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

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port, experienced, during several years, a great de-
crease at home, from the cessation of government
purchases, and an overstock of hands from the dis-
charge and non-enlistment of men for the armv
and militia. Among the liberal professions, the
medical suffered a direct surcharge from an obvious
cause : the same held in regard to the civil service
of government, and if in the law and the church,
the overstock has been less rapid, it has not been
the less certain, so nuich does stagnation of demand
in any of the great departments affect the com-
munity at large.

Oitr pahi/c Burdens ; their caviparatire Pressure
in War and Peace. — Since the peace, the numeri-
cal amount of our burdens has been considerably
diminished, the repeal of the property-tax, along
with the reduction of the duties on malt, salt, and
leather, ha\ ing formed (previously to the reduction
of the assessed taxes) a dimiiiulion of nearly
2(),000,()(K)/. This sum, howevi-r, large as it is,
has been balanced, or nearly balanced, by the ri>e

300 IW^ct (ftfie late Wars on Projyertt/y

in the value of money; the 65,000,0(XJ/. which we
have paid annually since the peace, having formed
an amount of equal value with the 80 or 85,000,000/.
paid at the close of the war. There was thus no real
reduction of our burdens until the present year,
and, unfortunately, from the evils of transition,
from the sudden diminution in the income of par-
ticular classes, our taxes have been found a burden
of greater pressure since the peace, than during the

Effect on our Public Debt of the Rise in the Value
of Money. — We come now to the circumstance in
the series of our transitions, whicli, more than any
other, has contributed to increase the burden of
our taxes. To comprehend this fully, the reader
should bear in mind, that government stands per-
manently in the capacity of a debtor; that its respon-
sibility is represented not in land, houses, or what
is technically termed real property, but in money ;
and that whatever raises the value of money,
increases the pressure of its debt. During the
long depreciation of money attendant on the war,
the payment of 9 or 10,000,000/. of interest, at the
Treasury, required no gi'eater drain on the national
resources, than the payment of 7 or 8,000,000/.
previous to 1793. This fact, long known to our
finance ministers, formed during a time the basis
of very confident calculations ; so long as high
prices were kept up, so long did our leading men
at tlie Treasury and in Parliament imagine, that
the pressure of the debt contracted during the
war, would be alleviated by the continued deprecia-
tion of money. At the peace, indeed, a degree
of re-action or rise in the value of money was
anticipated; but in the opinion of the public,
as of go%^erament, that re-action was likely to

Individual and National. ,'301

be slight. Had such proved the case ; had the
price of com been kept up both liere and on
the Continent, the evils of transition would have
been comparatively slight, and our national bur-
dens would have been less severely felt. Their
pressure would ha\'e gradually decreased as our
numbers augmented, and we might have con-
sidered the expence of the contest as in a great
measure liquidated from two sources, — the extra
profits of labour and capital which had supplied
our war taxes, and the depreciation of that money
debt, which represented the undischarged burden.
But all such calculations were disappointed : re-
action took place on a large scale ; and without
experiencing any direct increase of charge, the
public were subjected to serious embarrassment
from the general diminution of the sums paid for
rent, salaries, wages, in short, for almost every
thing except the income of annuitants.

Has this increase of burden been accompanied
by any circumstances of alleviation ? In })rivate
life we have for some time experienced relief from
the reduction of our exi)enditure ; but what is tiie
situation of government ? It feels the pressure on
more than two-thirds of its disburse ; the benefit
on less than one-third. The former consist of
interest of debt, military and naval pay, pensions,
half-pay, sahiries, and retirement allowances, all of
a fixed amount in money, and all virtually iiicreascd
as the price of commodities has fallen. On the
other hand, a reduction of government charge
from the fall of prices, was, till very latel}', ex))e-
rienced only in the victualling of our navy, the
purchase of stores, and in a portion of the miscel-
laneous services.

