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Editor's Introduction .... 

Author's Preface .... 

Unto This Last — 

Essay I. The Roots of Honour . 
Essay II. The Veins of Wealth 
Essay III. Qui Judicatis Terram 
Essay IV. Ad Valorem 

Commentary — 

Editor's Notes, with Questions and Exercises 
Brief Sketch of the Author's Life 
Ruskin as an Economist 

Index ....... 







W ■<?Jtf^ , * b * 

In editing Unto this Last for the use of students, the 
aim has been to provide an introduction to the study 
of Civics and Social Science from the economic point 
of view. The need for the study of these subjects 
for those who are the Citizens of the Future is 
now fully appreciated, and the keen interest newly 
awakened affords an opportunity for young students 
to realise that certain unchanging principles underlie 
the changes and development of a Christian State. 

Ruskin's contribution to Tightness of thought and 
approach may well be taken to heart now, some sixty 
years after he framed it, by those who seek to recon- 
struct our industrial system. Some of the reforms 
he most desired are still wanting and still desirable; 
even more so the spirit he indicated as motive power. 
Some reforms have developed greatly and unex- 
pectedly and are found to be no specifics — notably 
that of extended State intervention and control. 

But no finality has been reached, and a just via 
media between the extravagant proposals of the 
uninstructed and the balanced laissez-faire of the 
academic will be found only if each citizen learns 



enough of the fundamental principles of citizenship, 
and of past history and experiments to think and 
act responsibly. 

This has now a chance of being brought about 
through the more liberal interpretation of " education 
for all," and the official sanction and encouragement 
given to what may be called the New Humanism. 

In accordance with this idea, educators seek to 
bring the literary masterpieces themselves with- 
in reach of elementary students instead of, as 
formerly, providing them with mutilated versions 
or trivial paraphrases. A double purpose is served 
when the thought is clothed in appropriate and 
arresting expression, and many a young student may 
be unconsciously inspired by the twofold appeal, 
whom a dull enunciation leaves cold, or a sensa- 
tional one misleads. 

Hence the text of this book is intact; Ruskin's 
preface of 1862 is preserved, and all his essential 
footnotes. These appear as in any unedited work 
and, in addition, there have been supplied a brief 
biographical sketch of the Author's life, an estimate 
of his position as an economist, and some notes, 
questions and exercises for optional use. In this form 
it is thought that the book may be helpful to students 
reading alone, as well as to teachers desiring to in- 


troduce the study of Civics into the upper and middle 
forms of Secondary and Continuation Schools, 

No references are made in the body of the book 
to any of the additional matter, so that the reader's 
interest and enjoyment shall not be distracted 
from the subject. But when help or elucidation is 
desired recourse may be had to the notes and sugges- 
tions given in the Commentary. 

Susan Cunnington. 


September, 1920. 

I. The four following essays were published eighteen 
months ago in the Comhill Magazine, and were 
reprobated in a violent manner, as far as I could 
hear, by most of the readers they met with. 

Not a whit the less, I believe them to be the best, 
that is to say, the truest, rightest-worded, and most 
serviceable things I have ever written; and the last 
of them, having had especial pains spent on it, is 
probably the best I shall ever write. 

" This," the reader may reply, " it might be, yet 
not therefore well written." Which, in no mock 
humility, admitting, I yet rest satisfied with the work, 
though with nothing else that I have done; and 
purposing shortly to follow out the subjects opened 
in these papers, as I may find leisure, I wish the 
introductory statements to be within the reach of 
any one who may care to refer to them. So I repub- 
lish the essays as they appeared. One word only is 
changed, correcting the estimate of a weight; and 
no word is added. 

2. Although, however, I find nothing to modify 
in these papers, it is a matter of regret to me that 
the most startling of all the statements in them, — 
that respecting the necessity of the organisation of 
labour, with fixed wages, — should have found its 



way into the first essay; it being quite one of the 
least important, though by no means the least certain, 
of the positions to be defended. The real gist of these 
papers, their central meaning and aim, is to give, 
as I believe for the first time in plain English, — it 
has often been incidentally given in good Greek 
by Plato and Xenophon, and good Latin by Cicero 
and Horace, — a logical definition of wealth: such 
definition being absolutely needed for a basis of 
economical science. The most reputed essay on that 
subject which has appeared in modern times, after 
opening with the statement that " writers on political 
economy profess to teach, or to investigate, the nature 
of wealth," thus follows up the declaration of its 
thesis — " Every one has a notion, sufficiently correct 
for common purposes, of what is meant by wealth." 
... " It is no part of the design of this treatise to 
aim at metaphysical nicety of definition." x 

3. Metaphysical nicety, we assuredly do not need; 
but physical nicety, and logical accuracy, with respect 
to a physical subject, we as assuredly do. 

Suppose the subject of inquiry, instead of being 
House-law (Oikonomia), had been Star-law (Astro- 
nomia), and that, ignoring distinction between stars 
fixed and wandering, as here between wealth radiant 
and wealth reflective, the writer had begun thus: 
" Every one has a notion, sufficiently correct for 
common purposes, of what is meant by stars. Meta- 

1 Principles of Political Economy. By J. S. Mill. Preliminary 
remarks, p. 2. 


physical nicety in the definition of a star is not the 
object of this treatise "; — the essay so opened might 
yet have been far more true in its final statements, 
and a thousandfold more serviceable to the navigator, 
than any treatise on wealth, which founds its con- 
clusions on the popular conception of wealth, can 
ever become to the economist. 

4. It was, therefore, the first object of these follow- 
ing papers to give an accurate and stable definition 
of wealth. Their second object was to show that the 
acquisition of wealth was finally possible only under 
certain moral conditions of society, of which quite 
the first was a belief in the existence and even, for 
practical purposes, in the attainability of honesty. 

Without venturing to pronounce — since on such 
a matter human judgment is by no means conclusive 
— what is, or is not, the noblest of God's works, we 
may yet admit so much of Pope's assertion as that 
an honest man is among His best works presently 
visible, and, as things stand, a somewhat rare one; 
but not an incredible or miraculous work; still less 
an abnormal one. Honesty is not a disturbing force, 
which deranges the orbits of economy; but a con- 
sistent and commanding force, by obedience to which 
— and by no other obedience — those orbits can 
continue clear of chaos. 

5. It is true, I have sometimes heard Pope con- 
demned for the lowness, instead of the height, of his 
standard: — "Honesty is indeed a respectable virtue; 


but how much higher may men attain ! Shall nothing 
more be asked of us than that we be honest ? " 

For the present, good friends, nothing. It seems 
that in our aspirations to be more than that, we have 
to some extent lost sight of the propriety of being so 
much as that. What else we may have lost faith in, 
there shall be here no question; but assuredly we 
have lost faith in common honesty, and in the working 
power of it. And this faith, with the facts on which 
it may rest, it is quite our first business to recover 
and keep : not only believing, but even by experience 
assuring ourselves, that there are yet in the world 
men who can be restrained from fraud otherwise than 
by the fear of losing employment ; 1 nay, that it is 
even accurately in proportion to the number of such 
men in any State, that the said State does or can 
prolong its existence. 

To these two points, then, the following essays 
are mainly directed. The subject of the organisation 
of labour is only casually touched upon; because, 
if we once can get a sufficient quantity of honesty 
in our captains, the organisation of labour is easy, 
and will develop itself without quarrel or difficulty; 
but if we cannot get honesty in our captains, the 
organisation of labour is for evermore impossible. 

6. The several conditions of its possibility I pur- 

1 " The effectual discipline which is exercised over a work- 
man is not that of his corporation, but of his customers. It 
is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his 
frauds, and corrects his negligence." (Wealth of Nations, 
Book I. chap, io.) 


pose to examine at length in the sequel. Yet, lest 
the reader should be alarmed by the hints thrown 
out during the following investigation of first prin- 
ciples, as if they were leading him into unexpectedly 
dangerous ground, I will, for his better assurance, 
state at once the worst of the political creed at which 
I wish him to arrive. 

6 (1). First, — that there should be training schools 
for youth established, at Government cost, 1 and 
under Government discipline, over the whole country; 
that every child born in the country should, at the 
parents' wish, be permitted (and, in certain cases, 
be under penalty required) to pass through them; 
and that, in these schools, the child should (with 
other minor pieces of knowledge hereafter to be 
considered) imperatively be taught, with the best 
skill of teaching that the country could produce, 
the following three things : — 

(a) the laws of health, and the exercises enjoined 
by them; 

(b) habits of gentleness and justice; and 

(c) the calling by which he is to live. 

1 It will probably be inquired by near-sighted persons, out 
of what funds such schools could be supported. The expedient 
modes of direct provision for them I will examine hereafter; 
indirectly, they would be far more than self-supporting. The 
economy in crime alone, (quite one of the most costly articles 
of luxury in the modern European market), which such 
schools would induce, would suffice to support them ten 
times over. Their economy of labour would be pure gain, 
and that too large to be presently calculable. 


6 (2). Secondly, — that, in connection with these 
training schools, there should be established, also 
entirely under Government regulation, manufactories 
and workshops, for the production and sale of every 
necessary of life, and for the exercise of every useful 
art. And that, interfering no whit with private enter- 
prise, nor setting any restraints or tax on private 
trade, but leaving both to do their best, and beat the 
Government if they could, — there should, at these 
Government manufactories and shops, be authorita- 
tively good and exemplary work done, and pure and 
true substance sold; so that a man could be sure, 
if he chose to pay the Government price, that he got 
for his money bread that was bread, ale that was ale, 
and work that was work. 

6 (3). Thirdly, — that any man, or woman, or boy, 
or girl, out of employment, should be at once received 
at the nearest Government school, and set to such 
work as it appeared, on trial, they were fit for, at a 
fixed rate of wages determinable every year: — that, 
being found incapable of work through ignorance, 
they should be taught, or being found incapable of 
work through sickness, should be tended; but that 
being found objecting to work, they should be set, 
under compulsion of the strictest nature, to the 
more painful and degrading forms of necessary toil, 
especially to that in mines and other places of danger 
(such danger being, however, diminished to the 
utmost by careful regulation and discipline) and the 
due wages of such work be retained— cost of com- 


pulsion first abstracted — to be at the workman's 
command, so soon as he has come to sounder mind 
respecting the laws of employment. 

6 (4). Lastly, — that for the old and destitute, 
comfort and home should be provided; which pro- 
vision, when misfortune had been by the working 
of such a system sifted from guilt, would be honour- 
able instead of disgraceful to the receiver. For (I 
repeat this passage out of my Political Economy of 
Art, to which the reader is referred for farther detail) 
" a labourer serves his country with his spade, just 
as a man in the middle ranks of life serves it with 
sword, pen, or lancet. If the service be less, and, 
therefore, the wages during health less, then the 
reward when health is broken may be less, but not 
less honourable; and it ought to be quite as natural 
and straightforward a matter for a labourer to take 
his pension from his parish, because he has deserved 
well of his parish, as for a man in higher rank to take 
his pension from his country, because he has deserved 
well of his country." 

To which statement, I will only add, for conclusion, 
respecting the discipline and pay of life and death, 
that, for both high and low, Livy's last words touch- 
ing Valerius Publicola, " de publico est elatus" 1 ought 
not to be a dishonourable close of epitaph. 

These things, then, I believe, and am about, as I 

1 " P. Valerius, omnium consensu princeps belli pacisque 
artibus, anno post moritur ; gloria ingenti, copiis f amiliaribus 
adeo exiguis, ut funeri sumtus deesset : de publico est elatus. 
Luxere matronae ut Brutum." — Lib. II. c. xvi. 


find power, to explain and illustrate in their various 
bearings; following out also what belongs to them 
of collateral inquiry. Here I state them only in 
brief, to prevent the reader casting about in alarm 
for my ultimate meaning; yet requesting him, for 
the present, to remember, that in a science dealing 
with so subtle elements as those of human nature, 
it is only possible to answer for the final truth of 
principles, not for the direct success of plans: and 
that in the best of these last, what can be immediately 
accomplished is always questionable, and what can 
be finally accomplished, inconceivable. 

Denmark Hill, 

10th May, 1862. 





i. Among the delusions which at different periods 
have possessed themselves of the minds of large 
masses of the human race, perhaps the most curious 
— certainly the least creditable — is the modern soi- 
disant science of political economy, based on the idea 
that an advantageous code of social action may be 
determined irrespectively of the influence of social 

Of course, as in the instances of alchemy, astrology, 
witchcraft, and other such popular creeds, political 
economy has a plausible idea at the root of it. " The 
social affections," says the economist, " are accidental 
and disturbing elements in human nature ; but avarice 
and the desire of progress are constant elements. Let 
us eliminate the inconstants, and, considering the 



human being merely as a covetous machine, examine 
by what laws of labour, purchase, and sale, the 
greatest accumulative result in wealth is attainable. 
Those laws once determined, it will be for each 
individual afterwards to introduce as much of the 
disturbing affectionate element as he chooses, and to 
determine for himself the result on the new conditions 

2. This would be a perfectly logical and successful 
method of analysis, if the accidentals afterwards to be 
introduced were of the same nature as the powers 
first examined. Supposing a body in motion to be 
influenced by constant and inconstant forces, it is 
usually the simplest way of examining its course 
to trace it first under the persistent conditions, and 
afterwards introduce the causes of variation. But 
the disturbing elements in the social problem are not 
of the same nature as the constant ones; they alter 
the essence of the creature under examination the 
moment they are added; they operate, not mathe- 
matically, but chemically, introducing conditions 
which render all our previous knowledge unavailable. 
We made learned experiments upon pure nitrogen, 
and have convinced ourselves that it is a very manage- 
able gas: but behold! the thing which we have 
practically to deal with is its chloride; and this, 
the moment we touch it on our established principles, 
sends us and our apparatus through the ceiling. 

3. Observe, I neither impugn nor doubt the con-, 
elusions of the science, if its terms are accepted. I 


am simply uninterested in them, as I should be in 
those of a science of gymnastics which assumed 
that men had no skeletons. It might be shown, on 
that supposition, that it would be advantageous to 
roll the students up into pellets, flatten them into 
cakes, or stretch them into cables; and that when 
these results were effected, the re-insertion of the 
skeleton would be attended with various inconveni- 
ences to their constitution. The reasoning might 
be admirable, the conclusions true, and the science 
deficient only in applicability. Modern political eco- 
nomy stands on a precisely similar basis. Assuming, 
not that the human being has no skeleton, but that 
it is all skeleton, it founds an ossifiant theory of 
progress on this negation of a soul; and having shown 
the utmost that may be made of bones, and con- 
structed a number of interesting geometrical figures 
with death's-heads and humeri, successfully proves 
the inconvenience of the reappearance of a soul among 
these corpuscular structures. I do not deny the 
truth of this theory : I simply deny its applicability 
to the present phase of the world. 

4. This inapplicability has been curiously mani- 
fested during the embarrassment caused by the late 
strikes of our workmen. Here occurs one of the 
simplest cases, in a pertinent and positive form, of 
the first vital problem which political economy has 
to deal with (the relation between employer and 
employed); and at a severe crisis, when lives in 
multitudes, and wealth in masses, are at stake, 


the political economists are helpless — practically 
mute ; no demonstrable solution of the difficulty can 
be given by them, such as may convince or calm the 
opposing parties. Obstinately the masters take one 
view of the matter; obstinately the operatives 
another ; and no political science can set them at one. 

5. It would be strange if it could, it being not by 
" science " of any kind that men were ever intended 
to be set at one. Disputant after disputant vainly 
strives to show that the interests of the masters are, 
or are not, antagonistic to those of the men: none 
of the pleaders ever seeming to remember that it 
does not absolutely or always follow that the persons 
must be antagonistic because their interests are. 
If there is only a crust of bread in the house, and 
mother and children are starving, their interests are 
not the same. If the mother eats it, the children 
want it; if the children eat it, the mother must go 
hungry to her work. Yet it does not necessarily 
follow that there will be " antagonism " between 
them, that they will fight for the crust, and that 
the mother, being strongest, will get it, and eat it. 
Neither, in any other case, whatever the relations of 
the persons may be, can it be assumed for certain 
that, because their interests are diverse, they must 
necessarily regard each other with hostility, and use 
violence or cunning to obtain the advantage. 

6. Even if this were so, and it were as just as it is 
convenient to consider men as actuated by no other 
moral influences than those which affect rats or swine, 


the logical conditions of the question are still indeter- 
minable. It can never be shown generally either that 
the interests of master and labourer are alike, or that 
they are opposed; for, according to circumstances, 
they may be either. It is, indeed, always the interest 
of both that the work should be rightly done, and a 
just price obtained for it; but, in the division of 
profits, the gain of the one may or may not be the 
loss of the other. It is not the master's interest to 
pay wages so low as to leave the men sickly and 
depressed, nor the workman's interest to be paid 
high wages if the smallness of the master's profit 
hinders him from enlarging his business, or conduct- 
ing it in a safe and liberal way. A stoker ought not 
to desire high pay if the company is too poor to keep 
the engine-wheels in repair. 

7. And the varieties of circumstance which influ- 
ence these reciprocal interests are so endless, that all 
endeavour to deduce rules of action from balance 
of expediency is in vain. And it is meant to be 
in vain. For no human actions ever were intended 
by the Maker of men to be guided by balances of 
expediency, but by balances of justice. He has there- 
fore rendered all endeavours to determine expediency 
futile for evermore. No man ever knew, or Can know, 
what will be the ultimate result to himself, or to 
others, of any given line of conduct. But every man 
may know, and most of us do know, what is a just 
and unjust act. And all of us may know also, that 
the consequences of justice will be ultimately the 


best possible, both to others and ourselves, though 
we can neither say what is best, nor how it is likely 
to come to pass. 

I have said balances of justice, meaning, in the 
term justice, to include affection, — such affection as 
one man owes to another. All right relations between 
master and operative, and all their best interests, 
ultimately depend on these. 

8. We shall find the best and simplest illustra- 
tion of the relations of master and operative in the 
position of domestic servants. 

We will suppose that the master of a household 
desires only to get as much work out of his servants 
as he can, at the rate of wages he gives. He never 
allows them to be idle; feeds them as poorly and 
lodges them as ill as they will endure, and in all things 
pushes his requirements to the exact point beyond 
which he cannot go without forcing the servant to 
leave him. In doing this, there is no violation on his 
part of what is commonly called " justice." He 
agrees with the domestic for his whole time and 
service, and takes them; — the limits of hardship 
in treatment being fixed by the practice of other 
masters in his neighbourhood; that is to say, by 
the current rate of wages for domestic labour. If 
the servant can get a better place, he is free to take 
one, and the master can only tell what is the real 
market value of his labour, by requiring as much as 
he will give. 

This is the politico-economical view of the case, 


according to the doctors of that science; who assert 
that by this procedure the greatest average of work 
will be obtained from the servant, and therefore, 
the greatest benefit to the community, and through 
the community, by reversion, to the servant himself. 

That, however, is not so. It would be so if the 
servant were an engine of which the motive power 
was steam, magnetism, gravitation, or any other 
agent of calculable force. But he being, on the con- 
trary, an engine whose motive power is a Soul, the 
force of this very peculiar agent, as an unknown 
quantity, enters into all the political economist's 
equations, without his knowledge, and falsifies every 
one of their results. The largest quantity of work 
will not be done by this curious engine for pay, or 
under pressure, or by help of any kind of fuel which 
may be supplied by the chaldron. It will be done 
only when the motive force, that is to say, the will 
or spirit of the creature, is brought to its greatest 
strength by its own proper fuel; namely, by the 

9. It may indeed happen, and does happen often, 
that if the master is a man of sense and energy, a 
large quantity of material work may be done under 
mechanical pressure, enforced by strong will and 
guided by wise method; also it may happen, and 
does happen often, that if the master is indolent 
and weak (however good-natured), a very small 
quantity of work, and that bad, may be produced by 
the servant's undirected strength, and contemptuous 


gratitude. But the universal law of the matter is 
that, assuming any given quantity of energy and 
sense in master and servant, the greatest material 
result obtainable by them will be, not through 
antagonism to each other, but through affection for 
each other; and that if the master, instead of en- 
deavouring to get as much work as possible from 
the servant, seeks rather to rendet his appointed and 
necessary work beneficial to him, and to forward 
his interests in all just and wholesome ways, the real 
amount of work ultimately done, or of good rendered, 
by the person so cared for, will indeed be the greatest 

Observe, I say, " of good rendered," for a servant's 
work is not necessarily or always the best thing he 
can give his master. But good of all kinds, whether 
in material service, in protective watchfulness of 
his master's interest and credit, or in joyful readiness 
to seize unexpected and irregular occasions of help. 

Nor is this one whit less generally true because 
indulgence will be frequently abused, and kindness 
met with ingratitude. For the servant who, gently 
treated, is ungrateful, treated ungently, will be re- 
vengeful ; and the man who is dishonest to a liberal 
master will be injurious to an unjust one. 

10. In any case, and with any person, this unselfish 
treatment will produce the most effective return. 
Observe, I am here considering the affections wholly 
as a motive power ; not at all as things in themselves 
desirable or noble, or in any other way abstractedly 


good. I look at them simply as an anomalous force, 
rendering every one of the ordinary political econo- 
mist's calculations nugatory; while, even if he desired 
to introduce this new element into his estimates, 
he has no power of dealing with it ; for the affections 
only become a true motive power when they ignore 
every other motive and condition of political economy. 
Treat the servant kindly, with the idea of turning 
his gratitude to account, and you will get, as you 
deserve, no gratitude, nor any value for your kindness ; 
but treat him kindly without any economical pur- 
pose, and all economical purposes will be answered; 
in this, as in all other matters, whosoever will save 
his life shall lose it, whoso loses it shall find it. 1 

11. The next clearest and simplest example of 
relation between master and operative is that which 
exists between the commander of a regiment and his 

Supposing the officer only desires to apply the 
rules of discipline so as, with least trouble to himself, 
to make the regiment most effective, he will not be 
able, b}f any rules, or administration of rules, on this 
selfish principle, to develop the full strength of his 
subordinates. If a man of sense and firmness, he may, 
as in the former instance, produce a better result 
than would be obtained by the irregular kindness 

1 The difference between the two modes of treatment, and 
between their effective material results, may be seen very 
accurately by a comparison of the relations of Esther and 
Charlie in Bleak House, with those of Miss Brass and the 
Marchioness in Master Humphrey's Clock. 


of a weak officer; but let the sense and firmness 
be the same in both cases, and assuredly the officer 
who has the most direct personal relations with his 
men, the most care for their interests, and the most 
value for their lives, will develop their effective 
strength, through their affection for his own person, 
and trust in his character, to a degree wholly unat- 
tainable by other means. This law applies still more 
stringently as the numbers concerned are larger; 
a charge may often be successful, though the men 
dislike their officers; a battle has rarely been won, 
unless they loved their general. 

12. Passing from these simple examples to the 
more complicated relations existing between a 
manufacturer and his workmen, we are met first 
by certain curious difficulties, resulting, apparently, 
from a harder and colder state of moral elements. 
It is easy to imagine an enthusiastic affection existing 
among soldiers for the colonel. Not so easy to imagine 
an enthusiastic affection among cotton-spinners for 
the proprietor of the mill. A body of men associated 
for purposes of robbery (as a Highland clan in ancient 
times) shall be animated by perfect affection, and 
every member of it be ready to lay down his life for 
the life of his chief. But a band of men associated 
for purposes of legal production and accumulation 
is usually animated, it appears, by no such emotions, 
and none of them are in any wise willing to give his 
life for the life of his chief. Not only are we met by 
this apparent anomaly, in moral matters, but by 


others connected with it, in administration of system. 
For a servant or a soldier is engaged at a definite 
rate of wages, for a definite period; but a workman 
at a rate of wages variable according to the demand 
for labour, and with the risk of being at any time 
thrown out of his situation by chances of trade. 
Now, as, under these contingencies, no action of the 
affections can take place, but only an explosive action 
of ^affections, two points offer themselves for 
consideration in the matter. 

The first — How far the rate of wages may be so 
regulated as not to vary with the demand for labour. 

The second — How far it is possible that bodies of 
workmen may be engaged and maintained at such 
fixed rate of wages (whatever the state of trade may 
be), without enlarging or diminishing their number, 
so as to give them permanent interest in the establish- 
ment with which they are connected, like that of the 
domestic servants in an old family, or an esprit de 
corps, like that of the soldiers in a crack regiment. 

13. The first question is, I say, how far it may be 
possible to fix the rate of wages irrespectively of the 
demand for labour. 

Perhaps one of the most curious facts in the history 
of human error is the denial by the common political 
economist of the possibility of thus regulating wages ; 
while, for all the important, and much of the unim- 
portant, labour on the earth, wages are already so 

We do not sell our prime-ministership by Dutch 


auction; nor, on the decease of a bishop, whatever 
may be the general advantages of simony, do we (yet) 
offer his diocese to the clergyman who will take the 
episcopacy at the lowest contract. We (with exquisite 
sagacity of political economy!) do indeed sell com- 
missions; but not openly, generalships: sick, we do 
not inquire for a physician who takes less than a 
guinea; litigious, we never think of reducing six- 
and-eightpence to f our-and-sixpence ; caught in a 
shower, we do not canvass the cabmen, to find one 
who values his driving at less than sixpence a mile. 

It is true that in all these cases there is, and in 
every conceivable case there must be, ultimate 
reference to the presumed difficulty of the work, 
or number of candidates for the office. If it were 
thought that the labour necessary to make a good 
physician would be gone through by a sufficient 
number of students with the prospect of only half- 
guinea fees, public consent would soon withdraw the 
unnecessary half-guinea. In this ultimate sense, 
the price of labour is indeed always regulated by 
the demand for it; but, so far as the practical and 
immediate administration of the matter is regarded, 
the best labour always has been, and is, as all labour 
ought to be, paid by an invariable standard. 

14. "What!" the reader, perhaps, answers 
amazedly: " pay good and bad workmen alike? " 

Certainly. The difference between one prelate's 
sermons and his successor's, — or between one 
physician's opinion and another's, — is far greater, 


as respects the qualities of mind involved, and far 
more important in result to you personally, than the 
difference between good and bad laying of bricks 
(though that is greater than most people suppose). 
Yet you pay with equal fee, contentedly, the good 
and bad workmen upon your soul, and the good and 
bad workmen upon your body ; much more may you 
pay, contentedly, with equal fees, the good and bad 
workmen upon your house. 

"Nay, but I choose my physician and (?) my 
clergyman, thus indicating my sense of the quality 
of their work." By all means, also, choose your 
bricklayer; that is the proper reward of the good 
workman, to be "chosen." The natural and right 
system respecting all labour is, that it should be 
paid at a fixed rate, but the good workman employed, 
and the bad workman unemployed. The false, un- 
natural, and destructive system is when the bad 
workman is allowed to offer his work at half-price, 
and either take the place of the good, or force him 
by his competition to work for an inadequate sum. 

