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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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ing our taxes, constitutes, we believe, a dead loss
of from six to seven millions sterling, on the total
amount paid by the public. This loss will be
effectually lessened only by the introduction of a
double improvement ; a farther simplification, on
the part of government, of the process of collec-
tion, and, on the part of the public, the adoption of



duriiijx the War. 53







the practice of ready money payments, so general
in Holland, in its day of prosperity.

Next, as to taxation in a more direct and undis-
guised form, such as the assessed or the property
taxes. In what manner, it may be asked, do indi-
viduals in general meet burdens of that description ?
Is it by self-denial and economy, by increased in-
dustry, or by adding the amount of the tax to the
charge which, in their respective lines of business,
they make on the public ? Economy is practised,
we may be assured, by those only wliose income
admits of no increase : augmented exertion is more
natural to our countrymen, and was, doubtless,
made to bear a considerable part in defraying our
war burdens ; but the latter, whenever it was at
all practicable, were charged by the payer on his
customers or connections ; and the result, as ex-
plained in the last chapter, was a progressive
enhancement not only of commodities, but of
salaries, professional fees, and labour of every
kind.

Collective Ejfect of' the various Causes of Knhance-
ment. — The total rise in prices during the war,
appears to have been between 60 and 70 per cent.,
IGO or 170/. being required in 1813 to make the
purchases, whether for the necessaries, comforts,
or luxuries of life, which were made in 179^2 for
100/. Tlie degree of rise was, doubtless, different
in different situations, but in regard to the public
at large, tliat pro})ortion will, we believe, be found
to hold. To facilitate the compreliension of this
somewhat intricate enquiry, it may be useful to
descend into the details of domestic life, and to
refer the reader to the subjoined table of family
expenditure.

E 3



54 Cduscs of I he Rise (J' Prices



Comparative expenditure oj' a Family of the middle class in
Enf;land in the years 1792 and 1813; — discriminating the
heads of cxpcnce {by Nos. 1, 2, 3, 1.) so as to shpw the rise
produced respectively by each cause of enhancement.



1792.


1813,


£18


47


16


35


22


38



1. Taxation was evidently the ciiief caose of rise in the follow-

ing heads of expence :

Assessed taxes and poor rate

Wine and spirits

Tea, sugar, and other groceries

Beer (partly from taxation, partly from

enhancement of corn) - - - 7 11

2. The advance of labour, the occurrence of

indifferent seasons, and the difficulty of
import (from the rise of freight, and
depreciation of our bank paper after
1809,) were the principal causes of
enhancing



Bread - . .


25


50


Butcher meat


25


45


Milk, butter, cheese, vegetables


50


85



3. The advance of labour was chiefly in-
strumental in raising

Servants' wages - - - 18 22

House rent, the rent of houses in occu-
pancy being determined by the ex-
pence of building new houses, and the
latter by the price of labour - 60 100

Clothes ... . 60 85

Fuel .... 24 35

Furniture; whether wc consider the in-
terest on the money vested in its
purchase; which we calculate at - 42 63

Or annual repairs and purcha!>es, esti-
mated at . . - 14 24



durifiii the TFar, 55



4. The rise of the following can hardly be
referred to any particular head, but ap-
pear the mixed result of taxation, en-
hanced labour, and depreciated currency.



Articles of leather manufacture, chiefly






boots and shoes ...


9


18


Candles and oil


6


10


Washing ...


16


25


Education - -


14.


22


Medical attendance


U


20


Incidents, such as postage, stationery,






charity, pocket disburse


35


55


Expences of a less necessary character,






viz. travelling, and temporary residence






in the country


30


50


Expence of company


35


60


Total


JL'54-0


900



A table of this kind, useful as it in some degree
is, will hardly enable us to ascertain with precision
the rise proceeding from each of the great causes of
enhancement. But as on so interesting a topic no
enquiry can be too minute, we shall endeavour, by
\ arying our plan and resorting to other grounds of
calculation, to attain the desired result.

