« AnteriorContinuar »
Higher duties were imposed on those necessaries in Holland than have ever been imposed in any other country. Dr Smith informs us that the price of bread consumed in the Dutch towns was supposed to be at least doubled by these means;* and it was a common saying at Amsterdam, that every dish of fish was paid once to the fisherman, and six times to the State. But this oppressive system of taxation had not the least effect in raising the price of those commodities which were not strictly taxed. They continued to sell at the same price as before. The taxed commodities were raised in price; for if they had not been so raised, the producers could not have obtained the general profits of stock, and would no longer have brought them to market. But that rise could not communicate itself to any other commodity which was not taxed, and whose producers were already in possession of the ordinary rate of profit. These taxes, however, by being imposed chiefly on the necessaries of life, not only raised their price to every consumer, but they further raised the general or average rate of wages, and consequently reduced the common and average rate of profit.
Although a tax on a necessary-on corn for example-would raise its price to the extent of the tax, it must not therefore be imagined, that the profits of the stock employed in producing the corn would not be diminished. Prices would only be raised to the extent of the tax; but the tax, besides raising the price of corn, would also raise wages. For this additional sum, which the farmer would be obliged to pay his workmen, he could obtain no compensation. Prices would rise in proportion to the tax, but they would rise no higher; and the increased amount of wages would fall entirely on the profits of stock.
It has, we know, been contended, that a tax on raw produce would fall on the landlord, and that, instead of raising its price, it would only lower rent. But this could not possibly be the case. In a country where the growth of corn is just adequate to supply the wants of the inhabitants, if a tax of 5s. or 10s. were imposed on every bushel or quarter brought to the market, its price would necessarily be increased to that extent. The exchangeable value of raw produce, it must be remembered, is regulated entirely by that portion which is raised on land paying no rent, or by that capital which is employed on land without yielding any thing except the common and ordinary rate of profits. When, therefore, a tax is imposed on raw produce, the cultivator, if he did not obtain an equivalent increase of price, would be obliged to quit a trade where he
* Wealth of Nations, vol. iii. p. 340.
could not obtain the general rate of profit; and the diminution of the aggregate supplies would speedily raise prices to their proper level. The raiser of that portion of raw produce which regulates the price of the whole, either pays no rent whatever, or he only gets, at the average existing prices, the common and ordinary rate of profit for a certain portion of his capital employed in producing. If he pays no rent, it is impossible he should be able to deduct the tax from a landlord; and assuredly he would not deduct it from his own profits; for there can be no reason why a farmer should continue in an employment which yields only small profits, when all other employments are yielding greater.
Such taxes, therefore, as raise the price of the necessaries of life, are attended by exactly the same effects as result from being compelled to have recourse to poorer soils for subsistence. They raise the price of the commodity on which they are im-* posed, in the same way as an increase in the quantity of labour necessary for its production would raise its price, and, enhancing the rate of wages, proportionably lower the profits of stock.
A tax on luxuries would not be productive of those effects. A duty on velvets, on claret, and on coaches, would fall entirely on the consumer. Such commodities are not consumed by the labourer, and a tax on them would not therefore raise wages, and would not have any effect on the profits of stock.
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to state, that these remarks apply entirely to the general and ultimate effects of taxation. But, when in a stationary state of society, or in a state where capital and population are increasing with nearly the same rapidity, a tax is imposed on any of the necessaries of life, labourers cannot at once raise their wages to a corresponding level. Their number would continue the same immediately after the imposition of the tax as before. This is a given quantity which cannot be increased or diminished in an instant. The supply of labourers is not like the supply of boots and shoes : it cannot be made to vary with every variation in the demand; and a considerable time must elapse before any great effect can be brought about, either in the way of its increase or diminution. During the whole of the period from the imposition of the tax, until the slackened operation of the principle of population had, by lessening the accustomed supply of labourers, raised their real wages to their former level, the tax would not fall altogether upon the profits of the capitalist. It would then fall partly on the labourers themselves, and would cause a greater or less diminution of their comforts and enjoyments.
Were a tax imposed on a necessary of life, in a country such
as the United States, where the rate of wages is high, it is probable that it would rather have a tendency to infuse a spirit of economy into the people, than, by checking the former rate of their increase, and diminishing the supply of labour, to raise its price. But in all old settled, and fully peopled countries, the wages of labour are seldom so high as to permit workmen to economize to any great extent. Nor is this to be at all desired. It is, whatever may be said to the contrary, the great and leading defect in the lower classes, that they submit to privations with too little reluctance. Nothing ought to be more earnestly deprecated, than any change in the sentiments of the great body of the people, which may have the effect of inducing them to lower their opinion as to what is necessary to their comfortable subsistence. Every such degradation is almost sure to be permanent; inasmuch as wages would always fall in a corresponding ratio. It is - But there are limits to this fall of wages, and there are consequently limits to the power of the labourers to pay taxes. And whenever these limits have been attained, and it is for the interest of society that they should be easily reached, or that wages should be kept as high and as steady as possible, every succeeding tax on wages, or on the necessaries required for the maintenance of the labourers, will fall entirely on the profits of their employers. - We have thus endeavoured, and we trust not altogether unsuccessfully, to lay before our readers an accurate exposition of the nature, as well of those general principles which Mr Ricardo has been the first to ascertain, as of those which he has adopted from late writers, and combined with the others into one harmonious, consistent, and beautiful system. It is to Mr Ricardo's own work, however, that such of our readers as wish to acquire a thorough knowledge of the subject, must have recourse; and although his conciseness of manner, coupled with the complexity and multiplicity of the details which every inquiry of this nature necessarily involves, may sometimes give the appearance of obscurity to his reasoning, it will be found, when rightly examined, to be no less logical and conclusive, than it is profound and important.
