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An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 9

1. Introduction And Plan Of The Work

2. Book 1, Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 8 continue

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 10 continue

14. Chapter 11

15. Chapter 11 continue

16. Chapter 11 continue.

17. Chapter 11 continue..

18. Chapter 11 continue...

19. Conclusion of the Chapter 11

20. Book 2 Introduction

21. Chapter 1

22. Chapter II

23. Chapter II continue

24. Chapter II continue

25. Chapter 3

26. Chapter 4

27. Chapter 5

28. Book 3, Chapter 1

29. Chapter 2

30. Chapter 3

31. Chapter 4

32. Book 4, Chapter 1

33. Chapter 1 continue

34. Chapter 2

35. Chapter 3, Part 1

36. Chapter 3, Part 2

37. Chapter 4

38. Chapter 5

39. Chapter 5 continue

40. Chapter 6

41. Chapter 7, Part 1

42. Chapter 7, Part 2

43. Chapter 7, Part 3

44. Chapter 7, Part 3 continue

45. Chapter 8

46. Chapter 9

47. Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

48. Chapter 1, Part 2

49. Chapter 1, Part 3

50. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

51. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue B

52. Chapter 1, Part 4

53. Chapter 2, Part 1

54. Chapter 2, Part 2

55. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue

56. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue B

57. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue C

58. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue D

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 3 continue

Chapter IX. Of The Agricultural Systems, Or Of Those Systems Of
Political Economy Which Represent The Produce Of Land, As Either The Sole Or The Principal Source Of The Revenue And Wealth Of Every Country.

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 controls
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

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

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 the seed, and in
the maintenance of the farmer's family, servants, and cattle, during at
least a great part of the first year of his occupancy, or till he can
receive some return from the land. The annual expenses consist in the
seed, in the wear and tear of instruments of husbandry, and in the
annual maintenance of the farmer's servants and cattle, and of his
family too, so far as any part of them can be considered as servants
employed in cultivation. That part of the produce of the land which
remains to him after paying the rent, ought to be sufficient, first, to
replace to him, within a reasonable time, at least during the term of
his occupancy, the whole of his original expenses, together with the
ordinary profits of stock; and, secondly, to replace to him annually
the whole of his annual expenses, together likewise with the ordinary
profits of stock. Those two sorts of expenses are two capitals which the
farmer employs in cultivation; and unless they are regularly restored
to him, together with a reasonable profit, he cannot carry on his
employment upon a level with other employments; but, from a regard to
his own interest, must desert it as soon as possible, and seek some
other. That part of the produce of the land which is thus necessary for
enabling the farmer to continue his business, ought to be considered
as a fund sacred to cultivation, which, if the landlord violates, he
necessarily reduces the produce of his own land, and, in a few years,
not only disables the farmer from paying this racked rent, but from
paying the reasonable rent which he might otherwise have got for his
land. The rent which properly belongs to the landlord, is no more than
the neat produce which remains after paying, in the completest manner,
all the necessary expenses which must be previously laid out, in order
to raise the gross or the whole produce. It is because the labour of
the cultivators, over and above paying completely all those necessary
expenses, affords a neat produce of this kind, that this class of
people are in this system peculiarly distinguished by the honourable
appellation of the productive class. Their original and annual expenses
are for the same reason called, In this system, productive expenses,
because, over and above replacing their own value, they occasion the
annual reproduction of this neat produce.

The ground expenses, as they are called, or what the landlord lays out
upon the improvement of his land, are, in this system, too, honoured
with the appellation of productive expenses. Till the whole of those
expenses, together with the ordinary profits of stock, have been
completely repaid to him by the advanced rent which he gets from his
land, that advanced rent ought to be regarded as sacred and inviolable,
both by the church and by the king; ought to be subject neither to tithe
nor to taxation. If it is otherwise, by discouraging the improvement of
land, the church discourages the future increase of her own tithes,
and the king the future increase of his own taxes. As in a well ordered
state of things, therefore, those ground expenses, over and above
reproducing in the completest manner their own value, occasion likewise,
after a certain time, a reproduction of a neat produce, they are in this
system considered as productive expenses.

The ground expenses of the landlord, however, together with the original
and the annual expenses of the farmer, are the only three sorts of
expenses which in this system are considered as productive. All other
expenses, and all other orders of people, even those who, in the common
apprehensions of men, are regarded as the most productive, are, in this
account of things, represented as altogether barren and unproductive.

Artificers and manufacturers, in particular, whose industry, in the
common apprehensions of men, increases so much the value of the rude
produce of land, are in this system represented as a class of people
altogether barren and unproductive. Their labour, it is said, replaces
only the stock which employs them, together with its ordinary profits.
That stock consists in the materials, tools, and wages, advanced to them
by their employer; and is the fund destined for their employment and
maintenance. Its profits are the fund destined for the maintenance of
their employer. Their employer, as he advances to them the stock of
materials, tools, and wages, necessary for their employment, so he
advances to himself what is necessary for his own maintenance; and this
maintenance he generally proportions to the profit which he expects
to make by the price of their work. Unless its price repays to him the
maintenance which he advances to himself, as well as the materials,
tools, and wages, which he advances to his workmen, it evidently does
not repay to him the whole expense which he lays out upon it. The
profits of manufacturing stock, therefore, are not, like the rent of
land, a neat produce which remains after completely repaying the whole
expense which must be laid out in order to obtain them. The stock of the
farmer yields him a profit, as well as that of the master manufacturer;
and it yields a rent likewise to another person, which that of the
master manufacturer does not. The expense, therefore, laid out in
employing and maintaining artificers and manufacturers, does no more
than continue, if one may say so, the existence of its own value, and
does not produce any new value. It is, therefore, altogether a barren
and unproductive expense. The expense, on the contrary, laid out in
employing farmers and country labourers, over and above continuing
the existence of its own value, produces a new value the rent of the
landlord. It is, therefore, a productive expense.

