Increase in the National Debt – 1797

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Increase in the National Debt

Increase of the National Debt; Taxation.; Owing to these hundred years and more of war, the National Debt of Great Britain and Ireland (552), which in [1688] was much less than a million of pounds, had now reached the enormous amount of over nine hundred millions (or $4,500,000,000), bearing yearly interest at the rate of more than $160, 000,000.

So great had been the strain on the finances of the country, that the Bank of England suspended payment, and many heavy failures occurred.  In addition to this, a succession of bad harvests sent up the price of wheat to such a point that at one time an ordinary sized loaf of bread cost the farm laborer more than half a day’s wages.

Taxes had gone on increasing until it seemed as though the people could not endure the burden.  As Sydney Smith declared, with entire truth, there were duties on everything. They began, he said, in childhood with “the boy’s taxed top”; they followed to old age, until at last “the dying Englishman, pouring his taxed medicine into a taxed spoon, flung himself back on a taxed bed, and died in the arms of an apothecary who had paid a tax of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.”

Excerpt from The Leading Facts of English History by David Henry Montgomery – 1904


Further Reading and External Links

Historic Charts of UK National Debt

National Debt and Population