§ On question that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means,
§ MR. HUME
, before the Speaker left the chair, begged to call attention to the fact, that on former occasions, when any 236 tax had been proposed, it had been the practice for the Minister to state the budget, as it was called, showing the ways and means, and the expenditure to be incurred; where there was an excess of receipts, to submit to the House what he would do with them; and where there was a deficiency, to state to the House how he would make it good. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated, that the income, according to the best estimate he could make for the ensuing year, would be 51,250,000l.; and that the expenditure would amount to 54,596,000l., leaving a deficiency of about 3,500,000l.; or, with the deficiency of last year, the deficiency would amount to a sum equal to about 5,000,000 sterling. He was to provide for that by adding 2 per cent to the income-tax—thus making it 5 per cent, which he calculated would defray the arrears of the last year, and the increasing expenditure of the coming year. Now the Government had withdrawn their proposition for the addition to the income-tax, and now only intended to continue the 3 per cent; and he wanted to know how the deficiency would be made up. It was true they might go into Committee, and vote for the continuation of the income-tax, at 3 per cent; but that only formed an item of the 51,000,000l., and he did not think he ever knew an instance in which the House had proceeded to vote any one tax, where there was a deficiency, until they had from the Government some statement as to how they intended to raise the surplus. He would now ask the Government, before they went into Committee, in what way they intended to make up the deficiency of last year? He thought, before the House resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take a part of the supplies, they should have some explanation as to how the remainder was to be made up; and he appealed to the right hon. Baronet as to his recollection of the practice. Supposing the additional expense was abandoned, and the expenses of the current year were not to exceed the expenses of the past year, still there would be a deficiency, and how was that to be made up?
SIR. R. PEEL
I beg pardon of the hon. Gentleman, but I took it for granted that the hon. Gentleman was asking a question, not of me, but of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He asks me whether or not I recollect such a proposition being brought 237 forward as to ask the House to go into a Committee to vote part of the supplies, without some explanation being given as to how the remainder was to be made up; and I am bound to say, that the experience of the four years before I accepted office in 1841 is in favour of that course. During the time I was in office, I had no such experience; but in 1840 and 1841 there was a deficiency, and an admitted one, and yet the budget was allowed to proceed.
The House in Committee.
The Resolution for the continuance of the income-tax for a limited period having been read.
§ MR. HUME
was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had taken the trouble of answering him as he did. Two things were important, seeing there was a deficiency even if they agreed to this tax: he wanted to know whether the Government intended to abandon the increased establishments which occasion the increased expense for the coming year; or, having abandoned the additional 2 per cent, in what way they proposed to make up the deficiency? Those were two points which he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would answer.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am quite ready to answer the question of the hon. Gentleman; and if he had only done me the favour to attend to what I said on a previous night, he would not now find it necessary to question me on the subject, for I then stated the course which it was the intention of the Government to take. I said the Government did not propose to diminish the amount of the force they would require for the year—that is, the number of men—but I said we were anxious, if possible, to reduce the expenditure upon all the services; and with the view of satisfying the House whether we could do it, and of enabling them to inquire into the expenses, I made a proposal for the appointment of two Committees—one to inquire into the Naval, Military, and Ordnance Estimates; the other to inquire into the Miscellaneous Estimates; and the House has, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, acceded to that proposal. So far with regard to any reduction of expenses. I said that we had resolved to abandon the additional per centage of income-tax, and proposed, out of the balances in the Exchequer, to provide for the deficiency. On all former occasions it has been the practice to charge on the supplies of the en-suing year any excess of expenditure in 238 the past year. In compliance with which rule we proposed to charge on the supplies of next year the excess of naval expenditure and the expenses of the Kafir war. It was, however, the custom that such excess should in the first instance be paid out of the balances, and that the sums should be replaced out of the supplies of the ensuing year; but it is now proposed to take those charges out of the balances without replacing them out of supplies of the next year. That will amount to 1,245,000l., but still there remains 1,800,000l., which, if the expenditure within the year is as large as that which my noble Friend stated, and the income no larger than that which we have reason to expect, there will no doubt be an excess of expenditure. We propose to deal with that deficiency according to a practice which was introduced by Lord Althorp, and acted upon, I believe, by Mr. Baring, namely, of having recourse to the Exchequer balances to meet any extra expenditure. There are many advantages attending that course; for instance, we were able to meet the demands upon us for Ireland in the year 1846, without calling upon Parliament. By using those balances the Government were enabled to bridge over such periods as the present, when, from the distress of the country, and the great calamity that had fallen on it arising from the destruction of the people's food, they would otherwise be under the necessity of borrowing. It is essential, however, in doing that, we should be assured of a certain income for a certain time; and although in one year the expenditure may exceed the income, yet taking a period of three years, the average expenditure of those three years may be met by the average income, relying as I do upon the support of the House in resisting any further reduction of taxation without a substitute being provided. I hope that in the course of those three years the income will increase, and that what I have now said will sufficiently explain to my hon. Friend the course we propose to adopt. When I come to make the proposal to continue the income-tax for three years, I shall state the reasons for adopting that course, and the mode by which we propose to carry it out into effect.
§ MR. HERRIES
said, the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to him unsatisfactory as applying to the question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for 239 Montrose. The House must bear in mind that this was the second budget; and that by the first budget it was intended that a complete provision should be made for the deficiency. That complete provision consisted of two parts—one to be obtained by the continuance of the present income-tax, and the other by making an addition to it of 2 per cent, by which it was expected that the Government would cover a deficiency of three millions. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he abandoned—as he was induced to do on very good grounds—that addition to the property-tax, told them what he had now again stated, that he would make a provision for the remainder. He did not at that time notice the subject, knowing well it must come on to be discussed again, but it struck him at once as being altogether insufficient and unconstitutional for the supplies of the year. He proposed to pay the excess out of the balances in the Exchequer; and that might be a reasonable mode of paying it ad interim, but it was not the way of making a provision for it. There was not one of those balances that was not appropriated already, and there was not one of them that had not a charge on it. It was possible that, if, on a review of the supply and the ways and means of last year, they could show a surplus of ways and means, that was no doubt a fair and legitimate subject to use for the supplies of the ensuing year; but no such thing was presented to them, and there was a confusion of terms when they used the words balance on this subject. There were not only not balances of account, but balances of cash in the Exchequer at the time; and if a tradesman or merchant were to say, because he had cash in hand, he therefore, had the means of applying that to all his liabilities, without considering that it was already pledged for his liabilities, he would fall into the mistake of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was no Parliamentary provision at all, and when he came to balance his supplies with his ways and means he would find it the vainest of all things. He could not do it. He would like to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer put that into the shape of a vote. That was the test—and he defied him to make that intelligible to anybody. He would be bound to make it intelligible that he was voting the same thing twice over, and that those balances had been applied already. He would now call attention to 240 the possible danger of this course. Under any circumstances it must be confessed if they diminished their balances in the Exchequer, that was to say, the cash that was accumulating for the payment of those charges at the end of the quarter, they must throw themselves on the Bank to some extent. Was that a time, and was it, he asked them, under such circumstances as the present, that they were to adopt such a course as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, who merely sought to avoid a little temporary inconvenience, instead of coming forward in an open and straightforward manner and asking for the means of meeting the necessities of the time? He had only risen to say that he was dissatisfied with the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the question put by the hon. Member for Montrose. And he should only add that, although under ordinary circumstances the Chancellor of the Exchequer might not be called upon to state the whole of his ways and means for the year, at the beginning of the Session, yet they stood in different circumstances from the ordinary at present. The noble Lord had come down and given them his budget, and they were, therefore, in a position to call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer for further information, as the right hon. Gentleman had left the budget in a most unsatisfactory and misty state.
§ MR. HUME
could not but express his deep regret at the course persisted in by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That right hon. Gentleman was just in the position of a trustee who had certain trust money for a particular purpose in his hands. Let them then suppose the case that the Chancellor of the Exchequer were a trustee over another individual's property, and that he had a certain balance of funds belonging to the trust estate which were not immediately required; would he be justified in taking a certain sum out of that balance which was already appropriated, although not immediately wanted, for the purpose of applying it to stop a gap elsewhere, in the hope of being able to make it up again before it would be wanted? How many individual men had done similarly before now, and had failed in finally being able to replace the money so appropriated. But, to be sure, public men might be able to do that which private individuals could not. But the House ought not to be satisfied with such an attempt to "bridge over" (that was the phrase) 241 the present difficulties. If they had not an income sufficiently large to meet the expenditure, there was only one other mode of making them meet; and it was the reduction of the expenditure to the level of the income. That was the only true way. And he would not agree even to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer the income-tax for one year only, except for the purpose of giving time for the making of the reductions which should en-able them to meet the fair amount of income, lest, if the tax were to he at once refused, they might he "brought up all standing," to use a seaman's phrase. But the House should have some assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would devise some other means, which he should state plainly. He was willing to give the Government time to turn themselves round. Since the last meeting, he had taken some trouble in looking over the documents that had been laid on the table of the House, for the purpose of explaining how the country came to he reduced to its present state; and from the examination he had made, he was prepared to say that if they chose to do so, they were in a condition to reduce their expenditure below their income, and below what their income would be had the income-tax never been imposed. He had taken the average expenditure of the years 1845, 1846, and 1847, and the average of 1833, 1834, and 1835, and from that he would show that the whole increase of our income had been expended upon the additions that had been made to our military expenses. The average number of men in the Army, Navy, and Ordnance in the years 1833, 1834, and 1835, was 121,000, and the average expenditure was about 14,407,000l. For the years 1845, 1846, and 1847, the average of men in the Army was 105,000; in the Navy, 40,000; and in the Ordnance, 10,000, making in all 155,000; and the consequent expenditure averaged 20,586,000l, being above 5,000,000l. more than the average expenditure for 1833, 1834, and 1835. And for the present year the total of men for Army, Navy, and Ordnance was set down at 177,000, at an expense of 18,500,000l.; and, with the Miscellaneous Estimates, the total cost was 28,000,000l showing an increase of 8,000,000l. in the annual expenditure since the year 1833. He contended that neither policy nor justice warranted them in continuing such a system, and that they ought to tell Her Majesty's Government that they should act as every 242 other party did that found themselves in difficulties—that, in short, they should try back. If they allowed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go on in the course that had been pursued for the last thirteen or fourteen years, they would soon see repudiation—ay, even national bankruptcy. He should therefore propose, that instead of the words "for a time to he limited," the words "not exceeding one year" should be introduced after the word "time." And he begged to add that it was his intention to take the sense of the Committee upon the Amendment.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said: From some of the observations which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose has made, in spite of his opposition to the proposal of the Government, I have certainly received some comfort. I allude to those in which he stated that he was as anxious as any hon. Member of this House to maintain the national credit and the public character. It is for the support of the public credit, and for the maintenance of the character of this House, that I come down and call upon the Members of it, and upon the hon. Member for Montrose amongst the rest, to vote the continuance of this income-tax for a limited period—and by the words "a limited period," I mean the term of three years—and to reject the proposition of my hon. Friend to limit that period to one year. The words of the resolution mention only "a limited period;" but, the question really before us is whether this tax is to be continued for one year or for three years. I think that is the fairest way to put it. And I do call upon the House, as hon. Members regard the public credit and the character of the House, not to accede to the proposition of my hon. Friend. I have already stated, that when we had to consider the nature of the financial proposals to be made to the House, we thought ourselves bound, in conformity with the practice of all previous Governments, to make such a proposal as would render the income of the country equal to its expenditure. I do not mean that it should equal the expenditure actually within the coming year, but that the taxation should be raised to such an amount as would make the yearly income equal to the yearly expenditure within a reasonable period. We accordingly proposed to continue the income-tax for a limited time at the same per centage as the present; and for a 243 shorter time, namely, for the period of two years, to put on an additional per centage of two per cent. We did so, however, he-cause the charge for the excess of last year, and that for the Caffre War, was clearly temporary; as is also much of that for the works now going on in our dockyards—the heaviest portion of these will be executed in two years; and we had good reason, therefore, for believing that when that period had expired, there would he no difficulty whatever in parting with the additional taxation, because the purposes for which we had to incur the expenditure would have been fully met. On that subject, however, I must say that the House of Commons did show an almost unanimous determination, all parties agreeing that no additional taxation should be imposed. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries) has said to-night, that it was upon good grounds that the Government abandoned their proposal of additional taxation; and certainly from all quarters of the House we did receive such an expression of opinion as rendered it impossible for us to persevere in our proposal. It is, however, as certain that from all the communications which we had with different parties before the proposal was made, we had no reason to doubt but that the country generally saw the necessity of the case, and were prepared for a time to submit to the additional taxation. Under these circumstances, believing that the increased expenditure was necessary, but at the same time that it was only temporary, we thought that it should be met by only a temporary increase of income; and I think the House will agree with me that it was not advisable to impose a permanent tax to provide for a temporary want. It was not expedient to propose an additional per centage upon the assessed taxes or upon any existing tax, for reasons which I have given on a former occasion; and I am still of the opinion which I first expressed to the House, that for the purpose of meeting the extraordinary expenditure the best tax that could have been proposed, and that which would have least interfered with the trade and commerce of the country, was the increased per centage on the income-tax. However that being refused, we had then to consider by what other means we could meet the temporary deficiency; and the first subject to which we turned our attention was the state of the balances in the Exchequer. With large balances in hand, 244 we might not be able to avoid borrowing altogether, but to avoid permanent borrowing. We should be under the necessity of applying to the Bank for the usual advances at quarter day; but the balances, I believe, will be of such an amount as to enable us to go on without any assistance from the Bank, more than usual, even in the month of April, 1849, when, of course, they will be the lowest. At the end of this year, which closes in April, the balances will amount, I think, to nearly 7,000,000l. Supposing them to be reduced by l,500,000l., which is about the estimated difference between our income and expenditure for the coming year, there still will remain 5,500,000l. I may therefore easily borrow to meet the temporary want, without asking for any extraordinary aid from the Bank. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose seems to think that it is an unheard-of thing not to provide within the year an income equal to the expenditure for the year. Why, at the time referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Peel), although he provided an income equal to the expenditure one year with another, there was a probable deficiency for the year 1842–3, in the budget of 1842, as stated by the right hon. Baronet himself, of 1,300,000l. at the end of the year, because the last half of the income-tax was not receivable until the coming year. In point of fact, in April, 1843, there was an actual deficiency of 2,400,000l. The second half-year's receipt of the income-tax was, however, received in the course of the summer, and the income of the two years very much exceeded the joint expenditure of the two years. Now, when the hen. Gentleman the Member for Montrose says that the course we are about to pursue is one which does not meet with his approbation, I can only assure him that there is no Member of this House more unwilling to pursue the course than myself. But I think it is rather hard on the part of my hon. Friend, and even the right hen. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries), who both agree in preventing us imposing additional taxation, that, having refused us the means of making our income equal to our expenditure by the plan we originally proposed, they should also refuse to sanction the course we now propose; for, unless we have additional taxation in some shape or another, we have no possible means of making our ways and means equal to the demand upon them, except by temporary 245 or permanent borrowing. If I entertained any doubt that in the course of a certain time the income of the country, by the plan we propose, would be such as not only to equal the expenditure, but so far to exceed it as to enable me, or whoever may occupy my situation, to exhibit a surplus to cover the deficiency of the coming year, I should not stand here to propose the course I have proposed; but I do believe that, looking to the possible reduction of expenditure—which, however, cannot be expected within twelve months, but which we may be able to effect within two or three years—looking also to the possible increase of income within the same period, I think it not merely possible, but highly probable, that in the course of three years the income will, on an average, more than equal the expenditure. I have this further assurance, that if it should be found that in the course of the year—for from the extraordinary circumstances of the last two years it is not very easy to judge with precision in this matter—the income was still considerably deficient, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer would have an opportunity early next Session of proposing some other plan to make that a certainty which is at present only a matter of probability. But if the House, having refused us the additional percentage we propose, should also refuse to continue the present amount of income-tax for a sufficient time to afford us a reasonable and fair prospect that the income will equal the expenditure in the course of three years, I must say that the House will thereby take the first step towards repudiation and the destruction of public credit, and will sanction a course for which I cannot undertake to be responsible. I feel that the country is smarting under recent distress; that the people are suffering from the greatest calamity which can befall a nation—the destruction of their food—which has recently occurred to so great an extent; and I am not surprised that they are unwilling to submit to additional imposts upon them. I think they are wrong in so doing. I think it would have been a much better course to submit to an additional burden for a time. That was what I recommended as the best course, in my opinion; but I am not surprised that the country should take another view of it, though I do not know but it would have been the most economical course in the end. But I do think that at all events the House is bound, under the circumstances, to grant us the renewal of 246 the income-tax for such a time as will within that time afford the reasonable prospect of the income being equal to the expenditure. If you do not, public credit will undoubtedly suffer; and I must say, that, let whoever may undertake the task of carrying on the Government in such circumstances, Her Majesty's present advisers will not be a party to so discreditable a course. I think it would not be consistent with the character of the House to adopt such a course with respect to this tax. It is perfectly true that this is not the same Parliament which has twice already voted the same tax, in the same shape, to the same amount, and for a similar period; but, surety, we owe something to the character of the Legislature, which should prevent us turning round and reversing the course which, with wonderful concurrence, was pursued by all parties in the House on previous occasions with respect to this tax. It is not a tax which Gentlemen on this side of the House originally approved of; but, looking to the state of public affairs, and the course which the great majority of the House have uniformly adopted with respect to this tax, I repeat that I do not think it consistent with the character of the House to turn round and reverse that course. When the tax was first proposed, it was no doubt partly with the view of covering the deficiency in the revenue of the country. It has been said that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) deceived the country with regard to the grounds upon which he proposed it. Now, what did the right hen. Gentleman state at the time when he first proposed it—I mean in 1842?—It is not merely the deficiency with which we have to deal; it is my intention to apply a great portion of the surplus to the remission of other taxes which press heavily upon the country, as well as to the removal of the duties upon other articles which interfere with the productive industry of the nation. I consider, in proposing the income-tax that I give a great boon to the country—to the productive industry of the country—to the manufacturing, commercial, and trading interests of this nation.The House adopted that proposal in 1842. Well, what was the course adopted in 1845, and what was the sanction then given to the renewal of the tax? In 1845 there was no deficiency whatever. There was on the contrary, a surplus of 5,000l. The right hon. Gentleman came down to the House, and in effect stated—I have a surplus of 5,000,000l.; I can afford to repeal the income-tax, but I propose, with a view to enabling me to carry out my policy of 247 relieving industry from further taxation, and relieving the consumer by the removal of other duties, to renew the income-tax for a period of three years; I should prefer it for five years, but a period of three years is the least for which I can undertake to propose it.Now, the House was not only fully aware of this, but the right hon. Gentleman and other individuals (myself among the number) distinctly warned the House that if they acceded to the proposal for the reduction and remission of taxation, they must not hope to have this tax taken off in three years. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) has again referred to the mode of levying the tax; but I must repeat, that the right hon. Baronet in proposing the renewal of the income-tax, in 1845, did not give the slightest hope that there would be any difference made in the mode of rating. He came fairly down to the House and said—I feel that if you are to have a tax at all on property, it ought to be upon income, and not upon accumulated property. I think nothing could be more mischievous in every way than a tax upon accumulated profits; nothing I think, could be a more dangerous precedent.The House, then, was fairly warned on the subject. They were told that if they agreed to make the experiment in taxation which was proposed, they must acquiesce in the renewal of the income-tax, without any distinction of rating in different schedules, for a period of three years at least; but the right hon. Baronet did not think that in three years the experiment would be fairly tried. Well, what was the decision of the House? Mr. Roebuck having proposed an Amendment to leave out "professions, trades, and offices," only fifty-five Gentlemen supported him. On a subsequent occasion a division took place as to whether the tax should be imposed at all. I was mistaken when I said the other night that there was no division. There was a division; but how many Gentlemen were found supporting the proposal to negative the tax? Only thirty. The House, by an overwhelming majority, sanctioned the tax for a limited time on the footing on which it now stands. The purpose for which the tax was imposed having been carried out as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, by a remission of taxation and a reduction of duties—and commerce and manufactures and the consumer having had the benefit of those measures—I do call upon those Gentlemen connected with the classes who in particular have had the benefit of these measures to continue the tax for a certain time 248 longer, in order that the experiment may be fairly carried out. I do not ask you now to agree—it is not necessary—that this shall be a permanent tax. Some Gentlemen think it ought to be, others think it should not. But what I ask of you is, to give us an opportunity of bringing our income up to the level of our expenditure. Make reductions if you will, provided they are consistent with the interests of the country; but, till that time arrives, Parliament ought to give us, for a limited time, the tax as it now stands. If any man thinks that the income will be brought to the level of the expenditure in the course of a year, he is of course at liberty to vote with the hon. Gentleman to limit the tax for that period; but I believe, and I think a majority of the House will concur with me, that it is not likely—that indeed it is not possible—that within the year such should be the case. I think I have taken the shortest possible period in which this result can be attained; and therefore, for the sake of maintaining the character of the House, for the sake of maintaining the national credit, I do call upon the House to concur in renewing the tax for a limited time, to enable the great experiment which was begun in 1845 to be fairly carried out. Some hon. Gentlemen are of opinion that the circumstances of last year have entirely falsified the principle of the measures of free trade; but I think they have not made sufficient allowance for the calamity which befell this country. The experiment that was made in 1842 succeeded; but the calamity of 1846 has overthrown the calculations that were made, and it was quite enough to overthrow the wisest that could be made. It was the deficient harvest of 1838, and the great commercial distress which prevailed in 1839, together with the remission of the Post-office revenue, which entailed on my right hon. Friend that deficit which was remedied by the imposition of the income-tax in 1842; and it is the necessity of providing for the consequences of the great failure of the food of the people, of the potato and spring crops in 1846, together with the commercial distress which followed in the course of last year, which has brought about the present state of the finances of the country. I cannot say that I see any early prospect of revival; because, if there were no other circumstances to interrupt its progress, I am afraid the state of affairs abroad, and the uncertainty which that will produce in 249 trade and commerce, will prevent a revival at an early period; but that is only an additional reason for continuing the income-tax for a longer period than a year. The hon. Gentleman has said that it would he exceedingly advisable that all taxes should be imposed for the period of a year only. In reply to that proposal, I need only refer to the effects of an annual discussion on the sugar duties. A point on which more stress was laid than perhaps any other by the West India and the sugar interests was, that nothing was more prejudicial to them than the uncertainty with respect to the future which the annual revision of the duties on their produce gave rise to. The hon. Gentleman must recollect that the West Indians were willing to sacrifice much in order to have their trade put in a permanent position; and I think that the view which they took on this point was well founded and a just one; and that it will be found in all instances that nothing is more injurious to trade than leaving it in doubt and uncertainty. I cannot say, therefore, that the proposal to make all duties annual duties, would, in my opinion, tend to promote the commerce of this country. Neither do I think that it would promote the real good of the country to have an annual discussion on every tax which is imposed. With regard to other taxation, I think that if the House is satisfied that the expenditure proposed is not too much for the circumstances of the country, they ought not to object to the imposition of the necessary taxes for more than one year. With the present power of the House of Commons, and of public opinion, I feel it to be quite unnecessary to retain some annual taxes in order that Parliament may keep a proper check over the expenditure. With regard to what the hon. Gentleman said on the subject of a general revision of taxation, I must confess that I think a general revision of taxation at any one time is an impracticable course. It is far more advantageous to attain the same end gradually, and without throwing great interests, all at once, into confusion. The customs duties have been to a considerable extent already revised. Some of the excise duties also have been revised, and others have been repealed; I have already announced some changes which we propose to make in others of the excise duties. I am perfectly willing and perfectly anxious and ready to go into the consideration of all subjects of that kind; but if the hon. Gentleman will 250 recollect what we had to go through since our accession to office—the famine in Ireland, and the commercial distress of the last season—I think he will admit that we had at least little leisure to devote to such objects heretofore. I feel most anxious to reduce the expenditure of the country to the lowest possible limits consistent with the maintenance of the safety and credit of the empire. The only expenditure in which we are disposed to resist any extensive reduction, is with regard to those establishments which we consider immediately connected with the best interests of the country. Wherever any reduction in the public service can be safely made, we are perfectly ready to acquiesce in it; and we shall not be found to raise any difficulty on account of any loss of patronage which it may involve. A short time ago, we took measures for abolishing the office of Paymaster of Exchequer-bills, and consolidating that establishment with the Paymaster General's office, by which a considerable saving will be effected. Both in office and out of office, I have been always anxious to reduce every expenditure that is not absolutely necessary. We shall be found anxious to assent to every reduction in our power; and in resisting reductions which we believe cannot be safely made, we trust that we shall have the support of the House. I hope that the reasons I have stated will induce the House to assent to the course which Her Majesty's Government propose—a course which in a very short time will, I trust, equalise the income and the expenditure of the country, and which I believe to be indispensably necessary both for our honour and our safety.
§ MR. SPOONER
was understood to say that he was fully as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do everything that was necessary to support the credit and maintain the establishments for the defence of the country; and it was on that very ground that he should feel it to be his duty to give his vote in favour of the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose, for he considered that nothing could possibly be more dangerous than that they should base their taxation on a system so unpopular as an income-tax, and particularly while the manner in which it was carried out by the commissioners in some parts of the country was calculated to render it more unpopular still. How unjust was it that the man who had 500l. a year derived from property—not landed property alone, but 251 any kind of property—should pay no more than he whose income to that amount was the product of indefatigable exertions and untold labour in his profession, and whose income, if health failed or business contracted, was at once gone altogether, or greatly reduced. He asked the House also to consider the case of the small tradesman, who carried on his trade without any capital, but solely by his labour; and there were thousand and tens of thousands in that situation. The small huckster or shopkeeper, or retail dealer, often had no capital whatever; and, receiving from larger dealers week by week his little stock of supplies, carried them home and retailed them to his neighbours, and yet these were taxed as if their profits were the profits of capital. It had been his lot ever since the income-tax was imposed to act as a commissioner for a populous district, where such cases were exceedingly numerous, and came daily under his notice. He had, therefore, ventured, in 1845, when the tax was reimposed, to submit to the House two or three clauses, framed with the view of alleviating these evils; but they were rejected, and certainly the House then gave him no encouragement to bring them again under its consideration; but what made him now determined to support the present Motion—that the tax shall not be reimposed for more than twelve months—was, that by the vote of Friday it was quite clear that the tax was to be carried without any modification whatever of these much-complained of grievances. If that resolution were persisted in, a great injury would be inflicted on the industrious classes generally. It would not be the tradesman only who was injured; let the House look for a moment at the case of the agricultural tenant. The rent of the tenant was assumed to be the index of his profits; but he denied that that was at all a proper criterion. A high rent was imposed because the land was in a high capablity of productiveness; but that was only a good reason why the landlord should pay. A lower rent was imposed, because the land had in itself a lower power of productiveness; but the expenses of cultivation were proportionately greater. The capital employed in both cases was nearly alike; and no one would argue for a moment that capital would be employed for any length of time in the same channel at a varying rate of profit. The profit of capital is what you profess to tax—in both cases the capital 252 will be nearly alike—while the rent being taken as the index of profit, the tenant will pay twice as much in one case as is paid in the other. How could such a tax be said to be levied upon the profits of capital? He denied that the rent was any true indication whatever. Then how was it with regard to Ireland? He was not quite sure, but he believed that in 1845 the right hon. Baronet opposite was one of the strongest opponents of the principle of not extending the tax to Ireland. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: In 1845 I voted for the exemption of Ireland from the income-tax.] In 1842, then? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: In 1842 there was no vote taken on that point.] He was quite sure that many of the Gentlemen now upon the Treasury benches were opposed to the exemption of Ireland; but he supposed he was wrong in classing the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer among them. He knew that it had been said that equivalent taxes were proposed; but were they equivalent? He thought not. If an Irish gentleman lived in England, it was urged he paid the income-tax. True; but suppose he lived abroad, and neither England nor Ireland had the benefit of his expenditure, he escaped the tax altogether. Was that just and equal? As far as he knew, the only argument used by the Government for the exemption of Ireland was her poverty. They admitted that on principle she ought to pay; but she was too poor, and had suffered from famine and disease. Well, was not that argument generally binding with respect to the poor tradesmen of England, or the tenant-farmer who had had the murrain amongst his cattle? He knew farmers in Cheshire, the whole of whose cattle died; but they had still the income-tax to pay. Was there ever a tax so unjust? He thought the House ought to do all in its power to put the Government in a financial position to protect and defend the best interests of the country; and to do that they ought to see that the taxes were grounded on justice, demanded with impartiality, and made to fall as equally as possible on all classes of the community. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn) the other night said it was impossible to lay on any tax which would not be unjust, but that there was a compensation for this injustice in the inequality of all the others. [Mr. GOULBURN: I did not say unjust, I said unequal.] He accepted the correction, but begged to say 253 that, in effect, all taxes which were unequal were unjust; and he protested against the principle of compensating the injustice done to one class of taxpayers by imposing an unjust tax on another class. The justice of a tax consisted in its being equalised in proportion to the means each class had of paying it. Small incomes ought, therefore, to be taxed less in proportion than large ones, for those who enjoyed the latter only had their luxuries curtailed, while the former had his means of providing for the absolute wants of his family lessened. He contended, therefore, that the smaller incomes ought to be taxed at a lower rate if they wished to make this a just tax. It had been argued that this tax was first imposed to make up a deficiency, and partly to afford the means of making a great experiment, of which the trade and commerce of the country were to have the benefit. Well, the experiment had been tried, and was there any man, in the House or out of it, who had ever known the trade and commerce of England in such a state as it was now in? The experiment had broken down the industry of the country, destroyed not only the small capitalists and small tradesmen, but houses honoured for a century past; and merchant princes, whose extensive and equitable transactions were the pride of England, ruined—the strength of the nation, the middle classes, ruined—and the country involved in difficulties of which no one could see the termination. But they were told to-night that the experiment was not yet carried out; and the renewal of this odious impost was again urged, partly to meet a deficiency, and partly to complete the experiment. He warned the House against pursuing this disastrous path any further. He felt certain that hon. Members were not acquainted with the feeling of the country with respect to this tax. It was one of the most unpopular measures that had ever been proposed in Parliament; and it was for that cause that he so strenuously opposed it, as he believed that nothing was more dangerous than to ground a financial system on a plan which was perfectly hateful to the great mass of the community. He was not one of those who were careless of shaking the credit of the country; but again he asked the question, what possible objection could there be to taking it only for twelve months? That would at least show the country that the Government were not satisfied with the tax; and, if at 254 the end of twelve months they could make out a case for its renewal, they would find the House of Commons quite as ready as now to support the credit of the country, and far more ready, after so convincing a proof of the Government being driven to it by mere necessity, again to vote for its imposition. If the Government wished to remove any of the odium now resting on the tax, and to make it well received, they ought now only to re-enact it for one year. "Grant it again for three years, as you have twice done before," said the right hon. Gentleman opposite, "and there is reason to hope that the revenue will come round in that period, and we shall be able to meet the difficulties of our situation." And to what did the right hon. Gentleman attribute those difficulties? One cause most particularly mentioned and dwelt upon was the bad harvest of last year; as if the effect of one bad harvest could alter the state of the revenue for three years. He admitted that the bad harvest had increased the embarrassments of the country and the difficulties of collecting the tax; but a bad harvest was not a permanent evil, and why should a permanent tax be adopted to meet it? for he must contend that if it were again imposed for three years it would at once have the character of permanence. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would see that they would lose nothing by taking it for twelve months only; and if at the expiration of that time they did not want it, then, of course, they would be too happy to come down to the House and say so. These were the reasons which induced him to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose; these were the views which compelled him to appeal to the House well to consider the proposition now before it. By granting the tax again for three years they would create the evil of discontent, and make the nation believe that a tax so unequal and unjust was intended to be permanent; and thereby do more to shake the confidence and credit of the country than they could by a grant only of one year, with the announcement of an intention to curtail the expenditure. In that case he would promise that, while he would support the Government in maintaining such establishments as were necessary for the safety of the country, he would assist the hon. Member for Montrose in curtailing the expenditure as far as possible. Having mentioned several points on which he thought a saving might be effected, particularly 255 as to the appointment of commissions, often utterly useless, and always exceedingly expensive, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to show where he thought the first step towards prosperity ought to he taken, namely, by removing the causes of the evils under which the country was suffering. He believed the great experiment of free trade was as wrong in principle as it had been and would he found had in practice. He believed that the true and healthful way in which taxation ought to be conducted was by laying customs duties on foreign articles. It would, he believed, except in a few particular cases, he invariably found that the amount was paid by the foreigner and not by the consumer. But free trade had turned the balance of trade against this country. The results of a had harvest had drawn the gold out of the country, which, aggravated by the great imports of the preceding year, had turned the balance of trade against us. He would, however, go still further back than the experiment of 1845. He knew he should differ very widely from a large majority of that House, including some hon. Gentlemen in whom he had once placed great confidence, and for whom he now entertained great respect, and from whom he would not have differed without giving long and patient consideration to the subject and a thorough investigation of the whole matter, and to whose opinions he would most willingly have yielded if he could have done so conscientiously. But he believed firmly that a great portion of the evils from which the nation now was suffering was occasioned by a great error in the monetary system of the country. They might try every experiment they pleased; but until they grappled with that vital subject they would never come to the foundation of the evil, or administer any relief except of a fleeting and delusive character. He would ask, how was it that in time of war, with her commerce restricted and pressed with all the regulations which Bonaparte could impose, and when her large expenditure was wasted in foreign countries and made no return whatever, Great Britain could raise 120,000,000l. in one year? They had then a heavy property-tax, but there were then no complaints of the poverty of the country. Now, it was to the restrictions of the Bill of 1819, and the still further restrictions of the Bill of 1844, that all our present distress was owing. He was not one of those who looked upon history as an old almanack 256 which taught nothing. On the contrary, he thought it the very reverse, and looked to it for the soundest lessons of practical wisdom; and therefore it was that he referred to past experience. He might be told that in 1812, when the monetary system was what he (Mr. Spooner) wished it, there was great distress. He admitted that there was distress, though he denied that the monetary system was exactly what he should wish it. It was, however, far sounder than now; and the distress which then arose was the consequence of the discussion which had taken place in the Sessions of 1810 and 1811, and fears were excited that an alteration would be made. When that agitation had subsided, and confidence was re-established, prosperity returned. It was, therefore, no answer to say that a panic existed before the Bill of 1819 was passed, as he could show the cause of that panic. But in 1821 and 1822 there was dreadful distress, which was confessedly the result of the Bill of 1819. Lord Castlereagh, in consequence, brought in several measures, all of which had for their object the suspension, more or less, of the practical operation of the Bill of 1819; and while that Bill was thus practically suspended, prosperity was restored. He did not approve of the way in which that had been done. It would have been far better to have permanently abandoned that which had thus proved baneful. Then followed the memorable year of 1825, the end of which was a season of the most gigantic calamity. In July, 1825, however, Mr. Robinson, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, asserted that the prosperity then experienced was not evanescent; it was founded upon a rock—it was sure and certain. Before the close of that year the nation was in a state of bankruptcy; and in 1826, the same hon. Gentleman had to come down again to that House, and lament that his rock had melted, and that his prosperity was gone. He sought for something on which to lay the blame; and on what scapegoat did the House imagine he laid this great calamity? On the imprudent speculation of the banking interest. However, as Mr. Robinson was mistaken in his predictions of immovable prosperity in 1825, he (Mr. Spooner) thought it very probable he was equally mistaken in 1826, when he attributed the failure of that prophecy to over-speculation of the bankers. Both the prophecy and the explanation, in his opinion, exhibited a lamentable spectacle of ignorance. He, however, belonged 257 to a school which had been greatly misrepresented. He was not for a paper currency without a basis, or for one which was not convertible. But he did say that the point of convertibility now adopted was unjust. It was one which had not been maintained, and, he would venture to say, which never could be maintained. It was that which had caused all their fluctuations between prosperity and adversity; and it would continue so to operate until the subject was fairly met and grappled with, and until they ascertained what was the most just, the best, and the most practical point of convertibility. The present measure was wholly impracticable, because it was unjust. He thought, from the conversation which he had with a great many Members of that House, that they were under the mistaken impression that the standard of 1819 was the old standard of Queen Elizabeth, and had an identity with that of 1797, when Mr. Pitt suspended the payment of gold. When he stated that it was far more stringent than in 1797, he did so without fear of contradiction, as, when he had made that statement before a Committee of the House of Lords, and was then contradicted by an eminent individual, the Acts of Parliament were procured, and he had the honour of convincing that eminent individual that he had been perfectly correct in stating that in 1797 our standard of value was a joint standard of gold and silver without limit as to weight. Indeed, Mr. Vansittart, soon afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer, and now Lord Bexley, said, and said truly, that in 1797 the principal and interest of the national debt might have been paid in sixpences and shillings. How different was the state of things during the late panic, when cases were known in which merchants who had enough, in silver bullion and silver coin of other countries, to meet their responsibilities, were unable to avail themselves of that metal by the absurd restrictions of the Bill of 1844. Those who held the same opinions with himself were accused of wishing to defraud the public creditor. Nothing could be more unfounded. Upon what principle did the Committee of 1819 recommend the adoption of the present standard of value? First, that it was the ancient standard of the country; the fallacy of this he (Mr. Spooner) had clearly demonstrated. Secondly, that the adoption of that standard would alter the then existing value of property not more than four per cent. Did they 258 think it just, then, to continue the new standard, when it was admitted by every one that instead of four per cent, it altered the value more than thirty per cent; "and if the injustice thus inflicted be admitted—if you say it is done, it cannot be undone—I tell you, you are guilty of as great a mistake in so saying as you were in making the alteration. The Act of 1819 never has been carried out. Your attempts to carry it out have led to the repeated derangements of your taxation. You never dare fully to carry it out. You have frequently tried, but the moment you came to any state that approached its point of realisation, you have been obliged at once to consent to the suspension of your money law." The hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Ricardo on the subject of the standard of value, as represented by gold, and the effects on the exchanges produced by the variations in its commercial value—variations to which it was not subjected under the regulations in existence prior to the Bill of 1819; but Mr. Ricardo, a very great authority, had lived to alter his opinions in favour of a less restricted currency. Believing that the tax might be necessary for the present exigencies, he was willing to accede to its renewal for one year more. Bad as it was—odious as it was to the people, and harsh and unequal as it was in its operation—he was willing to agree to it for another year; but if the Government insisted upon continuing it for three years in an unmodified form, and with all its imperfections and injustice, he should deem it his duty to give it his most determined oposition.
§ CAPTAIN TOWNSHEND
said: Sir, I can assure the House that it is far from my intention upon the first occasion that offers of intruding upon its attention, to involve myself in the labyrinth of a currency question. If, however, in the course of the observations I am about to make, I shall be fortunate enough to say a few sterling words, I trust the House will grant me the indulgence which much, as a new and inexperienced Member, I stand in need of. It gave me much satisfaction to learn that Her Majesty's Government had relinquished that part of the budget which went to impose an additional two per cent on income. It would have given me more satisfaction had such a proposition never emanated from Her Majesty's Government at all; for of all taxes that have ever been imposed, I think this to be the most odious and the least palatable to the people of 259 this country. I think Her Majesty's Ministers deserve much credit for yielding as they have done to the feeling so unequivocally expressed in this respect, and not driving their best friends and supporters—of whom I profess myself to be one—to the painful necessity of voting against them; but, Sir, I confess I cannot be surprised that this or any other Government should endeavour to recruit the finances by an expedient which was received with so much lukewarmness and indifference by the country when it was first proposed in 1842 by my right hon. Colleague the Member for Tamworth. Many hon. Gentlemen in this House then considered it a fair and proper tax. The right hon. Baronet was then in the plenitude of his power, and his word was law. I never did think it a good or a just tax, and was one of the loudest declaimers against it. I am still of the same opinion; but although it certainly was imposed on the understanding that it was to last only three years, yet it was reimposed at the end of that period for another three years, still without any manifestations of popular discontent or dissatisfaction—without any public meetings being convened against its injustice. Then, I say, that the people deserve to have it saddled on them now, in a time of great pressure and difficulty, for another three years; and I shall—though as strongly opposed to it as any Member in this House, or any man out of it—vote for the measure. I repeat, Sir, that the apathy and stupidity of the people have brought it on themselves, and they deserve to pay the penalty of their folly. Many hon. Members have made great complaints about the existing strength of the naval and military forces, the great preparations we are making in our national defences, as well as the warlike speech with which the noble Lord at the head of the Government introduced these measures. I cannot say, much as I desire to see these things reduced to the smallest scale, that, in the present critical state of Europe, they are one iota too much; and I must say, as far as I am able to judge, a more temperate, pacific speech, more full of kind feeling and respect for a great nation like the French, than that of the noble Lord, could not be possibly delivered. The hon. Member for Montrose has, I admit, in the course of his long experience in this House, effected many useful reforms, caused much retrenchment at various times, and done an infinity of good for 260 the public, which I am sure they duly appreciate; but his zeal for the public service is apt to carry him too far. There is no one who regards a standing army with more dislike than I do—but what is meant by a standing army? Have you more soldiers than are sufficient to protect your garrisons and colonies? I can understand the hon. Member, if he says we can do without them—that Gibraltar is of no earthly use, and that you can't prevent ships from passing through the Gut—that Malta is only a receptacle for our "demoralised" ships—that the Cape of Good Hope is an incumbrance, as well as all our other numerous and distant possessions; but as long as we do hold them, they must be held by military power of some description or other. Are we never to expect disturbances in any of our manufacturing or other great towns? Is free trade trade to keep down all disquiet, and be a panacea against all agitation? Can you spare one single soldier from Ireland, when there are demagogues agitating the country, sowing the seeds of discontent, and wringing the last penny from an impoverished and famishing people? I say it is impossible at present to make any reduction in our Army, and still less in the Navy. We may put the most perfect reliance on the good faith and feeling of our neighbours, and still it is our duty to be prepared against any emergency. This country has more than once offered to reduce its naval strength, if France would do the same. She has refused; and is it reasonable—would it be proper—for us to place ourselves below the level of France in this respect? No Government would dare to be so rash—so insane. The French people need be under no fear of an invasion on our part, if we had treble the naval force they have in commission. Ships alone can do nothing of the kind. There must be an army to transport, and that we have not. The case is different with them. They have an immense standing army and a disposable fleet at all times ready for war; and though I think nothing in the world is more improbable than an invasion of this country, still it must be borne in mind the thing is within the bounds of possibility. I trust, Sir, that no consideration of economy will ever induce any Government to reduce the Navy below the wants of the country. It should never be forgotten the risk we ran in 1840 of suffering a very serious national calamity for want of due precaution. Immediately preceding the commencement of 261 hostilities against Syria by our fleet under that able and excellent officer, the late Sir Robert Stopford, we were on the eve of a war with France, and had that event occurred, I have no hesitation in saying, our fleet would have fallen into the hands of the French; they would have been cut off in detail—would have fallen ingloriously, and without the possibility of making any effectual resistance, in consequence of their having been dispersed either separately or at most two together, while the French had kept their fleet together en masse. I mention this fact, to show how guarded we ought to be at all times. Why, Sir, the two fleets had been in company together for months, interchanging all the courtesies and civilities of social life, and the very best understanding subsisting between the officers and men. For my own part I can only say that, having been left behind in company with the French fleet at the Dardanelles, when Sir Robert Stopford went to Smyrna, and being confined for a considerable time to my cabin by illness, I received the greatest kindness—the most marked attention—from the late Admiral Solande and his flag captain, now Admiral Bruat, such as I cannot easily forget. But I know, notwithstanding all this, they would have been ready to go to war with us to-morrow, as a gallant and fighting people like themselves will always do. Sir, the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) is another strenuous advocate for the reduction of our naval and military forces. No doubt he is actuated by the purest motives of peace and good will; but I should like to know what the hon. Gentleman's sentiments would be in the event of a war? With his present feelings I should not be the least surprised to see the hon. Member rising from his seat, and gravely proposing to the House that we should put our ships on the peace establishment, and instead of the heavy 68's and 32's at present mounted, to put "Quakers" or sham guns in their stead. Then comes the hon. Member for the West Riding. He has also expressed himself very strongly on this subject, and as I think most unfairly and unjustifiably with respect to the Navy. The hon. Member made use of the following words at a dinner given at Manchester on the 29th of January last:—It so happens I have picked up a few secrets abroad, having travelled by water as well as by land; and I venture to say, there is not more idleness or demoralisation in any part of the world than in our ships of war. Occasionally 262 they make a great show, but they do not go to the Baltic or Hamburgh, where there is trade; no—the weather is too rough there, and there are no attractions on shore.Now, Sir, I do not hesitate to say, a greater injustice was never done the Navy—a greater libel never was uttered. I find no fault with the hon. Member for expressing his opinion as to the policy of our ships remaining at any length of time in port. He has a perfect right to his own opinion, and it will be taken for as much or as little as it is worth; though I think, in the present disturbed state of almost every country in the Mediterranean, it is no great matter of surprise that our ships should be kept together ready for a start. What I do complain of, is the gratuitous and unmerited slur he has cast on the Navy. I should like to ask the hon. Member if he has ever been on board one of these demoralised ships; if he ever saw the interior economy of a man of war? I should have thought a man of his acute observation had no need of the opinion of any American Consul as to the state of our men of war. I should not be afraid to test the comparative merits of our ships as to cleanliness, comfort, or efficiency with any American ship that ever floated. I mean no disparagement to the American service; but our ships are not what they were years back, when we were at war with that country, and no attention was paid to gunnery, and when everything essential was sacrificed for mere show. Should the two countries ever be at war again, which God forbid! I think, instead of the slackness the American Consul complains of, there would be pretty tight work. Has the hon. Member ever seen any of our men beat to quarters and fire at a mark? Why, Sir, if the mark was no bigger than the stick of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), he would have seen it cut away before that hon. Member had time to take off his beard. Really, Sir, to hear the hon. Member assert that our ships were afraid of going to sea, because the weather was rough—I should be afraid to make the remark to a Thames yacht-man unless I wished to affront him—afraid to go to sea because it was rough; no, Sir, rough or smooth, blow high or blow low, our ships go when and where they are ordered, and do the service they are ordered on, whether that be to engage the ships or batteries of the enemy, or to run the equal or greater risk of cruising off a dangerous and pestilential coast. Sir, the Navy has 263 ever done its duty, and will, I trust, continue to do so, in despite the unworthy and unfounded aspersions of the hon. Member, which I will venture to say are not shared either by this House or the country. If the hon. Member thinks to raise himself to popularity with a certain class of which he is the reputed oracle, by decrying the naval service, he will find himself much mistaken. I hope he will have the decency to acknowledge his error. I have only to observe in conclusion, that I trust my Warmth has not carried me too far in my expressions; and I shall merely state my determination to support the Government in their proposal for a continuation of the income-tax for three years longer.
§ MR. G. J. TURNER
had no objection to the general proposition of an income-tax; on the contrary, if equitably imposed, it would receive his cordial support. But the masses of the community had heavy burdens imposed on them which they paid in the shape of excise duties; and he considered that in the payment of those duties they bore their fair share of the taxation of the country, and that the extra burden ought to fall upon those classes which received from the State the greater amount of protection. The working classes received from the State the protection of their persons—the wealthier, of their persons and their property. He felt the more anxious that the House should maintain the principle of an income-tax when he remembered that its Members held their seats by virtue of a property qualification, and, sitting there by means of such a qualification, those who sent them to the House expected that if additional burdens became necessary, they should see that they were justly and equitably thrown upon the shoulders that were able to bear them. He heartily concurred in the principle of the income-tax, and would have given his vote in favour of the proposition of the Government, if he could have brought his mind to think that the income-tax, as at present proposed, was justly and properly assessed. It had been said, that the estimates were large, but they were not larger than the exigencies of the country required; on this subject he was inclined to trust the Government. Who could he so well informed as to the relations of this country, with foreign Powers, and the relations of foreign Powers among themselves, as the Government? When the budget was originally proposed, he felt that the noble Lord might be acquainted with circumstances 264 which could not be known to the Members of the House generally, and which it would be his duty not to communicate to the House; he had, therefore, at that time been of opinion, that with regard to the amount of the estimates he should, in a great measure, confide in the wisdom of Her Majesty's Government; and subsequent events had not led him to change his opinion. He was not inclined to repose blind confidence in any Government; but he called upon those who cavilled at the estimates, to remember that the Government might be acquainted with circumstances which were necessarily unknown to them, and he thought that the hon. Gentlemen who were opposed to the estimates, if they did not place confidence in the Government, ought at once to pursue a manly course, and propose a vote of want of confidence. He could not understand how hon. Gentlemen could give their support to the Government, and yet withhold their confidence from them. He would appeal to those hon. Gentlemen who opposed the estimates; he would appeal to the humblest taxpayer in the kingdom, and would ask him if he wished to see the nation in such a position as to force her to appeal to the mercy of any other nation? What they had to consider, therefore, was, what was to he done under existing circumstances, not what had produced the existing state of circumstances. One hon. Gentleman had stated that he would trust the Navy, but he objected to any augmentation of the Army. No one could put greater confidence in the Navy than did he (Mr. Turner); no one could entertain a greater objection to a large standing Army than he did, if the Army were kept up for purposes of aggression; but he had no objection to an Army sufficiently strong to defend the country and the colonial empire—therefore he had no intention of opposing the Government on the ground either that the income-tax was wrong in principle, or that the estimates were too large. He regretted, however, to be obliged to make the declaration that he could not give Her Majesty's Government his support on the present occasion. After mature consideration of the subject, he felt unable to bring his mind to any other conclusion than that the income-tax, as it at present stood, was not justly and equitably assessed. What were the sources of income? They might be divided into three classes: first, incomes derived from realised property; secondly, incomes derived from 265 trade; thirdly, incomes derived from professions. First, as to incomes derived from realised property. That income was derived wholly from capital, and was totally unconnected with any labour on the part of the individual who received it. Income derived from trade was the result not of the investment of capital alone; it was the combined effort of the labour of the individual, and of the investment of his capital. Professional incomes were derived solely from labour. Now, he would ask the House if it were a just principle of taxation that incomes derived from labour wholly, or in part, should be subjected to the same burdens as incomes derived solely from realised property? It was one of the first principles of taxation not to tax industry, not to tax labour, not to tax trade. Now, the income-tax did tax labour, did tax industry, did tax trade. A tax on incomes derived from professions was a tax on labour, and on labour alone. He did not mean to contend that it was just that incomes derived from trades or from professions should be exempted from their just share of taxation; but he would contend that it was not just that these two classes of income should be subjected to the same rate of taxation as income derived from invested property. Suppose the case of a person deriving an income of 10,000l. a year from landed property. He paid a tax of 3 per cent on his income, and after the payment of the tax the property producing that income passed untouched to his posterity; but the man who derived 10,000l. a year from a trade or a profession paid the same amount of tax, and what remained to his family was only the amount he had earned after deducting the tax, and his income died with him. The professional man was in truth called upon to work ten days in every year for the benefit of the nation, for the tax took from him the proceeds of ten days' labour, and after having so worked, he was in no better condition than the man deriving a similar income from invested property, who had not worked at all for the benefit of the nation. He therefore contended that the tax did not press equally on the different classes on whom it was assessed. It had been contended, that if this tax were not thus levied on incomes derived from trade or professions, the Government would be guilty of a breach of faith with the public creditor. He would not willingly be guilty of a breach of faith; 266 but he did not think he was guilty of any breach of faith with the public creditor in opposing a system of taxation which pressed unjustly upon incomes derived from labour. If the tax were so modified as not to press unfairly upon incomes derived from labour, if it could be so modified as to be levied upon just and equitable principles, he would not oppose it. But it had been said, that it was impossible to equalise this tax. He admitted that it would be so if they applied only one principle to the assessment of this tax; but he contended, that in the assessment of it upon incomes derived from different sources, they should adopt different principles. Take, for instance, the case of a person deriving an income from a Long Annuity, or from a leasehold property. The whole of his annual receipts ceuld not fairly be considered as income: one portion was income, and another portion was a return of the capital invested; so that by imposing the income-tax upon incomes derived from annuities, or from leasehold properties, at the same rate as they imposed it upon incomes derived from real property, they were, in fact, taxing, not income only, but capital likewise. Why did they not calculate the value of the life income as property, and assess the tax in this manner upon the just value of the life income? This was done every day in the case of the legacy duty, where the duty was assessed upon life-annuities left to individuals. Why could not the same principle be applied to the income-tax; and as to incomes derived from trades and professions, an allowance might be made for life-insurance, and such incomes be thus put on the footing of property, or at all events a reasonable allowance should be made for labour. He did not desire to see the revenue diminished; but he thought the deficiency which would arise from the fair adjustment of the tax should be supplied by throwing a greater burden on the larger incomes. He could nut see on what principle it was that those who received a larger amount of income should not pay a larger amount of tax. He could not see why some graduated scale should not be introduced into the assessment of the income-tax. He knew the danger he incurred by advocating this proposition. He knew that a very high authority (Mr. M'Culloch) considered the proposition so absurd that he had said that none but a savage could be found to advocate it. Now, he did not think Mr. Pitt was a savage; and when he 267 first proposed the income-tax, it was precisely upon this principle. Again, in 1803, the same principle was adopted, although it was true that subsequently that principle had not been carried out. He knew that the objection commonly urged against this principle was, that if it were carried out to an unlimited extent, it would eventually exhaust the capital on which it was proposed to levy it. He did not propose to carry out the principle to that extent; for he thought that it was not reasonable that any person should pay more than a certain proportion of his income towards the burdens of the State; but let the maximum be fixed, and let there be a graduation below that maximum; and if they adopted that principle, the rates of payment would be low upon small incomes, and would increase as the incomes increased. He thought that a graduated income-tax would amply supply the deficiency of revenue of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer complained. He thought the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in exempting Ireland from the burden of this tax. The new poor-law had been recently introduced into that country, and it was desirable that no further burdens should be imposed upon Ireland for the present. But if the noble Lord refused to impose the income-tax upon Ireland at present, because the population of the kingdom was suffering from a crisis, he would ask why it should be imposed upon the tradesmen of this country, who were suffering from a similar crisis? The same principle which induced the Government to exempt Ireland from this burden, ought to induce them to relieve the trades and professions of this country from it also. After mature and anxious deliberation on the subject, he had found himself unwillingly compelled to withhold his support from Her Majesty's Government on this question, and to give his vote in favour of the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose.
§ SIR W. CLAY
said, the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose would have been better made on the Friday. He concurred in much that the hon. Member had stated, and he agreed with him that there was a great inequality in the income-tax; but the House had declared against both their views on the subject. The question was now, whether the tax should be voted for one year or for three years; and to that he should confine himself. The expenditure for the ensuing 268 year was stated by the noble Lord to be 54,565,900l., and on the same high authority the income was stated to be 51,000,000l., leaving a deficiency of about 3,500,000l. Of that, 1,345,000l. was considered a temporary deficiency, and the estimated deficiency, therefore, was about 2,500,000l. Supposing the income of the ensuing year to be equal to the last, the deficiency, deducting the expenses of the Caffre war, might be set down at 2,000,000l. Her Majesty's Ministers proposed that the income-tax should be taken for a period of three years; but the hon. Member for Montrose proposed to limit it to one year. If, however, that proposition were adopted, the deficiency of 1849 would be from 7,000,000l. to 8,000,000l. It had been shown that the estimates were so framed as not to admit of much reduction, and that there was only a margin of 15,000,000l. upon which to operate any reduction. The House was not justified, therefore, in exciting, on the part of the people of this country, expectations that they could not fulfil; they were not justified in keeping up an agitation on the subject which there was no prospect of allaying; and nothing could excuse them from proceeding to deal lightly with 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. of revenue, unless there was the strongest impression that within less than ten months they could make up the deficiency. How then was that deficiency to be supplied? Was it by other direct taxes? or was it by the reimposition of those duties that had been recently repealed upon articles of consumption? He could not consent to the reimposition of the latter taxes, nor would the public. He had voted against the income-tax in 1842 and 1845; but he could not do so under existing circumstances. Was it proposed to have a great fiscal reform, involving the question of direct taxation? He doubted if any Government would be found bold enough to extend the principle of direct taxation further than it was carried at present. The events of the last fortnight showed that in time of peace no Government could depend on it; and, in his opinion, the Government had gone as far as they could go in the line of direct taxation. There were many objections to direct taxation; but in his opinion the moral, social, and political objection to it had been overlooked. These were more than an equipoise for the advantages of direct taxation; for there was always the intervention of that element which 269 made taxation most odious—namely, the application of the tax-gatherer. However great, therefore, the economical advantages of direct over indirect taxation, that element would always make it impossible to proceed further with the principle than hitherto. There was another reason also why indirect taxation was preferred to direct taxation; it was this—every man was the arbiter of his own consumption to a certain degree. Indirect taxation limited the enjoyment of the people, but direct taxation limited their economy. Nothing was so injurious in a national point of view as a diminution of individual economy. It was the only means by which national capital was created, and by which all great works were produced. Direct taxation limited the power of accumulation, and therefore interfered with these effects. It was clear, therefore, that the deficiency of the revenue could not be remedied by the reimposition of the repealed taxes, nor by the extension of direct taxation in time of peace. Believing, however, that it would be unwise to contract engagements with the public creditor which there was not the full power of meeting in the hands of the Government, he could not vote for the Motion of the hon. Member. The honest course to pursue was, to endure the tax for the period proposed, and to endeavour to find in that period either a substitute for it, or to make such reductions as he was disposed to give the Government credit for intending to effect in the expenditure of the country. There were certain expenses which would not be needed in another year—dockyards, for instance, and other works; and he believed that by economy on the one hand, and well-considered reduction on the other, the income and the expenditure of the country would be equalised.
§ MR. ROBINSON
believed there was every disposition on the part of the House to keep faith with the national creditor, as well as to enable the Government to carry on the business of the country in a satisfactory manner; but they naturally required that clear evidence should be laid before them that the estimates did not exceed the exigencies of the public service. They also required that the pressure of taxation should be equalised as much as possible. He adopted in this respect the axiom of Adam Smith, so frequently used in another Sense—namely, that every person living under the protection of a State should contribute to the support of the 270 Government of that State according to his means. The inequality of the income-tax had, however, been generally admitted by all parties, and by none more than by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. Yet the House was called upon to vote for its continuance without any attempt at amendment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer objected to continuing the tax for one year only, as it was impossible to suppose that the revenue would improve sufficiently in that period. But he should vote for the continuance of the income-tax for one year, because he believed that this course would compel the Ministry to bring the whole question, at the expiration of that year, before the House. If the three years were conceded, there was no security that the term would not be further extended; but if one year only were sanctioned, it would then be obligatory on the Government to consider the question of taxation in all its bearings before they could hope to get a renewal. With respect to our fiscal affairs, they were in an anomalous state, and required to be carefully reviewed and reformed. He would implore those who advocated the term of three years to press on the Government the necessity of looking at our financial system. There was no want of means to maintain credit or national establishments, nor was there any want of disposition to advance those means if the necessity were shown to be indispensable; but then, the people asked, and asked with reason, that our establishments and expenses should first be reduced to the lowest scale consistent with their public efficiency, and that the public burdens should be equalised as much as possible.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
would confine himself as closely as possible to the question, and would not wander, like some hon. Gentlemen, into various topics, which at best had but a remote connexion with the immediate subject under discussion. The questions which the House had to decide by their vote were—first, whether they would sanction, under the present circumstances of the country, the renewal of the income-tax; and, next, the question raised by the hon. Member for Montrose, whether the renewal of the tax should be for the term of three years as proposed by Government, or one year, as proposed by the hon. Member. As to the question of the renewal of the income-tax at all, he would not go into that question, for he had seen on the present as well as on other occa- 271 sions, even from those who had in the first instance opposed the tax, that under existing circumstances it was considered advisable the tax should he continued rather than that Government should resort to a new and untried system of taxation to make up the deficiency in the national finances. He was one who had originally opposed the income-tax, and at the present moment he was not more enamoured of the tax than he was at the time it was first suggested. He felt that an income-tax in a time of peace would, sooner or later, from its unpopularity, hazard the existence of our revenue at a period when the country, struggling to emerge from difficulty and embarrassment, had occasion to put forth all her undiminished financial resources. In 1845, when the renewal of the tax was proposed, his opinion was modified, for, on consideration of all circumstances, he felt there would be less difficulty in continuing the tax, than in imposing other taxes to meet anticipated deficiency. He found at the same time there was a greater general acquiescence on the part of the people of this country in this tax than he expected. He found the reductions of the late Ministry were greatly approved of; and he voted with the late Government when the question of remitting the tax was put, because he conceived it would be the best means of carrying out and supporting the system of commercial reform which had been entered upon. On those grounds he and others withdrew their opposition, and supported the right hon. Baronet then at the head of the Ministry. But if this course was proper in 1845, it was still more incumbent on him to pursue it now. It had been said, in reference to the policy of the remission of duties which had taken place, that it had been attended with disappointment. It was said that we were in a state of general commercial depression, and that this circumstance, without connecting it with the reduction of duties, was sufficient to show the mistakes of free trade. Now, he did not agree in this view of the case. If the springs of industry had not been relieved by the remission of duties, the country would have been in a far worse condition than it was at present. He heartily rejoiced that the calamities which had befallen this country had found the country engaged in measures of commercial reform; because it was this circumstance that enabled us to supply those extraordinary losses and deficiencies which sudden calamity had occasioned. He should 272 consider it a misfortune of no ordinary kind' if, under the present circumstances of the country, the House should agree with the hon. Member for Montrose, and refuse to put the finances of the kingdom on that safe and secure foundation which the income-tax for three years longer alone could place them. His impression was, that the great point was to increase the income-tax to such a degree as to enable the Government to provide for the wants of the year within the year. Any other determination was calculated, especially in the commercial classes of the community, to excite feelings of apprehension and alarm; and he said that if that should be followed up by an expression of opinion of the House that they would be satisfied, without requiring the Government to bring forward new taxes as a substitute for the income-tax, so to leave the finances of the country, that not only within the year we should not be able to meet the deficiencies, but that even on an average of years we should not have placed the finances in such a situation that we could fairly say there was a probable hope and expectation we had taken measures to make the income equal to the expenditure, consternation would, he believed, ensue. In his opinion there was no more false economy could be pursued than to take steps which would have the effect of shaking the credit of the country; and, therefore, if the House agreed to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, little as they might desire it, this result would follow—that the effect of their vote would be to shake the confidence of commercial men at home, and the credit of the country abroad. It was of the greatest importance to support the confidence and the credit of the country at this moment—he heartily desired peace, and he should have no fears for its continuance so long as they remained