Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

benefit of the landlords. It is a loss in addition to that oppression; a loss from which you are altogether free, when you only pay a tax upon your bread, and are preserved from restrictions in your corn trade.

What the landlords modestly demand,£is an absolute monopoly: but a monopoly not of an ordinary sort. All monopolies are mischievous. But if the mischief of all other monopolies we.re combined in one aggregate, it would be trifling compared with the monopoly of the fruits of the earth. The monopoly of all other commodities affects only the consumer; and what he pays, very often another gets. A monopoly of the fruits of the earth, affects production, and that through all its departments; devotes a portion of labour in absolute waste (a portion of labour •which might otherwise be saved) to every production of human industry. The monopoly of another commodity can, attlic worst, consume unnecessary labour in that one commodity solely. The monopoly of the fruits of the earth causes an unnecessary consumption of labour in every thing that is produced.

That wise man and great legislator, Mr. Western, after a long speech, exhibiting a picture, with the highest colouring which his brush could lay on, of the distresses of the farmers, that is to say, the cruelty with which they had been pressed by their landlords for rent, and by the Government for taxes ; (for that is the name to call it by ; that is the source of the distress, and nothing else ;j comes forward with a long string of propositions for prohibiting, by high duties, the importation of tallow, of hides, of flax, of seeds, of corn, of every thing, in short, which is the produce of the soil; in other words, proposes a law for rendering the produce of the soil a close monopoly in the hands of him, and his brother landlords! And not content with that, (showing that there is no limit to the sums which they would gladly take from their fellow citizens,) he proposes that the landlords should get a bounty for sending corn out of the country, at the same time that they prohibit it from being brought in: that is to say, they want tteo sorts of taxes to be levied on the public for their benefit; one, a tax to be paid indirectly through the price of the corn; another, a direct tax, to be paid expressly for the purpose of making the corn dear. Is it possible that such legislation should yet be heard of in a country where philosophy has at any rate a few friends? One of the best of our political economists, meeting in the streets another, on the day subsequent to the delivery of the ever famous speech aud propositions of Mr. Western, began by holding up his hands, and asked, if any person could believe that one book on political economy ha > ever been published in this country ? It was not, he said, the speech of a man like Western, that excited any emotion, but the reception it met within the whole of the honourable house. Before this article can reach the eye of the reader, the question will, for this time, have received its decision; and those who have to decide upon it, will* we trust, have given a specimen of wisdom and virtue, which the tone of the assembly, on the first and second nights of the discussion, compel us to expect with some misgivings.

The relief which the farmer wants, is relief from taxes, and relief from rent. The landlord, as owner of the soil, is of course entitled to no more than the soil can produce; is not entitled to have the price of what it produces raised artificially for his benefit; if he is entitled to the benefit of all these natural and unavoidable causes which raise the price, so are the people entitled to the benefit of all those natural causes which diminish it; and if this is not allowed, the price of corn must go on in a course of perpetual augmentation, being always allowed to rise, but never permitted to fall. The Legislature, therefore, ought to tell the landlords, that they must content themselves with a diminished rent. And to afford the only other point of relief which is requisite, they ought to retrench the expenses of Government to a very small proportion of what it has cost for many years, (for the real and useful expenses of Government are very small,) and thus free the farmer from every tax beyond what he paid when his corn was as ciieap as it is now. This is the only way to relieve him without injuring the country If Parliament relieve him in this way, it will do a great deal of good: if it relieve him in any other way, it will do a great deal of evil.

We are next to remark, that nothing but the mere partiality of selfishness could lead the agricultural people to think that theirs are the only sufferings at this time in the country. Nothing but that narrow feeling which leads a man, or a body of men, especially if it is a powerful body of men, to think that the concerns of all the rest of the world, saving and excepting only themselves, are of no consequence at all, could prevent them from seeing that the mercintilf part of the community are in a state of suffering, between which and that of the agricultural world, it would be difficult to declare the preponderance. Of the destruction which the property of the country has suffered by the waste of Government, the merchants undoubtedly have borne their share. Of the greater part of manufactured commodities the price has fallen, in a ratio approaching to that of agricultural produce. But what is a great deal worse than a fall of price, the merchants, failing of a market at home, have greedily sent commodities abroad, till they have glutted all the markets, and can get from them either no returns at all, or very inadequate returns, being either obliged to let their goods rot in foreign warehouses, or sell them for one half of what they cost. The quantity, therefore, of mercantile distress, is very great, and the diminution of mercantile capital probably not less than that of agricultural capital; especialy

•when it is considered, as it ought to be, that the distresses of agriculture have lasted only for two years; the distresses of the merchants have lasted ever since the interruption of commerce by Mr. Perceval's famous Orders in Council, and Bonaparte's Berlin Decrees; at which time it may be remembered, that Lloyd's Coffee-House was rendered desolate, andasmull residue out of the whole body of merchants connected with the trade of insurance, escaped bankruptcy. What was done, in that case, or what could be done? Was a proposition made, or would it have been borne, to tax the rest of the community, by a law compelling every man to insure to a certain amount (tor people are compelled to buy bread) and to insure at a certain rate, whether they had goods to send abroad or not; for in regard to the tax, and the object of it, that makes no difference? To relieve them of taxes, along with the rest of the community, would no doubt have been good. To afford them expeditious and cheap procedure at law, for the adjustment of their differences, would have been eminently good. Nothing else could be done to benefit them, which would not at the same time operate to the detriment of others, and as regards the community, a still more serious detriment. Not so much as that was done tor them Not any thing was done for them. Why then should the community be injured for the benefit of the owners of land? One thing is to be noticed: the land-owners have the power to do what they please; the merchants have not. Hence, it is the virtue of the landlords, if they abstain.

