HC Deb 03 May 1833 vol 17 cc913-48

Lord Althorp moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.

Upon the Order of the Day being read on the question that the Speaker leave the Chair.

Mr. Cobbett

rose to make a complaint, on the part of the labouring and working classes of England and Ireland, and Scotland too, of great partiality in Taxation. He complained, upon their part, that heavy Stamp-duties and Auction-duties were laid upon them, while the rich part of his Majesty's subjects escaped the far greater of those duties. This was what he had to show to the House; but before he proceeded with his statement, he must make one or two observations upon certain reproaches that had been cast upon him at different times for having an intention, and being desirous to set the poor against the rich. Why, if a Member of Parliament must not complain that the poor were ill-treated by the rich—if he must never put forward the claims of the poor, in opposition to those of the rich, without incurring this charge—then that House must consist of the Representatives of the rich, and not of the Representatives of the poor. However, disregarding that imputation—disregarding the imputation of making statements as the hon. member for Hull had accused him of doing—(his learning and good manners had prevented him from doing so in English), for the purpose of misleading the vulgar, he would proceed with his statement, and he, in general, complained, that of eight millions of taxation, raised upon the people of this kingdom, including the cost of the collection, a very small portion indeed was paid by those who were best able to pay, and he was afraid it would appear (though he was by no means anxious that it should), that this had been done by premeditation and design, and that it could not have been done otherwise. As he had done on a former occasion when he brought forward this matter, he should submit what he had to offer to the House in the shape of Resolutions, which Resolutions, in divers successive propositions, would contain a statement of facts drawn from the Acts of Parliament themselves, and not based on any loose conjecture. What he had to state was quite undeniable—it was not to be referred to the errors of assessors, commissioners, and so forth, as the hon. Gentleman had done the other night, counting up windows and doors. Unless it could be proved that the Acts of Parliament did not exist, he could not be answered. The first Resolution was rather a prelude to the rest—it was a preamble, containing a statement which he thought would not be questioned. It was this:—

"Resolved—That an impost, which, according to the letter of the law imposing it, is made to press with greater weight on one man, or on one class of men, than on other men, or on another class of men, is, properly speaking, not a tax, but a confiscation, and the law imposing it is, if properly defined, a penal law, such as were the laws imposing double taxes on the Catholics of England, and on the Quakers of the United States of America; and that when one part of the community is compelled to pay a tax, from which another part of the same community is wholly exempted, there is a clear and undeniable confiscation; and that, if such confiscation be inflicted without crime committed by, and proved upon, the party on whom it is inflicted, such confiscation is an act of tyranny."

"This was a Resolution to which the Committee could not object. If the noble Lord said, that the taxation was not an imposition on one class from which another was exempt, then let him not complain of a graduated Property-tax, of which it had been so much the fashion to talk. Dr. Johnson had written a celebrated pamphlet called "Taxation no Tyranny;" and it was no tyranny if fairly imposed. Speaking of different districts, he had taken very good care to say, "if each part of the kingdom pays only in due proportion." The tax of which he was speaking, was no tyranny if the nobility and gentry paid in due proportion to those in the middle ranks of life; but if he showed, that those in the middle and lower ranks of life paid ten, forty, a hundred, a thousand fold more than the rich, was not that taxation a tyranny? Would Dr. Johnson have said that that taxation was not tyranny? The noble Lord, when he first came into office, had proposed a tax upon the funds, and on the transfer of stock. What frightened him out of that he (Mr. Cobbett) did not know; but that would not have been the taxation of which he was speaking. The noble Lord was certainly frightened out of that taxation, for property in the funds was not mere personal property—it was something more—it was assured by law—it was a solemn interest a fixed thing as much as freehold. But the taxes of which he spoke were of a different nature. He now came to another branch of his argument—he meant the manner in which the rich and great had guarded themselves in the enactment of the duty on stamps, and he intended to propose the following resolution:—

" By the Acts of Parliament passed on the 11th of July, 1815, being chapter 184 of the fifty-fifth of George 3rd. and by the Act passed on the 5th of August, 1822, being chapter 117 of the third of George 4th imposing certain duties on stamps, amounting annually, in the aggregate, to upwards of seven millions a-year, the utmost care has been taken to exempt the nobility and great landed proprietors from bearing any but a very small share of the burthen; and further to make the tax heavier and heavier, in proportion to the small ness of the amount of property on which it is levied; so that each tax goes on, pressing heavier and heavier, from the very rich down to the very poor, as will clearly appear by a reference to the letter of the said Acts."

These were his words, as well now as on former occasions; and if these words should prove to be true, then he trusted the House would be prepared (not with-sanding the vote of Tuesday last) to go along with him in making the taxes fall equally on all the people of these realms. He now came to the legacies, and the effect which the stamp duties had upon them. This was the Resolution he proposed on that subject:—

"By the first of the said Acts, various duties on legacies, and on property coming by intestate succession, are imposed applicable to different degrees of relationship between the legatees and the successors and the deceased, beginning at one per cent, and going on to ten per cent; but that from these duties all freehold property is wholly exempt, and, therefore, from the tax, which is, on an average, about three per cent, on all other property in the kingdom left by will, or coming by intestate succession, the estates of the nobility and landed gentry, (including the advowsons and lay-tithes) are exempted, while the father, the mother, the child, of the fundholder, the tradesman, the farmer, or other person bequeathing personal property, has one per cent to pay on the amount of the legacy or intestate succession, while a brother who has had 1,000l. left him by a brother, has 30l. to pay on this duty, and while a distant relation of the deceased has, on a legacy of the same amount, to pay 100l."

Now, unless it was asserted from the other side, and meant to contradict these facts—unless they were prepared to say that the Act of Parliament itself was untrue, where, he would ask, was the answer of the noble Lord, or the right hon. Gentleman near the noble Lord, to be found? He could hardly believe—he could hardly bring himself to believe, that if the legislators by whom these Acts were passed knew the hundredth, nay, the thousandth part of the hardship and injury they would inflict on the middling and lower classes, they would have ventured to pass them into a law. In fact there were many cases in which the whole of a legacy was absorbed by the duty, the fees of the lawyer, and other charges; so that, to the person to whom the legacy was bequeathed, it was of no benefit. One person wrote to him from the country, stating that he had been bequeathed a legacy of 50l. a-year, for himself, his wife, and children, but that he had to pay, in the first year 132l., a sum far exceeding the produce of two years of the legacy. He was obliged to borrow money to meet this enormous demand; and, in fact, if the party had not, there would have been a loss instead of a gain upon the bequest. Could it ever have been intended that this should be the law of the land? Either those who enacted these laws, knew what their effects would be, or they did not. If they did not know what those effects would be, it was time that they should be made acquainted with them; but if they did know what those effects would be, then it was time that the people should be made acquainted with the fact that they did. His next Resolution was on the probates on wills and letters of administration. It was this—

"That, in regard to the probates of wills and letters of administration, if the deceased leave property above the value of 20l., his successors have to pay a stamp duty of 10s.; that is to say, at the rate of 2l. per cent on the value of the property; but that, if the party dying leave by will any sum from 30,000l. to 500,000l the duty is only 1l. 10s. per cent; and that, in this case again, all freehold property is exempted."

