The section below forms the better part of a paragraph appearing towards the end of Ruskin's "Traffic". As he does throughout his talk, he attempts to persuade, through devices of audience engagement ranging from verbal assault and rebuke to exemplification of biblical figures. This paragraph I find to be most attractive to the listener/reader because the attack is not quite so brutal as in previous paragraphs, Ruskin draws the listener in with rhetorical questions, and because of his clear, straightforward example of a real king enforced by the example of Solomon. Who would not want to be an enduring, popular king of a nation or the wealth of a nation?
But I beg you to observe that there is a wide difference between begin captains or governors of work, and taking the profits of it. It does not follow, because you are general of an army, that you are to take all the treasure, or land, it wins; (if it fight for treasure or land;) neither, because you are king of a nation, that you are to consume all the profits of the nations's work. Real kings, on the contrary, are known invariably by their doing quite the reverse of this,-by their taking the least possible quantity of the nation's work for themselves. There is no test of real kinghood so infallible as that. Does the crowned creature live simply, bravely, unostentatiously? probably he is a King. Does he cover his body with jewels, and his table with delicates? in all probability he is not a King. It is possible hey may be, as Solomon was; but that is when the nation shares his splendour with him. Solomon made gold, not only to be in his own palace as stones, but to be in Jerusalem as stones. But, even so, for the most part, these splendid kinghoods expire in ruin, and only the true kinghoods live, which are of royal labourers governing royal labourers; who, both leading rough lives, establish the true dynasties. Conclusively you will find that because you are king of a nation, it does not follow that you are to gather for yourself all the wealth of that nation; neither, because you are king of a small part of the nation, and lord over the means of its maintenance-over field, or mill, or mine, — are you to take all the produce of that piece of the foundation of national existence for yourself.
Is the fact that the businessmen who Ruskin spoke to decided to build their "temple" to a mercantile goddess a sign that his argument is unsuccessful or lacks persuasion? Or is it simply a "sign of the times"? Would Ruskin's use of other examples or less condemning language have been more effective?
Last modified 26 February 2002