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'he difficulty ofborrowing money had been greater
Bat thi« system had been for more than a cen'ory adopted, for avoiding the immediate pressure of raising the supplies wituii the year, and could not now be abandoned. The inipo. lition of new taxes to any great uoeu it. would have been harsh and entei, and might have been even a dingerous expedient. The raising •f the property tax to 10 per cent, (which certain financiers entertained thoaghts of raisi-tg still higher) was loivt-rsally complained of as most oppr-'ssrve, and tyrannical. It was called by thousands, not taxation, but confiscation.
Lord Henry Petty therefore, in the ardour of genius and youth, con. ceivedthe design of relieving the nation, at least for a time, by abstraction on abstraction, by refinements and calculations, that stretched to the utmost the finest and strongest nerves of political arithmetic. Warloans and supplementary loans; one percent, sinking funds on su pplementary loans, and five per cent, sinking funds on war-loans; to raise the first year a smaller supplementary loan than in proportion to that of other years; tables to shew how much might he diverted out of the • listing sinking fund; and calculations on the rise and fall of consols, on money capital of debt, and noainal capital.-—.VI this with the acknowledged uncertainty of future incidents, and the future depreciation of money, conveyed to minds incapable, or too inactive to follow the labyrinth of his combinations, the idea of a machinery too cumber, some and intricate, and liable to too many unforeseen accidents, to be acted opon by men of common sense, and altogether chimerical: while more
acute and patient calculators, both in and out of parliament, set themselves to shew by a variety of statements, though with what degree of accuracy it is not here pretended to judge, that the amount of taxes necessary to be imposed under the new plan, as it was called, or of debt in. curred on account of compound in. terest, in the twentieth year from raising any particular loan, would be twice as much as under common funding, that is to say, borrowing, and raising taxes within the year for payment of the interest of the sums borrowed.
Of all the plans of finance submitted to the consideration of par. liament, the mo t simple, solid, and what would have been most generally acceptable, wasthatof Sir James Pulteuey, who declared his opinion that the accumulation of the sinking fund should stop now, that is, that the produce of this fund, during the war, should be diverted to the service of the year: which would save the trouble and expence attending the making and managing of neW loans to that amount. The great partiality of ministers, or those who expected or wishvi to be ministers, for the sinking fund, was v> ry generally ascribed to the facility it extended, by keeping up the price of stocks, to the borrowing of money. Lord H. Petty's confession that, in his view of the matter, the great benefit of the sinking fund lay in the certainty it atlorded of stock being a market ihle commodity, was much commented on both in conversation and publications of the ress: in which this benefit to stock-jobbers, and ministers, ever urone to get the command of as much money as possible into their own hands, was viewed as a tax of eight or nine millions a
year year on the people. In truth, this benefit, if it be one, was the only benefit that accompanied the sinking fond. With regard to the nation, considered as an individual proprietor, or one farhiiy, this scheme of making the family at once debtor and creditor, taking from the one hand to give the other, robbing Peter to pay Paul, was merely a political so. phism. It reminds us of the core, tons man in Moliere; who, chagrined beyond measure at the loss of his monpy, andnot knowingwhom to accuse of the theft, seizes the left hand with the right,and cries out in a paroxysm of passion, " And myself too! 1 will -charge myself with the robbery." Public credit would never be shaken while we could pay th* interest, though we should never diminish the amount of our debts. The taxcw rai. sed forthe sinkingfund, may Reconsidered a* a capital bid out at a very low interest, instead of being su fiend to remain in the hands of industrious individuals, to be employed by them in agriculture, manufactures, and trade. It is, as if a landholder, or farmer, instead of improving his estate or farm, should lock up, for the benefit of his grandchildren, his guineas, crowns, and shillings, in his strongbox. Without a sinking fund, the very progress of society would alleviate the burthen ofthe national debt, and at last almost annihilate it.
Either the navigation, commerce, and general exertion and improvement of the Hritish empire, must undergo a sudden and a sad reverse, or continue to flourish more and morn: for in human affairs there is nothing absolutely stationary. In th*1 first case,the Sinking fund would be swept away in the general crash ; public credit would dwindle also sway, and almost to nothing; and the voice
of the stockholders, clamorous i vain for the regular payment of thr dividends, would be dro'vned in or, general uproar of the nation.— Hi such a sudden and sad «v. rse, eT* though our open trade should b shutout from the continent of Furop< with all the world to trade with b< sides, is not to be apprehended. On national prosperity may reasonab) be expected, if we may,judge by wha has past since the termination of th American war, to increase, not i' an arithmetical, but more nearly ii a geometrical proportion to its pre sent extent: in which case the futur depreciation of money must be ex tremel v rapid; so great indeed as U dofyallourcalculation. Ilcrethp loss it is evident, wou^d fall on the stock, holders. The debt of the natior would be almost annihilated, mcrclv by a gradual decrease in the value o\ money. And as to the stock-holder? the depreciation in the real value o! stock, that is, the necessari< sit would purchase, while it continued to be transferred from hand toh"nd, would not be very sensibly felt by any possessor.
It seems therefore to be the wisest as well as simplest political oecono. my, to apply, if necessary, the who'c revenue of the current ytar to the service of the state, rather than to oppress and overload the people by taxes that cramp productive industry, for the purpose of raising or rontinuini' the accumulation of a sinking fund.—-Queen Elizabeth was wont to say,that " money was a< good tohrr, in her people's pockets as in her own."—If the people had been sutfered to live as comfortably as possible, and if possible to put a little money in their pockets instead of the sinking fund, jjovenimcnt would have lost nothing. Jt seem*
to have been just as easy for governmiit, in the reign of George III, to pntUh'ir hands in the pockets of the pwjr>,asinthatof Queen Elizabeth. ItBtbe yearly produce of tin- national industry alone that can be considered as a permanent fund for de. fnjLiy the .xpencesof each year. 1/more be taken, by drawing bills 03 posterity, and loading the present ^ncratio:i with the interest, the anan) produce is every year suffering diminution, which is also a diminution of the sources of revenue.
The controversy about lord II. Petty's plan of finance, and the nature md operation of the sinking fund in f-neral, in 1807, bore a near resi'mblince to that bttwecn Mr. Xecker »nd Mr. Calonne, in France, about twenty years previous to that period. Mr. Xecker, the comptroller of the
finances, like Mr. Pitt, had provided, according to his calculations, a sinking fund. But lo! instead of a sinking fund, a great deficit. Mr. Necker acknowledged that deficit, but by way of apology, gave an account of the various unforeseen circumstances to which it wasowing. Mr. de Calonne replied that reasons why the deficit could not but exist, se ved only to prove the truth of its existence. The contingencies by which it was occasioned, ought to have been taken into that average on which the pretended sinking fund was founded.
These false appearances of sinking fund9, invite popular applause and confidence at first. But they do not seem calculated to stand the touch of reasou, or the test of tits*.
Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, brought into the House of Peers by Lord Grcnville.—Motion for appointing a Day for the second Reading of the Bill. Communications on this Subject between His Majesty and Foreign Powers.—Second Reading of the Bill. -Speakers in favour of the Bill—and Speakers against it.— Religious and Moral Plan for the gradual Abolition of Slavery, by Lord Sidmouth. Neic Clauses introduced into the Bill.— The Bishop of London's Lamentation respecting the Paucity of Churches mid Ecclesiastics in our West-India Islands.—Emphatic Declaration against the Bill, by the Earl of St. Vincent.—The Bill passed in the House of Peers, and sent dozen to the House of Com.
vions.—Speakers pro and con.—Council hea d against the Bill.
Second Reading of the Bill.—Debate on the Questionfor going into a Committee.—The Question carried—and passed into a Larc— Motioti for a gradual Abolition of Slavery in our West-India Colonies, by Lord Percy—supported by Mr. Sheridan—but not pressed, for the present, by Lord Percy against the general sense of the House.
