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The right of property in land, he contends, should be founded in public utility ;, and he thinks the exorbitant right of property in land, as he calls it, which the municipal laws of Europe have esta blished, have been productive of evil consequences; that by exact, ing exorbitant rents, proprietors exercise a pernicious usury, and that by granting only short leases, they stifle and prevent the exertion of that industry, which is ready, at all times, to spring up, were the cultivation of the soil laid open upon equitable terms.
So much does he think society has suffered by an inadequate cultivation of the earth, that he proposes various regulations, by which greater numbers may be employed in this necessary art, ; and repeats, that every one who cultivates the soil should be its possessor, extending this principle so far as even to suggest the establishment of a progressive agrarian law; and he adds, that, at least, the experiment might be attempted by allotting escheated and forfeited estates to soldiers, on their return from service and disbandment.
He attributes the restraint on marriage among the poor, and a deficient population, both which he seems to lament, to the too limited cultivation of the earth. But so little does he conceive the possibility of a deficient supply of food, that he believes even in the sterile and ungenial climate of Siberia, the whole inhabitants of Europe might be maintained, even more at their ease, than in their present habitations. And so entirely is he free from any apprehension on the subject of a too fast increasing and superabundant popu. lation, that he considers the supposed state of a colony of men, settled in a small island, where the land, aided by the highest cultivaç tion, is but just sufficient to support its inhabitants, as that to which every nation should aspire as to its niost perfect state.
? This experiment has been actually made in Scotlaud, and its want of success, unfortunately, overturns this benevolent but visionary speculation.
At the conclusion of the last war, says Dr. M‘Farlan, in his Enquiries concerning the Poor, published in 1782, when a great part of the army was disbanded, the trustees, for the forfeited estates in Scotland, thought they could not better dispose of a part of these uncultivated grounds, than by giving to soldiers, retired from the service, three or more acres each; and, to encourage them to settle, they agreed to build them houses on the grounds allotted. As many of these men came from those parts of the country, where the forfeited estates lay, it was expected that they would readily accept of the offer. The scheme was, accordingly,executed; portions of land were assigned to numbers of them, and the sum of six thousand pounds was expended in building their houses. No design could be more plausible, or. promise greater success. Here a seemingly comfortable retirement was provided for those brave men, who have served their country, while, at the same time, the scheme tended to people and fertilise waste and uninhabited. grounds. It has, however, been since found, that it very imperfectly answered the purpose intended. In a few years the most of them deserted their houses.-MFarlan's ENQUIRIES, Page 424.
He notices other evils, which, in his opinion, can only be relieved by a more extended agriculture. Some of these, he thinks, have been unjustly attributed to the influence of the English system of poor laws, which he advocates as the most generous and the most respectable establishment of which the jurisprudence of nations can boast; and he contends, that even the abuses which may have crept into it, ought not to be alleged against its utility, for, even in the most perverted state of the institution, he believes the abuses are fully compensated by equivalent advantages.
He pursues the subject still more in detail, with much ingenuity and power of argument, advancing opinions indeed, much at variance with those commonly received on subjects of political economy, and certainly directly in opposition to those of Mr. Malthus, before adverted to.
But whatever the reader may think of his various speculations, there is a spirit of benevolence pervading them, that cannot fail to excite his respect for the author. Two of his propositions may, also, be considered as unquestionable, that a more perfect and a much more extended cultivation of the earth is necessary to individual comfort and rational prosperity; and that the soil cannot be adequately cultivated, but by individuals who have such an interest in it, and are secure in the possession of it, for such a period, as shall call forth the requisite exertions for its due cultivation.
But for this purpose, the reader will, probably, not think it requisite to have recourse to the extreme measures proposed by the author, measures which must necessarily so change the present constitution of society, as to risk its entire disorganization ; and he will probably also think, that Mr. Coke has already, virtually, met both his propositions by the extraordinary improvement he has effected in agriculture ; by the great encouragement which, by his long leases and moderate rents, he has afforded his tenants to exert themselves in the adequate cultivation of their farms; by the general interest he has excited to agriculture, and more especially by the example he has set in cultivating a portion of his estate himseļf; and by which he has most strikingly exemplified the truth of the whole sentence from which my motto is taken ;
Omnium rerum ex quibus aliquid exquiritur, nihil est agriculturâ melius, uberius, homine libero digvius,
ONE OF THE VICE PRESIDENTS OF THE SOCIETY, HONORARY MEMBER OF
THE LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETIES OF NEW YORK,
AND BELLES-LETIRES AT DIJON.
There is implanted in the minds of all men of an investigating turn, an inextinguishable desire to penetrate to the origin of things: and there can be no doubt that such a desire, properly regulated, and judiciously directed, may be productive of beneficial results. It may teach us at once the strength and the weakness of human reason ; may prove that though the regions of knowledge are extensive, rich, indefinitely diversified, and incessantly augmenting, they are, notwithstanding, limited.
In surveying the present and past state of science and art, it is extremely difficult to make such a separation between what is known, and what was known, as shall preserve us from imputing to mankind in any given place and period, erroneous measures either in kind or dea gree, of theoretical or practical acquisition. The obvious consequence is that we are too apt, notwithstanding the utmost caution, to suppose them ignorant of matters which they well understood, or conversant with others with which they were unacquainted ; to infer, in short, their knowledge from our own, to try their conduct by our standards, and thus, often to censure, where we ought to applaud.
If we attempt to pass to any of the extreme points, towards which the understanding is often solicitous of elevating itself, we shall find much that is delightful, not a little that is perplexing. Take for a topic of meditation, the first of any series, the first man,the first woman,—the first ear of corn,- the first day,—the first night,—the first solar eclipse : examine it in itself, trace it in its relations, dependencies, and results, -and how soon will the most