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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

on the cycle of trade



Alarm and suspicion gradually diminish into a judicious circumspectness; but by little and little, circumspection gives way it to the desire and emulous ambition of doing business; till impatience and incaution on one side, tempting and encouraging headlong adventure, and want of principle and confederacies of false credit on the other, the movements of trade become yearly gayer and giddier, and end up at length in a vortex of hopes and hazards, of blinding passions and blind practices, which should have been left where alone that they ought to have been found - among the wicked lunacies of the gaming table.


I must content myself with observing that I have never heard it denied that there is more than a sufficiency of food in existence.


Instead of the position that all things find, it would be less equivocal and far more descriptive of the fact to say that things are always finding their level: which might be taken as the paraphrase or ironical definition of a storm.


But persons are not things - but man and does not find his level! After a hard and calamitous season, during which the thousand wheels of some vast manufactory had remained silent as a frozen waterfall, be it that plenty has returned and trade has once more become brisk and stirring. Go, ask the overseer, and question the parish doctor whether the workman's health and temperament with the staid and respectful manners best taught by the inward dignity of conscious self-support have found their level again!


I have had heard it said that "if three were fed in Manchester instead of two and Glencoe and the Trossacs, the balance of human enjoyment was in favour of the former".


I have passed through many a manufacturing town since then, and I have watched many a group of old and young, male and female, going to, or returning from, many a factory, but I could never yet persuade myself to be of this opinion. Men, I still think, ought to be weighed, not counted. Their worth ought to be the final estimate of their value.



From  A Lay Sermon Adressed to the Higher and Middle Classes, 1817.