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their whole debt, by the circumstance of a man's living on ex. pedients till he has nothing to pay with, when they might have been secure of ten shillings in the pound, had their debtor made in due time an acknowlegement of his situation? Now the situation of a kingdom is more obvious than that of an in dividual; every one sees to what shifts it has recourse, and knows the means it adopts for raising money, and the probability there is of its failure or its success. If indeed the na tion were so situated that it could literally and amply meet the demands upon it, then it would be acting with caprice and injustice, if, upon the supposition that the fundholder were a gainer by his confidence, it should withhold from him any part of his just debt. Then it might be said with some truth, that national confidence would be lost; then there might be reluct ance to trust again, what had once deceived. This however is not the case. The nation cannot continue for any length of ime to pay the present interest. It is already painfully and deeply distressed to make the payments it does make; and every successive year this difficulty is increased: and if no stop is made now, it may be safely predicted that in the course of a few years, it will find it as difficult to pay the half of the interest, as it does now to pay the whole. The fundholder will then experience a more serious loss; he will not merely be a little poorer, he will be actually and positively poor. Agriculture and commerce will fall lower and lower, and the whole income of the nation will be scarcely equivalent to the payment of the interest of the debt. Those who are so tenacious of this literal fulfilment of national engagements, do not seem to be aware that it is not only the land and existing wealth of the country that is pledged for its engagements, but that its skill and industry, and commercial enterprise, form a considerable share of its ability to pay its debts. If, then, that skill is prevented from activity, that industry has no field for exertion, and that commercial enterprise has no means of exercise, from being so fettered and crippled by taxation; what becomes of the fundholder's security? The debtor may be very honest in his heart; but if he have no money in his hand, what is the use of his honesty?
It seems like fighting with a man of straw, to answer such objectors. Who would not rather take ten shillings in the pound, than send his debtor to jail and get nothing at all but the mere malignant satisfaction of keeping him there? But the parallel between a nation and individuals cannot in every · case hold good. The nation is in part its own creditor and its own debtor: it can have no interest in cheating or de
frauding itself; it cannot be totally ruined by its debts, so long as there is land to cultivate, and arts to cherish, and ingenuity to exercise, and industry to exert; but it will be ruined if its taxes send the land out of cu'sivation, if the incumbrances by which its trade is fettered and impeded, destroy its industry and weaken its spirit. To this point we are hastening; and hither we must come at last, if no stop be put to the present system of enormous taxation and repeated increase of loans in time of peace.
V. In the plan here recommended is the only principle by which we can keep up our respectability in the eyes of foreign nations. It is a very good thing to be at peace with our neighbours, and to avoid as far as possible the wicked and destructive system of war. We have suffered enough from that already; and every lover of his country and his species must earnestly desire the abolition of that practice, and wish for some other mode of settling national disputes. But it is a very bad thing to be at peace merely from want of means to take the field. Our neighbours may consider us as a fit subject for insult, or even plunder, when they know that our circumstances will not permit us to repress their insolence, or preserve our independence. The nation has made great and unparalleled sacrifices to preserve its existence; and now the fundholder is reaping the benefits of it, while every other class is suffering from the painful and protracted struggle. When our fleets were on every sca, and protected our commerce, and forced into places from whence we excluded others, then trade was flourishing; but now it is against us; our taxes will not let us go even fairly to market in competition with the foreigner: and, as the fundholder enjoys the benefits which war has produced, the independence which that conflict has secured, is it not bare justice that he should make some sacrifice to ensure and establish that independence? But how can it be secured, upon the present system? Where can funds be raised, upon the emergency of any new conflict with foreign powers? Peace is a blessing, and in the present state of the civilised world is best secured by strength to meet aggression. But it would be difficult now to maintain a conflict. If however that proposed reduction be made in the national debt, a new spring of activity will pervade all classes, and we shall feel that we have something to contend for, and something worth preserving. And this very circumstance will give additional security to the proprietors of funded property. They will know that the country has strength to take care of itself, and watch over its own interests. They will not be clinging VOL. XVIII. Pam. NO. XXXVI. X
⚫to a wreck in despair, but become active and powerful managers of the great vessel of the state. And above all, if there be in the breasts of our neighbours on the Continent any sentiment of what is noble, generous, and purely just in national conduct; must they not feel a reverence for that public spirit which makes a sacrifice for the public good, and sinks in the consideration of general welfare, all mean and paltry compu tations of personal and individual benefit? Will they not reverence that moral heroism, which does what it can to save a sinking state, and think that England hath something truly valuable in its possession, when it can do so much to preserve itself entire? If then there be any importance in standing well with our neighbours, this should be a powerful mo tive with us to adopt readily and cheerfully this measure; it is bolder and nobler to meet and destroy the difficulty, than sit trembling till our very nerves are shattered, and the diffi culty has gained an overwhelmning strength, that must crush us with its mighty and irresistible power.
