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rance of the nation, pursuing this im- quire what are the claims of public portant object with undeviating steadi- faith which we owe to the stock, Dess, have at length completely sure holders, and what the conditions on mounted it ; and I have the pleasure which the public debt has been conto refer the committee to accounts tracted. The debt contracted preupon their table, which prove that a viously to 1792, was raised without sum equal to the total capital of the any condition of repayment whatever, debt existing in 1786 has been re- the government being bound only to deemed. I mean, that the sums pur. the punctual payment of the interest, chased by the commissioners, or trans, and left to consult its own discretion ferred to them, exceed the amount of or convenience with respect to the the debt existing in 1786; for this is discharge of the principal.This debt, the only mode in which the redemp- however, I contend is now wholly distion of the old debt can ever be ascer- charged ; and that which now exists tained, the new loans having been has been contracted since the passing contracted in old funds, and no dis- of the act of 1792, and subject to its tinction kept up between the earlier provisions. Under these the stock, and later creditors of the public. If holder has perhaps no real right, as any further circumstance could be he has voluntarily subscribed his stock wanting to prove that the people of into the old funds which have no conthis country have at the present time ditions of redemption, but he has un the fairest title to any relief which can doubtedly a just expectation that the be afforded, consistently with the ex, terms of redemption pointed out in act observance of public faith, and that act shall be adhered to. due attention to permanent security, “ Those terms are, that provision it will be found in the extraordinary shall be made for the repayment of the exertions they have made to prevent capital of all debts subsequently conThe accumulation of public debt. In. tracted, within 45 years from its creastead of shifting the burden from tion, either by the specific appropriathemselves, and throwing it upon pos- tion of one per cent. upon such capiterily, they have nobly and manfully tal, or in any other mode which parliasupported the load of increasing diffi- ment may think fit. That this is the culties which the vicissitudes of this true interpretation of the act, I affirm eventful contest have thrown upon on the authority of the declarations them. To prevent the increase of and conduct of its illustrious author public debt, they have actually paid Mr Pitt, and of the resolutions and upwards of 200 millions in war taxes ; acts of the legislature itself. Of Mr a sum which considerably exceeds the Pitt's sentiments I can mention a very value of the debt existing in 1786. remarkable instance. It must be geThe publie have therefore a right to nerally recollected by those gentlemen claim the merit of having doubly re. who, eleven years ago, were members of deemed the origioal debt ; first, by its the House, that Mr Pitt strongly sup: actual repayment, and, secondly, byported the sinking fund act of 1802, the anticipated paymentof a still greater but it is not perhaps generally known sum which would otherwise have been that he was the original proposer of added to it. But whatever claims the that act. I speak this from public may now have on these grounds perfect knowledge, and there are other for relief, and with whatever imme. living witnesses, and I believe written diate advantage it might be attended, documents in proof of it. The act it becomes us more anxiously to en. originated in a suggestion of Me
Pitt to Lord Sidmouth, then chan. to the first of those passed by this cellor of the Exchequer ; and his first House on the 18th of May 1802, and suggestion went to this extent, that lately read at our table. On these not only no sinking fund should be resolutions an act was founded, which, provided upon the sums funded in that as well as the acts which established year, but after reserving so much of the loans to which I have just referthe sinking fund as should be sufficient red, clearly evinces the opinion of the on calculation to redeem the whole legislature, that the act of 1792 mere. debt at par within 45 years, the sur. ly required that provision should be plus, then amounting to above a mil. made for the redemption of debt lion, should be applied to the public within 45 years from its creation, service. After much discussion be leaving to the discretion of parliatween Mr Pitt and Lord Sidmouth, ment both the mode to be applied in at which I had the honour to assist, specific cases, and any subsequent vathe proposition was reduced to the riation of that mode, which, within more limited form in which it receiv. the limits prescribed, it may think ed the sanction of parliament. proper' to adopt.
“There could not be a more decisive « I shall now attempt to explain to declaration of Mr Pitt's opinion of the the committee how it appears to me true construction of the act, and it was that some immediate relief may be no less clearly shown by his public afforded to the public, without the conduct on other occasions. In con. smallest infringement of the provi. tracting several loans in 1798, 1799, sions of the act of 1792, which I and 1800, on the credit of the income- have detailed. Neither the act of tax, he made no provision for the im. 1786, nor that of 1792, contains any. mediate repayment of the principal, provision as to the mode in which but proposed to discharge it by the the debt, when purchased, shall be continuance of the income-tax in time cancelled or discharged, so as to reof peace, so long as might be neces. lieve the charge upon the consolidated sary. This shews that he viewed the fund. There are two modes in which provision for repayment within 45 this might be carried into effect. The years rather with regard to probabi. first would be, that, supposing any lity and practice than to that extreme number of successive loans to be cona nicety and rigour which is sometimes tracted, a proportion of sinking fund insisted on ; for it was clearly possi. should, according to the present prac- , ble that the war might outlast 45 tice, be attached to cach, and should years, and in that case no provision continue to accumulate at compound whatever would have been made for interest until the whole of such loan the redemption ; but Mr Pitt viewing should be discharged by its excluthe subject as a wise and great states- sive operation, and thus that the reman, according to the probabilities of demption of each should be sepa. human affairs, thought it sufficient to rately and independently effected. make such provision as any reasonable This is understood to be the mode and practical man would think ade- established by law under the operaquate to its purpose ; not looking to tion of the act of 1792, in some desuch cases as, though mathematically gree varied by that of 1802, but retrue, approached the extreme verge maining in force as to all loans conof possibility
tracted subsequently to the latter of “With respect to the resolutions of those years. It is evident, however, parliament, I shall beg leave to refer that as the funds are intermingled and consolidated, the stock created applicable to the large mass then exfor any particular portion of debt isting, and for the redemption of which cannot be distinguished, and the pur- no provision had before been made. chases are made indiscriminately. Any But the circumstances of the present separate loan can therefore no othera time afford a most advantageous opwise be redeemed than by purchasing, portunity of establishing a plan which with the sinking fund attached to it, would in the first instance have been an amount of stock equal to that which preferable. It is now only necessary was created in consequence of such a to declare that an amount of stock loan.
equal to the whole of the debt ex. “ The other mode, which would isting in 1786 has been redeemed, and have been equally consonant to the spi. that in like manner, whenever an a. rit of the act of 1792, would have been mount of stock equal to the capital to direct that the debt first contracted and charge of any loan raised since shall be deemed to be first paid off, 1792, shall be redeemed in its
proper and that the sinking fund created in order of succession, such loan shall be respect of any subsequent loan shall deemed and taken to be redeemed and be first applied to the discharge of satisfied. Every part of the system any prior loan then remaining unre. will then fall at once into its proper claimed, while the operation of the place; and we shall proceed with the per centage created for those earlier future redemption with all the advanloans should be continued for the re- tages which could have been derived demption of those subsequently con. from the original adoption of the mode tracted. By this means the loan first of successive instead of simultaneous contracted would be discharged at an redemption. Instead of waiting till earlier period, and the funds charged the purchase of the whole of the debt with the payment of its interest be. consolidated in 1802 shall be comcome applicable to the public service. pleted, that part of it which existed Thus in the event of a long war, a previously to 1792, will be considered considerable resource might accrue as already redeemed, and the subsedaring the course of the war itself, quent loans will follow in succession as every successive loan would contri- whenever equal portions of stock shall bute to accelerate the redemption of have been purchased. It is satisfacthose previously existing, and the to- tory to observe, that by a gradual and tal amount of charge to be borne by equable progress we shall still have the the public in respect of the public power of effecting the complete redebt, would be reduced to a narrower payment of the debt more speedily compass than in the other mode, in than by the present course.
I do not which a great number of loans would pronounce whether it will be wise to be co-existing. At the same time the persevere to that extent. It will be ultimate discharge of the whole debt for parliament to judge when the prowould be rather accelerated than re. per time arrives, which is yet at a contarded. The advantages of this mode siderable distance ; but we are doing of operation did not perhaps present our duty to posterity not only scruthemselves to Mr Pitt when framing pulously but liberally, while we not the arrangements of the sinking fund, only much more than satisfy the proin the prospect of a continuance of visions of the act of 1792, which re. peace, and with a very remote view of quires the redemption of the debt the ultimate redemption of the debt, within 45 years, but actually anticinor would it have been easily made pate that course of redemption--which
is now provided. The tables which large on the confidence it must give will be put into the hands of gentle- to our allies, and the despondency it men, will shew them that means are is calculated to impress on our eneprovided by the proposed plan of mies. But that which in my view effecting the total repayment of the renders it peculiarly valuable is, that existing debt from four to ten years, it is so far from being purchased by an and that of the future debt which accumulation of burdens on the sucmay be incurred, according to the ceeding years, that though its advanvarious suppositions assumed, from 14 tages may be very different in degree, to 17 years, sooner than by the laws according to the different cases sup: now in force. This statement is suffi- posed, yet it will in all, for several cient to shew how amply the proposed years to come, produce a very consi. plan is capable of satisfying the most derable diminution of charge. sanguine expectations of the nation “ Such are the general principles of with respect to the final discharge of the plan to which I beg to call the its debts, as well as the fair claims of most serious attention of the committhose who look to the execution of the tee, but not at present to press for its act of 1792, as the means of support- judgment. That it is free from obing the value of the public funds. Ijections I cannot bope, but I trust have mentioned the result of such that parliament will on mature consicalculations as are intended to be com- deration be convinced, as I am myself municated to the House ; other cases conscientiously persuaded, that they may be supposed by which the resultare such as bear no proportion to its may be varied in degree, but not in advantages. I can at least acquit mygeneral effect.
self of having hastily and rashly de. “ I have thus far attempted to ex
termined on a measure of this magplain the intended system to the com- nitude and importance.
It has for mittee, and to recommend it by its many months been the subject of my general and intrinsic advantages with- most anxious meditations, and of re. out displaying the immediate benefits peated and detailed discussions with of its adoption. Yet they are such those whom I thought most capable as must be highly satisfactory to par. of guiding my judgment; and I subliament, and of the greatest impor
mit it to the committee not without tance in the present situation of the great anxiety, but with the confidence country.
naturally Aowing from the most sin“ The immediate result of this sys- cere conviction. tem, simple as it may appear, and really “ I am fully aware, that in proposing is, will be equal to a subsidy of above any change in a system so justly reveone hundred millions. For four years red, and considered as the firmest hope to come, we may, on the supposition of the nation, I am incurring a great of the continuance of the war, hope to responsibility, but I also feel that I be obliged to impose no other taxes ought not to shrink from it, in the than such as are required to furnish prospect of performing a great public those additions to the sinking fund service. Many a gallant and worthy which I pointed out in the early part man has laid down his life to atchieve of my statement. I need not dwell a much less important service to his , upon the advantages of such a relief, country, than that of providing at
I need not explain its effects in raising such a moment the supplies necessary, the spirits and animating the exer- during four years, for the contest in tions of the nation. I need not en- which we are engaged. In the hope
of procuring this benefit to the pub- racter of parliament. The highest con
lic, I am willing to risk what many, siderations of public policy and public 1 to whom life is dearer than it is to justice were therefore equally involved
ne, have valued beyond their lives--I in the present discussion. The edifice mean that reputation and public con. of the sinking fund, which was thus to fidence which they have sought, and be pulled down, was perhaps the proudin some degree acquired, by a long est monument which was raised by the course of faithful, though imperfect virtues and genius of Mr Pitt to his service to the country. I am aware own fair fame, So it was held in his that my reputation is staked upon own estimation ; so it is held in the this plan; but God forbid that my estimation of his friends, and not only reputation, or that of any man, should of his friends, but of those who were be placed for a moment in competition his political enemies, and of the whole with the great public interests which world. are concerned. I only wish the House “ When Mr Pitt was called to the to deliberate maturely, and to decide head of affairs, and to the managewisely. Such information as has ap: ment of the finances at the close of peared to me necessary to enable gen- the American war, credit was at its ilemen to take a complete view of the lowest ebb, our revenues deplorably plan, will be put into their hands, and deficient, and our resources for ima if any further information should be proving them apparently exhausted. desired, I shall most readily lend my Yet such at that time were the real reassistance to furnish it.”
sources of the country, when properly. This plan was strenuously opposed called forth and wisely administered, by many members of the House ; and that in the year 1786, Mr Pitt was as the subject is of great national im- enabled, after making provision for portance, it will be proper to give an the interest of the public debt, and ample view of the leading arguments. for all the expenses of a peace esta.
« By adopting this plan, it was said, blishment, to set aside and appropriate we must incur the risk of losing the a surplus of income, amounting to One fruits of all the sacrifices which we have Million annually, as the foundation of made for the last twenty years ;--that a sinking fund for the redemption of we must lay ourselves open, not to the the then existing debt of 238 millions. mere possibility, but to the probable By the act of parliament which was and imminent danger (in the event of passed for this purpose, (26. Geo. a long continuance of the war) of un- III. cap. 31.) it was provided, that dermining, if not destroying alto. this sum of One Million should be laid gether, that system of public credit out either in the redemption of stock, which is the foundation of our pre. if at par, or, if under par, in the pur; sent safety and independence, and the chase of it in the open market at the Last support of that pre-eminent rank current price of the day ;-that the which we now maintain among the interest arising from all stock so renations of the world.
deemed should be added to the prin. “ There is another question, (it was cipal, and be laid out in the same mansaid), of a magnitude not inferior to ner, until by their joint accumulation this, which cannot be put out of sight at compound interest they should a. in the examination of these proposals, mount to the annual sum of four mil. -the maintenance of public faith, on lions ;-that when this sinking fund all occasions so essential to the honour had reached that amount, it should of the country, and in this instance continue from thenceforth to be laid more especially to the honour and cha. out at simple interest only, leaving