The Cause of the Present Threatened Famine

Of The Rresent
Threatened Famine
Traced to its Real Source,
An Actual Depreciation
on our
Circulating Medium,
Occasioned by
The Paper Currency, With Which
The War, The Shock Given to Public Credit in 1794,
The Stoppage of the Bank in 1797,
and the Bankruptcies of Hamburgh in 1799,
Inundated the Country, to Accommodate Government,
and Enable the Merchants to keep up the price
of their Merchandize.
Shewing, by and
Arithmetical Calculation,
Founded on Facts,
the extent, nay, the very mode of the Progress, which the Paper
system has made in reducing the People to Paupers.
With its only Apparent
Practicable Remedy.
By Common Sense,
author of the letter which appeared under that signuture in the
morning chronicle of September 17, on this subject.


[Page 5]

VERY man is conceive, bound to contribute his mite to the aggregate of general knowledge; more especially when any matter is in contemplation which is intended to soften the lot of the most necessitous of our fellow-creatures. From the collition of practical research many valuable truths, and many profound axioms of state policy, will be struck out. I look upon the discovery of anything which is true, as a valuable acquisition to society, which cannot possibly hurt or obstruct the good effect of any other truth whatsoever; for all truths partake of one common essence, and consequently must necessarily coincide with each other, and like the drops of rain which fall separately into the river, mix themselves at once with the stream, and strengthen the general current."

On a subject so deservedly and so universally complained of as the rapidly increasing dearness of things within the last century—within the last ten years in particular—it becomes the duty of every man to reason—to shew what he conceives to be the cause—and to point out what appears to him to be the remedy.

The subject divides itself into two parts—the cause and the remedy. The first of those , divisions subdivides itself again into two parts—the remote and immediate cause: a perfect know ledge of each is indispensably necessary as a preliminary to the [Page 6] application or choice of the remedy; otherwise we grapple in the dark, without any chance of success.


Perhaps there is nothing less generally known than this cause, and yet there is nothing more easy to be understood— it is the increase of our circulating medium, that has taken place within the last century; and the following circumstance proves' it. Dr. Price, on the authority of Dr. Davenant, says, p. 53. of his Essay on the Population of England, " Between the Restoration and Revolution, ten millions and a half was carried to the mint to be coined, and the current specie encreased to eighteen millions and a half."Thomas Paine, on whose authority I know not, says it amounted only to sixteen millions- The probability, I think, is, that neither of those authors are strictly correct; because I do not know how they can be so, considering all the circumstances that govern the case. I there fore, leaning to the authority of Dr. Price, steer a middle course, and take the circulating medium at the Revolution, or when the Bank was instituted, in 1694, for the express purpose of increasing its quantity, at eighteen millions. For this sum the produce of the country must have been exchanged ; and that for the best of all possible reasons—because there was no more to give in exchange for it, and for less it could not be exchanged.

This must be the case; because money is not made to lie useless in the coffers of its proprietors, but to be, by them selves, or those who pay them interest for it, employed in some way. Thus the price of things must invariably be fixed by the quantity of money, or what passes for money, in circulation.

In 1800 the necessaries of life are at least five to one dearer than they were at the Revolution; and there are men alive who knew the quarter loaf so low as four-pence in 1742 : it being now near five to one dearer necessarily proves that the circulating medium must have encreased five to one in quantity, that is, from £18,000,000 to £90,000,000: otherwise it [Page 7] would be impossible to pay five times more for the necessaries of life.

It is an axiom well understood by every dealer, whatever may be his commodity, that the quantity of every thing invariably governs its value: this is the law of nature in the case; and the dealers in money know it as well as any other set of dealers; for when a great quantity of money comes into the Stock Exchange market, it immediately falls in value, that is, the value of the stock rises, and more money must be given for the annuity. This fact establishes the idea of a depreciation on money, which must inevitably encrease or decrease according to the encrease or decrease of its quantity, and cannot 'do otherwise in any market, whether corn, hay, or cattle, where money is the purchasing medium: consequently what we call a rise of five to one within the last century, or two to one within the last ten years, upon the necessaries of life, is nothing but an actual depreciation to that amount in our circulating medium, which cannot be occasioned by any other means whatever but an increase of its quantity to that amount. In this depreciation the farmer, cornfactor, or [Page 8] baker, have no hand; they do not, because they dare not, make money; the right of coining, and issuing all the money, whether paper or specie, in circulation, being given by an express charter exclusively to the Bank.

