The Earl of Radnor
said, that before the Order of the Day for the third reading of the Property Tax Bill was proposed, he would beg to put one or two questions on matters of detail, to which he thought answers would be desirable. He found that in 3 schedule B of this bill the duties assessed on income were different from those assessed under any of the other schedules. Schedules A, C, and D required a duty of 7d. in the pound, but in schedule B, which referred to lands, &c. in England and Scotland, 3½d. in the pound was to be taken on the former, and 2½d. in the pound on the latter. He desired to know on what principle these schedules had been framed, and what was the reason why a distinction had been drawn between England and Scotland?
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, that under the old law, passed in 1806, but continued in operation down to the end of the war, the charges on tenants' lands had been less than those on the landlord's income. The tenant's profit was supposed to be two-thirds the amount of that of the landlord; but in this bill it had been placed at one-half the rent, because the former estimate had been considered to be too high. In answer to the second question of the noble Earl, he had to say, that in England the tenant, in addition to his rent, paid the tithes and rates, but in Scotland these charges were paid by the landlord; in consequence of this circumstance, the rent was higher in a proportionate degree in Scotland than in England, and therefore the assessment was lower in its amount in the former than in the latter place.
The Earl of Radnor:
Then the reason why this new system had been adopted, was because it was not exactly the same as that which had existed under the former Act.
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, that it was now his duty to address their Lordships, and to state to them the grounds upon which her Majesty's Government had felt themselves called upon to propose to Parliament a measure for the imposition of a tax upon income; and he had to express his sincere personal regret that he should have been in any way the cause of the postponement of the explanation of this measure until this period of the proceedings, and more especially on account of the interest which their Lordships must take in a measure of so much importance, and so materially affecting the people of this country. The measure was one which was undoubtedly open to many grave objections, and while in the opinion of many persons it was altogether unjustifiable, was certainly, ac- 4 cording to his view, justifiable only on the ground of the strongest necessity. He feared he might be compelled, in the course of what he had to state to their Lordships, to draw more largely upon their attention than it was at any time agreeable to him, or than he had any right to expect their Lordships would willingly grant. He would endeavour to compress what he had to state within the narrowest compass, by treating the subject as a matter of business, and by endeavouring to avoid, and he hoped successfully, the introduction of any topic likely to lead their Lordships from the immediate subject of the bill itself which was now under consideration. The first thing which it was his duty to bring before their Lordships was the actual state and condition of our finances, that being the basis upon which he placed the case of necessity which he should endeavour to make out. It appeared by documents on the Table of Parliament, that for the last five years there had been a successively increasing deficiency in the revenue of the country in each year, as compared with that which preceded it. The total amount of this deficiency, in the course of five years, was no less than 7,308,000l., and that had been incurred in the following-ratio. On the first of these years, ending the 5th April, 1838, the deficiency was 1,428,000l.; in the following year it was 430,000l.; then, 1,457,000l.; then, 1,851,000l.; and in the year just passed, ending 5th April, 1842, it had amounted to 2,139,000l. The deficiency, their Lordships would observe, had been larger during the last two years than in any of those which preceded it, and to such an extent had this deficiency increased, that it exceeded that of the three years which were antecedent. During the last two years, the deficiency was 3,990,000l., while in the three antecedent years it had reached 3,315,000l. only, This alone, he confessed, made out to him a most unsatisfactory position for the finances of the country, particularly when he considered the circumstances in which the country had been placed, and in which it still continued to be placed, since the commencement of this habitual deficiency of its income compared to its expenditure, as he thought it must be called. The unsatisfactory state of our finances was greatly enhanced by the position in which we stood at present with respect to our pros- 5 pects for the future. First, with respect to the year in progress, we could not anticipate any reduction of expenditure; on the contrary, it would be found impossible to meet the necessities of the present year ending April 1843, without adding materially to the deficiency which already existed. It appeared that the revenue which the Government might calculate upon in the present year could not be taken at more than 48,350,00l., whereas the expenditure, reduced as far as circumstances would permit, for he believed that no statement of any undue or unnecessary expense being incurred had been made, would not be less than 50,944,000l. The deficiency, therefore, in the receipt, as compared with the expenditure, was not less than 2,594,000l.; and if that sum were added to the deficiency which had already arisen in antecedent years, it would be found that in April, 1843, there would have existed a successive deficiency amounting in the whole to no less than 9,902,000l. In order that their Lordships might be enabled fully to estimate the importance of this deficiency, he might, perhaps, be permitted to point out some circumstances connected with our expenditure, as regarded those items of our expenditure to which it was attributable. This deficiency had not arisen in consequence of any reduction in the amount of our revenue, because the revenue in 1842 had been greater than that of any of the antecedent years, in which a deficiency had arisen. That increase, there was no doubt, was occasioned by the additional taxation of 1840, which did not fully realise the expectations which had been formed of it, but which did produce a very considerable increase in the amount of revenue. In the current year her Majesty's Government had thought themselves justified—not taking a too sanguine view of affairs, but upon a fair consideration only of the position of the country—in expecting that the amount of the revenue would be extended to 48,350,000l.—a sum rather I exceeding that of the last year, as their Lordships would perceive. It did not appear, therefore, that the deficiency which existed had been occasioned by positive defalcation, but that it had resulted entirely from the increased expenditure of the country: and what he wished to draw under their Lordships' notice was, that part of the expenditure which had occasioned this enormous increase in the 6 demand for taxes. It was not from the increase of the charge by reason of the funded or the unfunded debt of the country that this expenditure had occurred, because in the year ending April, 1843, the sum required in respect of the public debt of the country would be much less than in any antecedent year, but it had arisen entirely from those great sources of public expenditure which were necessary for maintaining the honour, the character, and the interests, if not the safety of the State; those great items of expenditure which were requisite in respect of our military establishments. Let their Lordships see the extent to which these branches of our expenditure had increased. In the first of the years to which he had referred, that was in 1838, the actual charge of the army, navy, and ordnance, amounted to 12,827,000l. In the following year the charge for the same items had arisen to 13,273,000l., and to that was to be added the sum of 500,000l., which had been called for in consequence of the disturbed state of Canada, a sum which was not included in the general vote, but taken as a separate sum, though it was applicable to the same species of service, and originated in causes with which that service was connected. Adding this amount of 500,000l. to that previously referred to, the total amount granted in this year would be found to be 13,773,000l, to be appropriated to the military service of the country. In the following year a sum for expenditure in the North American colonies was again called for; the ordinary expenditure of the army, navy, and ordnance amounted to 13,763,000l., a sum greater than that called for in the previous year, and to this was to be added a sum of 715,000l. granted to defray the expenses in Canada, making a total of 14,478,000l. In the following year the sum first demanded of Parliament was 14,012,000l.—the Canadian grant was 480,000l., and now commenced a new charge in respect of the military operations carried on in China. The amount paid in that year (1841) on account of the China expedition, was 150,000l.; and adding these two sums to the ordinary military expenses of the country, the total sum was 14,647,000l. In the year ending April, 1842, the ordinary expenses of the army, navy, and ordnance, were 14,705,000l.—an amount exceeding that of the ordinary and the extraordinary charges 7 of the previous year, and of each of the antecedent years. In the course of that year the Canadian operations required an expenditure of 220,000l., and the Chinese expedition called for 423,000l., and this being added to the previously mentioned sum of 14,705,000l., raised the whole military charge of the country for the year just past to no less a sum than 15,348,000l. Now the estimate of the present year went on, he must say, progressively increasing. For the ordinary military expenses of the country a sum of 15,440,000l. was called for, and to this were to be added 108,000l. on account of Canada, and 800,000l. on account of China, making in the whole 16,348,000l. for our naval and military expenditure. If their Lordships compared this sum with the amount required at the commencement of the period, when this habitual and regular deficiency began to occur, they would find that there was an increase of no less than 3,521,0002l. He was not going, and he was sure their Lordships would not expect him to enter into a discussion of the circumstances which had occasioned this expenditure. Parliament had sanctioned it, and whatever opinion any individual might have formed of the circumstances which had occurred, a conviction prevailed, he believed universally throughout both Houses of Parliament, that the slate of things was such that the expenditure could not have been avoided; but, though at first, there had appeared to be some reason to hope that this was a charge transient only in its nature, and that the country might look forward to its being shortly removed, unfortunately experience had shown that any such hopes were delusive, and that the expenses of the country were increasing instead of diminishing. It had been felt that, although the amount of expenses in any succeeding year could not be well ascertained, yet that he would be sanguine who flattered himself with the hope that any material diminution of the necessary expenditure which had arisen would take place, and therefore it was, that the Government felt themselves bound to consider the actual state of our finances as quite incompatible and inconsistent with the notion that the present monetary arrangements of the country could be continued. It was impossible to call those operations in North America, or on the coast of Syria, and those going on in China, of no importance, They might 8 not be operations of a character so important and so glorious in their results as those which they had been accustomed to see twenty-five years ago; yet they were wars—they were operations which occasioned the expenditure of war, and for that expenditure Parliament was as much bound to provide, as if the country were in a state of war with nations nearer to her. For his own part, he was unable to comprehend the distinction which some persons had attempted to draw, that because we were not engaged in warfare with some European powers, we were to consider ourselves to be in a state of peace. With respect to China, he thought that there were no grounds for believing that even after we had got rid of the operation in that part of the world—after we had disposed of those sums of money which bad been provided for the use of the expedition in the present year—after the war which was now carried on bad been determined, there would be no more to be paid in the next year. He believed, that even when this should be done, an additional 700,000l. would be required to wind up the business of the expedition, and any one who knew anything of the character of the Chinese, and the peculiarity of their disposition, must be aware, that, however they might appear to yield to foreign powers, no apparent termination of hostilities or settlement of existing differences could be looked upon as a real and decisive conclusion of this affair. Looking, therefore, at these items of additional expenditure arising from causes, which, without entering into criticisms as to the mode in which the business had been conducted by the Government of this country, he thought that there was sufficient ground for a belief that the expenses which must be incurred were entirely beyond the control of Parliament. It might have been imagined, and the belief was entertained at the commencement of the present year, that the affairs of Canada would shortly cease to call for the intervention of the British Government; but the causes for additional expenditure still existed, and though a sum of 108,000l. only was required this year, who was to say, that in another year the charge under this head would altogether cease? But, as he had already stated to the House, the Government was now left with a total deficit of nearly 10,000,000l. There was no certainty that this deficiency would be re- 9 moved by any fortunate concurrence of events, and that, in his opinion, was the basis on which the argument of the necessity of imposing this new tax should stand. This necessity might be said to be composed of three elements. First, the equalization of the receipts of the country with its expenditure. Secondly, the necessity of endeavouring to revise upon some system the heterogeneous mass of our import duties; and, thirdly, the impossibility, as it appeared to him, of devising any other mode of meeting the exigency of the time, which should be equally efficacious, and should not be more liable to specific objection than the Income-tax. Their Lordships must know the immense importance of equalising the revenue, and expenditure of the country, and of the certainty of meeting the deficiency by some efficient plan. But if their Lordships had any doubt upon this point—if they determined that this was an unimportant principle, they would find, that they would be cast adrift, and thrown into a position of the greatest uncertainty and danger, and that at last they would be driven to resort to a measure such as that to which he now asked their assent. The question of the necessity of equalising the revenue, and the expenditure was one which he thought was hardly necessary to argue; no one had doubted the importance of it, and no one who was at all conversant with matters of this kind had expressed any opinion other than that it was most desirable at all times to maintain this principle, and especially when the country was not encumbered with the pressure of an universal war. He could quote great names for this proposition, but he disliked such argumenta ad hominem, and he would only have recourse to two acts of Parliament to establish his position. The first of these acts was passed for the purpose of reducing the postage duties. He was not going to enter into the question of the policy or impolicy of that act, but it was so strongly felt by Parliament, when it was proposed to give the public the benefit of that reduction—to give up 1,200,000l. of the public revenues, that a paragraph was inserted in the preamble by which Parliament pledged itself that it would make good any loss that might be sustained in consequence of the provisions of the act being carried into operation. He could not give a stronger proof of what Parliament had felt necessary to be done, 10 except the actual provision by Parliament of the sum requisite to meet the loss. It might have been wiser to have done so at once, but the recognition of the importance of the principle was sufficient for his present purpose, But in the year 1841 a still more decisive proof was given by Parliament of what they had felt to be the necessity of the case under a similar state of things, because they had proceeded in that year to redeem the pledge which had been previously given. Having pledged themselves to make good the deficiency occasioned by the loss of postage, Parliament proceeded to impose new taxes for the purpose of supplying that loss, and granted new taxes also in order to meet the general deficiency of revenue. In 1840, the deficiency being 2,232,000l., Parliament proceeded to grant new taxes calculated to produce 2,337,000l., with the distinct object of equalizing the revenue with the expenditure of the country. But he was wasting the time of their Lordships in arguing a self-evident proposition, and he was satisfied that no one would argue against the first proposition, which he had put forward as one of the elements of the necessity which governed this case. But on looking at the state of the revenue of the country, they had to determine whether there was not something in the position of our fiscal regulations, as regarded the duties on the import of foreign commodities, to which it was necessary that the Government should apply itself, with a view to its revision. Any one, who had attended at all to subjects of this nature, must know that the existing scale of import duties on foreign commodities was founded on no principle whatever. This had arisen from causes which were more or less accidental. During the pressure of the long war, which ended in 1815, when it was necessary to have recourse to every means of raising supplies for the purpose of paying the interest on loans, amongst other methods resorted to was one which had a peculiar effect, that of raising the Customs' duties 10, 20, and even in one case, in 1812, he believed, as much as 25 per cent., without any reference whatever to the price of the article taxed. Thus it came to pass, that the import duties on foreign articles were far higher than those which were originally contemplated to be imposed. Their Lordships would find, if they looked at the amount of the import duties, that the relation which the duty 11 upon each article bore to the price was extremely variable. Sometimes it was wholly prohibitive, although it was not so intended. Sometimes, indeed, it was great, as it was meant to produce a revenue from articles of general consumption, but in other cases it was large for no such purpose. The effects produced by many duties were very different from what was at the time sought, and they could not have been looked upon as permanent duties. Indeed, some of these duties were confessedly of a temporary nature; it was not intended that they should continue after the war; but in consequence of the exigencies of the country immediately after the war, these duties had been converted from temporary into permanent imposts. He was sure that their Lordships would not think that the Government had done more than their duty under the circumstances, if they had applied themselves to this important subject. He did not venture to say, that they had done what was perfectly satisfactory to all the members of the community. They were dealing with many articles, many interests were involved, and it would be in vain to hope that all would be satisfied. He had himself had much experience in these matters, and he had found much more difficulty in taking off a tax than in imposing a new one. The repeal of a tax created much more uneasiness and alarm than the proposal for a new tax. No one, however, would say, that the Government had not done its duty when they had endeavoured to lay the foundation of a better arrangement and promote an adjustment of those duties on the import of foreign articles. Then it was quite clear that it was impossible to carry these operations into effect without incurring in the first period of the change a considerable loss to the revenue, because he confessed that he could not agree with those who thought that there was necessarily at the very time of the reduction of duty such an increase of consumption as would raise the same amount of duty. Although in consequence of the reduction of duties there was an increase of consumption, particularly if the duty bore a large proportion to the value of the article, still it appeared from the document which he had before him that five, six, or seven years elapsed before the reduction of duty was attended with such an increase of consumption as would make up for the loss of revenue which the reduction was calculated to produce; and 12 therefore, although these reductions were wise things in themselves, and were attended with beneficial consequences, as regarded our foreign customers, the consumers at home, and ultimately with regard to the revenue itself; still they would be an unjust basis on which to found any plan to meet such an exigency as the present. When the Government thought it right to propose to Parliament a great reduction of duty on many articles in the tariff, they did not deem it proper to assume that these reductions would be unattended by a considerable loss to the revenue; and therefore, in estimating the mode in which they should meet the present case, they had to consider, first, what would be the amount of the deficiency supposing no alteration in the duties took place; and secondly, what would be the amount of the deficiency supposing the duties were considerably lowered. The estimated deficiency of the revenue for the present year was 2,574,0002l., supposing no reduction of duties whatever had taken place. The estimated loss in consequence of the alterations in the tariff were considerable. The estimated loss from several small articles, to the number of 750 would be 270,000l. On coffee the loss would be 170,000l.; on timber it would be 600,000l.; the loss from the repeal of certain export duties would be 100,000l., and the loss from certain other duties 70,000l.: making the whole deficiency in the revenue, including the estimated deficiency in the year, 3,780,000l. That was the sum for which, in accordance with the plan submitted by the Government to Parliament, and on the assumptions he had made, it was necessary to provide some additional scheme of taxation. It was calculated, first, that the Income-tax would produce, in round numbers, 3,750,000l.; secondly, that certain additional stamp-duties in Ireland would produce 160,000l.; thirdly, that the extra duty on spirits in Ireland would produce 250,000l.; and, lastly, the export duty on coals was estimated at 200,000l., but, in consequence of some modifications it had since undergone, the whole produce was calculated at 160,000l. The whole produce of the new scheme of taxation was expected to be 4,320,000l. If from that were deducted the first estimated deficiency of 2,570,000l., there would leave a surplus of 1,750,000l.; from that surplus, however, was to be deducted the losses on 13 the tariff, and they would leave a surplus, after meeting both cases, of 520,000l. It might be said, that it was unnecessary to make such an arrangement of our taxation as that the Government should not have even that small surplus; but there were many considerations which rendered such a surplus not only desirable, but necessary. Their Lordships might recollect that the Government was now engaged in negociations with foreign powers for regulating the intercourse between this country and them for the common interest of all. If these arrangements were acceded to by the foreign powers, they would all involve a reduction of duty on certain articles in which there had not been any reduction in the tariff. The surplus would enable the Government to meet such contingencies as these. He now came to the third element of the case of necessity which he was endeavouring to establish before them. It was to be found in what, he confessed, appeared to him to be the impossibility of devising any other plan