Page images

which I have alluded; that the information which is here disseminated, and the great principles here developed, will enable us all to see the causes and apply the remedies, which are calculated to cure hard times.


THE subject which we propose to consider in this lecture, is the sources of national wealth;-in what it consists-how it is accumulated-how it is kept up-how it is increased, and what are the causes of its decay.

Fifty-five years before the birth of Christ, Julius Cæsar landed with a Roman army on the shore of Britain. There he found the island inhabited by a thin population of barbarians. On the southern shore, next to Gaul, he found cultivated fields, settled habitations, beasts of burden, and a few war chariots. The interior was altogether savage. There was no agriculture, and a few flocks and herds, a few miserable hovels, partly under ground, and some altogether composed of natural excavations of the earth, the skins of wild animals, and a few of the rudest utensils for cooking food and serving the table, composed their only wealth. Such was the aspect of the island from Land's End

* Delivered before the Mercantile Library Association of Baltimore 1843.

to the Orkneys. Now that little island may be called the metropolis of the world, and, though not much larger than some of the states of this Union, she might almost buy Italy as a farmer purchases a field,-Italy which reigned the mistress of the world, when Britain was almost an impenetrable forest. She owes more than some kingdoms are worth. Her acres are gardens, her dwellings are palaces, her cities are the store-houses of the world, and it is not long since one of her merchants had it seriously in contemplation to purchase the whole of Palestine, and become the sole owner of the land where the tribes of Canaan dwelt, and where Solomon reigned over four millions of people. Nor is the wealth of England, vast as it is, all at home. It sails on every sea, it rides in every harbor of the known world. How has all this been accumulated? England, in the meantime, has been no miser. She has expended more in war than most nations possess. She has had a hand in almost every national quarrel in Christendom for the last eight hundred years, besides fighting most of the time on her own account. And while the world has been looking on and watching for her fall, she has been striking deeper the roots of her power, and sending off new and stronger branches from her enormous trunk.

In the month of December, 1620, the May

flower cut, with wintry keel, the virgin waters of Massachusetts bay. As the sea-worn pilgrims cast their weary eyes along its rock-bound coast, what aspect did it exhibit? One unbroken forest, where wild beasts had roamed, where tempests had howled, and savage man alone had trod since the beginning of time. Now what meets the eye of the mariner, as he rounds the cape, and sails up that beautiful water? Towns, villages, cultivated farms, comfortable abodes, surround him on every side, and soon Boston with its clustering spires, its groves of masts, its crowning state-house, rise upon his view. He, perhaps, mounts the dome of that commanding edifice, and takes in a sight of wealth almost overwhelming to the imagination. All this too has been the work of two hundred and twenty years; and he learns that he stands in the capital of a state, small in territory, but valued at three hundred millions of dollars. Whence came this enormous wealth? Pass into the interior, and you find the soil is poor, the winters long, hardly enough verdure, even in summer, to keep the cattle from starving, and its only natural productions of export, as a southern senator facetiously remarked, are ice and granite. By what magic, we exclaim, were all these riches created, as were, out of nothing. Look yet again at New York, the mighty heart of the commerce of the

western world. As you approach on any side, as you are borne along the mighty avenues of the flood which nourishes the nation, you almost feel the pulsations of those huge arteries which propel the living tide of population to and from that mighty centre. As you draw near, a dense cloud of smoke ever hangs over that island of human habitations, the masts of her shipping surround her like a grove, and as you land at her docks, before the murmur of the waves has died away upon your ears, a mingled roar arises from the busy multitudes which throng her streets, deafening, stunning, bewildering to the senses. Pass along her wharves, and you will see landing ship-loads of flour, which but a few days before were lying in the store-houses of Chicago. Turn a corner, and you will see, mounting over your head, the cotton which has ripened beneath the scorching sun of Georgia and Alabama; and if you would open it, you would find that it had not yet parted with all its heat. Look on the other side of the way, and you see a case of furs from the Rocky Mountains, torn from the backs of those secluded tenants of the wilderness, which seemed but a few years ago too remote ever to be disturbed by the cruel arts of civilized man. Here is piled up a mass of lead from the mines of Missouri, there a mountain of coal from the interior of Pennsylvania, here a yard of lumber

« PreviousContinue »