VI. This reduction would naturally produce the revival of trade at home and abroad. When the manufacturer and farmer and merchant are relieved from one third of the taxes that now press upon them, what numbers of hands, now idle and unproductive, will be employed? These, of course, would make an essential difference in the demand of our home manufactures, would make an increased consumption of foreign articles; would increase thereby the public revenue, and at the same time, by adding to the demand for foreign articles, would enable the foreigner to take off a larger portion of goods manufactured or articles produced in this country. This would of course give, in a variety of forms, an impulse to trade, to industry, and to mechanical exertion; and effectually improve the general aspect of the country. Among the vast multitude of vagabonds and depredators who live upon plun der and thrive by vice, it is not to be supposed that all love dishonesty for its own sake, or are pleased with their gains because the means of them are bad. There is many a man, who would rather gain fifty pounds honestly, than sixty dishonestly those, therefore, whose distresses are not of their own seeking, and who are driven to unfair means of living from a want of better, and who are therefore objects of moral pity as well as political severity, would then be able to return to a healthful state of activity, and render themselves useful to society. National wealth is not the richness of a soil, but the activity and industry of its inhabitants; these would be increased by adopting this measure towards the public
creditor, and they must decline by the continuance of the present system.co ...VII. Another important benefit which would result from this diminution of the public burden is, that it would remove the pressure of the most odious and injurious of the taxes, and considerably lessen those petty vexations which the present mode of taxation necessarily imposes. The tax, for instance; upon malt has produced effects very injurious to trade in many parts of the kingdom; but as things are now, not a sixpence can be spared, and the only object is to raise a' sum equal to the public necessities. The only answer, therefore, which can now be given to applications or petitions to be relieved from oppressive taxes is, that government cannot spare the money. Now this tax, and most of the excise duties, are highly expensive to collect, and very oppressive in the collection. There are many districts where barley is the principal object of cultivation; but the excessive duty on malt has depressed the farmer, and destroyed his capital; and it is now more oppressive than ever, as it is a tax which falls almost entirely on the poorer and laboring classes. By the mere effect of taxation, one principal article of home manufacture is likely to become almost extinct; the higher classes will not use it, and the lower cannot afford it. This duty has also had the injurious effect of introducing into breweries those deleterious and poisonous ingredients which have been used as substitutes for malt; and that beverage which was once palatable and wholesome, is now neither the one nor the other. One might justly conclude that taxation has extended too far, when it thus presents so powerful a temptation to the adulteration and almost poisoning the materials of daily consumption.
1. It is also worth while to consider the whole of the excise laws-whether they be not more injurious to the nation, than profitable to the state. The mean frauds and contemptible subterfuges to which they lead, tempting men of otherwise re spectable character to tricks into which in other circumstances they would scorn to be led, are certainly injurious to the morals of the nation; and the system of espionage which they naturally introduce, seriously tends to the degradation of the national character, and the extinction of that high and noble spirit, which has been considered the peculiar charac¬ teristic of Englishmen. Duties imposed upon foreign articles may be some encouragement and protection to home manufactures; but the imposition of duties upon articles manufactured in our own country, tends to depress the spirit of indus
try for in a degree every duty imposed is of the nature of a prohibition, and on the article of malt it really acts as a prohibition to no small part of the community. Perhaps in the case of ardent spirits it may be morally good that some restraint be laid upon the use of them; but it is principally when the lower classes have not the means of domestic and quiet comforts, that they are induced to have recourse to these destructive stimulants.
There is another tax which presses very hard upon the poor-the duty on salt; it operates as a kind of prohibition forbidding them to preserve their winter food. The use of salt among the poor, is considerably greater than among the other classes of society; and it does appear to them a very cruel imposition that forbids the use of an article which nature furnishes in such abundance, and which is of such substantial and essential use in the economy of a poor man's cottage. Could any thing but absolute necessity lead government to the adoption of such measures of finance?
What shall we say to lotteries? They appeal to a powerful and prevalent passion; they indulge a very natural propensity, to risk a little in the hope of a great gain. But why should government prohibit gaming as a vice, and encourage it as a source of revenue? There is no man who can be a stranger to the injurious effects of this system. There are multitudes whom it has brought into the very lowest state of poverty, whose families have been brought into starvation and wretchedness by its means. When a laboring man or me chanic, whose weekly earnings are barely sufficient for his maintenance and that of his family, once feels a propensity to this species of speculation, it is not enough that he is once disappointed; he must plunge deeper and deeper, till he throws his last stake and perishes. Suicides have frequently resulted from disappointments in lotteries; and the low price at which shares may be purchased, makes the temptation more powerful and more extensive. It is all very true, that no man is under the necessity of purchasing a share-that government does not compel the adventurer so to expend his money-that he is only paying a voluntary contribution to the public revenue: but if there be no political or legal necessity, there is almost a moral necessity; there is required in many a great share of fortitude and reflection to resist the propensity to run the risk; and if the government could prevent every one from purchasing who could not really afford it, these lotteries would not be very productive to the state. For those whose incomes meet their expenses, are not so apt to risk what they