§ Mr. Bankes moved that the 7th Article of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland be read, which was read accordingly. The hon. gentleman then said, that he moved to have that Article read to show gentlemen who might be unwilling to accede to his motion, that it was far from his intention to move for any tiling contrary to that Article. So far from wishing for any thing hostile to the interests of Ireland, the measure he had to propose, would be, he sincerely believed, of extreme benefit not only to the empire in general, but to Ireland herself. This he considered a new era of taxation, and the Propertytax should be looked on as a tax that was to exist for a great number of years. It 851 then should be considered how taxation should fall most equally over the entire empire, and he must raise his voice against the injustice of having the rich of Great Britain subject to such a heavy tax as that under present consideration, while the rich of another part of the empire were exempt. Great Britain afforded the interesting phenomenon of a nation inferior in population to many others yielding a larger sum of taxation than others of far greater population, and with a less degree of complaint than most nations paid their taxes. This must be owing to some more wise and equal mode of laying on taxes. This wise and equal mode of taxation would be found only in apportioning it to property; and, in fact, what was so proper a source of taxation as property? He would wish, then, that that source of taxation should be introduced into Ireland. It would certainly be a better source of taxation than those articles which were used by the poor classes of society. The tax on soap, for instance, bore on those who were least able to bear taxation. There was also another circumstance to be attended to in laying on taxes. A tax which would have a demoralizing tendency was certainly in that respect a much worse one than any other. The tax on spirits and distilleries he had considered in that light. Here the hon. gentleman read ah address from the distillers of Ireland to the Lord Lieutenant, in corroboration of his opinion. The duty on distilleries was so high, that private and illegal distillation was the consequence, and spirits were sold much cheaper in some places than they could be, if they were only taxed fairly, and illicit distillation in consequence not resorted to. Besides, the duties on distillation in many parts of that country could not be collected without the assistance of the military. This tended to make the laws be held in less respect in that county; for where resistance to the law was resorted to with facility in one instance, the veneration for it was diminished in every instance. The hon. gentleman then proceeded to show that his motion would not contravene the Articles of the Union, winch provided that the taxation of Ireland should be but in proportion of two-seventeenths to that of Great Britain, for twenty years, and then that it should undergo a revision. He was not for equalizing the taxes on the countries, but only for extending to Ireland the best mode of 852 taxation, and a mode that he thought was as well adapted to Ireland as to this country. He was discharging a disagreeable duty; but, however, from what he considered his duty he would not shrink. He had taken a vast deal of trouble to procure the best information possible on the subject. He found that Ireland was deficient in contributing her proper share to the burthens of the empire; and though she had certainly contributed not a little, it was not just that she should not contribute in an equal proportion with Great Britain. But he considered that it was the Property-tax which mainly enabled Great Britain to contribute more in proportion than Ireland had done; and if Ireland had that tax, she could have contributed in her due proportion. He then proceeded to remark on the superior advantages of the Property-tax to those taxes which Ireland now paid, under which there was a great facility of evasion, and an enormous expense of collection. The expense of collecting the revenue in England, under the ordinary heads, was 6l. 3s. 11s. per cent.; of those in Ireland 14l. 13s. per cent. The expense of collecting the Property-tax was only 2l. 3s. 5d. per cent. It was therefore the most advantageous tax, as the great proportion of what was levied on the country came into the Exchequer. The imposition of this tax in Ireland, was far from being a violation of the Union, contemplated in that Act, and mentioned as the eventual means of estimating the relative power of the two countries. The state of the finances of Ireland rendered the adoption of some such measure most urgent. According to the last accounts, the ordinary revenue of Ireland was 5,100,000l.; the interest of the funded debt 5,400,000l., leaving a deficiency of 300,000l. There was an extraordinary revenue, consisting of repayments from Great Britain, of 304,000l. in the present year; but on the other hand, there was the interest of the unfunded debt, being 125,000l.; charges of the Irish debt funded in this country, 23,000.; interest of the loan of 1811 for the service of Ireland, 279,000l. The revenue, therefore, extraordinary and ordinary, was 5,400,000l.; the expense of the debt, 5,900,000l. There was besides a debt of 11,600,000l. due to Great Britain, consisting of 6,100,000l. excess of expense on the part of Great Britain above the portion stipulated for in the Act of Union; 4,500,000l. a loan raised in 1811 for the service 853 of Ireland by this country, and 3¾ years interest of that loan, being 1,046,000l. Though there was such a deficiency in the revenue of Ireland, there was still to be provided for her share the current expenditure, which at the rate of the expenditure of the last year, was 9,100,000l. The whole of this, together with the 500,000l. excess of the interest of debt above the revenue, was to be provided for. It was, and always had been the practice to raise a great portion of the revenue of Ireland by loans, to such an extent, that if Great Britain had followed that plan to the same extent, the capital of our debt would have exceeded its present nominal amount by 400,000,000l. of stock, or about 223,000,000l. in money. Ireland