POOR RATES MISAPPLICATION BILL
25 March 1819
Mr. Sturges Bourne moved for leave to bring in a bill, which, he declared, was intended to prevent the payment of the wages of labour out of the poor rates; no relief should in future be given to able-bodied labourers in employment, but their children should be provided for and set to work.
Mr. Ricardo thought, that the two great evils for which it was desirable to provide a remedy, were, the tendency towards a redundant population, and the inadequacy of the wages to the support of the labouring classes; and he apprehended, that the measure now proposed would not afford any security against the continuance of these evils. On the contrary, he thought that, if a provision were made for all the children of the poor, it would only increase the evil; for if parents felt assured that an asylum would be provided for their children, in which they would be treated with humanity and tenderness, there would then be no check to that increase of population which was so apt to take place among the labouring classes. With regard to the other evil, the inadequacy of the wages, it ought to be remembered, that if this measure should have the effect of raising them, they would still be no more than the wages of a single man, and would never rise so high as to afford a provision for a man with a family.
[On the second reading see below, p. 6.]
FIRST REPORT FROM THE BANK OF ENGLAND COMMITTEE— CASH PAYMENTS BILL
5 April 1819
Mr. Peel, the chairman of the secret committee, presented their first report, which recommended that cash payments, which had been partially resumed, should be suspended until the final report of the committee had been received and a legislative measure passed thereupon; he moved for leave to bring in a bill to that effect. Mr. Tierney, a member of the committee, opposing the motion, said that the only effect of the bill would be to save a little expense to the Bank whereas ‘any sacrifice ought to be made rather than that good faith should not be preserved.’
Mr. Ricardo began by requesting the indulgence of the House, which he hoped he should experience, especially as he was about to dispute the opinions of the right hon. gentleman who had just spoken with so much eloquence. It appeared to him very extraordinary, indeed, that the Bank should be called upon as the right hon. gentleman argued, to issue gold at 3l. 17s. while they were obliged to pay 4l. 1s. for that very gold. Those who obtained the gold upon such terms must, of course, profit by the difference, and they could only derive that profit by acting contrary to law—that was either by clandestinely exporting the gold, or by melting it down. Would parliament consent to allow such a class of persons to obtain profit at the expense of the Bank? Such a class was, indeed, he apprehended, the very last to which parliament would consent to grant any peculiar favour or protection. That the resumption of cash payments by the Bank must be preceded by a reduction of its paper issues, was quite obvious. But then that reduction ought to be gradual, and in order to enable the Bank to resume its cash payments, such a measure as that now proposed appeared to him essentially necessary. He approved of the views of the right hon. gentleman as to the provision of an adequate guard against the repetition of the dangers, hitherto resulting from the improvident conduct of the Bank. He also agreed, that before the Bank could pay in gold, it must take measures to replenish its coffers, and that to replenish its coffers by providing an adequate supply of gold, it must reduce its issue of notes. But, with a view to enable the Bank to resume its payments in cash, he was decidedly of opinion that the proposed measure was essentially necessary, and was sorry that it had not before now been adopted.
Leave was given to bring in the bill, which was then passed.
MR. LYTTELTON’S MOTION RESPECTING STATE LOTTERIES
4 May 1819
Mr. Lyttelton moved a series of resolutions for the abolition of State Lotteries.
Mr. Ricardo supported the motion, and pointed out the evils which arose from the drawings of the lottery so often in the year. He quoted the resolutions of a society to which many of the ministers belonged, deprecating the lottery; and observed, that they were thus condemning, as individuals, the law which they came to support by their votes.
The House divided: for the motion, 84; against it, 133. Ricardo voted for the motion.
13 May 1819
Mr. Grenfell moved for a committee on the sinking fund. The present system was for the commissioners for the redemption of the national debt to go four times a week into the city to purchase stock, which in effect ‘they bought with borrowed money—the money borrowed from the loan-contractors.’ ‘This was creating a new debt for no other purpose than to destroy an old one: selling new stock cheap in order to buy old stock dear.’ His object was to convince the House of the expediency of applying the sinking fund to diminish the loan which was to be raised for the service of the year. The saving to the public which might have been effected if this method had been applied from 1793 to 1813 amounted to 20,000,000l. and on the loan of 1815 the saving might have been upwards of 2,000,000l. Amongst those who differed from him in this opinion some were under a bias from self-interest. ‘Loan-contractors were not in his judgment exactly that description of persons by whose advice in these matters a chancellor of the exchequer ought to be governed. In 1814, the right hon. gentleman had stated in his place, that, having conferred with a number of gentlemen contracting for the loan with regard to the propriety of acting on his (Mr. Grenfell’s) suggestion, they all, with one exception only, signified their disapprobation of it, and recommended a loan of 24,000,000l. instead of 12,000,000l. The exception to which he alluded was that of his honourable friend (Mr. Ricardo), who, greatly to his credit, observed to the chancellor of the exchequer, that if he considered his own interest merely, he must agree with his brother contractors; but if he were to consult the advantage of the country, he should advise the application of the sinking fund, and a loan of 12,000,000l. only.’
The Chancellor of the Exchequer objected to the motion, on the ground that it would fetter the discretion of government. As to the case of the loan in 1815 ‘it was true that a great profit had been made upon the loan alluded to, but it was contracted for previous to the battle of Waterloo, and the profit was derived from conquest, and the successful termination of hostilities.’ With regard to the supposed saving of 20,000,000l. upon all the loans contracted for during the war, if the system of applying to the sinking fund had been adopted, the sum mentioned did not exceed two per cent of the amount borrowed in that period. ‘Instead of a profit, however, a loss had been sometimes incurred, which would probably have balanced the amount of the saving. The contractors, too, would have objected, and offered less favourable terms.’ ‘One great advantage attending the present system was, that it produced a general steadiness of prices.... Were it not for the regular purchases made by the commissioners, there would be few real buyers, and persons under the necessity of selling would be at the mercy of stock-jobbers.’
