§ Lord Althorp
said, that in moving that the Report of the Committee of Supply be brought up, he wished to make some observations which would occupy the attention of the House for a short time. He trusted the House and the country would believe that his object was to relieve, to the utmost of his power, the productive industry of the country; and this, he conceived, could be best done by relieving those manufactures which were pressed down by the weight of taxation, and by the mode in which it was collected. His object, then, was, to give these manufactures such a stimulus as might promote them, and increase the prosperity of the country. With that view he had proposed to take off certain taxes, oppressive in the two ways in which he had stated, and to substitute others for them. It was, in the existing state of the finances, impossible for him to remit duties to any extent, without seeking an equivalent; and amongst those imposts which he proposed to lay on with that view, was the tax upon the bona fide transfer of property in the Funds. He did still consider it practicable to levy such a tax, and to make a distinction between the two species of sales. He did not, on a former night, like to state the name of the gentleman to whom he had communicated his plan, and from whom he had sought information on the subject. Now, however, he had his permission to do so; and he had to say, that gentleman, who had answered his inquiries, was the Governor of the Bank of England. And although he admitted the great authority of the practical men who 492 had declared themselves against the project, he could not, however, resign his opinions. The Governor of the Bank told him, there would be no difficulty whatsoever in the collection—none in making the distinction between the two species of sale. And when it was said that the Bank could not have given the extensive accommodation it did in 1825, he had simply to declare, in reply, that every accommodation might have, in like manner, been given, if the tax were in operation. Neither did he admit, that anything which he had heard the other night, in the least tended to convince him, that in laying on this duty, he should commit a breach of the public faith. If he had suspected that such would be the case—if he had the least idea of it—he would be the last man in the world to advance the proposition. But he thought then, and he still thought, that the tax might have been imposed with-any breach of public faith. However, after the opposition the measure had met with in that House, he certainly would not persevere. The opposition he met with was such, that he should have, at least, great difficulty in persevering; and, therefore, he thought it right to lake the first opportunity to relieve the public from suspense. He was sorry, while making this statement, to be obliged to add, that he felt he had lost the opportunity of doing great good. By this reduction, his Ways and Means were so straitened, that it was impossible for him to afford the extent of relief which he had contemplated. He was, consequently, compelled to reserve two taxes, as an equivalent for the duty on transfers, on which he had calculated. The taxes which he should not take off, were that upon Tobacco, and that upon Glass. Concerning the first of these taxes, great misunderstanding had prevailed, as to the grounds on which he had taken it off. It was not as a relief to the poor, that he did so; but because it belonged to the first of three classes into which he had divided the objectionable taxes—namely, that in which the duty on the article was so large as to diminish its consumption, and, consequently, the return to the revenue, while it at the same time encouraged smuggling. The reduction of the tax upon tobacco to 1s. 6d. a pound, would have annihilated smuggling on the coast of Ireland, where it prevailed to a great extent; because, the profit would be so very trifling, as to render the 493 risk too great for the smuggler. As to the other point, that there would be a falling off in the revenue from this article, in the first year, was evident; but, as little doubt had he, that in a short space of time, the loss would be made up, and the return to the Exchequer become greater than it had ever been before. He had now endeavoured to explain that his only object was, the relief of the people, and did not think it necessary to say more than that he had ascertained, in the most satisfactory manner, that he could lay on the tax on transfers, and that there would be no breach of faith in laying it on.
§ Mr. Ward
congratulated the noble Lord upon the resolution to which he had come, but contended, that nobody left the Treasury-chambers, for the last quarter of a century, who was not impressed with the belief, that there was an agreement between the contractor and the Government, that no stamp-duty whatsoever should ever be imposed upon the transfer of property in the Funds. He also stated, that all the Governor of the Bank had told the noble Lord was, that if the tax were laid on, he would assist him to the best of his ability; but he (Mr. Ward) contended, that it was impossible for the Governor of the Bank to make a distinction between the two species of transfers.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, he had heard the noble Lord with mingled satisfaction and regret—satisfaction, that the noble Lord had exhibited on this occasion the same candid, manly, and open conduct which had ever distinguished him— and that he (Lord Althorp) had exhibited a becoming deference to the authority of the character and great professional eminence of the hon. Members who Had opposed his measure. He regretted the great ignorance (he did not use the term offensively) of the hon. Members opposite, to their own real interests. He was satisfied, too, notwithstanding the show of resistance in that House, that if the noble Lord had waited for a little to take the sense of the country upon it, he might have carried his measure, and if not by a triumphant majority, at least by such a majority as would fully justify him in proposing it. He stated, that great dissatisfaction prevailed amongst the agricultural and manufacturing interests, at the immunity from taxes conceded to the fundholder, and expressed his opinion, that the failure in this project would be hereafter the occasion of a pro- 494 perty-tax being imposed, instead of those duties which pressed on the springs of productive industry.
§ Sir E. Knatchbull
asked the noble Lord, if he did not propose to take the tax off the transfer of land as well as of property in the Funds?
§ Lord Althorp, in answer to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ward), observed, the Governor of the Bank had positively told him, the collection of the tax and the distinction between the transfers would be easy. In reply to the hon. Baronet, he was understood to say, that, considering how heavily the land was already burthened, he could not think of leaving a tax on it which he removed from property in the Funds.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
hoped the noble Lord would revise his plan still more. He objected to the change in the duties on Wine, and fancied, that had the noble Lord known of the Act of 1823, which provided, that Cape. Wine should be received in this country at an unchanged duty of 2s. 5d. until the year 1833, he would not have proposed to raise the duty. There was a great consumption of Cape wines, so that the additional duty ought not to be imposed, for such a duty would destroy the trade in it; and, in his opinion, the trade was one which ought to be protected. And he understood that the capital embarked in the cultivation of the vine at the Cape of Good Hope, was not less than 12,000l. He did not think that the trifling advantage to the revenue of 19.000lcould justify ruining the property of the Cape settlers. He hoped the noble Lord would reconsider the duty with respect to timber, for he could assure the noble Lord, the shipping interests were much alarmed. The new duty imposed on timber would almost exterminate that interest, which, in his opinion, had suffered enough already. Some of our colonies would also suffer from the operation of that duly, for the timber they now supplied, would be no longer required, and that article of their trade would be at an end. The number of British ships engaged in the Canada timber trade, was at one period far greater than the number engaged in the Baltic timber trade, and he believed, that the alteration proposed in the duties on timber, would only benefit the revenue to a very trifling extent, while it would ruin all the ship-owners concerned in the Canada limber trade, and inflict a serious injury on 495 that colony. He had been requested by a body of persons, interested in this matter, to urge upon the noble Lord the reconsideration of the proposition regarding the timber, and he had also to request from the noble Lord, a declaration, whether, with respect to the duty on printed cottons he intended to allow a drawback to the retail dealers who had a stock on hand? As the duty amounted to thirty per cent on the low-priced goods, the pressure would be hard on the parties who held these stocks.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that with respect to the allowance of return of duty in favour of the retail shops, who might have a stock of printed goods on hand, such a thing, he feared, would be impossible. In the removal of any duty, he feared that great inconvenience would always be likely to ensue, and that loss to some parties or other would be unavoidable. Every Gentleman must, however, see that such a loss was inevitable, and could hardly avoid perceiving, at the same time, that no such allowance as that now requested could be made without opening the door to many frauds.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
said, he was one of those who considered it better to—" Bear those ills we have,Than fly to others that we know not of!He gave every degree of credit to the Ministers for what they had done, but he feared it would be found that they had attempted to do too much; he feared that they had endeavoured to conciliate public opinion too much, and because the late Government had taken off 3,500,000l. of taxes last year, they imagined they must do the same this year, and thus, in the short space of two years, reduce one-eighth of the whole revenue of the country. By doing this, or rather, attempting to do it —for he believed they must be unsuccesful in their attempt—they did but disturb the state of the public revenue, without producing any advantage, and needless difficulties were occasioned which the Government must prepare to meet. He recommended the Ministers to adopt a different course from that which they had stated they intended to pursue; he recommended them to take off two taxes, and not to put on any other. The taxes he advised them to reduce were, that on Coals and Calicoes, and having taken them off, the public would receive a great benefit without the revenue being diminished, and without the Govern- 496 ment being under the necessity of imposing other taxes to supply the place of those which had been removed. In his opinion, the Government might retain the tax on Newspapers, the reduction of which would be less beneficial than the imposition of others would be injurious. Considering the situation of this country with reference to foreign Powers, there ought to have been a greater surplus than was now secured. In what he had said, he hoped that there was nothing offensive to the Government, as he could assure his noble friend, he was anxious to support the Ministers in their endeavours at economy.
was most happy that some part of the measure of which notice had been given, had been withdrawn, and to supply the deficiency thus occasioned, he should be most happy to support, whenever the noble Lord might think fit to propose it a real, property-tax. Such a tax would raise several millions, and enable the Government to take off those taxes which now bore heavily on the productive industry of the country. He wished, too, that the noble Lord would impose such a tax that he might not be compelled to put the tax on steam-boats, for that tax would be very injurious, especially to the inhabitants of the western coast of Scotland. Steam now afforded the only means of communication between the small islands there. In case of war, too, the steam-boats would be an excellent means of defence to our Channel, and he had no doubt that they would be found of the utmost importance in that respect, and they would never again hear of privateers taking merchant-vessels almost in sight of our harbours, and when the state of wind permitted, within a few miles of our own shore. A tax like this would be a great injury to what he might call an infant branch of the naval force of this country. With these exceptions, he gave his unqualified approbation to the propositions of the noble Lord. He would take that opportunity of saying a word with respect to the Canada timber. The favour shown to that timber, and the duty put upon timber from other countries, operated injuriously to England. These protecting duties, imposed for the benefit of an inferior article, pressed heavily upon productive industry, while they lessened the revenue of the country, and were, therefore, in all respects, most objectionable.
