Joseph Lowe.

The present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France online

. (page 21 of 40)
Online LibraryJoseph LoweThe present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France → online text (page 21 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The calculation in regard to

the A'alue of money is now

reversed, prices having

fallen, or, in other words

money having risen in value

between 1814 and 1823,

nearly 30 per cent. Still

it is about 30 per cent.

lower than in 1792, so that

the last mentioned sum

209,000,000/. money of

1792), is equal in the cur-
rency of 1822, to about 270,000,000
A sum not materially different

from the amount of the

table • of taxable income

contained in p. 258.

its Increase since 17 9^^'


Our next object is to inti'oduce our burdens
into this comparative table, and to calculate their
proportion at ditierent periods to our revenue.

Statement of our Public Burdens and National
Revenue, calculated for distinct Periods. The
Public Burdens include Taxes {before deducting
the Ed'pence (f Collection), Poor-rate, and Tithe.

Great Britain distinct from Ireland.



Public Burdens.


Our National Re-
venue or Taxable



Proportion of Bur-
den to Revenue.

nearly 18 to 100
27 to 100
27 to 100

Great Britain and Ireland, {see Appendix, p. [85].)
1823 I 64,000,000 | 260,000,000 | 25 to 100

That we may divest tins statement of the in-
tricacies attendant on the difference in the value
of money at different periods, we subjoin a table,
in winch the sums on both sides are reduced to a
common standard, viz. the money of 1792.

Great Britain distinct lioni Ireland.



Public Bur-
dens, in I^Ioney
of 1792.


Our National Re-
venue or Taxable
Income in Money
of 1792.


Proportion of Bur-
dens to Revenue.

nearly 18 to 100
27 to 100
27 to 100

Great Britain and Ireland, [see Appendix, p. [85].)
1823 I 50,000,000 1 200,000,000 1 25 to 100

The reduction to a common standard is useliil
in several respects, particularly in correcting the
exaggerated estimate, which, during the wai-, we


National Rcve7iuc

were iiccustomed to make of botli our burdens and
our resources.

France; her National Income. — We conclude
our chapter by a brief" parallel between this country
and her most powerful neighbour. The national
income, by which we mean the aggregate of indi-
vidual income, is, in one sense, somewhat greater
in France than in this country ; but in regard to
the portion of it that is taxable, the advantage
will be found on our side, in consequence, chiefly,
of our greater town-population : thus,

Comparative Sketch oj' National Income expended
on taxed Articles,

Great Britain



France, after

adding to the

actual receipts

20 per cent, for

the greater value

of money.

Rent of land and farmer's profit at

peace prices.

Rent of houses . - - -
Income arising from commerce,
manufactures, and professions,
as far as such are of 50/. and up-
wards; also income from mines,
docks, canals, tolls, &c.
Small incomes (below 50/.) and
wages of all accustomed to con-
sume taxed articles, as beer,
tea, sugar, tobacco, in England ;
or wine, cyder, tobacco, sugar,
coffee, in France.









Together -197,000,000 206,000,000
Such is the amount of income' \

arising from the land and labour of|
either country. To this we now
make an addition of great import-
ance as a source of taxation, what-]

Parallel wit// France.


1 France, after

_, . . adding to the
Great Britain ^^^^^^ ^^^-^^^^

and 2Q p^^ ^.^^^^ f^^
Ireland. ^^^^ greater value
of money.

Brought forward
ever may be thought of it as a
constituent of national wealth.
Income from money in the public
funds, or lent on private secu-

Received from government, dis-
tinct from the interest of the
public debt ; viz. the pay of
the army, the navy, the public
offices, the civil list, the miscel-
laneous services, after allowing
for the late reductions

Total taxable income * - -





265,000,000 250,000,000

* Any discrepancies between this column and that in page 25, arise from
the latter exhibiting the returns of Great Britain distinct from Ireland.

