Tackling The National Debt 1771 Style

Balancing the Debt
Balancing the Debt

Today Most Western countries are struggling to pay off their national debt and keep their houses in order, it seems though, that things have been the same many times before. The 1770’s were no different. People came up with unpopular and outlandish ideas to balance the books, just as they do today.  The article below comes from “The Oxford Magazine” 1770.

The Cobler of Cranbourne-Alley, ever the attentive to the duty which a public writer owes to the public, does himself  the honour to transmit you a plan for discharging the National Debt; and he is serious in his belief that, if his plan should be adopted, it will fully answer the end proposed.


Plan for discharging the National Debt.

  • A tax on all Bachelors in England, Scotland, and Ireland, above thirty years of age. (Suppose half a million of people, at 20s. Per annum)-500,000
  • A tax on all frequenters of places of public entertainment in Town and Country. (Reckon this article in the Gross, at the sum of —-
  • Abolish all pensions under the Government. This Article may be rated at 300,000
  • Tax every Race horse kept in this Kingdom, at 20 l. Per annum (Reckon 1000)  £20,000
  • Ten Pounds per annum on every Negro Servant kept in these Kingdoms. (Suppose 5000) 50,000
  • Five Pounds per annum on every Livery Servant kept by any Nobleman. Suppose 100,000) 500,000
  • Fifty Pounds Per annum on each Livery Servant ,kept by any Nobleman, or person of Superior rank.  (Reckon 1000 Servants) 50,000
  • A tax of 10s. Per annum on every Dog kept by any person, except a Butcher, or others whose business may demand the assistance of that animal. We Cannot allow a less sum for this article than — 300,000
  • A tax of 20s. per annum on all butchers &c. keeping Dogs under Licence. (suppose 40,000) -20,000
  • A tax on 30,000 Lawyers, at 20l. Per annum – 600,000
    Ditto on Pawnbrokers, at 10l. per annum – 100,000
    Ditto on Publicans, at 5l.Per annum -250,000
    Ditto on the bulls and Bears of change alley. (Suppose 1000) at 50 l. each per annum. -50,000

  • ——————————–
    • 2,790,000

    • Let all taxes, hitherto imposed for the purpose of paying the interest of the National Debt, be continued; and it is certain, that the Taxes above recited will discharge the principle in a reasonable number of years.


The Oxford Magazine. September 1771
Many thanks to Valerie Karatzas, for the lead.

I am, your humble servant,

  • The Cobler of Cranbourne Alley.
  • One thought on “Tackling The National Debt 1771 Style

    • 20th January 2016 at 9:15 am

      I like the 1696 Window Tax. It didn’t take long for people to start blocking out strategic windows to reduce liability. You can still see them today in many old buildings.


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