Page images
PDF
EPUB

tomed administration, the united wisdom " and talents of the country," could have the as urance to shove themselves into office ignorant of the fact, what object, Sir, could you promise to yourself from the introduction of the less equitable principle of your exceptions, if it be not a puzzle, if it be not a de ermination to support to the last extremity, that profound and general ignorance of finance, and of the bearings of free trade, on the general stafe of the community, which brought Mr. Pitt into office, and kept him there for above 20 years; and which, in a little more than a century created more Work-houses than Mansions, greatly increased as the Mansions since are? Do you Sir, in spite of the example which you have in Mr. Rose's case, and of the evidences which even Mr. Rose himself, able as he is to direct Lord Henry Petty as to the choice of subjects of taration, derives from the advance which has taken place in the price of corn, tea, and tobacco, since the property tax was agitated in parliament, think that Mr. Rose or any other man of property, means to contribute a farthing towards the exigencies of the state, of the tax upon servanis, carriages, and beer, or any other tax which they may recommend or support? If you do, Sir, you will have the candour to leave out the clear obscure in argument, and openly put the negative upon the following questions to which I feel myself entitled to give the answer I do; not only from my attention to the delusive and unequitable bearings of free trade, but also from my knowledge of the growing wealth of such men as the Roses, the Grenvilles, and the Jenkinsons, under the accumulating pressure of taxes, while they appear to Sir Thomas Metcalf and other financial luminaries of the commercial world, to sacrifice, of ail others, the most," towards the exigencies of the state, and in defence of the stake which they have to preserve." I declare it, Sir, as my positive conviction, and I do so with all the sincerity of which the human mind is capable, that the Bank of England is the great governing engine with which the freedom of trade will defeat the principle on which the property bill is founded, and ex-fact, and assign their immense command of empt from the payment of any tax what- the national wealth, nay; their usurpation of

ever, the class to which Sir Thomas Metcalf
belongs, however great the sum may be;'
which they pay in the first instance towards
the exigencies of the state. I therefore, ask
you, Sir, can any power upon earth apply
"the principle upon which the bill is found-
to the corporation of that supreme ar-.
bitrator of our lives and fortunes, in every
possible way in which the abundance or
scantiness of money can render is happy or
miserable?—No, Sir, with the appearance
of every thing that is plausible, liberal, and
patriotic on their side, they take the advan-
tage which the pressure of the fax upon the
merchants offers, and discount bills for them"
to an amount, the interest of which will far
exceed their proportion of the tax, perhaps,
before they pay a shilling towards it. Sir,
can you deny this charge, and account in
any other way for the millions which they
have added to their capital, and the hundreds
of thousands of pounds which they have
otherways divided among themselves, while
the
pressure of taxes were multiplying the
number of paupers in a given proportion to
itself? If you cannot, Sir, my readers must
consider my evidence as conclusive, that the
proprietors of the Bank, any more than the
Roses, and the Grenvilles, &c. will rot con-
tribute a shilling towards the exigencies of
the state. Well then, Sir, can you apply
the principle of the bill to the Merchants?
For as government have instituted a bank for
their accommodation, and as the accommo-
dations which the bank gives them, are no
less liberal than disinterested, though far
short of what their speculative stomachs
crave, and would digest if they could get it;
one would think, that their practice would
not. be an inch behind their professions in
contributing towards the exigencies of the
state. But, no, Sir; their principle as indi-
viduals is, and can any other influence them
collectively?
<< every man for, himself."
Consequently, their endeavours individual-
ly as well as collectively, are exerted to the
highest possible pitch, to add the discount
paid by them to the bank, to the taxes laid
apon them by government, and both to the
price of the articles in which they deal; in
the very same manner in which Mr. Rose
adds his liberally granted imposts to the rent
of his farms; and as the farmer adds the ad-
dition to the price of his grain, and so on,
till consumers are found, who cannot take-
the benefits of free trade, and shift the bur
den from themselves on the shoulders of
some other party. Sir, can you deny this
shifting practice of the merchants to be the

pleases with his own property." But, as this
right, or, the freedom of trade, renders it a
thing naturally impossible that " any power
on earth can apply the equitable" pinciple
on which the bill is founded, to the Roses,
or any other men of property, so far as to
bind them to contribute even a shilling to-ed,"
wards the exigencies of the state; and, as it
is next to impossible, that the "Eroad bot-

