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The property of such persons also as are any time. Should a national debt, for
state the objections which have been presented by the income-tax, and that made against the measure on account we reckon twenty millions for what has either of the supposed in practicability been added since the time I wrole to of executing it, or on account of the mis. the national debt; we shall then trave chiefs it appears calculated to occasioni, 2100 millions of real and nominal
The Criçical Review, in their account perty, (hy nominal property I mean that of my pamphlet, observe: “The sininein the funds) with which to pay a debt diate discharge of the national debe in of 420 millions. It follows therefore, this, or any other way, would cause a that every one would be called upon to great quantity of superfluous capital, give up th of his property in order to dis. which the necessities of trade, of comcharge the nationa!' debt. The socka merce, and of agriculture, could not bolders would as such, have to deduct readily absorb. Numerous annuitants from their claims on the public 84 mil. on the funds, who now live on their in. lions, and the public would have to pay terest, would then be obliged to live ou to the stockholders the remaining 336 their capital. The quantity of circulating millions. It may not be amiss to remark medium would be encreased beyond al bere, that any error which may be made proportion to the exigencies of exchange, in estimating the relative proportion &c. &c." Now I would ask these gen. which the national debt and national tlemen, how it would be possible in creproperty bear to each other, will not ate, and bring suddenly into circulation, affect the general question which regards a great additional quantity of currency the policy of discharging such a debt. by the discharge of the national debt, or In general, howerer, the greater the pro
indeed by any other financial measure? portion which a national debe bears to I can conceive only two ways by which the existing national property, the the circulating medium of a country can greater will be the benefits which will be suddenly angınented. First, by the accrue to nations and individuals from discovery of new mines of the precious discharging such debts. If it be admitted metals; or secondly, by the introduction also that national creditors ought to con
of an extra quanzity of paper-money: tribute in proportion to the amount of since the former of these does not appear their claims to discharge Jcbts due to probable, we will examine a little the themselves, it will follow that a nation practicability of the latter. It will be cannot contract a debt (with its own readily allowed, that no person can all at people at least) greater than it will pos- onoe issue an extraordinary quantily of sess sufficient property to discharge at paper-money who has not the ostensible
means of taking it up with negotiable This no doubt is theoretically right, but value. Let us suppose, for instance, that when we consider the state of the popular a proprietor of land, to the value of one representation, the state of property, the manner in which the national debt has been * Them whly reviewers have denied the Fontracted, and upon whom and for what practicability of discharging the debt, in the purpose it has
neea chiefly expended, ' we same manner as they insinuated that it was shall be disposed to think perhaps that an af. unjust to tax the funds for the purpose. Now rangement' somewhat different from this, should I be able to shew its practicability, I might be equitably adoptcr in its practical suppose they will assert again, that I have payment. On çhis subject I may say more said nothing but what they and every ong hsreafter,
Practicability of discharging the National Debt. (June 1, million, were to draw bills to the amount in quarterly or half-yearly instalmeats to of two hundred thousand pounds, in the Bank of England, and be by them order to pay his share of the national paid in the usual way to the stockdebl, who would be found able or willing holders. This example will be suficient to discount them, especially if the Bank to explain niy meaning with respect to of England were prohibited, as it ought the mode of transferring that pari of the to be, and as indeed it is from the dent which would fall to the share of the nature of things, from increasing its dis- land and houses, counts? No doubt the paper-money of Let us next inquire what would be the this country is gradually increased; and general effect of the adoption of such a chis is an evil which ought, and I believe plan. If we suppose the landed buildings might, be remedied by means which I may to be equal in value to gihs of all the ex. hereafter point out; but it appears ut- isting property in the country, which terly impossible that any considerable perhaps is not an extravagant estimate, quantity of circulating medium can be we shall, by an arrangement of this suddenly forced into circulation without kind, get rid of nearly 269 millions, or producing a depreciation in its value fils of all which the public would hare to greater even than the amount of the pay to the stockholder without the transe extra issue. Unless therefore there be fer of a single shilling, without making already existing a quantity of circulating the least change in the relative situation medium sufficient for the purpose, it of any individual, and without the fa would be altogether impracticable to dis- brication of a single pound note. There charge the national debt by its direct would remain therefore only about 66 payment in currency: and even if there millions to be settled by a transfer of werp, it would be next to impossible for specie, and this might be effected without the great proprietors of land to procure much difficulty in the course of five suficient of 'it for their purpose. It is years, by twenty quarterly payments of in this fight that the Edinburgh reviewers, 34 millions each, charging to each perin their critique on the bishop's "inson the regular interest which fell to his tended speech,” consider the matter, share, till the whole of his debt was paid and with this opinion I think every re- off. flecting person must coincide.
In order to render the transfer of speTaking it for granted then that the cie as small as possible, it should be national debt cannot be discharged by a provided that lands and houses under direct payment in specie, I shall be mortgage should be reckoned at their asked, how is it to be discharged? I full value, and pay to the debt-tax in the answer, It may be done in two ways : same proportion as those not under either by the owners of lands and houses mortgage. But the owners would be making an actual transfer of such part of authorised to deduct from the annual them (say fth) as would be equivalent to interest due to the mortgagee a sum the proportion each would have to pay equal to the interest of that which he of the national debt, or (which would be the nortgagee) would have had to pay much better, for reasons which I shall in the stockholder on account of such bint at bye and bye) by charging on their money, as his proportionate part for whole estates an annual sum equal to discharging the national debt. Money the interest at 5 per cent. of the capital therefore on mortgage would cot be each would have to pay. Suppose, for directly liable to the debt-tax, but indiinstance, a person was possessed of houses rectly through the medium of the real and land, which, when valued as proposed property on the security of which it was in my pamphlet, were found to be worth put to interest. By this means we should ten thousand pounds. Now fth of this, provide, that the whole rental of the or 20001. would be the sum he would land and.bouses would be charged to the have to pay towards discharging the debt-tax, which would not be the case national debt, and the interest of it at if mortgaged property were exempted 5 per cent. would be 100l.; with this sum from it for the amount of the money for therefore, such an estate should be which it was under mortgage; if this excharged annually to what might be called emption took place, it is evident that a the debt-tax, instead of being levied greater transfer of specie (a thing which upon at once for the capital, it would ought as much as possible to be avoided) have been liable to contribute for its would be required to complete the payproportion to the national debt. This ment of the national debt. When moannual sum, or debt-tax, should be paid ney was paid in which had been lent or
mortgage, the borrower, it is evident, present? Would not the funds, when would have a riglat to deduct from it a placed even upon this footing, be liable sum (suppose tih) equal to that which the to be raised or depressed by any acci. lender would have had to pay on account dental difference in the foreign or doof such sum, towards discharging the mestic relations of the country in short, deht.
would not the Fsench government in the It will be observed, that in my estimate probable future relative situation of the of the amount of the national debt, I two countries, still bave it in their power supposed that 3 per cent. would be paid to raise and lower stocks at their pleasure off at 60, wb as the Edinburgh re- in a time of peace, and take advantage viewers have asserted, in their critique of such changes of price, to put consion the bishop of Llandaff, that they derable sums in their own pockets? I would, and ought to be, paid off at 100. must confess, that I think noi, especially On this supposition it is evident that the if it were enacted, that the stockholder stockholder would receive back almost should have a right, in case of the nontwice as much as he bad lent to governo payment of his interest, or on the proment, the equity of which, to say the bability of an invasion, to be considered least of it, is certainly not very apparent. joint proprietor with whatsoever lande It would make a very material difference holder he pleased, and be authorised to also in the proportion which would be distrain for his dividends in the saine required of every person's property to manner as is done for rent. In this case, discharge the debt. This difficulty how- property in the (new) funds would be ever would be done away, at least with re- just as secure as property in land; is spect to ths of the sum due to the stock. would be the same at least as a mortgage holder, by securing to him on tlie land on land, and as little liable to be affected and houses, the same annual interest in value by any difference in the situation which he receives at present. The pub- of the country with respect to foreign lic woull, by the method I have pro. powers. In both cases, (that of the posed, (as far as ths of his property goes funds and a mortgage) a permissory right at least) fulfil their engagements with hiin to receive the rents would be vested in to the very letter, for if it is i ow worth the hands of a second person, who would while to give nearly 701. to receive an be answerable with his whole property annual interest of 31. without having any for his fidelity in discharging his trust. other than the vague undefined security If it should still be found however, on which the funds rest at present, it that funded property was liable to be would surely be worth as much to re- affected by foreign influence, its anni ceive the same annual interest when the hilation might be easily effected, and the principal was secured on the best of all mischief done away at once by the actual possible funds that of all the lands and transfer of 4th of the land and houses from houses in the nation. In short, I am per- the present proprietors to the stocka suaded, that after a measure of the kind holders. But in this case, the public I have pointed out was put in execution, would be in danger of losing the vast ado 3 per cent stock would soon get up to vantages which they derive from life 80, and probably more thail that sum, so and fire-insurance ofices. These instithat if the stockholder had only fths of tutions, valuable as they are, could bis real claim secured to him in this scarcely exist if it were not for the facility manner, it would be worth as much to which the funds afford of safely investing him as the whole is at present. When his their capital and occasional receipts, and security was changed so much for the bet- as easily obtaining the occasional sums ter, and ths of it were rendered so much wbich they may be liable to be called more valuable, the stock holder would upon to pay a
