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in all ages—the superabundance of currency. Scotland, which at that time was not a producing country, and had no commercial intercourse, was not obliged to adopt poor laws, though all the Catholic religious houses were abolished. But the Netherlands, a great manufacturing country, where most of the catholic institutions have been preserved to the present day, was compelled to have recourse to them about the same time with England-namely, in 1531.
Such an occurrence as the vast and sudden increase of the supply of the precious metals, which resulted from the discovery of America, will not probably happen in all future time. We have endeavoured to point out one of its effects upon the previously existing condition of society, mainly for the purpose of illustrating the subject which forms a prominent topic in the two last parts of Mr. Sedgewick's work—the present condition of the poor in England. This has been mainly brought about by the abuse of the “ credit system.” During more than a century after the enactment of the 43d Elizabeth, pauperism in England, appears to have retrograded by the gradual and insensible assimilation referred to in the extract we have given from Hume's essays, which always takes place in all communities to any state of things, after the struggle of conflicting interests has subsided. But by the introduction of the “ credit system," a powerful and extensive influence, was soon brought into action, which was diametrically opposed to the true and permanent welfare of the owners of the soil upon whom the burdens of pauperism, as well as of other schemes of taxation eventually fall, notwithstanding that most of these were misled in its support by the immediate advantage of the enhancement o. their produce. We gave a hasty sketch of its operation in enhancing prices, and increasing the burdens of taxation, in our November nuinber. Since writing that article on the subject, we have had occasion to examine the work on “ Commercial Economy" by Mr. Cayley, a member of the British Parliament. We find, at the one hundred and twenty-eighth page, a stalement respecting the public debt of Great Britain, which strikingly illustrates the positions we there advanced.
"In the year 1791, the national debt amounted to £238,000,000 sterling. Since then, the Government has borrowed £1,047,000,000 more. If you add these two sums together, it will show our present national debt to amount to £1285,000,000 sterling; but observe, £480,000,000, of this has been redeemed by the sinking fund. The net Government debt now, therefore, is about £800,000,000 sterling. This £800,000,000 was borrowed at the average rate of £60 to the £100 stock. The sum of £480,000,000, sherefore, is all the money which the Government really received for it. But this £480,000,000 was advanced to the Government in paper money, worth only one-half of the ancient money of the country, or of that which is now being inflicted upon the country, or rather ground out of the bones and vitals of the country. The sum actually advanced to the Government was therefore only £240,000,000 of our present money. The selling price of consols is at present 87. The sum which the fund holders are therefore now receiving from the Gov. ernmeat is about £696,000,000, in solid gold, instead of the £240,000,000, which they really advanced. Here, then, is a net profit of £456,000,000 sterling literally given to the fund holders without any equivalent whatever! Is not this prosperity enough?”
The foregoing is adopted by Mr. Cayley from Mr. Attwood, also a member of Parliament. Nothing could more clearly show the causes of that enormous enhancement in the price of every thing which enters into human consumption for the advantage of the few, which occurred in Great Britain in consequence of the suspension of specie payments, than this brief exposition of its public debt. Mr. Attwood opposed the restoration of the standard of value in 1819, on the ground that the vast change it must produce in the burden of existing contracts made in the previously depreciated medium at extravagant nominal rates, would sooner or later lead to a revolution. Those who are aware of the internal condition of England at the present time, can best judge whether his apprehensions were well founded. Into such a calamitous state of distress and demoralization had the productive classes been plunged by the exorbitant prices of food and the weight of taxation, that the regular wages of labor in many sections of the country were found so inadequate for subsistence, that able-bodied men with families, received stated addition to their wages out of the poor rates levied upon the property of their respective parishes, under the provisions of the law of Elizabeth, before referred to. Landed property became so much depressed in value in many parts of England by this process, which was daily becoming more general and burdensome, that a desperate measure was resorted to by Parliament, in 1837, to arrest this increase ing evil. A special tribunal was erected, and invested with extensive and arbitrary powers, for the sole purpose of regulating and repressing pauperism. Its effect so far, has been to greatly increase the hostile and embittered feelings which had previously sprung up between property holders and the laboring classes. This deplorable state of feeling has been recently carried to such a pitch of des. peration, that vast numbers of the bone and sinew of England wage war against property itself, as the origin of the insupportable burdens under which they are now staggering for existence.
To the reflecting and independent citizens of the only free Gore ernment left on earth, a careful examination of the financial policy which has brought England into her present condition is abundantly instructive. That noble country, the land of our progenitors, has for the last half century been governed by a heartless aristocracy who have made the comfort and happiness of the people at large wholly subordinate to their gambling schemes of pecuniary profli. gacy. They are now, like some sections of our own country, enjoying the fruits of paper relief. To those who are inclined to ex. amine into the actual condition of England, where so much wealth has been concentrated into the hands of a few individuals, while the bulk of the community have been reduced to a state of penury and demoralization, which is really most appalling to any individual possessing the ordinary sympathies which belong to the human heart, we recommend a perusal of the details given in the volumes showing the condition of the several parishes in England, published by order of the poor-law commissioners. These astounding facts led to the poor-law amendment act before referred to, which-like all attempts at remedy, after evils pervading the whole of the community have reached so great a height as not to admit of cure without an immediate increase of individual suffering—have occasioned great clamor and popular dissatisfaction. Recently, it has been proposed in Parliament to establish a stipendiary police force in many districts, for the purpose of preventing the incipient movements of popular commotion, instead of waiting until disturbances begin, and then calling out the regular standing army, to put down the people by bloodshed, as has been frequently done. The self-governing citizens of this republic may profit by the example afforded by the present condition of England, if they will only consider and remedy among themselves the causes which have brought on her aggravated and complicated internal disorders.
