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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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cial resources had been stretched to the utmost;
there remaineil no deflnite object of warfare, and
no co-o])eration could be expected from the con-
tinent. Tliese considerations were felt by our
leading ministers ; and, in concurrence with an
apprehended division in the cabinet, or a sense
tliat the same ministry could not suitably negociate
with a government so long the object of its invec-
tive, led to that retirement of Mr. Pitt from office,
which many persons still good-naturedly ascribe to
his difference with the king on the C'atiiolic
question.

Thus ended the first great contest of our age, a
contest, of which the most remarkable feature was,
its placing the two leading powers successively



10 (hir S'ltualion at lite Peace (>f Amiais.

ill oj)j)osition to a confederacy, and bafiling, in the
case of each, tlie confident calculation of politicians.
France, in 171i3, could not, in the 0})inion (jf these
persons, avoid sinking imder the coalition ; Eng-
land, wlien left alone, in 1797> had, in their view,
no alternative but a speedy ])eace. They were
more correct in asserting that no war had aflbrded
an example of such sacrifices ; of men on the part
of France, of money on the part of England. The
losses of each seemed of a nature to produce ex-
liaustion, yet each continued capable of prolonging
or renewing the conflict. Each had obtained bril-
liant success, and added largely to its territorial
possessions ; but the acquisitions of France, at
least in the Netherlands, were more compact,
and more calculated to add strength to the state,
than our dazzling but insecure conquests in the
East and West Indies.

Our Situation at the Peace of Amiens. — What,
it may be asked, were the chief difl'erences, in our
condition at the peace of 1802 and that of 1814?
The financial and commercial evils that have since
pressed so heavily on us, existed in 1802, but in a
very mitigated form. The interest of our public
debt, (18,000,000/.) was great, but not enormous;
our total expenditure, had peace been confirmed,
woidd not have much exceeded 30,000,000/. a year.
The value of our currency, though shaken at a
particular period, (1800 and 1801,) had been rein-
stated without much injury to the public ; and
our customers on the opposite shore of the Atlan-
tic, though affected by the transition of Europe
from war to peace, were by no means so disabled
from paying for our exports as at the peace of 1814.
Still our agriculturists felt the budden change from



War of 1803, 11

high to low prices ; our merchants were embar-
rassed by the surrender of the conquered colonies,
and had the reduction of our military establishment
been permanent, we should have exj)erienced, in
1802, no small share of the embarrassment of late
years : it would have been similar at least to that
so laith fully described by Sir W. Temple, as affect-
ing the productive industry of Holland, after the
peace of 1648.

These complaints, however, had hardly assumed
consistency, when the })ublic were roused to new
alarms : in France, a ruler whom no power could
satisfy; in England, a ministry who followed, in-
stead of leading the public voice, were respectively
the authors of an abruj)t renewal of war. Seldom
has an appeal to arms been made with less of a
direct motive or definite object : Malta was too
insignificant to form a ground of war; the real
cause was of a general nature, and to be sought
in the encroachments of Bonaparte during the
interval of peace, in the resentment roused by his
aggression on Switzerland, and the obstacles op-
posed to our trade with France. Our ministers
could not consider the moment favourable for at-
tempting to recover the independence of the con-
tinent ; they acted in concert with none of the
great powers, and the experience of the past was
altogether adverse to hopes founded on a coalition.
They knew, however, that our financial resources
were large, that the chances of a naval contest
were in our favour, and that we should in any
event prevent the increase of the enemy's marine.

War ()/' ISO'S. — During two years the contest
was strictly maritime, and the demand on our cir-
culating mediinn, for subsidies or the purchase of



12 Jn/r of 180.1.

com l)('in«j^ slight, our ])a|)er currency maintaiiictl
its credit. The ])ubnc attention was closely fixed
on the project or ])retended j)roject of invasion.
But in IHO.*}, the growing discontent of the Russian
cabinet with I3ona])arte, and the well-known hos-
tility of Austria, induced our government to form a
new coalition. Our allies began the war with san-
guine hopes, but found it vain to attack a great
military state, conducted by a single liead. The
result would have been alarming even to this coun-
try, had it not, by a remarkable counterpoise of
fortune, been coincident with a naval victory, which
fairly put at rest the question of invasion.

