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further depreciation, unless their industry be called into full activity, and unless they, and the proprietors of the soil, are encouraged or rather enabled to give employment to the laborers in agriculture, and to purchase articles of manufacture, the country will soon have to lament the consequences; and when it shall be too late, deplore, that a false policy, the want of candor to the people, and the indulgence of those feelings and those prejudices which give them bread at a price in one month of 56s., in another month of 80s., in another month of 128s. a quarter, have involved the country in irremediable distress.
If the proprietors of the soil are to be called on for further taxation, or even to bear their present burthens to their full extent, they must be protected now, as they were formerly protected by our ancestors, by the reduction of the rate of legal interest of money; and by such a duty on corn sold in the British market, as shall place it beyond the power of foreigners or British merchants to sell corn in the British markets at those prices below the expense of English cultivation, which exclude the British husbandmen from the market, or involve them in ruin, if their necessities compel, as they have lately compelled them, to run the race of depreciation in that market, and even by fears and anticipations of the future, from the experience of the past, to cause an annihilation of a large part of the real value of a fair rental.
Lastly; in future, taxation should be direct on land only, and the protecting duty should be on corn imported and sold in this country, so as to raise the price of corn at the rate of three pence a bushel for every shilling of rent withdrawn by the tax. By this arrangement the people would be taught and would feel the real effect of taxation. The threepence a bushel, or two shillings a quarter, would, it is believed, be the just protecting duty against the operation of the tax, and the cheapest mode of distributing the tax among the people. It would also enable the country more clearly to watch the effect of taxation. No minister, however, will be found of sufficient firmness to give to the people so clear an insight into the interest they have in opposing the progress and consequences of taxation.
No single act can relieve the country from its distress. There must be a combined operation of several acts to produce effects commensurate to and countervailing the causes. The country must either submit to the sad necessity of a breach of faith with the public creditor, or it must make those regulations which will enable the people to sustain the debt. The demand of the creditor must be diminished in fact, or the value of his annuity regulated by an increase in the nominal and relative value of the
property and of the industry of the country. Small incomes cannot bear the burthen of large taxation; still less of taxation equal to the rental value of the property of the country.
The view taken of the state of the nation is not one of despondency.
Would the country meet its difficulties by supporting a just regulation, and encouraging parliamentary enactments on these or similar points, then the energies of the country would instantly revive-prosperity would return-the impending storm would be averted; and it would be difficult, in the happy change, to find any class of the community, or any considerable number of individual persons, who could fairly urge that their interests had been materially or in any degree unjustly sacrificed.
Many of these topics are not enlarged on as fully as the reader might have expected. The address to the Fundholder, in which these evils were anticipated and predicted; and the view of the ruined state of the landed and agricultural interests, will, to those who possess these publications, supply a large portion of the details which would have been added in this work, had it not been deemed expedient to avoid repetition as far as the subject would admit. The communications now published, of the agricultural distress, have fortified, not invalidated, any of the opinions which are advanced.
AN ACT for more effectually enforcing the observance of the Laws against Usury.
Whereas, annuities granted for a life or lives, or for years absolutely or determinable on a life or lives, with a right to the grantor or some other person to repurchase or redeem such annuity or annuities, are made the means of evading the wholesome and salutary laws against usury,
Be it therefore enacted, &c. that all grants which shall hereafter be made of any annuity or annuities, for a life or lives, or for years determinable on a life or lives, or for years absolutely in consideration of any sum or sums of money or funded property, or the funds or stock of any company, or any pecuniary or other valuable consideration whatsoever, with a right to the grantor or grantors or any other person or persons whomsoever, to repurchase such annuity or annuities or any part thereof, either for a price in
money or any funded property, or the stock of any chartered or other company, or for any other price of a given value, or to be measured by a market value, shall be void to all intents and purposes whatsoever. But nothing contained in this act shall invalidate or impeach any grant heretofore made of any annuity or annuities; or shall impeach or invalidate any grant to be hereafter made of any annuity or annuities without any right to repurchase or redeem the same annuity or annuities, or to any gift by will, or to any other voluntary gift of any annuity or annuities (though subject to a right of redemption, or to be purchased, ceased or determined on certain terms or conditions pecuniary or otherwise), but every such grant and gift shall be of the same force and effect, and of such force and effect only, as the same would have been if this act had not been made.