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money bargains are concisely and successfully refuted. The following are the reasons alleged in favour of the present laws:— their influence in preventing prodigality,--the protection they afford to indigence and simplicity, --and the encouragement they give to projectors, by opening a free access to the money market. The Reviewer, having proved that these advantages are not produced by the existing restraints, points out the pernicious consequences of which they are the fruitful source. These, he conceives, principally consist in preventing needy persons from supplying themselves with money, unless theyevade, by an additional cost, the legal enactments now in force,–in punishing those who have the means of giving a large rate of interest, -and, lastly, in corrupting the morals of the people, by giving birth to treachery and ingratitude. In reference to the supposed efficacy of the laws, the writer of the article contends, that, if wholly successful, their inevitable tendency is to prevent all loans; if partially successful, to raise the terms of the bargain to the borrower, and thus to counteract, in one way or another, the intention of the Legislature in enacting them. The concluding portion of the Essay is intended to expose the costliness and injustice of certain law proceedings, and to enforce the necessity of abolishing particular law taxes,-a measure that has since been effected.
The Currency Question is discussed in the next article. The Reviewer's object is to demonstrate that the restoration of cash or bullion payments affords the only effectual security against depreciation, and against sudden and pernicious fluctuations in the value of paper money. He is in favour of Mr. Ricardo's plan for accomplishing this object, which he transcribes from the works of that eminent political economist, and adduces a number of arguments to show the beneficial effects it would have in restoring the currency to a sound state. He enters into the enquiry whether Bank notes ought to be made exchangeable for gold or silver bullion, and assigns his reasons for preferring the latter as the standard. The evils which have arisen from the extraordinary power given to the Bank of England by the Restriction Act are briefly enumerated; and it is proved, that “such a privilege vested in the hands of a body unknown to the constitution, and acting under no responsibility, is perfectly anomalous in a free country, and altogether subversive of the security of property.” This Essay will be found peculiarly interesting to those unacquainted with the conflicting opinions entertained on the difficult subject to which it refers.
Several years have elapsed since the Edinburgh Review took the lead among the political journals in advocating a recurrence to the sound principle of free trade. When it first undertook to expose the mischievous consequences of monopolies and restrictive laws, they were strenuously upheld by government, by a large portion of the merchants, and by many persons of influence connected with the press. Particular interests had been so long promoted by the sacrifice of general benefit, that it was difficult to convince the people of the safely and expediency of departing from a line of policy which they erroneously supposed had contributed to the power and superiority of Great Britain. It was not until men of comprehensive views and extensive practical information pointed out the broad and rational principles upon which the commercial intercourse of nations should be grounded, that the prejudice in favour of an exclusive policy began to yield. Repeated discussion had the effect of removing popular delusion, which had been fostered by the rulers of the nation, who were, for the most part, disgracefully
ignorant of the true principles of political economy. The accumulating force of public opinion was too great even for them to resist; and, under the influence of wiser councils, they consented to strike off some of the shackles by which commerce and manufactures had been feltered. The most violent opponents of the freedom of trade were suddenly transformed into its warmest friends; and the same party that had swelled the majorilies of the ministry, and prophesied the ruin of England from its adoption, changed their tactics, and claimed the honour of introducing reforms forced upon them by the Whigs, whose Ulopian dreams, as they were denominated, had becn the theme of ridicule and abuse. This extraordinary change in the measures of the Cabinet was effected by the gradual enlightenment of the public mind, and that was produced by those writers on political economy, who first explained its fundamental truths, and pointed out the ruinous consequences of the monopoly system.
of the numerous articles on Free Trade, one has been selected, which contains a comprehensive summary of the arguments in favour of leaving foreign commerce completely unfettered. The Reviewer evinces an accurate knowledge of the general theory and the practical bearings of the subject. He furnishes evidence of the injurious effects of the monopoly system, by referring to the state of our commercial intercourse with Norway, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Denmark. But it is to France, in particular, he directs the attention of the public; points out the advantage of strengthening the connection between her and Great Britain, and opening new channels of trade. From the abandonment of an illiberal system of policy, as regards the former nation, he anticipates that the “connection between the two would be so intimate the one would constitute so near, so advantageous, and so extensive a market for the produce of the other-that they could not remain long at war without occasioning the most ruinous distress, distress which no goverment would be willing to inflict on its subjects; and to which, though it were willing, it is probable no people would be disposed to submit." The limited intercourse of Britain with the Eastern nations is adverted to as a striking illustration of the evil consequences of restrictive laws, and the advantages are enumerated which would accrue from opening the vast continent of Asia as a field for the unfettered competition of our merchants. Since this article was printed for the present work, two others of very distinguished merit have appeared in the Review, on the effects of the French and American prohibitive systems, which would have occupied a place in these Selections, had they been published in time.
