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REFLECTIONS,

GENERAL

&c. &c.

ALL minds are troubled and alarmed at the state of our finances. Every one desponds at the extent of our necessities, the difficulty of bearing them, and the danger of yielding to their pressure. The interest is general, because it is common; and the public opinion springs from the sense of our misfortunes. They have already benefited our judgment. In vain do all sorts of infallible specifics solicit our acceptance: the time of illusion is gone by, and experience spurns at pernicious presents.

But though we are proof against rash and empty pretensions, where shall we look for the information and the wisdom that must direct and recover us? Will the budget fulfil our expectation? We rather indulge our wishes than our hopes. Happen what may, the country will owe its gratitude to the intrepid minister who dares encounter such perils, and will doubtless address him as Louis XIV. addressed Desmarets under circumstances not less difficult or calamitous than those which afflict us:

If you succeed, you will do me great service, and I shall be your debtor: if results are unfortunate, I shall not impute them to you.

I ought however to observe, that the situation of France is not without precedent in modern history. America, Austria, Prussia, all the secondary governments of Europe have experienced the same fate as ourselves: they have also suffered from the devastation of war, and have been subjected to enormous imposts for foreign use. These people however have not sunk under the

blows of Fortune, and they have collected power and resources sufficient to redeem their independence, their prosperity, and their reputation.

England herself has poured out on the continent for the charges of war, subsidies which the most inexorable conqueror would not have dared to exact; and her prosperity seems uninjured. In truth, this people, thanks to its commerce, is placed in a separate sphere: its industry makes draughts from the wealth of the whole world, and its fortune will be unlimited, until a general Navigation Act shall have prescribed to its thousands of vessels those conditions by which England has so long restricted the navigation of other maritime people.-An æra still very remote, if we may judge by the events that we have just witnessed.

Omitting therefore England, whose wealth has no analogy with that of other nations, France, in respect to the rest of Europe, possesses advantages which ought to re-assure her under existing circumstances, which still give earnest of future glories, and which confirm to her, that she will not lose the high rank that she has so long held in the political world. Her glory is unsullied; her prosperity will revive; and if other nations have not felt themselves overborne by burthens equally heavy with her own, she cannot be ruined by them. We may rely with confidence on the inexhaustible fertility of her soil, on the amount of her capitals in every commercial department, on the thriving state of her manufactures, the skill of her merchants, the diligence of her laboring classes, and above all, on her reinstatement in her colonies, the precious inheritance, whereon her looks may constantly dwell, like those of the Hebrew people, on the land of promise.

Let her not be terrified at the obstacles that seem to intercept her approach: legitimacy, henceforward the rule and the standard of all rights, of all possessions, of all governments, authorizes her hopes, and pledges their success. She will find in other nations the same justice that they have required: they will respect her rights, as they have taught her to respect those she had violated. Europe will not forget that the treasures which France wishes, and ought to recover, in the restoration of her colonies, are lost to the commerce of the world, and can only be replaced by the cares, the industry, and the labors of the French people. The produce of

their labor will not even be the exclusive property of France: all nations will find in it new modes of exchange, the nourishment of more extensive commerce, a larger and more beneficial employ of capitals, and a fertile source of new profits. The increase of the general wealth is a benefit to all nations. All partake of it in proportion to the progress of their industry; and the number of their competitors, far from lessening their individual share, augments it by the very extent of competition. Europe and the commercial world cannot therefore but applaud the endeavours of France to regain her colonies, and particularly that of St. Domingo, so long the source of her prosperity and her riches, and the foundation of her power.

Need I add, that if this colony was withdrawn from the French people, it would perhaps be impossible for them to perform the engagements contracted towards all Europe: and who can foresee the result of the combination of all the European powers to compel France to fulfil her engagements, and of the resistance of 25 millions of men driven to desperation! Sovereigns of Europe, if you wish for the peace, the regularity, and the happiness of your subjects, favor with all your might the manufacture, the industry, and the commerce of all nations, even of those whom you reckon among your enemies. Commercial labor ought to be and will eventually be the pacificator of the world, the conciliator of all interests, the dispenser of all particular and general prosperity.

