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United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland,
AT THE PEACE OF PARIS, NOVEMBER 20, 1815.
BY GEORGE CHALMERS, F. R. S. S. A.
AFTER so violent a convulsion in Europe, with its natural effects, a war of two and twenty years' continuance, it is a very reasonable wish, to inquire what has been its real consequences to Great Britain and Ireland, in the genuine sources of their energies, and their wealth.
I.—Of the Peofile.
In every inquiry of this kind, the people are the chief object: whether they have increased, or diminished, throughout so long a struggle, is a question of great importance. During the war of , 1756, it was disputed, between Brakenridge and Foster, whether the people had increased, or diminished, and what was their amount? but without any decision. During the colonial war, Doctor Price revived the same question; but he was more successfully opposed; he insisted, that there could not be more than 5,000,000 of inhabitants in England and Wales: his opponents showed, from very sufficient documents, that there were, in England and Wales, upwards of 8,447,000 souls. These contrarféties of opinion were at length settled by the parliamentary enumeration of 1801, which, in opposition to the doctrine of Dr. Price, found in England and Wales 9,340,000 souls: but did the population con
tinue to increase during the subsequent war? Yes; as the people had continued to multiply during the wars of 1756 and 1776, so did
they multiply during the war of
1803; for the parliamentary enumeration of 1811, found, in England and Wales, 10,150,615. The state of the inhabitants of Scotland, at successive periods, gives the same result: in 1801 the enumeration found 1,618,303 souls in that country; the enumeration of 1811 found 1,805,000. The same observation equally applies to Ireland: the population of Ireland, when the Union was formed, in 1800, was supposed to be 4,000,000; by the late imperfect enumeration, in 1814, it appeared that Ireland contained near 6,000,000 of people. It is a fact, then, that the people of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland have increased, during the late long wars, to 17,208,918 souls, and continue to increase and multiply.
II.-Of the domestic enterfirizes of the Peofile of the United Kingdoms. The best evidence of those enterprizes, together with their extent, and of their increase, is the Journals of Parliament. From this record, we know how many Acts of Parliament have passed, session after session, for making local improvements of every kind, during the last thirty years, of which there have been so many periods of distressful hostilities. .Acts. In the first period of eight years, when the peace ended in 1792, and the first war began, there were passed, of Acts of Parliament, for local improvements - In the subsequent period of war, which ended with 1801, the number of such laws, for such local improvements, amounted to - - 1,124 In the eight years ending with 1814, the number of such laws amounted to - 1,632
These enumerations evince clearly three points: the first, that the energy and enterprize of the people continued to increase, without interruption, during those long periods of warfare; secondly, that the people, making those local improvements, turned their energies upon the improvement of their several districts; and thirdly, that the undertakers of those vast enterprizes found the means, and money, to carry them into effect, in their own industry, their reproductions, and consequent wealth. Ireland, in the mean time, has had her full share of those domestic improvements.
III.-Of the Agriculture of the United Kingdom.
During the present reign, at least 3,500,000 acres of waste, or common land, have been inclosed, and brought into tilth. Of those local improvements, there were 1,591 Acts of Parliament passed, for dividing common lands, for draining wet lands, and for inclos.ing open lands: those facts alone demonstrate, that the United Kingdom has been much improved in its surface, during the last
thirty years; and, consequently, is much more valuable, as a collection of farms. A Board of Agriculture was meantime established, for ascertaining the state of husbandry in every district; for energizing the husbandmen; for instructing all those who are connected with lands: their reports evince a very improving agriculture every where, within the kingdom; and a very active spirit of . improvement, upon better principles, appears to have gone forth in all parts of our country: hence, by a necessary progress, the body of the people, either as land-owners, or occupiers, became more skilful, more enterprizing, and more opulent; of consequence there was more land cultivated, with more knowledge, and more capital: so that from more cultivation, more skill and more capital, thus employed in agriculture, there were more of the products of land brought, every season, to market, from an improved husbandry, at home. But, since the demands of war have ceased, the prices of those products have fallen: this is a natural consequence; as price is always settled by the vibrations of supply and demand; the supply being greater, and the demand less, the prices must necessarily be less. Outcries have arisen in the country, as if our whole agriculture were ruined. Those outcries merely arise from the mutual complaints of landlord and tenant; of those landlords and tenants, who entered into improvi dent contracts during the war: there is neither outcry, nor complaint, in those districts where the landlords did not raise their
rents, during the war, when it was idly supposed that rents would rise, without limita
tion. It does not, however, belong to my inquiry, to enter with
in the verge of those outcries and complaints. l have demonstrated what I undertook to prove, that the United Kingdom is infinitely better improved, than it ever was before; and of consequence would sell for more: that the lands are every where cultivated with more skill and capital, with more enterprize and labour; and of consequence must produce much moe than they ever did before: it is thus apparent, that our agriculture has prospered greatly, during those long wars.
