§ The House having resolved itself into a committee of Ways and Means,
Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald
(the Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer) rose and spoke to the following effect:
It is to-night, Sir, ray duty to submit to this committee the amount of the Supply, which Ireland is required to provide for the service of this year, and the Ways and Means by which I propose to make the provision which is necessary; and I cannot lament that on more than one occasion in this House, and in another place, where an inquiry into the state of the finances of Ireland was gone into, the attention of gentlemen has been turned to the revenue of that country and the state of its resources; since so much of what else it would have been my duty to offer to the consideration of the committee, has been anticipated by those discussions. In the statement which I have to bring before you, it will be seen, that however the pressure of the present moment may be felt by England, however great and unexampled the demands on her may be, as represented by my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England on a former evening, I have, standing here on the part of Ireland, a duty comparatively more arduous to discharge. Ireland has been called upon, in the last two sessions of Parliament, to furnish a supply, and consequent ways and means larger than have ever been made before. Taxes have been laid on to an extent which that country, I fear, was little prepared to expect; and we have now to provide still greater supplies, and by imposts exceeding those of the preceding years, great as were the exigencies of those times. How the present charge had 862 been aggravated, my right hon. friend has sufficiently explained. The liquidation of the arrears of the late war, has, indeed, swelled that charge very considerably beyond the expenditure of any single year. It remains for me, however, to perform my duty. I trust that Ireland will not be found unequal to the difficulties of her situation; and if, in the extent and magnitude of her contribution to the general expenditure of the empire, the sacrifices she has been called upon to make are great, it must be remembered, that there are heavy burthens which have hitherto not been imposed on her, though every other part of the United Kingdom cheerfully endures them. Let us not forget, too, that great as the sacrifices may be for which we are called on now, or which may be required hereafter, they are the price that Ireland pays for her peace and for her strength, for her security and for her glory.
The right hon. gentleman proceeded to state, that he should submit to the committee as distinctly as he could, the amount of the supply, and the ways and means which he proposed to meet it, as well as the provision for the interest of that loan, which, conjointly with the British loan, had been contracted for in this country, and of which the terms had already received all the sanction which, up to this time, they could have received. He should first state the estimated quota of contribution of the year 1815, at 10,574,21 5l. The Interest and Sinking Fund on the present debt, 6,098,149l. making the total supplies 16,072,364l. The state of the Consolidated Fund was, balance in the Exchequer on the 5th January 1815, 1,689,252l., remaining of the Irish Loan of 1814, 322,500l.; remaining of the Loan raised in England in 1814, 3,852,38l. making a total of 5,864,165l. But from this be had to deduct, first, the arrears of contribution for 1813, 1,794,380l., the same for 1814,3,295,300l. exclusive of exceedings of Army Extraordinaries applicable to 1814, and supplied this year; there were also to be deducted the principal of Outstanding Treasury Bills and Lottery Prizes 282,240l. and for Votes of Parliament which remained undischarged, appropriated to Inland Navigations and Public Buildings in Ireland, 57,438l. making the whole arrear due by the Consolidated Fund, 5,175,358l.; leaving a net surplus of the Consolidated Fund of Ireland on the 5th January last, of 688,807l.
|Having thus stated the Supply, he should proceed to state the Ways and Means. He should first take the surplus of the Consolidated Fund as made out above, at,||£688,807|
|The Produce of the Revenue he should estimate at||6,100,000|
|The Profits on Lotteries, one half of what had been computed for Great Britain||125,000|
|Re-payment of Sums advanced by Ireland for Naval and Military Services||100,000|
|2–17ths of Old Naval Stores, 15–17ths having been taken credit for by England||90,305|
|Loan raised in England for the service of Ireland, 9,000,000l. British||9,750,000|
|Making a Total of Ways and Means||£16,854,112|
§ He stated the whole of the above in Irish currency, and the committee would observe that there was an excess of Ways and Means above the Supply of 171,000l. He came now to the charge for the loan. It was unnecessary for him to trouble the committee with any explanation of the terms upon which the contract had been made, as they had already been stated so satisfactorily by his right hon. friend (Mr. Vansittart), and had received the sanction of the House. The charge for Interest and Sinking Fund combined, was at the rate of 7l. 9s. 2d. per cent. for money, being a total annual charge of 727,350l. The charge for the Sinking Fund being but one per cent. instead of the charge stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England, for the English Loan, as under the operation of that Act, which applied the stock in the hands of the commissioners of the Sinking Fund as a provision for the year, he (Mr. Vansittart) was obliged to attach a Sinking Fund equal to one-half of the interest at which he had borrowed.—The annual charge created, he had stated at 727,350l.
