§ House in Committee of Ways and Means.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, I feel my strength so unequal to discharge adequately the important task which I have undertaken, that I believe I shall best perform my duty by laying before the House an outline of the financial policy of the Government, leaving to future discussion the greater part of the arguments which may be required to enforce that policy and to recommend the propositions which I shall submit for the adoption of the Committee. I shall therefore, Sir, proceed at once by reminding the House that the year which has passed over our heads, or I should perhaps say, the period of the last eighteen months, has been one which, excepting cases of foreign war or domestic insurrection, is without a parallel, I think, in the history of this country. The changes and vicissitudes of prices—the difficulties of commerce—the panic which more than 901 once prevailed—the extreme distress of a part of the United Kingdom—the extraordinary efforts which were made to relieve that distress—altogether affected the state of this country to a degree that I believe it would not he easy to find an example of such distress in our history. To give the Committee some notion of the very great Vicissitudes we have gone through, I will refer to the changes in the price of wheat, the changes in the rate of commercial discounts by the Bank of England, and to the changes in the amount of bullion held by that establishment. In the first week of September, 1846, the average price of wheat was 49s.; the price in January, 1847, was 70s.; and in the week ending May 29, 1847, the price of wheat was 102s. 3d. On the 18th of September following it had again fallen to 49s. 6d., being only sixpence difference from the price of the preceding September, and more than 100 per cent difference from the price at which it stood in the previous May. The rate of discount by the Bank of England—I mean the minimum rate of discount charged by the Bank of England—in November, 1846, was 3 per cent. In April, 1847, it had been raised to 5 per cent; in October, the lowest rate of interest charged by the Bank of England was 8 per cent; and in January, 1848, it was again 4 per cent. The amount of bullion on the 10th of October, 1846, held by the Bank of England, was 15,078,135l.; on the 23rd of October, 1847, it was 7,865,445l.; and again on the 5th of February, 1848, it was 13,821,754l. Now, Sir, I have referred to these changes not with a view at present of speaking either of the causes which produced them, or the remedies which from time to time have been proposed in Parliament for some of the aggravated symptoms of these calamities, but merely for the purpose of showing to the House how great have been the changes in our condition, and how much such vicissitudes must have affected the revenue of the country. Sir, it is obvious in the first place that there could not be so great changes in the price of corn without very much affecting the consumption of manufactured goods, and likewise of exciseable commodities, both by the agricultural and the commercial classes. This is shown by another return, exhibiting the number of hands employed in Manchester on full time and on short time, and unemployed, at the different periods to which I have alluded. On the I6th of February, 1847, those 902 employed in Manchester, full time, were 21,698; on the 2nd November, they were reduced to 14,861; and on February 8, 1848, they were again 32,146. Those employed on short time on the 16th of February, 1847, were 13,404; on the 2nd of November they were 14,578; and on February 8, this year, they were only 4,901. The unemployed on February 16th, 1847, were 5,600; on November 2 they had risen to the enormous number of 11,616; and on the 8th of February, this year, they had fallen to 7,543. I think, Sir, the House must agree that it was impossible such changes could take place, such distress be felt, and the revenue of the Excise not be very much affected by those changes and that state of distress. But, Sir, the commercial vicissitudes to which I have alluded must also to a very considerable degree have affected the Customs. When in April, and again in October, there was so great a degree of discredit—when that discredit amounted to panic, and no-one was sure what bills would be paid—when persons most solvent in their circumstances, and the largest houses, if not in danger of falling, were at least obliged to submit to the greatest sacrifices—it was impossible that there should not be a great embarrassment of trade, and that merchants should not give, as they did give, orders that the goods which they had ordered to be imported should not be sent to this country, but that bullion, or some other mode of payment, should be adopted instead. And therefore, whilst the trade of the country was very considerably paralysed, the revenue must have suffered severely from that state of things. Sir, I will allude here to the statement of Mr. Huskisson, in July, 1817, after the country had had the misfortune of a deficient harvest. He said—This was the situation of the country, particularly since the failure of the last harvest. His only surprise indeed was, that the revenue had not fallen-off more. A falling-off of 10 per cent on a revenue of 50 millions was not so wonderful when a scarcity of provisions happened take place, and when there was a want of full employment for our population. He repeated, that he was surprised the deficiency had not been much greater.This was a deficiency of 10 per cent on a revenue of 50,000,000l., which Mr. Huskisson declared in a time of scarcity was not a deficiency at which we should be surprised, or at which he thought at that time any would wonder. Having stated these general circumstances, to the details of which I will not further allude, because 903 there have been frequent discussions in this House on the matter, while the alarm and distress which prevailed must be fresh in the recollection of every hon. Member, I will now go on to state what I think it is due to the present Government that I should state, especially as some gross exaggerations have been spread among the public on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman who held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late Government, before he went out of office, made a financial statement which was marked by the talent and clearness which distinguish all his financial statements, but which of course applied only to the year to which he was then referring. That right hon. Gentleman did not, of course, state, in submitting to the House the estimates for the year for which he was providing, that there would be an increase in some of the items of expenditure in the ensuing year—an increase which happened to be very considerable. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman only took into his account the military estimates for three quarters of a year, in consequence of a change having been made in the mode of keeping the accounts of that department; and the burden of several sums which had been voted by Parliament in the nature of compensation for the repeal of the corn laws fell upon the Exchequer in the ensuing year. In the year 1847–1848 there was an increase in the estimates, as compared with 1846–1847, of 932,700l.; but the amount of services unprovided for in 1846–1847, which fell into the last year, was 628,500l.; so that the actual increase made in the estimates by the present Government amounted, not to 932,700l., but to 304,200l. In the year before last the' present Government made an alteration in the sugar duties, from which a very considerable increase in the amount of revenue derived from sugar has resulted. In 1845 the revenue from sugar was 3,574,000l.; in 1846 it was 3,873,000l.; and in 1847 it was 4,414,000l.; showing an increase of revenue from sugar in 1847, as compared to 1845, of 840,000l., and as compared to 1846 of 541,000l. So far, therefore, are the present Government responsible, either with regard to an increase in the estimates on the one hand, or with respect to a decrease of the revenue on the other. Whatever objections may be urged, either on moral or political grounds, against the change which was made in the sugar duties—objections into which I will 904 not now enter—it is obvious that, as a revenue measure, it has very considerably increased the public income, without imposing any additional taxation upon the people of this country. But I will now proceed to refer to a paper which is in the hands of the House—the balance-sheet for this year, which was presented on the 3rd of February. From that balance-sheet it appears that there is an excess of expenditure over income of 2,956,683l.; but with regard to that excess, I have to state that, among the sums which are entered in this account on the side of expenditure, is a considerable portion of the amount which was granted to relieve the distress that existed in Ireland—a sum amounting to 1,525,000l. I find also that there has been reckoned among the receipts of the year 450,000l. for the remaining China money, which, instead of being received in this country, was stopped at the Cape of Good Hope, and transferred to the military chest of the colony for the purposes of the Caffre war. Taking off, therefore, these two sums—the amount for the relief of Irish distress, which is not reckoned part of the ordinary expenditure of the year, and the China money, which though estimated was not received—the real excess of expenditure will be 981,683l. Sir, I will now state the estimate with regard to the different sources of revenue made by my right hon. Friend in his budget last year, and the amount which it is estimated may be derived from those sources during the present year. Of course I am not able to give an exact statement of those amounts; I can only state, as nearly as can now be estimated, the sums which will probably be received under the various heads up to the 5th of April, 1848. The Customs, which were estimated at 20,000,000l., are now expected to produce the sum of 19,774,760l. The receipts under the head of Excise were estimated by my right hon. Friend at 13,700,000l.; they are now estimated at 13,340,000l. The revenue from stamp duties was estimated at 7,500,000l.; it is now estimated at 7,150,000l. The taxes were estimated at 4,270,000l.; it is now estimated that they will produce 4,340,000l. The property-tax was estimated at 5,300,000l.; it is now calculated that it will produce 5,450,000l. The anticipated revenue from the Post Office was taken at 845,000l..; it is now estimated that it will be 923,000l. The Crown lands were taken at 120,000l.; they will only produce 905 60,000l. The miscellaneous revenue was estimated at 330,000l., and it is now calculated that under this head we shall receive 325,000l. The whole amount of the revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated would be derived from all these sources was 52,065,000l.; it is now estimated that they will produce only 51,362,060l. There certainly has been a considerable falling-off in the revenue; but, at the same time, adverting to the circumstances to which I have alluded—to the dreadful scarcity in Ireland, and to the commercial distress under which this country suffered—taking into consideration the very sudden and extreme changes which took place in the course of the year, I must confess that that falling-off in the revenue appears to me to be less than might have been expected under the circumstances in which the country was placed. I will now read some of the items upon which there has been a falling-off, and some of those upon which there has been an increase. Of course, this statement can only be made up to the 5th of January last. The statement I have just read is the general estimate of the revenue up to April, formed on the amount actually received during that portion of the financial year which has already elapsed. I am now going to read the increase or diminution of revenue upon various articles up to the 5th of January, 1848. The increase of revenue from molasses has been 31,459l.; from sugar, 540,091l.; from rum, 71,714l.; making on these articles alone an increase of 643,264l. The increase upon butter has been 16,921l.; and upon cheese, 7,179l.; making a total increase on those articles of 24,100l. There has also been an increase in the revenue on the article of tobacco of 111,620l. On the other hand, there has been, as of course was to be expected in consequence of the total suspension of the corn duties, a decrease in the revenue derived from corn amounting to 705,890l. There has also been a decrease in the revenue produced by the timber duties of 143,751l.; and a decrease on wine of 132,361l. With regard to the Excise, there has been a very large decrease, up to the date I have mentioned, the 5th January, 1848, upon malt and spirits. The decrease on malt has been 664,000l., and on spirits 695,000l., making a total decrease on malt and spirits alone of 1,359,000l. These, however, are articles upon which no one can be surprised that there should have been a decrease. This 906 decrease undoubtedly is the result of the deficiency of the barley crop—of the general distress which has prevailed—and of the want of power to consume articles of luxury during a period of great commercial depression. I will now refer to the expenditure for the year ending the 5th of April, 1848. The estimated expenditure was 61,576,000l.; but the excess on the Navy Estimates, according to the exact sum voted has been 185,000l. The interest on the loan taken last year is 280,000l., and the increase in consequence of the raising of the interest on Exchequer-bills is 142,000l., making a total of 52,083,000l. But the expenditure was altered in some votes afterwards, there being, as there always are, different votes passed during the Session not reckoned in the budget. The total expenditure voted was 52,315,709l. The estimated receipts to which I have already alluded will be 51,362,060l., making the deficiency 953,649l. Sir, I have now to state what I calculate will be the produce of the various articles of the revenue in the year, from the 5th of April, 1848, to the 5th of April, 1849; and I will state in the usual manner the different articles enumerated, and the amount of the proposed estimate on each. We propose to take the Customs at 19,750,000l. We take the Excise at 13,000,000l., which is a somewhat higher estimate than that for the current year, it being supposed that malt and spirits will not exhibit such a great decrease during the next year as they have done during the past. The revenue from the duty on stagecoaches is estimated by that department at 500,000l. The Stamps are estimated to produce 7,200,000l.; the estimates under this head being diminished by the transfer of stagecoaches to the Excise. The taxes' we take at 4,340,000l. The Income-tax, which in 1846 was 5,084,000l., and, in 1847, 5,464,000l., we propose to estimate for the next year at 5,200,000l. The Post Office, up to January, 1848, produced 923,000l.; we propose to take it at 900,000l. The actual amount paid on Crown lands during this year has been 60,000l., and we propose to estimate them at the same sum for the next year. The "Miscellaneous" for the year ending in January, 1848, produced 325,000l.; but that amount included large House of Commons' fees, which will not be forthcoming this year; and, therefore, I propose to estimate the revenue under that head for the next year at 300,000l. The whole 907 amount of the revenue for the year, according to this estimate will be 51,250,000l. I may here state that, for several years, there has been a casual increase in the revenue from the payment of China money, of the sums paid as indemnity by the Chinese; but we cannot hope any longer to derive any revenue from that quarter. Now, taking the expenditure voted at 52,315,709l., and the estimated receipts for the next year at 51,250,000l., there will be a deficiency of revenue as compared with expenditure of 1,065,709l. That is, on the supposition that the expenditure is the same in the year 1848–49 as it has been in the past year. But there is a large sum to be voted for the excess of the expenses of the Navy, up to April, 1847, amounting to 245,500l.; and there is a sum of 1,100,000l. on account of the Caffre war, the accounts for which have come in lately; and, taking into account these two sums, amounting to 1,345,500l., there will be a deficiency upon the income I have reckoned, supposing the establishments to be the same as for the last year, of 2,411,209l. Now, Sir, I have wished to lay this view of the condition of the finances of the country early before the House, in order that the House of Commons might take into its full consideration the state of the finances and the circumstances of the country; and from that state of the finances, and from those circumstances, may resolve upon the course which it shall seem to them most befitting the interest and the credit of the nation to adopt. There are evidently various courses which are open to the House to take; and all I propose to do to-night is, to state that course which seems to the Government to be the best, leaving it to the deliberate consideration and determination of this House to decide whether the step we propose is that which is most befitting, or whether, under the circumstances I have mentioned, any other course is more advisable, and will be more conducive to the future welfare of the country. And, Sir, it cannot but strike every one that there is one great question involved in this state of things—which is, that even without any increase of your expenditure you must supply the deficiency which at present exists by increased taxation, or else that you must come to a resolution that you can make great reductions in your military and civil establishments, and in that manner reduce your expenditure so as to meet the income without any increased taxation. 908 Now, I wish that subject to be fairly considered by the House; and I think it is better, without waiting for the discussion of the question upon Motions made by individual Members, that I should now state the views which are entertained on this point by Her Majesty's Government. Sir, opinions—extreme opinions, as I think—have been held and discussed out of doors upon the subject of the defences of the country. There have been put forward, on the one hand, what I may call four different propositions: first, that we may, at any time, find ourselves suddenly involved in war; secondly, that that war may be followed by an immediate invasion of this country; thirdly, that foreign Powers, and especially France, have made great military and naval preparations of late years; and, fourthly, that our military and naval preparations have been totally inadequate to meet this danger. It has been stated, on the other hand, that there is every prospect of peace; that the inclinations of foreign Powers are most friendly towards this country; that an invasion is the most improbable of all things; that foreign Powers are looking rather to a reduction than to an increase of their military preparations; and that our own estimates, instead of being too low, are extravagantly high. These are the counter-propositions which have been enunciated out of doors. I feel that this subject is one of great difficulty and delicacy; but still, discussed as it has been, I do not think I could justifiably refuse, on the part of the Government, to state the view we take of the propositions I have mentioned. That being so, I wish, in the first place, to guard myself against any supposition that I think there is, in the present state of our foreign relations, and especially in the state of our relations with France, any reason to fear the rupture of the peace which now happily prevails. Sir, no man in this House can be more persuaded than I am of the advantages to this country—to all the countries of Europe, to all the world—the advantages and the benefits of peace. I am impressed, likewise, with the advantage to both these countries of our friendly relations with France; and no one is more anxious than I am that the relations of these two powerful countries, both possessing representative and constitutional Governments—both having had enough of what is called "glory" to satisfy those who are most greedy for reputation—may henceforth be of the 909 most amicable—I could wish them to be of the most intimate—character. There is, however, another point on which I also wish to guard myself. I find it stated in a pamphlet written with the most friendly intentions toward this country, by M. Michel Chevalier, that the Duke of Wellington has sought by a letter of his, which has been lately published, to make a kind of pamphleteering answer to the Prince de Joinville, and to call the attention of the public to the state of the defences of this country. Now, I will venture to say, that nothing could be further from the intentions of the Duke of Wellington. I know perfectly well—for he has expressed it in a letter to me—that nothing has given him greater pain than the publication of sentiments which he had expressed confidentially to a brother officer. The Duke of Wellington, as was his duty—as is his duty—has from time to time communicated to the Government of the country, and does now communicate to the Government of the country, what he considers ought to be, and what he thinks may be the deficiencies in, the state of our defences; but in so doing, nothing could be further from his wish than either to make any public appeal, or in any way to inflame or exasperate relations between this and foreign countries. Nothing can be more pure than the patriotism of the Duke of Wellington; and, although it is no discredit to any man to have an instinctive patriotism which makes him love his own country beyond all others, yet I must say, that, with the patriotism of the Duke of Wellington, there has been always joined an opinion—which I share with him—that it is most desirable to maintain the independence and the power of this country as a guarantee for the freedom, the independence, and the civilisation of the other nations of the world. No man, therefore, can impute it in any way as blameable to the Duke of Wellington if he should have expressed his sentiments in the way that I hare stated; and I should think it quite unnecessary to make any defence upon that subject were it not, in the first place, that I may have the misfortune to differ from some of the opinions that he has expressed; and that, in the next place, it is not only a foreigner, but some persons in this country, who have misunderstood the motives of the Duke of Wellington; and, lastly, because I know perfectly well that, however strong his cause, he is always reluctant personally to defend himself. Hav- 910 ing stated thus much, I will now refer to those points which I have mentioned as involved in this question. With regard to the first, that this country may be at any time involved in war, it is unhappily, notwithstanding our amicable relations with foreign countries at this time, a contingency which no man can deny to be possible. There have been, since the Peace of 1815, questions in dispute with the United States, with Russia, with