Means By Which The Fund Is To Be Created
I have already established the principle, namely, that the earth, in itsnatural uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race; that in that state, every personwould have been born to property; and that the system of landed property,by its inseparable connection with cultivation, and with what is calledcivilized life, has absorbed the property of all those whom it dispossessed,without providing, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for thatloss.
The fault, however, is not in the present possessors. No complaint is tended,or ought to be alleged against them, unless they adopt the crime by opposingjustice. The fault is in the system, and it has stolen perceptibly uponthe world, aided afterwards by the agrarian law of the sword. But the faultcan be made to reform itself by successive generations; and without diminishingor deranging the property of any of present possessors, the operation ofthe fund can yet commence, and in full activity, the first year of its establishment,or soon after, as I shall show.
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 property he mayhave created, or inherited from those who did. Such persons as do not chooseto receive it can throw it into the common fund.
Taking it then for granted that no person ought to be in a worse conditionwhen born under what is called a state of civilization, than he would havebeen had he been born in a state of nature, and that civilization oughtto have made, and ought still to make, provision for that purpose, it canonly be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to thenatural inheritance it has absorbed.
Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which appearsto be the best (not only because it will operate without deranging any presentpossessors, or without interfering with the collection of taxes or emprunts necessary for the purposes of government and the Revolution, but becauseit will be th e least troublesome and the most effectual,and also because the subtraction will be made at a time that best admitsit) is at the moment that property is passing by the death of one personto the possession of another. In this case, the bequeather gives nothing:the receiver pays nothing. The only matter to him is that the monopoly ofnatural inheritance, to which there never was a right, begins to cease inhis person. A generous man would not wish it to continue, and a just manwill rejoice to see it abolished.
My state of health prevents my making sufficient inquiries with respectto the doctrine of probabilities, whereon to found calculations with suchdegrees of certainty as they are capable of. What, therefore, I offer onthis head is more the result of observation and reflection than of receivedinformation; 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, allthe property of a nation, real and personal, is always in the possessionof 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 thisaverage 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 diemuch sooner, and some in every year of that time.
Taking, then, thirty years as the average of time, it will give, withoutany material variation one way or other, the average of time in which thewhole property or capital of a nation, or a sum equal thereto, will havepassed through one entire revolution in descent, that is, will have goneby deaths to new possessors; for though, in many instances, some parts ofthis capital will remain forty, fifty, or sixty years in the possessionof one person, other parts will have revolved two or three times beforethose thirty years expire, which will bring it to that average; for wereone-half the capital of a nation to revolve twice in thirty years, it wouldproduce the same fund as if the whole revolved once.
Taking, then, thirty years as the average of time in which the whole capitalof a nation, or a -sum equal thereto, will revolve once, the thirtieth partthereof will be the sum that will revolve every year, that is, will go bydeaths to new possessors; and this last sum being thus known, and the ratioper cent to be subtracted from It determined, it will give the annual amountor income of the proposed fund, to be applied as already mentioned.
In looking over the discourse of the English Minister, Pitt, in his openingof what is called in England the budget (the scheme of finance for the year1796), I find an estimate of the national capital of that unity. As thisestimate of a national capital is prepared ready to my hand, I take it asa datum to act upon. When a calculation is made upon the known capital ofany nation, combined with its population, it will serve as a scale for anyother 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 purposeof showing to that minister, upon his own calculation, how much better moneymay be employed than in wasting it, as he has done, on the wild projectof setting up Bourbon kings. What, in the name of heaven, re Bourbon kingsto the people of England? It is better that the people have bread.
Mr. Pitt states the national capital of England, real and personal, to onethousand three hundred millions sterling, which is about one-fourth partof the national capital of France, including Belgia. The event of the lastharvest in each country proves that the soil of France more productive thanthat of England, and that it can better support twenty-four or twenty-fivemillions of inhabitants than that of England n seven or seven and a halfmillions.
The thirtieth part of this capital of £ 1,300,000,000 is L 43,333,333 which the part that will revolve every year by deaths in thatcountry to new possessors; and the sum that will annually revolve in Francein the proportion of four to one, will be about one hundred and seventy-threemillions sterling. From this sum of £ 43,333,333 annuallyrevolving, is be subtracted the value of the natural inheritance absorbedin it, which, perhaps, in fair justice, cannot be taken at less, and oughtnot be taken for more, than a tenth part.
