Page images
PDF
EPUB

and nursed up by expensive vanity, will make the nation poor,

and

spare nobody If three millions were necessary for the carrying on the trade of England, whereof one million were for the landholder to maintain him; another were for the payment of the labourer and handicraftsman; and the third were the share of the brokers, coming to them for their care and pains in distributing; if one million of this money were gone out of the kingdom, must there not be one-third less to be shared amongst them for the product of their land, their labour, and their distribution? I do not say they will feel it at the same time. But the landholder having nothing but what the product of his land will yield; and the buyer, according to the plenty or scarcity of money he has, always setting the price upon what is offered to sale; the landholder must be content to take the marketrate for what he brings thither; which always following the scarcity or plenty of money, if any part of our money be gone, he is sure first to find it in the price of his commodities; for the broker and merchant, though he sell cheaper, yet he buys cheaper too: and he will be sure to get his returns, or let alone a commodity which will not produce him gain: and whatsoever is so let alone, and left in hand, always turns to the landholder's loss.

Supposing that of our woollen manufacture foreign markets took off one-half, and the other half were consumed amongst ourselves : if a sensible part (as onethird) of our coin were gone, and so men had equally one-third less money than they had, (for it is certain it must be tantamount, and what I escape of one-third less, another must make up) it would follow, that they would have less to lay out in clothes, as well as other things, and so would wear them longer, or pay less for them. If a clothier finds a want of vent, he must either sell cheaper, or not at all; if he sell cheaper, he must also pay

less, both for wool and labour; and if the labourer hath less wages, he must also pay less for corn, butter, cheese, flesh, or else forbear some of these quite. In all which cases, the price of wool, corn, flesh, and the other products of land are brought down, and the land bears the greatest part of the loss; for wherever the consumption or vent of any commodity is stopped there the stop continues on, till it comes to the landholder; and, wherever the price of any commodity begins to fall, how many hands soever there be between that and the landholder, they all take reprisals one upon another, till at last it comes to the landholder; and there the abatement of price of any of his commodities lessens his income, and is a clear loss. The owner of land, which produces the commodity, and the last buyer who consumes it, are the two extremes in commerce; and though the falling of any sort of commodity in the landholder's hand does not prove so to the last consumer, the arts of intervening brokers and engrossers keeping up the price to their own advantage, yet, whenever want of money, or want of desire in the consumer, make the price low, that immediately reaches the first producer, nobody between having any interest to keep it up.

Now as to the two first causes of falling of rents, falling of interest has no influence at all. In the latter it has a great part, because it makes the money of England less, by making both Englishmen and foreigners withdraw or withhold their money; for that which is not let loose into trade is all one, whilst hoarded up, as if it were not in being.

I have heard it brought for a reason why interest should be reduced to four per cent., “ that thereby the landholder, who bears the burthen of the public charge, may be in some degree eased by the falling of interest."

This argument will be but right, if you say it will ease the borrower, and lay the loss on the lender. But it concerns not the land in general, unless you will suppose all landholders in debt. But I hope we may yet think that men in England, who have land, have money too; and that landed men, as well as others, by their providence and good husbandry, accommodating their expenses to their income, keep themselves from going backwards in the world.

That which is urged, as most deserving consideration and remedy in the case is, “ that it is hard and unreasonable, that one, who has mortgaged half his land, should yet pay taxes for the whole, whilst the mortgage goes away with the clear profit of a high interest.'

To this I answer, 1. That, if any man has run himself in debt for the service of his country, it is fit the public should reimburse him, and set him free. This is a care that becomes the public justice, that men, if they receive no rewards, should at least be kept from suffering, in having served their country. But I do not remember the polity of any nation, who altered their constitution in favour of those whose mismanagement had brought them behind-hand; possibly, as thinking the public little beholden to those who had misemployed the stock of their country in the excess of their private expenses, and by their example spread a fashion that carries ruin with it. Men's paying taxes of mortgaged lands is a punishment for ill husbandry, which ought to be discouraged: but it concerns very little the frugal and the thrifty.