15. This equality of wages, then, being the first 
object towards which we have to discover the 
directest available road; the second is, as above 
stated, that of maintaining constant numbers of 
workmen in employment, whatever may be the 
accidental demand for the article they produce. 

I believe the sudden and extensive inequalities 
of demand which necessarily arise in the mercantile 
operations of an active nation, constitute the only 


essential difficulty which has to be overcome in a 
just organisation of labour. The subject opens into 
too many branches to admit of being investigated 
in a paper of this kind; but the following general 
facts bearing on it may be noted. 

The wages which enable any workman to live are 
necessarily higher, if his work is liable to intermission, 
than if it is assured and continuous; and however 
severe the struggle for work may become, the general 
law will always hold, that men must get more daily 
pay if, on the average, they can only calculate on 
work three days a week, than they would require if 
they were sure of work six days a week. Supposing 
that a man cannot live on less than a shilling a day, 
his seven shillings he mast get, either for three days' 
violent work, or six days' deliberate work. The 
tendency of all modern mercantile operations is to 
throw both wages and trade into the form of a lottery, 
and to make the workman's pay depend on inter- 
mittent exertion, and the principal's profit on 
dexterously used chance. 

16. In what partial degree, I repeat, this may be 
necessary, in consequence of the activities of modern 
trade, I do not here investigate; contenting myself 
with the fact, that in its fatallest aspects it is assuredly 
unnecessary, and results merely from love of gambling 
on the part of the masters, and from ignorance and 
sensuality in the men. The masters cannot bear to 
let any opportunity of gain escape them, and frantic- 
ally rush at every gap and breach in the walls of 


Fortune, raging to be rich, and affronting, with 
impatient covetousness, every risk of ruin; while 
the men prefer three days of violent labour, and 
three days of drunkenness, to six days of moderate 
work and wise rest. There is no way in which a 
principal, who really desires to help his workmen, 
may do it more effectually than by checking these 
disorderly habits both in himself and them ; keeping 
his own business operations on a scale which will 
enable them to pursue them securely, not yielding 
to temptations of precarious gain; and, at the same 
time, leading his workmen into regular habits of 
labour and life, either by inducing them rather to 
take low wages in the form of a fixed salary, than high 
wages, subject to the chance of their being thrown 
out of work ; or, if this be impossible, by discouraging 
the system of violent exertion for nominally high day 
wages, and leading the men to take lower pay for 
more regular labour. 

In effecting any radical changes of this kind, 
doubtless there would be great inconvenience and loss 
incurred by all the originators of movement. That 
which can be done with perfect convenience and 
without loss, is not always the thing that most needs 
to be done, or which we are most imperatively 
required to do. 

17. I have already alluded to the difference 
hitherto existing between regiments of men associated 
for purposes of violence, and for purposes of manu- 
facture; in that the former appear capable of self- 


sacrifice — the latter, not; which singular fact is the 
real reason of the general lowness of estimate in 
which the profession of commerce is held, as com- 
pared with that of arms. Philosophically, it does not, 
at first sight, appear reasonable (many writers have 
endeavoured to prove it unreasonable) that a peace- 
able and rational person, whose trade is buying and 
selling, should be held in less honour than an un- 
peaceable and often irrational person, whose trade 
is slaying. Nevertheless, the consent of mankind has 
always, in spite of the philosophers, given precedence 
to the soldier. 

And this is right. 

For the soldier's trade, verily and essentially/ is 
not slaying,* but being slain. This, without well 
knowing its own meaning, the world honours it for. 
A bravo 's trade is slaying; but the world has never 
respected bravos more than merchants: the reason 
it honours the soldier is, because he holds his life 
at the service of the State. Reckless he may be 
— fond of pleasure or of adventure — all kinds of 
bye-motives and mean impulses may have deter- 
mined the choice of his profession, and may affect 
(to all appearance exclusively) his daily conduct in it ; 
but our estimate of him is based on this ultimate 
fact — of which we are well assured — that, put him 
in a fortress breach, with all the pleasures of the 
world behind him, and only death and his duty in 
front of him, he will keep his face to the front ; and 
he knows that this choice may be put to him at any 


moment, and has beforehand taken his part — virtually 
takes such part continually — does, in reality, die daily. 

18. Not less is the respect we pay to the lawyer and 
physician, founded ultimately on their self-sacrifice. 
Whatever the learning or acuteness of a great lawyer, 
our chief respect for him depends on our belief that, 
set in a judge's seat, he will strive to judge justly, 
come of it what may. Could we suppose that he 
would take bribes, and use his acuteness and legal 
knowledge to give plausibility to iniquitous decisions, 
no degree of intellect would win for him our respect. 
Nothing will win it, short of our tacit conviction, 
that in all important acts of his life justice is first 
with him; his own interest, second. 

In the case of a physician, the ground of the 
honour we render him is clearer still. Whatever his 
science, we should shrink from him in horror if we 
found him regard his patients merely as subjects to 
experiment upon; much more, if we found that, 
receiving bribes from persons interested in their 
deaths, he was using his best skill to give poison in 
the mask of medicine. 

Finally, the principle holds with utmost clearness 
as it respects clergymen. No goodness of disposition 
will excuse want of science in a physician or of 
shrewdness in an advocate; but a clergyman, even 
though his power of intellect be small, is respected 
on the presumed ground of his unselfishness and 

19. Now there can be no question but that the 


tact, foresight, decision, and other mental powers, 
required for the successful management of a large 
mercantile concern, if not such as could be compared 
with those of a great lawyer, general, or divine, 
would at least match the general conditions of mind 
required in the subordinate officers of a ship, or of 
a regiment, or in the curate of a country parish. 
If, therefore, all the efficient members of the so-called 
liberal professions are still, somehow, in public 
estimate of honour, preferred before the head of a 
commercial firm, the reason must he deeper than in 
the measurement of their several powers of mind. 

And the essential reason for such preference will 
be found to lie in the fact that the merchant is pre- 
sumed to act always selfishly. His work may be very 
necessary to the community; but the motive of it 
is understood to be wholly personal. The merchant's 
first object in all his dealings must be (the public 
believe) to get as much for himself, and leave as 
little to his neighbour (or customer) as possible. 
Enforcing this upon him, by political statute, as the 
necessary principle of his action; recommending it 
to him on all occasions, and themselves recipro- 
cally adopting it; proclaiming vociferously, for 
law of the universe, that a buyer's function is 
to cheapen, and a seller's to cheat, — the public, 
nevertheless, involuntarily condemn the man of 
commerce for his compliance with their own state- 
ment, and stamp him for ever as belonging to an 
inferior grade of human personality. 


20. This they will find, eventually, they must give 
up doing. They must not cease to condemn selfish- 
ness; but they will have to discover a kind of com- 
merce which is not exclusively selfish. Or, rather, 
they will have to discover that there never was, or 
can be, any other kind of commerce ; that this which 
they have called commerce was not commerce at all, 
but cozening; and that a true merchant differs as 
much from a merchant according to laws of modern 
political economy, as the hero of the Excursion from 
Autolycus. They will find that commerce is an 
occupation which gentlemen will every day see more 
need to engage in, rather than in the businesses of 
talking to men, or slaying them : that, in true com- 
merce, as in true preaching, or true fighting, it is 
necessary to admit the idea of occasional voluntary 
loss; — that sixpences have to be lost, as well as lives, 
under a sense of duty; that the market may have its 
martyrdoms as well as the pulpit; and trade its 
heroisms, as well as war. 

May have— in the final issue, must have — and 
only has not had yet, because men of heroic temper 
have always been misguided in their youth into 
other fields, not recognising what is in our days, 
perhaps, the most important of all fields; so that, 
while many a zealous person loses his life in trying 
to teach the form of a gospel, very few will lose a 
hundred pounds in showing the practice of one. 

21. The fact is, that people never have had clearly 
explained to them the true functions of a merchant 


with respect to other people. I should like the reader 
to be very clear about this. 

Five great intellectual professions, relating to 
daily necessities of life, have hitherto existed — 
three exist necessarily, in every civilised nation: 

The Soldier's profession is to defend it. 
The Pastor's, to teach it. - 
The Physician's, to keep it in health. 
The Lawyer's, to enforce justice in it. 
The Merchant's, to provide for it. 

And the duty of all these men is, on due occasion, 
to die for it. 

" On due occasion," namely: — 

The Soldier, rather than leave his post in battle. 

The Physician, rather than leave his post in plague. 

The Pastor, rather than teach Falsehood. 

The Lawyer, rather than countenance Injustice. 

The Merchant — What is his " due occasion " of 

22. It is the main question for the merchant, as for 
all of us. For, truly, the man who does not know 
when to die, does not know how to live. 

Observe, the merchant's function (or manu- 
facturer's, for in the broad sense in which it is here 
used the word must be understood to include both) 
is to provide for the nation. It is no more his function 
to get profit for himself out of that provision than 
it is a clergyman's function to get his stipend. The 
stipend is a due and necessary adjunct, but not the 


object, of his life, if he be a true clergyman, any 
more than his fee (or honorarium) is the object of 
life to a true physician. Neither is his fee the object 
of life to a true merchant. All three, if true men, 
have a work to be done irrespective of fee — to be 
done even at any cost, or for quite the contrary of 
fee; the pastor's function being to teach, the physi- 
cian's to heal, and the merchant's, as I have said, 
to provide. That is to say, he has to understand to 
their very root the qualities of the thing he deals in, 
and the means of obtaining or producing it; and 
he has to apply all his sagacity and energy to the 
producing or obtaining it in perfect state, and dis- 
tributing it at the cheapest possible price where it 
is most needed. 

And because the production or obtaining of any 
commodity involves necessarily the agency of many 
lives and hands, the merchant becomes in the course 
of his business the master and governor of large 
masses of men in a more direct, though less confessed 
way, than a military officer or pastor; so that on him 
falls, in great part, the responsibility for the kind of 
life they lead: and it becomes his duty, not only to 
be always considering how to produce what he sells 
in the purest and cheapest forms, but how to make 
the various employments involved in the produc- 
tion, or transference of it, most beneficial to the 
men employed. 

23. And as into these two functions, requiring for 
their right exercise the highest intelligence, as well 


as patience, kindness, and tact, the merchant is 
bound to put all his energy, so for their just dis- 
charge he is bound, as soldier or physician is bound, 
to give up, if need be, his life, in such a way as 
it may be demanded of him. Two main points he 
has in his providing function to maintain: first, his 
engagements (faithfulness to engagements being the 
real root of all possibilities in commerce); and, 
secondly, the perfectness and purity of the thing 
provided; so that, rather than fail in any engage- 
ment, or consent to any deterioration, adulteration, 
or unjust and exorbitant price of that which he 
provides, he is bound to meet fearlessly any form 
of distress, poverty, or labour, which may, through 
maintenance of these points, come upon him. 

24. Again: in his office as governor of the men 
employed by him, the merchant or manufacturer is 
invested with a distinctly paternal authority and 
responsibility. In most cases, a youth entering a 
commercial establishment is withdrawn altogether 
from home influence; his master must become his 
father, else he has, for practical and constant help, 
no father at hand : in all cases the master's authority, 
together with the general tone and atmosphere of 
his business, and the character of the men with whom 
the youth is compelled in the course of it to associate, 
have more immediate and pressing weight than the 
home influence, and will usually neutralise it either 
for good or evil; so that the only means which the 
master has of doing justice to the men employed by 


him is to ask himself sternly whether he is dealing 
with such subordinate as he would with his own son, 
if compelled by circumstances to take such a position. 

Supposing the captain of a frigate saw it right, or 
were by any chance obliged, to place his own son in 
the position of a common sailor; as he would then 
treat his son, he is bound always to treat every one 
of the men under him. So, also, supposing the master 
of a manufactory saw it right, or were by any chance 
obliged, to place his own son in the position of an 
ordinary workman; as he would then treat his son, 
he is bound always to treat every one of his men. 
This is the only effective, true, or practical Rule 
which can be given on this point of political economy. 

And as the captain of a ship is bound to be the 
last man to leave his ship in case of wreck, and to 
share his last crust with the sailors in case of famine, 
so the manufacturer, in any commercial crisis or 
distress, is bound to take the suffering of it with his 
men, and even to take more of it for himself than he 
allows his men to feel; as a father would in a famine, 
shipwreck, or battle, sacrifice himself for his son. 

25. All which sounds very strange: the only real 
strangeness in the matter being, nevertheless, that 
it should so sound. For all this is true, and that 
not partially nor theoretically, but everlastingly 
and practically : all other doctrine than this respect- 
ing matters political being false in premises, absurd 
in deduction, and impossible in practice, consistently 
with any progressive state of national life; all the 



life which we now possess as a nation showing itself 
in the resolute denial and scorn, by a few strong 
minds and faithful hearts, of the economic principles 
taught to our multitudes, which principles, so far 
as accepted, lead straight to national destruction. 
Respecting the modes and forms of destruction to 
which they lead, and, on the other hand, respecting 
the farther practical working of true polity, I hope 
to reason further in a following paper. 



26. The answer which would be made by any 
ordinary political economist to the statements con- 
tained in the preceding paper, is in few words as 
follows : — 

" It is indeed true that certain advantages of a 
general nature may be obtained by the development 
of social affections. But political economists never 
professed, nor profess, to take advantages of a general 
nature into consideration. Our science is simply the 
science of getting rich. So far from being a fallacious 
or visionary one, it is found by experience to be 
practically effective. Persons who follow its precepts 
do actually become rich, and persons who disobey 
them become poor. Every capitalist of Europe has 
acquired his fortune by following the known laws 
of our science, and increases his capital daily by an 
adherence to them. It is vain to bring forward tricks 
of logic, against the force of accomplished facts. 
Every man of business knows by experience how 
money is made, and how it is lost." 

Pardon me. Men of business do indeed know how 


they themselves made their money, or how, on 
occasion, they lost it. Playing a long-practised game, 
they are familiar with the chances of its cards, and 
can rightly explain their losses and gains. But they 
neither know who keeps the bank of the gambling- 
house, nor what other games may be played with the 
same cards, nor what other losses and gains, far away 
among the dark streets, are essentially, though 
invisibly, dependent on theirs in the lighted rooms. 
They have learned a few, and only a few, of the laws 
of mercantile economy; but not one of those of 
political economy. 

27. Primarily, which is very notable and curious, 
I observe that men of business rarely know the mean- 
ing of the word " rich." At least if they know, they 
do not in their reasonings allow for the fact, that it 
is a relative word, implying its opposite "poor" as 
positively as the word "north" implies its opposite 
" south." Men nearly always speak and write as if 
riches were absolute, and it were possible, by following 
certain scientific precepts, for everybody to be rich. 
Whereas riches are a power like that of electricity, 
acting only through inequalities or negations of 
itself. The force of the guinea you have in your 
pocket depends wholly on the default of a guinea in 
your neighbour's pocket. If he did not want it, it 
would be of no use to you; the degree of power it 
possesses depends accurately upon the need or desire 
he has for it, — and the art of making yourself rich 
in the ordinary mercantile economist's sense, is there- 


fore equally and necessarily the art of keeping your 
neighbour poor. 

I would not contend in this matter (and rarely in 
any matter), for the acceptance of terms. But I wish 
the reader clearly and deeply to understand the 
difference between the two economies, to which the 
terms " Political " and " Mercantile " might not 
unadvisably be attached. 

28. Political economy (the economy of a state, or of 
citizens) consists simply in the production, preserva- 
tion, and distribution, at fittest time and place, of 
useful or pleasurable things. The farmer who cuts 
his hay at the right time ; the ship-wright who drives 
his bolts well home in sound wood ; the builder who 
lays good bricks in well-tempered mortar; the 
housewife who takes care of her furniture in the 
parlour, and guards against all waste in her kitchen ; 
and the singer who rightly disciplines, and never 
overstrains her voice: are all political economists 
in the true and final sense ; adding continually to 
the riches and well-being of the nation to which they 

But mercantile economy, the economy of "merces" 
or of "pay," signifies the accumulation, in the hands 
of individuals, of legal or moral claim upon, or power 
over, the labour of others ; every such claim implying 
precisely as much poverty or debt on one side, as it 
implies riches or right on the other. 

It does not, therefore, necessarily involve an addi- 
tion to the actual property, or well-being of the 


State in which it exists. But since this commercial 
wealth, or power over labour, is nearly always con- 
vertible at once into real property, while real pro- 
perty is not always convertible at once into power 
over labour, the idea of riches among active men 
in civilised nations, generally refers to commercial 
wealth; and in estimating their possessions, they 
rather calculate the value of their horses and fields 
by the number of guineas they could get for them, 
than the value of their guineas by the number of 
horses and fields they could buy with them. 

29. There is, however, another reason for this 
habit of mind; namely, that an accumulation of 
real property is of little use to its owner, unless, to- 
gether with it, he has commercial power over labour. 
Thus, suppose any person to be put in possession 
of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of 
gold in its gravel, countless herds of cattle in its 
pastures; houses, and gardens, and store-houses full 
of useful stores ; but suppose, after all, that he could 
get no servants? In order that he may be able to 
have servants, some one in his neighbourhood must 
be poor, and in want of his gold — or his corn. Assume 
that no one is in want of either, and that no servants 
are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, 
make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and 
shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful 
to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His 
stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He 
can eat no more than another man could eat, and 


wear no more than another man could wear. He must 
lead a life of severe and common labour to procure 
even ordinary comforts ; he will be ultimately unable 
to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation * 
and forced to content himself with a poor man's 
portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert 
of waste land, trampled by wild cattle, and encum- 
bered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock 
at himself by calling " his own." 

30. The most covetous of mankind would, with 
small exultation, I presume, accept riches of this kind 
on these terms. What is really desired, under the 
name of riches, is essentially, power over men; in 
its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own 
advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and 
artist; in wider sense, authority of directing large 
masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial 
or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person). 
And this power of wealth of course is greater or less 
in direct proportion to the poverty of the men over 
whom it is. exercised, and in inverse proportion to 
the number of persons who are as rich as ourselves, 
and who are ready to give the same price for an 
article of which the supply is limited. If the musician 
is poor, he will sing for small pay, as long as there 
is only one person who can pay him; but if there 
be two or three, he will sing for the one who offers 
him most. And thus the power of the riches of the 
patron (always imperfect and doubtful, as we shall 
see presently, even when most authoritative) depends 


first on the poverty of the artist, and then on the 
limitation of the number of equally wealthy persons, 
who also want seats at the concert. So that, as above 
stated, the art of becoming " rich," in the common 
sense, is not absolutely nor finally the art of accumu- 
lating much money for ourselves, but also of contriv- 
ing that our neighbours shall have less. In accurate 
terms, it is " the art of establishing the maximum 
inequality in our own favour." 

31. Now the establishment of such inequality 
cannot be shown in the abstract to be either advan- 
tageous or disadvantageous to the body of the nation. 
The rash and absurd assumption that such inequalities 
are necessarily advantageous, lies at the root of most 
of the popular fallacies on the subject of political 
economy. For the eternal and inevitable law in this 
matter is, that the beneficialness of the inequality 
depends, first, on the methods by which it was 
accomplished, and, secondly, on the purposes to 
which it is applied. Inequalities of wealth, unjustly 
established, have assuredly injured the nation in 
which they exist during their establishment ; and, 
unjustly directed, injure it yet more during their 
existence. But inequalities of wealth, justly estab- 
lished, benefit the nation in the course of their 
establishment ; and, nobly used, aid it yet more by 
their existence. That is to say, among every active 
and well-governed people, the various strength of 
individuals, tested by full exertion and specially 
applied to various need, issues in unequal, but 


harmonious results, receiving reward or authority 
according to its class and service ; x while, in the 
inactive or ill-governed nation, the gradations of 
decay and the victories of treason work out also 
their own rugged system of subjection and success; 
and substitute, for the melodious inequalities of 
concurrent power, the iniquitous dominances and 
depressions of guilt and misfortune. 

32. Thus the circulation of wealth in a nation 
resembles that of the blood in the natural body. 
There is one quickness of the current which comes 
of cheerful emotion or wholesome exercise; and 
another which comes of shame or of fever. There 
is a flush of the body which is full of warmth 
and life; and another which will pass into putre- 

The analogy will hold, down even to minute par- 
ticulars. For as diseased local determination of the 

1 " Your bad workman, idler, and rogue — what are you to 
do with him? " 

We will consider of this presently: remember that the 
administration of a complete system of national commerce 
and industry cannot be explained in full detail within the 
space of twelve pages. Meantime, consider whether, there 
being confessedly some difficulty in dealing with rogues and 
idlers, it may not be advisable to produce as few of them as 
possible. If you examine into the history of rogues, you will 
find they are as truly manufactured articles as anything else, 
and it is just because our present system of political economy 
gives so large a stimulus to that manufacture that you may 
know it to be a false one. We had better seek for a system 
which will develop honest men, than for one which will deal 
cunningly with vagabonds. Let us reform our schools, and we 
shall find little reform needed in our prisons. 


blood involves depression of the general health of 
the system, all morbid local action of riches will 
be found ultimately to involve a weakening of the 
resources of the body politic. 

The mode in which this is produced may be at once 
understood by examining one or two instances of 
the development of wealth in the simplest possible 

33. Suppose two sailors cast away on an unin- 
habited coast, and obliged to maintain themselves 
there by their own labour for a series of years. 

If they both kept their health, and worked steadily, 
and in amity with each other, they might build 
themselves a convenient house, and in time come 
to possess a certain quantity of cultivated land, 
together with various stores laid up for future use. 
All these things would be real riches or property; 
and, supposing the men both to have worked equally 
hard, they would each have right to equal share or 
use of it. Their political economy would consist 
merely in careful preservation and just division of 
these possessions. Perhaps, however, after some time 
one or other might be dissatisfied with the results 
of their common farming; and they might in con- 
sequence agree to divide the land they had brought 
under the spade into equal shares, so that each might 
thenceforward work in his own field and live by it. 
Suppose after this arrangement had been made, one 
of them were to fall ill, and be unable to work on 
his land at a critical time — say of sowing or harvest. 


He would naturally ask the other to sow or reap 
for him. 

Then his companion might say, with perfect justice, 
V I will do this additional work for you; but if I do 
it, you must promise to do as much for me at another 
time. I will count how many hours I spend on your 
ground, and you shall give me a written promise 
to work for the same number of hours on mine, 
whenever I need your help, and you are able to 
give it." 

34. Suppose the disabled man's sickness to con- 
tinue, and that under various circumstances, for 
several years, requiring the help of the other, he on 
each occasion gave a written pledge to work, as soon 
as he was able, at his companion's orders, for the 
same number of hours which the other had given 
up to him. What will the positions of the two men 
be when the invalid is able to resume work ? 

Considered as a " Polis," or state, they will be 
poorer than they would have been otherwise : poorer 
by the withdrawal of what the sick man's labour 
v/ould have produced in the interval. His friend may 
perhaps have toiled with an energy quickened by the 
enlarged need, but in the end his own land and 
property must have suffered by the withdrawal of 
so much of his time and thought from them; and 
the united property of the two men will be certainly 
less than it would have been if both had remained in 
health and activity. 

But the relations in which they stand to each other 


are also widely altered. The sick man has not only 
pledged his labour for some years, but will probably 
have exhausted his own share of the accumulated 
stores, and will be in consequence for some time 
dependent on the other for food, which he can only 
" pay " or reward him for by yet more deeply 
pledging his own labour. 

Supposing the written promises to be held entirely 
valid (among civilised nations their validity is secured 
by legal measures 1 ), the person who had hitherto 
worked for both might now, if he chose, rest alto- 
gether, and pass his time in idleness, not only forcing 
his companion to redeem all the engagements he had 
already entered into, but exacting from him pledges 
for further labour, to an arbitrary amount, for what 
food he had to advance to him. 

35. There might not, from first to last, be the least 
illegality (in the ordinary sense of the word) in the 

1 The disputes which exist respecting the real nature of 
money arise more from the disputants examining its functions 
on different sides, than from any real dissent in their opinions. 
All money, properly so called, is an acknowledgment of debt; 
but as such, it may either be considered to represent the 
labour and property of the creditor, or the idleness and 
penury of the debtor. The intricacy of the question has been 
much increased by the (hitherto necessary) use of marketable 
commodities, such as gold, silver, salt, shells, etc., to give 
intrinsic value or security to currency ; but the final and best 
definition of money is that it is a documentary promise 
ratified and guaranteed by the nation to give or find a certain 
quantity of labour on demand. A man's labour for a day is 
a better standard of value than a measure of any produce, 
because no produce ever maintains a consistent rate of 


arrangement; but if a stranger arrived on the coast 
at this advanced epoch of their political economy, 
he would find one man commercially Rich ; the other 
commercially Poor. He would see, perhaps with no 
small surprise, one passing his days in idleness; the 
other labouring for both, and living sparely, in the 
hope of recovering his independence, at some distant 

This is, of course, an example of one only out of 
many ways in which inequality of possession may 
be established between different persons, giving rise 
to the Mercantile forms of Riches and Poverty. In 
the instance before us, one of the men might from 
the first have deliberately chosen to be idle, and to 
put his life in pawn for present ease; or he might 
have mismanaged his land, and been compelled 
to have recourse to his neighbour for food and help, 
pledging his future labour for it. But what I want 
the reader to note especially is the fact, common to 
a large number of typical cases of this kind, that the 
establishment of the mercantile wealth which consists 
in a claim upon labour, signifies a political diminution 
of the real wealth which consists in substantial 

36. Take another example, more consistent with 
the ordinary course of affairs of trade. Suppose that 
three men, instead of two, formed the little isolated 
republic, and found themselves obliged to separate 
in order to farm different pieces of land at some 
distance from each other along the coast ; each estate 


furnishing a distinct kind of produce, and each more 
or less in need of the material raised on the other. 
Suppose that the third man, in order to save the time 
of all three, undertakes simply to superintend the 
transference of commodities from one farm to the 
other; on condition of receiving some sufficiently 
remunerative share of every parcel of goods conveyed, 
or of some other parcel received in exchange for it. 

If this carrier or messenger always brings to each 
estate, from the other, what is chiefly wanted, at the 
right time, the operations of the two farmers will go 
on prosperously, and the largest possible result in 
produce, or wealth, will be attained by the little 
community. But suppose no intercourse between 
the landowners is possible, except through the 
travelling agent; and that, after a time, this agent, 
watching the course of each man's agriculture, keeps 
back the articles with which he has been entrusted 
until there comes a period of extreme necessity for 
them, on one side or other, and then exacts in ex- 
change for them all that the distressed farmer can 
spare of other kinds of produce ; it is easy to see that 
by ingeniously watching his opportunities, he might 
possess himself regularly of the greater part of the 
superfluous produce of the two estates, and at last, 
in some year of severest trial or scarcity, purchase 
both for himself, and maintain the former proprietors 
thenceforward as his labourers or his servants. 

