Wealth and Money
Frances Wright, "Wealth and Money," The Free Enquirer, 2, 48 (September 15, 1830), 382.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1830.
[The following article, the first of a course of numbers which my sister editor intends to supply to our readers, was written on board of the vessel while clearing out of the bay. She has forwarded to me by the last arrivals several numbers in continuation.] R. D. O.
WEALTH AND MONEY.
What mean those bits of stamped gold and silver, And graven notes issued by chartered bankers? What are they? Of what use? By what right issued? What use? They buy the earth, and all thing on it. Buy men and sell them too. By what right issued?— When usurpation dropt the sword through fear, He put them forth as wealth, and called on law To sanctify the cheat.
Economy of human life. New Edition.
Were not the organization of society such— if the term organization can be employed where all order and design seem wanting— were it not such as to throw all man’s interests into opposition, how easily might the interests of all be secured! Where there is a scramble there must be both confusion and bad feeling; and what is there on the face of the globe but scramble; and, as all the world knows, but confusion and bad feeling? Well! but as this is every where, and has been, so far as our records extend, through all time, what hope or what possibility is there that it should ever be otherwise! Much hope, and as we deem, every possibility. Because error has prevailed to this hour, it does not follow flint it must prevail for ever; because the fogs of ignorance take long to dispel, we are not to assert that the sun of knowledge cannot dissipate them. Experience supplies every argument to the contrary. Errors are less numerous, certainly less terrible, than they have been; ignorance, if still wide-spread, is light and transparent to that of past ages. And see we not, in every science, that a new and ever accelerating ratio of progress is apparent? See we not also, that there is, in each, some first principles, slow to be discovered, but which, when once distinguished, give the clue to the labyrinth, dissipate every difficulty and render advance safe, easy and agreeable. Why should we deem that the restless curiosity and eagle-eyed intelligence of man must be dead and blind only in the path of his own happiness? They have been so to this hour. But are there no first principles now developing, by which, in the path of morals, he may reach at truth as he has in chemistry or mechanics? We think so. We think man is even now distinguishing that his worst sufferings spring out of a few errors, no ways difficult to rectify, and that his happiness must be secured by a few arrangements, simple in their nature, but omnipotent in their consequences. Two present themselves at the first glance as indispensable—general, universal and industrial education; and an improved circulating medium, that should be in truth and fact, what money now only pretends to be—the fair representative and not the substance of wealth.
Of these two great rectifiers of existing evils the latter will be a result of the farmer; but, although until all are producers (of something or another useful and in common demand, whether by operative or intellectual labor) we cannot all be interested, equally and evidently, in creating an honest representative of human productions, still we conceive that the two must and will, more or less, be developed together, and work in unison towards the reform of society.
Before engaging in an investigation whose practical importance must strike every thinking mind, I could wish our readers to pose in quiet and calm review the general state of society as existing around us all, and each to consider his own particular situation as one of that mass denominated society.
Is he rich? Does he live upon the hoarded gain of his ancestors or his own? Is he free from all anxiety lest the same should pass away from him? Banks fail and so do states. But, without such convulsions, a thousand accidents may throw him aground when he least expects it, and leave him—to what? That which, perhaps, he never felt, but which he may see every day if he cast his eyes around him—poverty, with every evil in its train.
Stands he high in some learned profession? Is he popular? fashionable? successful? Have not others been the same and closed their eyes in a prison?
Is he in good business? Does he drive a thriving trade? How long may fortune favor him? How soon may one false calculation interrupt his prosperity, or competition reduce his gains to a cypher?
Is he a hard-working man and in good employment? On what security holds he the continuance of his hard-earned daily bread? May not laborers multiply, the demand for labor decrease, or the price of labor full? Let each and all run through the past, present and possible future chances of their condition and answer to themselves if they have been, are or have the prospect of being, without care?
This question, it is taken for granted, will be soon answered. Let the reader next seek the causes of this insecurity, and (to put him on the scent) let him examine if it depend not on the nature of money, the mode of its tenure and the fluctuations to which it renders every thing liable?
He must suppose, however, that money was not intended to produce but to prevent fluctuations. It was intended, we may reasonably admit, to supply a universal standard—a fair and fixed estimate, to which the value of all articles might be referred, and by which their real value might be known at a glance; by means of which also wealth might be distributed over the earth, and a fair equivalent for the wealth so distributed secured to its owner.
Has money produced these results?
Before the answer can be supplied, two preliminary questions present themselves.
What is wealth?
And who are its owners?
[To be continued.]