Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

THE

ECLECTIC REVIEW,

For MAY, 1816.

Art I. 1. Review of the Present ruined Condition of the Landed and Agricultural Interests. By Richard Preston, Esq. M. P. London, 8ro. pp. 64. Law and Whitaker. 1816.

2. Thoughts on the present Crisis, in a Letter from a Constituent to his Representative. 8vo. pp. 116. Ridgway and Sons. London 1816.

3. An Inquiry into the Causes of the High Prices of Corn and Labour, the Depressions of our Foreign Exchanges, and High Prices of Bullion during the late War; and Consideration of the Measures to bet adopted for relieving our Farming Interest from the Unprecedented Difficulties to txhich they are now reduced, in consequence of the great Fall in the Price of their Produce, since the Peace; with Relative Tables and Remarks, fyc. By Robert Wilson, Esq. Edinburgh, 8vo. pp. 87 J8I5.

4. Thoughts on the Character and Tendency of the Property Tax, as adapted to a Permanent System of Taxation. By the Rev. George Glover, A. M. Rector of Southrepps, Vicar of Cromer, and Chaplain to the Most Noble the Marquis of Buckingham. Norwich. Svo. pp.41.

5. The State of the United Kingdom at the Peace of Paris, November 2Qth, 1815: respecting the People; their Domestic Energies; their Agriculture; their Trade; their Shipping; and their Finances. By George Chalmers, F. R. S. S. A. 8vo. pp. 16. London, 1816.

WE have transcribed the titles of several of the productions of the day, as presenting a specimen of the sentiments which prevail among the best instructed of our countrymen, on the present state of the nation.

In one or two points they all agree. They all complain that the people are in a state of great privation and misery; and they are all of opinion that as enormous taxation is the principal cause, so it ought to be effectually and immediately redressed. When ire say all, we must, however, make a single exception; namely, that of George Chalmers, who is fully convinced that the nation atver was in a state of greater prosperity. And how does the

VW..V. N.S. LI

reader think he proves it? Why, by proving that the nation never paid so many taxes! As if a man who is kept at the point of death ?»y excessive bleeding, should be proved to be in the greatest health and strength, by the quantity of the vital fluid which he is made to lose! He proves it also by the quantity of land we have in cultivation; the quantity of shipping we possess; and the quantity of goods we export. But this exhilarating ■writer should not have forgotten one thing; of which we beg leave to remind him. A man may do a great deal of work, without being much the better for it. When a poor slave in the West Indies is tasked and scourged, to more work, and more work, till the blood trickle to his heels, he may all the while be allowed to eat what is hardly sufficient to preserve life in his body. If this may happen to one man, it may happen to any number of men, to a nation. What does it benefit a nation, if it works and toils, cultivates more land, builds more ships, exports more goods, but is not allowed to keep what it produces? if more is taken from it, as fast as it produces more? May not the productions of a nation rise, in this way, to any excess, and yet the poverty and misery of the people continue extreme? Mr. Chalmers, therefore, is in a miserable mistake, when he supposes that what the people produce, is an infallible test of their prosperity. They may be only so much the more wretched for what they produce, if they are condemned to see the greater part of it taken away from them.

One would think it were so easy to know this, that no man would be so blind as to overlook it. But we all know how far strong wishes can block up and bar the approaches to the mind. And there are some minds that are very easily governed by their wishes. Now George Chalmers has been at some pains to let the world know his wishes. He wishes that the people should never dare to complain. However treated, they should always think themselves happy; always praise their governors. They should never think of their sufferings, but always of something else. If they are starving for want of bread, they should only think of the glorious amount of taxation. When squeezed in the tax press, till the life is ready to start from their bodies, they should think all the while of the wonderful extent of their exports.

Concerning the happiness or the misery of others, there are persons who can very easily satisfy themselves. Concerning the happiness or the misery of those who are called the people, there are a great many persons who can very easily satisfy themselves. Mr. Chalmers, it seems, nevercan be without a reason to convince him that the people are happy; never can be at a lossforan argument to assure the people they ought to count themselves happy, and deserve only punishment if they are guilty of complaints. In his list of human vices and crimes, complaint against Government stands at the very top.

'Great as the number of persons are who have given their thoughts to the public, upon the present very remarkable crisis of British affairs, Mr. Chalmers stands almost, if not altogether, alone. Other men seem to be very generally of opinion, that notwithstanding the wonderful amount of our taxes, and the wonderful amount of our exports, the nation, somehow or other, is suffering, and suffering lamentably. They seem to think, also, that the nation should speak out about their sufferings; that they should set about the discovery of the cause; and having found it, that they should labour for its removal. Concerning the cause, as well as the remedy, there is, of course, great difference of opinion. But there is some advantage in having obtained so general an acquiescence in the existence of the evil; in having at last obtained an acknowledgement, so contrary to the doctrine of the Pitt school, that great exports.and enormous taxes are far from being certain signs of a nation's prosperity. We have been so long under the dominion of this doctrine, which has not been a mild dominion, that we cannot help congratulating both ourselves and our countrymen upon the prospect of a change. When men suffer to a certain degree, almost any thing in the shape of change is welcomed as a token of relief.