37. This would be a case of commercial wealth 
acquired on the exactest principles of modern political 


economy. But more distinctly even than in the 
former instance, it is manifest in this that the wealth 
of the State, or of the three men considered as a 
society, is collectively less than it would have been 
had the merchant been content with juster profit. 
The operations of the two agriculturists have been 
cramped to the utmost ; and the continual limitations 
of the supply of things they wanted at critical times, 
together with the failure of courage consequent on 
the prolongation of a struggle for mere existence, 
without any sense of permanent gain, must have 
seriously diminished the effective results of their 
labour; and the stores finally accumulated in the 
merchant's hands will not in any wise be of equivalent 
value to those which, had his dealings been honest, 
would have filled at once the granaries of the farmers 
and his own. 

The whole question, therefore, respecting not only 
the advantage, but even the quantity, of national 
wealth, resolves itself finally into one of abstract 
justice. It is impossible to conclude, of any given 
mass of acquired wealth, merely by the fact of its 
existence, whether it signifies good or evil to the 
nation in the midst of which it exists. Its real value 
depends on the moral sign attached to it, just as 
sternly as that of a mathematical quantity depends 
on the algebraical sign attached to it. Any given 
accumulation of commercial wealth may be indicative, 
on the one hand, of faithful industries, progressive 
energies, and productive ingenuities; or, on the 


other, it may be indicative of mortal luxury, merci- 
less tyranny, ruinous chicane. Some treasures are 
heavy with human tears, as an ill-stored harvest 
with untimely rain; and some gold is brighter in 
sunshine than it is in ( substance. 

38. And these are not, observe, merely moral 
or pathetic attributes of riches, which the seeker of 
riches may, if he chooses, despise ; they are literally 
and sternly, material attributes of riches, depreciating 
or exalting, incalculably, the monetary signification 
of the sum in question. One mass of money is the 
outcome of action which has created, — another, of 
action which has annihilated, — ten times as much 
in the gathering of it; such and such strong hands 
have been paralysed, as if they had been numbed by 
nightshade: so many strong men's courage broken, 
so many productive operations hindered; this and 
the other false direction given to labour, and lying 
image of prosperity set up, on Dura plains dug into 
seven-times-heated furnaces. That which seems to 
be wealth may in verity be only the gilded index 
of far-reaching ruin; a wrecker's handful of coin 
gleaned from the beach to which he has beguiled 
an argosy; a camp-follower's bundle of rags un- 
wrapped from the breasts of goodly soldiers dead; 
the purchase-pieces of potter's fields, wherein shall 
be buried together the citizen and the stranger. 

And therefore, the idea that directions can be 
given for the gaining of wealth, irrespectively of 
the consideration of its moral sources, or that any 


general and technical law of purchase and gain can 
be set down for national practice, is perhaps the most 
insolently futile of all that ever beguiled men through 
their vices. So far as I know, there is not in history 
record of anything so disgraceful to the human 
intellect as the modern idea that the commercial 
text, " Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the 
dearest," represents, or under any circumstances 
could represent, an available principle of national 
economy. Buy in the cheapest market? — yes; but 
what made your market cheap? Charcoal may be 
cheap among your roof timbers after a fire, and bricks 
may be cheap in your streets after an earthquake; 
but fire and earthquake may not therefore be national 
benefits. Sell in the dearest? — yes, truly; but what 
made your market dear? You sold your bread well 
to-day ; was it to a dying man who gave his last coin 
for it, and will never need bread more, or to a rich 
man who to-morrow will buy your farm over your 
head; or to a soldier on his way to pillage the bank 
in which 3^ou have put your fortune ? 

None of these things you can know. One thing only 
you can know, namely, whether this dealing of yours 
is a just and faithful one, which is all you need con- 
cern yourself about respecting it; sure thus to have 
done your own part in bringing about ultimately 
in the world a state of things which will not issue in 
pillage or in death. And thus every question concern- 
ing these things merges itself ultimately in the great 
question of justice, which, the ground being thus 


far cleared for it, I will enter upon in the next paper, 
leaving only, in this, three final points for the reader's 

39. It has been shown that the chief value and 
virtue of money consists in its having power over 
human beings ; that, without this power, large material 
possessions are useless, and to any person possessing 
such power, comparatively unnecessary. But power 
over human beings is attainable by other means 
than by money. As I said a few pages back, the 
money power is always imperfect and doubtful; 
there are many things which cannot be reached with 
it, others which cannot be retained by it. Many joys 
may be given to men which cannot be bought for 
gold, and many fidelities found in them which cannot 
be rewarded with it. 

Trite enough, — the reader thinks. Yes: but it is 
not so trite, — I wish it were, — that in this moral 
power, quite inscrutable and immeasurable though 
it be, there is a monetary value just as real as that 
represented by more ponderous currencies. A man's 
hand may be full of invisible gold, and the wave of 
it, or the grasp, shall do more than another's with a 
shower of bullion. This invisible gold, also, does not 
necessarily diminish in spending. Political economists 
will do well some day to take heed of it, though they 
cannot take measure. 

But farther. Since the essence of wealth consists 
in its authority over men, if the apparent or nominal 
wealth fail in this power, it fails in essence; in fact, 


ceases to be wealth at all. It does not appear lately 
in England, that our authority over men is absolute. 
The servants show some disposition to rash riotously 
upstairs, under an impression that their wages are 
not regularly paid. We should augur ill of any 
gentleman's property to whom this happened every 
other day in his drawing-room. 

So also, the power of our wealth seems limited as 
respects the comfort of the servants, no less than 
their quietude. The persons in the kitchen appear 
to be ill-dressed, squalid, half -starved. One cannot 
help imagining that the riches of the establishment 
must be of a very theoretical and documentary 

40. Finally. Since the essence of wealth consists 
in power over men, will it not follow that the nobler 
and the more in number the persons are over whom 
it has power, the greater the wealth? Perhaps it may 
even appear after some consideration, that the 
persons themselves are the wealth — that these pieces 
of gold with which we are in the habit of guiding 
them, are, in fact, nothing more than* a kind of 
Byzantine harness or trappings, very glittering and 
beautiful in barbaric sight, wherewith we bridle the 
creatures; but that if these same living creatures 
could be guided without the fretting and jingling of 
the Byzants in their mouths and ears, they might 
themselves be more valuable than their bridles. 
In fact, it may be discovered that the true veins of 
wealth are purple — and not in Rock, but in Flesh — 


perhaps even that the final outcome and consum- 
mation of all wealth is in the producing as many 
as possible full-breathed, bright-eyed, and happy- 
hearted human creatures. Our modern wealth, I 
think, has rather a tendency the other way; — most 
political economists appearing to consider multitudes 
of human creatures not conducive to wealth, or at 
best conducive to it only by remaining in a dim-eyed 
and narrow-chested state of being. 

41. Nevertheless, it is open, I repeat, to serious 
question, which I leave to the reader's pondering, 
whether, among national manufactures, that of 
Souls of a good quality may not at last turn out a 
quite leadingly lucrative one ? Nay, in some far-away 
and yet undreamt-of hour, I can even imagine that 
England may cast all thoughts of possessive wealth 
back to the barbaric nations among whom they first 
arose; and that, while the sands of the Indus and 
adamant of Golconda may yet stiffen the housings 
of the charger, and flash from the turban of the slave, 
she, as a Christian mother, may at last attain to the 
virtues and the treasures of a Heathen one, and be 
able to lead forth her Sons, saying, — 

" These are my Jewels." 



42. Some centuries before the Christian era, a Jew 
merchant, largely engaged in business on the Gold 
Coast, and reported to have made one of the largest 
fortunes of his time, (held also in repute for much 
practical sagacity,) left among his ledgers some 
general maxims concerning wealth, which have been 
preserved, strangely enough, even to our own days. 
They were held in considerable respect by the most 
active traders of the middle ages, especially by the 
Venetians, who even went so far in their admiration 
as to place a statue of the old Jew on the angle of 
one of their principal public buildings. Of late years 
these writings have fallen into disrepute, being op- 
posed in every particular to the spirit of modern 
commerce. Nevertheless I shall reproduce a passage 
or two from them here, partly because they may 
interest the reader by their novelty; and chiefly 
because they will show him that it is possible for a 
very practical and acquisitive tradesman to hold, 
through a not unsuccessful career, that principle of 
distinction between well-gotten and ill-gotten wealth, 



which, partially insisted on in my last paper, it 
must be our work more completely to examine in 

43. He says, for instance, in one place: "The 
getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity 
tossed to and fro of them that seek death " : adding 
in another, with the same meaning (he has a curious 
way of doubling his sayings) : " Treasures of wicked- 
ness profit nothing: but justice delivers from death." 
Both these passages are notable for their assertion 
of death as the only real issue and sum of attainment 
by any unjust scheme of wealth. If we read, instead 
of " lying tongue," " lying label, title, pretence, or 
advertisement," we shall more clearly perceive the 
bearing of the words on modern business. The 
seeking of death is a grand expression of the true 
course of men's toil in such business. We usually 
speak as if death pursued us, and we fled from him; 
but that is only so in rare instances. Ordinarily 
he masks himself — makes himself beautiful — all- 
glorious; not like the King's daughter, all-glorious 
within, but outwardly: his clothing of wrought gold. 
We pursue him frantically all our days, he flying or 
hiding from us. Our crowning success at three-score 
and ten is utterly and perfectly to seize, and hold 
him in his eternal integrity — robes, ashes, and sting. 

Again: the merchant says, "He that oppresseth 
the poor to increase his riches, shall surely come to 
want." And again, more strongly: " Rob not the 
poor because he is poor; neither oppress the afflicted 


in the place of business. For God shall spoil the soul 
of those that spoiled them." 

This " robbing the poor because he is poor," is 
especially the mercantile form of theft, consisting 
in taking advantage of a man's necessities in order 
to obtain his labour or property at a reduced price. 
The ordinary highwayman's opposite form of robbery 
— of the rich, because he is rich — does not appear to 
occur so often to the old merchant's mind ; probably 
because, being less profitable and more dangerous 
than the robbery of the poor, it is rarely practised 
by persons of discretion. 

44. But the two most remarkable passages in 
their deep general significance are the following: — 

" The rich and the poor have met. God is their 

" The rich and the poor have met. God is their 

They " have met " : more literally, have stood in 
each other's way (obviaverunt) . That is to say, as long 
as the world lasts, the action and counteraction of 
wealth and poverty, the meeting, face to face, of 
rich and poor, is just as appointed and necessary a 
law of that world as the flow of stream to sea, or the 
interchange of power among the electric clouds: — 
" God is their maker." But, also, this action may be 
either gentle and just, or convulsive and destructive : 
it may be by rage of devouring flood, or by lapse of 
serviceable wave; — in blackness of thunderstroke, or 
continual force of vital fire, soft, and shapeable into 


love-syllables from far away. And which of these 
it shall be, depends on both rich and poor knowing 
that God is their light ; that in the mystery of human 
life, there is no other light than this by which they 
can see each other's faces, and live; — light, which 
is called in another of the books among which the 
merchant's maxims have been preserved, the " sun 
of justice," x of which it is promised that it shall rise 
at last with " healing " (health-giving or helping, 
making whole or setting at one) in its wings. For 
truly this healing is only possible by means of jus- 
tice; no love, no faith, no hope will do it; men will 
be unwisely fond — vainly faithful, unless primarily 
they are just; and the mistake of the best men 
through generation after generation, has been that 
great one of thinking to help the poor by almsgiving, 

, * More accurately, Sun of Justness ; but, instead of the harsh 
word " Justness," the old English " Righteousness " being 
commonly employed, has, by getting confused with " godli- 
ness," or attracting about it various vague and broken 
meanings, prevented most persons from receiving the force 
of the passages in which it occurs. The word " righteousness " 
properly refers to the justice of rule, or right, as distinguished 
from " equity," which refers to the justice of balance. More 
broadly, Righteousness is King's justice; and Equity, 
Judge's justice; the King guiding or ruling all, the Judge 
dividing or discerning between opposites (therefore the 
double question, " Man, who made me a ruler — diKaarijs — or 
a divider — fMepiorrris — over you? "). Thus, with respect to 
the Justice of Choice (selection, the feebler and passive 
justice), we have from lego, — lex, legal, loi, and loyal; and 
with respect to the Justice of Rule (direction, the stronger 
and active justice), we have from rego, — rex, regal, roi, and 


and by preaching of patience or of hope, and by every 
other means, emollient or consolatory, except the one 
thing which God orders for them, justice. But this 
justice, with its accompanying holiness or helpful- 
ness, being even by the best men denied in its trial 
time, is by the mass of men hated whenever it appears : 
so that, when the choice was one day fairly put to 
them, they denied the Helpful One and the Just; 1 
and desired a murderer, sedition-raiser, and robber 
to be granted to them; — the murderer instead of the 
Lord of Life, the sedition-raiser instead of the Prince 
of Peace, and the robber instead of the Just Judge of 
all the world. 

45. I have just spoken of the flowing of streams 
to the sea as a partial image of the action of wealth. 
In one respect it is not a partial, but a perfect image. 
The popular economist thinks himself wise in having 
discovered that wealth, or the forms of property in 
general, must go where they are required ; that where 
demand is, supply must follow. He farther declares 
that this course of demand and supply cannot be 
forbidden by human laws. Precisely in the same 
sense, and with the same certainty, the waters of the 
world go where they are required. Where the land 
falls, the water flows. The course neither of clouds 
nor rivers can be forbidden by human will. But the 
disposition and administration of them can be altered 
by human forethought. Whether the stream shall 

1 In another place written with the same meaning, " Just, 
and having salvation." 


be a curse or a blessing, depends upon man's labour, 
and administrating intelligence. For centuries after 
centuries, great districts of the world, rich in soil, 
and favoured in climate, have lain desert under the 
rage of their own rivers ; nor only desert, but plague- 
struck. The stream which, rightly directed, would 
have flowed in soft irrigation from field to field — 
would have purified the air, given food to man and 
beast, and carried their burdens for them on its 
bosom — now overwhelms the plain, and poisons the 
wind; its breath pestilence, and its work famine. 
In like manner this wealth " goes where it is required." 
No human laws can withstand its flow. They can 
only guide it: but this, the leading trench and 
limiting mound can do so thoroughly, that it shall 
become water of life — the riches of the hand of 
wisdom; 1 or, on the contraty, by leaving it to its 
own lawless flow, they may make it, what it has been 
too often, the last and deadliest of national plagues : 
water of Marah — the water which feeds the roots of 
all evil. 

The necessity of these laws of distribution or 
restraint is curiously overlooked in the ordinary 
political economist's definition of his own " science." 
He calls it, shortly, the " science of getting rich." 
But there are many sciences, as well as many arts, of 
getting rich. Poisoning people of large estates, was 
one employed largely in the middle ages ; adulteration 

1 " Length of days in her right hand ; in her left, riches and 


of food of people of small estates, is one employed 
largely now. The ancient and honourable Highland 
method of blackmail; the more modern and less 
honourable system of obtaining goods on credit, and 
the other variously improved methods of appropria- 
tion—which, in major and minor scales of industry, 
down to the most artistic pocket-picking, we owe to 
recent genius, — all come under the general head of 
sciences, or arts, of getting rich. 

46. So that it is clear the popular economist, in 
calling his science the science par excellence of getting 
rich, must attach some peculiar ideas of limitation 
to its character. I hope I do not misrepresent him, 
by assuming that he means his science to be the 
science of " getting rich by legal or just means." 
In this definition, is the word " just," or " legal," 
finally to stand? For it is possible among certain 
nations, or under certain rulers, or by help of certain 
advocates, that proceedings may be legal which are 
by no means just. If, therefore, we leave at last only 
the word " just " in that place of our definition, the 
insertion of this solitary and small word will make 
a notable difference in the grammar of our science. 
For then it will follow that, in order to grow rich 
scientifically, we must grow rich justly; and, there- 
fore, know what is just; so that our economy will 
no longer depend merely on prudence, but on juris- 
prudence — and that of divine, not human law. 
Which prudence is indeed of no mean order, hold- 
ing itself, as it were, high in the air of heaven, and 


gazing for ever on the light of the sun of justice; 
hence the souls which have excelled in it are repre- 
sented by Dante as stars, forming in heaven for ever 
the figure of the eye of an eagle: they having been 
in life the discerners of light from darkness; or to 
the whole human race, as the light of the body, 
which is the eye; while those souls which form the 
wings of the bird (giving power and dominion to 
justice, " healing in its wings ") trace also in light 
the inscription in heaven: " diligite justitiam 
qui judicatis terram." " Ye who judge the earth, 
give " (not, observe, merely love, but) " diligent 
love to justice: " the love which seeks diligently, 
that is to say, choosingly, and by preference, to all 
things else. Which judging or doing judgment in 
the earth is, according to their capacity and position, 
required not of judges only, nor of rulers only, but 
of all men : a truth sorrowfully lost sight of even by 
those who are ready enough to apply to themselves 
passages in which Christian men are spoken of as 
called to be " saints " (i.e. to helpful or healing 
functions); and " chosen to be kings " (i.e. to know- 
ing or directing functions) ; the true meaning of these 
titles having been long lost through the pretences 
of unhelpful and unable persons to saintly and kingly 
character; also through the once popular idea that 
both the sanctity and royalty are to consist in wearing 
long robes and high crowns, instead of in mercy and 
judgment ; whereas all true sanctity is saving power, 
as all true royalty is ruling power; and injustice is 


part and parcel of the denial of such power, which 
I* makes men as the creeping things, as the fishes of 
the sea, that have no ruler over them." 1 

47. Absolute justice is indeed no more attainable 
than absolute truth; but the righteous man is 
distinguished from the unrighteous by his desire and 
hope of justice, as the true man from the false by 
his desire and hope of truth. And though absolute 
justice be unattainable, as much justice as we need 
for all practical use is attainable by all those who 
make it their aim. 

We have to examine, then, in the subject before 
us, what are the laws of justice respecting payment 
of labour — no small part, these, of the foundations 
of all jurisprudence. 

I reduced, in my last paper, the idea of money 
payment to its simplest or radical terms. In those 
terms its nature, and the conditions of justice respect- 
ing it, can be best ascertained. 

Money payment, as there stated, consists radically ' 
in a promise to some person working for us, that for 
the time and labour he spends in our service to-day 
we will give or procure equivalent time and labour in 
his service at any future time when he may demand it. 2 

1 It being the privilege of the fishes, as it is of rats and 
wolves, to live by the laws of demand and supply; but the 
distinction of humanity, to live by those of right. 

% It might appear at first that the market price of labour 
expressed such an exchange: but this is a fallacy, for the 
market price is the momentary price of the kind of labour 
required, but the just price is its equivalent of the productive 
labour of mankind. This difference will be analysed in its 


If we promise to give him less labour than he has 
given us, we under-pay him. If we promise to give 
him more labour than he has given us, we over-pay 
him. In practice, according to the laws of demand 
and supply, when two men are ready to do the work, 
and only one man wants to have it done, the two 
men under-bid each other for it; and the one who 
gets it to do, is under-paid. But when two men want 
the work done, and there is only one man ready to 
do it, the two men who want it done over-bid each 
other, and the workman is over-paid. 

48. I will examine these two points of injustice in 
succession; but first I wish the reader to clearly 
understand the central principle, lying between the 
two, of right or just payment. 

When we ask a service of any man, he may either 
give it us freely, or demand payment for it. Respect- 
ing free gift of service, there is no question at present, 
that being a matter of affection — not of traffic. 
But if he demand payment for it, and we wish to 
treat him with absolute equity, it is evident that 
this equity can only consist in giving time for time, 
strength for strength, and skill for skill. If a man 
works an hour for us, and we only promise to work 

place. It must be noted also that I speak here only of the 
exchangeable value of labour, not of that of commodities. 
The exchangeable value of a commodity is that of the labour 
required to produce it, multiplied into the force of the demand 
for it. If the value of the labour —x and the force of demand 
=y, the exchangeable value of the commodity is xy, in 
which if either x—o, or y=o, xy=o. 


half-an-hour for him in return, we obtain an unjust 
advantage. If, on the contrary, we promise to work 
an hour and a half for him in return, he has an unjust 
advantage. The justice consists in absolute exchange; 
or, if there be any respect to the stations of the 
parties, it will not be in favour of the employer: 
there is certainly no equitable reason in a man's being 
poor, that if he give me a pound of bread to-day, I 
should return him less than a pound of bread to- 
morrow; or any equitable reason in a man's being 
uneducated, that if he uses a certain quantity of 
skill and knowledge in my service, I should use a 
less quantity of skill and knowledge in his. Perhaps, 
ultimately, it may appear desirable, or, to say the 
least, gracious, that I should give in return some- 
what more than I received. But at present, we are 
concerned on the law of justice only, which is that 
of perfect and accurate exchange; — one circumstance 
only interfering with the simplicity of this radical 
idea of just payment — that inasmuch as labour 
(rightly directed) is fruitful just as seed is, the fruit 
(or " interest," as it is called) of the labour first given, 
or " advanced," ought to be taken into account, 
and balanced by an additional quantity of labour 
in the subsequent repayment. Supposing the repay- 
ment to take place at the end of a year, or of any 
other given time, this calculation could be approxi- 
mately made; but as money (that is to say, cash) 
payment involves no reference to time (it being 
optional with the person paid to spend what he 


receives at once or after any number of years), we 
can only assume, generally, that some slight advan- 
tage must in equity be allowed to the person who 
advances the labour, so that the typical form of 
bargain will be: If you give me an hour to-day, 
I will give you an hour and five minutes on demand. 
If you give me a pound of bread to-day, I will give 
you seventeen ounces on demand, and so on. All 
that is necessary for the reader to note is, that the 
amount returned is at least in equity not to be less 
than the amount given. 

The abstract idea, then, of just or due wages, as 
respects the labourer, is that they will consist in a 
sum of money which will at any time procure for 
him at least as much labour as he has given, rather 
more than less. And this equity or justice of payment 
is, observe, wholly independent of any reference to 
the number of men who are willing to do the work. 
I want a horseshoe for my horse. Twenty smiths, 
or twenty thousand smiths, may be ready to forge 
it ; their number does not in one atom's weight affect 
the question of the equitable payment of the one who 
does forge it. It costs him a quarter of an hour of 
his life, and so much skill and strength of arm to make 
that horseshoe for me. Then at some future time I 
am bound in equity to give a quarter of an hour, 
and some minutes more, of my life (or of some other 
person's at my disposal), and also as much strength of 
arm and skill, and a little more, in making or doing 
what the smith may have need of. 


49. Such being the abstract theory of just re- 
munerative payment, its application is practically 
modified by the fact that the order for labour, given 
in payment, is general, while labour received is 
special. The current coin or document is practically 
an order on the nation for so much work of any kind ; 
and this universal applicability to immediate need 
renders it so much more valuable than special labour 
can be, that an order for a less quantity of this 
general toil will always be accepted as a just equiva- 
lent for a greater quantity of special toil. Any given 
craftsman will always be willing to give an hour of 
his own work in order to receive command over half- 
an-hour, or even much less, of national work. This 
source of uncertainty, together with the difficulty 
of determining the monetary value of skill, 1 renders 
the ascertainment (even approximate) of the proper 
wages of any given labour in terms of a currency 
matter of considerable complexity. But they do not 
affect the principle of exchange. The worth of the 

1 Under the term " skill " I mean to include the united 
force of experience, intellect, and passion in their operation 
on manual labour: and under the term " passion," to include 
the entire range and agency of the moral feelings; from the 
simple patience and gentleness of mind which will give con- 
tinuity and fineness to the touch, or enable one person to 
work without fatigue, and with good effect, twice as long as 
another, up to the qualities of character which render science 
possible — (the retardation of science by envy is one of the 
most tremendous losses in the economy of the present cen- 
tury) — and to the incommunicable emotion and imagination 
which are the first and mightiest sources of all value in art. 


work may not be easily known; but it has a worth, 
just as fixed and real as the specific gravity of a 
substance, though such specific gravity may not be 
easily ascertainable when the substance is united 
with many others. Nor is there so much difficulty 
or chance in determining it as in determining the 
ordinary maxima and minima of vulgar political 
economy. There are few bargains in which the buyer 
can ascertain with anything like precision that the 
seller would have taken no less; — or the seller acquire 
more than a comfortable faith that the purchaser 
would have given no more. This impossibility, of 
precise knowledge prevents neither from striving 
to attain the desired point of greatest vexation and 
injury to the other, nor from accepting it for a 
scientific principle that he is to buy for the least and 
sell for the most possible, though what the real least 
or most may be he cannot tell. In like manner, a 
just person lays it down for a scientific principle that 
he is to pay a just price, and, without being able 
precisely to ascertain the limits of such a price, will 
nevertheless strive to attain the closest possible 
approximation to them. A practically serviceable 
approximation he can obtain. It is easier to determine 
scientifically what a man ought to have for his work, 
than what his necessities will compel him to take 
for it. His necessities can only be ascertained by 
empirical, but his due by analytical, investigation. 
In the one case, you try your answer to the sum like 
a puzzled schoolboy — till you find one that fits; in 


the other, you bring out your, result within certain 
limits, by process of calculation. 

50. Supposing, then, the just wages of any quantity 
of given labour to have been ascertained, let us 
examine the first results of just and unjust payment, 
when in favour of the purchaser or employer; i.e. 
when two men are ready to do the work, and only one 
wants to have it done. 

The unjust purchaser forces the two to bid against 
each other till he has reduced their demand to its 
lowest terms. Let us assume that the lowest bidder 
offers to do the work at half its just price. 

The purchaser employs him', and does not employ 
the other. The first or apparent result is, therefore, 
that one of the two men is left out of employ, or to 
starvation, just as definitely as by the just procedure 
of giving fair price to the best workman. The various 
writers who endeavoured to invalidate the positions 
of my first paper never saw this, and assumed that 
the unjust hirer employed both. He employs both no 
more than the just hirer. The only difference (in 
the outset, is that the just man pays sufficiently, 
the unjust man insufficiently, for the labour of the 
single person employed. 

I say, " in the outset "; for this first or apparent 
difference is not the actual difference. By the unjust 
procedure, half the proper price of the work is left 
in the hands of the employer. This enables him to 
hire another man at the same unjust rate, on some 
other kind of work; and the final result is that he 


has two men working for him at half price, and two 
are out of employ. 

