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he were obliged to pay a direct tax of 30s. or 35s. on every quarter he consumes; and, averaging the consumption of each individual at three-fourths of a quarter of wheat, it is really equivalent to a capitation tax of 22s. 6d., or to more than three times the sum paid by the people of Holland, as a composition for the tax on bread. We feel it to be unnecessary to make any commentary on this statement. It is not contended that there is any thing peculiar in the situation of this country; but, unless such were really the case, must we not conclude, that the same abuse of the taxing and funding system which forced the capitalists of Holland to have recourse to foreign investments-degraded the condition of her labourers—and ultimately stript her of her commerce, fisheries, and manufactures, will be equally fatal in Great Britain ? If we do not adopt the advice of the Prince of Orange to the States-General, and diminish all duties, we must not Aatter ourselves with the vain and delusive idea, that we shall be able to escape the fate of those by whom it was rejected.
It is perhaps impossible accurately to determine the precise portion of the produce of the capital and labour of the productive classes of Great Britain and Ireland, drawn from them by means of direct and indirect taxation-by the operation of the Corn-Laws-and as contributions for the support of the church, the poor, and other public burdens. We believe, however, that the following estimate will be found to be a pretty near approximation to the truth.
It appears, from the official statements given in the Finance accounts for 1818, that the gross produce of the revenue of Great Britain and Ireland, for the year ending 5th January 1819, amounted to 64,506,2031. Now, if to this sum we add 24,578,000l, on account of the unnatural enhancement of the price of corn, and allow for Poor-rates and other county burdens 12,000,0001., and for the Church establishment 5,000,0001., the total aggregate amount of the public burdens may be taken at 106,084,2031.
It is much more difficult, however, to ascertain the amount of the National Income, or the sum which remains as rent, profit, and wages, after replacing the capital employed in the
great work of production. Dr Beeke, in his very valuable and elaborate pamphlet on the Income Tax, published in 1800, estimated the income of Great Britain arising from land, labour, professions, and every other source, at 218 millions; and supposing the income of Ireland to be equal to one-fifth of that of Great Britain, we should have 261 millions as the total income VOL. XXXIII. NO. 65.
of the Empire. Since 1800, the national income has been considerably augmented, though not perhaps to the extent generally believed. But, assuming that it has in the interval been increased one-third, or 87 millions, that would give 348 millions as the present income of the United Kingdom. We are satisfied that this estimate is rather over than underrated. It is true, Dr Colquhoun estimates the value of the new property annually produced in Great Britain and Ireland at 430 millions. But new property and income are very different things. The former, besides rent, profit, and wages, includes the sum which must be set apart to replace the capital consumed in production. The new property produced by a farmer or manufacturer may be equal to ten or twenty times the value of their incomes; nor is it possible to form any accurate estimate of the income of a country, merely from the insulated fact of its new property being equal to such and such a sum. Supposing, however, that the fixed and circulating capital of Great Britain and Ireland are together equal to 2500 millions, (Dr Colquhoun estimates them at 2647 millions), and that the annual waste in production is 2 per cent., which is surely a very mode rate allowance, that would give 50 millions to be deducted from the value of the new property, in order to replace capital. But this is not the only correction to be made. Dr Colquhoun's estimate was framed for 1812, when bank paper, or the money in which his valuations were made, was at least 20 per cent. less valuable than at this moment; so that, when both these circumstances are taken into account, it will be found that Dr Colquhoun's estimate is not materially different from our own.
But, on the hypothesis that the present income of the United Kingdom is equal to 350 millions, it is plain that very little less than one-third of the entire revenue of the industrious classes is swallowed up by taxation, and by the bounty to the growers of corn; or, which is the same thing, every poor man is obliged to labour two days out of sir, not for the benefit of himself or his master, but in order to satisfy the demands of the Treasury; and this in addition to one-third of the profits of all fixed capital, such as land, machinery, &c. and of professional incomes devoted to the same purpose! Surely it is unnecessary to seek elsewhere for an explanation of the difficulties in which we are involved. No country was ever subjected to such a scourge. Nor can there be the shadow of a doubt, that it is owing to the Government claiming for themselves, and allowing, or rather forcing the growers of corn to claim, in exchange for their produce, too great a share of the earnings of the industrious classes, that the latter have not enough left to support themselves.
