MEANS BY WHICH THE FUND IS TO BE CREATED.
I have already established the
principle, namely, that the earth, in its natural uncultivated state was,
and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race,
that in that state, every person would have been born to property; and that
the system of landed property, by its inseparable connection with cultivation,
and with what is called civilized life, has absorbed the property of all
those whom it dispossessed, without providing, as ought to have been done,
an indemnification for that loss.
The fault, however, is
not in the present possessors. No complaint is intended, or ought to
be alleged against them, unless they adopt the crime by opposing justice.
The fault is in the system, and it has stolen imperceptibly upon the world,
aided afterwards by the agrarian law of the sword. But the fault can be
made to reform itself by successive generations; and without diminishing
or deranging the property of any of the present possessors, the operation
of the fund can yet commence, and be in full activity, the first year
of its establishment, or soon after, as I shall shew.
It is proposed that the
payments, as already stated, be made to every person, rich or poor. It
is best to make it so, to prevent invidious distinctions. It is also right
it should be so, because it is in lieu of the natural inheritance, which,
as a right, belongs to every man, over and above the property he may have
created, or inherited from those who did. Such persons as do not choose
to receive it can throw it into the common fund.
Taking it then for granted
that no person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what
is called a state of civilization, than he would have been had he been
born in a state of nature, and that civilization ought to have made, and
ought still to make, provision for that purpose, it can only be done by
subtracting from property a portion equal in value to the natural inheritance
it has absorbed.
Various methods may be
proposed for this purpose, but that which appears to be the best (not
only because it will operate without deranging any present possessors,
or without interfering with the collection of taxes or emprunts necessary
for the purposes of government and the revolution, but because it will
be the least troublesome and the most effectual, and also because the subtraction
will be made at a time that best admits it) is at the moment that property
is passing by the death of one person to the possession of another. In this
case, the bequeather gives nothing: the receiver pays nothing. The only
matter to him is that the monopoly of natural inheritance, to which there
never was a right, begins to cease in his person. A generous man would not
wish it to continue, and a just man will rejoice to see it abolished.
My state of health prevents
my making sufficient inquiries with respect to the doctrine of probabilities,
whereon to found calculations with such degrees of certainty as they
are capable of. What, therefore, I offer on this head is more the result
of observation and reflection than of received information; but I believe
it will be found to agree sufficiently with fact.
In the first place, taking
twenty-one years as the epoch of maturity, all the property of a nation,
real and personal, is always in the possession of persons above that
age. It is then necessary to know, as a datum of calculation, the average
of years which persons above that age will live. I take this average to
be about thirty years, for though many persons will live forty, fifty,
or sixty years after the age of twenty-one years, others will die much
sooner, and some in every year of that time.
Taking, then, thirty
years as the average of time, it will give, without any material variation
one way or other, the average of time in which the whole property or
capital of a nation, or a sum equal thereto, will have passed through
one entire revolution in descent, that is, will have gone by deaths to
new possessors; for though, in many instances, some parts of this capital
will remain forty, fifty, or sixty years in the possession of one person,
other parts will have revolved two or three times before those thirty years
expire, which will bring it to that average; for were one half the capital
of a nation to revolve twice in thirty years, it would produce the same fund
as if the whole revolved once.
Taking, then, thirty
years as the average of time in which the whole capital of a nation,
or a sum equal thereto, will revolve once, the thirtieth part thereof
will be the sum that will revolve every year, that is, will go by deaths
to new possessors; and this last sum being thus known, and the ratio per
cent. to be subtracted from it determined, it will give the annual amount
or income of the proposed fund, to be applied as already mentioned.
In looking over the discourse
of the English minister Pitt, in his opening of what is called in England
the budget, (the scheme of finance for the year 1796,) I find an estimate
of the national capital of that country. As this estimate of a national
capital is prepared ready to my hand, I take it as a datum to act upon.
