HC Deb 08 March 1849 vol 103 cc424-62

Sir, I rise with the hope that I may induce the House of Commons to adopt a great measure of justice, of conciliation, and of policy. It is not my intention, on this occasion, to enter into any details demonstrative of the great distress which exists among the agricultural classes of this country. Whether that distress exist or not, is unnecessary for the argument which I mean to recommend to the attention of the House in the resolutions which I have placed on the table. It is still less necessary to enter into these details, because there is a great authority that this distress does exist. It is only a few nights since an hon. Gentleman, a member of this House, came forward and offered his voluntary evidence, if it were necessary, to establish the fact—a witness not to be suspected of any morbid sympathy for the agricultural class—I mean the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright). He told us the other night that he could not conceal from himself, that the distress amongst the agricultural class was severe and terrible. I am willing to allow this state of affairs to rest on the testimony of that hon. Member. Nor am I going to enter into any inquiry as to the cause of this distress. That is not essential or necessary to the argument which I mean to offer in support of the resolutions which I have placed on the table. But if I wanted to know what was the cause of that distress, I would also appeal to another witness on the benches opposite, one that will be admitted by all as a great and unimpeachable authority—I mean the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden). That hon. Gentleman, on a recent memorable occasion, when he communicated to his assembled fellow-countrymen the programme of his future policy, spoke of the farmers of England with much sympathy, lamented their condition, and acknowledged—which was creditable to his candour and frankness—that in recent changes they had not been fairly dealt with. Nor, in the third place, is it my intention to-night to enter into any controversy as to those changes. It is not, I say, my intention to-night to enter into any controversy as to the policy or impolicy of those changes in the law, to which the hon. Member referred; I am satisfied with allowing, with the hon. Member for the West Riding, that the agricultural classes have not been fairly treated in them. I hold the opinions on those measures such as I have frequently intimated, and sometimes attempted to develop, to the House. I still believe that our new commercial system is founded on erroneous principles. I still believe that in constructing this new system you have mistaken the rules which regulate an advantageous interchange of commodities between nations; that in attempting to obviate the injury and inconvenience of hostile tariffs, by opening our ports, we have adopted a course which tends to the depression of British industry; that under your new system the native labourer must give more of his produce for foreign produce than he heretofore gave; that inasmuch as the precious metals are foreign products, he must consequently receive less of the precious metals for his labour, and have less command over them than he did before; that his labour is tributary to foreign countries in the precise proportion in which it has become less efficient in its command over foreign products; and that you have thus embarked in a course which tends to the degradation of native industry, and which may end in financial convulsion. I still believe that there is but one way to extricate the country from the calamities which it now experiences, and those which are impending—and that is by the frank adoption of the principle of reciprocity as the fundamental principle of your commercial code; and that the only means to be pursued against hostile tariffs are countervailing duties. I have expressed these opinions on this and on other legitimate occasions, because I wish these principles to be pondered over by the country, with the hope, and even the belief, they will ultimately adopt them. Perilous and injurious as I hold the late changes in our commercial system, I do not wish suddenly to subvert them, by appealing to the passions of any suffering classes, or by any party combinations; I wish the change when effected to be permanent, and it can only be permanent by its being called for by the common sense of the country. I look, therefore, for this change to be effected by legitimate means, by public discussion, by private investigation, by the failure of economic prophecies, and by the fruit of sharp experience. On the present occasion, I wish to avoid any angry controversy; but I am unwilling that any one should suppose that I shrink from opinions which I have formerly expressed in this House: on the contrary, the observation of every day and of every hour only confirms me in my convictions. After the change of 1846, which so greatly affected the agricultural interest, I think they are entitled at least to this—that our system of taxation should not press unjustly on them. That is the first proposition which I wish to lay down. The second is, that the unjust taxation of which they complain should be revised, and that there should be a redistribution of these burdens, according to just principles—a redistribution, which I believe will afford them, though by no means complete, yet considerable, relief from the sufferings which they are now enduring. The question which I have to place before the House requires, fortunately, very little statistical detail. Although great controversy has taken place between different interests, as to which had to bear the heaviest burdens, I feel that the question which I have to bring forward is in itself extremely simple, and, like other first principles, is clear and easy of apprehension. It seems, by returns now in the possession of all of us, that the amount of poor and other rates for the year ending Lady-day, 1848, was a sum of not less than 10,000,000l. sterling, and that this was levied by direct taxation on the real property of England. This amount was made up by the poor-rate, and its collateral minor rates, and by the county rate, the highway rate, and the church rate, all of which were levied on real property. I ask you, whether the time has not at last come for inquiring whether it is just that a sum of not less than 10,000,000l. annually should be thus levied, and only levied on the real property of the country? But, independently of this sum of 10,000,000l., there are other direct taxes, levied on real property, which, strictly speaking, are local taxes. For instance, the land tax is assessed and levied by local authorities, and each locality is fixed with the payment of a certain quota, so that I may assert that the real property of this country pays 12,000,000l. of taxes a year, to which no other species of property is subject. To place this question before us in a manner which must carry conviction, let us first ascertain the amount of property upon which this 12,000,000l. is levied, and then compare that amount with the probable annual amount of the whole income of the country. We have the materials for this calculation. Every Gentleman knows that this 10,000,000l.—I might say, generally speaking, 12,000,000l.—is raised on a rental contributed by real property to the amount of 67,000,000l. per annum. This 10,000,000l., then, I repeat, is assessed on a rental of 67,000,000l. There is no difficulty in ascertaining what is the total income of England at this moment. We have a Parliamentary paper—moved for by an hon. Gentleman opposite—numbered 747; it gives the sum of the income tax levied, and the description and amount of the property on which it was levied in England and Wales for the year 1846. This return was laid on the table in 1847, and, by a reference to it, any one can easily calculate what is the total national income liable to this tax. According to this paper, the total income for 1846, as contained in the five schedules, and chargeable with the income tax, was 186,888,958l. But the 67,000,000l., on which the local taxation is assessed, is not entirely contained in this greater sum, for that is confined to property above 150l. per annum, and even cottages are assessed to the poor-rates. In order, therefore, to ascertain the entire income of the country, including that portion which is exempted from the property and income tax—I shall adopt the rule laid down by a high and prudent authority, the Member for Tam-worth, when he introduced his scheme for a property tax in 1842. The right hon. Baronet then took the amount of income under 150l. a year, at a quarter of the whole income of the country, so that to the amount of 186,888,958l. chargeable with the property tax, the sum of 62,296,319l. must be added as the amount of income not chargeable with that tax. These sums make together 249,185,277l. sterling as the total income of the country. Now, the question which I wish to ask the House is, why should this ten or twelve millions sterling of direct taxation be levied only upon a portion of the whole income of the country, a portion little more than a fourth of the whole amount? This is a simple question, one, however, which the country is deeply interested in, and which a great portion of the inhabitants of this country are daily asking. It is requisite that this should be kept clear of all statistical mystification. The income of the country is upwards of 249,000,000l., and yet, for the purposes to which I refer, the assessment is only upon one-fourth of the income of the country. Now, upon what principle of justice do you defend this? What are the objects of these local taxes? The maintenance of the poor of the country—the maintenance of our means of internal communication—the administration of justice, and the support of the sacred edifices of the country. Are not these matters in which all the property of the country is equally interested? Upon what plea can you vindicate the principle which makes only one-fourth of the income of the country liable to these great charges? This question has been incidentally asked the House before; treated cursorily, I might even observe without offence to any one, superficially. Attempts have often been made to raise idle and odious controversies as to the classes which contributed most to the poor-rate, and as to which ought to contribute most to that rate. There have been endless controversies of this kind. It has been on the one side said that the agricultural interest bore the most of the burden, and then it was assorted that the house property in towns contributed equally to it. I do not mean to enter into any discussion on these points. I have no wish to shut my eyes to the fact, that during the last half century, great changes have taken place in the relations borne to each other by the different descriptions of real property, Far from it; I rejoice in the circumstance as a proof of the progress and prosperity of the country, and that a great amount of fixed capital has been thus invested in the land of the country. I agree that the dwellers in towns are assessed to the relief of the poor in an amount that it is not at all surprising to me they are clamorous. I admit that they contribute not only in an ample but an excessive manner, and that they may well consider it to be a grievance. I quite sympathise with the owners of real property in towns as to their grievous and heavy assessment. The measure, however, which it is my intention to propose, if the House will go into Committee to-night, will relieve the suffering towns from this burden. It will put an end to those complaints of which we have heard so much from Manchester, Bradford, and other great seats of manufacturing industry. I sympathise with their sufferings, I acknowledge their grievance; and I say it is a vital question to the owners of real