It will always happen that of the property thus revolving by deaths everyyear a part will descend in a direct line to sons and daughters, and otherpart collaterally, and the proportion will be found to be about three toone; that is, about thirty millions of the above sum will descend to directheirs, and the remaining sum of £ 413,333,333 to more distantrelations, and in part to strangers.
Considering, then, that man is always related to society, that relationshipwill become comparatively greater in proportion as the next of kin is moredistant; it is therefore consistent with civilization to say that wherethere are no direct heirs society shall be heir to a part over and abovethe tenth part due to society.
If this additional part be from five to ten or twelve per cent, in proportionas the next of kin be nearer or more remote, so as to average with the escheatsthat 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 L 43,333,333 will be:
From £ 30,000,000 at ten per cent................... ............................................£ 3,000,000
From £ 13,333,333 at ten per cent with the addition of ten per cent more.... £ 2,666,666
£ 43,333,333 £ 5,666,666
Having thus arrived at the annual amount of the proposed fund, I come, inthe next place, to speak of the population proportioned to this fund andto 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 anda half, and the number of persons above the age of fifty will in that casebe about four hundred thousand. There would not, however, be more than thatnumber that would accept the proposed ten pounds sterling per annum, thoughthey would be entitled to it. I have no idea it would be accepted by manypersons 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 allthe arrears clue to them. Four millions, therefore, of the above annualsum of £ 5,666,666 will be required for four hundred thousandaged persons, at ten pounds sterling each.
I come now to speak of the persons annually arriving at twenty-one yearsof 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 theannual number of deaths, to keep the population stationary. But the greaterpart die under the age of twenty-one, and therefore the number of personsannually arriving at twenty-ope will be less than half the number of deaths.
The whole number of deaths upon a population of seven millions and an halfwill be about 220,000 annually. The number arriving at twenty-one yearsof age will be about 100,000. The whole number of these will not receivethe proposed fifteen pounds, for the reasons already mentioned, though,as in the former case, they would be entitled to it. Admitting then thata tenth part declined receiving it, the amount would stand thus:
Fund £ 5,666,666 To 400,000 aged persons at £ 10 each ....................... £ 4,000,000
To 90,000 persons of 21 yrs. £ 15 each....................... £ 1,350,000
Remains: £ 316,666
There are, in every country, a number of blind and lame person totally incapableof earning a livelihood. But as it will always happen that the greater numberof blind persons will be among those who are above the age of fifty years,they will be provided for in that class. Th remaining sum of £ 316,666 will provide for the lame and blind under that age, at the samerate 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 pleadingfor. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. Itis absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary thata revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchednesscontinually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodieschained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I ama friend to riches because they are capable of good.
I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable inconsequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicityit is capable of being enjoyed, while 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 drawbackupon the felicity of affluence than the proposed ten percent upon property is worth. He that would not give the one to get rid ofthe 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 extentof 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 relievebut little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles asto act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can beremoved.
The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieveand take out of view three classes of wretchedness-the blind, the lame,and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with meansto prevent their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging orinterfering with any national measures.
To show that this will be the case, it is sufficient to observe that theoperation and effect of the plan will, in all cases, be the same as if everyindividual were voluntarily to make his will and dispose of hisproperty in the manner here proposed.
But it is justice, and not charity, that is the principle of the plan. Inall great cases it is necessary to have a principle moreuniversally active than charity; and, with respect to justice, it oughtnot to be left to the choice of detached individuals whether they will dojustice or not. Considering, then, the plan on the ground of justice, itought to be the act of the whole growing spontaneously out of the principlesof the revolution, and the reputation of it ought to be national and notindividual.
A plan upon this principle would benefit the revolution by the energy thatsprings from the consciousness of justice. It would multiply also the nationalresources; for property, like vegetation, increases by offsets. When a youngcouple begin the world, the difference is exceedingly great whether theybegin with nothing or with fifteen pounds apiece. With this aid they couldbuy a cow, and implements to cultivate a few acres of land; and insteadof becoming burdens upon society, which is always the case where childrenare produced faster than they can be fed, would be put in the way of becominguseful and profitable citizens. The national domains also would sell thebetter 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 makesome provision for persons becoming poor and wretched only at the time theybecome so. Would it not, even as a matter of economy, befar better to adopt means to prevent their becoming poor? This can bestbe done by making every person when arrived at the age of twenty-one yearsan inheritor of something to begin with.
The rugged face of society, checkered with the extremes of affluence andwant, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed upon it,and calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in countriesare become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible them to getout of that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed that thismass increases in all countries that are called civilized. re persons fallannually 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 alwaysof advantage to the establishment of any plan to show that it beneficialas a matter of interest. The success of any proposed plan submitted to publicconsideration must finally depend on the numbers interested in supportingit, united with the justice of its principles.