Mercantile stock is equally barren and unproductive with manufacturing
stock. It only continues the existence of its own value, without
producing any new value. Its profits are only the repayment of the
maintenance which its employer advances to himself during the time that
he employs it, or till he receives the returns of it. They are only the
repayment of a part of the expense which must be laid out in employing

The labour of artificers and manufacturers never adds any thing to the
value of the whole annual amount of the rude produce of the land. It
adds, indeed, greatly to the value of some particular parts of it. But
the consumption which, in the mean time, it occasions of other parts, is
precisely equal to the value which it adds to those parts; so that the
value of the whole amount is not, at any one moment of time, in the
least augmented by it. The person who works the lace of a pair of fine
ruffles for example, will sometimes raise the value of, perhaps, a
pennyworth of flax to 30 sterling. But though, at first sight, he
appears thereby to multiply the value of a part of the rude produce
about seven thousand and two hundred times, he in reality adds nothing
to the value of the whole annual amount of the rude produce. The working
of that lace costs him, perhaps, two years labour. The 30 which he
gets for it when it is finished, is no more than the repayment of the
subsistence which he advances to himself during the two years that he is
employed about it. The value which, by every day's, month's, or year's
labour, he adds to the flax, does no more than replace the value of his
own consumption during that day, month, or year. At no moment of time,
therefore, does he add any thing to the value of the whole annual amount
of the rude produce of the land: the portion of that produce which he
is continually consuming, being always equal to the value which he is
continually producing. The extreme poverty of the greater part of the
persons employed in this expensive, though trifling manufacture, may
satisfy us that the price of their work does not, in ordinary cases,
exceed the value of their subsistence. It is otherwise with the work
of farmers and country labourers. The rent of the landlord is a value
which, in ordinary cases, it is continually producing over and above
replacing, in the most complete manner, the whole consumption, the whole
expense laid out upon the employment and maintenance both of the workmen
and of their employer.

Artificers, manufacturers, and merchants, can augment the revenue and
wealth of their society by parsimony only; or, as it is expressed in
this system, by privation, that is, by depriving themselves of a part
of the funds destined for their own subsistence. They annually reproduce
nothing but those funds. Unless, therefore, they annually save some part
of them, unless they annually deprive themselves of the enjoyment of
some part of them, the revenue and wealth of their society can never be,
in the smallest degree, augmented by means of their industry. Farmers
and country labourers, on the contrary, may enjoy completely the whole
funds destined for their own subsistence, and yet augment, at the same
time, the revenue and wealth of their society. Over and above what is
destined for their own subsistence, their industry annually affords a
neat produce, of which the augmentation necessarily augments the revenue
and wealth of their society. Nations, therefore, which, like France or
England, consist in a great measure, of proprietors and cultivators, can
be enriched by industry and enjoyment. Nations, on the contrary,
which, like Holland and Hamburgh, are composed chiefly of merchants,
artificers, and manufacturers, can grow rich only through parsimony and
privation. As the interest of nations so differently circumstanced is
very different, so is likewise the common character of the people. In
those of the former kind, liberality, frankness, and good fellowship,
naturally make a part of their common character; in the latter,
narrowness, meanness, and a selfish disposition, averse to all social
pleasure and enjoyment.

The unproductive class, that of merchants, artificers, and
manufacturers, is maintained and employed altogether at the expense
of the two other classes, of that of proprietors, and of that of
cultivators. They furnish it both with the materials of its work, and
with the fund of its subsistence, with the corn and cattle which it
consumes while it is employed about that work. The proprietors and
cultivators finally pay both the wages of all the workmen of the
unproductive class, and the profits of all their employers. Those
workmen and their employers are properly the servants of the proprietors
and cultivators. They are only servants who work without doors, as
menial servants work within. Both the one and the other, however, are
equally maintained at the expense of the same masters. The labour of
both is equally unproductive. It adds nothing to the value of the sum
total of the rude produce of the land. Instead of increasing the value
of that sum total, it is a charge and expense which must be paid out of

The unproductive class, however, is not only useful, but greatly
useful, to the other two classes. By means of the industry of merchants,
artificers, and manufacturers, the proprietors and cultivators can
purchase both the foreign goods and the manufactured produce of their
own country, which they have occasion for, with the produce of a much
smaller quantity of their own labour, than what they would be obliged
to employ, if they were to attempt, in an awkward and unskilful manner,
either to import the one, or to make the other, for their own use. By
means of the unproductive class, the cultivators are delivered from
many cares, which would otherwise distract their attention from the
cultivation of land. The superiority of produce, which in consequence of
this undivided attention, they are enabled to raise, is fully sufficient
to pay the whole expense which the maintenance and employment of the
unproductive class costs either the proprietors or themselves. The
industry of merchants, artificers, and manufacturers, though in its
own nature altogether unproductive, yet contributes in this manner
indirectly to increase the produce of the land. It increases the
productive powers of productive labour, by leaving it at liberty to
confine itself to its proper employment, the cultivation of land; and
the plough goes frequently the easier and the better, by means of the
labour of the man whose business is most remote from the plough.

It can never be the interest of the proprietors and cultivators, to
restrain or to discourage, in any respect, the industry of merchants,
artificers, and manufacturers. The greater the liberty which this
unproductive class enjoys, the greater will be the competition in all
the different trades which compose it, and the cheaper will the
other two classes be supplied, both with foreign goods and with the
manufactured produce of their own country.

