He tells the world, that if France carries on the war against us in Germany, every loss she sustains contributes to the achievement of her conquest. If her armies are three years unpaid, she is the less exhausted by expense. If her credit is destroyed, she is the less oppressed with debt. If her troops are cut to pieces, they will by her policy (and a wonderful policy it is) be improved, and will be supplied with much better men. If the war is carried on in the colonies, he tells them that the loss of her ultramarine dominions lessens her expenses, and insures her remittances:—
Per damna, per caedes, ab ipso Ducit opes animumque ferro.
If so, what is it we can do to hurt her?—it will be all an imposition, all fallacious. Why, the result must be,—
Occidit, occidit Spes omnis, et fortuna nostri Nominis.
The only way which the author's principles leave for our escape, is to reverse our condition into that of France, and to take her losing cards into our hands. But though his principles drive him to it, his politics will not suffer him to walk on this ground. Talking at our ease and of other countries, we may bear to be diverted with such speculations; but in England we shall never be taught to look upon the annihilation of our trade, the ruin of our credit, the defeat of our armies, and the loss of our ultramarine dominions (whatever the author may think of them), to be the high road to prosperity and greatness.
The reader does not, I hope, imagine that I mean seriously to set about the refutation of these uningenious paradoxes and reveries without imagination. I state them only that we may discern a little in the questions of war and peace, the most weighty of all questions, what is the wisdom of those men who are held out to us as the only hope of an expiring nation. The present ministry is indeed of a strange character: at once indolent and distracted. But if a ministerial system should be formed, actuated by such maxims as are avowed in this piece, the vices of the present ministry would become their virtues; their indolence would be the greatest of all public benefits, and a distraction that entirely defeated every one of their schemes would be our only security from destruction.
To have stated these reasonings is enough, I presume, to do their business. But they are accompanied with facts and records, which may seem of a little more weight. I trust, however, that the facts of this author will be as far from bearing the touchstone, as his arguments. On a little inquiry, they will be found as great an imposition as the successes they are meant to depreciate; for they are all either false or fallaciously applied; or not in the least to the purpose for which they are produced.
First the author, in order to support his favorite paradox, that our possession of the French colonies was of no detriment to France, has thought proper to inform us, that "they put themselves into the hands of the English." He uses the same assertion, in nearly the same words, in another place; "her colonies had put themselves into our hands." Now, in justice, not only to fact and common sense, but to the incomparable valor and perseverance of our military and naval forces thus unhandsomely traduced, I must tell this author, that the French colonies did not "put themselves into the hands of the English." They were compelled to submit; they were subdued by dint of English valor. Will the five years' war carried on in Canada, in which fell one of the principal hopes of this nation, and all the battles lost and gained during that anxious period, convince this author of his mistake? Let him inquire of Sir Jeffery Amherst, under whose conduct that war was carried on; of Sir Charles Saunders, whose steadiness and presence of mind saved our fleet, and were so eminently serviceable in the whole course of the siege of Quebec; of General Monckton, who was shot through the body there, whether France "put her colonies into the hands of the English."
Though he has made no exception, yet I would be liberal to him; perhaps he means to confine himself to her colonies in the West Indies. But surely it will fare as ill with him there as in North America, whilst we remember that in our first attempt at Martinico we were actually defeated; that it was three months before we reduced Guadaloupe; and that the conquest of the Havannah was achieved by the highest conduct, aided by circumstances of the greatest good fortune. He knows the expense both of men and treasure at which we bought that place. However, if it had so pleased the peacemakers, it was no dear purchase; for it was decisive of the fortune of the war and the terms of the treaty: the Duke of Nivernois thought so; France, England, Europe, considered it in that light; all the world, except the then friends of the then ministry, who wept for our victories, and were in haste to get rid of the burden of our conquests. This author knows that France did not put those colonies into the hands of England; but he well knows who did put the most valuable of them into the hands of France.
In the next place, our author is pleased to consider the conquest of those colonies in no other light than as a convenience for the remittances to France, which he asserts that the war had before suspended, but for which a way was opened (by our conquest) as secure as in time of peace. I charitably hope he knows nothing of the subject. I referred him lately to our commanders, for the resistance of the French colonies; I now wish he would apply to our custom-house entries, and our merchants, for the advantages which we derived from them.
In 1761, there was no entry of goods from any of the conquered places but Guadaloupe; in that year it stood thus:—
Imports from Guadaloupe, value, L482,179 ————
In 1762, when we had not yet delivered up our conquests, the account was,
Guadaloupe L513,244 Martinico 288,425 ———— Total imports in 1762, value, L801,669 ————
In 1763, after we had delivered up the sovereignty of these islands, but kept open a communication with them, the imports were,
Guadaloupe L412,303 Martinico 344,161 Havannah 249,386 ————— Total imports in 1763, value, L1,005,850 —————
Besides, I find, in the account of bullion imported and brought to the Bank, that, during that period in which the intercourse with the Havannah was open, we received at that one shop, in treasure, from that one place, 559,810l.; in the year 1763, 389,450l.; so that the import from these places in that year amounted to 1,395,300l.
On this state the reader will observe, that I take the imports from, and not the exports to, these conquests, as the measure of the advantages which we derived from them. I do so for reasons which will be somewhat worthy the attention of such readers as are fond of this species of inquiry. I say therefore I choose the import article, as the best, and indeed the only standard we can have, of the value of the West India trade. Our export entry does not comprehend the greatest trade we carry on with any of the West India islands, the sale of negroes: nor does it give any idea of two other advantages we draw from them; the remittances for money spent here, and the payment of part of the balance of the North American trade. It is therefore quite ridiculous, to strike a balance merely on the face of an excess of imports and exports, in that commerce; though, in most foreign branches, it is, on the whole, the best method. If we should take that standard, it would appear, that the balance with our own islands is, annually, several hundred thousand pounds against this country. Such is its aspect on the custom-house entries; but we know the direct contrary to be the fact. We know that the West-Indians are always indebted to our merchants, and that the value of every shilling of West India produce is English property. So that our import from them, and not our export, ought always to be considered as their true value; and this corrective ought to be applied to all general balances of our trade, which are formed on the ordinary principles.
If possible, this was more emphatically true of the French West India islands, whilst they continued in our hands. That none or only a very contemptible part, of the value of this produce could be remitted to France, the author will see, perhaps with unwillingness, but with the clearest conviction, if he considers, that in the year 1763, after we had ceased to export to the isles of Guadaloupe and Martinico, and to the Havannah, and after the colonies were free to send all their produce to Old France and Spain, if they had any remittance to make; he will see, that we imported from those places, in that year, to the amount of 1,395,300l. So far was the whole annual produce of these islands from being adequate to the payments of their annual call upon us, that this mighty additional importation was necessary, though not quite sufficient, to discharge the debts contracted in the few years we held them. The property, therefore, of their whole produce was ours; not only during the war, but even for more than a year after the peace. The author, I hope, will not again venture upon so rash and discouraging a proposition concerning the nature and effect of those conquests, as to call them a convenience to the remittances of France; he sees, by this account, that what he asserts is not only without foundation, but even impossible to be true.
As to our trade at that time, he labors with all his might to represent it as absolutely ruined, or on the very edge of ruin. Indeed, as usual with him, he is often as equivocal in his expression as he is clear in his design. Sometimes he more than insinuates a decay of our commerce in that war; sometimes he admits an increase of exports; but it is in order to depreciate the advantages we might appear to derive from that increase, whenever it should come to be proved against him. He tells you, "that it was chiefly occasioned by the demands of our own fleets and armies, and, instead or bringing wealth to the nation, was to be paid for by oppressive taxes upon the people of England." Never was anything more destitute of foundation. It might be proved, with the greatest ease, from the nature and quality of the goods exported, as well as from the situation of the places to which our merchandise was sent, and which the war could no wise affect, that the supply of our fleets and armies could not have been the cause of this wonderful increase of trade: its cause was evident to the whole world; the ruin of the trade of France, and our possession of her colonies. What wonderful effects this cause produced the reader will see below; and he will form on that account some judgment of the author's candor or information.
Admit however that a great part of our export, though nothing is more remote from fact, was owing to the supply of our fleets and armies; was it not something?—was it not peculiarly fortunate for a nation, that she was able from her own bosom to contribute largely to the supply of her armies militating in so many distant countries? The author allows that France did not enjoy the same advantages. But it is remarkable, throughout his whole book, that those circumstances which have ever been considered as great benefits, and decisive proofs of national superiority, are, when in our hands, taken either in diminution of some other apparent advantage, or even sometimes as positive misfortunes. The optics of that politician must be of a strange conformation, who beholds everything in this distorted shape.
So far as to our trade. With regard to our navigation, he is still more uneasy at our situation, and still more fallacious in his state of it. In his text, he affirms it "to have been entirely engrossed by the neutral nations." This he asserts roundly and boldly, and without the least concern; although it cost no more than a single glance of the eye upon his own margin to see the full refutation of this assertion. His own account proves against him, that, in the year 1761, the British shipping amounted to 527,557 tons,—the foreign to no more than 180,102. The medium of his six years British, 2,449,555 tons,—foreign only 906,690. This state (his own) demonstrates that the neutral nations did not entirely engross our navigation.
