The Official Financial Report
London, October 2. We now have before us the official report on the national revenues for the past year, half-year and quarter (according to Gladstone's innovations the English financial year ends for both expenditure and revenue on September 30)[a]. On the one hand it demonstrates the elasticity of English resources, on the other that the probabilities calculus is not the forte of English financiers. With regard to the past financial year the net surplus amounts to £8,344,781, with regard to the past half-year to £2,929,699, and to the past quarter £1,924,124. The significance of these figures is transformed at once if one takes into consideration on the one hand the increase in taxation which has taken place under Gladstone and Lewis and on the other the disproportion between the tax increases as calculated and as realised. This is incontrovertibly revealed as soon as we look into details. In the customs we find an increase of £1,290,787 for the year, of £608,444 for the half-year, and of £364,423 for the quarter. This is due entirely to the new taxes on tea, sugar and coffee. It needs the bourgeois optimism of The Daily News to use this statistical premise to deduce that prosperity within the working classes has increased. As we know, Gladstone suspended the tax reductions on tea and sugar which the House of Commons had decreed at his suggestion in 1854. His successor Lewis added 3 shillings per cwt. on sugar, which according to his estimate was to bring in £1,200,000 in taxes; 3d. per pound of tea, which according to his calculations was to add £750,000 to the customs; and finally 1d. per pound of coffee, which should be equivalent to a financial surplus of £150,000. The total surplus revenue from the customs for the last quarter, however, only amounts to £364,423, that is far less than even half of the additional return expected from the increased tax on sugar alone. From the taxation lists we see that the consumption- of coffee has fallen by almost 2 per cent as against 1853. The customs revenue from wine and tobacco has fallen significantly.
In England the excise is regarded as the barometer of the "comforts"[b] the lower classes of the people enjoy. Here we find a reduction of £266,006 in the best quarter, although Sir George Cornewall Lewis' new tax on distilled liquors was in full operation in Scotland and Ireland. He counted on receiving an increase of £1,000,000 from his additional tax. Instead of this he has lost £266,006 over the quarter. As for the stamp-duty, there is an increase over the year of £100,472 but a loss over the half-year of £48,402 and for the last quarter a loss of £103,344. This is all the more striking when one considers that Gladstone's newly introduced inheritance tax is in full operation. In the postal revenue, which belongs to this category (of stamp revenues), we find a deficit of £206,819 over the year, of £175,976 over the half-year and of £81,243 for the last quarter. The landed property tax shows an increase of £6,484,147 for the year, £2,195,124 for the half-year and £1,993,590 for the quarter. But we must not forget that Gladstone doubled the former rate of taxation and expected this to yield an increase of £6½ million, while Sir George Cornewall Lewis moreover passed a new additional tax of two pence in the pound, from which he anticipated another tax increase of £4,000,000. Thus with regard to the revenue from landed property the increase in revenue has in no way corresponded to the increase in taxation, either.
The swindles and the probable future of the Crédit Foncier and the Crédit mobilier and other Bonapartist creations in banking and in bankruptcy constantly occupy the public here. In this connection one may recall that Émile Péreire and other directors of these institutions were originally Saint Simonists. These gentle-men always expected the salvation of the world from the banks, perhaps also from bankruptcy. In any case they have found their own salvation therein. In so far as one abstracts from the great general ideas of the master, St. Simonism has been realised under Bonaparte in the only form in which it was possible. What more could one want! Péreire is Bonaparte's chief financial humbug and M. Michel Chevalier is one of his editors-in-chief, he is the principal economist of the Journal des Débats. Habent sua fata libelli[c]. But great ideas too have their "fata".
Written on October 2, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 467, October 6, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Published in English for the first time in MECW.
The report was published in The Times, No. 22173, October 1, 1855.—Ed.
Marx uses the English word.—Ed.
Books have their fate—a saying by the Roman grammarian and poet Terence, from his work De litteris, syllabis et metris (Carmen heroicurn, verse 258).—Ed.
The Société générale du Crédit mobilier was a big French joint-stock bank founded by the Péreire brothers in 1852. It was closely associated with Napoleon III's government and under the latter's protection engaged in large-scale speculation. It went bankrupt in 1867 and was liquidated in 1871.
Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14
(pp.554-556), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980