THE time (hat was taken up, and the anxiety that was shewn by the British parliament, to provide for an enormous expenditure, the necessity of which was imposed upon the state by the imperious law of self.preser. ration, did not siiut the cars of the legislature against the cries of suffer. ing and outraged humanity.
A bill for the abolition of the slave. trade went hand in hand with the proceedings respecting finance and teconomy. The BriUsh parliament and nation had the generosity and the courage, in the cause of humanity and justice, to hazard an innovation, which, in the opinion of most men, threatened ruin to the most valuable branch of British commerce, and proved to the world, that this "nation of shopkeepers," as ithad been sneeringly styled by the French, was sus. eeptiblc of the finest feelings, and
might be induced to pay homage to the purest principles of morality.
It will be recollected that two re. solutions were passedbyboth houses, in the last session of parliament; the one declaring that the African slave, trade, being coutrary to the princi. pies of justice, humanity, and sound policy, ought to be abolished with all practicable expedition; and the other, to address his majesty, be. seeching him to take such measures as might appear most effectual for obtaining, by negotiation, the con. currence and concert of foreign pow. ers, in the abolition of the slave-trade, and the execution of the regulations adopted for that purpose.*
Iii-pursuance of these resolutions, lord Crenville on the 2d of Janu. ary brought into the house of peers, a bill for abolishing the slave-trade.
Lord Eldon wished to know whether
the « Vide Vol. XLVII. 180(5, History of Europe, p. 92.
tie bill cu meant to extend to the ■lafe-trade in general, both in the Weit Indies and on the coast of Afri. a, or if it was the African slavetrade only that was to be abolished. Lord Grenville said that the bill extended to the African tra te only
Lord Eldon, however, thought that this mode of proceeding, for the abolition of the slave-trade, was impracticable, and that, if their lordships consented to put an end to the trade on the coast of Africa, the application of the same principle would necessarily compel them to extend the abolition to the West-India islands. The bill was read a first time, ami printed.
January 12th, on the motion of lord Grenville, for appointing a day for the second reading of the bill for the abolition of the slave-trade, lord Hawkesbury moved an address to his majesty, praying," that he would be graciously pleased to order to be laid before the house, copies of all communications which had passed between his majesty and foreign powers, respecting the abolition of the slave-trade, in consequence of the address of thathousc." Lord Gren•illesaid, that with respect to France the fact was, that during the late negotiation with the government of that country, communications on this subject did take place, to the proaaction of which he saw no objectoa. As to Spain and Holland, no communications had or could have taken place with those powers. Communications respecting the slave. tod* had passed between the plenipotentiaries of this country, and the iffiited states of America; and an ^leosjnu on this subject actually formed one of the articles of the treaty which bad been signed by one of ^* pleoipot«ntiari«s. With re
spect to Portugal, it was not thought expedient to make any communication on tht.' subject, during the negotiation with France.—These five were the only powers materially interested in the slave-trade.
On the 4th of February, counsel having been called in,pursuant to order, before the house of lords, Mr. Plumer and Mr. Dallas attendedon behalf of the West-India merchants; Mr. Alexander for the merchants of Liverpool; Mr. Scarlett for the merchants and planters of Jamaica and Trinidad; and Mr. Clarke for the corporation of Liverpool, and the trustees of the dock of that port. The counsels having concluded their pleadings, requested, according to the prayer of the petitioners for whom they appeared, that witnesses might be palled in ; which was net allowed, as it was not thought in any respect necessary
The day appointed for the second reading of the bill for abolishing the slave-trade, was Wednesday the 5th of February ; on which day, lord Grenville having given a copious detail of the principal arguments on which the principle or spirit of th» bill was founded, concluded with moving, " that the bill be now read a second time." The abolition of the slave-trade has been so repeatedly submitted to the consideration of parliament, and the proceedings and debates on this subject so often noticed in the Annual Register for the pre. ceding twenty years, that it is altogether unnecessary, and might appear even irksome to our readers, te follow the reiterated discussion through the speeches in both houses, in 1807. We shall therefore just state the progress of the bill till it was passed into a law, and then take a briefviewof thequestion, not only as