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war, which in former days was accounted a season of distress, in the present age wore the semblance of prosperity; and though it closed with a vast addition of permanent burdens, it terminated also with an increase of income which seemed to be a counterbalance. Mr. Fox and his small band of followers foresaw the financial difficulties which would ultimately and inevitably follow the lavish expenditure in which we engaged, but their warnings were derided, and their prophecies treated with scorn.
Of the war which commenced in 1793, and ceased for a few months in 1802, the average annual expenditure was 27 millions; taking the total money raised by loans and taxes, but deducting from it 18 millions annually, as the probable disbursement of Great Britain and Ireland if the war had not broken out. The progression of the expenditure, however, is not the least remarkable feature. The sums raised during the first two years were 14 millions : during the last two, 89 millions. Yet these were nothing to the loans and taxes required for the renewed war of 1803 and twelve following years,
in fact, maintained by the labor of the people, generally; when discharged, wages become lowered by the competition of additional numbers of laborers, and many are thrown on their parishes. The distress of farmers arises solely from the large annual additions which have been made to the number of productive laborers since the peace ! It is accordingly proposed, "with a view to tranquillize the public mind,” &c. &c., “ that this House should declare that they will not, for the period of five years, further reduce the army or navy, or break faith with the public servants; and above all, that this House will never consent to any measure by which the public creditor shall be injured.” As these non-earning consumers is receive the means of subsistence from the taxes, and are in fact maintained by the labor of the people generally," &c. &c. it is also resolved, " that it is equally the duty of this House to prevent the repeal of any tax, without ascertaining that its repeal will be the means of giving employment to a greater number of laborers than it will throw on the market." These Resolutions close with a declaration that there is no reason to believe that any supplies of foreign grain will be wanted for several years, and that the existing duties will operate as an absolute prohibition for five; the House is accordingly called to declare its opinion, “ that it is expedient, for the above-mentioned period of five years, to abstain from all further discussions on agricultural distress ! Experience having convinced them that such discussions tend to increase and not to remedy the evil.” – Qui vult decipi, decipiatur. The wolf is but ill concealed under the lamb's fleece; and, as soon as the savage animal tries to imitate its bleat, he breaks into his own growl, and discloses the fraud.
which were still more rapidly progressive in amount in consequence of the depreciation of Bank-paper, and the vast accumulation of interest on the former debt. The sums levied during the first three years, for the war-expenditure, were 29, 40, and 52 millions: during the last three, 98, 89, and 86 millions ! The total sum derived from loans and taxes during the 23 years, from 1793 to 1816, was € 1,564,000,000 Deduct for peace-establishment and charges
unconnected with the war, a' gross amount of
The remaining war-charge will be £1,100,000,000 This total of our war-expenditure is exclusive of money raised for the service of Ireland during the 23 years: but, on the other hand, it comprizes a large amount appropriated not to the war but to the extinction of the national debt; which sums are considered as balancing each other. It would have been more satisfactory, however, to have been exact: the documents, from which Mr. Lowe has made his deductions, should have been presented entire in this instance as they are in most others : even fractional accuracy should have been observed; and the quibbler and the sceptic would then have had no ground left for their arena.
The sums expended being of this unexampled magnitude, the next question is, how did government contrive to obtain them? In the early years of the contest, loans were adopted : but their effect in lowering the public funds was so alarming, that Mr. Pitt had recourse to the bold expedient of raising a large proportion of the supplies within the year by war-taxes.* Deducting, as before, the sum of 18 millions as a computed peace-establishment, the war-taxes during the first four years were inconsiderable; and in 1797, by the increase of the assessed taxes, they were carried only to 3 millions : but the imposition of the income-tax augmented them in 1798 to 12 millions, and they progressively rose to 19 millions in 1802. Allowing 22 millions for the increased peace-establishment at
* The general prosperity of the country was so great just before the revolutionary war broke out, that in the year 1792 the 3 per cents. were at the high price of 971.; from which they declined as soon as it was known that our government had resolved to join the coalesced powers. During the first two years, our expences were comparatively limited: but the loans afterward raised gave such a shock to public credit, that as early as in 1797 the 3 per cents. sunk down to the unexampled price of 471. In the year 1739, under Sir Robert Walpole's administration, the 3 per cents. were at 1071. I 3
the renewal of hostilities in 1808, the produce of our annualsupplies in that year was 16 millions. The progression is exhibited in the following table: • 1803, £16,000,000 1810, £45,000,000 1804, 23,000,000 1811,
43,000,000 1805, 28,000,000 1812,
41,000,000 1806, 31,000,000 1813,
45,000,000 1807, 36,000,000 1814,
48,000,000 1808, 40,000,000 1815,
41,000,000 Respective Proportion of Loans and Taxes. Of the total sum of 1,100,000,000l. expended during the war, the amount added to our permanent debt was 460,000,0001., so that the aggregate of the supplies raised within the year amounted for the whole war to 640,000,0001.