Mr. Ricardo said, that he understood the hon. mover to have argued, not that the commissioners, if subscribers for the loans, would have procured for the public the profit which arose from the events of war or peace; but that they would have retained for the public that regular premium which the contractors obtained independently of the events of peace or war—which they were entitled to for undertaking the risk of such extensive undertakings, but which of course, under the present plan, was lost to the public. In that opinion he heartily concurred, as he could not conceive the advantage which could arise from giving the commissioners sums to lay out in the purchase of stock, while sellers were sent by the government to supply them with the stock which they were to buy. The contractors for the loan brought their stock to market just in the same degrees as the commissioners purchased it: they did not dispose of it in the mass, but brought it weekly and daily to market to provide for their instalments. Any gentleman who supposed that if that process did not go on, it would be in the power of the jobbers to make hard terms with the sellers of stock, must have been perfectly ignorant of the stock market [Hear! hear!], for competition was no where carried to such an extent, and no where operated with more benefit to the public. His hon. friend had alluded to the opinion which he (Mr. Ricardo) had given before the chancellor of the exchequer in 1814. He had certainly then given the opinion which he had long entertained. He should have shrunk into the earth before those who had long known his sentiments if he had given any other; but he knew that those gentlemen who gave a contrary opinion, had given it just as conscientiously; for great and sincere differences of judgment on this subject existed in the city. To him it certainly appeared, that if the process of the sinking fund had an effect on the stock market, a similar process must produce an effect on all other markets in the country, and that, for instance, it must be contended that the chancellor of the exchequer could produce an effect on the corn-market, by sending a commissioner to buy a quarter of wheat, while he sent a contractor to sell the same quantity.
The House divided on the motion: Ayes, 39; Noes, 117. Ricardo voted for the motion.
POOR RATES MISAPPLICATION BILL
17 May 1819
On this bill [cp. above, p. 1] being brought in for the second reading,
Mr. Ricardo opposed the bill, principally on the ground that it tended to increase the population. If at present there existed a difficulty in supporting the poor, in what situation would the country be placed in twenty years hence, when these children so educated grew up to manhood? The bill was only the plan of Mr. Owen, in a worse shape, and carried to a greater extent.
The bill was then read a second time. On 11 June 1819 it was read a third time and passed.
BANK OF ENGLAND— RESUMPTION OF CASH PAYMENTS
24 May 1819
The reports of the secret committee on the resumption of cash payments were taken into consideration and Mr. Peel, the chairman of the secret committee, moved a series of resolutions embodying their recommendations. The resolutions were as follows:
1. —That it is expedient to continue the Restriction on payments in Cash by the Bank of England, beyond the time to which it is at present limited by law.
2. —That it is expedient that a definite period should be fixed for the termination of the Restriction on Cash Payments; and that preparatory measures should be taken, with a view to facilitate and ensure, on the arrival of that period, the payment of the Promissory Notes of the Bank of England in the legal Coin of the Realm.
3. —That in order to give to the Bank a greater control over the issues of their Notes than they at present possess, provision ought to be made, for the gradual repayment to the Bank of the sum of Ten Millions; being part of the sum due to the Bank, on account of Advances made by them for the public service, and on account of the purchase of Exchequer Bills under the authority of acts of the Legislature.
4. —That it is expedient to provide, by law, that from the 1st February 1820, the Bank shall be liable to deliver, on demand, Gold of standard fineness, having been assayed and stamped at His Majesty’s mint, a quantity of not less than sixty ounces being required in exchange for such an amount of Notes of the Bank as shall be equal to the value of the Gold so required, at the rate of Four pounds one shilling per ounce.
5. —That from the 1st October 1820, the Bank shall be liable to deliver, on demand, Gold of standard fineness, assayed and stamped as before mentioned, a quantity of not less than sixty ounces being required in exchange for such an amount of Notes as shall be equal to the value of the Gold so required, at the rate of £.3. 19. 6. per ounce.
6. —That from the 1st May 1821, the Bank shall be liable to deliver, on demand, Gold of standard fineness, assayed and stamped as before mentioned, a quantity of not less than sixty ounces being required in exchange for such an amount of Notes as shall be equal in value to the Gold so required, at the rate of £.3. 17. 10½ . per ounce.
7. —That the Bank may at any period between the 1st February 1820 and the 1st May 1821 undertake to deliver Gold of standard fineness assayed and stamped as before mentioned, at any rate between the sums of Four pounds one shilling per ounce, and £.3. 17. 10½. per ounce; but that such intermediate rate having been once fixed by the Bank, that rate shall not be subsequently increased.
8. —That from the 1st May 1823, the Bank shall pay its Notes, on demand, in the legal Coin of the Realm.
9. —That it is expedient to repeal the Laws, prohibiting the melting and the exportation of the Coin of the Realm.
The first three resolutions were agreed to. To the fourth resolution Mr. Ellice proposed an amendment, namely, ‘That the Bank have it in its option to pay, after the 1st of May, 1821, either in legal coin, or in gold, at 3l. 17s. 10½ per oz.’ The amendment was supported by Mr. Tierney and opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Manning (a Bank director) objected to the fourth and subsequent resolutions because they ‘would have the effect of fettering the Bank so as to cause an inconvenient reduction of the currency.’
[The transcript of this speech prepared for Hansard by Ricardo partly with cuttings from the Morning Chronicle’s report, is reproduced in the plate facing p. 332 below. In the text Hansard’s capitalization and spelling are retained, but other deviations from the MS are corrected.]
