Confiscation; an Outline

Author: William Greenwood


We need more money per capita: say some more would-be leaders, who have found the only way out of the land of bondage. Increase the currency to $50 per capita, and business and prosperity will once more fill the land. Money has become scarcer, they continue, and therefore dearer. Those who contracted monetary obligations last week find that they are now paying more for the use of that money than it was worth when the debt was made.

This is a hardship on the borrower, and can be prevented by increasing the amount of money in circulation.

This is the very essence of what is claimed by those who are for increasing the volume of money in circulation. Money has changed in value, and those who are mortgaged, or otherwise under interest-paying obligations, have found that money is scarcer, in this instance through contractionof the currency, and therefore harder to get.

There should certainly be enough money issued for the smooth carrying on of the country’s business, and when they determine the amount necessary, it should be put in circulation at once. But stopping money from fluctuating value is another thing.

The man who buys a barrel of flour one day for $4.00 may find that it is worth only $3.50 the day after. The man who borrows money at 7 per cent. one day may find it worth only 6 1/2 the day after.

To prevent these fluctuations in the value of either money or commodities is a legislative feat beyond the power of mortal man. And when we see our Legislator trying to regulate the value of anything that one man has to sell to another, are no longer surprised at his trying to regulate the weather by exploding powder in the air. Our Mark Twains and Bill Nyes are flat indeed, when compared to that straight-faced clown, the American legislator, who would give an unchangable value to either the shoes we wear or the money we use.

This whole question of currency has as little to do with the prevailing misery as the missing button off your vest would have to do with your being frozen to death. England not only has enough money to carry on her own business, but also has $15,000,000,000 to lend to outsiders. It is not the wealth of a country, but how it is distributed that tells the story.


The single taxers of whom Henry George is the great apostle, are also claiming the floor, but a patient hearing finds the distressed turning away for relief that the single taxer can not give. They are cultivating a century plant, and while we are waiting for it to bloom three generations of human beings will have met their millionaire masters and taken their place in the line that leads to the soup house and the pauper’s grave.

The masterly logic of these reformers is the work of serene-tempered and well-fed men, whose cosy library with windows facing to the south, and the open fire-place with its soothing and cheerful glow, is conducive to the developing of a red-tape reform that must be an inspiring subject for discussion at an afternoon tea. Because they are well fed is the reason why they can play a waiting game, but the despairing and maddened people, for whose benefit this single tax contract, with its long deferred payment, is being drawn up, will have as little use for it as they will have for the plate-glass window when their bread riots begin.

The land owner alone is the one these one-horse-chaise reformers would start their Dobbin after. The large landowner should be cut down in his holdings, and their plan is just the one to fix him and make him let go. They will tax him in such a way that he cannot pay, and then they have got him, they tell us, as they leisurely jog along over their pleasant highway.

Now, why this dilly-dallying with the large land-owner, or any one else, that has something that he should surrender for the general good?

When the owning of 50,000 acres of land by one man is wrong, then it is wrong to let him own it, and if there was one drop of the John Brown blood in this crew of house-gown and plush-slipper reformers, they would go into the enemy’s camp, and never let up on their open warfare until what belonged to the people was returned to them.

Taxing an enemy to make him give up his plunder!

When hunger and plenty is found side by side what solution can there be but to set a limit to what the overendowed can tag with his name, and to put his forfeited surplus where the underfed can, with reasonable labor, get possession of it.

If the single taxer is given plenty of time, he will accomplish something, undoubtedly, but the whole thing will be over long before poor old Dobbin gets on to the scene.


The millionaire land-owner and the millionaire capitalist are as much out of place in a republic as is the man with a title; and the laws which permitted the growth of the first two are the primary cause of the disgraceful conditions that exist in this Republic to-day. When we know that people in actual want are to be found in every section of the United States, we ought to be able to say that it is Nature that has failed us for the time being; but it is not Nature, but the wretched laws of man’s own making that are at fault. Had we the economic laws that belong to a republic, instead of those that belong to a despotism, the foreign markets could be entirely closed to us, and all our people would still have enough of all things that are necessary to life. And those able men who have gone into the domain of natural philosophy, to see what they could find to advance and benefit the human race, have found so much, and brought about such a change in the industrial world, that they have completely bewildered our political philosophers, who have been utterly unable to make room for the labor-saving inventions and discoveries of those men, until the confusion and distress resulting from the incompetence of our political philosophers to adjust the laws to meet the changed conditions are beginning to make us look upon the inventors as our enemies, instead of our benefactors.

The work of the world consists principally in raising food and manufacturing the things we wear, and the forwarding of both to the consumer. And the great inventions of the McCormicks, Howes, Fultons, Stephensons, and rest have made this work so easy that the labor done in two months now is equivalent to the labor done in twelve months a few years ago. That is why they are great inventions. Yet our law-makers are still legislating for conditions that disappeared with the ox-goad, hand loom, lapstone, and sickle, and are continually trying to devise ways and means by which the labor of the country can be kept employed the year round. What doing? When they find out how to make you wear twenty pairs of shoes at a time, they will have found out how to keep the shoe factories running the year round, not before.

The natural philosopher can overcome physical difficulties; the political philosopher cannot overcome economic ones.

We would reside on a certain hill were it not for the climb. A Hallidie lays his cable, and puts us at the top without further trouble. We find Egypt cutting into our cotton market, Argentine into our wheat market, France and Germany have shut their doors against our meats, and England will not approve of silver. Many throughout this country find their very bread falling short through these conditions abroad, and the sufferers call in our political economists to help them to at least keep the necessaries of life within their reach.

Of the various nostrums prescribed by these political quacks, two have been thoroughly tried, but the aggravating results have only cut the eye-teeth of the humbugged; and when they take the field themselves as political economists they will have a preparation of their own that will be bitter enough to the taste of those to whom they will apply it.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Confiscation; an Outline

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Confiscation; an Outline

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: William Greenwood, "II.," Confiscation; an Outline, trans. Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946 in Confiscation; an Outline (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831), Original Sources, accessed July 12, 2024,

MLA: Greenwood, William. "II." Confiscation; an Outline, translted by Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946, in Confiscation; an Outline, London, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831, Original Sources. 12 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Greenwood, W, 'II.' in Confiscation; an Outline, trans. . cited in 1831, Confiscation; an Outline, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. Original Sources, retrieved 12 July 2024, from