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only qutlay is the cost of the instrument by which the natural agent is rendered available, this is the only expenditure which demands the attention of the political economist.
If we reflect upon the various natural agents employed by man, we shall see that some of them can be used without any tools whatever. Such is the case in agricultural labor, with air, and the light of the sun. Others require only such simple instruments, that their effect upon price is not appreciable. Thus, a mariner's compass, which would last for twenty years, and assist in the transportation of half as many millions' value of merchandise, would cost but a few dollars. Others are used by few persons, and for particular and unusual purposes, as the lens, or the microscope. It is only those agents which require their effect upon machinery of which the cost is appreciable, and which are of so general necessity, that their use enters into consideration in estimating the expenses of production, that require to be specially noticed in Political Economy.
The means most universally required for creating change, is momentum, or, as it is commonly called, power. Without this, in agriculture, no change in elementary form, and, in mechanics, no change in aggregate form, and, in transportation, no change in place, can be effected.
The instruments necessary to avail ourselves of the natural agents which create momentum, or which enable us to use it in particular methods, are very numerous and very costly, and form a large portion of the fixed capital of man. The natural agents which man uses for this purpose are, therefore, those which particularly claim our attention; and, to these, the remainder of this section will be devoted.
The natural agents connected with the use of momentum, may be divided into two classes:
1. Those which create momentum. 2. Those which enable us to use it.
1. Of those which create momentum.
This class of agents may be subdivided into two kinds : 1st. Animate; and, 2d. Inanimate.
1. Animate. These are, beasts of draft and burden, generally. The most common of these are, the ox, the horse, and the mule; others in use in particular districts, are the camel, the elephant, the dog and the reindeer.
The subjection of animals to the human will marks an era in the progress of civilization; and teaches us that the first important step has been taken in the improvement of the condition of man, and in the productiveness of human industry. The ox and the horse have much greater physical pow. er than man. They may also be sustained at a much less expense.
Their food is the spontaneous production of the earth, which, for a large part of the year, they gather for themselves, and which requires no labor of preparation. They need no clothing in any latitude, and in the warmer parts of the temperate zone, need no shelter. But, in consequence of his superiority in intellectual endowment, man can direct and govern the physical power of several of these animals, and, by attaching them to agricultural machines, can command that power at his will, If, then, by the use of animals, one man can wield a physical force equal to that of ten men, he will be able to produce, by the labor of a day, ten times as much as he could, before the introduction of animate agents. He will, therefore, by the same amount of labor, produce ten times as large an amount of objects of desire; that is, of means of human happiness. He will have a larger surplus to employ in fized capital for the next year, and this surplus will be annually increasing, and increasing at the rate of compound interest. He will have a larger portion to exchange ; hence, he will be able, also, to enjoy a larger amount of his neighbor's products. He will be able to exchange with a greater number of producers; hence, he will have a larger number of his desires gratified. And when once this first step has been taken, capital, unless destroyed by man's perverse moral dispositions, must increase so rapidly, that the mechanical arts soon commence, and permanent improvements and intellectual cultivation will follow in rapid succession.
In the earlier stages of society, animate power must be used for the production of momentum, in all the three departments of human industry. In the labors of agriculture, it is still employed, and must probably be thus employed forever. Nothing has yet superseded it, and there is reason to doubt whether any thing ever will supersede it. In this respect, therefore, so far as the means for the creation of momentum are concerned, the early and the later periods of society remain on a level. The improvements that have been made by the introduction of other creative forces, have generally been connected with the other modes of operative industry.
2. Of Inanimate Natural Agents. The inanimate agents, most commonly in use, are: The explosive force of Gunpowder ; Wind; The gravitating power of Water ; and The expansive power of Steam.
1. Gunpowder is used in the blasting of rocks, in hunting, and in war. Its value, in the blasting of rocks, is very considerable. By drilling a small hole, which may be done by one man in a day, and by the use of a few ounces of gunpowder, a force may be exerted in an instant, producing an effect which, twenty men, for several days, could not otherwise have exerted. Hence, it is of very great use in all works of internal improvement, where rocks must be removed, in order to admit the passage of railroads and canals. In fact, it is doubtful whether many of the most important of these works could ever have been executed, but for this agent. Others, if the execution of them were possible, must have been accomplished at so great an expense, that the investment of capital in them would not have been profitable, and, of course, it would not have been made.
Gunpowder is also used extensively in war. If war be beneficial, or even necessary, gunpowder is an agent of the utmost importance ; for, by no other means yet discovered, is it possible to destroy so many men, with so little physical suffering, and with so little personal labor. It has also a moral advantage over other methods of slaughter, inasmuch as the destruction of human life, in this manner, excites less sensibly the ferocity of the human heart. On this account, wars, since its introduction, have been conducted on more humane principles than formerly. It has also been a valuable auxiliary to the progress of civilization, since it has conferred on civilized, an undisputed mastery over uncivilized nations. There has not been, for centuries, any danger to Christendom from barbarian invasion. Besides, the more energetic are the means of destruction in war, the less is the loss of life in battle. Hence, of a given number of combatants in an engagement, a much smaller proportion is now slain than formerly. This might almost give rise to the seemingly paradoxical hope, that some means of destruction might yet be invented, so overwhelming in its effects, as to put the smallest number of men on a level with the greatest, and hence to put an end to wars altogether.
2. Another agent, used for the creation of momentum, is Wind. Wind, as a stationary agent, is an important mechanical power, in countries destitute of water power, or of the fuel necessary for the production of steam, or of the capital which must be invested in the machinery required in the use of more expensive agents. Its principal advantage is its cheapness. It costs nothing to create it, and the machinery, by which it is applied, is simple, and easily constructed.
The disadvantages of wind, are its uncertainty, both in quantity and in time, and the difficulty with
which it is regulated. In consequence of the irregularity of its force, it is impossible to employ it in labor requiring delicacy of operation : and, in consequence of its uncertainty in time, it could not be employed where the labor of many persons was dependant on its assistance.
As a locomotive power, on water, wind is almost universally used in navigation. Though the direction, in which it acts, is variable; yet, nautical skill enables us to use it when blowing from almost any point whatever. Its variation, in the quantity of force, is here also a matter of less consequence, since this circumstance can affect the operation to be performed, only in respect to time. And variation, even in this respect, has, in a great degree, yielded to science and enterprise. It is astonishing to observe with what precision and certainty voyages are now made between New York and Liverpool. Hence, this agent has, until lately, been universally used in the navigation of the ocean. With the inventions of Fulton a new era commenced. Steam very soon was employed in the place of wind in the navigation of rivers and along the sea-board. It was not however, until the year 1837 that the experiment was successfully made, of establishing a regular communication between Europe and America by means of steam. In the May of that year, the steamers Sirius and Great Western, the former from Liverpool, the latter from Bristol, arrived in New York. Since that time passages have continued to be made between the above ports with great regularity, and thus far without disaster or accident. It is demonstrated that the Navigation of the Atlantic, by steam, is as perfectly within the power of man, as the navigation of the Thames or the Hudson. Steamers are also at present plying regularly from France and Great Britain to every part of the Mediterranean. The British Government has lately engaged steamers to sail every fortnight, from London to various dependencies in North America and the West Indies.