Besides the superabundance of currency, great poverty has been produced in all ages, and among most nations, by arbitrary depreciations of the value of money bearing the same nominal appellation. Previous to the introduction of the credit system, by which States have endeavoured to charge the burden of present profligacy and ex. travagance upon future generations, legal depreciation of the measure of value was the only mode by which governments were able to extricate themselves from the embarrassments occasioned by their prodigality or their necessities. What an extent of poverty and suffering was imposed upon the most patriotic and public-spirited of our citizens by the legal depreciation of the continental cur. rency during the revolutionary war! How much was the wealth and prosperity of most of the colonies retarded, previous to that event, by their short-sighted policy in adoption of schemes of relief by the issue and subsequent depreciation of their paper currency! By these measures, our forefathers, from ignorance of economical science, and consulting only the wants of the passing hour, kept their commerce at the lowest ebb which their actual necessities would possibly permit, while a more just and sagacious policy in relation to currency—the very life-blood of all extensive trafficwould undoubtedly have made them comparatively wealthy, and relieved them from many of their embarrassments. They have ever found an excuse in the example of most other nations. An English pound sterling was originally a pound weight of standard silver. From time to time it has been depreciated in consequence of the necessities of the State, until its value is now fixed at less than one-third
of that quantity. The shilling of Scotland, which was in the first instance an ounce of standard silver, is now but a penny sterling. The legal depreciation of the measure of value in France and Spain has been still greater.
The suicidal attempt made by many of the merchants, under the influence of the combined action of the banks, in 1837, to compel the public officers to receive in payment into the public Treasury the depreciated and dishonored notes of banks, in direct violation of the law, was the most recent and extraordinary instance of a general and deliberate design to depreciate the practical standard of value which has been presented to the reflection of the country in an enlightened age. In contemplating this scheme--the vast and simultaneous efforts made to carry it into execution-and the effect which these measures produced upon the moral feelings of the community-it seems almost incredible that intelligent men, who could not have been so ignorant as not to perceive the consequences of such a step upon the security of property, should have suffered themselves to be transported beyond the restraints imposed by common justice and ordinary good faith among mankind. That blind partisan zeal should lead any men possessing intelleet and property to surrender themselves and their families to the tender mercies of paper money speculators, is sufficiently marvellous. But that merchants, worthy of a name in that honorable profession, should earnestly co-operate in endeavouring to destroy the only foundation on which all commercial intercourse rests, will be commemorated as the strongest instance of infatuation which human weakness has lately exhibited. With the experience of our own country, previous to the adoption of the Constitution, before them with the more recent and disastrous example of England in full view—and with the anarchy, disorder, and entire destruction of commerce which the banishment of sound currency produced in France and South America within their knowledge—those who profess to be the leading class in this country desperately determined to involve all our productive interests in a common destruction, in the hope of obtaining political power. Can it be a matter of surprise that such men have distrusted the permanency of a Republican form of Government?
The measures adopted to produce and continue the suspension of specie payments by the banks have created deep apprehension of the consequences of the progress which several of the States have made in contracting public debts. These debts now amount to between one and two hundred millions of dollars. A great portion of this amount was incurred by those States for the direct benefit of banks, and nearly the whole balance is managed and controlled by those institutions. Under the plausible and fertile contrivances of speculators, for enriching themselves at the expense of the industry of the people, it is exceedingly probable that within a few years this vast amount of State debts will be doubled, if not trebled. The rage for borrowing seems to have no limits, excepting that which may be imposed by the caution which experience may teach those among whom paper currency circulates. By the Constitution these States cannot be sued. The payment of the interest as well as principal of these debts must, therefore, rest upon the same confidence as the redemption of paper currency, which, within two years, has universally failed. During the last session of Congress, Mr. Webster predicted that another general explosion was not far distant-and his sources of information on this subject are unquestionable.
Whenever it shall become necessary to provide for these debts by direct taxation upon the people of the States by whose authority they were created, what will be the result? The tax-consumers are not the governing power in this country, as in England. The tar-payers here possess uncontrollable political sway. The money to be replaced by taxation has been generally dissipated for the advantage of others than those who will be required to pay it. If they were the same individuals, the questions which relate to borrowing and spending are wholly different in their practical influence upon the imagination of most men, from those of taxation and payment.
It is not for us to attempt to foretell the course, which may be pursued, by the indebted States of the Union, whenever a crisis shall befal their finances. It is clear that, the Constitution prohibiting any State from making any thing but gold and silver a tender in payment, the people cannot relieve themselves from debt, as many of the States had done at different periods, before the adoption of that sacred guarantee of public and private rights. Whether any avenue of escape will be afforded by the prohibition against issning bills of credit-most of the State debts being, substantially, in that shape—may possibly, hereafter, become an important question.
We hope, in view of this interesting subject, that those who have taken such unwearied pains to corrupt and debase public opinion, in relation to public obligations and the measure of value, may be induced to perceive the necessity of elevating the character of their ethical doctrines. Should the disorganizing and anarchical principles, which, within the last two or three years, have been boldly promulgated under the sanction of imposing names, become generally received among our citizens, and produce their intended effect upon the governing power, we fear that many important enterprises, on which immense sums have been lavished, must come to an untimely end. None can deprecate more sincerely than ourselves any measures or doctrines which tend to impair the public faith either of the United States, or the several States. It cannot, how.