It was under these circumstances of alternate
disappointment and success, that Mr. Fox began
at Paris the negociation of 1806, a measure by no
means sanctioned by tlie majority of our country-
men. The offers of Bonaparte, towards the close
of the conferences, would perhaps have been satis-
factory on tlie score of territorial cession, had they
not, when viewed in concurrence with his other
})rojects, appeared to our ministers little else than
a link in the chain of aggression ; an expedient to
procure not a peace, but a truce.

War was accordingly renewed, and by land, vic-
tory continued faithfid to France : the events of
the campaigns of 1806 and 1807, were subversive
of the remaining independence of Germany, and
by giving France the co-operation of Russia,
seemed to leave her without a riv al on the conti-
nent. Under these circumstances, our only safety
lay in our naval superiority, and the war Mas pro-
ceeding without any definite prospect or favour-
able opening, when Bonaparte committed his first
great ])o]itical error. Hitherto, in liis successes,
he had shown more moderation, at least apparent



War of 1803. 13

moderation, than miglit have been expected from
one so little advanced in years, and so confident in
his general calculations. He now, however, forgot
the dictates of caution, turned his aggression to an
unoffending quarter, and by his manner of inveigling
the royal family of S})ain, excited not only the in-
dignation of foreigners, but general suiprise and
dissatisfaction among the French, who were heartily
sick of war, and coveted no })ossessions beyond
the Pyrenees or the Al])s. It is a truth, by no
means sufficiently understood in this country, that
the French people at no time participated in the
restless ambition of their ruler : their views in
regard to territory were limited to the Belgic
provinces, and those they desired not on politi-
cal grounds, not from a wish to overawe Hol-
land or threaten Germany, but from considerations
chiefly commercial, from similarity of language
and habits, vicinity of position, and the non-exist-
ence of physical barriers. So far from being
animated by that eagerness for war which so many
on our side of the Channel ascribe to them, the
French regarded themselves as the greatest suf-
ferers by the sanguinary contest, and were taught
to ascribe its prolongation to the ambitious views of
our cabinet.

The war in Spain, varied as was its success
during several years, proved the first great scene
on which the hitherto victorious armies of France
were effectually resisted. That power of combin-
ation, that skill in generalship, which, in the pre-
sent age, has been so little cons})icuous in the mili-
tary opponents of France, wiiich, in the long
struggle of the Austrians, was remarked in only
two campaigns, (179'^ and 17i^{^) ^^'^^^ 'i^'''c> called
into action, and directed against the enemy both



14 intr (flHOS.

the discipline of tlic British, and the national anti-
pathy of the Spaniards. This war was remarkahk'
as the first in which Bonaparte did not, on the
appearance of serious resistance, forsake his capital,
and bring tlie contest to a decisive issue. In 1810,
the humiliation of Austria and Prussia lefl him at
liberty to recross the Pyrenees, but to the surprise
of France, as of the continent in general, he allowed
his army to remain long in an indecisive })Osition
before our lines at Torres Vedras, and eventually
to retreat.

This signal repulse was followed by symptoms of
resistance in a new quarter. Russia, alarmed for
her independence, and taught, by the success of
our Portuguese campaign, the means of bafHing by
defensive operations, an enemy hitherto accounted
irresistible, no longer concealed her hostility to
France. Bonaparte passed a year in forming his
gigantic plan of invasion : it failed, as is well
kno\vn, less from direct opposition than from phy-
sical causes ; and that over-confidence on his part,
w^hich w^e trace on so many occasions, and at such
different periods of his career — at Arcole, at Acre,
at Aspern, and finally, at Waterloo.

The loss of the Russian campaign and of tlie
flower of the army, however disastrous in a mili-
tary sense, did not give so great a shock as the
public in England anticipated to the power of
Bonaparte in the interior of France. The nation
was in affliction at the extent of the bloodshed ; but
this feeling was overborne, at least in the middle
classes, by the dread of a counter-revolution, and
the return of the old abuses — the prixileges of the
nohlesscy the ascendancy of the clergy. During
1813, the general wash was, not for a change of
dynasty, but for a change of system under the



jrar of \80S. 15

existing ruler. No insurrection took place, no
resistance was made, or even attenij)ted, to the
enormous levies of men and money, during that
year ; nor was it till renewed disasters, and the loss
of all Germany, that the public began to contem-
plate the possibility of tlie return of the Bourbons.
Even in 1814, the operations continued without
any rising in favour of that family, or any defection
of the military from their leader, till after the sur-
render of Paris, the possession of which has, through-
out the whole of the French revolution, enabled
one party to give law to another.

