spare revenue of the people, may consume so 
great a share of their whole revenue, and thereby 
oblige so great a number to encroach upon 
their capitals, upon the funds destined for the 
maintenance of productive labour, that all the 
frugality and good conduct of individuals may 
not be able to compensate the waste and degradation 
of produce occasioned by this violent 
and forced encroachment. 
This frugality and good conduct, however, 
is upon most occasions, it appears from experience
sufficient to compensate, not only the 
private prodigality and misconduct of individuals, 
but the public extravagance of government. 
The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted 
effort of every man to better his condition, 
the principle from which public and national, 
as well as private opulence is originally 
derived, is frequently powerful enough to 
maintain the natural progress of things towards 
improvement, in spite both of the extravagance 
of government, and of the greatest 
errors of administration. Like the unknown 
principle of animal life, it frequently restores 
health and vigour to the constitution, in spite 
not only of the disease, but of the absurd prescriptions 
of the doctor. 
The annual produce of the land and labour 
of any nation can be increasing in its value by 
no other means, but by increasing either the 
number of its productive labourers, or the 
productive powers of those labourers who had 
before been employed. The number of its 
productive labourers, it is evident, can never 
be much increased, but in consequence of an 
increase of capital, or of the funds destined for 
maintaining them. The productive powers 
of the same number of labourers cannot be increased
but in consequence either of some 
addition and improvement to those machines 
and instruments which facilitate and abridge 
labour, or of more proper division and distribution 
of employment. In either case, an additional 
capital is almost always required. It 
is by means of an additional capital only, that 
the undertaker of any work can either provide 
his workmen with better machinery, or make 
a more proper distribution of employment 
among them. When the work to be done 
consists of a number of parts, to keep every 
man constantly employed in one way, requires 
a much greater capital than where every man 
is occasionally employed in every different 
part of the work. When we compare, therefore, 
the state of a nation at two different periods, 
and find that the annual produce of its 
land and labour is evidently greater at the latter 
than at the former, that its lands are better 
cultivated, its manufactures more numerous 
and more flourishing, and its trade more extensive; 
we may be assured that its capital 
must have increased during the interval between 
those two periods, and that more must 
have been added to it by the good conduct of 
some, than had been taken from it either by 
the private misconduct of others, or by the 
public extravagance of government. But we 
shall find this to have been the case of almost 
all nations, in all tolerably quiet and peaceable 
times, even of those who have not enjoyed 
the most prudent and parsimonious governments
To form a right judgment of it, indeed, 
we must compare the state of the country 
at periods somewhat distant from one another. 
The progress is frequently so gradual, 
that, at near periods, the improvement is not 
only not sensible, but, from the declension 
either of certain branches of industry, or of certain 
districts of the country, things which 
sometimes happen, though the country in general 
is in great prosperity, there frequently 
arises a suspicion, that the riches and industry 
of the whole are decaying
The annual produce of the land and labour 
of England, for example, is certainly much 
greater than it was a little more than a century 
ago, at the restoration of Charles II. 
Though at present few people, I believe, 
doubt of this, yet during this period five years 
have seldom passed away, in which some book 
or pamphlet has not been published, written, 
too, with such abilities as to gain some authority 
with the public, and pretending to demonstrate 
that the wealth of the nation was 
fast declining; that the country was depopulated
agriculture neglected, manufactures decaying
and trade undone. Nor have these 
publications been all party pamphlets, the 
wretched offspring of falsehood and venality
Many of them have been written by very candid 
and very intelligent people, who wrote nothing 
but what they believed, and for no other 
reason but because they believed it. 
The annual produce of the land and labour 
of England, again, was certainly much greater 
at the Restoration than we can suppose it 
to have been about a hundred years before, at 
the accession of Elizabeth. At this period
too, we have all reason to believe, the country 
was much more advanced in improvement
than it had been about a century before, towards 
the close of the dissensions between the 
houses of York and Lancaster. Even then it 
was, probably, in a better condition than it 
had been at the Norman conquest: and at the 
Norman conquest, than during the confusion 
of the Saxon heptarchy. Even at this early 
period, it was certainly a more improved country 
than at the invasion of Julius C├Žsar, when 
its inhabitants were nearly in the same state 
with the savages in North America
In each of those periods, however, there 
was not only much private and public profusion
many expensive and unnecessary wars, 
great perversion of the annual produce from 
maintaining productive to maintain unproductive 
hands; but sometimes, in the confusion 
of civil discord, such absolute waste and destruction 
of stock, as might he supposed, not 
only to retard, as it certainly did, the natural