These discoveries may be said to c:onstiUite the

30^^ yV/r- lali' Jl'ars ;

denoiiemcnl of the iiiyst(M*ioiis financial drama that
has been actinp,- chning- the last thirty years. Our
power of ])ccuniary contribution, so often and so
Joudly ascribed to generosity in the sacrifice of
our wealtli, may now be, in a great measure,
traced to causes of a huml)ler cliaractcr ; to an
increase of our productive industry, founded on
loans, and to a great, but temporary rise of prices.
Both of these remarkable features in our situation
were expected to be permanent ; but the I'ise of
prices lias disappeared, and to the extension of our
productive industry, circumstances were long un-
favourable. Add to this, that though from the
time of the overthrow of Bonaparte, the prospect of
continued peace produced a radical change in our
situation, our ministers w ere tardy in bringing for-
ward any measure of finance founded on that
change, or on the confidence with which we may
anticipate an increase of our wealth and numbers.
In fact, until the present year, we made little pro-
gress towards relief, unless we account as such a
more correct knowledge of our situation ; a dis-
covery of certain errors ; a perception of the tran-
sient nature of the aids on which we relied during
the first years of peace.

Have our public men, since 1793, undei'stood
our financial situation ? — After ascertaining the
existence of such general misapprehension, it is
impossible to avoid asking M'hether several impor-
tant circumstances in our situation and prospects
have not been unknown to our political guides.
Were they aware during the war, that the extension
of our productive industry was, in a great degree,

Conduct of our Public Men since 179o. 303

artificial, and must tlccline witli that government
expenditure whicli called it forth ? Looking to
the amount of the interest of our ])ublic debt, of
our pensions and othei* fixed payments, did they
or did they not foresee that, on the cessation of this
artificial stimulus, the natural course of circum-
stances would cause a rise in the value of money,
and a consequent increase of pressure ? To what
degree do these considerations affect the reputation
of Mr. Pitt, the leader in that course of j)olicy,
which, in a military sense, produced so brilliant a
result, — in a financial, so nnich embarrassment?
That Mr. Pitt was at first averse from the war
with France, is apparent, from several circum-
stances, whether we refer to the declaration of
respectable Avriters*, or to the undeniable fact,
that a state of war was altOi>'ether contrarv to his
])lans, for the reduction of our ])ublic burdens.
That, after the campaign of 1791' had disclosed
the weakness of our allies, and the strenj^th of
France, he lamented oiu- involving ourselves in the
contest, there seems little rcason to doubt : but
when the country was fairly engaged in it, and our
resources were called into full activity, it accorded
with his confident, and persevering character, to
maintain the struggle, in the hope of recovering
the Netherlands so unfortunately lost. Hence a
continuance of the contest, notwithstanding the
defection of our allies and the financial diflicnities
of 1797; hence those war taxes, which no odier
minister would have ventured to ])roj)ose, and
certainly no other would have succeeded in

* Nichols' Recollections of George HI. and .1. Allan's Bio-
graphical Sketch of Fox, in Napier's Supplement to the Ency-
clopaedia Hritannica. page ;J61.

3(H The late IVars ;

raising : hence also, our second attack on France
by the coalition of 1799.

But the perseverance of Mr. Pitt was not blind
persistency : on a renewed experience of the weak-
ness of our allies, on a proof of the sufferings of
the country from heavy taxation and deficient
harvests, he felt the expediency of peace, retired
from office to facilitate its conclusion, and gave it,
when not responsible for its conditions, a sanction
imequivocal and sincere. His ardour in 1803 for
the recommencement of war, admits of a less satis-
factory solution : it discovered much more the zeal
of a combatant, than the discretion of a senator ;
a disposition to sink the admonitory recollections of
our late struggle in ardour for a new contest. He
warned us once in Parliament of the magnitude of
the expense, and of the necessity of ])reparing our-
selves for sacrifices greater than before ; but his
caution was general and cursory, unaccompanied
by any private admonition to the inexperienced
ministry of the day, or any advice to delay hosti-
lities, until circumstances should give us an assu-
rance of co-operation on the part of the great
powers of the Continent. His last great measure,
the attack on France by the coalition of 1805,
was, doubtless, on the whole, injudicious, prepon-
derant as France then was in military strength, the
whole under the guidance of a single head. Still
it may be added t]iat it is by no means uncommon
with men of ability to fall into the miscalculation
made by Mr. Pitt on that occasion ; and to anti-
cipate, as a matter of course, judicious conduct on
the part of their coadjutors. Every impartial man
must allow, that it would have been carrying
mistrust to an extreme, to have apprehended the
commission of faults so gross as those which led to

