The agricultural systems of political economy 
will not require so long an explanation as that 
which I have thought it necessary to bestow 
upon the mercantile or commercial system
That system which represents the produce 
of land as the sole source of the revenue and 
wealth of every country, has, so far as I know, 
never been adopted by any nation, and it at 
present exists only in the speculations of a 
few men of great learning and ingenuity in 
France. It would not, surely, be worth 
while to examine at great length the errors of 
a system which never has done, and probably 
never will do, any harm in any part of the 
world. I shall endeavour to explain, however, 
as distinctly as I can, the great outlines 
of this very ingenious system
Mr. Colbert, the famous minister of Lewis 
XIV. was a man of probity, of great industry
and knowledge of detail; of great experience 
and acuteness in the examination of 
public accounts; and of abilities, in short, 
every way fitted for introducing method and 
good order into the collection and expenditure 
of the public revenue. That minister 
had unfortunately embraced all the prejudices 
of the mercantile system, in its nature and 
essence a system of restraint and regulation, 
and such as could scarce fail to be agreeable 
to a laborious and plodding man of business, 
who had been accustomed to regulate the different 
departments of public offices, and to 
establish the necessary checks and controuls 
for confining each to its proper sphere. The 
industry and commerce of a great country, 
he endeavoured to regulate upon the same 
model as the departments of a public office; 
and instead of allowing every man to pursue 
his own interest his own way, upon the liberal 
plan of equality, liberty, and justice, he 
bestowed upon certain branches of industry 
extraordinary privileges, while he laid others 
under as extraordinary restraints. He was 
not only disposed, like other European ministers
to encourage more the industry of the 
towns than that of the country; but, in order 
to support the industry of the towns, he 
was willing even to depress and keep down 
that of the country. In order to render provisions 
cheap to the inhabitants of the towns, 
and thereby to encourage manufactures and 
foreign commerce, he prohibited altogether 
the exportation of corn, and thus excluded 
the inhabitants of the country from every foreign 
market, for by far the most important 
part of the produce of their industry. This 
prohibition, joined to the restraints imposed 
by the ancient provincial laws of France upon 
the transportation of corn from one province 
to another, and to the arbitrary and degrading 
taxes which are levied upon the cultivators 
in almost all the provinces, discouraged 
and kept down the agriculture of that country 
very much below the state to which it would 
naturally have risen in so very fertile a soil
and so very happy a climate. This state of 
discouragement and depression was felt more 
or less in every different part of the country
and many different inquiries were set on foot 
concerning the causes of it. One of those 
causes appeared to be the preference given, by 
the institutions of Mr. Colbert, to the industry 
of the towns above that of the country
If the rod be bent too much one way, says 
the proverb, in order to make it straight, you 
must bend it as much the other. The French 
philosophers, who have proposed the system 
which represents agriculture as the sole source 
of the revenue and wealth of every country
seem to have adopted this proverbial maxim
and, as in the plan of Mr. Colbert, the industry 
of the towns was certainly overvalued 
in comparison with that of the country, so in 
their system it seems to be as certainly under-valued. 
The different orders of people, who have 
ever been supposed to contribute in any respect 
towards the annual produce of the land 
and labour of the country, they divide into 
three classes. The first is the class of the 
proprietors of land. The second is the class 
of the cultivators, of farmers and country labourers
whom they honour with the peculiar 
appellation of the productive class. The 
third is the class of artificers, manufacturers, 
and merchants, whom they endeavour to degrade 
by the humiliating appellation of the 
barren or unproductive class
The class of proprietors contributes to the 
annual produce, by the expense which they 
may occasionally lay out upon the improvement 
of the land, upon the buildings, drains
inclosures, and other ameliorations, which 
they may either make or maintain upon it, 
and by means of which the cultivators are enabled, 
with the same capital, to raise a greater 
produce, and consequently to pay a greater 
rent. This advanced rent may be considered 
as the interest or profit due to the proprietor, 
upon the expense or capital which he thus 
employs in the improvement of his land
Such expenses are in this system called ground 
expenses (depenses foncieres). 
The cultivators or farmers contribute to the 
annual produce, by what are in this system 
called the original and annual expenses (depenses 
primitives, et depenses annuelles), which 
they lay out upon the cultivation of the land
The original expenses consist in the instruments 
of husbandry, in the stock of cattle, in