ought not to be suffered to run on in the system of borrowing, till she would be no longer able to pay. She was too much in the system of having recourse to loans, which she had raised at 7½ per cent. She had gone back in the last three years four hundred thousand pounds, and was unable even to pay the interest of her debt. But what article would gentlemen say could bear an increase of taxation in Ireland? Could the distilleries or the imports into Ireland bear it? The increase of revenue in 1812, was only in duties on ditilleries, tobacco, &c.: in 1813, on tobacco, hides, and distilleries: in 1814, on auctions, East-India goods, stamps, postage, and a new schedule of the customs. He could not conceive that the present system was advantageous to Ireland, as it was only running her deeper in debt. It was not beneficial to England, as it did not enable Ireland to pay her proportion to the joint expenditure. The hon. gentleman then argued, that as the people of Ireland were assimilated to the people of England in manners and civilization, their system of taxation ought to be assimilated. He did not mean to propose the time or the proportion in which this tax should be extended to Ireland, but he looked to it as an event which ought to be adopted at no great distance. The collection of taxes in Ireland was at present attended with much difficulty. The taxation on distilleries could not be collected in many parts of that country without the assistance of the military. In part of the county of Donegal, soldiers were regularly obliged to be called out to assist in the collection of taxes from the distilleries. What was the state of the country where the taxes could not 854 be collected without the military? His measure would make the collection of taxes easy, and would have a tendency to make the people amenable to the laws. Therefore, supposing it as turbulent and unlawful as it had been by some persons represented to be, this tax would be properly applied to that country. The lower class would be entirely exempted from it; and those who would be subject to it, were those who were most likely to hold the laws in the highest respect. The man of 50l. a year would not be at all affected by it. The principle of the tax he considered fair to Ireland as well as to England; for though one was a poorer and the other a richer country, and though ten millions on a poor country would be a heavier burthen than ten millions on a rich country, yet a tenth or a fifth part of the property of each would leave them both in the same relative situation to each other. Another advantage of this tax was, that it could be collected cheaper than the present taxation of Ireland was. He did not mean to say that the tax was an advantage in itself and abstractedly taken; for all taxes were grievances, however necessary, and he did not suppose that the people of England were Fonder of them for their own sake than the people of Ireland; but he meant a comparative advantage. The Property-tax was collected in England for 2l. 3s. 5d. per cent., while the collection of the taxation of Ireland cost 14l. 13s. per cent. Besides, the officers in the employment of collecting the present taxes could be employed in the collection of this tax. The general principle of the measure was then the only thing to be considered. Ireland ought to bear her share of the general taxation, and her taxation ought to be put on the best footing. Ireland, he allowed, had made great exertions, but he lamented that those exertions had not been more judiciously applied. If instead of many other of her taxes, she had had this tax since the Union, he was convinced she would now be a much richer, happier, and more prosperous country. It was not the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland who was to dictate what taxes were or were not fit for her; no, nor even the whole of the members for Ireland: but it was the aggregate wisdom of that House that was to determine what were the taxes most suitable to her. She was a country with an increasing debt, and a decreasing revenue; in the three 835 last years she had a deficiency of 400,000l. He calculated up to the 5th of last January. The fact was, that the people of Ireland must have some tax, and therefore there ought to be no hesitation in adopting a mode of taxation winch had been found so beneficial to this country; a mode which alone had enabled us to look the dangers which threatened us in the face. The Property-tax had been proposed for England, as if it was to last only one year; but he was sure if the question could be put with propriety to his right hon. friend, he would say, that he would by no means recommend the taking it off at that period, as he must be aware that it would be impossible to part with a tax so serviceable and indispensable in the situation in which the country was about to be plunged; and it was equally impossible for this part of the empire to bear any longer to give Ireland such favour with respect to the Property-tax as would throw upon England the whole of the burthen. The hon. gentleman concluded with moving, "That, for the purpose of carrying the seventh article of the Treaty of Union more effectually into execution, and for enabling Ireland to defray the proportionate part of the joint contribution stipulated therein, it is expedient that the profits arising from property, professions, trades, and offices, within that pail of the United Kingdom, be made available towards that object."
§ Mr. Davies Giddy
said, he had not come to the House with any view of seconding the motion; but after what he had heard, he could not suffer it to fall to the ground, and would therefore support it. He coincided with a great deal of what had been said by the hon. mover, but yet he expressed his unwillingness to press the extension of the Property-tax to Ireland at present, especially as a committee above stairs was occupied in examining the financial concerns of that country; and he was free to say, that if it should appear to that committee that Ireland was incapable of contributing two-seventeenths of the expence of the united empire, he should be ready to entertain a proposition for reducing that proportion, although it was so settled at the period of the Union.
Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald
said, that he should most willingly have given way to the right hon. baronet (sir J. Newport, who rose at the same time that he did), par- 856 ticularly as he feared that he was labouring under severe indisposition; but he was anxious, called upon as he had been, so distinctly and repeatedly by the hon. gentleman in the course of his speech, not to lose any time in setting himself right in the eyes of the House and of the country—and he flattered himself he should be able to show how completely unfounded the basis was, upon which the hon. gentleman had rested the whole of his argument. But before he proceeded to advert to what had fallen from the hon. gentleman, the House would forgive him, if he expressed his regret, that his hon. friend (Mr. Davies Giddy) had been induced to second the motion, agreeing, as he did, with the hon. mover only upon general principles, but differing from him on the most important point, namely, the applicability of the measure to Ireland at the present period. For the hon. gentleman, who seconded the motion, had distinctly stated, that he doubted both the policy and the practicability of carrying the motion into effect at present, and had adverted to the expediency, or perhaps the necessity, of a revision of the principles upon which the joint contributions of Great Britain and Ireland were founded at the Union. He was happy to have it in his power to do justice to the sentiments by which that hon. gentleman was animated every where, but particularly in the committee which had been appointed to examine into the state of the finances of Ireland. The question now before the House was of much too high a nature, and embraced too many important considerations, to be argued or decided upon the narrow grounds which the hon. gentleman had urged to the House. It was much too great a question to be treated as a mere naked measure of finance. In considering a question of this nature, it was necessary that the House should bear in mind—indeed, it was impossible to put out of view—the political, the local, the natural state of that country, of which the hon. gentleman had candidly confessed himself to be completely ignorant; or he would rather say, with respect to which the hon. gentleman certainly wanted a great deal of information. The very arguments which he had urged, and the conclusions he had drawn, showed how completely misinformed he was with respect to the state of Ireland.
He should now proceed to follow the hon. gentleman through his statements, 857 not only for the purpose of vindicating himself and his predecessors, in the office which he had the honour to hold, but to vindicate Ireland from the charges which the hon. gentleman had brought against her. The hon. gentleman had given to the House a statement of the debt of Ireland, of her resources, and of the deficiency of her proportion of the joint contribution. The House would not be surprised if he was not prepared to go minutely into an investigation of all the financial calculations of the hon. gentleman; because it was impossible for him to suppose, that the hon. gentleman would have thought it necessary to introduce them in this discussion. He conceived that it would be merely necessary for him to show to the House, that it would be inexpedient, under the present circumstances, to apply the Property-tax to Ireland, which it was proposed to enact in Great Britain for one year only. It was true that the hon. member had said, that he did not consider that tax as applied in Great Britain for one year only; but it would not be fair to call upon him to refute the opinion which the hon. gentleman chose to entertain upon the subject. The hon. gentleman did not think proper, upon that subject, to give credit to his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had proposed it for one year; or to the House, who had voted it for that period—he took his solitary stand, and said, This tax is not voted for one year, because I think it is not; against such a mode of reasoning, the House would not expect him to contend. But though he had not brought all the documents which would be necessary to enable him to follow the hon. gentleman through the whole of his statement, his memory was sufficiently accurate, he hoped, to enable him to point out innumerable errors into which he had fallen. Indeed, there were some parts of the hon. gentleman's statement, in which his mistakes were so obvious, that they could not escape the observation of those who had paid even the slightest attention to the finances of Ireland. The result, however, of the hon. gentleman's calculations, was, that there was a very considerable balance against Ireland; and as he had applied himself particularly to the last three years, the weight of his charges fell upon him, and upon his right hon. friend who sat near him (Mr. Wellesley Pole). It was, however, a little hard, that as the hon. gentleman had directed his charges against 858 the last three years of the administration of the finances of Ireland, he should have thought it fair to associate with them the debt contracted in 1811, under circumstances of a very peculiar nature. The hon. gentleman had asserted, that, for the two last years, he (Mr. Fitzgerald) had been unable to provide ways and means to meet the expenses, and had spoken lightly of the exertions made by Ireland in that period—exertions which, he would say without fear of contradiction, were greater than were ever made by any country situated as Ireland was; which were great, even when put in comparison with those of England at the commencement of the present reign, when she was great, powerful, and wealthy. It was not necessary for him to enter into a defence of the transactions of 1811; but he might be permitted to remind the House, that, with respect to that loan, Mr. Perceval then said, not indeed that it was to be considered as cancelled, but that there were circumstances connected with the proportions of the contribution as fixed at the Union, which ought to be maturely considered by Great Britain, and that the consideration of that Loan ought to be deferred till one of those periods, when, by the articles of the Union, the debts of the two countries were to come under the revision of Parliament.
In proceeding to controvert the arguments of the hon. gentleman, he begged that he might not be supposed to insinuate, that the hon. gentleman had intentionally misstated any of the figures, or had urged any argument, of the validity of which he was not himself convinced; he entertained too high an opinion of the hon. gentleman, and felt too sincere a respect for him, to insinuate any thing of the kind; and, therefore, it, in the warmth of discussion, any expression should happen to fall from him that might be supposed capable of such a meaning, he begged to declare, that nothing could be further from his intention. The hon. gentleman began by stating, that besides the loan of 1811, there was 6,100,000l. due to Great Britain from Ireland, making, together, above eleven millions. And here it was necessary to observe, that the hon. gentleman, throughout the whole of his argument, had done that which it was impossible to do, consistently with any fair or even intelligible view of the subject;—he had formed all his calculations upon the supposition, that the accounts of the year 859 ending on the 5th of January, were made up on that day. The House knew very well, that the joint accounts were not settled at that period, and, therefore, any arguments or calculations founded upon that supposition, must be erroneous. He begged, in the first place, to observe, that of this sum of 6,100,000l., 3,500,000l. remained in the Exchequer of Great Britain, applicable to the uses of the contribution account, and 2,000,000l. surplus remained in Ireland, to be remitted to this country on further account. Every exertion had been made to accomplish remittances to this country, on account of the debt due on contribution account; but it had been found impossible to make remittances to a greater extent than 1,250,000l. without injuriously interfering with the mercantile concerns of Ireland. When his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, last year, stated the English Budget, he estimated the whole contribution of Ireland at 8,700,000l,; but in point of fact, the charge was 10,500,000l., exceeding the estimate by 1,800,000l.; and that sum, the hon. gentleman had conceived himself warranted in classing as a part of the debt due by Ireland to Great Britain, for which provision should have been made, although the hon. gentleman ought to have been aware, that the knowledge of this additional charge could only be derived from the documents which had been laid upon the table a few days ago, containing the accounts of the expenditure of each country. Instead, therefore, of a deficiency of 6,100,000l., as stated by the hon. gentleman, there was, in point of fact, a deficiency only of 800,000l.; and had it not been for an excess of expenditure over estimate, there would have been a surplus of nearly 1,000,000l.
The hon. gentleman then adverted to the loans raised for Ireland within the last three years, which, he said, had been raised at 7½ per cent.; he then stated the amount of the tax raised to pay the interest, in which, he said, there was a deficiency of 400,000l. in the same period as the provision ought to have been 1,600,000l., and actually produced but 1,200,000l. He would take upon himself to convince the hon. gentleman, that he was completely mistaken on both those points. In the year 1812, 4,700,000l. was raised in England, at a charge, including the sinking fund, of 7l. 0s. 9d. per cent.; and a loan was raised in Ireland of 1,500,000l. at the lesser charge of 6l. 4s. 860 In 1815, 6,500,000l. was raised in England, at 7l. 4s. 7d. per cent.; and 2,000,000l. in Ireland, at 6l. 8s. 1d. And in 1814, 5,958,000l. was raised in England, at 5l. 18s. 9d. and 3,000,000l. in Ireland, at 5l. 11s. 9d. [Mr. Bankes seeming to doubt the accuracy of the latter statement], Mr. Fitzgerald said, he was quite certain that he was correct; because, though for the reason he had before stated, he had not brought all the necessary documents down to the House, he recollected perfectly well having called the attention of the House, last year, to this extraordinary circumstance, of the Irish Loan having been borrowed on lower terms than the English, notwithstanding the legal rate of interest in Ireland was one per cent, higher than it was in England. The entire charge, therefore, for these years, was, in 1812, 422,000l.—in 1815, 595,000l.—and in 1814, 521,000l., making an aggregate, for the three years, of 1,540,000l. The estimate of the taxes, to meet this charge, was, in 1812, 468,000l.—1813, 600,000l.; and, in 1814, 535,000l., amounting to 1,605,000l. He had no objection to meet the hon. gentleman on the ground he had taken, either with respect to the nature of the taxes, or the pace they had kept with the burthens of the country. The increase of the revenue in 1815, over that of 1812, was 1,561,900l. The estimate of the taxes was 1,603,000l., the deficiency, therefore, was but 230,000l.; and, as in the produce which he had stated, credit was only given to him for six months, of the taxes laid on by him last year, he had a just right to assume, that the other half-year's produce would be 267,000l., which would yield an exceeding of nearly 40,000l.
He begged to observe, that he should not have been surprised if the new taxes had been unproductive last year, because they frequently were so, not only in Ireland, but in England also, the first year they were laid on. Besides, in Ireland the sources of taxation were so narrow, that individuals were frequently able to anticipate the taxes that were to be imposed, and were consequently enabled very much to diminish the receipt of the tax for a certain period after it was imposed. The hon. gentleman had animadverted upon the materials upon which the taxes in Ireland were imposed; they were, he said, almost always the same, such as the duties on spirits, sometimes raised, sometimes lowered, tobacco, stamps; and 861 we had last year, said the hon. gentleman, a schedule of the customs. In his enumeration of the articles of taxation, the hon. gentleman had totally omitted the very great augmentation which had taken place in the assessed taxes, and it was some consolation to him to find, that what had been represented as one of the most objectionable of his taxes was so soon forgotten. But was the House aware that what the hon. gentleman had passed so slightly as a mere regulation of the Customs, was, in fact, no less than the important measure of equalizing the whole of the Custom-duties of Ireland to those of Great Britain—a measure more extensive than ever had been adopted in England, and by which the Custom-duties were made permanent in Ireland, as in England, and all the English war-duties were thereby adopted in that country. The House, he hoped, would forgive him for going into this detail, because no one could have supposed that what the hon. gentleman had lightly spoken of as a schedule of the customs, was really such a measure as he had now described. He did not arrogate to himself any credit for having brought forward that measure, because he had merely discharged his duty; but surely, if any man had ever departed from that system, which the hon. gentleman had reproached him with, of not looking difficulties in the face, and making exertions to meet the pressure of the day, he had done it in the instance to which he alluded.
With respect to spirits, he could not help observing that the observations which had been made upon this subject at different times, were extremely inconsistent. When a right hon. friend of his (Mr. Foster) had proposed to diminish the duty on spirits, it was objected to as being calculated to injure the health, and to demoralize the people, by making spirits cheap. When the duties were afterwards raised, partly in consequence of the recommendation of a committee for the purpose of encouraging the use of malt liquor in Ireland, objections were again made, and he thought rather inconsistently, and so thought an hon. gentleman opposite to him (Mr. Wilberforce), who now cheered the hon. gentleman, and supported him, who was himself a member of that committee, and who, on the occasion alluded to, supported the increase of duty on spirits, on the principle of encouraging the consumption of malt-liquor 862 in preference. So much for 1812.—In 1813,the taxes were on tobacco, excise upon leather, assessed taxes, postage, and malt. There was not one of those taxes that had not exceeded the estimate, particularly the malt-duty. There was, at the same time, a duty of 6d. upon spirits, which was pressed upon him by the representatives of Ireland, and necessarily concurrent with the increased duty on malt. Last year there was the "schedule of the customs;" but the hon. gentleman said, there were spirits again—there was so, but the hon. gentleman knew very well the circumstances under which it was imposed—he knew that it was done to remove, if possible, the jealousies and apprehensions of the distillers of England, and to do away objections that had been urged to the intercourse of spirits, to which Ireland is entitled under the Act of Union. There was a paper, to which the hon. gentleman might have had access, as it had been laid before the Committee of Finances, up stairs. The statements in that paper were of a most satisfactory nature, and with the permission of the House, he would read some extracts from it, to show the inaccuracy both of the hon. gentleman's statements and of his conclusions.
Mr. Fitzgerald then slated, that the produce of malt in 1802, was 116,000l. in 1811, 348,000l.—and in 1814, 566,000l. He would not trouble the House with going through all the small articles contained in that paper, but merely touch upon the leading ones. Spirits, in 1802, produced 270,000l.—in 1811, 685,000l.—in 1814, 1,575,000l. Tobacco, in 1802, gave 140,000l.—in 1811, 311,000l.—in 1814, 504,000l. Hearth-money had in creased from 32,000l., in 1802, to 64,000l. in 1814. The Assessed-taxes had been doubled, quadrupled, and quintupled. The Servants duty had been increased fourfold. Windows, in the last three years, had been increased 100,000l. Without going into more details, he should only observe, that many thousand instances had occurred, in which articles had been brought to charge under the assessed taxes, which had never been made productive before; and he would show, when he came to state his budget to the House, improvements which had been made in the collection of taxes, which were absolutely unexampled.
He would now, with the permission of the House, proceed to state the amount 863 of the revenues in the three years which the hon. gentleman had selected for his particular animadversion. In 1813, it was 6,016,448l.—in 1814, 6,160,190l.—and, in 1815, 6,716,056l.—[Mr. Bankes said, across the House, "gross revenue?"]—Certainly he was speaking of gross revenue; and he was perfectly justified in so taking it; for the propositions of the joint contribution were founded upon the gross, not the net revenue. The hon. gentleman had repeatedly noticed the difference of the expense of the collection of the revenue in the two countries: in Ireland it was above 14 per cent., whereas, in England, it was little more than 6 per cent. That was true; but the reason must be obvious to any one who considered the different amount of the revenues of the two countries. In the one they were about 65 millions, and in the other about six millions. A moment's reflection must convince the House, that the expense of collection must be greater in Ireland, where, though the sum to be collected was smaller, yet the establishment was nearly as large as it was in Great Britain, and the number of the persons employed nearly as great. But if the revenues of Ireland were to be increased three-fold, the collection would remain the same, and then they would be raised at less than 5 per cent., and, therefore, cheaper than they were collected in Great Britain. The hon. gentleman had of course fallen into a similar fallacy with regard to the Property-tax, which he said was not above 2l. 3s. 5d. per cent. But the hon. gentleman and the House must be aware, that a very large proportion of the Property-tax was collected without any expense at all, he meant that which was deducted from the dividends paid at the Bank. Besides, it was to be recollected, that, in England, the commissioners were not paid.
