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late them to the slavish institutions of continental Europe : particularly to those of Prussia, the people of which have been described by a modern writer
“ the most superintended, the most interfered with, the most destitute of civil freedom and political right-in a word, the most enslaved people in Western Europe, and the most educated.”*
* Laing's Observations on Europe in 1848 and 1849, p. 188.
CHAPTER I X.
THE DEAR DEFENCE OF NATIONS.
ENGLISH NATIONAL DEFENCES.
In the sixth chapter I have quoted some very significant words of the great Duke of Wellington. “If the French should succeed in landing an army England, then, indeed,” says the duke, “would commence an expensive contest, whatever might be the result of the military operations." The duke was led to make these remarks by the just complaints of the English people on account of the enormous expense of the war in which they were then engaged. Under the circumstances of the present time, a question, which is not new, forces itself upon public attention the question, viz., What are the causes of this enormous expense of modern wars undertaken by Great Britain ?
Some writers, and particularly David Hume, seem to think that the question is solved by the consideration of the greater facilities and means for borrowing which existed after the Revolution, and did not exist before it. In his Essay on Civil Liberty, published in 1742, Hume says: “ Among the moderns, the
Dutch first introduced the practice of borrowing great sums at low interest, and well nigh ruined themselves by it. Absolute princes have also contracted debt; but as an absolute prince may make a bankruptcy when he pleases, his people can never be oppressed by his debts. In popular governments, the people, and chiefly those who have the highest offices, being commonly the public creditors, it is difficult for the State to make use of this remedy ; which, however it may be sometimes necessary, is always cruel and barbarous. This, therefore, seems to be an inconvenience which nearly threatens all free governments, especially our own at the present juncture of affairs.*
And what a strong motive is this to increase our frugality of public money, lest for want of it we be reduced by the multiplicity of taxes, or, what is worse, by our public impotence and inability for defence, to curse our very liberty, and wish ourselves in the same state of servitude with all the nations that surround us."
Ten years later, when the debt had risen to seventysix millions, Hume, in his Essay on the Balance of Power, comes to the conclusion “ that above half of our wars with France, and all our public debts, are owing more to our own imprudent vehemence than to the ambition of our neighbours; that our
* At that time the funded debt was about fifty millions. What would Hume have said when it had risen to nearly twenty times that amount?
allies always reckon upon our force as their own, and, expecting to carry on the war at our expense, refuse all reasonable terms of accommodation; and, finally, that we are such true combatants that, when once engaged, we lose all concern for ourselves and for posterity.”
But all this amounts rather to a statement of effects than an explanation of causes. For it altogether fails to explain why our wars carried on under Edward I., Edward III., and Henry V., had no tendency to reduce us to the state of “public impotence and inability for defence” pointed out in the passage I have quoted. At all events, it affords a very imperfect solution of the question. And as the problem is one which now presses, and every succeeding year will press with constantly increasing force, upon the people of England, it appears to be a matter of paramount importance to attempt to arrive at some satisfactory solution of it.
Many persons have probably heard of Burke's celebrated expression “ the cheap defence of nations,” who do not very clearly understand its meaning; or at least assume that it is a mere figure of rhetoric belonging to his lamentation, usually considered more eloquent than wise, for the departure of the age
of chivalry. The statement of a few facts that nearly concern all of us who pay taxes, without finding ourselves in the number of those gentlemen who are in possession of lands that “were formerly the property
of the crown, and subjected to all the feudal tenures,” * will show how full of meaning is the expression “ the cheap defence of nations."
From the battle of Hastings, and the commencement of the Norman dynasty and the feudal system (strictly so called) in England, to the restoration of Charles II., is a period of 594 years. During that time, England kept her national defences in so complete a state that no foreign power dared to attempt invading her, and carried on besides a vast number of great wars, in the course of which she planted her flag on the walls of Acre, made one king of France prisoner, and dethroned another, restored a king of Spain to his throne, destroyed the Spanish Armada, and finally made the name of Englishman as much respected over the world as that of Roman had been. And all this she did without contracting a farthing of debt!
From the restoration of Charles II. to the year 1815 is a period of 155 years. During that comparatively short time (very little more than a fourth of the former), England, in carrying on wars which should certainly not have cost her greater efforts than those above referred to; in making war for the Dutch; for the succession to the crown of Spain; in making war, first for, and then against the House of Austria ; in conquering Canada; in losing America ; in the wars of the French Revolution; and, in the
* 1 Bl. Com, 307.