EJfecl of Taxatio7i. — For an estimate of the
effect of taxes on house-keeping, we are in some
measure prepared, by the tables in our second
chapter. These, as well as our subsequent calcu-
lations, (see the chapter on National Revenue anil
Expenditure,) exhibit tlie proportion borne at dif-
ferent periods (179^, 1806, and 1813), by our bur-
dens to our resources. And the result is, that the
increase of our taxes, during the war, amounted
to a charge oi'?imej)C)^ cent, on our national capital.
This, the arithmetical result, is greatly below the ge-

E 4



56 Causes ()f the Rise of Pt'iccs

neral estimate of the taxes imposed during the war.
It is also l)clow the addition whicli they will be
found to liave causctl to our j)rices, when we take
into account the obstacles they create to improve-
ment in our agriculture and manufactures. These
various impediments, unknown to the public, but
severely felt by the persons on whose diffl'rent
lines of occupation they bear, all tend to keep up
or augment prices, and their collective effect was,
we believe, such as amply to justify our computing
the addition to our prices, from our war taxation,
at twelve instead of nine per cent. Of this we
shall treat more fully in our concluding cha})ter,
when we come to urge the expediency of a farther
reduction in our public burdens.

Substitution of Bank Paper for Coin. — Here
we introduce a cause to which, in the opinion of
the great majority of the public, we ought to
ascribe the chief part of the rise of prices during
the war. This, however, is a very complicated
question, and one which wdll require all the eluci-
dation that a separate discussion can confer on it.
At present we shall merely observe, that the addi-
tion to our prices, arising from the fall of our cur-
rency, from the inferiority in value of our paper
to coin, appears to have been about 15 per cent,
during the latter years of the war.

Rise in the Price of Labour, — To what are we
to attribute the remarkable rise in the rate of la-
bour during the late wars ? — To two main causes :
the demand of men for the public service, and the
increased expence of provisions. In the first years
of the war, the rise w-as caused only bv the demand



durim the War. 57



"&



of men for the public service, and provisions had
very httle share in the enhancement during 1793
and 1794. But after 1795, and still more after
1799, the additional cost of provisions became
such as to oblige the labourer and mechanic, in
self-defence, to stipulate a higher money payment
for his services.

A rise of wages may be either real or nomina).
That which was consequent on the demand for
the militia, army, and navy, proved a real and
hondjide addition, the mechanic or manufacturer
who remained at home being in greater request,
and receiving larger pay from his employer, with-
out reference to an increase in his expenditure.
But a rise of wages proceeding from a rise of pro-
visions is very different : the addition, in one sense,
is merely a balance to the addition in another, and
the augmentation is consequently nominal. To
such an extent did this hold in the case of our
labouring classes during the war, that the 286\ or
.305. paid them weekly in our provincial towns in
1812, were hardly more available in the purciiasc
of the necessaries or comforts of life, than \os. \\\
1792.

Effect of a Rise in the Price of Labour on House-
keeping Exycnces. — The direct effect of s>uch a
rise is readily seen in the increase of servants'
wages ; but its indirect operation, its enhancement*
of work performed out of doors, is of much more
consequence. This will be at once a})parcnt on
our analyzing the component })arts of the cost of
manufactures. In cotton goods, after all the aid
derived from machinery, labour still constitutes
nearly a third of the price ; while in woollens, lea-



.'JS Cai/sci (>fflic Rise (if Prices

ihcr, liartlvvare, linen, anil })frhaps in silk, its pro-
portion is more nearly a lialfl Next, as to a very
clillercnt lieacl in family expenditure, that of house-
rent, the chief constituent of charge is laboin*,
since in a country of increasing population, the
rent of houses in occupancy is regulated by the
cost of new buildings ; and in regard to these, the
command of materials being unlimited, the ques-
tion resolves itself into a calculation of theexpence
of the requisite labour. In the case of furniture,
ii similar remark is applicable ; and even in ser-
vices of a higher class, such as teaching or medical
attendance, the influence of this cause (rise of
labour) is not excluded.

To the lower orders the rate of labour, in a
direct sense, is of little consequence, as they are
accustomed to serve themselves j but, in an in-
direct sense, by enhancing corn, it proves of the
greatest importance.