which would at once be equally effectual and equally certain, and which would not be more liable to objection than the plan of the Government. Their Lordships were aware that, with the exception of the 10 per cent, levied in 1840 on the assessed taxes, the per centage of 5 per cent, on the customs and excise did not realize the expectations of those who had made the proposal to Parliament. Their Lordships would therefore consider that a sufficient ground for believing that a recourse to anything like that plan now would prove an entire failure. He knew, however, it might be said, seeing the amount of the reduction of taxation which had taken place since the year 1815—the war-time—that they might have recourse to the re-imposition of some tax which had been taken off, and which might raise the revenue required, without imposing any new taxes. He thought, on the contrary, that nothing would be attended with so much difficulty as the adoption of such a proposal. He would simply point out some of the items of taxation which had been reduced since the war, to show that no recourse could be had to them to meet the present necessities of the country. The documents laid upon their Lordships' Table presented a clear view of the case. Undoubtedly a person who only took a casual view of their contents, would say, "Here is one resource to which you may 14 apply yourselves without the aid of new taxation." It might be said, that here was a mine from which they might dig, and not only make up the present deficiency, but also find a surplus. It appeared that the amount of custom-duties reduced since the war in 1815 amounted to no less a sum than 9,170,000l.; in the meantime however, Parliament, under the pressure of necessities, not the same as the present, had re-imposed some, amounting to 3,746.000l., leaving a positive reduction of 5,444,000l. If their Lordships saw these deductions, and the principle on which they had been made by successive Governments, they would be convinced that the attempt to raise enough to meet the present deficiency, by re-imposing the customs' duties, would be the vainest expectation in the world, and would only be productive of the greatest possible difficulty and injury. It would be contrary to the principle on which the Government was itself going in the tariff, if they caused a re-imposition of many of the duties taken off since the time of the war. Let them take the first, then, the duty on cotton wool, the most important article, the raw material of the greatest manufacture of this country, from which so many millions derive their support. The duty had been reduced first 222,000l., it was further reduced 472,000l., and then still further 190,000l. In successive periods it had been reduced 1,024,000l., although at intervals some had been re-imposed, but the total deduction since the war was 604,000l. They might undoubtedly re-impose that tax, they might say that it had been borne before, and could be borne again. But if they did reimpose it, he was sure that they would be striking a fatal blow at a most important branch of our manufactures, and he could not give a better proof that this would be its inevitable effect, than by stating that no more urgent representations had been made to the Government than those to take off the remaining duty; and he was ready to admit, that no consideration but the amount of the revenue would justify the Government in retaining that duty a single moment. It was perfectly impossible to defend it upon any other ground. The next article in the list of duties repealed was the tax repealed in 1822 on the tonnage of shipping, both outwards and homewards. Nothing could be worse than such a duty. Foreign ships and 15 tonnage were rapidly increasing, and the only mode by which we could give any assistance to our own was by the reduction of the taxation. No one, he was sure, would say that this was a duty that ought to be re-imposed. The next article on which the duty was reduced was also a raw material. The article on barilla had been reduced at three several times to the ultimate amount of 121,000l. Why had these reductions been made at these three several periods? Because the first reductions were not considered by the manufacturers to be enough. The new tariff would reduce this to a merely nominal duty. There were many other items of the kind, with which he need not trouble the House. He believed that no one would consider it safe, in reference to our intercourse with foreign countries—in reference to the progress of manufactures in other countries, and in reference to the opposition opening against us there, to re-impose any of the duties which had been taken off the raw material. At two several periods the duty on coals had been taken off: there was the coasting duty on coals, amounting to 900,000l., and an additional duty on coals coming into this country, duties imposed only on that part of the community which resided near the sea shore, and amounting together to 1,100,000l. These duties had been taken off most wisely. He had been the instrument of taking off the first, and he believed his noble Friend at the Table (Lord Monteagle) had been the means of repealing the other. Then the duty which had been taken off silk at several periods, amounted to 500,000l. or 600,000l. Would they tell him to re-impose the duty on silk? They could not put a higher duty on the raw material, and keep up the competition with foreign countries without causing ruin to the industrious parties connected with our silk manufactures by a tax which it had been the policy of successive Governments year by year down to the present time, to reduce, as fast as circumstances would permit. If they went through all the articles of the customs in which reduction had been made, he was satisfied that they could not get upon any intelligible principle, or with any justice, a sum of 100,000l. Next, with reference to the Excise duties. Would they have recourse to the excise? They had reduced the excise duties since the war by a sum of 14,000,000l. They had re-imposed 4,000,000l., but the total reduc- 16 tion since 1815 had been 10,000,000l. If any noble Lord was prepared to say, that they ought to re-impose any part of the malt-tax which had been taken off", he should be surprised. He was sure, that it would be a most impolitic tax, and he was satisfied, that it would be most unwise. He had frequently heard suggestions thrown out, that some duties should be imposed, but he had not heard one proposed to reimpose the malt tax. Several representations had been made to Parliament to take off that part which remained. He had concurred with those who had resisted these motions, because, although he considered the malt-tax an objectionable tax, it was quite clear that the revenue could not bear the sacrifice; but it did not follow because he opposed a total repeal, he ought to support an increase which he was satisfied would be just neither to the grower nor to the consumer. The duty on salt had been repealed, it produced 1,500,000l. He recollected the representations which were made in the House of Commons against this tax. It was the subject of many inquiries, and it was perfectly demonstrated, that if it were a hard tax upon all, it was a tax which pressed with particular hardship upon poor persons. After the long battles which generally took place upon these taxes, it was ultimately taken off; and considering that England was the only country in Europe where the poor man could eat salt without paying a tax, he would be the very last person who would deprive his countrymen of that distinction. The tax upon leather produced 700,000l., and it had been taken off at two separate periods. He had heard it said, that the public derived no benefit from the reduction, and that the duty might be re-imposed without injury. He entertained considerable doubts whether the public had derived no advantage from the reduction of duty upon leather. He did not say, that they had fully derived the advantage which all might have hoped. There were few measures on which the sanguine minds of men did not anticipate greater benefit than could possibly be obtained. But when it existed it was a very hard tax. The duty was levied according to the weight, and it therefore pressed heavily on the poor, because they paid a greater proportion on their articles, which were heavy, than the rich man whose shoes were light. Every one knew, that there had been a great reduction in the 17 price of heavy shoes since the duty had been taken off. Beside, if they recurred to the excise duties, they must re-impose those embarrassing regulations and contrivances by which the duty could be collected. They must impose restrictions upon trade, which were absolutely necessary with the duty; but they would be a great impediment to the manufacturers, and if their Lordships would inquire into the operation of excise regulations in any manufacture, he thought they would not hesitate to admit, that high excise duties on any article were a great evil. Any ground, therefore, on which they could re-impose the duty on leather, was to him wholly unintelligible. He next came to spirits. There had been reductions of the duty on spirits. The duty had been constantly fluctuating, and it had been many times raised, the present Government had put an extra duty of Is. on some spirits. In increasing the duties on spirits they were always in danger of lending themselves to the encouragement of smuggling; and what they proposed now was, not to try an experiment—they had to fill up the deficiency by means that would do it; and they could not run any risk of failure. He therefore thought it right, and absolutely necessary, not to attempt to supply the deficiency by imposing any higher duty upon spirits. Another duty had been repealed—the duty on printed cottons. This was, perhaps the most absurd duty that had ever been imposed; as there was a great exportation from this country of printed cottons a drawback was allowed. It was not possible to lay the duty on that consumed at home, without levying it upon all, and, therefore, to derive a clear sum to the revenue of 525,000l., a tax was levied amounting to upwards of 2,000,000l. No one, he believed, would think of re-imposing that tax. During the last few years the duty on glass, on soap, and on paper, had been lowered, giving up 1,000,000l. more. It might be said, re-impose these duties. They had all the machinery for its collection, for they had not taken off all the duty, but only half. Still having recently taken off this duty because the interest of those different trades required it, it would only create great confusion in an extensive branch of business, if they now re-imposed duties which they had so lately reduced. He, therefore, thought that large as the reduction of the duties in the excise had 18 been since the war, they would not now be able to derive an increased revenue by re-imposing them, of upwards of 100,000l., any more than they would from the customs. Then with reference to the stamps. The first stamp duty which he found to have been taken off was 180,000l., arising from certain duties on law proceedings. What were these duties, in substance, but a tax upon justice. They had been objected to in every possible way, and the necessity of taking them off was urged by every one who knew the value of cheap justice. He then came to the duties on advertisements, which had been reduced by a sum of 1,471,000l. Why were they taken off? Because the duties were so high that the number of advertisements was decreasing instead of increasing. The duty was thus manifestly too high. Although the loss to the revenue had not been entirely made up, yet the practice of advertising had increased, and the whole of the reduction had not been a total loss to the revenue, and this increase they would lose if they re-imposed the duty. There was also a sum of 391,000l. given up in 1836 by the reduction of the tax upon newspapers, and he must take the liberty of doubting whether the House of Commons would re-impose that tax. He was sure that noble Lords opposite would not think of anything of the kind, because the reduction had taken place in their time, and they had given good reasons for it. As a measure of finance, they had stated, as was the fact, that the number of newspapers would increase, and that the total loss to the revenue would not be equal to what it would be if there had been no equivalent, and consequential increase in the circulation. It might, indeed, be said—"Well, after all, you are very right in this; you ought not to raise the duty on advertisements; but look at the assessed taxes. Here is a great resource. You have taken off a large amount since the war. You have taken off 5,180,000*.; but after the re-charges the net amount was 4,942,000l. There you may fill up your gap. You have abundant space there to make any alteration you please with respect to your fiscal relations with foreign countries. Here you may make up all that you require." And so they would as regarded the sum repealed, but he doubted much whether they were very sure of getting again the whole of that sum; for if they re-impose 19 a tax to make this amount, they must catch those who resided at home, and who made no alteration in their establishment, but they could not catch those who by either process would escape payment. They did two years ago add 10 per cent. to these assessed taxes. The increase was cheerfully submitted to; he believed that there were no particular complaints, except as to the new survey, and it had produced the money anticipated, 300,000l. or 400,000l. But it did not follow that if they re-imposed the whole, they would be equally successful. The present amount was 2,500,000l., and they would be adding just 200l. per cent This would be looked upon as a grievous burden, and he did not think that raising such an amount would be at all palatable to the country or just in itself. They would have to re-impose the house-tax, which a few years ago had been taken off. The house-tax pressed heavily not only on the rich, who were able to bear it, but also upon those in the middle and lower classes of life, and they should not have recourse to that. If they revived the whole they would create the greatest possible hardship. In the year 1825 he had had the honour of proposing in the other House of Parliament a reduction of two items of the assessed taxes, which appeared to him to be founded on a just principle, and which he was sure were calculated to give relief to those who were least able to bear the tax. He had proposed in that year to release from the house-tax all houses rated at less than 10l. a year. At that period there were 527,000 houses charged with the duty, and the effect of his plan was to release 171,000 houses altogether from the payment of the house-tax, and that of the lower class of houses. If there was any one point on which the poor people of this country suffered more than another, it was in the wretchedness of their lodgings; even those who were relieved from the tax in 1835 were very badly off, and it would be revolting to every proper feeling towards that class on which taxation must press, and a grievous addition to the difficulties under which they were struggling if they re-imposed this tax. So again, in 1830, there were 635,000 houses relieved from the payment of the window duty, because houses had not more than seven windows. There again his last observations fully applied, He knew it might be said, "You can make these exemptions in favour of all 20 the houses of the poor, and put the assessed taxes exclusively upon those who were rich and better able to bear them." The assessed taxes, however, were imposts which parties might easily avoid, and exactly in proportion as they had facilities of diminishing their establishments, or withdrawing themselves from the country, the re-imposition of those taxes would fail to produce the revenue required. It appeared to him then, as regarded those taxes which had been repealed, in reference to sound principle, and with a due consideration to the interests of all classes, with a due consideration to sound principles of commerce, and with regard to the real interests of the revenue, that he had said enough to show their Lordships that they could not re-impose those duties, and thus provide satisfactorily for the exigencies of the country. It might be said, that there were other resources—resources derived, not from imposing, but from lowering taxes; and the resolutions to be moved by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had reference to those resources. Among these was a reduction of the duty on corn; but their Lordships had been so recently called upon to discuss that subject, and to establish a new system, that they would hardly be prepared now to overturn that system and to adopt a new one, which regarded corn as a portion of a fiscal arrangement. He submitted that corn ought never to form an element in any fiscal plan, and that it would be a most unsafe and unwise policy to rely upon what must necessarily be a very fluctuating duty as a source of revenue to meet an avowed deficiency. There were two other articles contemplated in the resolution of his noble Friend—timber and sugar. He did not know by what process it might be proposed to raise additional revenue by an alteration of the duty on timber, excepting in as far as a great reduction of duty might be followed by a great increased consumption. Increased consumption might diminish loss, but would not in any assignable time yield an increased revenue. He could only suppose, therefore, that the motion of his noble Friend had reference to the arrangement proposed last year; that arrangement contemplated in the outset an increase of revenue by doubling the duty on Canadian timber. No doubt, if the double duty did not diminish the quantity imported, the result would be an augmented revenue. 21 The amount of duty must be compared with the price of the article; 10s. per load was no less than 18 per cent on the value of the article, and it was not to be forgotten that timber was a raw material of the first necessity, and of universal consumption. To double that duty would, of course, raise it to 36 per cent; and to say, that as a measure of finance this course should be taken for the purpose of increasing the revenue, seemed to him (the Earl of Ripon) little short of preposterous. It had also been proposed to reduce the duty on Baltic timber from 55s. to 50s. Now 5s. was no less than 115 per cent upon the value of the raw material. To reduce that duty 5s., would obviously be doing no good; and he could not discover how any sum worth speaking of could thus be obtained to make good the existing deficiency. If Canadian timber were excluded, and Baltic timber with the higher duty substituted, not only would the consumption be diminished, but the change would be attended with the utmost hardship to the consumer. Then, as to sugar, that was an article from which it was supposed a great revenue might be raised. He presumed, that what his noble Friend intended to suggest was what had been recommended elsewhere—a reduction of the duty on British sugar from 24s. to 20s., and on foreign sugar from 63s. to 30s. Hence it was imagined, that a great addition might be made to the revenue, and to the comforts of the lower orders. It was quite clear, that a small reduction of duty would be of no benefit to the consumer; and what would be the effect of the proposed alteration? The immediate effect would be to diminish the revenue one-sixth. In 1841, the net revenue from sugar was 5,114,000l., and the loss of one-sixth would be 852,000l. The assumption, however, must be not only that there would be no loss, but that there would be a gain of 700,000l., making a difference in the whole of more than 1,500,000l. The reduction of price to the consumer would not be ½ per lb., so that the benefit to him would, in fact, be nothing; and consequently, there would be little or no increase of consumption. What, then, would be the result of the reduction of duty on foreign sugar from 63s. to 30s.? Upon that, it was evident, reliance must be placed for raising the 1,500,000l. The consumption of sugar in the last year was equivalent to about 24½lbs. per head upon 22 the whole population of Great Britain, not including Ireland; and the average price, exclusive of duty, was 37s. l½d. per cwt. He would take the years 1830, 1831, and 1832, when the price of sugar was considerably lower than at present. In 1830, the price of sugar was 24s. 1l d., the duty 27s., and the price, therefore, including the duty, 51s. lld. In 1831, the price was 23d. 8d., the duty 24s., and the price, with the duty, 47d. 8d. In 1832, the price was 27s. 8d., the duty 24s., and the price, including the duty, 51s. 8d. Thus, the average price to the consumer during the three years, was 50s. 5d., and the consumption was at the rate of 25½lbs. per head. If Parliament were to make the reduction of from 24s. to 20s. upon British sugar, and of from 63s. to 30s. upon foreign sugar, and if it would reduce the price down to the average of the year 1830, 1831, and 1832, it might be anticipated that the increase of consumption would bring the revenue to a level with those years when the price was comparatively much lower. But what would be the fact? The additional consumption of 1l. per head would amount to 8,328 tons, and taking half the revenue to be produced by British, and half by foreign sugar, the total would be 218,714l. to meet the actual deficiency of 852,000l., an assumed increase of 700,000l. He feared that he had not made this complicated point very intelligible, but their Lordships would see enough to convince them that the projected alteration could not give anything like the requisite amount of revenue. It might be said, that he had underrated the increased consumption; but taking it to be quadruple his calculation, still there must remain a considerable deficiency. He had thus stated the grounds on which it appeared to him, that there was no mode by which the existing deficiency in the revenue could be certainly supplied but by an Income-tax. Nobody could deny, that by an Income-tax the money would be obtained. No person could escape from the payment of it, either by going abroad, or by reducing his establishment, as in the case of the assessed taxes. Neither could any man assert that any other scheme would, with-out fail, accomplish the end in view. He was fully sensible of the objections to the plan, and they had never been denied nor undervalued. It had been admitted by Ministers elsewhere, and he was ready to 23 admit it now, that this was an expedient only to be justified by strong necessity; but he could not but think, that that necessity was to be found in the present circumstances of the country; in the state of her finances, in the uncertainty of those finances, and in the position which she politically occupied. There was no question that it was fit to make a great effort once for all to meet the exigency, and therefore, in spite of all objections to the Income-tax—in spite of all temptations held out by other schemes more palateable, and in some senses more plausible, he was of opinion that their Lordships would do well to follow the example of the other House of Parliament, by passing the bill upon the Table as the most efficient means of supplying the public necessity, and meeting that exigency which, if it were not met, would expose the country to the greatest possible evils. He did not know whether their Lordships expected him to enter into an explanation of any of the details of the measure; most of its provisions were not new, but some modifications of the old plan had been introduced. One of these was the exemption of incomes under 15l.; another was an alteration as to rent-charges upon tenants; a third, the obtaining the amount of income on trades and professions from an average of three years. These were new provisions, and obvious improvements. The bill was divided into schedules, and it was calculated that the produce would be as follows:—
If their Lordships concurred in this measure, however onerous or objectionable on some accounts it might be, he was sure that they would never have to reproach themselves. Taking the whole scheme, not only as regarded the revenue, but the trade and manufactures of the country, to which a new spring and impulse would be given, while the consumer was essentially benefitted, he was confident that it would operate most advantageously, and that ere long all parties would be convinced, that the only safe and effectual course had been pursued, 24 warranted by the condition of the revenue, the state of the country, and the impossibility of supplying the deficiency from any other source to which a Government would be authorised to apply. His Lordship concluded by moving that the bill be read a third time.
