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of the late king and queen, her sister is not that an hereditary right? What need we explain it any farther? I have known an article of faith expounded in much looser and more general terms, and that by an author whose opinions are very much followed by a certain party. Suppose we go farther, and examine the word indefeasible, with which some writers of late have made themselves so merry; I confess it is hard to conceive how any law which the supreme power makes may not by the same power be repealed; so that I shall not determine whether the queen's right be indefeasible or not. But this I will maintain, that whoever affirms it is so is not guilty of a crime; for in that settlement of the crown after the Revolution, where her present majesty is named in remainder, there are (as near as I can remember) these remarkable words, "to which we bind ourselves and our posterity for ever." Lawyers may explain this, or call them words of form, as they please; and reasoners may argue that such an obligation is against the nature of government; but a plain reader, who takes the words in their natural meaning, may be excused in thinking a right so confirmed is indefeasible; and if there be an absurdity in such an opinion, he is not to answer for it.
P.S. When this paper was going to the press, the printer brought me two more Observators, wholly taken up in my Examiner upon lying, which I was at the pains to read; and they are just such an answer as the two others I have mentioned. This is all I have
to say on that matter.
THE CONDUCT OF THE LIES
IT is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffeehouse for the voice of the kingdom. The city coffeehouses have been for some years filled with people whose fortunes depend upon the Bank, East India, or some other stock. Every new fund to these is like a new mortgage to a usurer, whose compassion for a young heir is exactly the same with that of a stock-jobber to the landed gentry. At the court end of the town, the like places of resort are frequented either by men out of place, and consequently enemies to the present ministry, or by officers of the army: no wonder, then, if the general cry in all such meetings be against any peace, either with Spain or without, which in other words is no more than this, that discontented men desire another change of ministry; that soldiers would be glad to keep their commissions; and that the creditors have money still, and would have the debtors borrow on at the old extorting rate while they have any security to give.
Now, to give the most ignorant reader some idea of our present circumstances, without troubling him or myself with computations in form: everybody knows that our land and malt tax amount annually to about two millions and a half. All other branches of the revenue are mortgaged to pay interest for what we have already borrowed. The yearly charge of the
war is usually about six millions, to make up which sum we are forced to take up on the credit of new funds about three millions and a half. This last year the computed charge of the war came to above a million more than all the funds the parliament could contrive were sufficient to pay interest for, and so we have been forced to divide a deficiency of twelve hun dred thousand pounds among the several branches of our expense. This is a demonstration that, if the war be to last another campaign, it will be impossible to find funds for supplying it without mortgaging the malt tax, or by some other method equally desperate.
If the peace be made this winter, we are then to consider what circumstances we shall be in toward paying a debt of about fifty millions, which is a fourth part of the purchase of the whole island if it were to be sold.
Towards clearing ourselves of this monstrous incumbrance, some of these annuities will expire or pay off the principal in thirty, forty, or a hundred years; the bulk of the debt must be lessened gradually by the best management we can, out of what will remain of the land and malt taxes, after paying guards and garrisons, and maintaining and supplying our fleet in the time of peace. I have not skill enough to compute what will be left, after these necessary charges, toward annually clearing so vast a debt, but believe it must be very little; however, it is plain that both these taxes must be continued, as well for supporting the government, as because we have no other means for paying off the principal. And so likewise must all the other funds remain for paying the interest. How long a time this must require, how steady an
administration, and how undisturbed a state of affairs both at home and abroad, let others determine.
However, some people think all this very reasonable, and that, since the struggle has been for peace and safety, posterity, which is to partake of the benefit, ought to share in the expense; as if at the breaking out of this war there had been such a conjuncture of affairs as never happened before, nor would ever happen again. It is wonderful that our ancestors, in all their wars, should never fall under such a necessity; that we meet no examples of it in Greece and Rome; that no other nation in Europe ever knew anything like it, except Spain, about a hundred and twenty years ago, when they drew it upon themselves by their own folly and have suffered for it ever since; no doubt we shall teach posterity wisdom, but they will be apt to think the purchase too dear, and I wish they may stand to the bargain we have made in their names.
It is easy to entail debts on succeeding ages, and to hope they will be able and willing to pay them; but how to ensure peace for any term of years is difficulty enough to apprehend. Will human nature ever cease to have the same passions, princes to entertain designs of interest or ambition, and occasions of quarrel to arise? May not we ourselves, by the variety of events and incidents which happen in the world, be under a necessity of recovering towns out of the very hands of those for whom we are now ruining our country to take them? Neither can it be said that those states with whom we may probably differ will be in as bad a condition as ourselves; for by the circumstances of our situation, and the impositions of our allies, we are more exhausted than either they or the enemy: and by
the nature of our government, the corruption of our manners, and the opposition of factions, we shall be more slow in recovering.
It will no doubt be a mighty comfort to our grandchildren, when they see a few rags hung up in Westminster Hall, which cost a hundred millions, whereof they are paying the arrears, to boast as beggars do that their grandfathers were rich and great.
I have often reflected on that mistaken notion of credit so boasted of by the advocates of the late ministry was not all that credit built upon funds raised by the landed men whom they now so much hate and despise? Is not the greatest part of those funds raised from the growth and product of land? Must not the whole debt be entirely paid, and our fleets and garrisons be maintained, by the land and malt tax after a peace? If they call it credit to run ten millions in debt without parliamentary security, by which the public is defrauded of almost half, I must think such credit to be dangerous, illegal, and perhaps treasonable. Neither has anything gone farther to ruin the nation than their boasted credit. For my own part, when I saw this false credit sink upon the change of the ministry, I was singular enough to conceive it a good omen. It seemed as if the young extravagant heir had got a new steward, and was resolved to look into his estate before things grew desperate, which made the usurers forbear feeding him with money as they used to do.
Since the moneyed men are so fond of war, I should be glad they would furnish out one campaign at their own charge: it is not above six or seven millions; and I dare engage to make it out that when