Wages. — To put the two countries so nearly on
a par in regard to wages, may seem hardly fair
towards France, su])eric)r as that country is in po-
pulation, and reduced as wages in some measiu'e
have been, and are likely to be among us. But in
a calculation of national revenue, the magnitude
of the po})ulation of France ought, in a great
measure, to be kept in the back ground, many
millions being cottagers, who, as in Ireland, do
little more than maintain themselves on their })etty
occupancies, consuming few articles productive to
the exchequer, and adding little to the national
strength, otherwise than by recruits foi- the mi-
litary service. Wages are highest among a town-
})opulation, in which England takes greatly the
lead. Add to this, that in all Catholic countries
there is a considerable loss of wages from holidays.

'27^ National Revenue ; — Parallel mlli France.

Rent of Houses. — In this respect, France was
formerly entitled to rank before us ; but houses in
a riual district yield very Httle rent ; and while
French towns arc comparatively stationary, ours
have been and continue in a. state of rapid in-

Comparative Prospects ofEnglnnd and France. —
This interesting question shall be discussed at
considerable length in our chapter on Finance,


CHAP. rx.

Effect of the late Wars on Propertt/, individual
and national.

1 HE researches we have already had occasion to
make in regard to our agriculture and national
revenue, prepare us, in a considerable degree, for
the farther and more comprehensive enquiry to
which this chapter is appropriated. In the invest-
igations connected with it, we shall studiously
avoid discussing the policy or impolicy of our great
contest ; the practicability of avoiding it in the
outset, or of terminating it in an earlier stage. We
shall avoid, in like manner, any parallel between
the magnitude of our sacrifices on one hand, and
the benefit resultin; on the other from restorino
the equilibrium of the Continent. Nothing, in-
deed, would be more hopeless than an attempt to
produce any thing like uniformity of opinion on
such a subject. The oppositionist, in his review
of the events of the last thirty years, takes littft*
account of the danger that arose afler 1795, from
the aggrandizing spirit of the French govern
ment; nor, while urging, and urging jusUy, tiie
insignificance to us of most causes of continental
quarrel, does he make due allowance lor the im-
portance of the Netherlands, and the alarming ad-
dition whicii their possession made to the power
of France. The ministerialist, on the other hand,
is equally confident and indiscriminating, making


'^7'!' E(](rl of fhr Idle IVars oji Propcrl/f,

no ailmissioM of the occasions on wliicli (as in 179^^^
iind I8O7) onr government acted an aggressive
part, and justifying the attack on Copenhagen as
he wonhl the defence ol" Spain. From tiie delu-
sion that the war was a source of permanent wealth,
we now begin to be awakened ; but, in otiier re-
spects, we are yet far distant from the time when
the public shall be enabled to view the transactions
of this eventful age with the calmness of historical
enquiry. It will be for a succeeding generation to
appreciate, on the one hand, the ferment produced
by the French Revolution ; on the other, the
course by which our political guides, had they
been aware of the little dependence to be placed
on foreign allies, and of the aid to be derived for
the maintenance of order from the upper and mid-
dle classes at home, might have endeavoured to
conduct our affairs during the period of alarm.
The hazardous alternati\'e of an appeal to arms
would probably have been avoided, had our coun-
cils been guided by a Burleigh or a Walpole ; or
had he who was placed at our helm in those critical
times, been of an age to derive from personal re-
flection and experience that knowledge in which
he was necessarily deficient, and the want of whicli
was so feebly supplied by the coadjutors witli
whom our system of parliamentary influence
obliges a minister to become connected.

Political Economists, — The discrepancy that
prevails among politicians is equally remarkable
among political economists. To the follower of
Smith and Say, all war seems impolitic and unne-
cessary ; in his eyes, the whole of military array,
the training, equipping, and maintaining of fleets
and armies, is an absolute sacrifice, the loss of the

Individual and National. QJ5

labour of the most valuable part of our population.
It is with great diHiculty that he can be brought to
allow that war brings with it even a temporary
aliment to its consuming powers. Mr. Say, the
political economist of France, after visiting this
country in the first year of peace, published the
following remarks.

" Ministers and public men in England are as
yet, (he wrote with reference to our ministry of
I8O7), far from having a just sense of the folly
and ruinous tendency of war : their progress
has not kept pace with the progress of the nation.
The misfortunes of England take their rise in the
higher regions, like the hail and the tempest : her
blessings spring from beneath, like the fruits of an
inexhaustible soil. The taxes have not only
doubled, but tripled since 1792 j and still the war
expenditure greatly exceeded their amount. The
consequence is, an enormous enhancement of
prices ; mercantile men are obliged to do business
on very slender profits, and what is still worse,
many of the manufactured articles aj*e sadly fallen
from their former reputation. My French readers,**
he adds, " will be surprized to find in my pages
an opinion so much at variance with the current
notion that England is the land for the easy and
ra])id attainment of fortune ; but the reality is
widely different from the appearance."