§ Mr. P. Thomson
was glad to hear the 497 defence made by the hon. Member who had just taken his seat, for some of the duties, and only regretted that any part of the scheme of his noble friend should have met with that hon. Member's disapproval. He must beg to remind the House, that while the expenditure of the Government remained what it was, the only relief that could be afforded to the people was by the| mutation of taxes, so as to be able to relieve the productive industry of the country. It was with the view of giving advantage to our productive industry— it was with the wish to relieve the poorer classes, that his noble friend (and he believed the country gave his noble friend credit for these wishes) had made these proposals in the budget. By the new arrangement of the various taxes now existing, his noble friend relieved the productive classes to the amount of 4,000,000l. while he had only re-imposed taxation to the amount of 1,300,000l., to be drawn from the pocket of the consumer. He regretted much that the tobacco-duties must be continued, and he regretted it for two reasons, first, because the people had been deprived of a considerable relief; and next, because the reduction of that duty was made on the principle of getting rid of smuggling, by the reduction of high duties, which now operated as a premium on its continuance. At an expense of 100,000l., to come from the pocket of the consumer, his noble friend had relieved the people from taxes amounting to 2,000,000l. He took off a duty of 800,000l. upon coals — another of 500,000l. upon calicoes — another of 450,000l. on candles, and another of 250,000l. on newspapers; and after all these reductions, the surplus was not diminished, but it was actually increased, by the simple mutation of taxes, with the addition of the tax on steam-boats to the amount of 100,000l. His noble friend had reduced the duty on wine, and on timber, and yet the revenue would be augmented. He made a similar reduction with regard to cotton, and still the revenue would be increased. He took the duty off coals, and made the foreigner contribute 100,000l. a-year to the revenue of the country. Then it was said, that partial equalization of the duty on timber was an evil, and that the shipping interest would be much injured by it. In the first place, he denied at least the amount of the injury that interest was likely to suffer; and 498 in the next, he must say, that no one class of persons in the country were entitled to have their interests considered in exclusion of the interests of all the rest. That policy was a bad one which affected to bolster up one class of persons at the expense of an injury to all others. Supposing, however, that the shipping interest would be injured by the tax on timber, he must say, that he had a right to balance against it the benefit that interest would receive from the reduction of the duty on coals—a reduction that he had no doubt would double the number of ships now employed in that trade. The agriculturists of the country would be much benefited by the mutation of the timber-duty, since they would procure all those things for which timber was required, at a much cheaper rate than at present. When they were told, too, that the British shipping interests would be injured by the mutation of duty, they ought to recollect, that in 1810 the number of British ships employed in the timber trade in the Baltic was considerable, there being 480,000 tons of shipping employed in importing timber from the shores of the Baltic at that time. Under these circumstances, he must repeat, that he regretted the failure of his noble friend's plan, and that, in his opinion, the House could not do better than confirm by their votes the propositions which his noble friend had submitted to them. The revenue acquired by the Government could not be diminished, and therefore he saw no means whatever of relieving the distresses of the industrious classes but by a mutation of the taxes.
§ Mr. Praed, after apologizing to the House for trespassing on their attention on a question so complicated as the present, thanked the noble Lord opposite for having, by withdrawing the duty upon transfers of property, saved him the necessity of giving it his opposition. Of the proposition for that duty he would now say, that he should have been ready to support it, if he could have believed it even to have been expedient, although the noble Lord might not have been able to satisfy him that it was just. It was owing to the landed interest, that, up to this hour, in periods of great difficulty and distress, faith had been kept with the public creditor, and he trusted, that at this moment, nothing would be done that was not founded on the same spirit. It seemed to him that the noble Lord had been 499 guilty of one great mistake, and that was this, that when he took the duty off one article, and transferred the burthen to another, he placed too much confidence in the increased consumption of the article making up for the effects of the diminution of duty. In this country it was difficult to remove a duty from a taxed, to place it on a hitherto untaxed article. If, therefore, the duty was transferred, it must be transferred from an article already taxed to one also taxed, but in a different degree. Upon this change the revenue would gain or lose in proportion as the article to which the duty was transferred had before been more lightly or more heavily taxed. He would now apply this observation to the case of the commutation of duty on printed calicoes. The most popular argument on this point was the fact, that the existing duty pressed heavily upon the poorer, and lighter upon the richer classes. He admitted the fact, that it was a partial and oppressive tax, and if the revenue could afford to lose the tax, it ought to be repealed. But then, what was it that the Ministers propose to substitute for it? Why, one penny a pound upon raw cotton. Now, he proposed to show, that the poorer classes would gain little or nothing by the substitution. It happened that a piece of common printed calico weighed about four pounds, and was sold at from 6s. to 8s. It followed, that the tax on the raw material of this article would amount to 4d. upon 8s., or five per cent. A piece of striped muslin, worn by the higher classes weighed about two pounds, and was sold at 40s. at a low calculation. It followed from this statement, that the tax on the proposed commutation would amount on the lower-priced goods to five per cent, and on the higher-priced article to not quite a half per cent. There might be many reasons which made it appear to the House good to take off the duty upon printed calicoes, and to put it upon the raw cottons, but he must confess, that he thought the noble Lord could not take credit for having conferred by the change a very extensive boon upon the lower orders. There was another objection to this tax, and that was, the concomitant of a drawback, so that he feared the revenue would gain less than was supposed. There was one other point, which seemed not to have been overlooked by the noble Lord himself, but of which he had taken no 500 public notice—he meant the effect, the immediate effect, that must be produced in discouraging, if not extinguishing, the importation of cottons from our East-India Colonies. An indiscriminate duty of 1d. on cottons would bear more heavily on the cottons from the East Indies than from the Brazils and the Havannah. He held in his hand a return of the quantity of cotton imported during the last year. The account was made up to 31st December, 1830. The price of Surats was 5d. per pound; a tax of 1d. per pound on that price was twenty per cent. The cottons from Georgia were 6½d. a pound, and the duty on that would be eighteen and-a-half per cent. The cottons from New Orleans were 7d. per pound, and the duty on them would be fourteen and-a-half per cent. The cottons from Pernambuco were 8d. per pound, and the duty on them would amount to twelve and-a-half per cent. The result, therefore, of this indiscriminate duty would be, to impose a heavier tax upon the cottons from our own Colonies than on those from foreign countries. He had the authority of those who were deeply interested in this trade for saying that it must put an end to the importation of East-India cotton. He could scarcely conceive, that the noble Lord, when he was satisfied of the accuracy of this statement, would persist in the imposition of the tax. He believed, that with a very slight improvement, Surat cottons would be applicable to any part of our manufactures. He put it to the noble Lord, whether he would impose a duty which would have the effect of putting an end to that branch of productive industry? If our Indian cotton trade was encouraged, we should be independent of the cotton from the United States. He would ask whether this was a time to diminish the value of East-India cottons, when we were about to call on the Company to make sacrifices for the benefit of the State? The Ministers ought to remember, that these cottons were exclusively our own colonial produce, and that they were brought hither exclusively in British ships. He was sorry to say that the importation of these cottons had much diminished within the three last years. From a statement in his possession, he found that in the year 1828, the import of raw cotton from the East Indies was 84,000 pounds; in 1829 it was 80,000 pounds, and in 1830 it amounted only to 501 35,000 pounds; and it was evident that any further discouragement would put a stop to the trade altogether. If, therefore, the extension of the proposed tax, as at present contemplated by the noble Lord, was persisted in, he should feel it to be his duty to take the sense of the Committee upon a proposition for relieving the Colonies of Great Britain from a tax which, in the opinion of all who were qualified to form an opinion on the subject, would have so injurious an effect on the prosperity and welfare of those possessions.
Sir J. Graham
congratulated the hon. and learned Member on the manner in which he had gone through that which he (Sir J. Graham) knew from experience to be a severe and painful trial; namely, that of addressing that House for the first time; and in observing the great perspicuity with which the hon. and learned Member had delivered his sentiments, he could not avoid congratulating the House on the accession of talent and information they had gained by the introduction of the hon. and learned Member. He partook in some degree of the embarrassment under which the hon. Member had seemed to labour, although, on various former occasions, he had presented himself to the notice of the House. He was free to confess, with the frankness due from every man, that upon this subject he had felt considerable difficulty. He had found it impossible to disconnect the subject of the Budget from the question of the Currency generally, and upon that he had expressed sentiments dissonant from those of many of his colleagues. In consequence of the open avowal of those opinions, an endeavour had been made to fix upon him a degree of obloquy, in which, at all events, he was anxious that his colleagues should not participate. The hon. Member who had just sat down, had said, that he would have supported the tax upon the transfer of property, had it been shown to be expedient, even if he had failed to prove that it was just. He (Sir J. Graham) would never have supported the tax on the ground of expediency, if he were not also satisfied in his conscience that it was not unjust. Perhaps, as the King's Ministers had declared that they did not mean to press the tax, it was superfluous to press the topic; but for his own sake, and for the sake of those who acted with him, he wished to state the view he and they took of the justice of the tax. In the first place, he 502 could not discharge from his mind all that had taken place regarding the money transactions of the country during the last thirty years. Out of office he had not hesitated, and in Office he would not scruple, to declare, that since the fatal Bank Restriction Act of 1797, which an hon. Member on a former occasion had spoken of as a year of palmy credit, the money transactions of the country from time to time had been regulated by measures, not only not in the abstract just, but, as he contended, flagrantly unjust. The Legislature had thus been involved in so many difficulties, that the question had not been, how could it act with strict justice to all parties—but in what manner it could avoid the greatest sum of injustice. In 1797, what had been the conduct of the Legislature? It announced to every creditor in the kingdom, "You shall not receive what you stipulated to receive; but something you did not stipulate to receive. Your contract was, that you should be paid in gold, but we (the Legislature) decide that you shall have nothing but paper." In 1819, the directly opposite course was taken; it adopted a measure of the grossest injustice to all debtors. The Legislature said to the debtors—"You shall pay what you did not contract to pay; you agreed to pay fifteen shillings, but we by an Act we are about to pass, call upon you to pay twenty shillings." These directly opposite courses had embarrassed and encumbered all former questions of finance, so that every step taken was fettered and threatened danger. As occasion pressed, the burthen had been shifted from one class to another; but no substantial relief had been afforded to any. The fact was, that it was now extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the Legislature of the country to provide for all parties interested by measures abstractedly just. As to the particular precedent, he had been surprised to hear right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side declaring so earnestly and so solemnly on the supposed injustice of the tax upon transfers. If he were not mistaken the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) when he was Secretary for Ireland, in 1816, voted for a continuation of the property-tax, although it was an express stipulation, when that tax was originally imposed, that it should cease within six months after the signature of a definitive treaty of peace. Yet, in the teeth of that engagement, and regardless of a sti- 503 pulation so express and positive as was contained in the words "no longer," the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues had voted for the permanent establishment of the property-tax. As to the public creditor, he had a question or two to ask with reference to the contract generally, for he did not mean to enter into any special pleading regarding the particular terms, although it seemed to him, that there was something rather prospective than retrospective in the words "any law or statute to the contrary notwithstanding." Was there no distinct contract between the public creditor and the Government embodied in an Act of Parliament which had been violated? Was there no special engagement in every Loan Act from the time of Mr. Pitt, and upon the insertion of which he had claimed credit, which, year after year, had been abandoned? In every bill for raising a loan a distinct clause had been inserted, providing that a bona fide sinking fund of one per cent should be provided. Minister after Minister had followed the example of Mr. Pitt; and yet that contract had been treated as so much waste-paper: one per cent over and above the interest of the Debt had been stipulated to be provided, and yet the public faith had been violated most irreligiously. Coming down to a later date, it was difficult to conceive a contract more special—more distinct, or more solemnly ratified by the Legislature, and even made a matter of boast by the originators of the measure, that after 1819, a bona fide sinking fund should be provided out of the surplus revenue, of not less than five millions annually. Yet the right hon. Gentlemen themselves had turned their backs upon their own bill—had forfeited their pledge, and had plainly told the public creditor, "five millions is more than we can provide, although we have undertaken to provide it—you must be satisfied with three millions; and whether you are or are not satisfied, you will get no more." When those right hon. Gentlemen left the helm of the State, declaring themselves no longer capable of holding it, so far from there being a surplus revenue of even three millions, the noble Lord (Althorp) had stated on a former night, that he found it, on entering Office, somewhat less than 300,000l. He did not wish to travel further in this direction; but he was bound to say, looking at all these circumstances, that he did not consider the specific terms 504 of the contract, between the public and the State, so stringent, that if the Government could show a case of necessity—for the sake, for instance, of relieving the labouring classes—they might not be abandoned. Upon this point he had deliberated much: and had come to the conclusion, that it was not inconsistent with an adequate observance of public faith. He thought that the only point Ministers had to establish was, that this new impost did not press exclusively on the fund-holder, but that it embraced every species of property. When once that point was established, the tax fell precisely within the precedent of the property-tax. Personal chattels, it was to be recollected, were already taxed; all shares in Insurance Companies, Canal Companies, Bank Stock, East India Stock, and property of that kind, if he was rightly informed, at this moment, contributed their full proportion to the revenue. He was unwilling on some accounts to refer to what had passed on former occasions, but the hon. member for Dumfries (Mr. K. Douglas) on Friday night used a very harsh term, when he asserted, that the proposition of a tax of half per cent on real and personal property was founded in dishonesty. As borderers —the hon. member representing Dumfries, and he representing Cumberland — it might be said that they had a sort of bordering acquaintance—he meant an acquaintance bordering upon friendship; but the surprise he had felt was diminished by the hon. Member's explanation. After accusing them of dishonesty, he had added, that the present Ministers were not likely, to stand; so that the subject of congratulation explained the origin of the charge; it was not very likely that the hon. Member would accuse any Government he thought would be permanent with dishonesty; but flattering himself, in his anxiety to return to Office, that those who had turned him out would not long be able to keep their places, he had thought himself very safe in making his accusation. It was at least prudent to take what he considered the stronger side, however deficient such conduct might be in generosity. The hon. Gentleman came from a country that boasted of its second sight. —"Coming events cast their shadows before;" but he would for once find himself mistaken in his comfortable predictions, and what was worse, he would discover that his seclusion from the sweets 505 of place and pension would be of much longer duration than he anticipated. He did not think the present the best opportunity for going in detail through the Budget, as each particular tax would be separately brought before the House; but there were one or two topics touched by hon. Members that seemed to require some remark. The great principle for which the King's present Ministers, when on the other side of the House, had contended was, that the time had arrived, when either by the commutation of taxes, or in some other way, it was indispensable to relieve the suffering classes from burthens, the weight of which prevented them from attaining that prosperity which, in time of continued peace, they had a right to expect. In redemption of that pledge, as soon as they came into Office, they had repealed the duty on coals—an impost immediately interfering with the success of manufactures in districts near which fuel was not produced. The beneficial effect would be, to diffuse manufactures generally over the country, and to give increased employment to the lower orders. The commutation proposed with regard to cotton had been resisted; but if he were not mistaken, the duty upon all printed cottons, fine or coarse, was 3½d. per yard; thus the poor paid vastly more duty than the rich, not only because they consumed more cottons, but because they paid precisely as high a duty on the coarse goods they wore, as the rich upon cottons of a superior quality. The calculation, therefore, was, that the lower orders paid from forty to sixty per cent, while the rich did not contribute more than about five per cent, an extraordinary and most unfair disproportion. He would not follow the hon. Member (Mr. Praed) through his ingenious details, as finely woven as cobweb cambric, by which he wished to establish, that, under the proposed change, the poor would pay five per cent, and the rich only about one-half per cent, because that inequality was at all events an improvement upon the former state of the law. It would not be proper to detain the House further; but he was bound to say, in conclusion, that what had been resolved by Ministers was not inconsistent with their duty. They had ascertained the impression of the House of Commons—they had learnt what was the sentiment of the Representatives of the people, and they had yielded to it. The moment they had 506 learnt that those Representatives were opposed to the tax, they withdrew it. If there were one subject more than another on which it became Ministers frankly and fairly to yield to the sense of the Representatives of the people, it was that of a tax to be paid by the people. Such had been the course even in cases of emergency, when Ministers came down with the proposal of a tax which they considered absolutely necessary for the service of the country. Mr. Pitt had set this example, even in the plenitude of his power. In 1796 he brought down the Legacy Duty, and endeavoured to fix it, not only upon personal but upon real property. What was the result? The House rejected the proposition as regarded real properly, although Mr. Pitt had opened it as an indispensable part of his Budget. The present Ministers, in an honest endeavour to meet the wishes of the country—to encourage industry, and to relieve manufactures—had brought forward this plan: if the Representatives of the nation said, "You have judged wrongly—you are mistaken—we cannot agree in the change you propose," Ministers were bound to submit. They had brought forward these commutations, because in their conscience they believed that they were necessary for the public good; and by the course they had taken, he was sure that they had not forfeited the good opinion either of the House or of the people. Strange, indeed, would it have been, if they had forfeited the good opinion of the people because they had acquiesced in the sentiments of their Representatives. This mark of deference was due to the House, and it was in no respect inconsistent with the honour of Ministers.
Mr. Keith Douglas
said, he was prepared to re-assert his expressions of the former night, nor would he retract one word, having spoken advisedly on the subject of the transfer tax. The noble Lord's proposition of a duty on the transfer of property was repugnant to all the general principles upon which society was governed. Neither could he make out the correctness of the noble Lord's calculation as to the amount which the proposed tax on the transfer of landed property would yield to the revenue. He could 507 not conceive that 100,000,000l. worth of land was transferred annually in this country; yet, at a duty of half per cent, it would require an annual transfer of 100,000,000l. to produce the amount which the noble Lord calculated. If such a quantity of land was transferred every year, it gave him a new impression of the state of the country, and assured him that it was in a more calamitous condition than he ever supposed it to be. The natural tendency of the commutation of taxation, which was so much contended for, was, in his opinion, to unsettle the general arrangements of the country, and seriously to injure the shipping and colonial interests. He had one other observation to add on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan:—the noble Lord calculated on a nominal surplus of 400,000l., but his calculations were founded on the presumption throughout, that the expenditure was to be the same as that of the last year, whilst it was well known that there was to be a large increase of the army; and, he had it from report, an addition to the navy of 3,000 men. He was extremely sorry to be called upon, by the imputation of the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) to make some further observations. The hon. Baronet had addressed, in reply to his former statement, only the worst argument—the argumentum ad hominem; but it remained to be seen what the people of Cumberland would think of the proposition of Ministers, supported by their Representative. He was not so unworthy a person as the right hon. Baronet represented him to be, and he had hoped that their former acquaintance had led him to form a better opinion of him.
Mr. Cutlar Ferguson
agreed that Ministers were well justified in yielding to the sense of the House. He had himself felt decidedly opposed to the transfer tax, because he thought it a breach of faith to the public creditor. He rose, however, principally for the purpose of making an observation on one of the taxes, on which little observation had been made; he meant the tax on raw cotton. This was a tax on the raw material; and, being placed, not on the value, but the quantity, he feared it would be productive of serious injury to the East-India cotton trade. If he was truly informed, it would be attended with ruin to that trade. He trusted the noble Lord would reconsider that part of his proposition with respect to 508 cotton, and impose an ad valorem duty, if there must be a duty at all. By imposing a fixed tax, the effect would be, to burthen the produce of our own colonies with a larger amount of duty than the produce of foreign countries. The tendency of the proposed tax on cotton, therefore, would be, to depress and discourage our own colonies. As to the tax upon passengers by steam, he did not think it would be easily collected; and where it could be collected, he thought it would operate as a very oppressive tax. It would prevent labourers and others from proceeding by this cheap and ready mode of conveyance where their labour was required, and would not be productive; and the general effect would be, to obstruct that freedom of intercourse which every means ought to be adopted to encourage. It would be highly oppressive and extremely injurious in Scotland. With the exception of the two taxes to which he had adverted, and the proposal for a transfer duty on funded and landed property, which he certainly considered objectionable, he approved cordially of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan. He considered, that the duties which were proposed to be remitted pressed most severely on the poorer classes, and that their remission would prove greatly advantageous.
§ Mr. Courtenay
did not consider that any of the measures or circumstances referred to by the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) in any degree justified the proposed tax on funded property. It was not only partial as between funded property and other descriptions of property, but it was equally partial as regarded one description of funded property and another, inasmuch as it only affected funded property in a state of transfer. The right hon. Baronet had taken great pains to establish the equity and justice of the proposal, but to him it appeared unjust in itself, and in direct contravention of Acts of Parliament. The bargain was between two parties,—Parliament and the public creditor; and the former, because it possessed the power, now proposed to violate the spirit and essence of the contract. He did not conceive that the instance of the property-tax, so often adverted to, offered any analogy, inasmuch as that was a general tax, put upon the fundholder in common with every other person possessing income. He also considered the pro- 509 posed tax most impolitic, as the facility of transfer was one of the peculiar and characteristic advantages of funded property, and enabled Government to obtain loans, in seasons of emergency, on much better terms than if they endeavoured to borrow money by a mortgage on the Crown lands, or any species of indivisible security. As the proposal of a tax on the transfer of funded property had been properly withdrawn, it was not necessary for him to argue further against the principle of that proposal, more especially as he hoped and believed that other alterations would be made in the proposed plan. The Duke of Wellington's Government had been enabled to make great reductions of taxation, by reduction of expenditure, and the present Government found that they could not carry the principle much further. He was quite ready to admit, however, that the present Government was effecting all that the Duke of Wellington's Government had left undone. As a West-countryman, he felt grateful to the Government for that part of the noble Lord's proposition which referred to sea-borne coals; but, important as he considered the remission of that duty, he considered it better it should remain than that so unjust a tax as that proposed on the transfer of funded property should be established. An appeal had been made by his hon. friend, the member for London, on part of the noble Lord's plan,—the equalization of the duty on wines, and on the effect that measure must have on the producers of Cape wine. The Act imposing the duty now paid on Cape wine was passed in 1829, and a Committee of that House had recommended that no further duty should be imposed until January 1833. The producers of Cape wine, therefore, had a reasonable ground for expectation that no further duty should be imposed until the period staled. Nothing but overwhelming circumstances should, therefore, induce the Government to increase the duty—a measure which, as he understood, involved what may be called the life or death of a colony which had greatly improved. There was not a person connected with the Cape who did not state, that if the duty was raised as proposed, the trade would cease altogether, and a vast quantity of British capital must necessarily be lost. The case of the wine producers of the Cape was still further strengthened by the fact, that it was re- 510 commended by the Committee that, after 1833, the duty should be fixed at 3s., not more than half the amount now proposed. Under those circumstances, he implored the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to reconsider this part of his plan. The importance of the Cape of Good Hope was not sufficiently known or estimated. An hon. Member on a former evening stated, that the trade with Portugal was more valuable than that with France, and in that proposition he did not concur, and, not concurring, he could not agree in the propriety of reducing the duty on French wines. He might state, however, that by the official returns of the year 1821, it appeared that a larger quantity of cotton and woollen goods were exported to the Cape of Good Hope than to France. He would not trouble the House further on this subject, as he should probably have to present a petition on the subject, if the noble Lord did not reconsider this part of his plan. With respect to the tax on raw cotton, he entirely concurred with the hon. member for Kircud-bright (Mr. C. Ferguson). He was afraid that it would operate to repress productive industry. He would net take upon himself to say that the great energy of the East-India growers of cotton might not enable them to surmount the disadvantage to which they would be subject from the proposed impost—but he was satisfied the measure would tend seriously to injure the East-India cotton trade. He acknowledged, however, that the removal of the tax upon printed cottons gave him great satisfaction. He was sure that it would also give great satisfaction throughout the country, as that tax had always been considered exceedingly offensive, With respect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's: proposition as to the timber duties, it had his concurrence, as he always considered that some such alteration was necessary.
§ Mr. Schonswar
was unwilling to make any opposition to a proposition which included the repeal of the duty on sea-borne coals. He thought, however, that the proposal affecting Cape wines was a bad example of kindness towards an infant colony. He rose principally, however, to call the attention of the House to that part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's plan which more particularly affected the shipping interest, which was so long suffering, and continued to suffer, under great depression. If any additional bur- 511 then was put on American timber, it would throw out of employment a large class of ships that could not easily find any other employment. He contended that it would also throw an additional difficulty in the way of emigration to Canada, for which assistance from Government had at one time been afforded, and which afforded an excellent channel for carrying off the superabundant population of this country. By putting a stop to the timber trade with Canada, it was quite obvious that the facilities of which multitudes availed themselves would be put a stop to; and in this view he considered that the present rate of duties was entitled to a favourable consideration.
§ Lord Howick
would not go into the subject of the tax upon transfers, as that project had been abandoned by his Majesty's Ministers, and therefore he did not see any necessity for his then undertaking its defence. The right hon. Gentleman, the agent for the Cape of Good Hope (Mr. Courtenay) had certainly discharged his duty to that colony with much ability. If he could think that the proposed duty could prove injurious to that important colony, he should feel very great difficulty and hesitation in consenting to its imposition. He believed, indeed, that its effect, like that of every change affecting commerce, would be a temporary shock to the wine-growers of the Cape; but he was confident that it would produce no permanent injury to them. It appeared, from the statement of a gentleman who had been sent out for the purpose of observing the condition of the several interests at the Cape, that the wine-trade was in by far a worse condition than any other class. It did not seem to him desirable to maintain by a tax a struggling branch of trade, which could not exist without that tax. Was it not much better to check it at once, and to turn the capital employed in it into more productive channels? That capital had long ago reached the maximum of profit which it could attain, except by the adulteration of other wines. He did not think that any one could suppose that it was right to uphold a trade for the poisoning of his Majesty's subjects. For one bottle of Cape wine, sold as such, there were twenty disposed of in making up an inferior article, which was sold under the name of other wines. The calculations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, respecting 512 the difference between our trade with France and that with the Cape of Good Hope, proved the contrary to the inference which that right hon. Gentleman had drawn from it. If any thing could, more than another, show the injuriousness of the policy which discouraged the intercourse between these two great neighbouring countries, France and England, it was the fact which the right hon. Gentleman had announced, that so small and distant a colony traded more with us than France. Nothing would more please him (Lord Howick) than the equalization of the duties on wine. He looked upon it as the earnest of a better policy in future, and he was sure that France would imitate the example. If France would follow up what the Minister had now done, so as to free the commerce between the two countries from illiberal restraints, he was sure that our trade with France would as much exceed that with the Cape, as at present our trade with the colony exceeded that with France. With respect to the tax on raw cotton, he thought that his hon. and learned friend opposite, who had that evening manifested so much eloquence and ability, being the first time he addressed the House, had made one mistake. He assured his hon. and learned friend that he had heard his speech with great pleasure, and he hoped that he should now have the honour to renew their intimacy; but he (Mr. Praed) had forgotten one fact respecting the duty on raw cotton. The duty had been reduced, not only on printed cottons, but on all kinds of manufactured cottons. And if his hon. friend would consider the subject again, he would find, that the balance of advantages to be derived from that reduction was greatly in favour of the poorer classes. But the tax of one penny per pound upon the raw cotton would be found to fall in a great measure upon the richer classes of consumers, when it was considered how much cotton was employed in manufactures used only by them, in some of which the tux could reach the cotton only by weight, and in the raw state. He would instance the manufactures in which cotton is mixed with silk, and the use of which is confined to the more wealthy. Therefore the tax, which had been removed from the fabrics used only by the poor, was transferred to those which the poor never used. He considered that much better than to have 513 maintained the oppressive and partial tax for which it was substituted. Another objection had been made on the subject of East-India cottons; but that branch of trade was under the same relative advantages as before, especially when it was considered, that a very small portion of India cottons was re-exported.
§ Mr. Goulburn
meant to have confined himself, had he risen earlier in the evening, to the simple expression of his satisfaction at the announcement of the noble Lord's intention to abandon the proposed duty on transfers. He thought it was for the national honour that a measure should not be persevered in, which militated against public faith with the national creditor. It was satisfactory to reflect, that when the tendency of that tax was pointed out to the Government, it was withdrawn. But he could not conceal his regret, that such a proposition had ever been submitted, especially at the time when the Government ought to have power and strength equal to the maintenance of our institutions under the pressure of great difficulties. He thought it lamentable that the Government should have so much weakened itself, as it must have done by proposing a measure calculated to destroy the confidence of the public creditor. His regret was enhanced by the line of conduct taken by the noble Lord in announcing his changed intention. He begged to assure the noble Lord, that he did not think him actuated by any dishonourable intentions towards the public creditor; but the right hon. Baronet who sat by the noble Lord, had not disclaimed for himself such intentions. He defended the imposition of the tax upon very different grounds. He defended the injustice of that impost, because injustice had been done on other occasions. Because injustice had been done to one class of sufferers in the several alterations of the currency, the right hon. Baronet thought, whatever injustice might now be done to another class of sufferers was justifiable by those precedents. He would not go into a discussion with the right hon. Baronet respecting the alteration of the currency in 1797, nor there-turn to cash payments in the year 1819. But when the right hon. Baronet dwelt on the injustice of the measures of 1797 and 1819, he (Mr. Goulburn) thought the right hon. Baronet would have been the last person in that House to advocate 514 similar injustice. When he saw, in his own mind, the consequences of the measures to which he had referred, he would perceive the necessity of refraining from injustice of so destructive a tendency. But there was a great difference between the Act of 1819 and the tax upon transfers. The return to cash payments was written as clearly in the contract between the nation and its creditors as was the proposed tax forbidden. However, he was thankful to the Ministers that they had been influenced by the alarm which they saw excited by the announcement of the intended tax, though the House and the country must regret that the proposition had ever been introduced. He had one further observation to offer to the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had attempted to base the duty on the transfer of stock on the authority of Mr. Pitt; and the noble Lord had made a similar attempt on the night when he first proposed it. To rescue Mr. Pitt from such an imputation, he would refer to the Debates of 1803, when the tax upon income became strictly a property-tax. On that occasion, Lord Sidmouth had proposed to exempt property under 100l. a-year from duty, with the exception of landed property, and property in the Funds. But did Mr. Pitt agree to the proposition? No. On the contrary, he had said that, if any description of property were to be exempted from the tax, it must be funded property. Again, Mr. Pitt had said, that he did not understand the grounds of exclusive taxation. The measure was, with respect to the Funds—a breach of the principle on which all loans were contracted for; and what its effect upon future loans might be, he could not. pretend to say. In summing up, the same right hon. Gentleman had deprecated it as a breach of public faith, calculated to strike a blow at. the credit of the country, by overturning the principle recognized in every loan. Some people went so far as to say, that no tax should have been laid upon income, but all agreed that the public creditor should not be placed in a worse condition than he stood in when he made the bargain with Government. So much for the authority of Mr. Pitt, which was directly in the teeth of the proceeding he was supposed to have favoured. He agreed with the hon. Baronet, that the time to discuss the measures of the noble Lord would be, when their details were brought before the House; 515 but he would then make one general observation. He approved of the principle of taking off taxes which pressed upon those interests that were suffering, and laying them on others which were more equal to the burthen. But the objection which had been already made that evening was, that they did press equally on the poor and upon the rich. That was the whole tenour of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which had been so justly honoured by the noble Lord. He had said, that the duty on raw cotton would press upon the poor; on which the noble Lord remarked, that the Gentleman had failed in his argument respecting raw cottons, because the duty on printed cottons would principally be paid by the rich. But was it not the fact, that the duty on the raw material would press mostly on the poor? Was there any material, a tax on which would more extensively affect the comforts and necessaries of the poor? Much of the clothing of the men was made from it, as well as the principal clothing of their children and their wives, who wore scarcely a garment of any other material. But the great objection to the noble Lord's plan was, that, whether it might prove successful or not in relieving the poor, it seemed, at least, to be extremely anti-colonial. It would seem, that whilst relieving the distress of their subjects at home, the Ministers were forgetful of their subjects abroad. An hon. Gentleman had told the House (and he had no doubt that it was true) that the duties on cotton would act as a prohibition on importing cotton from India, a country, efforts to improve the condition, promote the happiness, and extend the civilization of which, were persevered in, at much expense and labour, by those in whose hands its government was placed. It had been said by his right hon. friend, that our trade with the colony at the Cape of Good Hope would be ruined by the duties on its wines; upon which the noble Lord (Lord Howick) alleges the distressed condition of that trade as a reason for increasing its burthens. But the injuries to be effected by the noble Lord's plans were not to be confined to India and the Cape, they would extend to Canada, by encouraging the importation of timber from other countries, to the prejudice of that colony. He was sure that measure would give considerable dissatisfaction. He knew not, however, whether on in- 516 quiry, such would appear the probable results; but if an inquiry would lead to that conclusion, he trusted that they would induce the noble Lord to abandon, or the House to reject, those measures. He hoped the noble Lord would not, for the sake of popularity—or, he would not say popularity —but favour, by relieving distress in this country, transfer it to distant parts of the empire, which had an equal claim on the protection and care of the Government with the parts nearer home. There was another great objection to the noble Lord's plan—that it did not comprehend any provision for the reduction of the National Debt and that no surplus revenue was provided, should any occasion for extraordinary expense arise before the end of the year. An hon. Gent, had complained, that he (Mr. Goulburn) had not left a sufficient surplus at the close of the last year; but the fact was, that he had laid on the Table papers, in which it was made clear, that there would be, at the close of the year 1830, a surplus of 2,600,000l.. He had entered Office with the determination always to adhere to the Resolution agreed to by the House in 1827, to the effect, that the Minister should always reserve a surplus revenue of three millions, to avoid the necessity of incurring a debt, in case of an occasion occurring for increased expenditure. He therefore had calculated, that at the end of 1830, he should have had a surplus of 2,600,000l. He had told the House, indeed, that at the end of the year 1831, he might not have a surplus of that amount; but he expected to have additional resources available at that time; first, by the reduction of the four per cents, which would have lessened the expenditure by 700,000l.; and secondly, he expected an increase of revenue from the increased consumption of malt; and a similar result, from the increase of other kinds of consumption; and he stated, what was more important, that if the Members of the late Government had remained in their places, they would have been able to effect red notions to the amount of 500,000l.: and when an objection was made by the right hon. Baronet opposite, who was then on the side in which he (Mr. Goulburn) now stood, he (Mr. Goulburn) replied, that if his calculations did not prove to be correct, the House would be called on to reconsider the subject. He thought, that, in estimating the effect of the proposed reductions, the 517 noble Lord bad gone far beyond what any experience of the past could justify, and, be feared, far beyond what, would be justified by the result, especially should there arise, as seemed possible, an additional charge, for which the noble Lord had made no provision. If he was not mistaken, such would be the case; and he looked with great pain to the prospect of the noble Lord's being under the necessity of applying, at the end of the year, to borrow a sum of money to meet the exigency for which he ought to have pro-vided in time. He assured the noble Lord, that he was not disposed to offer unnecessary opposition to his measures, but he felt it his duty to explain his opinion, when the noble Lord acted on the principle directly opposed to that which he considered the correct and safe one.
Sir James Graham
conceived, that he had steadily guarded himself from being so misconceived as be seemed to have been by the right hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House. He had not referred to past instances of injustice for precedents to support additional injustice. He had said, that he considered the transfer-tax a just one, and defensible, with respect to the Funds, on the same principle as the property-tax had been extended to them. But, at the same time that he did contend that the tax on transfers was just, he said, that although injustice had been heaped on debtor and creditor from 1797 to 1819, and since; yet, as long as he had the honour of holding a place in his Majesty's Councils, he would not countenance any measure, of the justice of which he was not fully convinced.
§ Sir T. Acland
said, that he was far better pleased to receive the surrender of the transfer tax from the hands of the Ministers, as a boon, than to have it wrested from them by a division. With respect to the reductions which the noble Lord had proposed, he considered that every thing which had been said concerning them tended to prove, that however they might be misrepresented by some persons out of that House, never did more cordial pleasure thrill through the breasts of its Members, than when they could, consistently with the safety of the country, and the maintenance of the institutions, relieve any portion of the distresses of the people. He had been particularly grieved to hear it said, that the shipping interest 518 would be injuriously affected by the measures of the noble Lord, from which he was sure the shipping would find increased employment, through the improvement that would ensue in the coasting trade. He considered that the mode chosen for levying a tax upon steam-boats, in the shape of a poll-tax upon the passengers, was taking an extremely incorrect and obnoxious mode of collecting it. He did not object to taxing those vessels; on the contrary, they ought to pay their share of the general burthens. It was said, that the art of steam-navigation was yet in its infancy, at least, it was the infancy of a giant, well able to bear a large burthen. A tax upon the tonnage of steam vessels, would, however, be much more just, convenient and satisfactory, than the poll-tax proposed. The House, and he was sure the country, could not fail to see that the principle of all those taxes was that of equalization, with the view of putting all the manufactures of the country upon the same footing. As to the duties on timber, he thought they ought to be so regulated as to equalize the price of that which came from the Baltic, and that which came from Canada. By the present mode of measuring timber, that of Norway was almost driven from our markets; and as we had once done Norway an injury, he hoped that on this occasion we should do her ample justice.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
observed, that all the remarks which his right hon. friend (Sir James Graham) had made, with reference to the proposed transfer duties, now abandoned, were made quite historically. There could not be a greater error than to suppose that the Ministers thought for a moment of being themselves unjust in the imposition of the tax; still less, that they attempted to justify such supposed injustice by the supposed injustice of their predecessors. Such conduct would be as opposite to their general principles as to the particular case under consideration. As the tax had now been abandoned, he should not dwell upon it any further than to say, that any breach of faith with the public creditor, was as far from the minds of the Ministers of the Crown as any idea could be. On the determination to maintain inviolate the faith of the Government with the creditor of the State, there was amongst them no second opinion; and with reference to what had fallen from the hon. Gentlemen 519 opposite, he must be permitted to say, that not one member of the Government dissented from the principles they laid down; but let it not go forth to the public, that there ever had been, under any circumstances, a declared intention on the part of his Majesty's Government to violate the solemn engagements of the country. On the part of his right hon. friend the member for Armagh, he could not help saying, that it was rather un candid in him to refer to the surplus of 1830, which he boasted of as being 2,600,000l., the present Government were not dealing with that, they had to deal with the possible surplus of 1831. He was perfectly ready to admit that to ascertain the surplus was not within their reach; neither, with a contemplated reduction of taxes to the amount of 2,700,000l. could he look to the strong probability of their having an actual large surplus. The present Government did not attempt to say, that it could reckon upon a surplus of more than 300,000l.; what, in fact, it might turn out to be, time alone could determine; but the advisors of the Crown had, at least, the satisfaction of knowing, as well as the right hon. Gentleman, that the resources of the country were not impaired, and that they had the best grounds for calculating that they would be enabled to develope new sources of prosperity. He would not ask his right hon. friend, if the present Ministers had not those resources as much at their command as the late Administration; but referring to the estimates, he thought he had a right to anticipate for his friends near him, a more enlarged revenue than even that which had been attained by the former Administration; and he begged the House to recollect, that the surplus of the present Government was achieved by reduction, and, therefore, he hoped more grateful to the country, and more acceptable to the House, than the surplus of any former Government. It had been affirmed, on the other side of the House, that the whole scheme of his noble friend was anti-colonial—it was no such thing—he denied the fact; the observations of his noble friend did not at all deserve the application of such a term. The hon. member for Armagh said, that it was the duty of the Government to view the colonies as being wholly dependent upon us, and he quite agreed, that, as they were not represented, that House ought to extend to them a larger 520 sympathy, and a wider benevolence; but still that larger sympathy and that wider benevolent, should be tempered with justice and discretion, and they should not be deterred from a measure which they believed to be just because they might be stigmatized as being anti-colonial. As to the charge of their dealing ungenerously with the colonists at the Capo of Good Hope, he had thus much to observe, that nothing could be more unfounded than the idea that they proposed to put an end to the introduction of Cape wine, because that manufacture was decaying—no such thing, they protected it for a time, and finding that protection unavailing, they gave it up: it was quite a misrepresentation of his noble friend's argument, to torture it into a charge against the Government of abandoning a manufacture because it was in a state of decay. That argument was, that the benevolence of former Governments had failed in producing the good intended. There was benevolence, but it was not a wise benevolence: hence, then, they gave up what was no longer useful, and they threw their arms wide open to the products of a country, the nearest, and one that ought to be the most friendly in Europe. The measure to which he referred, was one step in the march of commercial legislation, saying to neighbouring States, you may do right or wrong, but your errors shall form no example to us—we shall continue to assert and to act upon the principle of justice and enlightened legislation. He next came to the objections to the proposed tax on timber, and here he had the authority of the hon. member for Totness, against that of the hon. member for Armagh. If he was to be told that Government was now pursuing an anti-colonial line of policy, he would ask the hon. member for Armagh to inquire if the present state of the duties was useful to Canada? He would ask him to inquire if the timber trade had proved at all effectual towards the improvement of either wealth or manners in that country. He requested hon. Members to look to the state of that part of Canada where the timber trade chiefly prevailed, and they would find that the condition of the people was anything but in a satisfactory state. So much for the present state of that colony. Let it now be seen what effect a change of system might produce. It was also important to bear in mind, that much 521 timber came from Canada, which, in fact, was American timber, imported from the United Suites into Canada. It was still more extraordinary, that much timber imported into this country, from Canada, was not the growth of any part of the American Continent. Timber was actually largely shipped from the Baltic, and, having arrived in Canada, it acquired the character and privileges of Canadian timber. He might be told, indeed, that this argument was against him, as regarded the shipping interest; but here again he might refer to the hon. member for Totness, who had taken a different view of the case. How, then, the Canadians could benefit by having Memel timber unshipped upon their coasts, and reshipped again as Canadian timber, he was at a loss to conceive. He perceived that his right hon. friend appeared to dissent, but he would ask him if he did not know that this sort of intercourse was kept up, even until the present moment. It was —and is a species of fraud which ought and would be put an end to by the duty in future to be imposed. If he might so far separate himself from official connection, and speak as a mere Member of Parliament, he should congratulate his own country on the statement of his noble friend. He should not compare the present with past Budgets, else he might, by the use of the shadows they supplied, make the relief stronger. By the present Budget, considerable assistance was given to the Irish manufactures. One of the changes proposed would, for example, enable the distillers of Belfast to compete with their North British rivals. He defended the original proposition respecting both glass and tobacco; but at the same time observed, that his Majesty's Government had exercised a sound discretion in withdrawing those propositions which did not prove palateable to Parliament. That House was the proper place for submitting measures of taxation, for the purpose of hearing from hon. Gentlemen what their views were upon each distinct proposition, and having it modified according as circumstances might render necessary. He denied that any want of attention to the condition of the country was betrayed; on the contrary, every disposition, he would maintain, had been shewn, to minister to the wants and improve the condition of the people.
§ Mr. North
began by observing upon the gross inconsistency which there was, in 522 the noble Lord's affirming at one time, that he would rather risk a civil war than adopt a single measure in the slightest degree calculated to endanger the Union between England and Ireland, and coming forward, within a few days afterwards, with a tax upon steam-boat passengers. He knew there were some hon. Members of that House who looked with satisfaction upon a prohibition which should have the effect of excluding Irish labourers from this country; but he begged to be allowed to tell those hon. Gentlemen, that such satisfaction was absurd and preposterous. The harvest which those poor men came over to reap was too valuable to admit of their being retained by any such consideration as so small a tax. They might be assured, that those poor men, in spite of all such obstacles, would still find their way across the Channel. Besides, they would feel it as a grievance, and, what was not always the case with Irish grievances, it would be a severe and substantial grievance. This was the measure proposed by the noble Lord, who hoped so sincerely to preserve the union between the two countries. Did he hope, by such a measure, to reconcile the people of Ireland to a connection with this country? There was, however, another part of the scheme which had a reference to Ireland—he alluded to the stamps on newspapers. But a few months ago, the utmost aversion was manifested to an equalization and assimilation of the duties on newspapers in England and Ireland, depriving the Irish newspapers of the comparative advantage they had before possessed. The measure of the noble Lord in the present year would have precisely the same effect that he so loudly deprecated last year, and the same ferment and agitation as before would be excited throughout Ireland. There could be no doubt that the condition of Irish newspaper proprietors would now be much worse than it had been. He sincerely rejoiced at the withdrawal of the transfer duties; and he should certainly have looked upon the proposed duty in the light of a violation of public faith, had it not been for the explanation afforded from the other side. It certainly would have been as gross a violation of public faith as ever had been committed. And how did the noble Lord and his right hon. friends defend it? They said, "We are now doing a wrong, because others before us 523 have done the same;" though all that had been denied or explained away by the right hon. Baronet and the hon. member for Limerick; but as it stood originally, there could not be imagined a more evident infraction of a contract than that involved in the tax of the noble Lord. In a contract so obvious, could their disregard of it be so remarkable, or their inadvertence so great, as that they could not perceive what any plain man would take to be the plain meaning of plain words? But it was very unimportant to the public, whether what they did was the result of deliberate intention or of ignorance—the effect was exactly the same. The right hon. Baronet, on the other side, had so entirely misconceived the nature of the question, as to suppose that the intended transfer duty was not in direct violation of the express words of an Act of Parliament. No doubt it was a matter of frequent occurrence, that Statutes should be altered or repealed; but the difference between the case of the repeal of an Act of Parliament and the breach of a contract, was just this, that in the latter, the Parliament was acting, not alone in its legislative capacity, but in the situation of a party to a contract, and one wherein it had received a consideration. It was a binding —a contract—and nothing but a contract, and was so understood by all the parties concerned. One argument had been adduced in support of the noble Lord's proposition, which, he believed, was derived from the newspapers—namely, that in the Act in question, relative to the fundholders, the words occur, "every Act to the contrary notwithstanding." From the insertion of these words, it was contended that when this Act was passed, there was no looking forward to other Acts that might subsequently be thought advisable. In reply to this, he would say, however, that there were some of the Acts relating to the fundholders in which these words do not occur; in addition to which he might use another argument, which had been already used by the hon. Member, who represented the city of London, and whose evidence they had, that it was always understood by the fundholders that they should not be liable to this species of taxation. The arguments on the other side of the House appeared to be this: "Pitt encroached a little, and we are, therefore, justified in a similar encroachment." The only way of getting rid of the obstacle to that duty 524 which those Acts presented, was furnished by following the example of one of the characters in the Tale of a Tub. There the will of the father, under which the three brothers derived, prohibited their use of any fantastical ornaments; they were bound to wear a plain coat; however, when shoulder-knots became the fashion, they looked in the will, and found no express restriction; then came gold-lace, and the same result followed; but, at length, they desired silver fringe, and in the twenty-fifth section—the same, be it observed, that the imposers of the tax had to deal with, the twenty-fifth section was as follows:—"I do hereby strictly command, under heavy penalties, that no silver fringe be attached," &c. &c. That was too clear and manifest to be mistaken, and it was found that the only safe course was, to lock up the will in a strong box; and, whenever the Ministers of the Crown contemplated a violation of public faith, all they had to do was, to follow the same course with the Statutes. But now as they were told, that this measure of a transfer-duty was to be abandoned it was important that the abandonment should be understood to have been made out of respect for national faith; for if given up upon any other ground, it would bring with it its own punishment; and Government would, in future, be powerless and impotent to contract further debts. He, therefore, for these, as well as for other reasons, felt bound to require, at the hands of the Government, a distinct recognition of the principle upon which the measure was relinquished—namely, the necessity of being bound by contracts as between the State and the public creditor.
Mr. Charles Grant
said, it was rather unfortunate that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman had not been delivered that evening before the intention of his noble friend had been announced to the House. It was a very good speech, but it obviously was intended to form part of a debate that was expected, which, unfortunately for the speaker, did not take place. The speech was too late, and, besides, there could be no speech less calculated to conciliate the House—none more formed to excite angry feelings between the two countries—no speech more calculated, though without any intention on the part of the hon. and learned Gentle-man, to excite feelings which no true patriot would desire to see called into 525 activity. He certainly would not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through the whole course of his observations, but he must take the liberty of complaining of the something more than insinuations which he threw out against the candour and honesty of his noble friend, when every other Gentleman who took a part in the debate, bore testimony to that candour and honesty in the warmest terms— there was not a man in or out of the House who, speaking of the subject, did not express the fullest confidence in that candour and integrity. Something had been said of declamation—how far the speech they had just heard should or should not be considered altogether declamation, the House must decide. As to what the hon. and learned Gentleman had said about a violation of public faith, he thought he had a right to complain of the insinuation so conveyed, and he did so, "more in sorrow than in anger." The present Government never contemplated any proceeding that could be justly open to the charge of being a breach of public faith. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, had taken up a position, in which he could not allow him to remain, without shewing its incorrectness. He had asserted, that this proposal was not intended to be withdrawn by Ministers, until they were convinced that it was a violation of the public faith. He complained that any hon. Gentleman in the House should deliberately inform the public, that the Ministers had sanctioned a measure without a conviction that it was consistent with the public faith; and he must also protest against the conclusion, that withdrawing it, was a confession that they had been guilty of a want of integrity. The Budget was laid before Parliament, as all such statements were, for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of the House, and of obtaining information from various quarters. It was the duty of Government to propose what it thought to be right, and submit to the judgment of the House as to the expediency or the inexpediency of adopting such propositions. This had been the principle on all former occasions; it had been the principle in the case of Mr. Pitt, and it was his firm conviction, that nothing had been proposed of which an honest man had need to be ashamed. It was the duty of the Ministers, feeling that their 526 intentions were consistent with the public faith, to submit their opinions for the approval of the House. It was the duty of the Ministers to observe the impression made upon the House and the country; he therefore trusted, that by pursuing that course, they had entitled themselves to the approbation of both. The hon. and learned Gentleman had addressed himself to two particular topics: the first of these was the Steam Passengers' tax. Much might be said as to the necessity of encouraging the intercourse between the two countries; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had himself answered his own charge, because he had stated, that the tax now proposed would not prevent the influx of Irishmen. If the hon. Gentleman believed that English gentlemen wished, by direct legislation, to increase the miseries and oppression of Ireland, he was totally mistaken. He had not expected to have heard an insinuation that the interests of Ireland were forgotten or neglected by English gentlemen. He regretted that such an insinuation should have come from such a quarter. He verily believed, that no class of persons were more heartily interested in the prosperity of Ireland than the gentlemen of England. How often, and to his knowledge, had committees of that House sat day after day, inquiring into the condition of the peasantry of Ireland, and making themselves acquainted with the daily life and ordinary habits of that people. He therefore repelled the accusation, and he trusted that the Irish people would not believe it, in the face of the strong manner in which the English Members of that House had manifested their sympathy with the sufferings of the Irish people [cries of "No, no!" from O'Gorman Mahon, replied to by cheers from various parts of the House; the hon. member however, repeated his denial]. He confessed he was sorry to hear the sentiments of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. North) reechoed from that (the Ministerial) side of the House; and he did hope that, notwithstanding the unfavourable interpretation put upon the conduct of Ministers by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the House would bear them out in the assertion, that they had done nothing to serve one country at the expense of the other. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them, that last year it was proposed to raise the Irish newspaper-stamp-duties; but 527 why could he not have left that question as it was? The present Government had not so much as alluded to that measure. On the contrary, they had preserved a most religious silence with respect to it. Why, then, had the hon. and learned Gentleman, in the warmth of his not declamation, raked up this matter? Why, after working on the feelings of the Irish against the present Government, had he forbade them flying for refuse to the last Government? The last Government would have actually increased that duty; the present Government, on the contrary, left it as it was. Where, then, was the cause of complaint? Where was the cause of dissatisfaction? But he supposed that here they were to find the reciprocity of the hon. and learned Gentleman; for his complaint was, not that the Government was going to raise the Irish duty, nor even that it was going to equalise the duties. The duties levied in Ireland were now lower than those levied in England. It was proposed to approximate them; and this was to be made matter of complaint! It was a great grievance for Ireland, forsooth, that she was left with lower duties than England.
