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CONCLUSION. - Richard Price, Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America 
Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty, the Principles of Government, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America. To which is added, an Appendix and Postscript, containing, a State of the National Debt, an Estimate of the Money drawn from the Public by the Taxes, and an Account of the National Income and Expenditure since the last War. The 9th edition. (London: Edward and Charles Dilly and Thomas Cadell, 1776).
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HAVING said so much of the war with America, and particularly of the danger with which it threatens us, it may be expected that I should propose some method of escaping from this danger, and of restoring this once happy Empire to a state of peace and security.—Various plans of pacification have been proposed; and some of them, by persons so distinguished by their rank and merit, as to be above my applause. But till there is more of a disposition to attend to such plans; they cannot, I am afraid, be of any great service. And there is too much reason to apprehend, that nothing but calamity will bring us to repentance and wisdom.—In order, however, to complete my design in these observations, I will take the liberty to lay before the public the following sketch of one of the plans just referred to, as it was opened before the holidays to the house of Lords by the Earl of Shelburne; who, while he held the seals of the Southern Department, with the business of the Colonies annexed, possessed their confidence, without ever compromising the authority of this country; a confidence which discovered itself by peace among themselves, and duty and submission to the Mother-country. I hope I shall not take an unwarrantable liberty, if, on this occasion, I use his Lordship’s own words, as nearly as I have been able to collect them.
“Meet the Colonies on their own ground, in the last petition from the Congress to the king. The surest, as well as the most dignified mode of proceeding for this country.—Suspend all hostilities—Repeal the acts which immediately distress America, namely, the last restraining act,—the charter act,—the act for the more impartial administration of justice;—and the Quebec act.—All the other acts (the custom house act, the post office act, &c.) leave to a temperate revisal.—There will be found much matter which both countries may wish repealed. Some which can never be given up, the principle being that regulation of trade for the common good of the Empire, which forms our Palladium. Other matter which is fair subject of mutual accommodation.—Prescribe the most explicit acknowledgement of your right of regulating commerce in its most extensive sense; if the petition and other public acts of the Colonies have not already, by their declarations and acknowledgements, left it upon a sufficiently secure foundation.—Besides the power of regulating the general commerce of the Empire, something further might be expected; provided a due and tender regard were had to the means and abilities of the several provinces, as well as to those fundamental, unalienable rights of Englishmen, which no father can surrender on the part of his son, no representative on the part of his elector, no generation on the part of the succeeding one; the right of judging not only of the mode of raising, but the quantum, and the appropriation of such aids as they shall grant.—To be more explicit; the debt of England, without entering into invidious distinctions how it came to be contracted, might be acknowledged the debt of every individual part of the whole Empire, Asia, as well as America, included.—Provided, that full security were held forth to them, that such free aids, together with the Sinking Fund (Great Britain contributing her superior share) should not be left as the privy purse of the minister, but be unalienably appropriated to the original intention of that fund, the discharge of the debt;—and that by an honest application of the whole fund, the taxes might in time be lessened, and the price of our manufactures consequently reduced, so that every contributory part might feel the returning benefit—always supposing the laws of trade duly observed and enforced.
“The time was, I am confident—and perhaps is, when these points might be obtained upon the easy, the constitutional, and, therefore, the indispensible terms of an exemption from parliamentary taxation, and an admission of the sacredness of their charters; instead of sacrificing their good humour, their affection, their effectual aids, and the act of navigation itself, (which you are now in the direct road to do) for a commercial quit-rent,(a) or a barren metaphysical chimæra.—How long these ends may continue attainable, no man can tell.—But if no words are to be relied on except such as make against the Colonies—If nothing is acceptable, except what is attainable by force; it only remains to apply, what has been so often remarked of unhappy periods,—Quos Deus vult, &c.”
These are sentiments and proposals of the last importance; and I am very happy in being able to give them to the public from so respectable an authority, as that of the distinguished Peer I have mentioned; to whom, I know, this kingdom, as well as America, is much indebted for his zeal to promote those grand public points on which the preservation of Liberty among us depends; and for the firm opposition which, jointly with many others (Noblemen and Commoners of the first character and abilities,) he has made to the present measures.