a short notice. not have much reason to complain, These institutions are, on the whole, so even though 4th of his capital, which is advantageous to a country, that it now worth 08, were paid off at 60; might be worth while to run some little neither indeed would it make much dif- risk of being injured by our neighbors, ference to the public, were they to pay for the sake of retaining them. the remaining fih or 66 millions at 68 or risk however might be diminished, were 70, the present price of stock instead of we to make a transfer of part (say 1) 60, the price I have calculated upon. of the funded property; by this means
But a question here occurs, Would not the floating debt irould be reduced to the price of stocks, even in this case, be about 140 millions, which perhaps is subject to the same fluctuation as at no more than is necessary to render the
448 Lord Erskine's Opinion on Summary Attachment. (June 14 funds competent to produce all the ad combatants will stand in the same ré tantages wbich they do at present. Incive situation after, as they did befwe Were we, however, to place the debt on their weapons were shortened. Neither the footing I have proposed, and wisely would the dininution of individual camake a radical change both in our pital tend to diminish the spirit of comforeign and domestic policy; a thing itsercial enterprise. It is vot so much which we shall ere long be obliged to the absolute as the relative accumulation do, our financial arrangement of whats of capital, which creates and invigorates eror description would not be liable to commercial speculation. It is evident be in the least affected by any external indeed, that ile national capital would or foreign influence whatsoever. I shall not on the üliole he diminished ; it would now proceed to examine for a monent, only be divided amongst a greater nuin. how people engaged in trade would be ber of hands, and would therefore, in all alfecied by the dischargling of the nati. probability, be productive of greater be. onal debt in the manner t have pro nefit to the country. The diminution posed. We have seen, that more than of the price of goods, consequent on the shirteen millions, a sum considerably diminution of duties and taxes, would greater than the whole aniouit of the residet our present circulating medium income tax, would have to be raised an. More than adequate to carry on the nually from somewhat less than 4th of the commercial intercourse of the country. property of the country, and although This superfluous currency would be the taxes would be taken off to the amdunt saine as an accession of fresh capital, of inore than twenty millions annually in aid miglie be turned to the greatest naconsequence of this measure, still this tionäl advantage, by being employed in part of the public would be but little the culture of the waste lands; under & benefited by it. They would have to general inclosure act. pay to the stockholder for the first year, as much in interest as they now pay in For the Monthly Magazine. taxes. The charge of interest indeed, On the PRACTICE exercised by the sto would decrease in proportion as they HOUSES of PARLIAMENT of construing advanced in discharging the capital of LIBEL into CONTEMPT, and PUNISHING their debt. We are to consider there- it by their OWN ORDER. fore, a portion less than fich of the national [Opinion of lord Erskine, on the right of property, as being levied upon for the first
Summary Attachment, even by the courts year at least, to the amount of near
of law, given so long back as 1783, on the 14 millions, and for the amount of all
occasion of an Attachment issued by the the present taxes besides, except the inte
Court of King's Bench of Ireland against come tax; and it is to be considered too, that this will have for the most part to
the magistrates of Leitrim, for being enga. be paid by people engaged in trade. It, ged in holding a meeting fof a reform in the would seem at the first blush, that to tepresentation of the people in parliameat. take so much (asthoftheir whole property) It is applicable to the case of Mr. Gale annually, for five successive years, from Jones, because the proceeding against him commercial people, would be productive is for an act that might clearly, safely, and of great inconvenience to them; but if
effectually, have been brought before the *e reflect a little, we shall see reason to ordinary courts of law.] think that this will be by no means the
IX A LETTER TO A FRIEND, Case. Every toan's capital would be
Batb, Jan. 13, 1785. levied upon in the saine
