Page images

valour. An expedition, led by the sheriff of Mecca in 1794, was not more successful. The Atubis, the most powerful of the tribes who inhabit the coast, have adopted the tenets of the Wahebis, and controul the navigation of the Persian Gulph. The holy shrine at Carbela, where the pious Moslems annually wept the untimely death of the sons of Ali, was attacked by the Wahebis in 1802, the tombs destroyed, and the town ransacked.

The force of the Wahebis is very confiderable, probably eighty or ninety thousand. Whenever an expedition is undertaken, the chiefs are directed to be at a certain place by fuch a time: and it is fo contrived, that a large body fhall meet at a particular fpot, without knowing the defigns of their leader. This force is generally mounted on camels, and their arms are chiefly a fword and a spear. They have few guns or matchlocks; thofe which they have are very bad.

Since finishing this, intelligence has been received, of their having attacked and plundered Taif, Mecca, and Medina. They have, in confequence, violated the facred law, which forbids armed men approaching within a certain distance of the temple.

They have thus deftroyed the foundation itone of Mohamedanism: and this mighty fabric, which at one period bade defiance to all Europe, falls, on the firft attack, at the feet of an Arab reformer. The event may make a great change in the Mohamedan world; for it ap pears to me almost certain, that the pilgrimages to Mecca have had Bearly as great an effect in fupporting this religion, as the firft victories and conquefts of Mohamed.

At my laft vifit to Bufhir (1804), I heard the intelligence of Abdul Aziz having been affaffinated. '

Nearly a third part of this publication is occupied in criticisms and specimens of Persian poetry, with parallel passages sometimes subjoined from Virgil and Horace. But the European reader can judge of the merit of Ferdusi and Hafiz, only through the medium of Mr Champion's verse, or Mr Waring's prose; whilst the Italian muse appears in the mellifluous harmony of her native numbers. To render the comparison at all just, Mr Waring should have translated the passages he quotes from the Roman poets, into English prose. The inferiority of the former would certainly prove less striking.


We by no means feel disposed, on this occasion, to discuss the comparative merits of the poets of the East and West. ever may be the charms of Persian poetry, the language is not likely ever to be studied by the literati of Europe; and their poets will, consequently, never be properly appreciated. To translate poetry, the translator must be himself a poet. There is, certainly, no Persian work of considerable length, which can command admiration as a whole; but we will venture to affirm, that numerous passages may be selected from the best writers, which will stand a comparison with those of any other nation.

E 4


But whence comes it that their beauties vanish the moment they are transfused into a different language? Do they consist less in the thought than in a singular felicity of expression, which unquestionably constitutes the charm of poetry, as much as the idea it conveys? May it not be asked, whether we should be very ardent admirers of Virgil or Horace, if we knew those writers only through the translations of Trapp or Creech? It is probable the Persian poets may not have been even so fortunate.

Though we have not been able to bestow high commendations on this publication, it has left us a favourable impression of the talents of its author. Should he ever happen to suspect that knowledge is not to be acquired by intuition, nor nations judged. of as individuals, and that to doubt and to inquire, is at least as philosophic as to decide and dogmatise, his future productions will certainly be deserving of attention, from persons whom the subject may happen to interest.

ART. V. The Substance of the Speech delivered in the Committee of Finance, 29. January 1807, by the Right Honourable Lord Henry Petty. With the necessary Tables, and an Appendix, containing the Plans of Lord Castlereagh and Mr Johnston. 8vo. pp. 116. London, 1807.

As the wants of the State, whatever may be their extent, must

be fully supplied; and as they can only be supplied by contributions levied on the internal resources of the country, our readers will readily conceive, that the skill of the financier must be displayed, not in removing, but in palliating the evils of taxation, not in really lightening a load, which must be borne in its full extent, but in rendering it more tolerable, by a more equal distribution of its pressure. There is no way but one, either of borrowing money, or of paying debt. It is quite chimerical, therefore, to expect that any real saving can accrue to the public from those arrangements of finance, which consist merely in blending, or in combining, those very simple operations. Their object, indeed, is not to save, but to modify and regulate,-either to relieve the existing generation, by drawing on the more ample resources of a future age, or to relieve posterity at the expense of the existing generation. If the expenditure of a state is at any time increased much beyond its usual rate, from the frequent occurrence of war, or from any other unforeseen emergence, it would be obviously most unjust to load one generation beyond its strength, and entirely to relieve posterity from burdens, which are imposed as much for their benefit and security, as for that of

their forefathers. It would be also very inexpedient; because the weight which, if laid on all at once, would crush the prosperity of a country, may be so divided and lightened, by being gradually increased, as to allow its growing resources freely to expand, and the fund from which future exertions must be made, to be proportionally enlarged, so as to meet with ease the pressure even of heavier demands. It is the great and distinguishing excellence of the funding system, that it enables the statesman to levy contributions on future ages, and thus furnishes him with ample resources for the execution of great designs; and though in its excess it may degenerate into an intolerable grievance, and may even strike at the root of national prosperity, yet, in its milder operation, it does not in any great degree retard the advancement of a thriving country. It lops off only the redundant branches, while the massy trunk, untouched and unimpaired, is left to renew, for a future age, its fresh and more abundant foliage.

It must be confessed, however, that by furnishing an easy method of raising present supplies, the funding system may tempt the indolence or the rashness of statesmen to carry it to too great a length. It is evident, that if the debt of a nation be regularly and rapidly increasing, so that in each successive year it becomes necessary to mortgage a greater proportion of its annual revenue, the period must arrive sooner or later, when it will be impossible to make any further addition to its burdens. In these circumstances, however strongly any measure may be recommended by considerations of public utility, yet, if it increases the expenses of the state, it cannot be adopted without the certainty, or at least the imminent hazard, of national bankruptcy. The most effectual, and indeed the only method of guarding against this calamity, is to establish, at the period when the debt is first contracted, a fund for its final redemption; and thus, while the resources of posterity are freely anticipated, at the same time to provide the certain means of their future relief. The design of the funding system is to lighten the burden of an uncommonly heavy expenditure, by extending it over a succession of generations; while the system of sinking funds fixes a period for the discharge of these incumbrances, and thus prevents any one generation from being overwhelmed by the consolidated debt of ages. By invariably combining the expedient of borrowing with the practice of establishing a sinking fund for the redemption of debt, the extremes of two opposite systems are in a manner tempered and balanced; we are enabled to avoid the inconveniences peculiar to each, and to avail ourselves of all their advantages, without any of their evils.

In almost every state where the funding system has been adopted,


it has been abused. Statesmen have considered it as an easy way of raising present supplies; and they have troubled themselves very little about the consequences to which they must have perceived it would lead. In Britain, after a few feeble and fruitless attempts to check the undue increase of the national debt, our provident ancestors seem to have consigued the interests of posterity to utter oblivion. They appear to have imagined that the national debt was a sort of sacred inheritance, which, along with our rights and liberties, it was their duty to transmit unimpaired to their children. It is true, indeed, that in the system of finance pursued immediately after the revolution, various expedients were devised for preventing an indefinite increase of this debt. The partial system of redemption adopted at that time, was however naturally relinquished for the more comprehensive scheme of a general fund established in 1716 by Sir Robert Walpole, and rendered applicable to the discharge of the whole debt. The history of this fund is well known; it was encroached upon, on every real or fancied emergence, till it was at last wholly alienated from its original purpose. No attempt was afterwards made to limit the amount of the national debt till the year 1786, when the annual sum of one million was set apart for that purpose. In 1792, 200,000l. was voted to be annually added to it; and another sinking fund was established of 1 per cent. on all future loans. Both those sinking funds amounted, on the 5th February 1807, to about 8,339,7091.

In order till further to afflift the effect of these falutary meafures, Mr Pitt adopted the refolution of raifing part of the fupplies within the year; this refolution he carried into effect by means of an increase in the affeffed taxes. By this plan, aided by woluntary contributions, a fum of 6,030,0ool. was railed within the year 1797. In 1798 the income-tax was fubftituted in its stead, which it was fuppofed would more effectually accomplish the object of the former meafure. Since the year 1797, when the principle of raifing the fupplies within the year was firit adopted, it has been carried to a much greater extent. In addition to the income or property-tax, other taxes have been impofed, by which the war-taxes have been brought up to the immenfe fum of 21,000,000l. It is poffible, however, that this fyftem, affifted as it is by the constantly increasing action of the finking fund, may be pushed too far, and may ultimately prefs too heavily on the growing refources of the country. The plan of finance brought forward by Lord Henry Petty feems to be framed with a view to guard against this evil. It is calculated to relieve the prefent generation, and to throw proportionally a greater burden on pofteriy. This is alfo the object of the funding fyftem; but the prefent


plan is an extenfion of that fyftem; it carries it a step further. By the funding fyftem, the principal is borrowed, and taxes are laid on to pay the intereft; by Lord Henry Petty's plan, both principal and intereft are borrowed, and taxes are only impofed to pay the intereft of a fum equal to the intereft of the principal, i. e. the intereft of the intereft. It is evident that this fyftem can only afford a temporary refpite from taxation. By borrowing the interest at present, we can only hope to delay its payment till a more convenient feafon. The circumftances of a country may, however, render it expedient to have recourfe to measures of this


When we confider the prefent fituation of Britain, we cannot hefitate as to the expediency, if not the neceflity, of preventing, as far as poffible, any further addition to her burdens. We do not think that in this country taxation can be carried much further without degenerating into a fyftem of the moft vexatious and grinding oppreffion. The taxes on luxurious confumption, which are in every refpect the most eligible, and the leaft oppreffive, feem to have reached their natural limit. Almost all commodi→ ties pay about double or triple their original value in taxes; every transfer of property, all the general transactions of commerce, and even particular profeffions, are taxed. No new tax of any confequence can be propofed by the minifter on confumable commodities without the certainty of its encountering a moft formidable oppofition. In fome cafes taxes are either greatly modified, or relinquished without any attempt to carry them into effect; and even when they are perfifted in, the experience of their impropriety, or inefficiency, often renders their repeal neceffary. With all these facts before us, it feems very doubtful whether the taxes which we have already impofed on confumption admit of any confiderable augmentation. It is only when taxation prefles lightly on a country, when it rather follows than precedes its increafing wealth, that an increase in the exifting duties can be expected to produce any thing like a proportional increase of revenue to the state. When confumable commodities are already very heavily taxed, any confiderable addition to the duties which they pay, instead of yielding an increafe, would moft probably fo far diminish confumption as to occasion a defalcation of revenue.

The difficulty of drawing any additional revenue from taxes on confumption, plainly appears from the change which of late years has been introduced into our fyftem of taxation. Great part of the fupplies which are required for the prefent exigencies of the ftate, are raised by direct and compulfory taxes, to which we are perfuaded no minifter would willingly refort if any other refource remained. Befides a variety of other taxes, which have more or

« PreviousContinue »