It can never be the interest of the unproductive class to oppress
the other two classes. It is the surplus produce of the land, or what
remains after deducting the maintenance, first of the cultivators,
and afterwards of the proprietors, that maintains and employs the
unproductive class. The greater this surplus, the greater must likewise
be the maintenance and employment of that class. The establishment of
perfect justice, of perfect liberty, and of perfect equality, is the
very simple secret which most effectually secures the highest degree of
prosperity to all the three classes.

The merchants, artificers, and manufacturers of those mercantile states,
which, like Holland and Hamburgh, consist chiefly of this unproductive
class, are in the same manner maintained and employed altogether at the
expense of the proprietors and cultivators of land. The only difference
is, that those proprietors and cultivators are, the greater part
of them, placed at a most inconvenient distance from the merchants,
artificers, and manufacturers, whom they supply with the materials of
their work and the fund of their subsistence; are the inhabitants of
other countries, and the subjects of other governments.

Such mercantile states, however, are not only useful, but greatly
useful, to the inhabitants of those other countries. They fill up,
in some measure, a very important void; and supply the place of the
merchants, artificers, and manufacturers, whom the inhabitants of those
countries ought to find at home, but whom, from some defect in their
policy, they do not find at home.

It can never be the interest of those landed nations, if I may call them
so, to discourage or distress the industry of such mercantile states,
by imposing high duties upon their trade, or upon the commodities which
they furnish. Such duties, by rendering those commodities dearer, could
serve only to sink the real value of the surplus produce of their own
land, with which, or, what comes to the same thing, with the price of
which those commodities are purchased. Such duties could only serve to
discourage the increase of that surplus produce, and consequently
the improvement and cultivation of their own land. The most effectual
expedient, on the contrary, for raising the value of that surplus
produce, for encouraging its increase, and consequently the improvement
and cultivation of their own land, would be to allow the most perfect
freedom to the trade of all such mercantile nations.

This perfect freedom of trade would even be the most effectual expedient
for supplying them, in due time, with all the artificers, manufacturers,
and merchants, whom they wanted at home; and for filling up, in the
properest and most advantageous manner, that very important void which
they felt there.

The continual increase of the surplus produce of their land would, in
due time, create a greater capital than what would be employed with the
ordinary rate of profit in the improvement and cultivation of land; and
the surplus part of it would naturally turn itself to the employment
of artificers and manufacturers, at home. But these artificers and
manufacturers, finding at home both the materials of their work and the
fund of their subsistence, might immediately, even with much less
art and skill be able to work as cheap as the little artificers and
manufacturers of such mercantile states, who had both to bring from a
greater distance. Even though, from want of art and skill, they might
not for some time be able to work as cheap, yet, finding a market at
home, they might be able to sell their work there as cheap as that of
the artificers and manufacturers of such mercantile states, which could
not be brought to that market but from so great a distance; and as their
art and skill improved, they would soon be able to sell it cheaper. The
artificers and manufacturers of such mercantile states, therefore, would
immediately be rivalled in the market of those landed nations, and soon
after undersold and justled out of it altogether. The cheapness of the
manufactures of those landed nations, in consequence of the gradual
improvements of art and skill, would, in due time, extend their sale
beyond the home market, and carry them to many foreign markets, from
which they would, in the same manner, gradually justle out many of the
manufacturers of such mercantile nations.

This continual increase, both of the rude and manufactured produce of
those landed nations, would, in due time, create a greater capital
than could, with the ordinary rate of profit, be employed either in
agriculture or in manufactures. The surplus of this capital would
naturally turn itself to foreign trade and be employed in exporting, to
foreign countries, such parts of the rude and manufactured produce
of its own country, as exceeded the demand of the home market. In the
exportation of the produce of their own country, the merchants of a
landed nation would have an advantage of the same kind over those of
mercantile nations, which its artificers and manufacturers had over the
artificers and manufacturers of such nations; the advantage of finding
at home that cargo, and those stores and provisions, which the others
were obliged to seek for at a distance. With inferior art and skill in
navigation, therefore, they would be able to sell that cargo as cheap
in foreign markets as the merchants of such mercantile nations; and with
equal art and skill they would be able to sell it cheaper. They would
soon, therefore, rival those mercantile nations in this branch of
foreign trade, and, in due time, would justle them out of it altogether.

According to this liberal and generous system, therefore, the most
advantageous method in which a landed nation can raise up artificers,
manufacturers, and merchants of its own, is to grant the most perfect
freedom of trade to the artificers, manufacturers, and merchants of all
other nations. It thereby raises the value of the surplus produce of its
own land, of which the continual increase gradually establishes a
fund, which, in due time, necessarily raises up all the artificers,
manufacturers, and merchants, whom it has occasion for.

When a landed nation on the contrary, oppresses, either by high duties
or by prohibitions, the trade of foreign nations, it necessarily hurts
its own interest in two different ways. First, by raising the price
of all foreign goods, and of all sorts of manufactures, it necessarily
sinks the real value of the surplus produce of its own land, with which,
or, what comes to the same thing, with the price of which, it purchases
those foreign goods and manufactures. Secondly, by giving a sort of
monopoly of the home market to its own merchants, artificers, and
manufacturers, it raises the rate of mercantile and manufacturing
profit, in proportion to that of agricultural profit; and, consequently,
either draws from agriculture a part of the capital which had before
been employed in it, or hinders from going to it a part of what
would otherwise have gone to it. This policy, therefore, discourages
agriculture in two different ways; first, by sinking the real value
of its produce, and thereby lowering the rate of its profits; and,
secondly, by raising the rate of profit in all other employments.
Agriculture is rendered less advantageous, and trade and manufactures
more advantageous, than they otherwise would be; and every man is
tempted by his own interest to turn, as much as he can, both his capital
and his industry from the former to the latter employments.