A very different picture of the effect of war is
given by Mr. 8. Gray, to whom we have so fre-
quently referred in our chapter on population, and
who came several years ago before the public, as the
author of a system bearing the emphatic name of
" productive." The pages in which that doctrine
is recommended to the world, contain a number
of arguments on tlic connexion between govern-

276 Fifjict of flic late IVars on ProjK-rti/,

mcMit expenditure and the increase of individual
income, taxes being considered hy Mr. Gray in
the Hght of useful stimulants to our national in-
dustry. He has the merit of detecting several
imperfections in Dr. Smith's definition of product-
ive and unproductive labour; but in reasoning on
our war expenditure, he evidently fails to distin-
guish between a temporary and a lasting excite-
ment, and assumes, from the circulation of money
raised by loans and taxes, as much advantage as
if war prices were necessarily permanent, and as
if, on concluding peace, we could consider our-
selves exempt from the frightful reaction experi-
enced during the last nine years.

To these opposite authorities, each tending in
some degree to an extreme, we add the observ-
ations of a third writer.

" Notwithstanding the immense expenditure of the Enghsh
government during the late wars, there can be Httle doubt but
that the increased production on the part of the people has
more than compensated for it. The national capital has not
merely been unimpaired, it has been greatly increased ; and
the annual revenue of the people, even after the payment of
their taxes, is probably greater at the present time than at
any former period of our history. For the proof of this, we
might refer to the increase of population, — to the extension
of agriculture, — to the increase of shipping and manufactures,
— to the building of docks, — to the opening of numerous
canals, as well as to many other expensive undertakings; —
all denoting an increase both of capital and of annual produc-
tion." {Ricardo on Political Economi/, second Edition, p. 170.)

This passage presents, perhaps, too favourable a
a view of our situation ; and ought, before we can
receive it as a true picture, to be accompanied
by two admissions. First, that though our na-
tional income has increased, our burdens have aug-
mented in a still greater ratio ; and, secondly, that
in any estimate of our wealth expressed in money

Individual and National. '^77

in the present day, a considerable deduction is to
be made from an estimate in 179^, on account of
the inferior \a\\\q of money. It is fair, however,
to add, that this passage was written at a time
(1816) when the fall of prices was only beginning,
and w^hen we were unable to calculate the extent
of fluctuation and loss arising from the war.
Since then, seven eventful years have elapsed,
and have disclosed a succession of circumstances
beyond the reach of foresight, but replete with in-
struction when examined in the order of their oc-
currence. With this advantage, we now follow
up the enquiry, and instead of reasoning in general
terms, like the writers we have quoted, we shall
endeavour to build on a secure foundation, and
proceed, as in our preceding chapters, by a series
of calculations and specific results. Our arrange-
ment shall be as follows :

Losses incurred during the prosecution of the

Losses attendant on the transition from war to

Comparative amount of our national income
in war and peace.

Have our public men understood our financial
situation ?

Losses io our produclivc Indus/ny on a Trans-
ttionfrom Peace to JVar. — Tliese losses, unknown
in a great measure to the younger part of the pre-
sent generation, will long live in the recollection
of those who are of an as:e to remember the bank-
ruptcies of 1793. These pervaded eciiially our
commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural inte-
rests, and affected almost all whose undertakings