France, which, had not forbearance been shown on both sides, might have led to hostilities. Even so lately as 1844, at a time when our relations with France were most friendly and intimate, a question arose which, I own, affected me with the deepest anxiety; I allude to an insult offered to a civil officer of the British Crown on a distant station. The hesitation which was shown with regard to granting reparation for that insult was such that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Robert Peel), who was then the First Minister of the Crown, spoke in this House in reference to it in language which seemed to me at the time to be not only justified by the circumstances, but required by his position. But persons of the highest authority in France declared at the time that that language on the part of the right hon. Gentleman made it difficult for the French Government to offer the reparation it was bound to make, and which, after a time, they made. I mention this only to show how circumstances of a trivial character may affect our relations with foreign countries, and what sensitive pride, what susceptibility there may be on the part of nations which, like France and England, are nations of great power and of great strength, but yet extremely jealous of anything that may in the least trench upon their honour; I mention it here to show by what a slight accident, and with what little fault on the part of the Executive Government on the one side or the other, the peace of the world may be endangered. I cannot, therefore, but admit that, however tranquil the atmosphere may be at the present moment, it is possible that there may, at any time, arise an unforeseen circumstance calculated to disturb the peace of the world; and when I recollect that Mr. Pitt, with all his sagacity and talent, predicted in 1792 a long continuance of peace, I cannot deny that this country ought to look forward to the contingency of war, in any state of the world, as an event which it is impossible for me or for any man to say 911 may not suddenly arise. With regard to the next point—that of an invasion of this country—although I am not one of those who consider it as a very probable event, yet I feel that even improbable events ought to be guarded against; and there is one circumstance which, although it might afford no rational hope for an invader, might yet appear a plausible ground for supposing that invasion would be more successful than in former times. In the course of the last 300 years, as any reader of English history may perceive, there have been numerous occasions when we were engaged in war, and the elements have stood our friend; and expeditions prepared with the greatest cost and power have been defeated, dispersed, and overwhelmed by the adverse winds which they had to encounter. Science and skill, since the great Peace of 1815, have enabled seamen to traverse the seas against the wind, in spite of the elements; and it certainly is possible that that circumstance might induce a hostile Power, when war was once begun, to consider that this country is more open to invasion than it has been in former times. With regard to the third point—the preparation that has been made, it is certainly true that, of late years, since the Revolution of 1830, under a King who is, I believe, a most sincere lover of peace—under a King who has maintained peace during the whole of his reign—there has been a very large increase of the naval force of Prance. That force, be it observed, cannot be said to be, as ours is, a force intended to defend very wide and extensive colonial possessions, or intended to protect a commerce that is scattered, with great riches and with a vast capital involved in it, in every quarter of the world. Neither the French colonies nor the French commerce are of that extent in distant parts of the globe as to require such a large increase of force as has taken place within the period to which I allude. I find that in 1833 the number of men on the naval inscription in France was 101,000; in 1847 it was 134,000. I will not read all the different particulars, but the value of the annual consumption of materials was 640,000l. in 1833, and it had risen to 1,120,000l. in 1847. The number of vessels at sea had increased from 153 in 1833, to 216 in 1847, 66 being steamers; that is the number of steamers at sea; the number of steam vessels belonging to the French navy is, I believe, upwards of 120. The seamen serving in the navy of 912 France have been increased from 18,000 to 29,000; the expenditure for naval purposes, from 2,280,000l. to 3,902,320l. The stores afloat and the amounts in the arsenals and dockyards for naval purposes are very extensive. But then I am told that in the estimates for the present year there has been a reduction. It is true, in the French naval estimates there is a saving of 81,000l. on the wages of seamen, but there is an increase of 112,000l. in stores and fortifications and dockyards, making altogether an increase of 31,000l. in the period I have named, and not a decrease. I have here another statement of the navy of France, with which it is not worth while to trouble the House, but it shows that the whole sum to be voted for the navy for 1849 is 3,817,107l. I am not alluding at all—it never has been the custom to allude, and I think we are quite right in that respect—to what may be the military force of foreign Powers. I do not therefore allude at all to the amount of the standing army that is kept up in France, or in Austria, or in Prussia, or in other foreign countries; but so great an increase in naval estimates, I think, does require the attention, and at all events should be within the knowledge, of the House. Of course, I need not say that a number of the French steamers would carry from 1,200 to 1,500 men, and might be used for that purpose on a very short notice. But I come now to the fourth point; and that is, that it is stated that, while there has been this increase, and while we are exposed to this danger, which may overrun England in a day—which may all on a sudden destroy our arsenals, or may even involve the occupation of this capital itself, there have been no adequate military and naval preparations made in the ports of this country. Now, I do beg the House to attend to this subject. It has been made a matter of reproach by some hon. Members, and it ought to be matter of consolation to those who are so fearful that our force will never be sufficient for the purposes of defence, to attend to the increase of our force since 1835. In two particular years there has been a very large increase. It was stated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, in one year, I think in 1836, there was an increase of 5,000 seamen; and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Peel), when at the head of the Government, in 1845, proposed an increase amounting, I think, to 4,500, certainly 913 upwards of 4,000 in one year. The whole increase of the Navy—seamen, boys, and marines—has been this: the seamen from 15,500, in 1835, to 27,500 in 1848; the number of boys has remained the same; the marines from 9,000 to 13,500; making an increase altogether from 26,500 to 43,000, an increase of 16,500. The Army has, in the same time, been increased from 100,991 to 138,769, being an increase of 37,778. In the Ordnance Department the men have been increased from 8,252 to 14,294, being an increase of 6,042; so that the whole regular force of Navy, Army, and Ordnance has been increased from 135,743 to 196,063, making an increase of 60,320 between the years 1835 and 1846. I believe I have voted in every year for these items of increase. I think that our force was very inadequate in 1835, and I believe that those items of increase have been properly voted by the House; but at all events it cannot be said that there has been in any respect any unwillingness in this House to vote the sums said to be necessary for the national defence. But there have been of late years other kinds of forces which have been drilled and organised, and which, as I believe, would be found most useful and effective. Under the late Government, 15,000 of the old soldiers of the line were organised as pensioners; under the present Government there have been dockyard battalions organised, very efficient, as I believe, amounting to 9,800 men. These battalions may be thus classed; artillery 2,843, bomb battalions, 2,116; infantry, 3,428; sappers and miners 1,586—total 9,873. This force have a number of guns. They have attached to them field-pieces 168; ship guns, 144; battery guns, 306, other artillery, 432—making altogether 1,050 guns. A great part of this force could be moved at any time, supposing a particular point was threatened, to any part of the coast, carrying the field-pieces with very great despatch. There has been adopted, likewise, a plan for organising and drilling the coast-guard, and for adding to that coast-guard other men, who, for a very small amount of pay, would attend on certain days. These, I believe, would make a very efficient corps; the coast-guard men amount to 2,000, and these supplemental men to 6,000, being a total of 8,000. I do not believe, therefore, that on this head of the number of men there has been unwillingness, on the part of the Governments of different times, or on the part of this House, to make an ade- 914 quate provision for our defence. The sums voted also have increased at least in proportion to the number of men. Confining myself to the total of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, the cost has increased from 11,730,073l. in 1835, to 17,340,096l. in 1847. I need not enter into any of the details, the totals are those I have mentioned. The question to which I come, then, is whether we should now make a very great reduction in our force—whether we should, taking the opposite view, make a very large increase of that force—or whether we should continue adding from time to time to such parts of that force as may seem to the Government and the country to require increase, and be satisfied with the additions and alterations suited to the circumstances. Our opinion is, that, in the first place, considering the position of this country—considering our immense empire, the number of colonies that have been added to that empire, the very great charge upon our military force, the possibility of war, the duties of this country to defend herself and to maintain her independence, it would not be wise to endeavour to make your expenditure equal to your income by large reductions. On the other hand, we are no less of opinion that there is no reason for any sudden alarm or precipitate measures. Our belief is, that, taking the different forces that you have—the Navy, and Army, and Ordnance—with moderate additions with regard to certain branches of those services, this country will be in a fit state of defence, and will thereby have every security for peace. I say, the security for peace, because I conceive that the object of all these arrangements is to obtain that security. Let any one consider what would be the effect if by accident such a state of feeling should exist between this country and a foreign Power as I have alluded to as having unfortunately prevailed between this country and France in 1844. In such cases the people of a country are usually divided into parties—one wishing for the maintenance of peace, whilst another is eager to rush at once into war. If the war party were able to say, "Look at your neighbour; she is totally defenceless; now is the moment when a blow can be struck from which she will never be able to recover,"—I contend that, under such circumstances, the war party would have a great advantage. On the other hand, if the peace party could say, "Look at the preparations which this Power has made—look at the forces which she has ready to 915 repel and to defeat any attempt which may be made by sudden surprise to invade her territory,"—then, I maintain that the peace party would possess a great advantage. Well, then, what is our state as regards the Navy? We propose to increase the navy estimates of this year by 164,000l., of which sum 94,000l. are for services not naval, leaving only 70,000l. as the actual increase in the naval expenditure of this year. I hold in my hand a letter written to me by Lord Auckland, in consequence of a desire expressed by me that his Lordship would bestow his utmost attention both upon the estimates for the French navy, and those which were to be laid before the House of Commons, from which I will read some passages. [The noble Lord here read an extract from the letter referred to, describing some arrangements contemplated by the Admiralty respecting the squadrons on foreign stations, and describing the progress made in the building and equipment of steam vessels of war.] I think that is a very wise precaution. It refers to that which must be our great defence in case of war—the defence to be afforded by the Navy. And let it not be forgotten, that if steam navigation furnishes a country desirous of invading this with an advantage in the power of rapidly conveying troops across the sea, it also gives us countervailing advantages in the means of blockade and watching an enemy's ports, which the skill and science of British seamen would not fail to take advantage of. I hold, therefore, that with the votes which we propose, this country will be found fully prepared, as far as naval preparation is concerned. I do not wish to enter into other particulars connected with this subject; indeed, it would be objectionable; and, therefore, I trust that the House will excuse me. I may state, however, that in conformity with the declaration which the Government made last year, it is proposed to add 1,500 men to the Marines, which, with the 1,500 added last year, augments that force by 3,000 men. With respect to another point, not immediately referring to the estimates of the present year, but respecting which a good deal of alarm at one time prevailed—namely, the defences of the dockyards, I beg to state that that subject attracted the serious attention of the late Government, by whom it was carefully considered, and by whom preparations were made for putting the dockyards into a necessary state of defence. It must be confessed that for several years the defcnoes of the dockyards 916 had been very much neglected. Upon inquiring what sums had been spent upon these necessary works for the last few years, since 1844, I found them to be as follows:—
Of the above total, 54,297l. are for the purchase of land and buildings. I believe the fortifications have been constructed by the most skilful engineers. They were inspected last year by the Commander in Chief, the Duke of Wellington, and the Master General of the Ordnance; and the Duke of Wellington has more than once assured me that he was perfectly satisfied with the manner in which the works were being carried on. To sum up my statement, then. With respect to the Navy, I may say that we propose to increase the estimate for this branch of the service by only 70,000l. With respect to the Army, it should be stated, that although we do not propose to increase the military force by a single man, yet in the course of the year the number of men in the United Kingdom will be materially increased by the return of several regiments from India. I cannot compute the number of men who will arrive in England from India in the course of the spring and summer at less than 5,000, and it probably will be more. The reduction of the army in India has been accomplished by the prudent and economical arrangements of Lord Hardinge, who, having triumphed by his skill and courage in the conduct of hostilities, determined, as soon as hostilities were terminated, to place the finances of that country in a satisfactory state by taking on himself the unpopular task of effecting great reductions. I may say that, notwithstanding those reductions, I believe the safety of our Indian empire was never so well secured as it is at the present moment. There will remain in India an army of 240,000 men, of whom 28,000 are European troops, after all the reductions which Lord Hardinge purposes, although those reductions will effect a saving of upwards of 1,000,000l. sterling. One effect of the new arrangement with respect to the Indian army will be, as I have already stated, a considerable increase in the number of soldiers in this country during the present year. The number of rank and file at present in the United Kingdom is 917 55,000; but I expect it will amount to about 60,000 in the course of the summer. I believe that it is long since so large a military force as that has been maintained in this country. The augmentation, recollect, is not caused by any direct increase in the gross number of the Army, but partly by bringing men home from India and the colonies—a regiment from the West Indies, and some others; and I have no doubt it will be further increased by the removal from the Cape, by Sir Harry Smith, of the regiment which was detained there upon its return home from India. I believe that during the present year the number of men in the United Kingdom will exhibit an increase of 20,000 as compared with the year I before mentioned—1835. I will not weary the attention of the House by going through the various items of the Army estimates—it will be the duty of my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War to give full explanation with respect to them hereafter; but I will content myself with stating, that we propose to increase the estimate only to the extent of 43,000l. With respect to the Ordnance, we propose a more considerable increase. It must be apparent, that although it would be possible to make a considerable and rapid increase in the number of the infantry of the Army, on a sudden emergency, it would not be possible for the Government to make a similar augmentation in the service of the artillery or in the service of sappers and I miners; indeed, it may be assumed that it would hardly be possible to make a large increase in that description of force in less than eighteen months, or perhaps two years. Taking this view of the question, therefore, we last year proposed an increase in the Ordnance estimates, and we intend this year to carry the increase further, under the heads of Artillery, and Sappers and Miners. We propose an increase of 99,000l. for the first vote, which will give 451 sappers and miners, and 1,451 royal artillery; in the whole an increase of 1,902. There will likewise be a very considerable increase in the Ordnance, under the head of Stores; and, without entering into detail on this subject, I will state generally that, on the showing of the Master General of the Ordnance, whom I desired to place all particulars fully before me, I am satisfied that an increase of small arms, and a progressive increase in the stores of gunpowder, is a matter of absolute necessity. Those are stores which, 918 on the sudden breaking out of a war, it would be impossible to supply in the course of a week or even of a month or so; and therefore it is necessary to prepare a stock calculated on the probable expenditure of stores formed by the estimate of those most conversant with the subject. The increase in the Ordnance estimates, for the present year, which we propose to make, amounts to 245,000l., which, added to the increase for what I may term Naval purposes, of 70,000l., for the Army of 43,000l., and for the Ordnance of 245,000l., will make a total increase in those three items of 358,000l. There is another species of force with respect to which we propose to lay a measure before the House in the course of the Session, and for which I purpose to take a vote in the estimates which now he upon the table. In considering the question of national defence, it is necessary to take into calculation chances, however remote; and one of those chances is the possibility of an enemy landing on our shores. In that case it would be necessary to garrison Portsmouth, Plymouth, and other dockyards and points of defence; and our force of 60,000 men—large as it is, as compared with that which we have had in previous years—it appears to us, would not altogether suffice for that purpose, and at the same time leave a sufficient number of men in the field. There is, however, a force to which the country has in former times looked for its defence—which has always been held to be the constitutional force of this country—a force which has been called into active operation at former periods of our history—which has been kept up during a period of peace—which was the favourite force of one of the greatest men the country has ever produced, Lord Chatham—I mean the militia. It is fitting I should state that, in my opinion, difficulties now exist with respect to the question of embodying the militia which did not prevail at any former period. By the habits of the people of this country, we are, I think, placed between two difficulties with respect to this subject. If we should adopt the system of allowing substitutes to be offered, it is to be feared that, from the migratory habits of our labouring population, the substitutes would not be available when they were wanted. Then, on the other hand, if we should refuse to take substitutes, we should impose upon the people of this country the hardship of military service, to which they 919 have never been accustomed, and which they would reluctantly consent to undergo. I state these as the difficulties attending the subject; but we will propose a measure which appears to us best calculated to obviate those difficulties. I wish that measure to be maturely considered by the House; and, if the House should sanction its second reading, it can be fully examined in Committee, with the view of determining whether it is suitable to the present circumstances of the country. It is for the House to decide whether the militia force can be, or ought to be, reorganised at the present time. If it be practicable, I believe it to be right, as I am sure it is useful, to have a portion of our people trained to the use of arms, and capable, on the breaking out of hostilities, of being marched to any point at which their services might be required. And there is this additional reason in its favour, that I think the House, if they cannot come to a conclusion that organisation of the militia force is desirable, will be obliged in future years, in the next year, or in some future year, to propose a still further extension of the Army, so that this country may not be without a sufficient force to oppose to an enemy, supposing hostilities to happen, and that the enemy were to evade all our naval opposition, and were to succeed in landing on our shores. I propose taking a vote for 150,000l. in the present year, with the view of laying the foundation of this militia force. I have referred to the subject, with its accompanying difficulties, and I shall be happy to have the assistance of the House in coming to such a conclusion on the question as may be most advantageous to the interests of the country. I will now state what will be the total expenditure for the year ending the 5th of April, 1849:—
Portsmouth 101,210l. Plymouth and Devonport 57,077l. Pembroke 33,633l. Sheerness and the Thames 70,876l. Total 262,796l.
920 If, then, the Government is right in the view which it takes of the necessities of the country—if it be right in thinking that it is not expedient to make large reductions in the naval and military services, but, on the contrary, that it is expedient to go on maintaining and improving the forces which we have—it is obvious not only that I must propose the renewal of the Income Tax, which would otherwise shortly expire, but also that it will be necessary (supposing the House should approve of such estimates as those of the past year, or of any at all equal to them) to impose additional taxation. In addressing myself to this question I will speak only of what I think the necessity of the time demands. It is obvious that a great part of the deficiency to which I alluded at the commencement of my statement is attributable to the state of the country, afflicted, as it has been, with scarcity and with commercial and manufacturing distress. Although it would be idle and presumptuous to say, that the country is at once to return to a state of prosperity, yet we may, I think, look, in no long course of years, to an improved state of the commerce and manufactures of the country. If we should this year be blessed with a bountiful harvest, the effects of that scarcity which we have had to suffer will, in time, be removed, so that as regards our revenue we may, at no distant period, look to an improvement. In the statement I have made with regard to the expenditure, it should be borne in mind that no less a sum than 1,100,000l. is required for defraying the charges of the Caffre war. But, by a hurried letter recently received from Sir H. Smith, there is reason to believe that the Caffre war is at an end. I wish I could at the same time say that there was also an end to the bill of expenses on account of that war. Still I hope that the next sum we may have to vote may be greatly diminished; and should the war really have ended, we may very fairly look to a discontinuance of that cause of expenditure. My right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) reminds me that the 1,100,000l. is for two years' expenses. That is true; the expenditure, therefore, for the next year will only be a portion of that sum. On both these grounds, therefore, namely, on the ground of the future improvement in the revenue—though I will not be so sanguine as to estimate it in the present budget—and on the ground of a diminished expenditure, by 921 the cessation of the Caffre war, we may hope that only a temporary increase may be required in our taxation. In saying what I think that increase should be, I shall consider the present state of the taxation of the country, and the great reduction of taxes made by the late Government and by former Governments on articles of general consumption. I think any attempt to impose a percentage duty upon that class of articles would only tend to diminish your revenue. I think any increase or any new tax upon those articles of consumption would be very unwise, and more particularly so at the present moment, when it is to be hoped that the increased taxation will not last beyond a short period. Such a course would incur all the difficulties and embarrassments incident to the preparation for collecting a tax, and which was only to exist for a limited time. Therefore, Sir, the proposition which we have to make—and I will now state it at once—is, that we should propose a vote to renew the present Income Tax from April next for a period of five years, and that we should vote an increase of that tax from 7d. to 1s. in the pound, or from 3 per cent to 5 per cent, for a period of two years. I will state, without going into the arguments upon the subject, that considering the very great distress which for these two years has prevailed in Ireland, considering that you did not originally, in 1842, impose the Income Tax on Ireland, and that a very great struggle is now making in order to adapt the social condition of Ireland to the great change that is now taking place in that country, as regards the working classes and the relations between landlords and tenants—in regard to the landlords inducing them to improve their lands, and in regard to the farmers inducing them to pay wages for labour—considering that all classes in Ireland, are called upon to take part in this great change, we think that in justice we have a right to impose this tax upon Ireland as well as upon England. Admitting fully the justice of that course, we consider that this is not the moment—[Laughter, and cries of "Oh, oh!"] I must beg hon. Gentlemen, when we come to that argument, a little to consider that we have not only to deliberate upon what may be abstractedly fair and just with regard to taxation, as between England and Ireland, but that we may have likewise to consider that the prosperity of the United Kingdom is bound up together; that if you check the exertions now making in 922 Ireland to place her in a state of prosperity, you check the prosperity of the United Kingdom; but that if, on the contrary, you abstain from imposing upon that country a burden which she might for the moment be unable to bear, and reserve the imposition of any additional burden till she is more equal to sustain it, you in fact provide for the prosperity of England and of Scotland as well as of Ireland itself. We propose, therefore, to take the tax exactly as it has been imposed in past years; we propose it on the same principles on which it was proposed and defended by Mr. Pitt; on the same principles on which it was increased by Lord Grenville and Lord Lansdowne; and on the same principles on which it is imposed and defended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. True I voted against that tax in 1842. I think I was quite right, perfectly right in so doing. I voted for the tax in 1845. I neither repent of my vote in 1842 nor of my vote in 1845. My right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. Baring) said in 1845, that the question was "whether you should continue other taxes on articles of consumption, or whether you should diminish protecting duties, and propose the continuation of the income-tax. You have taken," said my right hon. Friend, "the latter course, and having done so, I think it would now be inexpedient to repeal your income-tax for the purpose of imposing other taxes." I concurred in the opinion of my right hon. Friend on that occasion. That was the opinion upon which I acted in 1845, and it is the opinion on which I now make this proposition to the House. In looking at this question, may I for a short time ask the attention of the House to the great reductions that have been made from time to time in the duties imposed upon articles of consumption by the great body of the people? It is stated by Adam Smith, that there were three or four articles which, being necessaries of life, ought not to be made the subject of taxation: those articles were candles, leather, coal, and soap. Now, on all these articles taxes were imposed, but within a few years those taxes have been entirely taken off. There are other articles which were stated by Adam Smith fit subjects to be exempted from taxation, such as malt, beer, glass, and so forth. Now the amount of duties and taxes taken off from these and other articles within the last few years is I find from the list I hold in my hand to be as follows:— 923
£ £ Funded Debt 27,778,000 Unfunded Debt 752,600 28,530,600 Consolidated Fund charges 2,750,000 Caffre war 1,100,000 Naval excess for the past year 245,500 1,345,500 Navy 7,726,610 Army 7,162,996 Ordnance 2,924,835 Miscellaneous 4,006,000 21,820,441 54,446,541 Militia 150,000 £54,596,541
On the last article the duty will be wholly removed in February next, so that the total amount of taxes remitted upon the leading articles of consumption by the great body of the people is no less a sum than 10,543,672l. If there should be any doubt as to the amount of relief afforded by the reductions on these articles, there are other articles on which reductions of duties have been made, that were formerly prohibited from being imported into this country that would show that I have rather understated the amount of taxes actually taken off, to the great advantage of the consumers. The total amount of taxes taken off since the Peace, after deducting the income-tax recently imposed, is 39,705,341l. The figures appear thus:—
Salt, 1823 and 1825 £1,490,007 Candles, 1832 482,413 Coals, coastwise, 1831 958,299 Leather, 1822 and 1830 600,282 Beer and cider, 1830 3,080,468 Glass, 1845 647,674 Sugar, 1845 2,309,857 Butter and cheese, 1846 112,416 Grain and meal, average of five years, 1842–1846 862,256 £10,543,672
I do not think, therefore, considering that such has been the diminution of taxation, that we are asking too much of the House when we propose a temporary increase of an existing direct tax, in the face of circumstances of almost unparalleled difficulty which have occurred during the last year, and that with a view of keeping up our establishments—I trust not extravagantly, not inordinately, but—adequately to the necessary and permanent defences of the country. The result of this estimate is as follows:—the expenditure, as I have already stated, is 54,596,500l., and the in- 924 come is 51,250,000l. I take the increase of the income-tax at an amount less than I might have taken it if there had not been so much commercial distress. I might have estimated it at 3,700,000l.; but I put it at 3,500,000l., making a total income of 54,750,000l.: There is one tax which, though moderate in its aggregate, presses very severely upon one species of operative industry, and which sins against those principles which have of late years been adopted in legislating with regard to commercial subjects. It is a tax which can be taken off advantageously to an important branch of industry, without any serious diminution of the revenue such as would be caused by a considerable diminution of the duty on tea, or the repeal of the window-tax—I mean the tax on copper ore, which was imposed in 1842, on the ground that foreign copper ore might be admitted at a small duty, instead of having it smelted in bond, as it had formerly been. It was consequently admitted at a small duty; but the effect of that has been—or, if not the effect of that, the result of concomitant circumstances has been—that smelting is now carried on to a great extent in Chili and other parts of the world where it was not carried on before, and the smelting establishments of this country have greatly suffered in consequence. I do not think that the owners of copper mines in this country will be any sufferers by the removal of this tax, and thus, by taking away all obstacles, giving a prospect that the smelting of copper in this country will be restored to its former prosperity. The amount of the tax is only 41,000l. By deducting this tax, and adding the 150,000l. for the militia, the totals will stand thus:—54,750,000l. as revenue, and 54,637,000l. as expenditure, leaving a surplus of 113,000l. But in stating this, I ought to refer again to the extraordinary expenditure of 1,100,000l. on account of the Caffre war; therefore, although for the present year there will only be a surplus of 113,000l., owing to that extraordinary expenditure, yet, in the course of two years, without that expenditure, you will be more favourably circumstanced, and will have a large increase of surplus. This will afford you the means for taking off some tax which may be considered to press most heavily upon the industry of the country. I have now stated all that I think it is my duty at this time to place before the House; and, although I had intended to keep my pro- 925 mise to the House, and state only the outlines of the financial condition of the country, yet I have been obliged to enter considerably into detail, both in regard to the falling-off of the revenue, and the reasons for the estimate which we now propose. I hare done so, with a view that they might be fairly before you, and that the House might make up its mind considerately and deliberately upon this subject. We might have asked you to have voted the Navy and Army Estimates, which would have shown but a very small increase, and have postponed our financial statement to a later period; but I think it is due to the House of Commons that they should know what we intend to bring before them; and that if they vote for the estimates we propose, some increase of taxation will be necessary. Therefore we propose to them at once that question, which may be the most difficult and which also may be the most unpopular course as far as regards ourselves, but which both we and the House are nevertheless bound to look in the face as the guardians of the public purse, and as the guardians of the independence and honour of the country. I have shown you that during a peace of upwards of thirty years, this House has been enabled to take off nearly 40,000,000l. of taxes, of which more than 10,000,000l. pressed upon the comforts and enjoyments of the industrious classes of the people; while doing that, you have preserved your empire not only undiminished, but extended. Consistently with these reductions, you have been enabled, under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Peel), to give scope to those principles of commerce of which Adam Smith was the great propounder, and of which Mr. Pitt in the plenitude of his power declared himself an advocate and supporter. With these reductions you have been enabled to suppress insurrection in Canada, and to repel aggression in India. You have been enabled to maintain your colonial establishments, and protect your fellow-subjects at the Cape of Good Hope, they being subjects of the same Sovereign, and inheritors and participators of the same glorious privileges that belong to all the members of the British empire. I believe that if you continue in this course, and persevere in upholding the credit of the country, you will be able in future years to give very great additional relief to the people by a still further reduction of taxation. I regret that it is not in our 926 power honestly to propose such a reduction at the present time; and I cannot consistently with my duty to the country adopt that course. I have taken upon me that which is an odious part of the duty of a Minister, perhaps, but which is nevertheless an imperative duty, and from which I dare not shrink. I will end with stating my strong conviction that, by taking the course I have proposed, you will in time see the commercial credit of this country perfectly restored; you will preserve unimpaired the public faith, and you will run no danger of seeing this great empire insulted or injured by any Power whatsoever. The noble Lord concluded by proposing, pro formâ, the two following resolutions:—
Total of taxes taken off from January, 1816, to January, 1848 Taxes reduced and repealed £52,820,755 Less taxes imposed and increased (exclusive of income-tax, 1842) £7,736,577 £45,084,178 Income-tax imposed— 1843 £5,387,455 Yearly average 5,378,837 1844 5,329,600 1845 5,182,649 1846 5,543,682 1847 5,450,800 £39,705,341Resolved—"That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the sum of 8,000,000l. be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ Resolution to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the respective Duties in Great Britain on Property, Profits, Professions, Trades, and Offices, and the Stamp Duties in Ireland, granted by two Acts passed in the sixth year of Her present Majesty, and further continued by two Acts passed in the eighth year of Her present Majesty, shall be further continued for a time to be limited.
That, towards raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty, there be charged annually, for a time to be limited, the several additional Bates and Duties following, that is to say—
For and in respect of all Property, Profits, and Professions, Trades, and Offices whatever, upon which an annual Rate or Duty of seven-pence for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof is now payable, there shall be charged for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof, an additional Rate or Duty of fivepence.
For and in respect of the occupation of any lands, tenements, and hereditaments, upon which an annual Rate or Duty of threepence halfpenny for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof, is now payable, there shall be charged for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof, an additional Duty of twopence halfpenny.
For and in respect of the occupation of any lands, tenements, and hereditaments, upon which the annual Rate or Duty of twopence halfpenny for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof is now payable, there shall be charged for every twenty shillings of the annual value or amount thereof, an additional Duty of twopence.
§ MR. HUME
must say that he had never listened to a budget with more pain than to that of the noble Lord. The noble Lord and his Colleagues evidently saw the state of the country in a 927 very different point of view from what he and those who acted with him did. The noble Lord seemed to think that this country was on the eve of a war, and that preparations ought to be made to defend us from our enemies. He had no doubt that if any call of that kind were justified by circumstances, there would be but one feeling to meet the call, and resist any attempt to invade the shores of this country. There were no doubt many persons in France who were proposing to raise up a great military staff in that country—a country whose interest it was to be in close alliance with England, as it was the interest of England to be on terms of amity and peace with her. But he deeply regretted the manner in which the question had been brought on by the noble Lord. He thought it highly imprudent to enter into a detailed statement of the forces of any other State, and especially to assign it as a reason for augmenting our own means of defence. It was, in fact, placing this country in a hostile position towards that State. It was, in his view, the most impolitic statement that could have been made. But that was only one part of the statement. The noble Lord told the House that the taxation of the country would amount to nearly 60,000,000l. sterling in this the thirty-second year of peace; and he pointed out the great decrease of the revenue, arising from the poverty and depressed state of the manufacturing population. The noble Lord knew the condition in which our commercial and manufacturing establishments were, and yet, with all this before him, he proposed an addition to the expenditure of the country. He was not prepared to assent to this proposal; on the contrary, not only should he ask the House not to add one shilling to the taxation of the country, but to make our expenditure meet our present income. The noble Lord acted on the same principle as a man who, professing an anxiety to keep the peace, marched about with gun and bayonet on his shoulder. He could not but say that the party which had brought forward the scheme proposed by the noble Lord were entirely ignorant of the feelings of the people, and of their capacity to bear the burdens suggested. He would not ask whether 60,000 or 70,000 men, rank and file, were required in England at the present moment; or whether our Navy, which was scattered 928 over the world, meddling where they were not wanted, and wasting our means where there was no necessity for it, might not be more profitably employed nearer home? He should undoubtedly propose a reduction in our establishments to meet the excess of expenditure. On looking over the items of the estimates they might find some charges which would appear to be unnecessary unless they were about to prepare for war. Let the House look at our Army and Navy, and the great increase which had taken place in them since 1835. He was not aware that England was to be a military nation. The idea that we were to keep and maintain 300,000 armed men, including the Army, Navy, and Militia, was not to be thought of; and he considered that it was a state of things which in a time of peace this country ought not to bear, and could not bear without great privation. If the noble Lord had proposed to take off the window-tax, and all other taxes that pressed on the industrious classes of the community, he (Mr. Hume) should not have offered the least opposition to an income-tax of 10,000,000l. If there was any one part of the policy of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) which he approved of more than another, it was the change which he made by taking off 8,000,000l. of taxes from the articles used by the industrious classes of the people, and placing 5,000,000l. of taxes upon the property of the country. The working part of the community were over-taxed already; and unless some relief was afforded to them, the population of England and Scotland would become like the population of Ireland, and master and man would be alike crushed down to the earth. He made these observations with great pain; but he had lived long enough in that House to see a great many measures carried, though afterwards his objections against them were found to be true and correct. He should have but a poor opinion of the people of this country if they could suffer such an increased charge in our naval and military establishments in a time of peace, and when the country was looking for a reduction of taxation. How far the proposal of the Government for a militia would go he did not know; but he could tell the noble Lord that persons who might be drawn from the militia would not display the same spirit which they had formerly exhibited. He had no objection to an increase of the regular Army; but he did object to the Government taking 929 people from their homes, and placing them in a position which would unfit them for any other occupation. When he looked at his own parish, the rich parish of Marylebone, and found that there were 15,000 poor daily receiving parochial relief in it, he took that to be a sufficient indication of the depressed state of the country. He need only refer to the statement of the noble Lord himself to show the House what number of persons were wholly out of employment, or only half employed; and since he had entered the House that evening he had been told that several mills in Lancashire must be shut up in the course of a few weeks. Not having heard one reason adduced why our existing establishments should be increased, he should oppose the proposition made on the part of the Government.
