§ MR. DISRAELI
—Sir,before you leave the chair I wish to make one or two observations on the present financial condition of the country, which it will be more convenient, perhaps, that I should make now than when we are in Committee. It is scarcely necessary for me to advert to the conduct of the national finances by the late Government, and to the condition in which we left them, because the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated generally, what took place under our Administration with respect to the finances, so fairly that I am not disposed in any way to question his statement, 161 being quite sure that if in one rather important particular he conveyed a wrong impression to the House he did so entirely through inadvertence. I may, however, remind the House that when we acceded to office, and it became my duty to state on the part of the Government the position in which we found the finances, and the ways and means by which we proposed to meet the national expenditure, the country had scarcely recovered from one of the most severe monetary and in some degree commercial convulsions that it had ever experienced. Indeed, if we were to take the amount of commercial disaster as a test of the commercial distress and difficulty, what happened two years ago was one of the severest trials that the commercial classes have experienced in our time. It was under those circumstances that I was called upon to state to Parliament our financial condition, and to propose ways and means to the House at the commencement of the year 1858. The House will remember that there was, on that occasion, a deficit of something about £4,000,000 which we had to encounter. That deficit was met by a proposition on the part of the late Government that we should put an end to an artificial sinking fund which had been instituted some time before, and that we should not pay off £2,000,000 of Exchequer bonds which were becoming due. Those Exchequer bonds and that sinking fund formed the greatest part of the deficit which we had to face; and it was the opinion of the late Government that it was not desirable, perhaps not desirable at any moment, but certainly not desirable at a moment of commercial suffering, to make any great increase in the taxation of the country in order to redeem debt. It was, I think I may say, the unanimous opinion of Parliament that we took a right course on that occasion. It was the opinion of Parliament that it would not be wise, the country being then in a state of considerable distress, to lay on £4,000,000 of new taxes in order to maintain an artificial sinking fund and pay off £2,000,000 of Exchequer bonds. I do not think it is necessary for me to vindicate the course we took on that occasion. It has never been objected to in this House; but, on the contrary, has been unanimously approved of here. All the attacks that have been made on it have been made out of this House; and made no doubt in the same spirit and with the same machinery as the attacks on those 162 other parts of the policy of the late Government which time has already vindicated. The deficit of £4,000,000 would to a certain but much smaller degree have been increased by the reduction of the income tax from 7d. to 5d. in that year. That reduction had been provided for by law, and in the course of the year would have effected a decrease in the revenue to the amount of £1,000,000. Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that it would be most unwise to interfere with that natural and legal reduction of the income tax. They thought there were social and political reasons which should influence them in that decision, as well as fiscal and financial ones. It appeared to them to be a matter of the greatest importance that the general understanding which prevailed between Parliament and the country that the income tax was to be gradually reduced, and at a certain period to terminate, was one the spirit of which, if not the letter, should be observed; and that we could not count on the country rallying round the Government in any emergency, when a great and unexpected claim was made on them, if, on the first occasion which presented itself, they found the Minister anxious to relieve himself of an engagement which Parliament had entered into with respect to that tax. I think that this course, also, was unanimously approved of by this House and the country. And although there may have been some who considered that, under all the circumstances that course was too hazardous, I think I may appeal to the state of things under the financial management of the late Government as a proof that—irrespective of social and political considerations, and looking only to financial considerations—the policy we pursued in respect of that tax was, even in a financial view, profitable and ultimately beneficial.
It was supposed, then, by the late Government that we should have to encounter in the year 1859–60, in consequence of the policy which we recommended Parliament to adopt, a deficit of probably not less than £3,000,000. We should first have to meet another £2,000,000 of Exchequer bonds; and then we should have to encounter a deficit of £1,000,000, being the second half of the reduction of the income tax from 7d. to 5d., only one-half of that reduction having come within the year 1858–9. Let me ask now, how have the expectations held out by the late Government with respect to the finances of the country been 163 realized by the event? Sir, we paid these £2,000,000 of Exchequer bonds out of the balances in the Exchequer. And here let me refer to the error which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to me to labour under when he assumed the other night that it was not the intention of the late Government to pay these £2,000,000 out of the balances in the Exchequer, but that we would have made some other arrangement had it not been for the political and Parliamentary disturbance which led to the recent dissolution. That is not the case. It was always the intention of the late Government to pay these £2,000,000 out of those balances. We found the balances in a strong state, and we increased then-strength by calling for that second £1,000,000 of the loan which we were entitled to receive under the financial arrangement sanctioned by the House in 1858. Had we not contemplated paying these £2,000,000 of Exchequer bonds out of the balances, we should not have called on the Bank to pay us that second moiety of the loan, but would have allowed that portion of the public debt to be extinguished. But we called for that second £1,000,000 in order that we might meet those£2,000,000 of Exchequer bonds and that we should not be under the necessity of postponing their payment. How, then, were we to meet the rest of the contempated deficiency. Well, Sir, we had anticipated that we should meet it by a surplus of revenue over the year's income as we had estimated it. I had estimated the revenue as something slightly under, in round numbers, £64,000,000. I do not think it necessary to vindicate the calculation of the Government in respect of every item of that estimate. When at the commencement of the financial year, you have to offer an estimate to the House of the resources of the country it never has been expected that every one of those items must realize exactly the sum named in the estimate, because they must, after all, to a great extent be hypothetical. All you have to expect from the person who has the management of your finances is that his estimate should on the whole prove adequate to the occasion, and that the sum realized should not generally fall short of the sum offered to the consideration of the House. With every care, an estimate of revenue which takes a whole year to accrue, must vary from any human calculation; but if you find that the result equals or exceeds the sum 164 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has held out as that which the country might expect, I think you must admit that in that respect at least he has done his duty. Now, what happened in the year 1858–9 for which the late Government are responsible? Our estimate was under £64,000,000; we received £65,500,000; an excess over the estimate of £1,500,000. That excess would have furnished us with resources to meet the decline in the revenue occasioned by the second £1,000,000 of the reduction of the income tax, and have also left a sufficient surplus. It has no doubt been stated that that surplus of £1,500,000 was not so general a one as could he desired, because it was in a great measure furnished under the head "Miscellaneous," a portion of the revenue on which we cannot place general reliance. That is perfectly true. It was foreseen by Her Majesty's late Government. At the end of the year, after the third quarter, when it became my duty to consider generally our finances, and prepare for the exposition which was to take place at the commencement of April, we deducted the whole of the "Miscellaneous" from the actual surplus, which left the actual surplus at a sum varying from £800,000 to £1,000,000. We then made arrangements, which, partly by the extension of the 1d. stamp to a variety of instruments referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night, and partly by the reduction of some expenditure, would leave an amply sufficient balance in the Exchequer. That is a general view of the probable condition of the Exchequer at the beginning of this financial year had it not been for the occurrence of events of great political importance. Under those circumstances I think I may claim for the late Government that their financial policy was sound in principle and prudent in administration. This is my answer to those who for a considerable time have alarmed the country by statements that the finances of the nation have been conducted upon a hand-to-mouth system—that they had been managed in a slovenly manner, and that our successors would find our Exchequer in a most perilous and difficult position. On the contrary. Sir, nothing we did in the arrangement of our national engagements was done without the concurrence, the unanimous concurrence, of the House of Commons; and I think that the course of events has completely vindicated the policy which we pursued, and which the House of Commons sanctioned. We 165 did not waste our resources in maintaining an artificial sinking fund; but after the great disasters of November 1857, by the measures we adopted we avoided pressing upon an industrious people smarting under a great disaster.
Sir, I have already mentioned that at the commencement of the year political events of a grave nature occurred which entirely changed the aspect of affairs and the position of the Government with respect to the finances. It became necessary, very early in the year, that a great increase should be made in the Estimates for the navy; and not only a great present increase, because we had to contemplate circumstances which might possibly occur to render necessary a still further increase in the navy and a great addition to our military expenditure. The House is perfectly aware of what was the reason of the course we took, and also of the occurrences in Europe. Is there one on either side of the House that can blame the Government for the policy which they recommended the House to adopt? Is there any one in the country who can blame the late Government? On the contrary, I believe, with very slight exceptions, the conduct of that Government has received general approbation; and no one questions, although it resulted no doubt in a deficiency of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000, that this was an expenditure called for by the interests of the country—by the highest interests of the country—and that no man worthy of the position of a Minister, no man worthy the name of a Minister, could have shown himself in the House who, at such a moment, was not prepared to make the necessary arrangements for the crisis which at the beginning of the year seemed fast approaching. Now, Sir, our successors have had to meet the difficulties from which we should not have shrunk, and of which, of course, we are conscious. What I have said I have said in vindication of our conduct; and I hope the House will so far think I have not said it at too great length. They must remember that this is the only time that, on the part of myself and my colleagues, I have noticed those continuous and false attacks made on our financial administration by those who influence public opinion.
Perfectly aware of the difficulties of the position of the right hon. Gentleman who has succeeded me, and anxious on this subject as I am, and as I apprehend every Gentleman in this House is 166 to give a fair and can did support to the present Administration, let us contemplate the course he recommends us to take. Now, Sir, I will, in the first place, say that to the decision at which the Government has arrived of dealing with this deficiency by taxation, and not by raising a loan, I give an unqualified approbation. I do not mean to say that there are not occasions in which, even in times of peace, recourse may be had to a loan. Everyone knows that such emergencies may arise—but they must be emergencies; and only twice in the experience of the generation that I am addressing have such great emergencies arisen. I am not prepared broadly to lay down that even the question of national defences, which I understand is to be brought before the House, is not one of these exceptions. I give no opinion on the present occasion on so wide a subject, which requires the most careful investigation and the closest reflection. But I say that there was nothing in the expenditure incurred by the late Government, and sanctioned and entirely approved by their successors—there was nothing in the nature and amount to justify recourse to a loan. Its amount, though considerable, was not of that largeness which in this country is generally associated with sums raised in that manner. Treating it as £5,000,000 to use around number, we must recollect that there had been a reduction of taxation to the amount of £2,000,000, only within a year and a half; and I think the wisdom of the step that was then taken is made manifest by the position in which we now find ourselves, and in the course the Chancellor of the Exchequer has recommended us to adopt. Great as may be the objections to his proposition, and great as may be the difficulties he may have to encounter, every one of us feels what an advantage it is to him that in making to us this proposition he applies to a people who must feel that the Government of the country on this subject of the income tax has already and at considerable hazard maintained its faith. The reduction of the income tax from 7d. in the pound to 5d. was an act which put the country in good humour, and made them feel that this financial weapon was one which the Government of the country was not inclined to have recourse to except under extraordinary circumstances—except under emergency. Now, Sir, admitting that she Government are perfectly justified in the course they have taken, and approving of 167 their determination not to have recourse to a loan when the expenditure which we have to defray is one which, I think, the country ought at all times to be able, when necessary, to meet in times of peace without borrowing, I would ask the House to consider the mode in which this taxation is to be raised. I would first, however, observe that totally irrespective of the bad financial policy of raising unnecessarily, in times of peace, money by loans, I can imagine nothing more impolitic, as regards the opinion of Europe of our position, than that, at the first moment of pressure, when an amount of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 is required to place the armaments of the country in a proper state, to make it appear that this powerful and wealthy country is unable to defray such an expenditure without resorting to extraordinary measures. A loan under present circumstances must have produced a very bad effect, and must very much have influenced the opinion of the world as to our spirit and resources. Therefore, totally irrespective of the financial impolicy of a loan, I say nothing could have been more impolitic as regards the notions of foreign Powers, than having recourse to such a means of raising money. But now, Sir, as to the means by which these taxes are to be raised, The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed two measures. There are two sources from which his Ways and Means are to be derived. With regard to the third Resolution, which we shall very soon have before us—that, I mean, which relates to the malt credit—I will not make any remark at present further than saying that I think it would have been as well, when the right hon. Gentleman was taking so considerable a step, and was dealing with a credit which is recognized by Acts of Parliament, that he should have endeavoured to attain a greater result. The right hon. Gentleman may look forward to dealing yet further with this source of supply; but if that be the case I think it is a reason why a greater result might have been obtained at the present moment. No doubt some inconvenience if not injury must be occasioned by the change; and considering the opposition and prejudices to which it will naturally give rise, I think it is a question whether the right hon. Gentleman might not now have obtained a greater result than the £750,000 which he expects from his proposal. But passing that over, I come to the means by which the right 168 hon. Gentleman contemplates obtaining no less a sum than £4,000,000. Now, Sir, I think it very unfortunate that at this time, with the year 1860 so near at hand, the right hon. Gentleman should have been forced to deal with the income tax. But I admit, and admit it freely, that under all the circumstances of the case—though I could contemplate that the adoption of that tax to a less extent was possible—the right hon. Gentleman was forced to adopt that tax to a very considerable extent as a means of supply; and if that he the case I do not think it is for the House—approving of the general policy and acknowledging the necessity of the right hon. Gentleman—I do not think it is for the House to split straws as to the particular amount he is to raise. So far, therefore, as that point is concerned, I should not object to the amount of the tax which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed. But, Sir, in so doing, I cannot refrain from expressing my opinion that all those arguments which have been offered to the House before, and even recently, against the property and income tax becoming a permanent source of our revenue are not in any way invalidated by the concession which the House may choose to make in this emergency. The property and the income tax is, according to the opinion of the House, to be retained for emergencies. We all admit that we are now going to deal with circumstances which are not of an ordinary character, and I, in agreeing, so far as my opinion and influence go, to the proposition of the Government, not only see no reason to change the opinion with respect to the tax which I have always expressed, but I do not recognize that this proposition, if acceded to, at all interferes with that settlement of 1860 to which we have always looked forward. But, Sir, although I am prepared to support the proposition of the Government on principle, I confess I should be greatly inclined in practice to modify it. I was not at all persuaded by any of the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman—I have not been influenced by the further consideration which I have given to the subject, nor by the information which has reached me from many quarters, and from the representatives of many classes—that the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman means to levy this special income tax, namely, in the course of six months, instead of spreading it over the year, is one that is at all necessary. That it is 169 an arrangement against which many grave objections may be offered I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will hardly deny. It certainly adds to the severity of the pressure generally; it in some particular instances accomplishes positive injustice; and, thirdly, it is not only highly inconvenient, but in some cases may prove absolutely impracticable. I will not trouble the House now, because the Committee will be rather the occasion for that, by giving instances, but they are numerous and they are varied, and I will answer for this, that the more discussion goes on, and the more this proposition is before the country, the more numerous will be the objections and the more precise will be the cases of individual injustice and injury. If that general description of the objections to this arrangement be a just one, I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman should insist on retaining that portion of his scheme. What we want to do is this—that these £4,000,000 shall not be added, either in whole or in part, to our permanent incumbrances, but shall be defrayed out of the taxes of the country. If the House is in that mood, as I believe it is, it can give the right hon. Gentleman a first-rate security; and I cannot understand that any Chancellor of the Exchequer, much less one of the resources of the right hon. Gentleman, with first-rate securities for raising £4,000,000, will not be able to obtain the accommodation that he requires without visiting with unnecessary severity and annoyance the great body of the taxpayers. I should, therefore—although I trust it may be unnecessary—feel inclined, when we get into the Committee, to move an Amendment which will consist in the omission of the last two lines and a half of the first Resolution, which would render this vexatious arrangement nugatory, and at the same time give the right hon. Gentleman all the resources he desires.
Now, Sir, I have touched on the conduct of the finances by the late Government, and I have, I hope, not underrated the difficulties which the propositions made by Her Majesty's Government present. I offer it as much support as I think financial schemes have a right to expect. All such plans are open to criticism; modifications are sometimes offered, and occasionally accepted. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept this. I am not offering any opposition to what is called direct taxation. I have no desire to diminish the amount of direct taxa- 170 tion which at present exists in our financial scheme, but that it may take a form less unjust and inconvenient. I have long believed that it was possible to raise the same amount of direct taxation as is raised at present, without having recourse to an income tax, the objections to which never can be cured, but which objections are never felt at a moment of public emergency, when you appeal, and rightly appeal, to the higher feelings of the country. Therefore in times of war, or even in warlike times though not times of war, this is an instrument which a Chancellor of the Exchequer may always appeal to with confidence; which adds greatly, if not abused, to the influence of this country with foreign countries, and is, in fact, as important to this country as her fleets and her armies. The consciousness that this country can by a single tax, if necessary, at a moment raise a sum as great as those loans which despotic monarchs raise with so much difficulty at a high rate of interest—the knowledge that we can by a single Vote in the Ways and Means of the year give to our Sovereign as much as the loans raised to sanction invasion and aggression abroad, is one of the great facts which influence the minds of nations and Cabinets, and is a source of strength to England which is incalculable. Now that is one of the reasons why you should not fritter away these means of recruiting your Treasury; and although there may be occasions when you should appeal to the income tax—at times of great commercial change, or to enable us to effect some important fiscal reform, the House ought not to encourage the introduction of the income tax as an habitual feature of the financial scheme, and they should take every means consistently with sound finance that there shall be a weapon in our armoury not used for trifling and common purposes.
Sir, having touched on these two points, there is one other, before I sit down, to which I feel it my duty to call the attention of the House, and that is the general condition of our finances. The right hon. Gentleman has had some difficulty to encounter this year. The prospect of next year, under ordinary circumstances, is more perplexing; and the financial position of this country in a time of peace is one which ought not to be passed over without notice. We are now raising a revenue of nearly £70,000,000 per annum in time of peace. There is no country that can go on raising £70,000,000 171 per annum in time of peace with impunity. England cannot, and if England cannot no country can. Then how are we to meet this great and growing evil? It is useless to throw the blame upon the Government, of whatever party it may be formed. There are no persons so interested in the economical administration of the country as the Government of the day, of whatever party it is formed. The struggle against expenditure is always a struggle between the Government and the public, or between the Government and public events. The position of a Minister is much more easy and much more agreeable when he has not to lay on taxes; and there is nothing which has led so much to the destruction of Governments and to the injury of parties as having to deal with the state of national finance in periods of confusion or deficit. Therefore we shall do nothing by making declamatory speeches, either in this House or in the country, and by enforcing what is called an economical administration, unless we ourselves take the question in hand and see how far we may assist the Government in that great and absolutely necessary result. Now, Sir, a great deal is said about the expenditure of the civil service of this country, and I hear sometimes that we are to obtain great results from reducing the Civil Service Estimates. I look Upon that as quite delusive. The civil Government of this country, on the whole, is an economical Government, and if you analyze the expenditure for the civil service in the Estimates you will find that it is an expenditure really for the advantage, the welfare, and the advancement of the great body of the people. The administration of justice, the education of the people, and the health of the people, are the three great sources of expenditure. It may be, and is, no doubt, true that some of the principles upon which these measures are founded, and changes recommended, may be exaggerated in their application. There may be, and is, no doubt, in the administration some expenditure that might be avoided. Here and there a job may be detected, but if you look to the main objects and the main results, what are they? You have an expenditure to ensure order, to ensure the education, and to ensure the health of the people. Why, those are the three great sources of public wealth: an educated, an orderly, and, above all, a healthy people—these are three of the principal sources of public wealth; and if we in a moment of 172 difficulty make war upon this expenditure for civil service, and reduce the machinery which occasions these three great items for these three great ends, we really are making war on the civilization of England; we are making war on that progress which every one of us is so fond of appealing to, and so ready to assert. Therefore, Sir, I hold, that although these Civil Service Estimates, as all Estimates, should be prepared with great care, and revised with great strictness, this is not the source from which we can obtain that relief and those Ways and Means for which the country languishes. Now, Sir, let us approach the great source of expenditure in this country. The Military Estimates are enormously increased. If we are to follow the advice of some, I may say even of many, in this House and in the country, they would be further increased to a great extent. Vast as is the expenditure, we are still told that the defences of this country are most imperfect. Vast as have been the preparations we are still told that the honour of England is not safe, and that it becomes us to make still further exertions—that our fleets must be increased—that our armies should be increased, and that other means should be taken which should render the position of the country more satisfactory. Then what are the Ways and Means by which you are to encounter this? You have great difficulty in meeting the burdens which are now necessary for you to bear—How are you to encounter that future prospect which is so frequently held out to you of further expenditure for your armaments and for your defences? Now, Sir, I have once or twice, or oftener, and I am afraid even to weariness, endeavoured to impress on this House that when you come to public expenditure on a great scale, expenditure depends upon policy. When we who sit in this House dilate upon the expenditure of the country and deplore the waste of our resources, and then call upon the Ministry to reduce the expenditure and to administer with more ability the Ways and Means placed at its command—when we do this we are in fact doing nothing. The Ministry only maintains that expenditure on the whole which the policy of the country demands, and you are responsible for that policy. Now, Sir, what is the policy of this country at this moment? And what are our prospects? If you want reduction of expenditure you must look to your policy, and at this moment there are two points of policy which you 173 must not neglect if you are sincere in your determination that this country shall not be involved in financial perplexities from which it will require the greatest sacrifices to rescue it. There are two points of policy pressing upon us at this moment, upon which it becomes both Houses of Parliament to fix their eye closely, and to require from those who are responsible for the administration of our affairs precise views and accurate knowledge. A little while ago—not more than two months—a European war seemed to be impending, and a most sanguinary struggle in one European country had commenced. But that war has terminated in a manner most unexpected, and even at this moment the House has scarcely recovered from the surprise with which they received the news that a struggle which some thought might have lasted for years had suddenly closed. Now, we took no part in the transactions which led to that war. It was the policy of the late Government, under these circumstances, to maintain a strict and an impartial neutrality. That was misrepresented at the time, but the country has, I believe, already done us justice in that respect. Although, from some of the speeches that were delivered from this side of the House during the last debate at which I had the honour to assist from the benches opposite, it was supposed that our successors were on the eve of pursuing a policy of a very different character—altough it was to instal a policy of a very different character that the change of Government took place—yet no sooner were the new Government in office than I had the satisfaction of hearing, and both sides of the House had the satisfaction of hearing, that they intended to follow the footsteps, as to foreign affairs, which had been traced by their predecessors. Well, Sir, that was a satisfactory statement, and circumstances and events have since occurred of such importance, and with such rapidity, as to add immensely to the value of that statement. There has been an armistice which produced a peace, which is welcomed by every one, not only with the interest and satisfaction which peace always produces, but in this country I think with still greater satisfaction because we were not at all mixed up with the commencement of the struggle, and are not in any way responsible for its conclusion. Now, I hear that there is a prospect of a Congress, or Conference as it has been called; and that that Congress or Conference is to be attended by the neutral 174 Powers. Sir, the moment those Powers attend that Congress or Conference they cease to be neutral. The moment those neutral Powers attend that Congress or Conference not only do they cease to be neutral, but they become responsible alike for the past and the present. I make no criticism upon the peace which has been arrived at. The Emperor of the French was denounced a few months ago because he would make war. The Emperor of the French is now denounced because he will make peace. But let us look to the position of England with reference to the startling transaction at Villafranca. Two things have happened. First of all we have a peace; and I am not prepared to treat that peace with the contemptuousness which some persons have already exhibited for it. I believe peace to be a great blessing. I believe that there is no country in the world that benefits more by peace than England; though, materially speaking, peace is more necessary to every country in Europe than it is to England. Well, then, we have gained this great result; and it has already given an impulse to our commerce and stimulated the enterprise of our citizens. That is a great blessing. But if I look to the political and diplomatic considerations connected with this peace, what do I see? I find, not only that we have peace, but that we have a peace settled without disturbing that political equilibrium which England has always declared to be one of her main objects. Is that no slight matter to us? I say, therefore, viewing the startling events that have occurred in Italy from an English point of view, that both because they give us peace and because they give us a peace which respects that balance of power for which we ourselves have lavished such millions of treasure and such thousands of lives, we, as Englishmen, ought to look upon the transaction with satisfaction. All the fruits of it which are satisfactory we reap, and we are not in any way responsible for anything connected with it which others may deem unsatisfactory. Will you thrust yourselves, then, into a business with which you have no connection, and in relation to which, you stand in a good position? Will you thrust your selves into it from pure public vanity—merely that you may be able to say that England has had a hand in the settlement of the world? Some of those settlements rise like exhalations and disappear like exhalations. Will you quit the 175 vantage ground that you now occupy, and for such mean and vain objects will you force yourselves into Congresses and Conferences? Will you enter into engagements which may produce only confusion to this country, which may involve you in proceedings most injurious to your resources, and from which you may only reap disorder and distress? Why, Sir, in 1815, when you had the Congress of Vienna, England could not refuse to send representatives to that assembly. England had taken too great a part and too active a part for a series of years to shrink from the responsibility of her own conduct. But what were the engagements that you entered into at the Congress of Vienna? Why you entered into engagements at the Congress of Vienna which the British Minister, when he went to that Congress, never contemplated; and if it had been known beforehand that he would have placed his signature to them an alarmed and indignant House of Commons would have prevented him from repairing to that august assembly. Why, by the great Treaty of Vienna you have guaranteed her Saxon provinces to Prussia. It was by an accident, it was by the representation of an urgent necessity at that Congress, that England was entrapped, I may say, into one of the most solemn and unqualified covenants that a country ever entered into. We are told now by those who place such a construction upon the conduct of our allies, even of those who have been faithful to us, that the next war is to be a war against Prussia. How will you stand if there is a war between any great Power and Prussia, with this guarantee in existence, which you entered into at the Congress of Vienna? And now, if we send Ministers to Congresses and Conferences—I do not care where they meet, whether at Zurich or Paris—what do you send them to do? Either to do nothing, when they will be only symbols of your insignificance; or to enter into engagements which must involve you in increased expenditure and increased responsibility. If you had thought proper to join in the struggle for the freedom of Italy—if you had been involved in the war yourselves—you could not, as men of honour—you could not, as a community possessing self-respect—refuse to attend the Congress which was to wind up the results of your own energy and interference; you could not shrink from the responsibility. But when—be it by good fortune as some think, or by sound 176 policy as I maintain—your councils have saved you from this interference, and have saved you from this responsibility, are you at the last moment, from some weak feeling, some ebullition of disappointed vanity, to be entrapped into attending this Congress or Conference; and are you there to enter into arrangements and engagements which must lead you to an increased peril to these finances which already require your strictest criticism and most careful administration. Here is one point of policy which will influence your expenditure, and to which I pray the House to give their most earnest consideration. Now, let us see if there is not one possibly of still greater importance connected with these public transactions, and with the finances of the country, which this House will be wanting in their duty to their constituents and the country if they neglect. We have this peace before us, and I maintain that the arrangement, such as we know of it, inasmuch as it gives us peace, and gives us a peace founded upon the existing equilibrium of power, is one that ought to be satisfactory to Englishmen and English statesmen. I know there are persons who will be dissatisfied. I know that even in this country, and in other countries certainly, there are men—honest and honourable men undoubtedly—but who take upon public affairs so exaggerated a view, and one so ill-founded, that they cannot believe that in transactions of this kind men are at all influenced by considerations of common sense. I know that there are persons who are disappointed. I know there are persons who had expected that the Emperor of the French—a Roman Catholic prince, the first Child of the Church, and exercising—by consent, to a large degree no doubt, of the people—an arbitrary and a despotic sway—was about to establish in Italy the Protestant religion and the British constitution. You cannot argue with men who entertain such delusions; but these are men who to a certain extent influence public opinion, and it has often been through such views that countries have been involved in war. Now, we we are to view this plan as it relates to Englishmen, to England, and to English interests. I maintain that the arrangement is one that, on the whole, is entitled to our respect—that an arrangement which gives us peace, and gives us peace founded on no disturbance of the political balance of power, is one that we ought to welcome—if not with enthusiasm, at least with re- 177 spect. I am told, indeed, that this peace is to be disapproved of—and I have heard that it is disapproved of by English statesmen, because—singular reason—the Emperor of the French has not realized the programme with which he commenced the war. I should like to know whoever did realize on peace the purpose for which he commenced war. Compare the manifesto of any state or country—I care not what the form of its government; it may even be the United States of America—compare the original manifesto upon which the war was declared—the avowed purpose for which war was waged—with the final pacification, and I defy you to bring an instance in which the objects of the war have been fully or even in a great degree realized. Take the late war with Russia. I remember hearing the noble Lord the Prime Minister himself announce that he was most disappointed at the peace to which he himself had acceded. Did he not send a special Minister to Paris in order to oppose the arrangements which were proposed by some of his allies, and which, he said, were in direct violation of the objects of the war? From the very time that peace was concluded with Russia, did we not hear, not only in England, but in almost every country, constant lamentations that it was a war waged for a great purpose, which was only partially accomplished. I do not blame the peace that was made with Russia. I supported that peace. I think it was wise to have peace with Russia, and I think that certain objects were attained which were of public benefit; but that any one, much more a Minister of State, should impugn the conduct of one who was still our ally, because he had entered into a peace which does not entirely agree with his programme, is, to my mind, one of the most unaccountable and inconceivable of incidents. Between the manifesto that declares war and the articles of peace that are signed a great many important events occur, which enlighten the mind, which mature the experience, and instruct the action of those who are carrying on the war; and a great deal happened between the manifesto of Milan and the articles of peace at Villafranca, which I should have thought might have modified the views and taught some lessons to the most arrogant conqueror and the most determined invader. And because a Prince takes a wise and moderate view of affairs and makes a peace, which I hope and believe has the elements of being a perma- 178 nent one, is he to be held up as a Prince whom no one can trust, because he has not, when he signed the articles of peace, done that which no State or Potentate ever yet did—realized the programme which he published before he declared war? Now, Sir, upon our conduct in this respect entirely depends the financial condition of this country. I give credit to the Princes who signed those articles of peace, for the motives which induced them to agree to that peace, and for the peace to which they have agreed. I hope and I believe it may be permanent. But let us do our best to make it permanent. It is a peace which is favourable to the traditionary policy of England and it is alike our duty and our interest to cherish and maintain it. We ought not to encourage those maligners, who have not English interests, who have not a traditionary policy to maintain, to destroy that which those interests and the interests of humanity alike require. Giving these Princes and potentates credit for sincerity, what should be the course of the English Government? What is that second point of policy to which I would direct the attention of the House and which it is our duty at this moment earnestly to impress upon the Government as the line of policy they should follow? If we are to have peace—if peace has been signed by one of the greatest actors in the war, on the ground that he shrank from the responsibility of a general war—if those articles at Villafranca are animated by a sincere spirit—and I will believe they are so animated, what is the course for England? Not to go to Congresses and Conferences in fine dresses and ribands, to enjoy the petty vanity of settling the fate of petty Princes. No; but to go to your great Ally the Emperor of the French; give him credit for the motives which have animated and influenced him, and say, "If you are in favour of peace—if, at a great hazard to the mere reputation of the hour you have terminated this war, join with us in securing that peace by the only mode by which peace can be secured. Revive and restore, and even increase, the good feeling which once existed—which I hope still exists between the two countries of England and France—prove by the diminution of your armaments, that you are sincerely anxious, as we believe you are, for the peace of Europe and of the world, and we will join you in a spirit of reciprocal confidence—and animating alike the industry of both nations, thus achieve conquests 179 far more valuable than Lombardy, far more valuable than those wild dreams of a regeneration ever promised but never accomplished." Have we not great advantages at this moment for accomplishing such a policy? Have we not a Government whose boast it is that they possess the confidence of the French Emperor? We were told that it was entirely owing to the absence of some of those distinguished Statesmen opposite from the Treasury bench, that Italy was involved in war; that, had they been in power, the Emperor of the French would never have taken a single step without consulting them; that so unbounded was the confidence that existed between those eminent Statesmen and that illustrious Prince that, except such slight matters as signing the articles of peace there is hardly any subject upon which he would not have previously taken their advice. Well, Sir, here is a good opportunity for the noble Lord at the head of the Government to prove the influence of the English Government, and to act a great part in Europe. Instead of going to Congresses and Conferences for petty objects, in which England has no interest, but which may involve England in great disaster, let the noble Lord prove to the world that England is a Power that possesses and exercises a great influence, especially with France, by accomplishing that which is much more important than formal articles of peace; by bringing about that which will put an end for ever to the doubts on the sincerity of Princes; which will speak to every cabin and cottage in both countries as well as to the Houses of Parliament and places of high resort; which will prove to the national conviction of the great countries of Europe that peace is the policy of their rulers. Let us terminate this disastrous system of rival expenditure and mutually agree, with no hypocrisy, but in a manner and under circumstances which can admit of no doubt—by a reduction of armaments—that peace is really our policy. Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer may look forward with no apprehension to his next budget, and England may then actually witness the termination of the income tax.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
—Sir, as the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has addressed himself in so considerable a portion of his speech to matters immediately connected 180 with my department, I hope it will not be thought unbecoming of me to avail myself of this opportunity of making some remarks to the House. I will confine myself, in the first instance, to those matters which are immediately connected with finance; and in order not unduly to trespass on the time of the House, I will begin by dismissing from consideration all that portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech touching finance which is retrospective, and which aimed at a justification of the financial measures of the late Government. No imputation has been cast on them in any of the proposals of the present Government, or in any of the remarks with which those proposals have been accompanied. I do not wish to give an opinion on the statements of the right hon. Gentleman; but I confess I was not able to follow his figures. When he spoke of a surplus revenue of £1,500,000, I must confess it was a surplus of a description new to me, and, as far as I know, to financial computation. The only surplus I know of worthy of discussion, and especially of a retrospective discussion, is the surplus of income over expenditure. But the surplus of the right hon. Gentleman on which he dwelt at some length with paternal fondness, as proving the soundness of the finance of the late Administration, was not that, but simply the surplus of actual income over estimated income. That is all very well, as far as it goes, to prove that the right hon. Gentleman made up his estimates of the income of the year with perfect propriety and according to ordinary rules; but it is of very little value with reference to determining the actual financial condition of the country, which depends upon relations not between real and the previously conjectured income, but between money you have actually got, and money you have spent or have undertaken to spend. And here has been a rather considerable difference; for, while what I may-call the fancy surplus of the right hon. Gentleman was £1,500,000, the actual surplus of income over expenditure for the past year was only £800,000, or about a moiety of his estimate. I only make that remark to elucidate what I conceive to be the true state of the facts. I enter into no charges or imputations whatever on the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman, and I pass to those matters which are before the House for their consideration. It 13, however, my duty to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the generous and 181 can did spirit in which he has discussed the financial proposals of the Government. I rejoice to hear him express so strongly his objection, as a general, but of course not an inflexible rule, to a resort to anything in the nature of a loan under such circumstances as the present, and I trust we shall have a unanimous concurrence among all Parliamentary authorities upon that important subject. I have nothing whatever to complain of in any portion of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks; but it is my duty to state my views broadly in respect to some of the suggestions he has made. If I understand him rightly, he approves of our proposing to raise the deficiency by means of new taxes; he considers that the income tax ought to be a main source of supply, and approving the principles, he declines in a statesmanlike spirit to enter into the question, whether minor sources of supply might have been brought in aid; but, admitting the substance of our proposals, and granting them a favourable and candid reception, he at the same time reserves to himself the right, and almost declares his intention, to propose a modification in what he calls the mode we have adopted of levying the income tax. I should be very sorry, indeed, to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman, or with any Member of this House, upon a mere matter of form, or only of technical importance, and especially with reference to anything that could be justly described by such a phrase as that of the "mode of levying the tax;" but when we look to the truth of the case I cannot but see—and I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will see—that what he describes as the mode of levying the tax is, in fact, the whole question, whether you are to borrow or not, and whether you are to have the tax or not. The right hon. Gentleman says, the six months levy of the tax will cause cases of injustice, and that the levy of the tax will be impracticable. Now, with regard to the impracticability of levying the tax, I ask the House to place its confidence in those able heads of the Revenue Department without whose assurance I should not have ventured to stir one step with regard to the proposal I have made. They assure me that there is no impracticability in the mode of levying the tax. The levy of an income tax is, indeed, attended with many great and frequently insurmountable difficulties—difficulties that cannot be wholly surmounted—but none of which will be cither rendered insuperable 182 or aggravated by the measure I have proposed. Then with regard to the question of injustice I cannot admit that any injustice will be done. I maintain that the House of Commons is just as much entitled to tax the country, if it thinks fit, in respect to six months of every man's profits as in respect to twelve months of those profits. If, indeed, you say, "We are going to impose a tax for a year, but we shall require everybody to pay up for the first six months," undoubtedly it may be objected that where there is a change of interests the in-coming persons may be relieved at the expense of their predecessors; but that is not a true representation of this proposal, because, although from the necessity of the case, arising from the mode of charging the tax, you must in almost all cases go upon an annual assessment, the real substance and meaning of the proposal is that the additional 4d. will be levied on, and virtually in respect of, the first six months of the financial year. There can therefore be no injustice whatever with regard to the relations between those who may he occupiers of property, or holders of annuities, as to any succession of interests that may take place. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he would modify the proposal by omitting the last two lines and-a-half of the first Resolution; and the effect of that alteration would be to impose the tax, not upon the first half-year, but upon the entire year, and to throw the receipt of the last half of the tax into the year 1860–61, thereby making it part of the Ways and Means, not of the current year, but of the next year. Of course, if that were done, the question arises how is the gap to be filled between the time when you want your money and the time when it comes in. The answer is that the gap must be filled by borrowing. You are then to borrow in one form or another. I presume the right hon. Gentleman thinks that what he has suggested in this respect is consistent with what he has said upon the subject of loans. He has said that to go to the money-lender, especially for such a sum as £5,000,000, would, under the circumstances, be a course unworthy of the country: but he now proposes, if I understand him, to go to the money-lender for £2,000,000, under circumstances, in my opinion, the most objectionable in every practical point of view. Whatever you do, at any rate, do not lay new burdens and new financial difficulties upon I860. We have 183 done enough already in that respect; and I think no prudent man who takes ever so slight a view of the present condition of this country would feel disposed to become responsible for charging the financial operations of that year with additional difficulties in order to procure present and momentary relief. I have not yet had an opportunity—and I don't know when that opportunity may occur—of stating fully to the House the view which I am disposed to take, upon clear conviction, of the constantly increasing difficulties in the financial condition of this country. The matter is too serious to attempt to open it in a crude or partial manner. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has treated it, I think, too summarily, and has not adequately measured the increasing gravity of the case. He thinks, in the first place, as respects our peace expenditure, that its progress has been natural and legitimate, and he also evidently considers that that progress is a normal progress and is likely to continue and ought to continue. I cannot agree with him in that respect, and I will state broadly my reasons for the difference. It is perfectly true that there is a great expansion of social wants and of social demands which entail increasing calls upon the public purse; but it is also true that up to the year 1853—the last year before the Russian war—you had that same expansion of wants and demands going on. Of course, it had not then advanced so far, but you had a similar growth of new wants and demands continually leading to new expenditure. Up to that period, however, you had practically, by your wise thrift and economy, been able to meet those wants and demands, and 1853 presented scarcely a perceptible increase in the public expenditure, the increase over the expenditure of the country ten or fifteen years before being perfectly trifling, though I will not venture to state it from memory. But what has been the state of things since 1853? It is useless to blink the fact that not merely within the circle of the public departments and of Cabinets, but throughout the country at large, and within the precincts of this House—the guardians of the purse of the people—the spirit of public economy has been relaxed; charges upon the public funds of every kind have been admitted from time to time upon slight examination; every man's petition and prayer for this or that expenditure has been conceded with a facility which I do 184 not hesitate to say you have only to continue for some five or ten years longer in order to bring the finances of the country into a state of absolute confusion, and to drive this House to the alternative either of imposing permanently the severest taxes at their highest standard upon the people, or of purchasing an ignominious repose—a repose which must soon be broken by loud calls for change—by the practice of annually borrowing to meet your expenditure. I demur, therefore, entirely to the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman that this growth of the civil expenditure is a thing natural, legitimate, normal, and proportioned to the state and condition of the country. I do not say that it can now be kept down to the same standard as before 1853. I do not undertake to enter at this moment upon the consideration of this item or of that; but I do say there is one thing essential, and it is that the country and the House of Commons should return to the temper and spirit which ruled with respect to public expenditure chiefly, I think, from the period of the first Government of the Duke of Wellington, most eminently after the Reform Bill, to the great honour of that measure, and which upon the whole continued to direct the proceedings of Governments and to be satisfactory to the nation, until about the epoch I have named, namely, the outbreak of the Russian war. I will mention to the House, without going into details, some of the matters which they have in prospect. We are not now dealing with the tremendous question of the national armaments—we are not touching on these vast Estimates; but great as the increase of your Civil Estimates is, it is small in comparison with what it will be unless this House determine to lay a strong hand on the system. There is a question about to be put to-night with regard to harbours of refuge, when we are to act on the Report of a Committee on that subject. I think that Committee has recommended a public expenditure of about £2,500,000, and a public advance of about one million and a quarter; and as I believe it would be moderate in all cases of harbours of refuge to say that the cost, when they come to be executed, is at least double that which was estimated, I think I may fairly multiply by two the sums I have given, and then the figures will stand £5,000,000 of public expenditure, and £2,500,000 of public advances. Then you are going to rebuild the public offices; and on what scale? How much are they to 185 cost? Will you be satisfied if they cost as little as these Houses in which we sit? You have yet done nothing for the National Gallery; but it is agreed on all hands that a structure ought to be raised, and that the site ought to be enlarged at very great expense in order to erect upon it an edifice worthy of the country. You bought six years ago the valuable site of Burlington House; but it still remains to cover that site with buildings proportioned to the purposes for which it was acquired. We come next to our old friends the packet and telegraph contracts. At the present moment your packet Estimate is about £1,000,000, and you not merely abandon all profit out of that portion of your postal service, but of this £1,000,000 you pay £600,000 of hard money out of the public purse. Is this all? I will tell the House the state in which I found this matter on coming into office. The practice, as is well known, has been for the Government to take the management of these subjects into their own bauds, to frame contracts, and then make them known to Parliament when the demand is made for money to pay them. I am not now speaking either in praise or blame, but merely describing the system. The consequence of that is that at all periods there are of course a certain number of what may be called pending contracts. What does the House suppose was the gross amount of those pending contracts on our accession to office? Why, Sir, I found that the pending contracts—the contracts that had been more or less entertained by the Government, but which had not yet received the definitive or substantial sanction of Parliament—involved guarantees very nearly to the sum of £600,000 a year. Now, I cannot admit to the right hon. Gentleman that his Estimate is a rational or sober one, when in this state of things he speaks with such calm satisfaction of the growth of the expenditure for the civil service. But I pass on from the Civil Service Estimates, which the right hon. Gentleman thinks require no manipulation whatever, to the other stubborn customers that we have to deal with, namely, the estimates for our naval and military establishments. And here, on the contrary, I must say, I think the right hon. Gentleman is somewhat sanguine. It appears that there is nothing in the world necessary to be done but that the present Government should have the good sense to follow, de verbo in verbum, the measures marked out for them by their predecessors 186 in reference to their foreign policy. As soon as they guide their policy by that standard, all our difficulties will disappear, and we need not despair that even the income tax itself will disappear in 1860. I must confess that it seems to me a very sanguine mood has taken curious possession of the right hon. Gentleman's mind. I do not believe that such great and magical results are to be attained; and still less, I am bound to say, do I believe they are to be attained by that close and rigid law of imitation which he wishes to prescribe for my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The right hon. Gentleman is rather hard on the present Government, and in this he follows the example of another right hon. Gentleman who sits opposite, as well as of my noble Friend the Member for Haddington, in the very broad assertions they have made with respect to the perfect wisdom and success of the measures taken by the late Government in reference to the recent complications of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman says those measures have been vindicated by time. It is not my duty to pursue in detail this portion of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. At the same time I may, perhaps, be permitted to observe, that considering the range of those remarks, and the extent of topics they introduce, which carry a mere journeyman Chancellor of the Exchequer like myself entirely out of his true regions, and require much higher flights than he can hope to reach, it might have been more convenient if the right hon. Gentleman had taken a more suitable opportunity, and one chosen after due notice to the House, for advancing these principles of his high policy, than a discussion on the finances. He tells us he is glad to hear that the new Government intend to walk in the footsteps of the old. As a very humble Member of the new Government, I will state frankly the impression made on me by a most careful study of all the documents supplied to us in order that we might estimate the policy of the late Government on Italian affairs. Sir, those documents have left on my mind the clearest conviction that Lord Malmesbury addressed himself to his task in the spirit of an English gentleman and a lover of peace. But having stated that much with respect to the aim that he invariably had in view, and to the spirit of justice in which he sought to attain that aim, I must beg leave, as to everything that goes beyond, respectfully 187 to remain silent; and unless we are called upon and required to discuss seriatim the prudence of the measures which were taken, I simply say, "Do not compel me by your admissions to subscribe to that which I cannot admit, and be content to receive from my noble Friend the liberal and fair appreciation he has expressed of the objects and aims of Lord Malmesbury. Do not endeavour, by continual vaunts and flourishes of their perfect wisdom and success, to leave us only the alternative of entering on the invidious task of dissection, or else of appearing by our silence to assent to what is not compatible with our honest convictions." As I have said, the right hon. Gentleman has really gone much beyond me on these lofty subjects; although certainly it cannot on the whole but be of use to the Government to hear the sentiments he has frankly declared on prospective questions, provided only it is not at once assumed from our silence that we approve or are bound to follow them. I shall not enter into conflict with the right hon. Gentleman on any part of what he has said, but will frankly echo so much of it as I can; and with regard to that which I cannot frankly echo I shall endeavour to express myself with due reserve. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken strongly, and sought earnestly to impress on the present Government, the duty of studying—to revive, as he said at one time, to preserve, as I think he said at another—and if possible to strengthen that sentiment of friendship and alliance which has long prevailed between this country and France. We shall certainly omit no instance of showing by frankness and confidence our desire to maintain that which I may at this moment venture to say has become in peaceful times, and in all such times as we hope to see, a law of the foreign policy of England. The right hon. Gentleman also says, "require a diminution of your armaments." And I am sure I do not go beyond my duty, nor belie in any respect the sentiments of my colleagues, when I express the opinion that the moment the state of Europe admits of bringing to that most wholesome and salutary test the pacific arrangements which upon paper have been made, that moment it will be the duty of the English Government to spare no effort in that direction. Sir, beyond that I cannot entirely go with the right hon. Gentleman either in his history or his doctrine. He declares that there is going to be a Congress, and he 188 says that any man who advises that England should enter this Congress will—irrespective of any particular conditions or suppositions as to its constitution—betray his duty; that all neutral Powers will become responsible if they act in a Congress not for certain definite objects which are disapproved by the right hon. Gentleman, but in any Congress that may be held in the present state of Europe. But, why this sweeping and alarming, this terrific denunciation of all Congresses, and that too, by the right hon. Gentleman? Only three months, four months, and five months ago, Lord Malmesbury had no rest day or night in discharging despatches and telegrams to all points quicker than any of the new Artillery will discharge cannon balls and bullets, all recommending, enforcing, adjusting, and re-adjusting plans for the bringing about, if possible, by hook or by crook, the meeting of a Congress. We ought to be enlightened and illuminated by the declarations of opinion by the right hon. Gentleman, but I confess I do not gain so much benefit from them when I find such wholesale denunciations at the present moment of that which a few months ago the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were labouring with all their might to promote. I should like to have these opinions in some sort of reciprocal adjustment before I can tell what advantage for the governance of our practical proceedings I can derive from his authority. He has entered into a discussion of the peace, upon which I shall pronounce no opinion further than to say that I am not prepared to subscribe to the rather sanguine doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman laid down when he said that the terms had been dictated by a wise and moderate view of affairs, and that he hopes and believes—not only hopes but believes—that the peace has in itself the elements of permanence. Sir, this may be so; but I confess that I would rather reserve my judgment to be assisted hereafter by the light of events than at the present moment and in the present state of Europe pledge myself, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, to a definite and distinct approbation of the terms of that peace. The right hon. Gentleman complains that fault is found with the peace because it does not fulfil the programme which preceded the war, and he says that peace never does fulfil the programme of the war. Sir, that version of history is entirely new to me. The right hon. Gentleman not only pro- 189 pounds the doctrine, but he illustrates it with an instance. He says, "Go to the case of the Russian war, and you will find that the peace which closed it did not fulfil the programme." But where was the programme of the Russian war? If the programme of the Russian war was to be found in the ardent expectations of heated minds, no doubt the peace did not fulfil that programme. But we are not now speaking of the opinion of individuals; we are speaking of the authentic manifestoes of Sovereigns; and if you will turn to the manifesto in which the Sovereign of England declared her views upon the outbreak of the Russian war—I have not had an opportunity of seeing it since the right hon. Gentleman spoke, but I speak confidently from recollection—you will find that the peace fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, what was defined and described in that manifesto. It is not necessary to enter at length into detail, but I may mention three points. There was not in that manifesto any mention, as an object of the war, of the destruction and prohibition of the naval arsenal at Sebastopol; there was not in that manifesto any declaration that the Russian fleet in the Black Sea must cease to exist; there was not in that manifesto any declaration that Russia must make a cession of territory in the Danubian Principalities; and yet all these objects, as well as all that was described in the manifesto, were obtained by the peace made in 1856. Why, Sir, there is a stronger case still. Was not the programme fulfilled in the case of the great Revolutionary War? I am not going to enter into any discussion of that gigantic question, but, undoubtedly, the first programme of those who went into the war with the most extreme views was the restoration of the Bourbons. The programme of Mr. Pitt did not go so far; all that he wanted was security against France. And when you came to the end of the war, you not only had security against France, but you had the Bourbons restored to Paris, and restored in the form which was most flattering, at all events, to the victors, the authors of the programme—the overpowering pressure of foreign armies. I really do not know why the right hon. Gentleman should seek to pledge us to the adoption of such very strong doctrines with respect to the entrance into a Congress, and with respect to the character of the peace—matters upon which, as far as I know or am aware, the information 190 of the Government is at present imperfect information, and with respect to which, therefore, we think it right to observe a greater degree of reserve at least, if not of caution and circumspection, than the right hon. Gentleman has done in making this very early declaration of his opinions. Upon one point more I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman—namely, his adjuration that we should do our best to make it permanent. Let him impress upon the Government, let him impress upon the House, let him impress upon the people with all his power and authority, the duty of studying by caution and moderation, in word as well as in deed, the duty of striving to make peace permanent in Europe. In that object I am convinced he will find that he has the hearty and cordial co-operation of Her Majesty's advisers. But with respect to the process, the means, and the measures which they are to adopt, agreeing with him in regard to the end, they must claim for themselves full liberty of choice; and they must also decline to deliver a conclusive judgment upon subjects of such vast importance until they have the advantages of more extended light and greater knowledge than the circumstances of the present day and moment can afford them.
§ MR. BRIGHT
I am not sorry that I had the opportunity of hearing the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer before I was permitted to address the House. I am sure the House will understand me when I say that I have listened to large portions of his speech and of that of his predecessor in office with great satisfaction. As far as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) is concerned, I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), myself, and others who have generally acted with us may consider him a convert to the views which we have very often expressed in this House. I recollect that Sir Robert Peel on one occasion made a speech of very much the same tenor, and hon. Gentlemen opposite charged him with being a convert to our views. I believe that any man of intellect and genius who may lead that party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs, and none other can lead it with any success, will, as time rolls on, more and more adopt those principles of political economy and of foreign policy which we have felt it our duty to propound to the House and the country. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Mem- 191 ber for Bucks, and, in fact, also, that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a speech upon two subjects, the first part being devoted to finance and the second to the question of foreign 'policy; and perhaps the House will allow me to make a few observations in the same order. The budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I think, met with general satisfaction—at least with as much satisfaction as generally falls to the lot of unpleasant propositions of this nature; but I may say for myself that whatever approbation of it I have to express arises from the fact that it is a proposition confined to a single year, and that the right hon. Gentleman himself has suggested to the House that next year it will be necessary to take a general and more comprehensive review of the whole question of our finances and taxation. I shall, if the House will permit me, state one or two reasons why I feel particular satisfaction at the temporary nature of the plan which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed. I believe that, notwithstanding all that Chancellors of the Exchequer may say with regard to the advantages of the income tax, it is as hateful as ever it has been to the people, and I believe it to be hateful chiefly because it is unjust. I shall not now enter into the question which has been so often debated, whether the tax ought to continue to be levied at the same rate upon fixed and precarious incomes, because I think that, whatever we may say, every one feels that that is a fixed injustice and a fixed wrong which it is utterly impossible that you should ever work out of the minds of the people of this country by whom the tax is paid. Just before coming into the House I had in the lobby an interview with some gentlemen who have come up to town to protest against the continuance of this injustice. I made this answer to their representations:—"I agree with you entirely. I think the tax odious beyond all others that I know of, and odious beyond all others, because it is unjust beyond all others; and I will never consent that in its present shape it should be made a permanent tax. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes it for one year, under an emergency which some people suppose to have arisen. Therefore, I am obliged to consent to it this year; but if I am here next year, and any proposition is made for its continuance in its present shape, it shall receive no countenance from me." But there is another 192 ground on which I should have to object to this tax, and at which I will now only just hint. It is not a pleasant view of the case for hon. Gentlemen opposite or for those whom they chiefly represent. When the time comes I am prepared to show that the income tax presses upon all capital employed in shops or manufactures with double the weight that it does upon that which is employed strictly in the cultivation of the land. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will see the injustice in one particular—namely, that farmers in England, if I am not mistaken, pay on a rate of income calculated upon half their rent, while farmers in Scotland pay only upon an income calculated upon one-third of their rent. I know no reason for differences of that kind. I do not think they should exist. You may tolerate them for a single year—we can tolerate a great deal if we think it necessary to maintain the honour or interests of the country, or even for the convenience of Parliament at times—but you cannot tolerate them as parts of a permanent settlement of a question of taxation. There is another ground upon which I should wholly object to the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking if he was making his arrangement for more than a year, and in adverting to this I must call his attention to measures of great importance, which were much boasted of at the time, and to which he prevailed upon Parliament to assent in the year 1853. I hold that, whatever be our taxes—let us have £50,000,000, or £70,000,000, or £100,000,000 a year—and I know not but we may live to see taxation grow up to £100,000,000 a year as heedlessly as we have seen it grow up to £70,000,000—whatever be the amount of our taxes, let us endeavour to do honestly by our countrymen; not pressing the poor, whether our taxes be heavy or light in the main; laying them on with a stronger and more resolute hand upon property, but in dealing with property, dealing just as honestly with its owners as we should deal with the poorest subjects of the realm. I take the taxes on successions of every kind—probate duty, legacy duty, and the tax levied under the Act of 1853—to be strictly in their nature all property taxes. They are taxes which are collected or intended to be collected as part of every man's possessions and property which change hands on the death of their owner. Those who are poor—those whose means are nothing—of whom there are un- 193 fortunately many in this country—who make no wills, for whom no one takes out letters of administration, who have nothing to leave as a fortune or a little property to their children, are not directly interested in this matter; but all other classes of society are directly interested in it; and I say that, whether a man be employed in manufactures or have property in land, in the Funds, or in stocks and shares of any kind, he has a fair right to appeal to this House that in the imposition of taxes of this nature there should be the most just regard that is possible for the interests of all those whom the law is intended to affect. I shall tell the House in a few words of what I complain, and what I shall move next year before anything be done to re-impose the income tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his budget speech of 1853, where he introduced that not very welcome guest to hon. Members opposite, the succession-tax, adverted to the probate duty, which he said ought fairly to be levied upon all kinds of property, and not confined to one description alone. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) has brought that duty repeatedly before the House, and has shown that £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, if not more, have been paid into the Exchequer by taxes upon probates and legacies, all of which have been collected by taxes on personal property, from which real and freehold property has been entirely exempted. I do not believe that any hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House feels that there ought to be this gross inequality. The probate duty in 1858 raised to the Exchequer a sum of £1,338,000, and next Session I shall ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why it is not extended, as it ought to be, to all property which passes by death from one owner to another. It was curious to observe that the right hon. Gentleman in his speech the other night—it was not quite so long as one he made before, but it was none the worse for that—did not refer to what was said to be the greatest effort of his financial genius., In 1853 everybody said there never was such a Chancellor of the Exchequer. He persuaded the country gentlemen to pass a Bill which inflicted upon them, as they allege, the very same succession duty as the law imposed upon personal property. What did the right hon. Gentleman say upon that occasion? He calculated that in the following year, 1854, the succession-tax would produce £500,000 to the Exchequer; in 1855 an additional 194 £700,000; in 1856 an additional£400,000; and in 1857 an additional 400,000. It will thus be seen that he anticipated the annual produce of this tax to amount in 1857 to £2,000,000. If his calculation had turned out to be correct, the succession duty would have yielded up to the present time no less a sum than £9,300,000. What has been the actual result? I cannot give the exact figures, because the Board of Inland Revenue say they cannot separate that which has been received from the succession tax of 1853 from that which has been received from the old legacy duty. But, adopting the mode which was pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night, I can inform the House that the legacy duty in 1852, before the succession-tax came into existence, produced £1,380,000, whereas the legacy and succession duties combined yielded in 1859 the sum of £2,211,000, being an increase of £831,000. From that sum, however, I must deduct the increase of the ancient legacy duty in the interval between 1853 and 1859, and I ought also to deduct something, but unfortunately I have no means of ascertaining what, for that description of property which the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1853 called rateable property, and which he withdrew from the legacy duty, and put under the succession-tax at a much smaller amount. Passing that by, however, and deducting only £50,000 for the increase of the old legacy duty, I find that the succession-tax, from which the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected two years ago to receive £2,000,000 a year, brought in last year no more than £781,000. How came the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he that understands his business so well, to make so grievous a mistake as this? I shall tell the House how it was. It is an odd thing that he could make such a mistake, but it is still more odd how any one could be taken in by such a mistake when made. The tax was not what it pretended to be; it was not a succession-tax upon the value of property passing from one person to another, but something very different; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while he undertook to adjust a great inequality, established another just as great and as offensive. I do not blame him for what he did; perhaps it was all he could do at the time; but surely he was deficient in acuteness when he supposed that his new tax would in 1857 produce £2,000,000, whereas in 1859 it yielded only £781,000? How the tax has been so unproductive is easily ex- 195 plained. If a man dies and leaves £10,000, which is in the Funds, or in the North-Western Railway, or in ships, or in machinery, or employed in trade—what is done in reference to that £10,000? I will take the case of the 10 per cent duty—that is where there is no kindred; £10,000 left by one man to another, where there is no relationship, would have to pay a tax of £1,000 to the Exchequer. But, supposing the £10,000 were invested in land, or in that rateable property which is the new distinction that the right hon. Gentleman establishes, what would be the result? Take two men, one twenty-two and the other eighty years of age. You would find that the Inland Revenue Board would turn to a table, which would say the man of eighty has a life worth three or four years only, and the man of twenty-two has a life worth twenty or twenty-five years; and they would then take the £10,000 and multiply it by the number of years supposed to remain to the young man and to the old man, and thus come to the sum which each would have to pay. I was fortunate enough to have a small property left to to me by a person of whom I had no knowledge. I never saw him. He was an old gentleman, a great friend of peace, and opposed to the Russian war, and seeing that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale and myself were very strenuous in our opposition to that war, he did what was in his power to make us some compensation. I think I sold the property for £1,400 or £1,500: and when I came to pay my legacy duty—that is, the succession tax—I was greatly astonished at the small sum I had to pay. My age was taken; an estimate of the annual value of the property was made; and I was told that I had to pay something like £40 or £50. If the property had been in the Funds, or invested in any of the other modes to which I have referred, I should have had to pay £140 at least. Take the case of an hon. Gentleman on this side of the House who has been more fortunate than myself. A property worth £32,000 was left to him by a person who was not a blood relation. If it had been in the Funds, or in ships, or in railways, or employed in trade, the succession duty would have amounted to £3,200. What did he pay? He is not an old man—younger probably than the average of Members in this House—and yet, upon the property being valued and a calculation made of the number of years he had to live, he 196 found that he had to pay, rot £3,200, but £700. Is it consistent with fairness—with our personal honour—for, after all, that is a quality which enters into these questions—with our duty to the public, that we, sitting here as a representative body, should take one class of property, the most solid and durable, attracting to it the most of social and political advantages, having in it the greatest certainty of accumulation and improvement from the general improvement in the condition of the people, and charge it to the extent of £700, while at the same time we impose £3,200 upon another class of property not more valuable and far more fleeting in its character? I think the reason why I should object to a permanent re-imposition of the income tax will now be obvious to the House. I should object to it with all the force I am capable of until the taxes which now exist are put on a satisfactory and honest footing, so that every man and every description of property may be called upon by the State in its just proportion to support the burdens and the necessities of the State. I do not intend beyond this to refer to the proposition which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made. I have only now referred to it that I may lay the ground for the course which I shall take in another Session of Parliament, if this question comes before the House again; and I believe that that course will be sanctioned by a large number of Members here, and will meet with almost unanimous approval from all the honest men who are taxpayers in the kingdom. But this question of the mode of levying taxes is apart from a very serious question referred to by the right hon. Gentleman—that of our growing and frightful expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, and very justly, that up to 1853 in the great departments of the expenditure there had been no great increase for many years. I confess that, although I have been protesting Session after Session against this growing expenditure, I was not fully aware of the enormous increase which has taken place until I compared the present year with 1853 and some preceding years. I find that in 1853, on the Estimate of the right hon. Gentleman, the expenditure was only £50,782,000, while the expenditure in the current year is £69,207,000. The House must bear in mind that that would be somewhat an unfair picture, because since 1853 there has been a sum of money charged to the 197 expenditure which formerly went in the collection of the revenue. Making every allowance, however for the £4,740,000 which is disposed of in this way, the expenditure has positively increased in the interval by £13,685,000. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) was not, I think, quite correct in his statement respecting the Miscellaneous Estimates; but there can be no doubt that the great and serious item in our outgoings is that of armaments, and I find that the military and naval expenditure of the country has risen from £17,000,000 in 1853 to upwards of £26,000,000 in 1860. Now, I should like to ask the House two or three quiet, serious questions, on this matter. The hon. Member sitting here just now (Sir Charles Napier), who commanded the Baltic fleet, and who represents the Borough of Southwark, has left his place, and I am very sorry for it, because I should have liked to ask him two or three questions. Does the House believe that we are now more or less safe than we were in 1853 from a foreign war, and particularly from an invasion of this country? We have men—the right hon. Gentleman has referred to them—who are afflicted with a periodical panic. There is no complaint, I believe, so incurable as that. One fit begets another, and every fit seems so to enfeeble the constitution of the patient that each succeeding attack becomes more alarming than the last. We have two or three newspapers in this city which appear to suffer in this way. One, which is supposed to represent a particular trading interest, pours forth from day to day, from week to week, from month to month—I know not at whose instigation, I know not if at the instigation of any man save the editor—the most foolish, but the most bitter invectives against the French Government, and by that means against the French nation. I say against the French nation, because I hold that, no matter whether we approve the Government now existing in France or not, if we had such a Government, and some foreign nation through its press were constantly insulting that Government, we should take not a small portion of those insults to ourselves, and we should become proportionately irritated against that nation. Take another paper, The Times, which, unfortunately and untruly, is believed on the Continent to represent the opinions of the English people. Who is there on that paper—let him stand forward if there be such a man—who has a bitter 198 personal animosity against the Emperor of the French? Day after day, every form into which the English language can be pressed is made use of for the purpose of stirring up the bitterest animosity between two of the greatest nations on the face of the earth. Have these men published letters from Italy in vain? Have they told us of acres of bloody and mangled human bodies over which guns have been dragged and cavalry have galloped—have they told us of such scenes until a shudder has passed, I may almost say, through universal human nature—and yet have they not learnt for one single moment to restrain that animosity which, if it continues many months longer will place it beyond the power of this or any Government to prevent our being embroiled in a war with France? And it is not only the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark and such as he, it is not only the editors of newspapers, who suffer from and create these panics; but go into another and what is generally supposed to be a higher place, and what do you find there? Why, you hear some aged Peer turning back as it were to the convictions and the facts of his early youth, and delivering speeches which might have been somewhat in character with the barbarism of sixty years ago, but which are very unfit for our time and for our opinions. We find another Peer ["Order!"]