Though, by this oppressive policy, a landed nation should be able to
raise up artificers, manufacturers, and merchants of its own, somewhat
sooner than it could do by the freedom of trade; a matter, however,
which is not a little doubtful; yet it would raise them up, if one
may say so, prematurely, and before it was perfectly ripe for them. By
raising up too hastily one species of industry, it would depress another
more valuable species of industry. By raising up too hastily a species
of industry which duly replaces the stock which employs it, together
with the ordinary profit, it would depress a species of industry which,
over and above replacing that stock, with its profit, affords likewise
a neat produce, a free rent to the landlord. It would depress productive
labour, by encouraging too hastily that labour which is altogether
barren and unproductive.

In what manner, according to this system, the sum total of the annual
produce of the land is distributed among the three classes above
mentioned, and in what manner the labour of the unproductive class
does no more than replace the value of its own consumption, without
increasing in any respect the value of that sum total, is represented
by Mr Quesnai, the very ingenious and profound author of this system, in
some arithmetical formularies. The first of these formularies, which,
by way of eminence, he peculiarly distinguishes by the name of the
Economical Table, represents the manner in which he supposes this
distribution takes place, in a state of the most perfect liberty,
and, therefore, of the highest prosperity; in a state where the annual
produce is such as to afford the greatest possible neat produce, and
where each class enjoys its proper share of the whole annual produce.
Some subsequent formularies represent the manner in which he supposes
this distribution is made in different states of restraint and
regulation; in which, either the class of proprietors, or the barren and
unproductive class, is more favoured than the class of cultivators; and
in which either the one or the other encroaches, more or less, upon the
share which ought properly to belong to this productive class. Every
such encroachment, every violation of that natural distribution, which
the most perfect liberty would establish, must, according to this
system, necessarily degrade, more or less, from one year to another, the
value and sum total of the annual produce, and must necessarily occasion
a gradual declension in the real wealth and revenue of the society; a
declension, of which the progress must be quicker or slower, according
to the degree of this encroachment, according as that natural
distribution, which the most perfect liberty would establish, is more
or less violated. Those subsequent formularies represent the different
degrees of declension which, according to this system, correspond to
the different degrees in which this natural distribution of things is

Some speculative physicians seem to have imagined that the health of the
human body could be preserved only by a certain precise regimen of
diet and exercise, of which every, the smallest violation, necessarily
occasioned some degree of disease or disorder proportionate to the
degree of the violation. Experience, however, would seem to shew, that
the human body frequently preserves, to all appearance at least, the
most perfect state of health under a vast variety of different regimens;
even under some which are generally believed to be very far from being
perfectly wholesome. But the healthful state of the human body, it would
seem, contains in itself some unknown principle of preservation, capable
either of preventing or of correcting, in many respects, the bad effects
even of a very faulty regimen. Mr Quesnai, who was himself a physician,
and a very speculative physician, seems to have entertained a notion of
the same kind concerning the political body, and to have imagined that
it would thrive and prosper only under a certain precise regimen, the
exact regimen of perfect liberty and perfect justice. He seems not to
have considered, that in the political body, the natural effort which
every man is continually making to better his own condition, is a
principle of preservation capable of preventing and correcting, in many
respects, the bad effects of a political economy, in some degree both
partial and oppressive. Such a political economy, though it no doubt
retards more or less, is not always capable of stopping altogether, the
natural progress of a nation towards wealth and prosperity, and still
less of making it go backwards. If a nation could not prosper without
the enjoyment of perfect liberty and perfect justice, there is not in
the world a nation which could ever have prospered. In the political
body, however, the wisdom of nature has fortunately made ample provision
for remedying many of the bad effects of the folly and injustice of man;
it the same manner as it has done in the natural body, for remedying
those of his sloth and intemperance.

The capital error of this system, however, seems to lie in its
representing the class of artificers, manufacturers, and merchants, as
altogether barren and unproductive. The following observations may serve
to shew the impropriety of this representation:--

First, this class, it is acknowledged, reproduces annually the value of
its own annual consmnption, and continues, at least, the existence of
the stock or capital which maintains and employs it. But, upon this
account alone, the denomination of barren or unproductive should seem to
be very improperly applied to it. We should not call a marriage barren
or unproductive, though it produced only a son and a daughter, to
replace the father and mother, and though it did not increase the number
of the human species, but only continued it as it was before. Farmers
and country labourers, indeed, over and above the stock which maintains
and employs them, reproduce annually a neat produce, a free rent to the
landlord. As a marriage which affords three children is certainly more
productive than one which affords only two, so the labour of farmers and
country labourers is certainly more productive than that of merchants,
artificers, and manufacturers. The superior produce of the one class,
however, does not, render the other barren or unproductive.

Secondly, it seems, on this account, altogether improper to consider
artificers, manufacturers, and merchants, in the same light as menial
servants. The labour of menial servants does not continue the existence
of the fund which maintains and employs them. Their maintenance and
employment is altogether at the expense of their masters, and the work
which they perform is not of a nature to repay that expense. That work
consists in services which perish generally in the very instant of
their performance, and does not fix or realize itself in any vendible
commodity, which can replace the value of their wages and maintenance.
The labour, on the contrary, of artificers, manufacturers, and
merchants, naturally does fix and realize itself in some such vendible
commodity. It is upon this account that, in the chapter in which I
treat of productive and unproductive labour, I have classed artificers,
manufacturers, and merchants among the productive labourers, and menial
servants among the barren or unproductive.

