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National Progress (continued)

National Progress (continued) - Foreign Commerce - Necessity of Free Trade - Exports and Imports - Our Commerce with Africa - The Slave Trade - Our Commerce with India - Monopoly of the East India Company - The Coffee Trade - London Coffee-houses - China; the Tea Trade - Tea Duties - Currency - Coin - Inadequacy of a Metallic Currency - Paper Money - The Bank of England - Joint Stock Banks - The Public Revenue - The National Debt - Terminable Annuities - National Income and Expenditure - Cost of the National Defences - The Sinking Fund- Progress of the National Debt - Stocks - Paying Power of the English Nation - Its Sources - Work - Increase of Houses - Number and Cost of Domestic Servants - Carriages - Horses - Consumption of Candles - Property Insured against Fire - Life Insurance - Legacy and Probate Duties - Investments in House Property - The Value of Real Property rated for Income Tax - Savings Banks.
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No matter how active, skilful, and persevering the people of these islands might be, they could not exist in such numbers without foreign commerce. The vast hives of national industry, unless the bees went abroad and collected their stores throughout the nations of Europe, each bringing home his share and contributing his part to the general sum of wealth and enjoyment, would soon exhaust the means of subsistence. No country has such advantages for foreign commerce as England, and it must be confessed that those advantages have been turned to account with great success, notwithstanding the restrictive laws with which our trade was trammelled for so long a period. With a limited extent of soil to be cultivated, we must always be dependent upon foreign countries for a large portion of the articles we consume, and especially for bread, the staff of life. The permanent supply of our wants must therefore be secured by the extension of our commercial relations with countries whose interest it shall be to supply us with the productions that we need, and to take from us the productions that we have to sell. We therefore have at length arrived at the conclusion upon which the national mind rests as upon a solid, immovable basis, that free trade is our true policy; that, in fact, it is essential to our national well-being; and that no man of sound sense can ever more think of returning to the same system of protection which everybody now sees to be a device for giving high prices to a class of home-producers, by enhancing the cost of living to the great mass of the community, intercepting the bounty of Providence, and artificially limiting the supply of the necessaries of life.

In 1820 our imports of foreign and colonial merchandise were valued at £32,000,000; our exports of foreign and colonial merchandise at £10,000,000; and our exports of British and Irish produce and manufactures at £38,000,000. In 1840 these sums had respectively increased to £67,000,000, £13,000,000, and £102,000,000, setting aside odd numbers. From 1831 to 1840 the average annual exports of British produce and manufactures was £45,000,000, while in the nine subsequent years it was near £56,000,000. From 1830 onwards the value of our exports to France increased six-fold, notwithstanding the jealous system of protection that prevails in that country. The sphere of our commercial operations was being continually enlarged from year to year, and the enterprise of our merchants was continually opening up fresh markets in distant parts of the world. The value of the exports of British and Irish produce in 1820 was as follows: - To Northern Europe, £11,000,000; to Southern Europe, £7,000,000; to Africa, £393,000.; to Asia, nearly £4,000,000; to the United States of America, nearly £4,000,000; to the British North American Colonies and the West Indies, £5,750,000; to Central and South America, including Brazil, £3,000,000. The total value of our exports to foreign countries, and to our colonies in that year, was £36,000,000. In 1840 we exported the following quantities, which, it will be seen, show a large increase: - To Northern Europe, about £12,000,000; to Southern Europe, £9,000,000; to Africa, £1,500,000; to Asia, £9,000,000; to the United States, £5,250,000; to the British North American Colonies, £6,500,000; to the foreign West Indies, £1,000,000; to Central and Southern America, including Brazil, £6,000,000; total, £51,000,000: showing an increase of £15,000,000 in the annual value of our exports to foreign countries during twenty years.

The reader cannot fail to be struck with the small amount of our exports to Africa. During the five years ending 1844, it did not reach £5,000,000, the half of which went to the British settlements on the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cape Coast Castle, and Accra. In a district embracing, between the Gambia and Angola, nearly 4,000 miles of coast, and containing at least 30,000,000 of inhabitants, the quantity of British manufactures consumed was not more than £200,000 per annum. The African population is no doubt in a semi-barbarous state, but this is inevitable, from the utter insecurity of life and property arising chiefly from the slave trade. The land lies waste because those who would be disposed to cultivate it could never count upon reaping what they sowed. They could not even venture abroad into the fields without being liable to be captured, carried off, and sold as slaves. The natives are willing enough to trade with us, and the resources of large tracts of the country are of the richest description. But our merchant vessels had no chance in competing with the slave traders, for when one of the latter appeared off the coast, all industrial occupations were stopped, and bands of marauders went into the country to seize all the members of neighbouring tribes they could lay hold upon, in order to sell them. Were law and order established, were life and property protected, Africa would furnish a boundless field for commerce, and we should be able to see realised in our day the almost fabulous productiveness of ancient times, when Africa possessed regular and powerful governments. Mr. Layard has said, "The Delta of the Niger alone, if cleared and cultivated, would support a population in proportion to its area far exceeding anything known in Europe. Its square surface is equal to the whole of Ireland; it is intersected in all directions by navigable branches of the parent stream, forming so many natural channels for communication; it is altogether composed of the richest alluvial soil, which now teems with a rank, luxuriant vegetation, comprising all the varieties of the palm-tree, besides teak-wood, cedar, ebony, mahogany, and dye-woods. The sugar-cane grows wild in the bush, and the palm-nut rots upon the ground, unheeded and neglected. The population of this Delta, I should consider, does not exceed half a million." Yet our commerce with this rich district, so happily formed by nature for a great commercial emporium, does not exceed, as Mr. Porter remarks, the value of the eggs sent from Ireland to the single port of Liverpool. The cultivation of cotton is specially adapted not only to the soil and climate, but to the nature and habits of the negro population. So that England has the greatest possible interest in the extension of Christian civilisation and good government in Africa.

Our commerce with India increased during the half century terminating at the commencement of the present reign to the extent of nearly 200 per cent., while the opening of the trade with China gave a great impulse to our important commerce with that part of the world. The East India Company's charter expired in 1834, and then, for the first time, a distinction was made between the exports to India and China. The declared value of English manufactures exported to China in 1834 was £800,000; in 1836 it was £1,250,000. In several subsequent years it was much lower than this, but it reached about double that amount in 1844 and 1845. The monopoly of the East India Company always crippled our trade with the East, and it is only now, when freedom and good government are so rapidly developing the resources of the country, and creating a prosperity never known in that part of the world before, that we can fully conceive the paralysing power of the incubus that rested so long upon our Indian empire. A discriminating duty of 28s. per cwt., or, 50 per cent., was imposed upon coffee grown in British India, for the benefit of the West Indian planters. The effect of the reduction in 1825 was to increase the consumption of coffee, in six years, from 8,000,000 lb. to 22,000,000 lb. " The price of fine Jamaica coffee, which at the time the duty was reduced was about 90s. per cwt., advanced, through the demands of the consumers, to 125s. per cwt., but without producing any increased production. The quantity annually imported of British plantation coffee, in the five years that preceded the reduction of the duty in 1825, averaged 30,280,360 lb.; and the average quantity imported in the five years from 1832 to 1836, reached only 19,812,160 lb., being a reduction of 34 per cent, in the supply, notwithstanding the inability of the West India planters to keep pace with the wants of the English consumers. In September, 1835, our tariff was so far modified, that coffee imported from the British possessions in India, if accompanied by a certificate of its being the actual produce of those possessions, was admitted to consumption on payment of the same rate of duty as British plantation coffee. The quantity of East India coffee taken for consumption while the duty remained at 9d. per lb. advanced, because of the increasing price of West India coffee, from about 300,000 lb. per annum to about 1,500,000 lb. The assimilation of the rates of duty did not take effect until two-thirds of 1835 had elapsed; but in that year the consumption of East India coffee advanced to 5,596,791 lb., and in 1837 reached 9,114,793 lb."

In 1824 the consumption of coffee in the United Kingdom was 8,250,000 lb., and the duties were - on foreign coffee, 2s. 6d. per lb.; East India, Is. 6d.; British West India, Is. per lb. In the same year the consumption was - of foreign coffee, 1,540 lb.; East India, 313,000 lb.; West India, about 800,000 lb. In the following year, Mr. Huskisson reduced the duties on these several kinds to Is. 3d., 9d., and 6d., respectively, which caused a rapid increase in the consumption. In 1840 the consumption was - of East and West India, 14,500,000 lb.; and of foreign, 14,000,000 lb. In 1821, 7,250,000 lb. of coffee were consumed by fourteen millions of people in Great Britain. In 1841, 27,250,000 lb. were consumed by eighteen and a half millions of people. In the former year the duty per lb. on British plantation coffee was Is., and the sum contributed per head to the revenue was 6d.; in the latter year the duty was 6d., and the sum contributed per head to the revenue was 10½d. - a striking illustration of the bad policy of high duties, looking only to the revenue even, without reference to the privations which they inflict upon the people. In 1835 the duty on coffee consumed in the United Kingdom was £652,000. Chicory has also become an important article of commerce in this country. In 1840 the quantity of raw chicory retained for home consumption was nearly 4,000 cwt., its value being 9s. 6d. per cwt., and the duty 20s. per cwt. In the early part of the present century there was scarcely a coffee-house in London to which the humbler classes could resort, or where a cup of this exhilarating beverage could be had for less than 6d. In 1844 the number of coffee-houses in London was above 600, in some of which from 700 to 800 persons a day were supplied, at the rate of Id. per cup, and in others from 1,500 to 1,600 persons were served at l½d. a cup. All these houses were well supplied with daily and weekly newspapers, and with magazines and other publications, for the use of those who frequented them; so that for two or three pence a working man might get his cup of coffee, a roll of bread, and the reading of the public journals, being thus put upon a level in point of facilities for obtaining information with regard to current history with the wealthiest men in the land.

The tea trade with China was used by the East India Company for the purpose of enriching itself, by an enormous tax upon the British consumer. During one hundred years it ranged from 2s. to 4s. in the pound excise duty, with a customs duty of 14 per cent., down to a total minimum duty of 12J per cent. The former duty was estimated at 200 per cent, on the value of the common teas. The effect, as might be expected, was an enormous amount of smuggling. The monopoly of the company was abolished; it was made lawful for any person to import tea by 'William IV., cap. 85; and the trade was opened on the 22nd of April, 1834. The ad valorem duties were abolished, and all the bohea tea imported for home consumption was charged with a customs duty of Is. 6d. per lb.; congou, and other teas of superior quality, were charged 2s. 2d. per lb., and some 3s. per lb. In 1836 these various duties gave place to a uniform one of 2s. Id. per lb., which, with the addition of 5 per cent., imposed in 1840, continued till 1851, when the penny was removed. In 1853 the duty was lightened, with a view to its permanent reduction to Is. in the pound in 1856. The Russian war interfered with this plan, and caused a rise from Is. 6d. to Is. 9d., but in 1857 this war duty was again reduced to Is. 5d. Since that year further reductions have from time to time been made, and now (1872) the duty is 6d. in the pound. During the last year of restricted trade (1833), our aggregate importations amounted to 32,000,000 lbs.; during the first year of free trade, they bounded up to 44,000,000 lbs.; and in 1856 they had attained 86,000,000 lbs. The average price of tea per lb., including duty, in 1834, was 4s. 4d. In 1821 the total quantity of tea imported into Great Britain was upwards of 31,000,000 lbs., and its value £1,873,886; in 1834 the quantity was about 35,000,000 lbs., and the value about £2,000,000. The change of habits among the British people with regard to diet may be inferred from the increased consumption of tea during a century» In 1760, 7,000,000 people consumed 3,861,000 lbs. of tea; in 1859, 28,900,000 people consumed 76,300,000 lbs. of tea. Of all the nations of the East, the Chinese are the most addicted to traffic. The Middle Kingdom has been described as, throughout its length and breadth, a perpetual fair. The annual value of our direct trade with that empire is about £12,000,000. This is but a small amount compared with what it will be when freedom of intercourse is completely established, in pursuance of the treaty of Tien-tsin. It is a strange anomaly that, with all this busy traffic, the Chinese have no coinage, except the copper tchen, or cash, which is not a tenth of a penny; and all but the most trifling payments are made either in foreign money or by the weight of silver.

The vast commercial transactions daily and hourly carried on by the people of the United Kingdom require a circulating medium adapted to their magnitude, and capable of expanding according to the requirements of society. We can scarcely conceive it possible that business could be conducted among us on the Chinese plan of weighing the precious metals in paying for goods, or in bartering one commodity for another. Still less could we suppose it possible to conduct the commerce of the country according to the primitive methods of nations in the earlier stages of civilization, who endeavoured to establish a rude standard of value by the number of the skins of wild animals, or the number of cattle. Pecunia is derived from pecus, which seems to prove that cattle had been the primitive money of the Romans, as they undoubtedly were that of the ancient Germans, whose laws uniformly fixed the amount of the penalties to be paid for offences in cattle. Cam was also used to represent money in ancient nations. Salt is said to be used in Abyssinia as the standard, and dried fish in Iceland. Pieces of leather, shells, nails, and various other things, have been agreed upon as representatives of value and mediums of exchange, by which, in the early stages of society, men might get for goods they did not want something that would enable them to purchase goods they did want. For example, the shoemaker wants bread for the support of his family, and is ready to give shoes in exchange, but the baker does not want shoes; therefore the shoemaker must obtain for his goods something which the baker does want, and this something must be available to purchase anything that he may require for conducting his business or supporting his family. The need of a medium to supersede the necessity of barter, which would never do in a civilised state of society, with innumerable artificial wants and complicated relations, was universally felt; therefore there must be a medium of exchange, a circulating standard of value, which has been called currency. The materials selected for this purpose must be intrinsically valuable, durable, portable. These purposes are best answered by gold, silver, and copper, which all civilised nations have agreed to cut up in bits, and stamp with a certain value, being of known weight and fineness of quality. In order to secure these objects, the state has taken upon itself the duty of assaying, shaping, and stamping the metal, and issuing it from the Mint. Coining of money by private parties is treated as a crime against the sovereign, to whom the coin of the realm technically belongs. Formerly, this mode of robbing society was punished with death; now the penalty is mitigated, and therefore more certainly inflicted.

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Pictures for National Progress (continued)

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