« ZurückWeiter »
will give that rent though he can afford it), yet the proprietor has only 1-5th instead of 1-3d part of the produce.
It will naturally be demanded, how the population can be employed in the mode which has been suggested, without adequate resources; and from what fund these resources are to be drawn?
The answer is, you must make some sacrifice-you are in a storm, and some part of the lading must be thrown overboard, at the general expense of the adventurers, in order to save the ship and the remaining part of the cargo.
Every parish, instead of contributing to the subsistence of able and healthy persons in idleness, should bring them into a state of active labor and useful industry. These persons should be sent to aid in the formation of a national road, or in some other work of utility.
The road itself should originate with Parliament, and a part of the sinking fund may with propriety, justice, and advantage, be appropriated to this purpose. Let 1-4th part of it, or 3,000,0001. a year be abstracted for this great work. With this sum you may accomplish every object which has been recommended. You may put the whole country into a state of activity, and with the peculiar advantage of employing men in different parts of the country. The money thus expended will be restored to the individuals through whose hands it ought to pass. It will create a demand for consumption in those parts of the country which are in most need of a market and of a circulation of money. The disproportion between the circulation is one of the evils of the moment. It will give activity to the plough, to the mines, to rural employments, and to the mechanics who are connected with rural labor. You will hear no more of starvation at Bilston, nor of furnaces out of blast, nor of colliers out of employ, nor of men assembled in the highways, to the number of thirty in a gang, soliciting either charity or employment; or uttering their execrations against those, who have diverted the channels of industry, or dried up the sources of charity. Does not the subscription towards the fund to meet the distresses of the manufacturing poor prove that nothing short of parliamentary aid can accomplish the object of providing employment for industry?
It is difficult by any simultaneous act to give a stimulus with equal certainty or rapidity, to those branches of manufacture which are engaged in supplying the luxuries and the elegances of life; or of those parts of dress, which are ornamental rather than necessary. With old-fashioned notions, the conviction of the writer of these observations has always been, and he has more than once urged it, and always practised it, that it is a duty to encourage every article of British manufacture in preference to that of foreign countries. He has felt that the person who uses foreign manufactures, does in substance prefer to give encouragement to the industry of fo
reigners; and that he is, in effect, consuming foreign corn, in the shape of foreign manufacture. In truth, it matters not, as was formerly observed in the address to the fund-holder, &c. whether British capital be spent in France by those who pass into that country, to avoid taxation or for pleasure; or be spent in England in the productions of the labor, and, in the result, in the productions of the soil of that country. Let it not be supposed, that the value of external commerce is either neglected or overlooked. With a just interchange of commerce between any two countries, there may be an equal duty, and an equal merit, in encouraging articles of foreign manufacture, as the best means of giving more effectual and more extensive employment to British industry. But the primary duty is never to exclude British manufactures from the use of British subjects, when the use of foreign manufactures would leave the British manufacturer destitute of employment. At the present moment, to wear French clothes, laces, watches, &c. is treason against British industry; destructive at once of the British manufacturer; and through his poverty, of the British agriculturist, and even the British pauper, and of the national resources for taxation.
In giving employment, the great object should be not to degrade the persons employed, but to preserve their independence and rank in society, by rendering that employment beneficial to those who give, rather than as a bounty or charity, to those who receive it.
It may be urged that the funds would be depreciated by withdrawing from them so large a portion of the sinking fund. In the first place, this is conjecture: it is possible, not probable. The interest of the public creditors would be best promoted by a return of prosperity to the country; by its general welfare; by a revival of confidence: by a conviction that an ability to answer their demands, can be restored; that the country has energies and resources, and men who have the sense and the firmness to avail themselves of these resources; and that the population of the country can be kept in a state of actual and beneficial employment, promoting the welfare of the country, instead of congregating into a state of turbulence and riot.
Besides the fund proprietor would have the price of his stock advanced more by a reduction in the rate of interest, than it would be injured by the diversion of three millions a year of the sinking fund to the salutary purpose which is recommended!
But even granting each of these suppositions to be erroneous, what right has the stock proprietor to demand the application of the sinking fund for his exclusive benefit; to have 12,000,000 a year extracted from a distressed population to advance the value of his debt; and by increasing the distress of the proprietor of the
soil or its cultivator, to depreciate the property, and destroy the rental, &c. &c. of the former and the capital of the latter. By all means keep the faith of the nation with public creditors-justice and sound policy impose the observance of this conduct, but the public creditor cannot for one moment urge a right to control the application of the sinking fund for his purposes, to the sacrifice of a paramount interest, on the part of the public, to have that fund applied in a mode more conducive to the benefit of the public, and, in the result, of the fund proprietor, as part of that community. No subject causes more delusion than the sinking fund, and it is of importance to say a few words respecting it.
It has been said to be the greatest treasure any country ever had. In its consequences it has proved the greatest calamity, which ever was brought on this country.
Let those who speak of this fund as a treasure describe it.
Can they convert it into money? Can they use it as money?. Is it tangible in any shape or for any purpose as gold or silver, or any other article generally used as a treasure? Will it feed an army, or produce the means of feeding it? The answer to each question, if correctly given must be in the negative.