2. Another thing to be said in reply to this is, that it is with gentlemen in the country, as with tradesmen in the city. If they will own titles to greater estates than really they have, it is their own faults, and there is no way left to help them from paying for them. The remedy is in their own hands, to discharge themselves when they please; and when they have once sold their land, and paid their debts, they will no longer pay taxes for what they own without being really theirs. There is another way also whereby they may be relieved, as well as a great many other inconveniencies remedied; and that is by a registry: for if the mortgages were registered, land-taxes 'might reach them, and order the lender to pay his proportion.

I have met with patrons of four per cent. who (amongst many other fine things they tell us of) affirm, " That if interest were reduced to four per cent. then some men would borrow money at this low

وو

rate, and pay their debts; others would borrow more than they now do, and improve their land; others would borrow more, and employ it in trade and manufacture.” Gilded words indeed, were there any thing substantial in them! These men talk as if they meant to show us not only the wisdom, but the riches of Solomon, and would make gold and silver as common as stones in the street: but at last, I fear, it will be but wit without money, and I wish it amount to that. It is without question, that could the countryman and the tradesman take up money cheaper than now they do, every man would be forward to borrow, and desire that he might have other men's money to employ to his advantage. I confess, those who contend for four per cent. have found out a way to set men's mouths a watering for money at that rate, and to increase the number of borrowers in England, if any body can imagine it would be an advantage to increase them. But to answer all their fine projects, I have but this one short question to ask them: Will four per cent. increase the number of the lenders? If it will not, as any man at the very first hearing will shrewdly suspect it will not, then all the plenty of money, these conjurers bestow upon us, for improvement of land, paying of debts, and advancement of trade, is but like the gold and silver which old women believe other conjurers bestow sometimes, by whole lapfuls, on poor credulous girls, which, when they bring to the light, is found to be nothing but withered leaves; and the possessors of it are still as much in want of money as ever.

Indeed, I grant it would be well for England, and I wish it were so, that the plenty of money were so great amongst us, that every man could borrow as much as he could use in trade for four per cent.; nay, that men could borrow as much as they could employ for six per cent. But even at that rate, the borrowers already are far more than the lenders. Why else doth the merchant, upon occasion, pay six per cent. and often above that rate, for brokerage ? And why doth the country gentleman of 1000l. per ann, find it so difficult, with

all the security he can bring, to take up 1000l.? All which proceeds from the scarcity of money and bad security; two causes which will not be less powerful to binder borrowing, after the lowering of interest; and I do not see how any one can imagine that reducing use to four per cent. should abate their force, or how lessening the reward of the lender, without diminishing his risk, should make him more forward and ready to lend. So that these men, whilst they talk that at four per cent. men would take up and employ more money to the public advantage, do but pretend to multiply the number of borrowers among us, of which it is certain we have too many already. While they thus set men a longing for the golden days of four per cent., methinks they use the poor indigent debtor, and needy tradesman, as I have seen prating jackdaws do sometimes their young, who, kawing and fluttering about the nest, set all their young ones a gaping, but, having nothing in their empty mouths but noise and air, leave them as hungry as before.

It is true these men have found out by a cunning project how, by the restraint of a law, to make the price of money one-third cheaper, and then they tell John a Nokes that he shall have 10,0001. of it to employ in merchandize, or clothing; and John a Stiles shall have 20,000l. more to pay his debts; and so distribute this money as freely as Diego did his legacies, which they are to have, even where they can get them. But till these men can instruct the forward borrowers where they shall be furnished, they have perhaps done something to increase men's desire, but not made money one jot easier to come by; and, till they do that, all this sweet jingling of money, in their discourses, goes just to the tune of “ If all the world were oatmeal.” Methinks these undertakers, whilst they have put men in hopes of borrowing more plentifully, at easier rates, for the supply of their wants and trades, had done better to have bethought themselves of a way how men need not borrow upon use at all: for this would be much more advantageous, and altogether as feasible. It is as easy to distribute twenty pair of shoes amongst thirty

« PreviousContinue »