HC Deb 28 February 1822 vol 6 cc837-60
Mr. Calcraft

said, that after the discussion which had so long occupied the House, it was his duty to bring before the House a question of dull detail, but of great importance, the repeal of the duties on salt. He had long considered the question, and had it much at heart; and if it took the turn which he hoped, it would be most beneficial to a very large part of the community. It might be recollected that in 1817, when he had moved the question for the first time, he went so far as to press on the consideration of the House, the propriety of appointing a committee to consider the effect of the salt tax. That motion he had lost by a small majority of 9. In 1818, he renewed his motion, and a committee was granted, and that committee came to a resolution, "that the repeal of the salt duties would be productive of the greatest and most important advantages to all descriptions of persons in this kingdom; and that the present state of the income and expenditure of the united kingdom alone prevents your committee from instructing their chairman to move for leave to bring in a bill for such total repeal." On the 1st of June 1818, this and other resolutions were reported to the House; and it became him now to account for the course he had thought advisable to pursue, in abstaining from 1818 to 1822 to move the repeal of those duties, on which that committee had so strongly expressed its opinion. It had been pressed exceedingly upon him to do so, in 1819, but he had not thought that the income and expenditure of the kingdom could warrant him in moving for the repeal of the duties. The same reason had influenced him in 1820 and 1821, and it was not till the present year that he had thought it advisable so far to relax taxation, that be could earnestly press on the House the reduction of this impost. He would explain bow he now intended to set about it. He should conclude with a motion for the gradual reduction of the duties on salt; he begged the House to remark that he sought only a gradual reduction. As the House had been pleased to sanction a sinking fund, a vote in which he fully concurred, he was bound not to propose any measure that could materially interfere with that project. He had therefore refrained from proposing the sweeping away of this duty at once; and if his suggestion were adopted, it would be an annual reduction of this duty: it was now 15s. per bushel, and his proposition was, that it should be abo- lished at the rate of 5s. a year, until the whole was extinct. He trusted that his measure would be thought as mild, as reasonable, and as gradual as any of those who agreed with him in the obnoxiousness and weight of this tax could expect. He would now state a few particulars relating to the tax itself. Like many others, it began at first in the reign of William and Mary, only as a temporary impost of three halfpence per gallon. Five years afterwards it was doubled; and in the reign of George the 2nd, it was made perpetual at the rate of 8d. per gallon, or 5s. per bushel. It was not until the 38th of the late king that the duty was raised to 10s. per bushel; and in the 15th of his reign it reached its present amount of 15s. per bushel. The House would observe that this 15s. per bushel was upon a raw material, the produce of the country, which mixed itself up with all the necessaries of life, and which was consumed alike by the poorest and by the richest. It fell with an unequal and oppressive weight upon the poor man, and was, in fact, nothing less than a poll-tax, operating in a manner the most unjust and arbitrary. The day labourer used as much of this raw material as he (Mr. C.) consumed, or any other individual in ten times his circumstances. Could that be a correct or fair principle of taxation under which the mechanic, the labourer, and the artisan paid as highly as the more wealthy classes of the community? Could it be justified by any thing but the direst necessity? It had been calculated that this tax alone cost the labourer from 20s. to 25s. per annum; and when the House considered the price of labour, especially of agricultural labour, it would see at once what an immense proportion of the income of these poor men was consumed by this oppressive duty. This raw material was bestowed upon us by Providence, like air or water; and yet where it had existed in the greatest plenty, the ingenuity of man had rendered it the greatest curse. It gave rise to innumerable crimes: breaches of the law, and conduct grossly immoral were encouraged, by the temptation it held out to the inhabitants of the district where the raw material was produced. Mr. Justice Burton (who for 28 years was chief justice of Chester), sir J. Stanley, chairman of the quarter sessions, and various other witnesses equally respectable, had given undeniable testimony upon this point, clearly de- monstrating that the salt duty was a most fruitful source of crime and vice in Cheshire. This duty, from its nature, affected the labourer and the inferior tradesman in all articles of consumption: a man who only purchased 100l. worth of the raw material, was obliged immediately to advance to government 3,000l., or thirty-fold for the tax upon it. Yet this article was the produce of our own soil. To the duty was to be added, the accumulation of profit for each individual through whose hands the salt passed: so that a man who bought six pennyworth of salt, paid 36 or 37 times the price of the raw material, without which neither he nor his family could subsist. It was said, however, that all this weight was thrown upon the employer of the labourer —that it went to advance the wages of labour. True; but was there any thing more desirable in a community like this, than to keep down reasonably the price of labour? What would become of our manufactures at this moment, if the price of labour were not kept down? It was kept down indeed at the expense of the farmer, who could not now throw the taxes upon the consumer. The manufactures were kept in their present state —a state rather flourishing than otherwise —by what? Because the manufacturers ate the bread produced by the farmer without paying the tax upon it [hear.] Such was the real cause of the great depression in agriculture. Did he wish, therefore, that the manufacturers should be supplied with dear bread, or dear provisions? By no means; but he wished for a reasonable reduction of