§ MR. BANKES
would deal as fairly by the noble Lord as the noble Lord said he had dealt by the House, and would tell him at once he did not think the country was prepared for the propositions the noble Lord had laid down. The noble Lord wisely put the most popular estimates forward—first, the Navy estimates; for he agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose, that the country naturally turned to the Navy for their defence. There was never any disposition to cavil at those estimates; but, in the present case, he must say that he thought the Navy was employed in a way which caused an unnecessary increase in the expenditure for that branch of the service. He alluded to the squadron employed on the coast of Africa, which while it caused great destruction of life, failed to effect the beneficial object for which it was intended; if that squadron was ordered home a considerable expense would be saved. Then he might allude to the squadron in the Tagus, which conferred no national benefit, but only served to keep up contention and hostility. [Lord J. RUSSELL: They are ordered home.] Then the very circumstance of their being ordered home would afford the Government facility for increasing the national defences without increasing the estimates; and, if they were ordered home, he thought the Government would have some explanation to give why they had been allowed to remain in Portugal so long, to that detriment of the ships and crews which the noble Lord had ascribed to remaining so long in port. [Lord J. RUSSELL: They are cruising about.] He had been informed of one ship not having weighed anchor for ton 930 months. He should have thought, therefore, that instead of requiring even the smallest increase, they might have had the satisfaction of hearing that their national defences were, as he believed them to be, in a very satisfactory condition—in that point to which they should turn their greatest attention. As to the Army, without suggesting that any decrease might have been proper, he must express his conviction that a different disposition of the same force might have been made, which would have saved that large additional expenditure of which the noble Lord spoke in dealing with the Ordnance estimates. He was quite aware that it required much more time to train men for the ordnance than for the infantry; but why should they not then diminish the infantry and increase the ordnance? But a suggestion had been made by the noble Lord as to the propriety of establishing a militia. That was a mere suggestion—the result apparently of a divided Cabinet; because the noble Lord had not pledged himself to that measure. He had thrown it out for consideration; but probably the present Cabinet, like some of its predecessors, had found the difficulty of dealing with that subject. His belief certainly was, that the proposition would be highly unpopular. The noble Lord had said that it was the old constitutional force. But when was it so? Why, at a time when there was no standing army. The standing army was proposed as an alternative; but having now got the standing army, they wanted to have the militia as well. [Lord J. RUSSELL: There was a militia in 1757.] The militia was established in the time of Charles II., as a substitute for a standing army; and the only standing army which Charles had was paid for out of his own civil list. It was true, also, that Lord Chatham had commended the militia, but he had commended it as a force which prevented the necessity of a standing army. In Lord Chatham's time there was not, as now, a standing army of 60,000 men, or he would not have recommended the addition of the militia to that force; but something dropped from the lips of the noble Lord which had rendered his proposition even more alarming; for the noble Lord had said that the practice of substitutes had been found very inconvenient; and he supposed, therefore, that it was intended not only to draw men for the militia, but to compel them to serve. What was that but a conscription in every sense 931 as odious as any in the time of Napoleon? It was very true that something of that sort had been endured, and very cheerfully endured, by the people of this country about the years 1810, 1811, and 1812; he himself had served with 800 others in a militia regiment, and they had all borne that burden very cheerfully, because immediate invasion was then threatened, and they were acting in the face of their bitterest enemies. The bravery and gallantry of the country had been recently excited by the achievements of our enemies abroad; but the state of things now existing was so different that he could assure the noble Lord that the proposition would not be received even with patience now. When the army of Napoleon was encamped at Boulogne, it was natural that the bravery and spirit of the people should be excited; and from the recent memoirs which had been published, it appeared that that energy had had great effect in deterring Napoleon from attempting to invade our shores. If the occasion should again arise, he entertained no doubt that the same spirit would be manifested, and that in a very short time an efficient force might be raised. He knew that the militia regiment to which he had referred was brought in fourteen days—certainly within a month—to such a state of efficiency, that, on being reviewed by officers of great experience, it was pronounced to be fit, in conjunction with regular troops, for any service whatever; and a finer body of men never were seen. They might, therefore, at a very short notice, raise a very efficient force; and they need not fear the French newspapers; for if that feeling of hostility should ever become the general feeling of the French people—as he was quite satisfied that it was not at present—the same spirit would arise as before; but, under existing circumstances, they could not excite that spirit; and the burden, therefore, would not be borne. He had not the fear of French invasion which others had, because he had witnessed how quickly men were produced when they were really wanted. The noble Lord, however, said, that he was not so much afraid as others were, but he was a little afraid; and that he was not so bold as others, but he was a little valiant; and, therefore, he had brought forward a half-measure, which would not deter their enemies from the prosecution of hostile plans, but would put out of good humour their friends at home, who had been bearing great and unmerited 932 distress. The present was a time when it was most important that they should take every precaution not to give any real ground for irritation to their poorer fellow-countrymen, or cause them to think that that House was forgetful of the misery and distress which they were obliged to endure. That was not the moment to talk of valour and triumph, but the time for reflecting how they could remedy the evils which pressed so heavily on the great masses of the community, The noble Lord, however, as a consequence of his proposals, had invited the House to fix a considerable additional charge upon the people. In 1842 the noble Lord had admitted that he had voted against the income-tax; but the noble Lord had spoken against it also; and his speech was a remarkable one with regard to the point then under consideration—our national defences. Speaking of foreigners, and especially, he supposed, of our foreign neighbours, the noble Lord had said—They were not aware of the amount of the burdens from which the population had been relieved; and what would they think of the condition of England if the people suffered, after many years of peace, the imposition of a tax, which was always considered a war tax, and which they would not endure even one year after peace had been concluded? Would it not inevitably produce in their minds the conviction that we had no other resource? It would have to them the appearance as if we were making a severe struggle for our actual existence, and that, therefore, this country would be unprepared for war.That was the strongest objection made by the noble Lord to the income-tax in 1842; and, therefore, he was placed in this particular situation. He said that his object was to assure all the nations of the world that we were afraid of none of them; to assure, especially, the more powerful States, who were the most likely to look with jealousy upon this country, that we were prepared for any contingency; and, in order to do that, the noble Lord had adopted the determination, according to his own showing, of playing his very last card—of playing that card, which, being played, all foreign nations must know that he had no other card left. He would, therefore, decline to continue the income-tax, if, under existing circumstances, that were possible; but, at all events, he urged upon the Government how inexpedient it was to increase that tax at the present time, and to hang out a signal of distress to the whole world. But perhaps the noble Lord would say, as he had referred to the former history of this tax, that they had still another 933 card left to play—another 5 per cent to impose; perhaps he might say that he would not stop till they had got the whole 10 per cent; but they would want to get it if they remained on those benches. The beat wish, therefore, for the nation's sake was, that their reign should be a short one. The doubt was, as the hon. Member for Montrose had said, not so much whether it Were wise to make these proposals, or whether the country could bear them. With these impressions, he regretted deeply the speech which they had heard that night. He could not then pledge himself as to the estimates to be proposed; he should regret extremely if he found it his duty to oppose any of the Navy Estimates; but with regard to the Army, he did hope that some consideration would be given to a different application and distribution of that force.
§ MR. OSBORNE
considered that of all the financial statements which it had been the duty of any Minister of the Crown to submit to the House, none ever exhibited greater candour than that which they had just heard; but, at the same time, he thought few statements had been made calculated to fill the country with so great alarm and consternation as that which had been so ably made by the noble Lord. He must confess he thought that had there been a regularly organised Opposition in that House, such a statement would never have been made; for any Minister of the Crown who ventured to come forward and call for an increase of taxation in the way done by the noble Lord, would in that case have signed the death-warrant of his Administration. He was much mistaken if, when that statement went forth to the country, the noble Lord's Ministry would not be regarded as the most unpopular and unfortunate that ever held power within the walls of that House. He had some time ago stated that it was his intention to call the attention of the House to the state of the national defences. He was glad, however, that the noble Lord had taken the subject out of his hands, for he was at issue with the noble Lord as to the most advisable means of improving the defences in question. For his own part, he believed that we could have increased naval and military efficiency with our present expenditure, and that, in fact, any Government calling itself a reforming and liberal Government might be able to cut down the expenditure in a way that would not prevent our being as efficiently served as now, instead of applying for an increase of 934 taxation. The noble Lord had gone through the various items of this enormous load of taxation; and he had told them that since 1835 there had been an addition of 92,000 men for the defence of the country, including dockyard men and all the varied branches of the service. But the noble Lord had kept out of his statement a very material force—he alluded to the Irish police force, which they could not look upon in the light of a police, as it was paid out of the Consolidated Fund, and formed one of the finest body of men the country ever possessed, amounting in number to from 10,000 to 12,000. They were told by the noble Lord that there was a deficiency of 3,346,500l., and he proposed to meet the excess of expenditure by increasing the income-tax to 5 per cent for two years. But did any one for a moment think that if they had this 5 per cent put on for two years, it would ever be taken off again during the whole of their natural lives? When the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) proposed his income-tax, they were told it was to be only for three years. On that occasion he (Mr. Osborne) followed in the train of the noble Lord, led in some degree by the eloquence and convincing facts which he then employed, and voted against the Income-tax Act at every stage. He regretted, therefore, that the noble Lord should come down now, and tell them with such unblushing candour that he was not ashamed of the vote he gave and the speeches he delivered on that occasion, and then should himself propose that that tax be increased. He thought the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) was nobly avenged. And as for the party who now sat on the Ministerial side of the House, he did not care how soon they had to change their position to the opposite benches, for they had been better servants to the public when they occupied the Opposition benches than since they had held their present seats. [Laughter.] He thought, however, this was no matter for jest. He was much mistaken if they were not on the eve of very gloomy days in this country; and when the noble Lord talked of the valour and the greatness of the people of this country, and then told them of a diminution of 3,300,000l. in the revenue, he must have had no common nerve to deliver the speech which they had just heard, proposing an increase of taxation. As to the Caffre war, about which they had heard so much, he was prepared to say that what 935 had occurred there had been the result of great mismanagement. He pledged himself to show to the country that the noble Lord's Government was not making the efforts which it might easily make to reduce expenditure, and that it was not such an economical Government as the wants of the country demanded. It appeared, however, that there was no Ministry to succeed them, and therefore he supposed they must he content to put up with them; but he was much mistaken if the people of this country long remained in a state of contentment with their present position. The noble Lord referred to what had been done by Lord Chatham with regard to the militia; but he must take a singular view of the sentiments entertained by the people of this country if he thought they were likely to be influenced by what took place in the days of Lord Chatham. He called upon the noble Lord to pause before he came down to the House with the items he had referred to for increasing our forces. Whether as regarded the Army or Navy, he would vote against any increase of taxation. He thought that ill-omened force in Portugal had served no other purpose than to keep the Queen of Portugal on the throne; but the noble Lord was in Switzerland endeavouring to make some reparation for the injurious course he had taken in Portugal.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
thought few of those hon. Gentlemen who supported the measures of 1842 and 1846 could have expected such a free-trade budget as the present. He was aware that the noble Lord had accounted for the deficiency in the revenue of nearly 3,000,000l. by the panic which had existed in the country, and the want or unsteadiness of employment in the manufacturing districts. But he was sorry to think that the noble Lord did not take precautions at least for the future, because, when his hon. Friend and Colleague, last night, brought forward a Motion for the purpose of preventing any future panic of the same sort, it was opposed by the noble Lord. He certainly thought, that when the noble Lord said that this deficiency was owing to circumstances which were merely temporary and accidental, he would have given some proof—given the House some confidence—that he really believed it to be owing to accidental circumstances. But in the estimates for the ensuing year, he observed that there was no calculation of any increase upon the Customs and Excise re- 936 venue over the preceding year; but, on the contrary, instead of making it 20,000,000l. it was made 19,000,000l.; and so throughout all the estimates. It was true that, in the latter part of his speech, the noble Lord had said that he had not made allowance for the increased prosperity, which he, nevertheless, did expect; because he thought that some time must elapse before the country would recover from the shock which it had received. Now, that was all very well to get a cheer from the House; but it did not at all appear to be the conviction of the noble Lord that there would be any such elasticity in our commercial affairs. The noble Lord proposed an increased income-tax for two years, and to continue the present income-tax for five years. Surely that exhibited no very great confidence in the free-trade measures which they had passed in the years 1842 and 1843. It was, however, perhaps too much to expect that the noble Lord should have turned round at once, and come to a juster and sounder policy—a policy which the experience of ages recommended. He did hope that the noble Lord might have felt some little doubt, some little apprehension, that these measures had in part contributed to the distress and difficulty in which the country was involved. He thought it would have been better for his case certainly, if the noble Lord had not referred to the taxes which had been taken off in former years, as enabling the poorer classes to enjoy an increased consumption of articles of comfort and necessity, because that argument was contradicted by the assertion of the noble Lord at the beginning of his speech as to the number of mills which had been stopped, and the number of poor people who had been thrown out of employment. He did not wish to detain the House by entering upon that question; but much as he regretted that part of the speech of the noble Lord, he had derived great gratification from that other part in which he had declared, in his manly manner, that he was determined to maintain the independence and honour of this country; and, with regard to any addition of force, he certainly agreed with the noble Lord, that the best way of securing peace was to be prepared for war. He would not then attempt to enter into any examination of the estimates. He rejoiced to hear the noble Lord express that patriotic sentiment; but, at the same time, the noble Lord must remember that he gave the House to 937 understand that there was, he would not say a prospect of war, but they could not always rely upon maintaining peace; and he certainly did regret that, in time of peace, the noble Lord should have found it necessary to propose an increase of a tax which all parties concurred in thinking should be reserved for the ultimate resort of war.
§ SIR B. HALL
entirely agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down in what he had said with respect to the noble Lord's (Lord J. Russell's) observation, that he was prepared to maintain the independence of the country. He agreed with him most entirely in that sentiment; but he thought, looking at the position in which they now stood, that they could well afford to let matters remain as they were. He did not see that there was anything to apprehend from foreign invasion, nor did he hear any threats of invasion. He thought when they looked at the condition of the people, and the amount of pauperism which existed, not in the metropolis only, but all throughout the kingdom, that this was not the time for enlarging the expenditure of the country and increasing taxation. The noble Lord did not offer to reduce one single tax, except a miserable one on copper ore, which few persons cared about—a tax that might affect a few individuals, but not the large portion of the people, and, therefore, one that ought to have been the last to be repealed. But one of the worst features of the noble Lord's proposition was, the increase of the income-tax for two years, at the end of which period an opportunity would no doubt be given for the Government to come down and propose another increase. Indeed, it would be better if the noble Lord would at once state fairly that this increase was to last, not for two years, but for the whole five. The noble Lord voted against the proposal of the income-tax on every division that took place; and he was certainly surprised when he heard the noble Lord propose an increase of that tax. But what surprised him still more was, that the income-tax was to continue in precisely the same state as it was now. One great cause of the unpopularity of the tax was the unfair way in which it was levied; and, therefore, the proposal to continue it on the same footing as at present would cause the greatest dissatisfaction. If the noble Lord found it necessary to continue the income-tax, why did he not bring forward an equitable measure by which the tax should have been 938 more justly levied, so that persons who lived by their labour and their wits, if he might use the expression, and those engaged in professional avocations, should not be called upon to pay in the same proportion as the large landed proprietors? When this proposed increase was submitted to the House, he would give it the same opposition as before. The noble Lord had stated that he thought it just that the income-tax should be extended to the sister country. He need scarcely say that whenever the noble Lord thought it right to bring forward a measure for extending it to the sister country, he would have great pleasure in supporting it.
§ MR. ROBINSON
considered the noble Lord's statement as amounting to an acknowledgment that there was no hope whatever of any reduction in future of the national expenditure, and that the country must be prepared to bear additional taxation for the purpose of making up the deficiency. It was impossible to conceive a more humiliating or unsatisfactory state of things after thirty years of peace. It was true, indeed, as stated by the noble Lord, that there had been a large remission of taxes during that time; but had not the condition of the people retrograded? Those reductions had done nothing for the people; their employment had been taken away, and their wages had been diminished. Their condition, taking them in the mass, was worse now than it had ever been known to be. The noble Lord very adroitly said, in the beginning of his speech, that he did not think it necessary to go into the causes which had produced the present state of things. But the House did not want to know from the noble Lord that there was a deficiency of 2,500,000l. They knew that already. What they wanted to know was, why such a state of matters should arise after the predictions which had been made over and over again by Members whose opinions possessed authority with that House, that the country would continue to flourish—that its manufactures would prosper—that wherever difficulties were felt they would be of a temporary nature—and that the national resources would recover their elasticity. Whatever might be the bias of hon. Gentleman, would any one deny that the country had cause to complain, when, after such predictions, it was found to be in its present condition? He should not try the patience of the House by reading extracts to show what had been said by the 939 right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge when the right hon. Gentleman last held office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, or by the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), or by successive Ministers. But were he to show how those predictions of prosperity had been falsified—how the people had been deluded—how their best interests had been betrayed by holding out delusive promises of such prosperity—the tale, however instructive, would encroach too much on the time of the House. The noble Lord the Member for London concluded his speech as all similar speeches were concluded. He stated, that he did not deny the deficiency—that he did not pretend to say the condition of the people was not deplorable—nay, he even offered statistical statements, showing that in one great manufacturing town 7,000 or 8,000 people were out of employment; he would conceal nothing, and the speech had justly been described as a candid speech. But still there was an attempt to persuade the House that, notwithstanding all the difficulties which were admitted to exist, they might reasonably look for returning prosperity and improved commerce. He might be wrong; but he felt it impossible, in the face of every-day experience, to avoid coming to the conclusion that many of their difficulties had arisen from the removal of the protection formerly given to the industry of the country. He did not mean to deny that many of the commercial reforms which had taken place were called for by the circumstances of the times, and were of a nature calculated to benefit the country. But that a country which was saddled with 800,000,000l. of debt, and had to support public establishments so enormously expensive as ours necessarily were, involving charges to the amount of 50,000,000l. or 60,000,000l., not to speak of additional burdens in the shape of local taxation—that a country, with an estimate such as the noble Lord had given that evening, accompanied by an intimation that instead of a decrease we must look for an increase of expenditure and taxation—could without protection successfully compete with other nations: a more insane idea had never entered the head of a human being. He should be prepared on a future occasion to state his reasons at greater length, and would for the present confine himself to one or two points only in corroboration of his opinion that, so far from measures of free trade leading to any 940 increase of their foreign commerce, the very reverse was the case. From Parliamentary returns he found—though they had so often been told, "You have but to encourage foreign imports and your manufacturers will flourish"—that there was a falling-off in their cotton manufactures to the extent of upwards of a million, and in their woollen manufactures to the extent of two millions. Did hon. Gentlemen suppose that foreign countries would submit to be supplied by this country with articles which they could provide for themselves? He was surprised that any man of common sense should think so after the efforts made by foreign countries within the last thirty years. He warned the Government against such sacrifices as they were making day after day of their home and colonial interests—of the interests of their Eastern possessions—and all in the vain pursuit of foreign commerce. He did not deny that foreign commerce was essential to this country. They must have a large proportion of the commerce of the world, because they were the largest importers. No nation, without incurring the risk of being itself excluded, could exclude British productions, which were more valuable to others than those of others were to this country. Were he to ask the Government to recur to the old system he should only expose himself to ridicule; but he must again express his conviction, that if the Government exposed the labouring classes to foreign competition, they would go on pauperising the country, create discontent, and find the income derived from indirect sources diminishing year by year. With regard to the exemption of Ireland from the income-tax, there were reasons why that country should not be overburdened with taxation. It was desirable to improve its condition and encourage residence. Fifteen years ago he had advocated an income and property-tax; and had that measure been then adopted, matters would now have been in a better state. He had predicted that they would be driven to it at last. But what justice, he would ask, was there in taxing a man in England whose income amounted only to 150l. or 200l. a year, while a man possessing 20,000l. a year in Ireland was exempted altogether from the income-tax, as well as the assessed taxes? To revert to the subject of foreign competition. He had received a letter from a correspondent in one of the Southern States of America, stating that not only were the Northern States 941 maintaining their manufactures, but in Georgia, where the raw material was grown, cotton mills had been lately established, which made 10,000 bales of cotton goods per week. Looking also to what had been done in Prussia and other parts of Germany, the only chance this country had of overcoming its difficulties and maintaining its high position was to protect the interests of the Queen's subjects—to protect agriculture to a certain extent, their colonial interests, and their shipping interest. If employment were afforded to the industry of the people, they would support themselves instead of being supported as paupers by the State. He did not, however, expect to make any impression on the Government or the House. Since the right hon. Member for Tamworth had abandoned his former opinions on commercial matters and adopted free-trade principles, and since the noble Lord held the same views in common with a large majority of the House, there was no probability that they would now depart from the policy on which they had so inauspiciously entered.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
was not surprised, however much pain he might feel, at the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for London. For the last twenty years he had never been surprised at any hypocrisy, duplicity, or tergiversation from the Treasury Bench, especially on the part of those who were considered leaders. After repeated expressions of attachment to the Church and constitution, he had found those very persons who made the loudest professions were the first to suggest measures subversive of both. The very men who, when out of office, were distinguished for their advocacy of certain measures of financial policy, when in the possession of place and power would turn their backs on these same measures. What was the language of the noble Lord respecting an income-tax in 1842? The noble Lord on that occasion, when the income-tax was proposed by his predecessor in office, declared that if imposed at all it ought to be imposed equally on the whole country; and yet the noble Lord himself now proposed to continue the exemption of Ireland. The noble Lord also said, on the same occasion, that it was a tax which should only be had recourse to in cases of great emergency, and when no other taxes could be called into operation; and yet the noble Lord had himself proposed this tax to-night without either of these grounds of 942 justification. To be sure, they were consoled with the intimation that the proposed increase was to last for only two years. "Catch a weasel asleep!" he would say. He did not believe in any such promises, and he was determined to resist by every legitimate means the imposition of this odious and delusive mode of taxation. The Government who proposed this tax called themselves Liberals. Liberals! There never was such a misnomer in the would. They were horrible oppressors. He observed the Chancellor of the Exchequer smiling. His right hon. Friend might be very liberal and hospitable out of doors; but he was certainly not remarkable for his liberality in that House. It was recorded of Mr. Pitt, that in the last hours of his life he exclaimed, "Oh! my country." The most natural exclamation for the Members of the present Government, however, was, "Oh! my place; oh! my pocket." [Cries of "Question, question!"] He begged to tell the hon. Member who was so impatient to put him down, that he (Colonel Sibthorp) was no toadeater—that he was bound to no Minister—that he had no compliments to offer the Government in the hope of receiving a place from them, as perhaps the hon. Member had—that he was an independent Member, and although not a Liberal, felt as much for the people as any one in that House. What opinion could be formed of a Minister who could not rescue the country from its difficulties except by resorting to that very measure which he had formerly condemned? The fact was, the Government was quite incompetent, and did not know how to carry on the business of the empire. With regard to the proposed increase in the Army and Navy, he thought they could not do better than strengthen both services, not with a view to war so much as the maintenance of peace, for people were always unwilling to attack a country which was in a proper state of defence; but he was sorry there was not more reliance placed on the militia—a body whom the Duke of Wellington had praised, and whom he (Colonel Sibthorp) believed to be capable of standing the inspection of any general in the service after a month's drill.