He had now to detail to the committee the duties and taxes, which would, he hoped, be more than sufficient to cover the sum required; and it was satisfactory to think that, in the measures which Parliament had already approved, and in those which were in progress through the House, a great deal had already been or would be provided. He should take a short review of those measures of taxation which the House had already acceded to, and state, as fairly as he could, the estimated produce of each. He should be happy, in case he did not convey himself distinctly, to offer every explanation in 864 his power to any gentleman who might do him the honour to attend to him; and it was some satisfaction to him to reflect, that in recapitulating to the House the measures which he had in this session proposed, he had not to refer to one which had either within or without doors, met with any opposition. It was some consolation that in the discharge of such a duty, his country had given him the credit of doing his best. One extensive branch of the internal duties in Ireland had been this year augmented considerably—he meant the Assessed Taxes; a great increase had taken place in the year 1813, on an average 25 per cent, on the assessment at that time, and the produce had been more than equivalent to the estimate then made. Parliament had already, in the present session, given its sanction to an Act, by which all our existing Assessed Taxes were equalized with those of Great Britain. He mentioned our existing taxes, as it would be borne in mind that we had not in Ireland the inhabited house duty, as in this part of the United Kingdom. Gentlemen might observe, in the financial accounts, the produce of a house duty; it was, however, a different impost, affecting houses of a class inferior to those which were assessed to the window and hearth tax; and the apparent diminution of its produce in the last year, was owing to an exemption which he had recommended to Parliament in favour of persons who paid a less rent than 10l. per annum, on whom the duty had heavily and unequally pressed. That those, however, who were not locally acquainted with Ireland might not go away with a wrong impression, he took leave to state that we had in Ireland the hearth-money tax, to which this part of the empire was not subjected. This was a part of the ancient hereditary revenue of the Crown in Ireland. In the year 1812 the Assessed Taxes had yielded 334,000l,; in the last year the produce was 539,000l.; and from the equalization which he had stated, he expected an increased produce of 180,000l.
The next branch of revenue to which he would advert was that of Stamps. He had introduced into that House bills both of duty and of regulation, and he confessed that he looked with sanguine anticipation to the result of both. One measure he thought it right to remind the committee would alter the apparent statement of the Stamp revenue. He alluded 865 to the transfer which had been made in the present session of all Excise Licences which had been issued under the Stamp department, and were now placed under the exclusive management of the Commissioners of Excise. The great object of that arrangement was not only to confine the responsibility to one department, but to trust the collection of those duties (he alluded to licences) to the Excise, in whose officers the control could be more effectually vested; the apparent result would be a dimunition of the Stamp receipts, and an increase in the same proportion (he hoped, indeed, in a greater proportion) of the Excise, to which they were transferred. The committee were aware, that under some heads the existing rate of our Stamp-duty was the same as the British; and though he had not attempted to raise them all in the scale of the last schedule which had been brought forward by his right hon. friend (Mr. Vansittart), yet the augmentation, under various comprehensive heads, had been very considerable indeed. He believed that, without looking Jo the result of regulations under the new Acts, he might fairly take the increase from the additional duties, at 45,000l. If he had not gone farther, it was only from an apprehension that he might defeat the revenue, instead of add to it. Not only on that principle, but from an opinion of the impolicy of swelling the expense of legal proceedings, he had avoided any interference with law stamps; but persons who had looked into the Acts which had been lately carried through, would see, that great pains had been taken to make the checks more effectual in the offices of courts of justice than they had hitherto been. From the operation of these checks, he hoped for a very good return; and he repeated, that the increased duties alone he should estimate, at a low valuation, as productive of 45,000l.
