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timate of the subsidiary resources, by the operation of which the remainder of the debt is to be cancelled, after the first alarming contribution of 15 per cent. of the actual property shall have swept away rather more than one-half of the existing load.
With reference to the new loans to be contracted by govern ment at 3 per cent. he remarks,
"It is proposed, that all monies so lent shall be applied in discharge of the principal of the present debt; a fresh debt will, indeed, thus be created, but without the obligation to continue the present sinking fund, and not exceeding the amount of the principal of debt not otherwise provided for.
"Other means and resources, with reference to the reduction, either of the capital of the original debt, or of the supposed newly created debt, are presented for consideration, namely:
T'he contribution to be made in respect of British colonial and Asiatic property, so far as the same can be brought under the cognizance of the British legislature, by an income tax, in respect thereof or otherwise.
"A contribution in respect of property to be acquired within the United Kingdom, after the date of the first general assessment; that is to say, an income-tax on all clear nett income, after the deduction of expenditure of every description.
"The surplus of taxes, which may be so regulated as to amount to a considerable sum, without preventing the large and liberal relief immediately required.
"The amount of stock which may for ever remain unclaimed.
"The contribution of 15 per cent. on the probable greater amount of property within the united kingdom, than the sum of 2,500 millions already mentioned.
"The examination in detail of these latter particulars will not now be deemed necessary it must be obvious, that, in combination, they present the means of completing the liquidation of the public debt; opinion may vary as to the expediency of exerting all those means; opinion may vary as to the selection of the means, if the whole be not exerted but it is not questionable, that the means suggested would be fully equal to the purpose of liquidating the debt not otherwise provided for, taking the amount at 350 millions." Pp. 17-19.
The author appears to be perfectly sensible of the extreme violence of the primary operation suggested by him-viz. the contribution of 15 per cent. upon property, which could not be levied by one sudden assessment, without the most fatal consequences to a great part of the community. He therefore endeavours to soften down to the imagination at least, the rigour which appeared in the first announcement of his proposition, and in the following paragraphs makes an ingenious attempt to reconcile public opinion to his project, by conceding the point as to its instantaneous execution, and thus, as we shall afterwards shew, rendering it in a great measure nugatory, and leaving its final and complete fulfilment to chances which may never be realized.
"The following are the operative means, by which it is conceived, that the contribution or levy of 15 per cent. on the property actually within the kingdom, may be rendered practicable and safe; it would not be prudent, if practicable, to carry the whole into effect, as respects the levy of money, at one moment of time, and the modes to be proposed, embrace considerations which not only guard against that inconvenience, but which, it is presumed, will exhibit the whole measure in a more advantageous point of view than may have been anticipated.
"In respect of the stock-holder, annuitant for lives or for terms of years, and creditor on unfunded government securities, no more would be necessary than the abatement of 15 per cent. from the capital stock or numerical amount of the claim of each individual, and the like reduction of annuity or interest.
"In respect of persons liable and subject to assessment on landed or other property, such persons being also public creditors, the cancelling of stock or other debt, to an amount equal to the sum of their respective assessments, would satisfy the demand upon each.
"In respect of persons liable and subject to an assessment on landed or other property. such persons not enjoying the facility mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the levy of the contribution must be accommodated to the respective circumstances of the several parties.
"With regard to many, facilities would undoubtedly be presented, by floating balances, by monies invested in foreign funds, by monies lent on mortgage, by the early and convenient sale of property, and by other means.
"But it must necessarily happen, that a large amount, in the aggregate, would be required from persons not possessing any other property than the immediate subject of the assessment: such persons may be classed thus:
"1st Class.-Proprietors of lands, dwelling-houses, mines, and canals.
"2d Class-Manufacturers, Ship-Owners, Merchants, Traders, Farmers, and others. "It is suggested,
"That the term of ten years might be allowed the first class, for the payment of the principal sum to be assessed; interest to be payable in the mean time, on the principal unpaid, at the rate of 5 per cent. per annum, by half yearly payments; or, if the principal sum remain unpaid after the expiration of ten years, the rate of interest to be increased to 6 per cent. until the principal be paid.
"That the assessment on the latter class should be payable by equal instalments in each of the first five following years; in the meantime, interest to be payable on the principal sum assessed, at the like rate of 5 per cent., by half yearly payments; discre tionary powers being vested in commissioners to extend the time of payment of the principal sum, but not in any case to exceed the term of ten years." Pp. 19-21.
Such is in substance the plan of Mr. Heathfield, the remainder of his pamphlet being occupied chiefly in examining the objections which he has anticipated to his proposal. It may be as well to mention here--what must indeed be known to most of our readers-that the project of the author before us has received in parliament the countenance of Mr. Ricardo, a gentleman who has obtained some celebrity as a political economist, and who appears to have expressed his decided approbation of the principle at least upon which the entire speculation is founded. Mr. Ricardo agrees with Mr. Heathfield in thinking that the redemption of the public debt is practicable by means of a contribution levied upon property and the only point in which these ingenious projectors appear to be at variance,-or rather the only addition which Mr. Ricardo has made to Mr. Heathfield's plan-consists in his suggestion that the debt should be compulsorily redeemed, not at its nominal amount, but at the market-price of stock when the redeeming operation shall have commenced. It appears essential, in reviewing the speculations of Mr. Heathfield, to include also the proposal of his
coadjutor Mr. Ricardo-because should that proposal be found upon reflection to be compatible with public faith, there can be no doubt that it will form an important element in any plan for the redemption of the public debt-and that the supposition of its soundness must very materially reinforce the argument of Mr. Heathfield, by greatly reducing the amount of debt upon which his plan is to operate, and by imparting to the plan itself an appearance of more obvious practicability, and thus weakening, if it do not altogether remove, the leading objection by which it is likely to be assailed.
