HC Deb 28 February 1825 vol 12 cc719-51

The House having resolved itself into a committee of Ways and Means,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

rose to make his promised Exposition of the Financial situation of the Country, and addressed the Committee as follows:— *From the original edition printed for J. Hatchard and Son.

Mr. Brogden

;—Although I cannot for bear to congratulate the House upon the auspicious circumstances under which we are called upon to review the state of our finances, I can truly say that I do not do so for the mere purpose of making a flourish, nor with any desire to induce the country to indulge in an unreasonable exultation as to the present, or an extravagant anticipation as to the future. But although I have no such object in view, and although there may be in this country, and unquestionably are in other countries, persons, who, either jealous of the eminence of our station, or ignorant of the causes which have placed us there, may represent our present prosperity as the forerunner of our ruin, and may wish to represent us as having merely hastened ————"numerosa parare Excelæ turris tabulata, unda altior esset Casus, et impulsæ præceps immane ruinæ, I nevertheless am of opinion, that if upon a fair review of our situation there shall appear to be nothing hollow in its foundation, artificial in its superstructure, or flimsy in its general result, we may safely venture to contemplate with instructive admiration the harmony of its proportions and the solidity of its basis. I say, Sir, with instructive admiration, because I am satisfied that no one can calmly and philosophically consider it, without seeing pourtrayed before him, in the most legible characters, the course of policy which it is our duty to pursue, if we wish to consolidate our own resources, and to promote the general happiness of mankind.

Under these impressions, then, and wishing gentlemen to keep these considerations in view in applying themselves to our present business. I shall proceed to the details of the question immediately before us. In doing this, I shall first wish to bring under the notice of the committee a comparison of the actual revenue of the year which is passed, with the estimate of it which I ventured to lay before the House at the commencement of the last session. I assumed at that time, that at the expiration of 1824 there would be a clear surplus of about 1,050,000l.; and upon that assumption, and carrying its views forward to the end of the year 1827, the House proceeded to make a reduction in our taxes to the amount of no less than 1,260,000l., of which sum I calculated that the revenue would in that year lose about one half, or 630,000l.; so that if, at the end of the year, the surplus had been 420,000l., my estimate would have been realized, and no expectation which I had induced the House to entertain would have been disappointed. It is, however, with no ordinary satisfaction that I have to state, that, notwithstanding the reduction then made, and notwithstanding that a more immediate effect was given to that reduction, and greater loss consequently sustained than I had originally contemplated, the actual surplus of the year was 1,437,744l., greatly exceeding not only what would have been sufficient to realize my estimate, but exceeding even that surplus which I had thought myself authorized to expect, independent of any subsequent diminution of the taxes.

I will now, with the permission of the committee, advert to some details of this case, and make some observations upon the different branches of the revenue in which this increase has taken place. And first as to the Customs. The receipt under this head, I had estimated at 11,550,000l., and having afterwards repealed customs duties to the amount of at least 900,000l., of which I anticipated that 450,000l. would be lost to the revenue in 1824, it follows that my calculations would have been verified if the actual receipt had been 11,100,000l.: in addition, however, to the loss sustained by the immediate effect of reduced duty, the nett receipt of the customs was still further lowered by the payment of no less than 460,000l. upon the stock in hand of silk, in order to give more immediate efficacy to the change of duty and system in regard to that article: and yet, in spite of these two circumstances, it appears that the nett produce of the customs for 1824 was no less than 11,327,000l. Now, Sir, to what is this increase to be ascribed? And what are the causes which have produced this important result? The proximate cause, doubtless, is the increased capacity of the people of this country to consume the produce of other countries, aided and invigorated by the reciprocal facility which our consumption of foreign articles gives to other nations in the extended use of the products of our own industry. But it maybe said that this increase is accidental, that it has arisen out of some special circumstances applicable to the particular time, or from some peculiarity in our situation. Surely that is not the case. Is it not occasioned, on the contrary, by something the very reverse of what is ephemeral and peculiar, by something in- herent in the nature and connected with the very essence of human society? The demonstrated tendency of population to increase would alone be sufficient, in a great measure, to account for it: but independent of that cause, there is a principle in the constitution of social man which leads nations to open their arms to each other, and to establish new and closer connexions, by ministering to mutual convenience; a principle which creates new wants, stimulates new desires, seeks for new enjoyments, and, by the beneficence of Providence, contributes to the general happiness of mankind. This principle may, it is true, be impeded by war and its calamities; it may be diverted by accident from its natural channel; it may be counteracted (as we well know in this country) by the improvidence of mistaken legislation; but it is always alive, always in motion, and has a perpetual tendency to go forward; and when we reflect upon the facility which is given to its operation by the recent discoveries of modern science, and by the magical energies of the steam-engine, who can doubt that its expansion is progressive, and its effect permanent? It appears to me, therefore, that I may safely assert, that the increase in this branch of the revenue is not the result of accident, or of a temporary combination of fortunate circumstances, and that I am not too sanguine in my views, when I take the produce of last year as the solid basis upon which I calculate the state of that branch of the revenue for years to come.

The next item of revenue is the Excise, which is peculiarly important, both from its amount, and from its immediate connexion with the comforts of the people. In this branch, not only has the produce of last year surpassed that of the former (which itself exceeded the average of the three preceding years), but it has gone very far beyond what I ventured to anticipate. The produce which I anticipated was 25,625,000l.; the actual result was 26,768,000l., being an excess of 1,143,000l. This, it cannot be doubted, must be matter of sincere gratification to every one who feels an interest in the well-being of his fellow subjects; since I can state, that of almost every article contributing to the Excise, there has been such an increased consumption, as to indicate, in the most unequivocal manner, the increasing ease, comfort, and happiness of the people. This will be shewn by a reference to a paper which I hold in my hand, and which

An increase upon Auctions of 12 per cent.
An increase upon Beer, (Strong) 15 per cent.
An increase upon —— (Table) 20 per cent.
An increase upon Bricks 40 per cent.
An increase upon Tiles 15 per cent.
An increase upon Candles, (Tallow) 9½ per cent.
An increase upon —— (Wax) 8 per cent.
An increase upon Coffee 2½ per cent.
An increase upon Cocoa Nuts 6½ per cent.
An increase upon Glass 20 per cent.
A decrease upon Glass Bottles 20 per cent.
An increase upon Cyder and Perry 12 per cent.
An increase upon Leather Tanned 10 per cent.
An increase upon —— Skins 15 per cent.
An increase upon Licenses 7 per cent.
An increase upon Malt 3 per cent.
An increase upon Paper, 1 and 2 Class 12½ percent.
An increase upon —— Mill Board 15 per cent.
An increase upon Pepper 10 per cent.
An increase upon Printed Goods, Calicoes 24 per cent.
An increase upon —— Stained Paper 20 per cent.
An increase upon Soap, (Hard) 7½ per cent.
An increase upon —— (Soft) 12½ per cent.
A decrease upon Starch 3 per cent.
An increase upon Spirits, British 66 per cent.
An increase upon — Foreign 25 per cent.
An increase upon Stone Bottles 15 per cent.
An increase upon Sweets, &c 45 per cent.
An increase upon Tea 1¼ per cent.
An increase upon Tobacco and Snuff 3½ per cent.
A decrease upon Vinegar 9 per cent.
An increase upon Wine 5 per cent.
An increase upon Wire ½ per cent.
An increase upon Wrought Plate 15 per cent.

