HC Deb 14 March 1849 vol 103 cc702-47

On the reading of the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Local Taxation,


rose, and presented a petition from a meeting held in the parish of St. George, Westminster, of owners and occupiers of land from various places, signed by the Duke of Richmond, as chairman of the meeting at which it was adopted. The petition set forth the extreme distress under which the agricultural classes at present laboured, which distress was attributed to recent legislation. The petitioners asked for some mitigation of their sufferings by the removal of local taxation, the repeal of the malt tax, and concluded by recommending the imposition of a small import duty on all articles of foreign produce.


* Mr. Speaker, when this debate was adjourned on Thursday last, we had merely laid before us the two propositions which you, Sir, have just read—the one embodying the views of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and the other those of my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, who moved the Amendment. It now becomes my duty to state the course which the Government mean to pursue, and which we are prepared to recommend the House to adopt upon this question.

I believe it will be more convenient to the House that I should first address myself to the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The first question upon which the House will have to decide is, whether we shall admit his Amendment, or whether we shall retain the words of the original Motion, for the purpose of dealing with the main question brought forward by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire.

Referring, then, to the proposal of my hon. Friend, I must, in the first place, in justice to him, fully admit the claim which he put forward for candour in his statement of the views which he entertains, while the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) dealt somewhat in the obscure. That hon. Gentleman is a great master of the art of oratory. He knows very well how much may be gained by holding out some *From a pamphlet published by Ridgway. visionary prospect which his hearers may not be able quite to understand; but from which, nevertheless, they may expect some great, though undefined benefit. The hon. Gentleman was particularly mysterious as regarded Ireland. He told us that when we got into Committee he would propose some great scheme. He adverted to some vast projects which had been entertained by a late noble Lord, whose death, however much we may have differed from him, we all lament. He told us that his noble Friend had devised some comprehensive measure which would do more for the benefit of Ireland than anything which any Government had proposed for the last half century; but of what this mighty scheme consisted the hon. Gentleman did not give us the slightest intimation. He left the Irish Members, and indeed the whole House, in utter ignorance of what this great proposal was to be.

My hon. Friend behind me, on the contrary, was clear, plain, and specific, in the statement of his views. He told us not only what he proposed for the present, but the end which he ultimately hoped to attain; though I know not whether that end will be very satisfactory to any hon. Gentlemen who are not prepared to dispense with county Members and county constituencies. I know not how far the views of my hon. Friend extend. I know not whether the hon. Member for the West Riding, who sits near him, concurs in his views, and would commit political suicide, and destroy the constituency which he represents. But this would be the consequence of carrying out what my hon. Friend proposed, when he told us that he "would do away with counties."


I said do away with the Excise, and not counties.


It is quite true that my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose did propose to do away with the Excise; but he extended his views of destruction much further, and proposed—for I took down his words at the time—to do away with the counties also. I am perfectly convinced that I am correct, from the note which I took at the time, and which I now have by me, that my hon. Friend said he would do away with counties.

I doubt whether any of the counties or their representatives will be much flattered by my hon. Friend's proposition, or whether, in the opinion of the agricultural body, it will tend to establish character in which the hon. Gentleman now comes forward, for the first time, that of the "farmer's friend."

Passing this point by, however, my hon. Friend was equally clear and decided in the view which he entertains as to the remission of taxes. The words of his Amendment refer only to the repeal of the duties on malt and hops, and the removal of other burdens on agricultural and commercial industry. We did not know what those other burdens were which he proposed to remove. I was surprised, indeed, that he should have confined his repeal to the duties on malt and hops, knowing the general views of my hon. Friend. We did not know how far he intended to go. He has now clearly explained his intention to be to repeal the duties on windows, bricks, soap, &c, to the extent altogether of about 9,500,000l. I will not now stop to inquire whether the proposal made by my hon. Friend is the most judicious scheme that could be proposed of reducing taxation, for I wish to call the attention of the House to the fact that he has stated it to be a necessary preliminary to his proposal that there should be a reduction of expenditure to the extent of 10,000,000l. annually. My hon. Friend goes even further than the hon. Member for the West Riding. I find, on referring to the estimates for the year, that the total expenditure for the effective services of the Navy, Army, and Ordnance, amounts to about 11,250,000l., and the proposal of the hon. Gentleman would reduce very nearly 10–11ths of that expenditure. Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but my hon. Friend actually proposes to reduce our expenditure by an amount nearly equal to 10–11ths of the whole sum necessary for the defence of the country, and this is the essential preliminary to the reduction of taxation which he proposes.

I will not occupy the time of the House in any long argument on this question. This subject has already been fully and fairly discussed on a previous evening of the present Session, and the opinion of the House has been distinctly expressed on the question in the debate which took place on the proposal of the hon. Member for the West Riding. I will not ask the House again, therefore, to rediscuss a question which has been so recently decided; and in calling upon the House to negative the Amendment, I only call upon them to reaffirm that decision which was pronounced a fortnight ago by a very large majority. By so doing we shall also clear the way for a fair discussion upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. I shall propose, therefore, to the House, in the first place, to negative the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose, and I shall then call upon them for a decision upon the original Motion.

Sir, I now turn to the proposal of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. In much of what fell from that hon. Gentleman I entirely concur. I think it is only due to the hon. Member to bear my testimony to the calm and temperate manner in which he has brought forward his Motion. Great difference of opinion exists upon this subject both in the House and out of it; but it does afford me great satisfaction to see that on this, as well as on a former occasion, these great questions have been introduced to the House in such a manner that anything tending to excite party spirit or personal feeling has been avoided, and the House is thus the better enabled to exercise its unbiassed and unfettered judgment. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman in the just tribute which he paid to the gentry and the farmers of this country, and their inviolable attachment to the institutions of the State. I concur with him also in the sympathy which he has expressed for the distress which they have suffered at former periods, or under which they may now he suffering. I assure the hon. Gentleman, and those who sit near him, that these are no words of course on my part. It is impossible that any good can befal the agricultural interest in this country, in which I do not myself participate, or that they can suffer any evils of which I must not myself bear a share. Whatever interest I possess is indissolubly bound up with that of land. I cannot, however, permit that circumstance to prevent my giving due consideration to the welfare of other interests, and still less can I be deterred by it from looking to what I believe to be the real and permanent interests of agriculture, even if my views on that subject are not the same as those which are at any one time entertained by the Members who profess themselves to be "the farmers' friends."

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the local taxation, to which his Motion refers, is a burden pressing more especially on real property, and, of course, including in real property the land and agriculture of the country. The hon. Gentleman may perhaps remember one of the discussions which took place upon the income tax last year, in which I stated as strongly as he could do that this local taxation was, in my opinion, a special burden, to which real property was subject. A proposition was made by the hon. Member for Cockermouth for charging a higher rate of duty on realised property. I stated various objections to that proposal, to which I will not now further refer; but I stated, as the strongest objection of all, that, even if it were just and fair that a heavier charge should be imposed on real property, such heavier burden did actually exist, for the local taxation to the extent of some millions, borne by real property, amounted in fact to a heavy percentage in the nature of a property tax. In this, therefore, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Nor am I disposed to differ from him as to the amount of the local taxation. I believe, with him, that the poor's rates, church rates, highway rates, and other similar charges, may amount to nearly the sum which he has stated, namely, 10,000,000l. The hon. Gentleman stated that it was only fair to take the amount of the land tax at 2,000,000l., and in that too I agree with him. It is true that the produce of that duty is not now so much as the sum named, but as the interest of the sums paid for the redemption of the land tax must be considered as a charge upon the owners of land, it is fair, for this purpose, to take the charge of the land tax at the amount at which it stood before any redemption took place. I agree, therefore, with the hon. Gentleman, both in his main assertion that local taxation does impose a special burden upon land, and also in his estimate of the amount at which that taxation should be taken, namely, 12,000,000l.

I am afraid that I have now come to the limit of that in which I concur with the hon. Gentleman. I must now point out the very considerable corrections which it seems to me necessary to make in the further statements contained in his speech.

The hon. Gentleman complained of the gross injustice of raising this amount of taxation upon one-fourth part of the income of the country. I think that he will find that he has considerably underrated the income derived from real property. He indeed stated truly that, according to the poor-rates return, the annual value of real property rated to the poor is 67,000,000l. Then, in order to ascertain the total income of the country, he took the last return of the income tax, that for 1848; from which he found that the annual value of the property on which income tax was levied, was 186,000,000l., in round numbers. He then, correctly enough, taking incomes under 150l. a year at one-fourth of the whole, made the necessary addition in this respect, and thus arrived at the conclusion that the whole income of the country was, in round numbers, 250,000,000l. It is true that 67,000,000l. is about one-fourth of this sum. I think, however, that the hon. Gentleman ought not to have been guided by the return of the property rateable to the poor, because it is notorious that there are many inaccuracies in it. The income tax return affords a more accurate criterion of the annual income of the country. I find by a return, which I think appears in the papers laid before the Committee of the House of Lords, which sat in 1846, on the burthens of agriculture, that the value of real property rateable to the poor, according to the income-tax return, amounted not to 67,000,000l., but to 84,000,000l. per annum. I presume the hon. Gentleman will allow me to adopt his own rule of adding to this sum for incomes under 150l., and, if so, the result will be that the annual income of the property rateable to the poor will be, not 67,000,000l., but upwards of 100,000,000l.

If, now, upon these figures hon. Gentlemen will make a very simple calculation, they will find that the burthen of local taxation will fall not on one-fourth, but on more than two-fifths, of the annual income of the country.

I come now to a more material part of this question; and that is, who are the parties to be benefited by the proposal of the hon. Gentleman? He proposes to deal with large sums—to take off from the shoulders of those who now bear it a heavy burthen, which must be borne by some other parties; and it is most essential that we should be quite clear as to the parties who are to receive so large a boon.

