Sir, I rise, in pursuance of the notice which I have given, to ask the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House for the purpose of considering the statutes which impose taxes upon the right of succession to personal property after death, in the hope that the House will see not only the propriety but the justice of imposing similar taxes on real estate. The House is probably aware, that, as the law now stands, the personal property of every person who dies worth more than 20l. is 1037 subject to two taxes, called Probate Duty and Legacy Duty. Probate Duty is an ad valorem tax imposed on the whole personal property of the deceased, which may be situated in any part of the United Kingdom, at the time of his death; and this is payable, in all cases, whatever may be the manner in which the personal property is left, whether the property be left to a near relation or to a stranger in blood. Legacy Duty is a second tax on personal property, in addition to the Probate Duty, which is levied on the party who receives the benefit. The amount of this duty varies according to the degree of relationship of the legatee to the deceased, and widows are exempt from its operation. Legacy Duties fall with great severity on strangers in blood, and in the case of natural children, who in the eye of the law are strangers in blood, are peculiarly severe. Administration Duties (which are the duties levied when there is no will) are of the same nature as Probate Duties, and are imposed on precisely the same description of property as Probate Duties. The rate, however, of Administration Duty is higher per cent. than the Probate Duty. I think this distinction is wrong in principle, because it does appear to be unjust that a widow or children are to pay a heavier tax to the state merely because the husband, either by accident or design, has preferred that his property should be divided according to the known order of law. There is this distinction between Legacy and Probate Duty, that while. Probate Duty is never in any case charged on real estate, nor on any interest arising out of land, nor on land directed to be sold, Legacy Duty is, in certain cases, under provisions of 45 George Ill., c. 48, payable upon annuities charged on land, or on land directed to be sold. Land itself, however, whether it be left as a whole in one estate, to one person, or whether it be divided into different farms and left to different persons, is not liable to the Legacy Duty. With this trifling distinction between these taxes, however, the House may take it as the general rule, that while personal property is in all cases subject to these heavy taxes, real property, be it freehold or be it copyhold, is entirely exempt. Now, I must say, that I think this exemption in favour of freehold and copy-hold property is most unjust to manufacturers and traders, to the great mass of 1038 the people, and to all the owners of personal property. This act of injustice has also given rise to the injurious imputation that, inasmuch as the majority of the two Houses of Parliament consist of the owners of real property, this exemption has been made by the Legislature on private, and not on public grounds. The present Legacy Duty was originally imposed as a war tax; and when Mr. Pitt introduced the existing Act, in 1796, he intended to apply its provision to realty as well as to personalty; and, though the landed interest were too strong even for that powerful Minister, it is perfectly well known that he stated, over and over again, that lauded property ought not to be exempted from burthens to which personal property is subjected. Mr. Pitt said (Hansard XXXII., p. 658), in introducing the Legacy Bill—In a war for protection of property, it was just and equitable that property should bear the burthen. It was in the nature of things that landed property was the most permanent; it was fit that it should contribute accordingly. The Legacy Duty, was not, however, to be confined to any species of property; it was to include both lauded and personal.Mr. Pitt afterwards divided his Bill into two parts; the one relating to personalty, and the other to realty. The Bill for personal property passed the Commons without difficulty, and became the existing Act—36 George III., c, 52; but the Bill for realty was opposed at every stage by the landed Gentry of that day, and, after several very close divisions (in one of which the numbers were equal, and the Speaker was obliged to give a casting vote), Mr. Pitt carried the Bill by only one vote. On the following day he came down to the House of Commons, and reluctantly yielded to necessity, and, contrary to his own conviction of what was right, withdrew the Bill. The exemption which the law has given to real property is in many cases absurd, as well as unjust. Leaseholds for years are considered as personal property, and, therefore, are liable to probate duty; leaseholds for lives are real estate, and therefore not liable. There are towns in the north of England, in the borough of Sunderland, for instance, in which in one part the houses are held on leases for years, and are consequently exempt; in the other part the houses are on leases for lives, and consequently liable. On what principle of common sense or of 1039 justice are the inhabitants of one part of a borough to be liable to a tax from which the inhabitants of another part of the same borough, are to be exempt? I ask, on what principle of justice can you possibly defend these mere legal distinctions? Why is the inheritor of a large property in a town, consisting of leaseholds, to be liable to taxation, when the inheritor of a copy-hold estate is to be exempt? The sum paid annually by the owners of personal property is enormous. I find that, in the year ending January, 1844, the State received about two-and-a-quarter millions of money from the personal property of the United Kingdom; and the capital which produced this large revenue, and which in passing from the dead to the living became liable to this heavy amount of taxation, was no less than 43,000,000l.
