for our cultivators? According to Oddy's “ European Commerce,” the Poles could afford to bring their corn to Dante zick, for the four years ending with 1813, at 32s. per quarter; and this statement is so far confirmed, that it apo pears by the testimony on the tables of parliament that the bullion price of corn at that port nearly corresponded for the same four years. To the first cost must be added freight, insurance, and commission, 10s. The difference between 42s. and the limit of importation 80s. is 38s., and assuming the population with Mr. Preston to be 18,000,000, the annual saving to the community may be readily computed. We have already admitted, in the review of Mr. Preston's former publication, that it is desirable agriculture should keep pace with trade; “ but it is another question if it be fit either in agriculture or commerce, by intrusive regulation to abandon a general principle of the highest character, and thus interrupt the natural course, in order that they may proceed pari passu in every part of their career." Yet these economists require much more: they would have a parliamentary patent of monopoly for the home market, and lay the foundation of perpetual pauperism by the extravagant price of the article of the first necessity, unavoidably contingent on such a monopoly.

Mr. Malthus appears, in his pamphlets on the Corn Laws, to be extremely doubtful of the propriety of legis: lative interference; and he asserts, that if the growers of produce in the neighbourhood of the Baltic could look to a permanently open market in the British ports, they would raise corn for our supply. The same, he adds, would be the case with America ; and (as Dr. Franklin said, mutatis mutandis, with regard to our manufactures) it would answer to both countries, for many years to come, that America should afford to us supplies of corn, and in much larger quantities than they have been hitherto received. The same luminous, yet profound writer, proceeds to shew, that a coun: try which possesses any peculiar facilities in trade, can never make the full use of them unless the price of its labour be reduced to a level with that of other countries, and which can alone result from the most perfect freedoin of the corn trade. It is absurd to say, that we lose by the -money we pay for the importation of corn; we might as correctly affirm that the 50,000,0001. we export are injuri. ous, in opposition to this obvious principle of human action, that no purchase is made either at home or abroad, unless the buyer be of opinion that what is received is of more value than what is exchanged for it. :

* We beg to be understood in hazarding these remarks, that we do not assume that no legislative restrictions in regard to the importation of corn are necessary; we do not even affirm that the present law, under our territorial embarrassments, is not expedient as a temporary provision; but we would, on every maxim of public policy and natural justice, oppose any additional fetters that would facilitate the agricultural monopoly, by contracting foreign competition.

On the inequality of property in the country, the author makes the following important observations.

“ Three hundred thousand persons, (the computed number of fundholders) with their families, making a total of 1,500,000 persons, or one-twelfth part of the populatiou; and the establishment of the army and navy, with the host of placemen, pensioners, and persons connected with government for the collection of taxes, &c. (constituting another twelfth part of the population, and making together one-sixth part of the whole population,) enjoy extraordinary advantages, by dividing among them 70,000,0001. a-year, (being more than the actual rental of the kingdom,) while a large part of the remaining five-sixth parts of the community are involved in distress, and more than one-sixth part of the whole are in actual pay. perism, requiring sustenance at the hands of the cultivators, and eventually at the sacrifice of the proprietors of the soil; and deriving none, or very little contribution, from those who receive in clear, undiminished, and in a great degree untaxed incomes, an amount equal to the rental of the kingdom. Thus 6,000,000 of persons, or one-third of the population, are directly and iminediately a burthen on the other two-third parts of the population.” (p. 32.)

Mr. Preston then closes with the consideration of the Sinking Fund. He calculates, that for this fund one-sixth of the taxes are paid, or 3s. 4d. in the pound sterling; and he proposes to apply, not the whole 12,000,0001., but 3,000,0001., or one-fourth part, in order to set the industrious and needy population in movement on a great national road, and other works of general utility. From our experience of these magnificent undertakings with public money, they are ninety-nine times out of a hundred converted into magnificent jobs, in which the rich only are rewarded, and the poor disregarded. Presidents, boards of inspection and controul, commissioners, secretaries, clerks, with surveyors and dependents, in all the ramifications of official ingenuity, would fill the red book, while those who are numbered, and not named, would perform the whole labour and drudgery; yet with the reluctance, heartlessness, and procrastination, that awaits all business when individual character and interest afford no stimulos for the completion of the work. Mr. Preston has, however, a right to tell his own story.

“ 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 one-fourth part of it, or 3,000,000l. a-year, be abstracted for this great work. With this sum you may accomplish every object which bas 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 labour. You will hear Do 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 emplorment, 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 ?" (p. 37.)

It is observable that the author, on this occasion, deviates from the course he so anxiously recommended in his work on the 6 Ruined Condition of the Landed and Agricultu. ral Interests.” He there insists on the necessity of it adhering strictly to give effect to the Sinking Fund, and in future confining our expenditure within the bounds of the supplies for the year.” What does be now say of this same fund ?