undisturbed; but he could not look abroad and notice what was passing without seeing the necessity for union; and, being awake to the misfortune of having even the semblance of disunion on this subject, while the House might fairly insist on the most rigid economy being practised, and that the expenditure should be cut down to the lowest possible scale, he hoped at the same time they would see that it was necessary to support the character and credit of the country. The hon. Member for Worcester had given a peculiar reason why he should vote for the continuation of the tax for one year rather than throe years—that this was the only 273 way of obtaining a revision of our system of taxation. It was, however, easy to use such an argument. No doubt it was necessary to have our system of taxation reviewed; we had already some portion of our system revised—the alteration in the customs duties, for instance, had been of advantage to the Customs; other portions of our fiscal system would be reviewed in due time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had already intimated that he was engaged in considering the stamp and excise duties. Let the system of taxation by all means be considered, and considered calmly, and at the proper opportunity. But to throw the whole system of our finances into confusion for the chances of a revisen of taxation, on new principles which few or none understood, would be, under present circumstances, little short of a criminal act of indiscretion. The hon. Gentleman had stated his opinion as to what he termed the prostrate condition and fallen fortunes of the country. He (Mr. Labouchere) did not deny that we had laboured under great calamities, and that all classes suffered in consequence. It was impossible that such a year of commercial embarrassment and loss should pass over without leaving traces of devastation behind. But then there was nothing in the present state of the country, in his opinion, which ought to inspire despondency or despair. He was satisfied we required but union and political tranquillity at home for the country again to spring forward in the race of prosperity, and for all traces of recent calamity to pass away like clouds. The hon. Gentleman had compared the condition of the country for the last year only with the preceding period; but in order to arrive at the truth it was necessary to take a wider grasp of the subject, and to see the spring which the country made in wealth and prosperity during the last twenty years. He had obtained from the Board of Trade an estimate of the produce of the income-tax, and the property which it represented in 1815, and this he had compared with the latest return he could obtain—namely, the amount of the property and income-tax, and the property it represented in the years 1842 and 1843. It was astonishing to see how greatly the resources and wealth of the country had increased during the interval. Before he read the return he would just notice that in 1815 the income-tax took in all incomes above 50l. In the latter period of 1842 all 274 incomes below 150l. were excluded from the operation of the tax. In addition to these two circumstances, the House must recollect that a depreciated currency existed, whereas the reverse was the case in 1842; and then he had no doubt they would be surprised at the indications of increased wealth and prosperity which the result presented. Schedule A, as the House were aware, contained the amount of real property returned as liable to the income-tax. In 1814 and 1815, in round numbers, the amount was 60,000,000l. In 1842 and 1843 the amount of real property was 94,000,000l. In Schedule B, which represented the property of occupiers of land in 1814 and 1815, the amount was 38,000,000l. In 1842 and 1843 it was 43,000,00l. In Schedule C, which related to property in the public funds, there was a falling-off; but this sort of property afforded no indication of the prosperity of the country: the amount in 1815 was 31,000,000l.; "in 1843 it was 27,000,000l. This falling-off was owing to various circumstances which it was not necessary more particularly to specify. The third and fourth return afforded the most remarkable instance, of increase. It was under Schedule D that the profits on trades and professions were rated. In 1814 the amount was 35,886,000l. In 1842, 62,344,000l.; that was to say, in a period of little more than twenty-seven years the profits of trade in this country had very nearly doubled. The last schedule had reference to salaries, public and private. A diminution was here to be noticed. In 1815 it was 13,642,000l.; in 1842 it was 10,195,000l. The total amount assessed to the property-tax in 1815, including all incomes above 50l., was 179,000,000l. In 1842, after excluding all incomes under 150l., it had augmented to 240,000,000l. It was impossible to give a more convincing and striking proof of the steady increase which the country had made in financial and commercial greatness. It must also be recollected that during this period no less than 53,000,000l. of taxation had been repealed. The amount of additional taxation during the same period was 13,782,000l., which left a balance of taxes repealed over taxes imposed since 1815 of 39,777,000l. He would not trouble the House at any great length on this subject, except again to state he should sincerely regret that the House came to any vote on the present occasion which would show an indisposition 275 on their part to support the finances of the country on a secure and satisfactory basis. The House would recollect what his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, that two courses might be proposed. The first had been abandoned, and the other the Government still adhered to. This was a course in which the House was bound to support the present Government, or any other Government entrusted with the affairs of the country; for it was the only one by which the public income could be made at present to meet the expenditure of the county. No man ought to make a confident prediction with regard to the future income or expenditure of this country. He could only judge by things as they were at present. All he would say was, that the Government had endeavoured, in submitting this financial proposal to the House, to place upon the country as little as possible in the way of taxation as was consistent with their duty to the public faith and the efficient service of the country itself. He did not believe that the Government could safely propose, or the House safely adopt, the proposal of his hon. Friend; and, therefore, he hoped that the House would by a large majority that night show a determination to endeavour at all events, and at all hazards, to place the finances of the country on a safe footing.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, in the speech which he had just made in favour of the renewal of the income-tax, had quoted from a paper before him, and stated the quantity of taxation which was levied under Schedule E in 1814, when the income-tax extended to all incomes of 50l. or upwards. He showed conclusively to the House that the tax brought 3,000,00l. less then than it did at present, when it extended only to incomes of 150l. and upwards; but the right hon. Gentleman had said so little in defence of the tax itself that he (Mr. Osborne) was tempted to remind the House of what the right hon. Gentleman had said in 1842. He found that upon that occasion the right hon. Gentleman had thus expressed himself:—I have never met with any statesman, or any one experienced in political affairs, who did not declare that the imposition of such a tax was most objectionable, and, above all, should be avoided in time of peace.And he went on to say—Before I could be prevailed upon to adopt an income-tax, alien as it is to the feelings of the country, I must hazard every other scheme.276 He begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman why he was not then prepared to "hazard every other scheme," and why he did not attempt to try one, when, on a late occasion, he gave his support to the hon. Member for Cockermouth, who proposed a modification of this tax? [Mr. LABOUCHERE: I beg to state that I never supported it.] That was not the question. The right hon. Gentleman was not, as he said, unwilling to see some modification of it. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: I did not vote for it. I was not even present.] The right hon. Gentleman did not vote for it, perhaps, but he did not vote against it; and therefore he might fairly draw the inference that he was not opposed to it. The whole question had been very clearly put forward by the hon. Member for Coekermouth, and summarily dismissed on the ground that a graduated scale like the one proposed could not be easily applied. It was true that it might not be possible to compute the amount to be derived from such a system with mathematical accuracy; but were they not to attempt to adopt some provision which should make the measure more palatable? A late Chancellor of the Exchequer got up and told them that all taxes were unequal in their operation; he would tell that right hon. Gentleman that it was the duty of the House and of the Government, if such were the case, to make a complete revision of all the taxation so as to make the pressure more equal. The hon. Gentleman had come forward in the shape of a handicapper to the tax; he says that the pressure on one point might be relieved by the absence of pressure somewhere else. On such a principle as that a racehorse could be handicapped until he became a mere donkey. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had adverted to Mr. Pitt. He seemed to forget, that when Mr. Pitt proposed an income-tax, the country was waging a war for its very existence. He had always understood, since he had been a Member of that House, that the income-tax was essentially a war tax; he had heard the right hon. Gentleman expressing that opinion, and denouncing the proposition of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, by the assertion that this tax ought expressly to be kept for the emergency of a war. The hon. Gentlemen who were now supporting the tax started upon that occasion, like the notes of a pianoforte, and denounced it as a war tax. In 1842, the right hon. Gentleman 277 voted for the following resolution, which was moved by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London;—Considering the various moans which exist of supplying the present deficiency, it is the opinion of this House that the renewal of a tax, unconstitutional in its character and unequal in its pressure, and which has always been considered exclusively as a financial reserve for the nation in time of war, is not called for by public necessity, and is not, therefore desirable.He (Mr. Osborne) would ask the House what was the nation to do in time of emergency if a tax which had always been exclusively reserved for time of war, were placed on in time of peace? Let the House take some review of the history of this tax. In the year 1798 Mr. Pitt proposed an income-tax, which, according to the quotations of the right hon. Member for Coventry, must, indeed, have been a perfect tax. Mr. Pitt's plan had had a graduated scale from 200l. to 60l. (and had they not a graduated scale if they exempted from the operation of the tax everybody whose income was under 150l?) In 1802, at the Peace of Amiens, the tax was abolished; and in 1803 it was again imposed, and in 1806 it was increased. On that occasion Mr. Tierney said there was no instance of such a tax being imposed since the time of Henry VII, when it was known as Lord Mortimer's dilemma, that nobleman having argued that those who lived economically had something which might be taxed, and that those who lived extravagantly had something which might be taxed, and that, therefore, all parties should be taxed. In 1816, when the tax was denounced in the loudest terms as being unnecessary in time of peace, what did the House do? Although it was the strongest Government of which they had any instance, except that of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, the House decided that the tax should not be imposed in the time of peace. They had been told that the credit of the country was shaken; but the Government went on as usual, and even about that time contrived to give up part of the malt-tax, about which some outcry was raised. Before coming to any discussion on this question, the House should deliberate upon the system of direct or indirect taxation. On that point he had never heard any discussion since he had sat in that House. The tax was smuggled through the House at that time without affording the Members any opportunity of discussing the question of direct taxation. 278 One of the most eloquent Members of the Government opposed the tax on the ground that it was a most dangerous inroad on the financial system of the country. He said it was a badge of slavery to submit to an income-tax, and warned the House that if the tax were imposed it would eventually lead to the application of the sponge. In imposing the income-tax, the right hon. Member for Tamworth had stated that every man whose income rendered him liable to its operation would gain the amount he was taxed out of the saving in the articles from which he had removed the duty. That at least was some removal of the annoyance of this unfair system. He would not then enter into any argument or discussion on the subject of direct or direct taxation; but he felt that if the tax in its present shape were imposed, it would give a decided blow to the principle of direct taxation. When they lumped terminable annuities with perpetual ones, could the system be called just? When they took a physician who was making 5,000l. per annum, and who could at most dispose of that at five years' purchase, and a man with a fee-simple property of that amount, which he could sell at twenty-five years' purchase, the effect produced on the public mind was certainly unfavourable to direct taxation; and any Gentleman in favour of the principle of direct taxation would, in voting for this plan in its present shape, take the means of all others most likely to make it unpopular. There was another question which the House was bound to consider. They were informed that the great cotton spinners were paying the wages of their operatives, not from their profits but from their capital: the whole commercial system had received a check, and, at a time like this, the Government asked for an increase of this tax to 5 per cent. and when that was peremptorily denied they asked for a continuance of the tax at 3 per cent. But they would find that the country was almost as strongly opposed to the present proposition. He found that the noble Lord the Member for the city of London expressed himself very strongly against the income-tax in 1842; and he (Mr. Osborne) would beg hon. Gentlemen to recollect that in that year the country was not in nearly so depressed a state as it was at present. In 1842, said the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), the country was in a state of commercial embarrassment, and to pass an income-tax at such a period must naturally be extremely 279 prejudicial to persons engaged in trade; and, said the noble Lord—You cannot add embarrassment to individuals without adding embarrassment to the nation collectively.Now, surely if that argument appeared good to the noble Lord in 1842, what right had he to come down to the House in 1848 and propose this tax? The hon. Member, for argument the other night, had brought forward an argument to meet the statement that this tax was unpopular throughout the country. He said that the fact of the labouring classes having made no objection to it, showed that in their opinion it did not press upon them. Now, he would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he said that seriously? Why, the labouring classes knew very well how heavily this tax pressed upon them—they know very well that this tax caused masters to discharge their servants. And he had other authorities for saying that this tax pressed heavily upon the industrious classes. He found that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed himself in 1842 to the following effect—No one could fail to see that the effect of this income-tax would be to drive capital from this country, and, therefore, the argument of those who contended that the tax would not affect the working classes could not be maintained. For those reasons he felt it his duty to give this odious tax his most determined opposition.Well, now he found another Member of the Government, the Secretary at War (Mr. Maule), who at that time spoke most strongly against the income-tax. He denounced the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) in the most unmeasured terms: he said—Let me warn the right hon. Baronet that this income-tax, if passed now, will produce a reaction which will be injurious not merely to the Government, but to the stability and peace of this country.The noble Lord the Member for the city of London expressed himself to the same effect. And he found that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth was also of the same opinion in 1833, for he said that he very much doubted whether a tax upon income would not injure the working classes, as it would most probably have the effect of diminishing the funds employed in the promotion and encouragement of industry. The Government would find that the working classes knew how their interests were affected by this tax. Why could not the Government move that this subject be referred to a Select Committee, by whom the tax could be fairly 280 revised and readjusted? They referred the current estimates to Select Committees; but the country at large would be much better satisfied by their referring the whole system of taxation to a Select Committee, who would report thereon to the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) had talked a great deal about the enormous wealth of this country, and in support of his arguments he quoted statistics, and compared 1814 with 1836. Well, it might be very true that we were increasing in wealth; but let any hon. Gentleman turn to the abstract which was moved for by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, and compare what had taken place with reference to the estimates from 1828 to 1848. He found that, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon was in office—and he must say he did not think this country had ever been duly sensible of that right hon. Gentleman's merits and public services—he found that when he was in office the general estimates amounted to 14,620,487l., whereas they had now swelled to 23,315,000l. Various plans had been recommended by the right hon. Gentlemen in office to remedy the present financial state of the country. He (Mr. Osborne) thought that it was high time for the country to insist that we should have a cheaper Government. It was high time to abolish that system of nepotism, whereby great offices were reserved, and given to the sons of the aristocracy of this country. Let the House consider that ridiculous exhibition which this country had to pay 1,500,000l. for every year—he meant the slave-trade squadron on the African coast, which was worse than useless. He was surprised that the hon. Member for Manchester had withdrawn his Motion with respect to legacy and probate duty, for he found that the noble Lord at the head of the Government in 1842 complained of the present state of the law in that respect. In that year the noble Lord said—There is a proposition based upon sounder arguments, a tax which seems to be fairer, better, more just than an income-tax—I mean a tax upon the succession of property. If, on the ground of necessity, you must have an additional tax, I cannot see the reason why such a tax should not be adopted in preference to an income-tax."'Why, then, did not the noble Lord now come before the House in a similar spirit, and propose the imposition of legacy and probate duty? In 1845, the noble Lord advocated a modification and readjustment 281 of this tax. He asked him, then, how we could now come down to the House and propose a tax which he and his followers denounced in 1842? He knew it had been said that this tax would he carried by a large majority; and in support of that statement a reason had been given which he, for one, could not believe. It had been said that the Irish Members would vote for the imposition of this tax. He should be exceedingly astonished if the Irish Members were so blind to their own interests—so blind to the consequences of their own votes—["Oh, oh!"]—as to vote for the imposition of this tax. He had heard a very symptomatic "Oh!" proceed from an hon. Gentleman who had evidently made up his mind to support the Government at all hazard; but he begged to remind that hon. Gentleman, as well as those Irish Members who intended to vote for this tax, that the great leader of Ireland, who was now no more, expressed a very strong opinion upon this tax. Mr. O'Connell's opinion about an income-tax was this:—I shall not be considered as trespassing on the time of the House if I enter into debate on a matter so exclusively confined to England. I raise my humble voice, and will give my decided vote in favour of justice to England. I have arrived at the conclusion that in bringing forward an income-tax you are proposing what is unjust to the people of England; therefore I am bound to give to such a proposal all the opposition in my power.But there was another living authority of almost equal weight; and what said he?—Of all the Imposts which it is possible for perverse ingenuity to devise, an income-tax is the most prejudicial to the interests, offensive to the feelings, abhorrent to the religious sentiments, and revolting to the moral sense of the English people.That was the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Shell). He fully participated in those sentiments. But there was also another reason why he thought Irish Members should be cautious as to their votes on this question. They must recollect that in the year 1842 the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) imposed an additional stamp duty upon Ireland, which was more than equivalent to the income-tax. He was well convinced that if the Irish Members supported this tax, their English brethren would very shortly, with a sort of retaliating spirit, vote in favour of the extension of the income-tax to Ireland.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, I think it is impossible, in considering the question whe- 282 ther or no this income-tax shall be now continued for a limited time, to exclude altogether a consideration of the circumstances under which the tax was imposed in the year 1842, and renewed in the year 1845; and I feel it incumbent upon me, after the reflections which have been cast upon this tax and upon the motives and conduct of those who proposed it, to vindicate the Government by which it was proposed, and to vindicate at the same time that House of Commons which, by immense majorities in 1842 and 1845, consented to the original imposition and the continuance of the tax. This House of Commons, or at least that part of it which did not constitute a part of the last, must have a strange opinion of the conduct of their predecessors; they must be filled with surprise to hear that it was possible for a Minister to persuade the House of Commons improperly to consent to the tax. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last says that this tax was smuggled through the House of Commons. "Smuggled," indeed! "Smuggle" through the House an income-tax imposing at least 5,000,000l. a year upon the people of this country! Sir, I say if you, the House of Commons, are ashamed of your vote, rescind it; if events have occurred convincing you that that policy was wrong, alter your course; you are at perfect liberty to do so; it would be absurd, as I have said before, upon these matters of economical policy to exclude the experience you have had in the intervening time; but it is a gross reflection upon that House of Commons which sanctioned this tax to insinuate that it was "smuggled through the House;" and it is to cast an injurious imputation upon those who proposed it, that they concealed the real motive for their conduct, and had one object in view when they professed another. By overwhelming majorities in 1842 that tax was assented to. One hon. Gentleman, the Member for Finsbury, says that he was fascinated; one of the representatives of the people, a representative of a most popular constituency, makes the humiliating avowal that he permitted a tax imposing the payment of 5,000,000l. in time of peace upon the people of this country, not upon a grave deliberate consideration of the merits of that tax, but because he was fascinated by the manner of the Minister. Another hon. Member says the tax was "smuggled through the House." But why did you permit a tax of this kind to be smuggled through the 283 House? Sir, I will convince this House of Commons that there never was an imputation more ill-founded; that there were grave considerations of commercial and financial policy which induced your predecessors by great majorities to consent to that tax, rather than to impose indirect taxation, or even to continue it. I was appointed to office in 1841. Now, this I say, that as to anything appearing like an invidious contrast between the acts of the late Government and the present, or that which preceded the late Government, I utterly disclaim any such intention. One of my motives for giving a cordial support to the financial proposition of the present Government is, that I am fully sensible of the great difficulties with which they have had to contend. They have had to contend with calamities of rare occurrence, which have naturally, by their effect, disturbed both the commercial and financial policy of this country; but I must state the truth in vindication of the late House of Commons, and the majority by which the tax was supported. I will attempt to state if from memory, without troubling the House with a minute reference to figures. In 1841 the Government with which I was connected succeeded to power. There was a deficit in the revenue as compared to the expenditure. It was not an occasional and casual deficit. In 1838 there had been a deficit I think nearly to the amount of 1,800,000l.; in 1839 there was a deficit of not far from 500,000l; in 1840 there was a deficit again of l,500,000l.; in 1841 there was a deficit of 2,400,000l My estimate was, that if no great financial effort were made, and if the estimates continued at the rate in 1843 which they had stood at in 1842, there would be a deficit in the revenue of that year—the year ending April 6, 1843—of not less than 2,600,000l On that day there would have been a deficit, the accumulation of deficit of five successive years, of not less than 10,000,000l. That was the financial condition of the country. And what had taken place? When the House of Commons consented to a measure which could only be objected to on financial grounds—I mean the alteration of the Post-office duty—when they consented to make that financial experiment, and to incur the risk of immediate loss of, I think, nearly 1,200,000l., the House of Commons of that day professed a determination to support the public credit, and declared that they would have no deficit. The right 284 hon. Gentleman the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in fulfilment of that pledge, proposed, I think, in 1840, that 5 per cent should be added to the then existing duties of Customs and Excise, and 10 per cent to the then rate of the assessed taxes. Now, what was the fact presented to me as the consequence of that measure? If I recollect right, the right hon. Gentleman estimated that the 5 per cent. upon the Customs and Excise would produce nearly 2,000,000l., above 1,900,000l. I believe; the actual increase, so far from being 1,900,000l., was, upon the most favourable calculation, not more than 700,000l.; consequently there was a deficiency, comparing the actual produce with the estimated produce, of not less than 1,300,000l. But see what had taken place with regard to the assessed taxes, the taxes approaching more nearly to direct than to indirect taxation. The right hon. Gentleman's estimate, I think, was not more than 275,000l., as the produce of his 10 per cent upon the assessed taxes; but the actual produce was above 300,000l., exceeding by that amount the estimate which he had stated to us. There was, consequently, the evidence that indirect taxation, that is to say, that species of indirect taxation which is implied in a regular per centage upon the articles of import, had completely failed; whereas, an increase of that taxation which partakes of the nature of direct taxation had completely succeeded. On those grounds, so far as they involved financial considerations, I ask the House whether or no it was prudent to resort to avowedly direct taxation, or to ask for that increase of revenue which all admitted to be advisable, through the renewal of the duty on salt, or on leather, or on any of those articles on which the duty had been reduced. We proposed an income-tax, and the House approved of that measure. It was not "smuggled through;" it was assented to after long debate, and after strenuous opposition, with a deep conviction that indirect taxation in the then state of the country offered no solution of your difficulties. But there were commercial as well as financial considerations which recommended this tax to the House. What was your commercial position in the year of which I am speaking? There existed complete prohibitions upon the import of all animals that formed part of human subsistence. No cow, no sheep, no bullock, could be introduced; there was absolute prohibition. What were the duties upon 285 other articles of subsistence? On bacon there was a duty of 28s. per cwt., on hams a duty of 28s. per cwt., on rice a duty of 7s. per quarter, on salted pork 12s., on salted beef 12s.; nay, there was even a duty of 2s. per cwt. on the import of potatoes; and when we proposed to reduce it, there was the greatest remonstrance against it, and prophecies of ruin on the part of those districts in which potatoes were grown in this country. What was the state of the corn law at that time? If the price of wheat was 67s. 11d. a quarter, the duty then attaching to foreign wheat imported was 18s. 8d.; if the price was 63s. 11d. the duty was 23s. 8d.; if the price was 62s. 11d. the duty was 24s. 8d. I proposed in that year, as a general rule, to remove all prohibitions, and to permit imports at certain rates of duty; to admit all raw materials, the elements of our own manufacture, at a rate of duty not exceeding 5 per cent; to admit all goods partially manufactured at a rate not exceeding, I think, 12 per cent. and all articles completely manufactured at a rate not exceeding 20 per cent. That proposition was made on the part of the Government, and that proposition was acceded to, after repeated discussions, by large majorities of that House of Commons. The tax continued till the year 1845; it would have expired on the 5th of April, 1845; but one half-year remained to be received. In the statement which I made to the House of Commons in 1845, I said that on the 5th of April, 1845, notwithstanding the remissions of taxation in 1842, there would be a surplus of revenue as compared with expenditure to the amount of 5,000,000l. That was my estimate of the surplus. I stated that, even if you repealed the income-tax, or rather permitted it to expire in 1845, there would be on the 5th of April, 1846—taking credit for about 2,600,000l., the half-year of the income-tax—a surplus of 2,600,000l. I stated at the same time, that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it was advisable to add greatly to the naval estimates of this country. The progress that was made in steam navigation, the utter deficiency of any means of repairing steam-boats in the Channel, the unfitness of your ports for the accommodation of war steamers generally—made it right in the opinion of the Government to lay the foundation of those works to which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty recently adverted. We 286 thought it advisable also in that year to increase the number of men in the Navy to the extent, I think, of 5,000. I stated that before the renewal of the income-tax. I stated fully to the House—This is your condition; if you adhere to the estimates and make no increase in them, you will have an available surplus at the end of the current year of not less than 2,600,000l.; but a great part of that, of course, will be derived from the half-year's income-tax to be received. If you continue the income-tax and consent to the increase of the estimates, you will in that case have an estimated surplus on the 5th of April, 1846, of 3,600,000l. In what manner will you appropriate that surplus, if you consent to the renewal of the income-tax?I made various propositions again, carrying into effect the principles and policy which had been adopted in 1842. Before I asked the House to consent to the continuance of the income-tax, I entreated them seriously to consider whether or no they preferred the continuance of it, with the remission of the excise duties upon glass, the auction duty, an alteration of the sugar duties, involving a loss of not less than 1,300,000l. So far from taking the House by surprise, the whole of these considerations were most fully presented to them. The House affirmed the increase of the estimates—the House affirmed the continuance of the income-tax—the House affirmed the repeal of those taxes to which I have referred, leading to an absolute loss of revenue, which it was utterly impossible to recover, except by the indirect effect of the increase of the consumption of other taxed articles—a loss of not less than 2,500,000l. Upon various articles the loss was 330,000l.; upon glass the loss was 600,000l.; upon cotton the loss was 480,000l.; and upon auction duties the loss was 300,000l. In short, the total repeal of taxation which it was utterly impossible to recover, as you can recover revenue in the case of a reduced tax upon some great article of consumption, was not less than 2,500,000l. It was upon a full cognizance of all these facts that the House of Commons assented to my scheme of financial policy. It is said that when I subsequently addressed a certain body of merchants in a distant town—the subjects of another Sovereign—I gave an explana-of my views and intentions which were at variance with my original declarations in Parliament. I utterly deny it. I certainly have seen in the newspapers what professed to be a letter written by me; but, in point of fact, it was, first, a German 287 translation of a letter which I did write; and, in the next place, an English translation from that German translation. I have no great desire to correct the errors of the press, or to repel the attacks that are made upon me in consequence of those errors; but here is the letter which I did actually write, and by which I would prefer to he bound rather than by any double translation. I presume nobody would wish me to read any other part of it than that which relates to the subject immediately under discussion. An address had been presented to me by certain merchants; and I answered the address by expressing my gratification at their approval of the three principal measures connected with the financial and commercial policy of the country, which it had been my duty, as the Chief Minister of the Crown, to propose to Parliament. I then said—The property-tax was intended not merely to supply a deficit in the revenue, as compared with the public expenditure, but to lay the foundation for a juster principle of taxation; to afford the means for repealing duties on the raw materials of important manufactures; for exempting great branches of domestic industry (the manufacture of glass, for example) from vexatious regulations of excise; and for remitting or reducing taxation on several articles imported from abroad, which are essential to the comfort and enjoyment of the industrious classes of the community.Now, I beg to ask whether the imposition of the income-tax was not the foundation of the commercial policy of the country? Why, is it possible that I could propose the remission of taxes to an amount of no less than 7,500,000l. if I had not, as a foundation for that commercial policy, an income-tax to fall back upon? There were 1,200 articles of consumption which were subject to duty, either of Customs or of Excise, and many of which duties led to restrictions of a vexatious nature, and which were felt to be more onerous than the amount of duty imposed. On 700 of those articles the duties were reduced; and on not less than 500 of them, in the course of three years, the duties were entirely repealed. Was it not to lay the foundation of such a commercial policy that the House of Commons assented to the temporary imposition of an income-tax? Did any one at the time say "No" to it? True, you did not in express words say that the income-tax was to be the foundation of such a policy; but the language used by me was identically that I have just now quoted. When, in March, 1842, I invited you to consent to the imposition of this tax, insinuations were thrown out 288 that the Government was not in earnest in proposing so great a change in the commercial policy of the country, and that we had not expressly stated that the existence of the Government depended upon your assenting to the proposition. Now, what is the fact? On the 23rd of March, 1842, before the House of Commons assented to the measure, they heard these words from me:—I propose this as a measure which involves the fate of the Government. I do propose it—I speak not of minor details, but of the measure itself—as the basis of the financial and commercial policy of the country, and as a measure which I never could have consented to propose if I did not manifest my conviction of its necessity by risking my fate as a Minister upon it.These were actually the expressions I then used. I certainly did, on that occasion, intimate a strong doubt whether it would not be better, in order to give full scope to the new commercial policy that had been adopted, to impose the income-tax for a period of five years rather than of three; though, at the same time, I entertained, and indeed intimated a hope—a sanguine hope—that it might be possible to dispense with the continuance of the tax after a period of three years. I can say, with truth, that I had no covert design, at that mo-moment, of perpetuating the tax. I then thought that a revival of trade would so increase the ordinary sources of the revenue as to enable the Government to consider whether the income-tax might not, with perfect safety, be discontinued. When the House went into Committee on the 5th of April, 1845, it was believed that there would be a surplus of 5,000,000l.; but, although my expectations in that respect were disappointed, yet the buoyancy of the ordinary sources of revenue had been such as to afford an amount sufficient to supply the void which had been occasioned by the repeal of taxes in previous years. It was with a full knowledge of these facts on the part of the House of Commons that I ventured to propose to them the continuation of the income-tax. Now, if the House regret that measure, then, as I said before, they have a right to express their regret, and to take a different course. But I don't want to shelter myself under their authority. As long as I live I shall never repent that I proposed that alteration in the commercial policy of the country, and that I induced the House of Commons—not by fascination—not by smuggling—but by a full and explicit statement of the financial affairs of the country, to continue 289 the tax; and that I induced the House to supply the place of the large reduction of duties upon imports, by imposing a tax upon the income and property of the country. At the time the income-tax was originally proposed (and this is a point which is not altogether immaterial to the present argument), I was told that the substitution of direct taxation for indirect taxation, to the extent I proposed to substitute it, was most unwise, and that I should find, that although I might derive a large sum from the income-tax itself, yet I should at the same time have to make a large deduction from the revenue generally on account of the defalcations that would occur in the amount derived from indirect taxation, which deficiency would bear a corresponding relation to the increase arising from the income-tax. Now, that is not the case. In the year 1842, when I proposed the income-tax, the assessed taxes amounted to 4,190,000l. That was before direct taxation was imposed at all. In 1847 the same assessed taxes produced 4,334,000l., notwithstanding the existence of the income-tax during the whole period between 1842 and 1847: so far, therefore, from there being a decrease in the revenue derived from the assessed taxes on account of the simultaneous imposition of an income-tax, there was an increase of more than 100,000l. in the receipt of the assessed taxes for last year. Neither in 1842 nor in 1845 did I mean to lay down any principle with regard to the proportion which direct taxation should bear to indirect taxation. I said this only—that I thought the proposal to impose a tax of three per cent upon the revenue of the country, after taking off the duties upon the raw materials employed in our manufactures, and after diminishing other taxes, the high rate of which led to smuggling, would be beneficial to the public; and that the substitution of a 3 per cent income-tax for the taxes so repealed or diminished would be just. I am quite aware that there are limits to direct taxation, and I do not agree with those who would substitute direct for indirect taxation. I do not think you could, except for a special and temporary purpose, wisely carry direct taxation to a much greater extent than you have already carried it. But you must, nevertheless, admit that there is a great inducement in evil times to take a revenue from indirect rather than from direct taxation. Although I may think that the imposition of direct taxation is preferable as compared to indirect 290 taxation, yet I am not at all prepared to assert that direct taxation should, without mature consideration, be substituted for indirect taxation. I held that opinion in 1842, and also in 1845, and I hold it now. I voted against the proposal which was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Horsman) the other night—a proposal which he seemed to think, on account of the difficulties of the subject, he had not clearly explained, but which I must say was perfectly intelligible to me; at the same time, I found it quite impossible to assent to it. Now, I believe, I entertain opinions at variance with a large body of the Members of this House on the subject of the income-tax. I admit there are many individual cases of great hardship under a tax of that description. Taking the circumstances of individual cases into consideration, instances of hardship cannot be denied; but I do not assent to the proposition that it is therefore an unjust tax. I think while the tax exists it ought to be a tax upon income. If, indeed, you intend to make a great national exertion, and propose to lay a tax upon capital, why then tax it. Suppose, for instance, it was proposed to pay off the national debt, it might be desirable, in that case, to make a great exertion. I am not saying that any such exertion is desirable. On the contrary, I am speaking now of an annual exertion only which is required to be made to meet an annual demand; and I must say, after having given the subject repeated consideration, I think the tax ought to be on income, and that there should be no distinction made in the amount of the tax on account of the different sources from which the incomes are derived. I never would consent to relieve from the tax, incomes derived from trade and from professions, for the purpose of making an invidious and, as I think, an unjust distinction, by levying such a tax upon funded or what is called realised property. I think an effort ought to be made to meet the annual demand of the country by the annual exertion of the country, inasmuch as the annual income of the country depends upon that exertion. Why, that is really the principle upon which all your taxes are founded—all those taxes for which this income-tax is a substitute. Surely, all the taxes which have been repealed fall equally heavily upon the professional man as upon the man of realised property. You make no distinction as to those who pay taxes on articles of luxury or who pay the assessed 291 taxes, whether they be professional men or possess realised property. By repealing the taxes on articles of luxury you benefit all parties equally, and therefore it seems to me that the onus of the tax which you substitute for those you have repealed, ought to be borne equally by all, whatever may be the source of their income. If you were to attempt to make the distinction such as the hon. Member for Cockermouth has suggested, it would be fallacious, and the same difficulties which are now pointed out in respect to the incomes of professional men and men of real property would occur. No principle can, in my opinion, be devised which would be more just, or, I would rather say, would be more free from objection, than that which you are desirous of seeing removed. It was upon that principle that I proposed the imposition of the income-tax in 1842, and its renewal in 1845; and subsequent consideration has confirmed me in the opinion that any attempt to impose a greater annual burden upon income derived from realised property would, apart from the objection that the public faith is pledged to the contrary in the case of the funds, lead to consequences which I am not prepared to contemplate, and which I should dread to see accomplished. Sir, I am not prepared to recommend an increase of direct taxation, nor a departure from the principle, at least, on which the present amount of direct taxation is founded. I come now to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume), whether this tax shall be continued for three years or for one. I shall give my decided support to the proposition of the Government for maintaining the tax for a period of three years. The hon. Gentleman proposes that the tax shall be continued for one year only. With his opinions that immense reductions can safely be made in the amount of our military and naval expenditure, that proposal is a consistent one. But how the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) can vote for the proposition for continuing the income-tax for one year, I do not so well understand. The hon. Gentleman says he shall give his cordial support to the Government in their resolution to maintain the whole of the force now on foot, considering that they have wisely, under existing circumstances, determined not to reduce that force. Well, then, if the present amount of force is to be maintained—and I am decidedly of opinion that 292 it ought to be maintained—I cannot foresee any such reductions in the estimates as will enable us to dispense with the income-tax in 1849. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire says, "True, I support the estimates of the Government; but there are some other items of expenditure in which I think retrenchments may be made." I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Gentleman; but my expectations were greatly disappointed when I found that one great retrenchment was to be made by saving the expense of the Commission for Charities; while the other proposition was to save the expense that might occur if the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring) were again sent to inquire into the manner of keeping accounts in foreign countries. Whatever we have paid the hon. Gentleman is irrecoverable. But suppose you apply the principle; well, then, I suppose you would make a saving of l,000l. That is a very small saving; and the proposition of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire only shows that if such suggestions can be offered as saving the expense of the Commission for Charities, or the saving of such a salary as might be paid to the hon. Member for Bolton for inquiring into foreign accounts—it only shows, I say, that if the amount of our military force is to be maintained, we cannot expect any great reduction in our expenditure, even if the hon. Gentleman should be added to the Committee. I do not say one word against reduction. I confess I have been alarmed at the gradual increase of our expenditure. Of the responsibility for that increase the House of Commons is not exempt from a great portion. It is owing in a considerable measure to the suggestions offered in this House. I think that the increase which has taken place at the instance of the Government is very large on some items of expenditure; but then those items were of essential importance. I think it would not be difficult to convince the House of the absolute necessity that existed for making some additions in our different dockyards to the efficiency of our steam force. When, in 1842, I came to look to the state of the defences, I found it absolutely necessary to complete the fortifications of such places as Portsmouth and Plymouth, with a view of, at all events, protecting them from any sudden attack. As to the various classes of military officers, the numbers of which have been increased, that increase originated in the 293 suggestions of the House—suggestions which more than one Government have been blamed for not having given sufficient weight to. At the same time, I should have given my assent to the continuance of the tax in question with the utmost reluctance, did I think that that continuance would tend to withdraw the items of our expenditure from the most careful revision. But I am not so sanguine as some hon. Gentlemen relative to the immediate effects of economy and retrenchment. Many instances of retrenchment may lead to an immediate and temporary increase of expenditure. You must not calculate on any such sudden reduction of expenditure as will enable you to dispense with a very large amount of expense incurred in the great branches of the service. Mind, I say not a word against the proposed inquiry into this subject—against the necessity for a searching investigation. In 1835, the estimates were undoubtedly lower than at any other period; but they were so low that the House was obliged to assent to their increase; while, as a general rule, it will be found that their reduction, if carried on too precipitately, although it may lead to a temporary saving, may yet necessitate at some future period a corresponding increase of expenditure. I shall give my vote, Sir, for the continuance of this tax for a longer period than that which the hon. Gentleman proposes, because I am deeply convinced both of the necessity of economy on the one hand, and of the necessity of maintaining inviolate the public credit on the other. No doubt hon. Gentlemen say, "Oh, as to the public credit, there can be no question; but let the system of taxation be revised—let the burden be more equally adjusted." The feeling is, of course, unanimous as to the public credit. Well, Sir, but I would rather have the income-tax in reserve before I come to consider this amended system of taxation. Suppose that new system to be proposed on the 1st of February next, with the certainty that the income-tax must expire on the 5th of April. Now, notwithstanding all the professions of your determination in the abstract to support the public credit, I have so much dread of the failure of this new method of taxation before the 5th of April, that, having a due regard for the public credit, I should like to have the income-tax to fall back upon in the contingency—the possible contingency—of the new system not being relished, or not Working successfully. If it should succeed, 294 then you can repeal the income-tax. At all events, its existence will give time for more mature consideration, without shaking the confidence of the public creditor. But I cannot conceive it possible that there will be such a reduction in public expenditure as to enable you to dispense, with 5,000,000l. per annum. Neither do I think that you could be prepared with a general scheme of taxation likely to command success. My conviction is, that you can propose no tax raising five millions of money which can be collected at anything like the rate at which the income-tax is levied. You cannot impose a tax returning two and a half millions without going to the expense of one-third more in its collection than the income-tax costs you. For these reasons I shall cordially support the proposal of Government for continuing this tax for three years. I do not entertain the shadow of a doubt as to the House assenting to it. If Government felt it to be their duty to recommend a strenuous exertion for the purpose of meeting a probable deficit by increased taxation, it would be with the utmost reluctance that I should offer any opposition. I do not mean to blame the Government, considering the strong feeling against any increase in the income-tax; I do not moan to blame them for the discretion which they exercised in withdrawing the proposition for that increase; for the circumstances of the times are such that great allowances must be made. As to an increase of revenue, we have no doubt been disappointed in regard to the customs duties; but there never was such a combination of circumstances affecting that increase as that which has existed during the last two years, and by which the trade and commercial energies of the country have been hampered. And, Sir, I feel it to be my duty, in this day of commercial depression, to assert my continued adherence to the principles on which the late remissions took place. I have the utmost confidence in the justice of those principles, although their operation has been interfered with by that combination of events to which I have alluded. Why, Sir, there was the necessity for supporting the people of one part of the empire. Ten millions were raised by way of loan. There was the necessity for the importation of an enormous quantity of grain for home consumption. There was the derangement which took place from other causes in the commercial routine of the country. But, Sir, these events, so 295 far from making me regret the measures which were carried into effect with the view to the improvement of our commercial system, or of causing me to distrust the principles on which these measures were founded—the experience of past events, however disheartening in some respects, has led me, for one, to a totally opposite conclusion to that unfavourable one which has been drawn from it. At the time these measures were proposed, I believed that their principles were sound and good; and I still maintain the most confident expectation that the energies of this country will rise superior to the present pressure, and that we shall live to see the time when the revenue will be as prosperous as it was in 1845. I repeat, we may hope speedily to see a very considerable increase in the ordinary revenue of the country. With that increase, and the retrenchments which may be made, I think that there is every prospect of the finances of the country being placed on a more satisfactory footing than they now stand on. But one of my reasons for consenting to allow the income-tax to he continued for three years is, that only last year, in a time of peace, you were obliged to add 10,000,000l. to the debt; and on that very account increased exertion ought to be made to meet the expenditure of the country. I wish that could be done without touching the balances in the Exchequer, and risking a greater degree of dependence upon the Bank than may be altogether agreeable. But, as I said before, though any proposal for increased exertion on the part of the country would have met with my concurrence, I do not blame the Government for withdrawing their original proposal for an income-tax of 5 per cent. I must own I shall be influenced in my support of the proposal made by the Government by a reference to the wonderful events which have taken place within a very recent period in a neighbouring country. I think they are an ample justification for this country not consenting to incur any risk of a larger deficit for a period of three years. I conceive it to be utterly inconsistent with sound policy not to make any reference to events which must have filled us all with astonishment. Of this I am perfectly confident, that the true policy of this country dictates the most complete and absolute abstinence from all interference in the internal affairs of that country in which such a wonderful social revolution has taken place. I hope, however, 296 that we shall not fail to exercise the rights of hospitality. It is of the utmost importance to the interests of humanity that this country should be a place of refuge for the victims of all great political changes. It has been so in other times, and I trust it will long continue to be so. But when, on former occasions, political exiles, after having been received in this country, and partaken of its hospitality, have taken advantage of their position to disturb monarchical governments in other countries, I have always protested against such an abuse; and I now declare that I apply the same rule to those who would endeavour to disturb a republican Government. Whilst, therefore, I trust that this country may continue to be a place of refuge for the victims of political revolutions, I do hope that its hospitality will not be abused for the purpose of making it the focus of intrigues against the Government of another country. The same rule which is good for a monarchy is equally good for a republic. I heard, with great satisfaction, the declaration that our Government has wisely determined to abstain from all interference in the internal concerns of France; and I am convinced that the principle so proclaimed will be acted upon with perfect good faith and scrupulous honour; and that the Government will not only abstain from any such interference on its own part, but will discourage any abuse of our hospitality for a purpose of interference on the part of others. I purposely abstain from any more particular allusion to the portentous events which have occurred in France. That country is still in the agonies and throes of a great social revolution. I attach not too much importance to what may appear in this newspaper or in that. A Provisional Government, merely, is at present established, until a more regular one can be formed; but I venture to express an earnest hope that those who direct the destinies of France will be content to occupy themselves with their own social condition. I hope it will be in the power of France to exhibit a government strong in its own internal resources—which will be able to reconcile perfect independence with regard for the rights established by treaties—and which will not set us the example of that aggression, that desire for territorial aggrandizement, which may interrupt the peace of Europe, and inflict irreparable misfortune on the whole civilised world.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
The question 297 before the House is not whether we shall refuse or accede to such a measure of taxation as will maintain the public credit of this country, but whether or not we should maintain the undoubted power of this House, or whether we should part with that power of revising the taxation of the country. The right hon. Baronet, who has on this occasion "fought all his battles o'er again," has gone back to the year 1842; and since that is the case I shall take the liberty to go back a year farther. The right hon. Baronet would have us believe that he deceived no one in 1842; and that we perfectly well knew in 1842 that when he proposed the income-tax, it was to lay the foundation of a change in our commercial system by which he has since been enabled to revise the tariff. I maintain it was to the burghers of Elbing that he for the first time confided that it was his intention to deprive the agricultural and colonial interests of Great Britain of their long enjoyed protection. I must remind him that in the month of May, 1841, he supported two resolutions in this House, by one of which he succeeded in defeating the Government of Lord Melbourne, who proposed to admit foreign sugar at a fixed duty of 12s. per cwt. Then we were told "that not only the interest but the honour of this country required" that slave-grown sugar should be excluded from the consumption of Great Britain. But, in 1846, we heard no more from the right hon. Gentleman that either the honour or the interest of the country required such exclusion. Next there was another resolution with regard to the admission of foreign corn at a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter. That too the right hon. Gentleman then thought it his duty to resist; and the right hon. Gentleman to-night tells you "that till the last hour of his life he never shall repent of the change he has made in our commercial policy." I appeal to my hon. Friends around me and ask them whether to the last hour of their lives they will ever cease to repent their misplaced confidence in the right hon. Baronet, by which they enabled him to turn out Lord Melbourne and take his place on the false pretence that he would preserve to the agricultural interest a protection better than a fixed duty of 8s. per quarter on wheat, and that he would preserve to the colonial interest a protection better than a fixed duty of 12s. per cwt on foreign sugar? The right hon. Gentleman 298 has just now tried to prevail upon the House to believe that, in 1842, he introduced the income and property-tax with a view to commercial reforms; but I remember the language which he held in 1842, and then the right hon. Baronet said that he contemplated the possibility of the tax being continued for five years; still as it was not his intention to maintain that tax longer than was "absolutely necessary"—[Cheers]—yes "necessary" was the word—he would only ask the House to confirm that tax for three years. What was the principal tax pressing upon what he called the industry of the country which he did repeal in 1842? It was the timber duty; but, at the same time, when the right hon. Gentleman in 1842 reduced the duty on timber of foreign growth, he reduced the duty also on timber of colonial growth. There was, therefore, no reason to calculate that he intended to put foreigners on an equal footing with our colonists. But the right hon. Gentleman says he came afterwards in 1845, and then he frankly told the House that he had got five millions of taxes to dispose of, and that it remained with the House to choose whether they would maintain our national defences and increase the Army and Navy Estimates; and whether they would avail themselves of the continuance of the income-tax to reduce the price of the articles of consumption in the country, and that it was perfectly competent for the House to reject his proposition altogether. But in 1845 we did not hear a word of the right hon. Gentleman's intention to let foreign corn in free of duty. Up to this time the tendency of his measures was not to expose the British agriculturist to the force of foreign competition; still less was its tendency to expose the British West Indian, or the grower of sugar in the Mauritius or the East Indies, to the admission of slave-grown sugar. Quite the contrary; he reduced the duty on British Plantation sugar, and maintained the exclusion of foreign slave-grown sugar. The other principal taxes removed were taxes of excise paid wholly by Englishmen. Not one word did the right hon. Gentleman then whisper of any intention altogether to revoke—not one word did he then utter of his intention to overthrow—the great protective commercial policy which he came into power to uphold. Very possibly such might have been the mental reservation at he time of the right hon. Gentleman—The fox barks not when he would steal the lamb,299 How did this House stand at that time, or, at least, how did the great majority which then existed stand? It may he true that some of the number—and I was one of them—may have thought that the repeal of the duty on cotton wool to the amount of 650,000l. was so much revenue thrown away; but how did we stand in other respects? Were we not taught to imagine that it depended upon our support that the agricultural interest, the colonial interest, the navigation laws, and public credit, should be maintained; or whether we should turn out the Government and throw ourselves into the arms of a Government prepared to carry out all the measures we so much abhorred, which the right hon. Baronet carried out himself in the year following? That we supported the reimposition of the property and income-tax in 1845 is altogether attributable to our having been so entirely deceived, so completely deluded, by the right hon. Baronet. But I beg leave to remind that right hon. Baronet, and I beg leave also to remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said the other evening "that we were never promised that the income-tax should end," that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth distinctly told us "that such was the elasticity of commerce in this great commercial country, that three years would not expire before he would be able altogether to dispense with the property and income-tax." So much for the right hon. Baronet in his capacity of a prophet. But we have not to go so far back as 1845 for a prophecy. On the 25th of July last year, in addressing the electors of Tamworth, the right hon. Baronet glorified himself, not only on his "prophecies," but that he was not "one of those prophets who prophesied wisely after events." After reviewing what he called the perfect success of his commercial measures, he reminded the electors of Tamworth of a speech he made in 1845, "when he predicted, that by the end of the term of three years, such would be the commercial prosperity produced by his great reforms, that he should be able to dispense with the tax altogether." Now, that speech is only eight months old, and here we are with a deficiency in the revenue, and a proposal to renew the income-tax for three years longer. The right hon. Baronet, too, when indulging, in July last, in "a fool's paradise" as to the unalloyed advantages to arise from the change in the 300 sugar duties, took great credit to himself for having supported Her Majesty's Ministers in carrying out this "wise" policy, and triumphant reference was made to the additional revenue which had arisen from the change. The House and the country, however, now knows something of the result of that great experiment. It is true that some 640,000l. has accrued to the revenue; but it is no less true that merchants, brokers, and planters connected with the sugar trade, have, one and all, been involved in ruin to the extent of some 6,000,000l. sterling. To prop up your miserable financial measure, you have been obliged to feed the population of the Mauritius with rice out of the imperial chest—obliged to advance 450,000l.—I hope you may get it back again—upon the security of sugar from the Mauritius. And while we hear on all sides that the British plantations are to be abandoned, while by the packet which arrived last night we learn that Demerara is one scene of incendiary fires—that the Governor has issued proclamations offering rewards of 500 and 1,000 dollars for the discovery of the offenders: this is only one of the first practical results of your attempt to apply the doctrines of political economy to free labourers—asking them first, and next endeavouring to compel them, to submit to wages reduced to the scale which can alone leave their employers the means of a living. The same state of things meets you on every side in your western colonies; while, so far as the Mauritius is concerned, I venture to say that, but for the intelligence from France of the intention of the Provisional Government to emancipate the slaves in the French colonies, many years would not elapse before England would have to fight a battle for the retention of the Mauritius. Two years, I say, would not elapse before England would have to fight for the retention of the Mauritius, looking at the natural anxiety of the French colonists in the Mauritius to be restored to French dominion, in order that they may be restored to the commercial protection which their sister colonies flourish under. ["Question!"] I beg your pardon. Whoever thinks I am not speaking to the question, let him rise. I tell you that your free-trade speculations, while they operate now most cruelly upon your own colonists, and upon your own people, must be retraced in the end, and that till this be done the money you get by your financial measures with one 301 hand, will be lost in the payment of troops with the other hand to keep your colonies quiet. Well, Sir, the question I now ask is, have the measures of free trade answered? I ask the question, because the point I am to moot is this—whether we are to agree to the property and income-tax to obtain revenue for three years, or whether we are to endeavour to obtain revenue from import duties and to reduce the expenditure to the year's income. I tell you that the House must retrace its steps—that you must abandon your mischievous policy—and that you must seek a revenue such as that which the United States derive from duties on foreign imports. ["Question!"] Hon. Gentlemen who think I am not speaking to the question are mistaken. I am speaking very closely to the question. The question is, how we are to raise taxes?