§ MR. F. T. BARING
would not have risen to address the House, but would willingly have postponed any remarks he had to make to a future occasion; but that the reference made to him by the noble Lord in the course of his speech, made it necessary for him to say a very few words. He had heard, as he believed every hon. Gen- 943 tleman had heard, with considerable pain, the statement his noble Friend had made to the House; and this feeling was not on account of the mode in which his noble Friend made that statement, for that, like everything he did, was done clearly and in a manly tone. But he could not but regret that, under circumstances such as the present, and in a time of such severe distress, his noble Friend was obliged to state to the House that a considerable deficiency existed in the revenue—that he felt it his duty to increase the estimates, and was obliged to signify that in consequence the country would have to endure at the present moment an addition to its taxation. As he understood the statement, a great part of the deficiency arose from the arrears of the current and former years. His noble Friend had also stated he would feel it his duty to add to the establishments for the defence of the country. For his part, he should not be found one of those who thought they could entirely rely on the good feeling of foreign countries, or that they should not place themselves in a state of adequate defence. He should, therefore, be prepared to give his noble Friend his support for that which he should prove to be necessary for the security, safety, and defence of the country; but while he did so, his noble Friend must permit him to state that he should feel it his duty, and he trusted the House would feel it their duty also, to look gravely into the amount of expenditure proposed, in order that they should have a little more reference to economy than had been practised in former years; that the Legislature would ascertain the sums to be expended, and to a certain extent, at least, investigate the mode in which it was proposed to appropriate them. He should adopt that course, however, with every friendly feeling towards his noble Friend, and with the firmest confidence that in whatever he or his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) proposed, they would act with the very best motives. He would now turn to the mode in which his noble Friend proposed to meet the deficiency. As he already stated, this deficiency appeared partly to arise not from any increased expenditure in this year, but for that which already existed; and the fact that their income, as it stood at present, was not equal to meet their expenditure as it stood during the last year, and as it would stand, supposing it were continued at the same rate, for the future. There 944 was, he understood, an actual deficiency of 2,500,000l. Now, he was prepared to approve of the course proposed by his noble Friend, of meeting that deficiency in a direct way, either by reducing the expenditure, or increasing the taxation. It was pardonable last year, under the remarkable circumstances of the case, to meet their difficulties by a loan; but he should not be a party again to any such plan, or to the continuance of a permanent deficiency; and he approved of the course proposed by his noble Friend of making the income meet the expenditure. With respect to the rest of his noble Friend's proposal, he regretted he could not concur with his noble Friend. As his noble Friend had introduced his name in his observations on the income-tax, he was obliged to explain what had taken place with respect to his own conduct. It was quite true that he had opposed the income-tax at its first introduction, but not on its reimposition in 1845. When it was proposed in 1842, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth said he thought it might last for five years, but that he would only take it for three years at first. He had then opposed it. At the end of the third year the tax was proposed to be continued; and he stated, in the course of the discussion, not being present when the Motion was made, that though he retained all his objections to it, yet, when there was a deficiency of the revenue to meet, he was not prepared, on account of its continuance for two years merely, to throw any difficulty in the way of carrying an income-tax, seeing that it had already continued for three years previously. In the same sense, if, with this deficient revenue, his noble Friend had come down to the House, and had proposed to continue the income-tax as it now stood, without any addition, he, for one, should have found it difficult to throw any obstacle in his way, or to have given any opposition to the continuation of the tax; for, bad as that tax was, much as he had already deprecated it, there was one thing still worse, and that was a revenue permanently deficient. But his noble Friend asked him for something further; not content with the income-tax as it stood at present, he asked the House to raise the tax from 3 per cent to 5 per cent, for if they gave him the increased tax, it was almost a joke to talk to the House of only two years additional. The truth was, that, the 3 per cent already existing, would be permanent; and that their 5 per cent, in all probability, 945 they would never get rid of. He could not all concur with the noble Lord in making the income-tax a part of the permanent taxation of the country, nor could he give his support to the additional tax of 2 per cent. He had on a former occasion opposed the income-tax, without any reference to the financial proposal he had made, but as a tax which in itself was bad. There seemed to be a great war preparation. At a time when they talked of preparing their defences, he deeply regretted that they should be throwing away that which was the most powerful financial weapon in their whole armoury in the case of a war. If they now laid on a tax of 5 per cent, in case of a war to what source of taxation would they turn? Did they think they could raise the income tax above 5 per cent; or were they prepared, at a time when they should be in difficulty and distress, to have recourse to the taxes on customs and excise, which they had so lavishly thrown away. He had opposed the income-tax at its first introduction, because he thought it a dangerous course to accumulate on direct taxation any very large amount of taxation. He thought this course placed their financial system on an insecure basis. In the present moment this course might be popular in certain quarters, but the opinion of the public was beginning to change. The time was not far distant when, after they had raised their 5 per cent a little higher here, and had sent it over to Ireland, they would find a considerable feeling against the tax; and he doubted very much whether they would not find their income-tax sink from under their feet altogether. For his part, he was quite prepared to abolish protection, but not to abandon the customs duties as a means of raising the revenue. There was another ground, which had been touched upon by one hon. Gentleman that night, which weighed upon his mind with respect to the proposal of his noble Friend. It might be very well in times of great difficulty, or in time of war, to do that under the pressing necessity of the circumstances which they were prepared to justify solely on the grounds of such necessity. When, then, they proposed for two or three years to lay on an income-tax, in time of war they might not be very nice in seeing that the tax pressed equally on all classes; but when they came to raise an income-tax of 5 per cent, and make it part of the permanent system of taxation, he thought they were bound to make it a more equa- 946 ble and fair tax than it was at present. He alluded to the different manner in which the tax pressed upon incomes derived from property, and from those which depended on the exertions of individuals in professions and trades. He did not think this tax, as it was at present imposed, could long stand the test of fair reasoning. He thought when in times of distress they raised it to 5 per cent, a strong feeling would arise against it which they would not be able to meet. One of the great difficulties he found in the imposition of the tax was in the difficulty of regulating it. He hardly knew how they could make that alteration which in justice he thought ought to be made, and, at all events, was satisfied there was the greatest difficulty in making it. One of the very greatest objections he felt to the tax was, the inherent obstacles it presented to making such an arrangement that it would press with equal fairness on all classes of the community. He would not further detain the House upon that occasion, as he had already proceeded further than he intended; but he had thought it right at the outset to make these few observations in consequence of the allusion made to him by his noble Friend.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Although the right hon. Gentleman tells us he has proceeded rather further than he intended, I am sure I, for one, feel that he did not proceed further than I wished. A wiser speech—a more practical speech—one more justifying—coming, too, from a very high authority—the observations that have been made by Gentlemen on this side of the House upon a question of great economical interest—I have never listened to. I ought perhaps to apologise to the House for adding to what is only a desultory discussion; but I could not deny myself the gratification of congratulating my Friends around me, that the right hon. Gentleman, not only a great authority, but one who has had great practical experience in the finances of the country, should have felt it his duty to draw a moral from the present state of our finances, and upon this night—not a night of elaborate debate—should have favoured, and, I think I may say instructed, the country upon that important subject. Where are we now? In 1841 there was a deficit in round numbers of 3,000,000l.—a deficit which destroyed the Government of noble Lords and right hon. Gentleman opposite. I hope they do not suppose for a moment that I wish the 947 present deficit should be ominous of the fate of the present Ministry. Far from it. May they contend, and contend successfully, with the almost insuperable difficulties they have to encounter! At least, they have not one great difficulty which they had on that occasion—an Opposition ready to take the government of the country on one set of principles, and attempt to extricate it from its difficulties by another. That peculiar process succeeded then; and the deficit disappeared; a tax was laid upon income and property, which was estimated to produce rather more than 3,000,000l. sterling—a sum quite sufficient to make that deficit disappear. It produced a sum nearly double. The sum levied by that tax has also disappeared; and after having made that great sacrifice, seven years have elapsed, 5,000,000l., and more than 5,000,000l. annually levied by direct taxation have been expended, and you find yourselves in the same situation—about to encounter the same difficulty. Is there no moral to be drawn from this result? Just opinions upon public policy can only be formed by large and comprehensive views. We no longer float in an atmosphere of theory; but we have the test of truth to guide us—we have a large term of years to throw light upon the subject—we have the experience of seven years; and I say, the experience of that term of years is condemnatory of your new system. Look at your position. You rid yourself of a deficiency of 3,000,000l. by recourse to direct taxation; but when you first had recourse to this extraordinary step it was held out to you that there was to be a simultaneous relaxation of your then commercial system, which would, before the time elapsed for which you had agreed to pay this income and property-tax, produce a source of treasure which should relieve you from all your difficulty. Where is it? I want to know. I have asked before, where are the profits we were to receive upon the abrogation of the single duty upon corn and provisions imported into this country? I want to know where is the 100,000,000l. per annum which a late Secretary of the Board of Trade informed this House before the Committee on the Import Duties we should receive by the abrogation of the duty on corn—that important evidence which was afterwards announced to us by the then Chief Minister of the Crown to be the basis of his legislation. The original lease of the income-tax expired— 948 it was renewed—that lease is to be renewed again, with what I may call an incumbrance of a great fine in addition. A deficit exists, absolutely amplified in its enormous and monstrous dimensions, and no portion of the golden shower—no part even of that miserable profit of 25,000,000l. a year has accrued, which was promised us by the hon. Member for Bolton—a Gentleman for whom I have all due respect, but who, not having occupied the important and responsible position of the hon. Member for Glasgow, I will not unnecessarily refer to. Not 1s. in the pound has been paid to us, although we are called upon to pay that amount out of our savings—every one of us—in order to maintain not only the credit of the country, but—it comes to this—the independence of the country, in consequence of your economical freaks. This new principle of commercial legislation has not brought to our Treasury all those advantages which, like the picture of some Arabian tale, we were taught to believe was to be the happy appanage of the people of England; but is this 5 per cent tax upon our income which comes to destroy the magnificent destiny which we were told awaited us—all we shall have to incur? On the contrary, a great authority—a man of experience—a friend of the Government—does not flatter himself, to use his own words, that we can stop here. He says, we must look not only on the income-tax, but an increased income-tax, as a permanent part of our system. Is it to be supposed for a moment that the House or the country can any longer be blind or deaf to such results and such intelligence? They cannot forgot that in 1842 they were called upon to make a temporary sacrifice, in order to vindicate the credit, and, I suppose, maintain the independence, of the country; whilst they were promised at the same time, as the reward of their patriotism, their prescience, their sacrifice, that they should reap a speedy and immense harvest. What is the dismal and dreary consequence? That seven years having elapsed, you not only find yourselves after the sacrifice you have made in the same identical position of swimming against the tide with the same deficit about your neck; but that you are assured by the highest authority that it is only part of the system of incumbrances which awaits you, and that you cannot stop there. Then I want to know, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth talks 949 of the principle of the income-tax, for the satisfaction of our constituents—what is the principle of the income-tax? There is a remarkable circumstance connected with this tax, that there is one reason given for its infliction in this House, and another out of it. The Minister who introduced this tax, in a speech of accomplished plausibility, which, unfortunately for the country, induced the House to allow it to be carried, talked of great temporary sacrifices for great national purposes. Yet scarcely was his Administration terminated, than a letter from the same Minister appeared, containing reasons for that tax totally discordant, totally different, and to this moment unexplained, and, as I believe, inexplicable. Is it true, as we were then told, that it was a temporary remedy for a particular and fleeting grievance—or was it to introduce, as announced to the foreign inhabitants of a distant northern town, a new principle in the taxation of this country, with the view to bring about a more just assessment of public burdens? After all that has passed—after the original proposition of this tax—after its renewal—after the extraordinary manœuvre of the Government to-night, inflicting upon us nearly a double amount of taxation, while holding out a faint promise of its reduction by one-half in two years, I say we have a right—nay, it is not a question of right, for it is our duty—to ask from all the public men who were concerned in these peculiar and mysterious transactions some definite explanation. I ask any Gentleman, is he sanguine enough at this moment to believe that this income-tax of 5 per cent will terminate at the end of the two years? I ask that. I can only say, if there be any Gentleman, or if there be a majority of this House, who believe in that probability, then this is an assembly composed of, I will not say more gullible materials, for that perhaps would not be a decorous expression, but an assembly to whose sympathies a Minister may appeal with more confidence than any that ever existed. Remembering the circumstances attending the introduction of this tax—remembering that it was proposed, not for five years, as mentioned by the right hon. Member for Portsmouth, but for three years—remembering the distinct representation upon which you consented to the imposition of this tax—I ask you is it more likely that the noble Lord will be more able to redeem his promise at the end of the two years, than, some time back, was the right 950 hon. Gentleman the late Chief Minister of the Crown at the end of three years? I will not say it would have been more becoming in the noble Lord to be more definite and explicit as to the result which we must ultimately encounter; but it is our duty, in a discussion upon such a subject, to probe to the bottom the financial conscience of a Minister. Do not let us experience a second time the same mortifying disappointment. Do not let us listen again to the honeyed words that in 1842 told us that this was but a temporary tax, laid on to meet an exigency; and then, after the lapse of a few years, encounter the mortification of discovering that the Prime Minister has corresponded with foreigners, and revealed to them the secret which he would not condescend to communicate to the House of Commons. The noble Lord has told us that he only proposes to levy this additional impost for two years. What if we consent to his proposition, and then, during the Easter recess, we find a private letter of the noble Lord's—and the noble Lord read a private letter to-night of a Minister, a course I do not complain of, but, perhaps, not a very usual one—suppose, I say, we find a private letter of the noble Lord inserted in some foreign journal, say the Journal des Débats, telling M. Guizot that the peace of Europe was now preserved, because he had a permanent income-tax of five per cent, which permitted him to increase his naval and military force, and that he defied France? How extraordinary this would be; but not more surprising than what will start to our remembrance if we recall for a moment the night on which the income-tax was proposed in the last Parliament; if we remember the speech which was then made, the feeling with which that speech was received, the promptness with which all parties responded to the call upon them for a sacrifice, relieved, no doubt, by the idea that at the end of three years there was a good chance of getting rid of this temporary impost; and if we remember the mortification which only a few years after ensued upon finding that, when the Minister was making that representation, he was not stating the motives which really influenced his conduct—that he did not favour the House of Commons with the reflections which had inspired him in his own closet—and that his communication to the representatives of the people was not, in fact, the secret conviction and counsel of his Cabinet—if we remember these things, then I say the 951 noble Lord has no right to complain of us if we receive his proposition to-night with some degree of suspicion. Nothing personal, of course, is intended to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to any of his Colleagues, if the proposition made to-night by the Government is not received with the feeling with which, under other circumstances, it might have been received. It is sometimes unpleasant to recall the past; and what I am alluding to is somewhat humiliating to the House of Commons; but it ought to be, and it must be remembered, when a Minister makes a representation, upon the faith of which this House is to consent to a great national sacrifice, that a similar representation has been recently made which the event has not justified, and those who were not subjects of his Sovereign, who were not to pay the impost or to endure the sacrifices, were selected to be the recipients of his real motives and intentions. There is one point upon which in a desultory debate like this one can hardly venture to touch, and yet, after all that has occurred, it appears to be one which ought not to be avoided; and that is the part of the statement of the noble Lord which refers not only to financial considerations, but considerations connected with the foreign policy of this country, and the position in which this country is placed with relation to foreign States. I cannot venture to express an opinion; I can only express a hope, although in me that amounts to an opinion, that notwithstanding all that has passed, the peace of Europe is not likely to be disturbed. But the noble Lord has come forward on the present occasion to propose a war vote. The noble Lord having made his proposition, has mentioned four circumstances which, as he thinks, justifies this course. I should be satisfied to support a Minister, under such circumstances, who pledges himself that such a vote is necessary to maintain the independence of the country. But the noble Lord has entered more into detail; he has glanced at four cases which justify the proposition he has made. The first is, that there is that danger of war which always exists, and which, therefore, he did not dwell upon; the next was the case of invasion, of the likelihood of which we have heard a great deal lately, especially from France. I think it is hardly necessary, on the present occasion—for, no doubt, legitimate occasions will arise—to trespass upon the House with any observations upon the 952 state of preparation in this country for such an event. One remark, however, I must make. It appears from the statement of the Government to-night—and that statement oppears to have excited a great deal of feeling, and to have created a great deal of surprise among the more distant benches of the supporters of Her Majesty's Ministers—that the armaments of England are by no means in a very sorry plight—that without notice, without criticism, baffling even the vigilance of the hon. Member for Montrose, these armaments have been greatly increased, and, perhaps, even sufficiently increased for every purpose of national defence. An hon. Gentleman near me called out almost in the midst of the peroration of the noble Lord—" What is the date of the increase? "The date of that increase is the year 1835. Why, now look at the egregious delusion of the reformed Parliament and all its consequences! What were you to have immediately following upon reform? What was to be its great been and its great achievement? Cheap government. The establishments of the country were to be reduced, and those great economical objects for which the hon. Member for Montrose had been unceasingly labouring during a quarter of a century were to be achieved in a moment. Well, you reduced your establishments; your Army was cut down,—your Navy was cut down—you had your election—you got your majority—you enthroned Liberalism in power. But the moment the hubbub was over and the dust had subsided, your tone was changed, and the establishments of the country were instantly increased. And here we are in 1848 contemplating a great reaction in favour of increased defensive means. You have all the armaments of the country in the highest possible state of efficiency; and fifteen years after the reform era, you, the apostles of economy—you, who preached reform—you, who got returned for metropolitan districts by vaunting that you had cut down the estimates—you have the satisfaction of finding, not only that there are more soldiers, more sailors, more artillerymen than when you began your economical labours, but that the country is actually in a state of alarm lest it be not sufficiently protected and defended. So much for your economy; so much for the attempt to produce that which you must have known to be impossible. And when we come to the details, I wish to know what the purely Liberal Members mean to 953 do—whether they mean to confess that the state of affairs in Europe in 1847 was more difficult and dangerous than it was in 1830? I want to know how they will justify their defence of a Government which has given the he to their whole career. I don't mean the career of the Government, but the whole career of rampant liberalism, which has been all this time playing the critic on the military institutions of this country. Will the answer be, that the time of such criticism is past—that it is no longer to be tolerated that a Gentleman should get up with that perseverance which I, for one, have always admired in the hon. Member for Montrose, modified and mitigated as it ever is with a naïveté that is charming—that that time is past, and that it is no longer necessary to criticise the muster-roll of a regiment, the manning of a ship, or the expenditure of. a station? All that is passed. New ideas are afloat, and we are told that no defences are at all necessary—that a new principle is in action—a new era has arrived—that armaments are no longer required, ships no longer necessary—and that English regiments have become as obsolete as Roman legions. And why? Because a new spirit is introduced into the government of the world, and that the millennium, so often anticipated in so many different shapes, has at length arrived. It appears that the great principle of free imports that inflicts 5 per cent income-tax upon us, is also, by way of compensation, to secure to us the blessings of peace. Sir, of the Apostle of this new system, I trust, I am not one to speak with disrespect. I ventured to admire his genius when he was not supported by Prime Ministers. I admired also his courage, but never so much as when he enunciated his new system to those who are his constituents. When he spoke of the idea of a perpetual peace, of his belief of that era having arrived in the history of the world and the annals of human nature which would render all means of national defence unnecessary—when he assumed that, from some extraordinary cause, the power of national passions, like the power of human passion in some person schooled by a course of rigid moral discipline, had suddenly ceased to agitate the heart of man—this idea, astounding, beautiful, perplexing as it was, especially on the occasion of budgets, had not the charm of novelty. In this respect the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding is not so 954 original as he was in the conception of the idea that the true principle of commerce consisted in purchasing in the cheapest market, and selling in the dearest. Sir, this idea of perpetual peace is one that at various intervals has agitated the spirit of man—it has been one not confined to mere enthusiasts—to preachers on their tubs—to lonely eremites in their cells—or dreaming monks in solitary deserts. Before this time it has influenced the minds of men of action, as it has stirred the mind of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire—it has been considered in Cabinets—it has influenced public councils—and I need not remind the House what has been the barren result of these beautiful aspirations, because more than a century and a half has elapsed since these opinions first influenced the councils to which I refer; and during that period the world has witnessed the longest and bloodiest wars in its history. A man who had the eloquence of the hon. Member for the West Riding, and who flourished more than a century ago, the Abbé St. Pierre, was the author of a plan for a perpetual peace, and officially attended the Congress at Utrecht. His have been subsequently the views of remarkable men. They, in fact, formed the mind of Rousseau, who rendered them, much later, popular throughout Europe; they were the views which formed the mind and influenced the convictions of Robespierre, who became the president of the French republic. Robespierre was the apostle of perpetual peace; and he was determined, when he obtained power, to put into practice the principles developed in the Congress of Utrecht by the Abbé St. Pierre. It will be observed that there was this remarkable fallacy running through the plan of St. Pierre. St. Pierre looked upon the whole of Europe as a confederation. He said, "It is not for the interest of any Power or human being to go to war. Let every Power therefore disband its army. The reign of Peace will ensue." "But," said St. Pierre, "if any of the Powers does not consent to this system, then it must be incumbent upon the others to enforce these desirable principles, of which I am the great promulgater." Thus the system of St. Pierre assumed war as a necessary element of itself; and the same fallacy, differently modified, is that of the hon. Gentleman. No doubt it is easy to entertain the dogma, looking only to the material interests of nations—of America, France, or England, for example—that 955 their prosperity would be promoted by peace. No two intelligent men could converse on the subject, and doubt of its being contrary to the interests of those nations to go to war. But war is produced, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, not by the Powers which are contented and satisfied, but, exactly as in society we find that the disturbance is created by the individual who does not find himself exactly in the position to which he thinks his talents entitle him, so you find in nations and races that war is produced by the race or the prince who agitates for a position. Take a remarkable case. At this moment liberal Gentlemen refer to it with great delight; and certainly, omitting our own country, of whose position we are hardly impartial judges, there is probably no nation in Europe, whether we look to general civilisation, diffused knowledge, public intelligence, or fame in arms and science, that can be placed superior to Prussia. But only a few years before St. Pierre laid down his principles, Prussia did not exist. But Margraves of Brandenburgh, conscious of great talents and powers, determined, instead of being Margraves, to become Kings of Prussia, and that produced many struggles, and among them a seven years' war. If you reason in favour of universal peace from existing circumstances, you reason from circumstances that are essentially superficial. The hon. Member for the West Riding takes a rosy view of all Continental transactions, and he has reason. His reception on the Continent was, I must say, not only gratifying to himself, but, however different may be our opinions on some subjects, so far at least as I am concerned, was not disagreeable to his fellow-countrymen. I ventured myself to tell him that it was not surprising the Contiment should do so much for him, for he seemed to me to have done a great deal for the Continent. But this is the argument of the hon. Member for the West Riding, formed upon commercial data—formed upon those statistics with the artful combination of which he has so often puzzled the Protectionists. He says, "Look at your trade with France. I find that in 1816 or 1817 we exported to that country not more than 200,000l. worth of our manufactures, and now we export to the value of 2,500,000l. Do you think the people of France will ever go to war with you?" Why, let the hon. Gentleman examine our commercial relations with France in 1787; let him look to the time 956 when Mr. Eden was sent to negotiate a commercial treaty; let him see what was the amount of our exports at that time, with a much less amount of population both in England and France. I am not at all surprised that Mr. Pitt should have indulged in those hopes and expectations to which the noble Lord has referred; but they were vainly founded—as vainly as are the hopes and expectations of the hon. Member for the West Riding with regard to our commerce with France. At the time to which I am referring, in 1787, we were on the eve of one of the longest and fiercest struggles that ever occurred between two nations—a struggle of even longer duration than the thirty years' war in Germany. The great desire for commercial intercourse which existed between both countries in 1787, did not then prevent the most terrible war that perhaps ever occurred between two nations. Would such intercourse prevent a war now? I believe that upon a skilful diplomacy, which the hon. Member for the West Riding sneers at, mainly depends the maintenance of peace in Europe; and I believe there never was a time, provided a skilful diplomacy be exercised, when the peace of Europe was more secure than at present. But, taking large and historical views of affairs, who would yield to an argument founded on so flimsy a basis as that which was founded on the increase of the commercial transactions of the two countries since the Peace? I will not ask how is it possible that two great nations should have communicated so long and so little? I will not say it is clear that between these countries there exists some feeling of unappeasable aversion, and that it is impossible to suppose that there ever can be between them an enduring peace. I will not press that point; I do not think it is for a moment to be indulged in. So too when I hear Gentlemen say, "You must look at the particular position of France and England; you must remember the battle of Waterloo, and the feeling it excited on the part of the French people"—I reply that the feelings of the French could not be more exasperated against the English on account of the battle of Waterloo, than were the feelings of the English against the French nation in 1787 because we had been robbed of our richest colonies in consequence of French interference. The hon. Member for the West Riding has told us, that it is not merely with reference to the particular instance of the commercial 957 transactions between France and England that he builds up this philosophy which is to influence all our future conduct, but because the great commercial revolution he has effected has introduced new tendencies into Europe. The only tendency, Sir, which I recognise in the new commercial system of the hon. Gentleman, is the increase of our taxes. I should be extremely glad—no one would be more ready—to welcome results of a very contrary kind; but with our taxation almost doubled tonight—with a promise from the right hon. Member for Portmouth that this is but the beginning of the infliction that hangs over us—the only tendency I can recognise as the result of this new commercial system is that tendency which I believe will soon be recognised by the people of England—the increase of their burdens. I do not understand what this new tendency argument is that has been brought forward by the great chief of the Manchester school. As far as England and France are concerned, he admits that our commercial interchange and relations are lamentably meagre and deficient. So far, then, as this example goes, the tendency is directly opposite to that which the hon. Gentleman seeks to support; but much as I respect that all-conquering commerce that now not only relieves itself from duties but inflicts taxes upon us—prepared as I am to bow down to that omnipotent deity, beneath whose conquering wheels every interest and institution is to fall—I still am not prepared to believe that a commercial tendency is stronger, for instance, than a religious tendency. Now, inasmuch as the people of Europe have professed the same creed for centuries, and the profession of the same creed, the worship of the same God, and the belief in the same Saviour, have not prevented them from having recourse to national defences, I am not prepared to credit that a new commercial principle which, even if successful, is but in its swaddling-clothes, can produce results so marvellous. But the new commercial principle is to produce effects even still more remarkable; because, on the very occasion to which I have referred, when the hon. Member for the West Riding and his friends thought proper to make their first revelations to the people of this country, and when he said that those revelations would be supported in the House of Commons, the commercial principle did not appear to be the only tendency on which he trusted for the 958 triumphant development of his views and the attainment of his purposes. On that occasion the hon. Gentleman made some further revelations to which I think it my duty to allude. The hon. Gentleman on that occasion brought forward some evidence of the folly of supposing that this country could ever be embroiled with France; and he quoted speeches which had been made in the city of Rouen, to show what were the tone and temper of the dominant class in France. The hon. Gentleman quoted, among others, the speech of M. Cremieux, a deputy, who made an extremely flowery oration—a discourse such as some few years ago we heard in Covent Garden. It was a speech worthy of the Anti-Corn-Law League, in the palmy days of its purple rhetoric. The hon. Member for the West Riding, referring to that speech, said, "This is my vindication to the people of England. Read this speech; it settles the question." But what was the end of that speech? M. Cremieux anticipates a millennium—a period of perpetual peace; and what is it? He ends with the words—" Liberty, equality, and fraternity." Why, Sir, that is the Jacobin banner unfurled. What did liberty, equality, and fraternity, terminate in before? Did they terminate in perpetual peace? Is such a speech as this, though quoted by a great authority in England—a speech terminating with this declaration of the principle which is to produce peace, a sufficient argument against national defences? Sir, everybody is for liberty; a good many are for equality; but, as to fraternity, I am bound to say that the only objection I have to it is this—that I have always found that every party and every nation who preach fraternity, are ever prepared to perform the part of elder brothers. This, Sir, was rather an alarming communication to those who, like myself, watch with interest, and often with admiration, the career of the hon. Member for the West Riding. Well, that hon. Gentleman made a speech which he told his auditors he was prepared to make in the House of Commons, and which we shall no doubt hear, not improved, for that is impossible, but supported and enforced. But it was not enough that liberty, equality, and fraternity were to inflict upon us a five per cent income-tax. When the great luminary sinks beneath the ocean,The moon takes up the wondrous tale;959 and the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) inspired by liberty, inspired by equality, and of course inspired by fraternity, came forward and told the meeting—" This is not enough. This great movement, which is to secure for us perpetual peace, must do more. It must touch the law of landed inheritance; it must remove the anomalies of primogeniture." And certainly if you inflict a 5 per cent income-tax on us and destroy the law regulating landed inheritance in the country at the same time, it may be expected that the deficit of Her Majesty's Government will be considerably increased. It does the hon. Gentlemen the greatest credit that they should have told the House what they really meant. They did not come to this table and ask for a tax that was to be temporary in its operation, but for a tax for a permanent purpose. I reverence the rude sincerity of their conduct; but they may rest assured that liberty, equality, and fraternity, are enough for the first year of agitation. They should have left the law of landed inheritance and the principle of primogenture for a campaign at Covent Garden. The point at which you have now arrived is this—you are called upon for an increase of your imposts. Look at the future which you have to meet. What is this impost? It is, as the late Minister of the Crown told the people, a new, but I believe an unjust principle. You have had a political revolution in this country during the last fifteen years—you have given the franchise to classes, and what have they used it for? To throw the burden of taxation from their shoulders solely to yours. That is the object of their policy; that is the avowed object of all their political proceeding. But in an age so abhorrent of monopolies, let me warn you to take care that you are not the victims of a monopoly of taxation. The budget is the imperfect consequence of the agitation of those principles to which I have referred. The present Ministry will not meet—nor perhaps will any Ministry meet—the real position of this country. There is a party, and an active party, who, as I think, labouring under a great delusion, are, I believe, the sincere advocates of principles which in my mind are totally opposed to the permanent maintenance of this empire. They may stimulate for a moment the commercial importance of the country; but I think even that is very doubtful. We have hitherto seen but slender evidence of such 960 an effect. Of this, however, I am sure—that the principles of the party to which I refer are entirely opposed to the permanence of the empire. I made a distinction the other night between commercial and imperial principles—a distinction hastily expressed, but which I am not at all prepared to recall; and it has been represented that I wished to sneer at the sources of national wealth. No; I do not wish to sneer at them. I wish that the sources of national wealth should continue—that they should not be fleeting; but I am certain that you cannot secure the wealth of nations unless you secure their power. That was the reason I said there was another principle involved in the colonial system besides the mere commercial principle. Well, Sir, so I say to the Gentlemen who hold these new principles, that if those principles even succeed for a moment, of which we have anything but evidence, they are opposed to that great object which the noble Lord to-night called upon us to recollect—the independence of the country. Those who profess these new principles, on the same ground on which they think nothing of a colony if it does not give them a good commercial interchange, may reconcile it to themselves to allow this country to become a province of France, provided France changes her tariff and gives them free trade. But I hope such principles will not be acquiesced in by this House without a struggle to maintain a nobler and a more national spirit. And when we are called upon to discuss the budget of the Ministry on Monday, let us come to the task with a clear mind and with an intelligent spirit. Do not let us be considering whether we can carry this or that point by some chance-medley majority; let us know what we are about; let us understand the new system which is on those benches [the benches on the Ministerial side below the gangway] in its strength—I hope not on those [pointing to the Ministerial benches] in its feebleness; and while we are ready to do all that is necessary to maintain the independence of the country, let us also be prepared to support its venerated institutions.