ART. III. Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Canto the Fourth. By
LORD BYRON. 8vo.' pp. 257. London, 1818.
HERE are two writers, in modern literature, whose extraor
dinary power over the minds of men, it may be truly said, has existed less in their works than in themselves, -Rousseau and Lord Byron. They have other points of resemblance. Both are distinguished by the most ardent and vivid delineations of intense conception, and by an intense sensibility of passion, ra. ther than of affection. Both, too, by this double power, have held a dominion over the sympathy of their readers, far beyond the range of those ordinary feelings which are' usually excited by the mere efforts of genius. The impression of this interest still accompanies the perusal of their writings; But there is another interest of more lasting, and far stronger power, which the one has possessed, and the other now possesses, which lies in the continual embodying of the individual character, it might almost be said, of the very person of the writer. When we speak or think of Rousseau or Byron, we are not conscious of speaking or thinking of an author. We have a vague but empassioned remembrance of men of surpassing genius, eloquence and power, -of prodigious capacity both of misery and happiness. We feel as if we had transiently met such beings in real life, or had known them in the dim and dark communion of a dream. Each of their works presents, in succession, a fresh idea of themselves; and, while the productions of other great men stand out from them, like something they have created, theirs, on the contrary, are images, pictures, busts of their living selves,-clothed, no doubt, at different times in different drapery, and prominent from a different background,--but uniformly impressed with the same form, and mien, and linear ments, and not to be mistaken for the repreşentations of any other of the children of men.
But this view of the subject, though universally felt to be a true onę, requires perhaps a little explanation. The personal character of which we have spoken, it should be understood, is not, altogether, that on which the seal of life has been set--and to which, therefore, moral approval or condemnation is necessarily annexed, as to the language or conduct of actual existence. It is the character, so to speak, which is prior to conduct, and yet open to good and to ill,—the constitution of the being, in body and in soul. Each of those illustrious writers has, in this light, filled his works with expressions of his own character,-has unveiled to the world the secrets of his own being,—the mysteries of the framing of man. They have gone down into those depths which every man may sound for himself, though not for another; and they have made discloşures to the world of what they beheld and knew there-disclosures that have commanded and enforced a profound and uniyersal sympathy, by proving that all mankind, the troubled and
the untroubled, the lofty and the low,' the strongest and the frailest, are linked together by the bonds of a common but inscrutable nature,
Thus, each of these wayward and richly-gifted spirits has made himself the object of profound interest to the world, -and that too, during periods of society when ample food was everywhere spread abroad for the meditations and passions of men. What love and desire,—what longing and passionate expectation hung upon the voice of Rousseau, the idol of his day!That spell is broken. We now can regard his works in themşelves, in great measure free from all the delusions and illusions that, like the glories of a bright and vapoury atmosphere, were for ever rising up and encircling the image of their wonderful creator. Still is the impression of his works vivid and strong. The charm which cannot pass away is there,-life breathing in dead words, the pulses of passion,—the thrilling of the frame, -the sweet pleasure stealing from senses touched with ecstasy into sounds which the tongue frames, and the lips utter with de light. All these still are there,—the fresh beauty, the undimmed lustre—the immortal bloom and verdure and fragrance of life. These, light and vision-like as they seem, endure as in marble. But that which made the spirits of men, from one end of Europe to the other, turn to the name of Rousseau,- that idolizing enthusiasm which we can now hardly conceive, was the illusion of one generation, and has not survived to another. And what was the spell of that illusion? Was it merely that bewitching strain of dreaming melancholy which lent to moral declamation the tenderness of romance ? Or that fiery impress of burning sensibility which threw over abstract and subtle disquisitions all the colours of a lover's tale? These undoubtedly--but not these alone. It was that continual impersonation of himself in his writings, by which he was for ever kept brightly present before the eyes of men. There was in him a strange and unsated desire of depicturing himself, throughout all the changes of his being. His wild temper only found ease in tracing out, in laying bare to the universal gaze, the very groundwork, the most secret paths, the darkest coverts of one of the most wayward and unimaginable minds ever framed by nature. From the moment that his first literary success had wedded hiny to the public, this was his history,—and such his strange, contradictory, divided life. Shy, and shunning the faces of men in his daily walks, yet searching and rending up the inmost recesses of his heart for the inspection of that race which he feared or hated. As a man, turning from the light, as from something unsupportably loathsome, and plunging into the thickest