51. By the just procedure, the whole price of the 
first piece of work goes into the hands of the man 
who does it. No surplus being left in the employer's 
hands, he cannot hire another man for another piece 
of labour. But by precisely so much as his power is 
diminished, the hired workman's power is increased; 
that is to say, by the additional half of the price he 
has received; which additional half he has the power 
of using to employ another man in his service. I 
will suppose, for the moment, the least favourable, 
though quite probable, case — that, though justly 
treated himself, he yet will act unjustly to his sub- 
ordinate; and hire at half-price, if he can. The final 
result will then be, that one man works for the 
employer, at just price; one for the workman, at 
half-price; and two, as in the first case, are still out 
of employ. These two, as I said before, are out of 
employ in both cases. The difference between the 
just and unjust procedure does not lie in the number 
of men hired, but in the price paid to them, and the 
persons by whom it is paid. The essential difference, 
that which I want the reader to see clearly, is, that 
in the unjust case, two men work for one, the first 
hirer. In the just case, one man works for the first 
hirer, one for the person hired, and so on, down or 
up through the various grades of service ; the influence 
being carried forward by justice, and arrested by 
injustice. The universal and constant action of 


justice in this matter is therefore to diminish the 
power of wealth, in the hands of one individual, 
over masses of men, and to distribute it through a 
chain of men. The actual power exerted by the 
wealth is the same in both cases; but by injustice 
it is put all into one man's hands, so that he directs at 
once and with equal force the labour of a circle of 
men about him; by the just procedure, he is per- 
mitted to touch the nearest only, through whom, 
with diminished force, modified by new minds, the 
energy of the wealth passes on to others, and so till 
it exhausts itself. 

52. The immediate operation of justice in this 
respect is therefore to diminish the power of wealth, 
first in acquisition of luxury, and, secondly, in exercise 
of moral influence. The employer cannot concentrate 
so multitudinous labour on his own interests, nor 
can he subdue so multitudinous mind to his own will. 
But the secondary operation of justice is not less 
important. The insufficient payment of the group of 
men working for one, places each under a maximum 
of difficulty in rising above his position. The tend- 
ency of the system is to check advancement. But 
the sufficient or just payment, distributed through a 
descending series of offices or grades of labour, gives 
each subordinated person fair and sufficient means 
of rising in the social scale, if he chooses to use them ; 
and thus not only diminishes the immediate power of 
wealth, but removes the worst disabilities of poverty. 

53. It is on this vital problem that the entire 


destiny of the labourer is ultimately dependent. 
Many minor interests may sometimes appear to 
interfere with it, but all branch from it. For instance, 
considerable agitation is often caused in the minds of 
the lower classes when they discover the share which 
they nominally, and to all appearance, actually, 
pay out of their wages in taxation (I believe thirty- 
five or forty per cent.). This sounds very grievous; 
but in reality the labourer does not pay it, but his 
employer. If the workman had not to pay it, his 
wages would be less by just that sum: competition 
would still reduce them to the lowest rate at which 
life was possible. Similarly the lower orders agitated 
for the repeal of the corn laws, 1 thinking they would 

1 I have to acknowledge an interesting communication on 
the subject of free trade from Paisley (for a short letter from 

" A Well-wisher " at , my thanks are yet more due). 

But the Scottish writer will, I fear, be disagreeably surprised 
to hear, that I am, and always have been, an utterly fearless 
and unscrupulous free-trader. Seven years ago, speaking 
of the various signs of infancy in the European mind {Stones 
of Venice, vol. hi. p. 168), I wrote: " The first principles of 
commerce were acknowledged by the English Parliament only 
a few months ago, in its free-trade measures, and are still 
so little understood by the million, that no nation dares to 
abolish its custom-houses." 

It will be observed that I do not admit even the idea of 
reciprocity. Let other nations, if they like, keep their ports 
shut; every wise nation will throw its own open. It is not 
the opening them, but a sudden, inconsiderate, and blunder- 
ingly experimental manner of opening them, which does the 
harm. If you have been protecting a manufacture for a long 
series of years, you must not take the protection off in a 
t moment, so as to throw every one of its operatives at once 
out of employ, any more than you must take all its wrappings 


be better off if bread were cheaper; never perceiving 
that as soon as bread was permanently cheaper, 
wages would permanently fall in precisely that pro- 
portion. The corn laws were rightly repealed; not, 
however, because they directly oppressed the poor, 
but because they indirectly oppressed them in causing 
a large quantity of their labour to be consumed 
un productively . So all unnecessary taxation oppresses 
them, through destruction of capital, but the destiny 
of the poor depends primarily always on this one 
question of dueness of wages. Their distress (irrespec- 
tively of that caused by sloth, minor error, or crime) 
arises on the grand scale from the two reacting forces 
of competition and oppression. There is not yet, 
nor will yet for ages be, any real over-population 

off a feeble child at once in cold weather, though the cumber 
of them may have been radically injuring its health. Little 
by little, you must restore it to freedom and to air. 

Most people's minds are in curious confusion on the subject 
of free trade, because they suppose it to imply enlarged 
competition. On the contrary, free trade puts an end to 
all competition. " Protection " (among various other mis- 
chievous functions,) endeavours to enable one country to 
compete with another in the production of an article at a 
disadvantage. When trade is entirely free, no country can 
be competed with in the articles for the production of which 
it is naturally calculated ; nor can it compete with any other, 
in the production of articles for which it is not naturally 
calculated. Tuscany, for instance, cannot compete with 
England in steel, nor England with Tuscany in oil. They 
must exchange their steel and oil. Which exchange should 
be as frank and free as honesty and the sea-winds can make 
it. Competition, indeed, arises at first, and sharply, in order 
to prove which is strongest in any given manufacture possible 
to both; this point once ascertained, competition is at an end. 


in the world; but a local over-population, or, more 
accurately, a degree of population locally unmanage- 
able under existing circumstances for want of fore- 
thought and sufficient machinery, necessarily shows 
itself by pressure of competition; and the taking 
advantage of this competition by the purchaser, 
to obtain their labour unjustly cheap, consummates 
at once their suffering and his own; for in this (as 
I believe in every other kind of slavery) the oppressor 
suffers at last more than the oppressed, and those 
magnificent lines of Pope, even in all their force, 
fall short of the truth — 

Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf, 
Each does but hate his neighbour as himself: 
Damned to the mines, an equal fate betides 
The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides. 

54. The collateral and reversionary operations of 
justice in this matter I shall examine hereafter (it 
being needful first to define the nature of value); 
proceeding then to consider within what practical 
terms a juster system may be established; , and 
ultimately the vexed question of the destinies of the 
unemployed workmen. 1 Lest, however, the reader 

1 I should be glad if the reader would first clear the ground 
for himself so far as to determine whether the difficulty lies 
in getting the work or getting the pay for it. Does he consider 
occupation itself to be an expensive luxury, difficult of attain- 
ment, of which too little is to be found in the world ? or is 
it rather that, while in the enjoyment even of the most 
athletic delight, men must nevertheless be maintained, and 
this maintenance is not always forthcoming? We must be 
clear on this head before going farther, as most people are 


should be alarmed at some of the issues to which 
our investigations seem to be tending, as if in their 
bearing against the power of wealth they had some- 
thing in common with those of socialism, I wish him 
to know, in accurate terms, one or two of the main 
points which I have in view. 

Whether socialism has made more progress among 
the army and navy (where payment is made on my 
principles), or among the manufacturing operatives 
(who are paid on my opponents' principles), I leave 
it to those opponents to ascertain and declare. 
Whatever their conclusion may be, I think it necessary 
to answer for myself only this : that if there be any 
one point insisted on throughout my works more 
frequently than another, that one point is the im- 
possibility of Equality. My continual aim has been 

loosely in the habit of talking of the difficulty of " finding 
employment." Is it employment that we want to find, or ' 
support during employment? Is it idleness we wish to put 
an end to, or hunger? We have to take up both questions 
in succession, only not both at the same time. No doubt that 
work is a luxury, and a very great one. It is, indeed, at once 
a luxury and a necessity; no man can retain either health 
of mind or body without it. So profoundly do I feel this, that, 
as will be seen in the sequel, one of the principal objects I 
would recommend to benevolent and practical persons, is to 
induce rich people to seek for a larger quantity of this luxury 
than they at present possess. Nevertheless, it appears by 
experience that even this healthiest of pleasures may be 
indulged in to excess, and that human beings are just as 
liable to surfeit of labour as to surfeit of meat; so that, as 
on the one hand, it may be charitable to provide, for some 
people, lighter dinner, and more work, — for others, it may 
be equally expedient to provide lighter work, and more dinner. 


to show the eternal superiority of some men to others, 
sometimes even of one man to all others; and to 
show also the advisability of appointing such persons 
or person to guide, to lead, or on occasion even to 
compel and subdue, their inferiors, according to their 
own better knowledge and wiser will. My principles 
of Political Economy were all involved in a single 
phrase spoken three years ago at Manchester: 
" Soldiers of the Ploughshare as well as Soldiers of 
the Sword: " and they were all summed in a single 
sentence in the last volume of Modem Painters — 
" Government and co-operation are in all things the 
Laws of Life; Anarchy and competition the Laws 
of Death." 

And with respect to the mode in which these general 
principles affect the secure possession of property, 
so far am I from invalidating such security, that the 
whole gist of these papers will be found ultimately 
to aim at an extension in its range; and whereas 
it has long been known and declared that the poor 
have no right to the property of the rich, I wish it 
also to be known and declared that the rich have no 
right to the property of the poor. 

55. But that the working of the system which I 
have undertaken to develop would in many ways 
shorten the apparent and direct, though not the 
unseen and collateral, power, both of wealth, as the 
Lady of Pleasure, and of capital as the Lord of Toil, 
I do not deny: on the contrary, I affirm it in all 
joyfulness; knowing that the attraction of riches 


is already too strong, as their authority is already too 
weighty, for the reason of mankind. I said in my 
last paper that nothing in history had ever been so 
disgraceful to human intellect as the acceptance 
among us of the common doctrines of political 
economy as a science. I have many grounds for saying 
this, but one of the chief may be given in few words. 
I know no previous instance in history of a nation's 
establishing a systematic disobedience to the first 
principles of its professed religion. The writings which 
we (verbally) esteem as divine, not only denounce 
the love of money as the source of all evil, and as 
an idolatry abhorred of the Deity, but declare mam- 
mon service to be the accurate and irreconcileable 
opposite of God's service : and, whenever they speak 
of riches absolute, and poverty absolute, declare woe 
to the rich, and blessing to the poor. Whereupon we 
forthwith investigate a science of becoming rich, as 
the shortest road to national prosperity. 

Tai Cristian dannera l'Etiope, 
Quando si partiranno i due collegi, 




56. In the last paper we saw that just payment of 
labour consisted in a sum of money which would 
approximately obtain equivalent labour at a future 
time : we have now to examine the means of obtain- 
ing such equivalence. Which question involves the 
definition of Value, Wealth, Price, and Produce. 

None of these terms are yet denned so as to be 
understood by the public. But the last, Produce,, 
which one might have thought the clearest of all, 
is, in use, the most ambiguous; and the examination 
of the kind of ambiguity attendant on its present 
employment will best open the way to our work. 

In his chapter on Capital, 1 Mr. J. S. Mill instances, 
as a capitalist, a hardware manufacturer, who, 
having intended to spend a certain portion of the 
proceeds of his business in buying plate and jewels, 
changes his mind, and " pays it as wages to additional 
workpeople." The effect is stated by Mr. Mill to be, 
that " more food is appropriated to the consumption 
of productive labourers." 

57. Now I do not ask, though, had I written this 

^ook I., Ch. iv., s. 1. 


paragraph, it would surely have been asked of me, 
What is to become of the silversmiths? If they are 
truly unproductive persons, we will acquiesce in their 
extinction. And though in another part of the same 
passage, the hardware merchant is supposed also 
to dispense with a number of servants, whose " food 
is thus set free for productive purposes," I do not 
inquire what will be the effect, painful or otherwise, 
upon the servants, of this emancipation of their food. 
But I very seriously inquire why ironware is produce, 
and silverware is not? That the merchant consumes 
the one, and sells the other, certainly does not con- 
stitute the difference, unless it can be shown (which, 
indeed, I perceive it to be becoming daily more and 
more the aim of tradesmen to show) that com- 
modities are made to be sold, and not to be consumed. 
The merchant is an agent of conveyance to the con- 
sumer in one case, and is himself the consumer in 
the other : 1 but the labourers are in either case equally 

1 If Mr. Mill had wished to show the difference in result 
between consumption and sale, he should have represented 
the hardware merchant as consuming his own goods instead 
of selling them; similarly, the silver merchant as consuming 
his own goods instead of selling them. Had he done this, he 
would have made his position clearer, though less tenable; 
and perhaps this was the position he really intended to take, 
tacitly involving his theory, elsewhere stated, and shown 
in the sequel of this paper to be false, that demand for 
commodities is not demand for labour. But by the most 
diligent scrutiny of the paragraph now under examination, 
I cannot determine whether it is a fallacy pure and simple, 
or the half of one fallacy supported by the whole of a 
greater one; so that I treat it here on the kinder assump- 
tion that it is one fallacy only. 


productive, since they have produced goods to the same 
value, if the hardware and the plate are both goods. 
And what distinction separates them ? It is indeed 
possible that in the " comparative estimate of the 
moralist/' with which Mr. Mill says political economy 
has nothing to do (III. i. 2), a steel fork might appear 
a more substantial production than a silver one 
we may grant also that knives, no less than forks, 
are good produce; and scythes and ploughshares 
serviceable articles. But, how of bayonets? Sup- 
posing the hardware merchant to effect large sales 
of these, by help of the " setting free " of the fooc 
of his servants and his silversmith, — is he still 
employing productive labourers, or, in Mr. Mill's 
words, labourers who increase " the stock of per- 
manent means of enjoyment " (I. iii. 4) ? Or if, 
instead of bayonets, he supply bombs, will not the 
absolute and final " enjoyment " of even these ener- 
getically productive articles (each of which costs tei 
pounds 1 ) be dependent on a proper choice of tim( 
and place for their enfantement; choice, that is t( 
say, depending on those philosophical considerations 
with which political economy has nothing to do? 

1 1 take Mr. Helps' estimate in his essay on War. 

2 Also when the wrought silver vases of Spain were dashed 
to fragments by our custom-house officers, because bullion 
might be imported free of duty, but not brains, was the axe 
that broke them productive? — the artist who wrought them 
unproductive ? Or again. If the woodman's axe is productive, 
is the executioner's ? as also, if the hemp of a cable be pro- 
ductive, does not the productiveness of hemp in a halter 
depend on its moral more than on its material application ? 


58. I should have regretted the need of pointing 
out inconsistency in any portion of Mr. Mill's work, 
had not the value of his work proceeded from its 
inconsistencies. He deserves honour among econo- 
mists by inadvertently disclaiming the principles which 
he states, and tacitly introducing the moral considera- 
tions with which he declares his science has no con- 
nection. Many of his chapters are, therefore, true and 
valuable ; and the only conclusions of his which I have 
to dispute are those which follow from his premises. 

Thus, the idea which lies at the root of the passage 
we have just been examining, namely, that labour 
applied to produce luxuries will not support so many 
persons as labour applied to produce useful articles, 
is entirely true ; but the instance given fails — and in 
four directions of failure at once — -because Mr. Mill 
has not denned the real meaning of usefulness. The 
definition which he has given — " capacity to satisfy 
a desire, or serve a purpose " (III. i. 2) — -applies 
equally to the iron and silver ; while the true definition 
— which he has not given, but which nevertheless 
underlies the false verbal definition in his mind, and 
comes out once or twice by accident (as in the words 
" any support to life or strength " in I. i. 5) — applies 
to some articles of iron, but not to others, and to some 
articles of silver, but not to others. It applies to 
ploughs, but not to bayonets; and to forks, but not 
to filigree. 1 

1 Filigree: that is to say, generally, ornament dependent 
on complexity, not on art. 


59. The eliciting of the true definition will give 
us the reply to our first question, " What is value? " 
respecting which, however, we must first hear the 
popular statements. 

" The word ' value/ when used without adjunct, 
always means, in political economy, value in 
exchange " (Mill, III. i. 3). So that, if two ships 
cannot exchange their rudders, their rudders 
are, in politico-economic language, of no value to 

But " the subject of political economy is wealth." 
— (Preliminary remarks, page 1.) 

And wealth " consists of all useful and agreeable 
objects which possess exchangeable value." — (Pre- 
liminary remarks, page 10.) 

It appears, then, according to Mr. Mill, that useful- 
ness and agreeableness underlie the exchange value, 
and must be ascertained to exist in the thing, before 
we can esteem it an object of wealth. 

Now, the economical usefulness of a thing depends 
not merely on its own nature, but on the number 
of people who can and will use it. A horse is use- 
less, and therefore unsaleable, if no one can ride, — a 
sword if no one can strike, and meat, if no one can 
eat. Thus every material utility depends on its 
relative human capacity. 

Similarly: The agreeableness of a thing depends 
not merely on its own likeableness, but on the number 
of people who can be got to like it. The relative 
agreeableness, and therefore saleableness, of " a pot 


of the smallest ale," and of " Adonis painted by a 
running brook," depends virtually on the opinion 
of Demos, in the shape of Christopher Sly. That 
is to say, the agreeableness of a thing depends on 
its relative human disposition. 1 Therefore, political 
economy, being a science of wealth, must be a science 
respecting human capacities and dispositions. But 
moral considerations have nothing to do with political 
economy (III. i. 2). Therefore, moral considerations 
have nothing to do with human capacities and dis- 

60. I do not wholly like the look of this con- 
clusion from Mr. Mill's statements: — let us try Mr. 

" Utility is not the measure of exchangeable value, 
though it is absolutely essential to it." — (Chap. I. 
sect, i.) Essential in what degree, Mr. Ricardo? 
There may be greater and less degrees of utility. 
Meat, for instance, may be so good as to be fit for 
any one to eat, or so bad as to be fit for no one to 

1 These statements sound crude in their brevity ; but will 
be found of the utmost importance when they are developed. 
Thus, in the above instance, economists have never perceived 
that disposition to buy is a wholly moral element in demand : 
that is to say, when you give a man half-a-crown, it depends 
on his disposition whether he is rich or poor with it — whether 
he will buy disease, ruin, and hatred, or buy health, advance- 
ment, and domestic love. And thus the agreeableness 
or exchange value of every offered commodity depends 
on production, not merely of the commodity, but of 
buyers of it; therefore on the education of buyers, and 
on all the moral elements by which their disposition 
to buy this, or that, is formed. 


eat. What is the exact degree of goodness which 
is " essential " to its exchangeable value, but not 
" the measure " of it? How good must the meat be, 
in order to possess any exchangeable value; and 
how bad must it be — (I wish this were a settled 
question in London markets) — in order to possess 

There appears to be some hitch, I think, in the 
working even of Mr. Ricardo's principles; but let 
him take his own example. " Suppose that in the 
early stages of society the bows and arrows of the 
hunter were of equal value with the implements of 
the fisherman. Under such circumstances the value 
of the deer, the produce of the hunter's day's labour, 
would be exactly " (italics mine) " equal to the value 
of the fish, the product of the fisherman's day's 
labour. The comparative value of the fish and 
game would be entirely regulated by the quantity 
of labour realised in each." (Ricardo, chap. iii. On 

Indeed! Therefore, if the fisherman catches one 
sprat, and the huntsman one deer, one sprat will be 
equal in value to one deer; but if the fisherman 
catches no sprat, and the huntsman two deer, no 
sprat will be equal in value to two deer ? 

Nay; but — Mr. Ricardo's supporters may say- 
he means, on an average; — if the average product 
of a day's work of fisher and hunter be one fish 
and one deer, the one fish will always be equal 
in value to the one deer. 


Might I inquire the species of fish. Whale? or 
whitebait? x 

It would be a waste of time to pursue these fallacies 
farther; we will seek for a true definition. 

1 Perhaps it may be said, in farther support of Mr. Ricardo, 
that he meant, " when the utility is constant or given, the 
price varies as the quantity of labour." If he meant this, 
he should have said it; but, had he meant it, he could have 
hardly missed the necessary result, that utility would be one 
measure of price (which he expressly denies it to be); and 
that, to prove saleableness, he had to prove a given quantity 
of utility, as well as a given quantity of labour: to wit, in 
his own instance, that the deer and fish would each feed the 
same number of men, for the same number of days, with 
equal pleasure to their palates. The fact is, he did not 
know what he meant himself. The general idea which he 
had derived from commercial experience, without being 
able to analyse it, was, that when the demand is constant, 
the price varies as the quantity of labour required for 
production; or, — using the formula I gave in last paper — ■ 
when y is constant, xy varies as x. But demand never is, nor 
can be, ultimately constant, if x varies distinctly; for, as 
price rises, consumers fall away; and as soon as there is a 
monopoly (and all scarcity is a form of monopoly; so that 
every commodity is affected occasionally by some colour 
of monopoly), y becomes the most influential condition of 
the price. Thus the price of a painting depends less on its 
merits than on the interest taken in it by the public; the 
price of singing less on the labour of the singer than the 
number of persons who desire to hear him; and the price of 
gold less on the scarcity which affects it in common with 
cerium or iridium, than on the sunlight colour and unalter- 
able purity by which it attracts the admiration and answers 
the trust of mankind. 

It must be kept in mind, however, that I use the word 
" demand " in a somewhat different sense from economists 
usually. They mean by it " the quantity of a thing sold." 
I mean by it " the force of the buyer's capable intention to 


61. Much store has been set for centuries upon the 
use of our English classical education. It were to be 
wished that our well-educated merchants recalled 
to mind always this much of their Latin schooling, — 
that the nominative of valorem (a word already 
sufficiently familiar to them) is valor; a word which, 
therefore, ought to be familiar to them. Valor, from 
valere, to be well, or strong (vy Latvia); — strong, 
in life (if a man), or valiant; strong, for life (if a 
thing), or valuable. To be " valuable," therefore, is 
to " avail towards life." A truly valuable or avail- 
ing thing is that which leads to life with its whole 
strength. In proportion as it does not lead to life, 
or as its strength is broken, it is less valuable; in 
proportion as it leads away from life, it is unvaluable 
or malignant. 

The value of a thing, therefore, is independent of 
opinion, and of quantity. Think what you will of 
it, gain how much you may of it, the value of the 
thing itself is neither greater nor less. For ever it 
avails, or avails not ; no estimate can raise, no disdain 

buy." In good English, a person's " demand " signifies, not 
what he gets, but what he asks for. 

Economists also do not notice that objects are not valued 
by absolute bulk or weight, but by such bulk and weight as 
is necessary to bring them into use. They say, for instance, 
that water bears no price in the market. It is true that a 
cupful does not, but a lake does; just as a handful of dust 
does not, but an acre does. And were it possible to make 
even the possession of the cupful or handful permanent 
(i.e. to find a place for them), the earth and sea would 
be bought up by handfuls and cupfuls. 


depress, the power which it holds from the Maker 
of things and of men. 

The real science of political economy, which has 
yet to be distinguished from the bastard science, as 
medicine from witchcraft, and astronomy from 
astrology, is that which teaches nations to desire 
and labour for the things that lead to life ; and which 
teaches them to scorn and destroy the things that 
lead to destruction. And if, in a state of infancy, 
they suppose indifferent things, such as excrescences 
of shell-fish, and pieces of. blue and red stone, to be 
valuable, and spend large measure of the labour 
which ought to be employed for the extension and 
ennobling of life, in diving or digging for them, and 
cutting them into various shapes, — or if, in the same 
state of infancy, they imagine precious and beneficent 
things, such as air, light, and cleanliness, to be value- 
less, — or if, finally, they imagine the conditions of 
their own existence, by which alone they can truly 
possess or use anything, such, for instance, as peace, 
trust, and love, to be prudently exchangeable, when 
the market offers, for gold, iron, or excrescences of 
shells — the great and only science of Political 
Economy teaches them, in all these cases, what is 
vanity, and what substance; and how the service 
of Death, the Lord of Waste, and of eternal empti- 
ness, differs from the service of Wisdom, the Lady 
of Saving, and of eternal fullness; she who has 
said, " I will cause those that love me to inherit 
Substance; and I will fill their treasures." 


The " Lady of Saving," in a profounder sense than 
that of the savings' bank, though that is a good one: 
Madonna della Salute, — Lady of Health — which, 
though commonly spoken of as if separate from wealth, 
is indeed a part of wealth. This word, " wealth," it 
will be remembered, is the next we have to define. 

62. " To be wealthy," says Mr. Mill, is "to have a 
large stock of useful articles." 

I accept this definition. Only let us perfectly under- 
stand it. My opponents often lament my not giving 
them enough logic: I fear I must at present use a 
little more than they will like; but this business of 
Political Economy is no light one, and we must allow 
no loose terms in it. 

We have, therefore, to ascertain in the above 
definition, first, what is the meaning of "having," or 
the nature of Possession. Then, what is the meaning 
of " useful," or the nature of Utility. 

And first of possession. At the crossing of the 
transepts of Milan Cathedral has lain, for three 
hundred years, the embalmed body of St. Carlo 
Borromeo. It holds a golden crosier, and has a cross 
of emeralds on its breast. Admitting the crosier and 
emeralds to be useful articles, is the body to be 
considered as "having" them? Do they in the 
politico-economical sense of property, belong to it? 
If not, and if we may, therefore, conclude generally 
that a dead body cannot possess property, what 
degree and period of animation in the body will 
render possession possible? 


As thus: lately in a wreck of a Calif ornian ship, 
one of the passengers fastened a belt about him with 
two hundred pounds of gold in it, with which he 
was found afterwards at the bottom. Now, as he 
was sinking — had he the gold? or had the gold 
him? 1 

And if, instead of sinking him in the sea by its 
weight, the gold had struck him on the forehead, and 
thereby caused incurable disease — suppose palsy or 
insanity, — would the gold in that case have been more 
a " possession " than in the first? Without pressing 
the inquiry up through instances of gradually in- 
creasing vital power over the gold (which I will, 
however, give, if they are asked for), I presume the 
reader will see that possession, or " having," is not 
an absolute, but a graduated, power; and consists 
not only in the quantity or nature of the thing 
possessed, but also (and in a greater degree) in its 
suitableness to the person possessing it, and in his 
vital power to use it. 

And our definition of Wealth, expanded, becomes : 
" The possession of useful articles, which we can use." 
This is a very serious change. For wealth, instead of 
depending merely on a "have," is thus seen to 
depend on a " can." Gladiator's death, on a ' ' habet " ; 
but soldier's victory, and state's salvation, on a " quo 
plurimum posset." (Liv. VII. 6.) And what we 
reasoned of only as accumulation of material, is seen 
to demand also accumulation of capacity. 

