« AnteriorContinuar »
arise." This is an altered tone. The Bullion Committee did not talk in this way. They, and especially your wisé patron, Lord GRENVILLE, boldly said, that the Bank ought to be compelled to pay on a day to be fixed, as the only means of restoring the currency of the country to a healthy state. A man must be a lord to utter a foppish phrase like this without being hooted.
But, to get rid of all loop-holes, I admit your qualifications to mean, that the greatest of all possible precautions must be taken, and that, even with all these precautions, some mischie's, as you call them, something of a shock, must and will take place. Even this view, which is the most favourable that you, an orator of the Borough-men, can take of the matter, would be quite sufficient to alarm any one but a besotted English fundholder.
1, however, set at nought all your qualifications; and, I say, that the thing must go on as it now is, that the Bank never can pay, or, that the whole system, Borough-men and all, must be blown up. This is my opinion ; and I now proceed to state the reasons, upon which that opinion is founded.
The use of the words “gradually” and “gently” make a great drawl in the expression of your opinion. They discover great diffidence, great unfixedness, and, indeed, great confusion, in your mind. You advance like one of us Englishmen here, when, in the burning hot weather, we attempt to imitate the natives in going without shoes. You had been set up by your party to put to shame the poor stick that had been appointed to bring forward the Bill. You were compelled to oppose him, and yet you had too much regard for your own reputation to say point blank, that the Bank could be enabled to pay. Hence all your qualifications and reservations. But, you do not seem to have perceived, that these, in certain cases, lead to, instead of keeping clear of, embarrass. ments ; and, that, instead of saving a general position, they destroy it altogether.
Precisely thus has it happened here; and if I had a mind to make short work of your opinion, I might stop at showing the complete absurdity of this notion of a gradual and gentle resumption of cash parments; but from this temptation to laziness, I abstain, and will, there. fore, reserve the folly of this notion for exposure in a subsequent part of my letter.
To enable the Bank to pay in gold on demand the Old Lady must reduce the quantity of the floatiny puper. Indeed, you say, that a great diminution must take place in the currency of the country. Now, it is incontestibly true, that such diminution must create a great lowering of prices; and, it is not less true, that this lowering of prices must be far greater in proportion than the diminution in the quantity of papermoney. Because, the first effect of the lessening of the quantity of money afloat, is to straiten and throw into discredit many persons who got along pretty well amidst the abundance of money. The operations of this class, therefore, do not remain in degree, but are put an end to altogether. When money is plenty, it moves quicker than when it is scarce. A horse will be sold and re-sold ten times amidst abundance of money; and, perhaps, not twice when money is scarce; and, a shilling which passes twenty-one times a day from hand to hand, is just as effi. cient in its effect upon prices, on a national scale, as a guinea that changes possessor but once a day.
What, then, are the unavoidable consequences of a great diminution in the quantity of currency afloat, and of this lowering of prices ? The ruin and misery of a great part of the people, and the actual starvation of many. These are the inevitable consequences of a lowering of prices by the means of a change in the value of money ; and, it is clearly seen, that such change must be effected by a diminution of its quantity.
Suppose me to be a haberdasher. I have my shop full of goods, as many as I shall sell in a year. I lay in my stock to-day. It amounts to three thousand pounds, two of which I have credit for. I deal in gloves only, and they are laid in by me at four shillings a pair. I begin selling; and six shillings a pair give me a good profit. But, at the end of a month the Bank, the Boroughmongers' Bank, goes to work to prepare for cash payments. It draws in a great deal of its paper. Money becomes scarce ; prices fall. I can sell my gloves at only two shillings a pair, and I am done for at a blow. Thus it must be with the farmer, the manufacturer, and with every person engaged in trade, no matter of what sort,
A man borrows a thousand pounds, to-day, upon a house worth two thousand. Next month the Bank draws in its paper, and the house is not worth one thousand. He loses his house for ever.
Another dies to-day, leaves an estate to his son, worth three thousand pounds, with legacies to pay out of it to the amount of fifteen hundred. Before a sale of the estate takes place, the drawings-in of the Bank have lowered the worth of the estate to one thousand. The legacies can be paid only in part, and the son is a beggar.
Wheat is 15s. a bushel, and a man, calculating upon that price, rents a farm at a hundred a year. The drawings-in at tlie Bank brings wheat down to 5s, a bushel. The man cannot pay his rent, his stock is seized and sold. He goes to jail, and his family to the poor-house.
In the meanwhile there is no money to pay the journeymen and labourers. Employment cannot be had ; and starvation follows. However, men do not, in very great numbers, starve to death, without an effort to save life. Hence robberies and :hefts ; and, to prevent detection, come murders. This is the natural, this is the inevitable progress.