And since the year 1797, it appears, by the papers now on your Table, that the immense sum of 66,835,959l. has been yielded by these taxes.
Return of amount of Duty on Legacies, Probates, Administrations, and Testamentary Inventories for the year ending January 5, 1844:— Legacies. Probates Administrations, and Testamentary Inventories. £ s. d. £ s. d. England and Wales 1,114,871 6 6 879,367 5 0 Scotland 86,977 18 6 53,413 0 0 Ireland 39,034 17 3½ 66,184 10 1 United Kingdom 1,240,804 2 3½ 998,964 15 1 Total legacies and probates, &c., in United Kingdom, 2,239,768l. 17s. 4½d.
I have little doubt but that, if Legacy and Probate Duties were imposed on real property, an income nearly as large as that derived from personal property would be obtained with the greatest ease and 1040 facility. In the absence of precise information, there are various ways of making this estimate. Mr. Gwynne, late Comptroller of the Legacy Duties, whose opinion is entitled to the highest consideration, estimated that about one-thirtieth of the whole personal property in the Kingdom is annually subject to the Probate and Legacy Duties. Sir Robert Peel, when he introduced the Income Tax, in 1843 assumed the annual rent of land to be 39,400,000l. Taking this at twenty-five years' purchase would make the value of real property to be 985,000,000l.; and then, applying Mr. Gwynne's principle, you would have a capital of about 33,000,000l. of real property annually subject to Probate and Legacy Duty. The capital of personal property which was subject to these duties in 1843 was 43,000,000l. This produced to the revenue, as I have already stated, about 2,250,000l. It is, therefore, only fair to estimate that land of the value of 33,000,000l. would, at the very least, produce 1,500,000l. as revenue for the use of the State. There is another mode of making this estimate. It appears by the accurate tables of Mr. Porter, in his able work, The Progress of the Nation, there are about 46,000,000 of acres of cultivated land in the United Kingdom.*
Total amount of Duty received since 1797 on Legacies Probates, Administrations, and Testamentary Inventories:— Legacies. Probates, Administrations, & Testamentary Inventories. £ s. d. £ s. d. England 34,392,977 1 3 27,244,687 17 2 Scotland 2,037,524 19 0 1,390,696 10 2 Ireland 714,250 18 1 1,055,821 18 0¾ 37,144,152 18 4 29,691,206 5 4¾ Total £66,835,959 3s. 8¾d.
If we consider the large rents that are obtained near towns, in all probability the rental of these 46,000,000 acres cannot average less than 1l. per acre. If this estimate of the rental be nearer the truth than that of the right hon. Baronet, as I suspect it is, it would give us a larger revenue (if Probate and Legacy Duties were imposed on land) than is now derived from personal property. The House will bear in mind, that these estimates must be under the mark, as I have not taken into account freehold houses and other real property, which are now exempt. Whether, however, these calculations are too much or too little, it is clear that a very large revenue may be obtained for public purposes, and that land is now unjustly exempt from the payment of a heavy tax to which other property is liable. How unjust it is, how unfair it is, that while the property of a merchant who dies, leaving but a bare provision for his family, is subject to a heavy Probate Duty, the family of the*See Table (as note) following page,1041 rich landed proprietor, who dies possessed of freehold land and freehold houses to the amount, perhaps, of 1,000,000l., is not called upon to pay one farthing; and the distinction between the property of a landed proprietor and of the manufacturer, is the more galling from this circumstance, that the very same land which, while it remains the property of the landed gentleman, is not liable to Probate Duty, becomes chargeable with this heavy tax the moment it is bought with partnership capital for the purposes of the trade of the manufacturer, because it is then considered to be personal property. On what principle of fairness does this House enact, that when a freehold estate is bequeathed by a rich proprietor to his rich heir, that this valuable inheritance is not to be charged with Legacy Duty, but that when the very same estate is devised to be sold in order to provide for the wants of a family, it is then to become subject to this Legacy Duty? The hardship on the middle classes is the greater in the case I have just