66

from the percentage of all parties. To complete this transfer bankers have nothing to do but to be true to themselves, to exchange' one another's paper, and discount that of the merchants. The command which this accommodating and accumulating practice, has already given them of the national wealth, leaves them little or nothing to do to possess themselves of the whole. For the power of their accommodating fund is similar in all its circumstances to that of your sinking fund, except in this particular, namely, that there, is nothing to impede, but every thing to accelerate the motion of the first, while the liquidating power of the latter is destroyed by the necessity which it creates on the part of goverament, of borrowing annually to its own amount, to repay as much of the public ex-pense, as it would itself repay, were it not visionarily and expensively applied to the discharge of the national debt. And as to the wretchedness of the state to which the accommodating fund will reduce the mer

the national government to any other defineable cause? Or, will you venture to assert, that in their progress to this wealth and power, they have contributed a shilling, and much less in proportion to their means of subsistence, towards the exigencies of the state? If you will not, I shall consider the fact as established; namely, that our merchants and bankers will not only evade the property tax, but add millions sterling to their wealth from the pressure of that tax on those who cannot take the advantages which the general freedom of trade offers, and shift the tax from themselves on the shoulders of some other party. But, here, Sir, by getting rid of the jargon of college taught financiers, and following the practice of merchants and bankers in its natural course, while they have a right to do as they please with their own property," we have come at a secret worth knowing" even to merchants themselves. With respect to the principle of evading the payment of all taxes every man is a merchant or bankerchants, as well as the limited annuitants, and who is not a limited annuitant, a labourer, a judging from the number of paupers with clerk, or a person who had saved something, which it has already incominoded the nation, or had something left him on which to live no doubt can remain as to the addition independent of labour. This description of which it will make to the number of paupersons cannot take benefits of free trade, pers, while it continues an engine of destruc and shift any burden from theirselves upon tion in the hands of free trade. To convince some other party. Consequently they are you then, Sir, or rather, I hope, those who under the absolute necessity, not only of de- cajole you out of your consistency, that you ducting from the sum which they were in cannot be the man of the people" and the habit of laying out with the merchants support this engine;-even the merchants annually, the percentage which you mean themselves, that the accommodations which to take annually from their incomes, but also they receive from it, or you either, as the of paying from the remaining cents, the per- basis of your warlike power and military centage which the merchants lay upon their plans, are but "Will o' the Wisps which goods, not only to cover the taxes, but to lead you to your doom," I think it is orly make their fortune in the bargain. The li- necessary to state the difference between the mited annuitants, even were they exempted number of paupers which is now a burden from all direct taxes, cannot withstand the to the nation, and that which it had to carry progressive pressure of the percentage which in the 16th century, when the Whigs estathe merchants thus progressively lay on their Elished the engine, let loose the passions, and goods, to cover the progressive increase of united the hands of free trade. At the taxes; consequently, they drop into the ever memorable and glorious revolution of work-house and become paupers as taxes in- 1688," six years before the bank was estacrease. And as the merchants lose the dif- blished, the poors rate in England and ference between their incomes, or, if you Wales, including the county assessments, please, earnings in that asylum of wretched- which go to defray county expense, as disness, and what it had been in the field, tinct from the charges of the poor, amounted workshop, counting-house, and in a state of only to 665,302. (Vide Sir F. M. Eden independance of either, they themselves fol- on the State of the Poor.) Dividing this low these victims of free trade, into the same sum, even including the county rates, by the grave of moral and political justice. And so wretched pittance of four pence per day, for on, limited annuitants falling first, and mer- each pauper, gives their number, at only chants tumbling after them, till the "free- 139,977 or 1-9th of the population. Fourdom of trade" transfers the property of both pence was then about the price of a quartern to the bankers, who are the only gainers in loaf of bread. And can we possibly think, the case, and reduces both to that state of that all the charges of this wretched characwretchedness, which naturally exempts itself ter to the nation in house-room, food, raiment

