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ally mingled itself with the business and industry of the country; and instead of merely taking away the savings, drained and destroyed the capital itself. Both were diseases of the most foul and malignant nature; but that of the former century what medical men term a topical disease, while that of the present was, to a great extent, constitutional.
Thus, when we look at the real difference between the two calamities, and find that the most recent one was decidedly the most pernicious in its nature, we cannot help wondering, why people generally have profited so little by the clear and philosophical light which has been thrown upon the theory, and even the practice of business, during the interval. The commencement of the last century was a time when monopolies were in their full vigour― when restrictions were the order of the day-when it was supposed that ministers would be just as successful in telling men what they should do, and how they should do it, as in telling armies where they should march, and against whom they should fight. The commencement of the present century found matters very different. No doubt in that century was hatched that most stupid of all monopolies that most ruinous of all restrictions, the Corn Bill; but, like Satan among the sons of God, it, commercially speaking, stood nearly alone: and in almost every other part of the law relating to industry, a more wholesome spirit--a spirit more in accordance with sound principles and judicious experience, had made its appearance. It had begun to be found out, that nations are not naturally the enemies of each other, any more than individuals; but that it is as conducive to the comfort and prosperity of a nation, as it is to those of a man, or a family, to be on good terms with his neighbours, inasmuch as in this way the advantage, though mutual and reciprocal, is greater to each of the parties, than it could be upon the old principle of "catch and keep." But, notwithstanding the theory of Adam Smith, the general practice of the commercial world, and the example of an administration just beginning to shew, that administrations can do other and better things than levy taxes and spend them in the purchase of glory; the men of the 19th century evinced really less judgment than their ancestors a hundred years before, and seemed to court folly and destruction as their inheritance and their reward.
It may be true that the late war, which had certainly excited the energies of this country in an extraordinary and unprecedented manner, and of which the ultimate result had been so much at variance with the diagnostics of the progress, had unsettled a little the faith of men in the maxims of philosophy, as well as left a large portion of speculative activity without any legitimate means upon which to work. To whatever it was owing, the feeling was, that combination could effect any purpose whatever, without the agency of the ordinary means of success-knowledge and indus
try; and unprincipled men, taking advantage of this feeling, and finding it profitable in the first instances, led astray that activity which, if properly husbanded, might have wonderfully increased all the comforts of the British people.
Whatever may or may not be the effect of a national debt upon the union of a people and the security of a government, it is very clear that the funds, in as far as they are made matter of gambling, tend to nothing but evil; and as this gambling forms the sole occupation of a very numerous, and not very philosophical, or perhaps moral class; it always tends to debase the knowledge and destroy the rectitude of every one who is in any way connected with it. It is time, however, that we should proceed to give some account of the contents of Mr. English's pamphlet.
In about forty brief pages, it contains details of one hundred and twenty seven joint stock companies, formed in 1824 and 1825, which are still existing, which have drawn from the capital of the country, either in cash actually advanced, or in debts which are still hanging over the parties, a sum exceeding fifteen millions sterling; it shews that of this sum, nearly five millions are already totally squandered and lost-and, that the holders of shares in those companies, are liable to be called upon for nearly eighty-eight millions more. The following summary exhibits the classes of those companies, with the leading particulars of each :
Capital. Amount Paid. Present Value.
No. of Shares
26,776,000 5,455,100 2,927,350
£102,781,600 £15,185,950 £9,303,950 £87,595,650 1,618,340
P. 10. Of the mines, the first item in this summary, a very limited portion indeed is situate on this side of the Atlantic; and we are not prepared to say, that, as being useful, or as ever to be useful, there is as much of the remainder on the other side. Out of the nominal capital of nearly twenty-seven millions, about twenty-two millions are applicable to speculations named after, if not existing in, the American mountains; of the fifteen millions paid, nearly fourteen millions have been paid for those transatlantic speculations; and consequently, of the six millions lost, nearly five and a half have been squandered upon them. Unfortunately, there are no means of separating the operations of vice and folly, and assigning to each its portion of this mischief; and so we cannot tell what has been seized by rapacious attornies, sage projectors, and sapient directors; and what has been expended in the construction of machinery and the transporting of workmen, now rusting and rotting together, in the inhospitable slopes of the Andes. But this much is certain, that the whole of the money has
been withdrawn from the honest industry of the country, and even the portion of it which gave a momentary stimulus to a few engine makers, and other mechanics, did mischief, by exciting a demand which, instead of being permanent, is not likely to be repeated in even another instance. The accounts which are every day arriving of the state of the mines, are any thing but favourable: the mines are inaccessible, or exhausted, or flooded with water, or not worth working, or have no existence but in the prospectuses and share tickets; the machinery is exposed to the corroding influence of a tropical climate, and the workmen are returning famished and feverish, with their spirits broken, and their health impaired, claiming a scanty remuneration in the mean time, and probably each and all destined to be, for the remainder of their lives, maintained by their respective parishes.
The gas and insurance companies, together with some of the miscellaneous ones, do not look so perfectly absurd as the mines: but upon glancing one's eye at the table, we find, that they also have decreased sadly in nominal value; and probably, if one were to seek for the six millions and a quarter, at which their present value is estimated by Mr. English, one would be puzzled to find out in what it consists. Besides, for those gas, insurance, and miscellaneous companies, the enormous sum of sixty-five millions is liable to be called for from the public. No doubt calling for any such sum in real value, would be like Glendower's calling" spirits from the vasty deep ;" it "would not come;" but some of it might come, and the non-appearance of the remainder might be a pretext for laying violent hands upon the portion within their grasp. In round numbers, the mines have fallen in value upon the capital actually advanced, nearly one half; the miscellaneous companies about one third; and those for gas and insurance, more than one fourth.
The second division of Mr. English's pamphlet, treats of those companies which have been already abandoned; and these, it will be seen from the annexed summary, have taken from the public about two millions and a half, all of which may be considered as completely dissipated.
The third division of the pamphlet, treats of those companies whose projectors had not brains or brass enough to bring them into regular play. They are as follows:
A fourth division contains "a commodity," (we cannot say)" of good names;" which appear to have taken no further form than that of a name, and this seems to have cost nothing more than some paper and ink, a few advertisements, and that necessary concomitant-an attorney's bill.
To render his view of the whole joint stock companies, as well as the whole drain upon the capital of the country, during these two memorable years, complete, Mr. English has subjoined a list of all the companies existing previous to 1824, and a statement of the loans raised for foreigners, and money actually advanced and sent out of the country for them, in 1824 and 1825. Of the former, he remarks, the majority are of a description for which individual capital is hardly adequate; and by the latter it appears, that upwards of twenty-five millions found their way to foreign powers during the two years.
Now, if we collect the items, we shall find that, taking the companies and the loans together, they form a drain, which is fully sufficient to account for all the distress that has subsequently ensued in every department of the trading world, the sum total being very nearly forty-three millions sterling, and that too, exclusive of an enormous amount, for the ascertaining which there are no data, or at least, no data which could be acquired without the labours of a Hercules. This consists in the gambling profits of the projectors and dealers in shares, while those shares were at a premium; and we are sure that we are within the amount, considering the number of times that many of the shares were transferred, and the large profits that were made upon several of these transfers, when we say, that the total loss in capital alone is fifty millions sterling; a sum so enormous, that it is difficult to imagine how the country should have borne it, without being absolutely ruined.
Great, however, as is this pecuniary waste, it contains not the whole of the evil: for time and talents which might the while have been profitably employed in the furtherance of the national pros
perity, have been squandered; men have been diverted from the honest pursuit of gain, and employed in plundering their neighbours; and thus, along with the diminution of fortune, there has been a debasement of character. Men who had previously moved in what was accounted the honourable spheres of society, and who had received, and probably deserved no small consideration in the eyes of their countrymen, have been classed with common gamblers and sharpers; and if they have not actually become tainted with the vices of these characters, they have lent them their names, and divided with them the dishonourable gain, and the disgrace. These are circumstances the more to be regretted, that they have, for a time at least, unhinged that confidence between man and man, which is the surest bond of a nation's prosperity, and have laid those open to suspicion, whom it is always desirable to preserve, and to believe to be, perfectly pure and incorruptible.
How the delusion acquired such strength, and made such progress, it is not very easy, and would not perhaps be very profitable to inquire; but still there remains the humiliating lesson of being "wiser next "--of "locking the stable door after the steed has been stolen;" and as this lesson is all that remains, the best way is to con it well, with a better accompaniment of repentance. The grand error seems to have been, total ignorance of the real value of a jointstock company; and the error now may be a dislike of such companies, even in the cases where they may be useful. The sound theory of this subject lies in a narrow compass; for every joint-stock company professing to do only that which could be done by individuals, is, prima facie, an evil, inasmuch as it is a monopoly against the public, and as from its very nature, it must perform its functions at a much greater expense. Take any joint-stock company in existence, and compare the expense at which it is carried on, with that of an individual doing business upon his own account, and it will be found that the advantage is greatly upon the side of the latter. The reason is obvious: in every well-conducted business, there must be an unity of purpose a single commander; and that commander must be uniformly disposed to make the expenditure a minimum at every point. But not one of these attributes can be predicated of a joint-stock company, where there must be "an honourable board of directors," paying occasional attention to the association, and receiving their fees; a manager taking his cue from those directors, and also pocketing his salary; and secretaries, clerks, and sub-clerks, auditors, treasurers, barristers, and attornies, very often appointed by jobbing influence, and all of them caring nothing more for the property of the concern, than that it shall pay their salaries. But a joint-stock company, instituted for carrying on any trade or undertaking which might be within the compass of an individual's means, is not merely a clumsy, expensive, and inefficient engine in itself, it acts as a sort of extinguisher upon that general mass of talent which