God has not made a world of rich men; but rather a world of poor men; or of men, at least, who must toil for a subsistence. That is, then, the best condition for man, and the grand sphere of human improvement. If the whole world could acquire wealth, (and one man is as much entitled to it as another, when he is born); if the present generation could lay up a complete provision for the next, as some men desire to do for their children; the world would be destroyed at a single blow. All industry would cease with the necessity for it; all improvement would stop with the demand for exertion; the dissipation of fortunes, the mischiefs of which are now countervailed by the healthful tone of society, would breed universal disease, and break out into universal license; and the world would sink, rotten as Herod, into the grave of its own loathsome vices.

Almost all the noblest things that have been achieved in the world, have been achieved by poor men; poor scholars, poor professional men, poor artisans and artists, poor philosophers, poets, and men of genius. A certain staidness and sobriety, a certain moderation and restraint, a certain pressure of circumstances, are good for man. His body was not made for luxuries. It sickens, sinks, and dies under them. His mind was not made for indulgence. It grows weak, effeminate, and dwarfish, under that condition. And he who pampers his body with luxuries and his mind with indulgence, bequeaths the consequences to the minds and bodies of his descendants, without the wealth which was their cause. For wealth, without a law of entail to help it, has always lacked the energy even to keep its own treasures. They drop from its imbecile hand. The third generation almost inevitably goes down the rolling wheel of fortune, and there learns the energy necessary to rise again, if it rises at all; heir, as it is, to the bodily diseases, and mental weaknesses, and the soul’s vices of its ancestors, and not heir to their wealth. And yet we are, almost all of

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us, anxious to put our children, or to insure that our grandchildren shall be put, on this road to indulgence, luxury, vice, degradation, and ruin; this heirship of hereditary disease, soul malady, and mental leprosy.

If wealth were employed in promoting mental culture at home and works of philanthropy abroad; if it were multiplying studies of art, and building up institutions of learning around us; if it were in every way raising the intellectual character of the world, there could scarcely be too much of it. But if the utmost aim, effort, and ambition of wealth be, to procure rich furniture, and provide costly entertainments, and build luxurious houses, and minister to vanity, extravagance, and ostentation, there could scarcely be too little of it. To a certain extent it may laudably be the minister of elegancies and luxuries, and the servitor of hospitality and physical enjoyment: but just in proportion as its tendencies, divested of all higher aims and tastes, are running that way, they are running to peril and evil.

Nor does that peril attach to individuals and families alone. It stands, a fearful beacon, in the experience of Cities, Republics, and Empires. The lessons of past times, on this subject, are emphatic and solemn. The history of wealth has always been a history of corruption and downfall. The people never existed that could stand the trial. Boundless profusion is too little likely to spread for any people the theatre of manly energy, rigid self-denial, and lofty virtue. You do not look for the bone and sinew and strength of a country, its loftiest talents and virtues, its martyrs to patriotism or religion, its men to meet the days of peril and disaster, among the children of ease, indulgence, and luxury.

In the great march of the races of men over the earth, we have always seen opulence and luxury sinking before poverty and toil and hardy nurture. That is the law which .has presided over the great processions of empire. Sidon and Tyre, whose merchants possessed the wealth of princes; Babylon and Palmyra, the seats of Asiatic luxury; Rome, laden with the spoils of a world, overwhelmed by her own vices more than by the hosts of her enemies; all these, and many more, are examples of the destructive tendencies of immense and unnatural accumulation: and men must become more generous and benevolent, not more selfish and effeminate, as they become more rich, or the history of modern wealth will follow in the sad train of all past examples.

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