Schedule A £1,600,000 Schedule B 150,000 Schedule C 646,000 Schedule D 1,220,000 Schedule E 155,000 £3,771,000
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
rose to discharge what he considered to be his duty, by moving an amendment. The noble Marquess adverted to his intention to have brought it forward on a previous day, if he had not been prevented by an accidental circumstance. The bill had thus reached its present advanced stage in little more than a week, and it was not his wish now, nor had it been his wish at any time, needlessly to obstruct its progress. All he wanted was an opportunity of calmly considering the subject, and of recording his own opinion and that of his noble Friends. He was glad to be able in the outset to state his concurrence in all that the noble Earl had, somewhat unnecessarily, though clearly said, on the expediency and importance of making the revenue equal the expenditure. To that doctrine he entirely subscribed, and no form of resolutions too solemn or precise could be brought forward, embodying that object, in which he would not heartily concur. He thought it most material to be understood, not only in the House, but in the country, and in the face of the whole world, that there existed on all sides a determination to raise that amount of revenue which was necessary to sustain the public establishments, without having recourse to an increase of the national debt. He came, however, to the question, whether the means proposed for accomplishing this end were the best that could be adopted. Premising that he was not prepared to say, that the establishments of the country could be reduced in order to accommodate them to the deficient amount of revenue: on the contrary, he believed that the expense of the establishments this year did not exceed the expense of last year, and he was glad to find that the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) and his friends considered those establishments sufficient for the maintenance of the character, honour, and interests of the empire. He would not enter into a discussion with his noble Friend, because there was no material point of difference between them as to the degree in which the exigencies which 25 had created the necessity for this increased revenue, were to be considered temporary. He was not, on the one hand, so sanguine as to suppose that they could be terminated at an early moment; nor was he, on the other hand, so desponding as to apprehend that the various questions could not be speedily settled, and settled in such a manner as at no remote period to produce a diminution of the public establishments; but he was ready to go the length of saying that there hung over them a sufficient degree of uncertainty to make it the duty of Parliament to look at the actual deficiency as something to be provided for without any immediate prospect of diminution. He, therefore, took the deficit as he found it; but there he stopped: he took the deficit as arising from a comparison of the existing expenditure and the existing revenue, and would not enter into the question how far it might be proper to change the present system of taxation altogether, and to substitute an Income-tax for it. That was a separate, and in some points of view an alarming question, because there was no saying how far the change might be carried. From the moment the noble Earl laid down the principle that it was desirable to get rid of taxes by imposing an Income-tax, there was no knowing to what length he might be disposed to go. His noble Friend had gone through various points and arguments connected with taxation, and had adverted to the extreme inconvenience of putting on taxes which had once been repealed; but by the exercise of the same ingenuity he might have pointed out millions of taxes equally disagreeable, for which the Income-tax might be a substitute. He might have introduced the taxes upon houses or horses, or any others which it was inconvenient to pay, and might have said, "Here is an Income-tax, a remedy and a substitute for all these." If so, what became of the proposed period of three years, during which the Income-tax was only to continue? What security was there that it would be limited to the present exigency? It might possibly produce a great and a beneficial change, but let their Lordships recollect that it involved an alteration of the whole system of taxation. This question he was not now prepared to discuss, and he limited the remedy to the existing deficiency. He would, therefore, take the question as the noble Earl had first put it—how was it fit 26 to provide for the present deficiency of about two millions and a half? It would, he apprehended, stand to reason at all times, that when Parliament was called upon to supply a deficit, it ought first to endeavour, if possible, to do so by such a regulation of existing taxes as shall not interfere with, but increase the comforts of the community. If it could be accomplished in that mode, that mode ought to be tried, and Parliament had no right until then to lay an additional shilling on the people. He said so at all times, but especially at the present moment, when so much distress prevailed, and regarding which two of his noble Friends had made statements that he feared were not exaggerated. If means could be found which would increase the comforts of the poor, not only without diminution, but with addition to the revenue, that was the first source to which a wise statesman would look. In the second place, under this feeling, Parliament ought to adopt that species of direct taxation which was least unpalatable to the country, which least affected public prosperity, and in its result was least burdensome. He thus came to the question, how far these considerations applied to the Income-tax? The bill was upon the Table; its form was voluminous; it gave great powers, various in extent and different in application; it was the firstborn of the budget—a gigantic offspring, of mighty strength, and in many respects, as was admitted, most objectionable in its details. There was one quality belonging to the principle of an Income-tax which he willingly admitted to exist to the whole extent which his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) had stated: it was an efficacious tax. It was sure to extract the money out of the pockets of the subject. It had one quality in common with the lancet—that blood was sure to follow, be the consequences what they might to the feelings and constitution of the patient. The object was answered, for the money was paid. Now, that was a quality which he admitted an Income-tax to possess, and it was its sole recommendation. He said its sole recommendation, because he did not think it any recommendation of the system the argument which he had heard elsewhere urged, but which his noble Friend had not condescended to use—and he was glad his noble Friend had not—that an Income-tax was a tax affecting only the higher and middling classes of the 27 community, and not the lower. Their Lordships had heard it said, "What magnanimity!ߞwe are going to tax ourselves; we, indeed, shall feel the tax, and we are quite prepared to bear it, but nobody else will be affected by it!" So far from according with this boast, he was of opinion that if there was a tax which more than any other went to affect the interests of the lower orders, which diverted the application of that capital which set labour in motion, it was an Income-tax. It would be quite true that the poor would not suffer from an Income-tax, were the consequences of it merely that the man who paid it ate less meat, drank less porter, or consumed less bread. But they all knew that every man of capital would, in his own person, consume exactly the same portion as before; but what else would he do to meet the demand of the tax? He would abstract it from his savingsߞthose savings which went to make the national purse and national capital; or, if he were not a saving man, then, according to his station in life, were he a gentleman, a rich shopkeeper, or manufacturer, he would make a considerable diminution in the number of persons in his employment, which would thus deprive them of their means of subsistence. Therefore, the sole merit of an Income-tax was the efficacy and certainty with which it took the money out of the pockets of the people. This, he admitted, had always been, and always would be, its great recommendation. It was a merit he had occasion to observe in it, when, at an early period of his life, he supported the continuance of that tax under the pressure of a war, and of the immense difficulties that were then bearing upon the resources and vitals of the country. But to compare that exigency to the present state of things was like comparing a mountain to a mole-hill. Upon that very question of exigency his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) had bestowed some pains, and had endeavoured to show that we were at the present moment in a state of war, and that there was no material difference in the circumstances of the country. Now, if this argument were worth anything, it might have been urged at any time, because he apprehended that there was scarcely a period during the last thirty years when some chieftain or other, or some power in some portion of the globe was not in a state of hostility with this country. But an argument founded upon such a circumstance could hardly be 28 sustained in justification of an Income-tax; while he could conceive this country to be in a state of peace with all the world, and yet internal pressure on its resources to be so great as to justify a Government in bringing forward such a measure. But to bring forward this vast and gigantic power, which might be most wisely used to meet a deficit of twenty or thirty millions, with all its objectionable machinery, for the purpose of meeting a deficit of merely two millions and a half, was a total misapplication of a power so great and important. It reminded him of a circumstance which once happened to a noble Friend of his who had an elephant sent to him from the East Indies. This elephant was for some time allowed to walk in the gardens. After some time it occurred to the gardener that the elephant might be turned to some useful account, and after the exercise of great ingenuity the huge creature was taught to water the garden and make a little bank in the pleasure-ground. No doubt he did very great service upon a very small scale, and did it too with zeal, power, and efficacy; but nobody thought that his noble friend would have employed an elephant of such large powers with a large establishment of keepers, and all the inconveniences of maintaining him in the garden, for the purpose of enabling him to execute this very trifling duty. All these instances must be judged of not only by their efficacy, but by their adaptation to the ends required. It was upon that ground that he objected to and disputed the propriety of the application of the Income-tax to the present emergency of the country. He would not trouble their Lordships by going into details of the working of this tax. It must be taken as a whole. It was a machinery extremely cumbrous and extremely inconvenient; the act contained a variety of powers which no man could wish to see lodged in the hands of any Government, except in a case of absolute necessity. He admitted to its fullest extent, that if such a tax were necessary, the powers the act gave were also necessary. He was against almost all the amendments that had been proposed to be introduced into the machinery of the measure; because he held that it was not possible to make such a tax as this agreeable. He, therefore, did not object, that the Minister, whose measure it was, had not attempted to do that 29 which was an unattainable object—that of endeavouring to make it meet every possible case and instance in which an amendment, or mitigation, or modification of the tax might be proposed. But the objections which he entertained against the tax, and which made him think that nothing but a case of absolute necessity should induce their Lordships to adopt it were these:—First, it was essentially an unequal tax. Even in respect to land—the most prominent and get-at-able species of property that existed—it was not really and justly equal. Everybody knew the different circumstances under which estates were let. With respect to some lands great reductions were made from the rent on account of the great expenditure of capital for embankments, for draining, and a variety of circumstances which determined the real amount of the value to be very different from the nominal amount of its value. But if it was unequal with respect to the landlord's property, ten times more unequal was it with respect to the tenant; for the charge upon him was entirely undetermined by the amount of the rent he paid. The tenant in one part of England, or in different parts of the same county, came into his farm without much capital, depending entirety upon making his rent out of the prolific nature of the land itself. In another part of the country great capital was required to be expended upon the land, for which, of course, he was entitled to a return in the shape of profit; while in many parts of the north of England, and in Scotland, a tenant having a long lease expended half the value of the fee-simple in cultivating the farm for the first few years, depending upon being remunerated by the increased profits during the remainder of his term. And yet upon this increase of profits the valuator under this Income-tax Act might come and take back, in the shape of a tax, that which he had laid out in the shape of capital. Nothing could be more unequal—nothing more unjust. But let their Lordships go a step further; let them go to trades and professions. There again the inequality was more gross than ever. But he would not advert to this part of the subject further, because his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had, on a former occasion, most eloquently dwelt upon the peculiar circumstances of those who in a state of bad health, and of declining age, and finding their professional 30 earnings were escaping from their reach, were, nevertheless, by the rigid rule laid down—and he admitted necessarily laid down—obliged to pay the fullest amount on their earliest returns, without having the poor consolation of enabling them to explain their case, because that very explanation would be injurious to them, and deprive them of the benefit which their former reputation had obtained for them. These were briefly his objections to this tax—objections which were inevitable, and from which, from the very nature of the tax, those who had the working of it could not relieve it. What, then, he would ask, was the character of that tax which all admitted could not be adapted to the feelings and situations of the persons who had it to pay? A tax which, if they had it at all, they must have it founded upon a principle of inequality and injustice. There was one more objection to this tax, which was of so obvious a nature that he need hardly dwell upon it, but to which he was sure their Lord-ships' feelings would readily respond. He meant its inquisitorial nature—a power which ought not to be submitted to, except under a great and obvious necessity. The feeling which made any inquisitorial tax repugnant to the habits of the people of this country was one which he respected and which he considered essentially allied to the national character; and he never wished to see the day when the people of England would submit to the imposition of a tax which, beyond anything that existed in any country, was felt to be in opposition to their private habits and circumstances. He would now proceed to show, and, if possible, convince their Lordships, that nothing but an absolute necessity ought to induce their Lordships to adopt this tax. He would advert to the subjects which he thought would have been preferable—subjects of taxation, or of financial arrangement, either by making reductions or alterations in the duty, and which would have the effect at the same time of relieving the people and of increasing the revenue. Several of those had been more or less under their Lordships' notice. He proposed shortly to advert to them, and more particularly to the articles of corn and sugar. He would not invite their Lordships to a discussion of the general theory of the Corn-laws, or of the state of the corn-trade in this country; but the principle of protection being 31 adopted, and there being no immediate prospect of that principle being abandoned, he confessed after what he had heard from his noble Friend and others, he could not conceive upon what ground it was expedient that if that protection was to be afforded to the producer why the duty raised should not be productive to the revenue. The object of the duty seemed to be this, that it should affect the consumer, but be of no benefit to the country. On the contrary, he thought that any duty which made food dearer to the consumer, should be, as far as possible, compensated by making that duty contribute to the revenue of the State. To some extent, those who paid the tax would in another way derive a benefit from it. But the Legislature did exactly the reverse. They told the consumer,—"We have taxed your bread, but, mind you, we have done it in a way in which you never will be the better for it." True, his noble Friend had said that this Income-tax was not to be a permanent financial measure; but, though it should only exist for two or three years, yet there could be no conceivable reason why, during that time, the duty on corn should not be made to contribute to the revenue. Suppose the duty of 8s. a quarter, proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of last year, had been imposed upon foreign corn, a sufficient quantity of corn was introduced into the country during that period that would have produced 500,000l. beyond the 700,000l. amount of duty which was actually received. This would have contributed to a certain amount towards the deficit for the existing year. He now came to the question of sugar: and here he must say, that if ever there appeared to have been created by the bounty of Providence an article made to be subservient, not in one, but in every degree, to the wants of the community in which they lived, it was the article of sugar—an article which, not being produced in this country, justified a certain taxation being imposed upon its admission, and which was at once supplied from many parts of the world, might be taxed without peculiarly favouring or pressing upon any particular part; while that supply was so large that it would enable them, after taxing it, to see it furnished in such abundance as would meet the constant and increasing desire of the people for that article of subsistence, complying at the same 32 time with the call of the Legislature for additional revenue. That supply, however, the Legislature had been induced to limit, if not altogether to deprive the people of. It was impossible to conceive how hardly the present law pressed upon the poor cottager and mechanic, who found himself daily deprived by the increasing price of this sole luxury—if that could be called a luxury which was become a necessity, nearly as much so as any article of produce. Their Lordships would be surprised to find that by their laws they had reduced the average consumption of sugar by the poor to a less amount than was allowed to convicts in their gaols. The average consumption of the poor was, for the last few years, 15 lbs. and 28–100ths.; while the allowance to convicts was more than 22 lbs. By a report of a gentleman who had inquired into the condition of the labouring population, it was stated that every member of a poor man's family formerly consumed sugar-now it was only had to sweeten the food of a sick child. All this diminution was the result of a tax upon the consumption of an article which their Lordships were calling upon the people to accustom themselves to, and the use of which was connected with temperance and virtue, and calculated to elicit the warmest approbation of their Lordships. Yes—with their lips they approved, but by their legislation they discouraged them. The result would be, that the people would be drawn back to their former habits of improper indulgence from which the circumstances of the times appeared peculiarly favourable entirely to emancipate them. His noble Friend would, no doubt, argue that the present bill was to contribute to the revenue, which the reduction of the duty on sugar would not do. Now, he believed, that if there was any one thing more certain than another, than any speculation connected with negotiations or schemes of conquest, or aggrandisement of power, it was this, that they might build upon a certainty that large masses of persons would step forward to take off a supply of any article which had become one of necessity to them when that supply was within their reach. Air did not rush with more certainty into a vacant space, water did not flow more unerringly to its level, than the disposition to consume any article of luxury or necessity arose the moment the price was so 33 low as to make the means of the people adequate to meet that desire. They were not without the most positive proof of this. By accidental circumstances, the price of sugar, in the year 1837, fell 6s. What was the consequence? The very next year, upwards of 400,000 cwt. of sugar beyond the preceding year was consumed in this country. The same occurred in the analogous case of coffee. The increase of consumption always followed a decrease of price. They could not have more positive evidence upon that subject than what was furnished by Messrs. Martineau and Co., two eminent dealers in sugars, and who had had much experience in the fluctuation of the sugar markets in this country. They stated, that when the price was once brought down to 60s. per cwt., they always found a proportionate increase of demand; but when it was be low 60s., there was no limit to the increased demand. But what was the effect of legislation? It had always kept the price above 60s. Now, the calculation of his right hon. Friend, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer last year, was, that there might, with as much certainty as anything could be predicated on such a subject, have been expected an increase of revenue to the amount of 400,000l. or 500,000l. by the diminution in the price of sugar. His noble Friend opposite, (the Earl of Ripon) had adverted only to colonial sugar, but the late Chancellor of the Exchequer included foreign sugar. He did not, however, calculate upon a positive increase by each individual, notwithstanding the increased desire to consume the article. Looking at the increase of population alone during the last ten years, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that if he were allowed to bring up the consumption for each individual to the amount it was ten years since, he should realise the additional amount of revenue he had already mentioned. There never was, in his opinion, a clearer case—financially speaking, politically speaking, and above all, morally and humanely speaking—than that by making a diminution by law in the price of sugar you would relieve the public, by bringing within their reach an article which formed a necessary element of consumption with them, and make up a large amount of the deficit which was admitted to exist. He, however, did not wish to do this by an equalization of duties. It was not necessary to do so for 34 any of the purposes he had stated. More than that, he did not think they were called upon to do it with respect to the colonies themselves. They had paid a large sum to the colonists: for that he rejoiced; It would be a lasting honour to this country. If the price already paid for the emancipation of the negroes was insufficient, let more be given; but do not continue to punish the people of this country, and keep them in a state of privation out of a supposed regard for the colonies. They, after all, could not supply this country with sugar sufficient to meet the demand. If, during the last eight or ten years' experience they had not been able to maintain themselves against competition, their Lordships ought not to sacrifice the people of England to that supposed exigency. The colonies were now rapidly changing their condition. They had, in many instances, altered their system of cultivation. It had been most satisfactorily stated to him that a free population was able to compete with a slave population. An eminent colonist of Trinidad had lately stated that it was an heretical opinion to maintain the contrary. There was no necessity, therefore, to confine their measures to the exclusive views which some persons entertained on this subject. He was exceedingly glad that his noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) had abstained from alluding to one argument which had been urged elsewhere. It did his noble Friend honour. It had been contended, in another place, that however expedient it might be, that the people of this country should have a greater quantity of sugar—however expedient it might be that we should have a more extended commerce—however desirable it might be that by means of a sugar trade the revenue of the country should be increased—we ought not to enter into any commerce with those views while a state of slavery existed in any country where sugar was produced. What the reason for that was he knew not. What there was in existing circumstances and what there was at the present time, as a ground for abstaining from commercial intercourse, he knew not. Nor could he understand the sort of conscience which flitted over the budget—which now appeared, and which now disappeared—which now showed itself, and now again altogether withdrew. For was not the budget made up of articles manufactured by slave-labour? Let their Lordships 35 fancy the sort of dialogue which might be carried on between an English Ambassador and a foreign Minister, if the arguments of these very sensitive people were listened to, and their policy acted upon. Of course the English Ambassador would commence by expressing his opinion of the value and importance of commercial intercourse between his country and the country which the Minister was representing. But he then would proceed to descant upon the horrors of slavery, and would wind up his harangue by declaring that his country could not enter into commercial intercourse with a State which tolerated such horrors. What, then, would the Minister say? He, of course, would naturally say, "Oh, then, you won't take our cotton?" "Oh, yes, we will take your cotton, because we have cotton-merchants, and they require it." "But, then, you will not take our sugar at all for any purpose?" "Oh, yes, we will take your sugar, because we have refiners, and it is only when the article gets into general consumption, and increases the comforts of the lower orders, that we raise the objection of its being the produce of slave-labour." This must be the sort of dialogue carried on between the parties; and the South American or Brazilian Minister, though he bad not studied in the schools and was no profound logician, would be able to understand such arguments as these. Though he did not know the details of our budget, and was not aware that the only foreign sugar which entered into the English market—that of Cuba—employed the greatest amount of slave-labour, yet he would be surprised at the consistency of the greatest, wisest nation of the earth. But, in saying what he had said, their Lordships must not think him indifferent to the great object of effecting the emancipation, or, rather, of seeing effected, the emancipation of all the slaves throughout the world. But, that great object was not to be accomplished by threats of that description. It only could be gained by the moral example which England should set the other nations of the earth; and by showing to them the efficacy of free-labour. If other Governments applied to them their own arguments, what would their Lordships, what would the Government, what would the public say? Within the last year had occurred—within the last few weeks they bad heard, for the 36 first time, of atrocities and cruelties committed within this land, which equalled, if they did not exceed, the worst horrors of the worst of slavery. Such practices had been resorted to within the mines and collieries of England as might teach a hateful lesson of brutality to the most practised slave-traders. And yet, what would their Lordships think, if the French government directed the ambassador of that country to communicate to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, that France could not continue any commercial intercourse with England unless she no longer allowed and promised, under a certificate signed by the Count de St. Aulaire, to allow her own children to creep with manacles through her collieries and her mines. What indignation would their Lordships feel, and justly feel, at such an attempt to interfere with the social system of another country? and yet that was the course which they themselves recommended—that was the course which they themselves adopted. That was not the way to accomplish their object—that was not the way to put down slavery in foreign lands. The only way was to show to foreign governments and to foreign people the blessed advantages of their own beneficient sway. If a homily upon the horrors of the slave-trade were issued from the Foreign Office, and that homily were accompanied by a statement of the fact, that free-labour had been proved to be more effective than slave-labour, the homily would do no good; but the practical illustration would do every thing. He thought, that he had stated sufficient to show that no time ought to be lost in effecting a change; and he hoped that the change, if made, would relieve the country from her present embarrassments. Almost exhausted, he would with brevity allude for an instant to the article of timber. The plan which had last year been proposed by his right hon. Friend, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, had formerly been advocated and supported by his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Ripon) and other Members of her Majesty's Government. If they had consented to that proposal, and had taken Norway timber, which always regulated the price of the timber trade, they would not only benefit the consumer by obtaining the article cheaper, but a saving would have been gained to the revenue of not less than 600,000l. Taking it by 37 itself, he admitted, that the proposed change of the Government was better than the existing duties. It was better to take away the duty altogether than allow it to remain as it at present was. But they might, at the same time, have benefitted the consumer and relieved the embarrassments of the country. They ought to have considered her present situation, and the benefit of a total remission of duty ought to have been postponed for more prosperous times. If they had availed themselves of all the means in their power of increasing the revenue, and had still found a deficit remaining, the deficit which they then would have had to supply would have been a very different thing from the deficit which they now had to supply, and for the smaller deficit—if any at all had existed—he would willingly have consented to the Income-tax. But he at all times preferred a tax which was self imposed—not by that meaning imposed by the representatives of the people, but imposed by the people themselves individually, in deciding for themselves what articles they ought or they ought not to consume. Holding these opinions, he had brought forward the motion of which he had given notice, and in doing so he had not referred to the popularity or to the unpopularity of the measure for the sake of bringing any charge against her Majesty's Government. Many of the measures which the Government had introduced he approved of, and not only he, but those with whom be generally acted. This was proved by the support which they had given to the Ministerial proposal with regard to corn when that measure was being attacked and resisted by the friends and supporters of the Government. On other measures of finance he expressed his own individual opinion, and was alone responsible for the motion which he now begged to submit to their Lordships. The noble Marquess concluded by moving,That while this House is unwilling to obstruct the progress of measures calculated to supply the present deficiency of the public income, and make it fully adequate to meet the public charges, it cannot refrain from recording its opinion, that a judicious alteration of the duties affecting corn, sugar, and timber would have greatly diminished the amount of additional taxation required by the exigencies of the State, and would, at the same time, from its effect in increasing the comforts of all classes, and lessening the privations of the great body of the people, together with such 38 additions as might have been obtained from some other sources, have been preferable to a tax upon income, in the present circumstances of the country.