Mr. Ricardo said, he was fully persuaded of the truth of the declaration of the hon. director, that the Bank wished to resume cash payments, but he was just as fully persuaded that they did not know how to set about it. When called before the committee, the directors individually admitted that the price of bullion and the rate of exchanges were affected by the amount of their issues; but when collected in their own court they resolved that “they conceive it to be their duty to declare, that they are unable to discover any solid foundation for such a sentiment.” And now, in the Remonstrance which they have made to the chancellor of the exchequer, they again admit that the exchanges are affected by their issues, for they condemn the measure recommended by the committee for restoring the exchange to par, on the ground of its being calculated to force them to contract the amount of their circulation, which they represent as fatal to the public interest. When they avowed such inconsistent opinions, and after the experience which the House had had of their conduct, it would be the highest indiscretion in parliament not to take out of their hands the preparations for the resumption of cash payments. He did not think this a question only between the Bank and ministers, as it had been argued by his right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney), but rather one between ministers and the Bank on one side, and the country on the other. He was therefore disposed to concur with his right hon. friend in any measure which might be devised to keep the ministers also under control. One principle was clear, and was of the utmost importance in the consideration of this subject,—it was this, that those who had the power of regulating the quantity of the circulating medium of the country, had the power of regulating the rate of the exchanges, and the price of every commodity. This power clearly resided in the hands of the directors of the Bank, and it was a most formidable one. It quite astonished him that Mr. Harman could imagine that it was in the power of an individual to influence the exchanges against the wish of the Bank; which was just as reasonable as to suppose that an individual could regulate the price of corn or any other commodity of general consumption. This question was one of immense importance in principle, but in the manner of bringing it about was trivial, and not deserving half an hour’s consideration of the House. The difficulty was only that of raising the currency 3 per cent in value [Hear, hear!]. And who could doubt that even in those states in which the currency was entirely metallic, it often suffered a variation equal to this, without inconvenience to the public [Hear!]. In this country we had nothing but paper in circulation, and therefore every variation in the value of our currency was shown by the price of gold, but where metal alone circulated, it could not be doubted that gold might, from various circumstances, become more or less valuable, and thus affect all contracts, though from there being no other standard to measure it by, its variations were less palpable. His particular reason for supporting the measure under consideration was this. By withdrawing paper, so as to restore the note to its bullion value (an alteration, by the bye, only of 3 per cent.), the House would have done all that was required [Hear, hear!]. But if the House adopted the proposition of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Ellice), another variation in the value of the currency would take place, which it was his (Mr. R.’s) wish to guard against. If that amendment were agreed to, an extraordinary demand would take place for gold, for the purpose of coinage which would enhance the value of the currency 3 or 4 per cent in addition to the first enhancement [Hear, hear!].—As to the plan under the consideration of the House, it was that which the Bank directors, if they were wise, should wish for [hear!]. They should wish to fill the circulation with paper, and so long as they had the privilege of giving gold bullion for their notes, there would be no coin in circulation—they would have the monopoly. They had no real interest in the depreciation of the currency; it would be rather their interest to raise it, even to double the value. They were in the situation of creditors, not of debtors; their whole capital being in money or other securities representing money [Hear, hear!]. As to the resolution which bore that the government should repay the Bank a certain sum, he could not agree with it. The House having taken a security that the currency should be of a certain value, they had done enough, and should not farther interfere with the proceedings of the directors, who should answer to their proprietors only for the management of their concerns. The Bank might, if this resolution were agreed to, feel some difficulty in putting forth the amount of currency which was required. For though what the directors thought a check, namely, the rate of interest on money, was no check at all as to the amount of issues, as Adam Smith, Mr. Hume, and others had satisfactorily proved; yet as the Bank directors were governed by certain traditional limits, or something like limits, in discounting to individual merchants, they might have difficulty in keeping up the requisite amount of currency. A director, in his evidence before the committee, had said, that the Bank did not confine themselves to this limit where the individual’s credit was undoubted; but it should be recollected that the Bank was a cautious and timid body, and if they had no other means of supplying the requisite amount of circulation but by discounting bills, he feared the public might suffer from a scarcity of currency. He was certainly for leaving them to conduct all such transactions according to their own discretion and pleasure, provided only that such a check was established as should guard against a redundancy. The proposed mode of resuming cash payments appeared to him the easiest that could be imagined. The Bank would be placed under no restraint at first, nor any sudden necessity of reducing its issues. An opportunity would be afforded of effecting the object in the most gradual manner; and even when bullion payments should be made at the Mint price, the inconvenience would be but inconsiderable. Till October 1820, the Bank need make no reduction, and then a slight one [hear!]; and he had no doubt that if they were cautious they might arrive at cash payments without giving out one guinea in gold. The Bank should reduce their issues cautiously; he only feared they would do it too rapidly [hear!]. If he might give them advice, he should recommend to them not to buy bullion, but even though they had but a few millions, if he had the management of their concerns, he should boldly sell. Every sale would improve the exchanges, and till gold fell to 3l. 17s. 6d. there would be no necessity for the Bank to make any purchases. He was only sorry that the Bank was not to be obliged by the resolutions to buy all the bullion offered to them at 3l. 17s. 6d. lest through excessive caution they might starve the circulation. The Mint, it was true, was to remain open to the public, who might coin the bullion which they obtained from the Bank. Mr. Mushett, whose evidence respecting the coinage was worthy of attention, from its accuracy and general ability, had stated, that with a capital of 300,000l. the Mint could supply the public with 12,000,000l. a year. Yet a year was a long time to wait for twelve millions, and it might easily happen, that in the interim between the reduction of the Bank issues and the supply afforded from the Mint, the country might seriously feel the deficiency. It was on that account that he should have wished a resolution inserted, to compel the Bank to give its notes for bullion (at 3l. 17s. 6d.) on demand. With the exception of this omission, the plan was, in his opinion, perfectly safe and gentle.— With regard to what had fallen from his right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney) respecting the graduated scale of payments not having been submitted to the directors, he referred him to the examination of Mr. Thornton before the Lords’ committee where he would see that that gentleman’s evidence was wholly in favour of the plan. He was quite astonished that such an alarm prevailed at a reduction of perhaps one million in four years, and could only ascribe it to the indiscreet language of the Bank [Hear, hear!]. The hon. director had that night told them not to withdraw confidence from the Bank. The House did not withdraw its confidence from the Bank from any doubt of its wealth, or integrity, but from a conviction of its total ignorance of the principles of political economy [hear, and a laugh]. The Bank had had ample time to reduce their issues, so as to lower the price of gold; yet, in spite of the times repeatedly fixed for the resumption of cash payments, they had never done so. It was not the business of the directors to consider the interest of the public. That was the business of his majesty’s ministers; and when the hon. director told them that the directors had lost so much on the purchase of gold, and so much on the issue of tokens, his question was, why had they done so? Their business was with the interest of the proprietors, for whom they were trustees, not with the interests of the public. The directors were answerable to the proprietors for these misapplications of their funds. He (Mr. R.) had been astonished that the undivided profits of the Bank had been so small, which he should have imagined, must have at least amounted to ten millions; but now, by the confession of the hon. gentleman, the matter was explained. The directors had scattered a million here and a million there according to their views of the wants of the ministry or the country, without any regard to the interest of the proprietors [Hear, hear!]