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without a division; and the chancellor of the Exchequer, a few days afterwards, expressed his intention of repaying the Bank, during the year, six millions of the Exchequer bills held by them, and of funding eight or nine millions more.
The same topics, and, along with them, almost every topic connected with the state and management of the finances, were again brought before the House by Mr. Hume on the 4th of May, by a formal motion on the state of the nation. Although motions of this kind had commonly been introduced with the intention of interrupting or embarrassing ministers in the measures which they might be pursuing, he disclaimed having such an object in view on the present occasion. He said that his only purpose was, by drawing the attention of the House to the statements which had been put forth concerning the financial situation of the country, to remove the delusions which these erroneous statements had produced and fostered, and to prove that we were pursuing a course of extravagance, and were enduring an amount of taxation which no community ever had borne, or ever could bear. The motion was preceded by a series of no fewer than forty-five resolutions, embracing almostevery point of financial discussion, and perplexed by an infinite variety of minute details. This perplexity was far from being diminished by the manner in which the mover thought proper to treat his subjects—not arranging his resolutions in any connected series, nor yet keeping such of them as regarded one topic distinct from, and independent, of those which were applicable only to another.—In substance they related to the reduction of the public debt since the termi
nation of the war—the reduction of taxes—the diminished consumption of exciseable articles — the sinking fund—the dead-weight— and the burden and patronage of the naval and military establishments.—The assertions contained in the resolutions, so far as related to the reduction of the debt, was this: "That the assertions made to this House by the chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 3rd of March, 1823, that a reduction of 24,766,520/. in the capital of the unfunded debt had been effected by the operation of the sinking fund, from the termination of the war up to 5th January, 1823 ; and again on 13th March, 1826, that a farther reduction of the public debt of 18,401,0002. had been effected between the 5th January, 1823, and the 5th January, 1826, making together a reduction of 43,167,520/. in the capital of the public debt, since the termination of the war, are not consistent with the accounts before the House, as appears by the facts contained in the following resolutions." These facts, on which was made to rest this charge against government of having misled the country either from gross ignorance or by statements deliberately false, were said to be found in comparing the present amount of the debt with what it had been in the beginning of 1817- On 5th January, 1817, the funded debt amounted, in round numbers, to 796,000,000/. and the unfunded to 50,000,000/.; the total being 846,000,000/. On 5th January, 1826, the amount of the former was 778,000,000/., and that of the latter 41,000,000/.; the total being 819,000,000/. The decrease of capital, therefore, was only 27,000,000/. Of these twentyseven millions, eighteen consisted of the reduction in the funded debt; and of this 18,000,000;., 7,000,0001. had been cancelled without the aid of any surplus revenue. Thus there was for— Life Annuities cancelled .. ^'.5,730,212
Laud-tax redeemed 805,992
Unclaimed Dividends .... 185,452 Five per Cents paid off.... 82,840 Transfer of Capital from
England to Ireland, and
Whence it appeared that only 11,000,000/. of the funded debt had been actually reduced. The annual charge upon this debt, however, was of much greater importance. In 1817 it was 29,870,853;., and on the 5th January, 1826,27,679,8561.; being a reduction, during the intervening period, of 2,190,000;. The charge on the unfunded debt on the 5th January, 1817, was 2,051,242;.; and on the 5th January, 1826, was 1,256,482;.; being a reduction of 794,000;. on the interest of the unfunded debt. The total reduction was 2,985,000;. Now this reduction had been effected to the amount of nearly 2,000,OOOZ. independently of the sinking fund, or any surplus revenue. The several items of this part of the reduction on the annual charge were these—
Imperial Annuities expired
in 1819 .£.230,000
Exchequer Annuities ditto 18,750
Long Annuities cancelled
for Life Annuities 17,490
Conversion of 5 into 4 per
Ditto 4 into 3f ditto 381,035
making thus a total of upwards of 1,800,000;., exclusive of cancelled dividends and of dissentients dis*
charged from the funded and added to the unfunded debt. The total amount of the revenue of the United Kingdom, received in the nine years, 1817—1825 (and exclusive of all sums received for loans or deadweight), was531,266,5S5J., and the total amount of expenditure, including every charge for interest of debt, and the civil and military establishments during the same period (exclusive only of payments to the commissioners of thesinkingfund),was508,309,6l4J. showing a clear surplus of revenue of 22,956,922;.: which, with the sums paid by Austria and the East-India Company, make an amount of money of 25,965,589^. disposable for the redemption of debt, exclusive of 6,917,569;. received from the Bank of England in the three years 1822-25, in part payment of an annuity of 585,740;.forforty-fiveyears. What had "become of these 26,000,000^ of surplus money? There was no sensible reduction of the debt in the mean while — no redaction of the capital; no reduction of the charge. For, although there thus appeared to have been in the nine years, 1817—'25, a disposable surplus revenue of 25,965,539;. (exclusive of 6,917,56'9;. received from the Bank for annuity, in the three years 1822—5) there had only been a reduction in the capital of the funded and unfunded debt, during the same period, of 20,393,495;. whilst the finance accounts shewed no decrease of the annual charge that would not have been effected by annuities fallen in, cancelling or conversions of stock, and diminution of interest on unfunded debt, without reference to the surplus revenue.
