HL Deb 05 August 1839 vol 49 cc1207-39

Lord Ashburton presented several petitions in favour of this bill.

Viscount Melbourne

rose to move the second reading of the Postage Duties Bill. Its provisions, he observed, were extremely clear and simple. They were for the purpose of fully investing the Treasury with powers which for the most part it already possessed, but none of which it would appear to have been given it for the purpose of so great an alteration as that now proposed. These powers were to increase and diminish the rates of postage, the power to reconstruct and new regulate the whole of the present system, and to take into consideration the subject of Parliamentary and official franking, and generally all the powers necessary to carry into effect that important measure of which their Lordships had heard so much. The general object of the measure was to establish an uniform penny postage. It was not decided at present whether this payment should be made in the first instance or not; but the principal feature was, that the rate should be an uniform rate of one penny for each letter tinder a certain weight. It was not necessary for him to point out how great would be the advantages, commercial and social, which would result from this change. These advantages were admitted by all who had expressed an opinion on the subject, and must, indeed, be at once obvious. If he were called upon to quote any opinion in favour of the change, he could not name a higher authority than the noble Lord opposite (Lord Ashburton), who had in his evidence upon the subject given his most unqualified approbation of the proposed alteration. That noble Lord had, indeed, pressed his opinion, that the present postage duties were one of the worst of our taxes. He did not go quite to this extent: he did not consider the postage duties either the worst, or among the most injurious of our taxes; but at the same time he quite agreed with the noble Lord in his general view of the subject. He perfectly agreed, that although all these advantages might not result—that the calculations that had been made might be exaggerated, and that greater effect might be anticipated than would really result, at the same time it was impossible not to be convinced that considerable advantage would follow—that great commercial advantages would be derived, and also much benefit would unquestionably result to the poorer classes of the community from the establishment of a cheap system of communication. There was another matter which was made manifest in the evidence as the result of a high charge for postage, the extraordinary contraband conveyance of letters. It had become necessary to make reductions in the rates of postage to the extent contemplated by this bill, in order to protect both the revenue and the morals of the people. For it must be recollected if only a small reduction were made, it would not affect the object in view; for while the modes of evasion had been organised and put into play, so that they might be resorted to with ease, it had become almost a habit, and persons for the sake of a very small profit would be induced to follow the contraband trade of conveying letters; and above all, when it was the most easy matter in the world to pursue it. He should therefore say that, so far as this plan was for the general benefit, and as also for the purpose of collecting the revenue, the reduction should be made to such an extent as to ensure the object of stopping the contraband trade. If this were done, he thought that there would be no question as to the advantages of the system. Then, as to the effects that it was likely to have—all nations, ever since the establishment of the postage of letters, had made it a source of revenue; and in this country a revenue had been collected in this way, as in all other countries, and generally speaking, when the finance minister wanted to get such a sum as 100,000l. a-year more for the revenue, he would ask the House whether it had not been very much the custom to have resource to placing an additional penny on the postage of letters. He had often heard a right hon. Friend of his say, that letters would bear a little more postage, and unquestionably in this country they had been a prominent source of revenue. A paper had been laid on the table, on the motion of a noble Friend of his, giving a statement of the present state of the revenue, and if noble Lords considered either the gross or nett amount derived from postage, it would undoubtedly appear to be a very large proportion of revenue. It had been supposed by some persons, that if they reduced the charge of postage to the rate proposed, that such would be the increase in the number of letters, that the present amount of revenue would be almost made up, and very little loss of revenue would be sustained. On the other hand it was said, that when you adopted this plan you not only dealt with the net revenue but with the gross revenue, amounting to 2,400,000l., and that it was probable that if you adopted the proposed plan, you would have such a deficiency in your revenue, that you would have to lay on a fresh tax to that amount to enable the business of the state to be carried on, These were the statements that were made on opposite sides by the supporters or opponents of the measure, and he must say that both would be found to be equally exaggerated. In the most sanguine statements of Mr. Hill that Gentleman had never calculated, that the number of letters conveyed by the post would be more than quintupled, and that therefore there would be a loss to the revenue of something less than 300,000l. He felt, that he should be very sanguine, if he made a prediction, or pledged himself to the subject one way or the other, but as far as he was able to form an opinion from the calculations of those who were thought the best able to make a correct computation on the subject, he must say, that he did not think that there was sufficient means of forming anything like a near estimate on the sub- ject. That the reduction would lead to an increase of the number of letters there could be little doubt; but that there would be such an increase as would make up for the loss by the reduction, he would not take upon himself to state. It was on these grounds that Ministers called upon Parliament, on introducing this bill, to give a distinct and decided pledge, that if any deficiency of revenue should arise in consequence of the adoption of this plan, Parliament would make it good. In consequence of the papers moved for, their Lordships were in possession of the state of the revenue and expenditure of the country, including the revenue of the Post-office, and they were also in possession of a paper moved for by his noble Friend, giving an estimate by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of what he calculated would be the revenue of the future year. He believed, that previously such an estimate had only been made in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's annual statement, and that such a document had never before been laid on the table of that House of Parliament. For the last year, and, indeed, for the two last years, the income of the country had not been equal to its expenditure, and this had not arisen from any falling off in the revenue, but was owing to the great increase that had arisen in the public expenditure. This was not a satisfactory state of things; but when they were dealing with such an immense sum as the revenue of this country, amounting as it did to 48,000,000l. a year, he did not think that either a surplus of 300,000l. or 400,000l., or a deficiency in the revenue of 300,000l. or 400,000l. was much a matter of triumph on the one hand, or should be a matter of such deep regret on the other, or that such consequences were likely to flow from either one circumstance or the other as some persons seemed to imagine. The amount of the revenue was too great—the sum was too large—the transactions of this country were too immense, and the influence was too extended, that a circumstance of this kind should make much impression, or that a cause so transitory should produce a permanent effect. They should recollect the state of the country—our extended manufactures—our vast commercial relations—its monetary system—the whole manner in which the trade of the country was conducted—the form of the trade and the extent to which it was carried, and the way in which it had gone on of late years, exposed to jerks on the one hand, and to changes on the other; prosperous at one time, and exposed to depression on the other, and repeatedly exposed to strong re-actions. Some persons imputed these changes and reactions to the conduct of those to whom the administration of affairs was entrusted for the time being, and asserted that such effects were the fault of the Government; but he thought that they were inherent to a great commercial community, and to the mighty and vastly extended state of society to which we belonged. He should be glad if they could render the state of their affairs in this country more equable, but he doubted whether it were possible to devise any system that would lead to such a result. He believed that the changes and alterations of what was called states of prosperity and adversity were inherent to the state of things, and to the state of society in which we were placed. To revert to the subject he was just alluding to—here we had an income unequal to the expenditure of the