§ The order of the day being read for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved, "That the Act 46 Geo. 3, c. 65, for granting to his Majesty during the present war, and until the 6th day of April next after the ratification of a Definitive Treaty of Peace, further additional rates and duties in Great Britain on the rates and duties on profits arising from property, professions, trades and offices; and for repealing an Act passed in the 45th year of his present Majesty, for repealing certain parts of an Act made in the 43d year of his present Majesty, for granting a contribution on the profits arising from property, professions, trades, and offices; and to consolidate and render more effectual the provisions for collecting the said duties, might be referred to the said Committee."
§ Mr. Whitbread
rose and observed, that it was but a very short time since the table of that House was covered with Petitions, praying that the Property Tax might not be renewed; and the right hon. gentleman took an early opportunity—forestalling the public, as it were, from coming before Parliament with their petitions—of declaring his intention to abandon that most obnoxious measure. He afterwards brought forward various financial plans, and several new taxes, which were adopted by the House in the shape in which they were proposed by him. Every one of these was, it now ap- 670 peared, thrown aside, except the Assessed Taxes: and this part of his system the right hon. gentleman kept alive, until he ascertained whether he could effect the resuscitation of the Property Tax. If he failed in that, he would, of course, render the increased Assessed Taxes subservient to his purpose. From his plans, abortive as they had been, at different times, it was obvious, either that the right hon. gentleman was an unskilful and incompetent financier, or that the capability of the country to bear a heavy weight of taxation had come to a conclusion—and that there was no way of keeping up taxes to the immense extent which was formerly the case. When the right hon. gentleman abandoned the Property Tax—when he made the celebrated funeral oration over it, and commended it so highly and energetically—he stated, that there was a probability of its revival, but that such an event could only take place in time of war. He explicitly declared to the House—and this was at a time when the circumstances which now exist could not be contemplated, although there might be a feeling in his mind, that war was likely, from other causes, to break out—that in no other slate of affairs, except that of absolute hostilities, would this tax be resorted to. He also gave the House to understand—the Bourbons then being on the throne of France—that the peace establishment of this country was likely to call for 19 million per annum; but that, under these circumstances, he was able to furnish a scheme of taxation, that was fully adequate to meet this expense. The right hon. gentleman had now, however, moved that the Property Tax should be taken into consideration by the committee—and here, on the question preliminary to the Speaker's leaving the Chair, he wished to understand from him and his colleagues, what the true situation of the country was? Are we at peace, or at war? Is there any alternative? Or are we so situated that we must proceed to hostilities? He asked of the noble lord, was it true that a Treaty had been signed at Vienna, by ministers, authorized or unauthorized, on the part of this country? Authorized or unauthorized—for, be it recollected, we were now accustomed to a state of affairs, in which ministers acted without instructions from the country whose foreign relations they were called upon to watch over. Hereafter, he supposed, it would be seen whether they 671 were authorized or not—hereafter, he supposed, the instructions under which the noble lord opposite had acted, would be produced. They would also, he trusted, be put in possession of the instructions by which the duke of Wellington was authorised to sign the Declaration published at Vienna on the 13th of last month. Or, perhaps, the House would be boldly informed by the noble lord, that both he and the duke of Wellington had acted without any authority whatever. He wished to know, whether the Government of this country was committed in a war against France? This, it was said, was the fact; and that a subsidy was to be paid by this country to the Allied Sovereigns, the whole agreement being founded on the Treaty of Chaumont; with this deplorable feature, that the Allied Sovereigns bound themselves, in no event to treat with the present ruler of France. A decisive answer on this point, would, he was convinced, be satisfactory, not merely to him, but to the House, and the public in general. Farther, he should be glad to know, whether in consequence of some indolence, or supineness, or neglect, or whatever else it might be called, on the part of the noble lord who, when his day of trial arrived, would have to explain the circumstance, an engagement had taken place between the troops of the King of Naples and the Austrian forces, in which the latter were defeated; and whether the King of Naples had not in consequence taken possession of the city of Rome, while the Pope had fled to the North of Italy? It would seem as if the port-folio of the noble lord had a rent in it so large, that it let out many very important papers, which had passed between him and various individuals connected with the late negociations at Vienna. No person could read those papers without deeply considering them. He did not ask the noble lord to avow the document, but whether he disavowed it—because he did not expect that the noble lord would be so bold and decisive as openly to give an avowal—it was a letter addressed to lord Castlereagh by the plenipotentiaries* of* The following is a Copy of the Document here alluded to:Note from the Plenipotentiaries of his Majesty the King of Naples, to lord Castlereagh, dated Vienna, 11th February, 1815.The undersigned Ministers, Plenipotentiaries672 that individual whom the noble lord had called 'marshal Murat,' but whom he (Mr. Whitbread) would have thought the noble lord would have been the first to call; king of Naples.' Upon the answer that might be given to several of these questions, would depend the propriety of going into a committee on the Property Tax, which could only be excusable in the event of war, into which, he feared, we were about to be plunged headlong: the issue of it, at all events, must be extremely doubtful; and (if the Treat to which he had alluded, had in fact been executed) the object of it was unjustifiable on every ground of common sense, humanity, and national law.
