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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

309 Sidenote 1730 The Sinking Fund Walpole was


{309}

style="text-align: justify;">[Sidenote: 1730--The Sinking Fund]

Walpole was, as we have said more than once, the first of the great financier statesmen of England. He was the first statesman who properly appreciated the virtue and the value of mere economy in the disposal of a nation's revenues. He was the first to devise anything like a solid and symmetrical plan for the fair adjustment of taxation. Sometimes he had recourse to rather poor and common-place artifices, as in the case of his proposal to meet a certain financial strain by borrowing half a million from the Sinking Fund. This proposal he carried by a large majority, in spite of the most vehement and even furious opposition on the part of the Patriots. It must be owned that the Patriots were right enough in the principle of their objection to this encroachment on the Sinking Fund, although their predictions as to the ruin it must bring upon the country were preposterous. Borrowing from a sinking fund is always rather a shabby dodge; but it is a trick familiar to all statesmen in difficulties, and Walpole did no worse than many statesmen of later days, who, with the full advantages of a sound and well-developed financial system, have shown that they were not able to do any better.

The Patriots seem to have made up their minds to earn their title. They fought the "Court," or Ministerial, party on a variety of issues. They supported motions for

the reduction of the numbers of the army, and they declaimed against the whole principle of a standing army with patriotic passion, which sometimes appeared for the time quite genuine. They brought illustrations of all kinds, applicable and inapplicable, from Greek and Roman, from French and Spanish history, even from Eastern history, to show that a standing army was invariably the instrument of despotism and the forerunner of doom to the liberties of a people. The financial policy of the Government gave them frequent opportunities for using the sword of the partisan behind the fluttering cloak of the patriot. On both sides of the House there was considerable confusion of ideas on the subject of political economy {310} and the incidence of taxation. Walpole was ahead of his own party as well as of his opponents on such subjects; his followers were little more enlightened than his antagonists.

[Sidenote: 1732--The American colonies]

In 1732 there was presented to the House of Commons an interesting report from the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations on "the state of his Majesty's colonies and plantations in America, with respect to any laws made, manufactures set up, and trade carried on there, which may affect the trade, navigation, and manufactures of this kingdom." From this report we learn that at the time there were three different systems of government prevailing in the American colonies. Some provinces were immediately under the administration of the Crown: these were Nova Scotia, New Hampshire, the Jerseys, New York, Virginia, the two Carolinas, Bermuda, Bahama Islands, Jamaica, Barbadoes, and the Leeward Islands. Others were vested in proprietors--Pennsylvania, for example, and Maryland--and the Bahamas and the two Carolinas had not long before been in the same condition. There were three Charter Governments,


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