§ Mr. George Robinson
said, that in his opinion, the noble Lord proposed to hazard the interests of the Cape of Good Hope and Canada, without making sure of reaping any advantage from France or Norway, whose commerce would be benefited by the proposed alteration. Had France shown the slightest disposition towards reciprocity since we had withdrawn a portion of the duty on her wines? Had she not, on the contrary, persevered most resolutely in her former rule of commerce? He, therefore, contended, that this country would do better to remain in its present situation till France manifested a disposition to reciprocate with us [loud coughing and talking]. If he was not to be heard, after all the declamation that had been delivered that night, he would assert his privilege, and move the Adjournment of the Debate. He thought the hon. member for Limerick (Mr. Rice) had failed in his defence of the noble Lord's statement; for his argument seemed to be, that they ought to abandon the colonies in their difficulties, and trust to the chance of other countries. At present, the kingdom of Portugal took our manufactures to the amount of 2,000,000l. sterling, at a duty 528 of fifteen per cent less than the manufactures of any other country; that kingdom also took from Newfoundland a large portion of the fish, which was the staple commodity of that colony. Now he would ask, was it not likely that Portugal, in answer to the proposed alteration of the noble Lord, would assimilate the duties on these imports? He should, therefore, take an opportunity in the Committee to combat the proposed alteration in the duties on Wines and Timber. He would conclude by asking the noble Lord a question; namely—Was it true that the boundary question, between the United States and the English possessions in North America, had been settled by the King of Holland; and if so, how soon was the public to be made aware of the decision?
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Grant) that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. North) was a day after the fair with his speech. If, indeed, the noble Lord had persisted in his measure with respect to the transfer duty on Stock, the speech would have done; but that noble Lord having, with the manliness and consistency which belonged to his character, abandoned the scheme, he could not help thinking that the hon. and learned Gentleman (notwithstanding his speech was prepared beforehand) might have abstained from reciting it. With respect to the repeal of the tax upon Coals, he thought that it would be found of great advantage to the country at large, and particularly to those who were connected with the coast of Yorkshire. The principle by which the noble Lord had declared himself to be actuated was, that of removing taxation as much as possible from the productive industry of the country. A better principle than that was never laid down; and what the noble Lord had done was good; it was only to be wished that he could have gone further. In particular, it was very desirable that the tax on soap should have been lowered, as it was of great importance to the lower classes, both as regarded their cleanliness and their health. The duty on malt could not entirely be taken off, but he thought that a portion of it might be repealed. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Grant) had stated, that English Members felt sympathy for the affairs of Ireland, he (Mr. Duncombe) had been surprised to hear that denied by the hon. member for Clare (O'Gorman Ma- 529 hon). He could, however, assure that hon. Gentleman, that he would never lend himself, directly or indirectly, to any measure which would, like that for the Repeal of the Union, be prejudicial to the interests of Ireland, and disadvantageous to the welfare of both countries. He did not apprehend that such a measure could ever succeed; but he would join the noble Lord in his observation of a former evening, that he would rather embrace the dreadful alternative of a civil war, than submit to so fatal an event as the dismemberment of the empire.
said, that called upon as he had been by the hon. member for Yorkshire, he could not refrain from addressing the House. He thanked that hon. Member for the sympathy he had professed for that country, of which he (O'Gorman Mahon) was one of the Representatives. The noble Lord, however, had declared, that he would resort to civil war, which certainly was not a mode of diction most complimentary to persons in his situation, when they were expecting sympathy for their country. He was delighted with what had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Drogheda (Mr. North), because he had shown the injustice of the proposed tax on poor Irish labourers coming over to this country in steam-boats, for such was the object of this tax of 2s. 6d. a head on every person who travelled in those conveyances above a certain number of miles. Now he did not suppose that many hon. Members were aware of the geographical position of Ireland, so far as to know that this tax implicated the Irish labourers [a laugh]. He did not know why there should be a laugh at that, for it was not so very long ago that the Lord High Chancellor had told them in that House, that he was able to look round and see many who could not count five on their fingers: Why, then, should not he (O'Gorman Mahon) suppose that the particular geographical situation of Ireland was unknown to some hon. Gentlemen? [cries of "Oh, oh!"] He thanked them for their "Oh!" It was just with that same cry that Lord Brougham's observation had been received, and he therefore felt highly complimented at being received in the same manner. Another reason why he was pleased with the speech of the hon. and learned member for Drogheda was, that it declared him to be a staunch 530 anti-Unionist. Never again could the hon. and learned Gentleman raise his voice against the Repeal of the Union; never again could he be a supporter of the Bible Society—so abhorred by Ireland. He had, in the early part of the evening, listened to the cheer which had followed the statement of the Secretary for Ireland, when he declared, that no compromise had taken place with respect to the legal proceedings that had been instituted there. He was glad to hear that no compromise had taken place, for he should have been sorry to see any Government descend to a compromise of any kind. At the same time, he congratulated the men on the other side of the water on their having returned a plea of Guilty, for it was their only resource [cheers and laughter]. He expected another cheer when he finished his sentence. He said, that they had no other resource—being prosecuted under a penal Act, which had been designated by the now Ministerial side of that House, by the present Lord High Chancellor, and by the present Premier, as bad, penal, unjust, and unconstitutional: they had no other resource, for they had to deal with a Jury not chosen by the people, but picked out by the Sheriff, how he pleased and where he pleased, this Jury, too, to be backed with the declaration of the noble Lord, that though Mr. O'Connell's speeches always began by recommending peace, they ended with what would bring about rebellion and sedition. Under these circumstances, he again said, -that they had only to enter their plea of Guilty, for they could expect no justice after such a declaration, and with a Jury who would not give them fair play [cries of "Question!"]. Gentlemen had spoken of the East and West-Indies, and there had been no cry of Question—they had spoken of the difference between a halfpenny and a penny, and there had been no cry of Question— why, then, was Question to be called when he spoke of Ireland—a country that they called their sister, and professed to wish still to be united with? The hon. Gentleman then concluded by contending, that the growth of tobacco in Ireland ought to have full justice allowed it. As he understood the matter, it was to be taxed as seed, and when it was ripe, it would be tithed by the parson. It might happen, that the tax paid to the State, and the tithe paid to the priest, and 531 the labour the poor man bestowed on the soil would be all that he would reap. That would be the case should the crop fail. And if its seed was to be taxed before it was put into the ground, and the produce of the seed was to be pounced upon by the parson to support a Church which might be considered a blessing here, but which was called a curse in Ireland, it would be in vain to hope that the growth would prosper.
§ Mr. Attwood
contended, that the noble Lord might have proceeded with his tax on the transfer of Stock without any rupture of the public faith. The only question was, whether it was just to put a tax upon funded property which was common to all the other property of the country; and he would ask, whether there was any other property in this country that could be transferred without paying duty? In fact, the stamp-duty, which was a most important portion of the revenue, chiefly arose from the transfer of property; and why should not the funds be available in their due proportion for an object which acted as their own protection? The right hon. Baronet below him (Sir R. Peel) had spoken at great length on this tax being a violation of the national faith, but he had been silent on this topic when many other violations of faith, much more flagrant, had been sanctioned by that House. When that bill was passed by the House the act of 1819, which repeated an injustice of the same character and to the same extent, though upon a different class of persons, as that which was effected by the Restriction Act of 1797, the right hon. Baronet quite forgot the national faith. He then said not one word on the subject. The alteration that made in all money contracts was great, and was admitted at the time to be at least five per cent. The difficulties it had caused could not be estimated; but with the knowledge of those difficulties —which were admitted by Mr. Ricardo, who acknowledged that he had underestimated the depreciation; and which were also admitted by the hon. member for Dorset shire, who had taken part in promoting that measure, to have been very great, the alteration being at first stated at four percent, and afterwards at twenty, thirty, or even forty per cent, or even at an amount which was quite uncertain, but the unfortunate consequences of which were still in operation—to that measure the right hon. Baronet did not make one 532 objection as a violation of the national faith. Let the noble Lord, then, console himself, for his measures did not deserve, on that account, the same amount of condemnation as the measures which had preceded them, and been sanctioned by the right hon. Baronet, who now opposed the measures of the noble Lord. Certainly, he thought the noble Lord's measures, at a period when every thing was in a state of uncertainty; when Europe was in a disturbed state, and discontent prevailed in England, were at least ill-timed. He agreed with the Ministers in their desire to maintain peace, and wished it to be preserved, if that could be done with honour; but it had not been yet discovered that the best way to maintain peace was to be unprepared for war. He trusted that the Ministers, in proclaiming their desire to preserve peace, and their readiness to preserve it at any reasonable sacrifice, would not forget what was due to the honour of the country. He trusted that the noble Lord would weigh well the difficulties of the country abroad, and prepare himself for war, and that the country would be exhibited to the world in such an attitude as to dread no hostility, and be prepared to meet it when it was necessary to maintain our honour and our security. He was sorry to see that the Ministers did not pursue the wise course of adopting an inquiry into the difficulties of the country, and the means of removing them. He was sorry to see them pursuing a course, and introducing measures, which, in the present circumstances of the country, could yield it no benefit, and would produce a great deal of disappointment and mortification, of which they would be the victims. The country required a change of system, and looked for comprehensive measures; and the noble Lord would find himself mistaken if he supposed that a deduction of 300,000l. from an expenditure of 50,000,000l. would satisfy the country. That, too, was to be attended with the danger of a violation of the national faith, from any defalcation of the revenue; and how was the revenue to be preserved from future defalcations? In the first part of the noble Lord's speech, he spoke as if he had an abundant Exchequer, and had no other object in view than to relieve the industrious people from their burthens; but what a different spectacle did his speech exhibit at the end? At first, he 533 took off taxes; but at the end he put them on. Then the scene was changed, and he could not but admire the adroitness of the noble Lord, which was not surpassed by that of Mr. Pitt, in finding out and imposing new taxes. What worthless labour was here! What industry thrown away! What toil, without an object! What change, without a motive! A change too, that could not be completed, that was not to be completed, and that could only end in mortification; it could have no beneficial result. The country was against the change of taxes, and it could not be carried into effect; it was against any taxes that were to be put on