The wording of the hon. Gentleman's Motion is somewhat obscure. At one time it would appear that the parties whom it is intended to benefit are the owners of real property; at another time the agricultural interest; and at another the occupiers of land, as distinguished from the owners. The ground, however, upon which the Motion is founded—the reason for bringing it forward—appears very clearly to be, that, in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, some compensation is due to the agricultural interest for the injuries which they conceive themselves to be suffering from the recent changes in the law. The petition which the hon. Gentlemen has presented this day confirms me in that opinion. It is a petition purporting to come from occupying farmers, who state that their object is to restore protection, and to obtain the abolition of the malt tax. The hon. Gentleman himself has abstained from making any proposal for the re-enactment of protecting duties; but he stated that his object was at least a mitigation of those evils of which the petitioners complain. I do not think, therefore, that it is too much to assume that the object of the Motion now before the House, is to impose upon those who do not pay it—I do not, at present, say whether rightly or not—a very large amount of taxation, in order to relieve others who are supposed to be suffering. Now, I think, especially when we are dealing with such very large sums, that it is most essential to see that the benefit which we propose to confer really goes to those for whom so large a relief is intended. If it should turn out that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman opposite is, to take 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l., and to put that sum into the pockets of the people who have suffered no injury, I think that is an unanswerable reason why the House should not agree to his proposition. Upon referring to the income-tax returns, which I have already mentioned, it appears that the annual value of real property rateable to the poor is 84,000,000l. Of this amount, 40,000,000l. only are land, 35,000,000l. are dwelling-houses, 1,200,000l. are canals, 2,400,000l. are railroads, and 5,400,000l. mines, and other descriptions of property. Now, I do not see how it can be said that those who are interested in these latter classes of property have been otherwise than benefited by the recent changes in the law. The owners of houses and the owners of mines could not but derive advantage from the general cheapness of articles of food; indeed it has been the constant assertion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that these alterations were exclusively for the benefit of our large manufacturing towns. The annual value of landed property is less than one-half of that which is rated to the relief of the poor, and therefore more than one-half of the benefit of the relief would be conferred upon those who are not even alleged to have suffered injury, who ask for no compensation, and have not the shadow of a pretence to it.

I will now take the case of the occupiers. I entertain the strongest conviction that the occupiers of land have no interest, or at least a very small one, in the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, because I believe that if there is any proposition which can be proved more satisfactorily than another, it is this—that with the exception of existing leases, and in the case of short tenures during the adjustment of burthens between the tenant and his landlord, the rates are not a charge either on the cost of production or on the tenant, but are, in point of fact, a deduction from the rent.

Two or three years ago, the Committee of the House of Lords on the Burthens of Land inquired fully into this subject. Witness after witness, land surveyors and persons accustomed to value farms for letting, gave the most conclusive evidence that the amount of rates which would be chargeable on the land was always considered by a tenant before taking a farm, and deducted from the rent which he would otherwise pay. I do not profess much practical acquaintance with farming matters; but circumstances have given me a good deal to do with the management of estates, and my own experience entirely confirms this conclusion. The considerations which press upon a man when proposing to take a farm are these:—What is the land worth per acre? What are the annual charges and rates upon it? Having deducted the amount of the latter from what he considers the land to be worth, the difference between the two sums, with a fair allowance for his own profit, is the rent which he is willing to pay. Gentlemen opposite, acquainted with the actual management of landed property, must be as cognisant of this as myself or the witnesses who stated the fact so distinctly before the Committee of the House of Lords. What said Mr. Umbers before that Committee?—"Most undoubtedly I should not be in a situation to give as much for the use of the soil if the poor's rates were double." And he admits that the increase of these rates practically operates as a diminution of the rent. "Before taking a farm, in considering my rent," observes Mr. Hainworth," I should certainly reckon what the charges were on the land, and increase or diminish the rent accordingly." It must be obvious, therefore, that, so long as the laud can pay a rent at all, the rates are a deduction from the rent, and not a charge upon the occupier. I consider it, therefore, to be quite clear, that, with the exceptions which I have already mentioned—chiefly that of land under an existing lease—the occupying tenant has not any permanent interest in the amount of rates; for their payment does not fall upon him, but upon his landlord.

Of the parties, then, whom the hon. Gentleman proposes to benefit, the occupying tenantry have no permanent interest in the question; and of the owners of real property, more than one-half have not the slightest claim to the boon which he proposes to confer upon them.

It is to be observed also—and this fact is well worthy of the attention of the agricultural interest—that the proportion paid by the land towards the maintenance of the poor is year by year diminishing. In the year 1826, landed property paid 69 per cent of the total amount of poor's rates; in the year 1833, 63 per cent; in the year 1841, 52 per cent; and according to the more recent returns which I have already quoted, it is now paying, instead of 69, only 47 8–10ths per cent. The proportion of the poor-rate paid by other property has, of course, undergone a corresponding increase, namely, from 31 to 52 2–10ths per cent.

I have in my hand a document strongly confirming this view of the question, that is, the new valuation of the county in which I reside, and which shows the extraordinary increase in value of the property subject to poor's rates. The valuation of the West Riding of Yorkshire was, in 1816, 1,671,700l. In 1834 it had increased to 2,287,500l. In the course of last year a new valuation has been made, which is to be submitted to the approval of the Easter quarter-sessions. It is only fair to say that the whole of the increase which I am about to state is not due to increased value, but is in part owing to a more equitable and uniform system of valuation. The valuation, however, has increased from 2,287,500l. in 1834, to 3,930,000l. in 1848. The result will appear still more remarkable if we look at the comparative increase in the value of agricultural, compared with other descriptions of property. In the wapentakes of Agbrigg and Morley, which are the principal seat of our manufactures, the increase of value since 1834 is 108 per cent. In the agricultural wapentakes of Staincliffe and Ewecross, the increase is only 27 per cent. If I turn to the valuation of towns, I find that of Bradford increased from 50,000l. in 1834, to 110,000l. in 1848. The valuation of Wakefield has increased from 20,800l. in 1834, to 49,000l. in 1848. Now, I have the greatest regard for my own constituents at Halifax, and for many friends of mine in the West Riding, who are the owners of real property in these manufacturing districts; but I must say that I am not prepared to leave in their pockets a large sum of money which I think at present they most justly pay.

The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire proceeded to comment at length on the various charges which he thought pressed unduly upon land. The first topic upon which he touched was the repair of roads. Now, with regard to the repair of the highways, I must say that if there is any part of the community which is interested in the proper maintenance of roads, it is the persons who are carrying on the profession of agriculture. How could farming be carried on without them? How is the produce of the harvest to be brought home or carried to market for sale? Good roads are just as necessary to agriculture as good machinery is necessary to manufactures. The hon. Gentleman dwelt upon the hardship to the farmer of the commercial traveller passing over the roads, to the maintenance of which he did not contribute; but it must be remembered that the purpose for which he comes into the rural districts is to supply the village shops with which the farmer deals, and if the roads had remained in the state in which they were in former times, when it was impossible for the commercial traveller in his gig or taxed cart to travel through the agricultural parishes, neither the farmer nor the labourer would be so well off as they are at present, unprovided as they would then be with those articles which constitute their comforts and their luxuries. It must also be recollected that a large portion of the roads is partly maintained by tolls; and nothing can be more just than that the parties who use the roads should contribute towards their maintenance. In this respect, however, a considerable benefit is enjoyed by the agriculturist; for there is an almost universal exemption from toll in favour of the manure used in agriculture.

The hon. Gentleman, in the next place, adverted to the burden of church rates, as pressing severely on the rural parishes; but who, I may ask, ought to be liable to these charges, if it is not the parties who reside in the parish and attend the parish church? In proposing, however, to transfer the whole or a part of this charge to the general revenue of the country, he will, in my opinion, inflict a most signal injury, instead of conferring a benefit, upon the agricultural interest. The church rates are at present a light burden in the rural districts; but the effect of transferring the charge to the Consolidated Fund would be to increase the amount expended in the building and repair of churches; and by far the greater proportion of that increase would take place in our manufacturing towns, where the great masses of our population are congregated. The plan of the hon. Gentleman would, therefore, entail upon the agriculturist a much greater proportion of the payment for the maintenance of the fabric of our churches than at present he is liable to contribute.

I now approach a part of the subject which the hon. Gentleman depicted in those brilliant colours which he so well knows how to use—namely, the expense of public prosecutions. He showed himself, not only a master in the broader effects of light and shade, but in the minuter details of a cabinet picture. He has drawn a most striking picture of Tawell's case, from the hiring of her lodgings at Slough by the unfortunate victim, to the presentation by the clerk of the peace of his formidable bill to the assembled magistrates of Buckinghamshire. The subject has, in the hands of the hon. Gentleman, been most skilfully and artistically dealt with. It produced a great effect upon the House; and the only objection which I can make to his use of these circumstances is, that they clearly tell on my side of the argument, and not on his. Instead of saying, as the hon. Gentleman did, "Look at this charge upon the counties—how monstrous it is!" his explanation ought to have been," How grateful the counties ought to be for a measure which relieved them from so heavy a charge!" The hon. Gentleman and his friends near him cannot but be aware that the whole of these charges are now borne by the public Treasury, and provided for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I will not stop to notice some of the illustrations made use of by the hon. Gentleman, which were not, I think, worthy of his "great argument," as when he declared that parishes ought not to be called upon to maintain discharged soldiers, because they had not, as parishes, any voice in questions of peace or war; or, that the expenses of the hostilities in the River Plate ought to be defrayed by a rate upon Liverpool, or those of the Chinese war by a rate upon Manchester. I will pass to a much more important question which was raised by the hon. Gentleman—that of the benefit or injury to the agricultural counties from the existence of our great manufacturing interests. I certainly thought that this was a question upon which no difference of opinion could exist. Why is it that the wages of agricultural labourers are higher in Yorkshire than in Dorsetshire? Why do I pay 14s. a week for my agricultural labour, when the Dorsetshire farmer pays 7s. or 8s.? The reason is, that if I do not pay those wages, the labourer goes off to the adjoining manufacturing districts. I remember a circumstance which occurred to a late lamented friend of mine, who had brought a farm servant from a neighbouring agricultural county, in hopes that he would retain a preference for those pursuits in which he had been bred. The man, however, suddenly left him; and when I asked my friend how this had happened, his answer was, "I gave him 16s. a week to keep him above ground, but he would go into the pit." Hon. Gentlemen wished us to infer that the greatest injury had been inflicted on some of our southern counties by the existence of manufactures in the north. I think if hon. Gentlemen will turn to the evidence taken before the Lords' Committee, to which I have already referred, they will, on the contrary, find conclusive testimony of the benefits conferred upon our southern counties by the introduction of manufactures. There is abundant evidence of the improvement in the value of agricultural property in the neighbourhood of Tiverton in consequence of the introduction of manufactures by an hon. Member of this House. The evidence of one witness, a somewhat reluctant witness, shows that the effect has been considerable in improving the condition of the inhabitants of Tiverton and its vicinity. In the hon. Gentleman's own county it is stated that the "paper mills of Wycombe employ the poor, and reduce the rates." Can the hon. Gentleman deny that the surplus population has been relieved, and the poor's rates reduced in many rural counties, Buckinghamshire amongst others, by the removal of a portion of the peasantry to Manchester and other manufacturing towns? Is it not true, moreover, that in times of pressure in those towns, the persons so removed would suffer almost any privation rather than apply for relief, lest they should be sent back to their native county of Buckingham? It seems to me to be indisputable that our manufactures are a great source of relief to the agricultural districts by taking off that surplus population for which the land would not itself afford adequate employment. Is it not admitted on all hands that the introduction of manufactures into Ireland would be of the greatest possible benefit to that country? Why is this urged by all those who are best acquainted with the circumstances of Ireland? Because they know that the surplus population of that country, which now can hardly he maintained, would speedily be absorbed if we could introduce into that country even a faint resemblance of Manchester and of Leeds.