Conduct ofourjmblic Men since 1793. 305

the disasters of" Ulm and Aiisterlitz. And those
who are surprised that a man of talent should
misplace his confidence, or should calculate on
others acting with the discrimination natural to
himself, will be at no loss to find similar examples
in the conduct of the most eminent men of the age:
in that of Lord Wellington, when he expected dis-
cretion from Blucher ; and in that of Bonaparte,
when he allowed the command of Spain to remain
in the hands of Jourdan ; or when, at a subsequent
date, he committed that of his main body at
AVaterloo, to Ney.

Since the distress that has followed the peace of
1814, it has been publicly said, that the embarrass-
ment likely to ensue to our productive industry
on the cessation of the war expenditure of govern-
ment, had not escaped the foresight of Mr. Pitt.
Such assertions are often made loosely and in-
accurately ; but the one in question seems to rest
on probable grounds. Mr. Pitt was no stranger
to the limited produce of our revenue in peace; he
had felt the financial difficulties of the first years
of the contest, and the surprising relief afforded
to the Treasury by the imposition of war taxes.
He could thus hardly fail to be aware that the
spring given to our national industry was, in a
great measure, artificial ; still less could he be un-
conscious of the ultimately injurious operation of
loans and taxes when carried to an extreme. Nor
is it incompatible with such impressions, that he
should for a time have overlooked the inferences
which they seem so naturally to suggest, and have
been hurried along by ardour in the contest, by an
earnestness to obtain a present advantige at the
hazard of a future burden. It is not when en-
gaged in the bustle of business, that the mind is

30C) The Uitc Wars ;

capable of reposing on itself, of meditating, pa-
tiently and impartially, the result of iavourite
measures. How few plans of remote operation,
of a nature that requires continued thought in the
combination or length of time in the execution,
originate with men in office ! Add to this that the
great evils of our financial system, the depreciation
of our bank paper, the extreme pressure of taxa-
tion took place not only after Mr. Pitt's death,
but, in some measure, in consequence of a devia-
tion from his principles. Never would he have
given his sanction to such a measure as our Orders
in council ; or if, for the sake of argument, we
suppose him to have been led, by urgency or by
plausible argument, to their adoption, will any one
maintain that he would have been likely to persist
in so absurd a course during four years, until it,
in a manner, drove the Americans to the alterna-
tive of war — a war carried on between us and
our best customers — a war in which it was appa-
rent that injury to our opponents must be almost
as pernicious to our national industry, as injury to

The responsibility of a great part of our exist-
ing biu'den, is thus transferred from j\Ir. Pitt to
his successors, of whose measures, in regard to
neutrals, from September, I8O7, to May, 181 !2, it
would be difficult to give a satisfactory explanation.
They imphed a total unconsciousness of the pre-
carious state of our paper currency, and, in regard
to trade, either a disavowal of principles generally ,
admitted, or a readiness to infringe those princi-
ples for temporary purposes — purposes that could
have no decisive effect on the result of the grand
struggle with France. In 1812 began a different
aera : our Orders in council were withdiawn ; peace


Conduct of our jmhlic Men since 1793. 307

was repeatedly offered to the United States of
America ; and, at a subsequent date, no harsh
treaty of commerce was imposed on France in the
day of her adversity. Add to this, that since the
peace, no attempt has been made to give a falla-
cious prop, ])y bounties or prohibitions, to any of
our suffering interests. Admirable rules of con-
duct these, and yet in regard to our finances, we
must repeat, that ministers have not been prompt
in rendering the national resources instrumental to
the national relief! Their fault appears to have
lain, not as is usual with governments, in inter-
fering with the course of productive industry, but
either in deficient foresight in regard to the changes
occurring in our situation, or in deficient vi-
gour in acting on such changes. Take for ex-
ample the rise in the value of money, a natural
consequence of a return to a pacific system,
and one which, with some temporary exceptions,
has been regularly gaining ground since 1814.
Would Mr. Pitt, had his life been prolonged, have
delayed until the ninth year of peace a reduction
of public salaries, an ada])tation of government
payments to the augmented value of the money
in which these payments were made ? Is it not more
likely that he would have long shice anticipated
the result of the general change, and have given,
in his own case, a decided example of what he
would have exacted from others? Farthcj-, is
it probable that in peace he would have adheied
blindly to the financial routine pursued during the
war, without attempting some measure, ibunded
on the circumstances that have predominated in
our situation since 1814, — the reducetl interest
of money, and the prospect of long continued peace,
in consequence of the conviction amuially gaining