I am willing from a strain of candor to admit that this author speaks at random; that he is only slovenly and inaccurate, and not fallacious. In matters of account, however, this want of care is not excusable; and the difference between neutral nations entirely engrossing our navigation, and being only subsidiary to a vastly augmented trade, makes a most material difference to his argument. From that principle of fairness, though the author speaks otherwise, I am willing to suppose he means no more than that our navigation had so declined as to alarm us with the probable loss of this valuable object. I shall however show, that his whole proposition, whatever modifications he may please to give it, is without foundation; that our navigation had not decreased; that, on the contrary, it had greatly increased in the war; that it had increased by the war; and that it was probable the same cause would continue to augment it to a still greater height; to what an height it is hard to say, had our success continued.
But first I must observe, I am much less solicitous whether his fact be true or no, than whether his principle is well established. Cases are dead things, principles are living and productive. I affirm then, that, if in time of war our trade had the good fortune to increase, and at the same time a large, nay the largest, proportion of carriage had been engrossed by neutral nations, it ought not in itself to have been considered as a circumstance of distress. War is a time of inconvenience to trade; in general it must be straitened, and must find its way as it can. It is often happy for nations that they are able to call in neutral navigation. They all aim at it. France endeavored at it, but could not compass it. Will this author say, that, in a war with Spain, such an assistance would not be of absolute necessity? that it would not be the most gross of all follies to refuse it?
In the next place, his method of stating a medium of six years of war, and six years of peace, to decide this question, is altogether unfair. To say, in derogation of the advantages of a war, that navigation is not equal to what it was in time of peace, is what hitherto has never been heard of. No war ever bore that test but the war which he so bitterly laments. One may lay it down as a maxim, that an average estimate of an object in a steady course of rising or of falling, must in its nature be an unfair one; more particularly if the cause of the rise or fall be visible, and its continuance in any degree probable. Average estimates are never just but when the object fluctuates, and no reason can be assigned why it should not continue still to fluctuate. The author chooses to allow nothing at all for this: he has taken an average of six years of the war. He knew, for everybody knows, that the first three years were on the whole rather unsuccessful; and that, in consequence of this ill success, trade sunk, and navigation declined with it; but that grand delusion of the three last years turned the scale in our favor. At the beginning of that war (as in the commencement of every war), traders were struck with a sort of panic. Many went out of the freighting business. But by degrees, as the war continued, the terror wore off; the danger came to be better appreciated, and better provided against; our trade was carried on in large fleets, under regular convoys, and with great safety. The freighting business revived. The ships were fewer, but much larger; and though the number decreased, the tonnage was vastly augmented: insomuch that in 1761 the British shipping had risen by the author's own account to 527,557 tons.—In the last year he has given us of the peace, it amounted to no more than 494,772; that is, in the last year of the war it was 32,785 tons more than in the correspondent year of his peace average. No year of the peace exceeded it except one, and that but little.
The fair account of the matter is this. Our trade had, as we have just seen, increased to so astonishing a degree in 1761, as to employ British and foreign ships to the amount of 707,659 tons, which is 149,500 more than we employed in the last year of the peace.—Thus our trade increased more than a fifth; our British navigation had increased likewise with this astonishing increase of trade, but was not able to keep pace with it; and we added about 120,000 tons of foreign shipping to the 60,000, which had been employed in the last year of the peace. Whatever happened to our shipping in the former years of the war, this would be no true state of the case at the time of the treaty. If we had lost something in the beginning, we had then recovered, and more than recovered, all our losses. Such is the ground of the doleful complaints of the author, that the carrying trade was wholly engrossed by the neutral nations.
I have done fairly, and even very moderately, in taking this year, and not his average, as the standard of what might be expected in future, had the war continued. The author will be compelled to allow it, unless he undertakes to show; first, that the possession of Canada, Martinico, Guadaloupe, Grenada, the Havannah, the Philippines, the whole African trade, the whole East India trade, and the whole Newfoundland fishery, had no certain inevitable tendency to increase the British shipping; unless, in the second place, he can prove that those trades were, or might be, by law or indulgence, carried on in foreign vessels; and unless, thirdly, he can demonstrate that the premium of insurance on British ships was rising as the war continued. He can prove not one of these points. I will show him a fact more that is mortal to his assertions. It is the state of our shipping in 1762. The author had his reasons for stopping short at the preceding year. It would have appeared, had he proceeded farther, that our tonnage was in a course of uniform augmentation, owing to the freight derived from our foreign conquests, and to the perfect security of our navigation from our clear and decided superiority at sea. This, I say, would have appeared from the state of the two years:—
1761. British 527,557 tons. 1762. Ditto 559,537 tons. 1761. Foreign 180,102 tons. 1762. Ditto 129,502 tons.
The two last years of the peace were in no degree equal to these. Much of the navigation of 1763 was also owing to the war; this is manifest from the large part of it employed in the carriage from the ceded islands, with which the communication still continued open. No such circumstances of glory and advantage ever attended upon a war. Too happy will be our lot, if we should again be forced into a war, to behold anything that shall resemble them; and if we were not then the better for them, it is net in the ordinary course of God's providence to mend our condition.
In vain does the author declaim on the high premiums given for the loans during the war. His long note swelled with calculations on that subject (even supposing the most inaccurate of all calculations to be just) would be entirety thrown away, did it not serve to raise a wonderful opinion of his financial skill in those who are not less surprised than edified, when, with a solemn face and mysterious air, they are told that two and two make four. For what else do we learn from this note? That the more expense is incurred by a nation, the more money will be required to defray it; that in proportion to the continuance of that expense, will be the continuance of borrowing; that the increase of borrowing and the increase of debt will go hand in hand; and lastly, that the more money you want, the harder it will be to get it; and that the scarcity of the commodity will enhance the price. Who ever doubted the truth, or the insignificance, of these propositions? what do they prove? that war is expensive, and peace desirable. They contain nothing more than a commonplace against war; the easiest of all topics. To bring them home to his purpose, he ought to have shown that our enemies had money upon better terms; which he has not shown, neither can he. I shall speak more fully to this point in another place. He ought to have shown that the money they raised, upon whatever terms, had procured them a more lucrative return. He knows that our expenditure purchased commerce and conquest: theirs acquired nothing but defeat and bankruptcy.
Thus the author has laid down his ideas on the subject of war. Next follow those he entertains on that of peace. The treaty of Paris upon the whole has his approbation. Indeed, if his account of the war be just, he might have spared himself all further trouble. The rest is drawn on as an inevitable conclusion. If the House of Bourbon had the advantage, she must give the law; and the peace, though it were much worse than it is, had still been a good one. But as the world is yet deluded on the state of that war, other arguments are necessary; and the author has in my opinion very ill supplied them. He tells of many things we have got, and of which he has made out a kind of bill. This matter may be brought within a very narrow compass, if we come to consider the requisites of a good peace under some plain distinct heads. I apprehend they may be reduced to these: 1. Stability; 2. Indemnification; 3. Alliance.
As to the first, the author more than obscurely hints in several places, that he thinks the peace not likely to last. However, he does furnish a security; a security, in any light, I fear, but insufficient; on his hypothesis, surely a very odd one. "By stipulating for the entire possession of the Continent (says he) the restored French islands are become in some measure dependent on the British empire; and the good faith of France in observing the treaty guaranteed by the value at which she estimates their possession." This author soon grows weary of his principles. They seldom last him for two pages together. When the advantages of the war were to be depreciated, then the loss of the ultramarine colonies lightened the expenses of France, facilitated her remittances, and therefore her colonists put them into our hands. According to this author's system, the actual possession of those colonies ought to give us little or no advantage in the negotiation for peace; and yet the chance of possessing them on a future occasion gives a perfect security for the preservation of that peace. The conquest of the Havannah, if it did not serve Spain, rather distressed England, says our author. But the molestation which her galleons may suffer from our station in Pensacola gives us advantages, for which we were not allowed to credit the nation for the Havannah itself; a place surely full as well situated for every external purpose as Pensacola, and of more internal benefit than ten thousand Pensacolas.
