rose to move the appointment of a Committee to consider the public expenditure and the existing system of taxation. He said, that he rose with the greatest hesitation and embarrassment) which every one felt in rising to address the House when he had reason to suppose that the minds of hon. Members were preoccupied with a subject very different from that upon which he was about to speak. Having lately read The Memoirs of P. P.; or, the Importance of a Man to Himself, some hon. Members might be disposed to think that he was exaggerating the importance of his own Motion, and that it was his duty rather to pay deference to the House, and forego the discussion in favour of the Bill which was to follow (the Marriage Bill). But, whatever might be the case in that House, he believed that throughout the country there was a far greater number of persons who desired to be exempted from taxation, than there was of persons who wished to marry their wives' sisters. He believed, moreover, that upon this and similar questions had turned no mere matters of ephemeral politics, but the stability or overthrow of every throne in Europe, as well as the stability of our own. At the commencement of last Session he ventured to express his surprise that Her Majesty's Ministers had not come down to the House and proposed themselves some plan of finance to relieve the taxation, adequate to the universal demand which was made for it; or, if they were unable to devise such a plan themselves, that they had not sought the assistance of a Select Committee of the House to aid them. His surprise was founded partly upon the peculiar circumstances under which they had been appointed to office, partly on account of the great agitation that there was then in the country on the subject of taxation, and partly, also, upon the expectations derived from the recollection of their speeches when out of office—which expectations those speeches were intended to excite. At the close of the Session he expressed his surprise that they still persevered in refusing to give any intimation of their having any such plan in contemplation; and he also said that if they did not do so at the commencement of this Session, he and those who thought with him would be 209 driven to look to some independent Member to take up the matter himself, and call upon the independent Members of the House to follow him, not for the sake of making ephemeral speeches, but with the determination to draw from the House a plain and intelligible declaration, that the country might know what they had to expect at their hands, and also to lay down a broad and intelligible principle, not only for the guidance of the present Ministers, but for every other body of gentlemen whom the Queen might call upon in future times to administer the affairs of the country. He begged pardon for these egotistical reminiscences, but he was anxious in limine to take away the prejudice from the minds of hon. Members that he had undertaken, uncalled for, a position which had been better left to abler heads and in abler hands. But the House would perceive that there was no probability of this question being undertaken at all unless he or some person like him undertook it. His belief was—and he did not think it could be contradicted from history—that there never was a systematic and successful rebellion against the ruling class of any nation except from the pressure of the higher. He had used the word "higher" advisedly, because it never had mattered anything whether the ruling class took the form of an absolute or a limited monarchy, or a republic, or anything else. As feudal violence went out, fiscal exactions grew up; and the people had been—he did not like to say plundered, but they certainly had had taken from them that which ought not to have been taken. It was Louis the XIV.'s extravagant wars and the puerilities of the palace of Versailles which caused the distress and misery which broke out in the days of his great-grandson, and swept everything away. In the same manner had our national debt begun with the wars of the House of Hanover, and had gone on increasing up to the present time, until it had reached an amount which would have appeared fabulous could it have been foretold to those who began the debt originally. If we had not the manliness to look our position in the face and dare to grapple with it now, it would assuredly be forced upon our attention in unquiet times, and when the agitation of it would be accompanied by the many aggravations which always attended the outbreaks of infuriated mobs. He was much tempted to dwell longer upon this part of his subject, though he should not do so; because it was only as the Legislature were 210 impressed equally with himself as to the imminence of the danger, that they could ever be induced to look for measures adequate to the emergency. If they shut their ears to the voice of history; if they shut their eyes to the events that had passed around them during the last fifty years; if they would suppose that we had a charter from heaven to preserve us from the fate which had attended every other nation, while we were pursuing the same course; if they deferred taking those steps which alone could avert the evil, there was no help for it. If they would sit with selfish and listless in-difference, in the hope that things would last out the term of their official existence, there was no course left for those whose boast it was to be British statesmen, but who appeared to have all their faculties obscured by official routine—who seemed to be bound hand and foot by red tape—but to wait till another wave came of that deluge of democracy which had already overwhelmed every Government of Europe, and which had, more than we were inclined to admit, come upon ourselves. He did not say that any measures which could be recommended would save them; but if they would part with their selfishness, if they would "be just and fear not," if they would be determined to relieve the poor, if they would so feel for them as to resolve that they should be relieved, that might, under God's blessing, be the means of lengthening their tranquillity; but if they did grapple with this question, they must lay hold of it honestly. They must not take it up merely for the purpose of amusing the people with delusive hopes, leaving them afterwards to writhe with mortification at the delusion which had been practised upon them. They must endeavour to be honest, and to be honest they must revise every part of our taxation system; they must be prepared to part with many favourite associations, with many prejudices, and many long cherished habits. His Motion was for leave to go into a Committee of the whole House in order to move certain resolutions. Upon this subject the language of some of the petitions on the table expressed his views with considerable truth—That all classes of productive industry laboured under serious depression, arising from the great reductions in the profits of capital and labour, and from the diminished consumption caused by the excessive pressure of local and national taxation.He did not pledge himself to those words. 211 but this was the substance of his views. He held it to be a sound principle that we ought to pay for protection in proportion to the value of that which was to he protected, and also in proportion to the social condition which we filled. According to a calculation he made on a former occasion, he would suppose there were 30,000,000 people in this kingdom, and take 5,000,000 as the number of families, and he would say that there was a million of these families in the greatest misery and distress; there was another million consuming twice as much as the first; a third consuming three times as much as those below them; a fourth consuming four times as much; and a fifth million consuming five times as much as all the rest. He would say that the taxation should be removed from the lowest class altogether, and that it should be laid upon the other classes in the same way as the assessed taxes were laid on at present—that was, make them mount up progressively. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER dissented.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer, he observed, shook his head. That shake of the right hon. Gentleman's head reminded him of an anecdote which Lord Ashburton once told him. 'His noble Friend, then a Member of the House of Commons, was sitting next to Mr. Hunt, when some one talked of laying all the taxes on the rich, and none upon the poor; Mr. Hunt said that that would do very well on the hustings, but it would not do in that House, because if they wanted to raise millions they must tax millions. He (Mr. Drummond) defied them to lay on a tax that would not press upon labour indirectly, and therefore they should, by every means in their power, endeavour to relieve that class. Let this be their systematic object, although it would not follow they would be able to effect it. But, more than that, he understood that, upon a Motion being made upon this subject in the time of Lord Althorp, that noble Lord said, "Oh, that would be confiscation." Now, on a question relative to "short horns," Lord Althorp's opinion might be regarded as final, but on matters connected with finance it was not worth more than that of any other individual. It was obviously of very little importance to the day labourer who sat in the House of Lords. In an article which appeared some time ago in the Edinburgh Review, the eloquent writer, Mr. Macaulay, he believed, said, "It is a very poor consolation to the 212 man who has had no dinner, and will not have any supper, that the Queen cannot make war without the consent of Parliament." The privileges of the constitution were exceedingly valuable to those who profited by them; but to the vast mass of mankind they were wholly inoperative. Gentlemen would bear with him when he said that he did not agree in the assertion often made on the other side of the House, that taxes were made by the landed interest, who commanded the majority of votes there, intentionally to press on the humbler classes. The reverse had most clearly been proved to be the fact by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and no one had attempted to answer his statement. But it was said in the same way, that, as unintentionally there was an indirect tendency in masters always to combine against their labourers, so there was unconsciously to themselves an indirect tendency in that House not to make taxation equal; that was, to make it equal in a certain sense, but unequal in another sense—equal in the sense of a poll tar, which was the most unequal of all taxes, for it could not be denied that to take 1l. from the man who had only 10l. was to take more from him than it would be to take 10l. from one who had 100l., or to take 100l. from one who had 1,000l., or to take 1,000l. from one who had 10,000l. It ought, then, constantly to be the intention of the House in all their modes of taxation to relieve the very lowest, and to press on the very highest; for, if that intention were not cherished, the involuntary effect would be that taxation would press more on the lower classe than on Members of the House. And this was the truth of what had constantly been repeated by the hon. Member for Finsbury, a Gentleman whose protracted absence he regretted, that the poor would never have justice done them in that House till they sent so many Members to Parliament. He (Mr. Drummond) would also propose a resolution in Committee, that in order to alleviate the weight of those burdens which pressed on the people, it was necessary to levy all taxes, stamps, and other duties on the same principle as the assessed taxes. Their object for some time past had been to reduce prices to the Continental level, or rather, to the level at which they were before the war. He was not going to find fault; he believed they would come to that level in despite of anything that might be said or 213 done. He did not believe it possible to keep peace on the Continent long, and maintain a difference of prices between this and other countries. It now remained that they should have the benefit of what they had done. They would have the whole expenses of the Government back to what they were in 1794—neither one shilling less or more. It could not be said of this as it had been of the plans of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, that they were arbitrarily fixing the amount of their defences; because there might be other wars, and nobody knew what. On the contrary, the whole salaries paid for the public service had been raised on the express plea that commodities had arisen. Contracts had been made in the Hampshire unions for mutton at 3½d. per pound; and they must have salaries at 3½d. too. They would have the free-trade system carried out. He often hoard, rather out of doors than in that House, language made use of towards official people, as if there were a disposition to mulct them of their salaries for some official misdemeanour. He adjured all hon. Gentlemen to bear in mind that it would be no pleasure to him to propose any alteration whatever in any person's comforts and habits. Some one spoke of an Act of Parliament to give confidence to Ireland. What a blessed Act of Parliament would that be! If he could only frame an Act of Parliament which should have the effect of giving 10,000l. to every Gentleman who heard him, he would be only too happy. But the question was one of necessity. Distress might be past endurance; and he wanted Parliament to relieve those who suffered, that they might not be forced to relieve themselves. He did not like to go into detail. That would be done better in Committee. But he had a great many instances to adduce of increase of salary. One thing there was which ought to be put an end to—namely, the whole civil department of the Army and Navy. He alluded particularly to the extraordinary sums thrown away for basins and vessels, for which they had not anything to do. Why should they have persons in the public service who had nothing to do but twirl their thumbs? He would say to those Gentlemen who had never been Members of a Government, that the noble Lord himself at the head of the Government, who was pretty determined when he took anything in his head, could not reduce salaries unless the House forced him. The noble Lord had no alternative but to 214 carry into effect a resolution of that House, and unless the House armed him with a resolution he could do nothing. There had been many debates on the colonies. There never was an abler man at the head of that department, nor one more active or more zealous in the discharge of his duty, than Earl Grey. The colonies were, notwithstanding, in the condition he (Mr. Drummond) had ever apprehended. There was a report on the table presented by Sir G. Murray, when at the head of that department, and signed by his under-secretaries, Mr. W. Horton, and Mr. W. Hay, recommending that the colonies should be governed by a board, and calling on the House to sanction the appointment of one. Adam Smith said colonies would always be an expense to the mother country, and nothing but pride had prevented Parliament from giving them up long ago. If they had any pride of that kind it was a very foolish pride. The mother country ought to act towards her colonies in the same dignified way as parents to their children; and if any one's offspring were enabled to establish themselves well in the world, and independently of their father's house, the parent ought rather to rejoice than jealously keep his child in perpetual pupilage. If a child were not able to support itself, it should ever be welcome to its father's protection. So of the colonies. It might be of advantage if Parliament would facilitate emigration, send to the colonies at least all those unhappy young persons who were educated in unions, and give grants of land and passages in idle ships. A society with which his hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire was connected, and which professed to facilitate emigration, exacted too hard conditions. The only thing necessary to qualify a man for emigration was an empty pocket and an empty stomach. The colonies would become profitable to this country by becoming better customers than they were; but let not the colonies lay the flattering unction to their souls that, in the majority of instances, they could ever become the sugar manufacturers for England: the cane was indigenous in very few places. By forced prices people had been enabled to cultivate it in spots where it lasted only for one year. Consequently, on all grounds between those where it was perennial, and those where it would not grow at all, it was simply forced by protection, which was, in fact, an expensive way of manufacturing, which the colonists might rest assured was gone for 215 ever. In like manner it would be impossible to restore a bread-tax again. He had no patience with the cruel heartlessness of those impostors who, taking advantage of the distress of the tenant farmers at the present time, ran about the country trying to persuade them that their prosperity would be restored by a fixed duty of 5s. He had never taken any part in that bread-tax agitation. He saw, or thought he saw, it was nothing but a contest between two egotisms, two selfishnesses—between the selfishness of the landlord, and the selfishness of the cotton lord. He had no sympathy with either. Not that he was against all selfishness. If a man had gout in the stomach, he would wish to get it rather in his toe. The toe said it was very selfish in the stomach to wish the gout so transferred. These were contending selfishnesses, but the one was a destructive and the other a conservative selfishness. It was much better to have the gout in one's toe than in one's stomach. The imposition of an ad valorem duty on everything passing between France and England had been proposed to Mr. Huskisson by Baron Louis, the then French Minister of Finance. Mr. Huskisson and Mr. (afterwards Lord) Wallace were anxious for the measure, but Ministers were unfortunately against it. So long as a revenue must be raised, so long must a Custom-house exist. The evil of monopoly was, that mask it as they would, it was, in point of fact, taking something for somebody from everybody else—something which was put into the pocket of the person protected. There was a constant tendency in all masters to combine against their workmen. The labourer was no match for the capitalist. The capitalist could command any market that he pleased, but the labourer could command no market but his next-door neighbour. That was the ground on which the Crown, the common parent, ought to stretch forth its hand to protect those who were in fact, whatever they might be in law, adscripti glebœ against the capitalist; in other words, Parliament ought to encourage, by those Custom-house duties, the home market. [Mr. SPOONER: Hear!] Not so fast; he was not thinking of the hon. Gentleman. When the capitalist disposed of his produce to another, he put in action another mass of capital. If the other mass of capital against which he exchanged it was in the home market, it employed another mass of capital in the home market; 216 in other words, it secured employment to the home labourer instead of the foreign labourer; but there would be no restoration of the corn tax. He should propose a resolution also on that subject. There was an outcry against extravagance by people who were guilty of extravagance themselves. There were measures which the Government would not have adopted except to please the people. Why did Parliament abandon the Post Office duty? To please the bankers and merchants of the country. Then large sums were thrown away on building palaces for thieves, because, instead of flogging thieves, people would teach them to spell; and, instead of hanging murderers, people would put marks upon them, and set them to read the Whole Duty of Man. The admirers of the fine arts were gratified by the purchase of statues and pictures. He would not say one word against all those things if they were overflowing with wealth; but when the question really at stake was the public peace, he must say, that as it would be improper, nay, immoral, for any individual to waste his money on those things, it was equally so in a nation. Although afraid to meddle with the word "Ireland," he must observe, that it was by a different management of Ireland that they might obtain the most immediate relief. If they were to govern it as a savage country they would put it under martial law, try offences at a drumhead court-martial, and get rid of all that foolish paraphernalia of judges, juries, learned counsel, and he knew not how many people, when they were incapable of finding any one man guilty who told them with his own mouth he was guilty, as every one thought him but the judges and jury. If, on the other hand, they were pleased to treat Ireland like a civilised country, then they ought to make the lords-lieutenant of counties responsible for the preservation of the peace within their respective jurisdictions. He supposed there were people there fit to be magistrates. Let the old Saxon law be re-enacted which fined every barony for every act of outrage committed within its limits; let that law be extended to the case of every man who was found starved, and leave the parties to the result. If those measures were taken, a portion of the army might be disbanded, and the country would obtain immediate relief to that extent. It was not his intention to propose any resolution on that subject, because it was a matter which had better be left in 217 the hands of the Executive. After all, however, but little would