France, when reinstated in the possession of all her domestic and colonial resources, cannot for a long period avail herself of them, to restore her prosperity, her riches, and her power. She will long have to carry their product to foreign countries: her ambition must long be bound in to effect her liberation. Having attained this distant period, she may esteem herself happy, if she shall be unimpaired in her love of labor, in her capitals, her industry, her reputation for arts and sciences, and above all, if she shall have been able to recover her former commercial possessions, and to secure them from invasion. Should she be then outstripped in the career of wealth by those powers who will have so long divided the fruits of her labor, she may yet hope to come up with them.

But it must not be dissembled! this prodigy does not require

less of talent in the application of our resources, than of wisdom in the direction of our efforts; and it is above all to our financial measures that we must look for our greatest success. It is of the highest importance, not to pause in deciding them, and particularly not to persist in theories condemned by disastrous experience.

Colbert has left us a model for imitation. Let us imitate the conduct of this great man, and we shall obtain the same results which have made him immortal.

We must, like him, relieve the farmer, by moderating his contributions, promote agriculture by the progress of industry, second the exertions of industry by encouraging the arts and sciences, facilitate the plans of commerce by releasing it from those fetters which might embarrass its walk, or deaden its spring; nor must we neglect those means which tend to overcome its rivals. Colbert did this; and for this, his fame is immortal.

We shall compass this difficult object if our contributions are so systematized as only to affect that part of the annual resources which exceeds private wants, to touch only upon the national wealth in that part which is not indispensable to replace the annual income, and lastly, to charge upon the future, only those responsibilities which cannot destroy its hope.

This task would be less hard if there were definite and ascertained amounts in every department of wealth; but it is not so. Men the most enlightened on this subject, have but partial, imperfect, and at best but approximating notions. We must consequently trust to chance, nor can we avoid its dangers, but by the help of principles founded on reason, and of doctrines which are most accredited. We must be equally cautious against the timid hesitation of trite experience, and against the illusions of a bold and distempered fancy.

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In this point of view, I shall examine in succession,

1st. What, accordingly to the principles of taxation, is the finansystem best adapted to existing circumstances.

2nd. What use we can make of public credit, in times of

emergency.

Unless I be deceived, the discussion of these respective questions. must shed considerable light on our financial situation, and on the means of extricating ourselves with the smallest sacrifices;

for this must be our ultimate hope, and the aim of all our exertions.

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On the System of Finance best suited to the present State of France.

The elements of this problem may be resolved into the knowledge, 1st. Of the Public Expenditure in 1816-2d. Of the collective Revenue for its discharge.

The public expenditure will amount at least to 800 millions.' With respect to the general revenue, it is doubt

ful whether in the present state of our industry, and our commerce, it exceeds

The expenses of production amount at least to the half of the produce,

Consequently there remains Net

4000 millions.

2000

2000 millions.2

These 2000 millions are to pay the 800 millions; consequently it is evident, that all those who live on their clear income, will pay nearly the half of it.

If the share of each individual in the 2000 millions were known, nothing would be easier than to levy upon him his contribution towards the 800 millions: it is evident, that there would only remain to each contributor, after deducting the contribution, about 170 fr.: a very slight object, but yet sufficient for the preservation of the people and the State, since every division of labor would preserve its capital, and the means of reproducing the an

nual income.

In this sum, we do not include the outstanding arrears, which are estimated at 600 or 700 millions; but for this purpose there are funds appropriated, consisting of about 300 millions, both in woods and other public property.

Neither do I speak of the debts due to foreign individuals, who are to be paid in annuities, after the treaty.

* See my last work On the Theory of Political Economy, 2 vols. 8vo.

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