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Art. XI. An Eftimate of the comparative Strengib of Britain during
the present and Four preceding Reigns; and of ihe Lofjes of ber Trade from every W'ar since tbe Revolution. By George Chal. mers To which is added, an Eray on Population, by the Lord Chief Justice Hale. 4to. 5s, fewed. Dilly. 1782. MID the apprehensions of the timid, augmented by the
predictions of gloomy speculators, and the heedless declamations of party, happily there are not wanting kind hands to administer an occasional cup of comfort to those who cannot fleep for thinking of poor Old England. The present writer very justly observes ;
.. Little has he tudied the theory of man, or observed his familiar life, who has not remarked, that the individual finds the highest gratification in deploring the pleasures of the past, even amid the enjoyments of the present. Prompted thus by temper, he has in every age complained of its depopulation and decline, while the world was the most populous, and its affairs the most prosperous. From the days of Elizabeth to the present, a period wherein this nation underwent the happiest change, a twelvemonth has scarcely passed away, in which a treatise bas not been published, either by ignorance, by good intentions, or design, bewailing the loss of our commerce, and the ruin of the fate. Yet, is there reason to hope, that as found philosophy triumphs over universal bigotry, mankind, as they grow wiser, will become less subject to the dominion of temporary terrors, far less to the lating impressions of fancied misery. -The reader, who honours the following sheets with an attentive perufal, may probably find, that though we have advanced by wide fteps, during the last century, in our knowledge of the science of politics, we have fill much to learn ; but that the summit can only be gained by subftituting accurate research for delufive fpeculation, and rejecting zeal of paradox for moderation of opinion.'
Mr. Chalmers, seconding the efforts of Messrs. Wales and Howlet, in rescuing the minds of the public from despondency, successfully opposes calculation to calculation, on the subjects of trade, internal strength and population : circumstances that are inseparably connected together, in decline or in prosperity, From an attentive comparison of a variety of facts and computations, as stated by our political and commercial writers, he concludes, · That'in every war there is a point of depresion in trade, as there is in all things, beyond which it does not decline; from which it gradually rises, unless it meets with additional checks, beyond the extent of its former greatness :' and this he illuftrates summarily in the following table:
Author also, as we believe, of Political Annals of the present United Colonies. See Rev. vol. LXII. p. 464, and vol. LXIII. p. 15. E 2
King William engaged in the war of the Revolution, on the strength of a foreign commerce, of the yearly value of
£ 4,086,087: Which was chiefly transported by a connage of
£ 190,533 : And from both arose an annual income of
£ 551,141. Queen Anne entered into the war of 1702, on the strength of a foreign commerce, of the yearly value of
£ 6,709,881 : Which was chiefly tranf. ported by a tonnage of
£ 293,793 : And from both arose an annual income of
£ 1,292,138. King George II. began the
war of 1739, on the strength of a foreign commerce, of the yearly value of
£ 9,993,232 : Which was chiefly transported by a connage of
£ 476,941; And from both arose an an. nual income of
£ 1,516,557 The same monarch com
menced hoftilities in 1755, on the strength of a foreign commerce, of the yearly value of
£12,599,112 ; Which was chiefly transported by a tonnage of
£ 609,798 : And from both arose an annual income of
£ 1,553,254 His present Majesty engag
ed in the Colonial conteit on the strengih of a forcign commerce, of the yearly value of
£ 15,613,003 : Which was chiefly trans. ported by a tonnage of
£ 756,187 : And boih yielded an annual custom of
£ 2,503,335. We have a future war to wait for, before the Author can have the fatisfaction of claiming the iflue of the last instance in his table; and long may it be before any new disaster of i d checks our recovery from present difficuities !
Our early writers on commerce had no clearer lights to guide them, than the vague entries at the custom-house; but when, in 1696, the office of inspector-general of exports and imports was establithed, our Author confiders his ledger as the most curious and important record to be found in any country.
It is a round maxim in the law of England, which the philofophers of England ought to adopt in their researches, that i be beft evidence that the nature of every case will admit, ought always to be aked and given. Animated by this sentiment, rather than impresfed with any doubtfulness of the fufficiency of the lofpector's Ledger, to prove all which it was intended to establish, the compiler of these fhcecs locked for fupplemental proofs. He found in the tonnage of our shipping, all the certainty that the other has been supposed to want. The same reasons which had induced the traders to enter at the Custom-house, in reípe& to their merchandizes, too much, incited them, with regard to their veisels, to register too little: in the first operation, they were governed by their vanity ; in the second, by their interet : and if the one furnishes an evidence too flattering, the other gives a teftimony as much under the truth, as the other has been said to be beyond it. As King William's reign may claim the honour of having appointed the eleful inspector of our exports and imports, Queen Anne's administration enjoys the merit of haviog established the register of shipping, which is still more satisfactory in its notices, because it is i:ill more precise in its entries.The best intelligence, indeed, on the subject of our navigation, during the interesting period from the Rettoration to the Revolution, muit be collected from derached details, lying obscure, and almost forgotten, among the memorials of itate: but, from the year 1709, the lifts of thipping have been regularly taken, though, previous to the year 1747, they have not been always carefully preserved. From this date, that most important register has been studioully kept ; and it offers to the public such a body of evidence, with regard to a sobject the most interesting to a naval nation, as to admit of little controversy, since it is the best that the nature of the case admits.'