Thirdly, it seems, upon every supposition, improper to say, that the
labour of artificers, manufacturers, and merchants, does not increase
the real revenue of the society. Though we should suppose, for example,
as it seems to be supposed in this system, that the value of the daily,
monthly, and yearly consumption of this class was exactly equal to that
of its daily, monthly, and yearly production; yet it would not from
thence follow, that its labour added nothing to the real revenue, to the
real value of the annual produce of the land and labour of the society.
An artificer, for example, who, in the first six months after harvest,
executes ten pounds worth of work, though he should, in the same time,
consume ten pounds worth of corn and other necessaries, yet really adds
the value of ten pounds to the annual produce of the land and labour of
the society. While he has been consuming a half-yearly revenue of ten
pounds worth of corn and other necessaries, he has produced an equal
value of work, capable of purchasing, either to himself, or to some
other person, an equal half-yearly revenue. The value, therefore, of
what has been consumed and produced during these six months, is equal,
not to ten, but to twenty pounds. It is possible, indeed, that no more
than ten pounds worth of this value may ever have existed at any
one moment of time. But if the ten pounds worth of corn and other
necessaries which were consumed by the artificer, had been consumed by
a soldier, or by a menial servant, the value of that part of the annual
produce which existed at the end of the six months, would have been
ten pounds less than it actually is in consequence of the labour of the
artificer. Though the value of what the artificer produces, therefore,
should not, at any one moment of time, be supposed greater than the
value he consumes, yet, at every moment of time, the actually existing
value of goods in the market is, in consequence of what he produces,
greater than it otherwise would be.

When the patrons of this system assert, that the consumption of
artificers, manufacturer's, and merchants, is equal to the value of what
they produce, they probably mean no more than that their revenue, or
the fund destined for their consumption, is equal to it. But if they
had expressed themselves more accurately, and only asserted, that the
revenue of this class was equal to the value of what they produced, it
might readily have occurred to the reader, that what would naturally be
saved out of this revenue, must necessarily increase more or less the
real wealth of the society. In order, therefore, to make out something
like an argument, it was necessary that they should express themselves
as they have done; and this argument, even supposing things actually
were as it seems to presume them to be, turns out to be a very
inconclusive one.

Fourthly, farmers and country labourers can no more augment, without
parsimony, the real revenue, the annual produce of the land and labour
of their society, than artificers, manufacturers, and merchants. The
annual produce of the land and labour of any society can be augmented
only in two ways; either, first, by some improvement in the productive
powers of the useful labour actually maintained within it; or, secondly,
by some increase in the quantity of that labour.

The improvement in the productive powers of useful labour depends,
first, upon the improvement in the ability of the workman; and,
secondly, upon that of the machinery with which he works. But the
labour of artificers and manufacturers, as it is capable of being
more subdivided, and the labour of each workman reduced to a greater
simplicity of operation, than that of farmers and country labourers;
so it is likewise capable of both these sorts of improvement in a much
higher degree {See book i chap. 1.} In this respect, therefore,
the class of cultivators can have no sort of advantage over that of
artificers and manufacturers.

The increase in the quantity of useful labour actually employed within
any society must depend altogether upon the increase of the capital
which employs it; and the increase of that capital, again, must be
exactly equal to the amount of the savings from the revenue, either
of the particular persons who manage and direct the employment of that
capital, or of some other persons, who lend it to them. If merchants,
artificers, and manufacturers are, as this system seems to suppose,
naturally more inclined to parsimony and saving than proprietors and
cultivators, they are, so far, more likely to augment the quantity
of useful labour employed within their society, and consequently to
increase its real revenue, the annual produce of its land and labour.

Fifthly and lastly, though the revenue of the inhabitants of every
country was supposed to consist altogether, as this system seems to
suppose, in the quantity of subsistence which their industry could
procure to them; yet, even upon this supposition, the revenue of a
trading and manufacturing country must, other things being equal, always
be much greater than that of one without trade or manufactures. By means
of trade and manufactures, a greater quantity of subsistence can be
annually imported into a particular country, than what its own lands, in
the actual state of their cultivation, could afford. The inhabitants of
a town, though they frequently possess no lands of their own, yet draw
to themselves, by their industry, such a quantity of the rude produce of
the lands of other people, as supplies them, not only with the materials
of their work, but with the fund of their subsistence. What a town
always is with regard to the country in its neighbourhood, one
independent state or country may frequently be with regard to other
independent states or countries. It is thus that Holland draws a great
part of its subsistence from other countries; live cattle from Holstein
and Jutland, and corn from almost all the different countries of Europe.
A small quantity of manufactured produce, purchases a great quantity of
rude produce. A trading and manufacturing country, therefore, naturally
purchases, with a small part of its manufactured produce, a great
part of the rude produce of other countries; while, on the contrary, a
country without trade and manufactures is generally obliged to purchase,
at the expense of a great part of its rude produce, a very small part
of the manufactured produce of other countries. The one exports what can
subsist and accommodate but a very few, and imports the subsistence and
accommodation of a great number. The other exports the accommodation and
subsistence of a great number, and imports that of a very few only.
The inhabitants of the one must always enjoy a much greater quantity
of subsistence than what their own lands, in the actual state of their
cultivation, could afford. The inhabitants of the other must always
enjoy a much smaller quantity.