country, and it was impossible to contemplate the state of society in this country—to listen to the speeches made in both Houses of Parliament, and considering the disposition of Parliament and the country, to promote undertakings of all kinds, it was impossible to entertain any very sanguine hope that the expenditure of the country would be diminished; on the contrary, there was reason to believe that it would be increased. The Government also was constantly pressed to resort to measures and adopt proceedings which would necessarily be attended with a great increase of the expenditure. The noble Duke constantly pressed on the Government with arguments to which great weight undoubtedly ought to be attached, the present inadequacy of the establishments, both civil and military. The noble Lord opposite, also, had repeatedly pressed on their attention the state of affairs in Canada, and the operations which it would be necessary to undertake there. He confessed that it was not easy to refute the noble Lord when he pointed very significantly to the adoption of measures which were necessary for the pacification of the country, and which, if adopted, must call for a considerable outlay of the public money. Again, on referring to the proceedings of the other House, he found that the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool—not speaking merely from his own authority, which was not of small weight—not speaking merely as the representative in Parliament of the important town of Liverpool, but speaking for a large body of persons of great weight and influence in the country, had thought it to be his duty to give notice for the next Session that he should then propose that some public assistance should be given to the Church of England, and that further and full means of public worship and religious instruction should be provided, and that the establishment might be enabled to fulfil its high objects. Noble Lords connected with Scotland were again pressing for some assistance for extending the means of religious instruction; in connection with the Church of Scotland, he admitted that there was great force in the claim, and it was supported by no inconsiderable arguments. And in adverting to the sources of information which tell the public what passes in both the Houses of Parliament, he found that a right hon. Baronet, a person of the greatest weight and influence in the country, said a few days ago that he trusted the day was not distant when he should see in the centre of the metropolis a palace of the arts arise, that he should see in the most prominent spot a magnificent edifice erected, and a splendid establishment erected for the reception of works of art, and for the accommodation and delight of the people of this country, and for the encouragement of every species of art; thus securing for the amusement, the intellectual refinement, and the improvement of the taste of the country in the arts. There were, however, besides these, at least an hundred other schemes pressed on the Government, many of them very sound and reasonable, and all of them very plausible. Besides these, cases were continually being brought forward of captures and seizures, and acts of injustice committed during the war, or many years since, which the House of Commons listened to with great facility, and which they are ready to redress. This, then, was a state of things not favourable to public economy. With respect to what had been pressed on the Government by the noble Duke as regarded the increase of the military and naval establisments of the country, he would not deny the sound policy of considering the subject with the view of adopting proper measures. The first thing to consider, the first object that they should have in view, was the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the empire, without which they would be exposed to every peril and danger. With respect to the consideration of these questions, having connection with the religious instruction of the community, he admitted they were matters deserving the greatest possible attention; but at the same time it was necessary to consider whether they were practicable or not in the present state of public feeling, and whether, in endeavouring to do a great moral good, evils of greater extent and magnitude might not ensue. With regard to those matters having reference to taste, the arts, and all these objects, he could not help feeling that they should be very careful about these matters; and he should probably say, if he could address the other House, that he must beg them to look at the financial state of the country, and he would entreat each man, instead of looking only to his own peculiar project, to regard the state of the country. The arguments which had been used in support of these various plans and projects had been the cause of the ruin of many individuals. The argument was often used, was it not a shame that a great nation like this did not do this or that, but allowed itself to be surpassed, in certain respects, by states of much less power, or wealth, or influence? This was nothing but the argument that was used in the case of private individuals. A man was told by some of his relations or connections, "Oh! it belongs to the station of your family to maintain such an establishment—you must keep a pack of hounds because your father and grandfather did—you must have a herd of deer because your family have always had one—you must have such an equipage because your predecessors never before went to the races unless with such an equipage, and unless with so many followers." These were the arguments which had led to the ruin of many individuals; and he could not help feeling that the untimely attention to such observations had led more to the ruin of many states, both ancient and modern, than was generally supposed. He might be asked, then, in the present state of the revenue, with a tendency to the increase of the expenditure, how he could venture to tamper with so large a sum as that derivable from the Post-office revenue? He certainly felt the force of the objection; and his answer to this was that, in the first place—stating the case as plainly as possible—the very general feeling and general concurrence of all parties in favour of the plan, and there was such a general demand from all classes of the community for a measure of this nature, that it was a very difficult matter to withstand it. Again, it was generally admitted that it was an advantageous and beneficial measure; it was admitted that it was for a beneficial object and that a strong apprehension existed in favour of its utility. This was a matter of so much strength and force, that be believed himself justified in saying that it compelled those in another place, who acted with the noble Lord opposite, to do that which he believed they were most unwilling to do, namely, to make this an open question. He said this, as he knew that there were open questions on both sides. It was not usual to talk in Parliament of the opposition of the party. He believed that it was unconstitutional in Parliamentary language to suppose that any body of persons could be leagued together in Parliament in opposition to the Government of the country. This, then, was an open question with both parties; the parties, however, that did not support the Government, did not call it an open question; but they said it was no longer a party question, and Gentlemen, therefore, might vote and give their opinions in conformity with the wishes and feelings of their constituents. When, therefore, they found this measure to be a good measure, and was likely to be productive of great benefit to all classes—that it was demanded most extensively by petitioners—that persons of all parties and descriptions had loudly called for it, and that it was generally looked for with anxiety—and when they found that Parliament had pledged itself to make good the only evil that could arise from it, or could be felt from its adoption, namely, any deficiency in the revenue—he thought that it was safe to trust to this, to ask and take those powers to enable the Government to carry the measure into effect. These were the grounds upon which he proposed this bill, and he did so with much satisfaction, as be agreed in the opinions expressed by the noble Lord opposite, that it was a measure beneficial in itself, and that its ultimate effects would be greatly beneficial to the revenue. If a great increase in this part of the revenue should take place, they would not readily be able to trace it to this plan, as it might result from an increase in the general prosperity of the country. Even if they should be obliged to substitute some tax in lieu of this postage revenue, he thought that the change would be beneficial, as hardly any description of tax could press so heavily on the poorer classes as that on letters. If the plan did succeed, there would be the greatest possible benefit to the poorer classes, and any substitute that could be imposed would be less burdensome on the whole community. These were the grounds on which he proposed this bill, and he did so in the full reliance that the statement in the preamble of the bill would be fully redeemed, and that the country would not ask for a measure for which they were not prepared to pay the full price, or ask for a bill, and not be prepared to take the consequences of it. Under these circumstances, he begged to move the second reading of the Postage Duties Bill.

