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less importance, if our fiscal system had continued as inelastic as it appeared to be in 1840. When, in order to meet any additional expenditure it was necessary to impose a new tax, the power of increasing our expenditure was greatly restricted. Now that additional expenditure can be met by the simple expedient of slightly adding to the rate of an existing tax, that restriction is nearly done away ; and as the removal of the restrictions on comrnerce has promoted commerce, so the rernoval of the restrictions on expenditure has promoted expenditure.'

Sir Stafford Northcote considers that a broad distinction must be drawn between the expenditure of the years preceding and those subsequent to the Russian War, which not only * rendered large expenditure necessary, but infected the whole

nation, and not this nation only, but all Europe also, with ideas of extravagance.

We should be inclined to demur to the complete truth of this statement. The expenditure has been required, not so much from habits of prodigality engendered by that war, but by the generally unsettled state of affairs in foreign countries which has unfortunately prevailed since that period. That contest was certainly confined to the most distant regions of Europe, but it is impossible to overrate the influence of the fact that European nations had been once more drawn up in hostile array against each other. It showed that all the close-knit bonds of peace might be snapped by a calculating policy; it showed, in the teeth of reiterated assertions to the contrary, that war was still unhappily possible; and we are reaping the bitter results of that inevitable struggle.

On looking back over this volume, we are far from objecting to the narrow scope of view to which the author has restricted him. self. It is little more than a chronicle of taxes imposed and repealed that he sets before us; and much of what he relates is probably but languidly remembered by many, as the period is too recent to have been yet enshrined in the appointed niches of regular history. But while we admit that any attempt to review the financial policy of the last twenty years, which attempted more—which endeavoured to portray the effects produced by that policy on the people of Great Britain, must inevitably have been swelled to such dimensions as to require many stout volumes, instead of the thin octavo now before us, we must entirely demur to the merits of the policy in question being judged by mere financial tables, Sir Stafford Northcote himself, we are sure, would be the first to admit this, and to feel that the change in the financial policy of the country, great as that has been, has been far more than equalled by the change for the better in the general condition of the people. The man who saw in ill-built, ill-lighted,

ill-ventilated English houses the monuments of Pitt's taxation, saw but a fractional part of what might have been manifest to


year, proposed to retain a portion of this to strengthen their balance-in-hand, and to employ the remainder in reducing stampduties and abolishing the excise on bricks. Loans for improving land were likewise to be made out of the augmented balances in the Exchequer; the repayments of which appear, as they have accrued, not to have been in all cases, as they should have been, applied to reducing debt, but to meet the current expenditure of subsequent years. The reduction in the stamp-duties was, however, not considered sufficiently advantageous to the landed interest, in whose favour the alteration had been proposed, and a further diminution of the scale was wrested from the weakness of the Government.

The financial prospects of 1851 were not very brilliant, and the Ministry far from powerful. The Income Tax again expired, and there was no doubt of a considerable amount of reluctance in the House of Commons to its re-imposition. Sir Charles Wood, in bringing forward the first of the two Budgets which he was fated to propose that year, gave an interesting analysis of the incidence of taxation, by which it appeared that, speaking generally, and including Local Rates, a revenue of twenty-five millions and a half was imposed on property, while the amount of other taxation was forty-five millions and a half. Hence the Chancellor of the Exchequer argued that relief was due rather to consumers than to owners of property, and proposed a reduction of the duties on coffee, on foreign timber, and on agricultural seeds, in addition to the fall which was to take place this year in the sugar-duties ;-he also intended to abolish the window-duties, and to impose instead a housetax, less in proportion. A proposal to relieve local rate-payers, by dividing the charge of pauper-lunatics between them and the Consolidated Fund, was included in this scheme, the most substantial part of which was a renewal of the income-tax for

The whole, compared with those Budgets of former years which we have been considering, bears the impress of weakness, of an endeavour for ineffectual conciliation of political opponents, of palliatives rather than actual remedies. A ministerial crisis followed, which, though partly owing to other causes, Sir Stafford Northcote is doubtless justified in ascribing in some measure to dissatisfaction at the Budget. The Government ultimately, owing to Lord Stanley's inability to form an Administration, resumed their functione. A vehement opposition to the Income Tax ensued. The Conservatives objected to it altogether as a permanent tax; the Radicals desired its continuance, but objected to the manner in which it was assessed, and desired to see it fall more heavily on property,

As, however, these two opposed hosts of enemies could not be

three years.

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payers at the expense of the Consolidated Fund, will throw more of what are really local charges on the local ratepayer.