§ Lord Colchester
wished to offer a few remarks upon the subject of sugar, which had been adverted to by the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess had adverted to the high price of that article, and to the great denial of comfort which was in consequence imposed upon the lower classes. The great object of the noble Marquess was increased consumption; but that object could not, according to the noble Marquess, be obtained, unless a very considerable reduction were made in the duty on foreign sugar. It was upon this point of the noble Marquess' speech to which he was anxious to speak. The noble Marquess assumed that our own colonies and our own possessions beyond sea could not produce a sufficient quantity of sugar to meet the consumption of this country, supposing that consumption were brought up to the standard of former years. The noble Marquess had referred to a communication from a high authority in Trinidad, showing the absurdity of the statement that so large a quantity of sugar could not be produced by free-labour as by slave-labour. He was quite ready to admit the proposition of the noble Marquess as confined to sugar raised in British India, or in those foreign countries where no fresh importation of slaves could take place; and he held in his hand a letter from a gentleman residing in Barbadoes confirming the noble Lord in this respect, and stating that he (the writer) wished it was more generally understood in England that the falling-of if in the produce of sugar in the West-India islands, during the last four or five years, had been occasioned not by the transition from slave to free-labour, but by the droughts which, during those years, had prevailed in those countries, and that there was no doubt that the produce would be as great in future years as it had ever been. The equalization of the duties upon rum and sugar the produce of the East and West Indies would also contribute materially to increase the supply; and he for one entertained no doubt that there would be an importation of sugar from our own possessions more than sufficient for the consumption of this country, at a price of not more than 60s. per cwt., and that without any such alteration in the duty upon foreign sugar as had been 39 suggested by the noble Marquess, and which he believed would have the effect, not of increasing but of lessening the revenue. With regard to the competition between free-labour and slave-labour, he wished further to observe, that with those countries in which slave-labour was not extinct, and in which a continued importation of slaves took place, as was the case with the Brazils and Cuba, it was impossible for free-labour to compete, for in those countries the question was merely as to the quantity of sugar which could be raised within a certain time without any reference to the sacrifice of human life in the cultivation of that sugar. It was said, that it was necessary to afford facilities for the introduction of Brazilian sugar in order to preserve that market for our manufactures, but we had no security that they would take our manufactures in exchange for their produce. It was well known that the ships which took supplies from the United States into our West-India colonies, took away in exchange for those supplies, not the sugar the produce of those islands, but gold, with which they proceeded to Cuba and there purchased their sugar. The same thing might happen with the Brazils, they might take gold from us for their sugar, and go to France or to Belgium and purchase what they wanted.
was desirous of taking that early opportunity of stating to their Lordships the views which he still entertained, and which the reflections of the last two months since he brought the subject before the House, had tended to con. firm, upon this most interesting and important question, interesting not only to the Government and to the finances of the country, but to the comfort and well-being of the people; and he was the more anxious to take that early opportunity of doing so, having the misfortune to differ in some points from his noble Friend who had so recently addressed the House; for he felt, that he should not do justice to his noble Friend, or to his own opinion, if he did not at the earliest possible moment, endeavour to remove the impression which the speech of his noble Friend must have made upon their Lordships, with respect to those points on which it was his misfortune to differ from him. It formed no subject of difference, that his noble Friend should have expressed again on that, as both of them had expressed on 40 other occasions—the strongest—in his noble Friend, the almost invincible, and in his altogether invincible—repugnance to this impost. He agreed with his noble Friend, in all his comments upon the inequality of its tendency—its inability faithfully and effectually to perform its office of abstracting money from the pockets of the community—abstracting, as it did, unequally, unjustly, and oppressively, and above all, he agreed with his noble Friend in the opinion he had expressed of the inquisitorial—necessarily inquisitorial, he admitted—nature of such an impost; and there was one inequality which his noble Friend had omitted to consider, which more than all the rest gave him a repugnance to such a measure; that was its great power for all purposes—not merely like the elephant to which his noble Friend had referred, with a proboscis so sensitive, that it could pick up a needle, but that it was also equal to the tearing up of a tree, or the splitting of a rock—it was a weapon so powerful, that he could not consent to place it in the hands of any Government, as a regular and permanent financial resource. It was a resource to be confined to times of extreme exigency, a resource the employment of which absolute necessity alone could justify; but as a means of ordinary revenue, it was open to all the most serious objections, that could be urged against such a weapon. Whether the Government were one which he distrusted, or whether it were one in which he reposed the most entire confidence, it should not with his con-sent have in its hands a power which would enable it by the mere stroke of a pen at any time, to raise any sum of money it might please to demand, and to impose any amount of tax which it might consider the people could bear—to increase, merely by the turning of a screw, in this well-contrived engine, 100,000l. or 200,OOOl. to 10,000,000l. or 20,000,000l. or more. He repeated, that this was a power—a temptation to extravagance—which he would entrust to no Government, except in a case of overwhelming and absolute necessity. Let their Lordships remember what had occurred in reference to the former property-tax. On Monday, the 18th March, 1816, the property-tax was destroyed, though to his noble Friend, it was a matter of almost vital importance to enact it again in any terms, and to any amount, however small, as a permanent or regular branch of financial resource. They had previously to that memorable vote been told by another 41 noble Friend of his, the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs, then Secretary at War, that his army estimates were reduced to the lowest possible amount, and that consistently with the safety of the State, no further reduction could be made—that they had reached the maximum of economy, and had brought down the army to its minimum. On the 18th of March, the property-tax was rejected; and on the 22nd down came his noble Friend and put off his estimates—and the next week, or the week after, came the new set of estimates, framed in accordance with the new measure of parliamentary liberality, and the consequently altered state of the feeling of the Government. And so would it be again, whatever means of expenditure were at the disposal of the Government, they would spend up to them—the Government should always be kept on short allowance, and its expenditure would always be regulated by the strict watch which was maintained over it by Parliament. When, however, the question was—he would not say national bankruptcy—but when it was between the discredit of the country—going on with a continuing deficit in the revenue year after year—a deficit not diminishing but increasing with each year, and that so clearly and so surely, that the deficit of the year ending in April in each of the two last years, was greater than the deficit of the year ending in January—then it was that Parliament was imperatively called upon, and was absolutely bound, if it did not desert altogether the duty it owed to the country, to exert its power and put an end to a state of things thus going on from bad to worse, and from worse to worst of all—and which, if not stopped in time, must finish with something which might, without any figure of speech, be called an approach to a state of national insolvency. In the propriety of devising a remedy, all, he believed, were agreed. His noble Friend near him had complained that his noble Friend opposite had exhausted himself in demonstrating a number of propositions which all were prepared to grant him. To be sure no man would propose to re-enact the salt-tax, or that still worse tax, the tax on printed cotton goods. The question then being, how they were to meet the deficiency in the public revenue, and a growing deficiency, amounting, according to one estimate, to 3,000,000l., and according to the lowest estimate, of 2,500,000l.; and which 2,500,000l., if 42 correct, must not be understood as the whole amount of deficiency for the year—for it must be remembered that a very large increase of expenditure would be occasioned by the operations in the east, even if those operations were as successful as the most sanguine of their Lordships could expect—this deficit having to be met, the question was, whether the plan of his noble Friend near him, or the Government proposition of an Income-tax, was the fittest to be adopted—all admitting that an Income-tax was the worst, if the other were possible. His noble Friend's plan was that of the Government of last year, only varied a little as to the sugar duties, which plan was brought forward with a view to commercial legislation, not revenue, and in all respects except as to the sugar duties, appeared to him and others as being calculated to produce a great improvement in our commercial code. But a different view of that plan must be taken when brought forward as a measure of finance alone; for in that case, however good it might be in other respects, if it would not meet the financial difficulty it was not sufficient to prevent their having recourse to an Income-tax. He had already stated that an Income-tax could be justified only by the most urgent necessity, but if his noble Friends behind him had always entertained the same uncompromising hostility to an Income-tax which he entertained to it, and which now induced his noble Friend to prefer any other tax to it, those noble Friends would have adopted a different course in dealing with the proposition; for the obvious course in that case would have been, when the Government proposed their plan, to have resisted it at once, and to have allowed not one single instant to elapse ere they announced their uncompromising hostility to such a plan. But was that the course taken by his noble Friends? Did they oppose this measure when it was first brought forward? By no means: it was brought forward on Friday, the 11th of March; and it was one whole week before they could make up their minds to oppose it at all. That was a fact; nay, when it was brought forward a noble Friend of his (Lord J. Russell) avowed, that although there might be a difference of opinion, and time might be required in order to make up their minds upon the detail of the Government plan, yet that, as a whole, all parties must clearly admit that it was a great plan, worthy of the Ministers of a great coun- 43 try. But was the Income-tax no part of that great plan? Was it no material portion—was it a mere trifle,—and a thing to be passed over without even a word? His noble Friends could not dispute the accuracy of his quotation; for he could assure them those were the words in which the opposition to the measure were expressed; and he was never more surprised in his life, for, remembering the feeling always entertained towards this tax, he at least expected that not one moment would be lost to cry out against the abuse of it and its details, and to regard it as an enormity, to be palliated only by the extreme urgency of the necessity, and to endeavour, by all possible means, to reduce its mischief within the smallest possible compass. But the general approval of the Ministerial plan as a great measure, worthy of the Ministers of a great empire and nation, was all the resistance that was offered; and not even a protest was made against the plan until a week had elapsed from the moment of its being proposed. However, on Monday, the 14th of March, an opportunity was given to his noble Friends to reconsider their rash admission of the preceding Friday; and he took the liberty of coming to that House, and in his place moving a set of resolutions upon this whole question. Now it might not be necessary for his noble Friends to agree to all his resolutions; they might take a totally different view of the first of them, in which a statement was made of the evils of the tax, and an assertion that nothing but absolute necessity could justify its imposition; they might differ from that, and hold that no necessity could justify its imposition; or they might deny another of the propositions, which averred the existence of that necessity, and state, as his noble Friend had done to-night, that it was not necessary, inasmuch as there were o her means of providing for the deficit, without having recourse to this tax. They might agree with or dissent from the other proposition that he brought before their Lordships, stating the necessity of altering the tax as it had been formerly laid on, and making it more equal upon various kinds of income. But the propositions were laid on the Table on Monday, and the consideration of them put off at the request of one noble Lord and another until the Thursday following. Time was therefore given to his noble Friends to have at length made up their minds whether the Income-tax was to be opposed or 44 not; but even on the Thursday, when the debate was brought forward, and when the statement, of which his noble Friend (Lord Lansdowne) had spoken in terms of far too great commendation, was made by him to their Lordships in moving the resolutions—even then his noble Friends had not made up their minds on the subject, for they were not prepared to announce any opposition whatever, and his resolutions were of course negatived without a division. Now, something happened on that day, or early the next day, which showed that there was an appearance of some agitation in the city upon one question connected with the Income-tax. A meeting had been held of bank proprietors on the subject of terminable annuities, and the very great inequality of this tax was pointed out as one of the most crying evils, and to which the most serious objections existed—namely, that terminable annuities were taxed to the same amount with perpetual annuities and other permanent property. That feeling had been expressed in the city, and even then his noble Friends were not prepared to form their opposition; for if they had been, excitement would not have been wanting to produce it in that House. Although the agitation in the city produced no effect here, it was announced the night afterwards in the other House, that there was an intention to advance an opposition to the measure. But, notwithstanding all the arguments which his noble Friend had now brought forward, and so eloquently supported, and the reasons he had given against this tax, he had still avowed his intention not to throw' any obstacles in the way of the passing of this bill. Therefore, he could not help thinking that the difference between him and his noble Friend on this subject was not, in reality, so great as it seemed to be, and that he did not entertain a much greater aversion to this tax than himself, holding it as he did, in as great abhorrence as it was possible to hold any measure, provided a possibility existed of avoiding the imposition of it. Now then they came to the question of the existence of that possibility, and the first thing proposed by his noble Friend (Lord Lansdowne) was a tax upon bread. 1,700,000l. was to be raised, leaving only a deficit of 800,000l., and to make up that sum every person must think that a measure of this sort was out of the question. Was there any chance of raising that sum by the tax proposed by his noble Friend? He would at 45 once declare that he was here at issue with his noble Friend, for he did not regard the measures of last year as anything like measures of finance, and it was utterly impossible any one could entertain a contrary opinion after considering of what they consisted. In the first place, there was a tax of 8s. fixed duly upon corn. It was said, that 900,000l. would arise from that tax; but how was it to arise? Provided there was a certain quantity of grain imported in the year, so much duty per quarter was to be levied upon it, but if there were no grain imported there would be no levy of money and no duty received. Then what became of the 900,000l.? But he did not want to have the chance of obtaining revenue—not a ticket as it were in the finance lottery, giving a beneficial chance of having 800,000l. or 900,000l., or of not having it, according to circumstances. He did not wish to run the chance of having 900,000l. this year, and 500,000l. next year, and perhaps 300,000l. another year, and nothing at all the year after. The deficit in the revenue was not a matter of chance, it was always pressing upon them whether the seasons were good or bad, and it was to supply that deficit that they were now reduced to the necessity of finding out a means of taxation not contingent, not accidental, not of the hap-hazard kind, which might either be great, or middle-sized, or little, or nothing at all, according to the circumstances of the year. And what were those circumstances?