The author sets very little by conquests; I suppose it is because he makes them so very lightly. On this subject he speaks with the greatest certainty imaginable. We have, according to him, nothing to do, but to go and take possession, whenever we think proper, of the French and Spanish settlements. It were better that he had examined a little what advantage the peace gave us towards the invasion of these colonies, which we did not possess before the peace. It would not have been amiss if he had consulted the public experience, and our commanders, concerning the absolute certainty of those conquests on which he is pleased to found our security. And if, after all, he should have discovered them to be so very sure, and so very easy, he might at least, to preserve consistency, have looked a few pages back, and (no unpleasing thing to him) listened to himself, where he says, "that the most successful enterprise could not compensate to the nation for the waste of its people, by carrying on war in unhealthy climates." A position which he repeats again, p. 9. So that, according to himself, his security is not worth the suit; according to fact, he has only a chance, God knows what a chance, of getting at it; and therefore, according to reason, the giving up the most valuable of all possessions, in hopes to conquer them back, under any advantage of situation, is the most ridiculous security that ever was imagined for the peace of a nation. It is true his friends did not give up Canada; they could not give up everything; let us make the most of it. We have Canada, we know its value. We have not the French any longer to fight in North America; and from this circumstance we derive considerable advantages. But here let me rest a little. The author touches upon a string which sounds under his fingers but a tremulous and melancholy note. North America was once indeed a great strength to this nation, in opportunity of ports, in ships, in provisions, in men. We found her a sound, an active, a vigorous member of the empire. I hope, by wise management, she will again become so. But one of our capital present misfortunes is her discontent and disobedience. To which of the author's favorites this discontent is owing, we all know but too sufficiently. It would be a dismal event, if this foundation of his security, and indeed of all our public strength, should, in reality, become our weakness; and if all the powers of this empire, which ought to fall with a compacted weight upon the head of our enemies, should be dissipated and distracted by a jealous vigilance, or by hostile attempts upon one another. Ten Canadas cannot restore that security for the peace, and for everything valuable to this country, which we have lost along with the affection and the obedience of our colonies. He is the wise minister, he is the true friend to Britain, who shall be able to restore it.
To return to the security for the peace. The author tells us, that the original great purposes of the war were more than accomplished by the treaty. Surely he has experience and reading enough to know, that, in the course of a war, events may happen, that render its original very far from being its principal purpose. This original may dwindle by circumstances, so as to become not a purpose of the second or even the third magnitude. I trust this is so obvious that it will not be necessary to put cases for its illustration. In that war, as soon as Spain entered into the quarrel, the security of North America was no longer the sole nor the foremost object. The Family Compact had been I know not how long before in agitation. But then it was that we saw produced into daylight and action the most odious and most formidable of all the conspiracies against the liberties of Europe that ever has been framed. The war with Spain was the first fruits of that league; and a security against that league ought to have been the fundamental point of a pacification with the powers who compose it. We had materials in our hands to have constructed that security in such a manner as never to be shaken. But how did the virtuous and able men of our author labor for this great end? They took no one step towards it. On the contrary they countenanced, and, indeed, as far as it depended on them, recognized it in all its parts; for our plenipotentiary treated with those who acted for the two crowns, as if they had been different ministers of the same monarch. The Spanish minister received his instructions, not from Madrid, but from Versailles.
This was not hid from our ministers at home; and the discovery ought to have alarmed them, if the good of their country had been the object of their anxiety. They could not but have seen that the whole Spanish monarchy was melted down into the cabinet of Versailles. But they thought this circumstance an advantage; as it enabled them to go through with their work the more expeditiously. Expedition was everything to them; because France might happen during a protracted negotiation to discover the great imposition of our victories.
In the same spirit they negotiated the terms of the peace. If it were thought advisable not to take any positive security from Spain, the most obvious principles of policy dictated that the burden of the cessions ought to fall upon France; and that everything which was of grace and favor should be given to Spain. Spain could not, on her part, have executed a capital article in the family compact, which obliged her to compensate the losses of France. At least she could not do it in America; for she was expressly precluded by the treaty of Utrecht from ceding any territory or giving any advantage in trade to that power. What did our ministers? They took from Spain the territory of Florida, an object of no value except to show our dispositions to be quite equal at least towards both powers; and they enabled France to compensate Spain by the gift of Louisiana: loading us with all the harshness, leaving the act of kindness with France, and opening thereby a door to the fulfilling of this the most consolidating article of the family compact. Accordingly that dangerous league, thus abetted and authorized by the English ministry without an attempt to invalidate it in any way, or in any of its parts, exists to this hour; and has grown stronger and stronger every hour of its existence.
As to the second component of a good peace, compensation, I have but little trouble; the author has said nothing upon that head. He has nothing to say. After a war of such expense, this ought to have been a capital consideration. But on what he has been so prudently silent, I think it is right to speak plainly. All our new acquisitions together, at this time, scarce afford matter of revenue, either at home or abroad, sufficient to defray the expense of their establishments; not one shilling towards the reduction of our debt. Guadaloupe or Martinico alone would have given us material aid; much in the way of duties, much in the way of trade and navigation. A good ministry would have considered how a renewal of the Assiento might have been obtained. We had as much right to ask it at the treaty of Paris as at the treaty of Utrecht. We had incomparably more in our hands to purchase it. Floods of treasure would have poured into this kingdom from such a source; and, under proper management, no small part of it would have taken a public direction, and have fructified an exhausted exchequer.
If this gentleman's hero of finance, instead of flying from a treaty, which, though he now defends, he could not approve, and would not oppose; if he, instead of shifting into an office, which removed him from the manufacture of the treaty, had, by his credit with the then great director, acquired for us these, or any of these, objects, the possession of Guadaloupe or Martinico, or the renewal of the Assiento, he might have held his head high in his country; because he would have performed real service; ten thousand times more real service, than all the economy of which this writer is perpetually talking, or all the little tricks of finance which the expertest juggler of the treasury can practise, could amount to in a thousand years. But the occasion is lost; the time is gone, perhaps forever.
As to the third requisite, alliance, there too the author is silent. What strength of that kind did they acquire? They got no one new ally; they stript the enemy of not a single old one. They disgusted (how justly, or unjustly, matters not) every ally we had; and from that time to this we stand friendless in Europe. But of this naked condition of their country I know some people are not ashamed. They have their system of politics; our ancestors grew great by another. In this manner these virtuous men concluded the peace; and their practice is only consonant to their theory.
Many things more might be observed on this curious head of our author's speculations. But, taking leave of what the writer says in his serious part, if he be serious in any part, I shall only just point out a piece of his pleasantry. No man, I believe, ever denied that the time for making peace is that in which the best terms maybe obtained. But what that time is, together with the use that has been made of it, we are to judge by seeing whether terms adequate to our advantages, and to our necessities, have been actually obtained. Here is the pinch of the question, to which the author ought to have set his shoulders in earnest. Instead of doing this, he slips out of the harness by a jest; and sneeringly tells us, that, to determine this point, we must know the secrets of the French and Spanish cabinets, and that Parliament was pleased to approve the treaty of peace without calling for the correspondence concerning it. How just this sarcasm on that Parliament may be, I say not; but how becoming in the author, I leave it to his friends to determine.
Having thus gone through the questions of war and peace, the author proceeds to state our debt, and the interest which it carried, at the time of the treaty, with the unfairness and inaccuracy, however, which distinguish all his assertions, and all his calculations. To detect every fallacy, and rectify every mistake, would be endless. It will be enough to point out a few of them, in order to show how unsafe it is to place anything like an implicit trust in such a writer.
The interest of debt contracted during the war is stated by the author at 2,614,892l. The particulars appear in pp. 14 and 15. Among them is stated the unfunded debt, 9,975,017l., supposed to carry interest on a medium at 3 per cent, which amounts to 299,250l. We are referred to the "Considerations on the Trade and Finances of the Kingdom," p. 22, for the particulars of that unfunded debt. Turn to the work, and to the place referred to by the author himself, if you have a mind to see a clear detection of a capital fallacy of this article in his account. You will there see that this unfunded debt consists of the nine following articles: the remaining subsidy to the Duke of Brunswick; the remaining dedommagement to the Landgrave of Hesse; the German demands; the army and ordnance extraordinaries; the deficiencies of grants and funds; Mr. Touchet's claim; the debts due to Nova Scotia and Barbadoes; exchequer bills; and navy debt. The extreme fallacy of this state cannot escape any reader who will be at the pains to compare the interest money, with which he affirms us to have been loaded, in his "State of the Nation," with the items of the principal debt to which he refers in his "Considerations." The reader must observe, that of this long list of nine articles, only two, the exchequer bills, and part of the navy debt, carried any interest at all. The first amounted to 1,800,000l.; and this undoubtedly carried interest. The whole navy debt indeed amounted to 4,576,915l.; but of this only a part carried interest. The author of the "Considerations," &c. labors to prove this very point in p. 18; and Mr. G. has always defended himself upon the same ground, for the insufficient provision he made for the discharge of that debt. The reader may see their own authority for it.
Mr. G. did in fact provide no more than 2,150,000l. for the discharge of these bills in two years. It is much to be wished that these gentlemen would lay their heads together, that they would consider well this matter, and agree upon something. For when the scanty provision made for the unfunded debt is to be vindicated, then we are told it is a very small part of that debt which carries interest. But when the public is to be represented in a miserable condition, and the consequences of the late war to be laid before us in dreadful colors, then we are to be told that the unfunded debt is within a trifle of ten millions, and so large a portion of it carries interest that we must not compute less than 3 per cent upon the whole.
