of the rich man are no more extensive than those of the poor, to the sumptuousness and pamperings of human existence. He watches over his expenditure with unintermitted scrupulosity; and, though enabled to indulge himself in luxuries, he has the courage to practise an entire self-denial:

It may be alleged indeed that, if he do not consume his wealth, upon himself, neither does he impart it to another; he carefully locks. it up, and pertinaciously withholds it from general use., But this point does not seem to have been rightly understood. The true development and definition of the nature of wealth have not been applied to illustrate it. Wealth consists in this only, the commodities raised and fostered by human labour. But he locks up neither corn, nor oxen, nor clothes, nor houses. These things are used and consumed by his contemporaries, as truly and to as great an extent, as if he were a beggar. He is the lineal successor of those religious fanatics of former ages, who conveyed to their heirs all that they had, and took themselves an oath of voluntary poverty. If he mean to act as the enemy of mankind, he is wretchedly deceived. Like the dotard in Efop's fables, when he examines his hoard, he will find that he has locked up nothing but pebbles and dirt.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

His conduct is much less pernicious to mankind, and much more nearly conformable to the unalterable principles of justice, than that of the man who disburses his income in what has been termed, a liberal and spirited style. It reInains to compare their motives, and to consider which of them has familiarised himself most truly with the principles of morality.

It is not to be supposed, when a man, like the person of splendour and magnificence, is found continually offending against the rights, and adding to the miseries, of mankind; and when it appears, in addition to this, that all his expences are directed to the pampering his debauched appetites, or the indulging an oftentatious and arrogant temper ;

-It is not, I say, to be fuppofed in this case, that the man is actuated by very virtuous and commendable motives.

It would be idle to hold up the mifer as a pattern of benevolence. But it will not perhaps. be found an untenable position to say, that his mind is in the habit of frequently recurring to the best principles of morality. He firips the world of its gaudy plumage, and views it in its genuine colours. He estimates fplendid equipages and colily attirc, exactly, or nearly, at their true value. He feels with acute sensibility


[merged small][ocr errors]

master in the science, it might be applied, to chear the miserable, to relieve the oppressed, to assist the manly adventurer, to advance science, and to encourage art. ' A rich man, guided by the genuine principles of virtue, would be munificent, though not with that fpurious munificence that has so often usurped the name.

It may however almost be doubted whether the conduct of the miser, who wholly abstains from the use of riches, be not more advantageous to mankind, than the conduct of the man who, with honourable intentions, is continually mifapplying his wealth to what he calls public benefits and charitable uses.

It deserves to be remarked that the prejudice and folly of the world has frequently bestowed the epithet of miser upon a man, merely for the parsimony and simplicity of his style of living, who has been found, whenever a real and unquestionable occasion occurred, to be actuated by the best charitics and the most liberal spirit in his treatment of others. Such a man might answer his calumniators in the words of Louis the twelfth of France, I had rather my countrymen should laugh at my parsimony, than weep

for my injustice and oppression. This speculation upon the comparative merits of avarice and profusion, may perhaps be found

to be of greater importance than at first fight might be imagined. It includes in it the first principles of morality, and of justice between man and man. It strikes at the root of a deception that has long been continued, and long proved a curse to all the civilised nations of the earth. It tends to familiarise the mind to those strict and severe principles of judging, without which our energy, as well as our usefulness, will lie in a very narrow compass. It contains the germs of a code of political science, and may perhaps be found intimately connected with the extenfive diffusion of liberty and happiness.






HE use of wcalth is a science attended with uncommon difficulties.

This is a proposition that would prove extremely revolting to those whom fortune has placed under no very urgent necessity of studying this science. The poor imagine they can very easily tell in what manner a rich man ought to dispose of his wealth. They scarcely ever impute to him ignorance, scruples or difficulties. If he do not act as they would have him, they ascribe it to the want of will to perform his duty, not to the want of knowledge as to what duty prescribes.

The first observation that offers itself, is, that he cannot

give to all that ask, nor even to all that want, for his faculty in this respect is limited. There must therefore be a selection.

The limitation of his faculties is however by no means the only difficulty that presents itself to a rich man in the employment of his riches. Knotty points, uncertainties, and a balance of


« VorigeDoorgaan »