278 EtP^c^ '.'/ '^'^ '^'^^ IVars on Properlj/,

were not supported by snl)stantial capital. To
frhat was a pressure so general to be ascribed ? To
the sudden and extensive change that took place ;
to a demand on the part of government for men
and money ; and to the consequent necessity of
abandoning various undertakings, the profit of
which, ahnost always less than is vulgarly imag-
ined, could be made to answer only by the aid of
a low rate of interest and moderate price of labour.
Ih these days, as at present, our countrymen were
speculative, eager to embark on new enterprises,
and apt to trust to prospective advantages for those
means of providing for payments which their
limited capital did not afibrd. This sanguine dis-
position may be termed the great feature that dis-
tinguishes our countrymen and the North Ameri-
cans from the traders and agriculturists of the
continent of Europe, among whom the same oc-
cupation is so often followed from father to son,
with little idea of change or attempt at extension.
But our spirit of enterprise, however favourable
to discovery and improvement, is necessarily at-
tended by a revolution in the circumstances of
individuals on the occurrence of any political
change. The blow first strikes establishments of
the most adventurous character, and goes on to
involve others injured by the failure of the first,
and possessing, like them, few resoiu"ces against an
unforeseen demand. Embarrassments of this de-
scription were felt chiefly in the first and second
years of the war, during the interval that luiavoid-
ably elapsed before the capital and labour dis-
turbed in their employment by the war, could
receive a new direction, and be invested anew in a
productive form.

Individual and National. 279

From this almost tbrgottcii tlieme, we proceed
to a part of the subject much more familiar to the
majority of our readers; to au

Estimate of the Burden arising from Government Expenditure
during the War.

Interest of the debt contracted during the war,
after allowing for the reduction of the 5 per
cents. - . - . . €22,000,000

The annual amount of half-pay and pensions in
the army, navj', and civil service, arising from
the war, is at present (1823), about 4-,5()0,0(K)/. ;
but consisting almost all of life annuities, may
be computed equal to a permanent burden of - 2,000,000

Exclusive of this, the expence of our army and
navy is very greatly augmented since 1792,
partly from the extension of our foreign pos-
sessions, partly from causes unconnected with
the war, such as the increase of our population,
and the necessity of enforcing the collection of
the revenue in Ireland. As yet the charge of
our army and navy (distinct from half-pay and
pensions), exceeds that of 1792 by 6,000,000/.,
but from the prospect of continued peace, and
the general fall of prices, we may anticipate a
farther eventual reduction of 1,000,000/. Of
the remaining 5,000,000/., we put to the ac-
count of the war, somewhat more than half,
viz. . . . - - 3,000,000

Add, for increase of the civil list, salaries, pen-
sions in consequence of the war and of the rise
caused by it in prices - - - 2,()()0,()00

Other war charges not enumerated - - 1,000,000

Total . - C 30,000,000

Such is the amount of burden arisini:; from our
war expenditure; lui})pily, however, there are al-
leviating considerations.

r 4

li.SO iljfci/ of I he lalv H'cirs on l*roprr/i/.

Deductions from our apparent Burdens.

Tadation of other Countries. — It is in some re-
spects a matter of little difficulty to understand
the financial relief \vhicl» we have in prospect ;
such, for example, as the decrease in our half-pay
and pensions, ejther by the occurrence of deaths,
or a transfer for long annuities ; but the case may
not be quite so clear in regard to a deduction of
another kind, we mean that which arises from a
** community of the pressure of taxation on the civi-
lized world at large.'* Yet, however real our Idsses
from the war, however inferior our national wealth
to what it would have been, had peace been unin-
terrupted, we cannot be said to have incurretl ab-
solute injury, or to labour under any permanent
disadvantage, in as far as similar burdens have
been imposed on those who are our competitors
in the career of productive industry. This, we
say, though perfectly aware of the folly of the doc-
trine that one nation gains by impoverishing an-
other. Our argument, when attentively examined,
will be found to rest on a very different basis :
war, at all times a losing game, would be doubly
so, w^ere our opponents to escape a participation
in the pecuniary pressure ; our productive labour-
ers would soon emigrate, and pursue their industry
in untaxed countries. To brinsf our ars^ument to
a point : if in England tlie late wars ha\'e increased
the proportion of burden to income by twelve
per cent., and if in France, Germany, or the
Netherlands, the comparative increase be five or
six per cent., our loss, serious as it is, can hardJy
be considered as exceeding the difierence *, we


Individual and Naliunal. t^81

mean that in whatever regards tiie liazard of rival-
ship, or the injury from foreign] competition, our
disadvantage is limited to the extra six or seven
per cent.

