Page images

polies, under pretext of granting patents for new inventions. Not only salt, soap, leather, and other useful articles, were put under harsh restrictions; but grants were made out for gauging red herrings, for marking butter casks, and for gathering rag3. The king, afraid of the consequences, or ashamed of having adopted such ridiculous expedients for raising money, abolished about thirty of these destructive patents, when he undertook the first expedition against Scotland ; but the people were not satisfied with a partial concession, and the long parliament had no sooner aflembied, than it annulled all the remaining monopolies; and as a proof how much they detefted so illegal a meafure, expelled at once such of its members as were at all concerned in them. Loans of all kinds were extorted, and those who refifted the demands of the monarch were punished by imprisonment, or by the more ruinous method of having foldiers illegally quartered on them; and the ill-advised and illfated prince, went fo far as to attempt raising money by commissioners appointed by himself, and independent of parliament. Although the spirit of the House of Commons obliged him to cancel this commission, yet many arbitrary measures were pursued; large fees were annexed to new invented offices; every county was obliged to maintain a muster-master, appointed by the crown, for exercising the militia. The vintners were driven, by the terrors of fines and prosecutions, to submit to an illegal imposition on all the wine they retailed ; an ancient duty for furnishing the soldiery with coat and conduct money, which had long been abolished, was revived; it was intended to coir base money, and to circulate it by proclamation. Heavy fines were also imposed in the star-chamber, and high commission courts ; Sir David Fowles was amerced in 500cl., for diffuading a friend from compounding with the commissioners of knighthood; thirty thousand pounds were exacted from those who had trespafled on an obsolete law, against converting arable land into paiture ; encroachments on the king's forests were punished in a similar manner; proclamations were iflued, commanding the nobility and gentry to retire to their country seats, and not spend their time idly in London, and if convicted of transgressing this arbitrary regulation, they were feverely mulcted in the star-chamber : it was contended, that proclamations had equal authority with laws; and such as ventured to disobey them, where heavily fined, and, in some instances, condemned to the pillory. Another cxpedient, though fanctioned by law and the practice of remote times, was not less, nor less justly, odious; it was that of compelling all who possessed 401. a-year in land to receive knighthcod, or pay a heavy composition. If no other reason could have been


alleged against this proceeding, the altered value of money since the reign of Henry VI. when the rate was fixed, would alone have made it an intolerable hardship on those whose eftates barely amounted to, or little exceeded 40l. a-year.

But all these measures, and all the evil intentions imputed to the unfortunate king, although they well justified a strenuous parliamentary opposition, afforded no excuses for the atrocious act which terminated his days. The principles of despotism came to him by direct inheritance, and his predecefiors on the throne had avowed and acted on them to a greater extent, without the same or similar motives. They had not to encounter in parliament a fa&tious and obstinate opposition, but found their behefts received with prostrate reverence: they were not fettered by the continual efforts of the legislature, to restrain the excrcise of prerogative, but statutes of most positive prohibition were dispensed with to gratify the wants, or desires of the fovereign. It was surely time that the representatives of the nation should be raised from this abject state, but a vigorous parliamentary opposition would have been fully sufficient to effect the purpose, especially when the voice of the whole people, raised in behalf of their dearest interest, could be brought to support those who made exertions in their favour. Parliament could not complain that they wanted sufficient power, when they could procure the abolition of the court of chivalry and the star-chamber, and could obtain the recognition of the famous petition of right, which declared that “no gift, loan, « benevolence, tax, or such like charge should be exacted with « out common consent by act of parliament.” Nor was it necessary that the wants of the king Thould remain unsupplied, unless he were at liberty to oppress the subject : an honest application to the true principles of finance would have indicated many means of raising money from the increasing luxuries of the times, a specimen of which was given in the tax now first imposed on cards. And it should not be forgotten in speaking of this unhappy king, that his total income, including all that was produced by ship money, and other illegal means, did not in years of war amount to 900,000l., of which more than 200,00ol. were raised by the devices which parliament so much reprobated, but which a decent liberality on their part would have rendered unnecessary.

INTERREGNUM. The period termed the Interregnum, or Commonwealth, will be ever memorable in the annals of finance; in the first place, as having furnished most of the permanent modes of taxation now in use, and in the next, as difproving, by irresistible experience, the saying attributed to Milton, that the trarrings of monarchy would defray all the

charges charges of an ordinary republic. The time in which the property of the people of England was subject to the disposal of an authority exclusive of the lords and of the crown, may be considered as commencing with the sessions of the long parliament: they voted fix subsidies and a poll-tax, for the purpose of disbanding the armies; but the product was confided to the management of parliamentary commissioners, and not, as formerly, paid into the treasury. When hoftilities against the king were considered necessary, voluntary contributions produced incredible sums; the plate of almost every inhabitant in London was brought in, to be coined for support of the army; no article, however mean, no ornament, however valuable, was spared ; even the thimbles and bodkins of the women were not withheld.

When these ceased to be productive, the parliament levied assessments on personal and landed property. These assessments varied, according to the exigencies of the times, from 35,000l. to 120,000/. a month. They were found so productive, and in every respect so much fuperior to the ancient mode of subsidies, that under the denomination of a 'land-tax, they have since formed a considerable branch of the public revenue.

To recruit the armies, every person was obliged to retrench a meal in a week, and pay the amount into the treasury; and this strange tax produced for six years 100,000l. a-year.

