The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey

Chapter XIX.
How Freedom Grows in Spain and in Belgium.

Spain expelled the industrious portion of her population, and almost at the same time acquired colonies of vast extent, to which she looked for revenue.  Centralization here was almost perfect — and here, as everywhere, it has been accompanied by poverty and weakness.  With difficulty she has been enabled to defend her rights on her own soil, and she has found it quite impossible to maintain her power abroad, and for the reason that her system tended to the impoverishment of her people and the destruction of the value of labour and land.  Her history tends throughout to show that nations which desire respect for their own rights, must learn to respect those of others.

The policy of Spain has been unfavourable to commerce, internal and external.  Exchanges at home were burdened with heavy taxes, and the raw materials of manufacture, even those produced at home, were so heavily taxed on their passage from the place of production to that of consumption, that manufactures could not prosper.  The great middle class of artisans could therefore scarcely be found, and the scattered agriculturists were thus deprived of their aid in the effort to establish or maintain their freedom.  Towns and cities decayed, and land, became more and more consolidated in the hands of great noblemen on one side and the church on the other, and talent found no field for its exercise, except in the service of the church or the state.

While thus destroying internal trade by taxation, efforts were made to build it up by aid of restrictions on external trade;  but the very fact that the former was destroyed made it necessary for thousands and tens of thousands of persons to endeavour to earn wages in the smuggling of foreign merchandise, and the country was filled with men ever ready to violate the law, because of the cheapness of labour.  The laws restraining the import of foreign merchandise were easily violated, because its bulk was small and its value great; whereas those interfering with the transit of raw materials were easily enforced, because the bulk was great and their value small;  and therefore the whole system tended effectually to prevent the artisan from taking his place by the side of the grower of food and wool; and hence the depopulation, poverty, and weakness of this once rich and powerful country.

Fortunately for her, however, the day arrived when she was to lose her colonies, and find herself compelled to follow the advice of Adam Smith, and look to home for revenue;  and almost from that date to the present, notwithstanding foreign invasions, civil wars, and revolutions, her course has been onward, and with each succeeding year there has been a greater tendency toward diversification of employment, the growth of towns and other places of local exchange, the improvement of agriculture, the strengthening of the people in their relations with the government, and the strengthening of the nation as regards the other nations of the earth.

Among the earliest measures tending toward the emancipation of the people of Germany, Russia, and Denmark, was, as has been seen, the removal of restrictions upon the trade in land, the great machine of production.  So, too, was it in Spain.  According to a return made to the Cortes of Cadiz, out of sixty millions of acres then in cultivation, only twenty millions were held by the men who cultivated them, while thirty were in the hands of great nobles, and ten were held by the church.  Under a decree of secularization, a large portion of the latter has been sold, and the result is seen in the fact that the number of owners cultivating their own properties has risen from 273,760 to 546,100;  and the number of farms from 403,408 to 1,095,200.[1]

A further step toward freedom and the establishment of equal rights, is found in the abolition of a great variety of small and vexatious taxes, substituting therefor a land-tax, payable alike by the small and the great proprietor;  and in the abolition of internal duties on the exchange of the raw materials of manufacture.  With each of these we find increasing tendency toward the establishment of that division of employment which gives value to labour and land.  From 1841 to 1846, the number of spindles in Catalonia has grown from 62,000 to 121,000, and that of looms from 30,000 to 45,000, while cotton factories had been put in operation in various other parts of the kingdom.[2]  Still later, numerous others have been started, and a traveller of the past year informs us that the province of Granada now bids fair to rival Catalonia in her manufactures.[3]  In 1841, the total value of the products of the cotton manufacture was estimated at about four millions of dollars, but in 1846 it had risen to more than six and a half millions.  The woollen manufacture had also rapidly increased, and this furnishes employment at numerous places throughout the kingdom, one of which, Alcoy, is specially referred to by M. Block,[4] as situated among the mountains which separate the ancient kingdom of Valencia and Murcia, and as having no less than 24,000 spindles, and 12,000 men, in addition to a great number of women and children, engaged in this branch of manufacture.

