Page images

centers and regions. Manufactures and foreign trade will be stimulated. Redistributions of population will take place between country and city, between districts producing necessaries and districts that produce luxuries. The preponderating importance of capital enhances the sacredness of property in law and in morals, strengthens government as a property-protecting agency, and exalts the virtues of frugality and thrift.

At the same time, the enlarged consumption of goods tends to bring about certain social changes. Crime becomes less serious than vice, so that moral injunctions aim less to restrain men from aggression than to fortify them against the temptations to overindulgence. Human depravity is doubted, and belief in future retribution dies out. The God of Fear yields to the God of Love. In worship, praise gains at the expense of prayer. To guide men, amid the greater variety of consumables, toward certain harmonious groupings of goods, numerous standards of consumption are erected.

It is hardly to be expected, however, that in the accumulation of capital all portions of society will participate to the same degree. Some will distance others, and those who thus become differentiated from the rest in respect to possessions will eventually segregate into a distinct social class. For capital is not merely economic power; it is latent social power. Those of superabundant wealth in time convert portions of it into political power, legal privileges, and invidious social preferences and exemptions, all serving to mark them off from the rest of the community. In other words, an aristocracy may originate, quite apart from conquest, quite apart from royal grace, in the mere fact of superior riches. “The heroes of the Homeric poems," says Maine, “are not only valiant, but wealthy; the warriors of the Nibelungen Lied are not only noble, but rich. In the later Greek literature we find pride of birth identified with pride in seven wealthy ancestors." Among the ancient Irish the nobles are in seven grades, distinguished chiefly by wealth. At the bottom of the scale is the Aire-desa and “the Brehon law provides that when the Bo-Aire has acquired twice the wealth of an Aire-desa and has held it for a certain number of generations, he becomes an Aire-desa himself.” The possession of resources sufficient to enable one to fight on horseback rather than on foot has become the germ of knighthood the world over. Out of it grew the Greek hippeis, the Roman Equestrian Order, the Gaulish equites, and the mediæval knighthoods.

The appearance of a body of wealthy persons overthrows that primitive political equality of citizens based upon their like capacity to bear arms in defense of the commonwealth. Clients and retainers multiply, and these natural partisans of the rich undermine the burgess class. Not only is the possession of great wealth generally felt to afford a presumption of superiority, but the position of the poorer citizens is weakened by their economic dependence. “It is by taking stock that the free Irish tribesman becomes the Ceile or Kyle, the vassal or man of his chief, owing him not only rent, but service and homage. Meanwhile the proprietors, freed from labor, devote themselves to war and politics, and, well accoutred and expert in weapons, they finally prove themselves more than a match for the plebs.

Besides political inequality, the differentiation by possessions entails various other secondary forms of differentiation. Service in the Roman cavalry, originally obligatory upon all who could furnish two horses, became after a time a badge of superiority. Men of standing remained in the cavalry after they had become incapacitated by age. “Young men of rank more and more withdrew from serving in the infantry, and the legionary cavalry became a close aristocratic corps.” By the time of Sulla the dying out of the sturdy farmer class and the formation of an urban rabble had converted the Roman army “from a burgess force into a set of mercenaries who showed no fidelity to the state at all, and proved faithful to the officer only when he had the skill personally to gain their attachment.” Finally the rich come to feel that wealth ought to buy its possessor clear of every onerous duty. In Cæsar's time “in the soldiery not a trace of the better classes could any longer be discovered. In law the general obligation to bear arms still subsisted; but the levy took place in the most irregular and unfair manner. Numerous persons liable to serve were wholly passed over. . ... The Roman burgess cavalry, now merely vegetated as a sort of mounted noble guard, whose perfumed cavaliers and exquisite high-bred horses only played a part in the festivals of the capital; the so-called burgess infantry was a troop of mercenaries, swept together from the lowest ranks of the burgess population.”