—anything very steady, anything very much to be relied upon, anything very safely and securely to be looked forward to by statesmen intrusted with the most delicate, difficult, and important part of a nation's concerns,—the management of her finances, the support of her credit? No, it was something neither more nor less steady, nor more nor less to be relied upon, than the proverbially steady, fixed, calculable winds, and rain, and storm, and floods—in one word, the weather of the year in this kingdom. Come a bad season, and they had the importation; come a moderate season, and they had little or nothing imported; come a good season, and they had absolutely nothing imported at all; and with all that jeopardy, and the supply failing when, perhaps, they wanted it most, they were asked to build upon this foundation their hopes of a permanent, steady, and regular supply of nearly 1,000,000l. sterling. Then there was another thing to 46 be taken into the account. When there was a bad season here, and grain and food were dear, corn would, no doubt, be imported, and the 8s. duty be levied, and thus the revenue supplied; but was there nothing to set-off against that? It was just in a year of such a sort that the excise was likely to be deficient, because the higher the price of food the less able were the poor to indulge in those articles which formed the subject of the excise duties, and accordingly in that year when they had the greatest chance of receiving a supply to the revenue by the fixed duty on foreign grain imported came the deficit in the supply of the excise, and they must set-off that deficit against the paltry sum that the impost would bring of a duty on the importation of foreign corn. When, therefore, there was a chance of one portion of the revenue being benefitted there was a certainty of a deficit and a greater in another portion, He and several of his noble Friends had, however, contended that they had no right to lay on this tax, because it was a tax upon the food of the people, and to all intents and purposes a bread-tax—a poll-tax laid upon the rich and poor equally, for all were equal consumers of food. Yet they were now called upon to take it and to rely upon it as a permanent, constant, habitual portion of the revenue. Now he had said, that the measures of last year, with a view to commercial legislation, appeared to him to be very considerable improvements. He preferred the fixed duty of 8s. to the former state of the law, and he thought the sliding-scale would be no improvement upon the fixed duty, but as a measure of finance he fairly stated his opinion, that he did not think it was originally intended as such. And in support of that opinion, he would quote the remarkable words of a right hon. Friend of his,—words of which any one might envy the eloquence, and no one could surpass the candour—That the Government of last year brought forward the measure of the Corn-laws urged by the importunity of their friends and goaded by the taunts of their adversaries.The words were not his—he did not trench upon that ground—tractent fabrilia fabri—but they fully bore out his opinion that the Corn-laws were not brought forward as a measure of finance. He would now come to the second proposition as regarded the sugar duties. He cared not whether they took it as these duties were originally proposed—namely, 24s. a cwt., 47 or as the proposal had been now modified—36s. was to be the duty on foreign sugar, reduced from 63s.; there was the same per centage of differential duty. Now precisely the same principle applied to the sugar duties as to the timber duties when the protecting duty was reduced from 150 to 100 per cent.—namely, by taking off 5s. from the duty on Baltic timber, and adding 10s. on Canada timber, or rather increasing it from 11s. 6d. to 21s. 6d. He entirely differed from the view taken by his noble Friend (Lord Lansdowne) with respect to the sugar duty, and wished to enter his protest against the opinion his noble Friend had pronounced before their Lordships, unless his noble Friend confined that opinion to the question of slavery, and of slavery alone, as contradistinguished from the slave-trade. [Lord Lansdowne had made the distinction, and stated that he did not allude to the slave-trade but to slavery.] He was certain that he and his noble Friend could not entertain different opinions on that subject, but he thought the admission entirely disposed of the argument with regard to the sugar duties. They were now to reduce the duty on our own colonial sugar to 20s., and on foreign colonial sugar the duty was to be reduced from 63s. to 30s., taking off 33s.; and it was expected, that the protecting duty being no longer 162 per cent., but SO per cent., a large amount of foreign colonial sugar would be imported into this country. Now, he should show to the satisfaction of his noble Friend and the House that the refusal to equalize the. sugar duties was not made to protect the colonies, but to afford protection to the African negroes against the African slave-trade. It was mighty well and easy to talk of commodities, and of importations, and of duties, and of lowering the foreign duty, and of keeping our colonial sugar at the same rate, and by a differential duty increasing the amount imported, and of adding to the comforts of the people, and giving them what before was not within their reach—all these were fine smooth phrases; but if the House looked beneath the surface—if they paused, and asked the meaning of all this, and what lurked beneath these expressions depicting the smiling aspect of increased produce, and larger consumption of the whole people, they would find that it was meant that some 20,000 or 30,000 or it might he 40,000 unhappy Africans were to be instantly taken from Africa, and sent forward through all the horrors of the middle passage to culti- 48 vate Cuba and the Brazils. That was the meaning of this plan of finance. It was not a remote or a contingent, but the absolute and inevitable result of a change of duty. This was no question of preference of slave-grown sugar over free-grown sugar. If it was he should agree with what his noble Friend had stated to their Lordships. He might lament, but he could not help other nations cultivating their fields by slave labour. But those who knew anything of West-Indian affairs must be aware that there was a wide difference in the condition of the unhappy cultivator of sugar and that of the producer, even of coffee and cotton, much more of corn. The slave-trade was no institution—it was not to be ranked with any institutions of any country. It violated the laws of nature as well as nations, and instigated one nation against the other. If the duty was lowered, and our ports opened, the demand for Cuba and Brazilian labour would cause, as a matter of necessity, negroes to any amount to be poured into those colonies and that kingdom for the purpose of supplying the demand which we should thus occasion. He held it to be an inevitable consequence, that the instant the duty on sugar was lowered, 40,000 or 50,000 negroes would be taken from Africa to endure all the horrors of the middle passage and be hurried away to the West-Indian colonies. Every additional hogshead meant and caused an addition to the slave-trade. On a former occasion, he stated his objections to the present bill, and if he should not be exhausting their Lordships, he would repeat a few of them; although he was afraid, that under the existing system, any attempt to make any alterations in the bill in that House would be hopeless. If their Lordships would look carefully into the arrangements of the bill, they would be convinced, that there were matters involved, which although it might be vain to think of altering in that House, might not only be advantageously altered, but must be, to allow the measure to work. There were portions of the bill relating to the levying of the tax, which he was satisfied, when their Lordships had calmly applied their minds to them, would be found to require alteration. But that House could not alter them—it was too late—and there was no alternative between adopting the bill as it stood in this respect, or throwing it out. This fact showed how expedient it was that the House should have come to some 49 understanding on these matters, as he had formerly moved, and that it should be suggested to the other House to relax in their exercise of that high privilege which they claimed in all their proceedings relating to money. He would now name one or two of his objections. The first part of the bill, and the foundation of the whole measure, provided for the appointment of commissioners—those who were called commissioners for general purposes—who had in the first instance to work the measure, though certainly, as the bill stood, in a way most unintelligible. But he begged to assure his noble Friend, that in his observations he did not wish to act invidiously towards the authors or framers of the bill. His observations would have reference to a more general and a higher principle, one which was essential to the fit performance of the legislative functions of the two Houses. Now, the land-tax commissioners were to meet, and to set down in writing the names of such of the commissioners appointed as should be qualified to act as required by the bill, and to set down the names of those persons chosen to act. Any seven of the whole number—not less than seven, and in no case less than three of the persons set down in order—were required to take upon themselves the execution of the act. Now, let it be observed, that if on any exigency a mandamus was to be issued, or indictment preferred against a commissioner refusing to act, how was he, amongst three, or seven, or thirty-four, to know that it was against him that they were directed? And how was the name of the person to be ascertained? Again, if a person were absent, there was no notice provided, and the clerk was not called upon to deliver any. So that being absent from the meeting, he was to have no notice from the clerk, and yet was liable to be moved against by mandamus, and indicted for failing to take on himself the duties. It went on—Provided always, that where seven persons qualified to act as herein required shall be chosen to act for any district, no other person shall interfere as a commissioner.What if there were only three? The 6th clause was,And be it enacted, that in case there shall not be a sufficient number of commissioners chosen."—They might be chosen to act as commissioners, and it was not said by whom they 50 were to be chosen. Then came the 8th section, and the requisition was still more stringent. It was,It shall be lawful for the commissioners appointed to execute the said Land-tax Act, being respectively qualified as directed, and they and every one of them, not in any case exceeding the number of seven, are hereby strictly enjoined and required to take on themselves forthwith the execution of this act;"—or notice of such neglect and want of appointment was to be given to their clerk, with no provision that the clerk was to give them notice. So that they were strictly enjoined to find that they were any persons not less than seven; and they were strictly enjoined to act upon a notice, which they were not to receive themselves, but which another person, who was not to communicate it to them, was alone to receive. As to courts of justice, the 30th clause provided, that the Lord High Chancellor, the judges, and the principal officer, or officers of each court, or public department of office, civil, judicial, criminal, or ecclesiastical, should respectively have authority to appoint commissioners. How was that to be executed? Was it the Chancellor, or Chief Justice, or the Chief Justice and one of the masters, or the Chancellor and Chief Justice, and principal officer or officers? So that if they happened to be sitting the clerk of the rules might come and say, "Why don't you admit me to your council; I have as good a right to appoint as any of you." The commissioners were treated as if they would decline acting, but no effectual provision was made for that event. It was assumed, that nobody would like to execute the powers of this act, whereas he thought there would be found too great a disposition to execute some of its powers. Without its being specified where they were to meet, a provision was made by which any two or more of the commissioners for general or special purposes, or any other commissioners, were to be enabled to execute all instruments, to do all acts, and execute every power. Any two commissioners might act. There was no provision who were the persons to be present. What was the consequence? He went and he claimed an exemption of two; they refused to give it. He went to another two—any two might execute the I power—and they signed a certificate which was binding on the commissioners 51 for special purposes; they were to issue a warrant which was binding on the receiver-general of the taxes, and he was to honour the warrant and pay the money according to the certificate. Therefore, having been refused exemption by the general body of the commissioners, any two of the commissioners was entitled, by the 191st section, to give the exemption. The last circumstance to which he wished to call their attention (he had passed over many), related to persons in the situation of trustees, agents, guardians of infants, committees of lunatics. They were all, by the 44th clause, entitled to deduct from the means of the infant, cestui que trust, principal in the care of agent, or lunatic, coming into their hands, whatever sums they had been assessed at, and they were indemnified. But then came the 61st, 165th, and other sections, by force of which, if a person had not been so assessed as to enable him to deduct, he was to be entitled, after the expiration of a year, to obtain a certificate, and to be repaid the money which he should have advanced. The guardian of the infant, or committee of the lunatic, might go and claim at the expiration of the year: they received the warrant and certificate of the commissioner; they went with the warrant of the special commissioner to the receiver of taxes, the receiver was bound to pay them the money, and there was not one title of requisition calling on them to account for the money to the estate for which they were guardian or trustee. If they put the interest into their own pocket, they had absolute and complete indemnity whatever sums they had been allowed. The 166th section was worth attending to with this view. It was,Whoever shall fraudulently be guilty of any fraud or contrivance in making any such claim, or obtaining any such exemption, or whoever shall fraudulently conceal 'or' (not 'and') untruly declare any income.Not fraudulently, not falsely, but untruly, in optimâ fide, believing it to be so,Shall be fined 20l. and pay the duty chargeable, making 35,l.That was if he was the principal; but how was the accessory to be dealt with? He who aided or abetted in this untrue declaration was fined 50l. The same observation as to the division of the bill into two parts, which he had already made, applied to the only other matter to which he would call their attention, viz.—those parts of 52 the bill relating to oaths. There was schedule F, containing five forms of oaths, to be taken by various functionaries and officers. Of late years great improvement had been made in bills which had passed through their Lordships' House, by reducing the number of oaths as far as possible, and substituting declarations for oaths, wherever it could effectually and safely be done. He had no doubt that if this bill could have been divided, that schedule would have been entirely changed; that oaths would have been struck out, and declarations substituted. Last of all, the examination of persons on oaths which was provided for in the 124th section, and all that exacerbation of the mischief, and all that was odious and intolerable, might have been left out. He particularly alluded to the 125th section,That it should be lawful for the commissioners to summon any person whom they might think likely to be able to give them evidence respecting the assessment to be made, to appear before them and to be examined respecting the assessment made on any other person.Neighbours, friends, relatives—all but one excepted class, viz., agents or confidential trustees—might be called before the commissioners and examined into their whole circumstances and mode of living. The conclusion was lame and impotent, for by paying 20l a man might avoid all examination. Some persons would rather undergo the examination than pay the penalty. He made no doubt that some persons in every neighbourhood would be found too ready to lend themselves to the inquiries of the commissioners, and to give all the information which they had, or thought they had, respecting the affairs of their neighbours. But solicitors might be examined as to the amount of money they had paid to counsel. Correspondents of merchants might be examined as to all that passed between them and their mercantile correspondents. Consignees of merchants in the same way might be examined as to the most delicate affairs of their consigners; tradesmen, as to the affairs of their customers; customers, as to their expenditure, payments, when they paid their last accounts, how much money was due, how much debt there was of A B in the books of C D. There was no confidential trust between a customer and a tradesman, therefore these parties were not protected. A banker was not a trustee; he was merely in the nature 53 of a shopkeeper who kept a shop, and the banker might be called before the commissioners and examined touching the nature of the account; the son might be examined as to the father, the father as to the son; and all this the commissioners not only might, but were somewhat in duly bound to undertake as often as there was any doubt on their minds respecting the accuracy or fulness of the disclosures. Now, having the opinion which he had already expressed of the absolute and unavoidable necessity of this measure—being quite aware that pass it must—for what purpose did he urge these observations? Not in the light of hopelessly objecting to the measure, not to prevail upon their Lordships to do that which it would be hopeless, even if he felt that there was not a necessity for passing it, to prevail upon them in this stage to do—viz., reject it; but for the purpose of again reminding this House of the consequences of the rule being so rigorously adhered to which excluded the revision and correction in this House of the most important legislative acts that came up from the other House of Parliament He said that it was no self laudation in this House, or in a Member of this House, to assert, which he most confidently did, that in this House, by its constitution, by the manner in which its business was transacted, by the manner in which it was composed, having within its walls not only the statesmen who adorned this country, and who had so long and so eminently served it, not only men of all other professions—if he might speak of a statesman as carrying on a profession—but the sages of the law as well as statesmen—the judges who presided in the tribunals of the country, who were best versed in its laws—the House itself being a high judicial body as well as a branch of Parliament—that in a place of an aspect like this all the arrangements of the bill could be more accurately, more safely, more fruitfully sifted and corrected by their Lordships than by the other House, And what precious advantage was thrown away, what great risk of error was incurred, what constant pitfalls were laid by the other House of Parliament to surround and beset its own steps in legislation, by insisting on their Lordships' positive and absolute exclusion from all share in perfecting by correction the most important measures. He had no more doubt, than that he was now addressing their Lordships, that if these and other clauses, 54 to which he had taken leave to direct their attention, had been embodied in a separate bill, or if they had been suffered to enter into an examination of those which they had not the power of examining, the result would have been very different although he could not say that it would have had the effect of making this measure much better or much more palatable; for when he looked at the mass he Was disposed to agree with his noble Friend's character of it, who shrunk back with honor at its huge bulk—at the hideous aspect of its arrangements—at the odious nature of its details, to which he might add its darkness and obscurity, in all the particulars to which he had directed their attention.Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.They would, however, have purged the measure of some of its defects—they would have cleared it of its obvious errors, and made it more certain to raise the revenue required. If passed in its present form it would not be sanctioned—it would not long be tolerated by the people of this country.
§ Viscount Melbourne:
In the consideration of this measure, I must say, that I entirely agree in the observations of my noble and learned Friend which he made at the commencement of the address to your Lordships, which he has just concluded, and that is with respect to the paramount importance of this measure. It is a question of very great importance—of much greater importance, in my opinion, than any which has been submitted to your Lordships for many years—years which I must say have not been unfruitful in great and important measures. It is a question which involves not only the means of meeting the present difficulties of our financial position, but which involves also the future stability, the future power, the future security, the future dignity of this country; and I should say that, considering all the questions which have been submitted to your Lordships' attention since the great question of reform in the representative system in Parliament was carried, there is no one which does not sink into comparative insignificance when compared with that now before your Lordships' House. It is a question, therefore, into which no party feeling should be allowed to enter, and with regard to which no consideration of any former or pre-conceived, or pre-delivered, sentiments should 55 have any weight—which should be considered on its own grounds with reference to the existing circumstances of the times, and of the country, and with a view to the present advantage and well-being of this great community. Therefore, I shall take leave to consider this case, I trust not at too great length, but in doing so I must trespass upon your attention so far as to consider it in some degree in a general point of view. My noble and learned Friend who has last spoken is himself in rather an awkward position in reference to this question—at least, if I may judge from the vigorous struggles which he made to clear himself from the position of difficulty in which he stood. My noble Friend was a great leader of the Opposition to this tax in the year 1816—he was its most active opponent—he covered it then with invective, and he now comes forward under the character of a supporter of this measure, and in that capacity he seems to experience some little difficulty. In the former case, he covered the measure with the utmost invective, but he gave it his opposition—he persists now in his invective, but he gives the measure his support. I cannot help thinking that he has a little overdone this matter in the way of invective, and he should have deliberated a little before he gave this character which he has given it, both in the resolutions which he proposed to this House on a former evening and in the speech which he has made to-night, because, if it is indeed so frightful and odious a measure as he has described it—if it is the monstrum horrendum which he has pictured it to be, I do not think he has made out a case which justifies him in giving it his support. I have the misfortune not entirely to concur with my noble and learned Friend in either view which he has taken of this tax at either period of his life. I do not feel so certain as he does that he rendered so great a service to his country in successfully opposing the Income-tax in 1816 as he seems to suppose; nor do I now see the complete necessity which he states for this bill; nor the entire insufficiency of those other measures which were proposed when I had the honour to hold office, instead of this tax, so as to justify him in the support which he is giving to this bill. In the resolutions which the noble Lord laid on the Table of the House he did not state the opinion which has been generally stated, that this tax ought not to be 56 imposed in time of peace, and that it should be entirely reserved for times of war. My noble Friend has stated his proposition in a manner in which I more fully and completely agree. He states that it is a tax which should not be imposed except in times of very great emergency; but I do not see that that is a peculiarity which belongs to this tax. No tax should be imposed except in times of very great emergency—no duty which greatly affects the price of any article of consumption, and therefore affects the community at large—no tax which affects the price of any commodity necessary for supplying the wants of the people should be imposed, unless there should be an absolute necessity for its imposition; and as it should not be imposed, so should it not be continued one day beyond the time for which it is absolutely requisite. But, it will be said that there is a great difference between the emergencies of peace and those of war. The greatest difficulties which have ever befallen nations, however, have fallen on them in times of profound peace. We all know very well that the great rebellion—the insurrection in England which terminated in the overthrow of the throne of this country, befel us not only in the time of profound peace, but at a time of the utmost general commercial prosperity. The great Revolution of our own time—the greatest calamity which ever befel the world—the revolution of France, fell on that country, not at the moment of war, but at a time of triumph, when circumstances had arisen which had been most humiliating to this country, and had given to France a position in Europe which she had never before enjoyed. And your Lordships must recollect that a calamity of this description is more likely to occur in time of peace than during a war; there are two great causes likely to produce financial difficulties—great expenditure of that which should be appropriated to the payment of your debts; secondly, the abuses of the times of peace—the abuses of credit and over-speculation, which often produce consequences as serious as those of war; but these calamities, in his opinion, were much more likely to fall on a nation, and generally did so, more decisively and more severely in the time of peace, than at a period when the country may be engaged in hostilities with another nation. It has been considered so from ancient times, and it has been stated by ancient poets that war had been often sought for, to get rid of the 57 consequences of a long protracted peace. With regard to many of the objections raised by my noble and learned Friend to this bill, I entirely concur. I think that this is a tax which has many advantages, and many disadvantages. It is no small point in its favour, I think, that it effects its object, and that it will raise that amount of revenue which it professes to be able to raise, but whether it raises it by means which are so good as to be altogether safe, is a question which remains to be discussed. It cannot be denied that it is a duty which, above all others, is the cheapest of collection, and that it puts more money into the Treasury in proportion to the expense of its collection than any other tax which has yet been devised. That certainly is not the case in reference to all its details, because the cost of collecting the 2½ per cent, is as great as that of the collection of 10 per cent.; but at the same time I think, that compared with any other duty, it is preferable as regards the expenditure of public money at which it can be levied. It is undeniable, also, in my view, that this is a tax which falls on the poor with very great weight. Though it is actually, and in point of fact, paid by the rich, yet in effect it falls upon those who depend upon the rich for support, and whose means of support are, therefore, diminished in proportion to the reduction of the income of their superiors. Impression in matters of this sort is undoubtedly of great importance, and upon that view the adoption of this tax is perhaps, an important and a desirable measure, It is a tax which will be paid by persons of property—they do not appear to feel it, and so also the poor will not perceptibly experience the immediate inconvenience. But I do not view this as being by any means a proof of the goodness of the measure. It has been said of the present Prime Minister of this country, that he did not deceive the people, but that he stood by while the people deceived themselves. I do not say whether that is true or not, but it is very well expressed; and I can easily see what was meant by it. And while people rest under an erroneous impression of what will be the consequences of a certain act, I hardly think it right that such an advantage should be taken of them. People in this case would say, that this tax falls upon persons of property, and at first that appears to be a matter which recommends it, and would produce a feeling in its favour. And I admit that it is an infirmity of the 58 measure that it presses with great apparent equality on all classes; but after all its unpopularity consists in its equality. Its inequality is the argument raised against it, but its equality the certainty that every one will have to pay, is the cause of its great unpopularity, and at the same time I do not mean to say that it is not liable to very considerable objection. It is impossible to deny that it possesses an inquisitorial character, and that that is a matter which is extremely unfavourable under the existing circumstances of the country; and what I think is a very strong objection to the tax at this moment is, the very strong and bitter feeling of political hostility which it will inevitably engender. Is it possible to suppose, when we see what influence is put in motion, what bitter hostility may exist between man and man on political subjects, that the powers entrusted to the commissioners under this bill, will not be made use of for such purposes. But another great objection to it is, that it will have an unquestionable tendency to drive capital out of the country, which is the only means by which it can escape the operation of the law. There are other objections which have been urged to your Lordships, but to which I do not attach any very great weight. It is said, that the calculations upon which the measure has been introduced to Parliament have been wrongly framed—that you do not want so much money—that under this bill more will be realised than is wanted. But these are complaints which, if they turn out to be well founded, may be very easily remedied. You have nothing to do but to reduce some other taxes, and I think that you need never be afraid that any Government will be otherwise than most anxious to take every opportunity of reducing the burdens upon the people. In the present state of the country, there is no Government which is not anxious to seize every opportunity of reducing the amount of taxation. But it is said, that the tax is one which will engender extravagance, and reference has been made to the year 1816, when the repeal of this tax produced a largely diminished estimate. This certainly was the fact; but the reduced estimate certainly did not stand long, as my noble Friend must recollect, for it was found to be totally inadequate to meet the exigencies and the wants of the country. But I own I am not apprehensive of any danger likely to arise from this source of mischief. If 59 the Government are extravagant, the House of Commons has the remedy in its own hands—it has only not to recommend that which is extravagant. I fear extravagance, certainly; but it is not the extravagance of Government, but it is that of the fancy of hon. Members of Parliament, of caprice, of taste; and 1 am not afraid of the extravagance of the Treasury, provided it is only left to itself; and it has no external purpose to drive it beyond the point to which it would go of its own accord. I cannot help thinking that my position on this question is more happy than that of my noble and learned Friend. 1 stand on this question in a position more unencumbered than my noble and learned Friend, because the first vote which I ever gave in Parliament was in support of the motion of my noble Friend, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, for increasing the amount of the tax upon income by 10 per cent. When this matter was discussed in 1816, I was not in Parliament, and therefore having expressed no opinion by my vote at that period, I am, of course, free to take any line of proceeding upon the present occasion which may seem right. I must say, that I do not feel the general objections to this measure so strongly as it is felt by many other persons; but I do not think it prudent or wise to adopt this measure on the present occasion, and under existing circumstances, and in the present state of the temper and feelings of this country, I am very well aware, and have always been so, that the system of finance on which the Government of the country was conducted by my noble Friend, Earl Grey, was not according to strict principle. In that system we trusted too much to the surplus, and by that means imposed fresh burdens on the Consolidated Fund, without taking means to reinforce it by any fresh taxes. I was always aware, that we were not acting according to strict principles, but there are positions of the country in which a departure from principle is the right principle, and that was a view which always governed me in reference to the particular period to which I referred. 1 think that at that time the country was not equal to such an exertion as that which it is now called upon to make, and that it was safer to introduce the measures which were then introduced, and to trust to time and to the events which were then in progress, rather than to force so strong a measure on the country as that which is now proposed. And that is still my opin- 60 ion; and it is so on the ground that we introduced those measures which have been already frequently stated to your Lordships. I do believe that it was probable that those measures would have answered the financial purposes of the country—that they would have raised the amount of revenue which was required, and I beg leave distinctly to assure my noble and learned Friend, that they were introduced for financial purposes, and for financial purposes only with a view to meet the difficulties of the country; and, however it may sound to my noble and learned Friend, or to the House, I beg leave to say, that I have no objection whatever to the levying of duties for the purpose of raising a revenue on the importation of foreign corn. I think that corn is a fair and legitimate subject for taxation, and 1 see no reason why it should not be taxed, and why a revenue should not be raised from it. From the wants of the country there is reason to believe, that the revenue would be not entirely of a certain character, but a great deal more certain than has been referred to by my noble and learned Friend; and although the trade in foreign corn should partake of that fluctuation and uncertainty which belongs to all other foreign trades, I see no reason why revenue should not be levied from it merely on account of its uncertainty. You calculate at present on the revenue to be derived from corn, and I do not see why, because the corn-trade is subject to fluctuation and uncertainty, you should not raise as much revenue from that commodity as you can by a fair import duty, even though that revenue should fluctuate from year to year. Considering the nature of this measure—considering the prejudice which prevails against it, I say, that it is not, in my opinion, wise or prudent to impose this tax on the country until you have first tried every other means of meeting the existing deficiency. You have not shown to the country that those measures were insufficient for the purpose. I think that the emergency is not sufficient—that the peril is not sufficiently imminent—that the case is not sufficiently strong to justify the adoption of such a measure, and I think that you are throwing away and perilling that which may be hereafter of great advantage. If I am asked why I did not propose this measure to the country in 1841, when I held a high position in the Government, I should say as Solon said, when he was asked whether he had given the 61 Athenians the best laws possible, "No, but I have given them the best they can bear." And I beg leave to express my opinion that it would have been better if you had adopted the measures which were proposed, and which you might have adopted, though you did not do so. We proposed those measures distinctly to the country, and the country decided against them, as we say. You say that they did not decide against the measures or their principles, but against the men who proposed them. That is what has been said a hundred times, but we cannot admit it; but we think that we are still at liberty to consider that decision to be not against those measures, and therefore you might have adopted them. But if all those measures are rejected; if you determine upon pursuing this course, and by this strong measure to raise the revenue, so that it shall equal the expenditure of the country; I say, remember you must persevere in it. You cannot recede from it—you cannot go back again—you cannot abandon it—you must go forward with it—you cannot recede from it with honour or with safety, and though 1 do not think it either wise or prudent that the measure should be now adopted, yet I beg leave to have it understood that I do not pledge myself not to support the present Government, or any future Government while it may maintain this tax, or even the extended operation of this bill.
§ The Duke of Wellington:
I will not now enter into a discussion before your Lordships whether or not the country, in deciding against the measures of the noble Viscount who has just sat down, decided against the propositions of the noble Viscount, or against the men who made them. My desire is to support this measure on its own grounds, and not to consider the merits of men who do not propose this measure, but who proposed other measures, which I certainly think ought not to have been proposed, and which undoubtedly ought not now to be carried, because I am thoroughly convinced that those measures are not inadequate to answer the purposes or to meet the necessities which now render your Lordships' interference necessary. I agree with the noble Viscount that this is a totally different question from that of the year 1816. I think that it has been proved clearly by my noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon) that this is a measure which is absolutely necessary, in order to enable Parliament to meet the deficiency of the 62 revenue for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the country. The noble Viscount has stated that he thinks that the course might have been taken of laying a duty on corn, upon sugar, and upon timber. At least this is certain, that the produce of the duty on corn would have been, very uncertain; but what we want is certainty. We have a certain deficiency to meet, and a certain expenditure to provide for, and we require a certain revenue in order to provide the means of defraying those charges. It is quite obvious that in certain seasons it is possible that no corn might be imported, and that in other seasons very large quantities of corn might be introduced into this country; and no reliance could be placed on the amount of revenue to be expected at one period. In respect of the duty on sugar, my noble Friend (the Earl of Ripon), and my noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), have both stated the objections which rest on-financial grounds against the alteration proposed upon the importation of foreign sugar; and the noble and learned Lord has stated other objections referable to the slave-trade, which I have always felt to be very strong objections against the alteration of these duties. I have taken a very simple view of this question. It is this. The Government of this country have entered into treaties for putting an end to the slave-trade with the governments of the Brazils and of Spain, which treaties have not been strictly carried into execution; a circumstance which I know from my having been called upon to treat on the subject at different congresses at which I have been engaged. We know that large numbers of slaves are exported from Africa—I believe up to this very moment, and I do think that wherever the Government of this country makes such arrangements as we have made, or such concessions to foreign powers as to lower the duties upon foreign sugar, those concessions ought to be used for the purpose of protecting the system of preventing the slave-trade. Advantage ought to be taken of those concessions, in order to obtain those objects; and I say that these duties ought not to be lowered until such concessions shall be made as will give us a tolerable certainty that the treaties relating to the slave-trade will be strictly carried into execution; and I say that this should be done more especially because I believe that the future demand for sugar in this country can be supplied by 63 her Majesty's colonies within the tropics. If, then, my Lords, that should be the case, I say that, considering the sacrifices which were made by our colonies and by the West-India proprietors, eight or ten years ago, and considering also the description of engagements which were entered into with them at that period, that the existing system should not be altered, these facts should induce your Lordships to consider well the subject before they should consent to alter the duties upon foreign sugar imposed in this country. Then, my Lords, that being the case, and it being admitted on all sides that there is no other resource, that the experiment has been tried of levying a per centage on the customs and excise, and also on the assessed taxes, that the former has failed entirely, and the last has succeeded only partially, I do conceive that the necessity has been clearly made out for the adoption of another course; and I say further, that no other course could be adopted than the measure at present under your Lordships' consideration. The noble Marquess who spoke in the early part of the evening stated that this tax is to be justified solely on the ground of the deficiency of the revenue to provide for the expenditure of the country; but, my Lords, begging your Lordships' pardon, if this tax levies a larger sum than is necessary to provide for the expenditure and the public service of the country, there surely can be no reason why the overplus should not be applied to relieve the country from other taxes which fall heavily upon the resources of the country, and from which it was desirable that the country should be relieved, in order to benefit the commerce, the manufactures, and the other interests of the country. I do not mean to say, my Lords, as the noble Viscount opposite has said, that the tax should be continued in order to procure such a surplus. No, my Lords, but the tax being levied for the purpose of supplying a deficiency in the revenue to defray the expenses of the country, it is reasonable and right that the overplus should be applied towards the deficiency which must be the consequence of a repeal of the duties which press on the chief interests of the country, and to that purpose it is intended to apply that overplus. The noble Viscount has stated what is perfectly true—that the Government having adopted this measure, must adhere to it so long as it is necessary; and I sincerely trust that this Government, 64 if your Lordships will adopt this bill, will maintain this measure as long as it is absolutely necessary, and not one hour longer. I have said, that this tax is to be applied to the repeal of certain taxes, but it is to be expected, that when taxes are modified or repealed, the revenue will then become productive, and that the Government will thus be able to repeal this tax, not only because a necessity for it no longer exists, but because the increased revenue to be received from this relief from taxation, will enable us to come to Parliament and propose the repeal of this tax. It is impossible for us to do what the noble Viscount did, indeed we have not the means to do it. He came down to Parliament with a revenue already labouring under a deficiency, and he proposed to repeal the Post-office duties. By the measure there was lost 1,600,000l. on the year's revenue, and in the preamble of the bill which carried that measure into effect, there was a promise that the revenue should be made good. There was an attempt to make it good, but the promise remains unperformed to this day; and you cannot expect us to take the example of the noble Viscount, repealing such burdens as ought to be repealed, and then taking our chance of making up the amount of the public service as the noble Viscount, did when he repealed the Post-office duties, and trusted to a promise in an act of Parliament that the amount should be made good to the public service. My Lords, I have already stated that I hope the Government will retain this tax as long as it is necessary. I can answer for myself, and I believe I can also answer for my Colleagues, that nothing but necessity could have induced us to propose such a tax. We are perfectly aware of all the inconveniences that must result from it—we are perfectly aware of the provisions of the act of Parliament upon your Lordships' Table—we are perfectly aware of the odious powers with which these commissioners and others must be trusted—and we can reconcile it to ourselves only by the necessity of the case. The country must feel also the necessity of the case. Your Lordships must feel it. We have been now for several years engaged in operations involving great expense in all parts of the world. I will not say, my Lords, that we have been at war, but I believe we have been at something as like war, if it be not war, as anything could well be. I have had lately opportunities of giving my consideration to the measures 65 which have been carried into execution during the last few years, and I certainly did consider these as measures of war; they have entailed upon the country the expenses of war, and we are now called upon to discharge the bill. We have had a deficiency for various years, amounting to 10,000,000l. sterling, there is a deficiency of 2,500,000l. on this year, and I believe, that if the accounts were examined very closely, the amount would be even more. But that amount is necessary to enable us to perform the public service. We are exactly in the situation of persons who have incurred a great debt, and who are called upon to pay the bill. I hope we shall pay the bill, and that we shall restore the country to a satisfactory state, and to prosperity. I say, again, my Lords, that nothing but a strong sense of the necessity of the case, and that there was no other course which we could take to produce such a revenue as would enable us to meet the difficulties of the country, or to do what is necessary for its prosperity, would have induced us to propose such a measure, and it will not last one moment longer than it shall be absolutely necessary.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, he was very unwilling to protract the debate, but when their Lordships considered the position in which the question now stood, he trusted he should be allowed to make a few remarks. This was the most important measure which had come before Parliament since the passing of the Reform Bill, and this was the only occasion on which an opportunity bad been afforded for its consideration. Their Lordships had now, as on a second reading, to consider the principle of the bill; they had now, as in committee, to examine its details, and also with respect to its having passed through committee; and in addition to this they had to consider it with reference to the proposition of the noble Marquess opposite; and yet considering that only four individuals had yet had the opportunity of addressing the House, their Lordships seemed dissatisfied at having the debate carried on at a quarter past eleven o'clock. If their Lordships were desirous of adjourning the debate, no one would be more ready to agree to that course, but he presumed that it was their Lordships' desire to conclude the discussion to-night, and therefore it would be an act of injustice to say, that those who felt an interest in the subject, and wished 66 to deliver an opinion thereon, should be deprived of so doing. Their Lordships were all agreed that if a proper substitute could have been found, this measure ought not to have been introduced. It was admitted that only one substitute could be proposed. His noble Friend in introducing the measure had taken a view of all the taxes which had been repealed since the war, and not one had been pointed out as a fit substitute for the present measure; and there only remained for consideration the substitute proposed by the noble Marquess opposite. His noble and learned Friend had shown that the proposition of the late Government could not have been effectual, and had intimated that they never intended to carry out their measure. Their conduct was certainly open to great suspicion. The measures which they submitted to Parliament were of a most important nature; they were measures likely to effect a great change in the finance and commerce of the country; and it was not until their tenure of office became precarious that they thought of bringing forward those measures. If they entertained any intention of passing such measures, they surely ought to have introduced them in the Queen's Speech at the commencement of the Session. Under these circumstances, was it likely their Lordships would reject the present measure, for the purpose of substituting that proposed by the noble Marquess? He thought their Lordships could come to no other conclusion than that the bill was absolutely necessary. He thought, however, that some parts of it were extremely objectionable. Many persons were of opinion that a tax of this nature ought only to be considered as a war tax, but he thought it peculiarly applicable to a time of peace. It was the only tax which could touch those who preferred other countries to this, and this was one of the redeeming qualities of the bill. His object in now addressing their Lordships was to obtain some information with respect to the operation of this bill in Ireland. No notice had been taken in either House of its application to that country. It professed not to extend to Ireland, but to be entirely confined to Great Britain; and yet in its operation it appeared to him to contain some of the most objectionable provisions, which would materially affect Ireland. He regretted exceedingly that her Majesty's 67 Ministers had not considered it expedient! come to a division, and 1 should not have to extend its operations to Ireland, because that showed, that it was their deliberate opinion that Ireland was not fit to bear the tax. At the same time other taxation had been imposed on Ireland to nearly as great an amount as if she had been subjected to the Income-tax. It was injurious, in his opinion, to that part of the empire, that it should be supposed to be unable to contribute its fair proportion to the exigencies of the State. When it was necessary to impose a burden on the country, that portion of the empire ought not to be exempt. The exemption, however, having been made, he was anxious to take this opportunity of ascertaining from her Majesty's Ministers the manner in which its operation would extend to that country. By the provisions of the bill all individuals not Members of Parliament, who reside for more than six months in this country, are required to pay the tax. All Members of Parliament were exempted who reside in this country during the Session of Parliament, and forty days before, and forty after. These provisions were copied from the Assessed-tax Act, the 52nd George 3rd; but he did not think that the provisions of that Act could be fairly and justly applied in the present case. It appeared that Irish proprietors, residing more than six months in this country, would have to pay the tax; but if they should leave this country and reside abroad, how were they to be affected? He saw no machinery in the bill compelling them to pay; and it was, therefore, a bonus on the Irish proprietor to live abroad. The mode of taking the average for three years would have the effect of exempting some persons and throwing an unjust burden on others. He believed that a large portion of the income of that country would be subject to this taxation, although it appeared to be exempt. The stamp duty would also fall very heavily on that portion of the empire. He believed the spirit duty to be a good principle of taxation; but he certainly did not anticipate that the amount calculated on by the Government would be realised by it. He would not detain their Lordships longer than to say, that he should have felt great gratification if it had been considered expedient to extend the operation of this measure to Ireland.