He would ask the House whether this was not monstrous? Was it not, in the first place, an almost total exemption of the whole of the great estates of the country from the operation of this tax. Well, they were safe enough; they could not be touched. But then there was generally some personal property left, as the large estates, which could not be so easily protected. It, of course, must pay; but was it enacted that it should pay in a fair proportion with that of the poor man? Oh, no! How would hon. Members justify themselves in taking 45l. out of 1,000l. left to the orphan or widow (for even the poor widow was not exempted from the operation of this tax), while, from the property left by a rich bishop, amounting to some 300,000l., it took only one-half that sum? How would hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite justify this? It had been stated, that a right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), who usually sat near him (Mr. Cobbett), had paid the largest legacy duty ever paid in England—that he had paid 15,000l. But if that duty were paid, as he understood it was, on 1,000,000l. of money, the duty, at the rate paid by the poor man, ought to have amounted to 30,000l. And yet the people were called to look upon this as a noble and generous act on the part of the right hon. Baronet. But should the 1,000,000l. or the 300,000l. only pay half the poor man's proportion? Let those who appeared to understand the subject so well, and who had dared him to the combat, tell him upon what ground it was, that the 300,000l. should pay only half of the proportion paid by the single 1,000l., why should the latter pay double the proportion of the former? If he possessed one acre of land and his neighbour 1,000 acres, and if his neighbour paid 1,000 times as much duty on that land as he did for his one acre, the tax would be equal; but if the holder of the 1,000 acres paid any more than that proportion, it would be so far a confiscation of his estate. These were the principles of taxation which he had uniformly advocated, and which he held to be just. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would attend to the order in which he had made his objections, and answer them in the same order. No general answer would satisfy him, and he was sure it would not satisfy the country. The noble Lord opposite had told him on a former night, when he (Mr. Cobbett) was a little angry, and perhaps his language a little stronger than usual, "that if the nobility and great landed proprietors of the country were to be taxed in the same proportion with persons in more humble classes of life, the whole property of the country would pass away in the course of 100 years." To be sure it would, and in far less time. By a calculation made by Baron Mazeres, the most able calculator of his time, it appeared that in 16½ years the taxes would take away all the property of the country. This was literally the fact with many of the middling and some humble classes of society; they had lost their property, and were obliged to work for their bread. The poor were obliged to toil under great privations. They lived less happy lives; while those immediately above them were rendered less wealthy by this unjust, intolerant, and iniquitous tax. But the noble Lord must have mistaken him. He (Mr. Cobbett) never proposed to take away the landed estates of lords or gentlemen; he should be sorry to see any tax introduced which would have that effect. He wished not to wrong any one, but he might be allowed to ask why the rich landlord should not pay in due proportion with the poor? He wished, too, the estates of the middling classes should not be taken from them, by calling on them to pay an undue proportion of taxation. But if the estates of the middling classes were to be taken away why not take those of the higher classes also? The middling classes, aye, and the working classes too, asked why this was to be so, while they were obliged to give up the fruits of their labour. It had been said the other day that if the property of Earl Fitzwilliam had been taxed in proportion to more humble individuals, he would have to pay no less than 180,000l. Now he did not wish that the noble Lord should be called upon to pay that sum; he did not wish that the noble Lord's family should be stripped of their estate, as they undoubtedly soon would be, if called upon to pay such enormous duties; but he said it was too bad that the fortunes of men of rank should be protected, while the mid- dling classes were ruined, and that too by the very same Act of Parliament. He next came to the conveyances of estates of all descriptions, and his Resolution was—

"That in the case of conveyances of all sorts, the duty upon a thing of 5l. or any thing under 20l. value is 10s., and the duty upon a thing of 200,000l. value, or any sum above that, is 1,000l.; so that, in the latter case, it may be less than 10s. per cent on the value of the thing conveyed; and, in the former case, if of 5l. value, it is 200s. per cent on the value of the thing conveyed; and thus, in this case, the poor man pays twenty times as much tax as the rich man on precisely the same sort of property, and under the same Act of Parliament; and that, as the Act will show, the weight of the duty goes on increasing from 10s. per cent to 200s. per cent, exactly in the proportion that the value of the property becomes smaller and smaller in amount."

His next Resolution related to leases, and this would exhibit another instance of the injustice that was done by these Acts to the labouring classes, viz.:—

"That in the case of leases of lands, tenements, &c., where the yearly rent is 5l., the Stamp-duty is 1l., or twenty per cent; but when the yearly rent is 1,000l., or any sum above that, the Stamp-duty is 10l., or one per cent; and that the tax goes on, from 400l. a-year rental to 5l. a-year rental, getting heavier and heavier, but increasing in the small rentals in a most disproportionate manner."

Now, the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had stated, when he brought forward this subject on a former occasion, that the poor man did not suffer under these duties. Before he went further he would read to the House a letter from a poor man in Cornwall, which would show, that the contrary was the case. The writer of that letter referred to three Members of Parliament, whom as he, (the writer) said, he was sure would assist him (Mr. Cobbett) in his endeavours to remove the pressure of those taxes. Would those hon. Members afford him their assistance? He sincerely hoped they might be found ready to do so. The hon. Member proceeded to read the letter, in which the writer stated, that having seen his (Mr. Cobbett's) observations on the inequality of the Stamp-duty, he wished to point out the manner in which it pressed upon him and many others in his neighbourhood. In that part of the country (Cornwall) where he resided, it was customary for persons in humble life to rent from one to three and sometimes up to five acres upon a lease of ninety-nine years, or three lives. In this manner waste lands were often enclosed, the landlord receiving 2s. 6d. per acre; but the above lease was renewable upon the falling in of any life upon the payment of a small fine. But upon such renewal of the lease the stamp upon it and its counterpart cost 3l. 5s., however small the fine. The writer went on to say that he had been obliged to renew his lease the other day, and on complaining to the attorney of the hardship of the Stamp-duty, that gentleman informed him that he considered that Stamp-duty was never intended by the Legislature to apply to the poor and industrious classes. "I hope not," said Mr. Cobbett "I sincerely hope too—nay, I am sure, that after this statement, I shall have the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) on my side of the question. The writer proceeded to state, that perhaps more than one hundred leases of this kind were renewed every year, the fines of which were frequently for small sums, sometimes so low as 10l. or to 5l." He (Mr. Cobbett) felt assured that the Act was never intended to apply to persons of this description, and now that they had the subject before them, he trusted they would put it to rights. The letter further stated, that there was Mr. Peter, now in the House, who let lands in this way, and he was sure that Gentleman, and several others would assist him (Mr. Cobbett) on this occasion however they might differ from him on other points. These odious taxes produced a great deal of sorrow and misery amongst the middling classes, so much so, that next to the loss of a father or mother, their greatest grief was being obliged to deal with these Stamp Offices, and he doubted which was found to be the greater cause of sorrow. All property was taxed; book-debts and mortgages, although one halfpenny of either might never be collected, were not exempted from the legacy duty; but there could be no hope of ever recovering back again a single farthing paid for Stamp-duties, a kid might as well expect to escape from the lion's den. He wished he could say he fully believed that these taxes were not intended to operate in this manner. He wished his right hon. combatant (Mr. Spring Rice) opposite, would give him proof that such was the fact. If it were so intended, there was no word in the English language, copious as it was, which would sufficiently describe the baseness of the framers of that Act of Parliament. The 3rd Act of George the 4th provided for mortgages. Hon. Members would bear in mind that in 1822 there was a great transfer of mortgages. The Bank of England generously took the estates of the landed interest to nurse at that period. That was to say, that, having got all the money out of their pockets, they took estates, and gave them back some money, to the amount of some 4,000,000l. At that time an Act was passed, he would not say on purpose to screen the great estates from paying the Stamp-duty, but it had the effect of altering the law, so that upon every transfer instead of having what he must call a sham ad valorem duty, an estate of 200,000l. paid no more than an estate of 200l. He would again repeat that they made the law in order to exempt their own estates from the operation of that Act, and to keep it to be imposed upon the middling classes. Now if the right hon. Member opposite wished to plead a justification for such conduct, let him at once stand forward and say "It is right that it should be so," or else let him say "It is not so." If the right hon. Gentleman would do one of these things—and they were his only defence—he would save him the labour of addressing the House, and of unmercifully belabouring the poor box on the table with thumps as he had done in the course of his former address. He next came to mortgages, and must observe that in the case of leases of lands, tenements, &c., where the yearly rent is 5l., the Stamp-duty is 1l., or twenty per cent.; but where the yearly rent is 1,000l., or any sum above that, the Stamp-duty is 10l., or one per cent.; and that tax goes on, from 400l. a-year rental to 5l. a-year rental, getting heavier and heavier, but increasing in the small rentals in a most disproportionate manner. Now if this had even the semblance of justice, still he would ask was it sound policy? He would read the next Resolution, it was—

"That in the case of mortgages, bonds and securities of every description, if the amount of the mortgage, for instance, be 25l., the amount of the stamp is 1l., or 8s. per cent.; but if the amount of the mortgage be 20,000l. the amount of the stamp is 20l., or 2s. per cent.; that in this case, the poor man pays forty times as much taxes as the rich man; and that the stamp is no more if the amount of the mortgage be 100,000l.; so that, in a case like this, the poor man pays two hundred times as much tax as the rich man; and that, in this case also, the tax goes on increasing in weight as the taxed person becomes poor."