Had such a plan as that now proposed been adopted a few months ago, I have little doubt but that a pacification would have taken place, on terms highly advantageous to this kingdom.—In particular. It is probable, that the Colonies would have consented to grant an annual supply, which, increased by a saving of the money now spent in maintaining troops among them, and by contributions which might have been gained from other parts of the Empire, would have formed a fund considerable enough, if unalienably applied(b) , to redeem the public debt; in consequence of which, agreeably to Lord Shelburne’s ideas, some of our worst taxes might be taken off, and the Colonies would receive our manufactures cheaper; our paper-currency might be restrained; our whole force would be free to meet at any time foreign danger; the influence of the Crown would be reduced; our Parliament would become more independent; and the kingdom might, perhaps, be restored to a situation of permanent safety and prosperity.
To conclude.—An important revolution in the affairs of this kingdom seems to be approaching. If ruin is not to be our lot, all that has been lately done must be undone, and new measures adopted. At that period, an opportunity (never perhaps to be recovered, if lost) will offer itself for serving essentially this country, as well as America; by putting the national debt into a fixed course of payment; by subjecting to new regulations, the administration of the finances; and establishing measures for exterminating corruption and restoring the constitution.—For my own part; if this is not to be the consequence of any future changes in the ministry, and the system of corruption, lately so much improved, is to go on; I think it totally indifferent to the kingdom who are in, or who are out of power.
I have given the Navy Debt as it was about a year ago. It must be now greatly increased.—The Civil List Debt has been given by guess. It is generally reckoned not to be more than the sum I have specified; and it is also expected that the Civil List income will be raised to 900,000 l. or 1.000,0000 per ann.—In 1769 the sum of 513,511 l. was granted by parliament towards discharging the arrears and debts then due on the Civil List.
By an act of the first of George II, the income of the Civil List was to be made up to 800,000 l. whenever, in any year, the duties and revenues appropriated to it fell short of that sum. The clear produce of these duties for 33 years, or from Midsummer 1727, to Midsummer 1760, was, according to a particular account in my possession, 26.182,981 l. 17 s. 6 d. or 793,423 l. per ann. They fell short, therefore, taking one year with another, more than they exceeded.—In 1747, they had been deficient for seven years together; and the whole deficiency amounted to 456,733 l. 16 s.—which, in conformity to the act I have mentioned, was made good to his majesty out of the supplies for that year.—In 1729 also, 115,000 l. was granted out of the supplies for the like reason.—This is all the money, received by his late majesty from parliament, towards supporting his houshold and the dignity of his civil government; or 810,749 l. per ann.—I have thought proper to state this matter to particularly here; because accounts grossly wrong have been given of it.
The amount of the National Debt, it has appeared, was last year 136 millions—The great deficiencies of last year, added to the extraordinary expences of the present year, will increase this debt considerably.—Drawing out, embodying, and maintaining the militia in the last war, cost the nation near half a million per ann.—We cannot reckon upon a less expence in doing this now. Add to it, pay for foreign troops, and all the extraordinary expences of our increased Navy and Army, transport service, recruiting service, ordnance, &c. and it will be evident that the whole expence of this unhappy year must be enormous.—But I expect that care will be taken to hide it, by funding as little as possible, and that for this reason it will not be known in its full magnitude, till it comes to appear another year under the articles of Navy debt, extraordinaries of the army, transport bills, ordnance debentures, &c. making up a vast unsunded debt which may bear down all public credit.
In 1775 the sinking Fund was taken for 2.900,000 l. including an extraordinary charge of 100,000 l. on the Aggregate Fund. If it has not produced so much, the deficiency is a debt contracted last year, which must be added to other debts (referred to in Page 43) arising from deficiencies in the provision made for the expences of last year. This provision amounted to 3.703,476 l.; but it has fallen short above a million and a half.(a)
The estimate for the peace establishment, including miscellaneous expences, amounted, I have said, in 1775 to 3.703,476 l.—In 1774 it amounted to 3.804,452 l. exclusive of 250,000 l. raised by Exchequer Bills, towards defraying the expence of calling in the gold coin. And the medium for eleven years, from 1765, has been nearly 3.700,000 l.—According to the accounts which I have collected, the expence of the peace establishment (including miscellaneous expences) was in 1765, 1766, and 1767, 3.540,000 l. per ann.—In 1768, 1769, and 1770, it was 3.354,000 l. per ann.—In 1771, 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775, the average has been nearly four millions per ann. exclusive of the expence of calling in the coin.