To the long parliament we owe the establishment of the excise, the plan originating, as is supposed, with the famous Pym. It was at first laid on liquors only; and it was solemnly declared, that at the end of the war all excises should be abolished ; but the contest continuing longer than was expected, this obnoxious mode of levying money was extended to bread, meat, salt, and many other necessary articles. The excise on bread and meat was afterward repealed.

In the time of the Commonwealth, considerable additions were made to the revenue of the customs by the duties on coals and currants. Four shillings a chaldron on coals levied at Newcastle, brought in about 50,000l. The customs and excise, notwithstanding the destruction with which civil wars are necessarily accompanied, had become so productive, that Cromwell, in 1657, was offered 1,100,000l. a-year for a lease of both the branches.

The post office, as already has been mentioned, began now to be a source of revenue ; all the feudal prerogatives of the crown, except the odious one of purveyance, were exercised with rigour, licences for inns and ale-houses, the profits of which had been claimed by James I. as a monopoly, but wrested from him by parliament, were made a source of revenue ;


the sequestration of the income of some public offices yielded a large supply; the lands and chattels of the crown were sold, though at a low rate ; all ecclesiastical property including even glebe lands was in a similar manncr difpored of; the tythes were fequestered for the public use; the royalists were either put to death and their cllates confiscated, or obliged to pay heavy ransoms, and even persons suspected of attachment to that party were termed malignants; and under colour of this crime, it is said that one half of tlie real and personal property in the kingdom was sold and sequestrated. Under fo military and tyrannical a government, a variety of oppressive exa&tions must neceffarily have taken place. Among many others, that of free quarter was particularly complained of. The soldiers were billetted on private houses ; paid nothing for their maintenance; were spies on the actions of those upon whom they were quartered ; and though guilty of the most shocking abuses, their crimes were only subject to the cognizance of their own officers; no civil court, or magistrate, daring to interfere. But when Cromwell assumed the government of the state, a general system of oppression was for some time put in practice. The whole kingdom was divided into twelve districts, each of which was intruited to the care of a major general, who was empowered to levy any tax the Protector thought proper to impose. An edict was isued, commanding the exaction of the tenth penny from all the royal party; and this oppressive tax, known by the name of decimation, Cromwell's military substitutes very rigorously enforced. The whole country was exposed to their extortions; hardly any distinction was made ; nor were the firmest friends to the existing government always exempted.

By an authentic document it appears that in the period of nineteen years which clapfed from the meeting of the long parliament till the restoration, 83,331, 1981. were raised, making an average of 4,385,850l. per annum. But fuppofing all that was posteiled and told by government to be public property, and considering at what rate it was folu, and how much was given away to gratify beggarly intriguers, and embezzled by unprincipled agents, it must be evident that the nation was plundered to an infinitely greater amount. It is not neceflary nor desirable here to particularize all the means used to convert to private advantage this immense revenue. The necefsary and honourable expences of government, besides the civil administration, were incurred in the fuppreflion of hostile movements in Ireland and Scotland, in the wars with Holland and Spain, to which may be added the sums expended for secret intelligence, in which the Protector was moit wisely liberal. Large however as were the fums extorted from the nation, the


army and navy were in misery through the non-payment of arrears, and Cromwell died 2,274,2901. in debt. Such was the saving effected by a government, established on the ruins of one which cost at the utmost 900,00cl. year.

RESTORATION. The restoration so ardently and reasonably desired by the people at large, was not suddenly productive of all the good effects which were expected. The national expences were considerably reduced, but still contentions were , perpetually maintained between the wants of a thoughtless, extravagaut monarch, and the jealousies of a parfimonious parliament. The reign of Charles II. first exhibited the formation of a regular peace establishment, or a provision, even in times of peace, for the national protection and defence : whence have arisen permanent naval, military, and ordnance expences. In Charles's reign, the navy required large sums annually expended to counterbalance the force maintained by Holland, and that which Lewis XIV. was fo assiduously employed in creating; a regular army in time of peace was also now for the first time maintained, and although it never exceeded 8000 men, and was sometimes as low as 4000, the public felt much jealousy and alarm, and the House of Commons pronounced it contrary to law; the ordnance was also a charge on government, but very moderate in comparison with that of succeeding times. The civil list expences amounted to 462,1151., and the geral expenditure was within 1,200,000l., the sum which parliament had first voted, but which was never fully made up.

There were besides many incidental expences, arising from the necefsity of replacing the property of the crown alienated by the republicans, the debts contracted by the late king during the civil war, and by Charles II. during his residence on the continent : and å still larger debt was due to thofe loyal individuals who had-sustained such cruel losses by their unexampled firmness in adhering to the royal cause, but this was never satisfactorily discharged. The disbanding of Cromwell's army was attended with much expence in paying their arrears, and Charles, who had learnt during his exile, the value of such a fine military body, yielded with regret to the prudent advice of Lord Clarendon, in omitting to retain it in his service. The garrison of. Tangiers, the dowry received with Catharine of Portugal, was for some time a source of great expence; as were the wars which arose in the course of the reign. To these must be added the profuseness of Charles himself, a quality which obscured the excellent talents he was allowed to poffess; and deprived his character of every pretence to virtue or patriotism. This propensity was checked during the latter part of his life, with à vigour which demonstrated that his previous çërors had arisen Vol. II.



« PreviousContinue »