IV.-Qfour Foreign Trade. The next object of inquiry, is, whether our commerce has kept pace with the progress of our agriculture, during our long enduring wars. The average of the three years 1755-56-57, shews the amount of the value of our exports, when the war of 1756 began, to have been, - L. 12,371,552 The value of the exports, when the war of 1793 began, appears, from the average of three years 1793-4-5, to have been - The value of the exports when the war of 1803 began, will appear, from a three years average, ending with 1805, to have been - The greatest year of exports, during the war, was that of 1809; amounting to But this vast amount was far surpassed by that of 1814, amounting to
From the Custom-house accounts, which have been made up
to the 10th of October, 1815, there is reason to believe, that the exports of 1815 have even surpassed the vast export of the preceding year. Such, then, was the prodigious augmentation of the foreign trade of Great Britain; while the British traders, owing to their capital and enterprize, and to the protection of the British fleets, in some measure engrossed the whole traffic of the commercial world; though the nation was embarrassed, but not obstructed, by the great demands, and smaller supplies of bullion, owing chiefly to the convulsions of the American countries, and the continental system. 2dly. With regard to the trade of Ireland:— The value of the whole ex
ports of Ireland in 1701 L.
was only - - - 779, 109 In 175 1 - - - 1,854,605 In 1801 - - - 4, 100,526 In 1809 - - - 5,739,843 In 1814 - - - 7, 139,437
Now, it is quite evident to all, who are capable of reasoning on such subjects, that it required, both in Ireland and in Britain, more people and industry, more capital and enterprize, to export the cargoes of 1809 and 1814 from both, than the cargoes of 1801 and of 1751; and, whence did Great Britain and Ireland derive all those augmentations of enterprize and capital, of industry and people? The answer must be; from their own powers of reproduction, under a happy constitution, and a mild government.
V. The fifth object of inquiry must be with regard to the shipping, which were necessary for export. ing those vast cargoes:—
changes, and the collateral questions, arising from these enigmatical topics. What I published in 1811, on those litigated topics at that period, I see no reason to change: what I wrote was derived from the experience of the commercial world, and from the practice of daily business: what I then foretold, has actually occurred. I then said, that what had happened before, as to the price of bullion, and the fluctuation of exchanges, would again happen, when the commercial pressures of the continental system were removed. That system, and its author, are both undone for ever. Commerce, and exchanges, have already begun to run in their usual channels. The exchanges have become favourable; and the prices of bullion have fallen to five per cent. above the mint price of 31, 17s. 10}d. though the countries of bullion are agitated with desires of independence. In another country of agitations, the exchanges are, indeed, unfavourable, owing to the decline of prices, in all the products of agriculture. I do not learn that the Doctors in Political Economy have any other prescription for such a disorder, which is not unfrequent in Ireland, than patient perseverance in well doing.
VIII.-Of the Finances of the Country.
While the inhabitants of the United Kingdom appear to possess in a greater degree than formerly, all the enjoyments of a free, intelligent, and enterprizing people, is not the St ATE much embarrassed with debts? Yes: every war, since that of the Revolution in 1688, has left the public more and more in debt. When all those several debts of successive wars were sumwas found to be due, by the public, of 238,231,248l. Mr. Pitt, who then, happily, conducted the affairs of this country, not only made the annual income quite equal to the national expenditure; but, provided a sinking fund of a million, for the gradual payment of that debt. The Parliament, who effected his measures of finance, and the people, who heartily concurred with both, have covered themselves with glory. The sinking fund was strengthened by annual grants of money: it was energized by various measures of finance; and the sinking fund, as its management had been wisely established, was providently applied to its real object; so that before December, 1813, the whole of that vast debt was completely paid off, and a surplus remaining in hand of 20,000,000l. Here, then, is an example of a very large debt being paid off, by a sinking fund, when conducted under prudent management; and this example is one of the resources of the State. After liquidating that debt, and sustaining the public credit, throughout the pressures of such a war against the nation, and its commerce, there remaincd, on the 1st of February, 1815, a sinking fund of 11,324,760l. the sheet-anchor of the State. But the war of 1793, as it was the longest, and conducted on the largest scale, having other nations to sustain, has involved the State in larger debts than all our former wars had created. The public, on the 1st of February, 1815, owed a funded L. debt of - - - 649,076,905 And an unfunded debt of - - - - 68,580,524
med up, in January 1786, a debt.I.
Another resource of the State is, the clearness wherewith the public accounts are stated, and the publicity which is given to the incumbrances, and means of the community.
The people of the United Kingdom, during the reign of king William, could not have moved under the weight of such incumbrances. But, the much more numerous people of the present times, who are better instructed and usefully employed, with an agriculture infinitely superior, with manufactures vastly more extensive and profitable, with a foreign trade, and shipping, beyond all comparison greater, move with ease under such incumbrances. We have seen with what facility, notwithstanding the pressures of war, the people executed such numerous and various works, for the local improvements of their country, which, considering their vastness and utility, emulate the Roman labours: hence we may infer,