Ou7^ War Todies. — Our next modification of our
losses is also of a very extensive character, though
it does not happen to form a deduction from the
preceding table. It comprises no less than the
lurger portion of the mm raised bij "jcar tojces^ which,
though (see Chapter II. p. 24.) of very great
amount, we are disposed to consider as defrayed
out of the extra profits of a state of war ; so largely
were the gains of the public, whether in the shape
of interest, salary, wages, or profit of stock, in-
creased by the circulation of the money raised by
our loans. In making this great allowance, we are
perfectly aware that in many cases, particularly after
oiu' unfortunate Orders in Council, our merchants
and manufacturers paid their taxes, as our farmers
at present pay their rent, not from income but f ironi
capital. We are aware, also, that the resources
which supplied our war taxes were, in a great mea-
sure, temporary, and of a natiue to disap})ear with
the stimulus that excited them : but our estimate
is confined to the years of war ; and we arc pro-
bably justified, on considering all circumstances, in
making the preceding deduction, important as it is.

Public Works, such as Canals, Roads, and Bridges,
— These, however commendable in the intention,
are expedient as undertakings only when the
returns are such as to afford a fair interest for the
capital invested. From the high price of labour
and materials in the latter })art of the war, most
speculations of the kind, such tor example as the
new bridges of the metro))olis, wcic attended with

'282 I']lF'cf o/'t^ii' ^(if^- IVars on V roper tij,

a far greater cliarge than if they had been post-
poned and executed in peace. The same holds in
regard to our agriculture, in which a large share of
the outlay was incurred on the assumption of high
prices. Even in the case of our manufacturing
machinery, a part erected when labour was high, is
no longer necessary or profitable, now that labour
is reduced. Still, a great part of such loss is merely
in appearance, and resolves itself into the different
value of money: the canal share, which, in 1813,
cost 100/., may be said to indemnify its owner, if it
at present fetches y^/., because that sum is at pre-
sent equal in the power of purchase to the 100/. of
1813. Such investments of property involve an
absolute loss only, in as far as they fall below tliat
proportion, a case at present unfortunately loo

Tithe. — This portion of our burdens is difJerent,
in several respects, from general taxation. Its
amount, as expressed in money, increased sur-
prisingly during the war, in consequence of two
causes, — the enhancement of produce, and tlie
extended cultivation attendant on the increase of
our numbers. How far did the payment of this
increased amount prove of detriment to our re-
sources ? It was defrayed by that portion of the
community, who, so long as the war lasted, were
most able to defray their burdens. On the public
at large, its pressure was not apparent ; in an indi-
rect sense, however, that pressure was great, for
tithe operated as an obstacle to ctdiiration^ and
greatly restricted the amount of our produce, at a
time when it would have been most desirable to
increase it.

Poor-Rate. — In tliis respect, the estimate of

Individual ami National, 283

burden during the late wars is subject to consider-
able qualification. The increase of the rate having
been as great in agricultural as in manufacturing
districts, although in the former, work was, all
along, abundant, the inference is, that the rise
was, in a great measure, iiominaly and would other-
wise have been paid in the shape of wages. Add
to this the decrease of rates in tlie last and present
year, with the probability of a progressive diminu-
tion, and we shall find that the portion of burden
attributable to the war is by no means so great as
might be inferred from the numerical statements
of the poor-rate.

The National Debt. — After all these allowances,
it may be incumbent on us to answer the question,
whether we *' consider our national debt as forming
an actual loss, an absolute addition to our public
burdens?'* This question, idle in the view of the
attentive enquirer, is by no means superfluous in
regard to the cursory observer, to those who im-
agine our debt a property which, without the war,
would have had no existence, a responsibility of
little importance because due among ourselves.
All such notions we entreat our readers to dismiss
from their minds, and to consider our debt as not
less real for being due to our countrymen. It is the
record of money expended, gone for ever; and
involving, as far as our burdens exceed those of
other countries, a series of disadvantages. Had
we had no war, the capital and labour that has led
to the formation of our debt would not have been
unemployed ; it would have been put in activity
by other causes, and received its increase in a dif-
ferent form. The product, we allow, would, j)r{).
bably, have been smaller, because the ratio of in-

Online LibraryJoseph LoweThe present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France → online text (page 21 of 40)