Page images

If trading were restricted to the actual capital in hand, the proposed plan would be less objectionable. There would be a basis, which, under ordinary circumstances, would be sufficient to discharge all debts connected with it. But in the present state of the world, this is impossible. The credit system is the food of commerce. There is no trade without it. There could be none but actual barter. We must take the world as we find it. The general partners start, it may be presumed, without capital of their own; otherwise they would not desire to borrow. Probably, with as little credit. The capitalist or commanditary gives them credit. They launch out boldly into busi

It is impossible for those who deal with them, to square their contracts by the exact measure of the trader's real responsibility. They cannot stop to make this enquiry. Credit is expansive, delusive, and unsubstantial. “A breath can mar it, as a breath has made.” The active partner cares but little as he has nothing to lose. The capitalist's responsibility is limited. Over the operations, too, of the partnership, he has no control. If the business have continued any length of time, and in the outset have produced large returns, the commanditary may have withdrawn his capital, as we have shown is quite possible, under the guise of profits. There exists no check, as in France, upon commercial hazard or wasteful expense. The firm breaks; the debts are bequeathed as a precious legacy to the world'; the creditors, who were attracted by false colours, and dazzled by the appearance of profusion and high profits, lose, it may be, the earnings of hard and honest industry; while he who gave this fatal credit to his partners throws away, it is true, the amount of his deposit, but one which has been previously trebly repaid him in this, to him alone profitable concern.

We hold that all systems that tend to raise the airy edifice of credit upon an unreal basis are eminently pernicious. Incorporated institutions which have general rules for their guidance; which are the mere creatures of the legislative authority; which have their being from its breath that limits both their duration and their power; subject to its visitation, and liable to forfeiture for the abuse of their immunities; which have, moreover, the specious excuse of general public improvement for their creation--these, we say, may claim some equity, if not more reason, for their support. But the unnatural, uncontrollable bantlings we have been considering, who owe no allegiance to their sucial parents, but rear their aristocratic heads in all the pride of irresponsibility, are the diseased creations of uneasy visionaries, or the baneful products of calculating selfishness. The only check upon associations of the kind; a check more VOL. XVII.--No. 37.


operative even than the visitatorial power of the legislature ; is the responsibility which the law now throws upon all the partners. This check offers no restraint to legitimate enterprise ; it throws no damp upon proper commercial speculation; it fosters the freedom of trade. While it would be abhorrent to the genius of all our institutions and laws, to countenance an inquisition into the private affairs of any of our citizens; yet, on the other hand, it is clearly our duty to abstain from any course of legislation which would either minister to the diseased appetite for speculative experiment, already too craving, or offer further excuses for the inroads of the spirit of irresponsibility.

One additional view of this subject, and we have done. Every capitalist can get the legitimate value of his capital, invested in good security. Interest is always within his reach. The interest which the law accords to him is the proper measure of this value. It is the current rate. To recover this, she offers him her courts of justice, with judges, and juries, and all the other attendants at her altars—free of expense to him, except in common with his fellow citizens. In doing this, the law does all that is, in any degree, requisite; to do more would be improper. If his grasping desires are not yet satisfied, and he would have the bonus which the spirit of equity forbids—when he would extort it from the needy or unfortunate-let it be obtained, if he can obtain it, at his own risk. It is enough to throw open the door and say, "behold the tempting profits which enterprise and speculation extend towards

you. It is lawful for you to enter upon the search. If while quietly reposing at home you take naught but the moderate yet certain fruits of your wealth, we will secure it to you. But when you would aim at more, you must put your own property, your own credit, your own responsibility at hazard.”

If, however, the profits spoken of were so very tempting, there would be found an abundance of persons to take the risk, even as the law now stands. It has been and is the case in England. It has been our experience in this country. We therefore strongly doubt the assertion. We should rather say, that no fair business, as a general rule, will yield more than eight per cent. The difference, therefore, would be hardly worth even the limited risk. But if it be intended to secure to the capitalist his interest, and also, in addition, high profits, by building up a system of credit, fictitious and unsafe, and by putting at risk the rights and interests of creditors, and this, too, in a scheme of hazardous speculation ; then we say, the attempt is to perfect what is manifestly unfair, unequal, and unjust; and would well authorise even loud complaints from other portions of society.

We have never heard more than two reasons (so called) for the introduction of the measure. The first is stated to be the employment of dormant capital. Now we are not inclined to yield the position included in the argument, that there is such capital here. No capital is dormant which is producing its legal interest; a fruit, as we have said, it can always command. There are here no mines of unexplored wealth that require but the wand of the legislature to rouse into active life; no springs of hidden treasure to burst forth and fertilise the wilderness. We have always thought that the difficulty in a new country was the want, the actual want, not the mere inability to discover capital. That one great source of evil was the spirit of speculation operating without sufficient capital; and therefore we wish to tender no further inducements to it.

But it is, in the second place, asserted, that the bill will offer encouragement to enterprising young men. Now to those of that description who wish to make use of the legitimate objects of individual or associated enterprise, we would offer every proper encouragement. At the same time, we would be careful not to encroach upon the rights of others. Equally careful would we be to hold out no additional incentives to the already strong natural speculative dispositions of this class of our citizens; from an earnest desire both for their good and that of the community. We feel compelled to add, that, however beneficial the spirit of enterprise in our youth may be, if the interests of the community were all or chiefly in the hands of enterprising young men, we fear that the retrospect hereafter would be but mournful. Much more so may we assert this of the interests of commerce.