This system, however, with all its imperfections, is perhaps the nearest
approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the
subject of political economy; and is upon that account, well worth the
consideration of every man who wishes to examine with attention the
principles of that very important science. Though in representing the
labour which is employed upon land as the only productive labour, the
notions which it inculcates are, perhaps, too narrow and confined;
yet in representing the wealth of nations as consisting, not in the
unconsumable riches of money, but in the consumable goods annually
reproduced by the labour of the society, and in representing perfect
liberty as the only effectual expedient for rendering this annual
reproduction the greatest possible, its doctrine seems to be in every
respect as just as it is generous and liberal. Its followers are
very numerous; and as men are fond of paradoxes, and of appearing to
understand what surpasses the comprehensions of ordinary people, the
paradox which it maintains, concerning the unproductive nature of
manufacturing labour, has not, perhaps, contributed a little to increase
the number of its admirers. They have for some years past made a pretty
considerable sect, distinguished in the French republic of letters by
the name of the Economists. Their works have certainly been of some
service to their country; not only by bringing into general discussion,
many subjects which had never been well examined before, but by
influencing, in some measure, the public administration in favour
of agriculture. It has been in consequence of their representations,
accordingly, that the agriculture of France has been delivered from
several of the oppressions which it before laboured under. The term,
during which such a lease can be granted, as will be valid against every
future purchaser or proprietor of the land, has been prolonged from
nine to twenty-seven years. The ancient provincial restraints upon the
transportation of corn from one province of the kingdom to another, have
been entirely taken away; and the liberty of exporting it to all foreign
countries, has been established as the common law of the kingdom in all
ordinary cases. This sect, in their works, which are very numerous, and
which treat not only of what is properly called Political Economy, or
of the nature and causes or the wealth of nations, but of every other
branch of the system of civil government, all follow implicitly, and
without any sensible variation, the doctrine of Mr. Qttesnai. There is,
upon this account, little variety in the greater part of their works.
The most distinct and best connected account of this doctrine is to be
found in a little book written by Mr. Mercier de la Riviere, some time
intendant of Martinico, entitled, The natural and essential Order of
Political Societies. The admiration of this whole sect for their master,
who was himself a man of the greatest modesty and simplicity, is not
inferior to that of any of the ancient philosophers for the founders of
their respective systems. 'There have been since the world began,' says
a very diligent and respectable author, the Marquis de Mirabeau, 'three
great inventions which have principally given stability to political
societies, independent of many other inventions which have enriched and
adorned them. The first is the invention of writing, which alone gives
human nature the power of transmitting, without alteration, its laws,
its contracts, its annals, and its discoveries. The second is the
invention of money, which binds together all the relations between
civilized societies. The third is the economical table, the result of
the other two, which completes them both by perfecting their object;
the great discovery of our age, but of which our posterity will reap the

As the political economy of the nations of modern Europe has been more
favourable to manufactures and foreign trade, the industry of the towns,
than to agriculture, the industry of the country; so that of other
nations has followed a different plan, and has been more favourable to
agriculture than to manufactures and foreign trade.

The policy of China favours agriculture more than all other employments.
In China, the condition of a labourer is said to be as much superior to
that of an artificer, as in most parts of Europe that of an artificer is
to that of a labourer. In China, the great ambition of every man is to
get possession of a little bit of land, either in property or in lease;
and leases are there said to be granted upon very moderate terms, and to
be sufficiently secured to the lessees. The Chinese have little respect
for foreign trade. Your beggarly commerce! was the language in which
the mandarins of Pekin used to talk to Mr. De Lange, the Russian envoy,
concerning it {See the Journal of Mr. De Lange, in Bell's Travels,
vol. ii. p. 258, 276, 293.}. Except with Japan, the Chinese carry on,
themselves, and in their own bottoms, little or no foreign trade; and it
is only into one or two ports of their kingdom that they even admit the
ships of foreign nations. Foreign trade, therefore, is, in China, every
way confined within a much narrower circle than that to which it would
naturally extend itself, if more freedom was allowed to it, either in
their own ships, or in those of foreign nations.

Manufactures, as in a small bulk they frequently contain a great value,
and can upon that account be transported at less expense from one
country to another than most parts of rude produce, are, in almost
all countries, the principal support of foreign trade. In countries,
besides, less extensive, and less favourably circumstanced for inferior
commerce than China, they generally require the support of foreign
trade. Without an extensive foreign market, they could not well
flourish, either in countries so moderately extensive as to afford but a
narrow home market, or in countries where the communication between one
province and another was so difficult, as to render it impossible for
the goods of any particular place to enjoy the whole of that home
market which the country could afford. The perfection of manufacturing
industry, it must be remembered, depends altogether upon the division of
labour; and the degree to which the division of labour can be introduced
into any manufacture, is necessarily regulated, it has already been
shewn, by the extent of the market. But the great extent of the empire
of China, the vast multitude of its inhabitants, the variety of climate,
and consequently of productions in its different provinces, and the easy
communication by means of water-carriage between the greater part of
them, render the home market of that country of so great extent, as to
be alone sufficient to support very great manufactures, and to admit of
very considerable subdivisions of labour. The home market of China is,
perhaps, in extent, not much inferior to the market of all the different
countries of Europe put together. A more extensive foreign trade,
however, which to this great home market added the foreign market of all
the rest of the world, especially if any considerable part of this trade
was carried on in Chinese ships, could scarce fail to increase very
much the manufactures of China, and to improve very much the productive
powers of its manufacturing industry. By a more extensive navigation,
the Chinese would naturally learn the art of using and constructing,
themselves, all the different machines made use of in other countries,
as well as the other improvements of art and industry which are
practised in all the different parts of the world. Upon their present
plan, they have little opportunity of improving themselves by the
example of any other nation, except that of the Japanese.

The policy of ancient Egypt, too, and that of the Gentoo government
of Indostan, seem to have favoured agriculture more than all other

Both in ancient Egypt and Indostan, the whole body of the people was
divided into different casts or tribes each of which was confined, from
father to son, to a particular employment, or class of employments.
The son of a priest was necessarily a priest; the son of a soldier,
a soldier; the son of a labourer, a labourer; the son of a weaver, a
weaver; the son of a tailor, a tailor, etc. In both countries, the cast
of the priests holds the highest rank, and that of the soldiers the
next; and in both countries the cast of the farmers and labourers was
superior to the casts of merchants and manufacturers.