—another Gentleman, then—making a speech. I believe I am transgressing by the mention of certain things which are too sacred for allusion here; but really I do not want to go into detail and point to persons in connection with this matter. What I say is, that throughout Europe every intelligent man who reads speeches of that character, whether made in this House or in another place, can only arrive at one conclusion, thoroughly false as I believe in my conscience it would be—namely, that these persons represent a very large amount of public opinion in this country, and that we have forgotten the disasters and the ruin entailed by the great Revolutionary War of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken, and are ready to engage in another conflict of equal duration and equal cost in blood and treasure, with a result as utterly bootless to England and to Europe. Look at our position with regard to France at this moment. We have a war just over. I do not know that I use the exact words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but I agree with him that there can be no peace in Italy between those two great 199 Powers which can compare for evil with the war which that peace has terminated. When I read of peace being concluded, I felt as though I could breathe more freely since the species to which I belong was no longer engaged in the fiend-like destruction of its fellow-creatures. What do we now find in the manifesto of the Emperor of the French just received in this country. He says he discovered—I am not now using his exact words—that he was making war against the mind of Europe. That is a most important and valuable admission, and I only wish the Emperor had found this out three or six months ago. He says, further, that the war was assuming dimensions with which the interests which France had in the struggle were not commensurate. I am surprised that a man reputed to be so acute did not perceive that he would be exposed to this great danger before he entered upon the war. But the two admissions made in this remarkable and memorable address prove to me that the suspicions which have been so studiously raised in this country as to the future objects of the Emperor of the French are altogether unfounded. I do not believe it possible for either the Emperor of the French or the Emperor of Austria to have returned home with all those scenes of horror, such as we have read of, flitting before their eyes, and I hope before their consciences, and to be now prepared to enter into another struggle—least of all a struggle with a nation like ours, containing 30,000,000 of united people, the most powerful, the richest, and, all things considered, perhaps the best satisfied with their Government of any nation in Europe. Besides this, have they not learnt something from the improvements effected in weapons of warfare, and the increased destructiveness of life of which those weapons are now capable? They see now how costly war is in money, how destructive in human life. Success in war no longer depends on those circumstances that formerly decided it. Soldiers used to look down on trade, and machine-making was, with them, a despised craft. No stars or garters, no ribbons or baubles bedecked the makers and workers of machinery. But what is war becoming now? It depends, not as heretofore, on individual bravery, on the power of a man's nerves, the keenness of his eye, the strength of his body, or the power of his soul, if one may so speak; but it is a mere mechanical mode of slaughtering your fellow men. This sort of thing can- 200 not last. The whole thing will break down by its own weight. Its costliness, its destructiveness, its savagery will break it down; and it remains but for some Government—I pray that it may be ours !—to set the great example to Europe of proposing a mutual reduction of armaments. Our policy in past times—and the right hon. Gentleman did not go so far into this question as I could have wished—has been one of perpetual meddling, with perpetually no result except evil. We have maintained great armaments, not, I sincerely believe, because we wanted to conquer or to annex any territory in Europe, but in order that whenever anything happens in Europe we may negotiate, intervene, advise, do something or other becoming what is called the dignity of this great country. Do not you suppose this is precisely the language of the French Emperor at this moment? The Emperor of the French builds great fleets because you build great fleets; and then you build greater fleets because he builds great fleets. What does France want with great fleets? Precisely that which you have always wanted with yours. If there be any disturbance between any countries in Europe do you not think it would be beneath the dignity of France not to take a part in it, and, taking a part in it, not to take a part with that influence and success which becomes a great country like France? And, therefore, without wishing any more than England wishes to make conquests or to annex territory, France wishes to have great influence in Europe because it suits its dignity, and will add to the glory and historical renown of its Emperor. Well, now, that is exactly the position in which we are, and we have no more right to blame the Emperor of the French than he has a right to blame us. We are both very silly, and I hope, from what I have heard to-night, that at last we on this side the water are beginning to find that out. Now I shall not go into the question whether we are really going to be invaded. I am told that so much has been said about it that the French really believe we are making this outcry to cover our designs of invading them. I saw a letter in one of the newspapers this morning in which it is stated that from Dunkirk to some other town there are mounds and fortifications and guns all ready, though concealed from the eye by grassy banks, to repress and to frustrate our designs. Recollect that the French Government went into the Russian war because they were anxious to 201 associate themselves with the foreign policy of England. Subsequently they went into another war with us with a more distant nation—they went into the war with China. They took part with the noble Viscount now at the head of the Government in the interference which he promoted in Italy with regard to Naples some two or three years ago. It appears to me, that looking at it from every point of view, reading the newspapers, and hearing what everybody has to say, if there be one thing which is more distinctly marked in the policy of the Emperor of the French since his accession to the throne of France than another, it is his perpetual anxiety, by every means which is consistent with his own safety, and with the interests as he believes of France, to ally himself with England and with the foreign policy of England. Well, if that be so, why should we perpetually create these suspicions, and generate in the minds of the people, nine-tenths of whom have small opportunity of ascertaining the facts, alarms which give colour and justification to this enormous increase of our armaments, of which we have heard such loud complaints from both sides of that table to-night? I shall not go into the question of this Conference. At the first view my opinion would go very much with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli). I doubt very much—indeed, I ought to say, I do not doubt, but I feel sure—that if England is to go into the Conference merely to put its name to documents which are of no advantage to Italy, which do not engage the sympathies of this nation, England had much better have nothing to do with it. But there is another course which I should like to recommend to the noble lord who now holds the seals of the Foreign Office. I cannot believe that Frenchmen in matters of this nature are so very different from ourselves as some people wish to teach us. I do believe that the 36,000,000Frenchmen engaged in all the honest occupations of their country, as our people are engaged here, are as anxious for perpetual peace with England as the most intelligent and Christian Englishman can be for a perpetual peace with France. I believe, too, because I am convinced that it is his wisest course and his truest interest, that the Emperor of the French is also anxious to remain at peace with this country, and the people in France are utterly amazed and lost in bewilderment when they see the course taken by the press, and by certain Statesmen in this 202 country. Well, with that belief what would I do if I were in that responsible position?—for which, however, I know that I am thought to be altogether unfit—but if I were sitting on that bench and were in the position of the noble Lord, I would try to emancipate myself from those old, ragged, worthless, and bloody traditions which are found in every piegonhole and almost on every document in the Foreign Office. I would emancipate myself from all that, and I would approach the French nation and the French Government in what I would call a sensible, a moral, and a Christian spirit. I do not say that I would send a special envoy to Paris to sue for peace. I would not commission Lord Cowley to make a great demonstration of what he was about to do; but I would make this offer to the French Government, and I would make it with a frankness that could not be misunderstood; if it were accepted on the other side it would be received with enthusiasm in England, and would be marked as the commencement of a new era in Europe. I would say to the French Government, "We are but twenty miles apart, the trade between us is nothing like what it ought to be, considering the population in the two countries, their vast increase of productive power and their great wealth. We have certain things on this side, which now bar the intercourse between the two nations. We have some remaining duties which are of no consequence either to the revenue or to protection, which everybody has given up here, but they still interrupt the trade between you and us. We will reconsider these and remove them. We have also an extraordinarily heavy duty upon one of the greatest products of the soil of France—upon the light wines of your country." The Chancellor of the Exchequer, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite, may start at once, and say that involves £1,500,000 or £1,200,000. Why, the right hon. Gentleman talked of the national debt being a flea-bite. What is £1,200,000—what is £1,500,000, if it be so much as that—what is £2,000,000 for the abolition of the wine duties or their reduction to a very low scale if by such an offer as this we should enable him to do that which he is most anxious to do. The only persons whom the French Emperor cannot cope with are the monopolists of his own country. If he could offer to his nation 30,000,000 of the English people has customers, would not that 203 give him an irresistible power to make changes in the French tariff which would be as advantageous to us as they would be to his own country. I do believe that if that were honestly done, done without any diplomatic finesse, and without obstacles being attached to it that would make its acceptance impossible, it would bring about a state of things which history would pronounce to be glorious. The tone taken tonight by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire and by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will find a response to the country. I am not accustomed to compliment the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I have always denounced the policy which I thought wrong, but which, I have no doubt, the noble Lord thought was best calculated to promote the interests of the country. I believe he was mistaken, and that he was importing into this century the politics of the last; but I do not think it would be possible to select a Minister who could better carry out a policy which would be most just to France, and most beneficial to ourselves, than the noble Lord. Blood shines more, and attracts the vision of man, more than beneficent measures. But the glory of such measures is far more lasting, and that glory the noble Lord can achieve. I live among the people. I know their toils and their sorrows, and I see their pauperism—for little better than pauperism is the lot of vast numbers of our countrymen from their cradles to their graves. It is for them I speak; for them I give my time in this assembly; and it is in heartfelt sorrow for their sufferings I pray that some statesman may take the steps which I have indicated. Those who establish such a state of things between France and England will do much to promote the future prosperity of those two great nations, and will show that eighteen hundred years of Christian professions are at length to be compensated for by something like Christian practice.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I wish only to add a few words to what has been said, and principally to observe how fully I concur with the hon. Member for Birmingham in the sentiments which he has expressed. I confess that I have seen with pain the attempt that has been made to induce a feeling in this country against the Sovereign, and, I must say, against the people of France—attempts which can only produce on their part a feeling of animosity 204 against the people of this country. I do not wish to enter into the question as to the general origin of wars; but looking back to the wars which have taken place between great nations that they have been less the consequence of ambition—less owing to disputed claims to territory—than of some particular feeling of insult or animosity, sedulously encouraged, and aggravated into that feeling of pride which belongs to a great nation, until trifling occurrences have produced war, which under other circumstances would have been passed over or explained away by diplomatic correspondence. It is therefore that I feel with my hon. Friend that there is something dangerous, not in the present disposition of the Emperor of the French or in the present disposition of the French people towards this country, but in the constant endeavours made to excite in the people of this country jealousy or alarm as to some deep plot laid against our peace and security. That fear is readily imbibed. The people are urged to prepare to defend themselves when there is no cause, and I must say that bad as are wars of ambition, wars of panic are equally bad. I believe, as my hon. Friend says, that whatever reproaches may be cast upon the Emperor of the French as to various questions of his domestic and foreign policy, yet that as regards this country—and I have often repeated it—he has been a faithful ally to us; and I believe also that upon any great question which may arise his wish is to obtain the concurrence and the approbation of the people of this country. I believe he highly estimates the good sense and intelligence of this country. He duly estimates our power, and sets a great value upon the opinions which we entertain. What must be the effect, then, of this continual invective and declamation to the people of this country to "arm—arm,"—as if an invasion were certainly to be expected? Such being my feeling towards the Emperor of the French, it is another question as to what we shall do with respect to armaments and those other matters to which my hon. Friend has referred. Eleven years ago, in the reign of Louis Philippe—a most peaceful Sovereign—I remember saying that we must not omit to take notice that a great change had taken place in the means of war; that that upon which we had hitherto relied—namely, the uncertainty of the winds and waves, and the difficulty of crossing the Channel, were no longer any protection to us, and that 205 consequently our defensive preparations must be changed in character and augmented in proportion. In saying that, I meant no offence to Louis Philippe, the then ruler of France. In saying so now, I mean no offence to the present ruler. I merely say that as a nation, however desirous we may be for peace, however anxious we may be to avoid war, yet, that as one of the great nations of the world, whose interference is constantly invoked, and who must be consulted, we must be prepared to play our part. I do not say whether it is wise or not to enter into every Congress or Conference. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that for this country to enter into a Conference merely to set her seal to terms which this country does not approve, would be most unbecoming and most fatal to our character. On the other hand, if there is in Europe, and especially in one kingdom of Europe, a feeling of dissatisfaction and alarm; if this feeling continues every day to increase; if it is likely, if still further excited, to lead to a war, or to that which is the most fatal of all wars, civil war; and if the influence of England can allay those feelings, and make the peace concluded more solid and more satisfactory,—then I say it would not be unbecoming in England to confer with the other Powers of Europe with that object in view, and with the honest intention of endeavouring to effect it. My hon. Friend says that we should make some proposition to France as regards the duty upon French wines. As far as the Emperor of France is concerned, he has always been anxious to diminish these protective duties, which are, I believe, far more injurious to the people and industry of France than to any other nation. But I remember a Statesman not attached to the French Emperor—a Statesman belonging to another order of things—saying,"Whatever I may think in other respects, no reproach can be cast upon the present Emperor of the French upon the subject of Free Trade. Everything that it is possible of the ruler of a country to do he has done; if he endeavoured to go further he would merely be defeating his own objects, which are as liberal as can be." For this reason I should be very loath to enter into any sort of correspondence or discussion with the French Government which should induce that party, not very numerous in this country, but still very powerful and numerous in France—I mean the Protectionists—to say, "Our Government has been bargaining away our 206 industry and the fruits of our toil in order to obtain some advantage for England," I remember this question being brought forward thirteen years ago by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ricardo). It was at that time opposed by Sir Robert Peel, who was then an advocate for reciprocity; but a short time afterwards he became a convert to the opinion that the true course was to admit foreign goods without any sort of stipulation for reciprocity; that it was most advantageous to us to leave it to other countries to follow our example when they were convinced that it was a measure with no selfish benefit to us, but was as good for them as for ourselves. The benefit conferred by a free trade between two nations is mutual: so far from being a bargain in which one party gains and the other loses, both parties gain. I should therefore be sorry that this question should be made the subject of a diplomatic correspondence. I believe it will be promoted by the Emperor of the French as far as the progress of public opinion in France will permit him. I do not think that I have anything further to add, but to say that I have heard with great pleasure the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. I trust that neither what has passed in another place, nor what passes from day to day in the shape of invective, will raise any feelings of jealousy with regard to any foreign Power, but that the Government will always be able to point to the representatives of the English people in this House as in favour of the maintenance of the peace throughout the world. As regards other nations I see no disposition to infringe upon our rights, and I trust we shall be able to remain at peace with all the world.