Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

consequently forms excellent nourishment, much superior to that of biscuit, which has not been fermented.

I must here observe, that this double-baked bread was originally the real biscuit prepared to keep at sea; for the word biscuit, in French, signifies twice baked.* Peas often boil badly, and do not become soft; in such a case, by putting a two-pound shot into the kettle, the rolling of the vessel, by means of this bullet, will convert the peas into a porridge, like mustard.

Having often seen soup, when put upon the table at sea in broad flat dishes, thrown out on every side by the rolling of the vessel, I have wished that our tin-men would make our soup-basins with divisions or compartments; forming small plates, proper for containing soup for one person only. By this disposition, the soup, in an extraordinary roll, would not be thrown out of the plate, and would not fall into the breasts of those who are at table, and scald them. Having entertained you with these things of little importance, permit me now to conclude with some general reflections upon navigation.

When navigation is employed only for transporting necessary provisions from one country, where they abound, to another where they are wanting: when by this it prevents famines, which were so frequent and so fatal before it was invented and became so common; we cannot help considering it as one of those art which contribute most to the happiness of mankind. But when it is employed to transport things of no utility, or articles of luxury, it is then uncertain whether the advantages resulting from it are sufficient to counter-balarce the misfor tunes it occasioned by exposing the lives of so many individuals upon the vast ocean. And when it is used to plunder vessels and transport slaves, it is evidently only the dreadful means of increasing those calamities which afflict human nature.

One is astonished to think on the number of vessels and men who are daily exposed in going to bring

*It is derived from "bis" again, "cuit" baked.

tea from China, coffee from Arabia, and sugar and tobacco from America; all commodities which our ancestors lived very well without. The sugar trade employs nearly a thousand vessels; and that of tobacco almost the same number. With regard to the utility of tobacco, little can be said; and, with regard to sugar, how much more meritorious would it be to sacrifice the momentary pleasure which we receive from drinking it once or twice a-day in our tea, than to encourage the numberless cruelties that are continually exercised in order to procure it for us?

A celebrated French moralist said, that, when he considered the wars which we foment in Africa to get negroes, the great number who of course perish in these wars; the multitude of those wretches who die in their passage, by disease, bad air, and bad provisions; and, lastly, how many perish by the cruel treatment they meet with in a state of slavery; when he saw a bit of sugar, he could not help imagining it covered with spots of human blood. But, had he added to these considerations the wars which we carry on against one another, to take and retake the islands that produce this commodity, he would not have seen the sugar simply spotted with blood, he would have beheld it entirely tinged with it.

These wars make the maritime powers of Europe, and the inhabitants of Paris and London, pay much dearer for their sugar than those of Vienna, though they are almost three hundred leagues distant from from the sea. A pound of sugar, indeed, costs the former not only the price which they give for it, but also what they pay in taxes, necessary to support he fleets and armies which serve to defend and proect the countries that produce it.

Sir,

Your most obedient and

Very humble servant,

B. FRANKLIN.

[ocr errors]

ON LUXURY, IDLENESS, AND
INDUSTRY.

From a Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, Esq.

written in 1784.

Ir is wonderful how preposterously the affairs of this world are managed. Naturally one would imagine that the interest of a few individuals should give way to general interest: but individuals manage their affairs with so much more application, industry, and address, than the public do theirs, that general interest most commonly gives way to particular. We assemble parliaments and councils, to have the benefit of their collected wisdom; but we necessarily have, at the same time, the inconvenience of their collected passions, prejudices, and private interests. By the help of these, artful men overpower their wisdom, and dupe its possessors; and if we may judge by the 2 acts, arrests, and edicts, all the world over, for regu lating commerce, an assembly of great men is the greatest fool upon earth.