In the year 1764, Parliament voted 650,000l. towards the discharge of the navy debt. This sum could not be applied solely to the discharge of bills carrying interest; because part of the debt due on seamen's wages must have been paid, and some bills carried no interest at all. Notwithstanding this, we find by an account in the journals of the House of Commons, in the following session, that the navy debt carrying interest was, on the 31st of December, 1764, no more than 1,687,442l. I am sure therefore that I admit too much when I admit the navy debt carrying interest, after the creation of the navy annuities in the year 1763, to have been 2,200,000l. Add the exchequer bills; and the whole unfunded debt carrying interest will be four millions instead of ten; and the annual interest paid for it at 4 per cent will be 160,000l. instead of 299,250l. An error of no small magnitude, and which could not have been owing to inadvertency.
The misrepresentation of the increase of the peace establishment is still more extraordinary than that of the interest of the unfunded debt. The increase is great, undoubtedly. However, the author finds no fault with it, and urges it only as a matter of argument to support the strange chimerical proposals he is to make us in the close of his work for the increase of revenue. The greater he made that establishment, the stronger he expected to stand in argument: but, whatever he expected or proposed, he should have stated the matter fairly. He tells us that this establishment is nearly 1,500,000l. more than it was in 1752, 1753, and other years of peace. This he has done in his usual manner, by assertion, without troubling himself either with proof or probability. For he has not given us any state of the peace establishment in the years 1753 and 1754, the time which he means to compare with the present. As I am obliged to force him to that precision, from which he always flies as from his most dangerous enemy, I have been at the trouble to search the journals in the period between the two last wars: and I find that the peace establishment, consisting of the navy, the ordnance, and the several incidental expenses, amounted to 2,346,594l. Now is this writer wild enough to imagine, that the peace establishment of 1764 and the subsequent years, made up from the same articles, is 3,800,000l. and upwards? His assertion however goes to this. But I must take the liberty of correcting him in this gross mistake, and from an authority he cannot refuse, from his favorite work, and standing authority, the "Considerations." We find there, p. 43, the peace establishment of 1764 and 1765 stated at 3,609,700l. This is near two hundred thousand pounds less than that given in "The State of the Nation." But even from this, in order to render the articles which compose the peace establishment in the two periods correspondent (for otherwise they cannot be compared), we must deduct first, his articles of the deficiency of land and malt, which amount to 300,000l. They certainly are no part of the establishment; nor are they included in that sum, which I have stated above for the establishment in the time of the former peace. If they were proper to be stated at all, they ought to be stated in both accounts. We must also deduct the deficiencies of funds, 202,400l. These deficiencies are the difference between the interest charged on the public for moneys borrowed, and the produce of the taxes laid for the discharge of that interest. Annual provision is indeed to be made for them by Parliament: but in the inquiry before us, which is only what charge is brought on the public by interest paid or to be paid for money borrowed, the utmost that the author should do, is to bring into the account the full interest for all that money. This he has done in p. 15; and he repeats it in p. 18, the very page I am now examining, 2,614,892l. To comprehend afterwards in the peace establishment the deficiency of the fund created for payment of that interest, would be laying twice to the account of the war part of the same sum. Suppose ten millions borrowed at 4 per cent, and the fund for payment of the interest to produce no more than 200,000l. The whole annual charge on the public is 400,000l. It can be no more. But to charge the interest in one part of the account, and then the deficiency in the other, would be charging 600,000l. The deficiency of funds must therefore be also deducted from the peace establishment in the "Considerations"; and then the peace establishment in that author will be reduced to the same articles with those included in the sum I have already mentioned for the peace establishment before the last war, in the year 1753, and 1754.
Peace establishment in the "Considerations" L3,609,700 Deduct deficiency of land and malt L300,000 Ditto of funds 202,400 ———— 502,400 ————- 3,107,300 Peace establishment before the late war, in which no deficiencies of land and malt, or funds are included 2,346,594 ————-
Being about half the sum which our author has been pleased to suppose it.
Let us put the whole together. The author states,—
Difference of peace establishment before and since the war L1,500,000 Interest of Debt contracted by the war 2,614,892 ————- 4,114,892 The real difference in the peace establishment is L760,706
The actual interest of the funded debt, including that charged on the sinking fund L2,315,642
The actual interest of unfunded debt at most 160,000 ————- Total interest of debt contracted by the war 2,475,642 ————- Increase of peace establishment, and interest of new debt 3,236,348 ————- Error of the author L878,544
It is true, the extraordinaries of the army have been found considerably greater than the author of the "Considerations" was pleased to foretell they would be. The author of "The Present State" avails himself of that increase, and, finding it suit his purpose, sets the whole down in the peace establishment of the present times. If this is allowed him, his error perhaps may be reduced to 700,000l. But I doubt the author of the "Considerations" will not thank him for admitting 200,000l. and upwards, as the peace establishment for extraordinaries, when that author has so much labored to confine them within 35,000l.
These are some of the capital fallacies of the author. To break the thread of my discourse as little as possible, I have thrown into the margin many instances, though God knows far from the whole of his inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and want of common care. I think myself obliged to take some notice of them, in order to take off from any authority this writer may have; and to put an end to the deference which careless men are apt to pay to one who boldly arrays his accounts, and marshals his figures, in perfect confidence that their correctness will never be examined.
However, for argument, I am content to take his state of it. The debt was and is enormous. The war was expensive. The best economy had not perhaps been used. But I must observe, that war and economy are things not easily reconciled; and that the attempt of leaning towards parsimony in such a state may be the worst management, and in the end the worst economy in the world, hazarding the total loss of all the charge incurred, and of everything along with it.
But cui bono all this detail of our debt? Has the author given a single light towards any material reduction of it? Not a glimmering. We shall see in its place what sort of thing he proposes. But before he commences his operations, in order to scare the public imagination, he raises by art magic a thick mist before our eyes, through which glare the most ghastly and horrible phantoms:
Hunc igitur terrorem animi tenebrasque necesse est. Non radii solis, neque lucida tela diei Discutiant, sed naturae species ratioque.
Let us therefore calmly, if we can for the fright into which he has put us, appreciate those dreadful and deformed gorgons and hydras, which inhabit the joyless regions of an imagination fruitful in nothing but the production of monsters.
His whole representation, is founded on the supposed operation of our debt, upon our manufactures, and our trade. To this cause he attributes a certain supposed dearness of the necessaries of life, which must compel our manufacturers to emigrate to cheaper countries, particularly to France, and with them the manufacture. Thence consumption declining, and with it revenue. He will not permit the real balance of our trade to be estimated so high as 2,500,000l.; and the interest of the debt to foreigners carries off 1,500,000l. of that balance. France is not in the same condition. Then follow his wailings and lamentings, which he renews over and over, according to his custom—a declining trade, and decreasing specie—on the point of becoming tributary to France—of losing Ireland—of having the colonies torn away from us.
The first thing upon which I shall observe is, what he takes for granted as the clearest of all propositions, the emigration of our manufacturers to France. I undertake to say that this assertion is totally groundless, and I challenge the author to bring any sort of proof of it. If living is cheaper in France, that is, to be had for less specie, wages are proportionably lower. No manufacturer, let the living be what it will, was ever known to fly for refuge to low wages. Money is the first thing which attracts him. Accordingly our wages attract artificers from all parts of the world. From two shillings to one shilling, is a fall in all men's imaginations, which no calculation upon a difference in the price of the necessaries of life can compensate. But it will be hard to prove that a French artificer is better fed, clothed, lodged, and warmed, than one in England; for that is the sense, and the only sense, of living cheaper. If, in truth and fact, our artificer fares as well in all these respects as one in the same state in France,—how stands the matter in point of opinion and prejudice, the springs by which people in that class of life are chiefly actuated? The idea of our common people concerning French living is dreadful; altogether as dreadful as our author's can possibly be of the state of his own country; a way of thinking that will hardly ever prevail on them to desert to France.
But, leaving the author's speculations, the fact is, that they have not deserted; and of course the manufacture cannot be departed, or departing, with them. I am not indeed able to get at all the details of our manufactures; though, I think, I have taken full as much pains for that purpose as our author. Some I have by me; and they do not hitherto, thank God, support the author's complaint, unless a vast increase of the quantity of goods manufactured be a proof of losing the manufacture. On a view of the registers in the West Riding of Yorkshire, for three years before the war, and for the three last, it appears, that the quantities of cloths entered were as follows:
Pieces broad. Pieces narrow. 1752 60,724 72,442 1753 55,358 71,618 1754 56,070 72,394 ———- ———- 172,152 216,454
Pieces broad. Pieces narrow. 1765 54,660 77,419 1766 72,575 78,893 1767 102,428 78,819 ———- ———- 3 years, ending 1767 229,663 235,131 3 years, ending 1754 172,152 216,464 ———- ———- Increase 57,511 18,677
In this manner this capital branch of manufacture has increased, under the increase of taxes; and this not from a declining, but from a greatly flourishing period of commerce. I may say the same on the best authority of the fabric of thin goods at Halifax; of the bays at Rochdale; and of that infinite variety of admirable manufactures that grow and extend every year among the spirited, inventive, and enterprising traders of Manchester.