§ MR. COBDEN
then rose and said: I shall be obliged to descend from those regions of imagination into which the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire has soared; and although he has apparently paid me the high compliment of following me with some attention from France to England, 961 from Manchester to Covent-garden, and thence over the Continent, yet whilst we are in a Committee of Supply, and while the budget is before us, the hon. Gentleman must pardon me when I say that I have not found in his speech much that I think it necessary to refer to on this occasion. I must confess that I did not hear with surprise the disastrous report which has been made to us by the noble Premier with reference to the state of our finances. His budget has been but a counterpart of the balance-sheet of all the industrial interests of the country; but what has surprised me very much has been to find that, unlike individuals who unfortunately have a balance on the wrong side of the account, the Government, instead of making some effort to diminish the expenditure so as to render it equal to the receipts, seems apparently to have only one thought—that of raising the receipts to equal the expenditure. Now, this is precisely the opposite policy to that which is pursued by individual concerns throughout the country. I venture to say that at this moment, in every manufacturing and mercantile concern in the kingdom, the greatest pains are taken, and the utmost care and anxiety are devoted, to the task of making the two ends meet in the balance-sheet; and if they can contrive to keep themselves from a loss in striking the balance, I believe they are very well satisfied. I am not only exceedingly pained at the defalcations of our revenue, but I am, if possible, more pained at the tone in which the noble Premier has alluded to the necessity of an increase in our expenditure with reference to the Army. I must say—and I say it with the greatest regret—that I believe there has not been a speech made by a Prime Minister in this House, since the Peace, so calculated to do mischief as the speech of the noble Lord. Why, Sir, if I, an irresponsible private individual, had alluded in such terms to France in the Free-trade Hall in Manchester, it might have been passed over; but when a noble Lord, holding the position of Prime Minister of this country, draws attention to the state of France, and adduces the preparations of that country for war as a motive for our augmenting our armament, what is it but a menace—an act calculated to irritate and exasperate? I am anxious to give you, the representatives of England, the opportunity of disclaiming any such feeling in the remarks which have fallen from the Premier; but we know we have a sensitive nation to deal with, and I think there could 962 not possibly have been too much reserve exercised by the noble Lord in dealing with a topic of this nature. Now, I ask myself, "What is the occasion of all this? Why have we heard lately of the necessity of an increase of our armaments? What have been the indications of a warlike tendency towards us from France or elsewhere?" We were told in the Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty had the assurance from all foreign States of sentiments of amity. Now, I wish to ask this question—for it is time that we should come to honest straightforward feeling and speaking—" Does the language of the Sovereign speak the truth?" If so, how can this armament be necessary? Are we justified in arming in this country when we have declared, through our Sovereign, that a feeling of perfect confidence exists that peace will be maintained? Where, then, is our danger? Has France been arming against us? There is no evidence of the kind. I know there have been facts and figures brought forward to show that France has been augmenting her navy. Yes, and when this question comes substantively before the House, as it will do—for if the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had not told me that it was his intention to propose a special Motion on this subject, I would have done it myself, but I bow to him with all deference, and shall be happy at all times to follow him in his career of economy—I will be prepared to show you from the speeches in the French papers that your augmentation of your Navy, has been the standing plea and excuse for the increase of the French force. The noble Lord has himself told us that our Navy costs as near as possible double that of the French. Ought not that to have satisfied us? Who's afraid? Yes, who is afraid of being invaded? Where are the people that have petitioned for your protection? Why, I have the honour to represent the largest and most important constituency of the empire; there is a population probably of a million; and I believe there is not one town in West Yorkshire in which there has not been a public meeting to disclaim all desire of the sort, to disclaim all fear, and to pray that you will not augment your armaments. I represent 36,000 electors, and I challenge any one to contradict me when I say that the vast majority of that important constituency is opposed to this measure of the Government. I mention this with the greater satisfaction, that it 963 may go forth, and go to France, and to Europe, alongside of the speech and the proposal that have come from the Prime Minister. And at what a time is this proposal made? I should have been sorry at any time to see such a proposal; but at a time such as the present, ought there not to be the most cogent reasons why you should put us to this expense? And what are the reasons? I listened attentively, and I heard not one fact alleged by the noble Lord to call for these armaments. He said, that in 1792 Mr. Pitt had great confidence in peace, and he proposed, I believe, a partial disarmament; but there was war in 1793. It is true; but we were in different circumstances then in England, as they were also in France. I believe that if Mr. Pitt had had the power he would never have gone to war to put down the French revolution. I believe if Mr. Pitt had had then what the noble Lord has now—an intelligent middle class in the kingdom, governing the kingdom—and a more instructed working class, averse to war—he never would have embarked in that war; but he was carried into it by the aristocracy of this kingdom, and the obstinacy of the Monarch wielding the power of the aristocracy for the purpose. But we have the lesson of the war which followed—we have the debt which followed as a bond of peace. And how is it in France? What is the motive now in France for going through such a revolution as in 1793? Why, France has gone through its social revolution, and I know of no motive now why France should seek such a revolution as that of 1793. They have no privileged order; they have no established church; they have no great inequalities of condition; there is a very minute subdivision of property; and I ask what possible motive of the kind can there be in France? Then, I say, these facts, instead of being evidences that we should now arm, are proofs that we are no longer in the same danger. The noble Lord has alluded to our narrow escape in the affair of Mr. Pritchard. Why, I take that as another proof that we are not going to war for any such trifling things in these days. We are told of secret councils in the Foreign Office between our Minister and the Minister of France, and of the great danger of war. Well, I venture to say, that if those two gentlemen had ever come to that point of obstinacy or of recklessness, that they had proposed to involve sixty millions of men, their fellow- 964 subjects, in a bloody war, the result would have been that they would both have been turned out of office. But the noble Lord tells us that we are not arming against a probability, but that it is necessary to arm against an improbability—"that it is sometimes necessary to take precautions against an improbability." Now, I ask, is not that treating the country with some degree of levity and of disrespect? Impoverished as the people are, not only by the burdens of the State, but also by local burdens pressing heavily upon them, is it not too bad to propose to increase our armaments against the expressed wish of the people of our large towns, and to have no better argument for it than that it is desirable to take precautions against an improbability? Let me ask the Gentlemen connected with the war services a question—Is it not possible to make the present amount do? I ask the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward), the Secretary to the Admiralty, just to consider the point. He is going, we will say, to get the same amount as he did last year; has he ever thought whether the same amount will not go a great deal further now than it did twelve or eighteen months since? I ask any Gentleman connected with railroads, any Gentleman connected with Birmingham or with any of the iron districts, will not 17,000,000l. go a great deal further in the purchase of commodities now than they would last year? But I will not say 17,000,000l., because my hon. Friend will tell me that a vast deal of that sum goes in fixed payments, but I will say 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. and I state that commodities are 25 per cent cheaper than they were last year; and if he can get the same amount now as he did then, let him make himself comfortable. There are very few of his constituents in Sheffield that will get the same amount as they did last year. I see no reason at all why we should augment our forces, and when the time comes I will oppose its being done; and by not one shilling will I consent to augment the Army, Navy, or Ordnance this year. Now, as to this income-tax that is proposed to be put on. I have no objection to the principle of direct taxation. The hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) has been attacking me for that tax. I want to know what taxes are fairer than property and income-tax? We raise 54,000,000l., and a large proportion of it comes from tea and coffee and sugar; I ask the hon. Member for Bucks, does not 965 he think that the poor wretches of peasants that have to go and buy three pennyworth of tea or two pennyworth of sugar on a Saturday night, and pay a large per centage upon that little outlay for taxation, find it quite as grievous to them as the property-tax is to the landowners? I do not object to a property-tax. I do not think an income-tax quite so fair; my great objection is its inquisitorial character, from which men of property escape. But when you propose an income and property-tax to spare the Government effecting some little economy in your Excise department and your dockyards and your Government offices, then I object to it. But the hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) will excuse me if I tell him what he has said is rather calculated, unintentionally I am sure, to create a misapprehension in Bucks as to what we have been doing in the progress of our commercial reform. He talks of the great deficit. Yes; it is easy to have a great deficit if you are always voting increased expenses. But who votes those increased expenses? Has the hon. Member for Bucks ever been found voting for economy? Will he now join in resisting this profligate expenditure of the public money? Now, let the hon. Member look well to it. I will engage for it that though he rails at the expenditure, though he denounces the income-tax and abuses the free-traders for it, he will vote for the expenditure. But don't let him charge the free-traders with it. It is not free trade that does it; it is the constant expenditure. Since 1835 you have increased the expenditure by 7,000,000l., and that upon the small item which is variable, and which comprises the charge for the Army and Navy and Ordnance; but who has done that? Why, the hon. Member for Bucks, and those who have acted with him. There would have been no necessity for an income-tax if the expenses had not been augmented; it is your extravagance that causes it. Why, if you had kept the armaments at what they were in 1835, you might now have stood in the same relation to France—for France, as I will prove to you, only armed in self-defence, and because you did; and you might have taken off the duty on tea, or the window-tax, or both together. You might have had relief equal to the whole amount of your poor-rates. You are actually paying in this increased expenditure a sum as large as your poor-rates; it is tantamount to doubling the pauperism of the country. 966 Then I say, cut down your expenditure. Help us. Now, I will give you a reason why you should help us. I will talk to the hon. Protectionists now as men of sense. Give up this idea of forming a party upon protection. You see your leaders drop away; and why do leaders drop away? Because you have really no party, and you have no principle, It is a sham and a fudge. Talk of restoring protection! You might as well think of enthroning the Stuarts again. You might as well talk of restoring the year 1846 to the calendar as of restoring protection. The thing is dead and gone and disposed of. Then what is the next question for you? You cannot indemnify yourselves against a moderate price of corn by coming upon the public purse; that I guarantee—that you shall never have a corn law again, do or say what you will. What then? Why, diminish the expenditure. The hon. Member for Buckingham usually favours the House with a great deal of historical knowledge; and perhaps he will excuse me for calling his attention to an historical fact which occurred not more than thirty years ago. If the hon. Member will take the prices of corn in one hand, and the statements of the public expenditure in the other, he will find that in the years in which the prices of corn were lowest, the Parliament always cut down the expenditure. Let us begin with 1822. After the conclusion of the war, the hon. Member for Montrose was always endeavouring to persuade the House to bring down the establishments to a peace footing; but he could never get the county Members to listen to him until 1822. In that year wheat fell to 44s., a price unheard of for thirty years previously, and then the county Members came up en masse to support the economical propositions of the hon. Member for Montrose; they struck off 20,000 men from the services, and effected reductions in expenditure to the extent of 2,800,000l. The hon. Member for Montrose, economist as he was, felt a little alarmed at the slashing retrenchments of the country Gentlemen. In 1826 the price of corn was 50 per cent higher, and the establishments were augmented, and the expenditure was carried to the point at which it stood in 1821. Then came that terrible year 1835, when wheat went down to 39s. 4d. on the average, and immediately the Army, Navy, and Ordnance Estimates were cut down to 11,500,000l. Now, you are going to vote 19,000,000l. for those 967 Estimates. I tell the Protectionists that they are going to have moderate prices for corn. During the last twelve months, we have had an exceptional state of things altogether. Everybody knows that the future normal state of the corn market will be one of moderate prices. Bear in mind that when wheat comes to a moderate price it cannot be got up again by any contrivance. There can now be no rebound—no reaction by means of the sliding-scale. The corn laws are repealed. The merchants, manufacturers, and traders are satisfied with the result. Suffering as they are, the manufacturers have not exhibited the slightest symptom of wavering on that point. Do you suppose that the manufacturers of the north and the workmen of the metropolis, when corn comes down to 40s., will listen to the syren notes of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and consent to have the corn laws re-imposed? I can tell the Protectionists that there is not a chance of restoring the corn laws. It is all moonshine to tell the electors of counties about protection. ["Question, question!"] I think I am rather too close to the question. I say, that the only chance for you and your constituencies is to help the free-traders in their endeavours to reduce the expenditure of the country. It will not be possible much longer to amuse the county constituencies with the cry of protection. They begin to perceive that it is a phantom, and for their interest and your own you will be compelled to advocate measures of peaceful economy. I hope, too, that you will induce the Foreign Secretary to hold out the olive branch to the French nation, instead of seeking for the means of irritating it, and keeping it in a constant fever of excitement. If free trade can effect that, it will have done something to carry out the principle about which the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire has so much declaimed. I never said that free trade would bring the millennium. I am not one of the enthusiasts whom the hon. Member compared to St. Pierre. I certainly have said that the interchange of commodities would knit nations together in the bonds of peace; but in that I was only echoing what I conceived to be the best sentiment in the speeches of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. I never heard those eminent persons speak on the subject of free trade without their descanting on its tendency to unite nations by the ties of 968 mutual interest. Though I am no enthusiast, and do not look for the millennium as a consequence of free trade, I do believe that that system will be the means of closely uniting France and England. We have repealed the corn laws more by accident than anything else; for the spirit of free trade does not pervade this assembly nor the Government. If it did, Ministers would not have introduced into this House the question of war taxation in a spirit which might have been tolerated fifty years ago, but which is totally repugnant to the temper of the present age. Since, however, the corn laws are repealed, whether by accident or otherwise, you will be obliged to economise by the reduction of the Army and other warlike establishments.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think it would have been better to have postponed any discussion on the topics introduced in the speech of my noble Friend until Monday week, for we have been led into a debate upon this occasion which has been truly described as being of a very desultory character. It appears to me that the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House, as well as that of the hon. Member for Montrose, must have been prepared under the idea that the Government intended to propose this evening an enormous increase in the amount of our establishments. The phrases "war taxes" and "war budget" must have been devised in the belief that my noble Friend was about to propose an addition of 10,000 men to the Army, 20,000 to the Navy, and God knows what to the Ordnance. Yet what is the fact? The addition to the force is somewhere about 3,000 men, and the increase of charge about 300,000l. It surprises me that the hon. Member for Yorkshire should have represented the speech of my noble Friend as calculated to excite any angry feeling in France. My noble Friend distinctly stated that, as far as depended upon us, we were determined to maintain peace with France, and he expressed his desire that we should continue not only on friendly but on the most intimate terms with that country. The hon. Member condemned my noble Friend for having, as he said, referred to the military force of France; but the fact is, that my noble Friend expressly declared that he would not allude to the French army. My noble Friend confined his observations to the French navy, and in that reference he is justified by the general course of pre- 969 cedent, for the naval estimates have seldom been brought forward in this House without some direct reference being made to the marine of France. I remember that when I represented the Navy Department in this House, the Government was censured for not making that branch of the service more efficient, and the naval force of France was constantly referred to in justification of those remonstrances. The hon. Member must have wonderfully misunderstood what fell from my noble Friend when he could represent him to have said that our naval estimates were twice as great as those of France. My noble Friend said no such thing. On the contrary, he referred to the number of seamen voted for the French navy as being as great as those required for our naval service; and he argued from that circumstance that our naval establishment—taking into consideration the great extent of our trade and colonial possessions beyond those of France—could not be deemed extravagant. The number of seamen voted for the French navy for last year was 29,000; about the number required in our estimates of the present year. As regards men, therefore, the services of the two countries are on a par. An hon. Member opposite read us a lecture upon the disregard of economy during the last few years; but I believe that my predecessors in office will concur with me in stating that the increase of expenditure was not forced on the House by the Government, but on the Government by the House. Whatever increase of expenditure has occurred has taken place with the almost unanimous assent of the representatives of the people of this country. No doubt the events of the last year, and the prospect of increased taxation, may work a change in the tone of feeling in this House; but I hope that hon. Members will not rush from one extreme to the other, and in their anxiety for economy be induced to forget what is due to the honour and interests of the country. I am disposed to deal as fairly and frankly with the House as hon. Gentlemen can wish; and I will hold out no expectations which I think there is no prospect of realising. With regard to the deficiency to which the hon. Member for Portsmouth has alluded, and for which it will be necessary to provide, it includes the expense of the Caffre war, which was caused by events that took place within the colony itself; the cost of that war for the past two years is, in fact, money al- 970 ready gone from the military chest; it includes the excess of expenditure in the Navy for the year 1846. Therefore, to the extent of 1,345,000l., there was a deficiency over which the Government had no control whatever. I have a strong objection to providing for a peace expenditure by a loan. It is true that, to meet the expenses caused by the famine, and under the peculiar circumstances of last year, the emergency was met by a loan; but except under such extraordinary circumstances, I should not be disposed to resort to one. With regard to the income-tax, as it at present stands, it is quite true I have indirectly expressed an opinion that I saw but little prospect of its being taken off; I know it was not imposed as a permanent tax; but when it was voted in 1845, I do not believe any man really believed there was any prospect of its being taken off at the end of the three years. I, for one, voted for it, with a perfect conviction it would not be taken off; and I do not think any one was sanguine enough to hope it. I think it only fair to declare that I do not see much chance of that part of our taxation, amounting to 5,000,000l., being taken off. This applies to the 3 per cent. With respect to the addition of 2 per cent now proposed, for a period of two years only, I will make no promise. I think it very absurd to make promises of what is to be done at a future time, for no one can say what the state of circumstances may then be; and I do not wish to be taunted hereafter with a promise made under other circumstances. The power is left to the House of Commons of deciding on the question of its continuance; but when my hon. Friend (Mr. F. Baring) says there is no chance or probability of this addition being taken off, I think he rather underrates the possible amount of our future revenue, and miscalculates our probable expenditure. Taking the revenue at the end of last financial year, it was 53,789,000l.; the ordinary expenditure to be voted for this year, omitting only the provision for past expenditure, would be 53,101,000l. Deducting the ordinary expenditure of this year from the ordinary revenue of the last, there will be a surplus of 688,000l.; if we deduct from this last amount the expense of the militia and the loss by the remission of the duty on copper ore, there will still be a surplus of 497,000l. What I have said shows that the discontinuance of the added duty is quite within the region of pro- 971 bability. With regard to the prospects of an. improvement in the revenue, it ought to be borne in mind, that the effect of such a calamity as a famine on the resources of the country does not end with the cessation of the calamity itself. In the beginning of last year, there was an increasing revenue; that improvement continued up to the end of July: it was not till after that month the revenue began to fall off. Even assuming, therefore, the State of things to be returning towards the prosperity of that year, still we cannot expect that the revenue will improve till some time shall have elapsed after the calamity: even if trade does improve, it will not produce a favourable effect on the revenue at so early a period as to give a large increase of revenue in the next year; at the same time, I think some Gentlemen have taken too gloomy a view of our position. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Robinson) has expatiated largely on the extraordinary falling-off in our exports during the past year. I think the hon. Gentleman cannot have seen a paper that has been laid on the table of the House this morning. It gives a comparative statement of the exports of the past year compared with the year preceding; and, with the single exception of cotton goods, for which the high price of cotton is sufficient to account, there is not an item of our export trade on which there has not been an increase. On our linen and woollen goods, in hardware, and on our silk manufactures, there has been an increase during last year compared with the year before. I am quite at a loss to understand how the hon. Gentleman could have spoken of an extraordinary falling-off in our manufactures. I am not aware of any other observation to which it is necessary that I should refer. With regard to all these questions of income and expenditure, they will be much more properly discussed when the estimates come before the House. The Navy and Army Estimates will be submitted to the House in the course of next week, and a fitter occasion will then be afforded for the discussion of those matters. I can only remind the House now, that over the greater part of the expenditure we have no control whatever; and I think that the House will agree with me that we ought not to get over the difficulty in which we find ourselves placed by borrowing. We have no other alternative, therefore, than to propose additional taxation. With regard to the mode in which 972 we propose to raise that taxation, I think it will be better to defer the debate upon it till Monday week, when I think we shall be able to show that the plan which we have proposed will occasion less disturbance and inconvenience to commerce and to agriculture than any other mode of taxation that can be suggested.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
had tried on several occasions to catch the Chairman's eye, as he wished to introduce something like novelty into the debate. There was not, with the exception of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, any Member who had addressed the Committee who had given even a qualified assent to the proposition of the noble Lord; and upon that ground he wished, as an independent Member, to state in a very few words the view which he took of the subject under consideration. Passing by the able and effective speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, he would advert to the speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Portsmouth, who was willing to continue an income-tax of three per cent, though a war tax, but whose prejudices rose strong against it, and compelled him to vote against his friends and successors, when, under pressing necessities, they were obliged to raise it two per cent. But surely, if it was objectionable in point of principle to impose an income-tax in a time of profound peace, an income-tax of five per cent was not more objectionable, as far as principle was concerned, than an income-tax of three per cent. He did not understand, therefore, the distinction made by the right hon. Gentleman the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now came the great question of all—Did we want the money? No man had a morbid love for paying the taxes, or anything else, though, perhaps, an honest man might like to pay his butcher's bill; and not even the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, or of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of any former Chancellor of the Exchequer, could produce money without corresponding taxation. That must be either in the shape of an increased property-tax, or of a tax that had never appeared before. Did any of the Liberals propose to revise old taxes—such as the house-tax? It should be borne in mind, that we had been spared for a longer period in the history of Europe than had ever before occurred, from any approach to war between any of the great European Powers. What right had we to expect that another interval of half that 973 duration would pass without war? We believed that, through the mercy of God, this country had been saved for centuries from a personal knowledge of the horrors of war. How long it might please Providence so to direct the elements as to baffle the attempts of our enemies at invasion he of course could not foresee. Three centuries ago a storm scattered the invading fleet of the most powerful Sovereign in Europe, and it was on that occasion that our Queen struck the medal bearing this inscription, "Deus afflavit, et dissipantur." On a subsequent occasion a storm also prevented an invasion of this country. Now, it was clear that the army of France was not only immensely larger than our own, but it was continually going through that kind of discipline taught by actual war, which would render it more formidable for the purposes of aggression. Algiers was a school of discipline for the French army; and could our English Minister know that, and not feel it his duty to be prepared to meet the danger? He remembered reading a very able article in the Morning Chronicle on the dangers that would accrue on an invasion, and, above all, on the per centage that was demanded as an insurance of the property of the country; and the small amount of that per centage might be judged of from the fact that the property charged for the property-tax was no less than 550,000,000l. Believing that there was an utter fallacy in all those principles which assume that commerce would unite that which Christianity had failed to keep together—believing that as long as human passions continued, as long as rapacity on the one hand might be provoked by possession on the other, so long it was the part of civil wisdom to be prepared to resist a possible, though, perhaps, scarcely a probable enemy. He believed that in public as in private life the best security that a nation, as an individual, could possess against attack, was to be prepared for it, even from a professed friend. Under such circumstances he desired to express his general concurrence in the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, though he should take another opportunity of calling their attention to a subject which he had already endeavoured to impress upon their predecessors—to the principle upon which a property-tax ought to be levied, or rather to the point at which it ought to commence. He believed that a large portion of the population were utterly unable to pay the increased tax; and he 974 considered it to be the duty of the Government so to apportion the impost as to make it fall as lightly as possible on the great bulk of the people.