I have not yet, indeed, thought of a remedy for luxury. I am not sure that in a great state it is capable of a remedy; nor that the evil is in itself always so great as is represented. Suppose we include the definition of luxury all unnecessary expense, and then let us consider whether laws to prevent such expense are possible to be executed in a great country, and whether, if they could be executed, our people generally would be a happier, or even richer. Is not the hope of being one day able to purchase and enjoy luxuries a great spur to labour and industry? May not luxury, therefore, produce more than it consumes, if, without such a spur, people would be, as they are naturally enough inclined to be, lazy and indolent. To this purpose I remember a circum

* Member of parliament for the borough of Calne, in Wiltshire, between whom and our author there subsisted a very close friendship.

stance. The skipper of a shallop, employed be tween Cape May and Philadelphia, had done us some small service, for which he refused to be paid. My wife understanding that he had a daughter, sent her a present of a new fashioned cap. Three years after, this skipper being at my house with an old farmer of Cape May, his passenger, he mentioned the cap, and how much his daughter had been pleased with it. "But (said he) it proved a dear cap to our congregation.""How so?"—" When my daughter appeared with it at meeting, it was so much admired, that all the girls resolved to get such caps from Philadelphia; and my wife and I computed that the whole could not have cost less than a hundred pounds."-" True (said the farmer) but you do not tell all the story. I think the cap was nevertheless an advantage to us; for was the first thing that put our girls upon knitting worsted mittens for sale at Philadelphia, that they might have wherewithal to buy caps and ribbons there; and you know that that industry has continued, and is likely to continue and increase to a much greater value, and answer better purposes."-Upon the whole, I was more reconciled to this little piece of luxury, since not only the girls were made happier by having fine caps, but the Philadelphians by the supply of warm mittens.

In our commercial towns upon the sea coast, for tunes will occasionally be made. Some of those who grow rich will be prudent, live within bounds, and preserved what they have gained for their posterity; others, fond of showing their wealth, will be extravagant, and ruin themselves. Laws cannot prevent this; and perhaps it is not always an evil to the public. A shilling spent idly by a fool, may be picked up by a wiser person, who knows better what to do with it. It is therefore not lost. A vain, silly fellow, builds a fine house, furnishes it richly, lives in it expensively, and in a few years ruins himself; but the inasons, carpenters, suniths, and other honest trades. men, have been by his employ assisted in maintaining and raising their families; the farmer has been paid for his labour, and encouraged, and the estate is now in better hands. In some cases, indeed, certain

modes of luxury may be a public evil, in the same manner as it is a private one. If there be a nation, for instance, that exports its beef and linen, to pay for the importation of claret and porter, while a great part of its people live upon potatoes, and wear no shirts; wherein does it differ from the sot, who lets his family starve, and sells his clothes to buy drink? Our American commerce is, I confess, a little in this way. We sell our victuals to the islands for rum and sugar; the substantial necessaries of life for superfluities. But we have plenty, and live well never theless; though by being soberer, we might be richer.

The vast quantity of forest land we have yet to clear, and put in order for cultivation, will for a long time keep the body of our nation laborious and frugal. Forming an opinion of our people, and their manners, by what is seen among the inhabitants of the sea-ports, is judging from an improper sample. The people of the trading towns may be rich and luxurious, while the country possesses all the virtues that tend to promote happiness and public prosperity. Those towns are not much regarded by the country; they are hardly considered as an essential part of the States; and the experience of the last war has shown; that their being in the possession of the enemy did not necessarily draw on the subjection of the country; which bravely continued to maintain its freedom and independence notwithstanding.

It has been computed by some political arithmeticians, that if every man and woman would work four hours each day on something useful, that labour would produce sufficient to procure all the necessaries and comforts of life; want and misery would be banished out of the world, and the rest of the twentyfour honrs might be leisure and pleasure.

What occasions then so much want and misery? It is the employment of men and women in works that produce neither the necessaries nor conveniences of life; who, with those who do nothing, consume necessaries raised by the laborious. To explain this:

The first elements of wealth are obtained by labour from the earth and waters. I have land, and raise

« AnteriorContinua »