. The hon. director had advised them not to cramp the currency, and had referred to their experience of 1797. But that was not a parallel case. It was a season of alarm and panic, when every man had wished to have gold in his house in fear of an invasion. His right hon. friend (Mr. Tierney) had asked, what, under the plan proposed was the holder of 10l. to do, for he could not get bullion at the Bank. According to the amendment, the right hon. gentleman was in no great hurry to give this poor man either bullion or specie. But were they doing nothing by the plan for the holders of notes of 10l.? The holder of a 10l. note would be improved in his condition; for by restoring the currency to its proper value, and by making 1,000l. worth what it purported to be, instead of what it now really was, worth only 970l., his note of 10l. would be proportionally increased in value. Although he could not go to the Bank for gold, he might resort to any goldsmith who would let him have the proportion of gold to which his note was entitled; and the difference to him would be so trifling, as not to be worthy of consideration in the decision of a great question.—It had been said, on the part of the Bank, that they were ready to pay, if repaid the advances which they had made to the government. But how came they to make those advances to government, if not assured of repayment at a certain time? The Bank had not been forced to make those advances, but the directors had such an extraordinary disposition to act as ministers [a laugh, and hear, hear!]. It would however, be better if those directors would rather attend to their own interests, and those of their constituents.—A most fearful and destructive depreciation had at one time taken place; but from that we had recovered, and he was happy to reflect that we had so far retraced our steps. We had nearly got home, and he hoped his right hon. friend would lend them his assistance to enable them to reach it in safety. He would venture to state that in a very few weeks all alarm would be forgotten, and at the end of the year, we should all be surprised to reflect that any alarm had ever prevailed at a prospect of a variation of 3 per cent in the value of the circulating medium. His own general opinion was, that an unfavourable state of exchange must always proceed from a redundant currency. If corn were imported and paid for in bullion it was a proof that bullion was the cheapest commodity. Suppose all the Bank-notes now in circulation to be withdrawn, and their place filled by gold coin, would not gold become infinitely cheaper? If our paper had been of any intrinsic value, it would, having become cheap from excess, have been exported also. He thought it right here to pay the tribute of his approbation to the late excellent regulations of the Mint. He entirely approved of making gold the standard, and of keeping silver as a token currency. It appeared to him to be a solid improvement in the system of our coinage. Nothing could be clearer than that government had the power, by limiting the quantity, to regulate the value of the silver; it was on that principle that the committee and all other persons recommended the reduction of paper currency. The hon. gentleman (Mr. J. P. Grant) indeed had observed, that the silver coin might be imitated abroad; supposing this to be the fact, the value of the silver coin might be lessened, but that of the gold would not therefore be raised. The silver was not a legal tender above 40s., and gold might always be demanded. It was true that 105l. might be offered in silver instead of 100l. in gold; but this could have no effect in altering the relation between gold and all other commodities. He should be happy to argue this question with the hon. member or with the noble “Old Merchant,” [a laugh!] on some occasion when it would be less irrelevant to the subject under consideration.—The hon. member sat down amidst loud and general cheering from all sides of the House.
Mr. Alderman Heygate then addressed the chair, but the impatience of the House produced a temporary confusion, in the midst of which, after one or two observations, the worthy alderman sat down.
Lord Castlereagh then suggested that the debate be adjourned till the following day and the House rose at two o’clock.
25 May 1819
Mr. Pearse (a Bank director) ‘denied the assertion of an hon. gentleman opposite, that they were not competent to the conduct of their own affairs’; and also denied ‘most solemnly’ the assertion which had been made ‘that the Bank Directors had no serious wish to return to cash payments.’
Mr. Ricardo, in explanation, denied his having said that the Bank were insincere in their declarations. He meant no personal hostility to them as individuals, or as a public body; but he was of opinion, that they had taken wrong steps, and that they did not understand the subject of the currency.
On 26 May the resolutions were agreed to; and a bill or bills were ordered to be brought in by Mr. Peel and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
2 June 1819
On the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s motion for a grant to pay off certain Exchequer Bills, Mr. Grenfell suggested that ‘as government were now on the eve of raising a large sum of money by loan’, the sinking fund should be taken in diminution of the loan. ‘This led him to another observation. A rumour was very prevalent to day, which he conceived was nothing but a calumny on the right hon. gentleman, and should continue so to conceive it, unless he had the right hon. gentleman’s own authority for believing it. It was a rumour, however, which every body had heard, namely, that the right hon. gentleman had communicated to certain loan-contractors, and to them alone, the amount of the loan which it was his intention to negociate. It must be perfectly unnecessary for him to observe, that if this rumour was true, the right hon. gentleman had given to those persons an undue advantage. It was most unquestionably the right hon. gentleman’s duty, when he made such a communication, to make it to the stock exchange, to the public—to make it general.’
The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that ‘in the conversations which he had held with a number of persons on nature of the financial measures which it might be most expedient to adopt, he had of course spoken on a great many points connected with those measures; but he denied having made any secret or private communication of his intentions, of which any unfair advantage could be taken.’
Mr. Ricardo had heard a statement which set forth, whether correctly or not he could not say, all the particulars of the intended loan, the sum to be borrowed, and the days on which the several payments were to be made. These he understood had been made known to others by the chancellor of the exchequer, but not to him or to any one with whom he was connected. The usual course had been for the chancellor of the exchequer to give notice to the parties likely to subscribe to the loan, that on such a day he would expect them, and then when they attended him, to unfold his plan to them. To communicate his intentions to one party alone, was to give that party a great and manifest advantage over all the others. Whether such a communication had been made he did not know; but the rumour was so general, that he could not doubt the fact of some communication from the right hon. gentleman having been made.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer again denied that he had made any other communications except such ‘as he should be very happy to make to the hon. gentleman who had just spoken, and to receive his advice with respect to them.’
9 June 1819
The Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced the Budget and announced that a loan of 12 millions had been contracted that morning by competition on very advantageous terms and that, besides, 12 millions would be borrowed from the sinking fund for the service of the year; he also proposed that 3 millions should be raised by additional duties on malt, tobacco, tea, etc., and applied to meet the charges of the new loans. Mr. Grenfell, who opened the debate for the opposition, devoted most of his speech to an attack upon the Bank. Mr. Mellish (a Bank director) replied defending the Bank and concluded: ‘The hon. member for Portarlington (Mr. Ricardo), found fault with the Bank directors for not having attended sufficiently to the interests of the proprietors; the hon. member for Marlow (Mr. Grenfell), on the contrary, said, that the Bank had too many bonusses, and that the public ought to share in the profits. How were the directors to act so as to meet the wishes of both gentlemen?’
