Chapter 1: Commerce
Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices.
- It is almost a general rule:
- whereever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes
- wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.
Let us not be astonished, then, if our manners are now less savage than formerly.
- Commerce has everywhere diffused a knowledge of the manners of all nations; these are compared one with another, and from this comparison arise the greatest advantages.
- Commercial laws, it may be said, improve manners, for the same reason as they destroy them. They corrupt the purest morals; this was the subject of Plato’s complaints: and we every day see, that they polish and refine the most barbarous.
Chapter 2: The Spirit of Commerce
Peace is the natural effect of trade.
- Two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling;
- Thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.
But if the spirit of commerce unites nations, it does not in the same manner unite individuals.
- We see, that in countries where the people move only by the spirit of commerce, they make a traffic of all the humane, all the moral virtues:
- the most trifling things, those which humanity would demand, are there done, or there given, only for money.
The spirit of trade produces a certain sense of exact justice.
- On one hand, this sense is opposite to robbery.
- On the other, it is opposite to those moral virtues:
- which forbid our selfishness and
- cause us to neglect our private interest for the advantage of others
The total loss of trade produces robbery.
- Aristotle ranks robbery as a means of acquiring.
- Yet it is not at all inconsistent with certain moral virtues
- Hospitality, for instance, is most rare in trading countries.
- But it is found in the most admirable perfection among nations of vagabonds.
Tacitus says that it is a sacrilege for a German to shut his door against any man whether known or unknown.
- He who has behaved with hospitality to a stranger, shows him another house where this hospitality is also practised.
- He is there received with the same humanity.
- But when the Germans had founded kingdoms, hospitality was become burdensome.
- This appears by two laws of the code of the Burgundians:
- One inflicted a penalty on every barbarian, who presumed to show a stranger the house of a Roman.
- The other decreed, that whoever received a stranger should be indemnified by the inhabitants, every one being obliged to pay his proper proportion.
Chapter 3: Poverty
THERE are two sorts of poor:
- Those who are rendered such by the severity of the government;
- These cannot do almost any great action, because their indigence is a consequence of their slavery.
- Those who either despise, or know not the conveniencies of life
- They can accomplish great things, because their poverty constitutes a part of their liberty.
Chapter 4: Commerce in different Governments
TRADE has some relation to forms of government.
- A monarchy is generally founded on luxury.
- It be also founded on real wants.
- But its principal view is to procure every thing that can contribute to the pride, the pleasure, and the capricious whimsies of the nation.
- In republics, it is commonly founded on œconomy.
- Their merchants have an eye to all the nations of the earth.
- They bring from one what is wanted by another.
- It is thus that the republics of Tyre, Carthage, Athens, Marseilles, Florence, Venice, and Holland, engaged in commerce.
This kind of traffic has a natural relation to a republican government; to monarchies it is only occasional.
- It is founded on the practice of gaining little, and even less than other nations.
- It remedies this by gaining incessantly.
- It can hardly be carried on by a people swallowed up in luxury; who spend much, and see nothing but objects of grandeur.
Cicero thought like this, when he so justly said “that he did not like that the same people should be both the lords and factors of the whole earth.”
- This supposes that everyone in the state, and the whole state collectively, had their heads constantly filled at the same time with:
- grand views, and
- small ones.
- This is a contradiction.
This is not because the most noble enterprises are completed also in those states which subsist by œconomical commerce.
- They even have an intrepidity not to be found in monarchies.
The real reason is that one branch of commerce leads to another.
- The small to the moderate, the moderate to the great.
- Thus, he who has gratified his desire of gaining a little, raises himself to a situation where he is not less desirous of gaining a lot.
Besides, the grand enterprises of merchants are always connected with the affairs of the public.
- But in monarchies, these public affairs give as much distrust to the merchants, as in free states they appear to give safety.
- Great enterprises therefore, in commerce, are not for monarchical, but for republican governments.
In short, an opinion of greater certainty, as to the possession of property in these states, makes them undertake every thing.
- They flatter themselves with the hopes of receiving great advantages from the smiles of fortune.
- They think themselves sure of what they have already acquired.
- They boldly expose it, in order to acquire more.
- They risk nothing but as the means of obtaining.
I am not saying that monarchies are entirely excluded from an œconomical commerce.
- I mean that of its own nature, a monarchy has less tendency towards commerce.
- I also do not mean that the republics are absolutely deprived of the commerce of luxury.
- I mean that luxury is less connected with their constitution.
In a despotic state, there is no occasion to mention it.
- A general Rule:
- A nation in slavery labours more to preserve than to acquire.
- A free nation labours more to acquire than to preserve.
Next Chapter 5: Nations that have economical commerce