In regard to the progress of manufactures generally, the following statement, furnished by a recent American traveller to whom we are indebted for an excellent work on Spain, furnishes much information, and cannot be read without interest by all those who derive pleasure from witnessing advance in civilization.[5]

“Of late years there has been a considerable effort to extend and improve the production and manufacture of silk, and the result has been very favourable.  The silkworm, formerly confined, in a great degree, to Valencia and Murcia, is now an article of material importance in the wealth of the two Castiles, Rioja, and Aragon.  The silk fabrics of Talavera, Valencia, and Barcelona are many of them admirably wrought, and are sold at rates which appear very moderate.  I had particular occasion to note the cheapness of the damasks which are sold in Madrid from the native looms.  It is not easy to imagine any thing more magnificent, of their kind.  The woollen cloths, too, of home manufacture, are, some of them, very admirable, and the coarser kinds supply, I believe, a considerable part of the national demand.  In cheapness I have never seen them surpassed.  The finer qualities do not bear so favourable a comparison with the foreign article; but those who were familiar with the subject informed me that their recent improvement had been very decided.  Many laudable efforts have been made to render the supply of wool more abundant, and to improve its quality, and there has been a considerable importation of foreign sheep, with a view to crossing on the native breeds.  The sheep-rearing interest is so very large in Spain, that any material improvement in the quality of the wool must add greatly to the national wealth, as well as to the importance of the woollen manufacture and its ability to encounter foreign competition.

“In the general movement toward an increased and more valuable production of the raw material for manufacture, the flax of Leon and Galicia and the hemp of Granada have not been forgotten.  But the article in which the most decided and important progress has been made, is the great staple, iron.  In 1832; the iron-manufacture of Spain was at so low an ebb, that it was necessary to import from England the large lamp-posts of cast metal, which adorn the Plaza de Armas of the Palace.  They bear the London mark, and tell their own story.  A luxury for the indoors enjoyment or personal ostentation of the monarch, would of course have been imported from any quarter, without regard to appearances.  But a monument of national dependence upon foreign industry would hardly have been erected upon such a spot, had there been a possibility of avoiding it by any domestic recourse.  In 1850 the state of things had so far changed, that there were in the kingdom twenty-five founderies, eight furnaces of the first class, with founderies attached, and twenty-five iron-factories, all prosperously and constantly occupied.  The specimens of work from these establishments, which are to be seen in the capital and the chief cities of the provinces, are such as to render the independence and prospective success of the nation in this particular no longer matters of question.  In the beginning of 1850, the Marquis of Molins, then Minister of Marine Affairs, upon the petition of the iron-manufacaturers, directed inquiries to be made, by a competent board, into the quality of the native iron, and the extent to which the home manufacture might be relied on for the purposes of naval construction.  The result was so satisfactory, that in March of the same year a royal order was issued from the department, directing all future contracts to be made with the domestic establishments.  This, indeed, has been the case since 1845, at the arsenal of Ferrol, which has been supplied altogether from the iron-works of Biscay.  The government, however, had determined for the future to be chiefly its own purveyor, and national founderies at Ferrol and Trubia, constructed without regard to expense, were about to go into operation when the royal order was published.”

A necessary consequence of all these steps toward freedom and association has been great agricultural improvement.  “The impoverished industry and neglected agriculture of the land,” says Mr. Wallis —

“Have received an accession of vigorous labour, no longer tempted into sloth by the seductions of a privileged and sensual life.  In the cities and larger towns the convent buildings have been displaced, to make room for private dwellings of more or less convenience and elegance, or have been appropriated as public offices or repositories of works of art.  The extensive grounds which were monopolized by some of the orders, in the crowded midst of populous quarters, have been converted into walks or squares, dedicated to the public health and recreation.  In a word, what was intended in the beginning as the object of monastic endowments, has been to some extent realized.  What was meant for the good of all, though intrusted to a few, has been taken from the few who used it as their own, and distributed, rudely it may be, but yet effectually, among the many who were entitled to and needed it.” — P. 276.

At the close of the last century, the value of agricultural products was officially returned at 5143 millions of reals, or about 260 millions of dollars.  In 1829, a similar return made it somewhat less, or about 232 millions, but since that time the increase has been so rapid, that it is now returned at nearly 450 millions of dollars.[6]

Twenty years since, the means of transporting produce throughout the country were so bad that famine might prevail in Andalusia, and men might perish there in thousands, while grain wasted on the fields of Castile, because the silos of the latter no longer afforded room to store it.  Even now, “in some districts, it is a familiar fact,

“That the wine of one vintage has to be emptied, in waste, in order to furnish skins for the wine of the next — the difficulty and cost of transportation to market being such as utterly to preclude the producer from attempting a more profitable disposition of it.  Staples of the most absolute and uniform necessity — wheat, for instance — are at prices absurdly different in different parts of the kingdom; the proximity to market being such as to give them their current value in one quarter, while in another they are perhaps rotting in their places of deposite, without the hope of a demand.  Until such a state of things shall have been cured, it will be useless to improve the soil, or stimulate production in the secluded districts;  and of course every circumstance which wears the promise of such cure must enter into the calculations of the future, and avail in them according to its probabilities.” — Wallis, P. 328.

We see thus that here, as everywhere, the power to make roads is least where the necessity for them is greatest.  Had the farmers of Castile a near market in which their wheat could be combined with the wool that is shorn in their immediate neighbourhood, they could export cloth, and that could travel even on bad roads.  As it is, they have to export both wheat and wool, and on such roads, whereas if the artisan could, in accordance, with the doctrines of Adam Smith, everywhere take his place by the side of the ploughman and the shepherd; and if women and children could thus everywhere be enabled to find other employment than in field labour, towns would grow up, and men would become rich and strong, and roads could be made without difficulty.  Even now, however, there is a rapidly increasing tendency toward the construction of railroads, and the completion and enlargement of canals, and not a doubt can be entertained that in a few years the modes of intercourse will be so improved as to put an end to the enormous differences in prices here observed.[7]  Those differences are, however, precisely similar to those now regarded as desirable by English writers who find compensation for the loss of men, “in the great stimulus that our extensive emigration will give to every branch of the shipping interest.”[8]  The nearer the place of exchange the fewer ships and seamen are needed, and the richer must grow the producer and the consumer, because the number of persons among whom the total product is to be divided is then the least.

With increased power of association there is a steady improvement in the provision for education.  Half a century since, the whole number of students at all the educational establishments in the kingdom was but 30,000,[9] and it had not materially varied in 1835;  whereas the number now in the public schools alone, for the support of which there is an annual appropriation of $750,000, is above 700,000, or one to 17 of the population.  The primary and other schools reach the number of 16,000;  and besides these and the universities, there are numerous other institutions devoted to particular branches of education, some of which are provided for by government, and others by public bodies or private subscription. “No impediment,” says Mr. Wallis—

“Is thrown by law in the way of private teachers — except that they are required to produce certain certificates of good character and conduct, and of having gone through a prescribed course, which is more or less extensive, in proportion to the rank of the institution they may desire to open.”

As a necessary consequence of these changes there has been a great increase in the value of land, and of real estate generally.  Mr. Wallis states that the church property has “commanded an average of nearly double the price at which it was officially assessed according to the standard of value at the time of its seizure,” and we need desire no better evidence that man is tending gradually toward freedom than is to be found in this single fact.

It might be supposed, that with the increased tendency to convert at home the raw products of the earth, there would be a diminution of foreign commerce;  but directly the reverse is the case.  In the three years, from 1846 to 1849, the import of raw cotton rose from 16,000,000 to 27,000,000 of pounds;  that of yarn from 5,200,000 to 6,800,000 pounds; and that of bar-iron from 5,400,000 to more than 8,000,000;  and the general movements of exports and imports for the last twenty-four years, as given by M. Block, (p. 18,) has been, as follows:—

       Imports, in francs. Exports, in francs.
1827      95,235,000          71,912,000
1843     114,325,000          82,279,000
1846     157,513,000         129,106,000