He again called upon the right hon. Gentleman, or any hon. Gentleman, for a justification or a denial of this statement. Next, he would advert to the case with respect to annuities—and here he would observe that no man who had even a partial spark of human feeling could have passed this Act. He believed the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) and many other Members, had seats in that House when it was passed. But it could not have been drawn up by any man of feeling. It must have been the work of some dirty underling—some scrub of a lawyer. His resolution was—

"That in the case of annuities, if the annuity be for 10l., or under, the amount of the stamp is 1l.; and that, in due proportion, an annuity of 2,000l. ought to pay a Stamp-duty of 200l,; but, instead of that, it pays a Stamp-duty of only 25l.; and if the annuity be for 10,000l. or any greater amount, it still pays a Stamp-duty of only 25l.; so that here the poor man pays forty or fifty times as much tax as the rich man; and that in this case also, the tax goes on getting heavier and heavier as the parties become more and more poor."

He was sorry the noble Lord opposite did not pay more attention to his statements; indeed, the noble Lord ought to have the Acts of Parliament before him in order to see if he were correct in his statements. He now came to promissory notes and bills of exchange, upon which point something like an offer had been made by the Vice President of the Board of Trade to meet him. That right hon. Gentleman was famous for financial reasoning, and had constructed tables on the subject. He should like to meet the right hon. Member on his own ground. The next Resolution was—

"That in the case of promissory notes and bills of exchange, not exceeding two months after date, if the sum be 40s., or above 40s., and not exceeding 5l. 5s., the stamp is 1s.; and in the same proportion, the stamp on 3,000l. ought to be 28l. 11s., but that it pays only 15s.; and that for any higher sum the stamp is no more than 1l. 5s., instead of being, on 10,000l., 95l. 4s.; and that, therefore, in the former case, while the poor man pays nearly 1l. per cent, the rich man pays 6d. per cent.; and, in the latter case, while the poor man pays nearly 1l. per cent, the rich man pays 3d. per cent.; and that, therefore, in the first case, the poor man pays forty times as much as the rich man, and, in the latter case, nearly eighty times as much as the rich man; and here, as in ail the former cases, the tax becomes heavier and heavier as the tax-payer becomes poorer and poorer; and that in bills of a longer date than two months the partiality is still greater, and weighs still more heavily on the needy man."

But the right hon. the undersecretary, met the whole of this argument, or thought to meet it, by asking what merchant would ever draw a Bill for 10,000l., if subject to a Stamp-duty of 95l. (the supposed average increase); but did he (Mr. Cobbett) ever advocate the imposition of any such Stamp-duty on a bill for 10,000l? Did he ever say that there ought to be anything at all upon it? No; what he did say was, that the poor should pay in the same moderate proportion as the rich, that was to say, that where the rich man paid a moderate rate of 4l. or 1l. on a large stamp, the poor man should on his small stamp, be charged a penny or twopence. Such, however, was not the case. Government laid a heavy hand upon the greater number. This might be very good policy on the part of a tax-grinder, or a tax-gatherer. If the only object were to get the money from the pockets of the people, this, perhaps, might be the wisest way. But he believed that in the end it would not be found the wisest way, as it would have the effect of extorting statements such as those he was then making—and by and by, those statements would get abroad into the country, and would be found by some who would avail themselves of them to enfeeble instead of strengthening the law, and to evade instead of paying the taxes. He did not deny that his intentions and wish were that these statements should make their way throughout the kingdom; and if the people did not see their interests, and act upon them, it would be their own faults. He would say also that from one end of the kingdom to the other, the Legislature was called upon to do its duty to the middle classes of the people. If they refused to attend to that call, on their head be the consequences. It was the same with the Stamps on Custom-house bonds, for duties, drawbacks, &c. No higher Stamp-duty was paid for clearing, or bonding, or whatever it was called, fifty pipes of wine, than for a single pipe. This was most monstrously unjust. But, agreeably to all the other parts of the system, it laid a heavy hand on the larger number of the people. It affected especially that class, standing between the poor and the rich, whom it ought to be the policy of Government to take by the hand, and raise up; yet that was the class which it appeared to be the sole object of the system to crush. The same principle was to be found in the duty on life insurances; his Resolution respecting which was—

"That, in the case of insurance of lives, where the sure insured amounts to less than 500l. the stamp is 1l.; that if it amount to 500l. the stamp is 2l.; that, if it amount to 5000l. or upwards, the stamp is 5l., so that the man who insures 10,000l. pays only 1s. per cent; while he who insures for less than 500l. and suppose that to be 300l., pay 6s. 8d. per cent.; and thus the man of scanty means pays nearly seven times as much as the man of wealth."

With respect to stamps on receipts, the prosecutions were innumerable, and petitions from different parts of the country had poured in complaining of them, but they were not worse than the others to which he alluded, but were more felt only because they were more frequent. He proposed on this subject to move the following Resolution:—

"That, in the case of receipts, if the sum be 2l. the stamp is 2d.; if the sum be 1,000l., the stamp is 10s., when in due proportion it ought to be 4l. 3s. 4d., that thus the poor man pays more than eight times as much tax as the rich man; and if the sum go on increasing to a hundred thousand, or a million pounds, still the stamp is only 10s.; and that for any sum expressed to be in full of all demands, whether it be for two pounds or a million, the stamp is always 10s.; so that in this case it may be fairly said, that the poor man pays a thousand times as much as the rich,"

There was no part of the Stamp-duty more vexatious than that on receipts. A small tradesman, who did not turn more than 200l. or 300l. paid 10l. a-year for stamps; this in the course of twenty years would make upwards of 200l.—a pretty provision for one of his children, coupled with what was taken from him by the Assessed taxes. The tax-gatherer called, and the housekeeper feared to pay him without taking a receipt, but the tax-gatherer made him pay for that receipt; so that the people were taxed for being taxed. They were pretty much in the situation of some of the people over whom the Turks ruled, who, after they had eaten up every thing belonging to their subjects placed a tax upon their teeth; thus making them pay for the use of their jaws, when they no longer possessed anything to set them in motion. His next Resolution related to appraisements, and he would read it:—

"That, in the case of appraisements not exceeding the value of 50l. in the value of the thing appraised, the stamp is 2s. 6d.: that, if the thing appraised exceeds 500l. in value, though it amounts to a million of money or more, the stamp is but 1l.; so that here the tax falls almost wholly on persons in the middle rank of life, and the estates of the nobility and landed gentry are ail nearly exempt: that an estate of the value of 100,000l. ought to pay an appraisement stamp of 250l. instead of the 1l. which it now pays; so that here the people in the middle rank of life pay, in many cases, 250 times as much as the rich."

This was not denied—it could not be denied—for there were the Acts of Parliament which afforded the best answer to those who attempted to contradict him. He would say, then, to the House, repeal these Acts—never mind the estates—let them go if they would. He would rather they should go than have the Government detested by millions of their fellow-countrymen. He would repeat, that nobody but a lawyer—nobody but such a creature with a soul so black and polluted—could have framed the Act of 55th George 3rd., by which the duty on deeds was limited to 2,160 words. The Resolution was—

"That, by the aforesaid Act of the 55th George 3rd, the duty on deeds, as expressed by the Act, limits its operation to deeds containing no more than 2,160 words; and the Act provides that for every 1,080 words beyond that num- ber there shall be a further duty of 1l., and no difference is made as to this further duty be the amount of the thing conveyed what it may; so that, in this respect, an estate of the value of 100l. pays as much duty as the estate of the value of a million of money; and that it frequently happens that the deed conveying the small estate requires a greater number of words than the deed conveying the large estate."

