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

By Harvey E. Fisk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
War and Debt
(1688-1817)

THE period of English history extending from the accession of William III to the close of the Napoleonic wars was one marked by a succession of wars and a steady growth of debt.

In 1688 the only debt of the nation consisted of some £384,000 of temporary obligations for arrears due to the army and for other demands arising from the Revolution. There was also in litigation the claim of the Goldsmiths for reimbursement of the amounts seized from them by Charles II at the time of the "Stop of the Exchequer" in 1672. This claim was later adjudicated at £664,263. So the entire debt as of 1688 was a little over one million pounds.

In the century and a third lying between this date and 1817, when the expenses of the Great French War were finally determined, the bulk of the public debt of England as it stood prior to the recent world war was created. The wars of William III were the cause of £18 million of debt and the wars of Anne of £33 million more. The Spanish Right of Search War and the War of the Austrian Succession piled on another £31 million. The Seven Years War added £57 million, the American War £116 million, and the Great French Wars £612 million. The total debt at the end of the period, allowing for some reductions during the intervals of peace lying between the different wars, was £850 million.

The table on page 93 summarizes these data. It also affords comparisons not only of one period with another,

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