I now come to the Stamps. I estimated last year that it would produce 6,800,000l.; and I afterwards proposed a reduction of law stamps, which, at the rate of 200,000l., per annum, and commencing on the 10th Oct. 1824', would have brought the receipt down to 6,750,000l. one quarter only of the reduced duty being lost in that year. The real produce of the year has been 7,244,000l., so that we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have obtained the benefit of cheap justice without making the sacrifice which we were prepared to encounter.

The Post-office I took at 1,460,000l.: it brought 1,520,000l., that increase being the natural consequence of increasing activity in the general business of the country. Upon the whole, I may say, that although there might have been some who feared at the time that I was risking too much, all must now admit that I kept within moderate bounds, and that I may safely ven-

exhibits the following satisfactory results.

ture to adopt the same principle in framing my present estimates.

I have now to state to the committee, my calculations for the present year, and to explain the grounds upon which they are formed. I assume the produce of 1825, including every thing, at 56,445,370l. The expenditure will be 56,001,842l., including 5,486,654l., as sinking fund, which will give us a clear surplus of 443,528l. Let us now look a little into the details. The Customs for l825, I take at 11,350,000l., and I will explain why I assume an excess above the actual nett produce of last year. I think I have said enough to satisfy the committee, that I may safely take the last year's receipt as the basis of the presents to this I add 50,000l., which will be saved by the progressive diminution of certain bounties upon fish and linen; I had also, 460,000l. being the amount of the repayment of the stock in hand of silk, which was merely a casual loss. These sums then, would stand as follows:—

Receipts of 1825 £11,327,000
Diminution of bounties 50,000
Stock of silk in hand 460,000
From this, however, I must deduct 410,000l. for the full operation of the reduction of duties last year, which would leave the produce at 11,427,000l.; but as I am anxious to keep within the mark, I only estimate it at 11,350,000l., retaining elbow-room to the amount of 77,000l.

The estimate for the Excise I state at 26,400,000l.; the produce of last year was 26,768,000l. from which must be deducted 200,000l., on account of the entire cessation of the salt duty, and 37,000l. on account of the further effect of last year's diminution of the duty on rum so that the probable produce of 1825 would be 26,531,000l.; but I think it more prudent to take it at 26,400,000l. The stamps will, in all probability, produce 7,100,000l., after allowing for a diminution of 150,000l. on account of the further effect of the repeal of the law-stamp duty. The assessed and land taxes will not be less upon an accurate calculation than 4,875,000l. The Post-office may be calculated at 1,500,000l., being 20,000l. less than last year. The miscellaneous, including 100,000l., due under treaty from the Dutch government, will be 750,000l.; and lastly, there will be received from the trustees of half pay and pensions, 4,470,370l. The whole would stand as follows:—

Customs £11,350,000
Excise 26,400,000
Stamps 7,100,000
Taxes 4,875,000
Post Office 1,500,000
Miscellaneous 750,000
Trustees of Half Pay 4,470,370
Turning now to the expenditure of the year 1825, we shall find that it will amount to 56,001,842l. Of this, the following items constitute the permanent charge upon the consolidated fund; and I should here explain that the increase of the sinking fund beyond last year arises in great measure from the course adopted respecting the dissentient holders of 4 per cents. The stock standing in their names amounted to about 6,000,000l.; and as they were to be paid off by an issue of Exchequer bills, which were to be subsequently discharged out of the sinking fund, the amount of their stock was transferred, at an interest of 3½ per cent, from their names to those of the commissioners for the reduction of the national debt, and the interest of the stock so transferred became an addition to the sinking fund.

The other class of expenditure is that which arises from the annual supplies voted by parliament, and the two together comprehend the ensuing items:

Consolidated Fund.
Interest of Debt £27,233,670
Do. of Exchequer Bills 40,000
Civil List, &c. 2,050,000
Half Pay Annuity 2,800,000
Sinking Fund 5,486,654
Interest of Exchequer Bills 820,000
Army 7,911,751
Navy 5,983,126
Ordnance 1,376,641
Miscellaneous 2,300,000
I do not conceive that it will be necessary for me to trouble the committee with any detailed examination of this expenditure; further than to say, that a portion of the increased charge of the army arises from the expense which will be incurred this year by training the English and Scotch militia, and that the miscellaneous charge is increased by the necessity of paying no less than 250,000l. to the United States of America for certain Negroes who left their masters and attached themselves to our forces during the late wars. By the Treaty of Ghent we were bound to pay for such Negroes, and the amount to which I have referred is the result of a reference, under the provisions of that treaty, to the arbitration of the emperor of Russia.

Deducting then the total charge of 56,001,842l. from the total revenue of 56, 445,870l., the nett surplus will be, as before stated, 443,528l.; and if, following the course which was pursued last year, we cast our eyes forward to the years 1826 and 1827, and proceed to calculate upon my present basis, I look to a surplus of 864,676l. for 1826, and of 1,254,676l. for 1827. The latter surplus will derive its increase beyond the year immediately preceding it, from a circumstance which this will be the proper place to mention; I allude to a diminution which I propose to effect in the bounty upon the exporta- tion of refined sugar. The committee are probably aware that, by the present law, the duty upon raw sugar varies according to its price; that is to say, when the average price is below 47s., the duty is 27s. per cwt., and the duty is liable to a graduated scale of increase according as the average price may reach certain specified amounts. This I conceive to be a very faulty system, first, because the additional duty (which is necessarily presumed to be paid by the consumer) attaches when the price of the article is already high; and secondly, because the drawback upon the exportation of refined sugar is calculated upon the supposition, that the duty upon the musco-vado is invariably paid at the higher rate. Now, as I am willing to forego the contingent advantage of the ascending scale, and think it desirable to fix the duty permanently at 27s., it seems to follow as an obvious consequence that the drawback should be modified accordingly, and this change of system will save to the revenue 3s. per cwt. in the drawback, and may be taken as a total saving of about 300,000l.: in the estimate therefore of the Customs for 1827 (the first year in which the modification will be in operation), I assume an addition to that amount. I am sure that I need not press upon the committee the propriety of taking this course; the 3s. in question being a positive bounty, and not a mere drawback of duty actually paid, it clearly becomes the interest of foreign governments to impose an additional duty upon our refined sugar, equivalent to that bounty, and thus to put that revenue into their own pockets at our expense. At the same time I shall be prepared to recommend to the committee a reduction of duty upon West-India produce of different kinds to the full amount of the charge which will be favored by this change of system.

It thus appears that the surplus of the years ending with 1827 will be as follows:

Surplus of 1824 £1,437,744
1825 443,528
1826 864,676
1827 1,254,676
Total £4,000,624
When I last year presented to the House a calculation of surplus founded upon the same principle, I asked, "What we were to do with it?" I repeat that question now, and I answer it as I did then. "We may do with it a great deal of good; and it is our duty to do it." Let us then see in what way this good can be best effected. I am aware that those who are looking at their own individual views, in respect to the reduction of taxes, may question the policy of the particular reductions which it is my intention to propose: but I am well satisfied, that I shall submit a series of propositions to the House, which will be found eminently calculated to promote the general interests of the community, if those interests are considered in their more extended sense, as combining enlightened principles of policy with positive relief from fiscal pressure. I have three main objects in view:—1st, Increased facility of consumption at home, in conjunction with increased extension of commerce abroad; 2nd, A combination of the first principle with the restriction of smuggling; and 3rd, Some alleviation of the pressure of direct taxation. I mention direct taxation last, because I am convinced that the advantages which the country will derive from a steady attention to the two preceding objects, are ten thousand times greater than those which would result from giving a decided preference to the latter. It is true that I am well aware to what I expose myself in making this statement; and I am aware that I have been repeatedly told this evening, that if I wished to acquire popularity either for myself or the government, the best way to obtain it would be, to reduce the assessed taxes. But, Sir, although it would be folly to despise popularity, I would not seek it by consulting particular interests at the expense of the general good; and I am sure I should not deserve it, if for its sake I could persuade myself to abandon clear, fixed, and important principles, which are useless if confined to theory, but eminently beneficial if reduced to practice.

First, then, as to the extension of our intercourse with foreign nations. The House, I am happy to say, has gone along with me in promoting this great object, and I trust that the country is by this time convinced of the good sense which dictates the policy of getting rid both of positive prohibitions and of prohibitory duties. Much has already been done upon this subject, but much remains to be done; and it is the intention of my right hon. friend near me (Mr. Huskisson) to take an early opportunity of submitting to the House a plan for reducing, within moderate and reasonable bounds, all the remaining prohibitory duties, and thus to; strike, as it were, from our recollection all those errors and prejudices which have so long shackled the energies of our own commerce, and restricted the productive industry of the world. It will not be necessary for me now to go into detail upon this subject; but there is one particular article which is so important, and which has been so frequently alluded to in the present session, that I cannot avoid to mention it. I allude to foreign Iron. The demand for Iron in this country has risen of late to such a wonderful degree, that the produce of our own mines is unequal to meet it at any reasonable price; and this demand has not, I believe, been produced by any sudden or occasional cause; it has not been created (as I have heard from some) by a notion that all the Iron in the country is about to be dug out of the bowels of the earth, in order to cover the land with railways; but it is the result of a much more satisfactory cause, viz. the increasing prosperity of the world in general, which brings within the reach of increasing numbers, articles of Iron manufacture which are essential to the convenience and the business of all classes of society. But, Sir, such is the present high price of Iron, that I am credibly informed, that orders of this description intended for Birmingham and Sheffield, have been transferred to cheaper markets on the continent, in the hoes that lowness of price may compensate for inferiority of workmanship. I would meet, therefore, the narrow and shortsighted policy, which would say "Let us use no Iron but our own," by saying to the manufacturer in return "Use all the Iron you can get." With a view, then, to give effect to this proposition, I would recommend that the present duty of 6l. 10s. per ton, should be reduced to 1l. 10s.; and I am confident, that whilst this measure would render essential service to all those employed in this description of manufacture, it will be found equally beneficial to those who produce the Iron itself, and who, I have every reason to believe, are much too enlightened not to acquiesce in the policy which dictates the proposed reduction. As far as the revenue is concerned, I do not conceive that it will incur any loss, as the very high rate of the present duty operates in a great measure as a prohibition; but I think it necessary to state in this place, that it is not proposed that the reduction should immediately apply to all countries from whence Iron may be brought. One of the objects which the British government has in view in diminishing duties upon foreign produce, is to set an example to other governments. There are some states which have manifested an unequivocal disposition to adopt a similar policy; but others do not as yet appear to have emancipated themselves from their former system; in truth they may be said to be still heaping restriction upon restriction. I do not wonder at this, because I cannot forget how long we were ourselves before we saw the error of our ways, and shook off our ancient trammels; but I do think, at the same time, that however anxious we may be to give to all countries the benefit of our example and our practice, we are not bound to do so indiscriminately, or to abstain from making distinctions in favour of those nations whose views and principles are conformable to our own. I do not, however, believe that there will long exist any ground for the practical application of this distinction, because I am willing to persuade myself, that what is sound in principle and beneficial in its result will sooner or later become the rule in the intercourse between nations, particularly when the whole world will see, that what we profess to aim at in one year is not overturned by a contradictory practice in the next.

I shall now proceed to state the reduction which I propose upon various other articles of foreign produce, the duties upon which although not avowedly or really prohibitory, are nevertheless so high as to impede the consumption, and to press with considerable severity upon those who use them. The first of these articles is hemp. This, it is true, is not perhaps an item of very material importance in the general consumption of the country: but it affects very seriously one of the most valuable interests of the country—I mean our mercantile marine. No one can doubt that this interest is closely connected with the well-being of the country, and that whatever contributes to the maintenance of that great fulcrum of our strength, deserves the favourable consideration of the House. With this view, therefore, I shall propose the reduction of half the present duty upon hemp, at a loss to the revenue of about 100,000l.

The next item to which I wish to call the attention of the committee is in Coffee, a matter of no small consequence in reference to our West-India colonies. At present the duties upon coffee are as follow, viz.

West India 1s. per lb.
East India 1s 6d.
Foreign 2s. 6d.

I do not mean to say that these rates of duty are very high, or that they press with great severity upon the great mass of consumers in this country; it is, nevertheless, true, that the consumption of coffee, particularly since the imposition of the last duty in 1819, has by no means kept pace with the increased population and ease of the country; from which we may reasonably infer that the high rate of duty has contributed not a little to curtail it. It is, besides, a matter of great importance to give every facility to the cultivation, in the West Indies, of every species of tropical produce as well as sugar: and, as it is well known, that the labour of cultivating coffee is much less severe than that which is necessary for the production of sugar, I flatter myself that the increased consumption of coffee which I anticipate from this reduction, will, in that respect, be of much utility in that part of his majesty's dominions. I propose to extend this reduction to cocoa, and, taking both articles together, the revenue will probably be diminished to the amount of 150,000l.

I come now to a matter which, in reference to the principle which I have just laid down as to the effect of the high duty upon coffee in curtailing its consumption, has long occupied my attention, and has upon various occasions, during the last two years, been under the notice of the House. I allude to the article of wine; and when upon former occasions I have been asked whether the government contemplated any change respecting it, although I did not then feel myself enabled to take that subject in hand, I never argued against the principle of reduction, and could not shut my ears to the notorious fact, that the consumption of wine in the united kingdom had not only not increased, but had, in truth, greatly fallen off. I may perhaps be here told, that wine is a mere luxury, that the duties upon it fall exclusively upon those who are best able to pay them, and that the poorer classes of the community will derive no benefit from their diminution; Sir, I cannot admit that these are conclusive objections in some sense, it is true, wine may be considered as a luxury; but it should not be forgotten that it has medicinal virtues, and that in many diseases to which the poor are peculiarly liable, wine is recommended as essential to recovery; and surely as regards the middle classes of society, it never can be maintained, that it is a matter of indifference to them whether wine be highly taxed or not, unless it be argued that there is no motive for facilitating to those classes the enjoyment of any thing beyond the bare necessaries and comforts of life. Although, therefore, the more wealthy part of the community may derive the most immediate and extensive benefit from the proposed reduction, I hope it will not be supposed that I am looking to their advantage alone, or that I found my proposition upon any desire to relieve them at the expense of others. The truth therefore being, that since the duty upon wine has been so high, the consumption has fallen off, and that the consequent means of other nations, producers of wine, to extend their commercial transactions with us, have been proportionably diminished, it would seem to follow as a necessary consequence, that an augmentation in the use of wine would give a new stimulus to many branches of trade. Let us look now at the state of this question at former periods, and let us go back no further than the years 1801, 1802, and 1803. In those years the duty in Great Britain was as follows, viz.

French 1801 8s. 9d. per gallon.
1802 8 10
1803 8 10
Not French 1801 6 5
1802 6 6
1803 6 6
The average consumption Was:
Of French Wine 274,000
Of all other Wine 7,396,000

Now the consumption of 1824, after the lapse of more than twenty years, notwithstanding the great increase of our population and of our general opulence, has been so far from keeping pace with that increase that it did not exceed 254,268 gallons of French wine, and 4,847,976 gallons of other wine. How is this to be accounted for? I may be told, that the habits of the country are changed; that it is not now the fashion to drink so much wine as formerly; this may, to a certain extent, be true; but one obvious reason for the change is the high price of the article, enhanced and kept up by the high duty. Let us then get rid of this obstacle to consumption, by applying the obvious remedy of reducing the duty, and we may safely anticipate such an increase as will in all probability bring us back to the average of the three years, which I have before mentioned. I am confident that this result would follow, if we adopted the scale of those three years; but to make all sure, I propose to go still further; and I will now explain to the committee what are the present duties in Great Britain; what were the duties in 1801, 2, and 3; and what are those which I should now wish to establish.

Duty in Present Duty, Proposed Duty.
French 1801, 8s. 9d. per gall. 11s.d. 6s.
1802, 8 10
1803, 8 10
Not French 1801, 6 5 7s. 7d. 4s.
1802, 6 6
1803, 6 6

Now, Sir, it is possible that a reduction to the scale of 1801 might be sufficient to bring back the consumption to the rate of that period; but as it would be highly imprudent to reduce the duty at all, unless it were done effectually, I have thought it better to descend at once to the point which I have mentioned, and which will be a reduction of nearly half of the present amount, being at the rate of 1s. 3d. per bottle upon French wine, and 1s., within a fraction, upon all other Foreign wine. In Ireland I cannot venture to calculate upon an increase of consumption to the same amount, because I cannot venture to reduce the duty to what it was in that part of the united kingdom in the years before alluded to. But I hope, nevertheless, that Ireland will reap her full share of the advantage of the change; for much as I wish to see many things in that country altered, there is nothing that I should less wish to see than any change in that hearty, generous, and honest conviviality for which Ireland has been long renowned, and which, however it may within the last twenty-five years have been damped by the pressure of the times, will doubtless revive in full vigour, in proportion as taxation is diminished, and the general condition of the country improved. Assuming, therefore, that in Ireland the consumption of wine will amount to two-thirds of the average of 1801, 2, and 3, and that it will equal that average in England and Scotland (by the way, I trust that in the latter country they will now drink their claret with as much zest as they were formerly wont to do), the loss to the revenue under this head, may be taken at 230,000l.

The division of the subject to which I have now arrived, is one of peculiar importance. It refers not only to the principle to which I have just been alluding, of giving relief to the consumer, but to one of a higher order, and which is essentially connected with the morals and happiness of the people; I mean the prevention of smuggling. Smuggling, Sir, I conceive to be one of the greatest domestic evils that can afflict a country. Its active instruments haunt us wherever we go; they hover round our coast, they penetrate our harbours, they traverse the interior; they invade the splendid palace of the noble, and the humble cottage of the poor: they offer their temptations in every quarter, and I fear that all classes of society yield to the seduction. Surely this is an evil of tremendous magnitude: confounding all notions of right and wrong, and sapping with incessant and increasing power the very foundations upon which obedience to the law is built, it brings the law itself into disrepute, and the violation of it into universal credit. We have endeavoured to check the progress of this mischief by the most rigorous measures; we have surrounded the coast with ships and guards as with a wall of brass; we have imposed penalty upon penalty, and inflicted punishment upon punishment, but all in vain. Why? Because the cause of the evil is the law, and the alteration of the law has not yet been tried. Let us try it now; let us apply to England that change which has had such triumphant success in Ireland and in Scotland. Gentlemen may perhaps recollect, that when I proposed to make a great change in the distillery law of Ireland and Scotland, there were not wanting persons who exclaimed, "What; reduce the duty upon spirits? Make all the people drunk. For God's sake abstain from so fatal a measure." The measure was nevertheless taken; and what has been the consequence? So far from any evil having resulted from this step, tranquillity, order, and harmony, have superseded the disturbances, the confusion, and the ill-blood which arose from the desolating extension of illicit distillation. Why, then, should we not try in England a system of which experience has proved to us the advantage? Every motive of principle, every view of interest, every feeling of duty and humanity, call upon us to pursue the same course. I do not mean to say, that we should proceed with precipitation and rashness, or that we can attempt to do all at once; on the contrary, when I have been pressed upon this subject upon former occasions, I always said, "Do not push me too hard; do not ride a willing horse to death." But we are now happily in the right course; and if we are but allowed to go on steadily and firmly, depend upon it we shall bring you to the goal in triumph. Let us, then, apply this principle to the distillery law of England, which in truth requires revision, not merely on its own account, but also on account of the degree to which it is affected by the change which has taken place in the other portions of the united kingdom; because, although the reduction of duty upon spirits in Ireland and Scotland has undoubtedly been attended with the most beneficial results, it has, nevertheless, produced indirectly a corresponding evil in England. We have driven the illicit distiller out of the north of Scotland; but with what, I fear, I was about to call characteristic sagacity, he has established himself in the South, and carries on from thence no inconsiderable traffic in smuggling whisky across the border. I do not mean to say, that this sort of smuggling affects the revenue in any very serious degree, but in point of morality it has all those prejudicial and dangerous qualities which I have before ascribed to an evasion of revenue laws. We must, therefore, deal with it immediately, if we wish to render complete our improvement in this branch of the fiscal economy; and I propose, in the first instance, to equalize the system under which the distillery may be carried on throughout the united kingdom, by which means numberless restrictions will be removed from the trade, and the intercourse between different parts of the country rendered indiscriminately open. As the law now stands, the distiller must begin by making a raw spirit, which he cannot sell for consumption in that form, but which he must consign to the rectifier, in whose hands it undergoes a fresh distillation; and being mixed with various compounds, is then distributed to the consumers under the denomination of gin; whiskey, which is the pure extract from grain, unrectified and uncompounded, cannot be sold for consumption. Now, Sir, I do not mean to say that the people of this country will necessarily like whiskey better than gin; but I do mean to say, that it is but reasonable that they should be at liberty to drink it if they choose. The hon. member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hume) admitted last year, that amongst various offences of the same kind to which he pleaded guilty, he had constantly in his house an ample supply of genuine smuggled Scotch whiskey. I congratulate him, therefore, specially upon the change which I propose; for, hereafter he will be enabled to indulge in this favourite beverage, without being exposed to those unpleasant liabilities which doubtless have given him many a qualm, by mixing his whiskey with the vapid drawback of an impending penalty. But, Sir, this change of system will not, I apprehend, be sufficient to effect the object which I have in view: it must be accompanied with a considerable reduction of the duty upon spirits. I am well aware of the objections which may be urged against reducing this duty, and that it may be contended to be very bad policy to facilitate by low duties the excessive consumption of ardent spirits amongst the people. The argument may not be altogether without its weight, but it should be recollected that ardent liquors are already cheap in this country, because such large quantities are smuggled, and pay no tax at all. The illicit importation of whiskey over the border makes them cheap in the north of England; in the south we have the extensive smuggling of Dutch gin and French brandy, by means of which these commodities are offered to the consumer at a comparatively low price. The diminution of the duty, therefore, upon home-made spirits, instead of necessarily making them alarmingly cheap, will rather have the effect of bringing under the Excise a considerable quantity which now escapes the payment of duty altogether. At the same time, I do not think it would be expedient (at least in the first instance) to reduce the rate so low as that which is charged in Ireland and Scotland; the cases are very dissimilar, and we have not here the same difficulties to contend with, that existed in those parts of the united kingdom. There the mischief arose from the extensive manufacture of illicit spirits in the remote districts of the country; here such a course would be much less practicable. Although, therefore, it was absolutely necessary in Ireland and Scotland to bring down the duty from 5s. 6d. to 2s., in order, by an effectual blow, to extinguish the tremendous evil which was producing such dreadful consequences, we are not obliged to go so far in respect to England. Upon this principle, then, I propose that the duty upon British spirits, which is now 10s. 6d. per gallon, should hereafter be 5s. per gallon, upon all spirits made exclusively from malt, and 6s. upon all which are made from mixture of malt and raw grain. I perceive that the hon. member for Norwich (Mr. W. Smith) hears this with a degree of horror, and thinks that I am going to spread universal drunkenness over the land; if, Sir, I were of the same opinion, I would not propose such a measure as this: but were there more foundation for this apprehension than, I am confident, there is, still the hon. member should recollect, that we have but a choice of difficulties; that smuggling is an evil of immense magnitude, the cause of excessive and varied immorality, and the parent of innumerable crimes; and that some such measure as I have suggested is the only mode of effectually putting it down.

In addition to this change in the duty upon British spirits, I propose also a reduction upon rum and other colonial spirits from their present rate of 10s. 6d. per gallon to 8s.; and I think it but just to retain this difference of 2s. between British and colonial spirits, because the manufacturer of the latter is not liable to that increased charge upon his raw material, which affects barley and malt from the restrictive operation of our corn laws. An equality of duty, therefore, would act with great injustice both upon the grower of English bailey and the maker of English spirits. The distiller from sugar, however, in the colonies, will, under the new system, have the advantage of bringing the raw spirit which he may extract from his sugar, into consumption here, either by selling it in its raw state or by having it converted into gin through the medium of the rectifier and compounder. But I am not prepared at present to admit rum itself to be converted into gin. Hereafter it may be expedient to permit it: but as it would be obviously dangerous to the revenue if too many transformations of this article were allowed at once, I am desirous of, at all events, waiting till I can see how the new system works, and bow far its extension can safely be carried.

Without troubling the committee with lengthened details, I think I may state the annual loss to the revenue upon the heads to which I have just adverted, at 750,000l. It would greatly exceed that sum, unless I counted upon the success of the plan in the diminution of smuggling and the consequent displacement of illicit whiskey, brandy, and gin: and I am satisfied, that if such a beneficial result should follow from its adoption, the hon. member for Norwich himself, who is in such distress at the notion of reducing the price of spirits, will feel that it was an experiment well worth the trial.

There is another article, small, indeed, in its amount, and local in its consumption, but which in the point of view which I have been just considering, appears to me to be of very great importance. I mean cider. I certainly cannot expect this to be a matter of very general interest; but when I state that in those parts of the country where cider is manufactured, the law is in a state of perpetual violation, that the gaols are filled with those whom the Excise has felt it to be their duty to prosecute, that a very large proportion of the prisoners are females, and that the consequences are most seriously prejudicial to the morals of very many country villages in those districts, I am sure that I am stating circumstances which give to this matter something beyond a mere local importance. Reducing then the duty upon cider from 30s. to 15s. [Some member here said, why not make it 10s.] Well, Sir, I will not squabble about 5s.; let it be 10s. The revenue will then lose about 20,000l. per annum; and we shall relieve six counties from the enormous evils arising from smuggling; evils, be it remembered, which however confined and local in their commencement, and springing perhaps from but one root, have a tendency to extend themselves far and wide, and by embracing new objects and seducing additional portions of the community, undermine by degrees the morals of the whole people.

The committee will have observed that hitherto I have confined myself to the subject of indirect taxation; and after the many petitions which have been presented to the House, and which have been strenuously supported by various gentlemen, upon the subject of the assessed taxes I feel it incumbent upon me to state why I conceive that those petitioners ought not to complain if I have taken a course different from that which they appear to desire. Surely, then, I may say, without disregard of their wishes, that their interests are wrapped up in the interests of the community at large, and that a great grievance cannot be removed from the condition of society, without conferring thereby a positive, although perhaps an indirect, advantage upon each separate class; and I am convinced that if those who have petitioned upon this subject would only bring to the consideration of the question those enlightened principles of which all now admit the force, and would look at it with reference to the general interests of the state, they would themselves be amongst the first to approve of the propositions which I have had the honour of laying before the House. It has been stated, Sir, by my hon. friend, one of the members for Surry (Mr. Sumner), and by his hon. colleague (Mr. Denison), that amongst those who have signed the petitions from Lambeth and Newington, there are many persons of rank, wealth, and station. If it be so, I would ask them whether they will suffer their own personal interests, however important (and I do not deny their importance), to turn the balance against the great principles which I have been advocating; and if such persons as I am alluding to, should still turn a deaf ear to this appeal, I should blush for that class of society of which I am an humble member, and would say to them, Incipit ipsorum contra te stare parentum Nobilitas, claramque facem præferre pudori. But, Sir, I do not confine my remark to that class of society. The middle ranks are at least as much interested in these considerations; they are as much concerned in all the benefits to be derived from an extended commerce; they are as much exposed to the temptations and the mischief of smuggling; and I will take the liberty of saying, that they will have no just right to contend that I do not propose to do any thing for their benefit, because I do not propose to do it exactly in their own way. I would above all entreat them to look at these matters with peculiar reference to Ireland. The misfortunes of that poor country are of long growth; they are deeply seated, spring from many roots, and it may be impossible to eradicate them all at once. But though much has already been done, much remains to be accomplished; and I know nothing more calculated to con- tribute to the improvement of that country (which all men seem to long for), than to give to it the utmost freedom of intercourse with all the world. No part of the king's dominions holds out more powerful inducements to the application of capital, no soil would be more productive of valuable fruit, none would more gratefully repay the labour of cultivation. It is the duty of every Englishman to contribute to this great end, and I would address myself in a particular manner to those individuals, who conscientiously feel that they cannot grant to Ireland that one boon from which I should anticipate so much benefit; I would tell them that it is ten thousand times more incumbent upon them to confer every other' boon which it is within the power of parliament to grant; I would appeal from interest to feeling, from selfishness to generosity, from individual wishes to that sympathy which all honest men must entertain for a country which is in fact part of their own; and I would ask them if they can undervalue the gratification of seeing Ireland rising in the scale of nations, and taking her seat by our side on our joint imperial throne. What animating prospects would open upon our view! Ireland has a population of seven millions; her situation is improving; capital is extending itself in that quarter; employment is acquiring fresh activity. But with all that, her revenue does not exceed three millions and a half.—Why? She wants encouragement; she wants a free development of her own resources: give her that by a steady pursuit of the system which I am recommending (and as we have begun it, it would be worse now to abandon it than never to have made the attempt), and we shall not only see her in full enjoyment of every advantage of which the country is susceptible, but I will wager my existence that her revenue of three millions and a half, will in very few years be doubled, and then we may have abundant scope for dealing as we please with every branch of our taxation. But, Sir, although for these reasons I do not feel that I can entirely fall in with the wishes of the petitioners to whom I have been just referring, I am nevertheless happy to say, that I am prepared to meet them to a certain extent; I do not mean to say that any reduction of the assessed taxes which I shall propose will be a pecuniary relief to persons of wealth and station; but it will, I flatter myself, confer a real benefit upon the poorer classes of the community, and so far at least I shall substantially comply with one part of the prayer of the petitions presented by the hon. members for Surry, in which that species of relief is specifically pointed out.

Amongst the various objections which are urged against the assessed taxes, there appear to me to be none more worthy of consideration than those which apply to the petty annoyances which attend the collection of them, and I confess that I feel anxious to remove, as far as possible, all those that may be said to press upon sore places. Some of these relate to points in which evasion is easy, the correction of evasion embarrassing, and its punishment more vexatious than effectual; but I have already so far exhausted my own strength as well as the patience of the House, that I am almost unwilling to go through the catalogue of them which I hold in my hand, and which contains so many small and apparently insignificant items, that I fear the going through them will excite ridicule rather than attention. If, however, it is the pleasure of the committee that I should state them in detail, I am ready to do so. The first item, then, is that of four-wheel carriages, drawn (not by four horses, and not an appendage to opulence) but by one poney. It produces but 857l, a year, and may as well be repealed altogether. The next is a tax very seldom paid, and which many of us, I fear, are not unfrequently in the habit of evading. I mean that upon occasional waiters; I propose to knock that off altogether, at a loss to the revenue of 1,343l. Coachmakers' licences I propose to repeal, amounting to 354l.; also the tax upon carriages sold by commission, which, as they also pay the auction duty, is very unreasonable; it amounts to 3,391l. Mules which are employed in some of the mining districts of the country in carrying ore, are still subject to a small duty which I think it not worth while to retain. There is also a tax upon horses which presses with considerable severity upon the small farmer: I mean in cases where he is in the habit of occasionally letting out his team for various purposes of business: at many a slack period of the year this is a great advantage to him, but is now clogged with a tax, because such horses are not considered as being strictly agricultural horses, and consequently not entitled to exemption from duty; this exemption I propose to grant them, giving up thereby not more than 4,000l. I see no reason for retaining another small tax applicable to farmers, viz. that upon husbandry labourers who may occasionally have the charge of a horse: they are not, in fact, male servants in the taxable sense of the word, as they neither perform the ordinary duties of domestic servants, nor wear a livery; but they are liable to a duty which produces about 2,000l. The next item is that of taxed carts, which brings in about 19,000l. The entire removal of this will, I believe, be a great relief to many persons, and I know that its exaction causes more surcharges and trouble than almost any tax of this description.

I now come to houses and windows, upon which I have still room for doing something. As the law now stands, if a person quits a house after the commencement of the year, he still remains charged for the whole year; and the alteration which I propose to make (at a loss of 5,000l.) is, that he shall be chargeable hereafter for that part of the year only, during which he shall have occupied the house. A sum of 4,000l. per annum is also received upon houses which are occupied throughout the year by one person, solely for the purpose of taking care of the house; this I propose to repeal; and I would deal in the same way with another item of 1,000l. per annum, arising from farm houses, out of lease, but occupied by a labourer; such farm houses are already exempt, provided that part of the house occupied by the labourer is entirely separated by the rest of the building: but as this condition is very onerous and inconvenient, by compelling the landlord to incur the expense of making the partition when his farm is out of lease, and of pulling it down again the moment he gets a tenant, I propose to remove it. In dairy farms also, no more than one window is allowed to be exempt for the dairy and cheese room, which compels the farmer to use the same place for both purposes; but by giving up 1,000l. a year, I can allow one window to be exempt in each such room.

The next point is one of more extensive importance; and I trust that much satisfaction may be given respecting it. The number of houses now charged with the house-tax is 527,649; the tax is assessed according to the assumed rent-value of the house; and 1s.6d. in the pound is the assessment upon all houses rated under 10l. This class of houses I propose to exempt altogether from this impost; and by thus sacrificing about 90,000l. of annual revenue, no less than 171,70.5 houses will hereafter be entirely free from any charge upon this head. Windows constitute the next, and the last item upon my list. I cannot pretend to offer any thing here in the way of relief to the wealthy or even to the middle classes of society; but I can give it effectually to those who are poorer, and upon whom the window-tax presses with by far the greatest severity. There are in all 973,867 persons who are assessed to it; and it is charged at an increasing rate, according to the number of windows. A large proportion of these contributors occupy houses having no more than seven windows; and if by sacrificing about 145,000l., we relieve those contributors from the window-tax, we may set free at once, from this description of direct charge, 635,936 persons. Here, then, is a substantial boon which I offer to the poorer householders: here is not only an exemption from a pecuniary burthen, but a release from vexation, from surcharge, from litigation, from legal distress, and perhaps from a gaol, offered to several hundred thousand of our poorer fellow-subjects. If, then, I am enabled to add this boon to the other measures which I have proposed, do I not enlist all the better and higher feelings of the House in favour of my general scheme! And will not my hon. friend, the member for Surry, be one of the first to acknowledge that I have done so?

The result of the whole is as follows:

Reduction upon Hemp £.100,000
Reduction upon Coffee 150,000
Reduction upon Wine 230,000
Reduction upon British Spirit and Rum 750,000
Reduction upon Cyder 20,000
Reduction upon Assessed Taxes 276,000
Of this I calculate we may lose, during the present year, about 650,000l., so that it is clear that the total surplus of this and the two ensuing years, which I have already stated at upwards of 4,000,000l., will be amply sufficient to meet the presumed reductions.

Thus, then, I propose to give additional facilities to foreign commerce and internal consumption; thus I strike a blow at that giant the smuggler; thus I exempt from the weight of direct taxation those who are the least able to bear it: and with these propositions in my hand, I would not fear to go into any assembly of my countrymen, at any time and in any place, and to claim, not I hope with overweening confidence or arrogant presumption, but with an honest consciousness of having endeavoured to do the state some service, respectfully and firmly to claim their approbation and support.—The right hon. gentleman concluded, amidst loud cheers, with moving his first resolution.

Sir H. Parnell

said, that he felt perfect satisfaction at the statement of the right hon. gentleman, and particularly as it regarded Ireland.

Mr. Maberly

hoped the committee would not, by admitting the propriety of many of the general principles upon which the right hon. gentleman had founded his able statement, be considered as pledging themselves to his details, and particularly where his practice was at variance with the system which he advocated. He begged also not to be considered as admitting that the right hon. gentleman's disposal of his surplus revenue was the best. The increase of the revenue he had always anticipated as the natural consequence of the introduction of sound commercial principles, they had given fair play to the industry of the people, and hence followed more comfort, and, as a necessary consequence, an augmentation of the national revenue.

Mr. Sykes

said, that the reduction of the duties on hemp and iron would be a great relief to the shipping interest, and of no detriment to the revenue. He was no friend to bounties. He would suggest the reduction of the duties on whale oil also, which would occasion a loss to the revenue of only 13,000l.

Mr. Bright

complained of the comparative inattention afforded to the West-India interests, and the necessity of further time for consideration, before the committee decided upon the right hon. gentleman's statement. Parliament had seriously interfered with the value of West-India property and interests, without giving the owners any thing like a fair equivalent. By the proposed reduction of bounties upon sugar, the great refining trade would be infallibly lost; and by the reduction of the duty upon homemade spirits, rum would be removed at a still greater distance from the British market. It was last year affected considerably by the introduction of Irish and Scotch whisky; and some hopes were held out that, in the present year, the West-India interest would be better considered; and yet what was now proposed?—merely to reduce the rum duty 2s. a gallon, while, at the same time, the reduction in home spirits was to be 5s. a gallon. When they wanted to repress the smuggling trade, why not begin upon tobacco, the great article of notoriously contraband consumption? If they reduced the tax upon tobacco one half, the revenue would not be diminished, but smuggling would, to two-thirds of its present extent. It was said, that in the coffee reduction 150,000l. was conceded to the colonial interests. He admitted the importance of this reduction to the negro population; but denied its being a proper equivalent for the injuries which had been generally inflicted on the West-India trade.

Mr. W. Smith

said, he would put in his claim for a future hearing on this subject, as the House was not at that moment properly prepared for the discussion.

Colonel Daives

said, that the House would, to-morrow week, have an opportunity of considering the tobacco and other duties, in consequence of a motion of which he had given notice. He was not without hopes, that the chancellor of the Exchequer would carry his admirable principles further into practical operation, and still further diminish the public taxation.

Mr. Hobhouse

thought it would have been better to have equalized the wine duties, than have made them in the proportion as six to four; and he was quite sure the country would not be satisfied with his inadequate reduction of the assessed taxes. The sinking fund on the present plan was, he thought, quite ridiculous.

Mr. John Smith

thought the sinking fund essential to the maintenance of the national faith and honour. The West-India interests had been exceedingly oppressed; and he thought that a reduction of the duties upon sugar would have a very beneficial operation.

Mr. Hart Davis

complained that the tobacco duties were not reduced. They now amounted to 1,200 per cent upon the original value of the article. He had expected a reduction of one half at least of these duties. Notwithstanding the very great export from America, the revenue in this article was not improved.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

concurred in the disappointment expressed at not finding the tobacco and brandy duties still further reduced, for the better prevention of smuggling. He was glad at the reduction of duties on hemp and iron. Though he did not anticipate so great a reduction in the duty of the latter, yet he, who was largely interested in that trade, was not afraid of the foreign competition. He was a warm advocate of liberal commercial principles.

Mr. Hume

noticed the immense military establishment which was still to be kept up. It amounted to 17 millions, including the miscellaneous estimates; 15 millions and a half being for the army, navy, and ordnance. In 1816, they were told they had not yet come to the full reduction of their peace establishment; and yet they had been going on increasing the amount every year since. He entirely concurred in the opinion that they would never make an impression upon smuggling, and reduce the expense of the preventive service, until they diminished the tobacco and brandy duties. As to the general commercial principles upon which the right hon. gentleman had acted, he gave him the fullest credit for their utility and liberality, and only wished him to carry them further. He must also say, that the promise held out to the West-India interests had not been redeemed. It was a breach of faith to the colonies not to put them upon a comparative footing with the general home trade. He was struck with two facts in the right hon. gentleman's statement — that whilst the general increase of the revenue amounted to 15 per cent upon some articles, and averaged 5 per cent on the greater number, yet that in the malt and tobacco duties the increase was only at the rate of 3½ per cent. He was quite persuaded that if the right hon. gentleman made the reduction in these articles 50 per cent, he would, out of the increased consumption, preserve a revenue equal to the present, and at the same time save an enormous expense to prevent smuggling. The sinking fund was at present quite a delusion, and he would, in a few days, demonstrate that fact to the House.