When a calculation is made upon the known capital of any nation, combined
with its population, it will serve as a scale for any other nation, in
proportion as its capital and population be more or less. I am the more
disposed to take this estimate of Mr. Pitt, for the purpose of showing
to that minister, upon his own calculation, how much better money may
be employed than in wasting it, as he has done, on the wild project of
setting up Bourbon kings. What, in the name of heaven, are Bourbon kings
to the people of England? It is better that the people have bread.
Mr. Pitt states the national
capital of England, real and personal, to be one thousand three hundred
millions sterling, which is about one-fourth part of the national capital
of France, including Belgia. The event of the last harvest in each country
proves that the soil of France is more productive than that of England,
and that it can better support twenty-four or twenty-five millions of inhabitants
than that of England can seven or seven and a half millions.
The thirtieth part of this
capital of 1,300,000,000£ is 43,333,333£ which is the part
that will revolve every year by deaths in that country to new possessors;
and the sum that will annually revolve in France in the proportion of four
to one, will be about one hundred and seventy-three million sterling. From
this sum of 43,333,333œ annually revolving, is to be subtracted the value
of the natural inheritance absorbed in it, which, perhaps, in fair justice,
cannot be taken at less, and ought not to be taken for more, than a tenth
It will always happen,
that of the property thus revolving by deaths every year a part will
descend in a direct line to sons and daughters, and the other part collaterally,
and the proportion will be found to be about three to one; that is, about
thirty millions of the above sum will descend to direct heirs, and the remaining
sum of 13,333,333£ to more distant relations, and in part to strangers.
Considering, then, that
man is always related to society, that relationship will become comparatively
greater in proportion as the next of kin is more distant, it is therefore
consistent with civilization to say that where there are no direct heirs
society shall be heir to a part over and above the tenth part due to society.
If this additional part be from five to ten or twelve per cent., in proportion
as the next of kin be nearer or more remote, so as to average with the
escheats that may fall, which ought always to go to society and not to
the government (an addition of ten per cent. more), the produce from the
annual sum of 43,333,333£ will be:
| From 30,000,000£ at 10%.. . . . . .
| From 13,333,333£ at 10%
with the addition of 10% more....
| From 43,333,333£ .....
Having thus arrived at the annual amount of the proposed fund, I come,
in the next place, to speak of the population proportioned to this fund,
and to compare it with the uses to which the fund is to be applied.
The population (I mean
that of England) does not exceed seven millions and a half, and the number
of persons above the age of fifty will in that case be about four hundred
thousand. There would not, however, be more than that number that would
accept the proposed ten pounds sterling per annum, though they would be entitled
to it. I have no idea it would be accepted by many persons who had a yearly
income of two or three hundred pounds sterling. But as we often see instances
of rich people falling into sudden poverty, even at the age of sixty, they
would always have the right of drawing all the arrears due to them. Four
millions, therefore, of the above annual sum of 5,666,666£ will be required
for four hundred thousand aged persons, at ten pounds sterling each.
I come now to speak of
the persons annually arriving at twenty-one years of age. If all the
persons who died were above the age of twenty-one years, the number of
persons annually arriving at that age, must be equal to the annual number
of deaths, to keep the population stationary. But the greater part die
under the age of twenty-one, and therefore the number of persons annually
arriving at twenty-one will be less than half the number of deaths. The
whole number of deaths upon a population of seven millions and an half
will be about 220,000 annually. The number arriving at twenty-one years
of age will be about 100,000. The whole number of these will not receive
the proposed fifteen pounds, for the reasons already mentioned, though,
as in the former case, they would be entitled to it. Admitting then that
a tenth part declined receiving it, the amount would stand thus:
|To 400,000 age@ persons at 10£ each . . .,
|To 90,000 persons of 21 years, 15£ each .
. . ,
There are, in every country, a number of blind and lame persons, totally
incapable of earning a livelihood. But as it will always happen that
the greater number of blind persons will be among those who are above
the age of fifty years, they will be provided for in that class. The remaining
sum of 316,666£ will provide for the lame and blind under that age,
at the same rate of 10£ annually for each person.