It is evident, therefore, that Lord Kenyon and Mr. Erskine, as well as the public, are grossly mistaken in the supposition that the growers and dealers in the necessaries of life, or their mode of supplying the markets, are, in the first instance, the cause of what we are in the habit of calling the dearness of things;—properly speaking, the cheapness of money. Nor can a scarcity of those necessaries, or encrease of population, as falsely as it is without reflection asserted, be the cause of it; for if they were, it. would necessarily follow that the one has decreased, or the other encreased, five to one within the last century, and two to one within the last ten years, when naval armaments and a destructive war began to call forth the millions which have fine doubled the national debt, and, by necessary consequence, the money and paper in circulation. The absurdity of these supposed causes, therefore, refutes them, and conduct, as it were, those who make them, as well as those who prosecute monopolizers, to Downing and Thread needle Streets, there to be convinced of their error, and of the folly and cruelty of the hist ten years politics. Can those who [Page 9] are prosecuted and despised for the crime os monopoly prevent the depreciation of the currency, which alone gives the power to monopolize, and over the quantity of which they have no possible controul? Can the Bank and ministers throw their paper into circulation, and prevent its quantity from fixing its value? Nature will not allow it. Can monopolizers stop the circulation of Bank notes arid Exchequer bills? Ministers will not allow them. If they can, what would become of the minister's power to borrow loans? If they should, what would become of that national prosperity which is faid to rest upon the system of credit alone? They must fall: monopoly, there fore, being the natural offspring of taxation, and main fup port of this paper system, is therefore the first necessary link in the chain of our political institution which cannot be touched without bringing the fystem itfelf about our ears. Where, then, are our hopes?

But if the law, which virtually makes Bank notes legal pay ment, and tolerates the circulation of country bank bills, and consequently enables the Bank to bid defiance to the legal claims of its creditors, and to throw as much paper into circulation as it may think proper, or the minister may chuse to ask for, takes from the growers and 'dealers in the necessaries of life the power to stop its depreciation, by stopping its circulation ; and if a fenfe of national' profperity and individual advantage, as it is intended to do, forbid them to stop iti circulation, by what mode of reasoning, that does not deferve pity for its weakness, can the public indignation be directed against men who are but answering the very purpose of their privileges, and the real promoters of the evil be hid, as it were, from public notice ? Is there a design in hiding from the public view the first promoters of the evil ? If there is, it will prove as weak as the design of marching to Paris.

It is a right, hitherto deemed the inalienable birthright of Englishmen, on the exercife of which there is no restraint but the trifling and ineffectual regulations that are made in the mode of supplying the markets, by the laws against forestalling and regrating, that is, against purchasing the supplies, as in the case of Mr. Waddington, before they are in being—on [Page 10] the road, before they arrive at the market, as in the case of the two butchers of Newport Market—and against reselling on he same market day in the same market, as in the case of Rusby: but against the right of Mr. Waddington to purchase the whole hop-grounds of Kent, or the hops themselves—of the two butchers to purchafe the whole drove in Smithfield Market, or against the right of Mr. Rusby to purchase all the grain in Mark Lane in one market day, and to lay them by as long as they please, there is no law: yet with the power which the Bank is ready and authorized to give to those individuals, or any unseeling or daring speculator, whose monopoly is taken as a proof of national prosperity, can we persuade ourselves that any public good can result from the execution of those laws which can only prevent a certain mode of doing the mischief?

By a chain of incontrovertible facts, therefore, we are led, from link to link, to the Bank, which can make its millions in the smallest space of time—to the minister, who is under the necessity, from his own ambition or mistaken judgment, of creating monopolizers that he may borrow his millions, and millions to enable them to lend, as the remote cause of every oppression we feel from the dearness of things. But if the credit and state necessity, which gives birth to the paper money that supports war, creates the monopoly and consequent dearness, is necessary to national prosperity, what inference is to be drawn, but that the dearness itself is so too; and, of course, that the famissiing multitude delerves no pity, and therefore ought to be content with their lot? No medium can be drawn in this case; either the oppressive dearness of things is or is not necessary: if necessary, the cause of it ought to be encouraged;— and so it is: if unnecessary, it ought to be removed; but shall it? Otherwise it is physically impossible the effect can cease.