1 Compare George Herbert, The Church Porch, Stanza 28. 


63. So much for our verb. Next for our adjective. 
What is the meaning of " useful " ? 

The inquiry is closely connected with the last. For 
what is capable of use in the hands of some persons, 
is capable, in the hands of others, of the opposite of 
use, called commonly, " from-use " or " ab-use." 
And it depends on the person, much more than on 
the article, whether its usefulness or ab-usefulness 
will be the quality developed in it. Thus, wine, which 
the Greeks, in their Bacchus, made, rightly, the type 
of all passion, and which, when used, " cheereth god 
and man " (that is to say, strengthens both the divine 
life, or reasoning power, and the earthly, or carnal 
power, of man) ; yet, when abused, becomes " Dio- 
nusos," hurtful especially to the divine part of man, 
or reason. And again, the body itself, being equally 
liable to use and to abuse, and, when rightly disci- 
plined, serviceable to the State, both for war and 
labour; — but when not disciplined, or abused, value- 
less to the State, and capable only of continuing 
the private or single existence of the individual (and 
that but feebly) — the Greeks called such a body an 
" idiotic " or " private " body, from their word 
signifying a person employed in no way directly 
useful to the State; whence, finally, our "idiot," 
meaning a person entirely occupied with his own 

Hence, it follows, that if a thing is to be useful, it 
must be not only of an availing nature, but in availing 
hands. Or, in accurate terms, usefulness is value 


in the hands of the valiant; so that this science of 
wealth being, as we have just seen, when regarded 
as the Science of Accumulation, accumulative of 
capacity as well as of material, — when regarded as the 
Science of Distribution, is distribution not absolute, 
but discriminate; not of every thing to every man, 
but of the right thing to the right man. A difficult 
science, dependent on more than arithmetic. 

64. Wealth, therefore, is " the possession of the 
valuable by the valiant " ; and in considering it 
as a power existing in a nation, the two elements, 
the value of the thing, and the valour of its possessor, 
must be estimated together. Whence it appears that 
many of the persons commonly considered wealthy, 
are in reality no more wealthy than the locks of their 
own strong boxes are; they being inherently and 
eternally incapable of wealth; and operating for 
the nation, in an economical point of view, either as 
pools of dead water, and eddies in a stream (which, 
so long as the stream flows, are useless, or serve only 
to drown people, but may become of importance 
in a state of stagnation, should the stream dry); 
or else, as dams in a river, of which the ultimate 
service depends not on the dam, but the miller; or 
else, as mere accidental stays and impediments, 
acting, not as wealth, but (for we ought to have 
a correspondent term) as " illth," causing various 
devastation and trouble around them in all directions ; 
or lastly, act not at all, but are merely animated 
conditions of delay (no use being possible of anything 


they have until they are dead), in which last con- 
dition they are nevertheless often useful as delays, 
and " impedimenta," if a nation is apt to move too 

65. This being so, the difficulty of the true science 
of Political Economy lies not merely in the need of 
developing manly character to deal with material 
value, but in the fact, that while the manly char- 
acter and material value only form wealth by their 
conjunction, they have nevertheless a mutually 
destructive operation on each other. For the manly 
character is apt to ignore, or even cast away, the 
material value: — whence that of Pope: 

Sure, of qualities demanding praise, 
More go to ruin fortunes, than to raise. 

And on the other hand, the material value is apt to 
undermine the manly character; so that it must be 
our work, in the issue, to examine what evidence 
there is of the effect of wealth on the minds of its 
possessors; also, what kind of person it is who 
usually sets himself to obtain wealth, and succeeds 
in doing so; and whether the world owes more 
gratitude to rich or to poor men, either for the moral 
influence upon it, or for chief goods, discoveries, and 
practical advancements. I may, however, anticipate 
future conclusions so far as to state that in a com- 
munity regulated only by laws of demand and supply, 
but protected from open violence, the persons who 
become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, re- 


solute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, 
unimaginative, insensitive, and ignorant. The persons 
who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the en- 
tirely wise, 1 the idle, the reckless, the humble, the 
thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, 
the well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly 
and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open 
thief, and the entirely merciful, just, and godly 

66. Thus far then of wealth. Next, we have to 
ascertain the nature of Price; that is to say, of 
exchange value, and its expression by currencies. 

Note first, of exchange, there can be no profit in it. 
It is only in labour there can be profit — that is to say 
a " making in advance," or " making in favour of " 
(from proficio). In exchange, there is only advantage, 
i.e. a bringing of vantage or power to the exchanging 
persons. Thus, one man, by sowing and reaping, turns 
one measure of corn into two measures. That is 
Profit. Another by digging and forging, turns one 
spade into two spades. That is Profit. But the man 
who has two measures of corn wants sometimes to 
dig; and the man who has two spades wants some- 
times to eat: — They exchange the gained grain for 
the gained tool; and both are the better for the 
exchange; but though there is much advantage 
in the transaction, there is no profit. Nothing is 

1 6 Zeus drjirov irevercu. — Arist., Plut. 582. It would but 
weaken the grand words to lean on the preceding ones : on rod 
IXXotfrov 7ra/?ex w (3e\rlovas } dvdpas, /ecu rrjv yvdifj.Tjv, /ecu ttjv ideav. 


constructed or produced. Only that which had been 
before constructed is given to the person by whom it 
can be used. If labour is necessary to effect the 
exchange, that labour is in reality involved in the 
production, and, like all other labour, bears profit. 
Whatever number of men are concerned in the manu- 
facture, or in the conveyance, have share in the 
profit; but neither the manufacture nor the con- 
veyance are the exchange, and in the exchange itself 
there is no profit. 

There may, however, be acquisition, which is a 
very different thing. If, in the exchange, one man 
is able to give what cost him little labour for what has 
cost the other much, he " acquires " a certain quantity 
of the produce of the other's labour. And precisely 
what he acquires, the other loses. In mercantile 
language, the person who thus acquires is commonly 
said to have " made a profit " ; and I believe that 
many of our merchants are seriously under the 
impression that it is possible for everybody, somehow, 
to make a profit in this manner. Whereas, by the 
unfortunate constitution of the world we live in, 
the laws both of matter and motion have quite 
rigorously forbidden universal acquisition of this 
kind. Profit, or material gain, is attainable only by 
construction or by discovery; not by exchange. 
Whenever material gain follows exchange, for every 
plus there is a precisely equal minus. 

Unhappily for the progress of the science of 
Political Economy, the plus quantities, or, — if I may 


be allowed to coin an awkward plural — the pluses, 
make a very positive and venerable appearance in 
the world, so that every one is eager to learn the 
science which produces results so magnificent; 
whereas the minuses have, on the other hand, a 
tendency to retire into back streets, and other places 
of shade, — or even to get themselves wholly and 
finally put out of sight in graves : which renders the 
algebra of this science peculiar, and difficultly legible ; 
a large number of its negative signs being written by 
the account-keeper in a kind of red ink, which starva- 
tion thins, and makes strangely pale, or even quite 
invisible ink, for the present. 

67. The Science of Exchange, or, as I hear it has 
been proposed to call it, of " Catallactics," con- 
sidered as one of gain, is, therefore, simply nugatory ; 
but considered as one of acquisition, it is a very 
curious science, differing in its data and basis from 
every other science known. Thus : — If I can exchange 
a needle with a savage for a diamond, my power of 
doing so depends either on the savage's ignorance 
of social arrangements in Europe, or on his want of 
power to take advantage of them, by selling the 
diamond to anyone else for more needles. If, farther, 
I make the bargain as completely advantageous to 
myself as possible, by giving to the savage a needle 
with no eye in it (reaching, thus, a sufficiently satis- 
factory type of the perfect operation of catallactic 
science), the advantage to me in the entire transaction 
depends wholly upon the ignorance, powerlessness, or 


heedlessness of the person dealt with. Do away with 
these, and catallactic advantage becomes impossible. 
So far, therefore, as the science of exchange relates 
to the advantage of one of the exchanging persons 
only, it is founded on the ignorance or incapacity of 
the opposite person. Where these vanish, it also van- 
ishes. It is therefore a science founded on nescience, 
and an art founded on artlessness. But all other 
sciences and arts, except this, have for their object 
the doing away with their opposite nescience and 
artlessness. This science, alone of sciences, must, 
by all available means, promulgate and prolong its 
opposite nescience; otherwise the science itself is 
impossible. It is, therefore, peculiarly and alone, 
the science of darkness; probably a bastard science 
— not by any means a divina scientia, but one begotten 
of another father, that father who, advising his 
children to turn stones into bread, is himself employed 
in turning bread into stones, and who, if you ask a 
fish of him (fish not being producible on his estate), 
can but give you a serpent. 

68. The general law, then, respecting just or 
economical exchange, is simply this: — There must 
be advantage on both sides (or if only advantage on 
one, at least no disadvantage on the other) to the 
persons exchanging; and just payment for his time, 
intelligence and labour, to any intermediate person 
effecting the transaction (commonly called a 
merchant): and whatever advantage there is on 
either side, and whatever pay is given to the inter- 


mediate person, should be thoroughly known to all 
concerned. All attempt at concealment implies 
some practice of the opposite, or undivine science, 
founded on nescience. Whence another saying of 
the Jew merchant's — "As a nail between the stone 
joints, so doth sin stick fast between buying and 
selling.' ' Which peculiar riveting of stone and timber, 
in men's dealings with each other, is again set forth 
in the house which was to be destroyed — timber and 
stones together — when Zechariah's roll (more prob- 
ably " curved sword ") flew over it: " the curse that 
goeth forth over all the earth upon every one that 
stealeth and holdeth himself guiltless," instantly 
followed by the vision of the Great Measure; — 
the measure " of the injustice of them in all the 

earth ' (avrrj rj aStKta avroHv kv Trda-y ry yy)> With the 

weight of lead for its lid, and the woman, the spirit 
of wickedness, within it; — that is to say, Wicked- 
ness hidden by Dullness, and formalised, outwardly, 
into ponderously established cruelty. " It shall be 
set upon its own base in the land of Babel." x 

69. I have hitherto carefully restricted myself, in 
speaking of exchange, to the use of the term ." ad- 
vantage"; but that term includes two ideas; the 
advantage, namely, of getting what we need, and 
that of getting what we wish for. Three-fourths of 
the demands existing in the world are romantic; 
founded on visions, idealisms, hopes, and affections; 
and the regulation of the purse is, in its essence, 
1 Zech. v. 11. See note on the passage, Sect. 74. 


regulation of the imagination and the heart. Hence, 
the right discussion of the nature of price is a very 
high metaphysical and psychical problem; some- 
times to be solved only in a passionate manner, as 
by David in his counting the price of the water of 
the well by the gate of Bethlehem; but its first 
conditions are the following: — The price of anything 
is the quantity of labour given by the person desiring 
it, in order to obtain possession of it. This price 
depends on four variable quantities. A. The quantity 
of wish the purchaser has for the thing; opposed to 
a, the quantity of wish the seller has to keep it. 
B. The quantity of labour the purchaser can afford, 
to obtain the thing; opposed to (3, the quantity 
of labour the seller can afford, to keep it. These 
quantities are operative only in excess; i.e. the 
quantity of wish (A) means the quantity of wish 
for this thing, above wish for other things; and the 
quantity of work (B) means the quantity which can 
be spared to get this thing from the quantity needed 
to get other things. 

Phenomena of price, therefore, are intensely com- 
plex, curious, and interesting — too complex, how- 
ever, to be examined yet; every one of them, when 
traced far enough, showing itself at last as a part of 
the bargain of the Poor of the Flock (or " flock of 
slaughter "), "If ye think good, give me my price, 
and if not, forbear " — Zech. xi. 12; but as the price 
of everything is to be calculated finally in labour, 
it is necessary to define the nature of that standard. 


70. Labour is the contest of the life of man with 
an opposite; — the term " life " includes his intellect t . 
soul, and physical power, contending with question, 
difficulty, trial, or material force. 

Labour is of a higher or lower order, as it includes 
more or fewer of the elements of life: and labour of 
good quality, in any kind, includes always as much 
intellect and feeling as will fully and harmoniously 
regulate the physical force. 

In speaking of the value and price of labour, it 
is necessary always to understand labour of a given 
rank and quality, as we should speak of gold or silver 
of a given standard. Bad (that is, heartless, inex- 
perienced, or senseless) labour cannot be valued; it 
is like gold of uncertain alloy, or flawed iron. 1 

The quality and kind of labour being given, its 
value, like that of all other valuable things, is in- 
variable. But the quantity of it which must be given 
for other things is variable: and in estimating this 

1 Labour which is entirely good of its kind, that is to say, 
effective, or efficient, the Greeks called " weighable," or 
&£io$, translated usually " worthy," and because thus sub- 
stantial and true, they called its price tl/j.t], the " honourable 
estimate" of it (honorarium): this word being founded on 
their conception of true labour as a divine thing, to be 
honoured with the kind of honour given to the gods ; whereas 
the price of false labour, or of that which led away from life, 
was to be not honour, but vengeance; for which they re- 
served another word, attributing the exaction of such price 
to a peculiar goddess, called Tisiphone, the " requiter (or 
quittance-taker) of death"; a person versed in the highest 
branches of arithmetic, and punctual in her habits; with 
whom accounts current have been opened also in modern days. 


variation, the price of other things must always be 
counted by the quantity of labour; not the price 
of labour by the quantity of other things. 

71. Thus, if we want to plant an apple sapling in 
rocky ground, it may take two hours' work; in soft 
ground, perhaps only half an hour. Grant the soil 
equally good for the tree in each case. Then the 
value of the sapling planted by two hours' work is 
nowise greater than that of the sapling planted in 
half an hour. One will bear no more fruit than the 
other. Also, one half-hour of work is as valuable as 
another half -hour; nevertheless the one sapling has 
cost four such pieces of work, the other only one. 
Now the proper statement of this fact is, not that 
the labour on the hard ground is cheaper than on the 
soft ; but that the tree is dearer. The exchange value 
may, or may not, afterwards depend on this fact. 
If other people have plenty of soft ground to plant 
in, they will take no cognizance of our two hours' 
labour, in the price they will offer for the plant on the 
rock. And if, through want of sufficient botanical 
science, we have planted an upas-tree instead of an 
apple, the exchange- value will be a negative quantity; 
still less proportionate to the labour expended. 

What is commonly called cheapness of labour, 
signifies, therefore, in reality, that many obstacles 
have to be overcome by it; so that much labour is 
required to produce a small result. But this should 
never be spoken of as cheapness of labour, but as 
dearness of the object wrought for. It would be just 


as rational to say that walking was cheap, because 
we had ten miles to walk home to our dinner, as that 
labour was cheap, because we had to work ten hours 
to earn it. 

The last word which we have to define is " Pro- 

72. I have hitherto spoken of all labour as profit- 
able; because it is impossible to consider under one 
head the quality or value of labour, and its aim. But 
labour of the best quality may be various in aim. It 
may be either constructive (" gathering," from con 
and struo), as agriculture; nugatory, as jewel- 
cutting; or destructive ("scattering," from de and 
struo), as war. It is not, however, always easy to 
prove labour, apparently nugatory, to be actually 
so; 1 generally, the formula holds good: "he that 
gathereth not, scattereth"; thus, the jeweller's art 
is probably very harmful in its ministering to a 
clumsy and inelegant pride. So that, finally, I believe 
nearly all labour may be shortly divided into positive 
and negative labour: positive, that which produces 

1 The most accurately nugatory labour is, perhaps, that 
of which not enough is given to answer a purpose effectually, 
and which, therefore, has all to be done over again. Also, 
labour which fails of effect through non-co-operation. The 
cure of a little village near Bellinzona, to whom I had ex- 
pressed wonder that the peasants allowed the Ticino to flood 
their fields, told me that they would not join to build an 
effectual embankment high up the valley, because everybody 
said " that would help his neighbours as much as himself." 
So every proprietor built a bit of low embankment about his 
own field; and the Ticino, as soon as it had a mind, swept 
away and swallowed all up together. 


life; negative, that which produces death; the mosi 
directly negative labour being murder, and the most 
directly positive, the bearing and rearing of children ; 
so that in the precise degree in which murder is hateful, 
on the negative side of idleness, in that exact degree 
child-rearing is admirable, on the positive side of 
idleness. For which reason, and because of the honour 
that there is in rearing 1 children, while the wife is 
said to be as the vine (for cheering), the children are 
as the olive-branch, for praise; nor for praise only, 
but for peace (because large families can only be 
reared in times of peace): though since, in their 
spreading and voyaging in various directions, they 
distribute strength, they are, to the home strength, 
as arrows in the hand of a giant — striking here and 
there, far away. 

Labour being thus various in its result, the pros- 
perity of any nation is in exact proportion to the 
quantity of labour which it spends in obtaining and 
employing means of life. Observe, — I say, obtaining 
and employing; that is to say, not merely wisely 
producing, but wisely distributing and consuming. 
Economists usually speak as if there were no good 

1 Observe, I say, " rearing," not " begetting." The praise 
is in the seventh season, not in arTroprjTds, nor in (pvraXid,* 
but in dirdjpa. It is strange that men always praise enthusi- 
astically any person who, by a momentary exertion, saves a 
life; but praise very hesitatingly a person who, by exertion 
and self-denial prolonged through years, creates one. We 
give the crown " ob civem servatum " ; — why not " ob civem 
natum " ? Born, I mean, to the full, in soul as well as in body. 
England has oak enough, I think, for both chaplets. 


in consumption absolute. 1 So far from this being so, 
consumption absolute is the end, crown, and perfec- 
tion of production; and wise consumption is a far 
more difficult art than wise production. Twenty 
people can gain money for one who can use it; and 
the vital question, for individual and for nation, is, 
never " how much do they make? " but " to what 
purpose do they spend? " 

73. The reader may, perhaps, have been surprised 
at the slight reference I have hitherto made to 
" capital/' and its functions. It is here the place to 
define them. 

Capital signifies " head, or source, or root material " 
— it is material by which some derivative or secondary, 
good is produced. It is only capital proper (caput 
vivum, not caput mortuum) when it is thus producing 
something different from itself. It is a root, which 
does not enter into vital function till it produces 
something else than a root; namely, fruit. That 
fruit will in time again produce roots; and so all 
living capital issues in reproduction of capital; but 
capital which produces nothing but capital is only 
root producing root; bulb issuing in bulb, never in 
tulip; seed issuing in seed, never in bread. The 
Political Economy of Europe has hitherto devoted 
itself wholly to the multiplication, or (less even) the 
aggregation, of bulbs. It never saw, nor conceived 

1 When Mr. Mill speaks of productive consumption, he only- 
means consumption which results in increase of capital, or 
material wealth. See I. iii. 4, and I. iii. 5. 


such a thing as a tulip. Nay, boiled bulbs they might 
have been — glass bulbs — Prince Rupert's drops, 
consummated in powder (well, if it were glass-powder 
and not gunpowder), for any end of meaning the 
economists had in defining the laws of aggregation. 
We will try and get a clearer notion of them. 

The best and simplest general type of capital is 
a well-made ploughshare. Now, if that ploughshare 
did nothing but beget other ploughshares, in a 
polypous manner, — however the great cluster of 
polypous plough might glitter in the sun, it would 
have lost its function of capital. It becomes true 
capital only by another kind of splendour, — when it 
is seen, " splendescere sulco," to grow bright in the 
furrow; rather with diminution of its substance, 
than addition, by the noble friction. And the true 
home question, to every capitalist and to every nation, 
is not, "how many ploughs have you?" — but, 
"where are your furrows?" not — "how quickly 
will this capital reproduce itself? " — but, " what will 
it do during reproduction? " What substance will 
it furnish, good for life? what work construct, 
protective of life? if none, its own reproduction is 
useless — if worse than none, — (for capital may de- 
stroy life as well as support it), its own reproduction 
is worse than useless ; it is merely an advance from 
Tisiphone, on mortgage — not a profit by any means. 

74. Not a profit, as the ancients truly saw, and 
showed in the type of Ixion; — for capital is the head, 
or fountain head, of wealth — the " well-head " of 


wealth, as the clouds are the well-heads of rain : but 
when clouds are without water, and only beget clouds, 
they issue in wrath at last, instead of rain, and in 
lightning instead of harvest; whence Ixion is said 
first to have invited his guests to a banquet, and then 
made them fall into a pit filled with fire; which is 
the type of the temptation of riches issuing in im- 
prisoned torment, — torment in a pit, (as also Demas' 
silver mine,) after which, to show the rage of riches 
passing from lust of pleasure to lust of power, yet 
power not truly understood, Ixion is said to have 
desired Juno, and instead, embracing a cloud (or 
phantasm), to have begotten the Centaurs; the 
power of mere wealth being, in itself, as the embrace 
of a shadow, — comfortless (so also " Ephraim feedeth 
on wind and followeth after the east wind"; or 
"that which is not" — Pro v. xxiii. 5; and again 
Dante's Geryon, the type of avaricious fraud, as he 
flies, gathers the air up with retractile claws, — " l'aer 
a se raccolse," x ) but in its offspring, a mingling of 

1 So also in the vision of the women bearing the ephah, 
before quoted, " the wind was in their wings," not wings 
"of a stork," as in our version; but " milvi," of a kite, in 
the Vulgate, or perhaps more accurately still in the 
Septuagint, " hoopoe," a bird connected typically with the 
power of riches by many traditions, of which that of its 
petition for a crest of gold is perhaps the most interesting. 
The Birds of Aristophanes, in which its part is principal, 
are full of them; note especially the " fortification of the air 
with baked bricks, like Babylon," 1. 550; and, again, compare 
the Plutus of Dante, who (to show the influence of riches 
in destroying the reason) is the only one of the powers of 
the Inferno who cannot speak intelligibly; and also the 


the brutal with the human nature : human in sagacity 
— using both intellect and arrow; but brutal in its 
body and hoof, for consuming, and trampling down. 
For which sin Ixion is at last bound upon a wheel — 
hery and toothed, and rolling perpetually in the air; 
— the type of human labour when selfish and fruitless 
(kept far into the middle ages in their wheel of 
fortune); the wheel which has in it no breath or 
spirit, but is whirled by chance only; whereas of all 
Irue work the Ezekiel vision is true, that the Spirit 
of the living creature is in the wheels, and where the 
angels go, the wheels go by them; but move no 

75. This being the real nature of capital, it follows 
that there are two kinds of true production, always 
going on in an active state; one of seed, and one of 
food; or production for the Ground, and for the 
Mouth; both of which are by covetous persons 
thought to be production only for the granary; 
whereas the function of the granary is but inter- 
mediate -and conservative, fulfilled in distribution; 
else it ends in nothing but mildew, and nourishment 
of rats and worms. And since production for the 
Ground is only useful with future hope of harvest, 
all essential production is for the Mouth; and is 
finally measured by the mouth; hence, as I said 

cowardliest; he is not merely quelled or restrained, but 
literally "collapses" at a word; the sudden and helpless 
operation of mercantile panic being all told in the brief 
metaphor, " as the sails, swollen with the wind, fall, when 
the mast breaks." 


above, consumption is the crown of production; and 
the wealth of a nation is only to be estimated by 
what it consumes. 

The want of any clear sight of this fact is the 
capital error, issuing in rich interest and revenue of 
error among the political economists. Their minds 
are continually set on money-gain, not on mouth-gain ; 
and they fall into every sort of net and snare, dazzled 
by the coin-glitter as birds by the fowler's glass; 
or rather (for there is not much else like birds in 
them) they are like children trying to jump on 
the heads of their own shadows; the money-gain 
being only the shadow of the true gain, which is 

76. The final object of political economy, there- 
fore, is to get good method of consumption, and great 
quantity of consumption: in other words, to use 
everything, and to use it nobly; whether it be sub- 
stance, service, or service perfecting substance. The 
most curious error in Mr. Mill's entire work (provided 
for him originally by Ricardo), is his endeavour to 
distinguish between direct and indirect service, and 
consequent assertion that a demand for commodities 
is not demand for labour (I. v. 9, et seq.). He dis- 
tinguishes between labourers employed to lay out 
pleasure grounds, and to manufacture velvet; 
declaring that it makes material difference to the 
labouring classes in which of these two ways a 
capitalist spends his money; because the employ- 
ment of the gardeners is a demand for labour, but 



the purchase of velvet is not. 1 Error colossal as well 
as strange. It will, indeed, make a difference to the 
labourer whether he bid him swing his scythe in the 
spring winds, or drive the loom in pestilential air; 
but, so far as his pocket is concerned, it makes to him 
absolutely no difference whether we order him to 
make green velvet, with seed and a scythe, or red 
velvet, with silk and scissors. Neither does it anywise 
concern him whether, when the velvet is made, we 
consume it by walking on it, or wearing it, so long as 
our consumption of it is wholly selfish. But if our 
consumption is to be in any wise unselfish, not only 
our mode of consuming the articles we require 
interests him, but also the kind of article we require 
with a view to consumption. As thus (returning for 

1 The value of raw material, which has, indeed, to be 
deducted from the price of the labour, is not contemplated 
in the passages referred to, Mr. Mill having fallen into the 
mistake solely by pursuing the collateral results of the pay j 
ment of wages to middlemen. He says — " The consumer does 
not, with his own funds, pay the weaver for his day's work." 
Pardon me; the consumer of the velvet pays the weaver 
with his own funds as much as he pays the gardener. He 
pays, probably, an intermediate ship-owner, velvet merchant, 
and shopman; pays carriage money, shop rent, damage 
money, time money, and care money; all these are above 
and beside the velvet price (just as the wages of a head 
gardener would be above the grass price) ; but the velvet is as 
much produced by the consumer's capital, though he does 
not pay for it till six months after production, as the grass 
is produced by his capital, though he does not pay the man 
who mowed and rolled it on Monday, till Saturday afternoon. 
I do not know if Mr. Mill's conclusion, — " the capital cannot 
be dispensed with, the purchasers can " (p. 98), has yet been 
reduced to practice in the City on any large scale. 


a moment to Mr. Mill's great hardware theory 1 ): 
it matters, so far as the labourer's immediate profit 
is concerned, not an iron filing whether I employ 
him in growing a peach, or forging a bombshell; 
but my probable mode of consumption of those 
articles matters seriously. Admit that it is to be in 
both cases " unselfish," and the difference, to him, is 
final, whether when his child is ill, I walk into his 
cottage and give it the peach, or drop the shell down 
his chimney, and blow his roof off. 

The worst of it, for the peasant, is, that the 
capitalist's consumption of the peach is apt to be 
selfish, and of the shell, distributive ; but, in all 
cases, this is the broad and general fact, that on due 
catallactic commercial principles, somebody's roof 
must go off in fulfilment of the bomb's destiny. 
You may grow for your neighbour, at your liking, 
grapes or grape-shot; he will also, catallactically, 
grow grapes or grape-shot for you, and you will each 
reap what j^ou have sown. 

77. It is, therefore, the manner and issue of con- 
sumption which are the real tests of production. 
Production does not consist in things laboriously 
made, but in things serviceably consumable; and 
the question for the nation is not how much labour 
it employs, but how much life it produces. For as 

1 Which, observe, is the precise opposite of the one under 
examination. The hardware theory required us to discharge 
our gardeners and engage manufacturers; the velvet theory 
requires us to discharge our manufacturers and engage 


consumption is the end and aim of production, so 
life is the end and aim of consumption. 

I left this question to the reader's thought two 
months ago, choosing rather that he should work it 
out for himself than have it sharply stated to him. 
But now, the ground being sufficiently broken (and 
the details into which the several questions, here 
opened, must lead us, being too complex for discussion 
in the pages of a periodical, so that I must pursue 
them elsewhere), I desire, in closing the series of 
introductory papers, to leave this one great fact 
clearly stated. There is no Wealth but Life. 
Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of 
admiration. That country is the richest which 
nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy 
human beings; that man is richest who, having 
perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, 
has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, 
and by means of his possessions, over the lives of 

A strange political economy; the only one, never- 
theless, that ever was or can be : all political economy 
founded on self-interest 1 being but the fulfilment of 
that which once brought schism into the Policy of 
angels, and ruin into the Economy of Heaven. 

j8. " The greatest number of human beings noble 
and happy." But is the nobleness consistent with 

1 " In all reasoning about prices, the proviso must be 
understood, ' supposing all parties to take care of their own 
interest.' " — Mill, III. i. 5. 


the number? Yes, not only consistent with it, but 
essential to it. The maximum of life can only be 
reached by the maximum of virtue. In this respect 
the law of human population differs wholly from that 
of animal life. The multiplication of animals is 
checked only by want of food, and by the hostility 
of races; the population of the gnat is restrained 
by the hunger of the swallow, and that of the swallow 
by the scarcity of gnats. Man, considered as an 
animal, is indeed limited by the same laws; hunger, 
or plague, or war, are the necessary and only restraints 
upon his increase, — effectual restraints hitherto, — 
his principal study having been how most swiftly 
to destroy himself, or ravage his dwelling-places, 
and his highest skill directed to give range to the 
famine, seed to the plague, and sway to the sword. 
But, considered as other than an animal, his increase 
is not limited by these laws. It is limited only by 
the limits of his courage and his love. Both of these 
have their bounds ; and ought to have : his race has 
its bounds also ; but these have not yet been reached, 
nor will be reached for ages. 

79. In all the ranges of human thought I know 
none so melancholy as the speculations of political 
economists on .the population question. It is proposed 
to better the condition of the labourer by giving him 
higher wages. " Nay," says the economist, " if you 
raise his wages, he will either people down to the 
same point of misery at which you found him, or 
drink your wages away." He will. I know it. Who 


gave him this will? Suppose it were your own son 
of whom you spoke, declaring to me that you dared 
not take him into your firm, nor even give him his 
just labourer's wages, because if you did, he would die 
of drunkenness, and leave half a score of children to 
the parish. " Who gave your son these dispositions ? " 
— I should inquire. Has he them by inheritance or 
bjr education ? By one or other they must come ; and 
as in him, so also in the poor. Either these poor are 
of a race essentially different from ours, and un- 
redeemable (which, however often implied, I have 
heard none yet openly say), or else by such care as 
we have ourselves received, we may make them 
continent and sober as ourselves — wise and dis- 
passionate as we are — models arduous of imitation. 
" But," it is answered, " they cannot receive educa- 
tion." Why not? That is precisely the point at issue. 
Charitable persons suppose the worst fault of the 
rich is to refuse the people meat; and the people 
cry for their meat, kept back by fraud, to the Lord 
of Multitudes. 1 Alas! it is not meat of which the 

1 James v. 4. Observe, in these statements I am not taking 
up, nor countenancing one whit, the common socialist idea 
of division of property ; division of property is its destruction ; 
and with it the destruction of all hope, all industry, and all 
justice: it is simply chaos — a chaos towards which the 
believers in modern political economy are fast tending, and 
from which I am striving to save them. The rich man does 
not keep back meat from the poor by retaining his riches; 
but by basely using them. Riches are a form of strength; 
and a strong man does not injure others by keeping his 
strength, but by using it injuriously. The socialist, seeing 
a strong man oppress a weak one, cries out — " Break the 


refusal is cruellest, or to which the claim is validest. 
The life is more than the meat. The rich not only 
refuse food to the poor; they refuse wisdom; they 
refuse virtue; they refuse salvation. Ye sheep 
without shepherd, it is not the pasture that has been 
shut from you, but the presence. Meat! perhaps 
your right to that may be pleadable; but other 
rights have to be pleaded first. Claim your crumbs 
from the table, if you will ; but claim them as children, 
not as dogs; claim your right to be fed, but claim 
r ore loudly your right to be holy, perfect, and pure. 
Strange words to be used of working people: 
"What! holy; without any long robes nor anointing 
oils; these rough-jacketed, rough-worded persons; 
set to nameless and dishonoured service? Perfect! 
— these, with dim eyes and cramped limbs, and slowly 

strong man's arms "; but I say, " Teach him to use them to 
better purpose." The fortitude and intelligence which acquire 
riches are intended, by the Giver of both, not to scatter, nor 
to give away, but to employ those riches in the service of 
mankind; in other words, in the redemption of the erring 
and aid of the weak — that is to say, there is first to be the 
work to gain money; then the Sabbath of use for it — the 
Sabbath, whose law is, not to lose life, but to save. It is 
continually the fault or the folly of the poor that they are 
poor, as it is usually a child's fault if it falls into a pond, and 
a cripple's weakness that slips at a crossing; nevertheless, 
most passers-by would pull the child out, or help up the 
cripple. Put it at the worst, that all the poor of the world 
are but disobedient children, or careless cripples, and that 
all rich people are wise and strong, and you will see at once 
that neither is the socialist right in desiring to make every- 
body poor, powerless, and foolish as he is himself, nor the 
rich man right in leaving the children in the mire. 


wakening minds? Pure — these, with sensual desire 
and grovelling thought; foul of body, and coarse of 
soul? " It may be so; nevertheless, such as they are, 
they are the holiest, perfectest, purest persons the 
earth can at present show. They may be what you 
have said; but if so, they yet are holier than we, 
who have left them thus. 

But what can be done for them ? Who can clothe — 
who teach — who restrain their multitudes ? What end 
can there be for them at last, but to consume one 

I hope for another end, though not, indeed, from 
any of the three remedies for over-population com- 
monly suggested by economists. 

80. These three are, in brief — Colonisation; 
Bringing in of waste lands; or Discouragement of 

The first and second of these expedients merely 
evade or delay the question. It will, indeed, be long 
before the world has been all colonised, and its deserts 
all brought under cultivation. But the radical question 
is not how much habitable land is in the world, but 
how many human beings ought to be maintained on 
a given space of habitable land. 

Observe, I say, ought to be, not how many can be. 
Ricardo, with his usual inaccuracy, defines what he 
calls the " natural rate of wages " as " that which will 
maintain the labourer." Maintain him! yes; but 
how? — the question was instantly thus asked of me 
by a working girl, to whom I read the passage. I will 


amplify her question for her. " Maintain him, how? " 
As, first, to what length of life? Out of a given 
number of fed persons how many are to be old — how 
many young ; that is to say, will you arrange their 
maintenance so as to kill them early — say at thirty 
or thirty-five on the average, including deaths of 
weakly or ill-fed children? — or so as to enable them 
to live out a natural life? You will feed a greater 
number, in the first case, 1 by rapidity of succession ; 
probably a happier number in the second : which 
does Mr. Ricardo mean to be their natural state, 
and to which state belongs the natural rate of 
wages ? 

Again: A piece of land which will only support 
ten idle, ignorant, and improvident persons, will sup- 
port thirty or forty intelligent and industrious ones. 
Which of these is their natural state, and to which of 
them belongs the natural rate of wages ? 

Again: If a piece of land support forty persons in 
industrious ignorance ; and if, tired of this ignorance, 
they set apart ten of their number to study the 
properties of cones, and the sizes of stars; the labour 
of these ten, being withdrawn from the ground, must 
either tend to the increase of food in some transitional 
manner, or the persons set apart for sidereal and 
conic purposes must starve, or someone else starve 
instead of them. What is, therefore, the natural rate 
of wages of the scientific persons, and how does this 

1 The quantity of life is the same in both cases ; but it is 
differently allotted. 


rate relate to, or measure, their reverted or transitional 
productiveness ? 

Again: If the ground maintains, at first, forty 
labourers in a peaceable and pious state of mind, 
but they become in a few years so quarrelsome and 
impious that they have to set apart five, to meditate 
upon and settle their disputes; — ten, armed to the 
teeth with costly instruments, to enforce the decisions ; 
and five to remind everybody in an eloquent manner 
of the existence of a God ; what will be the result upon 
the general power of production, and what is the 
" natural rate of wages " of the meditative, muscular, 
and oracular labourers ? 

81. Leaving these questions to be discussed, or 
waived, at their pleasure, by Mr. Ricardo's followers, 
I proceed to state the main facts bearing on that 
probable future of the labouring classes which has 
been partially glanced at by Mr. Mill. That chapter 
and the preceding one differ from the common writing 
of political economists in admitting some value in 
the aspect of nature, and expressing regret at the 
probability of the destruction of natural scenery. 
But we may spare our anxieties, on this head. Men 
can neither drink steam, nor eat stone. The maximum 
of population on a given space of land implies also 
the relative maximum of edible vegetable, whether 
for men or cattle; it implies a maximum of pure 
air; and of pure water. Therefore: a maximum of 
wood, to transmute the air, and of sloping ground, 
protected by herbage from the extreme heat of the 


sun, to feed the streams. All England may, if it so 
chooses, become one manufacturing town; and Eng- 
lishmen, sacrificing themselves to the good of general 
humanity, may live diminished lives in the midst 
of noise, of darkness, and of deadly exhalation. But 
the world cannot become a factory, nor a mine. No 
amount of ingenuity will ever make iron digestible 
by the million, nor substitute hydrogen for wine. 
Neither the avarice nor the rage of men will ever 
feed them, and however the apple of Sodom and the 
grape of Gomorrah may spread their table for a time 
with dainties of ashes, and nectar of asps, — so long 
as men live by bread, the far away valleys must laugh 
as they are covered with the gold of God, and the 
shouts of His happy multitudes ring round the wine- 
press and the well. 

82. Nor need our more sentimental economists fear 
the too wide spread of the f ormalities of a mechanical 
agriculture. The presence of a wise population im- 
plies the search for felicity as well as for food ; nor 
can any population reach its maximum but through 
that wisdom which " rejoices " in the habitable parts 
of the earth. The desert has its appointed place and 
work; the eternal engine, whose beam is the earth's 
axle, whose beat is its year, and whose breath is its 
ocean, will still divide imperiously to their desert 
kingdoms, bound with unfurrowable rock, and swept 
by unarrested sand, their powers of frost and fire: 
but the zones and lands between, habitable, will be 
loveliest in habitation. The desire of the heart is 


also the light of the eyes. No scene is continually 
and untiringly loved, but one rich by joyful human 
labour ; smooth in field ; fair in garden ; full in orchard ; 
trim, sweet, and frequent in homestead ; ringing 
with voices of vivid existence. No air is sweet that 
is silent; it is only sweet when full of low currents 
of under sound — triplets of birds, and murmur and 
chirp of insects, and deep-toned words of men, and 
wayward trebles of childhood. As the art of life is 
learned, it will be found at last that all lovely things 
are also necessary: — the wild flower by the wayside, 
as well as the tended corn; and the wild birds and 
creatures of the forest, as well as the tended cattle; 
because man doth not live by bread only, but also 
by the desert manna; by every wondrous word and 
unknowable work of God. Happy, in that he knew 
them not, nor did his fathers know; and that round 
about him reaches yet into the infinite, the amazement 
of his existence. 

83. Note, finally, that all effectual advancement 
towards the true felicity of the human race must be 
by individual, not public effort. Certain general 
measures may aid, certain revised laws guide, such 
advancement; but the measure and law which have 
first to be determined are those of each man's home. 
We continually hear it recommended by sagacious 
people to complaining neighbours (usually less well 
placed in the world than themselves), that they 
should " remain content in the station in which 
Providence has placed them." There are perhaps 


some circumstances of life in which Providence has 
no intention that people should be content. Never- 
theless, the maxim is on the whole a good one; but 
it is peculiarly for home use. That your neighbour 
should, or should not, remain content with his 
position, is not your business; but it is very much 
your business to remain content with your own. 
What is chiefly needed in England at the present 
day is to show the quantity of pleasure that may 
be obtained by a consistent, well-administered com- 
petence, modest, confessed, and laborious. We need 
examples of people who, leaving Heaven to decide 
whether they are to rise in the world, decide for 
themselves that they will be happy in it, and have 
resolved to seek — not greater wealth, but simpler 
pleasure; not higher fortune, but deeper felicity; 
making the first of possessions, self-possession; and 
honouring themselves in the harmless pride and calm 
pursuits of peace. 

Of which lowly peace it is written that " justice 
and peace have kissed each other"; and that the 
fruit of justice is " sown in peace of them that make 
peace " ; not " peace-makers " in the common under- 
standing — reconcilers of quarrels (though that 
function also follows on the greater one) ; but peace- 
Creators; Givers of Calm. Which you cannot give, 
unless you first gain; nor is this gain one which will 
follow assuredly on any course of business, commonly 
so called. No form of gain is less probable, business 
being (as is shown in the language of all nations — ■ 


TrwAetv from 7reXto } Trpaa-ts from irepaoi, venire, 
vendre, and venal, from venio, etc.) essentially rest- 
less — and probably contentious; — having a raven- 
like mind to the motion to and fro, as to the carrion 
food; whereas the olive-feeding and bearing birds 
look for rest for their feet : thus it is said of Wisdom 
that she " hath builded her house, and hewn out her 
seven pillars " ; and even when, though apt to wait 
long at the doorposts, she has to leave her house 
and go abroad, her paths are peace also. 

84. For us, at all events, her work must begin at 
the entry of the doors: all true economy is " Law of 
the house." Strive to make that law strict, simple, 
generous: waste nothing, and grudge nothing. Care 
in nowise to make more of money, but care to make 
much of it ; remembering always .the great, palpable, 
inevitable fact — the rule and root of all economy — 
that what one person has, another cannot have; and 
that every atom of substance, of whatever kind, used 
or consumed, is so much human life spent; which, 
if it issue in the saving present life, or gaining more, 
is well spent, but if not, is either so much life pre- 
vented, or so much slain. In all buying, consider, 
first, what condition of existence you cause in the 
producers of what you buy; secondly, whether the 
sum you have paid is just to the producer, and in due 
proportion, lodged in his hands; 1 thirdly, to how 

1 The proper offices of middle -men, namely, overseers (or 
authoritative workmen), conveyancers (merchants, sailors, 
retail dealers, etc.), and order-takers (persons employed to 
receive directions from the consumer), must, of course, be 


much clear use, for food, knowledge, or joy, this that 
you have bought can be put ; and fourthly, to whom 
and in what way it can be most speedily and service- 
ably distributed : in all dealings whatsoever insisting 
on entire openness and stern fulfilment; and in 
all doings, on perfection and loveliness of accom- 
plishment; especially on fineness and purity of all 
marketable commodity: watching at the same time 
for all ways of gaining, or teaching, powers of simple 
pleasure ; and of showing 60-01/ kv do-(j>o8e\a) /Aty' Sveiap — 
the sum of enjoyment depending not on the quantity 
of things tasted, but on the vivacity and patience 
of taste. 

85. And if, on due and honest thought over these 
things, it seems that the kind of existence to which 
men are now summoned by every plea of pity and 
claim of right, may, for some time at least, not be a 
luxurious one; — consider whether, even supposing 
it guiltless, luxury would be desired by any of us, 
if we saw clearly at our sides the suffering which 
accompanies it in the world. Luxury is indeed possible 
in the future — innocent and exquisite; luxury for 
all, and by the help of all; but luxury at present 
can only be enjoyed by the ignorant; the cruellest 
man living could not sit at his feast, unless he sat 

examined before I can enter farther into the question of just 
payment of the first producer. But I have not spoken of 
them in these introductory papers, because the evils attendant 
on the abuse of such intermediate functions result not from 
any alleged principle of modern political economy, but from 
private carelessness or iniquity. 


blindfold. Raise the veil boldly ; face the light ; and 
if, as yet, the light of the eye can only be through 
tears, and the light of the body through sackcloth, 
go thou forth weeping, bearing precious seed, until 
the time come, and the kingdom, when Christ's gift 
of bread and bequest of peace shall be Unto this Last 
as unto thee; and when, for earth's severed multi- 
tudes of the wicked and the weary, there shall be 
holier reconciliation than that of the narrow home, 
and calm economy, where the Wicked cease — not 
from trouble, but from troubling — and the Weary 
are at rest. 



[The numbers refer to the sections} 


i. The four Papers appeared in the Cornhill Magazine 
for August, September, October and November, i860, 
during W. M. Thackeray's editorship. 

Estimate of a weight. " Qui Judicatis Terram," 
Sect. 48, " seventeen ounces." 

2. Organisation of labour with fixed wages. Partly 
realised in the recent establishment of Labour Bureaux, 
Wages Boards, and the minimum wage in some industries. 

3. Wealth radiant and wealth reflective. Metaphor 
borrowed from theory of heat. Instead of " reflective " 
we should now say " radiated " or " reflected." 

4. Pope's assertion. Essay on Man, IV. 247. 

Orbits of economy. Ruskin suggests an analogy between 
the celestial system and that of human society. Moving 
stars can be deflected from their orbits, or paths in 
space, by the attraction of other celestial bodies, but 
they maintain their positions when no such disturbing 
force acts, in obedience to Law. Cf. Hooker's Eccle- 
siastical Polity, Bk. I. iv.: "Of law no less can be said 
than that her voice is the harmony of the world "; also 
Wordsworth's Ode to Duty: 

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong, 

And the most ancient heavens, through Thee, are fresh and 


I 129 


5, note. Adam Smith is here making implicit reference 
to the restraints imposed by the Mediaeval Trade Guilds 
upon their members; enforcing among other points a 
definite standard of excellence of workmanship and of 
purity of materials. He implies that competition sup- 
plies the necessary incentives. 

6. The sequel. Partly dealt with in some later papers 
in Fraser's Magazine, afterwards collected in Munera 

6 (i). Training schools for youth. To a certain extent 
this is being realised in the Government requiring all 
Education Authorities throughout the country to pro- 
vide Elementary, Secondary and Technical schools for 
their areas. The "Fisher" Act of 191 8 goes farther in 
establishing, sooner or later, wider Secondary and Tech- 
nical education, and especially Continuation schools for 
pupils already wage-earners, between the ages of 14 and 18. 

Ruskin's three main sections cover the suggested 
curriculum for the proposed Continuation schools: 
Plenty of physical exercise and organised games in the 
open air to supplement direct health teaching; much 
good literature and social history, in song and story 
and legend and records, as inspiration for true citizen- 
ship; and efficient technical or vocational instruction. 

6 (2). Manufactories and workshops. This scheme was 
brought into being for the production of materials and 
munitions needed for the Great War (1914-18), but 
we are far from ready to adopt a similar one " for 
the production and sale of every necessary of life, and 
for the exercise of every useful art." The proposed 
nationalisation of the industries of production is an 
alternative measure, land, mines, railways, and shipping; 
but a country which made its great stride forward a 


century ago under the individualistic system of private 
enterprise is reluctant to surrender that liberty. There 
is considerable jealousy and distrust of Government 
interference and Government enterprise, as tending 
towards monopoly or inefficiency; and it has to be 
confessed that the British Government had not — until 
recent reforms amended conditions — been at all a model 
employer or an enterprising business manager. The 
great State department, the Post Office, with its slowness 
to enlarge facilities, lack of consideration for employees, 
and unattractive presentment to the Public; the Army 
Clothing Factories; and, abroad, the inefficient consular 
service, are cases in point. 

The wholesome rivalry between Government and 
private enterprises might perhaps correct some of the 
unfavourable features of both, if Ruskin's proposal could 
be made practicable. 

6 (3). Found objecting to work. Modern social re- 
formers would perhaps agree with Ruskin as to the first 
three sets of people, and the remedies for their condition, 
but the exaggerated sensitiveness of the present day 
as to the supposed " liberty of the subject," and the 
general intolerance of discipline, tell against the same 
agreement with him in the case of this difficult fourth. 

6 (4). The old and destitute. A beginning has been 
made with this in the Old Age Pensions; and the " Break- 
up of the Poor Law " recommended by the Minority- 
Report of the Royal Commission (191 2) will do much 
to remove the stigma of honourable poverty. 

De publico est elatus. Contributed by the public. 
P. Valerius (d. 503 B.C.), a patriotic Roman statesman 
and warrior, so far from enriching himself in his career, 
died in such straitened circumstances that his estate 
could not even provide the money for his funeral. 




Ruskin's titles are always interesting and full of 
meaning, sometimes far-fetched, but worth looking into 
and puzzling over. 

In "The Roots of Honour" is suggested the idea 
more fully presented in Sects. 17-21, that dignity be- j 
longs and honour is paid only to those whose motives 
are self-sacrificing, or at least unselfish; not to those 
who are actuated by self-interest only. A much older 
tradition than that of the early economists imputes low 
cunning, sharp -practice, and even fraudulent dealing to 
those whose occupation is solely buying to sell again. 

1. Eliminate the inconstants. Ruskin uses mathema- 
tical illustration very often for the convenience of its 
symbolic language, and it has been extensively applied 
by later writers on economics. In modern Algebra the 
terms constants and variables are used, rather than con- 
stants and inconstants. The latter term has come to 
signify something of blame. 

2. Not mathematically but chemically. Altering the 
result, not as to quantity, but as to quality. 

3. No skeletons. This ironical comparison reaches its 
climax in the closing words: "deficient only in ap- 
plicability"; for an applied science must thus become 

An ossifiant theory of progress. " Bony." Ossifica- 
tion, or the becoming hard and rigid of substances that 
should be yielding and pliable, is a form of disease. As 
" progress " implies movement, growth, elasticity, the 
introduction of rigidity is a hindrance. 


Having . . . constructed . . . corpuscular structures. The 
parable implies that having assumed the absurd structure 
and built up a system of behaviour for a soul-less thing, 
the granting of the supposition that man is actuated 
by other than material motives would spoil the whole 

4. Late strikes. In 1859 a great strike in the building 
trade occurred. 

6. Indeterminable. Cf. indeterminate in Theory of 
Equations; i.e. more than one solution is possible. 

7. Balances of expediency . . . balances of justice. A 
symbolical figure of Justice bears a sword and, blind- 
folded, carries a balance. What difference would you 
suggest in a figure symbolical of Expediency ? 

8. Calculable force . . . unknown quantity. Another 
mathematical illustration. 

10. An anomalous force. A force acting contrary to, 
or differently from, what is expected. 

11. Ruskin's view as to the relations between officers 
and men in an army are especially appealing to us when 
so many citizens have exchanged their civil life for a 
military one and learned the strength of the tie. 

12. 77 is easy . . . Not so easy. Notice the vigour im- 
parted by the use of a phrase instead of a clause ; and 
the meditative historic tense in shall be animated, with 
return to very plain prose in But a band of men . . . 

The first — How far the rate of wages, etc. It has been 
one of the great drawbacks of an industrial system 
which has made our country rich, that one of the 
essentials of Production, the labour of human beings, 
men and women and children — has been considered only 


asa " lump " or " chunk," from which bits might be 
broken when wanted in an industry, and rejectea 
directly it was no longer bringing gain; i.e. scrapped 
like a broken tool or wheel. No one recognised it as this. 
The system sounded well; freedom of labour to accept 
the best price offered; freedom of industry to mab 
use of cheapest labour procurable. Thus plenty of work 
men unemployed was a convenient state of things fo: 
employers; as it certainly was not for the workme: 

Now it is being recognised that the payment of a jus 
wage shall be a "first charge" on an industry; an 
that such forms of industry as cannot meet this charg 
must (speaking generally) disappear. 

The second — How far . . . connected. Also now (sixt 
years after) it is generally acknowledged by writers o: 
Social Science, that the stabilising of employment, th 
regularising of industry should be the first endeavou 
of large employers of labour, from the Government down 
It is probably impossible to prevent some fiuctuatio 
in demand in many trades, but the greatest and worst 
have come through the speculative competition among 
manufacturers and merchants to amass some sudden 
gain. The step may involve the employment of fro: 
fifty to some hundreds of additional workmen: when 
the opportunity fails or is exhausted, most or all of 
them will be as suddenly dismissed. With the recognition 
of the claim of labour supplied by human beings, as 
distinct from inanimate material, such violent fluctua- 
tions would cease. For the same reason Government 
and public authorities, such as the municipal bodies, 
should seek to put in hand their large, slow-moving 
schemes of building, draining, reclaiming, etc., in the 
less busy seasons of the year. For this, much greater 


unity among Government departments, and corre- 
spondence between various local authorities is both 
desirable and necessary. 

Permanent interest . . . esprit de corps. Among the pro- 
posals of reformers of the present day for achieving 
this are those of co-operation, profit-sharing, and some 
part in the general responsibility and control of the firm's 
working policy. Persons who have no " say in the 
matter," and only mechanical duties to fulfil, are apt 
to flag and deteriorate in service sooner than those who 
have some responsibility or leadership. 

13. Sell commissions. Sale of army commissions has 
been abolished; the professional fees remain as stated; 
the (Metropolitan) cab-fares have been revised on the 
principle of a minimum charge, and increments per mile 
or part. But the illustration holds good; knowing it to 
be a fixed charge no one who is in need of the service 
haggles about the price. 

14. " Chosen.*' There seems to be a silent allusion 
to the Gospel, " Many be called, but few chosen " 
(Matthew xx. 16), the basis of the doctrines of " elec- 
tion " and " pre-destination." Ruskin suggests that 
to be "chosen" is the outcome of some personal merit, 
not the caprice of an absolute authority. 

The Trades Unions have succeeded in establishing a 
standard rate of pay in all the organised industries, and 
is this they revive the defensive usefulness of the old 
Guilds. But they do not, like them, differentiate between 
the good and the bad workman ; uniformity rather than 
excellence is the controlling idea. This may be partly 
because of the great sub-division of processes, whereby 
most kinds of work are merely repetition, at once 
monotonous and deadening to the spirit. A recent 


speaker stated, "135 different processes are employed 
in the making of a boot. It is not to be expected that 
any of these 135 workers can get enthusiastic about 
their particular bit of the boot." This development 
of mechanical work is the great justification for the 
movement in favour of much shorter hours of labour; 
not that the rest of the time may be spent in idleness, 
but that the worker may be able to take up some piece 
of work, as a recreation or a hobby, which will exercise 
his personal capacity and provide an opportunity for 
some experience of pride and joy in work. 

19. Enforcing this upon him by political statute. A 
general condemnation of Government trade regulations 
and restrictions. 