This unconsciousness of tlie real character of
Bonaparte, this credulity in hoping a pacific sys-
tem from one so long accustomed to war and
usurpation, must appear not a little singular to the
untravelled part of our countrymen. But those
among them who visited France in 1814, had ample
opportunity of observing that the name of the late
ruler was seldom mentioned with reprobation, and
that when, from the decided royalists, tliey haj)-
pened to hear language to that effect, it was unac-
companied by any knowledge of the secret springs
of his pohcy, or, indeed, by any attempt to deve-
lope his character.

This was, in fact, a task too complicated for the
reasoning habits of our southern neighbours : they
knew and lamented his propensity to war ; but his
diplomatic art, his Machiavelian pohcy, surpasseil
their analysing powers, unaided as they were by
the light of a free press. Nor was it until his
sudden return from Elba, when the peace so long
desired and so recently obtained, was wrested from
them, that the French (we speak here not of the
military nor of the party leaders, but of the bulk of
the nation,) gave a loose to resentment, and con-



16 If'ir uf ISO'}.

ncclcd with Ins iiamr lli:i1 clKir^c of liiitlilcssncss,
that suspicion of" criminality vvliicli wc, during so
iiianv years, had accounted inseparable fioni it.

Tlie reverses of the French arms occurred most
oj)portunely for our finances, as shall he shown
when we treat of the de])icciation of our currency;
but before proceeding to that, the proper object of
our researcli, we shall bestow a few sentences on
the eventful character of the military history of the
])eriod.

Alternations of success. — No contest was ever
marked by greater variety of fortune, or more
chequered by vicissitudes, the effect of which was,
at one time, to check sanguine expectation, at an-
other, to prevent despair. The Netherlands reco-
vered in 1793, were again lost in lyUl-; the suc-
cesses of the Austrians in 1795 were more than
balanced by their disasters in the two following
years. In 1799 the revived strength of that power
and the co-operation of Russia, led to a brilliant
campaign, producing the recovery of Italy, and in-
flicting severe losses on the French ; but fortune
once more forsook the allies, and obHged them to
conclude at Luneville a treaty on conditions which
left France the leading power on the continent.

In our second appeal to arms, our hopes were
raised in 180.5 by the co-operation of the great con-
tinental })owers ; these hopes were blasted at Ulm
and Austerlitz, but despondency was prevented by
our victory at Trafalgar. Next year, the fatal day
of Jena, and the conquest, rapid beyond example,
of the Prussian dominions, would have excited
great alarm, had not our courage been sustained by
a successful resistance at Eylau, and by a confident
estimate of the power of Russia. These favourable
expectations were shaken by tlie events of the cam-



JFar of 1803, 17

}3aign, the treaty of Tilsit, and more than all, by
the increasing connection and community of pur-
pose between the French and Russian cabinets.
The close of I8O7 was consequently a period of
gloom, for the capture of the Danish navy, and the
issuing of our Orders in council, could afford satis-
faction to those only who were incapable of appre-
ciating the odium inspired by the one, and the dis-
astrous effects likely to residt from the other.

A more substantial ground of liope was afforded
in the ensuing year by the attack on Spain, the
general resistance which it provoked, the still more
general hatred which it roused. The repulse of
the French from the southern and central parts
of Spain, and the success of our troops at Vimeira,
the lirst general action on land that we had fought
during the war, confirmed these flattering impres-
sions ; but they were unfortunately clouded by the
repeated defeats of the Spaniards in the winter,
and the retreat of our army to Corunna. Next
year opened with the arming of Austria, and with
some successful operations in the Peninsula, but
the battles of Eckmuhl and Wao-ram, the failure of
our Antwerp expedition, the second retreat of our
army from Spain, cast a gloom over the aspect of
affairs, which continued during the whole of 1810.

