« ElőzőTovább »
Liberty and Slavery.—The consideration of these involves, of necessity, many important points, such as forms of government, the right of a subject to a share in making laws, &c. These are dwelt on by the author at some length. On the question of Slavery, our author is evidently an emancipator, and he concludes the chapter by directions as to the manner in which West India slaves should be emacipated.
War and Peace.—The miseries of war, and the blessings of peace, are depicted in such a manner in this work, as to enable us to hope that each will have some effect towards abolishing the one, and fixing as a permanent state of things, the other.
Virtue and Vice.—This chapter may be regarded as purely religious: to some it will not be the less acceptable on that account.
Reasonable Belief and Superstition.—The character of the Supreme Being is first touched on in this chapter. The operations of Divine Providence are next explained, and many vulgar errors corrected on that important subject. Under this head are included a great variety of impostures, in which the most impudent attempts are made to make it appear that the power of God is under the control of weak men.
Enthusiasm and Moderation.—Here the necessity of Moderation in all pursuits, but especially in religion, is strikingly exhibited. Fanaticism meets with its iust rebuke; and the presumption which has been manifested by tne assumption of the knowledge of unknown tongues, is castigated with severity, but still with no infraction of the feelings of charity.
Supernatural Influence and Appearance.—These are considered in detail; they are treated with good sense and discretion, and we should refer to this chapter for some sound opinions upon questions connected with these subjects.
Transitory JVature of Human Life.—This chapter includes some of the most important points that can arrest our attention. It comprehends observations on population, the ravages of war, famine, pestilence, and the comparative duration of human life. From these subjects the author proceeds to consider the circumstances of approaching death, and how a Christian should conduct himself on his ■»pprr.v;rr.Qt;^n A0*tY. OT) as our author calls it, the gate of life.
Such are the contents of these volumes. We have no hesitation in recommending them to all those who possess a higher ambition than that which is satisfied with a mere superficial survey of nature and of society, and who are ready to try such means as may be deemed feasible for promoting the amelioration of present evils.
Vol. Ii. (1833) Mo. i.
Art. IX.— Taxation, Revenue., Expenditure, Power, Statistics, and Debt of the whole British Empire; their origin, progress, and present state; with an Estimate of the Capital and Resources of the Empire, and a practical plan for applying them to the Liquidation of the National Debt; the. whole founded on, and executed by, official Tables and authentic Documents.
societies. I vol. thick 8vo. London: Baldwin and Cradock.
We can readily understand how much hetter the actual condition of this country may be appreciated by a foreigner, than by any of its inhabitants ; and were we not able, even upon principle, to make this acknowledgment, the example involved in the present publication would be a sufficient demonstration of the fact. Nothing can be more true than that the source of the evils of our political state has not yet been satisfactorily ascertained: indeed, the proof that it has not, is the absence of a remedy for them; for it is utterly impossible that, considering the extent and urgency of those evils, one moment should be lost in the application of the means of redress, after the seat of the disorder had been detected. Assuredly there never was, in the history of the world, a state in whith there was apparently less to justify the existence of any source of injury or inconvenience. Where before did it ever happen that too great an abundance of capital actually produced distress? In what other country under the sun has it been found that an excess of labour, the natural cause of wealth, has proved the fertile parent of misery? The surprise is, that where the evil is so undeniable, where it is so prominent, so well marked to every man's observation, still no one has been found to probe it boldly to the bottom, and say, " here is the root of the evil, let us remove it."
The present work appears to have been undertaken with the view of supplying the deficiency thus pointed out. The author is a Spaniard, whose attention was happily directed to the condition of this country, by the circumstance which, to him, was one of peculiar interest; namely, the vast differences which existed in the opinions concerning the causes of the country's calamities. Having carefully examined these opinions, having found that the most important national questions, on the solution and right understanding of which the happiness of millions depended, were suffered to remain in doubt, confusion, and uncertainty, the author took up the subject, and devoting himself to it, with all the attention and impartiality which he could command, he finally found himself driven into the conviction—" that the main source of the deplorable evils which afflict this empire is the enormous pressure of the national debt on the vital part of that system, and its baneful effects on the sources of production."
scientific and literary
Such being the deliberate impressions of M. Pebrer, the first duty which he feels it incumbent upon him to attempt to discharge, is that of pointing out a remedy ; and he does not hesitate in boldly declaring that the only one which appears to him suitable to the occasion is at once to annihilate the evil at its very source, and pay off the debt itself. The author admits that this great financial problem has been already proposed by former writers, but that the circumstances and conditions under which it was mooted, were calculated to raise a repugnance against its reception, and that this was fatal to the proposal. On those former occasions the projectors too much rejected the interests of those powerful parties whose consent was absolutely necessary to the settlement of the question. These writers dealt in merely partial expedients; they refrained from recommending general measures, and applied themselves to particular parts, instead of comprehending in their schemes the whole economical system of the empire; thus, in effect, suggesting steps which, if taken, every body foresaw would be sure to defeat the very objects they were meant to bring about.
M. Pebrer has reaped all the harvest of sound advice which the faults and failures of his predecessors had left for his hand : he has reversed their system, and lays down as a fundamental principle, that no financial measure of such magnitude as that of paying off the national debt should be attempted without a careful reference to the whole system of national economy, to the sources of production, to the various conflicting interests of which the country is made up. With this principle kept continually in view, the author commences his great investigation by an inquiry into the origin, progress, and present state of taxation, and of expenditure—of the national income, and the details of the way in which that income has been distributed : his course then leads him into the examination of the origin and progress of the debt, and the circumstances which brought about its institution and accumulation at different periods. Then, in order to compare the final amount of this debt with the value of the national resources, it is necessary for him to estimate the capital in all parts of the empire, and to calculate the yearly produce, and the assets generally which might be rendered available as a means of liquidating the debt, but in such a manner as not to impair the actual capital, or embarrass the sources of production. This part of the inquiry being accomplished, the ■ author sets himself to work to find out what effects have been produced on the great sources and agents of production by the pressure of the interest of the debt, and then to set forth the only remedy of which the case is susceptible ; namely, the application of the resources of the empire to the liquidation of the debt itself. It is the object of a particular part of the volume to demonstrate the practicability of the plan, and to explain the general and particular advantages which the author expects will result from it, and to answer such objections as may appear to be most forcible against it.