Could any thing be more unjust than this? Could anything be more unjust than that the conveyance of the estate of the noble Lord opposite, worth a million of money, should be subject to the same duty as the conveyance of the estate of a shop-keeper, worth only 50l.? That indeed was confiscation. The same principle which he had recently laid down with reference to persons of great property, he now laid down with reference to the middle classes, and he should be delighted to hear what the right hon. Gentleman could say in justification of such Acts of Parliament. He next came to the apprenticeships. It appeared that by the existing law, the parents of a poor boy who paid no premium with him, and who could afford none, were still obliged to pay 2l. for his indentures. Surely this was madness itself; a more injurious tax could not be devised. All who wished for the well-being of society were desirous that boys should learn some trade. People talked of a want of subordination and a want of morality in the country; what could be a greater curse than that tax by which a boy was prevented from learning a useful trade? He would read a passage from a memorial to the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) opposite, from the masters engaged in the hand-loom weaving. The memorialists stated, that it was a practice in their trade to take boys without indentures, as their parents could not pay for them; and that the masters had been nearly ruined by this practice, as the boys, feeling there was no power to detain them, generally went away at the end of a year, and engaged themselves elsewhere. This was greatly injurious to the master's interests, as he in all cases had been at much trouble and cost in teaching them their trade. They prayed the attention of the noble Lord to the reduction of this part of the Stamp-duty. It was a singular fact that the Stamp-duty on indentures was an ad valorem duty It was imposed on a graduated scale from 30l to 1,000l. If the principle had been observed with respect to probates, it would have been well. But why was it observed in the case of apprenticeships? Because the sons of the nobility and gentry were never bound apprentices. Here, therefore, they could be impartial to the last degree. They could always be impartial where their own interests was not concerned; but when their own interests were concerned, then the law was made to suit those interests. This Resolution ran thus:

"That with regard to apprenticeships, the parents of a poor boy, who give no premium at all with him, have 2l. to pay for the indentures and the counterpart; that in this case, however, where nobody but tradesmen are concerned, the stamp goes on gradually and fairly from 30l. to 1,000l.; a premium under 30l. paying 1l. stamp, and 1,000l. paying 60l. stamp; because, in this case, the nobility, clergy, and landed gentry are not concerned; and here we observe that, while the poor boy's parents are thus taxed, the settlements made by the rich pay only a twenty-five shilling stamp on a thousand pounds."

He would next read that Resolution which referred to assignments of mortgages; and in it he asserted—

"That, according to the aforesaid Act, every transfer, assignment, disposition, assignation, or re-conveyance of any mortgage or wadset, had a duty imposed upon it, on a certain ad valorem scale; so that the transfer, disposition, or assignation, &c., paid the same ad valorem duty as was imposed on the original mortgage or wadset; but that, by the last of the aforementioned Acts—viz., chap. 117 of the 3rd of George 4, an alteration was made in this respect; and in such wise as to make the duty in all cases whatsoever the same sum—namely, 1l. 15s.; so that the stamp on the transfer of a mortgage of 200,000l., or a million of money, has since the year last-mentioned, been the same as on the transfer of a mortgage of no more than 200l.; thus compelling the tradesman, or other small proprietor, to pay just the same amount of duty on the transfer of his small mortgage, as is paid by the Peer upon a transfer of a mortgage to the amount of hundreds of thousands of pounds."

Was not this a hardship and a crying injustice towards the middling and more humble classes? With reference to the clergy, he found, and this he meant to move as a Resolution:—

"That there is a total exemption from this stamp tax for all bonds, contracts, mortgages, conveyances, deeds, and instruments for making provision for building, repairing, or purchasing houses, and other buildings for the beneficed clergy on their benefices."

Now, why, he would ask, were they to make this exemption in favour of the clergy, more than of any other set of men? Because, forsooth, they were part and parcel of the aristocracy of the country. Besides, the livings they enjoyed belonged to their patrons—to the rich and the great. If this exemption were to benefit the clergyman alone, no one would grudge it; but the clergyman had only a life interest in the living. On his death or removal, it fell back to the patron, who was one of those who made the law from which he himself was to derive a benefit. He next came to the consideration of the Auction duties; and these were more positively partial than any others. His Resolution on this subject was as follows:—

"That, by several Acts of Parliament, ending with 55th George 3rd, chap. 142, which Acts impose duties on things sold by auction, a duty of seven pence in the pound is imposed, in Great Britain, on the amount of the sale of any interest in possession or reversion, in any freehold, customary, copyhold, or leasehold lands, tenements, houses, or hereditaments, and on any share or shares in the capital or joint stock of any Corporation or chartered Company, and of any annuities or sums of money charged thereon, and of any ships and vessels, and of any reversionary interest in the public funds, or of any plate or jewels; but that, on all sales of furniture, fixtures, pictures, books, horses, and carriages, and all other goods and chattels whatever, there is a duty of 1s. in the pound; while, on wool, sold for the benefit of the landowner or his tenant, or the first purchasers, the duty is only 2d. in the pound; and that from this duty all sales of goods, distrained for rent or tithes, and all sales of leases of lands or tenements, and all sales of woods, coppices, cattle, live or dead stock, and all unmanufactured produce of land, and of all produce of mines, when the sales are made on the lands or at the mines, are wholly exempted, as well as all the produce of quarries, or of implements used in quarries, mines, or farms; and that thus, while every product of the hand of man has to bear this tax in almost a double degree, compared with lands and tenements themselves, the produce of the land bears no part of this tax, which is thus shifted from the shoulders of the great and the rich, and made to fall almost exclusively on the middle and working classes of society."

Why was the duty only 7d. in the pound on the sale of plate and jewels, and 1s. in the pound on furniture and other goods and chattels? Because the farmers and middle classes had no plate and jewels. Persons, too, who were compelled to sell their goods to keep out of a gaol, had to pay a duty of 1s. in the pound; while noblemen might sell their timber, underwood, and stock, without paying a farthing of duty. Why the latter? Because tradesmen had no timber or underwood to sell. If they had, a duty of a shilling in the pound would have been imposed upon the sale of it. Let them look, too, at the vast quantity of timber and underwood that was sold, and at the revenue which would be derived from a just duty upon its sale. Wool paid only 2d. in the pound. Why was wool thus favoured? Why wool? Because it was sold for the profit of the landlord. It was the property of the rich, and the articles which paid a duty of 1s. in the pound were the property of the poor. Let the right hon. Gentleman say at once, that it was right that such should be the case, and there was an end of the matter. This auction-duty was the more obnoxious, as it formed a branch of the excise, to the odious qualities of which those of the Spanish Inquisition were nothing; and the very name of which filled with horror all who had anything to do with the "holy office." Such was the inequality in the collection of some of these duties, that he understood that, in Edinburgh, they were only seven and a half per cent., while in England they were nearly ten per cent. It was impossible to deny these facts; nor could they be satisfactorily plastered over by any explanation. The best way for the Gentlemen opposite was to say, "we have the power to keep the law in force, and we will keep it in force." He proposed to conclude his series of Resolutions, thus:—

"That this House will, with as little delay as possible, make such an alteration in the several Acts, imposing duties on stamps and on sales at auctions, as shall cause the Peers, Nobles, Baronets, and other great landowners, to pay, in proportion to the amount of their property (subject to those duties), as great an amount in those duties as is paid by the fundholders, annuitants, tradesmen, manufacturers, farmers, mechanics, and the rest of the industrious classes of the kingdom; and as shall cause, in all cases, the rich to pay the same duties, in the same proportion as the poor."

That was the Motion which it was his intention to propose to the House. He was not indifferent as to its success. He sincerely wished that it might be agreed to, for the sake of the House and for the country. If he held the opinions which some hon. Gentlemen attributed to him, he should be gratified by the rejection of this just proposition; because he was convinced that the result of that rejection would be most disastrous. What had been the cause of the French Revolution? That the aristocracy would not listen to the representations made to them. The higher orders in France had been destroyed by the unequal taxation, rather than by the weight of taxation which had prevailed in that country. Arthur Young, who had visited France in 1787 (and those were greatly in error who fancied that the Revolution in that country did not commence long before it appeared to commence; for it began by the oppression of the people), stated the evils which existed in that country; and put forward as the foremost of those evils partial taxation. The rich were invariably favoured at the expense of the poor; on whom a double or treble amount of taxation was imposed. Goaded by their sufferings, and by the perpetual comparison of their situation with that of their rich and aristocratic neighbours, the people at length determined no longer to endure such tyranny and oppression; and that cause alone produced all the evils which ensued. Now, he hoped, after what he had said, the House would be ready to do justice—a tardy justice—a justice, he must say too long delayed—to the poor people of this country. He would not refer to old grievances. He, for one, was willing they should be forgotten—for ever buried in oblivion. He wished no ripping up—he asked only for justice for the future. He had done his duty in bringing the matter before the House; and whatever their decision might be, he was willing that the country should decide between them. The hon. Member concluded by moving as an Amendment on the Motion, for the Speaker to leave the Chair, the last Resolution which he had read to the House.

