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Few subjects present a higher interest than inquiry into the political and domestic condition of our own country. The practical operation of our foreign and internal policy affects in so large a degree the happiness of the community, that whatever tends to awaken that spirit of useful inquiry, which leads to improvement in the management of the national resources, is in the highest sense useful and interesting
As preliminary to the general subject of the following pages, we have appropriated a short chapter to the review of the foreign policy of the British government, in which our relative position to the leading continental states is briefly developed. The political, domestic, and financial condition of Great Britain is so essentially influenced by that of other European nations, that we have deemed it necessary, in limine, to give a brief outline of the resources and politics of the four continental powers which, in connexion with Great Britain, preside over the destinies of Europe. It is impossible to predict from what quarter may originate the impulse which may give a different course to the current of affairs ; and every work which purposes freely to investigate the condition of any leading European nation, ought, in some degree, to comprehend the state of Europe. The question of war or peace is, in modern times, so interwoven with the internal and financial condition of nations, that in judging of the probable future policy of European governments, we must necessarily look to their power, revenue, and resources. How far the plan which, from such considerations, we have adopted, has detracted from that unity of design which ought to form a distinguishing feature in every historical and political work, remains for the reader to determine; but, if harmony of purpose is wanting in the succeeding pages, the deep interest which is felt by the public in the politics of Europe, and the frequent reference to continental affairs which of necessity occurs in the elucidation of the more material subjects here treated of, will, in some degree, justify the plan adopted. The facts advanced have been carefully collected from the most authentic sources, and whatever has been considered to bear upon the general system of European policy, has been briefly sketched. Many of the particulars contained in this portion of the work, have been deduced from personal observation, during a residence on the continent.
At the commencement of the second part of our work, we have investigated, at some length, the operation of our numerical advancement; and our conclusions, based on a careful review of facts, are, we trust, calculated not only to dispel the lugubrious anticipation of those who view with alarm the expansion of our population, but to inspire confidence in the prospective effects of its increase. In the latter part of the work, the buoyancy of the state revenues is clearly shewn to spring from the increase of people.
Few subjects have excited a greater share of public interest than the condition of the working classes, and the practical operation of poor laws : these form the theses of the succeeding chapter. The necessity for remedial measures in this part of our domestic policy is fully demonstrated, and the probable effect of the means adopted by parliament to eradicate the abuses which have crept into the administration of our eleemosynary laws discussed.--The state of British agriculture, and the question as to the policy of the present restrictions to a free trade in corn, form the succeeding topics of disquisition ; our suggestions on these important subjects, are founded on a careful research into the operation of past enactments. The removal of present impediments to a free trade in grain, are not advocated without duly appreciating the claims of vested interests; and the policy of a return to a more liberal course of commercial legislation, is only recommended on the principle of reconciling a variety of private interests with public advantage.
The intricate topics of money, coin, and exchange next succeed. Few subjects demand a greater share of attention on the part of our rulers, than the state of the currency. The questions which arise in the discussion, are full of vital importance. The national losses by the late defective plans of pecuniary legislation, cannot fail to impress the reader with the necessity of new ramparts of security; nor can he fail to see the danger to which the best interests of the state are exposed, under the operation of the present system. The expediency and novelty of those reforms, which we have, perhaps with too much confidence, suggested, are submitted to his judgment. Our chief aim in this part of the work has been clearness and perspicuity, and we have studiously avoided those mysteries of language in which the subject is too frequently enveloped.
In the investigation of our financial condition, we have entered on a rigid scrutiny of the British plan of taxation. The sweeping reforms we have