EJfect of an Enhancement oJCorn on House-keep-
ing. — A return of the ten years of peace preceding
1793, gave as the average of the quarter of wheat in
the Windsor market, 2/. 10^. ^d. But thirteen years
of war, from 1793 to 1805 (both inclusive), gave
lor the quarter of wheat an average of 3/. I'^s. 2d.',
in other words, 152/. were required to purchase
the same quantity as 100/. previous to the war.
And the succeeding eight years, from ISO6 to
1813, gave the still higher average of 5/. 1*. Sd.
for the quarter of wheat, denoting that no less than
'200/. were, during that period, required to purchase
what, previous to the war, had been obtained for
100/. Such was the rise in wheat : in butcher
meat, and agricultural produce generally, the en-
U



during the War. 59

hancement appears to liave been nearly equal ;
but for these and other details, we refer to the
Appendix, and proceed to lay before our readers
a statement of the general result.

Summary of the Rise in House-keeping at the dose of the late
f'Vars, making the Cnlctdation in the most comprehensive Form,
so as to be applicable, not to particular classes, but to the
public at large.

Proportion of rise proceeding from increase of

Taxation 12 per cent.

from rise of wages and

labour generally ... 20 ditto
from the enhancement



of provisions, (see Appendix) - - 30 ditto

Of this rise in provisions, we may ascribe per-
haps the half (or 15 per cent.) to the rise of
labour, and other farming charges consequent
on the demand of men for the public service :
the other 15 per cent, to the depreciation of
our bank paper, enhancement of freight, and
other charges attendant on import.
Proportion of rise from extra charges on the
purchase and import of other articles than
corn ; such as wool, cotton, tobacco - 5 ditto



Total - 67 per cent.

Such appears to have been the operation of the
different causes of enhancement diu'ing the war.
We proceed to exemplify that rise by a reference
to real property.

Land. — The farm which, in 179^, let for I70/. ;
and which, in 1803, (see the tabular return of
cliarges of cultivation in the cha})ter ou Agri-
culture,) afforded a rental of ^24.0/., lot in 1813,
for S201.

Houses. — The house which, in 179-» let for .50/.,
and in 180(), for ().5/., might be consiilered in ihc



60 Cicncnd Kisc /' Prices

latter years of the war, as worth 70/., tlie rise being
less at in lionses than in land. Its value, as a
j)urchase, originally 1000/., was raised towards
the middle of our long contest to 1300/., and
eventually to 1400/. or 1500/.

To deline the amount of the rise of prices in
particular connnodities, would be a task of great
labour and nicety : the only person who attempted
it was the late Mr. Arthur Young, of whose calcu-
lations we shall treat afterwards. If, for the sake
of conferring some degree of precision on an ob-
scure subject, an attempt be made to divide the
progress of enhancement into periods, we may
consider the war as having produced half its effect
towards the year 1806, viz. that the rise of prices
taken in the most comprehensive sense, whether of
provisions, clothing, labour, or professional charges,
was in that year somewhat more than 30 per cent,
above the prices of 1792. From I8O6 to 1813 the
rise was more rapid, in consequence of the double
effect of a non-convertible currency, and extended
military operations, so that in 1813 and 1814 the
enhancement was 30 or 35 per cent, on the prices
of 1806, or about 67 per cent, on those of 179^.

Hoxcfar xvas this rise of prices 7iominal? — It is
incumbent on the attentive enquirer, to guard
against the error so frequent in former years, and
at present by no means exploded, of considering a
rise of prices in the light of a bondjide addition to
our public wealth. The reader, on referring to the
preceding table of house-keeping expence, and
considering how different trades and professions
are linked together, v.ill readily perceive the man-
ner in which an individual, on the occurrence of a
rise of prices in his particular de})artment, indeni-



during the War. 61

nifies himself by a charge on the community. If,
for the sake of ilUistration, we advert to articles of
daily consumption, and to the tradesmen who are
most familiar to us, we find the baker and butcher
raise, of course, their demands on their customers,
in proportion as the prices of their articles are
raised to them by the farmer or grazier. In a
similar, though not equally direct manner, the
teacher augments his charge for board and instruc-
tion ; the upholsterer, the price of his furniture ;
the landlord, the rent of his houses. — The whole
partakes of the nature of circulation ; or, to borrow
an expression from Mr. S. Gray, of " charge and
counter-charge.'*

But a rise which is common to all can be little
else than nominal. The owner of a house or land
was hardly able to purchase more commodities with
the increased rent, during the war, than with the
limited sum paid to him in 1792. He found 130/.
in 180G, or 160/. in 1813, of no greater value than
100/. at the beginning of the French Revolution ;
and the correct mode of speaking is, — that land and
houses rose in money rent in proportion as money de-
clined in value, that is, they maintained a nearly uni-
form \'alue, though the sum paid was very different.
The same is applicable, as we shall see presently,
to the far greater part of income, whether arising
from ])roperty or labour ; from capital vested in
trade, manufacture, or agriculture ; from wages,
salaries, or professional charges, the sum paid hav-
ing regularly increased as its value diminished.

