LETTERS FROM PARIS, BY 0. P. Q. No. XXYIII. THE
DISPOSABLE PROPERTY OR CAPITAL OF SPAIN IS NOT EQUAL TO PAY HER DEBTS.
TO THE EDITOR. OF THE SPF.CTATOE.
Paris, 15th October 1834.
SIRâA very wise man said, " Hope deferred maketh the heart sick r and therefore, although I have a great deal to say respecting the project of law or bill adopted by the Chamber of Procuradores at Madrid for regulatingt he Foreign Debt, and for borrowing more money,âand though I have a grt at &A to expose, oWch it would be wrong in me to conceal, and a great deal to examine as well as state, which it is 'wee:is gag you should know,âyet, bon-gre or mat-gre, I will to-day devote my letter to showing you, " that the disposable property or capital of Spain is not equal to pay her debts." As a sort of post-scriptum to this very short preface. I beg to repeat, that I protest against these
debts ;" that I object to the principle of the recognition of a very large portion of them ; and that my mode of paying three-fourths of them would be to expunge them from the account altogether. I would this, because the Governments incurring the debts had no right to do so ; because those who lent money were informed beforehand that the Government de facto was not a Government de jure ; because many of the claims made are shamefully usurious ; because Spain has not received value for one-fourth of the claims made upon her ; and becatee Spain cannot afford to be generous, but only to be just. But as the Procuradores have decided, that (with the exception of the Guebhard Loan) they will not examine into the nature, origin, or history of these Foreign Loans and claims, but will acknowledge all, and promise to pay all,âwhy, I run compelled to adopt for my basis this determination ; and am about to show that Spain cannot pay the CAPITAL any more than she can the interest of her acknowledged Debt. The Camel. of SPAIN must be divided into that which is disposable, and that which is not so. I am not maintaining or sibout to maintain, thd if Spain could be put up to auction, as a man puts up his farm or his house to the hammerâthat all the houses and all the lands, all the fields and all the woods, all the forests and all the rivers, all the canals aud all the mines, all the household goods, books, manuscripts, silver and gold plate, and every other description of property belong- ing to all the Spaniards, would not sell for money enough to pay all the debts owing by the State, amounting, as We have seen already, to 280 millions of pounds sterling. Nor am I maintaining that if all the palaces, woods, and farms of the Crown, and all the lands, 6,:c. belonging to the " propios " or destined to supply the wants of the municipal administration, and all the " teddies," and concegiles," and lands of " mostreucos," and the property of the house of Albe, and the valley of Alcudia, and the estates of the Inquisition, and the Albufera of Valentia, and the lead mines of Linares, and the quicksilver mines of Almaden, and the copper mines of Rio Tinto, and the " patrimottio real" of Catalonia, Aragon, Valentia, and Mallorca, and the wood of Segura, and the na- tional forests, and the public granaries or " positos," which are a sort of agricultural banks, and are useful to poor cultivators of land, and the canals which are constructing, and the bridges, routes, aqueducts, and national edifices, and the revenues arising from them, were all put up to sale, and sold to persons who would invest their money in these se- curities, and pay the purchase-monies into the national treasuryâthat the produce would not be large, and even the nett revenue considerable. But this is not disposable property, and those who put it deo n as such make a terribly false and absurd calculation. You may take away from an individual all his goods and chattels, put them up to auction, and tell them ; but this cannot be done with national property of the descriptions I have just given. There may, indeed, be a few excep- tions. Take the property of the house of Albe, the estates of the In- quisition, the lead-mines of Linares, the quicksilver mines of .Almaden, the copper mines of Rio Tinto, the woods of Segura, and all time national forests, and sell all of these, if they can be sold, at even the exaggerated prices which have been set upon them by Spanish calcula. torsâand they will not produce EIGHT MILLIONS OF POUNDS STERLING. This is no rough estimate. I do not give you the details, because I am afraid of alarming you with figures; but I um quite correct in what I am telling you. The Spanish Debt is 280 millions of pounds sterling ; and these properties all disposed ofâto English, or French, or Spanish trading companies, and inine associationsâwould not produce eight millions towards it.
