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Of the former I have just spoken; of the latter I shall
mention one instance out of the many that might be produced, and with
which I shall close this subject.

Several laws are in existence for regulating and limiting work-men's
wages. Why not leave them as free to make their own bargains, as the
law-makers are to let their farms and houses? Personal labour is all
the property they have. Why is that little, and the little freedom they
enjoy, to be infringed? But the injustice will appear stronger, if we
consider the operation and effect of such laws. When wages are fixed
by what is called a law, the legal wages remain stationary, while every
thing else is in progression; and as those who make that law still
continue to lay on new taxes by other laws, they increase the expense of
living by one law, and take away the means by another.

But if these gentlemen law-makers and tax-makers thought it right to
limit the poor pittance which personal labour can produce, and on which
a whole family is to be supported, they certainly must feel themselves
happily indulged in a limitation on their own part, of not less than
twelve thousand a-year, and that of property they never acquired (nor
probably any of their ancestors), and of which they have made never
acquire so ill a use.

Having now finished this subject, I shall bring the several particulars
into one view, and then proceed to other matters.

The first eight articles, mentioned earlier, are;

1. Abolition of two millions poor-rates.

2. Provision for two hundred and fifty-two thousand poor families, at
the rate of four pounds per head for each child under fourteen years of
age; which, with the addition of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds,
provides also education for one million and thirty thousand children.

3. Annuity of six pounds (per annum) each for all poor persons, decayed
tradesmen, and others (supposed seventy thousand) of the age of fifty
years, and until sixty.

4. Annuity of ten pounds each for life for all poor persons, decayed
tradesmen, and others (supposed seventy thousand) of the age of sixty
years.

5. Donation of twenty shillings each for fifty thousand births.

6. Donation of twenty shillings each for twenty thousand marriages.

7. Allowance of twenty thousand pounds for the funeral expenses of
persons travelling for work, and dying at a distance from their friends.

8. Employment at all times for the casual poor in the cities of London
and Westminster.

Second Enumeration

9. Abolition of the tax on houses and windows.

10. Allowance of three shillings per week for life to fifteen thousand
disbanded soldiers, and a proportionate allowance to the officers of the
disbanded corps.

11. Increase of pay to the remaining soldiers of L19,500 annually.

12. The same allowance to the disbanded navy, and the same increase of
pay, as to the army.

13. Abolition of the commutation tax.

14. Plan of a progressive tax, operating to extirpate the unjust
and unnatural law of primogeniture, and the vicious influence of the
aristocratical system.*[39]

There yet remains, as already stated, one million of surplus taxes. Some
part of this will be required for circumstances that do not immediately
present themselves, and such part as shall not be wanted, will admit of
a further reduction of taxes equal to that amount.

Among the claims that justice requires to be made, the condition of the
inferior revenue-officers will merit attention. It is a reproach to
any government to waste such an immensity of revenue in sinecures and
nominal and unnecessary places and officers, and not allow even a decent
livelihood to those on whom the labour falls. The salary of the inferior
officers of the revenue has stood at the petty pittance of less than
fifty pounds a year for upwards of one hundred years. It ought to be
seventy. About one hundred and twenty thousand pounds applied to this
purpose, will put all those salaries in a decent condition.

This was proposed to be done almost twenty years ago, but the
treasury-board then in being, startled at it, as it might lead to
similar expectations from the army and navy; and the event was, that the
King, or somebody for him, applied to parliament to have his own salary
raised an hundred thousand pounds a year, which being done, every thing
else was laid aside.

With respect to another class of men, the inferior clergy, I forbear to
enlarge on their condition; but all partialities and prejudices for,
or against, different modes and forms of religion aside, common justice
will determine, whether there ought to be an income of twenty or thirty
pounds a year to one man, and of ten thousand to another. I speak on
this subject with the more freedom, because I am known not to be a
Presbyterian; and therefore the cant cry of court sycophants, about
church and meeting, kept up to amuse and bewilder the nation, cannot be
raised against me.

Ye simple men on both sides the question, do you not see through this
courtly craft? If ye can be kept disputing and wrangling about church
and meeting, ye just answer the purpose of every courtier, who lives the
while on the spoils of the taxes, and laughs at your credulity. Every
religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that
instructs him to be bad.