X -2

.■^OS The Idle Wars ;

ground that a state of" war is as contrary to policy
as to humanity, and, from our growing power, far
less necessary for defence than when France was
so preponderant?

If ministers are open to the charge of deficient
vigour in finance, in what manner can tlie im])ar-
tial reasoner characterize the conduct of their })ar-
liamentary opponents ? On their part there existed
no motive for reserve, in regard to pubhc distress;
no dread of disseminating alarm, by the proposi-
tion of change ; yet the investigations of most of
the Opposition members have been confined to in-
sulated points, their objections to specific grants.
Where, in the long list of those who opposed the
war, did we find a speaker capable of giving the
House or the country a distinct conception of the
operation of our augmented expenditure ; of the
temporary nature of the activity caused by it dur-
ing war ; of the unfortunate re-action to be appre-
hended at a peace ? Where, on the part of those
who have combated the measures of ministers
since the peace, do we find a comprehensive view
of our national means, the suggestion of any mea-
sure of a new or of a general character, adapted
to our present circumstances ? To what shall we
ascribe this deficiency of resource, this scanty
measure of statistical knowledge on both sides of
the House ? To a cause to which we have owed
no small share of our political disappointments in
the present age — an education on the part of our
representatives very little suited to their functions
as men of business. This topic has a claim to our
attentive examination, for by nothing has the situ-
ation of the public during the present age, been
more materially affected.

Educalion of our public Men. 309

Education of our public iVf^w.— The course of
study followed m this country, in the case of young
men destined for public life, is remarkable as in-
dicative of the tenacity with whicli established
usages maintain their ground. Previous to the
17th century, the acquisition of Latin was indis-
pensable to a polite education, no modern language
being in these days a depository of elegant learn-
ing, or a received medium for the correspondence
of either men of letters or diplomatists. It is
thus tliat we are to account for the interchange of
voluminous epistles in Latin, between the scholars
of Italy, Germany, France, and England, as well
as for the study of the classical languages by fe-
males of rank, as was exemplified in the case of
Queen Elizabeth, of Lady Jane Grey, and of the
daughters of Sir Thomas More. The colleges
added in these days to our universities, were natu-
rally confined to the branches of literature famihar
to the founders ; and in no part of Euroj)e has this
limitation been more strictly maintained, or the
changes suggested by modern discoveries been
less adopted, tlian at Oxford and Cambridge, ii'
academical cliairs have been provided for cliemis-
try, for moral oj- for natural philosopliy, an ad-
herence to the established usage of these seminaries
has prevented their being generally attended, and
continues to confine the labours of our youth (o
mathematical and classical ])ursuits, to which alone,
are awarded honours at the public examinations.

The study of mathematics has obviously little
connexion with the business of life, or with tin-
intended profession of nine-tenths of those who
pursue it. The evidence by which the inferences
of the student are there guided, is of a nature al-
together different iVom that which he will be ealleil


.':{1() The late Wars ;

on to wcigli in iiis intercourse with the worki, in
the transaction of business, in the discrimination of
character. On this we shall not enlarge, as it will,
of course, be readily admitted, and the defence of
the study made to rest on its *' tendency to improve
the reasoning powers of youth :'* but would it not,
we may ask, be practicable to attain equal im-
provement in that respect by directing their la-
bours to subjects connected with their future
occupation ? Taking for example young men in-
tended for public life, would it not be preferable
to seek an exercise for their intellect in the history
of our country as related by Hume, or in the con-
clusions of political economy as exhibited in the
writings of Smith or Say ? By liistory they woidd
be introduced to a knowledge of characters, such as
they are likely to meet on the stage of life ; while
political economy would lead them to the examin-
ation of subjects which they wdll be called on to
discuss, and which they will find as yet very im-
perfectly understood. In regard to impressions
of a higher kind, the tendency of these studies to
convey liberal views, to prove the connection be-
tween the justice of a government and the wel-
fare of its subjects, between the course of public
events and the ordination of Providence, we have,
we trust, said enough in a prececUng paragraph of
this chapter.