The Duke of Wellington

wished that this bill had been such a measure as the noble Viscount seemed disposed to describe it. In point of fact, the Government was to have the whole subject and arrangement at its disposal, and to have the power of carrying the plan into execution in the way they thought best adapted for the purpose, without calling upon the House to come to any specific vote on the subject. Having given his full consideration to this subject, and to the arguments by which it had been supported by the noble Viscount, he felt bound to state that he had never addressed their Lordships with more anxiety and pain than he did on the present occasion; and he never felt more reluctance than he did now to give the vote which he should give on this question, and to advise the House as to the course which he thought they should follow. It was stated in the preamble of this bill, that it had for its object the establishment throughout the country of a uniform and low rate of postage. He admitted the force of the argument urged by the noble Viscount as to the expediency and, indeed, necessity of establishing an uniform and low rate of postage. The arguments in favour of it had been more than once stated in that House by his noble Friend near him, and by the noble Duke who had filled the office of Postmaster-general, and whom he did not see in his place. He admitted the great inconveniences that resulted from the present high duties of postage, tending, as they did to the contraband conveyance of letters, and to many inconveniences which must be obvious to all. The object, then, was to reduce the expense of postage, and to establish, in lieu of the present system, a low and uniform rate of postage. He imagined, that the power of the Government was sufficient to carry out such a system, although the powers had not been granted for such a purpose. But, with reference to the adoption of any particular plan, he was disposed to admit that that which was called Mr. Rowland Hill's plan was, if it was adopted exactly as was proposed, of all the plans, that which was most likely to be successful. He must say, that he was afraid, that the plan proposed would not be entirely successful in the first place, for he felt there was a great mistake in supposing that the reduced price of postage to one penny, to be paid on the delivery of the letter, would induce a great deal of literary correspondence. For some years he had had some knowledge of the advantages and operation of such a system in the army, and he could safely assure their Lordships that it was quite curious to observe the very small quantity of correspondence carried on by soldiers, notwithstanding that they had the utmost facilities afforded them for correspondence. In fact, they had only to pay one penny to the person who held the office of receiver of letters for the regiment, and the letter was, of course, despatched. The letters of soldiers, then, went almost free, and it was a remarkable instance or illustration of the present plan, and there was not so much correspondence carried on by the soldiers as might be anticipated; he, therefore, thought, that there would not be quite so much correspondence carried on with this penny postage as was anticipated. In one regiment, he recollected, and this was a Highland regiment of 1,000 men, the soldiers of which were generally supposed to be very strongly attached to their homes and families, he had positively ascertained, that in the course of six or seven months only sixty-three or sixty-four letters were written. This was a fact which showed that the people of this country would not be so ready to correspond if they had a cheap postage. In the ap- plication also of this plan to several country districts, where the post-office was was seven or eight miles, or even so much as ten or fifteen miles away from a man's house in the village in which he resided it would be almost half a day's work, or at least equivalent to half a day's work to a poor man, to take his letter to the post-office. A poor man, then, would not make a sacrifice of this kind, merely because the post-office only charged a penny for his letter. The plan would work very well in London, where there was a very large post-office establishment, where there was a constant delivery of letters in all parts of the town, at least twice or three times a day. But taking such a town as Manchester, or Leeds, or Liverpool, or towns containing a population of from 180,000 to 240,000 souls, all the persons must resort to the post-office, and this would lead to such confusion that it would be necessary to open other post-offices at different parts of these towns. The consequence would be a great increase of expense in this department of the post-office. These matters had not been taken into consideration in the documents on this subject which he had perused. He was, therefore, very much afraid that this scheme for a uniform and low rate of postage, and certainly that which was proposed by Mr. Hill, which in his opinion was the best scheme that had been devised, would be found to be attended with many heavier expences than had been supposed. With respect to the measure before the House, Mr. Hill's plan had been clearly indicated in the preamble of the bill, when it was stated that the postage on letters should be reduced to one uniform rate of a penny charged on every letter of a given weight. Whether, then, the plan of postage was to be by means of a stamp, or by the payment of the postage when the letter was sent or the letter received, nothing was said in the bill, and the principle that was laid down on the preamble seemed to be departed from in the details of it. He certainly felt it desirable, that there should be a low and uniform rate of postage, and was disposed to acquiesce in the bill conferring upon the Treasury the power of duly considering all the objections to this plan of Mr. Hill, to which he had already referred, and any other objections which might be urged against it, and in ultimately adopting such measures as they might think proper, with a view of insuring the people the best means of sending and receiving letters by the post. But when first this subject was mentioned in that House, the noble Viscount certainly stated, that the first object to be considered, was the security of the revenue. The same language had, he understood, been held in the other House. The noble Viscount, indeed, declared, that he would not adopt the plan at all, unless the security of the revenue were duly provided for. There was, however, now under the present measure, no security whatever for the revenue. So far from that being the case, the noble Viscount, with great candour, admitted, that he could not place any confidence whatever in the calculations that had been made with reference to the probable operation of the plan, either on the one side or the other. The truth was, that it was impossible for the noble Viscount to know anything about the matter; and, therefore, he satisfied himself with the guarantee contained in the preamble of this Act of Parliament. But, although the preamble stated, that it was expedient something should be done towards guaranteeing any deficiency in the revenue, the enacting part of the bill did not carry that statement into effect. There was in the preamble a guarantee, but nothing more—nothing to indicate what it was to be, or how long it was to last. Anything more obscure in legislation there could not possibly be. To a guarantee there ought to be two parties; but with this guarantee their Lordships' House had nothing to do, except to pass the bill; nor had the Sovereign, except to give the royal assent to it. To whom, then, was the guarantee given? Was it given to the public? Was it given to the stock holder? To whom was