said, that the questions of the hon. gentleman had in view one of two objects—he wished either to learn whether the notice of his right hon. friend was one which the House ought to entertain; or he was desirous of calling on them to discuss subjects not then before them, and to give some opinion on various topics connected with the foreign relations of the country. With respect to the first object, it was a matter of discretion with the House, whether the committee should go into an investigation of the necessity of resorting to the Property-tax, with reference to the general state of the country, and to the question of war or preparation for war. It was here to be considered, whether a case was to be laid before Parliament sufficient to justify the adoption of the measure which his right hon. friend intended to propose to them. Now, as to the first difficulty which the hon. gentleman appeared to feel, with reference to the conduct of his right hon. friend, it might very easily be removed. His right hon. friend, in stating the reasons which induced him to abandon the Property-tax, namely, that, in the then state of Europe, he did not think the country called for the continuance of that measure, although it would be necessary to devise some efficient taxes, did not go to the length the hon. gentleman had described. The hon. gentleman passed over this very rapidly. He argued, because his right hon. friendof his Majesty the King of Naples, have had the honour of addressing to his excellency my lord viscount Castlereagh, principal Secretary of State of hit Britannic Majesty, for Foreign Affairs, an official Note, dated the 29th of December last, soliciting the conclusion of the definitive673 had abandoned his new taxes, and, under an alteration of circumstances, sought to raise a considerable sum within the year, which could now only be done by the measure about to be proposed, that, therefore, all the ordinary sources of taxation were destroyed. Was this, he would ask, logical reasoning? Was it the reasoning of a man of information? Or was it fit to be put forward in the present state of Europe? Such assertions were calculated to have an effect disadvantageous to the character and welfare of the country. Some time agopeace between the Crowns of Naples and Great Britain.His excellency my lord Castlereagh was so good as to assure the undersigned first plenipotentiary of his Neapolitan Majesty, that he would occupy himself with the object of that note. It has nevertheless remained to this day without any result.Although the King cannot but be keenly affected by this silence, from the eagerness with which he is desirous of entering into more intimate relations with England, he has too much dependence on the sincerity and justice of the English Government, to allow him to doubt for a moment of its fidelity in fulfilling the engagements which it has contracted towards him.If all those reasons which the undersigned urged in their note of the 29th of December last, required to be corroborated by others still more powerful, they might recall to his excellency my lord Castlereagh, the Convention which he proposed at Troyes, with the three other principal coalesced Powers, by which the Britannic Government, recognising the political existence of the King of Naples, solicited an indemnity in favour of the King of Sicily, as an indemnification for the kingdom of Naples.Austria, Russia, and Prussia, adhered by separate acts of accession, stipulated at Troyes, the 15th February, 1814, to that Convention which has irrevocably consecrated the principle of the political existence of the King of Naples.It belonged next to the Powers, in whose hands were all the disposable countries conquered from the enemy, to find and to proportion the indemnity to be given to the King of Sicily.His Neapolitan Majesty could concur no otherwise in this than by his good offices, and he has fulfilled on this point674 his right hon. friend declared it was his intention, in the then state of Europe, to give up the property tax; but he said he would resort to it in the event of war. In making this declaration, he did not preclude himself from looking to it as a grand resource, in that mixed state, where, if we were not absolutely at war, great preparations were evidently necessary. The hon. gentleman had inquired whether he was prepared to avow or disavow particular publications that had appeared in the daily prints. He should be perfectlythe engagements which he contracted by his Treaty of Alliance of the 11th January, 1814, the undersigned having declared by the note which they have had the honour of addressing to his excellency my lord Castlereagh, under date of the 29th December last, that they were ready to concur in the arrangements which might be proposed for that effect.Thus, under whatever point of view the Britannic Government wishes to view its position with regard to the King of Naples, it can only consider as just and reasonable the demand which the undersigned are charged with reiterating to his excellency, my lord Castlereagh, of proceeding to the prompt conclusion of a definitive Treaty of Peace between the two Crowns.No person can be better qualified than my lord Castlereagh to enlighten the English Government with respect to the affairs of Naples. Having concurred in the negociation which preceded and which followed the accession of his Neapolitan Majesty to the coalition, he was the organ of the engagements entered into by the English Government towards the Court of Naples, and his character for justice and probity is too well known to allow the undersigned to suppose that his political conduct will vary in any manner; and they are certain that he will support in London the engagements which he contracted in the name of his Government towards the King of Naples, as well as the promises and verbal declarations made by him during the last campaign of the coalesced armies, and principally at Chaumont and Dijon.The undersigned beseech his excellency my lord Castlereagh to accept the assurances of their very high consideration.(Signed) "The Duke de CAMPOCHIARO.The Prince de GARIATI.675 prepared to answer this question, when the subject to which those documents referred was ready to be discussed. The hon. gentleman had triumphantly observed, that his (lord Castlereagh's) day of trial was near. He was not afraid to meet that day—he would not shrink from that trial—he would not fly from any charge the hon. gentleman might think proper to bring forward:—but he would not, from personal motives, when he was accused of having sacrificed the public interest, give up a sound parliamentary discretion; and because the hon. gentleman called for information on subjects not yet fit for discussion, let loose all the public documents which came under his cognizance, and disclose the instructions under which his Majesty's Government had acted. This was a principle never acted on by any person who could lay claim to the mind of a statesman. He was sure, Mr. Fox never called on his Majesty's servants to give up the instructions under which they acted. If any proceeding of ministers was culpable in itself, Parliament had a right to investigate it. But he could never consent to give up instructions, in which the various views of Government were disclosed, merely that the hon. gentleman might exercise his ingenuity on them, and pick a hole here and there in the proceedings; by marking what had failed, censuring what had been accomplished, and regretting that which was not, and perhaps could not be accomplished. Acting on these principles, he was not prepared to give the hon. gentleman the information he required. As soon as the Executive was ready to lay it before Parliament, in an intelligible shape, they would do so; but to answer questions, for the purpose of giving the hon. gentleman an opportunity of expressing doubts that might be detrimental to the interests of the country, would, he conceived, be a dereliction of his duty.
expressed his surprise at hearing the noble lord quote the authority of a distinguished individual whose memory was cherished, and whose opinions were venerated by many of the oldest members of the House. It might be true, that Mr. Fox would have objected to premature disclosures by the Executive Government; but did the noble lord mean to assert that where no injury to the public service was apparent, and where erroneous and derogatory opinions might be formed of the conduct of an individual, without 676 the inspection of instructions, Mr. Fox would have hesitated in moving for their production? Suppose it was the case of Genoa, the papers regarding which would be laid upon the table in consequence of a motion he (Mr. Ponsonby) had made upon the subject; would Mr. Fox have thought it improper to have demanded that Parliament should be made acquainted with all the circumstances, that it might be ascertained whether the envoy had not, in fact, been deceived by the Government at home? If such, as the noble lord had stated it, were in truth the sentiment of Mr. Fox, it ought not to be taken without some limitation. He (Mr. P.) thanked the noble lord for the negative information he had given to the House upon a matter of the highest moment; he was happy to infer from what had been said by the noble lord, that Government had not yet taken any warlike measure. What state secret would have been divulged if the noble lord had condescended in plain terms to aver that we were not yet in a state of actual hostility? What important state secret would have been divulged, if the noble lord had ventured to answer the question regarding an engagement in Italy? The noble lord had declined saying any thing also upon the document which had appeared in one of the public journals. He had not avowed it, nor had he disavowed it. What, then, was the fair and only inference? That the letter was genuine and undeniable.
did not mean to assert that in no case ought the instructions of Government to be produced to Parliament; what he had protested against was, the doctrine that they ought to be published whenever a member thought it necessary to call for them. Mr. Fox had contended for the general principle, that Government ought not without important reasons to be called upon to make disclosures that might be injurious to the public interest. His lordship was ready to allow that cases might arise where it appeared that ministers had acted criminally or improperly, when it would be fit that instructions should be laid before Parliament; but in this case the cause assigned was to be balanced against the positive inconvenience and impolicy.
§ Mr. Whitbread
hoped, that the same latitude of explanation would he allowed to him that had been given to the noble lord. It was not correct to assert that he had drawn a desponding view of the finances 677 of the country; all he had said was, either that our resources were greatly diminished, or that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was an unskilful financier. Those who, with the noble lord, maintained that our means remained unimpaired, must admit that in the hands of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer they did not bear a very promising appearance. The noble lord was mistaken if he supposed that he had been asked now to produce his instructions, or the authority under which he had acted at Vienna; a fit time for such an explanation would arrive hereafter, when the noble lord would have to justify his conduct in transporting the Executive Government from this country to Vienna. What he (Mr. W.) required was, that the House should know on what authority the duke of Wellington had signed the Declaration of the 13th of March? The question did not respect the noble lord, whose trial was not yet come; he had not yet bad his day; that day which, however, the rest of his Majesty's ministers had promised on the return of the noble lord from Vienna; a day of exultation in his achievements and triumph over his enemies, when the noble lord was to enter the House crowned with splendour. Not with that personal splendour which he had received as a reward—but with the splendour arising from the dignified consciousness of being able to free himself from imputations cast upon him by public documents day after day appearing—chasing each other before the public, beginning with the Proclamation of Prince Repnin and terminating with the offspring of the last six hours, the letter of the duke of Campochiaro. When was this glorious day of triumph to arrive? How long would the noble lord defer his honours on the plea of injury to the public service? When would he descend from his high station to give a plain and distinct statement to the House and to the county? Why would not the noble lord avow the document alluded to, and state whether in truth there had been any engagement in Italy? What injury to the public service could arise from the information, whether the league of extermination against Buonaparté had been formed and signed? Would not explanations have come with a much better grace from him than from the documents, that one after another seemed to have been picked up on the road that his lordship had travelled, and which appeared most unac- 678 countably to have made their escape through a hole in the noble lord's portmanteau. Appeals had been made from time to time to ministers to acknowledge some of those papers, in which the noble lord's hand was evident to every man who had had the pleasure of hearing him speak. They had refused to give any information, but the style spoke for itself; for, however people might dispute upon the meaning of what was written, or whether it had any meaning at all, no man would deny that the documents were the undoubted productions of the noble lord's luminous mind—The noble lord had mentioned the hallowed name of Fox. Would to God, said Mr. Whitbread, that Mr. Fox could have been present to have listened to the noble lord this night—to have heard that man who refused his advice and rejected his prophetic warnings, who scorned the wisdom which ever flowed from his lips when he spoke, now taking advantage of his judgment—as it were, quoting scripture to answer his purpose—and pretending to cite his authority, by throwing an aspersion on his memory. But neither Mr. Fox, nor any man, not even I myself, with all my 'irrationality' (as the noble lord terms it,) would think of arguing, that all instructions were at all times to be disclosed. Sure I am of this, however, that by the side of Mr. Fox I have contended with him for the production of instructions when it was intended either to make them the foundation of an impeachment or a censure. The practice, doubtless, is now much improved, when the censure is universally pronounced by the nation, and the documents afterwards laid before Parliament, to prove that it was just. Thus the noble lord misquotes and misapplies the authority he adduces; and if any thing possessed the power to call that great and lamented statesman from the grave, it would be to hear the noble lord, of all men in the world, citing his opinion, to screen himself from merited condemnation. If any thing could raise the angry spirit of Mr. Fox from the tomb, it would be the application of his name and authority, not to expose and punish misdeeds and mal-practices, but to shield the noble lord from the heavy censure of the House and of the country. The noble lord, in the perversion of his mind upon these subjects, may perhaps also persuade himself that in the negociations in which be has been recently engaged, he should have received even the approbation of 679 Mr. Fox. On the contrary, it is my firm belief, that at every step the noble lord would have been met by the strenuous resistance of that most honest, able, and enlightened statesman. When I gave my confidence to the noble lord, because I thought it just in the outset not to impose fetters, and hoped and believed they would not be required, I am convinced that under similar circumstances, Mr. Fox would not have refused it; but if he had found, as I have done, that the noble lord was completely changed, that he was not the same man, or at least had not acted as if he were the same man, he would, as I have done, have withdrawn that confidence, because I found it misplaced. Mr. Fox, were he now living, could not, without shame and indignation, behold the mode in which the public affairs are now conducted. I cannot pretend to speak, but I can be proud to feel, like Mr. Fox; and the noble lord cannot, I am sure, call to mind the manner in which that great man was accustomed to speak on occasions like the present, without shrinking at the recollection.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
took this early opportunity of entering his protest against this obnoxious measure. He always considered that this tax had been laid on for the defence of the country. We were not now at war, though from the noble lord's expressions he had room to fear that it was determined we should not be long without it. However, we were yet at peace; and while we were, he did not see why we should have this oppressive measure. The individual now at the head of the government of France had proposed terms for the continuance of peace; and if those terms were fair and honourable to us, he could not think that the country ought to be oppressed with this unequal and inquisitorial tax, merely for the purpose of forcing the Bourbons on the throne of France. He certainly thought it fit that the country should be always placed in a state of security; but a strict and rigid economy was the best way to place her in this state. It was afflicting to hear of this grievous tax being proposed, immediately after the House had learned that the expenses of the Civil List exceeded the estimate last year by half a million.
§ Sir Frederick Flood
begged to take that opportunity of stating, that a considerable agitation prevailed in Ireland relative to the Property-tax. He would therefore ask the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, 680 whether he meant to include this measure in his finance for (or rather against) that country. Sir Frederick said, he had received several letters from Ireland on the subject, and he could assure the House that that country was incompetent to meet any such demand, having barely recovered, and two years must elapse before it would have completely surmounted, the ill consequences arising from the ingress of foreign grain into her own market. Did the right hon. gentleman contemplate the introduction of the Property-tax into Ireland?
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
complained of this mode of putting such a question. He would, in reply, merely say, that he was not then prepared to state what the sum was which would be necessary for the service of the sister kingdom, and of course it would be premature for him to enter into the particulars of its exposition.
§ Sir F. Flood
was sorry that, from the total silence of the right hon. gentleman [A laugh], and from his having given no satisfactory answer to his question, he was compelled to infer that the tax was intended for Ireland. Every other tax was met by that country, and the Hearth one besides: nothing could, therefore, be more unfair than in her depressed state to make such a claim.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
expressed his hope that the only individual in that House who supposed he had remained totally silent, was the only one who drew the same inference which the hon. baronet proclaimed.
Mr. R. Martin
concurred with the hon. baronet in his opinion of the inability of Ireland to bear this tax.
§ Mr. Bankes
begged to state the circumstances under which he would at present give his support to the motion. He was desirous of giving Government every assistance which the exigencies of the country demanded, and he knew no tax in its principle less oppressive and unequal than the Property-tax. Looking, however, to the present, not as the continuance of an old plan, but the beginning of a new system of taxation, he would not give it his unqualified consent, unless it received some modification in its details and more particularly if it merely applied to one part of the United Kingdom, and was open to the intolerable injustice of excluding Ireland from hearing a proportion of the burthen. Such an exemp- 681 tion was most unjust, and he should feel it his duty again to call the attention of the House to the subject.