At that time the contest presented no expecta-
tion of a favourable issue ; the Spaniards were
inefficient and divided; the northern courts, if
not unfriendly, were unable to hazard co-operation
with us ; and our bank ])aper, after having diu'ing
tiie preceding seven years maintained its \alue
with almost all the stability of a regular currency,
now gave way before the triple pressure of corn
imports, foreign subsidies, and a suspension of our
accustomed receipts from the Continent of Europe

c



18 ff^^if of 180S.

on account of Ami'iicaii merchants. Our exports to
the United States had been, for the most part, paid
by remittances in money from the Continent of
Kin'ope, and woukl, had we allowed their na\ iga-
tion to continue, have formed a finid capable, in a
great measure, of balancing our demands, whether
for military expenditure in the south of Europe, or
for the purchases of corn in the north. But this
truth was unfortunately unknown to the public,
and imperfectly felt by ministers. We persevered
in stopping the American trade, and thus deprived
ourselves of a powerful counterpoise to the irre-
gularity of our circulating medium. Our situation
thus became replete with anxiety : from invasion we
were secured by our fleet, but we dreaded to
make peace, lest an interval, turned assiduously
to account by our artful enemy, might shake even
this last stay of our independence. On other
grounds also, peace seemed unadvisable, for by
this time Bonaparte had incorporated a farther
part of Germany with France, and shown himself
equally blind to the lesson given by the resistance
of Spahi, and to the hazard of alarming Russia.

It was under these disquieting circumstances
that we passed the latter months of 1810 and the
beginning of 1811. The necessity of abandoning
the Peninsula Avas declared by many, and silently
anticipated by more, when the scene was unex-
pectedly changed by the retreat of the French
army from Portugal, and by conflicts, which, ii*
not altogether decisive in our favour, w^ere indi-
cative of great improvement in our army. An
intimation of a growing hostility on the part of
Uussia to France, now raised hopes of a higher
kind — hopes which, after an interval, were con-
flrmed by the memorable campaign of 1812. StUl



JFar 0/1803. . 19

the period of vicissitude was not passed ; the ex-
pectation excited by the advance of the Russians,
and the zeal of their Prussian allies, were dis-
appointed at Lutzen, Bautzen, and Hambui-gh ;
while our bank paper had fallen above 20 per
cent., a fall involving the certainty of a loss to that
amount on all the contributions we might make
to the cause of the continent, whether in Spain or
Germany. It was, however, no time to pause ;
circumstances had produced an opportunity, such
as had not occurred during the whole war, of re-
storing the equilibrium of the Continent : Austria
had joined the alliance, and the inefficiency of the
French levies was shown in their actions with the
Prussians in Silesia. Germany was now delivered,
and the French territory invaded, yet even then
there occurred an interval of suspended hope : the
imprudence of Blucher, and the prompt decision
of Bonaparte, led to a check and partial retreat,
which, to the public, assumed a serious aspect,
when viewed in connection with a negotiation
at Chatillon ; but the apprehension inspii'ed by
that real or ostensible negotiation, was soon dis-
jielled by the evident superiority of the allies,
and by the result of a movement, remarkable as
indicative of the over-confident calculation of Bo-
naparte even under disaster ; we mean his march
to gain the rear, and cut off the retreat of his ene-
mies — a manoeuvre that might have been followed
by success if at the head of such armies, as he com-
manded at Ulm and Jena, but which, with the
feeble means at his disposal in 1814, served only
to embolden his opponents and accelerate the loss
of his capital.



c 2



'20



CHAP. II.

Magnitude of mir Expenditure. — The Sources of our
Financial Supplies.

After this brief sketch of military events, we pro-
ceed to the proper object of our enquiry, the ex-
pence incurred by the war, the resources by which
it was supported, and the cause of our financial
embarrassments since the peace. In this we are
aware that we venture on difficult ground, and at-
tempt a question of more than usual complexity.
War, accounted in former days a season of embar-
rassment and povert}', assumed in tlie present age
the appearance of a period of prosperity. It closed,
indeed, with a great addition to our permanent
burdens, but with an increase of national income,
whicli seemed fully to counterbalance it, and to
confine our loss to that of our brave countrymen
who had fallen in the struggle. Peace, we thought,
was about to bring a consolidation of the advan-
tages earned in battle and sanctioned by treaty,
but the residt has been widely different : every
succeeding year has discovered some financial dif-
ficulty, some fresh defalcation in our national re-
sources. The causes have as yet been by no means
satisfactorily explained, either in or out of Parlia-
ment, and the contradiction between what was ex-
pected, and what has actually taken place, implies
the prevalence of inurh popidar error, as well as
the necessity of an attentive and anxiously-balanced
enquiry.