Other differentiations are connected with certain ideas which naturally strike root in a society marked by great pecuniary inequality. One is the notion that it is disgraceful to take money for work. The effect of this is to raise a wall of partition between the laborer or artisan and the respectable landlord or manufacturer, between the private and the officer, between the clerk and the magistrate. Akin to this is the idea that labor is not respectable. Springing up among the wealthy after they have withdrawn from all public duties and become a leisure class pure and simple, this notion, descending through society, aggravates the discontent and envy of the poor, and causes work to be shunned as much on account of its stigma as on account of its irksomeness. Finally comes the notion that human worth is measured, not by achievements or personal qualitics, but by the scale of consumption. This exalts pecuniary emulation above all other forms of rivalry, and engenders a host of purely factitious wants which call into being an insensate luxury and, descending through the social strata, prevent the application of goods to real human needs. The joint operation of these principles raises the craving for wealth to an extravagant pitch and depresses the worth of everything else. These effects appear most nakedly in the Rome of the last age of the republic, where the slave economy had completely wiped out the middle class. Says Mommsen: “To be poor was not merely the sorest disgrace and the worst crime, but the only disgrace and the only crime; for money the statesman sold the state and the burgess sold his freedom; the post of the officer and the vote of the juryman were to be had for money; for money the lady of quality surrendered her person as well as the common courtesan; the falsifying of documents and perjuries had become so common that in a popular poet of this age an oath is called the plaster for debts.' Men had forgotten what honesty was; a person who refused a bribe was regarded, not as an




[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

upright man, but as a personal foe.” There was nothing to bridge over or soften the fatal contrast between the world of the beggars and the world of the rich.” “The wider the chasm by

" which the two worlds were externally divided, the more completely they coincided in the like annihilation of family life . in the like laziness and luxury, the like unsubstantial economy, the like unmanly dependence, the like corruption differing only in its scale, the like criminal demoralization, the like longing to begin the war with property.”

The misery of the multitude was such that free men not infrequently sold themselves to the contractors for board and wages as gladiatorial slaves. The obsequiousness of legal relations to economic realities appears from the fact that the jurisconsults of the period pronounced lawful and actionable the contract of such a gladiatorial slave "to let himself be chained, scourged, burned, or killed, without opposition, if the laws of the institution should so require."

Changes in taste, the growth and redistribution of population, the shifting of trade routes, mechanical inventions, discovery of natural deposits, or increase in local security, cause wealth to well

ир at new spots or to come into new hands. If it is true that capital is a primitive kind of power which may be transmuted and differentiated into nearly all forms of the Desirable, then New Wealth will be pregnant with social change. Such, indeed, is the fact. The first full-fledged aristocracy is based on agricultural profits, for among the sources of early revenue land alone possesses that stability which is necessary in order that the merely rich may ripen into a true nobility. If, however, by the side of the blue-blooded territorial aristocracy there forms a considerable body of plebeian rich, the social structure is at once subject to a strain which sooner or later will modify it. It matters not whether the source of these fortunes be piracy, commerce, manufacture, colonial exploitation, tax-farming, or finance; money is power and ultimately contrives to register itself in supereconomic forms. The fall of the Greek aristocracies was due to the fortunes made in commerce, navigation, and manufacture. The Eupatrids, absorbed in war and politics and content to leave the

[ocr errors]

working of their lands to serfs, were confronted by new men who, by clearing and inclosure, sometimes by marriage, had become owners of landed estates. The assault of these upstarts on the political monopoly of the old territorial nobility began the inovement which ended at last in democracy. Thucydides declares that the increase in the number of people of means brought about an irresistible demand for a larger participation in government, and tliat this triumph of property over birth occurred usually in states where property was most diffused, and where maritime conmerce, industry, and financial speculation were most developed. Caius Gracchus carried his reforms and broke down the governing aristocracy of Rome by turning over to the rich speculator and merchant class, that had grown up outside the old senatorial nobility, the farming of all the Asiatic provinces and the control of the jury courts.

In the Middle Ages highly prosperous commercial or mining towns bought of their lords the grant of special rights and immunities, and thus virtually ransomed themselves out of the feudal system. In France the first extra-feudal fortunes originated in the farming of taxes. Later, commerce and manufacturing created a wealthy class upon which the monarch constantly leaned when extending his authority at the expense of the feudal seigneurs. About the beginning of the seventeenth century the proud Duke of Sully laments that "at this day . when everything is rated by the money which it brings, this generosis body of nobility is brought into comparison with the managers of the revenue, the officers of justice, and the drudges of business.” Finally, can anyone doubt that the strong tendency in the new extra-European societies toward popular government and the democratic spirit finds at least one of its ultimate roots in the diffusion of opportunities to accumulate property brought about by the presence of free land?

III. Migration to a new environment. Here again we have two cases: (a) when the new environment is similar to the old; (6) when it is essentially different. The first is presented when colonies are established on the same parallel or, better yet, the same isotherm with the mother-country. Here the chief cause why the new society varies from the old is the fact that in the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »