§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
, in moving the Resolution of which he had given notice for the repeal of these duties, said: In bringing under the notice of the House a proposal for the repeal of any portion of taxation, and for lessening thereby the public income of the country, a Member labours under considerable difficulties, for there naturally arises in the minds of hon. Gentlemen, upon such a proposition being made, the feeling that it proceeds out of what has been termed "an ignorant impatience of taxation," and that the Motion is dictated by some clamour out of doors, arising from an indisposition to pay any tax whatever. I admit that there are persons who are rather indiscriminating in the course that they take in reference to the repeal of taxes. I, for one, have always endeavoured to avoid supporting any Motion, or encouraging any views, for the repeal of a tax, without I had first satisfied myself as to the 984 grounds on which I was proceeding; and I hope that I may be understood as bringing forward this Motion on grounds of public policy in reference to the character of the tax, and its effects upon the morals and industry of the nation, rather than upon the effect that it produces in increasing the price of the article that is taxed to the consumers of this country. There is another point, with regard to the financial arrangement, which will shortly be submitted to the House. We are sometimes told, after the Budget has been laid before Parliament, that as the financial arrangements of the year are completed, it is improper to bring forward any Motion for the repeal of taxes; and again we are sometimes told that it is improper to bring forward any Motion of this kind because the financial statement has not been made, and that we ought to wait until the Government has informed the House what their financial arrangements are that they propose to submit. In accordance with these two views, it would be impossible to fix any time to bring forward a Motion to repeal a tax. But I conceive it is the legitimate function of any Member of this House, without in the slightest degree questioning the necessity on the part of the Government to exercise the most extreme caution before they part with the public income of the country, to scrutinise the sources of our taxation, and to ascertain whether the money that is to be raised for the support of our national establishments cannot be raised in a better manner than that in which it actually is. In bringing forward this question, I would mention to the Government that I do not represent, as it were, any suffering interest. Neither papermakers nor newspaper proprietors, nor the publishers of cheap literature, do I profess to represent on this occasion. My desire is simply to represent what I believe to be the public interest on this question, and I beg therefore distinctly to state, if it be alleged as an answer to the case I am about to submit, that particular papermakers are not in favour of the repeal of the tax, and that particular newspaper proprietors would rather retain the stamp duty as it is now; in reference to certain vested interests, I beg to state that I am about to ask the House to repeal this tax solely on public grounds. Neither can I permit this question to be considered a party question. It will be in the recollection of the House that two Sessions ago I 985 submitted it to their consideration, and it was then supported by Gentlemen of all political views; and therefore I approach it with the feeling that I am not advocating a party question to get a triumph for Gentlemen on one side of the House over Gentlemen on the other, but rather that I am advocating a question which affects the general interests and welfare of the community. I have the good fortune to submit a question to the House that was supported two years ago by no less than four distinguished Members of Her Majesty's present Government. To be in such a position is an enviable one for an independent Member of Parliament, and I will not presume in any remarks that I may make to the House that there is any hostility on the part of the Government to the Motion I am about to submit, though I may fancy that official restraint and peculiar circumstances may prevent those who are favourable to the cause from being able to agree to it at any particular moment; I shall act on the principle that in addressing the Government I am addressing those who in the main by their past votes and speeches have shown themselves to be friendly to the object I have in view. The first proposal that I shall make has reference to the simple question of the paper duty; and I would beg to remind the House, that in submitting this general Motion for the repeal of the taxes on knowledge, I do not propose to ask Gentlemen to commit themselves to a large reduction of taxation at this moment. I do not ask them to agree to any single Motion which embodies the three propositions, namely, the repeal of taxes on paper, advertisements, and stamps. All I intend is this, to ask them their opinion on each proposition separately, so that any Gentleman who is not favourable to the repeal of the newspaper stamp, but is to the paper duty, will be at liberty to vote for the latter proposition, and withhold his vote from the former. My own opinion undoubtedly is, that all these three Resolutions should be carried; but I shall submit them to the House separately, and take a separate division upon each. Let no Gentleman, therefore, understand that he is committing himself to any immediate large reduction of taxation in agreeing to one or other of the Resolutions that I shall propose. Indeed, in regard to the first Resolution, the duty on paper, I am only asking the House to agree with one Resolution which 986 the Commission on Excise Duties came to in the year 1834. The Commission of 1834 came to the resolution that the duty on paper, in conjunction with two other duties that I need not allude to at present—that on moral, and general, and commercial grounds it was desirable that those duties should in the end be totally repealed. I say, therefore, what I am asking is not stronger than what the Commission recommended years ago. The proposal that I make is simply this—that such financial arrangements ought to be made as will enable Parliament to dispense with the duty on paper. That is a moderate proposal, and it only calls upon the House to pass an opinion that the duty on paper is not such a tax as ought to be considered a part of our permanent system of taxation. I am not now asking you to repeal the Act of Parliament which imposes a duty on paper, but I am asking you simply to say to the Government, that in their financial arrangements they would be consulting the permanent interest of the country if they could make such arrangements as would be sufficient for the public revenue, and which would at the same time repeal the duty on paper. This I hold to be a most moderate and legitimate proposition to submit to the House, and I hope that on principle no Gentleman, who is not actually in favour of the paper duty, will be prepared to resist it. Now the Motion that I have submitted, is headed with a species of preamble which is not submitted to this House in the form of a Motion, but merely as an indication to the House of the grounds on which, as far as I individually am concerned, I am disposed to press this matter upon their attention. It speaks of the injurious policy of deriving revenue from taxes on knowledge. But before I go to the effect of the paper duty in preventing the diffusion of knowledge, if I were to omit altogether every allusion to the oppressive regulations consequent upon it, and under which the manufacturers of paper labour, if I were to omit altogether every allusion to the bad effect of the paper duty in obstructing the improvement of the manufacture of paper, in hindering the employment of labour, and in preventing oar becoming an exporting country in the article of paper; if I were to omit these points, I should be considered not to do justice to the matter I have taken in hand. With regard to these oppressive regulations, I am quite aware that to complain of these excise regulations is, after all, 987 but a complaint against the whole of your excise system. I quite admit that; but what I maintain is, that no case can be made out so strong in regard to the manufacture itself, and the employment of labour on any article subject to excise duty, as can be made out with reference to paper. There are Gentlemen far better acquainted with all the many details of the vexatious regulations which the Excise, for the purpose of protecting the revenue, is obliged to carry out; but of this I will remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that, although the regulations in reference to the manufacture of paper are most oppressive and vexatious, rendering it scarcely possible for a manufacturer to touch the very paper he has made; nevertheless, they are not sufficient to protect the honest manufacturer from fraudulent paper manufacturers; and it is an undeniable fact that large quantities of paper come into the market which have never paid the duty, and which comes into competition with the article produced by the fair and honest manufacturer that has paid the duty. This is one important matter in reference to these regulations, because, although you may relax them, yet in that very relaxation you incur a new danger in enabling manufacturers the more easily to bring paper into the market which has never paid the duty. Bear in mind that these regulations are almost at the instance of the manufacturers themselves, as being necessary to protect them, as it were, from the competition of fraudulent dealers. But with regard to the employment of labour, and especially as I address a Government that especially cares for the agricultural interest, let me remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the manufacture of paper is one of our rural manufactures, and that the clear streams of Buckinghamshire are precisely those best adapted for the manufacture of paper. But the excise duty on paper has shut up all the paper mills on the Buckinghamshire streams. The paper manufacturers are gradually becoming more and more reduced in number, thus showing the fact that the Excise system and these regulations have created a congestion of capital, and are bringing the whole business into the hands of a few great capitalists. I will take the liberty of reading a letter which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has received from Mr. Herbert Ingram, the proprietor of the Illus- 988 trated London News on the subject. He says—I yesterday did myself the honour to forward for your acceptance a copy of the Illustrated London News, of which I am the proprietor, that I might bring under your notice a copy of your portrait engraved for that journal. I now take the liberty of addressing you upon a subject of national importance, affecting not only the trade and the literature of the country in general, but the welfare of the agricultural population in many districts, and especially in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. The subject I allude to is that of the excise duty upon paper, with the whole effect of which I am particularly acquainted, not only as a newspaper proprietor, but as an extensive manufacturer and consumer of paper. Tour long and honourable connexion with literature, and the high position which you now occupy in the councils of Her Majesty, justify me in believing that you will do me the honour to listen to the facts which I proceed to lay before you, in explanation of the practical injuries inflicted by this impost; injuries which were, I am certain, never contemplated as possible when the tax was first levied. I need scarcely explain to you that, when paper is made, it is wet; that, as the excise duty is levied upon the weight, the paper manufacturer naturally dries the paper that it may be as light as possible when he is favoured with the visits of the excise officer; and that, after it has been so dried, and paid the duty, it must be wetted again before it can be used in the printing office. The double process of drying and wetting, besides being attended by a very considerable expense for labour, naturally damages the quality of the paper; and, moreover, involves an additional cost in subjecting it to pressure, that the article may recover the glossy and smooth surface it has lost. Now, I have found by experiment and trial that paper can be manufactured in a fit state for the printer, with a beautifully smooth surface, which would not be impaired by printing and drying; and that printing upon such paper could be carried to much higher perfection as an art, both for letter-press and engravings, than can be attained by paper dried and rewetted according to the present practice. The dampness of such paper would be scarcely perceptible to the touch, but would require for such paper as the Illustrated London News is printed upon a weight of steam or water amounting to no less than 131b. per ream. If I were to use such paper in my business I should have to pay an excise tax upon water of no less than 1s. 7½d. per ream, in addition to a tax of the same rate per pound on the paper itself. Now, I consume twenty-six tons of paper per week, or 1,040 tons and upwards per annum, a fact which I state that you may see at a glance what an enormous sum I should have to pay as a penalty for using the improved paper which I would manufacture by the aid of a little water. I am quite willing and prepared to inform all printers and papermakers of my experiment, and its results, which could be immediately adopted with much benefit to all concerned, provided we could obtain a removal of the excise duty. Among other innumerable objections to the impost, which, as a practical man, I could point out, I may be permitted to remind you that it involves considerable trouble and expense in collecting, both to the manufacturer and to the Custom House, and prevents books from being 989 printed where they ought to be printed, namely, at the paper mill itself.This I read in order to show the effect of your regulations in preventing the best mode of manufacturing paper. Mr. Ingram then goes on to say that he could employ this invention in the manufacture of paper for educational books, but that he is prevented by this obnoxious paper duty from adopting that system. Mr. Ingram finishes his letter by saying—Were it not for the operation of the excise duty I could print at my paper mill educational books, bibles, testaments, &c, and indeed every description of books, at the cost of the ink, added simply to that of the paper; a fact which, with others equally important, I think I could satisfactorily prove to you if you would grant me the honour of an interview. You must, Sir, in your youth, have wandered along the beautiful streams of Buckinghamshire, and listened to the busy sounds of the water wheel tearing to pieces an otherwise useless article to manufacture it into valuable paper; and it must have given you pleasure to reflect that this gave healthful, pleasant, and remunerative employment to great numbers of the rural population. Most of the Buckinghamshire mills have, I grieve to remind you, been swept away under the operation of the excise duty, and transferred to barren but populous coal districts, leaving the population of Buckinghamshire unemployed, and, to a great extent, pauperised. I have no hesitation in saying, that if this excise duty upon paper were abolished, these mills would be again prosperous, and employ large numbers of people. Nor is this the only evil result of the tax upon agricultural districts. One article, straw, which is produced by the farmer, is no sooner employed in paper making, for which it is well adapted, than it is taxed 300 per cent. I need not dwell at further length upon such a positive injury to agriculture as that is.So that you see that with regard to the raw material of which paper is made; with regard to the labour of men, and women, and children, who are employed in the manufacture of paper—and I believe that when paper is made, three-fifths of its value consists of the labour that has been employed upon it; considering also that the agricultural districts are precisely the localities best adapted by the purity of their streams of water for the manufacture of paper; I contend that I have some claim to submit this question to the consideration of Gentlemen opposite, even as an agricultural question. And in regard to Ireland, I can have no doubt whatever that the repeal of the excise duty on paper would have a most beneficent effect on the employment of labour in that country. The excise duty on paper causes a larger capital to be required to carry on a paper manufactory than would otherwise be necessary; and therefore, in a country which has been so 990 much pressed down by difficulties of various kinds as Ireland has been, and which has so little capital to carry on various branches of industry, it is highly important that so valuable a manufacture, particularly in respect to the employment of labour, should no longer be oppressed by these excise duties, especially when you consider that the revenue derived from that excise duty in Ireland is a very small portion, because the effect is not to give you a revenue, but to prohibit to a great extent the existence of the manufacture in that country. I have a short extract of a letter from a gentleman in Ireland on this very question:—As a manufacturer I give constant employment and full wages to 300 individuals, all of this locality—most of them instructed by myself—[this gentleman writes from Dripsey-mills, near Cork], and I am told by the clergymen of the parish, both Protestant and Roman Catholic (for I enjoy the friendship of both), that I keep more than twice that number out of the workhouse. I devote my time and attention to my business, with the exception only of one day in the week, the best portion of which is given to my duties as Poor Law Guardian of this union.This shows the importance of the repeal of the paper duty as an industrial question, and there can be no reason whatever why this country should not manufacture paper for the whole world. We might become exporters of paper as we are exporters of cotton goods, but by your foolish duty you actually induce Americans to come to this country, and buy up cotton waste, and the refuse of ropes, and a variety of other articles, for the express purpose of manufacturing them into paper, with which your own colonies are supplied. Why, this is a system that does not supply you with revenue. All it does is to prevent in this country the progressive increase of a valuable manufacture, to prevent the employment of labour, and to prevent the improvement both moral and physical of the great body of the working population. I have touched upon these points of importance, but I will now allude to that most important view of this question that peculiarly belongs to it, and does not apply to any other question that arises out of taxation, and that is the effect the paper duty has upon the literature of the country. Now, Sir, I beg to ask a favour of Gentlemen opposite, if any of them condescend to go into this question, and also of Gentlemen on this side of the House, that they will not make use of an argument which has been as it were a stock argument used in opposition to the repeal of the paper duty. It is said that the duty on paper 991 enters to so small an extent into the retail price of a hook, that a purchaser of that book would never feel the effect of the repeal of the paper duty; and the right hon. Gentleman lately the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and another right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Control, who is no longer a Member of this House, but is now a Member of the other House, both made use of this argument, and alluded to M'Culloch's Dictionary, saying it weighed four pounds and a half, and sold for 50s., and the paper duty being three halfpence a lb., that made the duty amount to something like sixpence on this Commercial Dictionary—a reduction which the purchaser would not appreciate. Well, now I can only say in answer to that statement, that it may be very just, but that it has no reference to the position I am taking on this question. My position is not in reference to the paper duty on works which sell at 50s., but on your cheap literature, which is sold at a low price, and which to succeed must have an extensive circulation: that was the species of literature I was touching upon. But even as to the former argument, if the reduction of the price of books is of no value to the purchaser of books, what is the meaning of our repeal of the paper duty on Bibles and Prayer Books, but that you wish to increase the circulation of the sacred volume, and an acknowledgment that your excise duty on paper has to some extent at least an effect in preventing the circulation of these books? The view of the question that I am raising is not at all met by this argument about M'Culloch's Dictionary; and I ask as a personal favour that upon this occasion at least it will not be repeated, though I know it is the official argument that has always been used. What appears to me to be the real injurious effect of the paper duty on your cheap literature is, not that it raises the price, but it can be demonstrated mathematically that it deteriorates its quality; that the tax on paper stands in the way of improving the quality of that literature which is circulated among your people, and that you have a deep interest in taking every step in your power to render it as moral and as improving as possible. You have your penny publications; but what stands in the way of rendering these publications as good as they might be? Why, your paper duty, and I will explain how that operates. Take the case of a penny publication, and I will quote Mr. Cassell, who is extensively en- 992 gaged in the publication of excellent works calculated to improve the great body of your population. One of them is entitled, and justly, the Popular Educator. Why, this gentleman calculates that the money he pays to Government in the shape of duty on the paper used in these publications is little short of 100l. per week. If the duty were repealed, the price would not be reduced. The price of a penny is low enough to insure a large circulation, but he could not put into his pocket the 100l. per week. Competition would force him to lay it out in improving the publications, and he would employ that 100l. per week in employing better literary talent than he is able to employ at present. Why, it is a monstrous thing that a man who issues penny publications in this country, as the Popular Educator and the Working Man's Friend, should be called on to hand over to the public some 40l. or 50l. a week for each such publication, the fund out of which authorship should be paid. The man who only looks to cheapness, who does not care what he publishes, and who gives translations from French novels, and matter appealing to the passions, for the purpose of creating a large circulation, copies what he wants from existing works, and the duty that he pays to Government does not stand in the way of his issuing forth these penny publications, because he does not want a fund out of which to pay for authorship; but if you wish to meet that man in the market with better cheap publications, you must create a fund out of which authorship can be paid, and a higher order of literature produced. I do not know that I have stated the case clearly to the House. It is clear to my own mind, but I will refer the House to some observations written by a gentleman who is well qualified to give an opinion on this subject, Mr. Charles Knight, who has published one or two excellent pamphlets on the subject, one called The Struggles of a Book, and the other The Case of the Authors against the Paper Duty. He is a man of weight on this question, and of experience; and I am sure the House will admit he is a legitimate authority. In a letter from him, dated 19th April, 1852, he says—It is difficult to add anything new to the arguments which have been urged in the House of Commons, and by other modes, for the abolition of the paper duty. A few points have struck me in addition to what I have written on the subject. Amid much which is injurious or frivolous in cheap publications, I think there is a manifest 993 tendency towards the moral and intellectual improvement of the general character of our popular literature. The conductors of periodical works almost exclusively addressed to the working classes, as they are termed, appear to me to have commenced ceasing to think that it is necessary to write down to their readers. As a natural consequence of this tendency, writers of information are more needed, perhaps more employed. But this tendency is counteracted by the paper duty. I will explain myself as briefly as I can. If 250l. be given for the authorship of a large octavo volume, it operates as a charge of 5s. per copy if 1,000 copies be printed, and the book must be high-priced; but if 10,000 be printed, the authorship only enters into price at the rate of 6d. per copy, and the book may be low-priced. But the paper duty upon such a volume amounts to 6d. per copy, whether 1,000, or 10,000 be printed; and, if 10,000 be printed, amounts to as much as the authorship. Reduce the payment of authorship, and the value of the book is injured; take away the paper duty, and you neither lower the quality nor limit the sale of the book. There is, then, a fund for the better remuneration of that labour which is to raise the quality and extend the sale, and thus advance the great end of all popular literature—the diffusion of knowledge and the elevation of the moral and religious character of a people. But it is said that the repeal of the paper tax would only operate as a bonus to publishers, without lowering the price of books to the public. I believe that the ordinary effects of competition would determine this doubt very satisfactorily. It is possible that there might be no direct lowering of price in many cases of low-priced books; but I am quite sure that there would be an improvement of quality. The number of printed pages sold for 1s. might be the same as now, but there would be better paper, better type, and, what is more important, improved authorship. Publishers of very cheap books would look for something to publish having a copyright value instead of bad translations and hacknied reprints. Beyond this, large undertakings, of which we have very few now, would have a greater encouragement were the paper duty repealed, for the price of voluminous works could be directly lowered, and their sale consequently increased. I will give an example. I have determined to bring out a new Cyclopaedia—the Imperial—founded upon the Penny Cyclopœdia. It will form 20 volumes. If I print 5,000 copies, the taxed paper would cost 12,000l., of which the actual duty would amount to 2,250l., and the direct and indirect additions to cost, consequent upon the duty, would, as I believe, double the tax. Looking at the operation of the cost of paper alone, I could reduce the price of the hook 5 per cent to the subscriber if the tax were removed; but, taking into consideration the fact that I could then print 1,000 copies at the price at which I could stereotype the 30 volumes (which process is chiefly employed to save the outlay of capital in taxed paper), I would reduce the price 10 per cent. The effects of such a tax upon prices are not to be measured by its direct amount. For example, it may be said that the drawback of duty upon exported books allows the foreigner to be charged as low a price as if the paper were untaxed. This is really not the case. The drawback only represents the positive tax, and not the increased price consequent upon the tax. As- 994 sume that I can sell 500 copies of my Cyclopœdia to an American publisher at 5l. per copy, the taxed paper costing me 1,200l. I obtain a drawback of 225l., which reduces the price of the 500 copies to 2,275l., at which rate they were invoiced. The American tariff of 10 percent adds 227l. 10s. to the importer's outlay, making a total of 2,502l. 10s. But if I could buy my paper untaxed, I consider that I should save, in various ways, 450l., so that I might reduce the price to 4l. 2s. per copy, to which the tariff would add 205l. The importer would therefore save 247l. 10s. That advantage to the importer of 10 per cent would probably double my sale in the United States. One portion of the advantage would be the diminished amount of tax which he would pay to his own Government. The direct tax, and its collateral effects in one country, produce similar effects in another country, raising price to the consumer, and thus narrowing the market of the producer. The chief argument which I have constantly urged for the repeal of the paper duty is, that the tax presses most unequally upon the lower-priced publications, as compared with the higher-priced, and therefore interferes injuriously with the education of the people. Upon the wholesale price of a modern novel, it is 1¼ per cent. Upon Mr. Dickens's Household Words, it is 12 per cent; it is 2¾ per cent upon the Quarterly Review; it is 17 per cent upon Chambers's Papers for the People. Look at the inequality as regards the two latter examples of periodical works, addressed to different classes of the community. 1,000 copies of one number of the Review, sold for 6s., pay a duty of 4l. 14s.; 1,000 copies of one unbound volume of the Papers, sold for 8d., pay a duty of 3l. 6s. If there were an ad valorem duty of 5 per cent upon the printed books, 1,000 copies of the Review would pay 15l., and 1,000 copies of the Papers would pay 1l. 13s. 4d. It is estimated that the annual sales of all books and periodical works, not newspapers, amount, at the retail price, to 2,000,000l. An ad valorem stamp of 5 per cent would raise as much as the paper duty on printed books, and would operate less injuriously. Capital would not be locked up in the tax, for the stamp would be demanded as the demand for copies went on; and the manufacturer's and stationer's profit upon the tax would be got rid of. The public would then readily understand that a tax upon paper is a tax upon knowledge, and would not be deceived into a belief that because it enters into the price of a 12s. volume to the extent only of 6d., its removal would not benefit the great and increasing body of book purchasers. Such a mode of levying a tax upon literature would be more obnoxious than the paper duty, though less harmful; but there would be justice in the principle instead of the gross inequality of the existing law.I think that if you are sincere in your wishes to advance education, you should show your sincerity by making this one of the first taxes to be repealed. It is not a consumer's or a trade question, it is a moral question; and I beg of you most earnestly and respectfully to consider it in that light. It appears to me an inconsistent course to be teaching the people to read, if you do not at the same time do everything 995 in your power to improve the quality of the hooks they are likely to peruse. The existing demand for penny publications, and the appetite for knowledge of some kind or another, is so strongly evidenced by the extent of the transactions in this branch of business, that you must not suppose that there will not be extensive circulation of some kind or another, no matter what may be the state of the law. That is no longer a matter of doubt, but a matter of certainty, and therefore every well-wisher of his country must desire that the quality of the literature which is so extensively circulated should be as good as it is possible to render it. I have dealt with the advertisement, the paper, and the newspaper stamp duties together, because these three taxes originated at the same time, were put on together, were reduced together, and I should wish them to be taken off together. I admit that the duty derived from paper, amounting to about 800,000l., although after all but a small sum when set against national education, is too large a sum when looked at financially to ask you at once to repeal. The Resolution of which I have given notice calls for the immediate repeal of the newspaper stamp and the advertisement duty; but, as I said before, I only ask you to record your opinion that the paper duty ought not to be retained as a permanent mode of taxation. I have great suspicions, and I will give my reasons for those suspicions, that these latter, and the paper duty itself, under the specious disguise of raising money, as it was called, for the purposes of the war, were really only parts of a system established for the purpose of restraining literature and keeping down the press. I suspect as much, and I think I am in a condition to prove it, in the case of the advertisement and stamp duties, and I cannot help thinking that as they came into being at the same time, and by the same Act of Parliament, that similar motives actuated the Parliament of those days as regarded these imposts. With regard to the advertisement duty, what is it? Only 160,000l. a year. Is that a large sum to be frightened at? Let us remember what a large surplus revenue we have when we talk about repealing a duty which I believe strikes more than anything else in this country at the very revenue which was proposed to be augmented by its adoption. A tax on advertisements! A tax providing that no man may say what he wishes, or tell what he wants, in the way of business transactions, 996 without being fined eighteenpence every time he speaks through the only channel by means of which he can make himself generally heard. It is impossible to conceive, if I may be allowed to use so unparliamentary an expression, a more stupid tax than this advertisement duty. Why, if I wanted to find out a mode for lessening the public revenue, I should certainly invent one restricting the communication between commercial men, and in lessening communications, lessen transactions, lessen trade, lessen consumption—in short, lessen the sources from which revenue arises. I venture to say that if you repeal this advertisement duty of 160,000l. a year, you will never know it in next year's revenue, Then, if this be true, can anything be more cruel than to say that the poor servant girl who wants a place, if she makes her want known, must be fined eighteenpence? Take again the cases of shipping, of mercantile transactions of every kind, can anything be more obvious than that to impede the knowledge of what is going on, is the surest possible way of restricting mercantile transactions? There is nothing a man has to sell which some other man does not want to purchase, if they could only he brought together. Do not add, then, to the unavoidable difficulties of trade, which are themselves large enough; do not stand in the way of the people making their mutual wants' known to each other. Look at the United States, with their 10,000,000 of advertisements in their newspapers every year. How many have you in England with a similar, and, if possible, a more commercial population? Only 2,000,000; and you are thus defrauded of 8,000,000 of advertisements by the duty. And who are many of these advertisers who are shut out by this duty? The very poorest of the population. The rich advertiser who takes his column of the Times pays his eighteenpence, and the poor servant maid, who wants a place is similarly taxed. Why, there is no justice in the distribution of the tax, setting aside the unfairness of the principle. Its inequality is so glaring, that, whether I advertise in a paper of large or small circulation, the duty is the same, although publicity is what I am supposed to be paying for. But I cannot believe that the money, 160,000l. a year, is or was the object with the Legislature. Revenue never can be the reason why rational beings should persist in maintaining a tax which is so opposed to commercial progress and sound 997 principles of legislation. There is something else; and that something is, to injure and keep down the newspaper press, and to cripple its independence. That is made evident by the tenor of your law. You practically say in your Act of Parliament that every time a man advertises in a newspaper he must pay eighteenpence, but if he advertises on a wall or in an omnibus, or employs one of those nuisances, the advertising vans, to which an hon. and gallant Member some time since called the attention of the House, he may do so, and there is no duty imposed. But let him go to the newspaper, and he is mulcted in a pecuniary penalty at once. The advertisements form the legitimate fund for supporting a newspaper; and if you drive people away from its columns, you take the most direct means possible for injuring and lessening the independence of the newspaper press. Why, all these nuisance vans, placards, and advertising companies, are only so many proofs of the pressure of the advertisement duty on the means of publicity. I must here observe that a company has actually been formed for the purposes of this mode of advertising. But your advertisement duty does not affect them: it is only when you go to the unfortunate newspaper, the legitimate vehicle for this kind of knowledge, and which ought to have the benefit of these advertisements, that the penalty is enforced. I hold the prospectus of this company in my hand, and from this it appears that the company undertakes to advertise anything and everything, and will absorb the advertisements that would go to the newspapers, were it not for the tax. And, after all, what is an advertisement? I am certain this House does not know. The Board of Inland Revenue does not know; so strange is the tax that even official personages cannot understand or explain it. There is, for instance, the Daily News, a paper that undertook to give a list of sales about to take place, not in the form of an advertisement, nor charging anything for the insertion. They gave it merely with a view of making their paper attractive, and to supply the public with a useful piece of information. But the Board of Inland Revenue at once pounced down upon the proprietors and said, "You shall not insert this list although you charge nothing for it, without you pay eighteenpence for each separate announcement." Again, it appears that its announcing ships to sail is an advertisement, while announcements of 998 arrivals are free of duty. I mention this to show you that trade is not dealt uniformly with; and there are other ways in in which the general newspaper is interfered with. Class publications may make as many announcements without duty as they please. There is a sporting paper, in which you have various kinds of announcements every week which it appears to me are just as liable to duty as those upon which the duty is charged. In "Matches to Come," there is a whole list of pedestrian matches; and another list of what is called "the Canine Fancy," in which there is a long list of dog fights. Again, in the "Fancy" announcements as regards the "Ring," there is a regular announcement of all the fights to take place. For instance, there is "Wedgebury and Green, announced to fight at Birmingham," and fourteen or fifteen similar announcements. Now, what I have to say with regard to these announcements is, that they are much less valuable to the public than lists of ships to sail, or sales to take place, and that the latter are as much entitled to indulgence as the extracts I have read. Again, there are "Horse races" and "Steeple chases," very strong cases; and another announcement, headed "Ratting Sports Extraordinary;" but I believe the policy is not to interfere with this description of advertisement, which is only interesting to certain classes, and circulating only among particular persons, while you do everything to hamper the announcements in the general and political newspaper press of the country. You allow many of these announcements about prize fights and steeple chases, and meetings at public houses, and involving great pecuniary advantages to the parties interested, to go free, while on matters of public benefit and importance you come down on the newspapers for the advertisement duty. Inform the public that on such a day a sermon would be preached for the relief of the survivors of the Amazon calamity, or merely announce the places where subscriptions would be received, and although the newspapers put in those announcements gratis, the Board of Inland Revenue came down for its eighteenpence. It was the same in the case of the Irish famine, and in all subscriptions for religious or charitable purposes a great proportion goes to the Government; and it is only when we turn to the sporting world, to steeple chases and "ratting" feats, that the Board of Inland Revenue exercises such extreme leniency. 999 I hope, then, I may confidently appeal to the House for the repeal of this advertisement duty, which cripples the newspapers and prevents the diffusion of a vast mass of useful information, stands between the employer and the employed, and will, if persisted in, have a most pernicious effect on the competition in trade and commerce in which this country is engaged with the United States. I hope I shall have the support of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), who can have no objection on financial grounds, and who always expressed himself the friend of a free and independent press. Surely I may claim his support for my Motion. As a matter of course I shall have the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who brought forward a vote of censure on a distinguished Member of the late Government for some transaction with a newspaper in Ireland. Why, the reason that these newspapers are exposed to be tampered with, and to take money for writing up this or that political view, is because you deprive them by taxation of the legitimate means of carrying on an honest and independent career. And let me tell you, that throughout the whole newspaper press, although there may be some misgiving as to the newspaper stamp question, I never met one person who was not for the repeal of the advertisement duty; and it seems obvious that they should be so, because in proportion as you reduce the tax, you must increase the number of advertisements. In the case of the Times it would be impossible for it to have more advertisements than at present, for it would then become a huge book of advertisements. But there would be an overflow, and then every other newspaper would have a fair chance of getting a share. The Times would retain all it has, and possibly be improved in a commercial point of view, while the poor labourer or servant who advertised would be materially benefited. You must recollect that the advertising van is only a more costly mode of advertising than the newspaper, and that it is not suited to the servant or labourer, and other humble persons, who require the cheapest possible mode of announcement of having their services or other commodities to dispose of. Having said thus much with regard to the advertisement duty, which more properly belongs to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart), who has devoted much attention, and made great and meritorious efforts on the subject, I will now pass on to the ques- 1000 tion of the newspaper stamp. I said I could show that this was not a revenue question at all, and that it had never been proposed by the Legislature, or continued by the Legislature, speaking through the preamble of their Act of Parliament, as a revenue question. For how do we find that the Newspaper Stamp Act originated? On the 17th of January, 1711, there was a Message from the Crown, and to that Message there was a reply, which I have extracted from the Journals of the House:—Mr. Secretary St. John informed the House he had a Message. Her Majesty finds it necessary to observe how great license is taken in publishing false and scandalous libels, such as are a reproach to any Government. This evil seems to be grown too strong for the laws now in force; it is, therefore, recommended to you to find a remedy equal to the mischief.The answer of the House was as follows:—We are very sensible how much the liberty of the press is abused, by turning it into such licentiousness as is a reproach to the nation, since not only false and scandalous libels are printed and published against your Majesty's Government, but the most horrid blasphemies against God and religion; and we beg leave humbly to assure your Majesty that we will do our utmost to find out a remedy equal to the mischief, and that may effectually cure it.In fulfilment of their pledge, I find the House proceeded to pass the following Resolution:—Some Members were so exasperated at the Dutch memorial being published in a newspaper, that on the 12th, the House being resolved into a grand Committee to consider of that part of the Queen's Message to the House, the 17th of January last, which relates to the great license taken in publishing false and scandalous libels, Sir Gilbert Dolben being the chairman, they came to these two resolutions:— '1. That the liberty taken in printing and publishing scandalous and impious libels creates divisions among Her Majesty's subjects, tends to the disturbance of the public peace, is highly prejudicial to Her Majesty's Government, and is occasioned for want of due regulating the press. 2. That all printing presses be registered, with the names of the owners, and places of abode; and that the author, printer, and publisher of every book set his name and place of abode thereto.' These resolutions were ordered to be reported the Tuesday following; but the said report was then put off till that day se'nnight, and afterwards further adjourned from time to time; some Members having, in the grand Committee on Ways and Means, suggested a more effectual way for suppressing libels, viz., by laying a great duty on all newspapers and pamphlets.These resolutions were ordered for discussion on the Tuesday following, but it was put off, and further adjourned from time to time, because some Member of the grand Committee of Ways and Means had 1001 in. the interim suggested a more effectual way of putting down libel, namely, that of putting a duty on newspapers and pamphlets. To show that the object was not mistaken by the public writers of the day, I will read an extract from Dean Swift, in which he says—Among the matters of importance during this Session, we may justly number the proceedings of the House of Commons with relation to the press, since Her Majesty's message to the House of January 17, concludes with a paragraph representing the great licenses taken in publishing false and scandalous libels, such as are a reproach to any Government, and recommending them to find a remedy equal to the mischief. The meaning of these words in the message seems to be confined to those weekly and daily papers and pamphlets reflecting upon the persons and the management of the Ministry. But the House of Commons in their address which answers this message, make an addition of the blasphemies against God and religion; and it is certain that nothing would be more for the honour of the Legislature than some effectual law for putting a stop to this universal mischief; but as the person who advised the Queen on that part of her message had only these in his thoughts, the redressing of the political and factious libels, I think he ought to have taken care by his great credit in the House to have proposed some way by which that evil might be removed; the law for taxing single papers having produced a quite contrary effect, as was then foreseen by many persons, and has since been found true by experience. Those who would draw their pens by the side of their princes and country, are discouraged by this tax, which exceeds the intrinsic value both of the materials and the work: and this, if I be not mistaken, without example.Now all that Dean Swift foresaw has since come to pass. I therefore say, that experience up to the present time shows that taxes on newspapers and pamphlets is not the best mode of suppressing irreligious publications or libels upon Government, because such publications can be managed in a way in which you cannot reach them. They are sure to come out in times of excitement unstamped, and those who would support the cause of order and religion are disqualified by the tax from establishing wholesome publications to defend the truth. But the same feeling actuated the Legislature up to a recent period. When they extended in the reign of George III. the stamp to various publications to which it did not before apply, they said nothing about revenue, nothing of the kind. The Preamble of that Act ran thus:—Whereas pamphlets and printed papers containing observations upon public events and occurrences, tending to excite hatred and contempt of the Government and constitution of these realms as by law established, and also vilifying our holy religion, have lately been published in 1002 great numbers and at very small prices, and it is expedient that the same should be restrained, may it therefore please your Majesty that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after ten days after the passing of this Act, all pamphlets and papers containing any public news, intelligence, or occurrences, or any remarks or observations thereon, or upon any matter in church or state, printed in any part of the United Kingdom for sale, and published periodically, or in parts or numbers, at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days between the publication of any two such pamphlets or papers, parts or numbers," &c.It is clear, therefore, that revenue was not the object. An idea, however, has sprung up, that though the stamp duty was not imposed for revenue purposes, the postal advantages which have been connected with it were such that the duty had better remain as it is, since it enabled newspapers and other printed papers to be transmittod through the post free from other charge. But with this question of the postal transmission of newspapers, the tax on news has really nothing to do. You may make what regulations you please for the transmission of printed papers by post, but the question is whether a man may be allowed to publish news without a stamp, It must be observed, that there are upwards of fifty-four papers which are allowed this privilege of only stamping the stamp on the particular papers which are transmitted by post; but by your plan you make those pay who do not send by post, in order that those who do may have postal accommodation. Now, it appears that there are 80,000,000 of stamps issued annually, and that there are 66,000,000 of postal transmissions. But of these, as was proved before a Committee of that House, one-half are re-transmissions; so that, in fact, the number of papers benefited by the accommodation is reduced to 33,000,000, and 80,000,000 of papers are taxed for the accommodation of 33,000,000 of papers. Besides, how easy would it be provide a stamped wrapper for printed papers, up to a certain weight, charging on it a penny, or a halfpenny, if you please? I am not here to suggest postal regulations; but of this I am sure, from what Mr. Rowland Hill said, that the Post Office authorities are anxious to retain the carriage of printed matter, and that, rather than lose it, they would carry them for the lowest possible charge. It might be less than a penny, for they would have to com- 1003 pete with private carriage; and Mr. Rowland Hill said that if all the newspapers were taken from the Post Office, they would not be able to reduce to any appreciable extent the expenses of the establishment. It is therefore clear that all that would be got for carrying newspapers would be so much added to the revenue of the Post Office. Besides, if the stamp was taken off, the man who now waits two or three days for stale news by taking in a secondhand newspaper, could then have a fresh newspaper at the same cost each day, and get the news at the earliest moment. It is clear that the object would be obtained by a cheap system of postal transmission. I am not one of those who think that newspapers ought to be carried free, but I object to making a law that every man shall stamp his paper if it contain news because there happen to be some people who wish to have the privilege of sending these papers by post. I say take off the stamp generally, and when you send by post let there be a stamped wrapper. I will not say more upon the postal question, which is beside the question before the House; and, besides, it will be perfectly easy to deal with it without injuring any person whatever. I now revert to two points which were suggested in the time of Swift, that these stamps would secure you from libellous publications. They do not, even if you were able to