But it is not the agricultural and the mercantile interests only that suffer. When the agricultural and the mercantile interests suffer,all that part of the community, without exception, whose dependence is upon agriculture and traffic, suffer along with them. But agriculture and traffic divide the industry of the country. Of the community, therefore, the whole of that part which depends upon industry, that is the industrious part, are in a correspondent state of suffering. Of the whole community, the part which lives upon taxes, is the only part that is happy; the holders of government stock, and the officers of government, whether supreme or subordinate, whether military or civil, whether judici .1 or administrative. As they receive the same sum of money annually, when that money has become a great deal more valuable; when it can purchase a great deal more food, purchase a great deal more of almost all sorts of commodities, maintain more servants, more horses, and more dogs; they are a great deal better off; a great proportion of what others lose, they gain. It is, therefore, clear, that this source of misery should be lessened to the utmost. It is clear that the interest upon the national debt should be reduced. It is still more clear, that the emoluments of the officers pi < »ovu-i'inent sjjouul be reduced; and not less so, that tin.number of these officers should be reduced, and brought as low as consists with the performance of the services which it is the business of Government to render.

The misery and distress of the country,a re denied, it seems, only by Lord Castlereaghand Geo.Chalmers. Therefore, weconsiderk as a fact fully established. We have shewn, we think undeniably, unless, perhaps, to such persons as Lord Castlereagh, George Chalmers, and Mr. Western, that the reduction in the price of corn is not the cause of the nation's calamities. We shall therefore assume this point also as proved. Hence, two questions now remain, and they are these:

First, What is the cause of such calamities?

And next, What is the remedy fo/ them?

About the cause, it does appear wonderful that there should be any difference of opinion. Let us ask, What has happened? To which of all the sources of calamity incident to a nation, hare tvc been exposed ? There is the Scriptural enumeration—Famine, Pestilence, and the Sword. Assuredly, it is to none of thes••:for instead of famine, it is repletion of which some of us complain; and instead of feeling the sword of others, it is our sword which has been at work upon them.

What then is—or what can be, the cause? What every body complains of, is poverty. This is the evil. But of the production of this evil we defy the sons of Adam to discover any other cause than the following: namely, the destruction of the national property by the Government, and in some, though a far inferior, degree, the derangements of business by the war. How can it be imagined that the enormous, the unheard of, the incredible expenditure to which this nation has been subjected by the operations of Government, should not have produced the effects which we behold, which we lament, and under which the nation languishes and mourns? The wonder is, not that it has produced such effects, but that it has not produced them in still greater measure, and at a much earlier period. The miracle is, that the productive powers of the country have been so longiable to keep pace with the destructive powers of Government; have been so long able to save the nation from feeling the stings of increasing poverty, notwithstanding the immense and increasing mass of property which the Government annually consumed! During a period of scarcely twenty-five years, the Government has actually expended more than one thousand nine hundred millions sterling! Only think of one thousand nine hundred millions abstracted from the property of this people, in the course of twentyfive years; and wonder at their poverty if you can! Only think of the virtue and industry of this people having created, in the course of twenty-five years, one thousand nine hundred Million* f>f property, to be taken from them! to be consumed by •then, and not by themselves! a property for which they laboured, but with which they were allowed neither to increase their riches, nor add to their enjoyments! excepting as far as the pleasures and profits of war extended. These ure the compensation '. These, we hope, the nation will duly appreciate! In these we are to look for our return! Our people suffer; the means of employment are diminished; that is, part of our capital is lost; we are tortured by all the miseries of a people dropping into want. But, on the other hand, we have to look at the pleasures and benefits of the war; of a twenty-five years' war. Let them not be forgotten. Let the due value of them, never, never be overlooked. May the Great Director of minds guide this people to a true estimate of their gains by the recent war! From what endless iiiis.-ri:-s4i: future might our country then be redeemed!

Having pointed out a cause surely adequate to the lamented effect, having pointed out the only cause which can with a shadow of re.ison be assigned, we leave it to the reflections of our readers, (it surely deserves the serious reflections of us all,) and pass to the next inquiry, on which also we have little power to enlarge; namely, what is the remedy most applicable to the alarming disease?

We might, with firm confidence, in the first place, declare a number of things which are not the remedy. A standing army of one hundred and fifty thousand men in time of peace, or of one half of that number, is no remedy for a nation diseased by exhaustion. An expense, exclusive of army, navy, and ordnance, of little less than'four millions per annum by Government at home, is not a cure for the diseases of a nation reduced to wretchedness by tasation and loans.

The remedy must be found in the very opposite of all this. If a man is brought to the point of death by excessive bleeding, cease the destructive operation, and if the constitution is not too much impaired, it will recover itself. If the nation is reduced to poverty and distress, by the excessive expenditure of Government, put an end to that ruinous procedure, and the nation is not yet so impaired as not soon to re-attain its prosperity and happiness. Nor is it enough, that this little item, and that little item, should be retrenched, while the great body of the thing remains entire. The great body of the expense should fix the attention of the nation. It is the size of the mass that proves the nature of the power by which it is aggregated, and the effects which it cannot fail to produce. It is the body of the thing, the mass, in its totality, that must be taken in hand, and dealt with neither faintly nor treacherously. Government ought to be no longer a source of impoverishment to the nation; a great instrument to destroy property, as fast as it is created; and however the nation may toil and produce, keep it always needy, always

« ForrigeFortsett »