The government of both countries was particularly attentive to the
interest of agriculture. The works constructed by the ancient sovereigns
of Egypt, for the proper distribution of the waters of the Nile, were
famous in antiquity, and the ruined remains of some of them are
still the admiration of travellers. Those of the same kind which were
constructed by the ancient sovereigns of Indostan, for the proper
distribution of the waters of the Ganges, as well as of many other
rivers, though they have been less celebrated, seem to have been equally
great. Both countries, accordingly, though subject occasionally to
dearths, have been famous for their great fertility. Though both were
extremely populous, yet, in years of moderate plenty, they were both
able to export great quantities of grain to their neighbours.

The ancient Egyptians had a superstitious aversion to the sea; and as
the Gentoo religion does not permit its followers to light a fire,
nor consequently to dress any victuals, upon the water, it, in effect,
prohibits them from all distant sea voyages. Both the Egyptians and
Indians must have depended almost altogether upon the navigation of
other nations for the exportation of their surplus produce; and this
dependency, as it must have confined the market, so it must have
discouraged the increase of this surplus produce. It must have
discouraged, too, the increase of the manufactured produce, more than
that of the rude produce. Manufactures require a much more extensive
market than the most important parts of the rude produce of the land. A
single shoemaker will make more than 300 pairs of shoes in the year; and
his own family will not, perhaps, wear out six pairs. Unless, therefore,
he has the custom of, at least, 50 such families as his own, he cannot
dispose of the whole product of his own labour. The most numerous class
of artificers will seldom, in a large country, make more than one in 50,
or one in a 100, of the whole number of families contained in it. But
in such large countries, as France and England, the number of people
employed in agriculture has, by some authors been computed at a half, by
others at a third and by no author that I know of, at less that a fifth
of the whole inhabitants of the country. But as the produce of the
agriculture of both France and England is, the far greater part of it,
consumed at home, each person employed in it must, according to these
computations, require little more than the custom of one, two, or, at
most, of four such families as his own, in order to dispose of the whole
produce of his own labour. Agriculture, therefore, can support
itself under the discouragement of a confined market much better
than manufactures. In both ancient Egypt and Indostan, indeed, the
confinement of the foreign market was in some measure compensated by
the conveniency of many inland navigations, which opened, in the most
advantageous manner, the whole extent of the home market to every part
of the produce of every different district of those countries. The great
extent of Indostan, too, rendered the home market of that country very
great, and sufficient to support a great variety of manufactures. But
the small extent of ancient Egypt, which was never equal to England,
must at all times, have rendered the home market of that country
too narrow for supporting any great variety of manufactures. Bengal
accordingly, the province of Indostan which commonly exports the
greatest quantity of rice, has always been more remarkable for the
exportation of a great variety of manufactures, than for that of
its grain. Ancient Egypt, on the contrary, though it exported some
manufactures, fine linen in particular, as well as some other goods,
was always most distinguished for its great exportation of grain. It was
long the granary of the Roman empire.

The sovereigns of China, of ancient Egypt, and of the different kingdoms
into which Indostan has, at different times, been divided, have always
derived the whole, or by far the most considerable part, of their
revenue, from some sort of land tax or land rent. This land tax, or land
rent, like the tithe in Europe, consisted in a certain proportion,
a fifth, it is said, of the produce of the land, which was either
delivered in kind, or paid in money, according to a certain valuation,
and which, therefore, varied from year to year, according to all
the variations of the produce. It was natural, therefore, that the
sovereigns of those countries should be particularly attentive to the
interests of agriculture, upon the prosperity or declension of which
immediately depended the yearly increase or diminution of their own

The policy of the ancient republics of Greece, and that of Rome, though
it honoured agriculture more than manufactures or foreign trade, yet
seems rather to have discouraged the latter employments, than to have
given any direct or intentional encouragement to the former. In
several of the ancient states of Greece, foreign trade was prohibited
altogether; and in several others, the employments of artificers and
manufacturers were considered as hurtful to the strength and agility of
the human body, as rendering it incapable of those habits which their
military and gymnastic exercises endeavoured to form in it, and as
thereby disqualifying it, more or less, for undergoing the fatigues and
encountering the dangers of war. Such occupations were considered as
fit only for slaves, and the free citizens of the states were prohibited
from exercising them. Even in those states where no such prohibition
took place, as in Rome and Athens, the great body of the people were in
effect excluded from all the trades which are now commonly exercised by
the lower sort of the inhabitants of towns. Such trades were, at Athens
and Rome, all occupied by the slaves of the rich, who exercised them for
the benefit of their masters, whose wealth, power, and protection, made
it almost impossible for a poor freeman to find a market for his work,
when it came into competition with that of the slaves of the rich.
Slaves, however, are very seldom inventive; and all the most
important improvements, either in machinery, or in the arrangement and
distribution of work, which facilitate and abridge labour have been the
discoveries of freemen. Should a slave propose any improvement of this
kind, his master would be very apt to consider the proposal as the
suggestion of laziness, and of a desire to save his own labour at the
master's expense. The poor slave, instead of reward would probably
meet with much abuse, perhaps with some punishment. In the manufactures
carried on by slaves, therefore, more labour must generally have been
employed to execute the same quantity of work, than in those carried on
by freemen. The work of the farmer must, upon that account, generally
have been dearer than that of the latter. The Hungarian mines, it is
remarked by Mr. Montesquieu, though not richer, have always been wrought
with less expense, and therefore with more profit, than the Turkish
mines in their neighbourhood. The Turkish mines are wrought by slaves;
and the arms of those slaves are the only machines which the Turks have
ever thought of employing. The Hungarian mines are wrought by freemen,
who employ a great deal of machinery, by which they facilitate and
abridge their own labour. From the very little that is known about the
price of manufactures in the times of the Greeks and Romans, it would
appear that those of the finer sort were excessively dear. Silk sold
for its weight in gold. It was not, indeed, in those times an European
manufacture; and as it was all brought from the East Indies, the
distance of the carriage may in some measure account for the greatness
of the price. The price, however, which a lady, it is said, would
sometimes pay for a piece of very fine linen, seems to have been equally
extravagant; and as linen was always either an European, or at farthest,
an Egyptian manufacture, this high price can be accounted for only by
the great expense of the labour which must have been employed about It,
and the expense of this labour again could arise from nothing but the
awkwardness of the machinery which is made use of. The price of fine
woollens, too, though not quite so extravagant, seems, however, to have
been much above that of the present times. Some cloths, we are told by
Pliny {Plin. 1. ix.c.39.}, dyed in a particular manner, cost a hundred
denarii, or 3:6s:8d. the pound weight. Others, dyed in another manner,
cost a thousand denarii the pound weight, or 33:6s:8d. The Roman pound,
it must be remembered, contained only twelve of our avoirdupois ounces.
This high price, indeed, seems to have been principally owing to the
dye. But had not the cloths themselves been much dearer than any
which are made in the present times, so very expensive a dye would not
probably have been bestowed upon them. The disproportion would have been
too great between the value of the accessory and that of the principal.
The price mentioned by the same author {Plin. 1. viii.c.48.}, of some
triclinaria, a sort of woollen pillows or cushions made use of to
lean upon as they reclined upon their couches at table, passes all
credibility; some of them being said to have cost more than 30,000,
others more than 300,000. This high price, too, is not said to have
arisen from the dye. In the dress of the people of fashion of both
sexes, there seems to have been much less variety, it is observed by Dr.
Arbuthnot, in ancient than in modern times; and the very little variety
which we find in that of the ancient statues, confirms his observation.
He infers from this, that their dress must, upon the whole, have been
cheaper than ours; but the conclusion does not seem to follow. When the
expense of fashionable dress is very great, the variety must be very
small. But when, by the improvements in the productive powers of
manufacturing art and industry, the expense of any one dress comes to be
very moderate, the variety will naturally be very great. The rich, not
being able to distinguish themselves by the expense of any one dress,
will naturally endeavour to do so by the multitude and variety of their

