ART. I.—Of the public Works and Institutions 
for facilitating the Commerce of the Society
And, first, of those which are necessary for 
facilitating Commerce in general
That the erections and maintenance of the 
public works which facilitate the commerce 
of any country, such as good roads, bridges
navigable canals, harbours, &c. must require 
very different degrees of expense in the different 
periods of society, is evident without 
any proof. The expense of making and 
maintaining the public roads of any country 
must evidently increase with the annual produce 
of the land and labour of that country, 
or with the quantity and weight of the goods 
which it becomes necessary to fetch and carry 
upon those roads. The strength of a bridge 
must be suited to the number and weight of 
the carriages which are likely to pass over it. 
The depth and the supply of water for a navigable 
canal must be proportional to the 
number and tonnage of the lighters which 
are likely to carry goods upon it; the extent 
of a harbour, to the number of the shipping 
which are likely to take shelter in it. 
It does not seem necessary that the expense 
of those public works should be defrayed 
from that public revenue, as it is commonly 
called, of which the collection and application 
are in most countries, assigned to the 
executive power. The greater part of such 
public works may easily be so managed, as to 
afford a particular revenue, sufficient for defraying 
their own expense, without bringing 
any burden upon the general revenue of the 
A highway, a bridge, a navigable canal, for 
example, may, in most cases, be both made 
and maintained by a small toll upon the carriages 
which make use of them; a harbour, 
by a moderate port-duty upon the tonnage of 
the shipping which load or unload in it. 
The coinage, another institution for facilitating 
commerce, in many countries, not only 
defrays its own expense, but affords a small 
revenue or a seignorage to the sovereign
The post-office, another institution for the same 
purpose, over and above defraying its own 
expense, affords, in almost all countries, a 
very considerable revenue to the sovereign
When the carriages which pass over a highway 
or a bridge, and the lighters which sail 
upon a navigable canal, pay toll in proportion 
to their weight or their tonnage, they pay for 
the maintenance of these public works exactly 
in proportion to the wear and tear which they 
occasion of them. It seems scarce possible 
to invent a more equitable way of maintaining 
such works. This tax or toll, too, though 
it is advanced by the carrier, is finally paid 
by the consumer, to whom it must always be 
charged in the price of the goods. As the 
expense of carriage, however, is very much 
reduced by means of such public works, the 
goods, notwithstanding the toll, come cheaper 
to the consumer than they could otherwise 
have done, their price not being so much raised 
by the toll, as it is lowered by the cheapness 
of the carriage. The person who finally 
pays this tax, therefore, gains by the application 
more than he loses by the payment of 
it. His payment is exactly in proportion to 
his gain. It is, in reality, no more than a 
part of that gain which he is obliged to give 
up, in order to get the rest. It seems impossible 
to imagine a more equitable method 
of raising a tax
When the toll upon carriages of luxury, 
upon coaches, post-chaises, &c. is made 
somewhat higher in proportion to their 
weight, than upon carriages of necessary use, 
such as carts, waggons, &c. the indolence and 
vanity of the rich is made to contribute, in a 
very easy manner, to the relief of the poor, 
by rendering cheaper the transportation of 
heavy goods to all the different parts of the 
When high-roads, bridges, canals, &c. are 
in this manner made and supported by the 
commerce which is carried on by means of 
them, they can be made only where that 
commerce requires them, and, consequently, 
where it is proper to make them, Their expense
too, their grandeur and magnificence
must be suited to what that commerce can 
afford to pay. They must be made, consequently, 
as it is proper to make them. A 
magnificent high-road cannot be made through 
a desert country, where there is little or no 
commerce, or merely because it happens to 
lead to the country villa of the intendant of 
the province, or to that of some great lord, 
to whom the intendant finds it convenient to 
make his court. A great bridge cannot be 
thrown over a river at a place where nobody 
passes, or merely to embellish the view from 
the windows of a neighbouring palace; things 
which sometimes happen in countries, where 
works of this kind are carried on by any other 
revenue than that which they themselves are 
capable of affording
In several different parts of Europe, the 
toll or lock-duty upon a canal is the property 
of private persons, whose private interest 
obliges them to keep up the canal. If it is 
not kept in tolerable order, the navigation 
necessarily ceases altogether, and, along with 
it, the whole profit which they can make by 
the tolls. If those tolls were put under the 
the management of commissioners, who had 
themselves no interest in them, they might 
be less attentive to the maintenance of the 
works which produced them. The canal of 
Languedoc cost the king of France and the 
province upwards of thirteen millions of livres, 
which (at twenty-eight livres the mark of silver,