mentioned, because in nine cases out of ten, where an estate is devised to be sold, it becomes liable to the Auction Duty, and in every case to a Conveyance Duty, from both of which taxes the heir-at-law escapes. If any distinction ought to be made as to the payment of Legacy Duty between land devised to be sold, and on land not devised to be sold, it ought to be in favour of the former, as land devised to be sold becomes liable to the two duties I have just named. A tax upon the transfer of landed property after death has, from the earliest time, been usual in all civilised countries. We all have read in history that by the Julian law imposed by Augustus Cæsar, a very large revenue, under the name of the twentieth penny, vicesima pars hereditatis, was derived from a tax of this nature on
|Arable and Gardens.||Meadows, Pastures and Marshes.||Total cultivated.||Wastes capable of Improvement.||Wastes not capable of Improvement.||Total acres in United Kingdom.|
succession to real property. A similar tax is at this clay levied in Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, and in some parts of Germany. I trust that the period is not distant when either a similar tax will be levied in the United Kingdom, or else that you will consent to take off those duties on personal property; they ought either to be levied both on realty and on personalty,—on both or on neither. In looking through the older Acts of Parliament on this subject, I have been struck with the anxiety the landowners have shown at all periods of our history to benefit themselves at the expense of others. There is a singular example of this in 2nd of Henry VIII. c. 5. Before this Act was passed (which is entitled "Fees for Probates") land directed to be sold was considered as personal property, and liable to a probate fee; but by this Act land directed to be sold is exempted from paying a probate fee, and this exemption continues to the present day as such land (though subject to Legacy Duty) is not subject to Probate Duty. When this question was last discussed in the House, in April, 1842, while no one ventured to object to the justice of the principle for which I contend—namely, that of treating every species of property (whether real or personal) on a footing of equality—two specious objections were urged: the one relating to the burthens to which landed property is subject, in consequence of the Stamp Duties; and the other, that a Probate Duty on landed property would be easily evaded by putting the property into trust. With the indulgence of the House, I wish to make a few remarks respecting both these objections. In the first place, I find on inquiry (though there are no accurate accounts), from competent persons, that out of 1,600,000l. received for Stamp
Duties on Deeds, not above 400,000l. can by any possibility be considered to be paid by land (which is now exempt from Probate Duty), either in the shape of duties on conveyances, mortgages, settlements of landed property or leases of farms, or other matters relating to realty; the remaining 1,200,000l. are paid entirely by transactions relating to personal property, such as personal bonds, leases of houses in towns, mortgages of leasehold houses, and settlements of funded property, and other personal deeds of a similar nature. I also find in all the Stamp Duties relating to real property, that the principle is to favour the rich man and to make the poor man pay more than his fair proportion. Take the case of a mortgage—if a small farmer is in distress, and desirous to borrow 50l. on mortgage of his small patrimony, he has to pay a Stamp Duty of 1l. A wealthy landlord, with a large estate, wishes to borrow 20,000l. for the purpose of improving his property and adding to his income, he has to pay, not a duty of 400l., which he ought to do if he paid at the same rate per cent. as the yeoman, but a Stamp Duty of only 20l.; so that in this case the rich man contributes 380l. less to the exigencies of the State than he ought to do. The same principle (though not to the same extent) pervades the duty on conveyances. The Stamp Duty on conveying a small property of 20l. is 10s.