"It is impossible to estimate with precision the progress of national riches, as they arise from the aggregate savings of all the individuals in the State ; but it is not difficult by many obvious circumstances to discern in which of any two periods of time it has been most rapid. If there have been extra ordinary sums expended upon works of public utility ; if harbours, bridges, high roads, and inland navigation have been improved and multiplied ; if numerous buildings have suddenly arisen ; if cultivation has extended over wastes ; if shipping has increased in a manner more remarkable at one period than the other-no one can hesitate in deciding in which the national capital, and consequently the public power and prosperity, has most rapidly augmented. It will hardly be denied that all these signs of eminent felicity exist in the nation beyond all former example.''1
Such is the opinion of an understanding observer, in 1794. Moreover, it is a statement which is supported by an estimate, quoted by Sir Robert Giffen, which was made in 1800. The estimates, made on the eve of the eighteenth century, varied from 250 to 320 million pounds, while an estimate of 1740 gave the national capital as 480 million pounds.2 All these estimates gave land an amount varying from slightly under to slightly over two- thirds of the total.3
Now, in 1800, we find a tremendous increase in the country's estimated capital, and a large alteration in the relative amount allotted to land, and to the rest of the fixed and floating capital of the country respectively. The Following is Giffen's summary of " Observa tions on the Produce of the Income Tax," by Rev. H. Beeke, B.D., 1800:
|Mines, Canals, Tolls, Etc.||5||20||100|
|Foreign Trade and Shipping||10||8||80|
|Plate, Jewels, Etc.||50|
|Shipping, Arsenals, Etc.||15|
|Provincial and Municipal Buildings, Etc.||25|
This rise is astonishing, and out of all proportion to the rise in population, nor can the increase be wholly due to the remarkable rise in prices, which commenced with 1780. There must have been a great increase during the century, not only in money values, but in things.
The change is most obvious when we compare the difference in the proportion of the total which represented the capitalized income of land. From being two-thirds of the whole, it has become less than half. This points to an obvious conclusion : there must have been either a rapid change in values with a decline in rents, or the amount of fixed capital in the country must have been rapidly increasing throughout the century. It is well known that the first of these things did not happen, in fact an increase of rents had begun in 1790 which continued until 1830.4 Therefore we are left with the alternative that during the eighteenth century a large increase in the total capital of the country took place. This increase, though partly due to the sinking of capital in land due to the development of scientific farming, was beyond measure mainly the result of a tremendous increase in fixed and floating capital, as a result of rapid industrial and commercial development, in which the industrial element largely predominated.
1 N. Vansittart, Reflections, etc., London, 1794. pp. 122-7. Boulton's son has some illuminating thoughts on the growth of capital in a MSS. pamphlet called Thoughts Explanatory of the Pressure Experienced by the British Agriculturist and Manufac turer. By One of Both Vocations. April, 1827. Tew MSS.
2 R. Giffen. Growth of Capital, 1889, p. 87.
3 Ib.,pp. 74-80.
4 Toynbee, Industrial Revolution, p. 117.