it given? Why, it was no guarantee at all; and more especially was it not so, when they considered the circumstances under which it had been given. It was reported that hon. Gentlemen—supporters of the noble Viscount's Government in the other House of Parliament—heads of parties, because at one time they gave notice, that they, with their friends, would attend and support the Government proposition, and at another time, that they would oppose some part of the plan—had disagreed among themselves on essential parts of the proposed measure; that very few of them had agreed as to this guarantee, or as to the course that should be taken, if the mea- sure were adopted. What, then, was the meaning and effect of the introduction of that supposed guarantee in the preamble? Why, it really meant nothing at all—was of no more value than the paper on which it appeared. If noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen who had proposed this guarantee had come down to Parliament, and expressed a disposition to take into consideration the state of the finances of the country, and those various demands existing for different branches of the public service, which had been so ably detailed by the noble Viscount, if they had called the attention of Parliament to the state of the unfunded debt—to the state of the commerce of the country, and of the monetary system at present existing, and had admitted that the income of the country was not equal to its expenditure, that they had no means of going on, except by increasing the unfunded debt; and if they had announced their intention of proposing to take the usual course of proceeding, in order to apply a remedy to this state of things (a subject to which he would afterwards advert), then those noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen in another place would have acquired some little degree of confidence as regarded the future prospects of the finances of the country, and they might, notwithstanding, have called with the more reason for a guarantee against any deficiency of revenue that might result from this measure. In reference to the state of the revenue, he would beg, for a few moments, to draw their attention to a paper which he held in his hand, stating the estimated revenue and expenditure of the country for the year ending April 1840. It appeared that the estimate of the revenue for that period was 48,128,900l., while the estimate of expenditure was 47,988,554l. On the face of the paper it appeared that there was also 1,000,000l. to be added for expenditure in Canada; but when it appeared that 500,000l. of that had already been incurred, he confessed that he thought 1,000,000l. would be a very low estimate of the expenditure under that head. He could not help reflecting that we had had since November or December, 1837, nearer 40,000 than 30,000 men under arms in Canada. He knew what the cost of all this was, and he was afraid that2,000,000l., if carried to that account, would by no means pay the expense, even supposing the present state of things to close in the month of April 1840, which, he confessed, he for one did not think very probable. Adding, however, 1,000,000l. in the estimate to the existing deficiency, it must cause an increase to that amount in the unfunded debt. But it was reasonable to assume that the Post-office revenue had been included in this estimate of 48,128,900l. If that revenue (1,585,000l.) were deducted from the other amount, there would remain only 46,543,900l, The estimated expenditure of 1840 was, as he had said, 47,988,550l. So that, upon this estimate of the revenue, there would be in April, 1840, including the 1,000,000l. for Canada, a deficiency of 2,445,050l. Add to this amount 1,428,534l. for the deficiency of 1838, and 430,335l. for the deficiency of 1839, and the total deficiency up to April, 1840, would be 4,303,919l. There was at present a very large unfunded debt in circulation, one which was much larger than the market could bear, for the interest had fallen and was still falling. The amount of Exchequer Bills in circulation had already been found too large for the market. Their Lordships must be aware of the state of the commerce of the country, and the condition of the monetary system altogether; and it could not but be supposed that it would be a great convenience, not only to the Government, but to the public at large, if at this moment a large amount of these Exchequer Bills were taken out of the market by funding them, and thus a means provided of making up by the year 1840 for some part of that deficiency, which it was quite clear must exist at that time. But this was not the extent of the deficiency that would exist in 1840. An addition to the army had been proposed, the expense of which it was said would be 75,000l. It was possible, that up to the end of the financial year, the expense might be no more than that sum, but by the month of August 1840, it would be more than double the amount. There were other sources of prospective expense, arising out of the steps necessary to be taken at Birmingham; the constabulary force about to be formed in the country, of which the public were to pay part of the expense, besides other expenses; so that, on the whole, the Government and the country could not but look forward to a very large deficiency in the month of April 1840. Now, if the Government had thought proper to propose to the other House of Parliament according to the course adopted at different times by former Chancellors of the Exchequer, to fund Exchequer Bills to the amount of 5 or 6,000,000l. sterling, and had provided the means of paying the interest of the debt thus funded, it would have been said, that there certainly was no novelty in their mode of proceeding, but that they had at length taken the course that was necessary, in order to provide for the increase in the public expenditure, and that they had thereby relieved the public and themselves from great inconvenience. He could assure the noble Viscount, and his colleagues, that bad they taken that course, they would have given every man who reflected at all on the situation of our affairs, much more satisfaction than could possibly be derived from the course they had taken in reference to the public burthens, in connection with the bill now on the table. But, my Lords, continued the noble Duke, notwithstanding I feel so little confidence in this measure, and notwithstanding that I must continue to lament that it should ever have been adopted, when all the circumstances are considered, I, nevertheless, earnestly recommend you to pass it. It is a measure which has been most anxiously looked for by the country; at the same time, that it is one on which there has been much doubt, and on which it must be confessed, there is increasing doubt; but your Lordships should bear in mind, that there is not one clause in this bill upon which you can make an amendment, or on which you can give a vote, except in the negative or the affirmative, without committing a breach of those conventional rules which have been established for the conduct of the business between you and the House of Commons. On the other hand, my Lords, suppose you were to reject this bill; the Government, supported by the House of Commons, would have the power to destroy the whole revenue of the Post-office; so that all the evil which this bill could do to the revenue, and which it is your object to save, might still be done; and as, at the same time, the reform of the Post-office administration, which it is the object of this bill to effect, and which is desired should be carried into execution, must altogether lie over, unless you agree to some such measure as this. I shall, although with great reluctance, vote for the bill, and I earnestly recommend you to do likewise.

The Earl of Ripon

considered the bill objectionable in the highest degree; not only as regarded the mode in which it was proposed to carry out its object, but also on account of the circumstances of the time at which it was introduced. Nothing but the high respect which he entertained for his noble Friend who had just sat clown, could induce him to vote for the second reading. Under these circumr stances the House would, perhaps, excuse him if he stated to them the grounds on which he was prepared to call this experiment rash and heedless. The measure itself was a very clumsy contrivance; yet it was one involving most extensive consequences, and extremely doubtful as regarded particular results; and surely it was one that, if adopted by the legislature, should have been so adopted upon full consideration of a bill combining both principle and detail. But this bill, though it professed to announce a principle in the preamble, did not proceed to carry out that principle by enactments—it gave no explanation in detail why 1,600,000l. per annum was to be given up without any condition. Nor did the bill bind the Treasury at all. It was quite competent to the Treasury to reduce the postage to 2d. only, or to make any other arrangement they might think fit. Why were their Lordships thus called upon at this period of the Session to pass a bill, when no mortal being had at that moment the remotest conception of how it was to be carried into execution. Why, then, was the bill thus forced through Parliament? The real cause was that external pressure to which the noble Viscount had alluded, while his countenance showed that he shared those apprehensions which he so eloquently described. The real difficulty in connection with the measure was the state of the revenue at the moment when Parliament was called upon to sanction an experiment so dangerous. It might be very true, for aught he knew, that in process of time, the measure might produce a considerable part if not the whole of the present net revenue of the Post-office. But at the same time, it was impossible to read the papers on their Lordship's table on this subject without seeing, as the noble Viscount had, with great candour—a candour which he hoped his friends would appreciate—admitted, how very vague, although ingenious, the calculations were on which the supposed success of the measure was to rest. Those calculations amounted to this:—that unless five times the number of letters that now passed through the Post-office were hereafter received, the present revenue would not be kept up. If the country had a surplus on which they could rely, or if indeed there was not a deficiency such as at, present unhappily existed, and from which there was no escape, he would raise no objection to running the risk of this loss. But what he feared was that the operation of the plan would lead to increase a danger to which we were now exposed, an habitual deficiency of revenue in time of peace. In proof of the danger he would refer to the amount of the revenue and expenditure for the years 1836, 1837, 1838, and 1839, and also to the estimates for 1840. The estimate of the revenue, taken by itself he considered by no means unfavourable. On the contrary, he reverted with pleasure to the fact that the revenue had not been in a decreasing condition, taking the whole five years into account. The revenue for 1836 was 45,893,369l. The actual receipt for 1839 was 48,128,000l. showing an increase of 1,748,000. Any slight defalcation or temporary variation in the revenue would, however, have given rise to no uneasiness in his mind; it was the expenditure that alarmed him. Since 1836 it had been going on increasing, and the circumstances of the country were such, that any man with two eyes in his head must see that any reduction whatever in the amount of expenditure was impossible, and that a progressive increase could not be avoided. The estimated expenditure for 1840 was 48,988,000l. The actual expenditure for 1836 was 45,030,000l. showing an increase (which had been gradually growing up) of 3,985,000l. The best evidence that the expenditure must increase was, that since the last estimate had been presented to Parliament, Government had come down and called for an additional sum of 75,000l. to defray the charges of more troops. This raised the increased expenditure to 4,060,000l. Now look at the charges for the funded debt. For 1836 the charge for the funded debt, including the temporary annuities, and the interest on exchequer bills, was 28,784,000l. The estimated charge for 1840 was 29,443,000l. This exhibited an increase of 659,000l.; and this was the result of what were called three years of profound peace, though he must say matters did not look much like peace at the present moment. He was by no means finding fault on account of this excess of charge. He was aware that it had arisen out of the grant of twenty millions for the emancipation of the slaves —a measure which he had supported as a wise application of the money of the country. The expenses so incurred must be paid, and if they were desirous of resorting to a cheese-paring, save-all economy, where could they economise? Was it likely that it could be done in the naval, military, or ordnance estimates? The noble Viscount himself had told them they were not in a condition to forego any part of that expenditure. What had been the increase during the last four years? There had been no less than 2,637,000l. additional charge for those great items of expenditure during those years. He did not see any prospect of getting rid of that expense, or of avoiding an increased expense. What was their situation both at home and abroad? The proposition of the noble Lord the secretary for the Home Department, for raising an additional military force, and the necessity which he described as existing at home for that addition, was not of such a nature that they could flatter themselves that by the mere raising of 5,000 more troops, all the causes of that demand for more military force would pass away. Abroad they were engaged in one of the most gigantic operations that had ever been undertaken in India. They were carrying on a war for an object of doubtful policy, hundreds of miles from their frontier, without any basis for their operations, except the river Indus, behind which were two countries, the one governed by a man of great talent, but in a very feeble state of health, and not deriving his authority in regular hereditary succession; the other governed by a man bound to grant military right of traversing his territory, but who could shut them out to-morrow, and if the necessity of the case arose, would not scruple to do so, for those Indian potentates were not greatly troubled with scruples. Below them were the natives of Scinde, who were notoriously. hostile to us, and who had not permitted us to traverse their territory to make an attack upon Affghanistan. It was very likely we might succeed in establishing Shah Soojah upon the throne, and drive Dost Mahommed to seek a precarious subsistence in another country, but the diffi- culties would only begin when that success was complete. It did not appear to him that they could economise by reducing the amount of their naval and military forces. But was this the only source of uneasiness? What was the state of Persia? Were they not, in effect, at war with that country? They were told in the beginning of the Session, that a state of things had arisen there which it was hoped would pass away, and that amicable relations would be re-established. But what was the fact? The Persian ambassador had been dismissed, and the two countries were at war, and he had no difficulty in saying that, in his humble judgment, there had been a great degree of negligence on the part of the Government, and a series of consecutive blunders on the part of Sir John M'Neil, who placed himself in such a position with regard to Persia, that he destroyed the original basis of fidelity and amity, and good understanding that prevailed, and threw Persia into the arms of Russia. Could they, looking at these circumstances, say that it was proper to reduce their naval or military establishments? They were also engaged in increasing their distant possessions, in establishing new colonies in New Zealand, and in New South Wales. They had taken upon themselves, also, to become the possessors of a fortress on the Red Sea, in an extraordinary manner, which he would not describe, but which was described in the papers that hail been laid before the House. And again, how did they stand with regard to Canada? The noble 'Viscount had himself admitted, and he was the best judge, that there was no reason to expect a decrease of expense in this quarter. There was also the north-eastern boundary question, which might come before them at any moment, and which was a most complicated question. He mentioned these facts, to show that there was no reason to suppose that the state of the expenditure would admit of any material diminution. But since the last estimates were made, another circumstance had come to their knowledge, which was intimately connected with this subject. Information had reached this country of the fact of the Chinese government having stopped the trade in tea. That may to some appear a matter which, except in a commercial point of view, is of no immediate interest, but, in his opinion, it was a very serious question indeed, If our resi- dent there had engaged to pay 2,000,000l., he did not think the nation ought to pay it, but still they might be pressed, and by that external pressure they might be pushed very far. At all events, if the Chinese government took effectual steps to prevent our supplying the people of China with opium, the only possible way in which we could pay for the immense quantity of tea that we required, would be by silver money. The amount of bullion in this country, and the state of the money market, ought to make every one pause a little in the conclusion they would come to upon this subject. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find silver money, annually for this purpose, so that this must lead to a deficiency in the importation of tea, and instead of having 40,000,000 of pounds brought in, and paying duty, the amount would tall off to a great extent, and there was danger of a future diminution of revenue. This was a matter of very serious consideration. He felt so strongly the consequences that were likely to arise on this subject, that he hardly knew by what process he could justify himself if he did not oppose this bill. He thought that the time was most ill-suited for such an experiment. If it were postponed till next year, Government might have an opportunity of carefully considering every part of the proposition, of examining all its details, and of being prepared to state how the expected deficiency, to supply which they were called upon to pledge themselves, was to be made up. He must say, that he thought the pledge required was a perfect absurdity. Had the Government themselves any notion as to how they proposed to make up the deficiency that was expected to occur? Any man who looked at the state of taxation, would find it absolutely impossible to put his finger on a single item in the list of taxed articles on which he could venture to propose to Parliament with the slightest chance of success, an additional duty. As to the customs, they had been engaged in reducing duties, in order that the manufacturer might purchase the raw material at the cheapest rate. If they imposed a new tax upon articles of luxury, they would be acting contrary to the principle they had lately been acting upon, of reducing duties, in order to extend consumption. If they imposed a tax upon the produce of the manufacturers of other countries, they would be violating the principle they had strained every nerve to establish for the last few years, namely, that with respect to foreign articles of manufacture, there should be nothing like a prohibitory duty. They could not have recourse to an increase of the assessed taxes; they could not call upon Parliament to renew the house-tax, or to add fifty per cent. to the window-tax; they could not reimpose upon the poor cottager the very taxes which they took off ten or twelve years ago upon the ground of their hardship. The only mode of supplying the deficiency they could come to, must be a property tax, and, recollecting all that had passed on this subject, he was not disposed, for the sake of this experiment, to again have recourse to it. On what article, then, was it possible to impose a tax of 1,500,000l.? He believed it absolutely impossible, and therefore he should be very glad if the question were not pressed at present. He concurred in thinking that the reduction would be a good measure in itself, he quite concurred in thinking that the Post-office revenue ought not to be raised with a mere view to revenue, but they had got involved in a different policy, and he thought that by trying to get out of it in too hasty a manner, they might endanger the revenue of the country.

