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Many and various have been the Schemes of projectors, for relieving the national burdens, but so weighty have been the objections of sound reason and expediency to the plans offered, that the subject seems to be withdrawn from public attention, as one altogether hopeless of remedy, or liable to difficulties of an insurmountable nature.
We exclaim with the dramatist, “ Let us rather bear the ills we have, great and perilous as they are, than fly to others that we know not of.” This, however, it must be acknowledged, is but a weak and spiritless conclusion, for a high-minded people ; and this tame acquiescence in existing evils, bas in all ages proved a bar to moral and political improvement. Nations, like individuals, imitate the waggoner in the fable, and are ready, in periods of distress, “To fall upon their knees and solicit the aid of Jupiter," overlooking what, in the affairs of this world, is our first duty: namely, to put our shoulders to the work we have in hand, and show that we have some claim to the kind assistance of heaven.
Unappalled then by the disregard which appears to have accompanied all the proposals hitherto brought forward, for lessening the national debt, and national burdens; I appeal once more to the energies of a great and spirited people. After a mature and deep consideration of the subject, I venture to assure them, that an effort on their part, requiring no sacrifice, at all comparable with the benefits to be derived from it, will rapidly free them from one half their present burdens, and elevate the political situation of this great country, to a height bitherto unattained by any nation.
Previous, however, to the developement of this plan of relief, it is necessary to say a few words in 'reply to those who assert, that no change of system is required, and that "time and patience" only are wanting to relieve us from all our difficulties.
The truth of this assertion, will be best tried by a short review of our financial situation.
The public debt of this country, funded and unfunded, may be stated in round numbers at eight hundred and fifty millions, requiring when coupled with its attendant the sinking fund, an annual charge of nearly fifty millions. The current expenses of Government require about twenty millions, and the parochial and other local taxes will be understated at ten millions, making a total of annual tasation upon the United Kingdom of eighty millions. By estimates given in a subsequent part of this work, it will be seen, that the whole income of the United Kingdom, arising from property and labor conjointly, does not exceed three hundred millions; taxation therefore, of one kind or other, amounts to more than one fourth of the whole income of the country, so that a yeoman or gentleman of five hundred pounds yearly income, pays one hundred and twenty-five pounds or upwards, in taxes.
Every other income above or below the sum here stated, is taxed in proportion.-Some few exceptions may indeed occur in consequence of the different modes of living--but generally speaking, taxation falls upon all ranks in the proportion here mentioned.
During the French revolutionary war, which bore down all our rivals in cominerce, the growing trade of this country enabled us to support all this immense burden. But the return of peace, giving security and animation to foreign manufacturers, brings us into commercial competition with nations, whose taxation may be stated as only one to four, of the taxation of the British Empire. Thus British industry, ingenuity, and enterprise, have to contend against an advantage to the foreigner, of nearly twenty per cent. from taxation only, exclusive of that which he derives from a more fruitful soil, and greater cheapness of labor.
Under these circumstances, it is easy to foresee, that the foreign commerce of Britain must gradually diminish, and as a natural consequence, that her revenue must diminish also ;--Who ! that examines the state of our foreign commerce with intelligence, can fail to perceive, that the mischief is already in progress? what article of import yields a protit to the importer ? and nine times in ten, what article of export gives any profitable return? Foreign trade is become little better than a game of hazard; and though the players may continue interested for a while, without any reasonable hope of gain; yet the good sense and prudence of the British merchant, will prevent any lengthened pursuit of such a dangerous and unprofitable occupation.
Foreign commerce then, will decline, for though naval discovery,
and the general increase and amelioration of mankind, from the extension of art and science, are gradually opening new markets to our enterprize and industry; still the enormous disadvantage of tweuty per cent. in the cost of every article of consumption, and in the payment of every species of labor, must create such obstacles to the commerce of Britain, as all the industry and enterprize of her inhabitauts cannot overcome.
Foreigo manufacturers will excel us in the cheapness of their fabrics, and gradually drive us out of every market ;-our naval superiority cannot long survive the loss of commerce, and our colonial possessions will become the prey of rival nations. This may be deemed by sone a gloomy picture, but its truth is already felt, by the experience of a six years' peace, and “ time and paţience” are more likely to add to, than diminish the evil. It may be urged, perhaps, that our national debt is about to be gradually reduced, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making an effort, at least, to appropriate five millions annually to that object;—thus after six years of peace, we begin to talk only of reduction; and it is more than probable, that another six years upon system, will find us deeper in debt than we now are. But allowing, for the sake of argument, that five millions surplus revenue, can be clearly made out, and annually applied to the reduction of debt; and further, that we are fortunate enough, to be blest with ten years more of uninterrupted peace; in this case, the three per cent. stock will rise to eighty or upwards, and in ten years sixty millions of this stock will be paid off ; and the annual charge in respect of debt, will be diminished by one million eight hundred thousand pounds; this will be esteemed but a very meagre relief to the country—and who will venture to insure to us, ten years more of upinterrupted peace? or who will be bold enough to say, that the present enormous taxation can be borne ten years longer by a suffering people ?