§ MR. M. MILNES
could not permit the present discussion to close or the evening to pass without expressing his profound regret that the speech of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and so much of the subsequent debate, should have been taken up rather upon a subject introduced by accidental circumstances as a matter of discussion with the public, than upon one necessarily connected with the actual condition of the country. He profoundly regretted that the possibility of an invasion of this country by France should ever have come before the House of Commons as a subject of discussion; or that any such monstrous position should have occurred to the mind of any sensible man. He was certain, whatever might be the feelings of the Members of that House on the subject, that that, and that alone, was the sentiment of all the intelligent people of England. From all he knew, and all he had heard, of the feelings of the people of France, he believed that so far from any hostile sentiment having entered the mind of a single statesman of that country towards England, even under the influence of any accidental acerbity that might have been excited, all the eminent men of France were inclined to look upon the agitation of the subject in this country rather as a speculation, or, they knew not what, among certain individuals, than as a matter gravely contemplated by the Ministers of the Queen, or seriously entertained by the people. He thought there prevailed a great misapprehension as to the nature and tendency of the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury. He heard it whispered by hon. Members about him that the speech of the noble Lord was a war speech—that it was a speech of menace to France. Upon him the speech did not make that impression, nor did he think it would have made that impression on others had not their minds been by previous disquisitions rendered more than usually susceptible to any allusions upon that topic. He could quite understand why the noble Lord should think it necessary to make allusions to the forces of other countries when summing up our own; but he believed the noble Lord did so rather as comparing what other nations thought necessary for their defence, with 975 what he considered proper for ours, than as intending to draw a comparison for any antagonistic purpose. He regretted these allusions the more because there was no necessity for the noble Lord to have said anything upon the subject. The additional sum required was so very small that a less honest Minister might have put it into the estimates, and have slurred it over altogether. There was no reason whatever for believing that there was any likelihood of the peace between this country and France being disturbed; although he saw no great objection to the people of England being made somewhat more accustomed to military training than they were at present. The system prevailed with good effect in Prussia, and he saw no reason why it should be at all injurious to the domestic habits of the people of this country. Some men appeared to think that from the very fact of our having long been at peace we must necessarily come to war. But this long peace had taught the world the value and power of peace, and that it was by peace alone that the liberties of the world could be permanently secured, however necessary it might be under certain circumstances for a nation to be prepared for war.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said: Even at this late hour I must ask the attention of the House for a short time, partly because I feel strongly on the question before the House, and partly because I represent the population amongst whom the most formidable demonstration against increasing the military expenditure has been made. From the Notice paper, I had concluded that tonight we were to hear a financial statement somewhat of the character of those to which for some years past we have been accustomed—a statement bearing chiefly upon the commercial position of the country; but instead of that, we have had a long speech, for the most part devoted to military topics—a speech that should have come from the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs, or from some one connected with the military department. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford has taken a curious course on this occasion, and has displayed a want of faith which one would hardly look for in the representative of the Church. He has given us several cases from English history in which, by the care of Providence this country has been preserved from invasion. I should have thought these instances would have given confidence to the hon. Baronet; but now 976 he will trust Providence no more, as though Providence were no longer able to save us since the discovery of steam, for by steam the French may cross the Channel, although hitherto they have barely succeeded in crossing the Atlantic. I agree with the opinion expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding with respect to the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I believe that speech is calculated to do infinite mischief in France, for, although cautiously worded, it indicates that we are full of jealousy and suspicion of the French people. The noble Lord talks of maintaining the independence of the country; but is there a single individual in this House, or in the country, who imagines that we are in any danger of losing our national independence through foreign aggression? There is, however, a source of national independence which I greatly fear the policy of the Government, as explained to-night, is calculated to destroy. If the people are ground down with taxation—if they are led to believe that this House is careless of economy, and only regards the people in the light of a class from whom it can raise taxes—if a feeling of this kind is awakened, and the confidence of the nation in the Government is lost; if there is ever an invasion, it will be when from these causes there is schism and discontent among ourselves, and when you will not have an united people opposed to any inroad that may threaten you. With respect to the proposal for increased taxes, I feel bound to tell the noble Lord and his Colleague what is the condition of Lancashire. In that county, the most populous, and ordinarily, the most wealthy in the kingdom, the manufacturers and spinners, and, indeed, every class of the people, are suffering from a series of losses altogether unexampled in the history of the cotton trade. In nearly every cotton mill in that county, certainly in the coarser branches of the trade, it is a notorious fact, that during the last twelve months the whole amount of wages paid to the workpeople has been taken from the capital of the employers; and I believe there is scarcely an employer engaged in the staple trade of the county, who has not paid his income-tax upon a loss amounting to more than the assumed profit upon which the income-tax was charged. This, surely, then is not the time when the military expenditure of the country should be increased for the purpose of meeting an imaginary enemy; and this increase of taxes for such a purpose is as unjustifiable as it 977 will be deemed oppressive. As to the mode of raising this additional taxation, I may remark that I should not oppose direct taxation, if any necessity for an increase were shown. You have long ago reached the limit of indirect taxation; that is admitted on all sides; and you are approaching the limit of direct taxation; and if this constant increase of armaments is to go on, the people will soon have little to choose between being eaten up by the French, and devoured by the military expenditure of their own country. But if the income-tax is to be made a permanent tax-and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has informed us that it is to be permanent - how is it Ministers do not propose to place it on a footing more equitable to all classes of the community? Why is the income from trades and professions to be charged at the same rate as that from realised property? The inequality and the injustice are admitted; and if the tax is to be a permanent one, why is the injustice not remedied? I can tell the Government of a tax to which they might have had recourse with much greater propriety than to an increased income-tax, and that is the imposition of the probate and legacy duties on real property. To collect 2,500,000l. sterling from these duties on personal property alone, and to allow landed estates to pass from father to son without paying any tax whatever, is a gross and palpable injustice, and one which it is most discreditable in the Government to overlook. I will give the House an instance where the same property has paid these duties three times within the space of six years. I have known all the parties, and I know the facts. A gentleman died in 1834, leaving property to one of his sons. The son died in 1838, leaving the same property to his mother, who survived him. The mother died in 1840, leaving the same property to her children. This property, then, coming thus circuitously from the father to a son who now holds it, has paid probate and legacy duty no less than three times in the space of six years. No less a sum than 70,000,000l. sterling-had been drawn from personal property since these duties were imposed, while the landed property of the country has been left entirely untouched. I know what will be said in answer to this, and the hon. Member for Warwickshire has it already upon his lips. It will be said, the land is burdened with expensive stamp du- 978 ties on transfers. But other property besides land is burdened with heavy stamp duties. Bills of exchange pay more than half a million a year in stamps, and the stamps are heavy upon transfers of railway stock, and of other descriptions of property. There is no pretence whatever for the exemption of land from these duties, for in reality the largest estates in the country are rarely sold, but pass without duties of any kind from one proprietor to his successor. I can assure the Government that the announcement they have made tonight will give great dissatisfaction throughout the country. I said on a former occasion that the Government was a Government of the middle classes, and the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire smiled at the statement; but I am bold to tell him, that if it cease to be a Government in unison with the sentiment of the middle classes, it will soon be no Government at all. The present Administration came into power by no virtues or exertions of their own. They were brought in by a lucky accident, and because at the moment there was nobody else for it. They should recollect that a Government that came in by accident, may be destroyed by blunders. The noble Lord and his Colleagues remind me of the religious order of La Trappe, who are said to have employed themselves diligently in digging their own graves; and so mindful were they of their mortality, that when two members of the order met, their greeting was-and I recommend it to the Members of the Government-one of them said, "We must all die;" and the rejoinder was, "I know it." If the Government suppose they can do in 1848, with respect to foreign affairs and warlike armaments, what was done thirty or forty years ago, they commit the most egregious blunder that statesmen were ever guilty of; and I am convinced, from what I know of the public feeling on these subjects, that by the course they are now taking, they are placing themselves in direct opposition to that large party in the country by whom they have hitherto been supported, and without whose confidence they must speedily fall.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thought the Ministry had really much reason to complain of the manner in which they were treated by their own friends on this occasion; but with regard to this increase of taxation, he must concur with many of them in opinion. He regarded the income-tax as vicious in principle, and as injurious to the capital 979 employed in trade; and he believed that the country was not in such a state as that it could bear an additional taxation. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had answered the hon. Member for the West Riding by anticipation. It was with deep regret that he (Mr. Newdegate) saw the consummation of the free-trade policy in a decreased revenue and in the necessity for increased taxation. The anticipations of prosperity held out to the people as a consequence of free trade had been most dreadfully disappointed; and, though the Members of the ultra free-trade school might flatter themselves that they still retained a hold on popular opinion, the time would probably soon arrive when they would be undeceived.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I do not wish to enter into subjects which have been repeatedly discussed. But I should wish to say one word or two, especially on the speeches made by my hon. Friends on this side of the House. It is very natural for young Members, unused to Parliamentary tactics, and who do not feel entirely easy when they come to this House, to let fly speeches which they may have prepared beforehand, though the occasion they expected should not exactly occur. But certainly I did not expect that hon. Gentlemen so accustomed to Parliamentary debate as the hon. Members to whom I allude, should have fallen into that mistake. We are told that my noble Friend has been proposing vast armaments, that he has been making speeches full of warlike sentiments, and that he has been holding language calculated to excite jealousy, and even enmity, on the part of France. As to armaments there are none. If my noble Friend had said that he intended to propose an addition of 20,000 men to the Army, and of 10,000 men to the Navy, I could have understood the language of those who spoke as if they had come down to protest against such a proposition. But to the Army there is no increase. There is a different disposition, a different distribution, of the existing Army. There is no addition whatever to the regular Army. There is none to the Navy. There is a small increase to the marines and to the artillery; but there has been no augmentation such as the House might have imagined, from the sort of denunciations they have heard. I trust, when my hon. Friends reflect, and when they find how very small is the increase contemplated, the alarm they have expressed will subside. I should 980 also wish to defend my noble Friend from the attack which has been made on him in regard to our relations with France. When it is the duty of a Minister of the Crown to propose an addition either to the military or to the naval force of the country, he must assign the grounds on which that addition is required. And the only grounds on which you measure the amount of your naval force must, on the one hand, be the extent of your commerce and the number of distant possessions you have to protect; and, on the other hand, the comparative force other countries possess—other countries with which it is possible you may, in the course of events, be placed in a state of hostility. So far from its affording any cause of offence to France that we should measure our Navy by such a standard, I am sure any one who follows the debates in the French Chambers, when their naval estimates come under discussion, must know that they follow the same course, adopting the natural and only measure in such cases, namely, the naval force which other nations may happen to have at the time. I therefore deny that anything which fell from my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury can bear the meaning attempted to be cast upon it. In fact, my noble Friend expressed sentiments in which I concur, and I am confident the House concurs. He expressed in the strongest terms his anxiety and desire that the relations between these two countries should not only be friendly, but should be as intimate as possible. I think there is one thing essential for preserving that friendly relation. It is that we should be on a footing of equality. There is no true or permanent friendship between nations unless they are on a footing of reciprocal independence. The passions by which nations may, from time to time, be animated, are attended with great danger. I consider, therefore, that any Government which proposes to place this country in a state of defence, not against war, but against unexpected surprise, is laying the surest foundation for the maintenance of that peace which we desire to see preserved. I am not one of those who indulge anticipations of war between this country and France. I believe, with the hon. Gentleman, that the principles of free trade will tend to preserve friendly relations between different nations. At the same time, our commercial relations with France are not exactly those which we should desire; but France is not an ex- 981 porting country of corn, and other circumstances do not afford us the same opportunity of enlarging our commerce with France as with other nations. But I look to the general tendency of men's minds towards peace, and I differ from the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, who thinks that the long duration of peace renders war more probable; I think, on the contrary, that the duration of peace renders its continuance more likely, and will make countries more disposed to settle their differences otherwise than by war; so far, therefore, from thinking that the long duration of peace will hasten war, I am led to infer from it the probability of its continuing, rather than its being curtailed. If there be any two nations in the world who ought more than others to desire to be upon the most intimate terms, they are the English and French nations. Any men at the head of the Governments of those two nations who consider the real interests of both, must see that the seinterests will be best promoted by relations of friendship and peace between them, and by the prevention of any misunderstandings that might lead to a rupture. I trust that we are fated to see a long continuance of the blessings of peace which we have so long enjoyed; and if anything more than another could render peace precarious, it would be the measure of leaving this country—a country rich and opulent as it is—unprotected, or without adequate means of defence, so as to invite other nations to take advantage of our weakness. I consider, therefore, the measures proposed as not deserving the representations made of them, as extraordinary armaments, whereas armaments they are none. I think that this country, in time of peace, ought to have the means of providing against any unforeseen attack.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.