—the Stamp Duty on conveying a large property of the value of 100,000l. is only 1,000l. instead of 2,500l. as it ought to be if the Stamp on large property were in proportion to the Stamp on small. When a merchant under the right hon. Baronet's Tariff imports a large quantity of goods, this House does not enact that the wealthy merchant of Liverpool or of Bristol is to pay a smaller amount of Import Duty than the humble tradesman; on the contrary, this House, with perfect fairness, puts the large importer and the small importer on a footing of perfect equality, and makes each person pay at the same rate for the goods he imports. Then, if you act on this just principle in respect to trade and commerce, I want to know why are you to act on a different principle with regard to land? The greater part of conveyances in the course of the year are conveyances of small properties near towns, which belong to the middle classes; there can consequently be no doubt but the greater part of those
very conveyance duties, for which a claim is now made upon us by the landowners, are paid by the middle classes, and not by the inheritors of large landed property. However, I am ready to admit, that these Stamp Duties on the conveyance of landed property are injurious to the landed interest—that they tend to lessen the value of their estates by increasing the expense and difficulty of selling their property. It was suggested by the late Mr. Tyrrel and by Mr. Stewart, the eminent conveyancers, that these duties on the alienation of land should be altogether abolished, and that, instead, a Probate Duty should be imposed. I am ready to adopt their suggestion. I can only say that, if the House agree with my proposition, I should willingly vote to relieve the landed interest from this 400,000l., though I believe that the bulk even of this 400,000l. falls on the middle classes and on the small proprietors in the neighbourhood of towns. It was urged in the last debate by several hon. Members, that a Probate Duty on landed property would be easily evaded by means of putting it into trust, and that by this means the large estates would escape. This difficulty, however, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were really in earnest, might easily be avoided. At present, as the law now stands, personal property under trust, under certain circumstances, escapes Probate Duty; but it would be very easy to enact that, whenever the cestuique trust (that is to say, the person who has the beneficial interest) dies, that the tax should be levied on the next cestuique trust entering into the enjoyment of the beneficial interest, whether the interest were derived from personalty or realty. Sir, I have purposely, on the present occasion, confined the Motion now before the House to Probate Duties, with the view of preventing the House being misled by any of the specious arguments which were used on a former occasion relating to the Legacy Duties. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by taking advantage of the fact that, in particular cases, certain interests arising out of land are liable to Legacy Duty, endeavoured, by confounding Probate and Legacy Duty, to induce the House to believe that land is liable both to Probate and Legacy Duty, and that owners of real estate do, in a large degree, contribute to those taxes. Such,
however, is not the fact, and I defy the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman to show that, either land itself, or that any interest arising out of land (be it freehold or copyhold), is, in any single instance, liable to Probate Duty. Sir, I trust I have stated enough to the House to induce it to agree to this Motion. The people of England are lovers of fair play and honesty, and they cannot understand on what principle of justice Parliament imposes a heavy tax on the hard-earned savings of the working man, which he may have laid by for the support of his widow and infant children, when the property of the rich proprietor, which passes to the heir-at-law, utterly and entirely escapes taxation. I now beg to move,
That this House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, on an early day, for the purpose of taking into consideration the Acts 36 Geo. III., c. 52; 45 Geo. HI. c. 28; 48 Geo. III. c. 149; and 55 Geo. III. c. 184, with the view of imposing the same amount of Probate Duty on real estate as is now in similar cases imposed on personal property; and, likewise, of considering the expediency of imposing a Probate Duty in all cases on the death of the cestuique trust (whether the trust property be realty or personalty); in order to substitute such proposed Probate Duty on real estate for some of those taxes which now press most heavily on the productive industry of the people.