The whole of our knowledge is but a comparison of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. I shall therefore make a [Page 11] comparison, which, however destitute of elegance, cannot fail to convey my idea in a clear and comprehensive manner. I compare the Bank and ministers to the makers of the pikes which it is said the London Corresponding Society intended to use for the soul purpose of overturning the government; the money which they create I compare to the pikes themselves, and the monopolizers, who use it for the express purpose of monopolizing as much of the earth and its produce as their avarice and ambition may lead them to do, I think may be justly compared to the London Corresponding Society itself, which was to be the immediate agent in this diabolical purpose. In each of these comparative casess there are two active and one passive agent; judging, therefore, of the qualities of agents by their effect, as we do the tree by its fruit, and not by the mode in which they do good or harm, the comparison, however low, is just. The pike makers, the pike itself, and the pike users could do no more than create; public oppression—the money makers, money itself, and the money proprietors do the same thing, with the exception only in the mode of doing it. In the same sense of the word, therefore, and to the same degree, that the London Corresponding Society were criminal in the use they intended to make of the pikes, so are the monopolizers in the use they make of the money which the Bank and ministers put into their hands; the one intended to make use of pikes—the other actually make use of money to oppress. In this sense they are the immediate cause of every oppression that is felt from dearness. But are [Page 12] last ten years: his income, in consequence of this money, does not go above half as far as it then did, and famine threatens the great mass of productive labourers in the midst of plenty; therefore does not the actual existence of the misery threatened only by the London Corresponding Society, call for the adoption of at least similar measures to repress and remove it ?—What does it signify to rational beings what are the me diums of their oppression, whether pikes, bank-notes, or guineas? Are they under any moral or political obligation to suffer oppression from the one more than the other ?

But our conviction, perhaps, is not yet sufficiently strong to create the necessary unanimity on those questions; we shall therefore shew the consequences that have followed this encrease of five to one in our circulating medium. But first, the circumstances that gave it birth, including the war in the time of which the Bank was established for the express purpose of enabling the ministers of our newly adopted continental king, William III., to curb the ambition of the house of Bourbon in the person of Lewis XIV., who threatened the interest of Holland, but could not injure—I mean rise the quarter loaf on-—the people of England. Five continental wars, and one American, have since impaired the condition of this country: [Page 13] the national debt which each created, and the progressive rise upon the necessaries of life ever since, which invariably squared itself with the encrease of this debt, is the best criterion of the merits' of the political system on which we then and since have acted.

The commerce to which this system gave birth, received a shock in 1794 from the war, and in 1798 from the bankruptcies of Hamburgh, which must be traced home to that impolitic expedition to Holland, which was said by ministers to have been undertaken from " a knowledge of human nature." To support the merchants at those periods, that is, to keep up the price of their merchandise, government lent them its milions; and the Bank, because its credit is supported by positive law, and not by public confidence, opened its discounting [Page 14] doors, and torrents of paper issued, which not only kept up the price of those merchandizes, but rose the price of every thing else to its present exorbitant pitch. If the millions so distributed had been left untouched, in their primitive state, in Rag Fair, it is impossible to imagine, much more to prove, a state of things that would, as the case now is, encrease the torments of the labourer, by a fight of the quartern loaf, with out the power to reach it.


Sir Frederick Morton Eden, in his three guinea. Treatise on the state of the poor, published in 1797, which has effected no thing in their behalf, because he mistook the source of the evil, when their state was heaven itself, compared to their present condition, says, (p. 229 of his first volume) the poor rates, at the Revolution of 1688, when our liberty to mono polize was established, did not amount but to £665,362. If we can but ascertain, on the ground of a probability, stronger than any other, what the maintenance of a pauper amounted to at this period, we shall find outtheir exact number. Sir F.Eden gives the wages of a Devonshire labourer at 5s. a week all the year round, including board. It is dissicult, perhaps, to afcertain the difference between the consumption of a day labourer and that of a pauper: but let us take it at one half, or only 2s. 6d. a week; £665,363 divided by this sum, gives the number of paupers at the Revolution at no more thari 101,401; if we take the maintenance at more than 2s. Gd., their number will be still less in proportion. Sir F., by a cal culation founded on the number of cottages in the kingdom, gives the number of paupers at this period at 1,330,000 ; but by dividing £665,362, the " actual burden they were of to the nation," by 1,330,900, I find that the annual maintenance of each did not amount to 10s., and therefore conclude the. [Page 15] calculation is erroneous, and proves nothing but that numer ous cottages and few mansion? are, perhaps, the best possible evidence of general comfort. the best preventative of that in controvertible evidence of increasing general oppression, the numerous workhouses that have been built since the liberty to turn the cottagers' paddocks into fmall farms, and small farms into great ones, was established at the Revolution. Even in this fum of £665,362 Sir F. includes the country rates; and to avoid the unnecessary trouble of ascertaining the actual amount of each rate, I include the country rates in the poor rates of 1800, taking it for granted that their relative proportion has grown with their growth.