Nor am I maintaining, that if all the lands belonging to the "propios," and the proceeds of which lands are applicable to the cost of the local police and local administration of the towns and villagesâ and of all the lands belonging to the " baldios," and which have been estimated at 75 millions of pounds sterlingâcould be put up to auction and all sold, that they would not produce an enormous stun of money. B t I am maintaieirg, that this is not disposable propertyâunless, indeed, all public school property, and university property, and cor- poratimaproperty, and all uncultivated lands, in England, are national and disposable property. In neither case can they be called so; and none but the ignorant would so denominate them.
Nor do 'maintain, that all the individual fortunes of all the Spaniards, if all placed in the national treasury, would not form a very large sum. But who would propose this agrarian measure ? and who would be found to purchas a nnd who to pay? There is nothing disposable here,â though this I will state en peasant, that if all the private fortunes and properties of all the Spaniards, rich and poor, high and low, pauper and robber, were placed in the national treasury, they would not be equal to pay the capital of seven billions of francs, or 280 millions of pounds sterling, the total debts and claims made on Spain.
Nor am I maintaining, that if Spain, blessed by a Government she has never yet possessedânamely, a free, economical, national, and re- presentative Governmentâshould shake off her habits and her pre- judices, her present institutions and ideas, and should inclose all waste lands, and become a commercial or an agricultural country, or bothâ that in process of time (say in half a century) Spain would still be unable to pay either the capital or the interest of her Debt. But I am Speaking of Spain as Spain is; I am speaking of the present disposable capital and resources of that country, and not of what they could be made la the hands of such people as the English, the Flemish, or the Dutch ; nor of what even the Spaniards may make of them in the course of fifty or one hundred years. I know as well as any one can do, that the Lindy of Spain are uncultivated ; that the advantages possessed by Spam are not improved ; and much, very much, might be done in a land of such natural resources, and blessed with such a elimato. But Who will purchase an estate at the price of what it may be made to be Worth after fifty years' expenditure, changes, and alterations ? How moch do all these o Nachos! and "propios" lands bring in now of nett revenue ? Not a r al after paying the charges to which they are sub- ieet And if you take away from the towns and cities of Spain the
â˘ income arising from the lands, the rents of which have hitheito paid all the municipal expenses and local charges of the country, what is to be done to supply the annual income necessary to meet those charges when once the lands are sold ?
Nor am I maintaining. that if Spaniards, or Frenchmen, or English- men, would cultivate all the waste lands, work all the mines, look to all the fisheries, and devote themselves to obtaining as large an in- come as possible from all the national property in Spain, in pro- cess of time these agricultural, mineral, and commercial speculations would not be able to pay to the State such rents or annuities as should afterwards enable Spain to make good her engagements with the public creditor. But this I am maintaining, that there is no revenue now to dispose ofâno capital now which any one will buy ; and that whether to rent or to sell,these waste lands and waste mineral districts are perfect wastes, in all calculations of what Spain owes and whet she has to pay her debts with.
Nor am I maintaining that the property of the Spanish Clergy is not large in amount, when I know that some have even estimated it at five billions of francs. But then, how absurd it is to suppose that the people of Spain would pay the ecclesiastical tithe (which is estimated at 86 millions of francs per annum), and the " Santa Cruzada," and the " Veto de Santiago," and the " primicea," to any but the clergy, or to pay any portion of the Spanish Debt. In like manner, it is ridiculous, in estimating the value of Church property in Spain, to estimate the value of monasteries, convents, and even churchesâjust as though Spaniards were about to renounce all religion, and sell all her ecclesias- tical buildings for bricks and mortar. The property of the Jesuits, the revenues of the monasteries, &c. arising from lands, and the property called personal property in religious houses, &e. are, if you will, disposable propertyâ(i. e. if any one could be got to purchase them); but even this disposable property cannot be disposed ofânot because there are not sellers, but because there are not buyers. Except in a very few districts in Spain, no one would purchase Church property. But it is said, that in order to get money to pay off Spanish debts, the tithe might be redeemed like the land-tax in England, and tire " primi-
cea " and "Voto de Santiago" in the same way. 'Ibis appears feasible at the first statement of the proposition,âas by this means the pro- prietors of lands would get rid of the charges made upon them, and which charges are nearly immemorial. But then, it is forgotten, that one of the reasons why lands in Spain renmin uncultivated, is that the cultivators are exposed to too heavy charges in the shape of tithes and taxes to enable them to derive a profit thereon, and that the landed pro- prietors now would everywhere have joined with Don (7a ni.os and hoisted his standard, unless they had been promised, not that the charges they suppoit shall be eternal, but that they shall be removed altogether.