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, most of the questions referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be more fitly considered when the House has gone into Committee; but I cannot be silent after hearing from the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) a statement that has been made more than once, but which is quite erroneous. The right hon. Gentleman repeated to-night what was said by the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the other night, and as to which I did not think worth while to trouble the House. It was this—that I said, when this Government was formed, they had nothing better to do than to follow the footsteps of the late Government 207 with regard to foreign policy. I said no such thing. What I said was, that on the question of neutrality in the war—on the question whether England should take part in the hostilities then going on—I entirely approved the course which the late Government had taken, and in that respect was determined to pursue the course which the late Government had commenced, and which was in accordance with the opinions and interests of the country. But I am so far from pronouncing unqualified approval of the foreign policy of the late Government, as that statement would imply, that I believe I gave offence to the late Government by condemning their foreign policy as far as regarded the manner in which they had endeavoured to prevent the war from breaking out. That which I stated repeatedly, and which I repeat now as my own individual conviction is, that had the late Government employed the means which were in their power, and which I contend they ought to have employed, they might have prevented the rupture between France and Austria. That was my opinion; that is my opinion still. I have no doubt that they had the best intentions, and the papers they have produced show that to the extent of their ability they carried out their intentions. But I say that they failed, and they failed from not understanding and seeing in what direction their exertions ought to have been applied. I speak thus from what is known to all the world—from the language used by the Government in both Houses of Parliament as to the question at issue. It was encouraging to Austria; it was defiance to France. The whole meaning of the language of the late Government was this:—war is impending, and if it break out England may be drawn into the contest; and it is plain from their language that the side on which they imagined England would be drawn into the contest was the side of Austria. Their notion was that to prevent war they ought to threaten France. The result shows, that if they had taken the other line, and by firm and friendly advice dissuaded Austria from the course which she took, the war might have been prevented. I think it necessary to say this, because here and in other places it is stated with a flourish of drums and trumpets that I have stated that we have nothing to do but to follow the path of the late Government as regards their foreign policy, and I think it due to myself to set myself right 208 on that point. The right hon. Gentleman deprecates in the strongest manner this country engaging in a Congress or Conference on the present state of affairs in Italy. It is, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out, a most extraordinary doctrine on the part of a Government which not longer than the moment immediately preceding the commencement of the war used every effort to persuade the Powers of Europe to go into a Congress, of which this country must have been a member. And what, I should like to know, would have been the object of that Congress? The right hon. Gentleman says, "Do not go into a Congress or a Conference, because you may be involved in engagements and undertake responsibilities which may be an embarrassment to this country." For what purpose, I ask, would the Congress have assembled which the late Government so earnestly recommended, unless it was to enter into certain engagements to which this country would have been a party? If the object was not to obtain some engagement that neither France nor Austria should interfere by force of arms in the internal affairs of Italy—if that, as everybody understood, was not the main purpose, I should like to know for what purpose the late Government urged the assembling of a Congress, and what was the object the Congress was to obtain with a view to the preservation of peace? My right hon. Friend has reminded the right hon. Gentleman that wars have sometimes—and in recent periods too—realized the objects for which they were undertaken. He has pointed out that, especially with regard to the Russian war, more was accomplished by the treaty of peace than was contemplated as possible at the moment when hostilities commenced. But with regard to that war I must set the hon. Member for Birmingham right. When he represents that England urged France into that war he should recollect how the war commenced. It arose out of disputes between France and Russia with regard to the Holy Places in the Levant, and therefore it was a dispute between France and Russia which brought us into that war.
§ MR. BRIGHT
I did not say that England urged France into that war. I said that at the last France would have been glad to accept the arrangement proposed by Russia, and that France went into the war because she did not wish to be disassociated from the foreign policy of Eng- 209 land. I did not say that England urged France into that war.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
It would be idle to go into a discussion of exact words. But as the question has been raised as to the interposition of this country in the affairs of other States, and the impression has very often prevailed in the public mind that the interposition of this country has been either causeless or mischievous, I wish to remind the House of several occasions upon which that interposition has been exerted, and I would point out to the House that the results have been favourable to the interests and happiness of the country with regard to which we interfered. England interposed with regard to the affairs of Greece; and what has been the result? Why the result has been that Greece, established as an independent country, has now the benefit of a constitution; and although there are circumstances connected with the Government of Greece which we do not entirely approve, yet, comparing the state of Greece now with what it was at the period when our interposition took place, it is impossible to deny that the people of Greece are happier and more prosperous than they were in their former condition. We interposed in the affairs of Belgium; and what has been the result? Why the result is, that the Belgian people are as well governed, as prosperous, as happy, as loyal, and as attached to their Government as any nation on earth. We interposed in the affairs of Portugal; and what has been the result? Why the result has been that instead of Portugal having a despotic Government, full of abuses, Portugal has now a Parliamentary constitution somewhat resembling our own, and is making great progress in everything connected with the internal happiness and welfare of the people. We interposed in the affairs of Spain; and what has been the result? The result of that is, that instead of Spain being, as it was in the preceding period, alternately under an arbitrary and despotic Government and a chaos of revolution, she now enjoys a Parliamentary constitution, and Spain is also happy and contented, and making rapid advances in internal prosperity. We interfered also with regard to the slave trade; and I am happy to say that the result of our interference has been that millions of Africans—I say deliberately, millions of Africans—owe to our interference exemption from the greatest possible of calamities. I speak of the numbers who of late 210 years have escaped, and of the numbers who in time to come will escape being sent over to Brazil and all the horrors of slavery. I say then it is not enough simply to condemn the course of the English Government because they exert the influence of England upon matters relating to foreign countries. You must see what the result may be, and if by interference a beneficial result has been obtained, instead of condemning the Government, it appears to me you ought to acknowledge that the Government make a proper exercise of the influence which belongs to us as a great country. The right hon. Gentleman made a very eloquent discourse on the calamities of war. Everybody agrees about that, but it should be remembered that, altering a word of the poet, "Peace has its miseries as well as war;" and that whatever calamities have fallen on a part of Italy in consequence of the war which has just terminated, the miseries which the Italians have suffered through peace for a great number of years are matters of no light consideration, and ought not to be viewed as if belonging to a condition which it was a crime to disturb. I hope that the peace which is now made will not carry with it a repetition or continuance of those evils. But depend upon it that those who do not attach sufficient importance to the miseries which the Italian nation has sustained by misgovernment for a great number of years past show that they are not fully acquainted with the matter upon which they are prepared to express an opinion. My noble Friend stated that whether we should be parties to a Conference or not was a matter still under consideration and would depend upon circumstances. But undoubtedly no Government of this country would recommend that England should be a party to a Congress simply to register the edicts—simply to register the arrangements made by other parties, without the previous consent and concurrence of England in them. We may enter into a Conference for the purpose of improving arrangements not finally concluded and still open for consideration; but it is no part of England's duty to make herself simply the recording agent of transactions in which she has had no part or voice. No doubt, as has been stated, the recent improvements of mechanical science connected with the operations of war may apparently have added to the bloodshed with which war is attended. But I believe that if you look back to the casualties in 211 battles in former and in less remote periods you will find that comparing the number of men engaged the loss of life is about the same, and that, for instance, at Borodino and Leipsic the loss of life and casualties on the two sides, in proportion to the numbers engaged, were quite equal to the losses and casualties in recent battles. Indeed, recent events rather lead me to believe that the improvements in the methods of destruction will tend, as was the case through the introduction of gunpowder, to diminish rather than to increase the carnage which attends great battles. I quite concur with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham in that which they have stated as to the result which is likely to be produced by that tone of hostility—for it amounts, more or less, to that—which is but too often adopted in this country towards the Emperor of the French and the nation which he governs. We have no right, I contend, and certainly it is not to our interest, to constitute ourselves the censors of the manner in which any foreign Sovereign may rule the nation of which he happens to be at the head, so long as that nation is satisfied with the mode in which its affairs are administered. Our business simply is to look upon the acts of a Sovereign who is in alliance with us with reference to the manner in which the duties of that alliance are performed; and I feel assured that nobody can fairly refuse to acknowledge, with my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that the Emperor of the French has been the faithful and true ally of England, both in times of peace and of war; and that we have every reason to regard him as a monarch who feels personally, and upon system, desirous to cement and perpetuate the alliance which subsists between his country and our own. That such a feeling exists is, however, I admit, no good reason why we should not place ourselves in a state of defence. A great nation like England, with so much wealth to protect, and so many interests in every part of the world to secure, has no right to rely for her safety on the mere forbearance of other powerful States. It is not even fair towards them that we should be content to occupy a position of undefended weakness, when we take into account all those questions which must from time to time arise between different countries in which conflicting interests are at work, which may he complicated by passion and prejudice, and in dealing with which 212 we can scarcely expect that foreign nations should, out of forbearance and friendship towards us, abstain from giving effect to that superior power which our negligence in providing adequate means of defence may confer upon them so far as we are concerned. There is nothing, therefore, I maintain, at all inconsistent with a desire upon our part that the alliance between England and France should endure in our making every provision which may be deemed requisite for the purpose of placing this country in such a position as that she need be under no apprehension of being attacked by any neighbouring or more powerful State. To take that course is, I feel assured, a policy not more becoming the dignity of the nation itself, than it is in accordance with a sincere wish to maintain friendly relations with other Powers. I would also remind those whose eyes are directed chiefly to France in connection with this subject, that there is also another great country (Russia) whose daily endeavour is to restore and increase her fleet in the Baltic. We must recollect that the course of events is such that it is not one Power only with which we might be brought into collision, but that there are possible complications of affairs which might lead to a conflict between England and more than one foreign nation. While, however, I make these remarks, I quite concur with those who think that nothing can be so adverse to the interests of the country—I may add, nothing more inconsistent with the dictates of common sense—than that we should, in the same breath, proclaim to the world that our shores are undefended, and use language calculated to irritate and provoke that Power from which hostilities are said to be expected, and which it is declared we are altogether unable to resist. I deny our inability to resist any Power whatever; but if our position were even such as some persons seem disposed to believe, that very circumstance, I maintain, tends only to aggravate the folly of those expressions which I am sorry to say I see so frequently in print, to which I hear utterance given, and which can have no other effect than to exasperate the public feeling of the two countries. It would not be in accordance with human nature that, after a long course of rivalry between England and France, there should not lurk in some portion of the population of both nations certain remembrances and resentments connected with a state of things 213 which has happily now ceased to exist. I am, however, strongly of opinion that we ought, instead of agitating those resentments, to endeavour to bury them in oblivion, and to turn the attention of the inhabitants of each country respectively to those interests which we have in common, and which are calculated to form a bond of union between us. I concur with my noble Friend near me in thinking that it is not expedient that England should enter into a treaty of commerce with any foreign State founded upon mutual arrangements of tarif. The country to which a proposal to enter into a treaty of that description is made very naturally supposes that some advantage is sought to be gained by those from whom the offer emanates. The wise course to pursue in such matters is to make for your own advantage such a diminution in your Customs' duties as you may deem calculated to promote your own interests. When foreign States perceive that you act simply from a conviction of the good which you expect to arise to yourselves from such a proceeding, and find that your policy has tended to the increase of your prosperity, and has added to your revenue and your commerce, they will, in all probability, be more likely to imitate your example than if you were to ask them to surrender an advantage which they imagine they possess. In discussing this subject with one of the Ministers of Trade of a former French Government I told him that if I were to consult simply the interests of England I should advise him to keep up the high duty on iron, inasmuch as so long as the price of iron in France was high the agriculture of the country would suffer and its machinery be impaired, while we should gain by the adoption of a policy of high prohibitive duties. I said also that so long as they imposed a high duty on the importation of our coal the article would be dearer, and that, so far from the interests of England being deeply involved in the maintenance of those large protective duties, we ought perhaps rather to urge upon France the propriety of keeping her prohibitory arrangements. But we know, also, that nothing which any one nation can do in the way of diminishing duties can be of advantage to her without also being of benefit to those countries with whom she trades. There cannot, therefore, on the ground of general principle, be any difference of opinion between Her Majesty's Government and the hon. Member for Birmingham. The only question between us 214 is as to the mode in which the object which we seek should be obtained.