When in the last year he had the honour, on an occasion like the present, to submit to Parliament those measures which he thought best to meet the public exigency, he had, as the committee would recollect, raised the Custom duties of Ireland to an equal rate with the Permanent and War duties of Great Britain united. There had been but one exemption made, and that on an article which he did not expect to be very productive—that article was silk. He had been of opinion, that in consideration of the state of the manufacture in Ireland, it would have been inex- 866 pedient at that time to have equalized the duties. In the Act that had just passed, a provision for their gradual augmentation had been made; an additional duty of 2s. 5d. per pound only would attach in the present year, being one-third of the difference between the British and Irish rates; and a duty equal to that now imposed will attach at two successive periods, namely, in 1817 and in 1820, making the whole Import-duty as it now stands in Great Britain. He hoped that this progressive arrangement would satisfy the silk merchant and manufacturers in Dublin; he had in some degree departed from the principle upon which he was aware that Parliament had wished to act—with the protection, however, which the increased countervailing duty would afford, besides the ad valorem duty which would still be paid in Ireland, he was confident that those concerned in that branch of trade had no right to complain. Perhaps he had dwelt longer oil this topic than might be deemed necessary, but he wished to give this explanation on account of the fallacies which had been circulated in Ireland respecting it; and the committee would see that he was more anxious for the principle than unreasonable in the estimate of the produce. He had also proposed to make the Import-duty on British hops equal in amount to the internal Excise-duty in Great Britain. The duty on foreign hops is nearly equivalent to a prohibition, they not being allowed to go into consumption in Ireland, except when British hops are at a very high price. The addition this year is but three-farthings per pound; he did not expect that the additional duties on hops and silk would yield him more than 15,000l. He had followed the example of his right hon. friend (Mr. Vansittart) in the Act which had kept the duties on tobacco in Ireland concurrent with those in this country. The increased Custom-duty on this article he estimated at 67,500l., that of Excise at 72,500l. This estimate he took on an average consumption of five millions and a half pounds weight, being the quantify upon which duty was paid on an average of the last three years. Six millions had been the consumption in former years, but he preferred being within limits in this statement. It will be seen (and it is no unimportant consideration), that even with the increased duty, the price to the consumer is less than it has been for the last two years, owing to the renewal of our com- 867 munications with those states from which we derived our supply. He expected that the increased duty on tobacco would, yield an annual revenue of 140,000l. The Acts which had passed for imposing an additional Malt-duty were already in operation, and he hoped that the success of that measure would not be less than resulted from the former increase which he had the honour to propose. The Malt-duty, in the year 1812, had yielded 304,000l., in the year ending 5th January last, the produce had been 590,000l., being 191,000l. above what it had been estimated to yield. In the Act of the present session, an additional duty of 4s. 4d. per barrel had been imposed, making (on a calculation of corresponding measures) the Malt-duty the same in England and Ireland, which the committee are aware exceeds the Scotch duty. He thought he might fairly estimate the produce of this tax at 150,000l.
The next source of supply to which he had to recur, was the distillery. The House probably would not have acquiesced, and he was sure the country would have objected to so great an augmentation of the Malt-duty, if it had not been intended to preserve that relation between the duties affecting malt and spirituous liquors, which it had hitherto been the policy of Parliament to preserve, and which, on every public principle, he was anxious to adhere to. It had been truly objected, both by the trade and by a right hon. friend of his, whom he saw opposite to him, that without a proportionate increase of the duty on spirits, this indirect tax on the breweries must operate to their discouragement, and to that consequent consumption of spirituous liquors, which he certainly should deprecate in comparison with that which was so much more salutary for the people. He was, indeed, only deterred by the fear of offering too high a premium to that worst, and unhappily too prevalent bane of his country—(he meant illicit distillation)— from imposing additional duties on spirits, far higher than those which are proportionate to the duties on malt. He should move in the committee a resolation of sixpence per gallon on all spirits distilled in Ireland, making the entire duty six shillings British per gallon. According to the present low price of grain in Ireland, that quantity may be still sold at ten shillings; and perhaps if that price were to continue, he should be the first to 868 say that it was greatly lower than it ought to be, when we looked to the morals and the peaceful habits of the people. He believed the number of gallons annually consumed in Ireland, to be, on an average, five millions and a half, which would yield a revenue of about 140,000l. He would estimate, however, its yearly produce at 110,000l., thereby making full allowance for any decrease in consumption by increase of price.