§ Mr. Trelawny
said: I rise for the purpose of seconding this motion. It appears to me that, considering the vast extent of the landed wealth of this country—a wealth not depending upon the industry of the landed class, but upon the abundance of our capital and the extent of our population—considering that immense portions of the soil of this country are in the possession of persons who can afford to contribute a small additional per centage to public necessities—considering that it was the intention of Mr. Pitt to extend to land the liability to which he had already subjected personal property; and, lastly, considering that the burthens borne by other classes are far greater in proportion to those sustained by land than those borne by the same classes in the most powerful continental states, the claim of exemption from Probate and Legacy Duties 1046 supported without injustice to the public at large. Much has been said, in rather vague language, about the exclusive burthens on land, and a Committee of inquiry set up by territorial proprietors cannot be into the subject was some time since proposed; but it was refused by Parliament, not, as malicious people say, because alarm was felt that the unreality of such burdens would be demonstrated, but solely from a modest apprehension on the part of landowners lest, on their full disclosure, the public should be induced to force upon them the acceptance of a largely increased protective duty on corn. Generosity, forsooth, is sometimes so pressing and imperative, that the most rigid disinterestedness can with difficulty repel it, and landlords dreaded being placed in a position in which, inspired by virtuous horror of the very semblance of legislation for a class (a horror which especially influenced their conduct with regard to the Gaming Penalties Bill), they would be forced to assume an ungracious demeanour towards a liberal and truly considerate public. And, yet, so much doubt of the existence of such burthens seems to have been felt in a landlords' Parliament, that a Committee of inquiry on the subject was refused lest the public should be convinced of their unreality. For my part, I believe that in general the only great exclusive burthen on land consists of the impolicy of the occupant. However, it is alleged that these exclusive burthens exist. What are they represented to be? Say some the charges on alienation, and expenses, such as marriage settlements for example. I thought marriage settlements had been represented to be the ground of protective duties on corn—they will, indeed, bear double duty, if they are also made the excuse for exempting land from the charges upon the descent of property in general. But, allowing the plea, let any one examine the list of charges on the transfer of personalty, and the expenses upon entering the learned professions, which ultimately fall on the public, and see if there is not an ample set-off against the alleged exclusive burthens referred to. Why, if a poor tradesman wants to borrow 50l. by way of mortgage, it costs him in stamp duty 1l. whilst, if a large landowner wants 20,000l., the stamp duty only costs him 20l. whereas, to be proportionate, it ought to be 400l. It has been said that 1047 tithe is a burthen on land. What! when property was acquired subject to the liability? The portion of the value of land which becomes tithe is public property, and would certainly never, under any circumstances, return to the pockets of the landowners. Is the highway rate a burthen on land? Certainly not, unless we admit that carts, and ploughs, and other means of enhancing the value of land are really the instruments of its depreciation. Besides, is not the manufacturer compelled to invest large sums in the appliances of his art? Are not his gains uncertain, his speculations hazardous: May not the accident of a moment—circumstance so seemingly trivial as the smallest alteration in the price of some commodity, frustrate the hopes of a life of care and anxiety? It should be remembered, too, that the landlords have exempted themselves from tolls for some of their own purposes, while the great high-roads which so much enhance the value of the land they approach were opened by possessors of capital, now represented by the holders of turnpike-trust securities. Then, as to poor and county rates, these make out no case for exempting land from the duties in question. House property, the bulk of which is said to be leasehold, and, therefore, personalty, together with mills and factories, has paid during the last century more than half what land has paid. At present, too, the charge on county rates is partly borne by the public in the payments made to the Consolidated Fund. But, even had this not been the case, where would have been the rent of land but for that increase of population, which, while it has increased the charge on land, has also increased a hundredfold the means of bearing it. But are church rates exclusive burthens on land? No; owners of house property are represented to pay two-fifths of the amount of those rates, that is, their full share, when we consider the proportion which the value of house property bears to the value of land. With respect to the land-tax, we all know how this country has been treated by self-elected legislators. We all know that feudal rights involved feudal services, which were commuted for certain payments to the public purse, intended to be proportioned to the value of land at the time being; whereas, in fact, the land-tax remains in the position in which it was 1048 settled in 1692, without having advanced, as it should have done, with the increasing value of land since that time. Talk of the special burthens on land! I would ask—and that at the risk of incurring the odium which most deservedly attaches to those who basely appeal to popular passions for private ends—what are the burthens on the labouring