17 FEBRUARY 1855, Page 15

CHARLES %NIGHT'S KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.* Anotrr the time of the

"Swing" proceedings, some five-and-twenty years ago, Mr. Knight published a little book on Machinery, to deter the rural rioters from destroying thrashing-machines. On a sub- sequent occasion of dispute between masters and workmen he pro- duced a like publication on Capital and Labour, with a similar good intention of allaying animosities arising from mistaken views. Both books displayed the author's knowledge of facts and his skill in grouping them. As treatises on political economy, the conclusions, especially those relating to machinery, were of the most elementary character, forming indeed the very abc of "production." The facts, though well chosen, and handled in a masterly manner, were according to our author's wont, rather overlaid, and stated with scant consideration for the truth that lurks, as Mr. Sohn Mill observes' in all widely-spread poprlar errors. For their immediate object they were not perhaps well de- signed. A man who is actively engaged in a riot or a strike is not to be deterred by book reasonings, even though they may appear "under the sanction of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge." In fact, the publications were hardly fitted for the class to which they were ostensibly addressed. To the political economist they could teach nothing new, though they might fur- nish some novel illustrations ; to the mob, whether rustic or urban, they were cumbrous and caviare ; but they were well adapted to' infuse sound notions into educated and inquiring minds, whether of the rich, the well-to-do, or the poor, which know nothing of economical science.

The two little treatises in question form the basis of the pre- sent work, recast, revised, and extended, not only with new facts and allusions, but by new elements, so as to present a faller ex- position of the principles of political economy illustrated and en- forced by their development in this country. The work is thus better than new ; for it now appears in a form proper to the classes for whom it is best adapted—educated people innocent of Adam Smith.

The principles inculcated by Mr. Knight are, that labour is the origin of wealth, but that the production of wealth is mightily as- sisted by the results of stored-up labour or capital. These axioms are illustrated by the instance of a man abandoned on an uninhabited island, and enforced in detail by cases of men really so circumstanced, by the lifelike fiction of Robinson Crusoe, and by instances of the hunter's half-starved life among the North American Indians. The third principle is that of "exchange"; which is perhaps the natural order, for savages exchange one thing for another, though they do not practise, at least systemati- cally, the division or combination of labour. It is, however, to this division or combination that any real advance in wealth is due, as one of our author's instances shows. Robinson Crusoe could not alone manage to get the great boat he had made to the water, but he launched it with the aid of Friday. The import- ance Of the appropriation of land itself, and not merely its fruits, to the production of wealth, strikes us as having novelty. There is nothing new in the necessity of freedom and security for the advancement of the wealth of nations.

After these topics are dismissed, Mr. Knight proceeds more directly to his old questions of the effects of machinery, capi- tal, and labour, in producing wealth, increasing the amount of

commodities and the consequent addition to the general health and comfort of the different classes of society,' including even the hum-

blest. These expositions are also varied by discussions thatrather belong to the " article " than the scientific essay ; the illustrations being brought forward as much for the curious interest inherent

in themselves as merely to establish the truth of the principle. In fact, the book is strictly a series of papers on wealth in various aspects of production and distribution. Old principles are ea- • Knowledge is Power: a View of the Productive Forces of Modem Society, and the Results a Labour, Capital, and Skill. By Charles Knight. Published by stuffily. forced by new illustrations, rather than any new discoveries made in connexion with the principles themselves. This enforcement is by facts; and it is in its facts that both the value and interest of the book consists. The extensive reading of Mr. Knight has acquainted him with an enormous number of par- tioulars drawn from very varied sources. A remarkable memory, or a systematic method of taking notes renders his stores available. A. natural turn and long practice enable him to select his facts and bring them to bear illustratively, as well as to interest the reader after the proof for which particular facts are needed is established. Sometimes, indeed, their direct scientifio bearing is not clear; but they are mostly interesting nevertheless. Here is a curious bit of reading in connexion with the modern railroad. "Roger North described a Newcastle railway in 1680. 'Another thing that is remarkable is their way-leaves; for when men have pieces of ground between the colliery and the river, they sell leave to lead coals over their ground, and so dear that the owner of a rood of ground will expect 201. per annum for this leave. The manner of the carriage is by laying rails of tim- ber, from the colliery down to the river, exactly straight and parallel ; and bulky carts are made with four rowlets fitting these rails; whereby the car- riage is so easy that the horse will draw down four or five chaldron of coals, and is an immense benefit to the coal-merchant: Who would have thought that this contrivance would have led to no large results till a hundred and fifty years had passed away? Who could have believed that the rails of timber, exactly straight and parallel,' and the 'bulky carts with four rowlets exactly fitting the rails,' would have changed the face, and to a great degree the destinies, of the world ? "

This is a judicious condensation of the history of newspapers.

4' The history of news-writing and news-publishing is a mirror of many of the changes in social necessities and conveniences. In 1625, Ben Jonson's play of 'The Staple of News' exhibited a countrywoman going to an office of news, and saying to the manager, who sits in state with his registers and examiners- " I would have, sir,

A groatsworth of any news, I care not what. To carry down this Saturday to our vicar.'