The next and most important step in this inquiry is, from what sources were these supplies obtained ? Not from an extension amounting to monopoly of foreign commerce as it is generally supposed; for a reference to the return of exports and imports, computed in two ways, first, according to the fixed official standard of the Custom-house, calculated by the weight or dimensions of package, and, secondly, by the declaration of the exporting merchants, shews that our foreign commerce was not so great at any time during the war as it has been since the peace. Our exports, by the declaration of the merchants, were on an average of the ten years from 1791 to 1801, both inclusive,
£48,890,000 Average of the ten years from 1801 to 1810, 52,847,000 Average from 1814 to 1820, both inclusive, 62,330,428 manifesting an annual increase of exports to the value of 6 millions sterling, since the peace, after an adequate allowance for the reduced value of foreign and colonial goods. Various other sources of supply have been imagined ; namely, the occupation of our conquered colonies of Trinidad, Demarara, St. Lucie, Guadaloupe, &c. in the West Indies; each, however, draining capital from this country, and yielding little present revenue. Another source has been specified in the suspension during the war of the navigation of France, Holland, and other hostile states dependent on France : but it is well known that the transfer of navigation from those countries, whose flag could not appear on the ocean, was less in favor of British vessels than of neutrals, Americans, Danes, Swedes, Dutch, and Prussians. Our prosperity during the war has been ascribed by others to a fancied reduction of the manufactures in the hostile states: but, with regard to those of France, it appears that they have undergone no reduction
since the Revolution; for during the last thirty years they have been progressively increasing, and have always kept pace with the wants of the country. How, then, is the financial enigma, of sustained prosperity during an expensive war of twenty-three years, to be solved? We should answer this question in a very few words, by saying that we were in the situation of a spendthrift who is living on his capital, regardless of the limits of his income; and things always go on very merrily for a time when this is the case. It was the encouragement given to domestic industry in all its innumerable branches, by an exhausting and ruinous excitement. This country had been at peace for ten years when the war of 1793 broke out, and gave occupation to every age, rank, class, and capacity. The army, the navy, and the public offices of government, opened a career to glory and emolument; and the transient impulse was felt in agriculture, trade, and the professions, raising the wages of the lower and the salaries of the higher ranks. An addition to the revenue naturally followedl this state of things. The gross revenue from the Excise in 1805 was 23,194,000l. ; which progressively augmented every year during the war, and in 1815 amounted to 27,207,000l. An increase of employment, from whatever cause it arises, confers, for the time, a greater ability to pay taxes; and the expenditure of immense loans in recruiting, clothing, and victualling the militia, army, and navy, in the building of ships of war, repairing fortifications, purchase of stores, maintaining garrisons abroad, &c. &c. gave an impulse to the active powers of the whole nation. These loans averaged 20 millions for each year; and Mr. Lowe asserts, - with too little reserve, however, that this bold use of our credit, this free draft on our future resources, was almost all expended directly or indirectly in the extension of our domestic industry: giving so great a stimulus to it, and so large an addition to the income of individuals, as to explain at once our ability to meet the war-taxes. The product of these taxes, also, (which formed an average amount of 47 millions annually for twenty-three years, our total expenditure averaging 67 millions,) was circulated over the country.
Here we have arrived at the commentary on that proposition, of which we have spoken as nakedly presented in the wily “ Resolutions” already mentioned ; namely, that the cause of our present distress is to be found in the increase of productive laborers, in the disbanding of a certain portion of our army and navy, and in the repeal of a certain portion of our taxes ! Mr. Lowe, it is true, asserts that the expenditure of vast sums of borrowed money imparts a stimulus to productive industry, but he terms it a premium given to the existing
generation at the charge of posterity,” and compares it to a stream diffusing fertility and luxuriance as long as it continues to flow; but, springing from an unnatural and temporary source, it must ultimately fail, and then a permanent sterility ensues. Mr. Lowe certainly ascribes more merit and less mischief to the war-taxes than we do; and he is inclined to regard taxation, when expended at home, “less as a privation of wealth than as an instrument of circulation, which, by extending employment, increases the income of individuals, and enables them to meet its demands. His own exception, however, is so sweeping as to render the position somewhat less objectionable ; for he admits that taxation enlarges the income of certain individuals, by diminishing that of all others who are incapable of indemnifying themselves; and, in a national sense, that when the magnitude of the burden is such as to reduce the profits of labor and capital materially below those of other countries, the distress, as in the case of the agriculturists at present, is ruinous, and irremediable except by a reduction.
There is another point of view in which we regard excessive taxation with double horror, and which the author quite overlooks; viz. in its effects on the constitution of the country, by destroying the national character for independence, by corrupting and debasing all ranks and classes, to whom it makes money appear the summum bonum, or the one thing necessary," and by furnishing those who would invade our freedom with the means of bribing its natural defenders and protectors to betray their trust. Moreover, when Mr. Lowe palliates the mischief of taxation by calling it an instrument of circulation rather than a privation of wealth, and thus makes way for the monstrous conclusion that, as long as taxes are expended in the country, the amount of them is immaterial, - provided also that other countries are as heavily taxed as we are, -- he entirely disregards the important difference between a circulation of their own property carried on by agriculturists, merchants, and tradesmen, economically, and with a profitable return, and a circulation carried on by government with the property of other people, forcibly taken away from them, and lavished in every direction with the most wasteful and corrupt extravagance. In the first case, the capital would have been so employed as to yield an additional revenue, and an accumulation of capital at the end of the year to be again profitably employed in reproduction; — in the other case, at the end of the year it is dissipated nobody knows how and gone nobody knows where, leaving nothing but “a wreck behind.” It has given employment, however, to our manufacturers, it seems, in furnishing ammunition, clothing, food, &c. to soldiers and sailors. True: but