Mr. Spring Rice

, in attempting to expose the absurdities and fallacies of the hon. Member, begged to assure the House, that he would not take up its time at any length were he not anxious to counteract the mischievous impression which the hon. Member's most unfounded statements might produce out of doors. Although he would not quarrel with the well-known vigorous impatience—not to say indiscretion—of the hon. Member, he must still express his opinion, that when notice had been given of the intention of his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to ameliorate these laws, the more proper course would have been for the hon. mover of the Resolutions to await the Ministerial proposition, and then to have addressed himself closely and fairly to it. Instead of doing that which, in common fairness, the hon. Member was bound to do, he now came forward with a repetition of his former complaints. This was not in keeping with the hon. Member's proverbial ingenuousness and singleness of purpose, and he thought he had a right to complain of it. He also had to complain of the ingratitude of the hon. Member. He held in his hand a book—not a volume of the Journals of that House, nor a work, which, being of great research and value, was hard to get at—but it was a work published by one Mr. Dunn, called The Law and Daily Commercial Remembrancer for 1833, where, he could assure hon. Members, they could find the whole matter of the hon. member for Oldham's speech with much less expense of time and trouble than had that evening been exacted from them. All that the hon. Member uttered came from Dunn—he made Dunn his own—Dunn and he were identical. From the publication of this book by Dunn, he supposed was to be dated that new era which the hon. Member had foretold should commence when he was invested with legislatorial power—improvements were to be made in every quarter on the advent of this new Shiloh—this political Saviour. For his part, he thought the better way would have been that Dunn be read by the Clerk of the House, and entered on the Journals. He dared not, of course, impute motives to the hon. Member, as that would be unparliamentary; but very luckily he could go close into the enemy's quarters in another way—he could drive at the double—for it would not be unparliamentary to treat Dunn as Dunn deserved to be treated. Dunn was not protected by privilege, and he, therefore, hesitated not to say, that that book, which so strangely agreed with all the hon. Member had uttered, was filled with the grossest calumnies, and the most unjustifiable and daring exaggerations. But he would go to the facts. The hon. Member's great effort in his speech was to show that in these Acts the rich had been especially careful to protect themselves at the expense of the poor—in fact to throw the entire burthen on that class of society. Was that true? Most certainly not. The very first schedule of the table referred to by the hon. Member proved that it was false—namely, the table of the exemptions from duties in favour of the poor—which table the hon. Member never once mentioned, for reasons which it was superfluous for him to specify. Certainly, it might be a question whether the indulgence should not have been carried further; but it was not even mentioned by the hon. Member, amidst his vituperation of the tyrant rich. He contented himself with a general assertion, that the schedules got heavier and heavier as the people became poorer and poorer. He would, however, take the several items referred to by the hon. Member seriatim, and would show from them, that nothing could be more false than to allege that the rich were exempt, or proportionately less taxed than the poor. He would admit, and had before admitted, that the duties on stamps and auctions contained anomalies in their details which required remedy; but why not, in fairness, wait for the remedy, and not endeavour to unjustly sour the mind of the poor against the rich throughout the country? First, then, with respect to transfer and legacy duties. The hon. Member was greatly in error if he supposed that only the rich were landholders, and effected transfers of landed property; there were many transfers of small portions of land effected by the comparatively poor; but he admitted that that was but the exception. As to real property not being subject to legacy duty, let it be remembered, that money might be transferred in millions without any tax whatever; but land, in every change, was made to contribute to the revenue, and that heavily, by imposts on conveyances, mortgages, &c. Now, the radical fallacy, or rather misrepresentation of the hon. Member, was his busing-all his assumptions on extreme duties, instead of the mean or average of any scale of duties. In every scale of duties, be it long or short, there must necessarily be a point or extreme, which, on the face of it, it would be most unfair to found any general conclusions upon—take, for example, the 10l. franchise, or the stamp receipt minimum, or any other extreme; no results being valid, because not true and fair, save those derived from the average or mean duties. The hon. Member founded all his statements on extremes, when, in fairness, they should be based on the mean or average duty. He would base his counter-statement on the average duties, confident that the result would be a total overthrow of the hon. Member's gross misrepresentations. To begin, then, with the Probate-duty, which the hon. Member had represented as pressing with peculiar severity on the poor. What would the House think, and, still more, what would the deluded public say, when he told them that all legacies under 20l. were altogether free from duty, and that the hon. Member was aware of the fact, and yet concealed it? And why did the hon. Member conceal this fact? Why, that it might go forth to the public that the rich were unfeeling—regardless of the duty they owed to those beneath them—that, with "malice prepense," they shifted the national burthens from their own shoulders to those less able to bear them—that they were in fact tyrants. Let that one fact be a running commentary on the mischievous powers of one who might have turned his great gifts to nobler and better purposes than that of exciting the bad passions of the poor against the rich. Mr. Dunn's statement on the Probate-duty was this:—If the deceased had property above the value of 20l., his successor pays a duty of 10s., that is 2l. per cent; but if the party dying leaves any sum from 30,000l. to 500,000l. the duty is only 30s. per cent. But to the facts. From 20l. to 100l. the mean was 60l., and the duty on that was 10s. or 16s. 8d. per cent. From 100l. to 200l. the mean was 150l., and the duty, unfortunately for poor Dunn was 1l. 4s. The mean of 250l. paid a duty of 2l. per cent; the mean of 375l. of 2l. 2s. 8d.; and of 900l. of 2l. 8s. 10d. Such was the fact, unfortunately for Mr. Dunn, though, when they mounted higher up the scale, the rate of duty between 20,000l. and 25,000l. was only 1l. 11s. 1d. per cent. Here he admitted that he came to that portion of the Stamp Acts, in which were anomalies, which as he had before stated, no one would wish otherwise than to see corrected. But the remedy was announced in the order-book of the House; and it would have been but fair in the hon. Member to have awaited its production. He could go through the scale of the Probate-duty in the same manner, not for the purpose of proving that the scale was invariably right, but for that of showing that the hon. Gentleman was invariably wrong. There was no one point on which the hon. Member had rested his case that was not capable of being overthrown when it came to be fairly considered. It must be admitted, that the Probate duty was oppressive in particular instances, but it certainly did not deserve the charges which the hon. Member had brought against it. He did not pretend to defend every part of that duty, but merely to show, in answer to the hon. Member, that the scale did not get higher as the, people on whom it operated were poorer, nor lower as those whom it affected were richer. He now came to the case of conveyances. The hon. Member made the same statement with regard to this duty as with regard to the rest; he said, that the amount of duty diminished as the value of the property on which it attached increased, The scale of the duty on conveyances was to be dealt with in the same manner as that of the Probate-duty. He would willingly give up to the hon. Member a part of these duties—namely, those which attached upon conveyances from 10l. to 35l., or even to 100l. He did not intend to defend them; but though there were cases of conveyances among the poorer classes where the conveyance was for a sum within 100l., on which he was not prepared to defend the duty, still, he must say, that the hon. Member was not warranted in comparing the levying of that duty to proceedings under the Inquisition, nor in describing it as likely to break the confidence of the country, on account of the unjust height to which it had been carried. Now, how stood this duty? Why, thus: at 225l. the duty per cent was 17s. 9d.; at 400l. he admitted that it was diminished to 15s. per cent; but at 625l. it was 19s. 2d.; and at 1,075l. it was 1l. 6s. 7d. per cent. So that, on this point, in place of the duty increasing in pressure according to the lowness of the sum, it really increased in amount according to the increased value of the consideration. He now came to the duty on leases—a duty which the hon. Member said pressed exclusively on the poor. Did the hon. Member not know that the great mass of the property held by the lower classes of the people was held not upon lease, but at will? Did he believe that the great bulk of the cottages of the peasantry were held on lease? [Mr. Cobbett was understood to admit that they were not held on lease.] Then that was all he wanted, for it formed a sufficient answer to the hon. Member's own statement as to the unjust pressure on the lower orders of the people. Facts would illustrate this part of the case also, for the returns on the Table showed, that not less than 1,128,705 tenements were entirely exempt from the House and Window-duty, and all of them that were held at will were exempt from the Stamp-duty on leases. He would proceed to the next Resolution, which related to mortgages. The hon. member for Oldham averred, That, ill the case of mortgages, bonds, and securities of every description, if the amount of the mortgage, for instance, be 25l., the amount of the stamp is 1l, or 80s. per cent; but if the amount of the mortgage be 20,000l., the amount of the stamp is 20l., or 2s. per cent; that, in this case, the poor man pays forty times as much tax as the rich man; and that the stamp is no more if the amount of the mortgage be 100,000l.; so that in a case like this, the poor man pays 200 times as much tax as the rich man; and that in this case also the tax goes on increasing in weight as the taxed person becomes poor. Now, he would ask the hon. member for Oldham whether, when he said that upon a mortgage of 25l. the poor man paid forty times as much tax as the rich man, he meant to say that mortgages for that amount were common among the poor? The most common mortgages upon the poor were those placed on their premises by the lower class of publicans, and, in those cases, no stamp was necessary, for the brewer was generally the mortgagee, and the mortgage was effected by a deposit of title-deeds. In that case no Stamp duty was paid.