—by income-tax with free trade, or by revenue duties on foreign imports? And I beg leave to say this, that whatever may be the opinions of hon. Gentlemen who were elected in July or August last, I doubt, if they were sent back to their constituents, whether they would find them altogether so free-trade mad as they were when the right hon. Baronet told the country, on the 23rd of last July, that such was the success of his measures that at the end of next year the revenue would meet the expenditure without any property or income-tax being required. I tell you that you must go back to the system of indirect taxation. I am no advocate for the Excise; and that was one reason among others that induced me to support the income-tax; it did away with two largo excise taxes, enabling you also to dispense with I know not how many excise officers, and an expense of collection of 10 or 12 per cent. But your taxes on foreign imports costs you nothing. So long as you have a tax even of 1s, a pound on tobacco, I believe you will find it necessary to place tidewaiters on board of vessels laden with cotton wool to guard against smuggling. These tidewaiters, therefore, at the same cost, might as well be employed in levying a halfpenny duty upon the cotton, as merely watching lest a few pounds of tobacco concealed in bales of cotton should be smuggled ashore. But my argument is this, with respect to foreign imports, that when you put your taxes on the industry of foreigners, these foreigners pay a large portion of the tax so imposed. Of this I can give you no better 302 proof than was afforded by the cases of brandy, timber, tallow, and cotton. You took off the duty on brandy in 1846, and instantly the price rose in bond Is. 2d. per gallon; and the matter has ended in this, that the price of brandy which in 1845 was 4s. 3d., in 1847 was 5s. 11½d.; and the gross result is, that while you consumed one-third more in 1847 than you did in 1845, at a loss to the revenue of some 12,000l, you pay for the raw article in bond nearly half as much again as you did in 1845. My argument, therefore, is, that when you took your duty off foreign brandy, a considerable portion of the reduction of 7s. 10d. went into the pocket of the French producer. I have no doubt the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell) will boast, as he has already boasted, of the great success of that measure, and he will tell how much it has added to the comforts of the people, with little loss to the revenue; but I beg leave to remind the hon. Gentleman and this House, that old Chancellors of the Exchequer, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Mr. Herries) will tell you, used, when they proposed to take a duty off one description of spirits, to consider how the reduction would bear upon the duty realised upon another; and, I think, if I were to ask my right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer how it fares with him on spirits in general, he would tell the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool that any increase in the consumption of brandy was more than counterbalanced by the loss on wines, on British spirits, and on malt. ["Question!"] I bog pardon of the House if I am trespassing too much on its indulgence; but I think I am addressing myself strictly to the "question." I am now going to the matter of the timber duties. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) arranged that timber, which in 1842 paid 55s. a load, should be reduced in April next to 15s. Colonial timber has fallen largely in consequence; but how fares it with Baltic timber? Just this, that Memel timber, which sold for 48s. 6d. before the duty was reduced, has risen to 59s. 4¼d. in 1848; thus nearly 11s. of the duty remitted had gone into the pockets of foreigners, who on 774,000 loads of timber consumed in this country, had last year pocketed a sum of about 425,000l. Tallow is in the same position. The duty was reduced from 3s. 2d. to 1s. 6d., and the consequence is that the price has risen to the consumer 303 in this country from 42s. 6d. to 48s. per cwt. So it is with all the other articles upon which duties were reduced. As regards sugar, in eight months after the reduction, foreign sugar went up 6l. a ton, while colonial went down 7l. a ton. Here, then, by effecting a reduction indirectly, which rendered the free-labour producer altogether unable to compete with the slave-grower, the difference has gone into the pocket of the latter. Let us look now at the duty upon corn. The revenue from the old law on an average was 850,000l. a year; and I ask would it not have been better for this country to have retained that revenue rather than have allowed the money to pass into the pockets of foreigners? I am speaking of the average of past years; but let me call the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to one thing. I think he said the House did carry the suspension of the duty without objection. If I may be allowed to refer to one so humble as myself, I may be permitted to say that I read in the Times and the Morning Chronicle of that period statements to the effect that Lord George Bentinck denounced the Ministry for not sooner repealing the corn law. This certainly surprised me, and I began to think I must have come down to this House some day in 1847, drunk or dreaming, and denounced the Ministry for not repealing the corn law. I looked up Hansard, however, and found that at a time when I was not speaking for myself alone, as I now do, but for my friends, so far from denouncing the Ministry, I defended them for not taking off the 4s. duty. In January, last year, I declared, in my opinion, "if they did take off the duty, the difference would go into the pocket of the corn importer and speculator, and, what I should grudge more, into the pocket of the American grower." And I then said, that "although I would not divide the House, yet if I had the power of preventing the suspension, I would do so." I stated also that the Government, by maintaining the duty, would be adopting a course which would so far enable them to meet the distress in Ireland. That was the language which was held on this side of the House. Yesterday morning there was presented to this House a return with the name of Mr. Sandars on the back. I have taken the trouble to look it over, and I now ask the House what they think is the amount of duty which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 304 in his excessive profuseness, abandoned by his suspension of the corn law? Sir, taken at the lowest duty—that is, 4s. on wheat; 2s. on barley, beans, and peas; 1s. 6d. on oats; and 1s. on Indian corn—it amounts to no less a sum than 1,745,000l.; whilst we all remember that the very day after the resolution passed remitting the 4s. duty, the price of foreign wheat went up to the whole amount of the duty remitted. Thus the Americans and other foreigners got all the benefit of the reduction of this duty—the consumer none of it. Well, then, Sir, my proposition is in no way to injure public credit. Indeed, no man is more ready than I am to maintain the good faith of this country, or less disposed than I am—especially at this period—to weaken the naval or the military power of the nation. I have heard from some Gentlemen in this House, that the way to secure peace is to disarm ourselves; and that, by showing how defenceless we are, we shall remove all cause of jealousy and all cause of provocation with reference to foreign countries. There is no man in this House who has less wish to commit any act of aggression against France than I have—no man, whether in this country or in France itself, has looked with more satisfaction and admiration than I have on the moderation, mercy, and magnanimity which have been displayed by that nation under, I must say, great provocation—and I do not believe that all history records any precedent of conduct so moderate and magnanimous under similar circumstances. And, Sir, so far as their internal government and institutions are concerned, I will not be so impertinent as to cast a sneer on them, whether they be good or not; and it is my desire, if the people of France prefer to have republican institutions, that those institutions may prove as advantageous to that country as they have to our transatlantic rivals. But when I think of the chivalry which the French nation have displayed on this occasion, I cannot but feel that chivalry is not unfrequently allied with a desire for military glory; and that however much the Government of France may desire peace, it is impossible yet to say what may be the upshot of the great change that has taken place in that country, and that ambitious leaders may not again arise and proclaim to France that she ought to have a Rhenish boundary. I cannot, too—however much I may regret it—I cannot forget that England is bound by treaties 305 from which she cannot recede, to retain the Rhenish provinces for Prussia—so that it is possible that, after all, we might be drawn into a war; and I, for one, therefore, will not consent to leave either the naval or the military arms of this country defenceless. But to come back to the question of taxation, my opinion is that you can levy taxes, not merely enough to meet the necessities of this year—for I am not supporting the removal of the income-tax altogether, I am only proposing to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose to limit its present duration for one year—but that you may levy taxes by other means than those now in operation, as a permanent measure of finance amply sufficient to meet all the requirements of the State. I say, that, by maintaining permanently the corn law, which comes again into effect, I believe, on this very day, you may obtain from it alone a revenue of at least 850,000l., if not double that sum; whilst by putting back 20s. of the duty you have removed from Baltic timber, you may raise a sum under that head of some 700,000l. more. If, too, it were earlier in the night, I would show you that, far from prosperity having attended the cotton manufactures of Great Britain, in consequence of the surrender of the duty of 5–16ths of a penny on raw cotton, amounting to 650,000l. a year, the date of their decay might almost be traced to the day when you removed those duties, which duties served at once as duties of revenue, and duties of protection to the cultivator of cotton in our East Indian possessions. This at least you cannot deny—the operatives engaged in those manufactures were never before for so long a period, or in such numbers, out of work; and I would further show you that, although it is said that the cotton manufactures were equally depressed in the year 1826, yet that the falling-off in the consumption of cotton in 1847 is equal to the whole cotton trade of England on the average of the four years ending with 1826. I well remember Mr. Huskisson's advice, that we should foster the growth and cultivation of cotton in the East Indies. But how is it now? You let the cotton of the United States come into this country free of duty, whilst you raise a heavy land-tax in India on the cotton lands, to maintain your expenses there, amounting to a duty on cotton of far more than five-sixteenths of a penny per pound; so that the result of your ill-considered legislation is to give a 306 premium to the monopoly of the United States, and it is from that monopoly that you are now suffering. Why, Sir, the cotton growers of the United States, during the last two years, and notwithstanding their reduced crops, have made so much larger profits than in other years, that they can afford to hold back their cotton, and make England pay the price they choose to ask for it. A tax, then, on foreign cotton would, I say, be one of the cheapest taxes you could reimpose—a tax that would bring you in about 650,000l. of revenue—and you would thus be taking a lesson out of the books of the United States. And what is the state of the American revenue? I have the authority of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden) on this point; for the hon. Gentleman, in the course of his triumphal progress from Cadiz to St. Petersburgh, passed by Genoa on his route, and there, in addressing his free-trade friends, he greatly lauded the United States of America because they derived nine-tenths of all their revenues from duties upon customs. He might have added, had he thought fit, that, in consequence of the equalisation of their tariff in 1846, the result was that their duties, levied on all articles of British industry, averaged 28 per cent ad valorem. Now, then, I am disposed to return the compliment to the united States, in a moderate and modest way, not to raise our duties against them to 28 per cent, but, at all events, to levy duties to the extent of 10 per cent or upwards, on the produce of the United States. The article of tallow is one upon which a duty of 10 per cent might be raised; in short, I would put 10 or 15 per cent on all raw articles of foreign produce imported into this country; and, in the case of silk and other manufactures, a duty of 30 per cent; and then, Sir, we should have no need of any property or income taxes. Whilst upon this subject of silk, Sir, I may observe that I had, during the past week, some of the wretched, suffering, Spitalfields weavers to wait upon me, and they told me that, whereas in 1836 there were no fewer than 14,000 looms in Spitalfields, in 1845, after their trade had been dabbled with, they were reduced to 10,000—and on this day, Sir, of those 10,000 looms only 3,500 are working. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth and the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) sitting on the third bench behind him, who promised 307 Such high wages to the people of this country, and such cheap bread, will be greatly disconcerted, no doubt, to hear that pauperism in those districts has increased 100 per cent—whilst wages, where there are any wages at all, are reduced fifteen per cent. There has been in the same time an increase of 100,0001b. weight in the import of French silk manufactures, 100,0001bs. weight of French and foreign European silk goods at the ordinary estimated value of 31. sterling the pound weight, representing 300,000l. sterling, of which 50 per cent would go into the wages of weavers alone, and 25 per cent into the wages of other persons engaged in the manufacture; so that the result was that by a change in the law by which a considerable revenue had been sacrificed, these poor people had been robbed to the amount of 150,000l. a year, which would have put 3,000 looms into work, and given employment, at 10s. a week, to 6,000 persons. Where, then, is the man who has any feeling in favour of the manufactures of his own country—who loves his own fellow-countrymen better than foreigners—that would not wish to see the additional revenue that would be raised from this article—a revenue of not less than 169,000l.—put into the exchequer of this country, whilst at the same time increased employment would be given to our own people? This is not all; for I am sorry to say the poor shoemakers are in the same miserable plight, owing to the importations from abroad—not only they, but straw-plaiters, artificial flower-makers, and embroiderers, share this wretched distress; indeed, I know not how to enumerate all the trades thus damaged by the commercial and free-trade changes effected by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth. And when I am thus able with truth to tell you that such distress now overwhelms this country as scarcely ever before was known within its bounds, and that all your colonies are in ruin and beggary, the right hon. Baronet has the heart to get up and tell you that, as long as he lives, he never will regret the course he has taken. I remember that the right hon. Baronet prided himself on the comfort he was affording to the Cornish miners by admitting goose feathers duty free, that they might have feather beds to recruit their exhausted strength, and pillows of down on which to rest their weary heads. But it is not necessary for the right hon. Baronet to go so 308 far as Cornwall to contrast the reality with his promises. Let him but go to South Staffordshire—to his own county—and there he will find that, out of 137 furnaces in South Staffordshire, as many as 60 are out of the blast; and the wretched miners, who were promised so much comfort, have had their wages reduced by fifteen per cent. In short, Sir, I look around me on all sides, and, with the exception of the representatives of money bags—the usurers—I confess I cannot discover a single trade that is flourishing. Much the right hon. Gentleman delighted, too, in the measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—much he approved of them; but the country was obliged to suffer in its agony to the last gasp before that right hon. Gentleman would consent to relax the mischievous restriction of his Bank Charter Act, and then only with the accompaniment of nothing less than a premium of eight per cent to the usurers, screwed out of the suffering people. Well, Sir, the taxes I have referred to would amount to about 3,800,000l.; but there is still another tax that might be levied, and at a less cost—I mean the tax of about 850,000l. by means of an additional penny on postage. ["No, no!"] Why, it would not be so great a grievance as an income-tax; and, at all events, there is nothing connected with it in the shape of a vexatious and inquisitorial prying into private and personal concerns. I may remind the free traders, too, who sat in that Committee upon postage some few years ago, of what they seem to have forgotten, that their new post-ago scheme was to have added 2,500,000l. to the revenue—whilst the promoter of it promised that in a very short time—about three years, I think—the number of letters would increase upwards of fivefold. These predictions have signally failed. ["Question!"] Well, I am speaking to "the question;" the question is, whether we shall have a property and income-tax renewed nominally for three years, but virtually renewed as a permanent tax, which has become exceedingly odious to the country—and the more odious because, when imposed in 1842, and afterwards renewed, in 1845, it was distinctly promised that it should be a tax of very short duration—and faith has not been kept with the country in that respect—or whether we shall limit its duration to one year, and seek other modes of raising revenue less burdensome to the people. I think that the country has a right to be dissatisfied 309 when statesmen deceive it with such fake promises as these. I have a right to express my opinion, as a private and independent Member of Parliament, upon these subjects, and to say how it is that I think there are just grounds for the opinion that a revision of our taxation ought to take place, in order that some mode of raising revenue may be adopted that will be less odious to the country than a permanent property and income-tax. Though I have declared that I will not consent to weaken the military or naval arm of the country, it is clear to me that one of two things must happen—either we must retrace our steps, and raise taxes from foreign imports; or, if the luxuries as well as the necessaries of life are to be cheapened 25 per cent—and I take leave to say that the price of sugar is now little more than half what it was in 1844 to the consumers—that we must take 25 per cent off the incomes of all who live on the taxes of the country. We are not to have the wages of the Spitalfields weavers reduced 15, 20, and 25 per cent—we are not to have 10,500 out of employ or working short time on this day in Manchester alone—we are not to have meetings such as I have received an account of this evening, to consider whether or not the operatives of Lancashire and Cheshire are to be sent across the Atlantic to share the fate of the wretched Irish emigrants out of 100,000 of whom 20,000 are represented to have perished on the passage, and since their arrival in Canada. This is not the way to deal with the poor working classes of the people of England; leaving, at the same time, those whom the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon once aptly termed "the large birds of prey," to enjoy their unreduced salaries, while the luxuries and necessaries of life are so very much cheapened. If we are to have this the cheapest country in the world—and cheap because all the labouring classes are to be ground to dust to enrich foreigners—and that annuitants and tax-eaters may purchase cheaply the luxuries as well as the necessaries of life—we must also reduce the salaries of all those whose salaries are paid out of the taxes. We should, for instance, have 25 per cent taken off the salary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; that noble Lord is a great free-trader, and, of course, could not object to the purchase of an Irish Lord Lieutenant in the cheapest market. These are the reasons I have to give why we should bold this tax fast for another year, to see 310 if, in that time, first, we cannot reduce the expenditure; next, whether the country will be able to rise again from the effect of these free and unrestricted imports with a restricted currency, so that the revenue should grow up to the expenditure; and thus retain in our hands the power to reconsider and decide next year whether we are to have an income-tax, or to have recourse to some different mode of taxation. I will, in conclusion, take the liberty of reminding my friends around me of the fable of the Cock and the Fox, and imploring them not to forget how they were beguiled by the soft and persuasive eloquence of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth in 1842 and 1845, to follow the advice to be found in the speech of the Cock to the specious professions of the Fox—An honest man may take a knave's advice,But only idiots are cozened twice;Once warned is well bewared.Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Two o'clock.