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ful and ornamental arts; while the opulence of the higher classes, by à liberal expenditure, has been devoted to encourage agriculture and commerce, and to reward the labour and ingenuity of the virtuous peasantry; while the seas, covered with a triumphant marine, have sustained the riches of the whole earth floating to our shores; in such prosperous circumstances, we may presume that the burthen of taxation has not been generally oppressive *.”
The total annihilation of the National Debt, by discharging all the public creditors, would therefore be neither necessary nor expedient. The operation of the Sinking Fund is politic and useful only to keep the debt within such a limit as expediency directs. Its ultimate operation to destroy the debt itself would be pernicious. It belongs to the political economist to regulate and to restrain its operation according to the fluctuating necessities of the country and ever changing circumstauces.
But we doubt the practicability of enlarging the operations of a Sinking Fund to an amount which approximates to the splerdid results promised by Mr. Boyd, and the other favourers of an extended systein of accumulation. A tax raised for purposes of expence is a charge upon the industry of the country, which that same espence renews and vivifies. But whatever is taken, be. yond a certain point, to sustain a Sinking Fund, is a conversion of so much money, circulating in the country, to become a mass of unproductive capital. Mr. Pitt, in 1801, induced the House of Commons to resolve, that the then established Income-tax, which was calculated to produce ten millions a year, should remain in force till, with the established Sinking Fund producing five millions more, the whole of the loans of the war then depending with the Consular Government of France should be defrayed. We feel the utmost respect towards the authority of Mr. Pitt ; we tremble when we presume to question the validity of any principle which he sanctioned; but we do not believe that this or any country can bear, year by year, for any cause whatever, the conversion of a much less sum than fifteen millions of its circulating medium into unproductive capital. In the year 1733, Sir Robert Walpole's Sinking Fund, established in 1717, had increased from 400,0001. to three times its original amount. In the interval, since its creation, the situation of the country, and the case of the public creditors, altered so much, that the competition became, not who should be the first, þut who should be the last to be paid.....
“ The high state of credit, the low rate of interest of money, and the advanced price of all public stocks and funds above par,
Tinney's Rights of the Sovereignty.
made made the great monied companies, and all their proprietors, apprehend nothing more than being obliged to receive their principal too fast; and it became almost the universal consent of mankind, that a million a year was as much as the creditors of the public could bear to receive in discharge of part of their principal.”*
The operation of the Sinking Fund has hitherto been to keep down the rate of interest payable by Government to the public creditor, and that in the recent wars most beneficial to the State. By affording a sure market to the stock-holder desirous of converting his property into money at the very instant that he wants it, and by absorbing all the stock that comes to sale for such purposes, it has maintained a due proportion between the demand and the supply, during a series of years in which the debt has been augniented by yast accumulations. Is it credible that, when the necessity for further borrowing shall cease, the operation of the Sinking Fund will be equally innoxious. When the demand of Government for the purpose of redemption shall be far greater than the ordinary supply, the current price of stock may increase to any amount. The three per cent. annuities may again be at par. Is there any man who can calmly anticipale the unlimited extension of a system, by which a hundred pounds, capable, in the management of the community, of producing ten, fifteen, or twenty per cent., shall be exacted by the State for the redemption of an annuity charged upon the community of only three pounds per annum? Yet to such absurdity are the advocates of the fund, projected for perpetual accumulation, of necessity reduced. Mr. Boyd is not of that number. He admits that a time may come (page 34) when the progressive increase of the Sinking Fund should cease, and the public derive advantage from its past growth, by its application to the public wants.
To aid the Sinking Fund, which has so long been a favourite object in our finance, Mr. Boyd proposes to perpetuate the Pro. perty-tax. We might proceed to combat such a proposal without the imputation of selfishness. The income of a reviewer is too precarious ; and, alas ! its maximum is too mean to justify even his submission to the tax, or to excite the inquisitorial jealousy of the public assessors. We wish that it were otherwise. It is not on our own account that we would reason on such high matters.
* See Considerations concerning the Public Funds, &c. by Sir Robert Walpole, page 56; and Coxe's Memoirs of Sir R. Wal. pole, anno 1737.
If If a limited renewal of the Property-tax be necessary for the great purposes of Government, we doubt not that the public, faithful in that loyalty which created and has established the empire, will cheerfully submit to the wisdom of the legislature. But the legislature, in prolonging so heavy a burthen, will investigate and state the necessity : and a more substantial reason will be given for the continuation of such a burtheu than the hypothesis of the Sinking Fund, and the gradual redemption of the public debt.
It is not forgotten that the Property-tax was instituted to carry on Warfare the most extensive, for all that the British nation enjoys or values. It was instituted and submitted to under the pledge of Government that its continuance should cease with the war which gave occasion to it. If the glorious peace which rewards our virtue be not a deliverance from that heavy imposi. tion, the occasion for prolonging the burthen should at least be as urgent and imperious as that which caused its imposition. Nothing but imperious necessity would justify the legislature in incorporating its provisions permanently in the Constitution : and nothing but urgent financial necessity could induce them to continue, even for a limited time, its burtheus. .