Having now gone through all
the necessary calculations, and stated the particulars of the plan, I
shall conclude with some observations.
It is not charity but
a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state
of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite
of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be
made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting
and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together.
Though I care as little about riches, as any man, I am a friend to riches
because they are capable of good. I care not how affluent some may be, provided
that none be miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy
affluence with the felicity it is capable of being enjoyed, whilst so much
misery is mingled in the scene. The sight of the misery, and the unpleasant
sensations it suggests, which, though they may be suffocated cannot be extinguished,
are a greater drawback upon the felicity of affluence than the proposed 10
per cent. upon property is worth. He that would not give the one to get rid
of the other has no charity, even for himself.
There are, in every country,
some magnificent charities, established by individuals. It is, however,
but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery
to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience but not his
heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little.
It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like
a system of pullies, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.
The plan here proposed
will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view
three classes of wretchedness--the blind, the lame, and the aged poor;
and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming
poor; and it will do this without deranging or interfering with any national
measures. To shew that this will be the case, it is sufficient to observe
that the operation and effect of the plan will, in all cases, be the same
as if every individual were voluntarily to make his will and dispose of
his property in the manner here proposed.
But it is justice, and
not charity, that is the principle of the plan. In all great cases it
is necessary to have a principle more universally active than charity;
and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left to the choice of
detached individuals whether they will do justice or not. Considering then,
the plan on the ground of justice, it ought to be the act of the whole,
growing spontaneously out of the principles of the revolution, and the
reputation of it ought to be national and not individual.
A plan upon this principle
would benefit the revolution by the energy that springs from the consciousness
of justice. It would multiply also the national resources; for property
like vegetation, increases by offsets. When a young couple begin the world,
the difference is exceedingly great whether they begin with nothing or
with fifteen pounds a piece. With this aid they could buy a cow, and implements
to cultivate a few acres of land; and instead of becoming burdens upon
society, which is always the case where children are produced faster than
they can be fed, would be put in the way of becoming useful and profitable
citizens. The national domains also would sell the better if pecuniary
aids were provided to cultivate them in small lots.
It is the practice of
what has unjustly obtained the name of civilization (and the practice merits
not to be called either charity or policy) to make some provision for persons
becoming poor and wretched only at the time they become so. Would it
not, even as a matter of economy, be far better to adopt means to prevent
their becoming poor? This can best be done by making every person when
arrived at the age of twenty-one years an inheritor of something to begin
with. The rugged face of society, chequered with the extremes of affluence
and want, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed upon
it, and calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in all
countries are become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible
for them to get out of that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed
that this mass increases in all countries that are called civilized. More
persons fall annually into it than get out of it.
Though in a plan of which
justice and humanity are the foundation-principles, interest ought not
to be admitted into the calculation, yet it is always of advantage to the
establishment of any plan to shew that it is beneficial as a matter of
interest. The success of any proposed plan submitted to public consideration
must finally depend on the numbers interested in supporting it, united
with the justice of its principles.
The plan here proposed
will benefit all, without injuring any. It will consolidate the interest
of the Republic with that of the individual. To the numerous class dispossessed
of their natural inheritance by the system of landed property it will be
an act of national justice. To persons dying possessed of moderate fortunes
it will operate as a tontine to their children, more beneficial than the
sum of money paid into the fund: and it will give to the accumulation of
riches a degree of security that none of the old governments of Europe, now
tottering on their foundations, can give.
I do not suppose that
more than one family in ten, in any of the countries of Europe, has, when
the head of the family dies, a clear property left of five hundred pounds
sterling. To all such the plan is advantageous. That property would pay
fifty pounds into the fund, and if there were only two children under
age they would receive fifteen pounds each, (thirty pounds,) on coming
of age, and be entitled to ten pounds a year after fifty. It is from the
overgrown acquisition of property that the fund will support itself; and
I know that the possessors of such property in England though they would
eventua!ly be benefited by the protection of nine-tenths of it, will exclaim
against the plan. But without entering into any inquiry how they came by
the property, let them recollect that they have been the advocates of this
war, and that Mr. Pitt has already laid on more new taxes to be raised annually
upon the people of England and that for supporting the despotism of Austria
and the Bourbons against the liberties of France, than would pay annually
all the sums proposed in this plan.