The parliament votes for the sea service 4 l. per month per man, including wages, wear and tear, victuals and ordnance. This allowance is insufficient, and falls short every year more or less, in proportion to the number of men voted. From hence, in a great measure, arises that annual increase of the navy debt, mentioned in the second article of the National Expenditure. This increase in 1772 and 1773 was 669,996 l. or 335,000 l. per ann. The number of men voted in those two years, was 20,000. I have supposed them reduced to 16,000, and the annual increase of the Navy Debt to be only 250,000 l.—Add 100,000 l. for the annual increase of the Civil List Debt (see p. 42.) and the total will be 350,000 l.
There is another method of proving that the permanent surplus of the revenue cannot exceed the sum now stated.
I have learnt from the highest authority, that the national debt, about a year ago, had been diminished near 9 millions and a half,(b) since the peace in 1763; including a million of the 3 per cents discharged last year.—The money employed in making this reduction, must have been derived from the surplus of the ordinary and stated revenue, added to the extraordinary receipts. These extraordinary receipts have consisted of the following articles.—1. The Land Tax at 4 s. in the pound in 1764, 1765, 1766, and 1771; or 1 s. in the pound extraordinary for four years, making 1.750,000 l.—2. The profits of Ten Lotteries, making (at 150,000 l. each Lottery) 1.500,000 l.—3. A contribution of 400,000 l. per ann. from the India company for five years, making 2.000,000 l.—4. 110,000 l. Paid by the Bank in 1764 for the privilege of exclusive banking. Also the money Paid by France for maintaining their prisoners; and the money arising from the sale of French prizes, taken before the declaration of war; from savings on particular grants at the end of the war, &c. &c.—which(a) I will take at no more than 300,000 l. Add 3.600,000 l. arising from a surplus of 300,000 l. for twelve years; and the total will be 9.260,000 l. which is a sum more than sufficient to discharge 9 millions and a half of the public debt.
It must be seen, that this account is imperfect. It is, however, sufficient to prove, that the whole money raised directly by the taxes, cannot be much less than Twelve Millions. But as the increased price of one commodity has a tendency to raise the price of other commodities; and as also dealers generally add more than the value of a tax to the price of a commodity, besides charging interest for the money they advance on the taxes; for these reasons, it seems certain, that the taxes have an indirect effect of great consequence; and that a larger sum is drawn by them from the public, than their gross produce.—It is farther to be considered, that many of the persons who are now supported by collecting the taxes, would have supported themselves by commerce or agriculture; and therefore, instead of taking away from the public stock, would have been employed in increasing it.—Some have reckoned, that on all these accounts the expence of the taxes is doubled; but this must be extravagant. Let us suppose a fourth only added; and it will follow, that the money drawn from the public by the taxes (exclusive of tythes, county-rates, and the taxes which maintain the poor) is near 15 millions per ann.; a sum equal to the whole specie of the kingdom; which, therefore, had we no paper currency, would be totally inadequate to the wants of the kingdom.
Without all doubt such a state of things, in a great commercial nation, is most dangerous, and frightful; but it admits of no remedy, while the public debt continues what it is.—With a view, therefore, to the quick reduction of this debt, I will throw away, after all I have said on this subject on former occasions, the following proposals.—It has appeared, that, supposing the taxes not to become less productive, and the current national expence to continue the same that it had been for ten years before 1775, a surplus may be expected in the revenue of about 300,000 l. per ann.—With a surplus so trifling, nothing can be done; but it might be increased, first of all; By keeping the Land Tax for the future at 4 s. in the pound.—As rents have been almost doubled, this will not be much more to the present proprietors of land, than 2 s. in the pound was formerly. ’Tis, therefore, equitable; and it will add to the national income near 450,000 l.
Secondly, All the money now spent in maintaining troops in America might be saved.—The Colonies are able to defend themselves. They wish to be allowed to do it. Should they ever want the aid of our troops, they will certainly pay us for them. Indeed I am of opinion, they will never be willing to make peace with us, without stipulating that we shall withdraw our troops from them. Were there any external power that claimed and exercised a right of stationing troops in this country, without our consent, we should certainly think ourselves entirely undone.—I will estimate this saving at no more than 200,000 l. per ann.
