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• a situation of difficulty, much advantage is to be expected. • All that is left is a choice of evils. He that talks rationally
will rejoice if he can discover a remedy that, with a mix, • ture of evil, will be able to overcome the mortality of the dis6ease.
Now, it is on the ground here laid down that we are disposed to recommend that the capital of the country should be assessed in order to procure the means of extinguishing a portion of the public debt. It is to no purpose to contend, in opposition to this measure, that it would be productive of serious inconveniences. We admit that such would be the case; but these inconveniences would necessarily be of very temporary duration, while, by consenting to submit to this sacrifice, we should get rid of a burden that must otherwise be permanent, and would enable all those taxes to be repealed which press most severely on the lower and middle classes. We have shown on former occasions that there is very little reason indeed for thinking that any considerable progress will ever be made in the extinction of our present eneumbrances, by applying the surplus revenue of the country to buy up stock; and it is not very easy to conjecture what might be the consequence of so immense a debt were we again involved in war. But though peace were to be preserved for a long series of years, still our situation would not be, by any means, free from danger. The high rate of taxation to which we are subjected, must, under any circumstances, be a heavy clog on the industry of the country; and though it may not occasion our decline, it must at all events operate powerfully to retard our progress.
In his Essay on Public Credit, Mr Hume has stated, perhaps too strongly, that either the country must destroy the debt, or the debt will destroy the country. But sound policy, and the most obvious principles of justice, require that the burden should not be permitted to fall exclusively on those who have lent their capitals to the state. A real national burden cannot be removed by shifting it from the shoulders of those who justly ought to bear it, to those of another class who ought to bear no more than their fair proportion. Let us, therefore, make one great exertion to stop the farther progress of pauperism, and to relieve the pressure on the resources of the country. Let the national capital be assessed in order to pay off a large proportion of the debt; and let us not hesitate to subject ourselves to a temporary sacrifice for the sake of future security and prosperity. A coun• try,' says Mr Ricardo, which has involved itself in the dif• ficulties attendant on a large public debt, would act wisely in
VOL. XLVI. NO. 92.
• ransoming itself from them, at the sacrifice of any portion of
its property which might be necessary for the redemption of . the debt.'
Before concluding, we may observe, that it has sometimes been argued, that supposing this plan were carried into effect, the advantages derived from it would not really be so great as has been represented. Those who take this view of the matter contend, that as the capitalists who are at present burdened with taxes on account of the interest of the public debt, would, in the event of these taxes being repealed, and the debt paid off, have to transfer a corresponding portion of their property to the stockholders, their loss on the one hand would be exactly equivalent to their gain on the other, and the effect of the measure would therefore be really nugatory. Nothing, however, can be more marvellously incorrect than this representation. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the measure in question is actually carried into effect, and that a half of the public debt has been paid off. On this hypothesis, property worth about three hundred millions will have been transferred to the fundholders, and about fifteen millions of taxes will have been repealed. It is clear, therefore, on the first blush of the matter, that nothing has been lost by this proceeding; but is it not equally clear that a great deal has been gained ?-By enabling fifteen millions a-year of taxes to be repealed, a reduction would be effected in the price of a vast number of commodities, and consequently in the expense of living; a rise would, therefore, take place in the rate of profit, and an immediate stop would, in consequence, be put to the efflux of capital to foreign countries ; the foreign commerce of the country would be extended ; and a powerful stimulus would be given to all the operations of industry-A portion of the public debt being placed to the account of every individual, and made a burden directly and exclusively affecting his own fortune, a new spirit of industry and economy would be infused into all classes. Every one would be as anxious to discharge his fortune of the encumbrances entailed upon it, in consequence of this measure, as if they had been contracted directly by himself. And if this measure were combined with the repeal of those indirect taxes to which we have already called the reader's attention, it is most probable that in a few years that portion of the capital of individuals which had been taken away by the assessment would be fully made up by increased frugality and activity.
Ant. VI..-Spirit of Party. 8vo. London, 1827.
We design to make here a few observations, by way of sup
plement to the Article in our last Number, which has been in several particulars,* we are sorry to find, exceedingly misunderstood in some respectable quarters, as it has certainly, We are not surprised to remark, been grossly misrepresented in others of a widely different description.
