§ Lord Althorp moved, that the Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Committee of Ways and Means be read.
§ Mr. Cobbett
thought, that was a proper time for him to offer some observations to the House. He had already mentioned, that there was a mass of taxes amounting to eight millions annually, of which the nobility, clergy, and great landowners, paid little or nothing, but which fell almost exclusively upon the tradesman, the farmer, the workman, and the industrious classes generally. He had proposed to bring forward a Resolution recommending the House to take this subject into their consideration. It had since occurred to him, that whilst the unfortunate question of Irish affairs was before the House, it would be better for him to defer bringing forward his Motion until that great question was finally settled. He mentioned this, lest the House should imagine that he meant to abandon his Motion.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that he wished the hon. member for Oldham had brought forward his Motion, or, at least, that he had not intimated his intention of abandoning it in such a manner as to propound an argument, and cause an inference. He disputed the argument, and he denied the inference. He would tell the hon. Gentleman, that all he asked of the House and of him, was a clear stage and no favour. He would dispute every inch with the hon. Gentleman. He denied that there had been, on the part of the Parliament, any disposition to oppress the people. It might suit the object of the hon. Gentleman to make such statements. But he would meet him—aye, he would meet him—he was not afraid to cope with him—yes, he would cope with him foot to foot, and shoulder to shoulder, and might God defend the right! The hon. Member 386 might profit by the privelege of Parliament, to put any fallacies in print for the purpose of deluding the people; but such a system should be exposed—he would expose it, by himself he would do so. The hon. member for Oldham had made one assertion, he would make another—he declared open hostility on the subject; let the discussion come, and then the public would decide.
said, the right hon. Gentleman who intimated so eager a desire for the discussion, appeared, from his state of preparation, to have an advantage over those on that side of the House. In sober sadness, however, did the right hon. Gentleman mean to deny, that the hon. member for Oldham had abstracted the schedules to the Stamp Act correctly? If he had done so, why, let him remember that vulgar arithmetic never fails. It was not denied by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he had abstracted them correctly. The only defence which the noble Lord set up was, that many other taxes were in the same situation. It was, however, of no consequence. He did not fear, although the right hon. Gentleman was so chivalrous as to dare the hon. member for Oldham to the combat. Common sense would triumph over Treasury dexterity. There was one part of the Stamp Act which he would just allude to; the stamp upon an arbitration was 20s. If the matter in dispute was worth 50,000l. it was of no consequence—it was no more. But, owing to this, the poor man was prevented from deciding questions which were to him of importance, in a cheap way, because the stamp would frequently amount to as much or more than the value of the subject in dispute.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that, in order to prevent any further disputes at present, he hoped both combatants would at once agree to appoint an early day for deciding the question between them. But, he must say, that his right hon. friend would be a much more clever man than they had yet given him credit for on that side of the House, if he could refute the proposition, that the taxes on stamps pressed unequally, and that the principal burthen was thrown upon the poorer classes. They had often heard of the influence which property ought to possess in this and that ease—of the deference which was due to property, but he thought it high time that the House should hear something about property bearing its fair share of 387 the burthens of the country. He did not doubt, that the hon. member for Oldham would not shrink from the lights although he was challenged to such fearful contiguity as foot to foot and shoulder to shoulder.
§ Mr. Fryer
said, it was absurd to attempt to deny, that the landlords had, on all occasions, thrown the burthens of the State upon the people. The people had been oppressed by the landed oligarchy of the country. He said distinctly the landowner, for the farmers had a different interest, and were really as much injured by these laws as other people. The landlord used them, indeed, as a sponge to suck up other people's property, which they afterwards squeezed out of the farmers.
§ Mr. Philip Howard
would only remark, in reference to what had fallen from the hon. member for Wolverhampton, that the price of corn was not higher than in 1772, and he did not think there was, on that score, any special ground of complaint against the agriculturist. Before the House went into a Committee of Supply, which was the proper time for the statement of such grievances as weighed most heavily on the people, he (Mr. Howard) would draw the attention of his Majesty's Ministers to the hardship of the house and window tax, particularly as it bore upon the lower class of assessments. The hon. Member further observed, that the public benefit from the repeal of a direct tax, could not possibly be defeated by combination.
§ The Report was ordered to be received.
§ On the Question that it be brought up,
§ Mr. Cobbett
rose to supply the omission which he had made. He had said, that the nobility, clergy, and landowners, had, for many years, thrown the burthen of 8,000,000l. of taxes upon the industrious classes of the community, bearing a very small part of it themselves. He omitted to say, but he would now say it, and he was prepared to prove it, that they had done so, premeditatedly, designedly, and dishonestly.
§ Mr. Aysh ford Sanford
hoped, that, when the hon. Member brought forward his Resolution, he would not forget to mention to the other side all the taxes which were borne exclusively by the landed interest, and which they had imposed upon themselves.