And to this may be added, as since published by the government, the account for

1851     171,912,000         124,377,000

With each step in the direction of bringing the consumer and the producer to take their places by the side of each other, the people acquire power to protect themselves, as is seen in the freedom of debate in the Chamber of Deputies, and in the extent to which those debates, with their comments thereon, are made known throughout the kingdom by the writers of a newspaper press that, although restricted, has been well characterized as, “fearless and plain speaking.”  In 1826, Madrid had but two daily newspapers, both of them most contemptible in character.  In February, 1850, there were thirteen, with an aggregate circulation of 35,000 copies; and yet Madrid has no commerce, and can furnish little advertising for their support.[10]

With the increase of production and of wealth, and with the growth of the power of association, and of intelligence among the people, the government gradually acquires strength in the community of nations, and power to enforce its laws, as is here shown in the large decline that has taken place in the English exports to Portugal and Gibraltar, heretofore the great smuggling depots for English manufactures,[11] as compared with those to Spain direct:

          Portugal. Gibraltar.  Spain.
In 1839  £1,217,082 1,433,932  £262,231
   1852   1,048,356   481,286 1,015,493

The system that looks to consolidation of the land tends toward inequality, and that such has been, and is, the tendency of that of England, wherever fully carried out, has been shown.  Those of Germany, Russia, and Denmark tend in the opposite direction, and under them men are becoming daily more independent in their action, and consequently more and more kindly and respectful in their treatment of each other.  Such, likewise, is the case in Spain.  “The Spaniard,” says Mr. Wallis—

“Has a sense of equality, which blesses him who gives as well as him who takes.  If he requires the concession from others, he demands it chiefly and emphatically through the concessions which he makes to them.  There is so much self-respect involved in his respect to others, and in his manifestation of it, that reciprocity is unavoidable.  To this, and this mainly, is attributable the high, courteous bearing, which is conspicuous in all the people, and which renders the personal intercourse of the respective classes and conditions less marked by strong and invidious distinctions, than in any other nation with whose manners and customs I am familiar.  It is this, perhaps, more than any other circumstance, which has tempered and made sufferable the oppression of unequal and despotic institutions, illustrating 'the advantage to which,’ in the words of a philosophic writer, 'the manners of a people may turn the most unfavourable position and the worst laws.'” — P. 383.

Again, he says—

“If in the midst of the very kindness which made him at home upon the briefest acquaintance, he should perceive an attentive politeness, approaching so near to formality as now and then to embarrass him, he would soon be brought to understand and admire it as the expression of habitual consideration for the feelings of others.  He would value it the more when he learned from its universality, that what was elsewhere chiefly a thing of manners and education, was there a genial instinct developed into a social charity.” — P. 207.

The “popular element is fully at work,” and it requires, says the same author, but a comparison of the present with the past, “to remove all doubts of the present, and to justify the happiest augury.”  “The lotos of freedom has,” he continues—

“Been tasted, and it cannot readily be stricken from their lips.  So long as the more important guaranties are not altogether violated — so long as the government substantially, dedicates itself to the public good, by originating and fostering schemes of public usefulness, it may take almost any liberties with forms and non-essentials.  Much further it will not be permitted to go, and every day diminishes the facility with which it may go even thus far.  Every work of internal improvement, which brings men closer together, enabling them to compare opinions with readiness and concentrate strength for their maintenance;  every new interest that is built up;  every heavy and permanent investment of capital or industry;  every movement that develops and diffuses the public intelligence and energy, is a bulwark more or less formidable against reaction.  Nay, every circumstance that makes the public wiser, richer, or better, must shorten the career of arbitrary rule.  The compulsion, which was and still is a necessary evil for the preservation of peace, must be withdrawn when peace becomes an instinct as well as a necessity.  The existence of a stringent system will no longer be acquiesced in when the people shall have grown less in need of government, and better able to direct it for themselves.  Thus, in their season, the very interests which shall be consolidated and made vigorous by forced tranquillity will rise, themselves, into the mastery.  The stream of power as it rolls peacefully along, is daily strengthening the banks, which every day, though imperceptibly, encroach on it.” — P. 381.



Belgium is a country with four and a half millions of inhabitants, or about one-half more than the State of New York.  It is burdened with a heavy debt assumed at the period of its separation from Holland, and it finds itself compelled to maintain an army that is large in proportion to its population, because in the vicinity of neighbours who have at all times shown themselves ready to make it the battle-ground of Europe.  In no country of Europe has there been so great a destruction, of property and life, and yet in none has there been so great a tendency toward freedom;  and for the reason that in none has there been manifested so little disposition to interfere with the affairs of other nations.  It is burdened now with a taxation amounting to about twenty-three millions of dollars, or five dollars and a half per head;  and yet, amid all the revolutions and attempts at revolution by which the peace of Europe is disturbed, we hear nothing of the Belgians, whose course is as tranquil as it was before the days of 1848 — and this is a consequence of following in the path indicated by Adam Smith.

The policy of Belgium looks more homeward than that of any nation of Europe.  She has no colonies, and she seeks none.  To a greater extent than almost any other nation, she has sought to enable her farmers to have local places of exchange, giving value to her labour and her land.  Where these exist, men are certain to become free; and equally certain is it that where they do not exist, freedom must be a plant of exceedingly slow growth, even where it does not absolutely perish for want of nourishment.  If evidence be desired of the freedom of the Belgians, it is to be found in the fact that there is nowhere to be seen, as we are on all hands assured, a more contented, virtuous, and generally comfortable population than that engaged in the cultivation of her fields. The following sketch is from a report published by order of Parliament, and cannot fail to be read with interest by those who desire to understand how it is that the dense population of this little country is enabled to draw from a soil naturally indifferent such large returns, while the Hindoo, with all his advantages of early civilization, wealth, and population, perishes of famine or flies from pestilence, leaving behind him, uncultivated, the richest soils, and sells himself to slavery in Cuba:—

“The farms in Belgium rarely exceed one hundred acres.  The number containing fifty acres is not great; those of thirty or twenty are more numerous, but the number of holdings of from five to ten and twenty acres is very considerable.

“The small farms of from five to ten acres, which abound in many parts of Belgium, closely resemble the small holdings in Ireland;  but the small Irish cultivator exists in a state of miserable privation of the common comforts and conveniences of civilized life, while the Belgian peasant farmer enjoys a large share of those comforts.  The houses of the small cultivators of Belgium are generally substantially built, and in good repair;  they have commonly a sleeping room in the attic, and closets for beds connected with the lower apartment, which is convenient in size;  a small cellarage for the dairy, and store for the grain, as well as an oven, and an outhouse for the potatoes, with a roomy cattle-stall, piggery, and poultry loft.  The house generally contains decent furniture, the bedding sufficient in quantity, and an air of comfort, pervades the establishment.  In the cow-house the cattle are supplied with straw for bedding;  the dung and moisture are carefully collected in the tank; the ditches had been secured to collect materials for manure;  the dry leaves, potato-tops, &c. had been collected in a moist ditch to undergo the process of fermentation, and heaps of compost were in course of preparation.  The premises were kept in neat and compact order, and a scrupulous attention to a most rigid economy was everywhere apparent.  The family were decently clad; none of them were ragged or slovenly, even when their dress consisted of the coarsest material.

“In the greater part of the flat country of Belgium the soil is light and sandy, and easily worked; but its productive powers are certainly inferior to the general soil of Ireland, and the climate does not appear to be superior.  To the soil and climate therefore, the Belgian does not owe his superiority.  The difference is to be found in the system, of cultivation, and the forethought of the people.  The cultivation of small farms in Belgium differs from the Irish:

1.   In the quantity of stall-fed stock which is kept, and by which a supply of manure is regularly secured;
2.   In the strict attention paid to the collection of manure, which is skilfully husbanded;
3.   By the adoption of rotations of crop.  We found no plough, horse, or cart — only a spade, fork, wheelbarrow, and handbarrow.  The farmer had no assistance besides that of his family.

The whole land is trenched very deep with the spade.  The stock consisted of a couple of cows, a calf or two, one or two pigs; sometimes a goat or two, and some poultry.  The cows are altogether stall-fed, on straw, turnips, clover, rye, vetches, carrots, potatoes, and a kind of soup made by boiling up the potatoes, peas, beans, bran, cut-hay, &e., which, given warm, is said to be very wholesome, and promotive of the secretion of milk. Near distilleries and breweries grains are given.

“Some small farmers agree to find stall-room and straw for sheep, and furnish fodder at the market price, for the dung.  The dung and moisture are collected in a fosse in the stable.  Lime is mingled with the scouring of the ditches, vegetable garbage, leaves, &c.  On six-acre farms, plots are appropriated to potatoes, wheat, barley, clover, flax, rye, carrots, turnips, or parsnips, vetches, and rye, as green food for cattle.  The flax is heckled and spun by the wife in winter; and three weeks at the loom in spring weaves up all the thread.  In some districts every size, from a quarter acre to six acres, is found.  The former holders devoted their time to weaving.  As far as I could learn, there was no tendency to subdivision of the small holdings. I heard of none under five acres held by the class of peasant farmers; and six, seven, or eight acres is the more common size.  The average rent is 20s. an acre. Wages, 10d. a day.

“A small occupier, whose farm we examined near Ghent, paid £9 7s. 6d. for six acres, with a comfortable house, stabling, and other offices attached, all very good of their kind — being 20s. an acre for the land, and £3 7s. 6d. for house and offices.  This farmer had a wife and five children, and appeared to live in much comfort.  He owed little or nothing.” — Nicholls’s Report.

These people have employment for every hour in the year, and they find a market close at hand for every thing they can raise.  They are not forced to confine themselves to cotton or sugar, tobacco or wheat; nor are they forced to waste their labour in carrying their products to a distance so great that no manure can be returned.  From this country there is no export of men, women, and children, such as we see from Ireland.  The “crowbar brigade” is here unknown, and it may be doubted if any term conveying the meaning of the word “eviction” is to be found in their vocabulary.  With a surface only one-third as great as that of Ireland, and with a soil naturally far inferior, Belgium supports a population almost half as great as Ireland has ever possessed;  and yet we never hear of the cheap Belgian labour inundating the neighbouring countries, to the great advantage of those who desire to build up “great works” like those of Britain.  The policy of Belgium looks to increasing the value of both labour and land, whereas that of England looks to diminishing the value of both.

With every advantage of soil and climate, the population of Portugal declines, and her people become more enslaved from day to day, while her government, is driven to repudiation of her debts.  Belgium, on the contrary, grows in wealth and population, and her people become more free;  and the cause of difference is, that the policy of the former has always looked to repelling the artisan, and thus preventing the growth of towns and of the habit of association;  while that of the latter has always looked to bringing the artisan to the raw material, and thus enabling her people to combine their efforts for their improvement in material, moral, and intellectual condition, without which there can be no increase of freedom.

Russia and Spain seek to raise the value of labour and land, and they are now attracting population.  The English system, based on cheap labour, destroys the value of both labour and land, and therefore it is that there is so large an export of men from the countries subject to it — Africa, India, Ireland, Scotland, England, Virginia, and Carolina.


1 L’Espągne en 1850, par M. Maurice Block, 145.

2 Ibid. pp. 157-159.

3 Bayard Taylor, in the N.Y. Tribune.

4 L’Espągne en 1850, 160.

5 Spain, her Institutions, her Politics, and her Public Men, by S.T. Wallis, 341.

6 The exact amount given by M. Block is 2,194,269,000 francs, but he does not state in what year the return was made.

7 By an official document published in 1849, it appears that while wheat sold in Barcelona and Tarragona (places of consumption) at an average of more than 25 francs, the price at Segovia, in Old Castile, (a place of production,) not 300 miles distant, was less than 10 francs for the same quantity. — L’Espągne en 1850, 131.

8 North British Review, Nov. 1852, art. The Modern Exodus.

9 M. de Jonnes, quoted by Mr. Wallis, p. 295.

10 Wallis’s Spain, chap: ix.

11 It is a striking evidence of the injurious moral effect produced by the system which looks to the conversion of all the other nations of the world into mere farmers and planters, that Mr. Macgregor, in his work of Commercial Statistics, says, in speaking of the Methuen treaty, "we do not deny that there were advantages in having a market for our woollens in Portugal, especially one, of which, if not the principal, was the means afforded of sending them afterward by contraband into Spain." — Vol. ii. 1122.