Our trust in the Government is still unshaken. We doubt not that those to whom, under Providence, we are indebted for our laws, and our liberties, and our national existence, will watch as tenderly as heretofore the great interests committed to them. If necessity compels a continuance of the Property-tax for a while, they will yield to it reluctantly, and the public will submit to it without clamourous and unavailing complaint. The necessity will leave no alternative : and we may rest assured that no ministry, particularly the present, would forfeit their credit, perhaps their very political existence, by the needless continuance of so unpopular a measure.
Though we entirely differ from Mr. Boyd, in his view of the Property-tax, which ought not, we think, to continue an hour, merely to aid the operations of the Sinking Fund; and though the considerations which we have thrown out respecting the operations of the fund itself, beyond a certain point, may differ much from his, yet we recommend his pamphlet to the attentiota of every one who esteems the judgment of a cool and experienced mind, on matters of great national concern.
Art. VI. An Enquiry concerning the Propriety of increasing
the Import Duty on Foreign Corn. By John Nuismith, Esg. Author of the Elements of Agriculture, &c. &c. 4.2, pp. published in the fourth Volume of the Pamphleteer. Gale, Curtis, and Fenner. 18.14.
THE unsettled state of the agricultural interest throughout the country, the alarming failures of various country banks which had embarked too largely in farming speculations, the sudden decrease in the value of landed property, all contribute to render this ones, tion peculiarly interesting to every thinking mind at the present crisis of public affairs. Never was the attention of Parliament summoned to a more important point in political economy, for upon their decision will in great measure depend the existence of a body of men, who, till within these few years, were scarcely known in this country. We allude to those, who from tbe immense profits, which during the late war have accrued to the agriculturalist, were induced to undertake farming, as a sort of liberal omployment, and have thus raised the farmer to a rank fully equalling that of any merchant or wholesale dealer. The utter inability of such men to exist in their newly acquired rank, under the present circumstances of the times, is ļniversally allowed : a change therefore must soon take place; but no change of so extensive a nature, or involving the fall of so many nominal gentlemen, can be effected without a proportional convulsion and disturbance both in the financial condition, and the political order of the kingdom. We shall not at present enter into any question respecting either the advantage or the injury which may have resulted to the country from the creation of this new body of men; but shall’only observe, that this view of the subject alone, without taking into consideration, the nanufacturing interest of the country on the other hand, cannot fail of impressing the minds of our readers with the magnitude of the question, which the consideration of the Corn-Laws, at the present period, must necessarily involve.
Mr. Naismith prefaces his Inquiry into the Propriety of increasing the Import Duty on Foreign Corn by the following ad. vertisement :
“ Controversial writers generally introduce their works to the public by claiming exemption from prejudice. The claim indeed is seldom well founded ; for in the discussion of questions, which come home to men's business and bosoms, it it almost impossible for the most vigorous mind to divest itself completely of prejudice. I am far from supposing that I am possessed of this vigour ; but I am confident that my prejudices, if I have any with respect to the
following subject, are not hostile to the cultivation of land, having spent a considerable part of a long life in the study and practice of agriculture, and now, on the verge of life, feel no temptation to misrepresent the truth, which experience has taught me. It is only from this experience that I think myself entitled to attention ; for I am fully aware that my language wants those graces which have attracted readers to other tracts on this most interesting controversy. Such, however, as this inquiry is, I bequeath it to the public as the legacy of a man who is not likely to intrude himself more upon its attention. If it be found to throw any light on the great question now at issue, my sole end in publishing will be gained.”
The perusal of this advertisement excited in our minds a strong desire to know something more of the author; for we have long been disgusted by tracts on the Corn-laws, by men who studied political economy and the theory of agriculture, at the attorney's desk, on the quarter-deck of a ship of war, or in the bustle of a -political faction. We contrived, therefore, to procure the Elements of Agriculture referred to in the title-page of this pamphlet; and, on glancing hastily through that work, we are led to infer, that Mr. Naismith is a proprietor, as well as an experienced cultivator of land; for we find bim making a variety of such experiments, as a man of sound sense would hardly think of making on the lands of another. If this be so, the tract before us would be entitled to the greatest attention, were the style of it as faulty as the modesty of the author leads hiin to represent it; for one page, in which are faithfully detailed the results of experience, is, in questions of this nature, of more value than volumes filled with deductions from were theory. The truth, however, is, that the style is not inferior to that of many other tracts on the same subject. It is simple and perspicuous; and, in a pamphlet, in- ' tended not for the amusement of men of taste, but for the in- . formation of all ranks in society, an ornamented style would be ridiculous. The object of the author is to convince the agricul. turists and manufacturers, that their interests are so closely united, that no law, of which the tendency is to injure eitber of them, can prove ultimately beneficial to the other. This is the task which he has undertaken ; and, in order to accomplish it, he proceeds to!enquire,
“ I. What is the real cause why corn, which generally abounded, in Britain in the first part of the last century, has been insufficient for the subsistence of the inhabitants ever since. II. In what man. her the successful industry of a growing population affects landed property. III. If any new restrictions, which may be laid on the importation of foreign corn, would make corn more abundant at home. IV. If the state of society, and the agriculture of the country would be improved by the exclusion of foreign corn.”