Ministers, therefore, it was con^
eluded had been guilty of misleading and deluding the country concerning the diminution of the debt, ajnd of its charges. The great instrument in producing this delusion had been itself one of the grossest of all delusions, viz., the Sinkingfund, the operation of which, Mr. Hume had no hesitationin declaring, had added little less than two hundred millions to the debt, from the time of its establishment up to the year 1817—assuming the same proportions of actual charge, and the charges which, but for its existence, would have been saved on loans, &c. His resolutions, therefore, asserted: "That no nation or body corporate, in their collective capacity, can derive pecuniary benefit or advantage of any kind, by merely trading with themselves; and therefore the Sinking-fund system of Great Britain, established solely for the purpose of the nation trading in its own obligations, was founded in fallacy, and has been maintained by delusion. That the Sinking-fund system is not only useless for any beneficial purpose to the state, but highly objectionable, from the loss it occasions, and from its direct tendency to promote a system of speaulation and gambling, altogether inconsistent with the well-being of the country; and therefore, ought to be forthwith abolished." This, he said, was proved, not only by the enormous charge of management which that fund entailed upon the country but also by the immense actual loss of capital which it had occasioned to the country, between 179* and 1817* amounting to not less than 35 millions. On one occasion government wanted to borrow 5,000,000/. only. An individual would have gone into the market, and raised that Vol.. LXVIII.
sum on the best terms he could. But because of the necessity of providing for this delusive Sinkingfund, the government on that occasion raised a very much larger sum, and upon terms unfortunately disadvantageous in proportion to the amount of such loan. On every occasion the result had been the same; and the mischiefs and fallacy of the whole plan were evident from the details embodied in the following resolutions.
"No. 21.—That by a return made to this House, the total nett revenue of Great Britain (exclusive of loans) for twenty four years, between the 10th day of October, 1792, and the 5th day of January, 1817, appears to have amounted to 1,126,640,417/.; and the total expenditure (exclusive of all sums paid to the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt), during the same period, appears to have amounted to 1,533,628,631/. being an excess of expenditure over revenue of 406,988,214/.; but as three quarters of a year from the 5th day of January to the 10th day of October, 1799.. appears to have been stated twice, three fourths of the excess of expenditure in 1799 require to be deducted, making the actual deficiency of revenue to be about 393,000,000/.
"No. 22.—That, although the actual revenue during the twentyfour years, from 1793 to 1816 inclusive, fell short of the expenditure only about 393,000,000/., it appears by a series of resolutions submitted to the consideration of this House on the 25th of July, 1822, that an amount of no less than 618,163,857/. of money was raised by loans and Exchequer bills, during the said period of twentyfour years, viz. from 1793 to 1816 inclusive.
"No. 22.*—That, by thesixth of the before-mentioned series of resolutions, it appears, that whilst 618,163,8577. of money was raised by loans and Exchequer bills between the 10th day of October 1792, and the 5th of January, 1817, that 188,522,348/. only was paid to the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt, leaving the enormous sum of 136,641,5177- totally unaccounted for.
"No. 23.—That, by another account, presented to this House in 1822, it appears, that in the year 1815, annuities of different denominations, all in perpetuity, were created to the amount of 3,083,621 7., equal to 102,787,334/. of three per cent stock, for which only 53,819,786/. money was received, being at the rate of 100/. of three per cent capital created for every 52/. 7*. Zd. of money received.
"No. 24.—That, by another account, presented to this House in 1825, it appears that between the 5th January, 1824, and 5th January, 1825, the commissioners of the Sinking-fund have purchased 3,627,225/. of three per cent stock, for which they have paid 3,416,031/., being at the rate of 94/. 3s. 5d. for every 100/. of such stock, at a loss of 417. 16*. 3d. of money, for every 100/. stock repurchased, as compared with 1815."