Sir Francis Burdett
took that opportunity of protesting against the renewal of the Property-tax, as to the equality and justice of which he entertained very different ideas from the hon. gentleman who had preceded him. Before any such measure was proposed, the petitions with which the table had been loaded should be referred to a committee, to inquire into the allegations of grievances which they contained. It was demonstrated by those petitions, not only that the Property-tax had been productive of numberless cases of individual oppression, but that it was in principle unjust, and that it was, in fact, a tax not on property but on income, and that it had been submitted to, when first imposed, as a temporary contribution to be paid, perhaps, for one year only, as the expectations at that time, as to the speedy termination of the contest, were very sanguine. But he was persuaded that if this tax was again laid on, it would never be taken off. Not only was the tax unjust and unequal in itself, but it was brought forward under every disadvantage, because, up to the present moment, there was no information as to the state in which the country was. The House was first called on to give the money, and they were afterwards to be informed as to what was to be done with it. This was so improper and so unparliamentary a line of conduct, that he could not agree to support any such grant. It was important to the country to know, in the first place, what was the real state of our relations, and not to be satisfied with the strange ambiguity of expression of the noble lord which was perfectly incomprehensible. The noble lord talked, for instance, of the country being in a 'mixed state.' What did this mean? Would it not be a more manly way of proceeding, at once to avow that they must be involved in war? He hoped the House would not suffer itself to be plunged into a war of which they could not foresee the termination, but which they could not doubt would be full of calamity, and would impose on the already over-laden people, burthens which could with difficulty be borne, and which, it was his opinion, should not be borne, if we were engaged in such a contest, for causes which, in the present dearth of information, had been related in that House or 682 elsewhere. As under the necessity of the war the burthen of the Property-tax had been supported, the renewal of it ought the more firmly to be opposed until an inquiry was made into the truth of the allegations contained in the petitions which had been presented against that tax: these petitions had been more numerous than those which had been presented on any other occasion, and would have been still more numerous if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not formally announced that the tax was relinquished. With the view which he took of the situation of the country, he felt, even at that early stage, that he should not do his duty without protesting against the confiding such a power to the hands of ministers, who had shown that they were not worthy of confidence, and who were about to involve the country in a war more calamitous than any which we had ever been engaged in.
opposed the motion, as he thought the renewal of the Property-tax was the first step to war; it was a demand of the ministers on the public for money to enable them to go to war. Whatever were his feelings towards the unfortunate family which had been driven from the throne of France, he could not consent to embark the blood and treasure of this country in so hopeless a contest as that, the object of which should be to restore them. The noble lord had refused to give any answer to the question respecting the authenticity of the intelligence that the King of Naples had entered Bologna, that the whole of that part of Italy was in a state of insurrection, and that the Austrians were flying before him. If it was the intention of the King of Naples to erect Italy into one great and free state, he had his most earnest wishes on his side. He should exult to see that the plans of the Congress of Vienna had been defeated—he should exult to learn that Genoa had been freed from the grasp of those to whom it was delivered over—that Venice was rescued from those who now unjustly possessed it. As voting the Property-tax would be to afford the Government the means of plunging the country into an unnecessary war, he should oppose the present motion.
§ Mr. Protheroe
differed from the two hon. gentlemen who had preceded him. He thought that to the Property-tax we were indebted for the vigour with which we had been able to carry on the late 683 war; and when the honour or the safety of the country required it, he was ready to stand forth in support of its renewal. As to the petitions, the state of things was changed since those petitions were agreed to. He was persuaded that his constituents, who had petitioned against the renewal of the tax under other circumstances, would be prepared to meet the present crisis with their accustomed loyalty. But, whatever their sentiments were, he should give his vote for such a grant as would enable the Government either to commence an active war, or to stand in a strong attitude of defence. Which of these courses was to be adopted, was matter for serious consideration; and he was willing to leave it to the determination of the powerful and respectable confederation which, for the happiness of Europe, still existed. He approved of the declaration, that no endeavours would be made by this country to excite a warlike spirit or a spiritless warfare on the part of the other Powers of Europe; but if those Powers were convinced of the necessity of war, he hoped this country would not be lukewarm in its efforts. The principle of economy in the public expenditure ought not to be overlooked in this consideration, for its operation would have a salutary influence upon the public mind.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that he could not let the opportunity pass, without protesting against the renewal of the Property-tax, totally uninformed as he was as to the state of the country, with regard to its foreign relations. Whatever his opinion might be, if war was determined on, he could not, unadvised as he and every other person in the House was, on the question of war or peace, assent to the imposition on the people of this country of an oppressive tax, which was never justifiable but by the extreme exigency of the time at which it was imposed, and which was most hateful to the people of the country. The proposition, too, for the renewal of the tax had been made without one word being assigned as a ground for it. They did not at all know what the exigencies of the country were. All he knew was, that if, we were not at peace, it was our own fault. As to the renewal of this tax, he could not consent to be guided by the Congress. Prince Metternich and Prince Talleyrand were not to mete oat the property of this country. Of this the House might be sure, whatever they resolved on, 684 that this country would have more than its proportion to pay; for the noble lord knew that the Allies would not be able to take the field without being subsidized out of the last resources of England:—out of the last resources, he said, because if we went on in a war for two or three years we should be at an end of our resources. The motion which was to be submitted to the Committee, was a most indecent proposition: it was to enable the Ministers to run headlong into a war, the only pretence for which arose from their gross neglect, and their total want of influence at the Congress. Was it too much to say, that they would not grant the Property-tax, until the conduct of Ministers had been inquired into? Could it now be said that they had brought the war to a safe and happy conclusion, as had been formerly boasted of? Such was the happy conclusion of the late long war, that for the last twelve months they had maintained an army of 75,000 men on the Continent, and now they were called on to double the amount, and to renew the Property-tax! Could any man who had read the papers recently published in a public journal, all of which clearly proved, that the character and good faith of this country had been set at stake and trifled with, say, that the Ministers deserved blind confidence? The proposition, too, was not that there should be a few seamen more than at present, but that the Ministers had so conducted themselves, that the House was to renew the Property-tax, in order to enable them again to exercise an unlimited discretion. This was the most barefaced proposition he ever remembered. The Minsters had much to account for, before they should have ventured to bring it forward: they had to account for the loss of character to the British name—they had to account for their want of influence at the Congress. The noble lord had said, that his trial would come: he hoped to God it might; and before the whole of the noble lord's conduct was accounted for, it was too much for the House to grant him any confidence. He hoped that trial would not be deferred till the whole case, which perhaps never would come out, could be brought forward; and which, at the rate at which past discoveries had been made, could not be brought out till all the members were out of town; but that some specific motion would be made for papers, on which Parliament might come to a decision. On the subject of the Property- 685 tax, there had been more petitions than on any other tax that had ever come before the House; and the people had the best claim to attention, from the patience with which they had borne it during the necessities of the war. But because the patient and suffering people had borne this tax, because there was a necessity—they were to have it again, now that there was no necessity. As far as his recollection served him, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated on a former occasion that the Property-tax was not to be resorted to but as a war tax [marks of dissent from lord Castlereagh]. He was in a situation to remember better than the noble lord, as he had heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble lord had not. When the renewal of this tax was demanded, it was incumbent on them to see that a good case was made out for going to war; but no case whatever had been made out in the present instance. The Congress were sitting—that great and respectable body, as it had been called, was deliberating. Now nothing would make this great and respectable body so ready to go to war as plenty of money from this country; nothing would make them so enthusiastic in their declarations for a year or two as to hear that we were ready and able to subsidize them. An hon. gentleman had that night spoken of the necessity of economy: but they should try economy as the first thing, and the Property-tax only as the second thing; for he was convinced that the facility with which money had been raised under the Property-tax, had cost the country many, many millions, from the profuseness which that facility had given rise to. It was said, that the Property-tax was not given to the disposal of Ministers, but to provide for the supplies; but those were novices, indeed, in that House, who did not know that the estimates were proportioned to the narrowness or extent of the Ways and Means. If the country was now embarked in a war, of which we could not foresee the end, the Property-tax and the Bank Restriction would be continued from year to year, and we should go on, with these two great aids, and a progressive increase in the public expenditure. As to economy, the effect of such a war might be estimated by looking back at the effect of the last war. When he first discussed subjects of public expenditure with Mr. Pitt, greater effect was produced in the House by the mention of a sum of 2 or 300,000l. than 686 had been made of late years by two or three millions. In the last year they had voted twenty-four millions for army extra-ordinaries, and even that was not near all that would be wanted to wind up that expense. How could such an expense have been incurred by the Ministers, except under the idea that they were drawing from an inexhaustible fund, or that there was an arrear which had been concealed from Parliament, and which had been accumulating during the late contest? He should again protest against giving any direct or indirect sanction to war, without the necessity being shown. If the necessity was shown, he should be willing, as the country would be willing, to meet it; but the Ministers would not proceed thus: and he believed the fact to be, that they wished to get fairly involved in hostilities with France, and then they would call on the country for support. That peace was now within our reach he was perfectly convinced: it was the fault of our Ministers if that peace was one hour in doubt. Whether the return of Buonaparté was an evil or not, the mischief of it would be aggravated by our plunging into war. Peace might continue under present circumstances for many years—perhaps as long as under the very paternal sway of those great men, Metternich, Castlereagh, and Talleyrand. Those three champions, he thought, would not long have preserved the peace of Europe; and it was clear they thought so too, as they kept 300,000 men to support their machinations. As he never heard a more indecent or presumptuous proposition than the one which was to be brought before the Committee, he should protest against it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that he had neglected to anticipate many of the objections which had been made to the tax, because he had conceived the motion before the House to be a motion of course. Many of the arguments on the other side of the House proceeded on the supposition that the tax was a step in support of a war:—the grant of the tax would in fact only be a grant in support of their Address; and he called on the House, in the words of that Address, to grant, "with zeal and alacrity," the sum required to support the preparations which had been: made either for war or armed defence. If the right hon. gentleman who spoke last doubted whether the return of Buonaparté was a calamity, he was among the very few persons who were in that state of 687 mind; the majority of the House which had agreed with the Address, was certainly of another opinion. The grant which he proposed was necessary, in order to enable the nation to be properly prepared for war, or defensive peace. Many persons had thought that it would have been better, even with the peace establishment which he had proposed at an earlier period of the session, that the Property-tax should be continued; he had not himself thought it necessary. Another state of affairs had now arrived, and he was not ashamed to say that all his plans were now changed. There was a large arrear to provide for, and independently of any danger of war, he should think it would be expedient to continue the tax for one year. Sums had been voted as large as the tax which they were about to vote would produce. There had been voted 12 millions to make good the army extraordinaries of the last year, and two millions to pay off navy debts, which would be as great as the produce of the tax which they were called on to vote. The present time required great firmness, perseverance, and vigour. Before we had wound up the expenditure of one war, we were unexpectedly called on to proceed in another, or to prevent it by showing ourselves fully prepared for it. The present case was beyond ordinary rules; he could not therefore be accused of inconsistency in proposing the renewal, in time of peace, of the tax which he had said should be reserved as a resource in case of war. The necessity for it would be more striking if we continued at peace; because an armed peace would entail certain expense for a long period, to enable us to receive, or to strike a blow, while, in case of war, the expense for a year at least might be provided for by loans. As to the petitions which had been alluded to, the object of them, he thought, was that the people might not be saddled with the Property-tax as a peace tax, and he, concurring with the petitioners, had brought forward a different system. It had been said in a taunting manner, that he had abandoned the whole of the taxes proposed by him. Now of those taxes the custom and excise duties had received the sanction of the House, except that on wine, which for political reasons had been postponed; and he was about to propose a new schedule on stamp duties, which would be ready in a few days. The assessed duties he had postponed, and should give up, as the 688 payment of them, together with the Property-tax, if renewed, would be attended with inconvenience. As to the application of the Property-tax to Ireland, whilst the treasuries remained separate each country should provide for its own exigencies in the way best suited to its convenience; but if all the resources of both countries were thrown into one fund (which he thought desirable) for the exigencies of the empire, such a disparity could not exist, as that a man living on one side of St. George's Channel should be richer by one-tenth than if he lived on the other side.
§ Mr. Tierney
explained. He had not expressed a doubt whether the return of Buonaparté was calamitous or not; but had merely said, that whether the return of that man to power was or was not a calamity, was not then the question before the House.
§ Mr. Barclay
thought that Buonaparté had only been replaced, on the throne by a soldiery eager for bloodshed and rapine, and who had placed him there because they expected nothing but peace from the Bourbons. This state of things required the most vigorous preparations, whether for war or peace; and seeing no other means for supporting such preparations, he should give his hearty support to the measure. He was glad to understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant to propose some modifications of the tax; and he should be happy to contribute towards such an object, as he was convinced that the tax had become so very obnoxious chiefly on account of the mode of its collection.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
stated, in explanation, that as it would be only proposed for a year, he thought it the best way to take the tax purely and simply as it stood before its expiration.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
expressed his opinion that it was not necessary now to go into the question of adopting this tax. It was a tax most insulting to the sense and feelings of the country, and unless the greatest emergency could be made out for its revival, the people had no right to submit to it. All minds, however, were agreed as to the necessity of adopting a state of defensive preparation; but though he had given his vote for this purpose, on the occasion of the army extraordinaries he did not think that a case had been made out which required the revival of this, obnoxious tax. The question was, whether it was to remain as long as Buonaparté 689 should continue on the throne of France? If this were the case, the time of its cessation would be very equivocal. We had been told that a great peace establishment was necessary, even at the time that the Bourbons were on the throne, to provide against any unforeseen breach of any part of the Treaty; but were we to be told, because Buonaparté had regained the throne of France, that the difference between the peace establishment now and in the time of the Bourbons was so great as to require the difference between that establishment as it now stood, and the amount of the Property tax? If this were the case, ministers must have a very high opinion of the situation of the country, to suppose it could bear such an expenditure. Unless it was made to appear that war was absolutely necessary, or that it must be looked for at no distant period, he could see no reason for the resumption of the tax. But for his own part he could not believe that war was necessary. It was of very little importance whether the people of France were quiescent or not; Buonaparté had re-seated himself on the throne; and if we were to go to war for the purpose of dethroning him, this was a purpose so totally hopeless, that unless the gentlemen opposite would convince him that such was their intention, he must dissent from the re-enactment of a tax which was not justified by any prospect now before the House or the country.