Mr. Cobbett

—I never heard of it.

Mr. Spring Rice.

—"Then am I completely taken in." The hon. Gentleman had forgotten many things in the ardour with which he read the lucubrations of Mr. Dunn on this subject. But though the publicans offered the most numerous instances of this sort of, mortgage, it was certainly practised in other cases, and the deposit of the title deeds formed what was called an equitable mortgage, sufficient in many cases, to satisfy the creditor. Mortgages to the amount of 25l. were not very common, and yet they were those of the duty on which the hon. Member most complained. The fact was, that in these matters it was the lawyer, the black and cruel-souled lawyer, as the hon. Member would, perhaps, call him, and not the stamp collector, who checked the frequency of mortgages. It was not the amount of the Stamp-duties that affected them. If that was the case, then all the sympathy of the hon. Member was wasted. [Mr. Cobbett said, that however the law might be evaded, such was the law on the Statute-book.] He knew it was—he knew that the law was there—he knew it was in the Act, but was it in the deed. Upon this nonentity or next to nonentity, the hon. member for Oldham must display all his sympathies for the poor. He might as well, because the writ de hœretico comburendo was still in the Statute-book, display his sympathies about the heretics that might still be burned under that act, and his horror of the Reformation, against which he understood that the hon. Member entertained very strong prejudices. If all this sympathy were to be displayed about the non-existing mortgages of 26l., the hon. Member must have a bad case to support; or if he had a good case, why bolster it up with such weak and unfounded arguments? Next came the Resolution about annuities:—'That in the case of annuities, if the annuity be for 10l. or under, the amount of the stamp is 1l.; and that, in due proportion, an annuity of 2,000l. ought to pay a Stamp-duty of 200l.; but, instead of that, it pays a Stamp-duty of only 25l.; and if the annuity be for 10,000l., or any greater amount, it still pays a Stamp-duty of only 25l.; so that here the poor man pays forty or fifty times as much tax as the rich man, and that, in this case also, the tax goes on getting heavier and heavier, as the parties become more and more poor,' Now, in this Resolution, the hon. Member had referred only to one class of annuities, whereas there were two classes—those secured upon freehold estates, and those which rested upon other valid securities. He wished he was a lawyer, notwithstanding the heavy denunciations of the hon. Member against that body, for then he should be able most completely to show how much the hon. Member was in error on this point. The hon. Member had referred to Voluntary Annuities—to those granted on a money consideration, and to those granted especially out of a freehold estate. The latter class surely could not be said to be contained in the division of duties that chiefly affected the poor. The hon. Member had represented, that, on Annuities granted for a money consideration, but a small amount of duty was payable; but the hon. Member had not said, at the same time, that when an annuity was granted for a money consideration, the duty on conveyances also attached. The hon. Member had either omitted that part of the case, or he was ignorant of it. In either case, his observations on the effect of the duty were unwarranted, and the House had a right to complain if a Member, who professed to call for their judgment on facts, either suppressed some of those facts, or had omitted to make himself acquainted with them. The hon. Member had then alluded to the subject of promissory notes and bills of exchange, and said, with regard to that, as with regard to other parts of the question, that the duty became lower as the amount of the subject of it became greater. Did not the hon. Member know, that even at this time there were but very few bills of exchange or promissory notes to a large amount, and that, even with these few, if the amount of duty was increased, it would be at once most readily evaded, by cutting up one large bill of exchange into several small ones? On this subject, as well as on that of the receipts, the hon. Member had fallen into a most glorious absurdity, a most evident fallacy. He conceived, that because a person was rich, he therefore dealt in nothing but large bills of exchange and promissory notes. Yet nothing could be a greater mistake. That reminded him of a saying of the first Lord Liverpool, that because England was a rich country, therefore it must have a rich standard,—or, to use commoner phraseology, "Who slays fat oxen must himself be fat;" who is rich himself, should give no notes or bills of exchange but for huge sums. The fact, however, was, that the expenditure of the rich man depended more on the multiplication of small bills, than upon the consolidation of large sums. A similar remark might be applied to the receipt stamps. The hon. Member for Oldham had very pathetically put the hardship of a tradesman having to pay a receipt of 10l. Indeed, did not the hon. Member know, that whatever might be the amount of the stamp, it formed but a part of the price of the commodity, and that it was the consumer of that commodity, and not the seller of it, who paid the receipt Stamp-duty? Instead, therefore, of the whole duty falling upon one man, it was most extensively distributed, and its weight, therefore, scarcely felt. He now came to the Resolution regarding insurances for lives. That Resolution was as follows:—'That, in ease of insurance of lives, where the sum insured amounts to less than 500l., the stamp is 1l.: that if it amount to 500l., the stamp is 2l.; that if it amount to 5,000l. or upwards, the stamp is 5l.; so that the man who insures 10,000l. pays only 1s. per cent; while he who insures for less than 500l., and suppose that to be 300l., pays 6s. 8d. per cent; and thus the man of scanty means pays nearly seven times as much as the man of wealth. Why, instead of this duty being diminished in proportion to the value of the insurance, the fact was, that if a man made two insurances of 5,000l., he would have less duly to pay, than on one insurance for 10,000l. He said, that the incorrectness of the hon. Member must either arise from gross neglect on the part of the hon. Member; or if it did not arise from neglect, it was most unfair in the hon. Member to endeavour to seduce the House into assenting to Resolutions, which the hon. Member informed them were founded upon facts, but which were directly in the teeth of every fact and every document which he had consulted. He now came to the hon. Member's Resolution regarding appraisements. It was as follows:—"That, in the case of appraisements not exceeding the value of 50l. in the value of the thing appraised, the stamp is 2s. 6d.; that if the thing appraised exceeds 500l. in value, though it amount to 1,000,000l. or more, the stamp is but 1l.; so that here the tax falls almost wholly on persons in the middle rank of life, and the estates of the nobility and landed gentry are all nearly exempt; that an estate of the value of 100,000l. ought to pay an appraisement stamp of 250l. instead of the 1l. which it now pays; so that here the people in the middle rank of life pay, in many cases, 250 times as much as the rich." This was a statement, which, if allowed to pass uncontradicted, was likely to have great weight with uneducated and unenlightened individuals; but the appraisement of an estate being made, what followed? He might derive great aid to his argument from referring to the lawyer's bill of costs, of which, thank God! he knew nothing personally. When a man appraised an estate, he did so, not merely to get some knowledge of its value, but with a view to dispose of it. If so, then, the duty on appraisement was not the only duty he had to pay, for then came the duty on conveyances, which had been already noticed, and which amounted to 95l. on 10,000l. So that the rich man, whom the hon. member for Oldham described as fenced round with protection on every side would have to pay, not only the duty on the appraisement, but also the duty on the conveyance, and thus the rich man, instead of paying 250 times less than the poor man, had actually to pay about eight times as much. Then came the hon. Member's Resolution about the Stamp-duties on indentures; and here the hon. Member admitted that the amount of the stamp had been fixed upon an ad valorem duty. But even here surgit amari aliqnid. Justice was done to the poor in this instance because the nobility, clergy, and landed gentry had no interest in being unjust. But were there no items in this scale which applied in an analogous case to the rich? The hon. Member loved to deal with the parsons, the poor parsons, the baronets, the barons, and the rest of the nobility. Now, bad he taken the trouble to inform himself whether anything analogous to this scale took place in anything which related to them? Had he ever heard of such things as fees upon granting titles of honour? There, too there was a graduated scale. 100l. was the fee upon the creation of a Baronet, 150l. on the creation of a Baron, 200l. on the creation of a Viscount, 250l. on the creation of an Earl, 300l. on the creation of a Marquess, and 350l. on the creation of a Duke. Was that fair? [Mr. Cob- bett "Yes."] He must next advert to the hon. Member's Resolution regarding mortgages, and especially to that part of it which states," That there is a total exemption from this Stamp-tax for all bonds, contracts, mortgages, conveyances, deeds, and instruments for making provision for building, repairing, or purchasing houses, and other buildings, for the beneficed clergy on their benefices." Now, the hon. Member had been pleased to forget the heavy Stamps which clergymen had to pay upon their presentation to livings, upon their obtaining possession of advowsons: and, therefore, when he complained that the bonds into which they entered for the repairs of the houses upon their benefices were exempt from Stamp-duties, without making any mention of the other Stamp-duties to which they were liable, he was leading all uninformed persons who heard him to form a very erroneous inference respecting the exemptions which the poor parsons enjoyed. He had now gone through the hon. Member's Resolutions upon the Stamp-duties. He need not say how grateful he was to the House for the attention with which it had listened to him. He would now proceed to the hon. Member's Resolution respecting the Auction-duties, for he was determined to follow the hon. Member—or rather, the hon. Member's friend and patron, Mr. Dunn—through all the long walk which they had chalked out for him. On the Auction-duties the hon. Member had been most particularly vehement, and here again he said you might trace the injury inflicted by the rich upon the poor. "The general rate "said he" is on all sales by auction in which the poor are concerned 1s. in the 1l.; on all sales where they are not concerned. 7d. I will show you, that under the lower duty are introduced all things affecting, or connected with the luxuries of the rich; and that, under the higher duty are comprised all the things belonging to the poor—the suffering poor." Now, what were the articles which came under the higher duties? "Furniture:" here the rates were equal for rich and poor. "Fixtures;" the same. "Pictures;" have the poor or the rich the greater interest in the sale of pictures? "Books;" are books of value purchased more by the rich or the poor? "Horses and carriages and all other goods and chattels whatever." These were articles which the poor might possess; but if they did possess them, how was their possession of them to be reconciled with the irremediable distress in which the hon. Member represented the poor to be involved in every part of the empire? Then came the hon. Member's complaint that a duty of only 7d in the 1l. was imposed on the sale of plate and jewels. "Here" said the hon. Member, "are the nobility and gentry imposing a duty of only 7d. upon the sale of their plate and jewels, while they compel the poor to pay a duty of 1s. in the 1l. on the sale of their poor and wretched furniture." But was it possible that the hon. Member could be ignorant that upon this point he was only stating half the truth? Did he not know that, previously to its being sold by auction, all plate had paid a Stamp-duty. Did he not know that gold plate paid a duty of 17s. an ounce, and that silver paid a duty of 1s. 6d. an ounce, both of which were heavy taxes? The same observation applied to jewels. If the hon. Member had applied at the Custom-house, he would have been informed that a duty of twenty per cent. was paid on the value of all jewels which were set, and of ten per cent, upon all jewels which were unset, with the exception of diamonds, which paid no duty—an exemption, by-the-by, for which he never could account. The Legislature had, therefore, taxed the luxuries of the rich in these instances as fully, indeed more fully, than it had ever taxed the commodities of the poor. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to comment upon that part of the Resolution which states that on wool sold for the benefit of the landowner or his tenant the duty is only 2d. in the 1l.; but on this point the inference of the hon. Member (Mr. Cobbett) was manifestly incorrect, inasmuch as he stated that this tax was kept low for the benefit of the landlords, when the fact was that the wool was almost invariably sold for the benefit of the poor tenants. The right hon. Gentleman then thanked the House for the patience with which it had listened to him. His object was not to go through a minute and tedious detail of facts; he was only anxious to meet the hon. member for Oldham on the broad principle that the policy of that House and of the aristocracy and gentry of England had not been systematically to oppress and degrade the poor. That was the only consideration which had induced him to trespass so long upon their attention. The hon. Member more ingeniously than ingenuously, had endeavoured to connect with this subject the unequa taxation which prevailed in France before the revolution. He had told them that the refusal to redress the grievances of the French nation upon that point had led to the confusion and disorder which distinguished the French revolution. Now, he did not deny that such was the fact, but he must object to the inference which the hon. Member deduced from it. If there was one principle which could be contrasted with another, it was the principle which governed the taxation of France before the revolution, and that which now governed the taxation of England. Were there in England any personal distinctions which gave the parties who enjoyed them exemption from the payment of taxes? The hon. Member must have heard of the corvée the taille and the gabelle. Did he mean to say that anything like them was to be found in our law; the exemptions in our Statute-book were in favour of the poor. The exemptions in France were in favour of the rich. Instead of the aristocracy being opposed in spirit to the poor, the proudest duke in the land was connected with the commonalty by his second son, whilst the poorest man was in his turn connected with the nobility by the reflection that if he had merits to ensure the distinction, the highest honours of the peerage were not too high for his grasp. He contended that the liberties of England had never had better or truer champions than her gallant and high-minded aristocracy; and the man who sought to deprive them of the respect which was their due, did not deal wisely by the institutions of his country, nor fairly by the individuals whom he attacked.