A trade sometimes seems to perish when it only assumes a different form. Thus the coarsest woollens were formerly exported in great quantities to Russia. The Russians now supply themselves with these goods. But the export thither of finer cloths has increased in proportion as the other has declined. Possibly some parts of the kingdom may have felt something like a languor in business. Objects like trade and manufacture, which the very attempt to confine would certainly destroy, frequently change their place; and thereby, far from being lost, are often highly improved. Thus some manufactures have decayed in the west and south, which have made new and more vigorous shoots when transplanted into the north. And here it is impossible to pass by, though the author has said nothing upon it, the vast addition to the mass of British trade, which has been made by the improvement of Scotland. What does he think of the commerce of the city of Glasgow, and of the manufactures of Paisley and all the adjacent country? Has this anything like the deadly aspect and facies Hippocratica which the false diagnostic of our state physician has given to our trade in general? Has he not heard of the iron-works of such magnitude even in their cradle which are set up on the Carron, and which at the same time have drawn nothing from Sheffield, Birmingham, or Wolverhampton?
This might perhaps be enough to show the entire falsity of the complaint concerning the decline of our manufactures. But every step we advance, this matter clears up more; and the false terrors of the author are dissipated, and fade away as the light appears. "The trade and manufactures of this country (says he) going to ruin, and a diminution of our revenue from consumption must attend the loss of so many seamen and artificers." Nothing more true than the general observation: nothing more false than its application to our circumstances. Let the revenue on consumption speak for itself:—
Average of net excise, since the new duties, three years ending 1767 L4,590,734 Ditto before the new duties, three years ending 1759 3,261,694 ————- Average increase L1,329,040
Here is no diminution. Here is, on the contrary, an immense increase. This is owing, I shall be told, to the new duties, which may increase the total bulk, but at the same time may make some diminution of the produce of the old. Were this the fact, it would be far from supporting the author's complaint. It might have proved that the burden lay rather too heavy; but it would never prove that the revenue from, consumption was impaired, which it was his business to do. But what is the real fact? Let us take, as the best instance for the purpose, the produce of the old hereditary and temporary excise granted in the reign of Charles the Second, whose object is that of most of the new impositions, from two averages, each of eight years.
Average, first period, eight years, ending 1754 L525,317 Ditto, second period, eight years, ending 1767 538,542 ———- Increase L613,225
I have taken these averages as including in each a war and a peace period; the first before the imposition of the new duties, the other since those impositions; and such is the state of the oldest branch of the revenue from consumption. Besides the acquisition of so much new, this article, to speak of no other, has rather increased under the pressure of all those additional taxes to which the author is pleased to attribute its destruction. But as the author has made his grand effort against those moderate, judicious, and necessary levies, which support all the dignity, the credit, and the power of his country, the reader will excuse a little further detail on this subject; that we may see how little oppressive those taxes are on the shoulders of the public, with which he labors so earnestly to load its imagination. For this purpose we take the state of that specific article upon which the two capital burdens of the war leaned the most immediately, by the additional duties on malt, and upon beer.
Barrels. Average of strong beer, brewed in eight years before the additional malt and beer duties 3,895,059
Average of strong beer, eight years since the duties 4,060,726 ————- Increase in the last period 165,667
Here is the effect of two such daring taxes as 3d. by the bushel additional on malt, and 3s. by the barrel additional on beer. Two impositions laid without remission one upon the neck of the other; and laid upon an object which before had been immensely loaded. They did not in the least impair the consumption: it has grown under them. It appears that, upon the whole, the people did not feel so much inconvenience from the new duties as to oblige them to take refuge in the private brewery. Quite the contrary happened in both these respects in the reign of King William; and it happened from much slighter impositions. No people can long consume a commodity for which they are not well able to pay. An enlightened reader laughs at the inconsistent chimera of our author, of a people universally luxurious, and at the same time oppressed with taxes and declining in trade. For my part, I cannot look on these duties as the author does. He sees nothing but the burden. I can perceive the burden as well as he; but I cannot avoid contemplating also the strength that supports it. From thence I draw the most comfortable assurances of the future vigor, and the ample resources, of this great, misrepresented country; and can never prevail on myself to make complaints which have no cause, in order to raise hopes which have no foundation.
When a representation is built on truth and nature, one member supports the other, and mutual lights are given and received from every part. Thus, as our manufacturers have not deserted, nor the manufacture left us, nor the consumption declined, nor the revenue sunk; so neither has trade, which is at once the result, measure, and cause of the whole, in the least decayed, as our author has thought proper sometimes to affirm, constantly to suppose, as if it were the most indisputable of all propositions. The reader will see below the comparative state of our trade in three of the best years before our increase of debt and taxes, and with it the three last years since the author's date of our ruin.
In the last three years the whole of our exports was between 44 and 45 millions. In the three years preceding the war, it was no more than from 35 to 36 millions. The average balance of the former period was 3,706,000l.; of the latter, something above four millions. It is true, that whilst the impressions of the author's destructive war continued, our trade was greater than it is at present. One of the necessary consequences of the peace was, that France must gradually recover a part of those markets of which she had been originally in possession. However, after all these deductions, still the gross trade in the worst year of the present is better than in the best year of any former period of peace. A very great part of our taxes, if not the greatest, has been imposed since the beginning of the century. On the author's principles, this continual increase of taxes must have ruined our trade, or at least entirely checked its growth. But I have a manuscript of Davenant, which contains an abstract of our trade for the years 1703 and 1704; by which it appears that the whole export from England did not then exceed 6,552,019l. It is now considerably more than double that amount. Yet England was then a rich and flourishing nation.
The author endeavors to derogate from the balance in our favor as it stands on the entries, and reduces it from four millions, as it there appears, to no more than 2,500,000l. His observation on the looseness and inaccuracy of the export entries is just; and that the error is always an error of excess, I readily admit. But because, as usual, he has wholly omitted some very material facts, his conclusion is as erroneous as the entries he complains of.
On this point of the custom-house entries I shall make a few observations. 1st. The inaccuracy of these entries can extend only to FREE GOODS, that is, to such British products and manufactures, as are exported without drawback and without bounty; which do not in general amount to more than two thirds at the very utmost of the whole export even of our home products. The valuable articles of corn, malt, leather, hops, beer, and many others, do not come under this objection of inaccuracy. The article of CERTIFICATE GOODS re-exported, a vast branch of our commerce, admits of no error, (except some smaller frauds which cannot be estimated,) as they have all a drawback of duty, and the exporter must therefore correctly specify their quantity and kind. The author therefore is not warranted from the known error in some of the entries, to make a general defalcation from the whole balance in our favor. This error cannot affect more than half, if so much, of the export article. 2dly. In the account made up at the Inspector-General's office, they estimate only the original cost of British products as they are here purchased; and on foreign goods, only the prices in the country from whence they are sent. This was the method established by Mr. Davenant; and as far as it goes, it certainly is a good one. But the profits of the merchant at home, and of our factories abroad, are not taken into the account; which profit on such an immense quantity of goods exported and re-exported cannot fail of being very great: five per cent, upon the whole, I should think, a very moderate allowance. 3dly. It does not comprehend the advantage arising from the employment of 600,000 tons of shipping, which must be paid by the foreign consumer, and which, in many bulky articles of commerce, is equal to the value of the commodity. This can scarcely be rated at less than a million annually. 4thly. The whole import from Ireland and America, and from the West Indies, is set against us in the ordinary way of striking a balance of imports and exports; whereas the import and export are both our own. This is just as ridiculous, as to put against the general balance of the nation, how much more goods Cheshire receives from London than London from Cheshire. The whole revolves and circulates through this kingdom, and is, so far as regards our profit, in the nature of home trade, as much as if the several countries of America and Ireland were all pieced to Cornwall. The course of exchange with all these places is fully sufficient to demonstrate that this kingdom has the whole advantage of their commerce. When the final profit upon a whole system of trade rests and centres in a certain place, a balance struck in that place merely on the mutual sale of commodities is quite fallacious. 5thly. The custom-house entries furnish a most defective, and, indeed, ridiculous idea of the most valuable branch of trade we have in the world,—that with Newfoundland. Observe what you export thither; a little spirits, provision, fishing-lines, and fishing-hooks. Is this export the true idea of the Newfoundland trade in the light of a beneficial branch of commerce? Nothing less. Examine our imports from thence; it seems upon this vulgar idea of exports and imports, to turn the balance against you. But your exports to Newfoundland are your own goods. Your import is your own food; as much your own, as that you raise with your ploughs out of your own soil; and not your loss, but your gain; your riches, not your poverty. But so fallacious is this way of judging, that neither the export nor import, nor both together, supply any idea approaching to adequate of that branch of business. The vessels in that trade go straight from Newfoundland to the foreign market; and the sale there, not the import here, is the measure of its value. That trade, which is one of your greatest and best, is hardly so much as seen in the custom-house entries; and it is not of less annual value to this nation than 400,000l. 6thly. The quality of your imports must be considered as well as the quantity. To state the whole of the foreign import as loss, is exceedingly absurd. All the iron, hemp, flax, cotton, Spanish wool, raw silk, woollen and linen-yarn, which we import, are by no means to be considered as the matter of a merely luxurious consumption; which is the idea too generally and loosely annexed to our import article. These above mentioned are materials of industry, not of luxury, which are wrought up here, in many instances, to ten times, and more, of their original value. Even where they are not subservient to our exports, they still add to our internal wealth, which consists in the stock of useful commodities, as much as in gold and silver. In looking over the specific articles of our export and import, I have often been astonished to see for how small a part of the supply of our consumption, either luxurious or convenient, we are indebted to nations properly foreign to us.
