peopled that colony.
They taught them the culture of the sugar-cane.
The disorder and injustice of the European governments peopled and cultivated America on those occasions, not their wisdom and policy.
84 The European governments had as little merit in establishing these important colonies:
The conquest of Mexico was the project of a Cuban governor and not the council of Spain.
It was caused by the spirit of the bold adventurer entrusted by the governor.
The governor soon repented of having trusted him and tried to thwart it.
The conquerors of Chile, Peru, and other Spanish settlements in America, did their conquests with only a general permission to make settlements and conquests in the name of the Spanish king.
"Those adventures were all at the private risk and expence of the adventurers."
The Spanish government contributed scarce anything to any of them.
The English government contributed as little towards the establishment of its most important North America colonies.
85 Those colonies became so considerable, that it attracted its mother country's attention.
The mother country thus made regulations which always aimed:
To secure to herself the monopoly of their commerce
To confine their market
To enlarge her own market at their expence
To damp and discourage their prosperity
The most essential differences in the European colonial policies is in the different ways this monopoly was exercised.
England's policy is the best of them all.
It is only somewhat less illiberal and oppressive than those of others.
86 The policy of Europe contributed to the present grandeur of the American colonies only in one way
Magna virûm Mater!
It bred and formed the men who could achieve such great actions.
It laid the foundation of so great an empire.
There is place in the world where the policy is capable of forming such men.
The colonies owe the education and great views of their active and enterprising founders to the policy of Europe.
Some of the greatest and most important of them who has helped form their internal government owe to it to nothing else.