To his next proposition he was sure there could be no objection, not even from the trade whom it would immediately affect. The Act of last year imposed on all stills an increase of 25 per cent, on the work to which they were then subjected, thus raising to ninety charges those before liable to a monthly charge of 72. He had then proceeded on the principle of facilitating the intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland. For one of the objections to its continuance was the extent of frauds which the Irish manufacturer was said to practise, and it was not more for the interest of the Irish revenue, than the advantage of the British trade, that the charge should be increased to such an extent as would, he believed, make it impossible for any spirits to go into consumption without the payment of legal duty. The estimate of the last year, formed on similar principles, had been more than verified; he had estimated it at 300,000l.; its produce was in six months 398,466l.; and after deducting the sum of 205,406l. the decrease of duty on foreign spirits in the year 1814, the produce of his regulation up to the 5th January, that is, in six months, was 193,000l., exceeding half a year's estimate by 43,000l., and it could not be said but that he stated this most fairly. The Bill which was in progress through the House, charged on the capacity of all stills 40 per cent. on the work imposed in the year 1812, being an increase of 15 per cent, upon the accumulated charge which had taken place in the last session of Parliament. He hoped we should no longer hear it objected, that the Irish manufacturer had, under the laws which regulated his work, those facilities of fraud which it had been asserted had prevented the English capitalists from meeting him in the markets of Great Britain and Ireland. The full estimate on the former work would produce upwards of 200,000l. He would not state his expectations at more than 120,000l.
869 Although he had no duties of postage to propose, he had to slate to the committee, that the communications which he had had with his right hon. friends near him, authorized him to expect an increase in that allowance, which, under an arrangement of 30 years standing, was made to Ireland by Great Britain, in compensation for rights waved by Ireland as to the conveyance of mails. A Packet-duty having been since imposed on letters, it was evident that Ireland was entitled to a greater equivalent than had been paid under that agreement; besides, the correspondence between the two countries had immensely increased. He had reason to believe that there would be no objection to increase the annual allowance from 4,000l. to 9,000l. He did not, however, mean to take credit for it in the Ways and Means of the year; and he rather mentioned it now on account of its having attracted the attention of the finance committee, who, in their report, had recommended the subject for consideration.
The committee perhaps would wish that he should recapitulate more distinctly the statement which he had just made. He estimated the
|Duties on Tobacco, Customs, and Excise||£140,000|
|Silk and Hops||15,000|
|Regulations by increased charges||120,000|
|Making a total of||760,000|
Having submitted to the Committee this detailed explanation of the Ways and Means, the right hon. geutleman alluded shortly to the produce of the revenues of the former years. The net produce in the year ending the
|5th January 1812, was||£4,421,035|
|5th January 1813||4,975,000|
|5th January 1814||5,140,000|
|And 5th January 1815||5,627,000|
He had intended to have submitted to the Committee of Supply on the last day on which it had sat, a vote for the promotion of the education of the poor of Ireland—but the Report had not been printed, and it would have been irregular to have done so. He should, to-night, when the House was in a committee of supply, bring the subject forward: it was one of the deepest interest to every man who had looked at the state of the population in that country, who had witnessed the eagerness with which they panted after instruction, and the sacrifices which the poor peasant often made to acquire it. If, indeed, you would offer a boon to the peasant, and confer a benefit on the county, give the means of education. The Petition which he had the honour to present was for aid towards the erection of a Model School in Dublin, and for the instruction of masters, who were afterwards to be employed, generally, under the orders of the Association. They were an association consisting of persons of all religious persuasions. He conceived it was only under such auspices the great object of instructing a numerous population could be accomplished; and he had little doubt, that when he proposed the vote, he should find gentlemen ready to concur with him. —nor was there any subject which he was more anxious to recommend to Parliament.
In reviewing those subjects which had occupied the attention of Parliament during the present session, there were many which he could have dwelt upon with pleasure, if he did not feel that he had already occupied so much of the time of the Committee: there was one, however, which he could not pass over in silence, and which reflected as much honour on Parliament, as it would be attended with general benefit to the empire—he alluded to 871 those laws which had passed for the protection of our domestic agriculture, and which, by making us independent of foreign nations, insured, to the great population of this country, a regular and certain supply of the first necessary of life: while, if there was one part of the United Kingdom which derived more peculiar benefit than another, it was that whose resources had grown with the improvement of her agriculture, whose wealth had increased so rapidly since the free intercourse in corn had been extended to her, and from having been herself an importing country, had risen so greatly, and improved so much those advantages which the bounty of nature had conferred on her and on her people. She contributed most essentially to the sustenance of England, at a time when foreign Powers, except when impelled by their own necessities, withheld their aid. England had, upon this question, acted on sound principles of justice; and Ireland ought to feel grateful for the course that had been taken, and for that universal manifestation of confidence and affection which had marked those discussions in both branches of the Legislature, and he would venture to say, in almost every publication which had issued from the press.
In other points, he hoped that the improvements of Ireland were still progressive. Within the last week those grants for the extension of our inland navigation, which he had originally had the honour to propose to Parliament, had been voted; and he had the satisfaction to think, that the great objects which Parliament had in view, were many of them nearly accomplished. The completion of one great line of navigation, which united the eastern and western parts of the island, was itself worthy of the great efforts which had been made to effect it. The attention of Parliament would, he hoped, continue to be directed to those great views of our national improvement. The inland navigation of Ireland had been one of the favourite objects of the Irish Parliament: it had been bequeathed to the care and protection of Britain as one of its last acts; and he should always, in whatever character he stood there, press upon the House of Commons that there was no improvement which took place in Ireland, that would not be beneficial to England as well as to her—[Hear, hear!]. On other subjects the usual liberality of Parliament has been shown. The great 872 harbour of Howth advances towards its completion. Works of a similar nature (though less in extent) are proceeding in the southern part of the kingdom, to facilitate the communication between the two islands; and he hoped that the progress of those improvements, which were meditated on the south of the bay of Dublin, would prove to the people of that metropolis, that their wishes had been met by an anxious concurrence both of the Executive Government and of Parliament. He might hope that that station might add not a little to the commercial prosperity of the second city of the empire. But if, on that dangerous coast—if, in the night of tempest, it were the means of saving human life, those who promoted its establishment, would find themselves more than repaid [Hear, hear!]. There were two other points of great moment relative to Ireland, which, during the present session of Parliament, had arrested the attention of the House. The first of these was the inquiry directed to be made by a committee, as to those powers of the grand juries of Ireland, under which money was presented and levied for the public, works. He expressed himself strongly in favour of the principle on which those powers were founded; and stated his conviction, that by a judicious alteration of the system, the best effects would be produced. The right hon. gentleman proceeded to say, that he did not regret so much as he had formerly, that the constant occupation of his public duties had prevented him from bringing those laws under the revision of the House, since the inquiry which had taken place had produced evidence not only of the benefit which had arisen to the country, but had pointed out the best means of correcting the evils which unhappily had been proved to exist. The benefit had, even under all the mal-administration, been greater than any country had in the same time ever received.—He trusted that the committee would redeem the pledge they had given. Hardly any subject of greater import to the resident gentry and to the tenantry of Ireland could call for attention, and he professed the willingness and the pleasure with which he should contribute any humble efforts of his to amend the grand-jury laws, and to preserve their principle, though he should reform their practice: and he was sensible of the confidence which so many of his countrymen had reposed in him in 873 asking him to undertake the task—[Hear, hear!]. The second point, of still greater importance, in his opinion, was the inquiry of the committee on the Finance and Expenditure of Ireland. The committee was originally appointed in 1811; their attention had been attracted to the interpretation of that part of the seventh article of the Act of Union, which refers to the joint contribution of Great Britain and Ireland, and the consolidation of the debts and exchequers of both countries. The committee were aware that the competence of Parliament to declare this consolidation, would arise upon certain proportions taking place between the respective debts. A calculation of the value of those debts was made in 1811 and 1812, and it was found at those periods to have nearly approached the proportions regulated by the Act of Union; but none of the reports from those committees had been acted upon. The committee was revived in consequence of a motion made by him (Mr. Fitzgerald), and the report of the committee would in a few days be in the hands of members. He had the permission of his hon. friend (Mr. Giddy) the chairman, whose industry every man appreciated highly, and of whose labours he should be anxious to avail himself, to refer to the copy of his report. Though the committee were aware that a literal and strict interpretation of that article was not unattended with difficulty, since that period had elapsed, when the respective national debts were in the proportions described, they had yet reported their opinion, that the competence of Parliament had not passed away from it; and they earnestly recommended the consolidation of the debts, and Exchequers of Great Britain and Ireland, subject to such regulations, under the terms of the seventh article of Union, as the Legislature might think it proper to make. He agreed perfectly in this recommendation, since the principle on which the project of consolidation was founded, was to relieve Ireland from a scale of contribution which her means were inadequate to defray, and from the charge of a debt, greater in proportion than she ought to bear. And construing the article with reference to what must have been in the contemplation of both Parliaments, it was evident from the spirit and context of the Act of Union, that it was intended to afford protection to that country, which might be supposed least adequate to its own defence. 874 If they went on with separate exchequers, and an expenditure such as that which had taken place since the Union, he knew not how it was to be met without violating that most vital enactment of the Union which was meant for their protection, and which declares, "that no article in Ireland should be made liable to any new or additional duty, by which the whole amount of duty payable thereon should exceed the amount payable in England on the like article."
In that part of the report in which the committee had examined the various branches of Irish taxation, and the general produce of Irish revenue, they had done justice to the financial exertion which Ireland had made in late years. The permanent revenues of Great Britain, it appeared, had increased from the year 1801, when the accounts of both countries were first made to correspond in the proportion of sixteen and a half to ten, and the whole revenue of Great Britain, including war taxes in the proportion of twenty-one to ten; while the revenues of Ireland were increased in the same period in the proportion of twenty-three to ten. But in the twenty-four years into which the commitee of finance were, by the instruction of the House, directed to inquire, the increase of the Irish revenue had been remarkable, being in the proportion of forty-six to ten.
The right hon. gentleman concluded his speech in the following words:—In calling, Sir, the attention of this committee, and through them of Parliament, to the subject of this report, I am, perhaps, performing the last duty of my present official character; but I can never perform one more important, or on which I feel more earnestly. I regard the act which the report of your finance committee so strongly recommends, as the consummation of that great compact which is the basis of our power and our fame—I regard it as it affects both countries, as a measure of indulgence to Ireland, and of justice to Great Britain and Ireland both. I do not fear that Parliament will ever declare the competency of Ireland to bear the entire weight of that taxation which the wealth and resources of England enable her to support, without reference to those considerations upon which alone Ireland should be exempted from those burthens which are laid on all other subjects of the United Kingdom. The power of that exemption is specially reserved to Parlia- 875 ment by the Act of Union. I have thought it ray duty, Sir, not to leave this subject untouched, nor could I withhold these observations in adverting to it. One of the first results, said the right hon. gentleman, which will probably flow from this arrangement, will be to place at the head of the financial administration of Ireland, my right hon. friend (Mr. Vansittart.) He will bring to it, I am conscious, talents far beyond what I could ever pretend to, and information greater than I shall ever acquire. But I humbly venture to say, he will not bring to it greater zeal in the public service, or more anxiety than I have felt to discharge my duty equally to my country and the Crown. I shall be accused, perhaps, justly, of presumption, if I attempt to express on this occasion, all that I feel; but I had rather appear presumptuous, than ungrateful. I am deeply sensible of the indulgence which the House have at all times shown me; and I hope, Sir, that the favour which has been shown me by the committee this night, I have not too much abused.—[Hear, hear!] But I feel more deeply still the support that it has been my good fortune to meet with from the Irish public, and the liberality with which they have received those measures which it has been more than once my painful duty to adopt. I hope my right hon. friend may receive the same support: I am convinced he will receive it—he will deserve it, Sir, infinitely more; but at all events, he may expect it from the generosity of the people of Ireland, from that fairness which always interprets justly fair intentions—[hear, hear!] and above all from that public spirit, which far more than legislative acts can do, has strengthened our connexion with Britain—[hear, hear!]—that spirit which has cemented the compact that unites us, and which I trust will preserve it for ever.—[Repeated cheers from all sides of the House.]—The right hon. gentleman then moved his first resolution.