have been done in the way of relieving the springs of industry from the great pressure upon them if Parliament omitted to deal with the national debt. It would be all very well to shift the burden of taxation as he proposed, and to make the reduction of salaries which he suggested; but the effect of those measures would be more of a moral than of a material nature. Their adoption would show the people that there existed a determination on the part of the higher classes of every grade to make sacrifices for their benefit; but was it possible that those whom he was addressing could believe that the national debt was to remain for ever? or were they afraid to look at it because it was so monstrous—this 800,000,000l. of capital, and 28,000,000l. a year of interest? This debt, observe, began at the same time at which the miseries of France commenced. It went on increasing through the reigns of the Georges (perhaps we incurred it as a punishment for turning off our lawful King), until, at length, it reached an amount that imposed a burden on this country greater than any people ever endured before. It might be said that endeavours had been made to alleviate the pressure of this burden by spreading it over a greater mass of the population. That was all very true, and the argument would be worth something if the amount of taxes, and the value of the capital from which those taxes were raised, always went together, but, unfortunately, that was not so. Take, for instance, the case of manufactures during the time of a panic; persons might be heard to say, "Such a man must be rich; he works four mills," when, in fact, he might be losing money by every one of them. What could be more absurd than to say that a man who had a large estate at this moment must be rich, when it was notorious that farmers must give four sheep instead of one, ten fleeces instead of one, ten loads of wheat instead of one, to pay the same amount of taxes as they paid a few years ago? It was evident, then, that the value of capital was not necessarily commensurate with the amount of taxation paid. To do them justice it must be stated that every Minister who added to the debt, confessed that unless something were done to lighten its pressure, it must ultimately ruin the country. This would be apparent to those who took the trouble to consult the Parliamentary history, or memoirs of public 218 men, and the point was accurately set forth in Sir John Sinclair's History of the Public Revenue. When Pitt was adding to the debt, the promise was continually in his mouth that he would obtain indemnity for the past, and security for the future. The Birmingham school were right in alleging that the pressure of the debt had been immensely aggravated by the Bill of 1819; but the Birmingham school was not quite so wise then as it was now. The man in the House who understood the question best at the time was Mr. Ricardo, and he understood it very badly. Mr. Ricardo thought that the whole amount of the depreciation of the currency was the difference between the internal and external price of gold; but he did not understand that the whole of the currency, not paper only, but gold, had been depreciated, and that the only way to arrive at the real amount of depreciation was to measure the currency by all articles of raw produce for many years preceding. It was too late to discuss those points now; the question was settled. If any person were, to-morrow, to come from California with 800,000,000l. of gold, and pay it into the Exchequer—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!]—the Government would able to remit the mass of taxation; but it was very doubtful whether the disturbance which would be caused throughout our whole social system would not be a greater evil than "bearing the ills we have." To be beneficial, the reduction of the debt should be gradual. What was the evil of the debt at this moment? It was that an enormous mass of capital was locked up and remained unproductive. There were but two ways of turning capital into a country, either by digging it out of the soil—a thing which we had long practised, although the Irish had never yet heard of it—or by letting free capital that was locked up. What was capital wanted for? The manufacturer wanted capital at a low rate of interest to extend his business, for an extension of business was essential to all branches of industry, whether manufacturing or agricultural, in order to balance diminished profits. The mass of business had immensely increased, whilst profits had decreased. The landlords wanted capital to lower the rate of interest; the farmers wanted capital to extend their business. Supply capital, and you raise the marketable value of all things. Now, look at the national debt. Everybody said he would like it to be paid, but asked 219 whence the money was to come from. There were but two classes in the country—rich and poor. Much could not be got out of the latter, and, therefore, the money must come from the rich. Was it intended ever to pay the debt? We had, he believed, gone on with the debt so long, that it never crossed the mind of any one that it was ever to he paid; and the end would be, as Cobbett said long ago, that it would blow them up. If the debt was to be reduced, the reduction must be gradual. What he would propose to do would be to empower the Government to buy up the public annuities as they might be offered in the market. He would raise the sum required for that purpose—which would not be a very large one at first—partly by a tax upon property, and partly by the equalisation of the land-tax. By operating in this manner there never would be a glut of offers—so to speak—in the market. If an attempt had been made to carry out this or any similar measure some years ago, the consequence would have been that capital would have gone into French railways or Spanish bonds, or nobody knew what; but now not a shilling would go in that way. The operation would always be in the hands of the Executive, and there would never be more annuities thrown into the market than could be profitably disposed of. He called upon those who felt the importance of financial questions to go into Committee, where such subjects could be discussed; for in that House it was impossible to discuss them. He called upon all who did not profess to be financial reformers merely as a mask to cover attacks upon the constitution of the country not to set up a dogged opposition to everything which did not exactly square with their views, but to go into Committee, where the whole subject could be properly considered. Above all he prayed those Gentlemen in that assembly who knew something about the science of Government, and who alone were capable of carrying it into practice, not to be persuaded that it was impossible to relieve the country in the way he proposed merely because it had not crossed their official experience, and they were unable to find any trace of such a proposition in the records of their offices. Let it not be imagined that the question would end with that debate, for there was no other subject which could be discussed within those walls in which the people at large took so much interest, or upon which the tranquillity of the empire so much depended.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House do resolve itself into a Committee, to consider the Public Expenditure and the existing system of Taxation, and how far both may be revised, with a view to relieve the pressure upon the industry of the Country.
§ MR. URQUHART
seconded the Motion. Instead of following out the newfangled system of modern times, which had been devised for no other purpose than to increase Ministerial power, it would be far better to return to the old practice. He had opposed the free-trade policy, as it was called, because it was imperfect and one-sided. There ought to have been free trade in gold as well as in corn. He had no expectation of the Motion being carried, still, he thought that good would arise out of the discussion. He rejoiced that the proposition had come from the Opposition side of the House, because it was in accordance with the old Tory principles of Government. The Whigs were the first to impose taxes on trade, and to set up what was called the monetary system. All the abuses of which the country now complained were introduced by the Whigs, at and subsequently to what they called their "glorious revolution." Before that period the taxes, few as they were, were placed upon those who could best bear them. As to the national debt, it was the consequence of Ministers entering into war-producing treaties without the sanction of Parliament.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
admitted that if the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the present Motion had set out with the intention of making an entertaining speech, in which he might give utterance to opinions of every shade, from Jacobitism to Socialism, he had gained his object, although it was to be regretted that the House was prevented from proceeding to the discussion of a measure upon which it was important that there should be a decision. If the House should show any disposition to go into Committee upon the manifold subjects to which the hon. Member for West Surrey had drawn attention, he warned hon. Gentlemen that there was work marked out in the resolution sufficient not only to employ the attention of a Committee of that House, but to engage the attention of Parliament for an entire Session. There was, indeed, hardly a subject which could come under the consideration of the House of Commons which the hon. Gentleman did not propose to include in 221 this inquiry. He had shortly taken down the topics touched upon by the hon. Gentleman, and would allude to them in the order which he had himself adopted. The hon. Member, after administering a lecture to the House upon selfishness and injustice, and upon the necessity of getting rid of all associations, had in the first place proposed the adoption of a system of taxation, which should mount up progressively. Now, as to whether the hon. Member meant by that a system of graduated taxation, the House was left in the dark. Sir W. Ingleby, some years ago, had made a proposal to the House, whereby Dukes, Marquesses, and Esquires, were to be subjected to a graduated scale of taxation, according to their rank; but the proposal was not received with much favour. Then, after ridiculing an opinion expressed by Mr. Hunt, that, in order to raise millions, you must tax the millions, the hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to impose taxation which should not press upon the millions. The hon. Member stated, that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had refuted the assertion that the landlords of this country were guilty of selfishness, or that they imposed a system of taxation for their own exclusive benefit; but the hon. Member for West Surrey now said that the tendency of our legislation was to oppress the labourers. The hon. Gentleman then proposed to move a resolution for the reduction of all salaries to the scale in force previous to the war. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had given notice of a similar Motion. [Colonel SIBTHORP: Hear, hear!] But it would not be very wise to grant that Motion; and he would tell the hon. and gallant Colonel why. It would be a most extravagant thing to do; and the effect of the alteration would be to increase rather than to reduce the amount of incomes. The hon. and gallant Colonel might stare, but the fact would be so. For instance, the salary attached to the office of an hon. Colleague of his (the Secretary of State near him) was 6,000l. before the war, now it was only 5,000l. The official salary of the President of the Council was 2,000l. at the present moment; before the war it was 4,000l. He doubted, therefore, whether any change in salaries would tend to economy. With reference to the offer of the hon. Member for West Surrey of 10,000l. a year to Members of that House, all he could say was, that it was a tempting proposal, if it were possible, to receive that amount 222 of salary, and have nothing to do for it. As far as his own office was concerned, the salary before the war was higher than it was at this moment. The hon. Gentleman next proposed to sweep away the civil service in connexion with the military department; but that question had already engaged the attention of a Committee of that House, and it would be a gross waste of time to have two investigations into the same matter going on at the same period. He would also introduce a system of half-salaries into the colonies. The House had already had two Motions upon the colonies during the Session, by the hon. Members for Inverness and Berwickshire; and notice of two other Motions had been given by the hon. Members for Southwark and Sheffield, and he did not think it desirable to open up another general discussion upon that subject. The hon. Member next advocated a large system of emigration and free passage. That might be a right measure; but it certainly was not an economical one. The hon. Member said, that hard terms must not be imposed upon the emigrants; that all that was required was an empty mouth and empty stomach. Now, the colonists would not much like that. What the colonists wanted were skilled labourers, and not men whose only characteristic was an empty stomach. A measure of that kind, therefore, would be neither economical to this country, nor advantageous to the colonies. After dealing with the colonies generally, the hon. Member came to the sugar colonies, contending that they could produce sugar no longer, but scouting the notion of restoring any protection to them. I hope and believe that the hon. Gentleman is wrong in his anticipations of their future production. The sixth proposition of the hon. Gentleman embraced the bread-tax. What the precise nature of the resolution of the hon. Gentleman as to this was to be did not appear; but the hon. Gentleman discarded the notion of reimposing the duty on corn. The general question of protection, upon which the hon. Gentleman had touched, would open up a wide field for discussion, upon which he must be excused from embarking. The hon. Gentleman next referred to the penny postage; and here he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) desired to remove a misapprehension as to what had fallen from him on a previous occasion on this subject. What he had stated was, that between 1839 and 1840 the number 223 of letters had increased from one million and a half to three millions, and that the number of letters had doubled in six years. The number of letters was now quadrupled to what it was at the commencement of the penny post system. The merchants and shopkeepers of this country were not the only parties who benefited by this system; but it extended its influence to the community at large. Then the hon. Member objected to the improved prison discipline of modern times, and regretted the days of hanging and whipping. He supposed he would propose a resolution to that effect; but the hon. Member would probably not find many Members to agree with him in his views on this subject. The hon. Member, who almost appeared to think that the public debt was a just punishment upon us for the crime of getting rid of James II., would, by his resolutions, open a pretty wide field of discussion relative to the currency, and the amount of depreciation which it had undergone since the war—matters which would very well of themselves occupy the House for three or four-nights. The strangest proposition of the hon. Member had reference to Ireland: he would fine every barony in that country for every case of starvation that occurred. The hon. Member then touched upon the public debt and the currency, but both of those were questions of far too wide a range to be discussed in the manner proposed. The hon. Member who had seconded the Motion bad complained that we had not free trade in gold, and the hon. Member for West Surrey went on to state that the public debt was so much capital locked up in this country. Now, he could not understand that statement. If the hon. Member alluded to past expenditure, the money had been spent long ago; and the expression of locked-up capital was hardly applicable to capital which had been spent. He had now gone through the thirteen topics to which the hon. Member had referred. The hon. Gentleman proposed, in addition, that other hon. Members should add other subjects for discussion in lieu of those of his suggestion, to which they should object. [Mr. WILSON: It's a programme for half a Session.] The hon. Member also referred to the necessity of a revision of taxation. Now, it seemed to be forgotten that year by year there was a progressive revision of taxation. From the peace downwards, that revision had been going on, the effect 224 of which had been to remove from the consumer and the manufacturer a large amount of taxation. Leaving out of the question the property tax and corn tax, it appeared that since 1815, upwards of 30,000,000l. of taxes had been remitted. The produce of the Customs duties in 1845 was 20,700,000l., and last year they were 22,593,976l., showing an increase, within the last four years, of upwards of 1,893,976l.; and yet, in the course of these years there had been remitted upon the customs alone no less a sum than 4,681,000l. This was irrespective of the corn duties, which he left out of the question. The general tendency of the legislation of the House since the peace downwards till the present time, had been to give relief from those taxes that interfered either with the employment or the general consumption by the people. The hon. Gentleman had reproached the Government for not fulfilling its promises of reductions, made before it came into power. Now, in the first place, he had made no such promises; and in the next, since they had acceded to office, they had effected reductions to the extent of two millions and a quarter within the last two years; and he thought that a pretty good proof that they had not been regardless of the necessity of effecting such reductions as the interests and safety of the country justified. But, returning to this Motion for a Committee, he thought it would be a mere waste of valuable public time, which was urgently required for more practical objects of legislation, and he, therefore, called upon the House to resist what he believed to be a most unnecessary Motion.
§ MR. SPOONER
did not consider that the House was bound to go into the Committee with all the views entertained by the hon. Member, or to enter into all the subjects adverted to by him. The question was whether they would resolve themselves into a Committee to consider the public expenditure and the existing system of taxation, and how far both may be revised, with a view to relieve the pressure upon the industry of the country. How could any Member of that House refuse to go into such a Committee, and answer for his vote to his constituents? Was any one of the great interests of this country flourishing at the present moment? Let the House look to the state of the agricultural interest. Landlords were receiving little or no rent, tenants were making no profits, 225 and had no money to pay their labourers, many of whom were without employment and were starving. It was said that the labourers had now cheap bread; but what was the use of giving them cheap bread if they took away their means of purchasing it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that he had reduced the public expenditure; but if he (Mr. Spooner) had read the returns correctly, the public expenditure in the year 1842 was about 51,000,000l., and at the present moment it was between 53,000,000l. and 54,000,000l. The right hon. Gentleman claimed credit for having reduced the taxes during his period of office; but if the Government had increased the expenditure and reduced the taxation, they must have increased the public debt. The right hon. Gentleman said that salaries were no greater now than during the war; but hon. Members must know that it was impossible for their constituents to bear that amount of taxation which they had paid when the country was in a more flourishing condition. But the fact was that a great increase in some salaries had taken place. The Master General of the Ordnance in the year 1796 received 1,500l.; he veas now paid 3,000l.; the Surveyor General was then paid 825l., and now 1,200l.; the Storekeeper used to receive 965l., he now was paid 1,200l.; the Treasurer and Clerk formerly received 585l., but now 1,200l.; and the salary of the Secretary, which was then 557l., was now 1,600l. He was sure the great majority of that House would agree with him when he said that a subject of that kind could not be so conveniently discussed in that House as in a Committee. In the House, the superior debating powers of some hon. Gentlemen opposite placed other very useful Members of that House at a great disadvantage; but in a Committee there would be a much better opportunity and means of eliciting truth, and he should vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend, because he thought that they ought to have a Committee to investigate details. His hon. Friend, he was quite sure, had no wish to do anything but that which was perfectly fair and just—no wish but to proceed calmly and quietly in the process of removing or lessening fiscal burdens. If they told him that Parliament had no power to administer relief, he would say that they had better not proclaim that to the world, for it would be abandoning their highest function to admit that they could not devise anything for the 226 relief of the country in its present circumstances.