The plan here proposed will benefit all, without injuring any. It will consolidatethe interest of the republic with that of the individual. To the numerousclass dispossessed of their natural inheritance by the system of landedproperty it will be an act of national justice. To persons dying possessedof moderate fortunes it will operate as a tontine to their children, morebeneficial than the sum of money paid into the fund: and it will give tothe accumulation of riches a degree of security that none of old governmentsof Europe, now tottering on their foundations, can give.
I do not suppose that more than one family in ten, in any of the countriesof Europe, has, when the head of the family dies, a clear property of fivehundred pounds sterling. To all such the plan is advantageous. That propertywould pay fifty pounds into the fund, and if there were only two childrenunder age they would receive fifteen pounds each (thirty pounds), on comingof age, and be entitled to ten pounds a year after fifty.
It is from the overgrown acquisition of property that the fund will supportitself; and I know that the possessors of such property in England, thoughthey would eventually be benefitted by the protection of nine-tenths ofit, will exclaim against the plan. But without entering any inquiry howthey came by that property, let them recollect that they have been the advocatesof this war, and that Mr. Pitt has already laid on more new taxes to beraised annually upon the people of England, and that for supporting thedespotism of Austria and the Bourbons against the liberties of France, thanwould 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 alreadyexplained; and the reason for taking personal property into the calculationis equally well founded though on a different principle. Land, as beforesaid, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personalproperty is the effect of society; and it is as impossible foran individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, asit is for him to make land originally.
Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continentto possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich.So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, thatwhere 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 ofjustice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulationback again to society from whence the whole came.
This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is bestto do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that theaccumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of payingtoo little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is thatthe working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.
It is, perhaps, impossible to proportion exactly the price of labor to theprofits 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 saveit against old age, nor be much better for it in the interim. Make, then,society the treasurer to guard it for him in a common fund; for it is noreason that, because he might not make a good use of it for himself, anothershould take it.
The state of civilization that has prevailed throughout Europe, is as unjustin its principle, as it is horrid in its effects; and it is the consciousnessof this, and the apprehension that such a state cannot continue when onceinvestigation begins in any country, that makes the possessors of propertydread every idea of a revolution. It is the hazard and not the principleof revolutions that retards their progress. This being the case, it is necessaryas well for the protection of property as for the sake of justice and humanity,to form a system that, while it preserves one part of society from wretchedness,shall secure the other from depreciation.
The superstitious awe, the enslaving reverence, that formerly Surroundedaffluence, is passing away in all countries, and leaving the possessor ofproperty to the convulsion of accidents. When wealth and splendor, insteadof fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; n, instead ofdrawing forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult on wretchedness; whenthe ostentatious appearance it makes serves call the right of it in question,the case of property becomes critical, and it is only ina system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security.
To remove the danger, it is necessary to remove the antipathies, and thiscan only be done by making property productive of a national bless, extendingto every individual. When the riches of one man above other shall increasethe national fund in the same proportion; when it shall be seen that theprosperity of that fund depends on the prosperity of individuals; when themore riches a man acquires, the better it shall for the general mass; itis then that antipathies will cease, and property be placed on the permanentbasis of national interest and protection.
I have no property in France to become subject to the plan I prose. WhatI have, which is not much, is in the United States of America. But I willpay one hundred pounds sterling toward this fund in France, the instantit shall be established; and I will pay the same sum England, whenever asimilar establishment shall take place in that country.
A revolution in the state of civilization is the necessary companion ofrevolutions in the system of government. If a revolution in any countrybe from bad to good, or from good to bad, the state of what is called civilizationin that country, must be made conformable thereto, to givethat revolution effect.
Despotic government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasementof the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the chiefcriterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that theexercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothingto do with the laws but to obey them; and they politically depend moreupon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they fear enragingit by desperation.
It is a revolution in the state of civilization that will give perfectionto Revolution of France. Already the conviction that government by representationis the true system of government is spreading itself fastin the world. The reasonableness of it can be seen by all. The justnessof 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 meansof beginning the world, and see before them the certainty of escaping themiseries that under other governments accompany old age, the Revolutionof France will have an advocate and an ally in the heartof all nations.
An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; itwill succeed where diplomatic management would fall: it is neither the Rhine,the Channel, nor the ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march onthe horizon of the world, and it will conquer.