« AnteriorContinuar »
who would immediately claim relief, and it would be found impossible, in the present state of things, to resist the usual pleas and claims for relief from others. Nor can any man wish to refuse to the poor proper relief, particularly the most useful and best of all medical assistance.
It is obvious that the foregoing Observations are principally applicable to agricultural parishes, but not equally so to great towns and manufacturing districts, which may perhaps be better regulated by their local acts. It seems reasonable, that commercial towns and districts should be rated to the support of the population they have created for their own uses : the
should not be thrown on agricultural parishes.'
It has been already observed, that no documents of the kind have ever afforded more general satisfaction than the Reports of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament; and it is to be hoped that the admirable good sense and the perfect knowledge of the subject displayed in them, will prepare the country for measures of the utmost importance and necessity.
The imperfect intelligence that had before been shown on the subject, furnished little hope or expectation to those who felt and saw the mischief that was daily increasing and impending, that such a luminous summary would so
soon appear, replete with excellent propositions, observations, principles, and suggestions, which may lay the foundation of some great measure that will rescue us from our present difficulties.
The work, however, is arduous, and cannot be accomplished at once; but if the business is undertaken with firmness, and a gradual preparation for the change is made, it cannot be now doubted that some better system may eventually be established.
The committees have still farther displayed their good judgment in not hurrying forward, or immediately proposing any precise measure to be adopted. There remains not a question that the Reports will encourage and promote various suggestions and useful observations, that will elucidate and enlighten still farther this great, important, and interesting subject.
The owners of houses and lands in commercial towns and districts receive extraordinary rents, &c. a great proportion of which is for convenience, and much beyond the intrinsic value of the thing supplied.
2 Every intelligent person who has attended to the subject will most heartily acknowledge with gratitude and thanks, the eminent services of the members of the two committees, especially of Mr. Sturges Bourne, who so ably presided in the Committee of the House of Commons; and it is earnestly to be hoped, that in the ensuing sessions the country will have the advantage of a continuance of their meritorious and highly important labors.
The following Essay has been the hasty production of a very few hours, stolen from the pursuit of other studies, and is published for
the SOLE PURPOSE of renewing in the public mind the considera- tion of a most important subject, to which the attention of the Le
gislature and of the Country will be more seriously invited, in the course of the present Session. The singleness of my object, and the obvious necessity of anticipating the discussions on this subject in Parliament, will, I trust, induce those who may honor these pages with their perusal, to treat with indulgent liberality, the inaccuracies of which haste is necessarily generative.
EXP EDENCY OF REPEALING TII E
There is no branch of civil policy wherein modern wisdom has been more successful, in discovering and correcting erroneous principles, than in that which relates to political economy. The work of improvement however, though progressive, has been slow; for human nature is so essentially the slave of habit, and so tenacious of long-cherished opinions, that even a conviction of their having been founded in error, does not always induce the mind to resign without reluctance, prejudices with which it has been long familiar. National jealousies and individual interests have also conspired to prolong the existence of certain notions equally inconsistent with sound reason and universal prosperity, while others are not unfrequently continued in action from the timidity of legislators, to interfere with systems that have in some degree insensibly entwined and connected ihemselves with the whole frame and texture of society.
It is to the last of these considerations, that I am disposed to attribute the unwillingness manifested by the House of Commons, during two successive sessions of parliament, to entertain even in discussion the proposition for repealing the laws, that profess to regulate the interest of money in this kingdom. During the last session, the bill introduced by Mr. Serjeant Onslow for that purpose, advanced by a kind of tacit compromise as far as to the report of the committee; but with the exception of a few general and desultory observations, the great principle of the measure was kept at an awful and disheartening distance, and while all seemed conscious of the necessity or advantages of a discussion, no member appeared willing to commence it. Caution is the characteristic of representative assemblies, and even those members who approved of the principle of the learned Serjeant's bill, and whose opinion in favor of the measure ought, from their official rank, to be entitled to the highest respect, seemed, however, well pleased to have the question postponed for future consideration. The time, they said, had not yet arrived for effecting so mighty a change in the general economy of the state. The country was not prepared to entertain it, and even the prejudices of the people were entitled to respect.
I am willing in candor to allow a certain weight to the proprie ety of these objections, and it is therefore, that I have undertaken a review of this important question, being convinced that nothing can tend so effectually to shake their validity, as the promotion of a fair and liberal discussion. A long practice wherein the Usury Laws have been enforced with more than ordinary strictness, because their pressure and influence had been universally and constantly felt, has linked them with the concerns and interests of numberless individuals. The negociations of commerce, the transfers of property, have for ages been regulated in this country, with a secret or direct reference to their existence, and they may be fairly excused who apprehend some danger from their incautious and sudden removal.
These fears will, I trust, on further inquiry, be found either wholly chimerical, or not justified to the extent of their present influence. There is, however, another class of opponents to Mr. Serjeant Onslow's bill, who will not stoop to any compromising, but condemn the measure in toto, as a means of legalising fraud, rapine and oppression, of exposing the thoughtless and the prodigal to the schemes of speculative avarice, and of throwing the capital of the country into the hands of speculators and projectors; who think that it would subject the public to the inconvenience of great and sudden variations in the money market, and thereby shake the security and stability of all money transactions, and finally on important emergencies, it would essentially impede the advantageous facility now enjoyed by government, of raising supplies necessary for the service of the state. How far these several objections are consistent with sound reasoning, the recognised principles of political economy, the advantages of individuals, and the general good of 80ciety, it shall be my endeavour, in the following pages, to examine.
In undertaking to question the propriety of the Usury Laws, and to combat prejudices almost consecrated by time, and apparently justified by the undeviating practice of ages, and the concurrent