§ Sir J. Newport
complimented his right hon. friend on the ability which he had just displayed. He begged, however, to be permitted to make a few observations on the subject. With respect to the bulk of the taxes, they had already been discussed, and had received the sanction of Parliament. It was to be lamented that any increase in the duty on spirits would, under the present circumstances, be inevitably productive of that which was 876 the bane of Irish prosperity—illicit distillation. Every thing calculated to put down so great an evil, ought to receive their active and decided support. He trusted that Parliament, therefore, would never again sanction a remission of the penalties on illicit distillation. It was a monstrous thing to see, that in the very districts where the remission had been granted to the greatest extent, the offence had again been extensively committed. This was particularly the case in the counties of Donnegal and Cavan. In the county of Cavan penalties to the amount of 28,000l. had been remitted; nevertheless penalties to an enormous amount had been again incurred, as if it were attempted to make the magnitude of the offence screen the offender from punishment. With respect to the increase of the assessed taxes, he had already expressed his opinion that it would not be productive of much increase of revenue, from the deficiency of the mode in which the revenue was collected; for, great as had been his right hon. friend's efforts on this subject, very much remained yet to be done. The grant which it was the intention of his right hon. friend to propose for the more general education of the poor in Ireland, should have his most hearty concurrence; for from their moral improvement, the greatest national, as well as individual benefit, must result. The consolidation of the finances of the two countries would also, he was convinced, be productive of the greatest advantages to Ireland. He had never sat in the Irish Parliament; but out of doors he had been a sincere friend to the Union, on the principle that the great sacrifices made by Ireland in that measure would eventually be more than compensated by the great benefits which it would confer on her. At the period of the Union, the long course of calamitous events which had demanded the utmost exertions of the United Empire was not anticipated. Those events had brought on Ireland a burthen greater than she was able to bear; and which he repeated was not in contemplation in the first instance. So great had been the exertions of Ireland in consequence, that while her debt had greatly increased, her means of meeting the supplies had increased also. Let the committee compare the revenue raised in Scotland and the revenue raised in Ireland since the Union. In that period (during the last 14 years) Scotland had raised a gross revenue of 55,722,000l., 877 and Ireland 70,240,000l.; being an excess of taxation in Ireland beyond Scotland of 14,000,000l., or 1,000,000l. on the average in every year. If it were asked why greater efforts had not been made by Ireland to keep down her debt, he would answer, that at the time of the Union, Ireland had but just emerged from circumstances which utterly incapacitated her for vigorous exertions—circumstances originating in the rebellion which had recently raged in that country. But had she therefore been deficient in the exertions which it was in her power to make? By no means. It was to guard her from this cruel imputation that he felt warranted in concurring in the proposition of equalizing the taxes, under proper qualifications, and with the reservations which were consonant to the spirit of the Articles of Union. At the same time he was glad to find that all his right hon. friend intended to do on the subject in the present session, was to propose a resolution upon it, to be discussed at a future period, after all the deliberation which a question of such magnitude and importance demanded.
defended the land-owners of the county of Donnegal from the imputation of conniving at the increase of illicit distillation. He had resided in that county twenty years, and had used the utmost exertions to suppress a practice so destructive of the morals and prosperity of the people. Were there a greater number of resident gentry in the county, the effect produced would be much greater; but those who resided there at present could not be expected wholly to put down that which the revenue officers and the military could not sufficiently restrain.
§ Sir J. Newport
, in explanation, denied having said a single word in inculpation of the land-owners of the county of Donnegal.
observed, that after the luminous exposition which had been made by his right hon. friend, it would be quite unnecessary for him to intrude upon the committee at any length on the question before them. There was one point, however, on which he begged to be allowed to make a few observations. No man could be more sensible than himself of the advantages that would result to Ireland from the general diffusion of education. In making that statement he wished to be understood, that the benefit ought to be restricted to no particular sect—no distinction whatever ought to be observed. 878 He was confident that it was the only measure to which Parliament could look for the introduction of habits of industry and morality among the lower orders in Ireland; and when they considered the avidity which, to their infinite credit, was shown by the lower orders of the population of Ireland to avail themselves of any means of instruction that were afforded them, it would be a reflection on Parliament, if by any ill-judged and miserable parsimony such means were withheld. It had been his misfortune, in the discharge of his official duty, to be compelled to introduce into that House measures of a temporary nature to remedy existing evils in Ireland. But in doing so he was satisfied that those measures must of necessity be temporary, and that they could weigh nothing in the scale compared with the duration and effect of measures of a more general nature. After adverting to the previous reports of the commissioners appointed to inquire into the existing abuses in Ireland, and to the legislative measures that had been founded on them, he remarked, that the last report of those commissioners suggested a general plan for educating the poor in that country. The reason which had induced him to forbear from introducing that plan to Parliament in the shape of a Bill, was, not any insensibility to the advantage of general education, but an apprehension that the plan of education advised by the commissioners would not be advantageous. The report recommended that the Lord-lieutenant should appoint commissioners for the superintendance of the education. Now, he was afraid that this direct interference of Executive Government would tend to excite jealousies that would counteract the benefits that might otherwise be expected from the measure. After due deliberation, therefore, he felt himself fully warranted in forbearing to introduce to Parliament the system recommended by the commissioners. He conceived, however, that the vote which his right hon. friend meant to propose, would by no means involve the evils which he had just described. He was convinced, and he avowed it without hesitation or reserve, that the only rational plan of education in Ireland, was one which should be extended impartially to children of all religious persuasions—one which did not profess to make converts—one which, while it imparted general religious instruction, left those who were its objects to obtain their 879 particular religious discipline elsewhere— [Hear, hear!]. On this subject it was unnecessary for him to dilate. The days were passed when there existed a prejudice against the general education of the poor. Conclusive proofs had been afforded that the manner, character, and habits of a people were improved precisely in proportion to the diffusion of knowledge among them, by a rational education. One argument which had been urged against this liberal system in Ireland, appeared to him to prove directly the reverse of that which it was intended to establish. It had been said, that in times of public agitation in that country the schoolmasters had, by their influence among the lower orders, materially contributed to the evils of those times. But to what was that influence to be ascribed, but to their greater information? If the lower orders, instead of being kept in extreme ignorance, were allowed the means of obtaining information, they would not so easily be operated upon and misled. To the slow and gradual progress of reform among the people of Ireland, Parliament must look for a durable improvement in their character; and he could not conceive a more certain mode of effecting this most important object, than by adopting a judicious plan of general education.