§ Mr. Calcraft
observed, that the return of Buonaparté to France undoubtedly rendered it necessary to have the peace establishment of this country higher than when we were looking to an establishment of peace for a series of years. Even in that happy time, if it bad occurred, he was of opinion that a modified Property-tax would have been better to meet the exigencies of the period than the taxes proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But yet, if it was now to be revived, he would endeavour to get many parts of it modified, as he had ever thought it in some points to be the most unjust, most cruel, and inquisitorial measure that ever was imposed on the greater portion of the people. He would cordially agree as to the necessity of putting the country into a state of the most effective defence; but every man must know that the sums that were necessary could not be produced except by the Property-tax. On voting, however, for the motion, he was not bound to support the measure as it now stood.
§ Mr. H. Martin
said, the Property-tax had been found so universally oppressive, that there was not a person to be found out of that House who did not object to its revival; and the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very little calculated to change their opinion. The right hon. gentleman had not dealt fairly by the House or the public, if when he asked for the votes of the army extraordinaries, he had it in contemplation to meet them with the Property-tax. If a strict and regular economy had been introduced into every branch of the public expenditure, this shocking scourge might have been avoided. He should not content himself with voting against the tax as it was now proposed; but in all its future stages he should deem it his duty to oppose it, and throw every possible impediment in its way.
§ Mr. Alderman C. Smith
said, he considered the Property-tax, under certain modifications, the best that could be devised to provide for the exigencies of the country: and that while it would be much more productive, it would be less vexatious than the proposed addition to the assessed taxes. But under any other plan of taxation than that under discussion, it appeared to him impossible to make men contribute according to their means, to the wants of the state. He himself knew a fund-holder, whose stock was worth 300,000l. while his expense scarcely amounted to 100l. a year. How, then, was such a person, and numerous others under similar circumstances, to be reached by any tax upon consumption, or by any other than the Property-tax? He could venture to say that his view of the subject had now become so general out of doors, that nine persons out of ten were in favour of the Property-tax, especially in the city, where a considerable change of sentiment had taken place since a petition for the repeal of this tax was presented to that House.
Mr. Charles Grant,
jun. thought it was evident that a great change had taken place in the public opinion respecting this tax. He had heard a great deal of protesting that night on the subject, and he would also enter his protest, which would be against the injustice of making a motion for referring the Property-tax to a committee of ways and means into the medium, of a personal attack upon the noble lord. Was it decent to anticipate the day of his trial, as it was called, and 691 go on to his condemnation? They might at least have delayed their invectives till the day of trial. He would appeal to every man whether an emergency did not exist, which required an unusual expenditure, and that as far as possible this should be met by the supplies of the year? In spite of all that had been said against the tax, he would assert that it had been the most productive and the least objectionable of any that had ever been devised.
contended, that the tax would fall with unusual severity on the commercial members of the country. He strongly deprecated the conduct of the assessors, who had nothing else to do than to pry into every man's affairs to find where they could make surcharges. Hoping, however, that some modifications would be adopted, he should support the motion; but he also hoped that the public would not in future be left without some mode of appeal. He trusted that ministers would use every endeavour to preserve peace that was consistent with the honour and safety of the country, otherwise they would take upon themselves a most awful responsibility. But while the question remained undecided, he would agree that the country ought to be put in the most complete state of defence; and on this ground he should vote for the motion.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, he fully agreed with that great majority of his constituents, who had instructed him to vote against this Property-tax, in whatever shape its renewal might be proposed. Under whatever modifications that were likely to be imposed, the Property-tax would be highly objectionable. Yet he was firmly of opinion, that such alterations might be adopted as would render it the most just and profitable of any that ever was suggested. A mode ought to be devised of levying it free from those inquisitions tinder which the public had so long laboured. But he had never heard that there existed in the minds of the gentlemen who had proposed the tax, the smallest idea of adopting such modifications; because they said, that they would militate against its productiveness. The present mode of collecting it, however, was not only inquisitorial but unconstitutional. All classes of property ought not to be equally pressed upon, as was now the case. This, which was called a property tax, was in fact, no property tax, because it fell with equal weight upon a 692 property which was worth only three years purchase as upon one which was worth thirty years. The name, but not the nature of the tax had been changed since its origin; and until it was modified it could not possibly become either just or satisfactory.
§ Mr. Alderman Atkins
said, that he should not oppose the renewal of this tax, if adequate measures were taken to provide against the vexation so justly complained of in the mode of collection.
§ Mr. Harvey
thought, that if it was necessary to bring forward this tax again, the House, in its wisdom, should so modify it, as to render it quite different from what it was at present. By due alterations he had no doubt of its becoming the most agreeable as well as beneficial measure of taxation that had ever been proposed. It ought not to be tolerated that people with large estates that were to descend to their heirs, should pay no more than those whose income was derived from their talents and industry. The profits of trade and annuities ought not to be taxed in the manner they had been.
took the opportunity then offered of giving his most decided opposition to the Property-tax in any shape. He would at all times refuse his assent to a measure founded on such unjust principles. It was a tax that ought never to be resorted to again. If we took one-tenth from the productiveness of the commercial, the manufacturing, and the agricultural interests, we took one-tenth from the general productiveness of the country itself. He should, therefore, oppose the motion.
declared his conviction, that the condition of property in this country had undergone such a change, that the people had not now the same power to pay the Property-tax as they possessed some time since, and this clearly appeared from the evidence adduced before the Corn Committee. How, indeed, could the people be supposed so capable so paying taxes now that prices had fallen, as when those prices were high and the country generally prosperous? It must have been from this consideration that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had abandoned the proposition for laying additional taxes on windows and on wine, because, in fact, there was no surplus property to pay such taxes. Still the hon. member expressed his intention to vote for the motion; but he hoped the 693 Chancellor of the Exchequer would introduce some new distinction into his proposed measure for settling the criteria of property. Rent was not, in fact, under existing circumstances, to be fairly deemed a criterion of property lo regulate the levy of this tax. For he knew a gentleman who had 6,000 acres of land, from which he had not received a shilling of rent for the last two years, in consequence of the distress of the farmers, and therefore that gentleman was obliged to subsist upon his property in the funds. He had no doubt that several similar cases were to be found; but the fact was, that property in general was in such a state that no one could calculate upon the value of it from one month to another.
agreed, that in voting for the late Address to the Prince Regent, the House was not pledged to this or to any specific measure of finance; but this appeared to him, as he had uniformly said, the best tax that could be devised—better by far than any tax upon consumption; for the public always paid more to the latter, and the Treasury received less; while all the produce of the former came into the Treasury. As to the capacity of the people to pay the tax, he declared his surprise at the statement of the hon. gentleman who spoke last upon the subject of property; and the House must participate in that surprise, when it was recollected, that all the surveyors examined before the Corn Committee unanimously slated, that the value of properly had doubled within the last twenty years, sixteen years of which the Property-tax had been enacted. But the obligations conferred upon the country by this tax were most important: and he was persuaded, that had the nature of this tax been explained to the people at their meetings some time ago, they would have come to a very different resolution than to petition for its repeal, especially if it had been impressed upon their minds, that the repeal of that tax must be followed by the imposition of other taxes perhaps more grievous, while certainly not by any means so productive; for instance, the additional assessed taxes would be much more vexatious to nine out of ten than the Property-tax, while many who paid from 500l. to 1,000l. a year to the latter, were, to his own know-edge, already contriving to escape from the former. He lamented that this explanation had not been offered in due time; but reflexion had notoriously pro- 694 duced a great change in the public mind upon this subject; the value of the Property-tax was now felt as it ought by the country, and this must naturally be the case when the good effects of that, tax were taken into consideration. For it must be remembered how that tax originally operated upon the price of Stock—the 3 per cents. which were in 1793 so low as 45⅞, being soon raised to 65: and if the funds had been allowed to fall—which without this tax they must have done—what would have been the fate of every description of property in the country? Besides, what an accumulation of public debt did the produce of the Property-tax guard against!