He thought it right here to advert to a mistake into which the hon. gentleman had fallen—a mistake, however, in which it was highly important, that neither the House nor the hon. gentleman should for a moment continue. The hon. gentleman had stated, that the military in Ireland were employed in the collection of the revenue, and particularly that which was raised upon the distillers. Nothing could be more unfounded than that statement of the hon. member. The revenue in Ireland, of every kind, was raised by the civil officers, employed for 864 that purpose, without any interference or aid of the military. The mistake of the hon. gentleman, he supposed, was founded upon the circumstance of the military being employed in putting down illegal distillation, and in assisting to apprehend persons who had violated, or were violating the penal law of the country. Outrages certainly had been committed in particular cases, and resistance had been offered; but it was when attempts were made to seize illegal stills, and not when the civil officers were collecting the revenue. He did not mean to conceal facts from the House, or to deny that great outrages had at various times been committed. He did not wish to hide the dark side of the picture; the people of Ireland had enough to be proud of; they were known to be gallant, generous, and brave; and those very disorders which every one lamented, might be the ebullitions of minds, more ardent and less cultivated perhaps than yours, but possessing some of the finest sentiments that adorn human nature. I think, said the right hon. gentleman, I know my country; and if the hon. mover was acquainted, in the slightest degree, with our wishes or our feelings, he would not have described us as he has done to the House to-night. But will not the House require some more data to proceed upon, before they adopt the hon. gentleman's proposition? He repeated—of that proposition he meant not to complain, he felt every respect for the quarter from which it proceeded, and for the public motives by which it was dictated; but had the hon. gentleman formed even the vague estimate of what the produce of this tax in Ireland might be, if we were to proceed upon any of those grounds upon which the Union proportion of contribution had been calculated; and he had no difficulty in saying, that erroneous as he believed them to be, as the measure of our expenditure, or of our means, they would be found still more fallacious as a scale of the respective income or property of the two islands; yet, adopting that proportion for the sake of argument only, the produce of a property-tax in Ireland, taking the highest relative produce which had ever been yielded in Great Britain, the produce from Ireland at 2–17 ths would be (he would state it generally) in amount, 1,600,000l. The hon. gentleman would bear in mind, and it must not escape the recollection of the House, that this was 865 giving credit to Ireland for a collection of the tax in the first year of its application, under circumstances of difficulty, which he would advert to by-and-bye, as accurate, as vigilant, and perfect as the experience of sixteen years, and the enactment of successive laws, had made it in Great Britain. If he were to compare the probable produce of tins duty in Ireland, with that which it had yielded in Great Britain on its first introduction there, he need not tell the hon. gentleman 2–17ths would not aid him much in providing ways and means for this single year, for which he had been good enough to undertake for him to find a supply;—but what further, Sir, was to be deducted from this sum of a million and a half, which we thus hope to receive?—first, the Property-tax now paid in this country by Irish proprietors resident in Great Britain. It is difficult to estimate, and impossible to ascertain the amount of that absentee property, which thus contributes to the British exchequer. In the year 1804, the state of the exchanges between Great Britain and Ireland, which had risen to an inordinate height against Ireland, were brought, by a right hon. friend of his (Mr. Foster), under the consideration of a committee of that House. It was many years before he (Mr. Fitzgerald) had the honour of a seat in it; but he recollected it was in evidence before that committee, stated by a gentleman who is since deceased, a man of ability and extensive information, (he meant Mr. Paget, whose house was then, as it is now, under his successor, Mr. Bainbridge, the principal medium of remittance between Great Britain and Ireland, as well of private remittance, as of all those sums which are sent over on account of the Irish Treasury)—it was stated by him, and he (Mr. Fitzgerald) had reason to think understood, that the remittances of absentees rents alone amounted to 2,000,000l. annually. If we considered the great increase of the number of our absentees, which was natural, and of which, whatever might be the local effect in the country winch they left, it would be idle in him to complain, for it was out of our power to control it—if we considered further the great increase which the hon. gentleman was justified, he admitted, in stating, as an additional ground of the motion which he had submitted, in the rent and value of our lands, it would not be too much to estimate the remittances to 866 absentees at the annual sum of 3,000,000l. He was sure that he was warranted in estimating it at this sum. The tax received upon Irish rents in the Exchequer of England, was 300,000l. This sum, then, was to be deducted from the gross produce which was expected from the duty on Irish property; for he did not suppose that the hon. gentleman would, if his principle was to be extended to Ireland, propose that this portion of the duty should remain in the British Treasury; if he did so, and thus charge the Irish landlord twice over, it would, indeed, be the most effectual absentee tax that could be suggested:—that which he (Mr. Fitzgerald) had thrown out as feasible in the last year, was but a trifle to it; and yet gentlemen had then started, even at the spectre of a tax, which would have affected the land of the absentee. But, to return—300,000l. per annum was to be deducted on this head: there was another deduction to be made also, and we could get more accurately at the grounds of that; the dividends upon that portion of the Irish debt, which had been created in this country, and of which the interest was payable here, were already subjected to the Property-tax; and thus the resources of Ireland were made to contribute to that amount of British duty which had been stated. That is, either her means had paid you so much, or provision had been, found for it in these successive loans which had now become her permanent charge. The amount of our funded debt in Great Britain on the 5th of January last, was 94,000,000l.; he hoped this year would not add much more than ten millions. The interest payable in Great Britain on that debt, was upwards of 4,000,000l.; but allowing for that portion of the debt which, was redeemed, he might state the amount of Property-tax thus received from Ireland, at 300,000l. more. You thus receive on her debt as much as from the absentee proprietors. Your estimated produce, then, in Ireland is reduced to 1,000,000l. Did the hon. gentleman promise—did he even hope, that in the first year of its application, in any year of its application, the collection of that duty-could be made as effectual, or the duty itself relatively as effectual as the experience of years had made it in Great Britain?