Mr. Hume

said, that it appeared to him that the hon. member for Oldham and his right hon. friend opposite approximated closely in their result, that they were merely cavilling about words, and that, too, in language which he must say was on both sides not the most courteous and temperate. As to the eulogy which his right hon. friend had passed upon the peerage of England, it might be received with cheers in that House, but it would be received with very little acclamations elsewhere by every man who recollected their forced assent to the passing of the Reform Bill. It appeared to him that the very representations which his right hon. friend had just made corroborated all the statements of the hon. member for Oldham. If he understood the meaning of that hon. Member it was this—that the Legislature, which consisted of the rich and noble, had systematically endeavoured to oppress the poor, and to protect themselves. His right hon. friend had admitted this to be true to a certain extent; for in referring to the statement of the hon. member for Oldham he had said—"Oh, don't object to this any more—we admit it to be a grievance, but we have bills ready for the redress of it." He asserted that his right hon. friend's statement was full of fallacies, by which he himself could not have been deluded. He could not see any reason why a poor man should pay a heavy legacy duty upon 300l. of personal property, and, a rich man pay nothing on receiving from his ancestors an estate of as many hundreds a-year. Was it, therefore, fair to state that the complaint about the inequality of the legacy duty was a mere rubbish of fallacies in the face of a fact like this that the poor man pays more for receiving a legacy of 500l. than the rich man for receiving an estate of 500,000l? But, said his right hon. friend, "all legacies of 20l. are exempted from duty." True, but the fact was, that if you had to go through the usual forms of the courts for this 20l., nearly the whole sum would be swept away in legal expenses; and it would not be worth either the seeking or the having. As a fact indicative of the temper, in which the legacy duties were imposed, he would state that the plan of raising revenue by means of them was borrowed from Holland. Mr. Pitt introduced two Bills for that purpose—one imposing a scale of duties on legacies of personal property, and another imposing a similar scale upon real property. The House passed the first; but being composed of landowners, threw out the last. He complained that the arguments of the hon. member for Oldham had been treated that night with a ribaldry—he could call it nothing else—which they did not deserve. The fact which he had just quoted proved that the influence of the landlords in that House had prevented justice from being done to the country at large, so far as regarded the taxation of real property. As to the arguments of the hon. Gentleman with respect to the Window-tax, they were, he considered, an attempt to delude the House. The hon. Gentleman had taken only the minimum, and had not gone to cases where the great inequality of the tax would be much more clearly shown. Now, as to the Stamp-duties on conveyances of property, the hon. Gentleman had not taken those cases in which it could be shown that the duty diminished in proportion as the sum increased beyond a certain amount; so that, on the larger sums the duty paid was much less in the proportion than on the smaller. The probate duty on 1,000l. was three per cent; that on 5,000l. was two per cent; that on 50,000l. was 1l 10s. per cent; and the same on 100,000l. and all higher sums. Now, take the l duty on administrations—on 1,000l., the duty was 45l. or four and a half per cent; on 5,000l. it was 150l. or three per cent,; and, on 50,000l., it was no more than two and a quarter per cent. In short, every one of those cases proved the inaccuracy of the right hon. Gentleman in coming to the small sums. It could not be denied that there was a disposition in the Legislature to make exceptions in favour of the nobility. It was well known that before the French revolution there were many exemptions in favour of then noblesse of that country, but those exemptions were slight in the comparison of the exemptions from taxation made in favour of the rich in this country, by the monopoly which the Corn-laws gave to landed property. He would say let an inquiry be made, and a valuation of property as regarded taxation, and he was certain that what he stated would prove correct. He thought it would have been much better if, instead of recrimination, the right hon. Gentleman had admitted the existence of the inequality of taxation, and proposed that that inequality should be remedied.