taxation, that the farmer might be able to furnish bread at alow price without loss; that commerce and manufactures might flourish, and the farmer flourish also. The duty on salt affected trade in many of its branches: it affected our fisheries in a most extraordinary degree; it affected agriculture itself to a very burthensome extent. So long as the tax existed, neither the fisheries, nor agriculture, nor trade, could derive those great advantages from the raw material that might, he was confident, be obtained if it were wholly removed. It might be asked, then, why he did not move for its total and immediate repeal? In reply he would say, that the resolution of the House on a former night, in favour of the sinking fund, was in opposition to it; besides, he knew that many large capitals were engaged in the salt trade: and if a total and immediate repeal were effected, property to an enormous amount would be endangered, if not destroyed. One of the great evils attending this tax was, that it drove the salt trade into a monopoly. There were individuals in that trade who paid from 100,000l. to 200,000l. a year in duty. Therefore, when such a capital was invested, locked up, and shackled in the trade, he would not rashly attempt to cause the tax to be repealed, by bringing in a bill for that purpose in the present session. The house would perceive that he did not mean to proceed violently with this measure. It was his wish, however, that the public should ultimately be relieved from the burthen of this tax, convinced as he was, that the individual and the state would derive great benefit from its repeal. He felt that there was no necessity to go into further details with respect to the hardship and inconvenience produced by the tax on salt. When it was stated, that no man ate his salt at a less rate than 36 or 37 times the cost price, the inconvenience and hardship were sufficiently established; and those who meant to oppose his motion ought to show that the consumer was not affected to the extent he had described. If his object were achieved, then the revenue would, this year, be reduced to the extent of 500,000l. Now, the House had voted a sinking fund of 5,000,000l., over which there was an estimated surplus of 200,000l. Admitting, therefore, that nothing further was done for the reduction of the expenclhure—supposing that economy was pursued no further, and that the revenue did not continue to improve, he was sanguine in his belief that it would progressively increase—if one third of the salt-tax was given up, it would only reduce the sinking fund to 4,700,000l. Could any man be sincere in supposing that the difference between a sinking fund of 4,700,000l, and of 5,000,000l. would entail the slightest inconvenience on the public creditor, or make any material variation with respect to the liquidation of the public debt? He had intended to go at length into the subject, but he conceived that he had made out a case sufficiently strong. He had brought this question forward hastily. His notice had been a short one, but he felt it necessary to adhere to it; the reason was, because if the motion were to remain in suspense, great inconvenience must result to those connected with the trade, and the revenue would sustain a considerable loss. He, on that account, thought it better to bring the subject forward at a short notice, than to postpone it. He held in his hand a letter from the drysalters of Birmingham, requesting that the motion should be put off. The drysalters, he ought to observe, were particularly interested in the repeal of this tax, because, by its operation, this country lost, almost entirely, the trade of salting beef and pork, its own produce. That trade, in consequence of the dearness of salt, was driven to other countries, where, either by smuggled salt, or by salt procured under low duties, the people were enabled to carry it on advantageously. He had been pressed hard by persons interested in this trade to postpone the motion, to give them an opportunity of communicating on the subject with other persons throughout the kingdom; and had he complied with these representations, petition upon petition would have been presented to the House, praying for a repeal of this tax. When he brought this question forward in 1817, the chancellor of the exchequer said, "Oh, you place too much reliance on the advantages which would accrue from a repeal of the tax. It was repealed in 1729, but as that appeal was not attended by any good effect, it was re-enacted in 1732." Now, he had looked into the life of sir Robert Walpole, and he found that the re-enactment did not take place in consequence of any disappointment as to the advantage which it was supposed its repeal would have produced. The fact was, that when sir Robert W. was commencing his excise scheme, he thought it was more easy to revive an old tax, and place it under the excise-law, than to introduce a new tax, for that purpose, in the then state of the opposition. He would quote in support of his view of this tax, a very high authority—he alluded to Mr. Burke, who, in a pamplet published by him in 1769, thought it worth while, when comparing the different situations of the people in this country and in France, to observe, that "amongst the number of advantages which the people enjoyed in this free and comparatively untaxed country, they could eat their salt at 2d. per lb., while those in France paid 5d. for it." Why did Mr. Burke make this remark? Because he knew that salt was an article of prime necessity; that it pervaded every article of life; that it entered into the composition of bread, butter, cheese, bacon; that every member of the community was obliged to use it, and therefore he thought it a matter of boast that the people of this country were able to procure it at a cheap rate, as it was free from such an impost as the gabelle of France. But it now happened that the labouring people of England paid a much larger sum for that commodity than the people of France did under their arbitrary government, at the period when Mr. Burke made this comparison. It was, in his opinion, one of the articles which should, above all others, be kept untaxed if possible; but, if taxed at all, it should, be at the very lowest rate that circumstances permitted.—The hon. gentleman concluded by moving, "That leave be given to bring in a bill for the gradual reduction of the Duties on Salt."