Mr. Huskisson

said, it was a subject of much congratulation to his right hon. friend, to find the praise bestowed, from all sides of the House, upon the commercial principles on which he was acting, and the reduction of the public burthens which he had at the same time afforded. He was glad to hear the hon. alderman say, in allusion to the trade in which he was engaged, that he had no fear of the foreign competitor. It was certainly not necessary sary for the British miner, that the foreign duties should be upheld; nevertheless, they had a tendency to keep up a great fluctuation in the market-price, which interested the manufacturer in a serious degree, and incidentally the shipping interest. It must be recollected, that the superior quality of some foreign iron rendered it essential for the British manufacturer, in the wide range of many of his improvements. He entirely concurred in the propriety of a revision of the whole of their prohibitory duties, for the purpose of rendering them better adapted to the real commercial protection of the country. With respect tot he West-Indian interest, it was quite impossible to retain the sugar bounties, which had no other operation than to raise the price and impose a useless tax on the consumer, without benefiting the colonies. The reduction on the coffee duties would, he had no doubt, be found very beneficial. He remembered that when be had been the means of reducing the coffee duty from 2s. 4d. a pound to 4d. only, the larger consumption immediately augmented the previous amount of revenue. This would be not only an advantage to the country, but also to the West-India interests, who must, besides, sensibly feel the reduction in rum from 10s. 6d. to 8s. He admitted the present extent of the smuggling traffic in brandy, hollands, and whisky; but the committee must see that the reduction in British spirits would repress the contraband trade in hollands and brandy, and give fairer play to the rum and home trade. Then, as to rum, the hon. gentleman intimated, that unless, the duties on rum were lowered to that of British spirits, there would be no consumption of rum. The fact was, that rum had always been at a higher duty; and therefore any argument so founded must fail: while, on the other hand, the duties on rum had always borne a comparison rather favourable to that article when considered in reference to other spirits not of British manufacture. The hon. member for Bristol complained of the remaining effects of the restrictive system. He hoped to give that hon. gentleman and the House, a large measure of relief in regard to the restrictions in our colonial mercantile policy, before the end of the sessions. In answer to the observations of the hon. member for Aberdeen, with respect to the duties on tobacco, however he might be disposed to coincide with them, he must remind that hon. member of the caution given, in homely phrase, by his right hon. friend—that "you must not ride a free horse to death." Did the committee consider what would be the effect of reducing, as had been proposed, the duties on coals, half the duty on malt, and two-thirds of the duty on tobacco—the last of which amounted to three millions of itself? Must not the country feel deep alarm at a sudden reduction of the revenue to that amount? He concurred in the propriety of reducing the tobacco duties, so that the revenue might be benefitted by the increased consumption to the amount which would be lost by lessening the duties. But, the hon. member should remember, that the country only possessed a given power of consumption; and nothing could be so visionary as to suppose that the government might with safety, at once, and without hesitation, remit all the duties upon every article which had a tendency to encourage smuggling or to check the consumption. He was not insensible to the evils of smuggling. But the government owed other duties to the public credit and to the general interest of the country, which prevented them from going further at present. He complimented the hon. alderman upon the spirit which he had shown in a case in which his interests were likely to be touched, and hoped that when he (Mr. H.) came to propose measures which would as greatly affect the interest of other members, he should find, that whether they dealt in tin, or copper, or brass, or any other commodity, they were ready to follow the hon. alderman's good example, and rely with the same confidence on the good intentions and wisdom of the government.

Mr. Ellice

said, he was greatly, though not entirely, satisfied with the statements of the chancellor of the Exchequer. He agreed with the opinions of his hon. friend, the member for Aberdeen, about the sinking fund, but that measure ought to be discussed by itself. He was sorry that foreign iron should be the only article selected by ministers, out of the numerous others on which the duties were so high as almost to amount to a prohibition. Brass, lead, tin, &c. had thus risen to a price extremely disadvantageous to the consumer. It was desirable, if possible, to get rid of the unequal duties imposed on the different spirits distilled in Scotland, England, and Ireland. He thought the West-India interest had been hardly dealt with. Though there might be some difficulty in granting them full relief, yet they were entitled to some consideration, and certainly something might be given them between the 5s. duty on British spirits and the 8s. duty on rum. He was also of opinion that the whole sugar trade required reconsideration; and though he was aware of the different views of the subject taken by what were called the West-India interest, he was convinced that nothing could be wiser than applying to that particular article the general principles so happily applied in other cases. The system of restriction, the exclusion of East-India sugar, and other impolitic regulations, were as prejudicial to the West-India planters, as they were at variance with wise and beneficial principles. While all Europe continued to be consumers of sugar, the price of the article in the British market would be regulated by the general price of it in every market of the world, so long as we continued to produce one pound above our own consumption. The trade might be thrown open, and an ad valorem duty and ad valorem drawback established, with greater advantage to the West-India interest than was afforded by the present system of illiberality and restriction. For instance, while the British refiners were prevented from using Havannah, they could not produce so fine an article as could be manufactured at Hamburgh or Petersburgh, where the refiners had the opportunity of mixing and selecting the different kinds they required. Whenever the West-India interest were determined to improve their condition, they must do away with the whole system of restrictions. The right hon. gentleman had, he was happy to say, conferred a great benefit on the shipping interest. It was a wise policy; and he was certain, that placing the British shipping on equal terms with that of any nation on the earth, was the best way to secure our power. With such a protection England had nothing to fear. The duty on hemp had been hitherto a grievous burthen; and while he admitted the partial good that the repeal of that duty would effect, he would point out burthens equally oppressive to the British shipping. For instance, the heavy charges in all the co- lonies far exceeding the charges paid by any foreign shipping in their colonies, and which could easily be done away with; as they consisted of fees paid to officers, without any adequate service returned for them. He commended the attentions paid by the right hon. gentleman to the middling classes, by the partial repeal of the assessed taxes, and hoped that the same consideration would be bestowed on other points, where a small revenue was procured at the expense of the comforts of the many. If the right hon. gentleman continued to pursue that course, he would be entitled to the gratitude of all classes of society.

Mr. Whitmore

wished to see the duty on East-India sugar placed on an equality with other sugar. He was sure we might look to that country for a great extension of our commerce, and that it was impossible this measure, which was one of justice, could long be delayed. He wished, before the duty on wines had been so much reduced, that it had been equalized on all wines. There was a system of monopoly existing in Portugal, which would completely deceive the calculations of the chancellor of the Exchequer. There was a more absurd monopoly of Port wine, than any he knew of. This was equally injurious to England and Portugal; and he hoped some endeavours would be made to get rid of it. The heaviest burthen, however, which the people of this country laboured under was the corn laws. He hoped, when he brought this subject before the House, it would meet that serious attention which its importance demanded.

Mr. Bernal

wished to know if the right hon. gentleman had determined not to deviate from his resolutions respecting the duty on rum? He knew that particular interests must give way to general; but, in this instance, he thought the general interest would be advanced by consulting that of the West Indies. It was surely desirable that such a reduction of duty should take place in rum, as would place West-India and British spirits on an equal footing. Was it likely the poorer classes would purchase rum, on which the duty was 8s. per gallon, when the duty on British spirits was only 5s.? He would not dwell on the distresses of the West Indies; but it was well known that those distresses had been much increased by the rise in the price of many articles. Was it too much to press on the right hon. gentleman a consideration, which would not injure the labouring population, but would be deemed by the West Indians as a bonus which they would gladly accept?

Mr. H. Vivian

, referring to the reduction on foreign iron, wished to have such an equivalent, in the way of duty, for the produce of the Cornish mines, as would reimburse them for the difference of charges caused by taxation at home.

Sir C. Forbes

was astonished, amidst all the reductions on articles of foreign growth and produce, that no reduction had been proposed on East-India commodities.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, in reply to the suggestions of the hon. member for Rochester, wished to give a reason why he did not conceive rum entitled to an equal reduction with British spirits. The price of grain, from the natural operation of the corn laws, put the distiller under a necessity of paying a price for his malt, beyond that which be would have to pay if there were no such restrictions. In rum, the first material was not subject to that specific charge. The prime cost of the malt spirit was so much more than rum, that the latter article could more easily bear 8s. per gallon than the former could 5s. He professed himself, however, to be in no wise wedded to his own opinion; nor did he offer these propositions as if they could admit of no qualification. On the contrary, he courted the animadversions of members, on the introduction of the resolutions which it would be his duty to submit to the House.

The several resolutions were agreed to.