classes? How much will the toil of the labourer purchase for him? If he want a pound of tobacco, he must give for it an amount of labour which, were there no duty, would procure him nine pounds. If he want a hundred weight of foreign sugar, he must give, in addition to its price in the market of the world, fifteen days of severe toil, any three of which would kill a Member of this House, and all this over and above so much of the price he pays for coffee, corn, and other articles, as depends upon protective or other duties leviable on their importation. Not only must the labourer work all day, but he must reflect that two-thirds of his labour is wasted to the world—for this is always the case where the market for a particular commodity is only sustained by protective duties. The whole wealth of the state—the whole sum of its enjoyments, is not thus increased but diminished. To the reflecting labourer it cannot but occur, that he might as well, during two-thirds of his period of endurance, and as far as the wealth of society is concerned, climb the tread-mill for the diversion of his employers, as apply his labour in the false directions frequently assigned to him. He must say, within himself, "I could bear this if it benefited my employers; but why exact the pound of flesh when no use can be made of it?" The only intelligible motive of legislators—legislators!—in matters affecting trade, would seem to be a mere design (putting the ends of production out of the question) to keep labour out of mischief. Pity labour cannot now and then return the compliment! Take a large and economical view of all this, and what does it amount to? Simply to this—that the state (in other words, the landed interest—for it may truly say l'etat, c'est moi), even when its conduct is most innocent—whilst it acts with the purest intentions, yet acts as if it intended to make the labouring classes work as long and hard as possible with the least possible return in the shape of food, clothes, and comfort, 1049 and then flippantly expends on improper projects the little their labour is allowed to raise. However, heavy as the duties on commodities are, whether we speak of the Excise or Customs, they, and not land, support the immense and almost incredible burthens of this country. Let any one examine the items of the public revenue, and he cannot fail to be satisfied of this. Why, sir, so exorbitant are the duties on commodities, and so long have they operated, that there is good reason to fear that hereafter, when they are removed, the people will have lost all taste for the articles taxed, and have forgotten how to use them, from their want of practice. With regard to corn, the only wonder is (especially when we consider how well protectionists reason in general) that they do not carry out their principle of enhancing prices by shortening supply, to its logical consequences, by limiting by law the quantity of acres to be cultivated—or following the famous precedent of certain Dutch colonists, by occasionally destroying a portion of the produce in order to raise the price of the rest! Sir, the last time this subject was discussed, the motion then made was resisted on grounds of repugnance to taxation in general—a part of that mere "ignorant impatience" (as it has been so well designated) which distinguishes some people at the bare mention of a tax, however valuable its purpose. It was said, "We are not going to heap up new burthens upon those which already depress the resources of the country." But how does this very natural antipathy affect the question? Why, the very reason a bur-then is unbearable often is its unskilful apportionment. If taxation has reached an intolerable limit, and if public security admit of it, reduce all the taxes, but do not render the aggregate less bearable by refusing an equitable adjustment of the portions of which it is composed. Again, the Legacy Duty was called a particularly offensive one; I see no reason for so regarding it. On the contrary, abatement from an unexpected sum received is less felt than from a sum upon the full enjoyment of which a man has calculated, and from the loss of a portion of which he might derive much temporary inconvenience. But, even if it can be justly regarded as peculiarly offensive, whilst this objection might be good ground for with- 1050 drawing its operation from personal, it is no reason, when it is levied on personal, for refusing to extend it to real property. It cannot be denied that there is one great advantage in a Legacy Duty, that it cannot be avoided. Indirect taxation may be evaded by non-consumption of the articles taxed. Indirect taxation, too, has the inconvenience of disconcerting mercantile speculation, while a Legacy Duty draws from the fountain head, and partakes of the qualities of a property-tax without its objectionable circumstances, and more especially its inquisitorial character. In a speech of the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, on a former occasion, that right hon. Gentleman said, in effect, that a Motion of this sort implied only this—that real property should be subject to the Probate and Legacy Duties upon the same conditions as those upon which personal property was based; that personal property, the subject of settlement, was then exempted from those duties; and, consequently, that if the Motion were carried, and if the conditions on which it was founded were strictly adhered to, all large estates in the country, which were the subject of settlement, would be likewise exempted. But has this argument any force on examination? It is proposed to approximate to an uniformity in one branch of taxation by rendering a new class of property liable to a certain tax. The objection is, that absolute uniformity is unattainable. It is evident that the plea is logically inadequate, and has merely the effect of mystifying what is a little too plain to be