This was written news. In London, before a newspaper existed, there were private gazetteers, who made a living by picking up scraps of intelligence in taverns and barbers' shops. This class of persons continued even when there were newspapers ; for the news-letter, as it was called, is thus described in the first number of the 'Evening Post,' issued in 1709. There must be 31. or 4/. per annum paid by those gentlemen that are out of town for written news; which is so far generally from baying any probability or matter of fact in it, that it is frequently stuffed up with a ‘' We hear," or "An emi- nent Jew merchant has received a letter."' The same 'Evening Post' adds -.—"We read more of our own affairs in the Dutch papers than in any of our own.' Sir Roger L'Estmnge, who published 'The Intelligencer,' with pri- vilege, in 1663, says that he shall publish once a week, to be published every Thursday, and finished upon the Tuesday night, leaving Wednesday entire for the printing ,it off.' The first advertisement in an English paper appeared in 1649. "At the beginning of the present century, the public used to look with Wonder upon their 'folio of four pages,' and contrast it with the scanty chronicles of the days of Charles II. and Anne. We of the present time, in the same way, contrast our newspapers with the meagre records of the be- ginning of the century. The essential difference has been produced by steam navigation, by railways, by the extension of the post, dependent upon both applications of steam, and by the electric telegraph. The same scien- tific forces and administrative organization that bring the written news from every. region of the earth, reconvey the printed news to every region. It is sufficient to glance at the lists of foreign mails, and the low rates of postage from the United Kingdom, to see the enormous extent of that intercourse which enables our Government, by the packet service, to transmit a letter for sixpence to the British West Indies, to Hongkong, to our North Ameri- can Colonies, to Belgium; to nearly all the German States, by a uniform British and Foreign rate, for eightpence ; to France, Algeria, Spain, and Portugal, for tenpence ; to the Italian States for a trifle more; to Turkey in Europe for one shilling and fivepence ; and to India for one shilling and tenpence. With this certain and rapid intercourse, it is not likely that the least enterprising newspaper editor would have to repeat the doubt of L'Estrange, who says, 'Once a week may do the business ; yet if I shall find, when my hand is in, and after the planting and securing my corre- spondents, that the matter will fairly furnish more, I shall keep myself free to double at pleasure.'"

In some parts Mr. Knight seems to fall into the error, so pre- valent among economists, of shutting the eyes to everything but wealth. In his case, however, it is only seeming: see, for instance, this passage on true success in life.

"It is said that, amongst the middle class' of this country, 'the life of a man who leaves no property or family provision, of his own acquiring, at his deatb, is felt to have been a failure: t There are many modes in which the life of an industrious, provident, and able man may have been far other than 'a failure,' even in a commercial point of view, when he leaves his family with no greater money inheritance than that with which he began the world himself. He may have preserved his family, during the years in which he has lived amongst them, in the highest point of efficiency for future produc- tion. He may have consumed to the full extent of his income, producing, but accumulating no money capital for reproductive consumption ; and, in- directly, but not less certainly, he may have accumulated whilst he has con- sumed, so as to enable others to consume profitably. If be have had sons, whom he has trained to manhood, bestowing upon them a liberal education— bringing them up, by honest example, in all trustworthiness—and causing them to be diligently instructed in some calling which requires skill and ex- perience—he is an accumulator. If he have had daughters, whom he has brought up in habits of order and frugality—apt for all domestic employ- ments—instructed themselves, and capable of carrying forward the duties of instruction—he has reared those who in the honourable capacity of wife, mother, and mistress of a family, influence the industrial powers of the more direct labourers in no small degree; and, being the great promoters of all social dignity and happiness, create a noble and virtuous nation. By the capital thus spent in enabling his children to be valuable members of society, he has accumulated a fund out of his consumption which may be productive at a future day. He has postponed his money contribution to the general stock, but he has not withheld it altogether. He has not been the wicked and slothful servant.' On the other hand, many a man, whose life, accord- ing to the mere capitalist doctrine, has not been 'a failure,' and who has taught his family to attach only a money-value to every object of creation, bequeaths to the world successors whose rapacity, ignorance, unskilfulness, and improvidence, will be so many charges upon the capital of the nation. The 'muckhill' will by them be mat abroad,' but it will be devoted to the An Essay on the 'Relations between Labour and Capital.' By C. Morison, p.34. mere pursuit of sensual indulgence, losing half its fertilizing power, and too often burning up the soil that its judicious application would stimulate. He that has been weak enough, according to this • middle-class' doctrine, not to believe that the whole business of 1111111 is to make n muckbill,' may have spent existence in labours, public or private, for the benefit of his fellow creatures ; but his life is 'a failure' ! The greater part of the clergy, of the bar, of the medical profession, of the men of science and literature, of the defenders of their country, of the resident gentry, of the aristocracy, devote their minds to high duties, and some to heroic exertions, without being in- ordinately anxious to guard themselves against such a failure.' It would perhaps be well if some of those who believe that all virtue is to be resolved into pounds sterling, were to consider that society demands from 'the money- making classes' a more than ordinary contribution, not to indiscrimate be- nevolence, but to those public instruments of production—educational insti- tutions—improved sanitary arrangements—which are best calculated to di- minish the interval between the very rich and the very poor."