The staid wisdom of mature years is requisite to keep the vessel from the rocks and quicksands which render the course of the headlong adventurer so dangerous, and to guide her securely into port.

If, however, the enterprising youths of our country be also men without capital, or a capital merely sufficient to launch them upon the ocean of speculation, the case is infinitely worse. The law offers no check to their onward career, or to the antecedent participation of their supporters.

We have presented thus but a general outline of a deeply interesting topic, of which our limits would not permit a more elaborate discussion. We were unwilling that a subject of deep moment to the community should be passed over in silence. Public attention may perhaps be more particularly directed to the proposed measure by what we have thus hastily thrown together; and the legislature may be thereby induced to bestow upon it a more careful consideration.

ART. IV.--Della Vita di Antonio Canova, Libri quattro, compi

lali da MELCHIOR MISSIRINI. Milano: 1825. The middle of the last century, so fruitful of those master spirits who gained lasting celebrity on the busy theatre of Europe, in war, politics, and general science, is also distinguished for having produced a genius in the fine arts, whose works and life form the most striking era in the history of modern sculpture.

Antonio Canova was born at Possagno, a little village in Treviso, about six leagues from Venice, on the first day of November, 1757. His life, as given by his excellent biographer and friend, Missirini, derived from all the most authentic sources, exhibits, at once, one of the most interesting and useful of the age.

To observe the progress of the spontaneous force of intellect and feeling, as they give forms to ideal beauty,--to follow Canova from his dornicile, a poor and almost friendless orphan, obtaining his bread with his mallet and chisel, in an obscure hamlet, to his magnificent studio in Rome,--to contemplate the numerous works with which he has adorned the chief palaces in Europe and the galleries of Italy, would be a sufficiently pleasant and profitable reward for the perusal of his life. But there is an additional and higher gratification derived from the reflection, that with a transcendant genius, unknown before to Europe since the proudest days of Greece, he combined such moral merits, such true dignity of soul, as kept him entirely out of the little world of envy, jealousy, and strife; where some of his cotemporaries found contempt and disgrace, which too often await mediocrity when emulously pursuing the professions and the arts.

Although the fine arts had flourished for so long a period in Venice, yet, at the time he commenced his labours, Sculpture had fallen very low. There were only some tolerable restorers, with a depraved or false taste, who had produced no works that had won the approbation of enlightened connoisseurs, but they were merely critics and disputants, armed to defend

a received and privileged style.

The father of Canova was a respectable stone-cutter and architect, who died at the early age of twenty-seven, leaving his

son, but four years old, to the care of his mother and paternal grandparents. His mother soon married again, when his grandfather insisted on keeping Antonio, and doing what he could towards educating him. Becoming, however, reduced in circumstances, he was unable to do any thing foș Canova, and treated him with great austerity and unkindness, so much so that the child, who possessed a most delicate temper and

extraordinary sensibility, was, one day in a passion, about to jump from a balcony and destroy himself, but was prevented. His grandmother was exceedingly tender and affectionate to him. He used to say it remained to be decided, perhaps, which was more useful to him, the rigour of the one or the kindness of the other. His affection never was estranged from his grandfather, and as he grew in fortune and fame he fulfilled all his filial duties towards them with pious regard.

From his childhood, his first act was to use the mallet and chisel, and he acquired singular facility in forming whatever he wished. At the age of fourteen, his grandfather conducted him to Giovanni Falier, a Venetian nobleman, who lived at his country place, in the vicinity of Possagno. This nobleman was a Venetian senator, accomplished, magnanimous, and ardently devoted to the fine arts. He was pleased with young Canova, foresaw the excellence at which he would arrive at some future period, and took him to Toretti, a very respectable sculptor for the times, who had come from Venice to the village of Pagnano. He continued here two years, working on bas reliefs, modeled by his master, who then returned to Venice and took Canova with him.

Toretti died soon after, and the pupil went to the studio of Ferrari. Here his time was too much occupied to admit of attention to the Academy and modeling, and his grandfather allowed him one hundred ducats, to be paid in monthly sums, for one year. This was all he ever received from his paternal fortune.

His first work was two baskets of fruit and flowers, for his patron Falier. They are beautiful, and still to be seen in the palace of Farsetti, at Venice.

He then thought of opening a studio of his own, and his friend, Falier, bespoke the statue of Eurydice, and afterwards that of Orpheus. The elevation of his genius and the purity of his taste would not permit him to follow a corrupt style, which was neither the natural'nor the antique, and having had but little opportunity as yet of studying the ancients, he resolved to confine himself in these statues, to a simple imitation of nature. He therefore retired to the quiet of rural shades, where he formed the models from nature, and often, at this period, would walk to Venice that he might study the ancient statues in the Academy. When completed, these works excited great admiration, and Querini, a noble Venetian, bespoke of him the bust of the Doge Renier. Soon after senator Grimani ordered an Orpheus to be done of Carrara marble. This, when finished, so pleased Morosini, the procurator of St. Mark's, that, for the honour of the arts, he ordered a public

« PreviousContinue »