In the accounts which, both in pamphlets and parliamentary speeches, are held forth to the public, of the present distresses of the country, we find the calamities of the agricultural interest, including the landlords and labourers, as well as the farmers,

. almost uniformly occupying the foreground. On this subject we fear the public are in some danger of being misled. We fear that by the excess of their attention to one portion of c\ i!. they may be induced, partially at least, to overlook another; and have recourse to partial and hurtful remedies. The agricultural portion are not the only suffering portion of the community. But the agricultural portion are the most powerful, because they include the noblemen and gentlemen; and they can make by far the loudest noise, because they compose the whole of one of the houses of parliament, and a great majority of the other. This power of theirs makes it greatly to be apprehended, that they will devise some remedy for themselves, at the expense of the rest of the community: that they will make a law, which will indeed put money in their own pockets,

. but which will do so only by taking it out of the pockets of others. This is what they did last year, when they made a law, in defiance of the petitions and the'tears of the people, for the express and declared purpose of making corn dear. This was not only a law to tax the people for the benefit of landlords; to tax them unjustly, and tax them cruelly; feut it was a law to lessen the productive powers of the country, and to diminish the return of capital ia every branch of national industry. It was therefore a law which could not lessen, it was a law which could do

but augment, the aggregate of the distresses which bore upon tbe

community.

The same people who acted as the prime movers in that grand specimen of ignorant and selfish legislation, are again at work. They are endeavouring to increase the same evil. They want to frame other and stronger laws for making corn dear; and the danger is alarming that they will succeed. How can it fail to be alarming, when the people who are called upon to make corn dear, are the sellers of corn—the persons whose incomes are to be increased by every fraction which they add to the price of food!

What these people are loudly proclaiming is, that the farmer must obtain relief. He will otherwise be ruined, they tell as ;• and then, lo! the ground will wholly cease to be cultivated, and we shall be all left to starve.

When people carry out their arguments to conclusions so extravagant as these, we may rest assured that they are not governed by reason, but hurried on in the pursuit of some ends, by passions which obscure their season. If there is only a slight falling off in the quantity of corn produced, will not the price rise so high, as to draw capital from every other employment, till the demand is satisfied? Suppose the present agricultural capital to be diminished, this is an event which must of necessity raise the profits of agricultural capital; and the moment these profits rise above the profits of capital in other employments, capital will begin to leave them, and flow into agriculture. Thi* is stated merely to show, that when they try to frighten us with a total loss of food, unless we follow their schemes for relieving (as they call it) the farmers, they only hold up to us an ill-formed scare-crow, which has nothing in it of terror but the name.

When they proclaim the necessity of relieving the farmers, we are ready enough to admit that there is great distress; and wherever there is distress, we would bestow relief, as far as liw ia our power.

But first let us see clearly what relief to the farmers really means. Let us see what it is that distresses the farmers. And let us take care that we are not deceived and abused upon this head. Is it meant to be said, that the price which is got for the produce which the farmer raises, is not sufficient to bring back to him what it has cost in the raising? This is not pretended; and if it were, it could be proved not to be true: for there is this peculiarity in the raising of corn, that in proportion as the price of it falls, the cost of raising it falls. The cost of raising corn consists almost entirely in food, or in what is equivalent to food; it consists in the seed, in the food and value of the labouring entile, and in the food of the agricultural servants; for all that part of their wages which does not consist in food, is a trifle in the amount of agricultural expense. ',

The fact then is, that the same quantity of food expended in the raising of corn, will produce exactly the same return in corn now, that it did when the price of corn was the most extravagant. The farmer, after deducting the quantity, or the value of the quantity, consumed in raising his crop, has the same surplus of corn to dispose of; but this surplus he cannot dispose of for the same price. What then is the consequence? It is very plain, and we entreat the reader to mark it well. It is not that he cannot carry on his business; for his business produces to him, after paying his expenses, the same surplus in corn as ever; but as this surplus cannot be sold for the same money as before, he eann.it afford to pay the same money-rent to his landlord, nor the same taxes to the Government. To be sure, ifhe is bound by a lease to pay the same rent, and the landlord compels him to pay it. be will be distressed. But this alone (if the taxes are lessened) is the cause of his distress: this, and nothing else. What then will happen, if the Legislature gives him the relief for which the landlords are calling; that is, makes a law to render corn dear? Why this, and this alone, that the .armer will be able to pay to the landlord the accustomed rent. All that is to be taken from the public, is to be given to the landlord. Turn it which way Tou wdl, to this it always comes in the long-run. What the landlords are labouring with all their might to procure, is a tax to be laid upon the rest of the commnnity, of which the proceeds are to be placed in their pockets; a tax, not direct indeed, not taken out of the j ock-.'ts of the people, and put at once into the pockets of the landlords; but a tax which passes by a few turnings and windings, through a bit of a labyrinth, to the pockets of the landlords; a tax in some measure concealed; a sort of a clandestine tax. If a tax, however, must be raised upon the rest of the community tor the benefit of the landlords, far better would it be to levy it directly. There is no way in which they can be enriched at the expense of the community, so detrimental to the community, as by laying duties on the importation, and granting bounties on the exportation of corn. Abolish these duties and bounties; let us get corn wherever it is cheapest; and in order to satisfy the landlords, lay a tax upon bread, the proceeds of which you distribute among them in proportion to their estates. In comparison with the present system, this will be advantageous to the public. This will not injure the community farther than the money paid. In compelling you to raise corn with a far greater consumption of labour than that with which you can import it, there is a waste of labour, which is gain to nobody; which is a loss to the nation conjointly, totally distinct from the loss which is imposed upon the rest of the community for the

« ForrigeFortsett »