What then is its value? What is its use? Its value to the public is nothing more than the support of its credit; to give to the public funds a price beyond their real intrinsic value; to prevent their depreciation; to afford a general supply of money in the exchange, to purchase the floating stock of the market; so that there may, as far as this fund can provide the means, be always a buyer, to the extent of the stock which the proprietors are necessitated or desirous to sell. In taxing the present generation, it pauperises posterity, by annihilating the means of realizing capital.
At this moment, to the great inconvenience of the public, 12,000,000 of money are drawn from the public in their unexampled distress, that the price of the three per cent. annuities may be preserved at 60 per cent. or thereabout, instead of being at 30 per cent. as they undoubtedly would be if there were not a sinking fund, to protect them from depreciation.
Great however as the pressure of the taxation to supply resources for the sinking fund is felt; highly advantageous as it would be to leave the 12,000,000 a year with the public in the various hands from which it is extracted, yet such is the complicated nature of public credit, that this fund could not be wholly and at once withdrawn, without causing a great increase of our national difficulties. The immediate benefit of leaving 12 millions of taxes with the people, would retard the period of that prosperity or rather apparent prosperity which will be a more effectual relief from the present embarrassment.
However, it is not conceded that to abstract three millions a year
from this fund would be injurious to the price of the funds, Public credit, and faith in the national resources, as well as money in the market, are essential to the advance of the price.
The government have during the last six months tried their power, without effect, to advance the funds; but public calamity, distress, and the absence of confidence, have depressed them.
With 12 millions a year in the market and without the motives urge sales as the means of investment in lands, in mortgage or in trade, there has been a depression instead of the advance which was predicted, and even promised by those who regulate the finances of this country.
While adverting to the sinking fund the public creditor always presents himself to our notice.
It would be very satisfactory to know the precise number of foreigners who are fund proprietors, and the amount of the funded debt which belongs to them.
It would also be an interesting document which should afford the knowledge of the number of persons between whom the funded debt is divided and the proportion these persons and their families bear to the other parts of the community. The number of fund proprietors has been estimated at 300,000.
As taxation, and through taxation, the interest of the funded debt enters into the composition of the expense of raising food, &c. and is nearly equal to the value of all the corn raised for bread in Great Britain, it is one of the first measures of political economy that the fund proprietors should pay for their food and for the labor of those who supply them with luxuries, &c., a price corresponding with taxes. When the debt was only 10 millions, bread was often at two-pence a pound or 80s. a quarter for wheat. How then under a taxation of 70,000,000 a year or seven times the amount, with a great increase of population, and a more expensive mode of living, among all the classes of society, and with a poor rate of 10,000,000 a year (equal to the taxation at the commencement of Mr. Pitt's sinking fund), can the people expect to have bread supplied in any year at less than two-pence a pound with out that ruin which has been witnessed, during the last three years, among the great bulk of cultivators, and still more among the proprietors of the soil.
It will be objected that the subject is too complicated for Parlia mentary regulation.
To those who will not understand it, or who may be reluctant or too timid, or too inert or too ignorant to act, such will be the appearance. Before those who have knowledge and courage to adopt that which is expedient, difficulties would vanish. It was far more difficult to regulate the different provisions of the property
But no difficulty deters from taxation. Taxation is a science which surmounts every obstacle.
Firmness, the confession of the truth, with a manly disclosure of the real state of the country; in particular an account of the precise application of the 25,000,000 raised for the expense of the establishment; giving a detail of the sums paid, to whom they are payable, and for what services, would be a step towards the cure of one of the principal evils.
The general topics which are insisted on, may be summed up in a short review. They are
1st. Retrenchment; for retrenchment must take place; the people will demand and enforce it. Self preservation requires it.
2dly. The increase of Pauperism must be prevented, since unless the present alarming condition of the laborers shall be improved, their morals will be corrupted, their industry will cease, or their activity will be diverted from useful labor to riot, and still more serious consequences; and a system which reduces wages instead of advancing them, is one mode of increasing, not of diminishing, pauperism; of diminishing and not of increasing the consumption of articles which are subject to taxation, and of hastening the complete annihilation of all rental. In many places it is already annihilated by the claims on the poor rate.
3dly. The different parts of the community must contribute to the maintenance of the indigent poor, who cannot be called into active labor. Without this regulation, the tenantry and the land proprietors will be ruined by the increase of the poor rates; and these, the great sources of defraying the expenses of government, and the payment of the national creditor, will be exhausted.
4thly. Active employment must be found for those who are able to work; and the necessary funds and the most useful work must be provided, whatever may be the sacrifice, without regarding the measure as a novelty; or the miserable and weak policy, nay folly, which would leave the evil to time, that time may provide the remedy or work the cure. To temporize may sacrifice the power, and exclude the hope of bringing back the country to a state of useful industry.
5thly. As soon as circumstances will admit, a portion of the income of the sinking fund should be applied in relieving the people from those taxes which press most severely on the industry of the country; thus annihilating those taxes which press with the greatest severity on trade.
6thly. British agriculture, so essential to the subsistence and to the repose of the people, and the preservation of that great counterpoise in the state, the landed interest, must be protected. In particular, unless the capital of the British farmer be secured from