Mr. Matthias Attwood

expressed his surprise that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spring Rice)—a speech of great ability, and containing details of the most minute accuracy—in which the statements of the hon. member for Oldham, had been completely refuted, those statements should have been repeated by the hon. member for Middlesex. He was surprised, after what had been stated in the House, to hear the hon. member for Middlesex re-assert the charges of the hon. member for Oldham, in Stronger language, and he would almost say in a coarser manner than that of the hon. member for Oldham himself. Giving credit to the right hon. Gentleman for the great accuracy of his most convincing statement, he could not but regret that such a refutation had not gone forth to the country at a much earlier period—that it had not been made by the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) in answer to the first speech on this subject of the hon. member for Oldham. That hon. Member had made many statements which were now proved to be fallacious. They were made eight weeks ago; they had gone forth to the country, and had worked their effect on the minds of the people. The charge was, that 8,000,000l. of taxes were raised, but that they were so ingeniously contrived that they pressed on the poor while the rich were, for the greater part, exempt. The charge was now proved, by a most convincing and unanswerable statement, to be wholly without foundation, as indeed must be admitted by the hon. member for Oldham himself, and no doubt it would be so admitted, if the hon. Member had not allowed his strong understanding to be so biassed that he had shown himself more ignorant than the lowest of those whom he wished to instruct. The hon. Member had shown himself completely ignorant of the operation of those taxes against which he declaimed. With regard to that branch of the hon. member for Oldham's statement which respected the stamps on bills of Exchange he desired to make one observation, namely, that as the cost of bills of Exchange was raised on the transfer of goods, the rich as well as the poor bore it equally and in proportion to the quantity consumed. From his means of knowledge on that branch of the subject, he was convinced that if Parliament should determine to raise the scale, and imposed a high duty on large bills, they would be adopting the very best means of harassing the poor, for the rich man would decline drawing the bill at all, and thus compel the man in straitened circumstances, if he required accommodation, to bear the whole cost. With respect to the exemptions of land from legacy duty, it was on a fair principle, as land did not carry with it the means of paying a high duty, the same as personal property. There were many difficulties in the entering into possession of landed property—such as the difficulty of proving the title, and others, which might put off the payment of the duty from month to month, and from year to year; so that a tax of that kind would be a most inconvenient mode of supplying the Exchequer. The hon. member for Oldham was not alone in his assertions, that the taxes had been so framed as to press on the poor, while the rich were exempt. There were others, who, to court a temporary popularity, had raised a similar cry in the country. That cry had gone forth and worked its effect. He again repeated, that there was great cause for regret that the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had omitted to reply to the statements of the hon. Member at the period when he originally brought the subject before the House. If he had done so much of ill feeling and much misunderstanding would have been spared. He could not further avoid expressing the regret and dissatisfaction with which he listened to the repeated attacks and insinuations which it had become fashionable with Ministers and their supporters to make on the conduct of former administrations. Such attacks came, he thought, with a particularly bad grace from those who now held office, and could only be calculated to distract public observation from existing defects. If Ministers were sensible of the errors of past administrations, it would, in his opinion, be much better to set about their correction than to occupy the attention of the House with idle complaints, the only object of which could be to raise their own characters by depreciating those of others.

Lord Althorp

said, that after the very able and conclusive speech of his right hon. friend (Mr. Spring Rice), it was not his intention to say a word on this subject; and he should not have risen but for the observations of the hon. member for Whitehaven in the close of his speech. The hon. Member, after repeating some of the able arguments of his right hon. friend, and adding some of his own, had attacked him (Lord Althorp) for not having answered the first speech of the hon. member for Oldham. He admitted, that at the time referred to be had not given that hon. Gentleman a sufficient answer, and amongst other reasons, he was unable to do so, from the vagueness of the terms in which the hon. Member's Motion was couched, and from the nature of the speech with which he introduced it. The hon. Member talked of showing that the poor paid towards the taxes forty times as ranch as the rich, and dealt in other statements equally unfounded in truth. To such statements he confessed he was not prepared to give an answer; and he confessed his having omitted to do so occasioned him very little regret. His right hon. friend had expressed a wish to reply to the hon. Member's statements, and his right hon. friend certainly had done so much better than he could have done. As to the charge of not reducing the expenditure more, he would only say, that he had no wish to underrate the labours of his predecessors in office. He gave them credit for the exertions they had made, and he must take the same credit to the present Government for a disposition to make all the reductions in its power.

Mr. O'Connell

was surprised at the charge of ignorance made by the hon. member for Whitehaven against his hon. friend the member for Oldham, when the hon. Member had shown that he did not know the difference between the legacy and the probate duty. The probate duty was payable in that way which pressed heavily on the poor. There were other duties connected with bequests of which the great weight pressed on the poor, while the rich were comparatively exempt. Without going at that hour into the details, he would only observe, that the hon. member for Oldham ought not to have been attacked when his object was plainly to relieve the poor from the burthens which pressed so heavily upon them.

Mr. Warre

was surprised to hear the statement of the hon. member for Middlesex, as to the comparative exemptions of the French noblesse, before the French revolution, and the higher classes in England, from the pressure of taxation. He should be glad to learn where the hon. Member had collected his historical facts on that subject; for he was sure that a just reference to the history of that period would show that there was no parallel between the two cases. If he would refer to the able work of Mr. Arthur Young on the subject, he would find, that the exemptions from taxation of the French noblesse before the revolution bore no comparison whatever to those of the rich of this country in the present day. In fact, the rich in England were not exempt; but in France, at the period alluded to, the exemptions of the nobility freed them from almost every species of taxation. As to the charge of a want of reduction of taxation, he must say, that where reduction had been carried to a great extent, it was much more difficult to reduce further than it was when the first reduction commenced. If the late Government had reduced, they had much to reduce from. The other reductions since then had made the task much more difficult.

Mr. Lennard

said, that the statements of the hon. member for Oldham were such as would have commanded his support, but that the Government had admitted, that there were great abuses in the system, and were prepared to remedy them. Under these circumstances he should vote on the side of Government.

The House divided, on the question that the words proposed by Mr. Cobbett to be left out, stand part of the question.—Ayes 250; Noes 26: Majority 224.

List of the NOES.
Attwood, T. O'Connell, C.
Blake, M. Oswald, R. A.
Cobbett, W. Palmer, General
Faithfull, G. Pease, J.
Fielden, J. Richards, J.
Finn, W. F. Roche, W.
Fitzsimon, C. Ruthven, E.
Fryer, R. Scholefield, J.
Lalor, P. Torrens, Lieut.-Col.
Lowther, Hon. Col. Vigors, N. A.
O'Connell, D. Warburton, H.
O'Connell, J. TELLERS.
O'Connell, Maurice Hume J.
O'Connell, Morgan O'Connor, F.