Mr. Davenport

entirely agreed in every proposition which fell from the hon. mover, who had done himself great credit in bringing the question before the House so clearly and explicitly. He had ensured the respect of the country gentlemen, the thanks of the farmer, and the ardent blessings of the poor by his exertions. This tax was of so oppressive a nature, that it ought to be at least abated, if not altogether repealed. At the lowest calculation, it took from the poor man 4d. a week, or about 16s. 8d. in the year; and those who had large families paid 25s. or 30s. per annum, a sum, which in some cases, was equal to half the rent. It was a tax, which must have been projected originally by some narrow-minded statesman. It was had in principle, and therefore unsound in policy. Such a tax should not be suffered to exist in a free and enlightened commercial country. The hon. mover might, if he had thought proper, point out a variety of manufactures on which the salt duty pressed heavily. The manufacture of iron, of china, of glass, and a hundred other articles, were affected by it. With respect to its operation on the morals of the people, he could state, from his own observation, in the county with which he was connected, that it operated most banefully. And could it be otherwise? When there was a tax of 3,000l. per cent on an article necessary for the use of every man, did it not hold out an irresistible temptation to dishonesty? Individuals began by stealing small quantities of salt, and ended by committing crimes of greater magnitude. It was a tax most revolting, in every point of view, and therefore be would vote for its gradual abolition.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, the hon. gentleman who brought this subject before the House had certainly done so with much candor and temper. He was sorry, however, that he could not support his motion. It would give much satisfaction to ministers, if they could, consistently with the real interest of the country, agree to a greater remission of taxes; but, after what parliament had already done on this point, he certainly thought it necessary to withstand any farther reduction. The hon. member had spoken of the sinking fund in very candid terms, and had stated, that the subtraction of 300,000l. from the sinking fund would not materially affect its operation. But he (the chancellor of the exchequer) was prepared to contend, looking to the amount of the funded and unfunded debt, that it was necessary to have a sinking fund of at least 5,000,000l. The malt-tax in England had been remitted to the amount of 1,200,000l., that of Ireland to the amount of 200,000l., making a total of 1,400,000l. They were enabled to make these reductions by the saving of 1,200,000l. which would arise from the paying off the English five per cents—90,000l. from the alteration in the Irish five per cents—and the surplus of the sinking fund, amounting to 200,000l.— making a total of 1,190,000l. The surplus of the sinking fund, as the hon. member must perceive, was already appropriated. This was all the reduction that could now be made. Even with an improvement in the revenue, ministers felt that they would not be justified in proposing, at present, any measure, in the way of reduction, beyond the lowering of the annual malt-tax. He was of opinion that, even if the hon. member were right in his enumeration of the benefits to be derived from the reduction of this tax, the present was not the time for conceding it. He did not conceive that he was called on to enter into a discussion as to the most proper tax to be repealed whenever it became proper to approach parliament with a proposition fir a more extended reduction. The choice of the taxes to be repealed must depend on the circumstances of the moment. Various arguments might be raised relative to the comparative justice and policy of repealing different taxes; and, therefore, he did not mean to enter into the question, whether or not, in the event of a proposition being submitted to parliament by ministers, for further relief from taxation, the reduction or abolition of the salt duty would be the most proper for consideration. A gradual reduction of this tax appeared to I him to be extremely objectionable. The hon. gentleman expressed a very proper concern for the interest of the persons engaged in the salt-trade But, the moment the house agreed to a reduction of 500,000l. a year, the trade would be as completely at a stand, and as closely con-tined to immediate consumption, from hand to mouth, he might say, as it could possibly be if the total amount were remitted. Rather than reduce the tax by degrees, he would, if circumstances permitted it, agree to its total repeal. The hon. mover had described this tax as operating in the manner of a poll-tax of 20s. a head on the whole population of the country. The hon. member for Cheshire had made rather a lower calculation. But neither of those calculations could be correct; because if the tax fell on the people at the rate of 20s. a head, it ought to produce 14,000,000l. or 15,000,000l. annually, instead of 1,500,000l.; for the returns of the population showed that it amounted to between 14,000,000l. and 15,000,000 of persons. It followed, therefore, from the actual produce of the tax, that, instead of 20s. a head, it was, in reality, no more that about 2s. a head. This sum was expended, by fractions, from day to day, and therefore was the most convenient and least oppressive tax. The hon. gentleman had referred to the observations of Mr. Burke on the comparative situation of the people of England and France in 1769; but surely the hon. member must know, that the pressure of the salt duty on the people of France did not consist in the amount of the tax, but in the severe manner in which the gabelle was collected. In that country the trading for salt between one district and another was strictly prohibited; and the inhabitants were compelled to purchase at particular places, and under the most severe restrictions. The hon. gentleman had contended, that the re-enactment of the salt-tax in 1732 was not adopted in consequence of the advantages of its repeal not having answered the expectations of the country, but because sir R. Walpole wanted to introduce it as one of the precedents in his excise scheme. If that were the fact, why did he not place it under the head of Excise? He had one no such thing; and it was not until 1796, during the administration of Mr. Pitt, that salt was placed under the superintendence of the Excise. In opposing he hon. gentleman's proposition, he stood poll the broad and general state of the case. Parliament had sanctioned, by its resolution, the establishment of a sinking fund; and be thought neither the consideration of the public honor, nor of he public interest could suffer them to depart from that resolution. Whatever might be done hereafter, they certainly were not now ripe for the reduction of other taxes. It was most material for he public benefit, that the system of the sinking fund, to which parliament had so lately pledged itself, should be strictly followed up; and, as the hon. gentleman's proposition, would, if carried, make an inroad on that system, he deemed it his duty to move the previous question.

Lord Normanby

said, that on the immediate subject under discussion, he would not offer any remarks, as they were rendered superfluous by the able speeches of the hon. mover and seconder. With respect to the allusion that had been made to sir R. Walpole, he would make one observation. As far as his recollection served him, sir Robert moved the renewal of the salt-tax on grounds very different from those which had been stated. He moved for its renewal as a relief to the landed interest of the country, in lieu of a shilling a pound, which was taken from the land-tax duty. The land-tax weighed so heavily on the country gentlemen, that they began to neglect those ancient hospitalities which sir Robert thought it was necessary, for the honour of the national character, to keep up, and therefore he sanctioned this boon. But sir W. Wyndham, Mr. Pulteney, and all those who opposed the bill, argued that its operation would be severely felt by all classes. It was a question mooted when sir Robert was in the plenitude of his power, and he was backed by the whole landed interest of the country; and yet, in a house, consisting of 400 members, he carried his point by a majority of about 30. This proved how the measure was received at, that period. They had heard much, and too truly, of the increasing influence of the Crown in that House. The fact was sufficiently proved by the manner, in which obnoxious measures were carried, and by the constant refusal to satisfy the wishes of the country. He supported the present motion, because he believed nothing could effectually relieve the distress of the country but the immediate reduction of taxation. With respect to the sinking fund, he hoped the House would revise the hasty resolution to which the chancellor of the exchequer had adverted. They had chosen to adhere to this nominis umbra of a sinking fund, which was not at all similar to the sinking fund projected by Mr. Pitt. If they meant to console themselves for the loss of the reality, by worshipping that magic name, they would be able to do very little towards alleviating the sufferings of the country. He thought the sinking fund, as it was called, ought to be applied to the amelioration of the prevailing distresses.

Mr. Leycester

described the tax as a grievous burthen on the country at large. The relief granted to the agricultural interest by the reduction of the malt duty was, he contended, quite disproportionate to the distress under which it laboured. He was no friend to such temporary expedients; and be therefore called on the country gentlemen to demand such effectual measures as would rescue the land-owner, the yeoman, and the farmer, from impending ruin.

Sir I. Coffin

said, it was not just that the poor man in this country should pay 18s. a bushel for a necessary of life which the inhabitants of other countries could procure for 6s. To prove the ill effects which the high duty had on morals, he stated that some years ago he had exported 100 tons of salt from Liverpool, during the shipment of which the persons employed carried away considerable quantities of it concealed in their breeches. Salt was found all over the world for the use of man, and he ought not to be deprived of it by excessive taxation.

Dr. Phillimore

concurred with the hon. mover in his general objections to the tax. The tax was objectionable in principle, because it pressed upon the lower orders of the community, and because it pressed upon the landlord, by reducing his rent, and increasing his general expenditure. In spite of the drawbacks, it also pressed most severely upon the fisheries. For these reasons, in all the discussions which had taken place on this subject, he had felt that nothing short of necessity could justify the continuance of the tax. In 1818, the committee, of which he was a member, came to the unanimous resolution that it ought to be repealed; but they likewise came to the unanimous resolution, that the state of the income and expenditure of the country rendered it impossible to repeal it at that time. In 1819, many of the members of that committee re-considered the subject, and he (Dr. P.) proposed a resolution to that House, that a total repeal, or reduction of the tax, was desirable at the earliest practicable period. He regretted that the House rejected that proposition, because his object was, to lay the foundation of a repeal of the tax; and he thought that a repeal or reduction of this tax, was entitled to priority in preference to the malt-tax. The House was now called upon to consider whether the period was at length arrived in which the total repeal or the gradual abolition of the duty on salt was expedient. With regard to gradual abolition, he was certainly of opinion, that if the tax were to be repealed at all, it should be repealed altogether. He admitted that the whole machinery of the Excise, as applied to this tax, was most oppressive; but the question was, whether, under all the circumstances, it would be prudent to repeal it immediately? Now, as he was one of the members who had voted on a Cornier night that it was expedient to preserve the credit of the country by maintaining a sinking fund of 5,000,000l. he did not see how he could come down to the House five or six nights afterwards, and vote for the repeal of a tax which would take away one-fourth of the sum which had been voted for the support of a sinking fund. However painful it was to him to arrive at such a conclusion, he felt that the House ought to abstain a little longer before they consented to repeal this tax; and he doubted not that the scheme proposed by the chancellor f the exchequer for paying off the five per cents would leave a disposable surplus next year, which could not be applied to I better purpose than to the repeal or reduction of this tax.

Mr. Curwen

said, the chancellor of the exchequer had misunderstood his hon. friend, who had said that 20s. were paid, not by individuals, but by families, under this tax. It formed, therefore, a tax of one-24th of the labourer's wages, and only one-10,000th of the man with an income of 1,000l. a-year. Was it not in the power of ministers to repeal this tax without breaking in upon the surplus of 5,000,000l. for the sinking fund? If country gentlemen would do justice to the country, and support his hon. friend, they would find that ministers would not break in upon the sinking fund, but would be compelled to retrench. Could any man doubt that there was yet sufficient room for retrenchment? As to the idea of excessive produce in agriculture, it should be recollected, that out of 25 years, previous to 1814, there were only two in which Great Britain produced enough for her own consumption. In 1814, the favourite argument was, that if we were not subdued by the sword, we might he by famine. Again, as to any reliance that was to be placed on the supposed flourishing state of the manufacturing interest, with what confidence could we look to that interest, when it was well known that the average wages of the manufacturer did not amount to more than 8s, a-week? It was notorious that one of the great causes of the distress of the agriculturist was, that the manufacturer was no longer in a condition to be a purchaser, and that he was compelled to resort to potatoes or other substitutes for bread. The only remedy for the present distress was, a reduction of taxation; for high prices, by producing importation, would only complete the ruin of the farmer. As to the reduction of 1s. a bushel on malt, it would not reduce the price of porter to the amount of a farthing in the pot, and would consequently give no relief to the farmer, who could only be benefited by a large increase of consumption. If ministers would consent to take off the salt-tax, instead of making this reduction on malt, it would operate as a relief to all classes of the community. It would relieve the labouring classes; it would relieve the agriculturist; and, by causing a double quantity of salt to be raised from the mines, it would call into activity an immense number of persons who were now out of employ. The repeal of this tax would be most beneficial also to the fisheries—that most lucrative of our commerce, with reference to which Dr. Franklin had said, that every fish taken out of the sea was a piece of money. The revenue derived from this source in Holland amounted to 10,000,000l. whereas the fisheries in this island, had never yet produced 1,000,000l.

Mr. J. Smith

concurred, that the tax on salt would be repealed with much greater benefit to the country than the tax on malt. While he agreed that every practicable reduction of taxation was most desirable, he felt also that the interests of the agriculturist, as well as the general interests of the country, were involved in the maintenance of the public credit. Having stated this opinion, he hoped he should not appear to be guilty of inconsistency, when he declared that be most earnestly desired to see this odious and mischievous tax abolished. The great nourishment of the poor was derived principally from salted provisions. Salt, cheese, and bacon, formed the chief sustenance both of the agricultural and manufacturing classes; and he contended, therefore, that the tax pressed more heavily upon the poor than upon the higher classes. He was aware that the opinions of the majorities in that House were, for the most part, opposed to the opinions of the people, and that ministers appeared to disregard and despise the general opinions and feelings of the people. He could not refrain from observing, however, that no measure could so effectually give popularity to the government, and restore to them the good-will of the people, as the total repeal of this odious tax.

Mr. Handley

opposed the motion. Notwithstanding the wild speculations which had been propagated, he could not think taxation the cause of, nor parliamentary reform the remedy for, the distress which existed. He was thoroughly convinced, that the distress was almost solely and exclusively to be ascribed to excessive production.

General Gascoyne

observed, that at the period when this tax was increased to its present amount, Mr. Pitt had said, that it was not intended to be permanent. It was now contended, that it was more desirable at present to repeal the malt-tax, than to afford any relief upon this. The chancellor of the exchequer took great credit to himself, for the repeal of the annual malt duty, and seemed to consider it as sufficient to satisfy the demands of the country. The tax on salt, however, appeared to him a fitter subject for reduction; and as the bill for the repeal of the malt duty was not yet introduced, be would recommend a substitution of the one for the other. He was much surprised at the speech of the learned civilian on the ministerial bench. On several occasions, he had heard that learned gentleman condemn the tax, and support motions for its repeal, in less favourable circumstances for that repeal than the present. In 1818, the third year of peace, the learned gentleman had spoke against the tax; but whether there were fewer saline particles on the ministerial side or not, the learned gentleman now in the seventh year of peace, thought its repeal too early. Nothing could give such relief to the manufacturer, the agriculturist, and the great body of people, as the measure now recommended. The repeal of one shilling a bushel on malt, would not be felt by the consumer: it would go into the pockets of the brewer; and would not make a difference of a farthing in the pot of beer.

Sir F. Ommaney

said, he would vote for the repeal of all taxes that peculiarly affected the poor. The ground on which the motion was resisted was, that it would diminish the surplus set apart for a sinking fund to support public credit. He did not see the matter in that light. Reductions might be made in the expenditure, to compensate for the repeal of the salt-tax.

Sir J. Sebright

would not only vote for the repeal of the salt tax, but of other taxes. The repeal of taxes would not necessarily reduce the surplus for a sinking fund until all the means of economy in the public expenditure were exhausted. Retrenchment, admitting of a reduction of taxes, should immediately be adopted; for if ministers did not begin retrenchments now, they must come to them at last. The agriculture of the country was suffering from excessive taxation, and the whole community was interested in seeing that agriculture was not crushed. The public revenue could not be kept up at its present rate, it the landed interest declined. He had inquired much into the present state of the country, and it was his opinion, that the average land of England, under the pressure of existing taxes, would soon not only yield no rent, but not be left in cultivation. In this state of things, when the demand for diminished taxation was so general and well-founded, ministers seemed to think that the repeal of one shilling on the bushel of malt, was sufficient to satisfy it. He considered this trifling reduction as an insult, when mentioned under the title of relief. He had heard much of the distress of agriculture out of parliament, and great talk of what the country gentlemen were to do, when parliament assembled. They had hitherto done nothing for their own relief, or that of the country. He now called upon them to come forward, if they did not wish to see their rents unpaid, their tenantry ruined, their lands uncultivated, and their labourers reduced to beggary and want.

Mr. Littleton

thought the tax grievous and impolitic; but considering the resolution) which the House had lately adopted, to support public credit by a sinking fund of 5,000,000l., and considering the present motion inconsistent with that resolution, he could not vote for its repeal at present.

Mr. Egerton

thought the tax so unequal in its operations, and so oppressive to the lower orders, that he would vote for the motion.

Mr. Bright

was of opinion, that the only chance of immediate relief consisted in the diminution of the vast pressure of taxation. He agreed, that a sinking fund ought to be kept up, but thought the chancellor of the exchequer had overrated the amount that would be necessary. When he saw a sinking fund to a much smaller amount, sufficient to support the public credit to such a degree, as to enable the chancellor of the exchequer to make an unparalleled change in the five per cents without diminishing the confidence reposed in government, be could not help thinking that the increase was unnecessary. They might, he thought, strike out of the estimates many sinecures, many useless offices, many boards, and lords of the admiralty. He would call upon the gentlemen of England to perform this duty to the public; and, with respect to the repeal of taxes, there was none, that, in his opinion, would be likely to afford more general relief than that which formed the subject of consideration.

Mr. Alderman Heygate

observed, that it was the duty of the House to adhere to a consistent policy, and not lightly to change its resolutions. The proposition now made, called upon them, in the face of one of the greatest financial operations ever attempted, to pass a vote that might defeat or prevent its effect. Many future opportunities would present themselves of effecting retrenchment wherever it was practicable: but they ought not, whilst a great measure of finance was yet in progress, to cut off part of that income which a few nights ago they had agreed to maintain. With regard to the general propriety of the repeal, he was satisfied that a further reduction of the duty on malt would be of more advantage to the community at large. The existing agricultural distress was partly the consequence of too suddenly narrowing the circulation, and partly arose from overproduction. He congratulated the House and the country, however, on the prospect of reduced taxation. A million and a half had been already surrendered, and a considerable improvement was moreover to be expected in the public income. A variety of other opportunities would occur for acting upon a system of economy, and they had the pledges of ministers that they would omit no occasion of limiting and restraining the public expenditure.

Mr. Gipps

said, he was not now actuated by any desire of popularity, but he conceived that the tax ought to be repealed, and that the deficiency might be easily supplied by reductions in the expenditure.