All the before-mentioned calculations suppose only sixteen millions
and an half of taxes paid into the exchequer, after the expense of
collection and drawbacks at the custom-house and excise-office are
deducted; whereas the sum paid into the exchequer is very nearly, if not
quite, seventeen millions. The taxes raised in Scotland and Ireland are
expended in those countries, and therefore their savings will come out
of their own taxes; but if any part be paid into the English exchequer,
it might be remitted. This will not make one hundred thousand pounds a
year difference.

There now remains only the national debt to be considered. In the year
1789, the interest, exclusive of the tontine, was L9,150,138. How much
the capital has been reduced since that time the minister best knows.
But after paying the interest, abolishing the tax on houses and windows,
the commutation tax, and the poor-rates; and making all the provisions
for the poor, for the education of children, the support of the aged,
the disbanded part of the army and navy, and increasing the pay of the
remainder, there will be a surplus of one million.

The present scheme of paying off the national debt appears to me,
speaking as an indifferent person, to be an ill-concerted, if not a
fallacious job. The burthen of the national debt consists not in its
being so many millions, or so many hundred millions, but in the quantity
of taxes collected every year to pay the interest. If this quantity
continues the same, the burthen of the national debt is the same to all
intents and purposes, be the capital more or less. The only knowledge
which the public can have of the reduction of the debt, must be through
the reduction of taxes for paying the interest. The debt, therefore,
is not reduced one farthing to the public by all the millions that
have been paid; and it would require more money now to purchase up the
capital, than when the scheme began.

Digressing for a moment at this point, to which I shall return again, I
look back to the appointment of Mr. Pitt, as minister.

I was then in America. The war was over; and though resentment had
ceased, memory was still alive.

When the news of the coalition arrived, though it was a matter of no
concern to I felt it as a man. It had something in it which shocked, by
publicly sporting with decency, if not with principle. It was impudence
in Lord North; it was a want of firmness in Mr. Fox.

Mr. Pitt was, at that time, what may be called a maiden character in
politics. So far from being hackneyed, he appeared not to be initiated
into the first mysteries of court intrigue. Everything was in his
favour. Resentment against the coalition served as friendship to him,
and his ignorance of vice was credited for virtue. With the return
of peace, commerce and prosperity would rise of itself; yet even this
increase was thrown to his account.

When he came to the helm, the storm was over, and he had nothing to
interrupt his course. It required even ingenuity to be wrong, and
he succeeded. A little time showed him the same sort of man as his
predecessors had been. Instead of profiting by those errors which had
accumulated a burthen of taxes unparalleled in the world, he sought,
I might almost say, he advertised for enemies, and provoked means to
increase taxation. Aiming at something, he knew not what, he ransacked
Europe and India for adventures, and abandoning the fair pretensions he
began with, he became the knight-errant of modern times.

It is unpleasant to see character throw itself away. It is more so to
see one's-self deceived. Mr. Pitt had merited nothing, but he promised
much. He gave symptoms of a mind superior to the meanness and corruption
of courts. His apparent candour encouraged expectations; and the public
confidence, stunned, wearied, and confounded by a chaos of parties,
revived and attached itself to him. But mistaking, as he has done, the
disgust of the nation against the coalition, for merit in himself,
he has rushed into measures which a man less supported would not have
presumed to act.

All this seems to show that change of ministers amounts to nothing.
One goes out, another comes in, and still the same measures, vices, and
extravagance are pursued. It signifies not who is minister. The defect
lies in the system. The foundation and the superstructure of the
government is bad. Prop it as you please, it continually sinks into
court government, and ever will.

I return, as I promised, to the subject of the national debt, that
offspring of the Dutch-Anglo revolution, and its handmaid the Hanover
succession.

But it is now too late to enquire how it began. Those to whom it is
due have advanced the money; and whether it was well or ill spent, or
pocketed, is not their crime. It is, however, easy to see, that as
the nation proceeds in contemplating the nature and principles of
government, and to understand taxes, and make comparisons between those
of America, France, and England, it will be next to impossible to keep
it in the same torpid state it has hitherto been.



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