These considerations are entirely passed over by the author; they have been but too much neglected by most who have speculated on this subject. But they ought never to be omitted by those who mean to come to anything like the true state of the British trade. They compensate, and they more than compensate, everything which the author can cut off with any appearance of reason for the over-entry of British goods; and they restore to us that balance of four millions, which the author has thought proper on such a very poor and limited comprehension of the object to reduce to 2,500,000l.
In general this author is so circumstanced, that to support his theory he is obliged to assume his facts: and then, if you allow his facts, they will not support his conclusions. What if all he says of the state of this balance were true? did not the same objections always lie to custom-house entries? do they defalcate more from the entries of 1766 than from those of 1754? If they prove us ruined, we were always ruined. Some ravens have always indeed croaked out this kind of song. They have a malignant delight in presaging mischief, when they are not employed in doing it: they are miserable and disappointed at every instance of the public prosperity. They overlook us like the malevolent being of the poet:—
Tritonida conspicit arcem Ingeniis, opibusque, et festa pace virentem; Vixque tenet lacrymas quia nil lacrymabile cernit.
It is in this spirit that some have looked upon those accidents that cast an occasional damp upon trade. Their imaginations entail these accidents upon us in perpetuity. We have had some bad harvests. This must very disadvantageously affect the balance of trade, and the navigation of a people, so large a part of whose commerce is in grain. But, in knowing the cause, we are morally certain, that, according to the course of events, it cannot long subsist. In the three last years, we have exported scarcely any grain; in good years, that export hath been worth twelve hundred thousand pounds and more; in the two last years, far from exporting, we have been obliged to import to the amount perhaps of our former exportation. So that in this article the balance must be 2,000,000l. against us; that is, one million in the ceasing of gain, the other in the increase of expenditure. But none of the author's promises or projects could have prevented this misfortune; and, thank God, we do not want him or them to relieve us from it; although, if his friends should now come into power, I doubt not but they will be ready to take credit for any increase of trade or excise, that may arise from the happy circumstance of a good harvest.
This connects with his loud laments and melancholy prognostications concerning the high price of the necessaries of life and the products of labor. With all his others, I deny this fact; and I again call upon him to prove it. Take average and not accident, the grand and first necessary of life is cheap in this country; and that too as weighed, not against labor, which is its true counterpoise, but against money. Does he call the price of wheat at this day, between 32 and 40 shillings per quarter in London dear? He must know that fuel (an object of the highest order in the necessaries of life, and of the first necessity in almost every kind of manufacture) is in many of our provinces cheaper than in any part of the globe. Meat is on the whole not excessively dear, whatever its price may be at particular times and from particular accidents. If it has had anything like an uniform rise, this enhancement may easily be proved not to be owing to the increase of taxes, but to uniform increase of consumption and of money. Diminish the latter, and meat in your markets will be sufficiently cheap in account, but much dearer in effect: because fewer will be in a condition to buy. Thus your apparent plenty will be real indigence. At present, even under temporary disadvantages, the use of flesh is greater here than anywhere else; it is continued without any interruption of Lents or meagre days; it is sustained and growing even with the increase of our taxes. But some have the art of converting even the signs of national prosperity into symptoms of decay and ruin. And our author, who so loudly disclaims popularity, never fails to lay hold of the most vulgar popular prejudices and humors, in hopes to captivate the crowd. Even those peevish dispositions which grow out of some transitory suffering, those passing clouds which float in our changeable atmosphere, are by him industriously figured into frightful shapes, in order first to terrify, and then to govern the populace.
It was not enough for the author's purpose to give this false and discouraging picture of the state of his own country. It did not fully answer his end, to exaggerate her burdens, to depreciate her successes, and to vilify her character. Nothing had been done, unless the situation of France were exalted in proportion as that of England had been abased. The reader will excuse the citation I make at length from his book; he outdoes himself upon this occasion. His confidence is indeed unparalleled, and altogether of the heroic cast:—
"If our rival nations were in the same circumstances with ourselves, the augmentation of our taxes would produce no ill consequences: if we were obliged to raise our prices, they must, from the same causes, do the like, and could take no advantage by underselling and under-working us. But the alarming consideration to Great Britain is, that France is not in the same condition. Her distresses, during the war, were great, but they were immediate; her want of credit, as has been said, compelled her to impoverish her people, by raising the greatest part of her supplies within the year; but the burdens she imposed on them were, in a great measure, temporary, and must be greatly diminished by a few years of peace. She could procure no considerable loans, therefore she has mortgaged no such oppressive taxes as those Great Britain has imposed in perpetuity for payment of interest. Peace must, therefore, soon re-establish her commerce and manufactures, especially as the comparative lightness of taxes, and the cheapness of living, in that country, must make France an asylum for British manufacturers and artificers." On this the author rests the merit of his whole system. And on this point I will join issue with him. If France is not at least in the same condition, even in that very condition which the author falsely represents to be ours,—if the very reverse of his proposition be not true, then I will admit his state of the nation to be just; and all his inferences from that state to be logical and conclusive. It is not surprising, that the author should hazard our opinion of his veracity. That is a virtue on which great statesmen do not perhaps pique themselves so much; but it is somewhat extraordinary, that he should stake on a very poor calculation of chances, all credit for care, for accuracy, and for knowledge of the subject of which he treats. He is rash and inaccurate, because he thinks he writes to a public ignorant and inattentive. But he may find himself in that respect, as in many others, greatly mistaken. In order to contrast the light and vigorous condition of France with that of England, weak, and sinking under her burdens, he states, in his tenth page, that France had raised 50,314,378l. sterling by taxes within the several years from the year 1756 to 1762 both inclusive. All Englishman must stand aghast at such a representation: To find France able to raise within the year sums little inferior to all that we were able even to borrow on interest with all the resources of the greatest and most established credit in the world! Europe was filled with astonishment when they saw England borrow in one year twelve millions. It was thought, and very justly, no small proof of national strength and financial skill, to find a fund for the payment of the interest upon this sum. The interest of this, computed with the one per cent annuities, amounted only to 600,000l. a year. This, I say, was thought a surprising effort even of credit. But this author talks, as of a thing not worth proving, and but just worth observing, that France in one year raised sixteen times that sum without borrowing, and continued to raise sums not far from equal to it for several years together. Suppose some Jacob Henriques had proposed, in the year 1762, to prevent a perpetual charge on the nation by raising ten millions within the year: he would have been considered, not as a harsh financier, who laid a heavy hand on the public; but as a poor visionary, who had run mad on supplies and taxes. They who know that the whole land-tax of England, at 4s. in the pound, raises but two millions, will not easily apprehend that any such sums as the author has conjured up can be raised even in the most opulent nations. France owed a large debt, and was encumbered with heavy establishments, before that war. The author does not formally deny that she borrowed something in every year of its continuance; let him produce the funds for this astonishing annual addition to all her vast preceding taxes; an addition, equal to the whole excise, customs, land and malt-taxes of England taken together.
But what must be the reader's astonishment, perhaps his indignation, if he should find that this great financier has fallen into the most unaccountable of all errors, no less an error than that of mistaking the identical sums borrowed by France upon interest, for supplies raised within the year! Can it be conceived that any man, only entered into the first rudiments of finance, should make so egregious a blunder; should write it, should print it; should carry it to a second edition; should take it not collaterally and incidentally, but lay it down as the corner-stone of his whole system, in such an important point as the comparative states of France and England? But it will be said, that it was his misfortune to be ill-informed. Not at all. A man of any loose general knowledge, and of the most ordinary sagacity, never could have been misinformed in so gross a manner; because he would have immediately rejected so wild and extravagant an account.
The fact is this: the credit of France, bad as it might have been, did enable her (not to raise within the year) but to borrow the very sums the author mentions; that is to say, 1,106,916,261 livres, making, in the author's computation, 50,314,378l. The credit of France was low; but it was not annihilated. She did not derive, as our author chooses to assert, any advantages from the debility of her credit. Its consequence was the natural one: she borrowed; but she borrowed upon bad terms, indeed on the most exorbitant usury.
In speaking of a foreign revenue, the very pretence to accuracy would be the most inaccurate thing in the world. Neither the author nor I can with certainty authenticate the information we communicate to the public, nor in an affair of eternal fluctuation arrive at perfect exactness. All we can do, and this we may be expected to do, is to avoid gross errors and blunders of a capital nature. We cannot order the proper officer to lay the accounts before the House. But the reader must judge on the probability of the accounts we lay before him. The author speaks of France as raising her supplies for war by taxes within the year; and of her debt, as a thing scarcely worthy of notice. I affirm that she borrowed large sums in every year; and has thereby accumulated an immense debt. This debt continued after the war infinitely to embarrass her affairs; and to find some means for its reduction was then and has ever since been the first object of her policy. But she has so little succeeded in all her efforts, that the perpetual debt of France is at this hour little short of 100,000,000l. sterling; and she stands charged with at least 40,000,000 of English pounds on life-rents and tontines. The annuities paid at this day at the Hotel de Ville of Paris, which are by no means her sole payments of that nature, amount to 139,000,000 of livres, that is to 6,318,000l.; besides billets au porteur, and various detached and unfunded debts, to a great amount, and which bear an interest.