The greatest and most important branch of the commerce of every nation,
it has already been observed, is that which is carried on between the
inhabitants of the town and those of the country. The inhabitants of the
town draw from the country the rude produce, which constitutes both the
materials of their work and the fund of their subsistence; and they pay
for this rude produce, by sending back to the country a certain portion
of it manufactured and prepared for immediate use. The trade which
is carried on between these two different sets of people, consists
ultimately in a certain quantity of rude produce exchanged for a certain
quantity of manufactured produce. The dearer the latter, therefore, the
cheaper the former; and whatever tends in any country to raise the price
of manufactured produce, tends to lower that of the rude produce of the
land, and thereby to discourage agriculture. The smaller the quantity of
manufactured produce, which any given quantity of rude produce, or, what
comes to the same thing, which the price of any given quantity of rude
produce, is capable of purchasing, the smaller the exchangeable value of
that given quantity of rude produce; the smaller the encouragement which
either the landlord has to increase its quantity by improving, or the
farmer by cultivating the land. Whatever, besides, tends to diminish
in any country the number of artificers and manufacturers, tends to
diminish the home market, the most important of all markets, for the
rude produce of the land, and thereby still further to discourage

Those systems, therefore, which preferring agriculture to all other
employments, in order to promote it, impose restraints upon manufactures
and foreign trade, act contrary to the very end which they propose, and
indirectly discourage that very species of industry which they mean
to promote. They are so far, perhaps, more inconsistent than even the
mercantile system. That system, by encouraging manufactures and foreign
trade more than agriculture, turns a certain portion of the capital
of the society, from supporting a more advantageous, to support a less
advantageous species of industry. But still it really, and in the end,
encourages that species of industry which it means to promote.
Those agricultural systems, on the contrary, really, and in the end,
discourage their own favourite species of industry.

It is thus that every system which endeavours, either, by extraordinary
encouragements to draw towards a particular species of industry a
greater share of the capital of the society than what would naturally
go to it, or, by extraordinary restraints, to force from a particular
species of industry some share of the capital which would otherwise be
employed in it, is, in reality, subversive of the great purpose which
it means to promote. It retards, instead of accelerating the progress of
the society towards real wealth and greatness; and diminishes, instead
of increasing, the real value of the annual produce of its land and

All systems, either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus
completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty
establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not
violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own
interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into
competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign
is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which
he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper
performance of which, no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be
sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people,
and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the
interests of the society. According to the system of natural liberty,
the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great
importance, indeed, but plain and intelligible to common understandings:
first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion
of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as
far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or
oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an
exact administration of justice; and, thirdly, the duty of erecting and
maintaining certain public works, and certain public institutions, which
it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of
individuals to erect and maintain; because the profit could never repay
the expense to any individual, or small number of individuals, though it
may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society.

The proper performance of those several duties of the sovereign
necessarily supposes a certain expense; and this expense again
necessarily requires a certain revenue to support it. In the following
book, therefore, I shall endeavour to explain, first, what are the
necessary expenses of the sovereign or commonwealth; and which of those
expenses ought to be defrayed by the general contribution of the whole
society; and which of them, by that of some particular part only, or of
some particular members of the society: secondly, what are the different
methods in which the whole society may be made to contribute towards
defraying the expenses incumbent on the whole society; and what are the
principal advantages and inconveniencies of each of those methods: and
thirdly, what are the reasons and causes which have induced almost all
modern governments to mortgage some part of this revenue, or to contract
debts; and what have been the effects of those debts upon the real
wealth, the annual produce of the land and labour of the society.
The following book, therefore, will naturally be divided into three

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