English Public Finance from the Revolution of 1688: With Chapters on the Bank of England

By Harvey E. Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
Peace and Social Betterment
(1817-1914)

WE have just been studying the finances of a period the dominating note in which was war. It was also the period when the greater part of the English debt, as it stood prior to the recent world cataclysm, was created. We now enter upon the study of a period where peace was dominant. During the century there were two important wars and a number of military expeditions, but as these were all fought at a distance, they scarcely interrupted the course of events at home.

The period is one of intense interest to the social reformer, to the economist and to the publicist. For the student of public finance it is chiefly memorable as a time within which the methods of taxation were greatly simplified. A distinguished succession of finance ministers, notably Peel, Disraeli and Gladstone, introduced and successfully established innovations in State finance of far-reaching importance.


Sources of Revenue--Tariff Reform

During this period England was transformed from a country surrounded by high tariff walls to one practising free trade in its most extreme form. From the standpoint of finance this resulted in reducing the number of classes of commodities upon which customs duties were collected from 1200 in 1842 to 466 in 1853, and to only 48 in 1860. By 1880 the number of classes of articles upon the tariff had been reduced to ten. In 1914 substantially the entire customs revenue was

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