These would be the consequences if there were no taxes at all. What, then, must the consequences be, in a country where the taxes amount to double the sum that the rent of all the houses, lands, mines and canals amount to? And, how is the army and how is the interest of the Borough-debt to be paid, if the wheat fall to 5s. a bushel ? You know very well, Sir, that they are now paid partly by loans, in one shape or another. You know, that there is not so much raised as is wanted, by fifteen millions a year. You know that loans to this extent are annually made. You know that these loans go to augment the Boroughdebt and the dividends, and that this requires an augmentation of the paper-money. How, then, are the dividends and the army to be paid, if prices be lowered to the standard of wheat at 5s. a bushel ? If money enough cannot be raised now; if the Borough-debt keeps on increasing now, what is it to do when this lowering of prices shall take place ? And you complain of the amount of the debt; blame the poor stick for not making an effort to reduce it; and, yet you would add to it by an attempt to make the Bank pay in coin! You would reduce it by doubling its real amount! Yes, by giving the fundholder three bushels of wheat, where you now give him but one! The Borough-tyrants are sadly pestered! Sadly bemired !
As I am not for arguing upon any disputed fact, I do not think it neces. sary to bind myself down to wheat at five shillings a bushel. I am decidedly of opinion, that the resumption of cash payments would bring it down to three shillings a bushel, and then we should come to one of the sides of the favourite alternative of Mr. Hunt, who has, for ten years past, been giving a3 a toast, “Wheat at three shillings or at thirty shillings the bushel.” This is much in little. It is uot yet treason ; bat, it is saying all in few words. It is a pithy prayer for the destruction of the Borough-tyranny. Either side of the alternative would do the job; but I am always for the three-shilling side; for then the howl begins with the yeomanry cavalry crew. The Bank, by its merc attempt to prepare for cash-payments, brought down the wheat to seven or eight shillings a bushel. It brought it down to this price from fifteen shillings a bushel; and, why are we to believe that it would not have come down to three if cash, payments had really been begun?
The miseries of 1816 and 1817 are hardly forgotten yet ; and the acts of the Borough-tyrants never will be. The thing saved itself then, partly by violence ; but, it could not have done that long; and, therefore, out it tumbled its paper again. Without this, dungeons and gags and gallowses and bayonets would have been, in a very short time, of no avail. It is not the return of prosperity that you now behold; but the return of paper.
When the misery was at its height, the Borough-men put out their new gold and silver coin. The fools thought they were getting back to the chink of coin. But, compelled to slaughter a starving people, or to bring back the paper, they yielded, and brought the paper back; and instantly flew away all their gold and silver ; and Castlereagh, during the debate, says, that the new sovereigns were all melted down and sent out of the counlry! The Borough-tyrants have, in order to obtain a respite, put forth the paper again, and you, their orator, would have them, in order to aroid a convulsion, draw it in again!
In “ Paper against Gold,” Letter XXV., I had said, that, if the Bank attempted to draw in its paper, universal ruin would ensue. Pray, Sir, read that letter. Never mind its cheupness. The Blanketteers have all read it. Why should not you be as wise as they? If you had read it, before
had made your speech, you would, I think, not have said what you did. I there proved, that universal ruin must be the effect of such an attempt. The attempt was made, and the ruin came!
But, you wish the Bank to proceed gradually and gently. When a man has means that are dropping in gradually, he may pay gradually; but, thie is quite another case. The Bank has now all the means that it ever will have, or can have. If the paper be drawn in gradually, the approach of the misery and ruin and uproar will be gradual : that is all. The want of employment will come on gradually and gently, but it will come. The convulsion will be the end of the scene, but there will be a convulsion. The notion of the man, who attempted, by slow, and very slow, very gentle, degrees, to teach his horse to live without food, was much about a level with this notion of yours. The man succeeded, at last ; but just at the moment the horse died. To draw in the paper. money, without reducing the interest of the Borough-debt and all public pay and salaries, is to ruin all persons in trade and to starve the labouring classes ; and, what signifies it whether this ruin and starvation come all at once, or by degrees ?
But, besides this argument founded on the nature of the case itself, we have before us one of experience. The Bank did proceed gradually; it did proceed gently. It began drawing in, in 1814; it kept on, until 1816, about October. This was gently enough. The nonsense of those years will stand for ever recorded as the tip-toe nonsense of the world. The tradespeople called for cheap corn; the farmers and their greedy landlords for dear corn. The landlords would " tell the House of it, that they would !” And away they went to the “omnipotent house" to secure them a fair price for their corn. The House passed a Corn Bill “to protect the farmer, that useful member of society.” And, corn grew cheaper and cheaper! I kept telling Mr. Coke and Mr. Western, that they were upon a very wrong scent. I told them, that the Old Lady was at work, and that no Corn Bills would protect them against her craft. The distresses kept on increasing; and, in 1816, on came the wise landlords again with long strings of resolutions for the relief of agriculture. Nothing could open their eyes. Mr. Hunt told a set of these dolts at Bath, that there only wanted new packages of paper-money to make them all happy. They affected to laugh, talked a little of their nonsense, and parted as wise as they met. These were some of Sir Francis Burdett's “ gentlemen of the country.”