Thirdly, I do not see why the peace establishment might not be reduced to what it was, at an average, in 1768, 1769 and 1770. This would produce a saving of 350,000 l. per ann.—I might here propose reducing the peace establishment for the Navy to what it always was before the last war, or from 16,000 to 10,000 men. But it would be infinitely better to reduce the Army; and this might produce a farther saving of great consequence.—But waving this, I shall only mention,
Fourthly, That contributions might be obtained from North-America and other parts of the British Empire, on the principles stated from the Earl of Shelburne’s authority, in page 39.—I will estimate these at no more than 400,000 l. per ann.—(a) Add the Surplus now in our possession; and the total will be 1.700,000.—In the Introduction to the third edition of the Treatise on Reversionary Payments, I have explained a method of paying off, with a sinking Fund of a million per ann.(b) , a hundred millions of the national debt in forty years. What then might not be done with such a Fund as this?
In five years 18.986,300 l. will fall from an interest of 4 per cent. to 3 per cent.—Also, 4.500,000 l. 3 per cent. 1758, will fall, in six years, to an interest of 3 per cent.—The long Annuities granted in King William’s time, will, in 20 years become extinct; as will also the greatest part of the Life Annuities specified in page 41.—All these savings will not amount to much less than 400,000 l. per ann. And were they to be added to the fund as they fall in, its operations would be so much accelerated, that in a few years we should see this country above all its difficulties.—Still more might be done by striking off unnecessary places and pensions; by giving up all the means of corruption; by reducing the pay of the great officers of state; and simplifying the taxes.—A minister who appeared determined to carry into execution such a system, would soon gain the confidence of the public; endear himself to all honest men; and in time come to be blessed as the Saviour of his country.—But what am I doing?—We have no such happy period before us.—Our ministers are active in pursuing measures which must increase our burthens. A horrid civil war is begun; and it may soon leave us nothing to be anxious about.
ACCOUNT of Public debts discharged, Money borrowed, and Annual Interest saved, from 1763 to 1775.
In 1764, there was paid off 650,000 l. navy-debt; but this I have not charged, because scarcely equal to that annual increase of the navy-debt for 1764, 1765, and 1766, which forms a part of the ordinary peace establishment. The same is true of 300,000 l. navy-debt, paid in 1767; of 400,000 l. paid in 1769; of 100,200 l. paid in 1770; 200,000 l. in 1771; 215,883 l. in 1772; and 200,000 l. in 1774.
From 15.483,553 l. the total of debts discharged, subtract 6.650,000 l. the total of debts contracted; and the remainder, or 8.833,553 l. will be the diminution of the public debts since 1763. Also, from 568,842 l. the total of the decrease of the annual interest, subtract 199,500 l. (the total of its increase), and the remainder, or 369,342 l. will be the interest or annuity saved since 1763—To this must be added 12,537 l. per ann. saved by changing a capital of 1.253,700 l. (part of 20.240,000 l.) from an interest of 4 to 3 per cent. pursuant to an act of the 10th of George III.; also the lifeannuities that have fallen in; which will make a saving in the whole of near 400,000 l. per annum: And it is to this saving, together with the increase of luxury, that the increase of the Sinking Fund for the last ten years has been owing.
To the debts discharged the following additions must be made.
In 1764 there was paid towards discharging the extraordinary expences of the army, 987,434 l.: In 1765, these expences amounted to 404,496 l.: In 1766, to 404,310 l.—Total 1.796,240 l.—This sum is at least a million higher than the extraordinary expences of the army for three years in a time of peace. This excess being derived from the preceding war, must be reckoned a debt left by the war. And the same is true of 1.106,000 l. applied, in 1764, 1765, and 1766, towards satisfying German demands.—There are likewise some smaller sums of the same kind; such as subsidies to Hesse-Cassel, Brunswick, &c. And they may be taken at 200,000 l.—The total of all these Sums is 2.306,240 l.; which, added to 8.833,553 l. makes the whole diminution of the public debt since 1763, to be 11.139,793 l.—Towards discharging this debt, the nation, besides the surplus of its ordinary revenue, has received, at different times between the years 1763 and 1768, from savings on high grants during the war, from the produce of French prizes, from the Bank for the renewal of their charter, from the sale of lands in the ceded islands, and composition for maintaining French prisoners(a) , 2.630,000 l. Also, from the profits of ten(b) lotteries (at 150,000 l. each lottery) 1.500,000 l.; from the East-India Company (400,000 l. per ann. for five years) 2.000,000 l.; from 1s. extraordinary land-tax for 4 years, 1.750,000 l.; from debts discharged at a discount, 400,000 l.;(c) : In all 8.280,000 l.—There remains to make up 11.139,793 l. (the whole debt discharged) 2.859,793 l.; and this, therefore, is the amount of the whole surplus of the ordinary revenue for 12 years; or 238,000 l. per annum.