On the questions of Fiscal Reform, Taxation, and Finance, many excellent Essays might have been selected, but there was not space for their insertion. It is almost unnecessary to mention, that the Edinburgh Review has invariably advocated a real economy in the public expenditure, as absolutely, indispensable to diminish the undue influence of the crown. To relieve the burdens and increase the comfort of the labouring classes, it has contended, honestly and firmly, for the diminution of all those taxes which press with peculiar weight on the necessaries of life. As examples of this, it will be sufficient to refer to its papers on the Corn Laws; on the Tea, Sugar, Coffee, and Malt and Beer Duties; and on the Coal Trade. It has also been eminently beneficial in dissecting the financial policy of Mr. Vansittart and his predecessors, who legislated on the false assumption that the reveDue is increased by over-taxing every article of luxury. This fallacy has been triumphantly exposed in a series of useful Essays, showing the supe
rior productiveness of moderate dulies on wine, brandy, geneva and other spirits; on cider, sugar, tobacco, wool, timber, glass, calicoes, leather, and paper. Upon all these important topics, the views of the contributors to the Review are sound and comprehensive. Their writings have diffused much useful information among the community, with respect to the evils of excessive taxation, and the abuses arising from the mode of collecting it; and they are entitled to the credit of having suggested every one of the changes recently made in our financial system; and which have completely verified the anticipations of their propounders. Latterly, the Reviewers have cooperated with other liberal journals in opposing the taxes on paper and newspapers, which seem to have been imposed rather to exclude the great body of the people from access to political knowledge, than for the sake of revenue.
The articles on Taxation introduced into the present work, under the “Political Economy" head, is intended to describe the effects which must in general result from the imposition of heavy taxes on the necessaries of life, and to unfold the nature and operation of ihe British system of taxation. is replete with sound reasoning and extensive knowledge, and contains a luminous exposition of the state of the country at the period when it was written. To analyse its contents with any degree of fulness, would occupy more space than can be conveniently allotted for the purpose. An enumeration of the topics of which it treats will be sufficient to explain its import. The effects of a rapid increase of taxation in depressing the condition of the labouring classes; - the tendency of a slow and gradual increase in the rate of wages ;—the causes of an augmentation of pauperism in England since 1793 — an exposure of the fallacy that the debts of the nation are in no way burdensome, because the general wealth is not diminished by the payment of the dividends; - the fortuitous circumstances which conspired to prevent England from feeling, in the full extent, the great pecuniary sacrifices she was compelled to make during the war; – the injustice of the monopoly enjoyed by the agriculturists; — and an estimate of the portion of the produce of the capital and labour of the productive classes of England and Ireland, drawn from them by means of direct and indirect taxation, by the operation of the Corn Laws,—by contributions for the support of the Church and the poor, and other public burdens.
It is necessary, however, to bear in mind, that this and the other articles on practical Political Economy, inserted in these Selections, have been reprinted, principally, in order to familiarise the reader with the best mode of treating such topics, by laying before him specimens of well-condensed reasonings, that have had, and no doubt will continue to have, very great influence on the proceedings of Parliament. It is not meant to be insinuated, and it must not be for a moment supposed, that the measures recommended in these articles, some of which were published nearly twenty years ago, are, in all cases, such as the Reviewers now approve. The change in the economical situation of Great Britain and other countries, within the last few years, has been so great, that statements drawn up at no very considerable distance of time, and then quite accurate, are no longer applicable to the present state of affairs; and we believe that, in a few instances, further reflection and observation have led some of the Reviewers to modify their theories. This, indeed, was only to be expected from the rapidly progressive nature of the science; and from the new statistical facts 1hat are every day being furnished. It is but justice to the authors of the articles dow laid before the reader, that we should not forget this explanation.
There is no problem in the science of Political Economy that has given rise to more discussion than the effects of mechanical improvements upon the condition of the labouring classes. Among writers of considerable eminence, a diversity of opinion still prevails. In the article on “Machinery and Accumulation," selected for this work, the question is investigated in a very profound and satisfactory manner. To the opinions of Sismondi and Malthus, who conceive that the distresses of the productive classes have been partly occasioned by the indefinite extension and improvement of machinery, the Reviewer is decidedly opposed. The embarrassments of the merchants and agriculturists, and the poverty of the lower orders, he conceives to have arisen from entirely different causes. He admits that the difficulties in which all descriptions of persons were involved for some years after the peace were produced by the want of a ready market ; but he contends that the difficulty of finding purchasers for our commodities was not owing to an increase of the powers of production. He ascribes all the depression then existing in every branch of trade and manufactures to our exclusive commercial system, and the burden of taxation; and replies to the objection that more liberal commercial laws would only produce temporary relief. The principles maintained by Sismondi and Malthus, on the consequences of an extensive use of machinery, are successfully combated. The two most important positions established in this Essay are, that the utmost facility of production must, in every case, be advantageous, and that a saving of expense, and an increase of capital, must also be fraught with obvious benefits.