At the end of the war, the interest payable on her debt amounted to upwards of seven millions sterling. M. de la Verdy, the last hope of the French finances, was called in, to aid in the reduction of an interest, so light to our author, so intolerably heavy upon those who are to pay it. After many unsuccessful efforts towards reconciling arbitrary reduction with public credit, he was obliged to go the plain high road of power, and to impose a tax of 10 per cent upon a very great part of the capital debt of that kingdom; and this measure of present ease, to the destruction of future credit, produced about 500,000l. a year, which was carried to their Caisse d'amortissement or sinking fund. But so unfaithfully and unsteadily has this and all the other articles which compose that fund been applied to their purposes, that they have given the state but very little even of present relief, since it is known to the whole world that she is behindhand on every one of her establishments. Since the year 1763, there has been no operation of any consequence on the French finances; and in this enviable condition is France at present with regard to her debt.
Everybody knows that the principal of the debt is but a name; the interest is the only thing which can distress a nation. Take this idea, which will not be disputed, and compare the interest paid by England with that paid by France:
Interest paid by France, funded and unfunded, for perpetuity or on lives, after the tax of 10 per cent L6,500,000 Interest paid by England, as stated by the author, p. 27 4,600,000 ————— Interest paid by France exceeds that paid by England L1,900,000
The author cannot complain, that I state the interest paid by England as too low. He takes it himself as the extremest term. Nobody who knows anything of the French finances will affirm that I state the interest paid by that kingdom too high. It might be easily proved to amount to a great deal more: even this is near two millions above what is paid by England.
There are three standards to judge of the good condition of a nation with regard to its finances. 1st, The relief of the people. 2nd, The equality of supplies to establishments. 3rd, The state of public credit. Try France on all these standards.
Although our author very liberally administers relief to the people of France, its government has not been altogether so gracious. Since the peace, she has taken off but a single vingtieme, or shilling in the pound, and some small matter in the capitation. But, if the government has relieved them in one point, it has only burdened them the more heavily in another. The Taille, that grievous and destructive imposition, which all their financiers lament, without being able to remove or to replace, has been augmented no less than six millions of livres, or 270,000 pounds English. A further augmentation of this or other duties is now talked of; and it is certainly necessary to their affairs: so exceedingly remote from either truth or verisimilitude is the author's amazing assertion, that the burdens of France in the war were in a great measure temporary, and must be greatly diminished by a few years of peace.
In the next place, if the people of France are not lightened of taxes, so neither is the state disburdened of charges. I speak from very good information, that the annual income of that state is at this day thirty millions of livres, or 1,350,000l. sterling, short of a provision for their ordinary peace establishment; so far are they from the attempt or even hope to discharge any part of the capital of their enormous debt. Indeed, under such extreme straitness and distraction labors the whole body of their finances, so far does their charge outrun their supply in every particular, that no man, I believe, who has considered their affairs with any degree of attention or information, but must hourly look for some extraordinary convulsion in that whole system: the effect of which on France, and even on all Europe, it is difficult to conjecture.
In the third point of view, their credit. Let the reader cast his eye on a table of the price of French funds, as they stood a few weeks ago, compared with the state of some of our English stocks, even in their present low condition:—
French. British. 5 per cents 63 Bank stock, 5-1/2 159 4 per cent (not taxed) 57 4 per cent cons. 100 3 per cent " " 49 3 per cent cons. 88
This state of the funds of France and England is sufficient to convince even prejudice and obstinacy, that if France and England are not in the same condition (as the author affirms they are not) the difference is infinitely to the disadvantage of France. This depreciation of their funds has not much the air of a nation lightening burdens and discharging debts.
Such is the true comparative state of the two kingdoms in those capital points of view. Now as to the nature of the taxes which provide for this debt, as well as for their ordinary establishments, the author has thought proper to affirm that "they are comparatively light"; that "she has mortgaged no such oppressive taxes as ours"; his effrontery on this head is intolerable. Does the author recollect a single tax in England to which something parallel in nature, and as heavy in burden, does not exist in France; does he not know that the lands of the noblesse are still under the load of the greater part of the old feudal charges, from which the gentry of England have been relieved for upwards of a hundred years, and which were in kind, as well as burden, much worse than our modern land-tax? Besides that all the gentry of France serve in the army on very slender pay, and to the utter ruin of their fortunes, all those who are not noble have their lands heavily taxed. Does he not know that wine, brandy, soap, candles, leather, saltpetre, gunpowder, are taxed in France? Has he not heard that government in France has made a monopoly of that great article of salt? that they compel the people to take a certain quantity of it, and at a certain rate, both rate and quantity fixed at the arbitrary pleasure of the imposer? that they pay in France the Taille, an arbitrary imposition on presumed property? that a tax is laid in fact and name, on the same arbitrary standard, upon the acquisitions of their industry? and that in France a heavy capitation-tax is also paid, from the highest to the very poorest sort of people? Have we taxes of such weight, or anything at all of the compulsion, in the article of salt? do we pay any taillage, any faculty-tax, any industry-tax? do we pay any capitation-tax whatsoever? I believe the people of London would fall into an agony to hear of such taxes proposed upon them as are paid at Paris. There is not a single article of provision for man or beast which enters that great city, and is not excised; corn, hay, meal, butcher's-meat, fish, fowls, everything. I do not here mean to censure the policy of taxes laid on the consumption of great luxurious cities. I only state the fact. We should be with difficulty brought to hear of a tax of 50s. upon every ox sold in Smithfield. Yet this tax is paid in Paris. Wine, the lower sort of wine, little better than English small beer, pays 2d. a bottle.
We, indeed, tax our beer; but the imposition on small beer is very far from heavy. In no part of England are eatables of any kind the object of taxation. In almost every other country in Europe they are excised, more or less. I have by me the state of the revenues of many of the principal nations on the Continent; and, on comparing them with ours, I think I am fairly warranted to assert, that England is the most lightly taxed of any of the great states of Europe. They, whose unnatural and sullen joy arises from a contemplation of the distresses of their country, will revolt at this position. But if I am called upon, I will prove it beyond all possibility of dispute; even though this proof should deprive these gentlemen of the singular satisfaction of considering their country as undone; and though the best civil government, the best constituted, and the best managed revenue that ever the world beheld, should be thoroughly vindicated from their perpetual clamors and complaints. As to our neighbor and rival France, in addition to what I have here suggested, I say, and when the author chooses formally to deny, I shall formally prove it, that her subjects pay more than England, on a computation of the wealth of both countries; that her taxes are more injudiciously and more oppressively imposed; more vexatiously collected; come in a smaller proportion to the royal coffers, and are less applied by far to the public service. I am not one of those who choose to take the author's word for this happy and flourishing condition of the French finances, rather than attend to the changes, the violent pushes and the despair of all her own financiers. Does he choose to be referred for the easy and happy condition of the subject in France to the remonstrances of their own parliaments, written with such an eloquence, feeling, and energy, as I have not seen exceeded in any other writings? The author may say, their complaints are exaggerated, and the effects of faction. I answer, that they are the representations of numerous, grave, and most respectable bodies of men, upon the affairs of their own country. But, allowing that discontent and faction may pervert the judgment of such venerable bodies in France, we have as good a right to suppose that the same causes may full as probably have produced from a private, however respectable person, that frightful, and, I trust I have shown, groundless representation of our own affairs in England.
The author is so conscious of the dangerous effects of that representation, that he thinks it necessary, and very necessary it is, to guard against them. He assures us, "that he has not made that display of the difficulties of his country, to expose her counsels to the ridicule of other states, or to provoke a vanquished enemy to insult her; nor to excite the people's rage against their governors, or sink them into a despondency of the public welfare." I readily admit this apology for his intentions. God forbid I should think any man capable of entertaining so execrable and senseless a design. The true cause of his drawing so shocking a picture is no more than this; and it ought rather to claim our pity than excite our indignation; he finds himself out of power; and this condition is intolerable to him. The same sun which gilds all nature, and exhilarates the whole creation, does not shine upon disappointed ambition. It is something that rays out of darkness, and inspires nothing but gloom and melancholy. Men in this deplorable state of mind find a comfort in spreading the contagion of their spleen. They find an advantage too; for it is a general, popular error, to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare. If such persons can answer the ends of relief and profit to themselves, they are apt to be careless enough about either the means or the consequences.