pleasing. In every country care should be taken that no law should discourage, beyond what may be absolutely necessary, the influx of capital. The slightest unfairness towards the holders of moveable property re-acts upon the wealth of the State; and that, whether moveable property consists of labour or goods. And it follows from this, and from the fact that any diminution of the wealth and population of the country must operate in lowering the value of land, that the most perfect generosity towards other classes is the true policy of the holders of stationary wealth. It appears that one solid reason for taxing land in the way proposed is, that it would offer to the public some compensation for the disadvantage it suffers from the pertinacious maintenance 1051 of the Corn Law by the landed interest. The plan ought to be eagerly caught at by such landlords as are already convinced of the unsoundness of protective duties, and yet entertain a very natural dislike openly to surrender positions, once deemed so strong, as a graceful opportunity of contributing to the aid of those resources their unfortunate policy so materially impairs. And with regard to those landlords who affirm that the sliding-scale enhances the value of their property, who still repose faith in the saving virtues of protection, with what consistency could they refuse to add to the public income a small fraction of that wealth which they maintain protection has created, and protection will maintain? They admit they are exclusively enriched by protection. Can they grudge a fraction of their confessedly factitious wealth to insure the confidence of the public creditor, the security of the State, the conservation of their own order, privileges, and power? If protective duties are a source of wealth, why should it not contribute its quota to public wants? If, on the contrary, these duties are illusory or impoverishing, why not abolish them? Landlords may take which side of the disjunction they please, but one or the other follows from their own admissions. In conclusion, Sir, I must beg seriously to remind the House that it has a character to earn with the country. Its disinterestedness has been impugned, and it is incumbent upon it to take care that the charge receive from its conduct on this occasion a complete triumphant refutation. We must not forget the immense preponderance of landlords in this House; and though it may be admitted throughout the country that the protective measures, so many forms of which have, for considerably above a century, exercised the ingenuity of this House, have been discussed and passed under the influence of considerations of the interest of the public at large; yet, if it appear on inquiry that there are several cases in which there remain on the statute book laws bearing evident marks of favour and interest, and that interest, unfortunately, the interest of the preponderant class in this House, very natural suspicions of the singleness and purity of our views will prevail in the public mind, and possibly be the occasion of irresistible demands of organic constitutional change.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that the Motion which the hon. Gentleman had submitted to the House, was one, he believed, that found no precedent on the Journals of that House, and one on which it might fairly be questioned whether a Motion of that nature could properly be made without (we understood the right hon. Gentleman to say) the consent of the Crown. He, therefore, noticed this in the first instance, because he thought it essential that the House should be guarded in the course of this proceeding how far they infringed upon the essential privileges of the Government. It was only in consideration of this resolution stating rather what the House should do on a future occasion, than what it was prepared to do at the instant, that he thought it admitted of his entering into a discussion which, under other circumstances, he should have thought had better be avoided; and, in discussing it, he would reserve the question of its being conformable to the rules or precedents of that House, upon which he had considerable doubt. As this subject had been twice discussed by him in the course of recent Sessions of Parliament, the House would expect as little novelty in the reply he was about to offer, as in the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had introduced it; but, with respect to the point of form, it would be desirable that the House should have the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair.
§ The Speaker
said, the rule of the House was, that no Motion for a grant of public money could be put from the Chair without the previous consent of the Crown. The preposition, however, of the hon. Member was not of that description, but must be considered as a Duty or Tax to be imposed for the Service of the year. Now, such a Duty ought to be voted in a Committee of Ways and Means, and not in a Committee of the whole House; and it ought not to be proposed unless it could be shewn that the public exigencies required it. He could not call to mind any precedent exactly in point. But, although he was not prepared to say that it was such a Motion as could not be put from the Chair, it was, however, clearly an irregular Motion, and which, not being in conformity with the Rules of the House, the House ought not to entertain.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, 1053 he was extremely unwilling to place the House in the situation of having an irregular motion submitted to it, and discussed on a future occasion; and probably the better course would be (with every willingness to enter into the discussion) that it should he adjourned, to see how far the precedents, as regarded the business of the House, would affect this Motion. He would suggest, therefore, that the Motion should be postponed to some future day.
