Page images

income in this country, at the time of his death. No teftament ought to be valid, without such a bequest; and if any person died intellate, a year's income should be exacted. A revenue of this kind, would always keep the debts of a nation within moderate bounds, and could hardly be evaded.

• The care of such an unalienable finking fund, Tould be entrated to individuals peculiarly responsible for its success. A fpecial commiflion should be appointed for that purpose alone. A different set of individuals thould he pitched upon to pay off public debis, from those by whom they are contracted ; and the progrefs made in discharging the incumbrances of a nation, ought never to be so involved with other operations of finarce, as to become imperceptible to the eye of the public.'

In addition to these articles, our author proposes, that every means should be adopted for encouraging individuals, whea they had no near relations, to leave their property to the public; and that peculiar checks and securities ought to be contrived to prevent the embezzlement of the money which is borrowed upon the national credit.

In the remaining chapters, the author recites the rise and progress of our present national debts, in the course of which narrative he gives a general view of them at the different periods of their accumulation; concluding with an account of the feps hitherto taken to diminish the capital, and reduce the interest ; and of the several plans which have been sug-, gested for that purpose. Through the whole of the History, Mr. Sinclair discovers faithful attention to facts, which he has likewise induftrioufly collected. He examines the opinions of different writers with impartiality; and makes such judicious reflections, as must not only render the present volume acceptable to political readers, but induce them to wish that he may continue a work, which, so far as he has already proceeded, he has, in our opinion, executed with ability.

Remarks upon the History of the Landed and Commercial Policy of

England, from the Invasion of the Romans 10 the Acceffion
of James ibe First. In owo Volumes. Small 8vo. 6s. Jewed.
O trace the progress of society' from a state of rudeness to

that of refinement, is one of the most entertaining Speculations on the subject of politics. In such an enquiry we not only behold the genuine characters of men when destitute of, civilization, but have an opportunity to observe the gradual developemcot of the human mind in the exertion of its most valuable faculties. As the wealth and populousness of a na, tion are chiefly derived from husbandry, manufactures, and commerce, nothing can prove more useful towards displaying the importance of these arts, than exhibiting a view of the public prosperity, which must always result from their improvement. In the period which is the object of the Remarks now before us, the author enjoys an ample prospect for a variety of political observation. He discovers the rudiments of the useful arts whilst just emerging into existence in this country; and he traces them, through many vicisitud of fortune, to an epoch when they attained a fignal degree of cul.. tivation.


The work begins with remarks upon the landed and commercial policy of the ancient Britons ; in treating of which he adopts the distinction usual with philosophical writers, of considering mankind in thice different lights, as favages, thep-herds, and husbandmen..

• Under the first of these they include such as fubff by fishing, the acquisitions of the cbace, or the natural productions of the ground. The number of inhabitants in this ftate muft, in general, be few: and they can unite together only in small parties, as the means of fubiistence are oftentimes scanty and precarious. Every thing being common, and the property of the first occupier, no other law can be expected to take place than what depends in a great measure on personal strength: When men have so far advanced towards civilization as to ob. tain a distinct property in cattle, they have commonly claimed an exclusive right to particular districts, the boundaries of which have been settled by mutual agreement or long pofleflion. In this itate bodies of men may unite, in proportion to the richneis of the soil, and the extent of the country they posless. As the property of every individual is easily ascertained, few regulations are neceílary; and thele are generally founded on cus-, tom, which holds the place of written laws. When agriculrure is introduced, property becomes fo various and complicala ed, that a code of luws is necessary to preserve it as well as to encourage induftry. Cultivated lands yielding a greater produce than in a state of nature, a larger body of people may fubfift together, and form an union for their security againit foTeiga and domestic enemies.. and as busbandry requires the aid of different arts to supply its wants, artificers and manu. facturers are gradually focided, and the several occupations of life are allotted to particular perlons, which in the other states are usually exerciica by ail the members. Ancient writers have therefore generally made agriculture and legillation coeval and attendant on each other.'

According to the earliest accounts, the original inhabitants of Britain, though extremely uncultivated, were numerous and martial. But it is not improbable, as cur author ob-' denies, that Calar magnificd the number of Britons, either to give importance to his invasion of so distant a country, or through the want of proper information, and the Remarker is jully of opinion, that the produce of the British lands, in their native and uncultivated state, as a great part of them undoubtedly was in the time of Cæfar, could not be so confiderable as to maintain a numerous body of the people. The numter of inhabitants in every country destitute of commerce, he observes, is always proportioned to the quantity of food which the soil of the reighbouring seas or rivers afford; and the northern Britons are said to have abitained from eating fish, Our author has not, in this part of the work, taken into account the provisions afforded by the chace, which is so common an exercise in every uncultivated country; but we join with him in thinking, for the reasons he has mentioned, and for others which might be asiigned, that the inhabitants of Britain, before the invasion of the Romans, were in reality not so numerous as they have been represented by ancient writters; whole testimony, however, we are ready to admit, with respect to what is remarked by our author in the subsequent quotation.

• We are fometimes apt to consider the descriptions which the Greek and Roman writers have left us of ancient Gaul, Germany, and Britain, as fabulous, and owing to their ignorance of these regions. A

part of their accounts was, undoubtedly received from merchants cr foldiers, who, presuming on the ignorance or credulity of their hearers, took the liberty to magnify what they had seen or learnt from report. But the temprature of the air is so widely different in cultivated and uncultivated countries, though lying under the fame latitudes, that there is no reason to distrult te veracity of these writers in the relations they have given us of the rorthern parts of Europe. Some countries, which were then looked upon to be almot uninhabitable through the extremiy of cold, afford many conveniences of life, and produce grain and fruits which were then thought to be incompatible with the climate. And the cul. tivated tracts of a country will bave a beneficial influence upon others that lie at a considerable distance. Every part of England and Frauce feels the advantages of the improved agriculture of their northern neighbours, and enjoys a warmth and temperature of air unknown in former ages.'

The second chapter contains remarks upon the landed and commercial policy of the Britons ander the Roman government: It is beyond a doubt, that the conquest of this country by the Romans contributed greatly to its civilization. Whether it was that the Romans regarded the offices of huf- . bundry as servile, or that this employment was best calculated to kecp the people in febjcction, it seems to be certain, as


our author obferves, that agriculture was enforced in the different provinces of the empire. The advancement of this art in Britain, under the government of the Romans, appears to be faithfully described by the author, in the following extract.

• The Roman colonists, who settled in Britain, would undoubtedly apply themselves to the cultivation of the lands in their neighbourhocd, and endeavour to teach the natives by example their own mode of husbandry, as far it was applica to the soil and climate. But the number of colonists was too finall to bave an extensive influence. Equal benents arose from the legions, which were quartered in different parts of the island. As soon as the natives were reduced to submillion, the foldiers would either till, or oblige them to aflist in tilling, the adjacent lands, in order to supply themselves with better

provisions than the coarse food of the inhabitants. In process of time, villages were built near there military stations; and such of the natives, as chose to imitate the manners of the Romans, put themselves under their protection, and cultivated their lands in greater security froin the inroads of their countrymen than they could in many other places. And, for the better protection of the people, the troops were quartered in such parts as were best adapted for maintaining the internal peace and tranquillity of the provinces. As many Britons had retired into Wales and the northern parts of the illand, and annoyed both the Romans and their countrymen by their incursions, the military forces were so disposed as to guard against them in the most effectual manner. The legions ftationed at Glouceiter, Chellery and Carlisle, and the walls and ramparts thrown up by Adrian and Severus, are instances of the care they took io preserve domestic tranquillity.'

In the third chapter, the author delineates the landed and commercial policy of England, under the Anglo-Saxon government. This period introduced a great revolution in the landed property and manners of the Britons. It seems to have rather encouraged than diminished an attention to agriculcure, though those who chiefly cultivated this useful art were loaded with many opprefive duties and exactions.

· Landed property, fays our author, being confidered by the Saxons as of no other use than as the means of supplying them with provisions, and the common neceffaries of life, without being obliged to purchase them of others, it was disposed of in such a manner as to answer these ends by dividing it into small parcels, and exacting a sum of money, or a portion of the product, from some tenants, and labour, or particular lervices, from others. The demesnes of the lords and gentry were commonly sufficient to furnith thein with corn and cattle for the maintenance of their families; and other parts of their estates were disposed of on fuch terms as to {upply chem with carriages


and labourers. To some tenants a small portion of land was granted, in consideration of working particular days for their landlord; others were bound to carry out the manure to his demesne-lands; to reap, mow, or carry his corn or hay; to shoe his horses, and find the iron; to fence a few yards of his park, or to fetch timber from the woods; to supply him with a quantity of honey or malt; to carry his provisions when he travelled, or a particular times to treat his steward or bailiff. In short, every tenant, according to his circumstances, was obliged to lend allistance to his landlord. The ceorles affifted him with their plows and carriages, and the cottagers and serfs with their labour. Whenever these forts of tenants were obliged to attend, it was commonly fixed, how many hours they should work, and how much they should pay for the neglect ; what quantity of meat or drink should be allowed, and at what times they should work without any gratuity. Sometimes particular days were appointed for their attendance, and at other times they were obliged to attend on the summons of the bailiff,'

In the fourth chapter the author prosecutes the subject, from the Norman conquest to the succesfion of Henry the Third. From the extraordinary passion for the chace, which so much actuated the princes of the Norman line, the agriculture of England appears to have derived no advantage, in consequence of tais revolution ; and her commerce, which had been flowly advancing under the Saxon government, was yet impeded by great encumbrances.

In every country, says our author, where honour and re. spect are annexed only to the profesion of arms, trade will be looked upon as disgraceful to the gentry, and consigned to Jews, usurers, and the lowest of the people. And, if coinmerce had been a morc creditable employment, it could not flourish under the arbitrary exactions of the monarchs of those times, who assumed a sovereign jurisdiction over all its branches, and frequently seized che merchandise of the subjects or aliens without distinction. The duties or cultoms ievied on goods imported or exported were, for some time after the Conqueft, in a great measure undetermined, and collected by officers, who sometimes plundered, instead of protecting the merchants. Through intereit or bribes, a licence to trade might be obtained from the crown by particular persons; and if a few were enriched by the grant, the industry of others was proportionably discouraged. So far was commerce thought to be at the disposal of the kiny, or under the controul of his chicers, that it was dangerOus to intermeddle in any of its branches without having obtained leave, by a fine or a prelent. Every privilege relative to trade was exposed to fale, anu might be obtained for å vaTuable confideration. And traffic, even in the inot necessary articles, was under great restrictions. The people were com

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »