ページの画像
PDF
ePub

disposed, in a situation in which the faculty of speech seems to have deserted them. It is on this disposition only that they can form any rational plan for our safety.

The perpetual false alarms that have taken place on the excitement of administration for some years past, have exhausted, if I may so speak, their alarmability. The immense rise in the value of almost all articles of merchandize during the war, has enabled the merchant to increase his profit; not merely by the rise which the article sustains while in his hands, but by laying a profit on it proportioned to its higher value. The higher-priced an article, the easier the price may be raised. When beef was fourpence halfpenny per pound, the raising it to fivepence occasioned great murmuring. When it was two-pence per pound (which it was here about forty years ago), a lady told me that raising it to two-pence farthing almost occasioned an insurrection. But it has been raised since the beginning of the year from sixpence to seven-pence without the least opposition. The merchants here have lost forty thousand tons of shipping since the war, but they are content: the underwriters have paid the loss, who are again reimbursed by the rate of insurance, which is laid on the price of the article, — and thus the whole

falls on the consumer. Such has been the case hitherto. I am, however, told, on unquestionable authority, that our merchants who have withdrawn in whole or in part from business, and who may be considered as monied men, have taken a great alarm. Purchases are no longer made in the funds even at their present prices ; and orders have been sent up to London to sell out without restriction within these few days, to a great amount, by a class of men who hitherto have been most notorious for unlimited con-. fidence. In consequence of this, a principal banker told me that money had flowed back on him so much that he was absolutely at a loss what to do with it; as he for his own part would not purchase another sixpence in the funds, and could not lend it out on commercial adventure in the present state of things. Thus large sums are beginning to rest in the bankers' hands, without the power of converting them to account, from the hazard of all methods of employing it; and the friend I allude to, told me that he had hinted to several persons his wish that they would take their own money, and employ it in their own way. This state of things is altogether unexampled ; and will, if it continues, raise the comparative value of all real property. When the lowness of the price of the stocks

operates on that selfish animal, the monied man, rather as an alarm for what he holds than an encouragement to purchase more, a new condition of things is begun, and I leave you to judge what its effects must be on the resources of our minister. But why do I say all this to you? Doubtless it has occurred to you long ago, and to the enlightened persons with whom you con

verse.

In regard to the lower classes of people here, I am informed, on evidence that seems as good as the subject well admits of, that a great change has been for some time taking place in their sentiments, and that they are becoming even clamorous against the war. But they are a poor, hungry, diseased, and dispirited class. I speak by comparison, - for the poor here are better off than in many other places. They have totally lost the character of a “ bold peasantry," such as Goldsmith alludes to, and seem to be in a state of indifference at least towards the fate of their country. To give you a proof of their temper, a great number of those ballotted for the militia have run away, and the price of a substitute, demanded last Saturday, for the supplementary militia was twenty guineas. In consequence, the deputy-lieutenants (I speak on the information of one of them) are going to propose that a conditional sum shall be fixed; e.g. ten guineas for the twenty days, and ten more, if they should be called into the field; a measure which I told them I thought very wrong, as, in case of their being called out, this agreement might produce great inconvenience. I think the notion will be laid aside. The antiGallican prejudices of our people, as well ancient as modern, are dying fast away;

and unless new men and new measures shall arouse our sleeping genius, I believe our people will make little better defence against an invading army than did the Dutch.

The alarms along the coast have made a run on the Newcastle banks, which have been obliged to stop payment. Similar alarms will occasion similar runs all over Scotland, where the whole circulation is carried on in guinea notes. This summer will be eventful. The paper money of this country, which is now a substitute for gold, will dwindle under the alarms of an invasion into something much inferior, and, under the dangers of invasion, will become mere paper; - a circumstance pregnant with consequences.

I ever am,
Most truly yours,

JAMES CURRIE.

No. 93.

To Miss Anne Duncan, Lochrutton.

Liverpool, June 19. 1798. MY DEAR AUNT, I am much obliged by your letter of the 2d instant, and truly gratified by the expressions of affection in all your letters, which awaken in my mind many interesting recollections. ' I rejoice to see that your attachments continue unimpaired, because it is from these we derive our chief enjoyment in every period of life, and more particularly as we decline into the vale of years.

It will afford me great satisfaction to know that is relieved from the cares of business; but whatever my wishes may be on the subject, I think myself incompetent to advise. Indeed, as I grow older, I learn more distinctly the folly, and, in general, the painful consequences of being too forward in giving advice. One may be truly interested in one's friends, without pretending to judge for them.

The lads are very well, and often with us. We have had some young friends staying with us, in whose society I have had much pleasure.

« 前へ次へ »