In treating a question, where the rights of property are so complicated, the interests of all ranks so various and opposite, the opinions of national writers so contradictory, and the collateral economical questions so many and so important—the task of steering successfully through such a mass of jarring interests, and such a chaos of conflicting opinions, was extremely arduous. Indeed, the uncommon dryness of the subject, the difficulty of unravelling the accounts, the monotony of reciting almost the same measures to raise revenue alrd debt—in fine, the novelty and vastness of a design, assuming to develope the economical system of the whole empire, explain its practical effects throughout its whole extent, show the foundations upon which the power, resources, and prosperity of the British empire rest, and solve the greatest of all national problems; all these presented, to the mind of the author, obstacles and difficulties of such magnitude, as to produce extreme diffidence in regard to the result of the enterprise, and almost to deter him from the attempt.
But convinced that any development of the productive powers, any increase of the wealth of the British empire, will influence and augment those of all other nations; and animated by the pleasing and flattering idea of the beneficial results which such a measure would produce, in alleviating the distresses, miseries, and burdens of a mighty nation, and in diffusing happiness throughout the world at large (of which that nation has become the very centre)—he was emboldened to undertake a task, perhaps exceeding his abilities, but to which his attention has been long directed; and to which he has been at length impelled, by the cheering prospects opened by the great measure of Reform.
Intent solely on the grand object of the universal happiness of mankind, not a line has been written with reference to personal reputation, not an idea has been expressed through flattery or fear, nor has an intention existed of offending any individual or corporation. The constant endeavour has been, to collect and offer authentic facts, to state them fairly, reason upon them correctly, and deduce from them necessary consequences. The feelings which naturally arose when describing extortion, tyranny, injustice, and the oppression of nations by their rulers, or when contemplating the immense waste of human blood and treasure for objects generally unconnected with, and often contrary to, the true national interests,— have been openly, freely, and candidly expressed.
To remove the dryness of the subject, and render it, if possible, agreeable to all classes of readers, the tiresome accounts and details of figures have been relieved by, and interwoven with, a relation of the most remarkable historical events, and greatest revolutions of the world; pointing out their fundamental causes, and the fiscal measures which brought them into immediate action; and distinguishing the personages who figured moat conspicuously in them, by their characteristic features: and, in a few instances, the satirical and ridiculous have been attempted.
Unfettered by party spirit, and regardless of forms of government, equal impartiality has been shown to republicans and royalists, Whigs and Tories, serviles and liberals. The tyrannical proceedings of Charles I., and the infamous excesses of the republican saints, have been alike condemned: and while some of the financial measures of Pitt, and of the ministers who have succeeded him, during this peaceful period, have been willingly admired, others, who have inflicted the most positive and unmerited evils on the nation, have been unsparingly denounced. Never losing sight of the grand object, praise or blame has been bestowed upon men and measures according to their real merits, without regard to party principles or political systems; on the conviction, that sound reason is not limited to any particular sect, nor public wisdom and national virtue confined to any particular sphere.—pp. ix.—xi.
In conformity with the plan which has been laid down by the author, we shall proceed to consider the vast series of materials which he has, with infinite labour and research, been able to collect together. The first part treats of the history of British Taxation, Revenue, and Expenditure; and in it will be found a most copious, accurate, and highly curious account of the origin, progress, and present state of each of these, from the earliest times down to the present epoch. This historical narrative is divided into four successive periods : the first includes the interval from the earliest times to the end of the reign of Mary; the second continues from the accession of Elizabeth to the Revolution of 1G88; the third, from the reign of William the Third to the Peace of Paris in 1815; and the fourth, from the latter year to the present time.
In the early periods of English history we are at a loss for authentic records. We cannot, therefore, attempt to estimate the amount of the public burdens during the long interval when the country was under the jurisdiction of the Saxon heptarchy. We are, however, aware that the Danegeld was established by Ethelred, in 991; this lasted until the reign of Edward the Confessor. The amount of this tax is supposed to have been, upon the average, about half a million of our money per annum.
William the Conqueror's revenue, as obtained from royal demesnes, voluntary gifts, legal taxes, and tyrannical exactions, amounted to about five millions and a half. William Rufus lived upon the plunder of his people, so that no estimate can at all settle the licentiousness of his rapacity. Henry I. mounted the throne before he was legally entitled to the honour, but he was allowed to follow his ambitious inclination in this respect, in consequence of a solemn promise that he would relieve the people from taxation. But he was a king, and it is needless to say that kings acknowledge no promises. He not only afforded no relief, but he added to the former burdens by imposing a tax of three shillings a hide on land, and levying a particular tax on monasteries besides. He, too, was the first who insisted on receiving the royal rents in money, whereas before they were paid in kind, to the great convenience of the tenants. Under Stephen, extortion was employed to keep the revenue upon an equal footing with the expenditure. He alloyed the coin, sold the dignities of the church, and alienated the estates of the crown. During his reign agriculture was abandoned, the towns were deserted, and famine desolated the land. But it is unnecessary to go further into the details of this first period; it will be sufficient that we consider in the aggregate the whole of the