Their fame, and their right to be classed amongst those who have conferred the greatest benefits on mankind, rest on a still more unassailable foundation. They are held to be the discoverers of weights and measures, of money, of the art of keeping accounts, and, in short, of everything which belongs to the business of a counting-house.
They were also famous for the invention, or improvement, of ship-building and navigation; for the discovery of glass; for their manufactures of fine linen and tapestry; for their skill in architecture, and in the art of working metals and ivory; and for the incomparable splendour and beauty of their purple dye. The invention and dissemination of these highly useful arts form, however, but a part of what the people of Europe owe to the Phoenicians.
It is not possible to say in what degree the religion of the Greeks was borrowed from theirs; but that it was to a pretty large extent seems abundantly certain. Hercules, under the name of Melcarthus, was the tutelar deity of Tyre; and his expeditions along the shores of the Mediterranean, and to the straits connecting it with the ocean, seem to be merely a poetical representation of the progress of the Phoenician navigators, who introduced arts and civilisation, and established the worship of Hercules, wherever they went.
The temple erected in honour of the god at Gades was long regarded with peculiar veneration. The Greeks were, however, indebted to the Phoenicians, not merely for the rudiments of civilisation, but for the great instrument of its future progress—the gift of letters. Few facts in ancient history appear to be better established than that a knowledge of alphabetic writing was first carried to Greece by Phoenician adventurers; and it may be safely affirmed, that this was the greatest boon any people ever received at the hands of another.
The attention of the Phoenicians was not, however, wholly occupied by manufactures, navigation, and trade, and the cultivation of the arts and sciences subsidiary to their advancement. From the earliest ages they evinced a taste for philosophy and literature. Moschus, a native of Sidon, is said to have taught the doctrine of atoms previously to the Trojan war.
And the treatise of Sanchoniathon on the Phoenician Cosmogony and Theogony is referred to about the same epoch. Boethus of Sidon is said by Strabo to have been one of his fellow-students; and Antipater and Apollonius of Tyre are names well known in the history of the Stoical philosophy. Under the Roman emperors, Berytus, one of the oldest of the Phoenician cities, became no less famous for the study of law in the East than Rome was in the West.
It was said by Justinian to be the mother and the nurse of the laws. It is not known when or by whom this legal school was founded. But it is obvious, from a decree of the emperor Dioclesian, that it had been established long before his time. Before quitting this part of our subject, we may shortly notice the statement of Herodotus with respect to the circumnavigation of Africa by Phoenician sailors.
Many learned and able writers, and particularly Gosselin, 18 have treated this account as fabulous.
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But the objections of Gosselin have been successfully answered in an elaborate note by Larcher; 19 and Major Rennell has sufficiently demonstrated the practicability of the voyage. But the ships and seamen that did this much, might, undoubtedly, under favourable circumstances, double the Cape of Good Hope. The relation of Herodotus has, besides, such an appearance of good faith, and the circumstance, which he doubts, of the navigators having the sun on the right, affords so strong a confirmation of its truth, that there really seems no reasonable ground for doubting that the Phoenicians preceded, by more than 2, years, Vasco de Gama in his perilous enterprise.
For this purpose he founded Alexandria, a city which, being connected with the Nile by a canal, 22 became, first under the Ptolemies, and subsequently under the Roman emperors, a place of great trade, and the principal emporium for the exchange of the commodities of the eastern and western worlds.
The trade with India was carried on from Myos-Hormos and Berenice, ports on the Red Sea, the latter being nearly under the tropic. The commodities landed at Berenice were conveyed by a N. This was not so short nor so expeditious a route as that by which the commerce of India had previously been carried on by the Phoenicians. And it is singular that none of the Eastern Mediterranean monarchs, the successors of Alexander, should have made an effort to secure to their dominions the advantages resulting from the possession of so lucrative a traffic, by restoring it to its old channel, or by establishing a route from the Persian Gulph to the Mediterranean.
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Wealth of Nations, p. Jackson, in his account of Morocco, mentions that, in , a caravan proceeding from Timbuctoo to Tafilet, being disappointed in not finding water at one of the usual watering places, the whole persons belonging to it, about 2, in number, with about 1, camels, perished miserably of thirst.
Strabo, lib. Borlase on the Scilly Islands, pp. St Croix, p. With respect to the present time, there are few persons who unite the qualifications of good observers with a situation favourable for accurate observation. The inaccuracy of the statements we are compelled to have recourse to, the restless suspicions of particular governments, and even of individuals, their ill-will and indifference, present obstacles often in surmountable, notwithstanding the toil and care of inquirers to collect minute details with exactness; and which after all, when in their possession, are only true for an instant.