SIR J. TYRBLL
said, he would not have risen to address the House at all on that occasion had it not been for the remark of the hon. Member for West Surrey, that those who had been attending the meetings which had of late taken place throughout the country were agricultural impostors, when they spoke of attempting to restore protective duties on the import of foreign corn. Now, though he (Sir J. Tyrell) did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of finance, yet he must say he thought he had gone far to show that the hon. Member for Surrey was a financial impostor. He understood that hon. Member to have called the gentlemen who had been recently meeting in his own county and speaking in favour of protection, a mass of impostors. He regretted to say that he (Sir J. Tyrell) had felt it to be his duty to attend similar meetings in the county he had the honour to represent; and, however lightly the Manchester school or any other school might think of such matters, he had no hesitation in saying, that, so far as his own county was concerned, they had given all the free-trade Members that were connected with it or its boroughs Parliamentary notice to quit. The borough of Harwich had been the only place they had been unable to touch; but there was now a great reaction in that neighbourhood; and one gentleman of great influence there had permitted him (Sir J. Tyrell) to state that his sentiments on free trade had undergone an unequivocal alteration, so that he (Sir J. Tyrell) had now to give the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control, the Member for Harwich, also, notice to quit. The hon. Member for West Surrey called them impostors, because they thought they would get back protection; but with reference to the present Motion of the hon. Member himself, of however grave a character he might consider it, he must say, after the way in which it had been handled by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he did not think that it would sustain for the hon. Member that character for good sense and discretion he had hitherto possessed in that House. The hon. Member, too, had shown much levity in the course of his speech on many matters of serious importance, and on many others had failed to make out his position, and particularly with reference to the colonies; 227 in dealing with which part of the subject he went so far as to say, that, as regarded such colonies as were powerful and able to get along by themselves, he would let them go and be no longer a burden on this country; whilst the weaker colonies—those that were burdensome to us—The would support and maintain. The hon. Gentleman was also very inconsistent: he said he was anxious to increase the marketable value of land; but he (Sir J. Tyrell), although he had listened with great attention, found that the hon. Gentleman utterly failed to show how that was to be done. [Laughter on the free-trade benches.] He saw that this seemed "nuts" to the hon. Member for the West Riding; but, though Gentlemen might smile at the subject, after all the thousands that had been spent and advanced for drainage and other improvements in Ireland, still the problem of how the land was to be profitably cultivated amidst the starving thousands, remained just where it was before. He could tell the hon. Gentleman who made the accusation of "agricultural impostors," that he (Sir J. Tyrell had, again and again stated in that House, usque ad nauseam, that unless it could be shown that it was advantageous—not to the agricultural interest merely, but to all classes of the community—he would have utterly repudiated the idea of protection altogether; and he entertained the same feeling still. On the whole, the hon. Member had so much disappointed him as to the question he had brought forward, that, though the hon. Member for Warwickshire had intimated his intention to support him, he could not himself give his confidence to a Gentleman who had called those impostors who attempted to restore protection to British against foreign corn. He considered that the hon. Member for Surrey had entirely failed to make out his case, and, therefore, he could not accompany the hon. Member for Warwickshire into the lobby in favour of the hon. Gentleman's Motion.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that the words of the hon. Member's Motion were perfectly unexceptionable; but when he came to couple that Motion with the speech which the House had just heard, he felt somewhat at a loss to see how he could support any such proposition. He professed himself utterly unwilling to give any sanction to the doctrines which the hon. Member had propounded to the House; he could not vote under his leadership for the appointment of any Committee, for he felt 228 that in doing so he should be very liable to be misunderstood. For example, he could not support a high rate of postage, and many other matters which the hon. Member strenuously recommended. There were also many opinions expressed by the hon. Member relating to capital and labour to which he (Mr. Gibson) could not subscribe; at the same time, he by no means wished to be understood as placing any obstacle in the way of a revision and a reduction of the public expenditure. Nevertheless, he saw many objections to coming to any vote upon the present question; and though he would not go the length of his right hon Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey had much better not be put to the House; and, therefore, he should more the previous question.
§ MR. PLUMPTRE
observed, that it was not his intention to vote for the previous question, nor could he agree with the hon. Member for Warwickshire in voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey. The speech which had accompanied that Motion—and a Motion, allow him to say, on a very serious subject—had treated matters of the highest importance with a degree of levity of which he could by no means approve, and which, he regretted to say, had also been followed up in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, he must take leave to say, that this was by no means a time, nor was that at all the place, for levity—when their workhouses were becoming full of ablebodied labourers—whilst so many were out of employment altogether, and those that were employed were working for one-third less wages than they had formerly obtained—whilst whale families were in a state of the greatest distress and misery, and ruin was threatening them from every side—whilst they were breaking' the fortunes, nay, the hearts of their West India proprietors, and destroying the prospects of their shipbuilders—whilst so great a portion of their home population was driven to the verge of destitution and ruin, in order that they might carry out their one-sided system of free trade—surely such was not a time for levity or for joking. Whatever the Manchester or any other school might say, there would, he feared, be such a feeling ere long throughout the country, that the Government would be brought to say that 229 they could no longer go on in the course they were pursuing; for the whole country would call for the adoption of some system by which, at least, they should secure for the people that employment which was absolutely necessary for the peace and tranquillity of the nation.
§ MR. JACKSON
could not but express his astonishment at the speech of the hon. Member for West Surrey. He (Mr. Jackson) had come down to the House with the intention of supporting the Motion as it appeared on the Paper; but after what had since taken place, he was convinced that the very important question before them would sustain great damage if the present mode of discussing it were carried further; and, therefore, he could not support the Motion.
§ MR. B. COCHRANE
said, that although he had been present during the whole of the hon. Member for West Surrey's speech, he felt compelled to rise to state that he did not think the hon. Gentleman had been at all fairly dealt with by those hon. Gentleman who had accused him of approaching this serious subject with feelings of unseemly levity. Different individuals naturally had their different and peculiar styles in addressing the House, and certainly there might have been something, now and then, amusing in the course of his hon. Friend's speech; but he was sure that all those who had deeply thought on the question, when they came to read that speech, would certainly acquit his hon. Friend of anything like the charge which had been brought against him. There had, indeed, been levity upon this subject; but it was the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his reply to the speech of his hon. Friend, who had evinced that levity, and who had taken advantage of his hon. Friend's having introduced various topics to overlook and override the main feature of that speech—namely, the principle which it laid down of throwing the burden of the taxation of the country upon those classes who were best able to bear it, and relieving the poorer classes from the crushing pressure upon them. That had been the tone and temper of his hon. Friend's speech; and he (Mr. B. Cochrane) was glad to have this opportunity of expressing his cordial concurrence in the principle which it had enunciated, because he believed it was one of the most noble and most worthy principles that could govern the conduct of a country or a legislature.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, that he had not heard the speech either of the hon. Member for West Surrey, or of his hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire; but, as regarded the Motion itself, he must say, that the terms of that Motion were unexceptionable; and that the subject of it was one which, whether it had been treated with levity or not on that occasion, could not be so treated for any very long time. It was not long since he had himself made some statements in that House which had, in some quarters, been treated with ridicule; but those statements he now begged to reiterate; and he would further observe that subsequent experience had more than confirmed the opinions he had previously advanced. The time had come when some means must be adopted by somebody or other, by which the taxation of the country must be removed from the industrious classes. That must be done—and must be done soon. Trade was deteriorated, the wages of all the manufacturing population was deteriorated—they were worse off than formerly, notwithstanding what was said about the reduction of prices—the condition of the industrious classes was daily becoming worse—and knowing that to be the case, he should give his hearty support to the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
rose to support the Motion. Very few Gentlemen would have the firmness to rise and bring forward such a question, and he had to thank his hon. Friend for the manly courage he had displayed in undertaking it. If anything more than another would induce him (Colonel Sibthorp) to vote for this Motion, it would be to see the right hon. Member for Manchester, who was once a Conservative, and now a free-trader, oppose it, for the free-traders were ready to subscribe to or support anything, no matter how inconsistent. In 1797, they had as Ministers more hardworking men, who, though they were not so well paid as at present, were better taught. They now had Ministers possessing too much of the sticking-plaster quality. They could not be moved—they were glued to their places. It would take something to move them, and if he thought they would go, he would consent for a time to raise their salaries. He thanked the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey for proposing this inquiry, though he might have gone into the question a little more than was advisable. Still it was a matter deserving of inquiry; and 231 when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who should be the last man to do so, shrunk from inquiry, he (Colonel Sibthorp) must only say, "Conscience makes cowards of us all." These were the times for retrenchment; let them turn over things; closely pick out the good—they would find very few that were so—and throw away the bad. He thought he would be guilty of a dereliction of duty to his constituents if he did not give the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey his cordial support and assistance in unrolling that mystery of trickery, trumpery, and trash that was to be found, if it were unveiled, in all the movements of Governments, whether Whig or Tory.
§ MR. HEYWORTH
considered the Motion of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for West Surrey of vital importance. There was no doubt that the agricultural interest was suffering severely, and that being the case, it behoved the House and the country to see to the cause that had produced so prominent and prevalent an evil. It appeared, from what had passed in the House, that there was a feeling that that cause was somehow or other connected with the financial affairs of this country. It was his firm belief that it was so, and it was only the expansion of commerce that could relieve them, by giving employment to a large amount of labourers. It was their bounden duty to see if there be any fetters upon that commerce; and the way, perhaps, to arrive at any just conclusion was to look to the cause of their former prosperity. What was it that had made them the first nation of the earth, and had rendered them so wealthy? What was it that had given to the land a higher value than in other parts of the world? Why, it was the commerce of the country and the ingenuity of their manufacturers. It was by that means they gave millions of their population the means of being consumers, and that was the reason why they had been able from time to time, and from year to year, for the last seventy years, to go on enhancing their rents, until they had increased them in some places 10,000l. per cent. Landed property in Lancashire was valued, in 1792, at 97,242l. per annum; in 1815 the valuation was 3,100,000l.; in 1829, 4,214,000l.; in 1841, 6,192,000l. per annum. But during recent years pauperism had increased, and it was full time that the progress of the evils from which the country suffered should be resisted. Let them do that by the extension of commerce. 232 There were no other means, except by remitting indirect taxation. He did not think direct taxation would be so disadvantageous; and for his part he was ready to take his share of it.
§ MR. HENLEY
did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for West Surrey; but the House would vote rather upon the resolution proposed than the speech of the proposer; and he saw nothing objectionable in the resolution. The speeches of hon. Members had all differed in their exposition of the views they had taken of the subject; but they had all agreed in the lamentable fact that the country was in a state of great distress. No one denied that fact, although they might differ in their views as to the reasons for that distress, and the remedy. But that difference of opinion was no justifiable reason why the House should refuse to inquire into a distress so universally acknowledged, and the best means of remedying it. The reasons given by hon. Members for opposing this Motion were very unreasonable; but when the hon. Member for East Kent stated that the workhouses were overflowing, the colonies ruined, and the country in distress, and yet refused to vote for a Committee of Inquiry, he must confess he was greatly astonished. Neither could he agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex, who would not vote for a Committee because the hon. Member for West Surrey would not support the repeal of all our recent commercial legislation; on the contrary, he (Mr. Henley) would vote for every Motion of a practical nature of this kind, because, while it did not pledge the House to any course, it proposed to inquire, and to remedy that distress, which was unfortunately too general and too overwhelming. Something had been said of the largeness of salaries; and it was, he believed, the universal opinion that the rates of salary were fixed in times very different to the present. He did not go back to the last century; but he was aware that at the time fees were abolished, and fixed salaries given in their place, the cost of all the necessaries of life was very different to what it was now, and that of itself constituted a good reason for inquiry. A great portion of the direct expenditure, as well as that which was deducted from the revenue before it reached the exchequer, consisted of salaries; and a considerable reduction in the expenditure might be effected by their revision. The necessary result of modern legislation was the principle 233 of getting more work for less money; and whether that principle was right or wrong, it must he applied to the vast army of persons who received pay from the country, from the highest to the lowest. That principle was carried out in every trade and in every pursuit, and by applying it to the Government officers, a reduction of expenditure might be effected. For these reasons, he should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey.
MR. J. O'CONNBLL
observed, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey had expressed himself reluctant to enter into the question of Ireland; but when he left out Ireland, he left out the part of Hamlet. The hon. Gentleman recommended that the districts in Ireland where murders took place should be fined; but if the hon. Gentleman applied the rule to his own country, he would find many localities in which it would be applicable. The hon. Gentleman also said that a fine should be inflicted on those districts in Ireland where persons had died from famine; but that famine was caused, not by the inhabitants, but by the mislegislation of that House, and by the mismanagement of Ireland since she ceased to have the management of her own affairs. He would now say to the hon. Member that there was one means by which a considerable saving of expenditure might be effected. If the wants and wishes and demands of the people of Ireland were attended to, the great military expenditure now necessary for the oppression of Ireland might be done away with. And by treating the people fairly, their situation would be so improved that their contributions to the exchequer would be infinitely greater than they were at present.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey was one, no doubt, not only of general but of universal interest. It was a Motion "That we resolve ourselves into Committee to consider the public expenditure, and the existing system of taxation, and how far both may be revised, with a view to relieve the pressure upon the industry of the country." He had not the gratification of hearing entirely the speech of his hon. Friend, though he had the pleasure of listening to a considerable portion of it. He entirely acquitted his hon. Friend of treating this grave subject in a tone of levity. A spirit of philosophic sarcasm did not necessarily involve a tone of levity; and he knew well, not 234 only from his knowledge of his hon. Friend in that House, but outside its walls, that he had given to this subject the most earnest and unremitting attention. He was not, on the present occasion, anxious at all to press upon the House that it was impossible to support the resolution which had been proposed to them, because of the speech in which it was introduced. Upon that topic he would not dwell; but he would remind his hon. Friend that in calling their attention to a subject of such vast interest, it had been always the custom—he believed he might say the invariable one—to lay on the table of the House, preliminary to calling for a vote, the resolutions which he intended to propose in Committee, in order that the House should be able, when called upon to give a vote on so serious an occasion, generally to comprehend the scheme about to be proposed. He wished to impress upon his hon. Friend that he could not be doing justice to his own position and ingenuity, or to the grave subject before them, if he called upon them to vote on the present occasion without following the usual precedents of the House. If the hon. Gentleman had placed his resolutions on the table, observations such as had been made could not have been pertinent. One hon. Gentleman would not have got up and said, "Why is Ireland not referred to?" Another hon. Gentleman could not have got up and said, "The hon. Gentleman has sneered at protection, and for that reason I cannot agree to an inquiry into the state of the nation." If the hon. Gentleman had indulged in fifty sneers against protection, but had not embodied those sneers in a formal resolution of the House, any rhetorical observation of the hon. Gentleman in an expository speech would not be a fair ground for refusing to support an inquiry on the present occasion. Besides, the hon. Gentleman must feel that this inconvenience had occurred from the course he had adopted. Here was this important resolution submitted for their consideration, and it was by accident only that they had not divided upon it after the speech of the hon. Gentleman; but if he had followed the usual course, and informed the House that he was going to ask its opinion on all those great topics—the principles which ought to regulate our commercial system, and the principles which they ought to adopt for the regulation of their fiscal system—if he had given due notice that he was going to call upon them for their mature and formal opinion on the 235 subject himself, at the same time frankly exhibiting to them the conclusions at which he had arrived, and which he was ready to submit for their adoption, the House would have a lengthened opportunity to make up their minds on this occasion, and would not be called upon, after a hurried discussion of an hour or two, to give a vote on such an important subject, or until after a debate that was worthy of the occasion, no doubt sustained with great ability and for a considerable time, and they might have arrived at a result on this important subject satisfactory to their constituents, and in some degree acting as a guide to the opinions of the country. He asked his hon. Friend, could that be the consequence of the discussion that night? Could his hon. Friend—not having followed the general and salutary rule of the House—say that he had secured a discussion worthy of himself and of the subject? He freely admitted that this Motion was one worthy of all respect. He freely admitted that, from his own observation of public affairs, he did not think that any very longtime could elapse without the House of Commons being called upon to resolve itself into a Committee on taxation. He asked his hon. Friend if he called upon them for a decision in this precipitate and sudden manner, in a House certainly not so full as such a division and such a Subject should summon, did he think he was advancing the views he wished to advocate, or whether he was accomplishing the result which he (Mr. Disraeli) knew, from his own experience, he sincerely and earnestly desired? One Gentleman after another had risen, and complained that topics of the utmost importance, parts of the subject, had not been noticed, or were not satisfactorily alluded to by his hon. Friend. It was quite clear that if they entered into the subject, there was no branch of it, and it was a complicated subject, that must not be treated of; but the hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of making a suggestive speech to the House, and he made every Gentleman aware, if they were not aware before—if they were, he made them doubly conscious—that the duty will devolve on them sooner or later, as Members of the House, either by speech or vote, to express a definite opinion on this important subject, namely, the system of taxation in the country. This grave question, in a rough and hurried manner, must not be precipitately disposed of; and he hoped his hon. Friend, with a due regard to the importance 236 of the subject, and the circumstances under which it was introduced, and the very great inexpediency, before their constituents and the country, of deciding upon a subject of this vast importance without fair and ample discussion, would not, under the circumstances of the case, put them in the painful position of dividing on this occasion, causing many Gentlemen to divide against a Motion of which they approved, though they might not approve of the tone in which it was introduced, or the circumstances under which the division took place. He would be glad that his hon. Friend withdrew his Motion, for by voting for "the previous question" they would seem to vote against a Motion deserving of respect, and a slur would be cast on his hon. Friend. "The previous question" was a weapon that should not be lightly used; it was a safeguard, no doubt, under certain circumstances; but he thought the course that in the present instance would be most agreeable to the House, and most courteous on the part of his hon. Friend, was, that he should tell them, that having placed his views before the House, and having received from the House, as he generally did, great sympathy on the subject with which he connected himself, he would not on this occasion call for a division.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
rose to correct a misapprehension that seemed to exist with respect to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and into which hon. Members who were not present when he addressed the House might be induced to fall. It would be strange if his right hon. Friend should treat with levity the subject of economy or remission of taxation; for his right hon. Friend must feel more sensitive on the point than any other person. It was true that he might have indulged in remarks savouring of levity while referring to some of the topics that had been introduced; but that did not imply that with regard to the subject itself his right hon. Friend took any such view of it. He (Mr. Labouchere) had only to say, with regard to the Motion before the House, that he thought the hon. Gentleman should follow the advice of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. Let him put his suggestions in the form of resolutions, and place them on the table of the House, and he could not but say that he might be more successful in obtaining the concurrence of the House for a Committee, than on the present occasion. On the contrary. 237 when he considered how extraordinary were those suggestions, framed, not as they usually were, but framed, one almost would suppose purposely, so that no two Gentlemen would be able to unite with him in supporting this resolution, some suggestions being agreeable to Gentlemen in one quarter of the House, others being agreeable to Gentlemen in other quarters; it appeared to be a resolution, as a whole, that could meet with the concurrence of no hon. Member in the House. If the hon. Gentleman took the course of placing his opinions in the form of a resolution on the table, he believed there would be a more unanimous disposition than existed to follow him. He felt the question was one of the greatest importance. He felt that the House should not embark in an inquiry, or go into Committee on such a subject, without seeing how they could profitably employ themselves, and get out of it with some practical results; and he would altogether protest against going into an inquiry on the present Motion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given practical proofs of his desire to effect economy. [Colonel SIBTHORP: Hear, hear!] Gentlemen might be of opinion that reductions were not carried far enough; but let any Gentleman point out any practical reductions that could be made in the establishments of the country, and Her Majesty's Government would consider their suggestions. If they went into Committee, they would produce no practical results, and consume valuable time; and for those reasons, if the hon. Gentleman persisted in his Motion, he (Mr. Labouchere) would vote for the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester.
§ MR. ROBINSON
acquitted the hon. Mover of treating the subject with unbecoming levity, but doubted whether, considering the gravity and importance of the subject, he had adopted the best means of effecting the object. As long ago as 1830, Mr. Huskisson stated his conviction that the time had then arrived when it would be absolutely necessary to consider the question of taxation. He differed with the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire as to the invariable practice of the House having been to preface a Motion of this kind by a statement of the resolutions which the hon. Mover intended to propose; but he agreed with the right hon. President of the Board of Trade in thinking that such a course would have been far more likely to 238 serve his object. He had always been convinced that the only mode of obtaining relief for the people was through remission of taxation. If they were unable to increase the means of employing the people, or reducing their burdens, the only remedy left was equalisation of taxation. When the question was mooted last year, something like a pledge was given that the Government would consider it during the recess. He wished to hear whether they had done so, and whether they had arrived at some decision one way or the other. The only objection which he had to the proposition before the House was, that it mixed up the two questions of reduction of the Government expenditure, and remission of taxes, and referred both to the same Committee. They might go on shrinking from the consideration of this great question; but if he was not mistaken, public opinion would force it on them. In the early part of his Parliamentary career, so strongly impressed was he with the necessity of taking some measure which would have the effect of giving relief to the people with respect to this great question, that he moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the question; and in a House of 376 Members, the Motion was lost only by a majority of 66. He approved of the object which the present Motion contemplated; but, regard being had to the peculiar circumstances under which it had been introduced, he thought the better course by far for the hon. Member for West Surrey to pursue would be, to withdraw it, as by not doing so he might place hon. Members in a false position.
rose and said that he was not one disposed to doubt the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman who had proposed this resolution, or to charge him with undue levity. On the contrary, in a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman had said he concurred. He agreed with him that the tendency of excessive taxation had been to produce revolutions; that it was the tendency of bodies of rich men to lay undue taxation on the poor; that the colonial system required remodelling; that the waste of expenditure in the dockyards and other establishments was excessive; and that the public debt ought to be grappled with. In these views he agreed with the hon. Gentleman, and he did not much differ from him as to the means of accomplishing what he proposed. The hon. Gentleman said, "Put on a property tax, equalise the land tax, and with the produce eventually 239 reduce the national debt." He agreed in all that, and he also agreed with the hon. Gentleman in his concluding remark that it was impossible to return to the bread tax. Without wishing to offend the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex, who had spoken of persons going about the country to deceive the people, he must say that the worst occupation any person could at present pursue was to attempt to lead the farmers to suppose that they could ever regain protection, and thus divert their attention from that which was attainable. He did not comprehend the hon. Gentleman's views of progressive taxation; and he did not agree with him in the slight he cast upon one of the most beautiful of modern reforms—the penny postage—or in the slur he cast upon prison discipline. Indeed, as far as he understood the proposals of the hon. Gentleman, he did not think that he could go into Committee with him with any hope of agreeing in his views. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire has said that we should have been better prepared to discuss this question if the intention of the hon. Gentleman had been placed on the table of the House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, I think, left the matter in considerable mystery and doubt when he brought forward his Motion. [Mr. DISRAELI: I beg your pardon; I placed the resolution on the table.] A great part of the evening was spent in discussing what the hon. Gentleman meant; there were a great many interpretations of his meaning; he himself had told us that he had left out the case of Ireland, because he intended to reveal the mystery in Committee. He (Mr. Cobden) was not much in love with Motions to go into a Committee of the whole House; there was not much meant by them; in the first place they did not get into Committee, and, if they did, he hardly thought it practicable to discuss all these questions. He would rather have one distinct proposition, and he found fault with the hon. Gentleman that he had left out of his Motion that which he (Mr. Cobden) considered the most important of all propositions, namely, a reduction of the expenditure of the country. There was no distinct proposal to reduce expenditure; there was revision of expenditure, but he made a great distinction between revision and reduction. Revision of taxation did not imply necessarily a reduction of expenditure; what he thought the country required was reduction of expenditure. 240 Revision of taxation was a shuffling of the cards. He wanted to see the whole country relieved by a reduction of the expenditure of the Government, and he quite agreed that excessive taxation led to distress and want. He had already pointed out what he thought were some of the great items of expenditure; he was willing to join in a vote for the reduction of salaries; he was not for underpaying any one; he was for having as few persons as possible, for making them work well and paying them well; and you could not command talent in any other way. If you were to have a revision of taxation, it would be difficult to find out how to shift the burden from one shoulder to another. He could understand the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Derby. He had made to-night a very distinct and important proposition; it was that they should revert to direct taxation. He was perfectly convinced that the only way in which you could revise taxation was to relieve the great body of the working people by removing indirect taxes which pressed invariably on the multitude in a twofold way: first, by increasing the price of articles of necessity, and next, by impeding the capitalist in the means of employment. If you meant revision of taxation which was to relieve the labouring classes, then he was convinced that you had no other course but walking in the footsteps of the hon. Member for Derby. He did not mean to say that you were going at once to sweep away customhouses and excisemen, and raise the whole of taxation by a direct process; but you could not relieve the masses of the people but by taking off taxes on consumable commodities, and putting them on property, and he was anxious to see that done to an extent which was very practicable in the House. One word on a subject which had been mixed up in this debate. The hon. Member for East Kent and the hon. Member for North Essex had told us of the great and growing distress of the country. What did you mean by "the country?" He understood there was special suffering and distress at present in certain south-western counties, arising from very intelligible, obvious causes—a deficient harvest got up in a very damaged state. [Mr. PLUMPTRE dissented.] The hon. Member for East Kent shook his head. He asked any one in this House whether, from the Land's-end to the opposite coast of Kent, there was not a general failure in the harvest from the causes which he had 241 stated? By a singular accident, unusual and almost unprecedented, this last autumn the south and west were visited with a fortnight's rain at a critical time, when the corn was on the ground. It damaged the corn to an extent which the hon. Member for Somersetshire had well represented. The weather cleared up, and in the north midland counties and higher districts, the harvest coming later, when the weather had cleared up the corn was got in, in average condition. This had been an exceptional state of things. On all former occasions when we suffered from a bad harvest, the south and west had got in their corn tolerably well, and the disaster had almost always fallen on the north. Their being in distress in the south and west of England was easily accounted for; but don't let them mistake the thing in this House; the effect of their being in distress in these counties did not necessarily imply that the whole kingdom was suffering from distress. He admitted that the home trade would sympathise with the state of agriculture all over the kingdom. ["Hear, hear!" from the Protectionists.] Surely that was no discovery for hon. Gentlemen. If you had a defective harvest in any season, it was not foreign importations that would prevent suffering on that account for the season; and so far as you had suffered in the south and west, the home trade had suffered also. [Sir J. TYRELL: Cattle.] If the hon. Member for North Essex would listen to him, he might be able to repeat his lesson in Essex. The hon. Gentleman was always thinking of his long and short horns. Recollect, however, that we had meat at an extravagant price for the last two years. Whatever they might think in Essex, the people of London who consumed meat, were glad it could be had for 7d. instead of 10d. per pound. You had, besides this defective harvest in the south and west, giving rise to bad trade in London, and affecting the manufacturing districts, many disturbing causes in the foreign trade. You had had rebellions on the Continent; you had had railway speculation, which was far deeper seated than you thought: it had impoverished the middle classes; it had dried up their resources, and deprived them of the means of expenditure, and we must naturally expect that, in the north of England generally, you would have a considerable state of distress at this particular moment. He represented a district embracing a population of nearly one million and a half, of a variety of occupations. He should be 242 telling an untruth if he were to come here, and, in the language of the hon. Members for Kent or Essex, were to say—" I want a reduction of taxation, because the West Riding of Yorkshire is at this moment suffering from a peculiar state of distress." There might be distress in the West Riding; Bradford might be more prosperous than Sheffield, and Sheffield than another place; but, taking the whole of Yorkshire, and comparing it with former times, it was in a state of comparative comfort and prosperity. What did they mean on the other side when they talked to the House of remedying the distress? The House must never forget, and the country must never lose sight of this, that their remedy was a protective duty on corn to raise the price of corn. Would not that be attended with evil consequences in the north of England and the metropolis? They wanted a restoration of prosperity at the expense of the rest of the community. They wanted that to be the normal state of this country—high prices and excessive distress, They had never been contented except when they had distress in the manufacturing districts. ["No, no!"] He said, yes, yes. He would tell them when they were quiet, and when they were discontented. They were quiet in 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842, when the north of England was in constant distress and occasional insurrection. They were content in 1847 and 1848. They were not content in 1835, and they sometimes told us that they only complained now because they had low prices and a deficient harvest. They were not content in 1835, when prices were 40s. a quarter for wheat, and when we had a plentiful harvest at home. They came with the same stories of distress, and were as much discontented as they were now that the manufacturing districts were prosperous. It was impossible that they could return to a state of things which they called prosperity, because that meant direful adversity to the rest of the community. He should apologise for intruding this topic at all; but he did not believe it due to the House or the country to be too silent on the subject. By allowing Members constantly to reiterate the old worn-out arguments on the subject of protection, they had brought themselves to believe in them. The country understood the subject; the remedy for distress in the agricultural districts must be by other means than a return to the old law. If they wanted retrenchment, he would help them; 243 he never found a country Member vote for the reduction of taxation. We could not get a reduction of expenditure, because of the county Members; and he would tell the county constituency, that if they would keep the country Members away from the House (he did not ask them to support economy), the free-traders would reduce the expenditure without them, and it would never be reduced whilst they were here. His right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester had put his Amendment in the most courteous form towards the hon. Member for Surrey. He thought that if the hon. Member followed the advice of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and withdrew his Motion, it would be the most proper method of disposing of it. On the Motion being put distinctly he should vote for the previous question, thinking that the hon. Member for Surrey had done some service by introducing the question.
rose to reply. He said, he was perfectly surprised at the language of some hon. Members, and the advice of others. But in not laying his Resolution upon the table of the House, he believed he was in conformity with the practice of the House; he remembered one case in point; he recollected that when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was asked, in bringing the navigation laws before the House last year, to lay his Resolution on the table, he distinctly refused. He observed, that it had been the invariable custom never to lay the resolution before the House till they were about to go into Committee. He did not put in any resolution respecting direct taxation, because he differed widely from hon. Gentlemen on the subject. The first observation that he had made to the House, was to warn the House against any one measure being sufficient to bring about the reduction which he said was necessary to the exigencies of the case, and he said we must go over the whole of our taxable system. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer began, first of all, with giving him a lecture for having lectured the House a great deal too seriously, and having talked to them about their selfishness, and about the way in which the rich always oppressed the poor. He suspected that the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, politically, was on a par with his knowledge of law, for he seemed never to have heard of the Saxon law by which every hundred in the kingdom was punished for every case of violence; and 244 this was the simple law which he advised to be restored to Ireland. As to the Post Office, he never brought it forward at all; he simply said, that the people were very willing to accuse their rulers of extravagance, but they had offences of their own which cost the public a great deal, and he instanced the Post Office as one, and the gaols and prison discipline as another. He had been a magistrate for forty years, and he never saw the advantage of this prison discipline. He begged to remain of the same opinion. He did not bring forward this question in order to give a triumph to any faction whatever; and part of the attack of the hon. Gentlemen opposite was, that he had put together things so as to gain some with one proposition and some with another. He had not; he had only brought forward such things, of the truth of which he was himself convinced; and whether he had 100 or 200 Members with him this night, he was certain the country would speak the same language. They had taught the country that it was only by agitation, to the very verge of rebellion, that they could hope for relief; and the public would teach the Government the same lesson which they had taught the public. As to this Motion, he cared very little which way it went; but he must say, that as the country had come to a state of considerable discontent through the pilot now at the helm of affairs, he would advise Gentlemen, whether they looked to his pilotage or not, to look to some other than that on the opposite side of the House if they ever expected to be relieved from their burdens.
§ Whereupon previous Question put, "That that Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 100; Noes 151: Majority 51.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Cayley, E. S.|
|Arkwright, G.||Chaplin, W. J.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Christy, S.|
|Baring, T.||Clifford, H. M.|
|Bass, M. T.||Clive, H. B.|
|Bennet, P.||Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Codrington, Sir W.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Cole, hon. H. A.|
|Blair, S.||Compton, H. C.|
|Blake, M. J.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Dick, Q.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Dodd, G.|
|Broadley, H.||Duff, J.|
|Brown, H.||Duncuft, J.|
|Bruce, C. L.||Ellice, E.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Ellis, J.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Evans, J.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Farnham, B. E.|
|Farrer, J.||Packe, C. W.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Palmer, R.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Galway, Visct.||Perfect, R.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Goring, C.||Pigott, F.|
|Greene, J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Hale, R. B.||Portal, M.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Renton, J. C.|
|Harris, R.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Henley, J. W.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Sadleir, J.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Scholefield, W.|
|Hotham, Lord||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Jones, Capt.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Keogh, W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Kershaw, J.||Simeon, J.|
|Lewisham, Visct.||Somerset, Capt.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Long, W.||Spooner, R.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Stafford, A.|
|Martin, J.||Sullivan, M.|
|Masterman, J.||Thompson, Col.|
|Moore, G. H.||Thornhill, G.|
|Morris, D.||Tollemache, J.|
|Mowatt, F.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Wodehouse, E.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Drummond, H.|
|Osborne, R.||Urquhart, D.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Denison, W. J.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Disraeli, B.|
|Adare, Visct.||Dunne, F. P.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Euston, Earl of|
|Bagshaw, J.||Fagan, W.|
|Baines, M. T.||Fergus, J.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Beckett, W.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Forster, M.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Fox, W. J.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Brand, T.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Bright, J.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Greene, T.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Hallyburton, Ld. J. F. G.|
|Cardwell, E.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Hastie, A.|
|Cavendish, W. G.||Hawes, B.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Clay, J.||Heald, J.|
|Cockburn, A. J. E.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Henry, A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Cowan, C.||Heywood, J.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Heyworth, L.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Denison, E.||Hindley, C.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Hope, A.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Slancy, R. A.|
|Hutt, W.||Smith, J. B.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Jackson, W.||Stanton, W. H.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Labouchere, rt. hn. H.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Langston, J. H.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Lascelles, hon. E.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Lushington, C.||Thornely, T.|
|Macnaghten, Sir E.||Towneley, J.|
|Maitland, T.||Tufnell, H.|
|Martin, S.||Turner, G. J.|
|Matheson, Col.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Monsell, W.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Napier, J.||Wall, C. B.|
|O'Connell, J.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Walter, J.|
|Oswald, A.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Palmer, R.||West, F. R.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Parker, J.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Wilson, J.|
|Peel, F.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Pennant, hon. Col.||Wood, W. P.|
|Power, N.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Pryse, P.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Pugh, D.||Wyld, J.|
|Raphael, A.||Wyvill, M.|
|Ricardo, J. L.||Young, Sir J.|
|Rice, E. R.||TELLERS.|
|Rich, H.||Cobden, R.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Gibson, M.|