§ MR. BRIGHT
, in explanation, said, he had made no proposal for entering into a treaty of commerce; but, in referring to the reduction of the wine duties, he stated that one of the benefits arising from it would be the promotion of increased intercourse between England and France, and that this could not fail of having a great effect on the relations of the two countries. With respect to treaties of commerce his views and those of the noble Lord were identical.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, it had not been his intention to offer to the House any observations on the present occasion, nor should he have done so but that some remarks had in the course of their speeches fallen from the two noble Lords opposite to which he was anxious to allude. The present discussion had turned in a great measure on the subject of foreign affairs, and he supposed it was the nature of the subject that had induced the two noble Lords to make such a display of their diplomatic skill. Indeed, three distinguished members of the Government had risen to address the House, partly, as it would appear, to attack the policy of the late Government, and partly to explain the meaning of a phrase which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton a few days ago, when he had stated that his foreign policy was the same as that which had been pursued by his predecessors in office. Now, it could not, he thought, fail to strike hon. Members that a very convenient opportunity would have been presented to the noble Lords to whom he alluded to make their comments on the policy of the late Government, if the Motion of which the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) had given notice had been allowed to come on. When, however, it was proposed to proceed with that Motion, the noble Lord the Member for London declared it to be his conviction that it would be inconvenient to the public service that such a discussion should take place. The Motion was one, he should remind the House, which had distinct reference to the conduct of the late Government, and it was framed by the noble Lord who was its author because he thought it an act of justice and he deemed it to be his duty as an independent Member of Parliament to ask the House of Commons to pronounce a decision as to the policy which the Earl of Malmesbury had pursued. A debate up- 215 on such a point would probably not have been very convenient to the Government. An appeal was accordingly made by the noble Lord the Member for London to the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire not to bring forward his Resolution; and having thus got rid of a discussion in which the policy of the late Government might have been fairly placed before the House and the country, and, as he believed, fully vindicated, the noble Lords opposite and their colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seized a bye-time, a mere incidental opportunity, like this, when the subject could not possibly be adequately discussed—to impugn the policy of the late Government, and to contend that that of the Administration to which they themselves belong differed from it in many material respects. Be that, however, as it might, the noble Lord who had just spoken was quite in error in saying that all that he had stated on a former occasion in reference to the subject was, that he should adopt the same policy as was pursued by the late Government with regard to the maintenance of a strict neutrality. If the debate on the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire had been permitted to proceed it would have been found that the accord between the policy of the noble Lord and that of the late Government was much more complete than he had that evening presumed to contend was really the case. The noble Lord, in discussing the conduct of the late Government, had taken upon himself to inform the House that the late Government ought not only to have adopted the principle of neutrality, but he said they ought to have held such and such language towards Austria and France, thus pointing out distinctly the policy which he himself would have pursued; but if the question could be fairly gone into, it would be found that the language which the noble Lord indicated as that which it was desirable should have been held towards France and Austria was not only in spirit, but almost in the very letter, that which the late Government had used in addressing the Governments of Austria and France. There was one part of the speech of both noble Lords which he owned had filled him with anxiety. He did not think that any one could have listened to this debate without feeling satisfied that the two noble Lords had made up their minds to go into a Congress. They might say that this was still under consideration, and 216 that they wanted further information. But hon. Members must feel convinced that if they could get into a Congress they would. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, however, made an observation which had been taken up by both noble Lords, that the Members of the late Government could not complain of the present Government being desirous to go into a Congress, when the late Government themselves proposed to go into a Congress in which the various Powers of Europe were to take part. It was true that the late Government had proposed to go into Congress, but that was before a war and in order to prevent war. The circumstances were totally different, and he could not conceive the least analogy between the two cases. With reference to the Congress now in question, this was clear, that the Government must either go into Congress to alter the existing terms proposed for peace, or to accept them. If they were to go into Congress to alter the terms of peace, he wanted to know in whose interests were they thus to enter into Congress? He could not forget that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had once declared that he should not be content until the Austrians were driven out of Italy. Was that the spirit in which Her Majesty's Government were going into the Congress? Was the policy of neutrality thus to be lost which the late Government had originated before public opinion had declared itself, which they afterwards pursued, and which met with the approbation of the country? It was impossible to enter into Congress with that spirit and not to forfeit the position of neutrality which the country had declared should be the policy of England. The noble Lord had enumerated some occasions in which this country had interfered, and where our interference had been productive of good. The proper policy for this country to pursue was a single-hearted English policy, and it was not because good might have flowed to the subjects of a foreign Power from our interference that it was just to adopt a policy of interference. The noble Lord had enumerated some instances in which our interference had been productive of good results; but he had omitted others which he (Mr. FitzGerald) would venture to call to mind in which our interference had been productive of anything but good results. He did not know what good had followed, for example, from the noble Lord's interference in the affairs of Naples. On the contrary, when the 217 affair of the Cagliari occupied public attention, the withdrawal of our Ambassador from Naples was found to be a great injury to the public service. There was another instance in which the noble Lord had interfered with the whole force of this country to gain some petty compensation for a man who pretended to be a British subject, but that interference was exercised in a manner which was no ways calculated to raise us among the nations. But the most remarkable instance of interference was that originated by the Government of which the noble Lord was a Member, which sent Lord Minto from one end of Italy to the other stirring up revolution, making promises that were never fulfilled, and leading the population of Italy to make sacrifices and incur dangers in anticipation of results which they never obtained. The noble Lord also interfered in Italy in 1848, when he refused terms of accommodation which were eleven years afterwards insufficiently obtained by the States of the north of Italy, after all those years of additional suffering, and after a sanguinary war. He trusted that some further opportunity would be allowed to the House for discussing this policy of a Congress. The present Session of Parliament was rapidly drawing to a close, and he trusted that there would be no objection to the production of the papers up to the time of signing the armistice. It would also be the duty of the Government before they went into Congress to take the earliest opportunity of explaining to the House their intentions, and to give such information as would enable Parliament to decide whether the opinions they had formed were really right and just. He could conceive nothing more embarrassing or more likely to lead, if not to hostilities, at least to estrangement with other Powers than this Congress. The late Government proposed a Congress months ago to prevent war. That war had occurred; England had had nothing to do with either the war or the peace, and the worst course she could take would be to accept the responsibility of peace, with which she had hitherto had nothing to do. If they were to go into Congress merely to make arrangements on the existing bases of peace, there would be some danger; but if these bases were to be materially altered, the Government were throwing aside their character of neutrality, and were embarking upon a still more dangerous course, which would result in a plentiful crop of embarrassment, disunion, dis- 218 sension, and estrangement from other Powers. If these results should follow, the country, when Parliament met again, would hold the noble Lords fully responsible for all the evils that might take place.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
thought that the only way in which the war might have been prevented would have been if Lord Malmesbury had from the first protested against Austrian misgovernment in Italy. This country could not pursue a policy of non-interference, and he believed that the House would never desire to see such a policy adopted.
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down contended that the policy of England was to obtain good government for other countries. He was sorry to say that there was a good deal of bad government everywhere; and if that policy of interference were indeed to be the policy of the Government, and if the hon. Gentleman were the faithful expositer of the noble Lord, he was afraid we were about to embark upon troubled waters. There was no principle of the law of nations which would justify our interference in the government of other countries, whether those governments were bad or good. He had never heard a sensible man speak of the war between France and Austria who did not say that from New Year's-day, when the Emperor addressed the Austrian Ambassador, it was the intention of France to interfere with the affairs of Italy. That speech bore a singular analogy to the speech of the First Emperor to Lord Whitworth, and from that time forth some interference in the affairs of Italy was expected in France. It would be necessary for the House to have before it the documents to show what were the terms of peace lately agreed upon. And then would arise the question, whether the terms of peace now obtained, after ten years of suffering, were not inferior in utility to Italy, to the terms of peace proposed to Lord Palmerston ten years ago, and refused by the noble Lord because Venice was not made a free State, and because an Austrian Archduke was to govern the smaller States?
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he entirely concurred in the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the extra sum he now required on property. There must always be two modes of raising the revenue, direct and indirect, and the latter affected the bulk of the people more than the former. The right hon. Gentleman the 219 Member for Bucks had characterized the increased disbursements in various departments as a necessary consequence of the advancement of civilization in the country. If that opinion were accepted and acted upon there would be no limit to the demands that would be made upon the public purse. It had been represented that the chief increase in our expenditure had been caused by the enormous expansion of our naval and military departments. But that was not the fact, for he found from a statement which he held in his hand that there had been an increase in every department since 1835, and not so great a percentage increase in the military and naval as in other departments. In that year the outlay for the army was £7,000,000, and now it was £11,000,000, an increase of 55 per cent. The expenditure for the navy had advanced from £4,200,000 in 1835 to £12,680,000 in the present year, or an increase of 198 per cent. Grants and miscellaneous services, which in 1835 were £182,497, were now £808,844, or an increase of 342 per cent. In salaries and public departments there had been an increase of 139 per cent in the same period, the respective amounts being £591,000 and £1,413,495. For law and justice the outlay in 1835 was £494,000, and it had now swollen to £2,544,650, being an increase of 414 per cent. For education, science, and art, which no doubt did indicate the progress of civilization, the sum voted had increased from £135,190 in 1835 to £1,328,453, being an increase of 883 per cent. In the colonial and consular departments the increase had been only 49 per cent, and this was owing to the Colonies being permitted self-government. For special and temporary objects the outlay had increased from £269,000 to £677,000 last year, being an increase of 181 per cent. If our expenditure were to go on increasing for the next twenty-five years in the same ratio of increase as for the last twent-five years, a period must arrive when a financial disaster must ensue. At present the whole annual cost of our national debt was £28,000,000, while the produce of our Customs' duties was only £24,000,000; and it must be remembered that those Customs' duties increased greatly the cost of articles consumed by the poor. We had hitherto maintained our superiority by the aid of machinery, but now foreigners were generally adopting machinery; besides which labour was cheaper abroad than 220 with us, so that competition must become stronger from year to year. It was therefore primarily incumbent upon us to diminish as much as possible our expenditure, for if matters progressed much longer as they had been going on since 1835, he believed there would be witnessed in this country a financial disaster that would alter our position in Europe.
§ MR. W. H. LEATHAM
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he contemplated this Session any extension of the system of penny stamps on bankers' cheques, so as to do away with the exemption at present enjoyed by persons who presented their own cheques for payment.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, he did not intend to oppose the grant of money which the Chancellor of the Exchequer required, be-cause he felt the force of the right hon. Gentleman's appeal to the patriotism of the House; still he thought that a gentleman of his ingenuity and experience could have devised some measure for raising the sum required which would not have pressed so heavily as the extra income tax would do on a certain class of persons in the country. He spoke of those who had to depend on incomes derived from professional sources and others with incomes varying from £150 to £500 per annum. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was in effect this: that 6½d. in the pound should be paid for the first six months of this year and 2½d. in the pound on the other six months. Now, he (Mr. Horsfall) should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had been satisfied with levying an additional 2d. instead of 4d. It was not for him to name what additional taxes might have been imposed, but he could not help thinking that some might have been laid on which would not have pressed so heavily as the extra income tax. Again, he believed that there might have been made certain reductions in the Estimates, although he felt inclined to make every allowance for the difficulties in which the right hon. Gentleman had found himself surrounded when called so suddenly to office. He hoped that before they met in another Session the right hon. Gentleman would direct his attention to the charges for the Miscellaneous and Civil Services, because he (Mr. Horsfall) believed that there might be a great saving effected if the Customs and Excise departments were united. If that were so, the saving in the expenditure of the country would be immense, and would be a source 221 of satisfaction to the mercantile interests of the country. He most cordially concurred in voting the money for the service of the country which had been asked for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Had the amount been double that which was now asked for, the House and the country would support him in granting it for the national defences.
§ Motion agreed to.