Application of Capital to Land;" to which he did not prefix his name, but only the designation of " A Fellow of the University of Oxford." This he was induced to do by the advice of his legal friends; who represented to him that it would be injurious to him in his profession, were it to appear that he devoted himself to other pursuits. No publication, since the great work of Adam Smith, has been of -more service to the science than the few pages of that essay. That this is the fact, will be allowed by all who are aware how essentially the discoveries which it contains form a part of all subsequent reasoning on the subject, and how extensively the knowledge of those discoveries enables the reader to correct the errors of former writers. But, although the obligation has on different occasions been in terms acknowledged, the circumstance of the essay's being published anonymously, and of the author's appearing to abandon the subject for a series of years, have caused Sir Edward West's name to be less generally known as a great benefactor to the science than is justly his due. The object of the essay was to bring into notice, and illustrate a few propositions arising nearly altogether out of one principle, which has itself all the characteristics of true science. It is of such simplicity, that, when once explained, it appears almost self-evident. It is necessary for the explanation of a great variety of facts; yet it had not previously occurred to any writer. This principle is founded upon the continually decreasing returns of labour or capital when applied to the production of corner other raw produce; from which it obviously follows, that it is impossible to go on for ever, applying labour or additional capital to the same land (the quantity of land being limited), so as to produce the same returns. From this principle follows the now universally received doctrine, of rent being that part of the produce of good soils, by which it exceeds the produce of the worst retained in cultivation, in the actual state of any country. In the fifty-ninth number of the Edinburgh Review, in the article upon Mr. Ricardo's great work, the principle is stated in different words, but to the same effect. It is there said

that rent does not enter into price; obviously thereby making the same distinction between rent properly so called, and the profits of capital applied to land. The discovery of this principle is there claimed for Mr. Malthus, simultaneously with Sir Edward West, although without concert; but it is evident from the same work, that Mr. Malthus had not arrived at the simple general principle, the discovery of which forms the basis of Sir Edward West's essay, nor was he aware of the numerous important deductions to be made from it; amongst others, of the cause of the progressive fall of profits with the advancement of society in improvement; a fact which is much remarked upon by Adam Smith, but of the true explanation of which he was ignorant. Adam Smith considered the fall of profits as countries advance in opulence, as a consequence of the accumulation of capital, and of its competition in all the different trades and occupations in the same society. This opinion has been clearly shown by Sir Edward West to be erroneous; and the conclusion which he came to as to the true cause, namely, the increased cost of production, which, by raising the price of corn, raises also the wages of labour, is now the universally received opinion among all writers on the subject. Nor can it be considered a slight triumph of his judgment and acuteness, that the erroneous notions of Adam Smith had been adopted by all previous writers: by Mr. Malthus, Mr. Say, and many others.

In 1826, Sir Edward West published a tract "On the price of corn, and the wages of labour." It was originally designed by him for the refutation of some errors in Mr. Ricardo's pamphlet on " Protection to agriculture," published in 1822; and was taken with him to India, nearly finished. From the delay which occurred before it was sent home for publication, this work lost great part of its interest; but there are principles developed in it, which cannot fail to be of permanent use to political economists; and the satisfactory reasoning by which it explains the price of corn, in a given state of demand, to depend upon the amount of wages at the time, that is, upon the means of the labouring classes to purchase, (they being the description of consumers whose demand is variable; for the rich have always as much as they want,) will, in future, prevent those mistakes from arising which have generally prevailed in accounting for fluctuations that, in fact, depend upon the degree of employment for the people. In recommending practical measures, Sir Edward West was always moderate, and considerate of all the circumstances in the situation of England. In the tract just mentioned, it is remarkable that he suggested the precise plan upon which Mr. Canning's corn bill of 1826 was framed.

Sir Edward West was engaged, up to the very time of his last illness, with a new work on political economy, of a more comprehensive nature than either of his former productions. It would, probably, have amounted to a general treatise on the whole subject, and it had occupied his mind intensely for the greater part of his leisure, for more than a year preceding his death. He had received an offer from one of the most eminent publishers in London, to undertake the publication of it; and it is to be hoped that, at least, a large portion of the work has been left in a state which will admit of its being yet given to the world. In all his writings on political economy, his style is clear and precise, the result of much thought, and a decided turn for the exact sciences; and as he has advanced nothing which has ever been refuted, it may be confidently expected that what he has left unfinished as a whole, will be found in its distinct parts complete.

These and similar pursuits, into which Sir Edward West entered, and in which he persevered to the day of his decease, show in a very marked way the character of- his mind. They are evidently the pursuits of a powerful understanding; but they are also characteristic of a mind disposed, even in moments of relaxation, to look for its resources rather in the severer parts of human knowledge, than in those light and trifling occupations which engage the attention of the generality of mankind. This tendency to deny himself complete repose, when business ceased to employ him, was much to be regretted, especially in the latter moments of his life; for all serious application brought on a palpitation of the heart, and increased the tendency, to which he was constitutionally liable, of blood to the head. Political economy, and other grave studies, were as objectionable in this point of view as business; and, in fact, he was frequently compelled, for a time, to relinquish them.

In February, 1823, Sir Edward West reached India, having been appointed to the high situation of Recorder of Bombay. Our limits will not permit us to enter into the many questions which began to be agitated in that presidency after he commenced the discharge of his important functions, further than to remark, that he was, in every part of his conduct, guided by a rectitude of purpose, a high-minded sense of duty, and a strong natural love of justice; and that, however much, as a highly sensitive and feeling man, lie may have regretted the hostile disposition which was shown to the measures he on some occasions felt called upon to adopt, he never, as a judge, saw any reason to alter his opinion, and often declared that he would pursue the same path were the same points again to be considered.

In order justly to estimate the probable state of his mind when he entered upon the office of Recorder of Bombay, it ought to be recollected that he arrived in India after having attained to considerable eminence at home, in a profession which, more than any other, gives to the mind an activity upon every subject, and a relish for the acquisition of useful and speculative knowledge. It was impossible that such a man as Sir Edward West should rest satisfied with an indolent discharge of "his duties. It was, indeed, no light task that he had to perform. The regular administration of justice in the Recorder's Court had been so often interrupted, that much was to be done on his arrival to bring the business into a proper train. The subsequent establishment of the Supreme Court added much to his labours. Before, however, that Court was established, he had, by a diligent superintendence, restored order and punctuality in all the offices of the Recorder's Court. The charter of justice, establishing the Supreme Court, and constituting Sir Edward West Chief Justice, was proclaimed on the 7th of May, 1824; and the preparation of rules and regulations for its guidance in practice, formed his principal occupation for some time.'

In reviewing Sir Edward West's public acts, the two subjects most worthy of observation are, his rejection of the Calcutta regulation for controlling the press, and his reformation of the police at Bombay.

The adoption of the Calcutta regulation having been proposed by the government of Bombay to the Supreme Court of Judicature at that Presidency, the Court, on the 10th of July, 1826, came to a decision upon the subject. The Chief Justice, Sir Edward West, after maintaining the right of the Court to consider, not only the legality, but the expediency of any regulation proposed for registry by the government, pronounced his opinion upon the regulation in question in the following terms: —

"The purport of the present regulation, which is the same as that passed at Calcutta, is to prohibit the publication of any newspaper, or other periodical work, by any person not licensed by the governor and council, and to make such license revocable at the pleasure of the governor and council.

"It is quite clear, on the mere enunciation, that this regulation imposes a restriction upon the liberty of the subject, which nothing but circumstances and the state of society can justify. The British legislature has gone to a great extent at different times, both in England and in Ireland, in prohibiting what is lawful in itself, lest it should be used for unlawful purposes, but never without its appearing to the satisfaction of the legislature that it was rendered necessary by the state of the country.

"It is on this ground of expediency and necessity, on account of the abuses (as stated) of the press at Calcutta, from the state of affairs (here, and from the exigency of the case, that the Calcutta regulation is maintained by its very pre

« ElőzőTovább »