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

&c. can amount to less than the the value of this much bread?” And if we take his charges at more, the number of paupers must be proportionably smaller. At the ever membrable period at which you, Sir, stepped into the "bed of roses," the number of paupers in the same divisions of the United Kingdoms, is given, by parliament, at no less than 1,200,000 which is more than 1-9th of the population of these divisions; and allowing but a shilling per day each, which is less than the price of a quartern loaf, their charges to the public is no less than £21,600,000 sterling, if bank notes be sterling money. Parliament, however, does not give the poors rateveen at £6,000,000 that is, at 3d per day, that is, perhaps, at more than the common charge per day of a fox hound or a pointer dog. And so much the better, since the broad bottomed wisdom, virtue, and talents of the country, had not the courage and sagacity, as their first performance in office, to unmask the broader seated injustice of Free Trade, in all its bearings on the state of the nation. For, as this fund of paupers added to that of the mercemary soldiers which the Whigs mean to create for the defence of bankers, and both to the fund of expensive commissioners which they are establishing to free the House of Com mons from the trouble of investigating the public accounts, inherit every property of the sinking fund, and reduce all but the bankers to the wretched allowance of less than 3d per day, with the same degree of certain ty and progressive power with which that fund would sink the national debt, were not an accumulating burden to impede its progress, the merchants, or all who are not strictly limited annuitants, as well as those who are, will either feel and see the evil of free trade as it overwhelms them, and call for its remedy; or they will sink under its pressure with that manly fortitude and resignation, which would dignify, even at the foot of the gibbet, the exit of Forty Thieves. Long, Sir, as these observations are, such is my sense of the importance which attaches itself to what may be farther said upon the subject, that I have no power to quit it without making some direct remarks on the glories of the revolution of 1688. This whig measure, Sit, had the best of theories for its basis; but, alas, they mistook the means of carrying them into practice; and an increase of 1,100,000 paupers is the indisputable effect. Unless it be shewn clearly, but disgracefully and barbarously, that each pauper does not cost the public the value of a quartern loaf per day. It appears to me, Sir, that the particular in glories of

66

this revolution consists in its having esta blished the bill of rights, on the ruins of the restrictive laws of Henry VIII. and of Queen Elizabeth. In doing this, it appareatly diminished the right of doing wrong in the hands of government, and really increased it in the more liable to do wrong hands of bankers and merchants; of men who have no knowledge of finance beyond the skin deep surface of pounds, shillings, and pence; of men whose avowed leading principle of action is, the detestable and antipatriotic rule of “ every man for himself, and the devil, not "God for us all." The 25 of Henry VIII. prevented the consolidation of farms, and the conversion of them into pasture for sheep, under the then great penalty of 3s. 4d. per week. And in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a stop was not only put to buildings in and about London, but the number of lodgers to be admitted into any house, was positively regulated by law, so sensible were the legislators of those times of the tendency which the farm con. solidating system, and the unlimited extension of cities and towns had to create pau pers, as well as thieves, robbers, and vagabonds. Yet more than a century's knowledge of the increase of these characters, has not convinced the whigs of their error; I had almost said of their inability to legislate. For, let us but cast our eye around the face of the country, and we see nothing but large farms and gentleman farmers, And judging from the buildings which have been erected, and which are rapidly going on in and about London, and in and about every city and town in the United Kingdoms, the inference is, that agriculture is to be deserted altogether; that all the gentlemen' farmers, with their labourers, mean to become gentlemen, and labouring merchants and mechanics, as soon as the buildings are finished to receive them!!! Whigs and Tories, both notorious bad pans, if you can see your error even now, you have seen it by far too late. For your power and energy, your military plans, and plans of reform in the different departments of government, which are all excellent merely as such, can never reach the evils of free trade, as they deal destruction around them by means of paper currency, and repair the injury which their parent, your bill of rights has done to the happiness of the people, and the character of your country, as cruel and unjust to herself, proud and overbearing towards others.-C. S.— May 22, 1806.