I come now to a more extraordinary part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman. In proposing to consider the peculiar burthens upon land, the hon. Gentleman utterly protested against taking into consideration the special exemptions which the land enjoys. I confess that I do not see how it is possible to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, without adverting to both sides of this question. The hon. Gentleman says he would not deal with the legacy and probate duties. I agree in much that the hon. Gentleman has said upon this question, and that a great mistake very generally prevails as to the extent of the exemption which is enjoyed by land. As regards the legacy duty, I believe that at this moment land, as compared with personal property, pays to the legacy duty in the proportion of about seven to nine of the whole amount of the duty; and nothing, therefore, can be more preposterous than to treat the whole of this duty as a special burthen upon personal property, from which land is altogether exempt. It is true that the first proposal of Mr. Pitt on that subject was defeated in the House of Commons; but Mr. Pitt was too able a man, and too powerful a Minister, to be altogether defeated; and at a subsequent time he carried an Act through Parliament, the effect of which in charging real estate has been what I have stated. I do not mean, at this moment, to go further into that question: I merely allude to it for the purpose of protesting against the absurdity of leaving out of our consideration the exemptions which land enjoys. If I were to assent to the Committee which the hon. Gentleman proposes on the special burthens of land, how could I refuse the appointment of a Committee on the special burthens of personal property? And how could it be expected that any wise or satisfactory conclusion could be arrived at by two Committees, sitting upon subjects so nearly connected with each other, if the first Committee were prohibited from considering the exemptions enjoyed by real, and the second the exemptions enjoyed by personal, property? Such a course reminds me only of the contest of two knights, in the children's story books, respecting the colour of a shield, when, if each combatant had only had the wit to look on the other side of the shield, he would have seen that which would have put an end to the dispute.

The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire somewhat boldly asserted that nothing had been done for land; and he urged most strongly the heavy pressure of the duties of the excise upon the agricultural interest. If, Sir, the hon. Gentleman is prepared to adopt the proposal which is frequently made by some hon. friends of mine behind me, of the substitution of direct taxation for a large amount of that revenue which is now raised indirectly, then, no doubt, those duties might be reduced or repealed. But if, on the contrary, it remains the policy, and, I believe, the wise and just policy, of this country, to raise a considerable proportion of our revenue by indirect taxation, so long must the duties upon articles of consumption, whether imported or produced in the country, continue to be levied to a considerable extent. The hon. Gentleman did not propose, and I think wisely, to repeal the duty on malt. I believe that this duty, like the duty on tea, is paid by the consumer. I believe that the one is no more paid by the farmer here than the other by the agriculturist in China. But even adopting, for the sake of argument, the view of the hon. Gentleman with respect to the effect of excise duties upon agricultural produce, it is not true that in this respect nothing has been done for the farmer. I will briefly recapitulate to the House the amount of excise duties, more or less affecting the agricultural interest, which have been repealed or reduced since the year 1815. I will read the list to the House—

Beer £3,106,000
Cider 52,000
Hides, &c. 735,000
Starch 117,000
Tiles 33,000
Vinegar 59,000
Malt. 2,352,000
Spirits 381,000
Total repealed and reduced. £6,835,000
Before the Committee of the House of Lords Mr. Pressly, then Secretary of the Board of Stamps and Taxes, appeared as a witness, and stated the amount in those branches of revenue from which the landed interest has been relieved. The duties have been taken off servants employed in husbandry, horses employed in husbandry, carriages mainly used by farmers, and shepherds' dogs. Hon. Gentlemen laugh at the last item, nor is the amount very large; but is the watch-dog employed by the manufacturer less necessary for the protection of his property than the dog which is employed by the farmer? The former, nevertheless, pays a tax upon his dog, while the farmer's dog is exempt. The whole amount, however, of the taxes of this description, from the payment of which the agricultural interest is exempted, is not inconsiderable, being no less than 985,000l. per annum. It has also been relieved from the payment of duty upon the insurance of farming stock. The manufacturer pays duty upon the insurance of all his stock—the farmer is exempt. It is satisfactory to see to what an extent the removal of the duty has led to an increase in the practice of insuring farming stock. In the year 1834 the value of the farming stock insured was 37,211,000l.; in 1838, 47,870,000; in 1847, 58,192,000l. The duty which would have been payable in the last-named year, if the agriculturists had not been exempted, is no less than 87,288l. I have now shown to the House that duties to the amount of 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. have been repealed or reduced of those which are, by hon. Gentlemen opposite at least, supposed to press exclusively upon agriculturists; and this amount must be held to be no slight alleviation of the burthens under which that interest is supposed to labour. But, Sir, this is not all. Between three and four years ago the hon. Member for East Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) stated to the House what he conceived to be the fair and just demands of the agricultural interest. I will briefly recapitulate the items of his statement, and show how far they have been complied with. The hon. Member first proposed that the expense of maintaining the rural police should be borne by the Consolidated Fund. That proposition has not been carried into effect, but it is entirely optional with counties whether they will adopt this force or not. In the majority of English counties I believe it does not exist, and the charge, at any rate, is voluntarily undertaken by those counties which consider it to be for their advantage to do so. His next proposal was, that the farmer should be allowed to use malt for feeding cattle, free of duty. Experiments have been made by scientific persons, at the expense of the Government, on this subject; and I think that it is satisfactorily proved that no great advantage would be derived from the use of malt for this purpose rather than barley which has been steeped, and certainly no advantage at all commensurate with the risk to which the revenue would be exposed. The hon. Gentleman's next demand was for a general Inclosure Bill, and such a Bill has since been passed, very much owing to the exertions of a noble Friend of mine. Lord Yarborough. The result has been very satisfactory, in a considerable increase in the number of inclosures. I will compare four years before and four years after the passing of this Act.

The number of Inclosure Acts passed were—

In 1839 19
1840 14
1841 22
1842 12
Making a total of 67 in the four years.
After the passing of the new Act, the applications for inclosures were—
In 1845 42
1846 90
1847 87
1848 69
Making a total of 288
I think, Sir, when we find that in the last year alone the number of applications exceeds the number of Acts passed in the four former years which I have quoted—that the House will see that the landed interest has derived considerable advantage from the passing of the Inclosure Act, and, further, that the owners do not so entirely despair of the prospects of agriculture as some hon. Gentlemen in this House would lead us to suppose. The hon. Member's next demand was a general Drainage Bill. There are great difficulties connected with the subject, but I hope that in the hands of my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire no long time will elapse before they are surmounted. The next point was that a portion of the prosecutions should be paid by the State. The hon. Gentleman recommended that "only such cases should be paid for out of the county rates as could not be decided except by a jury at the assizes, and over which the magistrates have no power of decision." The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) went far beyond the demand of the hon. Member for Somersetshire, and in 1846 he undertook to pay out of the public Treasury the whole of the expense of prosecutions both at assizes and quarter-sessions, and also the maintenance as well as the prosecution of all prisoners convicted of felony or misdemeanour. Nor is the amount of these expenses so insignificant a sum as some hon. Gentlemen may be disposed to think. In last year's estimates the House voted for these two purposes no less than 348,000l., which was formerly chargeable on the county rates. Two other trifling measures were next recommended by the hon. Gentleman—one the payment of half the expenses of coroners, the other the cost of printing the register of votes—neither of which recommendations has been adopted; the amount, however, is so small, that it is not worth while to insist upon it. There have also been voted out of the public revenue, for the expense of the Poor Law Commission, auditors, schoolmasters, and medical relief, a sum of 236,000l.; and with regard to our sister country, the charge upon the Consolidated Fund for the Irish constabulary was 486,924l. In these respects, therefore, as well as in those remissions of excise duties and other imposts to which I have before allnded, I do not think that the agricultural body has any reason to say that their interests have been utterly neglected—that nothing has been done for the land.