any part of trade, with which it was the duty of every Government not rashly to meddle. According to the information which he had received, all trade was at a stand. People naturally suspended their operations till they knew what taxes were to be taken off, and what taxes were to be put on. The noble Lord said, he meant to take the tax off glass—did that manufacture, then, labour under any serious oppression? He believed not, nor did he believe that any immediate benefit would result from taking off the tax. It was one of which no individual complained. Glass, it was now expected, was to be exported in large quantities; but that would be at a distant period. The stream of prosperity would not flow quite so fast as the right hon. Member, the Vice-president of the Board of Trade, supposed. But the conduct of the Government was to him extraordinary and inconceivable, for it exposed the cotton manufacture to the same disadvantage from which it relieved glass. There was already a drawback on glass, and this was all that could be given to cotton. The Government had taken the tax off raw silk, not for fiscal purposes, but to encourage the manufacture; and now they impose a tax on cotton, so that one was to be encouraged, and the other discouraged. Ministers were walking in one eternal round of trifling changes, and were sporting with the best interests of the community. The noble Lord had himself admitted that timber was not a fit object for taxation, yet he had increased the tax on timber. Why did he do that? Was it to give employment to our own people? The hon. member for Bridport, who was an authority on this subject, did not think it would have any such effect. He must argue against the political economists, 534 and against the hon. Member, on another subject. The hon. Member said, that the growth of tobacco ought to be prohibited in Ireland, because it could not be grown without a bounty; but surely, if it could not be grown without a bounty, there was no reason for prohibiting it. In his opinion, it was a strange policy which would not allow the land and labour of the empire to supply the home market. Whether it was the result of fiscal regulations, or of any other, the people were not now free to dispose of their labour and produce. Let them be free to do that, and much of the present clamour would be done away; let, he said, our own markets be opened to the produce of our land and labour. There remained only one other tax on which he should say a few words—that was the tax on steam-passage boats. If that tax were imposed in a time of great emergency, he should protest against it as a most objectionable tax. It would press with more severity on an important branch of our industry than any tax which had been taken off. It was a measure which, in his opinion, was more hostile to sound policy, in the present circumstances of the country, than any which could be conceived. The art of steam-navigation was yet in its infancy, but there could be no doubt that it was destined to become a most important branch of the national wealth, and a powerful arm of war. Hither to unprotected, but untaxed, it had produced those engaged in it little advantage, and on these accounts it was one of the last things that ought to be subject to a tax. If any branch of national industry deserved, on account of its importance, to be encouraged by a a bounty, steam-navigation was that branch; and there was scarcely a Power in Europe which was not giving bounties and encouragements to raise its steam-navigation on a par with ours. America, Russia, France, Holland, were all encouraging that art, and were using all their means to increase this as a means both of traffic and of war, which made it indispensable that we should keep our steam-boats up to the highest possible point. The tax would operate most mischievously in narrowing the market for Irish labourers. He had been informed by an individual at Liverpool, that he brought over 80,000 persons from Ireland in one year, and carried as many as 80,000 back. He knew it was said to be desirable to keep the Irish out of England, but while 535 the two countries were united, the Legislature had no right to obstruct the Irish in bringing their labour to the English market. There was little demand for it at home, and there was more here than there, and here they had a right to come. This was levying a tax: on an object that ought never to be taxed—it was taxing the wages of labour—it was taxing the rags and the potatoes of the poor Irish labourers and he could describe it in no other terms than as the most oppressive tax that ever entered the head of man. Whom did it affect here? Why, the humble tradesman and his family, who found pleasure, amusement, and health, in escaping by these cheap and easy conveyances from the dense atmosphere and crowded streets of London. It would be better to invent a tax for staying in the metropolis—better to find out some plan for driving away some of the people occasionally, than invent a tax to make them remain here all the year round. These were his views. He considered the measures unworthy of the noble Lord, and not adapted to the state of the country. They would find no recommendation in the public sentiment, none in the desire for economy and retrenchment; they were unworthy to meet the difficulties, and would not secure the support of the country.
§ Mr. Shaw
could not refrain from making an observation on what the member for Clare said of Dublin Juries. If the hon. member for Waterford were in the House, he would repudiate the sentiments of the hon. member for Clare, for he had frequently expressed his confidence in a Dublin Jury. Never was there a fairer Jury impanelled than the Dublin Jury, and the hon. member for Clare had cast improper reflections on the character of men with whom he was utterly unacquainted.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he had waited now nearly five hours, with great patience, in listening to a discussion upon the subject of what the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given up within five minutes after he had entered the House. Within those walls, a discussion on the necessity of keeping up the public faith, as it had been termed, was perhaps very amusing or interesting; but he would assure them, that out. of doors, no such anxiety on this subject existed, and they might have tossed up for the right to invade or preserve it, and settled the question in five minutes, without exciting any 536 great sensation in the public. Some on his side of the House, and others on the Treasury side of the House, had expressed their anxiety that the public faith should be preserved; yet, after all they had said, it was clear they were prepared to go a great way in the changes proposed by the noble Lord; and what, after all, was this but a violation of the public faith? Before he had the honour of a seat in that House, he used to imagine that Parliament had amazing powers vested in it; that it could make or unmake, enact or repeal; in fact, that it could make white black, and black white. They might laugh, but he full well recollected something happened very like it on the Currency question, fifteen years ago, when, although it was well known guineas were selling openly at 27s. apiece, and the Bank-note was exchanged for no more than 14s., the House of Commons of England voted that the one-pound Bank-note and 1s. was fully worth a guinea. The fact, however, was not questioned, that Parliament had the power, and exercised that power, of revising or repealing any law. For his part, he saw no just reason why all the laws should not, as in America, be revised generally every seven years. He could see no just reason why we should legislate for our posterity, or attempt to bind them. He felt the repeal of the coal duties would be received as a boon by the whole country, and more particularly so as it was the first act by which the present Ministry demonstrated its anxiety to extend relief to the poorer classes. The alterations in newspaper duties would carry with them the approbation of every man in that House but one. The removal of the tax from printed calicoes would prove most conducive to the comfortable clothing of the lower classes, but he regretted to find, that by the imposition of 1d. per pound duty on the raw material, cotton, an impost of nearly 25 per cent fell on the poorer classes, while it would be found not to affect the higher more than two or three per cent. As to tobacco, he was, he confessed, glad the right hon. Gentleman had abandoned the idea of taking off the duty upon it, which he considered a very proper tax on a filthy and disgusting habit, now becoming so general, that it was impossible to pass through the streets to the House without having some whiskered dandy whisking the smoke of tobacco in one's face, or enter a stage-coach without being 537 insulted by the fume of a cigar. Let the lovers of filthy smoking and chewing pay for the dirty luxury. He was glad the tax was to continue. As to the duties on glass, he did not value their reduction at all. They were too inconsiderable to be any relief, and they were not paid by the classes whose interest he was most solicitous about. It was absurd to talk of taking off the duty on glass merely, whilst they continued the tax on windows. This little paring and nibbling might furnish talk, and prove agreeable, perhaps, to the House, but he would tell Ministers, it would never prove satisfactory to the public. Ministers had taken the reins of Government under solemn pledges of reform, economy, and non-intervention. Was he here to attack all Administrations? No. He would do justly by all; and, therefore, he should say, he felt that the last Government had done much for the country in the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, the Catholic Relief Bill, and the Repeal of the Beer Bill. God be praised, the clay was gone by when the poor man was obliged to pay 10s. a barrel more for his beer than the rich man who brewed it for himself! The discontented petitions said it was of no use—that it would not be felt, nor increase the home brewing; and, lastly, that it would create general drunkenness. What was the fact? He had heard in his tour in Hampshire and Wiltshire that the maltsters could not make malt fast enough to supply the home brewers; and so far from its creating drunkenness— [loud coughing]. He would, if the subject were unpalateable to some Members, move the adjournment before twelve o'clock—[cries of "No, no!" and loud coughing]. If the Members of that House thought to cough him down they calculated erroneously. He thanked the late Ministers for what they had done when in office; but he would ask any man who had watched public opinion, whether the country would be satisfied with what the present Ministers proposed to do for them in the way of alleviating the public burthens? They must, if they hoped to effect any great improvement in the condition of the public, and particularly of the poorer and struggling classes, repeal the house and window-tax, the soap-duties, and levy at once a graduated property-tax, which all would hail with pleasure, except, perhaps, a few land proprietors. If they did not do so, the worthy Gentlemen on this side 538 of the House would not fail shortly to take the places of the members of Administration, and their resignation would be heard of by the people at large without any sympathy or sorrow. He regretted the attempt to raise an impost on steam, which he denounced as the first attempt of any Ministry to throw positive impediments in the way of the lower classes exerting themselves to the best of their ability in procuring for themselves a livelihood. It was impossible to say that a Government adopting such a line of conduct had the interest of the labouring classes at heart. Indeed, the public had already taken its stand in some places; for instance, at a meeting in a part of Sussex, when Sir Godfrey Webster was in the Chair, it was resolved not to pay any taxes till some relief from taxation had been obtained—[A violent coughing, and cries of "Question, question!"] He said, as he could not be heard, he would not hesitate any longer to put the question of adjournment.
§ The Motion being formally made, amidst loud manifestations of dissatisfaction, the Speaker inquired if any one seconded it?
rose and seconded it. He admitted, that the hon. Member had been heard through a great part of his speech, but as he was interrupted at the close, he felt bound to second the Motion, and under similar circumstances he would always do the same.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
observed, that if this very inconvenient mode were to be adopted every night, to the great interruption of the public business, it would be necessary to make a very material alteration in the Standing Order, so as to ensure the public business being done.
§ The Speaker
informed the hon. Member that he might do so, with the permission of the House, but he could not again speak.
§ Lord Althorp
suggested, as the House occasionally permitted deviations from its rules that it should then hear out the hon. Member.
§ The Speaker
stated, that it was of course quite competent for the House to decide on hearing him again if they were so inclined, notwithstanding any rule or order which might otherwise render such a proceeding irregular and inadmissible.
§ The question was then put that the report be brought up.