Mr. Ricardo said, he had already opposed the grant of 3 millions towards a sinking fund, because he did not wish to place such a fund at the mercy of ministers, who would take it whenever they thought that urgent necessity required it. He did not mean to say that it would be better with one set of ministers than another; for he looked upon it that all ministers would be anxious, on cases of what they conceived emergency, to appropriate it to the public use. He thought the whole thing a delusion upon the public, and on that account he would never support a tax to maintain it. He would admit that some means should be resorted to for liquidating the public debt, and in this he agreed with the hon. member for Leicester that a great sacrifice should be made; but he could not go with him in thinking, that that ought to be a property tax. That would be attended with the same bad effects as the other plan. He would, however, be satisfied to make a sacrifice; the sacrifice would be a temporary one, and with that view he would be willing to give up as large a share of his property as any other individual. [Hear.] By such means ought the evil of the national debt to be met. It was an evil which almost any sacrifice would not be too great to get rid of. It destroyed the equilibrium of prices, occasioned many persons to emigrate to other countries, in order to avoid the burthen of taxation which it entailed, and hung like a mill-stone round the exertion and industry of the country. He therefore never would give a vote in support of any tax which went to continue a sinking fund; for if that fund were to amount to 8 millions, ministers would on any emergency give the same account of it as they did at present. The delusion of it had been seen long ago by all those who were acquainted with the subject; and it would have been but fair and sound policy to have exposed it. On the subject of the loan he had nothing to object. He gave credit to and thanked the chancellor of the exchequer, for his good management within the last two or three days. [a laugh]. It was, he conceived creditable to him to have effected the loan on such good terms, when it was considered that only a few days back the funds were at 65. But though he gave credit to the right hon. gentleman for his plan in one respect, it was but fair to his hon. friend (Mr. Grenfell) near him, to say that this was the advice which he had given long ago. An hon. Bank director had said that he (Mr. R.) was inconsistent with his hon. friend. He was not bound to agree in every opinion which his hon. friend might hold; but he did not think he was so inconsistent as was said. He would admit, that he had complained of the Bank not having divided their profits. The Bank had made profits no doubt. It was the duty of the directors to do the best for the proprietors; and it was also the duty of government to make as good a bargain for the country as they could. He could not approve of the Bank making presents to government, though he could not blame those to whom they were given, for making the most of their contracts with them.
After further debate,
Mr. Ricardo wished to ask, whether it was to be understood that in the next year, as there would be 11 millions to be raised for the service of the year, and five millions to be paid to the Bank, there would be taken, as in the present year, 12 millions from the sinking fund, leaving the rest to be raised by way of loan?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to pledge himself.
BANK ADVANCES BILL
16 June 1819
Mr. Peel moved for leave to bring in a bill to prohibit the Bank of England from making any advances to government unless distinctly authorised by parliament.
Mr. Ricardo thought the Bank ought not to be in any way shackled in the management of their own affairs. Great inconveniencies, in the diminution of the circulating medium, might result from establishing too strict a limit on this subject.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, ‘it was not his opinion that any diminution of the circulating medium was necessary, nor did he believe that any such would take place.’
Leave was then given. On 25 June the bill was passed.
EXCISE DUTIES BILL
18 June 1819
The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved that the House should go into a committee on this bill [to raise three millions to be applied to the sinking fund by new taxes on malt, tobacco, tea, etc.; cp. above, p. 20]. The Marquis of Tavistock moved as an amendment, that consideration be postponed six months: it was shameful, he said, that the House of Commons, having relieved their own pockets by repealing the property tax, should now proceed to tax the poor; the only remedy for such practices was a reform of Parliament. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ‘denied that the new taxes would fall exclusively on the lower classes.’ Mr. Grenfell supported the amendment, ‘not because he thought the state of the representation corrupt, but because this was not, in his opinion, the proper moment to resort to a system of taxation.’ After several other members had spoken,
Mr. Ricardo could not agree with the hon. gentleman (Mr. Lamb) that it was desirable to follow the precedent of 1784, at the conclusion of the American war, and to reestablish what he called a sinking fund. It appeared to him that that was the very period to which those who objected to the sinking fund would direct their attention in support of their arguments. What had become of that sinking fund? Had it realized the expectations which had been held out? Were we now less in debt in consequence of its establishment? No—the contrary was the fact; the sinking fund had been converted into facilities, which enabled the minister to contract new debt. It was true we had purchased with it 200 or 300 millions of stock in the market, but had we diminished the debt by those purchases? No, because we had, at the same time, borrowed a still larger sum to enable us to make the purchases. Because, in fact, the moment our expenditure exceeded our income we had a sinking fund in name only; and that part of the taxes which had been paid to the commissioners, and called a sinking fund for the extinction of debt, had been absorbed in providing for a new debt. A sinking fund was only useful—was only what it pretended to be—when a surplus of income was strictly applied to the purposes for which it was established—the extinction of debt. No appropriation of money under the name of sinking fund ever had, and, in his opinion, ever would be constantly applied to this purpose; it would always be considered by ministers as a resource of which they might avail themselves when they were under any difficulty, in raising money by new taxes. In this way had they got rid of the last sinking fund, and the same fate would await that which they now seemed solicitous to establish. The language of the noble lord (Castlereagh) confirmed him in his opinion of the use which would eventually be made of it; for he had told it to the House; he had told them that, by creating a sinking fund we should show other countries, we would not suffer ourselves to be insulted. If the sinking fund were applied to frighten other nations by being applied to the purposes of war, it could not be applied to the payment of debt, if money was to be raised to provide for the interest of money hereafter to be borrowed for a new war, there was no utility in making the people pay taxes now, to furnish the means of a war hereafter. It would be much better to let the money remain in their pockets, where it would not fail to accumulate, and not to impose new taxes until new necessities required them. He had a jealous distrust of raising money beyond immediate necessity, and placing it in the hands of ministers; not the present ministers only, but any ministers responsible to a House of Commons constituted like ours. He allowed that so long as we had, in time of war, a sum under the name of sinking fund which would exceed the peace expenditure, we had what would be a real sinking fund when the peace came. So long, for instance, as we had 10 millions called a sinking fund in time of war, while we borrowed near 20 millions merely for the temporary purpose of carrying on the war, we might in a restricted sense be said to have a sinking fund of 10 millions; for on the return of peace it would, if so applied, operate to the reduction of debt. But this was not the case in the last war; the amount of the sinking fund, instead of being really applied to the reduction of debt, had been applied to pay the interest of new debt. And, after all, the meaning was only this; that if when peace returned we could reduce our expenditure 10 millions annually below our income, we should be able annually to discharge 10 millions of debt; this surely might be done without the mysterious jargon about a fund which answered no purpose but that of delusion. As to the particular taxes, it was unnecessary for him to state his sentiments, seeing he was an enemy to taxation altogether. He could not, however, agree, that they fell on the labourer, because imposed on the objects he consumed. If, indeed, they were imposed on the luxuries of the labourer, they might in some measure diminish his comforts; but the more the articles taxed approached the nature of necessaries, the more completely would they fall on those who employed labourers. It had been said, that these taxes would fall upon the poor-rates; but that amounted to the same thing; for the poor-rates formed, in reality, a fund destined to support labour, however inconvenient it might be to pay it in that way. He perfectly concurred with the noble lord who moved the amendment, in his expressions as to the state of the representation in that House: he could not help expressing his opinion, that the people were not sufficiently represented in it. This might be some satisfaction to the hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Mellish), who appeared to be pleased the other evening when he discovered a difference of opinion between him and his hon. friend (Mr. Grenfell), as the opinion which his hon. friend was fond of declaring on the subject of parliamentary reform, was diametrically opposite to that which he (Mr. R.) had immediately expressed.