In 1793, the gross produce of the revenue of Great Britain and Ireland amounted to about 20 millions. Corn was then cold at its natural price; and the aggregate amount of Poor-rates and tythes did not exceed 7 millions. Now, on the very moderate estimate that the income of both Islands, in 1793, only amounted to 240 millions, the public burdens must have been equal to about one ninth of the entire national income. And, unquestionably, it did not require any great sagacity to foresee, that it was impossible to increase the portion of the capital and labour of the productive classes, drawn from them by means of taxation, from a ninth to a third, or in a threefold proportion, in the short space of twenty-two years, without occasioning the most extensively ruinous consequences. It is this inordinate extension of the public burdens which has cast down respectable tradesmen, farmers, and nianufacturers, from a state of affluence and independence, to one of embarrassment, poverty, and misery--which has rendered it next to impossible for a young, healthy, able-bodied labourer to support himself by his unaided exertions—which, notwithstanding all those stupendous discoveries by which production has been so much facilitated, has so very greatly increased the price of almost every species of commodities and which, by reducing the rate of profit, has forced capital, or the funds destined for the support of productive industry, to seek employment in France, Belgium, and America,
But we do not despair of the country. And having thus, we trust satisfactorily, established that the present distresses are almost entirely owing to the excess of taxation, and the monopoly granted to the agriculturists, it is a comparatively easy, as well as a more pleasing task, to point out the means by which they may be alleviated. In order to accomplish this most desirable object, we have only to act on a system precisely the reverse of that by which the public distresses have been produced. An effectual reduction of taxation, and a cautious and gradual repeal of the restrictions on the trade in corn, and of the other restrictions which disgrace our commercial system, will put to flight the evils by which we are now assailed, and restore wealth ad prosperity to all classes of the community. But it is in vain to suppose that any thing short of this will be sufficient to counteract the progress of pauperism-Qui vult finem vult media. If we have not good sense and virtue enough immediately to set about making an unsparing retrenchment in every branch of expenditure, and to permit our artisans to purchase their food in the cheapest market, we must submit not only to a continu
ance, but to an increase of all the mischiefs we now suffer. Palliatives may delay, but it is not in the nature of things that they should be able to avert the final triumph of pauperism. Nothing but a very great reduction of the demands made by Government, and the total repeal of the worst of all possible taxes--the tax on corn, can save the country from the abyss of poverty and misery to which, if it has not already arrived, it is fast hastening.
Most of our readers, we presume, are aware, that, in order to lighten the load of taxation, Mr Ricardo has proposed that an assessment should be made on the capital of the country for the purpose of at once discharging the public debt. But waving, for the present, all examination of the probable consequences of attempting to carry this bold and decisive measure into effect, we certainly think that it ought at all events to be considered as a dernier resort ; and that it should first be ascertained whether any real and efficient relief can be obtained from economy, and a thorough revision of our commercial system. Before submitting to so great a sacrifice as would be required for the immediate payment of the debt, the country has a right to demand that retrenchment should be carried to its utmost limits, and that every restraint on the freedom of industry should be removed. Should this prove ineffectual, then undoubtedly recourse must be had to still stronger measures. When it has been satisfactorily established that there is but one alternative, and that if the country does not rid itself of the debt, the debt will destroy the country, we must submit, cost what it will, to pay it off.
It is plain, however, that much may be done for the relief of. the country, without having recourse to this measure. The interest of the funded and unfunded debt, exclusive of the sinking fund, amounts to about 32 millions. But, as has been already shown, the Corn-laws have really the same effect as if a tax of 24 millions and a half were levied from the consumers of corn. Now, when it is considered that a very large proportion of the taxes raised to pay the interest of the public debt affect only articles of luxury which are never consumed by the labourer, and that a tax on corn, on the contrary, being precisely equivalent to a direct tax on wages, must either degrade the condition of the labouring class, or lower the rate of profit, we must be satisfied that the advantages which the bulk of the nation would derive from the abolition of the restriction on importation, would at least equal those it would derive from the extinction of the public debt. And what is there that ought to stand in the way of this abolition? Landlords, it is admitted, would suffer from a fall in the price of raw produce. But there can be no reason why nine- ,
tenths of society should pay a monopoly price for their food, in order that the rental of the other tenth may be enhanced. The State has nothing to do with the account of the gains and losses of its subjects. Its business is, to treat all parties with the same indulgence, and to remove whatever obstacles may stand in the way of the accumulation of wealth; not certainly to pamper and enrich one class of producers at the expense of the whole.
But we are told, the Corn-law was not adopted with a view to increase the rents of the landlords. That, we are assured, is a matter about which they feel exceedingly indifferent! The measure is defended on the ground of its being necessary to placo agriculture on the same footing as the other branches of industry, which, it is affirmed, are almost all protected by prohibitory duties, and as a means of securing to the country an independent and ample supply of provisions. We shall, in a very few words, endeavour to determine the degree of credit which ought to be attached to these statements.
In the first place then, there is an essential difference between manufacturing and agricultural industry; and if it were true that the former was artificially protected from foreign competition, that would afford no valid plea for placing the latter in the same situation. In manufacturing industry, the cost of produce ing commodities must, by the successive improvements in the arts, be almost always diminishing. But this principle of improvement is, in agriculture, more than counterbalanced by the constant necessity, as population advances, of having recourse to poorer soils, which require a greater expenditure of capital and labour to produce the same supplies. The price of manufactured goods, too, is, by the principle of competition, regulated by the price of those manufactured at the least expense, and by the most expeditious methods; while, on the contrary, the price of raw produce is regulated by the price of that which is raised on the very worst soils, and at the greatest expense. For, it is obvious that, if the price was not sufficient to indemnify the cultivator of the poorest soils for his labour, and to yield the ordinary rate of profit on his capital, he must abandon his employment; and the necessary supplies would no longer be obtained. This fundamental distinction between agriculture and manufactures, ought never to be lost sight of. Supposing the supply of any species of manufactured produce to be deficient, the granting a monopoly of the home market to the manufacturers, or the preventing its importation from abroad, would not have any lasting effect on its price. An undue proportion of the national capital would no doubt be invested in that manufacture; but as the cost of manufacturing would not be in