20. Hero of the "Excursion "from Autolycus. Words- 
worth's Excursion was written in 18 14; its hero, a 
pedlar in the mountain district of England, was a cen- 
tury ago the chief means of communication from the 
outer world to the remote glens and dales of the North ] 

there he kept 
In solitude and solitary thought 
His mind in a just equipoise of love. 

Autolycus (Shakespeare's Winter's Tale), also a pedlar, 
was an attractive rogue who disguised his habitual thefts 
from cottage and roost and hedge under the description 
of himself as a 

Snapper-up of unconsidered trifles. 1 

The paragraph is a fine exposition of the right spirit 
of commercial intercourse, and its closing line a para- 
phrase of 

Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war. 
1 Winter's Tale, iv. 3. 


22. To provide for the nation. This truth is at the 
bottom of the energetic movement towards "national- 
ising " the production of the prime necessaries of life, a 
principal article in the Socialist creed. 

In the purest and cheapest forms . . . most beneficial 
to the men employed. The first two aims have been very 
satisfactorily attained by many traders during the past 
sixty years, but the third has proved a hard saying. 
The lot of the rank and file of workers for some of the 
great firms of which the British mercantile world is 
proud — and jealous — has often been a discredit to the 
" richest country in the world." The evil theories of 
" free contract " and unregulated competition among 
labourers, especially if unskilled, resulted in wide under- 
payment and ultimately " sweating." 

24. The substance of this paragraph presses home 
the loss to the community involved in the practical 
disappearance of apprenticeship. The excellence of that 
system lay, not so much in the careful learning of a 
trade (which might often be mastered in less than seven 
years), but in the relation established between adult 
workers and the young. 

25. The long senrtence beginning For all this is true, 
and ending with national destruction, will need careful 
reading; it is packed full with energetic denunciation 
and assertions. It brings in the idea, fully developed 
later on, that real wealth consists in fullness of Life. 

Premises. A term in logic; suppositions or hypotheses 
on which the arguments are based. 

Deduction. Conclusion or result of argument. 

Polity. There is a nice distinction between polity and 
policy, both signify a reasoned course of action; the 
former (from which comes political) implies considera- 


tions for the good of the " body politic," the community, 
the nation: the latter may be well intentioned, but is 
as often dictated by expediency. 



i. (6 1 ) Give a short sketch of the school you would 
like to see established on these lines, its curriculum and 

2. (6 2 ) Describe any such manufactories and work- 
shops, and their purpose. 


3. (10, note) (a) Make the comparison suggested in 
Bleak House and Master Humphrey's Clock, (b) How 
would you alter the characters of Mr. Bounderby and 
Stephen Blackpool (Hard Times) to make them more 
telling to-day? 

4. (17) What do you understand by "the romance 
of trade " ? Give some illustrations. 

5. (23) Describe one of the model " works " carried 
on by Captains of Industry to-day. 

6. Make a collection of a score of " economic " 
proverbs and maxims. Discuss in a paragraph two 
which apparently contradict each other. 

7. Think out and describe the occupation in which 
you yourself would wish to spend your working life. 

Supplement this with a talk on two or three hobbies 
which you would choose. 




Ruskin suggests in this title that the circulation of 
wealth in the "body politic," the community or nation, 
resembles that of the blood in the human body. We 
should expect him to seek to establish in the course of 
the essay some further points in the analogy, for instance, 
the causes that make for healthful vigour of the body 
and those that " damp down " conditions of wholesome 

27. Absolute. The distinction between absolute and 
relative terms is interesting: to the former belong 
circular, man, fire) to the latter perpendicular, son, heat. 

28. Note this definition of political economy, and 
the eloquent illustration which follows. 

30. Direct . . . inverse. Remember the arithmetical 
meanings and formulae. 

31. Harmonious results . . . melodious inequalities. 
These are felicitous epithets ; the richness of a full chord 
is got only by the blending of differences, and (as Brown- 
ing reminds us), consists in more than the totality of 
the notes forming it. But each must have been in itself 
melodious, not noise merely. And inequalities, of fortune, 
capacity and attainment are not necessarily ugly or 
noisome, but only when caused by injustice or pressed 
to extremes. 

31, note. Reform our schools . . . prisons. Ruskin 
shared the hopes and enthusiasms of the best thinkers 
of his day, and inspired much of the reforming spirit 
in education. But now, for the first time in our history, 


are any considerable numbers of the population alive to 
its value, keen to advance it, and prepared to honour it. 

34, note. Since Ruskin wrote there have appeared 
many very interesting definitions of money and dis- 
cussions on its functions. In various ages of the world 
many different materials have been used for " money "; 
cattle, skins, corn, salt, tea, shells, slaves and, finally, 
metals. The whole subject is interesting to those who 
care for the story of origins and development. Modern 
economic definitions give us the following: 

(i) Money is any exchangeable good which is both 
a medium of exchange and a measure of value. 

(2) Currency is any medium of exchange which is 
current, or which circulates in any particular region 
{e.g., British currency, French currency). 

(3) Legal tender is any medium of exchange which 
everyone must by law take in exchange: "validity 
secured by legal measures" (Sect. 34). 

With regard to (1) we may notice that money 
might be, and once was, only a measure of value, or 
counters, like the " marks " given for school exercises. 
Thus a goat might be worth 500 shells and a weapon 
250 shells, but the shells themselves worth nothing. 
Their introduction, however, helped the calculation of 
the relative values of the weapon and the goat. But if 
the money itself were valuable, as cattle or cubes of tea, 
it became also a medium of exchange. 

(2) Currency is not quite the same thing as coinage. 
The ancient Empires of Egypt, Chaldaea and Assyria 
had no money, though they had immense commerce, 
for their currency consisted in blocks of metal reckoned 
by weight. 

(3) In the British Isles the gold sovereign is legal 


tender for any amount; so are Bank of England notes 
for £5 and its multiples; silver coins are legal tender up 
to £2; copper coins up to is. After 19 14 the "paper 
money," Treasury notes for £1 and for 10s., super- 
seded gold coins for inland trade, so that the gold 
coins might be at the service of the Government during 
the war. 

A man's labour for the day is a better standard of value, 
etc. Some centuries ago in England when "labour" was 
almost entirely agricultural this standard was actually 
in use. An old table-book contains the scale of relation, 
1 rood has 10 day ewer kes, 1 day ewer ke has 4 perches. 

37. Its real value . . . algebraical sign attached to it. 
It will be remembered that while the signs +, — are 
in arithmetic only signs of operation, capable of altering 
quantity, in Algebra they are signs of kind, or capable 
of changing quality; so that the same operation may 
bring a widely different result. Add + x to + x, and we 
have -\-2x. But add - x to +x and we have o. 

38. Dura Plains. See Daniel hi. 1. 

Gilded index. Index may be used here instead of 
indicator — attractively presented and thus misleading: 
" All that glitters is not gold." Or it may be used in 
the mathematical sense, as the exponent of the " power " 
of the quantity. 

Purchase-pieces of potter's fields. The price given to 
Judas, the betrayer of Christ. — St. Matthew xxvii. 6, 7. 

An available principle, etc. Readers caring to pursue 
this line of thought further will find much of interest 
in the opening chapter of Philip Wicksteed's Common 
Sense of Political Economy. 

The great question of justice, etc. Ruskin always uses 
the term justice in its very fullest meaning; not in the 


narrower sense of judging wrong-doers. So do all 
writers on economics who maintain that the science is 
a part of Ethics, i.e. concerned with the idea / ought. 

39. These points are being forcibly illustrated to- 
day. The "unrest" throughout civilised societies is not 
solely on account of the desire for riches as for that 
intangible wealth which results from the right relations 
of human beings with one another. 

40. Byzants. Or besants, an Eastern coin which 
preceded the noble. 

Outcome and consummation of all wealth. . . . Though 
even a heathen philosopher declared that " it is not houses 
or colonnades or market-places that make a city, but 
men," and Christian civilisation is based on the dignity 
of human life, these canons have been largely forgotten 
or ignored in the modern theories of national progress. 

41. Adamant of Golconda. A reference to the famous 
diamond mines of Hindustan. 

A damant. Old word, from which diamond comes. 

" These are My Jewels." The proud utterance of 
Cornelia, the mother of the twin Gracchi, Roman 
patriots, pointing to her sons. 



I. (28) (a) Suggest three more examples which you 
yourself could supply, (b) What characters in fiction 
do you remember who were (1) models or (2) warnings 
in any of these or similar ways ? 


2. (33-35) Compose another story on the lines of 
this to illustrate the same truth. 

3. (36) Suggest some groups of Three Trades to 
represent the three men in this illustration. Let one, 
at least, of your groups bring in foreign trade. 

4. (39) Suggest some of these " joys " ; and give 
actual illustrations of the " fidelities " which cannot be 
bought for, or rewarded by, gold. 

5. (40) What actual plans and proposals do you know 
of which are intended to remedy the " dim-eyed and 
narrow-chested state of being ? " 

6. (41) What do you understand by " Souls of a good 
quality " ? 

7. Describe your ideal " Life of a Happy Worker." 



In this essay Ruskin gets into close quarters with 
the conflict in principle of considerations of justness, 
and the bald teachings of the current political economy. 

42. Left among his ledgers some general maxims con- 
cerning wealth. Any one of the anonymous authors of 
the collection of moral sayings handed down to us in 
the so-called Proverbs of Solomon. 

43. The sad irony of this paragraph becomes intensi- 
fied throughout this essay and the following one. 

44. This is a beautiful exposition of the true principles 
of commercial intercourse, whence emerges the con- 
sciousness of brotherhood, not rivalry and hatred. 


Sun of Justice. Ruskin employs the Vulgate transla- 
tion. The Authorised Version of the English Bible 
throughout substitutes " righteousness," which is thus 
familiar (and rather vague in its meaning) to most 

Every other means, emollient or consolatory . . . except 
justice. The watchword of impatient workers is a rough 
rendering of this: "We want Justice not Charity." 

44, note. This very full and clear note is worth careful 

46. Which prudence is of no mean order. Prudence is 
ranked by theologians among the four Cardinal (or 
chief) Virtues; and in its high Christian sense it guides 
and illuminates. But in common usage its meaning 
has deteriorated, and generous minds are often disposed 
to scorn its precepts. Ruskin seeks to restore its original 
force and brings forward its historical and Catholic 

Represented by Dante, etc. The Divine Comedy, 
Paradiso, xviii., xix. 

47. As much justice as we need for all practical use. 
Cf. " Whoso doeth the will of God, he shall know of the 

47, note. Again the symbolic statements of Algebra 
are employed to make clear the argument. Written out 
in full it would stand: 

Value = labour x force of demand; i.e. a product. , 

48. The considerations in this paragraph, if mastered 
and appreciated, will help us to see through the mean 
attractions of "a bargain." It is first ignorance, and next 
selfishness, that bolster up the seductiveness of specula- 
tive dealings on the Stock Exchange and Summer sales. 


49, note. The qualities of character which render science 
possible. Development of intelligence so that theory can 
be blended with practice ; and the knowledge of principles 
underlying the details of work. This makes all forms of 
work more interesting and generally more valuable than 
mere rule-of-thumb execution. 

49. Empirical . . . analytical. The one implies rough 
estimate by actual practice (cf. " pinch of salt " in 
amateur cookery); the other the testing by breaking 
up into component parts and weighing or measuring 

50. This paragraph is a clear exposition of the fallacy 
contained in the proverb, " Half a loaf is better than 
no bread," if taken as an economic principle. 

52. Tendency of the system is to check advancement. 
This is plainly given by labour leaders to-day as one of 
the conditions against which workers rebel. Also it is 
artificial, and there are quite enough natural and in- 
evitable checks among the more tolerable " disabilities 
of poverty." 

53, note. The question of Free Trade or Protection is 
still a knotty one. With a world at peace it seems that 
the producing of goods where they are most readily and 
conveniently grown or made is only in due accordance 
with the principle of the division of labour. For farmers 
or fruit-growers to claim subsidies from Government in 
order to cultivate the lower slopes of Skiddaw or the 
Cornish dunes for wheat or tomatoes would obviously 
be absurd. Yet the wholesale adoption of the theory 
of " most conveniently grown or made " during the past 
fifty years had in 19 14 resulted in Britain having lost 
some of her most important industries to more enter- 


prising nations; and among them some essential or 
" key " manufactures. For this, every responsible mem- 
ber of the community who had practised the gospel of 
" cheapness " was partly to blame; since this is the final 
and supreme test of "greatest ease and convenience 
of production." The Great War has forced upon the 
British nation the recognition that cheap bread does not 
compensate for a depleted rural population; nor cheap 
fabrics for the perishing of small industries. Those 
interested in this question may like to read Industry 
and Commerce, by Cunningham, as well as the chapters 
on the subject in the ordinary text-books. A via media 
of the present day is the idea of Imperial Preference or 
Free Trade within the British Empire. 

53. Yet, to be just, etc. Pope's Moral Essays, Epistle 
III., to Allen, Lord Bathurst. 

54. Collateral . . . reversionary. A collateral operation 
may be said to be one which goes on simultaneously, 
or side by side with another; reversionary or comple- 
mentary operations those which take place when the 
original ones cease. 

54, note. Here Ruskin lets himself go to the extent 
of poking fun at the pompous supporters of " things 
as they are." 

Soldiers of the Ploughshare as well as Soldiers of the 
Sword. In his collected papers, A Joy for Ever. 

55. The writings which we (verbally) esteem . . . mammon 
service. See I. Timothy vi. 10, and St. Matthew vi. 24. 

Tai . . . inope. Dante, Paradiso, xix. 109 (cf. St. 
Matthew xii. 41). 

Christians like these the JEthiop shall condemn : 

When that the two assemblages shall part; 

One rich eternally, the other poor. — Gary's Trans. 




1. (43) Write two short paragraphs as opening 
speeches in a debate, one supporting, the other opposing 
the statement: "We are taken in by lying labels, titles 
and advertisements, because we are too. idle to learn 
what we ought to know." 

2. (45) Give some historical and geographical in- 
stances to illustrate this. 

3. (46) What is the difference between legal and 
fust ? And between justice and equity ? 

4. (53, note) Write a paragraph on (1) Import Duties; 
(2) Customs Houses; (3) Smuggling. 

5- (53) Give a prose version of the quotation from 

6. (54) Collect some literary allusions to the " Plough- 
share and the Sword," and the " Pen and the Sword." 
Of what are these implements the emblems ? 

7. What drawbacks do you recognise in the lot of a 
millionaire ? 



■ Here is the" summing up of the whole argument. The 
title indicates that Value, that curse of economic theory, 
is the leading idea; and that its meaning is complex. 
The subjective capacity contributes as much as the 
objective material; in Ruskin's words, " it must be not 


only of an availing nature, but in availing hands." In 
the course of the essay he derides the misconceptions 
as to what constitutes value, and therefore wealth, 
which had disfigured economic theory and. misled 
economic practice, from Adam Smith's days to his own. 

56. Ambiguous. Open to two or more interpretations; 

56-57. The substance of these paragraphs is rather 
technical, and may need reading twice. The early econo- 
mists worked for a clear distinction between produc- 
tive and unproductive labourers; for example, those 
employed on producing a marketable commodity of 
indisputable utility and necessity, as saucepans, basins ; 
and those producing articles of ornament or luxury, 
as necklaces, vases. They recognised also a still less 
"productive" labourer; the attendant or servant em- 
ployed by the rich for ostentation or the performance 
of trivial personal services. But though the distinction 
is possible in clearly marked cases, as in cultivation 
of the land on the one hand, and a liveried footman on 
the other, there is a very wide area, and by no means 
a straight line, dividing the two. Under some circum- 
stances agricultural labour might be " unproductive," 
if thriftlessly or unintelligently applied; and in some 
cases, equally, personal attendants may be giving "pro- 
ductive " services if they relieve the employer of petty 
distractions and set him free for valuable duties, public 
or private. 

59. Many of Mill's definitions are faulty and thus, as 
in the case of value, they lay him open to the rather 
merciless reductio ad absurdum of this paragraph. But 
definitions, whether literary or scientific, are not easy to 
construct. A modern accepted economic definition of 
value is "The capacity of any good to be estimated as 


desirable," and though faultless, it is too much of an 
abstraction to be enjoyed by ordinary readers. 

Shakespeare realised the difficulty of the subject, and 
gives us — 

What things there are 
Most abject in regard and dear in use: 
What things again most dear in the esteem 
And poor in worth ! 1 

A pot of the smallest ale . . . A donis painted by a running 
brook. Enumerated in the tricking of Christopher Sly. 
Induction to the Taming of the Shrew. 

Demos, in the shape of Christopher Sly. Demos, 
personification of the people, or of popular opinion; 
Christopher Sly, the tinker in the Induction to the 
Taming of the Shrew. 

Notice the skilful syllogism. 

60. David Ricardo, like Mill, was a highly-esteemed 
writer on political economy, best known for his Theory 
of Rent. The demolition of Ms position is undertaken 
in a less serious vein, and is quite comical. 

60, note. The algebraical statement here is beautifully 

Let y represent demand, and x represent quantity of 

Then when y is constant, xy oc x. 

But we are reminded that demand never is constant 
when quantity of labour is not, or there would be no 
such things as scarcity and monopoly. 

60, note. The force of the buyer's capable intention 
to buy. Ruskin's clear-headed blame led economists 
to adopt the truer expression " effective demand." The 
word " demand " is a good example of the difference 

1 Troilus and Cressida, iii. 3. 


of meaning which a term may have in its technical and 
in its ordinary sense. 

61. This paragraph is delightful to lovers of words. 
The deterioration and drift from true expression which 
results from common and careless use of words is per- 
petually illustrated when we need them in some weighty 
matter. It closes with a magnificent peroration, ending 
a sentence of twenty- two lines. Ruskin's energy and 
fervour permit him sometimes to achieve wonderful 
structures. It would be an interesting exercise to write 
out the principal line of thought with all illustrations 
and parentheses stripped off, and see what is lost. 

62, note. The Church Porch, George Herbert: 
Yet in thy thriving still misdoubt some evil ; 
Lest gaining gain on thee, and make thee dim 
To all things else. Wealth is the conjuror's devil; 
Whom when he thinks he hath, the devil hath him. 

Gold thou mayst safely touch; but if it stick 
Unto thy hands, it woundeth to the quick. 

65. Sure, etc. Pope's Essay on Man. The generous 
disposition has often in it an element of recklessness 
which leads its possessor to act upon impulse rather 
than calculation. 

Persons who become rich, etc. These two groups of 
epithets are worth considering. The first shows that 
several characteristics conducive to getting rich are 
anything but admirable; the second, that not all those 
which conduce to poverty are despicable. 

66. This is an example of Ruskin's scorching scrutiny. 
The term " profit " at which he is tilting, has of late 
years been termed " increment " (meaning addition), 
and the complexities of modern business relations have 
also given us " unearned increment," implying " un- 
earned by the party receiving the addition." 


The plus quantities, etc. Here Ruskin uses the alge- 
braical (qualitative) meaning of the symbols. Since 
i860 "plus-es" and "minus-es" have become familiar 

A kind of red ink. A grim euphemism for blood. 

67. Catallactics. Economics, like most sciences, has 
a large array of uncouth terms. This one, used by 
Archbishop Whateley (1831) in a lecture on the Science 
of Exchange, fortunately never became incorporated in 
the vocabulary. 

A needle for a diamond. It is instructive to recognise 
that much of British industrial wealth is founded on the 
commercial intercourse established with primitive 
peoples. A gay cotton handkerchief or a string of glass 
beads exchanged for a load of cocoa-nuts, or a bundle 
of plumage would tend to " enrich " one party to the 

Founded on nescience, etc. In its original use science 
signified knowledge, later, a body of systematised know- 
ledge, and, later still, the collection of principles under- 
lying one branch of one department of knowledge. 
From science (scio, I know) come its derivatives pre- 
science, or knowing beforehand, and nescience, not 

Artlessness. The word here has not the commendatory 
sense as when applied to a child's outlook, but to the 
absence of art where it is needed. 

Fish . . . serpent. St. Matthew vii. 10. 

68. Merchant. From merces, payment; hence mer- 

As a nail, etc. Ecclesiaticus xxvii. 2. 
Zechariah's roll. Zech. v. 1. Septuagint, "flying 


69. Metaphysical and psychical problem, In meta- 
physics is studied the order of things outside nature: 
in psychics the order of things of the soul. 

David counting the price. II. Samuel xxiii. 15, 16. 

Four variable quantities. For a price to be arrived at 
we must have an equation; A x B = a x ft, and as 
each of the four varies, any variation in one of the 
quantities must be corrected, or balanced, by variation 
in others. 

70. note. This charming note gives us a taste of 
Ruskin's skill and delight in elucidating the old myths, 
more fully displayed in his Queen of the Air (1869). 

71. Here we have a glance at the principles underlying 
the theory of Rent; one of the most thorny subjects 
in economics. 

Cheap. From the old term for market; whence 
Cheapside, Eastcheap, etc. This deep comparison makes 
us look foolish, but we continue to say " human effort 
is cheap," with some bitterness perhaps. 

72. Nugatory. Making of no effect. 

Negative side . . . positive side. Another mathe- 
matical illustration, taken from Analytical Conies in 
Ruskin's day, but familiar to most of us now in the 
" Graphs " of elementary Algebra. 

Wife is . . . the vine, etc. Ps. exxviii. 3. 

Consumption absolute is the end, crown, and perfection 
of production. To Ruskin's clear sight is owing the much 
later recognition of this truth by economists. 

73. Caput vivum, not caput mortuum. An illustration 
borrowed from chemistry. Caput mortuum is the 
residuum when the volatile matter is released. Through- 
out, Ruskin is considering Capital in its full, true 
meaning, not in the narrow technical sense in which it 


is used in economics. There it means "Wealth devoted 
to the production of further wealth"; and it is, of 
course, of various forms. It is also correctly described 
as the " result of saving." 

Root producing root, bulb issuing in bulb. This time 
an illustration from Botany (the science) or horticulture 
(the art) of the cultivation of plants. Perhaps we may 
see in this paragraph a dignified presentation of the 
ugly pursuit known as " money-grubbing." 

Prince Rupert's drops. Molten glass dropped inta 
cold water. A chemical experiment devised by Prince 
Rupert, grandson of James I. 

A polypous manner. A polypus is a growth of a fun- 
goid nature, never beneficial to the organism upon which 
it feeds. 

The succeeding lines are an eloquent tribute to the 
joy of work, as realised in the great primal occupations 
of husbandry. 

An advance from Tisiphone, on mortgage (Tisiphone, 
p. 105, note). " The requiter " will exact the repayment 
of the loan at the borrower's death, a mortgage being 
the first charge on the estate of the dead borrower. 

74. The type of Ixion. In the myth Ixion promised 
his father-in-law to give him the value of the bridal 
gifts he owed, but treacherously murdered him. Purified 
of his sin by Zeus, he again sought to eschew his debt 
of gratitude, and to win Hera from Zeus. Zeus = Jupiter, 
Hera = Juno. 

This paragraph is a triumphant example of packed 
eloquence, the line of narrative bearing a luxuriant 
series of branches — simile, illustration, and allusion — 
in a sentence of nearly thirty lines. 

Demas' silver mine. Another myth of covetousness. 


Juno. The Queen of Heaven in the Greek mythology. 

Centaurs. Powerful monsters, half man, half horse. 

Dante's Geryon. Divine Comedy, Inferno, xvii. 105. 
The strange monster which bore Dante and Virgil from 
the Seventh to the Eighth Circle, the " lowest hell/' 
the "uncleanly image of Fraud. . . . His face was the 
face of a just man, so mild an aspect had it outwardly; 
and the rest was all a reptile's body." (Wicksteed's 

The Ezekiel vision. Ezekiel i. 15, 16. 

76. The dictum of Mill that " a demand for com- 
modities is not a demand for labour " is another example 
of infelicitous expression of a partial truth incurring 
rejection of it altogether. Later writers have hammered 
at it until it is not allowed to stand without innumerable 
qualifications, and it is the more easy to perceive its 
faultiness since the conditions of the modern world are 
widely different from those when Mill and Ruskin wrote. 

Not an iron filing. Here is a stimulating novelty in 
place of the ancient "jot or tittle," or the threadbare 
" scrap " or the classical " iota." 

77. How much life it produces. Here we have the real 
kernel of the truth Ruskin is laying down throughout 
the whole treatise: " There is no Wealth but Life." 

79. Claim your crumbs . . . right to be holy, perfect, 
pure. The demand of labour to-day for better conditions 
of life, though obscured to the general gaze by the 
violence or material greed of a noisy few, is marked by* 
a real appreciation of the things that make for Life. 
Could Ruskin have seen it before he sank beneath 
a consciousness of failure, it would have rejoiced his 

80. Natural rate of wages. Ricardo's slack definition 


makes him an easy victim; certainly the alternatives 
of " greater number " or " happier number " did not 
embarrass the economists of his day. 

Properties of cones and the sizes of stars. Branches 
of mathematics: Conic Sections and Astronomy. 

A trenchant little sketch of human progress from 
primitive patriarchal conditions, through the prophet- 
leader period, to the warrior-king state, with its separate 
provision of religious teachers. 

82. Search for felicity as well as for food. This assertion 
is well borne out in the present day when merely material 
good is found to be quite inadequate to satisfy the dis- 

See Proverbs viii. 31, and xv. 30. 

All lovely things are also necessary. This is a leading 
idea in Ruskin's thought. He has no patience with 
useless ornament, and sees, in the wonderful provision 
of natural beauty on the earth, the satisfaction of a part 
of man which cannot be sustained by bread — that is, by 
material fullness. 

83. What is chiefly needed. This is a needful reminder 
in our present energetic schemes for social betterment. 
There is peril that we may demand too much of 
" Government," or organisation of some kind, and 
neglect to contribute enough of personal, individual 

The simple life, the " plain living and high thinking " 
of Wordsworth, is indicated as the happy via media. 

Justice and peace. Vulgate rendering, Psalm lxxxv. 13. 

Them that make peace. St. James iii. 18. 

" Business " is now quite differentiated from "busy- 
ness," as "holiday" from "holy-day": yet both are 
essentially the same and equally opposed to serenity. 


84. To make much of. To esteem, to treat with care. 
These four considerations duly observed would have 

•made unnecessary Food Control and a Food Ministry, 
and " profiteering " a meaningless term. 

oo-ov kv, k.t.A. Hesiod's Works and Days, 40-41. 

Fools! they know not how much the half exceeds the whole, 
nor how great blessing lies in marrow and asphodel. — Aristophanes. 

85. This closing paragraph has a singular appro- 
priateness just now. The cruelties of war have sickened 
us; its rage of destruction impoverished us — materially; 
yet the prolonged strife has awakened a sleeping readi- 
ness to snatch advantages. The generosity and fortitude 
which withheld no sacrifice to preserve us from defeat 
must not be wanting in the subtler perils of conquest. 

