Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

3] Mr. Heathfield's Plan for the Liquidation, &c. 579

How, then, does it happen, that the increase of public happiness is not only not co-extensive with the increase of

power in the body politic, but is to be contemplated, as declining in the inverse ratio of that increase? That power in the whole, is suffering and sorrow in the individual ?

The causes of the anomaly may be reduced to four general heads, namely,

The System of the Public Debt 12.14
The want of a clear and well-defined System of Provision for

those to whom facility of employment is not presented at

home, by means of Colonisation. The Poor Laws. Education, as respects all classes of the community.

Of these important subjects, the first mentioned, only, iş intended for present consideration, because, relief from the burthen of the public debt, appears to be indispensable to the successful institution of corrective or remedial measures, with reference to all departments of social life.

32H Industry is the vital principle of property; abstracted from labor, the land, the spindle, and the loom, are alike inert and unproduca tive : a free course to honest exertion, and protection and compensation to the industrious, are, therefore, first principles in the social compact. A public debt, whatever the circumstances in which it may originate, bears adversely upon those principles : the duties and taxes, inseparable from a public debt, enhance the price of all productions, particularly the price of agricultural produce; the market for the productions of labour, and particularly of agricultural labour, is, consequently, circumscribed; the course of industry is checked. The enhanced price of food, and of all necessaries of life, disturbs the relation between the rate of labour and the price of subsistence, and places at hazard the compensation due to the active and industrious classes of the community. The charge of interest for loans of money ought, therefore, never to be incurred by the state-or, if necessary, as the alternative from a greater evil, should, with the least possible delay, be removed by the fair and honest discharge of the principal debt. "

Great Britain has so long been accustomed to a national debt, so many conveniences actually do result and so many advantages appear to result, from her system of public debt, as to render the approach to the question of final and complete liquidation, anxious, and not unmixed with the apprehension of the charge of temerity. The British system of public annuities is sanctioned by time, is reb commended by the facilities which it accords to the annuitant, and is familiarised by use.

Bat, 7 the positions how advanced,

be true generally, they are true, more especially, with regard to Great Britain ; for, abstracted from the active disposition and industrious habits of her people, her empire is only

a name: the sanction of a limited period of time, cannot alter the inherent character of things; if, for upwards of a

entury, a system of public annuities has been recognised and acted upon by the Government, necessity has ever been the plea for calling into action a measure

always held to be objectionable ; and experience cannot be urged in favor of the attempt to support and continue, the recent extension of the systemi?the convenience of individuals, is not to beándulged to the prejudice of the best interests of the community, and the apparent advantages will be seeni, as the fllusions of the fancy, if the system be at variance with the First principles of society, if the labourer be deprived of his fair reward, if, in consequence, the good order and well-being of the state, te, be fearfully borne' upon and interrupte. sdw i Jotinn

The public debt of Great Britain' is, for the most part, concocted on peculiar principles, principles which can only be justified by necessity, and severe, indeed, must be the necessity which can justify their application.'q eynotkyildo brs ensuarios sviensis It is not lawful, between individuals,

to condition for the payment of interest, and, also, for further compensation, by an addi

tion to the principal sum advanced, on re-payment of the Toan; a contract of such description, between individuals, would be held

to Be repugnant to fair and honest principle ; would disgrace the lender, and injure, if not destroy, the credit of the borrower... What, however, is conditioned, what ûndertaken in a British loan? An examination of the three per cent. annuities will lead to sufcient explanation, sig gd some sa92919 sdi to nisan yd

In a bargain between the public and the loan-contractor, under which a three per cento annuity is created, it is conditioned, that ta

in consideration of the advance or payment of a sum of money, brdinarily varying between fifty-five and sixty-five pounds, a transferable annuity shall be granted, of three pounds gathe annuity not to be redeemable, compulsorily, for any less consideration that one handted pounds': anid, as it thay be convenient to the annuitant, to sell the annuity, without awaiting the forced redemption, the Government becomes bound to carry, periodically, into the market for public securities,

to purchase public annuities, sums of money, progressively increasing with the progressive amount of the annuities, actually, from time to time, bought up: under the arrangements for this purpose, the amount appkcable to the reduction of the debt of the United Kingdom for the year ended 5th January, 1819, was fifteen millions' six hundred and ewefits thousarid "five

Paula C 903 i Cat338 3d: 218

[graphic]
[graphic][subsumed]

By the example of persons, successfully engaged in speculative dealing in the public annuities, a similar spirit has been excited and carried into the pursuits of trade, to an unparalleled extent,

The encouragement of patient labour and exertion, has consequently, declined the disgrace of pauperism and insolvency has, therefore, diminished : the operations of trade have taken a turn decidedly speculative; regular profits from trade, are, therefore, comparatively, seldom realised. What greater evil can befal a commercial community? The indisposition to honest and patient labour, and the disposition to pursuits merely speculative, when carried to an extreme, comprehend the dissolution of the moral character of trade, that is, in a trading country, the moral character of the community.