The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire summed up this portion of his argument, by saying, that so far from its appearing that the landholders of this country had been the framers of its laws, it might much more probably be supposed that they were a conquered race, upon whom their triumphant foe, with the stern exclamation of vœ victis, imposed unexampled burthens. The imagination of the hon. Member could not conceive a country in which the land paid so heavy a proportion of the taxation as England. Now, if the hon. Member would but descend from the regions of fancy to the dull realities of actual life, he would find that there is hardly a country in Europe in which a larger portion of the national taxation is not paid by real property and land. If the hon. Member would cross the channel to France, he would find that such is the case in that country. If he went across the Rhine to Prussia—if, from thence, he passed over the Baltic to Sweden—if, in coming back, he crossed the Sound to Denmark—if he took the Netherlands in his way home, he would find that in each and all of those countries a greater proportion of the taxation was paid by the land than in this country. I do not say that, therefore, the burthens upon land in this country ought to be increased, because the wealth of this country is to so large an extent derived from our commerce and our manufactures. It is from the wealth of the country, in whatever shape it exists, that the taxation must be drawn; and it is only reasonable, therefore, in this country, that the landed interest should not bear so large a proportion of the general taxation as in those countries where the land forms so much larger a portion of the sources whence their wealth is derived. I only wish to point out to the hon. Gentleman how near and how readily he may find such countries as even his vivid imagination could not conceive.

I will now pass to what is, after all, the main consideration and question before the House, and that is, the source from which we are to raise that amount of taxation which the hon. Gentleman proposes to take off from those who pay the local rates. The hon. Gentleman stated the amount of local taxation at 10,000,000l.; but I should wish to know whether he included in that amount the municipal taxes of this country, and the local taxation of Scotland. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the sum of 10,000,000l. was his estimate of the burthen on English counties; and he, therefore, did not include in his estimate the municipal taxes of this country, or the local taxation of Scotland.


I did not include them.


continued: I must then add to the burthens which the hon. Gentleman proposes to remove, half the amount of those to which I have just referred. I cannot suppose that he means to exclude Scotland from the benefit of his proposal, or that he will treat gentlemen who happen to live on the other side of the Tweed in a different manner from those who live on this side of the border. Neither can I suppose, from the whole tenor of his speech, that he is not prepared to extend to the inhabitants of towns the same favour as to the inhabitants of rural districts. The hon. Gentleman dressed up with great skill a midland county squire, who complained bitterly of the injustice of being compelled to pay for the maintenance of roads which were used by the commercial traveller, who contributed nothing towards their repair. I apprehend, however, that this midland county squire—I know not which of his hon. friends near him the hon. Gentleman had in his eye—occasionally goes to his county town, and occasionally even comes to this great metropolis, where his carriage rolls along a well-paved street, for which he has never paid, and where at night he walks home by a brilliant light, the expense of which does not fall upon him. I am confident that the hon. Gentleman can never wish to commit so gross an injustice as to exclude either English boroughs or Scotland from the benefit of his project, and I must therefore add the probable amount of their local taxation, say, in round numbers, 2,000,000l., to the charges with which the hon. Gentleman proposes to deal. These, with 2,000,000l. of land tax, make altogether a sum of 14,000,000l., one half of which, or 7,000,000l., the hon. Gentleman would take off the shoulders of those who at present bear it, and would transfer it in some way or other to the general taxation of the country. The hon. Gentleman said, that the mode in which he proposes to carry out his plan was suggested by the proposition which I submitted last year to the House for an increase of the income tax. I certainly was much surprised at the statement of the hon. Gentleman, remembering the universal disfavour with which that proposal was received. I thought that my proposal was much more likely to stand as a beacon than as an example. Let us see, however, what would be the effect in detail of adopting the proposition of the hon. Gentleman for an increase of the income tax. I conceived at first that the hon. Gentleman would distribute the 7,000,000l. of additional income, tax among the various schedules in the same proportion in which they now contribute to the tax. The amount of the income tax in the last year for which we have a return is 5,600,000l., and I have made a calculation, dividing the 7,000,000l. among the schedules in the same proportions as each now contributes to the first-mentioned sum.

I will first take the effect upon Schedule A. The result of the hon. Gentleman's proposal would be to impose on Schedule A an addition to the amount of 3,233,000l. I confess that I cannot see the policy of this operation. I cannot see the advantage of putting a large sum into one pocket of a particular class for the sake of taking it out of the other. I cannot think that it would be more agreeable to pay a certain sum to the taxgatherer rather than to the collector of rates. This seems to me to be a bootless and unnecessary operation.

Let us, in the next place, see how the proposal of the hon. Gentleman will affect the farmer. I have, I think, already proved to the House beyond controversy that no portion of the local taxation, which is the immediate subject of our consideration, is paid by the occupying tenant. But if we are to impose on the parties included in Schedule B, that is, upon the occupying tenantry of the country, their portion of the 7,000,000l., they will have to pay an additional sum of 405,000l. Sir, I must say, that a proposal which would impose on the farmers such an addition to the amount of income tax which they already pay, comes rather strangely from the hon. Gentlemen who profess to be exclusively the farmers' friends. I must say, for myself, that as a landlord I entirely object to taking from my own shoulders a burden which I at present bear, and placing it upon the shoulders of my tenantry. I beg to press this point particularly on the attention of the House, with a view of enabling it to come to a right conclusion as to the practicability of the hon. Gentleman's plan. It is not uncommon for hon. Gentlemen at agricultural meetings to put very prominently forward the case of the occupying tenants, and yet here are those Gentlemen who represent themselves as being preeminently the advocates of that class, recommending a change of such a nature as cannot fail of operating in a manner most detrimental to their interests. I will not occupy the House longer on this part of the subject. I will leave to Gentlemen who attended those meetings, who took part in that from which the petition emanated, signed by the Duke of Richmond, and presented to-day on behalf of the occupiers of land, I will leave to them the task of justifying their conduct in supporting a scheme which would impose an additional burden on the tenant farmers to the extent of 405,000l.

Such, Sir, would be the effect upon parties paying income tax under Schedule A, and Schedule B, of the plan of the hon. Gentleman. The more I consider the matter, however, the more I am led to believe that he did not really mean that the proposed increase of income tax should fall on those two schedules. I was confirmed in this view of the subject when I heard the hon. Gentleman quote the words of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth, which he used in the year 1835, in arguing against the repeal of the malt tax. The right hon. Baronet at that time warned the country Gentlemen that the repeal of that duty might lead to the imposition of "a good, comfortable income tax." The hon. Gentleman pointed out to the country Gentlemen that they now have the benefit of both; but what would be the effect on the agricultural interest from the adoption of the proposal which he himself had submitted to the House? He has very wisely abstained from advocating the repeal of the duty on malt, but proposes to more than double the income tax. This course is so contrary to the principles on which the hon. Gentleman is acting, that the conviction is forced upon my mind that, after all, this is not the proposal which the hon. Gentleman really meant to submit to the House. He alluded, however, to this part of the subject so obscurely, that he left it very uncertain what his proposition precisely is. I cannot, however, believe that the hon. Gentleman can be so inconsistent as to double the income tax of the owners of real property, and to subject the occupying farmer to so serious an addition as upwards of 400,000l. I am, therefore, irresistibly driven to the conclusion that the real proposal of the hon. Gentleman is to impose the whole of the 7,000,000l. upon the three last schedules in the income tax. Sir, this is a very serious proposition. The parties included under the three schedules, C, D, and E, at present pay 2,750,000l.; and would the hon. Gentleman impose on them 7,000,000l. in addition, or, in other words, more than treble the amount which they have to pay? There seems to me, however, to be an insuperable objection to this proposal. It is impossible to place this tax on Schedule C. I am convinced that the hon. Gentleman and those who sit around him are the last persons in this House who would support a proceeding which would be a breach of the public faith. They must know that a solemn Act of the Legislature prevents us from taxing the funds as funds. We cannot impose a duty on the dividends of the public funds; we can only tax the proceeds as a part of the income of those who receive them. But then we are bound in justice to tax all income alike. This was the doctrine held by Mr. Pitt, and by all statesmen from Mr. Pitt downwards. I concur in this opinion myself. I so argued the case upon the income tax last year. But I will give the hon. Gentleman every advantage. Some persons do not go to this extent: some persons hold that the justice of this claim on the part of the fund holders would be fairly met if all realised property were subjected to the same charge. But even they do not maintain the possibility of taxing the dividend of the fundholders, unless the same duty is imposed on incomes derived from property included in Schedule A. Even on this view of the subject, therefore, the hon. Gentleman cannot exempt Schedule A without at the same time exempting Schedule C.

His proposition, then, will be reduced to imposing the whole of the additional income tax upon the two last schedules of the income tax, which at present contribute about 2,000,000l.; and I think I need do no more than merely state the fact that the classes now contributing 2,000,000l. would have to pay 9,000,000l., to convince the House of the utter impracticability of the scheme.

I think, Sir, that I have now demonstrated the utter impossibility of carrying into effect what appears to be the plan of the hon. Gentleman, so far as we can understand it, in whatever shape it is presented to us. I can hardly, indeed, believe that the hon. Gentlemen has applied his powerful intellect to the due consideration of a plan, the details of which are so imperfect. I cannot but think that he is not himself the author of the scheme, but that it must have been suggested to him by some other person accustomed to deal with political questions in a more rash and off-hand manner, and that the hon. Gentleman has only been doing his best to set off in the most attractive colours a plan which is not his own.

But, Sir, independently of the impracticability of the plan as proposed by the hon. Gentleman, I entertain the strongest objections to the transfer of charge from local to general taxation, even on a much more limited scale. I object altogether, and upon principle, to any considerable amount of local and particular burthens being converted into general taxation. I should be very sorry to be a party to making any such change. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman himself stated very strongly objections to substituting a national rate for the present mode of levying the means of supporting the poor. In the year 1845, the hon. Member for East Somerset said, that he could never agree to convert the country into one great union. I think that by such a change we should lose every check upon the economical administration of the funds. This point was inquired into by the Lords' Committee, and several witnesses concurred in the opinion that it would tend largely to increase the expenditure, both for the relief of the poor, and for local purposes, if the expenditure were to be defrayed from the public revenues. Nor do I think that the objection is removed by placing only half the expenditure upon the country at large. The half-grant system has been recently tried in Ireland, and the experiment has not been very successful. Three years' experience has, I think, led to the irresistible conclusion that it is not safe to leave to local parties the power of charging even a portion of their expenditure upon the Consolidated Fund. Nor do I think that it would improve the matter to attempt to vote such expenditure in the House of Commons. I do not see how we could, practically, exercise any efficient control over the expenditure intended for local purposes. It would be impossible for the House of Commons to go into questions of adding a relieving officer in one union, or taking off a medical officer in another, or to deal with many of those questions of petty detail which are the constant subjects of discussion before boards of guardians. If the House of Commons, however, is not to enter into these questions, it can exercise no effective control over this expenditure, and we shall only be blindly voting for expenses the amount of which is to be determined by others. The only safety for the economical administration of this local expenditure is that it should be administered by those who pay the rates by which it is defrayed. If this is not the case, I am convinced that the result would be nothing but waste and misapplication of the funds, and that the proposed transfer would not be a transfer merely, but would end in a positive and considerable addition, both to the local and to the general burthens of the country.

Sir, I object, moreover, to that which would inevitably be the result of this transfer; that is, that the central government would in the end absorb the management of all the local concerns of the country. The hon. Gentleman himself argued strongly in favour of self-government; and no man in the House can entertain a stronger opinion than I do myself upon this subject. I consider that no price is too high to pay for it. I believe self-government to be the rock upon which the stability of all the institutions of this country rest, and it is of far too much value to be lightly surrendered. I think that what is passing on the Continent is a sufficient warning to us in this respect, where they only pass from blind submission to an officer of the central government to obedience to the dictates of a revolutionary committee. I strongly advise the country gentlemen of England not to surrender so invaluable a privilege. I strongly advise them not to attempt to evade the payment of that which is the price of this privilege, our local taxation; for I am convinced that if we surrender our habits and practice of self-government, we shall inflict a fatal injury on what is the best security for the permanence of the institutions of our country.

Sir, I have admitted that the local taxation does press more especially on land; I think, as I thought last year, that the existence of the local taxation is a good answer to any attempt to impose fresh imposts upon real property; I cannot, however, think it wise on the part of the landed interest to press the change which is now advocated. It is impossible not to see that there is much that is very plausible in the arguments of those who advocate the imposition of a different rate of duty upon the different schedules of the income tax. It is impossible to deny that the argument in favour of taxing more lightly that income which arises from uncertain sources, or from the professional exertions of the party paying the duty, is one which is likely to have much weight in future discussions of this question. I think, however, that the adoption of such a course, plausible as it may appear, would be the first step towards a great injustice. I think it would lead to a graduated income tax, and to ultimate confiscation of property. We have an example of this state of things in the recent edict promulgated at Rome, for an income tax of 25 per cent on small incomes, and of 75 per cent on large ones. I think such legislation fraught with serious danger to all property, and I strongly advise the owners of property in this country to do nothing which weakens their ground for opposing any such proposal, even in its most mitigated form. I advise them, for the preservation of the inestimable advantages of our self-government, and the security of our property, cheerfully to pay those local charges which hitherto we have always borne.

Sir, I will not trouble the House much longer; but, before I sit down, I must say a few words in reference to that distress, and the depreciation of price of agricultural produce, upon which so much has been said. I cannot but think—admitting the existence of distress in different parts of England—that the amount of that distress has been much exaggerated. I fully admit that in the southern counties of England distress prevails very generally. I believe that in the counties along the southern coast the crops have boon small in quantity, and still worse in quality. I believe that in Sussex, and part of Kent, there has been an abundant crop of hops of an inferior description. The price, therefore, both of hops and of the wheat grown in the south of England is very low, and this circumstance sufficiently accounts for the distress of the southern counties. I do not find, however, from such facts as I have been able to ascertain, that there is in those facts any evidence of the prevalence of extraordinary distress in the other agricultural districts of England. I am inclined to think, also, that the present depreciation of the price of agricultural produce is very much caused by alarm. With reference to the price of corn, the disturbance which has taken place in the markets of the world for the last two or three years is such as to render it no easy matter to arrive at any definite conclusion as to what the price may permanently range at, but I think that there is abundant reason to believe that it is at present unduly lowered by the language held at recent agricultural meetings. With regard to another great article of agricultural produce—namely, meat, I believe that at this moment the price is temporarily depressed below the average rate. Upon this subject the hon. Member for Somerset was wont to express the greatest alarm, and upon turning to the speech which he made in 1845, I find a statement of the prices of meat of various descriptions. The hon. Gentleman very fairly took, not the price of meat at the time when he spoke, but the average price of the preceding year, and I will follow the same course on the present occasion. I will not take the prices existing at this period of depression, but I will take the average of the prices of last year, 1848, and compare them with the prices of 1844, quoted by the hon. Member. I find on this comparison that the price of every article is higher in 1848 than it was in 1844. I give the prices of beef and mutton in Smithfield market, month by month, and the prices per stone were as follows:—

1844. 1848.
s. d. s. d.
January 4 2 4 10
February 3 8 4 8
March 3 10½ 4 4
April 3 4 4
May 3 3 11
June 3 4 0
July 3 10½ 4 0
August 3 10½ 4 1
September 3 4 1
October 3 11½ 4 2
November 3 10¼ 4 4
December 4 3 4 6
Average 3 10¾ 4
1844. 1848.
s. d. s. d.
January 4 5 2
February 4 6 5 6
March 4 4 5 4
April 4 0 5 3
May 3 9 5 0
June 3 10 4 11
July 3 11 5 0
August 3 11 4 11
September 3 11 5 4
October 3 11 4 10
November 3 10½ 4 10
December 4 2 5 2
Average 4 5
The hon. Gentleman made a further statement of the average price of beasts in the London market for the year 1844. I will now state the prices as quoted by him, and compare them with the prices in 1848, of the same description.

The rates are per stone of 8lbs.:—

1844. 1848.
s. d. s. d.
Inferior beasts 2 7 3
Second class 3 3
Third class (large prime) 3 3 11½
Fourth class (Scots) 3 10¼ 4
Inferior sheep 3 3
Second class 3 4 4
Third class (long coarse woolled) 3 8 4
Fourth class (South Downs) 3 11¾ 5
Lambs 4 10½ 5
Coarse calves 3 4
Small prime calves 4 4
Large hogs 3 3 4 1
Small neat porkers 3 10¾ 4
I think that, from these statements, we are warranted in conclusion that the apprehensions entertained by the hon. Gentleman in 1845, about the introduction of foreign cattle, have not been justified by the event, and that the present depressed price of meat must be owing to some temporary cause. I am afraid that some of the Gentlemen who support the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire are too prone to entertain unreasonable fears, and to give expression to their fears in language which is only calculated to produce the effect which they themselves would most deprecate. I do not find, however, that their practice always corresponds with the professions in their speeches. I was informed the other day, and upon very good authority, that the following occurrence took place:—A gentleman, a very prominent member of the great society in Bond-street, and who took an active part in their recent proceedings, went down to an agricultural meeting in the country, and, enlarging upon the miserable prospects of agriculture, stated in the strongest terms his belief that 46s. per quarter was the highest price which the best qualities of English wheat would ever command. A gentleman near him immediately offered to give him 46s. a quarter for all his wheat, good and bad. The offer was refused. The gentleman then offered to give him 46s. for his wheat for any number of years for which he would agree to deliver it. No.—47s.? No.—48s.? No.—49s.? No.—50s.? Still no: but he did ultimately agree to take 50s. for his wheat of this year. I entirely approve of his practice of obtaining as much as he could for his wheat, but I think it would have been as well, if, with this opinion of its value, he had not alarmed his agricultural audience with a prospect of no higher price than 46s. for the best wheat they could grow. [Cries of "Name, name!"] I will tell the hon. Member privately who the gentleman was, and when this occurrence took place; but I do not think it convenient or fair to give the names of parties publicly on all occasions.

I will now revert to the evidence which I have obtained through the means of my hon. Friend the Member for Hull of the state of various districts, and I do not think that the facts which I shall mention bear out hon. Gentlemen in their assertions of the general existence of overwhelming distress. I will not refer to the northern counties of England, where manufacturing districts are mingled with agricultural. I will confine myself to counties which are purely of the latter description. I will begin with the county of Lincoln. In 1821 the rental of that county rated to the poors's rate was 2,127,309l., in 1847 it was 2,212,161l., showing an increase of 84,854l. in the annual rental of the county. There was a decrease of 19 per cent in the poor's rates between the years 1834 and 1847. The rating in the pound for the poor's rate in 1847 was 1s.d., whilst the average rate was 1s.d. throughout England. The expenditure, however, for the relief of the poor was somewhat higher in 1848 than it was in 1847. The wages of a good labourer were 12s. a week, and the deposits in the savings hanks, I understand, are increasing. In reference to this decrease in the amount of poor's rates, I find, upon looking into a return laid upon the table of the House last Session, that the six counties in which the greatest decrease of poor's rates has taken place since 1834 are purely agricultural counties. The decrease has been in

Bedfordshire 43 per cent.
Sussex 41 per cent.
Kent 39 per cent.
Suffolk 38 per cent.
Buckingham 33 per cent.
Norfolk 32 per cent.
This is strong evidence of the diminishing burden of the poor-rates on agriculture.

I will now state the number of paupers who were maintained in the workhouses in the sixty unions of the counties of Cambridge, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk. The total number of indoor paupers during the last week of February, 1848, was 13,511. The number in the corresponding week of 1849 was 13,012, showing a decrease in favour of 1849 of 499. The amount of outdoor relief in the same week was 6,989; in the corresponding week of 1849 was 6,947. If I turn to the midland counties I find pretty nearly the same result. I have before me a statement of the average weekly number of paupers relieved in the workhouses of eleven unions—six in Bedfordshire, and five in the adjoining parts of Northamptonshire for twelve weeks, four of them before, and eight of them since last Christmas. The average weekly number of paupers in the workhouses of those unions during the twelve winter weeks of 1847–8, was 2,301. The average weekly number of paupers in the workhouses of those unions during the corresponding twelve weeks of last winter was 2,010, showing an average weekly decrease of 291. The average weekly amount of outdoor relief in the same unions for the twelve winter weeks of 1847–8, was 1,264l.; and the expense for the corresponding period of 1848–9, was 1,161l., showing an average weekly decrease of 103l. Looking, Sir, at these facts, I cannot but think that there is no evidence to justify the assertion of general and extraordinary distress. I fully admit, and I sincerely lament, that distress does exist in many parts of the agricultural counties, but I think that its extent must have been exaggerated.

I sincerely sympathise with those who are suffering, but I earnestly press upon hon. Gentlemen not to increase the evil by the use of incautious expressions. I cannot but think that the depression of which the agricultural interest now complains, is aggravated in no inconsiderable degree by the alarm which the language used at their public meetings is calculated to produce.

I do not myself participate in that alarm. I believe that the landowners may fairly rely on the demands of our large and increasing population for an increased consumption of their produce; and I believe that if the people have not a high price to pay for the necessaries of life, they will buy largely those articles of consumption which the landowners of this country alone can supply; but for this purpose it is essential that they should have the necessaries of life cheap. It is essential, above all, to their prosperity that they should have cheap food. Their prosperity I believe to be necessary to ours. I should be as unwilling as any one to see my rents reduced, nor do I anticipate that such will be the consequence of our recent measures; but, even if such were the case, I do not consider that such reduction is the worst thing that could happen to the country. I believe distress among large masses of the, labouring population is infinitely worse than any sacrifice of luxuries which the landlords may be compelled to undergo. I believe, moreover, cheapness of food to be of the greatest political importance. I agree with the hon. Member for the West Riding that it was a most important circumstance towards preserving tranquillity in this country during the course of last year, that the labouring classes had great command over the necessaries of life; that the duty on corn was low; that its speedy extinction was certain. I believe that with the well-doing of the great body of the people, our prosperity is essentially bound up; that in their contentment we have the best security for the peace of the country, and for the security of property; and that, whilst all persons have a strong interest in maintaining that security, no class has an interest so strong, so permanent, and so inalienable as we who are the owners of the soil.


said, that he should be very brief in the observations which he had to address to the House in answer to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His right hon. Friend admitted the great distress of the labouring population; but in his (Mr. Christopher's) opinion, that distress had been produced by what was called free trade. They had removed every particle of protection from the agricultural interests, while, either for the purpose of revenue, or some other motives, they still continued some limited amount of protection to every other interest in the country. That being so, it became the duty of the agriculturists to look with more care into the nature of the burdens which pressed upon them in particular. He should not attempt to enter into all the statistics that had been referred to by his right hon. Friend. He gave the right hon. Gentleman full credit for sincerity in the views which he entertained on this subject; but at the same time he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had dealt fairly with the Motion before the House. The Motion had been brought forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire in a spirit of conciliation. He had not asked for any new system of taxation; but simply that the House should resolve itself into a Committee to hear the alterations that he had to propose in the local burdens of the country, or else allow him to bring in a Bill at once upon the subject. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that the local burdens were unequally borne, to the injury of the landed interest. Now, his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire had shown the taxation borne by the land amounted to 10,000,000l. a year, added to 2,000,000l. of land tax, making in all 12,000,000l. more than was inflicted on commerce and manufactures—exclusive of malt tax. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had gone far to mystify this statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire. His hon. Friend had stated that there were certain classes exempted in practice from the payment of these local burdens who ought to bear a portion of them; but he had said nothing about increasing the income tax. On the contrary, the proposition of his hon. Friend ought to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the property and income tax altogether. His hon. Friend was of opinion that those who were now exempted from local burdens should be saddled with one-half of the local taxation of the country. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer was of opinion that such a measure would not relieve the occupier, but would go to increase the rental of the landlord. He did not deny that the rent was a material element in considering the profits on land; but he asked any man conversant with the state of the country, and the distress prevailing amongst the agricultural classes, whether under any circumstances whatever it would be possible for landlords to raise their rents? The rates were levied on the occupier of the soil; and when it was found in a great portion of those distressed districts to which allusion had been made, that the rent amounted to 7s. an acre, and the poor-rate to as much more, how could any person get up and say that the relief to the occupier would not be immediate from the diminution of the poor-rate? While he gave his support to this Motion, he did not think that it was the best remedy that could be devised. If Her Majesty's Ministers could be induced to retrace their steps, and to place an equivalent duty on the agricultural produce of other countries, it would, he admitted, be the best mode of relieving the agriculturists; but as the Legislature had, by its recent policy, precluded them from entertaining that hope, the only other mode of relief open to them was that suggested by his hon. Friend. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was impossible to tax the fundholder, because his money had been advanced on the understanding that no such liability was incurred. But long before any national debt existed, the law of England was, that all property whatever should be rated for the support of the poor. In the evidence given before the Select Committee of the House of Lords, the Rev. Mr. Jones, a Tithe Commissioner, on having his attention called to this subject, thus expressed himself:— The law of England was, and is, except by an act of what I may call legislative violence, that the profits of personal property should be assessed to the poor-rate. Now, at first, the land represented by far the greatest body of property in the country. There might have been at that time a population of 4,000,000, and above 3,000,000 of them were upon the land. Now, the progress of events has led to this state of things: you have a non-agricultural population double that of the agricultural, and that non-agricultural population is put in motion by a mass of capital greater than any that the world has yet seen applied to any system of industry in any country; and by an alteration in the administration of the law, the whole vast income derived from that property has been withdrawn from any contribution whatever to local taxation. The law of Elizabeth was, that everybody should contribute according to his ability, that ability being estimated by the annual value of his property; and the courts of law do not fail to assert that general principle, though they found it difficult to apply it. It was not on account of any alteration in the law, or any alteration in the principle of assessment, but simply from the difficulty created to the courts of law, that this mass of property, which now amounts to, I think, three times, perhaps five times, the amount of the real property assessed, has been entirely withdrawn from local taxation. Now I say that this is a very great injury to the owner of landed property, and especially an injury to the owner of tithe rent charges. It is said that those taxes are for local purposes, and that it is a tax raised upon a particular district, and expended in the particular district for the advantage of that district, and that therefore there is a sort of equivalent got in a rural district by taking out the stock of the farmer. I do not know upon what ground it is stated that that is to be considered substantially as a compensation to the parties who might otherwise complain. I submit that that is not so. There are two sorts of local taxation, and you cannot predicate of the one what is only true of the other without getting into mischief. There are two kinds of local taxation in a district; one portion of the local taxation is collected and expended in the district, but it is expended for the special advantage of those who contribute to it: for example, take the sewers rate and the highway rate. The sewers rate is expended for the special advantage of those who pay it; and with respect to the highway rate, inasmuch as you must have occupation roads up to a certain extent, no doubt that is for the advantage of those who pay it; but so far as it is not for the purposes of occupation, but for allowing the whole 18,000,000 of Her Majesty's subjects to travel upon it, that is a burden paid by the owner of real property for the benefit of the whole community. Supposing in any district, here are A, B, C, the owners of property, who by the spirit of our law are all liable to be assessed, and who would be assessed if it were not for the diffculties that have been opposed to the working of this principle, if you put upon A, B, and C, a tax which shall benefit the whole district, and which is to be expended in the district, that is a local tax, of which they cannot complain; but if you put, for the purposes of that district, a tax upon A, leaving B and C to escape entirely, that will be a considerable injustice to A. When the law was first enacted, there were three millions of agricultural population and one million of non-agricultural. The non-agricultural has increased to twelve millions now, so that the non-agricultural is double the agricultural; and yet the whole of the property by which the non-agricultural labourers are put in motion, and the whole of the capital which employs them, escapes taxation; and the whole of this taxation is thrown back upon a point which does not move at the same rate as the non-agricultural population, but remains comparatively stationary. It is a very favourite plan with tradesmen, if they thrive in the world, to invest their property in houses, to get a little more income out of it. A town becomes a great manufacturing district. Capitalists come there laying out millions, and going away year after year with properties often counted by the half-million. Then comes one of those fluctuations in the trade of the country which must occur, and to which from its very wealth our country is much more subject than others; and then people are thrown out of employment; a huge burden is thrown upon the unhappy man who has invested his money in real property there, and he is told that he must not complain, because it is laid out for the benefit of the district—that is, it is laid out for the benefit of B and C, whose profits escape, and who have been getting rich, while he has been getting poor. This appeared to be not only conclusive as to what the law of England was in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, since which period the national debt had been created, but to be also a sufficient reason why the fund-holders ought to be now taxed for the support of the poor, more especially as the recent alterations in the commercial code of the country had been made almost exclusively for their benefit. Before the same Committee it also appeared in evidence that in one parish in Sussex the poor-rates rose in 1835 to the enormous amount of 17s. 6d., while the rent of the land did not average more than 15s. an acre. Now would any hon. Member contend that if half that rate of 17s. 6d. were removed from the land, the occupier would not be benefited by it? If he could tell the farmer that instead of paying 17s. 6d. poor-rate per acre, he would have to pay only half that sum in future, the immediate relief would be almost equal to the whole profits of his farm. [An Hon. MEMBER: Tenants under lease.] Whether under a lease or not did not signify, for he had not such an opinion of the hon. Gentleman as to think that he would take advantage of a tenant from year to year, and raise his rent. In the one case no one could deny that you would call upon him to pay half instead of the whole 17s. 6d.; and even if the occupying tenants were to be subjected to additional taxation, as the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, to the amount of 400,000l. odd, in this particular case at all events, and in most as he believed, they would be the gainers. It was clear to him, from all these arguments that, as far as the occupiers of the soil were concerned, the proposition of his hon. Friend would be the greatest boon that could be conferred upon them. But there were other reasons also why some relief should be afforded to the agricultural interest. It was at present the only interest that was totally and entirely unprotected. They had free trade in every sort of agricultural produce, while in all other articles they had some sort of protection. On referring to the last tariff, he found that glass was protected by a duty of ten per cent; carriages, buttons, copper, iron, leather, and other manufactures had also ten per cent protection; silks had fifteen per cent protection, and the woollen manufacture was likewise protected to a considerable extent. Was it, then, fair or just to exclude the agriculturists from all protection whatever? But there was another very material consideration. He found the agriculturists were not to have the free use of their own land, or be allowed to cultivate it as they pleased. The cultivation of tobacco was entirely prohibited in this country. An hon. Friend of his, connected with the Board of Excise, had stated that the quality of the home-grown tobacco was so inferior, that it would require a differential duty of 1s. 10d. to enable it to compete with American tobacco. Now, he would not ask any such protection. He merely asked that the agriculturists should have the use of their own land, and be allowed to cultivate it as they pleased. The hon. Member for Montrose had told them the other night, that there was to be no more said about protection in that House; but in reply he begged to say that he had never asked for greater protection than was given to the other interests of the country. All he contended for was, that as the population of this country were highly and severely taxed, and having a heavy national debt to pay, it was a grievous hardship that the owners and occupiers of the soil, in addition to the general burdens of the country, should have these heavy duties placed exclusively upon them. It was said, that other countries imposed heavier burdens upon the land; but it should not be forgotten that other countries also allowed the land greater privileges. What was the law in France? He had not the figures immediately before him; but he believed that until prices rose to an enormous height, the introduction of all agricultural produce was strictly prohibited. They had a sort of sliding scale in that country; but it was not the same as the one that existed here, for they had one sliding scale for the north of France, another for the middle districts, and a third for the south. But what else did the French do? They put, he believed, a double duty upon all corn that was imported into the country in other than in French ships. Under these circumstances, he thought that the agriculturists of France could afford to pay high rates of taxes. Then, with regard to the United States of America, they all knew perfectly well that it was for the interest of the United States to foster the manufactures of their country, and to get rid of their corn as fast as possible. And what does this country do? It takes the corn of the United States at the nominal duty of 1s., while the United States imposes on our woollen cloths a duty of 40 per cent; on yarns a duty of 30 per cent; on manufactured cotton, a duty of 30 to 35 per cent; on silks, a duty of from 20 to 40 per cent; and on every article of clothing a duty was imposed equivalent to an ad valorem duty of from 20 to 50 per cent. If that were the case, he asked if it were unfair for the agricultural interest, seeing it was impossible to secure reciprocity, now to come forward and ask for a simple measure of justice? His hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire did not intend to interfere with the income and property tax, which, he must say, would never have existed but for the pretence put forth, that it was only to be imposed for a temporary period. He should be glad, whenever an opportunity occurred, to oppose the reimposition of that tax, though at the same time, under the existing state of things, he thought those who did not pay the local taxes ought to be permanently saddled with an income tax. There were now two propositions before them, the one that of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, the other that of the hon. Member for Montrose, who now came forward under the new title of the "farmer's friend," and who proposed to the House the repeal of the malt tax, in connexion with the diminution of the expenditure of the country. Now, he (Mr. Christopher) was ready to admit the inequality of the malt tax. He admitted that to a certain extent it was an odious tax, as it was excessive in amount, being upwards of 70 per cent; and that it was levied in an inquisitorial manner upon a certain portion of the community. Under these circumstances, he considered that the tax was unjust; and when it was hinted by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the tax was mainly paid by the consumer, he denied the proposition, and he would put a case to hon. Gentlemen on the other side, connected with manufactures, which would show that the statement was without foundation. Suppose the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pressed by the want of the malt tax and the removal of local taxation, should propose to the House to raise a tax upon so many yards of cotton, in such a way that it should be necessary for the exciseman to go into the mill whenever he chose, to regulate the machinery, or to measure the cotton, he doubted whether they would ever hear a word from Gentlemen opposite of this tax upon cotton being paid by the consumer. He believed that Manchester and Leeds, and the other manufacturing towns, would resound with clamour against such an inquisitorial and unjust tax. [Mr. HERRIES: That was the case some years ago, when a duty was levied upon printed cotton goods.] But still, admitting the inequality and injustice of the malt tax, he must ask, whether it would be more for the benefit of the owner and occupier of the land, and for those who were occupied generally in the pursuits of agriculture—whether it would be more for their benefit to accept the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, or that of the hon. Member for Montrose? There was no third proposition before the House, for the Government had proposed nothing. Now, he must say, that those districts which were most affected by the malt tax were not the most suffering from agricultural distress. That part of the country which he had the honour to represent, grow more barley, perhaps, than any other; and he must say, that the most intelligent occupiers of the land whom he had consulted, had always said to him, "We don't care about the malt tax, if you give us back the protection we had before." He thought it was, therefore, better to accept the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire. It would withdraw 6,000,000l. from the local taxation of the country, which would be felt as a material relief by that portion of the agricultural population of the country who, on the admission of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, suffered most from the present state of things; whereas, if they repealed the malt tax, involving in that repeal the question of reducing the expenditure of the country, he thought they would be compromising the honour of the country; and by the penny-wise and pound-foolish system of the hon. Member for Montrose, they would afterwards find themselves involved in a system of increased taxation. It was worth while to contrast the statements of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the statements of the hon. Member for Montrose. His right hen. Friend told them that there was no general agricultural distress; but those hon. Gentlemen who represented the manufacturing districts admitted that the distress was horrible. Those Gentlemen finding that they had already persuaded the Government to repeal the protective duties, proposed now to advance a step further in the democratic movement. They knew, much better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer did, that the agricultural districts were in the greatest distress, that the labouring population in particular were suffering severely, and they thought this conjuncture of circumstances afforded a good opportunity to withdraw the affections and feelings of the labouring population in the agricultural districts from those whom they had hitherto looked up to as their natural protectors. And with regard to those hon. Gentlemen who talked of the inequality of the malt tax, and of their desire for its repeal, he would refer to the language which the hon. Member for the West Riding had used on two separate occasions. The hon. Gentleman in 1835, when the Duke of Buckingham, then Marquess of Chandos, brought forward in this House a Motion for the repeal of the malt tax, the hon. Gentleman then condemned that Motion as one of the most unfair that ever was introduced into this House; and he said it was the plan of landowners in this House to bring forward Motions which would injure the public credit of the country and compel the Parliament to break faith with the national creditor. But a few weeks ago the same hon. Gentleman went to a meeting somewhere down in the country, where he appeared to commiserate the farmer, denounced the malt tax as oppressive to the community, and professed himself to be most desirous for its repeal. He did not believe that the hon. Gentleman now intended to afford any substantial relief to an interest he had never supported; but it was with a view to create discord between the different classes of agriculturists, and, by inducing the farmers to believe that he was their real benefactor, to lead them to quarrel with those who had always hitherto stood by them. Under these circumstances he could not support the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose; and he much preferred the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, who had put forward his case, not, as the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, in dim visions floating before his eyes, but in the clearest and the most easily understood manner that he had ever heard presented. Under these circumstances, be warned his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to run away with the idea that the agricultural interest was not in a distressed condition—that the present state of things would soon blow over. It was impossible for any person who had watched the state of things since the opening of the ports for the introduction of foreign corn not to see that there was not a single week since the ports were opened in which there had not been admitted into the port of London alone at least 30,000 quarters of foreign corn, while the quantity sold in one day only in Mark-lane amounted to 2,600 quarters. Now, admitting this policy to be right, still he would ask whether, in such a state of things, it was possible to maintain that the agricultural interest could be in any other than a depressed state? He could assure his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that no person in the House was more desirous than he was to maintain the revenue—no person was more desirous than he was, be the Government what it might, not to throw any embarrassment in the way of the financial affairs of the country; but, at the same time, he could assure his right hon. Friend that, unless he directed his mind to the present state of the agricultural interest, with a view to the Government proposing a remedy themselves, or else agreed to the safe remedy proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, he could assure him of this—that, in addition to the other difficulties which beset the Government—difliculties arising from internal dissensions, from the wretched condition of Ireland, and from the general state of Europe—they would have this further difficulty, that they could no longer fall back upon the interest which was now oppressed, and on which, in all former difficulties, Government had relied. They would find that the Government of the country would have all the leading interests against them, and that it would be impossible either for the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, or any other person whom Her Majesty might call to succeed him in office, to defend the institutions of the country.


said, keeping accounts was never a point on which he thought himself strong, but it did appear to him that an item had been dropped out of the schedule on the present occasion. It was a very brief period since a tax existed in this country which pressed very hardly upon Gentlemen on his side of the House, and which was supposed to press in favour of Gentlemen on the other side. It was six little weeks—"the funeral bated meats" were hardly cold in Manchester—and he helped to eat them—and in that period hon. Gentleman came forward and complained that they were suffering from the removal of that tax. Now the question he had to ask was this, what do they propose to give us as compensation for the advantage they have had so long? Did they, for example, propose that a duty should be laid for the next twenty years upon home-grown corn, in order to increase the quantity which would be brought from abroad? If it were said that such a tax would be injurious to the community, he had a ready remedy for that—he would commute it for an equivalent charge on rent. He could not now say whether that charge should be equivalent to a tax of ten, twenty, or thirty per cent upon home-grown corn. He was not inclined to be nice upon that point; but give him something—some fair compensation—and let them tell him what they thought that equivalent ought to be, and then, so far as he was concerned, they should have the fairest reckoning with regard to every item on which they were taxed. If there was any protection on this side of the House, he and his friends were ready to remove it as fast as possible. Only let them settle this point of compensation; on which, he could assure them, many Gentlemen around him had a scruple of conscience, for they were pledged to many of their constituents never to forget it. He and his friends were quite willing to give up protection; they had disavowed it long ago; they had declared that they were ready to do their utmost to abolish it, and therefore the blame of its retention did not rest with them. One hon. Gentleman wanted to grow tobacco. Well, he would help him to grow tobacco; he thought it was a perfectly fair and proper thing that he should grow tobacco. The hon. Gentleman also talked of the malt tax. Well, he believed that though that was a very oppressive tax upon the working classes, yet it did mainly fall upon the landed interest. He was therefore ready to come to any fair compensation—only let compensation be first made on the point he had referred to.


* I cannot conceal my admiration of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), in bringing forward this question—a speech characterised in an eminent degree by soundness of argument, extent of information, and eloquence of language. I must own, Sir, I was not *From a printed pamphlet. a little surprised to hear the right hon. Gentlemen the Chancellor of the Exchequer state that the distress in the agricultural districts was only of a partial nature. Now, Sir, I say, unequivocally, that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is not founded in fact. I assert, with regret, that distress in those districts is deep and wide spread. When the corn laws were about to be repealed—a measure which nobody deplores more than I do—we were assured that the wages of labour would not be thereby lessened, and that the labourer would be at least as well oft" with corn at 45s. as at 60s. a quarter. ["Hear!" from the free-trade benches.] Hon. Gentlemen may say "Hear!" but let me test their opinions. The poor-rate is not a bad criterion. Is that burden less heavy when wheat is low priced than when its price remunerates the farmer? I confess the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) treated this important part of the question, amazed me. The right hon. Gentleman carefully selected from the report of the Poor Law Commissioners, unions in four counties, and unions in six counties; but he omitted to state a very striking passage in the appendix to that report. I will, however, supply the deficiency. It appears that, during seven years, when the price of wheat was low, the poor-rates amounted to 34,466,817l.; in the seven years when the price of wheat was high, the rates were 34,259,454l., or 207,363l. less than during seven cheap years. But there is a still further and much more material increase to be added—I believe the difference in the value of corn during the two periods, may be correctly estimated at 30 per cent. Now, if the amount of pauperism was the same when wheat was 30 per cent lower, there ought to be a still less amount of expenditure. Therefore, take the 30 per cent off the 34,000,000l., and add that 10,000,000l. to the sum of 207,363l., and you have the real difference between the cheap and the dear years.

The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that the experiment of feeding cattle with malt was a failure. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I said, I thought there was no great advantage in it.] Nevertheless, agricultural witnesses of high character examined before the Burdens on Land Committee, complained of their being restricted from using malt for that purpose, and the Committee reported as follows:— The tenant farmers lay great stress on the malt duty and its injurious interference with the cultivation of barley. The Committee, however, cannot consider that impost, which, on the average of the last ten years, has produced very nearly 5,000,000l. annually, as borne exclusively by the land; beer being almost a necessary of life with the mass of the population, the duty falls as a general tax on the consumers of the article; but it is unquestionable that so heavy a duty diminishes the demand, and deprives of a ready market all except the best qualities of barley. A duty of 21s. 8d. on a quarter of barley costing 34s. is so heavy a tax, that Mr. Barclay is of opinion that no brewer can afford to buy inferior barley and make it into malt. The agricultural witnesses examined before the Committee complain loudly of the restriction the excise laws impose on malting inferior barleys for fattening purposes. The advantages of this process having been matter of dispute between learned chemists and practical farmers, the Committee will content themselves by referring to the evidence of Mr. Hudson of Castleacre, Mr. Bennett, &c, on this subject, and adding that, if further experiments should establish the utility of the process, the malt duty must be considered as a serious obstruction to agricultural economy. As to the highway rates, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose said, those rates were exclusively for the benefit of the landed interest, and therefore ought to be borne by it. Now, I have been informed, in the Isle of Wight, where there are comparatively few turnpikes, and where all the roads are under the same management, the highway rates vary from 6d. to 1s. in the pound, for the repairs of roads not exclusively required for agricultural purposes, but for the convenience of those who in great numbers visit that island. I am, therefore, of opinion, that this burden should not be placed upon the agricultural interest: now, what says the report just quoted upon this subject?— The highway rates, exclusive of those which are at present relieved by the aid of the turnpike trusts, amounted in 1839 to 1,169,891l. The Committee feel it their duty to observe that the ratepayers not only have not the exclusive use of the highways, but are not even allowed to limit their expense by the repairs necessary for the conveyance of agricultural produce, inasmuch as the roads, if not in a state of repair sufficient for purposes of general traffic, may be indicted by any party using them, although such party is not liable to highway rate. The Committee feel it their duty to direct attention to the probability of the repairs of the turnpike roads falling eventually on the real property. Mr. Baxter states, that in the neighbourhood of Doncaster tolls are paid to the turnpike trusts, notwithstanding the entire maintenance of the roads has fallen on the rates. Mr. Bennet also bears testimony to a rate being raised in the last year for the repairs of the Holyhead turnpike road in his parish, amounting to an expenditure of about 100l. a mile. However important may be the advantages which accrue to the landed interests from the improvement of the highways, their maintenance is not less a positive charge or burden affecting the profits of the real property of the country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose talks a good deal about his desire for fair play, and his wish for a fair and equitable distribution of the national burdens; but I affirm that land has burdens to bear which are not imposed on other interests. Now, let me put a case to him. I need not mention any names, for there is nothing new or uncommon to cause any doubt about the facts:— A. has an entailed estate, valued at a clear rental of 5,000l. a year, tithe free, and exclusive of the mansion. This estate is directly charged as follows;—

Poor, county, highway, and church rates, at 3s. in the pound £750
Land tax 179
As income tax upon an actual rental of 4,600l. 138
As tenants' property tax upon farm above 300l. a year on 3,200l. 36
House in London assessed for rates at 3s. in the pound on 400l. 60
Total £1,103
B. receives 5,000l. a year clear from the funds or annuities.
For house in London, rated on a 3s. in the pound rate on an assessment of 400l. £60
Income tax on 5,000l. per annum 150
Total £210
In a word. A., in consequence of being in possession of land, is taxed to the amount of 1,163l. B., a fundholder of the same income, is taxed to the extent of 210l. Does this correspond with the idea of fairness and equality entertained by the hon. Member for Montrose? Does it place the landholder and fundholder on the same footing? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the first part of his statement, said, he did not lay claim to the title of practical farmer; and the subsequent portion of his speech made me feel that he had not overstated his deficiencies upon this head. The right hon. Gentleman would not speak with such satisfaction of the state and prospects of agriculture if he were practically acquainted with its condition. The right hon. Gentleman had read a long list of the prices of provisions to show they were still at a remunerating price, which I, however, beg to deny. Why, Sir, the farmers are positively unable to find a market, either in London or the country, for their agricultural produce. I was informed not many weeks ago, by a farmer in Sussex, that though he sent to I market corn in good condition and of good quality, it was not merely that he could not get a moderate price, or even a low price, for it, but he could not sell it at all. [Ironical cheering from the free-trade benches.] Well, but I know that to be a fact; and I repeat that no price could be had for the corn—it was a drug in the market. As a proof of the great distress existing, I can assure the House that the union poorhouses in the county of Sussex are fuller than they have been since the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed; and there are more ablebodied men in the house in the district in which I reside than have ever been there before—indeed, in the eastern division, I understand there is a poorhouse which is quite full, and that the guardians have been obliged to give much more outdoor relief than heretofore. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord at the head of the Government differ materially in their view upon the question of the burdens on land. In a letter written by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire in his speech, the noble Lord says— Lord John Russell is deeply sensible of the embarassment 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 were subjected. But, then, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to show that the opinion in that letter has been carried out, refers back to 1815—a period far antecedent to the date of that paper, and, among other boons which he says have been granted to the agriculturist, enumerates the repeal of the duty upon hides and skins as some equivalent.

With respect to the malt tax, I think it unjust in principle and partial in its operation; and in the county in which I reside, a strong feeling exists in favour of its repeal, and the agriculturists there say, as there is to be free trade in corn, there ought to be free trade in everything. Under these circumstances, though I am prepared to vote for the repeal of the malt tax, I am not prepared to vote for the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose. I will tell him why. If I understand him rightly, the hon. Gentleman set out upon the assumption that there are no burdens which press unduly upon land.


Oh no! I did not say that.


Then, what did the hon. Gentleman say?


I said if there are.


If there are? then it is, at all events, a matter of doubt with the hon. Gentleman. But I will take the liberty of reading to him, and to hon. Gentlemen who act with him, something upon this subject—not a hasty expression, or language uttered in the heat of debate, but the cool, well-considered opinion of a political economist, whose name stands high with hon. Gentlemen opposite. Mr. M'Culloch, after speaking of the burdens upon land, says— Such being the case, the agriculturists are clearly justified in demanding, in the event of the free importation of corn being permitted, that it should be burdened with a fixed or constant duty sufficient to countervail the peculiar charges that would fall on the land were the ports unconditionally opened. It is impossible to refuse them this, without trampling on every fair principle. Such protection is not given to the agriculturists as a favour, but to keep them, where they have a right to be kept, on the same level as the other classes of their countrymen. If they be relieved from these peculiar burdens, the necessity for the countervailing duties will, of course, cease, and they may, and indeed should, be repealed forthwith; but the equalisation of taxation at home should, in all cases, precede the repeal of duties on importation. I think the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose unwise in its nature, and that it might be disastrous in its results. I will not consent to the adoption of a miserable system of retrenchment, inconsistent with the honour, the safety, and the high position of England. I believe the occupier of land does not ask undue protection or unfair exemption from taxation. I believe he is content to share equally with the other classes of his fellow subjects the burdens of the State; but what he does object to is, that there is more than a just proportion of those burdens placed upon him—he complains, and complains with justice, that the amount of taxation, which before the withdrawal of protection was barely tolerable, has become, since then, altogether intolerable; and although the agricultural interest may not be so large, so wealthy. so influential, so clamorous, or so selfish, as other interests, I believe it is not less to be regarded—that the present is the time for doing what in justice cannot be refused to them—and that you are bound to take their case, without loss of time, into your most serious consideration, unless you mean to leave them the victims of a mischievous and reckless legislation.

On the Motion of Mr. M. GIBSON, the debate was then further adjourned till To-morrow.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.