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representatives. This distinction is of more importance than persons are at first apt to imagine.
What then are we to understand by the term National Debt? Certainly not the nominal sums, which go by that name in the stocks; for a debt means something specific, which neither debtor nor creditor can alter at his pleasure. But in this case the debtor can never be called upon for the nominal sums in the stocks, though, by the condition of his agreement with the creditor, he may, when he pleases, oblige the creditor to take these sums in lieu of the annuity for which they are made answerable.
The fact respecting the National Debt is simply this: every stockholder is an annuitant on the nation; which is under an obligation to pay these annuities, in consequence of a contract solemnly entered into to this purpose. These annuities are redeemable at the will of the nation, on the payment of a certain sum specified in the contract; but it is under no obligation ever to pay this sum. As long as it pays the annuity, it performs its part of the contract: the moment it should cease to pay the annuity, unless it is incapable of doing so, it would become dishonoured; it would break its contract; it would act an infamous part; violate the laws between man and man; and sanction fraud, deceit, dishonesty.
A considerable part of the funds of the nation, by a wise measure suggested by Mr. Fox, has been, and is at present, appropriated to the purchase of these annuities; and, in consequence, a great portion of them has been destroyed. This wise measure of Mr. Fox will also prevent too great an accumulation of them for every annuity necessarily becomes extinct within forty years from the grant of it, and thus each generation bears the burden of its own follies. The value of these annuities varies every day in the market, and the nation purchases them at the market price; sometimes for the money it originally received, sometimes more and sometimes less. Many have been purchased by the nation at thirty and forty per cent. less than the original sum lent to it. The nature of these transactions might be, more beneficially than at present, made known to the public; and F
should recommend an account of them to be inserted in every Saturday's Gazette in the following manmer:
Account of the Annuities payable by the Nation according to different Stocks.
Annuities payable by the nation on Saturday, 00,000,000. 0 0 Purchased by the commissioners since Saturday, 00,000 0 0
Annuities now payable by the nation
Accustomed thus to see its situation in, its true colours, the nation will no longer be subject to the alarms occasioned by the terrors of a debt, whose magnitude surpasses the faculties of many to contemplate. Their minds are lost in the idea of several hundreds, or it may be a thousand of millions, it matters not which for, when we have gone beyond the rate of usual calculations, a sum seems as confused, as, to the savage an ordinary number, which he represents by the hairs on his head. When we speak of the annuities at so many millions a year, and these millions are decreased at the rate of between ten and twenty thousand pounds a week, the subject will be viewed without amazement. The heap is weekly diminishing, and the progress of that diminution may be calculated.
But it is said, the nation is unable to pay even the annuities. This I firmly deny. We have seen the exertions it could make in the time of war, its energies in time of peace remain, untried. We look to the expenditure, but do not sufficiently consider the resources of the country. Economy on the one hand, and prudence on the other, will achieve wonders.
I knew a gentleman, who succeeded to a paternal estate in the west of England, whose rent roll upon paper was very large, but whose income was far too small to live in the noble mansion of his ancestors. The greater part of his property was let out on leases on lives. On coming of age, he looked into the state of his, affairs, let his mansion, and confined himself to a portion, only of his annual income; devoting the remainder to the purchase of his leases, when this could be done advantageously, and determining
not to renew a lease. By slow degrees his three-live leases bé came two lives, his two-life one life, and of his one-life leases many fell in. His little accumulations became a considerable sum, which was advantageously laid out in the purchase of leases: and he is now restored to the residence of his ancestors, with a spirit to refuse a seat in parliament, unless sent to it by the unbought votes of the constituents.
This nation is not so reduced. It is in the situation of a gentleman with a perpetual money rent on his estate, which he can either diminish or continue as he pleases; and our annuities do not bear a great proportion to the wealth of the country. If we talk of the millions upon millions we owe: I answer, look at the millions upon millions of acres, which are in your possession, and remain uncultivated. Cast your eyes on the Canadas, Newfoundland, Trinidad, and the Cape of Good Hope. You have the example of America before you, where the United States sell off land every year, thus filling their treasury, and increasing their population, their strength, and their resources.
We do not understand colonization. The Romans, when they took possession of this country, pierced it with roads, and in a short time the desert was turned into fertile fields, and' villas and temples arose in every direction. Had they been in possession of Newfoundland, they would not have been content with a few miserable huts by the sea-side, but long before this time would have had a road from St. John's and Bonavista to the north-east side of the Gulph of St. Lawrence. The supernumeraries in our streets are as capable as the Roman legions to perform these labours; and industrious cultivators would expatriate themselves to become possessors of estates. Thus the revenues of the nation would be increased, and the English name gain daily accessions to iss strength.
The generous feelings of this country might, if attended to, be of great service to us. We honor with the name of patriotism many actions, which, when brought to the test of reason, are of very doubtful authority. The sacrifice of a portion of our property for the benefit of the whole country may not be classed by the poets among the acts of heroes, yet it has one advantage over
them, that more can the mixture of evil. The individual, who makes the sacrifice, feels a satisfaction in his contribution to the national welfare. The ease with which these sacrifices may be performed is another argument in their favour, and for this reason I shall make no apology for presenting the following plan to the public.
participate in it, and a good is done without There is no bloodshed, no violence.
Let the commissioners for the purchase of the national annuities be empowered to place to their account all stock transferred to them by individuals, and to employ the annuities derived from it in the purchase of stock, keeping however a separate account of all the purchase thus made. The Bank will doubtless make this easy to all parties, so that no expense shall be incurred by the transfers, it being necessary only, that the holder of stock should notify, in any manner the Bank pleases, his intention of transferring stock; and the commissioners might, by a printed form with their signatures annexed, signify their acceptance of the stock transferred.
At the same time that this facility is offered to the stockholder, the landholder should also be entitled to an equal portion of our regard; and, in the usual way, books should be opened at the Bank and bankers, in town and country, for his subscriptions. Nor should the mites of persons, equally interested in the welfare of their country, but not in equal affluence, be neglected: and in every parish I would have a book opened, and the name inscribed of every person, whatever may be the amount of his subscription. The sums thus raised would, I flatter myself, be much greater than what the scorners at this proposition have any idea of: though the country bears testimony, in the number of places of public worship erected within these few years, to what may be achieved by penny subscriptions. *
The great number of churches erected within the last thirty years, and supported by voluntary subscriptions, cannot fail of producing, and in no great length of time, important results-results, perhaps, not altogether unconnected with the subject of these pages:
In every Saturday's Gazette the progress of these subscriptions might be noticed, in the following manner :
Annuities redeemed by the transfer of stock. . .
There is a circumstance belonging to these annuities to which sufficient attention has not been paid. They are all personal pro-` perty, and as such are subjected to the legacy tax: an odious tax most assuredly, for an unjust distinction is made between personal and real property, the former only being subjected to, and the latter screened from it: whereas, if any distinction is to be made, it ought to be in favor of the former, not of the latter. The propriety of this distinction does not however fall so much within my present view of this subject: but surely, if, at the death of every proprietor of stock, a sum of money equivalent to a portion of annuities left by him is transferred to government, it is but reasonable, that this should be made useful toward the diminution of the annuities payable by the nation. I should therefore suggest, that all property, derived from the funds by means of the legacy tax, should be transferred to the commissioners, and its amount be notified in the Gazette in the same manner as the subscriptions: and, if landed property should be made subject to the legacy tax, the amount of it might be employed in the same manner.
Thus means are provided for an accelerated extinction of the national annuities; and whatever may be thought of this scheme, every man of sense and honor will esteem it preferable to the crude ideas floating in men's minds, and too often escaping in conversation in companies, which ought to be better informed on the extinction, as they call it, of the national debt by a sponge. Disgraceful ideas! Whatever may be the other distinctions among men, there is one fixed in nature. Men are to be divided into two classes, the honest and the dishonest: and whoever does not pay his debts, whatever
'Much of the dishonesty too unhappily prevalent in this nation is to be attributed, perhaps, to an improper distinction made between the members of the legislature and the rest of their countrymen. Whether the present prac