§ Mr. Brand
thought any discussion of the merits of the Property-tax as premature at present as the proposition itself. This proposition he considered as premature because no necessity was made out for the re-enactment of such an inquisitorial measure. Such necessity, then, not appearing, and in the absence of every information, there was nothing to satisfy the House that the present exigency of affairs might not be temporary: and therefore he could not at once vote for the imposition of a tax upon the country to meet such an exigency; he should rather have the necessities of the occasion provided for by a Vote of Credit. At present it was problematical whether we should engage in war or remain at peace, and until that problem was solved he could not accede to this tax; which, however, he was ready to acknowledge, was the best system of taxation (under certain modifications) that could be devised for a state of war, if war should be unavoidable. But until matters should be more matured than they were at present—until ministers should be able to lay some information before the House, to show that necessity called for such an extraordinary supply; and that we must engage in war for the maintenance of our honour, or for the attainment of a secure peace, he could not consistently vote for this motion; and therefore he should propose an amendment, viz. "That this debate be adjourned till this day fortnight, the 3rd of May next."
§ Mr. T. Foley
seconded this proposition, and strongly contended, that without any information to show the necessity of the case, the House should not consent to impose a tax of 13 or 14 millions a year upon this already overburthened country.
695 The hon. member forcibly argued against war, principally upon two grounds; first, because Napoleon Buonaparté was obviously the favourite sovereign of the French people, and we had no right to interfere with their selection; and secondly, because the people of this country were not in a state to pay this enormous tax, as was evident from the known condition of our manufacturers and agriculturists.
§ Mr. Tierney
wished it to be understood, that in voting for the amendment, he should not hold himself precluded from proposing farther delay, if within a fornight the House should not be in possession of adequate information upon this important subject.
observed, that although the value of property had advanced within twenty years, as stated by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose), that value had notoriously fallen of late years, and that fall had been assigned as a main argument for the Corn Bill. Therefore the condition of property had been truly described by the hon. member for Somersetshire. It had been slated, that war might not take place; but if it even should not, he had no doubt that this tax once imposed, would be saddled upon the country for ever—[No, no! from the Ministerial side]. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, had said, that he should find it difficult, if not impossible, to propose a less exceptionable tax; but this was telling people, that if they desired the removal of a blister, they should have a caustic; and if the right hon. gentleman could so succeed in reconciling the public to the Property-tax, he would evince a degree of cunning from which he might flatter himself with being placed by posterity upon the same shelf with the noble lord near him. The hon. member contended that there was no necessity for war; that, on the contrary, we might remain at peace, and should soon, at least in two or three years, see that the country could preserve peace without an expensive armament to defend it; for he ridiculed the disgraceful alarm which appeared to be excited in ministers and their allies by the intellect of one man. The Income-tax, he said, would produce 14 millions at the utmost; and in the first instance, according to the Treaty of Chaumont, we were to pay five millions to the Allies for one year's subsidy; and it was even rumoured that we were to give nine millions to the coalesced Powers, to stimulate 696 their nerves to that degree of energy which should impel them to go to war. It was clear that the whole depended or this country; and he firmly believed, that if ministers could stimulate the Continent to war against France they would do it. He denied that the Property-tax could be modified so as to be rendered palatable, and condemned the severity with which it had hitherto been enforced.
, rose and replied to Mr. Whitbread in a tone of considerable animation. He observed that the hon. member had found it more convenient to discuss the question on an assumption of his own, than upon any rational foundation. If, instead of opposing the Speaker's leaving the Chair, he had permitted him to leave it, he would have found that his right hon. friend, instead of intending to propose the renewal of the Property-tax in perpetuity, whether in the alternative of war or peace, would only have proposed it for one year. If we were to make preparations of defence, he trusted that there was no gentleman in the House who would not feel that it was necessary to show to Europe, that Parliament was ready to arm the Executive Government with all requisite power. If they felt that we could live on such terms with the person at the head of the French Government as should not place us within the reach of the strong arm which he possessed, then it might be said that on preparations were superfluous; but if they were of a contrary opinion, then they would use their own discretion in enabling the Executive to provide proper means of security. Alluding to certain pointed sarcasms of the hon. gentleman, which he had thrown out in the course of the evening, the noble lord observed, that if he was only to be taunted by the hon. member respecting information, he trusted the House would feel that he should best consult their and his own dignity by remaining silent, and not suffering himself to be provoked. In spite of all the taunts an prophecies of the hon. gentleman, ministers had carried the country triumphantly through a war, of which the hon. member had professed his despair of ever being brought to a successful issue, an had even feared lest the liberties of this country might be laid at the feet of this 'great man' who ruled the destinies of the Continent. It was a proud thing to say while the people of England were making such vast sacrifices, that the result of the 697 Income-tax had been to double the value of the whole property of the country; and if there had been a temporary reduction of late in the value of this property, let not the hon. member endeavour to make an impression on the country that its value would not augment, if the presiding wisdom and firmness of Parliament was only exercised as it hitherto had been, and if the House was but true to itself. Let them only pursue the same course which had already produced such glorious results, and he would venture to predict that they would soon have to congratulate themselves on successes, as great as those which had so lately crowned their firmness and perseverance.
