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speaking, are lenders: of which there are so many, whose income depends upon interest, that if the States were not mightily in debt, but paid every one their principal, instead of the four per cent. use, which they give, there would be so much more money than could be used, or would be ventured in trade, that money there would be at two per cent. or under, unless they found a way to put it out in foreign countries.
Interest, I grant these men, is low in Holland: but it is so, not as an effect of law, or the politic contrivance of the government, to promote trade; but as the consequence of great plenty of ready money, when their interest first feli. I say, when it first fell: for being once brought low, and the public having borrowed a great part of private men's money, and continuing in debt, it must continue so, though the plenty of money, which first brought interest low, were very much decayed, and a great part of their wealth were really gone. For, the debt of the state affording to the creditors a constant yearly income, that is looked on as a safe revenue, and accounted as valuable as if it were in land; and accordingly they buy it one of another: and whether there be any money in the public coffers or no, he who has to the value of ten thousand pounds owing him from the States, may sell it every day in the week, and have ready money for it: this credit is so great an advantage to private men, who know not else what to do with their stocks, that, were the States now in a condition to begin to pay their debts, the creditors, rather than take their money out, to lie dead by them, would let it stay in at lower interest, as they did some years since, when they were called on to come and receive their money. This is the state of interest in Holland : their plenty of money, and paying their public debts, some time since lowered their interest. But it was not done by the command and limitation of a law, nor in consequence of our reducing it here by law to six per cent. For I deny that there is any law there yet to forbid lending of money for above three, or six, or. ten per cent. Whatever some here suggest, every one
there may hire out his money, as freely as he does any thing else, for what rate he can get; and, the bargain being made, the law will enforce the borrower to pay
I grant low interest, where all men consent to it, is an advantage to trade, if merchants will regulate their gains accordingly, and men be persuaded to lend to them: but can it be expected, when the public gives seven or eight or ten per cent. that private men, whose security is certainly no better, shall have for four ? And can there be any thing stranger, than that the same men, who look on, and therefore allow high use as an encouragement to lending to the Chequer, should think low use should bring money into trade? The States of Holland, some few years since, paid but four per cent. for the money they owed: if you propose them for an example, and interest be to be regulated by a law, try whether you can do so here, and bring men to lend it to the public at that rate. This would be a benefit to the kingdom, and abate a great part of our public charge. If you cannot do that, confess that it is not the law in Holland has brought the interest, there so low, but something else, and that which will make the States, or any body else, pay dearer now, if either their credit be less or money there scarcer.
An infallible sign of your decay of wealth is the falling of rents, and the raising of them would be worth the nation's care ; for in that, and not in the falling of interest, lies the true advantage of the landed man, and with him of the public. It may be therefore not besides our present business to inquire into the cause of the falling of rents in England.
1. Either the land is grown barrener, and so the product is less, and consequently the money to be received for that product is less; for it is evident, that he whose land was wont to produce 100 bushels of wheat, communibus annis, if by long tillage and husbandry it will now produce but 50 bushels, the rent will be abated half. But this cannot be supposed general.
2. Or the rent of that land is lessened. 1. Because the use of the commodity ceases : as the rents must fall in Virginia, were taking of tobacco forbid in England. 2. Or, because something else supplies the room of that product : as the rate of coppice lands will fall upon the discovery of coal mines. 3. Or, because the markets are supplied with the same commodity cheaper from another place; as the breeding counties of England must needs fall their rents by the importation of Irish cattle. 4. Or, because a tax laid on your native commodities makes what the farmer sells cheaper, and labour, and what he buys, dearer.
3. Or the money in the country is less; for the exigencies and uses of money not lessening with its quantity, and it being in the same proportion to be employed and distributed still, in all the parts of its circulation, so much as its quantity is lessened, so much must the share of every one that has a right to this money be the less; whether he be landholder, for his goods; or labourer, for his hire; or merchant, for his brokerage. Though the landholder usually finds it first; because money failing, and falling short, people have not so much money as formerly to lay out, and so less money is brought to market, by which the price of things must necessarily fall. The labourer feels it next; for when the landholder's rent falls, he must either bate the labourer's wages, or not employ, or not pay him ; which either way makes him feel the want of money. The merchant feels it last ; for though he sells less, and at a lower rate, he buys also our native commodities, which he exports at a lower rate too, and will be sure to leave our native commodities unbought, upon the hands of the farmer or manufacturer, rather than export them to a market which will not afford him returns with profit.