The House having gone into the committee, Mr. Lyttelton objected to the tax on malt, ‘that it was imposed on the only remaining luxury, if indeed it was not a necessary, of the poorer classes of this country. He then, adverting to the argument which had fallen from one of the highest authority on questions of political economy in this kingdom (Mr. Ricardo), namely, that a tax upon the necessaries of life did not fall heaviest on the poor; observed, that although he might be disposed to admit the truth of that principle, yet in this case, as being upon an article, the very last, as it might be said, before those necessaries, the duty did fall heaviest upon that class.’
Mr. Ricardo explained. He said, that he hoped the House and his hon. friend would understand that he was not contending that the taxing of necessaries was not injurious to labourers, but that it was no more injurious to them than any other mode of taxation. In fact, all taxation had a tendency to injure the labouring classes, because it either diminished the fund employed in the maintenance of labour, or checked its accumulation. In the argument which he had used, he had supposed that it was necessary to raise a certain sum by taxes, and then the question was whether by taxing necessaries, the burthen would be particularly borne by the labouring classes. He thought not—he was of opinion that they would ultimately fall on the employers of labour, and would be only prejudicial to the labourers in the same way as most other taxes would be, inasmuch as they would diminish the fund employed in the support of labour.
On 28 June the bill was passed.
[The session closed on 13 July 1819.]
SEDITIOUS MEETINGS PREVENTION BILL
6 December 1819
Parliament was called together in order to consider a series of measures (the Six Acts) for counteracting and suppressing ‘the seditious practices so long prevalent in the manufacturing districts of the country’ (speech of the Prince Regent on the opening of the session, 23 November 1819). Lord Castlereagh introduced the first of these measures, the Seditious Meetings Prevention Bill, on 29 November. It was read a second time on 2 December (when Ricardo voted No, with the minority). On 6 December the bill was again considered.
Mr. Ricardo said, he was anxious very briefly to express his opinion on this subject. He thought that, in the course of this discussion, sufficient attention had not been given to the importance of the right to be curtailed. If the people’s right of meeting and petitioning consisted only in the right of meeting to petition for the removal of grievances, it was not of so much importance, and the curtailment of it was not of such serious interest. But the right was, a right of meeting in such numbers, and showing such a front to ministers as would afford a hope that bad measures would be abandoned, and that public opinion would be respected. It might be compared, in this view, with the right of that House to address the Crown. If the right of that House consisted in passing resolutions only, and if they could not follow up their resolutions by refusing the supplies, and by calling up a spirit of resistance in the country, the Crown could despise their interference. It was the same with the right of the people to petition. If they could not meet in such numbers as to make them be respected, their petitions would have no effect. At the same time, he admitted, that those meetings were attended with very great inconvenience. It could not be denied that circumstances might arise when the government should be fairly administered, and yet distress might arise from causes which the government could not control, and wicked and designing men might produce a great degree of mischief; it did not appear to him that such meetings were the sort of check which ought to exist in a well-administered government; but it was necessary to have some check, because if they left men to govern without any control in the people, the consequence would be despotism. The check which he would give, could be established only by a reform of parliament. Then, instead of petitioning, and from the worst part of the people perhaps, being the check, that House would become the best check which any government could have, and with that check the people would be perfectly satisfied. He had read with surprise the abhorrence of radical reform expressed by several members of that House. He believed there were among the advocates of that measure, designing and wicked men. But he also knew that there was a great number of very honest men who believed universal suffrage and annual parliaments were the only means of protecting the rights of the people, and establishing an adequate check upon government. He had the same object as they professed to have in view; but he thought that suffrage far from universal would effect that object, and form a sufficient check. He therefore thought it would be madness to attempt a reform to that extent, when a less extensive reform would be sufficient.
On 13 December the bill was read a third time and passed; in the division (for, 313; against, 95) Ricardo voted against the bill.
SIR W. DE CRESPIGNY’S MOTION RESPECTING MR. OWEN’S PLAN
16 December 1819
Sir W. De Crespigny moved that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the plan of Robert Owen, Esq. for ameliorating the condition of the lower classes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, opposing the motion, read an extract from Mr. Owen’s speech of 21 Aug. 1817 and declared that, ‘as an official individual, he could not agree to a grant of the public money for the establishment of a plan that had been introduced to the public by a speech, in which all religions were pronounced false, and all systems of government bad.’ Mr. Brougham supported the motion, although he rejected the principle upon which the plan was founded, ‘that of the increase of population being a benefit to the country.’