I have thus looked at all the boasted resoarces of Spain in the shape of capital, as well as in the shape of revenue ; and there is but very little to dispose of to meet tile seven billions of francs or 280 millions of pounds sterling. And evni that which may be called disposableâ that which is not liable to be appropriated to other objectsâthat which is not saddled with local or general charges, but which is clear and dis- tinct revenue, and clear and distinct capital (little though it be)âwould not for years to come find any sort of market, or meet with a single pur- chaser, either at home or abroad. I need not devote a moment to prov- ing this. Let any man propose in England, France, or Holland, to form au association to cultivate lands in Spainâor even to work Spanish minesâand would he not be received with shouts of laughter, and treated as a madman or a fool ?
But we are told to look for a large sum from the Smith Ametican Republics ! I shall not enter into the question, whether when a country, or a colony, if you will, frees itself from the domination of the mother country, and declares itself independent, and maintains that in- dependence, and has that independence recognized and respected by other nationsâwhether that colony is bound lu honour or justice to support any portion of the debt of the mother country due at the period of its declared independence. The case of Bel- giiiin and Holland would perhaps settle the question in the opinion of some individuals, but not in mine. However, let us for the motnent suppose that the states of Mexico, Guatimala, Venezuela, Chili, Peru, Nueva Granada, Quito, Bolivia, and Buenos Ayres, will consent to bear their proportion of the debt due from the mother country and her colonies prior to 1808. What was that debt ? Two billions of francs. What proportion should those colonies sustain ? Not more than a fourth. Then the fourth would be 600 millions of francs, or '20 millions of pounds sterling. Could these States pay that sum ? I doubt it much. However, let us suppose that they can, and that they will do so. Still the 20 millions of pounds sterling would be but one ,tharteenth part 'of the total debt in Spain, which is O80 millions of pounds sterling.
Finally, there are sonic enthusiastic though excellent and high- minded Spaniards, who are for adopting a plain of " farming Spain," and farming her revenues and resources, and putting all s're has in the shape of lands and tithes and mines ald so forth, into the hands of national commissions, charged to obtain the best revenue, cultivate in the best manner, and work the mines, &c. to the greatest advantage : out of the proceeds, first, the expenses of these commissions and of this working and cultivation are to be paid ; and secend, the expenses of the State, and of the localities are to be supported ; and third, the balance is to be applied to the payment of the interest and reduction of the capital of the Spanish Debts. Now I confess that there is a great look of honesty about this scheme; but is it practicable ? No. Spain is not an agricultural or commercial or manufacturing naticn. It Is Use- less to talk of what she was, or may be, or trill be in fifty or even
thirty years. Spain as she is cannot cultivate waste lands, can ot work idle mines, cannot get rid of the influence of the el. r,y, and cannot offer to her creditors any disposable property which any inc wot 11 buy, or wh:ch any one would hold.
That Spain may become great, may become free, may become en-
lightened, may become powerful, and may become happy, no one can desire more the.' myself : but the Procuradores have fallen into the error of supposing that national credit is to be purohased by tricks and jugglery, arid th:.t in order to convince the world you are Irente.rt and rich, it is merely necessary to say, "YES, I KNOW I own ! !"
I am Sir, your obedient servant, 0. P. Q.