Such then are the data from which our Author has formed his commercial tables ; and the preceding summary of his inquiries into the progress of our trade, will, upon the face of it, be allowed to justify hitherto the principle he has adyanced.
It may be remarked, by the bye, and left as a curious circumstance to exercise the faculties of political speculators, that upon comparing the totals of our foreign trade at the periods stated in the foregoing table, with the progressive increase of the national revenue, raised from the people; it will be found, that the expences of government absorb by far the greater portion of the income of foreign commerce! But should this occasion any surprise, it will, when we contemplate the extension of our manufactures, and the face of business every where visible, furnish good collateral evidence of an increase
of population ; and prove, as our Author observes, that it is no paradox to affirm, that the best customers of England are the people of England. Yet should the time ever arrive, when the foreign trade of this country falls short of the regular expences of the state, there might perhaps be juster causes of dejection than any we have yet experienced. We shall fee our Author's answer to a very common, and a very interesting question :
. It may nevertheless be pertinently asked, Are taxes and debts to increase thus without end? The answer can only be general, and here it is : They may accumulate, while our people, and induftry, and manufactures, and commerce, with the consequent opulence, continue to increase : as both have grown up together, without affecting much the industrious classes, the period of both is the same. It is a strong argument of the superior populousness of the present times over those of King William, that ten million and a half are pow levied with ease, while three million and a half were collected then with difficulty.'
From an outline view of our national commerce, the Author descends to like chronological details of our trade with each country in Europe, in order to ascertain the balance of trade, and to find whether the appearances of our navigation denote a rising or a declining commerce. The inferences he draws from these particular examinations, in reference to the apprehensions entertained from the American revolution, will appear in the following passage :
. The foregoing details, thort in their statements, yet satisfactory in their inferences, contain an account of our commerce in Europe from the beginning of the current century to the commencement of the present war. And they were submitted to the public, though in all useful truths there is dulness, in order to furnith facts for the iwo classes of men, who have been supposed to be now divided in their opinions with regard to our commercial prosperity or decline. Each party may probably find arguments to itrengthen its fyftem, with. out changing its sentiments, as the pride of man is hurt by admitting that he had once been mistaken. Pollerity form, at last, a right judgment, when their more candid enquiries have been facilicated by the publication of documents, authentic in treir prooft, and convincing in their circumstances. An historical detail of the trade of our factories in Africa and Asia, as well as of our colonies in America, was designedly omitied, because it is a fact known and acknowledged, that their trafic has flourihed prodigiously: our colonial commerce has prospered, since we have fostered it by every means which interefed traders could devise, or the mercan:ile tyle tem admited; we have cherished it by bounties, by drawbacks, by The obilrudions that have been thrown in the way of European sivals. If we again compare trade to a fluid, we may easily perceive, that when mounds were saired on the banks, and thoa's were formed in the channel, it would find a vent by a thousand passages : ic was directed in its course to the colonics, and it therefore no longer
ren with its former force into the several European ports. In every community there can only exist a certain quantity of fock, either for carrying on its agriculture, its manufactures, iis commerce, or for the aggregate of its whole mercantile tranladions. If part of the capital, which had been usefully employed in husbandry, is. withdrawn, in order to cultivate the cane and the coffee of the West Indies, our domestic agriculture mult neceffarily suffer in the exact proportion to the sum taken away: if the buîness of thip.building is no longer carried on near the banks of our rivers, båt on those of our colonies, that important manufacture can be no longer confidered as a national one. If a portion of the capitals, which had been engaged in transacting our commerce with our European correspondents, is diverted to the plantations, our European traffic must neceflarily languilh ; it must decline in the exact proportion to the amount of the ftock withdrawn. When these principles are applied to the foregoing details, we shall find in the comparison the true reason why some branches of trade bave actually withered, why others bave not greatly prospered. And it has been shewn by the oombers of our hipping cleared outwards, since they were excluded from our colonies, that a revulfion had taken place, where. by the capital which had been gradually invested in the plantationtrade, was again employed in its original bufiness. They who amidit their delusions presumed, that the mechanic, the merchant, or the mariner could be induced to fit down inactive and idle, only evinced how little they had ftudied the science of mankind, who delight in activity and adventures. As Spain had been formerly ruined by withdrawing her wealth from domestic industry, and corniog her energy to diftant enterprizes, more than by the emigrations of her people, or the importation of the metals; fo England ran fimilar risques in the pursuit of colonization, from similar causes producing similar effects. It was the greatness of her capitals and credit, the skill and the diligence of her people, and oçber means that cannot be so eafily described, which have prevented her colonial policy, ja respect to trade, from introducing greater disorder inta her European commerce, and bringing on a real decline.'
On the much agitated queftion of our population, he easily discredits the premises from which Dr. Price forms his very discouraging conclusions ; namely, the returns of official enumerations of houses for the purposes of taxation : but this subject having been already discussed by Wales and Howlet, we Hall only observe, that the present writer ftrongly corroborates what bis predeceffors advanced. He goes even farther; for he not only cites historical vouchers for a progressive increase of population from the Norman conqueft; but reviews the alterations of government and improvements in civil policy, which favoured a multiplication of the people, to establish the fa&. The result of his investigation of this intricate fubject, is to prove, as far as a computation of this kind will admit of proof, the present inhabitants of England and Wales, inE 4