Lord Brougham

said, that if any one had come into the House when his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) was speaking, he would have supposed that the last thing under discussion was the particular question before the House. His noble Friend had undoubtedly made a most excellent speech: he had shown a perfect knowledge of the state of the war in India, of the character of Runjeet Singh, and Dost Mahommed, and Shah Soojah; he had, in fact, made a military speech, and in the conclusions he had drawn, he (Lord Brougham) was very much disposed to agree with him: but his noble Friend must forgive him for saying that if there was any one subject left untouched by him it was the Post-office question—except, indeed, the Egyptian question. [The Earl of Ripon said, he forgot that.] He thought his noble Friend had forgotten it, for while his noble Friend was speaking, he had said to a noble Friend near him, that his noble Friend should not omit the Egyptian and the Poor-law questions. He would not, however, deny their connection with a general view of finance, as every question which his noble Friend brought forward, necessarily entailed a loss of revenue, and no doubt it was with that view they were brought forward. He could not at all agree with his noble Friend in thinking that the noble Viscount had been too candid, or that he took a desponding view in the statements he had made. He thought the noble Viscount bad done his duty by the office which he held, by their Lordships, and by this measure, in making the statement he had made; for, while he gave powerfully and distinctly the reasons which recommended this measure to his patronage and support, he also stated, as was his bounded duty—standing in the situation he held as head of the finance of this country—to their Lordships and the country what he expected to be the consequences of this measure. It would have been most improper, most imprudent, and most unjustifiable in the noble Viscount if he had concealed those facts of the case, because, for aught he knew, he might be obliged another Session to come to that House and call upon them to make up the deficiency which he now contemplated. But if, instead of contemplating and prophecying that deficiency, the noble Viscount were only to take the fair side of the question—only to show them one side of the picture, when the noble Viscount came before them next year, the public would say the measure had been a complete failure, instead of a benefit, and had also injured the revenue. The noble Viscount was compelled to give both sides of the account, and he thought the noble Viscount had fairly, and only fairly, stated that upon the balance of the two sides he was induced to give this bill his support. He had more confidence in the noble Viscount when he saw him take that calm, rational, deliberate view of the question; it had given him more confidence, and it would give the country more confidence. He for one thought that the arguments preponderated quite as much in favour of this measure as did the noble Viscount. He had presented numberless petitions from various parts of the country, from public bodies, corporations, magistrates, guardians of the poor, from persons in all stations, in favour of this measure, but especially from the mercantile interest, and from another class of persons of whom he was himself an humble member and coadjutor, namely, those who regarded as a paramount object the education and the moral advancement of the people. From these petitions, coming from persons who had fully investigated the subject, he thought he was justified in giving his sanction to the bringing in of this great and useful measure. He must, however, deny some of the statements that had been made. The noble Earl who had just sat down had calculated the total loss to the revenue at 1,500,000l. His noble Friend had argued that they were putting in jeopardy this large amount of revenue; but the probable loss upon this 1,500,000l. would be 200,000l., or about one-seventh part of what he stated to be put in jeopardy. Why, the noble Earl might as well say that they were putting in jeopardy 48,000,000l., or the total revenue of the country, because one portion of it, 200,000l. was likely to be lost; and it would sound much better to say that they were putting the whole revenue of the country in jeopardy. The noble Duke said, that extravagant calculations had been made of the increase in the number of letters to be sent by post, and he gave a remarkable instance, which was, of course, quite certain, that a regiment of 1,000 men, in six months only sent sixty-five letters by post. He had heard of similar facts; but he had two answers to this point. In the first place, soldiers, if the might use the expression with all possible respect for the military character, were not letter-writing animals. They were not naturally writers of letters. They fought, paraded, and obeyed orders very naturally, habit made it a second nature; but they were not in the constant habit of taking up a pen and getting a sheet of paper and writing a letter. They did not correspond upon military subjects; it might not always be permitted, and indeed, they did not hold much correspondence upon any subjects, except indeed upon amatory subjects, and then not so much with persons at a distance as by word of mouth. But this argument proved too much, it proved that this regiment wrote no letters at all. Only one man in twenty-five ever wrote, and those who wrote at all, would, in all probability, write two or three letters; and as only sixty out of 1,000 wrote letters, it followed that about twenty-four out of twenty-five did not write at all. It proved no more than that the men could not write at all, as if they were horses or other animals, This, however, was not the case with the army generally, for he had a document in his hand which proved how much a penny postage tended to make people write who naturally did not write. It was a singular fact that in February, 1838, the number of military letters that went through the General Post-office in London was 2,410, whilst the total number of letters was 188,000, so that one eightieth part of the whole number of letters were written by soldiers, who naturally were not letter-writers, but who were tempted to correspond by the extremely low rate of postage. There were other facts of the same sort, and he would adduce the case of the Post-office revenue of France in support of a cheap postage. Whilst the carriage of our letters cost one-thousandth part of the sum charged, those of France cost one five-hundredth. The average charge for letters in France was four, and in this country it was eight. In France the net Post-office revenue was 35½millions of francs, or rather more than 1¼ million sterling. This was a very large Post-office revenue, considering how much less of a mercantile community they were. But there was another circumstance very remarkable. While our Post-office during twenty years bad been stationary, the revenue of the French Post-office had increased not less than eighty per cent. It could not be said that there were any circumstances connected with France to make their correspondence extend so rapidly. Had they not improved in this country in every respect? Had not education so in. creased, that the number of schools had been considerably more than doubled? Had not wealth, business, population increased. The population here had increased at the rate of one and a half per cent. per annum, or thirty per cent. in twenty years whilst the number of letters sent by the Post-office had not increased one fraction. But besides the evident advantages of a reduced rate of postage, their Lordships should consider that the effect of a high rate of postage was to increase the contraband trade in letters. The consumer (as he might call the correspondent) either gives over the consumption which is not wanted, or he consumes without payment, which was as little to be desired. On these grounds, the reduction of the rate of postage was desirable. He could cite many instances of actual experiments, in which the reduction of the rate of post age had been not only not productive of loss, but had actually caused considerable gain to the revenue. In Dublin a reduction made in the postage from twopence to a penny was calculated to create a loss of 20,000l. in 100,000l.; but so far from that, it had produced a gain of 10,000l. in the 100,000l. A similar reduction in Edinburgh to a penny rate, had caused no less, and was at present beginning to produce an increase. In fact people did not care about a penny rate. The Penny Magazine, with which he in common with many of their Lordships was connected, sold in one week 220,000, but he had no doubt that if raised one halfpenny in price, the sale would fall off one half. An instance of this kind took place in the sale of the Spectator, (Addison's paper,) to which the addition of a halfpenny in price caused an immense fall in the circulation. He had no doubt that the same rule would apply to the reduction proposed in the bill before their Lordships, and that here as in most cases relating to revenue, the lowering of the tax would increase the income. When he considered the increased population, the increased wealth, and increased intelligence of the country, any fears which he might have entertained of any diminution of the revenue by the proposed reduction were brought into a very narrow compass. As to the present state of our finances, he could not join in the view taken by the noble Duke or the noble Earl. The noble Duke objected that the Canadas cost us 500,000l. one year, and that next they might cost us a million or two millions. He should consider them dear at the price, and if they should continue to advance in cost to us in this way, he thought the most stubborn believer in their value would soon be convinced of the folly of keeping up such distant colonies, and at such a cost. He could not concur in the objection of the noble Earl (of Ripon) that this measure should be delayed to next year. To whatever year it was postponed, it could not be brought on without the exercise of great discretion. There would be difficulties attending the matter at all times, and he could not but congratulate the noble Viscount. (Melbourne) on the candid and manly manner in which he had looked those difficulties in the face.