The agricultural difficulties of the country, have been rendered plainly intelligible, by parliamentary discussion; they are everywhere felt, and the Statute Book declares, that the people of the United Kingdom, must not expect, under the present system, at any definable period, to eat cheap bread ; and yet, notwithstanding this admitted state of difficulty, this kingdon, on the supposition of relief from the proportion of the duties and taxes, incident to the public debt, might be expected to grow corn, at a rate of price sufficiently low, to meet the flour of North America, in the markets of the south of Europe : that measure of relief being supposed, the great capital of this country, the laborious habits of the people, the skill and management of the British farmer, the proximity to the markets of Spain and Portugal, would, probably, admit a liberal return of rent to the landed proprietor, and, of sufficient reduction of price to maintain competition in those markets: it is not intended to be advanced, that the United Kingdom could grow more than sufficient, or even sufficient, grain, for the national consumption; the suggestion embraces, simply, the conception, that, in the case supposed, the rate of price would be such, as to assure to the grower, a foreign market for grain, in the event of a surplus quantity being produced, and, consequently, would encourage, in the highest degree, the investment of capital in the cultivation of the soil : whether that extent of consequence would or would not result, it is unquestionable, that under the supposed relief from impost, the people would be cheaply fed, and that great and powerful impulse to the agriculture of the United Kingdom, would be experienced.

The same remission of duties and taxes, although not caleulated to affect the demand for manufactures, in a similar degree, would greatly augment that demand; the United Kingdom is, undoubt, edly, the general resort of nations, for the productions of the loom and of the anvil; most descriptions of British manufacture are produced at prices, which render the labour of the manufacturer a blessing

[ocr errors]

to mankind; but it is, notwithstanding, clear, that an increase in domestic agriculture would cause an increase of consumption in manufactures at home, and that reduction in price, and, consequently, extension of market abroad, would ensue, from the supposed reduction of impost : in many leading particulars, the Statute Book, to the very letter, is at variance with the first principles of political economy; the duties which are imposed on the material of many branches of manufacture, may be instanced; namely, the duty on silk, hemp, flax, cotton-wool, foreign sheep's wool, indigo, and on most of the importations of materials for dyeing, printing piece goods, and other processes of manufacture: partially corrected, indeed, by drawbacks and bounties, but still, weighing, sensibly, against the demand for British manufactures.

Many of the trading and fiscal laws of Great Britain are the growth of times of distressing emergency; those laws and regulations, to great extent, when enacted, were allowed to be objectionable, were adopted as the lesser of conflicting evils, and it would be presumptuous to assert, that measures less onerous, under the circumstances, could have been devised: that consi. deration, is not, however, now to be entertained; it is plain, that the British system of public annuities is objectionable, in principle, and it is indisputable, that great inconvenience and distress proceed from its actual operation.

It is, therefore, to be considered, whether, the immediate, partial, relief, and the eventual, entire, relief, of the British nation, from the burthen of a Public Debt, upon the basis of a genes ral contribution in respect of property, including the amount of stock, created in favour of the public creditor, and the amount of all other public securities, (not being the property of exresident foreigners,) can be rendered practicable and safe?

It is difficult to estimate the private property in the United Kingdom, with the accuracy to be desired. By the statement pub. lished by Dr. Colquhoun, which Dr. Colquhoun denominates, “An Attempt" to estimate the property in Great Britain and Ireland, (1812,) the amount of private property, in the United Kingdom, is represented to be, two thousand six hundred and forty-seven millions, six hundred and forty thousand pounds: in that statement, the cultivated lands, constitute one half, nearly of the whole sum; the cultivated-lands, in England and Wales, being, estimated at something more than 241. per acre, this is a moderate rate of estimate, the other particulars are evidently the fruit of much labour and research, and upon an attentive examination of the statement, taking into view the authorities which are cited in its support, there does not appear to be any reason to question the propriety, for the present purpose, of considering private property in the United Kingdom under-rated at the sum

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »