« ZurückWeiter »
losses have varied for this year from three hundred to one thousand pounds. The capital estimated as necessary for a farmer, is about one thousand pounds to one hundred acres of land. Say then that a person enters into this business with a capital of eight thousand pounds, and occupies eight hundred acres; surely it is not an unreasonable expectation if he hopes to make eight per cent. of his capital, that is, six hundred and forty pounds: but if in the last six years he has not only been making no profit at all, but in some seasons losing three, five, or eight hundred pounds, and if his losses have not been from neglect or mismanagement, but from the pressure of the taxes which go to the payment of the national debt, then he has borne more than his share of the burden, and sustained a heavier loss than the fundholder would be exposed to by the sacrifice of one half of his claim upon the public. The manufacturer again, who has entered into business with a capital merely equal to the concern in which he has been engaged, has suffered in many instances losses equal to the farmer; and even landholders, who have been so loudly and frequently exhorted to lower their rents, have in some cases so effectually been compelled to lower them, that they have given up half the rent, and there is one instance within the knowledge of the writer of these pages, where the proprietor of an estate has let a farm of several hundred acres for nothing, upon the mere condition of the tenant's paying the poor's rate. Now all this while, the fundholder (whose property, by the way, pays nothing to the poor's rate,) has been purchasing every article of consumption at an unusually low price, and growing rich upon the ruin of others. If then the fundholder is now called upon to make a sacrifice in his turn, the request is perfectly consonant to the strictest principles of justice.
III. The sacrifice here proposed would not be so great as it appears, the loss would be rather nominal than real; for as it would be a saving of about twenty millions of taxes, the means of living would be easier, every article of consumption would of course be cheaper. It is not pretended that the fundholder would lose nothing by this arrangement: something indeed he would lose, but not so much as he might imagine; for though the reduction of taxes consequent upon this alteration would not make fifty pounds go as far as a hundred, yet it would make it about equivalent to what seventy is now, and at all events better than a hundred was eight or nine years ago. For the saving would not be merely in the absolute sum taken off; but it would have an ultimate
tendency to the reduction of other taxes, as the government could be carried on at a considerably less expense; and all salaries and pensions which are now at a certain sum, to meet the expenses of living, &c., might and should then suffer a nominal, without experiencing a real reduction of this more hereafter.
As this part of our argument comes home to men's business and bosoms, and forms as it were the pith and essence of the whole, it may not be irrelevant to enter a little more minutely into the enquiry of what the fundholder would actually lose, and what he would also eventually gain, by this proposed: arrangement of sacrificing one half of his claim upon the public revenues.
We have shown above, that, according to a rough calcula tion, the nation pays two thirds of its income towards the payment of the interest of the national debt, and consequently that the fundholder himself pays out of the interest he receives one third for the purpose. For an income of three hundred per annum, a fundholder pays one hundred towards the ins terest of the national debt: if then the whole were taken away, his actual loss would be two hundred, while his nominal loss would be three hundred: if only half be deducted, and with the deduction of that half a proportionate reduction of taxes take place, then his nominal loss is one hundred and fifty pounds per annum, and his real loss is one hundred. It would be worth his while, then, to make a calculation of the difference of situation in which he would then be placed ; he would find it considerably less disadvantageous than he might at first sight imagine. For while he would experience a deduction of one third of his income, he would find the rest far more profitable to him, and feel it far more secure. In estimat ing the fundholder's loss at one third really, while it is nominally one half, we have taken of course into our account the diminution of taxation: but the advantage of the alteration goes somewhat farther; it gives employment to multitudes who are now out of labor, and makes these no longer objects of charity and pity.
As the object of these pages is not a dry and meagre political: estimate, and mass of figures,-but an address to the common sense and feeling of the community at large,-surely it is not beyond the purpose to make to them an appeal of this nature. For notwithstanding the commercial spirit of the nation, and the natural eagerness of all classes to seek after gain, it is. not the characteristic of the English to enjoy at the expense of another's sufferings and misery; and the utmost effort of
** ordinary unfeeling minds is to turn away from the sight of wretchedness, and not to feel a pleasure in its contemplation Those who enjoy their opulence from a sense of contrast with others not so highly endowed with life's abundance, do not find their pleasure increased, but rather feel it diminished, by the sight or even knowledge of actual suffering; and they would willingly part with no small share of their property, if they could feel assured that this sacrifice would be really pro ductive of essential benefit to the distressed. Now the sacrifice here proposed would be a real blessing to multitudes, who are now destitute of the means of support, and who, though able and willing to labor, have not opportunity for the exercise of their talents or the direction of their industry. If it be asked, why does not the farmer spend more money in the cultivation of his land? it is replied, that the weight of the taxes prevents him. But what becomes of those who would, and in a healthy state of society should, be thus employed? They go to the parish. Yes, it is easily said, they go to the parish: that is the best thing they can do, and bad is the best. But even in this best state of a poor man unable to find work, what is his actual condition? The overseers find him work in the roads, or send him to work on a farm, and give him beyond the produce of his labor, that which is barely enough in addition to the former to keep him alive. Having no motive or stimulus to work, he grows indolent, loses his former habits, and feels himself a slave. But what becomes of the more active and adventurous spirits? They leave their homes; they speculato upon the charity of the metropolis, they soon find an easy initiation into the mysteries of plunder; they live upon the public more wretchedly to themselves, and more injuriously to others, than if they were entirely supported at the public expense; they not only lose their good habits of industry, but they gain the bad habits of vice, of every description of plunder, of drunkenness, and debauchery. That any government should altogether prevent such things, is nearly impossible; but that the numbers of these victims is increased by taxation, is clear to every one; and it follows of course, that a reduc tion of taxation would diminish their numbers, or at least prevent their farther increase. If then the fundholders would surrender to public necessities, part of their claim upon the national revenues, they would be, in the best sense of the terms, a society for the suppression of vice.
It is only to the fundholder that this appeal can be made. Other classes have it not in their power to make the sacrifice; they have been already deeply and seriously impoverished by
the taxes; commercial enterprise has been checked, and trade has degenerated into a mere speculation or lottery. It cannot under the present system grow better; but, without an essential alteration, it must go on from bad to worse; and what will be the value of the funds, when the taxes can be no longer raised? Has not the fundholder already grown rich at the expense of the rest of the nation? and is it too much to ask for a sacrifice, which must save the nation and ultimately secure himself? It is but refunding and paying back part of his gains. Capital of every other description has already suffered a greater depreciation than that which is now proposed to the national creditor.
IV. This proposal promises greater security to the owner of funded property, than he can experience under the present system. The funds, it is true, bear a good price at present; but is it on account of their scarcity? No: for if they were considered as perfectly and thoroughly safe, they would be much higher; and if in addition to their known and acknow, leged insecurity, there were opportunities for the employment of capital in other directions, they would be much lower. There are two opposite and conflicting principles that keep them nearly at par. Capital must be employed. Trade is dangerous, agriculture destructive, the funds uncertain. The capitalist has therefore a choice of evils. But say that the interest were diminished, as is here proposed, one half: it is not likely that the price of funds, though at first it might be reduced to half its present amount, would continue so; the price would soon be raised by a general confidence in the ability of the nation to pay the interest, and the fundholder would feel himself perfectly secure..
To say, as some persons do, that if the funds are touched in any degree they are gone for ever, and the nation has lost its credit, is mere romance; it is talking as if the deduction were made by the arbitrary will of the government, and not, as is here stated, from the sheer necessity of the case. In good truth it is more than probable that government would be as reluctant to ask the sacrifice, as the fundholder would be to make it. For it can never be demanded from the public, without the exercise of a strict and conscientious economy on the part of the government; and whatever tends to lessen the weight of taxation, necessarily leads to a diminution of the patronage of the government. The objection therefore that the funds cannot be touched without being destroyed, is founded in a total misconception of the subject. Are there not in the commercial world multitudes of creditors defrauded of
their whole debt, by the circumstance of a man's living on expedients 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 individual; 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 nation 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 time 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
The nation is in part its not in every
case hold good. own creditor and its own debtor: it can have no interest in cheating or de