In short, for about twenty-four years, while wehad been borrowing, say at 57. 5*. we had been re-purchasing at about 4-7. 10*.; leaving a charge of oneper cent forever on the 200,000,000/. or thereabouts, absorbed during that time, by the Sinking-fund, and made applicable to the reduction of the public debt. All the ruinous consequences of this delusive scheme would have been avoided, if government, in-,
stead of effecting new loans, and creating new debts, to support an imaginary fund for the discharge of other debts, had annually applied the surplus revenue, and other resources, to the purchase of stock at the average rate of the respective years.
Another set of these multifarious resolutions went to aver, that, since the war, taxation had increased, instead of being diminished; that, during the last three years, a million more had been raised by taxes than in the three preceding years, and that this augmentation was so far from being the effect of an increased consumption with diminished duties, that the consumption, in point of fact, had greatly decreased. The only nominal reduction of taxation, Mr. Hume said, had been the repeal of the propertytax; but the abolition of this tax had given no relief to the public, because its amount continued to be raised in a different manner; all that the public gained was, that the taxes were more judiciously collected, and the burden was somewhat lightened by being more widely spread. The assertion of government, that 27,000,0007. of taxes had been reduced since the war was an utter delusion; and could neither have been made nor believed, had it not been from measuring the amount of taxation by a wrong standard, and neglecting altogether the established standard of value. The money amount of taxes raised in Great Britain, on the average of the three years, 1813-15, the period of the largest receipt during the war, was 69,010,2277. per annum; but as that amount was in paper money of nominal value, and not exchangeable into gold, on an average of the three years, at u lower rate than 51. per bst. (the maximum having been Si. 11&- per oz.), the average annual taxation, if valued in gold, was equal only to 13,802,04*5 oiiS. of gold, J* tt> 58,741,714£. of money exchangeable into gold at 77*- lOfrf. per oz.; whilst the annual average amount of taxation in the last three years, 1823-5, was 52,430,765, convertible into gold at 77*- lOfrf. per oz., showing a diminution of only 1,310,949^ per annum of money of standard value, instead of 27,000,000/. Another, and a still surer method of proving that taxation was higher in the years 1823, 1824, and 1825, than in 1817, 1818, and 1819, was, to take it at what it would have been, if the amount had been paid in wheat. Now, the annual money-amount of taxes, on an average of the three years 1813-15, was only equal to 1.5,853,926 quarters of wheat, at 80*. Qd. per quarter, the average price of that period; whilst the money-amount of taxes, on an average of the three years 1823-5, was equal to 17,434,546 quarters of Wheat, at 60*. 3d. per quarter, the average price of that period. Thus taxation, instead of having been reduced/ had actually increased at the rate of one fifth, an increase to which much of the recent priVatiOn and distress was attributable. The increased productiveness of the taxes (to the amount of a million annually) had been ascribed by government to the increased consumption which was Said to fee the natural consequence of lowering prices by reducing duties: but Mr. Hume maintained that no such increase had taken place during the last forty years, notwithstanding the great increase of the 'con suming population. Thus the annual consumption of malt,
in England and Wales, had actually decreased, in the last forty years, although, within the same period, there had been an increase of about 40 per cent in the population. On an average of the ten years from 1785 to 1794, the number of bushels of malt annually consumed was 25,751,775; and on the average of the ten years 1815— 1824, the annual consumption was only 25,246,940 bushels, showing an actual decrease exceeding 500,000bushels per annum; whilst, if the consumption of malt had increased in proportion to the increase of population, the consumption would have exceeded 35,000,000 of bushels per annum. A fair comparison could be made only by taking an average of several years; yet, even if the consumption of malt in 1825 (a year of great excitement) were compared with some other single years, a greater consumption appeared in the years 1792-7 and 9, 1803 and 21, than in 1825. Wine, too, had shared the fate of malt. The quantity of foreign wines annually charged with Excise duty in Great Britain, on the average of the three years 1801-3 was 7,661,270 gallons, and the average quantity charged in the four years 1819—1822 was 5,223,326 gallons, being an actual diminution of 2,437,944 gallons yearly, or about 30 per cent, notwithstanding the increased number of consumers during that period; although at least 10 per cent of Cape wines, of very inferior quality, had been charged with duty in the aggregate quantity in the latter period.
The progress of the consumption of sugar, tea, and tobacco, all of them taxable articles of primary use, led to the same results. The quantity of sugar consumed in Great Britain, -on an average of