Mr. Ricardo observed, that he was completely at war with the system of Mr. Owen, which was built upon a theory inconsistent with the principles of political economy, and in his opinion was calculated to produce infinite mischief to the community. Something had fallen from an hon. member on a former night, on the subject of the employment of machinery. It could not be denied, on the whole view of the subject, that machinery did not lessen the demand for labour; while, on the other hand, it did not consume the produce of the soil, nor employ any of our manufacturers . It might also be misapplied by occasioning the production of too much cotton, or too much cloth; but the moment those articles ceased in consequence to pay the manufacturer, he would devote his time and capital to some other purpose. Mr. Owen’s plan proceeded upon this—he who was such an enemy to machinery, only proposed machinery of a different kind: he would bring into operation a most active portion of machinery, namely, human arms. He would dispense with ploughs and horses in the increase of the productions of the country, although the expense as to them must be much less when compared with the support of men. He confessed he did not agree in the general principles of the plan under consideration, but he was disposed to accede to the proposition of a committee. Spade husbandry Mr. Owen recommended as more beneficial to production. He was not informed enough on the interests of agriculture to give an opinion, but that was a reason for sending the subject to a committee. For what did the country want at the present moment? A demand for labour. If the facts stated of spade husbandry were true, it was a beneficial course, as affording that demand. And though government or the legislature would not be wisely employed in engaging in any commercial experiment, it would be advantageous that it should, under present circumstances, circulate useful information and correct prejudices. They should separate such considerations from a division of the country into parallelograms, or the establishment of a community of goods, and similar visionary schemes. Before he sat down, he trusted the House would excuse his offering a few observations on what he considered the cause of the distresses of the country. He fully concurred in what had fallen from his hon. and learned friend on the subject of population. The proportion of the capital to population regulated the amount of wages, and, to augment them, it was important to increase the capital of the country. But when he heard honourable members talk of employing capital in the formation of roads and canals, they appeared to overlook the fact, that the capital thus employed must be withdrawn from some other quarter. The causes of the insufficiency of capital, and the consequent disproportion between wages and population, were to be attributed to many circumstances, for some of which government were not to blame. Supposing a country with a numerous population, large capital, and a limited soil, the profits of that capital will be smaller there, than in a country populous, with lesser portion of capital, and with a great extent of soil. This country was one of large capital, but of increasing population and of an extent of soil necessarily limited; of course profits would be lower in it than in countries which had not the same limitation: still, though the profits were smaller, the capital continued in this kingdom, not only because persons felt a solicitude to keep their property under their own eye, but because the same confidence was not reposed in the security of others: the moment, however, other kingdoms, by their laws and institutions, inspired greater confidence, the capitalist would be induced to remove his property from Great Britain to a situation where his profits would be more considerable: this arose from no fault in the government; but the effect of it was to produce a deficiency of employment and consequent distress. Then came the question, had we taken the proper steps to prevent the profits upon capital from being lower here than in other countries? On the contrary had we not done everything to augment and aggravate the evil? Had we not added to the natural artificial causes for the abduction of capital? We had passed corn laws, that made the price of that necessary of life, grain, higher than in other and neighbouring countries, and thus interfered with the article which was considered the chief regulator of wages. Where grain was dear, wages must be high, and the effect of high wages was necessarily to make the profits on capital low. A second cause arose out of the fetters upon trade, the prohibitions against the import of foreign commodities, when, in fact, better and cheaper than our own. This was done in a spirit of retaliation; but he contended, that whatever line of policy other nations pursued, the interest of this nation was different: wherever we could obtain the articles we wanted at the cheapest rate, there we ought to go for them; and wherever they were cheapest, the manufacture would be the most extensive, and the amount of it , and invitation to capital, the greatest. Another cause of the existing disposition to send capital out of the country was to be found in the national debt. Instead of paying our expences from year to year, Great Britain had constantly pursued a system of borrowing, and taxes were accumulated not only to pay the simple interest, but sometimes even the compound interest of the debt; and the amount was now so enormous, that it became a matter of calculation, whether it was worth a capitalist’s while to continue in a country where he not only obtained small profits, but where he was subjected to a great additional burthen. Every pecuniary motive impelled him rather to quit than to remain. For a great many of the various causes of the evil, some of the principal of which he had touched upon, there might not exist any immediate remedy. We had, however, a beneficial precedent in the proceedings of the last session. He alluded to the measures taken for a return to payments in specie; and he saw no inconvenience in keeping stedfastly to that system. Parliament had wisely extended the operations of that system over a number of years. They should follow the same course as to the corn laws. After the quantity of capital employed under the faith of legislative enactments in agriculture, it would be a great injustice to proceed to an immediate repeal of those laws. But that House should look to the ultimate good, and give notice, that after a certain number of years, such an injurious system of legislation must terminate. The same observation applied to our prohibitory commercial code. From the variety of interests now in operation under that system, it would not only be necessary to look, but to look stedfastly, to a distant but certain period for its repeal. With respect to the national debt, he felt that he entertained opinions on that point which by many would be considered extravagant. He was one of those who thought that it could be paid off, and that the country was at this moment perfectly competent to pay it off. He did not mean that it should be redeemed at par; the public creditor possessed no such claim—were he paid at the market price, the public faith would be fulfilled. If every man would pay his part of the debt, it could be effected by the sacrifice of so much capital— With respect to the objection, that the effect of that sacrifice would be to bring so much land into the market, that purchasers could not be found for such a glut, the answer was, that the stockholder would be eager to employ his money, as he received it, either in the purchase of land, or in loans to the farmer or landowner, by which the latter might be enabled to become the purchaser, particularly when the government was no longer in the market as a borrower. He was persuaded that the difficulty of paying off the national debt was not so great as was generally imagined; and he was also convinced that the country had not yet nearly reached the limits of its prosperity and greatness. It was only by a comparative reference to the state of other countries that the opposite opinion could be entertained, and such opinion would gain ground as long as so many unnatural temptations, by our policy at home, were held out to withdraw capital from the country. He repeated his conviction that Mr. Owen’s plan was in many parts visionary, but yet he would not oppose the appointment of a committee, if it were only for the purpose of seeing whether it was probable that the advantages which that gentleman expected from the use of spade husbandry could be realized.
The House divided: Ayes, 16; Noes, 141. Ricardo voted for the motion.
MOTION FOR PAPERS RESPECTING THE BANK OF ENGLAND AND EXCHEQUER BILLS
22 December 1819
Mr. Maberly moved for ‘an account, showing how the sum of five millions voted for the purpose of paying off debt owing to the Bank of England on the 5th July 1819 had been applied.’ The Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed the motion.