The whole expenses of education, which have such a marked tendency to expansion, those of prisons, police, &c., are surely rather local than state charges. These charges would necessarily have to be combined with a comprehensive measure on the Poor Law, enlarging the area on which the rates are to be levied, from the parish to at least the district or the county, and embodying measures to provide for the diminution of the pauper-class, by educating, in all cases, the children who have to be maintained, in industrial schools at a distance from the lowering influences of the workhouse.

The rate-in-aid which parishes in Lancashire and Cheshire are now, in certain circumstances, entitled, under Mr. Villiers' Act, to charge to their neighbours, is a partial working-out of this idea. Sooner or later, some plan of this nature will surely follow the relaxation of the strict laws of settlement which have taken place of late years. To the poor themselves the gain will be great; close' parishes will become unknown, and all the shifts and evasions by which one parish is benefited at the expense of those surrounding it will be at an end. The immediate outcry might arise, that the preventive check will be taken off;' but it would be possible to guard against this by levying an extra local rate on the parishes or unions in which the charges exceeded a given ratio to the population. Also the including within the limits of taxation those places which now dishonestly contrive to evade their due share of the burden, would give considerable relief to the rest. Another source of relief to the ratepayer would arise from the fact, that when the area on which the rate is levied is enlarged, it would be highly improbable that the whole of the population within that limit would be suffering alike from distress. Now-a-days, when a town or parish is least able to afford it--when want of work and, simultaneously, want of profit afflict the inhabitants, it is taxed the highest. Then, when one place was suffering, it would be assisted by more flourishing neighbours, on whose prosperous backs the burden would scarcely be felt.

Under such a system, the present terrible distress in the Cotton Districts would be assisted, as is due, by the country at large-not by the hazardous interposition of State assistance, but by the free working of the natural organization.

Is it a vain vision to hope that, by some readjustment of this sort, coupled with an enlarged house-tax, it might be possible to free ourselves from the dangerous experiment of continuing the present Income Tax in days of peace?-leaving that perilous instrument again for a time disused in the storehouse of the State, laying it aside till greater necessities call for severer efforts ; when, we doubt not, the tax will be borne as patiently and heroically as it has been to the present time.

The statesman who will redeem the now forfeited pledge of the remission of the Income Tax may look for a high place in the honour of his country. To do so will be no easy task, and, to render his work enduring, he must join wise expenditure with judicious economy; he must work out with it that most difficult problem, Retrenchment, without diminution of usefulness.

To all who are interested in such endeavours, Sir Stafford Northcote's volume, especially the clear tables at the close, will be a useful help. Popular, from the nature of the subject, it can never be, but it will be well that it should be a carefully-read book.


years, from holding out an expectation that the income-tax should cease after 1860; but, on the other hand, a more prudent man, who refrained from giving some such promise, would hardly have succeeded in reimposing that unpopular tax. A more cautious man might have read the signs of the times better; but a more cautious man would, doubtless, have hesitated before proposing those measures of reform in the commercial tariff, which assisted in infusing into the national finance that vigour which carried it buoyantly through the stormy days that followed.

We must not, also, leave unnoticed another portion of the financial scheme of the next year—Mr. Gladstone's endeavour to lower the interest on a portion of Consols. No minister hitherto has been found bold enough to grapple with the difficulties of such an attempt. In this case it failed; but the causes of the failure do not appear to be due to any want of judgment in the measures proposed, but rather to the disturbances in the money-market which took place before the changes could be carried into effect. The plan was very favourably received at the time, and would probably have succeded had it been introduced under more auspicious skies: for, in 1853, the happy days of peace were rapidly drawing to a close.

Connected with this part of the subject, Sir Stafford Northcote makes a few remarks on those who expected that the discoveries of gold in Australia and California would produce a revolution in the rate of interest:

There were, indeed, those who thought that the large discoveries of gold would reduce its value as a medium for the purchase of commodities. It is certainly possible that they may have this effect. Perhaps they have already to some extent, produced it. But there seems no reason for concluding that an alteration in the relative value of gold and of other commodities would lead to a reduction in the rate of interest, or to a rise of the Funds.

In writing this, Sir Stafford Northcote appears to have lost sight of the fact, that though the interest payable on the Funds may be maintained at the present rate, yet the relation which that interest bears to the actual income of the country may be widely altered. Should what we may, for convenience, term the purchasing power of money fluctuate in course of time very much from the present ratio; should the time ever come (to put it broadly) when in England a labourer, who is now paid hall-acrown, may

receive a sovereign as wages for the same work, and yet only be able with that sovereign to buy as much food and clothing as the half-crown now affords, and this change be owing solely to the greater cheapness of gold; then the Fundholder, and with him also all who have bargained to receive a fixed interest for their money, will find themselves exactly in

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