We shall now proceed impartially to consider the merits of Mr. Heathfield's plan in connection with Mr. Ricardo's sugges tion, and to state frankly the difficulties which we think must oppose themselves to the execution of any project of this nature, and which, we fairly confess, appear to us at present to be insuperable.
The great and leading objections which must occur to every one who contemplates the instantaneous redemption of the pub lic debt with any just sense of the magnitude and hazard of the operation, are in part implied and substantially admitted by the very plan which Mr. Heathfield has proposed. Why does he propose the redemption, in the first instance, of little more than one-half the existing debt?-and why does he also suggest that the period within which even this limited operation is to be performed shall be extended to ten years? Because he is well aware that a contribution, even of 15 per cent. out of the property and capital of the country, is a measure of as great rigour as the landholders and capitalists can be expected to bear-and because he cannot be blind to the almost incalculable depreciation which the necessary sale of property to such an extent as that which his assessment would demand must produce in every species of property which the empire contains. He feels that the measure of sudden redemption is of a difficult and perilous nature-and therefore it is that he consents to protract the execution of his favourite scheme through the long period of ten, or at any rate of five years, and thus to risk its final abandonment in the pressure of some new and not improbable emergency which may intervene. Nay more: his conviction of the almost insuperable difficulties by which he is met here, has compelled him not only to postpone in point of time, but to restrict in point of amount the operation of his plan, and after demanding what we fear is an almost intolerable contribution upon capital to a certain amount, to renounce this principle of liquidation, and to commit the palpable inconsistency of leaving the large remainder of three hundred
and fifty millions of debt to be redeemed by casual and imaginary resources, most of which, if they had any real existencesuch as the presumed excess of actual property above the original estimation--ought at once to have been included in the scheme, and to have been reckoned among the materials of the first great operation.
The plan of Mr. Heathfield, then, is that only of a par tial redemption, to the extent of five hundred millions in the course of ten years, and we are not therefore called upon to consider in detail the effects of a compulsory assessment upon property to the whole amount of the national debt, to be realised in the space of a year, or of some other short period. The author felt that this would never do, and therefore he has been forced to disguise the operation of his principle, by introducing palliatives, which show how objectionable it would have been in a state pure and unqualified. The actual unredeeraed debt of eight hundred and fifty millions, bears the proportion of a third nearly to the whole property, taking that property at Mr. Heathfield's estimate of two thousand four hundred millionsand the redemption of the debt, were Mr. Heathfield's principle of contribution in respect of property carried to its full extent, would thus occasion the sudden, and almost instantaneous sale of one third of the property of the whole united kingdom. In what manner such a mighty operation could be performed, so as to afford any thing like immediate relief from the pressure of taxation-the great and avowed object of the whole undertaking-where the purchasers are to be found where the floating funds to make the purchases-how the subdivisions of saleable property are to be accomplished so as to render the sales commensurate to the necessities of the seller, without aggravating the actual difficulties by sales made far beyond the extent required for the mere purposes of liquidation-it would certainly puzzle the most ingenious political economist to discover.
Mr. Heathfield's scheme is, therefore, after all, of the nature of a compromise betwixt the different plans of gradual and sudden li quidation. We shall assume, that there can be but one opinion as to the expediency, in the present financial condition of the country, of adopting some measures for accelerating the operation of the sinking fund in liquidating the public debt; we shall even concede to Mr. Heathfield the necessity of some such measure, and thus, for the present, narrow the question so far, as to make it include only the comparison betwixt the specific plan of operation which he proposes, and the ordinary and acknowledged re
sources of finance which are yet within the reach of a government alive to the importance of some plan of redemption. We dismiss altogether from consideration, in the meantime, the secondary branch of Mr. Heathfield's project, because it is in principle wholly different from the other, not implying any fixed contribution in respect of property, but resting for its accomplishment, as shall be shewn afterwards, upon the assumed existence of resources which to us appear imaginary, or at all events very uncertain. We confine ourselves, therefore, to that part of his plan which embraces the liquidation of five hundred millions of debt by a contribution of 15 per cent. upon property, to be realized in a period of 10 years. Let us consider the immediate effects then of resorting to such an expedient. The sinking fund, of which the annual produce is at this moment about fifteen and a half millions, would of course be discontinued, and taxes, to the above amount, might be instantly repealed, unless the uncertainty of the resources pointed out for the liquidation of the remaining three hundred and fifty millions, should induce the legislature to continue this fund to accomplish the final redemption of the debt. But we do not perceive that, under Mr. Heathfield's plan, the immediate repeal of taxes, to any greater amount, could be anticipated-because allowing, as he does, ten, or at the least five years for the complete operation of his plan, the repeal of taxes, following of course the gradual liquidation of the debt, would proceed slowly in the lapse of years, and would not be completed till the above period had expired.-Such would be the more palpable results of this plan, imposing contributions in respect of property, and including, of course, to a considerable extent, all the inconvenience and mischief which may be anticipated from a species of assessment so novel-thecompulsory sales-the overstocking the market with land, and all sorts of property-the inconvenient, and often impracticable subdivisions,-and numberless other difficulties which we have not leisure to enumerate. Now, it must be manifest to every one, that upon the supposition that we are firmly resolved upon the redemption of five hundred millions of the debt within ten years a supposition, of course, implied in every plan of redemption, under whatever form it may be proposed-the actual sinking fund of fifteen and a half millions increasing at compound interest, together with an income-tax of ten per cent. religiously appropriated to the great work of liquidation, would fully accomplish the object in the above period, and that without recourse to any other measures than continuing the taxes now actually levied, and renewing an impost to which the
VOL. III. NO. II.