enforce the law, which you are totally unable to do, and perhaps would be afraid to do. The wording of the Act does not touch essays or political speculations. Among these publications there is one entitled the English Republic, or God and the People, attacking monarchical institutions, and, in the words of the Act, bringing the laws and institutions of the country into contempt. But this also deals with religious questions, attacks the truths of Christianity, and enters into political and theological questions—in fact, all those things which you wish to prevent. Then there is another paper. It is called Notes for the People, and is written by Mr. Ernest Jones. I will not say that it is of a questionable character, because I give no opinion on these publications, but I will read a paragraph from it in order to show the doctrines which are published for the working classes in the form of speculative theories while you are passing a law which has the effect of preventing their having any record of public news, or allowing papers of that kind to compete with publications such as these. It is a passage from this 1004 work of Mr. Ernest Jones, addressed to the people of the Bristol Cotton Works. [The right hon. Gentleman read the passage in question, which was in effect an invitation to the people to break down the monopoly possessed by the proprietors of the Cotton Works, and to endeavour to possess works of their own, and urging them to endeavour to obtain for the working classes 10,000,000l. out of the interest of the national debt, and 10,000,000l. out of the 16,000,000l. spent on the naval and military expenditure of the country.] This is the tone of the publications, and these are the theories which you are willing to allow. This is an unstamped publication, but it is precisely of the nature of those which the present law was intended to put a stop to. In quoting these publications, I am showing the extreme folly of preventing the people from having a choice between buying such a publication as this, and the news of a useful character which a cheap newspaper would record, which comprises the course of current events, the proceedings of our Courts of Justice, the proceedings of Parliament, and the occurrences of daily life in which every man takes a lively interest; and there is no one who would not prefer it to any mere speculative theories, or any collection of essays. But independently of this it is a monstrous injustice to deprive the working classes from having news in their penny publications. If you make war against news contained in penny publications, we of the upper and middle classes alone have all the news; and why are the upper classes to monopolise it all? Is not the labourer interested in obtaining a knowledge of all that is going on relating to trade, to the progress of emigration, and the advancement of industry? Look at the established newspaper press. What a pernicious effect these duties appear to have had on the established newspaper press! It can be shown that there are only two morning papers in London that have an increasing circulation; all the rest are declining, and become year by year "small by degrees and beautifully less." It appears to me that, unless you allow them the opportunity of reducing their prices, so that new fields of operation may be open to them, we shall soon have only two London morning papers left—the Times and Morning Advertiser. The Times has risen from a comparatively small circulation to one of 12,000,000 annually, while the rest of the press is declining. The House is in possession of all the tables which were 1005 laid before them last year, and which contain a return of the number of all the stamps issued, and it will be found with regard to the other papers that the Morning Chronicle has a yearly circulation under 1,000,000, the Morning Herald of perhaps something more than 1,000,000, and the Daily News perhaps of something like 2,000,000. The Daily News, soon after it commenced, reduced its price to 2½d., when its publication immediately rose to between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000. The price was again raised, however, owing to the pressure of the taxation, and its circulation at once fell back to its old point, nor was it now, as far as he could judge, improving. In fact, the only two papers whose circulation was maintained were the Morning Advertiser and the Times. The former had a peculiar class of support, and the latter was eating up all the rest of the London daily newspapers, so that in a few years they would probably be the only newspapers which the people would have to read. That was not a satisfactory state of things. I take these facts from a work written by Mr. Henry Hunt, called the History of the Newspaper Press, and who there comments on the fact that during the last fifty years—with the exception of the Daily News and the Morning Advertiser—all attempts to set up new morning papers have failed; thus showing that there is no room for any new London paper; and that the tendency of your taxing newspapers three times over is to create a kind of monopoly in them, and to limit the diffusion of news to a few hands. I do not charge any existing paper with advocating the maintenance of the stamp duty, on account of their own vested interests. It was stated, on behalf of the Times, before the Committee of last Session, that the removal of the stamp duty would be attended with commercial advantages to that paper, and that the stamp on the supplement has a tendency to limit its circulation; and the words of Mr. Mowbray Morris, the manager of the Times, who was examined before the Committee, as I recollect them were, "that if, as manager of the Times, he had only to consider the supplying the public with as many papers as they would buy, he could double the circulation in two years." The effect of the stamp duty on the supplement of the Times was to render it necessary for the managers to prevent the circulation from going beyond a certain amount; for when the advertise- 1006 ment fund, for the advertisements in supplement, is exhausted, then, as far as the supplement is concerned, profit ends, and loss commences, so that the circulation must be stopped. Thus the effect of the stamp law is, first, to lessen the circulation of the leading paper to half what it might be; and also to affect all the other papers by causing a declining circulation; and, what is worse than all, to prevent the working classes from having any newspaper at all. You limit the supply of newspapers to the wealthy and middle classes, and deny it altogether to the working classes. I ask you therefore to repeal this tax upon principle. Can you enforce your law after all, and can you say what is news on which you profess to be able to impose a tax? What is the law upon this subject, and can your law officers explain it? What is the position in which you are now placed? You engaged in a suit at law with Mr. Charles Dickens, or rather his publishers, who published an excellent and interesting compilation called the Household Narrative of Current Events, which is issued every month, and gives the news up to the end of the month. The Board of Inland Revenue having put down other monthly publications of a similar character in different parts of the country, tried to put Mr. Charles Dickens's publication down also. He tried the question in a Court of Law, and the Judges decided three to one in his favour. So that after all the expense which was incurred in getting up the case and bringing it to trial, it was decided that the Household Narrative of Current Events was not a newspaper, and that Mr. Dickens had a right to publish news in a publication without a stamp, provided that it was not issued oftener than once a month. The Judges decided not in accordance with the practice of the Board of Inland Revenue, as pursued in many cases, but on a new view of the question—namely, that of the infrequency of the publication, and that news which is published only once a month is to escape the duty. Mr. Dickens has obtained a verdict in his favour, but the Government say they are not satisfied with that verdict, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or rather the Attorney General, says that he proposes to disturb that decision, and that he will have another lawsuit, in order to see whether this paper is liable to the stamp duty or not. I say this is a great grievance. You happen to hare, in this 1007 instance, fallen in with a man of property and a man of spirit, who is able and willing to fight the question in a Court of Law; but how many persons are there who have neither the means nor the courage to contest a suit at law with the Board of Inland Revenue? If you tax so vague and so indefinite a thing as news, to all time the law will be one mass of uncertainty, and many persons will be subject to great injustice. You will be in the same position as you were under the Stamp Law in 1836, when, after some hundred persons who were connected with the publication sale of the Poor Man's Guardian were imprisoned, the Courts of Law decided that it was not a newspaper, and did not require a stamp; and therefore the whole of the proceedings against these persons was a gross injustice and a very great oppression. You will be in the same position if you carry out the law, as you are trying to do, in the case of the Household Narrative of Current Events, and you will end the matter in the same way as when the Board of Inland Revenue prosecuted these papers and seized the printing presses. I do not mean to say that there is any desire on the part of the Board of Inland Revenue to oppress the publishers of the Household Narrative of Current Events, for I believe there was a desire to administer the law leniently; but it is inherent in the system of taxing so indefinable a thing as news, that they should appear to act severely, and should be defeated in the end; and you will find that you will be defeated in the end. Those consequences will be the natural result. If you think it right to attempt to maintain the respectability of the press, to maintain your institutions, and the interests of religion, by taxing newspapers, is it fit that you should leave the discretion of prosecuting them or not to the Board of Inland Revenue? Are excisemen the sort of persons to be entrusted with the maintenance of religion and your institutions? If it is to devolve on them, as has been clearly proved before the Committee, to decide what publications are to be proceeded against, and in what cases the law may be dispensed with, you set them up in a certain degree as the censors of the press; and it is possible that in bad times they may be made subservient to the wishes of the Ministers of the day, or of any party that may wish particular papers to be oppressed. It appears to me to be a most dangerous doctrine to lay down, that the law is not to 1008 be enforced in all cases, but is to be held in terrorem over these publications, and they are to be told that they may go on within a certain limit, but if they break beyond that point which the Board of Inland Revenue may think to be dangerous to our institutions, then the penalties on unstamped publications will be enforced. It appears to me that such a result will follow from the law as it now stands on the Statute-book. Can any one believe that the Government of 1852 will venture on a crusade against the unstamped press, like that of 1836? I believe they would shrink from such an undertaking. But it is their duty to undertake it. If you are afraid to enforce the law, repeal it. If you cannot enforce it equally, do not maintain it; for if you do, you cause great injustice. There is nothing to prevent the Board of Inland Revenue from proceeding against these publications; but if they do, they will endanger the little that remains in their power, and the very existence of the stamp itself. I have stated that many of these unstamped publications contain news, but I will not confine myself to assertions, but I will bring forward proofs, and then leave the House to judge whether that is not the case. Take the Racing Times; does it not contain all relating to the various races and the latest betting; and is not that news? I am alluding to several sporting papers which are unstamped. There is the Racing Telegraph, which is as much a newspaper with regard to races as anything can be. Here is a recent number which takes a glance at the late meeting at the Northampton and Pytchley Hunt Races, and gives a list of the stewards and the whole account of the races. Then, with regard to the Epsom Spring Meeting, it tells us that "Lord Derby was successful in pocketing the Whittlebury stakes by means of his Longbow, and that Mr. Meiklam came in second." This is regular news; but the Board of Inland Revenue has chosen to draw a distinction between this class of intelligence and general news. So long as a publication confined itself to one subject, it need not be stamped. It appeared the principle is that if they divide a newspaper into half-a-dozen, each confined to one subject, they might be untaxed, but, if they collated them into one, the newspaper must pay. All this is I believe a pure invention of the Board of Inland Revenue, for a horse race is undoubtedly a public occurrence. If the "Derby" is not, what is, when this House has for 1009 some time past regularly adjourned upon that day? There are many sporting papers of the same kind. The Racing Times as well as the Racing Telegraph gives a similar account of the Northampton meeting. This is actual news, and the paper is a record of facts; and there are many other papers of the same kind, such as the Legal Observer, which chronicles all suits at law, and all the proceedings of our courts of justice; and the same may be said of the Builder, and others, which, if the law was enforced, would come under the operation of the Stamp Act. Then, with regard to comments on news, because your legislation was intended to affect not only the chronicling of current events, but the observations made on them—I ask if this is not an example which I take from a publication of Mr. Richard Oastler, entitled the Home? He gives Mr. F errand's letters to the Duke of Newcastle, and then he comments on several public proceedings, and on debates in this House, and addressed a letter to my hon. Friend and colleague (Mr. Bright), in which he says—I should have left you to have taken your chance in your own 'tumult,' had you not, since you declared war, ventured, in the House of Commons, to utter the most extravagant, impertinent nonsense that ever escaped from the lips of mortal. At a time when all our military and naval authorities, supported by the voice of the public, demand that this nation shall be put in a better state of defence against foreign invasion, and when both the last and the present Government had determined that that most constitutional force, the militia, shall once more be organised, and that the men shall be trained a few weeks every year, to enable be to resist any invading force, you are ready to oppose that necessary and constitutional proposition. Not from any love of peace—that is impossible; for, but a few days before, you had proved that you were animated, from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, with the martial spirit—the spirit of war, and were prepared to take the field, to engage in civil war, in defence of what you call free trade, which, no man knows better than yourself, means the ascendancy of the cotton lords, low wages, and long hours of factory toil.I say, such a document, coming immediately after a speech delivered in this House, observing on public occurrences, and the publication which contains it, is liable to a stamp; but you cannot enforce the law, and if you did, you would have to deal with a legion of the same kind, and you would be involved in all the troubles of 1836. This is a cogent reason why I should vote for the repeal of this law. Again, take the Legal Observer. I found in it an article relating to the question of the attorney's certificate, which states 1010 "that many burdens of like character had been removed, while the attorney's annual certificate was excepted," and concludes—We observe that several petitions for the repeal of this tax have been presented from individual members of the profession, and a few from particular towns; and we presume there can be no objection to these occasional notes of preparation for the renewed contest; but we understand the preferable course will be to procure the attendance of Members on the day fixed for the debate, in order that they may present the petitions to the House just before the Motion of Lord Robert Grosvenor.This is merely observation upon news, and I might quote hundreds of the same kind from other papers, but there is one so marked, that I must state it. It is taken from the Lamp, an unstamped paper of 6th March, 1852, and it is contained in its first leading article, in which it is said—Be it known unto all whom it may concern, that the Russell and Durham Ministry has paid the debt of nature. Long before these lines meet the eyes of our readers, all the world will have learned the fact, and all the world—save the paltry, place-loving family clique—will rejoice at it. What a singular turnout! And by what singular instrumentality! 'Old Pam' has had his revenge, and no doubt he chuckles o'er the downfall of him who so lately and so unceremoniously requested him to vacate his chair in the Foreign Office.Now, I call this commenting on public events. Why does not the Attorney General enforce the law; or if he is afraid to do that, why not repeal it? This publication also contains many comments on the late Government, as well as on the present, and has also a leading article upon the coming elections, and states what the duty of the electors is in the following words:—But, after all, what is our present duty? Why, to take every means in our power to thwart the Tories; to put them out of office as soon as possible. Give them not an hour's security. What, then! let the Whigs reassume power? Not so. The Whigs, as they are, can never again take office. There must be no family compact. There shall be none; or, if there be, the 'Brigade' will drum them out of their quarters.If this is to be the mode in which you enforce the stamp duty on such papers, then I say that I have established a clear case why the House should consent to the Resolution I propose. The postal question I have disposed of. The newspaper proprietary we are not entitled to consider as a body who have a vested interest in the maintenance of these taxes, or who are ' entitled to urge that they should be maintained to prevent a new rivalry with their 1011 interest. Nor do I believe there would be many of them who would take that course, but if there were, we, as a Parliament, are bound to deal with them on the broad ground of justice to the community. Having so long detained the House, I will not trouble them with any lengthened peroration, but simply move the first Resolution.
§ MR. EWART
said, he most earnestly seconded the Motion of his right hon. Friend. He did so, because he believed that this was a question intimately connected with the practical education of the people of this country. The people of this country were justly deemed a practical people; and in his opinion the House could not more effectually promote their practical education than by adopting the present Motion. He objected to all the taxes included in the Motion: first, because he deemed the stamp duty to be a tax upon the raw material of thought; and, secondly, that the advertisement duty was a tax upon the intercourse of mankind. There was another reason why he objected to these taxes. He maintained that the great advantage of modern times was, that the people formed their judgment of public affairs by the deliberations of the press, and not by the agitation of popular assemblies. In the Greek and Roman times it was easy to mislead the people, because they were addressed through the ear; whereas the people of the present day were addressed by the press through their understanding. Now, he held that it was in accordance with the principles of peace, good order, and the security of property and society, that the people should have every means of solemnly and deliberately forming their judgments. On what ground were they asked to continue these taxes? Some Gentlemen seemed to think that they were part of the ancient institutions of the country, whereas the fact was that they were modern innovations. He maintained that those taxes were in every respect indefensible. The paper duty dated from the wars of Marlborough; the stamp duty was one of recent origin; and the advertisement duty was first imposed by Mr. Pitt. The paper duty, for instance, had been proved to be most adverse to the literature of the country. He would not accumulate cases in proof of this, but would simply refer to the fact stated by the Messrs. Chambers before a Committee of that House, that one of their popular publications had been discontinued, in consequence of this duty; and to another fact 1012 which had been stated by Mr. Knight, that with the paper duty it was impossible that a work like the Penny Cyclopœdia could be again published. Mr. Greely, a witness from America, who was also examined before the Committee last year, stated that as there was no paper duty in America, the consequence was that the whole talent of the country was consecrated to the periodical press, which, in his (Mr. Ewart's) opinion, was a great advantage. Then with regard to the advertisement duty, he held that it was a tax upon the highway of human intercourse. He considered it, in fact, the most obnoxious tax ever invented. One effect of it was, that no new daily paper could he established so long as it existed. The Times swallowed up nearly all the advertisements in the country. In a single number of the Times there were many thousand advertisements, which, if sent to any of the other papers, would require to be inserted several times over before they received the same publicity; and, as it was necessary to pay the advertisement duty every time they appeared, there was of course a saving in sending them to the paper of the largest circulation. That was the reason that, so long as the advertisement duty existed, there could be no new daily newspapers. In America, where there was no advertisement duty, all religious and other societies were enabled to insert their advertisements in the papers in consequence of the small charge. Such was the effect of the system pursued in America, that in New York alone, a city with only one-fourth the population of London, there were 130,000 copies of newspapers circulated daily, while in London there were only 60,000 circulated, and of these 39,000 were of the Times alone. And, lastly, with regard to the stamp duty, he held that the stamp duty was most adverse to the circulation of sound knowledge. It was proved before the Committee on this subject, that in America no workman sat down to his breakfast without his paper. Now, he would like to see the same thing in this country, It was a most desirable consummation. It was said that newspapers would not be respectable if the stamp duty was taken off. In 1836, the stamp duty was lowered from 4d. to 1d., and notwithstanding that reduction it had been admitted by the manager of the Times, and the editor of the Daily News, and by every other witness, that the papers had become more respectable than 1013 they were before; and, indeed, every one had the testimony of his own eyes to the fact that the newspapers were now infinitely more talented and more respectable than before the stamp duty was reduced. If, therefore, the reduction of the stamp duty did not lower the character of the newspapers, why should they fear that the repeal of the duty would make them more disreputable? Then, again, it was said that if the stamp duty were repealed, the newspapers would become more local in their character. Well, in his opinion, it was an advantage that the people should have abundance of local news. The press of America was decidedly a local press, and yet it had been stated by one of the witnesses last year that the newspapers of America were worth all the schools put together. The fact was, that they would never educate the people till they appealed to their interests through the newspaper press of the country. He knew it was said by some hon. Gentlemen, too, that if the stamp duty were repealed, it would tend to encourage the spread of republican doctrines in this country. It was his opinion, on the contrary, that if under a monarchy the people received all the blessings and advantages enjoyed under a republican Government, the result would be to make them more and more attached to a constitutional monarchy. He believed, as he had said, that all the three taxes now under discussion were bad; but there was one, in particular, which no wise Chancellor of the Exchequer should hesitate to remove, because its removal would benefit at once the commercial, the manufacturing, and agricultural classes. It was a small tax, but it pressed upon everybody in the country—he meant the advertisement duty—for while it only yielded about 150,000l. per annum to the revenue, it pressed upon every interest in the country. He hoped that if the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer meddled with it at all, he would take it off altogether. He had been long enough in Parliament to remember the removal by Lord Althorp of the duty on almanacks. In that instance, as in the instance of the advertisement duty, the revenue derived from the tax was very small; but the result of the abolition of all restrictions had been most salutary upon the public, the poorer classes now obtaining much better almanacks for threepence and sixpence, the prices under the old system being not less than a shilling or half-a-crown. For all these reasons 1014 he cordially supported the Motion of his right hon. Friend; believing that if, under our limited monarchy, we removed abuses such as those to which he had referred, we should not give rise to discontent, but should increase the contentment as well as the security of the people. In the words of Milton, "That is not the liberty which we should hope—that no grievance should ever arise in the commonwealth: that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost point of civil liberty attained which a wise man can look for."
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That such financial arrangements ought to be made as will enable Parliament to dispense with the Duty on Paper.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, in the few observations that I have to make upon this Motion, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) that neither I nor my Colleagues are at all influenced by those sinister feelings which he has ascribed to the originators of these duties. I can say frankly for myself and my Colleagues that we have no fear or apprehension of the influence of the press; and in a country like this— in a country long established in the enjoyment of political liberty—in a country eminently religious—I cannot admit for a moment that experience drawn from the instances of other lands, where the existence of an unrestricted press has resulted in circumstances which we all deplore—I cannot, I say, for one moment admit that these instances should be brought forward as any warning to a country like our own. But, Sir, I fear I must consider this case in a view much less interesting, much less philosophical, much less adapted to charm the House, than that which has been pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. It is only in a financial point of view that I can afford to view it at present. Sir, we have before us three propositions, each of which, if carried, affects the finances of this country, and which, if carried all together, would very materially affect our finances. The right hon. Gentleman, in an able and temperate address, first calls upon this House, if not immediately to express an opinion that the duty on paper should be abolished or repealed, yet to express such an opinion as must influence the course of the Minister responsible for the finances of the country. I do not wish to contest the 1015 accuracy of the view which the right hon. Gentleman has taken with respect to the effect of the excise duty on paper upon the manufacture of that article. I have never been particularly ready to vindicate the beneficial influence of excise duties; but when the right hon. Gentleman calls our attention to the injurious effects of the excise duty on the manufacture of this particular article, I am bound to say that I am not aware that the injurious effect of the excise duties is limited to that particular article, or even that if we compare the effect of these regulations upon paper, with their effect upon other articles, it would not be possible for me to adduce instances in which their influence is equally injurious. I do not now wish to enter into any discussion upon this question; but if I had risen, and had dilated upon the injurious effect of the excise upon any other article of manufacture—soap, for example—I dare say I should have made out a case that would have carried away the House with equal success, although the plea might not have been as ably urged as that which has been put forth by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the manufacture of paper. But then we must consider whether in this country these taxes are not necessary evils, and we must consider the ability which we have to relieve the industry of the country, which is the wisest direction in which we can move, so as to redress any wrong, or to effect any good. I am not wishing to give any opinion in favour of the relief of soap from the excise. I merely mention it as an instance of the effect of excise duties; and I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the effects of an excise duty are not less injurious upon this manufacture, than upon that to which he has now directed the attention of the House. Well, Sir, I am therefore obliged to consider the question as regards the duty on paper purely in a financial point of view. I shall be extremely glad, in this instance, or in any other instance, to relieve industry, or to promote the education of the people; but it is my first duty to consider whether with regard to the maintenance of the revenue of this country I can consent to any propositions of this kind. I cannot say that I should feel justified in assenting to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. It is scarcely fair to me to press me at this moment upon this point. I hope that tomorrow week I shall place before the 1016 House what I believe to be the real state of the finances of the country; and when the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are in full possession of the facts which I shall place before them—when they have listened to the views of Her Majesty's Ministers—it will then be perfectly open to them, if they think themselves justified in disputing the policy which we recommend, to advance their own views as counter propositions, and fairly to challenge the attention of the House to them. At present I can only say that I do not feel justified in assenting to a vote which would be equivalent to a declaration on the part of this House that the tax on paper should be totally repealed. With regard to the other two points which the right hon. Gentleman has placed before the House, namely, the duties on advertisements and the stamps on newspapers, I have no hesitation in saying that I think they are subjects that deserve the consideration of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. But, again, I must consider them primarily with reference to the effect of the policy which is recommended upon the revenue of the country. That is the only consideration which can influence me at the present moment, and it is only with reference to the effect of the Resolutions, if carried, upon the revenue, that I shall venture to make any observations. The united amount of the two items to which I have last referred, is not contemptible; taking the three together the aggregate is important. I think that the question of the effect of the duty upon advertisements, is one which should be gravely considered. But I am not convinced by the ingenious observations of the right hon. Gentleman, that, practically speaking, were we to deal with the stamps on newspapers, we should bring about a satisfactory state of things. But, again, this subject, I freely admit, should enter into the consideration of any person responsible, not only for the finances but also for the good government of the country. I distinguish both these Motions—the second and third—very much from the first Motion on which we are now called to give a decision —the duty on paper. The duty on paper is so large in amount that every one must hesitate before voting for the surrender of that source of revenue; and I must warn hon. Gentlemen not to be carried away by the lively description given by the right hon. Gentleman as to the injurious effect of the excise law upon upon that particular 1017 article; and they are not to consider that it is the only one of our imports which produces such injurious results. If we are to relieve the industry of the country from the burden of those excise duties, it becomes a subject requiring the most impartial and deepest investigation before we decide which duty is the one most requiring to be repealed. The possibility of obtaining relief in this as well as in other instances, depends entirely upon the state of the public finances; and when in the course of a week I shall feel it my duty to place before the House the exact state of the finances, I am sure hon. Members will agree—however interesting discussion or debate may be —that there would be great inconvenience in coming now to a premature decision on any subject of this kind. I would remind the House of the conduct of the House of late years with regard to the public finances. Every one knows that for a considerable period there has been a determination upon the part of the House of Commons not to add to the revenue of the country by the imposition of new customs duties. If there has been any opinion more freely expressed or more energetically maintained than another, it certainly has been that expressed by the majority of this House, who oppose any increase of revenue in that direction. Having made war upon the Customs duties, which materially sustained our finances, now there is a very great objection to the Excise. We have now a great war made against the Excise duties; you have attacked successfully one great source of our indirect taxation, and you are now attacking another source of our indirect taxation. But what is our position in regard to direct taxation? We have a Committee sitting upstairs which is actually assailing the principal source of our direct taxation. Whatever may be the opinions of the Gentlemen who form that Committee, it is notorious, both from the expressed opinions of the hon. Gentleman who moved and carried the appointment of that Committee, and of the most important Members upon it, that whatever may be their opinions respecting direct taxation, they disapprove of the principles on which direct taxation at present is levied in this country. They may tell you that they are favourable to direct taxation, but it must be direct taxation without exemptions, and free from every objection which they allege against it. This is our present state—we have reduced one great source of indirect taxation by the repeal of 1018 many of the customs duties—we are now attacking another source of indirect taxation by Motions like the present, affecting our excise duties, while the principles upon which direct taxation can be satisfactorily established are still subjects of controversy, and are even at this moment under the discussion and investigation of a Parliamentary Committee up stairs. Now, I ask the House candidly and fairly to consider whether that is a satisfactory state of the finances of the country? Is it not wise to pause before you diminish the revenue which you derive from your indirect taxation, until the House and the country have arrived at a knowledge of the proper principles upon which our direct taxation is to be established? Can anything be more injurious, can anything be more unwise, can anything be more rash, than to diminish the sources of your indirect taxation, when at the same time you are challenging the principle upon which many sources of your direct taxation is now established? I put that view with great confidence for the consideration of the House. The right hon. Gentleman taunts me for having but two years ago supported a Motion like the present. If the House will do me the honour to refer to the few observations which I made on that occasion, I am sure it will also do me the justice to say that those observations vindicated the vote I then gave. I do not like to refer to personal considerations, or to introduce them into this debate; but as my vote on that occasion has been referred to, I beg the House will do me the favour to refer to the circumstances under which I gave that vote. The House was informed from the Throne that a great productive interest in the country was suffering—an interest which I and those I generally acted with in this House were supposed to represent. We thought there should be such a remission of taxation as would relieve the suffering of that particular interest; but the Minister of that day, in the possession of a surplus, said he would neither apply any portion of that surplus to the relief of that interest, or, on the other hand, to the diminution of the public debt, which, by a consequent diminution of general taxation, would be a source of general relief; but, on the contrary, would apply the surplus to purposes I did not approve of, and in a manner which I thought was unjust and impolitic; and all I meant in the vote which I gave on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and in the discussion that took place was this: That if 1019 there was to be a remission of taxation which would neither relieve the particular interest announced from the Throne to be suffering, nor relieve the general interest by diminishing the general taxation of the country by reducing the debt, then I preferred the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman to the policy of the Government, I preferred to promote the general interests of the country by the remission of the duty on paper, or by the repeal of the duty on advertisements, or by the abolition of the newspaper stamps, than by the means which were then recommended by Her Majesty's Government. I do not see that a position more fair could be taken by any Member of this House; and from the recollection of which, I can assure the House I experience no regret. I cannot enter into the interesting details with which the right hon. Gentleman has again favoured us as he did two years ago. I am not here to dispute his facts, or to challenge his conclusions; but I cannot permit myself, in the present state of affairs, to view the matter in connexion with the social condition of the country which the right hon. Gentleman has dwelt upon, or the political consequences which he so much fears. I must take a much more uninteresting view of the subject, and a more limited and narrow-minded one—one confined merely to the effect of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman upon the present state of our revenue. The right hon. Gentleman has brought forward a Motion which, if agreed to, would reduce the revenue by a sum now approaching to nearly 1,500,000l.; because all the items to which he has referred are on the increase. I do not of course pretend to give the accurate figures; but I wish to observe that the Minister of Finance may look to an increase of the revenue received under the three heads to which the right hon. Gentleman's Motion has reference. The right hon. Gentleman has asked the House to assent to a Motion of very great importance. In a week, as I have previously stated, it will be my duty to place before the House the exact state of the finances of the country; and I think I am not asking too much when I call upon the House to permit me to place before them the first financial statement which I shall have the honour to submit for their consideration, and which I shall submit to them in a few days, without the burden and incumbrance of the House assenting to a Vote such as that which the right hon. Gentleman has now brought forward. Sir, 1020 I do not think that it is an unreasonable proposition. I cannot think that the House will sanction, under the circumstances, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman; and it is with this feeling—limiting my consideration of this Motion, in the present instance, merely and strictly to its financial effect upon the revenue of the country—offering on this occasion no opinion on those wider questions to which, under the circumstances in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, no doubt he was justified in calling the attention of the House—but desiring to place before the House of Commons, on next Friday, without any of the embarrassment which I must experience from a Vote like the present, a clear and undisguised statement of our financial position, I feel it my duty, Sir, to oppose the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, he would not detain the House at any length. He had always taken a deep interest in this question, and was anxious as to the conclusion to which the House would come. He had heard all the previous discussions on the subject, except one; and he would do his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) the justice to say, that a clearer or more unanswerable statement than that which he had made that evening, he (Mr. Wakley) had never had the good fortune to listen to. He must also say, that the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had treated the Motion, had also afforded him infinite satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman had made the right hon. Member for Manchester a kind and reasonable proposal. He had asked that this subject should not be considered until after he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had made his financial statement. Under such circumstances, he (Mr. Wakley) did not think that this debate could be prolonged with advantage to any one. He trusted, therefore, that his right hon. Friend would at once agree to the proposal of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that the House would assent to the adjournment of the debate until that day fortnight.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, I beg to second that Motion. That I consider will be the best course to take. But I do not see that there is any reason why we still should not enforce the points of this question upon the attention of the House. I have been sitting upstairs upon a Select Committee of this House to inquire into the state of education; and from the evidence there 1021 given, I have felt very strongly that there is an almost insuperable difficulty in our way, as respects the education of the people, under these taxes on knowledge. These taxes are destructive to the real education of the people—their education by themselves. I was prepared with one fact illustrating this subject, furnished by a gentleman who has taken great pains to produce works calculated for the improvement of the working classes—I mean Mr. John Cassell. This gentleman publishes an illustrated weekly work at 2d., containing some admirable wood cuts. He produces the Popular Educator, a work to enable people to educate themselves. He also produces the Working Man's Friend at 1d.; the Library for the Working Classes; and the paper duty alone paid by him, for the paper on which these publications are printed, amounts to about 4,000l. a year. Now for this House to pretend to an anxiety to educate the people, and to allege that it had appointed a Select Committee to consider how they could best administer the public funds for the education of the people, while it retains such taxes as those on the circulation of the means of obtaining knowledge, is just to place us all before the civilised world in the position of arrant hypocrites. On the question of the newspaper stamp, I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the consideration is the fiscal consideration, whether we are to give up a revenue. I cannot satisfy myself that the transfer of the stamp to postage would affect the revenue very greatly. I can't see, if you compelled every newspaper to pay 1d. each for postage before it could be carried through the Post Office, that you would get very much less than 350,000l.; and, at all events, it is certain that you would in that way get a very considerable revenue, as a set-off against the loss on the stamps. The penny stamp is a stamp impeding the communication of modern history; for the facts, the news, of the newspapers, are the facts which interest and affect and govern us all, and that stamp is the greatest obstacle to intelligence in this country. That stamp shuts out the newspaper altogether from large masses of the people. Take the rural population. Hon. Gentlemen will admit that it would be of the greatest advantage if you could get the people in the country places to interest themselves in the questions of labour, of wages, and of employment, and to be eager for informa- 1022 tion on the question of emigration, on the prices of land in foreign countries, and in the colonies. Every one will admit that if you could get the newspapers supplying such practically useful information into the villages and small hamlets, and into the families of labourers, a very good effect would be produced by awakening curiosity and in stimulating the agricultural population to think of exertions, and in inducing them to look to the world beyond their own district, and so to emigrate in many cases to places where they could find the best rewards for their labour. In fact, if you could bring about this, you would contribute more directly than in any other manner you could devise to the diminution of the rates that now press upon your rural population. As it is, your agricultural mind, as regards all these matters I refer to, is as much a blank as it was in the days of our Saxon forefathers. Do you want proofs of this? Look to the circumstances in connexion with that deplorable catastrophe— the loss of the Amazon steamer. I am informed that the Committee which was formed for the relief of the relatives of the sailors and others drowned or burned in the Amazon, found the most perplexing difficulty in getting at the friends of those unhappy men: and they actually had to look out for these people, many of whom had never heard of the loss of the steamer. Now why? Because these people had never read a newspaper. Such people cannot afford to pay for the high-priced English papers, and so they never get any news at all, and are consequently shut out from the current events of the day. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government are prepared to deal boldly and justly with this question; and I am quite sure that if they will consent to give up these taxes, they will secure to themselves a greater popularity than they would get by anything else it is in their power to do. I must bear testimony to the fact, that in the Committee which sat last Session on this subject, I was greatly pleased with the conduct of the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), who is now a Member of the Government, and whose fair conduct towards this question rendered us deeply indebted to him. If the hon. Gentleman's spirit is at all general among his Colleagues, I think that we may really hope for something from the present Government. I expect to find tomorrow week that the Government will deal 1023 in a liberal spirit with the question; and, speaking for myself, I may say that I will receive a measure on the subject from their hands with as much cordiality as I would accept it from the hands of any other Government.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
I wish to make one or two remarks in explanation of my conduct, which has been spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) in reference to the Household Words. [Mr. M. Gibson: The Household Narrative.] I beg to thank the right hon. Gentleman for setting me right. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the information against the Household Narrative was filed by my predecessor in office. It was insisted that it was a newspaper, and liable to stamp duty, and the matter was discussed in the Court of Exchequer. The Judges differed upon the question, there being three to one in favour of the exemption of the publication in question. The late Attorney General and Solicitor General had the subject submitted to them for consideration, and it was also submitted to the leading counsel of the department of the Stamps and Taxes, and they were all of opinion that the judgment of Baron Parke was a more correct judgment than the judgment of the majority of the Court. When I came into office, the case was laid before me and the Solicitor General, with the opinions of our predecessors, and we were called upon to decide as to the course that was to be pursued. Without entertaining a very strong opinion one way or other, we felt it was essential that the law should not be left in the uncertain or unsatisfactory state in which it was, and that it was desirable to obtain the judgment of a superior tribunal. Under these circumstances we recommended that a writ of error should be issued, and the opinion of the Court of Error taken on the question. On reflection, I cannot feel that I have acted otherwise than with a due regard to the interests of the public, and with an earnest desire that this important question should be definitively settled. In answer to the remark of the right hon. Gentleman, I will add that no prosecutions have been instituted with respect to certain other publications, and I beg to say that I never before heard of the majority of them, and that I have never seen any of them.
§ MR. COWAN
wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the event of the adjournment being carried, whether the objection for- 1024 merly made to the discussions of questions of finance, with a view to the repeal of taxes, after the statement of the Budget, would be repeated on this occasion?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to tell him what I intend to do on Friday next, I beg to say that I cannot do so.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he had been informed, not having been in the House at the time, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the advertisement and stamp duties were under the consideration of the Government. Under these circum-stances he freely consented to the adjournment of the debate until Wednesday, the 12th of May next.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I am sorry there should be any misunderstanding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to anything I said. So long as I have the conduct of the House, I should be very much annoyed if any deception had taken place. I should not wish the right hon. Gentleman, or any of his Friends, to think that the question is under the consideration of the Government at all with reference to his Motion, or more specifically than it is the duty of the Government to consider the taxation of the country on all its branches; in that way the consideration of those taxes of course is not omitted. No statement has been made by me to lead him to suppose that it is under more particular consideration; the proposition for adjournment did not come from this side. I proposed no terms. I merely stated that on to-morrow week I shall make the financial statement.
§ MR. HUME
said, he thought it would not have been in accordance with custom if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given any particular pledges on the subject of taxation; but he (Mr. Hume) hoped and trusted that the Government would seriously consider this question. He had attended the noble Lord late at the head of the Government as one of a numerous deputation—composed of fifty or sixty individuals—of men engaged in the manufacture of paper and its uses for all purposes, all of whom desired the abolition of the Act by which these duties were imposed. To that deputation the noble Lord replied that he did not regard the Act of Parliament as means of providing punishment for blasphemous publications, but in a financial 1025 point of view. What that deputation wanted, also, was that every publication should be treated alike, and that the privilege conceded to forty-five papers, the numbers of which for local circulation were allowed to be unstamped, should be extended to all alike. All newspapers ought to be placed in one category. The difference which would ensue in the returns of the Post Office would be most trifling, and quite unworthy the attention of the Government. No reason could be assigned by the Board of Stamps for the exemption of those forty-five papers. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman had not forgotten the statement of a noble Lord, now in the Government, who declared that he considered the newspapers the great public instructors. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to allow any tax to exist contravening and opposing that great object —the education of the people—which the noble Lord and the Government itself had declared that it wished to promote. He begged to call the attention of the House to a paper that had been established in Norwich for the instruction of the neighbouring population. He (Mr. Hume) thought Norfolk was as much benighted as any county in the kingdom. A weaver published the paper to which he had adverted, with a fair desire to benefit his fellow men; but in stepped the Tax Office and said he should not publish it without a stamp. In no one point of view, whether educational, moral, or financial, could these taxes be justified. Let the House look at the difference in the circulation of newspapers in the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1850 the whole number of newspapers and periodicals in the United States was 2,600; their aggregate circulation was about 5,000,000, the entire number of copies printed being 422,600,000. There was one publication for every 7,161 free inhabitants. In Great Britain the number of newspapers and periodicals was 603, giving only one newspaper for every 12,000 of the inhabitants. In the United States there were about 250 daily newspapers. In England the agricultural population were unhappily most ignorant, certainly not equal in education to their brethren in the manufacturing districts. In the agricultural counties the immorality and crime were greater than in the manufacturing districts. The best and cheapest means of assisting their education, would be by cheap and good newspapers. In a moral, educational, financial, 1026 nay, and even in an agricultural point of view, it was extremely desirous that the Government should consider the question. The adjournment of the debate would give the Government an opportunity to do so.
§ MR. MOWATT
understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had accepted the Amendment which had been moved by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley). If so, it was not for him (Mr. Mowatt) to interfere between the right hon. Gentleman and such a proposition. He would, however, say that he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had adopted that course. He thought it would have been better if the right hon. Gentleman had gone to a division, because, if he might judge from what had taken place on former discussions on this subject, he thought that the hands of the Government would, in fact, have been strengthened by giving them an opportunity to put an end to this injurious tax. His chief object in rising, however, was to express a hope that this adjournment had not been moved with the view of getting rid of the question. He wanted a clear understanding upon that subject. He hoped it was clearly understood that if this tax should not be disposed of by the Budget, this debate would be really resumed on the day to which it had been proposed to adjourn it.
§ MR. FREWEN
thought the present was not the proper time to call upon the Government to repeal a tax of any description, and no Member of the House was more justified in saying so than he was. A month ago he had a notice upon the paper, which had stood there from the commencement of the Session, with regard to the Hop Duty, a tax which pressed heavily upon his constituents. But what was the course he felt bound to take upon that question? Just before coming down to the House to bring it forward, he received a copy of a resolution which had been unanimously agreed to by an influential committee of gentlemen in Sussex, formed to promote the repeal of the Hop Duty, in which they stated that however anxious they might be to get rid of the tax, yet considering that Ministers had but recently come into office, and had not had time to mature their financial arrangements, it would not be fair to press that subject upon the attention of Parliament then. He (Mr. Frewen) hesitated not to act upon the recommendation, and withdrew his Motion accordingly; and he thought it would be 1027 well if Gentlemen connected with the newspapers and the manufacture of paper were to follow his example.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday, 12th May.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Eight o'clock.