FATE OF THE FUNDS.

SIR, After what has appeared at different

[ocr errors]

times in your valuable Register, respecting | the state of our public finances, and the distressful prospect before us, that our burthens, grievous as they are, must inevitably, upon the system now pursuing, be still increased; and that, with such magnitude and rapidity, as soon to be beyond our ability, to support; it was natural to expect, that you would have proceeded to devise some mode, which might reach the exigency of the case, and rescue us from a situation so perilous and alarming. But notwithstanding the anxiety which must have been so generally felt, nothing as I know of, has yet been suggested for relief. Can there however, I would ask, amongst all the various subjects. which at this eventful crisis, present themselves for public observation, be one, more generally important, and more worthy of the serious and attentive consideration of every enlightened individual in the kingdom, than the subject now before us? Why, then, Mr. Cobbett, have you dropt it; and contented yourself with having only just shewn us the gulph that threatens to swallow us up, without pointing out the course to avoid it?As I think it right, to impute to every one, the best possible motives, where mo-` tives are not avowed; I will suppose that your silence here, and that the conduct of the present ministry, in proceeding, as they now are, to raise supplies upon the very plans which many of their leading members have so long, and so uniformly, deprecated, as pregnant with ruin; is only with a view to bring us to acquiesce more readily, with some remedy intended to be applied to the evil, and calculated effectually to remove it; from having previously made us feel still more, and with such an unsparing hand, the necessity of such a remedy. If it be so, the expedient cannot fail of success: we shall now both see, and feel, enough to convince every thinking unbiassed mind, that such a necessity really does exist; and it cannot be the intention of government, to continue our sufferings, till all the sinking fund dotards, and other visionaries, are convinced so too; and, what perhaps may be still more difficult, are brought to own it. Seriously, I do hope and trust, that his Majesty's present ministers are actuated by some such motive as I have above supposed; as I cannot bring myself to think, that they would wish to sacrifice the public good, either to the shameful profligacy of keeping on foot a corrupt aud infamous patronage, or to the culpable weakness of seeking to put off the disclosure of the publie circumstances, from an apprehension of the effects it may produce. They are too enlightened not to perceive,, and, I

.

:

hope, too honest not to own, that the former cannot stand in much longer stead; and that any further delay, will but ultimately increase the evil.-There are but few articles now exempt from taxation in one shape or other; it is therefore difficult to conceive a new tax and each one, must be still more and more vexatious and oppressive in its operation and, in proportion as the burthen increases, individuals will be forced to make retrenchments. Every additional impost therefore, will in a considerable degree defeat its own purpose: and how are the deficiencies to be made up, unless by having recourse again and again to lucome? And where is it to stop?-Great, and well founded, as our reliance upon the honour, integ-. rity, and wisdom, of our present rulers may be; and urgently as the distresses of the nation call upon them promptly to unite their utmost energies to ease us of a burthen so galling and oppressive; it is nevertheless the duty of every individual to assist, if he can, in the common cause; and let no one hastily conclude, that the case is too difficult, be-. cause the evil is vast and extensive. I trust, on due consideration, it will appear, that. there is no very formidable difficulty to encounter, and that a remedy may be found, which will be both easy and effectual.-To extinguish the Public Debt at once, would ́ bé most unjust, and what the existing circumstances, grievous as they are, do by no means require. Some middle course, Í apprehend, may be adopted, with which both the public creditor, and the community at large, may have reason to be satisfied.When an individual becomes insolvent, and his situation is known, would his creditors advise, that he should continue his dealings; and would they consent that their several claims should be consolidated into a fund; to remain at interest, and take his notes for the interest? Would it not occur to them, that his embarrassments must eventually be increased, and consequently his means of liquidating their demands, be lessened, by the additional responsibility he would thus incur? Such a mode would never be resorted to, A National Debt has a high sound; but, duly considered, I conceive it is in its nature the same as the debt of an individual; and the same reasoning, and the same principles for adjusting the claims, which are, applicable to the one, are equally applicable to the other: the difference is only in the magnitude of the two cases. In the instance of the private insolvent, we know,、 that, whatever node would be taken, the ulterior object would be to bring all his property forwards, and, divide it equally,