Money Property^ such as a Ijoan on Mortgage. —
We here advert to a descrij)tion of property ma-
terially different from lantl or houses, a property
which cx])ericnces neitiier rise or fall, whatever be
the fluctuations in the value of money. Sup])0se



(32 (icniral Rise ufVriccs

\\ sum (.3,200/.) to have been advanced on
morti^age in 179*^, ^ind to liave remained on tliat
security dnrini^ the war, it will hardly be denied
that in sncii years as 1811 or 1812, it was con-
sidered a proi)erty of" less value than ])revious to
the war. The ICIO/. which tlie owner continued
to draw as interest, was in these years worth to
liini little more than 100/. in 1792.

Proportion of national Income affected i?i this
Marnier. — The reader on referring to our estimate
of taxable income, in the chapter on National
Revenue, will find the sums paid to annuitants,
whether creditors of the public or of individuals,
computed at 50,000,000/. a year, or one-fitth of
the total national income. The receivers of the
other fbur-fifUis, whether landholders, farmers,
merchants, or manufacturers ; whether clerks, me-
chanics, or country labourers, obtained in their
annual income, (in the form of rent, salary, wages,
he.) an addition corresponding, or nearly corre-
sponding to the decline in the value of money.
From this benefit were excluded the annuitants,
to the extent we have mentioned ; and many of
them would have felt more severely the dimi-
nished value of their receipts, had it not been in-
directly counterpoised by tlie activity arising from
the war, and the consequent facility in providing
for their connections in the public service.

Since the peace, the relative situation of these
great portions of the community has, as is well
known, been reversed. Annuitants have found
their incomes recover their \alue ; while the other
classes, above all, the agriculturists, have expe-
rienced the most distressing effects from the fall
of prices.



during the War, 63

Change in the Value of Money. — Our readers
will now be able to form a definite idea of what is
meant when we speak of a fall or rise in the value
of money. The fall of prices since the peace has
been very different in different articles ; for while
in the produce in the soil it is above GO, and in
several branches of manufacture above 50 per cent.,
in the case of house-rent, or the wages of me-
chanics, it probably does not exceed 15 per cent.
But the business of the statistical enquirer is with
the average^ which is, doubtless, not less than 30
per cent, on all payments determined by free com-
petition ; in other words, in all articles brought to
open market. In payments of a different natiu-e,
such as professional fees, salaries, servants' wages,
the decrease is as yet inconsiderable ; because in
these there exists no ready appeal to competition,
no prompt means of overcoming the opposition to
reduction. In London, journeymen in various
trades are, in consequence of their system of com-
bining, still in the receipt of 5,y. or iSs. a day, as in
the season of war and expensive living; but such
a state of things can hardly be of long duration.
The fall of provisions, the example of other coun-
tries, the diminished profit of capital, all point to
the necessity of a change, and will eventually over-
come resistance, whether on the part of tl\e lower
orders, or of the receivers of pensions and salaries,
in whom, possessing as they do better means of
information and comparison, pertinacity in reten-
tion would be more reprehensible. As such re-
duction, therefore, will, in all probability, become
general, and the words, " fall of })rice," are too
limited to express a decrease of such incomes as
arise from personal exertion, we adopt the more
comprehensive phrase of a "rise or lull in the ^•alue
of money."