It is necessary also to bear in mind, that the next war we may be engaged in, will in all human probability be a maritime war, and the prize of contest be no less than the command of the ocean; we shall have to encounter au active and courageous foe, rendered contident by former success, and assisted by those European powers, who are jealous of our naval greatness. The expense of such a war will be great, whilst on the other hand, it will offer pone of those commercial advantages, which enabled us to raise such vast supplies during the late French war. To enter upon such a contest, incumbered as we now are with debt and taxes, would be to offer ourselves bound hand and foot to the enemy, and could not fail to end in the ruin of our finances.
No! it is in vain to trifle any longer ;; we must, though reluc
tantly, assent to the appalling truth, either that the public debt inust be wholly or in great part paid off, or this debt will plunge the nation into irretrievable confusion and misery.
The arguments which have been adduced, and a thousand others will present themselves to every thinking mind,) are surely sufficient to prove, that the debt is become to this country, an evil of immense magnitude ; and that the only question now is, how to diminish the evil? Since, to remove it altogether seems beyond our power. Fortunately for this great country, there remain abundant resources for overcoming every financial difficulty. It is only requisite, that we should have a clear and distinct view of the cause of our distress and danger, and that we should unanimously resolve to make an energetic application of those means of relief, which a kind Providence has placed within our reach.
The attainment of the following propositions, it is conceived, will accomplish such a relief to this country, as must in a short time restore life and soul to the body politic, and raise the now drooping energies of agriculture and commerce:
First. Such a reduction of the national debt and annual charge thereon, as shall render it henceforth a burden of no baneful consequence, to a highly productive country like this.
Second. An immediate and considerable remission of duties and taxes, with a prospective remission in ten years, to the amount of nearly one half our present taxation.
Third. A security against the effects of any future wars upon our public debt, by the appropriation of certain taxes, as war taxes only, equal to any efforts the country may be called upon to make.
Fourth. A recurrence to the principles of a free trade, so far as this may be proved advantageous to commerce, and to the general welfare of the state.
Fifth. The power of resuming safely, though gradually, a metallic currency; the fatal departure from which may be justly considered, as one great cause of our present difficulties.
These propositions being attained, it can hardly be doubted, that a considerable reduction in the poor's-rates will follow, and we may then look forward with some confidence, to the revival of agriculture; from the combined operation of reduced taxes and poor's-rates, and the renewed activity of commerce.
Bold as the assertion may appear, I do not hesitate to declare, that the accomplishment of the propositions here enuinerated, is a measure of comparatively easy attainment in this country, requiring only to be brought forward by a ministry of known ability, integrity aud patriotism, possessing the confidence of the nation; or, in default of such a ministry, to be urged upon the Government, by the unanimous voice of an awakened people.
In redemption of the pledge thus confidently given, I proceed. to unfold the plan of relief, reserving all explanatory remarks and arguments, to the close of the exposition, in order to present the Scheme unbroken to every calculating mind.
I propose then the following parliamentary enactments :
First. That the sinking fund, as now constituted, do cease to form a part of the finance system of this country.
Second. That all the public annuities of a lower denomination, be consolidated into five per cent. stock, at the following rates; three per cents. at sixty-five; three and a half per cents. at seventy-three and a half ; four per cents. at eighty-one and a half ; the five per cents, remaining at par of £100.
Third. That an assessment of twenty per cent. shall be laid on all property in the public funds, so consolidated.
Fourth. That an assessment of five per cent, shall be laid on all private property, not in the British funds : valuing all fixed property, except buildings, at twenty years purchase, and all buildings, at fifteen years purchase. This assessment to be converted into a redeemable income-tax at the option of the proprietor, his property being security for the payment with interest, at five per cent. per annum, from the date of assessment.
Fifth. That an assessment of five per cent. be levied for the term of ten years only, upon all incomes not arising from property already assessed; such as income from foreign estates, incomes of professional men, artists, stipendiary clerks, and on all salaries above fifty-five pounds per annum.
Sixth. That a like assessment of five per cent. for the term of ten years only, be levied upon all net profits of trade and agriculture.
The practical application and result of these enactments will be as follows: 538,814,815 Three per cent annuities will be
converted into five per cent. stock, £350,229,629
at sixty-five, making, 32,075,450 Three and a half per cent. annuities,
converted into five per cents., at 23,625,455
seventy-three and a half, making, 75,514,727 Four per cent. annuities converted
into five per cents., at eighty-one 61,544,508
and a half, making, 148,575,487 Five per cent. annuities, at par of E100.
794,980,479 Total nomi.
Making when consolidated into new five per cent. stock,