In a calculation of this kind, which is more intended to sliew the pernicious principles of a system, than to prove the exact amount of the mischief it has done, and must do, it is not, I conceive, necessary to calculate sums to a fraction, or numbers to an individual; sufficient it is to avoid fundamental errors, that weuld mislead the mind, and bring, as they ought, our conclusions to the ground. If such have or shall escape us, those to whose lot it falls to discover them, have only to deduct their value from the sum total of the wretchedness which our calculation will establish, and then the truth will appear. On no other condition can the truth of our statement be denied.

Mr. Rose of the Treasury (fee his pamphlet on the State of the Finances) gives the poor rates of 1300 at £5,000,000; nearly eight times what they amounted to at the Revolution. But as the whole bent of Mr. Rose's politics seems to be to conceal the real state of every case which has a tendency to open the eyes of the public to the real situation in which they stand,—and as he has given a proof of this disposition in his book, wherein he gives the permanent expences of govern ment at lefs than Mr. Pitt and Mr. Tierney had done ,-—I take the poor rates at half a million more than he has made them. Right or wrong, in so doing, the difference in the fact [Page 16] which we shall establish will not be material; and if there if any error, it is only necessary to deduct its value from the fum total of the misery.

[Page 17]

The community, as far as respects the production and ma nagement of corn, I suppose to be divided into five necessary classes: which division is formed by the different processes through which this necessary of life is obliged to go before it is fit for consumption: say,

1st, The common labourer, who produces all, and fits for use the whole produce of labour.

2dly, The farmer, who manages his part of these labourers, and the corn they produce in its first state.

3dly, The miller, who manages his part of those labourers, and the corn in its second state.

4thly, The corn factor, who manages his part of those la bourers, and the corn in its third state. And,

5thly, The baker, who manages his part of those labourers, and the corn in its fourth state.

Each of those classes has a profit on the labour of the next descending, and money is the means of collecting it; that is, each of them sustain a loss upon the capital of their produce equal to the interest they pay for money ; for their profits would be larger, if they had no interest to pay: this is a pro position on which there cannot be two opinions. The law, at the fame time that it has given the exclusive monopoly, or right to coin and issue the circulating medium, to the Bank, gave it alfo £5 per cent. interest on all the money and notes that come into circulation; and might as well have given it the exclusive right to grow the wheat and bake the bread; for to me it can make no difference whether I go or send to the Bank for the loaf or the money to buy it with; I am equally at its mercy in both cases. This is a monopoly indeed! and yet hitherto it has escaped notice.

[Page 18]

But this is but the first stage of the systematic oppression—of the artifice made use of to create a greater degree of inequa lity in the condition of men than the inequality of their talents and industry could possibly create, and shews the reafon why money increases in quantity, and, of courfe, depreciates in [Page 19] value; the first class obtains it five to one cheaper than the last can procure it; they have, therefore, every temptation to encrease its quantity, which the power it gives them to monopolize confers. And the more cents they throw of it into circulation, the mole £25 per cents the lower class must pay them by the sweat of their brow; for money does not help them to produce, because it has no productive power; its only property is to give possession of the produce of in dustry to thofe who neither toil nor fpin, and confequently encreafe not the stock of society.

This statement likewise shews the egregious folly of those who estimate our national happinefs by the quantity of money we can command, or the value which' 'that quantity may fix upon our produce or soil. The encreased value proves no thing but adepreciation of value in the money which fixes it; and that depreciation, we know from fatal experience, is the sole cause of our famishing situation and political griev ances-

Our only complaints are, 1st, That the money we command does not procure us the comforts and necessaries of life, though more plenteous than ever, and though one fifth of it would have done so a century back; and 2dly, That the quantity of it in circulation gives a power to ministers and the monopo lizers to oppress us, which otherwise they could not command. But to proceed.

When the stoppage of the Bank was the subject of difcussion in the Hovae of Commons, in the year 1796, it was asserted by a member, whoae name I do not recollect, that, with £100 in ready money, any individual or body corporate may issue bills of their own to the amount of £400: for, says he, " Experience has proved that this sum is sufficient to answer the regular returns of these bills." That the paper of mercantile individuals or companies bears the proportion of four to one to their real capital, is sufficiently proved by the dividends which bankrupts in general are able to make; for perhaps we do not fee in one case in twenty that they amount to 5s. in the pound; 2s. 6d. in the pound is more, or equally, as common; the correctness of this gentleman's assertion, therefore, cannot [Page 20] be called in question ; and as he made it for the exprefs pur pofe of making the public mind easy as to the state of the Bank, I shall take it for granted that Abraham Newland takes the advantage which the principle offers, and issues £400 in notes for every hundred pounds he has in cash to answer their return. Bank notes, it must be observed, come into circulation on the same terms that money does, that is, at £5 per cent. Abraham Newland, therefore, instead of having a profit of £5 per cent. on his capital, has actually no less than £20 per cent.; for £5 per cent. on the £400 in notes, whofe real value is only £100, amounts exactly to £20 on that hundred.