FEEL myself very honoured in the same relative situation after, as he occasion so important to the public freedid before, the money was paid. Trade dom; and I only liment that neither at least, as carried on at present, is a my age nor experience are such as to sort of warfare; it is a strugyle who can give my opinion any authority with the get the greatest share of the good things, court in which you practice: but where and amass the greatest quantity of ever I have no doubt, I am always ready wealth. As in contests of a ditferent to say what I think; and you are, there nature, he that has the longest sword, so fore, very welcome to my most public in this he that has the longest purse, sentiments, if any use can be made of usually gets the victory; but if all the
them. swords, as well as all the purses, are You hare very properly confined your equally curtailed, it is evident that the questious to the particular case, furnished
me by the affidavit which you have trans- could not accomplish this without putmitted to me; and my answers therefore ting upon the record overments of their need involve in them no general discus. criminal purposes and intentions; the sions upon the principles of civil govern- truth of which averments, are facts which ment, which in the mere abstract are he must establish at the trial, or fail in not often useful, nor always intelligible. his prosecution. It is the province of The propositions to which my answers the jury, who are the best judges of the are meant strictly to apply, are
state of the nation, and the most deeply Firsi, Whether the facts charged by interested in the preservation of its trana the allidavit, on which your Court of quillity, to say, by their verdict, whether King's Bench is proceeding against the the defendants acted from principles of magistrates of Leitrim, are suithicient to public spirit, and for the support of good wa rant any criminal prosecution for a government, or sought seditiously to dismisdemeunor uhutsoever?
turb it. The one or the other of these Secondly, Whether, supoosing them objects would be collected at the trial, sufficient to warrant a prosecution by from the conduct of the defendants in information or indictment, the court has summosing the meeting, and the purany jurisdiction to proceed by attach- poses of it when met. mient?
If the jury sa's reason, from the eviAs you are pushed, in point of time, dence, to think that its objects, however I can venture to answer both these ques. coloured by expressions the most guarded tions at Bath, without the assistance of and legal, were, in effect, and intended my books, because they would throw no to be, subversive of governinent and light opon the first froin its singularity, order, or calculated to stir up discontent, and the last is inuch too clear to require without adequate objects in vindicate any from them.
the active attention of the public, they As to the first: the facts charged by would be bound in conscience and in law the affidavit do of themselves neither es- to convict them; but if, on the other tablish nor exclude guit in the defend- band, their conduct appeared to be vinapts. In one state of society such pro- ' dicated by public danger or necessity, ceedings might be hilly criminal; and, directed to legal objects of reformation, in another, truly virtuous and legal. and animated by a lavdable zeal for the
Tocreate a national delegation amongst honour and prosperity of the nation, a free people, already governed by ie. then no derurture from accustomed forms presentation, can never be, under all in the manner of assembling, nor uny incircumstances, a crime: the objects of correct erpressions in the description of such delegation, and the purposes of their ohject, would bind, or even justify, a those who seek to effect it, c:in alone de- jury to convict them as libellers of terinine the quality of the act, and the the government, or disturbers of the guilt or innocence of the actors.
peace. If it points (no matter upon what ne- To constitute a legal charge of either cessity) to supersede or to controul the of these offences, the crown (as I before existing government, it is self-evident observed) must aver the criminal intens that is cannot be tolerated by its laws. tion, which is the essence of every crime; It may be a glorious revolution; but it is and these averments inust be either prorebellion against the government which red at the trial, or, if to be inferred it changes.
prima fucie from the facts themselves, If, on the other hand, it extends no may be rebutted by evidence of the dec further than, to speak with certainty the fendant's innocent purposes. If the crie united voice of the nation to its repre. minal intent charged by the information sentatives, without any derogation of be not established to the satisfaction of their legislative authority and discretion, the jury, the information which charges it is a legal proceeding, which ought not it is not true; and they are bound to indeed to be lightly entertained, but say so by a verdict of acquittal. which many national conjunctures may I am therefore of opinion (in answer render wise and necessary.
to the first question), that the defendants The attorney-general inight, undoubt. are liable to be prosecuted by informa. edly, convert tbe facts contained in the tion; but that the success of such proaffidavit into a legal charge of a bigh secution ought to depend upon the opi. misdemeanor; which, when properly put nion which the people of Ireland, form. into the form of an informaton, tie de iny a jury, shall entertain of their intenfendants could not demur to: but be tion in summoning the meeting, and the MONTHLY Mag. No. 199.