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so much as return on their steps, for an increase will appear, on referring to the second chapter of this work.
But supposing the contrary, what were the consequences of this improved condition of the country? Did it strengthen the argument with the chancellor of the exchequer, to throw additional weight on posterity by exchanging three and a half for three per cents. ; in fact, no other than borrowing on a half per cent. stock, and still further increasing the interest of the public debt ?-the effects of which were evidently more serious than paying a little more or less interest for a limited time upon the issue of exchequer bills. To say the least of it, how contemptible was such a proceeding under the delusive pretence of not adding to the nominal amount of the public debt.
Bystanders see through this quibbling and time-serving, which suit the Jews, the Stock Exchange, and the Bank, while the public, are gulled. And it is unfortunately too true (I say it with proper feelings towards men blinded by their interests), that ministers and the monied men play with odds in their favor while the nation loses. The landed proprietors will soon awake from their slumbers, and find the king with barely a name, amusing himself with the mere orders, gewgaws, and insignia of royalty.
Were the public securities left quietly to themselves, to vibrate, by natural causes, there would be fair dealing, and a just criterion formed of their real value, by the true test of public prosperity; while nostrums and quacks put nature out of her regular course. If men born and bred in the vortex of corruption looked beyond the moment, they would discover how this undue influence is calculated to deceive even themselves. The misfortune, lies perhaps in the debt itself, and is therefore too deep for an immediate remedy. We have few proprietors of land not also largely concerned in the public funds, which neutralizes their powers and claims a divided interest.
It is necessary we should now proceed to the year 1819, when · his majesty, then regent, was advised to “ congratulate the coun
try upon three new circumstances in the public condition, the withdrawing the army from France, the great reduction of the naval and military establishments, and the progressive improvement of the revenue in all its sources.”
The first of these is represented to be a ground of exultation chiefly arising from the circumstance, that “ the British government was, by the evacuation of France, necessarily relieved from much extraordinary expenditure, which could not be carried to the account of the payment and sustenance of the troops :" a declaration of so broad a nature, without condescending to enter the least into detail, has naturally excited so much curiosity and
suspicion, that it becomes an imperious duty in ministers to furnishi their advocate, the author of the work before us, for the satisfaction of the public, with the fullest explanation on this head.
We shall merely refer to the second article, by questioning the disposition of those, to place things in a right light, who vaunt an. excess of three millions and a half, in anticipation of a demand, which comes immediately upon them, of ten millions on the part of the Bank, the half of which was to be provided for this very year.
But so far from “ a progressive improvement of the revenue in all its sources," let us compare it with the demands upon it. “The ordinary and extraordinary service of the year was a small excess above thirty millions."
So far from a principle of reduction having effected, as they say, an “ aggregate saving on the whole of the estimates, on the account for the year, of above half a million," whoever will take pains to refer to their own statement on the preceding page, will be surprised to find, that in the department of miscellanies there is an evident increase of at least 280,0001., and that, adding the several items together, the augmentation amounts at least to 146,0001. (but this will appear better hereafter), besides the interest of exche quer bills for the service of the year.
Whose influence was it in the finance committee, which led to the advice of imposing, after years of peace, new taxes to the amount of 3,000,0001., added to the boasted surplus in the consolidated fund ? Secondly, the application of twelve millions of a sacred deposit, more than six-sevenths of its acknowledged amount, and the only honest pledge given of a design to relieve posterity from a burden, which, they pretend at least, they will consider as much their duty to bear, as if it had been contracted by them. selves ; whether they really do or not will hereafter appear. But it must be further matter of surprise, that these several means, so unprecedented in their nature, were found insufficient in themselves, without recourse to the old leaven of loans and exchequer bills.
On the subject of the taxes, considered in their own nature, can we receive any satisfaction in being told, that of four out of five of these new taxes the chancellor of the exchequer, like a charlatan at a fair, took the money from our pockets without our perceiving it ? that he made such a curious selection of the subject matter upon which they were imposed, that the burden is in practice so insensibly felt, that not one person out of five hundred can enumerate the subjects taxed ? If we are to pay taxes, like other charges on our establishment, for God's sake let us face the collector: he shall enter by day, rather than like a thief in the night, and open our cellars and storehouses in our presence. Though, like the assessed taxes, we pay them with grudging, we at least see the account, as we ought to do of every item in the arrangement of our affairs. Hence we are enabled to make such retrenchments as a prudent sense of our condition renders necessary, and as the burdens increase.
Let us ask therefore simply, after a temperate view of the transactions of this year, whether, either in substance or in form, they have felt it more their duty to act than to talk," or whether, in relation to either the one or the other, they merit the « commemoratio beneficiorum,” as the just reward of their public services.
But what do we find in the third report of the junto composing the finance committee ?! .“ Your committee learn, that works, buildings, extensions, and repairs, have been undertaken and executed, both at home and abroad, in a manner little checked or protected against profusion and waste; in many cases without any estimate or general plan; and sometimes extended, according to a statement of an officer of the ordnance (who attended the committee), as views open during the progress of the work. This irregular mode of proceeding, which unfortunately prevailed during the time that all these large works were begun, has had the effect of keeping the House in total ignorance as to the estimate charge of any one of them." - What shall we say of the minister, but that “ the stone shall: cry out of the wall against him, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it?"