The State of Parties, and the condition of public affairs generally, is, in some respects, materially different from anything ever known in this country.
indeed since the termination of the wars arising out of the French Revolution, the opinions favoured by sound reason, and avouched by the practical test of experience upon all subjects of foreign and domestic policy, had been making a steady and sure, because a quiet and peaceful progress among the more intelligent parts of the community. As intelligence spread wider by the diffusion of knowledge, the dissemination of those opinions became more enlarged, and their operation upon all classes of society more efficacious. They had been making considerable advances both in France and England, during the period between the American and the French Revolutions. But the latter event had cruelly disappointed in its progress the hopes raised by its first fair prospects; and the horrors of the times of Anarchy, followed by the military tyranny of Napoleon, and the dreadful wars in which he involved his country and Europe, otherwise so deeply his debtors, had stampt all change with the most hateful characters, and accustomed men to confound reform with rebellion, reckoning the friend of freedom and improvement, one who would sacrifice order and peace, and all established institutions, to wild extravagant speculation-a victim as it were to the love of change for its own sake. The fall of Napoleon, and the peace that followed the French Restoration, finally put down those groundless prejudices against the safest course of policy, and made an end of the calumnies so long heaped upon the best friends of order and existing establishments—those who, by tranquil amendments, would destroy all the purchase that revolutionists ever can have whereby to
* Among other mistakes, we find it ascribed to various persons, eminent statesmen and others, who, if they have ever seen it, which we know not, assuredly never could have seen it before it was published.
of the age.
work their overthrow. Accordingly, the natural course of education and knowledge has silently been producing its fruits; sound and enlightened views of policy have been gaining ground; truth, no longer counteracted in its progress, has been making way everywhere; and wisdom, no longer overawed by noisy clamour or childish fears, bas been teaching her lessons to a willing generation.
For some years of the period on which we are looking back, the Government of this country was intrusted to the management of men, who gave it a direction widely different from the course of public opinion, and conducted it upon all the principles of the most narrow and vicious policy, as if they alone, and the engine in their hands, stood still amidst the general advance
While the Finances, and indeed all the internal affairs of the State were under the guidance of persons, whose notions were the refuse of the antiquated school; the Foreign Minister, though not by nature deficient in liberal feelings, and certainly gifted with no common talents, and, above all, with great sagacity, had, unhappily for his country and for his reputation, become intimately connected with the Continental Sovereigns and their chief Statesmen, and had imbibed from this intercourse a prejudice against free opinions, and a dislike of Constitutional Government, so strong as almost to renew in our political system, the exploded terrors about Jacobinism and French principles. All improvements in the Constitution of the Continental States were to be discountenanced as revolutionary: everything that could lead to a change, how slowly and peaceably soever, was to be resisted: the strong arm of absolute power was to be deemed the only security for the public peace; and the iron hand of military force, the only means by which that arm could work its destined end. These principles soon embodied themselves in the famous League so universally dreaded at first, then detested, and since despised, under the name of the Holy Alliance. Professing only to have the intention of keeping the peace, those combined Princes, extending their union over almost all Europe, guaranteed to each other, not only the integrity of their dominions, but the unchanged existence of all their internal institutions; and some of them having succeeded in reconquering their dominions from Napoleon, by the aid of their people, to whom they had promised a Representative Government, as the appropriate reward of a constancy worthy of freemen, Europe, with astonishment, saw those very Monarchs become parties to this combination against all improvement, as if for the very purpose of preventing themselves from redeeming pledges so sacred, and which had passed for so mighty a consideration. The wonder, however, stopt not here: The leagued Sovereigns made war at their pleasure to prevent the peace from being disturbed. Wherever a Prince was compelled or induced to adopt free institutions, the Allies marched an army to restore his absolute authority and his people's subjection; and the formal accession of England was alone wanting to make the sway of this grand nuisance universal; nay, to extend its claims, which were once actually preferred, over our own country. In all these unheard of proceedings, infinitely more dangerous to National Independence than the wildest fury of the French Republic, or the mightiest projects of Napoleon himself, it was a miserable sight to behold England, once the patroness of public freedom,—the enemy of aggression,—the refuge of all oppressed nations, stoop to become the willing witness, and even the unresisting tool of the most flagitious conspiracy the world ever saw, excepting, perhaps, the high crime last perpetrated by the same despotic Princes, the partition of Poland. Yet so it was; and such was the price we paid for our Minister having acted as our Ambassador, and kept the high company of Absolute Monarchs, and their unconstitutional and irresponsible counsellors. The tone, too, of those foreign Courts was imported into our Parliament and our Cabinet; it became customary to deride everything free and liberal as new-fangled, and low, and dangerous to good government; men extolled all the little drivelling notions of Austrian Hof-raths and Kriegs-raths, as sound, old, well-wearing maxims, and laughed at the doctrines of the New School, as wholly unknown to the warriors of Leipsick and Waterloo, or the negotiators of Vienna and of Aix. It is true, that our official statesmen had all this pleasantry to themselves; they made no converts in the country; they found neither sympathy nor support from the people; and as often as they attempted in Parliament to countenance their favourite topic, the sorry reception they met with, seemed adjusted in a nice proportion to its intrinsic merit, and the talents by which it was recommended.
Meanwhile, upon questions of internal policy, the liberal feelings of the country generally prevailed, even in Parliamentary divisions, over the narrow views of the Court. One after another, the Government abandoned many of the most pernicious taxes and lines of mercantile policy, and at length, after long resistance, it adopted sound principles upon the important subject of reform in the system and administration of the laws. While its opponents were preparing new measures, and expecting additional triumphs at home; while its allies abroad were about to carry their aggressions on all national indepen