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a plan was framed, and it would not, surely, be very difficult to devise a plan, for the gradual extinction of this horrid commerce, the supernumerary artizans and manufacturers at home, would have leisure and opportunity to apply themselves by degrees to other kinds of employ. ment; and, if a wise and liberal system of policy was embraced, I doubt not but a trade to the Coast of Africa, far more extensive and beneficial than the present, might be established, on a much more folid and permanent foundation. But these are fpeculations into which I forbear to enter. Upon the whole, however, we may with confidence aflirm, that regulations for the purpose of obviating the political inconveniencies which might result from the abolition of the Slave Trade, would do honour to the most. enlightened Legislature; but a feeble attempt to satisfy the demands of honour and conscience, by any pretended regulations, for the mere purpose of preventing or of rectifying the abuses of that trade, which is itself the most flagrant of all abuses which the annals of the world exhibit, would difgrace the understandings, and detract from the dignity, even of a Convention of Hottentots.

ESSAY XXIV.

On the NATIONAL DEBT.

A

T the era of the Revolution no National

Debt existed; i. e. no Debt borrowed on parliamentary security, for discharging the interest of which national taxes were imposed and mortgaged. It is one of the most astonishing facts in all the records of history, that in the century which has elapsed fince that memorable event, a Debt has been contracted by the Government of this country, which cannot be estimated at lefs than two hundred and fifty millions sterling; a sum fo vaft, that it probably exceeds the whole aggregate value of the precious metals actually in circulation throughout all the kingdoms of the globe. A political phænomenon so extraordinary, could not fail to excite the attention, and employ the fagacity, of the ableft statesmen and philosophers, closely connected as it is with confiderations of the utmost importance to the welfare, and even the existence of the State. In opposition, however, to the most confident predictions, and, indeed, contrary to every apparently reason

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able ground of expectation, we find by experience, that the kingdom is not only capable of sustaining the pressure of this immense load, but that it exhibits plain indications of internal vigour, and even of increasing wealth and prosperity. That there is a point, however, beyond which the accumulation of the Public Debt must prove destructive and fatal, cannot be doubted; and to this general conviction we owe the late institution of a permanent fund for its gradual redemption.

It is well known, that in the year 1716 Sir Robert Walpole established a fund, distinguished by the appellation of the Sinking Fund, which was appropriated, under the authority of Parliament, to the sole purpose of redeeming the National Debt, at that time amounting to about fifty millions.

This Fund was formed by the reduction of the legal rate of interest, from six to five per cent. aided by various surpluffes, arising from the different duties and taxes imposed for the payment of the interests of particular loans. It is evident that a fund fo constituted, if faithfully and invariably applied to its original destination, must be not only a fund continually increasing, but a fund increasing with a perpetually accelerated rapidity; for not only the interests of the sums annually discharged by the original fund were to be regularly added to it, but the interests of the sums discharged by those interests, and so on in progression, ad infinitum; or, in other words, the original fund was a fund continually im

proving

proving at compound interest; and as the public Debt at that period bore an interest of five per cent. a very slight knowledge of figures will suffice to prove, that at the termination of a period of about fourteen years, the fund would be able to disengage annuities equal to its own amount. Eltimating, therefore, the original fund at one million, at the end of fifty-six.years it would be increased to no less than sixteen millions; that is to say, three hundred millions of Debt, bearing five per cent, interest would, at the expiration of this term, be totally extinguished. This is, indeed, amazing; but, as it admits of an easy demonstration, it cannot, at least it certainly ought not, to incur the reproach fo often cast on the airy dreams of speculative politicians, The radical idea of this plan of redemption is, it must be owned, so obvious and simple, that it is very easily conceivable even the Minister who esta. blished it might not himself be fully sensible of its latent energies. When we consider, however, the great abilities of Sir Robert Walpole as a Financier, and his extensive political knowledge, as well as the very able and masterly manner in which the nature and powers of this fund were explained and defended by the miniserial advocates and writers of that time, it can scarcely be imagined that Sir Robert Walpole was himself the dupe of those despicable arguments, by which the House of Commons was induced by him to consent to the total alienation of the Sinking

Fund,

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Fund, in a very few years after its first establishment. The true motives which influenced the conduct of that Minister, therefore, it

may

be

prefumed, were the desire of avoiding the odium of impofing new taxes, in order to provide for current services during a time of profound peace, and a secret reluctance in the Court, to lessen the political influence and security which the reigning family was supposed, not without reason, to derive from the existence of a public Debt of such magnitude. For almost half a century after the practice of alienation commenced, the attempts made to restore the Sinking Fund to its original state, were few and feeble; and, at length, notwithstanding the prodigious increase of the National Debt, in consequence of the wars termi. nated by the treaties of Aix la Chapelle and Fontainebleau, all ideas of its nature and efficacy appeared to be totally lost; and the whole nation, absorbed in contests as disgraceful to its reputation as injurious to its interests, possessed neither leisure nor inclination to direct its views to an object, in comparison of which the political controversies of the day appear egregiously trifling and ridiculous. At length, however, about the year 1772, a private clergyman, not of the establishment, once more awakened the attention of the reflecting and intelligent part of the community, by a most animated and masterly “ Appeal to “ the Public on the Subject of the National “ Debt;” but though it was scarcely possible, by any

exertion

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