“To support the credit of the nation, and to counteract the immense debt contracted in redeemable annuities, (a debt which, without an artificial supply of money to the market, would depreciate the value of the annuities for want of buyers,) a taxation of 12,000,0001. a-year is imposed on the people under the name of a Sinking Fund; a fund which, instead of sinking the debt, has sunk the people.” (p. 32.) .

« The South Sea scheme was another such a bubble as the Sinking Fund. The avowed object was to make men rich. The more the people paid for stock, the richer they were to have been. This was one of the specious and fallacious arguments advanced by those

who were duping the country, and committing fornication with the Whore of Babylon,'” (p. 34)

We have reason to expect a little more consistency from Mr. Preston in pamphlets published within six or seven months of each other; neither is the South Sea scheme, nor the Whore of Babylon, (to which the honourable gentleman has so lately detected the analogy,) a fit comparison for the Sinking Fund. What he, under his new views, stigmatizes as fornication, is nothing more than the lawful union, with every parliamentary solemnity, under the sanction of lords spiritual as well as temporal, of the interests of the state with the rights of the individual. Many plans have been formed for paying off the National Debt, (and in its present augmented state, they are of the deepest concern both to the honour and well-being of the kingdom,) but no scheme has been contrived to accomplish this great work so expeditiously and effectually as an inalienable Sinking Fund, which may be defined to be, an annual saving, applied invariably, together with the interest of all the sums redeemed by it, to the acquittance of the public obligations. The mischief of the diversion of such a fund to other purposes, was seriously felt at a very early period of its adoption; and had the principle of its exclusive appropriation been strictly regarded, the immense weight by which we are now borne down, and the multitudinous incumbrances by which we are now impeded, would have been removed; so that neither the landed interest, nor any other, would have had to deplore the oppressions from which they now suffer; and under a moderate taxation, a competition with foreign industry and ingenuity in arts and manufactures would have been successfully conducted.

The plan which was adopted by Mr. Pitt, was proposed as early as the year 1771, hy that profound mathematician Dr. Price; but no acknowledgement was made even by attributing the suggestion to the ingenious author. “Let us (says he) suppose a million borrowed at six per cent.; and let the fund be charged with it producing a surplus of 12s. per cent. per ann.: such a fund, besides paying the interest, will discharge the principal in forty-one years; and the disbursements on account of the loan will be 66,0001. multiplied by 41; that is, 2,706,0001., or very nearly the same with the disbursements on account of an equal loan at three per cent. It appears, therefore, agreeably to the observation to which I have referred, that were the public, in raising money, to adopt the plan I have proposed, it

be in all at one here quantage and this into

would be of little consequence what interest was given for money. The practicability of such a plan is self-evident; for it cannot be less easy to apply the interest of a sum to the payment of a debt, than the sum itself; and this plan requires no inore. One particular advantage attending it, already hinted, I will beg leave here to repeat. By keeping the stocks steadily at or near par, that fluctuation in them would be in a great measure prevented, which now produces so many evils; and which, with the aid of an. nual lotteries, will, I fear, in time ruin all honest industry, and turn us into a nation of sharpers and gamblers," (Price on Reversionary Payments, &c.)

It was in consequence, we believe, of these useful and (we may almost say) prophetic remarks, that the plan was subsequently adopted by Mr. Pitt. At the close of the year 1785, the National Debt had augmented to a sum then considered so enormous as to endanger both the credit and tranquillity of the state, although the income was equal to the expenditure. The amount was 298,231,2481. In such circumstances, a Sinking Fund, on the exact scheme recommended, was commenced; and it was determined not to misapply it to immediate exigencies,-the accumulated claims which now rendered the measure necessary being wholly to be attributed to the fatal blow given in 1733 to a project somewhat similar, by withdrawing from it 500,0001., an accommodation afforded by Sir Robert Walpole to the Preston interest of that day, in order to secure the support of the great territorial proprietors, by keeping the land-tax at one shilling in the pound. The Sinking Fund, under its new patron, Mr. Pitt, was augmented by annual grants; the various expedients of finance were adapted to it; and it was exclusively reserved for its proper object. What was the consequence of this precaution? The whole of the debt we have stated was discharged, and even under the subsequent modifications of Mr. Vansittart, there re. mained at the commencement of the last year to be devoted to the purposes of the fund 11,324,7602. The sum now applied to it is much above the computation of Mr. Preston, it being 14,131,5481.; to which adding the interest on the National Debt, the annual charge upon the state exceeds forty-four millions sterling, assigned either to the public creditor, or as the means of extinguishing his demand. While we are now writing, the weekly purchases by the commissioners for the reduction of the debt amount to half a million of money. . .

« ElőzőTovább »