Magnitude of our Expenditure. 21

This enquiry we may liope to divest, in some
measure, of its complexity, by proceeding step by
step, and dividing our subject into separate heads.
The first point is to form a distinct idea of our
war expences, as well the annual charge as the
aggregate for the whole contest ; a calculation as
yet famihar to few persons on account of tlie mag-
nitude of the sums, the detached manner in which
they are generally brought before the public, and
tlie complexity of our finance accounts, which have
hitherto presented, in the sinking fund, an ap-
parent surplus, and, under the head of supply, an
apparent deficiency.

In the early years of this memorable contest,
ministers were almost as little avv^are as the public
of the extent to which the national contributions
could be carried, and the increase of our expendi-
ture was, consequently, gradual. Taking the total
money raised by loans and taxes, but deducting
from it 18,000,000/. annually, as the probable ex-
penditure of Great Britain and Ireland, had peace
been preserved, we find tlie following result : —

Su7ns annually raised for the War of 1793.



179S.


- £ 1-,000,(X)()


1798.


- ^29,000,000


i 794-.


10,000,000


1799.


36,000,0(K)


1795.


18,000,000


1800.


36,000,000


1796.


26,000,000


1801.


45,000,000


1797.


35,000,000


1802.


44-,000,000



These sums are properly the amount raised, not
the amount expended in each year : still they con-
vey a fair idea of the annual cost of the war. Their
great increase, in the latter years, was owing to
several causes ; the augmentation of our establish-
ments, the depreciation of money, and consequent
rise of pay, stores, &c. ; and, finally, to the nc-



fS Magnitude of our Expenditure.

cumulation of interest on the expenditure of all
the preceding- years.

Such was the war of 1793, a war exhibiting an
average expenditure of ?7>000,000/., which, though
nearly double that of any preceding contest, was
destined to be surpassed both soon and in a very
great degree.

^ums raised by loans and taxes for the ivar of 1803, after de-
ducting the portion appropriated to Ireland, and allowing
^2,000,fXX)/. as the total (f our prnhahle expenditure, had peace
been preserved in 1793.

1803. ..... ^29,000,000

1804. . - ... 1-0,000,000

1805. ..... 52,000,000

1806. ...... 50,000,000

1807. .... - 56,000,000

1808. - - - ... 57,000,000

1809. (War in Spain) - ... 61,000,000

1810. (Ditto) .... 62,000,000

1811. (DiUo) ..... 66,000,000

1812. (War in Spain and Russia) - - 80,000,000

1813. (War in Spain and Germany) - - 98,000,000
1814-. (War on the French territory) - - 89,000,000
1815. - - - ' - - 86,000,000

Here also the increase was progressive ; so ne-
cessary was it, even in our day of enthusiasm, to
wait until the machine of circulation became
adapted to this new impulse. At last, our expen-
diture reached a sum unexampled in the history of
any country, ancient or modern. It is fit, however,
to keep in mind two very material qualifications ;
first, that the sums in the latter years are greatly
swelled by the accumulation of interest on the pre-
vious expenditure ; next, that after 1810, a large
sum, fully 20 per cent, on our foreign disburse, is
to be put to the account of the depreciation of our
bank paper. With these deductions, the expence
of the unparalleled year of 1813 may be stated at



Magnitude of otir Expenditure. 23

70,000,000/., and the other years reduced in a cor-
responding proportion. But after every subtract
tion, the amount of our expentliture was sui'prising:
for the whole contest it may be thus stated.

Total money raised in Great Britain by
loans and taxes, during the 23 years that
elapsed, between the beginning of 1793
and that of 1816 ; (see Appendix) about -^1,564,000,000

Deduct for the amount of our peace es-
tablishment and charges unconnected with
the war, a sum, which, from the increase of
our population and the necessity of enforc-
ing the collection of the revenue in Ireland,
we reckon at somewhat more than the aver-
age expenditure of Great Britain and Ireland
previous to 1793; making (see Appendix)
an amount of about - - - ^^4.64,000,000



Remainder, constituting the charge of 7 ,,, . „ „ „ „ ^^^
the war - - - - J ' ' '

The next question is, in what manner did go-
vernment find it practicable to raise these unex-
ampled sums ? Loans, the great resource in former
wars, were resorted to during the early years of
the contest ; thus —

Money raised by loans.

1794-. - c^' 11,000,000 1796. - ^^2.5,500,000

1795. - 18,000,000 1797. - 32,500,000

Tlie last of these sums being great beyond ex-
ample in the history of our loans, had the effect of



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 3 of 40)