§ Mr. Hume
thought this was a matter of considerable importance, as involving a declaration, that the House was not now competent to enter into the discussion of the subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it a novel course. As the case was put it was simply this—that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on an early day. It happened every day that it was moved that certain Acts should be read, and that the House should go into Committee to consider them on an early day. The objection taken as to the Committee of Ways and Means might be such, because he supposed that his hon. Friend would propose the abatement of other taxes in proportion to the amount he proposed to raise in this way. The subject had been four or five times discussed in that House, and he had twice moved a resolution to the effect that this duty should be imposed instead of other taxes which the Government were about to lay on—that was a perfectly legitimate course. But he was only supposing the house should go into Committee upon the question whether the House should not consider if they would prefer one tax to another. Having agreed to the imposition of certain duties, it would be wrong for them to add additional taxation; but it would be perfectly right for them to consider whether they should not have substituted one tax instead of another. He thought that was quite right, and he hoped the day was not distant when he should see the House resolving itself into a Committee to consider not only this tax but others. The taxes of the country were most unequal. The rich were favoured whilst the poor were oppressed; and the time he hoped was coming when all other taxes would be considered before a Committee of the House. There never was a tax 1054 which showed to the country more of class legislation than this. The House ought to know, that the taxation upon real and personal property was at first embodied in one Bill, but it was divided into two Bills, after considerable discussion. He had it from the individual who drew up the Bill during the Government of Mr. Pitt, that he took it from the model of Holland.
§ Sir R. Peel
rose to order. The hon. Gentleman was proceeding to discuss the policy of the Stamp Duties; and the question before the [louse was, whether or not the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Elphinstone) was competent to make the Motion in the particular form in which he had brought it before the House. It was of very great importance that the House should adhere to established rules. It might be said that this was an unpopular tax, but it did riot diminish the danger of the precedent, because they selected a particular tax which they said was unpopular, and departed from the original rule. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might take advantage of such a precedent and impose burthens on the people without going through the regular form. He thought it most important that they should adhere to established rules with respect to the taxation of the country; to depart from the rules would be unwise, but to depart from them by evasion, would be worse than all; the evasion would soon become the rule for future action, and he hoped, therefore, in the first instance, in such matters as these, they would let their Motions be in conformity with the rules of the House.
§ Mr. Hume
thought the right hon. Baronet had no right to call him to order. No man in that House was more anxious than he was to maintain the forms of the House. Although there were thirteen opportunities which every Member of the House had to oppose any motion, he defended so great a safeguard. He would concur with the right hon. Baronet, that they should not attempt in any way to evade the established rules of the House; but he thought this was an attempt to smother and get rid of a Motion of importance, and he was proceeding to state why it ought to be discussed, when the right hon. Baronet rose to order; but if they were to have another opportunity of discussing the question, he would be the last man to wish to detain the House by 1055 entering at greater length upon the subject then.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
thought that the House ought not to decide the question without due consideration. What the right hon. Gentleman opposite stated was quite true. There were certain rules with respect to taxation, to which it was extremely desirable the House should adhere. But let it not be understood that the discussion of this subject was thereby wholly stopped. The hon. Gentleman might have committed some irregularity in his mode of proceeding, but he had no doubt he would be able to bring the subject under the consideration of the House on a future occasion.
§ Mr. Elphinstone
said, he was the last person who would wish to make a bad precedent. He would, therefore, propose that the right hon. Baronet should fix seme day next week when this subject might be fully and fairly discussed.
§ Mr. Warburton
thought it better that his hon. relative (Mr. Elphinstone) should move the adjournment of the discussion, and it was but fair that the Government should give him another night for it. His Motion was far more regular than a Motion on a former occasion, when there was a similar discussion—he meant in 1842. The Motion on that occasion was for imposing a Legacy Duty on the succession to real estates, of the same amount as on personal property, and that was more open to an objection, upon a matter of form, than the Motion of his hon. relative, for it proposed that whatever duty was raised upon the one should be raised upon the other; but his hon. relative proposed that they should retain the amount that was now paid on personal property, and impose the like rate on real property. The manner in which his hon. relative had worded his Motion was different; and he thought there could be no objection to an adjournment of the discussion.
§ The Speaker
said, he had then the volume of the Journal of the House before him, which contained a report of the proceedings of the House when the duty was imposed; and it appeared that the Probate Duties imposed by the Acts of Parliament referred to in the hon. Member's proposition were originally voted in Committee of Ways and Means. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to read the Resolution from the Journal, and added that it was highly desirable that the House should pause be- 1056 fore it established any new precedent with regard to Motions of this description.
§ Motion withdrawn.