Sir C. Burrell

thought, that, considering all the elements of the question, the repeal of the tax on salt would operate more relief to the agriculturists, and to the country generally, than the reduction of the duty on malt.

Mr. Benett,

of Wilts, allowed, that the tax was generally oppressive. Could they not, then, endeavour to save as much out of the expenditure, as would enable them to abolish it at once? Gentlemen, while they admitted the hardships of the tax, had proposed delay in the repeal of it; but they would do well to remember the adage—"While the grass grows the steed starves." This tax pressed heavily upon all classes of the country; and, therefore, the country would be substantially relieved by its repeal, which would not be the case with the trifling reduction of one shilling a bushel upon malt.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, he would not disguise, that he felt extreme anxiety for the arrival of that moment, when the state of public credit would permit ministers, or point it out to them as their duty, to remove a considerable part of the existing taxes. The hon. member for Nottingham had reminded them of the popularity they might acquire, by the affirmative of this question. He hoped he was duly sensible of the value of I popularity, but he should be unworthy of the situation which he held in his majesty's councils, if be were capable of sacrificing to it a larger interest, and of yielding higher considerations to a temporary and delusive object. The hon. member had not been very consistent in concluding with such a recommendation, after a tirade on public credit; for it was a course of proceeding very ill calculated for the support and maintenance of public credit. The hon. member who brought the proposition forward, had placed it on a fair, candid, and parliamentary ground, contending that it did not go, either in letter or in spirit, to rescind the vote to which the House had lately acceded, but that the one was perfectly consistent with the other. The committee to which this subject had been referred, felt that the tax was open to many specious objections, and afforded scope for a variety of pathetic appeals; but they contented themselves with proposing certain modifications, and referred it to the House to consider when the finances of the country, and the excess of income over expenditure, would allow of its repeal. Now, was the suggestion of that repeal at present compatible with the late resolution of the House, as respected the sinking-fund? Was there not a great operation now in progress in the money-market? The hon. mover had brought forward his measure like a skilful parliamentary tactician; and, doubting the success of a project for totally abolishing this branch of the revenue, he had proposed to effect the measure by three successive gradations. But, unless they were prepared for an infraction of the system which was recognised but a few nights since, they would not lend their countenance to this progressive principle of reduction. Let them recollect, that if this motion was carried, there would be no barrier against other reductions. There was a powerful party, whose avowed object it was, to destroy the sinking fund; though by this means the credit of the country would be laid prostrate. Let not gentlemen suffer themselves to be entangled, or become the allies of the common enemy. If honourable members were not on their guard, the enemy would obtain a triumph, even whilst the House was decidedly against them. The repeaters of one night would boast that their scheme was drawn up with a view to the conservation of the sinking fund; and afterwards would come the hon. menthe for Nottingham, and press for the repeal of the leather tax, and for another slice, no less indeed than 600,000l., from the sinking fund. Now, from the state of the money market, the saving effected by the reduction in the 5 per cents. would not exceed 1,200,000l., and the whole of this, together with the extra 260,000l. of the sinking fund, would be counterbalanced by the diminution of the malt duty. He hoped the House would beware, then, of the trap which was set for it; ministers, he would venture to say, had surpassed the expectations of the House? They had indisputably gone beyond the suggestions of the finance committee, nor was it to be supposed, that they had closed the account of reductions. It must be remembered, however, that as far as reduction had gone, there was pro tanto less field for it remaining. The proposition before them went to shake our financial system to its base. In the army no further reduction could at this moment take place. Honourable gentlemen opposite were willing to grant what additional troops might be requisite for the immediate exigency, and it seemed also to be admitted, that the Navy and Ordnance were at their lowest establishment. It was only in the civil branches of expenditure, that retrenchment was considered practicable: and what very extensive saving could be effected on the two millions composing the civil list? Let not gentlemen, then, proceed to shake that system which they had recognised, and inflict a fatal wound on public credit, for the sake of premature or speculative retrenchments. When the proper time arrived, ministers would not fail to evince the same disposition that actuated them now, and avail themselves of the first opportunity of cutting down useless expenditure. But he called on the House, to keep faith with the public, and not to recede from the pledges given in the midst of a financial operation, so nearly affecting the interests of the stockholder, and the future credit of the country. If our financial system was to be sacrificed, at least let it be pulled down openly and directly; but he conjured them not to trifle with their former vote, nor get rid of it by a course of proceeding so prejudicial to the character of parliament.

Sir T. Lethbridge

said, that his majesty's ministers were not, he feared, sufficiently apprized of the existing distress. For his own part, the speech from the throne had raised a suspicion in his mind, that it was not intended to grant that relief, without which he trembled fur the consequences- Under this impression he had considered their proposed retrenchments as inadequate; for taxation, if not the primary, must be regarded as an auxiliary cause of the distress. He perceived with regret, that the landed interest was falling in that House. He did not know the causes which had led to this result; but it was powerfully impressed upon his mind, that the gentlemen who represented the landed interest in that House, had by some extraordinary means been induced to turn their backs upon themselves. He was afraid it was intended to sacrifice the country to the debt. God forbid that he should speak with disrespect of the monied interest, which might be called one of the great arms of the country; indeed, he believed that at the present moment it was in the aggregate greater than the land. He could not, however, help thinking that it was supported in a great measure at the sole expense of the land. In the view which he entertained of the present wants of the country, he could not rest satisfied with a reduction of the salt-tax merely; but, in the absence of a greater proposed relief, he would cling to that, as a drowning man would catch at a straw. He did not differ with ministers on the subject of their general policy; on the contrary, he looked up to them as men of great and splendid character. In their general line of policy they possessed his confidence, and he believed they also possessed the confidence of the people of England—he meant the legitimate people, for the hon. member for Hertfordshire had drawn a just distinction between the real and the false people, describing the former to consist of the manly yeomanry, and the latter to be composed of a certain unfortunate portion of the population which inhabited great manufacturing towns. But although he at present placed confidence in ministers for their general policy, he would tell them, that if they persisted in the resolution which they appeared to have adopted, of sacrificing the landed to the monied interest, he would soon withdraw it from them. He was convinced that ministers would dread to lose the confidence of the country. He knew them to be men of great talents and sound understanding, and that they would not wish to govern the country without carrying with them its confidence and support. He entreated them, therefore, for their own sakes, to reconsider the resolutions to which they had come upon the subject of the distresses of the country. He was persuaded that the aggregate monied property of the kingdom did not bear its fair share of the burthens of the country. With respect to the question before the House, he wished that the repeal of the tax had not been proposed to be gradual, but total and immediate. He hoped, however, that the motion would be carried; for although the relief it proposed was small, yet it was something. Nobody ought to be surprised at the sentiments which he had felt it his duty to submit to the House. It was for him to reflect the opinions of those who sent him there. In the name of his constituents he represented their distresses, and called upon government to come forward with other measures to afford them relief than those they had proposed, which were totally inadequate for that purpose.