property in towns, whether only one-fourth of the property of the country should have the whole burden of local taxation thrown upon it. So it is with other descriptions of real property, the owners of which loudly complain of their rating to the maintenance of the poor. Nothing, for instance, can be more monstrous than the amount of rating on railways for the poor. I quite agree in the justice of their complaints, but I am scarcely prepared to adopt the remedy which has been suggested, namely, the placing the whole burden on the agricultural interest. I acknowledge the grievance as regards railways having to pay so much on their property, while this charge is made to fall upon only one-fourth of the property of the country. If that interest supports the great measure of justice which I hope to introduce to the House, and if it should be adopted, it would relieve them from this great ground of complaint. It is the same with other great trading companies, such as those which supply us with water and light, and who are perpetually wrangling on the subject of poor-rates. I think their complaints perfectly just. Some of my friends think it very well arranged if they can visit a considerable part of these burdens on some of these great companies. On the contrary, I feel for the proscribed interests of real property in every form. I think it most unjust that these water and gas companies should be visited with the portion of taxation which they have to bear, when they are only a section of the one-fourth part of the property of the country. The injustice upon them is most gross, and they will have the opportunity of obtaining redress by supporting the measures I am now anxious to introduce—measures founded in justice, and which, therefore, I believe, will succeed. If we calmly consider this matter in the abstract—if, for example, we were not in England, but travelling in some foreign country, and for the first time became acquainted with a system of finance so remarkable—if we were in a strange land, and learned for the first time that, independently of bearing their share of the whole taxation of the country, there was a private and separate revenue to an enormous amount assessed upon only a fourth part of the property of the realm—what would be the conclusion we should draw? We should say, "This must be that part of the nation that probably is the remnant of some conquered race—this must be some proscribed and oppressed section of the country. Vœ victis! Here is the fruit of a vassalage, which even our civilisation and our political economy have not terminated." Such might perhaps be our conclusion. But who could suppose that this was the peculiar privilege of the rapacious aristocracy—of the persons who have made all the laws—of the persons who, according to the doctrines of the most enlightened of those who now instruct us, have always made those laws for their own advantage? But the most curious thing—the most anomalous part of this almost unparalleled state of affairs—is, that this is not the law of the country. The law of England, which has always been the law of common sense, never for a moment anticipated a conclusion so monstrous and so oppressive. I need not now, considering that those whom I address are familiar with all these details, remind them that the old statutes never enforced, or for a moment anticipated, such a monstrous injustice. That benign and sagacious law, the 43rd of Elizabeth, enacted, that all the inhabitants of England, according to their means, should contribute henceforth to the relief and support of the poor. We all know very well, that in comparatively modern times—in the time of William and Mary—when the land tax was first legally established, that tax was called only in common parlance a land tax, but that it was in fact a tax upon property of all kinds. This is not a question of controversy. To this day the land tax is levied on certain offices under the Crown; offices existing in the time of William and Mary pay their 4s. in the pound to the present day. I believe the Judges of the land pay this tax—a tax, however, I am glad to believe, assessed upon their allowance as settled in the reign of William and Mary, and not of our present gracious Sovereign. Hon. Gentlemen well know that the courts of law have repeatedly in modern times, even in our own times, decided that in this country property of all kinds is liable to those imposts which real property only has continued to bear. And I may remind hon. Gentlemen that stock in trade only escapes the imposition every year by an annual Bill—an annual Bill passed by that same rapacious aristocracy who thus exempt stock in trade from poor-rate, and inflict the whole of it upon that kind of property in which they are peculiarly interested. In the first place, then, I ask hon. Gentlemen what reason can be advanced why, for the objects for which these rates are raised, and these taxes levied, the whole property of a district—I ask no more in the first instance—should not be liable? Whether a man's property be in broad acres, or whether he receive his means from any other sources, surely in either case it is equally liable to the maintenance of the poor; surely he equally in the district vises the roads; surely he equally in the district is interested in the administration of justice; and surely he equally—at least, for the sake of his soul, I hope so—goes to church; as a matter of justice, it seems that no argument can be adduced against the plea. An adverse expediency, indeed, may be suggested. You may say that the system has gone on for a long time, and that it would be most difficult, if not impossible, to extricate ourselves from it. You may say, for example, that nothing is more difficult than to tax personal property in a locality—that it is not only invidious and inquisitorial, but perhaps even impossible. These are arguments, if you choose to call them arguments, which may be used; but no one can say that they meet the principle of justice which is involved in this question—no one can lay down or sustain for a moment the proposition that it is just that all other property, except real property, should be exempt from these rates. It may be convenient, but no one can maintain that it is just. I will admit, fully, frankly, and freely, that the inconvenience, perhaps impossibility, of rating personal property in a locality in a satisfactory manner, is indubitable; but I am of opinion, if we pursue this important inquiry in a less superficial spirit than it has hitherto, from various circumstances, commanded in this House, that we may, perhaps, find that the difficulties will disappear, and that some solution may be found for the problem. In the first place, it ap- pears to me that a great deal of this difficulty arises from a confusion of terms—from the world persisting in associating with the phrase local taxation, as a necessary consequence, that the purposes for which local taxation is inflicted are really of a local nature. I doubt whether it can be shown that the purposes for which this taxation is locally levied are of a local nature. On the contrary, I think they are for purposes of a much wider and more comprehensive character. I will take, for example, the first and most important tax thus directly levied—that for the maintenance of the poor. I know of no reason, à priori, why the maintenance of the poor should be the duty of a locality. The maintenance of the poor is either a matter of police, or a social duty. In looking over the ancient statutes, it may probably appear that our predecessors viewed the matter in the more limited light of police; that it was considered if the people were allowed to perish of famine, mendicity and violence would be necessary consequences; and, certainly, the most convenient to defend the person from assault, and property from rapine, is a poor-law. But I do not understand how, even in this limited view of the question, it is just that a contribution for the purpose should be drawn from one or even from two classes. I believe, however, that the question is to be regarded in a far higher point of view. We recognise throughout this country—and I venture to say it is recognised, without exception, in this House—the principle that the maintenance of the poor is a social duty—a duty justified by high State policy, and consecrated by the sanction of religion. But if the maintenance of the poor be a social duty, it is the duty of every one, according to his means; and in a country like England—an ancient country—of complicated civilisation, it is totally impossible you can lay down as a principle that a particular district should support its own poor, unless you can prove, at the same time, that that district produced those poor—nay, unless you can go further than that—unless you can ensure that district against the consequences of metropolitan or imperial legislation, that these shall not interfere with the employment of the labour of those poor. Why, the very transition from war to peace throws a whole district out of employment; yet that district—that parish—had not undertaken war or declared peace, and, therefore, is not responsible for the maintenance of those whose employment has been destroyed by the one or the other. This is a view of the question which, if followed up in a country like England, will throw a light upon a variety of circumstances. The alteration of a fashion occasions poverty in a district. The invention of a machine in Lancashire will have the effect of throwing a whole village in Northamptonshire out of employ. What are the facts in regard to many of those rural districts of England which have been held up to public reprobation for not employing their poor, and in which an intolerable pauperism has been declared to be one of the consequences of the system of protection? Why, that those parts of the country were once the scats of manufactures, and that a population has been left there by the obsolete manufactures, the labour of which the land has never been able to absorb. This is the cause of that misery and poverty which have prevailed in some of the western counties, and which have been adduced by some hon. Gentlemen as the consequence of protection; forgetting that in some purely agricultural counties, Lincolnshire for example, where there are no obsolete manufactures, wages are very high. So Mr. Huskisson was accustomed to explain the low wages of Sussex as occasioned by a population created by an iron manufacture that no longer flourished. How, therefore, can you call upon a particular district to maintain its own population in an ancient realm, where, from the state of society, such inequalities of condition and such fluctuations of employment must exist? Some may urge that the maintenance of the poor should properly be thrown upon their employers—upon those who have profited by their labour. But in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, the very circumstances which threw the labouring class out of employment, are the causes also of the distress of their employers. If I take the highway rates as an example, the same view of the question immediately arises. It is vary easy to make flippant observations in debate, and to say why don't the farmers pay for the roads made for their use? but, in the first place, it is not historically true that these roads were made for the farmers. If the agricultural classes had the monopoly of these roads—if no one but those classes used these roads—if they were what are called private roads—then there might be some strength in the position. But, inasmuch as everybody uses these roads, and as, until railways were discovered, these roads were covered with all the travelling clerks of the manufacturing establishments in England, inasmuch as you have settled by law that a stranger, although he contribute not one farthing to the maintenance of these roads, can indict the parish if the wheel of his vehicle be injured, you must admit that the public ways are for public purposes, and for public use. Besides, I want to know what item of our expenditure can bear this analysis of local purposes and local objects. Take the case of a gentleman living in a midland county, who, in consequence of the distress which prevails, takes to looking into the estimates—a habit which, I believe, is growing upon gentlemen in many parts of the country. He finds there, for example, an item of some five or seven hundred thousand pounds for the packet service; he might say, "Why am I to be called upon to pay for this packet service? Three-fourths of the letters are carried for the merchants of London and Liverpool, and the other fourth would not be carried at all were it not for them. What have I to do with this? Let a rate for it be struck upon London and Liverpool." This would be a clear case for local taxation to one living in a midland county. Or say that the same gentleman, like the King of Bohemia, not accustomed to the sea, might observe the vote for harbours of refuge, he might object to it upon the same grounds, and say, "I have no ships—I have nothing to do with harbours. Lot a rate be struck upon the cinque ports." Or, living in a purely agricultural district, he might cavil at the vote for the inspectors of factories. But he does not take that limited view of finance which our financial reformers perhaps do. Year after year, in a wise, and generous, and national spirit, he contributes to all these sources of expense, and never cavils. But, if you pursue the inquiry to subjects of much greater extent and moment, you will find the case still more strongly telling in favour of the oppressed class liable to this particular revenue. Take this case: About six years ago the merchants of Liverpool were very much vexed, and, as they thought, oppressed by certain proceedings in a distant quarter, and they besieged Downing-street with memorials, and endless reclamations, calling upon the Government to interfere by force, and defend their property and their commercial transactions. The Minister who then presided in Downing-street—a very experienced, and able, and, until that moment, considered a peculiarly cautious statesman—moved by these representations of the Liverpool merchants, was induced to interfere in the troubled waters of La Plata. And what has been the consequence? Six years have elapsed, and the country gentleman in the midland county who willingly acceded to the great expenditure, because he thought it was for the sake of the commerce of his country, now finds as the only result—the same merchants of Liverpool attacking the Government of the country on account of our extravagant armaments, and declaring that they are only kept up to support the younger children of the landed aristocracy. I say that this is a clear case for striking a rate upon Liverpool—that it is a clear case for local taxation. And we could boar this great burden of 10,000,000l., or 12,000,000l., if the rest of the taxation were apportioned in the same spirit. But is that so? Look at the instance of Manchester a few years back. Manchester was of opinion that the Chinese empire, possessing three hundred millions or more of human beings, were the best customers that could be obtained for our manufactures; that the home trade, or even the European trade, was nothing in comparison with that of a nation possessing such a population; that if each man only spent as much Sycee silver as a sovereign in a year, the fortunes of our manufacturers must be made. And so, by dint of pertinacity and restlessness, and commercial intrigues, they forced the Government into a war with China. Now, in this case the landed gentleman, being not quite so dull as you have sometimes been pleased to picture him, might naturally have said, "It is true I have never been in the country, but still I know something about China. I inherited a magnificent library from my father, and in some of the books there I have read, that notwithstanding the three hundred millions of inhabitants in China, they will never be able to carry on a commensurate commerce with this country, because really they have nothing to give in exchange for our goods." What the country gentleman foresaw did happen; for, never was there a greater disappointment than that manifested in Manchester at the practical results of the China trade. They acknowledged, it was true, China afforded very few commodities for exchange, but still it possessed one great article of commerce, and they said we must reduce the duty on tea, and so increase the consumption. But the country gentleman might answer, "I find that England already consumes more than fifty millions of pounds of tea annually, and I have my doubts whether such an increased consumption be necessary or oven desirable. Too much tea is not good for the nerves; why not take the duty off malt, and let the people revert to that beverage which their Saxon ancestors loved, and which produced that long-lived race which I trust I shall aid in continuing?" When this China business was at an end, therefore, why not, upon this system of local taxation, call for a rate to be struck against Manchester on account of the Chinese war? The same principle holds good with regard to the county rate and the church rate. I will, for a moment, touch upon the subject of the county rate, because it is one in regard to which great mistakes have been made, and great misconceptions prevail. The county rate is a direct tax raised for the purposes of the administration of justice. About the year 1835, as is known to the House, the Government, aware of this unjust burden which pressed upon the land, principally occasioned by the expense of the execution of justice, offered to pay half the cost of criminal prosecutions. That was done without much public attention being given to the matter; but the general impression in the House, and throughout the country, was, to a great degree, I believe, that the landed interest had, as usual, taken advantage of the Minister in a weak moment, and had by some means got rid of one of the just burdens upon themselves, and thrown it upon the community at large. That was in the year 1835. I want to show you how this county rate is expended; and to clear this case from the misconceptions which are so popular in the public mind, I must call your attention to the manner in which it has been expended, at a period so recent as 1845. I take that period, because subsequently, in 1846, another change was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth in reference to the county rate. I will venture to refer to my own experience during one day at assizes, to show the nature of this county rate—how it acts upon a county, and how far and in what degree a county may be actually interested in cases of its expenditure. Take an instance. A woman comes down into the county with which I am connected to a well-known place, Salthill, on the borders of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. She comes as a stranger, takes an obscure lodging—in a public-house. A few days afterwards a man previously connected with this woman, comes down to the place by railway, visits her, and murders her. He leaves Salthill, and proceeds to town by a train. By means of the electric telegraph he is arrested the moment he arrives at the station in London, the murder having been immediately discovered. He is therefore, arrested in London; but the crime was committed in Buckinghamshire. So the man is taken back to Salthill, examined, and committed to the county gaol at Aylesbury. The case was of a kind which required the evidence of scientific men, who were summoned from various parts of England. It was a very expensive trial. The prisoner was convicted, and outraged society was vindicated by the execution of Tawell. Now, although half the expenses of criminal prosecutions is defrayed by the Government—and so defrayed, I have heard it insinuated, un-justly—the bill and the just bill of costs of the clerk of the peace for the county of Bucks in the case to which I have referred, amounted to 300l. I ask, what had this county to do with that crime? The man was not born in Buckinghamshire, or resident there, or even arrested there. But this is one of the modes in which the county rate was expended only very recently. Take another instance on the same day—a bargeman who had committed a robbery in Rutlandshire or Northamptonshire, was arrested on one of the canals in Buckinghamshire, and on which he was navigating a cargo of coals. His trial and conviction cost the county upwards of 100l., although he had no more to do with that county than with the House of Commons. There was, on the same day, another case, very significant, that of a draper in a flourishing town in the same county, in whose shop a burglary was committed, and property stolen to the amount of 20l. The burglar was arrested, sent to the county gaol, tried, and the whole expense was paid out of the county rate, while the stock in trade of the very tradesman to vindicate whose rights of property the expense was incurred, was exempted from contributing to that rate. Mark this—if the vexation and oppression of counties paying only half the expense of criminal prosecutions were so grievously, so es- sentially, and so palpably unjust, what must it have been before the change in 1835? Doubly unjust, doubly oppressive, doubly grievous, doubly tyrannical. Yet that change has been described as one of the methods by which the landed interest shuffle off their burdens upon others. In 1846, I admit that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth took off the other moiety of the charge upon the county rate, so that no further bills like that for the prosecution of Tawell can be charged upon them, and no further oppression, like that in the case of the bargeman, can be practised. But how was that act of tardy justice done? The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion acknowledged the justice of the case to be unimpeachable. He did not pretend that there could be a question about the justice of the public incurring these expenses that had been theretofore mot by the different counties for the vindication of public justice and the rights of society. But the right hon. Gentleman gave that relief to the landed interest upon the memorable occasion, with respect to which I intend to have no discussion now, on which he deprived them of that important protection which they had so long enjoyed. This act of taking off the charge upon the county rate for the last half of the expenses of criminal prosecutions was the important measure of compensation given on that occasion—yet in itself a claim so just, that it appears as if all required to enforce it was, that it should be properly stated to this House; and that there could be no Gentleman, whatever his political opinions or his party, but who would think it was not only unjust, but something shabby, to make a particular class pay for those expenses in which the whole nation is interested. But with great difficulty, and by the exertion only of all the influence of a powerful Minister, was this tardy justice done in a slight degree to the owners and occupiers of land. And what has been the result as far as relief from the rate is concerned? The county rates are increased in amount, notwithstanding the Government has undertaken the whole expense of criminal prosecutions. The increase in this impost is accounted for by Gentlemen, who never inquire into the subject, to our neglect in never attending to our own affairs—by the levy of this tax not being placed in the power of the community of the county. The hon. Member for Montrose has often urged that argu- ment. In the first place, let me show you that after the State had relieved the counties from the burden of criminal prosecutions, the whole of the county rates of