He was ready to do justice to the public spirit of the English nation, to that spirit which had carried the country though the greatest contest in which any country had 867 ever been engaged; that spirit, he knew, was not extinct; and if we were again to assume the proud character which in the last war we had sustained, not less by the firm perseverance of the people, than by the successes of those armies whom a Wellington led, we should find, in that public spirit and constancy, which all classes of society had manifested, resources for the contest—far, far beyond what a measure of finance could give, or any revenues, from either country, though they had been called war's sinews, and were no contemptible weapons of war. But while he admitted all this—while he admitted that public spirit which he was convinced, in many instances, would not evade the fair, the legitimate, the lavish contribution to the public exigency; yet, had we not heard hon. gentlemen, even while approving the principle, yet complaining of its inquisitorial power? Upon what ground does my right hon. friend (Mr. Vansittart) resist the modifications which are so earnestly proposed, but that it is his duty to guard against those evasions which, even in England, would be attempted—which in every country would be attempted, and which, if the hon. gentleman would prevent in Ireland, he must give us something more than his naked resolution—something more than a mere assertion of principle;—he must show us that assimilation is not only good, but will be productive in a greater degree, than the application of any other principles is likely to prove. But, how productive? By what machinery does he propose that his duties are to be collected? Does he expect to find a class of men corresponding to those who act as commissioners of the Property-tax in that part of the United Kingdom with which he is acquainted, who are to be our un-salaried commissioners? To whom, said the right hon. gentleman, are we to confide this inquisition of a people? I would rather dwell with pleasure on those traits of national character, of which, as an Irishman, I am proud, than on that state of our society, than on those habits of our gentry, those unhappy feelings which religious and political differences have produced, and any or all of which leave us without that body of persons, who in England discharge so many important duties, and to whom none are confided more important than this. But, Sir, look at your own Acts; look at the complicated machinery which you employ, look at 868 the corrected failures of one system, and the anticipated failure of another—in the first instance, the commissioners of your Land-tax to be commissioners of this Act, and to be chosen at a general meeting convened by the sheriff; the hon. gentleman is perhaps not aware that we have no persons in Ireland corresponding with them—yet these, Sir, are to choose commissioners, from whom I know not. I will not weary the House with the enumeration in the detail, but I think there are 57 cases of commissioners enumerated in the different Acts. I do not now refer to this as a further illustration of the inexpediency, of the absurdity, I had almost said, of creating this fabric for even a single year. I do not desire or wish to prove further than I have already done, how ridiculous it would be to enact for this year, to take as the source of that revenue which ought to flow into the Exchequer before that year is elapsed, a system of complicated operation, which it would take three years of industry equal to the hon. gentleman's, and of a zealous desire to collect Irish revenues, not less than his, to make available or productive: but I refer to this, to show that all the revenue which the hon. gentleman would thus collect, is not to be considered as clear gain. I believe he has more than once adverted to the expense of the collection of our revenue: I hope he will find in many branches of it, that since I have had the honour of administering that department, that expense has been diminished. At the same time it is inevitably greater than the example of Great Britain would lead those who are unacquainted with the subject to expect: but what is to be the expense of these new establishments in Ireland?—At least, we do not desire what I have seen some of the public prints impute to my right hon. friend (Mr. Vansittart), as his motive fop continuing the tax in England—this multiplication of new appointments, those armies of well-paid commissioners and assessors, whom the hon. gentleman, contrary to his ancient principles of economy, would create. In a word, Sir, the expense would interfere seriously, indeed, with, the hon. gentleman's project, however plausible it may seem. I am convinced, that, after the deductions which I have stated—after allowing for the expense which would attend its collection, the residue would not only not supersede the necessity of a great loan, would not only not 869 enable us, after the example of England, to raise within the year, those supplies which the expenditure of the coming year will call for, but that its produce would fall far short of those taxes which it will be my duty to propose as provision for the Loan. They will be, I lament to say, of unexampled amount; but I shall not shrink from my duty in proposing, and I trust the country, even by these discussions, will not be unprepared to bear them; this will afford a permanent provision for the interest of that debt which we must contract, while the proposition of the hon. gentleman would give us only a tax for a single year—a tax which, if he is sincere in hoping that it will last in England only for the period of its present proposed enactment, he must also hope that we should be obliged, in Ireland, to repeal it; and I would ask him, where the public creditor was to look for his permanent security, or if he would be then ready to suggest other measures to supply the necessary deficiency of our revenue?