Bearing precious seed. Psalm cxxvi. 6. 

Unto this last as unto thee. St. Matthew xx. 13, 14. 

Wicked . . . weary. Job iii. 17. 



i. (56) Suggest some circumstances and conditions 
in which the following would not be wealth: (1) a £$> 
Bank of England note. (2) A gold sovereign. (3) A fur 
coat. (4) A motor-car. 

2. (61) How do (1) the possession of jewels, (2) 
the wearing of fine clothes, (3) the visiting of picture 
theatres, (4) belonging to a football or chess club, 
(5) attending a firework display, — avail towards life? 



3. (66) Give a brief account of some of the great 
constructions or discoveries during the past hundred 
years which have brought about material gain or profit. 

4. (70) Memorise the first paragraph. Can you name 
some splendid conquests ? 

5. (73) What is the point of the question: "Where 
are your furrows " ? 

6. (81) State briefly some of the minuses to set off 
against the pluses of an industrialised England. 

7. (83) (a) What movements can you name which at 
the present time seem to encourage simplicity and 
sincerity of life ? (b) What ideas or conditions are against 



John Ruskin was born on 8th February, 1819, at 
54, Hunter Street, Brunswick Square, London. His 
father was a Scottish wine merchant, a man of char- 
acter and refinement, whose example undoubtedly 
inspired his conception of a true merchant as truly as 
that of George Eliot's father accounts for her Caleb 
Garth and Adam Bede. His mother, a most devout 
Evangelical Christian, while sharing and exhibiting 
to the full the limitations of early nineteenth-century 
womanhood, shone in all the narrow excellences of 
the home-life of the time. The first quarter of the 
past century saw only the dawn of the coming 
emancipation of childhood from the ponderous re- 
strictions of adult ideas. Boys and girls of the 
period had no actual, but only potential, use or 
beauty. One day they would become men and 
women ; their dress, behaviour and outlook were de- 
signed to anticipate this future by imitation, and all 
peculiarly child-like characteristics were as far as 
possible suppressed or concealed. It is a perpetual 
mystery to the psychologist of to-day that from this 
system of rearing there emerged a host of shining 
personalities, which our present enlightened methods 
will be hard put to it to surpass. 

In accordance, then, with the prevailing ideas, 
little John Ruskin learnt the meaning of discipline 


from babyhood. Crying was of no avail; it was not 
permitted. John Wesley's mother, we are told, per- 
mitted it in her larger brood, but they must "cry 
quietly." Mrs. Ruskin, with her one boy, made no 
concession. Small faults were swiftly punished, lapses 
and misdemeanours carried penalties of "no fruit " 
•or " no pudding." John's toys were odd household 
fragments, invested by his imagination with all kinds 
*©f mysterious qualities and habitudes. He would 
Me «on his stomach examining a square foot of the 
dining-room carpet until it had yielded up to him 
its secrets of colour and texture and blend, of which 
he was to make such wonderful use in years to come. 

Serious offences of course involved whipping, which, 
we may be quite willing to think, hurt his gentle 
mother as much as it hurt him. Self-control and self- 
possession, which he justly valued and extolled in 
later life, were early taught by the coercive suggestion 
of saving his helping of pudding or favourite cake 
for a less fortunate child, and his tiny instalments of 
pocket-money for the missionary-box. 

He early learnt to read and apparently (as it 
seems was often the case before there was so much 
teaching) without difficulty. Before this his mother 
was accustomed to read to him, almost entirely from 
the Bible; when he had mastered the art they read 
it aloud in alternate verses. Not the " story " parts 
only, but from cover to cover; Genesis to Malachi 
and St. Matthew to Revelation. And the unfor- 
tunate verse-and-chapter divisions of "the worst- 



printed book in the world/' did not prevent the 
majesty and music of the English Authorised version 
from sinking into the boyish mind, and stirring the 
youthful heart, and colouring the child's imagination 
so that always his thought bore the impress of 
its nobility, and his language the fullness of its 

Later he read (and we may be sure learnt) Scott 
and Byron and Rogers, Young and Campbell, and 
made acquaintance with the solid prose of the period. 
For a short time he went to a day-school and then 
read with a private tutor. At the age of seventeen 
he entered Christ Church, Oxford, and won the New- 
digate prize in 1839, with other University honours. 
He continued to live at home in the vacations 
and, as in his boyhood, went with his parents on 
their yearly journeys, in which his father combined 
his business with the pleasure. The}^ travelled in a 
specially-fitted post-chaise and thus, in leisurely 
fashion, Ruskin saw the greater part of the British 
Isles and the tourist's Continent. And all the time 
he was observing and reflecting. Perhaps it was as 
well that he had not had toys to distract him, for, 
like R. L. Stevenson, he was never " bored," and his 
gift for seeing, and his habits of reflection, together 
resulted in a sense of relation which hasty scholars 
invariably lack. 

Ruskin had very early practised the art of self- 
expression, writing verse in the nursery; and he also 
mastered the brush, the knife and the chisel. So 



that one of his biographers very justly points out, 
" his first-hand knowledge or arts and crafts gave 
him real insight into the finer qualities of work." 
His friendship with Turner, and his interest in the 
painter's work and method, filled a large space in his 
life as a young man. At the age of twenty-four he 
brought out the first volume of Modem Painters, 
which was followed at irregular intervals by four more 
volumes, the last appearing in i860. During these 
years he also wrote The Stones of Venice, in three 
volumes, and the Seven Lamps of Architecture with 
his own illustrations. 

Then- he began to be in request as a lecturer at 
various places from the Royal Institution to the 
Working Men's College, and from Eton and Woolwich 
to private schools for girls. And however much his 
subject might deal with art, his real theme was ever 
the Art of Life. His dismay at the growing ugliness 
of industrial England, and his desire to help workers 
to emerge from their sordid conditions, led him to 
help the social reformers Maurice and Kingsley in 
their efforts. The Working Men's College was the 
result of their labour and, later, he founded the 
St. George's Guild. Out of his dissatisfaction had 
come Unto this Last, and its sequel, Munera Pulveris, 
both equally unacceptable to mid- Victorian Eng- 
land, with numerous other utterances condemning 
the economic theories and system of the day. 

In 1870 he was appointed to the Slade Professorship 
of Art at Oxford, and many of his lectures there are 


collected in the volumes with curious titles which 
appear among his works. His art work brought him 
a good income, and " finding himself rich he piously 
and prudently began to grow poor again for the sake 
of the poor; giving one-tenth of his fortune, for 
instance, for the buying of land for them." The 
members of St. George's Guild did the same, its object 
being a two-fold one of protesting in a practical way 
against the mercantile spirit and " to succour child- 
hood and educate it," thus conserving and treasuring 
the true wealth of the nation. He had a real love 
for young people and children, and thought no 
trouble too great if perchance he could interest and 
amuse them. His book Ethics of the Dust consists 
of Talks to little Schoolgirls about what he terms 
" familiar minerals," which he gave at a school in 
the country so that these pupils at least " might have 
a vital interest in the subject when they began to 
study it as science." He says quite plainly that 
" no science can be learned in play," but play may 
often make intelligent children desire to work. 

The John Ruskin School at Camberwell and the 
May-Day and other celebrations at Whitelands 
College, Chelsea, are memorials of this affection of his. 

Indeed, in all the matters on which he felt strongly, 
Ruskin endeavoured to practise his own theories. 
Some of these attempts brought upon him the open 
ridicule of thoughtless or disapproving people ; some 
failed to appeal to the very persons he wanted to help. 
Thus, a shop he opened at Paddington in a poor 


neighbourhood where tea was sold as cheaply in small 
quantities to the small customers as if they had been 
able to buy a large amount at one time, was very 
partially successful because the people preferred 
the kind of shop they were used to. And when, as 
Slade Professor at Oxford, he led a band of enthusi- 
astic undergraduates to mend a road near the city, 
the faulty result was laughed at, not always good- 

Ruskin was not happy in his marriage and had no 
children of his own, but lived a rather lonely life after 
he set up his own house. His mother lived to the 
age of ninety, and her son revered her in remembrance 
as he had loved her in life. From 1872 onwards, till 
his death in 1900, he lived at Coniston, the latter years 
in almost complete retirement. The village library, 
the linen and metal industries at Keswick, the Lang- 
dale hand-weaving, are all mementoes of his pioneer 
work in a direction which the twentieth-century mind 
supports more fully than did the preceding — the 
endeavour to restore to the worker his craft, and with 
it his share in the joy and pride of good work. 

A more imposing commemoration of his thought 
and labour exists in the foundation of Ruskin College 
at Oxford, where working men may study the 
principles of civic duty and responsibility. 

John Ruskin has been described by a distinguished 
essayist 1 as " one of the greatest of great men of all 
ages," and it remains for the present generation 

1 Mrs. Meynell, John Ruskin (" Modern English Writers "). 


to recognise this. In his own modest sincerity he laid 
claim only to being "not an unjust person; not an 
unkind one; a lover of order, labour, and peace." 

He lies buried in Coniston churchyard, a runic 
cross marking his grave, amid the beautiful scenery 
of one of the fairest districts in his beloved England. 



Most treatises which aim at giving instruction on 
subjects of study begin with a quiet statement of 
what is intended, or a definition of the title. In Unto 
this Last Ruskin has a much more lively opening. 
He clears the way for the developing of his theme by 
attacking the prevailing notions and the methods of 
teaching political economy. He was writing in i860, 
and the modern outlook of economics owes much to 
him for its emancipation from the theory of the 
classical economists, otherwise known as the " Man- 
chester School," or the laissez-faire-ists. But, as 
he reminds the reader in his preface, his ideas met 
with a very discouraging reception, and occasioned 
an outburst of angry denunciation. Very slowly 
indeed did his interpretations of economic facts and 
conditions win their way ; though looking back over 
the teachings of the intervening years we see how 
they helped to leaven the dense mass. 

The term " economy " as used here, denotes system 
or management (" House-law," Preface, Sect. 3) and 
has no necessary connection with thrift. But it implies 
right ordering and judicious control. With the adjec- 
tive "political" preceding it, the phrase signifies the 
right ordering of the affairs of the community, or 
nation, the " body politic " of the old writers. But 


since the words politics, political, and polity have 
become almost appropriated to state government, 
and narrowed to express the methods by which this 
is carried on the wider meaning of " concerning the 
whole community " has been lost. 

Hence the subject-matter of the book, and of those 
which its writer attacks, is now generally known as 
economics. It is a science because it is a body of 
knowledge based upon certain principles or laws. 
It is not, however, one of the exact sciences like 
mathematics, or even like chemistry, because there 
always enters into its considerations the " inconstant " 
elements of human desires, feelings and motives. 
In academic classification it ranks as a moral science, 
belonging to a group distinct from the natural 
sciences; and is a part of moral philosophy or ethics. 
Ethics is concerned with conduct, the comprehension 
of the idea I ought, and economics belongs to that part 
of the study of human actions in society; that is, in 
the ordinary business of life, getting a living. 

The practical side of economics shows us that it 
is also an art; or rather, as has been aptly said, 
" social science, or civics, is the art of economics." 
We are reminded of arithmetic, which is both ; being 
the "science of number," and the " art of calculation." 

When Ruskin wrote, however, applied economics 
was understood almost solely as the art of getting 
rich; and was so devoid of inspiration that some 
one called it the " dismal science " and the name 
stuck; in its modern development it might well be 


grouped in the Scientice Humaniores if there were 
such a classification. 

The monumental work of Adam Smith, which 
appeared in 1785, discussed and rightly explained 
many of the causes of the " Wealth of Nations,' 1 
as evident in the Britain of his day. In preceding 
ages industry and trade had suffered from overmuch 
regulation and interference by monarchs and govern- 
ments, and had not developed, through too close 
an adherence to custom or usage. But in the period 
1760-85 were laid the foundations of the modern 
system of industry. Then took place those improve- 
ments in mining and iron-smelting ; that development 
of land and water transport ; and the device of apply- 
ing power to machines, which together brought about 
greater changes in the face of the country and in 
the lives of the people than had taken place through 
all the centuries since the Conquest. 

At the same time there was, through the opening- 
up of markets in the East and in the New World, 
a great expansion of trade among unsophisticated 
populations who had not hitherto been much in 
contact with the products of Europe. Thus began 
those major industries of cotton-spinning and calico- 
printing, of making metal and hardware objects and 
utensils, and of pottery and glass and the many minor 
or accessory trades, with whose growth and develop- 
ment are connected the great centres of industrial 
life, Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham, Sheffield, 
and the Staffordshire Five-Towns. 


It is true that, through the increased wealth of 
the country, England was able to win through the 
Napoleonic wars which had ruined most of the 
continental countries; and equally true that the 
possession of this wealth did not conduce to the well- 
being of the bulk of the people. But this was a much 
later discovery. 

It seemed to Adam Smith and his successors, 
down to i860 and even later, that men's energy and 
intelligence would be sure to be well employed if 
they followed the dictates of self-interest and enjoyed 
economic freedom. The resulting competition would 
be a sufficient regulating influence, and the action 
of the forces of supply and demand would result 
in a sort of equilibrium, where would be found 
"natural " price; the seller being determined to sell 
in the dearest market and the buyer to buy in the 

Long before Ruskin wrote, the great change in 
the methods of production, which is known as the 
Industrial Revolution, was complete. Village indus- 
tries had migrated to towns ; factory production had 
superseded home-work; machines had replaced the 
human hand; the centres of the great manufactures 
had become thickly-populated towns ; and the hastily- 
built streets of houses designed to shelter the workers 
who thronged thither had already become the 
* ■ slums " of which we are ashamed. Hence he con- 
tended that, since the working out of the economic 
theory had far from resulted in the general good, 


the principles deserved to be called " mercantile " 
rather than " political " economy- 

As a result of this wide difference he seeks to give 
a truer definition of Wealth than had hitherto been 
attempted by economists, and arrives at it in his 
fourth discussion, " Ad Valorem," the three preceding 
essays leading up to it. 

There is much that is interesting to lovers of words 
in the word " wealth," its origin, build, growth, 
and equivalents. In structure it resembles " health " ; 
and we still have, in infrequent use, the word " weal " 
from which it comes. So also we have the two forms 
"Commonweal" and "Commonwealth," the latter the 
more familiar of the two. The true original meaning 
of " wealth " was undoubtedly " well-being," the 
condition of being well, as that of " health " was the 
condition of being healed or whole. The latter word, 
we notice, has become almost colourless, and we 
speak of " good " and " ill " and " poor " and 
" robust " health. On the other hand, " wealth " 
has become more positive, and narrowed in signifi- 
cance to mean material wealth. An equivalent term 
was " goods," simply the plural of " good," and 
covered spiritual as well as material things, as sight, 
capacity, happiness; but the present meaning of 
"goods" is almost solely material and, indeed, 
implies heavy or bulky substance. 

In economics, as in all sciences, there is a special 
terminology, gritty and repellent at first, but full 
of interest and meaning on further acquaintance. 


Words used in ordinary speech have certain limited 
and technical meanings, hence definitions have to be 
carefully framed and adhered to. We remember the 
same peculiarity appears in arithmetic, where simple 
words like " common," " proper," " vulgar " and 
" practice," have meanings quite different from their 
everyday significations. 

The following are two of the accepted current 
definitions of wealth : 

" Wealth consists of all desirable things which 
are transferable " ; and " Wealth consists of all those 
things which satisfy human wants and have an 
exchange value." 

Thus, in its economic sense, wealth is not simply 
" goods " ; to be technically classed as wealth things 
must {a) satisfy wants, and (b) be able to be exchanged 
for something else, that is, bought and sold. So that 
though air and sunshine are indispensable to life, 
and affection, and capacity for enjoying literature, 
music, or exercise of skill, are indeed " goods " to 
their possessors, they are not economic wealth because 
they cannot be " exchanged." Ruskin's own definition 
is evolved only after carefully determining the mean- 
ings of " having " and of " useful " ("Ad Valorem," 
Sect. 64). He describes the science of wealth as 
at once the science of accumulation and the science 
of distribution ; and shows that accumulation is 
not always possession, and that distribution is not 
scattering, but discriminating allotment, "the right 
thing to the right man." It may be added that the 


definitions of wealth given above suffice to meet his 
posers of the drowned passenger with the belt of 
gold about him, and the body of St. Carlo Borromeo 
(" Ad Valorem," Sect. 62). 

To the remark of the economist that "to be 
wealthy is to have a large stock of useful articles/' 
Ruskin would add "which we can use": the can 
is more important than the have; that is, capacity 
is as essential an element in wealth as materials or 
rights. Hence he deduces his own definition, which 
we can appreciate best after carefully mastering the 
steps by which it is reached: "Wealth is the pos- 
session of the valuable by the valiant." He here uses 
the term " valiant " where the word " virtuous " is 
more familiar, following the old translation of the 
Vulgate — cf. Proverbs xxxi. i.: "Who can find a 
virtuous woman?" (Authorised Version); "Who 
can find a valiant woman? " (Douai Version from 

There is no question, therefore, that to Ruskin, 
political economy is a moral science ; most intimately 
concerned with the mind and will of man, and not 
an investigation of the action of blind forces, demand 
and supply, competition, iron laws and irresistible 
tendencies. " Political economy," he says, " must 
be a science respecting human capacities and dis- 

Until Ruskin' s passionate appeal won a hearing, and 
to some extent leavened the practical application of 
economic laws (or consequences), writers on political 


economy had sought to be cold observers ard metho- 
dical recorders of the actions of man in the ordinary 
business of life ; and to divest their treatment of any 
moral or ethical considerations. With their frosty 
abstraction " economic man," they desired the intru- 
sion and interference of as few disturbing elements, 
such as human feelings, as possible, and aimed at as 
detached and unimpassioned reasoning as in a propo- 
sition in geometry. They bequeathed to their succes- 
sors some remnants of this method, as is seen in the 
phraseology of academic studies in political and social 
economy; the substitution of the cautious " tends to 
bring about," or " tends to increase," and that potent 
qualification, the convenient enclosure for straying 
particulars (or pound as it has been derisively called), 
ceteris paribus, " other things being equal." 

We know how dull history can become when it 
consists only of " movements " and " tendencies," 
and even geography in its old form of measurements, 
with the human agent and the humane outlook 
ignored. And as economics is, in itself, a more abstract 
study than any other in which man is a part, it is no 
wonder that ordinary people found it uninteresting, 
dull, and even " dismal." Until the spark of Ruskin's 
fervour had kindled something like a living flame, 
its exponents had treated it almost as though its 
principles acted in a vacuum. 

There are still various " schools " of economists, 
and the disagreements between their representatives 
have " tended " still further to repel the general 


reader. But the progressive humanisation of its 
treatment, and the growing rejection of " political 
economy without a conscience," have led to the in- 
corporation of economics as a part of social science, 
or civics, with which every intelligent citizen is inti- 
mately concerned and of which he cannot afford to 
be ignorant. 

Unto this Last is an admirable introduction to the 
study, first for its spiritual appeal, next for its sin- 
cerity and fervour, and last^-but truly not least — for 
its fine English, its music of phrase and felicity of 
word, its rich fullness of thought. The writer's love 
of knowledge and his wide culture enable him to illu- 
minate his theme with unexpectedly piercing lights ; 
his ardent thought glows through his vivid expression ; 
his occasional extravagances are the outcome of a 
justifiable moral indignation. 

Tardily enough his ethical fervour has evoked 
response. But in many of the measures of to-day 
may be discerned the practical equivalents of his 
teachings. His ridiculed proposal of fixed payments 
for labour is embodied in the acceptance of what is 
implied in " the living wage " ; his plans for the aged 
and indigent in the Old Age Pensions; for childhood 
and youth the extensions of the early Education 
Acts, and notably the " Fisher " Act of 1918. The 
broadening theories underlying the possession of 
land, covering fixity of tenure and compensation 
for improvements; and the communal recognition 
of unprivileged people implied in the compulsory 


provision by local authorities of allotments, in the 
preservation of commons and the maintenance of 
rights of way, are outcomes of the ethical system he 
upheld. The payment by public bodies (who are at 
once the representatives and the guardians of the 
community) of the Trades Unions' rates of wages, 
and the shouldering by government and municipali- 
ties of responsibility for the housing of the people, 
are the logical conclusions of his once unpopular, 
humane assumptions. 

A leading writer in political economy 1 (1900) 
enumerates some of the most important economic 
truths laid down by Ruskin in his various works : 

1. That a right theory of consumption is of 
primary importance in economics, and no estimate 
of wealth is reasonable which does not regard the 
quality of the product and the use to which it is put. 

2. That, therefore, we must understand the 
nature not only of positive, but also of negative 
wealth; and not only of well-directed but also of 
ill-directed production and consumption. 

3. That, as a consequence, economic science is 
bound up indissolubly with ethics. 

At the same time it is pointed out that Ruskin's 
lack of historical knowledge of past ages, apart from 
their material monuments, dulled his perception of 
much that has to be known before the true functions 
of government can be rightly defined. Thus, he seems 
to v/elcome the tremendous encroachments of the 
1 C. S. Devas. 


state upon the province of the family and the 
individual which made possible the unreasoning 
docility of the German people to the claims of its 
official rulers. Were governments perfectly wise and 
altogether good they might wield unlimited power 
without tyranny; but as the state is only "our- 
selves in our official capacity," our weaknesses and 
selfishnesses and crookednesses do not undergo a 
transformation because seven or twenty-seven of us 
act together instead of singly. With his love of 
beauty and delight in skill it is no wonder that our 
blackened countrysides and ugly towns, our machine- 
made furniture and fabrics, and our insensitiveness 
to art and literature and the things of the spirit, led 
him to desire the banishment of machinery and 
industrial activity, and the restoration of quiet and 
individual methods of getting a living. 

But with all qualifications made, the utterances of 
Ruskin upon economics are at once a valuable and 
inspiring legacy. He spoke as a prophet, and the 
prophet's function is to create a spirit rather than to 
state a programme. Perhaps we may close with an 
application of his own definition in estimating the 
" wealth " of his bequest, as " the possession of the 
valuable by the valiant." 


Accumulation, of capacity, 
20 > 95, 97', of material, 112 

Advantage, 103 

Affection, 19 

Agriculture, 17 

Almsgiving, 64 

Anarchy, 54 

Aristophanes, no 

Aristotle, 65W. 

Art, 72,n.; of life, 124 

Author's Works, quoted : 
A Joy for Ever {Political 

Economy of Art), 17, 82 
Modern Painters, 82 
Stones of Venice, ?8n. 

Autolycus, 2>7 

Avarice, 19, in 

Bacchus, 96 

Bank, 94 

Bayonets, 86 

Blood, circulation of, 49; red 

ink of, 10 1 
Buying, 126 
Byzants, 59 

Capacity, 96 
Capital, 82, 114W., 119 
Capitalists, 43, 11472. 
Caput vivum, 109 
Catallactics, 10 1 
Cheapness, 106 

Children, 108 

Cicero's definition of Wealth, 

Colonisation, 120 
Commerce, 34, 40 
Competition, 797*., 82 
Consumption, 85W., 109, 113, 

Co-operation, 82 
Corn laws, the, 78 
Credit, 67 
Currencies, 58 

Dante quoted or referred to, 

68, 83, 89, in 
Death, 38, 62, ios». 
Demand, 29, 31, 65, 98, 113; 

definition of, gin. 
Demas, in 
Dura plains, 56 

Economy, political, 19, 49/2., 
50, 82, 91 ; definition of, 45 ; 
mercantile, 44; national, 57, 

83, ii3 
England, 60, 79^., 123, 125 
Equity, 64W. 
Exchange, 70M., 73, 100, 102 

Free Trade, 78;?. 
Furrows, no 




Golconda, 60 
Gold, 58, 95 
Greeks, 96 
Gjmmastics, 21 

Happiness, 116, 124 
Health, laws of, 15, 94 
Helps, Sir Arthur, quoted, 

Herbert, George, quoted, g$n. 
Honesty, 13, 14 

Indus, 60 

Intermittent labour, 32 
Islands, castaways on, 50-53 
Ixion, no 

Justice, balances of, 23, 57, 
64, 69, 7L 77 

Kings, 68 

Labour, false direction of, 5-6; 
organisation of, n; de- 
mand for, 29; regular, 33; 
best, 39; standard of value 
in, 52; pledged, 52; pay- 
ment of, 69; consumed un- 
productively, 79; definition 
of, 105; value of, 105 

Life, 105, 107, 116, 124, 126 

Livy, quoted, 17, 95 

Luxury, 15^., 56, 127 

Madonna delta Salute, 94 
Marah, 66 
Market, 37, 57> 6 9 
Merchant, 37, 40; Jew, 61 

Mill, J. S., quoted or referred 
to, 12, 84, 86, 94, 113, 122 

Money, 56, 58, 69, 109, 113, 

Natural scenery, 123 
Need and desire, 103 

Occupation, 80 
Old, the, 17 
Over-population, 79 

Payment, 69, 73 
Pensions, 17 

Plato, definition of Wealth, 1 2 
Ploughshare, 86, no 
Political economy, 19, 5 on., 
8$, 113, 116; definition of, 

45. 49 
Political Economy of A rt, 1 7 
Poor, the, 62, 79, 99, n8n. 
Pope, quoted, 13, 80, 98 
Population, 60, 117, 121, 123 
Price, 23, 74, 84, gin., 99 
Production, 107, 112, 115 
Profit, 99 
Property, 82, 94 

Ricardo, Mr., quoted, 89, 113. 

Riches, 33, 44, 47, 50, 53. 5^, 

83, n8». 

Schools, 15, 16, 4gn. 

Science of political economy, 
19, 43, 66, 83, 93, 98; of 
wealth, 97; of exchange, 

Signs, algebraical, 55, 10 1 



Soldiers, 34, 38, 82 
Specific gravity, 74 
Spending, 109, 126 
Strikes, 21 

Taxation, 78 
Tisiphone, 10572. 
Tyranny, 56 

Under-payment, 75 
Unemployed, the, 81 
Use and abuse, 96 
Usefulness, 87, 94 

Value, defined (Mm), 

Virgil, quoted, no 


Wages, 29, 31, t,2, 59, 122; 
fixed, n; equality of, 31; 
just, 72 

Waste, 45, 126 

Wealth, 12, 46, 54, 82, 84, 116; 
definition of, 12, 94; in- 
equalities of, 48; circula- 
tion of, 49; natural, 55; 
justice lessens power of, yy; 
essence of, 59; Ruskin's 
own definition, 97; science 
of, 97 

Wordsworth, quoted or re- 
ferred to, 17, 116 

Work, Sow. 

Wealth, 1: 

definition of 

Te.v\fU! Pft£55 



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Notes bearing upon the subject under consideration 










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