I have made the calculations
stated in this plan, upon what is called personal, as well as upon landed
property. The reason for making it upon land is already explained and
the reason for taking personal property into the calculation is equally
well founded though on a different principle. Land, as before said, is
the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property
is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to
acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him
to make land originally. Separate an individual from society, and give
him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal
property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with
the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot
be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what
a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he
owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a
part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.
This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best
to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the
accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of
paying too little for the labour that produced it; the consequence of which
is, that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds
in affluence. It is, perhaps, impossible to proportion exactly the price
of labour to the profits it produces; and it will also be said, as an apology
for the injustice, that were a workman to receive an increase of wages daily
he would not save it against old age, nor be much better for it in the interim.
Make, then, society the treasure to guard it for him in a common fund; for
it is no reason that because he might not make a good use of it for himself
another should take it.
The state of civilization
that has prevailed throughout Europe, is as unjust in its principle, as
it is horrid in its effects; and it is the consciousness of this, and the
apprehension that such a state cannot continue when once investigation
begins in any country, that makes the possessors of property dread every
idea of a revolution. It is the hazard and not the principle of revolutions
that retards their progress. This being the case, it is necessary as well
for the protection of property, as for the sake of justice and humanity,
to form a system that, whilst it preserves one part of society from wretchedness,
shall secure the other from depredation.
The superstitious awe,
the enslaving reverence, that formerly surrounded affluence, is passing
away in all countries and leaving the possessor of property to the convulsion
of accidents. When wealth and splendour, instead of fascinating the multitude,
excite emotions of disgust; when, instead of drawing forth admiration,
it is beheld as an insult upon wretchedness; when the ostentatious appearance
it make serves to call the right of it in question, the case of property
becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor
can contemplate security.
To remove the danger,
it is necessary to remove the antipathies, and this can only be done by
making property productive of a national blessing, extending to every
individual. When the riches of one man above another shall increase the
national fund in the same proportion; when it shall be seen that the prosperity
of that fund depends on the prosperity of individuals; when the more
riches a man acquires, the better it shall be for the general mass; it
is then that antipathies will cease, and property be placed on the permanent
basis of national interest and protection.
I have no property in France
to become subject to the plan I propose. What I have, which is not much,
is in the United States of America. But I will pay one hundred pound sterling
towards this fund in France, the instant it shall be established; and I
will pay the same sum in England, whenever a similar establishment shall
take place in that country.
A revolution in the state
of civilization is the necessary companion of revolutions in the system
of government. If a revolution in any country be from bad to good, or from
good to bad, the state of what is called civilization in that country,
must be made conformable thereto, to give that revolution effect. Despotic
government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasement
of the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the
chief criterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that
the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has
nothing to do with the laws but to obey them; ( Expression of Horsley,
an English bishop, in the English parliament.- Author.) and they politically
depend more upon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they
fear enraging it by desperation.
It is a revolution in
the state of civilization that will give perfection to the revolution
of France. Already the conviction that government by representation is
the true system of government is spreading itself fast in the world. The
reasonableness of it can be seen by all. The justness of it makes itself
felt even by its opposers. But when a system of civilization, growing out
of that system of government shall be so organized that not a man or woman
born in the Republic but shall inherit some means of beginning the world,
and see before them the certainty of escaping the miseries that under other
governments accompany old age, the revolution of France will have an advocate
and an ally in the heart of all nations.
An army of principles
will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where
diplomatic management would fail: it is neither the Rhine, the Channel,
nor the Ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march on the horizon
of the world, and it will conquer.