I think, Sir, that I have stated enough to justify me in resisting the hon. gentleman's motion, and in calling upon the House to resist it. I have shown, I hope to the satisfaction of the House, that the tax being proposed in England for one year, it could not be taken as a permanent provision for payment of that debt which we must create. I think I have a right to say, that this measure which he suggests, could not be fairly in operation until long after that period at which we hope to see its expiration in Great Britain. I have endeavoured to prove that so large a proportion of your duty in England must be affected by the deduction which in common fairness must be made, that even you would have to find fresh means, to no inconsiderable amount, to compensate that deficiency; and I am firmly convinced, that without reference to any local or political circumstances of the country, the creation of a system so widely complicated, and of such accumulated expense, would detract so much from the internal produce of the tax, that, if I had been satisfied to take this alone as the provision for the present year, in the expectation that it would be sufficient, I should have been deceiving both Parliament and myself. In what I have ventured to offer, I have taken a view only comparative of the motion of which the hon. gentleman has made, and of the means to which I shall myself recur. It 870 is not from any fear of public obloquy, that I avoid what he calls the only statesman-like measure of finance. I am not ashamed to avow that I value popularity; I should be ashamed of myself if I did not; but it is that popularity which follows one's actions, and not which one's actions follow. If the necessities of the country should still unhappily continue, and we are to be placed either on a war expenditure, or obliged to continue in that state of military preparation of which the expenditure is as great as that of war, it may be my duty to propose to Parliament, a measure as strong as that which now I deprecate; from the performance of that duty I shall not shrink. I shall find in the public necessity my justification, if indeed any justification be necessary in the eyes of those who have never been backward when they could prove their attachment to the common cause; when they could participate in your dangers, or contribute to the glory of the empire. Sir, I shall say no more—what my feelings are on this subject is of little moment; but Ireland awaits with hope and with confidence the decision of the House of Commons.
§ Sir John Newport
declared, that the right hon. gentleman had so ably vindicated the state and exertions of Ireland, that he had left him little to say. In 14 years since the Union, Ireland had brought into the Exchequer of the country considerably upwards of 60 millions, or more than four millions and a half annually, by taxes, exclusively of what she had been called on to produce by way of loan. He trusted the House would not vote an abstract proposition of this nature, as it would throw a firebrand of irreparable injury between both countries, which would be most fatal to Ireland.
made a few observations in support of the arguments of his right hon. friend, (Mr. V. Fitzgerald). If a tax were proposed, the collection of which was not feasible, it was doing nothing whatever for the country. He thought the Property-tax of England might operate for Ireland as an Absentee tax.
Sir H. Montgomery
said, he had in all the stages opposed the renewal of the Property-tax, as the means of entering into a new war, which he deprecated as ruinous to the finances and security of the country. He agreed with the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, that persons competent to assess and collect the tax in 871 Ireland were not to be found, and that, therefore, it was particularly unfit to be introduced into Ireland. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland had estimated the annual amount of absentee income, which was spent in this country, and from which Ireland derived no benefit, at three millions annually, and the amount of the interest of debt payable to English creditors at four millions; the Income-tax on which, amounting to 700,000l. a year, ought in justice to be carried to the credit of Ireland, which would make good the present deficiency in the revenue, and provide for the loan of the year. In reply to the Secretary for Ireland he said, there was this difference in the tax proposed in the Irish parliament on absentees and the present tax, that the first was receivable in aid of the Irish revenue, and the present tax was payable into the Treasury of England.
§ Mr. Grattan
observed, that he had heard with the greatest pleasure the able arguments of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, and that he entirely coincided in opinion with him on the subject.