Mr. J. Marlin

said, be should support the motion on the principle of economy, believing that it would not interfere with his firmer vote.

Sir E. Knatchbull

felt persuaded that the country gentlemen would discharge their duty, unawed by any intimidation or threats from one side of the House, and uninfluenced by any seductions of power or authority from the other. If, on a former night, he had given by his vote a distinct pledge to sustain, under all circumstances, a sinking fund to the precise amount of five millions, he most certainly would not vote for the repeal of the tax on salt; but, feeling that he made no such pledge—considering that his vote only went to the extent of viewing a sinking fund as a benefit, he should support the motion. He did not believe that the sinking fund would be endangered, if the House should resolve to repeal the tax upon salt; for ministers could effect further retrenchments to meet their diminished income.

Mr. T. Wilson

thought the principle of the motion good, but that the motion itself was far from wise at that moment.

Mr. Brougham

said, that if any man had heard all the speeches of the members who had that night addressed the House, with the exception of the concluding sentence of some of them and the whole of the speech of the noble marquis, that auditor must have concluded, that there never was a more unanimous and harmonious assembly, or one in which there was less likely to be a difference in the decision Indeed, not a word had fallen from any member, in which the reprehension of the principle of that odious tax had only been exceeded by the abhorrence which all pronounced at the machinery. Whether then, on the ground of the surplus for a sinking fund being considered sacred, or whether retrenchment, so loudly called for, was not to be carried into effect, be would still venture to predict, that if the House did its duty, that tax, which all agreed in reprobating, would be repealed. But if the House itself did not force it—if it waited until the noble marquis had discovered a practicable mode of retrenchment—then he would predict, that the House would neither see any system of retrenchment, nor again hear of the repeal of the salt-tax. But the noble marquis appeared to think that there was a great inconsistency in voting for the repeal, in those gentlemen who had supported the resolution proposed on a former night. He denied that inference altogether. There was nothing in that resolution which pledged its supporters to any such course. Taking that resolution in its fullest extent, whether the sum was one or five millions for the sinking fund, neither those who voted for it, nor those who voted against it were precluded by that vote from exercising their free judgment on the propriety of a repeal of this tax. Those only were precluded from supporting the motion, who had pledged themselves not to support any proposition of future retrenchment. He hoped the House would take warning from the use which the noble marquis made of the vote into which he had beguiled them on a former occasion, and not suffer themselves to be again duped if at the time the chancellor of the exchequer proposed to the House that resolution, any hon. member had said to the House—"Do not vote for it, for if you do, you will pledge yourselves against all reduction of taxation, because the meaning of the vote is not only that a sinking fund of five millions is to be kept sacred, but that no man shall vote for the repeal of any tax, however odious it may be"—if any person had said this, he believed the noble marquis, in conformity with his usual tactics, would have replied—"Listen to no such proposition; vote for the resolution now, and when the taxes come to be discussed seriatim, you may then make up your minds to retain or reject them." Hon. members, however, in- cautiously voted for the resolution, and then the noble marquis, having nailed them, as it were, said, "You shall not vote for the repeal of this tax, however unjust and injurious it may be, because you have pledged yourselves against the repeal of any tax until there shall be a new surplus of revenue. From this specimen of the conduct of the noble marquis, the House might anticipate with certainty that their vote of that night if it should be unfavourable to the motion, would be construed into a pledge against all reduction during the course of the present session. When the hon. member for Aberdeen should show, in the committee of supply that such and such places and salaries were useless, and ought not to be retained, the noble marquis would say, "You must not abolish these offices, because on Thursday night you voted against the repeal of the salt-tax, on the ground that no further reduction could be effected. [The marquis of Londonderry uttered an expression of dissent.] All he could say was, that if the noble marquis did entertain any such design, he hoped the House would force him to carry it into execution. If the House should repeal the salt-tax, the noble marquis would do as he had done in 1816, and reduce still further. Upon the last occasion when his hon friend brought forward his motion for the repeal of the salt-tax, it was defeated by a small majority of nine only. What would be the effect produced upon the country if the House should now, when the burthensome effect of all taxes was augmented by the change in the value of the currency, oppose the proposed reduction.