§ Sir H. Parnell
expressed his high satisfaction at the able, liberal, and useful speech which had just been made by the right hon. gentleman. He trusted with him, that the operation of the great and broad principle of educating the lower orders in Ireland would not be checked by any ill-advised and niggardly economy. He particularly recommended the example of Scotland in the construction of school-houses, and said, that, in his opinion, so trifling a rate as a penny an acre would, in a very few years, afford the means of providing sufficient buildings for carrying the proposed plan into full effect.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
congratulated Parliament and the country, on the manly, vigorous, and judicious manner, in which his right hon. friend had fulfilled the duties of his arduous office. He hoped that there yet remained for him many years of important, though laborious public service. His right hon. friend having succeeded to the task which had been thought too difficult by the able hands which resigned it, had in two years increased the revenue of Ireland two millions a year; thus adding 50 per cent, to 880 that which had been supposed to be exhausted. The right hon. baronet had adverted to the rapid increase of Irish debt. It was a consolation, however, that Irish revenue advanced with a still quicker pace. The Sinking Fund of Ireland was now double what the Sinking Fund of Great Britain was at the commencement of the war of the French Revolution; while the debt of Ireland (great as it was) was not half so great as the debt of Great Britain was at that period. There was no cause, therefore, for apprehending that the consolidation of the resources of the two countries, under proper regulations, would subject either to the risk of bankruptcy. To proceed to such a consolidation was most desirable, and he was persuaded that Parliament would deliberate upon it in that temper with which all subjects of great national importance ought to be treated.
said, he had heard with great satisfaction his right hon. friend declare his intention of proposing to Parliament a vote by which they should be pledged to take into consideration next session, a measure that seemed to him to be pregnant with beneficial consequences to the empire. When he proposed1 the union in Ireland, he did it in the hope that it would mitigate, rather than aggravate the expenses of that country. It was impossible for him or any one else to see the calamities which the British empire, in common with the rest of the world, had endured by the progress of the war; attended as it had been by an accumulating necessity for exertion. By those circumstances a greater burthen had been thrown, on Ireland than she could have borne had she remained in a separate state. This he deeply lamented. He would not prejudge the question; but he was persuaded when it came to be sifted, it would be found practicable, with perfect justice to both parties, to create that community of treasury and taxation which it was impossible to effect at the time of the Union. He bestowed a high eulogium on the conduct of his right hon. friend, who, during his continuance in office, had made such solid, provision for the public service, that every tax which he had proposed had much exceeded in its produce the estimate which he had previously made of it. It would be an additional honour to his right hon. friend to confer on the empire the benefit of bringing the countries into one common system of finance. With respect to the 881 plan of educating the lower orders, no man who knew the energies of the Irish mind, and the eagerness with which the peasantry, parents, and children, sought the means of obtaining information, rather than the means of obtaining wealth, bin must anticipate from it the happiest effects. The committee might rely upon it that the powers of that country were almost infinite, and that in proportion to their cultivation, they would fructify to the general advantage.
Mr. J. Smith
heard with great satisfaction of the extension of education to Ireland, and recommended that it should not be confined to any religion,
stated, as a proof of the impartial diffusion of education to all sects in Ireland, that when Dr. Bell repaired to that country a short time since, and the children were examined before him to show their progress in reading, some of them refused to read in any other Testament than their own, and the schoolmasters stated, that they never checked this independence, and never interfered with the sentiments and persuasion of their scholars.
The Resolutions were agreed to, and the Report ordered to be received on Monday.