Mr. Ricardo said, it appeared to him that the House would act very unwisely by interfering as to the arrangements entered into by government for the repayment of the 5,000,000l. of advances to the Bank. At the same time he was at a loss to conceive what danger could arise from giving any information upon the subject. It had been objected, that the production of that information would lead to extensive stock-jobbing. He thought it would have just the contrary effect; for stock-jobbing was always best assisted by secrecy —by the circumstance of some individuals possessing certain information, which the other parties, with whom they transacted their bargains, were ignorant of. Now, supposing the statement required were made known, no jobbing could take place; because every one would then know all that had occurred, as to the repayments. With regard to what had fallen from the chancellor of the exchequer, that the state of the exchanges afforded a means of knowing what capital was going out of the country, he thought very differently. Supposing he wished to invest a sum of 50,000l. in France, or any other country; might he not order his correspondent to invest the produce of the goods he had sent out (50,000l. for instance) in the public funds, or in other goods, or in lands? No alteration could take place in the exchanges, unless there was a bill negociated. The official accounts annually laid before the House, relative to our exports and imports, were such, that it was impossible to draw any correct or practical inference from them. He remembered to have heard it stated, that at the time of the union with Ireland, each of the two countries gave a relative and comparative statement of her exports and imports; when Ireland made out that she had exported the larger quantity of commodities to England, and England appeared to have exported the larger quantity to Ireland. No correct information, therefore, could be derived from such returns. He should vote for the motion of his hon. friend.
The motion was negatived.
PETITION OF THE MERCHANTS OF LONDON RESPECTING COMMERCIAL DISTRESS
24 December 1819
Mr. Irving presented a petition from the merchants and traders of London for an inquiry into the causes of the commercial distress. Mr. Grenfell and Mr. J. Smith spoke next.
Mr. Ricardo was happy to hear it stated by all the hon. gentlemen who had spoken, that the laws enacted last year concerning the currency of the country, ought not to be disturbed. The country was, unquestionably, in a state of great distress, but he differed in opinion from his hon. friend who presented the petition as to the cause of that distress. His hon. friend thought that this country was in a state of forced currency, and that the evils both at home and abroad arose from the regulations which that House had made relative to the currency. That cause, however, he was convinced, was totally inadequate to produce such an effect, and therefore the evil must be traced to other sources. He might here remark, that his hon. friend had brought an unexpected accusation against him, namely, that he had proposed a plan for the payment of the public debt , but that he had not the merit of originality. Now, he did not think that he had ever claimed that merit, for he was aware that many persons before his time had taken a similar view of the subject, and he hoped that whatever might be the merit of the application which he had made of principles known to others, he had stated his opinions with becoming modesty. He conceived that the distress was chiefly to be ascribed to the inadequacy of the capital of the nation to carry on the operations of trade, manufacture, and commerce. But why was the capital more inadequate now than formerly? If the profits on capital were higher, and labour more productive in other countries, it could not be doubted that capital would be transferred to those countries: no proposition in Euclid was clearer than this. Now, he thought they had greatly aggravated this evil by bad legislation, and he had formerly mentioned instances. He had referred to the corn-laws as one example; and however unpopular the doctrine might be with some gentlemen, he would state his opinion freely, that he believed the corn-laws to have materially increased the evil. These laws had tended to raise the price of sustenance, and that had raised the price of labour, which of course diminished the profit on capital. But of all this evil, the national debt, and the consequent amount of taxation, was the great cause. Hence the main object of the legislature should be to provide for the payment of that debt, and that provision should commence its operation as soon as possible. For as this debt was chargeable upon all the capital of the country, it was obvious that any capital which went out of the country was exonerated from that charge, while the capital which remained was of course compelled to pay a greater proportion of debt and taxes. To guard against this evil, which was productive at once of individual injustice and national injury, the whole capital of the country ought to be assessed for the discharge of the public debt, so that no more capital should be allowed to go out of the country without paying its fair proportion of that debt. The execution of this plan might be attended with difficulty, but then the importance of the object was worthy of an experiment to overcome every possible difficulty. The whole of the plan through which he proposed the payment of the public debt, might in his view be carried into effect within four or five years. For the discharge of the public debt, he proposed that checks should be issued upon the government to each purchaser, which checks should be kept distinct from the ordinary circulating medium of the country, but should be received by the government in payment of taxes. Thus the debt might be gradually liquidated while the government continued gradually receiving the assessments upon capital to provide for that liquidation. He would not, however, dwell farther upon this chimerical project, as he understood it was considered by every one except himself, but proceed to the consideration of the petition. His hon. friend proposed, as particularly worthy of attention, that a committee of that House should inquire into certain restrictions upon commerce, with a view to their removal. But his hon. friend should reflect, that no immediate effect could be reasonably expected from the labour of such a committee for such a purpose, as the restrictions alluded to, however burthensome, could not be suddenly removed. This removal must, indeed, take place by slow degrees, entwined as they were with the general system of the trade of the country. But still great good might be expected from the investigations of such a committee, who would, he hoped, enter particularly into the consideration of the corn laws. His hon. friend had suggested that a certain modification should take place in the arrangements made towards the removal of the restrictions upon the Bank, namely, that the Bank should not be called upon to pay in bullion until the period arrived for such payment at the lowest rate. Now he, on the contrary, thought that it would be much more for the advantage of the Bank itself, to make the payments in the order already settled; because such payments being made gradually would serve to break the fall, and prepare the Bank for the complete resumption of metallic payments. The only modification, indeed, which he deemed desirable on this subject was, that the Bank should be called upon permanently to pay its notes in bullion, instead of coin; for he could not conceive the policy of incurring the expense of coining gold merely for the purpose of the currency, which could be answered as well, if not more conveniently, by paper. The only object to be provided for in this case was, that the real value of the paper should be equal to its denominative value, according to a settled and universal standard of value, or according to its nominal amount in coin. His hon. friend had recommended the establishment of two standards of value, namely, silver and gold; but this was a project, in his opinion, peculiarly objectionable, because, if there were two standards, there would be greater chance of variation, and the establishment of the least variable standard of value was the object to be desired, with a view to maintain the character of our currency.
Mr. Brougham agreed with Ricardo on several points: ‘There was however one point on which he had wished so great an oracle, as he must ever consider him on such subjects, had not pronounced the decided opinion he had. He alluded to the possibility, or, if possible, the adviseableness of paying off the national debt. The proposition was not a new one—it had years ago been suggested by Mr. Hutcheson, indeed, he believed every chancellor of the exchequer had a similar proposition made to him every year. It had in more recent times been brought before the public by Dr. Watson, bishop of Landaff. ... The effect of such a measure would be to place the property for five years at the mercy of all the solicitors, conveyancers, and money-hunters, in the country.’
[Parliament was adjourned on 29 Dec. 1819 and, following the death of George III, it was dissolved on 28 Feb. 1820.]