Mr. Secretary Peel

protested against the doctrine of the hon. and learned gentleman. He implored the House to reflect on the situation in which it had so honourably placed itself by the resolution of 1819, and instead of rescinding that vote, he trusted they would re-affirm it by their decision of that night. Did any man doubt the construction that was put by the country on their vote a few nights back? Were not the holders of five per cent stock at that moment engaged in a negociation beneficial to the public interest, on the guarantee which that vote gave to the public creditor? He was, on grounds wholly distinct from any considerations of revenue, opposed to any pledge from parliament, as to any gradual repeal of taxation. Such a pledge always operated prejudicially to the in- terests of the dealer and consumer of the article so taxed. He would not then enter into any detailed statement of the public revenue: the expenditure was 50 millions; the income 55 millions. After applying 33 millions to the payment of the interest of the public debt, there remained 17 millions for the four great departments of the state—army, navy, ordnance, and miscellaneous services. From which of these grants could a reduction be made? He had the authority of the gentlemen opposite, that the army must not be reduced. With respect to the navy, even the hon. member for Montrose was willing, though he called for a reduction of the marines, to give a corresponding increase of seamen. His hon. friend himself had complimented his majesty's government. He did not take any part of that compliment to himself; but with regard to those whom he had the honour to call his colleagues, by what means had they secured the confidence of the hon. baronet and the House? It had been, by pursuing, through a period of great difficulty, a course the opposite of that which his hon. friend in contradiction to his usual practice, now advocated—by rigidly upholding the national faith, and the public character of the country. If the House, for the sake of gaining a temporary and partial popularity, should accede to this motion, they would do that, which was at variance with the best interests of the country, and of which, he believed, they would speedily repent.

Mr. Moberly

rose, to correct the statement of the right hon. secretary, who had said, there was no possibility of retrenchment out of a revenue of 17 millions. Now, the saving was not to take place out of 17 millions, but out of 25 millions. The right hon. gentleman had asked, would they reduce the army? Would they reduce the navy? and so on. He would say, no! But out of the expense of collecting the revenue, there might be a saving, which would more than cover the whole of this tax.

After a short reply from Mr. Calcraft the House divided. For Mr. Calcraft's motion 165. Against it 169. Majority against the motion 4

List of the Minority.
Abercromby, hon. J. Beaumont, T. W.
Allen, J. H. Barham, J. F. jun.
Althorp, visc. Baring, sir T.
Acland, sir T. D. Barnard, visc.
Astley, sir J. D. Barrett, S. M.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Hume, Joseph
Benyon, B. Hurst, R.
Bernal, R. Heber, R.
Birch, J. James, W.
Brougham, H. Johnson, col.
Bright, H. Jervoise, G. P.
Bury, visc. Jones, John
Baillie, John Knatchbull, sir E.
Boughey, sir J. F. King, sir J. D.
Bentinck, lord W. Keck, G. A. L.
Bastard, E. Lambton, J. G.
Bastard, J. P. Lemon, sir W.
Butterworth, J. Lennard, T. B.
Burrell, sir C. Lloyd, sir E.
Burrell, W. Leycester, R.
Boughton, sir C. R. Lethbridge, sir T.
Buxton, J. J. Luttrell, H. F.
Benett, John Luttrell, J. F.
Chaloner, R. Lawley, F.
Carter, J. Maberly, John
Cavendish, lord G. Maberly, W. L.
Cavendish, H. Macdonald, J.
Cavendish, C. Mackintosh, sir J.
Caulfield, hon. H. Martin, J.
Clifton, visc. Maxwell, J.
Coffin, sir I. Musgrove, sir P.
Colborne, R. Marjoribanks, S.
Concannon, L. Normanby, visct.
Crespigny, sir W. De Neville, hon. R.
Crompton, S. Newman, R.
Curwen, J. C. Nugent, lord
Creevey, T. O'Callaghan, J.
Chetwynd, G. Ord, W.
Curteis, J. E. Osborne, lord F.
Cole, sir C. Ossulston, lord
Chandos, marq. Owen, sir John
Corbett, P. Ommanney, sir F. M.
Calvert, N. Palmer, C. F.
Calvert, C. Palmer, col.
Davies, T. H. Pares, Thos.
Denison, W. J. Phillips, G. R.
Denman, T. Powlett, hon. W.
Dundas, hon. T. Price, Robt.
Davenport, D. Proby, hon. G. L.
Dickinson, W. Pym, F.
Deerhurst, lord Plummer, John
Ebrington, visct. Ramsden, J. C.
Ellice, E. Ricardo, D.
Egerton, W. Rickford, W.
Fergusson, sir R. C. Ridley, sir M. W.
Fitzroy, lord J. Robarts, A.
Folkestone, visc. Roberts, Geo.
Frankland, R. Robinson, sir G.
Fane, John Rumbold, C.
Fleming, John Russell, lord John
Graham, S. Rice, T. S.
Guise, sir W. Rogers, Edw.
Gipps, G. Smith, hon. R.
Gascoyne, gen. Smith, J.
Haldimand, W. Smith, W.
Hamilton, lord A. Smith, G.
heron, sir R. Smith, Robt.
Hill, lord A. Scarlett, J.
Hobhouse, J. C. Scudamore, R.
Honywood, W. P. Sefton, earl of
Howard, hon. W. Scott, John
Hughes, W. L. Sebright, sir J.
Stewart, W. Wilkins, W.
Scourfield, W. H. Williams, T. P.
Stuart, lord J. Williams, W.
Shelley, sir John Wilson, sir R.
Sykes, D. Winnington, sir T.
Taylor, M. A. Wood, M.
Tierney, rt. hon. G. Wyvill, M.
Tulk, C. A. Wells, John
Thompson, W. Whitmore, W. W.
Tennyson, C. TELLERS.
Townshend, lord C. Calcraft, John
Warre, J. A. Duncannon, visc.
Webbe, Edw. PAIRED OFF.
Whitbread, W. H. Anson, G.
Whitbread, S. C.