If one-third of the money employed in trade were locked up, or gone out of England, must not the landholders necessarily receive one-third less for their goods, and consequently rents fall; a less quantity of money by one-third being to be distributed amongst an equal
number of receivers ? Indeed, people not perceiving the money to be gone, are apt to be jealous one of another; and each suspecting another's inequality of gain to rob him of his share, every one will be employing his skill and power the best he can to retrieve it again, and to bring money into his pocket in the same plenty as formerly. But this is but scrambling amongst ourselves, and helps no more against our want, than the pulling off a short coverlet will, amongst children that lie together, preserve them all from the cold. Some will starve, unless the father of the family provide better, and enlarge the scanty covering. This pulling and contest is usually between the landed man and the merchant; for the labourer's share, being seldom more than a bare subsistence, never allows that body of men time or opportunity to raise their thoughts above that, or struggle with the richer for theirs, (as one common interest) unless when some common and great distress, uniting them in one universal ferment, makes them forget respect, and emboldens them to carve to their wants with armed force; and then sometimes they break in upon the rich, and sweep all like a deluge. But this rarely happens but in the male-administration of neglected or mismanaged government.
The usual struggle and contest, as I said before, in the decays of wealth and riches, is between the landed man and the merchant, with whom I may here join the monied man. The landed man finds himself aggrieved by the falling of his rents, and the straitening of his fortune, whilst the monied man keeps up his gain, and the merchant thrives and grows rich by trade. These, he thinks, steal his income into their pockets, build their fortunes upon his ruin, and engross more of the riches of the nation than comes to their share. He therefore endeavours, by laws, to keep up the value of lands, which he suspects lessened by the other's excess of profit: but all in vain. The cause is mistaken, and the remedy too. It is not the merchant's nor monied man's gains that makes land fall: but the want of money and lessening of our treasure, wasted by extravagant expenses, and a mismanaged trade, which the land always first feels. If the landed gentleman will have, and by his example make it fashionable to have, more claret, spice, silk, and other foreign consumable wares, than our exportation of commodities does exchange for, money must unavoidably follow to balance the account, and pay the debt; and therefore, I fear that another proposal I hear talked of to hinder the exportation of money and bullion will show more our need of care to keep our money from going from us, than a way and method how to preserve it here.
It is death in Spain to export money: and yet they, who furnish all the world with gold and silver, have least of it amongst themselves. Trade fetches it away from that lazy and indigent people, notwithstanding all their artificial and forced contrivances to keep it there. It follows trade, against the rigour of their laws; and their want of foreign commodities makes it openly be carried out at noon-day. Nature has bestowed mines on several parts of the world : but their riches are only for the industrious and frugal. Whomsoever else they visit, it is with the diligent and sober only they stay; and if the virtue and provident way of living of our ancestors (content with our native conveniencies of life, without the costly itch after the materials of pride and luxury from abroad) were brought in fashion and countenance again amongst us ; this alone would do more to keep and increase our wealth, and enrich our land, than all our paper helps, about interest, money, bullion, &c. which, however eagerly we may catch at, will not, I fear, without better husbandry, keep us from sinking, whatever contrivances we may have recourse to. It is with a kingdom as with a family. Spending less than our own commodities will pay for, is the sure and only way for the nation to grow rich; and when that begins once seriously to be considered, and our faces and steps are in earnest turned that way, we may hope to have our rents rise, and the public stock thrive again. Till then, we in vain, I fear, endeavour with noise, and weapons of law, to drive the wolf from our own to one another's doors: the breed ought to be extirpated out of the island; for want, brought in by ill management,