amongst his creditors; or else compound with them, according to the means he would appear to possess. Why not then adopt this course for the public creditors? Let all the 25sets that belong to these creditors, if there are any, be brought forwards, and see how far they will go; and then let proper means be adopted to ascertain the amount of every description of property we possess (except ing what arises from these public claims); and let every individual contribute, either together, or by instalments, a certain proportion, perhaps a 14th or a 15th of the whole, as the deficiency may appear to be; or, one, or two years income (income is now ascertained) to add to the fund and the whole, so raised, be divided, by way of composition, amongst the public creditors.-Such contribution, either to be in money or other effects, (the value of which to be adjudged by commissioners) as may be most couvenient to the contributors.-This enormous burthen being thus removed, with its attendant, and most extensive mischiefs, there would be nothing then left to be provide i for, but the real exigencies of the state, And thus, assisted by proper and salutary regulations, which would naturally suggest themselves, as part of the plan (ex. gr. perhips a proportionate general maximum, for one) specie would resume its former value, and no longer be depreciated by its connexion with the vast mass of paper now in circulation (and by which alone such depreciation has been effected), and the great increase in the price of labor, and of every article beth for home and foreign consump-tion; all, evidently arising from the same source, would regain their equilibrium, and a prospect of domestic comfort, and national prosperity, once more restored to us.-The inost oppressive and vexatious of the taxes; such as the tax on light Legacies; the partial tax on lead; two-thirds at least of the Stamp Duties; most of the taxes under the denomination of Excise (instead of extending this most odious system), with a great variety of others, equally objectionable, might be abolished; as the public expenditure would then betrifling, compared with what it is now, and might be easily provided for, by retaining, and in some instances new modifying, such of the taxes, as are impartial, and not liable to evasion.-It is ridiculous to talk of the faith of parliament being pledged to pay the public creditors. The debt is now arrived at that magnitude, which never could have been anticipated: and, as parliament cannot make good its pledge; the wisest, and honestest, thing it cen do; is, immediately, to

:

inake provision to pay as far as it can: and not defer the evil day, till it may be impossisible to raise even a part.-The measure I have here suggested, is far from being so objectionable by the stock-holders as it may at first appear, when it is considered, that (without adverting to the danger he at least is now in, of never receiving any part of his claim) the depreciation as it proceeds, must proportionably lessen the value of stock; which cannot rise to meet it as other property does and still less will the contributors to the fund have reason for objection, as the effect of the measure will be at once to relieve them from a vast load of taxes, which they annually pay, not only in their regular assessments, but in almost every article they consume, perhaps, to double the amount of the interest of the sum they would have to contribute: besides which, they should consider that the contribution sum itself, will not be any thing like equal to the increase of property, each must have derived from the depreciation so much more severely felt by the stock-holder.I am sensible, Air. Cobbett, that these remarks are very crude, indeed, I mean them only as a mere outline of a plan, and perhaps what I have suggested may be thought both inap plicable and inexpedient. This, however, I am confident of, that the calamitous situa tion the country is in, calls aloud for a remedy, at once, prompt, bold, and striking at the very root of the evil; and if ought to be calculated as much as possible to bear equally upon allE.N.-May 27, 1805.

CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND' LETTER II.

SIR; Conscious rectitude of motive, and goodness of intention, with a strong feeling of the importance of my subject, formed my only inducement to submit to the public, through the medium of your Political Register, (p. 470) some thoughts on the condition of the people of Ireland. The early insertion with which you honoured my former communication, though it might have been flattering to vanity, is highly grateful to me on a far different account; it encourages a hope of seeing the affairs of that calumniated country brought before the public view, and fully discussed in your distinguished publication. To me, indeed, it will be matter of astonishment, if at this momentous period when the civilised world is convulsed, and its goverments subverted, or threatened with revolution, men of reflection and experience will still decline to employ a portion of their talents, for the instruction of the British nation, upon objects so intimately

« PreviousContinue »