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Smith accordingly avows, that he puts no great faith in political arithmetic; which is nothing more than the arrangement of numerous statistical data. Political economy, on the other hand, whenever the principles which constitute its basis are the rigorous deductions of undeniable general facts, rests upon an immoveable foundation. General facts undoubtedly are founded upon the observation of particular facts; but upon such particular facts as have been selected from those most carefully observed, best established, and witnessed by ourselves.
When the results of these facts have uniformly been the same, the cause of their having been so satisfactorily demonstrated, and the exceptions to them even confirming other principles equally well established, we are authorised to give them as ultimate general facts, and to submit them with confidence to the examination of all competent inquirers, who may be again desirous of subjecting them to experiment.
A new particular fact, when insulated, and the connexion between its antecedents and consequents not established by reasoning, is not sufficient to shake our confidence in a general fact; for who can say that some unknown circumstance has not produced the difference noticed in their several results? A light feather is seen to mount in the air, and sometimes remain there for a long time before it falls back to the ground. Would it not, nevertheless, be erroneous to conclude that this feather is not affected by the universal law of gravitation?
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In political economy it is a general fact, that the interest of money rises in proportion to the risk run by the lender of not being repaid. Shall it be inferred that this principle is false, from having seen money lent at a low rate of interest upon hazardous occasions? The lender may have been ignorant of the risk, gratitude or fear may have induced sacrifices, and the general law, disturbed in this particular case, will resume its entire force the moment the causes of its interruption have ceased to operate.
Finally, how small a number of particular facts are completely examined, and how few among them are observed under all their aspects? And in supposing them well examined, well observed, and well described, how many of them either prove nothing, or directly the reverse of what is intended to be established by them. Hence, there is not an absurd theory, or an extravagant opinion that has not been supported by an appeal to facts;  and it is by facts also that public authorities have been so often misled. But a knowledge of facts, without a knowledge of their mutual relations, without being able to show why the one is a cause, and the other a consequence, is really no better than the crude information of an office-clerk, of whom the most intelligent seldom becomes acquainted with more than one particular series, which only enables him to examine a question in a single point of view.
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Nothing can be more idle than the opposition of theory to practice! What is theory, if it be not a knowledge of the laws which connect effects with their causes, or facts with facts? And who can be better acquainted with facts than the theorist who surveys them under all their aspects, and comprehends their relation to each other? And what is practice  without theory, but the employment of means without knowing how or why they act? In any investigation, to treat dissimilar cases as if they were analogous, is but a dangerous kind of empiricism, leading to conclusions never foreseen.
Hence it is, that after having seen the exclusive or restrictive system of commerce, a system founded on the opinion that one nation can only gain what another loses, almost universally adopted throughout Europe after the revival of arts and letters; after having seen taxation without intermission perpetually increasing, and in some countries extending itself to a most enormous amount; and after having seen these same countries become more opulent, more populous, and more powerful, than at the time they carried on an unrestricted trade, and were almost entirely exempt from public burdens, the generality of mankind have concluded that national wealth and power were attributable to the restraints imposed on the application of industry, and to the taxes levied from the incomes of individuals.
Shallow thinkers have even pretended that this opinion was founded on facts, and that every different one was the offspring of a wild and disordered imagination. It is, however, on the contrary, evident that the supporters of the opposite opinion embraced a wider circle of facts, and understood them much better than their opponents.
The very remarkable impulse given, during the middle ages, to the industry of the free states of Italy and of the Hanse towns of the north of Europe, the spectacle of riches it exhibited in both, the shock of opinions occasioned by the crusades, the progress of the arts and sciences, the improvement of navigation and consequent discovery of the route to India, and of the continent of America, as well as a succession of other less important events, were all known to them as the true causes of the increased opulence of the most ingenious nations on the globe.
And although they were aware that this activity had received successive checks, they at the same time knew that it had been freed from more oppressive obstacles. In consequence of the authority of the feudal lords and barons declining, the intercourse between the different provinces and states could no longer be interrupted; roads became improved, travelling more secure, and laws less arbitrary; the enfranchised towns, becoming immediately dependent upon the crown, found the sovereign interested in their advancement; and this enfranchisement, which the natural course of things and the progress of civilization had extended to the country, secured to every class of producers the fruits of their industry.
In every part of Europe personal freedom became more generally respected; if not from a more improved organization of political society, at least from the influence of public sentiment. Certain prejudices, such as branding with the odious name of usury all loans upon interest, and attaching the importance of nobility to idleness, had begun to decline.