Classical erudition, says an elegant wTiter*, is
by the custom of England more pecidiarly called
learning ; and we admit that in education, its claim
to attention is powerful, even when we keep out of
view its fascinating appeals to the imagination, and

* Sir James Mackintosh on the character of Fox, in tjie
collection by Dr. Parr, under the name of Philopatris Varvi-

Education of our public Men. 311

are content to contemplate it with a mere reference
to utility. The record of instructive facts, the
delineation of character, the illustration of the
rides of composition, the exemplification of the
finest precepts, all belong to the writers of Greece
and Rome, and warn us to beware of neglecting to
cultivate that grateful soil. Of this we are so fully
satisfied, that our doubts are confined to the time
requisite to acquire a knowledge of the critical
niceties of the languages, and to the question
whether we ought not, in most cases, to be satisfied
with that progress which enables us to comprehend,
with tolerable accuracy, the sense of a writer.
And here, fortunately, the line of chstinction seems
to admit of being traced with considerable confi-
dence. By the youth intended for an active pursuit,
for the bar, the pulpit, or the senate, philological
researches need hardly be carried furtlier than is
necessary to enable him to understand the meaning
of an author, while a more minute and scrupulous
investigation is incumbent on him who directs his
labours to the instruction of others, or cultivates
literature in retirement with all the advantaixe of
the command of time. But why, it may be said,
cannot the two be combined by persons intended for
active professions ? To do so would, we apprehend,
be to underrate the sacrifice of time indispensable to
the attainment of thorough knowledge, and to lose
sight of the scrupulous care with which the eight
or ten years, in general allow'cd for education, nuist
be appropriated, if we mean to avoid the frequent
error of misapplying our labour, of undertaking
studies which we may be unable to follow up.

Condiicl of public AJJairs since 179-'>. — Let iis
proceed to make a brief application of these re-
marks to the statesmen of the present age ; to the

X 4

312 "The late Wars ;

men who guided our councils in tiic stormy j)eriod
of the French revolution. How different, in all
probability, would have been the course of their
policy had their early impressions partaken more
of the light to be derived from the study of recent
periods of history, from an attentive observation of
foreign countries. Had they possessed a more
accurate knowledge of the national character of the
French, of the degree in which the invidious distinc-
tion between the titled and untitled classes was kept
up,of the circumstances which rendered a revolution
as much the wish of the majority of the nation as it
was in this country in 1688, our ministers would
have known with how much qualification the decla-
mations of Burke, and the assertions of the emigrants
were to be received. In regard to this country, they
would probably have discovered that the support
of the middle and upper classes afforded a sufficient
safeguard against the danger of innovation without
resorting to the alternative of war. Or, supposing
that after the loss of the Netherlands in 1792, and
the alarm given to our sovereign and our nobility
by the violence of the Jacobins, it became impos-
sible to avoid an appeal to arms, how different, with
the know^ledge we have supposed in our political
guides, Avould have been the conduct of the war?
Had they been aware of the backward state of tlie
countries, in particular Austria, on which we relied
for military co-operation, of that blind adherence
to old usage, that deference to family rank and
court influence, which clogged the wheels of go-
vernment and restrained the energy of the people,
is it likely that our ministers would ha\e counselled
an offensive course against a nation emancipated
from those fetters, and which conferred its appoint-

Educal'wn of our public Men. 313

merits, whether civil or iniHtary, by very different
rules ?

If from foreign affairs we turn to our interior
situation, is it likely, we may ask, that, with a
thorough knowledge of the principles of productive

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 23 of 40)