The true history of all the miseries of 1815, 1816, and 1817, is this : When peuce came, the shame, the disgrace, the infamy, and, more than all these, the danger of not paying in gold, or, at least, not appearing to pay in gold, stared the administering tools of the Borough-tyrants full in the face. An attempt to appear to pay could not be made without drawing in a great deal of the paper. These tools were too weak to perceive the full extent of the consequences of even such an attempt. They appear, however, to have been afraid to make it. But, there was I, baiting them weekly with charges of insolvency. Foretelling that they never would pay; foretelling that they would finally be the scorn of all the world; and, in short, galling them in all sorts of ways ; not forgetting to remind them, that when their paper-money blew up, we should have our Parliamentary Reform. To work they went, therefore, drawing in their paper, and on came the ruin and misery; slowly, gradually, gently enough; but, still it came on. I kept, even-on, as the Yorkshire-men say, telling them that their scheme would not succeed; that they would never be able to pay; that they must put out the paper again. They, like fools as they were, persevered. We, as we had a right to do, pressed them for Reform. We beset them with arguments and prayers. They threw off their mask, and drew their dagger!
But, while we gained the clear advantage of seeing them in their naked, odious, and detestable form, they gained nothing at all. They were, though well set out with dungeons and gibbets, compelled to bring back the paper again ; and, to stand before the whole world, as they now do, irretrievable insolvents. The ruin and misery they produced by this vain attempt opened the people's ears to the various causes of their sufferings; they made men listen, who before turned a deaf ear; they were the cause of the spread of knowledge more extensive than any people ever before possessed. In the course of the struggle of the Boroughmen to save themselves, their various underhand dealings, their spies, their mode of prosecuting, the conduct of juries and judges, all become topics of minute discussion; and, in short, this struggle, has done a great deal in preparing the minds of the people for the grand struggle which is yet to
come, and which, I trust, will terminate in a restoration of the rights of the king and the people.
If, Sir, you want more proof, than has now been offered, to convince you, that the Bank never can pay, without producing a convulsion in the country, I confess my inability to furnish it; and, therefore, I here close my arguments upon the subject.
But, then, there remains the question, What is to become of the thing at last? That is quite another matter; and I am as fully convinced as you appear to be, that the consequences will finally be “fatal;" in which conviction I am as happy as you seem to be miserable. You say, in one part of your speech, that you are “ perfectly aware, that there are “ persons in the country, who are alarmed at the prospects of cash“ payments. These persons applaud all sorts of horrors; that nobody “ will get his rents, that the funds will be at zero, and that there will be “a general bankruptcy." Oh, oh! They begin to see this, then, do they! Ah, ah! I am glad to find, that they are coming to my opinions at last! Very well, then, the thing is, I suppose, to remain as it is ? Is that what they mean? If it be, they are deceived. It will not remain as it is long. The blowing-up will come, whether the Bank draw in its paper, or not. There are means, as I have already shown, of putting the thing down, of abating the nuisance : secure means, too, and neither troublesome nor expensive. I firmly believe, that these means will be adopted, in less than a year, though I have no sort of knowledge of any one who entertains, that I know of, the intention. But, whether such means be, or be not adopted, the blow-up will come. The Boroughmen must go on borrowing, unless they instantly issue such quantities of paper as to make the guinea sell for thirty shillings. This borrowing must regularly add to the quantity of paper. This paper will, in spite of their teeth, come, at last, to an open contest with gold : two prices will show their faces, and then, good-by Bank-men and Boroughmongers ! The taxes will be paid in the paper ; the law-men and spies and fund. holders and bayonet-men, will be paid in taxes; and the butcher, baker, and brewer, will insist on having real money!
This will be the end, if the thing go on in its present way. Your scheme would, probably, bring the thing to a close sooner ; but, be the end when it will, or how it will, the prediction of Paine will be verified: the Borough-system will last as long as the paper-money-system, and not one moment longer.
Precisely how the thing will terminate, whether it will die gradually down into the bottom of the socket, or go out at once by a puff, is a question that I do not pretend to be able to determine : it is sufficient for me to know, that the total extinguishment will come; and that it will bring with it the destruction of that Borough-tyranny, of which it was the twin-monster, and of which it has, from its birth to the present hour, been the principal support.
These monsters are now of a hundred and twenty-four years standing. The aristocracy having driven out James the Second, immediately set themselves to work to engross all the lawful powers of king and people. They instantly began the work of plunder, and, having tasted the sweets, they resolved never to give it up. They soon took from the people in one year, more of their property than King James had taken from them during his whole reign; and, in order to perpetuate their sway, they created, at the suggestion of Bishop Burnet, a debt, which should, for ever, have