§ The Earl of Clarendon:
I can well understand the impatience of the House to 68 come to a division, and I should not have thought of addressing your Lordships at this late hour were it not for the attacks which have been so unsparingly made upon the late Government—to these I am desirous of offering some reply, and I appeal to the justice of the House to grant me a hearing. I must, however, in the first place, say, that I learned with great satisfaction from the speech of my noble Friend (the President of the Board of Trade), that he brings no charge of extravagance against the late Government, and that it is not upon their mismanagement that he has founded any argument to induce your Lordships to consent to an Income-tax for the purpose of supplying the deficiency in the revenue. It may, indeed, have suited the purposes of party to attribute this deficiency to mismanagement, but when we bear in mind the rebellion in Canada, and the enormous expense it entailed; the war with China, and the outlay which that occasioned; three successive bad harvests, with all their attendant misfortunes—the dearness of provisions, the export of bullion, and the pressure upon every kind of commercial transactions; then the bankruptcy of the United States, and the stagnation of our trade with that country, diminishing as it did the power of consumption of the whole of the manufacturing classes and their means of contributing to the revenue—an event alone sufficient, as my noble Friend (the President of the Council) told us the other evening, to account for the universal distress so often deplored in this House. When all these events coming in conjunction are considered, the only wonder is, that the deficiency in the revenue is not greater, and I know not one cause that produced it which can fairly be attributed to mismanagement, except it be the reduction of postage upon letters; that great experiment has not yet been fully tried, but whatever be its result I am convinced that the whole country is satisfied with its having been made, and that the loss of revenue it may occasion will never be grudged; but, looking at the nature of the circumstances to which I have just alluded, the late Government were justified in regarding them as temporary, and in meeting them with expedients suited to temporary circumstances, without imposing fresh burdens upon the people. When, however, last year there appeared no prospect of a favourable change, the Government felt bound to. 69 consider the best means of equalizing our income and expenditure, and I do not feel guilty of betraying any secret when I say that every scheme of direct taxation was fully considered and deliberately rejected, for it was thought that such means should only be resorted to as a last resource or in an extreme emergency, and would be unjustifiable until we had endeavoured to raise revenue by lowering the duties upon articles of general consumption. This scheme has been treated with ridicule and contempt, (though I think it will not be so again, after the speech of my noble Friend near me) (Lord Lansdowne,) and various articles upon which duties had been reduced have been alluded to, to prove that although consumption increased, the revenue rarely, if ever, recovered its former amount; and I admit this is to a certain extent true. I still further admit that it would have been to the last degree injudicious, it would have been unwarrantable in any Government when about to raise such an increased revenue as the public service rendered necessary, to reckon upon obtaining it by the reduction of ordinary duties; but this was not the scheme of the late Government. Their intention was to leave untouched those duties that were productive of revenue, but to increase consumption and consequently revenue by lowering the duties which acted as prohibitions upon articles of the same kind, and there can be no more doubt that such a course would have produced the results anticipated from it than there can be that differential duties are necessarily unavoidably injurious to the revenue. The differential duties on the same commodities may be both too low or both too high, or one may be excessive and the other too low, or one may be of the proper amount and the other above or below it, but I will defy any one to prove that both can be equally productive, for it is impossible that duties differing widely in amount on commodities similar in kind can each be imposed in the manner which would produce the largest amount of revenue. Neither are they intended to do so, the one set of duties is for revenue, the other is for protection, and the operation of the latter is to exclude from consumption commodities that would produce revenue. These were the duties which the late Government intended to reduce, with perfect confidence as to the result; and their first measure, 70 as it was that of the present Government, had reference to corn and probably upon the same ground, that it was necessary to begin grappling with the greatest mono poly of all. Upon corn my right hon. Friend (the late Chancellor of the Exchequer) estimated that he should get 900,000l., but if all the different sorts of corn entered for home consumption last year had paid the duties proposed, the revenue would have amounted to upwards of 1,100,000l. instead of 575,000l. which was received, and that without the least rise in price or the least injury to the consumer. With respect to sugar and timber, the other two principal articles in the budget of last year, I will not again go over the calculations by which my noble Friend near me (Lord Lansdowne) has so ably proved the fair ness with which the increased amount of revenue was estimated, but I will only ob serve that Mr. Baring, in calculating that by a reduction of duty upon foreign sugar he should receive 700,000l. beyond the revenue of the preceding year, had every reason to believe, that he was greatly under the mark, he would probably have been more correct if he had calculated upon double the amount, for such I know was the opinion of one of the most able, enlightened, and experienced men who ever served the public, I mean Mr. Deacon Hume, and this year his opinions may be appealed to without fear of being told that they are absurd, and that his evidence be fore the Import Duties' Committee and the report of that committee, were the most fanciful and mischievous that ever emanated from men not yet in Bedlam, and I repeat that Mr. Hume's opinion was that Mr. Baring's plan, with respect to sugar, would be infinitely more productive than he had calculated upon. My noble Friend near me has shown upon what grounds Mr. Baring calculated he should raise an additional revenue of 600,000l. on timber, and be it remembered that in order to do so he adopted precisely the principle recommended by a committee of the House of Commons, of which Mr. Wallace was the Chairman, and my noble Friend opposite (Lord Ripon) was a member, and that principle was to diminish the differential duties between Baltic and Canadian timber, by lowering the duty on Baltic and raising it on Canadian; this proved to be a sound principle, it increased both consumption and revenue, and by 71 extending it still further the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had the best founded expectations of raising the sum he estimated. The budget, then, was not the contemptible bubble it has been represented to be, and looking at the revenue that would have been collected upon corn, sugar, and timber, I say that if the measures of the late Government bad been permitted to pass, a certain amount of deficiency might this year still have existed, but it would have been nothing that could not have been supplied from other sources, and nothing assuredly that could have justified a recurrence to the odious tax we are now called upon to submit to. But it was said at the time, and the noble Earl opposite (Lord Wicklow) has this night again made the unfounded charge, that our plans were a deception, and that they were brought forward recklesly and without the smallest expectation of their being carried, and my noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) has not thought it beneath him to state that some official person (who that person may be 1 know not) is reported to have said that we were goaded by our friends and taunted by our enemies into the adoption of these measures. I really am ashamed of replying to accusations so offensive to the honour of gentlemen and to calumnies so degrading to those, who aspired to merit the confidence of their Sovereign and the country. I meet them, however, with an indignant denial, and in justification of that denial, I will place it upon grounds honourable to our opponents. There was not a man in the late Government, who doubted last year more than any man in the country can doubt this year what were the opinions of the right hon. Baronet now at the head of her Majesty's Government, for although his speeches, may sometimes conceal his thoughts and intentions, we felt as certain in the month of March 1841, as he has given us cause to do in March 1842, that he must be opposed to the commercial system by which this country has been so long oppressed. That with his great talents and knowledge, with his untiring attention to public affairs and all that is passing around us both at home and abroad, that he must long since have been convinced, that our system of excessive and unreasonable protection was paralysing our national resources, and was 72 destructive of our national prosperity—we did, therefore, entertain a hope—and that hope, though ill founded as it turned out, was reasonable, that in our attempt to reform this pernicious system, we should have had the support of the right hon. Baronet, and of that great party which so devotedly follows him wherever, be it backwards or be it forwards, that it may suit him to lead them—we saw no reason to doubt that that party would act as the Whigs did upon the Catholic question, who might then have addressed the Crown and said, that though they approved of the measure they had no confidence in the men who brought it forward, and could not consent to leave its management to those who had passed their whole lives in opposing Catholic emancipation. That party might have acted as the Whigs did when Mr. Huskisson first brought forward his measure of commercial reform, and when it would have been open to them to take advantage of the indignation with which those measures were viewed by a large portion of his own party, and the unpopularity the Government brought upon itself. They might have acted as the opposition did only a few nights ago, when had they joined in supporting the motion of the hon. Member for Somersetshire the most important, indeed, I may say, the only beneficial provision of the tariff would have been lost—but, whatever may have been the mistakes of the late Government, they made none so great as upon the occasion of the Budget, in reckoning upon the support of their opponents. They were, I admit it, miserably mistaken—when the Budget became known every base, and dishonourable motive was attributed to its authors, every misrepresentation was resorted to in order to excite the fears and the prejudices, and to stimulate the resentment of every class in the community,—commercial, agricultural, and manufacturing—their success was complete—my Lords, I am heartly glad of it, it might have been better for the revenue, and consequently for the country, as my hon. Friend near me has so clearly shown. If our measures had been carried, it would doubtless have been more satisfactory to the liberal party, but I do not believe it would have been better for the principles we advocated nor have materially advanced the cause of commercial reform. For 73 those objects, those great and important objects in comparison with which the miserable strife of party sinks into insignificance, every thing has turned out as their most cordial well-wishers could desire. The deficiency in the revenue was of great service, for the necessities of the country enabled the late Government to make the first attack upon those powerful and protected interests, which had so long (though I blame them not for it) and so grievously injured the country—the dissolution of Parliament upon matters so vitally interesting was useful, for it induced the people to discuss, and brought them to understand the questions—and above all the misrepresentations, and the calumnies with which our measures and their authors were assailed—above all they were useful, for they brought the Conservative party into power—holding the principles I do. Convinced as I am, that to our commerce and manufactures, we owe our greatness; and that upon their prosperity or decline, depend our maintaining the proudest position ever occupied by a nation, or our sinking to the level of a third rate power, believing this, I viewed with satisfaction the advent of our opponents to power, for I well knew, that no government, whether Whig, Tory, or Radical could long maintain itself, in defiance of the wishes and in disregard of the wants of the country—we have arrived at a period when more employment for our industry, and fresh markets for our produce, are imperiously demanded by our necessities. They must be found, we cannot do without them, upon them depend the food of our people, the tranquility of our country, the safety of our institutions—these are not party questions, they are national questions, and no government can now dare to disregard them, but the difficulties, or the ease which any government may have in dealing with them, must depend on the support they can reckon upon, and, as I believe, that every step in that direction taken by the liberal party, would be met with fierce and determined resistance, and as I knew, that every measure having commercial emancipation for its object proposed by the party now in power, would have the unflinching support of their political opponents. I rejoiced at the change of administration, and what has been the result? Why, that her Majesty's Ministers have 74 been imitating the measures they last year thwarted, they have been advocating the principles they denounced, and their friends have missed no opportunity of proclaiming, both in and out of Parliament, that they voted against their conviction, and supported the Government solely from political motives. No one, however sanguine his expectations might be—who remembers the language held last year upon these subjects, could have hoped, that within a twelvemonth they would have made the progress they have, but he now cannot doubt, that our whole system of protection is crumbling before the assaults that have been daily made upon it for the last three months by the Government. True, it is, that we have not yet got much beyond the recognition of error, and the announcement of sound principle, and that their application has been rigidly confined to small things; but the announcement upon the highest authority, will go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land, and the "people will take care, that the application shall become general—when it is admitted, that the means of subsistence do not keep pace with the growth of our population, that a wider era must be given to our markets; that pressure must be taken from off the springs of industry; and that henceforward property, and not poverty, must contribute to the exigencies of the State. When such maxims as these are admitted, it is clear that we are in a way to abandon that system, under which the Government of this country for centuries past has interfered with, and clogged, and misdirected the industry of the people. If these maxims were fairly carried out—carried out as the Government has the power of doing, and that for the temporary sacrifices such a course would entail we were told we must submit to an Income-tax—I, for one, should consider that tax more tolerable than I now do; but when we are told that the tariff must reconcile people to it, it becomes necessary to examine upon what principle that tariff proceeds, and in what manner the surplus revenue we are about to raise by such obnoxious means, is to be applied. The deficiency, as I understand my noble Friend opposite, is 2,500,000l., and that it will probably be 3,000,000l. To cover it, 4,300,000l. is to be raised by a tax on income—3,000,000l. for the public ser- 75 vice, and 1,300,000l. to be employed in the reduction of duties. Now the main principle which appears to rule in the tariff is the establishing heavy differential duties between the produce of our colonies and of other countries. I think this is an unfortunate departure from the system now in existence, which was only to protect some of the articles most important to our colonies; but by the tariff it is sought to increase differential duties, or, in other words, protection where it exists, and to create it where it is unknown; and 1 believe it is unfortunate, because there is no saying how much of the inconvenience and distress under which our trade is now suffering, that may not be attributed to this vicious system. Under it the people of England are unnecessarily taxed, and the colonies are injured, by causing them to direct their capital and industry into channels not natural, and giving them interests in trades bolstered up by artificial means and monopoly. I admit that the system has prevailed too long to be suddenly changed; but in now carrying it out further than has ever yet been attempted, the Government will find they are laying the grounds for greater embarrassments, already great enough, both in our relations with our colonies and with foreign countries. We next find, that most of the principal articles of consumption are left untouched. I will say nothing of corn, not only because it does not form part of the tariff, but because that question has been disposed of by Parliament, and 1 only allude to it because the new law is one item in the catalogue of benefits upon which the Government relies for reconciling people to the Income-tax, and I am firmly convinced that under this law the people will not have corn cheaper this year than they had last; and that this article—this first and greatest necessary of life—is therefore left untouched. Wine and brandy are untouched, tobacco is untouched, tea is untouched, butter and cheese are untouched, and, above all, no alteration is made in the duties on sugar. I admit the benefit of removing the prohibition on provisions, which I think may prevent a further rise in their prices. I admit the benefit of the reduction on the timber duties, though the sacrifice of revenue is, I think, unnecessarily great. For these boons the country is grateful to the Government; but looking at the tariff 76 as a whole, it is absurd to talk of it as any compensation for the Income-tax. The mere absence of alteration on the sugar duties in the tariff, prevents its being any compensation: for if those duties were properly modified, nothing would be easier than to demonstrate that the Income-tax is unnecessary. I acknowledge the difficulty in which the Government is placed upon this subject; I acknowledge that, having last year when in opposition given their support to what was considered a very dextrous party manœuvre, it would be too bad, or, rather, it would be too soon, to turn round upon themselves, and in 1842 call that expedient which in 1841 they denounced as flagitious. Never did a party manœuvre, however, more completely bring with it its own chastisement, for what embarrassments would have been spared to the Government if they had now been free to deal with the sugar question, knowing as they must that the motion carried in the House of Commons last year was a mere mockery of common sense. They must have felt, that if we were sincere in adopting such means for putting a stop to slavery, we should have been prepared to prohibit, not only the sugar, but all the cotton, all the tobacco, all the coffee, all the rice, all the bullion, which are the produce of slave-labour, and at once put an end to the employment of 5,000,000 of the manufacturing classes in this country. We should have been prepared to stop all trade with the Brazils, for a large portion of our exports (between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l.) to that country, are paid for by bills on Hamburgh and other places on the continent indebted to the Brazils for the sugar they import. In short, we should have been prepared to pass a law of non-intercourse with half the civilized world. How comes it also, if we are resolved to check slave-labour, that we tolerate in this country, and under our very noses here in London, the enormous business carried on in the refinery of foreign slave-grown sugar? How comes it that the West Indians last year, so clamorous against the iniquitous measure of the Government for encouraging slave-labour, never consume an ounce of their own sugar, but import from this country, for their own use, foreign slave-grown sugar, refined in England? Were any of these anomalies noticed last year? Was any disposition 77 shown to remedy them? Not so, indeed, because the measure suited a party object, and because last year the time was not yet arrived for running down such a monopoly as that possessed by the West-Indians, a monopoly which, since 1834, the year of emancipation, has cost this country in sugar—i. e., between the price paid for sugar from the West Indies, and the price at which it might have been obtained from other parts—upwards of 20,000,000l. sterling, more than double the sacrifice made by this country, nobly and to its immortal honour, for the emancipation of every slave throughout the colonies. I believe that that great experiment has been completely successful, and that the productiveness of free-labour over that obtained by compulsion, is now beyond all doubt. Indeed, if I remember rightly, it was declared by the right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Government, to be the most successful experiment that has ever been made in civilized society; but it is indispensable that we should prove this to be the case, if we wish our example to be followed. Foreign nations are eagerly watching the financial, caring comparatively little about the benevolent results of the experiment, and if they find it affirmed by Parliament that a protection of 50 per cent, is insufficient, and that 150 per cent, is necessary to render sugar worth raising, they will look upon it as a virtual admission of our failure; and if we tell them that when they have set their negroes free they will have to pay 37s. a cwt. instead of 22s. as they now do, what chance is there that they will be induced to follow our example? Our disinterested and generous philanthropy has been misunderstood by them; it is every where attributed to a selfish desire on our part to ruin the prosperity of slave-holding colonies, and to bring them down to the level of our own, which they assert are exhausted and unproductive. Our untiring exertions and enormous sacrifices in the cause of humanity not only expose us to the most odious calumnies against our national good faith, but threaten at this moment to embroil us with Spain, with Portugal, with the Brazils, with France, and with the United States, to destroy our trade with our best customers, and to expose us to the calamities of war; all which this country would, I am sure, willingly submit to, if our efforts had been, or were 78 likely to be, successful; but it is unfortunately but too true, that all our exertions, all our sacrifices of life and money, all we have done ourselves, and all we have induced other powers to do, have not in the smallest degree diminished the slave-trade, but have immeasurably increased its horrors. All we have yet succeeded in doing is to make the slave-trade a smuggling one. We have raised the price of the slave, and thereby made the trade more profitable; but we have not limited the demand, nor can we prevent the supply being fully equal to it. If, then, we have only been able to aggravate the horrors of the trade—if our exclusion of foreign sugar has neither put a stop to it nor to slavery, why surely it is time to try some other system, and not obstinately to persevere in that which, however painful the admission may be, must be admitted to have failed. The late Government was blamed for not making arrangements to abolish the slave-trade with the governments of Spain and the Brazils before we proposed to reduce the duties on their sugars, and I gather from the debates in another place, that her Majesty's present Ministers are negotiating with those governments in the hope, I suppose, of obtaining from them something that will justify an attack upon the West-Indian monopoly next year, but I believe that all such negotiations will fail, because those governments consider, that their slave cultivation gives them so decided an advantage over us that the abandonment of it would not be compensated by the benefit they might derive from our lowering the duties upon their produce, and to this opinion they will adhere; until we demonstrate the success of our experiment by proving, that in the West Indies, as in every other part of the world, the free labour is a cheaper instrument of production than the slave. This can only be done by relieving the West-Indians from the enormous burdens which our restrictions inflict upon their commerce, by letting them freely obtain all they want wherever they best can, and by withdrawing from them in return the monopoly which experience has shown to be injurious, both to the economy and extent of their cultivation; for under this monopoly, knowing that they can command the exorbitant prices of the English market, and being without the stimulus of competition, they have hitherto not reconciled them- 79 selves to emancipation, and they still bring; up questions of rent and wages with their labourers, who, on the other hand, have learned to combine and to establish a monopoly against their employers. Thus, if the negroes have exclusive command of the labour market in the colonies, and the planters have a monopoly of the sugar market in England, where the price rises in proportion to the diminished production, (a state of things leading to every species of extravagance and diminishing every motive to improvement), the cultivation of the colonies must come to speedy ruin, while we here in England are paying for all this mismanagement, as well as for the heavy mortgages and past extravagance of the West-Indian proprietors, which prevent their laying out the necessary amount of capital and resorting to the best modes of cultivation; whereas, if both planters and labourers were thrown on their own resources—if both believed that they had but their own economy and industry to look to, the results would be the same as in every other case of a similar kind. These are the grounds upon which I think that the continuance of the present duties on sugar is alone sufficient reason against the Income-tax, and I would willingly place the necessity and the expediency of it, and upon this issue to the country, and let the people of England judge whether the vain hope of extinguishing slavery in foreign countries is a sufficient ground for depriving them of a cheap necessary, and for imposing upon them a heavy burden, which in its character will be so inquisitorial, and in its operation so cruel and unequal. I would have begged permission to offer a few remarks upon the measure to which your Lordships are now called upon to give your assent, but I feel that I have already trespassed too long upon the patience of the House. And I will therefore conclude, by thanking your Lordships for the attention extended to me.
