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The variations in the price of bullion, fhould not affect the price of commodities.
This is a question, however, which I do not pretend to determine, and I apprehend that nothing but experience can refolve it. Now let me confider the difference there is between the trade of France and that of England as matters now ftand; and what would be the cafe, were the regulations of the mint the fame in both countries.
I fhall fuppofe that England buys of French goods as much as may be paid with one thousand pounds troy weight of Englifh guineas. I ask for what weight of French louis d'ors must France buy of English goods to make the balance even? Will it not be answered (according to the ordinary method of calculating the true par of exchange) that if France buys for one thoufand pounds troy of her louis d'ors (fuppofing the guineas and the louis d'ors of the fame fineness) that the balance is even?
Is it not true, that England must send this thousand pounds weight either in gold bullion or in guineas, and is it not the fame thing to the English merchant to fend the one or the other, providing the guineas be full weight?
But when France comes to fend the thousand pounds weight of her louis d'ors, fhe finds at market a thousand pounds weight of gold bullion 8 per cent. cheaper, and this bullion is as good to the Englishman as if he had got the louis d'ors.
Let me ftate the cafe otherwife. Suppose France buys in England for 1000 pounds weight of her guineas in Virginia tobacco; and that England buys in France for 1000 pounds weight of her louis d'ors of Bourdeaux claret. Is not this called par? Will not France pay her debt to England with 1000 pound of gold bullion? Whereas England must pay 1080 pounds to France; because 1000 pounds weight of her louis d'ors is worth in France 1080 pounds of any bullion of the fame ftandard. The 1000 pounds then compenfates the 1000 pounds; the 80 pounds over must be sent to France, and the carriage of this quantity only, must be paid for according to the principles of exchange.
Here is evidently a balance of trade against England of 8 per cent. above the real par of the metals. Will any body say that the 8 per cent. is paid for the transportation of 80 pounds of bullion due Certainly not.
Now if the English should declare that they, for the future, would coin neither gold or filver bullion for any person, but at the rate of 8 per cent. below the value of the coin; and if it be true, that this regulation would have the effect of finking the price of bullion, on many occafions, to 8 per cent. below the coin; in that cafe, would not the English and the French ac
quit their debts of the loco pounds weight of their refpective coin upon the fame conditions? In this cafe, would not the price of exchange vanifh, fince there would be no bullion to bet fent by either party? But in the first cafe, would not England be obliged to fend 8 per cent. above the quantity of gold bullion fhe received from France, and would not the tranfportation of this coft money, and would not this tranfportation be marked by a certain price of exchange, and confequently, would not the price of exchange rife against England ?
But to this it is objected, that by the former example, the exchange marked 8 per cent. against England with great reafon; because it is plain, that there is a balance of 8 per cent. against England, fince fhe has fent that proportion over to France in bullion. Very true. But had England, inftead of taking to the value of 1000 pounds weight of louis d'ors in claret, taken only for 100 pounds weight, the exchange would have ftill marked 8 per cent. lofs; because the 100 pounds of louis d'ors must be paid with the 108 pounds of bullion, although England by this trade has evidently gained 892 pounds of bullion, which France must send her as a balance.'
In the third chapter, our author examines the following queftion: Is the lofs which the courfe of exchange marks upon the trade of Great Britain with France real or apparent? All that he aims is to discover how this queftion is to be refolved, because he does not pretend to refolve it and other questions arifing from it himself. The refult of his enquiry is as follows. The principles here laid down (fays he) never can decide as to the matter of fact, to wit, whether the French trade is hurtful or lucrative: all we are warranted to conclude from them is, that the trade of Great Britain would be more advantageous with France than it is, were a duty on coinage to be laid in England as high as there. In that fenfe, we may fay, that the apparent loss by exchange is a proof that coin is commonly dearer in France than in England; from which a lofs may be implied; but the lofs upon exchange no way denotes the degree of lofs upon the trade, and much lefs does it certify that the balance upon the whole is against Great Britain.'
The fourth chapter treats of the different methods of impofing coinage; and of the influence they respectively have upon the value of the money-mint, and upon the domeftic interefts of the nation. The reader must not expect the authors of the Critical Review to enter minutely into all the fubject of coinage, as branched out by this writer. They are amazed at his investigations, which have all the appearance of the utmost candour and accuracy, though they cannot follow him through
all his intricacies. He feems to think that there is more coin in France than in England, but concludes that this is no mark of the poverty of the latter. He believes, that if the currency of paper money was profcribed, the coin of England would quickly return, because it would then be demanded. We are here a little fufpicious that this writer is miftaken in his facts, in fuppofing more coin to be in France than in England, or in imagining (as we fuppofe he does) that the currency of paper money in England has banished coin. We are inclined to think, that both those facts are mistaken, and that an English merchant or financer of very moderate abilities, either of head or purfe, may inform him better. The author, converfant with men of great property in France, might, no doubt, see them poffeffed of far larger fums in ready money than perfons of the like rank and fortune in England commonly are; but whoever compares the ftate of the common people in France and England with regard to the circulation of cash, must know that the current money in the hands of the French farmers, manufacturers, and peafantry, bears no proportion to the vaft fums poffeffed by the fame orders of men in England. As to paper credit, we can by no means adinit that it banishes coin out of England. It is rather an addition, than a fupplement, to currency; and though French and foreign authors have raised many curious fpeculations concerning the danger of multiplying paper money, yet an Englishiman poffeffed of a twenty-pound bank-note never can think his property precarious, as long as he can receive, upon demand, for the fame, nineteen guineas and one fhilling.
Here we fhall take our leave of this author's doctrine of money and coinage, in which those who are concerned in either, may meet with many useful and curious discoveries. His fourth book, which treats of credit and debt, is divided into four parts. The fubject of the first is the intereft of money; of the fecond, banks; of the third, exchange; and of the fourth, public credit. In this divifion of our author's work, is comprehended the whole fyftem of the French finances before and after the establishment of the Miffiffippi bubble. This may, at first fight, appear a matter of indifference to Englishmen; but nothing is more certain than that many of the principles of public credit in both nations were, and are, the fame; and that its prefent amazing rise in Great Britain requires the moft minute investigations into the miscarriages of the French funds, to enable government here to guard against the like mifcarriages; and perhaps no book was ever better calculated for that end than the work before us.
Our author's fifth and last book is, perhaps, more interesting to a British subject than any other part of this work, as it treats of taxes, and the proper application of their amount. He here investigates the principles by which they are to be imposed on their proper objects. In his fifth chapter he divides taxes into proportional, which affect confumption, or more properly, what may be called expence; accumulative, which affect property; and perfonal, which confift in personal service. He defines perfonal taxes to be such as arise from income, and not from stock; and he thinks that the best method to avoid taxing stock instead of income, is to impofe the tax in fuch a manner as to affect the consumers only. Though we readily agree with this maxim, yet we know not, when applied to England, if it has any propriety, or, indeed, meaning. If confumers pay for what they consume of one manufacture of luxury, those consumers are manufacturers or merchants of other commodities or luxuries, for which they oblige others to pay in proportion; and perhaps it would be difficult to find a man in the nation who is not a consumer, or a commodity that is not taxed mediately or immediately. A very fmall experience of English living proves that even taxes upon luxuries have been always attended with a rise of price (which is the fame thing as a tax) upon neceffaries. Was a tax impofed for wearing a fword, (a fpecies of luxury the most unconnected, perhaps, of any other with any serviceable purpose of life) barbers and tailors, attorneys and authors, who had a paffion to appear with that fashionable utenfil, would immediately raise the price of their several labours upon their customers; so that we are afraid, in this country, fcarcely an inhabitant can be found, who is not a confumer, in fome shape or other, of what is taxed. If this author, however, means, that the best mode of taxation is upon luxury, we shall so far agree with him, that the age may be ingenious enough to discover some unknown luxuries which may not affect the poor, the labourer, or the manufacturer, but such a species of luxury is yet to be dif covered.
To remove the force of this objection, our author reasons as follows:
Chap. IV. The proper object of cumulative taxes, is the large poffeffions of the higher claffes of a people, which can bear a diminution in favour of the ftate, without danger of encroaching upon their neceffary or eafy fubfiftence. It is not
so when they are laid upon the lower claffes; because these are either composed of the induftrious, or of beggars. The first fhould be enabled to draw back from the rich, what they advance for the public fervice. The latter have nothing to
give; to tax them is but adding to their mifery, without relieving the wants of the state.
• The great advantages of proportional taxes over the cu mulative, may be reduced to three.
Imo, The proportion between the tax and the object taxed is determinate.
zdo, The proportion may be known to every body.
3tia, The time of paying the tax is regular and gradual; because in paying for the commodity you pay for the tax, and your liberty in buying fuch commodities is unrestrained ; confequently, the expence is fuppofed to be in proportion to what your income can afford. Whereas in the cumulative taxes, it is, firft, hardly poffible to preferve the proportion between the tax and the ease of a perfon's circumftances. In the fecond place, it is impoffible for the ftate to afcertain exactly that proportion. And in the last place, the demand for the tax is made at a time when people are often unprepared.
Chap. V. The principal inconveniences alleged against proportional taxes, are, 1. That they raife prices: 2. Difcourage confumption: and 3. That they are oppreffive and expenfive in the collection. These inconveniences are more apparent than real, as will appear from what follows.
Imo, A proportional tax, rightly impofed, and properly levied, will undoubtedly raise the price of the objects taxed; but it will only confequentially raife the price of the labour of the industrious man who pays it; because he will draw it back in proportion only to his diligence and frugality.
The price of labour is regulated by demand, and is influenced only by proportional taxes.
2do, As to difcouraging consumption, if taxes raise prices, this circumstance proves the increase of confumption; because if consumption were to diminish, taxes would not be paid, and prices would fall of course, even to the detriment of the induftrious. These are always the confequences of proportional taxes, when wrong impofed.
3tio, As to the expence and oppreffion in levying them, these inconveniencies are, in a great measure, in proportion to the difpofition of the people to defraud the public: for when they are fairly paid, and honestly collected, proportional taxes are little more expenfive, and infinitely lefs oppreffive than any other. I conclude my chapter by fome obfervations drawn from the practice of different countries, which point out a method of avoiding both the oppreffion and the expence of levying proportional taxes.'
We fhall leave to the reader's confideration and experience the application of the above quotation; when he confiders