Lord Ashburton

felt it to be his duty to offer a few observations to their Lordships on this important subject. The discussion of that evening had naturally divided itself into two heads. The first was with respect to the legal question as to making this great reduction in postage; and the next was as to the general state of the finances of the country, where so large a sum was at stake. He wished that he could persuade himself that there was as little risk involved in this question as had been intimated by his noble and learned Friend who had just sat down. The cases which his noble Friend had cited of reduction in the revenue did not appear to him (Lord Ashburton) to be analogous; the reduction in the present case being of an extraordinary nature, as it was proposed to sink from an average of 6d. to an uniform rate of 1d. per letter. Their Lordships would bear in mind that this was not to be considered merely as a reduction of duty, but that here was a department costing a large sum for the necessary discharge of its functions. His noble and learned Friend was a little mistaken as to the proportion between the income derived from this establishment and the cost of conveying the letters. The cost of conveyance was 700,000l. The gross income was 2,300,000l. The net income was therefore 1,600,000l. Mr. Hill admitted that the additional expense to be incurred by the adoption of his system would be from 200,000l. to 300,000l. Adding this to 700,000l., the cost of conveyance under the new system would amount to a million of money. This amount must be made up out of several pence before they could touch one farthing of the present income of 1,600,000l. He could not help thinking it altogether a matter of much uncertainty. There could be no doubt that the country at large would immediately derive a great benefit; the consumption of paper would be increased very considerably. It appeared by all the evidence, most probable that the number of letters written would be at least doubled. Of the great benefits which would arise from similar change in their Post-office system he had always been convinced. From the first time when a petition relating to this subject had been laid on their Lordships' table, it had been his decisive opinion, that to reduce the taxes upon the conveyance of letters would be in every respect important, qualifying the people to act their part in the reconstruction of their institutions, and enabling them to partake of the rational enjoyments of civilization, It appeared to him that a tax upon communication between distant parties was of all taxes the most objectionable. The position in life of Members of Parliament rendered them, perhaps, more indifferent as to any change of the proposed nature, than most other men would be; and their privilege of sending and receiving letters free of charge made them perhaps a little less sensitive than they might otherwise be to the wants and feelings of that class which was just removed from poverty. He had latterly read in the book of a traveller in Canada a description of an interesting scene. The writer had seen emigrants going to the Post-office, and finding letters posted in the windows from their relatives at home, at which they gazed with longing eyes, not having the means to release them. These were our own people. The question whether a man could afford to write or receive a letter interfered more generally than might be suspected with the best social affections. It manifestly interfered to a very large extent with the communications of the literary and scientific class, a class not usually overburdened with prosperity. No one could dispute the advantages which must attend the communication of thought from man to man. If they looked again to the more substantial interests of the community, it would not be doubted that in all the different projects of commerce arising from variety of communication, men must want both to transmit and to receive a variety of letters. A number of letters might be written from which nothing would flow; but one at last was written, and followed by a business transaction of the utmost importance, Now, if they made that communication so dear that it could not conveniently take place, and if men engaged in business were precluded from that free discussion which was necessary to the successful transaction of their affairs, business must necessarily become crippled and contracted and many excellent speculations must remain dormant, in consequence of deficient information. In all respects he held it to be the most injudicious thing to be devised in any country to establish high rates of postage. It was well known that in this metropolis every thing was now to be seen for a shilling. Add an extra sixpence, and the people would not go. They could not say how this notion fixed itself in men's minds; but so it was. And although at one time He was of opinion that the uni- form charge of postage should be 2d., yet he found the mass of evidence so strongly in favour of 1d., that he concluded her Majesty's Ministers to be quite right in coming down to the uniform rate of 1d. He thought, however, that this subject had been quite long enough before Parliament to have had a trial of it six months ago. It was no new matter; petitions hail been pouring in for a very considerable period. He readily admitted that it could only be carried into execution by giving large discretionary powers to the Government; and such, in fact, was the whole amount of the bill. A very important subject had been introduced incidentally into this discussion. Although they left to the other House the power of originating money-bills and of voting the supplies, it was undoubtedly not only the privilege, but the duty, of their Lordships' House to watch over the state of the finances, and more particularly over the maintainance of the public faith and credit of the country. The great difficulty of the present measure was, that at best it was a doubtful experiment. For his part, he should be agreeably disappointed if, out of the 1,600,000l. of revenue derived from this source at present, there remained after the change 500,000l. And here he must state his conviction, that Parliament had greatly neglected its duties to the country in allowing the finances to get into their present state. Assuredly, they should at least put their House in order before they began to make their new experiment, and be quite sure that their income would equal their expenditure, setting aside any loss that might arise from the adoption of this scheme. The sacrifice of an income of 1,600,000l. with an admitted clear deficiency of one full million, did seem to be a recklessness of duty on the part of Parliament, which must very much shock the feelings of the sober and sensible portion of the community. He could not help thinking, that there were some very fallacious views put forth in the estimates for the present year. He thought that the admitted 1,000,000l. of deficient revenue was understated. The expenditure of the army in 1838 was 6,500,000l., in 1830 it was 7,200,000l. Notwithstanding this advance, the estimate of the army expenditure for the current year was put back to the former sum of 6,500,000l. The answer would be, that a great portion of the army ex- penditure of last year was incurred for Canada. Now, in the ordnance estimates there appeared an increase from 1,380,000l. to 1,730,000l., and in the navy from 4,600,000l. to 5,200,000l. It was natural to infer, that the increase in the army estimates should be at least as great as in either of those two other departments, and that it should particularly correspond with the ordnance. When this estimate was given to them to ground their judgments upon it as to the expenditure of the current year, it appeared to him to be unfairly put for the purpose of masking the great deficiency in the year's revenue. The result of the estimates was stated to be a surplus of 139,000l., and a note was appended; "probably a million for Canada." The surplus of 139,000l. completely disappeared since the additional 5,000 troops had been asked for. The noble and learned Lord was, he feared, quite right in saying that Canada would still continue to involve this country in a heavy expense. As long as they held Canada they would have abundance of sympathisers. It was quite clear that nothing but a large force and heavy expenditure could maintain those colonies. It was not during the present year alone that the financial state of this country was pregnant with alarm. Last year there was a deficiency of 400,000l.; the year before of 1,400,000l. It became a Government, as fair dealers, and as the guardians of the interests of the country, to state a decided deficiency in the revenue whenever it arose. During the period of his sitting in the other House of Parliament he had constantly protested against their financial system. Instead of establishing a sinking fund, they had pursued the system of borrowing with one hand and paying with the other—a system which amounted to utter delusion. They had now had a quarter of a century of peace—and and no progress whatever had been made towards discharging the debt. How different had it been both in France and America. The Republicans of North America possessed much acuteness in matters of this description. By means of a sinking fund they had paid off every farthing of their debt. The French maintained a very considerable sinking fund, and their debt was every year becoming reduced in amount. This country alone retained what he must term a profligate system of financial administration. An utter want of resolution had been exhibited on the part of the Government, in which the people of this country would not have concurred, had the question been fairly put to them. No portion whatever of the principal due had been liquidated. They had paid off only a portion of the interest. After twenty-five years of peace, they remained in such a state that they might well be accused of want of principle, having done nothing either during peace or war towards the paying off this enormous debt. The only honest course of procedure was an alteration during peace and war—equalizing the expenses over the whole time of the war, and establishing a sinking fund, in time of peace, to pay off the expenses of the war. The noble Earl opposite, who had served her Majesty in a diplomatic character with so much distinction to himself in Spain, had expressed his regret that this country did not attend sufficiently to foreign affairs. That might be the case in the present day, but certainly in other times this nation had attended a little too much to them; at all events, he was sure that the best mode of attending to them was to put the finances of the country in such a situation as would give it real and substantial power abroad, for all the army and all the ships which lay in ordinary at Portsmouth or Plymouth were worth but little if the Bank was in confusion, and the finances of the country were embarrassed. He trusted that in a question like that now before the House, he should not be considered as having improperly introduced these matters of finance. On the immediate subject before the House he had but little further to say. Something bad fallen from the noble Viscount opposite, which had led him to suppose that he was adverse to a system of prepayment. Now, it had always struck him that the system of prepayment formed the most essential part of the plan; he did not see how the scheme could be executed with effect and economy without it, There had been presented to this and the other House of Parliament petitions from stationers and paper-makers in the country, showing that they laboured under an apprehension that the plan would give a monopoly of paper-making to the extent of the covers that would be required; he, however apprehended that in those fears they were much mistaken, but it occurred to him that by a stamp to be affixed or stuck upon the letter would answer every purpose, and remove the objections of those parties to the measure. As to the plan generally, he should certainly watch its execution with great anxiety, and with a thorough conviction that by this measure the Legislature was conferring on the country, a very essential benefit. He must say that the only drawback upon it was that formidable piece of mischief, its operation on the revenue; but he trusted if that proved the case, when the time came, the other House of Parliament would be ready, not to invent excuses, such as saying, "Let us wait another year—the experiment has not yet been fairly tried," and using all that description of vague argument, but would be ready to consider that its honour was pledged at once to make up the deficiency, and that the people, when a new tax was put on them, would remember that they had derived the benefits and advantages of this measure.