To crown these brilliant measures, ministers claim for them. selves credit for what they are pleased to call another way of exercising their "resolute purpose,” by introducing the act generally called Mr. Peel's Bill, to restore the currency to its original state. This subject naturally divides itself into two parts ; first, the merit in itself, as it may be affected by the laws of justice, which are immutable ; and, secondly, its immediate consequences. The victory they pretend to have obtained we shall treat with the contempt it deserves, since no one took up arms to oppose them; and as to those immediately concerned, they made use of every oceasion to compliment them on their return to honest principles.
Legalising an alteration in the currency must appear, under an
"Who were on the list? Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Vansittart, Mr. Peel, Lord Binning, Sir George Clerk, Mr. Holford, Mr. Frankland Lewis, Mr. Hart Da. vis, Mr. Goocb, Lord Clive, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Wilbraham Bootle Wilbraham. The actors in these scenes speak for themselves, and show the treat. . ment the nation receives from its representatives. They, however, in this solitary instance, have passed a most severe censure on themselves.
2 When Bonaparte read some ministerial boasting, “ Pay your bank notes in gold," said the shrewed usurper, " then I shall believe you really prosper."
impartial view of the subject, morally bad, enabling engagements to be fulfilled between parties on terms certainly not contemplated at the time of the bargain, and therefore exercises an authority to arbitrate accounts between debtor and creditor, with whom the public have no concern; by which one loses what the other gains, and by no act of their own. In order to set this matter in a clear light, we will suppose, for example, by the effect of the restriction, in round numbers, the change for a one pound note is twenty shillings, and for a sovereign thirty in the market. I had in corn, the value of which was yesterday 20001., to day 30001. I owe as much, and am just clear of the world. Had I made arrangements with my creditors yesterday, I should still be 10001. in their debt; but, thanks to the restriction, I am exonerated from any claims upon me by an “ ex post facto” law, and my creditors are defrauded.
Then how was it with the public creditor ? His income was virtually reduced while his dividends were paid in paper, by the rise in the markets proportioned to the depreciations in the currency. Nor did the base paper which he received, or the base manner in which he was deprived of any redress, establish his confidence in public faith. In this instance, as well as what related to the income tax, as affecting funded property, whether belonging to absentees or not, the public creditor could not feel himself otherwise than at least disappointed, after all the methodistical cant by which his interest had, above all others, been attempted to be supported; both these acts operated therefore in violation of a principle pretended to be held sacred. .
But, in the second place, we had proposed to consider the immediate consequence of this measure; and it should be understood particularly to relate to how far the revenue has been virtually increased by returning to cash payments. And of this there can be no doubt, in the proportion above described of three to two. Therefore, before we carry the justification of ministers through the whole piece, as they pretend it originated in themselves, let us take the trouble to inquire, whether, in their furor for reductions, they have manifested their “resolute purpose" to arrive at this desirable object, by eagerly embracing so favorable a moment for lessening the public burdens to an amount equal to the difference between taxes received in gold or in the depreciated currency. The return to cash payments approaching, and being provided for, gold became of the same value as the paper which represented it. In short, when government received twenty shillings in the form of taxes, it was no longer twenty shillings of a mere nominal, but of an effective value, so materially was the revenue improved. Yet, in spite of économy, the succeeding year of 1820 was ushered in
with an increased demand on the public of 300,0001., as the total amount of the ordinary service and the total supply experienced no sensible diminution. The ways and means were the same, and therefore required the same animadversion, and a double sense of obloquy, on the part of those capable of inquiring into their merits ; and, what is still more extraordinary, they have the effrontery to introduce the ways and means of this year as no other than the usual manner of proceeding, though the last year was the first, and the present but the second attempt of the kind, in appropriating the sinking fund.
We have little to remark on 1820, as they appear only to have returned to the estimate of 1818, with this simple difference, that they thought proper to apply an additional million of the said fund over the last and preceding year, viz. thirteen millions. .
In proceeding at last to a more general view of the subject before us, we shall agree most cordially in granting, that at the conclusion of the war our forces were great and complicated ; that officers and men deserved well of their country, and that s at the end of no former war were such establishments to be reduced, and so many soldiers and sailors to be thrown upon the agriculture of the country.” But what is the natural inference to be drawn? Can any thing appear more a matter of course, in answer to this part of the subject, than the larger the pitcher the more can be spared ? Let the quantity be measured out which can be spared, as the enormity of the expenses incurred during the war requires no less than suitable reductions at the peace.
On the contrary, we are taught to believe in the urgent necessity of continuing a certain extended scale of expense, on the absurd ground, “ that innovation is already at work in every part of Europe.'
The charge is too true; the danger imminent. But to whom can we attribute it, to the people or their government? Will troops preserve tranquillity; or, oppressed like the people, and of the same species, fraternize with them, and achieve the consolidation of their power? What is the end of civil government, but strength and security for every individual under the empire of laws, in framing which both the soldier and the citizen enjoy their full share.
* Rebellion is when bands of men within a state oppose themselves with violence to the general will, as implied or expressed by the public authority. But the sense of a whole people, peaceably collected, and operating by its natural and certain effect upon the public counsel, is not rebellion, but the parent of authority itself. Reform in the commons of parliament might be obtained by that which must and will in the end obtain every thing from any government, however constituted, the slow, gradual, and progressive effect of public opinion.-See Lord Erskine on the State Trials.