this country, with the exception of one important item relating to the public works of universal benefit—I mean bridges—are still expended, generally speaking, upon the administration of justice. I have here the last abstract of the accounts of the treasurer for the county of Bucks, and I have reason to believe that it is a fair specimen of what occurs in other counties. After a certain expenditure for bridges—heavy in a county through which the Thames passes, and on which Buckinghamshire, although not a rich county, has been obliged to disburse, for one instance recently, Marlow bridge, 27,000l., the expenditure of the county, with that exception, is somewhere about 12,000l. a year. The whole of this is caused by the expenses for the administration of justice, clerks of the peace, coroners, maintenance of gaols, lock-up houses, conveyance of prisoners, and so on. The allowance from Government for the prosecution and maintenance of prisoners under particular circumstances—is less than 4,000l., and, therefore, two-thirds of the expenditure of that county and every other other, is in fact, for the administration of justice—for matters that interest all—for a cause in which all are concerned. But we are often told, as I have shown, that the county rate, notwithstanding the Government of the country has come forward for the relief of the counties, is still increasing, and it is because those who administer in the funds of the counties are unequal to their duties: that is the position of the hon. Member for Montrose. [Mr. HUME: Hear, hear!] I tell you that if you go to the finance committee of the county of Buckingham you will find your match. But you forget that, year after year, you have been passing laws in this House, forcing the counties to raise most expensive public buildings, and giving them no option whatever. The hon. Member for Montrose talks of the management of funds. Why, all that the magistrates can do is to assemble as trustees under Acts of Parliament, and declare the rate to meet the expenditure, which you in your present capacity have agreed to. I do not deny that those model prisons to which my noble Friend (Viscount Mahon), referred in his interesting Motion to-night, are of great importance; I do not deny that the advan- cing philanthropy of the age does not call for those erections, and for the seclusion of this improved discipline. But what I assert is, that this is a great national object, and nothing can be more unfair than that a highly enlightened and philanthropic senate should pass laws obliging particular districts to raise most expensive public buildings, and then refuse to defray the increased cost. Well, then, I say that this local taxation is not raised for local purposes, it is raised for national purposes. I am perfectly aware of the objection that you will make. The fact is, that the revenue of this country has been raised for a long time under two systems: there is the modern system of indirect taxation, to which all are subject; and there is the old system of direct taxation, to which only landed property was subject, a system which has its coils round that property still, and mulcts it at its pleasure. It would not he difficult to show how, in the course of time, this anomalous state of affairs has come to pass, how it has happened that the real property of the country should necessarily have become subject to what is called the general taxation of the country, like other descriptions of property, and yet, at the same time, has been obliged to hear the burden of another revenue of the enormous amount of 12,000,000l. sterling. This anomaly has been long recognised; the grievance, I am sure, has been long felt; but the difficulties of dealing with it have been considerable. I am perfectly aware of the remedy which certain Gentlemen opposite would be only too glad to offer me, and which they say is the necessary inference from my system—namely, that you should have recourse to a system of national rating. I have myself the greatest objections to that system, both of an economical and a political kind. I do not see how you can have the check which is requisite to the administration of funds in a district if the rating is national, and I am unwilling to give up the local administration, not merely because it insures economical management, or at least takes the best means of doing so, but for political reasons, connected with our happy habit of self-government, of a still graver character. But though I admit that our system of self-government and our system of local administration are very precious, I must, at the same time, ask hon. Gentlemen whether they are prepared to insure economy by practising injustice; whether, in fact, they are going to lay down, as one of the principles of our social system, that in order to insure a good local administration of affairs, it is necessary that one or two particular classes in the country should be subjected to an unjust and oppressive taxation. Sir, I am well aware that in laying down the principle that real property ought no more to bear unjust taxation than other sorts of property, some hon. Gentlemen, confining their objections to a particular section of real property, will tell me that landed property is favoured otherwise by our laws. The probate and legacy duties will, I dare say, be brought forward. Now, for my own part—I am speaking only for myself, but I believe I may speak for many others on this head—I am perfectly prepared to enter into an investigation of that subject in the fairest spirit, and to join with you in any endeavour for the equitable apportionment of that taxation; but I protest against this matter being now brought under the notice of the House to divert them from the question I have raised. Propose a Committee to go into the whole subject of probate and legacy duty, and I will support you in your Motion; bring forward a measure founded upon sound information and real research, offering a just remedy, and I will give my vote in its favour; but I am bound to tell you—it would be disengenuous not to tell you—that having given as much attention as I could to the investigation of this question, it is my opinion that the result of the Committee will be very different to that which many of you expect. So much has been said upon this subject that I must take this opportunity of stating that of the legacy duty which is now paid, to the amount of 1,200,000l. a year, 500,000l. is paid absolutely and directly by land; that all leasehold properties, all ecclesiastical tenures, are not included in that 500,000l.; and that they pay not only legacy duty but probate duty. As far as what is called the landed interest is concerned, there is also included in your probate and legacy duty the stock of every farmer and cultivator of land, so that you will find, if you examine this subject with that attention it deserves, and with that absence of passion which I doubt not will mark your inquiry, that it is not the land which pays the least proportion either of the probate or legacy duty. I have said nothing of the present arrangement of stamp duties, which would greatly strengthen my case. I make these observations to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) in no hostile spirit; I remember my promise, and will redeem it if he gives me the opportunity; but I must protest against the hon. Gentleman, or anybody else, especially after what I have said, introducing these extraneous subjects into the simple question I am placing before you. Is it just or unjust that real property, forming one-fourth of the income of the country, should alone bear burdens imposed on account of matters in which all property is equally interested? The hon. Gentleman, if he take a fine house in Berkshire to-morrow, will, I dare say, trot over the roads in his neighbourhood; perhaps he will be a preserver of game; perhaps his keeper may be shot by a poacher; and perhaps he will prosecute the poacher at the assizes; and he will do all this without paying to the highway or county rates. Well, then, the question is, what, under these circumstances, is the best measure for setlting this long-vexed question? I am afraid I shall disappoint hon. Gentlemen who have very sedulously announced that all I was going to do was to move for a Committee, when, instead, of doing that, I express my readiness, if the House will go into Committee, to offer a plan for their adoption; and as that plan is founded on justice, and conceived in the spirit of conciliation, I hope it has every chance of success. I am perfectly aware that in attempting to settle this question nothing can be more unwise than for the possessors of real property to stickle too severely for their rights. I admit that in a country like England, where a system has existed for a considerable period, however unjust and oppressive the system may be, though the period of its duration does not alter the character of the arrangements or mitigate the nature of the oppression; yet, still I am aware that where a system has long existed, clear as may be our case, it is necessary and wise to approach the circumstances in a spirit of compromise. I do not say, as I have a right to say, "These are national purposes, and the local taxation for these national purposes is levied upon one-fourth of the income of the country; we are ready to pay our quota, but you have no right to ask us to pay more; we are ready to pay our due proportion of the 10,000,000l, or 12,000,000l., but you cannot allege any reason or principle that calls upon us to undertake a more extensive responsibility." It is of the greatest importance to maintain the local administration of affairs that at present exists, and therefore I shall not propose in any way to change the system of self-government that at present exists, or interfere with the present levy of rates. But I say that, considering all the circumstances of the case, considering that the laud has some slight exemptions which are really of very little import, but which may be remembered at this moment, amounting altogether, I believe, only to 140,000l. a year—considering the great importance of maintaining the present local administration of affairs, and also that this is a moment in which every portion of the community, and every class and body, must he prepared to make great sacrifices, in a spirit of compromise and conciliation I shall propose that, the present system of local administration remaining, the present levy of rates continuing, the local districts shall be responsible for one moiety of this taxation, and that the other moiety shall be contributed by the Consolidated Fund. I would propose also that the Government should regain this moiety from the privileged properties according to their quotas; with some changes and modifications, the machinery at present existing would assist the Government in this result. Now, Sir, I take that to be a just proposal. I think terms might have been demanded, founded upon justice, to a comparatively extravagant degree; but I think the proposal I have made is one which, after due reflection, will be considered by all a fair and reasonable proposition, founded upon justice, recommended by policy, and which, if adopted in practice, will give relief to the suffering portion of real property in a legitimate manner, not by the demand of undue favour at the expense of the rest of the community, but by the simple recognition of their rights. I am at a loss to conceive whence the great opposition to this proposal can arise. I shall be surprised if any person in authority should rise in this House, and maintain that this taxation of 10,000,000l. or 12,000,000l. is not a burden upon real property which no other description of property shares. As far as concerns that section of real property, the distressed condition of which especially has induced mc to come forward to-night, we have the opinion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth fully recognising its burdens, in almost the last speech on the corn laws that he made before the year 1846. That right hon. Gentleman placed his vindication of the corn laws when Minister, I believe so late as the year 1845, upon the acknowledged burdens on land, and he specified that system of taxation to which the resolutions I have laid on the table refers. That right hon. Gentleman has changed his opinion on the policy of the corn laws; but that is no reason that he should have changed his opinions on these matters of fact. And, now, what may be the sentiments of the Prime Minister on this important subject? I am not going to quote Hansard. It shall not be a speech. I will refer to a document much more interesting, written on a memorable occasion, when of all others a man would be sincere, thoughtful, grave, and weigh what he did say with a feeling of deep responsibility. When the noble Lord failed in forming his Government, at the commencement of the year 1846, and communicated his failure to his Sovereign, in language befitting the occasion, he left recorded in that almost solemn document this passage:— Lord John Russell is deeply sensible of the embarrassment caused by the present state of public affairs. He will be ready, therefore, to do all in his power, as a Member of Parliament, to promote the settlement of that question, which, in present circumstances, is the source of so much danger, especially to the welfare and peace of Ireland. Lord John Russell would have formed his Ministry on the basis of a complete free trade in corn, to be established at once, without gradation or delay. He would have accompanied that proposal with measures of relief, to a considerable extent, of the occupiers of land from the burdens to which they are subjected. Well, that is a great authority in favour of the views I have endeavoured to enforce. The right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord are my witnesses in answer to the hon. Gentleman, who no doubt will get up in his place and argue that real property is exempted from imposts which other property is subjected to. Is it that Her Majesty's Ministers shrink from the idea of performing this great act of justice on the score of its impracticability? That can hardly be. It was only last year that they came forward with a proposition to increase the income tax, not to do a great act of justice, not to conciliate rival classes, not to support an injured or aggrieved interest, but to do what I never could make out except it was to pay the militia. And, by the by, if the militia had boon called out, there would have been a militia rate, for which real property alone would have been liable. Let me now inquire what reception I am to calculate on from that section of the House, who are the pure professors of liberal principles, the vindicators of men in every clime, whose hearts are always touched at every sound of injustice, and who are ever prompt to come forward to succour the oppressed. Arc they going to complete the fulness of their liberal professions, by maintaining that their properties shall be privileged? They can have no abstract hostility to the process I indicate; they are all of them admirers of direct taxation; we ourselves have suffered under it for many years; we wish that you, too, should taste its fruits. Looking, then, to the sanction of these views we have obtained from leading men, to the facility with which the machinery of the income tax may, to a certain degree, be adopted in this behalf by the present Government, and the abstract preference of direct taxation expressed by other hon. Gentlemen opposite, I trust that this oppressed interest of real property has at length some chance of obtaining relief. Sir, do not let the House imagine that the sufferings of that class are not considerable. Do not let them imagine that that portion of real property, which is connected with the cultivation of the land, is not, at this moment, in a state of depression as terrible as has been announced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. You see how eager they are to obtain relief, by the petition I have placed upon the table this day for the repeal of the malt tax. You see how the farmers of this country, immediately interested in the growth of barley, cry for the repeal of that tax. You find many of them not immediately interested in the growth of barley, not able perhaps to prove they can obtain any great relief from their sufferings from the repeal of the malt tax, labouring under a sense of oppression from this weight of unjust taxation—how eager they are to adopt the first remedy that is offered. Sir, I have expressed in the second resolution that I have placed upon the table of the House my sincere opinion upon the subject of the malt tax. When we remember that the landed interest, as a considerable portion of the real property of the country, is subject to the taxation I have referred to in the first resolution, it is a great aggravation when we consider that more than one-third of the revenue raised by the Excise is contributed by taxes upon the articles of their growth. The circumstances connected with those taxes have been so frequently before the House, that I will not trouble, by too much detail, Gentlemen to whom they are familiar; but there are circumstances connected with propositions for relief with regard to those taxes, which must be well understood by the House before they can comprehend the feelings of the farmers upon the subject. Those suffering classes, Sir, cannot but remember that twenty years ago they made an appeal to the House of Commons for the repeal of those taxes; and what was the answer? The answer was, that the Minister could not spare the revenue. He could not spare the three millions and a half which was then raised by the malt tax. The farmers yielded to that representation of the Government; and next year, if I remember right, upwards of three millions and a half of taxation were taken off from other articles by the same Government. I do not want to go into the question whether it was a wise or an unwise act of the Government of that day; but I ask you what feelings it is calculated to engender if you treat the agricultural classes in that spirit? Are you surprised that they should remember such incidents with mortification and with lessened confidence in the leading men of this country? Well, Sir, what happened in the year 1835? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth was then the First Minister of this country—perhaps the most difficult and not the least distinguished portion of his eminent career. Upon that occasion, and in that year, there was great agricultural distress; and the great body of the agriculturists of England were of opinion that the repeal of the malt tax might give them relief. There was a considerable commotion—in modern days called agitation—upon the subject. A noble Lord (the Marquess of Chandos) who then represented the county of Buckingham, and who is still remembered by the farmers of that county with respect for his faithful and consistent conduct, had pledged himself to bring forward a Motion for the repeal of this tax; and embarrassing and painful as was his position, upon account of the formation of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman, he redeemed his pledge. How was the question then met? The right hon. Gentleman exerted all his powers to refute the statements that were offered. He administered some solemn monitions to the landed Gentlemen. The right hon. Baronet said, "Take care what you are about: you may get rid of the malt tax, but I will tell you what you will have in- stead—a good comfortable property tax." Never was such an effect produced upon the agricultural mind. They fled like sheep! Some came down to this House, and rescinded their promises to their constituents. Others dreamed dreams and saw visions. But what have you got now? You have got the malt tax; you have got the "good, comfortable property tax;" and you have got all those burdens upon the land which you found so oppressive, and which the right hon. Gentleman, to his last moment, agreed were so oppressive, besides. Are you surprised, then, that the farmers of England, after such incidents as these, should be a little ill-tempered and unmanageable? For my part, I am not at all surprised that men so distressed and so burdened should fly to the first refuge for succour. When you recollect how often this question has been matured out of doors, how frequently it has been brought forward in this House with every chance of success—that once even, to complete the picture, the repeal was carried and rescinded immediately afterwards, are you surprised that the farmers should begin to feel some distrust in the conduct of public men? Now, Sir, that this tax is an injury to the farmer, I do not think any one can, for a moment, deny. That it is a tax upon the consumer, is no answer to this complaint. All our taxes are taxes upon the consumer. But that this restricts the demand for the farmer's produce, is what no one can scarcely question. Why, Sir, Mr. M'Culloch, the political economist—and though a political economist, a very sensible man—and without exception, I think, of all the economical writers, the most practical that I am acquainted with—Mr. M'Culloch, I say, in ascertaining in one of his works the amount of fixed duty which, he thought, ought to be granted to the land, upon account of, as he says, its being taxed more than other portions of the community—in the elements of his fixed duty, puts down the malt tax as giving a claim for 2s. in that duty. This demand upon the part of the farmer, therefore, is not so unreasonable as some would pretend. I do not dwell upon the domestic annoyances which this tax causes. They are known to all of us—they are felt by most of us—and they are the hourly conversation of these men at their markets. Now, Sir, having frankly expressed my opinion upon the subject as far as regards past propositions and the amount of loss and annoyance to the farmer, I will, even at the risk of losing that favour which they have bestowed upon me, counsel them not to press for the repeal of the malt tax. I will give you my reasons why. I advise them not to press for the repeal of the malt tax, because I am convinced that the portion of benefit which they will receive will be very slight compared with the general inconvenience which it will occasion. That is my general reason; but my particular reason why I hope they will not press, and why I recommend them not to press, for the repeal of the malt tax is, that if they obtain it at this moment, they will obtain what may prove a fatal obstacle to measures of relief such as that which I have proposed, and others which I hope we may be enabled to propose. The measure which I have proposed or suggested tonight will allow me to take five or six millions of taxation from the real property of the country. Its benefits will be felt in every village and in every farm-house in the kingdom. Its advantages also will be felt in every town in the empire. It is not a sectional advantage—it is not a sectarian arrangement. It will benefit every farmer a hundred times more than the repeal of the malt tax; whilst he will feel, at the same time, that the great body of his countrymen, not connected with agriculture, are equally benefited by such a measure, founded on justice, the authority of which no one can impugn. Sir, if you deny these men justice, against the flagrant and unanswerable complaint of the real property of the country, one fourth in amount of the whole, being visited by the incubus of taxation to the extent of ten or twelve millions, from which the privileged properties are exempt, we must not conceal from ourselves that we shall have appeals for the repeal of the malt tax, and for the repeal of other taxes. You must not conceal from yourselves that you may make an oppressed and aggrieved population run a-muck against your theories of trade and taxation. I have been asked. Sir, by Gentlemen from Ireland, whether I intend that the resolutions which I have placed upon the table should apply to their country? It is my intention that they should apply to Ireland. I can see no reason and no principle why that application should not be made. If I have not specially introduced the case of Ireland in debate, it has been because the analogous rates and taxes, and imposts, which are levied in that country, are levied by a different machinery; they would introduce different figures into the discussion, and complicate a proposition which I wished to keep perfect in the simplicity of its justice, unclouded with details which might distract the House from its fair and due consideration. But it is my intention, if a Committee of the whole House will permit me to introduce the measure I have mentioned, to follow it up by another measure which shall apply, in the same spirit, to Ireland. I cannot comprehend what arguments can he urged against Ireland being relieved in the same spirit of justice as England. I do not offer it to Ireland as a boon which is entirely to reanimate her in her present depressed condition, but it is an arrangement which she is entitled to call upon the landed interest of this country to insure to her if they themselves receive it with the other holders of real property; and I hope it may exercise a beneficial influence upon her condition. There are other measures which, I think, might do more for Ireland even than the present; and. Sir, if I do not bring them forward now, it is because I feel that this is not the occasion to introduce them. I was taunted the other night by an hon. Gentleman representing an Irish constituency, because I opposed the proposition of the Government, and proposed nothing myself. The criticism is not just; and it is rather stale. It is neither new nor true. It is not our duty, because we do not approve of a proposition of a Minister, instantly to bring in a counter proposition. I can easily understand. Sir, why hon. Gentleman opposite do not approve of an Opposition being in existence. But we are sensible of our duties, and we shall endeavour to fulfil them. I will, however, tell hon. Gentlemen from Ireland that there is one measure, one means of assisting them, which I am most anxious to introduce to this House. It is a great—it is a comprehensive measure. I should wish to induce Irish Gentlemen upon either side, to forget their fatal feuds, and to join with us in efforts to restore their depressed and prostrate country. Had my lamented Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) been spared to us, he would have introduced to the notice of Parliament this year a measure that I believe would have done more for Ireland than all the measures ever introduced by Ministers for the last half century—more comprehensive, more beneficial even, than that great measure which unfortunately he did not carry. But it is useless to attempt to assist Ireland unless Irish Members will throw aside their party feelings, and remember their interest in the land, without which they cannot much longer stand. Nothing can be more fatal to them, nothing more injurious to the future fortunes and walfare of their country, than their not combining with the landed interest of England to maintain the interests of the mutually oppressed properties. Sir, I have endeavoured to place before the House—I trust in a fair, I am sure not in an intemperate spirit, the views and suggestions of those who complain of the grievances which I have alleged in the resolutions I have placed upon the table. The complainants are those various classes that, combined and united, form what is called in popular language, "the landed interest;" a portion of this nation which, whether we look at their property or their numbers, or the weight and influence which necessarily result from their social position and their interesting occupation, may still be accounted the most considerable order in our society. It would be disingenuous, Sir, if, in this discussion, I attempted to conceal that the landed interest do not merely complain of the grievances alleged in these resolutions; they complain, also, of a great injury which they deem they have received from the hands of this House. It is not my intention now to enter into a consideration of the policy or the impolicy of those great measures which you passed three years ago—which you passed, and which they deplore. But it is my duty to represent to you that, dull or indifferent as you sometimes may have chosen to picture them, they have not been unmindful of what has happened in this country of late years, of much that has been done, and much that has been said in this House. They have witnessed the rise and development in this country of new properties, of new species of influence; and they have witnessed them without jealousy, because it is part of their economical creed that national prosperity depends upon the union of classes. They have witnessed without any hostile feeling the right and rightful representation of those new interests and properties in this House, since its reconstruction. But though they have observed these great incidents with no other feeling than such as becomes a manly mind, it is but right you should understand that it is not without emotion they have observed that the whole course of your legislation for years has been, to invest those new properties and interests with privileges, and simultaneously to deprive them of theirs. I said there was much that they had not passed unobserved and unheeded in this House—much that had been said, and much that had been done. They have not forgotten that they have been spoken of in terms of contempt by Ministers of State—ay, even by a son of one of their greatest houses, a house that always loved the land, and that the land still loves. They have not forgotten that they have been held up to public odium and reprobation by triumphant demagogues. They have not forgotten that their noble industry, which in the old days was considered the invention of gods and the occupation of heroes, has been stigmatised and denounced as an incubus upon English enterprise. They have not forgotten that even the very empire that was created by the valour and the devotion of their fathers, has been held up to public hatred, as a cumbersome and ensanguined machinery, only devised to pamper the luxury and feed the rapacity of our territorial houses. The fact is. Sir, these things are hard to digest. They are not pleasant to the humble—they are intolerable to the justly proud. These are things which change the heart and turn the blood of nations; and whether you think their feeling is founded on justice, or whether you deem it baseless, I tell you—and every Member of this House, every good and wise man must feel—that nothing is more to be deprecated, nothing more dangerous, than that considerable classes of the country should deem that they are treated unfairly by the Legislature. Sir, the spirit of the landed interest is deeply wounded. Whether they have foundation for this feeling or not, it is one which I would recommend any Minister not to treat with contempt. I fancy, Sir, it has been somewhat too long the practice to believe that you might conduct yourselves toward this interest with impunity. It was even a proverb with Sir Robert Walpole, that the landed interest might be fleeced at pleasure, and I observe at no time has that interest been more negligently treated than when demagogues are denouncing it as an oligarchical usurpation. But this may be dangerous play if you are outraging justice. You think you may trust their proverbial loyalty. Trust their loyalty, but do not abuse it. I dare say it may be said of them, as it was said 3,000 years ago, in the most precious leg- acy of political science that has descended to us—I dare say it may also he said of them that the agricultural class is the least given to sedition. I doubt not that is as true of the Englishman of the plain and of the dale as it was of the Greek of the isle and of the continent; but it would be just as well if you also recollected that the fathers of these men were the founders of your liberties; and that, before this time, their ancestors have bled for justice. Rely upon it that the blood of those men who refused to pay ship-money is not to be trifled with. Their conduct to you has exhibited no hostile feeling, notwithstanding the political changes that have abounded of late years, and all apparently to a diminution of their power. They have inscribed a homely sentence on their rural banners; but it is one which, if I mistake not, is already again touching the heart and convincing the reason of England—" Live, and let live." You have adopted a different motto—you, the leading spirits on the benches which I see before me, have openly declared your opinion that if there were not an acre of land cultivated in England it would not be the worse for this country. You have all of you in open chorus announced your object to be the monopoly of the commerce of the universe, and to make this country the workshop of the world. Your system and theirs are exactly contrary. They invite union. They believe that national prosperity can only be produced by the prosperity of all classes. You prefer to remain in isolated splendour and solitary magnificence. But believe me, I speak not as your enemy when I say that it will be an exception to the principles which seem hitherto to have ruled society, if you can succeed in maintaining the success at which you aim without the possession of that permanence and stability which the territorial principle alone can afford. Although you may for a moment flourish after their destruction—although your ports may be filled with shipping, your factories smoke on every plain, and your forges flame in every city—I see no reason why you should form an exception to that which the page of history has mournfully recorded; that you, too, should not fade like the Tyrian dye, and moulder like the Venetian palaces. But, united with the land, you will obtain the best and surest foundation upon which to build your enduring welfare; you will find in that interest a counsellor in all your troubles—in danger your undaunted champion—and in adversity your steady customer. It is to assist in producing this result. Sir, that I am about to place these resolutions in your hands. I wish to see the agriculture, the commerce, and the manufactures of England not adversaries, but co-mates and partners—and rivals only in the ardour of their patriotism and in the activity of their public spirit.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the whole of the local taxation of the country for national purposes, falls mainly, if not exclusively, on real property, and bears with undue severity on the occupiers of land, in a manner injurious to the agricultural interests of the country, and otherwise highly impolitic and unjust: That the hardship of this apportionment is greatly aggravated by the fact, that more than one-third of the whole revenue derived from the Excise, is levied upon agricultural produce, exposed, by the recent changes in the law to direct competition with the untaxed produce of foreign countries; the home producer being thus subjected to a burden of taxation which, by greatly enhancing the price, limits the demand for British produce; and to restrictions, which injuriously interfere with the conduct of his trade and industry: That this House will resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into its serious consideration such measures as may remove the grievances of which the owners and occupiers of real property thus justly complain, and which may establish a more equitable apportionment of the public burdens.


said, he had listened with attention to the speech of the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat; and he could not but express his utter astonishment at the remedies suggested by the hon. Member, and the extraordinary means by which he proposed to relieve that distress which he depicted as existing amongst the agricultural interests. He (Mr. Hume) had paid particular attention to the hon. Gentleman's speech, in order to guess, if possible, by what means—by what practical means—that distress was to be removed; but he had listened in vain. The fact was, the hon. Gentleman's speech was not at all in accordance with the resolutions proposed. It was stated, that certain burdens had pressed with undue severity upon the occupiers of land. They had, however, heard nothing whatever of the occupiers of land from the hon. Gentleman, for his observations were principally directed to matters affecting the landlords. With respect to local taxation, he wished to ask those on whose behalf the hon. Gentleman had come forward that evening, how the tenant farmers could be benefited by the addition of another income tax? How could they be benefited by 6,000,000l. of new taxes? The income tax at present was 7d. in the pound, but it would require 1s. 3d. in the pound to afford relief to the proprietors of land in this country, without any reference whatever to the occupiers. With what justice could that be done? He denied altogether the position of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman had asked with what justice they could call upon the landed proprietors to pay the local taxes he had enumerated? He (Mr. Hume) would say, that they were bound to pay them upon every principle of justice. The lands were obtained originally upon condition of rendering military service. That, for the convenience of all parties, had been commuted into the payment of certain taxes; the lands that had since changed hands had been bought with the burden of these taxes upon them, and under proportionate deductions for the same; and, therefore, the landowners had no right now to ask to be relieved of them. The statement of the hon. Gentleman, then, was all moonshine. It was an appeal to the charity and commiseration of the House, not to its justice. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the roads as imposing a burden on the agricultural interest; but wherever good roads had been established at the expense of a county, they had proved more than reproductive as regarded the value of the landed property. Then, with respect to police establishments and the administration of justice, were the same parties not interested in preventing robbery; and had not the property of a county always been bound to uphold those establishments and that administration? It was the ancient lords of the soil who, in the absence of the Sovereign, were the administrators of justice. Bridges were built in early times for the convenience of the locality; indeed, there were none of the taxes mentioned by the hon. Gentleman which did not come within the category of taxes raised within the district for the advantage of the district. They were bound to pay the local taxes, and it would be most unjust for their relief to saddle them upon the country at large. It was quite clear that land had always been purchased subject to such burdens as these. He would, for instance, appeal to any hon. Gentleman who had purchased laud at any time in this country. Why, doubtless, the first matter he inquired about was the amount of county rates, and other similar taxes. He struck those off the value put upon the land, and after deducting those expenses, the balance was estimated as the marketable value. The purchaser had, therefore, no right to say that he should be exempted from the payment of such rates, for, in fact, he had never contributed one shilling towards them. The hon. Gentleman who moved the resolutions, had asked, with what justice could the lauded proprietors be called upon to pay such taxes? The answer was very simple. They were called upon to pay them with precisely the same amount of justice with which any man should be called upon to pay his just and honest debts. He purchased his land subject to those rates—he knew he should pay them—he was aware he purchased the land subject to them, and he should therefore he held responsible for them. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire called upon the House to relieve the proprietors of land from liability to the payment of several millions, and to saddle them upon others in the shape of taxes. If that had been done, nothing could be so clear in his (Mr. Hume's) mind, than that such a course would be an act of the utmost injustice—of complete robbery. Why should the proprietors of land be relieved from the payment of those taxes which they had been already allowed for, and which they had deducted from the estimated value of the lands they purchased? If that was the case—and he challenged a contradiction of the facts he stated—what became of the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire? In fact, the speech of that hon. Gentleman was like a call upon the public in consideration of the great distress of the landed interests. They were, however, bound in law and in equity to contribute their fair share towards the liquidation of local taxes. They had purchased their estates subject to such burthens, and it would be most unfair now to exempt them from their payment. These were all properly local taxes, and should be paid exclusively by the local interests. It would be gross injustice to propose their imposition on the people generally, and therefore he said that to propose to relieve the tenant farmers by such means was only to mislead them. If the whole twelve millions of local taxation were taken off, the landlord would still demand the same rent, and thus the tenant would be left in the same situation as before. He could not believe that the tenant farmers would be so stolid and stupid as to support the present Motion; and when he looked to what some of them had said within the last forty-eight hours, he was confirmed in that opinion. One of them had said, that unless there was a great reduction of taxation, the tenant farmer need expect no relief. But what was the proposition of the hon. Member for Bucks? It was simply to add six millions to the present enormous taxation of the country. We paid sixty millions, and the hon. Member would make us pay sixty-six, as a mode of relieving the condition of the farmers. Where was it to come from? It could only be raised by another income tax, and the whole would go into the pockets of the landlords. He saw that at all the recent farmers' meetings, the general cry was for reduction of taxation, and that was his cry also. He wanted to bring fifty-nine to forty-nine, to take off ten millions, which at the present moment were pressing down all the springs of the national industry. He must complain of the manner in which the hon. Member for Bucks had thought proper to address the representatives of the manufactnring interests. The hon. Member had talked as if Manchester and Liverpool were alone interested in the national establishments, and should alone bear all the burden. Among other things he had been surprised to hear the hon. Member say that Manchester and Liverpool should bear all the expense of the packets, because they were the places principally benefited. He would ask the hon. Member what made the land of England five times as valuable as the land of Poland? The land was not better; what, then, was it that enabled it to have such rents as were now paid, and which enabled the proprietors of the soil to live in such magnificent style? It was the enhanced value given to its products by the consumption of Liverpool, and Manchester, and Birmingham; the aid given to it, in fact, by the manufactures of the country. He could tell them that, but for manufactures, the land would be worth very little. At one of the meetings to which he had alluded, it was stated that land, which, in 1792 was worth only 700l. a year, now let for 4,000l., and yet the hon. Member for Bucks contended that the manufacturing interest had been of so little service to the land as to make it bear all the burdens of the country. The Motion of the hon. Member was neither more nor less than an appeal ad misericordiam, "Give us six millions," says the hon. Member; but he would not get any in the way he proposed. He (Mr. Hume) believed that the time was coming when justice would at last be done. The landed interest had long had the imposition of taxes in their hands, and they mainly directed the expenditure. Neither had they forgotten to appropriate a full share of the profit and patronage to themselves and their families. But they had not paid the taxes. There was hardly an impost which did not come from the people at large. On these grounds he looked upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Bucks as an entire failure. The hon. Member would not advise the farmers to look for the repeal of the malt tax. He said, "It will not relieve you at all. I can do much better for you by laying upon you an additional tax of 7d. in the pound, the produce of which is to go into the pockets of the landlords." Now, although the hon. Member did not think fit to propose a repeal of the malt tax, he (Mr. Hume) would assist the tenant farmers by proposing its repeal, and he would now state to the House what it was he meant to propose. He had constantly maintained that the malt and hop duties were two of the worst taxes that could be imposed. Twenty years before, when a proposition was brought forward for the repeal of the malt tax, he had voted in the majority; and it would have been repealed, had not the country Gentlemen come down on the following evening and rescinded their own vote. When his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding had proposed a reduction of ten millions in the expenditure, he (Mr. Hume) had supported him; and he would now state what taxes he would remit with the produce. He would now remind the House that in 1821 he proposed a reduction of four millions and a half in the taxation; and every tax that he then proposed to strike off had been remitted since. He had proposed to strike off the salt tax, 1,500,000l., and the leather tax. Both had since been remitted. The soap tax he had also proposed to strike off, and would have succeeded had not Lord Mont-eagle been in office. One half of the tax was taken off", and the remainder promised in the following year; but, like many other promises, it was broken. However, 3,800,000l. of his proposition was struck off, and any one who lived to see the next ten years, would see the same result follow his hon. Friend's proposition. Now for the malt tax. Let it not be supposed that he proposed to take it off all in one day. Radical reformer as he was, he must work cautiously until he had got all the tenant farmers on his side. He did not think it would be long until he had them. Mr. Bennett, at one of the farmers' meetings, had said, "A few hours will test those gentlemen who call themselves the farmers' friends. Let us mark who among them will support Mr. Hume's proposition. Those who do not, need never look this way again. A general election will settle all." Indeed, so heavy was the taxation, so useless the expenditure, that if the county Members only behaved well, he had every hope of reduction. He was not afraid of the borough Members, bad as the constituencies were—and they were very bad—only the small ones. All they wanted was to have the constituencies made larger. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might gather from the speeches made at their own meetings within the last 48 hours what would be their fate at the next election if they were not prepared to support a general reduction of expenditure and of taxation. He proposed to take off ten millions from the expenditure of the country, and this was the way he would deal with it. He would repeal the malt tax, amounting to 5,225,000l., and the hop duties, which amounted to 392,000l. He had long felt it to be his duty to endeavour to make the food of the people cheap by making it free of taxes. That object being achieved, he would do his best to make their beer cheap by taking off the malt and hop duties. He had never heard any argument advanced in favour of those taxes except that they were for the benefit of the agricultural population. But he spoke for the agricultural population when he demanded the repeal of these taxes, which they knew pressed heavily upon them, fettering their industry and crippling their energies, and depriving the labourer of a beverage which was necessary to the maintenance of his strength. He was informed, on good authority, that, the malt tax repealed, good beer could be had for 1d. a pot. ["Oh!" and a laugh.] Yes, as good beer as was now charged 3d could then be supplied for 1d. This would increase the sale of barley, and so benefit the tenant farmer and the labourer at the same time. He did not, however, propose this change for the benefit of the agricultural labourer alone, but for that of all the working men in the country; and the poorer the man, and the lower the wages, the more necessary it was that he should have at his command a wholesale nourishing drink instead of resorting to ardent spirits. The next taxes he would remove were those on light—the window tax, and the tax on soap; and hero he was sure he should have the support of all those hon. Members who were the advocates of sanitary improvements. The window tax produced 1,663,000l.; soap, 990,000l.; bricks (which the agricultural party joined with malt), 445,000l.; and paper, 745,000l. After reducing the expenditure to the standard of 1835, the taxes he would reduce were—malt, 5,225,071l; hops, 392,381l.; window tax, 1,663,320l.; soap, 990,512l; bricks, 455,845l.; paper, 745,795l. This would give a total of 9,472,924l., so that he should leave a margin of half a million for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He looked upon the malt tax as one of the most important of these taxes, not only in the relief its removal would afford, but in the injurious effects of its operation. He would state what the effects of the malt tax had been, and what he further intended by repealing that tax. One great object he had in view was to abolish the Excise department altogether, which cost the country 929,000l. a year, and had formerly cost a million—a reduction which they had to thank Mr. Wood, the chief of that department, for effecting. This department, the whole business of which, with the exception of that which related to spirits, might long since have been left to the same board that dealt with the customs and stamps, he would abolish altogether. A million a-year nearly would be saved by this arrangement. The advantages which would result from the removal of the excise restrictions on soap and paper, would not be less than 15 per cent. To-morrow he should have to present a petition from certain paper makers, in which they showed that the duty imposed upon the manufacture of paper was 66 per cent on one description of paper, and 33 per cent on another; and if the excise were removed, this country would be able to supply the world with stationary. He could show that the effect of the tax on malt was to demoralise the people, and induce them to resort to spirits as a beverage instead of beer. In 1826, when he submitted to the House the propriety of reducing the malt tax, he placed a paper on the table showing the effect of the duty in the average consumption in various periods of ten years. In the ten years ending 1794, the duty being 1s.d. a bushel, the average consumption was 25,751,775 bushels. In the next year, the duty was raised to 2s. 4d., and from 1795 to 1804, the population having of course materially increased, and the prosperity of the country having increased also, the average consumption was 25,514,741 bushels. In the ten years from 1805 to 1814, a period when the consumption of all other articles increased, malt fell to an average of 23,819,475 bushels, the duty having been raised to 4s. 4d. a bushel. During the next ten years there were three different duties, 2s. 4d., 3s. 6d., and 2s. 6d.; and with the first reduction the consumption recovered to 25,846,000 bushels, being 300,000 less than the average of the ten years ending 1794. In the ten years ending 1834, the duty being 2s. 7d., the consumption was 29,000,000, and in the following ton years it rose to 33,000,000. But in 1840 an addition of 5 per cent was made to the duty, and the consumption immediately fell off; and during the last four years, 1845, 1846, 1847, and 1848, it was only 32,000,000, being an increase of only 30 per cent in sixty-three years, while the population had increased 79 to 80 per cent in the same time. Previous to the imposition of the duty, the proportionate consumption of malt was still greater. He would show how additional duties had worked in Ireland, in reference to the consumption of malt. During the five years commencing 1795, the duty being 1s. 4d., the aver-ago consumption was 4,410,410 bushels; in the five years from 1815 to 1819, the duty being 2s. 10d., the average consumption fell to 1,891,152 bushels; and from 1831 to 1835, the whole amount which paid duty was 1,659,539. The consumption of spirits had increased as that of malt had decreased. In Scotland the results were the same. Before he sat down, he hogged to express his satisfaction at finding that from first to last of his speech, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had not proposed protection. He had proposed reciprocity, and the latter part of his speech seemed very much directed towards the re-enactment of monopoly; but he had not mentioned the word "protection." He (Mr. Hume) therefore took it for granted that the House had had something like an assurance from the hon. Member that he did not want protection. But what, then, became of all the meetings of the farmers? Because they were looking for a restoration of protection, and for a monopoly. Now, he was as anxious as any man to obtain reciprocity, but he would not injure himself because another might refuse to do as he did. Let other countries do as they pleased, and drink all or anything they liked at an expense of 20 or 30 per cent higher than it was drunk in England, what did it matter to him? He would reduce the taxes in this country irrespective of what any other nation might do. He took his stand upon that great principle, and haped he would not hear from any Member the common allegation, that "why should we take off duties on our imports when other countries would not do the same?" [Cheers.] They were daily in the habit of hearing that other countries would not take off the duties on our goods, that there was no reciprocity; and now hon. Members appeared most anxious to cheer him when he stated that every country ought to take care of its own interests, although they themselves seemed most anxious to meddle with the affairs of foreign nations. He thought it altogether intolerable that we should in anywise regulate our concerns according to the rule laid down upon the Continent or elsewhere; indeed, he thought it perfect nonsense to say that we should not carry out measures connected with our well-being and prosperity, simply because other countries would not follow our example. He had twice or thrice voted for the appointment of a Committee to ascertain whether there were any taxes which unduly pressed on the agricultural interest, with a view to their removal; and even now if a Motion were made to alleviate any burdens which pressed unfairly upon that interest he would willingly second it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the first word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'if the local taxation of the country presses unequally on real property, or bears with undue severity on the occupiers of land, such inequality and undue pressure ought to be removed; but, with the view of granting speedy relief to the agricultural and other interests of the country, without detriment to the claims of the National Creditors, it is the opinion of this House that the public expenditure, now excessive, ought to be forthwith reduced so as to enable Parliament to repeal totally the Excise Duties on Malt and Hops; and to remove, as far as practicable, other burdens which impede the progress of agriculture and of commercial industry.'


seconded the Amendment.

Question proposed—"That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, as the debate could not probably be brought to a close upon that night, he thought an adjournment would be desirable. He would, therefore, suggest that the debate be adjourned to Wednesday next.

Debate adjourned till Wednesday next.