(j4 (iencral Rise of Prica*

Prices nn the Covlineiif since 1792. — In liow far,
in tlie present age, have the other countries of
Knroj)e participated in those fluctuations of money
wliich among us have reached so extraordinary a
lengtli ? Tliis question is of no easy solution, as
well from want of documents in countries which
liad then no representative assembly, as from a
depreciated paper having been current in almost
every part of Europe. France, the only state that
has equalled us in the duration of her wars, ex-
hibits a remarkable contrast to us in the extent of
her financial burdens. Her taxation, amounting
in the beginning of the revolution, to about twenty-
two millions sterling, (see the Report of Camus to
the National Assembly, in July 1790), was never
increased by more than the half of that sum ; while
our sixteen millions of 1792, became forty-five
millions in 1804; sixty millions in 1808, and nearly
seventy millions in 1814. In fact, in the early
part of the revolutionary war, the collection of
revenue in France was (see the Due cle Gaete on
French Finance), considerably under twenty mil-
lions ; the wants of government having been sup-
plied by the emission of assignats during four yeai's
of emergency, (1792-3-4-5) and afterwards, in a
considerable degree, by contributions from con-
quered territories. After the fervour of the first
years of the revolution, there was in France no
legislative body capable of conferring credit on
government stock : no exemption from cash pay-
ments to facilitate to the payers of taxes, the means
of reimbursing themsehes by a ready addition to
wages, salaries, or professional fees. The amount
emitted in the form of assignats admits of no defi-
nite calculation, the value of that government
paper having fallen rapidly, and having been at

21 '



during the TVar, iS5

last, ill 1796, reduced to a nullity. But if we
compute at two liundred millions sterling the
amount of public sacritice from the assignats, and
if we add for the bankruptcy committed in regard
to two-thirds of the public debt, the forced loan of
1797> i^"d the augmented taxation of the latter
years of Bonaparte, two hundred millions more ;
and, finally, if we add a national loss of one hun-
dred millions, consequent on his inauspicious return
from Elba, and the invasion of 1815, we make in
all, a pecuniary sacrifice on the part of France, of
five hundred millions sterling, over and above the
twenty-two millions of annual expenditure neces-
sary under a peace establishment.

But the political strength of our southern neigh-
bour lies less in money than in men, and that
forced annual levy which would be so indignantly
received among us, and so subversive of the
resources of a commercial and manufacturine:
country, proved the most effectual means of draw-
ing forth the power of France. In this respect
accordingly, her sacrifices have been very great,
the number of men who fell in the long struggle
from 1792 to 1815, estimated, on a moderate com-
putation, at a million and a halfj being probably
more than three times the number lost by our
country, after every allowance for the destructive
effect of tropical climates. In another respect,
also, the neglect of education and postponement
of the choice of a profession attendant on the
Conscription, as well as the loss of time to those
who escaped the sword and resumed a })acific
occupation, form an amount of national detriment
which may very fairly be put in the balance against
the vast loss sustained in this country by the transi-
tion from war to peace.



C)6 General Rise af Pricea

The Netherlands, siihjecteil iluriiifr twenty years
to the sway of France, and (liirin*;- a part of the
time to the Conscri})ti()n, were also ex})osed to
heavy losses from the war. If less great than those
of France in men, they were larger in a financial and
commercial sense, as well from angmented taxation
as from intern ij)ted intercourse, and the many,
abortive attempts made, during the enforcement
of the prohibitory decrees, to produce substitutes
for coflf'ee and other articles, the growth of a tro})i-
cal climate.

Of the other European powers, the chief belli-
gerent was Austria, whose pecuniary sacrifice was
lessened by our subsidies, but whose loss in men
amounted perhaps to the half of that of France.
Next came Prussia, Spain, Russia, Sweden, in
whose case the duration of suffering was less, but
who were all doomed to feel the destructive ravag-e
of war and invasion. A pressure of a more lasting
kind, we mean that which is attendant on the
maintenance of a large standing force, extended to
every state, great and small, on the Continent, from
179'^ to 1814. Their taxation consequently in-
creased, and the general demand for men was fol-
lowed by a general rise in the price of labour. The
impracticability of effecting loans prevented that
stimulus to productive industry, that diain on the
future in favour of the present which took place
among us to so great an extent : nor was there in
any part of the Continent a continued inadequacy of
agricultural produce. Accordingly, though prices
on the Continent became higher in war than they
had been in peace, though during the one period
the demand for labour was brisk, in the other lan-
guid, the degree of difference was much smaller
than with us. This topic shall be more fully treated
1?



during the War. Cfjf

in a subsequent part of our volume, (Appendix to
Chap, ix.) but were we, for the sake of arriving at a
definite estimate, to hazard a conjecture of the differ-
ence between the present ])rices on tlie Continent
and those of 17f)^-^, we shoukl pronounce the former
about 15 per cent, higlier, being half the enhance-
ment that we find in Enghmd, comparing our pre-
sent prices to tiiose of 179^.



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 6 of 40)