[Page 23]

The public evil, therefore, necessarily attached to any enecrease of our circulating medium, is twofold, vis.' the additi onal interest to be paid by labour,—and a depreciation on the circulating medium, which necessarily renders the fixed income of individuals insufficient to procure them the necessaries of life. The first diminishes the necessary stock of society in pro portion as it takes from productive industry those who live upon the interest of their money, or are employed to furnish them with luxuries: the other is equally injurious to every class but that class which can encrease its monty as that money depreciates in value. Those who receive the interest on mo ney inhabit palaces—those who pay it tenant the workhouse in casual dissiculty, sickness, or old age. and their number, as already proved, has encreased five to one within the last cen tury.

This encrease bears an exact proportion to the depreciation 'which an encrease of quantity of five to one has occasioned on our circulating medium. A knowledge of this lamentable conse quence of the law which gives the liberty to ministers, the Bank, and monopolizers, to 'combine and raise the value of the neces saries of life to the amount of the paper they may think proper to throw into circulation, while, it takes from those who have not this power, the right to combine and raise the price of their labour,—the only thing that can render an encrease of money inoppressive—will surely open the eyes of mankind to the impolicy of such a law, as well as to the iniquity of that ambition, whether public or private, whose object is the at tainment of money, without any regard to that equitable divi sion of its quantity, on which alone general happiness is found ed, and which, if established, would destroy the ambition of dominion, and with it all the curses which it brings on society.

If the establishment of this division, whether by the destruc tion of the paper money that occasions the inequality of it, or by a positive law which shall make the price of labour ade quate to the wants of the labourer, and progressively keep pace [Page 24] with its rise, whatever iray be the price of the necessaries of life, would be impolitic, it necessarily follows, that the oppress ed and starving majority of the people have no claim to com passion, no right to complain. On this point I have nothing to fay, because it is not yet decided what the rights of man are: whether three fourths of the human race should not think the mselves favoured to have the honour of starving, to feed—of sink ing to the ground to carry, like asses, the other fourth, on thofe shoulders which the dissiculty of procuring a subsistence for themfelves and families, has bent to the foil on which they tread.

Thofe who do not feel the rights of man, ought not to be told what those rights are; they should be left till their own igno rance torment them into knowledge, as it has done with respect: to this war against opinion, which has raised the quartern loaf from 7d. to 18d., never again to return to its former price.— This is a circumstance which the Spitalfields weavers, and the mafs of unreflecting pannier-bearers, whb petitioned Mr. Pitt and Lord Hawkesbury to march to Paris up to their knees in blood, if necessary, did not conceive to be a confequence of their loyalty: if they did, they would sooner, perhaps, be seen with the detestable rioters, whose only mode of redressing pub lic grievances is to plunder private individuals, than on the right hand of Lord Hawkesbury, among Mr. Pitt's majority on the Treasury Bench.

Having proved the oppression, as it originates from trie quantity of money or paper in circulation, and the mode in which our state engine, the Bank, circulates it, we. snail now confider it as it arises from our mode of taxation.

On the subject of taxation there exists the grossest mistake, and I know of no writer who has not fallen into it, nor at; in dividual hardly who can get out of it. The common cry is, that the country will be ruined by the quantity of money raised in taxes; no injury is apprehended from the encrease of its quantity, though it is absolutely impossible to trace the dearness of things which oppress us—the power of individuals to monopolize—or of ministers' power to waste our blood in foreign wars, to any other cause: but the conclufion that the quantity of money raised in taxes can injure the country, is totally falfe; [Page 25] becaufe it presupposes that the prosperity of the country de pends upon the quantity of money in circulation: this supposition cannot be reconciled to the fact, which nope can deny, viz. that it is to an increase of its quantity, and the mode of its circulation, we owe the oppressive difference between the; value of money a century, nay, ten years ago, and at present, when one fifth in the first case, and one half in the second, would go as far in the purchase of the necessaries of life, as tho whole does at this moment; a perpetual and progressive fall of value on our circulating medium, or rise on the necessaries of life are contingencies of war, which have not hitherto struck, our financiers; the hope of returning general happiness with the return of peace, uniformly occupies their minds; but this hope is founded upon their ignorance of the nature of things— upon thepossibility of a thing impossible, vis. the restoration of the value which money bore before the extraordinary expences of war encreased its quantity —it is founded upon a supposition totally unfounded in truth, namely, that the power of all classes of fociety to purchase the necessaries and comforts of life encreafes with the encrease of money; but the preceding tables, of the terms on which the money comes into the posession of the different classes, shews the gross falshood of this supposition; and the fact, that the price of labour is not double what it was a century back, though the necessaries of life are five to one dearer, confirms it.

Money having no productive power, its loss, whether by taxes or otherwise, cannot injure society, because the value of what is lost fixes itfelf immediately on what is left behind, and makes the quantity left go as far in the purchafe of what we want as the whole did.

This idea is not unworthy the attention of every holiest states man; for if diminishing the quantity of money rifes its. value, and if its rife in value is the means of general happinefs, which it certainly must, since the encrease of its quantity, that falls its value, is the cause of the oppression we feel, surely the prohibition of murder, high way robbery, and theft, ought not to be a greater object of legislative care than the encrease of money; for robbery and theft can do no more than keep the robber or [Page 26] thief Idle as to production, and fend the plundered to the work house. An increase of money, without an equitable regard to its division, does the same thing: and if that regard was paid, the encrease of its quantity would not only be harmless, but useless; for no man would covet the exclusive right, or any right, to make money, if he knew that he must divide it equally the moment he made it, or that others had; I right to make it as Well as himself. With this competition in the money market, as money is but an artificial necessary of life, it would be the object of every man to incumber himself with as little as possible of it, and, of course, it would be the first article in the social contract, that its quantity should be reduced to the smallest: amount possible, so small as to make the tenth or twentieth part of a hundred answer every purpose of the hundred or of ten hundred ; for in that case it would be less troublesome to count iand carry.

[Page 29]

This encrease of paupers, and disproportion between the advance on the article of bread and that of labour, leaves no question on the degree of oppression that pervades every class of industry, and equally demonstrates that the general prosperity of the country has declined four fifths since the revolution, notwithstanding the appearance of encreasing prosperity which monopoly and paper falsely and unrelentingly creates;—yet, with the most extensive collection of tracts and information on any subject that ever was collected in one book, Sir F. M. Eden, (p. 405) expresses himself thus—"Whether the indigent classes at this day are more numerous than they were at the revolution, I cannot take upon me peremptorily to say." And in another [Page 30] part of his hook, "From reviewing the æra of freedom" to monopolize and rob the poor with paper, "which has practically" with a [...] " existed since the revolution, I should venture to assert, a priori, that the exercise of civil and religious liberty" to some only" must, from the very nature of things, have been attended with a proportional acquisition of social comforts; and that not only the aggregate body of the nation must have advanced to wealth and independance, but that the portion of the community emphatically called the labouring class, must have bettered its condition in the course of the present century;" live paupers to one proves the contrary. Good heavens! what "was this laborious friend of the poor thinking upon, when he forgot so totally the disproportion between the price of labour and the advance on every necessary of life, and its necessarily consequent effect on the condition of this class?

From a retrospective view of the preceding pages, nay, from some years' unweared thought and application to the subject, I am fully convinced of the' origin, rammifications, and progress, of that greatest of all parts of public progression, dearness—a part more ponderous to bear, than all the others put together; for, thirst excepted, I know of no affliction so keenly painful to endure as that of hunger, with plenty before my eyes; the very fight aggravates the melancholy canine anguish.

Hunger, created by artificial means, is unfeeling in the extreme, and fraught with the most terrible consequences to nations; it was the remote cause of the French revolution; and what that revolution was the cause of, will not be forgotten while history informs ages unborn; there fore, if I owe a duty above all others to mankind, it is that of calling their attention to the important talk of making fellow feeling the basis of their political conduct—of thinking substantially for the mass of infants who cry for bread at the knees of helpless parents. If owe a duty to the society of which I am a member, it is that of pointing out what I conceive to be the means of its welfare and happinefs; and, flattering myself that'I have succeeded in demonstrating the remoteand immediate causes of its misery—it follows, I conceive it, as a contingent duty, that should point out what appears to [Page 31] me to be the remedy, or at least the general principle of that remedy, perfectly convinced that it is from the collision of practical research that the evil must find its cure and; that, however crude and undigested the ideas of individuals may be, some thing valuable may be found among them worth culling for the benefit of mankind.


I know of no mode of applying the remedy with so much prospect of success, as that of repelling the monster in every channel or direction in which he may shew his frightful mane: this is my principle, and I cannot discover how it can admit of modification without establishing the flat contradiction that the greater is the lesser evil—that the weans which alone can put the necessaries of life permanently within the reach of the price of labour are those which exclusively must drive them away.

The channels are in my opinion these.

  1. Paper currency.
  2. The mode of circulating the medium.
  3. The principle of taxation.

5.1. 1st, Of Paper Currency

I do not include bills of exchange and promissory notes, tho' I must confess I am far from being persuaded but what they are often accessary to monopoly, where there is no limit fixed by law to the quantity of wealth which individuals may acquire 'with money or promises to pay money at a given period. The want of this fixed limit, appears to me to leave an opening for a 'wide field of oppression and disappointment to those who advance their real property on mere promises, as well as to the neighbourhood out of which the property acquired by paper is [Page 32] taken. Those country people who complain that the promises of London forestalled takes from them the power of obtaining from their neighbours the necessary quantity of butter and cheese, will perhaps be equally as doubtful upon this subject as myself; but if it should appear necessary to our common parent, government, to fix a limit to the quantity of wealth, or the source of wealth, (land) which individuals must hold, perhaps it may be of two evils the least not to meddle with this species of paper.

This limit, however, would be fixing a maximum upon the capital and credit of individuals, who certainly have the right to expect, that if they are allowed to take but a certain profit upon the means which they possess, that they shall not be called upon to pay taxes, or to give currency to a false circulating medium, which may expose themselves and families to diffi culties, which otherwise they might avoid. But whatever difficulty may attend striking out a line of demarcation between the quantity of land or money, which individuals may occupy to secure themselves, and to avoid oppressing the public, "certain it is, that when their capital or possessions evidently injure the public, the idea of a maximum is the remedy which naturally presents itself. That freedom, I am inclined to think, cannot be well defended which gives liberty to individuals to do that with their money and credit, perhaps even with their industry, which it would be criminal for them to do by fraud or force: the means or mode of doing the thing is not the question in the eye of season, but the effect of doing it.

I see no possible evil, either in a national or individual point of view, that could follow the immediate dissolution of paper currency. For I apprehend, and I think I cannot be far wrong, that those who possess the greatest quantity of paper, possess the greatest quantity of the gold or wealth which paper represents. I suppose, then, that three lines of an act of parliament sinks the paper in a moment ; what then presents itself to my view? For that is the bug-bear which frightens every child of a larger growth. Three distinct objects immediately appear; 1 ft, My own property and that of my neighbours, in the very same relation in which they stood to each other when they [Page 33] were nominally worth five times what they would now fetch. 2dly, The price of the necessaries of life reduced to one fifth of their present value; for l am doubtful whether gold and silver bear the proportion of more than one fifth to the paper in use, and consequently the power of procuring them at that value given to government and to every consumer. And, 3dly, What is the sole object of my political labour to accom plish, I see the productive labourer and the mechanic relieved from the immensely usurious interest, which the tables given in another part of this Pamphlet, shew paper lays upon the hard rnoney in which they are paid, and which, though they never had the comfort to receive a twenty shilling note for a week's wages, was paid from their labour, and their labour alone, to the amount of £400 per cent. I see them then coming to market with wages in their hands saved by relief from the interest on paper, which bears a just proportion to the price of the article which they want to purchase.

The only contingency on this circumstance in my apprehension is, that those who live upon the interest of paper money might be drawn from counting Bank notes and country Bank bills; for it would not require one fifth of them to count the specie, to help to increase the stock of society, which they do nothing at present but consume.

Were this the case, (and I am not prepared to say how far it may be so) I can see no great evil in it in any point of view, moral or political; for it would be but chasing them out of unhealthy counting-houses into an open field ; out of a life (judging from the oppression their maintenances are of to the productive power without an equivalent) of doubt, as to its honesty—of no doubt as to its slavery—into a life of the utmost independence and character—the rustic life of rural felicity. Agriculture is the only resource when trade fails. But admit ting there is a bad contingency upon the dissolution of paper money, more so in this country than in Holland, (a trading country) or every other country in the world where paper can not find credulous circulators, the question, now that hunger drives us to it, must be taken up on the broad basis of political Justice, and decided by numbers ; the interest and opinions of [Page 34] the few must give way to that of the many. It is impossible to go on as we do; our career of misery is too rapid and steady to admit of hesitation on the means of repelling it.