Whatever this complainant's motives may be, the effects can by no possibility be other than those which he so strongly, and I hope truly, disclaims all intention of producing. To verify this, the reader has only to consider how dreadful a picture he has drawn in his 32nd page, of the state of this kingdom; such a picture as, I believe, has hardly been applicable, without some exaggeration, to the most degenerate and undone commonwealth that ever existed. Let this view of things be compared with the prospect of a remedy which he proposes in the page directly opposite, and the subsequent. I believe no man living could have imagined it possible, except for the sake of burlesquing a subject, to propose remedies so ridiculously disproportionate to the evil, so full of uncertainty in their operation, and depending for their success in every step upon the happy event of so many new, dangerous, and visionary projects. It is not amiss, that he has thought proper to give the public some little notice of what they may expect from his friends, when our affairs shall be committed to their management. Let us see how the accounts of disease and remedy are balanced in his "State of the Nation." In the first place, on the side of evils, he states, "an impoverished and heavily-burdened public. A declining trade and decreasing specie. The power of the crown never so much extended over the great; but the great without influence over the lower sort. Parliament losing its reverence with the people. The voice of the multitude set up against the sense of the legislature; a people luxurious and licentious, impatient of rule, and despising all authority. Government relaxed in every sinew, and a corrupt selfish spirit pervading the whole. An opinion of many, that the form of government is not worth contending for. No attachment in the bulk of the people towards the constitution. No reverence for the customs of our ancestors. No attachment but to private interest, nor any zeal but for selfish gratifications. Trade and manufactures going to ruin. Great Britain in danger of becoming tributary to France, and the descent of the crown dependent on her pleasure. Ireland, in case of a war, to become a prey to France; and Great Britain, unable to recover Ireland, cede it by treaty," (the author never can think of a treaty without making cessions,) "in order to purchase peace for herself. The colonies left exposed to the ravages of a domestic, or the conquest of a foreign enemy."—Gloomy enough, God knows. The author well observes, that a mind not totally devoid of feeling cannot look upon such a prospect without horror; and an heart capable of humanity must be unable to hear its description. He ought to have added, that no man of common discretion ought to have exhibited it to the public, if it were true; or of common honesty, if it were false.
But now for the comfort; the day-star which is to arise in our hearts; the author's grand scheme for totally reversing this dismal state of things, and making us "happy at home and respected abroad, formidable in war and flourishing in peace."
In this great work he proceeds with a facility equally astonishing and pleasing. Never was financier less embarrassed by the burden of establishments, or with the difficulty of finding ways and means. If an establishment is troublesome to him, he lops off at a stroke just as much of it as he chooses. He mows down, without giving quarter, or assigning reason, army, navy, ordnance, ordinary, extraordinaries; nothing can stand before him. Then, when he comes to provide, Amalthea's horn is in his hands; and he pours out with an inexhaustible bounty, taxes, duties, loans, and revenues, without uneasiness to himself, or burden to the public. Insomuch that, when we consider the abundance of his resources, we cannot avoid being surprised at his extraordinary attention to savings. But it is all the exuberance of his goodness.
This book has so much of a certain tone of power, that one would be almost tempted to think it written by some person who had been high in office. A man is generally rendered somewhat a worse reasoner for having been a minister. In private, the assent of listening and obsequious friends; in public, the venal cry and prepared vote of a passive senate, confirm him in habits of begging the question with impunity, and asserting without thinking himself obliged to prove. Had it not been for some such habits, the author could never have expected that we should take his estimate for a peace establishment solely on his word.
This estimate which he gives, is the great groundwork of his plan for the national redemption; and it ought to be well and firmly laid, or what must become of the superstructure? One would have thought the natural method in a plan of reformation would be, to take the present existing estimates as they stand; and then to show what may be practicably and safely defalcated from them. This would, I say, be the natural course; and what would be expected from a man of business. But this author takes a very different method. For the ground of his speculation of a present peace establishment, he resorts to a former speculation of the same kind, which was in the mind of the minister of the year 1764. Indeed it never existed anywhere else. "The plan," says he, with his usual ease, "has been already formed, and the outline drawn, by the administration of 1764. I shall attempt to fill up the void and obliterated parts, and trace its operation. The standing expense of the present (his projected) peace establishment, improved by the experience of the two last years, may be thus estimated"; and he estimates it at 3,468,161l.
Here too it would be natural to expect some reasons for condemning the subsequent actual establishments, which have so much transgressed the limits of his plan of 1764, as well as some arguments in favor of his new project; which has in some articles exceeded, in others fallen short, but on the whole is much below his old one. Hardly a word on any of these points, the only points however that are in the least essential; for unless you assign reasons for the increase or diminution of the several articles of public charge, the playing at establishments and estimates is an amusement of no higher order, and of much less ingenuity, than Questions and commands, or What is my thought like? To bring more distinctly under the reader's view this author's strange method of proceeding, I will lay before him the three schemes; viz. the idea of the ministers in 1764, the actual estimates of the two last years as given by the author himself, and lastly the new project of his political millennium:—
Plan of establishment for 1764, as by "Considerations," p. 43  L3,609,700 Medium of 1767 and 1768, as by "State of the Nation," p. 29 and 30 3,919,375 Present peace establishment, as by the project in "State of the Nation," p. 33 3,468,161
It is not from anything our author has anywhere said, that you are enabled to find the ground, much less the justification, of the immense difference between these several systems; you must compare them yourself, article by article; no very pleasing employment, by the way, to compare the agreement or disagreement of two chimeras. I now only speak of the comparison of his own two projects. As to the latter of them, it differs from the former, by having some of the articles diminished, and others increased. I find the chief article of reduction arises from the smaller deficiency of land and malt, and of the annuity funds, which he brings down to 295,561l. in his new estimate, from 502,400l. which he had allowed for those articles in the "Considerations." With this reduction, owing, as it must be, merely to a smaller deficiency of funds, he has nothing at all to do. It can be no work and no merit of his. But with regard to the increase, the matter is very different. It is all his own; the public is loaded (for anything we can see to the contrary) entirely gratis. The chief articles of the increase are on the navy, and on the army and ordnance extraordinaries; the navy being estimated in his "State of the Nation" 50,000l. a year more, and the army and ordnance extraordinaries 40,000l. more, than he had thought proper to allow for them in that estimate in his "Considerations," which he makes the foundation of his present project. He has given no sort of reason, stated no sort of necessity, for this additional allowance, either in the one article or the other. What is still stronger, he admits that his allowance for the army and ordnance extras is too great, and expressly refers you to the "Considerations"; where, far from giving 75,000l. a year to that service, as the "State of the Nation" has done, the author apprehends his own scanty provision of 35,000l. to be by far too considerable, and thinks it may well admit of further reductions. Thus, according to his own principles, this great economist falls into a vicious prodigality; and is as far in his estimate from a consistency with his own principles as with the real nature of the services.
Still, however, his present establishment differs from its archetype of 1764, by being, though raised in particular parts, upon the whole, about 141,000l. smaller. It is improved, he tells us, by the experience of the two last years. One would have concluded that the peace establishment of these two years had been less than that of 1764, in order to suggest to the author his improvements, which enabled him to reduce it. But how does that turn out?
Peace establishment 1767 and 1768, medium L3,919,375 Ditto, estimate in the "Considerations," for 1764 3,609,700 ————- Difference L309,675
A vast increase instead of diminution. The experience then of the two last years ought naturally to have given the idea of a heavier establishment; but this writer is able to diminish by increasing, and to draw the effects of subtraction from the operations of addition. By means of these new powers, he may certainly do whatever he pleases. He is indeed moderate enough in the use of them, and condescends to settle his establishments at 3,468,161l. a year.
However, he has not yet done with it; he has further ideas of saving, and new resources of revenue. These additional savings are principally two: 1st, It is to be hoped, says he, that the sum of 250,000l. (which in the estimate he allows for the deficiency of land and malt) will be less by 37,924l.
2nd, That the sum of 20,000l. allowed for the Foundling Hospital, and 1800l. for American Surveys, will soon cease to be necessary, as the services will be completed.
What follows, with regard to the resources, is very well worthy the reader's attention. "Of this estimate," says he, "upwards of 300,000l. will be for the plantation service; and that sum, I hope, the people of Ireland and the colonies might be induced to take off Great Britain, and defray between them, in the proportion of 200,000l. by the colonies, and 100,000l. by Ireland."
Such is the whole of this mighty scheme. Take his reduced estimate, and his further reductions, and his resources all together, and the result will be,—he will certainly lower the provision made for the navy. He will cut off largely (God knows what or how) from the army and ordnance extraordinaries. He may be expected to cut off more. He hopes that the deficiencies on land and malt will be less than usual; and he hopes that America and Ireland might be induced to take off 300,000l. of our annual charges.
If any of these Hopes, Mights, Insinuations, Expectations, and Inducements, should fail him, there will be a formidable gaping breach in his whole project. If all of them should fail, he has left the nation without a glimmering of hope in this thick night of terrors which he has thought fit to spread about us. If every one of them, which, attended with success, would signify anything to our revenue, can have no effect but to add to our distractions and dangers, we shall be if possible in a still worse condition from his projects of cure, than he represents us from our original disorders.