Soon after the peace in 1763, an unfunded debt, amounting to 6.983,553 l. was funded on the Sinking Fund, and on new duties on wine and cyder at 4 per cent. There has been since borrowed and funded on coals exported, window-lights, &c. 6.400,000 l. The funded debt, therefore, has increased since the war 13.383,553 l. It has decreased (as appears from page 47) 11.983,553 l.; and, consequently, these has been on the whole an addition to it of 1.400,000 l.—During seven years, from 1767 to 1774, 1.415,883 l. navy-debt was paid off. See above. But, as this is a debt arising from constant deficiencies in the peace estimates for the navy, it is a part of the current peace expences.—In 1768 this debt was(d) 1.226,915 l.—In 1774 it was 1.850,000 l.; and consequently, though 1.415,883 l. was paid off an addition was made to it, seven years, of 623,085 l. It encreased, therefore, according to this account, at the rate of 291,000 l. per ann.
Upon the whole, there is reason to believe, that the annual increase of the navy-debt might have been more truly stated in page 44. at 300,000 l. per ann. and this would have reduced the annual surplus of the revenue to 270.759 l. per annum.
[(a)]See the Resolutions on the Nova-Scotia petition reported to the House of Commons, November 29, 1775, by Lord North, Lord George Germaine, &c. and a bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolutions.—There is indeed, as Lord Shelburne has hinted, something very astonishing in these Resolutions. They offer a relaxation of the authority of this country, in points to which the Colonies have always consented, and by which we are great gainers; at the same time, that, with a rigour which hazards the Empire, we are maintaining its authority in points to which they will never consent; and by which nothing can be gained.
[(b)]See the Appendix.
[(a)]The expences of the army not provided for in 1775 have amounted to 845,000 l. spent chiefly at Boston.—The Navy debt increased, during the course of the same year, from 1.850,000 l. to 2.498,579 l.
[(b)]This was Lord North’s account at opening the budget in 1775. The particulars, as I have been able to collect them, I have stated in the Postscript.
[(a)]My reason for this will be seen in the Postscript, page 48.
[(a)]We drew, some years ago, this contribution from Asia only: and it cannot be unreasonable to expect, that the greatest part of it may be again drawn from thence after the expiration, in 1780, of the charter of the East-India company. At that period also, it is much to be wished that some effectual measures may be established for making amends to the inhabitants of Bengal for the shocking injuries they have suffered; and for skreening them from all farther injuries; and, likewise, for withdrawing from the crown that Patronage of the East India Company, which it has lately acquired, and which has given one of the deepest wounds to the constitution.
[(b)]At the time of writing the introduction here referred to, above three years ago, I thought, or rather hoped, that the surplus of the revenue might be taken at 900,000 l. per ann. But it must be considered, that the nation was then in possession of a contribution of 400,000 l. per ann. from the India Company, which has been since lost—See the Additional Preface to the 2d Edition of the Appeal to the Public on the Subject of the National Debt.
[(a) ]See the particulars in a pamphlet intitled, The present State of the nation, published in 1768. Page 56.
[(b) ]Four of these lotteries have been annexed to annuities; but it is a great mistake to think that they have not been equally profitable with the other lotteries. For instance: In 1767 a million and a half was borrowed on annuities, at 3 per cent. with a lottery of 60,000 tickets annexed.. In the same year 2.616,777 l. was paid off; but had it not been for the lottery, only 1.350,000 l. could have been raised on the annuities, and 1[Editor: illegible number]0,000 l. left must have been paid off.
[(c) ]The discounts only on a million and a half paid off in 1772, and 2 millions paid off in 1774 and 1775, amounted nearly to this sum.
[(d) ]See The present State of the Nation, page 51.