5.2. The Mode of circulating the Medium

It strikes me that this mode must undergo an alteration before the general welfare can be accomplished—that the exclusive monopoly of money, which, as already observed, amounts, to all intents and purposes, to a monopoly of every thing purchased with money, must be taken from the Bank, and that the same competition must be opened in the money market, which is insisted upon, in all other markets, to be the best guardian of the general interest, because it is the first stimulant to industry and fair dealing. This competition or alteration of mode, has, in my opinion, the same tendency to promote the general good which competition can have in any other market: for I can harbour no doubt, but that, is the active merchant, who imports the precious metals, is our interest demands that the depreciation should be encreascd by future importations, was to have the liberty to coin it at the mint himself, instead of giving a profit upon it to the Bank, an alteration in the progressive rate of interest, shewn in the pre ceding tables to exist, would take place, which would prove highly beneficial to the productive classes of society. On this progressively encreased oppression, as well as upon the seeming 'want of justification sirfor it, I think there cannot be two opinions, unless it can be shewn, that the greater is the lesser evil; to remove it, therefore, would give relies, immediate relief in deed—but government must decide the question on the broad principle of political justice; and those who are famishing think there is no time to lose.

5.3. 3dly, The Principle of Taxation

It is shewn clearly in the preceding sheets, that the man of wealth neither maintains himself nor pays a single tax : the whole of what he and the multitude employed to gratify his [Page 35] Various fancies consumes, and is said to pay in taxes, comes directly from the general stock of the mass of productive labourers, and upon whom their consumption is as direct a tax as that which they pay upon the farthing rush that lights them hungry to a comfortless bed, or upon the pane of glass which keeps out the air, and admits the fun to warm their half covered skeletons, to support the state. The principle, therefore, in my humble opinion, must be inverted in some measure, if any permanent good is to be effected—the men of wealth must be made to pay all taxes, and care must betaken, by a law regulating the price of labour, by that of the necessaries of life (as the price of bread is by that of flour in London) that they do not throw the taxes upon labour, as the practice at present is.

The worst contingency on this inversion (for I think upon nothing without a religious regard to their contingencies, as far as my small abilities can discover them) would, I think, be, that the men of wealth, from a dread of the consequence, would be less disposed than they have hitherto been, to fan the flames of war, and to drive the classes, on whose -industry alone they live in ease and affluence, like droves of cattle to the shambles---like gladiators in the amphitheatres-of Rome, there to be slaughtered and massacred in battles antl expeditions, by way of amusetnent, or DIVERSION, as it were, to those who have no interest: in the inhuman contest but what originates in the first begotten chil dren of ease and plenty, ambition and luxury for in reviewing the history of the world; I cannot trace any of the wars that have cursed its condition to any other first cause but to the same false principles of honour which dictate duelling and a cravring after luxury, the natural parent of vice and disease.

There are men who thought, perhaps as much as can be thought upon the means of human happiness, who infer, that to act upon this idea, would encrease our species to that degree that the earth could not supply them with food. This reasoning if of the most abstract hypothetical nature, and conveys an idea which certainly is not meant,. viz. ,that the frequency of war is intended to keep the number of human beings within a certain limit. But grant the hypothesis, is it not time enough_ to destroy the human race when they are too numerous to live? [Page 36] when the waste land are cultivated and famine threatens to devour us? It the destruction of one part of the human race is indispensably necessary to the happiness of the other, would it not be more wise to adopt the custom said to prevail in some parts of the uncivilized Asia, and destroy the old when they become useless and burdensome? This is theory against theory; and I know of no way of deciding the choice, but by a shew of hands- and I put the questions- As many of you as are for Perpetual Peace and Agriculture, be pleased to signify the same by holding up your hands. All, All, All. The contrary yours-None-carried unanimously. This is the decision of the human heart and understanding, whatever may be the error of the head; and what the heart and understanding dictate is what I conceive the head, whether physical or political, ought to endevour to accomplish, with sincerity and the utmost contempt for the luxuries of life or those dominions from which they are derived, and yield nothing else; but with respect to the question of inversion it is ours only to reason upon-to the legislature alone it belongs to decide it; and that they WILL do so, on the great moral principle of doing as they would be done by were they the millions who with aching hearts and fond expectations are looking up to them for relief-immediate relief-is a hope of all others the most justifiable and best founded. They see the progress, nay, the mode of the progress or the misery advancing upon themselves- that they are themselves within the vortex of its power- they feel sensibly for those on whom it has already seized and they know-well know-

"That true self-love and social is the same."

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, authority, class, famine, farmer, market, oppression, plenty, rain, robbery, theft, war, wealth

Source text

Title: The Cause of the Present Threatened Famine

Author: Common Sense

Publisher: R.B. Scott

Publication date: 1800

Edition: 1st Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Eighteenth Century Collections Online:

Digital edition

Original author(s): Common Sense

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 5 to 20
  • 2 ) pages 23 to 26
  • 3 ) pages 29 to 36


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > pamphlets

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.