vindicated the expressions he had used or rather quoted regarding the budget of the late Government, which had been described by one of themselves as the course they were driven to by "the importunities of their friends and the taunts of their enemies." These were the expressions themselves had used.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
denied the justice of the accusation which had been made 80 against her Majesty's present Ministers, of opposing the measures of the late Government for the purpose of obtaining office, and then adopting them when they had succeeded in obtaining their places. He referred the noble Lord who had made the accusation to what took place in their Lordships' and the other House of Parliament. What occurred in the other House when the budget of the late Government was brought forward? Did the party now in power deny the advantages which the country would derive from the removal of commercial restrictions? They did no such thing. If his noble Friend would refer to the resolutions passed at the time, he would find a declaration to the effect that, however good these measures might be of themselves, the persons who brought them forward did not sufficiently possess the confidence of the country to carry them into execution. Why? Because they had brought themselves into such a state that they had no power whatever. They were sometimes in minorities, and when they had succeeded in obtaining majorities, they had been so small that they carried no weight with them. They were in the hands of persons who had objects of their own to gain, wherefore it had been said that they were composed of squeezeable materials. This was the cause of their fall. He agreed with the noble Viscount opposite in the opinion that the worst of all governments was a Government which remained in office without the power of carrying their measures. How stood the case? A large deficiency, increasing from year to year, existed beyond a doubt, which must be met by measures of some kind. Noble Lords opposite proposed to apply a remedy by trying experiments. They proposed to remedy it by altering the sliding-scale in corn to a fixed duty, by an experiment in the sugar duties, and, thirdly, by an experiment in the timber duties. The present Government also thought that, by a reduction of duties, they would confer a benefit on commerce; but they said to the country, "It is your duty first to supply the deficiency. You have a considerable debt to pay before you can venture on experiments," and therefore proposed the Income-tax—a tax to which he did not deny that grave objections existed. At the same time it could not be denied that it had its merits, for there was not a tax on which they could with such certainty reckon for raising any 81 sum which might be required. He agreed with all who had spoken in the opinion, that unless an adequate emergency could be satisfactorily proved, this tax was unjustifiable. Her Majesty's present Government were satisfied that the measures of the late Government would fail in their object, and they had therefore had recourse to the measure now before the House. With respect to corn, a fixed duty must fail from the uncertainty of the seasons; but, in addition to this, the proposition of the late Government would have increased the uncertainty by taking off the duty when corn rose to a certain price; for it had been admitted by a noble Lord—a distinguished member of that Government—that in that case, it would have been impossible to maintain the duty. The noble Earl and the noble Marquess in arguing this question confined their observations to slave-working states; but it should not be forgotten that, in order to furnish the necessary supply of sugar from slave-holding states, encouragement must necessarily be given to slave importation. But were there no other parts of the world which furnished sugar besides the West Indies and slave-holding states? Did not the East Indies furnish sugar? Their produce was raised by free-labour. It was only lately that they had introduced a measure with a view to encourage their trade, at which they were now called upon to strike a blow. With respect to timber, he did not deny that the Government, instead of gaining revenue, had sacrificed it; but they had conferred a boon on the consumer. He had no doubt that these measures would have the effect which the Government anticipated—the country would hereafter rejoice at the imposition of the present tax.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said it had been objected to the fixed duty on corn that it could not be maintained in the event of excessive high price; but this, he maintained, was the case with respect to other taxes. He objected to the Government proposition with respect to timber, as calculated to introduce bad timber, where good timber had hitherto been employed. A boon might have been conferred on the consumer without so reckless a sacrifice of revenue, and without the necessity of resorting to an Income-tax. He would not allow himself to be drawn into an expression of opinion upon 82 the merits of the Income-tax on the present occasion, looking upon the discussion as a comparison between the relative merits of the two budgets.
§ Lord Lyttelton
could not vote for the resolutions of his noble Friend the Marquess of Lansdowne, which were to be considered not as asserting a principle in reference to taxation generally, but in reference to taxation at this particular time, and under existing circumstances. Assuming that those circumstances justified the imposition of new taxes, he considered that the tax proposed would press less upon the working classes than any other. He was aware that it had been stated that the proposed tax would not press at all on those classes; it was clear, however, to him, that it would take from the means of employing labour to some extent, but that was an objection which was applicable to every tax. So far as his noble Friend's resolution referred to the articles corn, sugar, and timber, he agreed with his noble Friend as to the first of those articles though he doubted its practicability as a source of revenue. With regard to sugar he did not agree with the views of the late Government, not on commercial grounds, but upon the grounds which had been so well stated by his noble and learned Friend. With respect to the latter article timber, he supported the policy of the present Government.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
said, he did not mean to avail himself of the privilege which he possessed of asking their Lordships to listen to him in reply, but he wished to offer one or two words in explanation of what had been said in the course of the debate. He had been described as an uncompromising opponent of an Income-tax. He certainly was not an uncompromising opponent of an Income-tax to the extent of saying that under no circumstances could an Income-tax be necessary in this country. He objected to it at present, because they had to deal with merely a limited exigency. The noble and learned Lord had asked why he, objecting so strongly to an Income-tax, had not opposed the bill on the first reading. He freely confessed that it was because he could not hope to induce their Lordships to send, or rather not to send, down to the other House a bill providing for the supplies of the year, and in the month of June to impose on the other 83 House the task of reconsidering all the financial system of the country. In reference to another remark of the noble and learned Lord, he had to state that he had never said that the slave-trade ought not to be a constant object of solicitude to his country, but he had said, that they could never expect to do anything towards its extinction by mere paper concessions, and that it was not to negotiations that they must look for the extinction of that trade, but to the example which they held out, founded on the interests of mankind in substituting free for slave-labour in their own colonies. He had heard with great satisfaction the manly declaration of the noble Lord opposite, that it was not against the principles, but against the persons composing the late Government that the vote of last year was taken. The noble Lord had now candidly and honestly declared that the vote was taken against persons, and not against principles; but how was it that this had not been clearly expressed, and manfully stated on the hustings at the late general election? There it was uniformly stated that the war was against the most detestable principles, but not against persons.
§ The Earl of Ripon
said, that he took the liberty of saying that the vote was taken against the principles, and not the persons of the late Government. When he moved the amendment on the occasion alluded to, he distinctly stated, that it was on account of the measures which Government had proposed that he could not put confidence in the Government.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question—Contents 112; Not-Contents 52: Majority 60.85
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Clanwilliam||Willoughby de Broke|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Foley||Saye and Sele|
|Hatherton||Stuart de Rothesay|
|Duke of Cambridge||Earl Fitzhardinge|
|Marquess of Bute||Earl of Carlisle|
|Marquess of Ely||Duke of Hamilton|
|Earl of Sandwich||Earl Cowper|
|Earl of Morton||Lord Portman|
|Earl of Moray||Lord Stanley of Alderley|
|Earl of Kinnoul||Duke of Leinster|
|Earl of Cornwallis||Lord Sherborne|
|Earl of Clare||Duke of Devonshire|
|Viscount Strangford||Bishop of Norwich|
|Lord Northwich||Bishop of Derry|
|Lord Carbery||Lord Talbot of Malahide|
|Lord Maryborough||Lord Methuen|
|Lord Stuart de Rothesay||Lord Dinorben|
|Lord Templemore||Duke of Somerset|
§ Question put, that the bill be now read a third time,
The Marquess of Clanricarde
would move, that the debate be adjourned to Tuesday next. If their Lordships persisted in passing so important a measure as this without any discussion of its principle, he would ask whether it was likely to incline the other House of Parliament to accede to the proposition which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had made, that their Lordships should be empowered to consider well in detail all those measures sent up to them by the other House, which, at present, they were not allowed to discuss. This bill had been pronounced, on good authority, to be the most important bill that had been laid before Parliament since the reform of the representation; and yet upon such a bill as this their Lordships were content to take one solitary debate for all its provisions, and all the great principles it contained, and in one evening they were ready to despatch all the important matters it involved. It was a measure that went to alter the whole fiscal system of the country; and yet, at twenty minutes after one o'clock in the morning,, their Lordships were called upon to debate its principle. He should certainly divide the House upon the question; and he now begged 86 leave to move that this debate be adjourned till Tuesday next.
considered that there should be a distinct debate on the third reading, and he understood the noble Duke to assent to that arrangement.
§ The Duke of Wellington
No, no—no such thing. What he stated was that the noble Lord would have an opportunity, if he thought proper, to state his opinions upon the third reading; but he did not express any assent to postpone the third reading for that purpose. He had been prepared to go into the question on Monday, and again on Tuesday. He then proposed that the committee should be on Thursday, and it was in consequence appointed, it being understood that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should bring on his amendment this night.
The Earl of Radnor
said, that the noble Duke had very accurately stated all the proceedings that had taken place; still the bill went through the committee in a very hasty manner, and he certainly understood that when the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) said that he should take the sense of the House upon the question whether the bill do pass, the noble Duke said he should have no objection to take the discussion of the principle at a future stage.
§ The Duke of Wellington
must repeat, that he gave notice that the third reading would take place on Friday, and it was so entered on the order book. He might have been misunderstood by the noble Earl.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
should certainly take the sense of the House upon his motion for adjournment. This bill had been hurried through the House in a manner most unprecedented. He would defy any noble Lord to show that any bill of this sort and consequence had ever been hastened through its stages in the way this bill had been. They were now, at half-past one o'clock, called upon to discuss the principle of the bill. Those who had attended the debate on the amendment proposed by the Marquess of Lansdowne, had been in their places eight hours and a half, while the majority of those whom he had now the honour to address had been very differently employed. Was that the manner in which a great and important financial measure should be disposed of by their Lordships? He should persist in his amendment, and he considered it 87 would be the height of indecency if the Ministers opposed it, merely because they were a majority. They had taunted his noble Friends with not having a majority, and now that the noble Lords opposite had a majority, they were now willing to pass a measure of this description, no matter how little or how much deliberation had been bestowed upon it.
§ The Duke of Wellington
repeated, that he had not been the cause of the bill not having been debated. He had been ready to discuss it on Monday, on Tuesday, and on Thursday. He had been every day in his place, and if their Lordships were willing he was ready to go on with the discussion now. He should certainly adhere to his motion, that the bill be now read a third time.
The Earl of Radnor
said, that nobody had reproached the noble Duke for want of attention. They all knew perfectly well how attentive the noble Duke was in the House, and how constant he was in watching all the business that was carried on. It was not the noble Duke's fault that the bill was not debated last Friday. But it so happened that the motion of his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had occupied the whole night, and he would ask their Lordships whether it was reasonable to suffer so important a bill to pass without any real debate.
§ Viscount Melbourne
As far as he was concerned he had no wish for further debate. He had said all he wished to say; but, as many noble Lords were, it was alleged, anxious to speak, he put it to the Ministers of the Crown, whether it would not be more becoming to adjourn the debate for the purpose of hearing their opinions. Many noble Lords had not so much experience in the House of Commons as he had; but if they had, they would be aware, that it was possible for a small minority to carry a question of adjournment even against a larger majority than he now saw opposite.
§ The Duke of Wellington
thought, he had some reason to complain, that he was not allowed to proceed. He was quite aware, that a minority had the power of adjourning these proceedings, and he had no personal feelings as to postponing the debate to Tuesday or to any other day; but he must remind their Lordships, that it was essential, in his opinion, to the public service, that the bill should be proceeded with that night.
The Duke of Newcastle
was so opposed to the bill that he should certainly support any motion for adjournment.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question, that the debate be adjourned till next Tuesday:—Contents 55; Not-contents 186:—Majority 131.
§ On the question being again put,
§ Lord Denman
, as we understood, said, he was not aware that the postponement of the bill would be productive of so great public inconvenience. He had remained in the House for the purpose of resisting the measure.
The Earl of Radnor
suggested, that the House should sit to-morrow or on Monday. He was only anxious that a discussion should be had upon the principle of the bill, and would move the adjournment of the debate.
§ The Duke of Wellington
I am not in the habit of saying what I do not mean. The noble Duke then assured the House that it would be productive of great public inconvenience if the bill did not pass to-morrow. A commission was prepared to come down tomorrow to give the Royal assent to the bill. A great variety of arrangements had been made pending the passing of this measure, and which could not be carried into effect until it had passed. If their Lordships chose to take another division on the question of adjournment, he could not help it; he would only say, that whatever was the practice in another place, he had never deemed that course to be the practice of their Lordships.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that the great public inconvenience turned out to be, that a royal commission had been appointed for to-morrow, and so the House was to be treated in this manner, and to be allowed only one discussion, whether they wished to reject the bill or not. Was it fair, at two o'clock in the morning, to call upon their Lordships to enter upon a long discussion? If the noble Duke would look to the records of the House, he would find that the course of moving adjournments was not unprecedented in that House, for it had been resorted to when Ministers had used an overwhelming majority in a manner which was thought unbecoming in them as Members of Parliament towards their fellow subjects.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he had represented to the House, on the part of the Government, the great inconvenience of postponement, and if after that their Lordships chose to persist, he could not help it; he knew perfectly well he must submit. The measure was in their hands; they might do as they pleased with it.
said, that there were many noble Lords who wished to deliver their sentiments. The practice of the other House in a similar case was to adjourn the debate as a matter of course, and he did not see why a different rule should prevail in that House.
§ Lord Fitzgerald
contended, that the principle of the bill had been discussed in the present debate, and he would appeal to the public whether that had not been the case equally as much as if the resolution of the noble Marquess had not been proposed? If the hour was inconvenient to noble Lords, who was to blame? Had not much time been consumed in these motions for adjournment?
§ Lord Redesdale
said, that the Reform Bill was divided upon between seven and eight in the morning, so that four hours remained for discussion.
§ Their Lordships again divided:—Contents 36; Not-contents 159:—Majority 123.
§ Question again put that the bill be read a third time,
asking, whether the noble Earl (Earl of Radnor) intended to persist in this course, and whether he thought it was decent, after the declaration by the first Minister of the Crown in that House, that the postponement would occasion serious public inconvenience.
The Earl of Radnor
said, he did consider it decent to persevere, and that it would be indecent to allow the third reading to be taken at that hour of the morning. The noble Earl moved that the debate be adjourned to Monday.
After a few words from Lord Fitzgerald and the Marquess of Clanricarde, Earl Radnor's amendment was withdrawn, and the debate adjourned to Tuesday.
§ House adjourned at three o'clock.