Earl Manvers

objected conscientiously to the measure now before the House. In the present state of the finances it was a most dangerous experiment.

The Earl of Lichfield

was anxious to say a few words on this subject, because it had gone forth to the public, and been much commented upon, that he was opposed to the present proposition; it was, therefore, proper that he should endeavour to remove that impression, and to show that, with perfect consistency with all that he had said or done, he could give a vote for the proposal of his noble Friend at the head of the Government. When Mr. Hill first propounded his plan, and published it in a pamplet, it excited great attention in the country in general, and it was but natural that he should have been one of the first persons applied to, in order to give an opinion as to whether the plan would be likely to answer on the principle laid down by Mr. Hill—a principle totally different from the grounds which had been laid by his noble Friend. To show the principle propounded by Mr. Hill, he (the Earl of Lichfield) would refer to that part of his pamphlet in which he stated "that the demand for the conveyance of letters had increased in the same ratio as the demand for the conveyance of persons and parcels, and that yet there was a loss in the Post- office revenue of 2,000,000l. per annum," and he seemed to fancy he had hit on a scheme for recovering that 2,000,000l. Throughout the whole of his pamphlet this one principle prevailed—namely, that the high rates of postage were highly injurious to the revenue, and that, consequently, by a considerable reduction of them, the loss and injury to the revenue would be remedied. Of course, he had turned his attention to all Mr. Hill's calculations and opinions, and had then come to the opinion he had expressed already in that House, and to which he still adhered; and that opinion was, that it was totally impossible, but that by the proposed reduction, a considerable loss to the revenue must accrue. He, therefore, supported the present measure on entirely different grounds from those on which Mr. Hill proposed it. He assented to this bill on the grounds on which it had been proposed by his noble Friend—on the grounds on which it had been propounded in the House of Commons. In neither House had it been brought forward on the ground, that by the measure, either the revenue would be a gainer, or that, under it, the revenue would be equal to that now derived from the Post-office department. He assented to it on the simple ground, that the demand for the measure was universal, after three years' consideration—after public meetings, at which the matter had been fully discussed, and the voluminous evidence which showed a material loss to the revenue from the change had been published petitions from all parts of the country, crowded the tables of both Houses of Parliament, and the people, through their representatives, were strong in their expressions in its favour; and, therefore, he was entitled to come, with his noble Friend, to the conclusion that it was highly expedient that this measure should pass into a law. So obnoxious was the tax on letters, that the people had declared their readiness to submit to any impost that might be substituted in its stead, and on these principles he agreed to the plan, assuring the House he would use his best exertions effectually to carry it out.

Viscount Duncannon

was so anxious that the measure on Mr. Hill's plan should succeed, that he was desirous there should be no misunderstanding as to what had fallen from his noble Friend. It seemed to be supposed that his noble Friend was prepossessed in favour of payment on receipts, and against prepayment. Such was not the case. What his noble Friend had said, was that, in the first instance, it might be necessary to have payment both before and after transmission, and, therefore, it was necessary, with a view fully to try all the essential experiments, that the Treasury should have the full and extensive powers sought to be conferred by this bill, in order to accomplish that which would be most conducive to the public interest.

Bill read a second time.