§ Mr. Whitbread
denied that he had ever called Buonaparté a great man in the sense conveyed by the noble lord; but if a man were to shine by comparison—[cries of Spoke! spoke!]
expressed his conviction that if the Property-tax was revived, there would be few persons in that House or out of it, who would live to see it taken off. It would be a part of the peace system, the same as the Bank Restriction Act had become, and which was likely to continue for some generations. He would defy any man to propose such modifications in the Property-tax as could make it acceptable. It never could be collected without giving persons powers that were incompatible with a free constitution. It was an encouragement and provocative to war; and it would not produce a sum any thing equal to what the House would soon be called upon to vote. Would not the minister have to call on Parliament for a large loan? Then why not take, for any temporary emergency, a portion of that loan, and wait till events were known that would prove whether the Property-tax was necessary or not? He thought the noble lord had complained of what had been said in the present and former debates without reason. For himself, he would not wait for that day when the noble lord should think proper to afford his own justification. The right hon. gentleman then animadverted upon the documents which lately appeared in the Morning Chronicle, with respect to the proceedings of Congress. If those letters were to be considered as authentic instruments, he should have no hesitation in saying of the one from Prince Talleyrand, that it was a Jesuitical contrivance to get rid of engagements which had been entered into, be- 698 cause the Bourbons happened to be restored to the throne of France, and were nearly connected, by ties of blood, with Ferdinand IV. who sat on the throne of Sicily. If, too, the king of Naples had really commenced hostilities, what could be more natural than for him to do so, at the moment when the Allies had refused to secure to him his throne, which he thought he had purchased with his services? He was driven into an alliance with Buonaparté, because the proceedings of Congress showed that no reliance could be placed upon it; whereas, if the agreements entered into with him had been fairly and honourably performed, he could have had no temptation for such a step. Whether, however, the facts were as he had them or not, he could not say [Hear, hear! from lord Castlereagh]; but he believed they were; because if not, the noble lord could have had no difficulty in denying the documents upon which he (Mr. Ponsonby) had argued as authentic; and if they were true, so far as they related to Saxony and Naples, (they knew what the noble lord's conduct had been towards Genoa) he was fully justified in saying that the noble lord and the Congress at Vienna had re-placed Buonaparté on his throne. With regard to the Property-tax he had given his reasons for voting against it, nor did he believe that he could ever be brought to view that tax in such a light as to induce him to support it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he should not follow the right hon. gentleman in the various topics upon which he had touched, but confine himself merely to the question then before the House; and in order to show the right hon. gentleman that his fears of the Property-tax being imposed for ever, if it should be now agreed to, were groundless, he would read one sentence from the motion, which he intended to submit to the committee. [This sentence was, that the several duties on the profits of all property, professions, trades, and offices, be revived and granted for the term of one year, to commence from the 5th of April 1815.] As to the insinuation that ministers would never want a pretext for continuing the tax, unless the right hon. gentleman could point out in the history of this country, circumstances that were analogous to those which now existed, he did not think he was justified in that assertion. The House and the country, however, were in a 699 condition to judge, from events which were matter of public notoriety, whether, though war was not actually declared, the existing circumstances did not call for the whole energies of the nation. He confessed he viewed the measure with less alarm than seemed to be felt by some, because he did not now propose any new and untried system of finance, but simply the renewal of one which for many years had been acted upon without any detriment to the prosperity of the country. His object, in the committee, would be merely to propose the general principle of that system, and any discussion as to the details would take place in some future stage of the measure. The right hon. gentleman had said, and said truly, that a large loan would be required in addition; and it was singular, therefore, he should oppose a tax which could alone be considered as a substitute for a still larger loan, which would necessarily have a great effect upon the public funds. It was agreed on all hands, that the public debt was already too large; and to continue the whole burthen of the country upon the funding system, and the credit of the country, would be to ruin both the one and the other. He considered it as more honourable and more natural to bear some of it ourselves, rather than to lay it all upon our posterity; and it was, besides, always a most inconvenient time for raising large loans, while the issue of great public events was uncertain. No bargain could be made with any set of contractors under such circumstances, which would not be liable to unfair advantages on one side, or unfair losses on the other, as it would be impossible to disclose to them all those particular transactions which alone could enable them to judge of the propriety of entering into such engagements.
§ Mr. Methuen
said, that in giving his vote for the motion, he did so from a conviction in his own mind, that whenever the present state of things in France should cease, the tax would cease also.
voted for the amendment, because he thought the delay would be in no manner prejudicial, but, on the contrary, would satisfy the House and the country, by showing that all undue precipitation was avoided.
§ Lord Milton
said, that though he was the last man who would pin his faith upon the good faith of the present ruler of France, yet, at the same time we ought 700 not to plunge headlong into a war without trying every reasonable means of securing peace. He should vote for the amendment, not because he wished to embarrass the Government, but because he regarded the renewal of the Property Tax as the ultimate measure, of war; and, coupling that renewal with the warlike speech of the noble lord, no man could doubt that the Government was determined on hostilities: he said the Government, for it was clear the noble lord was now the Government, and that his opinions, what ever they might be, were the ruling opinions in all that concerned our foreign relations. He was sure the people would pay the tax more cheerfully, if it appeared as the consequence of an inevitable war, instead of the cause of war. If a war should be necessary, and that necessity be clearly made out, no one would more willingly give support to Government than himself—not because he dreaded the superior intellect of Buonaparté, as was said by an hon. member, but because he dreaded the genius of the French government, and the ascendancy of that military system which threatened the repose and liberties of Europe. He should vote for postponing the measure until further information relative to our foreign affairs could be communicated.
§ Lord Lascelles
said, that he should be sorry, if in the present state of Europe, that House were to show any backwardness in preparing for defence or for war, according as either might be necessary; and he should be sorry also to think that the Government was at all influenced by those insidious communications which had been made to it by the French Government. He should not vote for the motion on the supposition that giving the Property-tax would be an inducement for going to war, but because an injury would be done to the public interests, if means were not provided for an adequate defence in the first instance, and for war itself should it become necessary.
§ The House then divided:
|For the Amendment||58|
§ The original motion was then agreed to, and the House resolved itself into the Committee. The resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for renewing the Property-tax for a year from the 5th April, was read and agreed to, without 701 discussion. Resolutions for funding Exchequer-bills to the amount of 18,000,000l. were also agreed to. The House resumed, and the Report of the Committee was ordered to be received to-morrow.
|List of the Minority.|
|Aubrey, sir John||Moore, P.|
|Althorp, lord||Martin, H.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Martin, J.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Madocks, Wm.|
|Birch, Jos.||Mackintosh, sir J.|
|Bewick, C.||Monck, sir C.|
|Brand, hon. Tho.||Montgomery, sir H.|
|Byng, G.||North, D.|
|Cocks, hon. J.||Onslow, serj.|
|Chaloner, Robt.||Pierse, H.|
|Cavendish, lord G.||Prittie, hon. F. A.|
|Cavendish, H.||Ponsonby, rt. hon. G.|
|Calvert, Ch.||Proby, ld.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Ramsden, J.|
|Duncannon, lord||Romilly, sir S.|
|Fremantle, W. H.||Shelley, sir S.|
|Foley, hon. A.||Smith, J.|
|Foley, Tho.||Smyth, J. H.|
|Fitzroy, lord J.||Smith, A.|
|Gordon, Robt.||Stanley, lord|
|Grenfell, P.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Guise, sir Wm.||Wellesley, Rd.|
|Grant, J. P.||Whitbread, S.|
|Hornby, E.||Wilkins, W.|
|Halsey, Jos.||Wharton, J.|
|Hurst, R.||Winnington, sir T.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Western, C. C.|
|Lyttelton, hon. W.H.||Sir M. W. Ridley|
|Lambton, J.||W. Smith.|