Whether Colonies are advantageous to the mother country is a subject of considerable importance, and likely to attract a greater degree of public attention as the people become better acquainted with the principles of Political Economy. It is discussed in an excellent article, part of which has since been introduced by its author, Mr. M'Culloch, into his Commercial Dictionary. The introduction, containing an historical sketch of the rise and progress of the colonial system, has been omitted for want of room; but every part is retained that bears upon the immediate question. It is considered both in a commercial and political point of view; and the author, after examining the arguments generally urged in favour of colonial possessions, depicts the evils that have arisen to England from her interference with their domestic concerns, and the trammels she has laid on their industry. A great deal of light is thrown on a topic respecting which much ignorance prevails; namely, the supposed advaniages derived by the mother country from the possession of Canada, and her other colonies in North America. To the proposition that the colonial monopoly might be abandoned with advantage to those countries, the West India planters have made several plausible objections, which the writer examines. In referring to an opinion very generally entertained, that an "extensive mercantile is absolutely necessary to the possession of a great warlike navy,” he describes a plan by which the “pavy of Great Britain might be as formidable as it now is, or, is that was desirable, infinitely more so, though we had not a single merchant ship.” The views developed in this Essay appear to have been adopted after a mature consideration of the subject; and the reader will derive from it much information, not only on the general question of colonial dependencies, but on the injury done to the interests of Great Britain by the continuance of a system which its defenders contend is a source of opulence and security.
The opinions of Mr. Sadler and the Ultra Tories on the doctrines maintained by the “Political Economists,” are analysed in a humorous and well-written article taken from a recent number of the Review. The absurdities and contradictions of that gentleman and his supporters are exposed; and the Free Trade system, upon which so much obloquy and mispresentation has been lavished, is defended from the altacks of its opponents by facts and reasonings which it would not be easy to overturn.
The question of the Poor Laws has been frequently and elaborately investigated by the Edinburgh Review. It has consistently opposed the principle that the wants of the poor should be relieved by a compulsory provision. The abuses connected with the administration of the rates in England have been dilated upon, in several articles, by writers qualified to form sound opinions and draw accurate conclusions on the subject. Plans have been suggested to render the practical operation of the existing system less pernicious, and the evidence of competent witnesses has been thoroughly sifted. In selecting, from several able contributions, those which appeared to the Editor best calculated for a publication of this description, he has chosen two that cannot fail of being acceptable to the reader, though the sentiments of the writers are of a very opposite nature. The first is from the pen of the Rev. Dr. Chalmers, who has acknowledged himself to be the author in his work on the “ Christian and Civic Economy of Large Towns." The views of that eloquent divine on the causes and cure of pauperism have been so often presented to the public, that it would be unnecessary to analyse minutely the contents of his disquisition. It will suffice to observe generally, that it comprises an able vindication of the doctrines of Mr. Malthus respecting the poor, and establishes the - truth of two important positions; namely, “thai the ills of poverly will never be banished from the world by the mere positive administration of beneficence, and that no power of inquisition can protect a public charity from unfair demands upon it, and demands, too, of such weight and plausibility as must, in fact, be acceded to, and have the effect of wasting a large and even increasing proportion of the fund on those who are not the rightful or the legitimate objects of it." A statement is given of the causes to which the comparative exemption of Scotland from the miseries of pauperism is mainly to be ascribed. The plan of relief adopted in the parishes is held up as a model of practical utility, and the comfort of the Scottish peasantry is attributed, in a great measure, to its salutary operation. In concluding his strictures, the writer indulges in some reflections on the influences of Christianity in nourishing a principle of independence, and a feeling of repugnance to the degradation of pauperism; and he details tho means that should be adopted in the large towns of Scotland to supersede the necessity of legal assessments.
The second article has been attributed to Mr. M'Culloch. It is in every respect worthy of an attentive perusal; the more so that it advocales opinions to which the author was once opposed.
He admits that “the tondency, if not otherwise counteracted, of a compulsory provision for the poor, is to increase their numbers, their improvidence, and their profligacy;" but he appears to have discovered, in the course of his enquiries,